Guest post: Fiona McArthur, author of Heart of the Sky

Today I’d like to welcome Fiona McArthur, author of the new release Heart of the Sky to Sam Still Reading. It’s a cracker of a book and I’ll tell you more in my review tomorrow. Take it away Fiona!


Fiona at Mt Gipps Station

Thanks so much for inviting me back to Sam Still Reading. I wish a happy and prosperous New Year to all. This is the start of a big year for me, too, with two single title books out with Penguin in 2017 and it’s great to be here. I’ve just finished the first draft of Sienna’s Story, readers may remember my bolshy obstetrician sister from RED SAND SUNRISE, and her book comes out in October – and can I tell you I have grinned my way through it.

But for now, I’d like to introduce you to Tess, in HEART OF THE SKY, and the fabulous Mica Ridge Flying Doctor Service, and yes, I loved every minute of it.

It’s funny how books are born. How the concepts are triggered by the world around us – by an article in a newsletter at work on the new McGrath Breast Care nurse in a small town up the road from me with an even smaller rural hospital.

I was also influenced also by an article in the SMH about the appointment of an RFDS Breast Care Nurse at Broken Hill the same time as I started Heart of the Sky. Which suited me because I needed an excuse to return to Broken Hill, and we did, for another fabulous week visiting the sights and Mount Gipps station and I wanted my setting authentic although I didn’t manage to catch up with the nurse – I so admire her work and apologise for any artistic licence in popping people in and out of planes. (Excerpt about the setting in Heart Of The Sky)

“The morning surrounded her and she breathed it in. Pure, crisp air, the chattering of birds, a small herd of feral goats moved collectively away from them like a small dappled cloud on the hillside.

She forgot about the man behind her, looked briefly at the golden sun on the horizon and closed her eyes. The intense gold circle burned with afterglow on her retina. She heard Charlie behind her, not too close, just there and it was nice to share the moment. Not something she’d needed before. Not that she needed it now but an interesting concept. She opened her eyes.

He said quietly, ‘I see what you mean about the line between light and dark.’

They both watched the steady creep of the copper line cross the dark hills. Slowly but surely fingers of orange-yellow crept down hillsides, slipped into gullies and reflected off the mica studded rocks and the white quartz that scored the hillsides like lines on a tiger’s back. And in the places sunlight didn’t reach? There lay shadows and dark shapes of stunted trees and jagged boulders.” See attached photos. Seriously, I love my job J

I needed to soak in the ochres and the blues and the people of this frontier world who cared about each other, and I loved my Homestead Girls, and thought how healing they could be for someone else with different issues. Some of the characters Blue Hills Station had to be revisited from THE HOMESTEAD GIRLS. The book itself is stand alone so you don’t need to read THG first.

Which is where Tess came in. A young widow, from a small coastal city, a fish out of water in the outback. Because I’ve never been an outback station wife or outback nurse, (but I have been a midwife for thirty years) and neither has Tess, and both of us had to make mistakes and grow and the best place to do that is on the job. Of course she needed friends. People who care. I knew just the place to find them, so this is Tess’s story and Tess’s adventure to healing. And then of course there is Soretta’s tempestuous love affair and Mia’s homecoming woven in her journey.

I hope readers love HEART OF THE SKY as much as I do.

And if you would like to know more about the fabulous Breast Care Nurses, can I recommend TAKE MY HAND – Inspiring stories from the McGrath Breast Care Nurses, by Jo Wiles, for more on the McGrath Foundation. A beautiful book that I drew heart from as well.

Warmest wishes to all for 2017

xxFi

Guest Post: Fleur McDonald, author of Sapphire Falls, talks Christmas traditions

Today I’m delighted to welcome Fleur McDonald to Sam Still Reading. Fleur is the author of Sapphire Falls, which I would have read by now had I not shown it to my mother, who promptly took off with it to read. (She says it’s brilliant with unexpected twists and turns by the way). Fleur is talking about Christmas traditions today, so I’ll stop typing and let her take over. Many thanks Fleur!

Christmas Traditions

By Fleur McDonald

Well here we are at that time of year again… The Festive Season. Or is does this line make you want to scream?

My local supermarket has been decorated with tinsel and Santa’s for the last three weeks – much to my horror. Has anyone got ANY idea HOW much I have to do between now and Christmas? I’m sure you’re all the same.

Then there’s the dreaded Christmas present shop… What to get everyone, do you put a price limit on so on and so forth.

We all live in such an instant society I think the Christmas Wish List we had when I was a kid, is a thing of the past. Especially when I ask my kids what they want and they can’t tell me.

I always had a huge Christmas Wish List. It consisted of… wait for it, I’m sure you’ll die of shock!

Books and Earrings.

True! That’s all I ever wanted. Father Christmas would load my sack up with around four or five books every year, plus a few little incidentals like blank tapes so I could record music from the radio (yes, that’s showing my age isn’t it!) Then under the tree would be a small parcel that contained earrings.

*Sigh * Happiness abounds!

I’m still really easily pleased – books. Although I have so many earrings now, I don’t need any more!

My Christmas wish list is the new Michael Connelly and Lee Child books. Do you have books on your list?

(At the risk of being VERY forward, Sapphire Falls will be out in time to make a great Chrissie present!)

The best thing about books, as any mum will know, is they don’t require batteries. Now there’s a whole different topic! Am I the only one who, when my kids were small, went to the shops before the big day and bought different types of batteries in anticipation of the noisy, ridiculous presents that people WITHOUT kids give to our children? The kids have a fabulous time ripping off the wrapping before ending in tears because there are no batteries with the present and it can’t make as much noise as it has the potential to…

Well, as December bears down on us, my wish for you all during this time is that you all experience love and laughter. You enjoy your family, the traditions you’ve made. Maybe even make some new ones.

Wishing you all a Merry (reading) Christmas and wonderful, safe, healthy and happy 2017.

Sapphire Falls by Fleur McDonald is published by Allen & Unwin, RRP $29.99, available now.

You can find Sapphire Falls for purchase here:

And please drop by some (or all) of the other stops on the blog tour!

//cdn.thinglink.me/jse/embed.js

Guest post: Jessica Whitman, author of Wild One and giveaway

Jessica Whitman is the author of new release Wild One (Allen & Unwin, RRP $29.99, now available), second in the Polo Season series. (The first book, High Season, has received rave reviews). It’s a fun and sexy story about following your passions and finding love. Today, I’m pleased to welcome Jessica to Sam Still Reading to talk about when she knew she wanted to be a writer. Thanks Jessica!

I KNEW I WANTED TO BE A WRITER WHEN…

By Jessica Whitman

I was an early and voracious reader when I was a child. The kind of kid who used to bump into telephone poles walking home from school because I couldn’t put my book down long enough to even make it from point A to point B. One day, I found myself staying with my grandmother, who lived in a tiny town and had a rather limited library in her home. This was, of course, pre-Kindle, pre-internet, pre-everything. I had read and re-read all her Reader’s Digests, and I was bored and desperate. So I decided to write my own story. Something I would like to read. Because I couldn’t stand the idea that I was out of words. And, being an adolescent girl, I chose to write a love story. It all started there…

Thanks Jessica! I’m very glad that you grew up pre-internet and Kindle, otherwise we may not have your books to keep us readers going! If you’re interested in learning more about Wild One, you can check it out via these retailers:

You can also connect with the publisher, Allen & Unwin via many forms of social media:

Twitter: @AllenAndUnwin

Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/AllenandUnwinBooks/

WordPress:
www.thingsmadefromletters.com

Instagram: @allenandunwin

for book talk and book pics.

Giveaway Time!

Thanks to Allen & Unwin, I have two copies of Wild One to giveaway! Winners must live in Australia and provide a name and street address to receive their book. Just leave a comment on this post about the last book that had you so engrossed that you couldn’t put it down. Entries will close on 17th September at 11:59pm GMT +8. Winners will be notified by email and will have 48 hours to reply with their name and street address otherwise another winner will be drawn. Copies will be sent by the publisher. I am not responsible for lost books in the mail.

And finally, do drop by some of the other blog tour posts-

Guest post: Meredith Appleyard, author of The Doctor Calling

Today I am absolutely delighted to welcome Meredith Appleyard, who wrote the 100% brilliant novel, The Doctor Calling, to Sam Still Reading. The Doctor Calling is set in rural South Australia and deals with many issues unique to country life that the protagonist Laura (herself a GP) sees daily. Being West Australian and the term FIFO (fly in, fly out – often done on mining and oil jobs in the country) being synonymous with life in our state, I asked Meredith to discuss working FIFO and for the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS). Thank you Meredith for your time and your great answers to my random questions!

FIFO is a word that’s now ingrained in our culture here in the West. What’s it like to work FIFO? What are the highs and lows?

Being a FIFO worker suited me. My job as a paramedic in the oil and gas fields meant working fifteen days on and thirteen days off. Work and home life seemed to evolve into two discrete entities. When you were at work, you worked. Your days off were like a mini break, which was terrific. I got lots done. The downside was all my friends were at work when I was home and they resented me for having so much time off! The fact I worked fifteen ten-hour days and was on-call when I wasn’t working seemed to escape them.

Then I met and married another FIFO worker and when our shifts clashed I quit and found a ‘normal’ job again. For ten years I experienced the other side of FIFO and being the one at home was challenging at times. With one job, I’m sure they thought I didn’t really have a husband because they’d never met him. I do understand the pressure it puts on families and relationships.

Has anything outrageous happened on a swing? If so, please do share 😉

Many outrageous things happened, although they probably didn’t seem outrageous at the time. We were all so far from home, we lived in single men’s quarters, and there was always someone playing a practical joke on someone else. I remember one of my coworkers went back to his room after work to discover it had been stripped bare — all the furniture, his belongings, everything gone. Not sure where he slept that night but when he went to his room the next day, everything had been put back! Another favourite was throwing bits of cheese onto the tin roof of your quarters — you’d be woken at first light by the raucous sound of the crows clattering around on the roof scavenging the food. Not the best way to start the day!

How does regional nursing differ to the big city? What are the frustrations and benefits?

In small country towns the nurses often know the patients they’re caring for. Mostly that’s a positive — it makes for more holistic care because the patients’ home circumstances are often known and care can be tailored to meet their needs. I believe less things ‘fall through the cracks’ because of this, there’s a greater sense of community and people are willing to help each other because they realise they might be the one needing help the next day.

I learned very quickly not to gossip — country hospital staff usually stay put in one job, and they are often friends and/or relatives. I was always an outsider! In one place that I worked, the wife was the cook, the husband the maintenance man; a nurse and a cleaner were sisters; a mother and daughter were both nurses. You had to be oh so careful what you said!

-On your website, you mention that you’ve worked for the RFDS. I’d love to hear a story about your time with them!

Back then it was a dream come true. When I saw the job advertised in the paper I just had to apply, never really expecting to be the successful applicant. I’d just finished a twelve-month post graduate certificate in critical care nursing and I was raring to go. My first experience was a clinic run to stations out from Broken Hill. I felt like I’d stepped onto the set of The Flying Doctor!

Thank you again Meredith – tomorrow I’ll be posting my review of The Doctor Calling (I think you can already guess that I loved it). If you’re interested in reading any of Meredith’s books (and I highly recommend you do), check out the following links:

The Doctor Calling: Amazon AU | Amazon US | Booktopia | Kobo

The Country Practice: Amazon AU | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Booktopia | Kobo

Guest Post: Georgina Penney, author of Summer Harvest

0Good morning! Today I have the lovely Georgina Penney dropping by Sam Still Reading. Georgina writes wonderful fiction that combines romance and laugh out loud moments in one of my favourite settings, Western Australia. Her characters are always interesting with a touch of the quirky. Tomorrow morning I’ll share my review of Georgina’s latest novel, Summer Harvest but today I’m talking to Georgina about what she misses about Australia. She’s currently living in Scotland and when deep fried cauliflower cheese came up in my inbox, I was intrigued! Welcome Georgina!

Food in Scotland: Deep fried cauliflower cheese

How it really is kind of true. The Scots will deep fry anything!

The fish and chip shop that invented the deep fried Mars Bar is in Stonehaven, only six miles away from where I live. I’ve got to admit I was a little sceptical when first confronted with one (‘rampant snob’ would be a better description) and then I tried it. I think ‘lady moment’ would be the appropriate term. Yum! Since then, I’ve kept an eye out for deep-fried delicacies whenever I’m out and about in the Scottish wilds. It’s almost like being a train spotter. I’m a batter spotter! So far I’ve spotted (and maybe tried, although I’m not admitting anything unless bribed with the aforementioned Mars Bar) deep fried macaroni cheese, cauliflower cheese, haggis, sausage… and almost every vegetable you can imagine. Not to mention the deep fried Cadbury’s Cream Eggs and Snickers Bars. I’ve heard a rumour there is a fish and ship place that does deep fried mussels up the coast. I’m not saying I’d make a dedicated mission but if I was in the area…

What you miss about Australia

The smell! It’s all eucalyptus and dry heat. There’s nothing else like it. The minute I land in Australia I take a deep breath and yep, I’m home.

I also miss the food (are you spotting a trend here?). After scooting around the planet a couple of times now, I can honestly say that Australia has the best food in the world. The variety is amazing, the quality perfect. The ingredients are fresh. From restaurants to home cooking, we Aussies have nailed it. Needless to say I always fill my cheek pouches when I’m back home!

Thank you Georgina! Now I’ve got my eye on deep fried Cadbury Cream Eggs…or maybe some Margaret River fudge or chocolate!

Summer Harvest is now available, so please do go and check it out!

eBook: Amazon AU | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Kobo

Paper book: Booktopia | Readings | A & R Bookworld | Dymocks | Book Depository

Q & A with Lizzy Chandler, author of By Her Side

Today I’m delighted to welcome Lizzy Chandler, author of By Her Side and Snowy River Man to Sam Still Reading for a chat about writing, inspiration and reading. You might also know her as Elizabeth Lhuede, founder of the Australian Women Writers Challenge. Lizzy writes a variety of genres, including romance, suspense and fantasy. I can verify that By Her Side is a wonderful combination of suspense and romance! But enough of me, let’s talk to Lizzy:

First, I’d love to know how you got the idea for the plot and characters for By Her Side. (and um, is there a real life Vince out there?)

Thanks so much for this opportunity to tell your readers a little about my writing and reading.

The idea for both the plot and characters in By Her Side started with the setting.

Years ago I was lucky enough to accompany a photographer commissioned to take photos of precious objects in the Prime Minister’s residence in Kirribilli as well as the Governor-General’s place next door. As I looked through the surprisingly cosy prime-ministerial rooms and out to the spectacular view of Sydney Harbour, I wondered who the PM’s neighbours were and what might be their values, their history, and the peculiar problems they might face having such wealth. This became the background for my heroine Rory and her wealthy, troubled family.

For my hero Vince’s background, I drew on what I remembered of a boy I dated when I was a teenager. The son of Italian immigrants, he grew up in the then comparatively impoverished suburb of Marrickville in Sydney’s inner-west. As a kid from the affluent and mostly Anglo northern beaches, I found the cultural differences between our two families fascinating.

Putting these two settings together, I created a “princess” and “boy from the wrong side of the tracks” story, and twisted it by making Vince a cop with a tragic past, rather than an actual “bad boy” who needs reforming. It seemed more likely to me Rory and Vince would be more likely to have a genuine chance at a “happy ever after” if they weren’t really so different, despite their backgrounds; it was important to me that they share fundamental values, such as love of family and loyalty.

Is there a real Vince out there? No, but I can’t help thinking of him as a real person. I was thrilled when Escape put him on the cover. In some ways, I think, it’s more his story than Rory’s. I’m so glad he gets to be happy!


I found the plot of By Her Side brilliant – it was really taut. How do you plot your novels, if at all?

With a novel that has a well-developed mystery, like By Her Side, I plot carefully, using copious handwritten notes and flow charts to begin, and then post-it stickers and index cards representing plot-points in the editing and rewriting stages. To represent the flow of different subplots and character interactions, I lay out the plot-point cards on a big square coffee table, and link them with different coloured ribbons, say pink for romance, green for the villain, blue for the conflict between the hero and heroine, and other colours to represent the role of different minor characters. The cards and ribbons provide me with an overview of the novel as a series of scenes and sequences – like a storyboard, I guess. This visual and concrete layout helps me to get an intuitive sense whether a particular character or plot idea falls down or disappears for too long. It’s also a lot of fun to do this as it engages a different part of my brain from the one I use when writing actual scenes. I’ve had a lot of reviewers remark on the page-turning quality of my first novel, Snowy River Man, and it’s something I’ve worked hard to achieve, so I’m glad to hear you think By Her Side is a page-turner, too.

By Her Side is quite different to Snowy River Man which was more rural, but they both share a suspense element. What kinds (if any) romance do you enjoy writing?

I’ve written a lot of romance novels that will never see the light of day. They range from strict “category” to mostly suspense with a dash of romance, to a young adult fantasy novel that I’d love to get published one day. (It needs a better ending.) Most of my unpublished novels I consider now as apprentice pieces, exercises that helped me learn my craft. For preference, I lean toward writing romantic suspense, rather than straight romance, but I really enjoyed writing Snowy River Man which had very little suspense outside the relationship between Katrina and Jack. Each book is different and the characters and their circumstance tend to dictate the form the novel ultimately takes. In By Her Side, Rory and Vince are on a mission to track down Rory’s missing half-brother and sort out various puzzles from the past and this involves taking risks. It’s a scenario that cries out for suspense.


I love to hear about what authors have been reading. What have been some of your favourite reads (romance or otherwise) for the year?

As you know, I founded the Australian Woman Writers challenge, and much of my reading is shaped by what books publishers send me for review. In 2015, I read 25 books by Australian women and half a dozen or so other books. Of these many were psychological suspense or crime, several were historical fiction, a number were “literary”, a few were nonfiction, and some were romance or had romantic elements. One romance was Kandy Shepherd’s, Gift-wrapped in Her Wedding Dress, which was a delight. Kandy’s a friend and writing colleague, and normally I see her work in progress, but this is one I hadn’t seen much of. It was a real pleasure to sit down and read it from cover to cover. Another I devoured was D B Tait’s debut romantic suspense, Cold Deception, and its sequel, Desperate Deception. Deb’s a fellow Blue Mountains writer and has a real talent for complex, gritty stories with a good dash of romance.

Other memorable books were more literary: Charlotte Wood’s The Natural Way of Things and Robyn Cadwallader’s The Anchoress, among them. I’d be surprised if one or other of these didn’t take out a literary prize or two. I also found The Intervention, an anthology edited by Rosie Scott and Anita Heiss to be outstanding. It’s a collection of pieces by both indigenous and non-indigenous Australian writers, and tells some difficult home truths about the effects of government policies on Aboriginal communities. More than one of the pieces had me shedding a few tears.

Thanks again for the Q&A – and happy reading!

Thank you Lizzy! If you’d like to check out By Her Side or Snowy River Man, you can do so here:

By Her Side:
Amazon AU | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Kobo

Snowy River Man: Amazon AU | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Booktopia | Kobo

Do drop by tomorrow to read my review of By Her Side!

Q&A with Nicole Trilivas, author of Girls Who Travel


Today I am delighted to have Nicole Trilivas on the blog to talk about her debut novel, Girls Who Travel. It’s a joy to read and perfect for lazy holiday afternoons.

Thank you so much Nicole for stopping by Sam Still Reading to answer some of my questions today. I loved Girls Who Travel – it was witty and fun. Kika was a great heroine to read about. First of all, I noticed that you’re the winner of the Wattpad Marian Keyes contest – congratulations! – with an abridged version of Girls Who Travel. How did the idea for the novel come about and how did you get involved in the contest?

I’m so glad that you enjoyed Girls Who Travel! The idea of the book came from a distant friend who became an au pair for a family abroad. When I saw her photos on social media, I thought 1) oh man, why didn’t I become an au pair abroad? And 2) that would make a really fun book!

In regards to the contest: I was in the midst of trying to find an agent for Girls Who Travel when I stumbled upon Wattpad, which is just such a great platform for writers and readers (Wattpad readers are so genuine!). And when I saw that one of the writers I admired most, Marian Keyes, was involved in their contest, I knew I had to submit my story! I credit Wattpad with getting me an agent and everything that followed—that platform (and the people who run it) are nothing short of amazing.

To what degree are Kika’s travels inspired by your own?

At first, I found it easier to place Kika in settings I myself had visited, such as Goa and London, but it was equally fun doing a bit a research on new places I didn’t know so well—like Positano!

I never had the kind of “roadmance” that Kika had; however, I was always desperate to! It was fun living out this fantasy with Kika and giving her, her very own Before Sunrise moment (have you seen the film? If not, check it out!).

Girls Who Travel is witty and the insults that Kika comes out with are hilarious! How did you think all of these up?

Thank you! I’m so glad that the humor came through. Some of the best advice out there is to write as if you’re talking to a friend. I have a wonderful (and crazy) group of friends who collectively are just some of the funniest people I know, and so I tried to write in a way that they would make them crack up.

One of the characters I loved (besides Kika and Aston) was Gwen. Was there a particular inspiration for her?

Funny you should ask—Gwen was this character I invented years and years ago to amuse my little siblings. I would do a silly voice for her and eventually we developed this whole persona around her. My mom always said I should write a children’s book series based on Gwen, so I decided to sneak her into this book as a sort of inside joke!

The family that Kika works for in London as an au pair is called Darling. Is this a reference to Kika never wanting to grow up, like in Peter Pan?

Yes! Excellent observation! I peppered in some Peter Pan mythology into the book and I’m impressed that you picked up on it. At one point, Kika mentions that Lochlon is Peter Pan, but ultimately, we see that she’s the one best suited for rewriting the script on what it means to grow up and evolve as a person.

Finally, I love to read about author’s favourite books. What are your top reads for people travelling?

Ooo fun question! My top reads for travelers are as follows: The Beach by Alex Garland is a must for any backpacker who craves a diversion from the beaten track. Around the World In Eighty Days by Jules Verne is a surprisingly digestible read—it’s uncomplicated but not without naivety (let’s just say that you can tell it was written in 1876). And of course Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, because I will always appreciate the use of travel as a means of self-discovery!

Thanks Nicole! You can find out more about Nicole on her website. Girls Who Travel is now available, the links below will take you to buy the book directly (note, I don’t get any financial incentive, just warm fuzzies from these links).


Booktopia | Readings | Book Depository | Boffins | Dymocks |

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Kobo |


Guest post: Jenn J McLeod, author of Season of Shadow and Light

Today I’d like to welcome Jenn J McLeod, author of the new novel Season of Shadow and Light (it’s her third novel but shamefully for me, the first I’ve read!) Jenn is currently touring around Australia, so I thought I’d ask her about her life on the road and the best parts! Thanks for answering all my nosy questions Jenn!

Well, my gypsy life is both in its early days and thirty years late!

Let me explain . . .

Thirty years ago was the first time I ‘took off’ around Australia in a converted Ford F100 with a tent. And when I say I took off, I mean I ran away in search of . . . something. And as Banjo says in Season of Shadow and Light: ‘We’re all lookin’ for somethin’, girlie, but as I always say it’s what we do when we find it that’s most important.’ I was searching for something—not sure what—but at that time I was young, confused. (My mother would say ‘complicated’!)


I’m not sure I found anything on that trip at all, except that living in a tent can be really cold in the desert. After two years touring family illness forced a premature return home. I never did get back on the road.


The real life Banjo’s pub in Boonah (note the closed in balcony, Season of Shadow and Light readers!)

Fast forward thirty years . . .

I am back on the road now; no longer running away, but running to all the places I missed on that first trip, starting in Queensland.

 

Although I wrote the early draft of this book while still in a house, Paige’s road trip in Season of Shadow and Light could be interpreted as slightly reminiscent—although I was much younger than Paige when I ran away, my husband was not cheating on me at the time, and I didn’t have a daughter! (Hmm, as you can see it doesn’t take much for a writer to take one or two elements from their life experiences to get the storytelling started!)

 

Paige’s road trip scenes in the opening chapters of the book (and Banjo’s pub in Coolabah Tree Gully) did come from a more recent trip I did to attend a fellow author’s book launch in Boonah. The quaint country atmosphere of Boonah, and neighbouring Kalbar, belies the towns’ closeness to Brisbane. Both these towns are at the heart of what’s called The Scenic Rim—a spectacular volcanic escarpment located in Queensland’s south-east region. (No one told me at the time there was a Scenic Rim historic pub trail!) And a big book lover bonus . . . The Story Tree, in Boonah, is a beaut little bookshop. Why? Because it has books AND serves coffee!

 

The road from NSW is over the ranges and steep and winding, so leave the caravan behind and do what I did; stay in a quintessential country pub, complete with crooked floors, then use it as a setting in a novel. Yes, it is the pub from Season of Shadow and Light. Best, most authentic country pub experience so far.

 

Speaking of country pubs . . .

 

For some reason, maybe because I have lived in the town of the Big Banana—Coffs Harbour, NSW—for the last ten years, I am inexplicably drawn to places that claim to have “The biggest this” or “The smallest that” or those that are “The closest to” something-or-other. If you are like-wise compelled to experience such claims, you’ll have to try Toompine (70kms south of Quilpie, in QLD), which claims to be the only “pub without a town”. With a population of only two I’m guessing the Toompine Hotel (circa 1893) would make Friday night drinks a lot less crowded than what I’ve been used to.

 

Even less overwhelming, and up the road a bit, is Cheepie – Population: 1

At its peak, as a Cobb & Co change station, Cheepie had a police station, blacksmith, railway station, tent boarding houses, butcher shop, bakery and two organic vegetable gardens. All that remains in the township today is a private residence and one long-time resident. I reckon he’d have some stories to tell.

 

Finally, for a really great time (I’ve always wanted to say that!) you can experience time travel at Cameron’s Corner where you can be in three different time zones all at once— NSW, QLD, SA. That must make for a fun New Year’s Eve, if you are willing to brave the summer temperatures. Locals see in the New Year three times over. Does that mean three kisses at midnight?

 

Of course, before I set off on any of these adventures, I have a book to launch and a book tour to fit into the schedule. Life for me these days certainly reminds me of a favourite saying (one I managed to work into my new release):

Would that life were like the shadow cast by a wall or a tree, but it is like the shadow of a bird in flight.

 

There’ll be no stopping, just new friends. Please join me on my #WriteRoundOz odyssey, come home to the country and connect with me on:

 

Website:        www.jennjmcleod.com

Twitter:          @jennjmcleod

Facebook:      https://www.facebook.com/JennJMcLeod.Author  &/or the Facebook Readers of Jenn J McLeod Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/jennjmcleod.author/

Thanks again Jenn! Please do drop in again this afternoon to read my review of Season of Shadow and Light. In the meantime, drop by some of my fellow blog tour participants:


Guest Post: Avril Tremayne, author of Wanting Mr Wrong

Today I’d like to welcome to Sam Still Reading Avril Tremayne, author of the new release Wanting Mr Wrong. Avril writes romance for Random House and Harlequin and sounds like a fun person to talk to, having worked a variety of jobs (including working with the occasional celebrity) and being a fellow shoe obsessive! See what Avril has to say about romance heroes below:

Wrong Guy – Right Book

 

I call my theory about romance heroes the diet theory. (Diets are close to my heart at the moment because I stacked it on with a vengeance this past festive season and am now paying the price.)

The theory, which is not new by any stretch of the imagination, is: the moment you’re told you can’t have something, it becomes the exact thing you want. Or, on the flip side, the moment you’re told you should want something…? Well of course you don’t want it! It works even if it’s you telling yourself.

For me at the moment, it’s all about salad v. a Cadbury Creme Egg, and it’s a daily struggle.

Same deal for my heroines, valiantly dishing themselves up the masculine equivalent of a lettuce leaf, but I know – and I suspect they know – that they are always, always going to end up with the Egg.

The ‘bad boy’ hero is a typical Cadbury number. He’s a hothead, probably tattooed, probably rides a motor bike. He was always in trouble as a kid. Maybe he’s had a stint in gaol. Could be a jaded rock star. Or a cage fighter. Or an ex-cop/military rebel. He’s the guy our heroine’s parents don’t want her anywhere near – so how is she not going to at least think about him? Especially if she’s a ‘good girl’ whose life has been tame, boring even, until he stepped into it.

The ‘bad boy’ may also have a touch of ‘the rake’ – another Egg – about him. A staple of regency romances, the ‘rake’ has sown so many wild oats, he could corner the market on porridge. Often wealthy, always sophisticated, he’s suffering ennui – especially when it comes to women, because he’s had them all. Nobody believes he could possibly be interested in our heroine – least of all her! But she’d sure like to prove everyone wrong and reform him.

And then there’s my own specialty – heroes that there’s nothing obviously wrong with, that the heroine’s friends and family love… And yet the heroine (perverse creature) won’t let herself fall for him. I love the complexity involved in making these heroes and heroines dance around each other. Why does she feel threatened? How can he want her when she’s so prickly? What barriers does she have to build to resist him? What are his tactics to dismantle the barriers? When does she fall? And can he forgive her for what she puts him through?

These are the questions I ask myself as I’m writing – and you will see the perfect example in Wanting Mr Wrong, as Evie keeps shoring up the walls to her heart, only to have Jack keep smashing them down.

It’s not all about the happy ending – the fun is in how they get there, and the more wrong the hero, the more fun it is. Because there’s nothing more romantic than that moment when you toss out the salad and sink your teeth into that Cadbury Creme Egg.

 

I’m definitely with Avril there – who doesn’t secretly think, ‘I want one!’ every time they see a Cadbury Crème Egg at the checkout , then just buy salad instead?!

Thanks for stopping by Avril. My review of Wanting Mr Wrong will be published later today, so drop in and read (preferably while eating a Crème Egg).

Guest Post: Q & A with Ellie O’Neill, author of Reluctantly Charmed

Morning everyone! If you’ve been around the Twittersphere of late, you may have seen a lot of buzz about debut author, Ellie O’Neill and her novel, Reluctantly Charmed. It’s a novel that cleverly mixes the everyday of 26 year old Kate McDaid’s life with the magical realism of fairies, witches and the mystical in modern day Ireland. Ellie gets the balance of contemporary fiction and magical elements just right in this page turner. Today I’m pleased to welcome Ellie to Sam Still Reading to discuss Reluctantly Charmed with some questions I put to her. Thanks Ellie for stopping by, I really appreciate it!

Here’s the blurb for Reluctantly Charmed to whet your appetite:

Kate McDaid is listing her new-year’s resolutions hoping to kick-start her rather stagnant love life and career when she gets some very strange news. To her surprise, she is the sole benefactor of a great great-great-great aunt and self-proclaimed witch also called Kate McDaid, who died over 130 years ago. As if that isn’t strange enough, the will instructs that, in order to receive the inheritance, Kate must publish seven letters, one by one, week by week.

Burning with curiosity, Kate agrees and opens the first letter – and finds that it’s a passionate plea to reconnect with the long-forgotten fairies of Irish folklore. Almost instantaneously, Kate’s life is turned upside down. Her romantic life takes a surprising turn and she is catapulted into the public eye.

As events become stranger and stranger – and she discovers things about herself she’s never known before – Kate must decide whether she can fulfil her great-aunt’s final, devastating request … and whether she can face the consequences if she doesn’t.

Witty, enchanting and utterly addictive, Reluctantly Charmed is about what happens when life in the fast lane collides with the legacy of family, love and its possibilities … and a little bit of magic.

– See more at: http://books.simonandschuster.com.au/…

You can also read the first chapter of Reluctantly Charmed
here or visit Ellie’s website.

 


 

How did the idea for Reluctantly Charmed come into your head? Was it fully formed, or in pieces?

It came in bits and bobs. My original idea was kind of a mis match of the Emperor’s new clothes, everyone is telling her she’s something but she’s pretty sure she’s not. I’m quite a celebrity obsesser (my secret shame) I enjoy their crazy antics, but I view them as entertainment, I love the fashion, their ridiculous love lives, their extravagance. And I wondered, if you put a normal person under the spot light, under the glare of the paparazzi, who has to deal with fans that think they know you better than you know yourself, how would that feel? How would a normal person react to that?

That was my core idea for Reluctantly Charmed, and then it grew legs, many of them!

What made you choose to explore Irish fairies?

A couple of things, I’m aware of the idea of them, I grew up knowing about them as a lot of Irish people do. But I never had a light bulb moment about including fairies in the book, the idea just crept up on me and I let myself drift towards it and started reading about them. And I just fell in love with the stories and the magic around them. They belong to two generations back in Ireland, but because the belief in them was so strong back then, there’s still a lot of superstition and rituals around today. I found this fascinating, that modern Ireland which is such a progressive country still has this beautiful thread of romanticism. I felt it was worth exploring.

Do you believe in fairies?

I choose to believe in the possibility of them. I hope that there’s magic out there. That karma exists, that there’s some great puppeteer in the sky pulling strings to make wonderful things happen. I have that dream, but I’m also a realist, bills need to be paid, bones get broken, feelings get hurt, life can be really hard, and maybe because life can be hard we need to believe in magic even more!

Reluctantly Charmed has a wonderfully light and witty feel to it. It feels like Kate is sitting next to me as I read and I feel I’ve known her forever. How did her voice come about? Is she modelled on someone?

Thank you, what a lovely thing for me to read. Kate isn’t modeled on anyone. I completely lost myself when I was writing her, so I think it’s safe to say that there’s a lot of me in her character. A lot of her inner dialogue, like for example when she’s weighing up reality versus the supernatural, that comes from me, and her romantic disasters are mine too. She had to be a very relatable character for her incredible journey to be believable, and she had to be loveable because she’s going through so much. But she’s her own person, she exists, she lives and breathes, and if I thought she didn’t I’d be devastated. As far as I’m concerned she’s very happy and living in the West of Ireland, and life is going well for her.

 

Thanks again Ellie! I’ll have my review of Reluctantly Charmed up on the blog early next week. If you’d like to read the book, check out your favourite bookstore/ book department or click on the links below:

Ebook: Amazon AU | Amazon US | Amazon UK |Kobo | Google Play | iBooks

Book: Bookworld |Readings |Booktopia

You can also follow the blog tour on the blogs below: