Nov 29, 2010

Taxing Times....

by Sharon Archer

Reading: Annie West's Passion, Purity and The Prince. Love Alaric and Tamsin!

Watching: A very blank page - mine! :(

Listening to: Midnight Express

Making me smile!
Luncheon at the Langham...
Do I deserve to take a break? Nope!
Am I gonna anyway? Yup, you betcha! :)

I've done it! I've done it! Yep, you guessed it - our tax returns!

But before you congratulate me... I suppose I should confess... in all honesty.... erm... it's the return for the 2008-2009 financial year! The spectre of 2009-2010 is still hanging over me!

Anyway, anyway, I'm still feeling awfully clever! It wasn't easy, but I prevailed! Of course, it was made a lot harder by the fact that I'd started organising the papers... but then stopped with every intention of coming back to them in a day or two.... not more than twelve months later. Sadly, the thought processes that had seemed so logical three hundred and eighty... ninety... whatever... days ago, were gone, gone, gone!

Worst problem was the whole year of missing bank statements - just vanished.
The year before - in the file where they should be.
The year after - in the file where they should be.
But the 2008-2009 ones - nowhere to be found. Maybe I'd be able to get them on-line, I thought hopefully... but no, the bank was way too organised. They only show the 2009-2010 in archive because naturally they expect everyone to have efficiently finished with 2008-2009, don't they!

So I pressed on, leaving post-its all over the things that needed to be revisited, until finally everything was sitting in nice little piles... some of the piles were even post-it free which was very exciting. Realising that I couldn't do more until I'd been to the bank to get copies of those missing statements, I moved on to filing the pile of documents for 2009-2010 so that when I started on those, they'd at least be a little organised. So I'm working away and... ta-da! There were the elusive bank statements!

Note to self for the future:
Put things where they belong - not in special places for safe keeping!

So, are you one of those super-organised people who do their tax returns as soon as you have all the papers? Or are you like me and procrastinate until it all becomes a bit of a monster!

Nov 26, 2010

We Have A Secret...

This coming Thursday, we'll be having a blog party to celebrate *three* new lovecats joining the... pride? pack? litter? (Did we ever decide what the collective noun of lovecats is?)

We're more than excited - we're thrilled. Three new cats! And we can't wait to introduce them to you, but we're waiting for the party on Thursday. There will be giveaways and lots of fun, so don't forget to drop back and see us!

And now for some Caturday Fun! I thought it was time for another jigsaw, so here's one with the gorgeous Ginny. :)

Nov 24, 2010

What's in a Name?

I know many of us have spent hours/days/weeks—probably months!—choosing a beautiful name for our beautiful children. And why wouldn’t we? That child is going to wear his/her name for life (unless changed by deed poll, but unlikely).

The same can be said for authors who choose names for the characters in our books. Our heroes and heroines are stuck with their names for good, whether they (because our characters become real enough to have an opinon...right?) or the readers like it or not. Which begs the question—does a character’s name affect how a reader feels about the story, affect sales, even...?

Behind every name is a meaning. Example, Melissa means Honey Bee—I guess I could say I’m a great team worker, but still, a tad boring in my very ah, humble opinion! If I shorten that name to Mel (female) the meaning is quite a bit better, because suddenly I’m Dark Beauty. Sweet! It’s just what would suit any one of my characters!

I gave my own three girls, unisex names, (not deliberately, just names I loved) which I guess means I also gave them strong names, though the meanings behind them might suggest otherwise. Teagan = little poet. Shannon = wise one/old. Codi = helpful or cushion.

I wrote a list a while back with all my characters names, and realized on the whole I gave them strong and little used names. I like my heroes and heroines to be a little bit different, so I guess I try to give a title to suit.

Here is my list (a couple yet to be published/finished—I really want to get back to my first ms ‘Shadow Hunter’ and do some rewrites!)

Can you see any other themes to the names I’ve chosen for my characters?

Loretta and Cray

Celeste and Pascal (Yves)

Holly and Ricky

Kallie and Seth

Kia and Ronan

Lillian, Dar, Ezra and Maddox

Marina and James

Alexia and Blake

Elyse and Dane

Kyra and Altair

Catwalk Wednesday

Name: Ginny

Abode: Mel Teshco’s home

Human Slave: Mel’s daughters, Shannon and Codi

Likes: Bullying the *nice* cats

Dislikes: The fat neighbour’s dog who steals our food.

Ambition: To be *the* number one cat

Sociable or Aloof: Both when it pleases me *sniff*

Best Friend: Bundy cat.

What do you like to sharpen your claws on: the pile of leftover wood (it is for us cats, right?)

Most embarrassing moment: Falling on my back from my slave’s bed.

Most memorable moment: Catching the red belly black snake in my slaves hallway cupboard.

Nov 17, 2010

Studying Romance

What I'm reading: "No Place for a Lady" Louise Allen
What I'm Listening to: The Ultimate Classical Collection
What I'm Watching: The first episodes of
What's making me smile: My garden coming to life after winter

I have been hearing intriguing snippets all year about Michelle Douglas’s MPhil and thought I’d use this blog to find out a little more.

Michelle, Can you tell us what your MPhil is about?

It's a creative writing MPhil so there is a creative work, which is my Sweet Romance BACHELOR DAD ON HER DOORSTEP (August 2009). There is also an accompanying exegesis of approximately20,000 words where I'm looking at two of the elements I find most difficult in my own practice -- maintaining a high level of emotional intensity throughout the course of a book, and the credibility of the happy-ever-after ending.

Why did you choose this topic?

I love the genre of Romance, and I wanted to try to uncover what it is that has always drawn me to Romance, and also look at the challenges its conventions present and how other authors have dealt with those challenges. I want to become a better writer, to keep improving and developing, and I thought this might be a good way to pursue that particular objective.

In large part, I returned to study to push myself out of my comfort zone and it has certainly done that! The MPhil has been an enormous amount of work and I've run through the entire gamut of emotions with it from loving it to loathing it, from thinking it's worthwhile, to thinking it's the biggest waste of my time. But I'm really glad I've stuck with it.

What books have you been looking at in the most detail?

I've looked closely at Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen), Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte), Rebecca (Daphne Du Maurier), The Grand Sophy (Georgette Heyer) and The Republic of Love (Carol Shields). In my exegesis I'm looking at how each of these authors creates and maintains a high level of emotional intensity and how they deal with the HEA ending that is such a non-negotiable element of Romance.

Can you share an aha moment with us?

Oh yes! When I first started writing the exegesis I found I kept trying to provide a defence of Romance. Now besides the fact that this has already been done (see Pamela Regis's A Natural History of the Romance Novel and Jennifer Crusie's essays) it was also making me sound defensive. The tone was all wrong - and I swear my poor supervisor was tearing her hair out. When I approached the topic as I would say for Realism and just took for granted that Romance (including category romance) was worthy of exploration, then I found the right tone. And as is the case for my Sweet Romances, when I find the right tone then it almost feels as if my biggest hurdle has been cleared.

Now how on earth do you find time to write and do an MPhil?

Umm... not sure? Actually, the key is being organised. For every month of this year, I've had a list of goals and/or work that I've needed to have completed by the end of said month. I've broken each month down into a week-by-week agenda that has had to be met. I've treated procrastination the same way I do writer's block -- if I pretend it doesn't exist then it can't effect me. An approach that's worked for me so far :-). As long as I know what I need to do I can be incredibly disciplined. Promising myself work-free weekends also acts as a spur to help me work hard through the week.

This time factor became a real problem for me early in the year when a couple of family dramas coincided with a third set of revisions for my December release - Christmas At Candlebark Farm. Those revisions made me realise that I actually had to rewrite the book -- from scratch. I rewrote that book in a month and then I had to go back to my month-by-month diary and rework a few dates :-) I find that busyness, though, has its own momentum.

Also, knowing my own process has helped. I really, really wish I was one of those people who could work on more than one large project at once, but I can't. It seems I'm all or nothing on one project at a time. Hence, as my next book is due on my editor's desk at the end of the month, November has been all about writing, editing, and polishing my latest romance. As soon as I send it in I will be turning around and devoting December to my MPhil again.

Thank you Michelle for sharing with us. What a journey you’ve been on. I have to confess, after learning about your MPhil, I had a little reverie about the books I’d like to study. I thought Persuasion would be one and another might be Susan Elizabeth Phillips Breathing Room. Michelle is here to answer any of your questions so feel free to ask away or share the books you wouldn’t mind being tied intimately to, for many many months!

Nov 16, 2010

Catwalk Wednesday

You may address me as Miss Kittiana if you please– though my big human brother calls me Bubble. He says it because I am so round like a bubble. Phft – what would he know?
My bot-bot, mum, dad, human brothers and cat bothers. I was adopted at 10 days old when dad found me in the warehouse the works at. Mum fed me with the bot-bot every two hours so I like her best, but if anyone else has the bot-bot then I like them best. They tell me I have to give up the bot-bot soon, but what do they know. Stupid humans.
Having my bottom wiped and having a bath.
Sociable or Aloof:
Oh very social. I love it when mum comes home from what she calls the day job. I hear her voice and come running for a cuddle. I purr and then I bite her on the nose. I get in trouble for liking peoples faces so much. I just love to bite them and play with them.
Favourite Pastime:
Having my bot-bot.
Best Friend:
Well – my mum. But I have this big cat brother called Gizmo – he’s pretty cool. I like to follow him and attack his legs. And I cry when he catches me and pins me to the ground. But when he lets me go – I attacks him again. The other one, Crispin pretends not to like me but he wiggles his tail so I attacks it.
Most embarrassing moment:
I fall off things a lot. I fall off the chair, and the lounge, off mum’s lap because I can’t sit still and even off the cat scratching thing. Mum says she’s thing of changing my name to Unco.

Nov 15, 2010

Going Naked In Public

Reading: Karen Rose - Silent scream
Watching: My Big Fat Greek Weddin
g - again
Making me smile: Boss, our retired pig dog, has just brought me a small stick as a present.

My second blog and now my first book, Their Marriage Miracle, is out on the shelves in New Zealand and Australia. Very exciting. But also a wee bit nerve-wracking.

I gave a copy to everyone in my writing group last week and told them it was a little like taking my clothes off in public. No, I haven't done that yet, but I'm guessing how it would feel. Uncomfortable, to say the least. It's one thing to have total strangers reading my book, but family and friends are quite different. This is something they've been waiting to read for a lot of years.

And then there's the sex. My niece asked if there was any sex in the book, and when I told her 'Yes', she said, 'Oooh, Auntie Sue, I can't read that. I so do not want to know.' She is in her late twenties and has two children, I might add. I was very tempted to staple the pages of that scene together but refrained at the last minute. When I got an email from Amy saying she'd read it there was no comment on the sex and she had enjoyed the book. A convert to romance stories? I hope so.

So, tell me, what feels like going naked in public to you? Anything you've been shying away from because it would expose you too much?

Nov 10, 2010


by Michelle Douglas

Reading: Beauty and the Scarred Hero by Emily May
Listening to: Amy Winehouse
Watching: New Tricks
Making Me Smile: The Jennifer Crusie's on my TBR pile

What do you love in a heroine?

A lot of my friends tell me it's the hero that makes a romance special for them - a man who is strong, sexy and to die for - but I have a confession to make, it's the heroine who is most important for me. Now don't get me wrong, I want a hero who is strong and sexy and to die for too, but it is the heroine I empathize with and it is through her that I experience the ecstasy and agony of falling in love.

Which got me thinking - as a reader what do I love in a heroine? To find an answer, I went back to my favourite reads for the year.

Juliet from The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society: Her voice compelled me to read on. She was witty and intelligent and had me laughing out loud. I actively wanted to know her better. Although she had plenty to feel depressed about, she never wallowed in self-pity. She maintained a sense of humour. She was proactive - she went looking for what needed.

Jane Eyre: Jane fights passionately for independence and the right to direct her own life. Adversity comes in the shape of villains and in the shape of her lover, but in the end Jane remains true to herself. That's what I love about her. (Oh and she's isn't beautiful. I loved that too)

Dr Erin Carmody from A Special Kind of Family by Marion Lennox: Okay at the very beginning of this book Erin, injured in a car accident, carries a heavy, ugly dog who is at death's door miles and miles to save it's life. I don't need to know anything else about Erin, because I now love her.

Annie from Christmas Angel For the Billionaire by Liz Fielding: Annie is in such an unusual and oppressive situation that when I discover she's not vanquished or diminished by it and that she can still act with grace, she gains my support. She's another proactive heroine who rescues herself rather than sitting around waiting for someone else to rescue her.

So what do all these heroines have in common? The trait that strikes me most forcefully is their courage - they all have that in spades. Secondly, they are all proactive. They don't sit around waiting for their lives and/or circumstances to change. Instead they set about changing their circumstances themselves. Although they are all very different in temperament they each had a quality I admired and it was different for each one: Juliet's humour, Jane's honesty, Erin's grit and Annie's determination.

Basically, they are all women I'd like to be friends with.

What about you? What do you love to see in a heroine?

Nov 9, 2010

Catwalk Wednesday

Name: Arnie
Abode: oh, wow, jeez, you’re talking to me? Cool! Wherever you say, man. No problem. Not a worry. I’m easy.
Human slave: Yeah? Wow, that cat’s a real slave driver... Oh, you mean do *I* have a human slave? Sheesh. No way. I’m far too unimportant. Who’s the boss around here anyway? No clue. I just know it isn’t me.
Likes: runwalkjumpbarkwalkjumpbarkrunroll pant pant pant snooze
Dislikes: Are you kidding? I love everything. Especially you. And the neighbours, and the postie, and the gas meter guy, and that bloke who broke into our house.
Ambition: Tinned dog food? For me? Yippee!

Nov 7, 2010

What are you reading right now?

Reading: Rebel by Zoe Archer
Watching: The Robin Hood remake
Listening to: Pirates of the Caribbean Soundtrack
Making me smile: Scent of homemade pizza

Well, I just finished a busy weekend of reading.

One of my all time fav paranormal authors, Nalini Singh just had a new book come out – Play of Passion. After I gobbled that up, I moved onto the next in Zoe Archer’s Blades of the Rose series – Rebel. I also checked out fellow LoveCat, Mel Teshco’s free read, Discovering Sofia.

Now I’ve run out of reads…

I have books in my TBR pile, but nothing that’s jumping up and grabbing me right now. I want assurance of a good read!

So I thought I’d ask for some help and see what everyone else is reading. I have to confess that I’ve not read a category book for a while, so any good category recommendations would be very welcome!

What are you reading right now that you’d recommend? Or what have you read recently that I should definitely check out?

Nov 6, 2010

Caturday Fun

The Piano Playing Cat - this cat plays better than I do, and I had lessons! Love the duets the best. :)

Have a great weekend!

Book Winner

And the winner of our chcolate book giveaway is:


There were some great creations (some I'm tempted to try at home) but Serena said:

Oooh Chocolate!! Have you ever tried chocolate and chilli together? Rather than a chocolate bar, I'd like to try chilli-chocolate-covered crackers (of the thin and not-too salty variety). But if it has to be a chocolate bar - White chocolate truffle covered in white chocolate. Preferably Lindt. Mmmmmmm. Lindt.

Two creations for the price of one! But it was her chilli-chocolate-covered crackers that had me itching to experiment in the kitchen.

Serena, send me an email at: rachel at rachelbailey dot com with your snail mail address and I'll get the book in the mail!

Nov 3, 2010

Experiments in Chocolate

by Rachel Bailey
Reading: Beauty & The Scarred Hero
Watching: Glee

Listening to: Elvis

Making Me Smile: Talking about chocolate!

For my November Desire, I had to create more than just a hero and heroine and the world they live in. I had to invent a chocolate bar. (Hard work, but someone's got to do it!) Macy Ashley works for Chocolate Diva, an international company that's looking to expand into Australia. She's investigating the possibilities and reporting back to her boss, Ryder Bramson.

So, the company, Chocolate Diva, needed to have some products. I started with chocolate coated fruit pieces. I called them Diva Drops and, for the Australian market, the company was looking at adding dried mango. I love dried mango, but it's pretty hard to find. (I had heaps of fun writing the scene where Macy shows Ryder what they'll taste like using a chocolate fountain and the dried fruit!)

Then I wanted a chocolate bar. I called it the Diva Truffle Bar - crushed almond and honeycomb in a chocolate truffle, coated in their own brand Diva chocolate. Lots of discussion with the other chocolate addict in the house over the ingredients for this one - we ended up just adding in all our favourite things. =) Lastly, there was a sampler tray - one of those trays with a few different flavours to experiment with.

So tell me, if you could invent your own chocolate bar or chocolate product (or if you're not a chocolate fan - any snack) what would it be? I have a copy of At The Billionaire's Beck & Call? (which is known as The Chocolate Book in my house) to give away to one commenter!

Catwalk Wednesday

Name: Pandamonium. Panda for short. While I have black and white fur, I'm not named after the Japanese chubby bears. I inherited the name as a kitten for al the boxes I got into and then tried to empty of their contents, and for using the toilet roll stand as a scratching post, and for climbing into cupboards to see what was in them and knocking everything down, and for...lots of other chaotic behaviours. Abode: I'm a country cat who loves being outside. My carer Kylie, my sister Splat, and uncle Furball, live on a double house block that backs onto a forested gully. Lots of space to roam and play.
Human Slave: Kylie
I love sitting on fenceposts the rain (unless it's torrential).
Prawns, especially the ones my carer is about to eat. The hot water bottle is my best friend in winter.
Dislikes: My sister, Splat, who crash tackles me when I come inside. She does it every time without fail. I think she has a bit of a complex, something to do with the fact I'm svelte and slim while she's chunky and well rounded.
To watch the world go by.

Sociable or Aloof:
A bit of both. It really depends who you are and the
vibe I get from you when I suss you out.
Night Owl or Early Bird:
I sleep when I sleep, I'm awake when I'm awake.
Everyone has to adapt to fit me.
Favourite Pastime:
Running away from Kylie when it's time to come inside
for the night. I love leading her all over the countryside, providing much amusement to the neighbours as they watch her chase me.
Favourite Toy:
The jingle ball - it makes a groovy sound as I bash it all
over the floor.
Best Friend: Furball, my uncle. Cuddling up to him, when Splat isn't hogging the lounge and him.
What do you like to sharpen your claws on: Definitely the lounge chair.
Most embarrassing moment:
Running face first up Splat's bum when I was
chasing her through the house and she came to a dead stop in the doorway. I didn't have time to leap over her or veer out of the way. Never heard Kylie laugh so much.

Nov 1, 2010

Slumming it...

Emily May

What I'm reading: Tempting the Negotiator by Zana Bell

Listening to: Salmonella Dub

Watching: Outback Wildlife Rescue

Making me smile: the snowball tree is flowering!

This month my third Regency romance, The Unmasking of a Lady, is out in the UK and North America. This is what I call my 'slum' book. Yes, there are glittering ballrooms, but my hero and heroine also venture into London's slums on several occasions.

To research the slums, I turned to Charles Dickens. He's a little after my time period, but he had personal experience of the slums. I thought I'd share some of his truly flavoursome descriptions, ones you can taste on your tongue!

From Bleak House:

...a black, dilapidated street, avoided by all decent people ... these tumbling tenements contain, by night, a swarm of misery. As on the ruined human wretch, vermin parasites appear, so, these ruined shelters have bred a crowd of foul existence that crawls in and out of gaps in walls and boards; and coils itself to sleep, in maggot numbers, where the rain drips in; and comes and goes, fetching and carrying fever...

Also from Bleak House:

...Mr Snagsby passes along the middle of a villainous street, undrained, unventilated, deep in black mud and corrupt water--though the roads are dry elsewhere--and reeking of such smells and sights that he, who has lived in London all his life, can scarce believe his senses. Branching from this street and its heaps of ruins, are other streets and courts so infamous that Mr Snagsby sickens in body and mind, and feels as if he were going, every moment deeper down, into the infernal gulf.

And from Oliver Twist:

The kennel was stagnant and filthy. The very rats, which here and there lay putrfying in its rottenness, were hideous with famine.

Can't you just smell that rat? Fabulous stuff! I had a lot of fun writing the slums scenes. Thank you, Dickens, for painting such vivid word-pictures!

Any Dickens fans out there? Or not? I have to confess that I find him rather wordy and a bit over the top at times, but he's great for dipping into for descriptions like those above. And there have been some marvellous BBC adaptations of his books!