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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Not Waving - Drowning...

I come from a long line of "over committers". Any job that needs doing we are first in line to volunteer but I thought, after intensive self therapy, I was learning to say "NO" with aplomb and dignity.

Until I woke up this morning in a cold sweat and realised there were simply not enough hours in the day - unless I gave up sleep - to get through my to do list. 

 My DH (darling husband) has been working interstate for the last few months leaving me at home alone. A bit like an excited teenager I have spread myself throughout the house, with plans for all the things I could do in his absence (I have been married 30 years so this was a bit like that proverbial “time off for good behaviour"). Without the distraction of a 3rd party (I don’t count the cats although they can be seriously demanding), I have realised that my life is spiralling out of control.

I work 2 days a week so that still leaves 5 days… and on those days I rise by 6.30am and I am in bed by 10.30pm. So how am I filling my time? 

I am a compulsive list writer and by my calculation this is my do to list FOR THIS WEEK:
  • Hard core revisions for a writing project that I can’t tell you about yet! This is taking an inordinate amount of time. I can’t write fast and layering my books is like handcrafting an objet d’art. Even revisions require care and attention to make sure all the pieces fit together.
  •  A general panic because my next book is due in February and I have only a few sketchy scenes and I have never written to a deadline before and have I mentioned I am a very slow writer?
  • Judging a writing contest. It’s my “giving back” to the writing community but again it takes time and thought.
  • Real Life - electricians to chase up, tax to be done, bills to be paid and the Parish Newsletter of which I am editor, Parish Council responsibilities, meetings of the Charity Board of which I am Secretary to co-ordinate.
  •  Research blogs for the two group blogs I am a part of. These take hours to research and write.
  • Needlework… This was not a good time to start a new quilt, but it is for a friend’s birthday and then there is the cross stitch project I have to finish by a certain date too. Needlework and writing are incompatible hobbies.
  •  Did I mention diet and exercise?

And then there is the “business” side of being a writer at which I have decided I am a complete failure. My own blogging is erratic, let alone writing blogs for other blogs and I am now convinced I am a social media fail. I have a Facebook profile, a Facebook Page, a Twitter account and a Pinterest Board and that is ENOUGH! As it is I don’t think I have Twitter worked out at all and I use FB as my own social hang out with my other writer pals. I don't have time to watch the wonderful webinars about how to make social media work for you...

Throw in the fact that over June and July my book sales stopped dead. I don’t mean slowed or dropped, I mean just stopped in the water. What? Why? Is it the northern hemisphere summer or is it me? Why am I doing all of this if no one wants to buy my books? 

So like Chicken Little I am running around and around in ever decreasing circles and I have just spent half an hour writing a blog no one will read because my blogging is too irregular to have garnered an audience.... 

My husband comes home this week and he is going to find a gibbering idiot sitting at the kitchen table frozen into inaction by too much action...

PS I forgot to mention CLAIMING THE REBEL'S HEART is currently available at a promotion price of .99c at all good estores.

Friday, July 18, 2014

From Scotland to Australia... Author Maggie Christensen

Aussie authors are taking the world by storm (due in no small part to the work of Romance Writers of Australia). I love showcasing my fellow Australians... and of course I also love the fact that although we all call ourselves Australian, we come from such divergent backgrounds. This is Australia in the 21st century.

Today's guest, MAGGIE CHRISTENSEN, came from chilly Scotland to the warmer climes of Queensland where she now lives.

Born and brought up in Scotland, and attracted by advertisements to ‘Come and Teach in the Sun’, Maggie Christensen emigrated to Australia in her twenties to teach in primary schools in Sydney. She now lives with her husband of almost thirty years near Peregian Beach on the Sunshine Coast of Queensland. She loves walking on the deserted beach in the early mornings and having coffee by the Noosa River on weekends. After spending many years in teaching, lecturing and education management, where she wrote course materials and reports, Maggie began writing the sort of books she enjoys reading, books about women in their prime, their issues and relationships. Now her days are spent surrounded by books, either reading or writing them – her idea of heaven! She continues her love of books as a volunteer with Friends of Noosaville Library where she helps organise author talks and selects and delivers books to the housebound.  Visit Maggie at her WEBSITE

Maggie is offering three copies of her latest book in a Goodreads Giveaway. You can enter directly from the links on this page.

Maggie, I recently enjoyed a cup of tea on your blog, Café Cala and I am delighted to reciprocate. What is your preference in the way of tea?

Thanks so much for inviting me to tea, Alison. I’d love a cup of liquorice tea if you have any. Failing that, Earl Grey would be lovely. (AS:  Earl Grey... sigh!)

You moved from Scotland to Australia at a time when Australia was actively recruiting young teachers from the British Isles to teach in Australian Schools. I’m not sure if you have ever seen the movie “Wake in Fright”, but I would really like to know more about why you chose to make the move to Australia and what you found when you got here?

I have seen the movie and, fortunately my experience was nothing like that! I had the travel bug so after teaching for three years in Scotland I decided to look for teaching position overseas. The options were US, Army schools in Germany or Australia. I didn’t want to go to the US – strange, as I subsequently married an American, the Army schools required a three year commitment while I could come to Australia for only two years. Also I had a great aunt who married an Australian soldier during the First World War and grew up with stories of mad Australian soldiers who visited my family during the Second World War. It sounded like an exciting place.

When I arrived I stayed in an immigrant hostel in Marrickville (central Sydney) for two weeks with other single teachers before finding my own accommodation. After a two week orientation to teaching in New South Wales, I was sent to the outer western suburbs, a long train trip from where I was living. I wasn’t impressed.

This is me with the first class I taught in Australia – note the class size and the fashion! (AS:  Love the skirt... but you look so YOUNG!)

After two years of working in State schools I moved into the private school system which I found much more to my liking and more similar to the schools I had taught in back in Scotland.

I loved the Australian weather from the start and spent the first few years feeling I was on a perpetual holiday.

How did you move from Primary teaching to University level teaching?

My school principal encouraged me to engage in further study, but this led me to a situation in which the school couldn’t afford my qualifications. I moved to teach in a parent co-operative school (a wonderful experience) then to become a tutor in a private college of teacher education. When I was part-way through my Master’s degree I was successful in gaining a position at Goulburn Teacher’s College, which was subsumed into Riverina Murray College of Advanced Education, which became Charles Sturt University. It had always been a dream of mine to be involved in teacher education and I loved teaching at the tertiary level.

You are married to a man from Santa Barbara… how did the two of you meet?

Jim and I met when I moved to teach at Riverina. I had fought against the move, trying to find a position in Sydney instead. But when I moved, there he was. He had emigrated there some years earlier.  He invited me to dinner on my first day in the office and – as he often tells people – I haven’t gone home yet! My advice to everyone is – seize every opportunity as you never know what it might lead to.

What (or who) was the biggest influence in starting your writing career?

I have always wanted to write fiction but became caught up in the demands of my day job where I was involved in writing course materials, reports, submissions and academic papers. I initially tried to write about younger heroines, but when I began to read Liz Byrski, Anna Jacob’s contemporary novels, Joanne Trollop, and Marcia Willett, I realised the books I wanted to write were the ones I enjoyed reading – books about women like myself who had experienced more of life’s challenges. I began writing these books when I was facing a redundancy like the heroine in my next book, The Sand Dollar.

As a hybrid writer (traditional and indie published) myself, I am interested in why you chose to go the self publishing/indie route and how you have found the experience?

Initially I attempted to go down the traditional route contacting agents and publishers, but found my writing didn’t suit their lists. I suspect it was because my heroines are older women. So I decided to self-publish and began my research. In the process I have found a wonderful editor, and cover designer and formatter, both of whom live in England. I really believe this makes communication easier as I can send off an email in the evening and waken to find their reply in my inbox. I have also built up a good relationship with our local bookshop owner, where I am having my formal launch at the end of this month. I like the control self-publishing gives me, although I sometimes think it would be useful to have the marketing arm of a publisher behind me. I know there is a market out there for my books – it’s a challenge, as an indie author, finding the best way to tap into it.
(AS:  I agree that indie publishing opens up options for those of us who don't fit neatly into the "boxes" dictated by the mainstream publishers.  You are also lucky to have a good relationship with your local bookshop...That has not been my experience.)

Your debut novel Band of Gold is a contemporary story set in Australia. What was the premise behind this story?

The book focuses on the situation faced by Anna when her husband of twenty five years leaves her on Christmas morning. It follows her life through the next year as she attempts to leave the past behind and forge a new life for herself. Some years ago I heard of a woman to whom this happened and it stuck in my mind. When I stared writing I began to wonder what might happen next, and Anna and Marcus came into being.


Anna Hollis believes she has a happy marriage. A schoolteacher in Sydney, Anna juggles her busy life with a daughter in the throes of first love and increasingly demanding aging parents.

When Anna’s husband of twenty-five years leaves her, on Christmas morning, without warning or explanation, her safe and secure world collapses.
Marcus King returns to Australia from the USA, leaving behind a broken marriage and a young son.
When he takes up the position of Headmaster at Anna’s school, they form a fragile friendship through their mutual hurt and loneliness.

Can Anna leave the past behind and make a new life for herself, and does Marcus have a part to play in her future?
·      Buy links for the book


I begin to run. If I can run fast enough maybe I can forget, forget that my husband has abandoned me, that, at the ripe old age of forty-seven, I’ve become a statistic, an abandoned wife, a single mother.

By the time I stop, the beach has become deserted. It’s too early for the evening parties and too late for the family gatherings. I gaze along the sand, deploring the debris my fellow humans have left behind and begin the run back. Halfway there, the memory of Sean’s face at the breakfast table rears up again and I slow to a halt and drop to my knees in despair, tears once again streaming down my cheeks.

‘Are you all right?’ The voice comes from somewhere above my head. I look up into a pair of concerned brown eyes framed by black-rimmed spectacles. Floppy brown hair is falling over the lenses and, as I look, a hand pushes back an errant lock.

‘Are you all right?’ the voice repeats. ‘Is there anything I can do?’

I rise slowly, gulping back the tears, embarrassed to have been caught in such a state. ‘I’ll be right, thanks.’ I brush the sand from my knees and I wish I could brush away his presence as easily. ‘Really,’ I assure my prospective rescuer, and run on, feeling his eyes boring into my back as the distance between us lengthens. 



    Goodreads Book Giveaway
        Band of Gold by Maggie Christensen

          Band of Gold

          by Maggie Christensen
            Giveaway ends July 31, 2014.
            See the giveaway details
            at Goodreads.
       Enter to win

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Claiming the Rebel's Heart is on sale...

As we in the southern hemisphere shiver in the depths of mid winter and our friends in the northern hemisphere cavort in the sun, there is always time for reading a good historical romance.

Which is why I am offering CLAIMING THE REBEL'S HEART as a winter/summer holiday read at the sale price of .99c (on Kindle and Smashwords) for the next 10 days :-)

You can read an excerpt from CLAIMING THE REBEL'S HEART and the blurb on my website. Click HERE... but rather than repeat it all again, the following is one of the 5 star reviews from AMAZON:

"Claiming the Rebel’s Heart is a MUST READ for fans of this genre! Alison Stuart’s beguiling tale transported me back to the time of the English Civil War, when Parliamentary forces were pitied against the supporters of the King, a conflict that tore families and communities apart. This book is one of my top picks of the year so far and its hero and heroine,Protestant Deliverance Felton and soldier of Fortune Luke Collyer, one of my favourite couples! The author’s skilled prose and characterisations immersed me into the time period and I was hanging on every word, and hankering for their HEA.

Deliverance rails at being a woman in a man’s world and I absolutely adored her strength and the clash of wills when Captain Luke Collyer appears with his band of men, intent on relieving her of control of protecting her beloved home. Luke has never met a woman like Deliverance, who seems immune to his usual charm, and he cannot bend her to his will, however he is nevertheless fascinated by her. Deliverance is equally drawn to Luke and there is a great deal of sexual tension between the couple as they are torn between desire for each other and duty to protect the castle and its inhabitants, without succumbing to the distraction of their mutual passion. The scenes where Deliverance and Luke vie with each other over ultimate control of the castle’s defences are so entertaining and such a pleasure to read. Deliverance and Luke are a well matched couple, complementing each other well and bringing out the best in each other, although sparks do certainly fly!

Their tender romance is played out during an increasingly brutal siege and the author has clearly done her homework in terms of her knowledge of the weapons, tactics and behaviour that was commonplace at this time. Not everyone in the castle is what they seem and it is only a matter of time before their valuable food supplies run out, compelling their surrender. How can the couple sustain their burgeoning romance when there are threats from their enemies, possible traitors in their midst, secrets from Luke’s troubled past and the differences in their station, Luke being a common soldier and Deliverance a Lady?

All the characters within the novel are equally well drawn from the Royalist enemies, Deliverance’s sister Penitence and her erstwhile suitor, Jack, who is on the side of the Royalists and Luke’s comrade Ned Barrett. I enjoyed them all and I will be checking out the other books this author has written set in this time period, namely By The Sword and The King’s Man. I recommend this novel to all lovers of romance, but especially those who love historical romance." (TINA - UK)

For those not on Kindle, CLAIMING THE REBEL'S HEART is available in all formats on SMASHWORDS:  Click HERE. The sale price will eventually filter through to Barnes and Noble, Kobo and iTunes directly...

Friday, July 11, 2014

A "Chance" meeting with Anne Gracie (and a fun giveaway!)

AG as Dame Babs at a RWAus party
I have a very special guest with me today... Anne Gracie.  Anne and I are "twins" (in the sense we share a birthday) and in the dark days when it looked like Romance Writers of Australia may fold, Anne was one of the stalwart band who came to the party with her Capricornian good sense. We have been good friends ever since and I have to confess I am a huge fan of her books! (I have an Anne Gracie shelf).

One thing I love about Anne is her sense of fun. She is responsible for introducing fancy dress into the Romance Writers of Australia conference, for which I will always thank her... and just to illustrate how similarly we think...We randomly turned up to one cocktail party dressed as the Elizabeth Peters's characters from THE CROCODILE ON THE SANDBANK.  My husband and I went as Amelia and Emerson and Anne turned up as "the crocodile on the sandbank". Totally unplanned!

The cast of The Crocodile on the Sandbank

Apart from being a fabulous writer of Regency Romantics, Anne is also one of the best teachers of the subject I have ever come across and on 23rd August and 13th September she will teaching a couple of writing classes at Ripponlea, for the National Trust of Victoria, as part of their wonderful Love, Desire and Riches —the Fashion of Weddings exhibition.  If you are interested in attending, classses are limited to 20 and cost $25 and are worth every cent! To book click HERE

Anne, you and I have shared many a cup of tea (and many glasses of something stronger). In honour of your Malaysian connections, I have sourced the finest Boh Tea from the Cameron Highlands. I hope that will suit?

Thanks so much for inviting me, Alison. Boh tea would be lovely. I have very fond memories of staying in the Cameron Highlands.

Anne age 7
Your parents were teachers with a yen for adventure so as a child you lived all around the world. What influence did your parents and their peripatetic lifestyle have on you as a writer?

I think it made me quite adaptable, but also very self-sufficient. It also made me somewhat of a hoarder, as so many of my prized possessions were jettisoned as we moved from place to place, that once I grew up, I tended to keep everything. I'm trying to overcome that now.

At school in Scotland 
Why did you decide to follow in your parents footsteps and become a teacher? Do you still teach?

It was a terrible shock to me, as growing up in a family of teachers -- and being the youngest -- teaching was the very last thing I wanted. However in my final year of high school, my inner-city academic high school took in its first intake of local kids, and found they needed help, so they started a cross-age tutoring scheme. I became fascinated with kids and learning difficulties, so much so that instead of doing a law degree, I changed to arts and education. I've never regretted it. I loved teaching.

I no longer teach in schools, but still teach writing from time to time.

You have been a huge influence of many young up and coming writers in your career (including me!) as a teacher, what started you on your own writing career?

Thank you. I've always had stories in my head, but while I was teaching I was so busy with the classes and many extra-curricular activities, they were swamped. But then I took long service leave and went backpacking solo around the world, and lo! the stories started to spin in my head again and I wrote them down in exercise books. I came back with a firm plan to try to get published.

What advice do you offer to aspiring authors?

Read widely, write the kind of books you'd love to read, join a writers' organization (Romance Writers of Australia is brilliant) and do a writing course. And write, write, write. Writing is like a muscle -- the more you do the stronger it gets.

You are currently into your third series of Regency Romances, the first being the Merridew Sisters, the second the Devil Riders and the current series, the Chance Sister. What are the pleasures and pains of writing series?

The pleasures are that you're building a world and a community of people, and I really enjoy that. I also love it that readers enter and enjoy those worlds and write to me with opinions and requests for the story of this minor character or that. That's very satisfying.

The pains? A slight pain is that if another idea is calling to me, I have to set it aside and stick to the contracted book. But once I get stuck into a book, I'm so deep in that world it doesn't matter. And this is not a pain, but more of a challenge — that because I don't plan all my books out in advance, I can sometimes be starting a book that's part of a series, and have no idea where the story is going to go, only who the hero or heroine is. It's a challenge I enjoy, though. A third thing that's also not really a pain is that readers can keep requesting books, so I've written a trilogy of four books, a quartet of five books (and a sixth requested regularly by readers) and all I can say is thank goodness there are only four seasons, which will presumably limit my seasonal brides book. Though there is a possibility that there might be a Christmas Bride, too.

Congratulations on your RITA nomination for the first book in the Chance Sister series, The Autumn Bride. I know this is not your first RITA nomination but from a personal point of view how important is to receive these nominations?

Thank you. I'm always thrilled to receive a RITA nomination. This is my fifth. It's an award chosen by writers, so it's lovely to have peer recognition. And as a writer who battles constantly with self-doubt it's very reassuring to be nominated again.

The Winter Bride (with its gorgeous glacial cover) was released a couple of months ago? This is the second book in “Chance Sisters” series, for anyone not familiar with the background, what is the premise behind this particular series?

The Chance sisters series is about four girls who come together in adversity and vow to be as sisters. A desperate act introduces them to an aristocratic, eccentric old lady, who then decides to present them to society as her nieces. It's a fun, rags-to riches adventure, with each book about each sister's journey to happiness.

Anne is giving away a copy (print or digital) of her RITA finalling book THE AUTUMN BRIDE (see below for details)

Governess Abigail Chantry will do anything to save her sister and two dearest friends from destitution, even if it means breaking into an empty mansion in the hope of finding something to sell. Instead of treasure, though, she finds the owner. Lady Beatrice Davenham, bedridden and neglected. Appalled, Abby rousts Lady Beatrice's predatory servants and — with Lady Beatrice's eager cooperation— the four young ladies become her "nieces," neatly eliminating the threat of disaster for all concerned!
It's the perfect situation, until Lady Beatrice's dashing and arrogant nephew, Max, Lord Davenham, returns from the Orient — and discovers an impostor running his household. . .


Anne Gracie spent her childhood on the move when her father's job took them around the world. The gypsy life taught her that humour & love are universal languages and that favorite books can take you home, wherever you are.
First published by Harlequin, and with eleven historical romances published by Berkley/Penguin, Anne is a nationally bestselling author in the US, has won numerous awards, is a lifetime member of Romance Writers of Australia and feels very lucky to have the life she does.
Visit Anne at her website or on Facebook. Anne blogs regularly with the wonderful Word Wenches. 

BUY Anne's books at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Indie Bound or the Book Depository (free postage worldwide!). In Australia you will also find them on

TO WIN a copy of the AUTUMN BRIDE... leave a comment telling us which covers you prefer! The winner will be randomly chosen but it will be fun to see which covers attract you the most! (Don't forget to leave your email address!!!)





Monday, July 7, 2014

A Pearl of a Wedding Anniversary

I have been married for thirty years... I have to keep saying that to myself because in so many ways, it seems like only yesterday when I was a young bride -- a very young bride by today's standards (I was 25). In my wedding dress I look like a little china doll. Oh to have that figure back again! 

30 June 1984
They say it is good fortune if it rains on your wedding day and on 30 June 1984 it poured. It was also terribly cold (mid winter in Melbourne) and I have to confess, the bride is wearing a spencer under her wedding dress. Always a sensible Capricorn! Like all wedding days it passed in a blur. Back in those days, we still changed into "going away" clothes and left the wedding reception after tossing bouquets and in a shower of confetti... I remember shaking confetti out of our luggage for years afterwards. We arrived in Sydney that evening and collapsed exhausted on to the hotel bed where we ate our way through the mini bar and spent our wedding night watching The Nun's Story on the TV. Beat that one if you dare...

You have to love a man who comes with his own sword...

My husband, "D", is an intensely private person but he has been beside me now for over half my life so I will spill a few beans. We met doing Officer training for the Army Reserve.  At a time when long hair for men was de rigeur and my father lived in fear of me bringing home a boyfriend with hair past his shoulder, I had to wait for D's hair to grow back after a particularly vicious military haircut before I introduced him to friends and family.

Puckapunyal 1981... I am in the front row and D is in the row behind my left shoulder...before we were 'going out"
If you are into horoscopes then it is hard to find two more compatible signs than Capricorn and Taurus... both earth signs and supposedly practical and down to earth. On the whole we've made a good team and despite his profession on national TV about why he never buys me flowers ("I hate to manipulate her emotions"**), I see the little signs of devotion in the door knobs that get tightened without me asking and the endless soaps and shower caps he has produced from his travels. We don't talk about the Christmas I got one pearl earring ("But it's your birthday in 3 weeks!"). That is taking practicality too far! For the record I wore those pearl earrings to dinner on our anniversary - it was, after all, our pearl anniversary!

And somehow we have managed to bring up two beautiful sons - or maybe they managed to bring themselves up despite their parents. 

Fiji 1984
We celebrated our wedding anniversary by going back to the island in Fiji where we spent our honeymoon. The quiet little resort was now no longer little (or quiet... note to self, avoid school holidays) but we cocooned ourself in our beachside bure, staggering the ten feet to the beach, snorkelling on the reef and reading loads of books and just enjoying a few days of just being ourselves. 

So thank you, D, for thirty wonderful years... and here's to another thirty! 

Fiji 2014
**ABC Art Nation April 2010