Sep 11, 2019

What are you...?

What are you…

Reading? 

I have two books on the go at the moment. Annie West’s Sheikh’s Royal Baby Revelation and Ben Aaronovitch’s Moon Over Soho. They’re both absolutely wonderful. I also just finished Joanne Harris’s The Strawberry Thief, which was glorious. I’ve been reading so many fab books this year. :-)

 


Watching?

Nothing new. But I did re-watch Ladies in Black on the weekend. Such a gorgeous movie. I love the character of Magda so much. I might watch it again just in the interests of tracking her character development. :-)


Listening to?

An earworm! And this one has been hard to shake. When I was in New York—in an elevator no less—Hall & Oates' Kiss is on My List was playing…and it went round and round and round in my head for the rest of my stay. On the plane on the way home, a Best of Hall & Oates playlist was available on the entertainment system.  I thought listening to it might shift the song. It did, but only to replace it with Say it Isn’t So. Now I don’t mind the song—and I am a teenager of the 1980s—but enough is enough. Therefore I won't link to the youtube video because I'm guessing you don't need it in your life...but just excuse me while I go and listen to it again.

What’s making you smile?

So many things are making me smile—the rain, the rosellas, my work-in-progress, and my New York Public Library Card! However, my biggest smile is being reserved for my TBR pile. Here’s a sample of what’s up next for me (in no particular order):
* Kate Atkinson’s Big Sky which is the next in the Jackson Brodie series
* A Man Called Ove which is my next book club book
* First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones (I went to her workshop on humour in New York and really enjoyed it).
* The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary (heard so many good things)
* And Amy Andrews’s Nothing But Trouble. This has been on my Kindle since it released, and I’m dying to get to it. :-)




Okay, your turn? What are you reading / watching /listening to, and/or what’s making you smile today?

Sep 9, 2019

Reading Dark

I love reading romance. I’m currently reading The Million Pound Marriage Deal by fellow LoveCat Michelle Douglas and love it. 

Crime is another of my favourite genres. Michael Connelly and Michael Robotham are two of my go to authors. I devour everything written by Jane Harper.

But, there are some books I just can’t bring myself to read. I love Stephen King’s book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. I’ve read it three times, but I can’t bring myself to read one of his fiction books. I’m too scared.

At the recent Byron Writers Festival, I listened to Ginger Gorman discuss the world of online trolls and her incredible journey researching this phenomenon. I immediately purchased Troll Hunting and had Ginger sign it. I’ve picked it up a number of times to read, but just wonder if I can face learning about the inside world of online hate. I teach Social Media Tactics at university, so feel it is a book I should read, but do I really want to know about this world?

What about you? Are there genres of books you can’t read or don’t want to read?


I’m heading back to Will and Sophie’s story and will leave the trolls for now.

Sep 6, 2019

Why I LOVE My Footy Team

This weekend sees the start of the AFL (Australian Football League) finals.

And my team - the Collingwood Magpies - are right there in among it. To say our household is nervous, and excited, is an understatement.

We cannot commit to any events in the next month in case it clashes with anything finals related. Seriously. Birthday parties. Sleepovers. Trips. Holidays.  On hold.

A football player and a coach have a chat.One of the reasons why this club is important to us is history.  My husband's family have long, deep connection to the club, with his great grandfather playing and working for them as accountant and piano player. My son has been a member since 2 years before he was born (that's another story ;).)

Another reason we love them so was showcased beautifully in a wonderful documentary played on the ABC this week - Collingwood: From the Inside Out - all about my teams's 2017/2018 seasons. During that time they went from being an hour away from firing their coach at the end of 2017 after six years of depleting success, and deteriorating club culture, to a turnaround rarely seen in such a big business, with the club coming withing two minutes of winning last year's Grand Final.

It was a dream year. A fairy tale. Spring from a decision. To do better. To be better. Not just as administrators, but as men.

The doco highlights what we, as fans, as believers, saw happen week by week; a football club becoming a bastion for kindness, for openness, for tears, for hugs, for opening up about struggles, for love. Yes, love.  Love is a word the coach, the players, throw around constantly.  These men. These warriors. These humans under an intense spotlight. Above and beyond any wins, losses stats - they love one another.

A coach talks to his player in a football changeroom.
The doco is a story of love, of redemption, of young men being open about anxiety, about identity, about wanting not just to be football stars but well-rounded humans.

Win or lose, we are Collingwood Magpies, and so very proud of it.

...

Do you have a sports team you LOVE?  A sports star who you think is a true role model? 


Watch the documentary here: https://iview.abc.net.au/show/collingwood-from-the-inside-out

Photos courtesy ABC: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-09-02/afl-documentary-collingwood-from-the-inside-out-mental-health/11452884

Sep 4, 2019

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas...For real.

It occurs to me that there are two types of people in the world. People who deck the halls with boughs of holly come December, and people who play Christmas carols all year 'round.

I am most definitely the latter.


When it comes to Christmas, I can literally never get enough, but I feel a little (tiny bit) guilty listening to carols in the first quarter of the year, so I'm not quite as 'loud and proud'. In March, I don't blare Jingle Bells at school pick up, for example, with the sunroof open and the windows down - even though it's tempting. But guys, it's SEPTEMBER. We are officially on the downhill run to Christmas which makes every little bit of festivity completely legit from here on in.

So herewith my list of the best ways to get into the Christmas spirit over the next 111 days.

1. Christmas Carols. Even the most hardcore grinch can't help but feel all festive and gooey when Christmas carols are afoot. My favourite? Diana Krall.

2. Soak your Christmas fruits ready for the cake and fruit mince pies. Buy premium Australian fruit and rum and breathe in all those spices.



3. Make a list of Christmas gifts. Being organised cuts down last-minute panic and it's so much fun to start planning! If you want to arrange bespoke gifts (custom, matching t-shirts? Hanna Andersson PJs for the fam bam? We have these ones...) now's the time to order and make sure they arrive in time.

4. Festive Reads. October is when Christmas books start to be released but if you can't wait another month, never fear. Last year's Christmas books are already out there just waiting to be enjoyed. Hurrah!

5. Get yourself a truly great Christmas candle and burn it, baby! I love this one.

6. Plan your Christmas day menu. If you're not hosting, work out what you can make to take wherever you're going. Or just to eat on your own while you watch CHRISTMAS MOVIES (point 16).

7. Grab whichever small person you can get your hands on and COVER THEM in green and red for as long as possible. (Not literally cover. They need to breathe, obviously. But give them all the festive. They're too young to object. Besides, they'll love it. Really, I promise.) This works for pets too.



8. Every year, in early December, I have a Succulent Wreath Making day for a group of girlfriends. There's prosecco and (naturally) Christmas carols and we spend a few hours around a table making wreaths. It's a lot of fun and I can't imagine a year without it.


9.  We also do gingerbread houses every year! The first time it was a bit intimidating but now we have it down to a fine art.  Persist! It's so much fun and they make great gifts.



These are teeny, tiny gingerbread houses which you can make with the leftover cookie dough. These ones fit tea light candles and when they're burning they smell divine. Just make sure they're not too small or they'll catch fire and turn your bread into toast ;)

10. More on point 7. Little people are great victims errr models for hand-made outfits! I used to make overalls for my kids - shopping for the Christmas fabrics was always a highlight. FYI the seasonal fabrics usually start to get released in September so that further validates my early-Christmas fever.



11. Paperboat Press! This is one of my most treasured traditions. The gorgeous, artisanal store in Queensland makes the most beautiful ceramics, including gorgeous custom Christmas stars (and even doggy bones - I'm looking at you, Rachel Dr Love Bailey!).



12. Okay. I'll willingly admit this next one might be a bit OTT but now that I've started the tradition I can't stop! We have a cutout picture board and each year the kids and I paint something new on it. Then we make (errr invite) all the family to pose for piccies. Pro tip, we re-use the board for Easter so it's really the gift that keeps on giving. Always add the year so you can montage the pics for later enjoyment. ;)




13. Paint all your stemware, all your ceramics! Okay, not *all*. But this is so much fun. Ceramic paints are available at any good craft store and you can decorate them however you want, set them in the oven and enjoy. In my experience, the paint doesn't last long so you'll more than likely get your glasses back eventually (but why would you want boring transparency when you can have the pleasure of drinking through a wreath-decorated glass all year 'round?).



14. Bake, bake, bake! This one's best saved until the week before Christmas. ;) Pudding. Cake. Fruit mince pies. Custard. All the things! Ideally in a Christmas themed apron.

15. And the big one. The tree. I used to put the tree up at the end of September (don't knock it until you've tried it - it's way too much effort for just a few weeks). But over the years we've acquired new family members and one of them has his birthday on the 31st of October so we wait until his birthday's been and gone before putting up the tree. But every year on November 1 it is officially tree day in our family! If you're one of those people who waits until the week before to get decorating, allow me to challenge you to try it my way this year. I really don't think you'll regret it.

16. Christmas movies!! There are so many amazing ones to enjoy but my top four, the movies I can't miss or it doesn't feel like Christmas, are: Die Hard (the first one). Love Actually. Arthur Christmas and Home Alone. 

What about you? Tell me you're a Christmas-a-holic like I am? How do you celebrate the season? What are your favourite traditions!? 

This is Clare Connelly signing off and wishing you a very Merry Christmas (for the first, but definitely not last, time for 2019!). xx

Sep 1, 2019

Winner of Last Sunday's Smooch Giveaway from Annie West

Hi everyone! Annie West here with the results of the draw from last week's SUNDAY SMOOCH GIVEAWAY.  The WINNER of a signed copy of 'Sheikh's Royal Baby Revelation' is BLUEBELLINA! Congratulations.

Bluebellina, if you could contact me at annie(at)annie-west.com with your postal details I'll post your prize.

To everyone else, thank you for your interest. Look out for more Sunday Smooches and chances to win in future.


Aug 25, 2019

Sunday Smooch - Sheikh's Royal Baby Revelation by Annie West

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch! Today we have a smooch from Annie West.

But first, the WINNER  of last week's Sunday Smooch giveaway is JM BARTON! Congratulations. To claim your prize, please contact Clare at Clareconnelly@outlook.com





Desert captives for one night

Bound forever by their unexpected baby

When desert prince Ashraf was kidnapped alongside geologist Tori, their desperation to escape their life-threatening situation led to a moment of passionate oblivion. Rescued the next day, Ash was never able to discover Tori’s fate. He’s finally found her… But in their time apart, Tori has had his son! And now Ash will stop at nothing to claim them both!

Scene set-up
One night stranded with a stranger in fear for their lives, drove Tori and Ash together, only to be parted the next morning. Now, more than a year later, Ash has found her again and discovered she's had his child. Determined to acknowledge his son and provide for the feisty yet sometimes fragile woman who attracts him as no other, Ash, now Sheikh Ashraf, suggests a marriage of convenience and invites her to his homeland. Tori, determined her son with know both his parents, reluctantly agrees, but is determined to resist capitulating and entering a loveless marriage.

Smooch  -
Ashraf scooped her closer, his hard frame solid muscle against her wet body. Tori clung tight, one hand clutching his robe, the other slipping from his grasp to slide up the back of his neck.
She heard a muffled grunt of approval as her fingers channelled through thick hair to splay possessively over the back of his head.
Tori’s tongue danced with his, hunger cresting as she went up on her toes, trying to meld herself to him. His taste, his scent, his mouth were achingly familiar, as if it was just a few days since they’d made love.
Had they kissed like this in the desert? Surely not. Then they’d been strangers. Ashraf didn’t feel like a stranger now. Remarkable to think they’d been together for such a short time, for it seemed they knew each other at some deep level beyond words. He was the man who filled her thoughts and dreams. Who had done so since that night together. He was the one man who’d woken her dormant libido after the rigours and exhaustion of pregnancy and motherhood.
The man she needed as she’d never before needed anyone. The realisation made her freeze in his embrace.
Instantly he lifted his head, eyes glinting like black gems as they searched her face.
Tori heard the stertorous rasp of heavy breathing, felt her lungs heave and the push of his chest against her breasts as he too hauled in oxygen. Reaction juddered down her backbone and quivered across her skin. Being so close to him, touching him, undid her carefully cultivated caution. It allowed something wild inside her to take hold.
The air was smoky with desire, thick and scented with arousal. Yet the unspoken question was clear in Ashraf’s expression.
Did she want to stop?
Emotion swelled. As strong even as the desire emblazoned in her bones. Tenderness for this man who put her needs before his own.
Tori shivered at the enormity of her feelings. Yet she shied from investigating them too closely.
Ashraf straightened and pulled away. He’d misread her.
‘No!’ She fastened both hands on his shoulders, fingers digging into fine cotton, pads of muscle and beneath that, implacable bone. ‘Don’t.’
‘Don’t kiss you, or—?’
‘Don’t stop.’
Yet instead of closing the gap Ashraf surveyed her as if he felt none of her urgency. Only the flare of his nostrils betrayed he’d been affected too.
‘So there’s at least one thing about me you approve of.’
He wanted to talk? Frustration surged and suspicion.
‘Are you fishing for compliments?’
She spied a flicker of movement at the corner of his mouth and a tingle of delight teased her.
     ‘No. But I’ll take any you want to throw my way.’ His lips firmed. ‘You’re not a woman easily swept off her feet, Victoria Miranda Nilsson.’


I do hope you enjoy SHEIKH'S ROYAL BABY REVELATION! Leave a comment on this post to go in the draw to win a an autographed copy (no geographic restrictions).

In this story Tori is a geologist who'd been to the desert doing a survey for a mining company. It's a profession that's still male dominated and I enjoyed writing about a competent woman in that field. What occupation would you like to see for a romance heroine, or hero for that matter?


By the way, this is book 1 in my 'Royal Brides for Desert Brothers' miniseries. It's a standalone story, but if you'd like to find out what happens to Ashraf's brother, Karim, look out for DEMANDING HIS DESERT QUEEN. 

Come back next Sunday, when the winner of today's giveaway will be announced and another smooch will be posted!


Smooch Graphic by WebWeaver

Aug 21, 2019

Writer Conferences, Why I Love Them. Annie West

Every year I attend the Romance Writers of Australia Conference in August. This year was my twentieth year! So to mark the occasion, and while I’m still buoyant with energy and enthusiasm after attending the 2019 Melbourne Conference, let me share just a few of the reasons I love this event. This isn’t a complete list! (Note, rather than post from this year’s event I’ve gone back to the vaults to find photos from previous years).

Sunny Queensland in winter
1.       Travelling away from home. There’s nothing like actually getting away from the day to day routine to make you feel rejuvenated. And in winter especially, there’s something about the lure of a beach, or a vibrant city, that appeals. Because of RWA I finally got to Western Australia – somewhere I’d been meaning to visit for ages.

With the wonderful Helen Bianchin
2.       The warm welcome. I have fond memories of the year I’d sold my first book to Harlequin Mills and Boon and attended a lunch put on by the company for its writers. That was a thrill, but most especially there was the joy of receiving an ‘award’ (a comic item I still treasure) from the established authors. It was presented to me by the lovely Helen Bianchin and I couldn’t quite believe I was in such exalted company.

First sale celebrations with Elisabeth Rose, Alison Stuart, Anna Campbell and Fiona Lowe
3.       The way everyone celebrates when a writer finally achieves their dream of publication. Here I am with some authors celebrating their first sale. It was a while ago now but you may recognise some of the faces.

1920s themed cocktail party
4.       There are plenty of chances to have fun and to dress up, including at the themed cocktail parties.

Living the good life
5.       Conference time means no cooking or cleaning. Sometimes it even means room service with your feet up, listening to the waves rolling in on the beach!

Booksigning with the lovely Helene Young
6.       You get to sit with terrific writers, whether at a booksigning or participating in a workshop or listening to a panel discussion. It’s a great way to pick up information and make friends. I always come away from conferences feeling like I’ve learned something new or learned to look at something I do/or don’t do from a new perspective.

Winning the Romantic Book of the Year!
7.    Saturday Awards Night! I’ve included a photo of me here where the grin says it all. But whether you’re in the running for an award or not, it’s wonderful seeing the many writers who’ve made the effort to enter writing contests, to see the names of finalists and share their excitement, and of course, share the buzz of a win with all those winners.

LoveCats rule - Rachel Bailey, Amy Andrews and Bronwyn Jameson

It's also a fabulous chance to catch up with other LoveCats! It's often the only chance we have to meet as we live so far away. The smiles and laughter are infectious. 

I have to add the conference provides great inspiration. Anyone picking up my new book (Sheikh’s Royal Baby Revelation) will see a dedication to a number of women who were at last year’s RWAustralia conference. I was in the middle of writing that book and had come to a crossroads, not quite sure what direction to take. Thanks to a late night discussion with a number of wonderful authors (including some LoveCats) I went away brimming with ideas.


8.    For me this writers’ conference is an essential part of my year. I get to catch up with people who understand my love of story telling and of romance in particular. I get to commiserate and celebrate with them, to learn new things and feel like I’m part of a strong, vibrant community of talented women.

Do you have an event or group that you’d never miss? Something that makes you feel good and connected to people with similar interests?