It’s that time of the year! Solstice!!!

I am excited to be participating in the Summer Solstice Read-along.

Solstice Read

‘But, Sandy, aren’t you in Australia?’ I hear you ask. Why, yes, I am, but I always celebrate Winter solstice each year, as even though we’re less than a month into Winter by now, the days will start to get longer – something to be grateful for when you are a Summer lover like I am.

So, for the inaugural Summer Solstice Read-along, organised by the fabulous Emma Jackson, there are 15 romance authors who have all swapped books. I am reading Lynne Shelby’s latest, The Summer of Taking Chances. I’ve loved Lynne’s previous books and this was no exception! Such a great read and I will tell you why in just a moment.

So, join us! Post your pics (where and what are you reading?) and book covers on Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #SummerSolsticeReadalong and share your reads on Facebook too!


About the book

It’s been ten years since Emma Stevens last laid eyes on Jake Murray. When he left the small seaside village of South Quay to chase the limelight, Emma’s dreams left with him.

Now Emma is content living a quiet and uneventful life in South Quay. It’s far from the life she imagined, but at least her job at the local hotel has helped heal her broken heart.

But when Jake returns home for the summer to escape the spotlight, Emma’s feelings quickly come flooding back. There’s clearly a connection between them, but Jake has damaged her heart once already – will she ever be able to give him a second chance?

My review

You will fall back in love with life in this wonderful, romantic story of second chances. I’m a lover of all things theatre, especially Shakespeare, so the small town production of Romeo and Juliet was a wonderful thread throughout this story. I absolutely loved the cast of characters, especially Emma, who lost sight of her dream, and was a heroine to champion!

This is a deep dive into the themes of second chances, being true to yourself and following your dreams.

A must read!

Where can you get it?

Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Amazon US | Kobo

Make It Up to You by Lucy Keeling

I have the great pleasure of being a (small) part of the launch of my friend Lucy’s debut novel, Make It Up to You, an entertaining and sexy read which romcom and chicklit lovers will adore! I am sharing a scene from Chapter 4 (scroll down), but first …

About Lucy


Lucy Keeling is an author writing fun, sexy, stories with all of the happily ever afters. When she’s not typing at the kitchen table, she’s arranging and then re-arranging to see her friends for the occasional spot of day drinking. Lucy is currently writing the third book in a contemporary romance series, the first of which was runner-up in Choc Lit’s ‘Search for a Star’ competition which was sponsored by Your Cat magazine.

Lucy lives in Greater Manchester with her family.

About Make It Up to You


What do mascara wands and gardening shears have in common? Absolutely nothing! At least that’s what wannabe beauty influencer Sophie Timney thinks when her friend Polly suggests involving her brother Marcus in Sophie’s make-up tutorials. She needs more views, Marcus needs promotion for his gardening business – in Polly’s mind joining forces will help them both. Sophie isn’t so sure.

Because Marcus Bowman has a habit of getting under her skin in a way that no exfoliating face scrub ever could. But, as the views and comments on her videos begin creeping up, it becomes increasingly obvious that Sophie’s subscribers like Marcus, and what’s even worse is that Sophie might be starting to feel the same way …

A scene from Chapter Four to whet your appetite

Sophie took a deep breath and— KNOCK KNOCK. She rolled her eyes and hit pause. As she stepped away from the table she assumed it would probably be another delivery for Mya. Or maybe it would be a parcel for herself, maybe some fabulous new make-up brand wanted to send her loads of free stuff so that she could review it for them. The idea made her smile wide as she pulled the door open. Her smile ran down off her face faster than cheap mascara and wine crying as she saw Marcus standing there. He was looking over his shoulder at his van, so she took the opportunity to quickly give him the once-over. He had a cap covering his hair, a plain grey T-shirt that clung unnecessarily tightly showing his muscular arms, and was that a six-pack? He had on cargo shorts, the ones with the obscene amount of pockets – like really, if you need to carry that many things get a bag – finished off with thick socks and work boots. He was quite tanned and for a minute Sophie wondered what fake tan he was using.

‘Hi, I thought I would come and take some… erm, measurements.’

Marcus was looking at Sophie with a strange look on his face. Sophie felt herself redden. Had he realised she was checking him out? Well, not checking him out, she reasoned with herself, more giving him a professional once over as was a requirement of her job. She realised she was looking at his T-shirt again, trying to see if she could make out any more muscle definition. With a cough she looked back up, telling herself to get her act together.

‘I didn’t know you were coming today. I’m actually working.’

‘That’s OK.’ Marcus stepped over the threshold and around Sophie. ‘I just need to take some measurements, just go ahead and carry on doing your work.’

The way he said ‘work’ made Sophie’s lip curl. She took a breath as she remembered she had promised herself to stop letting Marcus antagonise her. Cheeky git had stopped to put the kettle on, on his way to the garden. There was a back door through the kitchen itself to a side entrance, as well as the French doors behind the table she was currently working at. Fuming, but trying to remain calm and mature, Sophie went back to the table to go over her notes regarding what she had been recording, and what products she was reviewing. Next she would need to look at how best to title and tag the videos for her social media. Well, she was trying to, but it wasn’t working.

With her back to the French doors, it was very unsettling knowing that Marcus was behind her. She couldn’t read the notes that she had written, and she was fidgeting in her seat. Was he looking at her? Could she turn around and look at him? She should’ve kept the curtains closed after all. Deciding that it was her garden – well Mya’s – she could look at whatever she wanted to look at, whenever she wanted to look at it. She turned around. He was at the bottom of the garden with his phone, clipboard, pencil and tape measure. He was clearly just getting on with his work, which just made Sophie mad. Why was she so affected by his presence, and on what planet did he go around being the professional one?

Where can you get it?

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Amazon AU | Apple Books

Congratulations, Lucy! I’m looking forward to the next two books in the series!

My name is Sandy and I am an author

I met with a financial advisor once – once. When he asked about my long-term plans (career, finances, retirement), I replied that I would probably never truly retire, because one day I’d be an author and I would continue to write ’til the day I stopped breathing.

He laughed at me. Out loud. Then he tilted his head and gave me a pitying look. I asked him to leave and went back to my desk and wrote a chapter.

That was in 2001.

I finished that manuscript, a travel biography of my year as a Contiki Tour Manager, then stuck it in a drawer. For years.

I dusted it off once and gave it to a writer friend. “This should be a novel,” she said, so I started turning it into a novel. In late 2012, I got 70000 words into a re-write, then queried it to an agent in Australia. He loved the first three chapters and immediately asked for the rest.

“This isn’t your first book,” he said on the phone a few days later. “It’s good – you’re an excellent writer – but you’re not Liane Moriarty. There are too many narratives, too many characters. Go and write a single narrative – a simple story. Then come back to me.”

Encouraged, I did.

Mining my own (sometimes interesting) life, I turned my true-life love story into a novel. I wrote You Might Meet Someone about a woman in her late-thirties, who – post-breakup – is fed up with men and takes herself on holiday to Greece, sailing the Cyclades Islands. Everyone tells her how she might meet someone – so condescending and unhelpful – but she just wants to travel and soak up the briny air and sunshine. Of course, she does meet someone – make that two someones.

(Aside: in real life, there was only one someone and he is still my someone.)

I went back to the agent. “Hi, do you remember me?” – that sort of thing. He did and said he’d read the first three chapters. Loved them and later that day, he asked for the rest. The next morning, well before I’d had my first cup of tea, I got the call. He’d read it twice and loved it. ‘Eat, Sail, Love,’ he called it.

He represented me for a year – per our contract – to no avail. No publishing deal. In retrospect, my synopsis and pitch were ‘off’, but my agent thought I should add some ‘danger’ to the book – apparently, danger was selling at the time. I wondered how I could do that. How could I turn a travel romcom into a book with danger? We parted ways amicably and I put the book in a (metaphorical) drawer. That was 2015.

In 2016 Ben and I had been together nearly 10 years and we decided to celebrate our real-life ‘meet cute’ with another sailing trip around the Greek Islands with the same skipper.

On return from that wondrous trip, I was inspired to pull out the book and give it another pass. “Why don’t you self-publish on Kindle?” asked my supportive love. I percolated on that question for a short while, gave the book a final edit, handed it off to a colleague with editorial chops, collaborated with a cover artist in London, and – bottom lip firmly between my teeth – published it on Kindle.

My book was out there. I was an author.

Fast forward to our sabbatical in 2018 and I wrote the sequel (also published on Kindle), then book three in the series. Sarah (books one and two) and her sister, Cat (book three), came to life. The men they loved, their travel adventures, their friendships, their internal battles, their journeys to love, came to life.

Concurrently, I soaked up as much as I could about author life. I took a course on building my author profile and engaged with fellow authors on Twitter. I read widely – both within my genre and about the business of being an author.

As I embarked on the indie author path, I tweaked and honed and finessed my pitches to book bloggers, agents and publishers. I joined author communities. I sought and gave feedback. I engaged beta readers and I became a beta reader – I learned what a beta reader is and why they are so important to the writing process. I entered contests and Twitter pitches, and was featured on book blogs and UKRomChat (hi, lovelies – I adore you so much!). I even did my first NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and smashed it, writing 70000 words of my third book in three weeks.

I worked my little Aussie bum off.

Along the way, I made friends with some incredibly talented, generous, and supportive people – most of whom I’ve yet to meet face to face. I became part of the writing community.

Excitingly, my blood, sweat and lots of tears – a.k.a. ‘hard work’ – is now paying off. I have a new agent, the inimitable Lina Langlee of the Kate Nash Literary Agency in the UK, and she has secured me a two-book deal (!) with a soon-to-be-named imprint of a soon-to-be-named (big five) publishing house.

It’s happening. I am being published – by a world-renowned publisher.

I am embarking on a long-distance, long-term relationship with an agent who loves my work and believes in me, and a publishing house who described my writing as ‘beautifully sumptuous and evocative’.

So, as I commence writing my fourth book, as I assemble the dream cast for the movies of my books, as I continue to work in a field I (also) love and am great at – adult education – I am humbled, excited, terrified, vindicated, grateful, and … well, I am an author.

p.s. Doesn’t Lina Langlee have the best name ever?

p.s.p.s. If you read either of my first two books while they were out in the world, thank you. They’ll be back. (pssst, please leave a review on Goodreads)

p.s.p.s.p.s. Thank you to William (Bill) Aicher of the Indie Author CoalitionAimee Brown, fellow romance author and leader amongst women; DC Wright-Hammer, who shines the spotlight on fellow authors; Rebecca Langham, who started #AusWrites on Twitter (often the highlight of my day); Jeanna, Eilidh, Lucy and all my fellow authors of UKRomChat on Twitter (always the highlight of my romance author week); Allison and Valerie from the Australian Writers’ Centre; and Jen and Kerry from The Business of Books. Thank you Lindsey Kelk, my favourite author who (actually) replies to my emails. And thank you to my friend, Mike Curato, who took a leap of faith to become a best-selling artist and author.

p.s.p.s.p.s.p.s. Thank you Ben and my sis and my family and Lins and Jen and all my lovely friends. x



Romance Must-reads

I was a romance reader long before I was a romance writer – actually, since I used to sneak Mills and Boon books from my mother’s beside table at the precocious age of 12.

By 13, I’d graduated to Shirley Conran and Jackie Collins, and she’d ‘graduated’ to just handing them to me.

At high school, I read every Sweet Dreams book ever written along with all the other teenage girls in existence. As an adult, I discovered chicklit – mostly romcoms, but also the more heartfelt side of the genre.

And when I read my first Lindsey Kelk book in January 2013, I knew two things. First, I wanted to read all her books (there were 5 then; there are soon to be 13). And second, I wanted to write romance novels.

I still read widely across the genre and wanted to share some (old and new) favourites with you.

AAG - LKThe first in the Tess Brookes series (my fave chicklit series ever) – this book is hilarious.  Buy it here. Kelk’s book that started my love affair with romance writing is I Heart New York, and you can now pre-order the 8th ‘I Heart’ book, I Heart Hawaii.


Outlander is, simply, one of the most beautifully-written books I’ve ever read; the prose is sublime. Couple that with a love story that transcends time, it is an absolute must-read. And if you’ve been living under a kilt, there’s also a television show – perhaps the sexiest one on air. I am up to #7 of Diana Gabaldon’s series.

Penny Reid

Penny Reid’s Knitting in the City series is terrific, and I devoured book 1, Neanderthal Seeks Human. I am only 3 books in (there are 8, each focussing on a different member of the knitting circle), but the way she crafts distinct characters through first person is just terrific.


How I adore Frances Mayes’ writing. She evokes place like no other. Women in Sunlight is not your typical romance novel, as it’s not the primary theme, but I love the approach in this novel which explores love, sex and romance in your 60s.


The Time Traveller’s Wife is one of my favourite books – ever. This story will simply take your breath away.


The 3rd in the trilogy, this was actually my favourite of the moving, yet hopeful ‘Me Before You’ series. An original concept brings Louisa and Will together in a the most devastating ‘meet cute’ ever. Buy the first one here.


Traversing generations, Allende has woven a beautiful and epic love story in The Japanese Lover.

Some other lovely romantic reads I’ve loved over the past few months are: Her Brooding Scottish Heir (my first foray into M&B in decades) by Ella Hayes; French Kissing (sexy, funny, dreamy) by Lynne Selby; A Room at the Manor (heartfelt and lovely) by Julie Shackman; A Village Affair (laugh out loud) by Julie Houston; One Way Ticket to Paris (rekindling true love) by Emma Robinson, and Lottie Loser (romance with a dramatic twist) by Dana L. Brown.

I’m making myself stop there and if you think that’s a lot of books, you should see my TBR (to be read) list!

Happy Valentine’s Day or Galentine’s Day or just plain old February 14th.

Sandy xx








Whidbey Island Retreat

The night was dark and stormy…

Saturday night I was snuggled in my little corner room of the Captain Whidbey Inn while a storm raged outside. A screen door on the ground floor kept slamming in the wind, waking me throughout the night. Fellow guests had talked about the two ghosts that haunt the inn while we ate dinner.







But I wouldn’t have traded places with anyone – not even my boyfriend who was winging his way to sunny Australia.







I was on retreat, and what better place to lock yourself away for a weekend of writing than an old inn on the water, and backing onto the forest?









What an incredible weekend! I was part of a wonderful group of creative women, Anne, Thea, Lea, and Beverley and we had three incredible writing workshops with three diverse and exquisitely talented authors:

Stephanie Kallos

Bharti Kirchner

and Terry Persun

As well as my immediate group, I also met Megs, Kate and other gifted and passionate writers. I loved the collaboration, the camaraderie and the incredible amount that I learned. I have seen my own work with a renewed and critical eye, which means I can take another pass at it with particular attention to the following:

  • Differentiation of character (there are a lot of women in my book – are they all distinctive from each other, or do they bleed into one?)
  • Fleshing out the antagonists (‘bad guys’ have feelings too!)
  • P.O.V. shifts (oops – slap my hand)
  • Setting (the oft-neglected child)
  • Depth (short-shrifting the reader will only piss them off – thanks Stevie!)

Bharti made this great point that some authors get to the end of their book and realize that the characters never eat. Mine eat, but it is a detail that can evoke setting really effectively, so I need to ensure that I have given it the right amount of attention. Much of my action in part two takes place on a coach and I know that I can spend more time on developing the sense of claustrophobia that develops on a six-week trip. Stephanie told me that chapter one intrigued her, but that she was pissed off because I start after the crucial, catalytic moment. This is a great point! I am now working on a prologue to see if that addresses the issue. Of course, chapter one, which I am in love with by the way, will now need a major re-write. Terry’s workshop highlighted for me that one-note characters are boring. My villain in part two needs nuances and I have just the scene to bring his out.

I am so very excited to get to work. And I have a hell of a lot of it to do!


15 books in 15 minutes


I love to read. In fact, I have discovered that my desire to write is affected greatly by whether or not I am reading regularly. When I read less, because I am too busy to carve out the time, I write less. When I make time to read – and I read diversely – I find that creative impulses kick in more frequently. I even write stuff in the middle of the night, if that is when inspiration strikes (like last night).

This meme, as with many of the others I have done, comes from Charlotte, whose humor and insight also inspire me.

The task: Name 15 books that ‘stick’ with me – in 15 minutes. Okay, so this took me 45 minutes (sorry Charlotte).

IT by Stephen King Truly the most terrifying book I have ever picked up. I could only read it in daylight, because it scared me so thoroughly. This proved difficult, because it is so long, and I never wanted to put it down. Dusk would come, however, and I had to close the pages so Pennywise the Clown would not get me.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte I read this for class at university, and I fell in love with simple Jane, and her classic Byronic hero, Rochester. I learned that ‘classics’ are deemed such for a reason. Heart-achingly told, and timeless.

Almost French by Sarah Turnbull A travel biography about an Aussie girl living in Paris with a Frenchman she fell in love with while traveling. Hilarious episodes underpinned by a sense of ‘otherness’, homesickness and doubt. Striking parallels to my own life, and validation that my writing style is commercially viable.

Dracula by Bram Stoker I am drawn mostly to the love story in this novel. I also love the Gothic genre, and this book laid a foundation for future reading, such as Anne Rice.

The Bride Stripped Bare by Anonymous Nikki Gemmell was revealed as the writer of this ‘stream of consciousness’ novel. As a reader you wonder how she crawled into your brain to extract your thoughts. She speaks dark and private truths, the things that you would NEVER say aloud.

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold A young girl is murdered and watches helplessly from heaven as her family struggle to survive their loss, and the killer walks freely amongst her family and friends. The concept is innovative, but it is Sebold’s skill with words that makes it an extraordinary read.

Postmortem by Patricia Cornwell And so began my love affair with intelligent crime fiction, and with Kay Scarpetta. I was riveted, and because I came late to the party I was able to read 6 or 7 in quick succession. The last was a disappointment, however.

The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons I was given this book and it sat on my bookshelf for over a year. It is fat and I was daunted by it. I labored through the first hundred pages, and then I was carried away into Russia during WWII. Epic.

The Rabbits by John Marsden and Shaun Tan A picture book. White rabbits invade a land inhabited by bandicoots. The text is sparse and the drawings are so evocative, they bring tears to my eyes.

The Long Way Round by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman This was a television series, but I enjoyed the book more. They ride their motorcycles from London to London (essentially). Intriguing stuff. Importantly, it inspires me to ‘get out there and get grubby’.

Flowers in the Attic by Virginia Andrews My friends and I devoured these books throughout adolescence. Chaste schoolgirls lived vicariously through the sexual awakening of Cathy and Chris, siblings whose love was forbidden. A modern-day Gothic novel, with many bosoms heaving – inside and outside the book.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling My favorite of the lot. I still don’t understand the end of the last one. Perhaps the movie will shed some light.

The Lord of the Flies by William Golding I read this at 15 and my perception shifted (perhaps not for the better). I realized that there are innate traits in us that will want to rise to the surface, and that it is our job (in life) to keep them subdued. That’s pretty heady stuff for a 15 year old.

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffeneger This is my favorite book. The writing is tough, poignant and real. Up front you have to accept that time travel is a genetic anomaly, and beyond that everything else is ‘truth’. Beautifully written, brilliantly imagined.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak I finished this book and said, “That is the best book I have ever read.” And it is. Niffeneger is still my favorite, but The Book Thief is innovative, engaging, and gut-wrenching. Could not put it down, so finished it in about four days.

Tag! Your turn…