Jan 28, 2015

Wild About Backyard Birds

At this time of year I become obsessed with birds. I’ve always been keen. When I was growing up in an English village I loved feeding the robins and blue tits in the winter when the ground was frozen, and I was fascinated by the skylarks which inhabited the field behind our house. I’d stare as they climbed higher and higher in the sky, singing all the way, until they were tiny dots.


When we moved to Australia I was astonished to see the birds that visited our backyard, especially the rainbow lorikeets and rosellas. I’d never expected to see such beautiful birds outside a zoo, and here they were, right outside our windows, going berserk over the seed pods on the palm tree or the tiny cones on the conifers.


After we’d lived in this house for a while we started to see a regular pattern of other species arriving and staying around for a while. Corellas fly in around Christmas time from the outback and take up residence in the tall pine trees in the parks around us. We hear them arrive with their loud calls, usually a few at a time until there’s a huge flock. I always think of it as the extended family meeting up for the annual seaside holiday.


Then there are the yellow-tailed black cockatoos which turn up in January in a smaller group and make their presence known with their very distinctive, far-carrying calls.

Sitting out in the garden we often see kestrels. We know there’s one around because the area becomes silent as all the small birds – honeyeaters, wagtails etc – make themselves scarce. The kestrel passes overhead and the air becomes filled with birdsong again.

I love them all. The only improvement I could make is to have kookaburras nearby. We once stayed in a cabin in a forest and the kookaburra chorus each morning and evening was truly spectacular. But even without the kookaburras, it’s fabulous. I love to sit out on our verandah surrounded by the sound of birds. It soothes me and makes me feels lucky to live here.

What about you – are you blasé about birds, or do you have your favourites? 





Jan 26, 2015

Happy 'strailya Day

It's Australia Day today. A day for us all to celebrate and be proud of our country and it's achievements and, particularly in the present world climate, realise how damn lucky we are to live in a country so free from internal strife. I do wish we celebrated this day on a date that was less contentious for our first nation peoples and it is my fervent hope that this may one day come to pass but in the mean time it's a day for us all to pull out the cricket set and find a BBQ somewhere. 

My family celebrated yesterday at my brother's house which is on the waterfront and after a week of rain the sun was shining!

I hope you enjoy these nice sunny snap shots.

Lamingtons, Burger Rings, Cheezels, Twisties and Clinkers! An Aussie Day sugar overload!
New cricket esky complete with own stumps about to debut on Aussie TV
Beach cricket - Aussie day tradition

Gorgeous sunny day - aren't all these colours so fabulous on the eye?


Where are you for and how do you celebrate your national day?

PS - fancy supporting an Aussie today? My Aussie Heroes novella is now out at all good etailers :-)


 

Jan 25, 2015

Sunday Smooch - The Sultan's Harem Bride



 
Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a smooch from Annie West but first 

... the winner of last week's Sunday Smooch Giveaway is Tammy Yenalavitch.

Can you please contact any(at)amyandrews(dot)com to receive your copy of 'The Hero'.

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from Annie West's THE SULTAN'S HAREM BRIDE.

WANTED: Desert princess to join harem 

Sultan Asim of Jazeer has hundreds of women at his beck and call. So why does he want the only one who threatens to reveal his family’s shameful secrets?

Journalist Jacqui Fletcher jumped at the chance to write a history of the harem—not to become a sultan’s plaything! But it’s hard to remember her assignment when the sultan’s sensuous caresses spark a fire she’s never experienced before…

Asim is looking for a pliable princess for a marriage of duty. Brave, beautiful Jacqui couldn’t be more wrong for him. So why does holding her feel so right?


UK Cover



North American Cover
Scene set-up

Ex-journalist Jacqui is living in Asim's royal palace, researching a book on the lives of women who once lived in the royal harem. Distrustful of journalists given the way they've treated his family and the current scandal surrounding his sister, Asim viewed her arrival with mistrust. But circumstances are such that he's had to accept her presence. He's been careful to keep a close eye on her. The trouble is he's begun to be far to attracted to this outsider. She's argumentative, stubborn and not at all like the charming, quiet, well-bred women he's interviewing as a possible bride. Now he's found her swimming half naked in his private courtyard. For weeks they've kept a careful distance, but now he's made the mistake of hauling her out of the pool, holding her close, insisting she call him by name, and his resolve falters.

Almost-Smooch

His gaze fixed on her lips, pink and inviting.

‘Asim,’ she said finally in a throaty murmur that sounded more like invitation than capitulation and made his blood rush hot and hard.

‘That’s better.’ His voice was a low growl and he heard her gasp.

He wanted to hear her gasp like that while she lay beneath him and he took them both to Paradise.

Jacqueline Fletcher invaded his peace. Every day she visited his office to report progress. She was businesslike and brisk but those stunning slanted eyes would flare amber fire when something fascinated her. Then she’d forget her formality and her whole being would come alive with an enthusiasm Asim wanted to capture and taste.

Each day it grew harder to concentrate on her words or remember the need to be suspicious. He wanted to strip away her shapeless trousers and loose shirts and touch the pearly skin he remembered. His body tightened as he imagined her writhing in pleasure against him.   
Except he was in the process of selecting a bride. He had no time for sexual diversions. Besides, honour dictated he shouldn’t seek a mistress and a wife at the same time.

His brain said that. His body refused to listen. It told him a few hours diversion was exactly what he needed.

Her teeth snagged on her bottom lip and he lifted one hand, pressing his thumb there, feeling her swift intake of breath.

‘Don’t. You’ll draw blood.’

‘Then let me go. I don’t want this.’

Liar.

Asim was tempted to demonstrate how much she wanted precisely this. It would be easy to kiss her till she surrendered. He’d carry her to a bed and relieve them both of the pressure that had built inexorably since the night he found her naked in the harem.

‘Please, Asim.’

Whether it was the fact she pleaded, this prickly, opinionated woman, or the way she said his name, in a voice barely concealing distress, Asim felt a fist lodge in his chest. Reluctantly he opened his hands and stepped back.

 
She looked up, those feline eyes gleaming with a slumberous heat that made a mockery of her protest and his caution. Then he read the tension in her mouth. She’d paled, the tiny smattering of freckles across her creamy skin standing out like blood on parchment.

‘I’m sorry I intruded.’ She ducked her head and spun away. ‘I should have realised you might want the pool.’

The fist in his chest twisted.

‘Don’t!’

Alarmed, she stared back over her shoulder.

‘Don’t apologise.’ He breathed deep, filling the void in his lungs. ‘I don’t like it when you’re…meek.’ The words surprised him as much as her. He felt the shock of that admission reverberate through him, even as he saw it ripple across her face.
He didn’t approve of the way she argued with him, refusing to be silenced after he’d made a decision. It happened daily when she tried to wheedle access to records or palace staff or ancient pavilions that had been locked up as unsafe generations ago. Yet seeing her hesitant and downcast was like watching a bright light dim.

For long seconds their eyes locked. Long enough for him to notice that in the syrupy late afternoon light her eyes flashed with shards of old gold.

Slowly her mouth eased into a crooked smile.

‘In that case, Asim,’ she paused over his name as if savouring it, ‘I promise not to be meek with you again.’

She scooped up her towel and wrapped it around herself, hurrying towards her room. But her chin was up and her shoulders back and, despite his body's howl of protest at her departure, Asim found himself smiling.

I spent my time writing this book, immersed (mentally) in a glorious old palace full of courtyard gardens, pools, colonnaded walkways, mosaic walls and secret rooms. There was a treasury full of precious things, royal archives, enormous kitchens so the chefs could produce enticing tidbits and amazing banquets and of course, wonderful private apartments with wide, canopied beds and sunken baths.

What do you think would be the best part about living in a royal palace?

Come back next Sunday, when the winner of today's giveaway will be announced and a smooch from Louisa George will be posted.
 



Smooch Graphic by WebWeaver


Jan 23, 2015

Love is the answer, what is the question?


Finding the right person to fall in love with is hard. Chances are....well, it's all about chance, isn't it? You choose to work at a particular place, eat at a particular restaurant, go to a particular party...and you meet your soul mate. Chances were, if you had chosen not to go out that night you would have never met.

Falling in love is a science and an art. It's a compromise. Keeping that love going over decades is nothing short of a tiny miracle.

I was intrigued by this article I read that apparently gives the single person a leg up on finding The One...or for couples to help them find out if what they have is love. Have a look and tell me what you think. Is it so easy that you can KNOW after answering 36 questions?

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2909261/The-36-questions-guaranteed-make-fall-love-Two-couples-soulmates-taking-psychologists-quiz.html

The questionnaire got me thinking about one of my last year's favourite books about a man with...challenges, who wants to meet the perfect woman, so he creates a questionnaire for potential wives...hilarious book and great concept. The follow up The Rosie Effect is great too.
















What do you think? Is there a secret formula for falling in love? 

Jan 21, 2015

LAZY HAZY HOT SUMMER DAYS by Yvonne Lindsay

My husband and I are taking a couple of days to ourselves and have been offered the use of a friend's holiday home by the beach. And it's beautiful! 

We arrived on a stinking hot day and were instantly mesmerised by the sea. I have to admit that I wondered whether or not the constant crash of the waves would wear me out but I've found it to be distinctly soothing. I've always loved the water and loved swimming but I'm a bit cautious on that this time around because there's a bit of an undertow here and the waves can be quite strong and there's the recovering frozen shoulder that has plagued me for several months which makes swimming probably a not so safe option for me at the moment. It doesn't bother me, though--I'm happy to observe the waves and the birds and, well, just take a few moments to sit and relax and enjoy.

New Zealand is enjoying a hotter summer than I can remember in a long long time. Yes, we've had some good summers but always interspersed with a great deal of rain, which has dampened out annual camping holiday on many an occasion. So much so that we've pretty much put camping on the back burner for now. 
Our kids are horrified, of course, but then again they're both back at work while we're still on holiday playtime and last night was deeply relaxing as we enjoyed a glass or two of wine and slowly watched the sky change as night fell. It feels like such a privilege to be able to simple stop "doing" and just "be", even if it's only for a few days.

So, that brings us to the beach, where I'm going to watch my husband have a swim while I peacefully munch toast on the deck in the sunshine and let my mind take a break.

What's your favourite way to relax?

Jan 19, 2015

My love affair with novellas

My Dad once told me that good things come in small packages. I have a feeling he told me this because I’m 5’4’’ on a good day, and have been ever since I stopped growing around the time high school started.

This is the book that started my
love affair with short reads
Speaking of smaller things, I’ve always enjoyed short books. I read a lot of category romances which run at the 50,000 word mark and I’m a huge fan of novellas as well which can be anywhere from 15,000 to 40,000 words (they can be longer for other genres where the average word count of a book is higher).

It’s not to say I can’t find pleasure in longer reads (since I just finished A Game f Thrones by George R.R. Martin which is longest book I’ve ever read and I loved it) but I enjoy the immediate gratification of a shorter read.

Not convinced? Here are my top reasons to pick up a novella today:

Instant gratification
Many novellas can be read in a single sitting. They’re great if you’ve come off the back of a long read and you’re looking for something quick and enjoyable. You get your happy ever after right away!

Revisit your favourite worlds
Many romance series these days have novellas as well as full-length novels. They’re a great way to check back in with your favourite world, see the characters who’ve been in the background of previous stories or to find some new characters to love.

Try out a new author
If you’re interested in trying out a new author, you don’t always have to commit to a full-length book straight away. Novellas are generally cheaper as well as quicker to read, which makes them a great way to see if you connect with an author’s voice and characters before you hand over the price of a bigger book.

Get your fix between big books
Writing is tough work and the publishing process can be slow. This means readers often have to wait long times between installments in their favourite series. A lot of authors are now releasing novellas so they can give their fans something between larger projects.

Novellas pack a punch
You might only have half the words but you still get all of the perks: chemistry, conflict and the beloved HEA. With the short word count authors have to work hard to fit everything into the story, meaning novellas are a concentrated form of romance goodness. Less words doesn’t have to mean less story.

Are you a fan of novellas? What the best one that you’ve read so far?


If you're looking for a place to start my novella with Entangled’s Lovestruck imprint, The RulesAccording to Gracie, is out today!! Happy Days.  

Jan 18, 2015

Sunday Smooch with Amy Andrews

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!


Today we have a smooch from  Amy Andrews but first 


... the winner of last week's Sunday Smooch Giveaway is Lynlinwill.....


Can you please contact Helen Lacey on mail (at) helenlacey (dot) com to receive your copy of Claiming His Brother's Baby


And now for today's Sunday Smooch from The Hero by Amy Andrews.






The darling of the Aussie small screen, Edwina Calloway, has always had a thing for her ex co-star the hunky Justin Wilde – even before he took off to Tinsel town and became a Hollywood heartthrob. And Justin always had a thing for her. Except she was married so neither of them ever crossed that line. But now Justin’s back in Oz to take part in a celebrity car rally with Edwina riding shotgun and she isn’t married anymore…

It seems the entire country is holding its breath for their much vaunted reunion. Can they survive a five day road trip, just the two of them alone in the car under intense media scrutiny without finally getting naked and doing the Wilde thing?

And if they can’t, what happens when Justin heads back to Hollywood?






Scene set-up

The rally is spending the night at the world famous Dubbo Zoo. Edwina has left her iPad in the car and her and Justin go to retrieve it. It's a hot, outback night and they're only in their swimming costumes. What could possibly happen....?




The further they got away from the lodges, the more the night enveloped them and the quieter it became. Only the trilling of insects accompanied them as they followed the path.

They were at the Monaro in under a minute. Justin opened the door for her and after a short hunt around she retrieved her iPad, which had fallen down beside her seat. “Got it,” she said, raising it triumphantly as she backed out and turned around, practically running straight into Justin who was still standing there.

     “Oh, sorry,” she said, taking a step back, bumping against the car. 
     “No need to apologise,” he murmured, “I shouldn’t have been standing so close.”
The area was quite well lit, but they were on the shadowed side of the car and at the very outer edge, a garden bed of manicured bushes next to them. His gaze was hooded, unreadable. But she could feel it on her skin.
Hot and hungry.  
Her heart beat a little faster. They were out here all alone, away from prying eyes. Her gaze dropped to his smooth chest. “You wax now.”
She didn’t know why she said it. She should have said something like back off, buddy, anything to diffuse the slow, steady burn between them. But 'you wax now' had just popped out of her mouth.
     “Just for my last role. Too much of a wimp to keep it up.”
     Edwina nodded absently, not really hearing him as she lifted her hand and lay her palm flat against a smooth pec like she’d wanted to earlier. 
     His harsh indrawn breath seemed loud in the night.
     “Smooth,” she said, trailing her hand down his ribs to the flatness of his belly, her index finger travelling the path of his non-existent happy trail to as far as his boardies allowed it.
     His muscles quivered under her touch.
“Ed,” he groaned. “Have a heart.”
Edwina looked up into his shadowed face, his brows were drawn together, his jaw tense. God. What was she doing? She dropped her hand. “I’m sorry... I shouldn’t have done that. I don’t know what came over me.”
“I do,” he muttered.
She raised her hand to his chest again, trying to get him to step back this time. He was so close - too close - the long lean line of him and his wild chlorine smell playing havoc with her senses.
“Back up,” she murmured when he refused to budge.
“No,” he said, his voice rough, almost like he was in pain. “I’m sorry, Ed, I just don’t want to anymore.”
And then his hand was sliding onto her cheek and his head was swooping down and his mouth landed, hot and fast, on hers, drowning her in a heady flood of lust and chlorine.
Edwina gasped, no plans to do anything other than hang on and go with him. His body followed his mouth, getting up close and personal, his hands landing on her butt, ripping the towel off her waist as he yanked her against him, his chest squashing her breasts, her nipples hardening into stiff aching points.
This wasn’t like any kiss they’d had in the past. No one was watching and there was no one to care and it combusted under the pressure of too many years of yearning.


The Hero is out on the 23rd of January so I do hope everyone will drop by Amazon and pick one up. It's only 99c for the first 2 days! 
In the meantime you have a chance to win a free copy if you leave a comment on this question - ever been on a car rally or some other large group charity event? What's your favourite charity and do you give regularly or do you believe in doing good deeds closer to home?



Come back next Sunday, when the winner of today's giveaway will be announced and a smooch from Annie West will be posted!


Smooch Graphic by WebWeaver