Saturday, February 28, 2009

that tea cup...

I love drinking tea at any time of day, and the only thing that makes it better is drinking from a lovely tea cup.
My current favourite is the range by Robert Gordon of Australia. I have several pieces in his Alice range, including the teapot and milk jug. I love the nostalgic look of these pieces (although they actually feel quite substantial and modern) and I adore the pink inside, which makes me think of a sea shell.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

creative mess...

A guest will be sleeping in my study tonight, so I have to clean it up. A-r-rgh! I’m mid-book. This is what my desk looks like.

Those bits of paper are all the notes I make to myself as I’m going. There’s always a tea cup somewhere – headphones for listening to music (mostly classical – no words). On difficult writing days, I put on a CD and don’t let myself get up until it’s finished. Usually, somewhere during the 60 mins or so, the writing starts flowing again.
The book under the headphones is British Poetry Since 1945. If I’m stuck or blocked I often find reading poetry helps my mind to un-knot itself.
I just pick a random stanza from any old page, like this:

But somehow his arms had become just bits of wood
Somehow his guts were an old watch-chain
Somehow his feet were two old postcards
Somehow his head was a broken window-pane
‘I give up,’ he said. He gave up.

Creation had failed again.
(From Fifth Bedtime Story by Ted Hughes)

Don’t ask me how it works to read something like that (brilliant, isn’t it?) and then sail on with my own writing, but it often works. Not always, mind you.

Sometimes a chat with E helps. Or my last resort is to head off somewhere with pen and paper to THINK.

Oh, and you can see my old computer behind my laptop, because I just haven’t been able to bring myself to throw it out. But now, it must all be tidied. And I haven’t shown you the floor or the sofa where my poor guest must sleep.

It’s all creative mess, I assure you…

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Oscars…

Coming in late here... but I stayed up late on Monday night to watch the Oscars. I do love them. Yes, I love the glamour and the gowns and the stars, but mainly I love them because I love cinema so very much – almost as much as I love books. And now that my children have flown the nest, I can go to the movies quite often – whenever I’m in the city, that is…
I find movies inspire my muse in subtle ways I could never quite identify. This year, I particularly enjoyed the tributes former Oscar winners made in person to the new nominees. I found their comments very interesting and insightful and inspiring and generous…

Over this past year I’ve been lucky enough to see many of the nominated movies:
Revolutionary Road
The Dark Knight
Slumdog Millionaire
Happy Go Lucky
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Iron Man
Revolutionary Road

Of course, I enjoyed movies that weren’t nominated too, (or if they were nominated, I missed seeing them in the abridged late night version we saw here) Movies like:
Gran Torino
Mamma Mia
Burn After Reading
Hunting and Gathering

Now, I really want to see:
The Wrestler
The Reader
Harvey’s Last Chance

And what were my personal favourites this year? I’d have to say:
Slumdog Millionaire (If you haven't seen this, you must. I promise you, it's brilliant!!)
Happy Go Lucky (Feel good and deep and original)
Revolutionary Road (First class acting all round)

OH, and my current heroine looks rather like Kate Winslet, in my imagination. What were your favourites?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Sunday afternoon indulgence

It's another rainy Sunday afternoon here, and I think I just might give in and try this recipe I received the other day by email, courtesy of the wonderful Anne Gracie.
The most dangerous cake recipe 5 MINUTE CHOCOLATE MUG CAKE
4 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons sugar (that sounds like a lot. I think you could halve it)
2 tablespoons cocoa
1 egg
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons oil
3 tablespoons chocolate chips (optional)
a small splash of vanilla extract
1 large coffee mug
Add dry ingredients to mug, and mix well. Add the egg and mix thoroughly. Pour in the milk and oil and mix well. Add the chocolate chips (if using) and vanilla extract, and mix again.Put your mug in the microwave and cook for 3 minutes at 1000 watts (high). The cake will rise over the top of the mug, but don't be alarmed! Allow to cool a little, and tip out onto a plate if desired.EAT! (This can serve 2 if you want to feel slightly more virtuous).And why is this the most dangerous cake recipe in the world? Because now we are all only 5 minutes away from chocolate cake at any time of the day or night!

You are going to print this out straight away, aren't you????? Let me know how it goes.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

the urge to write...

I guess I’ve always known that the urge to tell stories is something we’re born with. The first story I remember writing down was a story I wrote for the writer’s badge when I was a Brownie. No one in my Brownie company had asked to do this badge before and I caused my Brown Owl a headache, hunting down a tester. Anyway, the story was about a girl whose family was transferred to the Outback and she was really upset because she would miss Brownies, but then she learned about the Lone Brownies and all ended well.
Yes, I know, I’m still writing versions of that same story, aren't I?
I’ve heard it said that we all have a core story to tell. I guess this is my core story. And in a way I’m still playing it out in my life – yo-yoing back and forth between the city and the country.
But there is another kind of story I love and that’s fairytales. I’d say Blind Date with the Boss falls into that category. As a teen, I wrote lots of ugly duckling and rags to riches stories. And later, I wrote stories for my four children. This book – A Story About A Princess and Pink is one I wrote for my daughter Victoria and her friends Tanya and Ruth, when they were at kindergarten and used to fight over the pink dress in the dressing up box.
My children helped illustrate the book. I think Vicki was four when she drew this front cover pic. Richard drew the handsome Rainbow Prince at the end and I photocopied the pages at the library and sewed them together on my sewing machine. Never was a book produced with more excitement!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

what's your guilty (reading) secret?

The organisers of World Book Day are running a “Guilty Secrets” campaign, where the public is invited to vote for the books they most enjoy reading (but don’t like telling people about!).

What a wonderful chance to put in a word for romance novels. The list of authors comprise the usual suspects and Mills & Boon is listed as an option!
Wouldn't it be fantastic if M&B could pip JKR or Grisham to the post? So it would be terrific if you, (and all your friends and relations) log on and vote...
Take a look here.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

May this story find you sometime, somewhere...

My next release (February 20th UK) is a short story. At least, my editor calls it a short story, but at 30,000 words, it didn't feel particularly short when I was writing it. :) Just the same, I loved -- really, really loved -- writing this novella, which is now called The Billionaire's Baby Surprise.

It's being released for the UK's Mother's Day in a collection called The Secret Baby Bargain and I was hoping to run a competition so that readers in other countries had a chance to read it.

However, the book is being used in a special promotion and, at this point, I don't have any spare copies.

Sorry. I really do want to share this story with my readers.

If you live in England, please do keep an eye out for this book and give it a little pat for me. If you don't live in the UK, it is, of course, available from

To tempt you, let me tell you a little about it.

My heroine, Claire Eden becomes the gaurdian to her little nephew Harry after her sister Flora dies suddenly from post-delivery complications.

Claire gives up her life as a busy and successful events planner in Brisbane to live with little Harry on Sapphire Island in North Queensland and to bring Harry up in the relaxed, 'island life' she knows Flora wanted for him.

But a tropical cyclone, and the unexpected reappearance of Harry's father, adventurer billionaire Jack Dysart, interrupt Claire's plans...
Other stories in the book include Expecting His Child, by wonderful fellow Queenslander, medical author Meredith Webber, and Claiming the Ashbrooke Heir by historical author Mary Nichols.
You can read an extract of Claire and Jack's story here.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A recipe I'd like to share...

This Women's Weekly recipe is easy and nutrtitious and low fat, and better still it's been a big hit with family and friends, so I thought it was too good to keep to myself. These quantities are for two, but it's very easy to expand and I've made it without the chicken stock and with various vegetable combinations and it was still good.

Mind you, I'm aware that American readers might find it strange, because I don't think you eat much lamb, or pumpkin as a vegetable.

spiced lamb cutlets with coriander pumpkin
200 butternut pumpkin, peeled, cut into 1 cm pieces
125g chickpeas, rinsed, drained
1/2 cup (60g) frozen baby peas
2 tablespoons fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves
4 french trimmed lamb cutlets
2 teaspoons curry powder
cooking oil spray
1/3 cup light coconut milk
2 tablespoons chicken stock
1 clove garlic, crushed

1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees C/180 fan forced
2. Roast pumpkin in small, shallow baking dish, uncovered, 10 minutes. Add chickpeas and cook, uncovered, about 5 minutes or until pumpkin is tender. Remove from oven, sprinkle with coriander.
3. Meanwhile, sprinkle lamb with curry powder. (I coat mine fairly liberally). Spray lamb with cooking oil. Cook lamb in heated frying pan. Remove from pan.
4. Add coconut milk, stock and garlic to same pan, bring to boil, stirring in pan juices and spice; remove from heat.
5. Serve pumpkin mixture and lamb, drizzled with coconut sauce.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

sunsets and a bushfire book appeal...

This was the start of a most spectacular sunset at Tarzali yesterday evening. It went on and on after this shot was taken, lasting for almost an hour as it spread over the whole sky, growing deeper and pinker.
During this past week we've all been shocked by the Victorian bushfires and the terror and death that Nature can bring. Yesterday evening, however, it was a joy and a privilege to drink in the peace of her quiet beauty.
But that doesn't mean we've forgotten the plight of victims in Victoria and I'm adding this message from Kelly Hunter, President of Romance Writers of Australia.
We've all seen the devastation the recent Victorian bushfires have wrought and have wondered how we can help. We know that for many affected families, books will not be high on their priorities list for some time to come. But...We also know how valuable books can be in providing time out when reality gets tough.
So…With the aid of some wonderful volunteers, we've put together a Romance Writers of Australia Bushfire Book Appeal.
What we need? FICTION BOOKS! Romance books, children's books, genre books, whatever– either new or in sparkling condition.
Please send them to: RWA Bushfire Book Appeal c/- 89 Rennie St Thornbury Vic 3071
When to send them? Now! And any time over the next few months. The books will be boxed and delivered to the appropriate neighbourhood centres/communitycentres/libraries in batches as soon as practicable. Feel free to pop a note inside, or if you're an author, sign it.
With thanks, Kelly Hunter On behalf of Romance Writers of Australia Inc.

Friday, February 13, 2009

A nice surprise from my publishers...

These long stemmed roses, chocolates and a scented candle arrived in a glamorous long box from Harlequin Mills & Boon's Sydney office.
Another reason to love being a romance author.
I hope a nice surprise comes your way on Valentines's Day. On the other hand, why not just reach for a good romance novel?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

how I met your mother...

Yesterday was E’s birthday. Again. Gosh, how the years flash by. For us, there is always an extra anniversary, because we met on his birthday and this year signalled a significant number of years ending in zero. (But a girl mustn’t reveal too many details.)
We met in my first year of teaching, when I’d recently left home and was flatting for the first time. In fact, my flatmate took me to his birthday party and introduced us. Now comes the really embarrassing confession. At the party, she announced I was his ‘birthday present’.
Now that could have been the end of everything. I was, after all, a budding feminist. But we managed to survive this shaky start. Actually, we went for a midnight swim and I emerged from the sea covered in phosphorescence and looking (apparently) like some kind of sea nymph.
And here we are all these years later. Our granddaughter (the new big sister) was thrilled that we were having a birthday party and of course she sang loudly and helped pappy blow out the candles.
And in (secret) honour of the phosphorescence, I gave her glow in the dark bracelets to wear. A big hit!

Monday, February 09, 2009

a country in mourning

There's not much I can say about the terrible bushfires. They're so horrendous and terrifying. We're all so stunned by this tragedy, and the danger's not over yet.

The best thing we can do is dig deep and donate money, which the people in Victoria need desperately, and this is the best place to do so.

Friday, February 06, 2009

A rose by any other name...

The book I'm currently reading for my book club is The Guernsey and Potato Peel Pie Society . I'm loving it, but the thing I find funny is that when I first saw this book in a bookshop window, I swore I would never read it.

I was walking home one evening from our favourite Thai place around the corner with E and my son and part of our ritual is to stop and look in the window of our favourite bookshop Mary Who?
A small mountain of the Guernsey book had pride of place and Andrew said very disparagingly, 'That looks like the sort book you'd read, Mum.'
'Never!' I protested hotly.
But when I discovered it was the next book for my reading group (made up of women I used to teach with and whose tastes closely match mine) I discovered just how fickle I am, because I was suddenly intrigued by the title and eager to read it. Of course, comments by others about "couldn't put it down" helped.
But it also confirmed a few points about titles and target readers.
Many people are surprised when I tell them that we have very little say in the titles of our books. This is because the titles are so important at hooking readers and we authors often don't have a clue.
Although I'm proud to say that two of my bestselling books had titles I chose. These were Outback with the Boss (reprinted this year in Her Outback Boss) and Having the Boss's Babies.

On the other hand, In the Heart of the Outback was a book I loved. My publisher chose the title and I was quite happy with it at the time, but it didn't sell as well because the title didn't have enough hooks.

So it's a tricky business the titling of books, especially in series romance where the books are only on the shelves for such a short time.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Water, water everywhere...

It's still raining. In fact, it's been raining in Townsville all year! That's right -- almost all of last month and again in February.

We're completely cut off to the north, west and south by flood waters and if there were roads to the east, they'd be cut, too. The supermarkets only have long life milk, because the trucks can't get through, and a consignment of groceries has been sent up to Cairns by barge.

Some areas of NQ have received over a metre of rain in the past seven days.

And what am I writing about at the moment? Funny you should ask. It's a story set in Cape York in the wet season. I am so totally soaking up the appropriate vibes.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Time to saw awww...

Aren't these puppies too cute for words?

And at our place, when the twins & co came to visit, Nan (that would be me) improvised a cot. Of course, it was too much of a temptation for their big sister, who is, by the way, wearing a new line in jewellery -- my USB stick.