Monday, June 30, 2008


Crikey, it's July already and we've tipped over into the second half of 2008. How did that happen? It seems just a blink ago that I was celebrating New Year!

I know what this means -- I'm getting old and I'm too busy. Oh, well c'est la vie! What it also means in this little slice of blogland is that Adopted: Outback Baby goes on sale in the UK and North America and is also available online in Australia.

I'm going to a tad busy this month. We're hoping to move house next week to begin our year in the country! I'm also going to San Francisco and have to finish my workshop notes; I'm blogging on Liz Fielding's blog and at the Pink Heart Society. Oh, and I have a new book to start. So instead of teling you too much more about Nell and Jacob's story, I thought I'd share with you this review, which a kind friend alerted me to. It was written by an eharlequin reader, Vince. Thanks so much, Vince!!

Great Outback Story With A Difference!

I’m a big fan of Outback stories and reading “Adopted: Outback Baby” is like getting a double bonus.

"Adopted: Outback Baby”, is especially interesting because the hero and heroine are the 39-year old grandparents of the child they are trying to adopt. They are not married but were lovers twenty years before, but have not seen each other since. This theme is so unusual that the author was not sure the publisher would approve of it. I’m glad “Adopted: Outback Baby” was approved, because Barbara Hannay makes the story work while keeping everything very interesting every stop of the way.

I found the plot always interesting and believable. The character’s actions were honorable and there is something wonderful about getting a second chance at love when you were wrongfully denied your first chance. There was an injustice in “Adopted: Outback Baby” that feels so good to see rectified. This is a very good feeling book. The action takes place both in the Outback and at a beautiful seaside cottage. The beautiful locations are a real plus in this book.

The hero and heroine are perfect for each other and the HEA is doubled by the well executed Epilogue. I really appreciate an author who expands the envelop and takes chances. “Adopted: Outback Baby” really works.

Challenging Grandparent Hero and Heroine Theme – A Big Winner!

Friday, June 27, 2008

A makeover...

I've had a face-lift... well, actually, my website has had a face-lift. It's beautiful and fresh and young again, thanks to the skills of the multi-tasking Ally Blake -- author, new mother and website guru. Check it out!!

Meanwhile, I've been reading a very interesting book -- A Short History of Myth by Karen Armstrong, which examines the way human beings have been making meaning of their lives through stories since Palaeolithic times.

I find it very helpful, every so often, to dip into theory. So much of what we do as writers is instinctive. We, like those storytellers who sat around fires in caves, often don't know why we feel compelled to tell the stories we tell. And although that doesn't matter... I find it also doesn't hurt to reflect and analyze from time to time.

I haven't finished the book yet, but this quote about heroes got me thinking.

"All cultures have developed similar mythology about the heroic quest. The hero feels there is something missing in his own life or in society. The old ideas that have nourished his community for generations no longer speak to him. So he leaves home, endures death-defying adventures. He fights monsters, climbs inaccessible mountains, traverses dark forests, and in the process, dies to his old self, and gains new insight or skill which he brings back to his people."

Of course, in romances, particularly the Romance line, we focus mostly on the heroine's story. Her monsters and inaccessible mountains are the personal problems she has to face and at best they become a source of tension between her and the hero. The knowledge or skill that she learns is often about herself and she brings this enlightenment to their romantic relationship.

I guess the point I'm making is -- if you're a beginning writer, don't be afraid to give your characters difficulties and big problems. It makes the romantic happy ending so much more powerful!

Thursday, June 26, 2008


Well, the Tuesday Book Club has come and gone and it was a little disappointing -- not that Anne Gracie didn't do a brilliant job. How she kept smiling and being gracious to those panelists, who clearly knew nothing about romance books and didn't want to know anything about romance books is beyond me. Only one panelist admitted to ever having read a Mills and Boon and he was eight at the time and it wasn't his cup of tea. All M&Bs were dismissed on the basis of that one experience and on reactions to their covers -- although the discussion of the covers was edited out -- thank goodness.

The program was entitled Sex and Romance, but it was really only about sex and there was an underlying assumption that romance is only about sex, when we all know it encompasses so much more.

So without rattling on for too long, the result was that as far as academics and literary snobs are concerned, Romance in Australia is still a bad smell. Nothing new there...

Monday, June 23, 2008

First Tuesday Book Club

Tonight on the ABC, Anne Gracie, our very own president of Romance Writers of Australia, will be talking with other authors about sex and romance on Jennifer Byrne's First Tuesday Book Club. Yaaay!! Go, Anne!!! Don't miss it!!!!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The power and magic and mystery of art...

The other day I saw a painting on Fiona Harper's blog and immediately, in my imagination, I was back in my childhood, pouring over a book of works of art.
When I was growing up in Brisbane, there was a smallish art gallery, which we visited quite regularly. I can only really remember one Picasso -- La Hollandaise. I believe my fascination with art came from one book, which was part of a collection, and which my family simply called The Red Books. The official name for these books was The Bookshelf for Boys and Girls and how I loved them - a set of twelve - I would be here all day if tried to tell you about them all.

Possibly my favourite was the one filled with famous paintings -- no doubt chosen for children because they tell a story.

I don't have that book anymore (it resides at Lilly's house) but many of those paintings will stand out in my memory for ever and I'm sure that in some small way (maybe a huge way) they've shaped the person I've become. I wanted to share them with you.

First is "The Song of the Lark" by Jules Breton. I loved the simplicity of this painting. I was immediately transported to this flat field, where the woman pauses on her way home from her day's work. I love the way he's captured the time of day, the sturdy, rustic beauty of the woman and the concentration on her face as she listens to a sound we cannot here. Something earthy and 'right' about this painting has always filled me with huge satisfaction. (And I loved the woman's broad feet!!!!)

And then there was "The Princes in the Tower". I don't know who painted this, but oh, my it captured my girlish imagination. The young Princes, Edward and Richard, were supposed to have been locked away by their wicked uncle, Richard the third, and later murdered. I was horrified, of course, and I guess I was also in love with them. I mean, Will and Harry weren't around when I was a girl, but just imagine if something like this had happened to them...

Much later, I read Josephine Tey's fabulous book 'Daughter of Time' which gives a revisionist view, suggesting that Richard did not commit this crime. Riveting read. But that's no help to the boys, of course.

Then there's "Listening to the Sphinx" by Elihu Vedder. I love how the majestic size and the cold blankness of the sphinx contrasts so strongly with the intense concentration in the body of the listener. And of course, there's the mystery... what question did he ask? What was the answer?

Next, there's the painting that Fiona Harper showed -- which is "Carnation Lily, Lily Rose" by American artist John Singer Sargent. Has any picture ever been designed to entrance a girl? The beautiful flowers, the white dresses and the glowing lanterns... the gathering dusk and the sense of a party about to begin... simply, utterly enchanting...

And now the painting that affected me most -- "The Doctor" by Sir Samuel Luke Fildes.

Talk about emotional punch!!!

Apparently, Fildes painted this after his own son died, as an expression of admiration for the doctor who attended his child. Luckily, I didn't know this. I found enough pathos in the picture without knowing the background. I was fascinated by the child's bed, made up on two chairs, and by the gentle concern on the doctor's face. But, oh, what got to me most was the poor mother, lost in despair in the background and the silent, brave and suffering father, standing with his hand on her shoulder.

Perhaps it's my need for a happy ending, but I always imagined that this child recovered.
He did, didn't he?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Colour me emotional

Lately, I’ve been painting…

No, nothing artistic, I’m afraid.

Now that the work at Tarzali is almost complete (emphasis on almost – electrician and plumber still have things to do!), we have a lot of bare surfaces that need to be protected with paint.

E was all for hiring a professional painter. He found an ad in the Millaa Millaa Times for a painter with a brilliant name like Heinrich Schicklgruber and he wanted to dine out on stories of Heinrich’s painting prowess. But I was hit by boring scruples and talked about saving…. after all I’m swanning off to San Francisco next month.

I had fuzzy but happy memories of our first home, which we bought here in Townsville just after the destruction of Cyclone Althea.

It was a dooer-upperer, if ever there was one, and we painted and wall-papered and laid tiles happily and inexpertly, thrilled with our first little nest.

This time, E did not join me in my enthusiasm. Nevertheless, I won and we’ve been painting – lovely rich full gloss cream on the French doors to my new office/guest bedroom, lots of clear Estapol on timber walls and door frames, and Sikkens on outside frames exposed to weather. And putty – oh, the “fun” we’ve had with putty – filling a thousand tiny nail holes. Did you know putty comes in all sorts of colours – including pine?

Eventually the dining room will have a rose tinted feature wall and the kitchen will be leafy green. Eventually…

We didn’t get anywhere near finished when we had to come home because I have to prepare my Emotion, Emotion, Emotion presentation for San Francisco…

I know… I could have written it up there, but somehow all those paint smells and the sight of bare walls awaiting my brush blocked my thought processes.

So now I’m back, writing and thinking… in the depths of emotion…

Friday, June 13, 2008

At not quite two...

Lilly enters society...

as a flower girl...

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Last weekend...

Last weekend we went to Brisbane for a significant birthday celebration for my daughter, Victoria. Vicki used to be a dancer and she worked with a contemporary company called Dance North. As a dancer she has travelled all over Australia, as well as to Scotland, China, Korea and Japan. But a few years back, she went skiing in the French Alps and a knee injury caused her to rethink her career. After a couple of years drifting, she decided to study Occupational Therapy and now she is just one semester away from graduating with Honours. Needless to say we're very proud of her.
And our weekend was fabulous, because I also have another daughter, two sisters, two grandchildren, assorted spouses of same, as well as nephews, nieces and a Mum in the Brisbane region.
Here are a few pics of how our family spent a completely non-writing weekend...

Vick throwing a frisbee with my granddaughter, Lucy.

With her boyfriend, Matt -- barbecuing sausages.

And here's just one small glimpse of my mum's five acre garden.

Andrew doesn't like this shot, but I love it -- of my younger daughter and younger son in another part of my mum's garden. Who would know she's just been through ten years of drought?
One disappointment -- I missed seeing Jane Austen's Persuasion on TV on Sunday night. Must see if I can track it down.

Thursday, June 05, 2008


Saw a crazy, creative and quite fabulous film French film about dreams and sleep last night. It was called The Science of Sleep and the characters had trouble distinguishing between dreams and reality, but there was also a sweet romance with plenty of tension about whether the boy would actually get the girl.

Came home to dream that I had fifteen minutes left before closing time in the shops and I had to buy about ten birthday presents. I spent the entire time trying to organize others into who would buy what, with all of them complaining and nothing being bought.

Not surprisingly, I have to drag myself out of my writing cave to go shopping today. Off to Brisbane tomorrow for – you guessed it – family birthday celebrations.

There was also another truly beautiful film called Conversations with my Gardener, which I loved -- about a renewed friendship between two men who were friends in primary school and haven't met since. One is a Parisian artist , the other a rural railway worker. When the artist's marriage is on the rocks, he goes back to the place in the country where he grew up and hires his old friend as his gardener. One character is sophisticated and worldly and open to new ideas; the other is simple, rustic and un-malleable as rock. Each, in his own way, helps the other. So simple, but so powerful. These foreign films are wonderfully refreshing.

BTW, who saw Jane Austen's Emma on ABC TV last Sunday night? I thought Mark Strong as Mr. Knightley was just fabulous. That dignified bearing. Those eyes!!!!