Tag Archives: Amy Andrews

FRIDAY FEAST with Amy Andrews

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Happy Valentine’s Day! Are you feeling the luuuurve? Or are you suffering a touch of the bah humbugs over the day?

I’m on holidays so I’m most definitely feeling loved up. Er…*cough*… I’m not sure that came out quite right. I meant I’m feeling relaxed and happy with the world. Not the… um… you know, which is not something I want to talk about or you want to hear!

Okay, let’s start again.

Welcome to this Valentine’s Day version of Friday Feast featuring a lady who knows all about heart flutters, in more ways than one!Photo of Amy Andrews, author

But first, because I just know you are fascinated, this week’s edition of Us Heins Weren’t Meant To Play Golf. Despite one day of brilliance, I’m losing the Great Murray River Challenge miserably. I swear my other half is cheating on his scorecard. Either that or he has snuck death-seeking balls into my bag. On the other hand, I’m having fun so not all is lost.

Now back to my guest. Amy Andrews has published forty books. Yes, FORTY. And if that isn’t enough, she’s been nominated for FIVE Australian Romance Readers Awards this year. Fortunately Amy is also a most excellent lady and we love her, despite her clear penchant for overachievement and making the rest of us look bad.

Amy’s latest release (and ARR Award nominee in both the Favourite Contemporary Romance and Sexiest Hero categories) is Holding Out For A Hero. Take a lookie…

 

HOLDING OUT FOR A HERO

 

Cover of Holding Out For A Hero by Amy AndrewsWhen 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.

 

Now that sounds seriously sexy! And Jake and Ella can be all yours with just a clickety-click from Amazon (for your Kindle or Kindle reading app), iTunes, Google Play and Kobo. It’s on my e-reader. Go and put it on yours!

Now come blow kisses at Amy. She has chooocooolate!

 

Claytons Cooking Part 2 – The Valentine’s Day chapter

Or

My Cheating Heart

 

So, we’ve already established I’m not a cook. That I cheat in the kitchen – often. That I construct dishes from pre-made ingredients and kind of smash it all up to make something new and exciting.

Yep, that’s the way we rock in my house. And everyone’s still alive and adequately nourished.

Yes, I’m a fraud who does not belong on such a magnificent blog with people who make their own spaghetti sauce. From scratch…

But Cathryn likes to indulge me so I thought I’d treat you to another easy-peasy food construction tip for Valentine’s Day!

Now…Valentine’s Day means chocolate right? Well, you know, it means love and romance and all that good stuff too but let’s face it, we’re women, right?

So….back to chocolate.

How about this Valentine’s Day you surprise your lover with some home-made chocolates? Well, you know, home-made in the loosest sense of the word….

The first thing you need is some chocolate moulds. Now, I used to have a stack of plastic moulds that I bought from Robin’s Kitchen years ago when I did this kind of stuff with the kids. I’m sure I had hundreds of them. No, I do have hundreds of them. I just couldn’t find any today when I came to do this recipe…. We food constructors are also bad at keeping track of our kitchen stuff… So I popped out and bought a proper you-beaut sturdy petit four tin. Impressive right?

Amy Andrews's petit fours tin

Next you need chocolate. What? You didn’t think I was actually going to make the chocolate did you? Perish the thought! But I do advise you to buy the most expensive cooking chocolate you can find – might as well dazzle your significant other with the taste of it, right? I used Cadbury. It’s more expensive than most but worth it.

Photo of the chocolate Amy used

Lastly you need stuff to mix in to the chocolate. I’ve used pistachios, coconut, peppermint essence, sprinkles and cranberries. Also Cointreau and rum. Because alcohol. But you can use whatever you want – chilli anyone?

Ingredients for flavouring the chocolates

Now all you do is melt the chocolate. You can get really authentic and do it in a double bowl over a boiling saucepan of water but why? Throw it in the microwave and it’s melted in like 1 minute! Plus, no saucepan to wash up!  Pour the melted chocolate into the individual moulds about half way up. Add whatever bits and pieces you’d like to each one, give it a gentle stir then fill the rest of the way with more chocolate.

Petit fours tin filled with chocolates

Refrigerate!

The end.

And here’s what they look like after they’ve been chilled a while.

The finished chocolates on a plate

Now, if you want to make it really special you can find a cute box or some cellophane and present them nicely. Knowing my hubby he’d prefer me to line them up on his naked body and lick them off after they’ve oozed a little but, you know, whatever works for you! 🙂

Happy Valentine’s Day!

For a chance to win a digital copy of my Aussie romcom Holding Out For A Hero tell me – do you like chocolate? Got a favourite brand? Or do you prefer something non-edible for the big-day-of-lurve?

 

And a big chocolate-flavoured Valentine’s Day right back at you, Amy! I now have a fair idea of what you’re doing today. Don’t wear out your tongue!

*cough*

Oh, dear. We really are having one of those days on the Feast, aren’t we? Never mind. Valentine’s Day is but once a year. Next week we shall return to normal innuendo free programming.

But only after we’ve given away a Kindle copy of Holding Out For A Hero!

You heard Amy. Share your favourite chocolate or whatever turns you on for Valentine’s Day and you’ll go into the draw. Me, I have a deep, deep affection for Jeff de Bruge chocolates, a brand I fell for when we lived in France. Luscious little babies. My mouth waters just thinking of those truffles. Otherwise, feed me red wine.

What about you? Maybe you like to suck on a Lindt ball? Perhaps pink champagne is more your go? Or maybe the best Valentine’s Day gift you could receive is a promise to babysit and 12 hours uninterrupted sleep. Share and you could win!

Giveaway closes midnight AEST 18th February 2014. Open internationally. Rah!

Don’t have a Kindle e-reader? That’s okay. You can download the reading app to your phone, tablet, laptop or computer and read where you like. It’s easy!

If you’d like to learn more about Amy and her books, please visit her website. You can also connect via Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

This giveaway has now closed. Congratulations to Ingrid who has won herself a copy of Amy’s Holding Out For A Hero. What fun she’ll have! Thanks to Amy and to all who joined in the Friday Feast fun. Hope to see you again soon.

 

 

THIS WRITING LIFE: GenreCon 2013

Ahh, Brissy, what a warm and friendly city. And made even better by the staging a few weekends ago of GenreCon, the conference designed for that most excellent of authorly species, Genre Writers. I’ve been a quite a few Romance Writers of Australia conferences now and GenreCon was a lot like one of those, except it had men. A lively, lovely lot of them too. It also had, thanks to the irrepressible Alex Adsett of Alex Adsett Publishing Services, karaoke, an event from which my voice didn’t recover for a week. A week of gravel-throat and I didn’t even get to sing Dancing Queen or Paradise by the Dashboard Light. Although I did get hear editor and writer Patrick O’Duffy do the most amazing deep-voiced version of Total Eclipse of the Heart imaginable.

But I’m getting ahead of myself…

 

Friday: The Start of Sleep Deprivation

 

Before karaoke and the conference proper, there was lunch on Friday at GOMA Restaurant with romance authors Amy Andrews, Anna Campbell, Keziah Hill, Rachael Johns, Bronwyn Parry, Helene Young and myself where much prosecco was drunk, rabbit terrines savoured, desserts drooled over, and happy birthday and Frocktober ditties sung. There may have also been unsubtle mention of the Penis Beaker Debate and He of the Mighty Wang (Amy Andrews’s fault). Personally, I think we added a nice splash of colour and noise to the restaurant although I’m not sure the staff would agree, but at least they were good sports about our rowdiness.

GOMA lunch ladies, left to right: Anna Campbell, Helene Young, Rachael Johns, me, Bronwyn Parry, Keziah Hill and Amy Andrews

L to R: Anna Campbell, Helene Young, Rachael Johns, me,  birthday girl Bronwyn Parry, Keziah Hill and Amy Andrews

Friday night was the opening night reception on the State Library of Queensland’s aptly named Queensland Terrace. Fantastic venue, partially open to the sub-tropical air and a great area in which to mingle, sip wine and eat naughty things.

Anne Gracie and Alex Adsett

Best-selling Regency romance author Anne Gracie and Alex Adsett

Anna Campbell, Lea Scott and Sandy Curtis

Regency romance superstar Anna Campbell with crime and thriller authors Lea Scott and Sandy Curtis

Rachael Johns and Dianne Blacklock

Good buddy and fellow rural romance author Rachael Johns with women’s fiction author and lovely lady Dianne Blacklock. Best-selling babes!

Amy Andrews and Sandy Curtis

Romance author Amy Andrews (and Penis Beaker Debate enabler) with Sandy Curtis

This was followed by a trek back to the bar at Rydges South Bank, the official conference hotel, then cabs into town to Fat Louie’s for some karaoke where so much silliness was had that this may become tradition. I hope so, although if next time anyone tries to make me sing Summer of ’69 again there will be reckoning…

Chuck Wendig in full karaoke throttle

Author and Terrible Minds blogger Chuck Wendig in full karaoke throttle. I have no idea what he was singing but by that time of night I’m not sure anyone did!

Saturday: Brain Awakenings

 

Saturday opened with the Power of Genre Fiction, featuring speeches by Anne Gracie, Kathryn Fox and John Birmingham to well and truly put us in the mood. I then attended Rule of Knowledge author Scott Baker’s Worth A Thousand Words workshop which I found brilliant. Scott has spent the last year working with Peter Jackson on the Hobbit films and was also a consultant in the film industry as well as lecturing at the Australian National University in digital video. How well he knows his stuff was shown in the booktrailers he made which are nothing like I’ve ever seen and, quite frankly, amazing.

Scott Baker

Rule of Knowledge author and booktrailer guru Scott Baker

In fact, this was such an interesting session that I’m considering writing a separate post on it, so stay tuned! After lunch I attended the Writing Fast workshop with Anne Gracie, Charlotte Nash and Anita Heiss, hosted by Denise Rossetti. Thank goodness for Anne making me feel semi-normal over my painful writing process, because Charlotte Nash’s super speedy production levels just left me feeling completely inadequate and even more depressed about my output. But you know what? We all have our processes. I’m slow and horribly pedantic, but I get there in the end. Time to stop beating myself up about it.

Denise Rossetti and Charlotte Nash

Award winning erotic romance author Denise Rossetti and Ryders Ridge author Charlotte Nash

Writing Fast was followed by What Writers Get Wrong with Helene Young, Kathryn Fox and Deborah Burrows. My take away from this was that if you don’t know something, then ask. People tend to be fascinated by this strange writing business and are usually delighted to help.

Helene Young

Award-winning romantic suspense author Helene Young, looking lovely as usual.

John Connolly In Conversation was the last Saturday session and it was funny and fascinating, with the auditorium completely charmed and engaged. One point John made that struck me enough to write down was: In genre fiction, it’s the characters the readers care about, and authors can and do make a living off this affection and investment in character. An important thing to remember when writing.

John Connolly in conversation

Internationally best-selling Irish author John Connolly in conversation

Dinner at Rydges was a great night with crackup author and Terrible Minds blogger Chuck Wendig entertaining the crowd with his 25 Reasons Why I F**king Love Genre Fiction followed by a Q&A with Escape Publishing’s Kate Cuthbert. And then, surprise-surprise, another, even later night gasbagging in the bar.

Listening to Chuck Wendig

Some of the rapt dinner crowd listening to Chuck Wendig

 

Sunday: Can We Do It Again?

 

Alex Adsett of Alex Adsett Publishing Services and karaoke organiser

Alex Adsett of Alex Adsett Publishing Services and karaoke organiser

Sunday’s Plenery Session was The Future of Genre Fiction, featuring agent and contract lawyer Alex Adsett, Leanpub’s Peter Armstrong, and author and academic Anita Heiss. Alex, seemingly unharmed and in good voice despite Friday night’s  karaoke-ing, gave a great overview of industry changes (including a handy tip about reversion clauses on print rights with digital deals), while Anita’s discussion about targetting her audience was equally thought-provoking.

Anita Heiss

Author and academic Anita Heiss

Peter Armstrong of Leanpub

Peter Armstrong of Leanpub

But it was Peter’s rundown of the history of genre fiction and serialisation which had my mind a-spinning and triggered an excellent discussion with good buddy and GenreCon roomie Rachael Johns as we headed back to the hotel to check out, and which so caught us up that we missed the next workshop. A bummer because by all accounts Beyond Rippling Muscles and Uzi 9mms was a hoot.

Amy Andrews, Rachael Johns and Dianne Blacklock looking mighty fine for a Sunday lunchtime.

Amy Andrews, Rachael Johns and Dianne Blacklock looking mighty fine for a Sunday lunchtime.

Post another excellent lunch (the food was fabulous at GenreCon!) I attended the Thinking Like A Pro workshop with John Connolly, Valerie Parv and Keri Arthur, followed by Know Thine Enemy with Chuck Wendig, PM Newton and Kathryn Fox. The fact that I stayed awake throughout both after an extremely late night proves how entertaining they were.

Thinking Like A Pro Workshop. L to R: Aimee Lindorff (Chair), Keri Arthur. John Connolly and Valerie Parv

Thinking Like A Pro Workshop. L to R: Aimee Lindorff (Chair), New York Times best-selling paranormal and urban fantasy author Keri Arthur, John Connolly and romance queen Valerie Parv

The Great Debate: Genre Just Wants To Have Fun was a blast. John Birmingham opened strongly with a story about a certain literary author’s pillow problems that had everyone laughing, only to be neatly countered by Anne Gracie with her “Paris” jibe.

And a new nickname is born: Anne Gracie giving John Birmingham her "Paris" dig

And a new nickname is born: Anne Gracie giving John Birmingham her “Paris” dig

Lindy Cameron and Dianne Blacklock (gorgeous lady!) put in sterling efforts but the negative side, with their brilliant goblin story and Scott Baker’s clever revisioning of The Raven, were just too strong. And so it was proven that genre doesn’t just want to have fun. Which could be said for all GenreCon attendees, I think. We had fling your arms in the air and sing it out, loud and proud fun, certainly. We had karaoke, great food, met lovely old friends and made gorgeous new ones, but thanks to a fantastic program, excellent speakers and plenty of opportunity to network, we also learned an enormous amount. And for that I can’t thank Peter Ball, Meg Vann and their team of ninjas enough.

A wonderful conference. I’ll be back in 2015 with bells on.

 

 

THIS WRITING LIFE: Riding a Post RWA Conference High!

I’m home and back on the writing job after a week away in Western Australia at the 2013 Romance Writers of Australia Riding the Waves conference. What a ball was had! Romance writers are the kindest, friendliest and most generous people out there which makes conferences a hoot. They’re also hugely inspirational, loaded with wonderful craft and business information, and a fantastic way to connect with people who understand exactly how crazy this writing affliction can be. I always return from conferences more than a little bit excited and ready for action, which is just as well considering I have edits coming and a new book to write. This lark can’t all be flitting around Australia, hanging with glamorous authors…

I had hoped to share a pile of glossy, vibrant photos with you, but some numpty managed to upset the camera settings and half of them came out blurred. Sigh. Fortunately a few survived that I can present for your viewing pleasure.

Oh, and so you’re warned, this post is LONG!

Opening night on Thursday was Destiny Romance’s first birthday and, boy, was it loud. Plonk a hundred or so romance writers in a room, feed them cupcakes and bubbly, and you have a racket on your hands. But what a fun night, and what a delight to receive a fabulous Classic Penguin goodie bag at the end of it. Mine contained Anna Cowan’s much lauded Untamed and Peta Crake’s Harbinger, both of which I was thrilled to collect. Afterwards, Destiny Romance and Penguin Australia authors were treated to dinner at a very nice Italian restaurant and more chatter.

Margareta Osborn, me and Kathryn Ledson at the Destiny Party

Margareta Osborn, me and Kathryn Ledson at the Destiny Party

Carol George, Destiny Romance editor, welcoming and thanking everyone, and toasting Destiny's fabulous first year

Carol George, Destiny Romance editor, welcoming and thanking everyone, and toasting Destiny’s fabulous first year

Fab bag and even more fab reads thanks to Destiny Romance and Penguin Australia.

Gorgeous bag and even more gorgeous reads thanks to Destiny Romance and Penguin Australia.

Friday saw dedicated delegates attend either the Venus On The Half Shell workshop presented by Kim Hudson, or the Elizabeth Jolley Conference – Reading and Writing Romance in the 21st Century. Me? I snuck off and played golf at Joondalup Resort. What can I say? A girl has to wear off cupcakes, fizz and spaghetti vongole somehow, and the course was brilliant!

But I was back in time for the all-important Harlequin Nautical or Nice cocktail party. At my first RWA conference, back in 2007(?), hardly anyone dressed up. A feather boa here, a quirky outfit there, but mostly normal cocktail-conference dress. Now everyone’s into it and the atmosphere is fantastically silly.

Rural romance authors Fiona Palmer and Jennifer Scoullar.

Rural romance authors Fiona Palmer and Jennifer Scoullar.

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Ondine series author Ebony McKenna. You can show me to my berth anytime, Ebs!

Paula Roe as the world's most glittery desert island!

Paula Roe as the world’s most glittery desert island!

Rural romance author and good buddy looking super cute in her onesie!

Rural romance author and good buddy Rachael Johns looking super cute in her onesie!

Glam pirate Fiona Palmer

Glam pirate Fiona Palmer

Saturday morning saw the conference proper begin. Julia Quinn’s keynote address of her top 4 list of top 4 lists was wonderful and if there’s one thing I’ll forever remember from Riding the Waves it’s her saying: You will never hurt your career by helping another author. Yeah.

Harlequin’s sponsor address followed with Margaret Marbury (Vice President, Harlequin Single Title – HQN, Mira, Luna) and Sheila Hodgson (Harlequin Mills and Boon, London) talking enthusiastically about eHarlequin, their range of imprints, and what Harlequin can offer authors.

Paths to Third Party Publication saw Abby Zidle (Simon & Schuster, New York), Nina Bruhns (Entangled Publishing), Sheila Hodgson, Bernadette Foley (Hachette Australia), Kate Cuthbert (Escape Publishing), Alisa Krasnostein (Twelfth Planet Press), and moderator Alex Adsett (Alex Adsett Publishing Services) take the stage to discuss how to submit to publishers and what they’re looking for. My impression was that they were all hungry for your work. Really hungry, and throughout the panel I kept thinking what a great time it was to be an author. We are wanted, no longer beholden and we have options. A lot of options.

Shelia Hodgson, Alex Zidle, Nina Bruhns, Alisa Kradnostein, Bernadette Foley and Kate Cuthbert

L to R: Alex Adsett (moderating), Shelia Hodgson, Alex Zidle, Nina Bruhns, Alisa Kradnostein, Bernadette Foley and Kate Cuthbert

Morning tea: bacon and egg muffins and pastries. Enough said!

For my first breakout session I did Nina Bruhns’s session on Save the Cat! which I loved. She talked about the 10 types of movies (fascinating stuff), loglines and why you need them, and Blake Snyder’s Beat Sheets for plotting. Really useful stuff and some of the worksheets are available on Blake’s website under the Tools tab. Quite a few writers I know swear by his Save the Cat! book and after the amount I got out of this session I’ve decided to join the crowd and have just ordered it.

Nina Bruhns presenting her Save the Cat! workshop

Nina Bruhns presenting her Save the Cat! workshop

I loved Nina’s “when you’re stuck” tip, which I’ve heard a few times before but it never hurts to hear these things again. If you’ve come to a standstill, make a list of 10, 20 or more different things that could happen in your book. Be outrageous, take the editor off your shoulder and just brainstorm. It doesn’t matter if they’re clichéd or unrealistic, write them down. The more you list the more likely you are to come up with something fresh and unexpected to brighten and intrigue your reader. I’m testing this right now as I broaden the plot outline of my next rural romance and have already come up with a couple of good ideas.

For breakout session two I moderated the Shark In Your Story panel (which for some daft reason I couldn’t stop thinking of as the Jump The Shark panel) with Helene Young, Shannon Curtis and Bronwyn Parry. As you’d expect from ladies so highly acclaimed for their romantic suspense novels, the panel was full of fascinating titbits, especially when it came to crafting great villains (Shannon likes to get her freak on; Bronwyn tends to get her ideas for villains from the news). I wish it had gone on longer but there was lunch and more chattering to be had!

The Shark in Your Story panel L to R: Shannon Curtis, Helene Young and Bronwyn Parry

The Shark in Your Story panel L to R: Shannon Curtis, Helene Young and Bronwyn Parry

For breakout three, I joined best-selling historical romance author Anne Gracie and a round table of published authors to discuss business. Again, I wish we had longer because I feel like we barely skimmed the surface, especially when it came to rights and contracts. These are issues authors can never know enough about. Maybe next year in Sydney, when author day returns, we’ll get to talk about the business side of writing a bit more.

Thanks to the Australian Romance Readers Association we had another authorfest on Saturday afternoon with an ARRA booksigning event. 50+ authors seated in the one room with their books for sale and pens poised for signings.  Not quite as loud as the Destiny Party, but close! I sat between paranormal and fantasy romance author Kylie Griffin and best-selling author of The Girl in Steel-Capped Boots (and others) Loretta Hill. Kylie’s books sold like crazy which was delightful to see, and I was seriously chuffed to do a few signings myself. I don’t think I’ll ever get over that thrill. It’s something very special.

All action at the ARRA booksigning

All action at the ARRA booksigning

Amy Andrews came prepared...

Amy Andrews came prepared…

Ebony McKenna brought her ferret, Fiona MacArthur only needed her charming self.

Ebony McKenna brought her ferret, Fiona McArthur only needed her charming self.

Eleni Konstantine wearing her conference team hat. Sweet!

Eleni Konstantine wearing her conference team hat. Sweet!

Me!

Me!

Elise Ackers. An author to watch!

Elise Ackers. An author to watch!

Oof, those romantic suspense types... Helene Young with Bronwyn Parry.

Oof, those romantic suspense types… Helene Young with Bronwyn Parry.

Jennifer Kloester with Juanita Kees

Jennifer Kloester with Juanita Kees

Paranormal and fantasy romance author Kylie Griffin.

Kylie Griffin. There weren’t many of those books left by the end.

Harlequin Romance author Michelle Douglas with historical author Michelle Diener

Harlequin Romance author Michelle Douglas with historical author Michelle Diener. I was thrilled to score Michelle Diener’s kindly donated raffle prize, complete with pretty bookmarks, and look forward to sinking my nose into her stories.

Visiting US author Maisey Yates with Rachael Johns

Visiting US author Maisey Yates with Rachael Johns

Then it was out for dinner and a frock up before returning to the Esplanade Hotel for dessert and the RWA’s Awards Gala, where there was much applauding and cheering for our contest and RuBY winners, and where I was delighted to see Bronwyn Jameson awarded life membership of the RWA. So well deserved. Then we had… dancing! I tell you, these romance girls (and boys) know how to rock on.

A glamorous night awaits!

A glamorous night awaits…

...with desserts. Lots of desserts!

…with desserts. Lots of desserts!

The rural romance girls!

The rural romance girls.

Amanda Knight with Bronwyn Parry

Amanda Knight with Bronwyn Parry

Rachael Johns and Beck Nicholas

Rachael Johns and Beck Nicholas

Harlequin Sexy author and hot sheik expert Annie West with best-selling historical romance author Christina Brooke

Harlequin Sexy and Presents author and hot sheikh expert Annie West with best-selling historical romance author Christina Brooke

Kat Mayo with Alex Adsett

Kat Mayo with Alex Adsett

Me and Fiona McArthur

Me and Fiona McArthur

Those romance gals sure know how to boogie!

Those romance gals sure know how to boogie!

Found resting their dancing feet in the Esplanade Hotel's bar afterward: Jennifer St George and Amy Andrews

Found resting their dancing feet in the Esplanade Hotel’s bar afterward: Jennifer St George and Amy Andrews…

...Christina Brooke and many others. Glam ladies with stamina!

…Christina Brooke and many others. Glam ladies with stamina!

Sunday morning. Ahh, yes, a few bleary eyes can be seen, but all in good cause: ie fun. Harlequin’s second sponsor address followed and my heart was all a-flutter at Kate Cuthbert’s news that Escape’s Australian-set rural romances are doing well in the US. Could this be the start of an Aussie invasion? I hope so!

Then the scary Submission Island panel with Margaret Marbury, Abby Zidle, Laura Bradford (Bradford Literary Agency), Nina Bruhns, Joel Naoum (PanMacmillan/Momentum) and Alex Adsett. Manuscript openings were read out and the panel held up STOP signs when they’d heard enough. Wow. Just… wow. If you ever needed a show of how hard it is to hook an editor or agent then this is it. But what also sank in for me was how subjective opinions are when it comes to manuscripts. Some panellists dropped out early, others hung on to the last. Sometimes there was a point where a few would be put off by the same sentence or paragraph and cards would flip up all at once. Overall, it was a insightful demonstration of how authors not only have to have thick skins, but tenacity too. Keep trying. Just because one or two agents or editors don’t like your work, that doesn’t mean there isn’t someone out there who’d love it.

Survivor: Submission Island with L to R: Margaret Marbury, Abby Zidle, Laura Bradford, Nina Bruhns, Joel Naoum and Alex Adsett

Survivor: Submission Island with L to R: Margaret Marbury, Abby Zidle, Laura Bradford, Nina Bruhns, Joel Naoum and Alex Adsett

I did Anne Gracie’s The Power of Detail for my first Sunday breakout session and enjoyed it immensely. Anne is a passionate speaker, with a real knack for getting information across in a way that resonates, and I walked away with excellent tips on how to bring the particular and every person together in my writing.

For the post lunch breakout I attended the self publishing panel with Cathleen Ross, Nina Bruhns and Kandy Shepherd. As with all the other panels, this contained more gems of insight from highly experienced authors, from the importance of meta-data, to advertising, to making sure that your books look as professional as traditionally published editions, and beyond. Given the attendance and range of questions, I suspect there’ll be even more on self-publishing at next year’s conference.

Self publishing panel with L to R: Kandy Shepherd, Cathleen Ross and Nina Bruhns

Self publishing panel with L to R: Kandy Shepherd, Cathleen Ross and Nina Bruhns

My last session was a free-for-all chat with Julia Quinn where delegates could ask her anything. I was so pleased to hear she was an edit-as-you-go writer too, because that’s how I work and I can’t help feeling that it somehow lets me down productivity wise. Doesn’t look like it’s hurt Julia!

Those that attended the Navigating the Choppy Waters of Online Reviews panel with Sarah Wendell (Smart Bitches, Trashy Books), Kat Mayo (Bookthingo and Booktopia) and Kate Cuthbert said that was worth attending too, offering plenty of cautionary advice about social networking and online communities.

We closed the conference with plenary addresses from Kim Hudson and Sarah Wendell, more raffles (I won something, rah!), the announcement of next year’s conference venue (Romance Rocks at the Novotel Sydney Olympic Park, double rah!) and Anne Gracie’s now traditional stand-ups where we celebrate all our achievements for the year (rah, rah, rah!).

After that, it was back to the bar for more chatter, a few drinks and farewells.

L to R: Fiona McArthur, Anne Gracie, Kaz Delaney, Bronwyn Jameson, Alison Stuart and Melanie Milburne

L to R: Fiona McArthur, Anne Gracie, Kaz Delaney, Bronwyn Jameson, Alison Stuart and Melanie Milburne

To the Riding the Waves conference committee and the RWA, I say thank you and bravo. Wonderful, wonderful conference and I can’t wait to do it again next year. So much so I’ve even put my hand up to help.

So now I’m home, furiously plotting when all I really want to do is soak up the glorious weather we’re having and snuggle down on the patio with a book from my RWA haul. But where-oh-where is a girl to start when she has all these beauties on offer?

Books

 

 

 

FRIDAY FEAST with Amy Andrews

Look out, we’re hosting another million plus seller on Friday Feast this week! Hmm, a girl would feel a tad jealous if these weren’t such fabulous women, and we only allow nice people on the Feast. It’s a house rule.shortdo

Today my guest is Amy Andrews, multi-published author and Romantic Book of the Year winner. Amy’s written 30 plus romances for publishers as diverse as Harlequin Mills & Boon, Entangled Publishing, Harper Collins Australia and Momentum, and been translated into over a dozen languages, including Manga! She also spent six years on the national executive of the Romance Writers of Australia, including two years as president, and organised two national conferences. If that isn’t enough, Amy’s married with two teenagers and works part-time as a paediatric intensive care nurse. I don’t know, these overachievers…

Amy’s latest release is from Harlequin’s KISS series, which is all about the gooey delirium of new love, and heroes and heroines who can’t get enough of one another. Guaranteed fun reads!

 

GIRL LEAST LIKELY TO MARRY

 

Girl Least Likely To Marry coverTalk nerdy to me

Samuel Tucker is absolutely the last person scientist Cassie Barclay would ever date. Yes, he’s gorgeous, but he’s also far too cocky for his own good and thinks that Pi is a tasty afternoon treat. So when he asks her to dance at her friend Reese’s non-wedding she’s wondering why on earth she says yes!

Tuck is used to people assuming he’s all brawn and no brain, and amuses himself by winding Cassie up. But when he finally takes her to bed, suddenly it’s Tuck who can show Cassie a thing or two! Can he convince her that love and sex have nothing to do with logic and everything to do with chemistry?

 

Now, that sounds like a lovely romantic romp, perfect to warm your winter-jaded cockles. Buy Girl Least Likely To Marry now direct from Harlequin or Amazon.

Now here’s Amy!

 

Claytons Cooking

 

So I have a confession to make. Well, two actually. I don’t really like to cook. And, having poured over all the previous bloggers here at Friday Feast, I’m going to admit to feeling slightly intimidated.

You see, the thing is, I used to love to cook. Loved it! Dinner parties were my forte and desserts my specialty! I have a hundred recipe books and probably a thousand recipes ripped out of magazines. My mother was an excellent cook. I can remember at school fete time every year Mum baking eight tarts (yes, proper pastry and all!) of different varieties which meant we could all carry two each during the transportation to said fete. She was a tuckshop convenor for years, she cooked two chooks every Saturday morning for the netball raffle, she catered for my engagement party of a 100+ people.

This is the stock I come from.  We cook in my family.

So, what happened?

I had a child who wouldn’t eat anything from about the age of two. The fussiest boy alive (almost not alive actually on many, many occasions!)  All my gourmet creations knocked back. Tinned food made specifically for fussy little eaters spat out.

And oh the advice I was given.

Useless advice #1

You just need to persevere. Trust me, after having stuffed his mouth full of something one time (damned if I can even remember what it was now), clamped it shut and held his nose, I have learned, to the detriment of my clothes,  that you can get food in a fussy eater’s mouth but you cannot make them swallow!

Useless advice #2

You just need to offer a variety of food from an early age. All I have to say to that is my next child, (a girl if it makes any difference) was eating olives at 8 months and if anyone thinks for a minute that I didn’t try that with fussy boy child, then they’re wrong.

Truly. This is a child who wouldn’t even eat chocolate cake – yes, chocolate cake – until he was 8 years old. Then he looked at me like I had hidden the wonders of this particular food from him deliberately all that time. Ha! If he’d shown even the slightest inclination towards eating it the multiple other times I’d offered it to him (read begged and pleaded) I’d have cooked it morning noon and night!

So yeh…I had the joy of cooking sucked right out of me. Cooking is something I do for us all to survive. Don’t get me wrong I can still make a mean anything I set my mind to. I’m great with profiteroles and I made an apple and rhubarb pie recently that almost made my daughter weep (my son, now almost 18, didn’t eat it).

The point is – I just have no inclination to do it anymore. None. I look at it as a complete and utter chore.

So I was slightly at a loss as to what to write about in this blog. I did think wine might be a subject on which I could converse much more knowledgeably and I know Cathryn’s quite partial so…. And then I thought maybe I could talk Amy's vodka cookbookabout my two favourite cookbooks – The Vodka Cookbook and The Liquid Kitchen but I didn’t want anyone to get the wrong idea about me…

Which is why, even though it will probably get me kicked off this blog in disgrace, I thought I’d talk about the one thing I am passionate about in the kitchen – food construction. This is when a combination of already prepared food is thrown together to make a different dish – it’s quick and easy and I highly recommend it.  It’s Clayton’s cooking. The cooking you look like you’ve done when you haven’t really done anything at all.

For example – a bag of lettuce, some cherry tomatoes, some olives and feta cheese from the deli and a bottle of balsamic dressing equals a delicious fresh salad done in under two minutes. Cook up some pasta, a jar of pasta sauce, some pre-grated parmesan cheese, stir it all together and ta da! Some brandy snap baskets, a tub of chocolate mousse and a punnet of raspberries  – the perfect dessert.

This, dear readers, is the way I roll.  Or as much as possible anyway. Certainly when I’m having people over or if I have to take a dish anywhere, I do. Once upon a time I would have made chocolate mousse. Shudder. Once upon a time I would have bought a lettuce and ripped the leaves off and washed them – nope, not any more. Once upon a time I would have hand-cut my own coleslaw from scratch – finely shredded all the cabbage, grated the carrot etc etc. Not anymore. Now I buy a bag of the pre-mix, slap in some dressing (and some currants cos I think they add a little zing) and hello coleslaw!

So I’m going to share a quick and easy food construction “recipe” that I totally nicked from my sister who is a brilliant cook (and writer) but also has construction tendencies – what can I say it runs in this generation of women… It’s mini Banoffee tart, it requires only 4 ingredients, takes about two minutes and looks amazing.

Plus, trust me, wherever I go, these suckers disappear before my eyes.

MINI BANOFFEE TARTS

Mini Banoffee Tarts

Ingredients – 1 packet of sweet plain biscuits. (I use butterscotch snaps but you can use Gingernuts or whatever takes your fancy.)

1 banana. (You might need 2 depending on how many of the biscuits you use and how big the banana.)

1 tin of caramel (Or you can boil a can of condensed milk for like a zillion hours like my Mum used to do but…why?)

1 can of whipped cream. (Dollop cream works too.)

Method – Take a biscuit. Scoop on a blob of caramel. Place a slice of banana on the caramel. Top with a squirt of cream. Repeat.

Finito.

Easy-peasy lemon squeezy. They look great and ooh la la they taste bloody good too.

Help me out here guys, please tell me I’m not the only one who cheats in the kitchen? If anyone out there wants to admit to it – even just a little – you can go in a draw for my latest book Girl Least Likely To Marry and it’s the US cover version as well because it’s so bloody dazzling I need to share that sucker around, plus now it’s been plastered all over a lift in the Marriot in Atlanta it’s famous, don’t you know.  It’s true – I have the picture on my FB page if you want to see for yourself. Of course you  could also like my page while you’re there too – that would be lovely 🙂 but not necessary to go into the draw. I don’t care where you come from or how far I have to post my pretty little baby, if you’re into  a bit of Clayton’s cooking then your name goes into the hat!

 

See? Told you we only have nice people on Friday Feast. Not only has Amy given you a great read, some fantastic feeding children hints and a super easy banoffee tart recipe, she’s giving you a chance to win her book. So get commenting!

Giveaway closes midnight AEST, Tuesday 6th August 2013. Open internationally. Rah!

If you’d like to learn more about Amy and her thirty-plus books, please visit her website. You can also connect via Facebook and Twitter.

 

And a fantastic time was had by all: The 2013 Australian Romance Readers Convention

What can I say about the recent Australian Romance Readers Convention, held at the Mercure North Quay in Brisbane, except that it was simply a wonderful weekend? I’ve yet to come across a single attendee who didn’t enjoy themselves. Lady Jane’s Salon on Friday night was huge fun, as were the cocktails, nibblies and socialising afterward. Keynote speakers Rachel Vincent, Kristan Higgins and Anne Gracie held their audiences mesmerised and from every session came great gales of laughter. The trade stands were great, snacks and meals tasty and plentiful, and the awards dinner and bling-off a hoot. As one commenter on the ARRA loop so perfectly put it, the entire convention “ran like a Rolex”. The organisers deserve chocolate and foot massages for life for the effort they put in.

The best thing? I came away from ARRC loving the romance genre more than ever. Not only is it uplifting and satisfying to read, it’s filled with passionate readers and authors who are proud of the genre they adore and don’t mind saying so. Thank you ARRA and the ARRC team for a brilliant time. Bring on 2015!

Here are a few happy snaps I took on my phone (so forgive the poor quality).

 

Rachael Johns, Lisa Heidke and Cathryn Hein ARRC 2013

Rural romance author and ARRAward winner Rachael Johns with best-selling women’s fiction author Lisa Heidke and me.

Anna Campbell and Kristan Higgins ARRC 2013

Historical romance author, multiple ARR Award winner and all-round Romance Queen, Anna Campbell with keynote speaker Kristan Higgins.

The Romance Hour - moderator  Kate Cuthbert, Amy Andrews, Nalini Singh, Cathy Maxwell and Anna Campbell ARRC 2013

The Romance Hour session: Moderator Kate Cuthbert, Harlequin author Amy Andrews, paranormal romance author Nalini Singh, historical romance author Cathy Maxwell and Romance Queen Anna Campbell. What fun this was. A whole panel of mega-sellers talking about their writing and books. Cathy Maxwell was a hoot!

Cathryn Hein and Indigo Bloom Kobo Cocktail party ARRC 2013

Me with erotic romance author Indigo Bloome at the Kobo cocktail party which, thanks to Rachael Johns, I was lucky enough to attend. Indigo was so interesting to talk to. What a rollercoaster ride she’s had since the release of Destined to Play

ARRAward winner Rachael Johns 2.0 ARRC 2013

Rachael Johns with her ARR Award. Absolutely thrilled for her!

Kristan Higgins at the booksigning

Romance author Kristan Higgins at the booksigning. She was a lovely lady. Such fun and her keynote speech had the audience laughing and crying in turn.

Keynote speaker Anne Gracie ARRC 2013

Historical romance author Anne Gracie, whose speech was nothing short of brilliant.

Kristan Higgins, Bronwyn Parry, Jennifer Brassel, Hope Tarr and moderator Melanie McMillan - Authors as Readers session

Authors as Readers session with Kristan Higgins, ARR Award winner Bronwyn Parry, Jennifer Brassel, international guest and Lady Jane’s Salon founder Hope Tarr and moderator Melanie McMillan. This was such a fun session, even if the hotel roof did begin to leak halfway through.

Anna Campbell and Annie West ARRC 2013

Two gorgeous ladies: Anna Campbell and Harlequin author Annie West