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Huge 12 Days of Down Under Christmas Giveaway!

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12 Days of Down Under Christmas 2017

Welcome to the 12 Days of Down Under Christmas super giveaway.

I’m thrilled to be a part of this event. What authors! What prizes! What fun you’re going to have!

The promotion runs from Saturday December 2nd (December 1st for US folk) until Tuesday 13th December, and hops from author to author. Each day a new post will go live, featuring something fun and Christmassy, and an individual giveaway.

Feel free to go your hardest and enter all the giveaways for more chances to win great prizes.

But wait, there’s more!

On top of the individual blog prizes, you’ll have the chance, via Rafflecopter, to enter the overall prize which is for a $50 Amazon gift card. How cool is that?

We’re at Day 7 already, but that doesn’t mean you’ve missed out on the previous posts and giveaways. They’re still open and will remain open for entries until December 13th.

You’ll find the list of participating authors and links, and the major Rafflecopter giveaway at the end of this post. Have fun reading and entering!

But first…

My 12 Days of Down Under Christmas Fun

I’ve decided on two special things for you, both with a suitably seasonal theme.

Santa and the Saddler by Cathryn HeinThe first is a beautiful recipe that will have friends and family oohing and ahhing over your cleverness. The second is a giveaway which, given it’s the season to be jolly, can only be for a paperback copy of my Christmas themed, Romantic Book of the Year finalist, Santa and the Saddler.

Those of you who have followed this blog for a long time might recognise this recipe from a 2011 episode of Friday Feast. I’ve decided to share it again because it’s truly delicious, one of my all-time favourite do-ahead desserts, not difficult, and looks stunning.

The kind of indulgent dessert that everyone should have on their Christmas party table.

WHITE CHOCOLATE DECADENCE

Begin this recipe one day ahead. The undecorated cake will keep for three or four days in the fridge (probably more if you can resist eating it for that long), which means you can make it well in advance. I don’t recommend freezing. I tried it once and it seemed to abnormally affect the texture.

Use full fat everything. This creamy cake is meant to be decadent!

White Chocolate Decadence

Ingredients

450g cream cheese, at room temperature

¼ cup (60 ml) caster sugar

3 teaspoons (15 ml) cornflour

3 eggs

1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla bean paste

3 teaspoons (15 ml) finely grated lemon zest

2 cups (500 ml) sour cream

1 cup (250 ml) thickened cream

240g block of good quality white chocolate, melted then cooled to lukewarm. I use Lindt.

Fresh seasonal fruit and fruit puree to serve.

Method

Preheat oven to 180 C. Grease a 20cm springform cake pan and line base and sides with baking paper. Wrap the outside of the tin tightly in a few layers of foil. It is important that the tin is made waterproof or water will leak into the tin during cooking and spoil the cake.

Or you can use a well-lined, plain round cake tin and pray like crazy that the cake doesn’t crack when you invert it at the end!

Whiz cheese and sugar in a food processor or mixer until smooth. With the motor running, add cornflour, then eggs one at a time, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides. Add vanilla, zest and creams, and ¼ teaspoon salt, and process until just combined, scraping down sides.

Add chocolate and pulse until smooth. Pour the mixture into the lined tin then set on a folded tea-towel in a large roasting dish (the tea-towel prevents the tin slipping around). Pour hot water into the dish until it comes halfway up the sides of the cake tin.

Bake for 45 minutes, then leave the cake in switched off oven with the door closed for one hour. Remove tin from roasting dish, remove exterior foil and cool cake completely on a rack, leaving it in its tin. Cover and chill overnight.

Turn out onto a plate or cake stand. Remove baking paper, top with fruit then drizzle with fruit puree. Slice using a hot, dry knife.

Go on, make it. I dare you.

GIVEAWAY!

What’s your favourite Christmas dessert? Do you have something special that you make, like a pudding using an old family recipe, or perhaps you prefer to whip up a simple but colourful fruit platter (much easier and more refreshing when faced with a stinking Aussie summer’s day)?

Share your favourite Christmas dessert for parties or the traditional lunch and I’ll pop you into the draw to win a copy of my gorgeous Christmas themed Australian rural romance, Santa and the Saddler!

Open worldwide.

Giveaway closes midnight Australian time, Wednesday December 13th 2017.

As promised, here are the links to all the other giveaways and the major Rafflecopter draw to win a $50 Amazon gift card.

Good luck!

12 Days of Down Under Christmas participants

(remember, these giveaways will remain open until the end of the promotion, so make sure enter them all for even more chances to win)

Day 1 – Kris Pearson

Day 2 – Joanne Dannon

Day 3 – Cassandra O’Leary 

Day 4 – Annie Seaton

Day 5 – Monique McDonell

Day 6 – Kate O’Keeffe

Day 7 – Cathryn Hein

Day 8 – Tracey Alvarez (live from  December 9th Australian time)

Day 9 – Leeanna Morgan (live from December 10th Australian time)

Day 10 – Wendy Vella (live from December 11th Australian time)

Day 11 – Charmaine Ross (live from December 12th Australian time)

Day 12 – Aislinn Kearns (live from December 13th Australian time)

Major $50 Amazon Gift Card Prize

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

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Merry Christmas!

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Greetings from north Queensland! After a 2000 km drive we’ve made it to sunny Collinsville where we’ll spend a joyous Christmas with family being thoroughly spoiled and overfed. Perfect.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you all for your wonderful support throughout the year and to wish you a gorgeous Christmas filled with much love and laughter. Along with a Christmas stocking filled with romance novels, of course.

May 2017 be as sparkly and brilliant as my mother-in-law’s Christmas tree!

Christmas tree gif

Apologies for the wonkiness. Creating gifs isn’t my forte but like all Christmas gifts, it’s the thought that counts!

 

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How to Make Your Booklover Smile This Christmas

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Over the course of the year, I’ve been keeping tabs on some of the cool booky things I’ve discovered around the internet. Now, with the the season to be jolly upon us, it’s time to share with this booklover’s gift guide.

So, if you’re looking for Christmas present ideas for readers, writers or those who simply appreciate a bit of booklovin’ fun – and that includes yourself – read on.

I had planned to get this up earlier but between Santa and the Saddler’s release in October and Wayward Heart hitting stores and digital shelves this coming Monday, as well as new projects to manage, it didn’t happen. Sorry! I appreciate it might be a bit too late to order some of the items, especially for we antipodeans, but you can always do an IOU, or keep note for next year, order early and impress everyone with your super efficiency.

Anyway, let’s get started on the pressies.

Stroke Me, Stroke Me

I love Paperblanks. They produce the most beautiful, beautiful notebooks. Not only to look at but to write in too. With their wonderfully textured covers and high quality paper, they’re even satisfying to stroke!

My Paperblanks notebooks

These are the two I purchased from stationery lover’s paradise Pulp Addiction in the Hunter Valley, NSW. Paperblanks are also available from the National Library of Australia bookshop or find your nearest stockist at Paperblanks.com.

Come Read My Lovely Legs

How cool are these tights from the Tights Shop on Etsy? They come in a range of colours and quotes, from Jane Austen to Edgar Allen Poe, to Harry Potter and other favourites.

Literary tights

Great fun and very cute, and for the singles among us, what a pick-up aid! Just stretch out your legs and let the bookloving conversation begin.

You can even get them customised with your own text. Anyone for a pair of Wayward Heart or Santa and the Saddler tights?

Cos A Girl Can Never Have Enough

More notebooks, this time from Moleskine. I bought myself this “All You Need Is Love” one from the limited edition Beatles collection because it reminded me of a scene in Santa and the Saddler where the hero Danny sings along in his ute, smug with joy and love, to another Beatles song “She Loves You”. Fishpond has free delivery but the collection is also available from Amazon and Notemaker also has some.

All you need is love notebook

By the way, if you haven’t tried Notemaker, it’s a marvellous shop. Like Pulp Addiction you can spend aaaaaages there, wallowing in stationery bliss.

A Bum For Your Book

I ordered this handy Book Seat from the manufacturer on Wednesday and it was dispatched within a few hours. Great service! Wonderful to know they’re Australian but the product itself is available worldwide. It’ll balance books, tablets and e-readers in comfort, saving your neck and back, and leaving your hands free to do other things.

I loved the cartoon pattern on this one but The Book Seat has plenty of other patterns and colours available.

Retro comiic Bookseat

And just think how terrific it’d look with a shiny new copy of Wayward Heart perched on it!

Write Your Way To Luuurve

How’s this for the perfect kit for writing stunning love letters, and normal letters, of course. But love letters are far more sexy and, unlike a that raunchy video of you dancing to The Divinyls “I Touch Myself” while wearing nothing but a peek-a-boo bra and ugg boots, less likely to end up on the internet.

Belle Calligraphy Kit

Available from Booktopia, Bookdepository and pretty much everywhere else, and conveniently wrapped in a pretty box, ready for gifting.

Impress Your Friends With Your Unhandyman-ness

I know they’re fake but these book mural removable wall stickers from Readers’ Niche look goooood. And no drill or hammer skills required.

Book mural removable wall stickers

I reckon they’d look great in the loo, but that’s me. They’d sure beat looking at the golf magazines that usually end up in there.

Oh, hang on, I rather like golf mags.

Everyone Loves A Librarian

And you can be one with this personal library kit from Knock Knock.

Personal library kit

Not only will you be able to stamp with abandon, you’ll be able to chase up those non-returning friends and work out in a jiffy who left the red wine stain on page 153 of your favourite romance.

Probably me. I’m a shocker with books. And red wine, but that’s another story.

Sweet Nothings

Leave cute messages to your beloved on your fridge using this magnetic poetry kit set from Pulp Addiction. They’re like sweet nothings in your kitchen and far, far more romantic than a text message. Or that dangerous video I mentioned above.

Magnetic Poetry Kit

You can even buy a cowboy version. Yee-haa!

Warm Your Wayward Heart

What? Surely you didn’t expect me to not put my own book forward as a gift idea? A girl has turkey ‘n fizz to buy!

Wayward Heart by Cathryn Hein

Wayward Heart releases Monday and it’s a gorgeous friends-to-lovers story that will warm your heart and leave you sighing in happiness. Plus its cover is stunning and very, very strokeable. Yes, I’m biased, but I swear on my favourite golf club that these claims are true!

It’s also a breeze to wrap and you can even gift the ebook on Amazon. No hassle, no waiting, too easy. The perfect gift, wouldn’t you say? Grab a copy from these stores.

Booktopia | Angus & Robertson Bookworld

Amazon.com | Amazon.au | Amazon.uk

Kobo | iBooks | Google Play

You should buy it and tell all your family and work colleagues and buddies and the postman and the lady at the shop and, well, everyone in sight to buy it too. Or you could just purchase a bazillion copies yourself and gift them. I’m not fussy. Honest.

 

I hope you enjoyed these suggestions and if you have any of your own, please share. As I’m sure you’re well aware, one can never have enough booky goodness.

In the meantime, happy shopping!

 

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5 Reasons Why Four-Legged Friends Are The Best People

Cathryn as a little girl with Mysty

Me with my beloved first horse Mysty

Anthropomorphise: 1. to ascribe human form or attributes to. 2. to ascribe human form or attributes to an animal, a god, etc. Macquarie Dictionary, 6th ed.

Okay, who’s guilty of doing this with their pet? Lots of you I bet. It seems that when it comes to our beloved animals we can’t help ourselves. They’re so integral to our lives we want to think of them as human. And I say rightly so. You know why? Because without a doubt our four-legged friends are the best of people.

Here’s why.

1/. They’re Joy On Legs

Is there anything as gorgeous as being greeted by an over-excited, thrilled-to-bits pet who misses us desperately even though we’ve only been gone for ten minutes? Sure, children can give this joy, but unless they’re sick, a pet will do it every time. No pouty bottom lips because we failed to bring that new toy or lolly home. No teenage half eye-meets from under long fringes followed by a grunt. But pure, unadulterated Hello-hello, Darling Owner! happiness that gives your heart an instant lift.

Feeling down? Never fear! Simply search ferrets on YouTube and wait for the laughs to start.

2/. They Don’t Talk Back or Tell Secrets

We can tell our pets anything. Anything. And be content that it’ll go no further. No double-crossing or back-stabbing in action here. Whether our pet’s a budgie or a pot-bellied pig it’ll be the perfect listener. Pour your heart out, your secrets are safe.

3/. Companionship

We’re never lonely when with a pet. Admittedly, it’s a bit hard to cuddle up with a goldfish, and I probably wouldn’t be keen on tickling a snake’s belly to see if I can make it wriggle, but they’re

Me and Ram Lamb as a youngster enjoying a rest.

Me and Ram Lamb as a youngster enjoying a rest.

still breathing creatures sharing life with us. That beats the rainbow sparkles off a plastic My Little Pony every time.

Pets are also great protectors against isolation. How easy it is to communicate with a fellow pet lover? Many a friendship or romance has been forged between dog owners out walking their charges, and I certainly have experience of equine-assisted romances. They’re an immediate shared interest and we have the bonus of knowing that if someone cares deeply for a pet, they’re less likely to be a serial killer.

Oh, and if there does happens to be danger, our pets might even be life savers. Google animal heroes and you’ll discover a thousand stories of animals coming to the rescue. Darling things.

4/. Pets Give Good Health

The RCPCA lists a number of health advantages experienced by pet owners, both physiologically and psychologically. Owners are more active and have lower blood pressure and cholesterol. The RSPCA also says that growing up with animals may strengthen our immune systems and that children who have pets are less likely to have days off school from illness. They’re also more empathetic, thanks to the care they must give another living creature who is solely reliant on them for food, shelter and often companionship.

Think also of the specialist animals out there; guide dogs (and horses, yes horses!), seizure-alert dogs, cancer sniffing pets, and animals taken around nursing homes to cheer up residents. Seriously, if all the health advantages of pets could be concentrated and bottled, they’d be marketed as the elixir of life!

5/. Unconditional Love

There’s no love like a pet’s love. It’s non-judgemental and constant. Our pets don’t care about the zits on our chins, our morning dragon’s breath, whether we vote one way or another or are jealous of our over-achieving siblings, or sometimes say bitchy things about the lady down the road. We don’t have to be perfect with our pets. Not even close. They’ll love us regardless.

Okay, so maybe it isn’t love. Maybe we’re being fooled and that adoring look is just so we’ll hand over that juicy scrap of beef or that sweet carrot. Whatever it is, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t feel good and right and real. Compared to the way people sometimes love, pets do a better job.

 

I think the above is why I adore including animals in my books as well as humans. Not only are they a wonderful foil for the occasional drama and conflict people subject themselves to, they can even play a role in resolving it. Combine animal characters with a deliciously heroic hero and a sympathetic heroine, and you have a romance guaranteed to give you that all important sniffle, sigh and smile. But in double dose.

In real life or literature, they’re the ultimate feel-good creatures. The best of people.

How do you feel about pets? Do they give good health and love to you too?

 

The Falls by Cathryn HeinNB. This post was first published on the blog Two Little Humans and Me as part of the promotional program for my rural romance THE FALLS. A book that features its fair share of naughty pets too, including a horny (in both ways) ram called Merlin, a bad breathed sphinx cat named Blanche and a stinky labradoodle called Saffron.

 

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Teaser Tuesday!

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Teaser TuesdayIt’s Teaser Tuesday time again, the tantalising series where I share snippets from my novels, old, new and in progress, and occasionally let author buddies take over.

I have news! Actually, I have lots of news but some of it will have to wait a little longer before I can reveal, but here’s a couple of pieces that I can share. Firstly, Wayward Heart’s on sale date has been brought forward to December 12th, just in time for Christmas. Rah!

Secondly, and this is juicy, the publisher Harlequin is offering a limited time, pre-order special: Wayward Heart for only $7-99. Bargain! But as I said, this special is for a limited time only, so pre-order now so you don’t miss out.

Pre-order from:

Amazon | iBooks | Google Play | Kobo

And now for a lovely taste of Wayward Heart.

 

Wayward Heart by Cathryn HeinThe hammering stopped. She dropped her hand and held her breath, waiting for the sound of a car door, for the rumble of an engine, anything to signal he was leaving, but it was hard to isolate specific sounds against the whistle of the wind and groans of the timber. Breathing hard, she snatched up the television remote and poked the Off button but it was still difficult to make out what was nature and what could be Mike.

 

 

 

If you’d like to be among the first to learn my other exciting news – and it’s pretty juicy, believe me – please sign up to my newsletter. That way you’ll never miss out, plus you’ll score a couple of fun short stories to enjoy over a cuppa too. Bonus!

For a longer extract, the Story Behind Wayward Heart and more, check out its book page.

 

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THIS WRITING LIFE: Going Horsey Ga-Ga

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Having been genetically programmed from conception to be horse-mad, it’s little wonder I have lots of horsey things. Figurines, stuffed toys, books, photos, paraphernalia and memorabilia from my riding days, stationery, jewellery. If it’s horsey, my brain automatically says WANT.

The other day, while I was searching for something else on the computer, I came across a weird file. What did it contain? Photos of equestrian statues and other horse figures. Because, well, why wouldn’t you take photos of horse statues on your travels?

Doesn’t everyone?

I have a book to write and can’t spend an hour going silly-ga-ga over horse pictures. Except that was kind of what I did, and I excused myself the indulgence by deciding that:

1/. Horses are clearly a writing inspiration and I should look at them often, and that includes photos of stone and bronze ones.

2/. A post featuring a few of these photos would send blog viewers into raptures and everyone would love me and buy lots of my books, and then I could go on more travels and take even more pictures of horse statues.

See? You can justify anything if you try hard enough.

So, given points 1 and 2 above, I’d better get sharing and ensure that my gawking time was not all wasteful procrastination.

Gird your loins and prepare to be wowed. No, seriously. Some of these are brilliant, I promise!

First up, our very own Man with a Donkey memorial in the Gallipoli Memorial garden, near Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance.

Man with a Donkey memorial

Richard the Lionheart in front of Parliament, London. So romantic.

Richard the Lionheart, Parliament, London

The fellow is outside of the medieval village and abbey of Conques in southern France. Fantastic place to visit.

Conques Horse Statue

Hay bale art from the 2012 Lantern Festival at Tarrington, western Victoria. If you’re ever in the area in late November this is a must-see. Huge fun.

Hay Bale Art, Tarrington, Victoria

Ah, Versailles. Not much more you can say other than it’s stunning.

Versailles

Horsies in the Tower of London

Tower of London

The Cervantes monument, Madrid, featuring Don Quixote and sidekick Sancho Panza.

Cervantes monument, Madrid

The stunning Fountaine Bartholdi in the Place de Terreaux, Lyon, France. Love this.

Fountaine Bartholdi , Lyon

Superstar racehorse Black Caviar’s compression suit, on display at Equitana in Melbourne in 2012.

racehorse Black Caviar’s compression suit

Isn’t this statue wonderful? It’s The Young Man and the Horse by Heinz Schwartz, and is located on Lake Geneva.

Young Man and the Horse by Heinz Schwartz

The Louvre is full of horses. This is just one.

Louvre statue

Part of the Millennium Monument in Budapest. The sculptures are amazing.

Millennium Monument in Budapest

The 14th century knight Bertrand de Guesclin, galloping on his horse, Caen, France. Fantastic statue.

Bertrand de Guesclin, Caen

Jeanne d’Arc (Joan of Arc), also in Caen.

Jeanne d'Arc, Caen

This lovely statue – Amazone by Louis Tuaillon – is in Berlin’s Tiergarten.

Amazone by Louis Tuaillon

And lastly, my absolute freaky favourite, Czech artist David Cerny’s surreal statue of King Wenceslas riding a dead horse, suspended inside the Lucerna Palace in Prague.

King Wenceslas riding a dead horse

Hope you enjoyed this sample of horsey statue photos from my collection. There are many more. A scary amount, in fact. I can’t help it. I just adore these things!

Have you seen any weird or wonderful horse statues? I’d love to know so I can add them to my bucket list.

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THIS WRITING LIFE: To Show We Go!

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Ooh, I so adore a country show. They remind me a lot of growing up, when spring meant the start of show season. From the end of August until the last shows of December I’d spend every weekend at a showground somewhere in south-east South Australia or western Victoria, competing on my horses and having a wonderful time.

Sideshow alley clowns, Luddenham Show 2016But I also loved all the other things that shows offered – everything from local trade displays to the hard fought baking and other competitions. The livestock pavilions, with all their smells and noise and sleek animals, were wonderful. Plus there were performances and displays and all sort of things to entertain young and old, and celebrate rural communities. I even liked the sideshows, although not that much. I was far too uncoordinated to win anything. Even the laughing clowns, which for some reason I loved (WHY? everyone knows they’re evil), used to defeat me.

Just up the road from me is the tiny village of Luddenham. Last weekend it hosted its 112th annual show and after saying for the last three years that I really must check it out, this year I did. And what a happy, happy time I had!

Lovely horses, woodchopping, bush poetry, whipcracking, sheepdog trials, poultry, an animal petting zoo, trade displays and more, but what really thrilled me was the number of young families there, enjoying this little taste of country life.

Here are some photos from the day.

Bush poetry at Luddenham show

The day started with a Poet’s Breakfast which was a lot of fun. Nothing like a recital of The Man From Snowy River to perk your morning up.

Sheep dog trials at Luddenham Show

Sheep dog trials are always fascinating. This combination did an impressive job with these difficult sheep.

Shearing demonstration at Luddenham show

The shearing demonstration, at the end of which the shearer did a very funny bit of sheep hypnotising.

Junior whipcrack

This young lad learned how to crack a whip from his grandfather. Love how Google photos can create gifs like this!

senior whipcrack at Luddenham Show

Meanwhile. this fellow learned his whipcracking off YouTube!

Veg display at Luddenam Show

In the pavilions we had lovely farm produce…

lowers at Luddenham Show

…and pretty flowers

Decorated gumboots at Luddenham Show

…decorated gumboots

art at Luddenham Show

…art

photos at Luddenham Show

…photography

craft at Luddenham Show

…craft

cooking at Luddenham Show

…and cooking. I bet these categories were hard fought.

Woodchopping at Luddenham Show

Outside we had woodchopping. I do love a man who can swing an axe!

Woodchopping at Luddenham Show

And more woodchopping. I so enjoy watching these events. The strength and skill involved is incredible.

Woodchopping at Luddenham Show

Here’s a junior axeman in the making.

Led horse at Luddenham Show

What I really came to see – pretty horses!

Pony events at Luddenham Show

Pony event judging

Cute pony at Luddenham Show

Too cute!

Australian Stock Horse classes at Luddenham Show

Warming up for a working Australian Stock Horse class

Pony at Luddenham Show

Little pony!

Poultry pavilion at Luddenham Show

As always, the poultry pavilion was a hoot. Chooks are funny.

Mice in the petting zoo at Luddenham Show

Meanwhile, in the petting zoo, we had mice…

Donkey in the petting zoo at Luddenham Show

…and a sweet little donkey

Guinea pigs in the petting zoo at Luddenham Show

…guinea pigs

The petting zoo at Luddenham Show

…and lots more overfed animals. Not to mention gaggles of overexcited children.

Reptile demonstration at Luddenham Show

There was also a hugely popular reptile talk and demonstration.

Vintage machinery at Luddenham Show

A vintage machinery display.

Nepean Hunters Club at Luddenham Show

The Nepean Hunters Club also had a trade stand. Not my thing but I couldn’t resist this pic. Their bow and arrow shooting range was enormously popular.

Dragon bouncy castle at Luddenham Show

Why weren’t there bouncy castles like this when I was growing up?

Hope you enjoyed the photos. I certainly enjoyed my day!

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Teaser Tuesday!

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Teaser TuesdayWelcome to Teaser Tuesday, the tantalising blog series where I share snippets from works-in-progress, up-coming releases and published novels. Unless I’m feeling lazy and invite good writing buddies to fill in for me, like today!

I’m very excited to show off a sample of historical romance author Anna Campbell’s new Regency novella. Not only do I adore her books, she’s huge fun at writerly get-togethers and is always up for a glass of fizz, which makes her very much my kind of person. Anna has won the Australian Romance Readers Awards Favourite Australian Romance Author so many times I nicknamed her the Romance Queen. A title. I must say, she wears magnificently.

Anyway, enough of me. Here’s Anna to tell you about her new release. This one sounds a hoot. Make sure you read to the end. There might be a special giveaway.

Author Anna CampbellHi Cathryn! Thank you so much for having me as your guest today.

Usually I’m drooling over the recipes on Friday Feast on your blog – it’s nice to be here for the low-calorie Teaser Tuesday spot! Snerk. Which doesn’t mean I plan on delivering one of those tasteless low fat cheese kind of teasers.

No, this one’s as full-blooded and swashbuckling as my hero in A Pirate for Christmas, my seasonal novella this year.

Actually Rory Beaton, the new Earl of Channing, isn’t a pirate – gossip just paints him as one. He is, however, neglecting his duties as lord of the manor and redoubtable vicar’s daughter, Bess Farrar, beards him in his den to point out his obligations – and to get permission to borrow his donkey for the annual nativity play.

Cue entry of mischievous donkey Daisy who was a lot of fun to write. Now, she really does have a pirate heart!

Here’s the first meeting between Rory and Bess – and if you catch a whiff of classic British comedy To the Manor Born, your nostrils are not deceiving you!

 

“If you leave a note, I promise to deliver it,” the man said.

Bess’s lips firmed as she shifted to find a comfortable spot on the unforgiving seat. The noble Earl of Channing didn’t want visitors settling in. Indications were that he didn’t want visitors at all.

Too bad for the noble Earl of Channing.

“So he can ignore it, the way he’s ignored my other correspondence?” she asked sweetly.

A Pirate for Christmas by Anna Camobell coverThe studious-looking man avoided her eyes. “His lordship has been busy since taking over, Miss Farrar.”

Bess glanced around the dusty, empty great hall. “Not with domestic matters.”

“His lordship—”

His lordship stormed in.

At least Bess assumed that the disheveled auburn-haired man who crashed through the door at the other end of the hall must be Penton Abbey’s elusive new master. He stalked past her, brandishing a sheaf of papers.

“That blasted Farrar besom is hounding me again, Ned. I thought I asked you to put her off.” His Scottish brogue added an exotic edge to his heated remarks.

He didn’t see her as his long stride ate up the tiled floor. It would be hard to make out an army in this gloom, especially with the sky darkening for snow.

“Rory, for heaven’s sake,” the other man stammered, casting Bess an embarrassed glance.

Bess stood and performed a perfunctory curtsy. “Good afternoon, my lord.”

He turned on her. He was as tall as his friend, but much more heavily muscled. A more formidable character altogether, she could already tell. “Just who the devil are you?”

She permitted herself a cool smile. “I believe I’m the blasted Farrar besom.”

“Oh, hell,” he muttered, staring at her thunderstruck. He looked as shocked as if one of these iron-hard oak chairs had stood up, bowed and asked him to dance.

©Anna Campbell

You can read a longer excerpt and the blurb on my website.

A Pirate for Christmas is only 99 cents on Amazon! Buy from Amazon.com, Amazon.au and Smashwords.

GIVEAWAY!

True to the tradition of Friday Feast, which I know this isn’t, do you have a favourite cheese? I must admit to a liking for brie and gouda.

Anna's favourite cheeses

I’ve got two Kindle downloads of A Pirate for Christmas: A Regency Novella to give away to people who share their cheesy stories today. Good luck!

Please Note: Giveaway closes midnight Friday AEST, 6th November 2015. Open internationally.

That’s TWO BOOKS UP FOR GRABS, lovely readers. So get commenting!

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Treasures, Mysteries and Memories – Part 2

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Welcome to Part 2 in this series of blog posts where I share a few of the special things we discovered while going through Mum’s belongings after she went into full-time care. My mother has Alzheimer’s Disease, a thieving condition that many of you have had experience of and, sadly, many more will. I’ve written about Mum’s decline and its effect on our family in a previous post titled Mother’s Day Memories, and a little more in Treasures, Mysteries and Memories – Part 1.

Last week I revealed a few of the wonderful treasures and mysteries we found during the clean-out. Today I’d like to share samples of our memory-tugging finds, plus a few amusing (or should that be bemusing?) oddities that Mum had, for reasons known only to her, kept safe.

MEMORIES

As a horse-mad little girl it was natural that I had a collection of model horses. I adored these figurines, playing for hours with them, making up equine adventures or simply gazing at them with painful yearning as I wished desperately for a horse of my own. That wish that came true when I was 10 and, over time, as I grew older and more preoccupied with my living horse and all the dramas of adolescence, my passion for these model horses waned and they were left to gather dust on my bookshelf. Eventually, adulthood arrived and off I galloped to forge an independent life with nary a second thought for the collection I’d loved so much.

Imagine my astonishment when I discovered that Mum had kept every single figurine. Best of all, she’d kept Beauty, the king of them all and a cherished gift from my grandfather. He’s a bit discoloured and cracked but otherwise okay. I loved that horse and for those of you who have read Heartland, the model horse in that book that the heroine Callie rediscovers in her grandmother’s house – also called Beauty –  was inspired by the very horse you’re seeing below.

Beauty, the model horse.

Here’s the full collection. They don’t look like much but for a very long time they were precious to me. Still are now I’ve found them again.

My collection of model horses.

How’s this for another amazing find: the first pair of trousers I sewed with my grandmother, which I made for my teddy.

Mum played and umpired netball on Saturdays and I loathed going to the courts. It was winter and cold, and netball bored the pants of me, plus I could never get the stupid ball in the goals. So Nanny babysat and taught me life skills, like how to knit, crochet, cook and sew, while my grandfather gardened or pottered in his shed crafting toys and widgets, and listening to the racing on the radio. They were lovely times.

Teddy bear trousers

We also found a lot of scrap books. One contained cards from Mum’s 21st, another cards from her and Dad’s engagement. Another held all the cards and telegrams and newspaper clippings from their wedding.

Scrap book of 21st birthday cards

Engagement card scrapbook

Isn’t this clipping from The Border Watch, which I found in Mum’s wedding scrapbook, wonderful? They’ve described everything!

Newspaper clipping reporting Mum's and Dad's wedding.

There were also not one, but two scrapbooks celebrating the Queen’s coronation. The Queen was young, beautiful and I guess the celebrity of the time. All fascinating and fairy tale for a girl growing up in the 50s. When I discovered these scrapbooks I didn’t know what to do with them so set them on the table in the too-hard pile. They stayed there for four days before I decided I couldn’t throw them out.

Coronation scrapbook

Coronation scrapbook

Mum had kept Matilda, the stuffed toy and mascot she and Dad bought for me when we drove to Brisbane in 1982 for the Commonwealth Games. I still remember that trip. Drought had the country firm in its desiccating grip and in one town, somewhere along the Newel Highway where we’d stopped for a rest, the river was so low the water was thrashing and bubbling with dying fish.

We attended the Games opening ceremony and a few other events that I can’t recall, but I do remember it was great fun. Afterwards we enjoyed a holiday in Noosa and I tasted my first avocado. Oh, and Dad nearly got himself killed rock fishing off Double Island Point.

All that and more from a simple stuffed toy!

Matilda, the 1982 Commonwealth Games mascot

Mum spent many years playing drums and bagpipes in the Blue Lake Ladies Pipe Band, and they travelled all around southern Australia competing in competitions and entertaining crowds. I found programs dating back to the 50s from the events she’d played at.

There was also her pipe music book, complete with small notations, and the collars and pocket from one of her uniforms. When I was a child, she’d always kept her drumsticks and the pipe from her bagpipes in her sewing room. I was a bit disappointed not to find them among her things but perhaps they’re yet to be discovered rather than lost.

Pipe band programs.

Pipe music.

Pipe Band pocket and cuffs.

There were also some truly wonderful photos from her time in the band, the majority preserved with care and pride in yet more scrapbooks. She loved those things!

Pipe band photos.

ODDITIES

There were so many things in Mum’s collection that had us asking why? Some items were due to her condition, where she’d picked something up and perhaps momentarily laid it down, only to forget its existence. We found quite a few biscuits for example, stacked among stationery or buried under clothes. There was a bag of whole walnuts and an extremely wizened apple, plus toothbrushes and other highly personal items in places they didn’t belong. But other things were too old to be attributed to Mum’s Alzheimer’s, and it was these that left us flummoxed.

While interesting, why Mum would keep this brochure from Shell on how to efficiently pack a suitcase is unfathomable.

Shell brochure on packing.

As is why she kept this brochure on getting started with your computer…

Computer brochure

… these Avon cologne bottles,

Avon cologne bottles

…this weirdly wonderful book about hosting parties,

Successful party book

…and these brilliant old copies of the Australian Women’s Weekly and Woman’s Day from the 70s.

70s womens magazines.

Another find that had me shaking my head in bewilderment was a sticker dating from my days at Roseworthy Agricultural College, where I did my agriculture degree. Back then B&S balls were at their height, with one scheduled practically every week. I remember doing Grapecrushers in the Clare Valley, Dirtscratchers in the Mallee and others.

Roseworthy’s B&S was called Droopers and infamous. I can’t remember which year it was, but the ball ended up being raided by South Australia’s STAR Force and shut down, shunting piles of drunk party-goers onto the roads. My parents were NOT impressed when they saw it on the news!

Droopers sticker

We were also astounded at the receipts she’d kept. For everything from her wedding photos to the purchase of my parents’ first block of land, to this receipt for swimming lessons. Why? I have absolutely no idea. Sure, the wedding photos and block purchase were important milestones, but swimming lessons? From 1970? Amazing.

Swimming lessons receipt.

She also kept newspaper clippings covering all manner of topics. A mention in the paper about an old boss? Out came the scissors. There wasn’t a lot of point in us keeping these, not when you can access back copies of papers on microfiche, but there was one that I did keep.

You see, it just so happens that I have an idea for a story which was partially inspired by memory of an old house I used to occasionally ride past. It was surrounded by tall pines and other trees, and to my imaginative teenage brain always looked a little mysterious and shadowy, perhaps even a touch creepy. That house was Pine Hall, formerly known as Shaw House, and built sometime in the 1860s or 70s (I think – it could be earlier) by Caleb Fidler, one of Mount Gambier’s great pioneers.

As it was, I’d been hunting around for information on the house and in a serendipitous moment, discovered this Border Watch clipping from January 11th 1993. What caught Mum’s eye about the article I can’t figure out and really, it doesn’t tell me much about Pine Hall either. But the tale is still interesting and I now have a picture of the house to refer to in the future. All good!

Newspaper article featuring Pine Hall.

Thanks for joining me on this journey through some of Mum’s things. It’s kind of nice to know that these photos and reminiscences will be here for me and others, should they wish, to refer back to in the future. There are lots of great memories and a few laughs too, something I think Mum would enjoy a lot. Or, rather, she would once she’d recovered from the horror that we’d been going through her things!

For more information about Alzheimer’s Disease and to help fund research into this awful disease that steals so much from us, please visit the Alzheimer’s Australia website.

Treasures, Mysteries and Memories – Part 1

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There’s something horribly invasive about going through another person’s belongings. Even when that person has passed away or been placed, like my mum, into full time residential care, sorting through their things feels a terrible breach of trust and privacy.

The task is heart-breaking, insightful, uncomfortable, sometimes very funny and occasionally truly astonishing. It’s an eye-opener into another person’s life, what they treasured, what they thought mattered, and a task I strongly believe would be incredibly sad to be left in the hands of a stranger.

St Joseph's school blazer badge.How would a stranger recognise the meaningful things? How would they recognise that the simple white-gold ring shoved into a box alongside a dozen worthless pieces was actually my mother’s original wedding band? How would they know that old, creased black and white print was a rare photo of my mother with her adored father, or that cloth badge, scrappily cut from a blazer, was her school badge from Saint Josephs College in Penola where she was inordinately proud to be a student? Without knowledge of the life through which they were sorting, how would someone distant from a person’s life recognise any of those stories? They wouldn’t, and so much would be lost because of it.

It was a privilege to go through my Mum’s things. It was also acutely frustrating. I always knew she was a bit of a hoarder, but until we began unearthing box after box of everything from greeting cards to strange little inscribed books, immunisation charts, to forests worth of papers on family history and cut-outs for scrapbooking, I had no real concept  of how bad her hoarding was. Hoarding that had deepened as her Alzheimer’s worsened.

Queen's coronation scrapbookThe exercise was akin to an archaeological dig. Her office took me and Dad four full days to excavate, her bedroom and the spare room two days each. Soon, the hallway was piled with boxes of papers for recycling. Great plastic blocks of scrapbooking gear, which must have been worth many hundreds of dollars, if not more, were stacked along the dining room wall for dispersal. The dining table was strewn with stationery, miscellaneous photos and things we couldn’t quite figure what to do with. Mum’s scrapbooks of the Queen’s coronation sat on the table in limbo for days before I decided that I couldn’t throw them out. I filled large tubs for myself and my brother, jumbles of items meaningful only to us and our parents and, we hope, future generations. We filled the household wheelie bin cleaning out her ensuite the second day. From then on we switched to sturdy garden sized rubbish bags which grew rapidly to form a glossy black mountain in the garage.

It was, to put it bluntly, a slog.

But, oh, there were some treasures, and mysteries too. Also incredible joys and funny-sad things. And many, many memories.

In this series of two blog posts, covering treasures and mysteries, and memories and oddities, I’m going to show off a few of the curious items we found, and reveal a little about their history and importance to Mum or us as a family.

TREASURES

While there were some pretty astonishing finds, a few stood out. Items I never knew existed that, when uncovered, caused us to blink and  shake our heads in amazement.

Like Mum’s adorable baby booties. In one box, buried at the bottom, we discovered a photograph. Not knowing who it was of, I consulted Dad. Much to my amusement and some muttering from Dad, it was of a fellow who’d courted Mum nearly 60 years ago. Why the photo ended up with the booties is anyone’s guess.

Mum's booties

Mum's white booties.

Speaking of courting, Mum kept all Dad’s letters from the 50s when he’d skipped off via ocean liner on a great adventure to Canada, the USA and Mexico. They made for incredible reading, although Dad didn’t quite agree. I think he was a tad embarrassed by his romantic younger self. But more on these another day. They’re too juicy and fun to let slide with just a photo. I’m going to write about them – with Dad’s approval, of course.

Letters from Dad to Mum.

Still on the subject of Dad, here’s him on November 3rd, 1973, walking (on the left of the photograph) with the Duke of Edinburgh when the Duke came to visit Mount Gambier and took a tour of the Valley Lake. Dad was Chairman of the Lions Youth Affairs Committee, which at the time organised the Duke of Edinburgh Awards Scheme. This was a seriously big deal in Mount Gambier – the Duke’s visit, not my dad being committee chairman, although I am proud of him for that!  – and Mum kept all The Border Watch clippings from the event. One article breathily reported that Equerry to the Duke (Major B. Herman) sampled a biscuit from Elizabeth’s Varcoe’s cookery display and that 100 people turned out at the aerodrome to greet the Royal aircraft. What fun!

Dad and the Duke.

This is one of my maternal grandfather’s certificates from his days in the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes, aka the lodge, dated May 1954. Isn’t it amazing? And he was a knight, too! While there appear to be still Buffaloes lodges operating, it looks like all the south east SA ones have folded.

My grandfather's lodge knighthood

We’re not a religious family and yet Mum seemed to have a lot of bibles, including this one with newspaper clippings of significant family events pasted in. For me, this was a fantastic treasure. I learned things!

Bible

Bible

As was Mum’s and Dad’s wedding album a treasure. The photos were wonderful, especially those of my grandparents who have all now passed away. Don’t they look great? Check out the size of that cake! We found Mum’s wedding dress in the top of her cupboard.

Cutting the wedding cake.

I’m not sure where this Kigu compact came from but I do have a strong memory from when I was a child of Mum showing it off to friends to much oohing and ahhing. I suspect it was either my grandmother’s or great-grandmother’s but I honestly don’t know. What I do know is that it’s beautiful. I can understand why people collect these.

Kigu compact.

MYSTERIES

I have yet to solve this one, and it’s driving me a little mad. Tucked away in Mum’s office was a small leather bound book of poetry by William Gay, inscribed inside from someone who was appreciative of the “bonza day” they’d spent with Jessie in 1919. Who the recipient and the giver are, and how it came into Mum’s possession I have no idea and neither does anyone else. And Mum, who would know, can’t tell us. It’s very frustrating!

The mystery poetry book.

I also found a strange gold pin, the design of which seemed to represent something. Initials? An association? I posted a picture on Facebook and the mystery was soon solved. It was Weight Watchers badge, and likely my grandmother’s as Mum never did Weight Watchers that I was aware of.

My Nanny's Weight Watchers pin.

Mum was never a reader either, and yet there were books. A 1940s copy of Black Beauty, another of Treasure Island. But this one had me flummoxed. It’s a 1957 Thriller Picture Library edition of Rob Roy “told in pictures” and cost 1/3, or 1 shilling and threepence. The comics were were published in the UK twice a month or so, and featured classic tales such as The Three Musketeers, Robin Hood, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, Gulliver’s Travels and many more. Why Mum thought this particular edition was important is a mystery. The cover is missing (she has sticky-taped a printed-off one to the book as replacement) and it’s not in great condition, so it’s not exactly valuable as a collectible. It’s still kind of cool though!

Rob Roy Graphic Novel

This box of slides and film definitely won’t be staying a mystery. We’re all hanging out to find out what’s on the film. None of us have any idea. We didn’t even know it existed!

Box of slides and its mystery film.

These are just a very small sample of some of the things we discovered sorting through Mum’s belongings. I hope you’ll join me for part two where I’ll post photos of some of the items that rekindled forgotten memories, as well as a few of the more quirky items we found.

If any of you have been through a similar experience, I’d love to hear about it. Did you find it heart-breaking or heart-warming, or was it a combination of emotions, as it was for us? I think one of the hardest parts is knowing what to keep and what to toss or give away. I still wonder if we made the right choice with some items.

For more information about Alzheimer’s Disease and to help fund research into this awful affliction that steals so much from us, please visit the Alzheimer’s Australia website.