A love letter to Australia

This was my love letter to Australia before a pandemic hit.
It’s still true.
We should still change the date.
We should not honour bigots and media autocrats with national honours.
We are still, on the whole, here for each other, both proud and ashamed and (mostly) resolute to change, to be our best selves, our best country.
At times we are hopeless, but almost always hopeful, with a sharp eye focused on a better future.
We have stayed at home to save lives, we have grieved those we’ve lost, and we are hopeful of a vaccine that will open up our world again.
We have wept for a ravaged land, hopeful of recovery but mourning loss of flora and fauna, some species gone forever.
We have stood up against injustice and, from afar, have watched our brothers and sisters across the world in their own suffering, hopeful of change that must come.

We have survived.
We will thrive again.
We will see you again.
We are Australia.

Off the Beaten Track

It is Australia Day 2020. January 26th is a contentious date, because it marks the arrival of the First Fleet―the first European settlers who arrived in Australia in 1788.

Of course, by commemorating this date, Australia ignores that in 1788 we were already populated by hundreds of nations of Indigenous Australians forming the world’s oldest civilisation. January 26th marks the date of an invasion and the beginning of a genocide.

This post isn’t about whether or not we should change the date of Australia Day, although we absolutely should. This post is a love letter to my home, my country, my Australia.

My Australia

My Australia is the person at the tram stop who sees that you’re lost and points you in the right direction with a smile. My Australia is the person at the party who draws the introverts into conversation, and makes sure everyone is heard. My Australia…

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Catching up again with Author Fiona Leitch

It is with great pleasure that I welcome fellow Renegade Author, Fiona Leitch to Off the Beaten Track, especially as it is publication day for the first book in her new cozy mystery series with One More Chapter! Let’s learn more about Murder on the Menu and the new series!

Cover of Murder on the Menu. Wedding cake in the foreground with a sharp knife sticking out of it. In the background, the coastline of Cornwall.

Tell us what inspired you to write Murder on the Menu?

I love murder mysteries that are cozy, without being either too graphic or, at the other end of the scale, too twee. I love ‘Midsummer Murders’ on the telly and I wanted to see if I could create something similar. But it would have to include three things I love: a great location, a strong female protagonist, and warmth and humour. I used to live in Cornwall and it is truly beautiful, but it’s also not always an easy place to live, what with lack of work and just being so cut off from the rest of the country. So I wanted to write about it, but not just as some glorious seaside town where the sun always shines.

I wanted a detective who’s not a complete bumbling amateur. Someone who could cut corners and not be tied to working within the law, as the police would be, but who isn’t constantly just stumbling over clues; she has to work for it. Ex-copper, Jodie, might be unorthodox, but she knows what she’s doing. She also knows how to rustle up a three-course meal for 100 people and make a banging Victoria sponge.

And finally, I wanted my protagonist to be warm, relatable and human. Jodie has responsibilities, she has a daughter and an elderly mother (and a dog!). She’s made mistakes in her love life and she may well make more. Then again, she may choose more wisely this time…

When did you start writing seriously?

I’ve been writing for years. I started out writing screenplays, which were always on the verge of being The One to break out … I had meetings with producers, got shortlisted a couple of times for the BBC Writersroom scheme, was a finalist in a big screenplay contest – but it never quite happened.

And then in 2017 I was persuaded to turn one of my screenplays into a novel. I’d always resisted writing a book, as there just seemed to be too many words! But once I started, I loved it. That novel, Dead in Venice, was picked up by Audible as one of their Crime Grant finalists. It came out in 2018, and that was when I realised I might actually be able to do this for a living.

What do you love most about being an author?

The same thing that I love about being a reader – the ability to escape into someone else’s life for a while! I get a little bit obsessed with my characters. They feel like real people to me, and I’m almost bereft when I get to the end of the book because it feels like I’m saying goodbye to them. Luckily, I can always write another adventure for them!

What are you working on now?

I’m currently working on the outlines for what I hope will be the next three Nosey Parker books. I love writing about Jodie and her friends. I’ve also got three romcoms outlined AND I want to write another book in the Bella Tyson series (Dead in Venice is book 1), so you could say I’m pretty busy.

What do you hope readers will take away from Murder on the Menu?

That a ‘cozy’ mystery doesn’t have to be twee or talk down to the reader, and that it can be well written. I think cozy mysteries, while massively popular among readers, have something of a poor reputation among book snobs. What they don’t seem to realise is that some of our best-selling and most critically acclaimed writers – Agatha Christie, MC Beaton and Alexander McCall Smith to name but three – could easily be categorised as cozy mystery writers.

More about Murder on the Menu

A sparklingly delicious confection to satisfy the mystery reader’s appetiteHelena Dixon, bestselling author of the Miss Underhay Mysteries

Still spinning from the hustle and bustle of city life, Jodie ‘Nosey’ Parker is glad to be back in the Cornish village she calls home. Having quit the Met Police in search of something less dangerous, the change of pace means she can finally start her dream catering company and raise her daughter, Daisy, somewhere safer.

But there’s nothing like having your first job back at home to be catering an ex-boyfriend’s wedding to remind you of just how small your village is. And when the bride, Cheryl, vanishes Jodie is drawn into the investigation, realising that life in the countryside might not be as quaint as she remembers…

With a missing bride on their hands, there is murder and mayhem around every corner but surely saving the day will be a piece of cake for this not-so-amateur sleuth?

Where you can buy Murder on the Menu

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Amazon AU | Kobo | Nook

More about Fiona

Fiona Leitch is a writer with a chequered past. She’s written for football and motoring magazines, DJ’ed at illegal raves and is a stalwart of the low budget TV commercial, even appearing as the Australasian face of a cleaning product called ‘Sod Off’. After living in London and Cornwall she’s finally settled in sunny New Zealand, where she enjoys scaring her cats by trying out dialogue on them. She spends her days dreaming of retiring to a crumbling Venetian palazzo, walking on the windswept beaches of West Auckland, and writing funny, flawed but awesome female characters.

Fiona is represented by Lina Langlee at the North Literary Agency.

Follow Fiona

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Thanks so much, Fiona! No doubt Murder on the Menu will fly off the shelves!

Catching up with Author Andreina Cordani

Very excited to welcome Andreina to Off the Beaten Track on the publication day for her intriguing first novel, The Girl Who… Welcome Andreina and huge congrats on your publication day!

So, tell us what inspired you to write The Girl Who…

I was in a features meeting at the women’s magazine I was working for – the editor was talking about a child who had been a victim of crime years ago. Her face had been on the front of every newspaper, she’d won awards for bravery, been the subject of a couple of books and by then would have been about eighteen years old. It suddenly struck me how impossible it would be to grow up in a situation like that, with the whole world thinking you’re an angel/martyr/inspiration. You woudn’t be free to make the usual teen mistakes, to decide for yourself who you are. So that’s where the idea started – it kind of got darker along the way.

When did you start writing seriously?

I always knew I wanted to write books, but when I left university I didn’t feel qualified somehow, so I trained in journalism thinking that, at least, I could hone my writing skills while I waited for inspiration to strike. In a way it was a good move – I learned so much from my interviewees and the amazingly talented people around me – but it also meant I took my eye off the writing ball a bit. Then a few years ago I suddenly realised that if I didn’t do it now – right this minute – I’d never do it. I had to step back from my career to give myself the mental space and time to do it. My bank manager is not so happy about this, but I feel much better for it.

What do you love most about being an author?

As a journalist I wrote within very stringent requirements – producing x-amount of words based on hard facts and designed to appeal to a very specific set of readers. Now I love being in charge of the story and creating characters from scratch. Of course, I work closely with my editor and change things as needed but it’s a much more flexible process. I really enjoy it and hope I get to keep doing it!

What are you working on now?

I’ve just delivered book two to my editor and while writing it I learned so much more about twists and turns… and planning. Definitely more planning next time. So now I’m doing outlines for book three – it’s the fun stage where all sorts of possibilities are swimming through my head, where the idea could morph into pretty much anything. That’s always exciting.

What do you hope readers will take away from The Girl Who…?

I think a lot of what I write is about understanding people in impossible situations, often under the glare of a media spotlight. These days I think we all understand that what we see in the news and online is only one part of the truth, I’m hoping that this book helps people think about that even more.

More about The Girl Who…

The girl who… survived
The girl who… inspires
The girl who… has something to hide

People can’t bring themselves to say what happened to her. They just describe her as ‘the girl who… you know…’. But nobody really knows, no one sees the real Leah.

Leah is the perfect survivor. She was seven years old when she saw her mother and sister killed by a troubled gang member. Her case hit the headlines and her bravery made her a national sweetheart: strong, courageous and forgiving.

But Leah is hiding a secret about their deaths. And now, ten years later, all she can think of is revenge.

When Leah’s dad meets a new partner, stepsister Ellie moves in. Sensing Leah isn’t quite the sweet girl she pretends to be, Ellie discovers that Leah has a plan, one she has been putting together ever since that fateful day. Now that the killer – and the only one who knows the truth – is being released from prison, time is running out for Ellie to discover how far Leah will go to silence her anger . . .

Where can you get it?

Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Amazon US | Waterstones | UK Bookshop | Hive

More about Andreina

When she was at school, Andreina Cordani used to get out of gym class by saying she would use the time to write a book and dedicate it to her gym teacher. Sadly it took years of exercise-dodging before she was able to complete The Girl Who…, and she hasn’t been able to touch her toes since 2002.

In the following years, she pursued a career in journalism, working for women’s magazines including Cosmopolitan and Good Housekeeping. Specialising in ‘real life’ stories, she interviews seemingly ordinary people about their extraordinary lives – most of which you wouldn’t believe if you read it in a novel.

She lives on the Dorset coast with her family where she reads voraciously, watches YouTubers with increasing fascination and swims in the sea.

Follow Andreina

Twitter | Instagram | TikTok: @acordanixo

Thank you, Andreina, and all the best for your new release. No doubt it will fly!

Catching up with Author Davina Stone

I am very excited to welcome Davina Stone to Off the Beaten Track today, especially as it is publication day for her debut novel, The Alice Equation! I have been fortunate to read an early copy and absolutely loved it. Here’s my review on Goodreads.

Tell us what inspired you to write The Alice Equation?

I love the idea of how love can change us, make us a better version of ourselves. So it started with Alice, the painfully shy bookworm and her unrequited love for her charming but womanising friend, Aaron. And it grew from there. In fact it went through a complete rewrite before either Alice or Aaron (particularly Aaron, he kept behaving very badly), were ready to be introduced to the world!

When did you start writing seriously? 

I’ve always written stories and I won a prize in a young writers competition with a novel I wrote when I was twelve. (Painstakingly hand-written it was called Grandpapa’s Secret, and was all rather “gothic”  if I remember rightly.) But I can pin-point when it became serious. I was diagnosed with a large hole in the heart four years ago. I had to undergo open heart surgery and that was a wake-up call that life is short and we need to live our dreams. I’d always wanted to write romance so I closed my health counselling business, my husband and I moved  away from the city to a bush block near Margaret River and I focussed “whole-heartedly” on my goal of becoming a writer.

What do you love most about being an author? 

The wonderful quirky characters my mind comes up with. I love sending them out to play, watching them tie themselves – and each other – in knots, then helping them fathom out how to get to their Happily Ever After. When you write romance the world you build is a world of emotion and the five senses. Nothing is more intense than truly falling in love. And that’s probably what I  enjoy about it most of all.

What are you working on now? 

I’ve just finished the second book in the series, about Alice’s best friend, Polly. It’s more enemies to lovers, because Polly is very feisty, and Solo her love interest, well, let’s just say he’s got some secrets in his past he’s running from. The Polly Principle will release in April 2021. And I’m now working on the third book, The Felicity Theory which is set in London and Sydney, two of my favourite cities.

What do you hope readers will take away from The Alice Equation?

I hope it leaves a smile on their face. It may sound a very simple goal, but I really just want to write stories that make people happy. Because we need a whole heap more happiness in the world right now, and I reckon writing romances is the best way I can contribute to that.

About Davina

Davina Stone writes romances about flawed but lovable characters who get it horribly wrong before they finally get it right. They also kiss a fair bit on the way to happily ever after. Davina grew up in England, before meeting her own hero who whisked her across wild oceans to Australia. She has now lived half her life in both countries, which makes her a hybrid Anglo-Aussie.

When not writing she can be found chasing kangaroos off her veggie patch, dodging snakes, and even staring down the odd crocodile. But despite her many adventures in her heart, she still believes that a nice cup of tea fixes most problems – and of course, that true love conquers all.

Davina’s short stories have been published in five Romance Writers of Australia anthologies. Her first novel, The Alice Equation was a finalist in the 2020 Valerie Parv Awards. Her second novel, The Polly Principle (release April 2021), took second place in The Romance Writers of Australia 2020 Ripping Start Competition.

Follow Davina

Facebook | Instagram | Website

More about The Alice Equation

Alice Montgomery’s life is like Groundhog Day. Five years after graduating, she’s still working in her mum’s bookshop, hiding her stash of romance novels under the bed and pining for the gorgeous guy who helped her over a panic attack before her final uni exam.

Aaron Blake loves to party – hard. His idea of commitment to anything other than his legal career is strictly three months. Until landing a job with the most prestigious – but conservative – law firm in town means he has to convince the partners he’s deeply committed to family values.

Aaron needs a fake date fast – and who could be safer than his bookish friend Alice?

Soon Alice finds herself dating her secret crush, sporting a daring new look of vintage frocks and itsy-bitsy lace lingerie.

Now the heat is notching up. Aaron’s feelings for his fake date are proving anything but safe, and Alice is discovering her inner sex-goddess.

But when secrets are revealed and lies uncovered, both Alice and Aaron will have to work out the hardest equation of all… what this crazy thing called loved is all about.

Author confession: Okay, things do get a bit hotter than kissing. Heat level: 3–4 sizzling flames.

Where can you get The Alice Equation?

Amazon AU | Amazon US | Kobo | Books2Read