Apr 29, 2013

Being Spontaneous

By Rachel Bailey

My gorgeous sister just before we took our seats.
I like to be impulsive and spontaneous, but usually I end up being a planning-ahead kinda girl. Not this weekend.

On Friday afternoon, I saw someone on Twitter saying they were going to see Josh Groban in Brisbane that night. I love Josh Groban. I went to see him the last time he was in Brisbane - 6 years ago. I own all his albums. I really wanted to see him live.

So I rang my sister (also a fan) to see if she wanted to go with me (she did) and got a couple of the last tickets left for the second show - Saturday night. The next morning I drove down to my sister's house (not in Brisbane, but closer than I am) with an overnight bag in tow. We saw the concert, I stayed the night, and I came home again yesterday afternoon. So spontaneous!

The concert was fabulous - Josh's voice is amazing. My only complaint was that the time seemed to go too quickly. I could have stayed listening to him all night! Here's him singing one of his hits from a few years ago, You Raise Me Up.

The other fabulous thing about my little trip away was spending some time with my sister, her family, and her non-human family. No dogs, I'm afraid, but a cat, a horse and some chickens. I have a few more photos of the night and the weekend away, so I'll pop them on my facebook page.

All in all I'm a bit tired from the big weekend, but I feel *so* invigorated. I really should be spontaneous more often! What about you? Are you the impulsive sort? When was the last time you did something on the spur of the moment? How did it turn out?

Update: a few people in the comments have said they didn't know Josh Groban but loved the clip above. So I couldn't resist adding another one in. This is another powerful song that has a similar inspirational feeling to the one above.


Apr 28, 2013

Sunday Smooch with Alison Stuart

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a smooch from  Alison Stuart, but first ...

the winner of last week's Sunday Smooch Giveaway is -- Rita Reitz!

Congratulations Rita! Can you please contact Sue Mackay - lsmackay (at) ts (dot) co (dot) nz  - to receive your copy of You, Me and A Family

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from Alison Stuart's latest release, SECRETS IN TIME...

When a seventeenth-century cavalier hurls himself over her garden wall, Doctor Jessica Shepherd is more angry than surprised. Although she ís no stranger to military re-enactors, there ís something different about Nathaniel Preston. If he ís to be believed, something…or someone…has sent him forward in time from the midst of a civil war to the quiet English countryside of the twentieth century.

With time working against them, Nathaniel has to convince Jessica why fate brought them together before he ís forced to return to his own era and certain death in battle.

Can the strength of love overcome all obstacles, even time itself?

Scene set-up: 
(Nat and Jess tell you the set up in their own words )

(Nat) took my hand. Strong, calloused fingers tightened on mine and I shivered, thinking of the contrast with Mark’s almost delicate surgeon’s hands. Mark took better care of his hands than I did. 

“And where do you end up?” I laughed as I extricated my hand.

He turned wide, guileless eyes on me. “Mistress Shepherd, I am a gentleman. May I not be permitted to hold your hand?”

“It depends on your intentions, good sir,” I said with a laugh and held out my right hand as I imagined a seventeenth-century lady of quality would have done.

He took it in his fingers and regarded it for a moment. “I see you are no gentlewoman. This hand has seen rough work.”

“What it has seen is too much hospital disinfectant.”

He turned it over and raised it to his lips, kissed each finger in turn. My knees weakened and my breathing became ragged.

He looked up at me and I saw the now familiar twinkle in his eye. “You have never been courted?”

“Not like this,” I conceded. “Video and a takeaway curry was Mark’s idea of romance.”

“Then I am pleased there are some things I can teach you.”

Kiss Scene  

I closed my eyes to fight back the tears and sensed, rather than saw him draw near. He folded me into his arms and I found I couldn’t resist leaning my head against his chest. He smelled of my soap and something else, spicy and foreign.
His lips brushed my hair. “Jessie, my witch,” he whispered.

“I’m such a fool.” I sniffed. “I only met you two days ago and you don’t even belong here. You could be whisked away at any moment and then where will that leave me?”

His chest rose and fell beneath my cheek as he sighed and his breath whispered past my cheek as he replied, “I do not know the answer to that question, Jessie. I’m here for a reason. It was not some momentary lapse in God’s concentration that sent me over your wall.”

“A reason? What reason? How--”

He laid a finger against my lips. “Later.” He stroked the hair back from my face and smiled down at me. 

My heart began to race. Whatever had brought him here didn’t matter, not for this moment. 

He continued. “You are right, Jessica. I know I must go back to my death. That is my fate and cannot be changed. I would rather die in the knowledge that, for a few brief moments, I had some happiness with a woman who intrigues me beyond measure.” He smiled and tugged gently at a lock of my hair.

“That is the corniest pick up line I have heard,” I muttered as his lips touched mine, stifling my objections. It may have been corny but it was effective. I would have given myself to him there and then on the bridle path.

I closed my eyes and parted my lips, devouring the taste of him. In my carefully ordered life, the pattern of time had not only been disrupted, but had given me the opportunity to forget for a while that I was a sensible, responsible doctor. For a fleeting moment I could just be a woman; a woman responding to a man in a way she had never experienced before.

I stood poised on the edge of a cliff from which I might never return. He could be gone tomorrow, tonight even, and I would be left forever wondering what it would be like to lie in his arms. We parted and I leaned my head against his chest. He rested his head on mine, engulfing me in his strength and solidity. I closed my eyes listening to the steady rhythm of his heart against my cheek.


SECRETS IN TIME is released worldwide and is available from AMAZON and LYRICAL PRESS

Alison is giving away a signed, print copy of her award-winning historical, BY THE SWORD, to one lucky commenter.  She'd love you to share your most romantic kiss!

And as an extra treat today, Alison has sent us this fab picture of Oliver Kat smooching up to the camera!

Oliver Kat ready for his Sunday Smooch!

Come back next Sunday, when the winner of today's giveaway will be announced -- and a smooch from 'First Comes Baby...' by Michelle Douglas will be posted!

Apr 26, 2013

A Tail of Two Sisters

Yep. You see what I did there? Two things. I put a twist on the title of the familiar and much loved Dickens novel (one of my absolute favourites) hoping that you would think me a literary genius.
And I put the wrong version of tail/tale in there. So now you’re probably thinking – not so much with the genius.
But trust me – the reason will become clear.
Meet my sister Ros Baxter – hot right? Not just hot. All round brainiac with four degrees, the last of which is a PhD . Not satisfied enough with being a lawyer/social worker she went the whole enchilada to Dr! Although, to be fair she only uses that title at airports to potentially score an upgrade or with the snotty layby people at K-Mart.
A couple of years ago, my clever, wonderful sister said to me – we should write a book together.
I told you she was smart – right?
So we did. And it was good. Nay (am sticking with olde English cos it seems kind of fitting now I’ve already mentioned Dickens) it was very good and was snapped up by Harper Collins Australia.
What? Never heard of it? (cue horrified gasp) No worries – you can find it here . It’s called Sister Pact and is, funnily enough, about two sisters. Yes – it is an awful price at the moment for an e-book (occasionally you can get it for $5 digitally and yes, Ali Ahearn is my other name. Shh, don’t tell anyone!) but if you hang around to the end of the blog there is a giveaway!
Here’s the blurb –
Two very different sisters. Once inseparable, they have long been estranged after an unimaginable betrayal.
Organised and uptight Frances married the only man she′d ever
slept with. But no-one told her that seven years later she′d be having sexual fantasies about everyone from the pizza delivery guy to Denis Thatcher. Scatterbrained animal-lover Joni never knew she was so attached to her kneecaps until she thought she might have to say goodbye to them forever.

After their beloved grandmother -- a game-show addict -- dies, they discover that they have each been left one million pounds in her will. The kicker is that they can only inherit if they participate as a team in a gruelling reality TV program, Endurance Island.
They can survive the jungle.  They can survive the humiliating challenges. But can they survive each other?
Obviously I happen  to be biased but it’s a funny, poignant, heart-warming story of  return to sisterhood and of course a couple of hot men to provide a little bit of loving because, seriously, who wants to read a book without a little bit of loving, right??
We were absolutely chuffed to be nominated in the recent ARRA romance awards in the best contemporary romance section and seriously had the best time writing this book as a team. And if you’d like to know more about our collaboration and read some sneak peeks from SP2 coming out in a few months you can find us on FB  and our website  – a new SP2 snippet was up loaded last night! 
But wait you say – the whole tail/tale thing is still not clear.
Okay, moving on.
You see my clever, amazing sister who is seriously, OMG, an amazing writer (oh and did I mention she had 4 kids from 8 down including a baby?) has her own solo book out this month with Escape Publishing called A Fish Out Of Water.  About a mermaid called Rania who is a cop in a small town called Dirtwater, far away from her oceanic roots.
Ahhh . See now? The whole tail/tale thing becomes clear, right?
Although, just to be totally upfront, Ros’s mermaids don’t have tails – how on earth would they be able to do it with tails???? And again –what’s a story without a little bit of it, right??
Here’s the blurb –

Dirtwater's straight-talking Deputy Sheriff Rania Aqualina has a lot on her plate: a nicotine addiction that's a serious liability for a mermaid, a soldier-of-fortune ex who's hooked on her Mum's brownies, a gorgeous, naked stranger in her shower, and a mysterious dead blonde with a fish tattoo on Main Street.
Heading home to Aegira for a family wedding, Rania has a sinking feeling that's got nothing to do with hydroporting seven miles under the sea and everything to do with the crazy situation. Now, if she can just steal a corpse, get a crazy Aegiran priest off her case, work out who the hell's trying to kill her, and stop sleeping with the fishes, she might be able to unravel the mysteries. And maybe even save her own ass while she's at it.
Fish out of Water is Stephanie Plum meets Splash, and the first book in a trilogy about Aegira, an underwater kingdom based on the historical Norse legend of Aegir.
And you can buy it (for only 3.99!!!) here . You can also find out more about my lovely sister at her FB page (where she does lots of short freebies) or on her website or follow her on twitter @RosBaxter.
So enough bragging about how wonderful I think my sister is – let’s get to the good stuff.
We’re giving away an e-copy of Sister Pact AND an e-copy of Fish Out Of Water (one of each) to two lucky visitors who leave a comment (and an email address please).
Do you have a sister? Are you close or not? Or do you have a brother or a cousin or other close relative you simply adore as much as I do my Ros? Do you like collaborations? Or hate them? Have you read any good ones?
Lots of fodder for comments there J

Apr 24, 2013

The tricky task of giving advice...

Someone asked me the other day what was my best piece of advice for newbie writers. First, of course, my ego responded with a chuckle and a straightening of my (non-existent) tie. Ah-ha! Yes, of course! I am published now. Which entirely gives me the right to give advice.

Well, not exactly.

In the scheme of things, I'm still pretty much a newbie, too. Yes, I've had the good fortune to have a few more experiences than someone who's just starting out, and I'm more than happy to share what I've learned in my journey.

So I mumbled something to that effect, but the person wasn't entirely satisfied with my response. "What, then," they asked, "was the best piece of advice you received when you were starting out?"

Ooh. That's a tough one. But it did make me reflect on the kind of information I was seeking out when I was new to the whole writing thing.

Mostly, I think, I wanted to know the "how". Not so much technically how you write a book (but that too) but more logistically and practically. What do authors actually DO? How long do they spend at the computer? How many words do they write a day? How many books do they write a year?

I listened intently to the stories of other authors, the confessions of their routines and struggles and approaches.

The ONLY way to write a book, I learned, was to sit down and plot it all out on note cards and pin them to the wall. But no, the ONLY way to write a book, I was then told, was to let it grow organically and not kill the life of the story with a too-structured plan.

Hmm. I was already realising that there might be more than one ONLY way to write a book.

I remember being told, frequently, that it was an absolute crime to re-read your work from the day before when you begin writing for the day. You must NEVER re-read, you must get straight into writing the new material. Editing is for after.

Then I read that Susan Elisabeth Phillips reads her ENTIRE book from the start before she starts writing each day. (I'm still spun out about that.)

I read Stephen King's book On Writing and for a short while thought I'd be famous in no time, because his habits were the closest I'd heard/read to my own. That . . . ah . . . didn't quite happen. (Yet.) But it was reassuring to read that such a successful author approached the task of writing in a similar way to me.

So what have I learned? What advice do I pass on when asked? I have boiled it down to two tidbits:

1. Ignore anyone who says NEVER and ONLY. They're wrong.
2. Ignore item 1. There is ONLY one right way for you to write a book, and that's the way that works for you.

If pressed, I could add a number three. (Because stuff like this is always better in threes.)

3. Read and learn from others, take inspiration from them. Keep what works, discard what doesn't. Keep reading and learning. Repeat.

Hmm. I don't think there's a craft book in that. Well, not a very long one, anyway. :)

Apr 22, 2013

It's Hurling Time......

By Helen Lacey
I am fortunate enough to live on the east coast of Australia, in a small town which sits at the most southern point of the Great Barrier Reef. With about 800 residents, it really is a little bit or paradise, with walking pathways and a couple of fabulous beaches. Once afternoon last week my husband and I decided to have a walk on the main beach. It was busy for a weekday afternoon and since it was high tide, the sand was a much narrower strip than usual. We started walking, shoes off, of course, and spotted a large group of twenty-something young men playing a ball game. We stopped and watched for a moment, careful not to get hit in the head from a stray ball. The players had pitched goal posts at each end of their game and had pushed unusual looking ‘sticks’ into the sand about two metres apart. My husband, always curious, asked one of the young men what the sticks were called.
“They’re Hurrrrrrlaayin sticks,” he said.

We looked at one another and asked him again.

“Hurrrrrrlaayin sticks,”
Still nothing.

“For hurrrrrrlaayin,” he said in a thick Irish brogue.
Never heard of it. It took a few minutes to work out he was saying Hurling. And Hurling, he told us, is a sport where players hold this funny shaped stick and hurl a ball around a field at a very fast pace. We moved on and my husband took his iPhone and Googled the word Hurling. And yes, there certainly is a sport called Hurling. The Hurley is the stick, and the players are called Hurlers. With its Gaelic origins it’s older than the recorded history of Ireland. It even made the Olympics in 1904. Of course, now I feel like I’ve lived under a rock since I’ve never heard of the game before (even with my Celtic roots) and the internet is filled with examples and explanations of Hurling. It’s kind of like hockey on steroids, I thought.
But I was intruiged by this game I'd never heard of and thought how there are probably many other games/sports played around the world that are unknown and/or unusual. Check out this list. Like South African Ringball, or Sepak Takraw - volleyball for the feet!
Have you ever seen or played an unusual game or sport?

Apr 21, 2013

Sunday Smooch with Sue Mackay........

Today we have a Smooch from
You, Me and A Family
Sue Mackay

But first the winner of last week's Sunday Smooch Giveaway is
Princess Fiona
Congratulations. Can you please contact Rachel Bailey at
rachel (at) rachelbailey (dot) com
and she'll send you a copy of No Stranger To Scandal

 And now for today's Sunday Smooch from You, Me and A Family  by Sue Mackay www.suemackay.co.nz

A family to call her own...
Returning to Nelson Harbour Hospital, Dr Alexandra Prendergast sees work as a distraction from the loss of the baby she'd always longed for. But working with single dad Mario Forelli, who's bringing up his little girl, Sophia, only reinforces dreams of a family that for Alex can never come true.
Alex tries to resist Mario's continental charm, but in doing so she sees a vulnerability beneath his proud facade. Maybe a family for all three of them is closer than they think.

Lead in to the kiss - Mario and his daughter have turned up at Alex's beach house. The little girl, Sophia, is reading one of the books that Alex has had published about two dogs.

Mario stood at the bay window, breathing in the relaxing aptmosphere of Alexandra's special place. Surprising that she'd invited him here, really. This was showing him more about her than any conversation had so far in their relationship.

You don't have a relationship with Alexandra. Other than a working one. And one meal and an almost kiss at her apartment.

He sighed. 'This is magical. I feel like I've been transported to another planet. The hospital and all those sick youngsters seem a long way away.'

Alexandra paused her lunch preparations and came to stand beside him, instantly distracting him with the scent of the outdoors overlaid with pine smoke from her wood-burner. 'It has that effect on me, too.'

Turning slightly, Mario watched, fascinated, as Alex's mouth curved into a gentle smile. Without thought he leaned closer, traced a finger along that smile, felt her lips stretch wider and open slightly under his fingertip, drawing him into her heat. Her tongue touched, licked. He tried backing away, couldn't, his feet apparently nailed to the floor.

That unfinished kiss from last week lay between them. It was in her shy glances when she didn't think he was watching her, in her guarded smiles. It fizzed along his veins, fried his brain. It would not be denied any longer. So tilting her head up with his hand under her chin, he lowered his mouth to hers. Where this would take them he didn't know, didn't question. He just had to have his fill of her. Now. He tasted her. And couldn't get enough. His tongue pressed into her mouth, further, deeper. Savouring, exploring. The world spun away, leaving him alone with Alexandra. Nothing, no one else, mattered.

Out Now: APRIL

Mario's Italian his accent is to die for. Hearing a man speak in an Irish accent makes my knees melt. What is your favourite accent? A copy of You, Me and A Family is there for one lucky reader.

Apr 19, 2013

The lost art of letter-writing

Listening to: Ed Sheeran's Kiss Me (makes me want to cry)

Reading:  Left Neglected by Lisa Genova (awesome book)

Watching: trying not to watch anything!

I received a letter today. Huh? Not surprising, I guess you're thinking, people get letters everyday. But this wasn't a bill or a flyer, it was a proper old-fashioned hand-written letter with my name and address scrawled on the envelope in pen. The last time I received one of these was in 2009-(yeah, sounds like I'm a wee bit OCD, but I try to keep all my letters from friends and family in a memory box).

This letter was from a friend I haven't seen in 5 years, she lives back in England and, even though we're facebook friends, and share xmas email newsletters we don't really communicate much any more. So this letter came out of the blue. It told me of her life over the last couple of years, some good news, some not so- it told me, more importantly, that she'd been thinking of me for long enough to sit down and write, and then to go to the trouble of finding a stamp and a letterbox.

I can't remember the last time I did this. Sure, I email people all the time, I have lovely chats on twitter and Facebook and I jot a few lines in xmas cards, but I don't even know if my hand muscles can remember how to write for three pages!

Similarly, I was shocked the other day when I was helping my son write a letter of enquiry for a weekend job. He didn't even know how to formulate a letter- seems he's never been shown at school, and we have tended to encourage a quick email of thanks to relatives for gifts- the theory being it's more immediate and therefore more showing of gratitude. But I'm starting to think differently. Receiving that letter made me go to my box of letters from friends, sadly not replenished for 4 years- and read a few. And you know, the sentiment written in letters is more direct and deeper than that of an email. It's certainly more personal- somehow I can't imagine printing off an email to keep. I wonder whether it's the physical connection- my mother wrote that with her own hand and then sent it to me- a connection that is lost somehow by technology? I don't know.  I guess we're all busy with our lives that taking time out to craft a meaningful letter just gets pushed to the bottom of the list. Here's  Andrew Lam's take on it.

But the feeling I got when I opened that letter made me think I might try to spend a little more time writing less emotionless emails and more emotional letters - or cards. (I may just start with filling up a card and see how I go!)

What about you? Do you still write letters?

Apr 17, 2013

Tennis, anyone? Yet another writerly distraction - by Annie West

When the weather's warm and the skies are blue a romance writer's mind turns to romance, yes?

Well.... I confess that sometimes on a gorgeous day it's hard to stay focused at the computer when there are so many other things happening. I overheard a writer friend saying recently that she suffered from the temptation of starting a new project when she was part way through her current book because it had the allure of the 'ooh, bright, shiny and new'! Sometimes it's easier to do almost anything else than write a book. Even housekeeping has its allure (limited I grant you) when the alternative is to work on a turning point scene that just isn't going well.

So, in recognition of all those times when distraction has got the better of me, I thought I'd share some photos I took last summer in Melbourne at the Australian Open Tennis. As distractions go, this one is a corker. Planted slap bang in the middle of summer, just after the Christmas mayhem when the temperatures soar and I'm ready for some time off and maybe a little afternoon doze, the temptation to watch other people hard at work is almost impossible to resist. And when one of the people working is Roger Federer, I think I can be excused for watching. That man makes tennis look far too easy. I'm not sure how he does it but then watching experts at work, making the ridiculously difficult look simple is always a pleasure.

To my delight I found my day at the tennis full of unexpected surprises. Speaking of sitting down and watching others work - how about this? Between matches someone came out to mow the artificial turf!

We discussed this with fascination and eventually came to the conclusion the organisers hadn't gone barmy, but that the lawnmower is most likely a giant vacuum cleaner - designed to pick up those little bits of detritus that seem to bother tennis players.

To us it was pure amusement. And our smiles grew broader as we watched a second mower join the first. I wonder if we were the only members of the audience who found this sight rather odd?

I know, we were there to watch the tennis, and we did - honestly! But attending a match isn't just about the play on court. It's about enjoying the other little bits and pieces.

Like watching the ball girls and boys, who obviously have strict instructions on where the stand or crouch between points. They scurry about with such energy scooping up balls, displaying them with curious stiff-armed gestures for players' consideration and then abruptly kneeling at the side of the court, hands down and heads up, rather like attentive prairie dogs.

Then of course there's the arcane ritual of changing staff. They're colour-coded of course, and there seems to be a rigorously-adhered to way of moving on and off the court. It was almost like watching a changing of the guard outside Buckingham Palace except the staff had traded sun hats for braid and there wasn't a rifle in sight.

As a day of entertainment this was fantastic. The tennis was brilliant and so were all the other bits and pieces you don't usually get to see on TV because of the commercial breaks. Next summer I'll be hoping to manage another day at the tennis or at least an afternoon sprawled on the sofa, ignoring my manuscript while I watch from afar.

What's your favourite summer distraction?  Or given the seasons have moved on, your current guilty pleasure?

Apr 15, 2013

Meet Rosebud, the canine star of No Stranger To Scandal

(And a prize-winner announcement!)

File:Female English Bulldog.jpgWhen I was writing No Stranger To Scandal, I decided that my heroine's stepfather would have a dog. The stepfather is the owner of a news network who loves his dog and takes her to work with him every day, and she's just as devoted, spending her days sleeping in a basket under his desk.

For some reason, I could only see this dog as a bulldog.

Next, she needed a name. I wrote some of this book while sitting on the couch at my mother's house, and she has a Rottweiler x Labrador named Roxiana Rosebud who sat on the other side of the couch and kept me company. So it seemed natural to name my fictitious canine after my couch-friend.

Rosebud the Bulldog.

I'd like to share with you the first time the reader meets Rosebud - Lucy (our heroine) has slipped into her stepfather's office while he's on the phone.

From a basket under the desk, Rosebud, his bulldog, lifted her head and, recognizing Lucy, lumbered out to greet her. Lucy dropped her bag beside the chair and crouched down to rub the dog’s velvety, wrinkled face.

“How’s it going, Rosie?” she whispered and was rewarded with a wide doggie smile, complete with a pink tongue almost curled back on itself.

Further on, Rosebud has an even bigger part to play, when Lucy uses her as an excuse to "run into" Hayden and his one-year-old son:

The next day, at half past one, Lucy saw her target. The concierge had told her Hayden Black liked to take a walk in the park across from the Sterling Hotel with his son on his lunch break, but that the time of the break varied. So Lucy and Rosebud had been wandering the park since just after eleven. Rosebud was panting from the exertion, but thoroughly enjoying her day out meeting random people who stopped to pat her.

Hayden was striding along a paved path about twenty feet away, talking to an infant he carried in one arm, holding a brown paper bag in the other. The sight of him trapped her breath in her lungs. Wide, strong shoulders that tapered to narrow hips. Long legs that walked with confidence and purpose. The masculine grace in the way he held his son.

She swallowed hard. “Come on, Rosie, I have a little boy I want you to meet.” Rosebud looked up, her curled tongue poking out as she smiled.

And here's a snippet of the conversation that ensues:

“Goggie!” Josh squealed again, apparently impatient to be getting to the dog-patting action.

Hayden looked from Rosie to her. “Is it okay for Josh to pat her?”

“Sure,” she said, laying on her southern accent thick and smiling innocently. “She’s as gentle as a lamb.”

Hayden crouched down beside her and supported Josh as he found his feet and reached out to touch Rosie’s ear.

“Her name’s Rosebud,” Lucy said to the toddler.

As they watched Josh and Rosie interact, Hayden asked, “How long have you had her?”

“She’s Graham’s dog,” she replied, as if she hadn’t worked out that he’d know that. “He’s had her for six years. Since she was a puppy.”

Hayden leaned forward and joined Josh in petting her. “Nice dog.”

His shoulder was only a couple of inches from hers—if she moved a little she’d bump against him. A mischievous impulse urged her to lean into him, knowing he’d be solid and warm, and it took all her willpower to resist. The scent of clean, masculine skin surrounded her, made everything else fade into the background, made a hum resound through her bloodstream.

Rosie rolled over onto her back, producing her tummy for rubs with no shame at her brazen request for attention. Lucy blinked down at the dog, fully aware she walked a knife’s edge of being just as obvious. She squared her shoulders. Time to move away from temptation and remember she was a journalist working on a story.

I loved spending time in Rosebud's scenes - she totally stole my heart!

Tell me, do you know a dog (or cat!) who deserves to be immortalized in a book like my mother's Roxiana Rosebud? I'd love to hear about them!

And before I go, the winner of my giveaway last week (the Happy Release Day To Me post) is Cecilia83. Cecilia, drop me a line at rachel (at) rachelbailey (dot) com and I'll get the book in the mail. :)

Apr 14, 2013

Sunday Smooch: No Stranger To Scandal

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a smooch from  No Stranger To Scandal by Rachel Bailey but first ...

the winner of last week's Sunday Smooch Giveaway is -- Mary Preston

Can you please contact louisageorgeauthor (at) gmail (dot) com to recieve your copy of The Last Doctor She Should Ever Date.

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from No Stranger To Scandal!

Decorum Vs. Destiny

She might be the stepdaughter of one of the most powerful media moguls in Washington, but Lucy Royall is no pampered princess—she's making her own way as a junior reporter. But when congressional investigator Hayden Black accuses her stepfather of criminal wrongdoing, she shows her family loyalty and takes Hayden on. Then, as things heat up, the sexy single dad takes her to bed! Talk about a conflict of interest. Will their illicit passion turn into something more lasting, even in the face of controversy so huge it rocks a nation?

Scene set-up: [Lucy is working late at night in Hayden's hotel room, helping him to solve the mystery of who is behind the phone hacking scandal. She's also been trying to ignore the heat that's between them because of their conflict of interests.]

He riffled through a pile of reports until he found a chart she’d drawn two nights ago. “Tell me again about who was supposed to be managing Ames and Hall.”

She scooted over to his sofa and looked at the chart illuminated in soft lamplight. Heat emanated from his body. “This is the line of responsibility.” She reached across and touched a fingertip to the paper he held, and as she did, the sensitive underside of her wrist grazed lightly over crisp hairs on his forearm. A shiver ran up her spine.

She heard a sharply indrawn breath and looked to see his gaze locked on her, his eyes darkened with the same need she felt. For a charged moment, neither of them moved, and the only sound she heard was the pounding of her heart. He was so close—a whisper away.

“Lucy, we can’t.” His voice was torn from his throat.

Hearing he was as close to the edge as she was had the opposite effect from what he’d intended. She’d never been good at following rules, or doing what she was told. The day’s stubble on his cheeks beckoned, and she ran her fingertips across it to see what it felt like, what he felt like. His jaw was clenched so hard that a muscle in the corner jumped.

“I’ve been wondering what it would feel like to touch you,” she said, watching the path her fingers traveled over his jaw. “In fact, I wished for it.”

He winced as if in pain. “You should be more careful about what you wish for.”

“I was careful,” she murmured. Her fingertips feathered along the strong column of his throat. “I’m wishing for it again right now.”

He stilled, his only movement the rapid rise and fall of his chest. “I swear,Lucy, you’d try the patience of a saint.” His gaze fell to her lips. “And I hate to admit it, but I’m no saint.” Finally, his hands crept under her hair to cradle the nape of her neck, lightly massaging, sending a spray of fireworks across her skin.

“No regrets yet,” she said, though she wasn’t sure her voice was strong enough for him to hear. He leaned in, his body tense, and his lips brushed across hers, the softest of caresses, yet enough to leave her trembling.

“Hayden,” she whispered with all the need inside her. A shudder ripped through his body. He pulled her flush against him and kissed her, the warm pressure of his mouth like nothing she’d ever felt. When his tongue moved against hers, the shimmering heat exploded inside her, and she crawled onto his lap. It still wasn’t close enough. At last, after all these days of hoping and nights of dreaming, Hayden was kissing her. Hungrily. Gloriously. And she was melting.


You can grab a copy of No Stranger To Scandal from eHarlequin, Amazon, B&N, or it's on the shelves in stores now. But today I'm giving away a copy to one person who leaves a comment. Tell me, when was the last time you did something you knew you shouldn't? :)

Come back next Sunday, when the winner of today's giveaway will be announced -- and a smooch from You Me and a Family by Sue Mackay will be posted!

Apr 11, 2013

Sue Mackay goes for a stroll

This is a picture story for a change. A picture supposedly tells a thousand words and as I'm going away for the next two months hopefully all these pictures will make up for my absence.

Three weekends ago my DB and I decided we'd go for a walk over the other side of our Sound. It was a beautiful day and we felt like a change from our usual walk along our road.

I love being in the bush away from vehicles and people. Just ourselves and the birds - mostly fantails which are very friendly and tend to follow us along the track. It is so peaceful and gives me plenty to think about as I grunt up the steep inclines. Plenty of puff was needed at times.

New Zealand bush is very dense and there's lot of undergrowth. Overseas hikers are often surprised at this and have been known to get thoroughly lost if they step off the tracks.

We climbed continuously, then crossed over a saddle and headed all the way down only to have to climb upwards once more to finally reach the next saddle two hours later.

We took a much needed sit down to admire the view of Nydia Bay which is only accessable by a long walk and climb, or by boat.

Native Rata vines added colour to the foliage.
I have done many hikes, some up to five days long, in our bush and never get tired of the sights and sounds. It is truly beautiful.

As we rounded the last corner at the end of the track on our return a very welcome sight. We then headed to the pub in Havelock for a well earned beer. The temperature was in the high 20's you understand.

At the end of the month we heading away on a big adventure. We're going to Italy with a couple of short stopovers on the way there and back. Neither of us have been to Europe so it is quite daunting but very exciting. The one thing I can guarantee is that it isn't going to be anywhere near as quiet as it was in the bush three weeks ago.

Have you been hiking in the bush? Or been somewhere remote? Or do you prefer to stay in the cities?

Apr 10, 2013

Heart of the Matter

by Michelle Douglas

Last Saturday I took part in a panel entitled Heart of the Matter: Writing Romance at the inaugural Newcastle Writers Festival. And it was the best fun!

The other panellists were:

Deborah Challinor, who writes gripping historical novels with strong romantic elements.

Kaz Delaney who writes wildly funny young adult romances.

Cathryn Hein, who writes the most marvellous and emotional rural romances.

The panel was very graciously, and stylishly, moderated by our own divine Ms Annie West.

From left to right: Michelle Douglas, Cathryn Hein, Kaz Delaney, Deborah Challinor and Annie West

All of us either live in the Newcastle and Lake Macquarie area or have links there. The event itself was held in the Newcastle City Business Centre—a lovely venue. It’s the old National Bank building, and in the photo below you can see the gorgeous ceiling and chandelier.

Of course, while it’s amazing to spend time with other writers, it’s the readers that make an event like this such an amazing experience. At a rough guesstimate there would’ve been thirty attendees, so we decided to leave plenty of time for a Q & A at the end. I swear we could’ve kept going for at least another 30 minutes. And that’s a conservative guess. :-)

We were asked the most amazing questions. What did we think made romance such a popular genre? Why didn’t many men write romance when they could write such wonderful love song lyrics? What were our own enduring personal themes and/or messages?

Man, did that audience make me ponder my writing, consider my own deeper motivations and reflect upon my chosen genre. I know I wasn’t the only panellist who found it a valuable and rewarding exercise.

So my question to you is: As a reader, have you ever attended a similar event? And if you asked a question, what was it?

Apr 8, 2013

Feeding the Muse

I’m thrilled to be a new LoveCat and am excited about doing my first LoveCat blog.

Today is the deadline for my third Destiny Romance book. It’s meant lots of early morning starts and late night edits. But it’s done. The final spell check has been run. All the edits have been made. The End has been typed. And the story is now in the ether on its way to my editor.  To say my mood is one of elation is a massive understatement.

But I’m also feeling emotionally wrung dry. My characters have stolen all my creative energy.  It’s time to nourish the muse, recondition the spirit, fill the well. So I’m going to give myself a few days off. Ah bliss.

Whenever I have time off, I love to travel. I gave the muse a massive feast recently by hiking the Tasmanian Overland Track. It is a place of extraordinary beauty and a wonderful way to escape the everyday.

Now I love hiking, but camping and I go together like Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Collins. The Mr Darcy of this tale takes the form of Cradle Mountain Huts Walk. The company has been running guided walks for over twenty-years and of course, they have huts.  Huts mean hot meals, hot showers, warm cabins and chilled wine. All this delivered by young, fit guides who take care of everything. Food tastes oh, so much better when you’ve walked at least twelve kilometers and someone else has cooked.

There is some work involved in this hike.  I had to carry my own clothes and personal items.  My pack weighed about seven kilos which was very manageable. If you wanted clean clothes you washed them in the shower each night for which you pumped your own water.

Each day was a delightful routine of waking to the sounds of the bush, which are very different to those of my northern-NSW bush.  I’m used to waking to a chorus of birds singing their hearts out at the crack of dawn. On the Overland Track there were very few birds, which seemed unnatural. A hot breakfast was on the table by the time I’d made it down the stairs from my twin-share room. A lovely array of food was laid out for me to choose from to pack for lunch. Then packs on for the all-day walk usually between seven and twelve kilometers.  Upon arrival at the hut in the afternoon, one of the guides (we had two for the ten of us) had cooked fresh scones or some other tasty treats which were washed down with freshly brewed coffee or tea.

There were so many highlights, but for me the best experience was climbing Tasmania’s highest peek, Mt Ossa. It stands at 1,617 metres in the middle of the national park. Making it to the top does involve a lot of scrambling over huge boulders. The view is worth it even if you are little intimidated by the climb (could all those boulders slide further down the mountain as I’m trying to climb up?!?!?). This three-hour detour from the main track is not to be missed. You can see a quarter of Tasmania from the top and not one man-made thing (well there is an old disused mining road to be east, but we ignored that).
Our guides were lovely, knowledgeable and fit. They were passionate about conservation and taught us lots of interesting ecological facts.  We visited a myriad of beautiful waterfalls; a disused mine shaft featuring one lonely spider and lots of cave crickets (ugly little critters); held Fairy’s Aprons, sweet little purple flowers; splashed in freezing rivers and lakes and learned about the wonderful array of native fauna and flora. Around every bend was another incredible vista.

Of course I, being a total snake-a-phobe, was the only one to see a snake up way too close. I nearly stepped on it when I rounded the corner of our first hut at Barn Bluff.  Our guide told me how lucky I was. I just met Tigger, the highly toxic local Tiger snake. 

By the end of the trip my creative cup runneth over. I now have a wonderful new setting for my next book.

Is there somewhere you love to go to recharge? Or somewhere you’re dreaming about visiting?  I’d love to hear.