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Waiting for Spring

I am only just emerging after our move; the boxes aren’t all unpacked and I’m still looking for some of my books. But I’ve made my peace with the stack of boxes in the living room and hardly notice them anymore. The boxes in the bedroom are serving as a very handy spot to throw the half-worn clothes (those that are not quite clean enough to go back in the wardrobe but not dirty enough to wash yet).

We love our new house, and are slowly discovering all its secrets, of which there are many (a whole other post). When we moved in the enormous liquid amber was just beginning to change to its beautiful oranges and reds and the blooms in the garden had finished. Now winter is progressing, the garden is changing and is revealing its secrets.

The house has a very established garden that has been tended to over the last thirty years by loving owners. We are not natural gardeners and hope, at the very least, to maintain it. I love bulbs, like the pretties below. We know there are some calla lilies to come, but who knows what else we will see? Can’t wait for spring!IMG_3952IMG_3953

The Forever House

We’ve been talking about moving since shortly after our seven-year-old son was born. But other life events (and a second child) delayed serious house hunting for some time. We’ve been seriously looking for about eighteen months now and I’ve lost count of the number of open homes we’ve been too. I try not to think about the auctions we’ve registered at, those beautiful houses we imagined ourselves living in only to be out-bid and out-maneuvered. I don’t want to dwell on past mistakes, past arguments and past disappointments. Just like ex-boyfriends, everyone tells me those were the ones that weren’t meant to be. ‘You’ll find the perfect one one day!’ they say.

House hunting is not unlike dating. Saturdays are dedicated to the search. You make yourself (i.e. your bank balance) look as presentable as possible and you hit the open homes, just like I used to hit the pubs and nightclubs. Unfortunately there’s less wine involved. You eye off the other competitors. You see the same faces, week after week. You get friendly with some of them.

And like dating you look at every house wondering ‘Is this the real deal?’ ‘Is this the one?’ Sometimes you know instantly that it’s just a fling. Sometimes you fool yourself, you ignore the fact that there is way too much work to do. Or you kid yourself that it isn’t out of your league. Other times you try it on for size, only to realize that it isn’t quite right for you after all.

Sometime you let yourself wonder if it could be The One. You see the renovated kitchen. Or the newly polished floor boards. You imagine the parties you will have the entertaining deck. You sit in the yard and imagine yourself living there. You watch your daughter twirl in the sunshine on the lush lawn and see how happy she looks. You have to mentally move your furniture in and divvy up the bedrooms before you can know if the place is going to be right for you. And of course once you’ve done that you’ve already fallen for it and your heart is exposed.

So you put yourself out there. You make yourself vulnerable. You stump up for the building reports. The solicitor’s fees. You make sure the money is squared away. You think about it. You dream about it. You pray that the anonymous owners love you back. That No One Else Better is on offer.

And then you watch as they chose someone else.

We were on our fourth pre-approval before we got it. There was no diamond ring, but I think I felt as nervous as I did on my wedding day, my stomach twisted into a painful knot. Happy as I signed my life away.

ARRC2015 – What’s going on around New Acton?

I was so excited when I found out that this year’s Australian Romance Readers Association Conference is going to be held in my hometown, Canberra. And because I know what it is like to arrive at a conference hotel completely disoriented and not know what’s what, I thought I’d give you all a few hints and tips on what is going on around the venue.

The ARRA conference is at the newly renovated QT Hotel (known to locals as ‘The Lakeside’). It is a short way away from the centre of town, in an area called New Acton. This precinct has been redeveloped in the past few years including winning a tonne of design awards. There are restaurants, bars, a cinema and two other hotels in the area, and it’s a great spot to hold a conference like this.

There is a bar and restaurant inside the QT Hotel so you may not need to leave the hotel. But if you find you want to – this is what you will find within a short walk from the hotel.

Nishi building and the New Acton Pavilion

The Nishi building always gets a ‘Wow’ from one of my kids no matter how often we go past it. It’s the tall one with all the wood and the living walls. Nishi has offices, a cinema and another hotel, the imaginatively named Hotel Hotel. The bar and restaurant at Hotel Hotel, Monster, is a favorite of mine. It is in the hotel lobby and the food is delicious.

Between the QT and Nishi building is the New Acton pavilion, a set of historic art deco buildings with lots of lovely cafes. If you love coffee you won’t be disappointed.

Močan and Green Grout is a very cute ethical café, serving fair trade coffee. The food is great and the kitchen is basically in the middle of the café. The Hipster quotient is very high. Bicicletta is a more traditional Italian restaurant which is open all day.

A Baker is very popular and has great coffee. Hipster quotient – moderately high.

Next to A Baker is another favorite of mine, Parlour Wine Room. If you are all frocked up for the awards dinner and want a pre-dinner drink, Parlour Wine Room is your spot. Fancy food, cocktails and a great ambience (but not cheap).

Finally, and possibly importantly, there is a small supermarket and convenience store spitting distance from back of the QT Hotel, called Twenty One. It is in the building immediately behind the hotel. They are open from 7:30 am until 5:30 pm on weekends (and are attached to another café).

The lake

For the walkers, joggers and anyone who just wants some fresh air, the QT hotel is just a footbridge away from Lake Burley Griffin. The lake is a few hundred metres to the south of the hotel (on your right when you walk out the front doors), though there is a freeway (well, in Canberra terms anyway) between the lake and the hotel. At the edge of the car park at the rear of the hotel there is a footbridge that will take you over the road and deliver you to the lake. Several foot and bike paths circle the lake.

Canberra City

Visitors often complain that Canberra isn’t a very intuitive city and that it’s hard to find your way around. If you want to head into the centre of town, it’s about a ten to fifteen minute walk away. And slightly uphill. The bulk of the city’s shops and restaurants are located around Bunda Street, including the Canberra Centre, the shopping mall that has now pretty much engulfed and consumed all the other businesses in its vicinity.

If you feel like venturing even further afield (which would probably require a car or some very energetic legs), there are also a lot of restaurants and bars around Lonsdale Street, in Braddon, which, according to The New York Times, is the ‘hipster underbelly’ of Canberra.

Enlighten

The conference also coincides with the last weekend of the Enlighten festival, a cultural and light festival around the buildings in the Parliamentary Triangle, including Old Parliament House, the National Gallery and the National Library. Enlighten also features concerts, sculpture, cultural events and the Good Food Month Night Noodle Market (similar to the ones in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane). But get in early, the noodle market was very busy the first weekend. It is about a thirty-minute walk from the hotel across the lake to the festival. Enlighten finishes on Saturday 7 March and the noodle market finishes on Sunday 8 March.

New Acton 2ANew Acton 1ANew Acton 4A

Meet the Character blog hop

I have been asked by the lovely Nicki Edwards to introduce you to one of the characters in my debut release, The Secret Prince.

Nicki and I are critique partners and she writes medical rural romance for Momentum. Her debut novel, Intensive Care, is being released on 22 January 2015 (and available for pre-order now at Amazon).

You can also find Nicki’s blog here http://nickiedwards.net.

So, here we go!

1. What is the name of your character?

Madeline Lawson, but she calls herself Maddie.

2. Is she fictional or a historic person?

Entirely fictional!

3. When and where is the story set?

Present day. It is a contemporary romance, set in Manly, Australia and a fictional European country, called Amorea. Amorea was inspired by European constitutional monarchies, such as Belgium, Luxembourg or Denmark.

4. What should we know about her?

Maddie grew up on Sydney’s northern beaches. She is a sporty surfer and is proud of being a bit sceptical.

She feels like a failure as she dropped out of law school to follow a boyfriend, who she later broke up with, and is wary of putting a man before her career. She is not yet thirty and is insecure about the fact that journalism is the fourth career she has tried.

5. What is the personal goal of the character?

After several false starts career-wise Maddie is determined to prove to her editor that she is capable of covering the serious news.

6. What is the main conflict? What messes up her life?

Maddie’s boss tells her to investigate reports of a European prince holidaying undercover in Sydney.  As far as Maddie is concerned, all princes are freeloading playboys.

With his long hair and beard, Maddie doesn’t recognize Prince Alex when she meets him in a bar. Maddie and Alex connect instantly, physically and emotionally, but their accidental meeting results in a media frenzy. Alex is convinced Maddie’s just been using him for a story. And Maddie can’t believe the cute surfer she kissed was actually royalty. With her professional reputation in tatters, Maddie has no choice but to accept the royal family’s offer to travel to Europe to write a profile on the Prince.

7. Is there a working title for this novel?

The novel is called The Secret Prince.

8. When can we expect the book to be published or when was it published?

My debut novel was released by Destiny Romance on 4 November 2014 as an e-book.

It is available from

Destiny Romance

Amazon

What happens next? It’s a blog hop so head on over to blogs of these talented ladies and check out what they are posting about their characters around 13 November 2014.

Leesa Bow

Leesa Bow grew up in Broken Hill and later worked as a nurse at the local hospital before moving to Adelaide in her early twenties. Leesa began writing seriously when her second daughter became sick with cancer. Initially writing was therapeutic, but when her daughter got the all clear, she decided to continue writing seriously.

On weekends Leesa enjoys reading, watching basketball and football, having beach days with the family, catching up with girlfriends, and daydreaming about strong heroines for her next book. Visit http://leesabow.com.

Leesa photo

Carla Caruso

Carla Caruso was born in Adelaide, Australia, and only ‘escaped’ for three years to work as a magazine journalist and stylist in Sydney. Previously, she was a gossip columnist and fashion editor at Adelaide’s daily newspaper, The Advertiser. She has since freelanced for titles including Woman’s Day and Shop Til You Drop. These days, she plays mum to twin lads Alessio and Sebastian with hubby James. A Pretty Mess is her fifth novel. Visit www.carlacaruso.com.au.

Carla Caruso - author pic