Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Cover art and fliers

One of the things I've done with all my books is create "fliers" to use on Facebook and Twitter for publicising and advertising them. These have all been created using Photoshop.

Book 1 - Knights Errant

Book 2 - The King's Captain

Book 3 - From The Top

Wow, my third book...

I've just updated the banner on my Facebook page to include the cover art for my third novella, "From The Top", which will be published in April. And it might sound strange, but that was when it really hit me - I'll soon have published three books!

It also struck me that I won't be able to fit a fourth one into the banner! I'll need to do something else when that's published. Yes, it's being written, but still early days.

I'm thinking about creating my own author website, but I need to be sure I want to do that, and decide what to do with it. And of course, I need to be willing to spend more of my limited free time working on that in addition to the other social media I need to engage in. Oh, and writing other stories.

Writing a book is a strange sort of process. I start off thinking about the story, the characters, the scenes and incidents, then write it all down. This is definitely the hardest part, but I really enjoy it. It feels a bit like the story already exists and wants me to write it. I often "see" the scenes as still images or short video clips in my imagination, and then try to write down an adequate description. I may even write out some scenes and incidents as and when I think of them, then write the rest around them.

As each novella is part of a series, I need to ensure there are no "continuity" or timeline problems, that the overall "feel" is consistent, and that character development is plausible.

I also want each one to work well enough as a stand-alone story. Which means figuring out how little backstory I need to include to set the scene and give context to this particular story.

Once that's done, I submit it to my constructive critiquing group in the hope that (a) they say it's entertaining and (b) some of them offer helpful suggestions.

After that, it's revision time. I don't mind that stage at all, as the whole idea is to tell the story as well as possible. I never over-write a draft, but save the revision as a new document. Well, I may change my mind about a change. With this novella, I think I left it alone for three weeks, then collated the comments I'd received and went through my draft a total of four times. Each time resulted in a new draft manuscript.

Then I sent it to my publisher's editor.

And tried not to feel nervous.

Getting an e-mail from the publisher offering a contract gives me a real lift every time. It means other people like my story enough to invest time and money turning it into a book to sell

Actually, I had something constructive to do while I was waiting - come up with an idea about the cover and try to find suitable images on my publisher's preferred stock photo sites. Every time, I've found this far harder than I expected. I've found it rather tedious wading through page after page of photos.

Perhaps I've just been unlucky, but I've found the range of images are on some of these sites to be surprisingly limited. Lots and lots of pretty women who seem to be in the late teens or early twenties, but few who look like they're in their thirties. And how come every man with long hair has to have a beard as well? I'm seriously thinking of trying to find suitable models and taking my own photos in the future. In fact, the lower half of the cover art for my second novella was a photoshop merging of two of my own photos - the knights in armour and the Dartmoor landscape.

I've worked with editors on every story which has been published, and in every case, I found them to be really helpful and constructive. They already think my story has potential and want to help me tell it as well as possible. We've had some great e-mail conversations along the way, often about differences in English usage between the UK and US. There's usually a compromise which keeps us both happy.

Then, once it's published, all I can do is try to tell people about it, hope they buy and read a copy, and keep my fingers crossed that as many as possible will be motivated to post reviews on e-book sites.

Oh well, back to thinking about book 4 in my series. I've got to think of some entertaining ways to give my characters an uncomfortable time...

Thursday, 9 March 2017

The Russian Bride, the new book by Juliette Banks

I'm delighted to welcome Rachel de Vine back as my guest, to talk about her new book The Russian Bride, which she's publishing as Juliette Banks. I loved her last book, The Artist, and have already purchased The Russian Bride.

Hi Rachel, can you tell us about your new book, please?

Of course.

Natasha, a Russian-born woman living in London, catches the eye of Viktor, a middle-aged Russian gangster. He wants her as his wife, the mother of his son, and his submissive partner in the kinky sex he enjoys at his isolated home near Saint Petersburg. But he doesn’t ask her to accompany him – he just takes what he wants.

Surprisingly, Natasha begins to accept her new life. Is she really a natural submissive, or has Viktor brainwashed her? Viktor is adamant that he will not have sex with her until they are married, but he shows her just how kinky he likes it by taking her to orgies held by his friend, and tells her that this is the type of life she can expect as his wife.

Everything turns sour, however, and on a visit to London, Natasha has to flee for her life – where businessman, James Miller, comes to her aid. Over the course of the next few days, Natasha tells James her story, and as horrified as he is, he cannot deny his attraction to the beautiful young woman. He vows to help her.

Neither of them realize quite how much danger they will be in for defying Viktor, but James is willing to risk everything to rescue her from this man. Can he do it? And does Natasha return his feelings?

It's a fast-paced tale including explicit themes including power exchange, capture, multiple sexual partners and discipline. Not to everyone's taste, I know, so please bear that in mind before purchasing.

Here's a short extract: 

  His breath was hot against the back of her neck, as he stood as close as he could without actually touching her. He ran his finger lightly across her naked shoulder and up her arm that was suspended above her body and it made her shiver. Her skin was damp with sweat, even though the room was not excessively hot. But he was not done with her yet. He whispered into her ear.
  “Now, as I promised you my darling, I will use the strap before I fuck you.  It is a while since you felt the licks of a leather strap, isn’t it?”
  Her reply was also in a whisper, as though she was afraid to break the spell between them.
  “Yes, Sir. It’s been a long time.”
  He stepped away from her and she heard the familiar sound of the strap as it whistled through the air in a practice stroke.  He had warmed her with the flogger on her back and buttocks, but she knew that the strap would be more severe. Nevertheless, she craved the feeling as it whistled down and thrashed across her buttocks, the sting of the immediate pain soon turning to pleasure as she absorbed what he administered with great skill. He knew exactly what she needed, exactly how far to take her. She always craved the intense pleasure she got from him, the man who had made her live again, the man who had helped her to love again, the man who had made her feel again.

The Russian Bride is published by Blushing Books:

Amazon US

Amazon Canada

Is there anything you remember which prompted you to start writing? When do you remember first wanting to write?
Even as a young child I enjoyed writing and telling stories. I used to make up stories for my sister, when I was about seven, in exchange for her to get out of bed and switch the light off.  (We didn’t have bedside lamps, and I was frightened of the dark!) When I was eight I entered a Win a Pony writing competition, run by a national newspaper, and was a runner-up. I think my mother was quite relieved that I didn’t win. I think she envisaged that she would be looking after it.

How long did it take you to write this book?
I’m quite a fast writer, although not as fast as some. It took about six weeks to write, plus another couple of weeks to edit. I had actually started it a year ago, but didn’t get past the first chapter, so left it. I often do that – start, lose interest, then return to it. It has to ‘feel right’ in my mind for me to write the story.

What book do you wish you could have written?
A book that resonated with me when I was young was Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence. (And not for the obvious reason!) I just loved the rebelliousness and non-conformity of the man, who was a local boy, growing up just a few miles from where I live now. The locals didn’t forgive him for many years for what they thought was his mocking of their way of life. I would love to write like him.
A modern writer whom I greatly admire and would love to emulate is Chloe Thurlow, who wrote one of my favourite books of recent times, Katie in Love. Her style of writing is superb, and I would say that she is one of the best writers of her generation.

What’s your passion in life?
Apart from writing, which is my true passion, travelling to far off places comes a close second, in terms of the pleasure I have obtained from it. I was lucky, in one sense, to have been born when I was, when travelling had become so much easier than for previous generations. I fell into it by accident, when an overland trip to Australia (from the UK) that had been planned with three other people, fell through. So I went alone. I took trains and busses across Europe and Asia, ending up in Australia three months later. So began a lifelong passion that still burns strong. I once calculated that I have been to about 45 countries so far, and hope to see many more before I hang up my travel bag. (Actually, the title of my so-far unpublished autobiography is One Day I Will Find the Perfect Suitcase!)

Any individual male and female figure you particularly admire, dead or alive, and why?
I think I would choose Queen Elizabeth 1, who reigned in England from 1558 until her death in 1603. To be a woman in those times was not easy, but to be a queen, who was brave and heroic (it seems to me) was amazing.

Thank you, Rachel. And I do hope The Russian Bride finds an appreciative readership.

Here are some social media links for Rachel and Juliette, in case you'd like to know more about her and her writing.


Websites for both Juliette Banks and Rachel de Vine


Amazon author pages:    


I’m quite a private person, so I like to let my books do the talking. However, I will tell you that I live in a rural part of the Midlands of England, and for some years was a farmer, along with my family. I love travel, reading, music and spending time with my amazing extended family.

I like to write about sensual, romantic relationships, because I’m quite a romantic person, but I like to add a bit of grittiness from time to time. My leading characters don’t always have an easy time of it. They sometimes have a hard struggle to achieve their happy ever after.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Would you defy God, for love?

No, I've not gone all religious... I'm talking about In Bonds of the Earth, the new book by Janine Ashbless. It's the second in her paranormal erotic romance Book of the Watchers trilogy.

Janine was my guest in November 2014, when we talked about the first story in this series, Cover Him with Darkness. I've eagerly awaited this sequel, and will post a review as soon as I've read it - it's already on my kindle.

If you've not read Cover Him with Darkness, you might like to peruse all the rave reviews on Amazon UK and Amazon US.

A brief bit of sales pitch and an excerpt, then the interview...

Would you defy God, for love?

Broad at the shoulders and lean at the hips, six foot-and-then-something of ropey muscle, he looks like a Spartan god who got lost in a thrift store. He moves like ink through water. And his eyes, when you get a good look at them, are silver. Not gray. Silver. You might take their inhuman shine for fancy contact lenses. Youd be wrong.

Unafraid to tackle the more complex issues surrounding good and evil in mainstream religion, Janine has created a thought-provoking and immersive novel which sets a new standard for paranormal erotic romance. The first in the series, Cover Him With Darkness, was released in 2014 by Cleis Press and received outstanding reviews.

In Bonds of the Earth is published by Sinful Press and is due for release on March 1st, 2017.


I will free them all.

When Milja Petak released the fallen angel Azazel from five thousand years of imprisonment, she did it out of love and pity. She found herself in a passionate sexual relationship beyond her imagining and control the beloved plaything of a dark and furious demon who takes what he wants, when he wants, and submits to no restraint. But what she hasnt bargained on is being drawn into his plan to free all his incarcerated brothers and wage a war against the Powers of Heaven.

As Azazel drags Milja across the globe in search of his fellow rebel angels, Milja fights to hold her own in a situation where every decision has dire consequences. Pursued by the loyal Archangels, she is forced to make alliances with those she cannot trust: the mysterious Roshana Veisi, who has designs of her own upon Azazel; and Egan Kansky, special forces agent of the Vatican the man who once saved then betrayed her, who loves her, and who will do anything he can to imprison Azazel for all eternity.

Torn every way by love, by conflicting loyalties and by her own passions, Milja finds that she too is changing and that she must do things she could not previously have dreamt of in order to save those who matter to her.

In Bonds of the Earth is the second in the Book of the Watchers trilogy and the sequel to Cover Him With Darkness.


     I was giving my long-dreaded presentation on the anniversary footbridge to Misters Ellis, Singh, Constanzo and Mackenzie…when Azazel walked in.
Oh hell.
“Excuse me, gentlemen,” I said loudly, lurching around from behind my desk, grabbing Azazel’s arm and spinning him back to face the door. “Not here, come on, please,” I implored through clenched teeth.
If there was one thing I’d learned by then, it was to not ignore warning dreams. If I’d paid them more attention from the start, things between me and Egan might have gone very differently back in Montenegro…
No, better not to think of Egan, not when Azazel was around. One guy at a time was quite enough to wrap my head around. Especially this guy.
He humored me though, this time, letting me pull him out of the meeting room and through the open plan office without resistance. We attracted a lot of stares, but there was nothing I could do about that except hold my head high.
“Where are we going?” he asked.
“Out. Anywhere.”
“You’re so impetuous.”
I didn’t need to glance up at his wicked smirk. I could feel it burning its way into my breast.
Bryce, the beardy guy in my new team who’d shown me the ropes of the job and seemed just a tiny bit too eager to talk every morning, stood up from his cubicle to intercept us. “Milja, is everything okay?”
“It’s just fine,” I rasped, towing Azazel faster.
“She’s insatiable,” my demon lover confided with a helpless shrug to my colleague as we swept past.
Bryce stared, mouth open.
“Goddamnit,” I muttered, and Azazel chuckled.
Sometimes it was hard to remember that he’d risked everything to save me.
We reached the doors at the end of the room and I pushed through, past the lobby with the elevators and into the concrete stairwell of the emergency stairs beyond. The only people who came here were smokers on their way to the roof, and it looked empty for now. My panicky momentum fizzled away and I swung to face him.
“What are you doing here?”
“What do you think?” he countered, taking my face in his hands.
“Azazel—” But he cut off my protests with his hungry kiss; a kiss that lanced through me all the way to my core. I gave up resisting, and speaking, and almost breathing, as his lust rolled over me in a hot wet wave. I slid my hands around his neck and tangled my fingers in his messy hair, pulling myself into his embrace. His body was hard as rock, his hands heavy on my waist and hips. The yearning for his touch that smoldered in my flesh day and night woke to a roaring heat.
I’d missed him. His skin, his smile, the peppery scent and salt taste of him. The sweetness of his lips and the harsh rasp of his stubbled chin. I’d missed him so much—like an addict missing her hit.

Hi Janine, and welcome back. I can't help wondering if you had this book already “sketched out” in your mind before you published the first?

I had a 2-page sketch of the trilogy, which mostly boiled down to which countries it would be set in. Everything else turned out to be largely inaccurate, including an ending I’ve now discarded. I'm a pantser when I write; I rely on my muse and my research. The Archangel Uriel, for example, showed up out of the blue and became a major antagonist; he wasn’t even in my initial outline.

What sort of research have you done to get the “feel” right for the locations?

I went on a 20-day trip to Ethiopia, and took hundreds of photos, just to make sure I picked the right spot for Penemuel’s prison and got all the details correct.

My husband went on a work-trip to Chicago, so I chose that city for Milja’s starting point this time round. Sam Macleod helped me with weather patterns in the States.

Other than that, I am eternally grateful for the existence of Wikipedia and I’m one of the people who actually chip in whenever they pass round the hat!

How many more books do you think it will take to tell the whole story you have in mind?

The find-the-angels game could have been dragged on for a decalogy , but I wanted a tight emotional plot arc between the three main characters. So the third book, The Prison of the Angels, will be the final one. I’m most of the way through the first draft already – there’s going to be a much shorter wait this time round!

How did you come up with the original idea and characters?

It started as a short story called Cover Him with Darkness that appeared in Mitzi Szereto’s Red Velvet and Absinthe. At the end of that story it still isn’t clear who the Prisoner is, or what the repercussions of freeing him will be, although there are various obvious possibilities. As soon as I made the decision “It’s the fallen angel Azazel,” everything else just followed on logically from that. I’d set the short story in Montenegro because I wanted somewhere European, mountainous and extremely remote, so Milja had to be Serbian Orthodox, which meant she wouldn’t be at all familiar or happy with Egan’s Catholicism—and so on.

What do you have in mind for your next writing project?

I’m going to be editing an anthology for SexyLittle Pages this autumn, I hope, so I need to get The Prison of the Angels finished! After that I’m going to get on with republishing and finishing my Lovers’ Wheel quartet. Ellora’s Cave went out of business so rights have reverted to me.

How do you develop your ideas for characters? Are parts of you incorporated into any of them?

All my characters are flawed. And I make sure that others point out those flaws—so for example, Azazel will point out Egan’s sexual hypocrisy and Egan will point out Azazel’s problematic rapey tendencies. My aim is to make all my characters, even the villains, human and understandable. Azazel has PTSD. Roshana has severe abandonment issues. Egan … don’t get me started on Egan’s issues! Milja actually turned out to have quite a struggle with jealousy, which isn’t me at all, but makes sense for a 23-year-old in her situation, I think. 

All the protagonists of my novels have a background interest in myths and history (and in Milja’s case, in theology) which is part of me. But I try to make my female characters much more emotionally secure and independent than I am. I’m the sort of person who finds it hard to even say “Hi” to strangers, but readers like their heroines confident and assertive.

What would people be surprised to learn about you and your writing?

How nervous I am when I approach the keyboard. Every day I wrestle with the dread that I’ll have lost all ability to write.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?

I LARP (live-action-roleplay) and play Dungeons and Dragons. I own a small wood and I love to go out and cut trees. I’ve got a terrible addiction to certain types of logic puzzles.

What book do you wish you could have written?

The Girl with All the Gifts, by MR Carey. I literally had this idea ten or fifteen years ago (except that I thought of the children as ghouls not zombies, because this was before zombies became fashionable), and never got round to writing it. I was absolutely gutted when I heard about this book. Seize the day, writers!

If you only had one word to describe yourself, what would it be and why?

“Overthinker.” It leads to anxiety sometimes, and it makes me indecisive. But it’s got to be better than not thinking at all, right?

Author bio:
Janine Ashbless is a writer of fantasy erotica and steamy romantic adventure. She likes to write about magic and myth and mystery, dangerous power dynamics, borderline terror, and the not-quite-human.

Janine has been seeing her books in print ever since 2000. She's also had numerous short stories published by Black Lace, Nexus, Cleis Press, Ravenous Romance, Harlequin Spice, Storm Moon, Xcite, Mischief Books, and Ellora's Cave among others. She is co-editor of the nerd erotica anthology 'Geek Love'.

Born in Wales, Janine now lives in the North of England with her husband and two rescued greyhounds. She has worked as a cleaner, library assistant, computer programmer, local government tree officer, and - for five years of muddy feet and shouting - as a full-time costumed Viking. Janine loves goatee beards, ancient ruins, minotaurs, trees, mummies, having her cake and eating it, and holidaying in countries with really bad public sewerage.

Her work has been described as "Hardcore and literate" (Madeline Moore) and "Vivid and tempestuous and dangerous, and bursting with sacrifice, death and love." (Portia Da Costa)


Janine Ashbless website:
Janine Ashbless blog:
Janine Ashbless on Facebook:
Sinful Press website:


Print book:
Amazon paperback:

In Bonds of the Earth will be available from all major online bookstores in both digital and print. Please contact Lisa Jenkins at for any further information.