Sunday, August 28, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday - Walking The Edge: Snippet #12

Hey beautiful people!

It's Sunday once again. Bright and sunny here, but still cold as heck - I need my afghan, a cup of coffee, and some good reading to snuggle down to. But that's not an issue today, innit, since the snippets of Six Sentence Sunday will be up. :)

I'm concluding this action scene in the dark alleyway of Marseille today - next week, we move to another meeting between Gerard and Amelia. But for today...

Remember how last week Amelia was left with the tip of the gun against her temple, trapped between Gerard's big, hard body and the cold brick wall? What happens next? Does Gerard act on his threat? Read on for more (snippet edited for purpose of this post).

'... He remained like that for what felt like forever - his raspy, rapid breaths echoed in her mind, merging with the sound of her own gasps. She was going numb, blackness engulfing her brain, and she needed air.

Then, suddenly, he was off her - she sagged, the flat of her hands sliding down the wall while she forced air into her lungs.

You bastard, she couldn't help but think while she struggled for breath. He'd moved out onto the main street, leaving her here in the darkened alleyway.

Who did he think he was? ...'

Catch the rest of the SSS crew and their snippets here. Thanks for coming over, and double thanks for leaving a comment!

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A New Contract!!!

Hey beautiful people

Yesterday I promised to share some good news with you... I won't drag the suspense any more. :)

So, the news... I have just contracted a new book with Noble Romance Publishing. This one is a novel and part of another series - based loosely around a theme - titled Destiny's Child. In every book in this line-up, a child brings an unlikely couple together and love blossoms through emotional struggles and upheavals. The books are mostly sweet romances with little to no sex, relying more on sexual tension and emotional drive to carry the plot along.

The book that's just been contracted is the first of the series, and here's an unofficial blurb:

Calling Home

It's the little things that keep us calling home...

Forensic pathologist Margo Nolan is described as a cold, unemotional man hiding inside a woman's body. Clinical and rational, the ice queen persona is only a facade to protect herself after she has lost the one thing she has ever longed for: Emma, the daughter she brought up like her own.
When tragedy strikes in Emma's life, Margo is the only one who can step in... to become the stand-in parent to the 11-year old! Clueless about children, family life, and anything that should involve her heart, Margo is at a loss.
But she need not worry. Sexy and easygoing - and much younger - village doctor, Jamie Gillespie, is here to help the heart-thawing process.


I don't know yet when the book will be slotted for release, but it is part of the Sweetheart Line that focuses on sweet romances over at Noble Romance Publishing.

I've been keeping this news to myself for a little while, but was waiting for the go-ahead to scream it off all rooftops! :)

So that's my (unusual) Saturday posting, peeps. Hope you're having a great weekend!

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Friday, August 26, 2011

Progress Friday

Hey peeps

Another week from hell - my son went back to school but left his cold bug home with me. With the runny nose, the sneezing, the awful headache, and the kinks in my body (as if a herd of oxen had happy-rolled over me!), I wasn't really in a state to get much work done.

So, the progress meter moves only by 6.8K - I wanted to strike my 10K goal but once again, no can do... I'm still on target with the book and its deadline, but stuff like what's happened this week and the last are why I prefer to give myself a tight deadline so in the end, I do have some wiggle room when the needs arises.

Before The Morning is about 43% completed (first draft) right now - not too bad after all. I hope to cross the 50% mark next week.

TGIF though, but I'm also looking at a busy weekend where there will be lots of shopping. Taking the boys shopping for clothes tomorrow - and I'm sure by the end of morning, I won't have any hair left! Planning to catch up on my reading, esp a full ms for a fellow CP.

What have you got planned? Hope you have a great weekend anyhow!

Oh, and I have some good news to share with you tomorrow! :)

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Link Thursday: 10 Simple Things Men Want

As you probably know by now, the Corpus Brides series, of which I am writing Book 2, Before The Morning, is about espionage, and the women (and some men!) caught in the meanders and workings of a clandestine agency.

So, espionage means spies - guzzling vodka martinis in glamourous settings, wearing designer clothing, getting the girls, and the men too (since this is a heroine-centric series)--BLEEP!!! Wait a second - that's a cue for a James Bond story. Not for one of mine!
For you see, a spy's work - as Michael Westen from Burn Notice (pictured to the left here!) will tell you - is not about glamour but mostly about using your wits before you even consider using your brawn.
Put in a spy heroine, and what's she expected to do? Understand how her targets work, right? And these targets are... Men! Of course!

Now how do you come into the skin and shoes of a super-efficient spy who also happens to be a master manipulator - as is the case for Rayne Cheltham aka Kali, the heroine of Before The Morning?

Simple - you learn everything you can about how men function. You find out what they like, and you give them exactly that, all while you do your work covertly right under their nose. :)

Take a look at this following article - it has come in handy when I've been penning Rayne as that master manipulator. You don't need to go to the lengths she goes to land your goal in the net, but every woman out there can take a few clues and cues from the following advice. Most of these are really no-brainers (duh!), but some will surprise you!

The article is from Cosmopolitan Australia, and can be accessed here (with the really snazzy pics in the slideshow!).

*****

Ten simple things men want

While it’s tempting to think that men only want two things – steak and sex – they actually have a secret wish list of emotional needs that you may or may not be meeting. Here are the top ten simple things that your man wants from your relationship.

1. Tone down the drama. Ever burst in to tears because your jeans suddenly no longer fit? Or hyperventilated because your fave celeb didn’t win Dancing with the Stars? Men generally put up with our occasional trivial freak-outs, but make sure you keep it in check. What happens in your own home is private, but do not cause a scene in front of his friends or family – ever.

2. Sex. While men love a consistent sex life (who doesn’t?) they love it even more when it’s consistently sexy sex. This means it’s obvious that you’re really getting in to it – and really enjoying it. Guys can pretend not to notice for a few times if you’re not that keen, but if it continues to happen it’ll begin to eat away at him and make him worry. You don’t need to be a porn star, but let him know how much you want him.

3. Romance. What guy would actually scoff at you for bringing him a present? Everyone loves being spoilt once in a while. Upload some new songs on his iPod, cook him a steak, or even send him a dirty message telling him what you’re going to do to him later. Yep, that falls under the category of romance for guys.

4. Be truthful. If your guy has control-freak issues, he either has a sixth sense that he’s being lied to, or alternatively he is simply a control-freak. Either way, always be up front and honest with your man. A little bit of honesty goes a long way, and he’ll feel completely assured knowing that you’re being honest about things.

5. Tickle his taste buds. You don’t need to pop on an apron and whip up a baked dinner every night, but men love food and love it even more when it’s homemade. Surprise him by making his favourite meal after he’s had an incredibly tiring day at work – it’s like the reverse of him taking you shoe shopping.

6. Sense of humour. Ask every guy what he looks for in a girl and this will always pop up. A sense of humour in a relationship translates in to being relaxed, in the moment, and having lots of laughs. If this isn’t happening in your relationship, your man is going to think you’re distracted or uptight.

7. Listen to him. Whether he’s had a tough day at work or has found out his favourite footy player is switching teams, sometimes a beer with the boys just doesn’t cut it and he needs someone else to listen to him. Listen to him, but then drop it immediately. When he’s ready to bring it up again, he will.
8. No game-playing. The original game-playing of acting disinterested and waiting a certain amount of hours before texting back has gone out the window. In the end, this will only have two possible outcomes. He’ll be put off by your lack of interest and go with a stronger choice or he’ll pursue you for so long that he’ll probably end up resenting you. You don’t need to act overly eager, but if you like him – let him know.

9. Silence. The old adage of silence is golden is certainly true when it comes to the male species. If he’s a little quiet, don’t pressure him. Unlike women, if a man is quiet it doesn’t necessarily mean something is wrong – it just means he has nothing to say!

10. An independent woman. Men find independent women sexy, bottom line. It doesn’t mean you have to make a song and a dance when he offers to pay for coffee, but it’s attractive to have your own interests and do things on your own every now and again. Plus, when you’re feeling not so independent and want some TLC from your man, he’ll be more than willing to oblige.

*****

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Monday, August 22, 2011

Random Thoughts' Monday: The Hazards of Motherhood

Hey peeps

I was all abuzz to start this week on a roll - I mean, kiddo's back in school and all. Except that I didn't count on one tiny little possibility - that he'd leave his cold bug at home, with me.

So here I am today, with a runny nose, having gone through a stack of cotton handkerchiefs and a 200-tissues box, with a raging headache. And I wasn't able to take any medication as I had to drive today.

This got me thinking about the topic of today's post - the hazards of motherhood. Motherhood is supposed to be the most blissful fulfilment of your life, your self-actualisation as a woman and as a wife, the epitome of being a woman, even.

I'm like, what a load of BS! I love my kid to bits, but motherhood is not the saintly fulfilment the world makes it out to be. Maybe to a 50s era, Mad Men-inspired chick, but me - post Year 2000 modern gal striving for a career - I am no Mad Men contender!
So let's list them - the hazards.

1. You will always get sick once everyone has been looked after. It's as if your body goes on standbye while you're running around taking care of everyone, and once that's done, you collapse and the door opens wide for all the bugs and viruses to stream in and jump all over your system like hypercative Duracell bunnies.

2. You always have to play nurse when someone is sick. No matter that you have a life too - it's your "job" to be the nurse, whether to a sick kid or a super-whiny, I'm-on-death's-doorstep-when-I-have-a-cold man.

3. You don't have a life. You're like a secret agent. You have a front in place - that which you do everyday, like your job - but the minute the Agency of Motherhood calls, you have to drop everything and hop onto the assignment.

4. Your are simply NOT allowed failure!

5. Forget about a career, or R&R, or plain existing for yourself. You are now known as "mother of..." and consequently, you ceased to exist.

6. You check the notion of sleep in at the gates of the Hallowed Gardens of Motherhood. From the minute you see that little strip telling you you're pregnant, forget about sleeping a full night with a trouble-free mind, sister! It starts slowly, with heartburn, then it moves to kicks worthy of a Beckham free kick inside your belly, to not being able to find a position to sleep because you are now as immovable as a beached whale at low tide.
When you do get your body back, you proceed to sleepless nights with a crying - often colicky - baby, then a hyperactive toddler whose body simply does not understand circadian rhythms, and then a little kid who does not know what sleep means, because every minute spent awake is a minute where he can play.
You do find some relief to that problem when they become teenagers, and fall prey to the sleep of the vampires - since teens sleep the day away and function at night - but unfortunately for you, life goes on during the day - and you have no way out - and when they're up at night, you are too, because your mind is going in overdrive imagining all the ways they could be getting into trouble.
And according to my mum, even when your kids are out of the house, you still don't sleep well because you worry about them...

7. You become fat. All those leftovers - guess who picks up the plates and goes, "I'm not gonna let that go to waste" and so eats said leftovers? Mum, of course! And then you're surprised when your hips balloon into you looking like you swallowed a waine barrel... Yeah, right! And who on earth has time, and energy, and even an inclination, towards exercising when all's said and done???

8. You are in awe of Switzerland - how on earth can that country remain neutral, and how can you ever channel such neutrality? Half the time, you find yourself in the crossfire between your kids, or between your kid and his father. Channel neutral as Switzerland then, but be ready to be burnt - your kid might resent you once he's grown up, going, "Mum never took my side!", or your husband/the father of your child might decide to turn into a child too and sulk away because you didn't take his side (and at times like that, you wonder if you're even a wife/gf/baby mama or just a mother to all things with a Y-chromosome in their genetic makeup...)

9. Did I mention you have no life? No time for you? No possibility of claiming that you need a break before you have a full blown mental breakdown? No sick leave, and "help" means the man gets takeout, one night, so you don't have to cook. Except that one night is simply not enough as a break!

10. Oh yes, I forgot - you will earn a slew of other titles, among them, "chief cook", "chauffeur", "that nagging woman", and also "omniscient being who keeps everything running smoothly but we have no clue - and we don't give a damn - how she does it".

Ah, the joys of motherhood... Someone beam me to the real heaven now, pleeeeeeeaaaaase!

From Mauritius with love,
Zee

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday - Walking The Edge: Snippet #11

Hey beautiful people!

It's a bright, sunny Sunday morning here in Mauritius. Temps still a bit chilly, around 60 degrees - perfect to snuggle down with an afghan, a cup of coffee, and some great reading via Six Sentence Sunday snippets.

I'm still with Amelia and Gerard in that dark, seedy alleyway next to the Bistro du Stade in Marseille, on the outskirts of Boulevard Michelet and the Stade Velodrome.

Last week, Amelia still had a gun pointed at her, but her senses were focused on something else... the fact that Gerard seemed turned on by the danger of the moment.What happens next? Will Gerard take matters into his hands, or will Amelia win this battle?
Gerard goes on to tell her, in a menacing tone, that he won't ask her the question again. But Amelia has no clue what he's talking about, and she tells him that she doesn't know, to which he laughs.

"..."Of course you don't, sweetheart."

With that, he leaned forward, bending his knees and crouching farther down before her, one arm across her shoulders, his forearm crushing her throat. His breath was warm on her face as he lowered his head to be at eye level with her - he was tall, a good foot taller than her. With her thighs still immobilized, and with his arm cutting off her air supply, breathing suddenly became a feat. Her lips parted and she tried her best to inhale, but all she managed to do was catch a whiff of the spicy scent of his skin - her senses swam, and then she froze when she felt the cold tip of the gun against her temple.

"Whoever he is," the commissaire said in a husky whisper against her ear, "tell him a honey trap won't work." ...'

Catch more SSS snippets here. Thanks for coming over, and double thanks if you leave me a comment. :)

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Friday, August 19, 2011

Progress Friday

Hey peeps

Quick one today - thought my son was doing better but today he's got a cough that could wake the undead during daylight! so he's with me today, and thus you know by now I'm not going to make much sense.

Just let me say that progress on Before The Morning is moving ahead. Just over 6K this week, which is pretty good considering the kid was sick and with me most of the time. I'll take what I got!

A little over 34% on the expected length - I think I'm on track. Here's to more and better progress next week.

Weekend will be hectic, I'm sure, what with a recovering 8-year-old on hand. What have you got planned?

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Link Thursday: 20 Girl Things I Never Knew In My 20s

Hey beautiful people

I've been MIA for the past few days - had a sick kid on hand. Touching wood that it's the first time this winter that my son came down sick, and hopefully we're out of the woods as winter seems to be leaving. It's sunnier and warmer this week. Anyway, the mums who read this post will know - there's nothing as harrying as a sick kid on hand. And when it also happens that your husband is uber-cool usually but flies into a raving panic the minute his kids get sick, let me just tell you that I haven't had the easiest of weeks. I had to look after my son on one hand, and calm my husband down on the other. Needless to say, I was wiped and didn't get much done. Priority was my WIP deadline, and that's what I focused what was left of my energy on.

Okay, so I'm back on board now, and it's Thursday - so here's the link and article for today's Link Thursday post.

Very wise words from the author, Carla Smith who writes for Divine Caroline, over at Betty Confidential.com. You can click here and find this article online.

I couldn't believe how true those words were! I'm still in my 20s, and I'm so glad someone has let me in on the secret from the other side of that female milestone called Menopause. And without wanting to scare the childless ones of you out there, but what is said about childbirth is soooo true!

Read on - you won't be disappointed either.

*****

20 Girl Things I Never Knew In My 20s

Why couldn't I have learned these valuable lessons sooner?

By Carla Smith, Divine Caroline

1. That someday your prince will come but that is so not the end of the story. Happily ever after does exist but is another quest with different courage requirements.

2. That your intuition and instincts need to be nurtured and can be trusted. They are a millenia of wisdom gifted in genetics created just for you. Trust your gut and ask lots of questions.

3. That childbirth is not the intimate place you dream of. It’s you at your animal best/worst. Consider reinstating The Red Tent. Really.

4. Childbirth changes things. Especially sex. Not permanently, maybe, but they will change for enough reasons that warrant an entire post of its own.

5. That the physical pain of child birth will rip you apart and feel like a Mack truck ploughing through your vagina, crushing your pelvic bones.

6. That the physical pain of childbirth will be more than matched in intensity by the ferocious love and mother bear protection borne that day and will surprise even you. That raising children will be the most difficult thing you will ever do and one thing you will never regret. One great adventure.

7. That having periods kind of sucks - forever.

8. That not having periods sucks more. There’s just something about fertility.

9. That taking a pill that messes with your hormones is constantly more than a little concerning.

10. That not taking that pill is way more concerning.

11. That first time sex is mostly awkward, anti-climactical (literally) and unforgettable.

12. That uninhibited love making is an addictive, fun elixir; maybe the Holy Grail.

13. That you will forfeit many relationships in the ‘learn by mistakes’ School of Communications skill acquisition; that redemption is one of life’s greatest gifts and forgiving yourself the hardest apology to elicit. Do it and move on. Too many gifts are denied to the world in self flagellation.

14. That one day you will secretly delight in the opposite gender glances you still receive. Then you will realize that they are not intended for you but are directed at your teen-age daughters—even by men your own age. Especially by men your own age.

15. That model-like thinness is not something most men desire. They like boobs, butts and curves. Why? Because they don’t have them. Huge thank-you to the guy who taught me that.

16. That menopause will feel like betrayal of your body. All those years of eating well and exercising matter little to power hungry hormones.

17. That guys will always crane their necks to look at the youthful curves walking on by. Institute the Three Second Rule and be thankful your guy is appreciative.

18. That you will lose yourself being a stay-at-home mother. It’s necessary. And that finding yourself again someday will be tougher than you think. But your ‘money’ will be in the bank.

19. That you may lose much more trying to juggle it all. That you may still have to find yourself again someday. But it may be easier. I don’t know. Not my path. Sorry.

20. That a smile IS your best accessory, that honesty IS the best policy, that what goes around DOES come around and that you will NEVER stop growing or changing and most of all when you least expect it.

Life is long but not long enough. Do unto others, stay curious and always tip the mailman.

*****

From mauritius with love,

Zee

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday - Walking The Edge: Snippet #10

Hey beautiful people!

It's Sunday again... *head thump* Did we blink and the week went by? How come it's already the day for Six Sentence Sunday? Okay, I know I sound like a broken record every week, but you'll agree time does fly.

It seems like yesterday that I started sharing snippets of this unusual meeting scene in Walking The Edge (Corpus Brides: Book One) between the heroine Amelia and the hero, Gerard. But it's actually been a few consecutive weeks now...

Last week, Amelia braved danger in the face when she stood up to Gerard who had a gun aimed at her. He didn't take her sassy manner too well, telling her he'd do a lot more than point a gun at her if she didn't start giving him answers.

Like what, she wonders? Read on to see what happens next - is Amelia a daredevil, or is she unaware of the true danger a man like Gerard represents?


'... Her skin felt his heat seep into hers from the front, the cold humidity of the bricks numbing her back and buttocks - the way he leaned on her, she could feel the bulge in the front of his pants. Lord, he's getting hard!

"Danger thrills you," she said softly.

In reply, he cocked the gun and moved it closer to her face, barely an inch away. She could lick the barrel if she wanted. An image of her tongue on his bulging hard-on flitted through her mind. ...'


Catch more snazzy SSS snippets here. :)

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Friday, August 12, 2011

Progress Friday

Hey again beautiful people

Friday!!! I just had my first week of intensive, daily writing. This is the way I worked it out - I get online at 8.30, browse around, check the inbox and reply important emails right away, drive by Facebook to update my status and see what my fellow peeps have been up to while I was sleeping (and it was daytime almost everywhere else for my contacts!).

But when 10.00 hits, I close the Internet browser and open my WIP. I work from 10 to 12-12.30, at which time I pause and go attend to other duties around the house. If I'm on a roll, I'll stick with the writing until 1 o'clock. Then when I come back after picking my son from school, I'll attend the rest of the email and online/crit business.

So, has it borne fruit? You bet!

For 4 days of writing (I didn't write on Wednesday as I had some other pressing matters to attend that morning), I have clocked down a little over 8K on Before The Morning. My goal was 10K, and I might just have made it if I'd written on Wednesday too.

I just cannot believe it! I mean, I knew a schedule would help, but I had no idea it would work this well. Now I just have to emulate this every week, and I'll be pretty set for my deadline. I also thought a self-imposed writing spree would stifle my creativity, but it is not the case. I might have to write a draft that is merely dialogue and some directional cues, but then I re-read and find ways to add in more detail, and these in turn trigger episodes for my characters. And being in touch with the WIP and with the characters means I get a better handle on these people with every day I spend with them. Also now, when I'm not writing, my brain is coming up with elements that will play in other upcoming scenes.

I think I've found the ideal working balance for my writing brain - I do manage to attend to my other duties fine, and the writing is moving on. What more can I ask for, eh?

Happy tidbit today - I managed to intro Book 3 of the Corpus Brides series into the chapter. Book 3's heroine, Anastasiya, and her backstory, conflict, and role inside the Corpus Agency, are foreshadowed already. Real happy this worked itself in. :)

So, weekend up ahead. What have you got planned? I'm tempted to take a leaf out of Bruno Mars' The Lazy Song, but I've still got crits to do and a household to look after.

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Link Thursday: How To Make His Family Fall In Love With You

Hi peeps!

I was doing research for my current WIP, Before The Morning, and so I've been trolling a lot of relationship/family websites. The thing is, the heroine in the book, Rayne, is going back home after 17 years to attend the wedding of her younger sister. Trickier part - she's taking her new husband, Ash, in tow, and he happens to be her childhood best friend... whose parents, the Gilfoys, live next door to hers. :) Can anyone say "awkward moment" here? And did I mention that Rayne is a former spy/assassin?

So, going back home, meeting the big, rambunctious family again, dealing with a neurotic bridezilla... and meeting the in-laws. The Gilfoys have always known her as the 'girl next door', whom they liked, but what will it be like when she comes on their doorstep as the new daughter-in-law?

Anyone who's ever been in a serious relationship knows that 'meeting the parents' is a dreaded moment. How do you navigate those tricky waters?

Here comes help, in the form of this article from Cosmopolitan Australia. You can read it with the cute pics in the slideshow here.

And even if you're past that first meeting - and unless you've been a total b*tch so far with your in-laws - the tips also come in handy to smooth your relationship with those important people no matter how long you've known them.

*****

How to make his family fall in love with you

Classic scenario - you’ve found The One and he adores you – but unfortunately his family doesn’t. When it comes to long-term relationships, your partner/fiancĂ©e/boyfriend isn’t the only one you need to impress. Here’s how to make his family fall in love with you, without the awkward “Meet the Fockers” moments.

1. Turn up.
The initial meeting of parents is always daunting, but the most important thing here is to actually turn up. (Extra points if you bring a bottle of bubbly). It’s easy to take the “I’m-suddenly-feeling-deathly-sick” route and put it off, but the more you do this the more they’ll think you’re avoiding them. Not a great start. Grin and bear it, no matter how nervous you are.

2. Offer your help.
Make an effort every single time you see his parents/family members. If you’re heading over for dinner, take dessert. Meeting at a BYO restaurant? Bring a bottle of his Dad’s favourite red wine. They’ll love the fact that you’re going out of your way to make an effort.

3. Be thoughtful.
Write down family members’ birthdays on your calendar and any other milestones (such as his little sister’s graduation). Always send cards, or make a phone call for birthdays if you can’t show up. And when it comes to birthday presents, be extra thoughtful and considerate. There’s no point buying a deluxe box of chocolates if his mum is lactose-intolerant. Do your research.

4. Play host.
Not only does it repay his family for all the times they’ve invited you around for dinner, but it shows you’re truly capable of looking after their perfect little child. If your cooking repertoire doesn’t extend past hotdogs, now isn’t the time to try out herb-infused lamb shanks. You might want to enlist in a friend’s help earlier on in the day so everything runs smoothly.

5. Show interest.
No matter what his parents’ hobbies are, show an interest. Needlepoint and pottery may not be at the top of your list but it is on hers – so pay attention and ask plenty of questions. Who doesn’t like talking about themselves? Nothing like discussing the pleasantries of quilting over a cup of tea.

6. Control yourself.
This includes any sexual references to you and your man, sitting on his lap, kissing with tongue, or doing the dirty on the dining room table. Do we really need to spell it out? His family is already well aware that the two of you have been naked together. Often. So be respectful and avoid any potentially awkward situations.

7. Do not rip off your partner.
You know the inevitable moment where his entire family teases him mercifully over every single embarrassing thing he’s ever done? Yeh, don’t join in. It can be very tempting, and might even seem like a form of bonding, but steer clear! Remind yourself that these people have known him for 20 years plus and they’re allowed to bring up the time he dated the girl that looked like Amy Winehouse. If any of his family senses you cross the line with teasing, they will drop you immediately.

8. Accept any advice.
Even if you don’t agree with it. Just listen and smile graciously, and try not to see it as “meddling”.

9. Steer clear from potentially awkward conversations.
This includes but is not limited to: politics, racism, religion, abortion, and anything else that could cause awkward silences or heated conversations. Stick to neutral, polite conversation topics.

10. Don’t be critical.
If the afore-mentioned awkward conversation has suddenly occurred, don’t be critical of his family’s point of view on anything. You don’t necessarily need to hide your opinions, but if their beliefs are completely different from your own, a smile and an “agree to disagree” will do just fine. Try and change the subject as soon as possible though!

11. Dress accordingly.
Clothes definitely make a difference on the sort of impression you give his family. Avoid anything too revealing. If you’re really not sure what to wear, ask your partner for a dress code. There’s nothing worse than being under-dressed.

12. Be sincere.
You’ve met them, made small-talk, and managed to survive. Now is the time to make a great closing impression. Tell them how great it was to meet them, and you enjoyed the evening/lunch/dinner. And if you’re really keen on your man, tell them that you hope to see them soon. A sincere thank you will leave a lasting impression, and your partner will love you for it!

*****

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Tidbit Tuesday: Lamb Tagine

Hello beautiful people!

Today I'll share with you the recipe for a dish that features prominently in Walking The Edge. The hero in the book, Gerard Besson, is a police commissioner in Marseille. He grew up with an absentee mother and a father who never cared for him, and his solace he found in the council flat two floors up - the home of Khadija Bashir, a widow of Moroccan origin and mother of 3 daughters. Gerard grew up pretty much like her foster son, considers Katie his mother, and one thing he comes to love from her household is her signature Lamb Tagine and Couscous dish.

Here's the scene where he is introducing Amelia to his mother's cooking:

'... Scents—a hint of lemon and the sweetness of cooked, dried fruits; the distinctive, heady fragrance of lamb from the tagine—rose up in a delicate cloud around them as he pried the plastic boxes open. After dishing out two servings, he placed a plate of couscous covered with tagine before her and then sat down in front of his own plate.

"Go on. Eat," he told her when he saw her hesitate.

She took a spoon of couscous into her mouth, and he watched as the frown lifted from her features, and she smiled.

"It's good, isn't it?" he asked.

She nodded.

"The best in Marseille, made by my mother," he added with a grin. He wanted to share that with her, God knew why, really. Normalcy, even some semblance of it, was what he wanted with her. If only for a moment, he'd take it.

"Your mother is Algerian? Tagine is an Algerian dish, isn't it?"

"Moroccan," he replied in between spoonfuls, wolfing down the food and delighting in the spicy taste that reminded him of his youth.

"You don't look like your mother hails from the Maghreb," she said.

He paused, then said, "She's my foster mother, actually." ...'

******

And now, here's the recipe!

Lamb Tagine

Ingredients:

For the spice mix:

Cayenne pepper - 1 tsp
Ground black pepper - 2 tsp
Paprika - 1.5 tsp
Ground ginger - 1.5 tsp
Turmeric - 1 Tsp
Cinnamon powder - 2tsp
Garlic - 1 tsp (I don't use garlic, so remove this if you don't eat it)

For the dish:
Lamb - 1.1 kg/ 2.5 lbs
Onions - 2 large, sliced
Olive oil - 4 tsp
Tomato Juice - 570 ml
Tinned tomatoes - 800g
Apricots - 115g, halved
Dates - 55g, halved
Saffron threads - 1 tsp
Lamb stock - 600ml (or use water, but the flavour is better with stock)
Honey - 1 Tbsp
Coriander + Parsley leaves - chopped

Method:
Cut the lamb in small, 1-2 inch pieces. Marinate overnight with half the spice mix

Add 2tsp oil to pan, heat, and cook onions until soft

In another pan, use 2tsp oil and brown meat in batches

Deglaze meat pan with a little tomato juice, and add this liquid to the onions' pan

Add meat and all the remaining ingredients to the onions' pan (incl. remaining spice mix)

Bring to boil. Turn off heat, transfer contents to ovenproof casserole.

Cook in preheated 150degreesC oven for 2-2.5 hours.

Sprinkle with chopped coriander and parsley, and serve over couscous (take one cup water, bring to boil. Turn down heat, add one cup of couscous grains. Cover and allow the grains to puff up, for about 5 minutes. Fluff with fork - you can add a small square of butter if you want)
 
*****
 
From Mauritius with love,
 
Zee

Monday, August 08, 2011

Random Thoughts' Monday: It's okay to let go...

Hey peeps

New week, new start. My son went back to school today, and I, for one, am jumping with joy! After what seems like ages, I managed to sit down and write uninterrupted for 3 hours. Saw a scene I totally hadn't planned come together, and my heroine hijacked her characterization. I'm gonna have to adapt to the new direction she took this morning.

But back to this post's topic - Letting go. I am a completely anal compulsive perfectionist. Everything I do has to be, well, perfect... Lol, I am definitely not perfect, so maybe I compensate for that in all I endeavour to do.

We all know here that I am also not a domestic goddess. My one attempt to make bread resulted in a 'rock' that could break concrete. But thank goodness, other things I cook turn out okay. Mind though - I really don't like to cook, or eat, for that matter. I have a strange love-hate relationship with food, probably thanks to my past as an overweight gal.

In waltzes my 8-year-old son. He's a foodie if I ever saw one - loves to eat and loves to prepare food. He watches all those cooking TV shows - Nigella Lawson, Jamie Oliver, Sanjeev Kapoor, Chak Le India and Highway on my Plate. He even knows cooking techniques that I've never heard of!

But for God's sake, he's 8! I don't want a kid let loose in my kitchen, where there are bubbling pans, burning stoves, and very sharp knives. So what do I do when he approaches the very safe zone of the kitchen island when I'm preparing food?

This is what happened on Saturday, when I was making spring rolls for dinner. Filling was cooked and cooled, all the instruments I needed were laid out, and the only thing left to do was actually roll up the rolls. It looks like a tricky technique but is in fact quite easy... Guess you know where this is going - a little boy asked me if he could help...

My first instinct was to say No. But then I caught myself - he'd been home for 3 weeks and though we did do stuff together, we didn't do as much stuff as I believed a 'perfect' mum did.

We spent the following hour rolling spring rolls side by side. I showed him how, and his little hands were surprisingly deft and quick. Though there have been some mishaps along the way, in the end, you couldn't figure out which ones I'd rolled and which ones he'd done.

And that's when I realized that it's okay - important even - to let go sometimes. In an unexpected moment, my son and I bonded like we never have before, and I'm sure the first time we rolled spring rolls together will remain a treasured memory we'll carry for as long as we live. It was all about the moment, and in the end, it's the little moments that count; it's the little moments that assemble to create tapestries of memories and happiness.

I should learn to let go more, to trust that everything is not dependent on me to turn out all right. This is what my son taught me this weekend, and what I wanted to share with you all.

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday - Walking The Edge: Snippet #9

Hey again peeps!

It's Sunday, and I for one, am jumping for joy because tomorrow, school starts again! Back to my routine, back to writing, back to quiet! But first, the usual highlight of the week - Six Sentence Sunday. :)

Thanks again to everyone who visits, and for your comments - I love to hear what you think of my work. To all the SSS peeps, I try my best to come by all your blogs, but I apologize if I cannot make it to each of the 150+ participants. I definitely visit if you comment on here though. Once again, big big thanks!

So, I'm still plugging my June 29 release Walking The Edge (Corpus Brides: Book One) from Noble Romance Publishing. Quick recap - Amelia, my heroine, has amnesia. The man who says he is her husband plies her with drugs and monitors her every move...until the day Amelia manages to ditch her bodyguard and she heads to Marseille, to find a man she saw in her drug-induced dreams.
But once in the French city, things don't go as planned because Gerard, the man in question, does not recognize her. He thinks she's a trap sent to lure him, and he's out to get her.

In last week's excerpt, he had cornered her in a side alley after a pretty rough struggle, and we left them with his gun aimed at her. What will Amelia do now?


'... She saw murder on his features. Even in the dim surroundings, there was no mistaking the coiled tension in him. She let her body relax, the pressure from his lower body pinning her even more as she sagged against the wall.

"You're hurting me," she said. A part of her was aghast that she had a gun pointed at her, yet another part was already spinning how she could extricate herself from her situation.

"I'll do a damn lot more if you don't start giving me some answers." ...'


More SSS goodies here! Have a lovely Sunday!

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Friday, August 05, 2011

Progress Friday

Hey peeps

My WIP counter for Before The Morning is finally going up. I scraped some of last week's writing, so what you see today is not really the 4K increase it looks like, but more like a 7K addition to the story. Despite having the boys at home this week, I managed to get some writing done. Guess I'm getting used to having them around, but I won't be unhappy to pack them off to school on Monday.

Little by little, I'm getting into my characters. My heroine is a tricky mindset to conduit - she's a master manipulator and I have to think like her, which is, well, twisted... But my technique of daydreaming the scenes is working - little by little I see every little block assemble and give me the scene I need. Then I just need to write it down, and the next day, go back through the material and beef up the emotional response.

This book is also taking me all across Europe as an armchair traveller! I left Mayfair in London last week to travel to Nice, France, for the start of Chapter 2, and now the remaining part of Chapter 2 is taking me through the centre of Prague, in the Czech Republic. Definitely thrill-worthy, and an added dimension when I'm writing - that pic up there is of Charles Bridge in the heart of Prague; a pivotal scene in the book takes place there.

I'll prolly leave the WIP this weekend to do some crits for my CPs. I am way behind on returning the favour as they crit my work almost as soon as I post it up.

What have you all got planned for the weekend? Whatever it is, have fun! :)

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Tidbit Tuesday: BLOG TOUR for Only Mine by Susan Mallery

A little while ago, I was approached by a publicist from Little Bird Publicity Agency. She wanted to know if I would be amenable to participating in a blog tour for Ms. Mallery's latest release, Only Mine (Fool's Gold #4), and if I wanted to do a review of the book and a Q&A with Ms. Mallery.

Do I need to state here that I hit reply right away and confirmed with her? :)

So here's how I find myself today writing this post. Disclaimer: The review I'm about to feature is an unbiased opinion of the book - in no way or form was I subversively influenced to say what I say about the story and Ms. Mallery's writing.

On to the review, but first, here's a little blurb to put you in the picture:

You can't win if you don't play...

Her town's lack of men may make headlines, but it isn't news to Dakota Hendrix. The beautiful blonde has bigger problems to deal with, such as overseeing the romance reality competition filming in Fool's Gold. Screening eligible bachelors is a difficult enough task, but Dakota hits an unexpected snag when a sexy stranger comes to town.

Finn Anderssen will do anything to keep his twin brothers— the perfect contestants— off the show. Despite Dakota's better judgment, she finds herself drawn to the mysterious outsider. Like her, Finn knows about heartbreak and how a family can fall apart, so she doesn't dare to hope for anything more than a fling. After all, even in the Land of Happy Endings, finding true love is never as easy as it looks on TV.


Only Mine is Book #4 in the Fool's Gold series. Before this story was brought to my attention, I had heard of Ms. Mallery - she is, after all, one of the queens of contemporary romance. I hadn't read her work though. Through a stroke of luck, I managed to snag copies of both Book #2 and Book #3 in the series - namely Almost Perfect and Finding Perfect - and that's how my love affair with Ms. Mallery's books, and this particular series, started.

Imagine a little town where everyone knows one another; where any stranger is just a friend you haven't met yet; where kids play outside day and night; where you can go everywhere by simply walking - welcome to Fool's Gold. There's just a tiny speck on the pretty picture though - Fool's Gold demographics are a bit skewed. There are way more women than men in the town...

Now take a trip to Reality TV Land - wouldn't Fool's Gold be the perfect place for a reality TV show? Lots of "men-starved" women - all you need to do is bring in eligible men to be the perfect contestants.

That's how Dakota Hendrix finds herself roped into being the eyes, ears, and moral guardrail of the town, all because she possesses a Ph.d in psychology. Who cares if she specialised in child psychology? Her job will be to make sure the reality TV crew doesn't go overboard all while she protects the integrity of the town.

Not an easy task, but Dakota can handle it. She's strong and capable... and then Finn Anderson storms into her office. One look at the handsome Alaskan with the dark hair and piercing blue eyes and she knows her world will never be the same again.

I must admit, of all the Fool's Gold books I've read so far, Only Mine is by far my favourite. In fact, I think it trumps the other books in the series, and I wonder if Ms.Mallery will manage to top off this one in the next two books coming out in the next few months (and which follow Dakota's triplet sisters, Montana and Nevada).

First of all, Dakota is a strong, likeable, and sympathetic character. When the book starts, we find out she's been hiding a secret - she suffers from polycystic ovarian syndrome, and coupled with endometriosis, it turns out she has one in a million chance of falling pregnant. For Dakota, family is everything, yet she must grieve the fact that she won't be able to have children and come to terms with that. But Ms.Mallery doesn't have her heroine go all "woe is me!" - instead Dakota is a woman who takes a hold of her existence and decides to plough on with as much optimism as she can. Not even sourpuss Finn Anderssen can dampen her sunny mood and outlook.

Finn is everything you'd expect a hero to be - strong, handsome, loyal. A little too severe and stern though, but that adds to his charm. He's been taking care of his twin brothers ever since their parents died when Finn was thirteen, and he is on the verge of seeing the twins graduate from univeristy... when they drop out with one semester to go and come to Fool's Gold to take part in the reality TV show. Finn will not let this happen! Like any "good" parent, he comes right after them.

Except that the twins don't want to come home to South Salmon, Alaska, and there's another complication in town too. Her name is Dakota Hendrix.

I read this book in under 3 hours! I just couldn't put it down. Something just kept happening and I had to keep reading. Ms.Mallery writes with a flow and prose that reads effortlessly and before you know it, you are immersed in this world of Fool's Gold and you're rooting for each and every character in the story. And believe me, there are characters galore in there! Cracking open a Fool's Gold book is like coming home after being away for many long years - you feel yourself settling down with family, not just characters.

One thing I appreciate in this book, and this series, is how each book stands alone. Ms.Mallery doesn't fall into the trap of recounting each and every romance that has taken place in Fool's Gold, which makes you eager to find out how some couples ended up together. Each book is the journey of its own couple, and Only Mine is every bit the story of Dakota and Finn. Special mention to the sub-plot of the romance between Stephen, one of Finn's brothers, and Aurelia. The two are paired for the show, but it is real romance that blooms between the 21-year-old Stephen and 30-year-old, doormat-type accountant Aurelia.

All in all, this is the perfect book if you want to get lost in a world peopled by vibrant, lovable folks. You will not see the time pass! You'll laugh, cry, feel immense tugs at your heartstrings, and you'll fall in love. What more can one ask for?
In my book, Only Mine is a keeper, well deserving 5 stars on a scale of 1 to 5.


Now on to the second part of this post - Susan Mallery was kind enough to answer some of my questions. I'll leave you to savour those.



First of all, Ms. Mallery, it's an honour and a pleasure to be able to host you at my blog today. I'm a huge fan of your work, and totally fell in love with your Fool's Gold series.

Thank you for having me! So glad you’re enjoying Fool’s Gold. I hope your readers will visit me online at http://www.susanmallery.com/ and www.facebook.com/susanmallery!

I was going to ask how the idea for Fool's Gold came to be, but you already mention on your FAQ page of your website that it all sparked from the census – how a small town would be known for its shortage of men.

Q: How do you then flesh out a series – or even just a book – from this small idea?

With the Fool’s Gold series, I started with a place. Fool’s Gold is totally fictional, straight out of my imagination, which means I could make it anything I wanted it to be. After I came up with the idea of the town with the man shortage, I started brainstorming specific story possibilities.

My job as a writer is to always think about how I can make things even worse for the characters in my books – yes, I get to torture people for a living! Fortunately, they’re fictional, so I don’t have to pay a karmic price for my cruelty. So last year, the nation discovered how serious the man shortage in Fool’s Gold had become, and the town was the butt of lots of jokes from late-night comedians. The town is famous – which of course means that some sleazy television producer has decided to take advantage of that notoriety by filming a reality dating show in town... which makes the women of Fool’s Gold quite crabby.

Psychologist Dakota Hendrix reluctantly accepts the job of vetting the show’s contestants, to keep Fool’s Gold from looking foolish. As ONLY MINE begins, a very angry Finn Anderssen storms into Dakota’s office, demanding that she reject his younger brothers so that they will return to college, where Finn is sure they belong.

Q: Technical question now – how does the research for a series, with its people and places, happen? Do you do it all in one go, discover the whole population, or do you get to know more of the townsfolk as you write along?
 
Since Fool’s Gold is fictional, not a lot of research was needed. However, because the series will continue through at least twelve books, I wanted it to feel very real, and that meant creating a rich history for the town. (You can read all about the history of Fool’s Gold here: www.foolsgoldca.com/aboutfg.html. It goes back to 1300 A.D., when a matriarchal tribe of Mayan women became annoyed with men trying to sacrifice them all the time. They broke away and moved north to California. Yes, Fool’s Gold has a long history of strong women.)

You will see some of the same people from book to book, which adds to the sense of community that readers love, and you’ll also get to know new people. Each book is a standalone novel, meaning that you can jump into the series with any book, and you won’t feel lost.

On to Only Mine now – I must say I loved the book (as all the other Fool's Gold books!). The heroine is Dakota Hendrix.

Q: Tell us about her, but in your own words! How does she pop into your mind when you think of her?

Dakota is overall a very upbeat person. Last year, readers learned that Dakota was facing something pretty major in her life, but they didn’t learn what it was. In fact, Dakota hasn’t even told her mother or her triplets sisters yet because she keeps her problems to herself until she has a plan for solving them. That’s a special kind of optimism, and one of the many reasons I love Dakota.

Q: And Finn, the sexy hero... Stern he may be, but he is also a man after all our hearts. What comes to mind when you think of him?

Finn is a family man, even though he’s not sure he wants to be. When his parents died, Finn didn’t think twice before stepping in to raise his younger brothers. It was the right thing to do, and Finn sacrificed a lot to do the right thing. Now he thinks if he can just get his brothers through college, he’ll be off the hook and can go back to being a carefree bachelor. What he hasn’t learned yet is how lonely he would be without a family around him.

The Hendrix clan has triplet sisters – Dakota, Montana, Nevada – and big brother Ethan, among others.

Q: How did you think up the idea of triplet sisters?

I was an only child when I grew up, so I love writing about the big, boisterous family that I never had. Triplets are an extension of that – three sisters who have been together since birth. Each of the triplets has her own personality, but the experiences these three women have shared throughout their lives makes them as close as it’s possible to be.

Q: And was it hard to build up the rambunctious dynamics of the Hendrix clan?

Not at all. Pure pleasure! I love the family reunion scenes in the three books this year. Denise Hendrix, the triplets’ mom, has started dating again, and her kids aren’t sure how to feel about that. Of course, they have to call a family meeting to discuss the issue, much to Denise’s chagrin.

Only Mine features the world of reality TV, which is a hot topic right now.

Q: Was it hard to write about that world? How much research did that involve?

Oh, I did a ton of research. I’m so dedicated to my craft that I watched hour after hour of reality TV. That’s just the kind of writer I am, willing to make any sacrifice for my readers’ pleasure... Actually, I love reality TV. Not all of it, of course, but even the icky stuff is kind of fascinating. It’s an interesting cultural phenomenon, that some people will do just about anything in order to get some fleeting notoriety.

My dad worked in television, so I grew up with some familiarity. The rest of it is pure imagination.

Ms. Mallery, there are tons of questions I want to ask on top of the above, but I know your time is precious and I am so, so glad you considered answering mine. Thank you once again for the interview, and for such amazing books as Only Mine.


So, beautiful people - Do check out Ms.Mallery's website and Facebook, and don't forget to get you copy of Only Mine. It's the perfect summer read, and also one you'll want to whip out during cold winter nights when you're in need of a satisfying, lose-yourself-in-romance story.
 
From Mauritius with love,
 
Zee

Monday, August 01, 2011

Random Thoughts' Monday: The resilience of mothers...

With each day of this winter break that passes by, I am more in awe of my mother. I had no idea what she put up with when I was growing up! My boys are home, and half the time I have only one on hand, but even then I hardly manage to get anything done. Just look at last week - I preferred to stave off the blogging because I knew I wouldn't be able to do do it, full stop.

I recall my mum cooking lunch, and cooking dinner, and even cooking something for tea every single day! She also found time to do all the housework, and she even caught some TV during the day. And never did she complain, or go, like me, wailing about not enough time to do everything.

Today I'm convinced she is the original Superwoman. I mean, leave my mum in a kitchen and she can whip you up a three-dish meal in under 2 hours. And clear out the sink too in that time. I'm lucky if I can cook dinner in 2 hours!

Not to mention that I was always talking and pestering and trailing after her when I was growing up... How ever did she do it?

Here's to my mum, and to hoping her wisdom and patience did not skip my chromosome pool!

From Mauritius with love,

Zee
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