Saturday, July 31, 2010

A story with a happy ending...

(From Townsville Bulletin)
MEET Timothy, the cat who embarked on a mysterious 1300km northern journey.

The moggy was handed to RSPCA's Townsville shelter on Thursday along with two other cats after being found living in a rental property.

At first staff thought the cat was just one of a number of local strays, but a microchip scan showed he had been adopted from a Dakabin shelter, west of Redcliffe, in May 2009.

A quick call to Kamala Brooks, Timothy's owner, revealed the black and white coloured shorthair was last seen in Bald Hills in Brisbane's north three months earlier.

Ms Brooks was yesterday ecstatic to learn her long-lost pet was alive and well in the North.

She said she had "given up all hope" that Timothy would ever be found.

"We just can't believe he's alive, it's just unbelievable," she said. "I last saw Timmy in August (last year) when he was put out at night with another cat I had bought, Racoon. Racoon came home the next morning but there was no sign of Timmy. We did everything to try to find him, we door-knocked, did letterbox drops, but there was no trace."

Ms Brooks was at a loss to explain how the adventurous feline found his way to Townsville.

"I really don't know," she said. "Perhaps someone has moved away from here and gone to Townsville and he's stowed away. Or maybe he's found his way on to a delivery truck and has gone for a very long trip. Either way we're just glad he'll soon be coming home to us."

Townsville shelter manager Caroline Shemwell said Timothy's travels also had RSPCA staff stumped.

"I'm not sure who was more surprised - the owner in receiving a call from Townsville about a lost Brisbane cat or our staff to be speaking to an owner in Brisbane," she said. "But Timothy's in really good condition, he's a really loving cat. I think he's been treated really well on his adventure."

Ms Shemwell said Timothy's adventure emphasised the need for pet owners to microchip their animals.
"Without that microchip there is absolutely no way we would have reunited Tim with his owner," she said. Every pet owner should make sure their animals are microchipped. It is also important people keep their details up to date, which Timothy's owner has done."

Timothy was last night awaiting a flight back to his family in Brisbane.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Another gem from Michael Hauge...

What is his best advice?

A writer should ask these three questions...

1. What is each character desperate to achieve?

2. What makes that goal seem impossible?

3. What terrifies each character?

Michael Hauge says that writers willing to dig deep enough to answer these questions are well on their way to a commercial screenplay or novel.

OK... I'm off to think about these as I work through revising Holly and Gray's story.

Monday, July 26, 2010

New Voices Competition

The competition  There's an exciting new romance writing competition and it will have its very own website - where the entries will be posted and readers can leave their feedback. It's called New Voices and you can read all about how to enter it here.

The competition will be divided up into four stages and will run from Monday 6th September. The winner will be announced on Monday 1st November.

1. Stage 1: The Free for All;

- All submitted entries will be read and judged by the Mills & Boon judging panel

2. Stage 2: The Shortlist
- A shortlist of 8-10 authors will be announced, and their first chapters posted on the website.
- All shortlisted entrants will be assigned a Mills & Boon author and editor as a ‘mentor’ as they polish their second chapters and for their remaining time in the competition.
- The public will vote for their favourite!

3. Stage 3: The Shorter-list
- The shortlist will be chopped down to 4 – the next stage to share a ‘pivotal moment’ from
their book.
- The public will vote for their favourite!

4. Stage 4: Winner!
- Judged by a panel – names TBC!
- The winner is announced!!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A glimpse into yesteryear...

An old school friend (actually, the boy next door) sent me these photos of Brisbane in the sixties, when trams were still the main mode of transport. Quite a blast from the past. Just looking at these pics, I can hear the swishingsound of the trams zipping along the rails and the pinging sound they made (can't remember what caused it,) and the bells...
... and getting off the Bardon tram on a cold winter's afternoon after netball, using some of my pocket money to buy chips wrapped in paper (from one of the shops just behind the tram above). The chips were salty and just the right balance -- not quite crisp and not quite soggy. Divine -- and not the sort of afternoon treat normally sanctioned by my mother. I had to take my gloves off to eat the chips, but there were no prefects watching, and as I walked home down the long hill on Cooper's Camp Road I enjoyed them as much as anything I’ve ever eaten.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A new author...

During a phone conversation with my mum this week I learned about a new (to me) author -- Marcia Willett. Many of you have probably already read her books, but Mum mentioned that she was similar to Rosamunde Pilcher and that was enough for me to be on the search.
I ordered one MW book from the Book Depository and another from iTunes to download onto my ipod and this week I've had a wonderful time listening to The Children's Hour while I've been walking or doing a spot of housework, or even simply lying in bed.

Until today... when I was only half way through the story and my ipod died.

What is it with me and audio books? First my car CD player  broke, so I bought a special cable to connect my ipod to the car radio frequency and now no ipod either. Maybe the universe is telling me to stick with reading -- or even to think about getting an ebook reader. Still haven't dipped my toe in that water yet.

Anyway... a trip to the library scored me two more Marcia Willett books, and I think I might read in bed tonight rather than watching TV. E's away on another Tarzali BBQ working bee,  and I'll be minding the twins for a sleepover tomorrow night while their parents go to a wedding, so tonight will be just for me.

Tomorrow's another FNQ writers' gathering and we'll be discussing, among other things, how to avoid cliches in our writing. Rather a noble focus, I thought.

Back to Marcia Willett -- I still haven't finished one of her books, but I've certainly enjoyed what I've encountered so far -- beautiful descriptions of Devon countryside, loving and wise characters, plenty of emotional punch... I'm wondering what other wonderful women's fiction writers there are out there still waiting for me to discover. Would love recommendations.

Monday, July 19, 2010

a writing tip...

One of the favourite bits of advice that I brought away from the Michael Hauge workshop...

There must be good reasons to bring your hero and heroine together at the end -- in other words, solid ways the romance character (love interest) relates to the hero’s arc. (Or heroine's arc)
Otherwise there’s no logical reason why they should be together – and there’s nothing worse than the character who more or less implies: `I love you because we’re in this movie or book together.’

It's not purely about attractiuon. Think about the ways your hero and heroine match up. Think about their goals and needs and wounds and how they compliment or heal each other. And yeah, wanting to be kissed in the rain is a very simplified example of a character's need or goal -- but the picture's nice, isn't it? :)

Make those deeper connections between your characters. It makes for a stronger romance. Every time.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

These are a few of my favourite things...

1. Watching the patterns of light and shade on the hills at Tarzali in the late afternoon.
2. Walking into a library – drinking in the silence and seeing the rows of books, just waiting.
3. The lush slow movements in classical music.
4. Elliot’s sense of humour.
5. Eating crisp apples while curled up with a really good book.
6. Looking back at Townsville from the back of the Magnetic Island ferry.
7. Talking to my daughters on the phone.
8. My granddaughter Lilly’s welcoming hugs.
9. Those occasional writing days when I’m totally in the zone.
10. Diving beneath a clean ocean wave.
11. Eating a perfectly fresh boiled egg with cracked pepper and toast fingers.
12. My grown up children – and the way they continue to surprise me.
13. Eating fish and chips at the beach, or anything my son Richard has cooked.
14. Dressing up and going to a concert at the theatre.
15. Christmas trees.
16. Getting together with writer friends.
17. When Elliot makes exciting, outrageous predictions about my writing.
18. True and inspiring stories of courage or comapssion.
19. The cards my daughter Vicki makes.
20. Airports – the whole buzz of arrivals and departures.

What are your favourites? I'd love to hear.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Coming up for air...

I sent the book away on Tuesday night and rewarded myself yesterday morning by making Nigella Lawson's super indulgent doughnut French toast for breakfast. I've never actually made French toast before, but I'd watched Nigella making it on TV and describing it very lusciously (as only Nigella can) and yesterday just seemed the right moment to try it. E doesn't usually like sweet things for breakfast, but he enjoyed it. We ate ours with fresh strawberries.

After that, unfortunately, it was a matter of catching up with all the things I'd set aside until "after my deadline". Honestly, the world could be coming to an end and I'd go down still glued to my computer if I was on a deadline. By that stage I've known my characters for quite a while and I'm finally coming to grips with who they are and what they need and I'm so totally in the world of the story that I don't want to know about the real world. But of course I emerge into the light to rediscover bills waiting to be paid, clothes waiting to be washed, gardens to be weeded, walls to be painted. Yes, the painting is still an ongoing between book saga.

Last night we got out a DVD -- a wonderful British film called An Education, a coming of age story set in 1960s England. Fabulous acting, engrossing story. Believable, touching, clever. I highly recommend it.

And of course, I've already started thinking about my next book. I've even opened a file and started to make notes. That's the best thing about having a job you love. It feels like fun so much of the time.

OK, here's Nigella's recipe for Doughnut French Toast

2 eggs
1/2 cup full fat milk
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 slices from a small white loaf or 2 slices from a large white loaf, each large slice cut in half
1-ounce butter, plus a drop flavourless oil, for frying
1/4 cup sugar
Beat the eggs with the milk and vanilla in a wide shallow bowl.
Soak the bread halves in the eggy mixture for 5 minutes a side.
Heat the butter and oil in a frying pan/skillet, fry the egg-soaked bread until golden and scorched in parts on both sides.
Put the sugar onto a plate and then dredge the cooked bread until coated like a sugared doughnut.


Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Still racing to deadline...

But I wanted to show you this new grevillea -- we have about a dozen varieties now and they bring wonderful birds, especially honey-eaters, into our garden. This is flowering just outside our bedroom window and it's called peaches and cream. But the colours aren't quite right here. It's actually brighter in real life.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

In defence of popular fiction...

Lately, there's been quite a lot of wrangling in the press and elsewhere between literary fiction writers and popular fiction. Check out this talk by Toni Jordan.

It's one of the best defences of popular fiction I've heard.

I always wonder why people can be such snobs about literature, but still enjoy a poular movie or a popular song without feeling they've lowered themselves.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

On sale in Australia this month...

One of my favourite early stories was Outback with the Boss,  winner of the Romantic Times Reviewer's Choice award.
Here's the review:
When she sees her new boss for the first time, shes wearing nothing but provocative underwear. Mortified, this beautiful woman hopes that he wont recognize her as his efficient assistant. But when she gets stranded OUTBACK WITH THE BOSS (4.5), she learns the incident left quite an impression on this handsome film producer. But given the financial difficulties with his current project and his feelings toward office romances, do they have a chance? Barbara Hannay pens a wonderful romance with two vulnerable yet strong characters.

From the back cover:
Grace Robbins and her new boss, Mitch Wentworth, had managed to deny their attraction until they got lost together in the Australian wilderness. Then they were rescued….
Back at the office, they were both fighting the memory of their nights in the outback — and maintaining a professional distance might not last for long….

Now Grace and Mitch's story is available in this new 3 in1 release with fabulous authors Sharon Kendrick and Lindsay Armstrong.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

A busy week was had by all...

You can probably guess by my silence that I am now in the final countdown to another deadline where all I want to think about and write about is my book.
Even so, my trip to Melbourne last weekend for the Michael Hauge and Steve Kaplan workshops on The Art of Romantic Comedy was fabulous. The workshops were full on -- going from nine till after six both days, but I learned so much. Although there were lots of things we already knew as romance writers,  hearing Michael Hauge's ideas expressed so clearly (using new terminology) was very refreshing and provided a very good reminder of what's really important. Characters who change. Characters who earn love. Deep conflict and the emotion that rises from that coflict. All these points are more firmly embedded in my thinking than ever. Colour me grateful.
And Steve Kaplan's insights into comedy were new and very helpful as well as entertaining.
While I was away, Elliot and his mates were busy at Tarzali building a deck and asado (Argentinian) barbecue. They made a great start and worked very hard in the rain.

And Sophie discovered lipstick