Sunday, May 31, 2009

Thank heavens for boys' toys...

I happened to mention to E at breakfast on Friday that I was taking a photo of the table to record its progress for my blog...
A little later, I was working in my study and I heard his sanding machine whining away. By lunch time, the entire table was in pieces and all the paint was stripped and the wood sanded, and it was getting a coat of clear finish. It will go through a few versions of this before it's done, but the task is out of my hands and I'm not complaining.
Bless him.
We took a trip down to Cairns on Saturday (very twisty drive down the Kuranda Range) and we found a set of early Victorian shelves in a secondhand shop, to put on the wall above the table. Lovely!!!!!!
So now I have no excuse but to get on and write.
Head down today...
But I'm cooking a spinach and pea risotto for dinner tonight, served with grilled prosciutto. Can't wait.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

the table...

OK, here it is in all its inglorious state (in front of garage). Unfortunately, the grey and liver coloured linoleum has already gone to the dump.

You can see the section E has scraped away. We're taking it all back to bare wood.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

a sow's ear...

It was so cool to hear about your weather and gardens in different parts of the world. I'm afraid the great weather I boasted about has retreated and we're back to mizzle -- misty drizzle. But for me that equals good writing weather.
In the back of my mind, however, I'm also tussling with decorating issues.
Our house here is really quite modest. It started out as a shed and we've been slowly extending and changing it and it's been rather fun and quite a creative exercise. Currently, I want to get the kitchen better organised and I've been mulling over getting more fitted cupboards built versus finding free-standing pieces which ft better with the country style look.
I've often read in magazines about people who find old pieces of junk at the bottom of a field, or abandoned in some other obscure place, only to turn them into something fabulous, And I've always thought those stories were fairy tales.
But let me tell you, dear reader, I was thinking about my kitchen yesterday and suddenly remembered an old table in the gardening shed that's been there since we bought this place.
'I'd like to take a closer look at it,' I told E. 'You never know...'
So we took off the ghastly linoleum top (lovely shades of maroon and grey) and E scraped back a section through layers of paint -- grey, cream, green, mauve, pink and more... to discover Oregon pine underneath.
You guessed it. It's a really decent, restorable table. And it fits perfectly -- let me say that again -- perfectly into the space beside the stove that I had in mind.
So I've a new project to squeeze in around writing.
Couldn't be happier. Will let you see the results, but I have a book to write so don't hold your breath.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

You might need to be Aussie to get this...

The organizers of the Melbourne Writers Festival have run a Great Australian Text Message Competition, and apparently they had a fantastic response . The competition was to use a text message to get across the essence of an Australian novel. In the end, the entries they liked were actual messages not just a plot summary.

Not a bad effort to turn 100,000 words into 100 characters.

The winning entry from Nyunkia is: Picnic @ Hanging Rock: Miranda where R U???

If you're not Australian, you may not have heard of Picnic at Hanging Rock, a novel written by Australian author Joan Lindsay. It was also made into a movie, but I'm not sure if it was shown overseas. It's about a trip by a party of girls from Appleyard College, an upper class private boarding school, who travel to Hanging Rock in Victoria's Mount Macedon area for a picnic on Valentine's Day 1900. The excursion ends in tragedy when three girls and a teacher mysteriously vanish after climbing the rock. No reason for their disappearance is ever given, and the one girl who returned has no memory of what had happened to the others. A fourth girl had climbed the rock with the group, but returned in hysterics for reasons she could not explain.

Another text entry I thought was fun was this:

Clncy wher r u

Shearng? drovng?

Pls cntct ur accntnt
(Nicola Lane)

It's based on this very well known and well loved Australian poem, which I've copied below, in case you're interested... It shows the intense feelings many Australians have about the whole city versus the bush dichotomy.

"Clancy of the Overflow"

I had written him a letter which I had, for want of better
Knowledge, sent to where I met him down the Lachlan, years ago,
He was shearing when I knew him, so I sent the letter to him,
Just "on spec", addressed as follows: "Clancy, of The Overflow".

And an answer came directed in a writing unexpected,
(And I think the same was written in a thumbnail dipped in tar)
'Twas his shearing mate who wrote it, and verbatim I will quote it:
"Clancy's gone to Queensland droving, and we don't know where he are."

In my wild erratic fancy visions come to me of Clancy
Gone a-droving "down the Cooper" where the western drovers go;
As the stock are slowly stringing, Clancy rides behind them singing,
For the drover's life has pleasures that the townsfolk never know.

And the bush hath friends to meet him, and their kindly voices greet him
In the murmur of the breezes and the river on its bars,
And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended,
And at night the wondrous glory of the everlasting stars.

I am sitting in my dingy little office, where a stingy
Ray of sunlight struggles feebly down between the houses tall,
And the foetid air and gritty of the dusty, dirty city
Through the open window floating, spreads its foulness over all.

And in place of lowing cattle, I can hear the fiendish rattle
Of the tramways and the buses making hurry down the street,
And the language uninviting of the gutter children fighting,
Comes fitfully and faintly through the ceaseless tramp of feet.

And the hurrying people daunt me, and their pallid faces haunt me
As they shoulder one another in their rush and nervous haste,
With their eager eyes and greedy, and their stunted forms and weedy,
For townsfolk have no time to grow, they have no time to waste.

And I somehow fancy that I'd like to change with Clancy,
Like to take a turn at droving where the seasons come and go,
While he faced the round eternal of the cashbook and the journal -
But I doubt he'd suit the office, Clancy, of "The Overflow".
The Bulletin, 21 December 1889.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

it seems a day...

Remember Wordsworth's "Nutting"? (Did you have to study it at school?) I first read it more than forty years ago but I've always remembered the opening lines...
It seems a day
(I speak of one from many singled out)
One of those heavenly days that cannot die;
When, in the eagerness of boyish hope,
I left our cottage-threshold, sallying forth
With a huge wallet o'er my shoulders slung,
A nutting-crook in hand; and turned my steps
Tow'rd some far-distant wood...

I thought of it yesterday... because right now, we’re having the most incredibly beautiful late autumn weather. The skies are crystal clear and soft blue and at night the heavens are ablaze with stars. Daytime temperates are gently warm and the nights and mornings are crisp enough to put the fire on. Still a novelty for us!
Yesterday, I didn’t write a word.
We went to Yungaburra markets to buy more plants and fruit and vegies, and then we paddled our canoe on Lake Tinaroo. It’s magical to go up and down the little creeks that lead into the lake in a sleek canoe, silently slipping past magnificent rain forest trees that come right to the water’s edge, listening to birdcalls, to a waterfall deep in the forest, watching ducks take off, or cormorants diving for fish.
Also, I’m sure paddling a canoe is very good exercise for a writer. After sitting hunched over a keyboard, it’s great to open up the shoulders and use arms and wrists in completely different movements.
I spent the afternoon planting up the bank directly in front of the house. I’m slowly filling it with Australian natives, with daisies and ground covers, lilies and ground orchids. By spring it might be nice enough to take a photo and show you.
What's the weather like in your part of the world?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

a glimpse into the future...

Here's a peek at the cover of my next book, the first in the Baby Steps to Marriage duet, coming in September and October. No guessing where it's set.

No, they're not "our" twins. This is a surrogate pregnancy. When Mattie Carey's best friend Gina has to have a hysterectomy, Mattie decides to help her and her husband Tom to achieve their dream of a family. Mattie's determined, and even meeting drop-dead gorgeous bachelor Jake Devlin won't stop her from going ahead with the surrogacy plan. But in achieving happiness for her friends, Mattie puts her own happiness seriously at risk.

Monday, May 18, 2009

back in the cave...

I was getting a little ahead of myself, launching into a new book. There I was, happily diving into chapter two, when a note from my editor lets me know she suddenly has new "thoughts" about the last book. Thoughts = revisions. A second round of them. In other words, I have to get my head out of its happy new space and back into a state of mind that allows me to rip out favourite lines and scenes and moments from something I thought was "finished".
Sometimes (maybe all the time) being a writer requires serious self discipline.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Audio books...

Do you like listening to books on tape or CD? I love it. I admit I love any way that gives me access to more books. Book tapes are perfect for long car trips, but they can also lift the enjoyment factor of drudge chores like housework.

We have to drive back to Townsville today, which is a crying shame as it's a perfect sunshiny, crisp autumn day after a week of on and off mizzle. E has another meeting (sigh), so we're heading off, but Jodi Picoult's "Plain Truth", set in an Amish community, should entertain us on the way.

Actually, quite a few of my books were put onto tape by the wonderful Hear-A-Book Service in Tasmania. I approached them because my aunt in Sydney is blind and I'd tried reading my books onto tapes for her, but the quality wasn't crash hot. I wanted to give her a talking book for her eightieth birthday, which they did for me and then subsequently they put a host of other books on tape. I've had lovely messages about how they've helped people who weren't well enough to read. The books are available in libraries for people who are visualy impaired or unable to read for other health reasons.

on being a country mouse...

One of the things I love about the Tablelands is that I can grow such a wide range of things here, including plants that normally only grow in the south. I also love being able to grab a handful of flowers from the garden and throw them in a jug for instant effect, and then I can smile at them and get pleasure from them whenever I pass. The long white flowers in this photo are buddleia and they smell divine. I mean divine!!! I believe they'remembers of the lilac family. I've always loved being able to pick flowers from the garden and you might notice that vases of flowers creep into many of my books.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

I'm in for a treat...

DVDs of the BBC's North and South arrived today and I can't wait to start watching the series tonight. Somehow I missed this when it was on TV and I've heard so much about it, especially about Richard Armitage.
A little while ago, writer friend Anne Gracie alerted me to the fact that was having a sale of DVDs, so I quickly grabbed this beauty. I'm sorry I didn't mention it at the time. Blogs should be about passing on useful information, shouldn't they?
Anyway, just checked and North and South is still greatly reduced, so perhaps the sale is continuing. You might like to check it out.
And in the interests of passing on information, if there's anyone out there who would like to know more about writing for Harlequin Romance aka Romance (UK) or Sweet romance (ANZ), just sing out!

Family photo

It's been a long time since we've had a photo of our whole family, but my daughter Emma sent me this one from the Christening, so here (nearly all) are...

Back Row (L -R) Matt (Vicki's boyfriend), Vicki/Victoria (daughter), Andrew (son) Barbara, Elliot

Front Row (L-R) Lauren (daughter-in-law), Lucy (granddaughter), Emma (daughter), Richard (son).

One day we'll get a group photo that also includes Emma's husband Carson and son Thomas, plus littlies Lilly, Milla and Sophie.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

can I blame mercury in retrograde?

OK, I'm not a devout follower of astrology, but I do enjoy reading Susan Miller at Astrology Zone each month. I find her very entertaining, particularly as she goes into so much detail, and apparently mercury is in retrograde this month, which means we can have all kinds of breakdowns with appliances, business deals and communications.
Well, snap.
Last week in Townsville, our oven blew up, the automatic washing machine stopped progressing automatically, the lift in our apartment broke down, and my internet connection died.
Yeah, might have been a coincidence, but I guess Susan would say otherwise.
I used the week to read and do research and make notes and collect pictures of characters and settings for my next book, and to generally dream about the new story.
Now I'm in Tarzali, and I'm connected 'internetedly" again, but would you believe that when I tried to post this, blogger was "currently unavailable"?
Anyway, I've started on the new book, and I'm getting to know my characters. Yay! It always feels so good to have another story underway, to feel that stirring of excitement, wondering how will it all evolve.
Are you surprised that I don't know? Thing is, I'd be bored if I knew every detail of my story in advance. I like to be surprised. I like to let my characters take me by the hand and lead me gently into the mist.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Family blessings...

My weekend was lovely. (You might see me use that word a lot in this post.) So nice to have whole family together with extended family and friends. Barbeque on our apartment block roof on Saturday night for our lot – Writer friend Alison Robert’s rice salad went over a treat, and I now have to email the recipe to all of family. I’ll post it below here, as well. It was much more popular than my Nigella Lawson coleslaw... may even have pipped E's barbecued barramundi.
Christening was lovely -- and I know my daughters Emma and Victoria will continue to care about their little niece's spirituality.

After service, everyone changed into casual gear (a must in the tropics) and went back to the babies’ place for the party on the back deck which ended up lasting all day.

It was a really lovely atmosphere. One of the nicest days in memory. I loved little things -- like watching an old family friend of the Joneses (Lauren's family) place a cross on Sophie's forehead so-o-o carefully and sincerely. Watching a great uncle from Bondi (who brought a box of the most amazing chicken sausages with him on the plane -- chicken and spinach and pine nuts -- most definitely superior sausages) cuddling one of the babies. So many interesting conversations...
Lovely to watch young bachelors go gooey over babies, too. If you'd like to see more pics, go here...
And here’s that fabulous recipe from Alison Roberts…
Dead easy rice salad:
Cook 1.5 cups brown rice and cool. (makes about 3 cups cooked)
Sauté heaps of sliced mushrooms, red and green pepper and finely sliced red onion or chopped spring onion. (asparagus is nice, too)
Throw in a bag of roasted cashews at the end. (About 200 grams)
Mix into rice and add dressing which is – half a cup of soy sauce, quarter cup olive oil, generous teaspoon crushed garlic and a good squeeze of lemon juice.