Fan Girl Friday – Second Hand Rules with Kate Belle

Hi Everyone and thanks, Paula, for having me.

It’s taken a while for Paula and I to get this post to you, what with both of us being busy and born with an organisational deficiency called ‘life’. As I write it’s school holidays and I’m spending my time at my computer yelling ‘YES’, ‘NO’, ‘LATER’ and ‘WHAT?’ over my shoulder to Miss 8 and her visitors. (I’ll never win a supervision excellence award.)

My parenting style mimics that of my childhood – ah, how we are destined to return to our roots. My childhood was a country one. My parents weren’t wealthy people. We lived simply, making do with what we had and being inventive when need be. I blame this ‘get-by-and-don’t-waste-anything’ background on what has developed into a full blown adult obsession with all things second hand

Confession time: I love opp shops. And garage sales. And markets. And council hard rubbish collections. Love, love, love them.

Most things I own are second hand. My lounge and sitting room are filled with 1920 – 1940’s furniture I bought in Prahran when I first started work at Swinburne University. As I look around my study the only new thing I see is the computer! The desk, filing cabinet, telephone, lamps, tall boy, couch, bookshelves and most of the books are second hand. Aside from my underwear, my clothes are second hand. Even the mug I’m drinking tea from is second hand.

katebell5Some of my most treasured possessions are items I’ve discovered at a market or an opp shop. Camberwell market is a famed source for hunter gatherers like me. It was where I bought this gorgeous royal blue velvet 1950s coat. I knew it was a prize when the woman I purchased it from fixed me with a steely eye and instructed, ‘You look after that.’

Clothing is a particular weakness of mine. I have a shopaholic relative who sends 3 enormous bags of cast offs my way once a year and it gives me no end of joy to go through them. Our annual holiday to Lakes Entrance always includes a visit to its many opp shops and I always come home with more clothes than I arrived with. My wardrobe is bowed and bulging. Must do something about that.

katebell4It doesn’t stop at garments though. Classic crockery is also a favourite in this house. I have more gorgeous 1960s coffee sets than I can possibly use. My Christmas table always see the 1930s green glassware and my 1950s canister set is on permanent display on top of my kitchen cupboards.

katebell3When I was a student it was a cost thing. Then, when I started working, it became an opp-shop-chic image thing. By the time I got married it was a financial necessity. Now, it’s just a love of pre-loved things that are too special to be discarded and, believe me, you’d be amazed at the sort of things people discard.

katebell2My beloved (who, by the way, is also second hand having been married before) recently found a Tiffany’s bracelet someone had tossed in a junk jinker with a lot of other jewellery. We’ve found a Russell Hobb’s electric kettle still in its box, full silver cutlery sets and a gorgeous old radiogram that plays 78rpm’s to add to our homely collection.

katebell1And books!! Every year our local Oxfam group have a massive second hand book sale and two years ago I scored a pile of rare books by Aboriginal authors, many of them signed, all at $2 each! I came home from that venture grinning like the proverbial Cheshire.

The down side is the clutter. An obsession with cheap and accessible second hand goods necessitates a regular clean out of wardrobes, cupboards, bookshelves. It’s hard letting go sometimes, but if you want to keep collecting, culling is a must. Out with the old and in with the…old, I guess.

the yearning by Kate BelleKate is a multi-published author who writes dark, sensual contemporary women’s fiction. She lives, writes and loves in Melbourne, juggling her strange, secret affairs with her male characters with her much loved partner and daughter, and a menagerie of neurotic pets.  Kate holds a tertiary qualification in chemistry, half a diploma in naturopathy and a diploma in psychological astrology. Kate believes in living a passionate life and has ridden a camel through the Australian desert, fraternised with hippies in Nimbin, had a near birth experience and lived on nothing but porridge and a carrot for 3 days.

Read an extract from her latest release, The Yearninghere.  Buy The Yearning as an ebook from Amazon or iTunes  Print book: Target, Kmart, Myer, Collins, Dymocks, Big W, Eltham Bookshop and other independent bookshops and major airports.  Also by Kate Belle: erotic novellas, Breaking the Rules and Bloom.  Visit Kate at her blog/website, Facebook and Twitter.

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.

Finished my 4th book!

youarelostMany a time when I’m writing a book I feel a bit like this cartoon, so out of necessity I’ve planned every book since the first one.  I have whiteboards, pin boards, Blu-tak for those snippets I managed to jot down, Document Map, art boards.   And after you pass that “this sucks!  I HATE IT!” moment and finally finish the thing, it’s a wonderful feeling, attaching that email to my editor then sending it off into cyberspace 😀

This one is part of the Outback Billionaires and Babies miniseries.  Two of my fellow Down Under Desirabelles, Maxine Sullivan and Robyn Grady are paving the way in April and May, and mine will be out in June.  I called it “Baby Bombshell” and my Senior Editor seemed to like it, so fingers crossed it appears somewhere in the title.   I’m also hoping there’s gorgeous Ayers Rock as part of the cover because there’s a very significant lovescene in the book where my hero literally sweeps my heroine off her feet (and onto the table… you get the picture :shock:)

chic top

Vanilla Fountain bath bomb

Vanilla Fountain bath bomb

I do celebrate finishing-the-damn-book and today, the first day of school holidays, I went to our local shopping center and went a bit wild (shhh, don’t tell Visa – I already owe more than what I have in my savings!)  At the very-aptly-named Lush, my absolute favorite store in Australia, I bought Vanilla Fountain bath bomb, Blue Skies bath frothy, Vanilla Dee-Lite body lotion and a yummy shower fizzy called Up the Wooden Hill.

Then I went into City Chic and bought a snazzy glitzy top (no, that’s not me there… but she is gorgeous!), plus a hoodie (love hoodies!) for the warmer weather coming up.  Normally I buy a bag but have been bag-satiated for the last few months on account of my birthday handbag.

So I was thinking as I cursed, wrote, smiled, wrote, cried, wrote then cursed some more, that even though I hate pressure, pressure is what gets me writing every time.   I write during school hours – 9.30am until 2.30pm, five days a week.  I don’t write on weekends and I can’t write during school holidays.  But I had a good six months to write this book, but events conspired to steal my time.  Like being quarantined from school for swine flu (no we didn’t have it, but my folks came back from Canada, so…)   Then we both got the flu for real.  Another two weeks.  Then my boy got chicken pox – another two weeks.  Then he had a spate of colds and muscle injuries (the latter of which I suspect were more of a con to get out of school than anything major).  So those six months dwindled down to something considerably shorter.   Which includes the time I spent “piss-balling about” (my dad’s phrase which I believe has ancient English origins :wink:).  But it was also a productive piss-ball, because I made it into Stella Cameron’s Scarlett Boa contest with an erotic paranormal I’ve been tinkering with oh, this past year or so.  Mucho Snoopy dancing here!  You can read my entry  here and vote for it here.

Okay, so after all that drama and stuff, I had an interesting revelation.  Maybe I can write one book every school term – four a year?

Or am I now jinxing myself by saying it out loud?  Other authors do it… but then they don’t have a boy who’s an extremely convincing actor.

why I love eBay

I love shopping.  I love the luxurious indulgence of strolling about the stores, picking up things, smelling stuff, feeling fabric and finding a gorgeous new colour.  But I have to be in the mood to try stuff on – and a few times I’ve been disappointed by a size or cut, or colour (I love yellow but it holds a violent hatred for my skin tone).

shoes

you shall be mine... one day...

And I love shopping on line, from the comfort of my bed, at 10pm.   Stuff I can’t buy in the stores – the PC-ROM game of Lego Star Wars.  Lilo & Stitch mini figures.  The red sweater from my vintage Snoopy doll that mysteriously vanished in a house move years ago.  My favorite shade of Revlon’s discontinued Lip Glide lipgloss (it’s Sheerly Bare).

Paula small

It's only the bodice but believe me, the gown is fully gorgeous!

Yes, there’s a lot of crap there, and I’ve been the victim of some of it.  But mostly, it’s a genuine pleasure.  Like the white platform sneakers emblazoned with a glittery USA flag, or the Murano glass ring with a stunning blue flower decoration.  And my iPod Touch, which I got $100 cheaper than the store-bought ones (which I use to read ebooks I buy online!).  I even bought a ballgown, which I wore to my first Harlequin authors Valentines Day ball in 2007.  Only $66!

And of course you can sell stuff, although the thrill doesn’t translate quite so much 😀  For me it’s the buying.  Right now I’ve got my eye on the first three Harry Potter PC-ROM games, a pair of white platform heels (for next years’ conference) and a leather powder-blue wallet.   Way cheaper than the shops.  And faster too.

want jewelry!

fearlessness_bgI’ve been increasingly intrigued by the simple, gorgeous necklace Mariska Hagitay wears as Olivia Benson in Law & Order: SVU. So I googled “Mariska Hagitay necklace Olivia Benson Law and Order” and I ended up at Giving Tree Jewelry. I seriously LOOOOVE this site! Oh, and I found the necklace – it’s called “Fearlessness”, which I kinda need sometimes.  Check it out.