Aug 21, 2017

Conference Hopping with Stefanie London

My Romance Writers of America badge
This year I'm attending more conferences than ever. As you're reading this, I would have just finished up at the Romance Writers of Australia conference in Brisbane. I also attended the Romance Writers of America Conference in Orlando, Florida back in July. Then I'm off to speak at both Fiction Fest in Connecticut and the Put Your Heart in a Book conference in New Jersey in September and October.

Phew! That's a lot of travel.

Conferences are a great part of being a writer, in my opinion. Yes, they're often expensive to attend and for introverts (including me) they can be challenging. But the pros far outweigh the cons.

So what are the best bits about attending a writers conference?

  • Getting to spend time with my friends that live in other locations. Sometimes conference is the only time I get to see them face to face!
  • Meeting readers. Many of the big conferences, like the Romance Writers of America one, have signings where I get to people who read my books. This is always a surreal moment.
  • Free books. I try to restrain myself from not filling up my suitcase, but it's tough!
  • Meeting editors/agents/publishers and other people whom I often communicate with via email. It's great to speak to the people who help make bring my stories to readers, and to build those relationships.
  • Education. These days I don't always make it to a ton of sessions, so I choose wisely. There's so much information to be gleaned from conferences - both from the presentations and from chatting to other authors.
  • Being around like-minded people. Being an author is a very unique experience, so chatting with other authors always makes me feel better about the ups and downs this career has to offer.
Me and the lovely Alison Stuart

If you're an aspiring author then I definitely recommend that you attend a conference at least once to see what it's like. If you're a reader, there are plenty of reader-focused events in the writing community such as the RT Booklovers Convention.

Attending a writers conference for the first time and not sure what to expect? Here are my tips:
  • If the conference has an app, download it! This will make navigating the schedule so much easier.
  • Leave some space in your luggage for books and other goodies that you will inevitably pick up.
  • Find some cute and comfy shoes to wear, conference involves a lot more walking that you'd think. Especially if the hotel is big and the events are very spread out.
  • Take the opportunity to talk to people. Even if you're shy (don't worry, I am too!) try to say hello to people next to you in the elevator/line/workshop. You're all there for the same reason, so you have inbuilt conversation.
  • Keep all your receipts. In many places you can record such activities as deductions from your taxable income even if you are not yet published. For more information, speak to a tax expert in your area.
Have you ever attended a conference before, whether for writing or something else? What's your best tip for new conference goers? 

Aug 20, 2017

Sunday Smooch with Amy Andrews

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a smooch from but first....... the winner of last week's Sunday Smooch Giveaway is Lyn Williams...

Can you please contact hjlacey (at) bigpond (dot) com to receive your prize. And now for today's Sunday Smooch from Troy........

The first time local Doc Joss Garrity meets Troy, she’s brandishing a lug wrench. The second time, he’s dragging her delinquent teen son home. The third time, he’s in her ER. How he ends up convalescing at her house she’s not quite sure. But it does make it hard to ignore him and their simmering attraction.

Cocky, young Aussie bull rider Troy Jensen has been busted down to the pro-circuit. He needs wins and points to get him back into the big league and a shot at being crowned champ but an injury forces him off the circuit and into the arms of the woman fate keeps putting in his path.

As Troy gets to know Joss, he starts to see a life after bull riding for the first time. But can Joss risk her heart on another man who may not come home one day?Blurb and Cover

Scene set-up

Somehow, injured cowboy Troy Jensen has wangled his way onto Joss's couch and then into the spare room above her garage. Thinking him out, she's ducked up to the room to give it a bit of a spring clean only to discover that Troy is still at home. Very much at home in nothing but a towel and a bunch of fascinating water droplets! 

           She didn’t notice the partially fogged vanity mirror as she walked toward the bathroom, either—two thick fluffy towels in hand. Not until she was inside anyway and a pair of jeans and fringed leather chaps tossed carelessly over the edge of the vanity came into view.
She almost dropped the towels as she spun around.
The Dixie Chicks crooning, there’s your trouble, straight into her ear was a particularly ironic twist.
Joss yanked the earbuds out as she gaped at the man standing in the open doorway of the shower cubicle. Thankfully he was wearing a towel—even if it was positioned sinfully low on his hips.
But that still left an awful lot to look at. An awful lot. Like the scattered droplets of water on his shoulders and chest and abs. And his nipples. Flat and brown and so evenly spaced she wanted to get out a ruler and measure them.
Or possibly use her tongue.
He cocked an eyebrow, the tiny white scar stupid sexy in the daylight. “Finished?”
She swallowed but it was no good, the ability to talk seemed to have deserted her. He took a step toward her and Joss took a hasty step back, bringing her right up against the vanity. Her heart beat a frantic tattoo in her chest.
Sweet baby cheeses. He was big and it was a very, very small bathroom.
The aroma of soap and shampoo had replaced leather and rope and her stomach clenched. She’d always been a sucker for that man-just-out-of-the-shower smell. She clutched the towels to her chest as if they might protect her from it.
“I thought you’d gone with Gus?”
“He had to leave in a hurry and I really needed a shower.” He took another step toward her. One more and they’d be hip to hip. “I was really dirty.”
The way he was crowding her back, his provocative choice of words should be horrifying and intimidating. She should be mad as hell, demanding he stop. Demanding he take a step back. But with his long, lean body looming, her body was melting down.
She didn’t want him to stop or step back. She wanted him to come closer. To press his body along hers. To feel all his heat and hardness right up in her face.
And parts much lower.
She shouldn’t want it. It was…pure madness. But she did. Her hands trembled with the effort not to touch him.
“If I’d known you’d be along,” he said, his voice low and lazy, “I would have waited for assistance. It’s not easy showering one-handed.”
A slew of images all involving him wet and naked and soapy and the things he could do one-handed, cluttered up her brainpower. “And yet you managed.” Her voice was nothing more than a raspy whisper.
“Sure. I’m a self-sufficient kinda guy. But…” He took the last step, an inch of air separating his thighs from hers. “It’s much more fun with two.”
Joss’s heart was pounding so furiously she was sure he must be able to feel the vibrations hitting him in the chest. “I just came to give the loft a bit of a spring-clean. Bring some sheets and towels.”
She clung to the last bit of sanity she had and hoped like hell he’d do the right thing and back the hell up.
He didn’t.
Instead he spread his arms out—his injured elbow hampering the movement on the left. “I found one. As you can see.”
Which automatically dragged her gaze down.
Down. Down. Down.
Over his neck and his chest and his abs. Oh yes he had. And didn’t he wear the hell out of it.
He reached for the towels she was using as a shield and prized them gently from her grasp, shoving them on top of his jeans and chaps.
“You smell great,” he murmured, his good hand sliding onto the vanity near her hip, his injured arm bent and skewed awkwardly out as his lips dropped to the side of her neck.
She smelled great? This from the man who smelled like a deodorant commercial.
Joss shut her eyes as his lips buzzed her skin. For a ridiculously light touch she felt it everywhere. In her breasts and thighs and deep behind her belly button.
“Like candy canes.”
Part of Joss recognized it was probably just her mouthwash he could smell but the other part—the part that was already tipping her head to the side to give him better access—was thinking maybe she should start bathing in the stuff.
His hand left the vanity and crept up her side and around to her back as his thighs pressed against hers, lean and hard. His fingertips grabbed the end of her ponytail and gently tugged, angling her head back even further.
“I love candy canes,” he muttered, his breath warm as his tongue stroked the sensitive skin at the angle of her jaw. “I love sucking on them.” His lips closed over her earlobe and tugged.
A sound came from the back of her throat. Something quite unholy—half wanton, half feral. It joined the jungle beat in her head and the rising urge to submit. Joss was powerless to do anything other than turn her face and seek the heat and oblivion of his mouth.
“What, Joss?” His hand grabbed more of her ponytail, elongating her throat, his mouth taking full advantage as his body settled against hers, the hard jut of his erection pushing urgently against her belly. “What do you want?” he whispered against the thick thud of her carotid pulse. “Tell me what you want, baby.”
No one had ever called her baby. The fact that it had come from a guy seven years her junior should have been ridiculous. But it wasn’t. It curled her toes.
“Kiss me.”
Before even the next beat of her heart, his mouth was on hers. Not slow and sweet but fast and urgent. Joss moaned, her body flooding with the wild sexual thrill of it, her hands circling his waist to pull him closer.
Oh yes. She remembered this. The soft and the hard of a man’s mouth, the frenzy of tangling tongues, the pulse-fluttering excitement of a big, firm body unapologetically violating personal space.
The kiss deepened. Joss slid her hands to Troy’s butt, stroking him through the towel. His glutes tightened. Her nipples hardened. His hand fell to her upper thigh, slipping behind to where leg met ass. He squeezed and lifted, opening up her hips, stepping boldly into the gap, notching himself between her thighs, his hand urging her up onto the vanity before sliding to the base of her spine.
He held her there tight as he ground his erection into her, a bolt of pure pleasure striking her core. Joss moaned, tightening her thighs around his hips, locking her ankles around his ass, silently demanding more.
He gave it, grinding slow and deliberate against her center as his tongue slid down her windpipe. She shivered as his lips made their way to the spot just below her ear. “You’ve made me so hard, Joss,” he whispered.
She whimpered deep in her throat at the dizzying compliment. She wanted to see that. Feel it. Even the thought of it tripped a switch inside, her lips seeking his in reckless abandon. He took them, groaning into her mouth, his head twisting, his lips hunting, owning her and the kiss within seconds.
If anyone had told Joss last week that she’d be dry humping a twenty-seven-year-old she’d met only five days prior in the bathroom of the loft above her garage, she’d have committed them for psychiatric evaluation. But here she was and she could not get enough.
Her body throbbed with need. Maybe she needed committing?

Joss's music of choice to do a spot of housework to, is the Dixie Chicks. For a chance to win a digital copy (must have an Amazon account) of Troy, tell me what's your go to music when you're toiling away at whatever it is you'd rather not be doing?

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

Smooch Graphic by WebWeaver

Aug 16, 2017

La Dolce Vita - Italian Rooftop Living by Annie West

Earlier this year I had the good fortune to spend some time in Rome. Yay! I loved the place for so many reasons, in fact I've posted here at LoveCats DownUnder about that very thing, and I may even have shared this photo of a potted olive tree on the rooftop of our hotel. It was one of my favourite spots in the city. At sunset it was the perfect place to unwind, to put your tired feet up after a long day of tramping the streets seeing the sights, and enjoy a cool drink. Apart from that there's the view. Personally I love the fact Rome isn't home to a stack of skyscrapers. You can look out across the city and feel that it hasn't burgeoned any higher than it was a few hundred years ago, which gives it a rather relaxed, homey feel, despite the bustle and traffic. But of course, if you're on a rooftop terrace, one of the joys is that all of that is far away.

Speaking of the view, how's this? It's just the local neighbourhood from our hotel, but so appealing to watch the sun go down from here.

What particularly fascinated me was the range of ways the roof terrace was used. Like this. And yes, as well as flowers, these hydroponic gardens were full of herbs and strawberries. Yum!

And of course, where else would put your pool in a crowded city but on the roof? Especially given the fact it looks out on the Colosseum.

Do you like the idea of rooftop living? If you live in an apartment it definitely makes sense to install and use a rooftop terrace. Obviously a lot of Romans feel that way.

It seemed that the more I looked the more little tucked away terraces I noticed on inner city buildings. This one is right next to the Vatican.

I think you'd feel like the king of the castle at this one.

And this one reminds me of a wedding pavilion. All it needs is the swathes of bunting.

And I particularly like this one that I noticed when I happened to look up from a corner.

So, can you see yourself somewhere like this sipping a glass of something cool while the sun goes down? Or maybe with a mug of coffee while taking a break with a book, or hosting a family party? Where's your favourite place to unwind outdoors?

Clearly I'm having a LOVE ITALY month! As well as reliving my rambles in Rome I've also got a new Hot Italian Nights novella  AT THE ITALIAN'S BIDDING  out this month. Yippee!

Aug 14, 2017

August Madness

August is completely mad for me.  

The first weekend is the Byron Writers Festival. I’m the Chair of the organisation so there’s lots of work involved. It all run beautifully, starting with my Opening Night speech all the way to the last session on Human Rights on Festival Sunday.  

Byron Writers Festival is Australia’s largest regional literary festival and this year we featured more than 130 writers, thinkers and commentators from across Australia and around the world converging on the beautiful Festival grounds at Elements of Byron to discuss, debate, enlighten and soak up the glorious Byron sunshine.

Photo by Lyn McCarth
To say I was a complete wreck for a few days is an understatement. But over 12,000 people enjoyed a fabulous festival of writing workshops, feature events, a regional writers' tour, primary school and secondary school days and the actual Festival, which featured 117 sessions.  

I then travelled up to Brisbane for the Romance Writers of Australia conference. What a blast. I had so much fun catching up with friends and talking all things romance.

Ally Blake
So many highlights (there were just too many to mention them all). Here are a few:

Ally Blake fabulous session on being an organised writer.

Michelle, Annie and Jen
Sitting with lots of LoveCats at the Butterfly Ball Gala Awards Dinner and cheering madly when Amy Andrew and Ros Baxter won the Romantic Elements Ruby Award for their book Numbered. How many Ruby Awards is that now Amy?

Catching up with Michelle Douglas, Annie West and so many more of my romance writing friends.

Jen and a feline friend
The Bring Out The Animal In You cocktail party was simply fabulous. Can you guess who my feline friend is in the photo? 

And so many more wonderful things.  Now I’m wrecked again from such an action packed weekend but am inspired, exciting and can’t wait to dive into the writing again.

How is August shaping up for you?

Aug 13, 2017

Sunday Smooch with Helen Lacey.....

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a smooch from Helen Lacey.......

The winner of last week's Sunday Smooch Giveaway will be announced next week.

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from The Rancher's Unexpected Family by Helen Lacey........


1 Cowgirl Cop + 1 Single Dad = Double the Desire!
Running a ranch for troubled kids, policing the town and raising a son — Ash McCune is in complete control of her hectic life. Until one sexy single dad arrives on her Cedar River ranch with his daughter.
Cole Quartermaine is rich, successful, a good father…and leaving. Cole needs this ranch to connect with his newfound daughter. What he doesn’t need is a jaw-dropping attraction to the cowgirl cop who runs it. He’s got three weeks to resist her and return to the city as a party of two…or stay and make a family of four.

 (Ash and Cole are in her kitchen, quietly discussing their past relationships)

He chuckled softly. “Perhaps cynicism is a rite of passage for those of us with a history of failed relationships.”

Ash’s brows rose sharply. “You’ve had more than one?”

“One divorce,” he replied. “More meaningless encounters than I care to remember.”

His words jarred her and Ash didn’t want to wonder why. Who Cole slept with was none of her business. Still, the discomfort lingered and she asked the question teetering on the edge of her tongue. “Like Deanna?”

He nodded. “The truth is, I can barely recall what she looked like. Pretty, blond, blue eyes. That’s all I remember about the woman I have a child with.”

“You were young,” she said and lifted one shoulder. “And most people sow oats at that age.”

“But not you?” he asked, his eyes darkening.

Ash’s skin prickled. “I had a child, a job and a ranch to run when I was that age. Sowing oats wasn’t on my radar.”

He nodded a little. “You know, having a kid changes things. And priorities. It made me realize what kind of life I want to lead and the kind of example I need to be for my daughter. I don’t want Maisy to think it’s okay to jump from bed to bed. Which is why I haven’t been on a date in over six months.” He gave a rueful grin. “Or anything else.”

Ash stilled and met his gaze. And then laughed softly when she remembered how long it had been since she’d shared any kind of intimacy with a man. “You make that sound like an eternity.”

His blue eyes glittered brilliantly. “It sure feels like it right at this moment.”

His words were inflammatory. Flirtatious. Hot. Sexy. Everything she should ignore. If she had any sense. Which she was suddenly all out of. In a few days, he’d somehow turned her world upside down. Desire, raw and untamed and wildly galloping out of control, surged through her blood. Ash couldn’t believe it. Couldn’t control it. Couldn’t see a way to ignore it and experienced an intense tug of attraction and longing that made her move closer, forgetting every lick of good sense she possessed. Forgetting the rules she’d set out for her life. And the handbook she’d written in her head about getting involved with someone like Cole—a man who lived in another state and who was the parent of a child she was supposed to be helping. She never did this. She never broke the rules. She was always in complete control of her life and her good sense.

Until Cole had walked into her life.

His eyes had darkened, his jaw was tight, his hand steady as he touched her skin. There was no denying it, no fighting it, even if she wanted to.

“Oh, hell,” she whispered as his hand moved to her nape and edged her closer. “You’re going to kiss me.”

“Yeah,” he said, threading fingers through her hair and gently anchoring her head back. “I am.”

“This is crazy.”

“Totally,” he said, his voice raspy. “But I’m still going to do it. Maybe you should make a run for it?”

She should. “Okay.”

“Or not,” he said and groaned low in his throat.

Ash closed her eyes and took a breath. And waited. And finally, when the waiting was over and his mouth touched hers, she was lost, dragged into a vortex of feeling so intense she grabbed his arms for support as her knees weakened. His muscles tensed beneath her fingers, his breath sharp as he slanted his mouth across hers and coaxed her lips apart. She opened her mouth and let him inside, felt his tongue slid along hers and drug her senses with a heady, erotic expertise that was mind-numbing.

Her hands moved up his arms and found his shoulders, holding on to him as though he was a lifeline as his tongue continued its seductive foray inside her mouth. She vaguely wondered when she’d last been kissed in such a way. Maybe never. She pushed closer, pressed against him, his body all hard angles and muscle against her curves. It felt so good she could barely draw breath. She wondered how she’d ever look at him again without remembering the feel of him, the taste of him, the scent of him that assailed every sense she possessed.

I love writing stories about blended families, and this one was extra special because Ash and Cole come from such diverse and different backgrounds. She's a rancher, he's an ex-NASCAR champion. She's been parenting her own child and many others for over a decade, he's only recently discovered he's a father to a teenager.

Have you a favorite book , TV show or movie that deals with the blended family theme?

Leave a comment to go into the draw to win a signed copy of The Rancher's Unexpected Family and thanks for stopping by!

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

Aug 11, 2017

The Long Way Round

Since the 7.8 earthquake in November the main road south to Christchurch has been shut and it now takes us at least six and a half to seven and a half hours to drive down there from home.
As tomorrow is our granddaughter's second birthday we wanted to get down to Christchurch and as we've driven the long haul more times than is fun since November we decided to fly.
Simple. Go on line and book. Turn up, check in, and go. We chose Nelson over Blenheim for our departure as that saved having to fly UP to Wellington first.
So up at 5.00am, one and half hour drive to airport which was cloaked in fog, as was Christchurch. Flight cancelled. No problem, booked on another. Cancelled. Fog lifted. Guess what? Fly to Wellington then down to Christchurch.
Off we went, back over home, to Wellington, take off again, back over home to Christchurch, arriving six and a half hours after we'd pointed the car down our drive back in the Sounds! But will say I felt more relaxed than if we'd gone by car as the current road is a nightmare with long haul trucks too big for the road being used until we have our main one back.

And at Wellington Airport I got to see this magnificent and massive creature hanging from the roof. Created by the workshop who did work for the Lord of the Rings movie and others, plus many displays in our museums, this one is absolutely wonderful. Made the round about trip worthwhile.

And now we have a birthday to look forward to tomorrow. Lots of prep going on.
How do you cope with changes to plans like this? We were lucky we had choices, the car was in the airport car park if necessary, and it wasn't as though we had a specific time we had to be in Christchurch but there were plenty of unhappy people pacing the terminal.

Aug 9, 2017

You put your left hand in...

Have you ever tried to do your usual chores with your non-dominant hand for any length of time? I’m a righty, along with approximately 90% of the population, but I have a family member with chronic issues to her right wrist (like me she’s a righty), and it makes life ridiculously difficult.

However, practising a little left-handedness can be beneficial for our brains. Research has shown that musicians who use both hands to play their instruments have a larger corpus callosum, which is the part of the brain that connects the two hemispheres. [Hmm…now I’m wondering if typing can create similar results?] Apparently using our non-dominant hand can stimulate our brain’s plasticity, and strengthens neural connections in the brain. In effect, it’s exercise for the brain.

What’s more, it can help increase creativity too. When we use our non-dominant hand, both sides of our brains become active—an ideal environment for creativity and problem solving, according to the experts. This is good news for writers, evidently. We’re always looking for ways to increase our creativity. But I think creativity can benefit everyone.

When I was a teenager and the ironing became my chore, there was only one available power point in the living room that I could use to plug in the iron. If I wanted to watch the TV while I ironed, I had to iron left handed. Naturally that’s what I did.

I rarely iron these days (I mean, seriously, who has the time? Besides, I loathe ironing). Yet I can still iron just as well with my left hand as I can with my right.

All of this has had me trying out a few experiments. I mean, it can’t hurt right?

 I’ve started brushing my teeth with my left hand—dear lord, who knew I could be such a klutz at brushing my teeth! I’ve been eating yogurts left-handed, though I still open them with my right because…well, I know yoghurt is supposed to be good for you, but perhaps not so good for your hair, lap and the kitchen. ;-) For the same reason I’ve not advanced to using sharp knives with my left hand either and I doubt I will (I’ve no intention of getting carried away). But I’m prepared to soldier on with a few minor tasks in the interests of increased brain plasticity (can you tell I just love saying brain plasticity?)—like playing solitaire on my ipad (frustratingly slow), and moving my trackpad to the left every now and again. We’ll see how it goes…

What about you—are you ambidextrous? Are there any surprising things you do with your non-dominant hand? Or, like me, are you an absolute klutz?

P.S. Sarah and the Secret Sheikh is  available in Australia and New Zealand on August 21! And you can grab the ebook now at the Harlequin store.