Jan 20, 2018

Girl Power by Clare Connelly

Mills & Boon Dare series is due to release in a week and while it promises the same high standard of fantastic, escapist romance that Mills & Boon is renowned for, it also brings a heap of heat, and features women who are super strong, sensual and confident. I've written four Mills & Boon Dares, and I can say that I absolutely love the series. 

High school besties
There's been a lot of interest in the powerful female characters, and so I've been thinking about 
women lately, and particularly, empowering women, strong women, how women can be confident and resilient, how owning our sensuality is a mark of triumph over old-fashioned ideals held by a patriarchal society... and what really resonates with me is the idea of strong friendships. The thought that part of being a strong woman is to be a woman who lifts other people up, who helps, motivates, inspires, says kind things, practices kind acts. 

I'm fortunate to still be really great mates with my high school besties. We all live in different states now but we are as close as ever. I have two sisters whom I adore, and a strong, awesome mum I really admire.

I have a lot of kind women in my life, and since I came into the RWA fold, and I've experienced some incredible acts of kindness too. Notably, after meeting Amy Andrews at the 2016 conference
At the Harlequin party 2017 RWA conference
 and giving her some of my books, unbeknownst to me, she contacted her editor at Mills & Boon to rave about me. How nice is that? It was unqualified, selfless support and championing, and I will never forget her willingness to speak up for me when we barely knew one another. 

Then, there are the LoveCats who invited me to be a part of this awesome blog, and who I have so enjoyed getting to know!

Jillian Jones & me
I joined our state romance writing group in January of last year and began to attend the monthly meetings. What a pleasure it's been to get to know these writers, women who sometimes share my passions and other times don't; to enjoy the lively conversations that centre around books we've read and loved, books we've hated, where our writing journey is at - and to share wisdom. We're all at different stages in our journey and the exchange of information is always lively and informative. We have our annual lunch tomorrow and I can't wait to see the gang! 

With my SARA sister Bronwyn
I could go on and on, listing all the beautiful souls I've connected with through my writing (readers who are just the loveliest and most supportive group) , but the common theme is the giving of time and thought. Whether it's a small message to touch base on a problematic manuscript, a tweet shared, a review of a book - and beyond that, sharing recipes and laughing about children, all the small little irrelevancies that form the background of our lives.

What about you? Got any kind acts you can share? Something a friend has done for you or that you go out of your way to do for a friend? 

Jan 15, 2018

Action Holiday or Leisurely One?

I’m an action holiday kind of gal. 

I’m currently in Whistler on a ski holiday with the family. I love flying down the slopes and getting a nice hot chocolate as a reward after a few hours of hard skiing. Then, out there again for more. I love being totally exhausted by the end of the day. Jumping in that nice long hot shower in the afternoon after a full day of skiing – heavenly.

I’ve tried to do ‘relaxing by the pool’ holidays. I pack great books to try to keep me on the sun lounger, but after about half an hour I’m itching to get moving. To do something active.

Image by Tourism Whistler / Mike Crane
Whilst being here in Canada, I’ve been thinking that a snowy backdrop would be wonderful for a romance. Log fires. Mulled wine. Snowed in in a log cabin with gorgeous views of the mountains. Icicles framing the windows (they are framing the one I’m looking out of now).

Anyway must away. Time to put on the ski suit and get back out there.

What type of holiday-maker are you – action or leisurely? I’d love to hear.

Jan 8, 2018

Word of the Year

New Years Resolutions have always made me twitchy.

I’ve tried them, of course. I mean, any chance to write a list, right?  #stationeryaddict

But I’ve never really bothered to follow through in a real way.

Partly because I’m hopelessly laid-back and partly because I’m a naturally contented person, so the idea of making wholesale changes has never really stuck.

Mostly because I’m not great with being told what to do. Tell me not to eat a Tim Tam.  Go on.  I dare you.  I’ll show you!  Watch me eat this whole packet, right in front of you.  Take that!

But, in the contrary nature of the human condition, I love the thought of a New Year.  It’s the ultimate Fresh Start.  The chance to shake off the cobwebs. To take a deep refreshing breath and do better.  Be better.

Which is why I have fallen in love with the concept of Word of the Year.

Rather than a list of ways to self-improve, for me my Word of the Year is a touchstone, a way to gently tug me back to something meaningful.

For example, last year my WotY was SIMPLIFY.

I decluttered like crazy. Oh the bliss of a tidy house!  I cut back – on worries, on endeavours that sapped my time. I let go. Having that word as my touchstone worked. It made my life lighter.

This year it’s MOMENTS.

For me that could mean a hundred different things all of which speak to me at this point in my life.

It can be a reminder to stop. To breathe. To notice.  To soak in a bright blue sky filled with fluffy white clouds. To take a moment to Shazam that song that made me dance in my seat. To see beauty in a wasp flittering over the pool. To spend a minute soaking in the first Jasmine flowers of the season. To look for accidental art in my coffee.

To put not only the big events in our family’s yearly Jar of Awesomeness, but those small moments, the forgotten joys – when my daughter tried to do a handstand in the pool, failed, and laughed at herself with the most gorgeous lack of self-consciousness. When my son made his Captain Underpants, fan–fiction comic book.  When I forced my mum to wear a huge pink ‘birthday girl’ badge the day we took her out for her 70th birthday.

These moments are my bliss.  My happy place.  My smiles.  My delight.

I'm pretty good at knowing what they are when I see them, but this year I intend to bask in them longer.  To bank those feelings.  To swim in the sparkles till I turn all pruney.  So that it will become habit.
And I can't wait.
So how about you? If you had a word of the year, what might it be?

Dec 23, 2017

Seasons Greetings

The LoveCats would like to wish you and yours a very merry Festive season. Whether you are on a beach somewhere sweltering through the holidays as we will be DownUnder, or sitting in front of a crackling fire while it snows outside, we hope you'll stay safe and join us here again in 2018!!!

We're taking a break for a couple of weeks but will be back full of bounce and vim on the 8th of January! 

Until then, we wish you health and happiness and lots of fabulous holiday reads!

Dec 21, 2017

Hey Baby! What's Your Sign by Amy Andrews.

Its my birthday today 😍😎😀 I'm two years away from THE BIG ONE so I'm going to enjoy being in my forties for the next couple of years!

My hubby got me a new phone. There wasn't anything wrong with the old phone except it only had 16gig storage and it was driving me nutso! I spend half my time deleting photos because I dont have enough room if I want to take a 15 sec video - madness! So now I have a phone with 125gig!! I haz zee power!!

My husband reckons I'll just fill that up too so I bet him I wouldn't. We'll see who wins that one eventually 😈

This birthday biz got me thinking about star signs. Now, I have to state from the beginning that I think this is all a heap of baloney. I am not a believer. In fact I'm so much not a believer that my son was 3 years old when someone asked me what star sign he was and I didn't know....it had NEVER occured to me to look it up...(He's a Libran) So, yes, not a follower of astrology.

But I do, in some obscure part of my brain know that I am a cusp baby. Born on the cusp between Sagittarius and Capricorn. Again, I dont really know what the hell that means in practical terms but I thought I'd have some fun and look it up.

Tarot.com tells me its the Cusp of Prophecy and I am a true visionary! 😵 Gosh, lucky me 😎 I wonder if that applies to prophesising lotto numbers or any New York Times bestselling books in my future? Or winning phone bets with my husband?

Probably not.

So, tell me, what's your sign, baby? And are you a believer?

Dec 20, 2017

How Do You Buy? Annie West

It's something we all do - buy groceries - whether we travel to our local supermarket, independent grocer, greengrocer and butcher, or visit a farmers market or perhaps even order online for home delivery. I know there are some, maybe even an increasing number of people, who try to be self sufficient in food, but I suspect most have to buy or barter some items.

So how do you do it? Do you like the one hit of the big supermarket? Or do you favour buying a little, fresh each day? Do you prefer individual specialty stores, or maybe a market? Here's a recent haul of mine from our local farmers' market - most of it grown very close to here.

I enjoy buying from local producers, because I like to support local industry and I like fresh food! It always seems to taste better. Though at this time of year there's nothing quite as good as home grown produce. Our cherry tomatoes are delicious right now! But I still shop at a mix of the supermarket and specialty stores, depending on what I need.

Are you a fan of the slow food movement? Do you worry about food miles and how far the produce has come to reach your plate? Do you shop organic or aren't you concerned about pesticides? Or is cost your number one priority when deciding how you shop? I'd be fascinated to hear if your grocery shopping habits are changing and how!

Dec 18, 2017

Stefanie Londons Best Books of 2017

It's the time of year where I share with you the best things I read in the last twelve months! I've read 37 books so far this year, but I'm hoping to get that to 40 before New Years. Not my best reading year, but I've had more book contracts than ever before so it's all a balancing act, right?

Okay, here are my top books for 2017...

Ruin & Rising by Leigh Bardugo
When I looked back to last year's list, the first book of this trilogy was on it. The Grisha Trilogy started strong and ended strong. I LOVED it! Fabulous high-fantasy YA trilogy with a Russian bent. These books kept me turning the pages like crazy.

The Girl in 6E by A.R. Torre
This won't be for everyone. It's a thriller about a Cam Girl who won't ever leave her apartment because she has the desire to commit murder. However, she's forced to leave the sanctity of her home when the life of a young girl is at risk, and she's the only person who can save her. Another page-turner. Highly recommend!

Wicked Sexy by J.T. Geissinger
Romantic suspense novel with a kick-ass Hello Kitty-wearing hacker heroine. I might be in the minority here in Romance Land, but I read as much for the heroine as the hero. If the heroine doesn't grab me, I'm out. This book is the perfect blend of great writing, snappy banter, and awesome tech suspense.

Sweet Filthy Boy by Christina Lauren
Super fun. This is another quite heroine-centric story which involves a drunken Vegas wedding and a subsequent whirlwind romance in Paris. There's sexy costumes and role play, great writing and and a totally sweet HEA.

The Shattered Court by MJ. Scott
Wonderful high-fantasy romance that sucked me in and wouldn't let go. I'm not at all surprised it was a RITA finalist in 2016. Beautiful writing, great world building and an interesting magic system all compliment an interesting, unique romance.

A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet
Another fantasy romance. I know, it must be turning into a favourite subgenre of mine! This one is glorious. Interesting magic system, gruff by swoon-worthy hero and a spitfire heroine. Even if you're not normally into fantasy, I still recommend giving this a shot. Impeccable character development make this worth the read!

My TBR for 2018 is already crazy overflowing, but here are a few books sitting high up on the list:

  • Breath of Fire by Amanda Bouchet
  • The Forbidden Heir by M.J. Scott
  • The Ones Who Got Away by Roni Loren
  • A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
  • Pretty much anything and everything by Lauren Layne and Sarah Morgan (I'm trying to get up to date with both their backlists)
  • All the books coming out with Harlequin's new Dare line!! So excited for this launch.