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Posts Tagged ‘Destiny Romance’

It’s everyone’s favourite time of the week again, which means more Feasty goodness. And this week we have just the thing to satisfy the beast in all of us.

But first, in Us Heins Weren’t Meant To Play Golf news, last Saturday’s round saw a crow pinch my ball on the 2nd. I then hit three trees in a row on the 14th, and ruined a magnificent drive on the 17th by smacking two balls, one after the other, straight into the dam.Leisl Headshot tweet

That crow, it was an omen.

Speaking of omens, today’s guest, Australian author Leisl Leighton, understands them well. After having her dreams plagued by stories, Leisl decided to start writing them down. And a good thing she did too. Leisl’s stories have won and placed in many competitions in Australia and the US, including the STALI, Golden Opportunities, Heart of the West, Linda Howard Award of Excellence, Touch of Magic and many others.

Those dreams are now books, with Leisl’s latest paranormal fantasy hitting shelves next week. Take a look.

 

DARK MOON

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Cover of Dark Moon by Leisl LeightonLately, Skye Collins has been unable to shake the feeling that she’s being watched. After a lifetime spent hiding her true nature, she knows that any unusual attention is something to be wary of.  And the only attention she’s been receiving lately is from the intense and attractive Jason McVale. 

Jason claims to know things about Skye that can’t be true, and it’s obvious he’s hiding secrets of his own. Yet despite herself, Skye can’t resist the attraction between them, and her surrender will set in motion a chain of events that will have consequences for everyone she holds dear.

Gradually, Jason convinces Skye that she has to trust him if she is to solve the riddle of her past and learn the truth about her power.  But believing Jason means that her entire life has been based on a lie.

As her enemies gather strength and the danger increases, Skye is forced to accept who she really is. Will she risk everything and fight for those she loves? Or save herself and let them be destroyed by the forces of darkness?

 

Doesn’t that sound thrilling? Dark Moon can be pre-ordered now with just a click or two. Try Amazon for Kindle, iTunes, Google Play, Kobo, JB Hi-Fi or your favourite ebook retailer, or direct from the publisher Destiny Romance.

Okay, so you’re all stocked up? Marvellous. Now feast on this!

 

STEAK – THE WAY TO MAN AND BEAST’S HEART

 

It’s a thrill to be here again on Friday Feast talking food (and romance). I was trying to think of the things that my characters eat in my new paranormal romance, Dark Moon so I could talk about that. They seem to eat soup a lot with yummy, crusty bread, particularly because it’s winter and they’re up at the snow.

Those of you who remember my last guest blog here will know about my love affair with soup and its hearty warmth in the cooler months – particularly my fond memories of those eternal favourites, minestrone and pumpkin, when we were up skiing at Mt Buller every year. And those are the soups that I mention in Dark Moon (I very obviously have an obsession 🙂 ). However, I didn’t feel like it would be right to go on about soup again. So, I put on my thinking cap and wondered what other things my characters would eat if I hadn’t given my obsession for soup free reign and drowned them in it.

My male characters are Weres – shapeshifters who turn into wolves – and my female characters are Witches and Wiccans. My Wiccan characters are very much into the herbal side of things, but I didn’t feel like banging on here about all things herbal (even though they are pretty great for much of what ails you.) So, I turned my attention wholly to my male characters (not hard given they are pretty gorgeous if I say so myself) and the answer came to me in a flash.

Steak. No. Steak sandwiches.

Big, juicy, dislocate your jaw to get your mouth around it and taste that little bit of meaty- chilli-onion-tomato-cheese-beetroot-egg-and-lettuce heaven. The kind of steak sandwich that has sauce and juices dripping down your chin and across your hands that you lick off with relish, but still leaves you feeling a little sticky – doesn’t sound romantic at all, does it? But wait, if shared with someone else, that very someone could do the licking for you and you for him and…

I’ll leave that up to your imagination.

Anyway (big breath and a moment to still my madly beating heart), my characters would most definitely eat a steak sandwich. It is hearty and warming for the winter setting, but the beauty of a steak sandwich is that it can also be enjoyed in the height of summer when you really don’t feel like cooking, but firing up the barbie to sear a steak quickly and fry up some onions and egg, doesn’t seem like too much of a challenge. This summer, my family and I have enjoyed many a steak sandwich – the boys have got a sudden passion for them, and who can blame them? I cut up a bunch of toppings, put out a bunch of sauces, and they just make themselves up the steak sandwich their heart desires.

Too easy. Here’s a photo of one I whipped up tonight.

Leisl Leighton's steak sandwich

Steak Sandwich Recipe

 

Well, there’s not really 1 recipe for a steak sandwich, but this is how I like mine.

1 beef steak BBQ’d to taste – I prefer porterhouse, medium rare, but your choice really.

2 slices of bread – your choice what sort of bread you pick. We prefer soft sourdough or a good grain bread. You can toast it lightly if you want.

1 onion

1 tomato

1 egg

1 slice of tasty cheese (light if you want)

Sliced beetroot (this is really an Australian thing, but give it a go – it’s delicious)

Jalepeno peppers

Mixed lettuce

Chunky pickle mustard

BBQ sauce

Sweet chilli sauce

Balsamic vinegar

I make a kind of chilli jam out of the onion by sauteeing it in oil until it’s soft, then adding a decent splash of balsamic vinegar and half a cup of sweet chilli sauce. Then I turn it down to low and let it all simmer together until its thick and jammy. I then push it aside and cook my egg in the same pan (saving on the dishes later). I like my egg cooked so it is a little runny in the yolk still.

I toast the bread lightly, then put the chunky pickle mustard on one slice, the BBQ sauce on the other. Then on the chunky pickle side, I put the peppers, beetroot, egg, sliced up pieces of steak my manly man of a husband has BBQ’d to perfection, the cheese, tomato, onion-chilli-jam, and finally some lettuce. (picture 2 here) Then I put the BBQ sauce-smeared piece of toast on the top.

I cut in half and then dislocate my jaw to eat it! 🙂 I lick up the juices that run down my hands and chin, although, if a hunky Were offered to do it for me, I wouldn’t say no – but, my hubby might have a problem with that, so probably not. Sigh. I’ll just have to write about it in a future book.

And there it is, my steak sandwich, good enough to feed man and beast (and little boys), perfect for any time of year and always yummy. I hope all you wonderful Friday Feasters enjoy.

 

Wow. That is one amazing steak sanga, Leisl. Seriously mouth-watering. There is nothing so lovely as a burger that drips juices. The mess just adds to the taste!

Are you drooling out there, Feasters? Here’s your chance to drool some more. I think we can already tell that Leisl is a generous person from the size of her steak sandwiches. Well, now she’s going to prove it by giving away a Kindle ebook copy of Dark Moon.

Naturally, you’ll have to do something to earn this most excellent book and that’s by answering this question: What meal soothes the heart of your savage beast (or beasties) at home?

That’s easy for me – a big fat juicy steak. The man of the house just loves his beef. ‘Tis the north Queenslander in him.

But what about for you? Does a luscious lasagne satisfy your beasties? Maybe they all go quiet and dribbly with one sniff of a roast chook? Perhaps they’re softer beasties and roll over like puppies at the thought of a quiche?

Simply leave your soothing meal in the comments below and you’ll be in with a chance to win!

Giveaway closes midnight Tuesday AEST, 18th March 2014. Open internationally. Rah!

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

 

 

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‘Tis fabulous Friday again! Which means I can brag about my most excellent golf game before introducing my equally excellent guest. Oh, come on, I know you want to hear how I actually managed to play to my handicap for the first time in months, and how I would have scored even better had I not had those two duffed shots on the 17th. The question now is, can I do it again? Knowing the Hein prowess at golf, probably not.Author Elise K. Ackers

Never mind, I’ll always have Friday Feast to cheer me up, and I’m feeling very cheery indeed about today’s guest. If you haven’t read contemporary romance and romantic suspense author Elise K. Ackers then you need to correct the situation fast. This girl is talented. Like really talented. Elise’s stories vibrate with tension and emotion, featuring vivid characters that draw you into their lives and sweep you along on a heart-warming, drama-packed ride. Yes, I ‘m a complete fan girl and I’m not afraid to say it!

Elise has just released the third book in her cracking Homeland series, Ask Me For Tomorrow. Take a look.

 

ASK ME FOR TOMORROW

 

Cover of Ask Me For Tomorrow by Elise K. AckersThree years after losing his wife, Dean Foster feels like he’s living in a daze. When he finds himself attracted to his new employee, it comes as quite a shock.

Single mum, Alice Jaye, is struggling to make ends meet. She’s too tired to flirt with her gorgeous new boss and firmly maintains a professional distance. But when their children bring them into close contact, keeping their relationship strictly business isn’t easy.

As Alice and her son spend more time with his family, Dean’s heart begins to open once more. But can he risk starting all over again?

This eagerly anticipated final book of the Homeland series is a tender, heartwarming story about letting go of the past and giving love a second chance.

 

Eagerly anticipated indeed. And you can have your own copy right now. Buy direct from Destiny Romance or try Kobo, JB Hi-Fi, BigW ebooks, Google Play, iTunes or Amazon for Kindle. If ebooks aren’t your thing, keep your eye out for the paperback collection of all three Homeland books, coming February 2013.

And now please give a big cheer for Elise!

 

If I Appear On This Blog Five Times, I’ll Run Out Of Things I Can Cook

 

I’m delighted to be a guest on Cathryn’s Friday Feast, and admittedly, a little worried. If even one person makes this recipe, that’s a lot of responsibility on me. So allow me to preface the following with a warning: my cooking skills leave a lot to be desired. I can make five dinner dishes really well, five other dinner dishes moderately well, and the rest are out of my league. I’m a dessert girl. For eating, for making – I’m the person who thrusts her hand in the air to volunteer to bake for, well, any reason at all.

Yet here I am, offering you a dinner dish because I wanted to challenge myself. But before you run away, the below recipe is for one of the better dinner dishes. One I’ve cooked for many, many people who are all still alive, and who remember the evening fondly (unless they’ve all agreed to never mention the meal, kind of like Bridget Jones’s blue soup incident).

My mum walked me through this recipe before I moved out of home, and I’ve since adjusted it to be infinitely sweeter. You may find iterations of it on the web or in a cookbook – I’m not sure where my mum first learned it, but she successfully sent me out into the world with a few dishes in my repertoire. I was a very reluctant student, so hats off to her. I have since learned, I think… two more dinner recipes on my own.

Yet I’ll turn up with a new kind of cake, slice or biscuit almost every fortnight.

So without further ado, I’d like to share my favourite chicken dish. It’s on the sweet side and can be garnished with any number of things. I’m quite minimalist about extras due to personal preference, so feel free to add colour, texture and taste where you see fit. And indemnify me from all outcomes!

 

Creamy Honey Mustard Chicken

 Creamy honey mustard chicken ingredients

 

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon of vegetable oil

4-6 chicken breasts

1 tablespoon of honey mustard

2-3 tablespoons of honey

1/3 teaspoon of garlic

1 small container of thickened cream (use less if you don’t like so much sauce)

2 bundles of Hakubaku Organic Somen Noodles

Mushrooms, onions, chicken stock, beans, etc all optional. Let your tastebuds guide you!

 

Directions:

  1. Cut chicken into finger-width strips.
  2. Cook noodles as directed on packet.
  3. Simultaneously heat oil in a large frying pan and cook the chicken until golden brown. Remove from heat and set aside.
  4. In a bowl, mix mustard, honey, garlic and cream.
  5. Put frying pan with chicken over low-medium heat, stir in sauce and heat through.
  6. Strain noodles, arrange on plates and load chicken and sauce on top.

This is an almost colourless dish if you don’t add mushrooms, beans, etc, but having never added more flair than a sprig of parsley, I can’t make suggestions on this front.

This is very tasty, it reheats really well, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve made it and I’m confident someone in your house will like it.

If Cathryn invites me back, I promise next time to share one of my baking recipes. They’re all terrible for your teeth and waistline, which of course, means they’re divine.

Thanks for having me Cathryn, I’ve worked up my appetite now!

 

So have I, Elise! Mmm, honey mustard chicken. Now that’s a dish to make your mouth water, and perfect to tempt the tummies of any fussy eaters out there, I’m sure.

Now, clever Feasters, do you have a fall-back recipe? One you know can’t fail you – that you’re perhaps a little known for?

Me, I make awesome Greek meatballs (if I do say so myself) that even the fussiest eater will adore. Lovely little balls of spiced lamb in a delicious tomato sauce, served with what else but a fetta laden Greek salad. Oh, I just gave myself the slurpies thinking about that. What a bugger we’re having stir-fry for dinner…

So what’s your crowd-pleaser? Share and everyone will pounce on you for the recipe, or think you’re awesome, or both. There is kudos in commenting!

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

 

 

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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

 

 

 

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The Romance Writers of Australia conference is over for another year, and what a brilliant time was had by all. There is nothing quite so inspiring and warming as hanging with your tribe, and Fremantle was a fantastic location, well worth the trip to the west. I’ll be blogging about our fun and games later, so keep your eye out for that.

But first, to the task at hand and another Australian debut author. Leisl Leighton is a tall redhead with a big imagination, a double major in English Literature and Drama, a former career as an actor, singer and dancer, as well as script writer, stage manager, and musical director for cabaret and theatre restaurants. She also has a hubby, two boys and a dog named Buffy, and now she’s a published author of romantic suspense. Yup, this is one full-on life liver!

Leisl’s debut novel is the wonderfully titled Killing Me Softly. Take a look…

 

KILLING ME SOFTLY

 

Killing Me Softly by Leisl Leighton coverReclusive record producer, Alexia Deningham, guards her privacy fiercely. When she agrees to work with superstar Daemon Flagherty, and his band, it is only on the condition that they stay with her at her isolated country estate.

Fresh from a messy divorce, Daemon is determined to focus on his music. He wants to work with the best and that means Lexi. He certainly isn’t looking for romance, but he finds himself intrigued by Lexi’s secretive behavior.

Despite Lexi’s reservations, their attraction grows.  But someone is watching Lexi. Someone who will stop at nothing to destroy the woman who has ruined his life. When his campaign of terror ratchets out of control, Lexi must fight for survival but who can she really trust?

 

How cool does that sound? I got all shivery just reading that blurb. Killing Me Softly can be yours now with just a few clickety-clicks. You can buy the ebook direct from the publisher Destiny Romance or try Kobo, iTunes, JB Hi-Fi Books, Google Play, Amazon Kindle or Angus and Robertson.

Please welcome Leisl to Friday Feast!

 

WINTER IS A SOUPADOUPASOUPFEST

 

Unlike most of the sun loving country, I love winter. And this is the reason why:

When I was growing up, whenever winter rocked around, it meant two things in my house – hoping it would snow up at the mountains in time for our annual ski trip to Mt Buller and lots and lots of soup for lunch and dinner. My whole family loved our ski trip and we loved warming soup. And when the two were combined – sublime! For me, these two things are still something I look forward to every year.

My mum loves soup. She did then and she still does, and that has kind of rubbed off on me. She used to regularly make a huge pot of some kind of soup, some of which we would have for dinner and lunches over the next few days and some of which was put into the freezer for those nights she didn’t feel like cooking anything (something I can hugely relate to now I’m a working mum). Pea and ham, tomato, cauliflower and ham, broccoli, pumpkin with sweet potato and a hint of curry, potato and leak and the perennial favourite – minestrone. There were others she tried that weren’t so successful, but these were the ones we ate most often. I can still close my eyes and remember the smell of the hamhock cooking in the pot with the split peas, the rich, salty aroma that would pervade the house and make my stomach rumble and the satisfaction of finishing my bowl with a hunk of bread and butter to scoop up the dregs.

Yum!Spinach and rice soup in a bowl

My little family (husband, two sons) favourites are a bit different -: vegetable wonton soup, pumpkin, sweet potato and curry soup, chicken soup (my husband makes this with matzo balls just like his grandma used to make), a version of my mother’s minestrone and a fabulous soup I found a recipe to in a great Mediterranean cookbook  I have, spinach and rice soup.

While I love all of the above, the one that warms the cockles of my heart and fills my belly with yummy, warming goodness is my minestrone soup. Like much of my cooking, it’s based on what my mum used to do, but seeing I’m not a follow a recipe kind of girl (I like throwing things I feel like eating in a pot and adding stuff to taste), it has changed to something far more chunky.

 

MINESTRONE SOUP

Minestrone soup in the pot

The minestrone is something I make in a 10 litre pot like my mum used to do and freeze what isn’t eaten in the first few days. I don’t have a fixed recipe for it, because like traditional minestrone, it is made out of things I mostly have in the house. However, the things I mostly throw into it are:

½ celery (chopped roughly, leaves and all)

2 zucchini (grated)

1 parsnip (diced)

2 swede (diced)

4 carrots (grated)

Tin of red kidney beans (washed)

Tin of chick peas (washed)

1 ½ cups pearl barley (washed)

Diced beef (it’s better if it still has a little fat on it)

2 tins chopped tomatoes

Bag of spinach (or box of frozen spinach is fine)

4 litres vegetable stock

Basil (chopped)

Chili (chopped – or 1 tbls sambal oelek)

2 pinches of ginger

2 pinches of paprika

Salt and pepper to taste

I have also used onion, eggplant, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, sweet potato, capsicum, mushrooms – pretty much any veg I’ve had in the fridge that I need to use and would go in a soup together well. You can also use any Italian herbs you like and add garlic too. I add garam masala spice instead (because, as I said, garlic doesn’t like me). I like different textures in the soup, which is why I grate some of the veg and chop or dice the rest.

Sauté the vegetables in some oil and the herbs and spices in the large pot, add the beef, let it cook through a little, throw in the tinned tomatoes, chick peas and kidney beans and stir, then add the vegetable stock and bring to boil. Minestrone soup in the bowlWhen it’s boiling, add the pearl barley and stir then drop to a simmer. The longer you can leave it on to simmer and cook, the better – 3-4 hours is good, occasionally stirring. My husband likes it thick, almost like a stew, but if you want it to be more soup-like, you could add more water or stock. You can even add some wine (red wine is best).

It’s best served with some parmesan and a hunk of fresh bread.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed sharing my love of soup with you on the Friday Feast. Thanks so much for having me here.

 

My pleasure to host you, Leisl, and thanks for that wonderfully soupy post! Soupadouping it up is one of things that makes winter tolerable (that and open fires, AFL footy, Guinness and red wine). Such a lovely comforting feeling to sit down with a steaming bowl of soup when it’s filthy outside.

Now sit up, my fine Feasters. Most generous person that she is, Leisl has offered give away to one lucky commenter a Kindle ebook copy of Killing Me Softly. Simply reveal which soup warms the cockles of your heart and you’ll go into the draw. Are you a hearty vegetable sort or maybe a traditional style chicken noodle? Perhaps you’re a hot n spicy type and crave a big bowl of blow-your-nostrils-out tom yum soup? Come along. Reveal all. We’re nosy buggers on the Feast and you could win!

Giveaway closes midnight Tuesday AEST, 27th August 2013. Ebook giveaway prize available in Kindle format only. Open internationally. Rah!

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

You can also watch this video of Leisl being interviewed by Carol George of Destiny Romance, where she talks about Killing Me Softly and how she came to write it.

 

This giveaway has now closed. Congratulations to Paula who has won a Kindle ebook copy of Killing Me Softly. Thanks to everyone who took part. Hope to see you again soon!

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This week on Friday Feast we’re fulfilling a destiny, oh yes we are! How, you ask? Easy, we’re hosting lovely Aussie author and ARRAward finalist Imelda Evans whose debut contemporary romance, Rules Are For Breaking, Imelda Evanswas recently released by Penguin Australia’s brilliant new digital offshoot, Destiny Romance. See? Told you there was a connection.

Imelda writes contemporary novels about women’s lives  – the dramas, the challenges the joys and the occasional loaded gun – and how they get through them with a sense of humour and a little help from their friends.

Or, as Imelda so wonderfully puts it, contemporary fiction with a sense of humour; because life is serious, but reading should be fun! Which says to me that Rules Are For Breaking is going to be one rocking read.

 

RULES ARE FOR BREAKING

 

Rules are for Breaking coverJo is a smart and determined young woman with a clear-eyed view of men and what she expects of them. Put simply, she is over searching for ‘The One’. When challenged by a friend who thinks she can’t do it, Jo goes one step further and vows not to date, sleep with or even kiss a man for six weeks.

Enter Declan, Jo’s gorgeous yet unwelcome house guest.  Convinced he can win her over, Declan views Jo and her vow as an irresistible challenge.

An infuriated Jo declares that Declan is like all the others – attracted to her for all the wrong reasons. She insists that he devote time to getting to know the real her and to doing the things she loves.  Will Declan survive the test? Or will a major misunderstanding spoil everything? 

Rules Are For Breaking is a witty, entertaining romance certain to have even the most disenchanted believing in love again.

 

Ooh, what fun! And you can right now own your own copy. Buy direct off Destiny Romance or head to Amazon (for the Kindle edition), Kobo, Google Play or Apple iTunes.

 

HOW TO LOOK GOOD IN THE KITCHEN WITHOUT REALLY TRYING

 

Who doesn’t love food?

Think of all the things it can do.  It can sustain life, bring pleasure, mark celebrations, gather families, diffuse awkwardness, expand horizons, comfort, challenge and even seduce.  How many other inanimate objects do you know that can do that?

I love it.  And so, by extension, do my characters.

In Rules are for Breaking, my hero, Declan, begins his campaign to snare the heroine, Jo, by inviting her to a picnic.  It’s a smart move.  She’s a pretty tough customer, and she’s very wary of Declan, but she isn’t proof against an offer of smoked salmon, tropical fruit and wine when she’s hungry.

Especially since, like many of us, Jo likes the idea of eating wonderful food more than preparing it.  Given a choice, she doesn’t cook at all.  I like to cook a little more than that, but even I struggle with time and energy these days.

Once upon a time, I would home-make béarnaise sauce for a dinner party.  I would segment oranges for a dozen people and make the pasta as well as the sauce from scratch.  But those days are gone.

Actually, if I’m honest, they were never all that common.  It’s true that I have done all of the things listed, but lest you think I was some kind of demented Julia Child wannabe, I should add that I have done each of them exactly once.  Even in my footloose and fancy free days, my kitchen masochism was limited.  I liked to make impressive stuff, but after a few dinner parties that I was too exhausted to enjoy, I started to rethink the MasterChef-y carry-on.

And now that I am mother, wife, volunteer, dog and frog wrangler, house manager and writer, anything that takes hours to prepare is out.  I’d rather spend my emotional energy in my fiction than the kitchen.  And I like to be able to invite people around at a moment’s notice without freaking out about what to feed them.

So I’ve developed a repertoire of solid favourites that are easy, quick and tasty and can be put together either from what I have in the pantry or what I can gather with a very quick swing around the supermarket.

The three dishes I’m sharing today are a mish-mash of influences from all over the world – appropriate for both me and Jo, as we live in Melbourne, a city which seems to absorb new cultures mainly to pillage their cuisines.

The first is an excellent snack for unexpected guests, or for writing breaks mid-afternoon when vegemite toast and an apple just isn’t doing it for you.

 

Do-it-yourself Dukkah

 

Dukkah is a middle-eastern snack, made from a mixture of crushed nuts, seeds and spices and served with oil and bread for dipping.  It comes in all sorts of different styles, depending on who makes it.  Some are lumpy with nuts, others are quite fine; some are mild and almost creamy, others are fiery.  I love it, but I don’t always have it on hand, as you can’t keep nut-based things too long or they go rancid.  But I have discovered that you can mock up a very acceptable home-made version with what’s in the pantry.  The quantities given (and indeed, the ingredients) are all approximate.  You can adjust depending on what you have and the flavour you like.  Just start with a very small amount of the spice mix.  It’s almost certainly stronger than you think, when eaten raw, like this.

Ingredients:Dukkah ingredients

Sesame Seeds

Poppy Seeds

Morrocan Spice Mix*

Salt

Breadcrumbs or crushed nuts**

Oil and bread to serve.

Method:

Put approximately 1Tbs each of Sesame and Poppy seeds into a small bowl with 1tsp of spice mix, 3-4 Tbsp of nuts or breadcrumbs and a dash of salt.  Mix, taste and adjust the seasoning.  Serve with good oil and hunks of bread.

Dukkah ready to eat*I used a Moroccan rub from Dean and Deluca in New York (foodie heaven, should you ever happen to be in Soho, NY, NY).  But I’ve also used Moroccan spice mix from my suburban supermarket.  I was just showing off for the photo!

**The first time I made this, I didn’t have any nuts, so I used dried breadcrumbs and it was surprisingly good.  Nuts are more traditional, but don’t use nut meal – it’s a bit fine for this.  (You could, of course, crush your own in a mortar and pestle, but if you are the kind of cook who is likely to do that, you aren’t likely to need my quick hasty-tasty recipes. 😉 )

Note on oil and bread: Ideally you would serve this with hunks of fresh Turkish bread or something similar.  Since I didn’t have any, I toasted a bagel from the freezer and cut it into chunks.  It tasted great and provided the requisite large cross-section for soaking up the oil and dukkah.  The oil can be any, as long as it’s fresh and good quality.  If your oil is old, it’s fine for cooking, but not nice to eat like this. Fancy infused oil like the one in the picture are great, partly because they taste good and partly because they come in small bottles, so they tend to get used up before they get past their best.

 

Rare Cajun Salmon with Smashed Potatoes and Greek Salad

 

Cajun Salmon with Smashed Potatoes

 

If you’ve made the Dukkah for unexpected guests, they will doubtless be so impressed that they want to stay on for dinner.  If they do, nip down to the supermarket and grab the following (took me 16 minutes including paying at my local independent supermarket – I timed it):

Shopping List

One cucumber (I use the long continental ones – no peeling)

One punnet of cherry tomatoes

One capsicum (whatever colour pleases you)

A little bag of washed chat potatoes (or any washed, really)

Approx 50 grams of fetta from the deli

A scoop or so of black pitted olives, also from the deli

About 600 grams of salmon fillets

One large jar of Cajun Spices.

I tin of mango slices (of course you can use fresh, if available and you can be bothered.)

Some good whole-egg mayo if you don’t have any at home

These quantities will feed about four people (with leftover potatoes).  If you have more people, just increase the quantities.  Method is the same.  You could double it and it would still take about half an hour, from when you hit the kitchen to when you sit down.

Method

First, fill the kettle and put it on.  Get out as many potatoes as you think you will eat and a pot with a lid.  If you have chat potatoes, cut them in half. If they’re bigger, cut into more pieces. Don’t bother peeling them. Put them into the pot, barely cover with the boiling water from the kettle, put the lid on and put on a high heat to come to the boil.

Cut the cucumber and capsicum into a rough dice and throw into a salad bowl.  Cut the cherry tomatoes in half (or quarters, if they’re huge) and toss them in too, along with the olives and the fetta, cut or broken into smallish Greek Saladpieces.  Toss.  You can add some oil and lemon juice if you like, but I normally don’t bother.  All the veges are juicy and the olives usually have some oil on them and everything else in this meal is dressed.

Check the potatoes and turn down a bit if they look as though they are going to boil over.  They need to be on a high simmer.

Get out a frying pan big enough for the salmon and a shallow plate (like a pasta plate).  Tip about 3 Tbsp of Cajun Spices onto the plate and coat the salmon in the spices.  Check the potatoes again.  If they are looking nearly done, put the frying pan on a high heat to get hot.

When the pan is hot, put the pieces of salmon in, skin side down, and set a timer for one minute. (Yes, it’s a dry pan. You don’t need oil or butter.  Trust me.)

While they are cooking, open the tin of mango, take out on cheek (or a few slices) and whizz them with a stick blender.  If you don’t have one, mash them with a fork.  You need about 2-3 tablespoons of pulp.

When the timer goes off, turn the salmon and reset the timer.

Mix one Tbsp of mayonnaise into the mango pulp.  Put your back into it.  It will look a bit curdly at first, but you will soon have a smooth, runny-ish sauce.

When the timer goes off again, have a look at the salmon.  If the spice mix is well blackened, you can take it off the heat now.  Seriously.  It is supposed to be rare and it is delicious.  If you like it a bit more ‘done’ just turn it over again and give each side another minute or so.  But make sure, however long you cook it, that the surface is black.  Cajun spices are supposed to be black.  If you don’t blacken them, you are liable to take your guests’ mouths off with the chili kick.

When the salmon is done to your liking, remove from the heat and put onto a serving plate.  (If you leave them in the pan they will continue cooking, even if off the heat.)  Drain the potatoes and toss in their hot pan with some olive oil or butter and a pinch of salt and pepper.

Serve the salmon with the potatoes, the greek salad and the mango mayonnaise.

After dinner, whizz up the rest of the mango and the syrup with some ice and use to make rum cocktails.

Bask in the praise.

And if, after all that, your greedy guests want dessert, make them take you out for icecream.   (Or, if that’s too rude for you, put a pack of Magnums on your shopping list. 😉 )

 

WHAT A FEAST! Thank you, Imelda. That was fabulous, especially for the dukkah recipe. I’m a huge fan of this nutty mix. As for those mango and rum cocktails… mmmmm!

Now, my Feasty lovelies, being the generous soul that she is – as she has so beautifully demonstrated in the above post – Imelda is offering a giveaway. Simply reveal what your favourite ‘meal in a hurry’ is when unexpected guests appear and you’ll go into the draw to win an ebook copy of Rules Are For Breaking in the format of your choice. Yes, Feasties, this destiny could be yours!

Giveaway closes midnight Tuesday, 19th March 2013 AEST. Open internationally. Rah!

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

 

This giveaway has now closed. Congratulations to Christine, who has won herself an ebook copy of Imelda’s debut release, Rules Are For Breaking. Thanks to everyone who dropped by the Feast and joined in the fun.

 

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Feeling a bit puffed up and pleased here on Friday Feast this week. A huge crop of talented debut Australian authors is hitting the reading market and many of them are booked in for Friday Feast sessions. Wonderful authors with even more wonderful books, and an overload of food and travel fun – what a year 2013 is going to be!LReynolds1012_0059

Today I’m delighted to introduce contemporary romance author Louise Reynolds, and not just because I know she’s a dedicated foodie who knows all the best providores in Melbourne. No, this talented lady also writes rich romances about modern women finding love with their perfect hero. And she’s a lovely person too. In other words, the total package!

Louise’s debut release is Her Italian Aristocrat, and who doesn’t want one of those!

 

HER ITALIAN ARISTOCRAT

 

Her Italian Aristocrat coverOn a mission to buy a prestigious shoe company, Australian career girl, Gemma Parkinson, arrives in Italy determined to succeed. But when she falls ill, effortlessly handsome local aristocrat, Luca Andretti, is on hand. Suspicious about Gemma’s presence in his town, he offers to let her recuperate in his amazing palazzo. Surrounded by the lavish trappings of the rich – servants, designer clothes, fine food and wine – Gemma is completely out of her depth.

Intent on saving the town’s local industry, Brunelli Shoes, from foreign take-over, Luca throws every obstacle he can in Gemma’s path. Headstrong, savvy and equally determined to successfully wrestle the company away from him, Gemma fights Luca all the way.

But Luca’s life of privilege masks a private world of pain and Gemma has demons of her own. As they come to understand one another, their growing attraction starts getting in the way.

This moving love story involving two people from very different backgrounds is a delightful, contemporary romance in a gorgeous Italian setting.  

 

Ahh, I was sold at the name Luca. So strong, so sexy, so dreamy. Sigh. A little clickety-clicking and Luca could be all yours. Buy the ebook direct from the publisher, Destiny Romance, or from iTunes, Amazon Kindle, Kobo or Google Play.

And so we travel from glamorous Italy to the far, far more glam 🙂 Australian outback, where Louise’s next novel is set. Enjoy!

 

My Outback Kitchen Rules

 

Thanks for having me on Friday Feasts, Cathryn. Today I’m taking a break from my imaginary world of aristocrats and glamorous Lou Outbackjpeg006 (2)living and sharing my love of the Outback.

Just because we’re sleeping on the ground, digging our own toilet and spending most of the day walking around in our underwear, my nearest and dearest and I have never seen the need to compromise on food when we’re bush camping. The thought of dehydrated or canned food (unless it’s the very excellent Watties baked beans) revolts me. And don’t start me on people who pre-cook, cryovac and label every meal and pack them in sterile conditions in the camping fridge or freezer in the precise order they’re going to eat them. (‘Oh look, dear, it’s Tuesday so we must be having the mango chicken and rice’).

I have a perfectly lovely kitchen at home but when ‘outback’ I come over all pioneer woman; gathering fuel and sorting timber into kindling and logs so the RIMG0947heat can be adjusted throughout cooking. And I want to cook by gaslight. No sensible cooking in broad daylight for us. It’s not nearly as much fun if you can’t peer at the chopping board and wonder is it mushroom or is it moth?

You will never have more time and leisure to prepare a meal than you have on a holiday like this. If you’ve travelled through the Mallee, it’s likely you’ve visited a local butcher and bought some local saltbush lamb and country bacon, thick cut and with plenty of oink. You’ll have t-bone steaks with a thick layer of creamy fat just begging to be barbecued over coals and served with slightly ashy jacket potatoes and salad.

I’ve just finished a book set in the outback so I decided to share two of my favourite meals.

 

Darling River French Toast

with Bacon and Maple Syrup

Throw a handful of twigs onto the smouldering ashes of last night’s fire. When the flame appears load heavier kindling on top and place the kettle next to it. Feed more wood on the fire and when the kettle boils make a cup of tea. Sit back, relax and look at birds.

RIMG0513Put some clothes on.

When the fire has settled down, place the hotplate over it. Scrape off the remains of last night’s barbecue and pour on some water so it spits and hisses. Drizzle on a little oil and fling some bacon rashers onto the hotplate. Pour another cup of tea. As the bacon cooks, make a huge fuss of turning it using an old fork with a bent tine.

Crack two eggs into a battered enamel dish and chuck the shells on the fire. Whisk with the fork and add a little milk. Soak the bread slices in the egg mix and slap onto the hotplate next to the bacon. Make them nice and brown and crispy.

When ready, serve with liberal amounts of maple syrup and a can of aeroguard.

 

Back o’ Bourke Beef Stew

Cut good quality oyster blade steak into large cubes, dredge in flour and brown in a camp oven.RIMG0673 Remove. Add sliced onions and brown. Add sliced kidneys (that’s kidneys, not echidna) and pour in a bottle of beer. Mix well, season and cover. Hang on a tripod over coals and cook for 2 hours. Half an hour before serving throw in mushrooms. Serve with potatoes mashed with plenty of butter and milk.

 

Oh, Louise, you made me laugh with this. LOVE the style of your camping!

Now, Feasters, when you’ve stopped laughing and drooling, have a ponder about this: Where’s the most unusual place you’ve prepared a meal? Think hard, because your answer could earn your very own Luca. Yes, my feasty lovelies, Louise is generously offering one commenter a Kindle copy of Her Italian Aristocrat, so prime your typing fingers and get to it.

Giveaway closes midnight AEST, Tuesday 12th February 2013. Open internationally. Just in time for Valentine’s Day!

If you’d like to learn more about Louise and her novels, please visit her website. You can also connect via her blog and Facebook.

This giveaway has now closed. Congratulations to Bec who has won herself Luca! (Well, a kindle copy of Her Italian Aristocrat with lovely Luca burning up the pages, which is close enough)

 

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