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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 27 January 2018

Darklight On ... Donna Maree Hanson

Today's Darklight On is ... Donna Maree Hanson

Welcome, Donna

When I rule the world (or think I do)

Sometimes I think I must be crazy with all these people and places in my head. Before I started writing in earnest in 2000, I suspected I was crazy. Then I started writing and fantasising became a legitimate activity. I was content now. I didn’t try to escape because I was unhappy, or bored or whatever. I wrote and I also interacted happily with others. Perhaps it is therapy!

When I write, I rule those worlds and those characters I create. Nothing can beat that feeling. If you think about it, in the normal course of life, we don't have much control about external things that happen to us and we only make the decisions about things that we can control ourselves and sometimes even that doesn't work. Who hasn’t had a decision be the wrong one or have it go bad or throw up something unexpected?

At times, when I write a story can get a little bit out of control or the characters can. I don't know where that comes from. I mean I’m writing the story so I should. But sometimes a character decides something or something happens—a monster walks across the stage and all my plans blow up in my face.

I think I rule the worlds that I create and I move the characters around to where I want them to go—most of the time.

My unconscious has a role to play in that because there are things that happen that I just don't expect. Sometimes I have to travel this unexpected path to see where it leads. Once this happened to me and it took me four months to decide that the strange turn of events was the right way to go. The story was much better because of it. That was in my early writing days.

So do I rule these worlds and characters or not? I have a choice to press the backspace key to erase these unexpected turn of events. Maybe that’s the fun part of writing from the seat of your pants. I plan but only generally. I’m not a scene by scene or chapter by chapter planner/writer. I do get a point where I have to map out what’s happening and that helps.

Part of creating to my mind is running with these random ideas. The story is so much more exciting to write. If I’m kept guessing while I’m writing I think the reader will be too.

The new stuff that comes out when I’m writing is the most fulfilling for me. I enter a space where I create. I call it the ‘zen zone’ and I come away thinking “Wow! Just wow!” 

That’s better than drugs!

So I pat myself on my shoulder and say. I rule these worlds and all of my characters do my bidding and come bask in my glory. Cough!

And, then one of my editors, in this case a dominatrix who likes to beat me senseless over the head with my evil deeds, has something to say. For example, with Deathwings (part three of the Dragon Wine series) a recent book of mine, the editor didn't like some of the things that Danton, a key player, was saying and how he was saying it. At first, I had a little chuckle over this and then I took what she was saying seriously. Obviously, Danton is a favourite character of hers. He is one of mine too. She gave me an insight to how readers view him and the expectations of him as a character. He’s a bit of a rogue but also a gentleman. So I took her advice and rewrote that section. But it still makes me smile that she cared enough about him to comment like that.

So maybe I have assistance in ruling the world?


Deliciously dark fantasy…Deathwings, Dragon Wine Part Three 

Life on the ravaged world of Margra is more difficult than ever… Salinda and Garan blasted the evil Gercomo into the sky. Except … he didn’t die, he transformed into a dragon. Final moonfall looms ever closer and the world is on the brink of destruction. 

Gercomo’s vile influence spreads among his dragon herd and he is reaching for power in both the human and dragon worlds.

Salinda has the means to stop him and save the world. 

And Gercomo wants her dead.

"Shatterwing has all the fantasy ingredients I love: tormented heroes, a truly twisted villain - and a brand new take on dragons!" Glenda Larke, (award winning author of The Stormlord Trilogy)

"Dark and compelling, with strong characters and a sense of grim inevitability that pulls you along with the story." Craig Cormick, (award-winning author of the Shadow Master Series.)

Buy Links: Dragon Wine Series

About the Author: Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter


Thanks, Donna

Tuesday 16 January 2018

DarkSider News for January: Part 2!

Welcome to the latest DarkSider News!

The year is rolling off to a great start ... 


The Queen's Game by C.M. Simpson is a short story set in the Pixie Dust and Trollhunter world, and explores the darker side of the Trollhunter tales. It was released by C.M. Publishing on 5th January. 

Never get involved with the Otherworld Fey. Take my word for it. I saved the Queen of Summer, and was betrothed to a lord of Winter by way of thanks—and then the human underworld got involved. So what do I do, when every choice is bad? What would youchoose: death by troll, or the mercy of an elf?

Heroines & Hellions 
is a box set of which contains the story Dead Certain by  Kim Cleary. It was published on on 2nd January. 


22 Kickass Heroines.
22 Exclusive, Full-length Urban Fantasy and Fantasy Novels.
0 Damsels in Distress.

Do you like your leading ladies to save the day...or raze it?

No matter which you prefer, this set is brimming with 20 magical stories (many BRAND NEW) told by some of the leading voices of urban fantasy and fantasy in the industry, including several New York Times and USA Today bestselling authors!

If you want strong female leads who strike back against the captivating worlds of vampires, elementals, fiends, and paranormal monsters, then you're ready to charge into the adventures of HEROINES & HELLIONS, a pure Urban Fantasy/Fantasy collection!

Available from Amazon US | Amazon Aus | Kobo | iBooks | B&N | Google

A Planet's Ransom by Carlie Simonsen is book 2 in the Space Adventure series. It was released by C.M. Publishing on 13th January. 

Made hostages for a world whose international leaders didn’t know how to behave, we ended up on a new world, one we have to make our own, where every step of civilisation has to be earned, all over again. It’s meant to be a world to hide the secret of our survival—but not all the aliens believe we have a right to survive. Torn between two rival factions of an alien race, we have to save our keepers, defeat our hunters, and get a message to the stars.

And that’s just if we want to live.

Non-paranormal titles

Secret Confessions: Down and Dusty is the complete collection of short stories including one by our own Mel Teshco and Rhyll Biest AND Elizabeth Dunk (aka Nicole R. Murphy). It was published by Escape Publishing on 12th January.

Welcome to the heart — and heat — of Australia…

They say that no one has secrets in a small town — these women prove them wrong.
Eight stories from some of Australia’s hottest writers in Australia’s hottest genre. From the bar stools of the local pub to the wide open plains of the biggest stations in the world, these tales travel the dusty roads to the heart of Australia and the women who understand how to work hard — and play even harder.

In the latest in the wildly successful Secret Confessions series from Escape Publishing, the women of Down & Dusty invite you into their lives — and their bedrooms.

Casey: Rachael Johns
Lucky: Cate Ellink
Kelly: Fiona Lowe
Brooke: Eden Summers
Clarissa: Mel Teshco
Skye: Rhyll Biest
Maree: Elizabeth Dunk
Frankie: Jackie Ashenden

Available from: Amazon US | Amazon Aus | B&N iBooks | Google Play | Kobo 

His Outback Nanny by Annie Seaton is book 3 in the Prickle Creek series. It was published by Entangled Publishing on 15th January.

Jemima Smythe is over the world of fashion. But when her dream of teaching falls through, Jemmy is determined to show her hometown she’s ready to put down roots. Three beautiful and boisterous kids in need of a nanny offer her an opportunity to prove just that. But their smoking-hot dad, Ned, offers her another—become his wife, as a matter of convenience only.

Ned McCormack is at his wits’ end. A single father to three kids, he quit the city and moved home to the Australian Outback in order to spend more quality time with his family. Unfortunately, the farm needs a lot of work. Just when he’s ready to give up, help comes unexpectedly in the form of a supermodel mistaken as his wife-to-be.

Not a bad arrangement, if only they can stick to the rules of their strictly-business marriage—no kissing and absolutely no falling in love allowed.

Available from: Amazon US | Amazon Aus 


Dirty Sexy Space: First Chapter Collection by Mel Teshco, Shona Husk, and Denise Rossetti is a collection of -you guessed it-  first chapters of all the books in the the Dirty Sexy Space series (previously published as the ES Siren series). The series will be coming in February.  

The titles are:
  • Yours to Uncover
  • Yours to Command 
  • Yours to Desire
  • Mine to Hold
  • Mine to Keep
  • Mine to Serve
  • Ours to Embrace
  • Ours to Share
  • Ours to Save

This first chapter collection is currently free at Instafreebie or  Books2read.


The first three books in the Dirty Sexy Space series are available for pre-order now. They expected for publication on the 5th February.

Yours to Uncover by Mel Teshco is book 1. 

He’s a hardened criminal … and her biggest ally.

It's the year 2202. Earth is grossly overpopulated and seriously polluted. Rita Songworth has spent half her twenty-two years trying to escape the dying planet. It's taken the last five of those years to realize making it in the hard-ass infantry is her only way out, via space transporter Earth Ship Siren.

But the journey to Unity, the new colony, isn't easy. Rita has to resist an attraction to hard, brutish prisoner, Tristan MacFallan, whose masterful hands create more than the beautiful art he's been assigned to make. His forbidden touch affects her profoundly and he sees things in her no man ever has before. But obeying Zane, her ex-lover and malicious lieutenant, who is appointed to keeping the prisoners under guard, comes at a high price.

Is she willing to sacrifice everything to keep her secret and her lover safe?

Pre-order links at: Books2Read 

Yours to Command by Shona Husk is book 2. 

He would do anything to protect her, if only she'd let him. 

Corporal Sienna Jade wasn't given a choice about joining the mission to Unity. Seen as a troublemaker by the military after reporting an assault by a senior officer, the army wanted her gone. Sienna resents the army for assigning her to Earth Ship Siren, and suspects the fleet's Unity mission will fail. But others would do anything to escape Earth ...

Alex Tariel knew his only chance to get a place on ES Siren was as a prisoner, so he stole water rations. As a former construction foreman, his skills make him a valuable prisoner on board, but still a prisoner unable to control his own life. Instead of keeping his head down, he gets involved in the boxing fights set up for gambling privilege tokens, the only currency aboard ship among the prisoners.

Getting patched up by Corporal Jade might be the best thing that's happened to Alex on the trip so far, but becoming her ship husband puts him between her and the lieutenant who tried to kill her for kicks on Earth. While Sienna tries to keep control of her feelings for Alex, Alex would do anything to protect her, if only she'd let him.

As ES Siren faces its first crisis, a little trust and love goes a long way

Pre-order links at: Books2Read

Yours to Desire by Denise Rossetti is book 3. 

A man more potent than any drug.

It's 2202 and on board ES Siren, the brilliant Doctor Lily Kwan has worked in secret to develop an antidote for the aphrodisiac rape drug, sexmeth.

She'd be overjoyed if it wasn't for an embarrassing problem: the antidote has no effect on her extraordinary reaction to Connor Madison, the Siren's tough quartermaster. Scientifically, it should be impossible, but the man's a raging fever in her blood. If a single dark glance sets Lily on fire, a kiss might kill her dead – but what a way to go!

A former gang rat from the slums of a dying world, Con came up the hard way, so when geeky Doctor Kwan tops his hit list of possible drug runners, nothing's going to save her—not her family's money, nor her clever mind.

Not even the smile in her eyes.

Pre-order at: iBooks | B&N | Kobo


Break the Rules by Clare Boston is now being made into an audio version and will be released in 2018. It is book 1 of The Flanagan Sisters

Bridget Flanagan knows how to assess risks, but are the consequences of exposing her heart too dangerous?

Bridget has a passion for safety and in the world of oil refineries that makes her great at her job. So when her big promotion goes to someone else, she heads out on the town to forget her troubles. Jack Gibbs seems like the perfect man to distract her.

At least until Monday morning when she discovers Jack is her new boss. There's no way she's going to keep seeing him, no matter the connection between them. She's been burned before.

Jack can't understand why Bridget's so against their relationship. They positively sizzled during their one night together. He knows he has to be careful now she reports to him, but she tempts him in every way.

Can Jack convince Bridget to give him a chance, or is the risk too high?​

Congratulations to all our DarkSiders!

Thanks for joining in our news. We'll see you next time...

Thursday 11 January 2018

Magic Thursday: You can't judge a book by its cover, right? Umm, Wrong.

by HelzKat Designs (aka Eleni Konstantine)

In this blog post, I talk about reader perception of covers. In a future blog post in 2018, I'll talk about cover design itself.

The saying 'You can't judge a book by its cover' is well, wrong. People do and will continue to judge a book by its cover. It's the first thing that attracts a reader's eye. Or not.

In art, what one person is attracted to is not what another will be, but in the world of book covers, it's not just about the art, it's about the promise and message a reader gets from the overall cover. Each cover sends a message - I am an 'x' type of book.

For example, have a look the snapshot from our Covers page on our website.

What do you see?

Well, since this is the DarkSide DownUnder, most of the covers have the fantasy, paranormal, sci-fi look about them. The others reflect the genre they represent most notably, romance.

These covers give a short-hand to the reader of what type of story is inside the covers.

Now, since there are mixed genres as well, it's not easy to tell from the cover if it's an urban fantasy or paranormal romance every single time, but there are clues.

From this selection, say you were looking for:
  • a sci-fi romance, you'd gravitate to Crashed on an Ice World, by Anna Hackett (planet & couple on the cover) or The Star of Eternity by Imogene Nix (alien looking woman on the cover). 
  • a paranormal mystery, you'd look at  Secrets, Spells & Murder by Janni Nell as there's a modern witch and cauldron to say paranormal & it's clearly marked as a mystery with text. 
  • a paranormal romance,  see The Magician's Keeper by Nicola E. Sheridan (couple up the top, soft shading, the title and the bars at the bottom of the image), and Necessary Alpha by Khloe Wren (attractive male on the cover, tiger in the background).
  • urban fantasy, there's Silver Reaper by Shelley Russell Nolan (font, dark background, mysterious woman) and Ashes Reborn by Keri Arthur (flame headed woman with fire at the bottom)
  • For fantasy, there's The Forbidden Heir by M.J Scott (fantasy looking world in background, font, a hint of mystery with mist), and Serpents' Souls & Dragons' Hearts by C.M. Simpson (well if the title doesn't say it all, the image of a serpent figure is sure to). 
  • For something different, let's say rural romance, there's A Very Country Christmas, featuring various authors including our Fiona Greene (it has a bush landscape and there are Christmas design elements) and Secrets at Wongan Creek by Juanita Kees (bush landscape, cowboy in foreground with hint of smile despite the angle)
  • For suspense, there's Nothing to Fear by Claire Boston (dark clouds, foreboding looking house, figure of woman looking away from us, bold font)

You get my drift and that's only a few titles from this sample, which is only a small collection of our covers over the years, which in turn is only a tiny fraction of what's out there. 

Reader expectation

Now say a reader brought a book that screamed epic fantasy but it ended up being a cosy mystery? That is going against reader expectation. The author will end up with a bad review, not because the story wasn't good. No, because the promise to the reader - the expectation of an epic fantasy - was broken and if it's one thing readers hate, it's broken expectation. 

So let's give you an example. Have a look at these covers I designed for my alter ego, Eleni Konstantine.


What if Apprentice Bound was a love story with vampires, and Sealed with A Kiss was about a wizard looking for apprentices?

Then the covers would then be all wrong for them. 

Instead, Apprentice Bound has a young woman playing a flute in a forest. There are lights around the flute. Add the title name, and the fact it says it's a 'fantasy short story', then the reader can expect a fantasy short story. 

Here's the blurb: 
Ddrill is on the hunt for candidates for apprentices to enter the Order of Enchantment. Can he find it in the backward land of Marinndi? 

Does it meet the reader's expectation based on the cover? 
I think, yes.

Now for Sealed with a Kiss: There's a couple kissing. That signals romance. It's a black and white photo, which lends itself to the paranormal. Looking back a vampire symbol would have put it firmly in the paranormal camp, but it does have the words 'paranormal romance' and 'short story' so that base is covered. 

Here's the blurb:
Can a gift from her grandmother protect Lise?

Lise doesn’t believe in vampires. Or so she tells herself. Though, she constantly wears the garnet necklace her grandmother gave her, which wards off the creatures. Andreas, the man she’s attracted to, seems more than a little interested in it. Could there be an ulterior motive?

Does it meet reader expectations based on the cover? 
Yes, again (though I have noted that it could have been improved).

How do you get the cover conveying the right design? 

While I'll talk on actual cover design in a later post, the first thing to do is look at covers in your own genre. Of course, this doesn't mean you have to mimic other covers, but it's a familiarisation exercise to see what you think works and what doesn't. It'll help you see what elements would make a good cover for reader expectation. 

HelzKat Designs (Helen Katsinis) specialises in designing for writers at affordable prices.

She delivers the right look for each project from book covers, banners business cards, to setting up and customising blogs and websites. She has also given talks to authors on the subject of blogging and navigating in the online world.

She began by designing author banners for her writing persona (Eleni Konstantinte) and her writing groups. After winning the 2010 Little Gems Cover Contest (Topaz), she started to specialise in designing for other writers thus combining her two worlds of design and writing.

In 2018, she's entered the world of pre-made covers. You can see available covers HERE

Tuesday 2 January 2018

DarkSider News for January!

Welcome to the first DarkSider News for 2018!

A brand new year to bring you some fabulous news and stories.


Crashed on an Ice World by Anna Hackett is a stand alone book set in The Phoenix Adventures series world. It was released on the 28th December 2017.

He’s her boss. She’s his best friend. These two deep-space convoy security specialists are fighting their simmering attraction…until a starship crash on a deadly ice world changes everything.

Elana Korra loves her security job as a medic on the convoy ship, the Sky Nomad…except for the fact that she’s in love with her boss. Rynan is tough, loyal, and protective, and she knows he will never cross the line with her despite her deepest fantasies. But one scorching kiss sets up a smoldering tension, and as they head off into uncharted space on a treasure hunt to find an invaluable old Earth treasure, Elana knows it is time to make a change—get Ry to admit how he feels about her or leave. But a deadly attack leaves Ry and Elana on a damaged, out-of-control ship hurtling toward an unforgiving ice world.

Rynan Phoenix lives for his job of keeping the Phoenix Deep-Space Convoy safe. The nightmare of his childhood has taught him to steer well clear of romantic relationships, and he’s forced himself to ignore Elana’s compact body and gorgeous face. But when they find themselves stranded on an ice world with passengers to protect and space pirates hunting them down, Ry is forced to confront just how he feels about the most important woman in his life.

Ry and Elana will need all of their training in order to keep themselves alive. As they find hints to the old Earth treasure, their desire turns hotter and deeper…but then they discover that far more dangerous things call this ice planet home…

Available from:  Amazon US | Amazon Aus

366 Days of Flash Fiction by C.M. Simpson is a flash fiction anthology. It will be released by C.M. Publishing on 28th December 2017. 

Inside these covers is a short story for every day of the leap year, some of which tell of the fantastic, others which take us to the stars and a myriad of other world, and still others that horrify with creeping tales of the undead. Every story is an exploration of something that might have been and never was, or something that might yet be. Take a break from the world that is, and explore other possibilities.

Available from: Smashwords | Amazon US | Amazon Aus


Lusting the Enemy by Mel Teshco is Book1 of the Nightmix series It was re-released 31 December 2017 (originally published in 2012). 

Akeisha is on a mission to be chosen as part of a harem for the desert king, Judas. She’ll use her body to entice and beguile, do anything it takes to save the near-extinct larakytes, her shape-shifting silver panther tribe, from Judas’ human subjects, who are trying to eradicate them.

She never expects to succumb to the wild ecstasy in his arms, a pleasure that threatens to expose her inner cat even as it transcends anything she’s ever felt from one of her own kind.

Falling in love with a human enemy was never part of the plan, but maybe there’s more to Judas than meets the eye.

Available from: Amazon US | Amazon Aus


The Queen's Game by C.M. Simpson is a short story set in the Pixie Dust and Trollhunter world, and explores the darker side of the Trollhunter tales. t It will be released by C.M. Publishing in January 2018. 

Never get involved with the Otherworld Fey. Take my word for it. I saved the Queen of Summer, and was betrothed to a lord of Winter by way of thanks—and then the human underworld got involved. So what do I do, when every choice is bad? What would youchoose: death by troll, or the mercy of an elf?

Pre order at Smashwords

Welcome to the Fruit Platter 
by Ellie Moonwater 
is book 2 in the Downtown Weres and Wizards series. It will be released by C.M. Publishing on 28th January. 

Swept into a whirlwind courtship with two werewolves, Louise has just one problem—the secret she is keeping from the pack. When her mates discover what she’s been holding back, will they stand by her? And what of the pack? Louise must choose: trust in them, or run? Either way, a sanctuary seems a lifetime away.

WARNING: Welcome to the Fruit Platter contains explicit, consensual and kinky sex, some spanking, two very lust-driven werewolves, multiple scenes of menage, mfm, and some wizards on the prowl.

Pre-order at Smashwords.

A Planet's Ransom by Carlie Simonsen is book 2 in the Space Adventure series. It will be released by C.M. Publishing on 13th January. 

Made hostages for a world whose international leaders didn’t know how to behave, we ended up on a new world, one we have to make our own, where every step of civilisation has to be earned, all over again. It’s meant to be a world to hide the secret of our survival—but not all the aliens believe we have a right to survive. Torn between two rival factions of an alien race, we have to save our keepers, defeat our hunters, and get a message to the stars.

And that’s just if we want to live.

Pre-order at Smashwords

In Full Flight
 by Carlie Simonsen 
is book 3 in the Wings series. Details of release coming soon.

Jack’s dad has a secret—a sad secret. He has never told Jack how he lost his wings. One day he does, and Jack’s world changes. At the same time, someone from his parents’ past comes into their present, and they must work out how to stop things from the past happening all over again.

Pre-order at Smashwords.

Scent of a Jaguar by S.E. Gilchrist is Book 2 of the Deadly Forces series It is expected to be released on 25th January. (Book 1 was released in December 2017 by Erin O'Hara Moira)

When a plane crash-lands in a remote area of the Amazon, a female archaeologist joins forces with a man she suspects is an artefact smuggler in order to survive. 

On route to her new dig, Bernadette Ashford’s dream job morphs into a nightmare after a message warns her life is in danger. A last-minute decision catapults her onto the ill-fated plane and separates her from her beloved sister. Zane MacIntosh is on a mission - expose a major drug cartel and identify the man who murdered his mother. He’ll allow nothing and no-one to divert him from his goal.

Lost in the jungle together, they and other passengers are being hunted by ruthless mercenaries who have no intention of allowing anyone to escape. In their desperate struggle to live, a new-found love blooms and a deadly secret is unearthed. But with a killer in their midst, will their love survive the heavy cost of freedom? 

Pre-order from Amazon US | Amazon Aus 


Ripples is an anthology by the Rockingham Writers Centre. Our own D.D. Line has a story in it. It was released in December. Copies are available from the Rockingham Writers Centre.


A Broken Star a short story by D.D. Line is available on her blog. 

Congratulations to all our DarkSiders!

Thanks for joining in our news. We'll see you next time...

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DarkSide DownUnder's book lists (dsdu-books shelf)