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A New Direction

Silken Sheets & Seduction

sofia1

After three years of publishing sexy romances, I’m changing direction. My next major release, LYING IN SHADOWS, is a little different. It’s a romantic suspense, true, but without the bedroom action. Trust me, the characters still get it on, but there’s so much else going on in the book, that it didn’t need the extra oomph from the sweaty clinches.

fear-kills-bwThis is all a bit scary. The readers I’ve attracted love the heat in my books, so why am I taking this risk?

It’s a brand new series, admittedly with some characters from my previous books, and so it gives me the opportunity to attract new readers – ones who might have shied away from me before.

I’ll still be writing sexy scenes, but not in this series.

What do you think? Do you flip the pages until you find the scorching sex scenes, or do you skim past them?

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By sofiagrey1 Posted in News
Close up portrait of a young attractive romantic couple hugging and kissing, laying down on a white bed, having sex and being loving with each other. Love and relationships lifestyle, interior bedroom.

FREE ebook – Wolf at the Door (Snowdonia Wolves #1)

 

For the next 5 days, you can grab a FREE ecopy of Wolf at the Door, the first in my steamy, shifter romance series.

download-button

 

wolf_at_the_door_cover_for_kindleLove can heal all wounds…

Pop star Lillian Hart is determined never to trust another man. She has no idea that the wolf at her door is anything other than a wounded dog, much less the Alpha of the Snowdonia Wolf pack. There’s something about the wild creature that pulls at her. Then a man with her wolf’s eyes starts to invade her dreams, and reality and fantasy merge in a way that has her hoping, against all odds, for dreams to come true.

Lillian may have sworn off men, but Jake’s not just any man, he’s a shifter, and he’s about to shift Lillian’s world to make room for him. He vows to claim her as his Mate, and when Jake makes a vow, he keeps it. But Lillian wants to take it slow and Jake is not about to waste any time.

In this battle of wills, both discover giving in and trusting their hearts can heal even the deepest of hurts.

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5 post-quake behaviours

Living on an active fault line

I’ve experienced a few earthquakes now, two of which were scary. I’m talking huddled-under-the-desk scared, with ten floors of offices above my head, while the building shook like a rattle in a toddler’s fist. Not fun.

Most of them are gentle, varying from a slight jolt to a swaying sensation, much like being on a boat. I’m fine with those, after all, it’s part of the trade-off for living in one of the most beautiful countries in the world: it’s also one of the most seismically active.

Anyway. Most people who live here, certainly those in the vast area from Christchurch through to Wellington, have adopted new behaviours over the past few years.

using smart phone

1. Keep the phone charged

As soon as it drops to half-battery, I whip out my charging cable. It might shave a few months from the expected lifespan of the battery, but it’s better than being caught with no electricity and just a few minutes of power left.

 2. Carry the phone everywhere!

While I’m at work, it goes with me (on silent) to every meeting, every time I venture outside, or go to the bathroom or the kitchen. If I get stuck somewhere, I can use it to call for help (if the phone network is still working), use the flashlight (another reason to always keep the battery full!), or—hopefully—text my family to tell them I’m safe and to ask if they’re okay.

3. Keep the petrol tank in the car at least half full

I might have to evacuate in a hurry, with no time to top up the tank. Also, in the event of a big quake, the power lines will be down and the petrol stations not working.

4. Look out for ‘safe zones’ when out and about

The main shopping street in Wellington is filled with tower blocks and glass. I dread the idea of being caught there if the Big One happened, but I keep an eye on safe zones: doorways and recesses, or areas of open ground well away from the buildings. I’d dive under a café table if it offered me some shelter.

5. Always have trainers / flat shoes / walking boots at hand

Wellingtonians usually wear flat shoes around the city (it’s hilly, with uneven sidewalks), but I now always keep a sturdy pair of comfortable trainers (and socks) under my desk. Not so much for walking the ninety km home, but for walking to a friend’s house if I get stranded in the city.

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There are other things I do now, that I never did before (hoard bottled water and muesli bars at home, and always keep a flashlight by the side of my bed), but I might save those for another list.

Did I miss anything? What do you do differently now?

 

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Lying in Shadows (by Sofia Grey) – cover reveal

Silken Sheets & Seduction

sofia1

Time for a cover reveal

My next major release is the first in my new contemporary romantic suspense series. For those of you who’ve read the TALISMAN series, or POLE POSITION / PERFECT STRANGER, some of the characters will be familiar to you  🙂

Release date is likely to be end December – mid January.

~ * ~ * ~

lyinginshadows

Marianne needs to find who’s leaking corporate secrets, before her company loses another major contract. What she doesn’t need is an affair with her married boss. Even worse, to fall in love with him.

She discovers the security leak is more than a case of commercial espionage: someone is lying in the shadows, playing games with them. Now more than her heart and career are at stake–her life is on the line.

A quick (unedited) excerpt

“I’m done,” announced Rico. “You guys stay. I want to look over some…

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By sofiagrey1 Posted in News

Did the earth move for you? Hell, yes!

 

Living in the shadow of The Big One

Copyright Maarten Holl / Fairfax NZ

Copyright Maarten Holl / Fairfax NZ

 

It’s weird to think that earthquakes have become part of our lives. It’s normal to keep food supplies and a pair of sturdy running shoes under my desk in the office, along with a list of friends in the town who I could go to, in the event I couldn’t get home.

 

Normal too, to have quake supplies at home. Strong plastic boxes with basic foodstuffs. A camping stove. Lots and LOTS of bottled water. Torches in every room, and emergency lights that come on in the event of a power cut. We get some bad storms here in winter, and those babies have been worth their weight in gold.

 

For as long as we’ve lived in the Wellington region of New Zealand, we’ve been aware of the quake risk, in particular, the Big One that everyone fears will happen. The one in the middle of the day when the offices and shops are all full. The one that cuts off the capital from the rest of the country, with dwindling food and water supplies and no way for aid to come in. The one that generates a deadly tsunami.

 

Sunday night was our first serious tsunami threat, and believe me, I don’t want a re-run of that. Waking at midnight to a gently rocking bed, I could dismiss it as just-another-quake, but then it rocked a bit harder. I scrambled out as I shouted to Teen Son (already awake) and husband (watching TV), and that’s when the jolt hit. Normally, you get a gentle roll, and then either a jolt or a long rolling motion, but this was different. It jolted. And it JOLTED. And then again. Scared? You bet. The house creaked and rattled, boxes fell over, and the grandfather clock stopped. The furbabies mostly ran for cover, apart from Mitten, settled on a pillow, who just watched me with a baffled expression on her face.

 

Where the quake was felt (across NZ)

Where the quake was felt (across NZ)

Losing the electricity was no surprise, but our emergency lights kicked in. Then came the guessing game of how-big, and how-far-away? Finding our cellphones still worked was a huge plus. The initial reports looked bad, but not that bad. 6.2, maybe. Or 6.6. It finally settled on M.7.5, in a remote part of South Island some two hundred miles away from us. Holy fuck, we said. We were lucky. Lucky it happened at home, while we were all together. Lucky it wasn’t the middle of the day when we could all become stranded, miles from home.

 

The power came back on almost two hours after the quake, at which point we scrambled to make tea. Hey, we’re English.  :-)

 

However, despite our proximity to the beach, we didn’t immediately think tsunami. We were too busy firing off messages and emails to friends and family to check they were okay, and to reassure them of our safety.

geonet-nz-screenshot-14-11-16-at-12-26-pm

 

It quickly became apparent, this was a real threat, but we saw conflicting updates depending on where we looked. Some sites advised east coast locations at risk, others included Wellington and Kapiti (where we live). If we did have to evacuate, we needed to be ready.

 

Our earthquake / tsunami plan needs a bit of fine-tuning, but we had the basics nailed down. Loading the cars with prearranged items. Grabbing warm coats and strong shoes. Extra batteries. Getting the cat carriers ready for use. Figuring out where to go.

 

Somewhere around four in the morning, I whined that while the quake had been scary, the wait-and-see for the tsunami was worse. It shredded every last nerve.

 

The alerts were called off around five, and we let out a sigh of relief. Finally, we could get some sleep, apart from the aftershocks still vibrating the house of course.

 

Some ten years ago, while planning our move from the UK to New Zealand, top of our list of decisions was where to live. The bustling city of Auckland, way in the north? The capital, Wellington, at the bottom of the North Island, or Christchurch, halfway down the South Island.

 

Wellington Cityscape - Oriental Bay

 

Auckland was out. We were moving to get away from busy cities. Wellington straddles a number of major fault lines and is at risk from earthquakes, so that was also a no. Christchurch, we said. The population is lighter, it’s more rural, but still with a city’s commerce and industry.   As it turned out, I received a job offer in Wellington and that’s where we went.

 

And in hindsight? Wow. I’m glad we made that decision. The imagery of the Christchurch quake in 2011 still haunts me. The loss of 185 lives. A city centre that has only just re-opened for business in some parts. We are happy with our choice of Wellington for work, and a home in a quiet beachside village an hour north of the capital.

 

We were lucky again this time. We’ll re-jig our survival kits and evacuation plans, and get back to normal in a few days. We’ll pull faces, and shrug over the aftershocks, and pretend we weren’t scared by them. The offices will re-open for work, and we’ll swap stories over coffee, trading tips for emergency plans, and laughing at our dumb choices. Canned chicken? Great, except none of us actually eat it!

 

But I know, every time the floor moves beneath my feet, I instantly think: is this the Big One?

 

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Fireworks? I’ll pass thanks…

Silken Sheets & Seduction

sofia1

I’m a wuss about fireworks.

Yeah, they’re pretty, and can look amazing lighting up the sky in a myriad of sparkles and colours, but… *whispers* I don’t like them.

When I lived in the U.K., Bonfire Night a.k.a. Guy Fawkes Night, a.k.a. 5th November, was a big deal. Every grocery store would start selling fireworks weeks before, everything from sparklers to giant-ass rockets. My husband loves ’em. He’d seek out the biggest rockets, the most extravagant roman candles, and the noisiest creations around.

We had plenty of local firework displays, some of which could be seen from our bedroom windows, and so he would save some of the fireworks for New Years Eve.  I’ve lost count of the number of years I’ve huddled outside in the freezing cold, while he sets off one cracker after another.

Why don’t I like them? I learned they can be dangerous.

Picture the scene…

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By sofiagrey1 Posted in News
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The Marguerite Coincidence (Spooky October)

Silken Sheets & Seduction

sofia1

~ part of Sofia’s Spooky October series ~

I was up against a tight deadline to get the editor revisions completed, and was struggling to do them at home. In frustration I grabbed my laptop and headed out to a local cafe, one I’d only been to once or twice.

His Temporary Fix is a romance written around the mysterious circumstances of a young woman’s death. Her name was Marguerite (Marnie), and she worked in a cafe near the station, in a quiet village very similar to my own. The cafe I headed for that day, is the one I’d had in mind for Marguerite’s place.

Anyway, I rattled through most of the outstanding revisions, and as the cafe was about to close, I prepared to leave. In the tiny bathroom, a single picture hung on the wall – a sprawling white daisy-like flower, with the word Marguerite underneath it.

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By sofiagrey1 Posted in News
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Growing up in a Haunted House

#4 in the Spooky October series

 

Nope, that’s not code for something. I mean properly haunted. With a ghost.

 

Growing up, I was the youngest of three, and since my brother and sister were much older, I was more like an only child at home. I don’t remember much of the early manifestations, but it’s safe to say they freaked out my parents.

 

It was an old brick –built house, dating from the late 1890’s, and joined to the house next door, semi-detached style. These were the only two properties at the end of a long country lane.

 

Picture the scene. Late at night. The household is asleep. My brother is home with a group of friends, and after returning from a night at the pub, they all crash on the living room floor. All is peaceful, until the locked back door makes a banging noise, as though someone threw the door open. Same with the kitchen door. Then the door at the bottom of the stairs. Heavy feet pound up the stairs. Each bedroom door flies opens in turn, and then shuts again. The footsteps hurtle back down, the doors all slam shut. The whole thing was over in less than a minute.

 

 

My father was furious. He charged downstairs, ready to take the guys to task, but found then all asleep. Solidly, and drunkenly. They slept through it.

 

This pattern of doors opening and feet on the stairs was repeated a couple more times, but then stopped. Was it connected to the well-meaning local vicar saying some prayers in the house? We’ll never know. He drew the line at exorcism, you see. Anyway it seemed to work.

 

Other odd things happened while I was growing up, events that defied science. Strange noises coming from next door, like bowling balls rolling along the floor. When Mum asked the neighbour, he said the sound was coming from our house.

 

2000px-aceofspades-svgPlaying a card game—Chase the Ace—that relied on the Ace of Spades, and having to stop the game when it went missing. Totally and completely missing, from one hand to the next. The card turned up in the front garden the next morning, lying on the top stone of the rockery.

 

When I was eight, I was given a proper wristwatch for the first time, as opposed to the cheap ones beforehand. I was thrilled, and vowed to take good care of it, wind it up every day, and take it off at bedtime. Two days later, it vanished from my bedroom overnight. I swore I placed it on the dressing table when I went to bed, but in the morning it was gone. It turned up a week later, lying proudly on the rockery stone—and still keeping time, even though it should have run down days earlier.

 

The TV being struck by lightning as we watched the Wimbledon finals one year was bad enough. When it happened again a couple of years later—again during the Wimbledon finals—it went beyond coincidence. Our poor next door neighbour had theirs struck by lightning another year. Three strikes on the same building? Seriously?

 

And yet, even with a plethora of unexplained things happening, we never felt scared or uneasy. Ours was a calm and playful ghost. Rumour had it, a teenage boy that grew up in the house, had died in a road accident at fifteen, and it was his spirit that haunted us.

 

Years passed. My parents retired to somewhere smaller, and my brother bought the old place and remodelled it. The original staircase was taken out, the upstairs was redesigned. All was going well until the master builder decided to work late one bright, summer evening. He heard a noise behind him, and thought it was his apprentice packing up. “Pass me the hammer,” he said to his boy, but nothing happened. He glanced over his shoulder, and saw a young man looking at him. Even as the builder opened his mouth to speak, the stranger turned on his heel and walked through the new interior wall that had been constructed days earlier.

 

To my knowledge, the builder is the only person to ever actually see our ghost. The house has been sold on a couple more times, and now lies empty. That’s a shame. I’m sure our friendly ghost preferred to have company.

 

Have you ever seen or heard a ghost? I’d love to hear from you🙂

 

 

Six Haunted Scottish Castles

~ Spooky October #3 ~

 

According to The Scotsman Magazine (11 August 2014), the five most haunted castles in Scotland are:

  1. Meggernie Castle (Perthshire)
  2. Ethie Castle (nr Arbroath)
  3. Sanquhar Castle (Dumfries)
  4. Duntrune Castle (Argyll)
  5. Barcaldine Castle (Argyll)

For more on these, read the article here: http://www.scotsman.com/heritage/people-places/five-of-the-most-haunted-castles-in-scotland-1-3505914

I mentioned six castles, but have only listed five. That’s because I want to tell you about a truly spooky experience I had in Elcho Castle, Perthshire.

elcho-1I visited here in September 2004, while on holiday. Elcho was probably the fourth castle I’d visited during that week.

Elcho was mostly empty inside, and in a good state of repair. It was a warm and sunny early autumn day, and the building felt peaceful and calm. Rising from the main floor space were four winding staircases, one of which—according to the information brochure—led to a roofwalk. I visited with my husband, our young son and his friend, and I left them pottering about while I explored the staircases. The first three were fine, and I left the roofwalk-access one until last. I wanted to check how safe the roofwalk was, before I took the children up there.

echo-info

Half-way up, the staircase widened into a spacious, sun-filled landing, but as soon as I set foot on it I froze. It was as though I’d walked into a wall of icy fog. It looked bright and sunny, but the temperature dropped unbearably. If that wasn’t bad enough, I had the distinct impression of something squeezing me around the chest, tightening and forcing the air out of my lungs.

I broke free and managed to step back. Just two steps down, the temperature leapt back to normal. My heart was still racing. I took a deep breath. My lungs worked again.

elcho-staircase

Needless to say, I made my way back downstairs. When I caught up with my husband a few minutes later, I suggested he take a look for himself, without telling him what I experienced. He came back shortly after, looking pale and shaken. Yes, he agreed, when we swapped notes. That was WEIRD.

We asked the castle guide if the place was haunted, and she told us there were rumours of a white lady. According to legend, the woman was terribly burned when her dress caught fire, and she died a few days later. This was nowhere near the staircase, though, and so I’m not convinced they are connected.

Unfortunately this was before the days of digital cameras and hundreds of images, and the 35mm shots I took didn’t show anything untoward.

If you’d like to visit a haunted Scottish castle, or watch footage or paranormal investigators doing their thing, you should check out this site: http://haunted-scotland.co.uk/

There is footage of their findings in Elcho Castle, and it’s worth a look: http://haunted-scotland.co.uk/elcho-castle-2/

Do you have any stories about Scottish castles? Have you ever experienced anything you couldn’t explain with science? I’d love to hear from you.

Image of Elcho staircase courtesy of Pinterest: https://nz.pinterest.com/pin/412783122079519314/

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Why is romance writing seen as a joke?

 

My close friends all know. My immediate family knows. Some of my workmates (past and present) also know. It’s not like I keep it a secret, so why don’t I make more of a fuss about it?

My name is Sofia, and I write romantic fiction. There, I’ve said it.

 

freak

 

Despite its market share, romantic fiction is still seen as a joke. The dweeb at the office party. Not important enough to have an opinion. Not cool enough. The dim-witted fool that nobody takes seriously.

It frustrates the hell out of me.

 

When I tell someone new, the conversation follows a predictable path.

Me: I’m a writer.

Them: Really? Have you been published?

Me: Yes. Over 20 solo titles, and 11 short stories in anthologies.

Them: That’s exciting. What kinds of books do you write?

Me: Romantic fiction.

 

* tumbleweed drifts by *

 

Them: Umm. Like Fifty Shades?

Me: Not really.

Them: * snickering * I wouldn’t have thought you wrote romance.

 

At this point, I really want to drive home the statistics. Largest share of the genre fiction market. Approximately 15% of the entire adult fiction market. Over 70 million readers in the target market. Over half the mass market paperbacks sold in the USA.

Do I? Nope. I’m usually eyeing up my rapid exit and wishing I’d kept my mouth shut.

 

The next set of questions are predictable:

Them: How many have you sold?

Me: < Per day? Week? Grand total? > Difficult to calculate. More than I realise, but way less than many others.

Them: How much money have you made?

Me: < This one makes me feel like asking how much they earn. Again, I’m non-committal. > Not enough to give up the day job.

Them: Where do you get your ideas?

Me: < smiling sweetly > The office.

Them: Have you tried everything you’ve written about?

Me: Well of course. <  If I said I wrote sci-fi murders, would they still ask this? >  Yes, I bludgeoned a five-eyed green alien with my blaster on my way in today.

Them: Why don’t you write a proper book?

Me:<  This one stings. I want to stamp my foot and reply, “because romance isn’t ‘proper’, or isn’t a ‘book’?” >

 

A close family-member recently informed me that I’m not a “real writer”. Not sure what criteria they were using, either.

 

fiction-writer-meme

 

Romance novels regularly top the major bestseller lists (New York Times, Publishers Weekly and USA Today), and have a large, dedicated audience of readers.

A 2014 report on RICHEST.COM (http://www.therichest.com/rich-list/which-5-book-genres-make-the-most-money/), looked at genre fiction, and which is the most lucrative. They collated information on leading authors’ earnings and reports of industry trends, to compile a list of the 5 most valuable, highest-earning genres in the book business.

 

5. Horror ($79.6 million)

4. Science Fiction & Fantasy ($590.2 million)

3. Religious / Inspirational ($720 million)

2. Crime / Mystery ($728.2 million)

1. Romance / Erotica ($1.44 billion)

 

I’d love to think that next time I tell someone new, I’ll be loud and proud, but I bet I won’t. I might even be vague. Perhaps I’ll say I write contemporary fiction. Does that make me more acceptable?