Two kitties and a guitar case

My teenage daughter foolishly left her soft guitar case open on the floor in our hallway. Before long, her tortoiseshell kitty, Tabitha, came across it. With a few circles and kneading of paws she took possession, purring loudly at the pleasure of such a find.

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Tabitha makes the discovery

It wasn’t long before Ancient Albert, our precious nearly twenty-two-year-old boy ambled past on his aged and unsteady legs. Tabby hissed defensively, as thirteen-year-old torties are prone to do, but to no avail. Soon there were two cats in the guitar case. There wasn’t a lot of room for two cats to sleep comfortably.

Not quite enough room for two cats

Not quite enough room for two cats

The inevitable happened—Albert evicted Tabitha and had it all to himself. I’ve noticed my female cats inevitably concede to the males when it comes to possession of comfy sleeping spots and desirable food.

Albert has the guitar case all to himself

Albert has the guitar case all to himself

Eventually Tabby gracefully admitted defeat gracefully and went and found herself a box of paper—printouts of my work-in-progress.

Tabby squeezes into a box

Tabby squeezes into a box

Albert enjoyed sole possession of the guitar case until he wandered off and found himself an even better bed—my daughter’s large velvet-lined guitar case. Much more spacious and comfortable!

Albert finds himself an even better guitar case

Albert finds himself an even better guitar case

When daughter complained about cat fur in her guitar case did I have pity on her? A little. I know I should have removed the kitties, rather than laughing and taking snaps with my iPhone. But since then neither I—nor the cats—have noticed any guitar cases left lying around the house!

MY NEW RELEASE ON SALE!

Reinventing Rose is on special at Amazon for just $US0.99 from 1 through 5 May, 2013 as part of the Book Lovers Buffet. There are loads of other wonderful books across all romance genres on sale, too.

http://bookloversbuffetdotcom.wordpress.com/contemporary/

KandyShepherd_ReinventingRose800Kandy Shepherd writes fun, feel-good fiction. Her new release is the contemporary women’s fiction (aka chicklit!) Reinventing Rose, where there are two kitty characters.

Kandy’s romances include The Castaway Bride, Something About JoeLove is a Four-Legged Word and Home Is Where the Bark Is.

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Chocolate on tap

IMG_2620What is it about writers and chocolate? With a name like Kandy, I was predestined to have a sweet tooth, and chocolate is my favorite sweet treat by far. But I don’t have to look far among my author colleagues to find an abundance of writerly chocoholics.

Is there a link between creativity and chocolate consumption? It’s said eating chocolate releases endorphins—feel good hormones—in the brain, so that might help kick along the creative process. Chocolate is also said to affect serotonin levels in the brain, which could help relieve stress (deadlines?) and depression (writer’s block and deadlines?)

Who knows? I’m not really looking for an explanation—more likely an excuse for the scatterings of chocolate wrappers around my desk!

I loved the strawberry and pistachio the best from this delectable array

Lindt chocolatiers’ taste experiments – I loved the strawberry and pistachio the best from this delectable array

Being a self-confessed chocoholic, I didn’t hesitate to accept an invitation to the “chocolate carpet” launch of the Lindt Chocolate Café concept at the site of the original Martin Place site in the heart of the city of Sydney, Australia.

Okay, so the carpet was actually red, not chocolate, but the second my “plus one” daughter and I got inside we were surrounded by chocolate, chocolate, chocolate!

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Lindt Master Chocolatiers at the Maître Station

I’ve visited the Lindt Café before (what self-respecting Sydney chocoholic hasn’t!) but  now it looks quite different. The most prominent new feature is the Maître Station where you can watch the Lindt Master Chocolatiers at work creating their delectable creations. The scent of so much chocolate so close is intoxicating!

The Mocha Macchiato were a hit

The Mocha Macchiato were a hit

There’s also the Chocolate Tap, an outsized metal tap from which Lindt Chocolate copiously flows. I nearly swooned! On the launch night, the baristas made use of the chocolate tap to create potent chocolate shots, as well as Mocha Macchiato comprising dark chocolate, milk and espresso coffee topped with a chocolate shard.

LIndt Australia Master Chocolatier, Thomas Schnetzler, tempting me with the best macarons I've ever tasted

Lindt Australia Master Chocolatier, Thomas Schnetzler, tempting me with the best macarons I’ve ever tasted

Highlights of the evening? Meeting Lindt Australia’s charming Swiss-born Master Chocolatier, Thomas Schnetzler; taste-testing experimental new chocolates; and eating the best-ever macarons, which Lindt calls délice. I also watched, amazed, as a fellow guest emptied out some of the abundant displays of Lindor Balls to fill a bucket to take home. Who could blame him!

We took home lots of treats

We took home lots of treats

We went home with a goodie bag which kept the Lindt experience going for several days afterwards. I didn’t need to be persuaded  to “Surrender to Indulgence”!

Oh, and my beautiful university student daughter had her photo taken for a foodie blog and the Sunday newspaper social pages—she was beyond thrilled!

Visit the Lindt Chocolate Café, 53 Martin Place, Sydney, NSW, 2000. (What a great place for a writers’ meeting!)

KandyShepherd_ReinventingRose800Kandy Shepherd writes fun, feel-good fiction. Her new release is the contemporary women’s fiction (aka chicklit!) Reinventing Rose, where the main character indulges in chocolate at the merest hint of feeling down!

Kandy’s romances include The Castaway Bride, Something About JoeLove is a Four-Legged Word and Home Is Where the Bark Is.

Reinventing Rose—my new story

KandyShepherd_ReinventingRose800I don’t know when “chicklit” became a no-no word. “Contemporary women’s fiction” is now the description of choice for contemporary, sometimes humorous novels about a young (or not-so-young) woman’s journey to that may or may not include romance but usually includes friendship, family and career.

I’m putting my hand up to say I love reading chicklit, however you label it. And I like writing it, too!

My new release Reinventing Rose falls under the chicklit banner. When 28-year-old Californian schoolteacher Rose Butler flies to Sydney, Australia, to meet an internet lover, the reunion doesn’t go quite to plan. Rose finds herself alone in a foreign country, too embarrassed to tell the folks back home what happened. Rose decides to stay and reinvent herself with a total “me makeover.”

Three new female roommates turn out to be the perfect people to aid and abet her—one is a beauty editor on a womens magazine with access to all sorts of image-changing freebies. But Rose discovers real change doesn’t come from new hair and makeup. As she throws herself headlong into her new life, she gets tripped up by a painful family secret and unresolved problems from her past. She’s forced to question her beliefs about love and loyalty, old mistakes and new choices, and the bonds of both family and friendship.

3 QUICK QUESTIONS

Q. You’re published in romance—why write womens fiction/chicklit?

A. I love writing romance where the focus is on two people falling in love against the odds. But I also like writing about the other aspects of my characters’ lives—family, friends, career challenges—and womens fiction gives me that opportunity. I enjoyed creating the secondary characters of Sasha, Carla and Kelly in Reinventing Rose. Female friendship is so important in my life—and I give Rose three amazing new friends. Of course Rose meets men, the sexy, bad-boy photographer Elliot and the handsome doctor Luke. Which of those gorgeous guys will she end up with?

Q. Doesn’t chicklit concentrate on shoes and shopping?

A. There’s a fun pair of shoes in Reinventing Rose but wearing them leads Rose somewhere she really shouldn’t have gone! Chicklit also deals with deeper issues and as Rose’s story unfurls she experiences them, too—eating disorders, divorce, miscarriage are all touched on. The tone is sassy but the subject matter is sometimes serious.

Q. What inspired you to write Reinventing Rose?

A. When I was working as an editor in womens magazines, I particularly enjoyed working on reader makeovers—coordinating with hairdressers, makeup artists, fashion stylists and photographers to transform everyday women into their look-best selves. I had the idea for a chick-lit type story about a young woman who decides a makeover will solve all her problems. Of course it doesn’t, and Rose has quite a journey before she realizes that. I had such fun taking Rose into the studio for her makeover—a location so familiar to me.

P.S.  There aren’t any dogs in Reinventing Rose—there was a gorgeous Border Collie in an earlier version but the chapter he appeared in was slashed in the editing process. There are two cats, though, a tuxedo kitty named Socks who stays off-stage but very much in the heroine Rose’s thoughts, and a beautiful brown Burmese named Nina who is modeled on one of my own cats (sadly departed.)

Reinventing Rose is available as a e-book (print coming soon) from AmazonBarnes & NobleKoboSmashwords and other on line e-retailers.

Kandy head shot_2Kandy Shepherd writes fun, feel-good fiction. Her new release is the contemporary women’s fiction (aka chicklit!) Reinventing RoseHer romances include The Castaway Bride, Something About JoeLove is a Four-Legged Word and Home Is Where the Bark Is.

 

 

Rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb

Do you have a food you loathe? Until quite recently my reply would have included rhubarb. Sharp, stringy, nasty tasting stuff (or that’s what I used to think!)

When I was a kid my grandmother tried to trick me into eating it set in red jelly (Jello). I wasn’t fooled.  Rhubarb stayed on my food-hate list for years and years. Then we bought our farm and inherited two magnificent rhubarb plants. For years visitors admired them; for years I replied, “I hate the stuff.” For years my husband said, “I like it.” But I still didn’t harvest it or cook with it. Poor husband! (Not that he isn’t a good cook himself, but only if he has a recipe to follow.)

This rhubarb plant dies down to nothing in the winter

Would you believe this rhubarb plant dies down to nothing in the winter?

Then a writer friend started to bring a rhubarb cake with her when she visited. It tasted so good! Maybe, just maybe I should try cooking my own rhubarb from my own rhubarb plants?

So I harvested—gingerly, as those big leaves are poisonous. And stewed some with sugar until it was way too mushy. Not just my husband, but also my daughter loved it. They pleaded for more. So I tried again. This time no water, just sugar and a piece of vanilla bean, and a not-so-long cooking time. Success!

Freshly picked from the garden

Freshly picked from the garden

It’s become the family’s second-favorite breakfast treat, served with yogurt. (The first favorite is the plums from our ancient tree, but they’re only around in January in the Down Under summer.) Rhubarb is a source of vitamins, anti-oxidants and dietary fibre so that’s all good.

One of these rhubarb plants flourishes all year round. The second one is gone at the first hint of frost, but emerges in spring as beautiful ruby-red sprouts pushing up from the ground and rapidly unfurling into the so-valued stalks and the huge  leaves. The experts say not to let the white flowers bloom as they take nourishment away from the stalks, but sometimes I let them bloom, and it doesn’t seem to diminish the quality of the stalks.

I know spring is here when the rhubarb plant starts to sprout

I know spring is here when the rhubarb plant starts to sprout

And me? Did I fall in love with my rhubarb? Not really. I like it, but I don’t love it like my family does. How I enjoy it is in muffins where the slight tartness of the rhubarb puts a pleasing edge to the sweetness of the muffin. I make my favorite muffin recipe, put half the muffin mixture in the muffin tin hole, add a teaspoon of the rhubarb-stewed-with-vanilla, cover with the rest of the mixture and top with more rhubarb and a teaspoon of brown sugar and a pinch of cinnamon. The streusel topping becomes all crunchy and the caramelized fruit juice drips down into the muffin. Now that’s the way I love to eat rhubarb!

Rhubarb streusel muffins just out of the oven

Rhubarb streusel muffins just out of the oven

And my writer friend who brings me the marvelous rhubarb cakes? Two springs past, I dug up some of the new-growth rhizome to take home with her. She now also has a flourishing rhubarb plant—and when she brings me cake, it’s made with “my” rhubarb, transplanted and thriving in her garden.

Kandy Shepherd writes fun, feel-good fiction. Her books include The Castaway Bride, Something About Joe, Love is a Four-Legged Word and Home Is Where the Bark Is—and while food plays a part in her stories, so far rhubarb has not made an appearance!

Paint the town purple

The jacarandas are in full, glorious bloom in my part of the world. These beautiful trees obviously love conditions Down Under—they originally hail from Brazil. Everywhere you look, the city landscape is punctuated by splashes of exquisite, purple-blue. It gives me such pleasure to admire them. I’m not alone—jacaranda walking tours and view-from-Sydney-harbor boat tours are booked out this time of year.

Jacaranda in bloom–a breathtaking sight

They say the reason there are so many jacarandas in Sydney is because last century, maternity hospitals gave mothers a jacaranda sapling to take home with their newborn babies. It’s probably an urban myth, but what a nice one!

So beautiful!

The other aspect of jacaranda-time is that it coincides with university exams—the blossom is not so welcome by students running out of time to study.

Some people hate the mess the fallen flowers make–I say relax and enjoy the fleeting beauty (but be careful as they’re slippery when wet)

Jacaranda blue just happens to be my very favorite color in a favorites range dominated by the blue-indigo-violet end of the color spectrum. Most of the clothes I wear are in shades of navy, blue, lavender, purple and aqua. I long ago gave up experimenting with the red-orange-yellow end of the spectrum—pinks and oranges are just not me. I appreciate their beauty—they’re just not shades I want to surround myself with.

What a narrow band of colors I choose my clothes from…

Truth is, I just don’t feel comfortable outside my color comfort zone. And I know I’m not alone. Many people seem to express a strong preference for one set of colors over another. One of my friends laughs when she sees the blue-dominant hues of the clothes hanging in my closet—her collection of clothes is basically red, white and black. She wouldn’t be caught dead in my beloved purple.

I admired these hydrangeas in a neighbor’s garden

I’m the same in the garden—I adore agapanthus, hydrangea, wisteria, lilac, pansies and blue and purple irises—though pink is a favorite too. Yes, my garden is dominated by flowers in pinks and purples and all shades in-between, highlighted with splashes of white, orange and yellow. The exception? The deep glory of scarlet and crimson roses, judiciously placed.

Louisiana iris in a pot on my balcony

Why do we have such strong preferences for particular colors? According to Psychology Today: “Color preferences are deeply rooted emotional responses that seem to lack any rational basis, yet the powerful influence of color rules our choices in everything from the food we eat and the clothes we wear to the cars we buy.”

The theory goes that if we experience pleasure linked to a particular color—possibly a happy childhood picnic under a jacaranda tree, who knows?—we’ll gravitate toward a similar color in the future. Perhaps in my case, my preference is because “my” colors suit my hair and eye coloring—and my mother, being a stylish person, dressed me in those colors.

Clematis in a favorite part of my spring garden

Regardless of the colors I like for myself, I’m good at helping others choose the shades that best flatter them—usually nothing like what I wear. (I had lots of practice organizing makeovers in my days as a magazine fashion editor).

Even the horses get dressed in purple at my place

I love dressing the characters in my novels—it’s kind of like the fun I used to have dressing my dolls when I was a kid. Part of choosing my characters’ clothes is making sure the colors suit both their hair, eyes and skin tone but also their personalities. One of my favorite heroines to dress, Serena in Home Is Where the Bark Is, starts the book hiding out in shapeless, colorless clothes and Birkenstocks, she ends it in sassy, sexy black and sky high stilettos with a slash of scarlet lipstick.

I’m giving the last word on color to this recent visitor to my garden—an Australian lorikeet feasting on the nectar of flowers of a flame tree (also in bloom at this time). What a color clash! Yet nature makes it work so beautifully.

Australian rainbow lorikeet feasting on the flowers of an Illawarra flame tree that overhangs my garden

Reference

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-new-brain/201104/why-we-prefer-certain-colors

Kandy Shepherd writes fun, feel-good fiction. Her books include The Castaway Bride,  Something About Joe, Love is a Four-Legged Word and Home Is Where the Bark Is—and you can enjoy reading them no matter what colors you like!

Wet, wet, way too wet!

It’s been a long, cold, wet winter in my part of Down Under.

This past weekend it actually snowed. The (supposedly spring) weather in October is notoriously erratic but that’s ridiculous!

Banjo (left) and Star tell me that wet means hungry, too.

It isn’t only me who suffers in the cold weather, my animals don’t seem too happy either.  I have quite the menagerie of pets who are all complaining about the conditions.

Toby looks the picture of wet misery!

Outdoors, the four horses are rugged throughout winter—except for our rescue quarter-horse Star who point blank refuses to wear a rug. He grows himself a thick shaggy coat instead. I think this sounds eminently sensible and wonder why my daughter, the horse fanatic in the family, insists on rugging the others. The reason? Horses competing in shows need to be beautifully groomed with sleek, fine coats—to the point some horses are shaved. No winter-shaggy fur please.

Miss Molly models her new coat

Miss Molly the dog also gets to wear a cold to protect her arthritic old bones. Try getting a coat on a cat? I’ve never had any luck!

Cindy scornfully surveys her wet surroundings

Miss Cindy is more outdoor than indoor cat, and only comes inside in the coldest of weather to enjoy a cozy wood fire. She has a snug little fleece-lined cat kennel to sleep in otherwise.

Ancient Albert and Miss Molly share prime position in front of the fire

And as for my beloved 21-year-old cat Ancient Albert, he gets as close as possible to the heat source without setting his fur on fire. Tabby—also known as Tubby—likes to stay inside too in cold weather, preferably on a nice, warm lap or under the bed covers.

The tail belongs to kitty Tabitha, snuggled right under the bedcovers

Humans do their part, chopping wood for the fire to keep the animals happy.

We burn a lot of wood to keep those indoor pets warm and happy

I realize as I shiver away that I have never written a story set in anything but warm weather. Whether my stories are set in spring, summer or fall, it’s always a pleasant temperature. Cool enough, perhaps, for a heroine to shrug on a hero’s chivalrously offered leather jacket on a spring evening, (Something About Joe) but most of my characters wear nothing warmer than a T-shirt. In The Castaway Bride, my hero and heroine don’t wear clothes much at all. If you were cast away on a blissfully perfect tropical island alone with a hot hunk, would you?

A book set in a wonderful snowy location (trapped in a cozy, snowed-in mountain cabin with a hot hunk maybe) might be in my writing future, who knows? But not right now.

They say to write about what you know, but there’s also writing about what you wish for. The scenarios I’ve chosen up ’til now force me to admit blue skies and a kindly sun feature strongly in my fantasies. Yes, the three stories I’m working on right now are all set in summer!

Roll on spring! (A proper spring, without snow, please.)

All change

My last day as editor of Coles Magazine.

It was with mixed feelings that I spent my last day on Friday as editor of the Coles Magazine, the magazine produced by ACP Custom Media for Coles, one of the two major supermarket players in Australia. What started out as a once-a-year freelance job eight years ago, grew as the magazine became first seasonal with five issues a year, and then monthly. With a circulation in the millions, it is the largest circulating food magazine in Australia and is highly regarded.

I worked with amazing people at both ACP Custom Media, a division of the largest magazine publishing company in Australia, and at Coles. I was incredibly proud of the beautiful magazine we put out for readers all over the country who eagerly awaited its arrival in store. And boy did I love working with the food!

But I wasn’t getting enough writing done. And I still have a lot of stories I want to tell and share with my readers. So the magazine goes on with a wonderful new editor and I get back to that world in my head, peopled with characters wanting their voices to be heard.

“Kandy Shepherd swapped a fast-paced career as a magazine editor for a life writing fun, feel-good fiction”. That’s true again now!