Fan Girl Friday – Rottnest Island with Rachael Johns

the lighthouse

the lighthouse

So, when the fabulous Paula asked if I wanted to appear on her new segment FAN GIRL FRIDAY I immediately replied with an enthusiastic “yes”, but then I looked around wildly for something to write about. Over the next few weeks, a few obvious things came up – Diet Coke (almost everyone knows about my love of the stuff), Trolls (I used to collect them in high school and am still rather fond), cats (love them) and KONGA (a crazy exercise thing I do once a week that no one seems to have heard of in other parts of Oz). In the end, I’ve decided to go with ROTTNEST ISLAND – a place I consider one of the best holiday spots on the planet.

one of the many cheeky quokkas on the island

one of the many cheeky quokkas on the island

Rottnest is a small island off the coast of Western Australia, just 19 kilometres from Fremantle (which incidentally happens to be where RWAus’s next conference is happening). I haven’t been to Rottnest nearly as many times as I like but the times I have been there have all left me with fond-memories.

I went there as a child with my Mum and grandparents, had the most awesome ever year seven camp, went back for a day just after I was married and then took my kids there for a week a couple of years back. There are so many awesome things about Rottnest:

  1. The transport on the island (bar a few service vehicles) is solely bicycles. You can bring your own on the ferry or hire a huge variety of different types once you get to the island. With all the walking and riding you do, you can enjoy holiday goodies guilt-free.
  2. my kids playing out the front of the Rottnest Pub one evening
  3. Quokkas – all over the island you’ll find these gorgeous little marsupials called quokkas. My sons were besotted by them, even after one of them got bitten on the finger.
  4. my kids playing out the front of the Rottnest Pub one evening

    my kids playing out the front of the Rottnest Pub one evening

    Food – you can cook for yourself in the chalets or camping grounds, but there are a zillion (well almost) other choices, most of them kid-friendly. There’s a delicious bakery that also sells yummy ice cream and the pub has a fabulous outside area for kids to run around.

  5. Safety – if you ignore the fact a head was recently found there, Rottnest has that awesome safe feeling that makes you feel as if kids can roam the island and not come into harm.
  6. Beaches/Swimming – The Basin area to swim at is one of the most magical swimming spots I have every encountered.Lighthouse – what island would be complete without a lighthouse? Rottnest’s is gorgeous and not too hard to get to by bike or foot.
  7. Family Fun – there’s a fun park with mini golf, trampolines and other stuff, as well as a movie hall that shows family favourites in the busy holiday seasons.

Honestly, whether you’re five or a hundred and five, Rottnest has something to offer for everyone. I’m feeling relaxed and happy just thinking about it now.

But I’m curious… what’s your favourite holiday spot and why?

Man Drought bookpageStandInStar bookpageRachael has two brand-spanking new books out this month: Man Drought (Harlequin Australia and currently only available in Aus/NZ territories) and Stand-In Star (Carina Press).  Visit Rachael via her website, blog, Twitter and Facebook.

Fan Girl Friday – A Great Fashion Find by Amy Andrews

amy andrews Today I’m going to rave about fashion. Yes, those who know me and my ability to travel with only an overnight case to a five day conference anywhere in the world and my one pair of shoes and one handbag per year and my multiple fashion-in-the-field wins (not) may find this kind of surprising 😀

But you know, when you find a good thing then Paula is right – you really do need to rave about it.

The thing is, it’s hard – really freaking hard – to find things that look good and fit well if you can’t just walk into a regular shop and buy a size off the rack. Really, it’s virtually impossible and trust me after hours of trying it’s also downright depressing. So imagine my absolute joy when my sister put me onto this FB page she’d stumbled across!  An online fashion retailer called Missmel.

Now, I’m not an internet shopper. In fact, one could quite fairly say about me that I’m not an early adopter of any kind of technology. Only just got my first iPhone after too long with a daggy decade-old clunker. So I was disheartened initially to find that Missmel was only an online store. What if I got something and it didn’t fit (a regular occurrence when your arse is huge and sizes are so different from one outfit to the next) or looked terrible etc. Then I’d have to return it…. It all seemed too hard.

Me wearing one of Missmel’s dresses (and with pre short do!) at the Sydney Harlequin Escape party in November 2012  with the fabulous Jan Murray.

Me wearing one of Missmel’s dresses (and with pre short do!) at the Sydney Harlequin Escape party in November 2012 with the fabulous Jan Murray.

But then I discovered that Missmel is based in Brisbane and even better just down the road from my chiro who I see most fortnights! So I rang her and asked it if would be possible to actually go to her “shop” and try stuff on.

And this is where this story gets really good because Mel is an utter inspiration! The thing I love about her is that Mel is like me and like lots of women I know – a busy working mother who is not a size 8. There is only one thing worse than being a plus size woman in this body-obsessed world and that is being sold a size 22 in a shop by a teenager wearing a pair of size 6 jeans!

So instantly I felt Mel “got” me. She welcomed me into her home from where she runs her business and in actual fact ended up consoling me when I burst into tears about two minutes later because it was the week leading up to the one year anniversary of my Mum’s death and I was feeling a little wobbly. Way to go me, right? Nothing like being a snivelling mess with a total stranger.

But that’s the thing – she didn’t feel like a stranger.

And then there’s her philosophy – I’m not beautiful like you, I’m beautiful like me. She’s been through her own trials and tribulations but she is an amazing advocate for looking and feeling sexy no matter what size is on your label. The stuff she posts on her FB page about size and body image and loving the person you are is truly inspirational stuff! She’s an advocate for women – all women – and I freaking love that!

Lastly, of course, there are the clothes – hundreds of beautiful reasonably priced garments designed by people who understand bigger bodies and know how to cut fabrics to flatter and enhance the good bits while hiding the not-so-good bits. Not clothes for smaller women just made larger, clothes made with the bigger gal in mind from the get-go! I left there that first day with $500 worth of clothes mainly for the Gold Coast conference (about ten items I think) and every one of them are winners!

But I left with so much more too. I left feeling good about myself. I left feeling empowered.

So if you too are tired of fruitless shopping expeditions that do nothing other than increase your dependence on alcohol then I urge you to discover Missmel. Ring her, talk to her. You won’t be sorry.

BTW – she also stocks an amazing range of clothes for women who don’t have to worry about their labels. Missmel is about all women, no matter their size. Among others, she stocks the Hell Bunny and Betty Paige lines which are gorgeous retro chic and so damn sexy!

the devil and the deepAmy is an award-winning author who has written thirty-one romances for Harlequin Mills and Boon in both the Medical and RIVA/Presents lines. To date she’s sold over a million books and been translated into thirteen different languages. In 2010 she took out the sexy category in the prestigious Romantic Book of the Year Award.

She’s recently launched a couple of separate writing ventures with the release of Sister Pact a contemporary women’s fiction novel that she wrote with her sister Ros Baxter and is published by Harper Collins Australia as well as the very exciting release of her first category romance, Taming the Tycoon, with Entangled Publishing. Both of these novels recently became finalists in the 2012 ARRA romance awards.

In what she euphemistically likes to call her spare time, Amy works part time as a pediatric intensive care nurse and was on the national executive for Romance Writers Of Australia for six years during which time she organised two national conferences and undertook a two year term as president. She’s been married for twenty-two years and has two teenagers. She lives on acreage on the outskirts of Brisbane but secretly wishes it was the hillsides of Tuscany. You can find her on her website, Facebook and Twitter.

Fan Girl Friday – A Rose By Any Other Name by Keziah Hill

After the previous fan girl post of Paula’s, the pressure is on.  As an erotic romance writer should I make up a deep and abiding obsession with riding crops or latex? Wax lyrical about nipple clamps or butt plugs? Reveal some kind of weird fetish concerning feet or fur?

The truth is, I’m boring. Some of you know this because the most exciting tweets I tweet (well, at least I find them exciting) are pictures of my garden. I love flowers. More particularly, I love roses.

I have a small suburban garden so I can only plant a limited amount which is around fifty or so. Everything from tiny miniatures like The Fairy  to big ramblers like New Dawn.  I seem to have a thing for pink, intensely fragrant roses like Gertrude Jekyll.

iceberg

Iceberg

Why do I like them so much? I think it’s a family thing. My mother was fond of roses and transferred that love to me and all my sisters. My Melbourne sister’s roses are fabulous. She has an old Peace rose in her front garden under planted with lavender. My American sister also has the bug and her mid-west garden is full of roses. My Sydney sister is a devoted Australian native garden so she keeps all her roses in pots where they bloom their heads off. Her Icebergs are a joy to behold.

QElizabeth

Queen Elizabeth

teacupOne of my earliest memories was lying on the grass in the backyard and gazing up at the drooping buds of a climbing Lorraine Lee which, along with Queen Elizabeth, were among the most popular roses in most garden in the nineteen fifties and sixties.  Inside, my mother was probably having afternoon tea on her Royal Doulton ‘Bouquet’ tea set with her tennis buddies.

mad menAll sounds very Mad Men doesn’t it?  There was more than a touch of the suburban family slowly imploding which is how I developed my writer’s skill of observing the undercurrents. Beautiful roses and lovely china can hide a wealth of family secrets. Cue to a scene with wilting roses and the dank, sour smell of stale flower water. A door bangs in the wind but the silence continues, becoming unbearable, endless. Our heroine creeps in, determined to … Sorry, I digress. Back to roses.

When I first became a home owner, I want a big garden full of roses and flowering perennials. On the whole that’s what I’ve got. Along the way I’ve begun to appreciate Australian natives and have increasing numbers in my garden, but really, my first love is and always will be, roses.

Old fashioned ones like The Apothecary Rose  (one of the oldest roses in the world) a species rose I’ve forgotten the name of, to my gorgeous Double Delight.  My latest purchase is an Albertine rose  which is a big monster with fragrant pinky-apricot blooms in spring. I’m going to plant it on a trellis on the north-east side of my back deck where it will grow up and block the summer sun (I hope).

There are at least two romance writers I know who grow wonderful roses. Fiona Lowe in Victoria and Kandy Shepherd in the Blue Mountains. I’ve seen Kandy’s garden which is fabulous.

Another garden out my way is Chapel House in Rydal about 15km west of Lithgow. If you’re looking for a wedding spot this is the one.

And if you ever travel to Paris, make sure you go to the Chateau de Bagatelle, in the Bois de Boulogne which is thoroughly charming.

tattooThere you are. A rose obsessive. Now if I was really clever I’d combine my rose love with something a bit more racy like a rose tattoo. But I’m a wimp so you’ll have to make do with the fantasy.

After quite a few years working in the criminal justice system, Keziah Hill and her alter ego Deborah Tait, decided a tree change was needed so decamped to the blissful Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, Australia. Amid a garden full of flowering blossoms, roses and the odd marauding possum, she writes steamy erotic romance and romantic suspense while trying not to procrastinate too much. Her work is available at most digital bookshops.

Business with Pleasure available on Kindle |  Moonlit Encounters available from your e-retailer of choice. See Deborah Tait’s website for links.

brand-new shiny Fan Girl Friday !!!!

Welcome to my brand-new column for 2013!  It’s called Fan Girl Friday and here’s how it works.  Friday is the day I rave about something I love – it can be a song, a book, a movie, a product, a website… anything!  And so no-one gets bored hearing me go on about stuff I love (although there are many, many things I *squeeee* girlishly about!) I’ve invited a bunch of writer friends to guest blog about their fangirl loves too.  So you need to follow the blog and make sure you check in every Friday for a new post.

So, seeing as today is my very first post, I’m taking the wheel and waxing lyrical about my latest favorite TV show and one of its fabulous actors.

four evil Roman emperors

Horrible Histories
My son and I stumbled across this BBC program before Christmas and we are totally addicted to it.  I’m familiar with the books by Terry Deary, which teach kids history with all the yucky bits (like beheadings, plague and poo) kept in.  But the TV series, I think, is way more fun.  It’s a comedy sketch show, featuring actors Jim Howick, Mathew Bayton, Ben Willbond, Martha Howe-Douglas, Simon Farnaby and Laurence Rickard, who play all the characters – from Charles II, Henry VIII, vikings, Elizabeth I, plague victims and more.  I love history, but I can tell you I’ve learned more in these last few months than years at school 😀  And with a score of BAFTAs and Brit Comedy Awards up their sleeves, it’s not hard to tell why.  It’s funny, clever and extremely entertaining, a historical lesson with a modern telling.  Kinda Python-esque, which appeals to adults as well as teaching kids in a fun way, with headings such as Slimy Stuarts, Cut-throat Celts, Terrible Tudors, Vicious Vikings, and Measly Middle Ages.  Their only guideline is they cannot lie about the historical detail.  And thanks to the genius series songwriter Dave Cohen, they also rework popular songs into hilarious versions to suit the characters, like Charles Darwin singing Natural Selection to the tune of David Bowie’s Changes.  Or a bunch of Victorian children with a different take on Food, Glorious Food (reworked as Work, Terrible Work).  Or my two favorites: Dick Turpin with a reworked Adam Ant’s Stand and Deliver and King Charles II’s homage to Eminem’s My Name Is… rap (this one I’ve been singing constantly for the last two weeks :grin:).  I love all the actors, but I’m here to tell you about one in particular – actor and singer, Mat Baynton.

yes, I will do anything you ask, just keep looking at me like that…

Just look at him. :sigh:   No, really, LOOK AT HIM!!!  I could just take him home and stare at his lovely , expressive face for ever… although I suspect he may find that just a tad too creepy disturbing unnerving.  In a HH cast interview, when asked what made the show so successful, fellow castmate Larry Rickard admitted “Matt’s eyes.  They’re minstrel eyes.”  Can I get a hell, yeah?

Another fellow actor Jim Howick has said that Mat is the backbone of their show and it’s not hard to see why when you see him in the show.  And yes, as you can imagine, he has quite a fandom on Twitter, plus a mass of Facebook and Tumblr fan sites.  There’s also a following called ‘baybond’, which is a collection of photos and gifs showing the onscreen bromance between him and fellow HHer Ben Willbond… o.O

Here he is playing the totally dreamy Dick Turpin (I suspect casting him to convince people the violent highwayman was no hero slightly backfired here).  And bonus – all the Horrible Histories songs come as an added extra on the DVDs, so I can watch this over and over… which I have.  I admit my addiction and find no shame in that.

His other roles in the show include a caveman, a French peasant, a camp fashionista, snobby Victorian, a Celtic warrior rapping with Jim Howick in ‘Boast Battle‘.  Here’s a few shots of him:

And because you can never have enough Mat, here’s my bestest song of all time, with King Charles II as the King of Bling (phwoar!).

Apart from Horrible Histories, Mat has also acted in Gavin & Stacey, Ashes to Ashes and Peep Show, plus he features in the new Brit sitcom, Spy (just starting here in Australia), about a single father who inadvertently gets recruited by MI5 (Mat plays best friend Chris). Oh, and he’s also starred in a few music videos – Listening Man by The Bees (I loooove this clip!!)  and Dan by Grovesnor (you can buy the Listening Man vid on iTunes but sadly, not Dan which is quite annoying because he looks so damn fit in that clip!).

King Charles loves a good danceBut wait – there’s more!  Mat’s also a solo artist, under the name of Dog Ears.  If you like your indie music with a melancholy feel to it, you can take a listen here and also download the EP for a bargain £2.50.  I wish I lived in the UK and could actually see him perform live… 😦

So there’s my fan girl moment!  Now, excuse me while I go and watch King Charles sing and dance, because oh, happy day, there could be a Horrrible Histories movie in the future!!!  Party, anyone?

Inspirational words for 2013

Welcome to the new year, everyone!  This is the time I normally take stock of what I’ve done the previous year and blog about my goals for the upcoming one.  More on that in a later post: I want to do something a little different and talk about my four words for 2013.

They’re going to be four inspirational words that will be prominent in both in my personal and writing life.  Words that can be as broad as I want to make them, but will ultimately keep me on track to achieve my goals.  So let’s take a look at the first one:

productivityiconThis one is a given, I think.  To me, it means butt-in-chair-hands-on-keyboard and doing work.  And not just writing either – blog posts, emails, website content, anything where there will be a tangible result.  I love Dorothy Parker’s quote, “I hate writing but I love having written”, and I also love to see proof of my efforts i.e. page count.  The key for me is to have the next project on the go at the same time I’m finishing up the last, because if I’m not sure what my next is, I tend to flounder and stuff around and end up shopping at the Book Depository instead of writing 😀 So productivity is my top goal this year.

patienceicon

I think this one will be a biggie for me this year, because I am not naturally patient (I am quite at home with the iPodGen, thanks very much :smile:).  This year my boy starts high school (!) which means lots of changes to his learning and thinking.  Definitely will need patience for that!  Also, with my planned projects, I will need patience when submitting, waiting to hear back, editing, (possible) rejections, etc.  I will need to take time to understand that sometimes things are out of my control, decide which things matter and pursue those, then let the others go.

peaceicon

Another biggie.  I think everyone needs to pursue areas in which you can quieten your mind and find peace, be it a bath, an afternoon shopping without the kids or a writing retreat for one.  Stopping to appreciate what I have, realize there’s some things I just never will have (like a fast metabolism or the willpower to resist books and handbags :grin:) and coming to terms with that is important for optimum productivity.

joyiconLast one – not a P word this time!  I love this word.  I love all the connotations it conveys, like fun, delight, good times, laughter, happiness and optimism.  Sometimes when you’re in deadline hell, everyone wants your attention, work sucks, a family member is ill, you hate your new book cover or you just keep getting rejection after rejection, it’s hard to find joy.  Which means I turn to stuff that makes me happy.  For you it could be walking your dog, an intimate dinner with your loved one, music, surfing the internet or checking out your next story inspiration pictures.  There’s lots of opportunities to experience joy so go ahead and seek them out!

Do you have any inspirational words for the new year?  Want to share them?