Thursday, November 30, 2006

Patience is a mother…

We were woken early this morning by a loud knock on the door.

The young lad from next door wanted to share with us the happy news that their little beefalo calf had arrived safely.

What excitement!!!!!

How special to be there to see the brand new baby and her mother. As you can see the calf is a sturdy little thing and the mother is already showing very strong nurturing qualities.

The little heifer calf, less than an hour old, was skipping and jumping and crouching, just like a puppy, trying to encourage her mother to play with it. Literally full of life!

Elliot observed that it was clear evidence that we are meant to be happy.

After congratulations and due admiration and awe were paid, we loaded our canoe onto the trailer and headed over to Lake Tinaroo to pick up out red claw pots.

It is so beautiful here in the mornings, that the drive across to the lake is an absolute joy. The sky is clear with rosy tints, the light on the hills is gentle… and the valleys are filled with mist.

We found two red claw (fresh water crayfish) to add to yesterday’s five. With luck we’ll have enough for a barbecue with friends on the weekend.

Lake Tinaroo, pictured right. (taken this morning.)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Christmas is coming...

I've been trying to pretend that Christmas isn't coming. Elliot and I have made a list of all the things we want to accomplish here before we go back to Townsville and Christmas shopping has very low priority compared with finishing preparing our recycled windows and doors for the builder, or finishing the dry stone steps we've started... or finishing my book!!!

But I have bought one lovely present from a local potter and I've found the most gorgeous cards that I'm going to use as Christmas cards. They're painted by a North Queensland artist called Daryl Dickson and you really should check out her website.

She paints the most gorgeous, cute images of northern Australia's tropical wildlife -- tree kangaroos, mahogany gliders, orphaned possums and baby kangaroos (joeys)...

On the reading front, I've just finished Kelly Hunter's fabulous debut novel Wife for a Week and am now reading Phillipa Ashley's debut, Decent Exposure. Both of the books are very warm and funny and sexy. Terrific holiday reads. Should be the start to great careers for both these talented women.

I especially love the settings of these books. Kelly's is in Hong Kong -- a place I find particularly exciting. My eldest daughter and I spent a fabulous week there in her final year at school. Such an adventurre we had together.
And Phillipa's book is set in England's Lakes District -- one of my favourite places in the world. I'll never forget the wonderful walks we took in the hills around Ambleside -- almost as lovely as the Atherton Tablelands. (grin)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Open heart surgery...

I ripped out a 'deadwood' scene this morning.

This sounds sensible, doesn't it? But, believe me, it is so hard to do. Once something's written, it's not easy to dump it, especially when you running to a deadline and you want that word count to build. (Luckily, my deadline's been extended and my writing feels like fun again!)

But just as I axed a secondary character a few weeks back, I cut a scene today and changed point of view for the scene that followed and suddenly what felt dreary is coming back to life again.

I remember once, when I first started writing, and I was talking to Ann Charlton, an Australian M&B writer, whose work I adored. Ann was a huge inspiration for me and she said that often, the bits you love best when you first write them, are the bits you end up throwing away. At the time I was horrified.

There's nothing quite so wonderful as writing something that excites you while the words are falling from your fingertips. And there's nothing harder than ripping those words out days or weeks later.

But after twenty-four books, I know what Ann Charlton meant. There are many times when you want to cling to a piece of writing because it has a particular sentence of phrase that felt magical or clever when you first wrote it. But when you step back to see if that passage, scene or chapter is contributing to the characters, or to the tension or to the romance, you sometimes realise that it sounds pretty, but it doesn't really contribute anything of significance. And it has to go.

As I'm in gardening mode these days, I think of this as pruning rather than surgery. The book, like a shrub, will be neater and healthier without that cumbersome, drab, no-tension scene.

Marion Lennox wrote to me once and said she was throwing out 60 pages after reading my article on emotional punch. (As if I can teach Marion anything! I'm not claiming any kudos here, just indicating how dedicated to her craft Marion is.) But that's the kind of guts it takes sometimes to improve you writing. Since then, Marion's gone on to win two RITAS and a R*BY.

So... I've resisted pulling this scene for about three weeks now, but finally it's gone. I've lost lots of words (nothing like 60 pages), but I feel as if I have my characters back. It makes such a difference.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Good news

I guess there's no point in having a blog if I don't share good news. So here it is...

1. We have restored our water supply after being without it for two days. (Elliot and I laid 150 metres of new pipe this morning and we feel like we've learned a lot about water supplies in the past few days.) And we're very grateful to have that wet stuff back!!!!!

2. Our phone line has been reinstated after being out for two days. (The joys of living in the country are unlimited.)

Having the Boss's Babies came in at # 10 on the Waldensbooks bestseller list in the US last week.

So... thanks to all the wonderful people who bought this book and I hope you really enjoy Alice and Liam's story!

Here are some photos of the fabulous Far North Queensland city of Cairns where the book is set. It's an hour and a quarter's drive from where I am living at present.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


I've been tagged by Nicola Marsh to tell you five things the world doesn't know about me.

OK, here goes...

1. I've climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge -- exhilarating!! Possibly the best view in the world!

2. I represented Queensland in basketball when I was at high school.

3. I've canoed (unknowingly) in crocodile infested waters.

4. I cried when I found the Sistine Chapel was closed on our last day in Rome and cried again six years later when it was open and, at last, I saw Michelangelo's beautiful ceiling.

5. I've danced till midnight at in the Starlight Room of New York's Waldorf Astoria (where Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra used to sing) -- at the Black and White ball hosted by Harlequin during the RWA National conference in New York in 2003. And I tag Jennie Adams

Monday, November 13, 2006

The joys of the country...

The big news at the moment is that everyone here is waiting very impatiently for Patience, one of the cows next door, to give birth. The first thing I do each morning is look over the back fence to see if Patience is still in one piece.

There was great consternation on the weekend when one of the other cows broke out – yes, there’s one who has no regard for fences. Patience followed her and for a heart-stopping moment, she paused at the top of a steep bank, no doubt wondering if she should risk her infant by tottering down such a breakneck slope, and then she promptly did just that.

Thankfully, Patience and the calf seem to be fine. In fact I had the honour of placing my hand on Patience’s stomach and feeling him (or her) kick.

There’s a lot of science here, too. Patience was artificially inseminated with buffalo and the resulting crossbreed is beefalo – which apparently is fabulous beef.

But we won’t think too much about that…

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Agapanthus in the morning...

On Friday morning … I got up very early on before it was light and was working steadily when the power suddenly went off! After a brief panic – have I forgotten to pay a bill? – I saw that the neighbours’ lights had gone out, too and so Elliot and I went for a walk instead. The sun was up by then and the valleys were full of mist. They call this area the Misty Mountains and they really are beautiful.

I took photos but the only one that worked was this one of our agapanthus.

Sadly, the platypus in our local creek didn’t make an appearance, but just down the road, I met a mother duck with scads of ducklings and wanted to take another photo for Liz Fielding, but had, of course, left camera behind.

Came home and had a good day’s writing, as well as a profitable time in the garden spreading manure.

Good grief, am I getting to be a real country gal, or what???

Just over one third of the month is gone and I’m actually on target with my book, so I’m feeling a tad smug. But that’s always a danger sign, isn’t it?

Very dangerous.

Sunday afternoon… Have added little more, but have had a good weekend. I hope you have, too.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

More visitors

Yesterday, the neighbours' goslings came to help me in the garden. When they first hatched, they imprinted on humans and if their (human) family are away, they come looking for company. Of course, when I turned up a worm, I became their new best friend.

On the writing front. I've ditched a secondary character. Could hear my editor whispering in my ear: "Do you really need this person? What's he adding to the story?"
So he's gone (got up at 4.30 this morning to do the deed). I've had to do a lot of re-writing, but I know the story's stronger for the change.

Onwards and upwards!!!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Ok, so I’m making steady progress…

I’ve written two chapters.

But I’m not sure how fast I can flog this horse. There are some things that take this author time to think through. Like who my characters really are… what are their goals, their most embarrassing secrets and darkest fears… and what can happen to them that might really surprise the reader...

And I read something in the RWR yesterday that made me remember that making the deadline isn’t everything.

In an interview, Karen Marie Moning, was asked: How do you deal with the discouragement that comes from throwing away a day’s (week’s, month’s etc.) work?

And she said: ‘The first few times threw me into a serious funk. But then I began to see a pattern. Every time I discarded a scene or a few chapters and tried again – it turned out better, I believe when I toss a scene or a section in my book it’s because something in my gut is saying “this isn’t right, this isn’t what you really mean,” or “you’re writing with half a brain because you’re tired” or “you’re too worried about your deadline to completely lose yourself in the story.” Never make that mistake. I’m in the Douglas Adam’s camp: he said the thing he loved most about deadlines was the whooshing sound they made when they passed him by.’

Thank you Karen.

I was so pleased to be reminded of this. I’ve always prided myself on making deadlines, but until now have also managed to take the time to write the best book I can, and this forcing process, while getting me to stop fiddling around too much, has bothered me, because I’m not doing enough deep thinking and day dreaming…

So the new plan is to push on, to try to make the deadline, but if I feel anything about the story is being compromised by hurrying, I’m giving myself permission to slow down. I’m a wallower. I love to wallow in books I read and in books I write… to picture everything in detail… and to feel everything along with the characters… to lose myself in their world…

And I also plan to read one of Karen Marie Moning’s books. Doesn’t this one sound terrific?

For eons Adam Black has aided humanity and meddled in its affairs, much to the chagrin of the queen of the Seelie Court. He has finally pushed her too far and finds himself, a once powerful Fae, invisible and very human. But he is still as resourceful as ever, and finds a way to reach the queen and plea to have his curse lifted with the help of a young lawyer, Gabrielle O'Callaghan, a human born with the ability to see his kind. As old enemies yearn to take advantage of his weakened state, threatening his life and all existence, Adam discovers that Gabrielle threatens a heart he never thought he had. RITA Award-winning Moning's fans may now rejoice that Adam, a reoccurring charmer from her previous novels, has his own story at last, and all readers who love humorous fantasy romance filled to the brim with fantasy-worthy Highlanders will find Moning's latest to be a sensuous treat. John Charles
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Country doings…

The neighbour’s cows got out yesterday – broke through the fence into another paddock where the grass was, of course, greener. One got badly torn by the barbwire fence and another, who couldn’t make it through the fence, mooed loudly, feeling left out, I guess.

Elliot badly wanted to be the city guy who rescued his country neighbour’s stock, but was worried the cow would be hurt more if he tried to get it back to the fence.

A pair of peewees has been frantically trying to chase magpies away from their nest, but we fear the nasty magpies got the peewees’ babies.

We saw a huge, marvelously striped python in a tree with a big bulge in his middle – a small rabbit perhaps??

Last night dingoes were howling on the hills opposite us and we hoped the cattle (not ours) were safe. And during the night a thick white mist moved in across the valley. So pretty…

Oh, and I’ve written 6,301 words of my next book, so I’m making steady progress.

I’m determined to get this book written in a month!!!!