Feb 29, 2012

Fun Facts About Charleston

To celebrate the release of What Happens in Charleston..., I thought I'd share some fun facts about the city of Charleston. Since I've never been there, I did a heap of research before writing this book and now I'm desperate to visit!

Did you know:

* Charleston was originally named Charles Towne (in 1670) after King Charles II of England.

* It has been called the "best-mannered city in the US".

* Lots of movies have been filmed there including, The Notebook, Dear John and Cold Mountain.

* It's home town to Stephen Colbert (from The Colbert Report, which we used to get in Australia).

* In October 2011, Charleston was voted Top US City by a travel magazine.

* The dance we associate with 1920's flappers, The Charleston, originated in the city Charleston.

* It was a focal point in the American Revolution, and was attacked twice by the British.

* Charleston is the second biggest city in South Carolina.

* South Carolina has a state butterfly: the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.

* South Carolina's state dance is the "shag". 

* The first opera performed in the Americas was in Charleston in 1735.

* Charleston was the first city in America to have a public library, a museum, a chamber of commerce, and a theater.
And my favourite random fact:

*South Carolina is a sister state to my own home - Queensland, Australia. Very cool.

Tell me, do you know any fun facts about a city? Perhaps your own home town or somewhere you've visited?

Charleston photos from Wikipedia; attributions: AudeVivere and Khanrak.

Feb 27, 2012

A late dedication for 'Mr Wrong'

 by Nikki Logan

So...not really sure what happened over at Romance central (Harlequin HQ) but somehow my reader letter and dedication for my March release 'Mr Right at the Wrong Time' managed to not make it into the final book.

I'm religious about getting these in because every book has a story-behind-the-story and a handful of people who have earned special thanks in its creation. So I thought I'd use my blog today to thank those people and tell that story...

It's timely because the one year anniversaries of both the 2011 Queensland floods and the 2011 Christchurch earthquakes happened very recently, so disasters are still very fresh in a lot of minds, including my fellow LoveCats, some of whom were personally touched by the tragedies.

To the families who lost something—or everything—in Queensland and Christchurch in 2011. The amazing efforts of the emergency personnel who helped you inspired this book.

And to ‘our’ Aimee Leigh — hold out for love. Make it count.

Thank you to Rachel Bailey and Kylie Griffin for your unique perspectives on both sides of an emergency rescue situation.

And this would have been my reader letter... 

This book was easy and hard to write in equal measures.

It came to me as I was sitting, teary-eyed and captivated, watching the rescue efforts following the 2011 earthquake in New Zealand. There, an emergency services volunteer spent long, painful hours stretched out across a slab of rubble on the exterior of a collapsed building being the fingers-and-voice lifeline for an office worker trapped beneath the mountain of debris. A woman we only ever knew as ‘Anne’. She—and he—became the public face of that crisis.

It highlighted the powerful relationship that rescuers can have with victims of tragedy, particularly because the outcomes are never certain right up until the moment they are pulled from danger. The weight of the responsibility they must feel, how torn between empowering victims with the awful truth of their situation and lying to keep them sane. Those hours together would be so surreal.

And so I wanted to explore what would happen after the crisis is over—where the real world and all its day-to-day issues intrudes. And I threw a real obstacle into the mix.

It would be so easy to walk away from that kind of emotion and chalk it up to the forced intimacy of the rescue.

The second part of this book really challenged me, and you’ll understand why when you get there. It challenged me to think outside of my own values, to really immerse myself in my characters’ situation, to truly empathise.

A lot.

For all kinds of reasons Aimee and Sam’s is not a situation I’d ever like to find myself in, but I’ll take their happy-ever-after any day.

Perfect, hard-won love of two imperfect people.


(Actually now that I look at it, maybe it didn't go in because it was really rather long! *cough*)

I'll be posting Sam and Aimee's first kiss this Sunday in the LoveCats SUNDAY SMOOCH if you'd like to come and get more of a feel for their story.

Do you have to pull the plug on the television and throw your wireless internet into the bottom of a deep drawer when national crises are happening? Can you walk away? Or do you become glued to the television/internet awash in a cocktail of empathetic chemicals that surge when we witness terrible situations unfolding? Or are you someone who would have given anything to *only* be experiencing it on TV? I'd love to hear your stories if you're able to share.

Feb 26, 2012

Sunday Smooch: Natalie Anderson's MELT

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

But first ... the winner of last week's Sunday Smooch Giveaway is -- Eli Yanti!

Congratulations, Eli! Can you please contact Emily at

emilywritesregencies (at) gmail (dot) com

and she'll send you a copy of BEAUTY AND THE SCARRED HERO.

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from MELT by Natalie Anderson ...

When two frozen hearts collide...

Emma Reed closed her heart to love years ago after a lifetime spent getting kicked around foster homes and bad relationships. Now she's on a mission to prove she deserves her recent award to paint a mural for a research base in Antarctica. Nothing and no one is going to get in her way.

After months working in recovery zones around the world, Hunter Wilson planned to escape everything this holiday season by rebuilding a lab at the Kiwi Research Base. Alone. No to family, no to fun. It’s isolation not intimacy he’s aching for. But when he sees the determined artist, that ache becomes an urge – after all, shouldn’t someone show her what two people can do with twenty-four hours of brilliant sunlight?

In the coldest place on earth, even the most frozen hearts can melt.

Stepping outside and breathing in the sharp air was a painful pleasure. She walked alongside him over the stomped snow path toward the boundary markers. He bent and scooped up some snow, flinging a ball in her direction.
            “I’m not play fighting with you.”
            He looked like a little boy who’d been told he couldn’t have pudding. She ignored him and looked at the sky, unable to walk as she tried to take it in. It was indescribable. She closed her eyes, wanting to blink and blink to ensure it wasn’t a dream.
            “You’re supposed to be looking at the view,” she heard him say. “Not standing there with your eyes shut.”
            “I’d open them if I could.” She swiped her face with her gloves. “But my eyelashes have frozen together.”
            “They what?” He laughed.
She raised her eyebrows and knew she’d be looking like some physical comedy act, given the way she was contorting her face to try to pry her eyelids open. She abandoned the facial stretches and rubbed her hands over her eyes again.
            “You’re going to give yourself two black eyes if you keep doing that.” Footsteps crunched closer. “Let me help.”
            It wasn’t like she had much choice. Shaking her head, hot from the combination of embarrassment and amusement, she waited.
            His hands framed her face, tilting it up.
            “Your gloves are wet and cold,” she half grumbled, covering up her mortification.
            “Snowball,” he murmured.
            Emma went still, because that’s when she felt it. The jet of warm air as he blew over first one, then the other eye. Very, very close, she could almost feel his mouth.
            “I’m really glad I brushed my teeth already,” he joked. “So you don’t have to cope with a face full of chili breath.”
            She laughed and her eyelids pinged open. He was unbelievably close. Still so much bigger than her, but he’d bent so his face was only inches from hers. His clear blue eyes filled with laughter and heat. More than her frosty eyelashes melted in that moment, as they stood too close for a little too long.
            Emma forced herself to swallow. The first step in breaking the frozen minute. But all that faint movement did was draw his attention slightly farther south—to her mouth.
            Light refracted somehow, swallowing the wide, wild world so she saw only him, heard only him. It was supposedly freezing out here but she felt no chill. She only felt desire. In a swift move, he reached for her, sealing his mouth to hers, stroking her just the way she wanted to be stroked. Hot and sweet. His tongue touched her lips lightly. And as Emma snuck a swift breath, he swept in. In a flash, the intensity increased. So did the depth. Pressure built within her—as did her need for more. She slid her hands down his neck and across his shoulders, their bulky gloves and jackets annoying barriers. His hands at her back pressed her closer. Suddenly he was passion personified, kissing her fiercely—as if it were a kiss he’d been waiting for forever and now he wasn’t ever giving it up.
            Her own passion rose to match, ruling her. The devastating attraction she’d been fighting since yesterday was unleashed, and the current of electricity became a violent surge, blowing out her brain and making her capable only of feeling, not thinking. All that mattered was his touch, more and more of his touch. Her nipples ached; she wanted his head and hands at her breasts. She wanted all of him to explore her most heated parts. She wanted to be completely bare. Which was crazy when they were...
            She broke away, sucking in a mouthful of the chilly air. “I’m not here for this,” she muttered breathlessly. This was crazy.
            He ran his gloved thumb across her lower lip in a final caress, and she trembled, an aftershock of sensation almost causing her knees to buckle.
“Nor am I,” he said softly.

To be in the draw to win a signed copy of MELT, just leave a comment and let us know if Antarctica would be a place you'd love to visit! (or not!)

And come back next Sunday, when the winner of today's giveaway will be announced -- and a smooch from MR RIGHT AT THE WRONG TIME by Nikki Logan will be posted!

Feb 24, 2012

The 'Room of One's Own' Needs a Name! by Natalie Anderson

A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.
So said Virginia Woolf. Well, happily hubby and I both earn, so I'm not starving :) - but for the last five years, in which I've written twenty books, there has definitely been no room of my own. We have four kids and during this period lived in four different houses (plus a couple of months homeless and crashing with family after earthquake damage to the house we had been in). And there was no 'room to write' in any of these houses - unless you count the laundry in one!

I did used to get up super early and sit just in front of the washing machine in that tiny room and tap away at the keyboard. I wrote in the car, in bed, at the kitchen table, in the car, at any cafe that would let me, in the car, I even went and spent a couple of night's at a holiday park locked up in a cabin to get a book finished once. But in recent time it was mostly the car - a portable office! My husband reckons I was the romance writing equivalent of 'The Lincoln Lawyer' - though I had no driver and only one car! I liked to go and park up somewhere scenic - either the beach or the Botanic gardens - somewhere green and with water nearby. But I've got to be honest, it was cramped (even though given there are six of us in the family, it's a fairly large car), it got hot and I got a bit sick of it.

Anyway, I'm so thrilled to finally be back in our own home in Christchurch to the wee house I just love. There still isn't a study/room to write, but what there is, is a tiny creek crossing the front corner of our section. About five years ago the council came along and did a beautification programme - gently landscaping the flow of the creek, putting in a new bridge and designing a native plant setting.

Here we are five years ago when the council put in
the new bridge. The kids LOVED watching
the digger every day so we had a 'construction' birthday
party for one of them :)
Well five years on and the plants were a bit of a jungle! But I loved them - kind of like a very mini Bot garden all of our own. And that's when I got the idea to put a teeny tiny shed out there. I'm used to the car, right?! I don't need a LOT a space - just something cute and with that view :)

So I got on the internet and found the perfect 'shed' and my WonderHubs (who loves a project) got busy...

Preparing the platform...
The platform (and little deck) is ready!

Getting the shed from the freight depot.
Unloading the shed.

My friend and her hubby came round.
I confess my friend and I went shopping -
came back two hours later and voila!!!

Making the roof weathertight (v. impt!)
Looking across to
The Far Side' of the creek.

And now - lunch is ready!

I go through the hebe bushes, down the little path, across the stepping stones over the creek (all two of them), then up onto the 'far side' to the shed. There are bright blue dragonflies whizzing round, I have a gang of six regular ducks, several neighbourhood cats, native birds drawn to the trees (and the feed I put in the trees for them), cockabullies (tiny fish) in the creek PLUS a rather large eel living between a couple of rocks that I discovered only the other day.

I do think I'm the luckiest writer in the world to have my shed. I am SO ecstatic and have become such a bore talking about it! So sorry - but let me just this week as it only went up last weekend so it is very new and exciting :) The kids in the neighbourhood all love it too. I think it's wonderfully hilarious that the reaction from writer friends and kids has been just the same - pure enjoyment :)

One very happy writer.
But I do need your help!!! My question now is WHAT TO CALL THE SHED?!?!?! My mother thinks it should be  'One's Own' - referencing that Woolf quote. Hubby thinks it should be 'Dun Roamin' - as I'm now permanently parked up. A friend on Facebook says it should be a 'Chalet' not a 'Shed', another says it should be 'The Love Shack'. What do you think???

PLEASE! I'd love you to LEAVE A SUGGESTION in the comments for a name for my shed - and be in the draw to win a copy of my e-book MELT. I can't wait to see some of your ideas!!!

Thanks so much!

p.s. I don't have any interior pics here today (let's face it, I've already ODed on the pics today) BUT I was going to take some this morning and put them on my Facebook page  if you're interested :)

Feb 23, 2012

Winner - "Cassie's Grand Plan"

And the winner of their very own copy of Cassie's Grand Plan is Scarlet Wilson, for being courageous enough to admit her teen crush on Spandau Ballet. :) Don't worry, Scarlet, I was right there with you! Email me at Emmie @ emmiedark.com (without the spaces) with your mailing address details and a copy of my debut will be winging its way to you shortly!

Feb 22, 2012

No love is ever quite the same...

...as the first musician, movie star, or celebrity that you fall in love with as a teenager. Wouldn't you agree? There's nothing quite like it -- the obsessing and squealing and crying. Oh goodness, the crying.
Those saucy Norwegians - a-ha

What is it that makes thoses crushes so affecting? I recall feeling literally as if my life would end if I couldn't see my favourite band live in concert when I was fourteen. (For the record, no, my parents didn't let me go, and yes, I did survive!)

Who featured in the posters you plastered on your bedroom walls? I'm going to confess right now: I had a wall devoted to a-ha -- the largest wall space, actually. A slightly smaller wall for Duran Duran. And the smallest wall for other bands that came and went in my fickle world: Thompson Twins, Adam Ant, Culture Club, Wham!.
Duran Duran
I wanted their hair.

I've totally given away my age with that list!

I kind of feel sorry for today's teens that their pop stars don't seem to make quite as much of an effort with their appearances -- Lady Gaga notwithstanding. Just take a look at the Duran boys on the left there! Style AND substance, if you ask me.

Both a-ha and Duran Duran have been in my mind recently because, in case you didn't know -- both of them are still going strong (in one guise or another). D2 (as we used to call them) are touring Australia next month. I've seen them the last couple of times they've been here, and I have to say that they are an awesome live band. Simon le Bon might be in his fifties, but he's still got the voice and the moves!
Morten - still dreamy.

Unfortunately a-ha are no more. They played a farewell tour in 2010 titled "Ending on a High Note" (and anyone who remembers their hit "Take On Me" will see the double meaning there!). I fulfilled the dreams of my fourteen-year-old self by attending their final show at Wembley Arena in London. But lead singer Morten Harket is about to embark on a solo tour in April, and he has a new single out as well. He's also in his fifties, but still has that amazingly distinctive voice and, I have to say, is still looking quite worthy of bedroom-wall-poster-status. (I will admit I am not objective when it comes to this!)

It's probably embarrassing to admit, but when I've been to see both Duran Duran and a-ha live in concert, the little fourteen-year-old girl inside me has come back to life. I've had the racing heart, the shaking hands, the overwhelming joy and excitement that nothing else approaches.

I guess it's the ultimate romance, a teenage girl and a poster-boy. A perfect love -- in your imagination anyway. :)

Who was your teen-dream love? Have you encountered them again as an adult? What was the experience like? I'm going to send the best story a copy of my debut SuperRomance, "Cassie's Grand Plan". And I think I might just go and listen to "Hunting High and Low". It's been a while since I've visited there.

A winner

I'm thrilled to say that Giovanna Lee has won a copy of Louisa George's first book - One Month to Become a Mum.
Giovanna, can you contact Louisa through her website www.louisageorge.com
Congratulations, Sue.

Feb 20, 2012

Louisa George.

This month I am introducing Louisa George, one of M&B's newest medical authors.
Louisa, everyone enjoys a call story. Please tell us yours.
Firstly, I'd like to say a big thank you for inviting me. I love the Lovecat blog and so do my moggies, Tana and spencer (named after two great All Blacks!).
I still can't believe I got The Call! Forgive me if I do a happy dance!
In August 2010 Mills and Boon offered a Medical Fast track. I entered and got my first ever personalised rejection letter (which I received on my birthday - I was thrilled, a rejection with lots of words...Fantastic! My hubby thought I'd gone mad.) The editor liked my voice, but not the story and asked me to send something else. A month later I entered the New Voices contest with a hurriedly scribbled first chapter. The editor liked it, asked for a partial, which I duly wrote. Christmas Eve I got an email with a full manuscript request and revisions!
Fast forward to July 2011 - four sets of revisions later...I got an email from the editor saying, I just wondered how you felt about giving me a contact phone number in case we wanted to get in touch next week?
How did I feel? Panicky, excited, apprehensive.. but I was going away to a beach island in Fiji. I didn't know if I'd have any kind of cell phone reception...and besides, did I want her to ruin the family holiday by phoning to say she'd decided not to bother with my manuscript after all? I gave her my number and crossed my fingers.
So, there I was on Tuesday 26th July at 8.20pm. We were sitting on the beach having dinner, serenaded by three lovely Fijian ukelele players. My cell phone rang, on the display was a very long number that began with 0044...I knew it was Flo. Seriously, my heart went into overdrive. The line was terrible, but I heard her say 'we'd love to buy your book and offer you a mumble mumble crackle...' I couldn't hear a thing after that, but it didn't matter, she'd said those magic words. Thank goodness she followed up by email! We followed up dinner with bubbles, obviously! What a holiday! On my departure card leaving NZ I wrote my occupation as writer, on the way back I wrote author - what a hoot!
What has been the biggest surprise and/or shock to do with life as an author after selling that first book?
I'm slightly diappointed to discover that even published authors have to vacuum. :)
The whole thing has been a wild rollercoaster ride. Everyone has been so generous and supportive. I guess the shock is that I have to keep writing every day, no matter how I feel or how badly I want to watch TV or go out...And there is a lot to do to keep my blog, facebook page and website up to date too, so I am trying to be disciplined.
I know you recently received copies of your first book "One Month to Become Mum". How did it feel to hold your book for the first time?
Oh my goodness! It was fabulous and scary in equal measure. So great to have a book with my name on and so nerve wracking that people are actually going to read my story!
What do you do when you're not writing?
I have two teenage boys, so I spend a lot of time clearing up odd socks from strange places.
We love to travel so we do a lot of planning and enjoy exciting adventures. I adore food and cooking (I have 85 cookbooks). And for fitness I zumba.
What made you start writing?
A few years ago my Mum came to stay for a couple of months (she lives in England, I had recently emigrated to New Zealand), and suggested I went to an evening class to meet new people and she offered to babysit. I had a look at the local college brochure and saw a Creative Writing class - something clicked in my head, I went to the first lesson and have not looked back!
Thanks so much for having me here, what fun questions.
I am looking for inspiration for our next travel destination-can you help me with ideas? I have a copy of debut book, One Month to Become a Mum to give away to one commenter.

Louisa X
Catch up with Louisa at her website http://www.louisageorge.com/
One Month to Become a Mum is available now in both book and ebook form from:
Don't forget to tell Louisa your favourite holiday desination and be in with a chanc eto win her book.
Cheers, Sue.

Feb 19, 2012

Sunday Smooch: Emily May's BEAUTY AND THE SCARRED HERO

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a Regency smooch from BEAUTY AND THE SCARRED HERO by Emily May, but first ...

the winner of last week's Sunday Smooch Giveaway is -- Kate Kylie!

Congratulations, Kate! Can you please contact Lynne Marshall at

Lynne (at) lynnemarshall (dot) com

and she'll send you a signed copy of The Christmas Baby Bump in a Medical Romance Duo.

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from BEAUTY AND THE SCARRED HERO by Emily May...

Major Nicholas Reynolds returns from the Battle of Waterloo a hero. Once, his rakish good-looks ensured he had his pick of beauties, but now his battle-scarred face exiles him from high society.

Lady Isabella Knox is horrified by the cruel gossip surrounding Nicholas, but intrigued by the man whose steely glance makes her blush on the outside...and burn deep on the inside.

A few stolen kisses later this beauty knows she's lost her head--and her heart--to the most notorious gentleman of the Ton...

[Major Reynolds and Lady Isabella are guests at the Worthington's masquerade ball. After a fireworks display at midnight, they linger on the moonlit terrace when the other guests return indoors to dance. They've both had a little too much punch, and when the Nicholas discovers that Lady Isabella has resolved to remain a spinster, he challenges that decision...]

Nicholas took hold of her fingers. ‘You don’t know what you’re missing.’

She laughed. ‘I assure you that I do!’

‘No,’ he said. ‘You don’t.’

It was music swirling from the ballroom that made him tighten his clasp on her hand, that made him pull her closer. Faerie music, wild and reckless.

Lady Isabella became very still. ‘Major.’ There was a note of warning in her voice.

‘Don’t dismiss something as worthless until you have tried it.’

‘Major Reynolds—’

‘You have set your heart against marriage, without knowing anything of the pleasures that may attend it.If you were to make a love match, you would find that the ... er ... physical side of marriage can be extremely enjoyable.’

Lady Isabella pulled her hand free. She folded her arms across her chest, defensive. ‘Roland did kiss me once; I didn’t like it.’

‘He didn’t do it right, then.’

Her frown vanished. She laughed. ‘And pray, how do you know? You weren’t there!’

‘How do you know if you’ve only tried it once?’ He looked at her, gilded in music and moonlight. Desire clenched in his belly. Dear God, he wanted to kiss her. The music was no help, whispering in his ear, urging, enticing. ‘I think you should try it again.’

Just what is it you’re proposing, major?’

He shrugged and tried to keep his tone careless. ‘A kiss.’

There was no revulsion in her voice, merely shock: ‘You know I dare not!’

He glanced over his shoulder, at the shadowy gardens. ‘We wouldn’t be the only ones.’

Her brow creased. ‘Why, major?’

Because I want to taste your mouth. ‘So that your decision may be more informed.’ He leaned against the balustrade. ‘It’s a very important decision, after all.’

Her lips twisted, as if she tried to hide a smile. ‘For my own good?’

‘Yes,’ he said, striving for a note of piety. ‘I feel it is my duty.’ 

She laughed aloud at this and uncrossed her arms. ‘You have a glib tongue, major. Is this how you won your battles? By sweet-talking your enemies?’

You are not my enemy. Nor was she the woman he wanted to marry. But right now, while the mad, Bacchanalian music swirled around him and the night air was cool on his face, he had a burning need to kiss her.

Nicholas stepped away from the balustrade and reached for her hand. ‘I dare you,’ he whispered in her ear.

‘My reputation—’

‘Will still be intact. I give you my word of honour.’

Lady Isabella made no demur as he led her down the steps into the garden, as they followed a barely-seen path into the shadows, as he pulled her into the darkness of a gazebo. ‘I have drunk too much punch!’ she said.

‘I know I have.’ He pulled her close to him, cupping her face in his hands. ‘I shouldn't dare to do this otherwise!’

‘Am I so terrifying?’ she asked, a tart note in her voice.

Not terrifying; untouchable. He was suddenly, painfully, aware of his ruined cheek. Beauty and the Beast. And yet I am touching her.

Nicholas angled his head and touched his lips to hers. Slowly, he told himself, closing his eyes, inhaling the scent of her skin. Slowly.

He started gently, laying soft kisses on her mouth until he felt her relax, then he tasted her lips lightly with his tongue. She tasted of the punch, of strawberries and oranges, sweet and tart, delicious. Heat built in his body. When her lips parted to his tongue he almost groaned. Slowly, damn it. Slowly.

But it was impossible when she was kissing him back. Arousal jolted through him when her tongue shyly touched his. Nicholas abandoned his caution. He kissed her more deeply. His awareness of their surroundings, the gazebo and the shadowy garden, faded. Her mouth was more bewitching than the Faerie music, more intoxicating than the punch. His world narrowed to her lips, to her body pressed against his, to the taste and scent of her. This was indulgence, this was bliss, this was—


BEAUTY AND THE SCARRED HERO is on the shelves this month in the UK. To be in the draw to win a signed copy tell us whether you've ever stolen an illicit kiss at a party. A school prom, perhaps, or a raucous New Year's Eve bash, or an office party...or perhaps even a masquerade ball!

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

Feb 17, 2012

It's Never Too Late . . .

By Helen Lacey

Reading - Destiny Of The Light by Louise Cusack
Watching - Revenge
Listening To - The ocean hitting the rocks

I come from a large Welsh family. I'm the youngest of seven siblings and in such a big brood it's very hard to keep a secret. You tell one person, they whisper it to someone else, of course begging secrecy - heads nod, then calls are made and secrets are told in quiet voices. Wives tell husbands, sisters tell brothers, mothers tell daughters, you get the picture.

A few months back a rumour circulated. My eldest brother was up to something. There were whispers, but nothing confirmed. The main issue, is seemed, was to keep said secret from our eighty three year old mother who's job it is to worry about everything. Now, being the inquisitive sort that I am (I'm a writer, so inquisition is second nature) I asked around and pried the snippet of information from one of my brother-in-law's. My eldest brother (Let's call him EB) was, it seemed, taking flying lessons.

Right. Had EB ever intimated that he had a longing to fly? Maybe. Or had I missed that snippet of information over noisy family get-together's? I discovered that he's having a lesson every week and even considering getting his own areoplane. I wasn't exactly shocked because EB had been a competitive equestrian when he was younger and then there was the motorcycle faze a few years later. He had done interesting things in the past. This was just another interesting fact to add to the pages of of his life,

But it got me thinking about living out dreams. The biggest dream I had in my life was to get published, and now I'm fortunate to be living my dream as a full time author. But what about other dreams? For some it's the dream wedding, having children, owning a home, taking the trip to Tuscany, or grey nomading in the outback. What about the balloon ride, owning a Harley, deep sea fishing, whale watching. So, not only did EB's new venture get me thinking, it made me realize that it really is never too late to seek out adventure, start a hobby or try new things. I have an older sister who learnt to play the saxaphone, cello and double bass years after her kids had grown up and left home. She's also currently studying to be a barrister.

As a horse owner  it's amazing how many people say to me, "Oh, I'd love to ride a horse." And then I hear someone talk about how they did one of those bridge walks and I think, I wish I wasn't afraid of heights. So learning about EB's new adventure made me add a few things to my own bucket list. Nothing too daring - horse rides along the beach are about as adventurous as I get.
Although, if my sixty something brother can dream of wings, maybe the bridge walk isn't too far out of my reach.

Have you achieved a life long dream recently, or are you still adding things to your list of dreams?

Feb 16, 2012

Winner of Annie West's 'Girl in the Bedouin Tent'

It's time to announce the name of the person drawn at random from those who commented on my post about taking a second look.

And the name is TINA C!

CONGRATULATIONS, Tina. If you contact me at annie@annie-west.com with your postal details I'll organise to send the book to you.

Thanks everyone who stopped by to talk. I've enjoyed my first official post as a Love Cat!

Happy reading,

Feb 15, 2012

Taking a Second Look - Annie West

Reading: "Warped" YA by Maurissa Guibord
Watching: "Zen" English/Italian TV crime show
Listening To: Baby Magpies' scratchy warbling
Making Me Smile: Our old dog getting used to her fabulous new ultra-padded bed

Hi everyone! I'm thrilled to make my first post as a genuine Love Cat. I suppose that means I should be talking about memorable firsts but what's on my mind are seconds. Second opinions, second looks, second time around.

It's struck me how much a creature of habit I am. I see familiar sights as I drive around town. I cook meals I know well so I don't have to spend too much time in the kitchen. Though I experiment, it's not as often as I'd like. I enjoy being comfortable with friends in places we all know and enjoy. I like to grab books similar to ones I've read before. There's comfort in the familiar, isn't there?

But I've been making a conscious attempt to break a few habits and shake things up a little. Along with that I've found myself taking a second look around me. It's interesting what you see when you take time to really look rather than see what you expect.

Take this. Isn't it the most amazing design? It stopped me in my tracks. Having visited Egypt a few times I noticed immediately the Egyptian influence. That column wouldn't look out of place somewhere on the Nile. Maybe in a recreation of a palace or temple. And as for the amazing tiered uplights - not ancient Egyptian but something else entirely. I'm betting Art Deco. When you take a wider view (below) including the rows of windows, it definitely takes on a new perspective.

And where is this elaborate architectural treat? In downtown Sydney. I recently spent a couple of days in central Sydney but instead of scurrying between appointments, or being caught up in serious shopping, as usually happens, I had time to stroll and actually take a second look at some of the places I thought I knew well.

This building is in Martin Place (ideally situated between Paspaley Pearls and the Lindt Cafe - need I say more?). I've walked past it so often and never bothered to peep inside because I was in a rush. But this is so gorgeous I'm tempted to use it in a book. What a shame I'm not writing a 1920s set mystery...

Then a little later that day I was crossing a road and looked up. This is what I saw - another elaborate Art Deco piece tucked away just above eyesight. To my shame I admit this was on a building just a block from the high rise office where I used to work. Did I mention I used to scurry a lot? I wonder how much I missed seeing by not taking time for a second look?

I'm sure it won't surprise you to learn that I spent the rest of that holiday taking a whole new look at places and things I thought I knew well. Amazing what you see when you really look. Maybe it's the pace of life or maybe we just get lazy coping with everything we have on our 'to do' list to appreciate what's before our eyes and value the surprises just waiting to be found.

Now I think about it, that's what I do instinctively when I'm writing or planning a book. I look and then look again. I think a little and then try to delve deeper. That's how I come to know my characters. The more often I look the more they surprise me with details it seems my subconscious must have already known (since they fit perfectly into their motivation) but at first glance I hadn't recognised. The more I look the more I find - or, it seems, the more they tell me. For they have become real people, and just like the real people I meet every day, they have hidden depths I'd miss if I didn't take a second look.

How about you? Are you ever surprised by what you discover when you take a second look? Do you have a tendency to rush and maybe miss some of the wonderful things around you? Or are you someone who's trained themselves to look and look again? Have you discovered wonderful things? I'd be fascinated to know if taking another look has ever been particularly important to you (like the time my mother took a second look at the branch on a path and realised just in the nick of time it was a death adder). Some of those moments can change your life.

As I feel in party mode with my first post, I'll give away a signed copy of GIRL IN THE BEDOUIN TENT to someone chosen at random from those who comment. It's a March release in North America and you can read all about it on my website.

Feb 12, 2012

Valentine’s Day: commercial nonsense or ancient tradition?

Reading: Chain Reaction by Zoe Archer
Watching: Grimm
Listening to: Dora the Explorer
Making me smile: My little boy pointing…at everything…all the time

Last month, I blogged on the history of the New Year’s Resolution. This month, with my blog post so close to Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d share the history of the day many claim was invented by florists or greeting card makers.

Here are a few interesting facts:

~ February 14th first became linked with the celebration of love in Ancient Rome. From Feb 13 through 15, they celebrated Lupercalia – a pagan fertility festival. Boy, we have a lot to thank the Romans for!

~ Around 496 AD, Pope Gelasius fought to suppress Lupercalia and declared February 14th St Valentine’s Day – a Christian feast day to honour St Valentine.

~ 1382 AD, Geoffrey Chaucer linked St Valentine’s Day and love in a poem he wrote to celebrate the engagement of Richard II of England.

Image - public domain

So, for the romantics out there, let that special someone know you love them tomorrow and know that you’re following in the footsteps of the Romans.

For the V Day naysayers, have my fast history facts changed your thoughts on the holiday of love?

To-morrow is Saint Valentine's day,
All in the morning betime,
And I a maid at your window,
To be your Valentine.
— Hamlet by William Shakespeare

SUNDAY SMOOCH with Lynne Marshall

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a smooch from COURTING HIS FAVORITE NURSE by Lynne Marshall, but first ...

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

Congratulations, kaisquared! Can you please contact Rachel Bailey at

rachel (at) rachelbailey (dot) com

and she'll send you a copy of What Happens In Charleston.

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from COURTING HIS FAVORITE NURSE by Lynne Marshall

Anne Grady knew better than anyone that love was complicated. When she’d left her hometown, she thought she was leaving her past heartbreak behind for good, as well. But practically the moment she returned to care for her injured parents, she stumbled headlong into their confidant—her first love, Jack Lightfoot.

Jack had been unable to deny his feelings for Annie when he was a teenager dating her best friend, and he certainly couldn’t muffle the spark twisting between them now—even if memories of the past kept threatening to push them apart. This time Jack wasn’t going to let history repeat itself—he was going to show Annie that the two of them were meant to be much more than best friends!

  • This kiss is a pivotal scene in the book, and takes place in the lovely hot air balloon displayed on the book cover, and shortly after Jack has shared a long forgotten picture with Anne.  Let’s just say, the kiss has been a long time coming.

Jack angled his head and skimmed her lips. She ignored that hitch in her throat and nuzzled into them. As if he’d been waiting for some subtle signal and had finally detected it, he planted firmer on her mouth. The connection started a warm sensation curling over her neck and shoulders. His lips were soft and he moistened hers with his tongue. His hands anchored her neck and the soft seductive kiss transformed into something hotter. 

He kissed like a man starving for contact. Her eager response left no question that she longed for closeness, too. Her mouth opened and he filled her, teasing her tongue with his. Heat flamed her cheeks and breasts as she kneaded his back, pulling him closer. Every remaining barrier broke down. Over and over, making up for missed chances and years, they kissed.

I saw you first, Jack. You were supposed to be mine.

He exhaled, broke free, leaned his forehead to hers and whispered, “It’s been a long time coming.”

She sighed, secretly thrilled he’d missed kissing her. “It was definitely worth the wait.”

“I don’t know about the wait, but it was pretty damn spectacular on my end,” he said, grinning.

She made a breathy laugh, still floating from his kiss.

He smiled against her cheek, ran his nose along her hairline releasing another squadron of tingles marching across her shoulders and deep inside her center. He seemed ready to kiss her again, and she definitely wanted him to, but he stiffened.

“Whoa!” he said, releasing her and jumping toward the hot air balloon burner.

They’d drifted dangerously close to the strawberry crops below.

Today, Lynne's giving away a signed copy of one of her previous titles - it's a duo with Sarah Morgan so double the reading pleasure!  THE CHRISTMAS BABY BUMP by Lynne Marshall and DR ZINETTI'S SNOWKISSED BRIDE  by Sarah Morgan.

All you have to do to be in the running is answer this question for Lynne - Is there one memorable kiss you'll never forget?  Care to share?

Come back next Sunday, when the winner of today's giveaway will be announced -- and a smooch from Beauty And The Scarred Hero by Emily May will be posted!