Jun 30, 2012

Winner of Rachel's Bestseller Collection...

The winner of the Bestseller Collection of Rachel's first two books, Claiming His Bought Bride and The Blackmailed Bride's Secret Child is:


Laney, send me an email at rachel (at) rachelbailey (dot) com and I'll get the book in the post to you.

Thanks to everyone who joined in the conversation about things they'd like to revisit from their past!

Jun 28, 2012

Revisiting the Past

My first two books are being re-released in Australia in July as part of the Bestseller Collection. It was a gorgeous surprise and I'm totally in love with the cover - the colours, the sparkly pattern under the titles, the cover model, the tone.

Funny thing - even though it's only been a few years since these books were originally released, it still feels ages ago. I've met several new heroes since Damon and Nico were a daily part of my life, and become friends with other heroines since Lily and Beth. It will be like visiting old friends to see how they're going!

Which makes me think of other things I'd like to revisit and never seem to get around to. 

I have a half-knitted dog blanket sitting in a basket that I haven't worked on for about three years. (I only knit dog blankets because the dogs don't notice or care about the irregularities in the knitting.) I should get that out and do some more, maybe when the TV is on.

I also have a pile of movies on video that I'd like to see again. Problem is I don't have a video player anymore, so I either need to buy them on dvd or rent them. (And what does one do with videos when one's video player has broken and not been replaced?)

So tell me, what's something from your past that you'd like to revisit. I'll choose one commenter and send them a copy of  double book in the picture: The Blackmailed Bride's Secret Child & Claiming His Bought Bride).

Jun 27, 2012

When does a newbie stop being a newbie?

by Emmie Dark

I've been considering this question this week, because I've just received the author copies of my second Harlequin SuperRomance, In His Eyes. (In His Eyes is out in August in North America.)

I have to say, opening this box was just as fantastic an experience as the first time around. But it also wasn't quite the same. I knew what to expect. I knew what it would look like when I slit open the tape and pulled back the cardboard flaps of the box. Which is not to say it wasn't exciting -- just that there was that element of "firstness" that wasn't there.

I've also just recently seen the Australian cover of Cassie's Grand Plan - my first international version. It's on sale in Australia next week (July)!

I've seen authors' photos of translations of their Harlequin books (even into manga) and I think it must be wonderful to see your work in a different language, reaching a whole new range of readers. I can't wait to see my first (assuming it happens!).

There's something about "firstness", isn't there? I mean, our first kiss, for example, isn't necessarily the best kissing experience of our lives. But we remember it, don't we? (And we can say the same thing for other more "grown up" firsts!)

And so, to get back to my original point, I've been wondering. If, now that I have a second book about to hit the shelves and my first book issued under a different imprint (two important author "firsts"), I can still call myself a newbie author. I still definitely feel like one -- I'm still so dependent on the wisdom of other authors and my editor to help when strange questions crop up or something unexpected happens.

I think there needs to be a new term invented. If I'm no longer an L-plater, then what's the authorly version of a P-plater?

In-keeping with my theme of "firsts", I'm going to make this post my first-ever Blush giveaway. Tell me about your favourite "first" (keep it ladylike!) and I'll send a copy of Cassie's Grand Plan (the Aussie Blush imprint) to the story I like best.

Jun 25, 2012

Having a Lark in Larkville

by Nikki Logan

I was asked middle of last year to participate on a new 8-book series set in country Texas, USA--The Larkville Legacy. Eight different authors all working off the same base storyline--in this case a ‘secret baby’ story where the babies are all grown up and finding their way back to their birth family.  So the legacy is one of secrets and lies.

The gorgeous sheriff Jed Jackson and ex-dancer Ellie Patterson
(and a barn that may be on fire inside, it seems...)

Clay Calhoun: patricarch of one of the most powerful families in the county, who practically owns half the pretty town of Larkville, USA. Loved and adored by all. But Clay has a secret. Many years ago he fell in love with Fenella Groves, a NY socialite, and brought her to live with him on his sprawling, hands-on ranch. She had trouble from the get-go fitting in with the locals, coping with the ranch work and—most importantly—conceiving the child Clay so desperately wants.  Eventually all of these things—and the fact that her old-money NY family weren't the slightest bit pleased she married a cowboy—drove an incontrovertible wedge between them.  Fenella and Clay separated and she fled back to New York, never to see him again. Wounded beyond measure, he let the woman he loved go.

Little did either of them know that she was pregnant with Calhoun heirs--two of them! She wrote to him as soon as she found out but by then he was involved with an opportunistic Larkville local who’d been in love with him forever and took her chance as soon as the NY socialite was out of the way. She interceptsedFenella’s letter and buried it deep in a drawer.

Where it sat for thirty years until Clay’s daughter, Jess, uncovered it following his death. And then Jess wrote a letter of her own….

Slow Dance with the Sheriff
My book is second cab off the rank, following on from the series vanguard, Patricia Thayer’s  The Cowboy Comes Home (check out her beautiful cover, just love it). Twin Ellie Patterson has pulled up in Larkville to visit the woman claiming in a letter to be her half-sister. But the Calhouns are all away on…business (spoilers!) and so uptight Ellie has to kill a week in the gorgeous, laid back town with its gorgeous, laid-back sheriff, Jerry ‘Jed’ Jackson.

Jed and Ellie spark immediately. She with her NY ways and he with his desperate-to-be-a-country-boy diligence. Jed’s done the NY thing and is in no hurry to live that way again. He rescued his loyal canine buddy from the horrors of big city life but really he was rescuing himself. They’ve both been content and secure—if more than a little bit lonely—since coming to Hayes County five years ago.

How they Meet
There are three scenes in this book that I really adored writing - the scene that gives the book its name where Jed and Ellie slowdance in a room full of people as though they were the only two in it, a scene out at an abandoned mine where Jed first sees the beauty and hurt in Ellie, and the ‘first meet’ scene right at the start of the book.

Jed rocks up to answer a 10-52 and finds Ellie perched high on the roof of her rental car, surrounded by… Well, why spoil it. You can read the first scene yourself here(Hint: turn your speakers on and feel free to play around with the buttons...)

Slow Dance with the Sheriff will be out in print August but you can buy it now and download the eBook when it comes out next week.

Do you enjoy ‘continuities’ where multiple authors get together and write connected stories?  Do they sustain your interest or do they start to feel a bit samey after the first few? How many is too many? Is there a type of continuity that you'd love to see?
Slow Dance with the Sheriff out in print in August, eBook in July.

Jun 24, 2012

Sunday Smooch with Kylie Griffin . . .

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a smooch from Alliance Forged by Kylie Griffin, but first ...

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

Congratulations, Effie! Can you please contact Rachael Johns at

Racheljohns077@gmail.com and she'll send you a eCopy of Jilted.

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from Alliance Forged by Kylie Griffin ...

Book #2 of the Light Blade series
There is no mercy in the demon realm. No escape. In this place of desperation and conflict, anyone who is not purebred is virtually powerless. Until a blind priestess lays claim to a half-breed warrior, body and soul…
Hunted and marked for death by Na’Reish demons for their half-blood heritage, the Na’Chi are searching for a new home—something an alliance offered by the human leader could provide. With both races divided by prejudice, when Light Blade rebels brutally attack the Na’Chi, the alliance seems doomed to fail.

Varian, leader of the Na’Chi, a hybrid race of gifted warriors, is cursed with the darker impulses of his demon heritage. Controlling the part of himself that craves the high of the battle is a struggle he’s afraid he’ll lose—until he meets Kymora Tayn, a priestess driven to serve her deity. While he’s unwilling to trust anyone outside his people, he finds himself drawn to Kymora’s strength and passionate nature, and discovers she has the power to calm the darkness inside him.

When the Na’Reish raid human territory for blood-slaves and kickstart a war, the key to the survival of both races—Na’Chi and human— is an alliance. However, when Kymora is kidnapped, pitting human against human, Varian realizes he must embrace his darker half, not only to save the alliance…but also the woman he loves.

Set Up - [In ALLIANCE FORGED, the humans and Na’Chi have entered a tentative alliance, in order to fight the Na’Reish demons. Prior to this smooch scene, Varian fought off a leadership challenge that resulted in the death of the challenger, a close friend, and he’s retreated to the forest to escape the guilt and grief.

As a friend rather than high priestess, Kymora follows him to offer comfort. Varian yearns for her comfort but doesn’t believe he deserves it. She’s taken the initiative and kissed him – her first kiss – a momentous occasion for both of them. Kymora learns more about Varian’s past and he begins to realise she sees him in a different light than everyone else]

        “Kymora--” Varian’s breathing was harsh and uneven like he was trying to control himself. “I don’t know…” He swallowed hard, the sound loud in the quiet between them.

Common sense warned her to back off and give him some space. Her heart urged her to try and reach him, to show him it was all right to care, to trust someone. To trust her.

“Where’s the harm in sharing pleasure, Varian?” she asked, softly. “Especially as we both want it?”

A long moment passed then, “I don’t know how.”

“You don’t know how?”

“To kiss.” His admission was low-pitched, hoarse. “To give you pleasure.”

Kymora stopped breathing. He’d just experienced his first kiss, too? What were the chances of that?

“Now who’s the disbeliever?” Varian’s dry sarcasm made her flush. “You’re blind so you don’t have a visual reminder of my imperfection.”

“It’s just one scar!”

“One scar too many.”

She blinked. “The Na’Chi women told you that?”

“They talk...I see it in their faces.”

He bit off his words, as if he realized what he’d just said. Kymora’s temper sparked. Since living with the Na’Chi she’d heard them speak in whispers about her disability. During the first few weeks everyone except Varian had smothered her with assistance, treating her like a child.

Sure she’d needed their help to orient herself to a new environment but there was a lot of difference between being dependent on someone as opposed to getting used to a change in circumstances. Their assumption she belonged in the former category grated. Some, like Lisella and Zaune, had since learned otherwise but most still viewed her as helpless, so she could relate to what Varian was feeling.

“There are qualities much uglier than a scar.” Needing to touch him, to reassure him, Kymora slid her hand up along his arm, aware that the flesh under her hand felt like steel, all striated, hard-cut muscle and tendons. “Perhaps they should take a look inside themselves before condemning someone for how they look!”

With a decade of overhearing conversations about your less than desirable qualities, reinforced by a lifestyle you had no choice in living, it was no wonder Varian saw himself the way he did. No one deserved that sort of life.

The injustice of it ate at Kymora’s soul. “Do you think your scar matters to me?” she asked, cupping her hand against his jaw. The muscles there flexed but he didn’t pull away from her. Her fingers found the hard ridge of flesh bisecting his cheek. She went on tiptoe to press a kiss over it then laid her cheek against his so her lips brushed his earlobe. “You could have a dozen and I wouldn’t care. Don’t use it as an excuse to push me away, Varian. I’m not them.”

Her heart pounded beneath her ribs. His aura was still closed down tight. He wasn’t reacting in any way. She was truly blind and disliked it. A lot.

Then he turned his head, just a fraction, and his lips brushed hers. Slow, feather-light but Kymora felt it all the way to her core. She gasped, unable to stop the breathy sound.

He was so tentative, tracing his way across her mouth, tasting of salt and male spice. Though hesitant and unsure, the gentle caress of his lips made her ache. When he shifted away from her she felt the tiniest crack in his aura. Desire, thick and heavy, licked at her senses.

“I don’t know what I’m doing.” Varian’s voice shook and his fingers flexed where he grasped her arms.

Kymora couldn’t help the nervous laugh that spilled from her. “And you think I do?”

To be in the draw to win a signed copy of Alliance Forged,

release date: July 3rd 2012, USA/Canada - leave a comment to this question -

In ALLIANCED FORGED, Kymora’s faced discrimination and the unfair perceptions of others, all because she’s blind. In the Na’Reish demon culture, physical imperfections condemn a person to death, while amongst the Na’Chi those afflicted are viewed as undesirable mates. This attitude affects how Varian’s people perceive him, and impacted his self-worth. Has there ever been a time when you’ve been treated unfairly or felt discriminated against? Or perhaps you’ve seen someone else experience this?

Come back next Sunday, when the winner of today's giveaway will be announced -- and a smooch from Daughter Of The Dark by Louise Cusack will be posted!

Jun 22, 2012

Cat-Kitten Update!

aka spare sofa cushion
As you may remember back in January I took the children to the SPCA and the Cats Protection League and we came away with not one, not two but three new cats. Two little kittens and one giant moggy.

Toffee is the shorter of the kittens, but the wider. She has a round belly and a short tail. She's very cute in a 'make-you-smile' way. The SPCA told us to have kitty bikkies always available - that the cats would self-regulate their eating habits. Toffee doesn't self-regulate. Toffee just eats and eats and eats some more. In fact, we've amended her name from Toffee to Scoffee. She likes to lie about in front of the fire and look gorgeous.

Pop on the other hand is the longer, leaner of the two - and definitely the one with the killer instincts. she's the one clawing the kitten toys to death - along with any cardboard boxes that might be lying around. Nothing beats hunting insects in Pop's world. She's incredibly fast.


They're still great mates - playing together and curling up together. I scooter with the children to school and the two kittens bound along after us - almost to halfway there before they spot something interesting in someone else's garden.  

Toffee & Pop
Still very cute friends
They're very close to my eldest daughter in particular (the younger ones might still be a bit too enthusiastic in their cuddles!) - and spend most nights curled up on her bed. However, like many young creatures, they don't sleep through the night and around 3 every morning we hear the pair of them scampering up and down the stairs chasing each other.

And then of course, there was our older lady cat - the one that 'would have trouble finding a home'. Well, turns out there was a reason Curious would have trouble finding a home. Curious is the grumpiest cat of all time. Well, maybe I do her a disservice - she's not so much grumpy as noisy.

She has decided she prefers to live outside and only comes in for food (about five times a day). I was concerned about this as the weather is getting very cold - but she's got herself a spot under the house and when it absolutely bucketed down the other day, she came in for supper completely dry. And the fact is she doesn't want to stay inside. As soon as she's eaten she's at the door yowling and hissing (SO loud) to be let out. I figure she's having a better life than she would have done otherwise - limitless food and warmth and company should she want it (though she doesn't).

Cat dynamics are interesting. The kittens know Curious is boss - she eats first, they keep their distance. But she tolerates them - she might hiss but she doesn't lash out. There are a couple of cats on one side of us (Frankie and Tapioca) - and while Frankie might slither in to steal some food now and then, for the most part they stay away. 

The nemesis next door.
But there is one real threat - and that's Ruby from next door. Before we got the three, Ruby believed our property was a natural extension of hers. Our back lawn was her domain. Ruby is a beautiful big black cat. Ruby is a hunter. Ruby is proud.

So is Curious.

Yes, as you can imagine, there are fireworks going off round here! Often I see them squaring off. Just yesterday Curious was in the driveway blocking the (cat-sized) hole in the fence, yowling and hissing and crouched into full on predator mode. I peeked nearer and saw Ruby sitting there on her side - mirroring the malevolence, protecting her boundary. They yowled at each other for ages. I've seen them do a lot more than yowl too -  and had to break it up with a lot of shouting and arm waving. It ended with one of them rolling off the roof of the neighbour's house which gave me a heart attack. But its true that cats always land on their feet! And I think mostly their clashes are more about show and noise than real bruises and bites.

I confess I enjoy watching those two powerful cats and I'm looking forward to seeing how our other two develop. They're such magnificent creatures!

Curious, the Furious Queen
The one and only. 

Jun 21, 2012

Winner of Annie West's Giveaway

Hi everyone, and thank you for the lovely chat about travelling with animals!

The winner of my giveaway - a signed copy of UNDONE BY HIS TOUCH, my current US release, is Rita Jo Reitz. Congratulations, Rita! If you send me a message at annie(at)annie-west(dot)com I'll package up the book and send it to you.

Happy reading everyone,

Jun 20, 2012

Travelling with Animals

Okay, some might say that travelling with certain friends or family members is like travelling with animals! Not that I would of course. Mine are very civilised.

As you can see by these of photos, my post was inspired by someone I saw recently. Before you wonder, no, I wasn't driving the car at the time. I was a front seat passenger and for a change I had my camera with me just at the right time! Isn't this pooch cute?

It got me thinking about how we don't like to leave our furred family members behind. I've seen middle-aged men cycling down suburban streets while their dog runs alongside, probably keeping the pace slow so their 'master' can keep up. I've seen tiny, tiny dogs in the baskets of push bikes. I've seen a teenager hoon along the bike path not far from us, standing on a skateboard while pulled along by his cattle dog.

Admittedly I've only seen a dog in a handbag on a film, but I have seen a small canine head poking out of a backpack.

I've met people out walking in Europe, with their ferret draped around their shoulders, taking the air together. Also in Europe, I recall walking into cosy German pubs on cold days to find half the space under the table taken up by a snoozing dog.

I can't recall seeing anyone travel with a cat, except to the vet, but I'm sure it happens.

How about you? How do you cope with leaving your furred family members or don't you? Have you had adventures travelling with them? What's the strangest way you've seen a pet travel? Maybe you have an interesting animal travel experience to share. Or if you've never travelled with an animal, maybe you've encountered an interesting one on a trip.

Because it's a miserable winter's day here as I write I've decided it's time to spread some cheer. I'll give a signed copy of UNDONE BY HIS TOUCH, my current release, to someone who leaves a comment. I'll post the winner's name here before the next post goes up so do look out for that announcement.

Jun 19, 2012

Winner of Louisa's giveaway!

Thanks so much for your input. I am happy to announce that the winner of my hero contest is definitely Jake Gyllenhaal! I'm so looking forward to writing my next story....

And the winner of my book, Waking Up With His Runaway Bride is......

Clare Scott!

Clare, email me at louisageorgeauthor (at) gmail (dot) com with your address and I'll get the book in the post to you!

Jun 18, 2012

Holding Out for a Hero

Reading: New York’s Finest Rebel by Trish Wylie

Watching: Rasta Thomas’s Rock The Ballet

Listening to: On a Day Like This, by Elbow

Holding Out for a Hero
by Louisa George

Having just about typed The End on book four, I’m kind of sad to say goodbye to my hero, the gorgeous Zac Price. With his cheeky banter, devastatingly good looks and painful past he stole my heart for 50,000 words. But now I’m anxiously searching for my next fantasy guy. (Yeah, I’m fickle like that. Love ‘em, leave ‘em. Ya know the score… Okay, I’ve been married nearly 20 years…I can dream).

Emma Stone
I like to do a rough collage before I start writing any words. I want to be able to ‘see’ the hero and heroine so I can mull over their preferences, backstory etc, form an impression in my head of what they like, what they want, what they dream about.  The good news is I’ve already chosen my heroine (Emma Stone- beautiful, goofy, klutz). 

 But I need a hero, stat.

Usually at this stage in the process (yes, I like to think there is a process and not just idle perving) I google rugby players and models, actors, princes, most eligible bachelors. 

Sonny Bill
I’d managed to whittle it down to two:

1. Sonny Bill Williams –gorgeous and homegrown, all round sporting hero. But possibly a little too obvious. Beautiful bone structure.  And those guns....

Jake Gyllenhaal
2. Jake Gyllenhaal- my ultimate total absolute heart-throb. Something about those eyes…and that mouth…and, *swoon*

I was quite happy trying to pick between this short list of two- or perhaps create a hybrid of Sonny’s hair, Jake’s eyes….

But then a few nights ago I went to see Rock the Ballet- bad ballet boys with attitude!

Check out the video of their dancing!

OMG. Seriously strong, agile men with great style and rhythm, funny, engaging and knock-your-socks-off sex appeal. I also learnt that muscular toned backs certainly rock my boat. (If you ever get the chance to see them, do so! Just happens they're performing in Sydney this week! The dancing is amazing and the music features tracks from Michael Jackson, U2, Prince, Black Eyed Peas, Queen.)

My definite two suddenly became three, four, five. Ballet dancers have never been on my hero radar before, but these guys ticked a lot of my boxes! After much humming and ahhhing I decided on a third possible hero contender.

3. Rasta Thomas (Principal dancer and founder of Rock the Ballet - the guy in the middle!) 

It took a while, but I like to take my job very seriously. I’m dedicated to the cause. Research is very important.

But now, I have a classic Monday morning dilemma. 

Who do I choose as my next hero? 

Sonny Bill? Jake? Or Rasta? 

I need your votes, please! 

And just how far would you go in the name of research? I have a copy of Waking Up With His Runaway Bride to give to one commenter!

Jun 17, 2012

SundaySmooch with Rachael Johns . . . .

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a smooch from Jilted by Rachael Johns, but first ...

the winner of last week's Sunday Smooch, Waking Up in the Wrong Bed is Marybelle! Marybelle please email natalie(at)natalie-anderson(dot)com so she can get the book in the post to you.

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from Jilted by Rachael Johns ...

She left him at the altar, but her heart was always his...
After more than ten years away, Australian soap star Ellie Hughes returns to the small country town of Hope Junction, determined to remain anonymous while caring for her injured godmother, Matilda.

But word spreads fast in the tight-knit community. It isn’t long before the people of Hope’s are gossiping about the real reason for Ellie’s visit and why she broke the heart of golden boy Flynn Quartermaine all those years ago.

Soon Ellie and Flynn are thrown back together again, forced to deal with the unresolved emotions between them. For Ellie is not the only one with secrets. Flynn has his own demons to battle, and Matilda is hiding something from her much-loved goddaughter.

When all is uncovered, can the ill-fated lovers overcome the wounds of their past? Or is Flynn destined to be jilted again?

[Set up - Flynn is comforting Ellie after a traumatic event – they have become friends again ten years after she left him at the alter, but neither are expecting it to develop into more.]

           As far as she knew, Flynn wasn’t even aware of the effect of his actions. He was just being Flynn. Kind-hearted, always-there-for-a-friend-in-a-crisis Flynn. He said she wasn’t a fool but he was wrong. She’d let herself be taken from him by one cowardly decision. And that made her the most foolish person she knew.

She looked up and twisted her head so she was gazing into his sea-green eyes. He looked back as if he too were lost in serious contemplation. Without thinking, she raised her hand and palmed the stubble on his jaw. Rough as sandpaper, she could run her fingers over his face all day and never tire of it.

‘You’re beautiful, Flynn Quartermaine.’

‘Don’t, Ellie,’ his voice warned, but it wasn’t irritation she saw in his eyes. A muscle twitched in his throat; she had muscles twitching all over her body.

‘But it’s true.’ Boldly, she crept her fingers up his face and into his mussed-up hair. A moan escaped her lips. He echoed it, his eyes closing and his head rolling back against the couch. She took the opportunity, moving quickly to straddle him. He opened his eyes and before he had the chance to voice any opposition, she pressed her lips against his. And kissed him.

Hard. Deep. Aggressively. Gently. Imaginatively. She couldn’t stop, couldn’t make up her mind. His lips were divine, too fabulous.

But the best damn thing was that he kissed her back. Wholeheartedly. Roughly. Lovingly. As their tongues entwined, his fingers slipped through her hair, drawing her closer to him. Deepening their kiss even more.

Once upon a time they’d been able to make out like this for hours, but right now she wanted more. Emotionally exhausted, physically wrung out, mentally drained, she wanted something that would help her forget all else. If there really were such a thing as right and wrong, then being with Flynn would definitely be categorised as the latter, but losing Mat had given her a different perspective. Life could be short. If she lost hers tomorrow, she didn’t want it to be with any regrets.

Her cheeks flushed, her body sweltered. She broke her connection with Flynn just long enough to peel her sweater over her head. The expression on his face gave her all the encouragement she needed.

She climbed off him, stood up and smiled, offering her hand. For a brief moment, he hesitated. Staring at her hand but not making a move with his. He hauled in a breath, running his fingers through his already tousled hair before placing them in her palm.

          Her heart lifted. She grasped his hand and pulled him towards the bedroom where she’d lost her virginity. To him. He stopped at the door and glanced around. She hadn’t changed anything since she’d returned, so it still looked much the same as when she’d left, ten years ago – aside from the wedding dress, of course.

To be in the draw to win a signed copy of Jilted (For Australian residents only) which is released in June -
Do you like the reunion trope in romance? If so, what’s the best reunion story you’ve read lately?

Come back next Sunday, when the winner of today's giveaway will be announced -- and a smooch from Alliance Forged by Kylie Griffin will be posted!

Jun 15, 2012

Sue MacKay smiles her way around Asia

Reading: Shelter by Harlen Coben
Listening to: My DB sort through two weeks mail: mutter, mutter
Watching: the sun finally break through and expel the chill.

Two days ago my DB and I returned from a fabulous two week excursion to Singapore, Malacca, Kuala Lumpur and Phuket where we had a great time enjoying the sights and sounds that are uniquely Asia.
Except in Singapore English was definitely not widely spoken but that didn't stop us getting around and finding the places we wanted to visit. A smile always went a long way to breaking barriers between us and the locals. I've smiled in Malaysian, Thai, Indian, Chinese, Arabian, and many other languages these past two weeks, and very rarely didn't receive one back.
In Malaysia there seemed to be more mums and dads and their young children than I've seen anywhere else. I mightn't have been able to talk to them but smiling at their children as they  hid behind their mother's skirt and stared at the funny lady with red and gold hair won me a smile back every time.

Whenever we were lost - quite often as we like to explore - we always managed to find someone to point us in the right direcvtion wven with the language difficulties. We travelled from Singapore to Malacca and on to KL on the local bus. At Malacca the ticket sales lady got it a bit wrong because of our lack of Malaysian but with patience and smiles we were soon on the right bus with homemade cookies in our pack from the relieved and smiling woman. The photo on the left is looking down on Malacca.
I did lots of people watching at themarkets, airports, from our deck in phuket. All good stuff for my stories. I loved the markets, especially the night ones.
The temperatures ranged from hight twenties to mid thirties, so arriving back in NZ and winter has been a shock but at least I have the memories and those smiles to keep me warm.

How do you cope in situations where it is hard to make people undertand you?

Jun 13, 2012

Sweet Nothings

by Michelle Douglas

Sweet Poison: Why Sugar Makes Us Fat

This is the name of a book I’ve been reading by David Gillespie. I’m not usually drawn to these kinds of books. I think they can send out the wrong messages to people, especially women. Our value is not defined by our weight. However, weight (of the excess kind) has been on my mind lately.

I’m now in my forties and I’ve definitely found that my metabolism has slowed these past couple of years. Last month I attended a wedding. When I pulled on my lovely black dress pants I discovered they were too tight. Oh, I could’ve gotten away with it, but they were far from flattering. Vanity is not generally my besetting sin (please don’t ask me about sloth and gluttony), but even I have to draw the line somewhere. I went out and bought a new pair of pants. And while I love clothes shopping, I don’t when it’s because I’ve outgrown clothes that I love.

Obesity has been a big problem on the maternal side of my family. When my great grandmother (a wonderful wonderful woman) died, she was so large it took four grown men to lift her out of her bed. Her daughter, my great aunt, cannot walk any great distance due to her excess weight. She needs two knee reconstructions but surgeons refuse to operate on her because of her weight. My mother is five foot nothing and has tiny legs, but a very round apple shaped middle. She has type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

I’m not obese, but during my lifetime I have fluctuated from a size 10 to a size 14 and back again. I’m roughly a size 12 at the moment. Problem is, over the last couple of years my weight has been steadily increasing.

Denial also runs in my family :-) so I’m refusing to bury my head in the sand about this issue. I do not want to develop my mother and aunt’s health issues.

Maybe that’s why Sweet Poison captured my attention (though I fear it may have more to do with the fact that the front cover bears a picture of a doughnut—my favourite food in the universe). I read it with a very healthy dose of scepticism, but…

So much of what Mr Gillespie said made sense, and he backs his claims up with research from reputable sources. His primary message is that our bodies have not evolved to process large amounts of fructose. Fructose is a sugar. Table sugar—sucrose—is half fructose and half glucose. Our bodies are designed to deal with glucose and lactose (the sugar naturally occurring in milk), but not fructose. Fructose is not detected by the appetite-control centre of our brain either, which means it’s very easy to overeat foods containing fructose. If that news isn’t bad enough, fructose is converted into fatty acids and released into our bloodstream. There is a lot of growing evidence that diets high in fructose are responsible for cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, and other metabolic diseases that have been previously blamed on diets high in fat.

So, for the next two months I’m going to conduct an experiment and, to the best of my ability, give up fructose (this actually means not exceeding more than 10 grams of sugar per meal). This doesn’t mean giving up fruit or suddenly eating a diet high in fat. If Gillespie had promoted either of those things I’d have run for the hills (actually, I don’t like running so it’d be more of a lazy amble, but I’m sure you get my drift).

I do think women can obsess too much about their weight and I think rigid diets do more harm than good. What I want to achieve with my experiment is to promote good health in myself and, hopefully, avoid some of the health issues that plague other women in my family. I’m not going to deny myself the occasional treat if I’m craving one. It just won’t be a sugary treat. It might be some lovely Camembert instead. Also I am going to have a piece of birthday cake in July to celebrate my DH’s birthday. Will be interesting to see what a sugar hit will do to me after having abstained so long. :-)

In August I’ll report back and tell you how I’ve fared—if I’ve lost weight, if I feel healthier and more energetic…or if there is no discernible difference.

But I’d love to know if any of you have ever made a “healthy” change to your lifestyle, and what the outcome was. Or maybe you have a tip or two you could share about how I can avoid sugar for two whole months? Come on folks, I need all the support I can get. :-)

Michelle's latest release, The Man Who Saw Her Beauty, is currently available in Australia and New Zealand

Jun 10, 2012

Why I Write Category Romance

I love reading stories about how people came to be writers. Some have dreamt about it from when they were very small, others came to it through a love of books when they were older. I came to write category romance for a whole lot of reasons, but I’ve stayed with it for a reason I could never have imagined in the beginning.

I read my first category romance as a new mum. They weren't too long - I could finish one and still remember the beginning by the time I got to the end, despite being interrupted a zillion times. They had a happily ever after - so lovely to think about in the middle of an all-nighter with tiny babies. And they focused on adult things like relationships and conversations, not baby vom and nappy rash.

I used to think about those reasons a lot during my first writing attempts. Now I think about Di.

Di is the mother of my very first boyfriend. He had jet black hair hair and big blue eyes, and he wrote, “Love, Mark” in my birthday card when I was 13. I can still remember the thrill of opening that envelope and keeping it carefully stowed in my “treasures” for years. I lost touch with Mark after leaving school, but later learned that at twenty-six he’d had a catastrophic accident and was left a quadriplegic with a severe brain injury.

A few years after I’d begun writing, I met Mark and his mum again. Mark couldn’t speak, but Di was adamant that he remembered me - she said she could see the twinkle in his eye. I happened to tell Di I was hoping to one day be a published romance author and her reaction blew me away. 
For years, Di told me, category romances had been her lifeline. Through the agonizing initial days and nights waiting for Mark to wake, and then the endless anguish as the extent of his injuries became known, the promise of love, hope, and a happily ever after kept her going. She'd carry those books with her to physio appointments, insurance meetings and therapy sessions, and she'd dip in and out when she could. For Di, the achievement of finishing another category, losing herself in a story, was a small but significant one.

Sadly, Mark died last year. When I visited Di at home shortly after, I could still see the space the hospital bed had taken up, the hooks in the ceiling that had held hoists and monitors. But around the walls were Di’s category romances  - hundreds and hundreds of books, their slim spines speaking of tycoons and babies, doctors and daring. The authors of those books, Di says, are like old friends, women she can count on to  transport her from the ups and downs of everyday life and give her hope when she needs it.  

I hope I can bring half the amount of joy to my readers as all those women before me have done for Di.

~I'd love to know how you came to read category romance and what it is that keeps you coming back for more~

Sunday Smooch: Waking up in the Wrong Bed - by Natalie Anderson

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

But before we get to this week's kiss, the winner of last week's Sunday Smooch Giveaway is -- Raelene Hall!

Congratulations, Raelene! Can you please contact Leah at leah(at)leah-ashton (dot) com and she'll send you a copy of SECRETS AND SPEED DATING.

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from WAKING UP IN THE WRONG BED by Natalie Anderson...

Waking up with Mr. Wrong - quite literally!

When film location scout Ellie Summers sneaks into a colleague's hotel room with seduction in mind, she'd thrilled by her own daring!

But the smug morning after glow morphs into red-faced mortification when she wakes in the arms of a total stranger! Ruben Theroux might be fine with the situation but a flustered Ellie most definitely is not.

Ellie's only defence against this very attractive guy is to insist they're friends only - strictly no benefits! But Ruben isn't a successful businessman for nothing - they'l be good together, and he's happy to play dirty to get what he wants...

[Ellie Summers has just made a *massive* mistake. Huge. So big even she can't believe it. And oh boy has  she been backpedalling her way out of there. Trouble is, the guy she might have accidentally jumped thinks the whole thing is a lark--and he wants to play some more. Ellie is far too mortified for that... except the guy? He's just that bit too gorgeous!!! And despite everything that's happened between them already, they've yet to actually kiss...]

She paused by her open driver door and met the look in his delicious eyes. “Right now I don’t have any regrets. I stay and I might get them. I don’t want to have any.”
       “What about what I want? What about my regrets?”
       “I can only apologise. Again.”
       He walked closer, taking hold of the door. “Never feel you have to apologise to me. Never ever.”
       Unable to answer that, she got in the car. She’d not been honest about her lack of regrets. She regretted nothing of what had happened, but for what else could have happened had they been different people with desires that converged.
       He closed the door for her but remained right by the car, expectantly. She hit the button to wind the window all the way down. He bent and leaned in so his face was right near hers.
       “You don’t get away that easy,” he murmured, sliding his hand to her jaw.
       She couldn’t accelerate away or she’d take his arm – and head – with her. But there was no mistaking his intention.
       The smile said it all and those gorgeously curved lips arrowed in on hers. The touch was firm – but not totally dominant as she’d expected. No, he held back for all of a second or two. But then his hand cupped her head, angling her slightly better to meet his as his lips plundered hers. And in another instant she plundered right back – seeking more of that strong touch, that deliciousness – the full impact of his utter masculinity. The shivers skittered down her spine, the knots coiled tighter and tighter in her belly already. His tongue swept – playful, insistent, driving. How could so much could be said with a kiss?
       She had no idea why she was gripping the steering wheel so tightly, or why she had her foot pushed so hard on the brake. The car engine wasn’t even running. But she just knew she was in danger.
       He stepped back. Her gaze was glued to him – to the fit, taut body and the smile that held as much rue as it did tease now. His big eyes burned right through hers.
       “My regret...” he nodded slowly. “...was not kissing you. Of course now I regret not kissing you sooner.”
       Breathless, she put her hand on his wrist, seeking one last touch of skin. “Thank you for being so nice to me.”
       His gaze narrowed. “I’m not as nice as all that Ellie.” His voice dropped so she leaned forward in her seat, nearer to hear him. “You need to know something about me.”
       She waited, lungs not breathing, heart not beating.
       “I’m man enough to take no for an answer,” he said. “But I’m also man enough to fight for what I want.”
       Eyes not blinking, she had to ask. “What do you want?”
       “You again. Every way. Any way.”
            He broke the drilling intensity with one of those shattering smiles that gave him such an unfair advantage. “So if you want to go, you’d better go now.”


Natalie's latest Harlequin book, WAKING UP IN THE WRONG BED is released in Australia and New Zealand in July and in the US in August - but you can get your hands on a copy sooner than that!

To be in the draw to win a signed copy of WAKING UP IN THE WRONG BED, tell us if you've ever made a big mistake identity-wise - called someone by the wrong name in a deadly important situation? Emailed the wrong thing to the wrong person? Or do you never make such mistakes? Just comment below to be in to win :)

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