Thursday, March 27, 2008

Rita nominations

What an exciting week it's been hearing about friends who've received Rita nominations this year. I've written before about how much I love Kelly Hunter and Anne Gracie books. Both these fabulous Australian writers have scored Rita nominations and believe me, these gongs are so well deserved!
Kelly's was for Best short contemporary with her fabulous book set in Penang, Sleeping Partner, and Anne's is for Best Historical novel for The Perfect Kiss, the final book in her fabulous "perfect" series.

Another very clever Aussie writing friend, (who served me a delicious lunch on the Sunshine Coast at New year) and who's made a huge splash in the romance world in the past twelve months is Anna Campbell, who has two books that are Rita finalists -- Claiming the Courtesan, and Untouched. Wow! Can her feet still be on the ground?

Oh, and I was particularly pleased to see a Young Adult book that I really loved when I was judging my pack of Rita books is also a finalist. Am keeping my fingers crossed that it wins!!!

Much more modest excitement arrived for me yesterday in the form of two new books. Well, one (Princess in the Outback) is actually an old story that's being reprinted. Will tell you more about that when I can show you the cover.
Also received hardbacks of Adopted: Outback Baby, my July Romance release. I tried to scan the cover, but my elderly computer is no longer up to the task.

Oh, and I noticed on amazon that I have a book out in Mills and Boon Polish. Apparently, there are so many Poles living in England now that M&B are selling Polish books in English bookstores. I have no idea which book it is.

Here's what the German edition of In The Heart of the Outback looks like, newly titled You Have Inflamed My Heart.

Meantime, I'm plodding on with the Mother's Day secret baby novella. A secret baby plot always involves a lot of back story, and the trick is working out how much about the past to tell and when. My aim is always to give readers enough information to make them care about the characters and want to read on, but to raise questions in the readers' minds, which will also, hopefully, keep them reading the pages.

So this week has involved a lot of writing and then dumping. I keep a dump folder for bits I've written, that I then discard, but don't want to lose, because they might come in handy later. It's rather sad watching my word count go up and then down again. But I think it's been worth it. I feel as if the juggling and pruning is paying off and my story is starting to show through the mist.

Always so much to do. I met two interesting people recently whom I want to interview to help me with background for two different story ideas.

But I must be disciplined and not get too distracted from this book. There's nothing more alluring than a wonderful new idea, when you're stuck in the middle of the WIP.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Breakfast with David Attenborough

I hope you had a Happy Easter!
Yesterday morning, Easter Monday, Elliot and I decided to go out for breakfast. Where we live in the city, we're lucky enough to take a short stroll over a bridge and through a park to find any number of restaurants (although, on Easter Monday in Townsville, not many of them were open!)
Anyway, we went the long way, so that we worked up one or two credit points before we dined out. For me a walk through the park, by the river is just that -- a pleasant little bit of exercise. I enjoy the autumn sunshine, I invariably start thinking about the characters in my current work in progress.
For Elliot, walking in the park is a very different kettle of fish. To start with, fish are on his mind literally! He cannot observe at a body of water without looking for fish. But yesterday his observations were rewarded by the discovery of a baby plover swimming.
When he pointed it out, the screeches of adult plovers all about me registered. Until that moment, they'd merely been background bird noises.
Clearly, at least three adult plovers were very agitated that one their young had forgotten it wasn't a water bird. We watched this tiny little thing valiantly swim to shore (which took some time) but then it had the Titanic task of climbing the steep concrete bank. I was sure it would be exhausted before it reached the top.
The bird was tiny, the bank so steep -- and it had already had a long exhausting swim. Baby plovers, however, are plucky. (I hope that's not an unfortunate adjective to apply to a bird.)
Anyway, it reached the top, but then -- as happens to so many mountain climbers, there was a final, sheer vertical lip that was impossible for it to scale.
This was where Elliot stepped in. Holding my handbag over his (bald) head to protect himself from avenging plover parents (he had memories of being attacked by the spur wings on plovers in his boyhood) he boldly went forward, and rescued not one, but two baby plovers crouched helplessly on the river side of the concrete lip.
One ran off immediately (plovers nest -- rather dangerously -- in grass), but the other, presumably the swimmer, crouched, clearly needing recovery time. We went on to breakfast.
Returning through the park after our leisurely breakfast, Elliot pointed out mother lorrikeets feeding their young in an overhead tree -- another sight I would never have noticed on my own.
The plover family had vanished, so we can only hope they are well and happy.
But I would have been completely oblivious about this huge drama if I'd walked on my own. It's rather nice to have my personal "David Attenborough."

Friday, March 21, 2008

If you are in Sydney...

and if you like the Outback... you might like to check out a wonderful collection of photographs at the Bondi Pavilion Gallery. (Queen Elizabeth Drive, Bondi Beach, Sydney, NSW -- open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day)

It's called OUTBACK BY THE SEA and it is a collection of 24 years' worth of photographs of Australia's largest cattle stations taken by fabulous North Queensland photographer Fiona Lake. It's on display till March 30th.

I can guarantee that the photos are terrific, as I have Fiona's wonderful book A Million Acre Masterpiece, which I keep by my desk and use as a constant source of inspiration for my outback books.

I'm only sorry I can't be there to see the exhibition. Fiona's love of the Outback and the life on cattle stations shines through her work. So if you have the chance, treat yourself to a uniquely Australian experience. Oh, and Fiona will be in attendance, so say g'day from me.

Competition result...

I hope you are enjoying a peaceful and pleasant Easter weekend. I have just made a terrible discovery -- I forgot to draw a winner for The Bridesmaid's Best Man last month. I must admit, I've got rather out of the way of running competitions in recent years, but thank you to everyone who entered this one for my 25th book, either via this blog or by email from my website.

Ta da!!!!!

I'm very pleased to announce that the winner is Eleni of South Australia.

Congratulations, Eleni. A copy of Bridesmaid will be on its way to you shortly.

I've had word from my editor that she will be sending revisions for my latest submission next week -- something to look forward to over Easter. :-) So, in the meantime, I'm trying to get as much of the Mother's Day novella under my belt as I can. I don't like losing momentum on one story, while I stop to work on another. But I know other writers thrive on interruptions.
One thing is certain. After reader feedback from Bridesmaid (mostly very positive), I will definitely be adding an epilogue to this next book. Readers love their happy endings and I must make sure I don't cut this one too short.

And I can promise you that the next two books in 2008 -- Adopted :Outback Baby and Blind Date with the Boss -- both have epilogues!!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

A short break

We're heading to Tarzali for a couple of days. Hope to be back before the Easter rush. Think of us intrepidly crossing flooded rivers ( it's hardly stopped raining in North Queensland since December), or noting the growth of trees we've planted, bemoaning the weeds, starting up the brush-cutter...

Oh, and I'll still be trying to maintain my daily word count. I'm writing a mother's day novella at the moment, while my editor reads my latest submission. Two very different settings -- variety keeps me inspired -- although I understand that readers love a writer who gives them the same kind of story over and over.

But I can't resist setting this new story on a tropical island. Here I am, surrounded by islands other people can only dream about. It's only fair I put one or two into books, isn't it?

Saturday, March 15, 2008

What we can learn from the movies...

One of the things I love about living in the city is the access to movies, concerts and theatre. I've mentioned before that I belong to a cinema group. This week, we watched the powerful Australian movie September. A very restrained and moving account of a friendship between a white boy and an Aboriginal boy in Western Australia in 1968.

The theatre was packed an this was the main attraction. A lot of people didn't stay for the second movie, but boy, they missed a treat. This time we watched The Lives of Others, a German film that won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film last year.
It is set in East Germany in 1984 (the likeness of Orwell's novel 1984 is quite scary) and it's about a Stasi agent, Wiesler, who must to spy on a playwright (Dreyman) and his actress girlfriend, because the playwright is suspected of seditious intent.

I have to say, I've found a new actor to swoon over in Sebastian Koch, who played Dreyman. I've since watched him in the Dutch movie Black Book and he was dreamy in that, too.

But what I found totally compelling about The Lives of Others was the change that occurred Wiesler as he listens in to every aspect of the playwright's life.

As Anthony Lane says in his article in The New Yorker...

'See him crouched in a loft above Dreyman’s home with a typewriter, a tape deck, and headphones clamped to his skull. Watch the nothingness on his face as he taps out his report on the couple’s actions: “Presumably have intercourse.” '

Slowly, the tables turn. Wiesler listens to a conversation between Dreymann and a director he reveres. He is privy to Dreyman's grief when this director commits suicide. He listens to Dreyman play the piano -- A Sonata for A Good Man and tears stream down his face. Eventually, he steals Dreyman’s copy of Brecht and takes it home to read; he starts to omit details in his official account; and, for some fathomless reason—guilt, curiosity, longing—he lets the lives of others run their course.

It's the step by step transformation of his personality that fascinated me. Wiesler changes from a machine, faithful to the party, to a human with a conscience, facing new moral dilemmas he wouldn't have formerly considered.

I know I write 50,000 romance novels that must steer a fairly tight course, but I found so much to learn about character growth in this movie. I hope some of it translates into my books somewhere.... sometime...

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


I have dreadful feet. Actually I have all kinds on inherited problems from the knees down. But at least my feet and legs still work… for which I’m extremely grateful… because I think walking is one of life’s greatest pleasures.

When my first child was a baby, I used to go for long walks every afternoon, pushing her in the pram. At the time, I did it because I’d read in baby books that it’s very stimulating for babies to be out and about, exposed to new sights and sounds and smells. I was so into being a great mum I didn’t think about the benefits for me. Back then, young mothers weren’t jogging with prams to keep fit the way they do now. I’m sure if exercise had been trendier then, I would have been into that, too – pushing the pram up Castle Hill, no doubt.

These days, I do go for walks for exercise. Writing is such a sedentary job, I need to make an extra effort to get moving each day. But although I groan as I roll out of bed each morning, once I get going, I know that walking is about so much more than boring exercise.

I can listen to audio books – my new favourite indulgence, or I can people watch along The Strand. I can dream about my work in progress and I can drink in the beauty of Cleveland Bay and Magnetic Island just off shore.

Best of all, I can just let my mind wander… it’s amazing the thoughts that pop in when I’m least expecting it. Countless story ideas have evolved from these walks.

So no more complaining from me that there are only two pairs of shoes in the whole of Townsville that fit me.

As my dad used to say: “I had no shoes and I complained until I met a man who had no feet.”