Category Archive: Personal

  1. 2016 Favourites

    Leave a Comment

    I think we can all agree 2016 has had its share of ups and downs. From a personal standpoint, the last twelves months have been a big for me. It was my first year as a full time writer, I hit the USA Today bestseller list, was nominated for an industry award with the Romance Writers of Australia, and signed my first ever book deal at auction. I listed some of these things, as well as other bits and bobs from my year over on the Lovecats Downunder blog.

    Since I don’t want to double up from that blog post, I thought it would be fun to share my favourite things from 2016…

    TV Shows…

    I’ve never been a big TV watcher in the past, I think because I couldn’t seem to remember when shows were on and would always miss episodes or lose interest. Thanks to streaming, I now watch a little more TV. It’s my fave way to unwind after the workday with my husband. Here are my favourites from last year:

    • Game of Thrones – OMG I love this show so much. I was very late to the bandwagon, and didn’t start watching until season 5 was already out. But now I’m all caught up and can say it’s hands-down one of the best shows I’ve ever watched.
    • Brooklyn Nine-Nine – Hilarious, and definitely not my normal style. But I have a huge crush on Andy Samberg. True fact.
    • Better Call Saul – this is filling my drama needs post Breaking Bad. Saul is a fantastic character, and I’ve always had a soft spot for Mike.
    • The Good Place – wacky, off-beat and totally unique. My kind of comedy.

     

    Books…

    My goal is generally to read about 50 books a year, close to one per week. While I do read a lot of romance, I also enjoy YA (particularly fantasy and dystopian stories), any kind of survival story, crime, thrillers, and post apocalyptic fiction. These are my top picks for what I read in 2016 (if you want to see the whole list, you can see my Goodreads 2016 shelf)…

    • Wrong by Jana Aston hilarious, sexy contemporary romance. I read A LOT in this genre and this book totally stood apart from the crowd.shadow-and-bone_hi-res-677x1024
    • Barbarian Alien by Ruby Dixon if someone had told me I would fall head over heels for this series, I wouldn’t have believed them. I’m not huge into sci-fi so I thought the whole alien hero thing wouldn’t be my jam. WRONG! These books are fun, steamy and I can’t get enough of them.
    • Shadow & Bone by Leigh Bardugo  Fabulous high-fantasy YA trilogy with a Russian bent. These kept me turning the pages like crazy. I read the first two books in 2016 and can’t recommend them enough.
    • Girl Underwater by Claire Kells I’m not sure how to categorize this book, other than to say it’s about girl who survives a plane crash and it’s told in alternating chapters of the past and present day. A short read, but very gripping. Loved it.

     

    Makeup…

    I’m a total makeup junkie. Always have been, always will be.

    • Too Faced Better Than Sex Mascara I’m hard on mascara – I want it to volumize, lengthen, separate and be the blackest of blacks. I’ll toss a new mascara out within the first month because I can’t tolerate shitty lashes. It’s serious business, folks. This mascara is everything – great brush, great formula, great staying power. Total winner.14520491_1804562526423874_8682631664677604818_n
    • Colourpop Ultra Satin Lip liquid lipsticks best liquid lipstick formula on the market and they’re only $6USD. Unlike a lot of liquid lippies, these don’t dry your lips out. They’re not 100% transfer proof, but the staying power is fantastic. Personal favourite shades include London Fog (Pictured) and Alyssa.
    • Urban Decay Heavy Metal Glitter Liner I will be wearing glitter until the end of my days, that’s a promise. This is glitter without the hassle. It’s a liner, but works great dabbed over eyeshadow for a glittery look without the need for a glitter adhesive. Midnight Cowboy is personal fave.
    • Hourglass Mineral Veil Primer (or NYX Angel Veil primer for a budget-friendly option) this is a silky-finish primer that takes out shine and smoothes over pores to allow your foundation to lay more smoothly on your skin. Makes a good foundation look great. Definitely a staple in my makeup kit.

     

    Honourable mentions: Tarte Rainforest of the Sea foundation, Essie Gel Couture nail polishes, Milani Rose Powder blush, Anastasia Beverly Hills Glow kit in Gleam, Chanel Les Beiges Healthy Glow Sheer Powder, and Laura Merceir Matte Radiance Baked Powder.

    Random…

    Awesome other things from 2016 that don’t have their own category.

    • Lapsang Souchong tea – I’m a sucker for anything smoky and while I’ve had this tea in the past, I rediscovered it in 2016.
    • My Macbook Pro – it’s light and sexy. ’nuff said.
    • Avocado and feta on toast – this will always be a favourite! Actually, I could just say avocado is a favourite full stop.
    • Visiting my family back in Australia – I spent a month back home and it was so good. Much needed.
    • Chicken and waffles – it shouldn’t work, but it does.
    • Getting my Canadian Permanent Residency – yaaay to not being kicked out of the country!

     

    Those were a few of my favourite things from 2016. What were yours? Let me know if you had a favourite book, TV show or something else from last year in the comments below.

  2. More llamas and a giveaway.

    10 Comments

    Okay, so if you’ve been around my blog or social media for five seconds you know I love llamas. So much so that I have a stuffed llama who serves as my writing mascot (his name is Romance Llamaand I hide a llama reference in each of my books.

    Also, fun fact: The Emporers New Groove is of my favourite Disney movies of all time!

    Now I have a new way of sharing my love for llamas! Are these USBs adorable or what? You can’t tell from this picture, but they’re actually in the shape of a book (see pictures here), so they’re doubly perfect.

    15271957_1847759858770807_2033144456636159676_oNB. For my author friends who are interested in doing something similar, I got mine through USB Memory Direct.

    I’m thinking about getting some more made to hand out at conferences and book signings. I’m curious, for those who frequent reader events, do you like swag like this? Also, what other swag do you enjoy? I’ve only done book marks in the past, so I’d love your thoughts!

    Anyone who comments on this post will go in the draw to win a prize of one of these cute USBs and a copy of my upcoming Blaze book, Mr. Dangerously Sexy.

    Don’t worry, if you’re not a winner but you’d still like to get your hands on one of these adorable llama-lovin’ USBs, I’ll be giving them away later in the year when I attend the Romance Writers of America and Romance Writers of Australia conferences.

  3. 1 Year Anniversary or is it happy birthday?

    Leave a Comment

    ONLY THE BRAVE TRY BALLET cover medThis day last year, my very first book came out. I’d gotten the call about 7-8 months earlier and the time had flown with more revisions, copy edits and milestone after milestone. By the time the book hit shelves I had already quit my job, moved out of my home and mu husband and I were doing a short stint living with my parents before the big move to Canada.

    So much can change in only a year. I’m incredibly grateful to the people who’ve supported me along the way. My husband and family who’ve supported me through it all, the first writing group I ever had at the MRWG, both of the RWAs, my crit partner, Lauren, and all the friends I’ve made along the way. Everyone who’s bought, read and/or reviewed my book.

    Thank you. To all those people who took a chance on me and my book, thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your support is everything to me.

    Being a new author is exciting but it isn’t easy. You’re an unknown, a risk. Many readers stick to their old faithfuls, their auto-buy authors, the choice they are certain will deliver value for their hard-earned money.Quote2

    Now, what’s going on for the next year? So. Many. Things.

    • The first book in my new small-town romance series, A Kiss in Kite Harbor, comes out this month. Pre-order details can be found here.
    • I’m already working on the next book in this series!
    • The second book in my Behind the Bar series, Let’s Pretend it’s Love, will be coming out (this is the follow up to The Rules According to Gracie).
    • My first book with Harlequin Blaze, A Dangerously Sexy Christmas, will be out in November, this one features a mystery surrounding a missing diamond, a hot Aussie ex-cop and a jewellery designer.
    • The Blaze book had turned into a miniseries and I’m working on the second book for this one too! Watch out for the secondary characters in the first one to see who’s getting their HEA next ;)

    Personally, I hope the next year is filled with travel, writing, family, friends and love….and Netflix. Girl’s gotta relax at some
    point, right?

    So thank you again to those who’ve supported me. It means the world to me.

    Does anyone else find it frightening that a year can fly by in the blink of an eye?  I hope this past twelve months has brought you much happiness.

  4. Writers Dealing with – Doubt

    4 Comments

    Doubt is a horrible feeling. If you allow it, those thoughts can burrow deep and become part of your daily life.

    I’ll be honest, I’ve doubted myself through every step of the publishing journey. Every time I see a one or two star rating or review pop up on GoodReads I question whether my books will ever win an award or make a bestseller list. Every time I get stuck on a story I doubt I will make it to the end.

    From speaking to other writers it seems feelings of doubt are common. Getting published doesn’t make these feelings go away. Putting your work out there for the general public to judge is scary and overwhelming.

    The bad news is that feelings of doubt are natural and pretty much everyone experiences them at some point. The good news is that you can deal with doubt, you can do things to increase your belief in yourself and create an environment where you feel less creatively blocked by doubt.

    15606349802_206d03ab2a_b

    photo credit

    Whether you’re an aspiring/pre-published writer doubting your ability to get the elusive ‘yes’ from an editor or agent, or if you’re like me and are dealing with doubt post publication here are few things that I do to stop the doubt messing with my creativity and my confidence:

    Do:

    Talk it out – Everyone has these feelings, so talking it out with someone from your support network can provide some perspective to the ‘doubt demons’. Got a one star review and think that means you’ll never sell a book again? Not so. Someone who can look at the situation with a little more distance can help you see through your emotions and find balance with your thinking.

    Remind yourself of what you’ve been able to achieve so far – especially for those of us who are a little Type-A (ahem, me) we often forget to reflect and look at the good things we’ve done before jumping with two feet into the next task. Have you written a whole book? Had a request from an editor? These are all fantastic things that you possibly doubted you could do at some point.

    Understand that self belief starts with you – no one else can make you believe in yourself and your abilities, more importantly you have to want to change this feeling. It’s tough, but simply switching up your language with more ‘cans’ than ‘can’ts’ is a good place to start.

    Remember a few key things:

    – There’s room for everyone at the top – one person’s success does not mean there is less opportunity for you

    – Writing is subjective – some people will love what you do, others will not. You can’t control how people feel about your writing

    – It’s not easy for anyone, so don’t feel bad that some days you find it  hard.

    Don’t:

    Compare yourself to others – I know humans are designed to analyse information by using comparison but comparing your number of requests or the time it took you to get published or your sales numbers to others is not the way to feel confident in yourself. Look at your achievements and cheer others on, but don’t compare.

    Use doubt to define your choices – trying to figure out the ‘easiest’ route to getting published because you doubt your abilities will only make you wish you’d gone all out later on. If you’re researching publishers and want to try for the big guns, do it. Don’t cheat yourself because you’re scared of getting a ‘no’.

    Give up – doubt is a natural feeling and you can’t always prevent it, but it doesn’t have to run your life. You can’t always choose how you feel, but you can choose how you react.

    I hope this post will help some of you who are struggling with doubt at the moment. It’s something I battle all the time and the above comes from years of experience at working to change my outlook on my self and my abilities. If you have any tips to add please leave them in the comments below – you might just help someone out!

  5. On the move – goals

    Leave a Comment

    Many of you will already (if you follow me on Facebook or Twitter) that I’m about to make a huge change in my life. I’m moving from my hometown of Melbourne all the way across the other side of the world to Toronto.

    I wasn’t sure it was possible to feel equal parts terrified and excited, but both are dialed up to eleven right now! I’m leaving in less than two weeks… *cue nail biting*

    But then I look at pictures like this and I know I’m making the right move.

    Banf

    image source

    There’s so much world out there to see and I’ve really only scratched the surface. My husband and I bought our house at a very young age and so we missed out while all our friends were backpacking around Europe and doing Contiki Tours. Now it’s time for us to do a little exploring.

    Here are some of the things I plan to do while living overseas:

    • Have a white Christmas! It will be so nice to have a roast Christmas lunch while it’s cold outside
    • Celebrate Thanksgiving and eat all of the pumpkin-flavoured things (Pumpkin Pie here I come!)
    • See Niagara Falls
    • Go to the following places in Canada and the USA: New York, Alaska, Washington, Montreal, Banf, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Disneyland
    • See Ice Hockey, Baseball and Curling games
    • Drive (just to experience driving on the other side of the road)
    • Try all the cultural pockets in Toronto (Chinatown, Little India, Little Portugal etc)

    Just to name a few…

    Right now I’m trying to figure out what to take and what to leave behind (which is a lot considering I am only take two suitcases with me!) Have you ever moved overseas before? What was the most exciting thing for you?

  6. Say what now?

    2 Comments

    As a writer (particular of romance fiction) you expect to be asked the same questions over and over. Not sure what I mean? Here are a few examples (yes, I have had all of the questions directed to me):

    • Is it like 50 shades of Grey?
    • Is it a trashy Mills and Boon novel? (to which I delightfully reply ‘yes, but it’s not trashy’)
    • Are you writing romance so you can break into real fiction?
    • Do you have to do a lot of research *wink wink nudge nudge*?
    • Don’t you think you’re setting false expectations about love/sex/marriage/life?
    • How much do you get paid for a book?

    Thankfully there’s the questions that I love getting asked as well: ‘where can I buy a copy / will you sign it for me?’ I hug those people.

    Knowing that people will always ask these questions I largely suck it up, smile and offer the occasional myth buster about romance novels. I always show my passion for the genre, though it often falls on deaf ears.

    One thing I was not prepared for was the questions that my husband would get asked upon telling people about my writing.

    what-did-you-just-sayuh, say what now?

    My husband loves telling people about my writing (bless him), he’s genuinely supportive and will talk to anyone who asks about what it is that I write. He even can talk about the difference between a category romance novel and a single title romance novel (and I love him for that.)

    But he has been stumped quite a few times by the following (yes, people actually said this stuff):

    • Lucky man! (usually followed by a pat on the back)
    • Does she write about personal experience? (usually followed by some kind of creepy waggling eyebrows)
    • Aren’t you keeping her satisfied?  / Maybe you need to pay her more attention.

    I kid you not.

    The worst part was that many of these comments had come from people we work with (as we both work at the same company). Now, those who know me personally can vouch for the fact that I am not at all squeamish when it comes to talking about sex. It’s an important part of my life. But the connotations that my husband has to face upon telling people what I write is more than a little unsettling.

    I’ve said to J on many occasions that I won’t be offended if he doesn’t want to tell people I write romance. But (to my delight) he tells me he couldn’t be more proud of what I write and he enjoys telling people about it. Thankfully, the men in my life don’t seem to have these Neanderthal views about what romance means.  Funny how no one ever asks if I write out of the experience of finding true love.

     

  7. The Support Factor & giving thanks

    29 Comments

    I want to ask you a personal question and it’s nothing to do with your sex life. or how much you earn. I want to ask you something even more personal than that.

    Have you told yourself that you’re not good enough today? Have you told yourself that you’re a failure? Have you decided not to do something because you’re scared?

    If you have you’re not alone. I did it as well.

    I thought about turning down a job because I was worried I wasn’t good enough to do it. This was after they’d offered me the job.

    Even after an editor has not only said ‘yes’ to publishing my book but offered me contracts for two more, I have a crippling fear that I am not good enough to be an author. I constantly question the things that I write, whether the ideas are unique enough, whether anyone will want to read my book, whether I’m going to be able to cope when I get a horrible 1-star review.

    My understanding through talking to others is that this lack of confidence is not uncommon in women, particularly for sensitive, creative types like writers. I see brilliant women cut themselves down, belittle their talents and generally talk to themselves the way that no one should ever talk to another human being, let alone themselves. Why?

    Unfortunately I don’t have an answer for why this happens. All I can do is share how I’ve managed to get the confidence to continue writing, submitting, going for promotions at work and generally doing other stuff that scares the sh*t out of me.

    SJ25112 (109)

     

    This is an actual photo from my wedding – my sister (who hates public speaking) gave an impromptu speech about our wonderful friendship and I grabbed her hand because I knew she was probably terrified. I’m so glad the photographer was there to capture this moment, the photo was completely unplanned.

    Want to know my secret? I’ve learned to ask for support.

    I have people in my life who are supportive, who don’t think my dreams are crazy and who are willing not only to help, but are also happy to put up with me when I have a meltdown about the impossibility of it all. They’re a shoulder to cry on, they give me a kick up the butt when I need it (I can thank my husband for this one), they tell me the truth about my work, they clap their hands when I achieve and sometimes they just leave me the heck alone (also, a big thanks to my husband for this one.)

    But I have had to ask for this support. This has not been easy, I dislike asking for things because I question whether or not I deserve what I’m asking for.

    One thing I’ve realised is that people are almost always willing to help if you reach out. Sometimes we have to remember that we can be our harshest critics, and that others are a lot kinder to us than we are to ourselves.

    I guess what I’m trying to say (in my usual rambling fashion) is that you’re not alone. You can ask for help, you do deserve support and success, and most importantly yes, you are good enough.

    Don’t hesitate to ask a question of another writer over Twitter or Facebook or email, don’t think that you’re too early (or too late) in your journey to join a writer’s group/attend a conference/submit your work. Don’t let your fear stop you from working towards your dream. You can do it.

    On that note, here are a few people I would like to thank:

    My husband – for everything from doing the dishes, to putting up with my cranky editing-cave BS, to letting me ugly cry when I need it.

    My family – my little sister for being a shining beam of positive throughout my entire life, to Mum for reading my very first manuscript and telling me it was wonderful, for Dad for being so proud and showing me that real men have emotions.

    Nan and Nonno – although you’re no longer here I feel your influence like a comforting blanket. Thank you for teaching me so much in the time I had with you both. It could never have been enough time.

    The ladies at MRWG – you guys rock! I am so eternally grateful for the support, encouragement and belief you have given me…and also for all the chocolate rewards.

    Violet – my friend, beta-reader, BS detector and eradicator of single tears and chin tilts. Thank you for your unwavering honesty and enthusiasm.

    Lauren and Kari  – two gorgeous ladies who’ve critiqued my work with gentleness, care and enthusiasm. I’m hanging out to watch you both get published.

    These wonderful Australian romance writers whose work and attitude has inspired me to no end – Anna Campbell, Annie West, Anne Gracie, Louise Reynolds, Rachel Bailey, Eden Summers, Madeline Ash, Rachel Johns, Amy Andrews, Nicola Marsh and many, many others.

    I know it’s hard to put yourself out there, it’s hard to believe you’ll get to where you want to be. But you can, and there are always people to help you no matter how alone you feel.

  8. Giving yourself a break

    1 Comment

    Lately I’ve been tired…really tired.

    In the few months that have passed I have travelled overseas, tried to deal with the loss of my grandfather, gotten a promotion at work, finished a draft of my MS and started editing it, and made a commitment to myself that I would give this writing thing a red hot go. This is on top of the daily grind which includes work, exercise (personal training, aerobics or yoga 5+ times per week), trying to keep my house from looking like a bomb site  feeding my husband (he’s a fabulous cook but gives no regard to nutrition, hence I cook during the week) and supporting him while he goes through a rough time at work.

    As I said, really tired.

    When I woke up the other morning I was so tired in fact that I had the urge to cry for no other reason than I just wanted to go back to sleep. Not really healthy if I think about it rationally.

    I guess all writers go through this in varied frequencies during their journey to publication and beyond. Before you’re published it’s all about balancing a job or family (or both) whilst learning and writing. Then you get published and you have the added pressures of deadlines, managing marketing and social media, networking etc.

    Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t trade writing for the world. It gives me an immense amount of pleasure…but sometimes one needs to take a step back and take some time out. For me that’s taking a few days off, chilling on the couch watching Mad Men, drinking tea and going to bed embarrassingly early.

    66b72c7c053211e2900e22000a1cbaa0_7

    my relaxation drink of choice…

    I felt it important to raise this topic in the hope that other writerly folks might see it and cut themselves some slack. We’re all human and we can’t be finely tuned writing machines without the appropriate amount of down time. Giving your mind and body a break could mean that an idea that has been distorted by sleep deprivation suddenly becomes clear, or a solution to your current problem materialises itself after a good night’s sleep.

    Be kind to yourself.

    How do you like to unwind from writing and life?

  9. Getting back to reality

    Leave a Comment

    Losing a loved one is never easy, losing someone that had a great influence on you is tragic. My grandfather was both of those things and more – he was a comedian, the voice of reason, a story teller, traveller and lover of life.

    I have been throwing myself into my work over the past week in an effort to try and get through the grief, I’m pouring my heart and soul into my writing in the hopes that his influence on me will never be wasted. I want to be successful to honour all that he taught me, for all the times he pushed me and told me to work harder.

    IMG_0775Rest in peace

  10. Writing through it all

    Leave a Comment

    I’ve been very quiet on the blogging front for the last few weeks – this is because I’ve been dealing with the slow decline of my grandfather’s heath. Currently he’s in hospital suffering with cancer, an pneumonia and a perforated bowl. He’s too sick to be operated on. He is dying.

    The feeling of helplessness I have is overwhelming and all-consuming.  No matter how hard I wish, no matter how hard I pray he is going to be leaving my family soon.

    Writing is the only thing keeping me going at the moment, the ability to delve into my character’s world and absorb myself in their problems while escaping from my own is what’s keeping me sane right now. Am I sticking my head in the sand? Perhaps. I know what’s coming and I know it will be hard, but for now I feel best when I’m away from my world and playing in someone else’s.