Aug 29, 2013

Cruising The South Pacific

I've always wanted to go on an ocean cruise, but, alas, I get terribly motion sick. So I did the next best thing - I wrote a book set on a cruise ship. :)

And if I was to cruise-by-proxy, where would I go? The South Pacific, of course! I've already been to many places the south pacific cruise ships dock, such as New Zealand, New Caledonia and the east coast of Australia, and I love this region. It's the perfect place to set a romance.

I visited travel agents and was given armfuls of brochures, I surfed the web, I visited some big ships down at the docks, and I went through my holiday snaps. I also grilled my other half, who spent many years on ships, and the gorgeous and generous Anna Campbell went on a cruise armed with a list of my questions for the ship's doctor (my heroine's profession).

In fact, I started to feel as if I *had* been on a cruise. The tropical islands surrounded by powder fine white sand. The vast expanses of indigo blue water. The feel of the sea breeze in my hair. Mission accomplished.

Though, now my interest in cruising has been piqued. I've also been checking out cruises to Alaska and down the Rhine. And I'm sure I could write books on a round-the-world cruise ship just as easily as from my little office.

Oh, except for that chronic motion sickness thing...

So, indulge me please. Help me live vicariously. Have you ever been on a cruise? If so, where was it and what was your favourite part? Is there a cruise you've always longed to do? Or do you hate the idea of floating in a big boat?

My cruise ship book, Countering His Claim, is out in October in the US, Aust & NZ and can be preordered now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Booktopia, Book Depository, or eHarlequin.

Aug 28, 2013

Finding inspiration

The doctor is in!
I'm in the midst of writing a different kind of book for me. It's got more than two main characters and lots going apart from schmexy times (although there's plenty of that too!).

But this week, one of my characters just won't play ball. She's confused, and complicated, and possibly a little annoying. (A little annoying is okay, I think. A lot annoying is a problem, and sometimes it's hard to draw a line between the two.)

So I've been soaking up as many characters in the past few days as I can. Reading. Watching TV. Movies. Even jumping on Facebook and social media to look at the way different people talk and interact.

No one told me this writing caper would involve having to inhabit the mind of a psychologist! Or perhaps, maybe, I'm the one who needs the psychologist? Nah, that's what crit partners are for, right? ;)

I think I'm probably at a point now where I need to just keep writing. Write and write and write until I get her to make some sense. It feels wasteful, but I guess if it helps me to make her more believable and real, then it won't be wasted effort at all.

What do you guys do if you get stuck with a story? How do you bring your characters into line if they're playing up and refusing to stay in their neat little boxes? Let me know your tricks!

Aug 26, 2013

The Cat Came Back.

So you probably all know from me banging on about it on my FB page and here, I’ve been away. Took the train from Sydney to Perth. Did some touring round southern Western Australia. Went to the RWAustralia conference in Freemantle. Then did a writer’s retreat on Rottness Island for a four days.

And I’m totally exhausted!

But I promised you pics and it’s a lazy way to blog :-) so....

The Train

The Saloon car

Our platinum cabin by day
The Nullarbor Plain - means treeless in Aboriginal language.

So much great food on the train of no diet!
Brekky - yum!

WA Scenery  

Lots of rainbows in rainy WA! In Albany at old Whaling Station


Vewy Vewy windy at this lighthouse

Walking amongst the treetops, Valley of the Giants

WE saw a lot of lighthouses and jetties!
Where 2 great oceans meet!
 RWAustralia conference Fremantle 2013

The lovely Fiona dressed up as one of my book covers for the Cocktail party - best fan moment yet!

We all got a sneak peek at Tina M Clark's book cover - My Brother But One out soon!

Anne Gracie and Fiona McArthur always get into the spirit of things!

The always grinning Paula Roe!

3 medical authors and their lovely London editorial director! All on our best behaviour - not!

Love me a good pirate! At the Destiny party.

Gorgeous lighting & desserts at the awards gala
Emily Forbes still ecstatic after her Ruby win!
The lovely Rachael Bailey and I.
Joel from Momentum and the lovely Shannon Curtis. 
The lounge was a popular area. Anne Gracie, Fiona McArthur, Bron Jameson and Keziah Hill keeping me company!

Rottness Writer's Retreat

Sun setting in the west

Lovecats! Bron Rach and I.

View from the deck
A posing pelican
See, I did do some work!
Simply paradise!

Our accommodation

Now I've loaded all these pics I hope the site doesn't crash but I just couldn't resist! 

My mind's definitely made up, I'll be heading back west again for sure particularly to Rottness Island which was just divine! But for now - I'm going to sleep!

Where's been the best place you've ever holidayed? 

Aug 25, 2013

Sunday Smooch with Barbara Hannay

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a smooch from  Miracle at Bellaroo Creek, but first ...

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

Can you please contact Jennifer St George ...... jennifer_stgeorge (at) yahoo (dot) com to receive your copy of The Love Deception.

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from Barbara Hannay

One small town…
One big miracle!

Whoever said a broken heart was the end of the world had never met Milla Brady! In desperate need of a distraction, she sets her sights on reviving her parents’ bakery. But when a tall, handsome blast from her past turns up, Milla’s calm feathers are distinctly ruffled!

Ed Cavanaugh could only watch when his brother walked all over Milla’s dreams – he always knew she deserved better. So, seeing her looking beautiful and content, he promises not to leave Bellaroo Creek until he tells her what he wanted to say all those years ago…

‘I’ve missed you, bakery girl.’ 

I've missed you, too. So, so much.

If she let Ed kiss her now, she knew she would end up in bed with him, and oh, Lordy, she was melting at the very thought. But she also knew very well that she would end up more deeply in love with this gorgeous man. And how could she let that happen when there were still so many unanswered questions between them?

 With huge reluctance, she placed her hands firmly in the centre of his chest, holding him at bay. ‘Ed, we haven’t talked yet. You haven’t told me why you’ve come back.’

 He gave a choked groan.

 ‘It’s a fair question,’ she said defensively.

 His response was a wry, sad smile. ‘Milla, give a man a break. You’re standing here in nothing but a towel. You’re driving me wild, and you want to interrogate me.’

 ‘It’s not that I want – it – it’s just that –’

Her head was swimming. Her hands were still pressed against the brick wall of his chest, holding him away from her, but what she really wanted was to have him close again. Holding her.

And before she’d properly sorted her thoughts, Ed covered her hands with his own, folding them, holding them against his shirt. 

‘I have questions, too,’ he said softly. ‘I need to know if I still terrify you.’

She was sinking fast. ‘You don’t,’ she whispered.

He touched his lips to hers, just the briefest, softest brush… ‘What about now?’

 Already, she was halfway to meltdown. ‘No. Not scared.’

 ‘And now?’ he asked, drawing her into his arms. 

 Now, she was lost in a blaze of longing. She wanted his lips, his hands, his body.

 ‘Not afraid,’ she whispered in a breathy gasp as she slipped her arms around his neck, as she looked clear into his eyes and lifted her lips to meet his.

Their first mouth-to-mouth touch was magic. It ignited the fire she’d felt on the night of their very first kiss all those years ago. 

She felt no fear. This was the man who’d worked side by side with her today. The man who’d travelled hemispheres to be with her for this first important day. When he picked her up and carried her to the bedroom, she couldn’t find a single reason to resist. She simply gave a soft yearning sigh and pressed her lips against his neck.

Ed lowered her to the bed and he looked down at her, and his eyes were shiny as he traced his fingertips over her heated skin, following the edge of the knotted towel.

‘You’re so beautiful,’ he said softly. ‘I’ll never forget the first time I saw you in London. I wanted to make you mine straight away.’

She knew she would cry if she thought about the wrong paths she’d taken, so she pulled him down to her and kissed him again, kissed him long and hard till the aching knot of tears in her throat eased. 

What's your favourite thing to buy from a bakery? 

Come back next Sunday, when the winner of today's giveaway will be announced -- and a smooch from ....... by Anna Campbell will be posted!

Aug 23, 2013

My top 5... or 10?

I have two sons who, like a lot of men, have pretty logical brains- they rank things in order of preference a lot, magazines they read have so many lists it makes my head spin- things either are 'in' or they aren't, there's no shades of grey. They seem to love lists and are often asking me what are my top 5 favorite...

I try to explain to them that it all depends on the mood, the age, the moment and that a favourite one day may well not be the favourite the next. I am fully aware that books or films I adored years ago are not so enticing or enjoyable now.

But, pushed, I have stuck my neck out and tried to come up with a selection of my favorite books (and I cheated by putting them into sub genres)... this was very, very hard.  I kept thinking of other books I've read and many. So many.

Top Historical (not romance)
When I look back at the countless historical novels I have read I realise I have vicariously visited many eras, lived through many wars, disease, hardship- I have loved medieval lairds, regency dukes and tudor kings... but the one book that sticks out above them all for me was the one that I literally devoured in two days- and I wept and wept and wept. So good that I think I may well try it again! But then, last time I read it I was 18- I've learnt and lived a lot more since then:
Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

Top Romance
Well, this was the most difficult category of all. How to choose just one or just one hundred romances I have loved? Should I have narrowed it down to category v single title? Category sub genre? Should I have gone for small town romances which I love, or modern urban settings? What about the medical romances that make my heart soar? Any book by any of our Lovecats would have made it into my list. But I had to be hard on myself.

As way of an explanation I have to say that I have not been a romance reader for very long- but in those few short years I have read a lot! And absolutely loved most of them. But Jenny Crusie seemed to
tick all the boxes for me- funny, emotional, contemporary:
Bet Me by Jenny Crusie (or, really, any of her earlier books... or Jill Shalvis,  Fiona Lowe, Jane Porter, Trish Wylie... Susan Wiggs, Nora... Kristan Higgins... okay, so I'm cheating...)

Top Thriller
I'm not a huge thriller/crime reader but I just wanted to throw this book into the mix. I've recently finished it and I was blown away by the writing. There are very few books I will continue to read when I hate both the main protagonists! I just had to find out how it ended.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Top children's book
Pretty much any book by Enid Blyton would have gone on this list until a few years ago, then along came Harry Potter and more recently The Hunger Games-  all of which I devoured along with my boys. But there is one book that brings me to tears every single time I even see the cover. This book was given to me on that dreaded third day after having a baby- the day the hormones are all over the place, the milk comes through and you finally face the realities of being a mother- responsible for this tiny scrap of life in your hands. I opened the package, looked at the cover and burst into tears. Because there was no way anyone would know just how much love I had for my boy right then. (and still do!)

Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney

Top top book of all (my life) time

A few years ago I would have hands down said, A Secret history by Donna Tartt but then I met and fell in love with every single book by Jodi Picoult. For me she tackles interesting ethical dilemmas from a very human perspective. I love her writing style, her first person present and her depth.

My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult

So, I'm always on the lookout for new books and new authors- what are your top picks? What is your TOP book of all time?

(I'm afraid I might not be around as much as I'd like over the next day or so as I'm away at conference hoping to find my next fave book- but I'll try to pop in as much as I can!)

Aug 21, 2013

After the Deadline... Annie West

As I write this I'm existing in that rare state that authors so look forward to, known as 'after the deadline'. I handed a book in just recently after an enormous push to finish that's left me feeling a bit zombie-like. No blood around the mouth but I'm feeling unco-ordinated and I find it easier to groan than make rational conversation. I suspect my brain may have gone on holiday for a short time, but that's fine because I'm 'after the deadline'. Yippee!
What to do after deadline #1: celebrate!

I remember the days when I dreamed of being a published writer. Obviously (because it was a lovely daydream) I focused on the good things. Tossing off a few chapters before lunch with friends, opening glowing letters from fans and editors, reaping in royalties, research in exotic locations, you know the sort of thing. What I didn't think about was the reality of delivering a book, make that several books a year at a time that suits your publisher.
I'm not complaining. I love being a published author and the positives are fantastic, but I've learned that the deadline cave is a place I'd prefer not to be in. Give me the wide open spaces, the sense of freedom, the creaky movement in limbs that have cramped from too long sitting at the computer. Give me 'after the deadline'.
What to do after deadline #2: treat yourself to goodies.
I'm finding that this time, 'after the deadline' is not quite as relaxed as I'd hoped. Life at the moment is full of demands - some things I put off till that magic 'after the deadline' time and some that have crept up on me and just cannot be ignored.
So, while I'm sorting out these things that need attention, I'm planning what I'll do to make the most of this down time as soon as the coast is clear.
First up comes celebrating. Any achievement deserves celebration and finishing a book is a fine excuse to treat yourself whether it be with bubbly, high tea, a visit to a day spa, a shopping outing with mates, or a visit to the movies. Maybe it's a serve of churros and hot chocolate or a long leisurely brunch with friends.
What to do after deadline #3 - exercise - you need it after the treats and all that sitting.
After being tied to the computer while writing, my body is definitely stiff and sort. I need to get moving again. I've tried to keep fit while writing but facing a deadline the exercise wanes. Even if you have an exercise regime most of the time, getting out and breathing fresh air is a must.
What else? I'm tossing up between a reading a squillion of the unread books on my shelves or a marathon DVD session with 'North and South' and Richard Armitage. Sigh - books or Richard? Maybe both!
What to do after deadline #4: read!
And of course, how could I forget? Coming out to blink at the family and get reacquainted with them is always a good thing! After all, they've put up with you while you've been immersed in that other world and if you're lucky they'll do it again when you dive into the next book.
How about you? Do you have any suggestions on what to do 'after the deadline'? What do you most look forward to when you've finished a big job and finally have some time to breathe?
(Note, I'm away from my computer today but will be back as soon as I can to chat).

Aug 19, 2013

Special Guest: Dakota Harrison

Today we have a very special guest, Dakota Harrison.  Dakota's new release, Exhale, is available now, and her second release, Breathless will be available in October 2013.

Welcome, Dakota!

Hi Rachel, and thanks for having me here with the LoveCats! Today I'm interviewing my hero, a surgeon named Takeshi, currently living in Seattle, to see what makes him tick.

Dakota:    Good morning, Taka. So, to get things started, tell the readers a little about yourself.
Taka:        How are you this morning, Dakota? Well, I was born in Tokyo; spent my teen years in Australia; and went to college in the US – and never left. I'm a surgeon at the Seattle Memorial Hospital.

Dakota:    I'm great. Happy to be here in Seattle. Why did you choose college in the US? What made you make the decision to leave your family in Australia once you’d finally got settled?
Taka:        *crosses his ankle over his knee* The Med courses were what tipped my decision. The degrees on offer in Australia are fantastic, but the type of surgery I wanted to do, I needed to be at a training hospital that specialized in that area. I was lucky enough to be offered a fellowship position working under the best cardio-thoracic surgeon in the States. Matt’s doing great too.

Dakota:    Speaking of Matt, how’s Gabby?
Taka:        She’s doing really well. Tired, but that’s to be expected. Did she tell you we’re having twins?

Dakota:    Twins!! No! That’s wonderful. The wedding was lovely. Your vows in particular were inspiring. You made me cry!
Taka:        *blushing* Ah, thanks. Yeah, Gabby had no idea what I’d written. I wanted to get it right, you know? We waited so long… I got in huge trouble for making her cry, too. Ruined make-up, and all that. Matt’s being a major pain in the rear, though.

Dakota:    Oh? Why’s that?
Taka:        *huge grin* He’s calling me ‘Dad’.

Dakota:    I can see him doing that. Tell me, for the reader’s sake, what did make you wait so long? How did you know it would all work out in the end?
Taka:        *suddenly serious* I didn’t. I tried – really hard, too – to forget her. It didn’t work. I just couldn’t get her out of my head. When I called a girl ‘Gabby’ in a really compromising situation, I realized that I should just give in and go with it. I'm glad I did.

Dakota:    So are we! Changing the subject a little here, your ties with the Yakuza. Do you  have much to do with that anymore?
Taka:        *shrugs* Not really. It’s my uncle, not Dad, who is Oyobun. Dad took us to rural Australia to get away from it all when my aunt was killed. Dad didn’t want any part of it from the beginning. It was hard to leave though, until Grandfather passed away.

Dakota:    Do you miss any part of that life? Do you miss Tokyo?

Taka:        Why? You been talking to Shin?

Dakota:    *smiling* How did you guess?
Taka:        He told me he’s trying to get you to go see him in Tokyo. He has some news I think you’d like to hear, too. About a girl…

Dakota:    I may just have to go interview him as well! Thanks for coming in today. It was nice to catch up.
Taka:        No worries. For you? Anytime. *grins*

Dakota:    *slaps at him with the notebook* Flirt.

Takeshi is finishing up a brutal double shift in the ER when a familiar—and bloody—face erases all thought of heading home. The broken body of the woman fighting for her life belongs to Gabby, his best friend’s mother. A woman he's loved since he turned nineteen, when he foolishly declared his love for her.
 She’s not dying today. Not on his watch. And not with a promise left unfulfilled.
Gabby has never forgotten the taste of the kiss Taka gave her under the mistletoe all those years ago. Or the silly promise that surely by now he’s forgotten. She’s wrong. Taka remembers. And she melts as he uses every trick in his highly trained surgeon’s hands to heal her—and rekindle the heat between them.
But there’s a secret lurking in Gabby’s past. And when it follows her all the way to Seattle, it threatens to drag the one man she loves into the nightmare she thought she’d left behind.