UK Meet & “We’ve Got it Covered” Roundup!

Hello! I am home from the ever-fantastic UK Meet and I thought it might be nice to give a little roundup of the panel I hosted with the fantastic Garrett Leigh and Kellie Dennis.

For those of you who missed the posts on Facebook, Kellie designed three book covers LIVE during the panel, while her progress was projected onto one of the big screens. There were a few moments where our captive audience completely ignored what Garrett and I were saying, they were so enraptured with what Kellie was doing! She’s truly an incredibly talented artist – three covers in 45 minutes. Wowzer. And here’s what they looked like:


Plus one Garrett designed earlier:


What’s even more lovely is that Garrett and Kellie gave away the covers to people who attended the Meet. It’ll be exciting to see what stories they turn into!

So, our panel was clearly about cover art and we wanted to dispel a few myths and put some information out there that a lot of authors probably don’t know. Here’s a summary for those who couldn’t make it;

  • Be aware of image licensing. If you (or your cover artist) has purchased a stock image to be used on a cover, you probably don’t have the right to use that image for anything other than a book cover. That means you can’t use the cover art to make, and subsequently sell, T-shirts, mugs, posters, or any other promotional items. There’s a grey area around giving those items away, so you should be fine to make bookmarks for swag, etc. Just don’t try and sell anything with your cover on!
  • You can’t buy a stock image, slap a bit of text over the top, and use that as your cover. You MUST change some element of the photograph/picture; whether that’s adding shadows, light, texture, etc. This is where knowing a good cover artist helps 😉
  • When we asked our audience whether they liked or disliked “headless torso” covers (also known to Garrett as “sweaty, gritty, man-titty”), most raised their hand to say they didn’t. However, no one said they wouldn’t buy a book on the basis of a sweaty, gritty, man-titty cover.
  • Both Garrett and Kellie agreed that in the current climate, book covers with models work far better than concept covers (with the exception of M/F erotica, where still life image covers are still a big thing).
  • Be aware of current trends in cover art and how that’s affecting the market. Jumping on a bandwagon to sell a book now isn’t necessarily a bad idea, but consider how it’ll affect the longevity of your book sales. Something that’s very trendy right now might look very dated in a year’s time.
  • Don’t be afraid to put a new cover on an old book to give it a boost (especially if the cover is looking tired or dated).
  • You need a license to use certain fonts! Don’t assume fonts are free!
  • Clean, concise covers are what you’re after. Pick a few elements of your story and use them effectively, rather than throwing everything at it. Remember – most people are going to see your cover as a tiny thumbnail, or on a black and white screen.

That seems to about cover it! (Pun so totally intended). For me as an author, finding a cover artist who I like and who gets what I’m after is so valuable, and I found that working with both Garrett and Kellie. You should check them out –

Kellie –

Garrett –

One last little anecdote to round it all up; at last year’s UK Meet in Bristol I was talking to Kellie and Garrett about the cover for a book I had coming out, and how I couldn’t find anything that really worked. They both suggested that the title for the book was too long (at six words) and I should shorten it. That book was ‘My Prince’, and Kellie did the cover for me after I agreed to change the title.

Fast forward a few months and I was working on a new book… ‘Five Times My Best Friend Kissed Me, and One Time I Kissed Him First’. (That’s fourteen words, plus two more for my name). How Garrett got that to work so beautifully on the cover is a constant mystery!!

If you have any questions about the panel please do give any of us a shout.

Thanks for stopping by!



Hello from me…

It’s been a few weeks, so here’s a fairly self-indulgent update.

I started a new job at the beginning of July, which has turned out to be an excellent move. Some of you might remember me talking earlier in the year about how miserable my last job was making me after the company I was working for got taken over. The opportunity to make a strange little career step came up (less money, far more opportunities and chances for progression) and I took it. I’m now working for a children’s charity in Bristol and loving it.

My starting in this role marks the first time the charity has ever had someone doing Marketing (and press, PR, comms, web design, social media, content, copywriting, etc, etc), so I’ve got a big challenge on my hands! I love that though – being able to get stuck into a job and create something where previously there was nothing.

In two weeks I’ll be taking a long weekend off the job and heading down to Southampton for the UK Meet. I’m currently planning an epic road trip with Jay Northcote, Annabelle Jacobs and Rachel Maybury… I think that might get loud! I love the UK Meet. It’s such a different kind of convention. This will be my 5th year, having previously been at Bristol (x2), Manchester and Brighton. I’m particularly looking forward to the first session of the weekend, on Saturday morning, where I’ll be taking part in a session with Garrett Leigh and Kellie Dennis about cover art. Kellie will (hopefully – if the technology works!) be designing a cover live during the panel.

Writing is being a funny beast at the moment. I go through phases like this – when I read like a fiend but find working on my own stuff more difficult. I have a pact with my darling friend Tia Fielding that we will both finish SOMETHING else by the end of the year. That’ll mean next year you’ll see at least two novels and a novella from me. Not bad going, I don’t think 😉

So, that’s been my summer so far. Keep an eye out for me at the UK Meet and please do come chat if you’re there too. I love catching up with people.

Much love


The Bristol Gay Ghetto

I live in Bristol, in the UK, in an area of the city called Old Market. (There used to be an old market here a few hundred years ago. IDK. We’re not particularly creative when naming stuff.) The pub across the road was built in 1483. It’s old, yo.

For years, the area has been known as the ‘gay village’ of Bristol, though there’s another street full of gay bars on the other side of the city centre too. Along my street there’s six dedicated gay bars (including the Bristol Bear Bar and the Gin Palace, which is mostly haunted by trans women), a sauna, a ‘men only grooming salon’, and at least two brothels. When I moved here my dad referred to it as a “colourful” area of the city.

Last night I went out with a few friends and bar hopped a bit. We learned that one of the gay bars in Old Market will be closing next weekend. Another is in trouble. The owner of the bar we were in was saying he’s concerned – people around here like to bar hop, sometimes they’ll hit the same place three times in one night as they move around. (Which explains why the streets are so noisy all the fucking time.) The fewer bars there are, the less time people will spend in the area before they move on.

The ‘gay village’ of Bristol is in danger.

And I’m conflicted.

The thing is, LGBT people in Bristol don’t need a ghetto any more. My friend and his husband were saying how they’ll go to the infamous Bristol prohibition bars, or one of the big clubs, or anywhere they feel like really, and they hardly ever get hassled for being openly gay and affectionate with each other.

(When I asked, my friend said the last time he can remember getting any shit when he was out was about a year and a half ago, from a very drunk guy who wouldn’t stop wolf-whistling at him and his husband holding hands. They actually thought it was hilarious.)

Of course there’s still homophobia, of course we still get gay-basing. But actually, it’s so uncommon that two guys who have been together for 15 years are comfortable going to pretty much any pub or club or bar in the city.

The gay villages and ghettos sprung up as safe spaces. Gay people used to know they could come to Old Market and find gay people in gay pubs and bars. Now they hook up via the internet or apps, and go on dates wherever the fuck they like.


At the same time, we’re losing part of our history and culture. I doubt the Old Market Tavern will close – the clientele there is very diverse and they do a wicked Sunday roast. The Gin Palace is probably safe too. But the dive bars? The dirty, mean, cramped clubs that smell of sweat and where your feet stick to the floors? Why the hell would anyone – gay or straight – want to go there?! Those are in danger. And when one bar folds, the whole area is at risk.

I don’t want to lose the very unique character and atmosphere of Old Market. The very buildings here are defiant; they’ve stood through two world wars, the English civil war, through serial killers, slum clearance, gentrification.

That defiance has been a cornerstone of the gay rights movement: we’re here, we’re queer, get used to it. It seems right, somehow, that this part of the city hosts the LGBT community.

I love that we have these places where people are actively encouraged to be themselves. But this city is incredibly liberal, and LGBT people are welcome to be themselves anywhere now.

I’m not sure what will happen next; gay bars aren’t going to disappear, but they need that herd immunity to survive. I really hope the Retreat will get new owners who will give the place a facelift and re-open (if only for the sake of the lesbian pool and snooker club who won’t have anywhere to play from next weekend).



p.s. I did a bit of research while writing this and found out that Cary Grant worked at the theatre in Old Market when he was young. Thought that was pretty cool!

Throwback Thursday – Solitude

Since my Solitude co-writer, Tia Fielding, has another book out soon, I feel now is a good time to revisit this one!

I’ve known Tia for a long time, since our shared beginnings in fan fiction. That probably makes it over six years, though as far as I’m aware, neither of us are counting. We’ve always been able to do this thing where we bounce ideas back and forth at a rapid speed, shamelessly and unselfishly taking each others ideas and expanding on them. Our brains work along similar lines. I scream “GET OUT OF MY HEAD” at her far too often!

I know I approached Tia with the idea for Solitude, only because it came out of the list of very random notes I keep in a spreadsheet. (Always a spreadsheet. I love spreadsheets). I’d heard of a town called Solitude in Utah and it had always appealed to me, this idea of ‘what sort of person would run away to a town called Solitude?’. Another one of my notes was ‘Porn stars in love’. It took crashing the two ideas together to come up with the plot.

incredible cover art by Reese Dante

The answer to ‘what sort of person runs away to a town called Solitude’ is obviously a dramatic little twink. Bitchy, theatrical, heart-of-gold Liam. If there was any doubt in anyone’s mind—yes, I wrote Liam! I knew exactly what I wanted him to be: life-toughened, cynical, yet so very young and naïve.

And I doubt anyone who has read our other works questioned the fact that Tia wrote Gael. That incredibly strong character, calm and solid, with Finnish roots could only be a Tia Fielding creation! Although I became very familiar with Gael when we were writing, I’ve always felt like he ‘belonged’ to Tia. She was able to build that character in a way I never could.

Though ‘Porn Stars’ is a well-worn trope in gay romance, I really wanted to push at the edges and see if we could do something a little different, without undermining the dangers and realities of such a career. I think both Tia and I were inspired by the CockyBoys site when we came up with Woodspring—from what I’ve seen, CockyBoys take pride in taking care of the performers they work with. We knew from the start that our fictional porn studio wasn’t going to be predatory and grim, and our performers weren’t going to be human-trafficked tragedies.

That’s not to say that Liam doesn’t have issues…

“You could get a real job,” he said with a little smile.

“Fuck that,” I said emphatically. “Anyway, doing what? I’ve got a high school diploma from years ago and no employment history whatsoever. If I got an interview for McDonald’s, what am I supposed to tell them? My idea of interpersonal skills is taking two dicks at the same time.”

… which kind of shows how his life is changed by his career choices. Liam has no revulsion towards his job—as far as he’s concerned, it’s just sex—and it provided him with the opportunity to build his own life on his own terms.

I think the most controversial part of the story is the ending (spoilers ahead!) when Liam continues to work do sex work after he settles into his relationship with Gael. Gael doesn’t approve, but he’s supportive of Liam’s decisions. This was actually a really important part of the story for me. I didn’t want Liam to be “saved” from porn and prostitution. Like I said before, it was a big part of him being able to be independent and start a life on his own terms, and to take that away from him just because he found a loving relationship.

One of the best parts of Solitude was getting to write with Tia, something that’s definitely on the cards again for the future. I think she’d agree, we’re both just waiting for the stars to align and the right project to come along!

In the meantime, Tia’s next novel is currently on the Coming Soon page over at Dreamspinner Press and you can pre-order it now… go check it out.


Thanks for stopping by on this little nostalgia-fest!




Hello friends!

This week has been my gap week in between leaving my old job and starting the new one on Monday. It’s been nice to have a breather, though I have technically still been working.

I’ve kind of been feeling down for a little while now about my writing (and lack thereof). My tricky relationship with my own mental health has meant creative output has been severely reduced while I focused on bringing myself back up to normal life speed. I’m not quite back to 100%, but things are certainly looking up.

Last week I signed a contract with Dreamspinner Press for a short story called Rainbow Sprinkles. Some of you might recall the open call for submissions for the ‘States of Love’ collection – there will be 52 stories, each set in one of the United States – and I’ve got California.

The story is actually an idea I’ve been sitting on for some time. Those of you who know me will be aware of my obsession with Disneyland, Disney World, Disneyland Paris… and I haven’t made it to any of the Asian Disneylands yet, but be assured it’s on my to-do list. Rainbow Sprinkles is the story of a young actor who plays a Prince at Disneyland in California, and his budding romance with a handsome guy in a local ice cream parlor who tops all of his sundaes with rainbow colored sprinkles. It’s a ridiculously cute and fluffy romance!

I’m hoping it’ll be out before the end of the year, schedule permitting.

I also just finished a book that I’ve been working on for well over three years. It’s called The Impossible Boy and I swear, this book has kicked my arse like nothing else. I thought I’d wrestled with Signs! (I really did wrestle with Signs. This was worse.)

It’s the story of a young guy who works within the fashion industry as a fashion journalist. His name’s Stan, and he’s genderfluid/gender non-conforming—he presents and ‘passes’ as female a lot of the time. The novel is about Stan’s move to London, where he meets and falls in love with Ben, who plays guitar in a band.

To say this story has been a labour of love is an understatement for sure. It’s probably the most angsty thing I’ve ever written, to the point where I abandoned it for months at a time because it just hurt too much to go back and keep hurting my boys! I’ve never been good at writing the hard stuff. What can I say, I love love too much.

The book doesn’t have a home yet but I’ve got a few ideas, so I’m hoping very much it will be out in the world next year.

The last thing to mention will be my current work-in-progress, which I am having so much fun with. I’m not quite ready to give away all the details, but I will say that anyone who knows me will be very unsurprised when they see what I’ve come up with! That sounds super cryptic now…

Thanks for stopping by. I’m going to send another Throwback Thursday your way this week, so don’t forget to subscribe if you don’t want to miss it!


Throwback Thursday – Jurassic Heart

I know, I know. So original.

But here’s the thing. In the past five years I’ve released fifteen novels and seven short stories. A few of them were co-authored, a lot were my own, and it’s been such an intense journey sometimes it feels good to sit back and reflect.

Bloody hell.

(That’s me reflecting.)

Today I want to talk about Jurassic Heart. It recently got a shiny new cover by Garrett Leigh, which I adore – here it is if you haven’t seen it already.


Jurassic Heart came about from my deep and intense need to write a ‘dinosaur book’. Some of you might know that I’m an insane dinosaur nerd. I am the person who dragged MJ O’Shea and LC Chase to the T-Rex Café in Orlando earlier this year, just because it’s dinosaur themed! I can remember my parents wouldn’t let me see Jurassic Park when it was released in 1993, probably because I was only six years old. Even when I was a bit older they still thought it was too scary so I rebelled and bought the book instead.

(As a side note, this is probably a good example of how my parents should have policed my reading more than they policed my screen time. I found Harlequin romances at far too young an age!)

The thing with Jurassic Park that I still find even now, is that I can re-read the book and discover something new every time. It’s such a rich and layered and complex story. The science is incredible, and was totally accurate at the time it was written. The characters are fantastic. The dinosaurs… the freaking dinosaurs.

So, you can see what an effect that book had on me!

As far as Jurassic Heart goes, I can remember back around November 2012 I went to London to do some Christmas shopping with a friend and we stopped into the Natural History Museum. If you’re not familiar with the museum, there’s a huge and very famous diplodocus in the main hall. As we were wandering around, I got into my head an idea about a palaeontologist running through the main gallery, past the statue of Darwin, and down the magnificent staircase to the skeleton of Dippy the Diplodocus.

That’s where Nick was created, and that scene is actually the opening of the book.

I started writing in earnest in December 2012, and then I had a little accident on Christmas Eve.

I was totally sober (important) and slipped at the top of a flight of stone steps. Both my feet went out from underneath me and I went down all half dozen or so steps on my bum, fracturing my coccyx (tailbone) in the process. The coccyx is an interesting bone to break. It’s not like they could put my arse in a plaster cast to heal, so I was stuck on sofa/bed rest for about six weeks while I healed up. Going back to work in my office, sat at a computer for eight hours a day, was totally out of the question. So that’s when I wrote Jurassic Heart.

Research for the book didn’t feel like work at all. I spent hours and hours reading about dinosaurs, where in the world different species were found, what dinosaur skeletons are most common and which ones are barely known. Narrowing in on ‘raptors’ was instinctive—I suppose they must be my favourite dinosaur, I have a velociraptor tattoo!

I already knew about some of the famous excavation sites across the US, but wanted to create my own little place to set the book, so I picked Alberta, Canada. The famous “Dinosaur Park” is in Alberta, so it’s already an area where digs take place, lending some authenticity to my fictional town.

I knew I needed someone to really contrast and butt up against my adorable nerdy paleontologist main character, and that’s where Hunter stepped in. Hunter is the total opposite of Nick; he’s tall and broad, hunky, First Nations/French Canadian (and he speaks French too) with dark hair and smoky eyes. He’s also an eco-conservationist, and has serious issues with the damage the paleontologists do to the environment when they dig. The two characters couldn’t be more different and I loved writing that clash of personalities.

I couldn’t write here about Jurassic Heart without mentioning Boner. I can’t quite remember exactly how it happened, though it’s certainly a reflection of my own personality that I would find naming a paleontologist ‘Boner’ absolutely hilarious

A great friend of mine, Rhys Ford, recently posted about Jurassic Heart on Facebook and I’ve received more than one nudge to write a sequel since. I can’t say one is in the works right now, but if the world is ready for another paleontologist romance, I’m certainly not one to deny it that.

So, there you go! My first Throwback Thursday novel post. I’ll be working my way through all my previous books as I go along—you can subscribe to my mailing list over there on the right to make sure you don’t miss any. Thanks for reading!



Mental Health Awareness Week

I really had to think about whether or not I wanted to blog about Mental Health Awareness Week. Partly because I wasn’t sure if I had anything I felt like I wanted to say. It’s not always easy to be open.

I don’t talk about my mental illness on social media for a few reasons. I think it’s partly because I’m actually quite private, and I think carefully about what I want people to think about me. When a large majority of my interactions with readers and other writers is online it’s easy to filter and present a certain image. Although I do my best to be very genuine and open, the darker side of my life is one I try and keep hidden from view.

This year I was signed off work for almost four months due to depression. I’ve only been back at work for a few weeks; when I made the trip to the States for RT I was technically still absent from work due to my mental health.

I’ve only been able to accept the fact that I have depression in the past couple of weeks. Before that I would insist that it was just anxiety—as if “just anxiety” is a thing! I suffer with panic attacks, insomnia, and being physically sick. Those were the worst symptoms, I think; throwing up often several times a day, not being able to sleep, and that awful tight feeling in my chest that never really went away. I found myself focusing on those physical symptoms because it was easier than trying to deal with the root cause. I really didn’t want to accept that I was ill.

For the first few months—through January and February—I pretty much refused to talk to anyone about my issues except my doctor (who I had to tell what was going on since she was the one to sign me off work). I refused CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) and any other type of therapy, and I didn’t want medication either. Looking back now, I really don’t know what I did for the four months I wasn’t in work. It’s like that time is a black hole. I didn’t write, I didn’t go anywhere, or do anything in particular. I just existed.

When I left for RT I felt like I was starting to lift out of it a bit. Having an amazing three week adventure to look forward to focused my attention, and travelling on my own always forces me to pay attention to the here-and-now, what’s going on around me and how I feel about it. I started to pay better attention to things like hunger cues, and though I still wasn’t (and am still not) sleeping that well, some of those awful physical side effects started to lessen.

I think part of the reason why I didn’t—and don’t—want to talk about my mental illness is because I like the fact that people see me as a bright and upbeat person. I am that person. I like being the sort of person who my friends look to to organise the parties and the nights out. I like baking just to see my colleagues smile and to brighten their day. (And because I like cake). I always strive to be the friend who lifts people up, instead of dragging them down. I hug a lot.

What I am learning is that I can still be that person—bright, full of life Anna—and accept and deal with my depression and anxiety in a healthy way. Having depression and anxiety doesn’t take away from that bright, full of life person. I am still her.

The way we talk about mental illness is changing rapidly. Even a few years ago I wasn’t prepared to discuss my anxiety attacks, even though I’ve been having them since I was sixteen. I buried the idea that I could be a person who suffered with mental health issues. It may be that coming to terms with the existence of those issues in the first place has been harder than overcoming the effects the issues have caused. I’m still working on it.

And I’m going to keep working on it. This journey is probably going to be one I’m on for the rest of my life. I may have lost four months of my life to depression, but I’m not going to let it dictate the next four months, or the months after that. I know there’s every chance—even a likelihood—that it’ll come back, that I’ll sink again, and I may lose more time. But I know who I am, and I know where I’m going, and I’m going to work my ass off to make sure that my mental health problems don’t define me as a person. I’ve got so much more to do.