Monday, August 25, 2008

You learn something new every play...

Where have I been while many of my colleagues have gathered in Melbourne this past weekend? Chained to my desk. Sigh.
Actually, while I’ve missed my annual chance to catch up with wonderful writing friends, I have to say I’ve had a productive few days at the computer. And I’ve learned something about my writing process.
You know… sometimes I can get up early and have a thousand words under my belt before breakfast. Other days I can sit at the computer for eight hours and still only squeeze out a thousand words before tea time. I’ve wondered why I have these differences in output. Is it something I’ve eaten or drunk that’s made the difference? Is it my level of tiredness? Are there problems with the story?
It could be any or all of these things, I guess, but I think the main thing is that some days I don’t really give my imagination a chance.
My best writing days come when I lie in bed and picture the next scene in the book. I see it like a movie in my head. I compose complete sentences and hear lines of dialogue, and this goes on until I reach the point where I practically leap out of bed and run to the computer.
It’s when I don’t have this imaginative playtime first that I run into trouble. Sometimes lying down after lunch will help me to visualise the next section of the book.
In a way I already knew this, but now I think I understand it more fully and I know that if the story’s not happening, it could very well because I haven’t had the privacy to dream. Sometimes there’s nothing I can do about that. But now I understand it better, I might find ways to get around the problem.
And by the way, I’ve discovered a new author and I’m currently glomming her books. I like Jane Green because of the depth of her characterization. By the time I get to the end of her books, I really feel I know the main characters as if they were part of my family. And she writes a lot about living in the country and gardening and cooking and all the things I love.
Check her out!

Monday, August 18, 2008

My life in the country update...

How is our life in the country progressing???

You know… I thought I was going to be such a good blogger, telling you all about our new lifestyle, but sadly, I still have deadlines…

And when I’m not writing, there are all kinds of fun things to do outside. And of course there has been the added distraction of the Olympics, so I’ve been spending very little time on the Internet. But I don’t want to lose touch with everyone, so I promise to be a better blogger.

Currently, I’m working on the first of two books in a duo (my duo) and that’s always fun. I love creating a world and peopling it with characters whose stories will last beyond 50,000 words. And when I’m not writing, we’ve been off to the farmer’s markets to buy all sorts of fresh produce, and we’ve been visiting friends, or gardening. Yesterday we made a herb garden just outside the kitchen with mint and parsley (Italian and ordinary), coriander, basil, rosemary, chives, garlic chives, Lebanese cress. Are you bored yet? Oh and there are petite marigolds and alyssum, which are supposed to keep insects at bay.

Elliot has made a tripod to support one of our cherry tomato bushes and of course I would like tripods for all of them.

As I type, a big truck is toiling up the hill to the house to deliver top soil, so we can top-dress the pad on the southern side of the house.

So life is quite different already from living in our Townsville apartment. I love hanging the washing outside and taking in the gorgeous view while I’m pegging clothes. I love waking up to that gorgeous view each morning and seeing a sky that is different every day. I love coming across a flock of guinea fowl wandering up our driveway, and I really love having a wood fire stove in the house. Who would have thought we’d need a fire in Far North Queensland?

I also love being able to fill a vase with flowers from trees that we’ve planted. Let me assure you, I’m not yet in danger of turning into a zombie. (One of my city friends is certain that’s what will happen to me if I spend too long up here). Perhaps I should have some built-in checks. This blog could be one of them. If I only ever talk about gardening and wildlife, I guess we’ll all know I’m in trouble.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

cover mix up...

I wonder if someone in Sydney's Harlequin office has had a moment (quite a few moments) of confusion.

Check out the pictures and the titles for the September books. Do you reckon any author get the right picture?
Am imagining all kinds of scenarios that caused this mix up. But all the books are sure to be fabulous reads!!!!

Saturday, August 09, 2008

My trip away continued...

Above is a pic of Barbara MacMahon and me with a view of the Yosemite valley behind us. You can see how hazy with smoke the view was, but also how stunning the landscape is. (You can also see that my hair needs a good wash!!)

We did lots of walks on the valley floor and saw beautiful waterfalls. I loved the huge, towering granite cliffs and the Ponderosa pines. And I was amazed to think I was at 7,200 feet. The top of our highest mountain in Oz is nowhere near that height.

Barbara and I walked to Mirror Lake while (sprightly young) Jessica Hart climbed higher on the Misty Trail. I found the altitude prevented me from too much climbing. We also went up to the Mariposa Grove and saw the fabulous sequoia trees -- the giant redwoods (biggest in the world) for which California is famous. Found myself humming that old song... 'This land is your land, this land is my land, from California to the New York Island, from the redwood forests to the Gulf Stream waters..." I think it was by the Kingston Trio -- one of the first records my parents ever bought...

OK... then there was the conference. And I guess, for us, the big thing was our workshop, although I went to a few fabulous workshops by others... Susan Elizabeth Phillips was an auto-hear. Meredith Bernstein gave a fabulous take on her perspective as an agent. And I loved Susan Mallery's Arc of the Trilogy.

In our workshop... we talked about the need to have emotion in our books to give them global appeal... To connect with women from many different cultures and backgrounds, we have to find those things we have in common, those things we all care about... families, health, jobs... we made a long list...

I talked about the main ingredients of emotional tension and emotional situations. Barbara M talked about the kinds of characters we need to connect with readers' emotions and Jessica outlined her methods for plotting. Then we divided our delegates into groups.

On the power point screen (yes, we used power point, which Jessica set up v effectively) we gave them these opening words.

Max opened the office door and stopped. And stared. "Tess, what the hell is a baby doing here?'

Each group then decided what this story was. (Surprise, surprise, they all decided that Max was a boss and Tess was his secretary! I couldn't persuade anyone that Max was an Outback cattleman. :)

The groups had to describe the hero and heroine, decide what would bring them together and what (internal issues) were going to keep them apart. And... where was the emotion?

The groups then pitched their ideas to editor Lucy Gilmour, who gave them very incisive and helpful feedback on whether these ideas would work for a Harlequin Romance.

We finished up with an extensive list of dos and don'ts for writing emotion.

From the feedback we've had it was very well received, which is gratifying.

In between workshops, I did as much sightseeing (oh, yes, and socialising) as I could. I saw all the main landmarks of San Fran that I wanted to see -- Chinatown, Fisherman's Wharf, the Golden Gate Bridge, Nob Hill...

Below is a shot with Oz mates, Hq medical author Fiona MacArthur and Sil Desire author, Bronwyn Jameson.

Finally there was the RITA ceremony. As my roomie, Kelly Hunter, was a RITA finalist, this was a BIG DEAL. I happily threw a little soiree in our room for Kelly before the event. She looked utterly gorgeous and glamorous in sleek black and we trekked down to the auditorium -- had our photo taken before the stage... and sat with baited breath.

Above, moi with Kelly Hunter, Trish Morey (who was representing finalist Anne Gracie) and Bronwyn Jameson.
Unfortunately none of our friends came home with a golden lady, but what champions they all were to have nominations in such tough categories!
I won't bore you with the tedious details of my lo-o-o-ong journey home. Suffice it to say, I'm very glad I went. And what was the best thing about the trip? Friends.

Friday, August 08, 2008

I'm ba-a-ack!

Actually, I’ve been back for a few days, but between jet lag and a mountain of dirty clothes and the minor matter of a deadline, I’ve been too busy to blog.

Since I was last here, I’ve had visitors, and we took them all over the Tablelands and west to Chillagoe. On one of our rambles we came across this gorgeous Outback river, which I just had to share as I put a river or creek in nearly every one of my Outback books. This is the kind of scene I usually have in my mind…

Then I was packing my bags for San Francisco and while I was away, Lilly turned two.

On the way to SF, I over-nighted in Tokyo, but instead of exploring, I holed up in my hotel room and wrote. This might sound weird, but the muse struck, you see, and she mustn’t be disobeyed. In fact I ended up writing ten pages long hand that day and I was thrilled! Then I hopped on an overnight plane to San Francisco and over the course of the next nine hours, I time travelled back to eleven o’clock the previous morning.

At the San Francisco Marriot, I was greeted by a beaming Afro-American who said with a huge grin, ‘We have a surprise for you!’

It turned out to be a message from Jessica Hart to meet her for dinner that evening. After crawling into my bed for a wee nap, we met. (Of course Jessica didn’t recognise me because my website photo was taken ten years ago) And we headed off for dinner in Chinatown and talked non-stop, as you can imagine.

The next morning, my hotel lost power. Yes! In the middle of a modern, sophisticated city like San Francisco and I had to carry all my luggage down fifteen storeys!! Luckily a lovely Japanese girl helped me by taking my overnight bag, but my wrist was shaky for the next twenty-four hours!

Jessica and I travelled by train to meet Barbara McMahon, who then drove us to Yosemite. Barbara lives in the Sierra Nevada and knows Yosemite well, so she was a wonderful tour guide.

The disappointing thing was that the entire area was ringed by bushfires. Actually, Barbara M was more disappointed than we were, because she knows how beautiful the valley and mountains look without the obscuring smoke haze. Honestly, it didn’t stop us from being overawed by the sheer beauty and grandeur of Yosemite.

Our Yosemite View motel motel had no power. Do you detect a pattern here? The authorities, we discovered later, had turned off the power some distance away in case lines burned and fell on fire-fighters.

Cold showers, cold food and candlelight became the pattern for the next couple of nights, but we were having such fun getting to know each other and exploring the beauty of Yosemite that we really didn’t mind.

But for the third night we left Yosemite and found a motel with electricity and hot showers. Bliss to wash my hair again!!! That night we stayed up past midnight rehashing and planning our workshop for the conference and on the drive back to SF next day, we “practised” the group work in the car. Believe me, the extra preparation paid off! (See how professional we were??)

I’m having trouble with blogger today. It won't let me move photos around, so I'll post more photos and tell you you more about the rest of the conference tomorrow.