Guest Blog Post: Jenn J McLeod + Giveaway

Today I have a Short and Sweet blog post from the fabulous Jenn J McLeod, who shares with us IMG_20200202_132219some interesting bits about herself. She’s also offering one of my lovely followers the chance to win a Kindle copy of her newest book House of Wishes, which is sitting on my shelf glaring at me as I write this. All you need to to win this wonderful novel is share this post and leave a comment below and/or on my FB page for Jenn.

I’m trying something new so please after reading Jenn’s interesting bits, scroll down to fill in the form to enter to win.

Guilty pleasure?

Corona with lime and date scones (only not at the same time).

Pet peeve?

Piracy sites that present so legitimate that readers unknowingly hand over their details (details often then sold to marketing companies) or people inadvertently allow these sites access to their computers when they download that ‘so-called’ free book. The only good FREE book—that rewards and recognises the author’s effort—is the one borrowed from a library.

If you could pack two non-essential items for a deserted tropical island, what would they be?

An endless supply of Corona and self-slicing lime, and a magic e-Reader that never runs out of power or books.

Worst thing about being a writer?

Never believing you or your work is good enough—even after six books. (That may be a Virgo thing!)

Favourite perfume/cologne:

My go-to is always Channel No. 5, but not even that can mask the dust, dirt and sunbaked cow dung smells of the bush.

The best non-writing related prize I won was (meat raffle/free holiday/bingo game)…

I never win anything.

What theme do you hope shines through in your latest novel – House of Wishes?

Thank you for this question . . . Due to the number of family and social issues I cover in this novel, I could go on ad nauseum. Instead, here’s me being brief:

  1. How far we’ve come as a country in terms of women’s right to choose, but how easily the work done by generations of women in the past can slip away if we don’t keep speaking up about a woman’s right to choose.
  2. Strength from the realisation that life can throw us curve balls, but to keep believing in the power of wishes.
  3. An understanding that family is about connection rather than blood.

How do you respond if someone smirks and gives you flack for writing ‘that sort of fiction’?

I say: “I’m so lucky! I love writing popular women’s fiction over any other genre because it’s, err, popular!! And popular means more readers and more money in the bank for doing something I enjoy doing.”

They say (smirk waning): “You actually make money from writing those sort of novels?”

Me: “Boom, drop the mic!” *winks* *grins* *walks away*

My favourite thing about women’s fiction is…

The winking, grinning and walking away bit!

Thank you so much for hosting me. I’d love to offer one of your readers a Kindle version of House of Wishes in return for sharing this post (or at least telling their Mum or sister or best friend!)

 

IMG_20200202_133610House of Wishes:

A story for mothers, daughters, fathers and sons:

about the choices we make, the connections that matter,

the secrets we keep, and the power of a wish.

(available in print, ebook and in audio)

 

About Jenn J. McLeod:

Five-times published with Simon & Schuster and the UK’s Head of Zeus, Jenn’s first book, House for all Seasons, was the #5 best-selling debut fiction novel in 2013. Two years later she downsized her life (packing everything she owned into a purple and white caravan she calls Myrtle the Turtle) and is now Australia’s nomadic novelist. She says she’s planning to do “several big laps of Oz very slowly”, ticking things off her bucket list along the way, and finding inspiration for more heart-warming tales of friendship and family—contemporary stories with a backdrop of country life.

Her 6th novel—House of Wishes—is now available: www.jennjmcleod.com

Facebook Friend Jenn to follow her travels and shenanigans    or

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Cocktails with Claire: Q&A with Athena Daniels & Giveaway

The scream behind cover

Hi Athena thank you for joining us today to celebrate the release of your fabulous new novel.

Hi Claire Louisa! Thanks so much for the invitation. I am so excited to be here with you all.

Most importantly, what cocktail would you like to drink first up to celebrate your new novel?

FB_IMG_1554993245334Cocktails? What a great idea! Hmmm… How about a CONSENSUAL SEX ON THE BEACH – (Because Claire and Zach’s first sizzling sex scene was at the beach!)

INGREDIENTS

  • 40ml Tito’s Vodka
    15ml Peach Schnapps
    50ml Cranberry Juice
    50ml Orange Juice
  • Directions: Combine cold juice with Vodka and Schnapps, stir and enjoy. Little umbrella optional.

*Not my recipe*

I’ve ordered drinks for everyone! Enjoy 🙂

Can you tell us a bit about your new book The Scream Behind Her Smile?

Thank you for asking, I’d love to. The Scream Behind Her Smile is my sixth published full-length novel. It’s a 95K standalone, contemporary, romantic psychological thriller set in Perth, Western Australia.

Tagline: “A thrilling and emotionally gripping story of love, marriage, deception and… murder.” 

This is quite different from your Beyond the Grave series, where did the idea for this story come from? And how long did it take you to write it?

The Scream Behind Her Smile is a very different style of writing and genre from my Beyond the Grave paranormal romance series. The idea for the story was inspired by a series of actual events and the story grew into what it is today. I wrote part one of the book a couple of years ago but set it aside to finish and release book 4 in the Beyond the Grave series, When Darkness Follows.  

The antagonist, Derek, is an absolutely horrible person (in my opinion and in my words ‘he’s f**king nuts’), how did you go about writing his character and getting into his mindset and did you find it hard to do?

Lol! I agree. Derek is definitely not recommended husband material! I actually didn’t find it as hard writing Derek’s character as you might think because I enjoy writing villains and anti-hero’s in general. Not quite sure what that says about me!

I’ve encountered my fair share of chauvinistic behaviour throughout my life, so I tapped into the hurt, anger and frustration that arose from those experiences. I then added in a healthy dose of creative licence to make Derek’s true colours, when revealed, really ‘shine’! 🙂

Claire is a strong character dealing with a huge amount of grief, where did the inspiration or idea for her character come from?

Thank you. I loved writing Claire! Pieces of Claire’s story were also inspired from real events. In Australia, the largest growing demographic of homelessness are women over 50, a disturbing fact that breaks my heart. Although Derek’s character may be viewed as extreme, sadly it is not uncommon for women to find themselves in a similar situation to Claire after a marriage or relationship breakdown. Domestic violence is another issue close to my heart. On average, one woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner. It’s only natural to see the themes and causes I’m passionate about come through in my writing. I hope my stories are thought provoking but also inspiring.

I love the fact it’s set in Perth, this is the second book this year set in the suburbs I know, what made you decide to set it here?

I love Perth! I get so many comments and emails from my overseas readers saying how much they learn about Australia through my books and that it makes them want to visit. I hope my passion for our beautiful country shows clearly through my words.

Do you think we’ll be seeing Claire and Zach again? And maybe Kira (my favourite secondary character)?

Yes! I have plans for Kira to have her own book. I love her too and can’t wait for her to take centre stage. I’ll make a start on her story towards the end of this year after I’ve released book 5 in the Beyond the Grave series. I’ll also give everyone an update on Claire and Zach!

You have two really nasty (in my opinion) and crazy (also in my opinion) characters in your story Derek and Jasmine, do you dislike either of them? and which one do you dislike the most? (I can’t decide which I dislike the most)

Jasmine! For me it was definitely Jasmine…

Have you always wanted to write? If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

I was never encouraged to consider writing (or any creative pursuit) as a career option when I was growing up. I have always been a very passionate reader, so when I finally wrote my first book later in life, everything ‘clicked’. If I could tell my younger self anything, I would need a much longer list, lol. Although I am happy with what I have achieved in a relatively short time, I would have loved to have started writing a few years earlier.

With your books you self publish, can you tell us how that works and why you choose to go this way?

My first novel, Desperate, was traditionally published, but I chose to self-publish my Beyond the Grave paranormal romance series. I love the creative freedom that comes through the process of self-publishing. I like to have total control over my projects so I guess you can say it suits my personality. But it’s certainly not a set and forget strategy. I’m constantly monitoring and learning the industry, honing and polishing my skillset as a writer/author entrepreneur. The business side is as important to learn and master as the writing side. Self-Publishing gives me the freedom to try new things without having to consult anyone. Any mistakes are my own, and something I turn into beneficial learning tools.

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

I read every single review! Reviews can be extremely valuable if they are constructive, both the negative and positive ones. Of course, the negative reviews hurt, but if there is anything to be gained from them, I try to keep an open mind.

Do you have a line or scene from The Scream Behind Her Smile you’d like to share with readers to give them a taste?

Because it’s a psychological thriller, it is hard to find a scene that doesn’t contain spoilers, so I chose this from the prologue:

As I lie here in my front hallway, in the place where it all began, I wonder what would have happened if I’d never opened the door that afternoon?

Would she have gone somewhere else? Would she have swept off in another direction, an alternative reality where our lives would never have crossed paths?

And now I’m lying here, blood pooling beneath my body, deep crimson smears on cold white tiles, remembering every sordid moment in vivid detail.

There’s a shadow standing over me.

“I want you to die here, slowly and alone.” Her voice is cold, emotionless. “And I want you to use the time to think about what you did. And when you take your last breath, I want you to realize it’s all your fault. All of it!”

I drift in and out of consciousness and wonder if I had my chance to do it over again, if I had the choice, would I choose not to open the door that day?

Even after everything, I know that I would.

I’d go through it all again, and then some, if it meant the chance to be with Zach just one more time…

 A thrilling and emotionally gripping novel of love, marriage, deception and murder.

 What is next on the agenda for your writing?

I am currently working on Book 5 in the Beyond the Grave series, Sam and Tara’s story. Then towards the end of the year, I’ll be working on my next standalone psychological thriller.

Thanks for chatting Athena, I think another cocktail is in order

Thanks so much for having me!

* Ordering another round of cocktails for everyone! *

 

The scream behind promoAthena has very kindly given you all the opportunity to win a copy of her book! I have a paperback (Australian address only) and two ebook copies (international and Australia) up for grabs (please indicate if you are an international reader). To be in the running  please leave a comment on this post for Athena and it would be great if you could show her some love by liking her facebook page or adding The Scream Behind Her Smile to your goodreads Want to Read pile.

For another chance to win have a read of my review and leave a comment there also as I am giving away another copy.

Cocktails with Claire: Q&A with Leah Ashton

dav

Hi Leah and welcome, we are celebrating your new direction and your new novel, the first in the WASP Team series. What cocktail would you like to start with for the celebration?

A gin and tonic with a wedge of lime!

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Sure! I live in Perth, I’m married and I have two awesome girls. I’m an introvert, positive, stubborn, and determined.

When did you start writing and was it something you had always wanted to do?

I started writing in my early twenties when a great friend of mine told me she was writing a book, and took me along to a romance writing workshop. I loved to write stories in primary school, and I used to love having my work chosen to be read out to the class. But when I hit high school my stories were clearly not literary enough (and my creative writing marks reflected this) and so I left highschool thinking I wasn’t particularly good at writing stories. So I never planned to be a writer!

How many books have you published so far?

9 books with Harlequin Mills & Boon (contemporary romance) and the first book in my sexy romantic suspense series is out now. 

Your new series WASP Team is a different direction to your previous novels, can you tell us what triggered the change of direction in your writing and what can you tell us about that new direction and how you came up with your ideas?

When I started writing for publication I targeted Harlequin Mills & Boon as writing contemporary romance felt “easier” than having to come up with a romantic suspense plot – even though I’ve loved reading romantic suspense since I was a teenager! I just didn’t think I had clever enough suspense ideas in my head – I’ve always found coming up with ideas the hardest part of writing. I’m not one of those writers that has a million ideas warring in their head. I generally have exactly one idea, and I’ve fought hard for it! 

But after writing so many books for Mills & Boon, my confidence had grown in my writing, and I’d also started to push my creativity. For example, my last two books for Mills & Boon are set on a fictional island nation, and I had to create all sorts of fictional laws and rules and locations – and it made me realise that I’M in charge of my fictional world, and can make up whatever I like. I know that sounds ridiculous, but I think I’ve always taken “write what you know” too close to heart, and it stifled my creativity. 

With my WASP series I’m finally writing the books that I love to read, which are hot, fast paced and suspenseful. I wanted to write a series and so thought an elite policing team would be a great way to link my books. I also wanted to cover more than just tactical (SWAT) police, so WASP is made up of lots of different teams – like undercover operations, police bodyguards etc etc – it gives me way more scope to write different types of stories within the WASP world.

I have been lucky enough to read book one UNDAUNTED, and I loved it, in fact, it kept me up until 2am reading because I just had to know what was going to happen. I especially liked that it was set in Perth and I could relate to all the places in the story. What can you tell us about the story to entice others to read UNDAUNTED and the rest of the series?

Undaunted was supposed to be a short novella, but soon I realised that there was way too much story for that! It was inspired loosely by the movie Speed (with Keanu Reeves) in that the action starts almost straight away, with a hostage situation taking place on a train in chapter two. I’ve aimed to keep up the pace through the whole book, but I’ve also made sure that it is primarily a romance. 

The titles of all my WASP books are related to the heroine, so it is Luella who is “undaunted” in this book. She is a police officer who made a big mistake a few weeks before the books starts, and she’s been stripped of her firearm and put onto desk duties. Throughout the book Luella has to confront that mistake, and eventually learn to forgive herself. Nate and Lou have a shared past, too, that they need to overcome, even if their attraction for each other is as electric as ever. I love Lou and Nate as characters – they are both proud, strong people who are brilliant cops – but they aren’t perfect. They make mistakes, they are vulnerable – and they have really fantastic sex 🙂

How long on average does it take you to write a WASP book? And how much research did you have to do for this series in order to keep the police procedures realistic?

I allow about 12 weeks to write a book, but the reality is that I usually write the bulk of it in the six weeks before it’s due.

I am lucky to have access to a police officer who I can ask lots of questions, but Google is also super helpful 🙂 I probably spend more time researching before I start writing, to make sure the general concept is plausible, and from there I just research a little as needed as I write.

Your WASP series is has criminal aspects, what crime would you like to get away with and how would you go about it?

I wouldn’t like to get away with any crime, the guilt would destroy me! 

But if I had to, I’d hack into a bank to siphon money away from greedy corporations that dodge taxes, and donate it to domestic violence and refugee charities. 

Oh I like that crime which is really rectifying a wrong, a modern day Robin Hood

Have you always been a reader, if so what is your favourite childhood book? Did reading as a child have any bearing on your decision to become a writer?

My favourite childhood book was A Stable for Jill by Ruby Ferguson. I LOVED pony books, I still have my favourites on my bookshelf now. I used to read voraciously as a child and teenager (and adult until I started writing!) and I’m positive all the reading I did as a kid has helped my writing now, even if I didn’t aspire to be a writer until much later.

Do you read your book reviews? Do you appreciate reader feedback and take it on board, even if it is negative? How do you deal with negative feedback after spending so much time writing your book?

Yes, I do read them. A great review can make my day! And a bad review is always at least a momentary kick in the guts. However the more books I write the more confidence I have in my writing, and if someone really dislikes my book I now tell myself that my style is just not for them, rather than assuming I am actually the Worst Author Ever.

If I was seeing consistent feedback in my reviews I would definitely take it on board. I know I can always improve as a writer.

Can you tell us something about yourself that not many people would know?

I played the flute from age 7-17 and played in my high school band. I wasn’t very good, however 🙂

How has being Australian AND a woman impacted on your writing and/or writing career?

The impact has only been positive for me, as the Australian romance writing community is incredibly supportive, and it’s a lot easier for a woman to write romance than a man. With Undaunted out next week (as I write this) I’m yet to see whether the Australian setting is a plus or minus for international readers *crosses fingers*.

What authors and types of books do you love the most?

I love romantic suspense, historical romance and contemporary romance. Some of my favourite authors are Linda Howard, Karen Robards, Laura Lee Guhrke, Tessa Dare, Tessa Bailey, Molly O’Keefe and Sarah Mayberry.

Is there anything you would like to add before we chill and have another cocktail?

Only to say that if you love a book (whether mine or any authors!), please consider sending the author an email or contacting them on social media to let them know, or writing a review. Writing can be isolating at times, and there’s nothing better than hearing from readers.

Can you tell us what’s next for the WASP Team? And are there any other projects in the pipeline?

Book two is called Definant, and is out about 4 weeks after Undaunter (just before Easter). In Defiant the hero, Damon, is an undercover cop for WASP, and the heroine, Beth, is a recently divorced high school teacher. A one night stand ends in a kidnapping and they end up running for their lives across the desert to escape a murderous bikie gang. It was fun to write, and I LOVED that Beth is a little older than Damon. Plus, it ended up being super hot. Honestly, I don’t know what has happened to me – my MIlls & Boon books were so sweet 🙂

For now WASP is my only focus, but I have four more WASP books in the pipeline. Relentless (book 3) will be out in May and is about a politician’s daughter and the bodyguard she doesn’t want – and then in book four (no title yet!) the hero and heroine are both police snipers. 

Thank you so much Leah for joining me for a few coctails and a chat, I can’t wait to read the other books in this series.

About the book:

The first book in the exhilarating WASP Team Series by RITA Award Winning Author Leah Ashton

A gunman. Five hostages. And her ex. Trapped. On a train.

A disgraced police constable

Luella Brayshaw is a great cop. Until she isn’t.

Dumped on desk duties and stripped of her firearm, Lou’s first task is a civilian role in a covert training exercise for WASP. But when that exercise goes horribly wrong, she’s stuck on a train to Fremantle with five terrified hostages – and the man who broke her heart more than a decade ago.

An elite tactical operator

Nate Rivers has dedicated his life to his career. That meant making tough choices – including walking away from Lou. But he’s never doubted that decision… until now.

Twelve years on, Nate is shocked to discover the connection between him and Lou is as electric as ever. But first – they need to get off this train.

A desire they never forgot

The gunman has no idea he has two cops on his train – but unarmed, can Nate and Lou keep everyone alive all the way to Fremantle?

And if they do, Lou knows she can’t make the mistake of trusting Nate with her heart again. But faced with a new threat, they must work together to survive as their passion ignites – and this time, there’s no way Nate is walking away.

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Amazon AU paperback

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