Saturday, May 31, 2008

Are your ducks in a row?

This is my writing quote for the day (week? month?), which I found somewhere, and keep above my desk… but I’m afraid I can no longer remember where it came from, so I apologise for the lack of an attribution...

So you want brilliant dialogue?

Make sure it’s the only dialogue your character can possibly say given who he or she is, where he or she is and to whom he or she is saying it. Then make sure you have all your ducks in a row – every event leading up to the dialogue should be believable and every event after the dialogue should be at least partly the result of the dialogue. Finally, make sure we care about the character, so that we’ve got a vested interest in what he or she is saying, and in the results of what he or she says.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

OK, this week I'm playing...

It will be fifteen years this July since I sat in my sister's kitchen in Brisbane and said: 'I'm going to write a Mills & Boon.' Of course it took another four and a half years before I wrote something acceptable. And now I'm about to begin my thirtieth M&B.

But this week, before I start that project, I'm stealing a little window of time to play with my writing. I don't have long, before I have to get back to my contracted work, and I don't know how far I'll get, or if it will ever see the light of day, but it's fun to try something different.

I'm usually very superstitious about talking about work in progress, but I wanted to share this lovely photo that I'm using as part of my inspiration.

Can't a picture truly tell a thousand words? Actually, in this case I'm hoping for several thousand words. And yes, the story is set back in time.

I'd better not say too much more. It's still such a fragile bubble of an idea. I know lots of other authors have secret dreams of writing "something else". Good luck to all of you... and good luck to me.

Monday, May 26, 2008

I'm Swedish in bed. What nationality are you?

This came through email ... and it's really good for a laugh. Apparently, I'm very uninhibited. Hmm... I dunno...
But trust the British to come up with this.
For a bit of fun... or as procrastination from whatever you're supposed to be doing... take a look.
I promise, it's not a porn site, or anything tacky.

Monday, May 19, 2008

A happy surprise on the weekend...

When we got to Tarzali, we discovered windows and doors!

The windows and shutters that we found in demolition yards and which E has lovingly restored are now (finally) installed. Our new dining room and study are almost complete.

In the kitchen, our oven is connected and we baked a baby coral trout. In fact, I spent an entire weekend doing very little... shopping for window latches, planting trees, cleaning sticky labels off the stove, taking photos, or just smiling... anything but writing.

Felt strange... I guess I'm v hard to please.
In spite of all this excitement, I need to get started on a new book. I'm fidgety when I'm not working on a story.

Yes, there will be a bigger dining table. It's in the garage, ready and waiting.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Haircuts, new titles and a trip away...

My poverty stricken, student daughter bought me lovely tea bags for Mother's Day. Called Morning's First Cup, each tag has a haiku or quote. This morning's is:

Morning light;
in the house nothing stirs
but the tea in my cup.

That's true of many mornings in this household.

My editor has passed on news about new titles this week. My mother's day novella will be called, The Billionaire's Baby Surprise, and my latest Romance will be called Her Cattleman Boss. Funny, how when I'm writing these stories, they feel unique and very much my story, with my characters, my voice, my heart and soul, but once they have a title, they often sound like... well... a generic product on the shelf.

Yesterday, I had my hair (which has been getting longer and straighter) cut back to short and curly. All my life, I have swung between long, semi-straightened hair and a short cut that lets my natural waves bounce back. I'm sure my hair's much happier when it's free to bounce -- and I'm hoping I can throw away the dreaded hair dryer -- but not just yet. I may chicken out of having the curls.

This weekend, (leaving today) we're having a quick trip to Tarzali. We've bought floor tiles for the laundry -- sensible terra cotta, to match the red mud up there. And we have to discuss door handles and other important "stuff" with the builder. We're also taking a set leaning shelves for the kitchen. And on the four hour trip up to the Tablelands and back, I'll brainstorm with E about my next book. That means, I'll bounce ideas off him and he'll make a suggestion and I'll say, "no, no no, that would never work!' And we repeat that process over and over with countless 'what ifs' and the occasional heated moment, till eventually I "know" we've come up with something useful. Always fun -- he's so patient, bless him.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Our Ally...

Gorgeous and talented Romance author Ally Blake is fast becoming a media favourite.

Australians can check out the double page feature on her in this week's New Idea. It's lovely. Ally's a fabulous ambassador.

Go, Ally!!!

Funny how the headlines always want to gloss over the fact that Ally went to university to study English and they concentrate instead on her cheer leading background. I know many people like to think that anyone can write a Mills and Boon and it's true you don't need a university degree. Some of the company's bestselling writers haven't been to uni. That's not really my point. But, the truth is -- these stories are a lot harder to write than they are to read. Ally is one of the very few authors I know who didn't have to submit for years before her book was accepted. Most of us have suffered many rejections, but we stuck it out because writing these particular books is something we really felt called to do.

You have to love it to go on writing book after book once you've been accepted. Harlequin Mills and Boon aren't interested in publishing just one book. They want an author who can produce, at a minimum a book a year, preferably more.

There are a lot of myths out there about romance writing.

If you'd like to know more about this, check out this perceptive article on Anne Gracie's website.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Happy Mothers’ Day...

Over the past year, I’ve been researching my family, discovering the women behind those first immigrants who set off for distant southern shores in the 1850s.

I often think about those farewells… those poor mothers back in England, Scotland or Ireland, who knew they would almost certainly never see their children again. What was their story?

My ancestors were all ‘lower class' -- farm labourers, blacksmiths, railways workers, or ‘in –service’. Very few could read or write, and I was the first person from either side of my family to go to university.

But somewhere, among those ancestors, there must have been someone who loved stories as much as I do. Where did the creative spark come from?

The clues possibly lie in their gardens. My mother will be 82 next month and she still lives on five acres in the Brisbane Valley and spends her days working tirelessly in her garden, which is quite, quite beautiful. Here she is on her 80th birthday, held in her favourite place -- her own garden.

I remember my grandmother’s garden in Sydney – the high hedge at the back full of cicadas in summer, the huge blue heads of hydrangea under her bedroom window in the front, the little brick path that lured me around the side of her house, the sunny rockery by the back door. Playing in her garden is one of my favourite childhood memories.

And mum tells me about my great-grandmother’s garden. This woman, Matilda Potter, had eleven children and apparently her back yard had the merest strip of grass down the middle and the rest was filled with plants -- veggies growing on one side and flowers on the other, and then there were stables and a pigeon coop beyond that.

For these women, gardening was their escape from the slog of housework and it was also a creative outlet.

Have any of you read In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens by Alice Walker (of The Colour Purple fame)?

She asked a similar question. Who among the black mothers of her ancestors, passed on the creative spark which has so enriched her life? She pondered on the beauty her poor, uneducated mother created out of the plot of soil in their tiny garden and so her search began.

I love this quote from her:

And so our mothers and grandmothers have, more often than not anonymously, handed on the creative spark, the seed of the flower they themselves never hoped to see -- or like a sealed letter they could not plainly read.

Today, I’m thinking about my mum and everything she's done for me, but also all those mothers who came before us. At least one of you was a dreamer… and for that I give thanks.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

A bright start to the day...

Are persimmons available in your part of the world? Have you tried them?
I'd never eaten them until I discovered them at a stall in Townsville's Sunday markets a couple of years ago. The stall holder had actually brought them down from her farm at Ravenshoe on the Atherton Tableland. (Note to self: We must plant a persimmon tree at Tarzali.)

Luckily for us, the farmer does this every week during the persimmon harvest season in autumn.
I love them. They are like a cross between an apple and an apricot with a dash of something nutty or buttery. And because they're bright orange, I imagine they're full of goodness like pumpkins, but sweeter, and without the acidity of citrus fruit.

Right now, they're my breakfast fruit instead of pawpaw. Yes, I always like to start my day with something bright. Why not?

When we were in Japan last year, we saw persimmon trees covered in fruit wherever we went. They looked gorgeous. So bright and cheerful. And this little Japanese house is The Hut of the Fallen Persimmons.

I usually eat my persimmons raw, but the recipe sounds rather delicious.

Heavenly Persimmon Ice Cream Pie

I/2 litre vanilla ice cream, softened
2 cups persimmon pulp
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups whipped cream
1/2 cup slivered almonds
Spread ice cream in a biscuit crumb pie shell and shill in freezer. Combine pulp with the 1 1/2 cups sugar, salt, spices and vanilla. Fold in 1 cup cream. Pour mixture over ice cream in pie shell. Cover with foil and freeze 4 hours. Remove from freezer and garnish with remaining 1/2 cup of whipped cream and almonds..

Monday, May 05, 2008

A grandmotherly brag...

For those of you who have been keeping track of Lilly, she is growing up so fast. Here she is on Magnetic Island, where her other grandparents have a holiday house.

She is so full of life, and full of beans, talks non-stop, runs non stop. And LOVES books.

Am I pleased about that? You bet. And you should hear the way she says 'Hello, Nan!' on the phone. So loud, so cute.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Comfort reads

Do you have a comfort read, a book you return to if you’re feeling a little rundown or under the weather and you feel the need to retreat into a comforting past? I remember my editor telling me that she’d recently curled up with the Narnia Chronicles for comfort. I know, in the past, I’ve dipped back into the Anne books.

Today, I found myself reaching for Mary Norton’s “The Borrowers”, a gorgeous children’s book about tiny people – Pod, Homily and Arietty Clock, who live beneath the floorboards in an English country house. They’re responsible for all those things that go missing that we’re all familiar with – disappearing hairpins, needles, keys, thimbles, coins, matchboxes… these things become their furniture.

The book is just delightful. I remember how much my daughters loved it when they were young and when I’d finished, I searched google to find out more about Mary Norton and discovered a book of short stories for adults… so I couldn’t resist ordering it. I love having things to look forward to coming in the post.

Surprises are nice too. This week I received copies of Claiming the Cattleman’s Heart in Lithuanian. That’s a first in this country for me, as far as I know. My books have now been translated into 25 languages. That’s such a nice thought.

What are your comfort reads?