Feb 27, 2017

Australian Romance Readers Convention 2017 by Amy Andrews

Yes....I'm  a little late!! I've not long returned from a sojurn to Melbourne where I attended the Australian Romance Readers Association biennial convention. It was fabulous as always!

Here are some highlights -

Food and booze!


Book signing!

Awards!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 💖💖💖

Fellow LoveCats!

 So.....that was my weekend! How was yours?

Feb 26, 2017

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a retro smooch from  Sue MacKay but first 

... the winner of last week's Sunday Smooch Giveaway is Jan Vanengen.

Jan, can you please contact Ally Blake
to receive your copy of Tell Me True .

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from Sue Mackay...

Resisting Her Army Doc Rival is set in the heat of the Sinai Peninsula.

Infuriating, irresistible army doc Sam Lowe is the last person Madison Hunter wants to work with. He challenges her and soon the only thing hotter than their rivalry is their growing chemistry. But Maddy hides scars that tell a heart breaking story, and Sam has his own emotional wounds. He's determined to take his heart with him when he leaves the army base, yet as he sees beneath Maddy's tough exterior, it becomes more and more clear that his heart belongs with her...

It's been along, hot day out in the sand and dust of the Peninsula and nothing, not even a cold beer and some relax time with the officers has helped settle either Sam or Maddy. They go for a walk around the perimeter, and talk about their pasts, all the while the tension winding tighter and tighter.

Sam watched the argument going on in Madison’s head. It leapt through her eyes, marked her face, flattened those kiss-worthy lips. She wanted him as much as he did her. But fear had her fighting her desire all the way. Something he understood completely.

But... One kiss. What harm could that do? It wouldn’t mean there was more to come, but it would satisfy an ache.

Or create a bigger one.

There was that.

One kiss would definitely crank up the heat into an inferno.

But he had to taste her. Had to know those lips, had to satisfy a quest he’d begun unknowingly only days ago. At the same time it was as though all the barriers he’d erected were tightening, warning him not to do it. But the clawing need for affection and sharing was stronger.

‘I think I’ll head inside.’ Madison stood before him, looking sad and lost.

He did what he shouldn’t. He ignored those damned warnings. ‘Don’t go yet.’ Reaching out, he took Maddy’s shaky fists into his hands and wrapped her arms around his waist. She fitted like she was an extension of him. And that scent—he drew a long breath and savoured that summer fruit memory, rearranged his memories from a four-year-old’s to a man’s. Nothing set his senses tripping the tango like the smell of Maddy.

Dropping his head, he found her mouth, covered those enticing lips with his, and knew her softness. Her sharp indrawn breath made him pause until she relaxed into him. Then he went back to kissing her. One hand reached up to push through the silk that was her hair. The other cupped her chin as he continued to taste her, and an all-consuming need burst alight inside him, making everything he’d known before redundant.

When her body melted into his those glorious breasts pushed against the hard muscle of his chest, her hips pressed his, while the apex of her body touched his hardness.

Sam groaned. This was hell on earth. This was wonderful.

Maddy tensed. Her hands left his waist, flattened on his chest. Slowly she lifted her mouth away from his, tipped her head back to lock those eyes on him. ‘Sam?’

‘Yes, Maddy, it’s me.’ He recaptured her mouth before she could deny him another kiss. One had not been enough. Two wasn’t going to be either.

She sank back into him, causing him to relax, except where it mattered. His tongue stroked her lips, her mouth. It wasn’t enough. He tasted the skin on her jawline, and below her ear.

Under his hands he felt the change in her posture, the slow tightening of her arms before she began to pull away.

His first reaction was to haul her closer, tighten his hold, kiss her deeper. But Madison was withdrawing, and he had to allow that.

And being Madison, if he took too long to let her go, stole another kiss first, she’d probably want to kill him.

And I want to live. Really want that more than anything. Sam jolted backwards, his arms dropping to his sides while he rocked on his feet as though slammed by a runaway truck. I’m starting to feel alive for the first time in years. I want to love, and laugh, and make a home, and settle down, instead of wandering wherever the army sends me.

This was what happened when those protective ties around his soul began unwinding.

This was what happened when Madison Hunter had stepped into his life.

This was dangerous.

There was too much flotsam to deal with before he could even begin to undertake a relationship. He had to walk away from Madison, let her get on with her life without him, because he wasn’t able to become a part of it. She’d been badly hurt. He could not add to her anguish. He had to hold onto that raw emotion she’d poured into her singing so as he didn’t add to it.

But he was damned if he’d ever forget that kiss.
By joining the army as a medic Maddy has thrown herself completely into a situation that's alien to her usually controlled existence, and the consequences keep tipping her sideways. Have you ever done anything that's rocked you on your feet and had you wondering why? Love to hear from you and put your name into the draw for a copy of RESISTING HER ARMY DOC RIVAL.

Feb 24, 2017

First crush....second look

I was reading the other day about David Cassidy (Partridge Family fame) and how he'd recently fallen off a stage during a performance and forgotten his words, which he later blamed on early Alzheimers... and I felt unbearably sad that my first crush is now an old man (and that certainly ages me too!!).

I recently went to see Simple Minds in concert and while the lovely Jim Kerr was very entertaining and energetic he looked his age (as do I! I'm not one to talk!). But even so, my heart did a little flip and I was back to being a teenager again when he sang Don't You Forget About Me (no, Jim, I never would!!!)

That got me to thinking about my teen crushes...you know the ones; the posters on the bedroom wall, the bands you HAD to see, the records you HAD to buy and swooned over committing every word to memory, or TV programmes you just HAD to watch to get a glimpse of that one guy.  More so...the daydreaming... if he just happened to walk into the shop I was in, or if we met on holiday, or.... always the dream was about him falling for me because I was the most (fill in the blank) girl on the planet he could love only me.

Ah, all that unfulfilled potential.....

My crushes started with the Bay City Rollers... God knows what I was thinking!! Look at those trousers!

copyright: wikicommons

Progressed to Simple Minds, U2, Billy Bragg (who did walk into many a bar I was in and I never plucked up courage to talk to him)
Billy Bragg at Borders, London Oxford Street, December 2003.<br> from en.wikipedia: 21:41, 17 May 2004 . . Steinsky (Talk) . . 256x408 (88,658 bytes) (Billy Bragg at Borders, London Oxford Street, December 2003.

Then, of course I met and married my grown-up crush and lived happily ever after. But, every now and then I do get a whiff of that excitement with little crushes on guys. Currently I'm in TV love with Jamie from Outlander.
Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/92237067@N03/14832062015/

Who was your first crush? Did you ever get to meet them? Did they live up to your expectations? What do you think now, having a second look?

Feb 22, 2017

Cool or uncool? — Kandy Shepherd

Is it dreadfully uncool of me to admit to how much pleasure my vegetable garden gives me?

Not so much the back-breaking work of weeding, digging, and—decidedly uncool—fertilising. Although fresh air, exercise and communing with nature do play their part in those past-times. (And, if I’m being honest, much of the hard work is done by my darling hubby.)

 I’m thinking more of the ongoing pleasure in seeing things grow. Then there’s the harvest—the joy of organic produce eaten just minutes from being picked from the garden. It surely must be good for us! Then it all seems worthwhile. Even the less-than-supermarket-perfect produce seems to taste so much better.

Right now in the heat of summer Down Under, my garden is overflowing with abundance. (A bit too overflowing—I never seem to allow enough distance between plants). We’ve been eating lettuce, green beans, cucumbers, and zucchini (courgette) for months, with the tomatoes, eggplant (aubergine), capsicums (peppers) and chili now coming into full force. Herbs too are flourishing.

 Some years are more successful at our little farm than others. We’re at the mercy of nature as to how well our tomatoes grow, some years we have none. And I’m a gardening incompetent when it comes to small seeds like lettuce, spinach and carrots. I have friends who are very good at saving seed from crop to crop, whereas I’m of the buying seedlings wherever possible persuasion.

For this reason I sometimes wonder whether growing our own is actually cost effective, though the water (we collect our own) and fertiliser (thank you chickens and horses) is “free”. But the taste and satisfaction it gives us is priceless. For the rest of the time we’re lucky to have a good fruit and vegetable market not too far away.

 I’ve been interested in vegetable gardening since I was eleven years old when I first grew a crop of green beans and radishes (which I didn’t even like!) Over the years I’ve grown them when possible.  However for many years even a pot of herbs on the windowsill was impossible because of where we lived and other demands on time.

 In my upcoming May release for Harlequin Romance Conveniently Wed to the Greek I have the opportunity of planting a fictional veggie garden in an upmarket spa resort on a gorgeous Greek island. Now that was fun!

Do you have “green thumbs” when it comes to vegetable gardening? Any disasters? Or do you find it so much easier to shop at the market! I’d love to see your comments.

Feb 20, 2017

All my jobs...

I was definitely one of those authors who has wanted to write books ever since I was a kid. However, on the path to publication most authors will have a collection of jobs that have nothing to do with writing or publishing. I thought it might be fun to share a few of the jobs I had before I went full time with my writing in mid 2015.

My first job...
All the lashes I used to have in my makeup artistry kit
I worked at Wendys back home in Australia (which is unrelated to the US burger chain, and is a place where you can buy soft serve ice creams, milkshakes and hotdogs). I got a job as soon as I was legal at 14 years and 9 months and spent a whole summer learning to perfect the perfect swirl of soft-serve ice cream...and then how to dip it into the melted chocolate without the ice-cream sliding straight off the cone.

My fun jobs...
If you follow me on social media, you'll probably know by now that I love makeup. I've worked on and off in the beauty industry for several years, starting with a job in a pharmacy that sold Clarins and Lancome makeup. I've also worked for Clinique and MAC cosmetics. For several years during university I was also a freelance bridal and special occasion makeup artist.

My first office job...
I actually got a job in my field (Human Resources) before I finished my business degree. So, for my last year of study, I juggled part-time study with a full-time Human Resource officer role. I worked for a jewellery company and spent my days recruiting staff for our stores, helping to deliver retail training and doing admin for payroll and OH&S.

My most unique job...
After spending several years in the HR and Training space, I wanted to try something different. So I got a job working in the Information Security team of a big 4 bank in Melbourne, where I trained staff on how to protect company information and educated people about cyber crime. I was way out of my depth when I first got hired for this job, but I learned so much and have used a lot of that information in my books (particularly in Dangerous Bachelors Club series for Harlequin Blaze).

Now I'm an author which is definitely my best job but you already know that ;)

What was your first job? Or, tell us what your most unique or interesting job was...if you dare!

Feb 19, 2017

Sunday Smooch with Ally Blake!

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a smooch from Ally Blake but first 
... the winner of last week's Sunday Smooch Giveaway is  Devika Fernando.

Can you please contact Christy McKellen on christymckellen (at) gmail (dot) come to receive your copy of 

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from Ally Blake’s TELL ME TRUE.

April Swanson is so hopeful about all the possibilities New Year’s might bring, she’s practically Pollyanna. She’s hardly wishing for the world, after all – just a little less family crazy and the promotion she's perfect for. Surely then she can finally let loose and not strive to be such a good girl all the time.

For reformed bad boy, Finn Ward, hope is a four letter word, yet he has a New Year’s wish of his own - to silence his dark and twisted past before it unravels his future and hurts the people he cares
about. No matter what.

So why would fate trick two such disparate souls into a fake first date? Maybe because they’ve both made the wrong wish...


After hiring The Cinderella Project (a seriously un-politically correct match-making biz!) to help her find her va va voom, April’s first field mission is to recommend herself to a man. (Yikes.)  “Merely for practice, darling,” she’s promised. And by picking an ‘ungettable get' - a man she can’t possibly have - surely it will make every other man she ever approaches feel easy in comparison.  Spying Finn sitting tall, dark, and broody across the other side of a crowded bar it’s clear to April that he’s the most ungettable of them all.  But the thing with being told she can’t…April begins to wonder if she can.


“You are the very definition of still waters, aren’t you, Finn?”

His voice was deep, hard with warning, as he said, “No sense spinning fairy tales about me in your head, April. Believe me.”

She shook her head. Once. Twice. “See that’s the thing with you, Finn. I don’t believe you.”

Before she could stop herself she wrapped a hand around his tie, dislodging the perfect knot. He didn’t react. Not even a blink. So she curled her fingers into his shirt, pulled harder, popped a button from its hole.

Still nothing.

It was infuriating. The man might as well have been made of stone.

The impulse to ruffle his hair, tug his jacket from his shoulders, to undo him somehow came over her like a tidal wave – huge, sudden unstoppable.

The man was so self-contained. Surely that couldn’t be healthy. It would be the kinder thing to help him relax--

Oh, stuff it.

April grabbed Finn by the shirt front, rose up onto her toes, and kissed him, planting one right on his beautiful mouth.

His resistance sang through him so powerfully he vibrated, while sparks of heat sprang up all over April's body at the feel of him beneath her hands, her mouth, her heart.

Turned out his resistance could only last so long, as April had barely registered what she’d gone and done before Finn finally broke off his leash and took complete control. Hauling her close with one arm, his other hand came to rest against her cheek, his thumb stroking the edge of her jaw as his devastating mouth slid over hers.

And, whoa, mamma, she felt it all the way to her knees.

April couldn't remember why she'd ever thought him made of stone. He was all heat and energy, the most vital life force she’d ever known coursing beneath his skin.

Finn. Yep, this was Finn who was kissing her like he had all the time in the world. The very same beautiful giant hunched dramatically over his empty glass in the bar the other night. The guy who was meant to be merely practice.
*   *   *

April never thought herself a contrary sort, but meeting Finn put paid to that!  How do you react to being told ‘no’? Got any good ‘oh, yes I can!’ stories of your own?

Leave a comment to go in the draw to win an ebook (epub or mobi) copy of TELL ME TRUE.

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

Feb 17, 2017

Love Is All Around......

I saw an article the other day about how there is going to be a ten minute commercial made about the movie, Love Actually. The idea is to give people a snapshot about the characters and what has happened to them a decade or so down the road. Now, I adore Love Actually. I know it irritates some people the way it shifts from scene to scene, but I love the way there are so many different relationships showcased in this movie. Because people from different walks of life, different socio-economic groups, different races, different religions, DO fall in love. All of the time. It's part of the magic of writing and/or reading romance novel. Two people, who seems so at odds with one another, going on a journey of discovery etc etc etc. There really is no better job in the world than being a romance writer.
I recently handed in my August release to my editor. I write for Harlequin Special Edition – which are small town, home and heart, cowboys, horses…you get the picture. And even though my August release is still set in small town South Dakota, it’s the first time I’ve written an interracial romance. My African-American, NASCAR driving hero, and freckled, red-headed rancher heroine just seemed the perfect match for one another.

Which got me thinking about relationships and some of the more famous interracial couples that have graced the screen or pages. This is one of my favorites…Frank Farmer and Rachel, The Bodyguard. I love this movie...Costner at his tortured best.

Karate Kid 2 (Okay, not a great film, but the romance was cute) And the song is wonderful.



The classic, Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner…who can forget Sidney Piotier’s mother’s speech to a bewildered Spencer Tracy. And then this scene, just before dinner. I just love this movie. In today's world, there's a lot that can be learned from these few minutes.


Hitch – Will Smith and Eva Mendes....I love this movie (even though I've never been a Will Smith fan, I think he rocks this romantic lead)
Love, is simply love.

Feb 15, 2017

Feathered and Furred, or Possibly Scaled! Those Other Neighbours

Parts of Australia have been suffering through an appalling heatwave. Not just the occasional day over 40 degrees C, but here, where I live, sustained heat through several days, reaching up around the 114F mark. Too hot!

It's been remarkable and horrible, with difficulty sleeping, catastrophic bushfire conditions, worries about elderly and ill friends who don't handle the heat well, and trouble for those who lost power. One of the other side effects was that we saw much more of our other neigbours - the ones who don't live in the neighbouring houses, but who live in the gardens and bush that surround us. In particular, we saw a lot more of the birds who usually live high in the trees when they came down looking for shade and water. The poor things were suffering with the heat and it was great hearing from other people how they made water available for their furred and winged neighbours too.

Here's one we rarely get a glimpse of. Usually it sleeps during the day and only comes out at night. It's a tawny frogmouth owl that spends its time, when not hunting, blending in with the tree trunks, trying to look like a stick. 

Here he is a little closer. He's got his eyes closed but when they're open they're large and orange!

This fellow spent two afternoons on the fence by our pool, enjoying a patch of deep shade. Late in the day I turned the hose onto a gentle spray and he fluffed himself up to about 3 times his size then spread his wings at odd angles, catching the water and cooling himself off. Sadly I couldn't film him and shower him at the same time!

So, in the spirit of sharing, here are some photos of some other neighbours - taken near a relative's house. 

We get these noisy rainbow lorikeets at our home too, as well as eastern rosellas (which are thankfully much quieter), kookaburras, magpies, noisy mynas, currawongs and occasionally beautiful small falcons. We also get a couple of different types of possum and fruit bats who love our flowering plants and fight us for the pick of our vege garden!

I'm not sure if you can make this one out. It's an inquisitive little green tree snake (harmless and not venomous) leaning down to peer beneath a verandah roof. Its head is in the centre of the photo and it's looking a little to your left. You can see its right eye. We don't get many tree snakes at my house but we've had red belly blacks as well as browns and small marsh snakes. Fortunately they don't seem to want to meet us almost as much as we don't want to meet them. We also have blue tongue lizards who like to bask in the late afternoon sun. They help keep the population of snails down.

Finally, what would a post about Aussie wildlife be without kangaroos. In this case, yes, kangaroos in a suburban street. Not mine but not that far away. This family group (dad, mum and junior) were alert but not too bothered by people.

What feathered, furred or scaled neighbours do you have? Are they ones you enjoy having visit or are they ones you'd rather avoid?

Feb 13, 2017

Short Stories

I wrote my very first short story (except for those I had to write at school) last year. I was inspired by the Country Life short story competition. I love this magazine and I think the competition is great too. Some of the previous year's entries have brought me to tears.

Last year’s story theme was 'threads'. A story jumped into my head almost immediately. It ended up being called Sunset and Saffron.  

Here’s an excerpt:

Scarlett dragged herself down her tree-lined street but heart-tearing grief was robbing her muscles of their function. Even simple tasks seemed insurmountable.
Apple blossom scented the country air. Julie had loved that smell and together they’d often worked picking apples as teenagers. Now each inhalation seared the memory of happy times with her sister, with desperate grief. They say no parent should bury a child but there was no saying that captured the horror of watching a polished wooden box lowered into the earth with your mirror image cold inside.
She reached her fence and tapped every second paling, the habit of a lifetime. Julie’s palings remained untouched.
A letter protruded from the letterbox. Scarlett sighed. Most likely a bill. She grabbed the envelope. Julie’s name looked stark on the white paper. A sob leapt up her throat and the letter dropped from her grasp.
‘Is everything okay?’ The voice, deep and foreign and close, made her jump. Her new neighbour retrieved the letter and held it out.
She took it and blinked back the tears. She’d cried for so long but she didn’t want to weep before a stranger. Nico was tall, Spanish and new to the street. Mrs Hilltrap at number forty-three had his story within a few hours of his arrival. Nico had moved from Spain to work as a GP in their little country town. Mrs Hilltrap had mentioned a number of times, with sledgehammer subtlety that he was in his early thirties and single. How could she possibly think Scarlett could start a relationship three months after her twin’s death? The stupid crazy things people said in the name of comfort . . .
‘Yes. I’m fine.’ Scarlett fussed with her handbag.
She’d been a bad neighbour. She hadn’t dropped over when he’d arrived. She hadn’t invited him over for tea. Hell, she hadn’t even spoken to him. Orange was famous for its country hospitality but she’d proved the antithesis to the town’s reputation. But conversations with strangers were currently as difficult as setting off from base camp to climb Everest.

 I think the Country Style short story comp is a great initative as it is open to everyone, it provides a chance to see your work in print (if you win or are a ‘runner up’) and there’s $5000 prize money.

This year’s competition can involve any situation or setting but must incorporate ‘light’ as a major or minor theme in either a figurative or literal sense. The story can be no longer than 1500 words, which I have to say I found a challenge. No story has leapt into my head yet, but I’m hoping inspiration strikes before the closing date of 19 April.

Do you like short stories – reading or writing them? I’d love to hear.

Feb 12, 2017

Sunday Smooch with Christy McKellen

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a smooch from Christy McKellen but first...

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

Laurie, can you please contact Stefanie on stefanie (at) stefanie-london (dot) com to receive your copy of Mr Dangerously Sexy

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from The Unforgettable Spanish Tycoon

"I know we were more than just friends."
Once Elena Jones had shared an intense entanglement with striking Spaniard Caleb Araya, ending with both their hearts in tatters. Now she's a successful entrepreneur, and when he rejects a new business proposition, it's clear Caleb hasn't forgotten…
When an accident causes the tycoon to lose his memory, Caleb seems to think they are still a couple! Elena wants to help him recover…but will staying in Barcelona with him just put her heart in jeopardy again?

 Hi LoveCats and thanks so much for having me here for another Sunday Smooch.

The following scene is from my latest release The Unforgettable Spanish Tycoon, which is a second chance at love and amnesia story.

Our heroine, Elena, has come to Barcelona looking for our hero Caleb’s help, but unfortunately the man has a long memory and, citing the acrimonious way they parted in the past, he’s crushed her hopes of a friendly reconciliation. Determined to change his mind, Elena has stuck around, only to witness him being involved in an accident that causes him to lose his memory. Realising she’s the only person available to take care of him she stays in Barcelona, hoping once his memory returns he’ll give her another chance. In the following scene she’s agreed to go as his pretend girlfriend to a crucial business meeting to help him disguise his memory loss in front of his potential clients. The trouble is, she’s finding it incredibly difficult to only pretend she’s attracted to him…

 ‘I know you Caleb; you’ll want to go in all guns blazing. I recommend a lighter touch. If he’s here with his wife he’s not going to take too kindly to being bullied and harangued.’
  ‘I wouldn’t—’
  She put up a hand to pre-empt his angry rebuttal. ‘Not intentionally, I know, but you can come across as a little bit abrasive and intimidating until someone gets to know you. Show him a bit of your soft side too, that’s my advice.’
  Caleb blinked at her, his brows drawn into a tight frown as he appeared to consider what she’d said. After a moment he nodded slowly, his frustrated expression clearing and being replaced with a wolfish grin. There was something else in his eyes too that made her tummy flip and her blood begin to race. She stared at his mouth, wondering erratically how she would react if he leant forwards and kissed her right now.
  ‘Okay, I’ll be nice,’ he murmured.
  Shoving away her lustful urges, she nodded. ‘Good.’ She let out a gasp of surprise as he suddenly slipped his hand around her back and drew her closer to him.
  ‘Just relax, cariño. You seem tense and that’s going to look strange to our guests.’
  Swallowing hard, she gave him a jerky nod, her heart banging hard against her chest and her nerves jangling due to their intimate proximity.
  ‘Perhaps I should practice my soft side on you before they get here,’ he murmured, his dark eyes boring into hers.
  ‘How are you going to do that?’ she asked, but before she could draw breath he leant in towards her and brushed his mouth against hers.
  Fireworks seemed to go off deep inside her body and she wondered wildly for a second how the other diners would react if she suddenly burst into flames in front of them.
  Caleb’s lips were warm and firm, his mouth fitting perfectly with hers. She stood frozen to the spot, too befuddled to react, as a crazy surge of desire unfolded deep inside her, spiralling out to the very ends of her fingers and toes.
  His hands slid into her hair and instinctively she sank against him, her body craving the hard press of his against it.
  A moment later she was left gasping for air when he drew away from her, giving her a strange knowing kind of smile and nodding towards the upper mezzanine, his arm pressing into her back as he encouraged her to mount the staircase with him.
  ‘Let’s go and find our seats, ready for the show,’ he murmured into her ear, his breath tickling the sensitive skin on her exposed neck and making her shiver with longing.
  Oh, goodness, it was going to be impossible to keep her cool if he was going to be this physically attentive all evening.

For a chance to win a paperback copy of The Unforgettable Spanish Tycoon, tell me the quality you value the most in a partner. (Mine is my husband’s enormous capacity for kindness to others.)

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

Smooch Graphic by WebWeaver

Feb 10, 2017

Who doesn't love reading?

Continuing with the reading theme, I'd like to share a few of my favourite reads from the previous few months. There are more but they're on my tablet or books I've borrowed from my Book Club.
I'm a huge Kristin Hannah fan which is why I've included two of her books in this photo. There are plenty more on my shelves.
Yeonmi Park's story about growing up in North Korea is heart-wrenching and an eye opener into her country of birth. This was a riveting read and everyone I know who has read it agrees. We don't know how lucky we are just by where we were born.
Unfortunately the book on the bottom left doesn't sow up clearly but it contains two stories written by Louisa George and Amy Andrews for the M&B Midwives On Call series eight of us took part in.  A little while back I admit, but until a week ago I thought I'd read all of the stories.  That's what happens when my office gets away on me with piles of books, paper, notes, and projects.
I m currently reading Marching Powder by Rusty Young, the true story of Thomas McFadden incarcerated in San Pedro prison for drug trafficking. This prison is extreme. Inmates buy their cells, can have overnight quests, girlfriends, nights out on the town. Pretty much anything can buy. Fascinating.
There's just not enough time to read all those wonderful books. Might have to follow Michelle Douglas's idea of a reading plan. 
 What are you reading at the moment? And what's your favourite read over the last few months?

Feb 8, 2017

My 2017 reading plan

 Ally’s post last month convinced me to take part in the Goodreads Reading Challenge. I’ve challenged myself to read 50 books for 2017. That’s less than a book a week. Doable, right?


Here are my reading stats for the last few years (since I started keeping records):

2016: 44 books read
2015: 53 books read
2014: 34 books read
2013: 46 books read
2012: 52 books read

So, in the last 5 years I’ve only hit that fifty-target twice. Which kinda sounds appalling for a writer, but I’m not counting the bits and pieces I’ve been reading from research books for my PhD. Sigh. Yes, it’s true—I’m just searching for excuses.

So, in an effort to reach my target I’ve created a bit of plan:

  •  To read at least one book from each LoveCat this year. That’s 13 books.
  •  I’m part of a monthly book group. That’s 11 books (we do drinks in Dec rather than a book ;-) ).
  •  I have 6 RITA books.
  •  So far I’ve read 6 books for the year (though one is the book group selection). So that’s another 5 books.

All of that adds up to 35 books.

Now all I have to do is add another 15 books and I’ll have met my target. But how should I choose those 15 books. Should they come from:

  •  My Kindle TBR pile? I have soooo many on my device waiting to be read.
  •  Then there’s the serendipitous impulse buys that will need to be read immediately.
  •  What about the physical cupboard full of paperbacks I’ve yet to read?

I could simply choose 5 from each, and Voila, my target will be met. :)

What about you, do you ever organise your reading into lists like this or are you more footloose and fancy-free?

And is there one book this year you really have to read and think I should add to my list? Recommendations are always welcome. :)

 And if you'd like a recommendation to add to your own reading list. On the shelves this February is the new Australian Romance Duo where you get two fab stories in the one gorgeous cover: Road Trip With the Eligible Bachelor (Michelle Douglas) and The Magnate's Indecent Proposal (Ally Blake)

Feb 6, 2017

Special Guest: Amanda Ashby

I'm so excited that my friend Amanda Ashby is visiting us today. Her YA books are some of my favourite YAs ever (seriously, if you haven't read Demonosity, do yourself a favour and grab a copy), and she also writes category romance and middle grade fiction. Interesting mix, right? Well, I've rolled up my sleeves and asked the hard questions for you. Plus, she has a giveaway for one commenter.

But first, a couple of winners!

The winner of Murder Most Unusual by Michelle Somers is Barbara Strickland! Barbara, drop me a quick email: rachel (at) rachelbailey (dot) com and I'll put you in touch with Michelle to claim your prize. Congrats!

And the winner of Melanie Milburne's The Temporary Mrs Marchetti is Sue Geraldht Griffiths. Sue, you can also drop me a quick email at the above address and I'll put you in touch with Melanie for your prize. 

Now, onto today's special guest!

1. First up, Amanda, the important stuff – cat or dog person?

Cat!! And here’s how I know – because when I’m out and about and see a cat, I’m compelled to say “cat” and point to it, as if I had a three-year old child with me. Now, the fact that my kids are teenagers and tend never to leave the room unless under duress, I can only assume that I have in fact turned into a crazy cat lady!!

Not to say that I don’t like dogs, because I do. I just don’t love all dogs, it’s more a case of me getting to know them and then they wriggle under my skin. I’m talking to you Oliver (and obviously the rest of the Bailey Pack, though Ava doesn’t count because she’s far above such tedious things, being a princess and all!!!)

2. Oliver sends you smooches. :) What was the first category book you read?

Hmmm, I actually didn’t start reading category until I was in my twenties (apart from Georgette Heyer, who is still one of my all time favourite authors!) But when I did start reading category romances, I found myself hooked on the older books by Betty Neels and Essie Summers - probably no surprise that I write sweet books!

3. What’s the last category book you read?

Hooked by Christina Phillips, which is scorching hot and very naughty!

4. Oooh, I've heard good things about that book. Now, tell me something we wouldn't know about you?

I work part time as a children’s librarian, which is kind of the coolest job ever because I literally spend my days talking about books. There is nothing better than seeing kids get excited about reading (or their parents being relieved that their children have found books they love!). I also have a house full of retro furniture and far too many vintage tablecloths to count. Thankfully they all look the same to my husband so he has no idea when I sneak an extra one into the house!

5. You write category romance, young adult and middle grade books. Is it hard switching between the three? Do you have a favourite?

I don’t really find it difficult, for two reasons. First up, I’m totally shallow so try not to overthink it! And second, at the heart of all books are characters who are going on emotional journeys, and whether they are transformed because of love or because they have had to fight a few killer fairies along the way, it still takes them to the same place! As for having a favourite, it’s normally the one that I’m NOT working on. However, I believe is because I get a romantic notion that if I was working on something else it would be SO MUCH EASIER THAN THE HOT MESS IN FRONT OF ME. Though, apart from that my heart has always been in YA and that’s still the genre I read the most in so it’s my secret favourite (but shhhh, don’t tell the others!).

6. My lips are sealed! Your latest book Falling for the Best Man is the first in a trilogy about three sisters who own a vintage wedding planner business. Can you tell us about it?

Sure, Falling for the Best Man is a sweet romance between a vintage wedding planner who doesn’t want to leave the family farm and a travel journalist who doesn’t want to stay still. Here’s the blurb:

He’s the best man and her secret fling—who said being a wedding planner was easy?
Emmy Watson loves her small-town life. Most of the time­­––except the one crazy night she threw caution to the wind and slept with a sexy stranger. Totally not like her, but so worth it. And hey, who’ll ever find out. It’ll be her little secret...
Globe-trotting travel writer Christopher Henderson can’t get one woman out of his head. He knows Emmy is all wrong for him–he’d have to pry her cold dead hands from this crazy town–but living without her is slowly not becoming an option.
Christopher has a game plan:
Dazzle her with his awesome cooking skills to throw her off guard.
Win the world’s weirdest golf trophy. 
Impress her with his ability to talk cranky French dove breeders into doing his bidding.
But Emmy isn’t playing by the rules, and Chris might have finally met his match...

7. What was your inspiration for Wishing Bridge Farm, where the three books are set?

I live in Napier, in New Zealand and along the waterfront are six old historic houses, which have the nickname, The Six Sisters. My original plan was to have each sister inherit a house and turn it into a store, but somehow it morphed into a vintage wedding planning business on a farm. I also liked the idea of somewhere that they could make wishes and even though I’ve never seen a proper American covered bridge, I thought it would be cute to put one on the farm and let each sister make a wish there when they were younger.

8. When will the other two sisters have their books out?

Bec is the youngest sister and her book will be out in April and Pepper’s book is out in July.

9. What are you reading?

Killer Heels by Rebecca Chance. I used to be a big fan of Lauren Henderson’s Sam Jones mystery books and only just discovered that she’s been writing new books under a different name. Anyway, so far it’s a cross of all the juicy Jackie Collins books I grew up with, combined with the Devil Wears Prada.

10. What are you watching?

Brooklyn Nine-Nine. My daughter actually got me into this show and I love it! It’s the perfect follow up for Parks and Recreation and I love it! Plus they regularly mention Star Wars and Die Hard, which are two of my favourite movies. I’m also hopelessly addicted to an English show called Ex on the Beach. My family are all appalled by it, which is ridiculous because they’ve known me long enough to understand my strange tastes in TV viewing!

11. What are you listening to?

My husband playing his classical guitar! I’m a lucky girl because I get serenaded most days by him.

12. What’s making you smile?

Looking out my kitchen window every morning. Something is always going on in the sky and I never get sick of seeing it. Oh, and coffee. Obviously.

13. What’s next on the horizon for you?

I have a middle grade series coming out later this year and a young adult romance called The Heartbreak Cure, which I’m crazy excited about.

Thanks so much for coming along to visit, Amanda!

Amanda is kindly giving away a copy of Falling for the Best Man to one commenter. Each of the three sisters in her Wishing Bridge Farm series made a wish when they were young, which got me to thinking. If you'd come across a wishing bridge when you were young, what would you have wished for? And is it something that you'd still wish for? Or did it come true?

Amanda Ashby was born in Australia but now lives in New Zealand where she writes romance, young adult and middle grade books. She also works in a library, owns far too many vintage tablecloths and likes to delight her family by constantly rearranging the furniture.
She has a degree in English and Journalism from the University of Queensland and is married with two children. Her debut book was nominated for a Romantic Times Reviewers Choice award, and her first young adult book was listed by the New York Public Libraryʼs Stuff for the Teen Age.  Because she’s mysterious she also writes middle grade books under the name, Catherine Holt and hopes that all this writing won’t interfere with her Netflix schedule.