Tag Archives: Harlequin

FRIDAY FEAST with Victoria Purman

We’re baaaaaack!

Welcome to the first instalment of Friday Feast for 2014. And what a cracking year it’s going to be. Already slots are filling up fast, with a fantastic line-up of authors for your delectation.

How has your summer been so far? Stinking hot no doubt. It’s been a blistery one, that’s for sure. Never fear. You can be super cool with Friday Feast.

And now, because I just know you’re hanging out for Us Heins Weren’t Meant To Play Golf news, here’s a quick update: After three-putting 8 out of 18 holes the week before last and too many again last week, I fear my putter has developed yet another fault. Or my brain has. I suspect the latter. Sigh. But at least my new bright purple golfing outfit looks totally groovin’, even if it does make me resemble a grape-flavoured jube.Austrlalian author Victoria Purman

Speaking of groovin’, my guest today hails from my home state of South Australia, which naturally means she’s super talented as well as nice. Victoria Purman hit the charts with her debut novel Nobody But Him. Now she has a new romance on the shelves with the second in her Boys of Summer series.

Take a look at the utterly gorgeous Someone Like You.

 

SOMEONE LIKE YOU

 

Cover of Someone Like You by Victoria PurmanWhen Lizzie Blake knocks on the door of Dan McSwaine’s beach house at Middle Point, she barely recognises the man who answers. What ever happened to the guy who swaggered into her home town with a grin and left wither heart in his back pocket? Lizzie wonders if he’ll ever be that man again – and if she should risk everything she’s built her life on to help him.

Dan can’t normally bear to be more than ten minutes from a hip bar, an imported beer and a group of hot women. So what is he doing holed up in a falling down beach shack at Middle Point? All he knows is that he’s made some crazy decisions since the night a truck slammed into his care and almost killed him. The first one was to think that buying a crumbling piece of coastal real estate was a good idea. The second crazy decision was to try to hide away from the world when a woman like Lizzie Blake is determined to drag him right back into it.

 

Doesn’t that sound delicious? The perfect summer read. And it can be yours with a quick trip to your local independent bookseller or a trip to your nearest chain store. Or you can just click away at these retailers: For the print and ebook, try direct from the publisher, Harlequin, or Booktopia, Bookworld, and QBD The Bookshop. For the ebook, try Amazon (Kindle), Kobo, JB Hi-Fi, iTunes, Google Play, BigW or your favourite store.

All bookied up? Excellent. Now get cool with Victoria!

 

Summer Love Is Like No Other Love…

Neither Is The Food

 

It’s hot where I live.

In South Australia, we’re in the middle of our second heat wave of the summer, during which we’ll have temperatures of 40 degrees and above for ten days or more.  It’s been so hot that we consider 35 a cool change.

Victoria and her mum Emma

Victoria & her mum Emma

When it’s this hot, the last thing I feel like doing is cooking.

Funny that the heat doesn’t seem to dull my hunger, however.

This recipe is one of my summer standbys – handed down to me by my Hungarian mother, Emma.

You might by thinking that this is just a plain and simple potato salad. But the secret of its Hungarian deliciousness is the eggs – lots of eggs – and those delicious Euro-style gherkins.

My Mum serves it with her special-recipe crumbed chicken – which my three teenage boys aka The Hungry Horde – devour like it’s their last day on earth.

I cook up a huge batch of this salad and have it on hand on the fridge to fill the stomachs of The Hungry Horde with a cold chicken or some snags.

Oh, and it’s delicious with a cold beer.

Oma’s European-Style Potato Salad

European style potato salad

2kg potatoes

8 hard-boiled eggs

1 onion, very finely chopped

Finely chopped gherkins (the European kind)

Lovely mayonnaise – I use the whole egg kind

Salt and pepper to taste

Boil your potatoes and let them get cold. Peel them and slice them into a huge bowl.

Wait for your eggs to cool and break them up with a fork. I actually use one of this ginchy egg slicer doohickeys, which is fun as well as fast. Add the eggs to your potatoes, along with the finely chopped onion and gherkins.

Add your mayo a tablespoon at a time so you don’t over-mayo.

Stir. Voila! You have your wonderful, eggy deliciousness!

 

Oh, yumptious! Thanks, Victoria. I’m a complete sucker for potato salad at the best of times but add some eggs and we’re talking heaven! Perfect for this time of year, when we’re entertaining outdoors, picnicking and barbecuing.

Would you like to win a Kindle copy of Someone Like You? Well, here’s your chance. Reveal your favourite summer salad and you’ll go into the draw. I have a new one I’m rather enamoured of, made with baby spinach, chick peas, red onion, roasted sweet potato and other goodies, and dressed with a yoghurt and pomegranate molasses dressing. It is beautiful!

So what about you? Are you a traditionalist who loves nothing better than a crunchy coleslaw? Maybe you prefer a touch of exotica with some hot and sour Asian noodles to spice things up. Share away and you’ll go into the draw.

Giveaway closes midnight AEST Tuesday 11th February. Open to Australian addresses only.

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 Victoria and her books, please visit her website. You can also connect via Facebook and Twitter.

This giveaway has now closed. Congratulations to Iris who has won a Kindle copy of Victoria’s latest release Someone Like You. Thanks to everyone for playing along.

FRIDAY FEAST with Sarah Mayberry

12 Replies

Whoop! It’s Friiiiiday. And an especially good one for me because I’m on the cusp of handing in the first round of my Rocking Horse Hill edits. Plus I have a super-cool new guest for you. But first, the moment you’ve been waiting for, news from Us Heins Weren’t Meant To Play Golf Weekly.

I had an airy. Yup, I took a swing and missed the ball completely. And this was after I’d taken a penalty drop as punishment for hitting my ball into a water hazard. About sums things up, really. Ahh, well. At least it wasn’t Sarah Mayberry author photoon the first tee in front of everyone. One must be thankful for small mercies.

Now to my guest. Please excuse me while I have a major fan-girl moment, cos Sarah Mayberry is all kinds of awesome. Not only is she a most splendiferous super-selling romance author, she writes for Australia’s longest surviving serial drama, Neighbours! Sarah has also co-created her own TV drama called Karaoke High (sounds like my kind of school), occasionally helps out on other shows, and consults on movie projects. See? Told you she was cool.

Sarah’s latest release is Her Favourite Rival, a book I just loved. The zing between the hero and heroine, both beautifully drawn characters, is perfect. If you want a feel good book, the sort you’ll want to cuddle afterward because you had such a good time, then this is it.

 

HER FAVOURITE RIVAL

 

Cover of Her Favourite Rival by Sarah MayberryA new meaning for office politics!

Audrey Mathews has worked hard to get here. Now she’s up for a promotion and nothing will stand in her way – including Zach Black. He’s hot, smart and the competition. When they’re assigned to the same project, she’s shocked at how much she actually likes about him….and how much she misjudged him.

Before long Audrey is seriously falling for Zach – and indulging in an affair that’s against company policy. And the stakes rise when it’s clear only one of them can get ahead. So where do they draw the line between competition and love? Especially when she doesn’t want to lose either the promotion or the guy…

 

Trust me, this is a cracking romance. And there’s a related book, too – Her Favourite Temptation – which is equally as good.

You can purchase Her Favourite Rival right now direct from the publisher, Harlequin, or try your local book or chain store, or that most excellent of booksellers, Booktopia. For the ebook, try Kobo, Amazon (for Kindle), JB Hi-Fi, Google Play, iTunes, BigW ebooks or your favourite retailer.

Now that you’re all loaded up, go have some foodie fun with Sarah.

 

Contraband Cake

First up, a big thanks to Cathryn for inviting me to talk about one of my favourite things today – food! It took me ages to decide what recipe I wanted to share with everyone, and I finally fell back on a cake that has been living in my subconscious for the past few months – a sure sign that it’s time for me to bust out the bundt tin and make it again!

Like any self-respecting romance writer, I have been having a love affair with cake in all its forms all my life. Pretty much anything goes for me, except that horrible thick marzipan icing – blurg. Otherwise, if its made from sugar, fats and flour, the sky is the limit. When we were kids, I can remember my mum making brandy alexander cakes, and piping cream into sponges and chocolate cakes. Because my mother was nothing if not modern, she was an early adaptor of the packet cake mix, and more power to her. Us kids definitely didn’t know the difference! Helping her cook and then fighting with my siblings for first go at the bowl and the beaters are some of my fondest and yummiest memories. In fact, there was a time there where I was convinced that cake actually tasted better as a batter than it did cooked. Crazy times, indeed.

I should probably confess up front that today’s recipe was stolen from a magazine when we were living in New Zealand. It was a very old, tatty magazine, the type that kicks around a cafe until it is actually a biological hazard it’s so old. Nevertheless, I employed the usual covert stratagems in order to liberate the recipe page from the clutches of the magazine’s binding – my husband was appointed lookout and instructed to cough loudly as I tore out the page as discreetly as possible. This was – obviously! – in the days before iphones and whatnot. Nowadays I just boldly take a picture of the recipe on the page.

The thing was, once I saw the picture of this finished cake and read the instructions, I knew this cake was for me. It’s moist, it’s got dates in it, and there is chocolate. Oh, and there’s alcohol. It’s hard to argue with all of the above, don’t you think? It’s not a cake you want to inflict on a family gathering – the kids will be very sulky because they can’t have any because of the alcohol – but it’s fantastic as a dessert cake. I am actually drooling a little while typing this.

Anyway, without further ado, here’s my recipe, I hope you get a chance to make it and enjoy:

 

Coffee Drizzle Cake with Dates

Photo of coffee drizzle cake with dates

Serves 8

Cake

225g/8oz butter, softened and chopped

2 cups caster sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

3 eggs

150g/5.5oz ground almonds

1 1/3 cups self raising flour

1 teaspoon bicarb of soda

30g/1oz of cocoa

1 1/4 cups espresso coffee, cooled

1/2 cup buttermilk

Syrup

200g/7oz fresh dates, pitted, cut into slivers (if fresh dates aren’t available, dried are fine – pit them and cut them into slivers, then soak them in boiling water to soften them before soaking them in the brandy/cognac)

3 tablespoons of brandy/cognac

3/4 cup of caster sugar

1/4 cup espresso coffee

Pour the brandy over the slivered dates and set aside to soak for an hour. Turn the mixture over every now and then to distribute the brandy/cognac.

Preheat oven to 190 degrees C/375 F/Gas mark 5. In a mixer, beat butter, sugar and vanilla essence until fluffy. Add eggs one by one, beating after each.

Sift the flours, bicarb of soda, cocoa and a pinch of sea salt over the egg mixture. Add the buttermilk and cooled espresso and whisk until smooth. Spoon into a well-greased 24cm non-stick fluted (bundt) cake tin. (You can use a standard round or square tin, too, just adjust the cooking time to suit). Bake for 55 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. ( I cooked this recently in my new fan-forced oven and it took only 35 minutes, so perhaps check on the cake a few times the first time you make it.) Let it stand in the tin for 10 minutes before easing the sides and then turning the cake onto a wire rack.

For the syrup, combine the sugar and 1/3 cup of water in a small saucepan. Stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, then simmer without stirring until a golden caramel. Remove from heat, add the 1/3 cup of espresso – being very careful, as the sugar will spit. Stir until smooth.

Top the cake with the slivered dates, then use a spoon to drizzle the syrup evenly over the cake. Serve with ice cream or double cream.

I promise that this cake is delicious, grown up and irresistible in the extreme. And now I have to make it, because I need to taste it again. Num num num.

Thanks for having me, Cathryn, and I hope you all enjoy.

 

I most definitely shall enjoy, Sarah. That cake is right up my…er…cakehole! Anything with dates in it is a winner I always think. And cognac. Plus it looks so pretty!

Hmm, which has me thinking… What’s your favourite adults-only food? I luuuurve tiramisu, and make a rather delish version with Tia Maria added the sponge biscuit soaking mix. 

What about you? Do you have a favourite dish full of contraband? Like to share? You never know, your idea could make it onto someone’s next home alone menu…

If you’d like to learn more about Sarah and her books (read them, they’re fab!), please visit her website. You can also connect via Facebook and Twitter.

 

FRIDAY FEAST with Victoria Purman

And so our favourite day of the week comes around again. What have you planned for the weekend? I’m feeling a tad bereft because there’s no more footy. Fortunately, I have boxed sets of my beloved Sydney Swans Premiership seasons to see me through the dark times. And lots of books. Lots and lots of books, including the debut release of this week’s Friday Feast guest, Victoria Purman. Austrlalian author Victoria PurmanAnd I tell you, if there was ever a story to put you in the mood for a long Aussie summer it’ll be Nobody But Him.

I met Victoria recently at the Romance Writers of Australia conference in Fremantle and was immediately struck by her professionalism and easy going nature. Then again, she does hail from South Australia, my home state, so these things are to be expected.

Nobody But Him is the first in Victoria’s Boys of Summer trilogy (earworm anyone? Since I typed that all I can hear is Don Henley) and has just hit the shelves. Take a gander at this bronzed Aussie!

 

NOBODY BUT HIM

 

Nobody But Him by Victoria Purman coverShe didn’t expect to run into her first love… or to fall back in love with him!

At eighteen, Julia Jones left for the city with a head full of grand plans for an exciting life that certainly didn’t include her hometown of Middle Point – a main street with a pub – or Ryan Blackburn.

But fifteen years – and a lifetime later – she’s forced to put her big city life on hold when she heads home to finalise her mother’s estate. Which is where she runs smack bang into the town’s new champion… the same Ryan Blackburn.

The sensible thing to do? Stay the hell away from him and head back to Melbourne as fast as her stilettos can carry her. But Julia finds his offer of a helping hand and a hot body too delicious to refuse and dives into a reckless, one-time fling.

What she doesn’t realise is that tomorrow has a way of sneaking up, and that saying goodbye to her home town – and to Ryan – is much harder the second time around.

 

You can own your own copy of Nobody But Him with just a couple of clickety-clicks. Buy direct from the publisher Harlequin or try most excellent Australian bookseller and ARRC sponsor Booktopia. There’s also Bookworld, QBD The Bookshop, Boomerang Books, or your local independent or chain store. For the ebook, try Kobo, JB Hi-Fi, Google Play, Amazon (for Kindle), iTunes and the new BigW ebook store.

Seriously, it makes me proud to see so all the Australian stories dominating our bricks and mortar stores and virtual shelves at the moment. Anyway, enough of me, here’s Victoria!

 

 

Lock, stock and barrel

 

Has anyone else ever wandered the supermarket aisles and become increasingly concerned about the growing profusion of packet mixes and insta-meals?

I get the heebie-jeebies every time I read the back of the label and barely recognize anything that seems like real food.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a working mother of three teenagers and I’m certainly not averse to doing whatever it takes to feed the Hungry Horde.

And I’m not what you might call a health nut, either. Those who know about my consumption of wine and chocolate know this to be true. (To those who don’t know me, I consume a lot of wine and chocolate.)

But I don’t want my kids to be loaded down with salt and preservatives and chemicals when I can make the real thing at home – salt and preservative free – for much less.

Hence my recipe for my weekly, reliable standby: Chicken Stock.

I approach cooking as I do writing a book.

On the surface, it’s all exciting – doing the shopping, looking at the labels and the recipe books, making everything look beautifully plated up and Master Chef-y.

The writing equivalent is spending lots of time online with search engine terms that include “shirtless” and “man”; thinking about your cover; and how famous you’re going to be when it sells squillions.

But when you get down to it, there are some basic you shouldn’t ignore.

No matter what genre you write in, every book needs a solid story at its heart.

I think of my Chicken Stock that way – a solid base of flavour for a zillion meals.

I’m not kidding when I say Chicken Stock is easy. The Hungry Horde doesn’t have time for complicated.

I cook up a batch on the weekend and have it sitting in the fridge so I can scoop out what I need during the week for meals in the slow cooker, casserole dishes, stir-fries or soups.

It’s especially handy for those dreaded days when all you have left in the fridge is a couple of near-dead zucchinis, a floret or two of broccoli and a cauliflower (you know, the one you bought in the vain hope that your kids would actually eat it).

Gather the veggies, chop finely, cook them all up in the stock until tender, give it a whizz and voila – vegetable soup. My kids love it. Even when I tell Boy13 there’s zucchini in it.

 

Victoria’s Chicken Stock

 

  • Chicken carcasses (I use two because they come that way in the supermarket). Don’t worry about trimming off the fat – while important, that comes later.Stock pot with chicken carcases
  • Veggies – celery, carrots, onion, minced garlic
  • Pepper (and salt if you wish)
  • Water

Use a big stock saucepan and place the chicken bones in it.

Raid the fridge for whatever veggies you have. I always keep a few celery leaves and stalks in the freezer (did I mention I hate wasting food?) and pop them in to the saucepan with an onion chopped in half (you don’t even need to peel it), and a roughly chopped carrot. Add some minced garlic (from the jar I have in the fridge), a little pepper, and add water until the chicken bones are covered.

Bring to the boil.

Chicken and vegetables in the stock pot ready for boilingWhen it’s boiling, turn down to simmer and let the magnificent aromas fill the house. I usually leave it for about an hour, so the flavours really intensify.

Let the stock cool, and then strain out all the chicken and the veggies. Pour into a container and chill overnight. This step is really important, as the fat congeals at the top and can be easily scooped off the next day.

Your stock is ready, totally delicious and made from real food.

Make soup! Add to day-old rice in a wok and it will taste delicious! Use a cupful any time a recipe calls for stock cubes or stock powder!

Here’s stir-fry rice I made with the stock. The Hungry Horde loved it.

 Stir fried rice made with Victoria's chicken stock

 

Ahh, Victoria, you’re a woman after my own heart. Actually, can a girl say that or is that a man to woman thing? Hmm. Dunno, but you’re definitely a kindred spirit with all that wine, chocolate and home-made stock. Must be our South Australian genes!

Now, my darling Feasters, don those bikinis and budgie smugglers and channel your favourite summer past-time because Victoria has generously offered a most fabulous giveaway. Reveal what you like to get up to over summer and you could win yourself a copy of Nobody But Him. Perfect relaxation material.

Me? Over summer I play golf and eat lots of seafood washed down with wine, which is probably why my golf game is terrible…

What do you get up to for summer fun? Share and you could win!

Giveaway closes midnight AEST, Tuesday 8th October 2013. Australian postal addresses only.

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

This giveaway has now closed. Congratulations to Kerrie who is in for a whole lot of reading fun with Nobody But Him. Thanks to everyone who joined in. 

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.

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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.

 

FRIDAY FEAST with Fiona McArthur

Feeling pretty chuffed this week. My beloved Sydney Swans are still perched very nicely near the top of the AFL ladder, my book is finished (at least until edits come), and I’m playing decent golf for a change, but I’m also super thrilled to introduce a new Friday Feast guest, lovely Australian author Fiona McArthur.

Fiona’s a country midwife who knows all about babies, which is why she writes gorgeous Medical Romances for Harlequin Mills & Boon. And they’re popular. Like over two million copies worldwide style popular. Yup, this is a lady who knows her stuff!

Fiona’s next release is Two Tiny Heartbeats (isn’t that a beautiful title?) and it sounds wonderful. Check it out.

 

TWO TINY HEARTBEATS

 

Two Tiny Heartbeats by Fiona McArthurGold Coast City Hospital

First-day baby bombshell!

Discovering she’s pregnant—with twins!—is not how midwife Lucy Palmer imagined her first day in her new job. Worse is that it took her gorgeous new colleague Nikolai Kefes to suggest a pregnancy test and scan. As they watch those tiny heartbeats on the monitor, Lucy knows instantly that her two little babies are the only things she can focus on. And that her highly inconvenient attraction to the hunky Greek obstetrician—with his legendary reputation for short, sweet, emotionally unavailable relationships—definitely has to be ignored…!

 

Doesn’t that sound fun? I bet it’s gorgeous. Keep your eye out for the release of Two Tiny Heartbeats in October. In the meantime, Fiona has many other novels to warm your heart.

Speaking of warming hearts, try this fantastic post on for size!

 

Train Journeys and Falling In Love With Them

 

Thank you Cathryn, for asking me to join you on your Friday Feast. Not known for my culinary skills but I do like eating so thought I’d share a food journey with a difference.

Early start at the station on the Spirit of the Outback trainFancy a Trip on the Spirit Of the Outback? Longreach to Brisbane. Ever wondered about the cost, the time it takes, the sleepers and the meals?

You have to love being a writer because research trips are definitely perks of the trade. Not often I can drag my husband on trips so we went the whole hog. I thought it was worth saving up for, sleeper class, which included all meals in the Tuckerbox Dining car, and we put the car on the train (ours was the only one on there – it looked so cute) and it meant I could be back at work a day earlier if we drove home from Brisbane – so more time out west. Vote one. Queensland Rail. Seriously. They do it right.Fiona's car on the train

This was the final stage of our recent ten day trip around the amazing red earth of western Queensland, an absolute joy, and more of that coming on my new webpage soon, and a whole lot more in my next book, but I know Cathryn loves to hear about something in the food department.

The good thing is you can’t talk about the Spirit Of The Outback without talking about the meals. A skillful chef, a huge kitchen and a unique and fabulous setting makes the cuisine as tasty and elegant as any restaurant. But in the beginning…

Longreach station

Longreach at sunrise is a little chilly in June while the excitement of looking for your carriage makes up for it. When you leave Longreach, you’ve got half an hour to settle in and admire the glorious colours of those first Fiona enjoying the view on the Spirit of the Outbackgolden rays on the plains and the contents of your little hessian comfort bags – sigh for the days airlines used to give you half what was in these little packs – with eye masks, washers, organic lip balm, plus the usual’s. I love stuff like this as my friends will laughingly tell you. Sniff. Anyway, the views are magic as you peer out the windows, and wave at the traffic when we run alongside the road.

Then your delightful hostess, in our case, Raylene of the endless goodwill – will encourage you to make your way to the dining car and take a seat at the beautifully set alcoves complete with white linen tablecloths, wildflowers and silverware, and best of all, lovely big windows that showcase the reds, browns and orange of outback Queensland.  Truly we are blessed by our beautiful country. Especially arid and sparse it takes my breath away.Fiona's husband Ian at the table

But back to food. Breakfast was all hubby could wish for, (because I had fruit and water – NOT!)  crisp bacon, soft eggs, buttery mushrooms and sausage, grilled tomato, fresh juice and hot, freshly brewed coffee. Groan. And no gym to work it off, still, probably wouldn’t have used it if they had one. But leisurely, and fun.

Then it’s back to your private cabin or into the spacious lounge car. Next time, I’d spend more time in the lounge car because a carriage full of windows give the best view of the surrounding countryside and it’s too easy to stay comfortably antisocial in your own little lounge cabin although the windows are lovely there too.The Tree of Knowledge

Rattle, rattle, rattle for a couple of hours and then a leisurely meander off at Barcaldine to admire the cleverly created replacement Tree of Knowledge, didn’t notice Kevin or Julia poking around up there just outside the station, and a walk along the platform and cheeky peer in the window by my DH. Then back on board where we took the chance for us to go through the hundreds of photos we’d taken over the last week and a half, a joke about the fact that I’d been keen to visit the Qantas Museum in Longreach when hubby decided I’d seen more planes than he’d had breakfasts, and a few more notes on my computer.

Before we knew it lunch was on, must admit I had a wee glass of Sav Blanc to go with my Barramundi Fillet with citrus butter and garden salad. Divine. Ian had Backstrap Lamb and we both daintily nibbled at the Pavlova. Actually not dainty at all. There was also Haloumi salad and Chicken terrine so lots of choices.

It was nice to go for a wander when we paused at Emerald, one of my boys had spent a bit of time working at the feed lot up here for Australian Ag, and I’d heard a lot about Emerald and wanted to see it. Looks like a great town. Love the way the station steps are in the middle of town. Couldn’t believe the agricultural equipment for sale. Must have been millions of dollars worth which illustrates the amount of food produced in this area.Fiona enjoying bubbles in the lounge car

Back for a quick freshen as the afternoon sun was casting long shadows away to the mountains and then I was sipping bubbles in the lounge car chatting to fellow travellers. It wasn’t quite as formal as the Orient Express, God Bless Australia,  but we’d all spruced up and the sun was casting  golden halo around Blackwater. We flew through Comet, but I hear (from that son) it had a good pub, but I digress.

Sunset out of Blackwater (apparently the creek ran black – from the tree roots but now it’s coal miners heaven – and as evening and dark arrived we went through to dinner to find tender grain fed pepper steak and sticky date pudding. Amongst others, and seriously I think I’ve eaten enough.Sunset from the train

When we came back, after a desultory discussion with our fellow travellers,  our lounge had been made into two surprisingly wide and comfortable bunk beds with crisp white sheets and bottled water. Did they know about that second glass of bubbles? After the early start (my car climbed on the train earlier than we did) we were well ready for bed. Loved snuggling down to the peaceful rattle of the rails – apparently it’s better to get a middle cabin as it’s quieter not perched above the wheels but –  zzzzzzzzzz.

And in the morning, (sounds like one of my books) by the time we’d washed and changed (and yes there is a shower with wonderful hot water), captured a great pic of one of the ?Glasshouse Mountains, and it was time to disembark in Brisbane.One of the Glasshouse Mountains

To retrieve our own car we simply walked to the end of the train, were escorted to a driveway, and within twenty minutes it appeared beside us. A little meander through only a couple of Brisbane streets and we popped out on the freeway to Gold Coast. Easy Peasy for this country bumpkin. So twenty four hours flew and I adored it all.

Have you any train stories? Been on any scenic train journeys?  I’d love to hear because I fear I am now addicted. Xx Fi

Spirit of The Outback leaves Longreach 0715 Monday (and Thursday) Arrives Brisbane 0710 Tuesday (or Friday) So 1325 kms in 24 hours.

Cost from Longreach:

Economy non-sleeper between $152-235 depending when you buy the ticket – purchase food from the snack bar

Economy with sleeper – $244-315 depending when you buy the ticket – purchase food from snack bar

First class with sleeper-$427-529 depending when you buy your ticket – all meals but purchase wine and beer

Car -$299 and unaccompanied $499.

There are good discounts for seniors and concession and unlike lots of other telephone booking services Queensland rail sales people are awesome.

Ph 1800 872 467       And no, I didn’t get this journey compliments of QRS. 🙂

 

Thanks so much for sharing your journey, Fiona. It sounds absolutely wonderful. I’m a sucker for train travel after living overseas. It’s such a great way to explore a country and an easy way to cross long distances in comfort. A bit of bubbly while watching the world pass by? That’s my kind of travelling!

So, Feasters, enjoyed any iconic or scenic train rides that you’d like to tease us with? Or maybe your relaxing foodie adventure was on a cruise. Maybe you flew to an exotic tropical island for a picnic (in which case I shall hate you a little bit). We’d love to hear.

Given my last trip anywhere was on the Blue Mountains train into Sydney Harbour to meet up with faaaabulous authors Christine Stinson and Jaye Ford for lunch, I need a bit of armchair travel!

If you’d like to learn more about Fiona and her books, please visit her website. You can also connect via Twitter and Facebook. You can also write to Fiona direct at fionamcarthur2@gmail.com

 

FRIDAY FEAST with Rachel Bailey

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Happy Friday, Feasters! We’re back to normal guest programming now Heartland is well and truly out in the world, and what a lovely guest we have too.RachelBailey

Australian author Rachel Bailey writes for Harlequin Desire, with 7 titles to her name. If you like sexy, romantic and fantastically rich alpha heroes who have everything but the right woman, then Rachel has a book for you! She’s a USA Today best-seller and former President of the Romance Writers of Australia and knows exactly what readers want so you know you’ll be in for a cracking read.

Her latest release is No Stranger to Scandal. Check it out…

 

NO STRANGER TO SCANDAL

 

NoStrangerScandalAustSmallDecorum Vs. Destiny

She might be the stepdaughter of one of the most powerful media moguls in Washington, but Lucy Royall is no pampered princess—she’s making her own way as a junior reporter. But when congressional investigator Hayden Black accuses her stepfather of criminal wrongdoing, she shows her family loyalty and takes Hayden on. Then, as things heat up, the sexy single dad takes her to bed! Talk about a conflict of interest. Will their illicit passion turn into something more lasting, even in the face of controversy so huge it rocks a nation?

 

 

Sounds deliciously hot, doesn’t it? Australian readers, you might still be able to find a paper copy of No Stranger to Scandal in your local bookstore. Or visit our favourite online retailer, Booktopia. You could also try eHarlequin or Amazon. For the ebook version, clickety-click on over to Kobo, Kindle (Amazon), Nook, eHarlequin, Google Play or iTunes.

Now please welcome Rachel.

 

An Eggstravaganza!

 

I have to admit something: I’m a very lucky girl. My husband makes our breakfast every day—without being asked, just because he loves to. And not just something slapped together, no. He makes Works of Breakfast Art. Omelettes made from organic eggs, with olives, fetta, and parsley from the garden. Scrambled eggs with oven roasted tomatoes and fresh basil, served with organic Turkish bread.

The picture is the omelette he made me on Valentine’s Day this year (hence the good china).

Valentine

Which brings me to my second admission: I’m not fond of eggs. I eat them because I know they’re good for me and it’s what my husband likes to cook and eat.

Be careful what you wish for, right? I have a man who chefs up amazing breakfasts every single day, and I’m incredibly grateful, don’t get me wrong, but…

What I normally try to do is disguise the taste of eggs. I’ve tried chilli sauce—that works quite well. Extra fetta, olives and semi-dried tomatoes also usually do the trick. The home-grown herbs have a flavour strong enough to help.

Some days, he’ll make fluffy blueberry pancakes and serve with maple syrup or homemade Bircher muesli with orange juice and yoghurt. I live for those days. His belief in eggs, however, is strong enough that we still have them most of the time.

So I’m asking for suggestions: what’s your favourite omelette ingredient? What other ingredients can I use in an omelette to disguise the taste of eggs?

 

Ahh, a tricky one, Rachel. I love a good egg, especially eggs from home or farm chooks. They always have the best flavour. I made a frittata this week, with potatoes, chorizo, spinach and spring onions. Not a whole lot of eggy flavour there thanks to the chorizo.

What do you think, Feasters? What can Rachel hide that egg taste with? Help a damsel in distress. I’m sure you’ll have lots of clever ideas.

If you’d like to learn more about Rachel and her wonderfully passionate and romantic 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

 

FRIDAY FEAST with Rachael Johns

We’re baaaaaack!

Welcome to the 2013 series of Friday Feast and what a beauty it’s going to be, chockers with fabulous authors, gourmet adventures, RachaelJohns2great books and mouth-watering recipes. And what better way to start the series than with Booktopia’s 10th favourite Aussie novelist Rachael Johns? Well, I suppose we could have kicked off with me but I’m a tad busy being semi-homeless and sulking over my lack of cooking equipment and cookbook collection, so Rach is your girl.

Rach had a massive hit with her first rural romance, the ARR Award nominated Jilted and is now burning up the charts with her new release, the wonderfully titled (and written!) Man Drought.

Check it out…

MAN DROUGHT

 

0113_ManDrought_C2 (1)Imogen Bates moved to the small rural town of Gibson’s Find to start a new life for herself after the death of her husband. Tired of being haunted by the painful memories of her old life, Imogen set her last remaining hopes on the little town and, in particular, pouring her heart and savings into restoring The Majestic Hotel to its former glory. But while the female-starved town might be glad to see a young woman move in, not everyone is happy about Imogen’s arrival.

Sheep and crop farmer Gibson Black once dreamed of having the kind of family his grandfather reminisces about, but he’s learnt not to dream anymore. Living in the mostly male town suits Gibson down to the ground…and he won’t have anyone — least of all a hot redhead from the city — change a thing.

Imogen has never been one to back down from a challenge, especially when it concerns her last chance at happiness. She’s determined to rebuild the pub and create a future for the little town. But can she create a future for Gibson and herself, too?

 

Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? Well I can assure you this book is all that and more. So why not grab yourself a copy right now? Buy the ebook or paperback from Harlequin Australia or Booktopia, or try Amazon’s Kindle Store, Kobo or Google Play for the straight ebook. While you’re on your buying spree, check out Rach’s other January release, Stand-In Star.

Clickety-clicking all done? Excellent. Now you can play with Rach.

 

Hold Onto Your Knicker(bockers!)

 

Hello Feasters! It’s always a pleasure to visit my good buddy Cathryn, but although I LOVE her Friday Feast segments, I must admit when it’s my turn, I get a little fearful. You see, although I once was a rather good baker, I seem to be getting worse and worse. It’s true, with each book I get published, I seem to lose more of my baking abilities, so today, I’m going to share with you the most simple, easiest dessert ever, that also happens to be tasty, but first, I’d like to play the tour guide and take you a country pub near me.

Why? Because my newest release from Harlequin Australian – MAN DROUGHT – happens to be mostly set in a rural watering hole, The Majestic Pub in Gibson’s Find. Note that this pub and town are figments of my vivid imagination, but they take bits from a number of pubs I’ve driven past or visited over the years. For some reason these old buildings fascinate me! One such pub, which was an absolute golden find when we moved to Goomalling a couple of years ago, is THE JENNACUBBINE TAVERN (or Jenna Tavern to locals).

photo4

Although located in the Shire of Goomalling, Jenna Tavern is a fair drive from town in a now pretty-much deserted ‘village’. There’s tennis courts, a church, a TINY CWA building and the pub. Jenna Tavern isn’t on a main highway or road but seems to do perfectly well through word of mouth. Unlike the pub in the beginning of MAN DROUGHT, Jenna is well looked after, frequently upgraded and has a friendly staff and a great atmosphere.

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Jenna is famous for its steaks. Instead of a traditional menu, visitors are asked to choose from a selection of steaks (including some chicken and fish). They then state how they want it cooked and can even watch this process over an open grill. Once their steak is cooked to their preferred perfection, there’s a buffet of salads and warmer dishes. I was lucky enough to enjoy a meal at Jenna last week for my b’day and I seriously haven’t had a better steak for a long time.

photo

If I had one bone to pick about Jenna Tavern, it would be the desserts. I’m a dessert gal through and through and although full of steak, I couldn’t resist ordering a dessert. Unfortunately this didn’t live up to my expectations, so today (below), I’m going to share with you one of my old favourites. But before I do, I’d love to hear from you (in the comments section) about any fabulous country pubs you’ve visited. One day I might caravan around this beautiful country of ours, visiting the pubs for steak and a beer! What pubs should I put on my must-see list?!

Now, for the dessert I promised. It’s an oldie but a goodie – Who’s for a Knickerbocker Glory? Remember, I said I’m not much of a cook these days, so this is an easy-peasy recipe. But it’s still delicious.

Knickerbocker Glory

Knickerbocker

Ingredients:

  • Some gorgeous sundae glasses. Let’s face it; cooking is a lot about presentation.
  • Vanilla ice-cream
  • Tinned two fruits (or any other fruits you like. If you want to get fancy, go for it)
  • Custard (make your own or buy the easy stuff in a carton)
  • Jelly (prepare a few hours before making Knickerbocker Glory
  • Cream (in a can or fresh – it really doesn’t matter)

Method:

Layer above ingredients into a Sundae glass, top with whipped cream and decorate as desired. Personally I’m not a fan of cherries but they do look good on top. As do wafers. Some people apparently include chocolate topping, but I’ve never tried this variation.

However you make it, you’re sure to ENJOY!!

 

Ooh, simple and seriously yum. Now that’s a recipe to please everyone. Thanks, Rach. I might have to venture down to mighty StandInStar_finalGoomalling after the Romance Writers of Australia conference in August and check this pub out. Those steaks sounds delicious!

So where’s your favourite steakhouse? Or maybe you prefer the good old home barbie? Some of the best steaks I’ve eaten were had in little pubs and RSLs in outback Queensland, but I have to say my Jim can really hit that grill with flair these days and we’ve had some cracking home-cooked steaks. Might be able to have some more if we could just find a home, but one mustn’t whinge. Tis an adventure, this semi-homelessness!

Now, if you’d like to learn more about Rachael and her books, please visit her website. You can also connect via her blog, Twitter and Facebook.