May 25, 2016

Golden oldies – Kandy Shepherd

This month I’d like to introduce you to Tabitha and Cindy, my two senior cats. I don’t like to call them “old girls” because they are still very sprightly. (I truly am a LoveCat!)

We’ve had Tabitha, age sixteen, since she was a kitten. My then seven-year-old daughter had begged us for a cat of her own and spent her life’s savings of $100 on adopting a tiny tortoiseshell kitten. She was advertised on the noticeboard in the tea room of the magazine company where I worked. 

Tabitha as we first saw her - first on the left

Daughter and kitten became immediate best friends—and sixteen years later they still share a special bond. Theoretically, I’m Tabitha’s cat-grandmother my daughter informs me. Tabitha has a very sweet, lovely nature, and is constantly on the lookout for a lap.

Tabitha at six months - in a box as always

My other golden oldie is Cindy, our lovely tabby farm cat. We don’t actually know how old Cindy is—she arrived on our veranda one dark and stormy night. 

Cindy some years ago

She had probably been dumped in the bush near our little farm in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney. But she must be at least fourteen, maybe even close to the age of Tabitha. Cindy is the most amazing animal. We call her our dog-cat as she follows us everywhere and likes to go for bush walks with us. At the same time she’s fiercely independent.

Cindy - the classic farm cat

 Sadly both our precious cats are slowing down. Both have lost weight and Tabitha is sometimes grumpy beyond the usual tortoiseshell snarkiness.
Other symptoms have lead to a diagnosis of the start of renal failure, very common in cats. It’s all to do with their origins as desert animals.

Tabitha - looking pretty good for sixteen!
So we now have two cats under a low protein feeding regime. That means expensive prescription diet cat food and constant offering of liquids. They’re both pretty good with eating the special food. But not when regular cat food is on offer to the two other three-year old cats who need regular high protein food.

This means segregated feeding, constant snatching up of forbidden foods, and adjudication of dry food disputes—with resulting grievances from all four cats. I adore them so fuss over my felines without complaint.

Cindy helping in the garden

Tabby also needs a regular laxative that tastes so good she thinks it’s a treat. The others like the smell of it too and get quite miffed when questing noses are pushed away. Heaven help me the day they learn to squeeze it from the tube…

The good news is the latest blood tests for both my seniors show a definite improvement so it’s all worth it!

I hate the thought of my precious animals getting older—just had to stop typing to help Tabitha up on to the sofa as her legs are a little stiff these days—Tabitha is around eighty in human years and Cindy not far behind her. But I figure the love and attention we give them is so worth it for the joy they give us. I got my last cats who were diagnosed with failing kidneys to the respective ages of eighteen and twenty-two—very, very old for cats! Wish me luck I can keep Tabitha and Cindy with me for some years to come yet.

What about you? Do you have an older animal you cherish? Any special care you’ve had to give them? Any advantages you see in having older pets? I’d love to hear about it—please make a comment!

May 23, 2016

Holiday Snaps!

Those of you who follow me on FB or twitter will know I'm just back from almost 4 weeks overseas. You'll have probably seen the pics so forgive me for the double up but hey...who doesn't like to look at holiday snaps, right? Beware, I found pano mode on my iPhone camera and went a little craaazy! You can click on any of the images to make them larger!

Freezing cold but still a special place in my heart.
Iconic symbols and a Harrods red velvet cupcake to die for!

Catching up with some medical author mates at a posh hotel for after noon tea. Or afternoon chamagne...

The lovely Kate Hardy and Annie Clayton
Hiedi Rice and Lucy King - my fellow Fairy Tale of New York authors!
Two of my fav medical authors - Jennifer Taylor and Caroline Anderson - whose books I read obsessively when I was trying to get published in the line. Awesome women, awesome writers and I have to pinch myself to think I know these wonderful writes personally!

Lunch with a view at The Shard with my fabulous editor Megan! Wow - does she know how to impress this girl from DownUnder!

Why yes, that is the Tower Of London you can see in the background!


View from the lounge at the front of the ship!


Our male companions having a toyota moment in Pompeii!



I cried standing in front of these amazing ancient monument.


There are hundreds more but I won't bore you!
Do you like looking at other people's holiday snaps or would you rather stick a rusty fork in your eye?

May 22, 2016

Sunday Smooch - The Wedding Wager by Barbara DeLeo

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a smooch from The Wedding Wager by Barbara DeLeo but first the winner of last week's Sunday Smooch Giveaway is LynW. Lyn, we know you already have a copy of Jennifer's book but she will send you something else.

Can you please contact Jennifer at jstgeorge-authorATgmailDOTcom

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from The Wedding Wager by Barbara DeLeo
Nick Katsalos has a foolproof plan to save his parents' floundering wedding venue. The last thing he expects is for Erin O'Malley, the captivating daughter of his parents' biggest rival, to waltz in and charm the client who could finally get the family business back on track. Nick would be furious--if only he could stop thinking about her.

When Erin and Nick enter into a wager to determine who will win the contract she prepares for the worst...and is surprised by the glimpses of warmth she sees in the man behind the numbers. But Erin isn't about to forfeit what could be the biggest wedding of the decade to a man as cold as Nick. Especially since securing it means she could finally prove to her father she's just as capable of handling the family business as him.

But as the competition heats up, Erin and Nick must decide what's more important—winning or love.
Each book in the Weddings in Westchester series is a standalone, full-length story that can be enjoyed out of order. 

Series Order:
Book #1 The Bouquet List
Book #2 The Wedding Wager 

Scene set-up
Erin and Nick are meeting in a bar so a photographer can take a picture of them for the magazine story about their business rivalry. Before the photographer arrives, some other business ensues...

Suddenly his face changed. The corners of his mouth turned down, and his shoulders dropped. It was a look she hadn’t seen before and it stopped her mid-sentence. Until now he’d been wearing a mask—a confident, inscrutable facade that no one would ever see beneath. Now he looked concerned, hurt even.

“Erin, I do respect you. Obviously way more than I’ve made clear. Your professionalism, your drive, your determination—I don’t mind admitting it’s those things that are driving me a little crazy for you.”

He wasn’t joking. She knew by the tone in his voice and the set of his body that he meant every word. And it melted her from the inside out.

“You’re an interesting equation, Erin O’Malley.” 

“What does that mean?”

He tilted his head and gave her a look that made her feel as though he could see right into the most secret parts of her. “It’s pretty easy to get most people’s number, work out what makes them tick, how the sum of their parts will add up to a neat solution. Not with you.”

“That’s an original pickup line.” Her  fingers drummed rapidly against the bowl of her wineglass.

He chuckled and shrugged. “I’m a mathematician. What can you do? But at the very least you should take it as a compliment. I will work you out, Erin. I’ll  find your variables and your points of differentiation. By the time we’re through, I guarantee I’ll have you summed up.” 

He stepped closer and still she held her ground, but now her cells were screaming for her to lean into him, to taste his mouth and to feel his body beneath her  fingers.

Instead, she squared her shoulders. “That’s just about as arrogant as anyone could possibly get. Being so certain that just because you work with numbers and percentages you can work people out. I can tell you now, a guy like you would never understand a woman like me.”

Instead of bending his face toward her as her body wished he would, he reached out and twined his fingers with hers. “If you really don’t think there’s anything happening here, then I’ll accept it, but no matter what happens, I don’t ever want you to think that I don’t respect you, Erin. You couldn’t be more wrong.”

She swallowed as he squeezed her hand and all her blood seemed to pool where they touched. He was smiling at her, and all she could think was how much she wanted his mouth on hers. There was something about Nick Katsalos that drove her crazy, and she didn’t know how to stop it. And then she squeezed his hand back.

Before she could think about what she was doing, they were kissing, her hands around his neck, his arms around her waist. 

She’d imagined he’d taste heavenly, but she’d expected the bitterness of beer on his lips, not the sweetness of ginger and honey. When his tongue pressed along her bottom lip she thought she might crumble. As if she were in some sort of vacuum, the noise of the bar around them disintegrated, and all she could hear was his breathing and the rush of blood in her ears. He pulled her closer, his hands splayed across the bare skin of her back and she pressed herself to him.

Moments later, when they sprang apart, it was as if they’d broken the surface of a pool and the noise of the bar, and the heart-pounding reality of what she’d just done came rushing up at her.
There's  an e-copy of The Wedding Wager to give away to one commenter today! Just tell me your most memorable experience from a wedding you've been to and I'll put your name in the hat!

Come back next Sunday, when the winner of today's giveaway will be announced and a smooch from One Night with the French Tycoon by Christy McKellen will be posted!

Smooch Graphic by WebWeaver

May 18, 2016

Who doesn't love a wedding?

Planning is underway for a family wedding in September and I vary between sentimental to freaked out to OMG I'm never going to lose any weight in time. And I'm not even doing the organising or the dressmaking! Probably just as well, LOL!

As a reader I always love the commitment that marriage, or the promise of marriage, brings to a relationship. I know a lot of people say it's only a piece of paper but to me it's more than that. The ceremony, the circumstance, the pledge to one another in front of family and friends--they're all very important to me and they are equally important to my characters, Prince Thierry of Sylvain and Princess Mila of Erminia, in the first of my Courtesan Brides duo, ARRANGED MARRIAGE, BEDROOM SECRETS.

Here's the blurb:

Princess Mila will safeguard her kingdom by marrying a neighbouring royal she barely knows. But she refuses to let Prince Thierry perfect his romantic arts with another woman. Disguised as his hired courtesan, the virgin princess plans to seduce her fiance before their wedding!

The mind blowing chemistry they discover can't be taught--or forgotten. Yet Mila's lie is unforgivable to a man like Thierry who prizes honour above all. Public scandal threatens all Mila's dreams and her country's future...unless this prince can let passion, and his heart, reign supreme.

I hope you'll look out for this book, scheduled for release in June 2016! You can preorder online now from your favourite Harlequin stockist. And please watch out for CONTRACT WEDDING, EXPECTANT BRIDE, Book 2 in the Courtesan Brides, which is coming out in August 2016.

I loved combining a royal theme with this arranged marriage story concept. It's almost like writing about another world all together. Expectations and lifestyles are so very different from those that we live in our day to day existence, don't you think? And because I made up the two kingdoms involved, it really was like writing a fairy tale at times (when I wasn't beating my head repeatedly against the keyboard and trying to wrangle these two very strong minded characters into existence.)

Are you a royal fan or a fan of weddings? Or do you prefer to read stories that are about people who live more mainstream lives. Let me know in the comments below! In the meantime, happy reading everyone!

May 16, 2016

I'm leaving on a jet plan

By the time this post goes up I will be back in Australia! It’s been almost two years since I left Melbourne to move to Toronto – crazy how fast the time flies. This trip back is just a visit, but I’ll be home for a whole month. 

I figure if I’m going to spend 30 hours travelling across the globe I may as well make the most of it. Luckily, my books can be written anywhere so long as I have my laptop with me.

Living far away from home has made so grateful to have tools like Skype, WhatsApp and Viber which allow me to keep in touch with my family and friends. In fact, we have a Skype camera situated on the top of our TV so we can chill on the couch and talk to people just like they were right there in the apartment with us. But there’s nothing quite like the face-to-face.

So, in light of my plans I thought I’d share some of the things I want to do when I return home.
Cici the Chihuahua & her latest victim

Spend time with my family and family
This is kind of an obvious one, but I miss everyone so much. Lots of quality time is in order. Little sis and I have a date to play videos games together just like when we were kids.

Getting cuddles from this little lady --->
This crazy Chihuahua is high up on my priority list. When I lived at my parent’s place for two months before the big move, we became very close and I have missed her dearly.

Drink all of the coffee
I know I lamented this often, but the coffee in Canada is just not the same as what we have back home. I plan to café hop my way around the city as much as possible.

Melbourne's GPO building
Wander around the city
I lived in Southbank for four years before we moved to Toronto, and one of my favourite activities was talking a walk through the city early on a Saturday or Sunday morning. I’d get a coffee from any place that was open and just enjoy the peacefulness of a city still sleeping.

Talk to my fellow writers
I’m so excited to catch up with my old writer’s group, the Melbourne Romance Writer’s Guild. In fact, I am actually going to be speaking at their annual writer’s retreat, which is so exciting!

Back in 2013 I attended this same retreat as a newly aspiring author with so much to learn. I’d only been writing for about six months and I listened to fellow LoveCat Annie West and the awesome Anna Campbell speak about their incredible careers.

I was so inspired, and both Annie and Anna gave me the encouragement to believe in my work. I can’t wait to be able to pay it forward.

What would you miss most about your home if you moved overseas?

May 15, 2016

Sunday Smooch with Jennifer St George

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a smooch from Jennifer St George but first 

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

Can you please contact Kate at kate (at) katehardy (dot) com to receive your copy of Holiday with the Best Man

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from Jennifer St George's Wild For You. 

When her celebrity boyfriend breaks up with her on camera to boost the ratings of his TV show, fashion designer Madison Mills instructs her assistant to organise a vacation that’s a long way from New York, where there’s no paparazzi and where there are definitely no hot men.

Madison soon finds herself on a walking tour in the wilds of remote Tasmania. There’s no chance she’ll be recognised but on the ‘no hot men’ criteria, her assistant has spectacularly failed. The lead guide, Daniel Black, could be the face and body of any fashion campaign. But, Daniel’s quick judgement that’s she an urban princess has her bristling with every step.

Ex-military man Daniel has found peace in the wilderness. Hosting walking tours ensures lots of solitude and no long-term commitments. So when circumstances lead to him guiding Madison alone, he’s not sure he can survive for nearly a week with a woman whose life revolves around hemlines and fashion shows.

The rugged landscape challenges them both and Daniel soon learns there is more to Madison than meets the eye. But when Madison’s location is leaked to the press, can he convince her that a wilderness guide and a fashion designer from opposite side of the world can find a way to make it work?

Scene set-up
Madison has lost her creative mojo. She's hoping this walk through the Tasmanian wilderness will help spark the idea for her new collection. Her hot, gorgeous walking guide Daniel just might have all the answers....

‘I have to admit, your office is nicer than mine,’ she said, pulling her lunch from her pack.
He surveyed the area. ‘Yes, I have natural wilderness and you work in a dense urban jungle.’ She closed her eyes and focused. Something was swirling through her brain, but she couldn’t quite condense it into something solid. She opened her eyes and allowed the beauty of her surroundings to wash over her.
Daniel lit the portable stove. Soon, she was sitting on a moss-covered log and sipping hot peppermint tea. If she couldn’t find inspiration here, she suspected she couldn’t find it anywhere.
‘So, how’s that theme coming along?’ Daniel asked, sitting on a stump in front of her.
‘What, you can read minds now?’
‘No. It’s just you usually talk non-stop and today you’ve been unusually quiet. I figured you were working on your theme.’
She flicked up her eyebrows. ‘How very insightful of you.’
‘Ah, you have to know your men.’
She cocked her head. ‘Excuse me?’
He laughed. ‘Sorry. The military terminology. It’s hard to shake. I meant, it’s important to try to understand what my clients are looking for when they come on holiday here. Some want to talk all about themselves – I usually ensure the other guides look after them – while some want to know all about the park and its the fauna and flora, and some are looking for peace and quiet.’
‘And they’re your favourite type of client, right? The quiet ones.’
He smiled his assent.
‘So how have you classified me?’
‘You? You’re an enigma.’
She crossed her hands across her chest. ‘How so?’
‘I thought you were a helpless New York princess who would hate every minute of the trip. Who’d never be ready on time and couldn’t stand the natural environment,’ he said, removing a leech from the back of his hand. ‘But you’ve turned out to be highly practical and you seem to enjoy and appreciate the wilderness.’
‘So now I’m a wilderness-appreciating princess?’
He shook his head. ‘More an urban wilderness princess.’
Her skin tingled and her eyes widened. ‘Say that again. Over and over. Don’t let it get away.’
His brow crinkled. ‘What?’
‘Urban wilderness,’ she demanded. ‘Say those words.’
He shrugged, clearly having no idea of the genius he’d just brought forth. ‘Urban wilderness. Urban wilderness,’ he said in a confused but intrigued tone.
Racing to her pack, she pulled out her notebook. She scribbled the precious words before they disappeared on the breeze. That was it! She wrote the words over and over. Urban wilderness. Urban wilderness. Her whole body hummed. That was the theme. The perfect, brilliant collection theme.
Throwing back her arms, she stared up at the sky and cried out. Energy, wildness, power: her mojo, flooding back into her body. She felt so light, she could have floated up into the canopy. She had it. This collection would be her best.
‘Everything okay over there, crazy lady?’
Daniel. She turned and stared at the man who’d given her back her passion and creativity – and her inspiration.
‘Are you all right?’ he asked, clearly bewildered by her behaviour.
She dropped her notebook on her pack, walked over to him, threw her arms about his neck, stood on tippy toes and kissed him hard on the lips.
 ‘You have no idea what you’ve done,’ she said. Her gaze locked with his. She fell still, caught in the storm that raged in his eyes. Her heart tumbled over a few beats when she saw the naked vulnerability shining in his eyes. He blinked and the storm was gone, but his arms slid around her waist.
‘If this is the result, I’d really like to know what I’ve done so I can do it again and again and again.’
She touched his cheek and kissed him again. ‘You’ve freed me.’
The forest quietened around them. He held her a little closer. She suddenly realised where she was and what she was doing. Kissing Daniel. Being held by Daniel’s strong arms. In the arms of the man who’d freed her from the grip of fear, of grief . . . all the negativity that had engulfed her world and that had held her captive for the past two years. This man from the wilderness had done more for her in three days than years of therapy and grief counselling.
‘And how have I done that?’ He ran a rough finger lightly down her cheek.
She didn’t want to analyse it. She simply wanted to feel. Feel more of lightness, the freedom and joy of coming back to the world. Having grief finally lose its fight to dominate her soul. She drew his head down to hers and touched her lips to his. ‘By simply being you,’ she breathed.
His hands moved lower down her back, drawing her flush against his body. A flare of awareness settled low in her belly. She reached up and put her hands on both his cheeks and kissed him full and deep. Closing her eyes, she fell headlong into the glorious touch and taste of Daniel.

* * *
In our busy, busy world, it's hard to get away from it all like Daniel and Madison have done in the Tasmanian wilderness.  If you wanted to get some solitude, where would you go? Leave a comment to go into the draw to win an e-copy of Wild For You.

Wild for You is on pre-order now and will be available for download tomorrow. I'm just a little excited!

Come back next Sunday, when the winner of today's giveaway will be announced and a smooch from Barb DeLeo's The Wedding Wager will be posted!

Smooch Graphic by WebWeaver

May 13, 2016

Come Back Muse. Please?

I have four favourite words for every book I write.
Chapter One. The End.
Chapter One is so exciting. There's a story within me bubbling to get out and I can't wait to follow my characters on their journeys. I love writing, that's all. Easy. I know how to write, have got twenty books to my name, so there's no mystery about how to put a story down on paper. Right?
Wrong. My most recent book was excruciating, as though I was undergoing a medical procedure myself and could feel every stitch being applied to a wound. Every single word had to be dragged out of me. And then I'd change them. Nothing made sense. I knew my characters, had their back stories sorted, the conflict, the setting, everything was there ready and waiting to be woven into a story.
But it would not come.

I changed the time I went for my walk in the hope I'd come back inspired - usually happens. I drank less tea and more water. I gave up chocolate. (Sad puppy that I am) That didn't work anyway. I cleared the storage unit in the garage, and tidied out the spare drawers in the guest bedroom. End result - the house is looking good but the story was still waiting to be written.
I forced myself to sit tapping at keys in the hope some good would come. It didn't and I got bored and fed up with the pesky insects buzzing around my office.


Day by long day by annoying day this went on for weeks, page one full, chapter one complete, page twenty five, fifty one, one hundred - yah! until finally, finally page two hundred and nineteen, and those magical words The End. I don't usually put that in but this book definitely needed it.

During these tedious weeks I revised the few words I'd written so many times they should've been perfect but they weren't. I changed my heroine's hair colour, her shorts to trousers, even her nickname. Sounds like procrastination but it wasn't. Something was missing. And that was emotion. As Lovecat Barbara DeLeo put it when I was grizzling at a meeting, if you're expending your emotion somewhere else you haven't got any left to write a story. She'd nailed my problem. Our books are all about emotion, and mine was being directed elsewhere. My husband has been unwell and what with trips to doctors and hospital I really couldn't put my all into writing a story. There was no emotion left for my hero and heroine. And once I understood that I let go the need to write. I'm expecting a lot of revisions from my editor with the book but that's okay. As things improve on the home front I'm getting into a better head space and hopefully will be able rip through the changes required.

What's stopped you in your tracks, and how did you get going again?