Apr 24, 2019

Barrier Reef dreaming – by Kandy Shepherd

We had ambitious plans for celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary this month. Maybe a party. Certainly a dinner at a special restaurant. Definitely an overseas trip to somewhere I’d always wanted to go. As it turned out, budget and other constraints put paid to the overseas trip.

Instead we turned our sights to somewhere closer to home—beautiful Port Douglas in tropical North Queensland just a few hours flight from Sydney. Tropical Port Douglas, on the Great Barrier Reef, is a wonderful destination loved by both Aussies and international visitors. I adore it (and have, of course, used it as a location in my books!)

FIRST SWIM OF THE TRIP!

 Our four nights away weren’t a private second honeymoon. We were joined by very good, longstanding friends which made it all the more special. We stayed at a lovely resort with an enormous, beautiful swimming pool of which I took full advantage.

LOW ISLAND - OUR DESTINATION!

Rain had been predicted for every day of our stay—it held off until the last night. The sea was a welcoming 26˚C. This was a very good thing because I wanted to fulfil a long-held ambition—to snorkel on the Barrier Reef the world’s largest coral reef system and a World Heritage Site.

ON LOW ISLAND

People seemed stunned when I admitted I had never seen the reef. Had never taken a ride in a glass-bottomed boat or swam in the tropical waters. The first opportunity had been way back in primary school when the school took an educative visit to the Great Barrier Reef. I was one of the ones left behind in the classroom. I wasn’t alone—in fact not many of the class were able to go. But I remember how gutted I was, as I so wanted to see the reef and the Great Barrier Reef assumed mythic proportions in my mind!


LOW ISLAND LIGHTHOUSE

 Then when I eventually did visit northern Queensland, the weather was never right with seas too rough to venture out on a boat. Or no-one else wanted to go with me and I didn’t care to go on my own.



 Not this time. Five of us were up very early to take a fast speedboat out to the inner reef at Low Island for our first, tiny taste of the reef. We were kitted out in full-length “stinger suits” that covered any part of us that wasn’t covered by mask, snorkel and flippers. This is because these waters are host to marine stingers—including the deadly box jellyfish. We were nearing the end of “stinger season” but were happy for the protection.

All kitted out in our stinger suits!

 It was only a small part of the “inner reef”, miniscule really, as there are thousands of reefs stretching along the coastline for more than two thousand kilometres. But that was okay for our little party of snorkellers, as one of us wasn’t a confident swimmer and it was safer for her in these waters. (In fact pool noodles were provided for non-confident swimmers.) Next time, I'll be aiming for the outer reef.


Not my photo, but I swam with a beautiful sea turtle like this one. (Deposit Photos)

It was wonderful. There were colourful corals, really interesting sea creatures and exquisite fish of all sizes and hues. Apparently we swam near some baby sharks but thankfully I didn’t see them! What I did have the good fortune to see was a large, handsome green sea turtle. No one else spotted him/her and I swam alone with him for what seemed like ages, fascinated by his grace and beauty as he glided through the waters. It was the highlight of my trip.

The rest of our short trip was devoted to the delights of eating out in Port Douglas, perusing the fabulous Sunday markets and enjoying our time with each other and our friends.  It was a truly memorable way to celebrate our wedding anniversary.

And the overseas destination I so wanted to visit for our celebration? Sri Lanka. 

I was born in Colombo and have always wanted to go there. If we’d made it for our hoped for anniversary trip we would almost certainly have been there at the time of the terrible, terrorist bombings. My thoughts to the people of Sri Lanka, the victims and their families.

Have you ever had a serendipitous change of plan? Or a bucket list holiday? We’d love to read your comments!

(We did our snorkelling trip with Reef Sprinter.)

https://www.reefsprinter.com.au/low-isles-lagoon.html

Apr 22, 2019

This time last year by Amy Andrews

This time last year, I was in Frace, with my family. My extended family too - my brother and his family and my dad was there as well. 

We went for the 100th anniversary of the battle for Villers Bretonneux fought by the Australian army which just happens to fall on another very important day for Australians and NZ'ers - 25th of April or Anazac day. 

We spent 3 weeks in rural France travelling all around the old Western Front as well as Normandy and went to the dawn service at the war memorial at Villers which was very moving (also freezing and rainy..)


























After that we spent 2 weeks in a tiny village in the Loire valley in a gorgeous old house where 2 sets of friends joined us over the course of that time. It was wonderful and relaxing. The weather was lovely and we drank French wine and ate French cheese in the lovely gardens and visted all the nearby markets and several of the chateaus that make the area famous.






It was the first time we'd really explored rural France and I cant recommend it highly enough! And I can't wait to go back.

So, what about you? What were you doing this time last year?

Apr 21, 2019

Sunday Smooch - Wedding Night Reunion in Greece by Annie West

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a smooch from Annie West's new release

 WEDDING NIGHT REUNION IN GREECE


She’s his runaway bride…

He’s come to claim his wedding night!

Emma Piper’s just promised to love, honor and cherish Greek tycoon Christo Karides…but then she overhears him admitting he married her purely for convenience. Bolting to her family’s beautiful Corfu villa, Emma doesn’t expect Christo to follow—especially with seduction in mind! Their intense attraction promises an explosive reunion. Will a night in her husband’s bed show Emma there’s more to their marriage than just convenience…?

Escape to the Greek islands with this reunion romance.
Scene set-up
Within hours of her wedding Emma Piper is devastated to find the real reason her new husband married her had nothing to do with love! Furious and hurt she leaves him to deal with a reception full of well-wishes and makes her escape. Now he's tracked her down to Corfu and has the temerity to demand they stay married. More, that they share a wedding night. The answer is no. But the trouble is Emma still has a weakness for the man she'd loved, even if she hates him now.

Smooch  -
‘This conversation’s getting us nowhere. That’s in the past and—’
‘On the contrary, this conversation is just getting interesting.’ He lowered his head as if trying to read her face in the darkness. ‘Tell me why you married me, Emma.’
That voice, honey mixed now with rumbling gravel, scraped through her insides. But instead of leaving painful grazes, it stirred something altogether unwanted. Something she needed to banish. If only she knew how!
Suddenly she realised the danger of being this close to him. Of his flesh on hers. ‘I want to go inside.’
‘Could it be,’ he went on as if she hadn’t spoken, ‘because of this?’
He tugged her hand, pulling her against him. Emma’s hissed breath was loud as she planted her other palm on his chest to push away.
But before she could, he’d raised her captured hand to his face and pressed his lips to her palm. She felt surprisingly soft lips and the delicious abrasion of his hair-roughened jaw, a reminder of his masculinity, as if she needed it!
Instantly sensation juddered through her.
Desire.
Delight.
Weakness.
Shivers reverberated through her and Emma knew she had to fight this. But then Christo moved, bending lower to kiss the sensitive flesh of her wrist, creating a shower of sparks in her blood.
The trouble was Emma had so little experience. There’d been a guy at uni when she was eighteen but that had never progressed beyond a few kisses, because her grandmother had died and suddenly, more than ever, she was needed at home. She had no experience withstanding such powerfully erotic caresses. Or the demands of her own body, finally woken after so long.
Firming her mouth, she pushed that unyielding chest with her free hand. It made no impact.
Or perhaps she didn’t push very hard. For now Christo was kissing his way along the bare flesh of her forearm where the wide sleeve of her robe fell back.
His grip wasn’t tight. She could yank her hand free. If only she could find the willpower to do it.
But oh, the lush sensations spreading from those tiny yet incredibly intimate kisses.
Her breath sawed and in her ears blood rushed helter skelter.
He’d reached her elbow and she stiffened like a yacht’s sail snapping taut in the wind. Taut but trembling too, at the sensations he evoked. Her hand on his chest no longer pushed. Instead it splayed, fingers wide, absorbing the sultry heat of his hard chest and the teasing friction of the smudge of dark hair on his pectorals.
‘Stop that now.’ Because, heaven help her, she couldn’t. ‘I’m not sleeping with you, Christo.’
That caught his attention. He looked up and even in the gloom, she caught the brilliance of his eyes as he looked down at her. Then, without uttering a word, he put his mouth to her arm and slowly licked her inner elbow.
Emma’s knees all but gave way as a frighteningly potent shot of lust punched her. She made a sound, a soft, keening noise that she wouldn’t have thought possible if she hadn’t heard it slide from her lips.
She cleared her throat ready to demand he release her when she felt the scrape of teeth nipping the soft flesh in the crease of her elbow. Then almost immediately the strong draw against her skin as he sucked the spot.
Emma bit down hard on her lip to prevent a groan escaping into the night. She’d had no idea something as ordinary as an elbow could be so sensitive. That it could make her feel...
Ready for sex. That’s how she felt. With her trembling limbs and that pulsing point down between her thighs that urged her to move closer to Christo. There was an aching hollowness inside and her breasts seemed fuller than before, eager for contact, her nipples impossibly hard. If she followed that animal instinct she rub herself against him, purring and pleading for follow through.
Her weakness terrified her.
‘I said I don’t want to go to bed with you.’ Her voice was too loud and too wobbly.
For answer he released her hand which wavered uselessly in the air then slowly dropped to her side. Instead of moving back he stroked his fingertips over her cheek. All she had to do was pull her head back a couple of centimetres to sever the contact but she couldn’t do it. Instead she stood as if mesmerised by the caress of long, hard fingers that worked magic with each touch.

‘I don’t believe you.’

A wedding night in Greece wasn't what Emma and Christo had originally planned but I must say I loved the location. If you were planning a honeymoon, or writing about one, where would it be? Who knows, suggestions might end up in a future book!

Leave a comment to go in the draw to win a signed copy of WEDDING NIGHT REUNION IN GREECE.

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


Smooch Graphic by WebWeaver

Apr 17, 2019

Greek Island Dreaming, Annie West

Ever fancied an escape to an island hideaway? How about a trip to exotic Greece? I confess I’ve been dreaming of both lately.

You’ve all heard how we authors work alone, hunched over our computers, cut off from the world. 
Well, OK, I know some who write in their local café! But generally we spend solitary hours locked away indoors, living life vicariously through our characters. Is it any wonder we sometimes dream of wonderful locations for those characters?

So today I’m taking you to one of my favourite dream locations. In this case it’s a real place and I used it in my book. I could actually pinpoint a lot of the scene locations on a map!

Welcome to Corfu.


I’ve wanted to visit here since I was in my teens. It’s in the Ionian Sea to the west of Greece and is one of a number of islands there. One day I’ll get to them all. But I’m so grateful I managed to visit Corfu last year, just before the big influx of tourists. I found a lovely island, roses, olive trees, friendly people, great views, excellent food and so much history. The colours are brilliant and the quality of the air was lovely. Here is just a taste of what it has to offer and what appealed.

The streets of old Corfu town

The colours

The sea

The flowers

The sheer scenic beauty of the place



I'll leave you with a photo of some very old olive trees. These grand old trees are all over the island and make beautiful shady groves, as well as being a source of food and oil. Greek olive groves are one of my favourite places. And when they're on a slope down to a sparkling sea and also shelter some ancient ruins...what's not to love?

I hope you enjoyed this little excursion to the Mediterranean.

If you could plan a week’s dream escape, where would you go?

In case you’re wondering, the book set in Corfu is WEDDING NIGHT REUNION IN GREECE (out now).






Apr 10, 2019

ABBA

 I’ve had a long love affair with Swedish pop sensation ABBA. Ever since they burst onto the charts in the mid 1970s they had my heart (ousting the Bay City Rollers from top slot). So you can imagine my delight when the ABBASOLUTELY FABBAULOUS SHOW toured Newcastle last week.

I have SO many happy memories involving Agnetha, Frida, Benny and Bjorn.

#1: The day all the girls in my fourth class spontaneously broke into When I Kissed the Teacher when the much-adored sixth class teacher, Mr Malcolm, walked into our classroom. I can still remember the smiles, the happiness…and how that seemed to last the whole day. :) When I Kissed the Teacher is still one of my favourite ABBA songs.

#2: Being allowed to go to the drive-in with my older cousins to see the ABBA movie. It was one of those iconic “I’m a grown-up” moments (completely false, mind you, but I adored my cousins and I can still taste my excitement).

I now have the ABBA Movie on DVD!


#3: When I was an undergraduate—back in the old, old days (early 1990s)—my flatmate and I would religiously rock up to The Castle every Wednesday night for FABBA—an ABBA tribute band. We’d dance non-stop until the wee small hours, and then drag ourselves off to classes the next day. That was back in the days when a late night didn’t wipe me out for a week. ;-)


My battered Arrival album and a 45 of Fernando (B-side is -- swoon -- Tropical Loveland)

I loved Muriel’s Wedding and Priscilla Queen of the Desert when they came out. I swooned over both Mamma Mia movies. So it will come as no surprise to you that I was one of the first out of my seat at the theatre last Thursday when ABBASOLUTELY FABBAULOUS SHOW kicked off proceedings with Does Your Mother Know? Yes, much dancing and crazy good times were had. :)

You wanna know what else is putting a smile on my face? ABBA has just announced that they’re reforming to record two brand new songs!

TWO. NEW. SONGS. Coloured me excited.


Okay, it’s your turn now. What’s your favourite musical crush?

Apr 8, 2019

Off to the Ballet

Do you love ballet? I loved dancing as a child but my mother took me out of dance as back then you needed to be able to sew costumes and my mum couldn’t sew. So I only did one year of ballet. Yes, only once did I get to wear a pink sequined tutu at an end of year concert.

But I love to watch dance. So last night we trekked up to Brisbane to see the ballet, Dangerous Liaisons. Wow. It was amazing. Such talent. Such grace. Such drama.
 
Image courtesy Qld Ballet
The dancers were truly mesmerising to watch. If you know the story, there is much intrigue, lust, sex and drama. This was all played out with great energy and intensity.

At the end of the performance, the dancer who played Vicomte Sebastien de Valmont was promoted from soloist to senior soloist, so that was pretty special to watch.


Any one else love ballet or the performing arts? I’d love to know.

Apr 5, 2019

Kitten Spam

So, we got a kitten! (ducking to avoid the onslaught of LoveCat squeeees) 

We already have a cat. And a dog. And ducks that think they are dogs. And many chickens. And quails. And several kinds of fish. And kakarikis and budgies. And lots of (lovely, green) snakes that have been let go in our big backyard by my snake catcher husband.

But we've been hoping to add a kitten to the mix for some time. We have room. We have love. We have primary-aged kids who would be over the moon to know a cat from kitten age up.

As things tend to happen in our house, in the end it happened rather suddenly.

Last weekend my husband went to buy some birdseed from a Pet Barn only to find they had a couple of adorabubble RSPCA kittens ready to adopt. When he bent down to have a look at one, the other patted him on the head.  "Hey, look at me!"

So he sent me a video. Oh, baby, that little girl was cute!  Creamy and grey, with Cleopatra eyes.  No question she belonged in our animal-adoring home.

The kids thought we were buying dog food when we took them in to see her the next day. The joy - oh my the joy! - when they finally believed us when we said we were bringing her home.

Then to the name. We went through Glimmer, Errol, Lunar. Bianca came close. In the end we all loved April. (A nice match for our black cat, Friday.) So April she is.

Friday is wary but doing great. Tonight they slept on the back of the same couch. Our dog, Cookie, looooooves her. They are great mates. Seriously. It's the sweetest thing. As for the rest of the menagerie? She'll meet them in time.

Till then, there'll be plenty of Kitten Spam on my Facebook and Instagram!