Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Agricultural Show... and memories of Kewpie Dolls: with Amy Andrews

My next guest and I were so head down in our latest books, that Friday completely passed us by, so apologies for the late posting of a Friday Fun Fact - on Tuesday!

Amy's post is timely because here in Melbourne (a long way south of Amy's home town) it is Royal Show Time. I don't know whether the concept of the Agricultural Show is a uniquely Australian thing but As Amy says, every small town has them and for us citysiders, it is a few days in the year when the country comes to the city. As a kid you got to get up close and personal with sheep, cows, pigs, goats. There were contests for cakes and preserves and my mother used to enter her needlework. The Country Women's Association plys you with tea and scones. There was the added bonus of "Show bags" and rides and fairy floss. 

Amy is an award-winning, best-selling Aussie author who has written forty contemporary romances in both the traditional and digital markets. She has written for Harlequin Mills & Boon, Entangled, Harper Collins, Momentum and Escape.

HOLDING OUT FOR A HERO is a reunion of old school friends, Ella the sensible school teacher and Jake the quintessential bad boy on a motor bike (and don't you just love the cover?). And the best thing is it is FREE on Kindle so get in QUICK!  Click HERE

OVER TO AMY ANDREWS and the joys of the "Show"

When I was little, I used to love going to “the show”. The annual agricultural exhibition that was the highlight of any small town - or big city for that matter.  Of course, these were there to showcase agricultural produce and wares. Things like the prize bull and the biggest pumpkin and who was the best cake icer in the district.

But there was also side show alley. With the show bags and a dozen different rides that whizzed you around until you were throwing up your Dagwood Dog and fairy floss in a spectacular rainbow.

But for me, as a little girl, I always looked forward to getting my kewpie doll on a stick. I simply adored these things and it was always the highlight of the day!

So when it came to writing Ella in Holding Out For A Hero and teaming her up with her best friend Rosie and Rosie’s two crazy ex-carnie aunts I knew immediately that Ella was going to have the same fascination with these dolls that I had. And because of Rosie and her carnie connections, Ella has quite the collection.

So, as part of my research, I had to go and buy myself one – of course! That’s her in the picture. She sits in my office and watches over me. And I spent a lot of time online looking at images and checking out the long and rich history of these perennial favourites.

It was like being a little girl all over again!

Anyone remember the kewpies?


In the dawn hours he hadn’t paid any heed to her room. Only her and her naked skin and the mattress behind her had entered into his tunnel-visioned world. And it had been too dark. But the mid-morning sun pushed its bright fingers around the drawn blinds illuminating the space. He looked from side to side. Ella’s room was very girly.
Purple ceiling, pale pink walls, a purple-and-pink striped quilt. A large framed print featuring van Gogh’s Starry Night was pride of place on the wall opposite her bed. Then he noticed the little dolls stuck on bamboo sticks adorning the frame and anchored at other points around the room. They were everywhere. He’d seen them before of course, at the Ekka. Every little girl in Brisbane walked around the annual show carrying one of the damn things with their glittered hair and bodices, tulle skirts, netting wings and too-wide eyes—no doubt from the stick being jammed so firmly up their backsides. But it was kind of freaky to have so many wide kewpie doll eyes staring down at him like he’d been sullying their owner all night.

When sensible schoolteacher Ella Lucas rides into her home town on a Harley and seduces the resident football hero, Jake Prince, she figures she can be forgiven and move on. After all, she's just buried her mother.

Two years later, back in the city, their paths cross again but this time Jake is in the process of destroying her favourite dive bar. With her home facing a wrecker's ball, her school being closed down and her 15-year-old brother hell bent on self-destruction, it's the last straw. Throw in a dominatrix best friend who is dating a blue ribbon guy so straight he still lives at home with his mother, it's no wonder the sanest person in Ella's life is a dog.

With all this to contend with, the last thing Ella needs is Jake back in her life. But, as fate would have it, Jake is the only chance she has to save her school.

As the school football season heats up, old secrets threaten to surface and Ella takes on greedy developers, school boards and national tabloids. But can she save not just her home, her school and her brother, but also the reputation of the man she's never been able to forget? And, more importantly, does she want to?

Holding Out for a Hero is a quirky, heartwarming tale of unlikely romance, friendship and family.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014


River # 1
Fiona Lowe
Releasing January 6th, 2015

Berkeley / Penguin

A big-city doctor in a small-town Montana practice....A former nurse who has sworn off doctors forever....The scene is set for passions to ignite in Big Sky Country. For readers of Robyn Carr and Sherryl Woods.

City doctor Josh Stanton and his sports car don’t suit the country, but with his medical school debt about to bury him, Josh has to make the best out of a bad situation. Adjusting to his new job and life in the middle of nowhere isn’t easy, but at least the views of the mountains—and one distractingly attractive local—are stunning...

After eight years away, Katrina McCade is back in Bear Paw for a break from her life, bad choices—and men. But when a broad-shouldered stranger bursts into town, she finds herself unexpectedly saddled with the town’s sexy new doctor as a tenant. Katrina doesn’t need a man to make her happy, especially a disgruntled physician. But try telling her body that…

Fiona Lowe is a RITA® and R*BY award-winning, multi-published author with Harlequin , Carina Press and, Berkley USA. Whether her books are set in outback Australia or the USA, they feature small towns with big hearts, and warm, likeable characters that make you fall in love. When she's not writing stories, she's a weekend wife, mother of two 'ginger' teenage boys, guardian of 80 rose bushes, slave to a cat and often found collapsed on the couch with wine.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Friday Fun Facts: Coffee and Cafes with Susanne Bellamy

There is one thing my husband has learned in 30 years of marriage...DO NOT under any circumstances attempt to converse or interact with me in any way until I have had my breakfast. I was reflecting on this as we trailed across town to get to the market early this morning... before breakfast. Apart from the glorious light over the bay, the one thing that put a lift in my step was the thought of a Victoria Market coffee (and almond croissant).

My guest today is not a Melbourne girl but she has chosen to set her latest story in my home town making good use of the "coffee culture" for which we are well known. If you want good coffee... forget Paris and Italy - come to Melbourne.


Coffee and Café Culture and Giveaway*

Ah, the places our research takes us.

My newly released Engaging the Enemy absolutely demanded I check out coffee shops in Melbourne’s CBD. Andrea de Villiers runs a shelter in the CBD so when she and Matt Mahoney step out for coffee and a chat, they have an abundance of great choices.

My research opened up a fascinating world of caffeine-lovers (cakes, optional) as I checked cafés where Matt and Andie could have deep-and-meaningfuls. Places where shouted conversations are the norm didn’t work for the story and did I really want them to be distracted by the foodie displays of the Hopetoun Tea Rooms or Acland Street?

Flipboard Cafe
By combining two cafés, Patricia and Flipboard, you get the idea of what I had in mind for their ‘local’. I love the three-metre wide cubby-house style of Flipboard. After all, you don’t need much room to sit and enjoy a coffee. Or to propose!

Here’s their first visit to a nearby café:
 “I don’t want it.” She folded her arms tightly across her chest and sat back in the club chair. The clatter of china and hiss of the espresso machine echoed her annoyance.

Mahoney’s smile didn’t quite reach his eyes as he picked up the discarded ring box.

“Don’t you like it? I thought the emerald complimented your eyes rather well. Of course, if you prefer a big, sparkly diamond…”

“I won’t wear your ring. Any ring.”

“Don’t women love jewellery? I thought that was a universal given. Jewellery plus proposal equals happy.”


One building, two would-be owners and a family feud that spans several generations: all relationships have their problems.

 Andrea de Villiers can’t lie to save herself. But when developer, Matt Mahoney, buys the building she and a friend have established as a safe house in the Melbourne CBD, she decides that protecting The Shelter is more important than her aching heart. She will confront Mr Mahoney, and she will emerge victorious. There are no other options.
 But Matt has other plans for Andie, and she soon finds herself ensnared in a web of well-meaning lies and benevolent deceit. To protect the building and the families that depend on her, Andie agrees to play the part of Matt’s fiancée, and play it convincingly.
 But lies soon bleed into truth, and what was once a deception starts to feel all too real. Can Andie accomplish her goals and protect The Shelter, without losing her heart to the charming Irish developer? 

**Giveaway: One Kindle copy of Engaging the Enemy to a lucky commenter.

What is your favourite coffee haunt???


My heroes have to be pretty special to live up to the real life one I married. He saved my life then married me. We live on the edge of bush land on a mountain in beautiful sunny Queensland, Australia with our two children and our dog. I write contemporary romance and historical suspense novels set in exciting and often exotic locations.

Paris will always be one of my top spots, and I fell in love with Scotland when we visited the west coast (nothing to do with fine single malts!), and recently had my first real trip to Italy--tick off one of my Bucket List items!  I’ve enjoyed New Year in Kathmandu and trekked in the Annapurnas, sailed in Ha Long Bay on a junk, and stayed on a floating hotel beside a tethered elephant in Thailand. I love the Peak in Hong Kong and the cable car ride in Singapore. I also love travelling to new places and exploring the culture and history, and meeting new people. These experiences are gradually being incorporated into my stories, along with my love of music and musicals.

Susanne's Books: White Ginger,  One Night in Sorrento, Engaging the Enemy (Escape Publishing)
Coming 28 November 2014 – A Season to Remember (FREE Christmas anthology)
Coming 2015 – Emerald Quest: Winning the Heiress’s Heart (Entangled Publishing)

Check out my story boards on Pinterest or visit me on my  website, Facebook or Twitter.

BUY LINKS for ENGAGING THE ENEMY are on the Escape Publishing Website

Monday, September 1, 2014

5 Means to an End!

It has been quite some time since I posted to my own blog page about the vicissitudes (and pleasures) of the writing life.

This is probably because LIFE has been rather overwhelming and I now find myself with a bad dose of “Be Careful What You Wish For”…

My writing to date has been done to my own schedule... a bit of writing punctuated by procrastination on many fronts but suddenly I find myself with two very different projects on hand - one a result of asking and the other result of pitching - and I can’t tell you much about either of them except...
·                An agent request to see the Singapore set cosy mystery (I've mentioned it before). In fact I also had a very keen publisher request for the same book… (the pitch)
·                A contracted book (with my very first contractual deadline) that has to be researched, written and submitted by the end of April 2015. (The thing I asked for...I am so excited about this project I could burst but I have to sit on my hands a bit longer!)

So here I am poised on the brink of something that may or may not be exciting… (I love this business) and I am in panic. 

However panic is a great motivator. My historical stories take a long time to write, massage, tweak, smooth and in fact I have come to the conclusion they are never ever really finished.

So this is it, folks, time to take this gig SERIOUSLY.

Firstly my goals:
1. Finish this draft of Harriet (the Singapore story) by the end of September and submit to agent.
2. Rough draft of Exiles’ Return (working title) by end of November. (I’ve done Nanowrimo so I know this is possible). This gives me 5 months for the rewrite and 2 revisions... I can do this!

Here are the 5 things I am doing to meet my goals.
1. Set project targets in Scrivener (Have I mentioned how much I love that program?). By setting a daily target the total word count suddenly seems achievable. Viewing the work in small bite size chunks rather than a huge table!
2. Print off a calendar for October 14 to May 15 and cross of all “red flag days” - work days, Christmas, Weddings (yes I have two weddings - both my sons are getting married within 6 months of each other.
3. Joined a “Work In Progress” Sprint Group on Facebook. I’ve done sprints on Twitter but this is so much better and I have to say it is brilliant - it has really upped the output. I have also joined a group run by Cherry Adair which requires a weekly check in on progress.
4. Revisited my external priorities (blogging being one and a couple of committees I sit on). Yes, there are commitments I am going to be giving up. Why? Because this is really, really important to me… this is what I have dreamed of since I was a little girl sitting in a willow tree scribbling stories in a shorthand notebook. This is MY dream.
5. Given in to pride and enlisted the help of my currently “differently employed” spouse. He is my harshest critic and a savage beast with a red pen. As I edit chapters of Harriet I am printing them off and giving them to him. The steadily growing pile of paper by my desk covered in red ink will be draft #4. Then and only then will it be ready to be submitted.

BUT there are a couple of things in my life which are important - exercise and needlework. These will be scheduled into the calendar.

And it is not to say that procrastination won’t take over… but finally after all these years, the dream is becoming a reality. 

Thanks, Benedict... a deep breath and a stiff gin!

Of course I am always open to further suggestions...

Friday, August 29, 2014

Friday Fun Facts: Facts? Just make it up...Meet Jennifer Kloester

My Friday guest is young adult author, Jennifer Kloester.

Like so many writers of my acquaintance, Jen's own life is worthy of a story in itself. From a childhood in Papua New Guinea to being the world's leading authority on the life times and work of Georgette Heyer, Jen has now turned to writing wonderful, lush young adult stories with a fairy tale touch.

Jennifer's second book, THE RAPUNZEL DILEMMA was released this week by Penguin Australia.

Over to Jennifer Kloester... 

I'm Jennifer Kloester and I love books – reading them, writing them and finding favourites to keep. I put books right up there with breathing, family and chocolate.

I discovered Georgette Heyer’s wonderful historical romances while living in the jungle in Papua New Guinea. Her humour, her delicious dialogue and her unforgettable characters inspired me to start writing books of my own, and the obvious place for me to begin was with Heyer and her fabulous novels. My first published book was Georgette Heyer's Regency World (2005) followed by the authorised biography, Georgette Heyer (2011) which was nominated for an Agatha Award in 2013.

 I had lots of fun and many challenges writing those two books. But finding Heyer took me to London, Paris and New York and eventually inspired me to write my own YA novels. The Cinderella Moment is set in Paris, The Rapunzel Dilemma, is set in London and the yet-to-be-written, The Snow-White Inheritance, is set in New York (in the snow). PenguinTeen Aus are my awesome publishers and they do the best covers!

I have a husband, three children and a large teddy bear named Cuthbert. After my family, writing is my first love; my garden is my other escape. I love adventure, Paris, dogs, and karate. I'll take a train almost anywhere and the more exotic the destination the better.


I actually attended drama school in my early teens. I 'd always dreamed of being an actor and thought that when I left school I might somehow get to RADA (the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art) in London. It was not to be, but I never lost my fascination with the theatre or those teenage yearnings. 

Which is probably why, in The Rapunzel Dilemma, I created the theatre school I never got to attend. In the book my fictional drama school - the London Drama Academy - is a version of what I hoped drama school would be - right down to the gorgeous, mysterious guy with the motor bike! It was such fun dreaming it up and imagining the students going to their different classes and meeting up in the dining hall and common room and competing with each other for parts in the end-of-year play. So even if I never get to drama school, I'll always have the LDA!  :D

To write a marvellous story... sometimes you don't need facts.  Just make it up...

A love of theatre.
A drama competition.
A once-in-a-lifetime chance . . .

Lily’s had a charmed life so far, and now she’s off to London to pursue her dream of becoming a great actor. But the London Drama Academy is full of surprises – and for the first time, Lily finds that things don’t always go her way.
It’s not just the other students who are making  difficult. Lily’s got a secret she’s not sure how to handle, but she finds that a room in one of the Academy’s deserted towers makes a perfect refuge. Lily can’t stay locked in the tower forever, though. And when she meets the mysterious Ronan Carver, everything starts to change . . .

A fast-paced and fun modern fairytale and companion novel to The Cinderella Moment.

Connect with Jennifer Kloester on her website, Facebook and Goodreads

View the Trailer for the RAPUNZEL DILEMMA... click HERE

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Friday Fun Fact: The Origin of the Tango with Alli Sinclair

"I'm late, I'm late for a very important date..." so sings the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland (a role I played twice... I think it was the teeth!).

I am late with my Friday Fun Fact and I can't even claim it is still Friday in some other part of the world. So a huge apology to my guest Alli Sinclair who is here to talk about the origin of that most sensual of dances - the tango!

Oh my goodness, if a cover could sell a book, LUNA TANGO should sell its socks off. What I love about this cover is that the "model" are not models, they are real tango dancers. A couple of years ago I shared a flight to the Gold Coast with Alli and during the course of this flight she told me about her peripatetic life and this book she was writing with a tango theme set in South America. Just the sheer sumptious, exoticness of the premise hooked me on the spot.

In case you don't believeAlli's life is a story in itself... Alli Sinclair is Australian born and spent her early adult years travelling the blog: scaling mountains in Nepal, Argentina, and Peru, rafting the Ganges, and riding a camel in the Sahara. She lived in Argentina and Peru and it was there her love of dance bloomed. When she wasn’t working as a tour guide, Alli could be found in the dance halls learning tango, salsa, merengue, and samba. All of these adventures made for fun storytelling and this is when she discovered her love of writing. Alli’s stories combine her passion for exotic destinations, the quirks of human nature, and the belief that everyone can dance, even if it’s to their own beat.  Connect with Alli on her WEBSITE and Facebook 

And her is Alli's Fun Fact (or not...)


No one knows for sure how tango originated

Tango is renowned for the air of mystery that surrounds the music and dance, so it’s befitting that no one knows exactly how tango originated. Tango aficionados and historians can’t agree and as tango began at a time when written records weren’t common, there isn’t any concrete evidence to support any one theory.

Here are some that I discovered in my research:

Theory One:
In 1880 Buenos Aires was little more than a town and European immigrants arrived to work the land after British Rail laid tracks across the country. As most new arrivals were men planning to earn their money and return to their homeland (most never did), Argentina had a shortage of women. The only way to meet “good” women was to go to dance halls and woo them. The men needed to practise dancing and they went to brothels to dance to live music. The women at the brothels were otherwise occupied so the men practised dancing with each other. This theory became popular after Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges wrote an article linking brothels and tango. His fans agreed and the theory grew into a commonly accepted truth that many people still believe.

Theory Two:
Tango was born in the tenement blocks of the poor where a melting pot of nationalities lived. Young boys learnt to dance with their male relatives and once competent, moved on to dance with sisters and mothers then eventually women at dance halls. The music united people from many cultures and became a common language that eventually morphed into tango.

Theory Three:
In the 1880s, the only dance seen in public in Buenos Aires was at theatres or dance halls. The brothel theory may have stemmed from some dance halls that doubled as brothels, or from dance halls that were frequented by men and women whose morals were frowned upon by their Christian counterparts.

Even after all my research I still can’t decide which theory is the right one. How about you?

If you would like to read more about men dancing together, click on this LINK and watch the fabulous Macana Brothers. It’s guaranteed to make you smile!


Tango, like love, is complicated

Desperate to understand the reason her mother abandoned her twenty years ago to become a world-class tango dancer, journalist Dani McKenna delves into the world of tango in the hope of exposing decades of lies and deception that have threatened three generations of her family.

When Dani meets the enigmatic Carlos Escudero—a revered tango dancer and man of intense passion—they work together to help her understand why her grandmother lives in fear of all things tango, and how the brutal murder of a tango music legend in Buenos Aires now affects her family.

Despite her lack of rhythm, Dani and Carlos create their own dance of the souls, until the differences in their cultures causes a deep rift. As she seeks to reconnect with Carlos and rebuild her family, Dani finds tango—the dance of passion—becomes a complicated dance of betrayal.

Luna Tango is the first in The Dance Card Series, published by Harlequin MIRA in print and eBook. It is available through AMAZON and all reputable on line estores as well as bookshops across Australia. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Lady Beauchamp's Proposal: Amy Rose Bennett

It is always a pleasure to give a shout out to for a good friend and its a very happy release day for the lovely Amy Rose Bennett and her Regency Noir Romance LADY BEAUCHAMP'S PROPOSAL... a runaway countess and the Scottish highlands... does it get any better?

Yes it does -- leave a comment and go in the draw to win a $25 Amazon Gift Card - Just enter this Rafflecopter contest!


 A runaway countess finds love when she least expects it…but she can’t hide from her past forever.

Elizabeth, Lady Beauchamp, fears for her life. When she discovers her dissolute and long-estranged husband has syphilis—and he wants to beget an heir no matter the cost—she flees to a remote part of Scotland to begin a new life as the widowed governess, Mrs. Beth Eliott at Eilean Tor Castle.

When Mrs. Eliott unexpectedly arrives on his doorstep, the reclusive and recently widowed Marquess of Rothsburgh is both irritated and intrigued. No longer in need of a governess—his young daughter now resides with his sister’s family in Edinburgh—he proposes the beautiful widow fill a position of a different kind…

Torn between staying true to her marriage vows and her wanton attraction to the devilishly handsome marquess, Elizabeth struggles against the temptation to become his mistress. But living a lie is not easy when you have fallen in love. And secrets always have a way of coming out…


Set-up: Elizabeth, Lady Beauchamp—after leaving her husband and now in disguise as the widowed governess, Mrs. Eliott—arrives at Eilean Tor Castle, where she hopes to gain employment within the household of James Huntly, the Marquess of Rothsburgh.

At last, she heard the unmistakable sound of bolts being pulled back, and then the door was thrown wide. A bright lantern was thrust toward her face, blinding her. She raised a hand to her eyes in a futile attempt to shield them and squinted upwards. An extremely tall man was holding the lantern aloft; she could discern little else about him as the intense light in her eyes obscured her vision.

“What do you want, woman?” The man’s voice was a low growl.

Elizabeth drew a deep breath and summoned her most imperious voice. She had come so far and she would not be cowed by an obnoxious servant. “I seek an audience with Lord Rothsburgh. Is your master at home?”

“What the deuce for?”

She immediately bristled at the insolence in the man’s tone. “I’d have a care to mind your tongue, sir. And lower that lantern. You’re hurting my eyes.”

The light was immediately lowered, and Elizabeth was able to see a little more of the man who seemed to be filling up the whole doorway. He must have been at least six foot four, with black hair that fell across one eye. She also noted that he was informally dressed in a loose, white cambric shirt that was open at the neck, black breeches and boots. The marquess obviously had low standards when it came to fitting out his staff in proper livery.

“Well, aren’t you going to invite me in?” she demanded.

The man—she assumed he was some sort of sloppy butler or footman—let out a snort of laughter. “What on earth for?”

She scowled and drew herself up, raising her chin. She would not be laughed at by the hired help. “I understand there is a vacancy for a governess. I’ve come to offer my services to Lord Rothsburgh.”

“Have you indeed?” There was still an annoying undercurrent of laughter in the man’s voice. Nevertheless, he stepped aside and made a grand sweeping gesture with his free hand. “Then by all means, come in.”

Elizabeth picked up her skirts and started to step forward when the toe of her boot caught on an unevenly laid flagstone on the threshold. With an unlady-like squeal she pitched forward toward the floor—until she was deftly caught about the waist by the vulgar butler. With a gasp of half-shock, half-embarrassment she found her midriff was bent across his muscular forearm, whilst her side was crushed roughly against his wide chest. One of her hands had involuntarily fisted into the linen sleeve of his shirt where underneath she could detect the bulk of a sizeable, iron-hard bicep.

The scent of the man flooded her senses; warm male, whisky and the tantalizing scent of exotically rich soap; it reminded her of sandalwood, leather and a spicy note she couldn’t quite place—perhaps it was cloves. She took all of this in within the instant that she was suspended above the floor before the man righted her. She took a step away, her cheeks flaming. “I’m so sorry, sir. How clumsy of me. And I’ve made you all wet…Mr.…”

The man’s arm lingered across her waist. Perhaps he thought she would fall again. She noticed he had dark eyes; his gaze travelled over her face, studying her. She must look a sight.

“James,” he said, his eyes holding hers. In the dim light she couldn’t work out if they were dark brown or black.


Amy Rose Bennett has always wanted to be a writer for as long as she can remember. An avid reader with a particular love for historical romance, it seemed only natural to write stories in her favorite genre.  She has a passion for creating emotion-packed—and sometimes a little racy—stories set in the Georgian and Regency periods. Of course, her strong-willed heroines and rakish heroes always find their happily ever after.

As an unpublished author, Amy has been a finalist in contests in both Romance Writers of Australia and Romance Writers of America.  In 2013 and 2014, she has achieved a place in the top three of Romance Writers of Australia’s Emerald Award, and her debut Regency romance novel—‘Lady Beauchamp’s Proposal’—was the winning entry in the historical section of two Romance Writers of America Chapter Contests in 2013—the Chicago North Fire and Ice Contest and the San Francisco Heart to Heart Contest.

Amy is happily married to her own Alpha male hero, has two beautiful daughters, a rather loopy Rhodesian Ridgeback and a Devonshire Rex cat with attitude. She is a Speech Pathologist, but is currently devoting her time to her one other true calling—writing romance.

CONNECT WITH AMY:  Website, Facebook and Twitter

BUY LADY BEAUCHAMP'S PROPOSAL on Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, All Romance Ebooks and Secret Cravings