guest posts – guest author

Guest Post: Prelude to Love by Anne Barwell


Fellow kiwi author and friend Anne Barwell has a new release out, and it’s set here in NZ! I asked Anne if she wouldn’t mind talking about some of the special locations in the story, and she obliged—with photos! I’ve really enjoyed hearing Anne’s thoughts about these locations, and am hoping to visit some of them when I catch up with her later this month. It’s going to be great!

Thanks for hosting me today as part of my blog tour for Prelude to Love, a Dreamspun Desire novel from Dreamspinner Press.

I have a Rafflecopter running as part of the tour so be sure to enter.

Prelude to Love is set in Wellington, and most of the story takes place in the Hutt Valley where I live. Most of the locations are real places or inspired by real places. The only one that isn’t is Avalon College where Joel is a music teacher. Avalon is a suburb in Lower Hutt, and there is an Avalon Primary and Intermediate but no college/high school. As the school and its inhabitants play a big part in the story I didn’t want to use a real place, but it is inspired by schools where I’ve worked or visited.

I also took care to use different locations from Sunset at Pencarrow—co-written with Lou Sylvre—which released in 2017. However, there were some locations which I had to reuse, such as Wellington Airport, and the Petone Esplanade. It’s difficult to get away from those, although I must admit Nate from that story lives only a few blocks away from Joel in this one!

I enjoyed being able to share familiar locations, and as an added bonus I didn’t need to use google maps. In fact at one point I was writing a scene, and couldn’t remember the specifics of that particular location so I went for a drive and took photos, and had a bonus cuppa with my daughter at the same time.

Bridge Te Whiti Park 300x400

An area alongside the Waiwhetu stream plays an important part in the story, and serves as a location for several scenes. I like the area because it’s peaceful and, as an added bonus, near a really nice café. Joel and Marcus visit that café in the story and, although I haven’t named it, locals will recognise it by its description.

When I was taking photos on the bank of the stream I noticed a rather unusual tree. Inspiration struck and I knew I could use it in the story.

Joel's Tree 300x400

Joel spotted a familiar tree, one with a shape that had made him smile at the time. He’d never been sure whether the trunk had split in two very early on, or whether two trees had grown close together, giving the impression of one. Ivy grew up the middle, linking the two as they’d reached for the sun. 

“Interesting-looking tree,” Marcus said.

“Yeah. It reminds me of a relationship, of two people still doing their own thing but linked by their love for each other.” Joel crouched in front of it, checking the grass wasn’t too wet before he sat.

I love it when location inspires the story.

Oriental Bay at dusk

A story set in New Zealand has to feature a beach somewhere. We’re surrounded by water, particularly here in Wellington. So at one point Joel and Marcus share ice creams at Oriental Bay—a popular beach in Wellington close to the CBD (central business district).   I took this photo of the spot where that part of the story takes place, but while they visit during the day earlier in the year, this is a few months later and at dusk. To the left is the Wellington waterfront, and across the harbour is the motorway along the edge of the shore leading to the Hutt Valley on the far right. The larger boat is one of the Picton ferries heading toward Wellington at the end of its journey from the South Island crossing Cook Strait.

I enjoy being able to set stories in New Zealand, and share a bit of my country with readers, so am planning to do more of it—and across a couple of different genres—in the future.



Music speaks directly to the heart.

Two very different men face turning points in their lives after the collapse of long-term relationships….

Joel is a music teacher who knows it’s time to forget his ex and move on, while Marcus runs a lawn-mowing business and has come to Wellington to escape the reminders of a recent breakup. Although they’re opposites, when Joel and Marcus connect, their romance has the potential to hit all the right notes.

Too bad neither of them feels ready for new love.

With family and friends in common, dating is risky—things could get messy if it doesn’t work out. The sweet song of possibility draws them to each other, though, and they share a kiss following a Chopin prelude. But it will take some practice and perseverance to find their perfect harmony….

Dreamspinner Press  | Amazon |Barnes and Noble  


Although the room was sparsely furnished, Marcus hadn’t really noticed it before. Apart from the piano and the small table and chair next to it, there was only one sofa and a bookcase full of sheet music in the corner.

“That works.”

Nannerl pushed past Marcus and jumped up onto the sofa, sprawling out to take up the entire seat.

“Or not,” Marcus said. “I’ll take your usual seat.”

“You can shift her, you know.” Joel glanced at Nannerl. “I swear that cat has a mind of her own.”

“She’s a cat, and your chair looks comfortable enough. Besides, I can see better from here.”

Marcus pushed the chair back, stretched his legs out, and crossed them at the ankles. “What’s the music?” Not that it would mean much to him, but he still wanted to be able to put a name to it.

“It’s a Chopin prelude. I’ve always liked playing Chopin. I find it relaxing, as it’s easy to lose myself in the music, so I’m hoping that helps me not to stress out too much on the night of the concert.” Joel adjusted the distance between the stool and the piano and then began to play.

Marcus nodded. He’d heard the name Chopin before—probably from Joel.

Despite his intention to watch Joel play, Marcus found himself closing his eyes and listening to the music. It felt as though Joel projected some of himself into his performance. Nuances of emotion reached out to Marcus as the melody grew louder, in both volume and intensity, and faster. Then slower again, the melody taking center stage, with a repeating deeper note before the music finished, and Marcus realized Joel had stopped playing.

“Wow.” Marcus opened his eyes.

Joel still sat poised at the keyboard. He placed his hands on his lap, interlacing his fingers, his knuckles white. “Wow? Really? I still need to practice, and that bit with the—”

Marcus didn’t have the words to describe what he’d heard. He’d liked it. A lot. Not just for the music but the insight it gave him into Joel. He leaned over, gently brushed his fingers against Joel’s face, and when Joel turned toward him, Marcus kissed him on the lips. Softly at first, then deepening as Joel threaded his fingers through Marcus’s hair and pulled him closer.

Joel tasted of coffee and beer. He caressed Marcus’s lips with his tongue, and Marcus groaned. Why had he waited so long for this? Kissing Joel felt right, as though he’d found something he’d never known was missing.

When they finally broke the kiss, Joel leaned his forehead against Marcus’s. “Wow,” he whispered. “I should play for you more often.”


a Rafflecopter giveaway


You can find the list of sites taking part in the blog tour here:

(Or, if you prefer, here’s a coded list of the sites):

January 2 – Happily Ever After Chapter

January 3 – Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

January 3 – Gillian St Kevern

January 4 – Love Bytes Reviews

January 5 – My Fiction Nook

January 8 – Kimi-chan Experience

January 8 – Two Men Are Better Than One

January 9 – Boy Meets Boy Reviews

January 10 – Dreamspinner Press Blog

January 11 – Anna Butler

January 12- Nic Starr

January 16 – Aisling Mancy

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Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She shares her home with two cats who are convinced that the house is run to suit them; this is an ongoing “discussion,” and to date it appears as though the cats may be winning.

In 2008 she completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching. She has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and now works in a library. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction Club and plays violin for Hutt Valley Orchestra.

She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as “too many.” These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of “spare time” is really just a myth. She also hosts other authors, reviews for the GLBTQ Historical Site “Our Story” and Top2Bottom Reviews, and writes monthly blog posts for Love Bytes.

Anne’s books have received honorable mentions five times, reached the finals four times—one of which was for best gay book—and been a runner up in the Rainbow Awards.  She has also been nominated twice in the Goodreads M/M Romance Reader’s Choice Awards—once for Best Fantasy and once for Best Historical.

Website & Blog:


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New Zealand Rainbow Romance Writers:

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Rainbow Gold Reviews Trans Aware Event

I spent most of August chasing my tail (RWNZ conferences will do that to you). Now that I’ve got some time to catch up, I wanted to point you towards the Rainbow Gold Reviews blog. In response to President Trump’s actions, they decided to host a week long event highlighting trans authors and books with trans characters. They got such an overwhelming response the event extended into two weeks—two weeks of guest posts, interviews, book reviews and giveaways. Sadly, I’ve left this too long for the giveaways I’m sure, but I highly recommend checking out the event.

I’ve already highlighted Elliot Cooper’s contribution, but there are some very cool contributions. I love the honesty of Jenn Polish’s Transition on Trains: On Being a Non-binary Author,  and in Victor Alexander’s interview. I’m in there too. Gatsby, a side character in The Wing Commander’s Curse, happens to be trans—and happens to be serving in the military. Timely! Honestly though, I think I gained more than I gave. Reading the guest posts and interviews challenged me. I’m in awe of the honesty and courage of these very talented authors.


In order of posts, earliest through latest:

J.S. Fields: Interview.

Angel Martinez: Guest Post

L.A. Witt: Having her Back. Book Review by Dana.

Jeff Adams: The Inspiration behind Hat trick Book 3: Penalty Shot.

Francis Gideon: A Winter in Rome. Book Review by Eloreen.

Jay Northcote: Interview and Starting From Scratch: Book Review by Bethany.

Aidan Wayne: Grounded. Book Review by Wendy.

Missy Welsh: Why I Wrote a Romance Featuring a Transman.

Joe Cosentino: Books of Inclusion.

Gillian St. Kevern: Interview

Christopher Hawthorne Moss: A Fine Bromance. Book Review by Dana.

Jenn Polish: Transition on Trains.

Elliot Cooper: Are Your Books Trans Enough?

Julie Aitchenson: Guest Post.

G.R. Lyons: Life in Transition.

Allan Hunter: Identifying as Genderqueer rather than Transgender

Fifi Frost: Trans-trap. Book Review by Wendy

Anna Martin: Guest Post. The Impossible Boy: Book Review by Bethany.

Francis Gideon: Hopeless Romantic. Book Review by Dana 

Victor Alexander: Interview


All About the Trigger Moment: P.A. Friday on writing short stories that sizzle!


Today, I’m welcoming a brand new (to me at least!) author to the blog–P.A. Friday! P.A.’s new novelette contains not one, but three short stories, all packed with sexual tension! I struggle to keep anything I write short, so I was really curious as to how P.A. manages to pack so much into such a short format. P.A. was kind enough to satisfy my curiosity with the exclusive interview you see below. Enjoy!

I ought to admit straight out that I’m basically a Jack of All Trades when it comes to writing. Articles? Check. Novels? Check. Short fiction, flash fiction, Twitter fiction, poetry? Check…

Usually, though not always, I know what length something is going to be (or at least approximately what length it’ll be!) when I start writing, however. The three stories in All About The Boy were always intended to be about 5000 words long. So how do you write something which is a specific length?

AllAboutTheBoy-f500.jpgWell, first of all, I can’t tell you how anyone else does it! My way of writing has always been a little unusual, in that I’m not reliable about the whole “start at the beginning and go on until you reach the end, and then stop” business. If I have inspiration for bits of story, I’ll write those bits. And then sometimes I’ll have to wriggle things about a bit until all the pieces fit. In Making Amends, the middle story of the three in the anthology, I actually wrote the second half of the story first, and then went back to explain how we got to that point. (I hope it doesn’t seem that way when you read the story, though!)

By far the most important thing for me, though, no matter the length of the story, is the characters. Everything I write is character-driven. There’s a tendency for some people to write off erotica as all about ‘tab A in slot B’ but for me, that’s not the interesting part. The interesting part is why these particular characters have that spark – and what sort of spark it is. Why has this man reacted to this other man in that particular fashion? How does he feel about it?

When you’ve only got 5000 words in which to spread yourself, obviously you can’t get too deeply into the complications of the human psyche in the same way you can with a novel. So you have to focus on something. An event. A trigger moment. Why this particular occasion was important for your character. Once you’ve got the event, if you know your character well enough – and I try to know my viewpoint character quite well before I start – it’s easy to follow through. I already know how he’d react, and why. My job then is to show this to the reader in such a way that they care about what happens to the character.

Oh, and – because this is, after all, erotica we’re talking about – to make it hot!

So I guess that’s what I’ve tried to do with my 5000 words: offer characters which seem real, and which readers can invest in, and then let the action go from there! And boy, is there action in these particular stories…

Thanks for the fascinating insight behind the scenes of All About the Boy, P.A.! To learn more about this collection of short hot stories, read on for the blurb and an excerpt.


Some men like gentle loving—others like to switch up the power. In P.A. Friday’s collection of stories, explore the raunchier, edgier side of lust—a space where domination and control can be the greatest turn-on.

From Stefan finding out the hard way just how straight he isn’t, Jake who has to learn to behave or take his punishment, to Kel juggling two very different lovers at his workplace, doing what you’re told has never been sexier.


NineStar Press | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | All About Romance Ebooks


Author Bio:

P.A. Friday fails dismally to write one sort of thing and, when not writing erotica and erotic romance of all sexualities, may be found writing articles on the Regency period, pagan poetry, or science fiction. She loves wine and red peppers, and loathes coffee and mushrooms.

Contact P.A. Friday

Email: | Website | Twitter | Facebook


Usually, Jake liked to do as he was told. He obeyed Alessandro’s every whim and behaved impeccably—especially in the presence of his master’s friends.


It was not because he feared punishment that he did so, either. Far from it. It was because he loved the look on his master’s face when Jake was obedient. That expression of pride in his boy—in Jake—and the warmth of his smile. Jake would do anything for that look.

Still, there was one of Alessandro’s friends to whom Jake couldn’t take. No matter how many times he met the man, he didn’t warm to him—had, in fact, an instinctive revulsion towards him. In his presence, the temptation to disregard his usual obedience was always strong. It wasn’t the fact that Leo had once been Alessandro’s lover—Alessandro had had, and continued to have, any number of lovers. Indeed, with Alessandro’s permission, several had played with or been pleasured by Jake. But when it came to Leo, the rules changed.


Check out NineStar’s events calendar for information on additional blog stops for All About the Boy and other upcoming releases!

Neil Plakcy on Bad Days and Cold Winds.

Today’s post is a guest post from a newcomer to this blog but not to writing — Neil Plakcy’s latest novel, A Cold Wind, is the eighth in a series. Eighth! I was incredibly impressed and asked Neil if he would tell me all about it. He obliged with the story of how his series, Have Body, Will Guard came about. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I’m sure you will too. Thank you, Neil!


Thanks for hosting me, Gillian. I was particularly inspired by this comment you made: “I’m especially interested in the fact that A Cold Wind is the eighth book in your series. As a writer, I’d love to know what challenges you’ve faced writing the series.”

three_turns_100The first challenge is that I didn’t know that Three Wrong Turns in the Desert was going to turn into a series! One day as I was driving home from work, I was feeling down. I wanted to chuck everything and run away, so I started fantasizing about where I’d go and what I’d do.

Since I’ve been living in Florida for more than half my adult life, I’d have to go somewhere warm, because I couldn’t face living in a cold climate again. I’ve never been to Africa, so I chose Tunisia—hot, relatively politically stable, and a fascinating place.

As I drove, bits and pieces of the story came together. My protagonist, Aidan Greene, would be more sympathetic if he’d been kicked to the curb by his long-time partner, not just running away. I am an English professor and I work with lots of teachers of English for Academic Purposes, so I thought that career would give Aidan the chance to pick up somewhere new.

Of course, there’d be a handsome guy in Tunis who’d sweep Aidan off his feet. I have a friend who writes a thriller series about a male-female pair of bodyguards, and I was interested in how a bodyguard would operate, so Liam McCullough stepped on stage, on his way to meet a client who needs chaperoning through the desert on a difficult journey. I was inspired by a photograph of a gorgeous naked guy showering outdoors, and I gave Liam the background of a Navy SEAL who’d left the military under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, to justify that fabulous physique.

The story evolved, concluding with a happily ever after ending that brought my two heroes into each other’s arms after much struggle. It was only after I’d finished, and Aidan and Liam kept talking to me, that I thought there might be another book for them.

dancing_cover_smallWould their love survive working together—especially if their first joint client was a sexy young singer fresh out of the closet, with an eye on Liam’s impressive physique? That idea grew into Dancing with the Tide. I’d already written a lot about Tunis, the capital of Tunisia, and the Sahara Desert, so I set this one on the resort island of Djerba. Putting the three of them together in a resort villa was fun and amped up the interaction between them.

teach_me_cover_100So the story kept evolving, book after book. I tried to build romantic tension out of the ongoing changes in their lives. In the third book, Teach Me Tonight, they’re hired to guard a teenager attending an intensive English course on the Tunisian coast. Another change of scene—this time to a make-believe monastery filled with hormonal teenagers. Aidan goes undercover as a teacher, with Liam as the director of security for the program. Aidan remembers how much he loved teaching—will this return to his former career signal the end of his bodyguard efforts with Liam?

Halfway through the series, I got tired of writing about places I’d never been and so I transferred another bit of my fantasy life to my characters – I moved them to the French Riviera. I fell in love with Nice on a summer study trip when I was fourteen, and I’ve been back several times, so at least I had a good idea of the landscape. It has been great fun to find interesting corners of the Cote d’Azur for their clients to get into trouble.

One of the most interesting aspects of the character development has been the way in which Aidan’s background as a teacher comes into play. He’s very empathetic and able to relate well to their clients and understand their cultural differences, and he has a good ear for languages, too. I love that I’ve been able to take a mild-mannered teacher and turn him into one of the heroes of an action-oriented romance series.

With each new book, I tried to come up with new challenges for their relationship, but eventually my editor said that she thought the romance between them was too settled. What could I do to shake things up?

waterfall_coverFor Under the Waterfall, I turned to Shakespeare, the great thief of plots, and stole one from him – Romeo and Juliet, recast with two young men whose fathers are at odds. I set it on the island of Corsica, a rugged, gorgeous place with a lot of criminal history. Could Aidan and Liam not just protect their clients, but engineer a way for the young lovers to be together? Could they be good role models?

The latest book in the series, debuting on March 29 from Loose Id, is A Cold Wind, in which the bodyguards turn matchmakers. Their client, a deposed Russian oligarch fresh out of the closet, is suffering from a midlife crisis while in danger from unknown forces. Can Liam and Aidan fix him up with their widower neighbor while protecting him?

I’ve never had an overall arc for the series because as I said above I never expected that one idea, hatched on my way home from a bad day at work, to develop into eight books.

For more from Neil, you can follow him on facebook or check out his author homepage for all of his works!