HELL YEAH, I’ve decided! It is SO ‘REAL’ and not in the least FRIVOLOUS OR TIME WASTING’.

From the 18th – 20th August, 2017, I attended the Romance Writers of NZ annual conference. This year it was held at the Novotel in Rotorua (which is also one of the ‘most travelled to’ tourist meccas in our gorgeous NZ). Top location!

All the conference speakers were warm, and generous of spirit. Their words & workshop wisdom flowed effortlessly. Of course by the end of 3 full-on days my brain was a bit ‘fried’. But what needed to stick with me – has done – or I believe it will be there (in the dark recesses of my grey matter), when I need it, in the days to come. And then there is always my crazily scrawled notes for further jogging of the memory.

One speaker, Christie Craig or C.C. Hunter (CC publishes under both names) gave us the perfect example of how ‘romance is very real’ indeed; her telling of ‘why IT is so’ had many of us choked-up with ‘real’ emotion by the end of her tale, myself included.

Christie was out at a social function and chit-chatting with folks, as you do; one gentleman asked her, “So, when are you gonna write a ‘real’ story instead of this romance stuff?”

This is my edited version of what she told him

“Honey, let me tell you about romance and just how ‘real‘ it is…Do you remember when you were in kindergarten, your first day and you were about 3 or 4 years old, you saw that cute little girl sitting on the swing set, and you liked her right away cos she smiled at you… Do you remember that? And then when you got to middle grade, you got to hold hands with the girl you’d been swooning over for almost the entire year… Then when you got a bit older, you kissed a girl for the first time – you must remember how that felt, right? Your heart was beating so hard you thought it was gonna pop right outta your chest… and right about then other things were popping up and wanting to be noticed too… Then you meet a girl that let you go to ‘first base and later on…even further’… Then you meet the girl you wanted to marry, the one that made your heart beat so fast and hard you knew that if you didn’t wake next to her every day for the rest of your life you were gonna just die… And you married her, honey! She was the one for you. You knew it the first moment you set eyes on her! You got a house and mortgage together. She helped you start your business and ran the accounts and kept the house and the garden… Then along came the babies. You had four of em! You watched her give birth to those babies and your eyes watered with the pain she went thru, but she didn’t moan or complain… no she’d smiled right at you every single time while she clutched that new baby to her breast and told you how much she loved you! You got those children through their upbringing, schooling, and university, and then you saw them married too. You two made a whole life and a family together…But now you’re both old and the kids have made you grandparents…maybe even great-grandparents…you know your time together is running out…she might be sick… or you might be… And one of you is likely gonna die before the other one… and you’re gonna be so lost without each other… NOW, YOU TELL ME HOW DOES IT GET ANY MORE ‘REAL’ THAN THAT, HONEY?

C.C. has a way with words. As she told the entire conference her tale we were laughing and almost crying by the end of it. She’d painted such a vivid picture of why we read and write these stories; for me it validated the last 21 years I’ve been a member of RWNZ; it’s an incredible organisation where I’ve made lifelong friendships. And romance is at the core of those relationships. Romance is definitely what makes the world go round. The only thing that matters in this life is the journey and how well you’ve lived and loved.

Romantic fiction (including all the sub-genres) is still the most popular fiction purchase for readers, sales are up, stats presented to us at the conference were irrefutable. The manner in which we now choose to read may have changed; digital reading is soaring. It’s cheaper. It’s more compact. It’s so damn portable. And story writing of all genre styles is far from dead. Before you get the movie you have to have a story, before you have a song you have a story…

Everything starts with a STORY! And the more emotion and conflict you can pack into ‘a story’ the better. Whether it’s told thru the written word, portrayed up on the big screen or sung to you, nearly always there is romance or a relationship at it’s heart…

AND IT’S AS FAR FROM FRIVOLOUS AS IT GETS. When there is turmoil and unsettled behaviour around you, negativity, and pain… to escape into ‘a story’ however it is being told (written, sung, visual) is often your best chance of recovery… and it reminds you to have hope. It reminds you to make friends. It reminds you to continue to try and find love. And it reminds you to continue to live!









(In the year 2000 I entered this original poem into the NZ Poetry Society’s annual ‘international competition’ and they published a selection of the poems and haiku entered. ‘The Whole Wide World’ 2000 – ISBN 0-9598009-6-4)



in the corner

curled, crunched almost into a ball

knees drawn up firmly under chin

head bent in defeat



“he said it was okay-but don’t tell ya mother”

head lifted slightly to see reaction

“mum hates me-says I’m a liar

you believe me don’t you?”



childlike innocence long gone from face

now looking for something-anything

approval of the truth

“what’ll happen now I’ve told?”



tears trickle silently

eyes squeezed shut

arms wrapped to hugging knees

the ball is now complete


Gaylene May Atkins


The road to self-publishing success is an interesting one that’s for sure! All it takes is a ‘mind-shift’. And I do believe I’m getting there folks! This morning I completed Chandler Bolt’s free online webinar. I came upon it randomly. However, we all know that nothing in this life IS ‘random’… you do know that, right? I was within a 15 minute time-frame of it starting. So I followed the links and clicked thru and went for it. And I don’t for a second regret spending the time – not at all. I got several pages of notes. It was fast paced. Inspiring. And there was cool interaction on a comment side-bar with people from all around the world. That’s what amazed me; we were all watching this young man in our own time-zone; technology is SO amazing. And us writers/creatives of any genre can make it all work for us. Just gotta learn a few new skills and play with the tools on offer.

Primarily the webinar was a bit about ‘Chandler’s story’ and how the self-publishing journey was for him and more importantly – what his self-publishing school can offer us ‘do it for yourself writers’ – of all genres. Today’s webinar was relating mostly to non-fiction writers. But I know the skill sets offered will work perfectly for fiction writers as well. This young man has done things his way… and admits that being a ‘high school drop-out’ made him learn about life and making money from another perspective. And then he wrote about it… And then he sold his books… Chandler Bolt is a self-made millionaire. His story is inspiring.


Hello to all you gorgeous readers out there! How have you been? Hopefully you’re all pretty damn good? But no doubt, like me , you’ll have changed in some fashion or other as well. Cos we all do. And it’s a good thing. You may or may not have noticed that I’ve been AWOL for about 15 months; life in general and some health issues needed to be taken care of. But I’m ‘all good to go’ again now. And WOW have I started back with a great big BANG!

YESTERDAY, 11 Feb 2017, I attended Joanna Penn’s SUCCESSFUL SELF-PUBLISHING seminar in Auckland, New Zealand – – absolutely anything and everything is possible people! Believe it. If you’re a writer then ‘now’ is your time for successful self-publishing no question about that. If you’re not a writer or don’t currently consider yourself ‘a creative person’ then find your passion and get on with it! Think; photography, painting, colouring-in, gardening, growing vege, cooking, whatever it is….do it and share it. Our choices and options are only limited by our imaginations…and if you can see it… can do it and be it! The internet makes everything so easy and doable. Let yourself be inspired…..


Pulling up outside the red brick and tile house in the suburbs had him sweating. The place was perfectly kept; he knew she saw to all that as well as working full-time; tidy lawns and shrubbery a testament to her diligence and energy. Her car was parked in the driveway with another right beside it. Her mother’s most likely.

Unclipping the seat belt he reached across and grabbed the bunch of flowers.

Standing at the door and pressing the buzzer made him sweat even more. Eventually , it opened.

“Ah, I wondered how long it would take for you to turn up here.”

Meg was dressed in a bright orange leotard, pastel orange leggings and pastel and dark orange striped leg-warmers; bare feet and painted orange toenails. His tongue was stuck to the roof of his mouth for a split second, “That’s some outfit to be opening the door in. I thought you said you’d come in this afternoon? Not at lunchtime.” He shoved past her and turned in the hallway to present her with the flowers.

“This outfit is for doing yoga in and it beats wearing office gear any day. Oh how sweet, flowers… For me? Shall I cut off the heads of the roses and bin them now or later?”

“You wouldn’t dare. You love roses.”

“I do, don’t I?” She reached for the flowers. “Yellow, white and orange! You were covering all the bases then?”

“The florist told me what they all meant. So you won’t chop off their heads?”

“Not this time.” As she took the bunch of colour and fragrance she sniffed appreciatively at its centre as if she had every right to and had in fact been expecting them. But it was the first time he’d ever given her store bought flowers. He must be a worried man. The colourful bunch of roses said so much more than ‘sorry’.

“I really want you to reconsider your employment options Meg.” Her brows rose. She expected more from him obviously. “I’m begging now; for everyone. Please don’t leave. I can barely cope with changing a few appointments let alone anything else. And I’ve been a bastard to everyone there – I can’t seem to stop myself.” Which was true. “You keep everyone so happy there.” He wanted her to know she was wanted; needed; desperately.

“What? You mean you changed your own appointments to come and see me?” She knew for certain that he had one huge potential client scheduled for right about now – she’d made the appointment over a month ago. It was an account he’d been wanting for a long time and worth a lot of money if they secured it.

“Had to. I couldn’t see any other way around it.”

‘Oh dear, she was beginning to weaken. She’d have to be firm with him this time’. “I think you’d better come through. I’ll make tea? Or perhaps something stronger? You might need it.”

“Why? I know if I grovel sufficiently, you’ll come back.”

“Not this time Billy. I can’t. I’ve got a new job.”

“Already? You can’t have!” He followed her into the open plan kitchen and dining area. “How could you?”

“Easy. I want something more challenging.” She grabbed a vase and dealt with the roses. “And apart from us having had one disagreement too many and no laughs in the office, recently, I think it’s way past time for me to leave.”

“But I’ll be stuffed without you there.”

“No you won’t and you know it.” She walked toward him and put her arm around his shoulders. “Come on, sit down. I’ll fix you a drink. Brandy, I think.”

She handed him a crystal tumbler, “No ice, just how you like it. Now get that down you.”

“It’s only three in the afternoon. I don’t drink at this time of the day.” He took the offered seat.

“Well, you’re not usually out of the office at this time of the day either. But here you are.”

At that moment her mother came in from the garden.

“Ah, there you are William. I wondered if we’d see you this afternoon. Have you told him yet?”

“He knows I’ve got a new job. I just haven’t told him what or where it is.”

William took a large gulp of his drink. This was it; defeat and acceptance. She really was leaving him. His heart had steadied back into a normal rhythm. He’d be okay – he had to be. He could get a new secretary – he could. He just needed to convince himself a little more first.

“I wasn’t 100% sure myself whether I did have the job or not. But I found out just before I cleared out my desk earlier today.”

The older woman eyed them both, her blue eyes twinkling, “Oh well… I’ll leave you two to it then. Call me when you’ve told him what you’ll be doing dear.”

He downed the rest of his drink. “Well I guess this is really it then?”

“Don’t you want to know what I’ll be doing?”

“I bet you’ve been poached away by Don Barton? He’s always wanted you. Said you were the best damn asset the company had. And he was right.”

“No. Not exactly.”

“Look Meg, I’ll be straight with you, I guess I can do without you as my secretary. But I sure as hell can’t do without you as my wife, so if this is what you really want then I’ll have to accept it, won’t I?”

“That’s good darling. By the way I’ve moved your things back into our room.”

His eyebrows rose as she continued.

“I’ve been lonely. And I had to put Mum somewhere didn’t I?”

“You have? Of course you did.” He looked at her again; her eyes were shining and she had that Mona Lisa secret smile going on. “So what’s this new job then? Tell me all about it. I can deal with it, I’m calm now.”

Sitting on his lap as if it were the most natural thing in the world, which it was, she grabbed his right hand and said, “Guess,” as she placed his hand over her abdomen.

The new job now made perfect sense to him; after five years of their ‘never a dull moment marriage’, they’d decided to try for a baby. They’d been trying very hard for about a year. “Ah, at last, new beginnings – for everyone.”

She nodded; her secret smile still firmly in place.

He leaned away, their steady gazes holding fast, “When? I bet it was the Easter long weekend? On the brown leather couch after everyone had gone?”

“Hmmm….. it could’ve been there. Or on the desk afterwards, or in the lift on our way home. Remember?”

“As if I could ever forget that day. Is your mother really staying?”

“Not necessarily.”

“Good. When’s she leaving?”

“I’d say – any second now.”

The front door banged shut and they were both at the dining room window in record time, Meg opened it, “Bye Mum. I’ll call you.” The older woman waved and blew them both a kiss as she got in her car and reversed out of the driveway. She tooted her horn all the way down the street.

“Right wife, I think you’re way overdressed for what I have in mind.”

“Billy! It’s the middle of the afternoon!”

“So, we won’t do it here? Where then? Upstairs? What about on the stairs?”

Kissing him senseless was her pleasurable revenge!

(I hope you enjoyed this conclusion to the story.) ‘Secretary’s Revenge’ won 1st place in the 2004 Romance Writers of NZ “New Beginnings” competition. The theme was of course ‘new beginnings’ and those words needed to be in the story body somewhere. A romance has to have a ‘happy-ever-after’ ending. Sometimes referred to as ‘HEA’. A love story can have a much more poignant ending; central characters often losing out in the HEA love stakes.

When this story was written it was a different time. A slower time. Our technology moves at such a pace and we have to keep up or get lost in the dross. So you may have noticed a couple of things that ‘dated’ the story – the telephone handset being slammed down in anger – for one. There was nothing quite like slamming the ‘now old-fashioned’ phone handset down in someone’s ear to show your displeasure as you disconnected a call; somehow pushing a soft-touch button to disconnect the latest ‘Iphone 6’ call just doesn’t give a girl the same sense of satisfaction!

Now it’s back onto the latest ‘wip’ (work-in-progress) for me; a feel-good romance with erotic undertones (and overtones), set in Raglan, NZ. A divorced and jaded heroine (and she’s had quite a spell of celibacy too) who will have two men vying for her affections and attentions; there will definitely be a HEA with one of them!

PART 2 OF ‘SECRETARY’S REVENGE’ – (780 words approx)

Part 2 of my short story ‘Secretary’s Revenge’ continues hope you enjoy the story-building towards the eventual conclusion and ending…

After two days Meg still hadn’t returned to work or to clear out her desk. The office was getting more and more chaotic without her. If it was an apology she wanted then he’d better give her one. Picking up the phone he dialled her home number.

She answered on the third ring, “Meg Tyler speaking.”

“It’s me.”


“When are you going to stop this mucking about and come back to work?”

“If that was your idea of an apology it needs major reworking Mr Winstone.”

And she slammed the phone down in his ear.

He pushed redial and spoke as soon as it was picked up, “Look, damn you woman. I’m trying to apologise here. Don’t you dare hang up on me, not again. We have to sort this… Megan?”

“Is that you William?”

“Who’s this?”

“It’s Margaret Tyler, dear.”

Her mother was there?

“Ah… sorry. I didn’t realise. Is Meg available please, I’d like to speak with her?”

“She says not until you apologise properly, dear.”

“What does she want? My blood.” He held the phone away from his ear as the woman asked Meg what exactly she wanted from this man.

“She says yes ‘blood, and some sweat and tears would be good too, dear.”

“This has gone beyond a joke. Put her on the phone, now… please?”

Meg’s tone was angry, “Don’t you try making your ‘not-so-polite’ demands on Mum; they may have worked on me in the past but not anymore.”

“Please come back to work. I can’t manage without you Meg. I need you here.”

“Well I don’t need to be there. I’m managing just fine by not coming in. In fact, I’m quite enjoying it. I think it’s time I cleared out my desk. This afternoon is good for me. You can advertise my position forthwith. Is that clear enough for you Mr Big-shot William J Winstone?”

Shit! This was the worst she’d ever been. He’d really blown it this time. “Are you sure Meg? The place is getting into a real muddle and everyone is breathing down my neck for the next instalment of the ad campaign; you know… the Dinosaur one?”

“Now the truth’s coming out. You only want me to come in and finish off what I, not you, started.”

“No! I mean yes. But I want you back for all the other stuff too.”

“Oh you mean coffee and laundry detail?”

“Well yes and the other stuff.” William looked up to see several of his employees standing outside his office door. He made a rude sign with his forefinger and tried to concentrate on what she’d just said. Tom had his betting book out, again. They were all laying odds on how long it would be before she came back to work. Money was exchanged and hands were shaken.

He thought back and seized on the words he wanted to hear, “This afternoon? You’re coming back this afternoon?”

“Only to clear my stuff out.”

“What time?”

“When I get there.”

He hung up the phone and glanced at his watch. Almost lunchtime. He’d better get a plan sorted as soon as possible.

“Get back to work you lot. She’s coming back this afternoon so save yourselves some money and stop with the betting.”

“We’ll see,” Tom answered. “If she makes you coffee we’ll divvie up. Not a second before.”


She didn’t make any coffee. Her desk was cleared out in record time and she was gone by the time he got back from lunch.

Tom leaned out of his door, “She came – she went. And no coffee got made boss. I think it’s permanent this time. It’s sure looking that way. Hey, nice flowers.”

William eyed the massive bunch of flowers he was still clutching. “Yeah, guaranteed to get me back on her good side. Or so the florist told me.”

“Yeah well, most women love flowers. But Meg is not most women.”

“You think I don’t know that Hart!” He glared at his friend, “Don’t you have work to do?”

William saw nothing else for it – he’d have to confront her in her own space. “I’m going to be out for the rest of the day. My message service will pick up any calls.’

His appointments diary was fairly light except for one important prospective new client. He’d have to be switched along with everyone else.

The calls went smoothly; they all understood his predicament – with the prospective new client being the most sympathetic.

In fact, William was more than a little surprised at how easily he’d achieved all the secretarial type stuff. Maybe he didn’t need one after all?

(I bet know what you’re thinking… ‘the arrogance of the bloody man!’ But don’t worry, Meg definitely has the last say…)