Bound to the Monarchs Chapter 1

This is the first chapter of my book, Bound to the Monarchs. For content warnings please go here.

Chapter One

The sun was setting over the mountains of Herdoona as Vitoria continued down the Boundary Road. She glanced down at the clock on her dashboard. Two hours until darkness. Two hours to get safely to a sanctuary.

She drummed her fingers against the steering wheel and drew a deep breath. When she got to the refuge perhaps she would be able to breathe a little easier. Perhaps the knot in her chest would ease a little. Perhaps she would stop feeling the inexplicable pull towards Palici, the shifter lands. Perhaps, but she wasn’t confident.

Her journey was taking longer than she’d anticipated. She’d agreed to meet Mira on the last day of the lunar cycle. At the rate she was going, she would be lucky if she made it. Maybe she could send a bird from the next refuge, ask Mira to wait for her. Not for the first time, she wondered if she was making a mistake. Was she really moving to a region that didn’t even have cell phone reception?

Vitoria kept her eyes on the road ahead. The mountains of Herdoona loomed to her left, the forests of Palici beckoned from her right. Ahead was nothing but wide-open road. She hadn’t passed another vehicle for hours. The ones she’d seen earlier in the day had all taken shelter at the last sanctuary. She should’ve stopped with them but she had a deadline to keep to.

She looked down at her navigation system. An hour to the next refuge point. She should make it before the sun set. A chill ran down her arms and she turned the heat up. What if she didn’t make it?

No. She would make it. There were nearly two hours until nightfall and she was only an hour away. She would make it.

She felt a pull on the knot around her heart and forced her eyes to remain on the road. She wouldn’t look towards the forests. Wouldn’t think on why it felt like they were calling her home. Home was in Calibrai. Home was what she’d left behind. Home was where she was going to.

Sorcery was supposed to come from Herdoona, so why did she feel the pull from the shifter lands?

Lights flickered up ahead and she glanced back down at the navigation system. There shouldn’t be anything there. No street lights. No buildings. Nothing.

Bang!          

She instinctively raised her hands to her ears. Brighter light flared and her heart jumped into her mouth.

Marauders. It had to be marauders. They would see her pointed ears and know she was a Solviso and that would be it. She pulled her hair out of its ponytail and smoothed it over her ears. Throwing her hands back onto the steering wheel, she hunched over and gripped it for dear life, slowing her van, but not stopping.

No one stopped on the Boundary Road. Not this close to darkness.

What should she do?

Red, orange, and yellow lights danced in her path like a joyous monster. A fire.

She couldn’t continue ahead.

Knowing only that she had to avoid marauders at all costs, Vitoria turned her van to the right and put her foot on the accelerator. She drove over the verge and into the overgrown grass, towards the forest. She glanced into her mirror. Nothing behind her. The marauders probably didn’t even know she was there. The van bounced as she bounded over bumps, her teeth banging like castanets. The boxy vehicle wasn’t made to drive off road. She pulled out onto a wide dirt path and drove into the forest. She felt a jolt to her chest and her breath caught. She gasped in air and the feeling receded, the knot around her heart disappeared, and it felt like a cocoon had formed where the knot had been. She looked down at her navigation system. She was on the Free Land, two miles from the border of Palici.

She turned off her engine, unbuckled her seatbelt and checked the locks. Her hands trembled and she inhaled deeply. Safe for now. The automatic dome light clicked off and she reached over to the glove compartment and pulled out her torch. Dim light spilled from it. She should get some sleep, get on the move when the sun rose.

Another check of the door locks and she could settle in. Climbing out of the only seat in the van, Vitoria stooped over to avoid hitting her head on the ceiling. The wan light from her torch illuminated the little home she had made for herself in the back. A large mattress filled most of the space, blankets and clothing piled on top of it. Three battered cardboard boxes sat at the foot of her bed. One box for clothes, another for food, a third for all the sentimental crap that she couldn’t force herself to part with. She picked up the bag by her chair and slung it over her shoulder. Bottles, some empty, some full of water, littered the floor, and she kicked them out of the way as she made her way to the bed. She kicked off her shoes and lowered herself onto the soft pallet.

If she had made it to the refuge she would have spent some time reading, but the light from her torch was dim and she had to save the power. She reached into the bag. Her gun was still there, loaded and ready. So close to the border of Palici, home to the Demalyn, the shifter designation, and it was all she had to defend herself. And her walking stick, if it came to it. She hoped it wouldn’t. Last time she’d had to use her walking stick as a weapon she’d damaged it and she didn’t have the money to replace this one.

She put her bag next to the bed and clicked off the torch, resting it next to her head. In the morning, she would make her way back to the Boundary Road. The Demalyn would never know she’d been there.

 

*

 

Vitoria surfaced into a dream. It had to be a dream, because she’d never been inside a room so lavish. The ceiling soared, the painting of the goddess Lencura was barely visible from the ground, and she only recognised her from the distinctive red and gold robes she wore. People sat in groups of three, all wearing gold sarongs, chests bare. She followed their gazes to the front of the room. The golden thrones atop their dais looked like something from a fairy tale. Two people sat there, a King and a Queen, she assumed.

As she regarded them, Vitoria’s heart sped up and her skin flushed.

They were magnificent.

The King’s long black hair fell in a braid down his back, his skin was tanned from the sun, and his dark brown eyes surveyed the room. The Queen’s auburn hair fell in soft waves over her bare, sun-bronzed breasts, her green eyes defiant and fixed on a man with tawny brown skin and grey hair, who was standing at a podium.

“The war is over,” the man was saying.

“We are quite aware of that, Prime Minister,” the Queen’s words were clipped. “Having fought in the war ourselves.”

“The council thinks,” the Prime Minister continued. “That it is time you found your third mate. We mate in threes because that is how the goddess intended it, and she intended it this way so we would have the necessary balance in our relationships and in our rule. As the ruling monarchs-”

“Your concerns are noted,” the King interrupted. “My mate and I will retire for the night and we shall return to this after dawn.”

“What is there to return to?” The Prime Minister asked. “You must find your mate. Surely you mean to use traditional methods? What is there to discuss?”

“We will return to this after dawn,” the Queen said firmly.

She rose gracefully and her mate followed suit. The King took the Queen’s hand in his and she entwined their fingers together. The King glanced towards the Queen. She held her head high as they left the room, her gaze fixed ahead. She looked cold, composed, in control.

Vitoria walked behind them, invisible through the silent room. They ascended a grand staircase and walked through one of the many doors that lined the corridor. The King locked the door behind them and Vitoria glanced around the room. It was a large bedroom with a four-poster bed in the middle. Imagine sleeping on that. It was probably soft and warm and nothing like the mattress she was used to sleeping on.

She turned back to the monarchs. The King pulled the Queen into his arms, she wound hers around his waist and pressed her face against his chest.

“Don’t cry, my love,” the King said. He stroked a hand down her bare back.

“Perhaps we should have remained soldiers.” The Queen’s voice shook.

“Perhaps, but no one refuses the honour of becoming monarchs.”

“They shouldn’t have chosen us, they should have chosen someone who was properly mated.”

“They weren’t all properly mated before they became monarchs.”

The Queen looked up at the King and Vitoria could see tear tracks on her cheeks. “They were all properly mated before they reached thirty solar cycles. Every single one of them. And I am to be thirty-three at the end of this solar cycle, and you shortly after.”

The King placed a kiss on the Queen’s shoulder. “We’ve been good monarchs. We brought peace to our lands and prosperity to our people,” he said.

“Good monarchs, save for our lack of a third mate. We have failed, Antonio. Failed our people. Failed our mate who is out there somewhere alone, without our protection.”

“The other monarchs didn’t come to power in the middle of a war, Matilda. If we had time to travel, as they had, perhaps we would be mated.”

Matilda shook her head. “The goddess is supposed to bring our mate to us. Perhaps they are right, perhaps we are not blessed by the goddess or fit to be monarchs.”

“They didn’t say that.”

“They implied it.”

“We brought peace to our lands. We have rebuilt cities and towns. Our people have food. They are safe and happy, and if that is not a blessing…”

He stopped talking abruptly and raised a hand to his chest. Matilda pulled away from him and placed her hand over her own heart.

“I’ve only felt this once before,” he said. “The day I knew you were my mate.”

“Our mate,” Matilda said. “We must go to her.”

 

*

 

Dim dawn light filtered into the van, waking Vitoria from a dream. Her mind was groggy as she pulled the duvet up over her eyes and for a few blissful moments enjoyed the comfort of her bed. The remnants of the dream lingered, leaving a warmth that spread from the cocoon around her heart and permeated her entire body. She wanted to stay exactly where she was. If she moved she might lose that feeling. When she moved it would be back to the real world. She tugged at a thread of memory, but the more she tried to remember her dream, the further away it seemed.

The dream was gone. She was back in her van, sleeping on an old mattress, wishing for a real home where she could lock the door and know that no one would be able to get in. Somewhere where she had neighbours, where she knew her surroundings. She would have that. When she reached Malita, she would have a home and neighbours, and everything that she’d had before her father had passed over. She ignored the voice that told her that her neighbours would be Dengara, that they might not accept a Solviso, and that her surroundings would be dark for half of each solar cycle. It was still better than living in a tiny van with nothing but her gun for protection.

She sat up and turned onto her knees. She gently placed one foot flat and tried to put her weight onto it. When she was confident that she could do so without injuring herself or falling, she stood up. She glanced around the room, looking for her stick. She needed to remember to bring it to bed with her. Just because her joints were fine the night before, didn’t mean they would be when she woke. She picked up her bag and hobbled over to the stick.

She slid out of the van, squinting her eyes to protect them from the bright morning sun. She winced slightly as all her weight was placed on her bad ankle. Not that the good one was much better. She stayed close to the vehicle while she relieved herself. It wouldn’t do to wander out in the woods. Who knew what she would find there?

She climbed back up and into the seat and strapped herself in. The morning meal could wait until she was back on the road. She had to make up for the lost time. Whatever had been on the Boundary Road the night before seemed like less of a threat than the feeling that had taken root inside her. The feeling that told her that she had to go further into the forest and onto the Demalyn lands.

She was a rationalist. She followed logic and science, and although the Demalyn were known as a fair and just designation, she would be a trespasser on their land.

She turned the key. The engine made a noise and then nothing happened. She tried again. Nothing.

“Shit!” she shouted as she banged her hand against the wheel. “Not now.”

There was nowhere to go for help. It was too far to walk to the next refuge and even if it had been closer, it wasn’t safe to walk along the Boundary Road. She climbed back out, ignoring the pain that was spreading from her right ankle all the way up her leg. She pulled up the hood and looked inside. What the hell was she going to do? She didn’t even know what she was looking at.

She turned around, glancing about as though someone would magically appear to help her, but there was no one there. Which was a good thing. Who knew what they would do to her if there had been someone there? She climbed up into the driver’s seat and tried again. Nothing.

She turned on her navigation system and zoomed out, looking to see if there was anything nearby. There was a settlement, by the size of it a large town or a city, through the forest nearby. She would have to cross over into Palici, the region belonging to the shapeshifting Demalyn, and walk through the trees. And when she got there? Maybe they would help her. Maybe. Her instinct, if that was what the overwhelming urge to venture into Demalyn territory was, told her to go with that plan. That they would help her.

She grabbed her bag, locked up her van, and began to walk through the forest towards Palici.

 

*

 

A couple of miles into the forest, Vitoria’s right ankle ached, both hips throbbed, and her hand had stiffened around the walking stick. As much as she hurt now, she knew that she would be in agony in the morning. She had to keep going. If she stopped, she might never start again.

The forest was dense. Some light filtered through the canopy of leaves, enough to see by, enough that she couldn’t justify using the limited power of her torch. She would need it when night fell. Though they were in the hottest part of the solar cycle, it was cool in the forest and a breeze brushed over her bare arms. She wished that she’d grabbed a shawl from her van, but she hadn’t imagined that it would be cold further into the forest. She looked down at the navigation system. She was on track to get to the city, but there was no way that she would make it by dark, not at the rate she was going. What if she had to sleep in the forest?

Fear burned inside her. What was out there in the forest? She’d read a lot about the world outside of Calibrai and if she remembered rightly, the wild animals of Palici posed no danger to people. She still didn’t want to spend a night in a cold, dark forest. She had some food and water in her bag, along with her gun and a little money, but nothing that would keep her warm.

Something howled behind her. She couldn’t tell how far away it was and she turned to see if it was close. Nothing there. She picked up her pace, adrenaline overwhelming the pain in her body. She stumbled, twisted her left ankle – her good one – and fell. Pain shot up her right leg and she whimpered. A growl came from her left and she turned her head.

Amber eyes stared out from the darkness, another pair of green eyes appearing next to it. No. It wasn’t darkness. That was their fur. She placed her walking stick against the ground and tried to pull herself up. Her legs gave way immediately. Low growls and hisses echoed around her. She tried to drag herself away. There was no way she could out-crawl them. Even if she could stand, even if she wasn’t injured, she couldn’t outrun the Demalyn. No Solviso, even the non-disabled ones, could. She looked ahead and more Demalyn appeared. Big cats, dogs, bears.

She was surrounded.

 

Available now on Amazon.

Bound to the Monarchs Available for Pre-Order

3D 1Blurb

Millennia ago, the people of Lencura were split into designations dependent on their abilities. Vitoria is a solviso. Others consider them the weakest of the designations but Vitoria knows she’s stronger than people think. Sure, she can’t fly, shift, or conjure magic but her blood has healing properties that the other designations covet and she knows she can use that to her advantage. She’s aware of the dangers that lurk outside of her region and that the other designations would do just about anything to possess her blood but when her father’s death leaves her homeless she’s willing to take the risk for the chance of a better life.

When Vitoria encounters marauders on her way to start a new life in the northern region of Malita, she’s forced to take a detour. Her van breaks down on the border of the shifter lands and she follows her instinct, venturing into the forbidden shifter territory. Better to take her chances with shifters than marauders. Vitoria is placed under the protection of Queen Mathilda and her mate, King Antonio. Mathilda and Antonio’s dominance awakens a passion in Vitoria that she never knew she possessed and she wonders if she might be the third mate they’ve been looking for.

When a dignitary from a neighbouring monarchdom kidnaps Vitoria and offers her anything she could ever want in return for her blood, she realises the only thing she wants is to be Mathilda and Antonio’s. Her monarchs will do anything to get her back but Vitoria isn’t sure what they really want: her or her blood.

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CONTENT WARNINGS (includes spoilers)

Continue reading Bound to the Monarchs Available for Pre-Order

Review of Annie McKie’s Writing Retreat


Earlier this year I decided that I needed a couple of days away just to concentrate on my novel. Usually when I go on writing holidays it’s because I want to write but also want to have other people to socialise with. I like the balance between being productive and being sociable that writers retreats usually give. However, on this occasion I booked with Annie knowing that it would be a solo experience. I was struggling with the plot for Deadly Dreams and needed to just get away and have space to think.

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I took the train to Lydney and Annie met me there. For no extra charge, she drove me from and to the train station. Annie was really friendly and she made me feel so welcome. On the first evening I was invited to eat with Annie and her husband and they were delightful company. Every other meal after that was taken in my room. All of the food is vegetarian and I enjoyed every single meal that Annie made. There was always plenty of it and it was so healthy.

 

 

As the only guest at this retreat, you can choose what time you start your day. Annie would always ask me the night before what time I wanted breakfast and I was able to choose what I wanted to eat (for breakfast, other meals are set). Annie’s retreat is the perfect place to get away on your own. You get your own room with an ensuite shower room and balcony. It has it’s own entrance which I thought was great because it meant I could come and go as I pleased. The room is spacious and comfortable. It has a nice double bed, a desk, a wood burner, and a little library of books.


Unlike other retreats that I have been on, you literally just have your room, which suited my needs perfectly. I think I would probably struggle for longer periods because it really is a solitary experience (perfect for a couple of days, but even an introvert like me needs company after a while) and there is nowhere else in the house to go. There are, apparently, beautiful walks in the area but my fibromyalgia was flaring up pretty badly at the time so I didn’t make it far. There is also a pub close by if that is your thing. Annie was lovely enough to pick me up some things from the local shop so I had plenty of snacks, lovely meals three times a day, a beautiful view and wifi. For me this meant  there was no need to go out! I had everything I needed and was very content to alternate between my room and the balcony.


My time at the retreat was very productive. There are no distractions except for the beautiful views. You don’t have to worry about food because it’s all provided. The room is comfortable. It’s peaceful. There’s a little fridge in the room to store cold drinks and tea and coffee is provided, along with fruit and cereal bars for snacking. It certainly gave me the time and space that I needed.


I would recommend this retreat to anyone who needs some time on their own, regardless of if you are a writer. Annie was lovely and a wonderful host. It was a beautiful place to visit and the views were inspiring. I think the photos speak for themselves!

Cost: £140 for two nights.

Website: http://www.anniemckie.co.uk

Swanwick 2016: Day One

Last year I attended Swanwick Writers School for the first time and I had one of the best weeks ever. I made great friends, had a lot of fun and learned a lot about writing. So here I am again, slightly tipsy, very tired and happy to be back at Swanwick.

My first day experience couldn’t be more different than it was last year. Last year I was so overwhelmed that I missed almost everything on the first day and was in bed by ten. This year I met a friend from last year at St Pancras and we travelled here together. Instead of the anxiety that I felt last year, I felt excited and relaxed. Swanwick Writers School could not make the journey any easier. We got off the train and there were people waiting to direct us to the bus to the Hayes (where the conference takes place).

We didn’t have long before the welcome talk but actually this year it wasn’t much of a problem because the check in process was so much quicker and more efficient than last year. The weather was lovely and the grounds of the Hayes are beautiful so after the talk we sat on the lawn and drank coffee (which is included in what you pay for the week,the week is literally all inclusive). We had a chance to catch up with friends from last year and meet some new people too. First timers have white name badges instead of yellow ones so it’s easy to see who they are. It was nice to be the person approaching newcomers rather than the person hiding in her room.

At dinner I sat with people who I had never met before which was great. I think it’s the nice thing about Swanwick, you can literally talk to anyone and you’re almost guaranteed that they will be friendly.

When I got back to my room after dinner,  I found that one of the pipes in the bathroom had broken and there was a really huge leak. The water was coming out of the door. The people at the Hayes were so nice about it. They’ve had to put me in another room (with the possibility of having to change again tomorrow) but they gave me free fudge so that makes up for it!

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I have now eaten the fudge.

The evening speaker tonight was John Lamont who gave an interesting (and evidence based) talk on how the way that we think influences outcomes. It was very thought provoking and an excellent way to start the week.

After a few drinks in the bar with new and old friends, I went to an informal session called What Are You Writing Now? Each person has the opportunity to stand in front of the group and talk for three minutes about what they are writing. Although public speaking is a huge part of my day job, outside of work I hate talking in front of a group of people. However, everyone else had done it and I thought it was only right that I should too. It was so interesting to hear what other people were doing, where they were at with their writing and how they had gotten there. I think the great thing about the session is that it really encouraged people to talk to each other afterwards and gave you something to talk about (not that having anything to talk about is an issue at Swaniwck, conversation just seems to flow here).

So day one has come to an end. I’m tired but happy to be back at Swanwick.

 

 

Cleveland Rocks Romance Competition: First Place, Paranormal Romance

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Earlier this year I started entering various competitions for unpublished novels through the Romance Writers of America. Many of the chapters have competitions where you can enter part of your novel (usually your first chapter). The first round is judged by members of the RWA and then if you are a finalist your novel is then judged by industry professionals, which is of course a great opportunity.

I started entering the competitions after volunteering to judge one. As I was writing feedback for the entries I was judging, I realised that it would be really helpful to me to have feedback on my first chapter too. I have a great critique partner but I think it’s useful to get as much feedback as possible. I’ve entered quite a few of the competitions now. The quality of the feedback has been variable but overall it has been totally worth the entry fees. Each competition I entered gave me something to work with and each time I would go through the first chapter and make edits based on the feedback I got. Like with any feedback, some I took on board and others I considered but ultimately didn’t use. One thing I found was quite consistent was that judges didn’t understand how things are in the UK (which is understandable as it is the Romance Writers of America). For example I got a lot of comments regarding why my characters didn’t have guns. Obviously that’s something that I wouldn’t change in my novels because it’s set in the UK. I’m not saying there will never be a gun in my books but it doesn’t fit with the setting that all characters would have guns or that they would be issued as standard (especially in a world where guns do not kill everything, but that doesn’t come in until chapter three or four).

I never expected that my novel would actually win one of the competitions. Having judged some myself, I know that the standards are high and I was really just in it for the feedback so that I could improve my novel. Obviously it must have worked because I found out yesterday that Deadly Dreams won first place in the Paranormal Romance Cateogry in the North East Ohio Romance Writers of America’s Cleveland Rocks Romance Competition.

Thank you NEORWA. Thank you to all the judges (first round and final round) for rating it highly. And thank you especially to all the judges who have given me such useful feedback on Deadly Dreams in all of the competitions that I have entered.

 

Secretly Submissive in From Top to Bottom

My short story, Secretly Submissive, has been published in LadyLit’s anthology, From Top to Bottom: Lesbian Stories of Dominance and Submission. It’s available from most major ebook retailers and is already an Amazon best seller. If you prefer to read physical books, the print version will be available soon.

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Brace yourself, because there will be pain—but of the oh, so pleasurable kind. There will be begging and there will be bruises, but all leading to an obliterating climax. The fifteen lesbian stories of dominance and submission contained within the pages of From Top To Bottom will make you flinch like the characters do, will make you squirm and want to turn the pages faster and faster. You will find first-time players and long-term couples. A plethora of paddles and the occasional flogger—and a great number of sore backsides. Be warned.

With stories from experienced writers at the top of their game and thrilling new talents alike, all of them exploring power dynamics from top to bottom, this collection is kinky, daring and, at times, deliciously violent. Read at your own risk.

Caution: This title contains graphic language and rough lesbian sex and is suitable for adults only.
Table of Contents
Chasing the Dragon by S.E. Hill
Dance for Me by Janelle Reston
Serious Swimmer by J. Belle Lamb
Call for Submission by Elna Holst
Tell Me by Robyn Nyx
Taking the Lead by Lauren Jade
The Antisocial Sister by Lucy Felthouse
One Hundred Strokes by Sinclair Sexsmith
The Encounter by Eden Darry
Secretly Submissive by Brooke Winters
Inside by Leandra Vane
Vegas Mistress by Samantha Luce
Hit The Top by Robin Watergrove
Not Yet by Harper Bliss
Latin Lessons by Lise MacTague

Click here for more information.

 

2015 in Writing

I start 2016 feeling pretty good about things. 2015 was, overall, a good year for me. Here are my low points and my high points.

The Lows

There have (thankfully) been very few lows this year. Of course there have been plenty of rejections but isn’t that to be expected?  Each rejection feels slightly easier than the previous one so in many ways the rejections are good too and they make me appreciate it when I get an acceptance.

The real low for me this year with regard to writing was receiving some really bad advice at the beginning of the year from two separate sources. The first was during a writers retreat. I paid to have a one to one session with the writer in resident who spent the majority of the session talking about herself and promoting her own books and then advised me to change the genre of my novel. I am a romance writer. I write romance and not fantasy because I want the relationship to be the primary focus of what I write. Romance is what I enjoy reading, it’s what I enjoy writing and it’s what I’m going to keep writing. Part of me felt amused by the session because I have met lots of really successful writers on the many writers retreats that I have attended who are (generally) all humble and incredibly generous with their time and advice while she was being paid to help me and was clearly just there to feed her own ego. The other part of me felt really low about the whole thing and it put a downer on what had been a really lovely retreat. However, it did make me put the novel down and write Mistress so that was a good thing.

The second piece of bad advice came from a company who I had previously had good experiences with. They had a new editor and I agreed to try him out. He sent back the critique of my novel late and it was just a critique of romance novels in general. He kept describing my novel as a supernatural thriller, even though I had said that it was a romance novel. He made bitchy comments about the kinds of women who read Fifty Shades of Grey and then explained to me what (in his opinion) women should want to read and why romance novels oppress women. That’s right, an editor mansplained to me why women should not read romance novels. The company gave me a refund so at least I didn’t lose anything financially. This really highlighted for me the importance of getting feedback from the right people. Romance is a distinct genre, it doesn’t play by the same rules as other genres and there is absolutely no point in getting feedback from people who don’t understand it. Like everything though, something good came out of this. It prompted me to join the Romance Writers of America.

The Highs

There have been so many highs in 2015:

  1. Getting Mistress Published
  2. Joining the Romance Writers of America
  3. Finding a Great Critique Partner
  4. Casa Ana Writers Retreat
  5. Greenacre Writers Retreat
  6. Swanwick Writers School
  7. Having Secretly Submissive Accepted for Publication
  8. Finally Letting Someone I Know Read Something I Wrote

 

Mistress and Secretly Submissive

Earlier this year my short story, Mistress, was published in Summer Love, an anthology of lesbian romance stories published by Ladylit. This was so exciting for me. It was the first story that I have ever had published and I got to see my name (not my real name of course) in print. And one of the reviewers on amazon said nice things about it. In my excitement I allowed two people who I know in real life to read it. The first was a writer friend whose own style of writing had inspired me to write in first person so it seemed natural to allow her to read the result. The second was a friend who convinced me to send her the story while I was drunk. I woke at 3AM, sobering up and in a panic. I may never look at her without blushing again.

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I usually write paranormal/urban fantasy romance. Mistress was the first  contemporary romance story that I have written and I enjoyed writing it, getting it published and working with Ladylit so much that I just had to submit something for their next anthology which just so happened to be a BDSM themed lesbian romance anthology. I wrote Secretly Submissive and that was also accepted for publication and will be published some time in the new year. Sadly, there are currently no open calls for submissions from Ladylit so I am back to working on my novel (which is a good thing of course!).

Romance Writers of America

I think that joining the Romance Writers of America is probably the best thing that I have ever done as far as writing goes. As I said earlier, I love romance. Lesbian, bisexual, heterosexual, monogamous, polyamorous, fantasy, historical, contemporary…if it’s romance then I am interested. When people meet me it’s not what they expect of me. I am a professional, I am analytical and straight speaking, I like facts and statistics, research and evidence based practice. I like talking about politics, the care system, public family law, domestic violence and disability. I am an introvert through and through and the things that I enjoy talking about often lean to the darker side. People assume that my taste in fiction reflects those interests. I used to tell people that I read non-fiction, which is a half truth. I read non-fiction and I read romance. Nothing else. Now I tell people the truth, I love romance novels. I like reading something with a happy ending. I like creating stories where no matter what happens you know that everything will be alright in the end. Other people do not always get that.

Other members of the RWA do get it. It’s a whole organisation of people who love romance as much as I do. Everyone there takes romance seriously, no one there suggests that I should take out the romance and turn my book into a fantasy novel. It feels like a safe space full of people (mostly women) from diverse backgrounds who all love romance and in general are very supportive of other writers. Writers in general are supportive of each other, romance writers especially so (I could be biased).

The RWA is of course not just a safe space for romance writers, it is also (and perhaps primarily ) a great resource for romance writers. There is so much information on their forums and their website and I have found it more useful than every other writing website that I have used combined. As I said earlier, romance is a distinct genre and sometimes the advice and information available on general writing websites just isn’t relevant.

One of the best things about being a member of the Romance Writers of America is their critique partner match up. I found my wonderful critique partner Sharon Buchbinder on there. After the bad experiences that I had at the beginning of the year I was quite nervous about letting someone else read my novel but she has been amazing. She is honest but encouraging, she gives great advice and sympathy when needed. I think I have learned more from her about writing than I have from anyone else and I feel so blessed to have found her. However, probably the best thing about having her as a critique partner is that I get to read her stories too. If you haven’t read them I would highly recommend doing so. Kiss of the Silver Wolf was one of my favourite books of 2015.

Writers Retreats

My first retreat of the year was to the wonderful Casa Ana. Casa Ana is in a tiny village in Spain. There are no distractions, just lots of supportive writers, good food and beautiful views. This retreat was a really productive one for me. I did a lot of editing, met a lot of great people and  ate a lot of great food. For more information about the retreat, read my review.

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My second retreat was the  Greenacre Writers Retreat. Greenacres Writers Group have regular retreats at St Katharine’s. I plan to write about it in detail at some point soon. It was one of the most enjoyable retreats that I have attended. I can’t say it was the most productive because I spent so much time talking to interesting people that I didn’t get as much done as I had hoped. I didn’t feel bad about this though because I got so much out of talking to the other writers. I am really looking forward to attending more of their retreats in the future.

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Swanwick Writers School

When I attended Swanwick I planned to update my blog daily with information about my day but by day three I was having so much fun (and drinking so much wine) that I didn’t actually manage to update my blog after that. I had also planned to write a review after but the week was so full that writing a review was too overwhelming. It really was one of the best experiences of my life. To quote a friend, “The flowers are too bright, the people are too nice and nothing here seems real.” It really does feel like stepping out of the real world into some kind of writing utopia. I can’t wait for next year.

2016

I am so excited for 2016. I know that this is going to be another great year and I can’t wait to see what it holds for me.

Happy New Year!