Tag Archives: Romance Writing

This Writing Life: The Book Bible

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When it comes to creating a new book, my book bibles are the most precious things imaginable. They’re not always pretty – in fact, they usually end up looking decidedly tatty – but I protect mine like bejewelled medieval manuscripts.

Last Tuesday, I handed in my 2018 book to my publisher (rah!). There’s still a long process ahead – revisions, line and copy edits, proof reading and more – but the hard slog is done. Although labelling that book a slog is a gross injustice; I loved every paragraph and cannot wait for it to hit shelves.

With that book delivered, it’s time to focus on the next, and this is where my book bibles come in.

What Is A Book Bible?

Every author has a different process when it comes to writing, so I can only speak for myself. The way I operate is that I get struck by a brilliant idea (usually at the most inconvenient time, like when I’m up to my neck in another project and can’t afford to be distracted by this shiny, sparkly new thing) and before it goes flittering off into the universe to be snatched up by some other author, I write it down. Sometimes all I have is a hook or a brief premise, other times it’ll be a synopsis, covering the entire plot, and occasionally it’s as vague as just a character or setting. It varies.

Examples of initial ideas, currently pinned to my white board.

Examples of initial ideas, currently pinned to my whiteboard. Apologies for the pixilation, but I don’t want anyone pinching them!

Now, if the idea has real legs I’ll keep thinking about it and make more notes. Then I’ll either slide these notes into a folder or keep them together with a bulldog clip, and then file that into one of the nooks I keep for this purpose.

My ideas nook.

One of my ideas nooks.

If I’m feeling really excited, I might order some non-fiction books for research or start reading novels with similar themes. I might start actively hunting for newspaper and magazine articles too, and photos of scenery or characters.

If this continues long enough, and my thrill over the idea doesn’t wane, then it’s clear the story is a definite go-er and one I’m going to write. At which point I start a book bible.

What Does A Book Bible Look Like?

Well, like this:

Book bibles for Rocking Horse Hill

The book bibles for my rural set romance Rocking Horse Hill

Yeah, I know. Hardly exciting, is it? But it is, believe me, because contained in these books is everything important to the story I’m going to write.

Mine contain everything from those initial notes, to photographs, draft paragraphs, character outlines, settings, research, name lists… all sorts of weird and wonderful things. They end up loaded with information and scribbles, but apart from draft scenes and names, much of what they contain never makes it into the final book. That’s not the book bible’s point. Its point is to be a kind of stimulus, a physical thing that acts as reminder of all that made me passionate about the story idea in the first place.

Basically…

Book bibles are vessels of inspiration.

To give you a better idea, here are sample pages from a few of my book bibles, some published and some still in progress. As you can see, they’re loaded with all sorts of things.

Pages from RACING HEARTS' book bible

Pages from RACING HEARTS’ book bible with photographs of its setting. I was going to set this in Dunkeld but have since changed my mind.

Pages from THE FALLS book bible

Pages from THE FALLS book bible – the hero Lucas is a farrier, hence the newspaper article, and the blue sticky note is an important moment between the hero and heroine that I felt really strongly about but never made it into the final book.

From RACING HEARTS book bible

From RACING HEARTS’ book bible. One of the characters is a specialist cheesemaker.

Scribblings from CHASING MISCHIEF's book bible

Scribblings from CHASING MISCHIEF’s book bible

Notes and brainstorming for RACING HEARTS

Scene ideas for RACING HEARTS

Another exampled from THE FALLS

Another example from my book bible for THE FALLS – the inspiration for Dominic’s flash beachside apartment.

I used to use softcover books but they tend to fall apart so I’ve swapped to using hardcover sketch books. Much nicer.

Not Every Book Needs A Book Bible

Stories are weird things. Sometimes my passion for them is so strong they just pour out. April’s Rainbow was one of those for me, as was Santa and the Saddler and Wayward Heart. Novellas tend to not need book bibles because they’re shorter and less complex, and I make do with a document wallet stuffed with notes. These usually contain scribbled scenes and character name lists, and must-fixes for second drafts.

The document file for SANTA AND THE SADDLER

The document file for SANTA AND THE SADDLER

Stories are also strange in that – for me – they form at different rates. I have piles and piles of ideas, many of which I adore and feel strongly about, but not all are ready to be written and some might never be. But if a story has made it to the book bible stage, then there’s an excellent chance it will.

Some Stories Demand Special Attention

I have a couple of non-romance/romantic elements ideas I’ve been churning over for a while now, one of which has just made it from the folder-of-scrappy-papers to the book bible stage. But this particular idea is so special, so different, so make-me-hug-myself-with-glee-brilliant, that I’ve decided it needs a book bible to reflect that.

This is going to be my book bible for Briarcliffe, complete with a matching fountain pen for extra inspiration. Gorgeous, isn’t it? I bet you’re intrigued as to what this one could be about. Sorry, not telling!

My extra-special book bible for BRIARCLIFFE

My extra-special book bible for BRIARCLIFFE

As I said in the opening, with my manuscript delivered, it’s time to start a new one, and that means sifting through my collection of stories that have made it to the book bible stage and seeing which one calls the strongest. Easy-peasy, yes? Err, no. The problem I have at the moment is: they’re all calling.

The examples above are just a few of the stories I have on the go. I have a giant list of books that have made the folder or book bible stage, and every one is a contender.

Which will win? Stay tuned!

THIS WRITING LIFE: Ain’t Love Grand!

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Aaaaaand, the 2016 Romance Writers of Australia conference has been and gone for another year. This year was special too, being the 25th anniversary conference and with the fab theme Ain’t Love Grand. I think the organisers did the RWA and themselves proud. I had a ball, as usual, and I’m pretty sure everyone else did too. Thank you, ladies and gents. Bloody brilliant!

The Ain't Love Grand logoIt’s such a delight to catch up with writing buddies that I tend to talk to only online or via phone. There’s nothing like human contact, is there? The hugs and squeals, the laughter and sharing of challenges and triumphs, the late night bar sessions…

But enough of that. It’s piccies I know you’re after and I have plenty. Now, because there are so many photos, and I’m flat out at the moment finishing Santa and the Saddler and poring over Wayward Heart proofs, I’m not going to provide in depth descriptions. You’ll just have to look and enjoy, then book your own slot for the conference or ARRA book signing next year, and make yourself a part of these great events.

The conference was in Adelaide, South Australia, so what better excuse to visit my home town and family first in Mount Gambier, then follow it up with a road trip to Adelaide?

I caught up with my niece and nephews and watched the boys play basketball. As you can see, they didn’t take after their aunt in the height stakes. I felt very stumpy.

With my tall niece and nephews

As many of you are aware, my mum has Alzheimer’s and is now in full-time care. I’d love to say she recognised me but in all honesty I don’t think she did. It’s such a shit disease, it really is, but she’s being wonderfully cared for and when Dad and I visited her, she was cheerful and perky, and in overall good health. We had a fun time taking her out to buy new slippers and a cuppa at the bakery in Casterton, Victoria. Here we are with one of the kelpie statues in town.

With Mum in Casterton

It’s lambing season across western Victoria and south-east SA. Not a good time to be a fox. Here’s a haul near Ardno Station, Strathdownie.

Strathdownie - fox haul

The next day it was road trip time! Here’s me and Dad cruising the Dukes Highway.

Me and Dad road trip

Then it was Adelaide or, more specifically, Glenelg, and what a conference location it was. The council even had a heart for us (it’s a permanent sculpture but we romance peeps laid claim to it).

Glenelg Heart Sculpture

After spending Thursday catching up with friends, lunching with my editor and enjoying high tea with other buddies at a local bookshop, it was time for the Harlequin author party. We were each presented with red feather boas on arrival, which was fun, but the venue and the conference hotel looked like a slaughterhouse afterwards with all the dropped red feathers. I bet the cleaners are still grumbling about us.

Here’s Michelle Conder, Annie West, Carol Marinelli and Fiona McArthur.

Harlequin author party

And me and Michelle later in the bar.

Me and Michelle Conder

The conference Friday workshop was with screenwriting expert Michael Hauge. I used his Story Mastery session and templates to start nutting out Eddie and the Show Queen, which is a kinda-sorta sequel to Summer and the Groomsman, featuring Harry’s rakish brother Eddie. Don’t ask when I’ll get around to writing this one, I have no idea, but at least now I have a plot plan.

Michael Hauge - Story Mastery

Friday night was cocktail party night where many choose to dress up. This year’s theme was Love Is A Cabaret, which meant feather boas, black ties and more. Take a look…

Leisl Leighton, RWA president. Awesome eyelashes.

RWA 2016 Cocktail Party - Leisl Leighton

Anne Gracie and Keri Arthur.

RWA 2016 Cocktail Party - Anne Gracie Keri Arthur

A crowd of flappers.

RWA 2016 Cocktail Party - crowd

Fiona McArthur and me.

RWA 2016 Cocktail Party - Fiona McArthur and me

T.M Clarke and hubby.

RWA 2016 Cocktail Party - TM Clark and hubby

Me, Louise Reynolds and Jaye Ford.

RWA 2016 Cocktail Party - Me-Louise Reynolds-Jaye Ford

Juanita Kees and me.

RWA 2016 Cocktail Party - Juanita Kees and me

Jane and Richard Carter.

RWA 2016 Cocktail Party - Jane and Richard Carter

Leisl Leighton serenaded us with a song from Cabaret to much applause.

RWA 2016 Cocktail Party - song time

Me and agent Alex Adsett.

RWA 2016 Cocktail Party - me and Alex Adsett

The gorgeous Lilia Kanna from Harlequin.

RWA 2016 Cocktail Party - Lilia Kanna

Michelle Douglas and me.

RWA 2016 Cocktail Party - Michelle Douglas and me

And the conference proper begins! Hardworking organisers and deadest legends Bronwyn Stuart and Trish Morey.

RWA Conference - Bronwyn Stuart and Trish Morey

They presented a fun talk and slide show of what the world was like 25 years ago when the RWA began. Such a hoot.

RWA Conference - 25th anniversary fun

The state of publishing and bookselling panel.

RWA Conference - state of publishing and bookselling panel

The Stamford Grand Hotel showed us lots of luuuuurve. Very cool.

RWA Conference - hotel love

Saturday afternoon saw the ARRA booksigning event which was another great success. Here’s Anne Gracie…

2016 ARRA booksigning - Anne Gracie

Rachael Johns…

2016 ARRA booksigning - Rachael Johns

Juanita Kees…

2016 ARRA booksigning - Juanita Kees

Kandy Shepherd…

2016 ARRA booksigning - Kandy Shepherd

Mandy Magro…

2016 ARRA booksigning - Mandy Magro

Crowd shot…

2016 ARRA booksigning - crowd shot

Then it was awards dinner time! Didn’t the room and everyone look gorgeous?

2016 RWA Awards Dinner - crowd

Leah Ashton, Rachel Bailey, Daniel de Lorne.

2016 RWA Awards Dinner - Leah Ashton-Rachel Bailey-Daniel de Lorne

Suzi Love and her husband Graham, who volunteers to help with the agent and editor pitches every year. Thanks Graham. I heard many singing your praises!

2016 RWA Awards Dinner - Suzi Love and husband Graham

Wheeeeeee! Summer and the Groomsman had its time in the sun thanks to its best rural romance cover win. I cheered it. Cos, why not!

2016 RWA Awards Dinner - Summer and the Groomsman best rural romance cover

Me and James Kellow, CEO of Harlequin and Harper Collins.

2016 RWA Awards Dinner - Me and James Kellow

Karen M Davis paying heartfelt tribute to her mother, the late Lynn Wilding, a founding member of RWA. Many of us suffered sniffles during this speech, it was so lovely.

2016 RWA Awards Dinner - Karen M Davis

Rachael Johns and James Kellow.

2016 RWA Awards Dinner - Rachael Johns and James Kellow

Rach taking out the Ruby Award in the romantic elements category with The Patterson Girls. Rah!

2016 RWA Awards Dinner - Rachael Johns Ruby Award

There was dancing! And photo bombing by Shannon Curtis.

2016 RWA Awards Dinner - dancing and Shannon Curtis

Annie West and Michelle Douglas.

2016 RWA Awards Dinner - Annie West and Michelle Douglas

More dancing…

2016 RWA Awards Dinner - dancing

And bar lounging…

2016 RWA Awards Dinner - post dinner lounging

As for what happened after that, you’ll just have to use your imagination.

Despite appearances, it wasn’t all frocking up and partying. There were plenty of workshops, speakers and panels to check out. Here’s one of the slides from Kathryn Fox’s talk: Writer Like The World’s Best-Selling Author, where she talked about writing for James Patterson and what makes him such an incredible seller.

2016 RWA Conference - Kathryn Fox's workshop

Can’t wait for next year in Brisbane with Love Gone Wild!

2016 RWA Conference - announcing Brisbane 2017

For those wondering what happened to Hot Chocolate the blow-up wonder horse, the news isn’t good. Despite enthusiastic but inexpert veterinary care, Hot Choc suffered another puncture and was feeling very deflated about the whole affair. He made it to the booksigning but spent all his time sulking under the table. I fear this may be the last…

Hot Chocolate - deflated again

My heartfelt thanks to RWA, the conference committee and everyone involved in this year’s conference. The location was perfect – one of the best – the speakers and workshops were great, the parties fantastic and the friendship brilliant. Thank you, thank you.

If you’re an aspiring writer I can’t recommend that you join the Romance Writers of Australia enough. There is no doubt in my mind that without RWA I wouldn’t be published. I also wouldn’t have the wonderful friends I have or the chance to make new ones. And if you’re a reader, there’s the Australian Romance Readers Association.

So join up and hang online and in person with the people who love the same things you do. Go on. It’s fun!

 

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THIS WRITING LIFE: The End Is Nigh (or perhaps not)

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Breaking News - Author Cathryn Hein has NOT finished her book

Today was meant to be the day.

It’s not.

My book, my (untitled) work-in-progress, my current obsession, still isn’t done.

No triumphant typing of THE END, no running around the house in my trakky daks with my arms in the air squeeing like a banshee, only to screech even harder and retreat to my office in horror as I clock the poor, neglected mess that is my house. No cracking a bottle of fizz. No cooking of celebratory naughty food.

Just my bum back in my chair and my fingers on the keyboard.

I don’t know what it’s like for other authors, but when I get near the end of a work-in-progress I’m usually pounding the keys like there’s no tomorrow. By this point the story that I’ve dedicated half a year to, perhaps more, just wants to burst out. And out it usually comes in a great deluge of emotion and (very often) bawling on my part, because for the last however many thousands of words my characters have been tearing their hearts apart and now, NOW, there’s a chance it could be all right. Except then their HORRIBLE author throws them a googly and it all goes wrong, and unless they find their inner strengths and hearts, all will be lost.

Writing this bit—the black moment and denouement—is emotional and wonderful and the best fun ever, and I’m currently smack in the middle of it when I’d expected to be at the end.

As I’m (still!) learning, every book is its own beast, and this work-in-progress is no different.

This book is slow.

It started out that way too, defying every effort, every trick I could conjure up to speed it along only to ignore me totally and continue doing its snail thing. Now it’s ending exactly the way it started. Perhaps I should have anticipated that, but I didn’t.

I admit that I’m frustrated. I’m so desperate for these two gorgeous characters to achieve their happy ever after it’s killing me, but I’m also filled with joy because being with these two is a genuine delight. I know they’re fictional, I know they’re products of my imagination, but sharing their lives, their love, feels like a privilege.

This book is also proving to be long. I’ve just written a chapter 40. I have never written a chapter 40. Never. Not even before I was published. Of course, this might not be the case with the final book—editing changes things, sometimes dramatically—but I’m loving the novelty. More importantly, it works.

In fact, everything seems to work with this book. I love it, really love it. I’m CRAZY about it.

So I don’t care if it takes me another week, two weeks, or even a month to finish (although I bloody hope not or my Christmas novella will be seriously at risk). The pleasure with this one is in the journey. And it’s a journey I’m savouring.

Long may that be the case with all I write, whether it be a blog post, a tweet or a novel, because pleasure and passion matter.

If I don’t feel them when I’m writing, how can I expect you to?

 

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FRIDAY FEAST with Cathryn Hein

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Greetings, food lovers, and welcome to this week’s edition of Friday Feast, once more featuring me. And what fun we’re going to have too, because I have toys to show you!

ARRA Booksigning - Cathryn HeinBut first, the roller-coasting fun that is Us Heins Weren’t Meant To Play Golf. With the rise in temperature so does my golf game continue to improve. Not in great leaps and bounds, as one would like, but slowly and surely. I’m even trying smarty-pants shots. Admittedly not all of them pay off but one day soon they’ll begin to. I can feel it in my waters… Or maybe that’s just an omen of where my balls will end up if I continue the smarty-pants act. We shall see!

Right, as always we need a lovely read for you to check out. This week we’ll look at my latest release, The Falls.

THE FALLS

Cover of The Falls by Cathryn HeinWill losing the home she loves mean finding the place she belongs?

For as long as she can remember, Teagan Bliss has wanted to manage her family’s property. She’s invested everything in the farm, knowing that when her parents retire she’ll be ready to take the reins. But when a family betrayal leaves her reeling, Teagan is forced to rethink her entire future.

Heartbroken, Teagan flees to her aunt’s property in the idyllic Falls Valley. Vanessa is warm and welcoming and a favourite of the locals who drop in regularly for cocktail hour. Teagan soon catches the attention of sexy local farrier Lucas Knight, and with a new job, new friends and the prospect of a new relationship, she slowly begins to open up again.

But the village is a hotbed of gossip and division and when Teagan gets caught up in town politics, Lucas and Vanessa become concerned. As the tension in town escalates, Teagan must decide who to trust. But when she realises those close to her have been keeping secrets, the fallout may split Teagan apart forever.

Talking Books Blog described The Falls as “A knockout of a read that had me completely captivated from the first page…” And this great story could be yours with just a few clicks. Try Booktopia, Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, Google Play, Big W or your favourite bookstore.

All set? Now come join me in playtime!

My Favourite Gadgets

Ooh, I adore a good gadget. They call to me from the windows of cooking shops and chef’s supplies, from catalogues and department store shelves, and don’t get me started on the sink that is the internet. I have been known to escape for hours into Peters of Kensington, Kitchenware Direct, Kitchen Warehouse, and places far flung.

I’ll admit to buying quite a few items that I’ve never used and probably never will. Those ravioli cutters I bought spring to mind, along those wanky steel rings for plating up salads into perfect Kitchen junk drawertowers. And silicone egg poaching pods. Who the hell thought those were a good idea? Me, obviously, seeing as I have half a dozen of the useless things clogging my kitchen junk drawer. Palette knives are another dud buy, along with dough cutters. I mean, I know they’re lovely and I have used them, but it’s far easier to grab a knife from the rack, and god knows I have a pile of those things too. Knives of every persuasion, from teeny-tiny fruit knives to giant cleavers and the most beautiful carving knife from Toledo. What do I use most? The cheap Chinese chef knives with the soft steel that sharpen fast and blunt just a quickly. Mind you, at least I don’t cry when I break the tip off those, unlike my others.

Yes, I cry over broken (good) knives. Doesn’t everyone?

But, you know what? For every dud gadget I own, there’ll be another that’s paid for itself many times over. In fact, there are a few things I’ll admit to being perhaps a tad obsessed by.

Like…

The Best Whisk Evah

I bought this in Cologne, Germany, and wish I’d bought one in every size plus the one with the Teflon-coated balls on the end. Over ten years on and I’m still stroppy that I only bought this one, and live in fear of it somehow disappearing from my life. This whisk is the GOODS. Seriously. It whips faster than any other whisk, ingredients don’t get caught up like they do with balloon whisks, the beads catch every corner, it makes a satisfying noise when you use it, and it’s plain cool. I would go back to Cologne just to buy another of these whisks. ‘Tis the truth.

Me with my beloved whisk

El Cheapo Knife Sharpener

$14-99 from Aldi and one of the best gadget investments imaginable. Before this baby I’d persevered with steels of all persuasions, without success. I don’t care what the purists say, sharpening knives the proper way when you have no prowess has knobs on it. But with this, a few strokes through the slots and my knives are back razor sharp. Yeah, they’ve probably had about ten layers of steel stripped off them in the process but I don’t care. At least my knives get used now. Before they sat in their racks all blunt and annoying because I could never get them sharp enough to use again once the store edge wore off. Now they are. I rest my case.

Knife Sharpener

Porcelain Pastry Beads

Once upon a time I used to go through bags of rice and beans, simply for blind baking tart bases. Not anymore! Now I simply pull out my pastry beads and away I go. They’re nice and heavy, cool fairly quickly and store away on the shelf in an old passata jar next to my rolling pin. Great investment! Oh, but do not drop the bottle or container they’re kept in, or spill them when lifting from the pastry case. Ever. These beads bounce, far and high. You’ll be picking them out of your home for the next year.

Pastry beads

Microplanes

What did we do before Microplanes? Can you remember the torture that was zesting citrus before these came along? The zester in particular is a must in any kitchen. You need one of these, oh yes you do. It is a thing of much beauty and will transform your zesting life.

Mircoplane Zester

Mandolin Magic

Like The Best Whisk Evah, I’m a little obsessed with this gadget. I bought it in Stockholm from a lovely big cooking shop that I discovered during my wanderings. The truth is I wanted a pure stainless steel version but the price of the one I had my eye on put me off. This one cost 495 Krona – about $80 or so – and it’s a cracker. It slices and shaves and juliennes and crinkle cuts and cleans up a breeze. Yup, those Swedes sure know a thing or two about design.

Mandolin

Mortar and Pestle

There’s something very satisfying about bashing things in a lump of granite and watching tough foodstuffs like lemongrass pulverise into pastes. The pestle makes a really cool ring when you use it, and the fragrance of the ingredients when they release all their goodness makes the cooking process even more exciting. I have two of these. A mid-sized one for small jobs and then the big mama for things like curry pastes.

Mortar and pestle

The Mixmaster That Will Not Die

You have no idea how much I crave a new mixmaster. I look at all that lovely new technology out there and want to weep because I can’t justify buying any of it because my 20+ year-old Sunbeam refuses to die. The engine occasionally overheats when mixing highly resistant things like dough but even then it keeps churning away. Sometimes, when I’m feeling naughty, I walk away from it in the faint hope it’ll vibrate its way off the bench, but no. It stays there, whipping, mixing, doing its thing as it’s always done. I hate it. But I love it too. Oh, faithful cooking servant.

Mixmaster

There are lots of other gadgets I could wax on about – my pasta machine, digital scales, Mouli, the humble garlic press, so many knives (now that they’re kept properly sharp), the really cool sieve I bought specifically for making one sauce and rarely use, a bazillion pots, pans and tins, that work of art meat tenderiser I bought in Vienna (cos they know aaall about schnitzels there) – but the above are the tools I can’t do without. I love them. Like, really, really love them. Which is a perfectly normal way to feel about a life-saving kitchen gadget, as I’m sure you’ll agree.

What about you? What’s your favourite kitchen gadget? Or maybe there’s one you want some clever-trousers to invent?

Share away. You might entice me, or someone else, to a new obsession!

If you’d like to learn more about me and my books, please feel free to explore my website. There’s lots of cool stuff on here. You can also connect via Facebook, Twitter using @CathrynHein, Google+, Goodreads and Pinterest.

For all the latest news, plus giveaways and more, not to mention secret ‘I love yous’ from me, please sign up to my newsletter. There’s going to be some pretty exciting news in it very soon!

Friday Feast recipe index link.

THIS WRITING LIFE: Hanging with my tribe!

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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.

 

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FRIDAY FEAST with Cathryn Hein

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Greetings Feasty lovelies, and welcome to another tasty edition of Friday Feast, coming to you again from the mighty metropolis of Melbourne where I’ve been for the Romance Writers of Australia annual conference. What a ball we had. I promise to post lots of photos for you when I get home. In the meantime you can enjoy this Friday Feast from me, where I wax lyrical about one of my favourite food destinations.

Cathryn Hein playing golfBut first, news from Us Heins Weren’t Meant To Play Golf. Not a lot of golf to talk about thanks to the conference but I did sneak down the Mornington Peninsula for a hit during the week. It was not pretty. The course was playing mean, it was bloody freezing, and I lost to His Majesty after being four shots up. Gah! But while the golf might have been ordinary, the views were good and the miserable day gave us the excuse to snuggle up in an Irish pub afterward with pints of Guinness and some hot, hearty food. There’s always a silver lining!

This week I’m going to feature my debut novel, Promises, which hit shelves almost four years ago to the day, on the 29th August 2011. Such an exciting time!

PROMISES

Promises by Cathryn HeinA father with something to hide, a jockey with a taste for blackmail, a man with an agonising secret. . . and a young woman in love, defying them all.

Sophie Dixon is determined to leave her tragic past behind and forge a bright future on her beloved farm. While looking to buy a new horse, she is drawn into her neighbour Aaron’s Laidlaw’s orbit, despite the bad blood between their families.

As the racing season unfolds, Sophie and Aaron’s feelings for each other deepen. But Aaron is torn, haunted by a dark secret he fears can never be forgiven – especially by Sophie.

Sophie believes herself strong, but the truth behind her mother’s death will test her strength, and her love, to the limit. She’s been broken once. No one wants to see her broken again. Least of all the man who has grown to love her.

This is such a wonderful book, with feuding families, deep secrets, loads of romance and a whole lot of good feeling. I’m horribly biased of course, but this story is completely sigh-worthy. If you missed Teaser Tuesday this week, there’s a little snippet for your reading pleasure there, plus a another extract on the Promises book page. Or why not just buy the whole book? You know you want to… Try Booktopia, Bookworld, Angus & Robertson, Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Google Play, JB Hi-Fi or your favourite book store or e-tailer.

All set? Good. Now come enjoy some happy foodie snaps from Mighty Melbournetown!

To Market, To Market!

I’ve never been shy about how much I adore Melbourne. It’s my favourite Australian capital. Melbourne has a great vibe, one of action and excitement, of fantastic food and culture, of interesting architecture and art, and it’s the spiritual home of that most excellent and pervable of sports, Australian Rules Football.

Pasta at Queen Victoria Market

Seafood at Queen Victoria Market

In many ways, it’s the city I grew up with. Mount Gambier, my home town, is almost equidistant between Adelaide and Melbourne. Being South Australian, you’d think we’d gravitate to our own capital for big city experiences but it was Melbourne that we frequented most. I guess simply because it was so much bigger. Or it could be that the road was easier. Driving to Adelaide via the Coorong was, admittedly, scenic but back then the road was pretty ordinary, and the alternative route through the upper south-east not much better, whereas Victoria’s Glenelg Highway and Princes Highway weren’t too bad. But that could be my faulty childhood memory. The older I get the more I find discover how many tricks that can play.

Olives at Queen Victoria Market

Cheese at Queen Victoria Market

I’ve been fortunate enough to live in Melbourne twice. The first time was post-university when I was employed by a pasture seed company that had a depot in Melbourne. The second time was in 2012 when Jim scored a brief posting here. Boy-oh-boy, did we make the most of that year. I think we spent every weekend doing something, whether it was going to the footy, taking a ferry up the Yarra, visiting a museum or gallery, shopping up a storm, or lunching at one of Melbourne’s many great restaurants.

Chicken nibbles at Queen Victoria Market

Offal at Queen Victoria Market

One of my absolute favourite things to do in Melbourne is visit the markets. The South Melbourne Markets were our regular haunt in 2012 but before then it was either Prahran Market or Queen Victoria Market.

Octopus and Cuttlefish at Queen Victoria Market

Chillies at Queen Victoria Market

Visiting Queen Vic late on a Saturday morning back in the 90s was a blast, especially the meat and seafood areas. The butchers and fishmongers would be in a mad scramble to shift stock before closing and if you timed it right you could snag some real bargains. Our favourite was 3 rolled beef seasoned roasts for $10 and trays of crumbed schnitzel for ridiculous prices. It was noisy, crowded and great theatre, and I revelled in it.

Gurnard at Queen Victoria Market

Fruit and Veg at Queen Victoria Market

Fishmonger at Queen Victoria Market

Female pork cuts at Queen Victoria Market

Naturally, being in Melbourne this past week for the RWA conference, I couldn’t miss another trip back to the market. We needed cheese and salumi to munch on and I wanted new ugg boots, and I just like the colour, atmosphere and interesting produce.

Duck eggs at Queen Victoria Market

Duck Breasts at Queen Victoria Market

Deli at Queen Victoria Market

Bread at Queen Victoria Market

What’s your favourite shopping experience? I’d love to hear recommendations, even if it’s not foodie.

While I adore Melbourne’s markets, I have to admit that my best shopping experiences have been overseas. Wandering through the ancient streets of Aix-en-Provence on market days is still one of the most vivid memories of our years in France. There was always something fascinating and the produce stalls were amazing.

What about you? Where can you recommend to shop?

If you’d like to learn more about me and my books, please feel free to explore my website. You’ll find everything from my book releases to past Friday Feasts and other blog posts. You might even discover some secret things about me. If you’d like to connect with me elsewhere, I’m on Facebook, Twitter as @CathrynHein, Google+, Goodreads and Pinterest.

For all the latest news and new releases, plus free short stories and other goodies, please sign up to my newsletter. I luuuurve newsletter subscribers and treat them super-special.

Friday Feast recipe index link.

FRIDAY FEAST with Fiona McArthur

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Greeting Feasty people, and welcome to what will be a truly fabulous edition of Friday Feast. This week, a rural romance to warm your heart, a travelogue from one of Australia’s most adored writers, cheese scones and a giveaway!

But first, the slow fade into sporting oblivion that is Us Heins Weren’t Meant To Play Golf. So the Ricky Fowler Puma duds failed to channel any talent, and both my new golf shoes and oversized putter grip also let me down. Not one to be put off, this time round I’m seeing if a shiny new Fiona McArthur Authorgolf bag won’t help. I had to buy one because now the fat grip of my putter won’t fit into my old bag. Honestly, it’s like a tumbleweed this drama, it just  keeps on collecting!

To the good stuff! Please give a big tasty welcome to Fiona McArthur, one of my favourite guests. Fiona is a midwife, author and all-round gorgeous lady. She began her writing career penning medical romances for Mills & Boon, earning multiple award nominations, and now has over 30 novels in print in 12 languages. Fortunately for rural romance readers, Fiona turned her talents to our genre, releasing first Red Sand Sunrise and following up with The Homestead Girls, out this month.

Check it out.

THE HOMESTEAD GIRLS

The Homestead Girls by Fiona McArthurMoving to the outback to join the Flying Doctors will change Billie’s life forever.

After her teenage daughter Mia falls in with the wrong crowd, Dr Billie Green decides it’s time to leave the city and return home to far western NSW. When an opportunity to pursue her childhood dream of joining the Flying Doctor Service comes along, she  jumps at the chance. Flight nurse Daphne Prince – who is thrilled to have another woman join the otherwise male crew – and their handsome new boss, Morgan Blake, instantly make her feel welcome.

Just out of town, drought-stricken grazier Soretta Byrnes has been struggling to make ends meet and has opened her homestead to boarders. Tempted by its faded splendour and beautiful outback setting, Billie, Mia and Daphne decide to move in and the four of them are soon joined by eccentric eighty-year-old Lorna Lamerton.

The unlikely housemates are cautious at first, but soon they are offering each other frank advice and staunch support as they tackle medical emergencies, romantic adventures and the challenges of growing up and getting older. But when one of their lives is threatened, the strong friendship they have forged will face the ultimate test . . .

A heartwarming story of friendship, courage and compassion in the outback from internationally bestselling author Fiona McArthur.

You will LOVE this one, so get that clicking finger ready because here come all the buy links. Purchase The Homestead Girls from Booktopia, Angus & Robertson or Bookworld. You can also buy from Amazon.au, Kobo, iBooks, Google Play, JB Hi-Fi, QBD the Bookshop, Abbey’s Bookshop, Fishpond, your favourite independent bookshop or chain store.

All clicked out? Excellent. Now kick back for a lovely journey with Fiona.

A Smile Around Every Corner

Thanks for asking me back, Cathryn, I can’t believe it’s a year since we shared picnic ideas together. But it must be, because my new Ruro Medical is out and about and I have another quick recipe.

Launched last week, THE HOMESTEAD GIRLS, is set in western NSW and around the iconic Broken Hill. Broken Hill. Now there’s a place with the unexpected smile around every corner.

The drive itself was a marathon, two days of eight hours for us, but it’s such a pleasure driving through the changing landscape and I can see why people hitch up caravans and head off to follow the sun.

The big research need this year was to soak in the landscape, research the flying doctor base, and savour a sojourn at a sheep station. See my fictitious Blue Hills Station. I called it Blue Hills because the barren looking hills are actually not barren, and one of the most common of those plants is Blue Bush, a species of Salt Bush. Kym made me chew some. I haven’t included the recipe here. Think salty string.

The main reference for my western NSW knowledge was Kym and John Cramps, the two person dynamos that run the station we stayed on. About half an hour out of Broken Hill lies Mt Gipps which used to be almost a million acres, well the original ‘broken-hill’ silver discovery was by a boundary rider on Mt Gipps Station, but the station covers around 85,000 acres now.

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They have accommodation, Shearer’s Quarters, Overseers Cottage and a Jillaroo’s Cottage (where we stayed which was a no-frills two bedroom house with everything you need) and all are down the hill from the sheep yards and shearing sheds. They were trucking out sheep the next morning so the timing was good to watch the action at the yards and Kym drove us around to see the breath-taking (bone dry) creek beds, gorgeously ghostly gums, and studded ridges. I can imagine budding geologists must have to fan themselves with excitement – even to me the glint of mica and multi-coloured rocks and formations were fascinating.

Kym offers Sunset Drinkies up on the ridge where you can see all the way to the machinery poking from the huge mine at Broken Hill, 40 kms away. The station is part of the Barrier Ranges, and in every direction the view is fabulous with a rustic utility shell to use as a backdrop for photos. To make it even better the company is a hoot and it turned out my husband did his ambulance training with Kym more than 30 years ago. How typical of travelling is that!

We took photos, drank bubbles and munched on nibblies as the sun went down. I was definitely going to have a scene here. From THE HOMESTEAD GIRLS out now!

“They were climbing up the last part of the track and she could see it wouldn’t be much further to the flat spot on top of the range.

Someone had dragged a rusted 1940’s utility as a car burial ground feature against the sparse scenery. It added a surreal quality with the wheel-less chassis resting on the ground and a tumble of larger granite rocks piled around it.

The golden ball of the sun was almost to the distant skyline, and the undulating ranges behind them were dusted red-gold with the reflection. Long shadows stretched from rocks and stunted trees and side of the rusted vehicle cabin and she leant against it to watch the shadows lengthen.

Morgan opened the creaking door and gestured her in. ‘Where would you like to go.’

She declined. ‘I like a few springs on my seat when I travel.’

He laughed. ‘There’s no pleasing some women.’ Then he shut the door on the empty cab so she could lean against it and they both turned to the view.

‘This is really beautiful.’

Morgan shifted up next to her and leant his hip against hers. ‘Scenery’s good too.’

She turned her face towards him and he leant forward and took her hand. Stroked her fingers. Waited for a reaction.

She stared down at their fingers entwined. How long since a man had done this simple caress? Since she’d let one?  The gentleness was so beautiful she just allowed herself the luxury of receiving without comment or movement.

Not a good enough response for Morgan apparently. ‘Dead fish,’ he said, and shook her wrist and she laughed though she felt like a shy schoolgirl on her first date.

‘I was waiting to see your moves,’ she quipped. It was his turn to laugh.

‘Oh. I’ve got moves.’

A sunset scene 🙂

But to food. You all know how I just LOVE to cook. Not! But I do have these sudden urges to make something I can slather butter on – and eat at sunset. Hence my cheese scones. It was actually Cathryn’s fault because she did cheese bread and it made me hungry. You reckon THAT bread was made in a hurry. Ha! I’m known as Mrs Quick!

Fi’s Mrs Quick Cheese Scones

(half recipe because there was only two us of that day)

Buttered cheese scones

1 ½ cups wholemeal self-raising flour

small pinch salt and a decent shake of parmesan from the container with holes.

half cup milk

60 gram butter (I melt it and put it in the milk)

Chuck all that in a bowl, stir with a knife, should all stick together. Then turn it out onto baking paper (means you don’t have to flick flour everywhere as it didn’t stick) and form by pressing with your hands it into a small, 2 cm high, flat ball.

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Really important – sip a small glass of Caramel Tequila, then use the glass to cut the scones.

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Lean them up against each other, melt another 80gms of butter and paint the tops of them, sprinkle with liberal grated cheese, and re-arranging them on the same baking paper ( I gingerly lift that onto a tray)  to cook for 10-15 mins in a very hot oven. I have a ‘smart’ oven that turns itself off so I don’t burn things.

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Break apart, slather with butter (otherwise they are incredibly dry – but they were quick!) and afterwards throw away the baking paper and you don’t even have to wash the tray.  I know, I’m a cooking heathen, but I LOVE writing books.

What’s your favourite food to nibble on? Do you have something you whip out at unexpected sunset parties. The quicker the better. I really would love to know and there’s a signed copy of THE HOMESTEAD GIRLS for the favourite recipe.

Cheers xxFi

Did you hear that, lovelies? We have a…

GIVEAWAY!

For your chance to win a signed copy of Fiona’s brand spanking new rural romance, The Homestead Girls, simply reveal your favourite quick food to munch on or a rapid and sure-fire recipe for surprise moments and you’ll go into the draw.

I’m going to say my easy-peasy cheesy bread from my recent Friday Feast, as mentioned by Fiona above. Fast and delicious! What about you?

Please note: Giveaway closes midnight Tuesday AEST, 7th July 2015. Australian postal addresses only.

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

Friday Feast recipe index link.

A Horsey History

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Have you ever wondered where your passions developed from, whether they were inherited, nurtured, spontaneous, or even adopted from someone else?

My father, Merv Hein, on Tactful Queen, winning the  1952 Frances Handicap, Naracoorte, SA.

My father on Tactful Queen, winning the 1952 Frances Handicap at Naracoorte, SA.

As many of you will know from visiting Friday Feast, I’m a passionate foodie, yet my mother never cared about cooking, produce or anything cuisine related. She loathed gardening too, whereas I love growing my own food. Dad reads, much more now he’s a bit housebound with looking after Mum, but Mum never did, whereas I’m a complete bookworm. My brother is sporty. I’m an enthusiastic participant but somehow the genes governing easy athleticism and co-ordination passed me by.

My love for all things equine, though? Ah, well, now that’s what is known in the vernacular as a no-brainer.

As happened in those days, my father was indentured as an apprentice jockey when he was 11 years old. It would be impossible to think of an eleven-year-old today leaving home to work and live with a racehorse trainer but Dad did it, thrived and had a bit of success too. I have the most marvellous, if a little battered, whale bone whip in my office which Dad won as the winning rider of Tactful Queen in the 1952 Frances Handicap at Naracoorte, SA.

The whale bone whip prize presented to my father, Merv Hein, as winning jockey of the 1952 Frances Handicap.

The whale bone whip prize presented to my father as winning jockey of the 1952 Frances Handicap.

But I guess he was only following in the footsteps of his forebears, because my grandfather was also a jockey, and my great-grandfather rode jumps races. I have a book I’m currently using for research called Personalities in Pink Coats by Brian J. O’Connor, which covers the history of the Cover of Personalities in Pink Coats by Brian J. O'ConnorMount Gambier Hunt Club. A club of which I was also once a member. There’s a wonderful story in it of a veterans race held on September 12th, 1931 to help celebrate the club’s Golden Jubilee. It was run during the local Winter Race Carnival, I assume at Mount Gambier’s Glenburnie Racecourse, although that isn’t specified. The SA Jockey Club allowed the race on the proviso it was run under SAJC rules and that the jockeys were amateur.

The veterans were aged 60 and over and among them was my great-grandfather Lou Hein, aged 63, riding Kings Street. The eldest rider was Jim Hanlon aged 77. As you can imagine, the race drew considerable interest. Perhaps some locals expected carnage. Not a chance. These riders were all true horseman and had been all their lives.

My great-grandfather Lou Hein circa 1900.

My great-grandfather Lou Hein circa 1900.

Lou was the only Mount Gambier man to ride, the remainder were from over the south-east of SA and western Victoria. I would love to say he won, but he didn’t. That honour went to 71 year old Jack Stock, riding 2/1 favourite Bonny Deen. According to Personalities in Pink Coats, Jack was a bachelor but won a lot of lady admirers that day. It was the silver cutlery that did it.

My great-uncle Clarence also rode and there’s a wonderful family tale of how, in 1928, Clarrie, aged sixteen, travelled from Mount Gambier across the Victorian border to Coleraine for a race meeting. When the meet proved unsuccessful, he headed back to Casterton where, the next day, he rode King Sam to victory in the Casterton Cup. Fast forward to 2008 and there’s Clarrie, aged 96, once again at the Casterton Cup, only this time presenting the prize to the winning jockey of the same race he’d won eighty years before.

My grandfather, Lloyd 'Torchy' Hein on horseback.

My grandfather, Lloyd ‘Torchy’ Hein

With this kind of family history it’s little wonder I was born horse mad. Fortunately I had Dad on hand to help teach me horsemanship. He was no longer a jockey, his career having ended at age twenty-one when his apprenticeship finished and he’d grown too big for the job, but there are some things you don’t forget. My teenage years are a blur of horses and horse events. Pony club, trail riding, saddle horses, dressage, eventing, showjumping, hunting – if it involved a horse and riding, I was probably in on it. I even worked for a couple of racehorse trainers riding exercise in my gap year before university.

Sadly, I no longer ride but I’m still horse mad and it’s a pretty fair assumption that when you pick up one of my books there’ll be a horse or two woven into the tale. I simply can’t help it.

Science may not have proven the existence of a gene for horse-mania, but if my family history has anything to do with it, something’s sure going on.

 

FRIDAY FEAST with Jennifer Scoullar

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Greetings, food and book lovers, and welcome to another tasty edition of Friday Feast. This week we trip to the tantalising tropics and go a bit nutty with one of Australia’s favourite rural and environmental fiction authors. Plus there’s a giveaway!

But first, the disappointment that is Us Heins Weren’t Meant To Play Golf. Sigh. Deep, deep sigh. I was on form, dropping shots off my handicap with almost every round. But that was before, when the sun shone bright and autumn was far away. Now… Oh, it is ugly. So very, very ugly. The summer of my golfing content is over. The curse has returned with the shortening days and I am but a hacker once more.

Author Jennifer ScoullarEnough lamenting. It’s time for our guest.

Australian author Jennifer Scoullar blazed into our literary landscape with the best-selling rural romance Brumby’s Run, following that success up with Currawong Creek and Billabong Bend. What makes Jennifer’s novels different is their focus on environmental issues. Issues that are often complex and divisive, yet Jennifer handles with knowledge and empathy.

Her latest is Turtle Reef, which officially releases next week . Take a look…

TURTLE REEF

TurtleReef_cover2.0From the bestselling author of Billabong Bend, Brumby’s Run and Currawong Creek comes a wonderful new novel set against the spectacular beauty of Queensland’s rocky coral coast.

Unlucky-in-love zoologist Zoe King has given up on men. Moving from Sydney to take up an exciting new role in marine science in the small sugar town of Kiawa is a welcome fresh start. Zoe  is immediately charmed by the region’s beauty – by its rivers and rainforests, and by its vast cane fields, sweeping from the foothills down to the rocky coral coast.  And also by its people – its farmers and fishermen, unhurried and down to earth, proud of their traditions.

Her work at the Reef Centre provides all the passion she needs and Zoe finds a friend in Bridget, the centre’s director. The last thing she wants is to fall for her boss’s fiancé, cane king Quinn Cooper, so she refuses to acknowledge the attraction between them – even to herself. But things aren’t quite adding up at the Reef Centre and when animals on the reef begin to sicken and die, Zoe’s personal and professional worlds collide. She faces a terrible choice. Will protecting the reef mean betraying the man she loves?

Ooh, this sounds exciting. Nothing like a story featuring a heroine stuck between a rock and a hard place. Definitely one for the buy list. Turtle Reef releases officially on Wednesday, March 25th but you can secure your copy right now.  Simply  pre-order from those good people at Booktopia, or try Bookworld, Angus & Robertson, Collins Booksellers, iBooks, Amazon.au, Google Play, Kobo, JB Hi-Fi, eBooks.com or your favourite bookstore.

All set? Then come swimming in delicious waters with Jennifer.

Turning Turtle

Many thanks for having me on ‘Friday Feast’ Cathryn, and for helping me celebrate the macadamia orchardupcoming release of my new book, Turtle Reef. The story is set at the southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef, where rainforests and cane fields sweep down from the foothills to meet the rocky, coral coast. Much more than sugar cane grows in these rich volcanic soils. Shady tropical orchards abound: avocados, custard apples, egg fruit, lychees, mangos – and of course macadamias, the king of nuts.

Macadamias aren’t really nuts at all, but the kernels of a hard, green fruit. I’m a bush tucker fan, and sometimes have trouble sourcing ingredients. But these are such popular international favourites, it’s easy to forget they’re indigenous.They macadamia fruitgrow on lovely rainforest trees that evolved not long after the death of the dinosaurs. For millions of years, they flourished along the east coast of Australia. However by the time Europeans discovered their commercial potential, they only persisted in a small number of rainforest remnants.

Today the macadamia tree is our only native commercial food crop. It can bear fruit for over 100 years. The oldest known tree was planted in 1858 at what is now Brisbane’s Botanical Gardens, and is still producing.

To celebrate the release of Turtle Reef, here is a simple macadamia recipe with a Queensland feel. I make this cake in a 30 cm cast iron skillet, however any oven-proof fry pan would do. An old-fashioned Aussie recipe, delicious but fattening!

Tropical Upside Down Cake

Tropical upside-down cake

Ingredients

½  cup butter

⅔ cup brown sugar

 1- 1 ½  cups unsalted roast macadamia nuts

Pineapple rings (fresh or canned)

1 cup plain flour

¾ cup sugar

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

½ cup milk

1 egg

Pineapple juice or syrup

Method

Melt ¼ cup butter in pan.

Add ⅔ cup brown sugar until melted. Use more butter & brown sugar if needed so that the bottom of the pan is covered with mixture. Once melted, remove from heat.

Arrange pineapple rings on top of melted brown sugar. Fill each with a macadamia nut. Chop remaining nuts and sprinkle in spaces, keeping some aside.

Sift 1 cup flour with ¾ cup of sugar and baking powder.

Add ¼ cup butter and ½ cup milk. Mix until well blended.

Add one egg and 2-3 tablespoons of pineapple juice or syrup. Mix well.

Pour batter over pineapple, spreading evenly to the edges. Sprinkle with remaining chopped nuts.

Bake 40-45 minutes or until golden.

Cool on rack for about 15 minutes. Place cake plate over pan, turn upside down and give a little shake. The cake should slide out easily.

For an indulgent tropical twist, serve warm, with Streets Blue Ribbon Coconut & Mango Ripple Ice Cream. Yum!

 

Doesn’t that sound divine? I was gone at the mention of caramel and macadamias. And don’t get me started on the sweet pineapple. Thanks for sharing this beautiful recipe, Jennifer. I’ll be testing this one out for sure.

Now, my luscious little Feasties, as you are probably already aware, Jennifer is not only an excellent writer but a generous soul. Which is why she’s offering a…

GIVEAWAY!

Yes, you could win your very own copy of Turtle Reef. Rah! But as always, you must work for it. Not very hard though. We’re about making life easy here on Friday Feast.

To be in the draw to win a copy of Turtle Reef, simply share which dish or food reminds you of the tropics.

Perhaps it’s a big bowl of juicy prawns with tangy seafood sauce, or a perfect fillet of reef fish with its skin grilled crispy. Maybe mangos or lychees or another exotic fruit like durian makes you think of sandy beaches and warm water. Or even a spicy green papaya salad and aromatic satays on the barbie. Reveal all and you’ll go into the draw.

For me it’s Morton Bay bugs. I love those babies and have them every time we head to north Queensland to visit Jim’s family. Served with bowls of nuoc cham for dipping, they go down a treat. A quick trip to the fish co-op and greengrocer, a bottle of something white and zesty to wash them down, and a feast is on.

So what brings out the tropics for you?

Giveaway closes midnight Tuesday, AEST, 24th March 2015. Australian postal addresses only.

If you’d like to learn more about Jennifer and her books, please visit her website. You can also connect via Facebook or Twitter using @JenScoullar.

This giveaway has now closed. Congratulations to Amanda B who has scored herself a copy of Turtle Reef. Lots of vicarious tropical living ahead for her. Thanks to everyone who joined in and shared their tropical delights. What fun!

 

THIS WRITING LIFE: ARRC Part 2 – The Photos

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I’m sure you’ll see from these photos that everyone who attended the weekend’s Australian Romance Readers Convention in Canberra had an absolute ball.

Victoria Dahl during her keynote speechI think the highlight for me (other than catching up with old friends and meeting new) was Victoria Dahl’s speech on unsympathetic heroines. I’ve never read any of her books but was left so impressed that by the end of her talk I’d bought two of them. Gotta love technology.

The booksigning was, as it always is, loud and enormous fun. I’m very grateful to that most excellent of book sellers, Booktopia, who generously gave away multiple copies of Rocking Horse Hill over the course of the weekend. So many people came up to me to get them signed and have a chat. It really made my convention. There were plenty of delegates with The French Prize too, which they’d received in their welcome bags thanks to Harlequin Australia. All of us came away loaded with excellent reads. I’m looking forward to Yes, Chef by Lisa Joy (thanks to Penguin Australia), The Brewer’s Tale by Karen Brooks and Luna Tango by Alli Sinclair, who also won the ARR Award for Favourite New Romance Author (both titles from Harlequin).

Here are some of my favourite happy snaps from the weekend. There would have been more only it appears I have managed to kill yet another camera. Sigh. Oh well, at least this one was only a cheapie, unlike the last.

Hot Chocolate, the blow-up horse, being given the kiss of life by Cathryn Hein in the QT bar at ARRC 2015

Hot Chocolate being given the kiss of life by me in the QT bar (pic thanks to Amy Andrews)

I arrived in Canberra a day early and after a spot of shopping wandered off to check out the Spirited: Australia’s Horse Story exhibition at the National Museum of Australia. The exhibition was nearing its end and the shop had discounted all its stock. Naturally, with all that lovely horsey stuff on offer, I went on a bit of a spendy-fest and one of the items I came away with was an inflatable horse. I thought I might use him as a prop during the booksigning or simply as a fun toy for my office.

But as I passed the bar on the way back to my room, I found myself waylaid by Anne Gracie and Kelly Hunter. I resisted their entreaties to join them hard. Really hard. These ladies are persuasive though, and it was with great reluctance *cough* that I settled down for a catch-up over a few drinks.

The crowd soon grew (must have been our magnetism) and somehow the blow-up horse was dragged out for a show-and-tell. After a bit of encouragement, I agreed to inflate him. What an effort! It was a close run thing but I eventually managed to get him blown up without passing out. He then needed to be christened, and while a few names were bandied about I believe it was Amy Andrews who came up with Hot Chocolate. And thus Hot Chocolate he became.

Anne Gracie with Cathryn Hein admiring Hot Chocolate the blow-up horse in the QT bar at ARRC 2015

Anne Gracie with me, admiring Hot Chocolate the blow-up horse in the QT bar at ARRC 2015 (pic thanks to Amy Andrews)

I’m proud to say that Hot Chocolate even scored a mention in Helene Young’s wonderful opening keynote speech, and was much-admired by many over the weekend.

My shy roomie at ARRC 2015, Rachael Johns

Rach was feeling a bit camera shy…

My ARRC roomie was good buddy and rural romance star Rachael Johns. She took a bit of prodding to get up on Friday morning. Rach blames the 3 hour time difference from WA to the ACT but I don’t know…

As mentioned, Helene Young (whose novel Safe Harbour also won Australia’s Favourite Romantic Suspense award) gave a wonderful opening keynote speech, in which she talked about her reading and writing journey. Helene was followed by book launches for Rachael Johns (The Road to Hope) and Shannon Curtis (Tribal Law). All proceeds from Tribal Law’s sales go to ARRA so if you haven’t yet nabbed a copy, go get! You’ll find across all major ebook platforms, including amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Smashwords or your favourite retailer. Or order the paperback from Booktopia.

Dangerous Liaisons panel at ARRC 2015. L-R: Cathryn Hein, Shannon Curtis, Helene Young and Bronwyn Parry

L-R: (a grumpy-looking) me, Shannon Curtis, Helene Young and Bronwyn Parry (thanks to DB Tait for the pic)

The rest of my morning was taken up by the Red Dust Heroes panel with Rachael Johns, Lisa Ireland, Alissa Callen and myself, and superbly moderated by Jeanie Misko, followed by the Dangerous Liaisons panel where I was joined by Bronwyn Parry, Helene Young, Shannon Curtis and moderator with the mostest, Amanda Knight.

Saturday night was awards night, and what fun was had! The theme was roaring 20s (or something like that!) so there were lots of flappers.

Rach and me getting ready for the ARR Awards dinner at ARRC

Me and Rachael Johns getting ready for the awards dinner. A couple of glammypuss flappers!

Me with Red Sand Sunrise author and all-round gorgeous person Fiona McArthur showing off our sexy flapper outfits

Me with Red Sand Sunrise author and all-round gorgeous person Fiona McArthur, showing off our matching sexy flapper outfits.

Some of the crowd at the awards dinner.

Great crowd at the awards dinner!

Fiona Lowe, Shona Husk, Delwyn Jenkins and Cheryl Adnams all dressed up for the ARRC 2015 dinner

L-R: Fiona Lowe, Shona Husk, Delwyn Jenkins and Cheryl Adnams.

Kylie Scott (deserving winner of Australia’s Favourite Romance Author and more) sponsored a photo booth at the dinner where a lot of fun was had. Here’s my collection.

Pictures from the ARRC dinner photobooth

Another highlight of ARRC was the booksigning. This is such a great event and very well attended.

The booksigning room

Alyssa Montgomery, me and Trish Morey

Alyssa Montgomery, me and Trish Morey

Cathryn Hein and her blow-up horse at the ARRC 2015 booksigning

Me and Hot Chocolate the blow-up wonderhorse.

Sunday was another full-on but fun day. As mentioned, Victoria Dahl gave a great speech and there were plenty of fascinating panels to keep us perky after a big night.

Anna Campbell, Christina Brooke and me enjoying the romantic destinations panel

Anna Campbell, Christina Brooke and me enjoying the Romantic Destinations panel.

L-R: Kate Cuthbert (moderator), Margareta Osborn,  Cheryl Adnams, Barbara Hannay and Victoria Dahl.

L-R: Kate Cuthbert (moderator), Margareta Osborn, Cheryl Adnams, Barbara Hannay and Victoria Dahl on the Small Town Seduction panel.

Reader Jeanie Misko  enjoying the Changing Lanes panel at ARRC 2015, featuring Trish Morey and Fiona McArthur (plus Amy Andrews and Fiona Lowe out of shot).

Reader (and our fab Red Dust Heroes panel moderator) Jeanie Misko enjoying the Changing Lanes panel, with authors Trish Morey and Fiona McArthur in the background.

Overall, a wonderful time was had at ARRC 2015. Everyone left Canberra feeling fab except for poor Hot Chocolate, who was feeling very flat that it was all over.

Hot Chocolate the blow-up wonderhorse felt very flat that ARRC was over.

Never mind. We’ll resurrect him again in 2017!

If you’re after a romantic read that won’t let you down and would like a list of all the 2014 ARR Award winners, you’ll find them all on the ARRA blog.