Mar 20, 2017

Stefanie London's Top Travel Packing Tips

By the time this blog post is live I'll be on my way back from a trip to Vermont, USA. I'm heading to a writer's weekend where there's going to be plotting, brainstorming and general writerly shenanigans. Since moving to Canada, I've started travelling a lot more as Toronto is a hell of a lot more central to things than Melbourne.

So, I thought it might be fun to share some of my top travel packing tips.

Tip #1 invest in a pair of noise-cancelling headphones
Yes, they're expensive. But plane engine noise gives me a shocking headache and I seem to be a magnet for screaming children on planes. Now I simply pop on my headphones and either watch a movie, play music or use a white noise (or rain sounds) app to block out the world and keep my headache at bay.

Tip #2 less is more
Since travelling more often, I've started to get a hang of this whole 'packing light' thing (which in my case, is more packing lighter than light, but I digress). This means I try to take carry-on luggage only, for shorter trips. One area where I'm strict is shoes: they're heavy, they take up a lot of space and it's not necessary to have four pairs of shoes for a long weekend. I try to wear my heaviest shoe (usually a boot, unless I'm travelling in summer) and then pack things like sneakers, flats and heels (if I even need a pair of heels. Blasphemy, I know) in my suitcase.

Tip #3 less is more (makeup edition)
Being a makeup lover, I used to travel with makeup for all occasions: multiple lipsticks, false eyelashes, different types of eyeshadow, foundations and powders. Then all the brushes required to apply those products. The list goes on. These days I look for products that can be used for all situations (like a nude lipstick that will go with any eye look) and aim for ones that don't require a blush for application (like a cream blush instead of a powder one).

Tip #4 use a colour palette
This is one of the best things I've started doing with my wardrobe in general, but it definitely applies to travel. Stick to a colour palette for your clothing by using 1-2 neutral base shades (e.g. black and grey) and then add 1-2 accent colours (e.g. light blue and yellow). That way, each item you bring will work with every other item in your suitcase and you won't get stuck on the last day of your trip with a top and a pair of pants that don't go together.

Tip #5 always pack a durable plastic bag or two
You never know when you'll need one. They work great for containing dirty laundry or for wrapping up shoes with dirty soles. They can act as a shopping bag for food items or gifts, or as a way to keep items separate in your suitcase. Then can even be used for extra carry-on space if you need it.

Tip #6 use your socks and shoes to protect delicate items
I'm one of those people who always travels with a bottle of perfume. I can't be without a pretty scent! If I'm packing my perfume into checked baggage, I encase it in a sock for protection against breakage. Then I add the second sock over it as another layer, and stuff the whole thing inside a shoe. This works great for delicate items like an souvenirs, as well. Just remember, if you're only taking carry-on luggage your perfume will need to be in a clear bag with all your other liquids!

That's it for today. I hope you found something useful in this post. What are your best packing tips? Leave them in the comments below.



Mar 17, 2017

Gentle(wo)men Prefer Blondes!

Actually, I'm not really sure that's true. But when I was recently trolling Google images for snaps of hunky men, a friend of mine pointed out that I always seemed to stop and ogle the one's of the fair haired variety.

Now, this came as something of a surprise to me, because I have always insisted I was more in the tall and dark and handsome corner. More Greek god, than Nordic Prince. But then my friend pointed out that my husband was in fact, blonde....and so the self-reflection began.

As an author, and in the need to create effective characterization, at any given time I have several of what my husband calls my "Hollywood Boyfriends". Not that I only write fair haired heroes...I've had heroes with Italian heritage and in the book I just handed in to my editor that comes out in August, my hero is African American. At the moment though, my favorite is the lovely Armie Hammer. I just love this scene from The Man From Uncle....


My next favorite fairish haired hero type is Chris Pratt... usually more of a funny guy and in this scene from that awful movie Jurassic World (sorry to any fans out there) he gets to briefly lock lips with Bryce Dallas Howard...I love the look on the kids faces as they watch their usually uptight aunt Claire kiss the roguish Owen.


My fair-haired favorite number three is, of course, Chris Hemsworth. Okay, so anything with Chris Hemsworth is worth watching. Whether he's Thor, a race car driver, trying to catch a white whale or when he's playing the tortured Huntsman...really, the man is so beautiful he can do no wrong. And by all accounts he's a great husband and dad too, so he gets extra credit!


 
So, what's your poison? Tall, dark and handsome? Or fair and fabulous? Would love to hear which way you swing!

Mar 13, 2017

To Be or Not to Be…Alone

Writing can be a very solitary occupation. I find if I spend too many days in my office by myself, I go a bit nuts!  So, I often head into Byron Bay or Bangalow (another beautiful little village near my house) and write in a café. 

Bangalow
I find I can screen out the noise and chatter around me very easily.  This way I still feel part of the community and the constant stream of freshly brewed coffee is also good. My local library is another great place to write and I’ve even set up shop at a picnic table by the beach. The sound of the waves is such a joy.

But there is one part of the story I can’t write in public. I can’t write those sex scenes when surrounded by strangers. I’m always worried someone will read over my shoulder and get a shock, or I’ll blush and people with wonder what I’m up to!

How about you? When you are working, do you like the solitude or do you operate best in the midst of the action?


News Flash: My best-selling story, The Billionaire’s Pursuit of Love, is still on sale for $0.99. For a passionate read, pick up a copy from Amazon, iTunes and other etailers.

Mar 12, 2017

Sunday Smooch with Stefanie London

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!


Today we have a smooch from  Stefanie London but first 


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

Laura, can you please contact melaniemilburne (at) gmail (dot) com
to receive your copy of The Temporary Mrs Marchetti .

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from Stefanie London



Taken by the CEO (book #1 in The Scandalous Wentworths series)

Her first one-night stand…and her new boss.

It was only supposed to be a little white lie. When Emmaline Greene pretends to be Sarah, the confident, sexy woman she wishes she could be, she figures no harm, no foul. Her one-night stand will never find out. Wrong. The gorgeous guy she slept with isn’t just amazing in bed…he’s also her new boss.

Parker Wentworth has just been appointed CEO of his family’s company and is tasked with repairing its scandalous reputation. He can’t afford any distractions. So why can’t he forget the incredible night they spent together and move on?



Set up: Parker and Emmaline have been trying to keep their hands to themselves in the office, but the memory of their one night together is getting the better of them.
Parker leaned forward and pressed the button on his intercom. “Mercy? I’ll be in here with Miss Greene for the next hour at least. No need for you and the team to stay.”

There was something wolf-like in the way Parker ordered the office to be emptied. Something predatory and hungry. It made the sweet spot between her legs ache for him. Mercy’s response came through the speaker, and the bang of drawers closing sounded on the other side of the wall a moment later. Parker stood statue-still as the women’s voices faded. They were alone.

Emmaline swallowed, her pulse uttering with anticipation. “That was kind of you to send them all home.”

“Kind?” His lips lifted, a wicked smile appearing and sending her mind into a spin. “It was downright selfish. How else am I going to tempt you into making bad decisions unless we’re alone?”

“Didn’t I say that I wasn’t interested?”

His confidence annoyed her. Never mind that his words were whipping her into a frenzy. How was it possible that the one thing she kept telling herself to avoid was the very thing that got her heart racing like a thoroughbred? His assumptions should have been a turnoff. But they were the total opposite.

“You did.” His hands came to the silk knotted at his neck. “But then you walked into my office wearing those shoes.”

Emmaline shifted her weight. “I like pretty shoes.”

“I like them, too.” He pulled the tie loose.

“What if I didn’t wear them for you?” Her mouth was suddenly dry as thunderclouds passed over his face, but the urge to bait him tugged at her. She would never have spoken to her ex like this, would never have needled at him to chase her, to hunt her. “I might have a hot date after we finish up.”

Satisfaction coiled inside her as he stalked across the office, tie in hand. Two could play at his game.

“You won’t have a date,” he said.

“And why is that?” she asked, folding her arms across her chest. She wanted him, there was no doubt about that, but that didn’t mean she’d let him push her around and tell her what she could and couldn’t do.

No one controls you anymore.


“Because you won’t be able to walk properly after we’re finished.” He was in front of her, trapping her between his broad chest and the expensive office door. She couldn’t take her eyes off the tie, that red—so rich and bold, like blood. “You’re not leaving this office until your knees have given out.”

“Then how will I leave if I can’t walk?” she asked tartly, because that was the only way she could respond without melting at his feet.

“I’ll throw you over my shoulder if I have to.”

There was something seriously wrong with her. This caveman talk should have red off every warning signal in her body. It should have made her recoil, reconsider her desires. It should have made her want to kick off those ridiculous heels and run out of his office as fast as she could.

But it didn’t.

“You’re bossy, aren’t you?” Her voice totally gave away how aroused she was...traitorous thing.

“Bossy?” A low chuckle rumbled from within him. “It’s been a while since someone called me that.”

She shrugged. “To your face, anyway.”

He lifted the tie up and placed it over her eyes, reaching around to knot it gently behind her head. “You can leave when I’ve had my fill.”

Her breath hitched as her heart tried to punch its way out of her chest. For a moment, there was nothing. No sound, no scent, nothing but the blackness behind her closed eyelids. God, she wanted this so much. She wanted him.

There was something seriously wrong with her. This caveman talk should have red off every warning signal in her body. It should have made her recoil, reconsider her desires. It should have made her want to kick off those ridiculous heels and run out of his office as fast as she could.

But it didn’t.

“Then hurry up,” she said, feeling bolder and braver in her safe, sightless cocoon. “I haven’t got all night.”

His warm breath skated over her cheek as his lips brushed her ear. “You’ll stay here until I’ve given you what you want. What you crave.”

His lips met hers, gentle at first but then as she opened to him, he thrust his tongue into her mouth and kissed her senseless. His hand was at her thighs, easing them apart. Sagging, her palms flattened against the wood, fingers splayed wide as if that would save her from dissolving under his kiss.



I hope you enjoyed this smooch! 

To go into the running to win a digital copy of Taken by the CEO, just leave a comment below letting me know your all-time favourite office romance couple - it can be from a book, TV or movie.

Stay tuned next week for another smooch.





Mar 10, 2017

Quirky Stuff ...

Ten years ago we sold our house in town and moved out to the Marlborough Sounds to live in our very much smaller beach cottage for two years while we decided on our next move. Yep, those two years have stretched and stretched, and every time we look elsewhere to move to we end up coming home and agreeing we live already in Paradise.

BUT - isn't there always at least one of those? - this place is tiny and at the time of moving here we had another house load of furniture and all the other stuff people collect over the years, including quite a lot of my late mother-in-law's that the boys have yet to sort through. (Another short term project that has stretched)

So we have a lock up that is chock full of furniture and stuff that I doubt we'll ever use again. This week I decided to start sorting and clearing, disposing and yes, keeping some of the contents. I'm already making inroads, though it's going to be a long project as the lock up is a hundred kilometres from where we live, but then on the bright side there's an excuse to go to town and the shops.
The charity shops and tip are going to see quite a bit of me, I think.

BUT - another one - I found these and am going to hang on to them, use them. No point in keeping them if I leave them wrapped in newspaper and stuffed in the back of a cupboard. which means making space here by getting rid of other unused stuff.




 This little plate was my mother's and I like the colours so it's a keeper.


 
 
 
 

I love my cups of tea, drink gallons of it, and this cup is large, perfect for when I'm writing and don't want to keep getting up to go to the kitchen for a refill.

I Strangely I've been looking for a butter dish for some time but hadn't found anything I liked. Guess this was the reason. I love it. Totally odd and quirky. Courtesy of my late mother-in-law it is now in use.
 
Of course these are the easy things to deal with. Anyone want a chest freezer or a washing machine that's out of its prime or a .... I could go on and on.
Have you got a hoard of things like these hidden away somewhere? Or in use? Or are you more sensible and restrained and have tidy cupboards and shelves?

Mar 8, 2017

Motel Musings


 Today I was going to blog about dream hotels. You know the ones—those icons of luxury, sophistication and untold wealth that make your mouth water as you glance through their gallery of pictures. Why? Because Xavier Ramos the hero of my new release next month (The Spanish Tycoon’s Takeover) is an hotelier. His family owns a network of luxurious 5-star hotels.

Oh, but I started getting seriously distracted by the pictures! I could disappear down that rabbit hole for hours…days!

My favourite hotel ever is The Dorchester in London. It’s one of those amazing traditional 5-star British hotels like Claridges and Browns, which are havens of luxury, sophistication and good taste. We spent our wedding night there (hence the reason that no other hotel will ever hold the #1 spot in my mind). The rooms were gorgeous. Look, this is a picture of our room—a double deluxe with a four poster bed and views of Hyde Park. Gorgeous, huh?


The service was amazing. They knew it was our wedding night so had a bottle of complimentary French bubbles waiting for us on arrival. And chocolates! Happy sighs.



 But, here’s the thing, the staff uniform included a Hermes’s scarf, and I bet that scarf cost more than my entire suitcase full of Kmart classics. Did I feel like an imposter? You bet. Did I care? Not a jot. I enjoyed the experience to the full.

In contrast to all of this luxury, however, Wynne Stephens my heroine runs her grandmother’s little old motor-inn. And it can’t be denied that the place is getting a little squidgy around the edges. I based it on a motor-inn we stayed in Melbourne two Christmases ago. I fell in love with it and its faux Victorian manor house decor. It was definitely…quirky. Look at our room! Fun, huh? :-)



 I love staying in hotels, motels, motor-inns, serviced apartments or B&Bs. It feels divinely decadent after a childhood of holidays spent in caravan parks (which I loved, mind you). What about you? Have you stayed anywhere so swish it’s taken your breath away? Or do you have a firm favourite that you return to again and again?

*******************************************************************************
NB: In honour of "ghosts of hotels past" I’ll be giving away a copy of The Spanish Tycoon’s Takeover to one of my newsletter subscribers in a few weeks time plus a scarf (though it’s not a Hermes…but look at those hearts! Isn’t it the sweetest? I bought two—one as a prize and the other to keep for myself because I couldn’t resist). So if you haven't subscribed, and would like to go into the draw, pop on over to my website and sign up for my newsletter.



Oh, and The Spanish Tycoon's Takeover is available for pre-order now too! :)
Amazon
iBooks
Barnes and Noble
Harlequin

Mar 6, 2017

All About The Planning

by Bronwyn Jameson

I am a planner by nature.  I believe I’ve admitted before that this should have been my career. Planning in some guise or other, whether as an EA running someone else’s life, or a travel planner, or an events planner, or a book planner (I wish this were a real job -- can I admit that I love planning a story about 1000% more than actually writing it?)

This extends beyond writing to other areas of my life. Perhaps I should say, to ALL areas of my life.

I have a spreadsheet for pretty much everything.  Books read, books bought and unread, books wishlisted.  Finances, macro and micro.  Shares.  Frequent flyer points.  Credit card spending.  I do a weekly meal plan and shopping list according to the menu. (Full disclosure: I don’t always stick to the plan, but that’s another story!)

My greatest enjoyment of all comes from travel planning.  My family cannot believe how much time and effort I put into the process, but here’s the thing: I do it because I love it.  The googling, the reading, the budgeting.  The shuffling of options.  If only we could stay at ALL the hotels on my carefully curated list!  If only we could do ALL the day-trips!  If only we had more days, more nights, more weeks! 

Afternoon tea with a view: Aqua Shard
Our big trip this year is to London, primarily to visit our son and daughter-in-law, but with a side-trip or three.  Hence my wish for more time than we can afford to take!

I've decided in recent years that every trip should include at least one bucket-list item and special treat. The treat is likely to be food and beverage related,  something I would usually reject as ridiculously overpriced or unhealthily calorific (or both!)  A starred restaurant or cocktails with a view or an afternoon tea somewhere iconic.  That kind of thing.

A room with a view: Hotel Endsleigh
As for the bucket-list, I'm tossing up between staying in a castle or a grand country house which, come to think of it, would also be a special treat.  But, oh, the fun of the research.  The choices! The rooms! The history! The countryside views! THE FOOD!

Decisions must be made at some stage in the next few months, and then bookings. But for now we’ve locked in the flights (a big bucket-list tick) and booked accommodation for our London stay.  The rest I’m dragging out while loving every day of anticipation.   

How about you...  Do you love the planning almost as much as (or even more than) the doing?  

What do you like to plan, and what areas of your life do you prefer to wing?



Mar 5, 2017

Sunday Smooch- Melanie Milburne

Hi Everyone,
But before I start- the winner of Sue Mackay's Smooch is Lyn M. Could you please email Sue with your postal details so she can get the book to you.

Now for my smooch....
I am excited to share with you a smooch from my latest release- The Temporary Mrs Marchetti. I love relationship revisited stories as there is always so much going on between the characters. All that simmering history and ongoing antagonism!


Alice Piper walked out on her Italian lover seven years ago when he mentioned the M word. After watching her mother go through three horrible marriages, Alice has sworn she will never marry. But Cristiano's late grandmother's will states that Alice will co-inherit a luxury villa in Stresa if she marries Cristiano and stays married for six months.

I loved crafting these two characters. Alice is a beauty therapist, and given her aversion to matrimony, has ironically become the go-to girl in London for wedding makeup. Cristiano is a hard-nosed businessman who has never forgiven Alice for ending their relationship after he proposed to her. But unless he does as his grandmother's will states, he will lose a large portion of his company shares to a cousin he has no time for.

Here is a little smooch... oh, by the way- I didn't allow these two to kiss until Chapter Five. Yes, Chapter Five!!! That's because they are both incredibly strong-willed and were both trying not to be the first to break. So much fun to work with such strong personalities! :)


   He slid a warm hand around the nape of her neck and drew her inexorably closer, only stopping once her mouth was within a breath of his. 'I'd do you now but I wouldn't want to disturb the other passengers with your screams of pleasure.'
   Alice kept her eyes trained on his smiling mouth, her heart leaping in excitement, her whole body trembling with feverish anticipation. Only he could make her sob with pleasure. Sob and scream and shudder from head to foot. How had she resisted him this long? It was crazy to keep denying herself the sensual thrill of his touch. So what if it only lasted a few months? A few months were better than no months. She'd spent the last seven years missing the magic of his lovemaking. Why not enjoy it while it lasted? 'You're not thinking of using one of the bathrooms?'
   'No. I'm going to make you wait until we get home.'
   Cruel. Cruel. Cruel.
   Alice stroked a fingertip over his top lip, following the contours of his vermillion border, his stubble catching on her skin like a thorn on silk. 'I could take things into my own hands...' she said with a suggestive glance.
   His eyes glinted and his hand on the back of her neck slid under the curtain of her hair, the slight drag on the roots sending a blot of fizzing electricity down her spine. 'Hold that thought.'
   Alice closed the distance between their mouths, touching hers down on his as softly as a butterfly landing on a petal. She eased back but because his lips were dryer than hers they clung to her softer skin as if they didn't want to let her go. He made a rough sound deep in his throat and brought his lips back to hers in a slow, drugging kiss that made her insides coil and twist and tighten with longing. His tongue entered her mouth in a smooth, deep glide that had a deliciously erotic element to it. It called hers into a sensual dance that made her feminine core contract with need. The kiss went deeper, drawing from her a response she had never given to anyone else....

I could continue but I think you get the idea- they might not have kissed for seven years and five chapters but they sure made up for it!

I hope you enjoy The Temporary Mrs Marchetti. I certainly enjoyed writing it and look forward to reading your comments. Given that Alice and Cristiano are strong-willed and determined, what opinion do you currently hold that you can't see changing any time soon?

Best wishes,
Melanie xxx

Mar 3, 2017

The Best Book Group in the World

I’ve been in book groups before.  Several in fact.   Lovely women, lots of nice wine and cheese, and set reads.

While I love the idea of being picking up a book I might not have discovered otherwise, after a few months of delving into dry biographies, or gripping literary tomes, the love always lost its glow.  Till I’d find myself slinking into book group, feeling guilty at not having finished the book. I mean how could I?  What if a new Rachel Gibson or Lisa Kleypas was out that month? They got priority, always!

Which is why I LOVE my current book group to distraction.

I’ve been a part of this group for nearly two years now and we’ve had two set books.  Two!  And those were both over the Christmas holidays when we wouldn’t be seeing one another for several weeks.
You know what we do otherwise?  We read.  We each read what we want to read, what we love to read.  And then we each talk about the books – what we liked, what we didn’t, whether or not we think others might love them too.

We have women who love to delve into the Booker Prize long list.  Others who are first in line for the next Liane Moriarty or JoJo Moyes.  We have women who keep on top of new Australian literature.  Others who read YA like its going out of fashion.  And we have me.
Can you imagine turning up to a book group and talking up the latest category novel you read?  The CS Pacat M/M romance gem you found?  The gorgeous historical weepy you devoured till three in the morning?  I do just that.  And it’s wonderful.  Liberating.  Having that welcome place to bare your reading tastes to open minds and open hearts is just bliss. 

And you know what?  I’ve discovered more new authors, new genres, new bestsellers and sleeper gems than ever in my life before.   (Though I was the first to read The Girl on the Train, BTW - just had to make that known :)) Having a comfortable place to try, to taste, to experience new literary worlds is the bomb.  You should try it.

Are you in a book group?  How does yours work?  Have you discovered any favourite authors that way?  (The piccies above are of books I chatted up with glee in 2016.)

And the winner is....

Congratulations Laurie, you are the winner of my 'I Have An Allergy' blog this week. If you could email me your postal address at melaniemilburne@gmail.com I will get the book to you. Thank you to everyone for commenting!

Best wishes,
Melanie xx

Mar 1, 2017

I'm not fussy- I have an allergy!

Well, actually, it could be said I am a bit of a fussy eater, or at least my family of origin would say so. I grew up on a farm where we had our own fresh cow's milk and I absolutely hated the cream on the top of the milk. I would always strain it through a tissue or piece of muslin because it would make me sick if I drank it otherwise. Back in those days ( Yikes! I sound so old!) we used to have milk delivered to our primary school and each term my mother would write a note to excuse me from drinking it.
One day we had a fill-in teacher as our teacher was off sick. This fill-in teacher was determined to do things by the book and because she hadn't actually seen the letter from my mother (it was probably just a formality each term and looked at once and thrown out) so she stood over me and waited for me to drink the lukewarm milk. I was so upset and so SICK!  I actually vomited at her feet. The poor teacher felt awful and may well have given up doing relief teaching after that!

I'm not actually lactose intolerant as I can have dairy food without any problem, but I still don't like full cream milk and yet I love cream on apple pie or scones. Gosh, I'm making myself hungry! But last year I discovered I had an adult onset gluten intolerance so it was goodbye to the scones and apple pie.

 I actually went through a period of grieving. I found it so hard to accept I would not be able to eat a squishy white bread roll fresh from the bakery or anything from the bakery when it came to that. And get this-not even Vegemite. Did you know there is gluten in Australia's favourite spread? I missed vegemite toast the most. Oh, and cereal like oats and muesli. GF stuff is not the same and way too sweet.
The simple act of going out for coffee or dinner became a nightmare even though most places cater for gluten and nut and other allergies.
But it gave me a new insight into allergies and the difficulty it is to live with them. Even with all the awareness about allergies we have today, it is still common to run across someone who thinks you're just an attention seeking fussy eater.

But there is a happy ending to this story or at least there is for me. Just before Christmas I ate a mince pie and didn't react to the gluten. I tested my system the next day with wait for it-Vegemite toast and no reaction. I kept testing with other foods, all the glorious foods I hadn't been able to eat for the past year and not one of them upset my stomach....well, that's not entirely true. I still get a bit of bloating if I overdo it but nothing like the stabs of pain and days of fatigue and feeling off colour that I had before. My specialist has told me to enjoy it ( in small doses) while it lasts as it is sure to switch back on again as it is an autoimmune thing.

Do you have a food intolerance or allergy? Do you have any survival tips? I have a copy of my new release The Temporary Mrs Marchetti for a reader who leaves a comment. Kind of appropriate title given my allergy was temporary. 😃 Let's hope it stays that way!

Best wishes,
Melanie