Anne Barwell

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.

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Reading: Sunset at Pencarrow

Regular readers of this blog will remember my interview with Anne Barwell about her release with co-author Lou Sylvre, Sunset at Pencarrow. I’m reading it now (very slowly because of a lot of family stuff that is happening), and wow. The story could not be more apt.

The two main characters meet when their flights out of Wellington are grounded because of fog.

Lead article when I took a break to check the news feed on my phone: Rotorua to Christchurch trip takes group to Auckland, 28 hours later.  The headline is a little misleading. The group is from Christchurch, heading to Rotorua–the exact same trip I’m making in August to the RWNZ 2017 Conference.

We’ve had similar headlines all week, as temperatures drop and snow fell in a lot of the South Island. Here’s hoping that Anne and Lou write a follow up novel, where the heroes have smooth flights all the way to Rotorua, is what I say.

Buy Sunset at Pencarrow.

Dreamspinner Press  | Google Books | iTunes | Kobo |Amazon| Barnes and Noble 

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.





Back from Weddington!

As alluded to in my last post, I made it safely back to Christchurch! That is worth the exclamation point because wow, was Wellington intense (in a really good way).

My journey started early Friday morning when I woke, ate breakfast and got myself and my luggage into the car, only ten minutes late. I was feeling pretty good, because I had allowed myself an extra 15 minutes for the journey (I drive like a granny), and was confident that I would make it to the meeting place in time. And then I turned the key–and nothing happened.

Yeah, my first ever flat battery! Good job self. Fortunately, a very lovely neighbour jumpstarted me (at 5:40 AM), and also helped me back down very scary driveway. Without his help I would not have made my flight or the wedding. He also pointed out that I needed to top up my oil–something no one had told me about! Anyway, I drove the difficult hilly road like I have never driven it before, making it to the meeting place only ten minutes late. I met up with sister and brother-in-law and niece, and we made it to the airport with time to spare.

Of course, the adrenalin lasted until we were actually in the church, sister and myself acting as ushers, handing out programmes and seeing guests to their seats. I caught up with family I haven’t seen in forever, but it wasn’t until everyone was sitting down and we were waiting for the bride to arrive that it really sunk in that we’d made it and I could relax.


The church was beautiful. The bride was beautiful. The groom–I cannot believe that my little cousin got so grown up so suddenly! Everything was happy and awesome, and I could not be happier for anyone involved. There was just one thing.

I’m not much of a make-up person, but weddings are one of the few occasions I go all out and make the effort. I also cry at weddings. It’s clockwork. The doors open, the bride appears and–tears. I also cry at speeches, toasts, because people look happy, etc. Weddings are a tears-smorgasbord. Anyway, I decided that the issue was the make-up. I must just have really sensitive eyes, right? And the make-up sets me off. So, I skipped mascara for the last wedding I went to and still cried. This wedding, I brought make-up with me, but decided at the last minute that I didn’t want to spend the entire day dabbing at my eyes and skipped it. When the bells rang, and I turned to see the bride enter, it was with the confidence that for once, I would not be making a spectacle of myself.

Nope. Turns out I am just that sappy. The shame!

Still, not even the realisation that I am the relative that gets tearful at the drop of a hat could spoil the wedding, or the reception.

The highlight from a writer point of view occurred the morning after the wedding when fellow kiwi author Anne Barwell (of Winter Duet fame) took me to Gotham for brunch. We spent at least five hours talking comics, M/M romance, 2017 writing plans and we could have talked longer. To be fair, it has been sixteen years since we last caught up in person, and a lot has happened since then! But watch this space–Anne and I have plans.


Yes, I am the dork who purposely wore her Batgirl T-shirt specially for Gotham.

In the afternoon, we met up again with the bride and groom for a family lunch, for us to spend some time catching up in a more relaxed setting. Time flew. It was a shock to find out we only had ten minutes before needing to leave to catch our flight. Sister and I ran around madly saying goodbye, brother-in-law had everything under control. We got to the airport in plenty of time, and back to Christchurch right on schedule.

In the two days I’ve been back since then, I’ve reunited with house-sit cat, dog and hens, caught up with an entirely different cousin and her family, and three friends from high school, one of which I had not seen since we graduated! Today, one of those friends and I explore central Christchurch. It was the first time she’d been there since the 2011 Earthquake, and seeing the city through her eyes really brought home how much we lost and how far we have yet to go. I struggled to remain upbeat, but after taking in some delicious gelato at the Rollicking Dessert Cafe, and heading to the Beat Street Cafe for lunch, I felt much more positive.

We ended up with a visit to the Christchurch Museum. One of my favourite things about the museum is how little it has changed. In 2003, I was taking groups of Japanese high school students to the Museum on group excursions–and the ground floor exhibits on the history of New Zealand have not changed one single bit. There were a few cool additions–the Paua House and the current Air New Zealand exhibition–but my favourite is still the recreated Victorian street and the costume gallery.



Research for A Gentlemanly Murder!

In conclusion: Wellington was incredibly awesome, and I need to go back for a proper explore. Friends are the best. Gelato makes everything better.

Tough Choices aka Member’s Choice Round Up!

I am back in my apartment! I had a great time with my family in NZ, but there is something very nice about being back in my apartment — and something even nicer about being able to sit down and relax, knowing that I am not going to miss my next connection if I zone out for a second.

This week’s big news is that the M/M Reader’s Group Member’s Choice Awards are open for voting! It was really neat to see so many of my writing friends amongst the nominations. I’m going to share links to the nominations of those friends who have appeared on my blog (and to my own), so that if you enjoyed their interviews and checked out their stories, you can show your support! Voting is open until the 15th. This means I have a long list of links to share (a lot of which are for the same categories, so be warned — tough choices lie ahead!), but let’s dive in! I’m approaching the list alphabetically for fairness.


First up, Alex Gabriel’s Still Waters is nominated in Best Love is an Open Road Story ! Meanwhile, First Contact is up for Best Contemporary /Mainstream.  Love for the Cold-Blooded is up for Best Book of the Year, Best Family Drama, Best Coming of Age, Best FantasyBest HumorousBest Story that Should have a Sequel, Best Main Character (Patrick West), Best Virgins, and Best Book Debut! Clearly many people enjoyed it a lot!

Anne Barwell’s On Wings of Song is up for Best Historical.

Bree Archer is nominated twice for her cover design in Best Cover Art  (for my Deep Magic and Sera Trevor’s The Troll Whisperer).

I was thrilled with nominations for both of my DRitC stories. Deep Magic is nominated in Best Story that Should have a Sequel, Best Love is an Open Road Story, Best Paranormal and Best Main Character (Olly! Duhywynt in particular is unimpressed). The Biggest Scoop is also nominated for Best Love is an Open Road Story as well as Best Coming of Age.

Jeff Addams’s Penalty Shot is nominated in Best Athletes/Coaches and Best Coming of Age.

Joe Cosentino is nominated in Favorite All-Time Author and Best Book Debut! His stories have plenty of appearances, too. A Shooting Star is nominated in Best Contemporary/Mainstream, Best Coming of Age, Best Secondary Character (Barry), and Best Performance/Visual Arts. An Infatuation is nominated in Favorite All-Time M/M RomanceBest Book of the Year, Best Story that Should have a SequelBest Main Character (Harold), and Best White CollarDrama Queen (the story I interviewed Joe about) is nominated in Best Mystery / Whodunit and Best Humorous.

Kaje Harper (upcoming guest and generally awesome person) is nominated in Favorite All-Time Author! Life, Some Assembly Required is up for Best Contemporary/Mainstream and Best Family Drama and Best Established Couple. Life Lessons and The Rebuilding Year are nominated in Favorite All-Time M/M Romance. The Hidden Wolves Series and Life Lessons both got nominated in Favorite All-Time M/M Series. Meanwhile, Chasing Death Metal Dreams and Second Act are both nominated in Best Performance/Visual Arts. Second Act is also nominated in Best Humorous, and Chasing Death Metal Dreams is up for Best Love is an Open Road Story

K.C. Faelan’s Top Floor is nominated in Best Historical and Best Love is an Open Road StoryMetamorphic Heart (co-written with Alexis Woods) is up for Best Long Story and Best Love is an Open Road Story.

Nic Starr’s Andrew’s Promise is nominated in Best Medical/Rescue Worker Professionals.

Sera Trevor’s The Troll Whisperer is up for Best Contemporary/Mainstream, and Best Love is an Open Road Story. Her other DRitC story, A Shadow on the Sun, is nominated for Best Fantasy and Best Friends to Lovers.

And Tali Spencer has a story in Foolish Encounters which is nominated in Best Anthology!

A quick short out to Gabrielle Morgan and Tully Vincent, both of whom are really deserving of Best Book Debut! I found voting incredibly difficult. I imagine it is like this every year, but as my first time voting I found it really hard to choose! Please look carefully at each category — with so many categories and deserving nominees to choose from, it is highly probable that I missed someone!

Shades of Vampires: An Interview with Anne Barwell

This blog post combines two things I love — Anne Barwell and vampires!

January 2014, I had just completed the first draft of Thorns and Fangs and had no idea what I was going to do with it. Was there a market for M/M romance involving vampires? I did a search and the very first book I found was Shades of Sepia. It looked cool and it had a kiwi MC. I was sold.

As I read, I found myself getting nostalgic. The writing had a familiar feel, one that I couldn’t put solely on Ben and his appreciation of Dave Dobbyn. It reminded me a lot of a friend of mine, who I hadn’t talked to in years. I dropped her an e-mail. Hey, I said. I read this amazing book that made me think of you. Did you write it? Yes, Anne said. I did.

Shades 200x300Shades of Sepia is the first book in The Sleepless City series, written by Anne Barwell and Elizabeth Noble. Featuring vampires, werewolves, ghosts and a New Zealander, it is a great addition to your Halloween reading. The 4 book series has just been completed, and with things getting spooky, no better time to talk vampires with a fellow enthusiast, right? Hi, Anne!

Anne: Thanks for the invitation to be interviewed on your blog, Gillian. I love the way our paths have crossed again because of our vampires.

Speaking of vampires, the genre has come a long way from Bram Stoker’s day! With all of the changes to vampire lore over the years, what is it that attracts you to write about vampires?

Anne: I’ve always loved vampire stories. The attraction for me is that while a vampire has a very long lifespan, those they love do not. How do they deal with a world around them which changes when physically they don’t? They’ve also experienced history rather than just read about it, which gives them a unique perspective.

You touch on both of those things in a really lovely way in Shades of Sepia and Family and Reflection. No spoilers, but those aspects were what made both novels so moving to me. Building on my above question, how have you and Elizabeth Noble built the vampire lore in the Sleepless City series? What changes and innovations have you made? What have you kept?

Anne: One of the big differences is that instead of our vampires being ‘undead’, vampirism is the result of a virus. Our vampires can also walk in sunlight but they definitely don’t sparkle 😉 Garlic and crucifixes aren’t a problem, but silver burns and can be deadly. They can digest food but still need to drink blood to survive. Most drink animal blood as human blood is addictive, and drinking it is not a good idea. Although the characters have a dark side, they’re the good guys and solve crimes rather than perpetrating them.

FamilyandreflectionThe Sleepless City vampires manage to hold down regular jobs and keep up with modern city (to varying degrees of success, admittedly – looking at you, Simon). How have they overcome the difficulties posed by modern technology? How has their long-life changed them?

Anne: Varying degrees of success sums up Simon’s experience with technology well. While technology brings with it some advantages—for example it makes it easier to source their supply of blood—it also makes a vampire’s life more complicated. Vampires in this universe don’t show up on camera, but there is a way around the need for photographic IDs. A network exists that uses a variety of skills such as photographic standard artwork and computer graphics programmes so that older vampires can still obtain what they need to live in the modern world without others becoming suspicious.

Life changes most people, and vampires are no different. I think they all approach their long lives differently, in ways that reflect their personalities. Simon clings to what he knows which in part is the reason for his issues with technology, although his relationship with Ben is dragging him more into the 21st century. In contrast, Declan enjoys his life as a thief and conman, and embraces technology as it helps, in part, to keep the risk of becoming bored at bay.

We can’t have Declan getting bored! What makes the Sleepless City series unique amongst M/M Vampire Romances?

Anne: I haven’t read a lot of M/M vampire romances—there are several of them on my to-read list—so I’m not sure I can really say what makes ours unique. Our characters come from very different backgrounds and they are a mix of nationalities. There’s a sad lack of New Zealand characters in urban fantasy and I wanted to do something about that. I also like the fact there is a mix of age and experiences amongst our group, and that not all of our supernatural taskforce are vampires.

Who is your favourite fictional vampire? Was this the first vampire you encountered, or one that made a big impression for other reasons?

Anne: That’s a difficult question as I’ve been reading/watching this genre for a very long time. Two that stick with me are Nick Knight from the Forever Knight TV show, and Henry Fitzroy from Tanya Huff’s Blood books. I liked the fact that Nick holds down a regular job—he is a police detective but works the night shift—and that he is trying to atone for what he has done in the past. Henry’s attitude is a little less angsty, and he’s more comfortable with who and what he is. In the books he writes bodice rippers, but that was changed for the TV show—in that he wrote and illustrated graphic novels. Henry is also bisexual and is a character in the spin off Smoke series with Tony Foster.

What are your favourite vampire stories?

Anne: That’s a difficult one, and a mix of TV and books. I’ve already mentioned Forever Knight and the Blood/Smoke series. Other TV shows are Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel, Ultraviolet, Black Blood Brothers, and Moonlight. I want to watch Vampire Diaries and The Originals, but haven’t got that far yet.

Book-wise, I’m working through Kelley Armstrong’s Women of the Otherworld, and Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series. Although vampires aren’t the main characters in these, they are interesting side characters. I’ve recently discovered Christopher Farnsworth’s President’s Vampire series and quickly became hooked on it. Another favourite I read some time ago was Bite Club by Hal Bodner. I’d love to read the sequel but sadly it’s not available in NZ as yet.

I am adding all of these to my to-read list. Thank you, Anne! Do you have any plans to write in the vampire (or paranormal romance) genre again?

Anne: Yes! The Sleepless City series is finished, but the characters still have more stories to tell. Elizabeth Noble and I are both writing spin off series. Mine is called Opus, and continues the adventures of Simon and his partner, Ben, in the fictional town of Flint. The cast includes some familiar characters, and some new ones. I have to finish my WW2 series, and write the next Dragons of Astria book, but Double Exposure, the first Opus story will be written after that. I already have at least three books planned for Opus, one of which will take place in Wellington. I figured it was about time Ben introduced Simon to his family.

Yes! I am so excited! I think it is beyond obvious that I have a super soft spot for Ben and Simon. And I hope that the Vellington sign features in Opus at some point! Thank you for sharing your time and vampire thoughts with us, Anne.

Shades of Sepia and Family and Reflection as well as Anne’s other books are available from Dreamspinner Press and on Amazon. Anne also has a Halloween freebie coming up! Reported Lost will be available from the Dreamspinner Press blog on October 31st.

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.

Anne’s books have twice received honorable mentions and twice reached the finals in the Rainbow Awards.

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