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Sunset at Pencarrow: Anne Barwell and Lou Sylvre!

When I saw that Dreamspinner was doing a World of Love story collection, I got really excited. I wrote a plot outline for a story based around the Meguro Parasitological Museum in Tokyo and submitted it–only to find out that I was too slow! Japan was taken. Browsing the list of already claimed countries, I was shocked to see New Zealand already on the taken list—but not surprised when Anne told me that she and Lou had got in quickly to claim it! Since then, I’ve been waiting to see the finished story—so when Anne asked if she and Lou could visit the blog, of course I jumped at the chance to have them!


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Land of the Long White Cloud

Thanks for hosting us. Lou Sylvre and I are stoked to be here today as part of our blog tour for Sunset at Pencarrow.

We have a Rafflecopter running as part of the blog tour so be sure to enter—which you can more than once. Use the discount code PENCARROW for 30% off Sunset at Pencarrow only from the Dreamspinner Press store from 31st May-30th June.

When Lou asked me if I’d like to co-write the New Zealand entry for Dreamspinner Press’ World of Love, I jumped at the opportunity. I’d already been tempted to write something, but with deadlines looming I didn’t think I’d be able to fit in writing a novella as well. Half a novella, though, would work.

So why had I been tempted to write a story set in New Zealand for this series? The simple answer is that I live in New Zealand, and I think there needs to be more stories set here. I’ve read a few stories, but apart from a couple set in Wellington, most tend to take place in other parts of the country. While I enjoy reading about other places in the world, I get a kick out of recognising places and references I know. Writing something set locally was a wonderful experience as I could write more about what I know. The thing I didn’t expect, though, was to have to double check details about a few places I hadn’t visited in a while or the idioms I use without thinking. So when someone—in this case my lovely co-author—asked me about them, I found myself second guessing myself. Growing up in a NZ/Australian household, some of my expressions reflect that.

New Zealand is a beautiful country, and I love the fact that we have a huge range of scenery here. We highlighted some of that in Sunset at Pencarrow. Nate and Rusty start out at the airport in the fog—a situation everyone who lives here will recognise immediately—before moving out to the suburbs. We’re surrounded by water here, and are never too far from either the ocean or a river. A short distance in one direction in the Wellington leads to the bush and the middle of nowhere with no mobile reception, and another to the beach, and/or the city. And of course no story set here would be complete without a reference to Wellington’s wind, changeable weather and tendency toward earthquakes.

I’ve loved being able to set a story in New Zealand, and in particular Wellington. Although this is the first time I have, it definitely won’t be the last.


SunsetAtPencarrow 400x600Blurb:

Kiwi Nathaniel Dunn is in a fighting mood, but how does a man fight Wellington’s famous fog? In the last year, Nate’s lost his longtime lover to boredom and his ten-year job to the economy. Now he’s found a golden opportunity for employment where he can even use his artistic talent, but to get the job, he has to get to Christchurch today. Heavy fog means no flight, and the ticket agent is ignoring him to fawn over a beautiful but annoying, overly polite American man.

Rusty Beaumont can deal with a canceled flight, but the pushy Kiwi at the ticket counter is making it difficult for him to stay cool. The guy rubs him all the wrong ways despite his sexy working-man look, which Rusty notices even though he’s not looking for a man to replace the fiancé who died two years ago. Yet when they’re forced to share a table at the crowded airport café, Nate reveals the kind heart behind his grumpy façade. An earthquake, sex in the bush, and visits from Nate’s belligerent ex turn a day of sightseeing into a slippery slope that just might land them in love.

 

World of Love: Stories of romance that span every corner of the globe.

 

Excerpt:

“I don’t bloody believe this.” Nathaniel “Nate” Dunn took a deep breath. “So, any idea when my flight might actually leave?”

The woman at the counter gave him what she probably thought was a pleasant smile. Instead it came across as condescending with a touch of oh help me, God, how stupid is this guy?

“I’ve already told you—” She glanced at his ticket. “—Mr. Dunn… Nathaniel… I don’t have that information. The fog will lift when it decides to lift, and we can’t begin to reschedule flights until that time. In the meantime, you’ll have to wait like everyone else.”

“You don’t understand. I have to be in Christchurch this afternoon. I have a job interview tomorrow.”

“Of course you do.” The woman seemed ready to dismiss him but then appeared to reconsider. “If you’re desperate, perhaps you can catch the afternoon ferry sailing to Picton and then a flight from either Blenheim or Nelson.”

“The ferries are full.” Nate read the name on her badge—Heather Rawlins. “Ms. Rawlins, I’ve already thought of that.” He waved his hand to indicate the very full airport. Many of those in line behind him were students. Several of them looked very young, and they had parents hovering around them. Probably their first time away from home, and not a great start to a course of study at either Canterbury or Otago universities. “Uni starts back last week of February. That’s next week. There’s only me and several hundred others trying to make it to the South Island.”

“You’d better settle in and wait, then, hadn’t you? This might take a while.” Heather looked past him. “Next, please.”

“Charming,” Nate muttered. Why the hell had the fog decided to pick today of all days to turn up? Beautiful weather for weeks, and on the only day he needed to fly out of Wellington, the bloody stuff foiled his plans. His flatmate, Amy, had warned him to be prepared for delays when they hadn’t been able to see the airport from across the harbor that morning, but he hadn’t listened. Fog in the morning didn’t mean the stupid stuff would hang around all day. Typical of his luck lately. “Windy Wellington” and today there wasn’t even a breeze to blow the fog out.

It was a conspiracy.

Much like the rest of his life. One could only take so much of pretending everything was hunky-dory and plastering on a false smile. He was sick of it. Bad enough that Glenn—who he’d thought was the “one,” the guy he’d be with forever—had dumped him, but to find out his job of the last ten years was finishing as well? And now this….

“Next, please,” Heather repeated.

“Excuse me, sir,” a man behind him said in an American accent. “There’s a line here, and I’m sure the lady has done all she could to help you.”

Buy Sunset at Pencarrow.

Dreamspinner Press (Discount code PENCARROW from 5/31-6/30, 30% off, DSP store only) | Google Books | iTunes | Kobo | Amazon | Barnes and Noble 

 

 

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Author bios:

Anne bio:

Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She works in a library, is an avid reader and watcher across genres, and is constantly on the lookout for more hours in her day. Music often plays a part in her stories, and although she denies being a romantic at heart, the men in her books definitely are. Anne has written in several genres—contemporary, fantasy, historical, and SF— and believes in making her characters work for their happy endings.

 

Lou bio:

Lou Sylvre loves romance with all its ups and downs, and likes to conjure it into books. The romantics on her pages are men who fall hard for each other, end up deeply in love, and often save each other from unspeakable danger. It’s all pretty crazy and very sexy. Among other things, Lou is the creator of the popular Vasquez and James series​, which can be found at Dreamspinner Press, Amazon, and many other online vendors.

 

Contact links:

Anne:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | e-mail:  darthanne@gmail.com

 

Lou:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | e-mail:  lou.sylvre@gmail.com

 

Lou and Anne’s shared Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/sylvrebarwellhoffmann/

 

Rafflecopter script and links:

 

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/4059d62414/?

 

We hope you’ll join us for the other stops on the tour. Click here to see the complete schedule and links to the blogs.


 

I’m really excited about Sunset at Pencarrow. As Anne says in her guest post, we need more stories set here!

Just June.

My Uncle gave me his old Fitbit that he never uses after my old one died and I was reduced to using Pokemon Go to track my distance walked. In addition to a ton of neat features like counting stairs climbed and monitoring my heart rate, this Fitbit also tracks sleep—or lack there of. Remember last entry where I was complaining about feeling constantly run down, lacking energy, being sleepy?

Yeah. The answer was really simple. I wasn’t sleeping.

I’ve been working on that, and the results are such that I already feel better, more positive and I’ve even been getting some writing done! I’ve also got some exciting news to share–NineStar Press has accepted Life After Humanity, the third book in the Thorns and Fangs series! I’m very pleased, and hoping to make progress on my to-do list in June so I can get to work on book four as soon as possible.

But before June, let’s review May:

  • Plot Thorns and Fangs Four
  • Write Thorns and Fangs Four- 2/21 chapters–so that’s a start!
  • Finish editing Life After Humanity
  • Submit LAH
  • Daily mindfulness habit –No! I let this slide…and I think that’s another reason May was such a struggle.
  • Eat five plus fruit or veges a day + vitamin …. Mostly. I need to get better at this!
  • Walk every day.  Mostly! Much more frequently than I have all year. The only days I haven’t been doing this was when weather or my workload prevented me.

In addition to being low-energy, May was the month that Freelance tried to take over. The dog I’m looking after had a health scare (he is okay now, but still not 100%–poor little dog!), and my wonderful auction winner Kathleen gave me a really fun story request. During May, I felt I was not making progress, but now I’m at the end of the month, I see I’ve accomplished more than I realised … But there’s even more I want to do in June!

June Goals:

  • Write More Than Coffee, Kathleen’s story.
  • Freelance Project Number 1.
  • Freelance Project Number 2.
  • Continue work on Dead Wrong (Thorns and Fangs 4)
  • Walk everyday
  • Vitamin + Five Plus
  • Mindfulness
  • SLEEP

First day of June, I cannot say that I am off to a great start… But there were some exceptional circumstances! I have a lot of family and freelance commitments this month so it is going to be a squeeze getting everything in. Still, I think that if I get into a steady routine (and also sleep), I will be able to make good progress.

 

 

Look out, Anxious April! Mighty May is here.

I don’t know how or why but April was a really crap month. March was busy, but overall good, but as I got to the end of March, I hadn’t made myself a spreadsheet with my daily April goals. I figured that my daily writing, mindfulness and healthy eating had become habit by now, and I didn’t feel like checking them off every day.

Turns out, that was a mistake. From April first, my mood tanked, my motivation hit the floor and I was paralysed by anxiety over almost every aspect of my life. Finances was a big one. To try and get a better balance between freelance work and creative projects, I decided not to take on any new clients this month with the result that I then spent a lot of time worried that I wouldn’t earn enough to cover my expenses for May (I did–just barely, but I did!). Then global events hit a very upsetting note, and I spent a long time questioning everything. I go in depth in this post here, but just as I’d worked out actions I could take to help and was feeling positive, I got hit by the nastiest cold I’ve had since returning to New Zealand. It was brutal! Dizziness, sore-throat, constant coughing, runny nose, burning mouth, sore skin, aches, fuzzy head… I’m finally over the worst of it and feeling better every day, though symptoms still persist.

I know there were a lot of reasons why April did not go the way I hoped. Still, the correlation between me stopping my mindfulness regime, and immediately suffering from anxiety is a bit too blatant to ignore! The severity of my cold could be linked to that,  or the fact that I have not been eating as well as I could throughout April. I’ve already determined that March is going to be better. Before writing this blog post, I did my daily mindfulness exercise (shifted to the start of my day to make sure I do it!). Next to me is a healthy breakfast and my vitamin tablet.

April Goals (this is going to be depressing):

  • Finish Life After Humanity. Done! 
  • Edit Life After Humanity. In progress.
  • Submit Life After Humanity. Nope.
  • Daily Writing Habit Nope
  • Read 9 books  Yes!
  • Weekly Blog updates  Nope!
  • Balance Freelance and Creative writing I need to think about how to measure this one. 
  • Plot Secondary project No.
  • Plot Third project No.
  • Start writing Secondary project No.
  • Grow some hair Yes!

My biggest achievement in April was finishing Life After Humanity. I’ve started rereading in preparation for editing, making notes as I go. I’ve also been visited with a lot of inspiration for the fourth book, and am incredibly eager to get started plotting that. Which actually leads into Mighty May Goals:

  • Plot Thorns and Fangs Four
  • Write Thorns and Fangs Four
  • Finish editing Life After Humanity
  • Submit LAH
  • Daily mindfulness habit
  • Eat five plus fruit or veges a day + vitamin
  • Walk every day.

I feel quietly confident, despite April’s setbacks. I’m staying at my sister’s until Thursday, and between my niece and the black labrador, I’m sure I will hit my walking quota. Then I’m off to housesit for relatives who have a dog that gets walked twice a day, so I don’t have a choice–I’m definitely hitting one of these goals, no matter what happens with the rest.

Authors and Publishers for LGBT Chechnens.

April has been a really difficult month. I try to stay positive, but the global events, particularly in Chechnya and Nigeria, have left me feeling helpless. I’ve been avoiding social media for the most part, because the last thing I want to do is spread hopelessness, but have struggled to come up with any meaningful actions I can take on my own.

Fortunately, Olivia Helling and Dale Cameron Lowry got in contact with me about their initiative, Authors and Publishers for LGBT Chechnens.  They’re putting together a list of authors and publishers who are donating royalties to organisations like the Russian LGBT Network and from May 5th, they’re auctioning off goods donated by authors and publishers.

Money has been tight this month and will be tight next month, but the auction gave me a way to contribute. I’ve donated two items: a story written to the winner’s specifications (like the M/M Romance Group’s DRitC), and an edit of an existing manuscript. I’m not sure how successful my contributions to the auction will be, but having signed up, I’m feeling much more hopeful, and thinking of more concrete actions I can take.

If you’re like me, and have wanted to help but been feeling overwhelmed, I recommend checking out Olivia and Dale’s website for more information and ideas about contributing. If you don’t want to wait to help, the website links to organizations helping Chechnens that are taking donations now. I’ve also found this list of LGBT friendly organizations in Nigeria. If you’ve got other suggestions, or links to share, please let me know.

Just finished the first draft of the third Thorns and Fangs book.* I’m warning everyone now, this one’s a monster. I’m having a hard time restraining myself from starting the editing right now, but I really do have to eat breakfast and then maybe take a walk.

 

*Okay, so technically this is the third draft of this book, but it’s changed so much between versions that I count this as an entirely new story. Who cares! It’s finished!

Accelerated April

Accelerated April is off to a slow start. Over the weekend, I volunteered to help out with The Single Fin Mingle, which is not in fact the prequel to Ibiza on Ice, but a surfing contest and caught up with a friend. I also went to my second yoga class. The end of March was crazy–I had overloaded myself with projects–so I have been slow getting April started. Luckily I just completed a big item on my to-do list and hope to have an announcement soon!

March … wow. March definitely made up for the lack of productivity in January and February! I achieved my goal of writing every day and while I didn’t complete Life After Humanity, I did write 80,000 words. I also passed both the defensive driving course and my full licence test, which I was not expecting to do, and with the support of many friends and family members, raised $935 NZD for Shave for a Cure. Freelance work took up a ton of time for not much reward. I finished March feeling happier and healthier than I have in a long time–one of my non-writing goals was talking a multi-vitamin and eating five plus fruit and veggies everyday. This, I accomplished and I think it has continued to have a real positive impact on my health.

Unfortunately, I didn’t achieve all my goals–especially the Deep Magic boxset or regular blog posts. I think I might have to shift blog updates to once a week because I am finding it very difficult to fit them in around everything else that is going on. I also had an unexpected bill for my car which ate into my savings, acerbating my money worries, and I am doubly glad that I made mindfulness and meditation part of my daily routine in March because I think that March would have been much more stressful without it. In the end, I count March as a success. Here’s why!

March Goals:

  • Daily Writing Habit (Yes– 31/31)
  • Write Thorns and Fangs #3 ( Progress– 80522/100,000)
  • Balance Freelance and Creative Work-Nope!
  • Read 9 books (Yes–11/9)
  • Regular blog posts (No–5/9)
  • Edit and release Deep Magic boxset-Nope
  • Complete Defensive Driving Course-Yes!
  • Sit Full Licence Test-Yes!
  • Shave for a Cure-Yes!

April. April is going to be different. I’ve already decided that I am going to try and avoid taking on any new freelance clients because I want to make sure that I don’t get overloading and over-stretched as I have been. Four days into this, and I it is a battle not to sign up to every volunteer activity I see! I need to spend some time setting myself some deadlines for April to motivate myself.

April Writing Goals:

  • Finish Life After Humanity.
  • Edit Life After Humanity.
  • Submit Life After Humanity.
  • Daily Writing Habit
  • Read 9 books
  • Weekly Blog updates
  • Balance Freelance and Creative writing
  • Plot Secondary project
  • Plot Third project
  • Start writing Secondary project
  • Grow some hair

As always, wish me luck!

I Sat in Dame Ngaio Marsh’s chair!

Dame Ngaio Marsh was—along with Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers—one of the Queens of Crime, a group of women writing during the Golden Age of the Detective story. In addition, she was an artist and an enthusiast for the theatre, becoming recognised as much for her services to New Zealand theatre as she was for her detective novels. And yes-she was a New Zealander. In fact, she lived in Christchurch most of her life. And it never occurred to me that her house might still be here and that you can visit it.

Turns out her house is here in Christchurch and you can visit it. You simply need to arrange a time and date with one of the tour guides and off you go (http://www.ngaio-marsh.org.nz)! I e-mailed and have been binge-reading Ngaio Marsh any free moment I got since.

I was lucky enough to join an already booked group, and visit on a day when a guide was being trained, so there were five of us Ngaio Marsh enthusiasts in the same place. This never happens! It was hugely exciting–as exciting as her house.

By modern standards it’s small–but full of treasures. Ngaio was an only child, so she inherited a few family heirlooms from both sides of her family, as well as those she collected herself in her travels. Some of her dresses still hang in her wardrobe, and her the furnishing are just as they were when she lived in the house–with a few exceptions (there were some breakages because of the earthquake and a few repairs).

What I found most interesting is how the rooms were used. There was no spare room, no office. In this lovely dining room, Ngaio Marsh entertained visiting celebrities including Laurence Olivier. This room is the least altered from the house’s original appearance. Marsh’s parents built it, and originally the entire house was this dark wood.

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Her kitchen was practical, small (despite being enlarged from its original size), and an amazing collection of seventies style. Our guide was not a fan. I thought it looked neat–but then, I didn’t have to try and cook in it!

Ngaio’s bedroom was fantastic. It blended her theatrical and artistic sides. Her passport is there, along with her travelling trunk and there were hatboxes stacked on top of the wardrobe. I was happy to spot some Japanese woodcuts in one corner, but my favourite discovery was the copy of Lord of the Rings on the shelf.

The long room. It was a combination living room and office. I gravitated to an impressive looking typewriter, but it turns out Ngaio wrote longhand sitting in her green armchair. Later her secretary typed things up for her.

Towards the end of her life, Ngaio had her basement converted into an office/bedroom/bathroom/studio so that she wouldn’t have to climb the stairs to her house.

The tour takes an hour, but after it finished, we must have spent a good thirty minutes just talking with our guide. The gentleman visiting with his wife seems to know a lot about New Zealand theatre, going to school with a few of the successful actors that Ngaio promoted, and he and our guide reminisced about people they knew connected with Ngaio. I felt really glad that I timed my visit to coincide with another group, as I feel I got more of an insight into that side of her life.

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I took a lot of photos, but I feel hesitant about sharing all of them. Instead, here is my highlight—the moment I got to sit in the chair where Ngaio Marsh wrote her mystery novels. The bookcase directly in front of me had all of her first editions. Actually, she had bookcases in every room we visited. It was definitely my kind of house. Any Christchurch visitors (M. Caspian, what do you think?): Just so you know, I will totally return to this house and tour with you anytime.