Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A stolen week...

We stole away to Tarzali for a week and it was gorgeous. Clear, crisp autumn days, wide blue skies with just a few fluffy clouds – and fabulous sunsets.

E took the photo here. Every evening was different and beautiful.

We laid paving stones, watered plants, harvested pumpkin and citrus fruit. I finished writing my Mother’s Day novella and I read another fabulous book – Hunting and Gathering by Anna Gavalda.

This was one of those books I didn’t want to end, even though I still read rapaciously to get to the end. Isn’t it fabulous when you find a book like that – one that immerses you completely in the characters, draws you into its world and utterly entrances you? This book is set in Paris -- and the characters are all misfits and their story is difficult and simple, complex and romantic.

Tarzali was a little like that, too. We didn’t really want to come back. On the last night, we sat out under the stars to enjoy our pre-dinner drink and we put little coloured lanterns on the stones steps we’d made, and it was just magic.

That night I was so conscious of leaving – of blowing out the last candle on the veranda, of the last sip of wine, of the last track on the CD, which happened to be Shiver Me Timbers on a compilation one of my writing friends gave me.

But the next morning, as we were having breakfast, the builder the plumber and the electrician all arrived. Things were happening. At last! It was time to go!

Now, a little office tidying is in order, to get the feng shui right, before I start on a new writing project.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Name that rooster...

The photo was sent in a batch of email photos. As I love birds and I'm a romance writer, I couldn't resist sharing this one.

I think the rooster's name is Sylvester, after Georgette Heyer's wonderful hero, (not the comic strip cat!!)

I'd love to hear other suggestions for his name.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

High Society Weddings

Who doesn't love a royal wedding?

I can remember playing "princesses" for hours as a child. My princesses and their ladies in waiting were frangipani flowers. Did you know that if you turn a frangipani upside down it becomes a beautiful ballerina in a tutu, or a princess in a pure white gown with a lovely slender neck and neat little head?

No wonder I loved the chance to create my own Princess Isabella. But of course, I couldn't let her sit around, twiddling her thumbs, in a white ball gown. I had to send her into the Outback, and not to somewhere pleasant, such as a comfortable cattle station homestead.

Fleeing for her life, poor Isabella ends up in the true wilderness of the Northern Territory, where she stumbles upon Jack Kingsley-Laird, a widower, retreating from life.

If you missed this story, don't despair. (You were about to fall into deep despair, weren't you?)
Now, Princess in the Outback has been reprinted in a special By Request edition with Liz Fielding's An Ordinary Princess and Barbara McMahon's The Tycoon Prince.

You can find out more details about each book on the Mills and Boon website. Or read an excerpt from Princess in the Outback on the Past Releases page of my website.

Or you can buy it here.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Oh My God, I Might Have To Smile

Yesterday I went to another library talk, but this time I was in the audience rather than out the front. I was listening to a woman writer from Cairns – Letizia De Rosa, who has written three books – Antonio’s Niche (about her Italian father’s struggle to survive in Naples during World War2), Conversations with My Mother (philosophical musings about being a woman), and Oh My God, I Might Have To Smile (a collection of Letizia's thoughts and quotations).

Letizia was inspired to start writing after her two babies died and she is also a very effective and inspiring public speaker and she has created her own publishing business Sorrentini Publishing.

Quite a woman.

I think it's important for writers to band together and support each other even when we write in very different genres and for quite different audiences. Our local library has always given me fabulous support. They've even added Claiming His Family to their Book Club reading list.

And it was great to see libraries and service clubs here all supporting Letizia -- a true woman with altitude.

I wanted to share with you a quote I loved from Oh My God, I Might Have To Smile.

The answer to life is focus, fortitude,

Fun-filled responsibility,

Happy thoughts, honest reflection and

The company of genuine friends.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

dark moments

I'm at that point in my current story where the slow build of a warm and sweet romance must be torn apart.

Can you feel my pain? I know once I get into it I will probably quite enjoy the drama and the emotional tension of this "dark moment", but right now, I'd just like to leave my couple kissing and kissing and getting all steamy...

Oh, well...
Meanwhile, E is still away at Tarzali. Apparently he excelled himself in his culinary efforts on the weekend. He steamed a duck and then smoked it over Nerada tea leaves and his guests were so impressed they left with the carcass, to turn it into some clever kind of dip, which they then invited him to their place to enjoy. Don't country folk have fun?

See what I'm missing out on by staying back in the city, chained to my computer, and obediently tapping away? Let's hope my muse rewards me with loads of inspiration today.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

A year in the country...

This year, we were supposed to be spending a year in the country.

At one stage, we were planning to spend a year in the north of Scotland. Both of us have Scottish heritage and I love books set in the Scottish north and we had it all worked out. We'd even picked our cottage -- a lovely keeper's cottage at Portmahomack. A year with the four seasons! I was so excited.

But then I was attacked by doubts -- after all we had our own cottage in the country in the north of Australia. Surely, we should spend a year there first. So that was plan B. To add a spare room and dining room at Tarzali and live there for a year.
But we hadn't accounted for builders.
We have a builder, who has already done some work for us and understands our "vision," so we've been patient -- incredibly patient, while his commitments to other jobs take precedence.
E's up there at the moment chatting with him... and long story short, we at last have his promise that out modest project will be completed by the end of May.
So, that's the new plan... to start our year in the country in June. At least it will be lovely and cold. Yes, when you've lived in Townsville for 30 + years, you can put both those words in the same sentence.
Will keep you posted. Meanwhile, I have to finish my Mother's Day novella.

Monday, April 07, 2008

LOVED this book...

Have just come back to say I have finished The Rose of Sebastopol by Katherine McMahon and as the publishers promised, I did absolutely LOVE it.

It was wonderful, stunning, so rich in historical detail and characterization and plot that I want to give a copy to all of my friends.

It's one of those books I feel privileged to have read and I've just voted for it on the Richard and Judy book club.

Go Rose go!

Secrets of the Bestselling Sisterhood

Now that I’ve actually put my hand up to take part in a workshop at the Romance Writers of America conference, (gulp!) I’ve been looking through my notes from past conferences and I thought it would be rather stingy of me not to share them.

Please note: these are entirely my perceptions of what these great names were saying. If there are mistakes, they are my mistakes.

One of the most fascinating workshops I attended was Secrets of the Bestselling Sisterhood, conducted by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Patricia Smith and Jayne Ann Krentz.

And here are my notes – extremely patchy, (you’ll have to connect the dots, I’m afraid). I missed stuff because I was too busy pinching myself that I was actually in the same room with these three stars of romance.

Susan Elizabeth Phillips

One size does not fit all

Protect the work! (Your work) Protect it from what you’re hearing (industry gossip, well meant advice etc) – you don’t have to follow one way of writing.

Protect yourself.

Dealing with others

Don’t get too caught up with contests, reviews, amazon etc.

You cannot please everyone. Liberate yourself and please yourself.

Find your own path

Craft is not the top priority

Readers want to be sucked into the story.

Patricia Smith

Write with absolute sincerity –follow your own imaginative vision of the world.

Celebrate universal and timeless values – courage, loyalty, honour (The Odyssey is a good example)

Embrace issues that go beyond culture – good versus evil. Go beyond the current social issue.

Create characters who embody powerful ideals about human beings.

Be willing to create characters who are very different from yourself. Feminine, quiet women can write strong, fierce characters.

Jayne Ann Krentz

Respect your writer’s voice

The only sin is to have a flat, boring voice. That equals forgettable.

Readers always go back to a memorable voice.

Voice is not just style. It’s also your world view, your code of ethics and your understanding of right and wrong.


Retail therapy

Ask someone else what they remember most about the story. What emotional punch?

Buy a kitchen timer When you can’t work, set yourself a time limit. You can’t get out of the chair for 45 minutes.

JAK’s best piece of advice ever…. You can’t run this career if you’re scared all the time. And.. The best ideas often come out of the act of creating rather than out of thin air.

Finally her war cry… ‘Guts, ladies, guts.’

I hope that perhaps one little phrase or idea here gives you something to think about... And thanks, in their absence, to 3 great authors.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Emotional tension

In July, I'll be giving a workshop in San Francisco with fellow Romance authors Jessica Hart and Barbara McMahon. We'll be talking about emotion, emotion , emotion and its global appeal and one of the sections that I'll be dealing with is emotional tension. For that reason, I have my antennae trained for ways others writers develop emotional tensions.

And tonight (on Australian ABC TV1) will be screened the series final of BBC show Life On Mars. If you’ve ever wanted to learn about writing tension, this is an episode you shouldn’t miss.

For those of you who live in Oz and haven’t been watching the series, it’s about Sam Tyler, who had an accident and woke up in 1973. He doesn’t know if he’s mad, in a coma or has travelled back in time. Throughout the series, he’s been trying to get back where he came from. He believes if he doesn’t get back he will die!

For me, the big draw card besides the plot, is the character Gene Hunt played by Philip Gleinster (I’ve had a small swoon on this blog about him before. E’s not all that happy about how I like this guy so much, but at least he and P.G. share the same birthday. That’s supposed to keep E happy.J)

Last week, we were out but our son copied the episode for us and we caught up with it yesterday (just in time).

Normally, Sam and Gene are detectives solving crimes and hunting down criminals, but approaching their jobs with entirely different perspectives. Gene, a 1973 man, is very un PC and little more than a thug, while Sam is the careful and cautious 21st century cop with knowledge of all the modern technology, which is frustratingly no longer available to him.

Last week the tables were turned on Gene.

Wow! Talk about racking up the tension!

Gene became a murder suspect. Sam managed against all the odds to discover who actually committed the crime and he saved Gene’s bacon -- or so he thought.

However, in a last minute twist, the baddie (for want of a better term) told Sam that he can’t save Gene. If he tries to help him again, he will never be able to go back to his real time!!!!!

Which leaves Sam with the hugest of dilemmas. This is the stuff that makes a really good story – a choice that is truly difficult, when a character has to give up his long cherished, vitally important goal, or do something self-sacrificing, but very worthy. (I’ve often wondered if Claiming His Family won the RITA because Erin faced the challenge of giving up her very important goal to keep her son Joey, and was prepared to let him go with his father, Luke.)

Anyway, back to life on Mars, I can kind of guess what Sam might choose, but I’m hoping tonight’s episode will answer all the questions the series has raised (we have to at least see a glimpse of Sam in 2007 surely) and still keep me on the edge of my seat.

As a writer, I find the story options open to fellow writers and the choices they make endlessly fascinating

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Love this book or your money back

That's the publisher's promise on a big gold sticker on the front of the book I'm currently reading.
The book is The Rose of Sebastopol by Katherine McMahon and it's a historical novel set in the Crimean War.
So far, I'm only 65 pages into it and I'm very much enjoying it. I'm wondering if I'd be game to ask for my money back if I didn't enjoy it. Somehow, I doubt it. (I'm not very bolshi about that sort of thing.) But wouldn't it wonderful to have that kind of publisher support?
My current reading tastes are tending towards historical novels and Young Adult fiction. Two YA books arrived from amazon yesterday and I'm keenly looking forward to reading them, too. One is a romance set in WW2 by Eva Ibbotson. I just adored Which Witch? and used it every year when I was teaching Yr 8. This was pre-Harry Potter and much cleverer, in my humble opinion.

We've just had a lovely weekend at Tarzali, gardening, cutting grass and relaxing. I wish I could share with you how lovely it is to sit on our veranda and watch the soft misty rain drift across the hills and valleys and to see the way the different folds and layers of landscape are brought into sharper perspective or diminished by the ever changing light. Here are a couple of pictures that we took on the weekend, but they don't quite bring the experience to life.
Yes, there's been more rain in FNQ. Wish I could parcel some up and send it to Bron Jameson.