Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Choir of Hard knocks

Who's been watching this fabulous documentary on the ABC on Tuesday nights at 8 p.m.? I'm not sure that I've enjoyed any television show more. I've been ringing my daughters (one's a music teacher and the other an Occupational Therapy student) and urging them to watch it too.
Talk about inspiring!
The Choir of Hard Knocks is conducted by Jonathan Welch, a former tenor with Opera Australia, and its members are the homeless and the disadvantaged in Melbourne. Singing in the choir gives them a focus, a way to feel good about themselves and to kick their dependencies. The progression of their singing is impressive, the songs they sing are very appealing and you haven't missed out completely, because there are still two episodes to be shown.
If you are Australian, do yourself a favour, watch this and I swear you will feel all warm and fuzzy.
It's not soppy or sentimental. It's REAL and honest and just wonderful.
I understand that Jonathan had already launched a similar Street Choir in Sydney.
I would have loved this show anyhow, but one particular (and possibly bizarre) reason I'm interested (apart from the fact that I LOVE choirs) is that my heroine, Simone, from my next book NEEDED: HER MR. RIGHT goes the extra mile to help street kids. She raises money by cycling through the Himalayas and she teaches swimming every week to three Sydney street kids.
OK, I know Simone is a figment of my imagination.
Did I say that?
Ouch, I'm sorry, Simone.
I think I'll quit this blog tonight while I'm ahead.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

In the name of research

Last night we had a totally new experience. Elliot and I hosted the city council’s corporate box at the professional bull riding championships.


This was the Troy Dunn International competition with $35,000 in prize money and there were champion bull riders from all over Australia as well as from the USA (Missouri, Montana, Texas) and Mexico.

Now, I know I write a lot of books about Outback cattle guys and I’ve been on cattle stations and even ‘helped’ (well, I’ve worked the gates) during branding and vaccinating newly bought weaners. And I have to say I LOVE getting involved with this life. I love the earthiness of the cattle yards and yes, I don’t mind the smell. I love the physicality of the work, the slight brush with danger. But I wasn’t exactly wrapt in the bull riding.

I did love seeing so many fit young guys swaggering about in big hats and nice fitting jeans, but I didn’t like to see them being thrown from the back of a 1,100 kg bull.

There were a lot of injuries – many more than in a football game and that’s saying something. (I did spy two of our NQ Cowboys football heroes in the crowd.)

Guys have this incredible hunger for rough and tumble danger, don’t they?

But I can only shake my head as I see them stagger from the arena holding an injured arm, limping or hopping, dazed and having to be helped out. (Yes, Gladiator did come to mind)

The best bit for me was when we were taken back stage. Not only was I a lot closer to these athletic young men, but I got to see the bulls. The maze of metal chutes and runs set up back stage is quite a feat of engineering and there were cattlemen everywhere sending the bulls down to their respective stalls, as well as shepherding the ones that returned from the arena. I was telling my daughter about this today and she asked me if the bulls seemed nervous. I can’t honestly say. But I ‘felt’ that the bulls weren’t nearly as nervous as their riders and given the difference in their sizes that’s not at all surprising.

One hilarious (in retrospect) but super scary moment was when one bull picked up a barrel holding the rodeo clown in its horns and tossed it up in the air. Amazingly, the clown emerged unscathed and turned the moment into a joke by leaping the barricade and scurrying into a little old lady’s lap.

I’m sure something of the atmosphere has seeped into my memory bank and who knows where it will surface in a book one day?

Oh, and who won the belt buckle and the $35,000? A really cute guy called Hugo from Mexico.

Friday, May 25, 2007

I've been at sea...

I’ve been away on holidays and came back to a stomach bug. Hence my silence – that and the fact that once I was recovering, I had to get my head down on my next book.

Writing came to a hiccuping halt yesterday afternoon, but I had a big discussion with my first-reader/husband and, bless him, I think I’ve seen the way forward.

It’s funny how this happens in nearly every book and I guess it’s part of the problem of being a writer who doesn’t plot ahead.

I start out with a very clear vision for the ‘situation’ my characters find themselves in, but that’s about all. I don’t want to know how they’re going to deal with this problem I’ve given them, because that will spoil the fun.

It’s like setting out from shore and sailing towards a dot on the horizon and planning to navigate by the sun and the stars. Suddenly mist comes in, obscuring the way. How does one navigate now?

For me, it’s a matter of blindly pushing on, feeling my way more cautiously and bumping into a few decoys. This week, one of the decoys came in the form of a secondary character. The hero’s uncle.

An uncle?

Now what is an uncle doing in a category romance, when we all know the story should be very tight and focused on the central couple? No wonder my writing felt wrong, totally unromantic. Said uncle has been replaced by the heroine’s ex-husband and the story feels completely different.

So now that’s nutted out, I hope to be sailing happily forward again.

During the week, the hardcover of my next book NEEDED: HER MR. RIGHT arrived. I wanted to scan it to show you, but the only image I could get is grainy and doesn’t do this beautiful cover justice. This is Book 2 in the Secrets We Keep trilogy and will be out in the UK and North America in September. If you remember last year, I said the ending involved a wedding at the beach and that’s what my cover depicts. Simone and Ryan look gorgeous.

Count me as one happy cookie!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Move over Bollywood...

We've had a wonderful break at Noosa that included visiting family and friends down south. A wonderful big family get-together for Mother's Day was gorgeous!!

Listened to an audio tape of the book ‘The Shifting Fog’ by Kate Morton on the drive home and thoroughly enjoyed it. Kate, a young Brisbane woman, earned over $1 million advance on this, her debut novel, and I can understand why it was so well received. It goes on sale in the UK as ‘The House at Riverton’ in July 2007. I hope it does really well. I’m sure many British readers will never guess that the author is a Queenslander.

On the last leg of our journey home we called in at Bowen, because I was very keen to see if we could catch a glimpse of the set of the movie ‘Australia’ that Baz Luhrmann is making there.

Over the past six weeks, the seaside end of Bowen’s main street has been transformed to depict Darwin in 1938. They’ve created an entire township – including a picture theatre, jail, pub...

Recreated 1938 hotel -- The Northern Territory Hotel

There's also a police station, a brothel, Chinatown and stockyards. 750 head of cattle have been penned there as well!

More of the set. There were calls in local newspapers for authentic 1930s cars.

I wasn’t sure what we’d be allowed to see, but we were quite pleased (Ok – make that incredibly excited) that we were allowed to get reasonably close to the set. A local told me a brief outline of the story, which runs on the delicious theme of The Lady and the Larrikin).

In 1938, Lady Sarah, (Nicole Kidman) comes out from England to Darwin on a flying boat to join her husband on his newly acquired Outback cattle property. A ringer from the station (Hugh Jackman – sigh!!) is supposed to greet her, but he’s in the pub brawling and they meet when he arrives through the pub window in a shower of broken glass.

Not impressed, Lady Sarah makes her own way to the property, only to discover that her husband is dead, which she apparently doesn’t mind, because he was quite a womaniser. Then cattle barons threaten to take over her property and she decides to take the cattle 1,500 kilometres to Darwin, to sell them at the sale yards. Of course, Hugh Jackman accompanies her on this hazardous journey and during that time the fall in love!

As you can guess, this is exactly my kind of story!!! In fact, I wish I had written it!

A local building is covered in signage in keeping with the movie

The story continues into WW2, and the 1942 bombing of Darwin takes place as well. Actually, all the sets you see here, including the pub, will be bombed! That’s happening in about 4 weeks and I’d love to be around when that happens!!

We weren’t lucky enough to see Nicole and Hugh while we were there, but apparently they regularly stroll through the town and speak to locals.

This elevated metal sheet provides shade for the actors

Actors (extras??) getting ready for their scene.

And of course, in North Queensland, Bowen has been re-christened Bowenwood!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Heading south...

I'm off to Noosa for a week (lots of long walks along the beautiful beach and through the National Park on the headland) and then I'm heading on to Brisbane for Mothers' Day to catch up with my daughters, my sisters, my Mum, my other grandchildren and other extended family.

Unfortunately, I will be writing while I'm on holiday. Well, actually, it's not unfortunate because I happen to love writing and get twitchy when I'm not writing anyway. And when I'm not writing, I'll be reading or watching a movie or eating and thinking about writing.

To keep you amused, I'm sending you off here to check out photos from my sister's cycling trip to the Himalayas. This trip inspired the background for the Secrets We Keep trilogy, coming later this year. I'll be back after this break, to tell you more.:)