Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Yesterday, New Year’s Eve was our wedding anniversary. Thirty-five years ago, it was very romantic to be married on New Year’s Eve. Later, as our children came along, we realised that our choice wasn’t exactly practical – although at the time, we needed to be married during the school summer holidays and my mum wanted to get Christmas out of the way first and if we wanted to leave time for a honeymoon, there weren’t too many options…

However, New Year’s Eve is a very difficult night to get babysitters – especially as we have spent almost all our married life living away from extended family, so there were many years when we didn't go out for our anniversary. But we never forget it, so that's a good thing!!!

It feels fitting to pause at the end of the year to reflect on the many blessings we’ve had in our marriage. I am so lucky, but I won't gush about that here.

And then, of course, there are New Year’s Resolutions, but they never seem to work for me. They remind me of the ‘turning over a new leaf’ ceremonies I used to conduct in my parents’ garden when I was a child – yes, I would literally turn over a leaf and bury it and fervently hope for vast improvements (in mathematics and keeping out of trouble)… week after week.

But, call me stubborn, I still have a list of 'Barb improvements' I'd like to see come into fruition this year. One can always hope!!

Thank you for reading my books in 2006 and I hope 2007 brings you all health, happiness and lots of wonderful books to read.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Holiday movies

One of the greaat things about being back in the city is that there are so many movies to see. I lurve the big screen.

Went to see Casino Royale yesterday. Must admit I had my fingers crossed that I’d enjoy it. Non-stop, over the top action and emotionless, casual sex don’t usually do it for me…

Well, wasn’t I in for a pleasant surprise? Surprise #1 was Daniel Craig who played James Bond. Oh, boy, isn't he gorgeous? What a body!

And those eyes! I think it was very clever of the director to choose a blonde, blue eyed man for the part. Never once was I tempted to compare Daniel Craig with Sean Connery. He was stand alone fabulous!!

The action was definitely OTT, but so clever and visually breathtaking (and at times amusing) that I wasn’t bored for a moment.

And the ‘romance’ wasn’t emotionless or casual. Not by a long shot. In fact, I was totally captivated by the emotional dilemma of James and Vesper. The scriptwriters have come up with a clever, riveting remake of this jaded story and the acting was superb!

I could watch it again for the romance alone. Loved it!!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Happy Christmas...

It's Christmas Eve here in North Queensland -- hot and steamy. Outside the trees are covered in summer flowers -- the flaring red of poinciana, the fresh white and pink of frangipani, the glorious shower of yellow on the cassia tree. There's the possibility of rain, but at least no cyclones hovering off the coast.

In the past, for many Christmases, we have "gone tropical" with seafood and salads and a pudding made with nuts and fruit, grog and icecream. But in recent years, we've had a traditional turkey on Christmas Eve (in airconditioning!) and that's what we're doing this evening.
The stuffing's made, the presents wrapped and the rum balls are rummy and Elliot's going for a swim to cool off.

Whether or not you celebrate Christmas, I'd like to take this opportunity to wish you peace and joy and plenty of good books to read in the New Year.

Love from,

Warmest wishes from Lilly and me. Isn't she growing faster than grass in the wet season?

Monday, December 18, 2006

There's something about angels...

Do you have any Christmas traditions? I was reading yesterday in Duo, a local mag, about some of the traditions of Townsville families and they sounded so interesting they made me feel quite unimaginative. One tradition that made me smile was a woman who always bought her family (every year) new pyjamas to wake up in on Christmas morning.

My tradition is angels. It started one year when I was still teaching, when a very special student gave me an angel ornament as an end of year gift. Instead of hanging it on the tree, I set it on my sideboard and the next year I bought myself another to stand beside it. From then on, I’ve acquired a new angel each year to add to my collection. I’ve been lucky enough to travel overseas, so I also have an angel from New York, and one – perhaps the most simple, but possibly my favourite – from Assisi in Italy.

When one of my daughters was still dancing professionally and had money, she brought me back the most elegant and exquisite angel from Paris. Some friends think I should have her on display all year round, but I like to save her (him?) for Christmas. It helps to add to that special-ness of this time of year.

This year, the same daughter, who is now a poverty stricken university student, made me an angel and she’s wonderful. She flies with wicked delight beneath our wooden set of galahs.

Speaking of angels, during the Townsville Writing Festival, I had the great privilege of meeting New Zealand author Elizabeth Knox, author of “The Vintner’s Luck”. Two friends, whose reading habits I highly respect (one a university lecturer and the other a librarian), told me this is THE BEST BOOK they have ever read, the kind of book that when you’ve finished you want to start all over again. It’s about a relationship between a French farmer and an angel. And Elizabeth wrote in my precious, autographed copy : “this is a romance, too”.

Description: ‘The book is set in 1808 in Burgundy, France. Among the lush vines of his family's vineyard, Jodeau, 18 years old and frustrated in love, is about to come face to face with a celestial being. But this is no sentimental "Touched by an Angel" seraph; as imagined by Elizabeth Knox in her wildly evocative and original novel, Xas is equipped with a glorious pair of wings ("pure sinew and bone under a cushion of feathers") and an appetite for earthly pleasures--wine, books, gardening, conversation, and, eventually, carnal love.’

At the festival, Elizabeth told us that The Vintner’s Luck is being considered for a movie by the same director who’s filming The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffennegger – a book I adored.

I have to confess that I still haven’t read The Vintner’s Luck. Somehow it slipped behind my TBR pile and slipped my memory, but I’ve decided I must, must read it while my angels are out!!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Kookaburra Wars...

Kookaburra Wars…

Who had the last laugh?

Just as we were getting ready to leave Tarzali yesterday morning, we saw the most amazing spectacle. War between kookaburras.

It was the huge burst of laughter that alerted me first. We regularly hear the laughter of kookaburras and there are several who sit on one particular branch of a tree in the corner of our block. But this laughter (or cry) had an unmistakable element of aggression or alarm.

I looked out to see a kookaburra sweeping up the cutting and into our big camphor laurel tree. Then suddenly it was flying out, chased by another kookaburra. They flew together, zooming and diving and looping high, clearly aggressive, not unlike a WW2 dogfight between a British Spitfire pilot and a Messerschmitt.

One bird would fly away and then another would swoop in from another direction and receive a similar reception. This seemed to be territorial warfare between two kookaburra pairs. And it went on for a good ten minutes and was very noisy and involved quite spectacular flying.

Later, when the ostracised pair accepted their lot, one of “our” kookaburras swooped down and caught a cricket in the grass and I swear that it saw that insect in the grass from at least 150 metres away. Their eyesight must be incredible!

Well, now we’re back in the city and had our traditional home-coming Thai takeaway last night. It’s hot down here on the coast, so of course the airconditioner’s on. Thank heavens it works, as it seems the dishwasher has broken while under our No #4 offspring’s supervision. And I have Broadband again. Internet bliss! I might be able to get better sidebars and links on this blog now.

Now, time to take a deep breath and get ready for Christmas.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Our time in the country is nearly over...

We’re packing up to go back to the city today. We’ve stayed on longer than we intended, while Elliot finished his faithful restoration of two sets of windows and shutters that we’d bought in a demolition yard in Townsville. He’s done an absolutely fabulous job and they’re going to look just stunning in our extensions here.

These shutters above will close in one end of our veranda and will be part of our new dining room. Another set (shutters painted off white and with gold and green glass) will close in the weather end of our new veranda.

He’s restored all the windows and doors we’ll be using – a huge effort, but not only has his work saved us buckets of money, but the results going to look lovely and in keeping with the “cottagey” look that we wanted.

These past six weeks are the longest span of time we’ve spent here and it’s been just wonderful. We’ve made lots of new friends and caught up with old ones who have moved up here and our social life has rocked! And then, of course, there’s the sheer beauty of this place and all the animals and birds and insects and trees that we’ll miss.

But I’m quite looking forward to seeing Townsville family and friends and of course, there’s all the excitement of getting ready for Christmas. I haven’t sent out Christmas cards yet! And I can’t wait to unpack our tree and ornaments.

My book is two-thirds done and I’m happy with it – I like my characters and the tone. My editor suggested a pregnancy in the outback story – and honestly, that is completely my cup of tea, so I’m having a ball, especially now that I can write at my customary pace of about a thousand words a day, five days a week – with plenty of room for real life as well.

It’s been raining during the past week – very lucky for the latest lot of trees and shrubs we’ve planted. By contrast they’re having terrible bushfires in Tasmania. I’m worried about 2paw, who lives down there. I hope she’s OK.

On the reading front, I’m reading Georgette Heyer’s “Frederica”. I bought it at a second hand stall at the Mareeba markets and this is only the second GH I’ve read. I know, I know, how can I hold my head up and call myself a romance writer when I haven’t read Georgette Heyer?

My author mates have been telling me for years I must read her. They’re appalled that I haven’t and jealous too, because I still have all that reading pleasure ahead of me. I’m certainly loving Frederica and I’m learning a lot about writing romance from her too. So perhaps this is the right time for me to read her. I’m ripe for a brand new source of inspiration! I plan to push on and read all her books. And I look forward to a great leap forward in my own writing!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Christmas shopping

I've done it!

And I've also discovered the secret to speedy, efficient, fun Christmas shopping.

What is it? I hear you ask eagerly. Make a list? Well, I'm sure that's helpful, but no, I didn't have a list. Shop online? Well, perhaps. I must admit I did buy one item on line and it was such fun and so easy, I think I should try that more often in the future. But no, my secret is...

...take a man shopping with you!!!

I'll tell you how it worked for me.

Yesterday, we went to Cairns. First, I have to admit to the strangest feeling of country bumpkin-ness after living on our quiet little hillside for six weeks. All those cars and buildings and two legged animals!!!

We bought floor tiles for our extension -- terra cotta to match what's already here and to match the red mud!

And then we headed for Cairns Central, which is a fabulous two storey shopping mall, much bigger and better than anything we have in Townsville (Cairns being such a tourist-centred place, has every conveniency).

Now... shopping. I have four children and their assorted spouses/ partners; three grandchildren, sisters, and a mother, plus the odd friend to buy for, so it's always quite a business. But I have never before done my Christmas shopping with my husband!

This is how it went. As soon as I walked in, I saw a lovely, red and white trousers and top set, that I thought would be perfect for Christmas Day.

Normally, I would think how nice it was and walk on.
"Try it on," says Elliot.
Sensing his enthusiasm, the saleswoman came over and the two of them became a cheer squad. Before I knew I had this perfect Christmas outfit wrapped in tissue and "in the bag"!

It was already late morning, because we'd had business in Atherton on the way, so I was anxious to push on with shopping for others. But Elliot insisted we have lunch first. A cup of tea and a toasted sandwich would be my normal shopping lunch. But no, we had to go to Toscas, where I had soup and Elliot had fajitas, which were rather yum.

But what about the shopping?

I could see myself arriving home with no presents and the daunting task of another shopping session when I got back to Townsville. But then Elliot really came into his own. As I began to wander in my usual daze, I'd say, "I think so and so might like ... and I'd drift towards a shop, stand in front of a dazzling array, touch one item...
And Elliot would step forward. "Get it," he'd say. "It's perfect!"
And suddenly, I'd look at this iten with renenwed interest and realise that yes, it was perfect. So and so would love it!

You will realise that I'm rather dim-witted. This happened half a dozen times before I cottoned on that it was a deliberate ploy of my husband's. Every time I looked at a promising possibility, I would hear: "Get it! It's perfect for X!"

It worked!!

Within two hours, we were both laden with shopping bags and feeling just a tad like like Julia Roberts and Richard Gere in "Pretty Woman" -- except that only two items were clothes for us and the rest were wonderful Christmas presents.

Of course, I now have to hope that the recipients of theses gifts really do like them, but I think they will. And I slept so well last night, secure in the knowledge that this huge task was behind me.

But you've no idea how lovely it was to drive away from the coast, up over the mountains to our quiet green Tableland.

We also called in at a nursery and bought 8 trees on the way home and planted them all as soon as we got back.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The saga of the steps

OK, so is this writing related? I fear not -- although there was a book called The Thirty Nine Steps with a lead character called Richard Hannay ...

But when we first bought a little patch on a hillside in the country, we went back to our city apartment and hurried straight to the library to take out books about gardening and landscaping -- and amongst these was a book about making drystone steps and walls. We immediately fell in love with the idea and Elliot raced out and bought some of the necessary tools almost before we got anything else -- even a spade!!.

I have always admired the work of Edna Walling who was a famous Australian landscape designer.

She was very fond of cottages with leafy natural gardens. Her designs nearly always involved the use of stone in walls and steps and paths.

This is an example of one of her walls softened by greenery on the right.

Anyhow... inspired by Edna, Elliot and I have been transforming our shed into a cottage and a couple of weeks ago, we finally gave in to the urge to make some dry stone steps. So here are some pics to show you how we went about it.

The picture above is of Elliot digging out the site. I was very impressed by how professional he was, using stakes and string to mark the area!

I was foreman and chief photographer -- which meant I worked out which stones went where, I carried them to the site and shovelled the sand that was used to build them and generally bossed poor Elliot around.

We erected a tarp to keep the site shady while we worked.

The steps in context -- here you see where they fit into the general scheme of things here -- part of a bank that I hope will one day be covered with interesting plants -- and that gorgeous view in the background.

The final product, which will look so much better when the banks on either side are planted up and there's greenery to soften the stones.

We christened the steps last evening by sitting on them and having a glass of wine while we watched the sunset.

I promise I was writing in between step building!!!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Patience is a mother…

We were woken early this morning by a loud knock on the door.

The young lad from next door wanted to share with us the happy news that their little beefalo calf had arrived safely.

What excitement!!!!!

How special to be there to see the brand new baby and her mother. As you can see the calf is a sturdy little thing and the mother is already showing very strong nurturing qualities.

The little heifer calf, less than an hour old, was skipping and jumping and crouching, just like a puppy, trying to encourage her mother to play with it. Literally full of life!

Elliot observed that it was clear evidence that we are meant to be happy.

After congratulations and due admiration and awe were paid, we loaded our canoe onto the trailer and headed over to Lake Tinaroo to pick up out red claw pots.

It is so beautiful here in the mornings, that the drive across to the lake is an absolute joy. The sky is clear with rosy tints, the light on the hills is gentle… and the valleys are filled with mist.

We found two red claw (fresh water crayfish) to add to yesterday’s five. With luck we’ll have enough for a barbecue with friends on the weekend.

Lake Tinaroo, pictured right. (taken this morning.)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Christmas is coming...

I've been trying to pretend that Christmas isn't coming. Elliot and I have made a list of all the things we want to accomplish here before we go back to Townsville and Christmas shopping has very low priority compared with finishing preparing our recycled windows and doors for the builder, or finishing the dry stone steps we've started... or finishing my book!!!

But I have bought one lovely present from a local potter and I've found the most gorgeous cards that I'm going to use as Christmas cards. They're painted by a North Queensland artist called Daryl Dickson and you really should check out her website.

She paints the most gorgeous, cute images of northern Australia's tropical wildlife -- tree kangaroos, mahogany gliders, orphaned possums and baby kangaroos (joeys)...

On the reading front, I've just finished Kelly Hunter's fabulous debut novel Wife for a Week and am now reading Phillipa Ashley's debut, Decent Exposure. Both of the books are very warm and funny and sexy. Terrific holiday reads. Should be the start to great careers for both these talented women.

I especially love the settings of these books. Kelly's is in Hong Kong -- a place I find particularly exciting. My eldest daughter and I spent a fabulous week there in her final year at school. Such an adventurre we had together.
And Phillipa's book is set in England's Lakes District -- one of my favourite places in the world. I'll never forget the wonderful walks we took in the hills around Ambleside -- almost as lovely as the Atherton Tablelands. (grin)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Open heart surgery...

I ripped out a 'deadwood' scene this morning.

This sounds sensible, doesn't it? But, believe me, it is so hard to do. Once something's written, it's not easy to dump it, especially when you running to a deadline and you want that word count to build. (Luckily, my deadline's been extended and my writing feels like fun again!)

But just as I axed a secondary character a few weeks back, I cut a scene today and changed point of view for the scene that followed and suddenly what felt dreary is coming back to life again.

I remember once, when I first started writing, and I was talking to Ann Charlton, an Australian M&B writer, whose work I adored. Ann was a huge inspiration for me and she said that often, the bits you love best when you first write them, are the bits you end up throwing away. At the time I was horrified.

There's nothing quite so wonderful as writing something that excites you while the words are falling from your fingertips. And there's nothing harder than ripping those words out days or weeks later.

But after twenty-four books, I know what Ann Charlton meant. There are many times when you want to cling to a piece of writing because it has a particular sentence of phrase that felt magical or clever when you first wrote it. But when you step back to see if that passage, scene or chapter is contributing to the characters, or to the tension or to the romance, you sometimes realise that it sounds pretty, but it doesn't really contribute anything of significance. And it has to go.

As I'm in gardening mode these days, I think of this as pruning rather than surgery. The book, like a shrub, will be neater and healthier without that cumbersome, drab, no-tension scene.

Marion Lennox wrote to me once and said she was throwing out 60 pages after reading my article on emotional punch. (As if I can teach Marion anything! I'm not claiming any kudos here, just indicating how dedicated to her craft Marion is.) But that's the kind of guts it takes sometimes to improve you writing. Since then, Marion's gone on to win two RITAS and a R*BY.

So... I've resisted pulling this scene for about three weeks now, but finally it's gone. I've lost lots of words (nothing like 60 pages), but I feel as if I have my characters back. It makes such a difference.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Good news

I guess there's no point in having a blog if I don't share good news. So here it is...

1. We have restored our water supply after being without it for two days. (Elliot and I laid 150 metres of new pipe this morning and we feel like we've learned a lot about water supplies in the past few days.) And we're very grateful to have that wet stuff back!!!!!

2. Our phone line has been reinstated after being out for two days. (The joys of living in the country are unlimited.)

Having the Boss's Babies came in at # 10 on the Waldensbooks bestseller list in the US last week.

So... thanks to all the wonderful people who bought this book and I hope you really enjoy Alice and Liam's story!

Here are some photos of the fabulous Far North Queensland city of Cairns where the book is set. It's an hour and a quarter's drive from where I am living at present.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


I've been tagged by Nicola Marsh to tell you five things the world doesn't know about me.

OK, here goes...

1. I've climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge -- exhilarating!! Possibly the best view in the world!

2. I represented Queensland in basketball when I was at high school.

3. I've canoed (unknowingly) in crocodile infested waters.

4. I cried when I found the Sistine Chapel was closed on our last day in Rome and cried again six years later when it was open and, at last, I saw Michelangelo's beautiful ceiling.

5. I've danced till midnight at in the Starlight Room of New York's Waldorf Astoria (where Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra used to sing) -- at the Black and White ball hosted by Harlequin during the RWA National conference in New York in 2003. And I tag Jennie Adams

Monday, November 13, 2006

The joys of the country...

The big news at the moment is that everyone here is waiting very impatiently for Patience, one of the cows next door, to give birth. The first thing I do each morning is look over the back fence to see if Patience is still in one piece.

There was great consternation on the weekend when one of the other cows broke out – yes, there’s one who has no regard for fences. Patience followed her and for a heart-stopping moment, she paused at the top of a steep bank, no doubt wondering if she should risk her infant by tottering down such a breakneck slope, and then she promptly did just that.

Thankfully, Patience and the calf seem to be fine. In fact I had the honour of placing my hand on Patience’s stomach and feeling him (or her) kick.

There’s a lot of science here, too. Patience was artificially inseminated with buffalo and the resulting crossbreed is beefalo – which apparently is fabulous beef.

But we won’t think too much about that…

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Agapanthus in the morning...

On Friday morning … I got up very early on before it was light and was working steadily when the power suddenly went off! After a brief panic – have I forgotten to pay a bill? – I saw that the neighbours’ lights had gone out, too and so Elliot and I went for a walk instead. The sun was up by then and the valleys were full of mist. They call this area the Misty Mountains and they really are beautiful.

I took photos but the only one that worked was this one of our agapanthus.

Sadly, the platypus in our local creek didn’t make an appearance, but just down the road, I met a mother duck with scads of ducklings and wanted to take another photo for Liz Fielding, but had, of course, left camera behind.

Came home and had a good day’s writing, as well as a profitable time in the garden spreading manure.

Good grief, am I getting to be a real country gal, or what???

Just over one third of the month is gone and I’m actually on target with my book, so I’m feeling a tad smug. But that’s always a danger sign, isn’t it?

Very dangerous.

Sunday afternoon… Have added little more, but have had a good weekend. I hope you have, too.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

More visitors

Yesterday, the neighbours' goslings came to help me in the garden. When they first hatched, they imprinted on humans and if their (human) family are away, they come looking for company. Of course, when I turned up a worm, I became their new best friend.

On the writing front. I've ditched a secondary character. Could hear my editor whispering in my ear: "Do you really need this person? What's he adding to the story?"
So he's gone (got up at 4.30 this morning to do the deed). I've had to do a lot of re-writing, but I know the story's stronger for the change.

Onwards and upwards!!!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Ok, so I’m making steady progress…

I’ve written two chapters.

But I’m not sure how fast I can flog this horse. There are some things that take this author time to think through. Like who my characters really are… what are their goals, their most embarrassing secrets and darkest fears… and what can happen to them that might really surprise the reader...

And I read something in the RWR yesterday that made me remember that making the deadline isn’t everything.

In an interview, Karen Marie Moning, was asked: How do you deal with the discouragement that comes from throwing away a day’s (week’s, month’s etc.) work?

And she said: ‘The first few times threw me into a serious funk. But then I began to see a pattern. Every time I discarded a scene or a few chapters and tried again – it turned out better, I believe when I toss a scene or a section in my book it’s because something in my gut is saying “this isn’t right, this isn’t what you really mean,” or “you’re writing with half a brain because you’re tired” or “you’re too worried about your deadline to completely lose yourself in the story.” Never make that mistake. I’m in the Douglas Adam’s camp: he said the thing he loved most about deadlines was the whooshing sound they made when they passed him by.’

Thank you Karen.

I was so pleased to be reminded of this. I’ve always prided myself on making deadlines, but until now have also managed to take the time to write the best book I can, and this forcing process, while getting me to stop fiddling around too much, has bothered me, because I’m not doing enough deep thinking and day dreaming…

So the new plan is to push on, to try to make the deadline, but if I feel anything about the story is being compromised by hurrying, I’m giving myself permission to slow down. I’m a wallower. I love to wallow in books I read and in books I write… to picture everything in detail… and to feel everything along with the characters… to lose myself in their world…

And I also plan to read one of Karen Marie Moning’s books. Doesn’t this one sound terrific?

For eons Adam Black has aided humanity and meddled in its affairs, much to the chagrin of the queen of the Seelie Court. He has finally pushed her too far and finds himself, a once powerful Fae, invisible and very human. But he is still as resourceful as ever, and finds a way to reach the queen and plea to have his curse lifted with the help of a young lawyer, Gabrielle O'Callaghan, a human born with the ability to see his kind. As old enemies yearn to take advantage of his weakened state, threatening his life and all existence, Adam discovers that Gabrielle threatens a heart he never thought he had. RITA Award-winning Moning's fans may now rejoice that Adam, a reoccurring charmer from her previous novels, has his own story at last, and all readers who love humorous fantasy romance filled to the brim with fantasy-worthy Highlanders will find Moning's latest to be a sensuous treat. John Charles
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Country doings…

The neighbour’s cows got out yesterday – broke through the fence into another paddock where the grass was, of course, greener. One got badly torn by the barbwire fence and another, who couldn’t make it through the fence, mooed loudly, feeling left out, I guess.

Elliot badly wanted to be the city guy who rescued his country neighbour’s stock, but was worried the cow would be hurt more if he tried to get it back to the fence.

A pair of peewees has been frantically trying to chase magpies away from their nest, but we fear the nasty magpies got the peewees’ babies.

We saw a huge, marvelously striped python in a tree with a big bulge in his middle – a small rabbit perhaps??

Last night dingoes were howling on the hills opposite us and we hoped the cattle (not ours) were safe. And during the night a thick white mist moved in across the valley. So pretty…

Oh, and I’ve written 6,301 words of my next book, so I’m making steady progress.

I’m determined to get this book written in a month!!!!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Last Saturday Elliot and I were involved in the Rainforest Writing Festival which was held in conjunction with the Yungaburra Folk Festival. The quaint little town of Yungaburra was overrun with visitors and the Tablelands rocked!

Elliot talked about writing freelance articles for newspapers and magazines and I, of course, talked about romance writing. I always love to mix with fellow writers and to have the chance to make new writing friends and I’m thrilled that there are so many living up here.

My mother has now flown back to Brisbane and it’s “head down” for me. I’m trying to write a book in a month!!!!


I’ve never done this before, have no idea if I’m capable, but I so want to write this story quickly. It will mean writing two thousand words a day. I love my characters already, but will the words flow?

So far I’ve written 2, 750 (over several days) and last night I gathered pictures for the collage I hope will inspire me. Haven’t found my hero yet, but other images are coming together nicely. Lots of pictures of the outback, so no prizes for guessing where it’s set!!

Meanwhile, Elliot’s working hard at clearing the messy corners of our little patch of countryside and my garden keeps calling to me. My goal is to get my writing done by 5 p.m. each day, so that I can go out in the cool of the afternoon to garden. Wish me luck! I’ll keep you posted.

Oh, and this morning I updated my website with news of next year’s releases.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Lilly's baptism...

I've been caught up in family matters over the last few days and all because of this happy event -- granddaughter Lilly's christening. Pictured above are Addie (Godmother) Lauren (mother) and my sons, Richard (father) and Andrew (Godfather)

Happy and proud parents

The perfect baby -- didn't complain about being undressed and then dolled up in finery!

There was a lovely lunch afterwards, prepared by Richard. Two great-grandmothers were present, Lilly was handed around to many willing arms without complaint and a wonderful day was had by all.

Oh, and my cake was beautifully iced by a local cake shop, but I don't have a photo yet. And it tasted fine, too.

Back to writing soon...

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

back to the city again...

Leaving the country... our front drive is part of an old railway cutting.

We came back to the city yesterday, brought with me a nasty tick bite, and will miss the kookaburras and the gorgeous rainforest, but didn't complain about the Thai takeaway for dinner last night and am off to the hairdresser this morning to become citified again...

Sent the final tweaks for my trilogy book to my editor . The trilogy book, by the way, will be Book 2 in a trilogy with Liz Fielding and Jackie Braun .

We've tentatively called the trilogy The Journey Home... as the books are about three women returning home to the UK, Australia and USA respectively after a journey in the Himalayas. Belle, Simone and Claire then embark on emotional and mental journeys, as they are prompted to fix up something in their pasts... mistakes that sent their lives in a particular direction, wrongs they now want to right.

It has been such a privilege to work with two such talented authors and my editor has really pulled out all the stops to help me get the best out of my story, so I'm very excited about this project. My book, by the way, has the working title of For Her Eyes Only... and it really fits the story, but we'll see what title the marketing people decide on...

Meanwhile, I thought I'd share with you some pics of our little piece of countryside that we took during our recent stay.

First... this is me ... the perfect way to end a writing day is working in our native garden, where we're trying to grow more rainforest...

Elliot's handiwork... He's restoring old window frames getting them ready for our builder Nails, (Yes, that's his name) who will be building our modest extension over the Christmas holidays.

Part of our front drive

We're growing a good crop of dandelions

On Friday my mother arrives and it's Lilly's christening on the weekend, so I'm not sure whether I'll have a chance to blog, but I'll be back as soon as I can.

Friday, October 13, 2006

The role of the writer's subconscious...

Jay Dixon talks about her own attempt to write a romance novel (she was later an editor but never a successful fiction author). She said: Emotionally drained myself (had been through a tough divorce) I could not summon up the energy to write “from my own experiences” (my words).

She goes on to say that “these books (romances) are an exploration of what life would be like if… if I were different; if society were differently organized; if my partner were different. That might explain why the author who looks like ‘a mumsy housewife’ and who has a happy marriage writes darkly seductive sexual novels, with aggressive heroes, and why an author with a dysfunctional family writes romances about young women growing into love, without any sexual confrontations.”

I found this very interesting… this idea that we create elements in our stories that express an absence in our own lives.

I’d been thinking about this quite independently. I realized some years back that my heroes are all versions of the imaginary big brother I created for myself when I was a child. I only had younger sisters and I longed for a nice big brother who’d stick up for me in the playground, who might gently tease me and who’d bring all his dishy mates home … That would be heaven!!! (And yes, Hugh Jackman in Paperback Hero, fits that bill beautifully)

And Gabe Rivers from my book A Wedding at Windaroo or Harry Ryder from Her Playboy Challenge could be typical of that kind of hero -- although I think there's a little of the big brother in all my guys.)

But I hadn’t noticed a connection between my subconscious and my heroines until just recently, when I tried to start a new book with a Katie Fforde type heroine. Silly me. I always get off track when I’m influenced by other writers. When will I ever learn? Anyhow, during this process, I realized that my heroines need to be quite strong – stronger than I am. I have never had much confidence and this possibly stems from being sent to school when I was only four. I don’t know. But I realized I need to admire my heroines for having qualities that I perceive to be lacking in myself. Now that I understand that, I feel more secure about my writing.

And Cate Blanchett? Well, I believe she has that strength and balance and groundedness (in her real life) that I want my heroines to achieve. Mostly on their own, but with a little help from their heroes. :) From my books... I think I'd choose Stella Lassiter in A Bride at Birralee and Fiona McLaren in In the Heart of the Outback as examples of strong heroines, although again, I think most of them are stronger than I am.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The changing nature of Mills & Boon novels

On October 28th I’ll be speaking at the Yungaburra Folk festival and the friend who twisted my arm to do this suggested that I talk about why romance appeals to women and to try to see its position in the cultural and historical scheme of things.

To help me get my head around this, I ordered jay Dixon’s book The Romance Fiction of Mills and Boon 1909-1990s.

What fascinating reading. It only arrived yesterday and I haven’t got all that far yet, but I’m hooked.

I hope jay Dixon won’t mind, but I’m going to post a short extract here:

“The Mills & Boon romances of the post-Second World War period depict problems that are specific to women. In the late 1940s the mainspring of their stories are such topics as the lack of job opportunities for women (both single and married) the difficulties that arise when living with in-laws due to the housing shortage; and the problems faced by wives when trying to revive marriages to men who have become strangers after being away at war for six years.”

I’m sure Mills & Boon books continue to reflect our current society this now. We still have fairy tale aspects such as stories with princes and sheikhs. (I can never spell that word.) But real life contemporary issues too. I’ve dealt with infertility (an increasing modern dilemma) in Their Doorstep Baby and the problem of a father discovering that his daughter isn’t his in In the Heart of the Outback (April 2007) a post-DNA phenomenon.

Natasha Oakley’s Accepting the Boss’s Proposal is about a divorcee with two children and Jessica Hart has written some wonderful stories about women becoming involved in blended families. And these are just a smattering of the issues relevant to these times that you will find in the books in our Romance line and I’m sure the other lines (especially medicals) cover these, too.

But of course, as jay Dixon would agree, I’m sure: it’s the emotional response from the reader that is more important than the issue itself. The issue simply makes the story relevant for the audience.

To quote jay again: “Emotional involvement of the reader – which is achieved by the particular style of the author – is all that matters. The kind of writing is, for the most part, intuitive. It must, to some degree, tap into the wells of the writer’s subconscious if it is to be effective in conveying the emotional intensity that is the hallmark of these books.”

When I sold my first book, editor Linda Fildew told me: “We bought your book because of the level of emotional intensity. Always remember that’s what we want: emotion, emotion, emotion.”