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.

 

 

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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!

Update on Ancient Albert

I sometimes wonder what a nearly 21-year-old cat dreams about.

Ancient Albert dreaming

My darling Albert looked so content and happy when I took this snap of him on the sofa. In a deep sleep, his head was tucked on his paw, ears and paws occasionally twitching. Memories of long ago mouse hunts? Meals? Who knows? His waking time revolves around wailing for food, nibbling at food, turning his nose up at food that he deems unsatisfactory, sometimes needing to be fed by hand (and I mean literally from the palm of our hands) and snuggling with his humans at any opportunity. Always a sociable cat, he totters down the hallway to greet visitors, still wanting to know what’s going on, still wanting them to make a fuss of him. So maybe he’s dreaming about food and parties!

It isn’t just us who looks after him. Our younger cat Tabitha–well, relatively young at age 12!–looks after him too, grooming him and letting him eat first. So sweet to see them together.

Tabitha (behind him) keeps him company

As the weather cools Down Under, Albert needs to keep his frail bones warm and loves nothing better than baking under the wood combustion heater. It gets hot under there and he eventually comes out for fresh air and a drink. He’s done it for years–so do the others–and it doesn’t seem to harm him though the vet is horrified to hear it.

Can you sport a cat under the old wood combustions stove at our farm?

There he is, baking his bones!

And when the fire dies down at night, he finds his favorite spot of all, snuggled under the covers with us. (My husband, who never had a cat in his life until he met me is unfailingly loving and patient with Albert. I never write a hero who doesn’t love animals–no wonder when my own real-life hero is so wonderful with them!)

Love that cat!

PS. People often ask me where I got the feather-embroidered pillow in the top photo. I got it online at Lands End, sadly they don’t have it any more.

Of cabbages and cookbooks

The other day I was given a magnificent, whole red cabbage. After I admired its beauty for a few days, I had to decide what to do with it.

Red cabbage--beautiful inside and out.

Although I love red cabbage raw in a salad or steamed, I decided there was no choice but to make my never-fail red cabbage side dish. It’s from one of my cherished vintage (sounds so much better than old!) cookbooks Irish Countryhouse Cooking by Rosie Tinne, first published by Gill and Macmillan Ltd in 1974.

One of my favorite vintage cookbooks

The book comprises recipes from grand Irish country houses and country house hotels of the time and the list of contributors have titles like Countess, Viscountess, Lady, and The Hon. Each recipe has the name of the house at the top and the signature of the contributor below.

My favorite and utterly delicious recipe for Red Cabbage comes from a page in the book headed The Glebe, Leixlip, County Kildare. A Google search doesn’t show a match, so I don’t know if the house still exists. But the recipe lives on. Here, I share it with you (I’ve put metric equivalents in italics).

My very favorite red cabbage recipe

RED CABBAGE

1 small red cabbage (about 2 lb) (about 1kg)

1 large onion—sliced

2oz butter (about 60g)

1 oz flour (about 30g)

2 apples—peeled, cored and cut in chunks

3 tablespoons white or wine vinegar

2 teaspoons brown sugar

3-4 cloves

3-4 bay leaves

salt to taste

Wash and shred cabbage. Heat butter in fairly large saucepan and lightly fry onion. Add flour and cook for a minute or two, but do not brown. Add ½ pint (about 300ml) water, apples, vinegar, sugar, cloves, bay leaves, salt to taste and the cabbage. Simmer, stirring at intervals, until cabbage is tender (about 1½ hours to 2 hours). There should be no liquid to throw away.

I serve this cabbage dish with pork, but it could easily go with steak or even duck. I keep it in a sealed container in the fridge and eat it by the spoonful!

When I Googled Irish Countryside Cooking, there seem to be copies available at various vintage book stores, as well as Amazon.

I lived in Ireland as a child and, though I don’t remember very much, love reading books set in Ireland–and reading my Irish cookbooks.

Let me know if you like the recipe!

 

Photo of cut red cabbage

© Akarelias | http://www.stockfreeimages.com

Writing (and shopping) retreat

My friend, author Cathleen Ross, and I had the farmhouse to ourselves for the weekend—peace and quiet to write, write, write. We wrote, we read, and we… I was going to confess we ate the chocolate Easter eggs we bought for our families but maybe I might deny that.

To take a break, we went shopping at some of the not-too-far-away shops and a market that has several floors of antiques, bric-a-bric and gadgets. We had a fire at the farmhouse last year and nearly everything was destroyed by flame or smoke.  What an excuse to scoop up a few replacement bargains!

First up was this gorgeous jug. Who could leave it sitting there with its $5-reduced-from-$20 label? It would have been downright mean to reject it.

And then there was this pre-loved silver-plated spaghetti server. At $7, I felt it would add a touch of luxury to the simple pasta meals we share around the farmhouse table. (Must beg Cathleen to make me some of the awesome spaghetti sauce she learned to make from her Italian father-in-law. It’s truly deserving of a silver server!)

I don’t know what these beautiful candle sticks are made from, some kind of enamel possibly, but I fell in love with them and was happy to pay $16 for the pair. Practical as well as pretty—we often lose power when storms rage through our valley and it’s reassuring to have candles to hand when it suddenly goes dark.

Sweeping the floor is never much fun, but I rather think I’ll enjoy it more with this cheerful $6 dustpan and broom. Those extended handles should make the chore not so backbreaking.

And then there was this print on canvas, my most expensive buy of the day for $18. I love botanical prints and while this certainly isn’t the real deal, that didn’t stop me from taking it home!

We spent a while hunting through shelves and shelves of secondhand paperbacks and Cathleen found a wonderful selection of favorite out-of-print romances.

Then we went home and wrote again. And I came up with some creative explanations for my husband for just why we needed a silver spaghetti server!