Oct 22, 2014

Inspirational Quotations

Do you have a favourite quotation? One that struck you with particular meaning when you read it and has stuck in your head ever since?

I do. It’s this one:

For me, this quotation can stop me procrastinating and motivate me to Just. Get. Started. I remind myself of it whenever I’m faced with an overwhelming task. Getting started is by far the hardest part, but once I’ve taken that first step it doesn’t seem so daunting.

No matter how big the task seems, no matter how insurmountable it appears, we have to make a start and continue from there. Writing a book, losing weight, gaining a qualification, breaking a habit, getting fit - most things in life are accomplished in small stages, not in huge giant steps. Any task, broken down into small pieces, seems much easier. Without the first step, the journey will never happen. Somebody who dreams big but never acts will never make their dream come true.

Other quotations that I like include:

"Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die." - Carrie Fisher

"If you want the rainbow you have to put up with the rain." - Dolly Parton

"The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek." - Joseph Campbell

What about you? Do you have a favourite quotation? Any that resonate strongly?

Oct 20, 2014

When One Door Closes Another Opens

Like many young girls I studied ballet from an early age. I’ll be honest, it wasn’t my favourite type of dance at the time. I’m not the most graceful person (ok, I’m the person most likely to fall over and hurt myself) and I found tap and hip hop more fun and better suited to my less-than swan-like movements.

However ballet fascinated me despite my lack of talent.

I went through several years of exams and performed to a lot of the staple ballet music pieces such as Greensleeves and Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. I wore tutus (those things are scratchy as anything), learned to apply my own stage makeup, and practiced – though never mastered – pirouettes.

There was one thing that I never did: wear pointe shoes.

Sadly my proneness to injury got the better of me in my teens. I had terribly weak ankles caused by injuries (one of which involved me falling in front of a huge audience and having to be carried off stage – not fun) and flat feet. My podiatrist warned me that training in pointe shoes could very well mean a broken ankle and further damage to my feet.

I cried and cried and cried when I gave up ballet. Though I knew I had no real dance career ahead of me, seeing all my peers move forward while I was forced to give up was very upsetting (type-A sixteen year old girls do NOT handle this stuff well!)

 However, my years of ballet study did come in handy when I started writing. In 2012 when I sat down to start my very first book (which later became Only The Brave Try Ballet.) I drew on all that fascination, experience and knowledge to write my professional ballerina heroine, Jasmine. I drew on the angst I experienced all those years ago when I was unable to continue dancing as well as my experience of some terrible injuries (one which put my out of actions for several months) to make Jasmine’s conflict and character more believable.

These days I keep my fascination and appreciation for ballet in my writing and in my spare time. Last year I saw La Sylphide (fun fact: although lesser known than other ballets, it was originally choreographed in 1836 and is one of the world’s oldest ballets) and I often spent time watching dance-related videos on YouTube.

 Both of my current books for Harlequin KISS feature former professional ballerinas as heroines because it’s something I love writing about.

 Question: are you a ballet or dance fan? If not, what was your favourite hobby growing up?

Oct 19, 2014

Sunday Smooch with Stefanie London.....

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a smooch from Stefanie London ___ but first 

... the winner of last week's Sunday Smooch Giveaway will be announced next week.

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from Breaking The Bro Code by Stefanie London........

Off limits…and oh-so-tempting!   

Elise Johnson has more important things to concentrate on than men…saving her struggling ballet studio for starters! So when gorgeous Col Hillam—her brother’s best friend—saunters back into her life, she’s none too keen.

He might be proposing a purely professional arrangement, but the last time they got carried away by their crazy attraction it ended in disaster! Col knows Elise is off-limits, but it only makes her more tempting….

With chemistry this hot, surely that bro code is now null and void…?

[Scene set-up: Col has returned to Australia after the passing of his estranged father. He has to clear out his father's house and Elise has gone along to provide moral support despite the fact that she's still angry at him for leaving her five years ago.]

Smooch - 

“I thought I was over this. I thought I was over him.” The last word came out as a growl as he hurtled the photo against a wall.

The glass exploded in a shower of tinkling particles. Elise watched them fall to the floor as if in slow motion, the sound of her heart magnified in her ears.

“I’m sorry, Elise. You shouldn’t have had to see that.” He turned his pain, palpable in the air around him, inwards. His chest rose and fell too quickly as he clutched at self-control.

“It’s ok.” She was frozen, rooted to the spot.

“I shouldn’t have brought you here, I know you don’t want to talk about the past–”

She couldn’t comfort him with words, but she needed to ease his pain. So she did the only thing which she could do, the only thing that felt natural.

Her hands found Col’s neck and she dragged him down to her, her open mouth ready for his. Their tongues met with force, lips pressing hard. This wasn’t a comforting kiss. Hell, it wasn’t even a distracting kiss. It was a full-on, all-barriers-down, forget-everything-else kiss.

One strong arm wrapped around her waist and lifted her so she could wind her legs around his waist. He moved and her back hit the wall, knocking the wind out of her. Col’s teeth came down on her lip, his hips grinding into her open legs.

“My god, Elise,” he groaned against her hair as her lips found the lobe of his ear.

He had her pinned and she couldn’t have found anything sexier at that point. The hard length of him had all her senses firing at high speed, his hands cupping her arse to hold her in place.

She writhed against him, eliciting a guttural moan from the back of his throat. Up close his scent invaded her, making her dizzy with lust and memories. His short hair was silky against her palms; she gripped it and tugged his head down. His tongue flicked against hers, his faint minty-taste drawing her in to keep the kiss going on and on.

“I’ve missed you,” he breathed.

The air was sucked out of her, reality crashing down like a derelict building – ugly and grey and harsh. “No.”

“No?” He pulled his mouth away from hers, his dark brows crinkled above his nose.

She pushed against his chest until he released her, her sneakers hitting the ground with a thud. “You don’t get to say that to me.”

To go into the draw to win a copy of Breaking The Bro Code, leave a comment to this question.....

Elise and Col are reunited after five years away from one another. It isn't always smooth sailing but they do find their HEA. When have you been reunited with someone? It could be a partner, a friend, a family member or even a pet.

Come back next Sunday when the winner will be announced and a smooch from the fabulous Rachel Bailey will be posted!

Once Upon A Bride Winner.....

The winner is  Holly Marks!

Please contact me on mail (at) helenlacey (dot) com to receive your copy of Once Upon A Bride.

Oct 17, 2014

Once Upon A Bride.....win a copy!

My latest release for Harlequin Special Edition, Once Upon A Bride, recently hit the shelves and I’d like to share an excerpt and give away a copy to one commenter – either paperback or ebook – winners choice.

I often have animals in my books and in Once Upon A Bride the hero and heroine begin their fraught relationship by watching over her brother's needy French Mastiff for a week while her brother is on his honeymoon.

Here’s the cover and blurb  -

When Gabe Vitali escapes to a fresh start in Crystal Point, Australia, the former physician isn't looking for a storybook ending. For the first time he's living in the moment. His new five-year plan does not include serious relationships. But he doesn't anticipate his unavoidable next-door neighbor…and an undeniable attraction.

Bridal consultant Lauren Jakowski wants marriage. She's just sworn off love and sex! To avoid getting burned again, she's looking for safe and forever-after. But they're not Gabe's to give–for reasons he can't share with anyone, least of all this pretty complication.

Gabe and Lauren don't figure on a fairy tale. But fate has other plans…. 

(She’s just arrived at his house to pick up her brother’s dog)

  “Are you coming inside or do you plan on camping on my doorstep all night?”
  “All night?” she echoed, mortified that color was creeping up her neck. The idea of doing anything all night with Gabe Vitali took the temperature of her skin, her blood and pretty much every other part of her anatomy up a few notches. “Of course not.”
  He dropped his arms to his sides and stepped back.
  Lauren crossed the threshold and walked into the hall. He was close, and everything about him affected her on a kind of sensory level. As much as she didn’t want to admit anything, she was attracted to him. And worse luck, he knew it.
  Her vow of celibacy suddenly seemed to be dissolving into thin air.
  She walked down the short hallway and into the huge, open-plan living area. The furniture looked new and somehow out of place in the room. And sure enough, on the rug in front of the sofa, was her brother’s one hundred and fifty pound French Mastiff, Jed. Fast asleep and snoring loudly.
  “Thanks for picking him up from my brother’s place,” she said as politely as she could. “When       Cameron called this morning, he said the housesitter had left quickly.”
  He nodded. “Her daughter is having a baby. She took a flight out from Bellandale after lunch and said she’d be back in a week.”
  Lauren bit down on her lip. “A week?”
  “That’s what she said.”
  A week of dog-sitting. Great. As much as she liked Jed, he was big, needy, had awful juicy jowls and a reputation for not obeying anyone other than Cameron. Too bad her parents had a cat that ruled the roost, or she would have dropped him off there. She had to admit the dog seemed comfortable draped across Gabe’s rug.
  She looked around some more. “So…you’ve moved in?”
  “That was the general idea when I bought the house,” he replied.
  Lauren’s teeth ground together. “Of course. I hope you’ll be very happy here.”
  She watched his mouth twist with a grin. “You do? Really?”
  “Really,” she said and raised a disinterested brow. “Be happy, or don’t be happy. It’s nothing to do with me.”
  His blue eyes looked her up and down with way too much leisure. The mood quickly shifted on a whisper of awareness that fluttered through the air and filled up the space between them. A change that was impossible to ignore, and there was rapidly enough heat in the room to combust a fire.
Warmth spread up her neck. He had a way of doing that to her. A way of heating her skin. “I need to…I need…”
  “I think we both know what you need.”
  That’s what he was thinking. Suddenly, that’s what she was thinking, even though turning up on his doorstep had nothing to do with her lacking love life or her vow to stay celibate. Lauren’s cheeks burned, and her knees trembled. “I don’t know what—”
  “You don’t like me much, do you?” he asked, cutting her off with such calm self-assurance, she wanted to slug him.
  “I’m not—”
  “Or is it because you do like me much?” he asked, cutting her off yet again. “And that’s why you’re so rattled at being in my living room.”
  Conceited jerk! Lauren sucked in some air, pushed back her shoulders and called Jed to heel. By the time the dog got up and ambled toward her, she was so worked up she could have screamed. She grasped Jed’s collar and painted on a smile. “Thank you for collecting him from Cameron’s.”
  “My pleasure.”

  Pleasure? Right. Not a word she wanted to hear from him. Not a word she wanted to think about in regard to him. And when she was safely back in her own home, Lauren kept reminding herself of one thing…Mr Right was not Mr Right-Next-Door.

Have you ever read a book where the pets played a memorable role within the story? 

Leave a comment and I'll draw a winner tomorrow. 

Oct 15, 2014

Reading by Subscription, Yes or No?

When I received notification that my backlist would be available to Scribd subscribers as part of a new Harlequin deal, I was rather pleased.  More opportunities, potentially more readers, is always satisfying for an author.  And with 15,000 backlist titles available, including many by Harlequin's most popular authors, this sure sounded attractive for readers,

I've been a Harlequin reader for a LOT longer than I've been a Harlequin author, so my heart rate sped up.  Was this an opportunity to glom backlists of all my favourite authors? To catch up on missed titles, to re-read favourites, to revisit the books and times and places which shaped my love of romance?

Slightly wary of the geo-restrictions which prevent me from acquiring these titles from Amazon, I re-read the announcement.  The first sentence of this quote from the press release [emphasis mine] sure makes it seem as though all readers around the world can access the Harlequin titles:
 Our readers around the world have come to know Scribd as the leading destination for romance books, and we’re delighted to bring them even more of the content they crave,” said Trip Adler, CEO and cofounder of Scribd. “The subscription model is unlocking powerful changes in reading habits and this is most prominent within the romance genre. With this many Harlequin titles, available only on Scribd, we know our romance fans will read their hearts out.”
Good enough for me, Trip.  I signed up.  Searched for a few of my favourites.

The grey strip across the top of every title?  Reads "NOT AVAILABLE." *Sigh.*  In the FAQ's/Help I found this small print: "not every title is available in every country; <snip> It's unfortunate that not every book is available worldwide. In many cases book publishers have international sales agreements which prevent their titles being offered everywhere."  I KNEW THIS but I always hope it will change.  That backlist will be available globally and not selectively.  *Sigh.*

On a happier note, the first month is a trial and I can unsubscribe (although I will check which publishers' titles I can access.)  And the search for which authors/titles were available in the Harlequin backlist gave me a happy smile and got me thinking about which of those old favourites still excited me, which titles I now want to find and re-read, which authors I wish were still writing as I'd grab anything new on release day.

So, Love-Cats aside, which Harlequin author's backlist would YOU love to grab and re-read?  Also, does the idea of a reading subscription service appeal to you (small print aside)?

NOTE:  If you are in a country without the Harlequin geo-restrictions which apply in Australia and New Zealand, the Scribd subscription might be your cup of tea.  Cost is $8.99 per month, with a one-month free trial, and access to loads of books from other publishers as well.

Oct 13, 2014

Tempted by the Billionaire Tycoon...Win a Copy

It’s nearly here!  

My new release – Tempted by the Billionaire Tycoon – goes on sale on 21 October (but you can pre-order now). It’s the second instalment of my Billionaire Romance series. The first being The Billionaire Pursuit of Love.

Below is the first scene of the book. I hope you enjoy it...
‘Sack her,’ Nicolo Capitini demanded.

Nicolo watched the computer image of his European head of operations sit up straighter in his chair. Nicolo’s Skype call had hauled Luke Randal, his man in London, out of bed.

‘I won’t do that, Nic.’ Luke’s voice contained too much passion for a simple discussion about an employee’s termination.

Nic’s jaw tightened. He and Luke often debated issues strongly, but this was the first time Luke had refused a direct order.

‘She’s the best general manager in the region,’ Luke said. ‘Our Lake District resort has flourished under her . . . until these recent problems.’

Nic had also never heard the stubborn tone sharpening Luke’s voice. Luke had clearly lost perspective when it came to this Poppy . . . Nic glanced at the employee file open on his desk. This Poppy Bradford.

‘The best GM in the region wouldn’t allow these so-called accidents.’ Nic added extra punch to his voice.

It had taken him ten years to build his global health spa business. Experience had taught him that everything could be snatched away by one false move.

‘The police say it could be sabotage,’ Luke said.

‘Any GM worth a senior position at Sirona would organise the security to prevent this. Get rid of her.’ 

He leant in closer to the camera built into his computer. ‘Today.’ Nicolo crossed Poppy’s name off his to-do list.

‘Sorry, boss. I won’t do that.’ Luke leant back and crossed his arms across his chest. ‘I don’t believe there’s enough cause to sack her. Our European policy is that you need three strikes to terminate someone, and until a few months ago Poppy’s record was flawless.’

Nic beat his fingers on the desk. Luke’s obstinacy was very disappointing. ‘Occupancy has dropped from ninety-five per cent to thirty-five. She’s failing dismally on one of her key performance indicators. You know my modus operandi.’ He leant forward. ‘I give my employees total autonomy, but with that comes ultimate accountability.’ He glanced at the file and ran his finger down the page until he found her date of birth. ‘She’s only twenty-seven; you’ve promoted her too fast.’

‘Nic, give her another few weeks to turn things around. She’s good. Really good. Probably the best talent we have in Europe. In a few years she could be doing your job.’

Nic snapped the file shut. This conversation was going nowhere. ‘I’ll ring you in a few days,’ Nic said. ‘Get it sorted, Luke.’

Or I will.

He tapped the keyboard and Luke’s image disappeared from the screen. He opened the file again and surveyed the contents. Poppy Bradford had been promoted to GM nine months ago and initially guest numbers in the Lake District had soared under her management. But several ‘incidents’ had seen bookings plummet in light of a publicity nightmare.

He scanned the latest news report still active on his screen.

Near-death caused by poisonous resort spa treatment.

He thrust his body back into his soft leather chair. This had to stop.

Standing, he walked to the window and opened it. The salt-laced breeze played across his skin. As always, his gaze swept directly over the beach to the horizon of the Pacific Ocean. His heart was always drawn to his island home far away. The island from which he’d been expelled. The pain never left.

He quickly turned away from the brilliant blue and his dark memories, and looked over to the smooth green lawns of his multi-award-winning resort. He’d searched the southern Californian coast for over a year to find the perfect location for his first Sirona resort here in Carmel. Now thousands of guests every year enjoyed rejuvenation at one of his fifty international properties scattered across the globe; from Sydney to Beijing to Rio.

He couldn’t wait for Luke to act. He’d already received two calls from financial analysts this morning making queries about his British operations. He pressed his teeth into his bottom lip. And there’d be more.

He sat behind his desk. The British Isles represented ten per cent of his business, and his total European operations thirty per cent; slightly more if his French acquisition went to plan. But the negative publicity threatening bookings in England could spread to other resorts. The impact on the company going public would be disastrous.

The initial stock offering was set for three months’ time. The awful headlines, accompanied by a drop in bookings, would affect the initial share price. Too much hinged on its success.

Snatching up his desk phone, he dialled his secretary. Three strikes? No problem.

‘Book the jet for tomorrow afternoon. Manchester. Early as possible. I’ll head to France after that. Thanks.’

As far as he was concerned, Poppy Bradford was already history.

* * *

I set Tempted by the Billionaire Tycoon in Paris, Versailles and the Lake District which I visited in April this year. It was so fabulous to write the story while on location. I’d love to hear about a trip you’ve been on recently.  Leave a comment for a chance to win an e-copy of Tempted by the Billionaire Tycoon.

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Find out more at www.jenniferstgeorge.com