My Secret Life with Maggie Gilbert

Today I’m BEYOND excited to welcome debut author Maggie Gilbert to my blog. Maggie has written what I have been thinking about writing for a while but she’s actually done it! Well, I haven’t actually been thinking about writing Maggie’s particular book but rather the genre. Her debut novel RIDING ON AIR is a Young Adult Rural Romance from Escape publisher. For a while I have thought about how great it would be if someone combined the hugely popular rural romance with the hugely popular YA! 

I for one can’t wait to read RIDING ON AIR and I’d like to offer a HUGE welcome to Maggie today, sharing with us what she does when she’s not writing:

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I’d love to be able to say that my life when I’m not writing is something exotic or amazing. Neuroscientist. Drummer in a rock band. Olympic ice skater.

But it isn’t any of those things. It’s just a life, totally ordinary – at least until my childhood dream of being a published author came true. 🙂  Now it’s a bit more exciting!

My not-writing life is largely taken up with my full time job – I’m an administration officer for an Agricultural Society, where I administer the horse events for a Royal Agricultural Show. The Society also runs a bunch of other events so essentially I’m in event management with an agricultural focus. The job has a lot of variety so it’s always interesting and one of my little secrets is that I actually like admin work. Shh, don’t tell anyone – it’s way too geeky to admit to that!

It is awesome though that the horse-mad obsession I was pretty much born with has paid off with a job that is so satisfying. I got my first pony when I was 10 and I had horses for many years, doing a bit of riding club, a bit of showing and jumping and eventing. I’d come in from putting my horse away and then stay up late reading or writing stories of my own. And of course horses feature in my debut book!

Now here’s a secret – horses are actually only my third-favourite animal. I like dogs the best. Here are our two dogs, Aeryn and Hannah. Aren’t they cute?

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The number two animal: giraffes. I collect giraffes, but I haven’t managed to get a real one. Yet.

I also like to read whenever I can, although carving the time out can be tricky; my ‘to be read’ pile is enormous and growing. Being able to download eBooks has made it even worse; I just got a Galaxy Note II, which is awesome to read on. I have a bit of a library addiction, too – I brought 8 books home with me yesterday when I was meant to be collecting 3! 🙂 Until a few years ago I never had books in the house waiting to be read, I would buy or borrow something, and read it immediately. It’s a nice feeling though, to have all those books squirrelled away, waiting for a rainy day – or a week’s holiday.

Another thing I like to do is garden but I am a sporadic and therefore terrible gardener. Here’s a picture of my Wild Iris, which has finally flowered after 7 years of neglect.

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I like to run, too. I did cross country at school but I’m older now and (ahem) less fit. I’m just about to start some pre-running fitness training, so I can ease back into running and hopefully avoid the calf muscle issues that keep interrupting my running program. My calves are full of scar tissue, so they are like blocks of concrete with steel bars running through them. Healthy calf muscle is meant to be kind of squishy – who knew?

So there you have it, the life of Maggie Gilbert when not-writing – a day job, cute dogs, neglected gardens, a bad library habit, cranky calf muscles and a sneaky plan to acquire a giraffe.

Hmm – the bit about the giraffe? That should probably stay a secret.

 NO Maggie – I LOVE that you love giraffes! I am imagining all kinds of them all over your house. Maybe one day you’ll be rich enough to buy a zoo and fulfil the dream of owning a giraffe! 

Maggies book RIDING ON AIR officially releases April 1st but it’s already available on pre-order all over the place – Amazon and iBooks to name but a few. You can also order from Escape Publishing direct. 

Here’s the fabulous blurb:

What can you do when your own hands are the enemy? Hold on tight, for as long as it takes.

Melissa has secrets. Sure it’s pretty obvious she has Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, but no one knows how bad it is or how many pills she takes for the pain. She’s determined to make her horse Jinx into a champion and she dreams that her childhood friend William will one day see her, rather than her condition. 

So when William asks her out and Jinx is shortlisted for selection in an elite training program, it seems Melissa’s dreams have come true. But when her secrets are exposed, all those dreams come crashing down around her. Can William ever forgive her? And can she learn about letting go in time to truly ride on air when it matters most?

Maggie can be found on the web at her website, Twitter and Facebook! Go on over and make friends 🙂

 QUESTION for blog visitors – If you’re a reader what genre to you think has yet to be written


Knee deep in…

Edits! And writing a new book! And washing (but that’s always a given)!!

So, please accept my apologies for the silence on this blog. I promise I have some fabulous guests lined up over the next few weeks talking about their Secret Lives – or rather the things they do when they’re not writing!

But a quick update from me:

  • Outback Dreams (due to be released October 1st) is in the final stages of edits. I’m at the nitpicky stage were each sentence is analysed, deconstructed, pulled about and put back together to make it flow and read easier. At this stage I’m sure my poor editor must seriously start to get sick of the book 🙂
  • Outback Blaze is well and truly started. I have written almost 20k words of the second book in my Bunyip Bay books. These books will be able to be read on their own but there is one small thread that carries through the three books and many of the characters feature in all three. This book is my first book where I’ve included an element of suspense and while I’m enjoying this IMMENSELY, it’s also a little terrifying. There’s a lot of police and fire protocol, which I’m hoping against hope I get right!

If you’re interested, you can check out my PINTEREST boards for both books here.

  • Reading – my goal of reading two books a week is failing dismally, or rather I am failing it. With so much editing and writing to do, I’m barely managing one book a week 😦 But I recently finished Jenn J McLeod’s gorgeous House For All Seasons and I’m thoroughly enjoying Fiona Palmer’s The Sunburnt Country! Of course the TBR pile continues to grow because I cannot resist buying more and more.
  • Non-writing life – One of my best friends from school married an English boy and the rest of my friends from school (whom I’m still really close too) hadn’t seen her in five years, but she’s currently visiting Perth, so I’m making the most of that. Friday night the six of us (friends from school) had a high-school style slumber party, the first in almost fifteen years. We didn’t go to sleep till 4am and needless to say I’m STILL paying for it.

Anyway just wanted to say Hi and explain why my posts have been few and far between. Once OUTBACK DREAMS is officially off my hands, I’ll endeavour to pop in here more 🙂

My Secret Life with… Jenn J McLeod

Today I’m super excited to have talented debut author and all round nice person visiting! Say a big hello to Jenn J McLeod – her first novel HOUSE FOR ALL SEASONS debuted this month and I was lucky enough to score an early copy. It’s a gorgeous story about four old school friends finding their way (and the truth) after tragedy. I thoroughly enjoyed Jenn’s quirky characters and LOL moments amongst real emotion!! And I reckon you’ll love it too. But today, we’re here to hear from Jenn about what she does when she’s NOT writing!

Welcome Jenn


My secret life is not so secret if you go to  Wagtail Cottage is my very special B&B, purpose-built to provide the dog-loving traveller with a clean, comfy, secure spot to stop so the whole family can relax.

And I make no secret of the fact: I LOVE DOGS!

Just like a house is not a home without a dog, a novel is not a story without a dog (or two, or three!) Dogs not only feature in my novel, House for all Seasons, they star. (Well, I think so!)

house cover

Just as an author creates human characters with a bits of one person and bits of another, my dog characters are a mix of furry fabulousness! I have added an excerpt from House for all Seasons below but let me introduce you to a couple of characters from the book right now.

Meet Karma (see down below), the inspiration behind Dr Caitlin Wynter’s beloved mutt (written into the very first draft) and Bob the smiling dog. (Karma belongs to writing buddy, Shayne Sands, and Bob belongs to Annie Seaton.



In House for all Seasons, Karma shares the doggy spotlight with Shrapnel (described by his Vietnam vet owner as “a bloody pain in the arse you can’t get rid of.”.) My doggy characters in book two – Simmering Season (out this time next year) – were inspired by four-legged guests to my B&B.

So how did my secret dog-loving life evolve?

In 2004 I gave up my corporate communications/PR role, swapping Sydney’s corporate chaos for a little café culture and buying a small eatery, in a small coastal town, but with big plans to focus on my writing and a new life in the country.

It was like coming home.

You see, I’d travelled this big brown land in my twenties; two women working their way across the heart of Australia, living out of a converted Ford F100 van. For three years I worked anywhere I could, doing anything I could; an approach that kick-started a diverse range of work experiences once back in Sydney, including a stint in a five-star hotel providing security for international celebrities and dignitaries (and collecting stories I can never tell!)

I lasted four years in the café (it nearly killed me. And I developed a great respect for hospitality and service workers). The B&B was something I’d always wanted to do (kind of like having a book on a bookshelf one day.) I feel rather blessed to be living both dreams now, although none of it has happened without a lot of trying, tears and tantrums (and that’s just learning the café business!)

Making the decision to leave the city in pursuit of a simpler lifestyle was THE best thing I could have done. Now, I admit a tree change isn’t on everyone’s list and it is a huge decision. My advice to anyone contemplating a move is to research your options and be as well informed as humanly possible. Then just do it. That ‘oh my goodness, we are actually going to do this” decision moment is the hardest part. Once you master that, and train yourself to not let the detail bog you down, you’ll be less likely to chicken out when the “it’s all too scary, too hard, too risky” moment hits you. Be focused, determined and positive and keep moving forward—never back. You may be surprised, as I was, how things fall into place.

Now for that doggy House for all Seasons excerpt I promised starring Karma:



Not even Karma seemed keen to get out of the car. They both stayed put, a sense of coming home warming Cait against the night air. Her body relaxed. Even her toes uncurled after being clawed and tense from the drive.

She was sure it wasn’t normal to love a dog so much, but the thought didn’t stop her. Karma had no expectations and made no demands.

‘Faithful to the end, aren’t you?’ she whispered, stroking the dog and feeling the heat radiating from under the short, spotted brown on white coat. The vet at the shelter had suggested the white coat was the Dalmatian bit, but it had been the way the dog smiled—a curious combination of bared teeth and gums and a wagging tail—that won her heart.

‘Don’t look at me like that.’ Caitlin stifled a yawn. ‘I told you not to drink so much water.’

At six o’clock she’d driven out of her Blue Mountains hideaway, mindful of the dangerous coating of black ice on the road. Sydney was in for a cold winter. Did that mean Calingarry Crossing would be colder? Anything above zero would be fine; Cait quite enjoyed the crispness of the cooler seasons. Sydney’s Blue Mountains was no place for people who didn’t enjoy extreme temperatures. Extreme was good, usually. Extreme anything made for a welcome blip in Doctor Caitlin Wynter’s flat-lining life.

After crawling through several traffic snarls on the F3 freeway, including the clean up of an earlier southbound fatality, she had finally hit open road. At last a chance to enjoy her new car, one she’d prefer not to christen with pee.

She glared at her passenger. ‘You’ve got more than enough legs to cross, so I suggest you cross them. Not long now.’

Had it been just her, Cait would have kept driving, but there was no ignoring the big brown eyes and the hangdog look from the passenger seat. She eased off the accelerator to slow the Volkswagen Beetle cabriolet, still new enough to have that showroom smell, an aroma so desirable that the salesman had presented her with a spray bottle of the stuff. She didn’t have the heart to tell him that ingesting potentially life-shortening spray scents was not on her list of necessities. She much preferred nature’s perfume. Even dusty country roads invoked fond memories for Caitlin.

Despite her initial reluctance to subject her shiny new baby to Calingarry Crossing’s local roads, Cait was now glad. Nothing like a new car to make a long trip more fun. Being able to put the top down and turn up the music added to her enjoyment. Vivaldi’s Four Seasons was the best driving music, although she doubted the composer had intended it to be so. With the car gliding over a country road soaked in sun, an invigorating winter wind whipping her hair out from under the retro headscarf, the car’s heater on full throttle to warm her legs, Cait let loose with her very best Meg Ryan, knowing only the cows and galahs would hear her.

‘Yes! Yes! Oh, yes!’

Pulling as far to the side of the narrow strip of bitumen as the unsealed shoulder allowed, she stopped in the shade of some roadside gums. The cluster of trees stretched straight and tall, creating dappled sunlight across the road and adjacent paddocks.

She’d made repeated stops to stretch all six of their legs and to drink coffee, or in Karma’s case, water; hence the dog’s need to pee—again.

The stop was timely, allowing Caitlin to secure the roof back in place, the cool, late afternoon air reminding her that winter in Calingarry Crossing meant cold nights and frosty mornings.

‘Time to grab something warmer to wear first,’ she said to the big but obedient fur-person in the brown spotted coat.

Karma was Caitlin’s best friend, constant companion and even confidante. They’d spent so many nights ‘talking’ together, lamenting the lack of romance in their lives. Caitlin would laugh, ruffle Karma’s ears and say, ‘I know what those eyes of yours are telling me: that there’s hope for those of us who haven’t, you know, been fixed.’

‘Sorry about that, girl. Now, are you going to pee or not?’

Karma raced off, losing herself in the paddock of tall grass, nose down, tail up and wagging like billy-o.

‘And don’t you dare roll in anything out there,’ Cait called out, her gaze flitting between her watch and the setting sun. ‘Hurry up, girl, time we got moving.’

She buried her head in the car boot, struggling to budge the medical bag her mother had presented to Caitlin in the days following Joseph Wynter’s funeral, with the words, ‘More befitting your station as a country doctor, my dear.’ While touched that her mother had chosen her as the recipient, the chunky, third-generation bag unfortunately now occupied a third of the Beetle’s boot, making it impossible to access the suitcase properly. She grabbed the first thing she put her hand on—warm, woollen and white—and slipped her arms through the sleeves, wrapping both front panels of the cashmere cardigan tight, tucking them snugly around her body.

‘Good Karma. Come on girl.’

Caitlin whistled. She loved the sight of her best friend bounding towards her through the fields of green; sure beat the overcrowded dog park down the road from the Penrith Medical Centre.

At the far end of the paddock, distant but drawing nearer, a billowing dust cloud spiralled into the air. A willy-willy traversing the unsealed crossroad she’d passed a few hundred metres back was Cait’s first thought, until she heard the bassy doof-doof of speakers and the roar of a straining engine growing nearer. Dread stopped her mid-whistle, her head toing and froing between the fast-moving dust cloud and her best mate bounding towards her obediently.

‘No, Karma, no.’ She held out both hands as if they possessed magical stopping powers, but her faithful friend kept running. ‘No!


Thanks SO much for coming on my blog today Jenn and sharing your passion for dogs.  You can connect with Jenn through her website, Twitter and Facebook and House for all Seasons is available in bookstores and online from Amazon, Kobo, iTunes and Booktopia.

In the meantime readers, I’m curious… are you more a cat person or a dog person!?

My AMAZING weekend at ARRC!!!

Apologies in advance, this post might get rather long because I just had the BEST weekend ever at the Australian Romance Readers Convention in Brisbane. I have been to a number of romance WRITING conferences but never before have I been to a reading convention and this most definitely WON’T be my last. While I felt the buzz was similar to that at RWAus confs and many of the faces the same too 🙂 it was really good to have the focus on reading and sharing the love for romance rather than on actual craft!!

The con kicked off with the Lady Jane’s Salon all the way from New York and run by Hope Tarr. We laughed our heads off to readings by Cathy Maxwell, Amy Andrews, Anna Campbell and Keri Arthur and I hope this becomes a regular ARRC thing! Then it was the cocktail party where I accosted Kristan Higgins and had a fan girl moment! Here’s a pic of her holding my cocktail named after her.

kristan cocktail

If you haven’t read Kristan’s books, what are you waiting for? They are gorgeous small town romances – I started reading her latest THE BEST MAN on the plane home. I’ll upload more cocktail party photos on my Facebook page!

The next day things really kicked off with a keynote speech by Rachel Vincent. Having not read much paranormal I admit to never having read her before but I will be after this weekend. Rachel’s bio says she’s ‘Older than she looks and younger than she feels’ – I can SO relate to that!

There were two book launches over the weekend – Kristan’s THE BEST MAN and Nikki Logan’s M&B Sexy duo, which I’m desperate to get my hands on – both books – HOW TO GET OVER YOUR EX and MR RIGHT AT THE WRONG TIME sound brilliant!

I participated in one panel on Saturday and went to another. Ours was Location, Location, Location where Cathryn Hein and I pitched up our rural heroes against Paula Roe and Amy Andrew’s city ones. Guess who won!? I also went along to a session where eight authors talked about their reading habits and what they read. This was one of my favourite sessions and I came away with a zillion more books I MUST READ NOW!!!!

Saturday arvo was the book signing. So many readers came to the event and I got to meet a particularly special one – Annie Seaton’s aunt who loved JILTED and MAN DROUGHT so much that she wrote me a sweet note of thanks. I SO wish I’d gotten a photo with her!

Then Saturday night was the ARRA Awards. JILTED was up for this award against seven other simply fabulous books, so although I obviously hoped we’d win, I never truly imagined that we would. When Hope Tarr (who announced the award) read out my name, I could have died!! I have never felt such shocked happiness in my life! I think the acceptance speech I made – totally unprepared because I didn’t expect to win – showed this. I want to take this opportunity to again thank all the wonderful ARRA members who voted for JILTED. I hope I can keep writing books that you all love!!

me with my award

And, I think I’ll save Sunday and a few more observations for another blog. Come back in a few days to read more… that’s if you want to!!