Feb 14, 2016

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 Lyn M!!

Can you please contact sue (dot) mackay56 (at) yahoo  (dot) com to receive your prize. 

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from Numbered.


What would you do differently if your days were…NUMBERED??

Mathematician and many-time Loser in Love Poppy Devine believes in being prepared. So when she discovers she has breast cancer, all she has to do is dust off the carefully numbered bucket list she prepared years before with her best friend Julia.
There are only two problems:  Quentin, a gorgeous younger man with rock-star ambitions, wasn’t on her list. And take-a-risk Julia, has suddenly come over all disapproving.
Together with Poppy’s hippy mother Scarlet, the three form an unlikely alliance to help Poppy realise her goals. Sky diving, swimming with sharks, cooking classes in Tuscany, visiting an orphanage in India are all part of the journey. Along the way, Poppy is forced to confront her best friend’s grief, her fraught relationship with her mother, and the fact that she really might be using her last available time on earth to make the most imperfect match of her life.
But Poppy comes to learn that when your days are numbered there’s no such thing as perfect and love really is all you need.

Amy says - Just a bit of a warning before you read on....Numbered isn't the typical romance you're probably used to from me. For a start I co-authored it with my sister Ros and secondly, it's more women's fiction. Don't worry, there's a large romantic subplot so, you know....there's kissing and stuff but its an emotional ride which might not be everyone's cup of tea. The scene below is one I wrote and comes with a language warning.

Set up - 
Poppy has just been told that there's nothing more medically they can do for her. Julia has dashed off to find Quentin who is practising with his band in a local church hall. When she gets there, Quentin has already left to go to Poppy and the practise session has broken up. But Spike the drummer is still there.....

Are you okay?’ he asked again.

‘No.’ Julia wasn’t sure why she’d answered. She didn’t want Spike to know her stuff. She didn’t want his pity or his brashness.

‘What can I do?’

Rage, sharp and molten, rose in her again. Do? As if he could do anything. What, just because he thought he was god’s gift to the universe he thought he could also cure cancer? ’Cause that’s what she needed.

Cocky bastard.

She didn’t mean to laugh. And even if she had she certainly wouldn’t have meant for it to sound quite so maniacal. ‘Nothing.’

‘I lost my muvver to breast cancer,’ he said. ‘I was twelve.’

Julia recoiled at the news, a spurt of hot tears scalding the back of her eyes. The thought was horrifying. She couldn’t bear thinking about him at twelve, all gangly and pubescent, losing his anchor. She couldn’t bear the thought of any of it.

She just didn’t want to think.

Her brain ached from the thinking.

‘Can you play?’ she asked, not really conscious of where she was going with it. ‘Loud?’

He shrugged those magnificent shoulders and the dragon danced. ‘How loud?’

Really loud. Loud enough that I can’t hear myself think.’

He looked at her for a few beats, then, without saying a word, he sat down on his stool and started to play.

The first notes hit her as she’d hoped they would. They thudded into her chest hard enough that she wished she was wearing Kevlar, and reverberated through her cerebral cortex with enough oomph to disrupt her clashing thoughts. For long minutes she stood there, eyes shut, and absorbed the crash and boom. She let it shake through her thighs, throb through her belly and vibrate through her grey matter.

She looked around the rickety old hall and found a stash of folding chairs. She grabbed one and sat in the middle of the empty space and let the noise consume her, tapping her cherryslingback shoe to the beat.

Tears came and she let them fall like rain. She watched him watch her as they fell and she didn’t care. Her brain was full of rage and bass meshing together into one blinding blast that left no room for anything else. The beat was intense, angry almost, and Julia revelled in it. Revelled in its vigour and its gutwrenching emotion.

Anger. Her old friend.

She felt good suddenly. Good to have the noise in every cell of her being, to have no room for anything other than the furious beat.

Julia didn’t know how long it went on. All she knew was that at some stage Spike shut his eyes and went to another plain. She wasn’t sure then who he was playing for. Her? Ten? Poppy? His mother maybe? But he sure was working up a sweat. She could see him perspiring from a good ten metres away. He flicked his head to the beat and the sun slanting through the high window behind him caught the droplets as they sprayed
from his hair. There was a dewy sheen to his smooth pecs and she could see moisture gathering in the hollow at the base of his throat.

Her nostrils flared as the salty aroma of fresh sweat wafted towards her. It filled her head and swirled with the earthy masculine beat, pulling at her, potent and real, and she wondered how that hollow would taste.

Suddenly something more than the beat filled her head. Suddenly Spike filled her head.
And that just made her madder.

She stood, angry and repulsed that she could be thinking of sweaty drummers when Poppy, her best friend, was dying. The chair fell back with a clatter and he opened his eyes. His gaze pierced her to the spot. He looked at her like he knew.


A small smile passed over his mouth before he tossed his head again and his eyes drifted shut and Julia felt her blood pressure skyrocket.

How freaking dare he? Did his cockiness know no bounds?

She stalked up to the stage, taking the stairs two at a time until she was standing in front of him, breathing erratically. The noise was deafening up here, hitting her in the chest like grenade blasts, the cacophony feeding her fury.

She watched him, utterly mesmerised by the show. His biceps flexing. His forearms straining as he belted the drums like he was possessed, like he was playing for his soul, the tattooed letters on his fingers and the sticks a blur of movement.  He was someplace else. Totally in the moment. And she wanted that. She wanted to be someplace else, too. In his moment.

Far the hell away from hers.

Julia moved closer until she was standing beside him. Close enough to touch him. Close enough to see him breathing hard at what was obviously quite a physical workout. To see the wink of his diamond stud and the sweat on his chest. To see that damn popped button.

And he didn’t smell like beer nuts and hair gel now. He smelled like rock-and-freaking-roll.

He stopped abruptly and his eyes flashed open, capturing hers. For long seconds neither of them did or said anything and only the wild tempo of their breathing broke the deafening silence.

Then she was lifting her skirt. Straddling him. Sliding her hands onto the bare smoothness of his shoulders up into his hair, twisting her fingers brutally into the shaggy locks.

He kissed her then. Not tentative. Not polite. This was no first-kiss kiss. It was demanding. Dirty. And it went on and on. Deep, open-mouthed, head-twisting, tonguefucking,rock’n’roll kissing.

Many people out there like to read what I call "tragic" books. I've never really gotten that myself. Tragedy is all around so I dont really want to read about it. But, I would move out of my comfort zone if it was an author I knew and loved.

What about you? Do you have a hard and fast rule about certain content regardless of who has written it? What are you personal hot buttons that will cause you to avoid a book like the plague? And have you ever set that aside because you trusted the author?

I'm giving away a paperback copy of Numbered (its one of those big suckers too!!) - openly internationally - to one person who joins in the conversation in the comments. Can't wait to hear what y'all have to say.

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

Smooch Graphic by WebWeaver

Feb 12, 2016

I'm so Proud ...

To be a Mills & Boon Author.

And again. I'm very proud to write for one of the most established names in romance publishing.

The reason I'm yelling this from the deck is that a couple of weeks ago I found myself having to defend what I do for a living, and I don't think I should have to.
Now I know that there are plenty of people out there who like to poke a finger at the authors and readers of these romance stories. They are a fact of life and don't bother me.
BUT - we (royal we) were having drinks with friends (whose late wife was a big fan of my books), and met a woman who all but attacked me.
'I hear you write books.'
'Yes, I do,' I said proudly.
'Mills & Boon books.' Sneer.
'Yes, I do.' Still proud.
Then I had to withstand a lengthy one-sided discussion on these books put out by this publisher.
'Have you read any?' I asked.
'Not since I was a teenager.'
Fair enough. Heard it all before. But did my blood boil. I did behave, stayed cool (read heated) and calm (read angry). Thank goodness for wine.

The day the carton containing copies of my very first book turned up here my man took a hard cover copy and placed on the bookshelf in the lounge, and has continued to so with every title since. He's not a reader, hasn't read any of mine, but boy, is he proud of me.

The thing is this: -
It takes time, commitment and sheer determination to write a book of any kind, and that's before we start knocking on editors' and agents' doors. That takes pig-headedness and many bottles of wine.
I have the utmost admiration for all my writing friends and colleagues. Many have achieved outstanding results with their amazing stories, and more will in the near future.

I never go around putting down other people's jobs, be they a cleaner or a doctor. Why would I?
I also believe we authors have one of the best occupations on the planet. We get to make up things, and talk to people in our head while getting away with it. What's not to love about those?

Okay, so now I'll come down off my soapbox. Got that off my chest.
Coming Soon: MarchJust as an aside - this person was more than happy to take home four of my books to give to her friend, who apparently can't read enough of our books. Go her.

Kind of like the title for my next book. Seems appropriate somehow.

Do you ever have to defend something that's important to you? Does it wind you up as I seemed to have been?

Feb 10, 2016

A Deal to Mend their Marriage—behind the book

The first frisson of inspiration for Caro and Jack’s story came when I started playing around with the idea of writing a caper story. That spark might’ve ignited when a few writing friends of mine waxed lyrical about the movie To Catch a Thief when we were having lunch one day. It’s a movie I’ve never seen, but have always meant to watch.

I still haven’t seen it. But I will. Soon!

It also strikes me that, not long before this discussion of To Catch a Thief, I’d read Anne Stuart’s PRINCE OF SWORDS, which also happens to feature a cat burglar as a hero.

So…I’m guessing that between them, this is what influenced my book. :-)

To be fair, unlike Cary Grant, my hero isn’t a cat burglar, but a security specialist who has a certain…ahem, talent for retrieving lost items. My heroine, however, just like Grace Kelly, is an heiress. And rather than missing jewels we have a missing antique snuffbox. Just to make things more interesting I made them husband and wife…who've been estranged for the past five years. I find it hard to resist a reunion story, don't you?

That’s perhaps why this became my theme song for A DEAL TO MEND THEIR MARRIAGE….

Gorgeous, isn’t it?

And just for fun, here’s an except: Caro and Jack’s first meeting after five years apart…

Despite the loss of the snuffbox and all the morning’s kerfuffle, it was Jack’s face that rose in her mind and memories of the past that invaded Caro, chasing her other concerns aside, as she trudged across Westminster Bridge.
  So when she first saw his face in the midst of the crowd moving towards her on the bridge Caro dismissed it as a flight of fancy, a figment of her imagination. Until she realised that blinking hadn’t made the image fade. It had only made the features of that face clearer—a face that was burned onto her soul.
  She stopped dead. Jack was in London?
  The crowd surged around her, but she couldn’t move. All she could do was stare.
  Jack! Jack! Jack!
  His name pounded at her as waves of first cold and then heat washed over her. The ache to run to him nearly undid her. And then his gaze landed on her and he stopped dead too.
  She couldn’t see the extraordinary cobalt blue of his eyes at this distance, but she recognised the way they narrowed, noted the way his nostrils flared. She’d always wondered what would happen if they should accidentally meet on the street. Walking past each other without so much as an acknowledgement obviously wasn’t an option, and she was fiercely glad about that.
  Hauling in a breath, she tilted her head to the left a fraction and started towards the railing of the bridge. She leaned against it, staring down at the brown water swirling in swift currents below. He came to stand beside her, but she kept her gaze on the water.
  ‘Hello, Jack.’
  She couldn’t look at him. Not yet. She stared at the Houses of Parliament and then at the fa├žade of the aquarium on the other side of the river. ‘Have you been in London long?’
  Finally she turned to meet his gaze and her heart tried to grow bigger and smaller in the same moment. She read intent in his eyes and slowly straightened. ‘You’re here to see me?’
  His demeanour confirmed it, but he nodded anyway. ‘Yes.’
  ‘I see.’ She turned to stare back down at the river. ‘Actually…’ She frowned and sent him a sidelong glance. ‘I don’t see.’
  He folded his tall frame and leaned on the railing too. She dragged her gaze from his strong, hawk-like profile, afraid that if she didn’t she might reach across and kiss him.
  ‘I heard about your father.’
  She pursed her lips, her stomach churning like the currents below. ‘You didn’t send a card.’
  He didn’t say anything for a moment. ‘You send me a Christmas card every year…’
  He never sent her one.
  ‘Do you send all your ex-lovers Christmas cards?’
  She straightened. ‘Only the ones I marry.’

Can you tell I had a lot of fun writing A DEAL TO MEND THEIR MARRIAGE?

So tell me, are you a fan of a caper story? Do you like a little mystery mixed in with your romance? And do you love all of that delicious angsty history of a reunion story? Or maybe you prefer something altogether different—like a Cinderella rags-to-riches tale? Hmm…maybe I should write one of those next. ;-)

Feb 8, 2016

Valentine’s Day – Love It? Hate It?

Just a week to go to the Day of Love – Valentine’s Day. Being a romance writer, I love Valentine’s Day. I know lots of people hate the commercial side of things (and I do too) but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a little loving focus on the one nearest and dearest to you.

And to celebrate it doesn’t have to be expensive or predictable (although again, I’m very happy with a big bunch of flowers). Picnic in the park together. Kayak down the creek together. Salsa in the sunshine together. Cooking pork chops together. Walk the wallaby together (well dog just didn’t alliterate!). It’s the being together and having a lovely time that counts.

As a romance writer, I’m often asked to speak at an event around this time.  This year, I’m travelling up to the Sunshine Coast to speak to the Sunshine Coast Business Women’s Network.  In fact, just as this post goes live, I’ll be driving up the coast to Queensland. I used to live on the Sunshine Coast, so it will be lovely to go back. Love to see you there, if you live up those parts.

Do you have plans for this Valentines Day? Do you celebrate it or believe it is now too commercial to indulge in?

Stop Press! My best-selling romance, The Billionaire’s Pursuit of Love, is currently on sale for $1.99. If you’d like to pick up a copy, visit Amazon, iTunes, Kobo, Google Play or other e-tailers.

Feb 7, 2016

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a smooch from BREAKING ALL THEIR RULES but first 

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

Can you please contact Michellemichelle (at) michelle-douglas  (dot) com to receive your copy of A DEAL TO MEND THEIR MARRIAGE

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from Sue MacKay

Coming Soon: March
Plastic surgeon Olivia Coates-Clark ended her affair with Dr Zachary Wright before she could get hurt. But when a chance encounter brings them back together she finds herself considering breaking her one rule: not to give in to her desire for Zac! Can Zac prove to her that some rules are worth breaking?

Scene set-up: Olivia and Zac have gone back at his apartment for a drink after a charity auction Olivia organised to raise funds for their colleague who requires treatment overseas. One of the prizes at the auction was a trip for two to Fiji and another mischievous colleague bought it to give to Olivia and Zac. They're avoiding talking about the trip and what it means, and instead drift into a conversation about their families that neither is comfortable with.

‘You mentioned one brother.’  Olivia asked him.
Was that longing in her voice? Zac wondered. Hard to tell from her face. ‘Mark. He’s married with two kids. I only get to see them at Christmas and birthdays.’

Olivia picked at an invisible spot on the counter. ‘That’s incredibly sad.’

‘Yep.’ He made himself busy getting mugs from the cupboard and teabags from the pantry.

She lifted her head and locked her blue eyes on him, suddenly back to being in control. ‘Think I’ll head back to the hotel. I don’t really want tea. Or anything.’ She slipped off the stool and turned towards the doorway. ‘Goodnight, Zac.’

With little thought he reached for her, caught her wrist and gently tugged her close. With a finger under her chin he tilted her head back so he could gaze down into her eyes. And felt his head spinning with wanting her.

Olivia’s eyes widened and her chin rose further as her mouth opened slightly.

Zac was lost. Any resistance or logical thinking disappeared as he leaned closer to place his mouth over hers. As he tasted her, the heat and need he’d kept tamped down most of the night exploded into a rainbow of hot colours. Olivia. She was in his arms, her mouth on his, her tongue dancing with his. Olivia.

Slim arms wound around his neck, pulling his body closer to hers. He felt her rise onto tiptoe, knew the moment when her hips pressed against his obvious desire. Those breasts he’d been fantasising about all night flattened against his chest, turning him into a molten pool of need. His hands spread around her waist to lift her onto the stool, where she immediately wrapped her legs around his thighs.

This is what I’ve missed so damned much. We are fire on fire. Feeding each other. Consuming the oxygen.

She tasted wonderful, bringing more erotic memories back to him. Making new ones.

Lifting his mouth, he began trailing kisses over her jaw, down her neckline, on towards her deep cleavage. When she whimpered he continued while lifting his gaze to her face, where he recognised the same fiery awakening racing along his veins.

Her fingers kneaded his scalp as she pushed her breasts higher to give him more access with his tongue. She wasn’t wearing a bra. Of course she wasn’t. That dress had clung to every curve and outlined her shape perfectly; including her breasts, those peaks now hard against his mouth and hand.

‘It’s been so long,’ she murmured in a low voice that spelt sex. Her hands fumbled with the buttons of his shirt, finally pushed it open, and then her palms were on his skin, smoothing and teasing as only Olivia could do.

The memories that he’d lived on for all those long months apart rapidly became reality. He hadn’t enhanced any of them. This was how it had been between them. Oh, hell. There was nothing quite like making out with this woman. She knew the buttons to push, remembered what he most enjoyed, and if she wasn’t careful would have him coming long before he’d pleasured her.
That wasn’t happening.

Breaking All Their Rules is set in Auckland and on a beautiful Fijian island where I've stayed and yes, had a romantic week with my man.
Come back next Sunday, when the winner of today's giveaway will be announced!

Smooch Graphic by WebWeaver

Feb 5, 2016

What's hanging on my walls.

Now the dust has settled from all our renos, one of my favourite jobs has been hanging all our art back on the newly painted walls and when I did it I got something of a surprise. I realized that all our pieces are about the places and people we love. I thought I'd show you a few and the little stories behind how we came to have them.
This was painted for me by my friend, Donna. It's called "Barbara's colours". It reminds me of paua shells, or leaves floating on a pond, and I absolutely love it.
This is a New Zealand artist who creates prints and lithographs inspired by Maori and Greek myths. This fits perfectly in our Greek - New Zealand household.
And here's another by the same artist. If you look closely you'll see some New Zealand icons on the Greek vase. This one of the first piecs we bought and still one of our favourites.
Our very good friend Maree gave us this as a wedding present. She was also our wedding photographer. She took it in the gardens of Sissinghurst. So romantic!
A local Maori artist did this piece for us. It represents our family and on the back has a beautiful Maori prayer written by the artist.
The mother of another friend is a well known New Zealand artist and this was another wedding present. It represents Persephone in the underworld. Another NZ/Greek piece.
My husband took this photo in 1992 when he visited his dad's village in Greece for the first time. There was no such thing as panorama then so he just took a number of pictures and then when the technology caught up we had them stitched together!
This hangs in my bedroom and is called "The Kiss". I think it sums up my world completely :) What about you? Do you have any favourite pictures hanging on your walls?

Feb 3, 2016

Bushfire Aftermath

Everything changed at our place on Saturday 19th December.  It was a brutally hot day, with a fierce north wind, severe fire danger. A total fire ban.

About 2.30pm, a fire had started in a road just to the west of our place. It swept to the south of us and a reasonable distance away.  For a while it looked like it was going to miss us.

But it didn’t.

At around 5pm, the wind shifted to a westerly and then a south westerly and the front roared our way heralding its approach with a vanguard of noise and smoke, embers and spotfires.

The power went out

We had a small window of opportunity to evacuate with the fire crews - we took it.

And waited with the car just under a kilometre away to see what would happen next. The wind changed again and the fire veered back onto the southerly track.

The front had passed on to wreak its ruthless havoc on other properties leaving us on a flank.

We couldn’t get back home via the road because of the risk from fire weakened trees.  But we were able to travel over blackened ground in the paddocks next door to our place.  Our house was still standing!  We started working to put out the spot fires, starting with those closest and working out.

We lost the sheds and everything in them.  But the two of us and our house were still standing – the house, a little scorched, and us, a little traumatised!

We know we were very, very fortunate! 

There’s a lot of work to be done. But, thanks to help from friends, we’ve made real progress with clearing up. 

Everything about the property is different, stripped bare. But that’s slowly changing too.

It’s hard to believe this was just over 6 weeks ago now and Nature has moved on!  Green shoots are bursting through blackened tree trunks.  In the herb garden, the sage and oregano and thyme are sending up tender green leaves.

Hot spots after the fire front had gone
A couple of days later: Stark and bare... but still rather beautiful.
The hakea enjoyed its toasting ...
...as did the protea.
An odd "treasure" we found in the remains of the shed.  This used to be a brass padlock.
A friend gave us a punnet of petunias.  They're a splash of colour in the sepia!