Saturday, May 29, 2010

Free writing courses...

If you're interested in some free writing courses, check out this blog.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Getting to the heart of things...

I had another false start with the WIP, but it has been eradicated and I've finally found where my story begins. It's finally starting to feel good. I'm happy -- and I haven't lost everything, have salvaged 10 thousand words.
What's it about?
Here (in totally random order) are some of the pics that make up the collage on my screensaver. They'll give you a clue or two.

Friday, May 21, 2010

buttons galore

I read a lot of interviews with writers that make me feel totally inadequate -- not because of their amazing sales, or fabulous output or self discipline, but because so many have tried all sorts of interesting jobs before they started writing. I read their fascinating lists of jobs -- everything from helping in a wildlife reserve in Botswana to being a pavement artist in Paris and I sigh and remember I've only had one other job besides writing and that's teaching. Which is not boring in reality. Every day, every hour in a classroom brings surprises. But to an outsider... it doesn't quite measure up as exciting or eccentric or Bohemian.

But I mustn't forget that I have had one job that was a little bit different. My very first job (a holiday job when I was about 14 or 15) was in a little factory that made fabric covered buttons.
OK, I know that doesn't sound exciting either, but it was for me. We made all those gorgeous buttons -- like the tiny ones covered in silk or satin that go all the way down the back of a bridal gown. And because this was in the olden days when everyone still made their own clothes, we got tons of orders for all kinds of specialised buttons. Each morning, I would do a round trip of the haberdashery departments in all the major department stores in Brisbane -- David Jones, Mc Donnell and East, Finneys, Allen & Stark etc and I'd collect the orders for the day. In the packet with each order would be the small, very precious pieces of fabric we were to use to cover the buttons. I say precious because if we (school friend, Cathy Harrison and I) made a mistake we'd be in danger of not having enough fabric to complete the order.

Then we would beaver away cutting out circles small, medium or large, depending on the button size and squeezing them in the little presses, praying that nothing slipped and they came out perfectly neat. Oh, the responsibility!

In the afternoons, one of us would go back to all the stores again delivering the finished buttons. I earned 5 pounds four shillings a week and I felt terribly important. I liked this work much better than later holiday jobs, selling things in shops. I was always nervous about giving change.
So that's my tiny try at something different (except that I was a breastfeeding counsellor later and I ran playgroups, but these were voluntary). I'm sure some of you have had incredibly interesting and varied jobs. I'd love to hear.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A true heroine...

Did you know that Mary Burchell, the beloved Mills and Boon author whose first book was published in 1936, was also a true heroine, whose real life story was even more exciting than her books?
Mary (real name Ida Cook) and her sister very courageously helped to smuggle Jews out of Nazi occupied Europe, and you can read more about this fascinating story on Mary Jo Putney's blog at Word Wenches.

We interrupt this program...

Today I had to do my quarterly BAS which was actually due last month, but I totally, completely forgot about it. At times it can be hard trying to live in two places and keep track of everything, especially boring things like bills.
But the kind of nice thing about going through a mountain of dockets and credit card statements and recording expenses is that I get another opportunity to remember all the great things that I've done over the past three months and to recall how lucky I am... including how many books I've bought (am slightly addicted to The Book Depository) that I still haven't read.

Even so, doing anything with numbers always makes me a tad nervous. I think it's a hangover from primary school and mental arithmetic. So I'm always relieved when this task is done. Afterwards, I walked up to the PO (a couple of blocks) and dropped my completed BAS into the box before I collected the mail... and then...

I suddenly remembered that I'd posted the WRONG BIT of the BAS form.

When I explained my dilemma, a very pleasant PO worker kindly fetched a key and unlocked the big red letter box and retracted my envelope. I guess she agreed to do this because I'd only just put it in and I knew exactly which box and could describe the envelope etc, etc.

But as always, such a dilemma is grist for the mill for a writer. In stories, PO workers don't need to be so obliging, so of course I started thinking about a story in which something is mailed by mistake and of course the damage can't be fixed by a friendly worker or a simple phone call.

Then again .. maybe if I wasn't so dreamy, always thinking about stories, the ATO would be pleased.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Back to writing...

Yesterday I ripped out Chapter One. Was it painful? Yes. Necessary? Very.

Remember last week I said that this story takes a while to get the hero and heroine together? Even though I admitted this, I was smugly assuming I could get away with it.
Came back from my weekend away with fresh eyes and knew the story started at Chapter Two, so Chapter One is now in a "dump" file. It's back story. OK, yes, maybe it's important as it explains what's been happening, but it was basically me exploring my characters. Deep down I KNEW this, and I knew it didn't feel right.
Yeah... didn't feel right as in... no one will want to buy the book if they picked it up in a store and read the first page.
Do you do that?
I do.
Some authors hook me on page one. There's something about their voice that just draws me in so I want to be in that world. That's what I'm striving for now with my new Chapter One.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

One perfect day...

Saturday, May 15th... Ben and Jade... here's wishing them happy ever after. Beautiful couple in a beautiful setting...

My mum, my sisters and me...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Back in town...

We're back in Townsville. Packing up and cleaning before leaving Tarzali and then driving for 4 hours is a bit of a saga, so we always reward ourselves with dinner at out favourite Thai. Tomorrow we're flying south for a family wedding. Not one of mine -- a nephew -- and that will be really nice. I'll get to see my daughters again, and my mum and my sisters, and my other grandies and so many others. I'm getting excited. Granddaughter Lucy can tell me all about her audition for Junior Master Chef.

Hope you have something nice planned for your weekend too.

Now... my task for this morning is to calm down and to write. Disciplined R Us.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Happy Mother's Day...

I hope you're having a lovely day either being a mum or remembering your mum.

I've had a quiet but productive day that's included:

1)writing -- I have at last got my hero and heroine on the page together. Often I try to start with them together early, preferably on the first page, the first paragrah, even the first sentence... but this story called for something different. I'm happy now they're in the same room though. Let the new tension begin!!!!

2) 4 lovely phone calls -- one from each "child," all in distant parts.

3) planting sage and escahllots in the herb garden

4) starting to paint our bedroom (which won't be our bedroom after the extensions which are due to start in a month or so). Here's a before shot, and you can see the room is very dark and log cabin-y. It has its own kind of cosy charm, I guess, but we're now committed to painting the whole inside of our cottage white (or rather off white). We're in love with the results so far. The place feels bigger, brighter, cleaner and more like a country cottage than a log cabin. I promise to show after photos, but don't hold your breath. This painting business can't be hurried.

OK, I'm off to wash my hair and have a cuppa with my neighbour.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Sunshine and a first...

We had sunshine all day yesterday and it's sunny again today!!! And would you believe I came down with a streaming cold? As Ned Kelly said, "Such is life."
I've also had news that my 35th book has been accepted and it's going to be called Molly Cooper's Dream Date.

I rather like that. I've always wanted a title that included a character's name. The title has a chick -lit feel, which is understandable as the book is going to be part of the Romance line's Fun Factor mini series. The first book in that series was Jessica Hart's Oh, So Sensible Secretary which I adored. Her story was so light and full of humour, but perfectly crafted while delivering a touching, heart-warming romance.

My book is about a London banker and a girl from Magnetic Island who swap houses and almost the whole story is told through emails and diary entries. (I was going to call it Your Place or Mine? :) ) I had so much fun writing it. It was such a shot in the arm to try something completely different. Of course, it won't be out for ages yet, so I'll tell you more closer to the publication date.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

What's out in May?

This month Executive: Expecting Tiny Twins goes on sale. Aren't those babies gorgeous? You could be forgiven for thinking that I was a little twin obsessed, but as I explain here, this story wasn't exactly my idea.

This is Book #2 in the Brides of Bella Rosa continuity, following Raye Morgan’s wonderful launch book Beauty and the Reclusive Prince. The Bella Rosa stories follow on from the previous series The Brides of Bella Lucia.

It’s the first time I’ve taken part in a continuity series and it’s quite a different writing experience. To begin with, the story lines and character details are all decided by a team of editors. Each contributing author is sent a “bible” with the whole set up explained as well as a family tree of all the characters and synopses for all six books plus pictures of the setting and main characters that appear in every book. While writing, the authors keep in touch each other to make sure the setting and story details remain accurate and in the right sequence.

For me, I found that writing a story that was given to me felt quite different from writing one that has emerged slowly out of the depths of my own consciousness. But I think it’s important to take on new challenges, and I’ve already had some positive feedback from a generous fellow author. I hope you enjoy Jack and Lizzie's story and I hope you like the whole series. I think it's interesting to see that the editors are really pushing boundaries in contemporary romance.

Here’s a sneak peek at the opening. It is, of course, a very familiar setting, similar to many of my books, because while pushing those boundaries, each author was still asked to write to her strengths.

Chapter One

She was wearing white, for crying out loud.

Jack Lewis grimaced as the elegant figure descended from the tiny plane while clouds of red dust slowly settled on the airstrip. The same red dust covered his ute, his riding boots, and practically everything else in the Outback, and yet Senator Elizabeth Green had chosen to arrive on Savannah cattle station dressed from head to toe in blinding, laundry commercial white.

Her elegant sandals were white, her crisply ironed trousers, her matching linen top and even her floppy brimmed hat. The only non-white items were her accessories – swanky dark glasses and a pale green leather shoulder bag that clearly held a laptop.

Where did she think she’d flown to? The flaming Italian Riviera?

Jack muttered a soft oath, audible only to Cobber, the cattle dog at his heels. ‘I suppose we’d better go and say g’day.’

Shrugging off an uncomfortable sense of martyrdom, Jack set out across the stretch of dirt, moving with a deliberately easy amble, his faithful dog close behind him.

He was mad with himself for allowing his boss, an eighty year old widow, to bully him into hosting this visitor. Kate Burton regularly tested Jack’s patience by directing her business via long distance phone calls from her top-price-tag retirement home in Melbourne.

‘I owe Lizzie a favour,’ Kate had told him breezily. ‘She won’t be any trouble, Jack. She just wants to rest up and take in the country air, and she needs to retreat from the public eye for a spell. You understand, don’t you?’

You can read more on my website.

Monday, May 03, 2010

A special weekend...

We've had another lovely long weekend with visitors. Last weekend friends, this weekend family. It's still (yes, I'm not exaggerating STILL) raining (worst wet season ever for FNQ) but we were cosy indoors with the fire going.

Milla and Sophie enjoyed watching the misty rain on the hills from the verandah. Don't babies always look scrumptious when they're just bathed and in pjs and ready for bed?

Lilly (the twins' big sister) and I managed to use a little patch of sunshine to tidy up the herb garden. Lilly was v handy with scissors and trowel.

And Lilly and I had a nightly sparkler ritual that was great fun.

I cooked up our family favourites -- bacon and macaroni casserole for the children; caramel rum pie for the adults. But the best meal was when my son Richard (a former chef) helped me make a fabulous ricotta gnocchi with pumpkin and blue cheese from a recipe in this month's Country Style magazine. It. Was. Truly. Divine. Rush out and buy a copy if you live in Oz. I only hope I can reproduce it on my own.

Back to writing tomorrow. Promise.