Blog Tour: An Excerpt from All That Sparkles by Claire Boston

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An excerpt from All That Sparkles {Book 2 of the Texan Quartet} by Claire Boston

Imogen has led a sheltered upbringing. When Christian asks her what she wants to do on their date, she chooses a local theme park as she’s never been to one. This scene starts as they arrive.

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Imogen was ridiculously excited by the time they arrived at the boardwalk. She had to laugh. Her father would be absolutely horrified. The boardwalk represented everything he hated: crowds, cheesy souvenirs and mass-produced food.
Christian took hold of her hand. “Where do you want to begin?”
“The rollercoaster.” She’d seen it from a distance as they drove in and was worried she’d chicken out if she didn’t do it right away.
Christian laughed. “All right. Let’s get some tickets.”
They wandered along a path. There was a mixture of families with small children, teenagers on their own and young adults. Imogen glanced up at a ride proclaiming itself the Iron Eagle Zipline as the chair at the top of the line came rushing back to earth. Her heart thumped at the screams issuing from the chair. “We need to do that as well,” she said.
“Whatever you want,” Christian said. “Come on, the ticket booth is over there.”
While Christian bought the tickets she scanned the park, deciding what else she wanted to do.
“Here.” He handed her a ticket. “It’s a day pass.”
Imogen hadn’t offered to pay. “How much do I owe you?”
He gave her a look. “You’re my date; I’m paying today.”
She opened her mouth to protest, but he interrupted, “Unless you want me to pay for my ticket from Friday night.”
She closed her mouth again. He was right. If he wanted to pay for her she should let him. It was weird because she usually paid when she went on dates. “All right,” she said. “But I should warn you that I’m expecting both donuts and cotton candy.”
He grinned. “I can manage that.”
They lined up for the rollercoaster, the Boardwalk Bullet. It was huge, and as Imogen watched a carriage plummet down the first drop, she squeezed Christian’s hand. She was going to do this. She was going to ride this wooden rollercoaster. She was going to take this risk.
It wasn’t long before it was their turn. The front seat was free and Christian pulled her in.
“It’s the best spot.”
Imogen wasn’t so sure she wanted to be right at the front, but she went with him and waited for the safety bar to lock in to place. She glanced at it dubiously. It wasn’t a whole lot to keep her from falling out.
The carriage moved and Imogen clutched Christian’s hand. This was it! Nerves and excitement clattered queasily around in her stomach. The carriage was dragged up an incline and Imogen could see across the parking lot and marina to one side and the Texas Gulf on the other. Then, before she could catch her breath, the ride was going around a bend and dropping straight down.
“Hands up,” Christian shouted, putting his hands up in the air, and hers went with him. Her stomach dropped along with the ride and she shrieked as they twisted and turned. It was insane. Her body was thrown violently around and she had no control over what she was doing, where she was going.
It was terrifying and it was thrilling.
She didn’t breathe properly until they came to a slow stop.
“Oh my gosh,” she said, her skin tingling.
“What did you think?” Christian asked as they exited the ride.
She couldn’t think straight. Adrenalin was racing around her body and she couldn’t stand still. What a buzz. “That was so much fun.” She tapped her hands on her thighs. “Can we go again?”
“Sure thing.”
She flung her arms around his neck and kissed him. “Thanks.” She grabbed his hand before he could kiss her again. “Come on.” She dragged him back to the line.

Published by Momentum, April 2015

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Review: Love at First Flight by Tess Woods

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Title: Love at First Flight

Author: Tess Woods

Published: HarperCollins Au April 2015

Status: Read from April 15 to 16, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the author}

My Thoughts:

Told from the first person perspectives of Mel and Matt, Love at First Flight is an unconventional love story which explores the motives for an illicit affair, and the damage left in its wake.

When Mel meets Matt during an interstate flight they recognise each other as soul mates. The problem is Mel is a married mother of two who lives in Perth, and Matt, who lives in Melbourne, is engaged to be married. Despite saying goodbye at the airport, they are both unable to forget their brief time together, and embark on a passionate affair that threatens to destroy them both.

Relationships are complicated things and Woods intelligently and compassionately explores the evolution of Matt and Mel’s affair from their first meeting, through their consuming affair, and to the messy, bitter end. It’s an emotional journey that draws the reader in with complex characterisation and a compelling narrative.

I was surprised to find I could relate to Mel in some ways, I found it difficult to blame her for reveling in the attention Matt gave her during the flight, but she definitely crossed the line for me when she chose to meet with him later. Her spiral into obsession was unsettling but I believed in it, as I did in her growing self awareness.

I particularly admired the way Mel eventually took responsibility for her failings with her husband. Mel’s shame and guilt, and Adam’s hurt and anger, in the aftermath is visceral. I’ve witnessed a similar situation among friends and feel that Woods portrayal of their struggle towards forgiveness and redemption is very well drawn.

Woods convinced me of the overwhelming chemistry between Mel and Matt, no mean feat considering I’m not sure I really believe in the idea of love at first sight. I wasn’t a fan of Matt, despite his sympathetic background he struck me as a weak man, but I thought he was a well rounded character.

Love at First Flight is a surprisingly thought provoking story about love, marriage, intimacy and honesty. An impressive debut from a new Australian author.

 

Learn more about Love at First Flight, Tess Woods and her road to publication in her guest post published earlier today

Love at First Flight is available to purchase from

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AWW Feature: Tess Woods, Love at First Flight and the road to publication

Tess Woods Author photo

I’m delighted to introduce Tess Woods to you today to celebrate the publication of her debut novel, Love at First Flight.

Tess Woods is a health professional who lives in Perth, Australia with one husband, two children, one dog and one cat who rules over all of them. When she isn’t working or being a personal assistant to her kids, Tess enjoys reading and all kinds of grannyish pleasures like knitting, baking, drinking tea, watching Downton Abbey and tending to the veggie patch.

Love at First Flight is her first novel, published by HarperCollins Australia

LoveAtFirstFlighteCover‘Looking back on it now, I can see it was instant. The second we locked eyes. Boom. Just like that. The me I had spent a lifetime perfecting began its disintegration from that moment. And despite the carnage it brought to all our lives, I still don’t regret it.
What would you risk to be with the love of your life? And what if your soul mate is the one who will destroy you?
Mel is living the dream. She’s a successful GP, married to a charming anaesthetist and raising a beautiful family in their plush home in Perth. But when she boards a flight to Melbourne, she meets Matt and her picture perfect Stepford life unravels as she falls in love for the first time ever.
What begins as a flirty conversation between strangers quickly develops into a hot and obsessive affair with disastrous consequences neither Mel nor Matt could have ever seen coming. Mel’s dream life turns into her worst nightmare.

Love at First Flight will take everything you believe about what true love is and spin it on its head.”

My review of Love at First Flight can be seen HERE, in the meantime please read on to learn more about Tess Woods and her road to publication…

My road to publication was long with speed humps and detours!

I wrote the first draft in three days. I had a flash of inspiration, grabbed pen and paper, locked myself away and pumped out a novel. As I wrote, I imagined publishers tripping over themselves to get their hands on it. I pictured bidding wars and movie rights. Then I read over it. It was drivel.

It took me a month of writing every evening to get to draft two. It was still drivel. I called in back-up. I sent the manuscript to an assessment agency. The editor reported back after six weeks saying it was drivel. I already knew that! What I wanted was some help to point me in the right direction.

So I tried a different manuscript assessor. This time I struck gold. Meredith Whitford from Between Us was clever, insightful and she cut to the chase.
“It’s got X-factor,” she said. “But it needs lots of polish. You’ll get it published. It’s one of the best manuscripts I’ve seen.”
Along with her comments, Meredith had a forty point list of things to work on. I spent six months writing draft three and re-submitted it. “Getting there but not quite,” was her response so I spent the next six months working on draft four. Then I had Meredith’s tick of approval.

But what if she liked it and nobody else did? I decided to get a third opinion and sent the manuscript to Nikki Davies. She came up with four pages of suggestions. Three months later I had draft five and three months after that I had draft six. I felt ready to take on the literary world. Again I imagined bidding wars and movie deals.

Over the next two years I was rejected by all twenty-two literary agents in Australia who represented commercial fiction writers. Every last one of them. Some of them wrote ‘return to sender’ on the envelope without opening it, some read it and hated it, several of them read it and said they loved it but it would be impossible to find a publisher because I had no resume to speak of.

After opening the front door to find my manuscript sitting on the porch from the last remaining agent, I slid it under the spare bed, dusted myself off and forgot I had written a book. The submission process to agents had been exhausting and soul destroying. I couldn’t face beginning again with publishers. I figured I had no chance with publishers anyway if none of the agents wanted it. I was done.

“I’ll self publish it one day,” I thought. “One day but not now. I need to forget about it now and get on with my life.”

Then along came an email. It was from literary agent Jacinta Di Mase. Jacinta had considered Love at First Flight nearly two years earlier before deciding she didn’t want it. In her rejection letter, she’d said how hard it was to reject it because it was one of the best unsolicited works she’d seen. I was particularly devastated when Jacinta had initially turned it down, because I was convinced she would take it. It was just a strong gut feeling I had that she would be my agent. Always trust your gut!

Jacinta’s email now went something like this, “Hey, I still have that book of yours in my mind even though it’s been a couple of years since I read it. So, did you sell it yet? And if not, are you prepared to make the changes I want done? If you are, I’ll go in and bat for you with publishers.”

Excuse me, what? YES I would be prepared to make changes! I was prepared to sell her my next child if it meant she would go in to bat for me!

So I wrote draft seven. A year later, I resubmitted it to Jacinta. I hit send on the email and the next day headed off to Europe for the trip of a life-time with hubby and kids in tow and tried to put it out of my mind. If Jacinta wanted it, great, if not, I would self-publish it one day and sign the inside cover for my mum.

Four weeks later, we were in Cornwall on our “book tour of the UK”. We were visiting places based on books we loved. Cornwall was my choice because of my love of The Shellseekers by Rosamunde Pilcher which was set there. We had arrived the night before from London (where we did all things Harry Potter). I checked emails from home and wow! Jacinta loved the new version and she had already started the rounds of publishers. That this happened the day I was living out a long held dream to go shell-seeking just like a favourite character from a book was pure magic.

Fast forward eight months of nail-biting, finger crossing, acquisitions meetings after acquisitions meetings where it was rejected at the last minute, editors loving it and emailing us about just how much they loved it but then failing to convince the rest of their teams to love it. It was torture. And then along came an editor who was passionate enough to stand by the story until it had full approval from everyone in her publishing team. And that was Anna Valdinger at HarperCollins. Oh how I love her! Once I signed with HarperCollins, there were two more huge edits to do. But nine re-writes and almost six years from the day I first put pen to paper, I got there.

I had never written any fiction before this book. In fact I’d never planned on writing a book at all. But when this story came to me, I had to write it and keep writing it until others believed in it too. I’m so lucky that they did.

Love at First Light is available to purchase from

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Review: Missing You by Kylie Kaden

 

Title: Missing You

Author: Kylie Kaden

Published: Random House Au April 2015

Status: Read from April 05 to 07, 2015 — I own a copy

My Thoughts:

“At what point did this become my fate? Did I ever control it? And if I’d chosen differently, would all the good parts dissolve along with the bad? Even if this is the end, I have no regrets. For giving into that magnetic pull we had, despite wanting different things….I didn’t think it was possible to love another human more…”

Aisha and Ryan fell in love the moment they met, and were certain would make it work, despite the differences between them. Five years later, struggling with the reality of their compromises and the relentless demands of parenting their autistic spectrum son, they fight and Ryan walks away.
A day later, Aisha receives a late night phone call, and promising to return in an hour or so, leaves her son, Eli, in her father’s care. Three days later Aisha has still not come home, Ryan can’t be reached, and while the police seem inclined to dismiss Patrick’s fears, he is certain something is wrong.

From the first page the reader is aware that wherever Aisha is, she is in trouble. The tension builds as the reader wonders why she is missing, has Aisha simply had enough, snapping under the strain, or is there a more sinister reason for her absence?

“I calmly wonder is this is how it feels to die: This strange lightness, drifting in zero gravity. I feel no pain, but I have no control. I command my brain to charge my limbs, to pry open my eyes, but it’s no use.”

Missing You unfolds through the perspectives of Aisha, Ryan and Patrick, shifting from the present, through the past, until the two timelines merge.

Over a period of seven days, Patrick worries about his missing daughter while caring for his grandson. Eli’s behaviour is a challenge for Patrick and Kaden explores the difficulties of catering to his needs.

“Seventy years I’ve made it, and never seen a boy like him.”

Aisha and Ryan’s narratives reveal their life together – their passionate romance, their feelings about marriage and parenthood, – and why the cracks had begun to appear, leading to the fight that separates them the day before Aisha goes missing. Kaden does a wonderful job of creating two interesting, well rounded characters and mapping a fairytale relationship complicated by reality.

“My life isn’t perfect, Gabe. We’re broke, tired, antisocial. The highlight of my week is more than four hours’ consecutive sleep. But we love each other. I love my son.”

Missing You held me in its thrall from the first page, and while I confess to being a little disappointed in one element of the ending, I found it to be a layered, absorbing tale of love and suspense.

 

 Learn more about Kyle Kaden and Missing You by clicking HERE

Missing You is available to purchase from

Random House Iboomerang-books_long I Booktopia I via Booko

Amazon AU  I Amazon US

and all good bookstores.

Also by Kylie Kaden

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AWW Feature: Kylie Kaden and Book Nerds Anonymous

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I’m excited to welcome Kylie Kaden to Book’d Out today to celebrate the release of her second novel, Missing You.

Kylie graduated with an honours degree in psychology from Queensland University of Technology in 2000, she shares her frazzled parenting experiences in her regular column in My Child magazine, and is a strong advocate for telling it like it is when it comes to the struggles (and joys) of raising kids. Raised in Queensland, she lives in Brisbane with her husband and three young sons. Kylie knew writing was in her blood from a young age, using her brother’s Commodore 64 to invent stories as a child. Her debut novel, Losing Kate, was published in 2014 (Random House).

Missing You is a tantalising love story and a seductive suspense novel.

‘Our lives were built around the strength of a kiss between strangers. Yet seven years on, look where it led us . . .’
When Aisha met Ryan she fell hard for his good looks and easy charm. Why worry that he didn’t want children or a 9 to 5 job? Nothing and no one would come between them. But with the birth of their high-needs son, Eli, their extraordinary love is shackled into an ordinary life, their passion blunted by responsibility. Until Ryan can’t take it anymore.
Then, following a mysterious phone call late one night, Aisha leaves four-year-old Eli in the care of her elderly father Patrick – and doesn’t come back. As Patrick struggles with the grandson he barely knows or understands, his frustration with his missing daughter and absent son-in-law quickly turns to fear. Particularly when blood is found in Aisha’s abandoned car . . .

My review of Missing You will be published later today, in the meantime please enjoy this guest post from Kyle Kaden.

Book Nerds Anonymous

Since I gouged teeth marks through The Very Hungry Caterpillar, I don’t think I’ve gone a day without a book. They’ve been a constant. Just like my husband can recite who won the footy final each year for the last dozen or so and where he was for each, I can tell you that I bought Lovely Bones on Kamari Beach on Santorini (as it was one of the few books I could find in English). That I read Wuthering Heights in a converted barn in Tuscany (out loud). Like fire leaves its mark between growth rings of a tree, you can read my life by the books I’ve read, infer what stage of a relationship I was in, the life-phase, the mood – by the titles I chose. Like people we meet, some books are quickly forgotten, while others stay with us always. I’m a self-confessed book nerd, and here’s why.

I love movies, live music, theatre. But books – they are so approachable. Perennially available, they are ready when you are with no ad-breaks, no intermission. You can turn them down in bed one night, and they’ll wait patiently beside you ‘til you’re in the mood. The story unfolds at the pace you set, the characters look exactly like they should (with perfect accents). You can devour them on a train, on a beach, in a line. And there is a book for every taste. They offer a whole lot more than entertainment.

Books are like an update for your brain. They can enrich your soul, allow you to walk in the shoes of another human – all from the safety of your doona (and for the cost of a library card). Books are a friend for the lonely kid who’d rather fight dragons in dungeons during lunchbreaks than kick goals. They are a companion through post-divorce celibacy, a time-waster after a hysterectomy, a date on a Saturday night. For those that are believers, you shall never be bored. They can guide you through a diagnosis, a game of 500, a quilt project. Books are a tardis: there is always a book about to be released to transport you to another time and place. All you have to do is let it.

So I am humbled when the powers that be decided I was worthy to add the product of some of my mixed-up musings to the great big party of imaginary friends that literature has to offer the world. And everyone’s invited.

My latest romantic thriller Missing You, is about relationships tested by adversity and introduces Aisha: an offbeat-beauty struggling to be the mum she never had, Ryan – an opportunistic charmer coming to terms with being the dad he never knew he wanted to be, and Pat – a grumble-bum Grandpa lumbered with the care of a difficult four year old – Eli, who sees the world differently to the rest of us. When Aisha leaves her beloved son in the care of her elderly father and doesn’t come back, the family’s concern quickly turns to fear when a bloodstain is found in Aisha’s abandoned car…

Missing You is available to purchase from

Random House Iboomerang-books_long I Booktopia I via Booko

Amazon AU  I Amazon US

and all good bookstores.

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Review & Giveaway: She’s Having Her Baby by Lauren Sams

Title: She’s Having Her Baby

Author: Lauren Sams

Published: Nero: Black Inc Books March 2015

Status: Read on March 11, 2015 — I own a copy

My Thoughts:

She’s Having Her Baby is a funny and bittersweet debut chick lit novel from Lauren Sams.

“This is it. She’s going to ask me to be her surrogate. No, she won’t. Surely she won’t. That only happens in Katherine Heigl movies, Jesus f** Christ, what if she asks? What am I going to say? There’s only one answer, right? Jesus f**”

Thirty something magazine editor, Georgie Henderson, has never wanted kids but her best friend, Nina Doherty, wants nothing more than to be a mother and when her latest IVF attempt fails, she asks Georgie for the ultimate favour. Reluctantly Georgie agrees to become Nina’s surrogate, willing to help Nina’s dream come true, but Georgie is wholly unprepared for what comes next…

Life doesn’t always go to plan and in She’s Having Her Baby the plot doesn’t quite develop as the reader may expect. Sharply observed, the author explores the themes of infertility, surrogacy, motherhood and friendship in a manner that is funny, poignant and compassionate.

I found Georgie to be an interesting character, she definitely has her flaws, being somewhat inflexible and self absorbed, but she is amusing, feisty and loyal in her own way. I admired Georgia for deciding to help Nina, though I think choosing not to have children for whatever reason is a perfectly valid decision, and though Georgia doesn’t cope particularly well when things don’t work out as expected, including with her relationship and career, she eventually pulls it together.

I’ve witnessed the toll infertility can take on the soul, and relationships, and I really felt for Nina, her desperation is authentic and moving. I laughed out loud at the passages describing the parenting styles of Ellie and the mothers at the playground. Those type of ‘helicopter’, holier than thou parents drove me crazy when my children were babies so I agreed . It’s not like I let mine play with knives or fed them a steady diet of McDonalds but they watched ABC Kids, ate jarred baby foods and wore disposable nappies, and let me assure you they are all bright, healthy and happy children.

The writing is of a good standard, the dialogue is natural, and humour is used to good effect, without undermining the more serious issues. The pacing works well with some surprises in the plot and a conclusion that is satisfying but not too neat.

I enjoyed She’s Having Her Baby, I found it to be both an entertaining and touching novel tackling issues relevant to the modern woman. Lauren Sams is a debut author with promise.

Learn more about Lauren Sams and her writing process in he guest post published earlier today at Book’d Out

She’s Having Her Baby is available to purchase from

Nero Books Iboomerang-books_long I Booktopia I Amazon AU I via Booko

 Amazon US I BookDepository

and all good bookstores.

*****

GIVEAWAY

Courtesy of Nero Books

I have 5 print editions of

She’s Having Her Baby by Lauren Sams

to giveaway.

*Sorry,  only Australian residents may enter*

Congratulations to the winners of She’s Having Her Baby:

Linda H; Jan O; Amanda N; Tash B; Kirsty A

Entries close March 22nd 2015

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AWW Feature & Giveaway: Lauren Sams on Writing

 

Lauren Sams

 

Today I am pleased to introduce Lauren Sams and the release of her debut novel, She’s Having Her Baby. Lauren Sams began her career at Cosmopolitan, before moving to Girlfriend as Deputy Editor. She’s now back at Cosmo as Associate Editor. She writes for ELLE, marie claire, Sunday Style and Daily Life. She lives in Sydney with her husband, daughter and two dogs.

She’s Having Her Baby is published by Nero Books.

Georgie Henderson doesn’t want to have kids, but her best friend, Nina Doherty, has wanted to have a baby for as long as she can remember. Sadly, Nina’s uterus refuses to cooperate. One drunken evening, Nina asks Georgie for the ultimate favour: would she carry a baby for her? Georgie says yes – and spends the next nine months wondering why!
With intense bacon-and-egg roll cravings and distant memories of what her feet look like, Georgie tries to keep it all together in her dream job as the editor of Jolie magazine. Her love life’s a mess – and sauvignon blanc’s off the menu – leaving Georgie to deal with twists in her life she never expected

My review of She’s Having Her Baby can be read HERE,  but first please read on to learn more about the novel and how you could win one of five print editions…

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Writing: the best career ever except for CEO of Haigh’s and Amy Poehler’s Personal Assistant

People are always banging on about how hard it is to write a book. Or just, to write, in general. It’s lonely, they say. It’s exhausting, I hear. It’s hardly ever worth it, apparently. It’s enough to drive you to drink, says Ernest Hemingway and a bunch of his mates.

What utter rubbish (except the drinking part; I enjoy a dirty martini as much as the next scribe and possibly more).

The thing is, writing – if it’s your bag – is just about the most fun thing ever. It is also patently indulgent – perhaps even selfish. So when people – writers – complain about it, I want to stand up, reach across and gently slap them in the face. We’re not saving lives in Darfur, people. We’re writing. Get over it.

The process of writing my first novel, She’s Having Her Baby, was hard only because it was tiring. I had to fit writing into an already crammed life – I am the associate editor at Cosmopolitan, the acting managing editor at Cosmopolitan Bride and I freelance for a bunch of mags. Oh, and I have a husband and a two-year-old. So making sure all the balls were still in the air, inflated and bouncing happily was a challenge. But the writing itself? THAT was fun. I didn’t think of it as work.

And I didn’t think of it as lonely, either. I love my two main characters, Georgie and Nina. Georgie is a bit older than me, and though people may assume we are one and the same (first novels do have a tendency to be autobiographical, I know), we are not. Put simply, Georgie is kind of a flake. A lovable flake, sure, but nonetheless, a flake. She’s opinionated, likes a wine and doesn’t get why people would want to have kids. She’s fiercely loyal to and protective of her best friend, Nina. Nina, unlike Georgie, has her shit decidedly together and considers it her job to tell Georgie the cold hard truth once in a while. Nina wants to have a baby with a kind of desperation that I see in a lot of women – a quiet longing that gives way to outright anger at the injustice of infertility. So Nina asks Georgie the ultimate favour – would she be her surrogate?

I came to love my cast of characters (almost all of them female). Ellie, another of Georgie’s friends, was a bit of a surprise to me. Ellie is the mother of a toddler and in Georgie’s eyes, “gave up her licence to be an adult the day she got pregnant.” I was prepared to dislike Ellie from the start – she’s not the kind of mother I want to be and I had little sympathy for her. But as the writing process went on, I came to empathise with Ellie. She’s trying to be a great mum the best – and only – way she knows how, and while she knows her (childless) friends don’t approve, she doesn’t care. I kind of loved that about her. It was a joy getting to know Ellie (I know she’s not real; I am aware I’m sounding a little crazy).

I’ll concede that yes, it was exhausting trying to squeeze in writing and editing whenever I could, but again: this was a hugely indulgent exercise for me. Plus I have an excellent husband who makes fab coffee on demand (he is also available in Small and Large). I have a wife named Rochelle who is also my mother and says helpful things like, “How about I do a load of washing for you?” as I nod vigorously (then she folds it, in that way only mums know how).

And now, it’s out in the world and I’m ready to start work on book number two (the sequel!). So yep, it may be tiring. I may emerge, 90,000 words later, with bags under my eyes heavier than North West’s carry-on. But I will have had so much fun along the way, I won’t even mind.

Especially when I start drinking.

*****

GIVEAWAY

Courtesy of Nero Books

I have 5 print editions of

She’s Having Her Baby by Lauren Sams

to giveaway.

*Sorry,  only Australian residents may enter*

Please leave a comment on this post and then

CLICK HERE TO ENTER

Entries close March 22nd 2015

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She’s Having Her Baby is available to purchase from

Nero Books Iboomerang-books_long I Booktopia I Amazon AU I via Booko

 Amazon US I BookDepository

and all good bookstores.

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Review: Claiming Noah by Amanda Ortlepp

 

Title: Claiming Noah

Author: Amanda Ortlepp

Published: Simon & Schuster AU March 2015

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from March 01 to 02, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Claiming Noah, from debut author Amanda Ortlepp, tugs on the heartstrings, exploring a modern day dilemma raised by fertility treatments which challenges society’s ideas of motherhood and family.

Unable to conceive naturally, Catriona and James turn to IVF to create their family but after the failure of two cycles, Catriona, already ambivalent about motherhood, agrees to just one last attempt and when her pregnancy is confirmed, insists the remaining embryo be donated. After a difficult pregnancy and long labour she delivers a son but from the moment Sebastian is placed in her arms she feels a nameless dread, and begins to spiral into postnatal psychosis.
Diana and Liam are excited when they are told a donor embryo is available and thrilled when it takes. Nine months later, Diana gives birth to Noah, and despite the exhaustion that comes with a newborn and Liam’s casual indifference, Diana adores her beautiful son and then her world is turned upside down when he is abducted during a moment’s inattention.
Almost two years later, while Diana still clings to the hope Noah will be returned to her, Catriona, is happily preparing to celebrate Sebastian’s and James’ birthday with family and friends… and then comes a knock on the door.

Claiming Noah is a heartrending story that eventually sees the lives of Catriona and Diana intersect. Though I found some parts of the plot to be a little melodramatic, the situation Catriona and Diana find themselves is thought provoking and confronting.

At its core, Claiming Noah is an examination of the legal, moral and ethical issues related to embryo donation and adoption. Ortlepp admits she became fascinated with the topic when she stumbled across it and her research shows. Claiming Noah explores a kind of ‘worst case’ scenario which develops into an untenable crisis when tragedy strikes.

By choosing to present the alternating viewpoints of Catriona and Diana, the author encourages the reader to explore the complexities of their individual situations. Both women are sympathetic characters, and there are no easy answers to the dilemma Ortlepp has created. As a mother, the heartache of both Catriona and Diana when faced with the loss of their sons is touching.

A story about motherhood, loss, betrayal and love, Claiming Noah is an emotionally charged novel.

 

Learn more about Amanda Ortlepp and Claiming Noah in the guest post published earlier here on Book’d Out.

Claiming Noah is available to purchase from

Simon & Schuster Iboomerang-books_long I Booktopia I Amazon AU I via Booko

 Amazon US

and all good bookstores.

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AWW Feature: Amanda Ortlepp and Claiming Noah

AMANDA_177_SML

 

I’m pleased to introduce Amanda Ortlepp today who is celebrating the release of her debut novel, Claiming Noah. Amanda always wanted to be a writer but it took thirty years and a decade working in marketing and communication roles before she started her first book. She lives and works in the inner west of Sydney and is currently working on a second novel.

An emotionally challenging novel, Claiming Noah is a taut and thoughtful story.

Catriona and James are desperate for children, and embark on an IVF program. After a gruelling round of treatments, Catriona finally falls pregnant, and they donate their remaining embryo anonymously.
Diana and Liam are on a waiting list to receive an embryo. Sooner than expected, they are thrilled to discover one is available.
After a difficult pregnancy, Catriona gives birth to Sebastian. But severe postnatal depression affects her badly, and quickly turns into deadly psychosis. For her protection and her baby’s, she’s admitted into psychiatric care. When she comes home, she again struggles to bond with her baby, but gradually life finds its own rhythm.
Meanwhile, Diana has given birth to a beautiful little boy, Noah.
But when he is two months old Noah is abducted … and Diana and Liam’s nightmare begins.
Where is Noah?
This gripping, emotional thriller binds together the stories of Catriona and Diana and will leave you on the edge of your seat.
What if your child belonged to someone else?

My review of Claiming Noah can be read HERE, in the meantime, please read on to learn more about  Claiming Noah.

Delving into a scary new world

by Amanda Ortlepp

I don’t have children. And I’ve always been on the fence about whether or not I want to someday. I adore children, especially my nephews and my friends’ children, but having your own is another thing entirely. I feel it’s the single biggest decision people have to make in their lives. I’m often asked if I want children and when I say “I’m not sure” I’m consistently told “You will one day.” Perhaps they’re right, but I think there are plenty of people like me out there who are ambivalent about wanting to have children. And after all the research I had to do for Claiming Noah, I’m not sure that I’ll ever be brave enough to become a mother.

While writing Claiming Noah I researched fertility treatments, miscarriages, difficult pregnancies, even more difficult childbirths. Then of course there are all the problems you can face after the baby is born: trying to get your baby to feed and sleep while facing a barrage of advice (mostly unsolicited, from what I’m told) and dealing with the expectations placed on you by others and by yourself. I learnt that postpartum disorders are extremely common. Eighty per cent of women experience the baby blues, one in seven experience postnatal depression, and one or two in every thousand new mothers experience postpartum psychosis. They’re grim statistics and I really feel for any woman who has had to deal with these disorders while trying to take care of a newborn. Then there’s the competitive gauntlet of mothers’ groups, juggling work and childcare, and dealing with other people’s judgment and advice while trying to work out how to raise your child to be a decent human being. As an outsider to all of this it seems incredibly difficult and I’m in awe of anyone who can get through raising a child unscathed.

Claiming Noah is about two couples on either side of an embryo donation: the couple who decide to donate their excess embryo, and the couple who adopt and implant the embryo to raise as their own child. I hadn’t heard of embryo donation before I started writing Claiming Noah and I was surprised when I found out that it has been available in Australia for over 10 years. I knew that in the past IVF used to produce a lot multiple births – twins, triplets, even quadruplets. We all remember hearing about the mother who after going through IVF gave birth to octuplets in the US four years ago. But most fertility clinics won’t implant multiple embryos anymore. In Australia they’ll only implant one at a time (two at the most). The science behind IVF is progressing all the time and embryologists can work out which embryos have the best chance of survival, so those are the ones implanted first. A consequence of this change in process is that there are thousands of excess embryos in frozen storage. It’s estimated that there are over 120,000 in Australia. So embryo donation makes a lot of sense, even though only a small percentage of couples choose to take up that option.

I was interested in how the lives of couples on both the donating and receiving end of an embryo donation would intersect, so I decided to tell the story of Claiming Noah in alternating chapters from the viewpoints of each of the two women. I wanted to tell the story this way because the characters’ lives are so closely linked, even though they haven’t met each other, and I wanted to explore how the actions of one woman affected the other.

The other reason I had for structuring the story in this way is because I want the readers to empathise with both women and therefore find themselves torn about whose side they’re on. There isn’t a clear antagonist in this story, even though many of the characters do awful things at some point, and I think that’s an accurate representation of life. Everyone has their own agenda and we don’t always think about what impact our actions will have on other people.

I’ve been asked many times by people who have read Claiming Noah how it affected me to write a story that deals with such extreme emotional issues and moral dilemmas. Let’s just say I wasn’t a barrel of laughs while I was writing the first draft. I was working full-time, coming home from my marketing job to have dinner and relax for a while before I started writing at about 10pm and worked into the early hours of the morning. I’m a night owl anyway, so that isn’t as extreme as it sounds, but I remember the feeling of panic when I’d look at the clock, realise it was three o’clock in the morning, and then realise I had to get up for work in four hours. As well as the sleep deprivation, I was carrying around in my mind thoughts of infertility, postpartum psychosis, kidnapping and a mother’s grief at losing her son. Some scenes made me cry as I wrote them, others made me feel like a sociopath. But that’s what writing is all about. If you don’t feel anything, how can you expect your readers to?

Claiming Noah is available to purchase from

Simon & Schuster Iboomerang-books_long I Booktopia I Amazon AU I via Booko

 Amazon US

and all good bookstores.

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Review: Snowy River Man by Lizzy Chandler

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Title: Snowy River Man

Author: Lizzy Chandler

Published: Escape Publishing February 2015

Status: Read on February 24, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the author}

My Thoughts:

Lizzy Chandler’s debut novel, Snowy River Man, is an engaging contemporary romance, with an edge of suspense, set in rural Australia.

Katrina Delaney is stunned when she learns that the lost and frightened child she has seen in her dream is Jack Fairley’s son. Seven years ago she and Jack spent a single passionate night together, only for everything to fall apart the morning after.
Jack Fairley is frantic when his young son disappears while at a rodeo, seemingly without a trace, and he is willing to do anything to ensure his safe return, even if that means accepting the help of Katrina Delaney.
Though wary of their history, Katrina and Jack are determined to put aside their differences in order to ensure Nick’s safe recovery but in saving the lost boy, they just may lose their hearts.

I really like the bones of the story, for such a short novel (just 165 pages) the author has developed a well layered plot, even if several elements seem somewhat truncated. The main conflicts expose personal and professional betrayal and shocking family secrets providing plenty of dramatic tension. The suspense is well crafted and nicely paced.

Katrina is an interesting character, only recently having found some sense of equilibrium after enduring several difficult years related to a tragic loss and the intrusiveness of her psychic gift, it’s brave of her to offer Jack her help, knowing she could be opening herself up to more pain.
Jack is a fairly typical leading man for the genre, he has made mistakes but in general is kind and honourable. He is a loving father and a savvy businessman though it’s his rugged farming persona that I found most appealing.(I have to mention too, I am a fan of the cover model representing him – yum!)
The chemistry between Katrina and Jack is portrayed well, their simmering attraction, complicated by the past, eventually boils over in a sensual scene.

I must admit I wish the author had chosen to exploit the story’s potential and developed Snowy River Man into a full length novel but it is a quick, engaging read offering an appealing tale of love, betrayal, forgiveness and family.

You can learn more about Snowy River Man in the guest post shared by Lizzy Chandler here at Book’d Out earlier today.

Win a copy of Snowy River Man by visiting http://lizzychandler.com/snowy-river-man-giveaway/. Entries close March 1st, 2015.

 

Snow River Man is available to purchase from

Escape Publishing

AllRomanceEbooks Apple Amazon Booktopia Amazon UK Google Kobo Barnes & Noble JB HI FI BIG W AMAZON AU

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