Aug 31, 2011

An Appointment with Leonie Knight!

by Sharon Archer

I'm extra thrilled to have Leonie Knight as a special guest on the LoveCats today because she's a fellow Medical Romance author!  She got her First Sale ribbon at the recent Romance Writers of Australia conference in Melbourne just two weeks ago. Her first book, Suddenly Single Sophie, is on the shelves DownUnder right now and it's a gorgeous read!

So, a big warm LoveCats WELCOME, Leonie!

Thank you so much for inviting me as a guest on the LoveCats DownUnder blog. It's a privilege to be rubbing virtual shoulders with some of my favourite romance authors, several of whom I met at my first RWAus conference.

Ooo, terrific picture of you and Amy Andrews and Emily Forbes rubbing shoulders at the cocktail party, Leonie!

What started you off writing?

I've always loved to write. At age six, in first grade, I remember a story I wrote about what I wanted to be when I grew up and no, I didn't want to be a story teller. I wanted to work in a lolly shop. My addiction to all things sweet, including happy endings, grew from there. When I graduated to high school, fuel was added to my creative fire when I had a massive crush on my English teacher but the fire burned low over the busy years of university, marriage, kids and a demanding job, all of which seemed to take up every minute of my days.

I started dabbling in writing again about ten years ago, recording anecdotes from my parent's long and eventful lives. Writing seriously with the aim of publication kicked off when I joined a critique group five years ago. I am lucky enough to live near the generous and always encouraging Anna Jacobs and couldn't have achieved what I have without my writing buddies, Teena Raffa Mulligan, Susy Rogers, (me) Anna Jacobs, Lorraine Mauvais and Claire Boston.

I love that photograph of you with your wonderful critique group, Leonie!  They all looked so happy for you!

Tell us about the inspiration for Will and Sophie's story.

The idea for the story of Sophie and Will's bumpy journey along the road to finding love originated from a TV documentary about a rundown inner-city suburb destined for destruction. It was saved by a spirited group of people, determined to make better lives for themselves. In my story I wanted to show a community working together to overcome serious and sensitive problems as a backdrop to the unlikely romance between my hero and heroine, and their attempt to overcome their own inner demons. I've made Sophie and Will work hard for their happy ending.

Is there anything in particular you'd like to share about the story?

I guess the main thing is that, with my editor's blessing and guidance, I have woven some tough issues into my story—like drug and alcohol abuse, dysfunctional families and terminal illness—that in the past have been considered difficult to incorporate into a category romance. In fact I give credit to my forward-thinking editor who says that nothing is really taboo in category romance if it is written well and sensitively and doesn't overshadow the romance.

I know your medical background is as a doctor. What was your area of specialty and can you tell us your most unusual experience?

I worked as a GP in both city and country practices for over thirty years (yep...I've got a few life-years under my belt) and retired two years ago. My main areas of interest were women's health and senior's health—both broad and challenging areas which have given me heaps of material on which to base future novels.

There's nothing that really stands out as the most  unusual experience but over the years I've never stopped being surprised at the attitude some men have to their own health. I've found most men need to be dragged, kicking and screaming, to the doctors - usually by their wives - for routine health checks. But if something actually goes wrong, no matter how minor, they convince themselves they have a serious or even terminal illness. I remember one gentleman, probably in his forties, who was visiting the country area near where I was practicing at the time. He was so anxious, he'd been booked in as an urgent case and explained that he had a strange lump at the back of his knee that started with a slight itchiness but was increasing in size at an alarming rate.

'What is it doctor? A dangerous skin cancer?'
When I checked it out I couldn't help but smile. He had a common, relatively small kangaroo tick, about the size of a five cent coin - the sort of bread-and-butter-medicine rural GPs see every day. His relief when I told him was palpable and I removed the culprit after shocking it into loosening its grip on the man with a heated paper clip then gently removing it with forceps.
Problem solved - one satisfied and relieved customer!  

Ouch!  What a great anecdote and a lesson, too!  I can well imagine that your patient was very relieved!

On a lighter note...
What do you do for fun?
   Listen to ABBA, and do Latin Line Dancing – badly.

What are you reading?   Susan Duncan's memoir, Salvation Creek.

What are you watching?   Re runs of the American Sitcom, Everybody Loves Raymond—a hilarious insight into relationships and family dynamics.

What are you listening to?   Birdsong at dusk.

What's making you smile?   Being exactly where I want to be, surrounded by the people I love, doing the best job in the world.

And what about future books?

My second book, How to Save a Marriage in a Million, is due for release in the UK in November and in Australia in December. I am contracted for another two books, the first is near completion.


Leonie has generously offered to give away a copy of her debut novel, Suddenly Single Sophie, while she's visiting the LoveCats!  Her question to you is....

What's making you smile today?  

Aug 29, 2011

The End of a Series

Today, I'm off to watch the final Harry Potter at the movies. Again.

I've been a devoted follower from just before book 4 was published. A friend passed me the first 3 books so I could see what the fuss was about, and by the time book 4 hit the shelves, I was among the faithful, waiting in line to buy it on release day.

After that, every time a new book was released, I reread the books before it to be ready (though by the last couple of books, I only read from book 5 in preparation since I'd read the first ones so many times by then).

When the first movie came out, I was there, watching in wonder as J.K. Rowlings's world was brought to screen. Again, when each new movie came out, in preparation I'd rewatched the ones before it *and* reread the book in question. Safe to say I've read these books and seen these movies a lot.

So I'm really sad to be at the very final place in the series. A few weeks ago, perhaps out of altruism, perhaps because I couldn't let go, I got my mother hooked on the series. She'd seen the first movie at the cinemas with me, and had seen the second one on TV at some point. She didn't have a whole lot of interest going forwards, but I convinced her it would be worth it.

On five nights (not in a row, we had a night or two break in between) I took my Harry DVDs over to her house, cooked her dinner and watched a movie (from 3 onwards). Last night we watched 7.1 - just in time since Harry 7.2 must be close to not playing anymore. In fact, it has stopped at our local cinemas, so we're having to travel to a bigger multiplex today.

I saw 7.2 the first time with DH (another huge Harry fan), but today, I will generously share the experience with my mother. Or one might say I'll be using her as my excuse to indulge again. Either way it's a win. :)

Have you ever been obsessed with a series - either books or movies? Not wanting it to end? Or are you reading a series now that you're scared will end one day? Tell me about it and make me feel normal!

Aug 28, 2011

Fiona Lowe Sunday Smooch

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch! Today we have a smooch from Boomberang Bride by Fiona Lowe, but first ...

the winner of last week's Sunday Smooch Giveaway is --

Congratulations, Sonali! Can you please contact Robyn at

robyn-grady (at) hotmail (dot) com and she'll send you a copy of Millionaire Playboy, Maverick Heiress.

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from Boomberang Bride by Fiona Lowe ...

Matilda Geoffrey risked it all for love. She left Australia to be with Barry—the man who had swept her off her virtual feet. Now, wearing a wedding dress, she's alone on Main Street in small-town Wisconsin, and things aren't working out exactly as planned...

In town for his annual family visit, Marc Olsen had never seen a bride quite like Matilda—staring into a storefront window, holding a tottering wedding cake, and looking desperately in need of a groom. He may not have any warm feelings for his hometown, but meeting Matilda just as she discovers she's been scammed by her online "fiancé" stirs something in him.

Matilda is not the kind of woman Marc imagined himself with, and Marc is anything but the romantic hero that Matilda has always dreamed of. But as unlikely circumstances throw them together, can they let go of their misconceptions and risk their hearts for love?

[Set up: Marc Olsen, New York City architect has been brought back to his hometown of Hobin, Wisconsin to care for his ill sister and his bewildered teenage nephew. The last thing he needs on his plate is crazy ‘Boomerang Bride’, Matilda Geoffrey. Not only is she living in his house, she’s giving him a hard time about his familial responsibilities, and somehow she’s worked out he’s in a career slump. They’ve shared a kiss once before and Marc is keen to revisit to disprove Matilda’s words of “I’m not that into you.” As they walk back from tobogganing, she discusses a work proposal— the renovation of a barn into a reception center.]

It was like every part of his life was spiraling out of his control and the marsh mud of Hobin was sucking at his feet, dragging him down to a place filled with family and responsibilities. Not to mention a bossy Australian. “I meant I don’t do Ma and Pa house renovations.” 
“This is a barn.” 

“Excuse me?” 

“A big red barn. You have to admit it’s totally different from your usual work.” Matilda tilted her head, curls dancing around her eyes which twinkled with a challenging look, and her plump bottom lip filled with a smile. “It might be fun.” 

Fun. Hell, he deserved some fun and she’d just reminded him of what he had in mind and it had nothing to do with renovating a barn. Stepping in close he pulled her against him, his body immediately molding to hers, as if tracing a memory. He spoke softly. “I can think of better ways to have fun.” 

Her cheeks flushed a delicious shade of pink but she didn’t back down. “I just bet you can, but this way’s legal.” 

Laughing, he wound a ringlet around his finger. “And here I was just talking about our trip to Two Rivers, but sweetheart, I like how your mind works.” 

Moss green eyes widened in a combination of surprise and undisguised lust. He took it as a sign—a gift even, and he lowered his mouth to hers. Delectable snow chilled lips met his but in an instant they burned scorching hot, sending heat thundering through him before it spiraled down to places he’d forgotten existed. God, she tasted amazing. A thousand times better than he remembered and he lost himself in her warmth, her lushness and her fire. 

Her fingers wrapped themselves into the lapels of his coat as she sagged against him with a soft sigh— the definitive sound of desire and need. It echoed in perfect pitch to his own response, and he wanted her in a way he hadn’t wanted anything or anyone in a long time. Her tropical fruit scent filled his nostrils, promising the exotic, and he wanted to touch and feel more than just her mouth. His hands slid her opened coat off her shoulders and then with one hand cupping her neck, the other traced the swell of her breast though her top. Her mouth slackened for a moment before she pressed herself against his hand, and deepened the kiss.

Her mouth consumed his—taking and giving all at the same time making his head spin and his legs shake. Somehow, he pulled them both backward until he was leaning against the garage wall. His hand trailed down her sides, feeling the soft indentation of her waist and the intoxicating curves of her hips, until his fingers found the gap between her jeans and her top and hit pay dirt. Smooth, warm skin. The tips of his fingers climbed her spine, each touch registering tiny and delicious shock waves as they traversed every bump and crevice. His fingers reached her bra strap and prepared to expertly flick the fastenings open, when the distinctive grind and clank of the garage door sounded harsh and loud in his ears. 
Matilda wrenched her mouth from his and jumped backward as if she’d been shocked.

Fiona is giving away one electronic copy of Boomerang Bride along with a signed postcard of the cover and a Boomerang fridge magnet.

To be in the draw, answer this question: Exactly what did Matilda look like the first time Marc met her? (Hint, you need to go to Fiona’s website to find out) and please tell us your funniest bride story!

Come back next Sunday, when the winner of today's giveaway will be announced -- and a smooch from Nice Girls Finish Last by Natalie Anderson will be posted!

Aug 24, 2011

Remembering Sandra

Today is a tribute to Sandra Hyatt who was snatched away so suddenly. All thoughts are with her family and friends in this time of loss.

To mark her passing, those of us who knew her thought we'd like to share some of our memories of Sandra, a talented writer with hair as irrepressible as her bubbly and warm personality.

My most vivid memory of Sandra is in San Francisco. We were in the same workshop and as soon as I came into the room, I knew something was up. She always had a merry expression but on that morning, she was lit up like a candle and shifting in her seat like a kid on a swing. Happiness beat off her in palpable waves.

She had just received the call. She couldn’t stop grinning and bursting into laughter as we talked about how long and how hard the road seems when all you meet with is rejection and then – one day, just like that – the miracle happens.

That’s how I will always remember Sandra, incandescent with joy.

In New York City recently I took a photograph of Sandra’s book-signing spot because an ash-cloud prevented her from flying over to be at that conference and to be there for the announcement of her RITA nomination. I was so saddened for her even though I’d heard that she was handling the disappointment with her typical grace and humour. There was a lovely blue RITA flag at her vacant signing spot. I kept meaning to email that picture to her but kept getting busy and forgetting. That image feels almost portentous and it saddens me that I never sent it.

It’s yet another reminder that we should never put off until tomorrow what feels important today.

Sandra, your heart and passion will live on through the stories you wrote.

I have lots of lovely memories of Sandra and one I'd like to share is from the year she MC'd the RWNZ conference.

Sandra had collected a series of really bad jokes to tell throughout the weekend in between introducing speakers and keeping the conference on track. She always started with "Have you heard the one about...?" or "Do you know the joke about...?" By the end of the weekend Sandra only had to ask the question and we'd all be laughing.

Her ready smile and continuous enthusiasm made her a popular member of our organisation, and I for one will miss her deeply.

I've known Sandra since I first joined Romance Writers of New Zealand. In fact, Sandra and RWNZ are inseparable in my head -- I think of RWNZ, I think of Sandra; I think of Sandra, I think of RWNZ.

Sandra was unpublished when I first met her, and I remember how obviously talented she was, finalling in or winning competition after competition. I also remember her incredible strength and determination as each submission to Harlequin was rejected. Another person might have given up; Sandra didn't. She kept on writing, kept on submitting, kept her eyes firmly on her goal.

I vividly remember Sandra selling at the Romance Writers of America San Francisco conference -- her excitement, her joy. It was a marvellous moment! If anyone deserved to sell, Sandra did. She persevered when it was tough, not just for months, but for years. She showed us all that if you try hard enough, you can achieve your dreams.

Sadly, Sandra only got to live the dream for a couple of years. I just can't get my head around the fact that she's gone, that I won't see her at the next conference, with her fabulous, crazy, curly hair and her wide smile and her enthusiasm.

My heart goes out to Sandra's family. I can't begin to imagine how they must be feeling right now.

I first met Sandra at an RWNZ conference before we were both published. She was vibrant and warm and we easily fell into conversation. Then later we both sold to Desire within weeks of each other, and developed a newbie-buddy relationship as we navigated the same waters.  
She was always generous and happy and spoke so lovingly of her husband and children. 

I'm still shocked at her passing, both personally and as part of the romance community - we've lost a beautiful light. But her wonderful stories will live on, in the books she wrote for us all. Be at peace, Sandra.

Word of a person’s kindness and generosity spreads quickly. I had known of Sandra – her enthusiasm, talent and loyalty - long before ‘meeting’ her myself. I was thrilled when she sold. Was quick to help the few times she had questions. I have enjoyed her stories immensely. As I write this, her latest - a ‘Book of the Month’ - sits on my bedside table.

Recently, when I couldn’t make a North American conference, Sandra offered to collect an award on my behalf should I happen to win. I remember her email - so genuinely excited for me – passing on the good news. She then organised for my pin to reach me safely.

Although we never met in person, I count Sandra as a true friend, a rare and beautiful person who will always be remembered and loved.

When I think of Sandra, I remember her beautiful big smile. I met Sandra at my first conference when I was so nervous about being surrounded by other writers, and she made me feel at ease. 

Like me, she saw those closest to her sell their manuscripts when she herself didn't for some time, but she was so positive about the success of her friends. When I heard that Sandra sold her first book, I was delighted. To me, she seemed the most hard working, deserving author, and I always loved hearing about her successes. I screamed like I'd sold my own first book when I heard she'd received 'the call'!

I will miss seeing Sandra each year at conference, but I will never forget that beautiful smile of hers.

The first time I met Sandra was at my first RWNZ conference - she chatted to me for ages at the dinner and was so friendly and warm. She was always interested and had a wonderful ability to bring a smile to your face. She was so stylish. And so talented. She was also incredibly generous and gracious. 

I looked forward to seeing Sandra every year at conference and I was so thrilled when she sold her first book. That talent had finally been brought to the world, and was being recognised. 

Together with Zana, Sandra and I presented a workshop in Christchurch last year, and we had a wonderful night staying with Soraya. I remember the laughs, that amazing sweep of curly hair, and most of all that smile.

It was my very great privilege to spend time with Sandra, Tessa, Adele and Karina late on Friday night at the conference just last week. With a couple of others we spent an hour or so laughing and discussing books. That time I will treasure forever. I was so lucky to have known such a vibrant, lovely, fun person.

If you have any memories of Sandra, or if you've read her fabulous books, please feel free to share and help us celebrate her life as a writer and as a friend.

Aug 22, 2011

'The Measure of a Hero lies in how he treats animals...'

By Nikki Logan 

Someone once said to me in relation to my day job with wildlife, ‘where there’s livestock, there’s dead stock’. Death is the part of owning pets that we all try not to think about. We put our fingers in our ears and sing la la la la, hoping not to have to face the sad reality that one day our beloved cat/dog/horse/bird/rabbit/fish will no longer be with us.
Guinea Pig, in my case.
You might remember my little bloke, Nigel, who made his public debut in a Catwalk last year. Turns out Nigel who was such a ball of life on the outside was harbouring death on the inside—for quite a while now. And this week it grew stronger than he was.
I thought my general heart-soreness was for having lost him but I’ve been examining my feelings and—while there’s no doubt his absence has left a guineapig sized void in our lives—I feel okay about it today. Sad but not heartbroken. Tho there was no question that I adored him. He was a special little fella.
For me it was the losing that was so hard, moreso than having lost him. His evident suffering, mine at having to make the humane choice and have him put to sleep.
But it got me thinking about all things humane (particularly the complicated issues around human euthanasia) and how many people wouldn’t make the humane choice (either bc they couldn’t bring themselves to or just didn’t care enough to) and then those thoughts led me to the qualities in a person (ok, a man just because that’s where my mind always go) that I admire most.
Humane qualities—compassion, caring, sensitivity—are high on my personal list. I simply couldn’t love someone if they weren’t capable of loving an animal.
Firefighters rescue German Shepherd

Ghandi famously said that the measure of a country lies in how it treats its animals. I think the same is true for people. The best of human nature can be foreshadowed in how a child (or a grown man) interacts with creatures ‘lesser’ than them.
I write nature-based romance and so I have heaps of opportunity for my characters to betray their true nature(s) in their interactions with wildlife. They’re not always completely comfortable surrounded by seals or cattle or frogs but they adapt quickly and they’re always respectful and gentle of the lives they’re interacting with. Equally the fastest way for me to betray the true nature of a bad-guy is to have him shove an animal roughly aside. Just one gesture. Universally decoded as ‘bad guy’.

Hence the opening line of my latest WIP says ‘good guy’…

Sheriff Jed Jackson slowly pressed down on his brake pedal and slid one arm across to stop his Deputy from sliding off the front seat.
Deputy = his police dog and the act of sliding an arm across says more about his decency and kindness than five paragraphs could.

Any port in a...flood.
But sometimes doing the right thing for an animal might not look right on the surface. I’m thinking now about those people that collect strays then keep 23 cats locked up in apartments or houses. You know they’re not getting much individual attention, you know they’re not getting the best food, you know they’re not getting much in the way of vaccinations or veterinary care or sterilization. Yet the cry as the RSPCA wagons come streaming in is often ‘but I love them’.
  Sometimes people do—to death.

When it comes to animals, less-is-most-definitely-more, unless you can give your animals a goodly number of opportunities to exercise their free will and are prepared to spend lots of  your own time with/on them.
Roadtrip, Nikki Logan style...
As I write this blog, we’re in our Landcruiser enroute to a farm about 2 hours out of our city where our dogs can run free, explore and discover within the fenced 5 acre property for a couple of days. They’re the immediate beneficiaries of the reminder that Nigel left behind him of the importance of quality-of-life rather than just length-of-life. Losing him reminded me how much we used to do this. And how much the dogs loved it.
So I guess Nigel left more than just a void, after all.
RIP little fella. May your heaven be a field of alfalpha and corn and may your days be gently warmed with dappled sunlight.

Does your real-life hero make you go all gooey inside when he's interacting with animals?

Aug 21, 2011

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a smooch from Millionaire Playboy, Maverick Heiress by Robyn Grady, but first ...

the winner of last week's Sunday Smooch Giveaway is --

Congratulations, Kaelee! Can you please contact Soyara at

soyaranicholas (at) yahoo (dot) com and she'll send you a copy of A Kiss to Seal the Deal.

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from Millionaire Playboy, Maverick Heiress by Robyn Grady ...

For successful New York architect Daniel Warren, designing the new Texas Cattleman's Club is an exciting challenge. And so is getting to know the delicious Elizabeth Milton. The fiery Texas heiress combines cosmopolitan chic with down-home sass—a mix impossible for a city slicker to resist.

But a carefree affair is all they can have. A stipulation in her family's will keeps Elizabeth honor-bound to stay in Royal. And this millionaire's business will soon force him to move on. Unless either dares to make the ultimate sacrifice and put love first.

[Set up: Daniel and Elizabeth are taking a stroll around her ranch in the moonlight. She's become defensive over Daniel's questions regarding the caveat in her parents' will that states she must stay in Royal, her Texas hometown, for ten months of the year when it's obvious she longs to be free. However, she is also hand-on-heart loyal to her heritage and her deceased parents' wishes.]

“Daniel. I want you to know, I’m happy staying here,” she told him as he turned around. “Sometimes it’s a little…inconvenient. But I’ve come to see this ranch is my future.”
“That’s fine.” Totally her business. He tipped his head. “Good night.”
He’d begun to turn away when she interrupted again.
“You don’t believe me.”
“It shouldn’t matter what I believe.”
“It’s only until I turn thirty.”
By thirty he’d been well on his way to being successful, and happy, in his own right. But, again, not his concern.
“You don’t have to convince me.”
“I don’t want you to leave feeling sorry for me,” she pointed out. “I have everything any person could want or need.”
“Just make sure you don’t include freedom on that list.”
She growled, “It’s not a restriction.”
As she stood before him, defiant in the moonlight, his skin heated, muscles clenched, and as his gaze held hers, a dark, deep urge overwhelmed him, a primitive impulse that set his heart pumping all the more. She didn’t want his pity and, God save him, he didn’t want to show her any. But she wanted him to believe she wasn’t interested in too much beyond this parcel of land?
Miss Milton was a liar.
Prepared to tell her just that, he moved forward. He stopped an arm’s length away, searched her questioning eyes but then, rather than speak, he acted, circling her waist and bringing her mercilessly close. At the same time he pressed her in and her mouth opened to protest, his head came down, lowering, determined, over hers.
While her hands bunched and pushed against his chest, he held her. When muffled, incensed noises vibrated from her throat, he didn’t relent. Damn it, if he was going, he wanted to leave them both with at least a taste of what he’d felt bubbling and fermenting between them. He needed to show this woman what she already knew.
There was more to life than two months a year.
And gradually, as he’d known she would, Elizabeth came around to his way of thinking. Her fists loosened against his shirt until her fingertips were clinging rather than pushing him away. Her body, instead of objecting, relaxed and, bit by bit, dissolved. Best of all, her lips grew supple and parted, no longer refusing but inviting him in. Daniel smiled to himself.
Damn, it was good to be right.

Millionaire Playboy, Maverick Heiress is book 4 of the Texas Cattleman's Club "Final Showdown" series, which also feature stories by Brenda Jackson, Barbara Dunlop, Katherine Garbera, Maureen Child and Kathy Denosky.

To be in the draw to win a copy, let me know if you've ever jumped in a saddle, I certainly have a story to tell!

Come back next Sunday, when the winner of today's giveaway will be announced -- and a smooch from Boomerang Bride by Fiona Lowe will be posted!

Aug 18, 2011

A Claytons Experience

For those writers who couldn’t make it to the wonderful Romance Writers of Australia’s conference in Melbourne this year...there was the Claytons online conference to salve the wounds...

It was a full on three days for the organizers — Anne Whitfield, Helen Katsinis, Neely Lyon and Mel Teshco (I could hardly be called one of the organizers...but hey, I’ll stake a claim lol!) —not to mention quite a few busy weeks leading up to it, but I think it’s safe to say it was a great experience for the attendees. We were blessed with some wonderful guests and workshops.

Helen managed to ‘throw together’ some great banners, including ones for each writing challenge, which included Marvellous super heroines, Days of our Lives (adult) or Clueless (YA) Ludicrous plot, Back blurbs, Short Stories and Short Story Critiques and Synopsis. Helen, Neely and I divvied up these between us and ran with them, and I think we did a pretty good job *g*

We had a couple of wonderful editors come to the party– Samhain’s senior editor Sasha Knight and Ellora’s Cave editor Meghan Conrad, both were wonderfully warm and happy to answer questions and encourage pitches.

Author guests included Diane Gaston, Michelle Diener, Darlene Gardner, Erica Hayes, Sami Lee, and generous lovecats:- Tracey O’hara, Anna Hackett and Natalie Anderson. The amazing Helen Katsinis also squeezed in a blogging workshop. (She seriously deserves a medal!)

And then...if all that wasn’t enough, we held nightly parties and games in the chat room, with a trivia contest (prizes!) and some great photos sent in for the Friday night virtual ‘cocktail party’ – which we then used as temporary book covers to inspire some brilliant blurbs! (photos *left* Helen Ellis *right* Imogene Nix *bottom* Toni)

Speaking of the yahoo group workshops alone in the three days we managed to rack up over 2096 emails....I shudder to think of the end result had we not used the chat room for many of the Claytons workshops!!

All in all it was an experience I'll never forget, and one that seriously opened my eyes to how much volunteers do and have done to help out their fellow writers =)

(photo: Joanna Lloyd)

New Characters!

I have to confess that I'm a day behind on posting ... I'm flying to Auckland in about 20 minutes to attend part of the Romance Writers of NZ conference, and I just remembered that I should have posted this yesterday!!

I'm introducing you to the hero and heroine of the book I'm writing right now, because I love to share visual aids. I spend hours on the internet looking for the right pics of my characters, and I thought you might like to meet them to!

Caitlin Rose is a former ballerina turned teacher, and Tom Cartwright is a just-retired Navy SEAL. Aren't they cute together?
I have to fly (literally!) so I have time to do my hair and kiss my baby goodbye, so I'll see you soon and I promise my next post will be longer.

Soraya xxoo

Aug 14, 2011

Conference time

Listening to: waves lapping on the beach.

Reading: The Perfect Husband by Lisa Gardiner

Watching: Still on Master Chef.

Well conference time is here again and I am writing this before I set off to the Australian one. This is the time of year writers look forward to. It's when we come out of hibernation to mix and mingle with like-minded souls. Writing is a lonely job so conferences are essential for all of us. We meet new people, get rejuvenated by the speakers and other people's success stories.

I usually return home with a croaky voice from all the talking and laughing that goes on. There is so much fun to be had. As I struggled to pack my case in preparation for heading out to Melbourne I wondered why I needed so many clothes. But there's the Harlequin dinner, the cocktail party, the Awards dinner, let alone anything else. So my case was large. Of course I was allowing for the books I intend bringing home too.

If I hadn't become a member of RWAustralia and RWNew Zealand I doubt I'd have ever sold. Struggling along writing, totally alone, was not good for the muse. The self-doubt creeps in quicker when you think you're the only one doing this. Writing friends help you pull yourself back up when the rejections come. They make you feel normal on the days you think you've got to be nuts to be a writer. Going to conference only enhances all the good things about being a writer, and I have made some very strong and enduring friendships through attending conferences.

Do you feel attending conference is important for you writing career, published or not?

I'm giving away a copy of Return of the Maverick to someone who answers this question.

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a smooch from The Army Ranger's Return by Soyara Lane ...
but first ...

the winner of last week's Sunday Smooch Giveaway is --

Congratulations, Marlena! Can you please contact Michelle at michelle @ michelle-douglas (dot)com and she'll send you a copy of The Cattleman, The Baby and Me.

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from The Army Ranger's Return by Soyara Lane ...

A soldier's second chance…

As nervous as a teenager about to go on her first date, Jessica Mitchell waits for Special Forces Ranger Ryan McAdams—her best friend for the past year— whom she's never met! They've been pen pals while Ryan was away fighting for their country and Jessica was secretly fighting her own demons back home.

She knows widower Ryan's fears of returning to civilian life and his hopes of reconnecting with his son. Now she can't wait to meet him face–to–face—to hear his voice and see his smile…

[Set up: Ryan and Jess are having dinner at her place, and he’s just thanked her for helping him to reconnect with his son. Their quiet dinner as “friends” is starting to feel like something a whole lot more serious though!]

He squeezed her hand, his eyes never leaving hers. She could gaze into those eyes all night, lose herself in the ocean-blue depths of them, become mesmerised. She wondered if anything had ever looked so beautiful before. The way he was looking at her, the softness she saw there.
The honesty.

All this time, she’d thought it would be impossible to ever truly trust a man again. Told herself it couldn’t happen.

But the way Ryan was watching her, the honesty he conveyed through his gaze, the way the skin around his eyes crinkled ever so lightly in the corners when he watched her, his smile upturned to match his expression: All of those things told her that trust and honesty was possible with a man.

She’d just chosen the wrong one before. And let herself believe that he represented the entire male population.

"I went to him, Jess. I went to him because you told me to, because you told me I had to confront the past and be honest with him.”

She looked down, unable to match his stare any longer. “I told you what anyone else would have.”

Ryan shook his head. “That’s the problem.” He dropped the contact with her hand and raised it to her cheek instead, his fingers resting against her skin.

Jess pushed in, lightly, toward his touch. Fought the urge to close her eyes and sigh into his caress.

“I’ve never told anyone else what I told you in my letters. You’re the first person I’ve been honest with in a long while.”

She glanced up at him again, her breath catching in silent hiccups in her throat.

“It started because I trusted you on paper, and now I know I can trust you in real life too.”

She didn’t know what to say. But when Ryan kept the contact with her face and raised his body, leaning over the table toward her, she knew exactly what to do.

Jessica raised her face to meet his, parted her mouth for his kiss. For the brush of his lips that she knew were coming.

Ryan took her mouth, gently at first and then with a hunger that scared her. She was barely conscious of him standing, of the way he had moved closer, until he pulled away and left her lips bruised and alone.

She stifled the moan that fought deep within her throat.

But Ryan didn’t leave her alone for long. He stalked around the table like a big game animal on the hunt. His large frame towered above her, then he dropped to his knees in front of her. She parted her own knees slightly so he could move closer toward her. He was so tall that even with her sitting on the chair he wasn’t much lower than her.

Jess just watched him. Watched the rise and fall of his chest, and the way his eyes fell to her lips. She tried not to think about the ‘what ifs’. Fought against the voice in her head that told her to take things slow, to stop now before it went too far.
Because Jessica knew they had already crossed that line. They’d already gone too far and she was powerless to do anything about it.


He circled his arms around her waist, making her feel safe. Wanted. She slowly raised her hands and let them flutter to his shoulders, not sure where to touch him, and then they found his hair. Jess ran her fingers through the soft strands then stopped, fingertips on the back of his head as she bravely urged him forward.

He waited for her. Hardly let out a breath as he watched her and waited. Like he was leaving it up to her, wanted her to tell him it was okay.

And she didn’t disappoint him. Was powerless to do anything but make the next move. Jessica kissed him like she’d never kissed a man before. Kept her hands on him, drawing him to her, pressing herself closer to him as their lips danced, his arms still wrapped around her.

She only dropped her hold when she knew he wasn’t going to pull away, to run her hands down his arms, drawing in a sharp inhale as she found bare skin.

His lips became more insistent on hers. Teasing her. Showing her how much he wanted her. And oh, did she want him too. More than she’d ever wanted to be close to a man before.

“Ryan,” she said his name again. “Are you sure …”

He just kissed her harder, ignoring her words. She took his lack of reply as a yes.

Jessica let her fingers keep exploring, reached the hem of his T-shirt and pushed it up, letting one hand discover the contours of his hard stomach, muscles firm against her touch.

His belly quivered, but he didn’t move. Only moaned against her mouth.

She took it as encouragement.

Jess tugged, breaking their kiss to pull his T-shirt over his head, and Ryan didn’t resist.

He shrugged out of it in a second and had his arms back around her before she could properly drink in the sight of him.

But she pushed him back, lightly.

“You have a tattoo,” she whispered.


“Yeah.” He shrugged.

If the sun-kissed golden skin and hard muscles weren’t enough, hadn’t already taken her breath away, the tattoo would have come as more of a shock.

She’d never dated a guy with a tattoo before. Had always thought they were for bad-boys, and she’d never gone for that type. But on Ryan? It looked incredible.

“You’re staring.” His voice was low, husky.

Jess gave him a sideways look and smiled. Shyly.

“Does it mean anything special?”

The black ink carved out a beautiful eagle, wings open, covering his entire shoulder and down his upper bicep. She’d never liked the idea of a tattoo, but this was something else. Made him look even stronger, tougher. Exciting.

His response was a shrug. She hoped she hadn’t made him self-conscious.

“It’s a Special Forces thing. I got it after my initiation with all the other snipers.”

She leaned forward, bent to touch her lips to his shoulder, kissing down every inch of the inky black image. She let her fingers trail over the small, dark pink scar that showed where his keyhole surgery had been.

Ryan moaned and tightened his hold on her. It made her smile, pleased that he liked it, that he wanted her touch.


The way he said her name made it sound like a warning. He tugged at her hair, gently, to pull her had back up. She ignored him, slowly running her lips up his neck, making him wait before she returned to his mouth.

She stopped, hovered her lips beside his before kissing him.

Ryan didn’t hold back this time. He took her face in his hands, kissed her again, and then stood, lip still tangled, arms around her body.

He only had to look at her to ask her the question. To tell her what he wanted. The way he watched her, touched her, caressed her, told her everything she needed to know. Left only one question between them.

“Yes,” she whispered, tugging his hand.

He dropped a feather-light kiss to her lips. “Are you sure?”

She tucked in tight against him, nuzzled her mouth to the tender spot between his shoulder and neck, before taking his hand and leading him down the hall to her bedroom.

No, she wasn’t sure. Showing her body to a man again had been something she’d feared since her operation. All she knew was that she wanted to be with this man, right now, more than anything else in the world.

And that meant swallowing her fears and taking a big step forward.

Soraya has a signed copy of the Army Ranger’s Return to giveaway. Leave a comment to be in the draw!

Come back next Sunday, when the winner of today's giveaway will be announced -- and a smooch from Millionaire Playboy, Maverick Heiress by Robyn Grady will be posted!