Archive for January, 2008

6 Things I love about New Zealand in Summer

Posted in general post with tags , , , , , , , , on January 27, 2008 by yvonnelindsay

A New Zealand summer is filled with many delights and I’m thrilled to share with you some of the things I love the most about summer in the country of my birth.  

pohutukawa1.    The pohutukawa trees. These awesomely majestic trees herald the onset of summer and can be enjoyed throughout the country in various varieties. Pohutukawa is known as the New Zealand Christmas Tree for that very reason, and as many families enjoy camping in the lead up to Christmas and through to the New Year it isn’t unusual to see northern coastlines colourfully adorned with the bright red feathery flowers. 

2.    The sound of crickets singing at night as I fall asleep. There’s something I find so deeply relaxing about the sound of haheicrickets at bedtime. The only time I didn’t find that so was when we were camping at Hahei, on the Coromandel Peninsula, and one hungry cricket had found its way into my gear bag and was merrily gnawing a hole in the front of a muslin sundress I briefly owned! 

3.    Camping! New Zealand has plenty of coastline and through the years it has become a Kiwi custom to migrate to canvas cities by the beach and relax and frolic and generally have a wonderful time. I love getting away from routines, from television and the internet (although I have to admit to just a bit of withdrawal regarding the internet), from the sound of sirens and suburbia. And I especially love having all the time in the world to catch up on my reading! Unfortunately, with the beauty of our coastline and the average land values associated with coastline property a huge number of campsites have been shut down and subdivided off for sale so finding a campsite by the beach is becoming a rarity in the mid-upper North Island and finding one with a sealed boat ramp even more so.  

boat

 4.    Along with camping comes water sport. One of the things I love the most is heading out on the water with our boat. It’s big enough that the family can enjoy a day out without tripping over one another (much!), and waterskiing and sea-biscuiting are a heap of fun, but not so big that it can’t be handled by just two people with a couple of fishing rods, a picnic, and perhaps a nicely chilled white wine. New Zealand has the highest boat ownership per capita in the world and in the city where I live, Auckland, that is very evident by the number of marinas and dry docks around the harbour as well as the number of homes with a boat and trailer pushed up alongside.  

5.    Nicely chilled New Zealand white wine! J Neither camping nor a picnic nor a barbeque would be right without a perfectly chilled New Zealand white wine to enjoy. My preference is chardonnay, particularly some of the beautiful Marlborough and Hawkes Bay vintages, but I can be swayed by a cleverly blended Sauvignon Blanc as well.  

6.    Barbeque dinners and a clean kitchen J. There’s nothing the man about the house likes more in summer time than to enjoy a nice cold beer or a glass of a robust Aussie red wine while he cooks dinner on the barbeque. Of course I love it too because my kitchen bench, stovetop and oven all stay nice and clean and washing up is a breeze leaving me more time to either read, or to write.  

So tell me, what are your favourite things about summer where you live?

UPDATE!!!

Win a GORGEOUS pink diamond key-ring with watch attached, just by posting a comment to Yvonne’s blog, 6 Things I love about Summer in New Zealand. It’s THAT easy – and it really is gorgeous!!!

Famous Diamonds

Posted in general post on January 21, 2008 by jan colley

THE HOPE DIAMOND
Also called the Tavernier Blue or the French Blue throughout its checkered history. This is my favourite! The history associated with this diamond is very entertaining. It was apparently stolen from an idol in India and believed to be cursed with bad luck and even death. Originally 112 carats, the stone was re-cut by Louis XIV to 67 carats, and then passed down to his great-grandson, Louis XVI. We all know what happened to him and his ‘amour’ Marie Antoinette during the French Revolution, and they were not the only unfortunates of the French Court who wore the diamond and ‘lost their heads’ over it! It then disappeared for twenty years, turning up in England, and had achieved what many of us are thinking about at this time of year – it had lost weight! The 45 carat diamond was bought by the Hope family, who ended up going bankrupt, then to a Turkish sultan who was eventually ousted, and then to the McLean family in America. That unfortunate family suffered mental illness, suicide and death by car accident during its ownership. The great diamond merchant, Harry Winston bought it from Evelyn McLean’s estate and gifted it to the Smithsonian Institute where it remains today. One can only hope that that grand establishment keeps its insurance policy up to date!

THE CENTENARY DIAMOND
In 1988, De Beers held its Centenary celebrations and announced that a massive diamond of 599 carats had been found in their Premier mine in Kimberly, South Africa. Naturally they named it the Centenary Diamond, and insured it for one hundred million dollars. This huge flawless “D”-coloured stone took an amazing three years to be cut, although one whole year was spent studying the diamond minutely in the most stringent conditions. When cutting was completed, the Centenary Diamond weighed in at 273.85 carats, with an astounding 247 facets, the most ever polished onto a diamond at that time. In addition, it yielded two pear-shaped diamonds of 1.47 and 1.14 carats. It is believed that De Beers has never sold the stone.
 
THE CULLINAN
This massive stone was discovered in the Premier Mine in South Africa in 1905. It weighed in at 3106 carats, or 1 1/3rd pounds. It was presented to King Edward V11 as a birthday present and Winston Churchill was apparently given a replica which he liked to display on a silver platter. The King had the stone cut into nine major gems, 96 smaller brilliants and 9.50 carats of unpolished pieces.

The Star of Africa (or Cullinan I) is 530.20 carats, and can be seen gracing the Sovereign’s Royal Sceptre on display in the Tower of London.   All of the nine stones remain with the British Royal Family, some of which Queen Elizabeth still wears.

The Cullinan II, weighing 317.4 carats is set into the British Imperial Crown. There were fun and games just getting this diamond from South Africa to England. A fake stone was sent on a steamer, surrounded by detectives, while the real stone was sent by parcel post. Imagine getting that in your letterbox! Another funny story centred on the master cutter, Joseph Asscher, fainting when the stone resisted the first attempt to cleave it and broke the blade instead. However, on the second cut, the diamond split successfully.   

THE MILLENIUM STAR
De Beers Millennium Star is one of the world’s largest D-color, internally and externally flawless diamond at 203.04 carats. Originally a whopping 777 carats, the stone was cut into three, the Millenium Star being the biggest. One hundred plastic models of the original were made. The cutters concentrated on brilliance as opposed to weight and they polished only 54 facets onto the stone. It was first presented at De Beers Limited Edition Millennium Diamonds collection to welcome in the year 2000. The pear-shaped diamond was surrounded by 11 rare blue diamonds also found at the Premier mine. There was an attempt to steal the diamond in November of that year – by bulldozer! and sightings are few and far between. It was displayed at the London Museum in 2005 along with other famous diamonds such as the Steinmetz Pink, the Moussaieff Red, the Allnatt, the Shah Jahan and the Aurora Collection. I would have paid my eye teeth to see that collection! Because the Millenium Star is so flawless, it was decided not to brand it at all, a huge compliment to the cutter’s expertise over three years of painstaking work. In fact, former De Beers chairman, the late Harry Oppenheimer, described the Millenium Star as the most beautiful diamond he had ever seen – and that’s saying something!

THE STEINMETZ PINK
Mystery surrounds this beautiful diamond, one of the largest Fancy Vivid Pink diamonds in the world, weighing in at 59.60 carats. The fact that it is graded as Internally Flawless gives this baby unprecedented importance. It was mined by De Beers (of course!) but its origins and whereabouts are a closely-guarded secret. The owners at its ‘debut’ in 2003, the Steinmetz company, won’t even confirm which mine it came from or if it has been sold since, but it is estimated to be worth well over $300 million – I’m guessing that’s US $. Pink diamonds of this size are extremely rare.

The Argyle mine in Australia is responsible for mining 90% of the world’s pinks, although they are normally nowhere near this size. Natural diamonds are known as type 11a or type 11b diamonds. 11a stones contain no impurities like nitrogen or boron, and so are colourless. This happens to only about one per cent of all natural diamonds. but sometimes as they rise to the earth’s surface in Kimberlite and Lamproite pipes, they undergo plastic deformation, and these deformities absorb light in different regions of the spectrum, and that’s where the rare colours come from – pink, red, purple, orange etc. So the beautiful pink colour of the Steinmetz Pink is actually an deformity. Tell that to Jenna Elfman, the actress shown wearing the diamond. I bet she won’t care a bit!

THE INCOMPARABLE
I like this story. This huge stone was found by a young girl in the Congo, playing in some rubble outside her uncle’s house. It was 890 carats. The rubble came from a dump at the MIBA Diamond mine. The uncle sold it to diamond dealers who sold it on to some Lebanese buyers. I hope the girl got a good price! It ended up in America where it took four years to be cut, because of its unwieldy shape and the cracks and pits on the surface. Once cut, however, it was found to be virtually free of inclusions. It was tempting to go for as much weight as possible and try to outdo the Cullinan I of 530.20 carats. Happily, quality over quantity prevailed. The stone had many hues, from almost colourless to rich yellow with slightly brown tones.

Fourteen other gems were cut from the rough, the largest being 15.66 carats. The main stone, originally called the Golden Giant, weighed 407.48 carats. It is graded as Internally Flawless and Fancy Brownish-Yellow in colour. It has been unsuccessful at auction, and has also appeared on Ebay, requiring an opening bid of $15 million, the largest diamond ever offered on Ebay. That too was unsuccessful. It seems no one wants this funny-shaped ugly duckling, at least not at that price!

All this information was collected from assorted magazine and internet sites, especially the  excellent website the World of Famous Diamonds and Other Gems. The author, Ryan Thompson, credits Ian Balfour’s great book, Famous Diamonds, for a lot of his info and I was lucky enough to find a copy in my library. Fascinating stuff! 

Satin and a Scandalous Affair was the most fun to research. Aside from all the interesting myths and histories, I also had the pleasure of trawling through some amazing jewellery designer sites. WARNING: the following sites may cause dribble damage to your keyboard!
Jan Logan
Gilbert Collection
Shapiro Diamonds
Harry Winston
Barninka Diamonds
Norman Landsberg
A Jaffe
DeBeers
Aurora Gems
Louis Glick

Heck, just type in diamond jewellery designers and you’ll be there for a week! Also check out the great article on JAR – Joel Arthur Rosenthal – the ‘Faberge of our time’ in Forbes magazine. Type The Cult of JAR in the search line. See the 22 carat thread ring with a price tag of $800,000 – $1.2m.

I’m all diamonded out but hope I’ve sparked some interest. What’s your favourite diamond? Coloured or colourless? Brilliant, trilliant, round or emerald cut? If a handsome man with the Blackstone-Hammond wealth asked you to be his bride, what ring would you choose? ~ Jan Colley

* bonus!!  If you comment on this blog entry, you could win a gorgeous 2008 Aussie desk calendar plus a copy of one of DDU author Yvonne Lindsay’s previous titles.

The Diary of An Almost Down Under Diva — FIONA BRAND

Posted in guest blogger with tags , , , on January 13, 2008 by yvonnelindsay

I’m thrilled to introduce to you all the wonderful Fiona Brand, who very nearly was a Diamonds Down Under Diva. Fiona is one of my favourite auto buy authors and her current trilogy, DOUBLE VISION, KILLER FOCUS and BLIND INSTINCT, is garnering rave reviews from readers and reviewers alike. Seriously, the prospect of working with Fiona was one we all leapt at… but I’ll let her tell the story~~Yvonne

 

Diamonds Down Under: six books, dazzling concept—fabulous group of authors—and more fun and debate than you can poke a stick at.   

 

I’ve just received the first book in the series, Vows & A Vengeful Groom by Bronwyn Jameson.  It’s sitting on my desk as I type.  Thank you Bron!  It arrived two days ago.  I felt such a rush of warmth when I realized what it was.  You see, way, way back I almost became part of the continuity but, owing to tight deadlines, I had to bow out.  

 

But that few days of tossing ideas around and formulating a story—which I later had to chuck away!–was exhilarating, and the most writing fun I’ve had in years.   After spending so much time writing in isolation, being part of a group and hearing everyone else’s take on how to put together a story was invigorating—and time consuming.  I couldn’t wait to read my email, and I had a new appreciation for editors.  It was hard enough getting my head around one story, let alone six.  Especially since, in the few days that I was an Almost Down Under Diva, the story lines, to put it politely, were fluid.  And every time there was a change someone would say, “Oh, but that impacts on my story!” so we would all try to juggle the wildly varying elements and come up with a mix that suited everyone.   

 

To get to the point, you may have noticed that I said I had to jettison a story.  No big deal, really.   Except that I’d begun to get attached  

 

Writers are an eccentric lot.  There’s something about the rush of getting the basic elements of a story established.  Like getting behind the wheel of a car, you know you can take it almost anywhere, as long as—in the case of Silhouette Desire—you don’t drive off the romance road map.   That moment when you step into your fictional world can be both powerful and scary.  The story can be fraught with difficult characters, structural flaws and plot holes.  Worst of all, it could be boring.  

 

The great thing about the Diamonds Down Under story line was the inbuilt conflict between the Hammonds and the Blackstones.  Opportunities for the characters to be ruthless, manipulative and downright conniving were rife.   I was given a story that had no chance of being boring.  I had a lawyer heroine with a secret agenda, a ‘back from the dead’ character, a lost diamond mine with a legend attached, and a really rich, tough hero.  How cool is that?  I already liked him.  

 

I had a lot of my research in place.  My hero was going to have a mining background, as well as being as rich as Croesus.  (Did I mention he was about 6’ 3” with green eyes, dark hair and a great tan?)  Luckily for me my Dad had done some mining in Western Australia, mostly digging up tourmalines, amethysts, garnets and gold.  I had maps of the outback stations, pictures of the Kimberleys.  I had holidayed in WA a couple of times.  I could practically feel that WA red grit between my toes.  I was so ready to write that book.  

 

But…all is not lost.  I didn’t get to do that particular story, but I got so hooked on the fun of writing short contemporaries, that I did eventually put together one of my own.   A rich Italian hero, a marriage of convenience, that Western Australian setting and plenty of interesting conniving…    

 

But, in the meantime, I’m opening Book #1 in the Diamond series to find out what interesting things those girls ended up doing with their plot lines.    

 

Hmmm….Ric Perrini’s demanding total surrender.     

 

There goes my night’s sleep. 

 

 

BREAKING NEWS! Fiona has generously offered a book prize to one randomly chosen comment (well, to the person who makes the comment, of course) on her blogpost of a double pack of DOUBLE VISION and KILLER FOCUS. The winner will be announced at the end of this week!

Diamonds Treasure Hunt: January Clues

Posted in Treasure Hunt with tags on January 10, 2008 by Bronwyn Jameson

PendantHello and welcome to the Diamonds Down Under Treasure Hunt, a fun contest for fans of the series.  Each month clues will be posted here at the DDU blog.  Collect all the clues, submit your entry, and one lucky reader will win this stunning diamond-set pendant valued at $US350.  Full details are on our website contest page.  

January Clues:

1.  What is the name of the fictional diamond mine Kimberley and Ric visit in Vows & A Vengeful Groom?  (hint: one word, starts with the letter J.)

2.  Bronwyn Jameson’s April 2008 release Tycoon’s One-Night Revenge is a spin-off from which series? (hint: you’ll find the answer on Bronwyn’s website.)

Don’t post the answers here. Collect them, save them, and when you have the answers to all twelve questions in June/July, send them to the contest email address. The link is on our website contest page.

3 More Things About Vows & A Vengeful Groom

Posted in general post with tags on January 8, 2008 by Bronwyn Jameson

4. The Setting, Bondi.

Although born and raised on the other side of the country, Ric Perrini has carved his niche in Australia’s largest city. His Sydney home is high on the clifftop above Bondi Beach, with a view of sunrise over the Pacific Ocean…although Ric is more likely to be throwing himself into the morning surf than kicking back to watch the dawn.

Swimming laps of the serene Miramare pool was a poor substitute for pounding through the Bondi surf. That was Ric’s exercise of preference. Pitting himself against the unpredictability of the ocean’s surge and pull every morning set him up for the volatility he faced at the rockface of business. He relished that challenge, in the water and in the workplace. Pity it had taken him this long, through too many dead-end disappointments, to realise he needed it in his woman as well.

Bondi is believed to be an aboriginal word meaning the sound of breaking waves. A fitting name, given the suburb is best known for its famous surf beach. Bondi is also popular for the coastal walk that winds above and below cliff tops from the south end of Bondi Beach past Tamarama and on to Bronte. This is where Kim goes to blow away the cobwebs and sort out her thoughts, except she becomes (slightly) distracted by a house she spies on the clifftop…

“When I left home, it was to do the Bronte walk. That’s all.”
“And this—” Ric gestured between them with his fingers “—was a spur of the moment impulse? Alternate exercise? What, exactly?”

Speaking of exercise, Bondi is also famous as the end point of the annual City-to-Surf run, for open water swims, The Festival of the Winds kite festival, and as a Christmas-New Year gathering point for overseas visitors (especially backpackers.)

5.  Sydney Festival.

Sydney is a popular venue in January – remember this is mid-summer down under. All the schools are out and Sydney becomes a magnet for holidaymakers. The celebrations begin on New Year’s Eve when stunning fireworks displays bring more than a million locals and tourists to harbourside vantage points to watch the show and see in the New Year. The Sydney Festival program fills three weeks right in the middle of the month with concerts and theatre and visual arts events. Representing Blackstone Diamonds, Ric and Kim attend a glittering reception for a visiting dance company…

“Do you want to go to this party?”
“Not particularly.”
His voice was as casual and deliberate as the drift of his fingertips to the sensitive skin beneath her earlobe. Kimberley shivered deep inside. “We could stay home.” She leaned back into the solid wall of black dinner suit. “I’ve never made love in a quarter million dollars worth of diamonds.”
“We will rectify that,” he promised, and his mouth replaced his hands, trailing a string of delicate kisses to her hairline. “After we’ve let the world know you’re going home with me.”

6. The Bling.

Private jets, flash cars, beachside real estate, designer gowns, jewellery: research for this book was a window-shopping adventure of the highest order. And ever so much fun. Perrini drives a blue Maserati:

The coupe was all sleek blue style and eye-catching looks on the outside, with an engine that purred deceptively until provoked.

Pretty much like Perrini, really. ♥♥♥

Although Kim has too many serious concerns to enjoy her shopping, she does need to reacquaint herself with the Blackstone Jewellery business. Manager of the flagship store, Jessica Cotter, inspires her choices for the upcoming festival reception when Kim visits the store.

Jessica returned a minute later with the necklace, which was made up of three broad strands of pavé-set diamonds finished with golden drops of South Sea pearls. “This—” she said, holding it up to Kimberley’s throat “—would look fabulous with your dramatic colouring. With your hair up, a plain strapless gown. White or silver, I think. See?”

And that combination of designer gown and diamonds inspired the cover art. 

There we have it. Six things you might enjoy while reading Vows & A Vengeful Groom. I hope you have as much fun with them as I did, and that you’ll join the discussion on…one of my favourite topics…shopping. Do you love to bag a bargain in real life? Or are you a fantasy shopper, who adores flipping through magazines and scouring websites for beautiful things that you would never dream of buying?

Don’t forget, every comment this week goes in the draw for a three-pack of Desires by down-under authors, and I will also include a little touch of bling in the form of phone/purse jewellery.

Vows Cover

Vows & A Vengeful Groom is now available in North American bookstores and on-line from Amazon and Barnes & Noble and as an e-Book from eHarlequin, Fictionwise or wherever you buy your eBooks.

It will be available in Australia and New Zealand in February 08.

3 Things About Vows & A Vengeful Groom

Posted in general post with tags , on January 6, 2008 by Bronwyn Jameson

Hi everyone. Bronwyn Jameson is here this week to talk about Vows & A Vengeful Groom, the first book in Diamonds Down Under and a January 08 release. Her topic was “6 Things (to love, to know, to check out) in Vows & A Vengeful Groom” but when the post grew and grew she decided to split it into two parts.

So, over to Bronwyn for the first 3 things to look out for in Vows & A Vengeful Groom.

1. Ric Perrini.
The name came to me first; I don’t recall how or when or why, but I knew that the heroine would call him Perrini and that he had to be an Italian-Australian charmer. Alpha, yes, a self-made success with a silver tongue and a shining confidence in his ability as the right man – for the job of leading Blackstone Diamonds and for Kimberley Blackstone. Ten years ago he let a young, hot-headed Kim go, but as soon as he sees her again Ric recognises his mistake and sets out to rectify it.

He’d made the decision to fly to her without a second’s hesitation. As much as he hated what had brought him here, he relished the fact it would bring her home. She belonged at Blackstone’s. Ric sucked in a deep breath and the scent of summer that clung to her skin curled into his gut and took hold. Just like she belonged in his bed.

RicI love a hero who knows what he wants and sets an unswerving path toward getting it. How about you?

Usually I have an image of my hero, not always a famous actor, sometimes a likeness from a magazine ad. that strikes a chord. In this case I couldn’t find the exact image that had taken root in my mind. This is close — perhaps a younger version of today’s man.

2. Kimberley Blackstone.
Although born into privilege as the only daughter of diamond magnate Howard Blackstone, Kim didn’t have an easy childhood. She isn’t a spoiled society princess…at least not any more. After walking out on her husband-of-ten-days and her job at Blackstone Diamonds, Kim worked hard to forge a reputation based on her skills as a gemmologist rather than her name. Working for her father’s sworn enemy means Kim is very much on the outer with Blackstone’s, although that changes when she is needed to secure the company’s future.

Ric fastened his hold on her smooth, warm skin until her eyes widened slightly and he knew he had her full attention. Then he said, “When the Board meets, your name will come up to fill the vacancy. Think about it. This is your chance to be on the inside, to shape something positive from this disaster.”
Her deep green eyes snapped. “How?”
“As part of the force that determines how Blackstone’s goes forward into the future.”

He had her, by the way, at “your chance to be on the inside”!

3. The Setting, Vaucluse.

The story kicks off in Auckland, New Zealand, where Kim has been living and working for the past ten years. But when she learns that her father is missing, she returns to Sydney to her estranged family. Home is Vaucluse, the suburb with Sydney’s highest average real estate value. The houses are elegant and imposing, the gardens long-established, the views of Sydney Harbour spectacular.

They climbed the street lined with multi-million-dollar homes to the most spectacular of all. Miramare.For the first twenty years of her life the three-storey white mansion had been Kimberley’s home. She’d never been struck by its majesty, its size, its opulence, until Perrini downshifted gears to negotiate the thick cluster of news teams waiting outside the security gates and turned into the driveway. And there it was, rising before them like a Venetian palace. A home fit for the man the media dubbed Australia’s King of Diamonds.

Vaucluse is only a few kilometres from the city centre and the site of Blackstone Diamonds’ head offices…and even closer is the beachside suburb of Bondi. I’ll be back in a day or two for part deux, when I’ll cover the second three points which include the iconic Bondi Beach.

Meantime, let’s talk about your favourite kind of settings. Do you enjoy the fantasy of books set in sophisticated cities, in fabulous estate homes, with magical panoramic views…or do you prefer small town communities with cosy homes and neighbourhoods that seem almost familiar in their realness? 

Vows CoverJoin this week’s discussion and you’ll be entered in the draw to win a 3-pack of Down-Under Desires by Yvonne Lindsay, Maxine Sullivan and Paula Roe  (drawn January 12.)

Vows & A Vengeful Groom is now available in North American bookstores and on-line from Amazon and Barnes & Noble and as an e-Book from eHarlequinFictionwise or wherever you buy your eBooks. A February release in Australia and New Zealand, it is available now at eHarlequin Australia.