Friday Five: Jami Gray

2814First published with Escape: June 2017
Favourite romance trope: Emotionally scarred H/H, with Alpha tendencies from a military background, with paranormal elements. (Yeah, picking one isn’t easy.)
Ideal hero (in three words): Protective, complex, unexpected
Ideal heroine (in three words): Courageous, Quick-witted, kick-ass
Latest book: Lying in Ruins

What began your romance writing career? Why do you write romance?

An avid reader, when I hit high school, in-between the fantasy and murder-mysteries from my school library, I started sneaking my mom’s romance novels out of the house. Then entering the big bad world as an adult, I stumbled through life and discovered my characters suddenly became harder to hurt (emotionally and physically) while their relationships became crucial to my stories. A therapist would have a field day with this, but my stories shifted to heroines who didn’t need a hero to ride to her rescue. Sometimes it was more satisfying if she rumbled up to his rescue on her Harley.

How do you write? What is your process like?

I started out a solid pantser (one who writes with little to no planning), something I soon learned would not work long term, mainly because I’m a series writer and it’s way too easy to lose a sub-plot or a subtle piece of a character before you realise it. After eleven books I have mastered the art of a basic outline. Granted it can’t be too detailed because then I get bored (not a good thing when you’re the one telling the story), but my outline has enough major points to ward off distractions and keep me (somewhat) on point. Characters tend to come to me first, bringing their worlds along for the ride, then comes the fun part—creating conflicts of all shapes and sizes.

What was your hardest scene to write? Which kind of scenes do you find difficult to write? Which scenes do you enjoy writing the most?

Some of the more emotional scenes are difficult, only because to do justice to why a character reacts the way they do, without providing an easy emotional out, is tricky business. Anger’s a great emotion, but can be overused. Fear, even in the strongest person, can be the most corrosive. Love can cut both ways on the good/evil spectrum. But emotions are the core of who we are, and why we choose to act the way we do to any given situation. Writing such scenes aren’t just painful for my characters, they’re painful to write, but when done right they’re also the most rewarding.

 

What do you do when you’re stuck with a scene?

One of the most frustrating parts about story creation is hitting those plot pits, you know the kind that will drop your story into an endless chasm, never to come back? Yeah, those. The fun part about being a writer, nothing is ever final until it’s published, which means much like the awesome Dr. Who, I get to play with timelines, or in this case, story lines. Since the scene is stuck in my head, I’ll leave it for a day or so while I mentally rewrite it ad nauseam, changing little things with each rendition until something finally wrenches those clawing talons from my ankles.

 

As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal? Do you have one already? 

As much as I’d like to say I’m bi-symbolic because I could swing either toward wolves or leopards, going to have to admit I tend to lean more towards the canine. As a proud rescue mama of my Fur Minxes, Lola and Angel, it’s easy to guess I’m a huge dog person, and yes, I’ll admit, being highly allergic to the feline population doesn’t help. However, leopards are stealthy, cunning, majestic felines that rule their worlds with a cynical eye, but wolves have this fabulous duality of both pack animals and lone predators built on a basis of loyalty and fierce determination. An introvert by nature, something about the ability to move between social and solo appeals to me.

Fur Minxes

 

What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever had to research for a book?

When a two-hour span of my search history chronicles: How to set up a marijuana grow house, US Dept. of Defense’s list of current projects, most lethal FOB (Forward Operations Bases) of the US military, and how to set a Trojan virus, I’m pretty sure Homeland Security has me on a list somewhere. It was for my PSY-IV Teams series (a group of ex-military psychics) and I was impressed no men in dark suits came knocking on my door.

Where is your favourite place to write? 

I tend to write at my desk normally, but my favourite place to write is with my writing group during our retreats. As desert dwellers, we tend to head north where green things grow and the temperature tends to rest beneath broiling. We try to carve out a long weekend once or twice a year to get together. We stockpile coffee, food, and power cords and then disappear into our worlds for long, blissful uninterrupted hours. Occasionally one of us will surface, mutter a question about some fantastical element and its probable outcome, but the sounds of Mother Nature are interspersed with the click of fingers breezing over keyboards, broken by the slurp of caffeine intake. This picture was from one such jaunt, a lovely multi-room cabin where cell signals were only achieved by driving up the road, holding the phone at a 90 degree angle three feet from your body. It was lovely!

 

 

Writers Retreat View
Besides writing, what is something else that you’re really good at?

Organisation. While I ride the line between plotter and pantser (writing without a plan), in every other aspect of my life, I must plan and things must be in their place. Trips have an itinerary, I have a list of tasks to accomplish for almost everything, and I can’t sit down to write unless everything’s done. In fact, I share an office with my husband (see photos). Can you tell who owns which desk?


31476 (3)In a world gone to hell, it’s hard to tell the good guys from the bad…

The world didn’t end in fire and explosions, instead it collapsed slowly, like falling dominoes, an intensifying panic of disease, food shortages, wild weather and collapsing economies, until what remained of humanity battles for survival in a harsh new reality.

Charity uses lethal survival skills learned too early in her work as a ‘Hound, sniffing out pivotal secrets for one of the most powerful people on the west coast. Her work is deceptive, deadly, and best performed solo, which means when she has a run-in with a member of the notorious Fate’s Vultures, she has no intention of joining forces in some mockery of teamwork. The man might be sexy as hell, but she travels alone. She will accomplish her mission and she will settle a score – hopefully with the edge of her blade. But fate has other plans.

As one of Fate’s Vultures, a nomadic band of arbitrators known for their ruthless verdicts, Ruin witnesses the carnage of corruption and greed battering the remnants of humanity, and he bears the scars to prove it. Now he has a damn ‘Hound showing up in suspicious circumstances, leaving every cell of his body sceptical – and painfully aroused. The woman is trouble, and Ruin has every intention of steering clear. But when they realise they have a common enemy, Charity and Ruin will have to set aside their distrust if they want to achieve their mutual goal – justice and revenge.

Sometimes, when the world’s gone to hell, it’s better to stick with the devil you know…

Lying in Ruins is available now

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Feed Your Reader: Fractured…

32434 (1)

They thought they’d found a refuge, but the battle for survival has only just begun…

Surrounded by the destruction of the human race, Euan, Nick, and Kira find solace in one another, making their underground bunker a haven and a home. Sheltered under layers of steel and cement, they should be safe, but danger isn’t always kept outside — sometimes the enemy is within.

When their electronic warning system detects intruders, Euan and Nick must investigate. Outside, they discover the true terror that is approaching, and Euan must make a terrible decision: stay or go. To stay is to watch the only people he loves perish under the weight of pure evil. To leave is to face his certain death to protect them and potentially save humankind.

Despite all his preparation, skills, and strength, Euan knows that each decision carries the risk that he could destroy them all.

The second book in the Refuge Trilogy.

Fractured Refuge, Book Two, The Refuge Trilogy is available now!
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Exclusive Excerpt: Fractured Refuge

32434 (1)

They thought they’d found a refuge, but the battle for survival has only just begun…

You don’t need to think,’ a female voice whispered.

Euan pulled from Nick’s embrace and looked up.

His attention latched onto an apparition who stood in the doorframe. A female prodigy of indefinable value. A look of disquiet and concern was etched in her features. Kira’s eyes were serious, a reflection of the moment and the feelings that swirled around the room.

She seemed to float towards him. A fantasy in truth. An illusion made real. In her eyes he saw the beginning and end of all things. In her eyes he saw their future. Not his future, because that was over, but the future of the human race. This tenacious, driven, little platinum-blonde spitfire was going to drag humanity back into civility. Kicking and screaming.

Euan’s only job now was clear the path for her.

She stood alongside Nick. Her concentration didn’t waver. She studied him. She comprehended the character of the small, indistinguishable creatures he thought he’d hidden deep within his soul.

Euan had stood before men with weapons of steel and wood that were held comfortably in their fists. He’d taken the lives of men to save them from destruction. He’d stood on the cliff of humanity’s destruction and watched as it imploded. And yet, when he met the crystal-blue eyes of the tiny woman before him, he was naked, childlike, vulnerable.

Trust us,’ Nick beseeched.

Euan’s gaze flicked between Kira and Nick. He swallowed. Trust them? Could he? His stomach tightened.

Kira’s hands were now on his head. But this time, there was a sensual element. They explored his broad shoulders, his neck. They gently pried under his fingers so she could hold his hands in hers.

Then she knelt so they were eye to eye.

He was going to implode. He was. He knew it. As much as he knew that his heart was filled with the love for both of them, in this moment, his body and mind couldn’t manage the dichotomy of the love for them, and the hate for himself.

Her gaze was all encompassing. ‘We’re going to love you.’

No.’ His voice broke on the single word.

Her voice consumed his world. ‘You’re going to let us.’

You can’t—’

Delicate fingers were placed over his lips. ‘I can. We can. We do.’

No,’ Euan mumbled as his heart shattered.

She whispered, ‘Yes.’

Fractured Refuge, Book Two, The Refuge Trilogy is available for pre-order now:
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Friday Five: Annabelle McInnes

Annabelle McInnes - alternative profile pictureAuthor: Annabelle McInnes
First published with Escape: September 2017
Favourite romance trope: Tortured Hero
Ideal hero (in three words): Alpha, supportive, gentle
Ideal heroine (in three words): Compassionate, brave, curious
Latest book: True Refuge

What began your romance writing career? Why do you write romance?
There is so much beauty when people fall in love. I take great enjoyment from writing these stories, allowing my characters to find their own path and articulating their happy ending. I plot the big elements to my books, but never the small ones. I try not to even think about my characters until I sit down and write. For me, this allows me to get excited about the journey they take me on. I have always read ferociously and across many genres, but romance speaks to me like no other books do. The birth of my son was the catalyst for me to take a risk and start a new manuscript that was focused on the relationships between my characters. That was the first draft of True Refuge. I write romance because I enjoy exploring the precious moments between lovers, where I can tell tales of tenderness and devotion and create happy endings that can be unashamedly enjoyed.

What was the best writing advice you ever received?

I attended Fiona McIntosh’s Commercial Fiction Masterclass in April this year. There were so many small nuggets of information that I found profound, but the most useful was the word count algorithm. Simply put, it’s a mathematical equation to work out how many words you need to write per day to finish your novel. For example, if you are required to write an 80k manuscript and have one year to finish, but can only write three days per week due to family and work commitments, you simply put in the numbers. So, it would look like this:

52 weeks of the year x 3 days = 156

80000 words \ 156 days of the year to write = 512

There you have it, in one year, you will have written 80k and you only had to write 512 words three days per week. Easy right? Of course, this doesn’t take into account a number of factors, including holidays for example. But if you take in it principle and apply it to your requirements, and stick to it, I promise its works! It prevents burn outs, stop and start writing, and helps with writer’s block. This algorithm has been essential to the success of completing my books.

What was your hardest scene to write? Which kind of scenes do you find difficult to write? Which scenes do you enjoy writing the most?
In romance, one of the most important element is the development of the relationship between the characters. For me, the hardest parts to write are the scenes where this plays out physically. Writing these scenes requires focus on many elements. The details of the physical placement of the bodies, the emotion, the tone and the style of writing all play an important part of these scenes. The Refuge Trilogy is a ménage relationship and often has three people intertwined in the act. The scenes must ensure that each character develops emotionally, that their individual’s quirks, mannerisms and physical limitations are detailed appropriately, and finally, that the relationship between the three of them progresses. It is a mammoth task. These scenes are always integral to my story, so the pressure to ensure that they are accurate makes them even harder to write. They are also some of my longest chapters.

But they are my favourite because of many of the same reasons. I relish writing the love that develops between my characters, the importance they place on each other, and highlighting the devotion and dedication that they share for one another. These scenes are often the most beautiful, and I really enjoy letting go with extravagant words for the right moments.

Where is your favourite place to write?
My favourite place to write is at my desk in my study. When I write in the mornings before the family wakes, I am able watch the sun come up and the flowers open to greet the day. Sometimes, the rabbits will hop past as they get their breakfast. It’s quiet, I’m usually not too tired, and the words flow more freely. It’s a beautiful time of day. 

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What’s the thing about writing that surprised you the most?
I have found the most surprising element to be that I can no longer read for pleasure as much as I used to. The books I read now no longer have swooning couples on the cover, but facts and figures. I spend my nights learning about marketing, branding, web design, the art of writing and advertising. I am inspired by other authors so I still read romance, but I find I can get caught up on their style, prose and plot and it is harder to lose myself in the narrative. My buying habits have changed as well. I am more inclined to take a chance on a new author, buy a book which supports diversity, or is in a sub-genre that I normally wouldn’t read. I also am more inclined to contact an author and let them know how much I enjoyed their book.


32434 (1)They thought they’d found a refuge, but the battle for survival has only just begun…

Surrounded by the destruction of the human race, Euan, Nick, and Kira find solace in one another, making their underground bunker a haven and a home. Sheltered under layers of steel and cement, they should be safe, but danger isn’t always kept outside — sometimes the enemy is within.

When their electronic warning system detects intruders, Euan and Nick must investigate. Outside, they discover the true terror that is approaching, and Euan must make a terrible decision: stay or go. To stay is to watch the only people he loves perish under the weight of pure evil. To leave is to face his certain death to protect them and potentially save humankind.

Despite all his preparation, skills, and strength, Euan knows that each decision carries the risk that he could destroy them all.

True Refuge, Book One, The Refuge Trilogy is available now:
iBooksBooktopiaNookKoboGoogleAmazon USAmazon UKAmazon AUS

Fractured Refuge, Book Two, The Refuge Trilogy is available for pre-order now:
iBooksBooktopiaGoogleNookKobo,Amazon AUAmazon UKAmazon US


 

 

The Romance Reader’s Survival Guide to the Apocalypse

by Annabelle McInnes

Congratulations! While you were tucked up in bed reading, you managed to survived the apocalypse. Nuclear war has wiped out humanity or maybe it was a resurgence of the bubonic plague. Ninety-five percent of the world’s population has been wiped out, infrastructure has collapsed, as well as any capable and cohesive government. Somewhere, somebody is trying to resurrect the world, but right now, that’s not your concern. Survival is.

You’re a romance reader, you know the deal, your dashing hero or heroine are on their way. But you’re also a woman of the modern age, so you don’t need anyone to save you. But your survivalist skills are a little rusty. How are you going to survive? Or more importantly, what are you going require from day one? I’ve provided a list of the top ten requirements for romance readers to survive the apocalypse.

  1. Water

Water is your number one priority; you won’t live long without it. It’s a nuclear wasteland out there and luckily for you, you’re immune to the radiation poisoning. You can’t drink the water and you’re thirsty from wandering degraded highways. You want a filtration system that is easy to use and lasts a long, long time. There are “straws” on the market that filter waterborne bacteria and protozoa from liquid. You might have to deal with skin irritation from the radiation burn, but at least you won’t have parasites.

  1. Keeping warm

Next you’re going to need to keep warm, until you can snuggle with your honey to share body heat. A tent is good, but heavy to carry and time consuming to put up. Staying warm is key, no matter what time of year it is. An emergency bivy, otherwise known as an ultra-light sleeping bag, reflects your body heat back towards you and will keep you toasty and warm. They can be rolled up into a compact bag, are waterproof, windproof and made to completely protect you from the elements.

MD-22169_20160629162740_1a0e0191a1acc9cc

Image source: https://www.massdrop.com/buy/sol-escape-lite-bivvy

  1. Food

So you have water, you’re warm, now you’re hungry. A gun might seem like the go-to weapon, but once ammunition begins to run dry with all the outlaw gangs hoarding it, you are going to need to think outside the box. But you don’t have the upper body strength to lug around a crowbar or an enormous cross bow like Daryl from the Walking Dead. A strategic scavenger hunt can get you a Sling Bow that is compact enough to fit into a hip bag. That’s right, a quick-fire Sling Bow that is small, mean and able to take out local wildlife for your dinner. You might be a hard-core mean survivalist of the apocalypse, but that does not mean you need to fall into clichés.

shooting-7

Image Source: http://slingbow.com/product/slingbow-hunting-package/

  1. Fire

You have caught a rabbit. You’re also a badass, so you have gutted and skinned it too. Now how are you going to cook it? You need a fire starter. The best thing about fire starters is that you don’t need to break the bank (as money is no longer required). All you will need to find is a rod and striker made from flint and you can have up to 25,000 strikes. That’s a lot of fire, and a lot of cooked rabbits.

  1. Protection

Just when you thought you had yourself sorted, everyone begins to rise from the dead. And you’ve only just cooked your rabbit! You don’t want to waste those precious rubber bands and “deathballs” that came with your Sling Bow to kill them. The solution needs to be lightweight, durable, easy to use in confined spaces, and effective. What about a multifunctional hatchet blade? Sounds impressive? It is. This baby can chop wood to keep you warm and has several other functions including a can opener, folding saw, glass breaker, strap cutter, pry bar, hammer, hex wrench, spanner and wire twist. Plus, it’s great at killing zombies. This thing is so handsome and versatile, who needs a lover in combat boots and dark fatigues when you can do it all yourself? In fact, you should probably get one for the home right now!

  1. Medical Kit

You have beaten off the zombie. High five! But you’re sprained your ankle from that Karate move you haven’t performed since primary school (it was really cool though). You need a first aid kit. There are a plethora of options out there, but what you want to look for when you’re raiding that pharmacy is a wound management module. These kits are ideal for high risk environments (zombie apocalypse anyone?) and focus on wounds and breaks. They’re compact, lightweight and relevant to your current circumstances.

  1. Entertainment

Look at you go! Only a few months ago you were spending your free time reading romance novels, now you’re hunting and killing your own food and fighting off zombies off like a pro. You’re so competent that you now have a bit of free time, and the lover of your story still hasn’t shown up yet (but will!). So what do you do to while away the time? You’ve hoarded a few paperbacks, but they’ve become repetitive. You will need a pack of cards. Snap might not be an option, but solitaire? Remember the hours you wasted in the early days of Microsoft? You can have that again! In physical form! You’re welcome.

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Image Source: https://www.pinterest.com.au/pin/514747432386045473/?lp=true

  1. Hygiene

Your true love is going to turn up any day now, you can feel it. You’re going to impress with your new skill set, naturally, and together, you’re going to be an awesome pair of survivalist. But, you still want your hair to be brushed, and maybe have clean teeth. Personal hygiene is an important element of staying alive. If you get an abscess in your mouth, it won’t matter how good you are at killing rabbits if you can’t eat them because of the pain. A toothbrush and comb set is an easy and light option to carry around.

The-Hotel-Disposable-Toothbrush-Wash-Sterilizer-Bacteria-Residue-Teeth-For-Adult-Hotel-Washing-Toothbrush-Comb-Set

  1. Backpack

You have all this stuff now, and you’re only going to have more. On your next food raid, you will find that elusive can of peaches, you just know it. You’ll need something to put it all in so a backpack will be essential. It needs to be water resistant with multiple compartments for keeping all your belongings separate in case of an emergency. You don’t want to mistake your hairbrush for your bladed hatchet when that zombie surprises you. It will also need an internal frame, a padded hip belt, shoulder straps and lumber support. Don’t be fooled by the big ones either (pun intended), loot a bag that is proportional to your body.

  1. Love

Your true love is here! And just as handsome as you imagined. Though you don’t need help (because you’re awesome) it’s nice to have company. Unsurprisingly, their intentions turn heated, and you have the same ideas. But before jump in your makeshift bed together, remember, don’t just fall for rugged good looks, chiselled abs and strong biceps. Your love interest has to respect you, care for you when you need it and be suitably awed at all of your amazing new skills. Don’t let them talk you down or push you around. That attitude was pre-plague.

You might be the last people on Earth, but doesn’t mean you have to settle.

That’s it! Remember to keep smiling and look after yourself out there!

Sources

  1. Lifestraw
    http://lifestraw.com
  2. SOL Emergency Bivy
    https://www.rei.com/product/813511/sol-emergency-bivy
  3. Chief AJs Survival Fanny Pack
    http://www.chiefaj.com/product-page/chief-ajs-survival-fanny-pack
  4. Fire Starter
    http://www.survivalcampingstore.com/Aurora-Fire-Starter
  5. Liltucker
    http://liltrucker.com
  6. Major Wound Management Module
    https://www.seton.net.au/work-wear-ppe-first-aid/first-aid/first-aid-kits/major-wound-management-module.html
  7. Hygiene Kit
    http://www.prepperssurvive.com/diy-hygiene-kits/
  8. How to Choose a Backpack: Expert Tips for Finding the Right Size, Fit, and Features
    http://www.ems.com/f/ea-how-to-choose-a-backpack.html

32434 (1)They thought they’d found a refuge, but the battle for survival has only just begun…

Surrounded by the destruction of the human race, Euan, Nick, and Kira find solace in one another, making their underground bunker a haven and a home. Sheltered under layers of steel and cement, they should be safe, but danger isn’t always kept outside — sometimes the enemy is within.

When their electronic warning system detects intruders, Euan and Nick must investigate. Outside, they discover the true terror that is approaching, and Euan must make a terrible decision: stay or go. To stay is to watch the only people he loves perish under the weight of pure evil. To leave is to face his certain death to protect them and potentially save humankind.

Despite all his preparation, skills, and strength, Euan knows that each decision carries the risk that he could destroy them all.

The second book in the Refuge Trilogy.

Fractured Refuge releases 12 November: iBooks, Booktopia, Google, Nook, Kobo, Amazon AU, Amazon UK, Amazon US

True Refuge is available now: iBooksBooktopiaGoogleNookKoboAmazon AUAmazon UKAmazon US