Apr 18, 2014

Happy Easter......

                    Wishing all of out LoveCats DownUnder visitors 
                       a wonderful and safe Easter. 


May you spend time with family and friends, eat wonderful food, dream lovely dreams and read a good book or two over the Easter break. 

Apr 16, 2014

At Last - The Power of the Cover! Annie West

Being an author is in some ways like entering a lucky dip contest. I'm talking covers of course. Those wonderful glossy images that attract readers to our stories and, hopefully, persuade them to pick up the paperback or click on the link to buy.
Many readers don't know that authors don't usually design their covers. Finding a new cover for an upcoming book on a bookstore site, or being sent it by a helpful member of editorial staff is the point where I hold my breath, cross my fingers and toes and hope for great things. I have to say I've been extremely lucky. Some of my covers are stunning. Some fit the story perfectly. Others make me wonder. Occasionally a reader will comment on hair colour or looks of a character on the cover as opposed to what they read in the book. But you can't have everything.
For quite a few books I had no input to the cover at all. More recently I've been asked to provide some suggested scenes which might be used on a cover. Occasionally I get something that matches the scene. Other times not. Here are a selection.
The exotic and mysterious. With a location shot as well!
The very, very basic. Argh!
The downright confusing.
On the bed.
In the sunken bath.
In/on the swimming pool.
The location shot.
The hero shot. And no, I don't know why he has worry beads when he's an English businessman. 
The baby bulge.
The embrace.
The sweet baby.

After years waiting to see what the cover gods had in store for me, it was an exciting and slightly anxious time when I finally got to choose my own cover. I'm publishing a novella next month (BACK IN THE ITALIAN'S BED is out on Friday 2nd May if you're interested) and this time I worked with a designer to choose what I wanted, from the picture to the wording and layout. Should I go for a clinch cover, something very sexy, or something tantalising? Should I have bold colours and a location shot? It was potentially daunting till a friend on Facebook found the perfect photo (at least I think it is).

I admit the power to decide my own cover was fantastic! On the negative side, I could see myself spending ages browsing for photos and ruminating on script and design if I had to do it too often. But the cover suits the story and it makes me smile, so hopefully that's a plus with readers too.

So, if you had the power to create your ultimate book cover, what would it feature? Brooding landscape with a gothic theme? Bare abs? A tantalising close up? A bedroom scene? Something restrained? Something dynamic and bold?

I'd love to hear your thoughts. They may help me next time I wield the power over my own cover!

Apr 14, 2014

My English Literary Tour

In a crazy fit of spontaneousness, I booked a trip to Europe last month and left a few weeks later. Main destinations – Paris, London, The Lake District and Hampshire.

Why Hampshire?

Jane Austen’s House Museum
Well, there’s a lovely little village called Chawton and in this little village is the house where Jane Austen spent the last eight years of her life. It was in this gorgeous 17th century cottage that Jane revised Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice which were published in 1811 and 1813 respectively.

Encouraged by their success, Jane began to write with renewed vigor. Mansfield Park came out in 1814 and Emma in 1816. It was in this comfortable home that she completed Persuasion and began Sanditon, but illness prevented her from completing the manuscript.

Jane isn’t buried in the local churchyard next to her sister and mother.  She’d travelled to Winchester to be near her doctor. She died there on 18 July 1817. She’s buried in Winchester Cathedral.

We walked down to St Nicholas Church and visited the graves of Jane’s sister Cassandra and her mother. The church grounds were covered in a gorgeous display of spring flowers. So beautiful and haunting at the same time.

There were some amazing things on display in Jane’s house.  One of the most interesting was Jane’s gold and turquoise ring. The ring nearly left the UK on the finger of American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson who bought the ring at an auction at Sotheby’s in 2012.  But due to a temporary export ban, a massive fundraising appeal, which saw Austen fans from around the world contribute and an anonymous donation of 100,000 pounds, the ring now lives in a display case in the cottage. Isn’t that a great story?

The most fascinating piece of furniture for me was the ‘desk’ where it is believed Jane wrote her novels.  Here’s me being star struck by this little wooden table.

I loved visiting Jane’s house, reading tributes from Sir Walter Scott and Sir Winston Churchill, wandering through the rooms where Jane would have dreamt up her stories. It was a wonderful treat.

Dove Cottage & the Wordsworth Museum
The trip to Dove Cottage in Grasmere in the Lake District was another literary treat. When William Wordsworth visited the area as a boy, it seemed like paradise.  During a walking tour of the Lake District in 1799 with fellow poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge he discovered an empty inn. Wordsworth fell in love with the building and moved in with his sister. It was here that the great poet wrote some of his greatest work.

I wandered lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o'er vales and hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host, of golden daffodils;

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Daffodils, William Wordsworth

Beatrix Potter’s Hill Top Farm
Image source: National Trust
Our visit (I had my daughter with me) to Hill Top Farm in Near Sawrey in the Lake District was brilliant. Visiting the beloved children’s writer’s house with my little one made the experience so magical. My daughter ran around the garden imagining Peter Rabbit nibbling carrots. She spotted the rat hole used by Mr. Samuel Whiskers and was able to look up the chimney Tom Kitten escaped up before being covered in butter and dough.

We bought a copy of The Tale of Samuel Whiskers or The Roly-Poly Pudding from the gift shop and my daughter read it cover to cover that night sitting by the fire of our  gorgeous hotel.

I absolutely loved my literary tour of England. I wished I could have rented a little cottage in the Lake District and been inspired by daffodils to write some of the greatest prose of all time. I did take lots of notes and it just so happens that my latest book is set near Lake Windermere just at the time when the spring flowers are blooming.

Apr 13, 2014

Sunday Smooch with Melanie Milburne......

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a smooch from Melanie Milburne ---- but first 

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

Can you please contact Lousia George on louisageorgeauthor(at) gmail (dot) com to receive your copy of Her Client From Hell.........

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from Flirting With The Socialite Doc by Melanie Milburne........

GP Lady Isabella Courtney has fled to a remote Australian town to mend her broken heart. But keeping a low profile isn’t easy when she mistakes the local cop for a stripper!  Zach  Fletcher is back in Jerringa Ridge to take care of his injured father. And, although Izzy might be an unwanted distraction, Zach soon finds himself flirting with trouble!

Set Up -Isabella is at the Police Station, believing Zach may have been hurt during an interaction at the local pub. He’s not happy to see her but she forces him to sit down so she can have a look at his wound. He sits reluctantly and she stands between his legs to tend to the cut on his cheek.

He looked at her mouth and her belly did a little somersault as she saw the way his eyes zeroed in on it, as if he were memorising its contours. ‘This is a really dumb idea.’
‘It is? I mean, yes, of course it is,’ Izzy said a little breathlessly. ‘An absolutely crazy, dumb thing to do. What were we thinking? Hey, is that a smile? I didn’t think you knew how to.’
‘I’m a little out of practice.’ He brought her even closer, his warm vanilla and milk-scented breath skating over the surface of her lips. ‘Isn’t there some rule about doctors getting involved with their patients?’
‘I’m not really your doctor. Not officially. I mean I treated you, but I came to see you. You didn’t come to see me. It’s not the same as if you’d made an appointment and paid me to see you. I just saw you as a one off. A favour if you like. It’s not even going on the record. All I did was put a steri-strip on your head. You could have done it yourself.’ She took a much-needed breath. ‘Um…  you’re not really going to kiss me, are you?’
His grey-blue eyes smouldered. ‘What do you think?’

 Izzy couldn’t think, or at least not once his mouth came down and covered hers. His mouth was firm and warm and tasted of salt and something unexpectedly sinful. His tongue flickered against the seam of her mouth, a teasing come-play-with-me-if-you-dare gesture that made her insides turn to liquid. She opened her mouth and he entered it with a sexy glide of his tongue that made the hairs on her scalp stand up on tiptoe, one by one.  He found her tongue with devastating expertise, toying with it, cajoling it into a dance as old as time. 

Flirting With the Socialite Doc is available in April 2014.

To connect with Melanie visit her website here...

To go into the draw to win a copy of Flirting With The Socialite Doc, please leave an answer to this question ......What is your most embarrassing faux pas?

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

Smooch Graphic by WebWeaver

Apr 11, 2014

Sue's Time Wasters

Why is it when I'm working to a deadline I can find the time to play Suduko? A ten minute game seems like nothing until I realise I've wasted an hour on six games. 'Just one more,' is a constant phrase of mine.
There are also other time wasters in my life that use up minutes faster than an hungry dog empties his bowl.

Word puzzles of any kind keep me busy for lots of precious minutes.

A jigsaw is another thing that keeps me distracted which is why I rarely start one. They take up more than minutes, in fact they eat hours. Strange really when all I'm doing is putting weird shaped pieces of cardboard together to create a picture that I'll then break up and put away in the box again.
But there is one time waster that I'll happily give up days for. My grandson, Austin.

Last week my DB and I got an SOS from our daughter. Could we babysit for three days as she had to work very long days and go to a work dinner one of those nights. What deadlines? The book could wait. We were in the car within a very short time and five hours later were in Christchurch ready to enjoy our wee man. The time flew by and every minute was fun. Okay, not when he fell over the edge of the step into the garden or when he decided sleep was highly over rated and playing far more enjoyable. But I'm happy to waste time with this little guy. I did take the laptop with the silly idea there might be half an hour here or there to work towards that deadline, but did it come out of it's carry bag? Nah. Not once. Do I care? Nope. Not at all.

What is your favourite time waster? Or are you so organised you can avoid them?

Apr 9, 2014

How BDSM and Sweet Romances are connected...

by Michelle Douglas

The Chocolate Box authors are holding a Spring Blog Hop Giveaway. Just look at this box of goodies that's up for grabs! To enter see the link below.

So in honour of the Spring Blog Hop, today I'm hosting fellow Sweet Romance author, Barbara Wallace, with her take on how BDSM and Sweet Romances are connected. :-) Take it away, Barb...

Recently Esquire Magazine published an essay by Stephen Marche entitled, “The Sex Scene is Dead” in which he noted that graphic movie sex had become old hat.  This got me thinking, would the same thing happen with romance novels?  Is it happening already?

When Fifty Shades of Gray first came out, the romance writing world went crazy.  Granted, erotica had been around for a while, but suddenly, there was real money to be made in pushing the envelope.  Grab your leather and whip, baby, because BDSM was where it was at.  You couldn’t log onto Facebook or Twitter without seeing at least one reference to domination.

Lately, however, I’ve suspected readers might be becoming less enthusiastic then they were two years ago.  Like with the actual Shades of Gray books, BDSM books have gotten repetitive.  I saw one tweet the other day chuckling over how the characters in a book were shocked by sexual activities that she considered ‘been there, done that’.  And on some message boards, a few readers have complained about BDSM and erotica creeping into their romances.  (Thus denoting an important difference between romance and erotic romance, btw.)  To me, these are subtle signs of reader fatigue.  I predict that, in another couple of years, the erotica boom will decline.  Will it disappear?  Never.  Subgenres might shrink, but they never truly dry up.  But the wagon jumpers – the writers who piled on because there was money to be made – they’ll start to depart, leaving the dedicated erotica writers – the ones who were there all along – to satisfy their readers.

So, why do I, a sweet romance writer, care about the BDSM trend?  Because, my friends, the pendulum swings both ways.  You know how, when you’ve had too much candy, you suddenly want something healthy?  Well, that’s how it works with romance novels too.  After awhile, readers want something different.  At conference this fall, a well known contemporary author commented that she saw a growing interest in sweet romances.  A new trend is coming, and for once, I might actually be ahead of the curve.  I’m looking forward to it.

What about you? Do you think the erotica craze is slowing down?  Do you even care?  Do you think readers will be looking for sweeter, gentler romance?

Apr 7, 2014

Six of My Favourite Things

by Bronwyn Jameson

Inspired by the recent posts of Helen and Rachel, and also by my fabulously talented niece's star turn as Maria in her school's production of "The Sound of Music", today's blog is a few of my favourite things.  I'm tempted to start with raindrops on kittens, because Lovecats. But...no. Although I am sensing a theme...

1.  Musicals.   Not only because of my inspiration, but because I don't believe I've met a musical I don't adore.  A long time ago I started buying the souvenir coffee mug from each show but the number was getting ridiculous.  Being a country gal, one of the added benefits is the trip-to-the-city, usually a girls weekend because my menfolk couldn't be dragged, bribed or cajoled into a musical.  Last year we did Grease; next weekend it's off to The Lion King.

2.  Rain(drops).   Okay, so I might not always include the wet stuff on a list of my favourite things, but after a long, extremely dry and brutishly hot summer, the droughtbuster rain this past week was spectacular.  The soothing beat on the roof at night.  Waking to soft grey light.  The sight of green shooting all over our barren paddocks.  Sheep and horses gobbling up the sweet new growth.  The smile on my farmer husband's face.  What is not to love about a good autumn rain?

3.  My Herb Garden.   This is a gift from my youngest after I mused about the scarcity of decent herbs at our local supermarket.   He resurrected the old barrow from our junk-depository and despite my poor record with plants, four months later it's still going strong.   Barely a meal goes by without the addition of a little something from the barrow.

4.  Summer Fruit.   I tried to narrow this down, but how can a person choose between mango and peaches and cherries?  They're *all* my favourites, whether fresh and stand-alone or poached/stewed as part of a dessert dish, or for breakfast with Greek yoghurt and a sprinkle of toasted muesli.  Yum.

5.  My Kindle.   An obvious choice but how could I not include the source of so much enjoyment?  I've been wanting the Paperwhite since it was first released but told myself I had to wait for my Nook to expire.  It's still going but there are books/deals only available on Amazon.  I *needed* a Kindle.  So.

6.  The Real Book Experience.    Despite my intense love of the Kindle, I have not given up on paper books.  I still love the new-book smell, the weight of a hefty hardback in my hands, the beauty of a skilfully produced picture book.  Cooking/food books are a particular favourite as well as travelogues and memoirs.  At the moment this is on my bedside table:

What is your favourite type of book that you must have in paper?  Whether to read or to flick through the glossy pictures?