Apr 1, 2015

Reflections on Post-Storm Renovations

We're having an interesting couple of months at Chez Archer and I've realised:
  • Problems don't just come in groups of three.  They'll arrive in any darned number they like and probably at the least convenient time!
  • and there really is a silver lining to some of them!  Not all, but some!
So a few weeks ago we had a big storm - nope, make that a BIG BIG storm!  It was centred right over our area and lightning and thunder were happening almost simultaneously. Frighteningly loud!

The gathering clouds
The temperature plummeted and we had a huge hail dump...

Almost looked like snow!

... and then the rain started.  Hail stones had clogged the gutters so the water had nowhere to go...

Overflowing gutters
So I'm running around taking photos (as you do!) when I found the water was coming into the house.  Back flowing from the gutters.

I put the camera down and started running around with buckets and towels.

The carpet was sodden.  And it's very very old so it got unpleasantly stinky as it was drying out.  We decided it needs replacing... actually it needed replacing 20 years ago when we moved here but we'd put it off and somehow time just trickled on.

It seemed silly to get new carpets without painting... and it seemed silly to paint without:
  1. replacing the ghastly laminated ply on two walls.  And when that came off we saw the walls needed insulation and there were all sorts of interesting cracks that needed filling!
  2. and stripping the equally ghastly wallpaper off the other walls.

The carpet's so old it has wrinkles!

This is Bob lounging about in the paddock while we worked

Now the new carpet has been ordered - it's a pale nutmeg colour called "burnt oak".  I hope we like a whole room of it as much as we liked the 1' by 1' sample square!

We're now mid renovation and I'm looking forward to seeing the end result. 

So that's our silver lining from the big storm.  
  • The old carpet, which has always been pretty gross, is finally going to be replaced.
  • The tired old walls are going to be gleaming under a lovely fresh coat of paint.

What "silver linings" have you found lately?  Do you enjoy renovations? And if you do enjoy them, please share your philosophy because I confess I am not a fan so any renovation "zen" would be most welcome!

Mar 30, 2015

My New Family Member

 This week we welcomed a new Bailey family member. Her name is Ava and she's a rescued greyhound. She's settling in well, and the other Bailey dogs are gradually getting used to her, but the humans are totally in love with her already.

She's sweet, patient, and as long as she has a soft place to nap, she's very happy. I haven't had much to do with greyhounds before, but I'm a complete convert!

But one interesting thing happened: have a look at the close-up of her feet - she arrived with painted toenails. Such a sweet gesture from a foster mum who was sad to let her go. 

Coincidentally, my May book, The Finn Factor, has a Border Collie called Harvey who very much resembles my Jazzie May (who passed on a year ago), and there's a scene where the hero's little sister paints Harvey's nails. I've never done it to any of my own dogs, so to have Ava arrive with bright pink nails after writing that scene seemed like a sign that Ava was meant to be part of our family!

Tell me, have you ever painted a dog's nails before, or seen one with painted nails? Or have you ever dressed your dog or cat up in a costume, or put bows in their fur? I'm starting to wonder if I need to pay more attention to my dogs' presentation!

Mar 29, 2015

Sunday Smooch with Michelle Douglas

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a *RETRO* smooch from  Michelle Douglas but first 

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

Can you please contact annie (at) annie-west  (dot) com to receive your copy of The Sheikh's Princess Bride

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from First Comes Baby...

Meg always dreamed of having a family, but when she learns her baby-window is closing, there's only one person who can help. For Ben, helping Meg become a mother is an easy decision. But soon he doesn't want to be just their baby's uncle. Can he convince Meg that he can be a real father?

Scene set-up: Meg and Ben have been best friends since they were lonely ten year olds. They're each others family, and they have no intention of risking their relationship to a momentary lust. But as their desire for each other grows, it becomes harder and harder to resist. Especially on a warm summer night, walking along a beach with the scent of salt and frangipani in the air...

He pulled her in close for a hug. She clenched her eyes shut and gritted her teeth as she forced her arms around him to squeeze him back for a moment. She started to release him, but he didn’t release her. She rested her cheek on his shoulder and bit her lip until she tasted blood. It took all her concentration to keep her hands where they ought to be.

And then his hand slid down her back and it wasn’t a between-friends gesture. It was…

She drew back to glance into his face. The hunger and the need reflected in his eyes made her sway towards him. She planted her hands against his chest to keep her balance, to keep from falling against him. As soon as she regained her footing she meant to push him away.
Only, her hands, it seemed, had a different idea altogether. They slid across his shirt, completely ignoring the pleasant sensation of soft cotton to revel in the honed male flesh beneath. Ben’s chest had so much definition. His heat branded her through his shirt and his heart beat against her palm like a dark throbbing promise. The pulse in her throat quivered.
She tried to catch her breath. She should move away.
But the longer she remained in the circle of Ben’s arms, the more the strength and the will drained from her body and the harder it became to think clearly and logically.
And beneath her hands his body continued to beat at her like a wild thing—a tempting and tempestuous primal force, urging her to connect with something wild and elemental within herself.
She lifted her gaze to his. A light blazed from his eyes, revealing his need, an unchecked recklessness and his exaltation.
‘I’ve been fighting this all night,’ he rasped, ‘but I’m not going to fight it any more.’
He tangled his hand in her hair and pulled it back until her lips lifted, angled just so to give him maximum access, and then his mouth came down on hers—hot, hungry, unchecked.
His lips laid waste to all her preconceptions. She’d thought he’d taste wickedly illicit and forbidden, but he didn’t taste like whiskey or leather or midnight. He tasted like summer and ripe strawberries and the tang of the ocean breeze. He tasted like freedom.
It was more intoxicating than anything she’d ever experienced.
Kissing Ben was like flying.
A swooping, swirling, tumbling-in-the-surf kind of flying.

Do you remember Harry and Sally's argument in When Harry Met Sally? What do you think? Do you believe men and women can be just friends?

Come back next Sunday, when the winner of today's giveaway will be announced and another smooch from Michelle Douglas--this time from The Millionaire and the Maid--will be posted!

Smooch Graphic by WebWeaver

Mar 27, 2015

What are you reading...?

Being part of a book club that meets once a month means I get to read lots of non romance books intermingled with my daily fix of romance.

Here's what I've been reading this month:

The Woman Who Stole My Life is Marian Keyes' newest release. It's a story about a beauty therapist who becomes an overnight sensation with a book she *wrote* while in hospital, completely paralysed with a rare disease called Guillan- Barre syndrome. And about how the syndrome and the success change her life completely.

The book is written the way a lot of books seem to be written these days...out of chronological order. We flick back and forth between the past and the present, and while this isn't too difficult to follow you do have to keep reminding yourself where you are.

I think I've read all of Keyes' books and loved her earlier works with a passion; one of the first 'chick lit' authors, her stories were always littered with emotion and humour. This one lacks a lot of the humour, but has lots of emotion and those endearing Irish accents....

The Girl On The Train had me up at night desperate to finish it. It's a psychological thriller (not something I usually read) written from three women's POV.

Rachel, the main protagonist, travels on the commuter train to London every morning and every evening and stares out of the window watching the world go by. The train always stops at a junction next to a row of houses and she has made up stories in her head about the lives of one of the couples there. (not sure if this makes me weird, but I do that a lot ;-)). One day she sees something that she knows is wrong and detrimental to the couple's lives...

Again this book is written in the past and the present..so we have three women and different timelines, so it did get a little confusing- but the scenes are all headed with the name of the character so it's not too onerous! This story was a little like Gone Girl, in that the narrators seemed unreliable in their recounting of events, and they weren't particularly likeable..but it was an awesome read!!

US by David Nicholls, author of One Day. This book made me laugh and cry so hard! The story follows the hapless scientist Douglas who is getting ready for his life to change once his son leaves home and goes to university. He doesn't realise just how much it is going to change until his wife tells him, in the middle of one night, that she is leaving home too. He manages to convince her to go on the Grand Tour of Europe that he has arranged (both wife and son are artists)...and they all embark on a trip that definitely changes all their lives. It is written with such humour and longing and determination that Douglas will keep his family together that you are desperately willing him on. It has tones of The Rosie Project in it too. I loved it.

I see that The Light Between Oceans was published in 2013, so I'm a bit behind the eight ball with this one. I picked it up last night in bed and loved the lyrical language and effortless beautiful descriptions about life on a lighthouse on a deserted coast in Australia in the 1920s. I only managed a few pages (I was tired after watching cricket the night before!)...I'll keep you posted.

Of course, I always have to have my fix of romance books- I have the first in the brand new Sarah Morgan series to start just as soon as I finish The Light Between Oceans, plus the 175 books on my kindle waiting to be finished!

Oh and talking of books...I just got the cover for my Medial romance May release: Tempted By Her Italian Surgeon...what do you think?

What are you reading? Any gems to share?

Mar 25, 2015

Stringing Along

I have a new hobby! (As if I need something else to do.) It’s called string quilting. Have you ever come across it before? Have you done it yourself?

I’ve always fancied trying my hand at quilting, but it was one of those crafts I was putting off until I had time to focus on it. Well, that’s all changed now. My fabric scraps were threatening to take over my work room, so I decided it was time to do something with them. Many were too small to use – or so I thought.

I researched quilting with scraps and discovered string quilting. It involves sewing thin strips of fabric diagonally across a square of fabric until you have a quilt block. I also came across the ‘quilt as you go’ method where a square of fabric is sewn directly onto a square of batting and quilted, then the squares are joined and a backing added to create the finished quilt. I chose to combine the two techniques and sew the strips of fabric - my ‘strings’ - onto a square of batting. It’s worked out well so far.

While researching I found some quilts that used completely random fabrics, all mixed together with no attempt at control at all. That was too much chaos for me, I like a little more restraint, so I came up with a roughly colour-coordinated design with a white strip in the centre of each block which will form a diamond pattern and separate the colours.

I find it very relaxing and a great way to unwind. This is not going to become yet another project that I have to complete within a certain time. It’s comfort sewing, and I’ll work on a square whenever I need a break from everything else.

Here’s part of my first row - two more blocks will be joined on to the row at the right-hand side to complete it. What do you think?

Mar 23, 2015

A New York State of Mind

It seems I have New York on my mind a lot lately. You see I'm tossing up whether or not to go to the Romance Writers of America's national conference in July which is in New York. I really, really, really want to go. But there are financial realities and its a looong way for a few days etc so I'm in two minds....

Of course it doesn't help that my work in progress (WIP) is set in New York. I honestly think this is the universe telling me that I must go to New York, don't you think? It's certainly making it very hard to ignore, anyway!

I've been to New York before in 2011 and I freaking loved it. I expected it to big and dirty and full of graffiti and people who wanted to kill/rob/rape me on every street corner (thank you  Dick Wolfe). But it was absolutely gorgeous! I never thought any city could replace London in my heart but I tell you what - New York came damn close!

Here's some pics -

Click on it to make it larger - you can just see Lady Liberty on the left!

We stayed in a hotel right on Times Square. Man that place buzzes!

I'm very excited about the NYC story I'm working on at the moment. For a start it's a continuity with Kelly Hunter, Heidi Rice and Lucy King. Fabulous writers and absolutely top women. Secondly its New freaking York (see above). Thirdly all the stories are based loosely (very) on fairy tales. It's more the Pogues kind of Fairy Tales of New York rather than Disney princess stuff but still....fairy tales!

The stories follow 4 friends from an upstate girls catholic school ten years after an incident that saw them expelled/suspened/broken up when they were 16. Friendships are rekindled, old hurts are healed and love is fought for and won. Mine is the 4th book. It's set in Brooklyn and is based on Cinderella with a working title of A Barron on Park Avenue.

Faith Sullivan is a good girl from irish catholic stock who's grown up in her family's Irish pub. Rafe Barron (yes, with 2 r's) is a "beer baron" from Australia. She has duties and responsibilities looking after her ailing father and her 4 brothers and the pub. She doesn't have time for hapily ever afters and the one. He needs her pub to launch his new beer into the US market. He doesn't believe in happily ever afters and the one.

Clearly, they're perfect for each other, right?  :-)

Here's my Pinterest page if you want to have a sticky beak at my inspirations for the book. And this is Heidi's. And this is Lucy's. We haven't managed to seduce Kelly to the dark side that is Pinterest yet but she's doing the Ugly Duckling and we all know Kel can write the hell out of anything.

So, you can see why I'm having a hard time trying to get New York off my mind, right?

Is there a place like that for you? One place (town, city, mountain, beach, whatever.... ) that you've been to that you loved so much you'd like to go back to again some day? Or is there a place that you do go back to time and time again precisely because you love it so much?

Mar 22, 2015

Sunday Smooch - The Sheikh's Princess Bride

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a smooch from  Annie West but first 

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

Can you please contact stefanie (at) stefanie-london (dot) com to receive your copy of THE TYCOON'S STOWAWAY.

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from Annie West's THE SHEIKH'S PRINCESS BRIDE.


Wanted: royal bride and mother 

For Sheikh Tariq of Al-Sharath, one miserable marriage was enough. With a kingdom to rule, he has no time—or wish—to find a bride, but his children need a mother.  

Could Princess Samira of Jazeer be the answer? Samira has sampled passion, and it left a bad taste. With the knowledge she can't have the children she's always wanted, Samira steps into Tariq's ready-made family. Her only condition? No sex! 

Samira thought royal duties and her love for Tariq's children would fill the hole in her heart, but a craving is building that only the sheikh's touch can cure…

Scene set-up

Tariq has given his new bride, Samira, a wedding gift, a workroom designed specifically to meet her needs. This unexpected and thoughtful gift from the man she's always admired, but vowed to keep at a physical distance, undercuts her caution and her resolve. (And if you want to know why she tries to keep him at a distance you'll have to read the book!)

Smooch  -

Everywhere she looked, in every drawer and corner, was something that pleased her.

Slowly she turned, taking in the careful thought and attention to detail that had gone into making this the ideal workroom.

She blinked hard as she recognised the ancient, slightly saggy lounge chair she’d used for the past four years when she wanted to curl up and sketch. Beside it was a small wooden table inlaid with mother of pearl. It held a sketch pad like the one she always used and a variety of crayons and pencils.

‘Your sister-in-law helped me with the details. She sent through photos of your workshop in Jazeera.’

‘But this is…’ the words stuck in Samira’s throat. ‘This is far, far better. It’s perfect.’ She’d never had a custom made studio. Despite her growing success she’d worked out of a large room she’d adapted in her brother’s palace. But this – it was amazing. And it had been created especially for her.

A wave of excitement crashed over her, making her blood tingle. She itched to get to work here.

Samira pivoted to find Tariq just behind her. She grabbed his hand in both of hers, enthusiasm buoying her.

‘I don’t know how to thank you.’ She shook her head, brim full of emotion. He’d done this for her. No gift had ever been so special, so very right. ‘Words don’t seem enough.’

‘Then don’t use words.’ His glinting eyes challenged her, as if he knew she felt overfull, needing an outlet for the surge of elation and wonder she felt.

Samira’s breath hitched in automatic denial, the shutters she’d so carefully built instantly coming up to guard her from this over-emotional response.

She saw the moment he read the change in her. The moment his gaze altered from challenging to disappointed.

The moment he realised she didn’t have the guts to follow through.

When he saw how scared she was.

In that instant the truth blasted her. She had all the emotions of other women. She felt pain and hope and delight, but she’d spent years bottling them up, hiding them from the world and herself. Because she was scared they’d make her weak.

She’d let Jackson Brent do that to her.

No, she corrected. She’d done it to herself.

Her nostrils flared in disgust and inadvertently she drew in the heady spice aroma of Tariq. It sent a trickle of feminine pleasure coursing through her.

She’d even learned to repress that in the last few years, hadn’t she? She hadn’t been interested in a man, much less turned on by one in four years. She hadn’t let herself.

Suddenly Samira saw herself as Tariq must – wary to the point of being pathetic.

Was she? Or was she merely cautious? Sensible to protect herself?

But there was a difference between being cautious and being a coward. Last night she’d been a coward and the knowledge was bitter on her tongue. All this time she’d told herself she was being strong. But in reality-

Samira let go of Tariq’s hand, instead planting a steadying palm on his hard chest, the other on his shoulder as she rose on tiptoe.

Light flared in those cool eyes, but he didn’t move, merely stood stock still, waiting.

She realised she’d stopped breathing and exhaled then drew in a deep breath redolent of desert spice and hot man. Tariq. His scent enticed. Could he possibly taste as good? Suddenly she had to know.

Samira slipped her hand from his shoulder up to the back of his head, pulling till his mouth was a whisper from hers.

Atavistic warning clawed through her, screaming that she was about to cross a point of no return.

For once need overrode caution. The need to trust herself, just a little. The need for a man’s touch.

Her eyes closed as she pressed her mouth to his. His lips were warm and inviting. She angled her head a little, kissing him again, enjoying his hard body against hers, the pleasure of his mouth touching hers.

Samira’s other hand snaked up to wrap around his neck, holding him tight as she worked tiny kisses along the tantalising seam of his lips. She felt the exhale of his breath through his nostrils, harder than before, and licked where before she’d kissed. He felt so good. This felt so good. If only-

Delicious pleasure hit as he opened his mouth, sucking her tongue inside, drawing her into delight. It was so sudden, so powerfully erotic, that she crumpled at the knees, clinging to his tall frame as his arms wrapped her close.

His mouth worked hers, drawing her to him, delving her depths so she had no option but to surrender that last skerrick of caution.

Samira was captivated. Her whole body came alive in a way she’d never known. Surely no kiss had been like this – a slow kindling that burned bright and satisfying, even as it demanded more and yet more?

She arched, moulding herself inch by inch to that strong body she hadn’t been able to put from her mind. Still her lips clung to his, hungrier now as his grew more urgent and a new fire ignited low in her body. Her hands tightened on him. Ripples of heat traced her skin, eddying at her breasts, her pelvis. At her back and hip where he held her so securely.

Her heart was hammering as she tore her lips away, gasping for air. Yet it wasn’t lack of oxygen that made her withdraw, but shock at how a thank you kiss had turned into something completely different. Gratitude and excitement had turned to curiosity, to pleasure and then, almost, to surrender.

She wanted nothing so much as to kiss him again, to lose herself in him.

Samira shivered, suddenly cold despite the hot pulse of blood under her skin. Fear warred with elation.

Tariq still held her, his gaze hooded, waiting, and her stomach churned.

She swallowed, trying to find her voice and not betray rising panic. ‘That was…’

His mouth tilted a little at one corner. ‘Delightful?’ he mused in a low murmur that trawled through her insides, tying her in knots.

‘Unexpected,’ she gasped.

‘A taste of things to come.’ His smile deepened, his hold tightening just a fraction.

You can grab a copy of 'The Sheikh's Princess Bride' at all the usual places including
Barnes and Noble and
The Book Depository

Have you ever had a completely unexpected gift? One that moved you? Or have you perhaps given one to someone else? Leave a response to be in the draw to win a signed copy of 'The Sheikh's Princess Bride'.

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

Smooch Graphic by WebWeaver