Thursday, February 28, 2008


Let me tell you quickly about Juno. I say quickly because I have a young Japanese fellow staying here at the moment and sleeping in my study and I think he’ll be back from a trip to Magnetic Island very soon.

I saw Juno 2 nights ago. I had already heard my friends raving about it and I watched the young script writer, Diablo Cody (pictured) get her Oscar on Monday night and I decided I just had to see this film. You’ve probably all seen it already, haven’t you?

No? Do yourself a favour. It’s a movie any romance fan will love. And I’ll tell you why – because it does exactly what we all try to do and does it so well. It takes a familiar theme – unplanned pregnancy – and deals with it in a totally fresh and innovative way. Isn’t that what editors are always asking for – the same only different?

In this the pregnant mother is sixteen. The prospective father is a high school basketball/running track, guitar playing, slightly dorky but sweet guy.

The dialogue is hip and contemporary and sparkly. The plot turns unpredictable. The ending awww….

What more could you ask for?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

A story about translations and serendipity …

Last week I spoke at the handover dinner of a women’s service club and at the end there was the usual question time. During that discussion, I told the audience about my cupboards full of translations of my books. ‘If you know anyone who reads a different language and who might be interested, let me know,’ I told them. ‘I’d be very happy to give them away.’

A woman held up her hand. 'Do you have any in Indonesian?’

Now, Indonesian is my most recently acquired “new language”, bringing the total number of languages my books are sold in to 23. I had copies of A Wedding at Windaroo – not only that, but the Indonesian copies came with lovely bookmarks to match the books’ covers.

And so… my books are now in a classroom at the Townsville Grammar School… but here’s the emotional punch to this story. The school’s young Indonesian teacher died this year, the day before school resumed after the summer break. Her Grade 12 class, who have had her as their teacher since Gr 8, are in shock. They’re, naturally, terribly upset, worried about their final year at school without her – and ambivalent about the subject. And, the unit they’re studying this term is all about romance and relationships.

So here’s hoping the Indonesian version of Piper and Gabe’s story fills a useful, perhaps even a healing role for these students this year.

Random thoughts for unpublished writers…

I have often wondered why some aspiring writers give up very early – often after the first setback, while others plug on for years and years and finally are published. One of my friends, a very successful author now, was unpublished for something like twenty years, another tried for eleven years before she got The Call, another for twelve.

And yet, I also know a very talented woman who gave up after her first rejection. And lots of others who've never actually submitted a manuscript.

Thomas Edison said: "Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up." ~

What is the secret? What determines success versus failure? I think, primarily, it’s a matter of self belief. If deep down you can believe you are a writer, you will plug on no matter how many rejections come your way.

Perhaps the writers who gave up had memories of past failures that held them back. Most people operate out of personal history, but when you’re aiming for an important goal like publication, you have to operate out of imagination rather than memory.

I remember being astonished that I actually knew deep down that I could write these books. I’d never had that kind of self-confidence about anything else. I had no idea where this certainty came from, but I could imagine becoming an author and seeing my stories on the shelves in shops. That belief, that vision was, without a doubt, the one thing that kept me going when I got rejections (and yes, I had four rejections) or bad feedback from competitions I’d entered. (I had my share of bad scores, too) I had my husband’s support, which was wonderful, but if I hadn’t also believed in myself, I wouldn’t have kept going.

Henry Ford said: Whether you think you can or whether you think you can't, you're right.

On this subject of self belief, let me give you an example from the Olympic Games.

Until 1954, it was believed that humans couldn’t run a mile in under four minutes. Doctors, athletes, coaches… everyone… believed it was physically impossible. And then on May 6th in 1954, an English athlete called Roger Bannister ran the mile in 3 minutes 59.4 seconds.

Since then, 20,000 people have run the mile in under four minutes – even schoolboys. What has changed? People’s thinking has changed. Not their bodies. Their thinking. They now believed it was possible.

OK… back to those aspiring authors who gave up. Another possible problem for these writers is that they have spent too much time comparing their progress with the progress of others. It must be very discouraging to see other people being published when you’re still getting rejections. It can be discouraging for published authors to see their friends winning awards or making bestseller lists.

But the thing is, the going isn’t quite so tough, if you keep your focus on your personal goal. You have to accept that each of us has a different path and keep your focus on your stories, your characters and your love of writing.

Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goals.

OK, that’s my sermon for today. I’m actually on deadline, so I’d better slink back into my cave.

Just remember, you've got to believe in yourself and that means not paying too much attention to what's happening to everyone else. Now go for it!!!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

I have a thing about birds...

I didn't realise how much I love birds until I looked around at all the art work in my house and saw how much of it was.... birds... in all shapes and sizes, colours, textures. And then I saw this photo this morning and I had to share. Isn't it just gorgeous? I loved it more than the cuddly polar bears etc.
Maybe that's why I married a guy who looks a bit like Big Bird?
OK... I'm ducking:-)
Back to my deadline.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

New Mills and Boon Collection

Erin and Luke, who starred in my RITA winning book Claiming His Family, are in the spotlight again. This time their story has been renamed Their Outback Marriage and it is the launch book for a brand new series -- a special Mills and Boon Collection being produced in conjunction with Eaglemoss publications.

Don't you just love that cover? That scene of Erin and Luke in the rain is my favourite scene in the book.

Each edition in the series brings readers a hardcover book (sequentially from the Romantic, Sexy, Medical, Intriguing and Historical lines) as well as a magazine with a short story (My story Chance Encounter is in there), as well as interviews, discussion of the main scenes in the book, and other stories of interest to romance readers, as well as a small gift. Floating rose scented candles come with the first edition.

So, wow! This is all a tad exciting. I think I'd love this collection for myself. I remember when I was v young, I used to subscribe to Princess magazine, which came all the way from England. I would go each month (week? fortnight?) to the newsagency to collect my new copy. It was full of comic book stories -- Sally the Circus Ballerina and The Diary of Sue Day are the two I remember. And there'd be gifts -- like a plastic headband with daisies, or a pop-together necklace.
Looking back, I'm sure this was the primary school equivalent of being an M&B fan. :)

This month the new M&B collection is being trialled in five locations in Britain and hopefully that will be successful and it will be launched nationally in the northern hemisphere's autumn. I believe the plan is to also bring the series overseas in the future. So fingers crossed ...

Friday, February 15, 2008

You wouldn't believe the rain we're having here in NQ. My editor rang from London last night and I was busy being professional, but when I told her about the rain, I don't think she really "got" it. Later, I wished I'd opened the door and held the phone outside so she hear the racket of the rain thundering down.
Anyway... it's actually much more serious than the photo up the top suggests. People all over the state are being forced to evacuate. It's reminding me of the 1974 floods. That was the summer of Cyclone Tracy in Darwin and the Brisbane floods. I remember lending all my baby equipment to a mother and baby evacuated from Darwin to Townsville. And my mum in Brisbane took in masses of washing for flood victims.
And to think, a few months ago, we were in the grip of drought. Dorothea McKellar certainly got it right...

I love a sunburnt country
A land of sweeping plains
Of rugged mountain ranges
Of drought and flooding rains

OK, enough about the weather. Here are the answers to yesterday's quiz. How did you go?

  1. Henry James
  2. Ernest Hemingway
  3. Tracy Sinclair
  4. D.H. Lawrence
  5. Lorna Read
  6. Anne Mather
  7. John Folwes
  8. Anne Weal

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Classics versus romance

I thought I'd share with you a quiz that I took along to the library talk the other day. It was originally passed on by Presents author, Kate Walker.

I know passages of Mills and Boons are often read out of context. One of my friends has confessed that she used to go to dinner parties where part of the evening's entertainment was to read some of the more passionate passages from an M&B to accompaniment of hilarious laughter.

I've had excerpts printed in the paper that were a tad embarrassing.

However, I think this quiz illustrates rather well how any passage of writing taken out of context can be misleading. It also shows that romantic passages in all kinds of literature are a challenge to write. And, well, I'd be interested to hear what else you think it shows...

Here's the quiz. You're welcome to have a go at guessing the answers.


1. He glared at her a moment through the dusk, and the next instant she felt his arms about her and his lips on her own lips. His kiss was like white lightning, a flash that spread and spread again, and stayed.

2. He felt her trembling as he kissed her and he held the length of her body tight to him and felt her breasts against his chest through the two khaki shirts, he felt them small and firm and he reached and undid the buttons on her shirt and bent and kissed her and she stood shivering, holding her head back, his arm behind her.

3. K's mouth sought A's this time, with passion and urgency. To her amazement, her inhibitions had been burned away in the hot flame of desire. Her fingers dug into the bunched muscles of his back, raked through his hair. She fumbled with the buttons on his shirt, frantic with the need to touch him, to feel his body against hers without any barrier.

4. And as she melted small and wonderful in his arms, she became infinitely desirable to him, all his blood-vessels seemed to scald with intense yet tender desire for her, for her softness, for the penetrating beauty of her in his arms, passing into his blood. Softly, with that marvellous swoon-like caress of his hand in pure soft desire, softly he stroked the silky slope of her loins, down between her soft warm buttocks, coming nearer and nearer to the very quick of her. And she felt him like the flame of desire, yet tender, and she felt herself melting in the flame.

5. He was pure energy, fire to her water. His love consumed her, seared her, cauterised all her past wounds and set her free. She was a bird now, rising to some dizzying peak, and she could feel but not see.

6. His chest crushed her breasts, his flanks tangled with hers in the rough bed of straw. She could feel the heat of his skin penetrating his clothes and hers, and the strong masculine scent of him in her nose and her mouth, male and intoxicating. She thought afterwards that he had intended to pull away from her. There was a world of difference between a kiss, given and received between two totally upright adults, and this totally intimate embrace.

7. How long they looked into each other's eyes, he did not know. It seemed an eternity, though in reality it was no more that three or four seconds. Their hands acted first. By some mysterious communion the fingers interlaced. Then C fell upon one knee and strained her passionately to him. Their mouths met with a violence that shocked them both; made her avert her lips. He covered her cheeks, her eyes, with kisses. His hand at last touched her hair, caressed it, felt the small head through its softness, as the thin-clad body was felt against his arms and breast. Suddenly he buried his face in her neck. We must not . . .we must not . . .this is madness.

8. She saw his head bend to hers, knew he was going to kiss her, and found herself powerless to stop him . . .unwilling to stop him. Even before his lips pressed gently on hers, she had closed her eyes in mute submission. His first kiss was like the match flame that ignites the swift conflagration of a bonfire sprinkled with petrol. For a few seconds only his mouth moved lightly on hers letting her keep her lips closed, but making them quiver with the shock of an almost forgotten sensation. Then, abruptly, the arm around her tightened, and she felt the fierce heat of desire blaze up, not only in him but also in her.
She tore her mouth free. 'No. . .no. . .'

Your choices are:

John Fowles - French Lieutenant's Woman

D.H. Lawrence - Lady Chatterly's Lover

Tracy Sinclair - Proof Positive (Silhouette 1989)

Ernest Hemingway - For Whom the Bell Tolls

Anne Mather - Duelling Fire (M&B 1981)

Anne Weale - Passage to Paxos (M&B 1981)

Henry James - Portrait of a Lady

Lorna Read - Love's Pursuit (Sapphire 1982)

I'll post the answers later.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Valentine's Eve...

As I mentioned earlier, Nicola Marsh has been running a fabulous Valentine’s promo on her blog with different author guests every day. It’s my turn to be there today, answering questions and giving away a book, along with RNA prize winner, Kate Hardy.

This month there’s also plenty happening at the Harlequin Romance author’s blog – an interview with Nicola, a special Valentine’s Day post from Irish author Trish Wylie and an in depth report on the special Mills and Boon Centenary party in London by Fiona Harper. I’ve already seen some of the photos of this party – fab to see all the authors in their bling. As for semi clad waiters… definitely something to check out.

I’m doing my own Valentine’s Day stint today at my local library today. I’ll be talking about romance writing, giving away books and generally having fun chatting with readers.

And in Australia it’s Sorry Day. Our Prime Minister will be formally saying sorry to the Aborigines for the way they have been treated by white people – most specifically for the stolen generation. Young Aboriginal children, mostly half-castes, were taken from their parents “for their own good” and brought up in white families or in institutions.

I'm very glad that our PM is finally saying sorry, even though it's 41 years too late.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The joy of distractions...

With our daughter still home on university vacation we were put under great pressure last night and gave in. We watched Grey’s Anatomy. Actually, I’d been intending to watch it for ages. After all, it’s the most watched television show and as a creator of popular fiction I should keep abreast of trends etc.

Then again, there are often really great shows on the ABC on Sunday night and I have to say that after only one viewing, the jury on Grey's A is still out in this household. Sure Dr. McDreamy is very dreamy. And I love the Japanese doctor. I know it only takes three consecutive viewings of a soapie to get hooked, so I may succumb yet. Will see.

Meanwhile, the fourth book in Susan Wiggs’s Lakeshore Chronicles arrived today and I can’t wait to read Snowfall at Willow Lake. Susan W writes the most wonderfully warm and real, funny and moving single title books -- very close in tone to the Romance line, but with the greater character detail and plot complications that you would expect from a much bigger book. I learn so much from reading her work and like most writers, I crave inspiration.

Problem is, I can't really start reading now as I have a very scary deadline looming fast and I’ve been terribly distracted over the summer.

So it’s head down now and Sophie and Noah’s story may have to wait. Sigh…

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Urban drama...

OK… I’ve said that this blog is about a writer’s life in the city and the country, but I haven’t actually recorded much detail of my time in the city. I guess that’s because I spend most of my time chained to my desk or hanging out with family.

But yesterday I experienced some urban drama…

I live in the heart of Townsville, which is a growing city, getting busier and more beautiful every day. I have a coffee shop (great takeaway cappuccinos) across the road and a supermarket three hundred metres up the street. In the style of many inner city dwellers, I shop almost every day, just taking one bag and getting what I need in small batches. Apart from my early morning walk, it’s about the only exercise I get – a pleasant enough diversion.

Yesterday afternoon, we were planning for a family barbecue on the rooftop of our apartment block. Elliot had been out to buy beautiful fish and seafood to barbecue and it was my job to get the salad ingredients, plus grapes and chocolate for dessert.

Mission accomplished, I was walking back down the street, my mind in another country (thinking about my WIP). I was aware of a shadow behind me and I assumed the person would pass me, but no…

Without warning, my purse was snatched from my hand.

I confess, I screamed. Passers-by in the peak hour traffic saw what happened. I knew I didn’t have a hope of catching the tall, young male who was racing away in the opposite direction with my purse. And, of course, I thought immediately of all those cards I would have to replace – license, Visa Card, Medicare etc. Not the $50, which was what he wanted.

But those thoughts came and went in a flash. Two young men from Coles were already racing after the robber. A man told me that his wife’s handbag had been stolen by the same fellow an hour earlier. People jumped out of cars to offer witness statements. And two young police officers arrived (one male and one female.)

Long story short, I was very lucky. The guy was caught, I got my purse back. I thanked the young men from Coles who chased him. I gave the police the information they wanted and thanked them. The young man was arrested and driven away in a paddy wagon.

So then afterwards... I was left with a few things to think about. First, it was pointed out very gently by well meaning bystanders that I was partly to blame because I'd been holding my purse so casually in my hand, rather than tucking it away in my shopping bag. So yeah, a measure of guilt set in. And from there, it wasn’t such a great leap of the imagination to understand how other victims can be made to feel guilty, almost as if they invited the crime committed against them – especially women who are raped.

But I felt a degree of compassion for the perpetrator, too. I wondered about the young man. What had driven him to such a desperate act in broad daylight and in peak hour traffic? Two hundred years ago, our ancestors were sent to this country for something as trifling as stealing a loaf of bread.

I know what he did was wrong. Very wrong. And he might be a hardened criminal. And I know justice must be seen to be done…

But I felt sick watching that paddy wagon drive away.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Another Celebration!

Congratulations to Kate Hardy who has won the U.K. Romance Novelists Association's annual Romance Prize. Kate, who also writes wonderful Medical Romances, won this prize for her Modern Heat novel, Breakfast at Giovanni's. Isn't that a cool title?
If I understand correctly, Kate received the award at a slap up lunch in London yesterday and she will now be able to proudly display the Betty Neels Rosebowl on her mantlepiece for a year.
And how lovely for Kate to be winning this highly prized award during Mills and Boon's centenary year. There's another fancy cocktail party in London this month to celebrate the centenary. And of course Mills and Boon books are garnering more than usual attention from the British Press -- some good, some not so great -- and much of it filtering through to the Australian press.
As you can guess some of the email loops are also jumping and buzzing as people express their reactions to some of the less complimentary remarks directed at M&B.

I have always suspected that the reason M&B has earned its questionable reputation is because it's rather like Hollywood -- commercially successful and so very well known.
Ergo... everyone feels entitled to leap to assumptions.
I've been guilty of remarking at times that a film was "too Hollywood" (meaning too formulaic), or had a "typically Hollywood ending" (too over the top warm and fuzzy).
I love all kinds of movies from Art House foreign films to B grade movies
made in Hollywood. And I must confess that I make such generalised comments
even though I know that many Hollywood movies are unique and restrained and
groundbreaking and beautiful.
When an art form is deliberately commercial (everyone knows the pressure of
the box office) and the products are deliberately packaged as being all the
same (who can tell one M&B from another by the cover?) and the product is
portrayed as being mostly about sex, the general public (and the press) are bound to make
I think we just have to live with this. I'd love to see different titles and
different covers on our books, but I wouldn't like it if the sales dropped
off and I can only presume that the marketing people know what they're doing
when they package M&B the way they do.
What do you think?

Sunday, February 03, 2008

My 25th Book!!!

I guess it's a measure of how distracted by life and family I've been that I haven't mentioned my cause for celebration. The Bridesmaid's Best Man, which was on sale on the UK and North America last month and is on sale in Australia and New Zealand this month, is my 25th book!!!!

Last year when I was in Sydney, London editor Sheila Hodgson presented me with a lovely pin to acknowledge this and now, belatedly, I'm planning a competition to celebrate.

You can either post here that you'd like to enter, or if that's a bit daunting, you can send me an email to barb n elliot @ (no spaces). Put BRIDESMAID in the subject and you can be in the draw to win a signed copy of this latest release or another book from my backlist (Because you've already rushed out and bought Bridesmaid, haven't you?)

I've had some nice feedback about Sophie and Mark's story. I hope you enjoy it, too.

P.S. I hope placing this address like that won't bring me endless spam. If I notice a problem, I'm afraid I'll have to think of something else. I'm totally inundated with spam from my website's email address and I'm sure I've missed some mail from readers. Sorry if you were one of them.