DB Tait

love can be dangerous …

Let’s welcome Sandy Vaile and find out all about her latest release Combatting Fear available now! Take it away Sandy!

How far would you go to save a child that wasn’t yours?

Mild-mannered kindergarten teacher, Neve Botticelli, leads a double life. At home with her paranoid father, she is a combat trained survivalist who lives off-the-grid.

When self-made billionaire, Micah Kincaid, storms into town in search of his four-year-old son, Rowan, he’s pushy, entitled, and stands for everything Neve despises.

But something far more sinister than a cheating estranged wife, is lurking in rural Turners Gully, and it has its sights set on little Rowan’s inheritance. It turns out there is one thing Micah and Neve can agree on, and that’s keeping Rowan safe.

As they work together to free Rowan, they glimpse beneath one another’s guises, and realise that falling in love could be even more dangerous than hunting deadly criminals.

Hi, I’m Sandy Vaile, a motorbike-riding daredevil who isn’t content with a story unless there’s a courageous heroine and a dead body. When I’m not devising horrible things to do to fictional characters, I write procedures for high-risk industrial activities, mentor new writers through the Novelist’s Circle critiquing group, judge romance writing competitions, present literary craft workshops, and write the odd articles and blog.

Persistence is the key to success

I wear many hats each day, like mother, wife, writer and auditor, but the one I’m most passionate about is persistence. It’s an understated, slightly shabby hat that is stitched together with determination, and fashioned by resolve. I don’t believe you have to be the best or trickiest or luckiest, but you do have to stay focused and never give up. Ever!

J.K. Rowling once said:

It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.

Persistence is something I’ve practiced since my dad insisted that I get straight back on after falling off my pushbike. I guess the theory behind it is that if you face your fears head on, you are more likely to overcome them than if you skirt around them, worrying and building them into Himalayan-sized phobias.

Embrace failure

Unfortunately, failure is a part of life none of us can avoid, so I’ve learnt to embrace it, and use it as a learning tool to make me stronger. I don’t go looking for it, but I also don’t let those failures define me.

Without persistence I wouldn’t have triumphed over the many hardships in my life, like moving out of home at the age of sixteen with little parental support, or being bullied at high school, or having a serious motorbike accident.

We all face difficult times, just remember that nothing in life ever stays the same, and even those unpleasant times will pass.

One such lesson, came from losing my job. It motivated me to change my career path from Chef to office administrator, which led to my current role in quality management, without which I would never have found the work-life balance that enables me to pursue fiction writing.

Practice makes perfect

I have had lots of opportunities to practice persistence, because nothing ever goes to plan, but I keep taking baby steps towards my goals.

It’s not that I don’t feel afraid or dread failure, but I won’t let those emotions hold me back. When I stood in front of my first audience of 70 at the Festival Fleurieu, I could barely breathe enough to speak. But I had practiced plenty, took note cards with me, and took a leap of faith. To tell you the truth, I’m terrified every time I have to do public speaking, but a little thing like fear is not going to stop me doing it.

You see, it’s only by pushing past my comfort zone, that amazing things happen. I grow as a person, meet incredible people, and get to do things I never thought I would. And so it was after I’d been writing for several years, finished two manuscripts, and received many rejections. The publishing industry was in turmoil with the popularity of eBook, and then a death in the family knocked me for a six. For a while there I could barely put pen to paper.

And that is when I received an email from Crimson Romance saying they wanted to publish my book!

So remember, success has nothing to do with luck or being remarkable, we can all be successful if we persist no matter what.

I’d love to hear about the adversity you’ve overcome, and what qualities you admire in fictional heroines. Leave a comment on this blog and get 1 entry to win the “Combatting Fear” eBook. Subscribe to my newsletter and get 3 more entries.

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Stay in touch with Sandy via her website, Facebook or Twitter.

Buy “Combatting Fear” here…

Buy “Inheriting Fear” here…

Sandy is on tour!

 

Thanks to ARRA members for nominating Festive Deception in the Best Romantic Suspense category for 2016. I was astonished! The awards are in late February in Melbourne. Not sure I’m going even though I’d love to!

I’ve just been reading Anne Gracie’s blog post about writing on demand. I’m an intermittent user of this method – writing first thing on getting up, then making an appointment to write later in the day – and her post made me think why I don’t use this method more often. Procrastination is my biggest obstacle when it comes to my writing practice. I even procrastinate about tackling it. The mind (well, my mind) is such a wondrous and largely unknowable thing.

Today I’ve been trying out different methods for plotting. I’m about to do an Aeon Timeline course which I hope will be useful.

I’m an aspiring plotter. I’d love to have a whole outline with major scenes and a timeline all worked out before I start writing. Alas, this is not my process, even though I’d like it to be. I generally write about twenty thousand words then sit down and try and work out the way forward from there. I need to get the characters to walk around and interact with each other before I know what action they will take. I wish it wasn’t so, because after 20k, I spend ages in despair trying to work out ‘what next’. It’s as if the characters delight in setting up the problem and then stand back as if to say, ‘Over to you. We’ve got you going, now it’s up to you …’

Which I wouldn’t mind but the problem they set up is often quite tricky. That’s when I pull out beat sheets, write odd scenes on sticky notes and pin them on my notice board, write a vague synopsis that doesn’t make sense, and generally try any planning method for getting me to move forward.

The obvious question is ‘Why not just write?’ Well, yes. Why indeed. Then I circle back to writing in my journal and as Anne says, ‘doing a Dorothea’.

At the moment, I’m writing this post longhand in my bullet journal (not exactly at the moment, but you know what I mean). I’m using a fountain pen with green ink. Lately, I’ve gotten a lot of pleasure writing longhand. If I’m having trouble getting words on the page, hand writing seems to help. I splurged over the Christmas holidays and bought another fountain pen (I like Lamy) and some different coloured ink. So at the moment my hand writing is in green and purple.

I’m not reading romance at the moment. Not sure why. I seem to want to read more crime. I have two books on the go at the moment, The Notorious Mrs Clem: Murder and Money in the Gilded Age by Wendy Gamber (a scholarly history of some aspects of post-Civil War reconstruction using the backdrop of a murder) and A Beautiful Blue Death by Charles Finch an historical crime novel set in 1865 London. I’ve just realised they’re both set in the same time period but in different countries.

I’m listening to Melody Pool and Laura Marling (and wish I had tickets to see Bruce Springsteen); watching Lewis, (although I think it should be call Hathaway given his presence in the series), old episodes of Silent Witness and No Second Chance (a French adaptation of a Harlan Coben book) on Netflix.

I’m also expiring from the heat. We are about to have about a month of temperatures in the early thirties. I’ve lived in the Blue Mountains for almost twenty years and I’ve never experienced weather like this. Usually, when we get hot weather it always cools down at night. Not lately. As I type this, there’s a downpour outside. It’s humid and tropical.  But that doesn’t stop the bush fires. There was one in the Megalong Valley and one in Leura yesterday. Both not very serious but one of the factors of summer up here.

Phew! Just had to save and close down my computer because of a brief but fierce storm. Now I’m bathed in sweat. I can hardly wait for autumn! I’ll just have to dream. 

At this time of year, there’s always a rash of round ups about the year that was. People write about the best books they’ve read, the best films and the best television shows. And then there’s the plans for the coming year, a raft of New Year’s resolutions and a general sense of taking stock.

Who am I to buck a trend?

Except for the resolution part. No resolutions for me. I never keep them, so I’ve given up making them.
So, books. I read 78 this year which is down on previous years and indicates I’m watching far too much TV. But television is so good! More of that later.

My favourite non-romances are (in no particular order):

The Whites by Harry Brandt
Fall by Candice Fox
Eden by Candice Fox
Severed: A History of Heads Lost and Heads Found by Francis Larson
Before the Fall by Noah Hawley
Life or Death by Michael Rowbotham
You by Caroline Kepnes
Livia Lone by Barry Eisler
The Trespasser by Tana French
The Invention of Angela Carter: A Biography by Edmund Gordon
Everywhere I Look by Helen Garner.

I’ve listed romances separately because … I don’t know why. Just because.

First Star I See Tonight by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
The Summer Bride by Anne Gracie
Unmasking Miss Appleby by Emily Larkin
Sleepless in Manhattan by Sarah Morgan
Scoundrel by Moonlight by Anna Campbell

Goodreads has a little breakdown of my books and you can see my Christmas novella Festive Deception was the least popular with other Goodread readers but the highest rated (sigh – the curse of the self-published author – discoverability). The longest book was A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara which in some ways I should have put on my list, but it was so flawed and drove me mad even though I couldn’t put it down.

I read less romance this year and more crime and thrillers.

I did watch a lot of TV. TV is the new cinema for me, full of great writing and acting. I’m a great fan of Sally Wainwright so I watched (and re-watched) Scott and Bailey, Happy Valley and The Last Tango in Halifax. Homeland, Trapped, Midnight Sun, Black Mirror, Sense8, The Fall, Bloodline, The Crown, Glitch, The Honourable Woman, Broadchurch, Vera and when I was confined to my couch for four weeks with my leg elevated, pumped full of antibiotics, I watched cosy British crime like Miss Marple, Foyles War and Poiret. Truly, I don’t know how I got any reading done. I certainly did very little writing.

Partly this was because I was ill for a substantial part of the second half of 2016. In the first half, I started a novel and wrote a Christmas novella (the afore mentioned least popular of my Goodreads books. Don’t let that put you off. People do like it.)

After I got back on my feet in October, I then went to the USA for about a month. That was great and I came back rested and refreshed even after witnessing the crazy American election. It was a weird experience getting on the plane in Sydney with the pundits saying Hillary had a 95% chance of winning, then getting off the plane fourteen hours later in LA to see she had tanked after the FBI letter was released. So, 2017 will be a year when we all will be living in interesting times.

I’ll be re-engaging with my novel, another Blue Mountains crime with romantic elements about a forensic psychologist and a serial killer who is not all he seems. I also have a mainstream romance on the go and I’ll probably write another Christmas novella. I did enjoy writing Festive Deception.

So, what about you? Was 2016 a bit of a disaster for you? What’s coming up in 2017?

I’ve been writing, reading and watching television. The television may have to go or I become more selective about what I watch.

I’m one of those writers who have a lot of projects started but come to a stop at about the 20k mark. This is not very productive and dare I say it, the mark of someone who hasn’t made up her mind about what she’s writing. I’ve toyed with some more erotic romance, think I’ll branch out to some coastal romance and then swing around to paranormal.

In the last week I gave myself a good talking too and have resolved to concentrate on romantic suspense and in particular continue to develop the Dark Mountains series. So you’ll be seeing more of Julia and Dylan, plus a cast of regular secondary characters, some of whom will turn up in a few months time in Festive Deception, a Dark Mountain Christmas novella. I’m busy plotting out the next few books.

What else have I been up too? I blame Anna Campbell for making me a Great British Bake Off addict. This completely passed me by until Ms C introduced me. I’ve been catching up on the back series and even watched the truly execrable Great American Baking Competition. Poor old Paul Hollywood. Talk about a cultural clash.

I’m also watching The Americans which is my favourite drama at the moment and of course the wonderful Rake. I have to catch up with War and Peace and Doctor Thorne.

In the reading department, I’ve just finished Maestra by LS Hilton which seems to completely polarise readers. People loath it with a passion but I loved it. It has a feel of Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley series but with more sex. Not particularly erotic sex, but sex that deepens the characterisation of the main character.

Another mystery/thriller I like was Before the Fall by Noah Hawley. I read it on a plane going to and coming back from Adelaide which was interesting because it’s about a plane crash. Well worth it.

I have lost 10 kilos in weight by changing my relationship with food, but I’m still struggling with exercise.

My neck an shoulders are like concrete, so I’m going to the osteopath regularly. Even more reason to do more exercise.

I’m up for a Sisters in Crime Davitt Award! I don’t have much chance of winning, given the wonderful books on the long list, but it’s nice to be included.

What are you up to? Here in the Blue Mountains, winter has arrived at last and we may even get some snow next weekend. Fingers crossed.

 

For the past four years, ShellyRae at Book’d Out has run an Australia Day Blog Hop. This year I’m part of it! If you make a comment, you go into the draw for a copy of Cold Deception (ebook only). The competition closes  at midnight on 27 January 2016. Open to international readers as well.

There are a lot of book bloggers, writers and other folk participating the the blog hop, so you could go here to see the list and visit their blogs too. Over at the Australian Women Writers Challenge you could go into the draw for a copy of Desperate Deception as well.

While you’re there, you could sign up for the 2016 reading challenge. I did so today and have challenged myself to read at least ten books by Australian women and review five of them. I’d like to read more literary fiction this year so the AWWC is a good source of inspiration for my list.

Are you participating in any reading challenges this year?

 

Many moons ago when I first started writing, I used to blog a lot. Then I had a disaster with upgrading my website and managed to lose all my posts. Since then I haven’t done much. I used to love it. I’d post about trips I’d made, books I’d read, what I was writing …

But then I fell into the trap of many writers. I forgot to fill the well. In my rush to get books completed, I stopped doing any other writing that took me away from my latest work in progress. I also stopped doing other nurturing things like going to the movies or skiving off to Sydney to the art gallery. I even cut down on gardening.

A sad mistake. Writing became a chore rather than something that gave me intense satisfaction. Not surprisingly, my doubts and worries about my writing, which were always much larger than they should be, got a lot worse. I became paralysed with self-doubt. Mind you self-doubt is a life long curse for me, but it somehow it deepened.

One of the writing methods that helped me challenge this self-doubt (along with having a great crit group – take a bow Kandy Shepherd, Cathleen Ross and Elizabeth Lhuede) was keeping a Bullet Journal which one of my writing mates Mel Scott put me onto. (Mel writes contemporary and fantasy romance so if you haven’t read her books you really should).

I like this journal method because it integrates several parts of my life. I work on only one note book at a time instead of having a notebook for my work in progress, a notebook for my internal life and a diary for work related appointments and tasks.

I started it in June 2015 using an A5 note book I’d been given for Christmas. By the end of the year I’d almost completely used it up so started a new one for the New Year.

I like it because it makes me look at my life most days. I have to make a decision about tasks that I haven’t completed (eg my tax!!) but I also have something that I can write in about anything without having to worry that it’s in the wrong note book.

One opening of my notebook could contain a plan for the week including a shopping list and a task list that includes cleaning out the gutters (still haven’t done it) while another opening could be free form writing on my plot or some aspect of the writing life.

Mel also put me onto washi tape, so as the mood takes me I tart up my notebook with coloured bits and pieces. I’m am not arty at all but I still get a lot of satisfaction out of playing with pretty things.
If you’re interested in the Bullet Journal method there is a ton of stuff on Pinterest. Beware though. It’s a never ending rabbit hole. You could get lost for months.

IMG_1690What do you do when you’re a bit stale and need to get your sense of enthusiasm for your creative endeavours going? I do a bit of baking and of course gardening, although you’d never know from the jungle out there.IMG_1694

 

p.s. One thing that completely blasted me out of my writing blues was becoming a finalist in the Australian Romance Readers 2015 Awards! Both Deception books and a members choice nomination for the Strongest Heroine! Thanks ARRA!