5 Ways to Disguise a Saucy Secret

by Juanita Kees

In Book 1 of the Tag Raiders Series, Under the Hood, teenage gang leader, Tiny Watts can’t afford to be caught telling his story in graffiti on walls—drug ring leaders Gino Bennetti and Nic Albero will kill him. Instead, Tiny keeps a diary filled with graffiti sketches that contain clues to the drops, ringleaders and their crimes. In book 2, Under Cover of Dark, deciphering his diary becomes a job for the sexy Detective Mark Johnson when Tiny is murdered and the case becomes a whole lot more complicated.

Whatever it is your hero or heroine want to hide, here are 5 ways to disguise their saucy secret:

  1. In a Crossword Puzzle

Homer Simpson fans might recall the episode where Homer gets a job breaking up couples, and Lisa becomes an expert crossword puzzle solver, but Homer bets against her in a competition and she ‘divorces’ him as her father. Homer commissions Merl Reagle and Will Shortz to create a special puzzle for the New York Times, with his apology to Lisa hidden in the clues and solution.

Picture from IMDB.com (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1291170/)

Picture from IMDB.com (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1291170/)

  1. In a Coded Message

I love cryptology! Plain text is transformed to a code that needs a special key to decipher it—a bit like the dots and dashes of Morse code. My favourite code is the Idiot code (I know, right?), similar to hand signals used by armies in the field.

In Book 3, Under his Protection (my current WIP), our fourth Tag Raiders member, Connor, receives a coded message from another gang member—Lurk’s come a gutser. Yobbo’s been on the turps and carked it. No hope man. We’re toast. Plain Text: the deal is off. Gino Bennetti is dead and we’re next.

Encoded message from weathermen in Alaska (http://www.powder.com/stories/skiing-and-the-shutdown/)

Encoded message from weathermen in Alaska (http://www.powder.com/stories/skiing-and-the-shutdown/)


  1. Through Phonetic reversal

Here’s a way to get tongues twisting! Quite simply words that are spelled or sound the same, only backwards, example ‘cheat’ and ‘teach’ or ‘kiss’ and ‘sick’.

Cheat em sick … Mmmm, okay then.

  1. Via Radio communications

Whip out the old CB Radio and take to the airwaves. Breaker! Breaker! No-one did it better than Chuck Norris (!) although just recently Formula One Racing banned teams from sending their drivers coded messages through the use of radio communications at the Singapore Grand Prix.

  1. Get Arty with Graffiti

This is my favourite art form and a great way to disguise a saucy message (not that I can draw at all!) Thanks to technology, I designed this banner for the release of Under Cover of Dark. Those who have read The Tag Raiders series might recognize some of the clues hidden in the picture.

graffitiHave you ever sent a coded message? Let me know how you did it …

21769New Australian romantic suspense follows Under the Hood, about a Western Australian drug gang, the teenagers they recruit, and the cop who wants to bring them down.

When Mark Johnson delves deeper into his investigation into the murder of Tiny Watts, and the involvement of a teenage gang with sleazy lawyer Gino Bennetti and his drug world ties, the last thing he expects is to be interviewing Gino’s widow, a woman in a world of trouble.

When her husband is shot and killed, it is both a relief and a disaster. Lily has her son to protect and secrets that run deeper than the scars she bears. Mark Johnson is the last person she wants uncovering those secrets, especially the truth about her son Luke’s involvement in Tiny Watts’s murder.

As the investigation continues and Lily’s wounds begin to heal, she finds the detective easy to trust and the friendship between them blossoms into more. But the secret Lily holds places everyone in very real danger. When it is finally revealed, Lily will lose everything: her son, the man she’s grown to love, her freedom and her life.

What a Weekend!

Freshly back from the Romance Writers of Australia conference, Romance Rocks, this past weekend in Sydney, with our heads still spinning and enormous grins on our faces.

Here are the highlights:

  • Kicking off the conference with a Literacy High Tea, where librarian Vassiliki Veros charmed the pants off everyone in the room with her romance journey, her study of librarian-heroes and heroines, and the work she’s doing now for her PhD.

    Nobody knew this book existed, and now everyone is desperate to read it...

    Nobody knew this book existed, and now everyone is desperate to read it…

  • The Harlequin Author dinner where we celebrated with our Harlequin family, including lovely international guests Flo Nicholl and Malle Vallik
  • We also celebrated with our lovely (shirtless) guests for the evening, Marco and Jeremy.

    Marco, R*BY nominee Juanita Kees and I, you know, hanging out, talking

    Marco, R*BY nominee Juanita Kees and Managing Editor Kate Cuthbert, you know, hanging out, talking

  • Escape has had an amazing year, so it was fantastic to be in one room together, sharing our highs, and supporting each other.
  • The Leather and Lace opening cocktail party was a chance to catch up with people we haven’t seen for awhile (or have never actually seen in person!) While the lighting was decidedly purple (very strange), the food was great, the costumes inspired (hello Ros Baxter!), and the good times had by all.

    Managing Editor Kate engaged with Engaging the Enemy author Susanne Bellamy!

    Managing Editor Kate engaged with Engaging the Enemy author Susanne Bellamy!

  • Cherry Adair was an absolute delight and joy as an international guest. She was present, hilarious, generous with her time and her expertise, so very personable, and swore like a sailor when she realised we weren’t going to get offended. What a treat it was to spend time with her and listen to her speak.
  • The Saturday workshops were also really well-run, and we have to offer congrats to everyone who stepped up to share their expertise and teach what they know to others. This kind of resource sharing is a hallmark of RWA and one of the reasons that the conference and organisation is so successful, so should never be downplayed.
  • The day sessions also allowed for more chatting with less ambient noise, so a greater possibility of having a conversation with someone, rather than just a yelled greeting.
  • The Australian Romance Readers Association held their annual book-signing event on Saturday. This in an incredible (and incredibly well-organised!) organisation, and they do amazing things for the romance community in Australia. They also have a new website: www.ireadromance.com.au,so check them out if you are interested in talking about romance (yes), meeting other romance readers (yes), and attending fab reader-focused conventions (yes!).
    Alison Stuart and Kate Cuthbert at the ARRA book signing with Alison's first book with Escape - Lord Somerton's Heir

    Alison Stuart and Kate Cuthbert at the ARRA book signing with Alison’s first book with Escape – Lord Somerton’s Heir

    the fabulous Amy Andrews and gorgeous Sandra Antonelli at the ARRA book signing

    the fabulous Amy Andrews and gorgeous Sandra Antonelli at the ARRA book signing

  • Saturday night – WHAT A NIGHT. First we have to offer the biggest, hugest, most enormous congrats to our three Escape nominees: Julie Mac, Juanita Kees, and Kendall Talbot, and also to all the other nominees, including Amy Andrews, who was nominated for a book with another publisher.
  • Emma Darcy had us all in laughter and tears as she accepted her induction into the Hall of Fame. No one, and I mean no one, will ever forget her Five Fs.
  • We also have to congratulate Kat Mayo on her Romance in the Media Award (ROMA) for her article on ABC’s The Drum: Dear Columnists, Romance Fiction is not your bitch. We’re pretty much sure she’s the only person to ever have the word ‘bitch’ etched into a glass award.

    Seriously, the pink lighting was very, very odd

    Seriously, the pink lighting was very, very odd

  • Then this happened:
    Kendall Talbot wins the R*BY for Best Novel with Romantic Elements

    Kendall Talbot wins the R*BY for Best Novel with Romantic Elements



  • We are so so so so beyond thrilled to congratulate Kendall on her win – the first win for her book after countless award nominations, and the first win for Escape Publishing.
  • I’d like to show you photos of what the rest of the night looked like, but what happens at the Escape After Party (and the after-after party), stays at the Escape After Party.
  • Except these photos. These totally get distribution:

    Frickin' A, man!

    Frickin’ A, man!

  • Sunday was for recovering, and more learning from generous and talented presenters. Malle Vallik’s presentation on building an author brand was very well received by those brave enough (and smart enough) to be up at 8:30am.
  • The conference for next year has been announced, with very exciting new partnerships, and a beautiful venue in Melbourne. International guests are a bit hush-hush, though the Friday workshop instructors have been lined up.
  • Finally, the conference close with Anne Gracie’s now legendary Stand-Ups, which always leaves attendees feeling engaged, excited, and downright warm & fuzzy.
  • We cannot give enough props to Shannon Curtis and her crack team of conference organisers for a well-organised, well-run, fantastic conference, and to all the attendees who made it an amazing experience all around. We’ll see you all again next year!

Inspiration Behind the Story: Juanita Kees


Raising teenagers is hard, no doubt about it. The challenges they face in the modern world can so easily lead them down the wrong path. Temptation surrounds them: drugs, alcohol, nightclubs, parties, driving a car, peer pressure. I dragged mine through those dark times, sometimes kicking and screaming. Luckily, he came out the other side relatively unscathed.

I’ve worked with teenagers and children from all backgrounds, broken homes, alcoholic or drug- addicted parents, first as a volunteer for the Salvation Army and then in the Motor Industry with apprentices. One of their biggest concerns was there was nowhere for teenagers to ‘hang out’ and that was why they got into trouble. They were bored.

It got me thinking. What if there was somewhere they could go? What if there was a magical place, filled with love and a family atmosphere where they could just ‘be’. Where they could find themselves, express themselves, all under the watchful eye of someone on their side, a champion.

My inspiration for Under the Hood came from Australian businessman and politician JJ Simons who founded the Young Australia League and established a holiday camp deep in the shaded Roleystone valley in 1929.

Simons called his camp Araluen, an Eastern States Aboriginal word meaning ‘singing waters,’ or ‘place of lilies’. Using local timber and stone, League members and volunteers built a number of cottages designed by Perth architect WG Bennett. They created a park filled with native and imported plants, shady pathways, stone steps and water terraces that flow all year round. Now owned by the government, Araluen Botanical Park attracts tourists all year round. The Grove of the Unforgotten still remains, as magical as ever, built in memory of Young Australia League members killed in World War I.

How wonderful it would be if young people could return to this peaceful place while they search for themselves through the trials of growing up, a place that would keep them off the streets and out of trouble. JJ Simons provided the perfect place to teach young Australians life skills, gave them stability and taught them respect for the land and their peers. It seemed a fitting background for Under the Hood, the story of an extraordinary woman who has her own goals, commitments that know no boundaries, and a man by her side who shares her dream of saving the world, one teenager at a time.

21769About the book: When Scott Devin buys a struggling car dealership in semi-rural Western Australia, the last person he expects to see in charge is a stilletto-wearing, mini-skirted foreperson. Exactly the distraction a struggling, male-dominated workshop doesn’t need! But there’s more to TJ Stevens than meets the eye.

TJ Stevens has two major goals in life: to preserve her grandfather’s heritage and protect her teenage rehabilitation program — and she’ll go to any lengths to do it. Scott Devin’s presence is a threat to everything she’s worked hard to achieve, so keeping him at arms length shouldn’t be a problem…or will it?


Under the Hood is nominated for a Romance Writers of Australia Romantic Book of the Year (R*BY) award. The sequel, Under Cover of Dark is available now.

“I bled oil from my veins to write this story” Lily Malone interviews Juanita Kees

Juanita Kees is part of my beta reading team of three, with me (Lily Malone) and Jennie Jones. We have a heck of a lot of fun, as well as very serious discussions about how to describe men’s abs with a fresh twist. Very serious. We also discuss wine. And usually somewhere in our discussions is the requirement for a visit to lovely Margaret River for a far more in-depth discussion about men’s abs, writing, and wine…

One day this spring I think we will get our Margaret River visit together. Until then, I will have to get my share of men’s abs from Juanita’s wonderful new cover to Under Cover Of Dark (due out on August 1) which is the story in which hunky Detective Mark from Juanita’s previous books in the Tag Raiders’ series, gets to strut his stuff. (I’ve beta read Detective Mark and I assure you he is very good at strutting.)

I was so very proud when Juanita’s book Under The Hood made the finals of the Romance Writers of Australia Romantic Book of the Year Award (R*BY).  Good luck, ladies!

Juanita, in your wildest dreams, WHO would play your characters when it’s made into a movie?

Mmmm…I’d have to go with my all-time hero, Hugh Jackman in the role of Scott Devin. Nicole Kidman would make a good TJ, I think, and those two have already had sparks flying in Australia.


Tell me WHEN you came up with the idea for your R*BY nominated book.

I’m a Holden fanatic—there was always going to be a story featuring an FJ Holden. My dream of restoring one happened around the same time as I was raising a teenager about to get his driver’s license and up to all sorts of mischief a mother doesn’t want to have to think about.

Tell me WHERE your story is set.

Australian businessman and politician JJ Simons founded the Young Australia League and established a holiday camp deep in the shaded Roleystone valley in 1929. Simons called his camp Araluen, an Eastern States Aboriginal word meaning ‘singing waters,’ ‘running waters’, or ‘place of lilies’. Together, League members and volunteers built cottages, designed by leading Perth architect WG Bennett, using local timber and stone. They created pathways, roads, steps and terraces and filled the dream garden with native and imported plants to create a garden heaven.

I chose a similar setting for TJ & Scott’s story, because of its history and original purpose. How wonderful would it be if young people could return to this peaceful place while they search for themselves through the trials of growing up?

Tell me WHY you think your story is a R*BY finalist?

Unfortunately, my story is fiction and TJ is no relation to JJ Simons, but his dream and my love for his creation provided the perfect background for this story of an extraordinary woman who has her own dream, and a commitment to young offender rehabilitation that knows no boundaries.

Why might I win? I have poured my heart and soul into this story, bled oil from my veins to write it, shed tears with my characters, and celebrated their happiness. I’m already a winner to be in such amazing company in this competition. The real winners would be the cast of Under the Hood. I dedicate this award nomination to every mother out there who has needed a TJ and Scott in her teenager’s life.

R*BY Finalist Juanita Kees

8903Under the Hood? I’m Over the Moon! Perhaps that should be the title of the next book. When I got the ‘call’ to say Under the Hood had made it to the finals of the much coveted RWA ‘Ruby’ Award, I was speechless… and hubby was grateful 🙂 When I realized who my competition was…well, my nails are chewed to the quick. I’m not sure I’ll have any left by August.

Kendall Talbot, Victoria Purman, and Jennifer Scoullar are BIG names, and very tough competition in the Romantic Elements section. I am honoured and awestruck to be in such talented company as a finalist in RWA’s Romantic Book of the Year Award.

The Romantic Book of the Year Award, affectionately known as The Ruby, is our premier award and the only one of its kind in Australia. Voted on by Australian readers, this contest is open each year to any Australian or New Zealand romance author who has published a long or short romance novel.” ~ Romance Writers of Australia

Wow! There are so many people I have to thank for getting me to the point where Under the Hood was eligible for this wonderful accolade. Escape Publishing and Kate Cuthbert, thank you for loving TJ and Scott enough to publish their story. And to all those people behind the scenes—beta readers, critique partners, editors, cover artists—you know who you are, and I would be nowhere without you all. I never dreamed I’d make it to the finals and here I am—with your help and support.

How much would I like to win that lovely award? More than I’ll ever be able to express in words…it would be the cream on my writing dream. The real winners though are TJ and Scott, the main characters in Under the Hood. They popped into my head on a mission to save a group of teens from disaster, and they found love—not only for themselves, but for the ‘lost boys’ who became their family.

So with Book 2 in the Tag Raiders Series, Under Cover of Dark, following hot on the heels of Book 1 and being released on August 1st from Escape, I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate than to be a finalist in the RUBY in my category. Here’s wishing everyone in the competition all the very best of luck. I’m already a winner to be in such talented company.

Congratulations Escape Artists!

We are beyond thrilled to congratulate three of our Escape authors for their Romantic Book of the Year (R*BY) nomination!

Congrats and best wishes go to:

8903Juanita Kees, Under the Hood (Stories with Strong Romantic Elements)

18610Kendall Talbot, Lost in Kakadu (Stories with Strong Romantic Elements)

8902Julie Mac, A Father At Last (Short Sweet Category)

Congratulations also go to the other nominees – a diverse, far-reaching list of nominees that demonstrates the depth and breadth of the Australian romance industry!