Tag Archives: Annie West

Favourite Reads of March

21 Replies

My Favourite Reads image

I had a fantastic reading month in March, with every book a page-turner. As usual the list is a bit eclectic but I really enjoy reading different genres and think it keeps me fresh and inspired. I also tried a few new-to-me authors and returned to the comfort of a couple of beloved series.

Two stories stood out, which made it hard to choose my favourite, but that title has to go to…

Letters to the Lost by Iona Grey

Letters to the Lost by Iona GreyThis book was amazing. I wept in the opening, sniffled a bit throughout and spent the last part bawling. I loved everything about this story – the characters, the dual timeline, the writing, the vivid settings. Most of all I loved the way it took my heart and squeezed it tight from beginning to end.

Letters to the Lost won the UK Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Goldsboro Books Romantic Novel Of The Year 2016 and I can see why. It’s simply beautiful. And because of the two timelines, one set during World War Two and the other contemporary, you get two romances in one. Bonus.

Perfect for Mother’s Day. Perfect for any day, really. Read it, but keep those tissues handy!

I also read…

The Lie Tree by Frances HardingeThe Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

My second favourite read of the month. Not a romance, but a wonderfully creepy Gothic tale set in Victorian times and featuring a unique premise and incredible writing. Another award winner too. The Lie Tree took out the prestigious 2015 Costa Book of the Year.

I want to read everything this author has written now. Next stop, Cuckoo Song.

Oh, and don’t be put off by its children’s book classification. The book felt about as child-suitable as a Stephen King novel to me!

The Last Sherlock Holmes Story by Michael DibdinThe Last Sherlock Holmes Story by Michael Dibdin

Regular followers will know what a Sherlock Holmes fan I am so I was never going to resist this one, especially when it also features the Jack the Ripper murders. The story rollicked along and was very entertaining but there’s a huge twist at the end that, while cleverly done, did leave me pretty gobsmacked. Can’t say more. You’ll have to find it out for yourself.

The Widow by Fiona BartonThe Widow by Fiona Barton

A mystery-thriller which follows the tale of a man suspected of a terrible crime, and how much, if anything, his wife knew about it. It’s something you wonder yourself, when you read about murderers and other terrible criminals.

A Vow To Secure His Legacy by Annie WestRebel’s Bargain by Annie West & A Vow To Secure His Legacy by Annie West

Annie is a friend and kindly sent me copies of her two books to read, and what fun I had! Arrogant alpha males usually leave me cold but Annie has the gift of keeping them real and relatable, as well as super sexy. I particularly enjoyed A Vow To Secure His Legacy. That one made me cry.

Odd Hours by Dean KoontzOdd Hours by Dean Koontz

I adore this Odd Thomas series, and while Odd Hours didn’t rate as a favourite it was still a good read. I’ve already bought Odd Apocalypse, the next in the series, and will be reading that soon. I need to know what happens to poor Odd!

Kings Rising by CS PacatKings Rising by CS Pacat

And, sadly, with this book the journey ends. What a stunner of a series. Unique and brilliantly written. Can we have more please, Ms Pacat? Pretty please?

Tempting Mr Townsend by Anna CampbellTempting Mr Townsend by Anna Campbell

I’ve loved all the books in the Dashing Widows series, and maybe it’s because it’s still on my mind but I think this one is my favourite so far. Anthony was gorgeous (I’m a sucker for a big man) and Fenella’s anguish and guilt over her burgeoning attraction for him very real.

 

What were your favourite reads?

Never miss a new release. Click to subscribe to Cathryn Hein's newsletter.

THIS WRITING LIFE: Hanging with my tribe!

12 Replies

If you love romance, writing, or both, the Romance Writers of Australia annual conference is the RWA Get Fresh logoplace for you. Every year I come away with my head spinning from all I’ve learned, my heart warm from all the darling friends I’ve caught up with and the new ones I’ve made, and my body buzzing at all the exciting ways in which we can give our readers the best reading experience possible.

The 2015 conference, held recently at the glorious Park Hyatt in Melbourne, was no exception.

On a professional front, the highlights for me were Angela Ackerman’s Friday workshops Larger than Life Characters and Show Don’t Tell, CS Pacat’s How To Plot A Page Turner, Sarah Mayberry’s and Sara Hood’s Marketing Masterclass, and the ‘If I Knew Then What I Know Now’ published author panel. Social highlights? Well, let’s just say every day was a social highlight!

Here are a few happy snaps from the weekend. As you can see, there was plenty of laughter, great information, and even a few dress-ups.

COCKTAIL PARTYRWA Cocktail Party - Crowd

A happy crowd. You would not believe how loud it was.

RWA Cocktail Party - Christina Brooke, Denise Rossetti and Annie West

Christina Brooke, Denise Rossetti and Annie West.

RWA Cocktail Party - Harlequin Australia ladies

Harlequin Australia ladies Lilia Kanna and Michelle Lee looking gorgeous.

RWA Cocktail Party - Trish Morey and Marion Lennox

Trish Morey and Marion Lennox.

RWA Cocktail Party - Keri Arthur and Anne Gracie

Keri Arthur and Anne Gracie.

RWA Cocktail Party

Robin Aldridge and Fiona McArthur, both attending their TWENTY-FOURTH conference in a row. How cool is that!

RWA Cocktail Party - Michelle Conder. Annie West and Me

Michelle Conder, Annie West and me.

CONFERENCE

Angela Ackerman Workshop - collage of slides

Some of the slides from Angela Ackerman’s brilliant Friday workshops.

RWA Conference - Michelle Douglas and Denise Rossetti

Michelle Douglas and Denise Rossetti.

RWA Conference - Tricia Stinger and Cathryn Hein

Tricia Stringer and me.

CS Pacat's fantastic How To Plot A Page Turner - slide collage

C.S Pacat’s session on How To Plot a Page Turner was soooo good. Fantastic information.

RWA Conference - Maggie Le Page

New Zealand author Maggie Le Page, who won the guess the number of jelly beans competition, lucky thing.

Marketing Masterclass - slide collage

Some of the great slides from Sara Hood’s and Sarah Mayberry’s Marketing Masterclass session. The full set of slides from the presentation can be found on Sara’s Marketing4Writers website.

RWA Conference - my raffle prize

My raffle prize: martini glasses and two Sandy Curtis romantic suspense novels. Rah!

RWA Conference - morning tea

Morning tea. More loudness, but with cake.

ARRA BOOKSIGNING

ARRA Booksigning - Cathryn Hein

Me and Hot Chocolate the Blow Up Wonder Horse.

ARRA Booksigning - Meredith Appleyard

Meredith Appleyard.

ARRA Booksigning - Shannon Curtis

Shannon Curtis.

ARRA Booksigning - Maggie Le Page

Maggie Le Page.

ARRA Booksigning - Cathryn Hein and Helene Young

Me and Helene Young.

ARRA Booksigning - Fiona Palmer

Fiona Palmer takes her books very seriously.

ARRA Booksigning - Anita Heiss

Anita Heiss, who I had the great pleasure of sitting next to.

ARRA Booksigning - Maggie Mundy and Trish Morey

Maggie Mundy and Trish Morey.

ARRA Booksigning - fans lined up

Eager fans!

RWA GALA AWARDS DINNER

RWA Gala Awards Dinner - pre dinner drinks

Pre-dinner drinkies.

RWA Gala Awards Dinner

Celebrating all our achievements thanks to Anne Gracie’s stand-ups.

RWA Gala Awards Dinner - Ruby winner Amy Andrews

Ruby winner Amy Andrews received many lipsticky congratulations on her win.

RWA Gala Awards Dinner - Dance lessons

Dance lessons thanks to the Escape After Party.

RWA Gala Awards Dinner - Rachel Bailey and Annie West

Rachel Bailey and Ruby Award winner Annie West in the cocktail bar.

OTHER STUFF

RWA Book haul

My book haul! Although I may have read that bottom one a few times.

RWA Conference - cafe entertainment

Entertainment in the Hyatt’s cafe. Very civilised.

Melbourne - Yarra River

Melbourne looking pretty at night.

My huge thanks to Kate Ledsen, Kate Belle and their team, along with the RWA committee and all the volunteers for putting on such a wonderful conference. Very fresh indeed!

As you can see from the above, romance authors are super-savvy about their business and craft, generous with their time and expertise, and know how to have a good time. If you’re searching for your writing tribe, perhaps the RWA is the place for you. It certainly is for me.

 

Click to subscribe to my newsletter

FRIDAY FEAST with Anna Campbell

27 Replies

Greetings, Feasty lovelies, and welcome to a positively cherry-topped Friday Feast. This week we play host to one of my favourite historical romance authors who has the perfect accompaniment for a cuppa. Plus there’s an even more perfect giveaway!

Not a lot to report this week from the Us Heins Weren’t Meant To Play Golf trenches. We suffered so much rain on the morning of our ladies open day the event was washed out. With the weekend equally soaked, there was no chance for play. I can only hope that the time off will result in some easing of my current formus horribillus (a dreadful disease no golfer wishes to catch).

Historical romance author Anna CampbellNow onto my delightful guest!

It’s always a pleasure to host historical romance author Anna Campbell on Friday Feast. Not only do I have a major fan-girl crush on Anna and her books, her posts are always hugely entertaining. I fondly refer to Anna as the Romance Queen, thanks to her many awards and best-selling status. And because in person she does have a touch of regality!

I’m also very excited to have a copy of her brand new release, A Scoundrel by Moonlight beside me as I type. I’ve loved all the books in Anna’s Sons of Sin series and it’s wonderful to see it continuing on. Can’t wait to get into this one.

Take a look.

A SCOUNDREL BY MOONLIGHT

A Scoundrel by Moonlight by Anna CampbellAnything can happen in the moonlight…

Justice. That’s all Nell Trim wants – for her sister and for the countless other young women the Marquess of Leath has ruined with his wildly seductive ways. Now she has a bold plan to take him down… as long as she can resist the scoundrel’s temptations herself.

From the moment Nell meets James Fairbrother, the air positively sizzles. Yet for all his size and power, there’s something amazingly tender in his touch. Could he really be such a depraved rogue? The only way to find out is to beat the devil at his own game… one tempting kiss at a time.

 

Doesn’t that sound wonderful? And you can be guaranteed that this will be a highly emotional, passionate and romantic read. Believe me, with Anna you’re in expert hands. Which means you’ll be wanting to buy a copy of A Scoundrel by Moonlight right now. In which case, get clickety-clicking straight over to those good people at Booktopia, Bookworld or Angus & Robertson. You can also purchase a copy from Book Depository. For the ebook, try Amazon, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, or your favourite retailer.

Now please give a bow to Queen Anna.

A Happy Accident!

Hi Cathryn! Thank you for having me as your guest today. I always love visiting your blog – and this time I’ve got a recipe that is genuinely mine.

Last year, I was waiting for a visit from my dear friend and regular Friday Feaster Annie West and I’d decided to make cherry nut cookies, an Australian Women’s Weekly recipe that’s one of my favorites.

Quote from A Scoundrel by Moonlight by Anna CampbellSacre bleu, what was I to do when I was halfway through cooking them and discovered that I didn’t have a major ingredient? These lovely little buttery morsels are usually rolled in crushed peanuts before you put the cherry on top. But my pantry was bare of crushed peanuts.

As any good writer will tell you, when you’re stuck, improvise. I had a bag of flaked almonds which I keep on hand for apple crumble.

Problem solved – almost.

The flaked almonds were far too big to sit on the outside of my biscuits. So I decided to try mixing them in with the dough. Worked a treat – as Annie was kind enough to tell me.

I’ve since made this a couple of times and I think I actually prefer them to the original. So it’s time to share my recipe with the world.

Quote from A Scoundrel by Moonlight by Anna CampbellA happy accident is how I’d describe my latest book, A SCOUNDREL BY MOONLIGHT which is out in North America this month.* The Sons of Sin series grew out of a stand-alone proposal to Grand Central Forever in New York for SEVEN NIGHTS IN A ROGUE’S BED. They liked the idea so much, they wanted more of the same with some linked books. So I hastily put together a trilogy about three friends who meet at Eton. In one way or another, the shadow of bastardy looms over Jonas Merrick, Richard Harmsworth and Camden Rothermere, but all three discover their true selves when they fall in love.

As I wrote the books, another man loomed larger and larger. James Fairbrother, Marquess of Leath, is mentioned in book 2, A RAKE’S MIDNIGHT KISS, as the villain’s nephew. He plays a much more significant role in book 3, WHAT A DUKE DARES, when his sister forms a scandalous liaison with Harry Thorne, the heroine’s brother.

lincolncollage2

When Grand Central approached me about continuing the series, Leath was the obvious hero to choose. So A SCOUNDREL BY MOONLIGHT was born. Because I love to put my characters through the wringer, I make him fall in love with a woman who threatens everything he’s always wanted. Life as a writer is fun that way.

But of course, meeting Nell Trim turns out to be a happy accident for Leath too! Under normal circumstances, their paths would never have crossed. And their clash makes for fireworks.

What sort? You’ll have to read A SCOUNDREL BY MOONLIGHT to find out!

In the meantime, have fun at afternoon tea with my biscuits.

Anna Campbell’s Cherry Almond Biscuits

Anna Campbell's Cherry Almond Biscuits

Ingredients:

125g butter

¼ cup sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup self-raising flour

200g flaked almonds

Glace cherries

Method:

Anna Campbell's Cherry Almond BiscuitsCream butter and sugar until light and creamy, add egg and vanilla, beat well. Add sifted flour and mix to a firm dough. By hand, mix in flaked almonds until evenly distributed. Roll teaspoonfuls of mixture into small ball shapes. Press half a cherry on top. Put on lightly greased oven trays, allow room for spreading; bake in moderate oven 15 to 20 minutes or until golden. Cool slightly before removing from trays. Makes about 30.

*Aussies can order a print edition of A SCOUNDREL BY MOONLIGHT from Booktopia or the Book Depository. If you’d like an ebook, there will be a local edition later in the year, date to be confirmed.

 

Oh, I love the sound of these, Anna! I must admit, I’d much prefer your almond version than the peanut one. While I love peanuts (my mother-in-law makes the BEST peanut biscuits), I reckon almonds and cherries is a much better match. A cuppa and a biscuit, a squishy chair in a patch of winter sun, and A Scoundrel by Moonlight. Sounds like a perfect morning to me.

Now, my tasty little Feasty beasties, because Anna is such a generous soul (as all good queens are), she’s offering a…

GIVEAWAY!

To be in the draw to win a signed copy of Anna’s brand new release, A Scoundrel by Moonlight, simply answer this question:

Have you ever had a happy accident – something unexpected that happened and took you in a new and better direction?

Maybe you’ve taken a wrong turn and discovered something wonderful, or accidentally hit the one-click buy button on a book or other item you didn’t intend to purchase and serendipitously discovered a gem. Me, I’ve had some gorgeous moments travelling when I’ve gotten lost and found magic. The same with food when I’ve ordered what I thought was one thing only to be served something totally different but also totally delicious (also totally horrid as was once the case with rognons de veau in France *shudder*).

Simply share your happy accident with us and you’ll be in the draw to win.

Please note: Giveaway closes midnight Tuesday AEST, 12th May 2015. Open internationally. Rah!

If you’d like to learn more about Anna and her books, please visit her website. You can also connect via Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter using @AnnaCampbellOz. You’ll also find her at Romance Bandits.

Friday Feast recipe index link.

x

FRIDAY FEAST with Annie West

71 Replies

Hello, darling Feasties. Have you all recovered from your Easter chocfests? I hope so, because this week on Friday Feast we have even more luscious things to delight you, including a Greek classic, a sexy sheik, and not one but two book giveaways!

But first, the ongoing  debacle that is Us Heins Weren’t Meant To Play Golf. Sigh. Deep, deep sigh. Can someone please buy me a new putter? Actually, a bit of concentration would probably work if you have any to spare, because I while I seemed to have recovered a little (and it’s a very little) Romance author Annie Westof my ball striking mojo, the same cannot be said for my putting. I am the three-putt queen right now, and it’s a painfully thorny crown. Never mind, I suppose it’s better than dunking balls into the water. Oh. Hang on. I still do that too.

Our guest today is the delightful Annie West, a USA Today best-selling author with a reputation for producing passionate romances set in exotic locations that abound with sassy, smart heroines, hot alpha male heroes, and deeply emotional storylines.

Annie’s latest is The Sheikh’s Princess Bride, her second Desert Vows story which began with The Sultan’s Harem Bride.

It looks a beauty too. Check it out.

THE SHEIKH’S PRINCESS BRIDE

The Sheikh's Princess Bride by Annie West Wanted: royal bride and mother

For Sheikh Tariq of Al-Sarath, one miserable marriage was enough. With a kingdom to rule, he has no time—or wish—to find a bride, but his children need a mother. 

Could Princess Samira of Jazeer be the answer? Samira has sampled passion, and it left a bad taste. With the knowledge she can’t have the children she’s always wanted, Samira steps into Tariq’s ready-made family. Her only condition? No sex!

Samira thought royal duties and her love for Tariq’s children would fill the hole in her heart, but a craving is building that only the sheikh’s touch can cure…

Doesn’t that sound fabulous? And with Annie you know you’re in the hands of a romance expert. The Sheikh’s Princess Bride is available right now from that most excellent of bookstores Booktopia, also Bookworld and Angus & Robertson. You can also purchase from Bookdepository, amazon.com, amazon.au, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Google Play, iBooks, and direct from the publisher Mills & Boon.

Prepare yourselves now, my lovelies, because Annie is a not only an expert romance author, she’s also a seriously good cook and the recipe she’s sharing today is mouthwatering.

What’s better than baking baklava? Eating it, of course!

Cathryn, thanks so much for inviting me to a spot on your coveted Friday Feast. I’m almost ready to claim you’re responsible for my waistline battle, with so many gorgeous goodies featured here, but the truth is I’m too lazy to go and cook them all. The real reason I have to keep an eye on the threat of authorly spread (a danger since I sit and write for a living) is that I love food.

My taste runs most often to savoury treats but I’ve got in the habit of sharing sweets here, and I’m not one to break a food-related habit, so I thought I’d share my tried and true recipe for baklava. I’ve been cooking this (admittedly less frequently in the last few years) since the 80s. You can imagine me, perched on a chair as in infant, dealing with filo pastry… Okay, okay, maybe not an infant, but definitely young!

Why baklava this time? The short answer is because of my Desert Vows duet. First ‘The Sultan’s Harem Bride’ was published in February and this month the sequel, ‘The Sheikh’s Princess Bride’. In both cases I found myself writing about palace life in the Middle East, where gorgeous food delicacies abounded. As I wrote I drooled over memories of sweet Egyptian tea, rich Turkish coffee, delicious vegetable dishes, skewered meats, sweet pastries and so on and so on. That, naturally lead me to my favourite sweet pastry – baklava. Okay, I know it’s Greek but my taste buds ignore that distinction and it’s so closely related to the syrup laden treats from further east that it fits the bill.

So, without further ado, here’s my

BAKLAVA RECIPE

Annie West's baklava on Friday Feast

500 g filo pastry (refrigerated)

¾ cup melted, unsalted butter

1/4 cup caster sugar

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 cup finely chopped almonds

2 cups finely chopped walnuts

For Syrup:

2 cups water

2 cups sugar

a couple (no more) of whole cloves

a cinnamon stick (about 5 cm)

a thin strip of lemon rind

1 tablespoon of lemon juice

First up, if you’ve never used filo before, make sure it doesn’t dry out. Take 3 clean tea towels. Lay one on a bench then lay the sheets of filo flat on top of it. Lay another tea towel over that. Take the 3rd teatowel and dampen it (but not till it’s sopping wet as wet filo just sticks together) then lay it over all the rest to keep it from drying out. This sounds fiddly but it’s actually quite easy and means the filo is good to work with. When you need a sheet, flip back the top two tea towels, take some and immediately cover again.

Butter the base and sides of an oven dish (mine’s about 5 cm high and 23 by 33 wide and long). It doesn’t have to be exactly this size.

Mix sugar, spices and nuts and put aside.

Take a sheet of filo and brush it with melted butter. (You don’t have to be terribly precise as long as most of it is covered). Then lay the sheet in the oven dish. Repeat this till you’ve got about nine sheets of filo in the dish.

Spread half the nut mixture into the dish.

Add another two sheets of filo (brushing each separately with butter as before) then top with the remaining nuts.

Finish the filo, brushing one sheet at a time and adding to the dish. (If you’ve got a little less than 500g this will still work).

Brush the top sheet in the dish with melted butter and trim any rough edges. Gently score the top layers of pastry in diamond shapes. You can feel when the tip of the knife cuts through to the nut layer and that’s as far as you need to go. Sprinkle lightly with water. This stops the top layers curling.

Bake on centre shelf at 160 degrees  for 30 minutes, then move up a shelf and cook another 30 minutes. (Cover with foil if it’s colouring too fast).

When you put the baklava in the oven, make the syrup so it has time to cool by the time the baklava comes out. To make the syrup you add all the ingredients to a heavy based saucepan and stir till the sugar dissolves. Bring to boil and boil for 10 minutes. Cool then remove the cloves, lemon peel and cinnamon stick.

When the baklava comes out of the oven spoon the syrup over it (I love the sizzle of sweet syrup on hot pastry). Then comes the hard part. Don’t eat it yet! Of course you can, but the flavour improves and the syrup is absorbed if you leave it for a couple of hours. Great with coffee or as a dessert. I like to make this when family come to dinner. We all have some, then they take some home and we’ve still got leftovers – not that they last long!

 

As a huge fan of baklava, I can’t tell you how grateful I am for this recipe, Annie. It sounds beautiful and if I get the chance I’m going to attempt a batch next week. Cos one can never have enough nutty sweetness in one’s life. Or romance for that matter.

Speaking of romance goodness, how about a…

GIVEAWAY!

We’re so spoiled here on Friday Feast by our guest authors but even more so today because Annie has kindly offered not one, but TWO books to giveaway to two lucky commenters. Yes, book one and two of Annie’s Desert Vow stories.  That’s a copy of The Sheikh’s Princess Bride plus The Sultan’s Harem Bride. Two books, two winners.

PicMonkey CollageAs always, you’ll have to work a little. I think we’ll go for something a little different this time and ask you to reveal your ultimate exotic romantic setting.

I think mine would have to be Venice. I simply adored that place, probably because we visited in winter when the crowds were at a minimum and at night the streets turned misty and secretive. But I’m sure there are plenty of other places I could choose and thousands more I have yet to see, or even hear about.

So what’s yours? Perhaps you find the bright lights, bustle and excitement of New York romantic. Or maybe an isolated tropical island is more your go. Simply share in the comments and we’ll pop you into the draw to win either The Sheikh’s Princess Bride or The Sultan’s Harem Bride.

Giveaway closes midnight AEST, Tuesday 14th April 2015. Open internationally. Rah!

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

This giveaway has now closed. Congratulations to Debbie and Juanita who have each won a copy of Annie’s new releases, The Sheikh’s Princess Bride and The Sultan’s Harem Bride. Thanks so much to everyone who joined in the Friday Feast fun. What a great line-up of exotic romantic settings. Looks like Annie and I need to organise a writer’s retreat to Greece and Venice, so we can really capture the authenticity of the setting. Ah, one day…

 

FRIDAY FEAST with Annie West

40 Replies

What a magnificent Friday! And made all the better with a fabulous guest, some feasting, a fantastic book giveaway.

But before we get onto that… DID YOU SEE MY DARLING SWANNIES? Yes, my beloved footy team, the Sydney Swans, is into the AFL Preliminary Final. One step from the Grand Final and premiership victory. Oh, the thrill!

Which kind of makes up for my rather lacklustre golf. I say lacklustre because that’s how it felt to me, but somehow, thanks to that newfangled handicapping system Golf Australia has implemented, I played well enough last week to knock 0.2 of a stroke off my handicap. Weird. Very weird indeed. I am, as we like to say here in the Us Heins Weren’t Meant To Play Golf house, bumfuggled.

I’m super excited this week because I’m hosting a very lovely lady on Friday Feast. Annie West is a USA Today best-selling author of many hugely popular and sexy books. She is queen of the alpha male, writing sumptuous romances populated with handsome jet-setting billionaires and feisty heroines who prove more than a match for them.

I’ve just finished reading Annie’s latest, Damaso Claims His Heir, and it was a cracking read. Alpha heroes normally make me want to kick them in the shins, but Damaso was so undone by the heroine, Princess Marisa, that I nearly felt sorry for him. The dialogue was slick, the settings wonderful and the story full of intense, heartfelt emotion. I honestly loved this book and I’m sure you will too.

DAMASO CLAIMS HIS HEIR

Damaso Claims His Heir by Annie WestWhen opposites attract!

Damaso Pires should have known better than to get involved with Marisa—the scandalous princess of Bengaria! Yet soon he sees her true beauty and flawless virtue, which touches a place in him he thought ruthlessly destroyed by his childhood on the streets of Brazil.

But their brief affair becomes permanent when Marisa reveals she’s pregnant.

Damaso knows the sting of illegitimacy and, having fought tooth and nail to claw his way up to the dizzying heights of international success and financial infamy, he won’t let his child slip from his grasp. There’s only one way to claim his heir, and that’s marriage!

Doesn’t that sound fun? Probably because it is! You can indulge in a bit of loving with your own sexy Brazilian billionaire with just a few clicks. Buy Damaso from Booktopia, Bookworld, Bookdepository, Amazon, Kobo, Google Play, Barnes & Noble, JB Hi-Fi and direct from the publisher Mills & Boon.

Now please give a warm welcome to Annie.

The Tartiest of Tarts

Hi Cathryn! Thanks for having me to visit, especially now, in your launch month. I had the most fabulous time reading your French Prize. Sigh. Loved the story and that includes the setting, the gorgeous, enigmatic Raimond, the danger, the quest, the history, the intelligent heroine, the food… I’m on tenterhooks now waiting for your next.

In the meantime, here’s my contribution to the Feast series. Coincidentally it fits your French theme!

Sweetness seems to be ‘in’. Everywhere I look people are drooling over sexy men argh, no, wrong Facebook posts – over chocolate. Photos of chocolate desserts, melted chocolate for dipping fruit, choc biscuits or truffles with champagne. Friends send chocolate as a thank you or a ‘thinking of you’ gift (hey, I have some great friends), and guests who visit for a meal usually bring something sweet for afters (they’re well-trained – what can I say?).

Don’t get me wrong, I love nice chocolate. A super-dooper, industrial-sized block of finest Lindt once powered the final part of one of my books (thanks, Ms V!). I’ll happily indulge in a sweetness binge with the right goodies. But there are times when even chocolate won’t do it.

Yes, I admit it – I love tart things. Even my favourite home-made jam is plum rather than strawberry. Yum as strawberry can be, it’s just…well…sweet. But get a good bucketload of plums or – sigh – raspberries, and there’s a hint of tartness to offset the sweet. That’s what I crave: something with taste as well as sugar. Yu-um.

So, in hopes that there’s someone out there like me, who adores something tart once in a while, I’m sharing my all-time favourite dessert: Tarte au Citron. Sigh. Forgive me as I pause for a moment, remembering. I made this recently and the memory is making me salivate. I’d actually planned to write today about a delicious Brazilian meal I researched when writing my current release (set in Brazil in case you’re wondering), but I got side-tracked by that Tarte au Citron. It tasted so good I just had to share it instead.

A good friend and super-foodie made this version for me years ago and it’s been my treat of all treats ever since. It’s not some tame little dessert you gobble while chatting and barely notice it going down. Oh no. This is a full-flavoured whack of sensation. You concentrate when you eat this baby because it makes your lips zing. It’s so chock a block full of citrus I think one slice before a voyage would have staved off scurvy for those old time sailors who took a year to circle the globe.

It’s a dessert to be shared with like-minded friends. Make sure you have either good quality cream or ice cream on hand. This is a dessert that needs accompaniment – a little something to complement the tartness of this tart. So here it is, my friend Maurice’s

Tarte au Citron

Tarte au citron

Pastry

1 ½ cups plain flour

2 tablespoons caster sugar

125 g cold butter, chopped

1 egg yolk, lightly beaten

Filling

4 eggs

¾ cup sugar

2/3 cup lemon juice

1/2 cup orange juice

zest of 2 lemons

60 g butter

¼ cup cream

2 extra lemons

Icing sugar (not icing sugar mixture)

Pastry

Sift flour and sugar. Add butter and egg yolk and mix. Knead to form a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.

Roll out the pastry to the size of a fluted, shallow quiche tin that you’ve greased. I find it easiest to roll it out between sheets of plastic.  Prick the pastry with a fork and allow to rest (but I’ve been known to ignore this). Bake blind in a 200 degrees C oven for 10-15 mins or until lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack.

Filling

Beat together eggs, sugar, lemon juice, orange juice and zest. Melt the butter with the cream over a low heat. Add egg mixture and continue cooking until it thickens, stirring constantly (do not allow to boil). Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and cool. Pour custard into the pastry and cook on top shelf at 190 degrees C for 20 mins.

Peel and segment the 2 extra lemons (cut off as much pith as possible) and arrange on the top. (Can you see now why this tarte is so tart?). Cover the edge of the pastry with aluminium foil to prevent it burning. Sift icing sugar very generously (seriously – use lots) over the filling. Place under a preheated grill until the top is glazed (the sugar will caramelise).

Remove foil and serve warm with cream or ice cream.

You’ll see from my photo that I had some trouble with my grill last time and the sugar was only just starting to caramelise. If you have a kitchen blowtorch you can use that to finish off and get the scrumptious caramelised top.

I hope you enjoy this as much as I do. My only gripe is that my family and guests all want to finish it for me.

 

How could I possibly resist a French lemon tart, Annie! And that one looks and sounds beautiful. I like the addition of orange juice for depth of flavour. I wonder if blood oranges would work. I have a real thing about them at the moment…

Now, my dear Feasters, because Annie is such a sweetheart and because we both think you should all read Damaso and fall in love with him and Marisa as we did, she’s offering a…

GIVEAWAY!

Yes, you could win your own hot Brazilian, and we don’t mean waxing. There is zero pain with this alpha male.

So, lovely people, to be in the draw to win a copy of Damaso Claims His Heir, what’s the best recipe a friend has given you?

Mine has to be from my good friend Carol, who shared a beautiful recipe for chicken and pistachio terrine that’s dead easy to make and delicious to eat. I also still have the lemon butter recipe from the mum of a childhood friend in my collection, Mrs White’s peppermint cream chocolates, my aunt’s cream puffs and my mother-in-law’s ANZAC biscuits to name a few.

What about you? What’s the most treasured recipe someone has shared with you? Share with us and you’ll go into the draw.

Giveaway closes midnight AEST, Tuesday 16th September 2014. Open internationally. Rah!

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

This giveaway has now closed. Congratulations to Kim of the potato bake, who has won herself a copy of Annie’s wonderful book and is in for a fabulous reading time. Thanks to everyone who joined in the Friday Feast fun. A delight to hear all your recipes and experiences, as always.

FRIDAY FEAST with Annie West

Ahh, it’s Friday again which means delicious food and delicious people!

(And footy, but I’ll try not to bore you too much with the news that this weekend sees my darling Sydney Swans in a MUST-WIN clash against Carlton. Saturday night at 7-45 if you want to tune in and cheer, cheer the red and the white. Oh, go on, you know you want to.)

Er…back to delicious people!Annie West romance author

My guest today is the ever delightful Annie West who writes award-winning romances, featuring hot alpha males that make your toes curl with their powerful sexiness matched against women who are more than their equal in brains, looks and passion, and know exactly how to keep them on their toes. And all wrapped up in exotic settings. In other words, romantic fantasies that take your emotions on a heart-tumbling thrill-ride.

Annie’s latest release is An Enticing Debt To Pay (what a title!) and if you keep reading, you may just discover a giveaway on offer. But first, enjoy a taste…

 

AN ENTICING DEBT TO PAY

 

An Enticing Debt to Pay by Annie WestDial R for Revenge…

Forgiveness is a foreign concept to wealthy investment trader Jonas Deveson. Someone has been stealing from him. He’s got a good idea who it is and she’s going to pay….

Seeing the harsh lines that bitterness has carved into Jonas’s handsome features, Ravenna Ruggiero knows he’ll never see the shades of gray in her actions.

Jonas blackmails Ravenna into working as his housekeeper to pay off her debt, but living under the same roof leads to unexpected yet forbidden temptation, and Jonas is no longer sure who is being punished!

 

Ooh, I get the shivers just thinking about how exciting that read will be and from September 17th you’ll be able to own your own copy. Simply visit that most awesome Platinum ARRC sponsor Booktopia, or check your local bookshop or chainstore. You’ll also be able to purchase direct from Harlequin Mills & Boon, Kobo, Google Play, Amazon, iTunes, Bookdepository, or your favourite retailer.

Now prepare yourself for more deliciousness with Annie!

 

French Fancies

aka It’s Got Fruit In It So It Must Be Healthy, Right?

 

Cathryn, thanks so much for allowing me a sought after spot on your scrumptious Friday Feast. FFs always make my mouth water and I vow to try the new recipes but only in a responsible, not-getting-fat way. Ha! The result is that I Window display of a French patisseriedrool shamelessly then have to go off and scoff delicious things. So here’s my revenge…

No, no, not revenge. I’m just bowing to logic. I looked at my calendar and thought ‘Friday Feast, wow! I’d better think of something yummy to share.’ Then I got distracted by the fact I’ve got a new book out next week. I’m a writer, I’m allowed to be easily distracted. Then I started thinking, as one does, of both at the same time, the book and food, and of course I had no choice then but to share my absolute love affair with that masterpiece of French cuisine, the fruit flan. It’s probably got a suitably wonderful and throatily sexy French name that does justice to the lusciousness that is fruit and sugary, creamy sweetness on a rich yet then buttery crust. I leave that to others. I just want to eat it.

My logic makes sense, truly. My book starts in Paris. To be specific it begins in an apartment in the ultra-upmarket Place des Vosges. The square is beautiful and symmetrical and a jewel of French history and architecture. I have several photos of it, but the one I look at the most is this one – the close up of my picnic morning tea there. Sigh. It’s a mini fruit flan (well, I call it mini) complete with berries and a fig so fresh I suspect someone plucked it from the tree that morning, then lovingly coated it with a delicious sugary glaze.

Another delicious French patisserie window displayFor Ravenna and Jonas, my heroine and hero, the Place des Vosges means a showdown that will change their lives – passion and anger and defiance and an undercurrent of attraction that plays havoc with their once neatly ordered lives. For me, it means sitting in the sun on a neatly painted green garden seat, with the sound of French schoolkids racing around the place, while I sink my teeth into perfection.

As you can see from the other couple of photos here I can’t stop at one when it comes to fruit flans. Wherever we went I’d stop and leer at shop windows and take photos of them so I could drool later. And the French know how to dress a window, believe me.

My advice, if you want to try the deliciousness that is a fruit flan, is to get someone else to make it while you relax in the sunshine with a glass of bubbly. Always a good plan.

Sadly it doesn’t always work so I’ve been forced to make my own. Be warned, it does take a little while. I don’t find the recipe difficult (and it has always worked), just time consuming. The perfect thing to do on a weekend when you’d rather immerse yourself in French fruity goodness than write a difficult chapter or clean the house or wax the car (I’ve never waxed a car but it sounds tiresome).

French Fruit Flan

Annie West's French Fruit Flan

Pastry:

1 cup plain flour

1 tablespn icing sugar

90 g butter

1 egg yolk

Approx. 1 tablespn lemon juice

Crème Patisserie:

1 ¼ cups milk

1 egg

2 egg yolks

1 tablespn plain flour

1 tablespn cornflour

1/3 cup castor sugar

1 teaspn vanilla essence (preferably the real thing)

Topping:

Your choice of fruit but you could use

Kiwifruit and or a punnet of strawberries

425g tin of apricot halves (or whatever takes your fancy)

425g tin of pitted cherries

Vanilla essence to taste

1 tablespn arrowroot

1 tablespn brandy (optional)

Pastry:

You could use bought shortcrust pastry but if you have time, try this.

Sift flour and sugar in a large bowl. Rub in butter. Add egg yolk and only enough lemon juice to make a firm dough. Press into a ball, cover and refrigerate 30 mins. Roll on lightly floured surface to line greased 23 cm flan tin. Cut off any excess pastry and refrigerate 20 mins. Bake blind for 7 mins at 220 celsius (ie. Line with greaseproof paper and cover with rice so pastry doesn’t bubble up). Then remove paper and rice and bake another 7 mins till golden. Cool.

Filling:

Combine egg, egg yolks, ¼ cup cream, flour, cornflour and sugar in food processor till combined. Bring remaining milk to boil in a saucepan. Pour hot milk gradually into other mixture while the processor is running. Process till smooth. Return mixture to saucepan, stirring over heat till it boils and thickens. Take off heat, add vanilla essence and cool to room temperature. Spread over pastry case.

Drain apricots, slice and keep the syrup. Arrange all the sliced fruit as you like on top of the crème patisserie (concentric circles work well). Mix arrowroot with a couple of tablespoons of syrup in a saucepan and stir in brandy and remaining syrup. Stir till it boils and thickens. Brush over fruit. Refrigerate for a couple of hours before serving.

 

Oh, Annie, that fruit flan sound fantastically luscious, just like one of your books!

Now, my darling Feasters, because Annie is generous and lovely as well as an excellent cook and author, she has a giveaway on offer. Simply share your favourite patisserie treat and you’ll go into the draw to win a copy of An Enticing Debt To Pay.

Me, I bags pain aux raisins as my favourite treat. You can have all your croissants and pain au chocolats, gateaux, macarons and lemon tarts. A cuppa and one of those sweet flakey babies and I’m in breakfast naughtiness heaven. Délicieux!

So what’s yours tastebud tingling favourite?

Giveaway closes midnight Tuesday AEST, 17th September, 2013. Open internationally. Rah!

If you’d like to learn more about Annie and her gorgeous books, please visit her website. You can also connect via Facebook and keep up to date through her newsletter.

 

This giveaway has now closed. Congratulations to Khi Pha who has won a copy of Annie’s latest release An Enticing Debt to Pay. Thanks to everyone who joined in the Friday Feast fun!

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.

???????????????????????????????

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

 

 

 

THIS WRITING LIFE: The 2013 Newcastle Writers Festival

???????????????????????????????

Miriam Margolyes in fine form

On the first weekend of April I took to the road and headed up to Newcastle – one of my favourite places – for its inaugural writers festival. What a great weekend! Massive kudos, congratulations and thanks to Newcastle Writers Festival manager Rosemarie Milsom and her team of helpers for hosting a truly wonderful event. I’ll be back next year for sure.

Opening night was a blast with acclaimed actor and Dickens devotee Miriam Margolyes expounding on Why Words Matter. Her speech was rambling, funny, poignant and everything in between, and it’s a great sign of her talent that she managed to convince the entire University of Newcastle Conservatorium to sing along with her to Daisy, Daisy. We all decamped across the road to the library for drinks, nibbles and mingling afterwards with huge smiles on our faces.

If you’d like to hear Miriam’s opening night address, The Herald has kindly made the audio available on their website.

Beachgirl!

Beachgirl!

Except for a few dark clouds out to sea, Saturday was a typical gorgeous Newcastle day. We spent the morning taking in some of the (very familiar) sights before wandering up Hunter Street to Newcastle beach for a gaze around. Then it was time to join my fellow Heart of the Matter panellists Kaz Delaney, Michelle Douglas, Deborah Challinor and moderator  Annie West for a spot of lunch at Raw Cafe, a rather inspirational place for a bunch of romance writers given the wait staff!

Inspirational also was the venue for our Heart of the Matter: Writing Romance panel. The session was held at the Newcastle City Business Centre, in an historic sandstone former bank, and the interior was sumptuous, with polished timber panelling, marble mountings and a beautiful chandelier. Although Kaz Delaney, bless her, managed to out-glitter even that with all her bling.

Heart of the Matter Paenl: Michelle Douglas, me, Kaz Delaney, Deborah Challinor and Annie West

Heart of the Matter Panel: Michelle Douglas, me, Kaz Delaney (note that glittery gold bag), Deborah Challinor and Annie West

We had a lovely, clever audience who had our brains working overtime with some astute questions. I think this was the first occasion I’d ever described the themes of my work in public. For me it’s forgiveness, especially self forgiveness, and it was fascinating to hear my fellow panellists’ thoughts on the subject. Kaz wrote similar themes to me, but Michelle’s and Deborah’s stories offered different messages. We were also asked what was the worst

Michelle's gorgeous tights!

Michelle’s gorgeous tights!

thing about being a romance author. I said structural edits, which had everyone nodding. Everyone except Deborah Challinor, who, for some odd reason, actually likes them. A sentiment also repeated on Sunday by Courtney Collins, author of the Stella Prize nominated and highly acclaimed novel The Burial, during our A Fine Debut session. This, dear readers, is not normal! I know structural edits are very, very good for us, vital in fact but, believe me, those babies hurt.

Speaking of A Fine Debut, Courtney and I were delighted to host a near-capacity crowd in the City Hall Banquet Room on Sunday afternoon. Rosemarie Milsom was our moderator and she took us through the massive learning curve and somewhat startling experience that was our first books’ birth. I was fascinated to hear Courtney speak about her experience with The Burial, in particular how long she worked on it and the way it seemed to explode into existence for her in the most thrilling way. We’re talking a feature film option, around the world sales, critical acclaim and major

Wondering how the hell to answer THAT curly question!

Wondering how the hell to answer THAT curly question!

literary prizes. And there I was yabbering about being thrown out to do radio interviews with no experience at all, which turned out to be great fun in the end, but nothing like the hoopla Courtney’s had and is still enjoying. Good on her, too. She was lovely and interesting and I’m very much looking forward to reading her book.

So all in all a joyous time, and another heartfelt round of applause must go to the organisers and to Newcastle itself for getting behind this excellent event. There were lines snaking into the street for some sessions and I just loved how there was a session to cater for every taste. No literary snobbery in Newie! I must also say a huge thanks to MacLean’s Booksellers who did a fine job of stocking and displaying everyone’s books. Special thanks to Kylie who had me signing store copies and is going to help me arrange some more talks in Newcastle later in the year. Stay tuned for details on that.

If you’d like to see more photos of the weekend check out the Newcastle Writers Festival Facebook page. And while you’re at it, mark your calendars for next year’s festival. I’ll be there with bells on!

 

 

 

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

 

FRIDAY FEAST with Annie West

Good morning, Feasters, and what a gorgeous one it is too, not least because we have one of my favourite guests returning to Friday Feast.

How lovely it is to have Annie West back. Not only is Annie an excellent cook, she writes intensely romantic and emotional best-selling novels and lives in a gorgeous part of the world – Lake Macquarie, right near and all those magnificent New South Wales beaches and the wine growing heaven that is the Hunter Valley. I tell you, if Annie weren’t so nice I’d be horribly jealous.

Annie’s new release is the delicious sounding and sensually covered Defying Her Desert Duty. Check it out.

 

DEFYING HER DESERT DUTY

 

Chained by silk and jewels

Across the bustling nightclub, bodyguard Zahir El Hashem watches his latest charge swaying temptingly on the dance floor, his pulse quickening. Returning the Princess to her bridegroom might not be such a simple operation after all…

Soraya Karim has always known one day she must resume her royal obligations-just not so soon! Clinging to the last shreds of her freedom, Soraya insists they take the long way back to Bakhara – and their attraction reaches a dangerous fever pitch…

Once they reach the gates of the palace such a liaison will be utterly forbidden. From then duty must reign…

 

Oooooh, that sounds sexy! I feel the need to fan myself just reading the blurb. Defying Her Desert Duty is out now in the UK and Australia. UK readers, try Amazon and Bookdepository. For Australian readers, you can also use Bookdepository, look it up on the Australian Mills & Boon site, or rush to your local book or chainstore. For US readers, keep your eye on Annie’s website for release dates and buy links.

And now here’s Annie!

 

Biscuit Blessings!

 

Hi Cathryn and Feasters. Thanks for having me back again to chat. I love visiting here, though it always results in me salivating over food I don’t really need, but want.

I told myself I was going to blog about the joys of French food. I know you’d appreciate that, Cathryn. Not that I’m a cordon bleu cook, but time spent in France last year inspired my current book ‘Defying Her Desert Duty’. I know, I know, it sounds like it’s set in an Arabian Desert, doesn’t it? The truth is there’s a fair bit of France in that story.

So there I was, all set to discuss the wonders of French garlic potatoes and cherry ice cream (not together) and delicious sauces, not to mention soufflés, when something happened. Something in the nature of a pantry crisis. We’d run out of biscuits! Or to those from North America – cookies.

How it happened I don’t know, but I was faced with a lanky son in study mode (ie. distracted and in dire need of refuelling) and he’d already has his fill of fruit and cheese on toast. Briefly I thought about a cake but it seemed like too much time and effort. As for slices – I was missing some ingredients. It was biscuits that saved the day.

Biscuits are an integral part of our lives – at least in this neck of the woods. Now we tend to graze on savoury crackers more than sweet biscuits. Nothing quite like a triple cream brie with a little fig paste on a lovely rosemary and salt cracker. Or five… But biscuits, of one sort or another are always in the pantry. They’re a lifesaver when someone stops in for a cuppa, or when inspiration is lacking and a sugar hit at morning tea time is needed to stir the brain.

My mum cooked everything from cakes to pickles, from roasts to jam, even toffees for the school fete, but for some reason never biscuits. I remember Rich Tea biscuits and shortbreads and especially Iced Vovos (yes, they HAVE got smaller over the years).

When I got a place of my own, biscuits soon overtook cakes in the baking department. They were the perfect size and portable for hungry adults or kids. Said kids could take a hand in making them – whether rolling the dough or pressing it down or mixing. They were easy to pack and I could convince myself they were healthy if I added fruit or nuts.

A Canadian friend introduced me to home made Chocolate Chip Cookies. Sigh. And Sugar Cookies for Christmas. Another friend made Banana in Pyjamas biscuits for all the children at birthday time – plain biscuits iced in blue, white and yellow. I understand her 21 year old still insists on them for his birthday.

After living in Germany I started making Lebkuchen (gingerbread) at Christmas. The picture of the Christmas plate includes Gingerdead Men (gingerbread but stamped to show the men’s skeletons) and some truly, truly delicious little Cinnamon Stars. Never let anyone tell you the Germans can’t cook sweet things! There are also little Christmas trees – made of shortbread stars with cachous for extra sparkle. For me making biscuits is a chance for a little family bonding. For some reason making the Christmas biccies is still seen as a treat by the family – long may it last!

So in the spirit of sharing, here’s a recipe I snaffled from a magazine years ago. It’s the one I cooked just a couple of days ago to feed my starving lad. It’s quick and dead easy. Let’s not talk about the calories.

 

Lemon Shortbread Biscuits

250g butter

grated rind of one lemon

1 cup icing sugar, sifted

2 cups plain flour, sifted.

Beat the butter and rind until creamy. Add the icing sugar and beat well. With a metal spoon stir in the sifted flour.

Take level teaspoons of the mixture (I know it’s tempting to take more but in this case small really is best) and roll lightly into balls. Place on ungreased baking trays and press down with a fork dipped in cold water to prevent sticking.

Bake in a modern oven (180C or 350F) for 10-12 mins or until only very slightly coloured. Cool and store in an airtight tin. Makes about 4 dozen.

Do you have favourite biscuits/cookies? Are they home made or bought? Do you crave Tim Tams or go for something plain? What’s the most unusual biscuit you’ve come across?

 

Thanks, Annie! Those biscuits sound divine. I’m a terrible sucker for anything lemon and anything shortbread.

I must admit I’m not much of a Tim Tam craver, although I’ll happily scoff one when offered. Plain biscuits are more my go but tease me with a home-made ANZAC biscuit and I’m yours. My mother in law makes some beauties.

So what about you, Feasters? Share your biscuity tale and you could win a copy of Annie’s delicious new release, Defying Her Desert Duty!

Giveaway closes midnight, Tuesday 6th November 2012, AEST. Open internationally. Rah!

If you’d like to learn more about Annie and her sexy books, please visit her website. You can also connect via Facebook and keep up to date through her newsletter.

This giveaway has now closed. Congratulations to fitzroylou who has now won a copy of Annie’s wonderful Defying Her Desert Duty. Thanks to everyone who joined in the Friday Feast fun. Hope to see you here again!