Sunday, June 24, 2007

Proof of power...

It feels as if it’s been ages since we were at Tarzali – our country home. We’ve both been busy working and I must admit, I do find that I like to get a straight run at a book without the distraction of relocating.

But there have been frustrating reasons for staying in one spot. There’s no power to our house up there. We had to get the power pole shifted from in front of the house to accommodate extensions and that took ages. Then an electrician had to underground the power from the new pole to the house and then Ergon had to reconnect the power. Would you believe, this relatively simple set of tasks has taken months? And, of course, the extensions haven’t started yet.

As I type, Elliot is on the phone to Ergon, yet again, trying to sort this out so that we can head up to the Tablelands for a few days. We don’t fancy taking the risk of having no power in mid-winter. It’s not the lack of light or heating that bothers us – we have a lovely wood fire – but no hot baths is another matter entirely.

On a brighter note, yesterday we had a lovely get-together with Ally Blake, who is visiting from Melbourne. I’m so isolated from other writers up here, it’s always great to have a writerly chat and Ally is so lovely to chat with. But we couldn’t provide the lovely sunny winter Ally was expecting. All week it’s been overcast and cold – a maximum of 14 of Thursday!! Not tropical at all!

Writing wise, I am trying to decide whether this current story needs an epilogue. Elliot didn’t like the first one I wrote, so I’m tackling another. As many of you know, I love epilogues, but does this story really need one? Should I round the last chapter off in a satisfying way and leave it at that?

I dunno.

In the literary world, I’m sure epilogues are very much frowned upon. The reader should be left to imagine the future – the more open the text the better. But fortunately, romance readers say pooh to that.

Will ponder on this some more…

P.S. The picture at the top is one of my favourite images from Tarzali. Those tree ferns are growing at the bottom of our block and I keep that image as my screen saver while I'm in the city.

Friday, June 15, 2007


Many authors talk about their work while they're writing, but I'm a bit superstitious about that. Besides, my ideas, the characters and the story keep changing. I don't really know what it's all about until I reach the end and then I see the patterns that have emerged and work out how to strengthen them.

This book is due in at the end of the month and luckily, I've almost finished it and have two weeks to 'play' with it and improve it (fingers crossed).

I thought I'd show you a couple of things that have inspired me.
First this collage...

If you care to click on it, it will come up bigger.

This central photo of the couple and the baby is pivotal to the story. Nell and Jacob are baby Tegan's parents, but she was born twenty years before the book starts and was given up for adoption . Nell and Jacob went their separate ways and now, in their late thirties, they are drawn back together by another baby, Harry, (who is actually the baby boy in this photo.) I won't give away more details just yet.

I'm going to send this pic to my editor in the hope that the artist might consider it for the cover. It's happened before!

The other source of inspiration for Nell and Jacob's story is a poem by William Butler Yeats, who happens to be one of my all time favourite poets. This poem is important to my characters and provides one of the themes in their story. So here it is. I hope you like it as much as I do...

Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread my cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams,
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

W.B. Yeats (1865- 1939)
"He Wishes For the Clouds of Heaven."

OK, one or two clues as to how this poem became relevant.
(1) Jacob was poor, the son of Nell's parents' cook.
(2) Nell makes beautiful patchwork quilts.

But as writer Justin Hill (whose romantic novel set in ancient China is called Passing Under Heaven and is just amazing) says on his website: "inspiration is an irregular and untimley visitor... and lots of writing is less inspiration and more slog."
Inspiration is an irregular and untimely visitor. As wres and music, I find good tea (jasmine) and incense (inspiration issandalwood) helps it come. But then lots of writing is less inspiration and slog, or just hrd work.Inspiration is an irregular and untimely visitor. As well as pictures and music, I find good tea (jasmine) and incense (sandalwood) helps it come. But then lots of writing is less inspiration and slog, or just hrd work.Inspiration is an irregular and untimely visitor. As well as pictures and music, I find good tea (jasmine) and incense (sandalwood) helps it come. But then lots of writing is less inspiration and slog, or just hrd work.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

What have I been doing in the city?

I know I was getting a bit ahead of myself by already posting covers and excerpts for Needed: Her Mr. Right when it won’t be available for another couple of months. Can you guess I was desperate to put something on my blog, but couldn’t think?

That’s because I’ve had my head down, nose to the grindstone, writing hard, and I haven't wanted to think about much except my characters and their story which has an end of the month deadline.

But you may wonder how my life differs when I’m in the city from in the country. No 1 difference is that I write more and am not so distracted by the glorious outdoors – although I do like to go for a daily walk, often along Townsville’s gorgeous Strand. I do more family stuff in the city – playing with granddaughter Lilly is Very Important Business. We were recently kept busy helping No #4 offspring get ready for six months in Japan.

But we also indulge in a little more ‘culture’ in the city. We go to cinema group to watch Art House movies, which I adore. And we also watch them on DVD. Just recently, I’ve watched DVDs of the wonderful German movie ‘Goodbye Lenin’, an amazing Russian movie called ‘The Return’, Noi the Albino, which is a fascinating and moving Icelandic film, and Chalte, Chalte an entertaining Indian Bollywood production.

Oh, and we saw Dancenorth’s latest production Roadkill, a truly innovative and breathtaking, suspense filled piece about a couple stranded on an Outback road.

So I’m being stimulated and my creative well is running over and I’m happy…

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Just for comparison

Remember I talked about the collage I had for Simone and Ryan? Just to remind you, this was it. Yeah, Ryan was the guy in the towel. That's why I'm so pleased that the artist captured his longer haired, surfer looks. (See yesterday's blog for their cover.)

Anyway, here, as promised, is an extract from Needed: Her Mr. Right out in the UK and North America in September...


Simone’s Diary – Day one

Arrived in Bangkok at 10.30 pm. Very hot and muggy. Tomorrow I enter China and I’m freaking out.

Am stressing about my fitness, wondering if the long bike rides each weekend and the daily slogs in the pool are enough preparation for cycling four hundred and fifty kilometres across the Himalayas. What if I can’t keep up with the others?

Everyone at work is convinced I’m crackers. I don’t expect them to understand why I need to do this, to push myself out of my comfort zone.

Problem is, tonight, I’m thinking maybe I AM crazy. I mean, fundraising for street kids aside, what am I trying to prove?

It’d be nice if I came up with an answer some time in the next twelve days.

1.00 am. Wandered off in search of a cute little bar for a drink or a snack, got totally lost and was propositioned by a middle aged tourist.

Arrived back here even more stressed. Can’t sleep. My hotel bed is so hard I might as well lie on the floor – the carpet and underlay are softer than this apology for a mattress.

I’m going to be tired, stressed and unfit for the start tomorrow.


Chapter One

“Journeys end in lovers meeting; every wise man’s son doth know.”

William Shakespeare

Jetlagged and dull-headed after his long flight from London to Sydney, Ryan Tanner was waiting in the Customs queue when he first saw the girl with the turn-and-stare legs.

He caught sight of her again, when he was pushing his luggage cart through the Arrivals hall.

The slim blonde in a belted, pink shift, with long, golden-brown legs and strappy, high-heeled sandals, was like a glowing hologram moving confidently through the drab tide of travellers dressed in predictable, look-alike, business suits or denim jeans.

But Ryan’s interest in her, although keen, was fleeting. Stunning as the girl was, she was a total stranger among thousands of strangers. Ryan had no idea where she’d come from or where she was heading. And his focus now was on getting home.

Home, after a year and a half in London. Home, after eighteen months of dreary British weather.

He’d spent a good part of the flight dreaming of sunshine and his first view of Bondi Beach – aquamarine surf breaking into white froth on yellow sand. But with his usual lousy luck, it was pouring rain in Sydney today. The view was obscured by grey clouds.

Now, head down against the sheeting rain, he left the terminal building and felt his mood sink from travel-weary-jaded to downright morose as he steered his unwieldy trolley piled with two suitcases, a bulky snowboard and a laptop.

There was, of course, a long queue at the taxi rank.

Ryan yawned and supposed he should have let someone know he was arriving this morning. But, after a twenty hour flight, he was too tired to bother with conversation, with the inevitable questions about London and the ugly row with his Fleet Street editor.

Besides, he felt scruffy, needed a shower. And a shave wouldn’t go astray, he thought, rubbing at the rough stubble on his jaw.

Then he saw the young woman again.

Fresh as a newly picked peach, she was standing ahead of him in the queue.

Wind, whipping across the street and under the awning, exposed enticing glimpses of her divine legs before she got control of her skirt.

He spent a pleasant moment wondering if she was a European tourist or an Australian coming home.

Three businessmen at the front of the queue climbed into the same taxi and Ryan shuffled forward, dragging his luggage trolley with him, pleased that the line was diminishing at a reasonable rate.

He thought about his comfortable, slightly shabby flat in Balmain and hoped that the tenants, who’d rented it while he was away, hadn’t treated it too badly.

He stole another quick glance at the girl, not that he made a habit of ogling attractive girls, but this one intrigued him. He tried to pin down the quality that grabbed his attention, apart from her legs.

Perhaps it was an impression of vitality and fitness, the way she stood, shoulders back, head high, suggesting can-do confidence without conceit. Her bulky backpack surprised him. She looked the type who would travel with expensive matching suitcases.

Suddenly, almost as if she’d felt his eyes on her, she turned and looked straight at him, and for electrifying seconds their gazes met and held.

Her eyes were dark – blue or brown, he couldn’t be sure – her brows darker than her hair and well defined. And as she looked at him, he could have sworn that her mild, slightly bored expression changed.

He sensed a tiny stirring of interest from her. A ripple. The briefest flicker at the corner of her mouth. The barest beginnings of a smile.

He decided to smile back and discovered he was already smiling. Had he been grinning like a fool?

And then it happened. A tremulous, gut-punching sense of connection with this girl seized him by the throat, drove air from his lungs.

But in the next breath her taxi arrived. The driver jumped out and grabbed her pack, grumbling noisily at having to leave the warmth of his cab and splash about in the rain. The girl slipped quickly into the back passenger seat. Ryan caught one final flash of her beautiful, bare legs before she shut the door.

The driver, a very glum fellow indeed, dumped her bulky backpack into the taxi’s boot. He already had a couple of boxes in there and he spent a bad tempered few minutes in the rain, shoving and cramming her pack, squeezing it mercilessly into the too small space.

At last, the bulky pack was squashed enough to allow him to slam the door, but as he did, something slipped from one of the pack’s side pockets and fell into the rain-filled gutter with a plop.

It was a small book.

“Hey, mister, you want this cab or not?”

Ryan turned, surprised to discover that other passengers had left and he’d reached the top of the queue. A taxi driver was scowling at him.

His eyes swivelled back to the book in the gutter. Her book. Small and thick with a brown leather cover of good quality. It looked like a diary or a one of those fancy planners many people can’t live without. And no one else seemed to have seen it fall.

“Just a sec.” Ryan waved violently to catch her driver’s attention. “Hey, you’ve dropped something!”

But it was too late.

The driver was already slipping behind the wheel. His door slammed and with an impatient, throaty roar, his cab shot out from the curb, ducked across two lanes and streaked off, leaving the girl’s book lying in the rain.

“Listen, mate, you either get in this cab, or step aside. You can’t hold up the bloody queue in this weather.”

But Ryan stared after the other cab, and at the book, lying in the gutter. If it wasn’t rescued quickly it would be ruined.

And why should he care?

Why should he, Ryan Tanner, a seen-it-all, done-it-all, travel-weary journalist, jeopardise his precious place in a taxi queue while he dived into pouring rain to retrieve an unknown stranger’s sodden book from the gutter?

He hadn’t the foggiest clue. It didn’t make any sense.

But then again, he’d always been a curious type, and he’d looked into the girl’s beautiful eyes…

So perhaps it made perfect sense.

Whatever… in the next unthinking, reckless split-second he grabbed his suitcase out of the driver’s hands, hurled it into the taxi’s boot and yelled, “We’ve got to follow that cab in the far lane!”

The driver’s jaw gaped. “You’re joking.”

“Never more serious, mate.” Ryan dashed for the gutter, shouting over his shoulder, “Get the other case and stow my snowboard in the back.”

As he scooped up the book, he was aware of a moment’s indecision behind him before the driver gave a strangely excited cry and leapt forward.

The snowboard was shoved into the back of the cab and the two men jerked their front doors open and leapt in, Ryan clutching his laptop. And the wet book.

The driver’s dark eyes were flashing with high excitement as he depressed the accelerator. He turned and grinned at Ryan. “I’ve been waiting twenty years for a chase!”

Ahead of them, the girl’s cab was still in sight – just. It was stopped at an intersection, but any second now the lights would change.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

My next cover

As you can imagine, a category romance writer holds her breath when she opens a box of new books. This will be her first glimpse of her new cover. Will it look anything like the images she held in her imagination during that long, arduous process of bringing the story to life?

The answer is... sometimes...

There have been occasions when I've winced and wanted to curl in the foetal position. This is the image that's supposed to sell my book?

But , happily, this is mostly not the case. Actually, since Harlequin Romance launched its latest covers, they've been outstanding. Opening that box has been a thrill!!

And discovering the cover for NEEDED: HER MR. RIGHT, book #2 in the Secrets We Keep trilogy (which I've written in conjunction with Liz Fielding and Jackie Braun) was a very happy moment.

Here 'tis -
Very soon, I'll post an excerpt.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

A different kind of inspiration

I think most writers have a deep appreciation of various other art forms apart from those, achieved by the written word. For me, music is an essential part of my life and I'll talk at some other time about my favourite pieces and what they mean to me.
But I love art, too. In fact, when I was at school, English and Art and History were my best subjects and I very nearly became an art teacher. As a child, I drew pictures to illustrate every story I wrote. In fact, I wrote comics mostly, so I could draw lots and lots of pictures. I used to subscribe to Princess magazine, which came once a week from England, and my stories were offshoots of Sue Day stories and Sally the Circus Ballerina. Perhaps it's not at all surprising that I now write for Mills & Boon.
But the point I'm getting to is that I love to have visually pleasing, artistic things about me. They feed my soul and I thought I'd show you some of my bits and pieces -- in no special order.
I love the pottery bowl at the top, which one of my sons bought me, because it's so simple and yet the cut out holes remind me of birds' beaks. We seem to collect lots of birds. I'm not sure why and I haven't shown all of them here.
The blue tree full of birds is from Italy and I swear the sky in southern Italy where we bought that whimsical piece is exactly as blue as that.

These galahs were carved from a single piece of wood by an artist from Byron Bay and the mobile below was made my daughter.

The wonderful bird above is Howard, made by a Townsville artist, while below is a close up of my Christmas angel from Paris and a Madonna from Matera, Italy.