Aug 22, 2014

Dear Me,

My boys are getting to the age where they have to make important decisions about their lives...which university, which course, what path? What kind of a person do they want to be? It's an exciting but stressful time and I remember it well. When I was sixteen I desperately wanted to be a nurse, but was told by my careers teacher that I was too short and that 'short people never get anywhere in life' (no word of a lie). So I decided to train to be a teacher instead. But my head teacher told me, 'We think you should do this course-' *hands me a pamphlet for a fancy new degree called Media Studies*. Back then I did what I was told. So I did that degree and worked for a year in a corporate environment but wasn't happy. THEN I took my career into my own hands, applied and was accepted to train as a nurse (short people can do stuff after all!!) It seems I was easily persuaded and eager to please everyone else instead of choosing my own path from the get go.

Louisa at 16
So I was thinking about my boys and what would be the best advice to give them? What would I (at the ripe old age of *mumble mumble*) have told me all those years ago?  Then I came across this  book called Dear Me which features letters from celebrities to their 16 year old selves. It also has letters from Joe Public and makes interesting reading. There are lots of 'trust yourself' and 'don't settle for...,' 'you are beautiful, believe it...' and there are some truly heartbreaking ones too, counterbalanced with silly and fun and honest and loving. I did wonder whether it's a good idea to look back- but actually, I think it is, because we can see all the mistakes we've made, all the growing we've done, all the wise things we've learnt and realise how much we've faced and survived...

So here's my attempt:

Dear Louisa

Sixteen feels so mature right now, but, trust me- life is just beginning for you. You will have some challenges, some things will rock you completely, some things will knock your confidence...but you have the strength and resilience to overcome them and come out the other side a better person. You will also have some amazing, wonderful, happy experiences and have a life filled with love - you just have to let it in.

Trust your intuition and your instincts. Don't let anyone tell you that you can't achieve your dreams. Because you can. And you do. You just have to work hard. Stick to your guns! You'll save a lot of heartache that way. But let yourself make some mistakes, we all do. That's how we learn.

Cherish your girlfriends, because they will hold your hand and lift you up, they will be by your side. Give them that love right back and don't get sucked in to the bitchy gossip thing. STOP SMOKING! NOW!!! Never ever wear your hair without a fringe. Ever. Go on that trip to Ireland with the students union- if you don't you'll regret it for a long time. Eat. Enjoy it. Love your body at every stage of your life and don't keep looking back to when you were thinner, are pretty damned okay whatever size you are. Spend more time with your mum creating memories and write down Nana's story now, even though it seems boring to you at 16 you'll regret not writing it down when you're older. And when you go on holiday to celebrate the end of your exams (I won't spoil the surprise of where and with who)- it's probably not such a great idea to dance on that table. Just saying...

Don't fret about finding The One. He's out there and when you meet him, you'll just know. Trust me on this.

Finally, stop worrying about everything. It doesn't help, it wastes time and stops you enjoying the good stuff.

Louisa xx
p.s. There's this company called apple, (funny name, I know) they make 'computers' soon as you see shares going on sale, buy lots!

So, what piece of advice would you give a 16 year old these days, or what would you tell your 16 year old self if you could? I'd love to hear your thoughts xxx

Aug 20, 2014

Signs of the Times with Annie West

One of the joys of travelling, I've discovered, is the sheer novelty of so many things we take for granted. Where in Australia, for instance, would you find a sign in the street like this? A crowned eagle and grape vines advertising a cosy place to drop in for a drink and something to eat. Our signs tend to be a bit more prosaic. As a result I spent some time on my recent trip to Europe smiling over the variety of signs we discovered - from the beautiful like this to the ones that that simply caught the eye of a travelling Aussie as something you don't find at home. I thought I'd share a couple of my favourites with you today.
Direct and functional, but this sailor made me smile. 'Boote' means 'boats' and given the fact that I was standing approximately 5 metres from a rather large Austrian lake I thought this one a tad unnecessary but charming anyway.
Just down the street I came across these two. The building is a boathouse turned restaurant and just in case you couldn't read the text, the picture on the right makes it pretty clear it's a fish restaurant. I particularly enjoyed the warning sign on the left - watch out for overloaded waiters dashing across the road to the kitchen!
And on a piscine theme, where else would you go to buy your fish but to a fischerei?
This sign for the butcher, though, is a bit misleading. Somehow I expect butcher Stefan doesn't let many little porkers get the better of him.

You know you're in Europe when the sign inside the cable car tells you your dog can go up the mountains too, so long as it's on the floor, not the seat.
Then there are road signs. You may have to peer a little to get this one. Both cattle and wild deer are likely to wander across the road in this area. I'm wondering if it was considered too confusing to put them both on the same pole.
My other favourite was a sign that said 'Attention, marmots!' with a drawing of a marmot standing to attention on its hind legs. I wasn't sure if the sign was meant for motorists or little furry animals. If it was for the marmots they weren't paying attention, as they were on all four legs when we saw them, including scampering across the road in front of us.
Finally, here's one of my favourite old fashioned direction signs.
Do you notice signs? Do you have favourites? What's the best one you've seen?
While I remember, I'll fit in a quick plug for my new book - out any day now. Look out for 'DAMASO CLAIMS HIS HEIR' in your favourite bookstore. I'm so chuffed that this story scored a 4 1/2 star Top Pick from Romantic Times. Perhaps it's a sign of things to come? Wouldn't that be nice. Here's a link if you want to browse the book.

Aug 18, 2014

Funday: August is...

Did you know that August is Tradies' National Health month?!

It's a Funday on the LoveCats and I thought we'd use it to bring a serious message:

With a liberal dose of humour in the form of this anthem version:

And some more fun with this game - here's the link:  TRADIES' HEALTH GAME! 

If you play, please tell me how you went. My score was soooo bad and I couldn't stop my little tradie avatar from eating the burgers!  I have no idea how the players on the leaderboard have done so well - I managed a measly 89 points!  Let me know the secret to avoiding the hamburgers if you find it!

Aug 16, 2014

Sunday Smooch... with Rachel Bailey

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a smooch from  Rachel Bailey but first,

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

Can you please contact rachel (at) rachelbailey (dot) com to receive your copy of The Summer of Jake.

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from The Nanny Proposition:

Two babies…one scandalous secret!

Discovering he's the father of an orphaned newborn rocks botanist Liam Hawke's world. But that's where nanny Jenna Peters fits in—a single mother herself, she immediately works her magic on his newborn daughter. Soon Liam himself can't resist being spellbound by this beauty.

Jenna tries to keep her irresistible boss at arm's length but it's a losing battle. Once Liam finds out who she really is, she'll have to say goodbye to the man she loves and their unconventional family…unless the seductive single dad makes her a proposition this undercover princess can't refuse!

Scene set-up
To give Jenna a break from looking after the two baby girls, Liam has taken her out for dinner, while the housekeeper watches the sleeping babies. They've just arrived home...

Smooch  -

As they pulled up in Liam’s Jeep in front of the house, Jenna tried to stave off her disappointment that the night was ending. It wasn’t a real date. She couldn’t let herself think that, and the sooner she was tucked up in her bed—alone—the better. Safe from fantasies that Liam had actually invited her out and that she was free to follow her attraction in whatever direction it led….

Then Liam leaned across and stroked her cheek with a feather-light caress, and all her attempts at being reasonable went up in smoke. She felt herself tremble under the touch but she didn’t dare move, hope and doubts and anticipation warring inside her.

“Thank you for a lovely evening,” he said and let his hand fall. That didn’t seem to break the connection, though—it was as if the very air in the Jeep crackled.

There was no use denying she wanted him to kiss her, had never wanted anything more. And it didn’t seem as if he was bothering with denial anymore either. His eyes darkened as he focused on her mouth. Her lips parted and she drew in a shaky breath, but he didn’t come closer. The moment felt suspended in time, neither of them moving. Then his eyes changed, became pained, and his head swung away.

“We’d better go inside and check on the babies,” he said and opened his door.

Suddenly cold, she blinked. The babies. Of course. She was the nanny, after all, not someone he was dating. But her traitorous body wasn’t as easily convinced.

She pulled herself together and went with him into the house. Katherine had left a note on the hallstand saying that everything was fine, and Bonnie was sleeping soundly with her. They crept up to check on Meg, who was also fast asleep.

Jenna gave her daughter a soft kiss on her round head, then hesitated in the hall, unsure of how to end the night. There was so much unfinished between them that she had no idea of what to do, and Liam didn’t seem to be in a rush.

Perhaps simplest was best. “Well, good night, then,” she said.

“I always walk a date to her door.” He waved an arm toward her room.

“Okay,” she said, not really sure how to take that.

They took the few steps to reach her room, then she turned to look up at him. He propped a shoulder against the doorframe, his gaze smoldering. A wave of heat rushed over her skin, and suddenly she didn’t want to do the safe thing anymore. Taking a risk was by far the more interesting option. She moistened her lips and hoped her voice sounded steady. “Isn’t a kiss at the door part of that tradition?”

Liam stilled, studying her face. “You want me to kiss you, Jenna?” His voice was low and rough.

“Oh, yes,” she said on a soft breath.

He groaned and his eyes closed for a heartbeat, and she thought she might never breathe again. Finally, his head came closer until his lips met hers in a kiss that was sweeter than any they’d shared before. Their other kisses had been stolen and had been all about attraction. This was more of an exploration, and more intense for it.

His hands found hers and their fingers entwined. When her knees wobbled, she leaned back against the door, and Liam pressed against her, not letting her fall. His body was scorching hot through her clothes and she wanted more, wanted everything.

Jenna is a princess in hiding, and not even Liam knows at this point, so tell me, can you keep a secret? Are you the person who's so good at secrets that you can plan a surprise birthday party for someone you're close to? Or do you always give the game away too soon?
I have a copy of The Nanny Proposition (which is on the shelves now) to give away to one person who leaves a comment!

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

Smooch Graphic by WebWeaver

Aug 13, 2014

Musing About Johnny and Frances and Jamie and Claire

by Bronwyn Jameson

During this past week an email arrived in my inbox promoting the musical Dirty Dancing.  Now I knew there was a stage version, but I hadn't thought much of it until I perused this flyer.  I'm always open to seeing a musical, you see, and given how much I adored the movie you would think this would be right up my alley.

But…no.  The thought of anyone but Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey in the lead roles turned me right off.  I just can't imagine anyone else doing Johnny and Frances justice.

Which got me thinking about other iconic (if that is the right word) musicals/movies.  Grease, for example.  I adored the movie and John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John made the roles of Danny and Sandy their own, not to mention the stellar supporting cast.  But I've seen, and loved, several stage versions of Grease.  I think because that experience is an adoration of the singalong, an enjoyment of the songs and the music and the sheer fun and energy, rather than the characters and story.

So, yeah, I can enjoy pretty much any version of Grease or The Rocky Horror Picture Show or even The Sound of Music as long as they sing and dance their hearts out.  But Dirty Dancing has to be the movie version or nothing.  So I've been thinking of other roles which are totally owned by an actor.  Mary Poppins, for example, *is* Julie Andrews…or should that be the other way around?

Do you have a special favourite on-screen characterisation that cannot be matched?  

The other thing on my radar--and written all over my calendars and schedules so I don't forget--is the TV series of Outlander debuting this Thursday night.  Cannot wait! I've heard really good things from readers who've already seen it in America, so I'm *slightly* more relaxed than I might otherwise have been about how Jamie and Claire are portrayed.  Although still anxious.  I so want them to get the chemistry right.

Do you have very specific ideas about your favourite book characters, as I do Jamie and Claire?  When a book favourite is made into a movie or TV series, do you worry so much about them "being done right" that you're afraid to watch?  That you don't watch?

Aug 11, 2014

Books, Laughter and Learning

by Jennifer St George

The last two weeks have been huge for me.  I was part of the team (the Communication Manager) that put on the Byron Bay Writers Festival, 1-3 August. It was the most successful Festival in the event’s 18-year history.  Ticket sales were up 20% on last year as were sales from the onsite bookshop.  I’d spent the preceding six months talking to journalists from all forms of media about the event and the resulting coverage has been fantastic.

Jennifer St George and Amy Andrews signing books
at the Byron Bay Writes Festival
The Festival was also my first foray into being a Festival participant. Fellow LoveCat Amy Andrews and I featured on the panel, Be Still My Beating Heart: Writing Romance chaired by the hilarious Mandy Nolan. As we were scheduled at the same time as Jeanette Winterson OBE, I was worried about audience numbers, but by the end of the session our marquee was almost full. 

The panel was fantastic fun and we tackled a number of the myths about romance writing and generally had a fabulous time.

So I wrapped up that Festival and spent the next two days preparing for the Romance Writers of Australia conference, Romance Rocks being held in Sydney.  I ran two workshops with Sarah Wendell from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books and romantic suspense author, Helene Young; participated in a debate at the Literacy High Tea; was an interviewee on a panel about d├ębut authors and had fun with my fellow LoveCats in a session on writing category romance.

Michelle Douglas, Rachel Bailey, Jennifer
St George and Annie West at RWA
The debate was brilliant. The topic was Alpha Heroes are Better than Beta Heroes.  I was on the affirmative team with Cherry Adair and Christina Brooke. The opposing team consisted of Amy Andrews, Sarah Wendell and Anne Gracie. Yes, quite formidable opponents.  Our team sang, knitted, role played and argued with passion.  But sadly, we lost. 

The Australian Romance Readers Association held an amazing book signing event. It was lovely to meet readers and sign a few books.

Amidst the mayhem of the leather and lace cocktail party, the Gala Dinner and catching up with friends, I attended lots of highly informative workshops and will focus on bringing those lessons learned to my current manuscript.

I arrived home last night inspired and invigorated and exhausted. It's such an incredible privilege to have been immersed in literature and books for the past two weeks. Books!  How could you live without them?

I’d love to hear about an event you’ve attended recently that inspired you. 

Jennifer St George's sexy stories feature courageous, career-minded heroines, strong heroes in glamorous international settings. The Billionaire’s Pursuit of Love is available now at Amazon, iTunes, Destiny Romance and Google.

Aug 10, 2014

Sunday Smooch: The Summer of Jake

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a smooch from The Summer of Jake but first...

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

Can you please contact michelle (at) michelle-douglas (dot) com to receive your copy of The Rebel and The Heiress.

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from The Summer of Jake .

Falling in love wasn’t part of the plan… 

Life is just dandy for aspiring fashion designer Annalise Farley. She has a great job (or she will once her designs are discovered), parents who only slightly disapprove, a cat that thinks she’s a dog, and a best friend…even if she hasn’t seen her in a while. But then Jake Maxwell saunters back into her life. Jake, the love god. Jake, her best friend’s older brother. Jake, who broke her heart at sixteen without realizing it, then left to become a pro surfer. Now he’s back, having taken the surfing and business worlds by storm, and he’s ready for a new challenge—catching the eye of another girl. And he wants Annalise’s help. Helping Jake land his next girlfriend is too fraught with emotional danger for her liking, but then Jake offers to put her designs in his shops. Is that the sound of her life cracking at the seams? It’s hard to tell with Jake smiling at her like she’s the only thing that makes him happy…

Scene set-up
Jake is having dinner at Annalise's place while she teaches him about wine. They've already tried quite a few varieties...

Smooch  -
“How about that last wine? You said it’d be the sweetest?”
“Um, yes. The Riesling.” Uncertain, I hesitated. If Jake wanted to avoid talking more, shouldn’t I allow him the privacy?

I poured two glasses of Riesling and handed one to him.

“Thanks,” he said, then looking into my eyes, he smiled. “It’s your turn to make the toast.”

“But I did the last one.”

“I’ve made two and you’ve made one, so this one’s yours.” He was trying hard to make light, teasing conversation, when I could see in his eyes he was still feeling the pain he’d just re-lived. I wanted to hold him, rock him, tell him everything would be all right, but I knew he’d take it as pity and push me away.

I lifted my glass. “Here’s to an amazing man, who’s both sensitive and strong.”

As he held my gaze, I held my breath. Had I gone too far? He stilled; the only sign of animation was the darkening of his eyes. “That’s probably the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me.”

Slightly confused—not to mention slightly breathless—by Jake’s intensity, I tried to lighten the mood. “I’m sure you’ve been complimented before, Jake.”

His gaze didn’t waver. “On my looks or my surfing, yes. Often. But no one’s said something like that before. Thank you.”

I tilted my head to the side, considering. Why hadn’t that been said to him before? I’d once thought Jake had everything life had to offer…but that was a fallacy. As revelations go, it was a big one. “You’re welcome.”

We both lifted our glasses to taste the last wine, but I couldn’t draw my eyes from his. I felt the Riesling flow over my tongue, and, when I lowered the glass, I licked the remaining taste from my lips. I saw Jake watch the movement.

“Do you like that wine?” I asked, my voice slightly husky.

“Yep.” He took another sip, still watching me with a strange intensity.

“I thought you’d like this one best.”

“I do.” He took a step closer and offered his glass to me. “Try some.”

I considered telling him that my glass came from the same bottle, but didn’t. I was mesmerized. He moved even closer and lifted his glass to my lips. Closing my eyes, I sipped. Then I felt him take the glass from my fingers and heard both glasses landing on the bench. In the same moment, I felt his mouth gently on mine, tasting the sweet wine on my lips.

I tried to contain a slight groan, but it slipped out moments before Jake’s arms wrapped around me, pulling me against him. Winding an arm around his neck and the other around his back, I held him firm, not willing to risk that he might change his mind. Whatever was happening outside in the real world, here and now, Jake was kissing me, and no way was I letting anything stop that.

He slid a hand to cradle my head before opening my hairclip, allowing my hair to spill down to my shoulders, and a shiver fluttered along my spine as his fingers ran through its length.
When his lips moved over my mouth, I felt the simple kiss become more passionate, tongues, lips, and hands bolder. But it wasn’t enough—I wanted to touch and be touched everywhere at once. His mouth was hot and decadent…and, once again, he was spoiling me for any other man.


I have one copy of The Summer of Jake to give away. To go into the draw, simply leave me a comment, and maybe tell me one thing that spoiled you for other things. For me, it's probably Lindt chocolate - I'm so much pickier about other chocolate now!

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

Smooch Graphic by WebWeaver