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Welcome to the Dark Side!

We are writers mainly from Australia and New Zealand who write speculative fiction with romantic elements. Be it fantasy, paranormal, dark urban fantasy, futuristic and everything in between.

Saturday 31 March 2012

Enchanted Orb: Shona Husk

Welcome to the Enchanted Orb - a look at the inspiration behind the DarkSider's tales.

Our guest today is Shona Husk. Shona's had a number of novels published and finds her inspiration in a number of places. Take it away, Shona!


I get inspiration from many things. Music, movies, dreams, a picture, something someone said…the usual places for a writer. However there is always one thing guaranteed to spark an idea that is quite odd: a revision letter.

There is something revisions that not only gives fresh life into a story, but also kicks off a new ideas. I’d never stopped to think about why until I was invited to do this post, so here are a few reasons why I think revision letters make a spark. You might find them useful when you are:

A) looking for a new idea or

B) have just received the revision letter from hell and haven’t seen the upside yet.

Editors see the big picture. Step back and look at the type of stories you are writing. Do you have favourite archetypes? Maybe try something a little different—I’m not suggesting jumping to the opposite end the spectrum, just one step over.

Play to your strengths but challenge your weaknesses. Look at what editors/reviewers/readers/crit partners say you do well (it won’t be everything and they won’t all agree but there will be a theme). Now look at that revision letter(s) and see if there’s a common theme of things that aren’t working, then set out to stamp on it.

Thinking about how to fix/tweak/re-write one story seems to set the creative juices on boil instead of the usually simmer. Maybe because the mind is searching for solution and while most won’t make it into the book they will find a use by being a jumping point for something else.

Finally let’s face the truth that there is nothing more tempting than a sparkly new idea when neck deep in edits J

Thursday 29 March 2012

Magic Thursday with Astrid Cooper postponed

Life is pretty hectic at the moment for Astrid, so we have postponed her giveaway to a later date.

Watch this space.

Thank you.

Tuesday 27 March 2012

Good News Day!

Welcome to this week's good news.....

A quiet one, but cool nonetheless.


Maree Anderson
Freaks of Greenield High (YA) won the YA category of Gulf Coast RWA Silken Sands Self-Published Star. Woohoo, Maree! You star, you.


Join us next week for some more good news.

Monday 26 March 2012

Magic Thursday Winner: Winter of the Passion Flower

The winner for Annie Seaton's  Winter of the Passion Flower is:

Imogene Nix

Congratulations, Imogene.
Can you please contact Annie with your details at: annieseaton26 @gmail. com (no spaces)

Thanks to all for commenting.

Friday 23 March 2012

What We Are Reading

Welcome to the March What We Are Reading column. Today, we have Louise Cusack and Janni Nell  

~A Princess of Mars~ Edgar Rice Burroughs

I adored Burroughs “Barsoom” series as a teenager and wanted to re-read it before seeing the new John Carter movie, so I began with A Princess of Mars which opens in 1886 with Virginian born John Carter, a Confederate gentleman, being transported to Mars.  Once there, Carter falls foul of giant green Martians, rescues the very human looking Princess Dejah Thoris and falls in love with her before leading forces in a planetary war to protect her.

This book was first published as a novel almost a century ago, in 1917.  The language is gorgeous, and the vaguely patriarchal attitudes (her tiny hands, the fairer sex) have to be viewed in the context of the time the books were written.  The style, as well, with big info dumps and long dialogue ‘set pieces’ wouldn’t be tolerated by modern publishers.  Oh, but the story!  I remember well my rapture on first reading these books, how I thrilled to John Carter’s inherent bravery, and the fact that he’d rather kill a warring opponent than a ‘brute beast’ (I think that was the vegetarian in me coming out).  He had a pet Martian dog, and was a true action adventure hero, a man’s man, yet when he met the princess and fell in love with her he was endearingly hopeless. 

Early in their romance he inadvertently insulted her, being unaware of their customs, and when she wouldn’t speak to him he was gutted.  In his narrative he said:

“…my foolish pride kept me from making any advances.  I verily believe that a man’s way with women is in inverse ratio to his prowess among men.  The weakling and saphead have often great ability to charm the fair sex, while the fighting man who can face a thousand real dangers unafraid, sits hiding in the shadows like some frightened child.

He knew he was putty in her small, fragile hands, and for the first time (in the eighties) I was reading male viewpoint in what was for all intents and purposes a romance novel, and finally getting to understand why men act like idiots when they’re in love!  Mills and Boon novels at the time were all in female viewpoint, and in any case I craved fantasy worlds and adventures.  So these books gave me everything I loved, along with insights into the male psyche beyond battle and bloodshed.  That male perspective on falling in love is something I’ve brought to my own Shadow Through Time trilogy, alongside the adventure that makes fantasy stories so thrilling.

I’m looking forward to seeing what Disney do with the John Carter story, but I doubt it will live up to the fantasies of a hormonal fifteen year old who fell hard and fast for ‘the clean limbed fighting man of Virginia’.  Do read these books.  They’re true classics, and deservedly so.
Janni Nell

~The Passage~ Justin Cronin

Once in a while you read a book that makes you want to grab randoms in the street and say:

You have to read this!

“The Passage” by Justin Cronin is a big sprawling futurist/apocalyptic/rip-roaring read. I loved every one of its 900+ pages. It left me wanting more, which is great because this is the first in a trilogy. (Ridley Scott has optioned the screen rights.) If you enjoy action, adventure, a multitude of great characters, a credible threat to society and a thoroughly detailed world, this book is for you.

If that’s not enough - this book is well written. Really well written. The pacing is perfect. The descriptions are detailed without being boring. The action scenes are truly nail-biting and the main characters are totally cheer-worthy. I know, I know, I’m gushing, but this book just blew me away. It’s easily in my top ten of all time. Bring on the sequel.

Thursday 22 March 2012

Magic Thursday: Sassy and Strong Heroines

by Annie Seaton

When I decided to write my steampunk story, Winter of the Passion Flower, my heroine was constantly in my head, telling me what to do! She wanted to be the one in charge, the one who called the shots, and the one who did most of the adventuring. Thus it became a very easy story to write as Indigo de Vargas y Irausquínno pushed the swashbuckling action to the limit.

One of the concerns when you are writing about a strong heroine, particularly in the romance genre, when most readers love an alpha male is to be able to balance the strength of your hero and heroine so that the action and the romance are believable and satisfying to the reader.

Indigo appeared in my mind, all of her characteristics already in place. Being the ultimate panster and one who does not take time to do character sheets and plotting, my characters evolve through their actions and this really works effectively for me. When the book was finished, I reflected on Indigo’s character and tried to marry it to words that would be characteristic of a strong (and sassy) heroine.

Is she a risk-taker, is she brave, and does she have attitude? Tick...yes to all of those.
Does she have a strong survival instinct in the face of adversity?
Does she passionately believe in a cause?
Does she have the respect and admiration of the other characters?
Does she recognize when she makes mistakes?
Tick... yes to all of those.

Sassy is defined as impudent, vigorous and lively and it can be very easy to overdo the ‘sass’ to the point where a character can become unlikeable. Sassiness must be balanced with strength by a soft side, and an underlying reason for the sassiness must be demonstrated. A passionate belief in a cause, where the heroine fights for truth and justice, whether it be on a global scale or within a relationship must provide a backdrop for each of the sassy heroine’s actions and reactions.

So how does an author convey the strength of a strong and sassy heroine, keeping her as a believable and likeable character? One of the most satisfying reviews of Winter of The Passion Flower recognised Indigo’s strength:

"I especially like that Indigo is the scientist and I love that Indigo needs to rescue Zane! Both characters were light and fun and fit in perfectly with this swashbuckling plot."
(The Romance Reviews)

Detailed descriptions of both setting and physical characteristics are very important. The use of strong verbs, both when describing the actions of the heroine and in her dialogue are essential to provide a backdrop to successful characterization.

Strong dialogue, where the heroine shows her intelligence, and demonstrates her ability to make the right decisions under pressure, can convey much about her strength of character in very few words and can be a most effective tool for telling the reader about her.

Having the respect of secondary characters is integral to the success of a strong female character and this can be demonstrated successfully though both dialogue and action. Mr and Mrs Grimoult in Winter of the Passion Flower came alive for me in their love and respect for Indigo. It is essential that the soft side of the strong character comes to the fore when required and the reader gets a balanced view of the character.

“Madam, here are your goggles,” insisted Mrs. Grimoult, holding them out to Indigo as she peered down through the transparent floor of the dirigible. Indigo glared at her as she observed Mrs. Grimoult roll her eyes at her husband.
“Madam, the putrid air will not be good for the baby’s health,” coaxed Mr. Grimoult. Indigo reached over, donning the goggles, without a word, taking great care not to disturb her magnificent hairstyle.

When there is a fight or an action scene, it is essential to use the right creative technique to convey action. Short sharp sentences are effective. The heroine must always win! Indigo is physically strong and this made it very easy to convey her strength of character, which complements her physical strength and size.


"She bit. She slashed. She screamed. No holds barred, she fought dirty. Her life depended on it. Using her fingernails, she gave a grunt of satisfaction as skin ripped beneath them. Her adversary released her as she ran for the road, pulling the scarab controller from her bag."

The relationship of a sassy heroine with the hero must always be full of fireworks. After all, he is threatening her independence and making her feel emotions that she is unused to, as well as threatening her control. They must always be at odds—both physically and in dialogue.
I love this moment between Indigo and Captain Dogooder...
"Their eyes locked, and she moistened her lips in a slow and sensuous movement. Indigo moved in closer, and the captain’s eyes darkened.
She bit him sharply on the lip as she brought her knee up hard to his groin. Pushing him away, Indigo spat words at him. “You will learn your place in the scheme of things. Do not ever touch me without invitation. Do not ask questions about things best left unsaid.”

Summer of the Moon Flower, the sequel to Winter of the Passion Flower is set ten years later and follows the adventures of Sofia, Indigo’s younger half sister. It has been an interesting journey, as Sofia is petite and fragile and writing her as a strong character in an action packed romance, when she doesn’t have the physical strength of Indigo has been challenging.

Again, setting, physical description of characters and the use of strong dialogue have been essential in the creation of a vivid picture of her personality, and to convey her strength of character. Sofia is directing me through a process where she is more proactive than Indigo. Most of the action scenes and interactions in Winter of the Passion Flower were reactive; in the sequel Sofia is much more in charge of what happens!

Make your sassy heroines human... let them make mistakes, let them show their emotions, give them a soft side. So...when you are creating your strong and sassy heroines, make them the heroines that we all secretly envy!

Enter the draw for a copy of Winter of the Passion Flower. Who can tell me what is the reason for the voyage to the Amazon?

The answer can be found in the excerpt at Lyrical Press.

Wednesday 21 March 2012


Allow me to introduce to you, Kylie Griffin in our fortnightly "A Bite Of..." with her novel VENGEANCE BORN.

1. Can you, in less than five words describe your book, VENGEANCE BORN?

An intriguing fantasy romance.

2. What inspired you to write it?

The inspiration was the heroine, Annika. She first “appeared” to me exactly as readers discover her in the opening scene of the book - descending into father’s dungeon about to meet a human Light Blade warrior for the first time, about to begin her escape and achieve her goal of beginning a new life.

I played a game of ‘what if…’ to learn more about her. It seems a strange thing to say that I had fun considering the possibilities of a crossbreed child born as the result of a rape. But the idea of a bastard child bred for revenge against an old enemy gave me a huge range of character traits and plot lines to play with.

How would the environment influence her development? Could any one person or influence balance her horrendous upbringing? How could they or it affect her? Which traits would dominate?

I decided that Annika would have strength and courage backed by a determination to free herself – there would be no waiting around for someone to save her (I love a strong heroine) – but, because of her upbringing, she’d also harbor a flawed sense of worth and need for acceptance.

And so, VENGENACE BORN came into being…*grin*

And without further ado...here's the snippet!

“You drink blood, just like the Na’Reish?”

Annika flinched at the hatred in Kalan’s voice. His emerald-colored gaze narrowed and his hand flexed. He’d have drawn a weapon had it been sheathed at his waist. The distance between them across the clearing seemed far too small. She tensed, preparing to flee if he lunged at her.

“No, not just like the Na’Reish.” She hated how her voice wavered. “I eat food just like you, but I need blood, too. I won’t survive if I don’t drink it.” Disgust flashed across his face. “Do you think I like it? I’d stop if I could. I’ve tried, believe me.”

The face of a human boy rose like a specter in her mind, his mouth stretched wide in a silent scream. He’d had such vivid blue eyes, like the color of the sky on a sunny winter morning. Shuddering, she wrapped her arms around her waist.

“I haven’t drunk human blood since I was a child.”

She blinked and the image changed. The same beautiful eyes, no longer so vivid but glassy in death, his skin pale and waxy, one cheek smeared with a rivulet of blood. Saliva flooded her mouth.

Annika swallowed hard and shoved the memory back into the darkness where it belonged. Twice she cleared her throat before she was able to speak. “The Na’Reish took great pleasure in locking me in a room with a human to watch me feed when hunger overwhelmed me. They thought it . . . amusing.”

Disbelief and revulsion warred in the expression on Kalan’s face. The hot rush of familiar embarrassment streaked through her.

“You promised to listen with an open mind.” With her heart pounding in her chest, it took every shred of strength she had to stand and face him instead of running away. “Do you think I liked what they did to me? They turned me into an animal. I hated them for it and I hated myself for letting them do that to me.”

Unable to remember a time when she hadn’t had to justify her own existence, she avoided his gaze, too raw from the memories to let him see her humiliation, and laughed bitterly. “Their little game cured me for life. I swore never to drink human blood again. I abhor the practice.”

“You don’t look like you’re starving.”

His reply cut like a whip. Her temper flared. “That’s because I drink animal blood.” She’d been mocked for that, too. In the world of the Na’Reish, she was despised for drinking animal blood instead of human blood and the humans despised her for having to drink any blood at all. “I wouldn’t take your vein, human, even if I were dying.”

“You’re part-demon.” His tone was flat, unconvinced.

“So, you’re saying that the nature of the beast can’t be controlled?”

“You weren’t able to stop yourself from attacking and feeding on a human.”

“I was a child!” Her cheeks warmed even as she ordered herself not to react, not to show pain, or shame, or anger.

All the taunting, the name calling and beatings paled to the horror and loathing she’d felt once she’d come down from her blood-high and discovered the lifeless body of the blue-eyed boy lying on the ground next to her, his throat shredded and torn out. With her tears mingling with the blood smeared around her mouth, she’d vowed never to drink human blood again, to die before letting herself become the animal she’d shown herself to be.

Her body trembled. How many times had she relived that savage attack? Too many, and not enough. Never enough to atone for her weakness.

“You can stay here if you want”—she forced the words past stiff lips—“but being caught by a Patrol is a certainty if you do.”

Without waiting for a response, she turned on her heel and strode into the forest. Being born a half-blood wasn’t her fault. Her throat tightened. Would she ever find a place in this world where she felt at peace? Where no one judged her for who or what she was?

Moonlight filtered through the thick canopy but even without it she’d have been able to find her way. Enhanced sight, inherited from her demon father. Yet another reason for Kalan to condemn and reject her.

Why was she letting his attitude affect her so much? Both human and Na’Reish despised her. She’d suffered their hatred and disgust all her life. Why had she expected this human to be different?

She blinked back tears. Perhaps because she had healed and then saved him. What did she have to do to make anyone value her beyond what her gifts could provide them?

And if that excerpt has left you gagging for more - here's where you can find Kylie and her books...

Website: http://www.kyliegriffin.com

Blog: www.kyliegriffinromance.blogspot.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Kylie-Griffin-paranormal-romance/152760788151938

Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/KylieGriffin1

GoodReads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4882841.Kylie_Griffin

Shelfari: http://www.shelfari.com/Kylie_Griffin-author

Penguin – http://www.penguin.com.au/products/9780425245361/vengeance-born

Amazon.com – http://www.amazon.com/Vengeance-Born-Novel-Light-Blade/dp/0425245365/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1324458243&sr=1-1

The Book Depository – http://www.bookdepository.com/Vengeance-Born-Kylie-Griffin/9780425245361

B&N – http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/vengeance-born-kylie-griffin/1102496659

Fishpond – http://www.fishpond.com.au/Books/Vengeance-Born-Kylie-Griffin/9780425245361?cf=3&rid=335575780&i=1&keywords=vengeance+born

Books-a-Million – http://www.booksamillion.com/p/Vengeance-Born/Kylie-Griffin/9780425245361?id=5244581890012#publishers-weekly%C2%AE%20reviews

Indie Bound – http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780425245361

Tuesday 20 March 2012

Good News Day!

Welcome to this week's good news....


Shona Husk
Kiss of the Goblin Prince got 5/5 from the Romance Studio! Here is a snippet:

"This is the second book in the Shadowlands series. I strongly suggest starting with the first, not only because it will explain a lot, but also because it's just as good as this one. Ms. Husk has woven a tale of magic and myth, love and sacrifice. Her goblin and magic lore is fascinating and it creates an intricate and richly detailed plot. Dai is a tortured soul. When everything he's worked for comes to fruition, he finds little comfort in being human again. The courage he shows in facing his past is awe inspiring. This is primarily his story. There is love story here; but it's subtle. Love is what fuels his courage. Amanda has spent the last several years wrapped up in the grief of her husband's death and her daughter's chronic illness. I loved her compassion and honesty. Dai and Amanda's relationship develops slowly. There is such a strong connection. This was dark tale that kept me enthralled until the very end. The writing is smooth and the author delves into so many interesting topics. There is a lot going on but it's never confusing. Ms Husk was new author for me when I read The Goblin King and I have waited eagerly for this book; I wasn't disappointed. I highly recommend this story if your looking for a fantasy romance filled with depth and emotion. Can't wait for the next!"

Jenny Schwartz
A great review for A Clockwork Christmas by VampChix & Bite Club. Here's a snippet:

"Wanted: One Scoundrel was another excellent story from Jenny Schwartz, and I can always count on her writing to bring something new and creative to the page. Esme and Jed were so much fun, but then again, how can you not have fun reading about a suffragette that hires what she thinks is a scoundrel to act as her voice in a tight knit men only community? Add in blackmail, a kidnapping, some cool inventions, and a Gaston-like villain and you get a fun-filled adventure with a gooey romantic center. Loved it!"


Imogene Nix
Star of the Fleet, the fourth story in the Starline series, will be released in August 2012.


Christina Phillips
Christina has dipped her toe in the self-publishing pool and has released Touch of the Demon, the first in her new Sensual Seduction Series. A 10k word erotic paranormal romance, Touch of the Demon is just $0.99 at Smashwords and Amazon.

 Dark angel Rafe travels back in time to destroy the woman who is fated to bring untold chaos to the cosmos. Instead, he finds Celeste, a child of the Earth Goddess, who is sworn to protect the one Rafe seeks. He mistakes her for his quarry, but an irresistible attraction prevents him from taking her soul. And although Celeste holds the one weapon capable of banishing Rafe from Earth forever, she's unable to deny the overwhelming desire to possess this creature from hell. They come together in a frenzy of passion, each believing they are changing destiny by their actions. But when the Earth Goddess appears they discover her plans are more far reaching than either had imagined.

Previously published by The Wild Rose Press in 2009.


Lilliana Rose
Lilliana has had another poem, Ball,  published in InDaily. Check it out here.

Eleni Konstantine
The audio version of Strange Brew is now available from Antipodean SF (radio show 165 alpha). It's at around 23:00.


Tracey O'Hara
We have the cover reveal of Sin's Dark Caress, the third book in the Dark Brethren trilogy. Fab!

Tracey has also received the cover flats today - how cool do they fanned out.

Keri Arthur
Keri has the cover for book 4 of The Dark Angels series, Darkness Hunts.


Shona Husk
Kiss of the Goblin King was up for the favourite 5 heart read of last week on the Romance Studio.

Jenny Schwartz
A Clockwork Christmas was nominated for best romance anthology at The Romance Reviews. You have to sign in to vote.

Congrats, everyone!

Join us next week for some more great news. 

Monday 19 March 2012

Magic Thursday winner: Louise Cusack giveaway

Thank you to everyone who commented on Louise's blog post.

The winner for Destiny of Light was chosen by the scientific method of pulling names out of a hat. And the winner is...

Tsana Dolichva

Congratulations Tsana.

Please email Louise at mail @louisecusack .com (no spaces) and she will organise this with you.

Sunday 18 March 2012

Weekly Overview!


Mon 19 Mar
Winner announced for Louise's Destiny of the Light.

Tues 20

Wed 21
A BITE OF... with Kylie Griffin

Thur 22
MAGIC THURSDAY - Annie Seaton with giveaway of Winter of the Passion Flower.

Fri 23

(where we've been this week)








  • Why don't you 'friend' us over on the Facebook page? Imogene Nix is also having some fun with covers as our header.

  • Apologies to Annie Seaton for putting the wrong date for her release of Winter of The Passion Flower. It's due for release TODAY - 19th March (not August - I think I have conference on the brain!)

Have a great week everyone!

check out all our books on our dsdu-books shelf:
DarkSide DownUnder's book lists (dsdu-books shelf)