Right Before Your Eyes Only

Know how it was just Easter and you just ate all those chocolate Easter eggs?

Perhaps you may still be hunting for chocolate Easter eggs, or maybe now you’re after calorie-free Easter eggs to make up for  all the chocolate you ate, and if you are, let me tell you the In Service series is chock-full of calorie-free Easter eggs. CHOCK FULL.

And by “Easter eggs,” I mean Easter eggs of the meta kind, and by meta I mean the inside jokes, little nods to spy fiction and film, to well-known characters, to familiar tropes and cliches that run across the spy and romance genre. If you look, you can find them. Some are obvious. Some aren’t. Some are buried. Some are very, very subtle. Some are a running wink to a good-natured battle I have with a shallow-reading librarian friend named Vassiliki. Some show a connection between characters in Forever in Your Service and one of my earlier books, another seasoned romance, one not many have read.

Yeah, I mean the one I wrote for part of my doctoral work, the one that has a 50-ish peanut-butter-loving nuclear physicist heroine who’s solving a mystery with a local hot detective, while carrying out work as an FBI mole, the one with the cover that makes me shudder, the one that, at my publisher’s request, I had to change the title of to something that’s, well,  um… well… kind of a joke in itself that, like eating too much chocolate, which proves not all Easter eggs are a smart choice.

But they sure are fun.

At Your Service is available as a paperback and ebook

Forever in Your Service is available as an ebook

The origin short story, Your Sterling Service, is available as an ebook

For Your Eyes Only (yes, I KNOW) is available in paperback and and as an ebook



The Hippest New Thing?

Photo credit: Jessie Romaneix © / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Photo credit: Jessie Romaneix © / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

March 12, 2015: Time Magazine’s Sarah Begley discusses How the Romantic Comedy for Senior Citizens Became Film’s Hippest Genre .The Time piece states, “that these stories are usually more grounded in the real world than many of their younger counterparts,” and that movies that show the diverse experiences of senior citizens is a good thing, both for the viewers who recognize themselves in the aging faces of Bill Nighy and Judi Dench in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and for younger audiences who can learn to see the elderly as the multifaceted people they are.”

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and its sequel do well to present mature-age in a romantic comedy, yet the really awesome thing would be to have Rom Coms for the over 40 crowd where sex IS a regular part of the narrative, where older adult sexual intimacy is shown as healthy, rather than a punchline. That is, there are no jokes about erectile dysfunction, Viagra or anything that views ageing as a running gag (as was the case with ‘old’ buddies Michael Douglas-Robert DeNiro meeting up in the movie Last Vegas) or a disease. Sexual intimacy lasts longer (no Viagra joke intended) than a few decades, and if we are mature enough (and I mean mature in the ‘we are all adults here’ way) to show BDSM relationships (even toned down ones) and explicit sex scenes on screen, then aren’t we also adult enough to view accurate portrayals of mature sexuality on screen as well?

Now, if we could translate ‘film’s hippest next genre’ to fiction, particularly to romance fiction, then we could about a real trend worth applause.



But wait. Is the mature-aged romance novel a trend?  On 8 March 2015, in a piece titled Forget Bridget Jones, divorce comedy is the new romantic fictionHannah Furness of The Telegraph reports that Man Booker Prize Nominee David Nicholls, believes that stories of unconventional families and romance in older age are likely to become more common to reflect “huge cultural change.

In the words of Matthew McConaughey ”Well, all right, all right, all right, all riiiiight!  In fact, Nicholls says that he wrote a protagonist to defy the stereotypes of middle-aged men in love. Well, gee, that sounds familiar, only I write about middle-aged women in love.


Thirty-one Days of Halloweenie Day 31: NEWSFLESH! THE RANDOM BOOK GIVEAWAY!

multipbudHowdy Halloweenies!

Welcome to the bottom of the pumpkin! I’m all outta candy and pumpkin pie, and Halloween blog posts, but I still have goodies to giveaway.

No, it’s not a trick, it’s totally a treat. It’s a treat for those of you who love Halloween and it’s a treat for those of you wouldn’t want to touch Halloween, even if you’re wearing an Ebloa-rated HAZMAT suit.

Today (31 Oct 14) from 8:30am AustralianEST/6:30pm US EST) to tomorrow (1 Nov 14) 8:30am AustralianEST/6:30pm US EST,  I’m giving away RANDOM copies of my smartassed rom coms for grown-ups and peanut butter lovers.  In the next 24 hours you could win e copies of Driving in Neutral, For Your Eyes Only, or A Basic RenovationSandrabooks

Here’s what you do: Leave a comment (and this is SO TOTALLY EASY) about your favourite candy. Yep. Tell me what your favourite candy is and WHY you love it so. I’ll choose winners at random. Be sure to include your email address so I can contact you when you win. If you post anonymously I can’t contact you and call you ‘WINNER.’

candycornySee? No doorbells ringing, no kids knocking. No pumpkins, no Draculas, no kids dressed like Olaf from Frozen coming to your door. It’s simply HALLOWEEN MADNESS! Nothing scary about this random giveaway–except that it is scarily easy to WIN.

Thirty-one Days of Halloweenie Day 26: I Dare You To Eat This

SandrabooksCookies and peanut butter. They are my downfall. I love them. I put them in A Basic Renovation, For Your Eyes Only, and Driving in Neutral.  I am always on the lookout for new cookies, especially when it comes to holidays. In my great search for the ultimate cookie1Pumpkin-free Halloween cookie I could share with my Australian friends and family—because, if you don’t recall, Aussies aren’t much for sweet spiced pumpkin, and prefer it roasted with onions, garlic and potatoes—I came across a recipe for… Halloween Cat Poop Cookies.

Yes, You read that correctly.

I also came across Halloween Cat Poop Cookies II. And Cat Poop Cookies III.

Note the artfully placed scoop

Note the artfully placed scoop

Honest. You can find the recipes from All Recipes here.

Now, before your stomach turds—TURNS, I mean turns, the bar-cookie, or slice as we’d call it in Oz, does not actually contain feline doo-doo. Number one is a mix of honey, butter, unsweetened cocoa powder and a wheat bran cereal.

catpoo2Number two (tee hee hee) has honey, molasses, a mix of spices and the addition of Ramen noodles, for uh, added bulk I guess.

Cat poop cookie number 3 skips the molasses, includes the wholewheat flour, and adds in a wheat and barley ‘nugget-type’ cereal, for, let’s say ‘regularity.’

Holy smokes, kids, I know the photos sure ain’t appealing, but as a catpoo3Halloween cookie they sure are terrifying. And perfect.

The terror, that’s what the point of a haunted house is, right? Kids love the BOO! Kids Love to scream. Kids are ready to have the living culinary crap scared out of them. There’s the Halloween Bowl of Bloody worms (spaghetti with tomato sauce), the Bowl of Pirate Eyeballs (red or black grapes) and Freaky Fingers (Hot dogs wrapped in pasty), so TRY THE CAT POOP COOKIE!

If you dare…

I’m sure you’ve figure out by now that Halloween and Cat Poop Cookies IV, my own addition to the CP Cookie hall of fame, are in a Next to You, the book I’m currently editing. I’ve skipped the molasses and added in peanut butter, but not the crunchy kind.


Thirty-one Days of Halloweenie Day 24: No One Gnomes Halloween Like Rachel Bailey

Eight more days, Kids! Eight more days til the pumpkin drops! In addition to all those lovely peanut-Sandrabooksbutter cups you bought to hand out to Halloween trick-or-treaters, why not save those for yourself and give the treat of an e-book? You know, like A Basic Renovation, For Your Eyes Only and Driving in Neutral? Dentists, those watching their waistlines, and readers would LOVE YOU!

Or you could give them a copy of Rachel Bailey’s Cover Story, a romantic comedy tale of love and gnomicide.Yes. GNOMICIDE.

I’m assuming by now that you’re ready for Halloween. You’ve put up the decorations, ordered your costume, purchased the candy, planned your tricks. You’ve probably even found the perfect costume for your dogs and cats. You’re all set.Rachel3

But what about those other little members of your household – your garden gnomes? Those little guys don’t want to miss out on all the fun.

(Hang on, did someone just say they don’t have any gnomes in their garden? Get thee to the local store! You’ll never look back after your first gnome.)

There are two ways to get into the Gnomey Halloween spirit.

GnomeZombieFirst – the easiest – you can purchase a gnome who’s already in the Halloween mood. The interwebs are full of zombie gnomes, and other variations on the theme.

The second way is by far the most fun – dress your own gnomes. Not only is this guaranteed to be fun for all the family, but you can undo your work after Halloween and get them ready for Christmas. Bonus!

So now you’ve decided to make your own costumes for your gnomes (you have decided that, haven’t you?). The only question is what character.

The fabulous Tracey O’Hara, author of scary vampire novels, once bought me a gnome, then painted all the coloured bits black and put toothpick ends at the corners on his mouth, with bits of redbat-gnome paint dripping off. She called him Gnomula. I wish I could show you a photo of Gnomula, but worryingly, I can’t find him. Tracey has assured me he’s hiding somewhere in my house, waiting…

I have to tell you, that wasn’t the most reassuring thing she’s ever said to me.doggnome

But what about a less frightening option? How about tying a red cape / piece of red material around his neck? Super Gnome! A little black mask with pointy ears? Bat Gnome! A pretty doll’s party dress? Cindergnoma!

The possibilities are endless, and I’d love to hear your ideas for gnome Halloween costumes. Also, tell me, have you ever dressed up an inanimate object for Halloween or other festivities?

Rachel latest release, Cover Story, follows journalist Tobi Fletcher as she reluctantly covers the story of suburban gnomicides: the wanton destruction of garden gnomes.

It’s out now from Momentum.CoverStorysmall





For ONE Week you can get Cover Story for 0.99 cents! CoverStorySale2(ends 31 October 2014).

Thirty-one Days of Halloweenie Day 22: Nicole Flockton’s UnHollywood Halloween

driving smallA Romantic Comedy, like Driving in Neutral, A Basic Renovation or For Your Eyes Only, has certain expectations that come attached to it: that cute meet, the sharp, snappy, smartass dialogue, the kiss, the happy ending. Sounds easy, right? Lately, in Hollywood, something’s gone wrong with the rom com. It’s as if all the HOLLYWOOD has been removed, as well as the comedy and romance.  Halloween, on the other hand, is something Hollywood keeps doing right. Halloween is a GIANT multipbudPARTY on TV and in movies. Everyone wears a costume, goes trick-or treating, gets candy, meets Dracula, carves a jack-o-lantern, and stops in at the Haunted House on the way back from the hay ride.  There are expectations up the wazoo for Halloween and Hollywood gives ’em to you, but it seems that for Nicole Floctkton, as it is with me the rom com, her Halloween was anything but Hollywood.

It’s Saturday 31st October 2009 and you know the significance of that date – Halloween!!

We’d moved to Houston, Texas in August and after seeing how much fun Halloween looked on all the American TV shows, as a family, we were excited to experience it.

We’d just moved into our new house and the kids wanted me to decorate the garden. Seeing as iflocktont was right on Halloween there wasn’t a lot of good stuff left. But I found some things and the kids were happy. I did notice that no one near us had any decorations in their garden but didn’t give it a second thought.

Having seen the TV shows my husband and I thought we had to get dressed up as well. Like decorations, decent costumes were scarce but we found some and all of us got dressed up.

We decide to venture out around 7pm. It was starting to get dark and the kids were anxious to get going. We hit the street all dressed up flockton2and were shocked to the core. The street was empty!! Where was everyone? Where were all the large groups of kids in costumes wanting candy?

We’d been told to only go to the houses that had outside lights on. The houses surrounding us were all dark. What was going on? We persevered and continued on our way and found a couple of houses with lights on. The kids got their candy and really they had no idea that my husband and I were in a state of shock. They were having fun and that’s all that mattered.

We were still the only people in the street but we found a group of people who were having a party outside. Finally a little bit of the Halloween spirit was alive.

In the end we only went around the block and the kids were happy with their stash of candy.

When we got home groups of people started to filter into our street. We had people come to the house and we handed out the supply of candy I’d bought. The kids enjoyed giving it as much as receiving

All in all I can honestly say that our first experience of Halloween in the US was really disappointing. And I also learned that, like anything, TV exaggerates everything!

Flcok3However, we still decorate the house each year – even if we are the only ones in the street that does.


Thirty-One Days of Halloweenie Day 11: Caught In A Masquerade?

0913 Eyes Only_Final[1]My second novel, For Your Eyes Only, has a character heroine who is playing a role. Unfortunately, Willa doesn’t get to wear a mask or costume to play Physicist or FBI agent. Undercover work is all about fitting in and playing a character, whereas Halloween is all about playing who doesn’t fit in—you know, like Frankenstein.

A masquerade can be constricting and frightening, as it is for Willa, or freeing and a hell of a lot of fun.


Wind-blown Man and Shirleysan

Years ago, I went a-Halloweeing dressed as Shirley Temple. I looked the part, but in that costume of blue-dotted dress, Mary-Janes, and curly red hair, something strange happened. I developed a rather un-Shirley attitude. Think Don Rickles* crossed with Joan Rivers inside Shirley Temple’s body: insulting, crass, rating what everyone else wore—all while puffing on a clove cigarette.

Yes. My hair is strawberry and It’s obvious I make as lousy a redhead, like Willa does a lousy lavenderhead.

Flash forward to a 40th birthday party, one where costumes were required. I went to that as a very pale Tina Turner from her days with Ike. My dress was red, short, and sparkly. There was karaoke. I sang Proud Mary, and DANCED LIKE TINA. This means everyone saw my underpants and I didn’t care. I’d so show you a photo of me in a crotch-skimming, sequined red dress with a plunging neckline, but all those aOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAppear to be…um, you know, lost.

Then I went to a 50th. I got my New Wave 80s on, did a little Debbie Harry number and attempted big hair. As you can see, my hair doesn’t big hair well.

Last year I went to a 50th channeling Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. There was no singing and I did 2fredanot like wearing a wig, having a monobrow or moustache, but there were nachos and nachos make up for everything. I affected a Spanish accent whenever I said jalapeño, pico de gallo, or asked for a cerveza for Dr Shrinkee.

Restricting or freeing, how do you see a Halloween or any other kind of masquerade?

*Don Rickles is a master insulting comic who is still active. Your may know him from Pixar’s Toy Story series where he played Mr Potato Head.

Thirty-one Days of Halloweenie Day 9: Jenny Schwartz Goes Blank In The Night

SandrabooksYearbookYourself_1958Are any of you kids waiting for the creature from the Black Lagoon to come to your door? Or are you just dying to smash a pumpkin or have candy hurtled your way?

Is anyone wondering what the hell I was thinking about when I went into that machine that morphed my DNA with my dog’s? I know Jenny Schwartz, my guest today, is a little wary of something, but she totally understands Halloween. You wait and see.

Jenny Schwarz

Jenny Schwartz

Fear and Halloween… I typed those words on a blank screen page and contemplated whether anyone other than another writer would understand a Halloween costume that was simply a huge, blank piece of paper. A blank page is terrifying. I’m instantly compelled to find words to fill it…and what if one day those words don’t come?

What if one day I have no more stories to tell?

Being a writer, a novelist, is my dream job. The thought of losing it, of fate wrenching it from me, is terrifying. Yet life does things like that. We devote years to a specific goal and then WHOA! the path we’re on rears up and throws us off.

In my new release, Kiss It Better, the heroine Cassie has always dreamed of nursingKissItBetter in Africa and she achieves her dream, only to burn out. Angry, depressed and generally wanting to scream at the world, she meets Theo and her frustrations find a new focus. But Theo has his own problems and as their lives collide, both have to reassess who they are and what they’re willing to risk to build new lives.

Reading fiction is a lot like Halloween (See? Jenny agrees with me! –Sandra), but instead of dressing up as pirates, axe murderers or clowns, we try on other people’s lives by losing ourselves in books. Either way, we get to explore our fears in a safe way. It’s an emotional thrill ride, with the safety harness on.

Happy Halloween! Thanks for the invitation to post here, Sandra, and may you never be haunted by a blank page.

Kiss It Better

All Cassie Freedom wants to do is save the world, and she could, if only she were able to. But her dream of nursing in Africa is shattered, and she returns home to Jardin Bay, where familiarity, security, and a sense of her own failure threaten to drown her. Dr. Theo Morrigan knows a thing or two about responsibility, leaving his own medical practice to take over a family business. He knows his mind, his future, and how he wants to live his life – until an old secret resurfaces and rocks his whole world. Suddenly, the man who needed no one needs a broken-hearted nurse, and a nurse who thinks she’s too weak will find her own strength.

Find Kiss it Better here ! (via Amazon)

Jenny Schwartz is an Australian contemporary romance author. Her books celebrate the joy of falling in love and the freedom of choosing to follow your heart. She has a degree in Sociology and History — people watching and digging into the past — and a passion for reading, especially books with a guaranteed happy ever after. Her Jardin Bay series captures her love for Australia, and for sexy heroes and the determined women who drive them wild.

Website: jennyschwartz.com

Thirty-one Days of Halloweenie Day 8: Who Do We Blame For Halloween?

multipbudCrass commercialism! American excess! Hollywood bullshit! Pumpkin Spice Overload! I figure it was only right, what with my gung-ho-Hell-Yeah-HALLOWEENNESS, that I give time to those of you who find Halloween to be a big ol’ steaming heap o’ WTF.


Take my author and fellow Naughty Ninja Andra Ashe. Here are her thoughts on the Day of The Great Pumpkin:

“It’s not so much the celebration, that’s all fine and dandy and who doesn’t love dressing Asheup? It’s that it’s an American thing, not an Aussie thing. We used to have Guy Fawkes night with bonfires and fireworks but that died in the arse and now we’re bloody ‘yankified’ and I’m not interested in any part of it. It so infuriates me when I see mums taking their kids around the streets ‘trick or treating’ In my head, I’m yelling, ‘if you want Halloween, go to America!’”

Author and Beanie Wearing Naughty Ninja Lily Malone has this to say:lilym_lowres

“Last year I experienced the first of what I might consider ‘real’ Halloween. It freaked me out completely. It freaked my kids too because they’d never seen anything like it. There were scores of children rampaging the streets in various guises, ringing doorbells/knocking on doors and in some instances not so politely demanding loot. Not being prepared (having not given the day a thought), I had zero in the loot department, and I had kids telling me I was stingy. Soon, I refused to answer the door. There were very few adults to be seen. And it occurred to me: what kind of message do we send to our children all year about stranger danger, to then tell them to dress up in disguise and go knocking on the doors of strangers? This is what really disturbed me about Halloween. I also take issue with the whole treat/candy/lolly thing—along the same lines. ‘Want a candy, little girl? Come over to my car. I have a whole box full.’ What message is it to say: “don’t accept lollies from strangers,’ oh, unless it’s Halloween. Then it’s fine. IMHO, Halloween is a psychopath’s dream. Stay at home and wait with treats for all the little kiddies to come calling. But it’s very possible I’ve read way too many psycho-killer crime thrillers.”

Halloween is slowly, very slowly taking hold in Australia. There are decorations, masks, costumes, parties, CANDY (although candy corn is conspicuously absent)—and it’s on the shelf right next to the mother scratchin’ Christmas stuff, which I witnessed in stores on September 12th.

decoween2It seems odd that Halloween never took hold earlier in Australia, because like the USA, Australia has a massive Irish and Scottish heritage. And here’s where things get interesting. History tells us that Halloween has its roots in the Celtic festival Samhain, the end of the harvest season for ancient Gaelic culture—which perhaps explains all the pumpkins. Ancient Gaelic culture believed that 31st October opened, if you will, a portal between the living and the dead. Costumes and masks were worn to frighten off any evil spirits who were keen on spoiling the crops. But there’s also this about costumes, from Halloweenhistory.org

The practice of dressing up in costumes and begging door to door for treats on holidays goes back to the Middle Ages, and includes Christmas wassailing. Trick-or-treating resembles the late medieval practice of ‘souling,’ when poor folk would go door to door on Hallowmas (November 1), receiving food in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day (November 2). It originated in Ireland and Britain.

20shalloweencostumes1Yesiree, Bob. The Scots and Irish brought all that Gaelic Samhain festival goodness to America in the 19th Century. So look. If we’re gonna blame anyone for Halloween we really should look at Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander as an example of the whole portal between worlds on Samhain thing in action, and then, honestly, shouldn’t we blame Claire, Jamie Fraser, and all his mates?

The Americans, bless their apple and cherry pie hearts, simply took that festival, packaged it, made it bigger, and sold it because that’s what Americans do, and frankly, do well.

Hi I’m Sandra and I write smart-assed romantic comedies for grown-ups and smartasses. You can find my books here.


Driving Along With The Romance Bandits

banditasHey Kids!

The awesome band of authors known as The Romance Bandits, have very graciously invited me for a stay in their Lair.

During my visit I chat with the amazing Historical romance author Anna Campbell about Driving in Neutral, my PhD research, romantic comedies, the inspiration for my  books For Your Eyes Only and A Basic Renovation, Cary Grant, Barbara Stanwyck, and my tiny little mom. On top of all this, there’s a giveaway of not one but TWO of my books.

Stop by the Romance Bandits Blog for your chance to win Driving in Neutral and For Your Eyes Only!Sandrabooks