I can’t believe it’s almost Christmas again – this year has gone way too fast, right? One of my favourite things about Christmas time (apart from the time with family and friends, the decorations, the tree, the anticipation and celebration, the food I never eat at any other time, the making of gifts and sending of cards and the general craziness of this time of the year) is the holiday novel. And I have the perfect one for you.
My lovely and talented friend, Louise Reynolds, who I first met through Romance Writers of Australia, has a wonderful Christmas novella with the kind of delightful Australian setting she does so well. She’s here today to talk about writing it and to give us a little taste. Take it away, Louise.
A Kirribilli Christmas
It has always been a puzzle to me that people who haven’t bothered to catch up all year suddenly simply must catch up before Christmas. Similarly, family who aren’t in touch regularly throughout the year are hell-bent on squeezing into one twelve to fourteen hour period, multiple visits – and gargantuan meals – with not only their own blood relatives but those of their spouse or partner. And as many of us acquire more complicated family arrangements, this can reach almost ridiculous levels as we hurtle about the countryside trying to please everyone.
Can there be anything more fraught than the delicate negotiations about whose family will be graced with your presence this year for Christmas lunch? How do you politely extricate yourself from a meal running overtime in order to drive 100 kilometres to another home to start all over again?
In my latest release, A Kirribilli Christmas, Shelby Collins has turned her back on her upbringing in Sydney and headed for the bright lights of LA. But years later, let down by her boyfriend at Christmas, she travels home to the reunion of a very unusual family. I loved writing this coming home story not least because it was a chance to showcase a hot Australian Christmas, with not a snowflake in sight.
There was a woman in his garden.
Dan Sayers climbed down from the ladder, laid the brush on the paint tray and swiped an arm across his sweaty forehead. He picked up a rag, wiping his hands as he moved closer to the window.
She was at the bottom, where the path that wound down through the steep front garden, snaking through dense foliage and vines, met the street. In the slanting, late afternoon light her face should have been exposed, but she’d stopped, shrouded in the deep shade of the arbour, as though uncertain whether to climb the path or run.
Just like Dan had been when he’d first entered that garden as an eight year old boy: dirty, rebellious and unloved. He hadn’t known it at the time but that steep path had been the highway to a new life.
Maybe she was just resting in the shade before moving on. He couldn’t blame her. The dense humidity that had made painting such hard work cloaked the afternoon, rendering it a hushed torpor. Even the birds and insects seemed too tired to stir. His gaze shifted to the suitcase sitting in the sun and he frowned. It was one of those glossy, expensive hard-sided affairs, gleaming like oyster shell.
If she’d arrived by ferry and lugged that bag up the dozens of steps from Kirribilli wharf, she was probably exhausted. An easterly would come through later but right now Sydney wilted in the heat.
He wasn’t expecting anyone, not until tomorrow when the old house would be full of people, none of them related by blood but the best kind of family, the sort cobbled together with love. He couldn’t wait.
The clean, pungent smell of paint was overlaid by a honeyed floral scent that seemed crushed and distilled and carried on the warm afternoon air. He stepped through the French windows and onto the veranda as though drawn by the scent but in reality he knew it was curiosity.
A prickle of awareness shivered up his spine as he gazed down the garden. If it wasn’t for the defeated tilt of her head, the slightly bowed shoulders, he’d swear it was— He bit off that thought. Of course lots of people were on the move the day before Christmas, travelling to be with family and friends.
The woman straightened her shoulders and stepped forward, out into the sun. It glinted on the blonde hair which fell shimmering to her shoulders. Could he see or did he just imagine the deep breath she took, as though she were marshalling her reserves? Or maybe it was in preparation for a sigh.
Then she tilted her face upwards, looking directly at the house, and Dan swore softly.
Shelby Collins had come home.
Thanks for that, Louise. I can’t wait to read it over Christmas. You can buy ‘A Kirribilli Christmas’ here:
And you can find out more about Louise here:
I have been invited by the fabulous Jennifer St George to participate in the Meet the Character Blog Hop. You can read about her chosen character, the fabulous, sexy and mysterious Nicolo Capitini in Tempted by the Billionaire Tycoon here.
Jennifer writes sexy romances set in exotic locations and is one of the rising stars of Destiny Romance.
The rules of the blog hop is that I introduce a character from a book I’m writing or is about to be released and answer the set questions about them. Then I have to tag another person to continue the hop. The character I’ve chosen is River Collins from Healer Moon, the second in the Witch Were Chronicles which started with Dark Moon.
MEET THE CHARACTER
1.) What is the name of your character?
2.) Is he fictional or a historic person?
He is fictional – although he feels completely real to me.
3.) When and where is the story set?
The story is set just a few years into our future and is set in Melbourne, Australia.
4.) What should we know about him?
River is a Werewolf who has had to suppress his true nature for most of his life when he and his twin sister (Skye Collins) were kidnapped from the Pack they were a part of by their grandparents to keep them safe from the people who had killed Skye and River’s parents. Skye is the heroine of Dark Moon, the first in the Witch-Were Chronicles, and when we meet River in that novel he is most definitely not himself. He has been drugged to help him deal with the anger of his wolf at being forcibly repressed for close to 20 years, and despite a few moments of clarity, seems to be living in a fantasy world. He has a talent for and love of gardening and spends much of his time in the garden doing beautiful landscapes.
In Blood Moon, River is off the drugs, but after years of having his wolf repressed, he finds he can’t change into anything but a half-man, half-wolf monster that is so full of rage, it wants to kill everyone, especially the woman who is meant to be his mate, the Pack’s Healer, Bronwyn Kincaid. He is fighting himself at all times and his wolf’s desire to be with his mate – which he knows can’t happen, because he is broken and dangerous. Add to this the fact that the insane Witch from Dark Moon responsible for his parents’ death is after him to use the schism in his nature to help her destroy his people and take all the magic for herself, and there is more than enough for him to be messed up about.
6.) What is the personal goal of the character?
To save his Pack and his mate and to protect Bronwyn from him and stop the mating from coming into being. He thinks the answer is to get away from them all and kill himself so that he won’t be a part of destroying them – which is more difficult than it sounds, because they are keeping him constantly under surveillance, aware that he is a target. He’d also like to find some way of killing Morrigan, the insane Witch who has made it her life’s mission to destroy the Were.
7.) Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?
It’s called Healer Moon and is the 2nd novel in the Witch-Were Chronicles, the first of which, Dark Moon, was published this year.
8.) When can we expect the book to be published or when was it published?
I am still polishing it and writing Blood Moon and Ghost Moon, the 3rd and 4th in the series, but hope that it will be ready to be submitted next year.
So, that is River’s story. And next week it will be time to hop to Sasha Cottman’s blog to find out more about her chosen character.
Born in England, but raised in Australia, Sasha has a love for both countries. Having her heart in two places has created a love for travel, which at last count was to over 55 countries. A travel guide is always on her pile of new books to read.
Five years ago, Sasha accidently enrolled in a romance writing course. Other than Pride and Prejudice she had never read a romance book before. She soon discovered that the world of historical romance allowed her to combine her love of history with the passion of romance writing.
You can find out more about Sasha at: http://www.sashacottman.com,
Follow her on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/sashacottman,
It is my pleasure to have Leesa Bow on my blog tonight. I first met Leesa on Facebook when she sold her first book, Winning the Player, with Destiny. She struck me as one of those people who are never caught without a smile, someone who is positive about life and their place in it, and in the time that I’ve come to know her, I haven’t been proved wrong. I had the pleasure of meeting her face to face at the RWA conference in Sydney this year and she is one of the loveliest people you are likely to meet – incredibly warm and very generous with her time and efforts to help all her friends and other writers. She has helped me out with a lot of promotional opportunities and it’s a pleasure to be able to give her the opportunity to meet new people here.
It seemed appropriate, with this winning attitude (and given she writes about sports stars and their need to win in their personal and professional lives) that Leesa talk to us today about what winning means to her.
Take it away, Leesa.
The term winning has always fascinated me. Winning is ingrained into our DNA and our mere existence comes from our ancestors overcoming huge obstacles to survive. People see winning in life in so many forms, not only the winning in sport, which is the central theme in the stories I like to write. From politics to horse racing, sport and celebrations, even an individual achieving a single goal, the power of success drives us to move forward.
But it isn’t just that. Often on social media I see captions of Winning with a picture of someone doing something simple. People are appreciating the smaller things in life without having to rely on an adrenaline rush for success. To me, enjoying life is about winning. I married a football player and witnessed the highs and lows of professional sports players, appreciated the success after months of intense physical work but when my daughter was diagnosed with cancer, winning took a whole different meaning.
To beat cancer is winning.
To have life is winning.
To give life is winning.
Celebrating happiness is winning.
Sharing the happiness of winning is good for the soul. Sharing creates more than one winner. People love to win and feel they matter, and that they make a difference. When we feel good about ourselves we open our hearts to love. Writing about love makes me happy so I guess writing romance makes me an absolute winner!
So let me tell you about the fun stories I write. My books are about second chance love and the sports hero whose tough exterior is weakened by love.
Winning the Player is about love catching up to you no matter how far you run. The sport theme is football and basketball. Charming the Outback is a second chance love story set in rural Australia, with a mild football theme. Jardine is book one in my cricket series. It is a young romance about first time love, and I am madly writing the sequel, Caught Out so not to leave readers disappointed.
At eighteen, Ava is sure she has found her soul mate in Jardine. Convincing their friends and family that what they have is more than just a crush, however, is an entirely different story. Jardine’s parents have his life mapped out with plans that don’t include Ava.
Their plans to get into med school and start their future together crumble when cricket sensation, Jardine, is selected to play for the Australian team and expected to spend most of the year touring internationally. Ava knows since they agreed to follow their dreams, no matter the cost, she has to let Jardine go.
Ava also discovers a new inspiration to move on with her life. But can she keep it a secret from Jardine? If he discovers the truth, everything between them could be destroyed.
Winning with my books is being able to share my stories with readers, and knowing that they enjoy them raises the successful bar. I liken it to a premiership sporting team, and the supporters getting just as much enjoyment with the added feeling of accomplishment as that of the winning team.
Thanks for reading and a big thank you to Leisl for having me!
It was a pleasure, Leesa. And thanks for telling us about what winning means to you. You can find out more about Leesa’s books at www.leesabow.com
You can buy her books at:
WINNING THE PLAYER
Amazon AUS: http://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B00J3KF4T0
Google Play: http://bit.ly/1s02wpT
CHARMING THE OUTBACK
Amazon AUS: http://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B00LNSTXJW
Google Play: http://bit.ly/1rW5WGK
Last week I had Carla Caruso on discussing the superstitions around Halloween, which I thought was fascinating. I always love learning about things like that, the origins of belief and how they have come into being. I always try to weave a little bit of this into the make-believe worlds in my novels, because I think it adds something of the human experience to what I create out of my own little mind. Dark Moon is set around Halloween, or Samhain as it is known. The eve the veil opens between worlds and the dead can be seen. The time I chose to set it was essential to the plot and the build toward what happens – in a way, Samhain is as much a character in the plot as the other secondary characters.
I love to share this fascination with mythology, legends and superstitions with my children, to help encourage their imaginations but also have an understanding of the world around them however it comes. To expand their minds and keep them open to new ideas – or ancient ones.
Many people say that Halloween is an American thing, that it’s commercial, a reason for businesses to make us buy stuff that we don’t really need. As we discovered from Carla last week, this isn’t true. Maybe it means this to many people, which is why they resist the fun of it, but at heart it is an Irish tradition based in Paganism (you can read all about that here), a celebration of harvest, of beginnings and endings, a tipping the hat to those past and an acceptance of all life has to offer. There are some lovely mysticisms and stories woven around the traditions of Halloween, of the carved pumpkins and the reason we dress up. But for me, Halloween is also about the gorgeousness of make-believe.
Of pretending unreal things could be real. Of looking into mythology and seeing fun and life and meaning. Of expanding imagination and having FUN.
Yes – the ‘f’ word – Fun. I love Halloween because for that one night, kids and adults can dress up and walk the streets together in friendship and the spirit of exploration and enjoyment. Yes, there is the whole trick or treat thing, with the expectation of lollies. But for me and my kids, that’s not the most enjoyable aspect of the night. It’s meeting others who have taken the time to dress up and have fun with make up and costumes and make-believe, chatting with strangers and hearing exclamations of delight (or horror as the case may be) of those who open their doors.
It’s also about my kids understanding choices and that everyone is entitled to theirs; that just because someone hasn’t joined in by greeting them with lollies at the door, doesn’t mean anything other than they just don’t want to. Or that they have other beliefs that don’t include celebrating All Hallow’s Eve. Which is A-Okay.
Another delight for us is the costume preperation – deciding what to dress up as and then finding things to make those ideas ‘real’ for the night. My favourite bit is the make-up. I love dabbling in make-up effects and have had lots of fun in the past turning my youngest into a fearsome vampire and Freddy Kruger
(both his choices). My eldest doesn’t like the make-up, but the youngest LOVES it as much as me (lucky for me).
This year, the youngest has decided to go as a Zombie. And not any pale skin, black lipped, black eyed zombie most kids go as. He wants the full on desiccating zombie effect. And so I have watched YouTube videos on how to do the zombie ripped skin effect.
If you have the right equipment (mainly liquid latex, tissues and an array of costume make-up colours and of course, facke blood and lots of it!), you can create quite realistic effects. I did a test run on my son’s arm the other night – what do you think? For a first try, I don’t think it turned out too badly. Perhaps a little more blue for a bruised skin effect around it, but it was quite easy and didn’t take too long either.
So, on Friday night, I will be doing Zombie make-up on my son and his cousin – and if I’ve got time, I might do up my sister and me too. I even bought some white contact lenses to give that truly ‘crazy walking dead’ feel. I’m going to a friend’s 40th birthday afterwards – it might just be fun to turn up as a zombie. And it might just give me a chance to share a little bit of the mythology of Halloween and zombies with other people if they’re interested. Can’t wait.
Tonight I’m thrilled to introduce the lovely and hugely talented Carla Caruso to my blog. Carla is a mother of twin boys and in her spare time (not sure when she gets any with twin boys, but she seems to be able to make it. Or maybe she’s Superwoman. My bet is on Superwoman, but that’s probably because I’m rather partial to superhero/heroine stories! ) she is also a journalist, the co-editor of Hearts Talk magazine (Romance Writer’s of Australia monthly magazine that goes out to our 1000 members) as well as being the author of five romance novels.
Her writing is contemporary and witty and often has a little fantasy/paranormal style twist that speaks to my heartstrings. Given Halloween is nearly upon us, Carla has decided to talk about the superstitions of All Hallow’s Eve (a topic that is sure to be a favourite in my household at the moment, with my two boys revving up to get dressed up in ghoulish costumes like they did last year!)
Take it away Carla.
Trick or treat? Halloween superstitions!
Thanks, Leisl, for letting me take your blog hostage for a little while [insert evil cackle]!
My name’s Carla Caruso and I’m a romantic comedy author from Adelaide, Australia. My latest releases have a sprinkling of the ‘spooks’, which has had me thinking about Halloween…. (My novella, Unlucky for Some, is about an ultra-superstitious journo who is given an assignment, ending on Friday the 13th, which will put all her fears to the test. And my novel, A Pretty Mess, is the first in a rom-com mystery series about a neat-freak professional organiser who gets caught up in messy mysteries with a sexy builder!)
But back to Halloween, also known as All Hallows’ Eve! Us Aussies have always considered the October 31st tradition to be more of an American thang… until recently. Have you noticed how our supermarkets are routinely filling up their shelves with faux Jack-o’-lanterns and Halloween-inspired choccies this time of year?
In my hometown, we also have a Zombie Walk at October’s start, where 8000 “living dead” walk from the city’s Rymill Park to Light Square – in costume – to raise funds for Foodbank SA. (Apparently Brisbane and Melbourne has such a walk, too.) That’s a lot of bad makeup and drooling…
I’ve also had an increasing number of trick-or-treaters knock on my door on Halloween. Not that I’m ever prepared. One year I gave a bunch of costumed girls gold coins when we were all out of chocolate (I blame the hubby!), and then another kid, without a costume, showed up, hoping he could get in on the money train, too…
To keep in the ‘evil’ spirit of things, I thought I would share some Halloween superstitions with you, dear readers…
- Trick-or-treating actually became customary in the US around the ‘50s after it was brought over by Irish immigrants.
- Carving Jack-o’-lanterns has its roots in a tragic fable. As the story goes, a drunken farmer, named Jack, tricked the devil, but his deception resulted in him being turned away from both the gates of heaven and hell following his death. Having no choice but to wander around the darkness of purgatory, Jack made a lantern from a turnip and a burning lump of coal that the devil had tossed to him to help guide his ‘lost soul’. So the belief became that placing Jack-o’-lanterns outside your pad would help guide lost spirits home when they wandered the streets on Halloween. Since turnips were hard to come by in the US at the time, pumpkins were quickly adopted as the substitute. The vegetable’s spookily carved faces were also said to be useful in frightening evil spirits away. (I’ll refrain from making any jokes here about mothers-in-law…)
- Seeing a bat on Halloween is considered an ominous sign, according to myth. If a bat is spotted flying around your house three times, apparently someone in your abode – eek! – will soon die. And if a bat flies into your house on Halloween, it’s a sign your place is haunted as ghosts let the bat in…
- Another superstition is that if a spider falls into a candle-lit lamp and is gobbled up by the flame, witches are nearby. Further, if you spot a spider on Halloween, the spirit of a deceased loved one is said to be watching over you. Which, for some reason, had me thinking of Ghost and that famous pottery scene…
- In olden times, it was believed that during Samhain – or ‘summer’s end’ – the veil between our world and the spirit world was the thinnest, hence, ghosts of the deceased could mingle with the living. (We know – ugh!) The superstition was that the visiting ghosts could disguise themselves as humans, for example, as a beggar, and knock on your door asking for dosh or food. If you turned them away, you risked being cursed or haunted. Another myth was that dressing up as a ghoul would fool the evil spirits into thinking you were one of them, so they wouldn’t try to steal your soul. Crafty.
- And finally, the Halloween hues of orange and black actually stem from the pagan celebration of autumn and the harvest. Orange symbolised the hues of the crops and turning leaves, and black marked the ‘death’ of summer…
Happy Halloween to you too, Carla, and thanks for sharing those fascinating facts with us – I love stuff like this. Make sure you check out Carla’s novels – they really are excellent reads. And share with us any fascinating superstitious facts you know – who knows, they might end up in one of Carla’s books (or even mine!)