Jul 29, 2016

New Zealand Bound!

It's two weeks today until the Romance Writers of New Zealand conference - cue excited dancing! The RWNZ conferences are always a lot of fun and it's been a few years since I've been across the ditch to attend one, so my anticipation is high.



I'm actually leaving on Monday (gah! Someone needs to start packing!) so I can spend some time before the conference with friends, including fellow Lovecat, Barbara DeLeo. Then onto the conference itself, where I'm planning on catching up with more Lovecats - Yvonne Lindsay, Louisa George, and Sue Mackay. Sounding like a pretty fun time, right?

I'll be presenting two workshops, sitting on a panel, attending a dinner with my publisher, drinking cocktails, and chatting all things writing and books. 

But, as mentioned above, I haven't started packing yet. And although it's winter in both places, a sub-tropical Queensland winter is *nothing* like a New Zealand winter, so I'm starting to panic about having enough warm clothes. 

Any tips on packing for a winter holiday? Or things I should try and see while I'm there? All advice welcome! 

Jul 27, 2016

San Diego dreaming - Kandy Shepherd

Writer’s conferences can be lots of fun—they can also be exhausting! Fresh from finishing two tight deadlines for Harlequin, I was wondering if it was actually such a good idea to go to the Romance Writers of America conference in San Diego, on the west coast of California this month. I was too drained to even think of getting packed and on the plane.

I loved San Diego where the Romance Writers of America 2016 conference was held!

 Needless to say I dragged myself onto the plane and relaxed immediately. Okay, so those cattle class seats seem to be shrinking in size, but I had nothing to do on the long journey but read and watch movies. Movies one after the other, catching up on all the ones I’d missed while striving to meet those deadlines!

I really enjoyed Mexican food in San Diego!

 As soon as I got there I know it was worth it. I got out of the airport to be greeted with a great view of the glistening blue harbour and it got better and better as it went on. Fortunately I had a few days to sightsee before the conference started. San Diego is a fabulous city, Spanish influenced with elegant buildings, magnificent beaches and a hot dry summer very welcome after the very cold winter we’ve been having in my part of Down Under. I absolutely loved it!

I was in fine company at the Harlequin signing!

 The conference itself was outstanding with so many talks and workshops for any level of writer. Meetings with my editor and the functions with my publisher Harlequin were a highlight too. And then there was the Harlequin party which is such fun—as fellow LoveCat Louisa George who was also there has already mentioned on this blog. One of the best parts of the American conference is mingling with writers from not just the United States but other countries too: fellow Aussies, New Zealanders and writers from Canada, England, Scotland and Ireland. Then there’s the awestruck fan girl in me that can’t quite believe I’m partying with iconic authors I read and loved long before I got published myself.

The big book-signings that are an integral part of the American conference is also quite an experience. There is the big mass signing for literacy, where publishers donate the books, readers in their hundred buy them from their favourite to get signed, then the proceeds go to adult literacy. That signing is open to the public in the conference city. Then there are the publisherssignings for conference delegates—and the books there are free!

That's a billionaire bookmark I'm holding - part of a series of Hero bookmarks from Harlequin 
I met up with old friends at the American conference and made some fabulous new ones. You probably won’t be surprised to hear that I’ll be saving my pennies in the hope of going next year and seeing them again!

Writing is a solitary occupation and the stimulus and inspiration I get from conferences is invaluable—not to mention the contacts made and friendships forged. I came home with my head buzzing with ideas and information. And the good thing is I get to do it all over again next month in Adelaide for the Romance Writers of Australia conference! Hope I’ll see some of you there.


Have you been to a writers or readers conference? Or enjoyed a workshop for your job or interests? Have you ever gone on a trip that turned out better than you had anticipated? Do you enjoy getting a book signed by a favourite author? I’d love to read your thoughts!

Jul 25, 2016

Photobombed! by Amy Andrews

One of the more endearing things to have come out of our crazy selfie obsessed lifestyle is the photobomb. There are some great examples out there. Hows this one?







Intentional or not it's very funny - nothing like upstaging one of the most famous weddings on the planet!

The reason I'm writing this blog is because the lovely Kelly Hunter and I went out on Saturday night in Sydney to the PBR (Professonal Bull Riders) national championships and got bombed but good!  As I am prone to do, I snapped a selfie of the two of us only to find we had been spectacularly, if rather unknowingly, photobomed. I'd thought initially they'd done it on purpose but as the lovely couple spent 90% of the night pashing up, I dont think it was intentional at all. They were just doing that thing we all do when we're young and in love and can't keep our hands (or lips) to ourselves.

Happy sigh. Doesn't it just give you all the feels?




So it prompted me to go looking thorugh my camera for some others ones over the years....

My brother is a terrible photobomber. This one is on national tele when he was at the 2015 Logies, photobombing none other than Delta Goodrem!



 And this one where he photobombed a pic I was taking of my daughter and my neice!



I love this one of author Fiona Harper photbombing me and Jessica Hart/Pamela Hartshorne at the RNA conference last year. 



And I really love this one of my best friend and I being photobombed by her hubby. We'd just gone and had a pamper session with our make up being done for us. It makes me smile every time!


There was a pic of a pilot photobombing myself, Anna Campbell and Heather from ARRA at Brisbane airport but I can't find it anywhere. Sad face.....


What about you? Have you taken or been in any pics with a photobomber? Or do you have a favourite celebrity one? Or does this whole selfie obssessed society give you the willies?




Jul 24, 2016

Sunday Smooch Ruby Finalist "Seducing His Enemy's Daughter" by Annie West

Today I'm utterly delighted to introduce the second in our special feature of Sunday Smooches showcasing the LoveCat finalists in this year's Romance Writers of Australia RuBY Awards.


The RuBY is Australia's premier award celebrating the best the romance genre has to offer. It's open to all Australian and New Zealand authors and the finalists are chosen by reader judges. We're so excited that Annie West's phenomenal talent has been recognised once again.

Once again, I hear you ask? Why yes. :-) Last year, amid much cheering and stomping of feet, Annie's Damaso Claims His Heir took out the RuBY in the Short Sexy Category.


 Annie's books are reader favourites. Listen to what readers have been saying about Seducing His Enemy's Daughter:

"I loved the drama, the characters, the sizzling romance and in short everything about the story" Ipshita, Romance Junkies

"Loved this book! I didn't put it down from start to finish." Lynn B, Amazon

"I loved the ending so much. This is totally a must read for any romance junkie." Bootlover, Amazon

Happy sighs! Doesn't that make you want to rush straight out and read it?
Psst, buy links are below. ;-)


Donato Salazar can’t forget his tragic past and he has no intention of forgiving the man responsible. Jilting his enemy’s daughter will be the icing on the cake of his revenge, and beautiful Ella Sanderson is certainly sweet enough.

Except Ella isn’t the vacuous socialite he expected and she refuses to marry him! Her rebelliousness only makes Donato want her more, so he’ll have to persuade her…touch by breathtaking touch.

But soon Donato finds himself enthralled by their magnetic connection. As their fake wedding day approaches, one question weighs heavily on Donato’s mind: to love, honor…and betray?


Setup: Donato has come to Sydney with the aim of destroying Ella’s father. When her father suggests Donato marry one of his daughters to cement what he believes to be a once in a lifetime chance to get his hands on Donato’s money, Donato plays along. But his plans take a hit when he meets Ella, who’s not the vacuous socialite he expected. From the instant they meet the attraction between them is explosive. Ella knows Donato is playing some devious game with her father and she refuses to be a pawn. She confronts him but he turns the table by talking, not about deals, but about the powerful current of desire between them.
     
      ‘No one is forcing you into anything. Believe me, I would never force a woman into my bed.’
      Ella stared into his face, noting how those dark features set in stern lines of rigid control. There was hauteur in the flash of his eyes and pride in the set of his shoulders.
      She believed him. The realisation rocked her.
      ‘What we’re discussing now is sex.’ His voice turned deep and liquid on the word, matching the slow-turning need inside Ella. ‘You and me. Uncomplicated, satisfying, scorching.’
      ‘Scorching?’ Ella didn’t know how the word escaped. It wasn’t what she’d meant to say. Clearly the look in his eyes had incinerated part of her brain. ‘You assume a lot.’
      He shook his head. ‘I assume nothing. I know, Ella. Can’t you feel it?’ Again he reached for her, but this time he only clasped her hand lightly. Fire sparked from the point of contact and she had to work to suppress shivers of delight.
      How had she come to this? She’d raced halfway across Sydney to confront Donato, filled with righteous indignation and—
      But there’d been more, hadn’t there? No matter what she pretended, it hadn’t just been indignation. She’d been almost relieved for the excuse to see him again, despite her fine talk about never meeting again. She was angry, for sure. But she was also…enthralled.
      She swallowed, her throat scratchy as she confronted the truth. She wanted Donato Salazar as she’d never wanted any man. Her skin felt too tight, her chest too full.
      Donato stroked one finger along her palm and she gasped as pleasure rocketed through her.
      ‘Tell me you feel it,’ he purred.
      Ella bit back a groan of despair. She was out of her depth. She’d never been good at flirtation. Suddenly she didn’t care about pride or keeping up an image. This was about survival – and she felt like she was going under for the third time.
      ‘What do you want from me, Donato?’ I don’t play these games.’
      ‘I don’t play games either. Not about this.’ His face was grim, the hint of teasing erased from features that looked pared back and intense. He swallowed, his Adam’s apple bobbing hard and something within her eased at that visible sign he wasn’t totally in control.
      Suddenly he stepped back, releasing her hand, and cool air wafted between them.
      ‘What happens next is up to you.’ His heavy-lidded look was a challenge and an invitation.

      Donato looked down into stunning blue-grey eyes, grown huge and wary. He felt the doubt radiating from Ella, just as he felt the heat of sexual arousal.
      His body was taut, humming with need, and he couldn’t quite believe the effort it took not to step closer and persuade her into surrender as he knew he could. The attraction dragging at his belly, arcing between them, was powerful.
      But there’d been something about the way she mentioned her sister, on top of her talk of being forced, that held him back. He’d seen the quickly-veiled hint of fragility in Ella’s expression.
      He didn’t have her measure yet but one thing he knew. He needed Ella to come to him.
      The moment of silence grew to two pulse beats, three, four, more. His nerves and his patience stretched. He forced himself to stand unmoving, as if he wasn’t strung out.
      Then with what sounded like a muffled oath, Ella launched herself forward. She cannoned into him, soft and curvaceous, warm and delectably feminine. Automatically he grabbed her to him, catching her in a tight hold. Her arms looped up over his shoulders, her hands burrowing up through his hair, pulling his head down.
      He had a moment to register that fresh-as-a-garden-after-rain scent then their mouths collided and his brain shorted.
      So good. She felt even better than he’d expected. And she tasted—
      Donato plunged deep into her mouth, forcing her head back, swallowing her sigh of response. Ribbons of heat unfurled through him as he savoured Ella, so delicious, so right. Her soft lips, her demanding tongue, the way she melted into him even as she challenged him to give more. He angled his head, hauling her even closer, lost in a kiss that was so much more than he’d expected, despite his anticipation.
      He couldn’t get enough. Her lush body cushioning his instant erection. Her hot, eager mouth that tasted of peach nectar. Her thigh, sliding restlessly against his leg as their tongues tangled and lips fused.
      Donato grabbed her thigh and hauled it up, swallowing her gasp of shocked approval. There. He wanted her there. He bent his knees, angling his hips so he rubbed against the softest, most secret part of her.
      To his delight Ella’s hands tightened against his scalp, not pushing him away but clutching as if she couldn’t get close enough.
      Dimly he wondered what had happened to slow seduction. To years of expertise at pleasing a woman. To caution and taking things one step at a time.
      With Ella there were no steps. There was just a headlong plunge into riotous need.


* * * * *

Have you ever won something? Have you ever entered a contest, bought a raffle ticket or played roulette and won? Leave a comment and one name will be randomly drawn to win a copy of SEDUCING HIS ENEMY'S DAUGHTER.

And speaking of winners...last week's Sunday Smooch winner is riet_media. Please contact Amy via amy (at) amyandrews (dot) com (dot) au to claim your copy of Playing By Her Rules.
Come back next Sunday, when the winner of today's giveaway will be announced and a smooch from  Michelle Douglas's An Unlikely Bride for the Billionaire will be featured.


Jul 22, 2016

Romance Writers of America Conference Round Up




It's conference season again, so our posts are likely to be punctuated with pictures of slightly inebriated writers having lots of fun!

This year I was lucky enough to attend the Romance Writers America Conference in San Diego- a mere 16 hour journey that was well worth squishing into a small plane seat and watching hours and hours of films for.

It was my first visit to San Diego and hopefully it won't be my last. What a lovely place! The temperature was around 25C during the day with a lovely refreshing sea breeze that meant it never got too hot. As we arrived a few days before conference my roomie (Elizabeth King) and I spent some time sight seeing.

We had planned a trip over the border to Mexico, but that was cancelled, so Elizabeth and I took a trolley tour round the city, over to Coronado and into Old Town which is the original site of the first settlement there.


We tried 'swamp pop floats' (sarsaparilla and ice cream)- yum!

There were lots of opportunities to try authentic Mexican food... (YUM!!!!)


And Mexican drinks... (we weren't sure about these so we had to try a lot of them to make sure...)

We took a trip to San Diego zoo which is one of the best and most famous zoos in USA. We made some friends...

We were able to pick up our conference programme, badges and goody bags on Tuesday... one of the best things about conference...





Conference started for some people on Wednesday. My day was mostly meetings, but I was lucky to be a guest at the Beaumonde (Regency Historical) soiree where I learned three Regency dances and felt a little underdressed...

Thursday was a blur of workshops,  but I did get a chance for lunch with good friend and M&B Romance/Medical author Scarlet Wilson who had been nominated for not one, but two, RITAs... look who we met on our walk... (only in America, right?)

On Thursday evening I went to a very illuminating (and hilarious) workshop on cover shoots. A photographer and a model showed us the process they use to shoot different covers/poses in one day. Starting with clothes on (Amish style), to tops off... to kilts! And there was some audience participation...



After the Friday workshops (and a very interesting speaker who talked about Imposter Syndrome- which I may recap on here another time) there was the famous Harlequin Party where I bumped into another of our Lovecats, Kandy! Here we are tired and with aching feet from dancing, just about to head home to our hotel.


Saturday was another round of workshops (although none as hilarious as the cover shoot one, sadly). Then the glittery amazingness of the RITA/Golden Heart Awards Ceremony. I was lucky enough to be VIP guest to Elizabeth, who was up for TWO Golden Hearts in the historical category. We took the afternoon off and had our hair and make-up done, then headed to the event. I was in her shoes last year with my RITA nom, so I know how nervous she was; it's a very auspicious night, just like the Oscars! But she won!!! And made a lovely speech and we're all very proud of her! Here she is with her Golden Heart necklace.

It was late by the time we got to bed after all the celebrating. Heads were sore the next morning and we faced another long flight home. But I had the best time (as always), learnt a lot, laughed a lot and spent good times with my tribe. 

Are you looking forward to a conference/ work related fun? If so, what, where and when?  What's the best part for you?

Jul 20, 2016

NOT ONE, BUT TWO LOVECAT KORU AWARD FINALISTS!!!

Huge congratulations to both Louisa George (in the Short Sexy Romance Category) and to Sue Mackay (in the Short Sweet Category) for making the finals in the Romance Writers of New Zealand Inc. Koru Award of Excellence this year! I'm so excited for you two and can't wait for Awards night on the 13th of August. You're both big winners in my book!


So, which books did they final with?


Let's take a look:


Louisa George, with TEMPTED BY HER ITALIAN SURGEON

The doctor everyone's talking about! 

When a deliciously naughty photo of pediatric transplant surgeon Matteo Finelli goes viral, social media expert Ivy Leigh is called in to discipline him. It will be a challenge…especially as Ivy is far from immune to Matteo's charismatic charm herself! 

Dedicated doc Matteo doesn't care about social media policy—he's far more interested in uncovering the warm, vulnerable heart Ivy hides beneath her suit jacket. The chemistry between them is sizzling, but can he persuade ever-cautious Ivy to take a risk and give in to an irresistible temptation?

Ooooh, you can just feel the heat, can't you?




 And we have Sue Mackay, with REUNITED...IN PARIS!

A second chance…

When Dr Tori Wells arrives to speak at a conference in France, it finally feels as if her dreams are coming true! Until her ex-husband, Dr Ben Wells, turns up unexpectedly…

Ben might be a changed man after his pride nearly destroyed his career, but one thing certainly hasn’t changed — the way Tori makes him feel!

Reunited in the city of love, Ben and Tori are forced to share the secrets that tore them apart seven years ago. Dare they take another chance on their future, together?

I love a reunion story, don't you?


Good luck on the night, ladies, I'll be there cheering for you and thank you so much for your wonderful stories!


Jul 18, 2016

Game on! with Stefanie London

I most definitely grew up as part of the video game generation. I was born in the 80’s, grew up in the 90’s with a computer in the house and had my first video game console at age 12 (it was a Super Nintendo and my first game was Mario World. I’ve had a slight obsession with the Super Mario Bros ever since.)

But I’ve always loved board games and card games. I played them a lot with my younger sister when we were growing up—snakes and ladders, checkers, monopoly, sorry (which I can now only say with a terrible Canadian accent) and so many more.

When my husband and I moved to Canada we went to an awesome board game café called Snakes & Lattes. I love the concept of a board game café – you get to try out new games and see if you like them before you buy all while having a coffee (or an incredible Nutella latte).

Snakes & Lattes totally renewed my love for this fun activity and since then our collection has grown. Here are a few that frequently get played in our house which you may not have heard about:

Sushi Go! (card game)
This is a fast-paced card game that involved passing hands of cards around a circle and trying get as many points as possible. It’s played in rounds and takes about 20 minutes to play. It’s great if you don’t want to invest several hours that are required for some other games (*cough Monopoly cough*)

Pandemic (board game)
This is a co-operative board game, which wasn’t something I’d ever tried before. All players work together to beat the game, essentially. In this game you have to stop the spread of diseases around the world and each player has a special ability that helps you do that.

Lords of Waterdeep (board game)
This game is more involved, has a longer play time and takes a little while to learn. But it’s a lot of fun – you spend the game trying to complete quests to gain points all the while trying to block attacks from your opponents. It has a fantasy theme (I believe it’s from the Dungeons and Dragon’s world) and the artwork is amazing.

Agricola (board game)
This is an agriculture-themed (hence the name) game where you have a farm that requires crops, livestock and food. You’re in competition with the other players but it’s less about attacking and more about personal strategy. Bonus points for the adorable little wooden animal pieces that come with it.

Exploding Kittens (card game)
Illustrated by the same guy who does The Oatmeal (aka my favourite comics) this game is the most backed Kickstarter project in history. We have the NSFW version (of course) so it’s definitely not everyone’s cup of tea. But it’s so much fun, is very quick to play and the artwork is hilarious. It’s a game of attrition/survival.

There are so many more games I could list here! Honourable mentions go to Settlers of Catan, 5 Crowns, and Forbidden Desert.


Are you a board game fan? What’s your favourite game to play?