Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Romance authors donate books to Cyclone Larry victims

It’s almost twelve months since Cyclone Larry wreaked havoc in Far North Queensland. The supermarkets are selling bananas at a reasonable price again and most Australians have breathed a sigh of relief and assumed that everything is back to normal in Innisfail and other places Up North.

I wish I could assure you that this is so, but I’m afraid I can’t.

Last year, I was shocked by the devastation in my favourite part of the world from Tully north to Innisfail and west across the Atherton Tablelands. When I reported the terrible losses both human and natural on an email loop, my fellow author mates from all over Australia responded generously by sending me copies of their books to replenish stocks in Innisfail’s damaged library or to restock the personal libraries of those who lost their homes.

They and I thought that within a couple of months I’d be happily handing these over to grateful recipients. But after many phone calls with Innisfail’s librarians, I realised that the aftermath of a natural disaster of Larry’s proportions is not so easily overcome. First the librarians were working out of the Shire Hall along with councillors and many other departments, then they finally were able to set up a small demountable building, but this was so small that they had no room for extra books.

Now, at the end of January, almost twelve months later, they are finally able to accept the books and “hope to be opening soon”. It’s not that they aren’t grateful for the wonderful books received. You should have seen their eyes widen with excitement when I opened the boxes to reveal so many titles including Anna Jacobs and Helen Bianchin and (hardcover) Stephanie Laurens. The problem is that, in Innisfail, they are still working under conditions that would make most of us tear our hair out.

In order to make my deliveries, I negotiated my way through the wire fences marking the construction site, and daringly entered the new library without a hard hat.

Meanwhile, across the road, the Catholic Church is still undergoing major restoration work, as this photo I took yesterday shows.

And the old library, plus a building opposite, sit abandoned and roofless – as do many homes in the surrounding areas.

Another point not easily understood was the extensive path of damage caused by Larry, reaching far inland, and for this reason, I also contacted libraries at Atherton, Malanda, Millaa Millaa and Yungaburra. Books were welcomed in these towns with open arms. Librarians were touched and thrilled, especially because the books were all written by Aussie authors. I also explained that some books were autographed and that they might be more suitable for romance fans whose private stocks were lost. This idea was met with approval. “We’ll make sure they find their way into the right hands,” I was told.

One librarian also told me that many people made a huge effort to save their library books even when half their house was blown away. So North Queenslanders do like to read!!!

Thank you to all the generous authors who donated. It was a pleasure to finally deliver your books. And I can assure they will be loved.

That's me above, with Wendy at the Innisfail libarary.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Australia Day!!!

Today, January 26th is Australia Day, when we Aussies celebrate the arrival of Captain Arthur Phillip, in Botany Bay in 1788 with the first fleet of settlers and convicts .

In Australia it’s a public holiday, a day for barbecues and citizenship ceremonies and concerts and in some cases, a memorial for all that we've taken from the Aborigines.

This afternoon our family attended a citizenship ceremony here in Townsville where we saw 37 Townsvillians become new Australian citizens. It’s a rather moving ceremony and each new Aussie is presented with a certificate as well an Aussie flag, a jar of Vegemite and native Australian shrubs.

After this, we attended a free Paul Kelly concert, courtesy of Townsville City Council. I love Paul Kelly. His ballads tell such wonderfully, evocative stories and his rock is really groovy, so it was a great afternoon!

And what are we having for dinner? Barbecued sausages of course!

Monday, January 22, 2007

What the Bleep?

I've done more research into this movie (discussed in yesterday's post) and have discovered that it is, for the most part, hocus-pocus.

Dr. David Albert, the scientist who impressed me the most, has refuted almost all the movie's claims and is angry that he was misquoted in the original movie which puts forward strong views about cosmic consciousness etc. He believes that it's important for scientists to approach their investigation without an expectation/hope that they will find a comforting view of the world. He uses the Vatican/Gallileo conflict and the church versus Darwin crisis to illustrate his point. He feels that what they're discovering about the universe via quantum physics will not give us the comfortable answers the film suggests.

Well, there you go. Nevertheless, it was an interesting and thought provoking viewing exercise.
I like to explore very different ideas and ways of thinking when I'm between books.
I hope it keeps me from going stale. And now I'm really hooked on this quantum physics thing. And this is a gal who had trouble getting past the micrometre screw guage when I did high school physics.

And it's making me think that I'd like to have a scientist hero in one of my books some time.

On a completely different note, here's a photo of Lilly who is now 6 months old and sitting up. After all, when we see a baby growing, we don't need physics to tell us about time. :)

We all know that time flies!!!!!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

City Life

OK, so you might possibly be wondering, how exactly does my life in the city differ from when I’m in the country?

I’ve been back in town since just before Christmas and once all the family events of the festive season were over, it was a matter of head down and finishing Sophie and Mark’s book. I sent this pair off to London last Wednesday, so they are now lying somewhere in my editor’s office, waiting her attention – and feeling just a tad nervous I might add. But I’ll leave them to worry while I dream about my new set of characters (I think they’ll be Flora and Joe). I love them already and I can’t quite believe how fickle I am.

While these ideas are brewing I have a little time out in the city… dining out and going to the movies or watching videos, doing a little exercise and, of course, reading.

It’s raining, raining, raining here – hard, heavy rain. Proper wet season rain and we’re all happy as – er – not Larry (who now has unpleasant connotations in North Queensland after last year’s cyclone).

Rain means I can’t walk on the Strand, but we have a walking machine in the gym on the top floor of our building, so I get to exercise while looking out at stunning city views and listening to my favourite radio programs in headphones (ABC Radio National, Triple J or Classic FM).

DVDs we’ve viewed recently.

“What the Bleep Do We (K)now?” - a fascinating look at our world at a sub-atomic level. Asks big philosophical questions and attempts to give answers (or possibilities at least) and explores how the mind and body relationship works. It's self help and motivation with a liberal dash of quantum physics and new age spirituality.

We didn’t just watch the original movie but all the extra DVDs with interviews with the scientists. Absolutely fascinating and enriching.

“My Brother Jack” – the television series made in the early sixties of the famous Miles Franklin award winning novel by George Johnston and adapted for television by his wife Charmian Clift. (Shortly afterwards, George died of alcoholism and Charmian committed suicide.)

Fabulous, fabulous, fabulous evocation of the era in Australia between the wars. Ed Deveraux as Jack Meredith is most engaging and while some of the acting shows the lack of understanding of television as a medium, this is still powerful viewing.

What Elliot and I particularly enjoyed was the interview with George Johnston that accompanied it. He had lived in Greece while he was writing MBJ (and 25 pot boilers before this) and found it easier to write about Australia while abroad. It has been one of my long term dreams to do that and this has helped to reinforce that in our minds.


‘The Queen” – Helen Mirren is amazing in her role and I believe she deserves an Oscar. Anyone who can play a role as she did in The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover and then play HRH Elizabeth II shows breathtaking talent in my humble opinion.

I was also in awe of the script writer who dared to tackle this subject. I know writers have written before about the secret life inside the White House, but the current British royalty has seemed to remain out of reach. Not any more.

“Deja Vu” – this tied in nicely with what we’d been learning about quantum physics because it depends on an acceptance that we are within a hair’s breadth of manipulating time. Very well done and thoroughly entertaining.


Nora Roberts’ Charmed series – NR is always a wonderful role model – I love her writing because it’s smooth and entertaining, the characters and 3d and she knows better than most of us, how to tell a good story.

The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook. – You knew all writers were neurotic, didn’t you?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Cover stuff

I couldn't resist posting the cover of my next book, which will be released in the UK and North America in April and in Australia and New Zealand in May.

One of the exciting things about this ( and here, I expose just how egotistical I am) is that I love seeing my name bigger than the title.

I've had these little goals I hoped to achieve as an author and seeing my name featured like that was one of them. But actually, there's no reason for me to see this as an achievement, because it's not recognition of any success on my part. It's simply a decision our publishers have made for all the authors in the Romance line.

I, for one, am thrilled and grateful. It suggests confidence in the authors -- a clear statement from the powers that be that the author's name is an important part of the selling package.

The other difference for this book is the title. Not a cowboy, baby or bride in sight. Again, this is rather nice for a change. But it's also a bit of a gamble. This book has no obvious "hook" in the title (unless heart and outback are hooks) and is in a line up of six, alongside five books that cover the whole spectrum of romance hooks... sheikh, baby, pregnancy, rancher, prince & bride, so it will be interesting & scary to see how it sells.

Anyway, the thing that matters to me most is that I loved writing this book. After that, it's over to you, dear readers...

Here's another excerpt...

“What are you doing here?” Byrne demanded through gritted teeth. The strain of his ordeal showed in the haggard vertical lines that bracketed his mouth.

“I wanted to pay Riley a visit,” Fiona said carefully, and then, less easily, “I’m Fiona McLaren.”

“I know who you are. The nurse told me.”

He made no attempt to introduce himself.

“And you’re Riley’s father.” She said this calmly enough, but she felt as if she was walking through a minefield.

Byrne nodded, but his clear grey eyes glowered at her as if he wanted to add that it was none of her business.

Riley’s perky little voice broke into the bubble of tension. “Hello, Daddy.”

Byrne looked at his daughter and his face softened. He smiled at her, but it was such a bleak, struggling smile Fiona felt her heart break for him.

She said, “I only popped in for a brief visit.”

He showed no sign that he heard.

“Look what I got, Daddy.” Riley shook the dinosaur up at him. “This is Athengar. Fee – fee – this lady gave him to me.”

He slanted Fiona a black look and then sneered at the fluffy toy as if it were a dirty, flea infested rag. “Looks like a cross between a lizard and a wombat.”

“He’s a dinosaur,” Riley insisted, sounding offended. “He’s Athengar. He’s Dunkum’s new friend.”

Her father was less pleased than ever.

Fiona looked at the two of them, the warm, bubbly, brown-eyed child and the tall, handsome, stony-faced man with the attractive, lonesome cowboy aura. Until yesterday there’d been another. Tessa Drummond. They’d been part of a threesome. A happy, warm little family.

Jamie’s accident had changed all that.

She said, “I’ll go now.”

He nodded stiffly. “I think that would be best.”

Fiona swallowed, bent down and picked up her jacket and the empty plastic bag that had held the toy. She managed a tight smile. “Goodbye, Riley.”


T he little girl seemed tired suddenly and she cuddled the dinosaur close to her chest.

Fiona turned her attention to Byrne, looking him in the eye, hoping he might see her sincerity. “Goodbye, Mr. Drummond. Please accept my sympathy. I’m so sorry about your –” Just in time she remembered Riley. How much did this child know? “I’m sorry about the accident.”

The fierce movement of his throat suggested that he couldn’t have responded even if he’d wanted to.

She drew a swift breath, in a bid for control, but her own loss of Jamie was too new, too raw. She couldn’t be strong, couldn’t hold back a sudden fierce rush of grief. Her eyes filled with tears.

Byrne frowned fiercely, his eyes hard.

“Say goodbye to Athengar,” called Riley.

But Fiona couldn’t. It was a mistake to have come. She’d achieved nothing.

She left quickly without looking back.

“Miss McLaren.”

Byrne found his voice just as Fiona disappeared. Through an opaque glass screen, he saw her silhouette freeze, and then she stepped backwards in an abrupt, jerky movement. And she was there again, framed in the doorway.

A snapshot from another world.

A redhead from the city in a slim beige skirt, a crisp white blouse, with tiny pearls at her ears and throat. Beige high-heel pumps and pale stockings emphasised her femininity. She held a silk lined jacket, hooked by a finger and swinging from her shoulder.

On the surface, she looked cool, classy and collected, but she couldn’t quite hide the vulnerability in her eyes. But when her gaze met his, her nose lifted, like an animal scenting danger. Her green eyes narrowed and cooled and she met his gaze levelly.

Only a raised eyebrow and very slightly parted lips hinted at the controlled curiosity with which she waited for him to speak.

Hell. For a fraught moment Byrne couldn’t damn well remember why he’d called her back. He felt flickers of panic as his mind scrambled through a nightmare of tangled thoughts. The accident. Tessa. Scamp. Oh, God. This redhead was the enemy. Related to the mongrel who –

No. It was something practical. Ah, yes. He remembered...

“The property,” he said at last. “What are you going to do with it?”

She frowned. “Do you mean my brother’s property? White Cliffs?”


“I – I’m not sure. I haven’t had time to think.”

She looked pale. Ill. He felt a moment’s compassion, but then it was gone, buried beneath his pain.

“Why do you need to know?” she asked.

“White Cliffs shares my boundary, but it’s been neglected. No fire breaks to speak of. A lot of the fences are in a bad way. I thought you ought to know it needs a bloody good clean up. And a decent manager.”

With a cool smile she said, “Oh, don’t worry, Mr. Drummond. If I don’t sell White Cliffs, I’ll find a very good manager to look after it.”

He scowled at her. “You’d better make sure it’s someone who really understands the cattle business. Not like your brother.”

She bristled visibly. Shoulders straightened, head high, she replied icily, “So you were unhappy with my brother’s – my late brother’s management of White Cliffs?”

“Out here we expect neighbours to pull their weight.”

“I don’t need to be lectured on good management. You’re worrying unnecessarily. I can assure you, one thing I’m very good at is hiring the right staff for specialised tasks.”

Byrne grunted. Bully for you.

He looked at Scamp, who was lying down again, curled in her cot with her thumb in her mouth. The doctors had warned him she would be sleepy for a day or two.

“Don’t you believe me, Mr. Drummond?”

Across the room Fiona McLaren’s emerald eyes challenged him.

But Byrne was exhausted. In no mood for a battle. Drained. Almost too tired to hate her.

He dropped his gaze and shrugged. “Time will tell.”

He was aware of her standing there, watching him for a long, drawn out moment, as if she wanted to retaliate. But he didn’t look her way again and after a bit she turned and left, and this time she kept going. Byrne heard her high heels tapping and snapping all the way down the corridor to the front desk. And beyond.

He hoped he would never have to see her again.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Mixed bag

Elliot’s back from Tarzali where he has been doing some final work on windows and doors. He took photos of some of my plants so I could see how they were growing, which was very sweet of him. Of course, he was trying out the new camera that we bought as a wedding anniversary present. Here’s a photo he took of the morning mist at Tarzali.

And another of a tree that is part of my favourite view there.

I didn’t sleep very well while he was away – would spend hours lying awake thinking about my book and whether it was exciting or emotional or had enough sexual tension etc. It was all very exhausting, but at least I got a wonderful idea for a new book during the wee, small hours.

I told Elliot about it over dinner and he thought it was great – got really excited about it, actually. As I’m excited too, this was wonderful. There’s nothing better than to be finishing one book and have a big, bright shiny idea beckoning you to get started on the next.

But there are hazards to this writing life. I’ve been having physio for my shoulders, which have been seizing up from too much time spent hunching over the keyboard. Another reason why I’ve been sleeping poorly. It’s very hard to lose myself in the story and think about sitting correctly at the same time. But I’ve been doing my exercises and getting acupuncture and massage and ultra sound treatment and luckily, the left shoulder, which was showing signs of becoming frozen, is starting to free up.

Yesterday, Elliot read through what I’ve written in my WIP since Christmas and he’s made some terrific suggestions and given me his usual reassurance. I slept very well last night.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Back in the driving seat

Barb back again… and I’m very grateful to Sophie for taking care of this for me while I had my head down. I still have my head down, actually. Deadline is zooming fast towards me, but the bulk of the work is done. So I can pop in here to say hello.

One of the things authors get asked all the time is: Where do you get inspiration for your romances?

So in case you’re wondering that, too, here’s my answer…

When you’re accepted as a Mills and Boon author the editors implant special romance sensors in your brain…


Well... OK, no, it's not quite like that... unfortunately. But seriously, I think I do keep my antennae on full alert for anything remotely suitable for a romance story. I get my ideas from everywhere… images I see in real life, pictures, music, lines from songs, newspaper stories.

I was sitting at the end of the Magnetic Island jetty once, and I saw this gorgeous, tall, dark and
handsome man coming off the ferry. And he was carrying a baby doll… A baby doll! And with no sign of a little girl accompanying him.

Why? I wanted to know and my imagination kicked in and supplied possible answers. That’s how an idea might be born, but the image might sit on the back burner for months, even years, before it grows into a fully realized story.

It surfaced in Christmas Gift: A Family when Hugh turned up in a little outback shop and wanted to buy a baby doll.

And it came up in another way in the book that's coming out next, In the Heart of the Outback, which will be out in April in the UK and North America and May in Australia and New Zealand.

Here are the opening paragraphs of that story. As you can see, the baby doll has morphed into a teddy bear. And I’ll hope you’ll also be intrigued and want to know more.

The man standing a few feet from Fiona looked as haunted and desolate as she felt. Too shocked to cry, too numb to feel pain.

He was wearing an oil skin coat, dark and shiny from the heavy rain outside and he stood rock still in the middle of the busy emergency ward, unaware of the staff ducking around him.

His skin was the suntanned brown of a man of the land, but shock had leached the tan from his cheeks. His eyes were dark and hollow, disbelieving. And although he was strong looking, tall and muscular, his shoulders were stooped, his chest caved in, as if the air had been sucked out of him.

He was clutching a teddy bear spotted with raindrops.

Friday, January 05, 2007

To keep you entertained

Sophie here again. I'm pleased to report that Barbara still has her head down, so I thought I'd fill in for a bit longer. Would you like sneak peek at what I look like?

That's a section of the collage Barb's using while she pulls our story together. That's me in the white top. My hair's actually a bit curlier than that now, but Barb made the collage while she was away in the country, without her usual stash of magazines.

Here's a bit more of the collage and down the bottom, you will see where Mark and I were sleeping -- out in the bush.

As I'm English, that was a huge and scary step for me, to sleep out without a roof over my head. But the stars were just ... amazing.

And I'm pleased to reprt that said author had her head down yesterday (thanks heavens the cricket test matches have finished -- I mean, apart from being English and finding the whole slaughter by the Aussies humiliating, I want my story!) But B got on with it and I'm feeling much happier -- about Mark, about Australia, about everything.

I'm averting my eyes from that dreadful post a few days ago that suggested something dire will happen to me soon. I refuse to believe it. I've never been one for reading the stars or fortune tellers. And BH is not God!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

A minor mutiny

Excuse me,
This is Sophie Felsham here.
I'm Barbara's current heroine and I've taken over her blog while she gets on with my book. I mean look at that last post. She's procrastinating... trying to work out what kind of puppy she is for heaven's sake ( a German Shepherd -- huh! and she thought she was such a sweetie!!) She thought 2paw might be interested.
But I'm sorry, I'm not happy! Two days ago she left me in a sleeping bag with Mark Winchester on the verge of making love and then she went off left me and started proofreading another book!
Left me trembling and dangling and frustrated and unsure and... well... I've had enough.
I'm not letting her near this blog until she gives me some peace.
And satisfaction.

So you'll have to put up with me for a few days. Find out what kind of puppy you are while I get on with my real and rather stressful life.

Well... really

You Are a German Shepherd Puppy

Intelligent, quick witted, and a bit aggressive.
You've got the jaw power to take a bite out of anyone you choose.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

the things we do...

I had my photo taken for a magazine this morning -- for a Valentine’s Day article. I ducked out and had my hair blow-dried first because I've learned that it's more important to look glamorous than to have a clean house. Well, it is, isn't it?

But then I scrambled around madly trying to tidy my office. Not a pleasant task when I’m less than a fortnight away from deadline and important notes and bits of vital “stuff’ are scattered all over my office floor, the couch, desk, printer... you get the picture…

And we didn’t do the shoot in there anyhow – as often happens. But as I had guests for lunch yesterday, the rest of the house was in presentation mode and our lovely guests had even brought me flowers which made the place look beautiful and I haven't taken the Christmas tree down yet, so everything looked OK. Phew!!

(Actually, I've been using the keep your house clean in fifteen minutes a day theory and it really works!!!)

Now the photographer’s gone and I’m all glamorous with my hair done, make up on, jewellery (even earrings) and Elliot is away, so I can’t persuade him to take me out to lunch!

Perhaps that’s just as well. I have to get back to proofreading Needed: Her Mr. Right, Book #2 in the Secrets We Keep Trilogy, which I wrote in conjunction with Liz Fielding and Jackie Braun.

And then I must press on with my WIP, which is currently called The Cattleman and the English Bridesmaid, so you can have a bit of a guess what that’s about.

I am loving writing Sophie and Mark’s story, but I have to do something really terrible to them very soon and they’re going to be devastated and I’m almost crying already at the thought.

It’s a weird life being a writer.