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

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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

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and all good bookstores.

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AWW Feature: Amanda Ortlepp and Claiming Noah

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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

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 Amazon US

and all good bookstores.

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Review: Snowy River Man by Lizzy Chandler

cover

 

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

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AWW Feature: Lizzy Chandler and the Snowy River Man

bio

I am thrilled to welcome Lizzy Chandler to Book’d Out today to introduce her debut short novel, Snowy River Man.

Lizzy Chandler is the pen-name of Elizabeth Lhuede, a writer, book blogger and creative writing tutor who founded the Australian Women Writers Challenge. She reviews books under her own name at Devoted Eclectic.

Lizzy has written a number of novels in a variety of genres, including romance, romantic suspense, fantasy and psychological suspense. Her unpublished manuscripts have earned recognition in a number of competitions, including New Zealand’s Clendon Award and Australia’s Emma Darcy Award (now “Emerald”). Lizzy is a founding member of the RWA Turramurra group in Sydney. She is a trained counsellor and also teaches creative writing by distance through TAFE (NSW) Oten. She spends most of her time in the Blue Mountains.

coverSnowy River Man, published by Escape Publishing, Harlequin’s digital imprint, is an engaging contemporary romance with a hint of suspense.

The last time Katrina Delaney saw Jack Fairley was the morning after a one-night stand, when she discovered he was engaged to be married. Seven years later, she dreams of a missing boy – Jack’s son. Katrina has worked with police to find missing children before, and she knows she must help. But seeing Jack again comes with its own set of dangers, and Katrina fears the risks she is taking with her heart.

Jack Fairley’s standing in the community can’t keep his son from wandering off during a country rodeo. Frantic with worry, Jack is willing to do anything to find him, even put aside his scepticism and accept the help of a woman who sees his son in a dream. But when that woman turns out to be Katrina Delaney, he’s immediately suspicious. Neither Katrina nor Jack have any reason to trust each other, or the attraction that flares between them again. But trust they will have to, if they want any chance at love.”

My review of Snowy River Man can be read HERE, but first, please read on to learn more about Snowy River Man in this guest post from Lizzy Chandler.

‘The Lost Child’

Snowy River Man opens at a country rodeo, with mountains grazier Jack Fairley riding a brumby stallion. When he finishes his ride, he looks around and discovers his six-year-old son Nick has disappeared. Jack lost his wife when Nick was still a baby and he’s terrified the boy has wandered off into the Snowy Mountains wilderness.

The story of the “lost child” is an enduring motif in Australian culture, but it also has a special meaning for me. When I was three and my mother was in hospital with her tenth child (yes, we’re a big family!), my aunt took me and my older brothers and sisters down to a harbourside netted pool to swim. While my aunt was minding the 18-month-old, I paddled on the shore. As the late afternoon shadows crept, I looked back at the beach and I couldn’t see my family. I thought they’d gone home without me. So I walked. I walked up the hill for a couple of kilometres till I arrived back out our old Federation bungalow and found no one there. After that, I had a terror of getting lost. I remember the horror of looking around and not finding the person you want to see. I’ve used those emotions in this story.

The motif also has a deeper resonance. While I was writing Snowy River Man, there was a lot in the press about the stolen generations, and the anguish of mothers losing their children. It’s a national shame and the injustice of it still impacts on current generations of Aboriginal people. When I chose to hint that my heroine, Katrina, was part-indigenous, I wanted to gesture in some way towards the stolen generations, but also to make it personal. I’ve never lost a child, but I did lose the opportunity to have one, and have endured that grief. I know what it’s like to yearn for a baby in my arms, to look at the children of my ex-boyfriend and current partner and wonder what might have been.

In Snowy River Man, I take “what might have been” and give it a happy ending.

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

cover

Snow River Man is available to purchase from

Escape Publishing

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Review: Intensive Care by Nicki Edwards

 

Title: Intensive Care

Author: Nicki Edwards

Published: Momentum February 2015

Read  an Excerpt

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

My Thoughts:

Crushed when she discovers her live in boyfriend of three years has been having an affair, ICU nurse Kate Kennedy packs up her belongings and desperate to move on, impulsively accepts a position at a hospital in the small country town of Birrangulla, five hours west of Sydney. Everything seems to be falling into place, she’s found the perfect job, the perfect home, and in search of the the perfect cup of coffee, may just have found the perfect man, but

Intensive Care is a contemporary rural medical romance in which the author, Nicki Edwards, draws on her love of country Australia and her personal nursing experience.

I found Kate to be a bit of a passive-aggressive character. There is a lot of emphasis on her dislike of confrontation but I thought she was often over sensitive, snappish and impatient. I understood her avoidance of her cheating boyfriend Marcus, especially as more details about their relationship were revealed, and sympathised with her feelings of hurt and betrayal. And while I admired Kate’s professional compassion for her patients, her reaction to Joel’s sister’s concerns bothered me, she didn’t demonstrate a lot of understanding for the younger woman’s fears.

Taking place over the period of about a year the romance between Kate and Joel develops slowly. Though they both have good reasons to be wary of beginning a new relationship, I found their chemistry a bit lacking. Joel in particularly seems disinterested much of the time while Kate tries to force the issue, which was slightly discomfiting.

Joel, with his Irish accent, coffee making genius, and handyman skills, is an appealing hero, made more so by his tragic past. Though perhaps a little passive for my taste, I found him sweet and charming.

A blend of medical drama, and rural romance, Intensive Care is a pleasant novel which should appeal to fans of both genres.

 

Please click here to learn more about Nicki Edwards and her writing journey.

Intensive Care is available to purchase from

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AWW Feature: My Writing Journey by Nicki Edwards

Edwards_Nicki1

I’m happy to introduce you to Nicki Edwards today.

After twenty-five years of marriage, travel, children, study and work, Nicki decided she wasn’t busy enough. In January of 2014 she woke up and decided to fulfill a lifelong dream to write a novel. Nicki calls herself a city girl with a country heart. Unfortunately the only way she can escape to the countryside of her dreams is by living vicariously through the lives of the characters in the rural romance novels she loves to read. If she could spend her days dressed in jeans and boots out on the farm surrounded by horses, dogs, cows and sheep, she’d be in her element. When Nicki isn’t dreaming, reading or writing about rural life, she can be found in her scrubs in the emergency department where she works fulltime as a nurse.

Intensive Care is her debut novel, a medical romance, drawing on her love for all things country and her nursing experience.

“Escaping to the country was meant to be easy …
On the surface it looks like busy intensive care nurse Kate Kennedy has it all: a long-term relationship, a great career and a sleek inner city apartment. But appearances are deceiving, and in one fell swoop everything comes crashing down around her. In a moment of spontaneity, Kate leaves her city life and takes a new role as Nurse Unit Manager at Birrangulla Base Hospital, but her dream move proves harder than expected.
Local cafe owner Joel O’Connor finds himself increasingly drawn to the gorgeous new nurse, but like Kate, he’s been scarred by love and isn’t looking to jump into anything. Yet their chemistry is hard to deny and after a near fatal incident, Joel and Kate find themselves opening up to one another.
Just when Kate thinks she’s found love again, their fragile relationship is thwarted by their pasts. Can they both let go of their guilt and grief to move on to a bright new future?”

My review of Intensive Care can be read HERE, in the meantime, please read on to learn more about Nicki Edward’s writing journey.

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My Writing Journey

Thanks for having me on Book’d Out.
It’s been a busy couple of weeks since the launch of my “book baby”, Intensive Care – a rural romance full of medical drama and I have to keep pinching myself that it’s all real – I wrote a book!
As a child I always had my nose stuck in a book, and ever since I learned to read I harboured a secret desire to one day write my own. I was encouraged by teachers at school to pursue some sort of career in writing, but I never thought I was good enough. After all the years of reading, I’d put authors on a very high pedestal indeed!
At the start of 2014 I decided enough was enough. If I ever wanted to tick off the next item on my bucket list and write a book, then I had to stop talking about it and actually do it! I started writing at the end of January in 2014 and four months later submitted what I’d written to Momentum. Intensive Care is my debut novel, and I’m currently working on the follow up, titled Emergency Response. I’ve also written another medical rural romance, The Peppercorn Lease, which is yet to be published.
Inspired after reading best-selling rural romance author Rachael Johns’ book Jilted, and then being introduced to the rural romance genre, I decided to write my own rural romance. They say “write what you know”, and “write what you love”. What I know is nursing and what I love is the country: so it was these two things that inspired the writing of Intensive Care.
Everyone knows the saying that truth really is stranger than fiction. As a nurse, I have the incredible honour and privilege of being with people in both their moments of triumph and in their tragedies – often in a single shift – and I wanted to be able to share some of these incredible stories. I hope that I have been able to portray the incredible work that intensive care nurses do every single day. I’m now working in the Emergency Department so it’s pretty easy to guess where my next stories are coming from! While some of my characters and stories are real (names changed of course), some of my colleagues may recognise themselves as minor characters in my books!
The other inspiration for writing rural romance comes after living in regional Australia for three years. Now living back in the city, I still yearn for the simple lifestyle I had back then when I drove past paddocks full of cows and sheep on my way into town. There’s something special about life in the country and one day I plan to return and have my own little “escape to the country” moment, just like Kate. Hopefully it won’t be because I have a broken heart.
One of the most rewarding things about embarking on this writing journey is the new people I have met – many have only been online, but I feel like we’ve been friends for years and I can’t wait for the day that I meet some of these readers and writers in person. Being connected with other writers has been a very important part of this journey. When I’m filled with self-doubt, they’re there to encourage me to keep going. I joined Romance Writer’s Australia and am involved with a number of smaller writer’s groups, both of which provide immense support.
Intensive Care is about a young city nurse who escapes from Sydney to regional NSW after a relationship breakdown. She hopes the country move will heal her broken heart. She quickly falls in love with life in Birrangulla, enjoys her job working in the intensive care unit and then meets and falls in love with cute Irish barista Joel O’Connor. Unfortunately, adjusting to country life and fitting into the community isn’t as easy as Kate expected. This is a story of loss and grief and of finding hope and love again.
I hope readers enjoy the sweet nature of the book as well as the emotional moments that Kate faces with her patients in the intensive care unit in the backdrop of a small Australian community. I think the characters are very ‘real’, and while Kate and Joel’s relationship develops slowly, (they have a long friendship before it finally blossoms into romance), I’m hoping that the readers will enjoy this. I don’t write open door bedroom scenes, so if you’re looking for hot and steamy sex scenes, you might be disappointed by my book.  At the end of the day, I hope readers like the book enough to want to read Emergency Response which is the love story between Kate Kennedy’s brother Nathan and nurse Mackenzie Jones.
Now I just need to find time to finish it!

Intensive Care is available to purchase from

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Review: Arkie’s Pilgrimage to the Next Big Thing by Lisa Walker

 

Title: Arkie’s Pilgrimage to The Next Big Thing

Author: Lisa Walker

Published: Random House February 2015

Status: Read from February 07 to 09, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

A quirky tale with a hint of magical realism, Lisa Walker’s third novel, ‘Arkie’s Pilgrimage to the Next Big Thing’ is the story of one woman’s search for all the things she has lost….including herself.

“I am forty-one years old but perhaps it is possible … Can my life begin again?”

A year ago, Arkie Douglas’s life fell apart. Her husband left her when Arkie confessed to an affair, and shortly after her business failed, her trend forecasting mojo having deserted her. It’s New Year’s Eve and Arkie is waiting on a deserted platform in Byron Bay planning to throw herself under the next passing train when a young Japanese woman carrying a briefcase and a surfboard, strikes up a conversation. Despite herself, Arkie is intrigued by Haruko Iida and excited when she recognises her own brand of trend spotting magic in the twenty year old. Abandoning her plans for suicide, Arkie convinces Haruko to work with her, hoping to recover her career.

“Pilgrimages are so hot right now. I think they are the Next Big Thing.”

The idea is Haruko’s, suggesting society is ready for a resurgence of spirituality, self discovery and simplicity. Arkie enthusiastically embraces the idea but traveling to Japan is out of the question, so instead she proposes a journey closer to home, a pilgrimage to Australia’s ‘Big Things’. Traveling by train, bus and on foot, while avoiding the Yakuza and Arkie’s ex husband’s divorce lawyer, Arkie and Haruko set out their unusual pilgrimage in search of the Next Big Thing.

From the Big Redback Spider, to the Big Banana and the Big Prawn, Arkie and Haruko look past the peeling paint and wire fences to find the beauty and meaning in the outsized icons. Their adventure is blessed by the Shinto Gods and smiling Buddha’s found in unlikely places, but they face challenges on the ‘yellow brick road’ along the way. Arkie in particular is forced to reflect on the root causes of her present unhappiness and look closer to home for fulfilment .
I enjoyed traveling to the Big Things with Arkie and Haruko, I have visited a few in my time. In fact the town where I live is home to The Big Oyster. It was once a restaurant, housing a roadside cafe underneath for highway travellers between New South Wales and Queensland, but the bypass forced its closure and the site was redeveloped, so now The Big Oyster is empty, presiding over a car dealership.

906219-Big-Oyster--Taree-NSW-1

Truthfully Arkie doesn’t engender a lot of sympathy, she is self absorbed and a confessed adulterer, but I could sort of relate to the questions she is struggling with. Her life has imploded and she is lost, looking for a way to regain her equilibrium.
Haruko is an unlikely spiritual guide in the guise of a quirky, hip Japanese girl. An enigmatic character with an ethereal quality, she is self possessed with a talent for reinventing herself.

Arkie’s Pilgrimage to the Next Big Thing is an offbeat, sometimes surreal, contemporary novel that will have you reminiscing about your last visit to one of Australia’s ‘Big Things’ and perhaps yearning for your own spiritual road-trip.

Learn more about Arkie’s Pilgrimage to the Next Big Thing and Lisa Walker’s connection to Japan her guest post for Book’d Out.

Arkie’s Pilgrimage to the Next Big Thing is available to purchase from

Random House Iboomerang-books_long I Booktopia I Bookworld I via Booko

Amazon AU  I Amazon US

and all good bookstores.

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AWW Feature: Lisa Walker and the Japanese Connection

Lisa Walker

I’m excited to welcome Lisa Walker to Book’d Out to celebrate the release of her newest novel Arkie’s Pilgrimage to the Next Big Thing.

Lisa was born in Holland, spent her early life in Fiji and her teenage years in Brisbane. Following a stint as a barmaid on the Barrier Reef she became a wilderness guide in the Snowy Mountains. She then moved on to lecture in outdoor education and work in environmental communication. She now lives (and surfs, and writes!) on the north coast of New South Wales with her husband and two sons who tend to come and go. Back in the distant past somewhere she started writing. Many novels later, her ‘first book’ was selected for the Varuna HarperCollins Program. This book, ‘Liar Bird’ was published by HarperCollins in 2012, followed by ‘Sex, Lies and Bonsai’ in 2013.  ‘Arkie’s Pilgrimage to the Next Big Thing’ is her third novel,  published by Random House.  She has also written a radio play, Baddest Backpackers, which was produced for ABC Radio National in 2008 and many, many short stories.

About Arkie’s Pilgrimage to the Next Big Thing.

Arkie's Pilgrimage to the Next Big Thing - cover image‘I watch the highway go by and ponder my situation. I am on the run from my husband’s divorce lawyer, my mojo is still missing in action and my demon ex-lover is lurking . . . But, all things considered, my pilgrimage is going well . . .’ Arkie used to be a trendspotter, running a successful business advising companies on ‘the next big thing’. Until she lost her marriage and her mojo along with it. Her eccentric new friend Haruko suggests a pilgrimage in Japan. But funds are tight, so instead Arkie’s going on a very Australian trip, to all the ‘Big Things’. With Haruko as her guide, magic is everywhere. A Buddha appears next to the Big Redback, the Big Macadamia rises from the jungle like a lost temple and inside the Big Shell she can hear a tinkling voice, reminding her of the child she never had. As her improbable adventure unfolds, realisation dawns: could it be that, despite her celebrated foresight, Arkie’s been missing what was right before her eyes?A delightfully funny and inspiring novel about a very modern pilgrimage, and one woman’s chance to rediscover what she’s lost.

My thoughts about Arkie’s Pilgrimage to the Next Best Thing can be read HERE, in the meantime please enjoy this guest post from Lisa Walker.

The Japanese Connection

In ‘Arkie’s Pilgrimage to the Next Big Thing’ my protagonist, Arkie, meets her friend, Haruko at Byron Bay railway station on New Year’s Eve. Haruko introduces Arkie to her own way of celebrating. First there is bingo at fourteen minutes past nine, then soba noodles at fourteen minutes past ten and a prayer at fourteen minutes past eleven. At fourteen minutes past midnight Haruko gives Arkie a present in a drawstring bag – the Seven Lucky Shinto Gods. These gods become a touchstone for Arkie on her journey. There is fat and happy Hotei, whose stomach you rub for good luck, Ebisu, the god of fishermen, Bishamonten, who heals the sick and Fukurokuju the god of wisdom. Arkie’s favourite, the only goddess in the group, is Benzaiten. Benzaiten is the goddess of everything that flows, her shrines are usually situated near water. She is fertile and a competent wife. Everything I am not, Arkie thinks.
???????????????????????????????Haruko tells Arkie that every New Year’s night the Lucky Gods travel around to houses on their treasure ship. Arkie must draw a picture of the Lucky Gods and place it under her pillow. If she has a good dream then it will come true.
I was drawn to the Lucky Gods because I kept seeing them everywhere I went in Japan. Sometimes they were ancient statues covered in snow, sometimes little models for sale on the street. I began to notice how the individual god’s names popped up everywhere. Ebisu, for example, is both a brand of beer and a locality in Tokyo. I bought a model of the Lucky Gods and brought it home. It sat next to my computer while I wrote the novel and gave me inspiration when I flagged.
???????????????????????????????Haruko’s present becomes an integral part of Arkie’s journey but she also introduces her to many other facets of Japan. When Haruko writes a trendspotting proposal about pilgrimages she includes a picture of Tori gates – archways which guide you from the everyday world to the spiritual. The picture is from a temple near Kyoto where you walk through hundreds of Tori gates on your way to the shrine at the top of a hill. This shrine, called Fushimi Inari, is for the fox goddess, Inari, who is also associated with fertility.

Inari appears in my story in the form of a white foxy dog with a mysterious influence.
‘Inari possesses you through your fingernails,’ Haruko says.
‘What happens if you are possessed by Inari?’ says Arkie.
‘You go a little crazy,’ says Haruko.
Strange things start to happen. Each way Arkie turns she finds a little bit of magic. A dusty teapot picked up on the side of the road could be Tanuki, Haruko tells her. Tanuki is a racoon dog who is a bit of a trickster. Tanuki takes many forms and often turns himself into a teapot, Haruko says.
Under Haruko’s guidance Arkie’s pilgrimage becomes much more than just a journey to the Big Things. Two worlds merge and every day is filled with new revelations.

Arkie’s Pilgrimage to the Next Big Thing is available to purchase from

Random House Iboomerang-books_long I Booktopia I Bookworld I via Booko

Amazon AU  I Amazon US

and all good bookstores.

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