Surrounded in Solitude

In many ways, the life of a writer is a lonely one. I sit alone with my pen and paper (or laptop, or note taker) and let go of reality in favour of forays into imaginary worlds. I throw myself into intimate relationships with people who feel real but are, in truth, mere figments. I feel their emotions as if they were my own. Their joy, their heartbreak, every laugh and each choking sob. It’s not a wonder writers sometimes come across as… well… mental health adjacent.

But a writer is never truly alone. The characters I create, despite their lack of corporeal form, never truly leave. It’s true that when I write The End and send a book off into the world, there is a sense of separation and of saying goodbye, but it’s only ever temporary. Characters visit at odd times, usually when I hear a song from the book soundtrack, or when I read a quote from the book, or when a reader talks about them. Every time I hear the words ‘I love this character’ my heart swells and all I can think is ‘I love them, too!’

Which also seems a little weird because, at their heart, my characters are the personification of various slivers of myself – both in their strengths and their faults. I am Patrick’s curiosity, and Logan’s wariness. I am Amber’s love of shoes and Lincoln’s need to pare life back to only the essentials. I am Dante’s hidden desires and Sean’s need to be found. Sam’s anxiety and Tristan’s sorrow. Toni’s flamboyance and Ned’s… well… you get the idea. 😉

So, yes, writing is a solitary process. but I never truly write alone. I am surrounded by all the characters I’ve ever written, and a few who are still waiting their turn. Now if only I could get them to stop talking over one another, maybe I’d get more work done. 🙂

The Characters Who Sneak Up On You

Toni Fairweather was never supposed to have a happy ending. Even though The Experiment (the first book in the Experimental Love series) opened with a description of his soft lips and pretty features, he was only ever meant to be a throwaway side character. The man my main character, Patrick, didn’t want to kiss.

I’ll admit Toni was all kinds of fun to write. He was snarky and dramatic, with adorable dimples and a deep love of cocktails. But once I finished writing those initial chapters, I never expected to cross paths with him again.

Fast forward to the final chapters of The Experiment. My second main character, Logan, returned to the same club where the book opened. He was determined to find a fling to help him forget his heartache over losing Patrick (yes, it was during that part of the book). Obviously, I couldn’t let that happen. Someone had to get in the way. But who? The answer quickly became obvious: Toni.

With a cocktail in hand and a sympathetic ear to lend, he sauntered back onto the page as if his return were inevitable. Apparently, he’d been hanging out around the edges of my subconscious waiting for his cue. By the end of that second scene, Toni had morphed into a fully-fledged character. Every word and action revealed hints of depth and vulnerability. I loved him in that moment, and I loved the way he took care of Logan when he was in dire need of a friend.

Readers fell in love with Toni, too. Soon after the book was released, I started to get requests for Toni to get a story of his own. Without a doubt, he had become far too bright and shiny to ignore.

I’m so glad I listened to my readers and looked deeper into Toni’s story. For all his surface level snark and tendency to be a bit ‘extra’, he has such a big heart and so much love to give. Toni is one throwaway side character who truly deserved a happy ending all his own.

Toni’s story, Bona Fide Fake, is available now on Amazon (including KU).

The Experiment Background Scene – Young Patrick

When I was beginning my journey with Patrick and Logan for The Experiment I used a book called Story Genius to help me dig deeper into the backgrounds of the characters. This involved writing a few short scenes from their pasts that helped solidify their flawed worldviews. This month, I thought I’d share one of those background scenes with you. If you haven’t read The Experiment yet, this is NOT a spoiler. It’s more of a glimpse into the development of Patrick’s mindset, which he still has when the book opens.

Setting the Scene: This scene is set when Patrick is about thirteen years old. It’s entirely PG.


I don’t miss Danny anymore.

It’s a stark realisation for an otherwise average Tuesday lunch. Honestly, the thought never would have occurred to me if I hadn’t seen him sitting a few metres away with his new friends. He looks relaxed, happy, as oblivious to my absence as I have been to his. Which is weird because we were practically inseparable for years.

Danny and I became best friends in Grade Four, when we realised we lived around the corner from each other. We’d spent whole summers visiting back and forth at each other’s houses, having sleep overs, hanging out. Once we’d spent a whole afternoon putting together a Star Wars Millennium Falcon Lego set. It had taken hours of work and the result was freaking awesome. The Falcon went into battle in Danny’s backyard, about an hour before sunset. We managed to destroy half a dozen Death Stars before the dog got hold of it and sprinted off. We’d laughed so hard we’d had trouble catching him to get it back.

This past summer had been different. My parents’ separation had left our family in chaos and he’d been off visiting his Dad in Sydney for the Christmas holidays. We’d been excited to see each other when school started again, but it didn’t take long to realise something was off. Danny, who was going by Dan now, had discovered rugby. He’d gone to a bunch of games with his dad and suddenly it seemed to be all he could talk about. Who made the best try last Friday night. Whether the right man was chosen for Man of the Match. Last year he hadn’t known the rules for the game but now suddenly he had strong opinions about the intelligence of the referee. Goddamn, it was boring.

It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy sport. I just didn’t understand his fascination with watching other people play sport. Where was the fun in that? I preferred to play video games on my Xbox. Games where I was the one winning or losing, where my skill level mattered. Danny was into some video games, but not like me. When I started talking about the awesome shot I’d made in Halo his eyes would glaze over until I stopped talking, then he’d change the subject—back to rugby.

Crunch time came the day of his fourteenth birthday party. I could remember how sweaty my palms were when I arrived. I’d been breathing so hard it was like I’d just sprinted the length of the school oval instead of walking the distance between Mum’s car and the front door. Six other guys were already there by the time I arrived. I knew them from school, but they were more Danny’s friends than mine.

“Patrick, hey!” Danny grinned as he jumped up from the couch to welcome me. “Thanks for coming.”

“Thanks for inviting me.” I gave him his present. “Happy birthday, Danny… I mean, Dan.”

He ripped open the wrapping and suddenly I was nervous that he wouldn’t like his present. He would have loved it last year, but now, looking at the maroon jersey he wore and the merchandise piled on the coffee table, my present seemed like it was meant for someone else.

The excitement in his eyes dimmed as the Saturn V Rocket Lego set was revealed. “Wow, that’s great. Thanks.” The forced pleasure in his voice was a sucker punch to my gut. He turned away, so I couldn’t see the look he gave his new friends, but they didn’t bother trying to hide their sniggers.

“Good work, Patrick,” one of them drawled. “Maybe you can put that together for Dan while we watch the game this afternoon, right before you’re put down for your nap.”

“Brett, give it a rest,” Dan snapped, but he put the Lego box down beside an armchair instead of on the coffee table with the rest of the gifts. I had no idea what their problem was. It wasn’t a baby gift. The target age of 14+ was printed right there on the box.

Dropping into a chair, I resigned myself to spending the afternoon with a bunch of strangers who didn’t know a first-person shooter from a platform game.

My best friend had become one of those strangers. Because Dan wasn’t Danny anymore.

We stopped hanging out together at all after that party, but I don’t hold it against him. That’s the other thing I realise now, on top of the not missing him part. There’s no bad feelings there. He just changed.

There’s that word again. My mum stopped loving my dad because he changed. Danny stopped being my friend because he changed. I suppose Mum and I changed too, without really realising it.

It’s different for Danny and me though. We’re kids. We’re still figuring out who we are. It’s okay to change when you’re a kid.

By the time I’m old enough that losing people will start to matter more, I’ll know who I am. And so will everyone else.

The hope you enjoyed reading this little peek into Patrick’s past!

Many Paths to the Same Place

After finishing nine books and starting on my tenth, I’ve reached one conclusion about the writing process: every book is different. This may not sound like a big deal, but for me it’s actually quite horrifying.

When I first started writing, I spent a lot of time reading about the wonderful and unique writing processes of other authors. I always imagined that after writing a few books I would discover my own process and that would be that. I would be able to use that same process to write book after book, streamlining and refining as I went.

The reality? Splinter took forever to write, Our Little Secret was done in a few short months. Writing All the Broken Pieces hurt my heart, but the constant rewrites for Becoming Us hurt my brain. The Experiment plotted itself practically before I put pen to paper. The new book I’m writing started with a spark of an idea for one facet of one character and I had to consciously build the story from there.

Plotting. Characterisation. Relationship arcs. Nothing ever seems to work the same way twice! It’s enough to send a pragmatist bonkers.

Part of me still hopes that one day I will stumble across a tried and true path to follow when writing. But the creative part of me loves using a new approach every time – even if my muse is forcing me to do it. Either way, I least I know I’ll never (ever, ever, ever) get bored.

The Book My Subconscious Plotted Behind My Back

Usually, when I start writing a new book, it begins with a little spark of an idea. An opening scene, a what if question, random snatches of dialogue that wander unbidden through my brain. In this regard, The Experiment began as any other novel would. With a spark!

I was hanging out at home one random Saturday afternoon when it happened. The scene flashed so vividly in my mind there was no ignoring it. I could see a straight man trying to psyche himself up to kiss a gay man, even though he really didn’t want to. I knew they were in a bar, and that he was doing it to satisfy a lost bet, but other than that I had no idea what was going on.

Then the man turned to his friend, who was sitting beside him, and said, “You know, mate, this would be a hell of a lot easier if you’d quit laughing.” In that instant, I knew the friend was the man he would end up kissing, and he would be anything but reluctant by the end of it. The whole thing struck me as so quirky and adorable that I grabbed a notebook and pen, and spent the next hour furiously scribbling down every detail I could remember.

I was in the middle of writing Becoming Us at the time, so I wasn’t able to start work on The Experiment straight away. But I did continue playing around with it whenever I had a few minutes spare. Extra scenes started to take shape and I spent time hanging out with the characters. I found out Patrick’s name (when Logan shouted it at him to get his attention). And all the while I was looking forward to the day I could sit down and really start to brainstorm plot points for their story. Little did I know, that day would never quite come.

A few weeks before I was due to start actively working on The Experiment I experienced something that has never happened to me before. I couldn’t call it a spark or a flash this time. It was more like a download. Yep, the basic plot for the book downloaded into my brain all at once. I didn’t actually stand there frozen with my eyelids all aflutter like some sci-fi movie, but you get the idea. Within minutes, Patrick and Logan’s entire story was laid out for me: beginning, middle and end. Sure, there were still details to figure out and a supporting cast to add in—and 85,000 odd words to be written. But the most difficult parts of the plotting work had already been done.

I can only assume that when I forced myself to put the initial idea for the book on hold (so I could finish Becoming Us) my subconscious decided to keep working on it without me. Then, when the time was right, it handed over all it had done with a smug sense of relish. What a rush that was!

I don’t know if I will ever repeat the experience I had with writing The Experiment, but I’d love to think it could happen someday. Knowing the story as well as I did gave me the freedom to really have fun with it. With every book I write, I learn to put more trust in my creative process. To accept what is handed to me, be grateful, and roll with it. Which is why that one line of dialogue that started it all is still there, right up near the beginning of Chapter One—exactly the way Patrick said it the first time.

Logo Reveal

When I first decided I wanted to be a writer I didn’t spend a great deal of time thinking about the realities of the writing life. If I had, I probably would have pictured myself sitting at my computer happily wallowing in a sea of words for hours and days at a time. Looking back now, I can only laugh (sometimes slightly hysterically) at my own misconceptions. While, thankfully, I do spend lots of time in word wallowing, as it turns out I also spend a lot of time doing a bunch of other jobs that are necessary to get my words out into the world in a way that appeals to readers. Over the last few years I’ve learned (with varying degrees of success) to be a marketer, graphic designer, photographer, and social media enthusiast.

One of the most important things I’ve learned is this: I cannot do everything myself!

I can whip up an Instagram post with the best of them, but I will never be a book cover artist. I can hunt for all the mistakes in my own grammar until my eyes bleed, but I’m better off sending my book to a professional editor for those final checks.

So, when I decided it was time (about three years past time) to create a logo for my brand (yep, branding is something else I had to learn all about) I quickly decided it was not something I wanted to tackle myself. I headed over to Fiverr with the name of a designer who had created a lovely logo for an acquaintance and a few weeks later I had my very own logos. You can see them below:

I would love to know what you think of the new logos! They’ve currently been uploaded to all my social media accounts. Over the next couple of months I’m also hoping to redesign my website to incorporate them. Exciting times ahead!.


Sometimes, when we’re looking for our next read, we know exactly what we’re in the mood for. We could be craving a ‘secret baby romance’ or a ‘friends to lovers’ story. And we all know what it’s like to have a single phrase jump out at us from a book blurb in a ‘You have to read me’ kind of way. These general story line types are know in the book biz as tropes. Today, I thought I’d do a quick run-through of some of the tropes that pop up in my books so you can easily spot your favourites. Perhaps you’ll even find your next read!

Splinter – paranormal romance, vampire hunter, magic, secret society

Our Little Secret – polyamorous romance, office romance, first-time poly

Lost in Amber – friends with benefits, comedy

This Time Forever – second chance romance, revenge

Everything We Need – menage romance, friends to lovers, first-time poly, first-time gay (well, you know, sort of)

All the Broken Pieces – hurt/comfort, geeks/nerds, mental illness, abuse survivor

Finding Grey – rock star romance, second chance romance, gay for you, first time gay, employer/employee (but not in an office)

Personally, I have a TBR (To Be Read) pile that could reach the ceiling if it was all in paperback form (thank goodness for my kindle). The different tropes represented in there probably number in the dozens. But, I do have a few particular tropes that are guaranteed to make me rub my hands together with glee. These include friends to lovers, enemies to lovers, hurt/comfort, secret relationships, anything with magic, and historicals (is there anything better than a good regency novel?).

What are your favourite tropes? I’d love to know, so I can try to include them in future books.

What’s in a Name?

When starting a new book, there are only about a million big and little decisions an author must make. Everything from the theme of the book, the basic premise, the plot and how to structure it, how many sex scenes to include, how many people will be in the sex scenes… Okay, not all authors put much thought into those last two, but for romance authors who have trouble sticking to a single sub-genre (that would be me), the struggle is real. One of the hardest decisions, believe it or not, is often one that sounds easy—character names.

Sometimes, when I meet a character for the first time, they introduce themselves. This is an amazing feeling because a character who knows their own name generally brings other knowledge with them. They know what they look like, how they dress, their mannerisms, and exactly what they want. It’s almost like I don’t need to make any decisions about their character at all. Oh, the relief!

Other times, I go through so many names in the course of the book the character starts to roll their eyes at me every time I hang a new name around their neck (and do a Find and Replace on the entire manuscript). It’s even worse for side characters. These poor souls can go through three drafts with FriendName stamped on their proverbial forehead. Awkward!

I’ve used some bizarre and delightful methods when naming my characters. A few of these are listed below:

Letting the character introduce themselves: Jeremy from Everything We Need and All the Broken Pieces
Yes, this is the character I was talking about in that second paragraph. Jeremy walked into my brain and introduced himself, while wearing suspenders, and eyeliner. I went with it, and he’s still one of my favourite characters of all time.

Naming characters based on their personality: Dante Sinclair from Finding Grey
Dante was born to be a rock star (according to his father at least) so all I had to do was choose a name that would fit a celebrity. And his surname? Honestly, I just liked the Sin part of Sinclair.

Borrowing names that have a connection to the story: Sean Kelland from Finding Grey
Dante’s character was inspired by Aussie rock legend Michael Hutchence, whose middle name was Kelland. Since Dante already had a surname, I decided to bestow the name upon Sean instead.

Borrowing names that fit a character type: Amber O’Hara from Lost in Amber
Amber was a princess on the outside. But dig a little deeper and she was a fighter through and through. Just like Scarlet O’Hara from Gone with the Wind.

Throwing it to the crowd and seeing what comes up: Harrison Winters from All the Broken Pieces
I told my kids that I needed a surname for one of my characters and I liked the idea of it starting with a W. They started tossing ideas at me. Winters, provided by my son, was the winner. He was thrilled when I ‘really and truly’ used the name he’d suggested in the book.

Letting characters introduce each other: Patrick from The Experiment
This book hasn’t been written yet but… I was entertaining myself one day by watching the first scene play out in my mind (it’s kind of like watching a movie, only you can do it with your eyes closed). In the ‘movie’ my two fine heroes were sitting in a bar and one of them was distracted. The other one, in a last-ditch effort to get his attention, yelled, “Patrick!” I startled in my chair and thought, “So, that’s his name.” Patrick is currently surname-less, so if you have a great surname idea, feel free to send it my way.

We all know how beloved characters can seem like old friends. The sound of their names alone can bring comfort to our hearts and a smile to our faces. Which characters do that for you? I’d love to be introduced!

Fangirling All Over the Place

When Jeremy Hayden walked into my head and introduced himself (I know that sounds weird, but it seemed like it happened that way) I felt like I’d hit the character jackpot. He brought with him a history, a playful sense of humour, a very specific dress sense, and a fully realised occupation. Jeremy owned his own successful pop culture store. This was exciting for me because I knew it would be my opportunity to do something fun, litter a book with references to my favourite fandoms.

Since the release of All the Broken Pieces, I’ve had a number of readers ask about or refer to the various references. So, today I thought I’d make a list of all the Fandoms referenced in the book. Kudos to anyone who can spot them in the pages.

Wow! That’s a lot of references. I was surprised myself when I went back through the book to make the list. Some of them are pretty obscure but, fans are good at obscure. If you were reading the book and wondered, is that a such-and-such reference, this list will give you the answer.