Monday 29 September 2014

Helen Lacey welcomes us to Crystal Point, near the Great Barrier Reef - horses, beaches and her latest book.

Hello everyone!

It's no secret that I harbor a desire to be published by Harlequin. I know what hard work it is, so I marvel at multi-published Harlequin authors, and I marvel that I rub shoulders with several here in little ole Queensland. One such is Helen Lacey, who hails from a paradise very close to the Great Barrier Reef.  I've invited her here today to tell us about her latest Harlequin romance penned from her own little paradise.

Now I know this is a long post, so flip through and read what interests you...

Hello there Denise!

Welcome to Crystal Point!

Of course, Crystal Point doesn’t really exist.....but it is the main setting for the books I am currently writing for Harlequin Special Edition. It’s a small town with around eight hundred residents that sits at the southern most point of The Great Barrier Reef. It has a beautiful beach, a fabulous walking path that runs for a several kilometres along the shoreline and is surrounded by sugar cane, sweet potato and macadamia farms. You can see dolphins and turtles in the rocky shallows and every year whales frolic and breach a hundred metres from the shore.

It’s a little piece of paradise…and lucky for me I have lived there for seven years.

Of course, it’s not really called Crystal Point. But it does sit at the southern tip of The Great Barrier Reef. At it is surrounded by farmland and has an incredible constantly changing landscape. The cane farmers are harvesting at the moment and the sweet scent lingers in the air for days after a harvest. Strawberry season is just finishing and lychee season will be upon us soon. There are produce stalls spotted along the roadside and not too far away a flower market every Friday. There’s a kiosk and small general store and a caravan park that bulges at the seams during school holiday times.

We found this little town by accident – we were visiting a friend and fell in love with the place and a few months later a sea change ensued.  Regrets? Not one. I love that I can set my books in a place that is so special to me. Since moving here I’ve been able to pursue my passion for horses once more, cultivate a vegetable patch that actually thrives and sit out on my deck in the evenings and look out at the ocean. I still get a kick out of waiting at a crossing for a cane train, or having to round up the neighbours cattle when they escape into our horse paddock.

PhotoSo perhaps I should say that Crystal Point does exist, I just changed the name. And like in my current release Once Upon A Bride, there is a strong sense of community and friendship in the small town. People say hello. Neighbours know each other’s names. It’s not for everyone, but for this romance author, it’s a place where ideas flow and where you can visit anytime in the pages of my books.

Thanks for sharing your paradise with us today, Helen. Here is a link from a 2013 interview I did with Helen where she shared very touching stories of her childhood travelling around Outback Queensland and how her father imbued in her a love of books. You can read her USA Today interview here. 

About the Author:
Helen Lacey grew up reading Black Beauty, Anne of Green Gables and Little House on the Prairie. These childhood classics inspired her to write her first book when she was seven years old, a story about a girl and her horse. Her parents’ love of travel meant she saw much of the world in those early years and she feels fortunate to have had a diverse and interesting education over several continents. She continued to write with the dream of one day being published, and becoming a Harlequin Special Edition author is the realization of that dream. She loves writing about tortured heroes—both cowboys and CEOs—and heroines with gumption who finally get their men.
From Welsh parents and a large family, Helen lives on the east coast of Australia in a small seaside town at the southernmost point of the Great Barrier Reef; she lives with her wonderfully supportive husband, many horses and three spoiled dogs.

Find Helen online:

Once Upon a Bride
Helen Lacey
Happily ever after…?
Once Upon a Bride
When Gabe Vitali escapes to a fresh start in Crystal Point, Australia, the former physician isn’t looking for a storybook ending. For the first time he’s living in the moment. His new five-year plan does not include serious relationships. But he doesn’t anticipate his unavoidable next-door neighbor…and an undeniable attraction.
Bridal consultant Lauren Jakowski wants marriage. She’s just sworn off love and sex! To avoid getting burned again, she’s looking for safe and forever-after. But they’re not Gabe’s to give–for reasons he can’t share with anyone, least of all this pretty complication.
Gabe and Lauren don’t figure on a fairy tale. But fate has other plans….
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Tuesday 23 September 2014

Write...Edit...Publish challenge - CHANGING FACES. My story set in the Australian Outback.

Hi everyone!

If you're looking for my UNDERRATED blogfest entry, it's been relegated to second place.
It's time for the Write...Edit...Publish challenge again. This month is CHANGING FACES, a wide-open challenge. I've chosen to re-post a story I wrote for #FridayFlash a couple of years ago. Everyone seemed to enjoy it, so I thought I'd let it do double duty as I'm having a very busy month.
It's a story about the Queensland outback which I linked to in my recent post on Richard Hughes' blog. If you actually followed the link and read my story, I apologise.
I've added some images of Australia for you.

Indigenous Australians are not only the most profoundly disadvantaged group in Australian society, but the most discriminated against. There are some references in this story you may not get, but suffice to say in Colonial Australia, Aboriginals were often referred to as 'Jacky Jacky' and Aboriginals used to wryly call themselves 'King George' after the English king at this time. Of course, Indigenous Australians ran rings around whites when it came to surviving the outback.

A Thirst Before Dying

Aboriginal Rock Art
You don’t want me to stay with you then?
No. I’d prefer to be alone.
I could stay until…
No, it’s best for you to leave now, see if you can find a way out of this god-forsaken place.
Look, there might be water just over that ridge. I’ll go and come back with some as soon as I find it.
Don’t worry about me mate. I’m done for. Listen to me croaking. Let’s invent our own bush lore – every man for himself, none of this laying down your life for your mate…
I’ll feel bad…
Rubbish mate. Just go and let me get on with it. You’d be a silly bugger to stay here and rot. You’ve got a chance. Take it. You know I haven’t got a snowflake’s chance in hell of surviving. It's as hot as hell here. I can feel myself cooking from the inside out.
Go, you ugly bastard. And get that woeful look off your face. I don’t want you here. Get on with it. At least one of us silly buggers will survive.
Look, it’s my fault. I was the one who got us lost. I really thought I knew where I was going...
Turns out you didn’t, but we aren’t the first and we won’t be the last to be tricked by the Australian bush, mate. You know that. We broke every rule in the book--leaving the car, not enough water, then I went and broke my bloody leg to boot. That ends it for me. No chance of me getting out of here now. Think about it. I'm right...Go!
I woke to the pain throbbing through my busted leg. I rolled over, took a deep breath then looked down. The leg didn't seem to belong to me.
I was astounded to see how fat it’d gotten while I drowsed. Nothing I could do, so I just lay there, trying to will myself to feel nothing even though the sun was now directly overhead, frying me like an egg on a car bonnet.
How will it feel to die of thirst?
I once read about an old salt who survived nearly seven days in the Arizona desert without water. Well, I’d been about three days and I knew I wasn’t about to break Mr Valencia’s record.
I ran my tongue around my mouth, felt saliva as thick as paste. My tongue clung to my teeth and the roof of my mouth. I felt like I had a golf ball in my throat. My head and neck throbbed like I'd been hit with a golf club!
At least it’s taking my mind off the pain in my leg.
My face felt like a full moon and my skin was like thin crackly parchment when I touched it with my shaking fingers. I knew before too long I’d be a raving lunatic. I’d start hallucinating. I didn’t want to be around when that happened.
It was a toss up between pain and thirst. Which would kill me?
I’d fallen to my side while I slept. I didn’t want to die lolling like some old abandoned guy in a nursing home. With a few grunts and groans I managed to heave myself up a little and prop my back against the red sandy rock.
The dry valley lay spread before me, shimmering in the heat. I could swear I saw water but I knew that was a mirage.  The reds and ochres of the steep gorges soothed me, taking my mind off the possibilites of that inland sea.
I’ve always loved this country, especially the outback. Unforgiving though. Only the tough survive. Better add smart to that. Not smart to get lost, break down, then run out of water, you useless clot.
I thought of old Herb. I hoped he’d been smart enough to find some water by now or he’d be propping up a rock too, or eating sand.
My eyes were just slits, but I noticed a pair of wedge-tailed eagles merge with the red rock, flying between the harsh blue sky and the ochre cliffs like children at play while the sun kept vigil like a protective parent.
It was a sinister brutal world out here. I hereby name you ‘Tarrangaua’. I smiled to myself, feeling like King George. I knew that meant ‘rough red hill’ in Aborigine. Smart arse!
A thick pain pushed up against my chest. There was a whooshing in my ears. Here comes the deafness...
But I could hear a crunching sound reverberating around my head. I swear the rock I was leaning on shook, so I must have reached the hallucinating stage. Didn't even need a pill! I grinned what I knew was a terrible grin, feeling my gums and teeth protruding like some zombie's. My face would be unrecognizable if anyone ever found me.
‘What are you doin’ sittin’ here in the sun you silly bugger? Hardly Bondi Beach, you bum.’
Looming over me looking like the Grim Reaper I could just make him out with the bright sun behind him. All I could really see was a wobbly outline of a face. I blinked and the face morphed into one as black as the ace of spades with a beard as white as snow all under a black Akubra hat with silver studs that glinted in the sun, hurting my eyes.
Ouch! Jacky Jacky?’ I croaked. 
Every Australian knows an Aboriginal tracker is called Jacky Jacky, even a city slicker like me.
‘No mate, not Jacky Jacky. I’m Mr Theodore White, but who’s askin’? Looks like you could use some help and quick before you turn into one tough piece of steak.’
‘Hey, I’m King George,’ I said only half-joking. Who am I? 
‘That's my line. He died long ago mate. You don’t wanna be him.’
He lowered himself close to my face, cradled my head in his great black arms and let me take a few sips from his coolamon (water canteen).
I tried to touch his hat just to prove he was no hallucination, but it was out of reach.
The water felt real enough. Its coolness was the most beautiful thing.
‘That’s enough King George. Only a drop at a time or it’ll kill ya.’
I tried not to cry like a baby when he took the bottle away.
‘Found ya old mate,’ he said, as he began tending my leg with the deft moves of ancient Aboriginal lore guiding his hands.
‘What? Who?’ I rasped. Then I remembered old Herb.
‘The other poor bugger you musta been with. He was roasting in the sand in the dry riverbed. Musta gone to sleep thinkin’ he was in the water, seein' a mirage. No savin’ him. His face was burned to a crisp. But looks like you’ll make it, even though your face will never be the same again.’
Click here to read more WEP stories.

And I've just submitted the first chapter of my romance, Fijian Princess, in a Harlequin So You Think You Can Write contest. I'd love it if you'd click this link to my story and read it and comment. Thanks!! Here is the link to the contest if you have a full manuscript ready and would like to enter!

Monday 22 September 2014

The Ninja's Blogfest - UNDERRATED TREASURES - Have you heard of these gems?

Hi everyone!

Click for more entries
As Alex J Cavanaugh says, everyone has a favorite movie or band that no one else has ever heard about (well, I question that). For whatever reason, they remain undiscovered and underrated. Now is your chance to tell the world about this obscure treasure! 

On Monday, September 22, post about your favorite unknown –

MOVIE – BAND/ARTIST – TV SHOW – BOOK. Post about one or all four – dealer’s choice! 

Here's my entry. I decided to go with Australian, as there's more of a chance you'll not have heard of it/them...: I haven't included youtube clips, as they slow down the upload for many bloggers. I'm sure you're capable of checking them out if you like the sound of the band/singer...

Image result for inxsUNDERRATED BAND: INXS. 
OKAY, this Aussie band had the world by the ears for awhile, until lead singer Michael Hutchence died. The recent telemovie brought this amazing band back into the spotlight over here in Oz. Not sure if it played worldwide. Oh, boy, their music is amazing,especially their ballads, and the words and music never leave you. They were '80s, but over the years have tried to replace Michael and have never quite made the cut. Their song, 'Never Tear Us Apart' from the album, Kick, is one of my favourite songs of all time.

Image result for images jessica mauboyJESSICA was the runner-up for the 2006 season of Australian Idol.  An Australian R&B and pop singer, Jessica is also a great flag waver for Indigenous Australia. A guest appearance at the Eurovision Song Contest this year brought her worldwide attention. She's also appeared in two movies, one being The Sapphires, the story of an Indigenous pop group entertaining the troops in Vietnam. 

MANY of our TV shows are imported/based on overseas' shows, but Offspring is Australian. Quirky characters, quirky storylines, quirky families. I avoided the first season as I knew I would be hooked, but I did watch this season and it was great. Makes you laugh and cry. Not exactly 'feel good' like some US comedies--the comedy here is darker and more realistic. Great show. Can't wait for the next season.

Eyrie by author Tim WintonWINTON is a fabulous Australian writer of literary fiction. Some of his earlier novels are favourites of mine also -- such as Breath (surfing in the '60s, but so much more...) Eyrie is his latest and, kapow... a superb novel: a novel of disillusionment and redemption in modern society set in Fremantle, Western Australia. Loss and beauty, the taking of responsibility and the overcoming of disappointment. I found myself re-reading passages for their unbelievable writing. The ending is the best I've read in awhile. I'm still reeling from it.

Continuing with the UNDERRATED theme, I'd love to see more writers, poets, artists etc joining the Write...Edit...Publish blogfest. Great feedback for your work. In two days' time we have CHANGING FACES as the theme. Be lovely to have your support. You can sign up in my sidebar.

Thanks for calling! And thanks to all of you who wrote a cancer story for Melissa Bradley. She needs our on-going support. Her GoFundMe campaign is here.

And you can now buy the book, How I Found the Write Path, a collection of letters over sixty authors have written to their past selves. There are so many buy links I will send you to Pk Hrezo's blog for them all. It's supposed to be FREE, but I had to pay 96c on Amazon. Smashwords appears to be FREE. 

Monday 15 September 2014

THE BIG C BLOG HOP FOR MELISSA BRADLEY - My cancer story, After the Storm.

Hi everyone!

Today is a sobering post. I responded to the call on Michael de Gesu's blog to write a cancer story to be included in an anthology. All sales will benefit blogger Melissa Bradley's fight, as with losing her job and undergoing chemotherapy, the cost of staying alive is sky high. She  needs our help. There is also a medical fund to help raise money for the expensive treatment. Go here if you feel you could spare a few dollars for Melissa.

Melissa is fighting cancer with a very upbeat spirit, a heavy dose of sass. I admire that as I follow her journey on facebook. Now, Michael and Melissa would prefer funny stories, and I tried, but funny and cancer is like an oxymoron to me. We have the choice to be inspirational and uplifting too, so I think my story fits somewhere around there.

The story came to me as I lay in bed thinking about Melissa, then thinking about all the lights in the house for our various electronics. That got me started...and I always like to write about the beach. With a bit more time I may have polished this to say exactly what I wanted it to say about the beach/thunderstorms/journey, and I know it doesn't quite. However, I hope it's entertaining and fits the bill for the cancer anthology.

Perhaps you could suggest ways I could improve it for the anthology. I'd love that.


That night, a thunderstorm struck. 

Sitting up in bed, Ellie clutched her hands over her heart, pushing it back into her chest. Each clap felt like the judgment of an angry God. But she was the one who was angry. At God. And scared. Her own ragged breaths, in and out, in and out. She leant forward and smothered her face in the pillow beside her.

Thunderstorms were her biggest nightmare. Or her second biggest. Her biggest was losing Steve. But…how could all that power in the heavens not strike her little home, sending what was left of her shattering to the four winds?

The wind moaned, rattling her windows, driving sheets of rain against the glass. A bolt of yellow struck the old wreck near the beach, sending sparks to the heavens. Would she be next?

Night turned to day with another humongous flash. Outside, the waves crashed again and again, eating hungrily at the rocky headland. Tomorrow the beach would be different. The dunes would be pushed back. The torn grasses and broken branches would be floating adrift on the tide. 

Everything looked different in the morning.

What a night!

There was a time when Steve held her. With his strong arms around her, she always felt safe. But now the terror was hers to deal with alone. Steve was gone. Two years ago today. She should have died with him. Anything but being left alone here by the beach, in a house that could topple into the water with the next gigantic wave, just like she wanted to topple out of her life…

Between lightning flashes, her room was as black as the inside of a cave, especially when she squeezed her eyes shut. The fear on her tongue was a metallic fluid, killing her drop by drop.
Was this all that remained of her life? Cringing in her bed, paralyzed by fear, alone?

She opened her eyes. No. It wasn’t pitch black. There were flickering lights throughout her room—the white light from her modem in the corner, her mobile phone flashing messages in blue pinpoints of light, her laptop showing green, fully charged—comforting her, showing her that life goes on. She wasn’t completely disconnected.

Staring at the flashing lights, it brought Steve’s hospital room into full focus,  and the terror threatened to overwhelm her again as it did that night. The machines beeped, the lights flashed, the green figures showed what was happening, until, finally, there was just a long green flat line…

They dragged her away in the end. They didn’t understand that she couldn’t leave Steve there, all alone. Doctors, nurses, social workers—all tried to reason with her, but who could reason with someone who had lost her reason for living? She couldn’t take it; she’d died with Steve, just like she’d lived with him. Twenty years together. That’s a lot of years to get over.

Another thunderclap sent her darting under the covers. She held the sheet over her head and prayed. Please God, take away my fears…of thunderstorms, of being alone, of unbelief. Forgive me for thinking You didn’t make me strong enough to go on. I will go on. Starting now.

Maybe her beach house would fall onto its knees into the water, but that was out of her control, like Steve’s cancer. Maybe she’d have to move away, start a new life…whatever. She would if she had to. Steve would have wanted that. He’d whispered to her before he left her: ‘Wipe away those tears. Don’t let cancer claim us both.’

Her phone beeped. She checked the messages. Several, all from the same person, Tom, the coastguard who lived in the next cottage:


She messaged back:


 Please click on the links here, on on the badge in my sidebar for other cancer stories. Monday 15th is well underway in Australia, so you may have to wait until tomorrow for most of the posts.

Thank you for reading my story.  Please consider posting a story if you can manage it. I'm sure the anthology will take some time to be collated.

And any suggestions for improvement, I'm open.