About the Books
LABYRINTH OF LIGHT
This novel was written in 2002, during the most challenging and painful period in my life. It started as a way to empower older women who felt they had lived their lives for others, and achieved nothing for themselves. I taught women like that all the time in my courses. I wanted to show them that there was knowledge and achievement to be had in any life.
So, Cathy Donovan is a woman just turning 50. She’s divorced and jobless, her kids have grown up and left the nest. She’s been talked into moving to the city when her heart is in the country, convinced to buy an apartment when she prefers to live in a house with its own backyard. Cathy is lost and hopeless, her self-confidence and self-esteem at rock bottom. Then she meets a stranger, in her underground car park, who tells her she is needed - that only she can save the world.
At first, Cathy doesn’t believe it. She’s nobody. How can she do something so important? But she's encouraged to enter the Labyrinth of Light, follow a darkened tunnel into the womb of time, and experience critical moments in the lives of people from the past.
'Labyrinth of Light' is a novel about past lives and present choices. It’s about understanding that in terms of spiritual development, success in the outer world is not a sign of spiritual achievement. A small life can be as powerful, if not more powerful, than one that is larger than life.
For anyone who has ever wondered what meaning their life has, this book gives you insights. By the end, you will look at your own experiences in a completely different way, possibly seeing the turning points in your own past from a different, wider perspective.
Personally, this novel helped me to soulfully work on my issues. Without knowing exactly what I was doing, each stage of my illness was reflected in the storyline. My counsellor and friend asked me why there were invader running through the plot. At the time, I considered it simply a plot device, nothing more. It wasn’t until the book was published that the penny dropped. The invaders were my cancer, and each time my heroine chose life, so did I.
This is unlike any of my other novels. If you feel in need of inspiration, then read this book. Every life is important. All life is sacred… even your own.
This was my second novel – a historical romance set in and around the fall of Pompeii in 79 CE. I did the first draft while mothering my first son. Its darkness surprised me, and I knew it would never see the light of day back then. Having your hero rape your heroine, no matter how manipulated into it he was, just wasn’t going to fly. And the sex scenes would have seemed pretty risqué. But I felt the book was important, so I put it in my bottom draw and didn’t revisit it again until the child I had mothered, twenty years earlier, had died. In the interim, reading tastes had changed, and I decided the subject matter might now be considered more acceptable.
'Liquid Fire' refers to the flow of lava during a volcanic eruption. It also refers to sexual arousal. Strictly speaking, Vesuvius didn’t erupt with lava, but artistic licence can apply here I think.
For me, conveying the effect physical and mental abuse has on the mind and the heart was an important aspect of this story. I wanted to show how love could heal such wounds, given time. Having worked with victims of abuse over many years, I have seen the damage such violence causes. I wanted to show that true healing was possible.
Some readers have felt the wrong man got the girl, because Allyn is more anti-hero than hero. I don’t agree, obviously. It’s Allyn’s damaged soul that Livia recognises and is drawn to heal. By doing so, she helps to heal herself. Certainly, Allyn isn’t your stereotypical hunk, but then I don’t like stereotypes. He might not be heroic, in the same way Nexus is, but he is a far more fitting partner to the equally damaged Livia. And there is something heroic in Allyn's struggle to regain his humanity for Livia.
NINE LIVES (A New Atlantis Novel BK1)
This first book in the New Atlantis series was the first I wrote during my latest creative binge. It started with my own insecurities around aging, and I wondered what it would be like to be young again, while still having my ‘old head’, as it were. So I gave my heroine, Cara, that chance. I also gave her the conflict of a seemingly much younger partner to add to her self-image concerns. That’s when New Atlantis came fully formed into my head, and it then became my task to explain and describe the world I saw.
In 2330, the human race is only just hanging on by its toenails. After the Last Great Plague of 2120, the planet’s population was numbered, not in the billions, but in the hundred thousands. These few were sterile, and the cloned versions of themselves they take on to extend their lives, were sterile too. The only way they’d found to increase their population was by bringing in suitable candidates from the past, using time travel.
It took me a while to get my head around what that scenario meant, as I’m not big on numbers. I remember finding out that our brain was bombarded by 2 million bits of information at any one moment, but that we could only process a couple of hundred of those. I bought bags of rice and started counting, to try to get a concrete impression of 2 million. Needless to say, it was a lot. And a billion is a heck of a lot more than that.
In the end, I had to envisage what that would mean on a small scale to a town of say 20,000 people. The Second Dark Age had decimated the planet to a tenth of its population during the century leading up to the Last Great Plague. So my town went down to 2,000 inhabitants in that time. The Last Great Plague wiped out most of the rest. So my hypothetical town was left with just two survivors. It was shocking! And over the course of the series, I’ve explored briefly what it was like for the different Old Timers (as distinct from the Newcomers brought to the future from other times) to be that one in a thousand.
In many ways, New Atlantis and the Gaian Confederacy (the controlling governing body for the planet), is like a person suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. It’s numb and frozen, only just going through the motions of living. It’s afraid of change, of the possibility of opening itself up to fresh danger. And so it limits the kind of
people it brings in to its utopian world, so that they don’t rock the boat.
Enter our heroine, who is more than willing to rock boats for the good of the underdog. She does this in the first chapter by standing up to a gym bully who is making a fool of Jac, a young man she mistakenly sees as disabled. In fact, Jac is over three hundred years old, and just Integrated into a new clone -hence his inability to handle his body properly.
This is far more than just a love story. It is an exploration of what it is to be a unique human being, no longer defined by the body you inhabit. It shows how love can’t be defined simply by the physical, and that it can be used to defy the very structures of our known existence.
Some readers tell me they really wish New Atlantis was real. It took several books before I started to come to that way of thinking, I have to admit. I certainly related to Cara’s frustration with the peaceful, unchanging sameness of that world. I think it reminded me how much I always hated the idea of being an angel, on a cloud somewhere. How boring would that be?
THE DREAMER'S PRINCE (New Atlantis Bk 2)
This book was set in Sydney in the sixties, which immediately sent me on a nostalgia trip. And my teenage heroine, Jane, and her extreme insecurities around body image were right out of my own youth. Her secret writing was mine. I even worked as a shop assistant in my family’s corner store as a teenager, and a good looking young guy really did come in regularly for cigarettes. I had such a crush on that guy!
But, instead of Sydney, I lived in a small rural town, and instead of a mysterious Latino, my crush was a factory worker who rode his white horse up to the front door of the shop. And, of course, I wasn’t a school drop-out supporting an alcoholic mother. But there was certainly enough of me in there to explore.
Another fun part of writing this novel was making sure I got the timing right. It was hard to remember when we first got colour TV, or when the first microwaves became available. I also had to remember what it was like to find out they could transplant a heart from one person to another. Of course, no one knew about cloning back then, so it was unimaginable to consider that not only could people have body parts replaced, but they could have a whole new body cloned from their own DNA. And no, back then we didn’t know about DNA. It is hard to believe how fast technology and science has changed our world. For me, Jane’s story gave me a chance to reflect on those changes.
In this book I also introduced the contentious issue of Retrieving missing children. At first glance this seems like such a noble thing to do, but when I started to look into what being missing might mean to the thousands of kids that do go missing each year around the world, I was faced with a dilemma. How do you know someone really disappeared, and didn’t just pop up somewhere else as a street kid or as a kidnap victim? How do you know if they were murdered? And if you took away a murderer’s victim, would they go looking for another one? What might that do to history?
I had Julio and the Child Retrieval Team having to work through all these possibilities and more, and deal with the morally ambivalent stand of taking an abused child from his parents, as the only way to stop the abuse. I have no idea what the answer is to this issue, and I therefore left it open. Nothing is black and white, right or wrong. Every choice has ramifications.
SAVAGE (New Atlantis Bk 3)
Although I was starting to warm to New Atlantis by this stage, for all its faults, I still wasn’t won over when I started the third book in the series.
This time I was led to the Holocaust for my subject matter. I have long given up trying to decide why I chose my topics as I do. Let’s face it; the Holocaust is not usually the subject of light romantic fiction. But I found myself obsessed with the trains that carried the victims to their Death Camps, and so my heroine, Faith, finds an anomaly in the records – a missing carriage that was carrying children to Belzec Camp in Poland.
I can’t say researching this book was fun. It was plain torturous, if I’m honest. There were many times when I just couldn’t go there. The accounts I read of those trains made me sick to my stomach. But it was like I had to rescue those kids, even if only in fiction. So I persevered, and tried to walk a line between the darkness and the light.
My hero turned out to be another aspect of me, I think. He’s the part that couldn’t image a peaceful life being anything but boring. If you’ve read my life story on the ABOUT page, you might get a sense that my life has been anything but boring.
When I wrote the rescue mission there was a point where I cried. I have had several readers tell me the same thing happened to them. It was the hardest scene I’ve ever written and the most rewarding. I would love to hear your feedback on it.
SHARED SOUL (New Atlantis Book 4)
If part of yourself comes out in the characters you write, then Maggie is the artist in me. Her desire to stay hidden away in New Atlantis so she can focus on her art is certainly true of me. And so I set her story in a location that is very familiar to me both in the year and place. And Travis is very like some of the men I worked with in prison. That hard shell is very common.
I liked the idea of two people connected throughout their life, never realising the other was real. It played to the romantic in me, who believes in Soul Mates. And carrying that soul mate idea through means the two people are going to be opposites… which is what Travis and Maggie are in so many ways. I’ve written about opposites a lot in my stories. Two sides of the same coin, the Shadow dancing we do with partners in an unconscious attempt to be whole. This is just the extreme version of that idea.
I have also played with the real Second Life a bit in the past, and I love the freedom it gives you to be anyone you want, and go anywhere you want. You can even fly and build your worlds in the sky. So it seemed to the perfect place for New Atlantis to turn up.
This book was also a chance to learn more about Luke, who I immediately fell for in Savage. He’s a very flawed man, but with lots of redeeming qualities, and I liked seeing where our modern-day life would take a 1940s ‘man of the world’. When he went green at the sight of porn I laughed. But his unconscious racism, which was part of his era was also important to include. Luckily, it’s not ingrained enough to make him obnoxious.
Trying to describe how Time Travel works was an interesting aspect of this book, too. I used the concept of genetic coding to postulate that every cell could have a code within it for its place in space and time, and that by altering that coding you could move that cell, and all the cells in a distinct body, to a different destination. I ran it by a scientifically orientated man-friend, and he prefaced his feedback with ‘Time Travel is impossible, but if it were possible, this explanation is as good as any…’ So I accepted that with good grace and included it.
BITTER OATH (New Atlantis Book 5)
This book came out of a gap that I’d been aware of in the ‘world’, ie that the New Atlanteans had been doing a lot to regenerate the human race but didn’t seem to be doing anything for the planet that had been decimated by the Second Dark Age. So this was a book to explore that side of life.
I also wanted to see what it might be to be a Researcher and spend whole lifetimes in an historic period. Then Rene came to mind, a Native American – or one of the First People, as I found they were called, in Canada. And for some reason Rene wanted to go back to an earlier time than the 20th and 21st Century that the other books had focused on. I decided to try out Regency England. It was lots of fun. It was not an era I’d studied, so I enjoyed learning about that period.
Trying to imagine how a Regency Miss might handle all the changes in the world of 24th Century became the main thrust of the novel. But as it got going the grief inherent in the plot conflict took over. I found I was reliving that terrible year I dealt with cancer and the death of my oldest son. I was with a lovely man at that time, but the fact that I could be dying tainted the relationship. So this book became a bitter sweet revisiting of that time. And I had the opportunity to create a happy ending for my characters where there wasn’t one for me.
Another fascinating aspect of this book, which had been there in many others but not quite so extremely – I had NO IDEA how I was going have a happy ending with this one. It didn’t seem possible, and still stay true to Prime Directive, ie you can’t change history. Then ending, when it revealed itself to me was both shocking and acceptable. It just came out as I wrote.
People ask me how I can write so fast and prolifically. It’s simple… I want to find out what happens in the end. Until I write it, I just don’t know. So, if you’re one of those people who gets so hooked on a good story you can’t put it down, you’ll know what I’m like when I’m trying to get to the end of a book I’m writing… it’s a 24/7 kinda thing! Of course re-writes happen later when the pressure is off… But that first draft literally writes itself and I’m only along for the ride.
THE TITAN DROWNS
Writing this book was probably just as much fun as writing Barbarian’s Mistress. Instead of going on a holiday around the Roman Empire in my imagination, I got to travel on the Titanic during her one and only journey across the Atlantic.
Having travelled for 2 months on an ocean liner in my childhood, to and from England, I had a visceral sense of what this experience must have been like. Luckily, the Orcades didn’t sink. I had also visited some of the Titanic sets from the movie, and experienced what it must have been like when water started to pour into the ship. I actually freaked out during that, much to the disgust of the male friend who was with me at the time.
It was my first attempt at a complex, multi-thread story. I decided to write 3 love stories in one, following the Point of View of each of the lovers throughout the journey. That was challenging. But as I used to love timetabling back in my Head Teacher days, I found I loved the challenge of entwining the story-lines so that the reader got to see what it was like in all three Classes.
I also enjoyed the logistics of describing movement around the ship. I remembered from my own days aboard ship that it was never as simple as going from Point A to Point B. You had to go up, down and around, like in a maze, to find your way. Maybe that’s’ the reason I don’t like mazes (but do like Labyrinths). So to work out the cabins locations and how people got from them to the dining saloons or to the library, I had to download schematics of the decks. I had them stuck to my living room wall throughout the writing. They were each four feet wide and a hand’s width wide, and there were 8 decks. I spent many hours plotting journeys within the ship, in much the way I plotted journeys around the Roman Empire.
It may sound rather weird, but sometime around Book 3 of the New Atlantis series I started feeling like I actually was rescuing people from a terrible fate. I got quite emotional when my team got the women and children off that Death Train and into the Light. I had that same sense when I was writing this book. And in the scene were the Portal is activated and the children start moving through, into the Light, I got all weepy. I still do, reading back over it. I even got so weird that I started feeling guilty because I didn’t try to rescue more people! Only a friend telling me that more might be rescued on a future mission lifted my spirits. The operating principal that applies to this ‘world’ is: ‘If someone was Targeted for Retrieval, they were always meant to be Targetted, even if we don’t know it yet.’ The ramification of that concept was further fleshed out in ‘The Key’.
I enjoyed involving all the regulars in the story, especially Luke. I felt Luke had a lot more growing to do, and he’d only just started by the end of his book Savage. He still had his hang-ups over the dead flesh of the clones to work out. So getting him to face his fears on that one felt good. I also enjoyed seeing Bart grow up and play his part.
And lastly, I enjoyed the Titanic. She was as much a character as any of the people. Having watched the movie, and documentaries, read countless reference books, and walked the ship in cyberspace, and on the sets of the movie, I felt as if I knew her. I hope that came across to the reader.
THE KEY (New Atlantis Book 7)
When I started this book I didn’t know it was going to be the last in the series. There were so many other stories to tell, so many other people from the past I wanted to ‘save’. One such person was Kurt Luff, who was closely modelled on the real-life German Anti-Nazi activist, Willi Graff.
I’d discovered the White Rose Society a few years earlier, and it was the first time I’d realised there had been serious dissent amongst the common man in Germany under Hitler. Finding out about these Uni students, and most specifically Willi Graff, was a revelation. I also found the mystery around his death just enough of a tease to start playing the ‘what if’ game with him. What if the reason his body wasn’t returned to his parents for a year wasn’t because it was ‘lost’ but because the body had to decompose enough to be unrecognisable. What if the reason he didn’t write his last message to his parents was because he was already gone. So Willi, aka Kurt, became my next Retrieval.
Also, more of the fascinating phenomena the romantic couples experienced began to be clarified for me. What if the partners the Old Timers found not only gave them back their lives, but WERE their life, literally. And if that partner died, so would they. And so some of the tantalising missing pieces started to fall into place. Like what happened to Hakon, the guy who died in-situ so that Jac could take his body?
This was a book of constant surprises, for me, the biggest being the way the characters hijacked the book. Bart was supposed to be playing a secondary character, and was to get his own book later when he got a little older. Kurt was supposed to get the girl. But about half way through Bart had made his feelings known about Kat, and Kurt was clearly not settling in to New Atlantis as he was supposed to. And Kat… well Kat wanted to go along with me, but her heart was telling her something else.
So I let them all have their way, and I found that all the ‘evidence’ I’d discovered for Kurt’s Retrieval fitted perfectly with another scenario. A darker, sadder scenario. And, as hard as it was to let him do it, I let Kurt choose his own fate.
When Bart got his happy-ever-after, I felt a sense of completion come over me. I didn’t need to tell any more stories about this wonderful place. I was done. And though I still leave the door open… hey maybe more of those people on the Titanic need to be saved… I had no plans in the near ‘future’ to go back to New Atlantis. But like the characters in this book, the people of New Atlantis weren't ready to let me stop writing about them.
THE BARBARIAN'S MISTRESS
This novel has many of the same ingredients as 'Liquid Fire'- the angry sex-slave, the innocent patrician, a handmaiden who will do anything to save her mistress, a diabolical enemy who wants to destroy the heroine’s life in some way. And all these ingredients are set against the backdrop of Rome and Pompeii again. But that’s where the similarities end.
In this story, the hero, Vali, is far less damaged that Allyn, and he becomes the heroine’s rescuer from the start. He treats her with gentleness and respect, for all his life experiences have hardened him. Anniana is less damaged too, and once freed from the stifling restrictions of her home, she becomes a force to be reckoned with. She knows what she wants, and is willing to go after it, even if that means losing the love and support of her father and eldest brother. And, although Vesuvius gets to erupt in this book, too, it doesn’t form the climax of the story. It is simply one adventure, amongst many, that the couple have together, on their way to freedom and love.
This is an epic adventure with baddies we love to hate (who get their just deserts at the end). It has hot love scenes, fights, storms, shipwrecks, gladiatorial contests, plots, machinations and erupting volcanos. It was heaps of fun to write, especially when I was plotting the journey, using Stanford University’s Orbis interactive map of the Roman Empire.
This book got to be the fun bit between two more serious subjects. It bookended between the tortured anti-Nazi activist’s story ('The Key') before and the WW2 Polish ace pilot’s story, ('The Way Home,) after.
For anyone who has wondered what life was like in the Roman Empire, and feels like a good long book to get their teeth into, this is my suggestion.
THE WAY HOME
Writing this novel was one of the hardest things I've ever done. I'm not sure why. Probably because I found writing about the cancer experience too close for comfort. What my heroine went through is what I went through, and when I wrote about her acceptance of death rather than wanting to go through that whole painful process again, I was writing from the heart. That felt like I was having a pity party just for me and I hated that.
But I also felt there was something very important about writing about those thoughts and feelings, and having my hero soothe away those issues. It was a little like one part of me was caring for another part of me. So Hawk is part of me, one of my sub-personalities I guess, and so is Cassie. She's probably closer to my outer personality, although substantially younger and better looking. :)
When I finally finished the book, after nearly 7 years, I felt as if I was making a declaration of freedom, a declaration for life. It was probably the moment when I truly 'got' that I had survived cancer. They won't say you're cured until you've survived ten years after breast cancer. So, interestingly enough, by the time I got to finishing this book I had reached and passed my 10 year point. Maybe I couldn't write the end until I actually got there myself.
I wonderful fan wrote to me when the book was published, and told me that reading the book made her realise that she had survived her cancer. That was very powerful for me. It made writing the book worthwhile, because, although my books are a form of healing for me, they are also meant as a kind of healing for others. Not for everyone, but for the right people.
It's a bit like The Matrix. All kinds of people love that movie, from kids who just like SFX to deeply spiritual people who see the analogies and symbolism built into the script. It works on so many levels. I think that is the case with my books, to a lesser extent, and so they can be read as romance or adventure stories or they can be read for the deeper meaning. It's up to you what you get out of it.
I was actually working on Lionslayer at the same time as Way Home, and so the breast cancer issue arose again to be dealt with in this novel. This time it was not the cancer side of the experience that was important but the insecurities caused by the loss of my breasts. So Cyra gets to express those for me, and Leonis gets to heal those feelings as a very loving man had done for me.
To me the overwhelming mesage in this book is that guilt is wasted. That when we give in to it, it can destroy us. And that the people with the most active consciences are those who have the least to feel guilty about. I see that a lot in my work.
Ultimately, this is an adventure story that I enjoyed writing, just for the holiday in the Ancient Aegean I got to take with my characters. Thanks to Orbis, I planned my trip as effectively as I would have with a tour company or Google Maps. I got to visit some of the Wonders of the Ancient World as my heroes and heroines found love. It was particularly good because it was a particularly cold and wet winter and spring here in England when I was writing it, so it was nice to be somewhere warm and bright in my imagination.
WEREWOLF KEEP TRILOGY
I wrote the first story initially to meet M & B’s novella criteria. (Reinforced what I already knew- don't write for anyne but yourself.) But I found myself hooked on the concept as soon as I started, and wrote a trilogy around the central characters of Byron, Jasper and Will while I waited to find out if the first book would be picked up. Needless to say the first story didn’t get picked up, and I wasn’t happy with novella length anyway. I have to have time to explore my characters completely, and in short stories and novellas I just can’t do it.
So I wrote up the first as a full length novel and decided to see how it went. It was a different take on werewolves and a lot more symbolic than a lot of the stuff that’s out there at the moment. I think my time working in a male prison probably provided some of the fodder for the story. But I also feel my work with people with Mental Health issues and my own battle with cancer figured here too. Basically these are the people with a life situation that stigmatises them in the eyes of society, and themselves. And I wanted to see what kind of world that turned out to be.
CAUGHT IN A DREAM
This novel is both my oldest and one of my newest work. I wrote it many years ago and then filed it because I didn't think the time was right for it. Then someone asked me, a few months ago, if there was any work I'd written that hadn't been published yet. I was reminded of this one and it suddenly felt like the right time. So I pulled it out, dusted it off a lot, and then submitted it for publication.
It isn't like my other romances. Although it is a romance, it has no love scenes, and is far more of an adventure story with a lot of philosophical concepts interwoven. Ultimately I'm playing with the same concepts as The Matrix - the idea that what we see is not necessarily real, and if so how do we know? But my book was written before that movie, so it was a buzz to see how the writers of The Matrix played with those esoteric concepts in a different way to me. Mine doesn't have the Christian allegories, for one thing.
I enjoyed researching the Trojan War and the Amazons, and then found a definitely historical link to the dancing prostitutes of the Islamic era.
When I was writing Lionslayer I took much of Cyra from this story and included her in that, including her name. The main differences were the time period, and that Cyra in Lionslayer is a composite of Bremusa, the Amazon (with a missing breast,) and Cyra, the harem dancer. The personality of Cyra in Lionslayer is very different to Cyra in 'Caught in a Dream'. It's more like they're past lives of each other.
One of the good things about dusting this one off was the fact that it reonnected me with many of my beliefs that I have not been living.
PIECES (New Atlantis Book )
This was another challenge I set myself, but also a return to a time and place I had become fascinated with. I wanted to see if I could make a romantic hero out a Gestapo agent. Which required heaps of research into Germany before and during the Second World War. Where The Key gave me insights into the people of Germany under the Totalitarian rule of Hitler, Pieces gave me an insight into what it was to be a policeman in that time and place.
When you're a cop you carry out the law of the land. In Germany onf the 30s that law was Nazism. Much to my surprise I discovered that many of the Gestapo were simply cops who had been moved across into the Gestapo because of promotional. They were never part of the Nazi Party
But I wanted my Gestapo officer to not be tempted to join this despicable organisation for ambition. I had to give him one of the other reasons people were forced to do things they found morally questionable at this time.
What was really interesting for me was not Germany of the 30s but New Atlantis four hundred years into the future when a Gestapo agent is introduced into that world. The real monsters come out to play, and example of the victims becoming the perpetrator s.
SECOND CHANCE (New Atlantis Book 9)
Readers had asked why Hakon couldn't have his HEA and I said, 'He died'. But like everything else in New Atlantis, things change. So I took up the challenge of finding a way for Hakon to come back and what he'd find when he did. It was a little like a life review.
Hakon was not the most likeable of characters and in a way he took a back seat to the story as I played with the logistics of the time-line staying true to what we knew happened but then exploring HOW it happened. I had to have a bit of help with the 'continuity' at times, but I think I pulled it off and more about the mechanics of time came to the fore.
WHITE RAVEN'S LOVER
Readers had often commented about Gaius and how he needed his own story, just as Nexus needed his. So I decided to go back to Britannia and see what had become of all my friends there. So off I went and found one of my favourite characters of all time...Brennwen, the albino seer.
I had written a story with such a person many years ago when I lived out in the Far West of NSW. In that story, she was found wandering in the Australian bush suffering heat stroke. The character was the same person, just in a different era. And I loved introducing a little magic into the story.
DIVIDED KNOWLEDGE OF ATLANTIS (Books 10-13)
I still wanted to stay in New Atlantis after Book 9 but I wanted to ramp it up a bit. I was over the dynamic involved in romance and I wanted a different challenge. In stepped the mystery of Atlantis that had played in the background through the whole series. I decided I wanted to learn more about Atlantis, how and why it sank and why it was impossible to travel back in time to that period and find out the answers first hand.
The story arc was fascinating and I raced through these four books wanting to get to the end to find out all the answers. I also got to go back to Ancient Rome again, the site of my historical romances. That gave me a short-cut research-wise because I'd already done heaps for my four historicals up to this point.
I plan to start a new story arc centred around the resettlement of the Atlanteans, just so I can visit with my friends again. But until then I'll focus on my Cat People.
THE GLADIATOR'S BRIDE
Let's face it, I can't let go of old friends. Are you like that with your favourite books? Sorry when they finish and wanting to still keep in touch? Maybe I'm just weird, but that was the main reason I decided to write Gladiator. But it soon became more, especially when I found myself yet again exploring my own issues through Sabrina. there were times when I wanted to quit writing this story. (I have only done that once so far and that was a New Atlantis story about World War 1. I just couldn't go there. Too painful, even for me!)
But did persevere, and I'm glad I did because many people tell me its my best book yet. I personally can't get past Barbarian, but then I'm prejudice. LOL!
As I write this, I have published seven of the eight books in this series. It is grittier than my usual and the cat and mouse game being played with the baddies stretches across the series. I have found that I can't write by the seat of my pants so much with these books, as the plot is too intricate. So I draft the full story and break it into POV of the six Sons who will be the heroes. But already the story has gone off track with more interesting details coming in to muddy the waters. But that's okay, I'm getting very good at adjusting to suit my character's needs.
A friend asked me recently why I let my characters bully me and get their own way. I'm the writer after all. Unfortunately, as much as I'd like to be a totalitarian ruler in my worlds, I tend towards democracy. Anyway, it keeps my interest going when I don't know what is actually going to happen next.
One of the wonderful things about writing the last books in the series was the brainstorming I got into with some of my readers who have become dear friends. When I was startng to think about Caleb, which was supposed to be the last book in the series, I asked those readers what questions still needed answering so I could tie all the loose ends up by the end of the books. Well, that began nearly a week of backwards and forwards with the questions and the answers I came up with for those questions. By the time we were, I didn't have just one book left in the series to write, but another three. Which was lucky because I really wanted to get Conrad and Charles their mates too. There will still be questions by then end of Charles, like where are the other Sons and Mates? Did Regis withstand the temptation to release the virus, and if not, what effects would that have on the cats who were still out there? And just like New Atlantis I do plan to go back and revisit the series in the future. Just not now. :)
REVERSE HAREM NOVELS
In 2017 I discovered a fascinating new sub-genre in Romance: The Reverse Harem. I had read a great novel in the genre and started exploring what else was out there. It was a new sub-genre and spanned the extremes of sweet romance to steamy. The steamier books missed the mark quite a bit, so I decided I'd like to challenge myself with the new genre. How to write a truly romanitic romance with subject matter that came straight from porn movies. Let's face it, the only time you ever see MFMM written as a category is for books largely dedicated to sex. And though my books usually have sexual content they also have strong storylines, 3D characters, and love.
I was also interested in trying out the fantasy genre, which while giving a lot more freedom - no research required - did mean my imaginaton had to go into overtime coming up with a world that was believable and detailed enough to carry the story.
I started with a question: In what kind of world would a female likely accept the idea of multiple husbands? The idea of more than one partner is not something that would normally be embraced by women unless there was precedent. Drawing on my historical knowledge, as well as some from pop culture, the answer came through : a world where harems were acceptable- at least for men. I also remembered a scene from Paint Your Wagon where the herone, who had once been a wife in a polygamous marriage, suggested the two men vying for her love both become her husbands.
So The Sacrifice was born, and though it was hard to have multiple romances happening in one book, it was easier than I expected. The group sex scene was not so easy. And it wasn't the discomfort such an idea created in me, which was there I have to say. It was more the logistics. With that many body parts to account for, I had to visualize very carefully to make sure the gymnastics were possible.
I published The Sacrifice with my fingers crossed that my readers, who had loyally followed me into all sorts of new fields, would follow me again. I was floored when sales in the first day of release, without any kind of promotion or pre-release buzz, went through the roof. And continued climbing in the days that followed.
Only once in my career had such a heady experience happened for me. That was with The Barbarian's Mistress way back in 2012. This was even better!
Then came the worries. I had planned to wrte a trilogy, and had roughly drawn up a timeline for events. But when I got into book two I realised that having my heroine pregnant greatly limited my options in storytelling. She couldn't go off fighting and adventuring when she was as big as a blimp. And as the story was first person POV, I was stuck. So I decided to introduce a younger femae POV who could tell the story Airsha wasn't there to document.
It is always a risk taking the focus off a loved character who has had the stage all to herself up to that point, but there wasn't much a I could do about it. The pregnancy proved problematic in another way. My usual readers would happily relate to the challenges faced by a pregnant and new mother but would my new readers, who I sensed were much younger? Happily, that didn't prove a problem.
In book 3 I hit a problem. The prophecy had spoken of the Chosen One having many children to many different men, and Airsha had already wondered how many was 'many'. She had four men. Was that many? I decided it wasn't. But how was I going to get her to make babies with more men. Yes, she was the Gddess Incarnate and that gave her the ablity to love any number of men, but she was also a loyal wife. I also wanted her to be kidnapped, but I knew that she was way too powerful for that to be possible under normal circumstances. So she lost her memory, thanks to a mage sent by her father.
This new story arc became contentious in ways I didn't envisage. Firstly, some readers saw her as being unfaithful and thought her husbands accepted her back and 'forgave' her too easily. I couldn't get my head around that one. She created a loving bond with Trace thinking her husband was dead. She couldn't be blamed for that.
Then there was Trace himself. He was not well received by some who thought he had taken advantage of Airsha. Again, I found that hard to understand. It was war, he was doing his duty, and and working from false information that said Airsha was a whore. It wasn't until he got to know her that he began to see the truth and fall in love with her. Then he sacrificed everything to return her to her husbands. I considered him a very good man. And it made me cry when I had to kill him off.
But I had lost readers because of my choices, but enough were still following me that I felt I could keep exploring the world a little more. I'd come to like Flea a lot as the story continued, and Zem too. And so I decided to give them their HEA, if not in the normal way.
In some ways I enjoyed the Airshan Chronicles even more than the Airluds Trilogy. It was more adventurous, and I had to work extra hard to get the marriage to work. Men don't like to share their wives, competition was a given when bringing four very different strangers together. Especially when one has had Flea/Flame all to himself for two years.
In book 3 Zem started behaving in a very unacceptible way. As I've often said, my charcetrs aren't wrtten by me, I simply describe what happens. And Zem had popped up as a minor character in the trilogy, and I really liked him. But by bok 3 in the Chronicles he was being pushed too far and was lashing out. I had to stop writing for a while because I really didn't want to know Zem anymore. It felt like he'd hurt me as much as he'd hurt Flame. So my editor told me to go back and rewrite the hurtful scene, which I was able to do a month later when I'd calmed down enough. And though I kept the tension and explosion, I took out a lot of the words that were hard to forgive.
The ending of the chronicles was a surpise. It became far more than just a story. I felt I was shifting real negative energy and placing it in a safe holding place that allowed for its healing. I realised that yet again I was channelling quite powerful material.
When the chronicles were over I was ready for a new world to explore. But I was having so much fun with the RH genre that I wanted to write more in it. But this time I wanted to see if it could work in a historical setting. I chose Ancient Rome becauee I love the period, and I thought four hunking gladiators would work very nicely as the heroies. I also wanted to try telling the story from the male POV in first person, too. I decided to splt the story into five parts with each hero getting to show his POV as the heroine did hers. The final book was to be from the POV of the gay best friend. I had touched on a little gay love at the end of the chronicles, which had surpised me. So I wanted to see if I could go one better in the new series. As I write this, I'm half way through book 3 -- Talos' story. The books are shorter than the fantasy books, but by the time the whole series is completed it will be about the same length as the trilogy and the chronicles.
What I'll write when this is finished is anyone's guess. That's what keeps my writing fresh, I think. I can go where ever my Muse wants to take me.