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Best New Author nomination in AusRomToday Awards!

Best New Author nomination – Vote for me in the AusRomToday Reader’s Choice awards now 

Earlier this week I was excited to learn that I’ve been nominated in the Best New Author category of the AusRomToday Reader’s Choice Awards, celebrating excellence in Australian romance fiction.

This is such exciting news I could barely breathe when I saw the email come through…actually, I’ve had a bad headcold so I could hardly breathe anyway, but that’s not the point! It’s such an honour to be nominated alongside a bunch of super talented authors who I admire.

What an amazing year 2016 has been for me so far. I’ve gone from publishing one short story last year to winning the We Heart New Talent contest and having my first romantic comedy novel, Girl on a Plane, published by the wonderful team at Avon Books/HarperCollins UK. And I’ve seen that book fly high in the Amazon and iBooks charts.

I also quit my day job in corporate communications in June to focus on my writing. That was something of a leap of faith, and so far it’s been a good decision (although I’m not raking in the millions yet, and Hollywood hasn’t come knocking to buy any movie rights…come on Hollywood!) as it’s allowed me time to write and focus on promoting my book properly.

Now, with a nomination for a major national award, I’m almost dumbfounded at how much can happen in a year. It makes me wonder what 2017 will bring!

Hopefully, I’ll soon finish editing my next romantic comedy novel, then I’m working on another manuscript that’s at around 30K words. And there’s another anthology of short stories coming soon from my writing group, the Melbourne Romance Writers Guild, which I’m pleased to be a part of again.

Action stations everyone – 2017 looks set to be huge! I’d better buy some more champagne…

Chocolate truffles image from

Cover reveal – Chocolate Truffle Kiss

Cover reveal time! It is with a little too much excitement that I show-off my very first cover for my very first self-published novelette (which is a kind of long short story). Chocolate Truffle Kiss is a 9500 story, originally published in 2015 in the Sweet and Spicy anthology from my writing group, the Melbourne Romance Writers Guild.

But now I’m letting it go, into the world, with its own, fresh cover. I actually designed it myself! It may not win any design awards, but I’m happy with it. I think the woman on the cover is gorgeous and it suits the genre of romantic comedy.

Let me know what you think!

P.S. if you sign-up to my newsletter here on my website before 10 October 2016, I’ll give you a FREE copy of this story! Sign-up with your name and email address, that’s it. Easy-peasy!

Chocolate Truffle Kiss cover design

Chocolate Truffle Kiss cover design


Your eyes meet mine, then retreat
Softness behind glass
Let me break your barriers

The poem on the blackboard enticed her to enter. Just like everyday…

Writer, Beth, visits the same café every afternoon, enjoying her latte and a chocolate truffle while scribbling in her notebook. The delicious treats keep her coming back day after day, not to mention the inspiration she finds there – Samuel. The barista is tall, dark and delicious, and his stare could melt chocolate from a hundred paces.

Since her divorce, Beth’s love life has been close to extinct, but the sight of Samuel, his dark, brooding good looks and amazing dragon tattoo, kick it into overdrive. A smouldering volcano waiting to erupt in flames of passion. But Beth knows it’s unlikely he’d go for her, an older woman, when he could have anyone.

Over the course of a week, the tension between them rises almost to boiling point. When Beth’s friend lets it slip that Beth fancies Samuel, in fact she has a mega crush on him, their customer/barista relationship is tested…but could it be more than one-sided? Is Samuel writing the blackboard poems especially for Beth? Could he be watching and wanting her too?

Pre-order links are live on my Books page!

MRWG members with heart sculpture

Ain’t Love Grand – Romance Australia 2016 conference highlights

For the last four days, I was lucky enough to attend the Romance Australia 2016 conference, Ain’t Love Grand. It was my third conference and probably the most fun!

Below is a Storify wrap-up of my Twitter feed from the weekend, filled with notable quotes, and as someone else told me, lots of impressive cleavage! My writing group pals in the Melbourne Romance Writers Guild (MRWG) were all brilliant as usual, and also looking particularly fabulous…

Super-dooper highlights

On Friday, the Michael Hague Story Mastery workshop was gold, right from the start. Michael is a Hollywood screenwriting consultant, having worked with the likes of Will Smith on finessing a script. His focus on romantic comedies was right up my alley, and I think I’ll gain a lot of inspiration from that session into the future.

Friday night was the cabaret-themed cocktail party. It was a hoot, and of course it was special to me, as I received my First Sale ribbon, acknowledging that 2016 was the year my first novel was published. My debut novel, Girl on a Plane, was only released about a month ago by Avon Maze/HarperCollins UK, so it’s still exciting and new to be an official author. I found time to chat with other authors and fangirl like a boss!

The morning after the night before was all a bit hard…but once I found real coffee and got going, I enjoyed some fab workshops and also brainstormed some new story ideas with some friends.

Then Saturday night was the big gala awards dinner in the Stamford Grand ballroom. I still can’t quite express how excited I was for my writing group friends who were up for big awards. Samara Parish and Jess Devine were Highly Commended in the Valerie Parv Award, and Chris Weston from the MRWG won! Also Stefanie London was Skyping from Canada, watching the announcement of the short, sexy romance category in which she was a finalist. Well done to all!

The biggest news from the awards was the WIN by MRWG’s own Michelle Somers, in the RuBY Award (Romantic Book of the Year) for her romantic suspense novel, Lethal In Love. Our table erupted into hooting and hollering, even from the ladies phoning it in via Skype. Super-dooper mega congratulations Michelle!

Later we danced the night away, busting out some 80s moves and even a shimmy-shake like my own flight attendant heroine, Sinead. This was on special request from Vanessa Carnevale, otherwise I wouldn’t have done it, because I’m such a shrinking violet on the dance floor… 😉

Sunday was more relaxed, but I have to mention the fantasticly funny and inspirational keynote speech from Fiona McIntosh. She challenged us all to work hard, write like it’s a job (it is), bum in seat and come and get her on the bestseller lists. It’s on!

Now the Ain’t Love Grand conference is over, I feel inspired to finish my manuscript (dubbed the Neverending Story) and get onto something new and fresh. Happy writing everyone!

Prepare for take-off graphic

Blog tour excitement as Girl on a Plane takes flight

A blog tour…what is that, you may ask? Well, it’s like a whistle-stop tour of other people’s blogs, popping in to say ‘hi’ and telling them about yourself and your book. I’ve already been doing a bit of blog-hopping and you can find some of my recent guest posts on my links page.

Blog tour graphic August 2016

Blog tour August 2016

Now I’m super excited to share the news that my fabulous publisher, Avon Maze/HarperCollins UK had organised a blog tour for my debut novel, Girl on a Plane.

Some high-profile UK book bloggers are having me as a guest on their sites this week, chatting about writing, creativity, story setting, the inspiration behind my book and more.

The tour schedule so far is:

Excerpt – New day, new blog tour! Today I have the pleasure to kick off Cassandra O’Leary’s blog tour for her debut, GIRL ON A PLANE. It was published last month and is described as a sassy and sexy read perfect for fans of rom com. Of course, this includes me and I will be reviewing it soon, so stay tuned for that. In the mean time, I’d like to welcome lovely Cassandra to This Chick Reads and thank her for the amazing blog post…

Excerpt – Interview with Cassandra O’Leary, author of Girl on a PlaneSo, what have you written?
So far, I’ve written two complete novels and several partials (in the ‘ideas file’) and a few short stories…

Excerpt – What it’s like to be an author. I know a lot of you who read my blog love books as much as I do and one of the things I love to read is the sort of ‘behind the scences’ of some of my favourite books…

Excerpt – Hi guys, and happy Saturday! And welcome to the “short and sweet” blog tour for Cassandra O’Leary’s new novel – is it a bird? Is it a plane? – it’s “Girl on a Plane”! Just sit back and join me on board… and check all the other plane… I mean, blog tour, stops!

More news

I also hope to pop-in to see a couple more bloggers later in August…details to be confirmed.

You can also follow me on Twitter and on my Facebook author page to keep up to date with my latest news and guest posts or just say hello and I’m sure to have a chat. I really enjoy procrastinating…I mean, socialising on social media.

And don’t forget to join my newsletter mailing list to keep up to date with my writing and other happenings. Just fill-in the sign-up form on this website!

Hint: I’m planning a special giveaway coming up soon, so don’t forget to subscribe.

More news soon!

Quote: Creativity is intelligence having fun - Albert Einstein

Creative life and mojo at 40 plus

Have you found your mojo in your creative life? I got back into creative writing about three years ago, and the impetus for me was the looming Big 4-0 deadline. I don’t know what it is about a significant birthday to light a fire under my butt, but it worked. I wanted to try writing a novel. A romance novel, since I had an idea revolving around relationships.

I did it. I’ve kept writing and have already found some success. But you know what? I did it with very little support from the world around me, apart from my fabulous husband.

As a woman ‘of a certain age’ i.e. forty one and three quarters, I loathe the assumptions that go with being a woman at this stage of life, let alone one who wants to tackle a creative project or a career change.

Here’s a few crazy assumptions, just for starters:

  • If you’re over about 30, you can’t start a brand new career because you’re probably ‘past it’.
  • If you’re a woman, you’ll only be worried about ‘settling down’ and being married/having babies/buying shoes/raising cats/collecting kitchen accessories.
  • If you’re interested in writing, you’ll only want to write (or read) ‘mummy blogs’ or ‘mummy porn’* (insert dismissive comment and raised eyebrows here).
  • If you like to read, you’re probably only reading romance novels, which as everyone knows are problematic or sexist or unrealistic or… (insert unfair assumption here).
  • If you are a mum, a wife, and a part-time worker, a woman who enjoys fashion, or cooking, or wine, whatever, you can’t be anything else.
  • Somehow your kids will be disadvantaged if you have any kind of creative life, or your relationship with your partner will suffer. So, you shouldn’t even try it.

That’s it, done and dusted, get back in your box, woman. As Alicia Silverstone would say in the movie Clueless, “As if!”.

As someone who decided at the age of thirty eight to tackle creative writing in a serious way, and who has gone at it with the tenacity of a multitasking mummy-ninja, I can tell you all of the above are such cliches they’re not even funny.

I believe I can achieve things. I’ve already had three distinct ‘careers’ and will probably have a couple more. I work hard and I’m always interested in learning something new. I am ‘settled’, married with kids, living a suburban life, but that’s not all I am. I like to read everything: news, think pieces, literary fiction, romance, science fiction, blogs, non-fiction. I enjoy reading light-hearted and romantic books, for entertainment.

I can be lots of things, and I will be, probably all at once. I’ve always believed, strangely enough, that I am a person. I am me. I’m good at writing, I love reading and thinking of creative ideas. Always have done, probably always will do. My age and my gender have nothing to do with it. It’s other people who have weird, narrow-minded opinions.

Just do it! Time waits for no woman

Sure, I’m busy. Sure, I have young children. Sure, there’s never enough hours in the day to do all the things I need to do, let alone the things I want to do. But that’s life. It rushes by at supersonic speed while you’re busy doing the washing or cleaning the kitchen, until all of a sudden it’s getting hard to remember the things you always wanted to do, but never found time for.

The good news is those things you never had time for are still there in your head. At least the potential things are. I realised that nobody has time, that you have to make time to write if it’s important to you. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather look back and think that I’m proud to have worked hard and written a book, rather than spent all of that time cleaning the floors.

All I needed to do was block out the negative voices and get started. For me, that internal decision was all it took. It was time. Time to start, time to get going, time to write.

If you’re thinking about writing – perhaps characters have whole conversations in your head over your morning coffee, or you overhear conversations in a café and you have to jot them down in a notebook, or you keep a journal – my advice is, just start.

Get creative. Write something. Anything. Maybe it will be a poem, or a romance novel. Maybe you’ll take an epic photograph. Maybe you’ll dive straight into the madness of writing a novel in a month or enter a writing contest like I did. Whatever you create, you’ll have something that never existed before in the world. Your work, your thoughts.

Here’s the thing about starting – it’s exciting. It opens up your mind to possibilities you may not have considered before. You may find that you have a whole pile of ideas waiting, based on your life experiences and the stories of people around you. There are benefits to having a few years under your belt!

Creative work can keep you sane

An unexpected by-product of a creative life, for me, is staying sane in an increasingly crazy world. Connecting to inner thoughts and writing them down, taking quiet time-out to read, away from television and other distractions or simply taking a walk and letting your mind unwind can all be helpful for creativity. They can also help reduce stress and keep you mentally well.

As a mother of two young children, I’ve found this surprising and most welcome. Carving time out for myself and my creative work has made me calmer, more mentally present and aware. And my kids love giving me crazy story ideas! I still need to write that book about an undercover, secret brick…

Define your own success

Success doesn’t have to be defined by best-seller status or winning awards. Although if some awards were thrown in my general direction, I’d probably reach out and try to catch them.

But success can be defined in many ways, such as finishing a first draft of a book or a new piece of art. That’s something a lot of people will never achieve. Or the goal could be to get that book polished and submit it to a publisher. Maybe it could simply be showing a short story to some readers and having them enjoy your work.

And you never know what might happen. One day, someone might read your work (or see your art, whatever medium you work in) and absolutely love it. Seriously, it could happen.

Here I am, having written (almost) three novels and a few shorter works, taking a leap and jumping in head first to the world of book publishing and being an author. My creative life is taking off. Wish me luck!


P.S. My kids didn’t starve and my husband didn’t leave me. But thanks for all the unsolicited comments and predictions of doom, naysayers and busybodies. #sarcasm

*P.P.S. I hate the term ‘mummy porn’ and believe it was invented by male book reviewers to belittle women writers who tackle sexual content…use that term in my presence at your peril!

P.P.P.S. My debut romantic comedy novel, Girl on a Plane, is being released by Avon Maze/HarperCollins UK on 18 July 2016. Hooray!

Prepare for take-off!

My debut contemporary romance/romantic comedy novel, Girl on a Plane, will be released globally as an e-book on 18 July 2016. As I batten down the hatches and prepare for take-off, I’ve been excited to have a bit of pre-release publicity.

A Book To Watch!

First of all, a massive thanks to the AusRomToday site for featuring my book as one of 5 Books To Watch in July. I’m in such great company too, with some fabulous Australian romance authors. I want to read all of these books, stat!

Check out the cool promo video here:

5 Books To Watch in July – AusRomToday

Hearts Talk article

Today, the July issue of Hearts Talk magazine hit the inboxes of about 1000 members of the Romance Writers of Australia. I was lucky enough to have a full-page article published in the magazine, outlining my path to publication following the We Heart New Talent contest win (with Avon Maze/HarperCollins UK).

Hopefully the aspiring and emerging authors who read it will find it interesting, to learn about the process from entering a contest, to winning, to getting the book ready for publication.

Here’s the full article, if you’d like to read it.

Prepare for take-off article in Hearts Talk magazine

Prepare for take-off article in Hearts Talk magazine


Soon, I’ll have something else exciting to share here, in the lead-up to release day. In the meantime, I’d love for you to pre-order Girl on a Plane, or sign-up to my newsletter mailing list on this page, for a couple of exclusives coming soon.

Girl on a Plane – social media cover reveal wrap-up

A few weeks ago, the team at my publisher, Avon Maze, digital first imprint of HarperCollins UK, organised a coordinated book cover reveal on social media. There was a great response, and here’s a snapshot from Twitter. I’m playing around with the Storify site, so check out a summary below.

More book news to come soon and the count down to release day is on! 22 more sleeps until 18th July launch date… but you can pre-order now!

Make sure to follow me on Twitter or follow Avon Books UK for more news and cool contests.

Woman freelancer on beach photo

6 reasons I quit my job to write

A few weeks ago, I made a big decision. Huge. It had been bubbling and brewing for quite some time in the back of my mind. I quit my day job to focus on writing. Gasp!

This is not to imply that I am in any way rich, or swanning about in a gold-plated bikini on a yacht, eating oysters and guzzling champagne. Nope. The husband and I have been working our behinds off for years to pay off our mortgage (done!) and we have enough money set aside to not freak out about minor set-backs such as kids needing dental work. We do, however, now need to rely on one main income and probably don’t have the cash to splash around on big holidays and stuff. And things.

I’ve been working for the same organisation for 10 years, and it struck me as a bit of a milestone. In much the same way that the big number 4-0 loomed at me a couple of years ago. That’s when I decided to get serious about fiction writing. For the 10 year work-a-versary, I thought, seriously, about how long I really wanted to stay and do the same thing.

I’ve had a long-winded career as a communications specialist and sometime marketing communications consultant. I know stuff about things, related to content writing, editing, PR, website structure, direct mail and print publications. Stuff. And things.

I know a lot about some of those things. Probably too much. It was time for a change, a fresh challenge and something to sink my teeth into. If I wasn’t going to do it in my forties, when would I?

So without further faffing about, here is my list of 6 reasons I quit my day job to focus on writing.

  1. Writing is fun. This might sound unimportant, but really it’s a BIG THING. I can’t tell you how many times someone at work had said, “that’s a big sigh”. I didn’t even realise all the air gushing was happening. Not a good sign.
  2. Money isn’t everything. Sure, it’s a big thing. But if I really wanted a six-figure salary and a team of people reporting to me, I could have had that a few years ago. I turned it down then, with good reason. I needed more time for my family, and that reason is as true now as it was then. We’ve been managing fine with an average income, not a super-stellar income.
  3. Work-work was killing my writing-work. This will be familiar to people with ‘brain jobs’. It would be easier to do something completely unrelated to writing at my day job, than to try to switch from dull corporate-speak writing to creative, descriptive writing. Pared-down technical or explanatory content and light and funny romance novels don’t really mix.
  4. I want to give writing a proper crack. By this I mean, I want to focus on it, complete a couple of manuscripts that have been hanging around for a year or so, and see what I can achieve. My debut novel, Girl on a Plane, is coming out in July, but I want to complete some other stories too!
  5. I love learning new things. Seriously, who learns all about writing a novel, social media and the ins and outs of the publishing industry in two years? I do! I love the challenge, and after working in one place and one industry for a long time, this part of my mind was crying out for something new.
  6. Commuting sucks! This is another reason that may sound silly, but each workday I was spending three hours in commuting time on overcrowded trains and dropping off kids at two different childcare locations. Over the course of a year, this was time-suckage on a major scale. I couldn’t get much writing done, because of the driving and then train-surfing (standing up, squished against other commuter-plebs). Now my kid drop-offs are much quicker and I’m straight back home to a quiet house to write.

So, long story short, I quit. Now I’m at home, trying to find a new routine defined by my own goals and timelines around my family life.

Was it a good decision, you may ask? So far, yes. It’s only been a couple of weeks, but I’ve written close to 11,000 words and my stress levels are much lower. The lack of money thing hasn’t reared it’s ugly head yet though…ask me in a few months.

By the way, if anyone wants to give me a gold-plated bikini or a yacht, I’ll be happy to acknowledge you in my next book. You can even be an international playboy or undercover princess/spy if you like.

Image courtesy of patrisyu at

Prepare for take-off graphic

Future shock! Seeing my book on the HarperCollins website

As cover reveals go, this one was pretty fun, because it was a complete surprise to the author. In other words, me. I had a severe case of future shock when I suddenly stumbled across my book cover online, a few weeks ago.

I was sitting in my writers group meeting at the Melbourne Romance Writers Group secret HQ, when my writer friend, P.J. Vye, googled me. Cheeky as that sounds, we’ve been friends for over a year now, so I was okay with it. The googling.

She was looking for my blog when what should appear in the search results? My brand spanking new book cover and synopsis on the HarperCollins UK website! I didn’t know it would be live online yet, considering I’d been asked to keep the cover under wraps.

Well, to say I was stunned would be an understatement. I’d have to grab my thesaurus and say I was staggered, shocked, confounded, dazed, amazed and stupified. Or to use Aussie slang talk, I was a stunned mullet. Strewth! But at the same time I was thinking…you little ripper!

Seeing my gorgeous book cover and MY NAME listed under ‘Authors’ on the HarperCollins site is basically a dream come true. I’ve been writing fiction seriously (as serious as I can be, anyway) for about three years, but it’s been a dream of mine to write a novel for many years before that. I’d say it harks back to when I was in Grade 2, when I wrote a story about time travel, dinosaurs, centaurs and a princess. Hmmm, I may have to revive that story idea.

And the other amazing shock…on the first day of pre-orders on Kobo, my book somehow made it up to number 3 on the Contemporary Women bestseller list! Check out my book, hob-nobbing with JoJo Moyes and Danielle Steel!

Kobo rank screenshot 18 April 2016

Screenshot of Girl on a Plane at number 3 on the Kobo Contemporary Women bestseller list, 18 April 2016.

I can’t wait to see how the book goes on Amazon and other sites. Exciting times!

Prepare for take-off graphic

Winner – We Heart New Talent contest and book launch madness!

carina logoPrintRGB-HarperImpulse-3

In 2015, Avon Maze, Harper Impulse and Carina UK ran a joint global writing contest to search for new romance writing talent. I entered the We Heart New Talent contest in February 2015 and now, my debut novel Girl on a Plane is being released globally as an e-book today, 18 July2015.

Woo-hoo! It’s been an exciting few months since I WON the We Heart New Talent contest run by HarperCollins UK. A few months later, I was offered a publishing contract with the digital-first imprint, Avon Maze.

Let me just backtrack a little… I entered a contest in February 2015 and after almost 18 months of gestation, my book-baby is born! How amazing is that? I’ll tell you what, it’s totally amazing to me, and I wrote the book.

How did I get here?

As a new-ish romance writer – I’ve been writing fiction seriously for nearly three years now – I’ve been lucky enough to participate in some fantastic writing workshops and events such as the Romance Writers of Australia conferences. These have been valuable learning and networking opportunities that were pure gold in terms of giving me direction in my writing career. I also absorbed writing articles and blogs almost by osmosis, subscribing to all sorts of feeds.

The first novel I attempted to write, I drafted in three months. Probably complete rubbish, if I look back on it now (I don’t want to, and you can’t make me). But the next story started as a 10,000 word short story or novelette, which I re-worked and then added words, until finally it became a full length contemporary romance novel. That’s the one that finally became Girl on a Plane.

I entered a lot of writing contests. I mean, a lot. Fifteen or sixteen contests in about two years, which is pretty exhausting-sounding if I think about it. So I try not to think about it. But the reality was, those contests were a training ground for me as a writer. I learned how to write a ‘hook’, a blurb, an interesting first sentence, how to format a manuscript and how to write a synopsis (sort of – I still don’t want to write one and you can’t make me). And I received pages and pages of notes from more experienced authors, which were amazing feedback.

My big break was entering and WINNING the We Heart New Talent contest run by HarperCollins UK in 2015. Several months after entering, I received an email from an editor from HarperCollins in London which was an OMG moment… followed by many months of re-writing and eventually going through the editorial process.

The team at Avon Maze also produced a sensational book cover. It’s so graphic, it stands out well branding-wise on Amazon and everywhere online. Which brings us to the marketing side of the equation.

Promo Central – welcome to your destination!

Once I signed my book contract (SQUEE!), I soon realised the importance of planning and building my marketing promotions online. As a new digital-first author, online content and social media interaction are vital for building your profile. Promo Central seems to be my new address! I don’t mind, in fact I enjoy the promotional side of the publishing cycle, from what I’ve experienced so far.

I’ve had a bit of fun playing around with promo graphics in Canva and also commissioned an awesome teaser trailer video from Trailermade Production. Check it out:


Release day articles and blogs

I’ve also had some fabulous promotional opportunities that I’d love to share with you all again – if you haven’t already stopped by my Facebook and Twitter profiles.

AusRom Today – Tell Us Your Backstory feature

Australian Romance Readers Association (ARRA) release day blog

Melbourne Romance Writers Guild blog – Fun In the Sun or Grey Clouds on the Horizon?

Where to next?

I’ll be continuing the book promotion, blog writing, and maybe get some actual fresh-words down on paper for my next book! Yes, that’s right, somewhere in between all the exciting pre-release madness, I’ve managed to write another almost complete novel. It’s going to need a lot of editing though, so once I have my debut book-honeymoon love-goggles off and I can think clearly again, I’ll crack on with editing the new one.

I’ll probably write some short stories or novellas too, since I have a few more ideas bubbling away in the background. Exciting times!

Girl on a Plane has now taken off — go to my Books page for all buy links!