Nov 29, 2013

Favourite Books of 2013

So I've been thinking back over the books I've read this year and which are my favourites. And I thought I'd make a list - partly to share the joy and partly to get recommendations in the comments for my 2014 reading. 

I'm going to start with the single title books, and look at my favourite category reads in another post. The books below weren't neccesarily published in 2013, I just got around to reading them this year.

So, in no particular order, here are my top 5 favourite books I read in 2013:

Captive of Sin, by Anna Campbell
Can you say intensity? This book gripped me from the start and didn't let me go. Gideon is a fabulous hero who had me sighing. 

Arabella, by Georgette Heyer
I'm slowly making my way through all of Heyer's Regencies, and this is definitely one of my favourites so far. Arabella was a fun heroine to be with, and Mr Beaumaris was so adorable in his journey to becoming a hero.

Emma, by Jane Austen
This one is a bit of a cheat, because I've read it before, many, many times. But this year I watched the mini-series staring Romola Garai and Johnny Lee Miller, then read the book again with those faces in mind. It's the most enjoyment I've had reading Emma since before 1996 when the two movies came out and the faces in my head changed from the ones I'd created.

Demonosity, by Amanda Ashby
This YA was so much fun and so beautifully layered with emotion that I wanted to read it again as soon as I'd finished.

Dream Lake, by Lisa Kleypas
I read this on the recommendation of MJ Scott, and I loved it. Great heroine, an emotionally damaged hero, a sick grandmother and a ghost, all set on an island in Washington State. What's not to love? 

So, what about you? What were your favourite single title reads of 2013? I'm looking for suggestions for my Christmas wishlist. :)

Nov 27, 2013

When life imitates art...

Last month my first self-published novel hit the shelves: Dance With Me. The story was partly inspired by a trip I did a couple of years ago, travelling through Mexico and down into Guatemala. I took that trip because I had a business trip to San Francisco, and I figured why not take the opportunity to travel somewhere new and exciting whilst I was over on that side of the world?

The trip around Mexico and Guatemala was one of those "no frills, get to know the locals, stay in villages and backpackers, eat at the local markets" kind of tours. (I took a tour because I was travelling alone and figured it was safest, especially considering both countries can be kind of dangerous for tourists.) I talked about it last month on LoveCats, particularly some of the interesting food options I enjoyed! Generally speaking I prefer a more five-star style of travel, so while I enjoyed the experience I can't say I wasn't pleased when it was time to move on.

My next stop was the amazing city of San Francisco. (Also a location in Dance With Me!) I'd been there once before, when I was much younger, on a business trip with my mum. It was instant love-at-first-sight between me and the city and I couldn't wait to get back to it.

The universe decided to grant my wish, and for the next few years I had business reasons to go to San Francisco at least once a year. I got to know it pretty well -- its hilly streets, hidden bars, and friendly people. A friend and I even did the famous Pacific Coast Highway drive from Los Angeles to San Fran -- in a convertible, of course!

In Dance With Me, Polly ends up finding herself a with a new life, and all kinds of new opportunities in San Francisco by the end of the book. And, in a very strange twist, I'm about to do the same.

In January I'm moving to live in San Francisco. I've taken up a new day job, and I'm excited about it and about the chance for me to experience new places, people and adventures -- that will all no doubt end up being book fodder one of these days!

It does feel a little weird to have written Dance With Me and Polly's journey and then to be walking in very similar footsteps. Maybe I need to write a story about a girl who encounters a genie who grants unending wishes (and is super-dooper handsome to boot!). Can we see if that one might come to life too?

There are a few more details about my move over on my blog. But in the meantime I'm going to stay in touch with all you Lovecatters and if/when you read my next book and discover it's set in San Francisco, you'll be able to go, "A-ha! I know why that is!"

Nov 25, 2013

The Age of....Sagitarius.

Doesn't have quite the same ring as Aquarius, does it?

It's my birthday soon which makes me a Sagittarius. Actually I'm on the "cusp" whatever the hell that means because you see, I'm just going to put this out there from the start - I think astrology is a bunch of hocus pocus.

There, I said it :-)

Does that stop me reading my stars whenever I'm in possession of some woman's magazine? Nope.
Does it stop me from consulting my handy-dandy astrology book when I'm creating a new character? Nope. Does that mean I think that people who do believe in it are crazy? Nope.

It's just not something that has any real focus in my life.

I'll give you a classic example. When my son was three somebody asked me what his star sign was - I looked at them blankly because honestly, it had NEVER occurred to me to look it up. So anyway, after she'd picked herself up off the ground, she asked me his birth date and told me he was a Libran and I learned something new that day. When my daughter came along I made sure I knew her star sign right from the get-go because I wanted to be informed should anyone ask me that question again. They haven't.

So, what about you guys out there. Are you believers or sceptics like me? Are you the kind of person who can see astrological traits in people (I believe scepticism is a Sag trait...) or are you utterly oblivious?  What star sign are you and do you believe that the traits attached with that sign are actually *you*? Ever placed a bet on a horse or done something else slightly left of center because the stars told you to do it? :-)

Oh and I thought you might enjoy a bit of 70's psychedelia. 

Nov 22, 2013

I'm dreaming of a …hot christmas

I'm just starting to realize that we're getting close to Christmas and I've got nothing organized, no presents, no cards, no ideas- stupid, I know- it's not as if they change the date every year! I do have 365 days to prepare. But having emigrated from the cold northern hemisphere 11 years ago I still can't compute the weather getting hotter with the big man's arrival with presents! So the festive season always seems to creep up on me and I'm always woefully unprepared... I never really know what I'm supposed to be cooking for dinner on the special day- I want to maintain some tradition for my kids- so I often find myself all hot and bothered cooking turkey and the full-on trimmings in a steamy kitchen while the family sun themselves, relax and swim in the pool.

I should, however, be really into the Christmas spirit, given that I'm currently writing a Christmas book, hopefully due for publication next December. This one's set in London. So here I am sitting in my very hot and sweltering office trying to conjure up scenes of snow and frost and cold. It's a bit of a mind leap. I have to keep watching videos of Bridget Jones (which I tried to embed here, but for some reason couldn't, if anyone knows how- please help!) you know that scene- the last kiss in the snow…. *sigh*… so that I can get into the right headspace. But, hey any excuse to watch Colin Firth and I'm first in the queue.

I'm trying to decide which I prefer, the Christmas of the frozen north with enforced staying in, lots of cold and wrapping up warm. Or the new Christmas I'm getting used to - hot and sunny.

What is your idea of a perfect Christmas?
Any suggestions about what I should cook on the big day?
(I don't have a book out this December, so thought I'd share my last year's cover…)

Nov 20, 2013

Headless Chickens need not apply

Yes, I know, weird title to my post but today the last thing I need is another headless chicken. I'm quite enough at this point in time.

Despite my best laid plans, all is running amok in my household which leaves me, today, with much to do and little time to do it in. I blame myself. It all started two days ago when I failed to back up the changes I'd made to a file, although, in my defence I am all but certain I saved the file with that day's date at the time. According to my computer and every file recovery system known to man, I didn't. And, I also didn't do my usual routine of double emailing the file to myself to two separate addresses and backing up to Dropbox. Which meant that yesterday, which was to be a preparation day for today, was spent in much futile searching and time wasting exercises trying to (a) find the file, then (b) replicate the changes and improvements I'd made to said file. Blah.

Why is today important? Well, it's my eldest daughter's birthday and we're hosting the family at our house tonight to celebrate with her. Normally that's no pressure, no stress and much fun, but this year the stress levels are running higher than usual. I'm working on a book (well, I'm always doing that,) Mr Fix-It is on an intensive training course and studying all the hours he's at home when he's not sleeping, Little Miss Fashion has her end of year show this coming Saturday (graduates next week, four years come to an end, just like that!) and has to make her final presentation to her lecturers, together with her leather bound contextual portfolio and a power point, today, and The Drill Sergeant (whose birthday it is) is working and her partner is away this week for work (totally unavoidable.) So, as you can see, the day's all a muddle.

I'm sure it will come together as soon as I find a suitable gluten free carrot cake recipe, tidy the house, make the garlic cheese ball and do all those other things you need to do to get a house ready for a family gathering (blasted Little Black Cat continues to moult all over the light coloured carpet!) All of which is why this blog is a little late going up today.

Still, it's here now and I'm holding on to this as an omen that today will go smoothly and tonight will be memorable for all the right reasons! Wish me luck!

Oh, and here's the gorgeousness that is my wonderful US cover for my upcoming December release, THE HIGH PRICE OF SECRETS. You can preorder it now! And, in Aus/NZ I'm paired with Janice Maynard (fabulous author!) and, while the cover isn't as hot it's still incredibly lovely in time for Christmas! Oh heavens, Christmas!? I feel more amok coming on.

Nov 18, 2013

My Top 12 Romantic Comedies

Today we have a guest in at the LoveCats: Claire Baxter. Claire writes gorgeous romances with a good dollop of humour, so she's here talking about her love of romantic comedies. Welcome, Claire!

I love romantic comedies – both books and movies. However, when I’m asked which movies I would recommend, my mind often goes completely blank and so I decided to make a list of my favorite romantic comedies. How does it compare with yours?

 12. The African Queen
Straight-laced missionary Rose Sayer (Katherine Hepburn) persuades crass riverboat captain Charlie Allnut (Humphrey Bogart) to use his boat to attack an enemy warship.


11. Notting Hill
A world-famous American actress (Julia Roberts) and an adorable, British independent bookstore owner (Hugh Grant) with a group of quirky friends. 


10. Serendipity
A couple (John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale) reunite years after the night they first met, fell in love, and separated, convinced that one day they'd end up together.


9. Four Weddings and a Funeral
A bumbling Englishman (Hugh Grant) repeatedly runs into the love of his life (Angie MacDowell) at—you guessed it—four weddings and a funeral. 


8. While You Were Sleeping
Ticket collecting romantic (Sandra Bullock) pretends to be engaged to an unconscious man but can't fool his brother (Bill Pullman).


7. One Fine day
Melanie Parker (Michelle Pfeiffer), an architect and mother of Sammy, and Jack Taylor (George Clooney), a newspaper columnist and father of Maggie.


6. The Proposal
A pushy boss (Sandra Bullock) forces her assistant (Ryan Reynolds) to marry her in order to keep her Visa status in the U.S. and avoid deportation to Canada.


5. My Big Fat Greek Wedding
A young Greek woman (Nia Vardalos) falls in love with a non-Greek (Michael Constantine) and struggles to get her family to accept him while she comes to terms with her.


4. Love Actually
Follows the lives of eight very different couples in dealing with their love lives in various loosely interrelated tales all set during a frantic month before Christmas in London.

3. Bridget Jones’s DiaryBridget Jones (Renée Zellweger) is the British singleton who falls for Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant) and eventually, Mark Darcy (Colin Firth). 

2. Lars and the Real Girl
Socially-inept Lars (Ryan Gosling) dates a life-size sex doll, and the entire town goes to great lengths to accept her. His relationship with ‘Bianca’ allows him to talk to co-worker Margo (Kelli Garner).


1. Amélie
A quirky waitress (Audrey Tatou) sends her secret crush (Matthieu Kassovitz) photos and riddles masking her identity in order to make their first encounter the most romantic moment of her life.

Nearly made it:
The following movies could easily have been in my Top 12, but they were just edged out by those above.

When Harry Met Sally
Harry (Billy Crystal) and Sally (Meg Ryan) have known each other for years, and are very good friends, but they fear sex would ruin the friendship.

Return to Me
A man (David Duchovny) who falls in love with the woman (Minnie Driver) who received his wife's heart must decide which woman it is who holds his heart.

Must Love Dogs
Sarah Nolan (Diane Lane), a forty-something preschool teacher, looks to the personals for a relationship where she meets Jake Anderson (John Cusack) who makes handcrafted boats.

About a Boy
Cynical, immature Will Lightman (Hugh Grant) is taught how to act like a grown-up by a little boy, the son of a depressed single mother (Toni Collette).

Now, these four romantic comedies below have been recommended to me, but I haven’t seen them yet.

(500) days of summer
Silver Linings Playbook
Truly Madly Deeply
Roman Holiday

Will any of them bump off one of my Top 12, do you think? And are there any others that would make your Top 12?

Nov 17, 2013

Sunday Smooch with Hayson Manning

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have an excerpt  from Entangled Indulgence author  Hayson Manning, but first ...
the winner of last week's Sunday Smooch Giveaway is - - Marcy Shuler

Can you please contact amy (at) amyandrews (dot) com (dot) au  to receive your copy of Holding Out for a Hero

And now for today's excerpt from "Winning the Boss's Heart", by Hayson Manning.


Mason Christian has twelve weeks to flip something old into something new, and then he's getting the hell out of Footsteps Bay - a tiny New Zealand coastal town. Not even his temporary secretary and personal assistant--the feisty, luscious Billie McLeod--will deter him, but there's no denying she makes him feel alive. More alive than he's felt in three years...
Billie has one dream: save enough money to finish her degree. That's why she's agreed to work for hard ass, all-business-no-pleasure Mason Christian--a man who has every intention of destroying through modernization the town's most cherished historical home. Before she can say 'see ya' she's signed on the dotted line and is contractually bound to be Mason's forty-second assistant. But working with male perfection every day is awesome with a capital A--as long as they can stick to a hands-off policy that gets harder every day...

Excerpt from Winning the Boss’s Heart

Billie took another bite of the creamy frittata and mentally apologized to her hips. “I could live in this house, though, with my man. It’s close enough to town for you not to have to take a packed lunch for the journey and just far enough  that we could play naked Twister whenever we wanted and not worry about prying eyes.” She blinked repeatedly. Oh, God did I just say that

The vibe in the room shifted. She looked down into her lap, her face flaming. Anywhere but at her boss. She could feel the burn of his stare.

“Right,” she whispered. “Sorry, brain and mouth weren’t communicating. Again.”  Her gaze came to rest on his, and she stilled at the hungry look he was not aiming at his food. His eyes dropped to her chest. Breath barely made it to her lungs. She refused to check whether if her clothes had disintegrated under his high-beam stare. It was as if she were sitting here in nothing more than her nail polish. Those weird shivers and tingles pulsed deep in her belly.

“What were you thinking just now?” His voice was dark and gravelly, leaving her sticky where she shouldn’t be.

She shoved back in her chair, clearing her mind of the image of her and her boss naked with both hands going for the same green circle on the Twister mat, but couldn’t stop her body doing a full flush. Shit. Had he noticed? Because he could never know. Would never  know. She would bank this bit of man magic to use at a later date, along with the drawer full of girl appliances that so far hadn’t cracked the code.


At the use of her nickname, she arrived back in the room with a thud. His eyebrows were raised. “What’s on your mind?”

She dabbed her mouth with her napkin to cover her lapse. “Well, Septimus, I was thinking about the periodic table and its positive benefits on mankind.”

For some reason he looked pissed off. Totally pissed off. “Funny, I didn’t take you to be the lying kind.” His eyes narrowed, and she had the distinct impression he’d just dismissed her.


Her spine straightened and her hands rested on the table. “You think I’m going to tell you everything that’s going on in my head at a given time?” She paused. “Actually, back that up. You think any woman is going to tell you what is going on in her mind whenever you please? There will be times she doesn’t want you to know what she’s thinking. Maybe she’d be thinking, ‘That guy standing over there, is one juicy specimen, and I’m mighty thirsty right now.’ There’s no way on this earth she’s ever going to tell Mr. Juicy she’s thirsty. She’d rather catch bubonic plague.”

His forkful of frittata halted halfway to his mouth. He put down the fork, sat back in his chair and regarded her.

She balled the napkin and placed it carefully on her plate “I thought you had a handle on women. You’ve probably dated a million of them.”

Peeved morphed into totally pissed off. His blue eyes turned stormier than a Pacific cyclone. “I do have a handle on women. I like to think I know women quite well. I’ve dated enough to write a manual with a glossary of terms and a table of contents.”

She returned his glare. “A glossary and a table of contents? Seriously, women actually date you?”
“I don’t date them, per se. I set out the terms at the beginning. No ties. It’s a mutually acceptable agreement. So yes, glossary.”

“Oh, so they’re takeaways? To be eaten later that night, but not memorable until you get the craving again.”

He scratched his head, a smile teasing his lips. “Interesting choice of words, but yes, pretty much. I’m their takeaway menu as well.” His gaze drilled holes through her. “How about you? Are you going to write a table of contents, there?”

The man should be used for interrogations. His stare was so intense she’d bet alien life-forms would give up the secrets to the universe.

She mashed her teeth against her bottom lip. She had to move this conversation to safer ground as there was no way she was going to admit to the one-line entry in her table of contents. Hell, it didn’t even classify as a table. More a footnote.  She straightened the knife and fork on her plate.

“I think that’s out of the boss-secretary range.” She went to stand.

“You didn’t answer the question?” The hard tone to his voice just plain annoyed her.

“Why are you pushing this?”

“I wanted to know what was going on in your head, and I thought you’d give me an honest answer, but...” A smile spread across his face. Slow to start, it curled his lips, continued upward and settled in his eyes. It was the first time she could remember him looking approachable, real, and open.

“What?” she asked, obviously missing his joke.

“You think I’m juicy?”

What! “No.” Hell no.

Her face flamed. If she put a piece of bread to her cheek right now she’d bet she could layer it with butter and preserves.

I have two e copies of "Winning the Boss's Heart".  To go in the draw I’d love to know if  you ever had an awkward moment with your boss?

Have you ever set the air-conditioning wrong so the meeting of the year turns into a tropical meltdown? Have you wiped a budget spreadsheet that your boss has been working on for a week and no you didn’t back it up? Ordered forty cartons of pink paper for the photocopier? I could go on and on…

Come back next Sunday, when the winner of today's giveaway will be announced -- and a smooch from "The Most Expensive Night of Her Life" by Amy Andrews will be posted!

Smooch Graphic by WebWeaver

Nov 15, 2013

Release Day.....The Cattleman's Proposal

Today is release day for the first book in my indie published The Men of Mulhany Crossing series.

The Cattleman's Proposal was a labour of love...because it's about cowboys and horses - two of my favourite things.

Here's the blurb -

Joley McBride had no interest in Nate Garrigan…even though he’d made it crystal clear that he wanted her. The rich and handsome rancher was the kind of man she'd sworn off years ago. But now, part of her beloved flying school was in his hands and Joley would do anything to get it back—including agree to his arrogant demand that she spend a month on his isolated cattle property. 

Still feeling the sting of a bitter divorce, Nate knew what he wanted—a wife, children and a life void of any romantic nonsense. And he wanted it with the spirited and beautiful Joley McBride. With the help of a little blackmail, he might just get it. Only, he hadn’t anticipated that Joley would challenge his logical approach to relationships and unexpectedly touch his toughened heart. 

The series revolves around four friends who've known one another since they were kids. Four very different men with different lives, but who have two things in common - their love for their small town and their enduring friendship.

The idea for the series started several years ago when I was discussing relationships with a friend of my husband. They've known one another for over thirty years and it interested me to see them together. They often don't see or speak to each other for a year or so, but when they do talk they have a quick catch up on the past and then get stuck straight into the now. In true male-friend style. There are no wasted words, no long winded explanations, no's a very in-the-moment friendship and it quickly got me thinking that I wanted to explore that theme in my books. And the Men of Mulhany Crossing were born. 

I think friendships end or endure because they are about choice. You know that old get to choose your friends not your family. Perhaps that's why when we find a friend who is a true kindred spirit we work hard to keep them. 

Do you have a friendship that has spanned years or decades? Or perhaps someone new? Someone who you met and just 'clicked' with straight away? 

I have an eCopy of The Cattleman's Proposal to give away to one commenter.


Nov 13, 2013

Three assumptions that make me grit my teeth...

A few weeks ago I was interviewed by a journalist and one of the questions she asked me was, “What cliché about romances would you most like to dispel? (or something to that effect. I’m paraphrasing here). I replied (and again I’m paraphrasing) that I thought clichés about romance novels were old-fashioned and out-dated and people had moved beyond them.

Did I say this because I believe it?

Hmm…not completely. I do think it holds true in some circles, but not all. It’s like ripples in a pond, though. Those circles are ever increasing and will eventually encompass all.

If the truth be told, I said it because my mind went blank. There’s a reason I’m a writer rather than a speaker. ;-) But it started me thinking about the clichéd assumptions surrounding romance novels that do get up my nose.

And these are my top three:

1. Romance novels are formulaic and, therefore, poorly written
2. Happy endings are unrealistic
3. All romance readers are bored housewives

1. Romances are formulaic and poorly written

Look no one is silly enough to say every romance novel ever written is a work of art. Just as they’re not silly enough to claim the same for every literary novel ever written. That’s just unrealistic. There’re a lot of novels in the world and they cover the entire spectrum from work of art through to drivel. So, yes, some romance novels are poorly written. Be assured, though, that some are works of art.

I’m now going to say something rather shocking. Romance novels are formulaic. What I want to know, however, is when did the word, and the idea of, formula get such a bad wrap? When did it become associated with all things evil and negative?

For heaven’s sake, all genre fiction is formulaic. There are some people who argue that literary fiction is formulaic too. Every piece of writing is formed by the conventions that surround it. Every piece of writing. Conventions = rules. Rules = formula.

Somewhere along the line formula came to imply that something was easy. Therefore, writing romance novels must be easy. And if something is easy—or perceived as easy—the assumption is it has little value. Easy? Ha! Shall I tell you what my formula consists of?
* My story must focus on the developing relationship between my hero and heroine.
* My story must end happily
* I write Sweet Romances for Mills & Boon so any love scenes must not be explicitly described.
* The story must be roughly 50,000 words long.
* My hero and heroine must be sympathetic

Those are the rules I follow when writing a romance novel. I can defend each and every one of them if challenged. I follow rules just as poets who write sonnets or haiku follow rules. Just as dramatists writing tragedies follow rules. Just as an essay, a book review and an investigative piece of journalism follows rules. If you think a formula makes the writing easy, go ahead and try it and then come back and tell me what you’ve discovered.

I’ve run out of room to address those other two pieces of nonsense that make me grind my teeth. Maybe I’ll talk about them next month. :-)

In retrospect, I don’t regret the answer I gave to the journalist. Journalists hate two things—being accused of getting their facts wrong, and being old-hat and out of touch. Quite frankly, these clichés are passé and antiquated (and just plain wrong). The more people in the big wide world who are aware of that, the better.

What about you—what clichés about romance novels and readers make you want to scream?

Nov 11, 2013

My Connectedness Addiction

What am I going to do? My anxiety is escalating. 

By the time you read this I will be out of mobile and Wi-Fi range and will be for five days. Five days of no email, no mobile calls, no internet, no twitter, no facebook. Just writing those words have fired up my angst.

What if while I’m out of range, I win the lottery and they can’t find me and give away my millions? What if my editor needs my permission for global distribution and translation into 140 languages but needs that permission today or the deal is dead? What if Hollywood calls having heard about my writing and wants me to write a blockbuster for a million dollar advance? What if a meteorite hurtles towards earth and I’m the only one that doesn’t know about meteorite-proof bomb shelters? What if? What if? What if?

So why am I heading off into a dead zone? Well the paragraph above might give you some insight. I’m a bit of a worrier. Around every corner there could be danger. So, I’m off to a health retreat for some fun, fitness and relaxation. Five days of healthy food, massages and exercise. My idea of bliss.   
This will be me very soon!
But, mobiles and computers are banned (am going to smuggle mine in just in case they’re lying about the Wi-Fi).

I find it funny (and just a little bit sad) how much I’m worried about being out of touch. Not too many years ago I lived my life with perfect contentment without having the internet and email in my pocket. Now, if I can’t check my email regularly (every ten minutes!! Who said that???) little hammers of concern tap at my brain.

It my iPhone’s fault. Now I can carry all forms of communication around in my pocket, I’m addicted.

I’ll be away when this blog is posted, so I won’t be able to respond right away, but I’d love to know if you suffer this connectedness addiction. And what, if anything, you do to combat your dependence.

I’m now off to drink copious amount of freshly brewed coffee. That’s banned too, so I’m going to pre-load! Don’t think I’ll mention this when I arrive at the retreat!

Jennifer's new release - Sweet Seduction -  is out at the end of November. Pre-order now at Booktopia. 

Nov 8, 2013

Sue Mackay overdoses

Yep, over the last two weeks I have overdosed - on girlfriends. And I'm feeling great.
Nothing like a good dose of chat, shopping, eating, caffeine fixes and trying great wine to crank up the excitement levels and make the days look brighter than ever.

As I live in the Sounds, which is kind of remote when it comes to catching a coffee with a friend, this has been special. My closest friends live at opposite ends of the country so to see them within two weeks is amazing. Normally, I can go for a week or more without talking to anyone face to face, except my man, of course. But, love him as I do, he doesn't cut it when it comes to:
discussing fashion, - what's wrong with those gumboots?
swapping fancy recipes, chuck a steak on the barbecue, why don't you?,
drinking great coffee or bubbles, I'll pour those for you. Ahh, no, thanks.

My twelve days of fun started with the arrival of my daughter and her partner and my eleven month grandson. Okay, not all females, but I'm close to my daughter and we have lots of laughs and talks about anything and everything. We have stopped swapping clothes and fashion ideas, but still enjoy the same foods.

Next a girlfriend and I had a short trip to Auckland to see the Cirque de Soleil Michael Jackson show. Now I'm not a huge fan of Michael Jackson but love shows, and this one was well worth going to. But the best part of our time away was talking non stop - even when the lights were out and we should've been getting our beauty sleep, cruising through more shops than I've seen in months, trying yummy platters, and of course the bubbles. Did I mention talking? Two days later and we headed back to my friend's home in Christchurch and our men, who apparently had a great time not talking too much, eating out, and watching sport.

The day after I returned home from this trip my other girlfriend arrived for four days solid catch up involving - you get it. I shouldn't have a voice left, but drinking lots of water helps. :) Apparently we never came up for air, and when my friend offered to take me and my man to lunch on the way to the airport my DB declined, saying he didn't see how we'd be able to eat anything while still talking.

I finished this all off last night at my writer's group meeting, where we - talked.
And today I'm still buzzing, the sky looks bluer than usual despite being cloudy. even my office is looking enticing. Oh the power of friends. At times everyone needs a good dose of girlfriendship. Is that a word? It is now.

What about you? Do you put time aside for your special friends?

Nov 6, 2013

Seeing Yourself, Loving Yourself!

with Misty Dietz

I'm so thrilled to have Misty Dietz visiting today to share this blog she posted way back in April!  I read it then and the message resonated with me strongly.  I thought it was a powerful message, well worth repeating, so I got in touch with her to see if she'd be happy to have her post "re-blogged" on the LoveCats DownUnder.  She was! 

So here's Misty's blog...

Seeing Yourself, Loving Yourself! 

I’d been meaning to write a post about the unrealistic burdens of modern beauty conceptions for weeks, but today when I came across another video about how critical women are of themselves, I was like, Damn.

Are you hard on yourself? Do you have a little voice in your head that tells you you’re not good enough, pretty enough, skinny enough, smart enough, fill-in-the-blank-with-your-inner-demon du jour…? It’s time to start speaking more gently and lovingly to ourselves. To treat ourselves with respect and dignity. To accept that we’re not perfect and if anyone expects us to be, fuck’em maybe they don’t belong in our inner circle.

Where the hell do we start? One small way is by realizing that the images we see all around us every day are a cosmetic, Photoshop-obsessed fantasy. The first video below is 1:27 minutes and shows an “evolution” from regular girl to billboard perfect model. See what you think.

The whole neck stretching thing kinda freaked me out. I had no idea.

This next video is a little longer (3 minutes), but carries a powerful message. How would you describe yourself to someone who can’t see you? Would that image be accurate?

It struck me when the woman mentioned that how we perceive ourselves affects not only the jobs we apply for and the friends we make, but also how we treat our children and those around us.

Are you seeing the beauty in yourself? If not, are you ready to start doing something about it?

Nov 4, 2013

Great Expectations

I don't know about you, but I'm not very skilled at managing my expectations.  Too many times I build events up in my mind, count down the days, spend far too long planning and imagining the fun times ahead, only to be let down when The Big Day isn't everything I dreamed it would be.

I'm just home from a weekend in Melbourne, fulfilling a lifelong desire to attend one of Australia's major race days.  And I was very much afraid that this would not live up to my lofty expectations, built over many, many years and escalated over the past months. Until now it's not been possible to get away for the spring racing carnival but this year we HAD TO be there...there being Flemington racecourse for Victoria Derby Day.  Or, as it became known in our family, Epic Saga Day.

This all came about when our two sons, along with four of their cousins, decided to buy a small share in a racehorse.  These boys grew up close together, still catch up at family gatherings, but between Christmases were drifting apart as they moved into careers, relationships, travel, new locations, new friendships, new interests. They didn't want this drift to continue and decided to be proactive.  They focussed on one common interest: hence, their share in a horse named Epic Saga.

Not only has the venture consolidated the friendship but, as the horse showed promising form through the spring, more and more family members and friends jumped on the bandwagon. (To hear us talk, one would think we all owned a piece of the epic one!) This all culminated in him taking his place in the select field for the Victoria Derby on Saturday. And we HAD TO be there to watch him race.

Despite the epic build-up and my ginormous expectations, my day at the races was everything I'd imagined and more.  I loved the buildup, the dressing up, being part of the colour (mainly black and white, the Derby Day tradition) and the huge crowd, loved seeing the magnificent horses up close, and loved cheering the big red horse as he thundered out of the barriers and gave us one of the greatest thrills of our life.

It turned out that he wasn't able to carry the weight of a jockey AND the expectations of all our family and friends but that didn't matter.  What mattered was friendships consolidated, family brought together, an experience shared.

It turned out that on this occasion my expectations were not only met but totally exceeded.

How are you with managing expectations?  Do you build things up too much only to be let down...or do you keep a lid on them so you can enjoy the occasion no matter what happens?

Edited to meet expectations:

Nov 3, 2013

Sunday Smooch with Amy Andrews

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a smooch from  Amy Andrews, but first ...

the winner of last week's Sunday Smooch Giveaway is Helen Sibritt 

Can you please contact Helen Lacey on mail (at) helenlacey (dot) com to receive your copy of One Bite leads to Another

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from - Holding Out For A Hero

When sensible schoolteacher Ella Lucas rides into her home town on a Harley and seduces the resident football hero, Jake Prince, she figures she can be forgiven and move on. After all, she's just buried her mother. Two years later, back in the city, their paths cross again but this time Jake is in the process of destroying her favourite dive bar. With her home facing a wrecker's ball, her school being closed down and her 15-year-old brother hell bent on self-destruction, it's the last straw. Throw in a dominatrix best friend who is dating a blue ribbon guy so straight he still lives at home with his mother, it's no wonder the sanest person in Ella's life is a dog. With all this to contend with, the last thing Ella needs is Jake back in her life.

Scene set-up: Ella is upset after a confrontation with her teenage brother, Cam, and Jake is comforting her.

"It’s just—it’s been a tough couple of years and . . . I never thought I’d suck this badly at being a big sister.”

He was nodding and his eyes were full of compassion, full of knowing, and that was the clincher: Jake did know. And Ella hated it. Hated that this guy . . . this footballer guy knew stuff about her past. Knew about her ostracism, her isolation, her loneliness. Knew that behind the woman she was today and the aloof teenager she’d been, there lurked a little girl who’d just wanted to be accepted. His eyes were telling her he understood and despite how much she hated it, on the back of Cam’s insult, it was surprisingly comforting.

“I swear to God, Jake, if you don’t stop looking at me like that then I’m going to be bawling like a baby.”

Jake smiled. “Like what?”

His thumb swept across the ridge of her cheekbone and it was so gentle Ella felt her eyelids flutter closed. They opened again and the look in his eyes had changed. His pupils had dilated, the green intensified. He was staring at her mouth. Was he closer? Her body swayed a little.

“Like what, Ella?”
Like you want to kiss me. “Jake.”

He heard the warning note in her voice. Except it was husky with more than a hint of hunger and when he took a step closer she didn’t back up and when her gaze dropped to his mouth kissing her became a force that would not be denied.

Ella sighed against his mouth as his lips settled on hers. They felt good, soft and gentle and she welcomed his slow, lazy exploration. But when his tongue stroked along the seam of her lips, a heat down low took hold and she wanted more than gentle. She wanted to feel the full force of his kiss. She wanted open mouths and questing tongues and warm, bare skin. She parted her lips, inviting him in and when he obliged, she moaned and gripped the front of his shirt pulling him closer.

To go into the draw to win a digital copy of HOFAH tell me about your favourite movie "look". You know that look. The one that curl's your toes when you see it! The one that Mark Darcy gave Bridget Jones when she was interviewing him after the big court case. That look. Got a favourite one?

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

Smooch Graphic by WebWeaver