Thursday, October 29, 2009

life balance...

One of the things I miss most when I'm away from the city (apart from family) is our cinema group. But tonight we're going to try a country style cinema club, with the illustrious title -- The Stratvell Film Society. It involves an hour's drive down the mountain to South Johnstone, dinner first at one of our favourite little cafes, Off The Rails, and then a viewing of the film Elegy with Ben Kingsley and Penelope Cruz in a hall two doors down from the pub.

It's sure to be a different experience from the Warrina cinema in Townsville with its audience drawn predominantly from James Cook University lecturers.

I'm looking forward to it. Will report back.

Oh, and I had a good writing day today. Got my word count done before breakfast. Love it when that happens. Have had a lovely morning doing housework while listening to the radio. I feel almost normal. Heaven forbid.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

This week I'm reading...

It's a fabulous selection of short stories written by members of the UK's Romantic Novelists' Association.

I'm about half way through (reading religiously from front to back), having a lovely time rewarding myself with another story here and there during the day. Even though these stories all have a romantic theme, they are wonderfully varied. I've read romantic comedies, fantasy, a ghost story, an emotionally challenging tale, a regency romp. Lots of interest and inspiration and fun!

There are big names like Joanna Trollope and Katie Fforde, and familiar favourites like Liz Fielding, Sophie Weston and Nicola Cornick , but I'm also enjoying discovering authors who are new to me. I'm looking forward to checking out their websites and learning more about their books. I certainly recommend this book.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

a quiet week in the country....

I've had my head down writing, so really there hasn't been a lot to tell you. It's rained, however, and it's amazing how this place greens up after a couple of inches.

We poked our heads in at the Yungaburra Folk festival yesterday. Saw (as in glimpsed on the way past) a very scary looking tarot reader. No one at her table. I wasn't surprised. Bought more plants (of course) and came home and made a new garden beside the shed.

Our gardens are being attacked by bandicoots, however. In the mornings, we find new plants buried under upturned soil and deep cone shaped holes where they've pushed their snout in to hunt for beetles.
And we've been visited by a yellow footed scrub fowl. He/she usually stays deep in the rainforest, but we think the lack of rain forced her out to forage further afield for food. E tried to take a photo (this blurry shot), but was chased away by a very bolshie bush turkey, another of our regular visitors. In the mornings a lovely blue crane arrives to work over the dew drenched grass, but he's timid and flies away at the slightest movement from us.
We had a friend to dinner last night and I taught myself how to make caramelised onions -- yum! I used this recipe.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Suffering for our art...

Sometimes, we writers back away from writing difficult scenes. We don’t mean to. We know that good dramatic storytelling involves high stakes conflict, and yet, when we come to write certain scenes, we still back away. I’ve seen it in other writers' work, and thought oh, if only she’d taken us into that moment. I wanted to be there…
Sometimes it just seems too hard. We flinch from the task, because it feels like it’s happening to us, and we don’t want to put ourselves through the pain. But we should.
Yesterday, I made the same mistake. It’s so easy… and I wrote myself into a corner. At the end of the day I was totally stuck. I went outside and cut off dead tree fern fronds (It hasn’t rained here for four months and the whole district is brown and sad, although we’ve now had good rain overnight – yay!). I decided that I needed to ask E how he would behave in the same situation I’d put my hero in.
While he cooked divine salt and pepper prawns (shrimp) using freshly ground Szechwan pepper, (the aroma of it being ground with a mortar and pestle is sensational) I chopped vegies for stir-fry and pitched my problem.
As part of my lead in, I explained that my heroine has just told my hero something shocking, something that makes him very angry and hurts him deeply.
And what had I done next? I'd sent the hero off on a little walk to get his head around it and to calm down.
‘Why did you do that?’ Elliot asked.
‘He needed space,’ I said. ‘Head space. Emotional space. A chance to let all his feelings out and calm down.’
‘Why? Why would he do that on his own?’
Because he’s a gentleman? ‘I don’t know. I just wrote it that way.’
‘But wouldn’t it have been better if he’d let out his feelings in front of the heroine?’
Cue bells ringing in my head.
Of course, he was right.
I couldn’t believe I’d made that mistake. No wonder I’d written myself into a corner, and didn’t know where to go next. Of course they have to have bitter and angry words and tension, and of course they don't go off and have dinner together and have nice chats afterwards. They suffer!!!!!
Just thought I’d pass it on, in case you’ve done something similar recently, or are about to…

Monday, October 19, 2009


I'm a bit late telling you about this, because I had a dentist appointment this morning, followed by a flight up to Cairns, then a drive up the mountains to Tarzali, phew! But there's an interview with me and a chance to win free books (my books) at Eleni-fest today.
Do check out Eleni-fest, as there are all sorts of fab interviews and lots of interesting discussions about romance. On top of that, Eleni is running the festival in response to winning a scholarship for the disabled to our recent romance writers conference.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

all in the family...

I'm really looking forward to ABC TV tonight at half past eight, because they're showing a new version of The Thirty-Nine Steps with hero, Richard Hannay.

Family legend has it that John Buchan, who wrote the original story, (and what a cracking good story it was) was a good friend of Elliot's ancestors and named his character as a tribute. We're sticking to that. We rather like the idea. So here's to cousin Dick!

I've seen many movie length versions of this tale. Let's hope tonight's is a good one.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Become a Harlequin Ambassador...

I learned this on Liz Fielding's blog.

If you love the Harlequin Romance novels this is a HOT opportunity to get some free books. You can sign up to be a Harlequin Ambassador!If you qualify as a Harlequin Ambassador, you’ll be sent all the tools you need to spark great conversation about Harlequin books including:* Free books* Short Stories* Chapter excerpts from upcoming books* and much more!In addition, you will be able to review and comment on the covers, new book ideas and exchange opinions with women just like you! Check it out here.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

a whip around the world...

One of the more pleasant ways for an author to procrastinate is to take a quick trawl around foreign Harlequin webistes to see where her books might be selling.

Today I found Her Cattleman Boss in Germany, looking much more dramatic amd elegant and rechrsistened Wild Kisses, Wide Land. I have to say I don't mind the new titles the Germans come up with. I remember how devastated I was when my first book, which I'd called Impossible Dream, was given the title Outback Wife and Mother.

'I love it,' my editor said. 'It has so many hooks.'
(I didn't love it, although over the years I've got usesd to those hooky titles.) But when it came out in Germany, I was facsinated to see that it was called A Thousand Stars over Wallaroo .

Also, this month, Blind Date with the Boss (now Dancing with the Boss) is making an appearance in Holland, and Adopted: Outback Baby is out in the Scandanavian countries as Magic Summer. It's interesting that these other countries aren't so hung up on hooks.
(Oops sorry, bad pun)
I love it when my characters are busy while I'm asleep.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Interview: inside story of a gorgeous baby cover model...

I can assure you that one of the biggest things authors worry about once their book is written is – the cover!! A good cover is a blessing – like winning the lottery. Lately, I think all the Harlequin Romance covers have been lovely but I was particularly thrilled when I saw the beautiful cover of The Bridesmaid’s Baby (on sale in UK and North America this month). I remember showing it to you here and receiving lovely comments from you. The hero and heroine are nice, but I think we all fell for the sweet little baby.

Imagine how excited I was when the baby’s mother contacted me telling me that she was excited, too, as this was her son’s first photo shoot.

Until then, I hadn’t even realised that real babies were used as models for our covers. Duh! So I was extra thrilled when baby Owen’s mum, Lesley, agreed to answer some questions for me about the whole business of being a baby cover model. I found Lesley’s story fascinating. I hope you do, too.

Here’s what I asked and what she had to say…

Did you have any knowledge of the modelling industry before Owen was born?
Owen has two older brothers, ages four and three. They both model as well. Owen was actually "grandfathered" into the business! It was the natural thing to do. We started when my oldest was six months old. I thought it would be something fun for us to do together. I figured if they didn't get any jobs then oh well, no loss. We have been doing this for about four years now. The kids enjoy it, and I am very grateful for the confidence that modelling has instilled in them.
I assume there’s an agent involved. Does Owen now have a portfolio?
Owen has a wonderful agent that we book all of his jobs through. It makes things a lot easier! I do keep a little portfolio book, with photos from all of Owen's modelling jobs (or "tears", as they are called in the business). It is a great baby book to keep!
Was The Bridesmaid’s Baby Owen’s debut modelling gig? How old was he?
Yes, The Bridesmaid's Baby was Owen's very first professional modelling job! He was one day shy of his three month birthday. I remember that they needed Owen to be asleep for the shoot and I did not know ahead of time. When Owen has a job, I always try to bring him fed and well-rested from a nap. So he was wide awake and there was a LOT of waiting around at this particular shoot. Finally he got sleepy and they got the shot that they needed!
What actually happens at a photo shoot?
Shoots are a lot of waiting around! They can be a lot of fun, too! Once we have booked a job, we are given a call time. We show up to the studio, and the first thing they do is give us the wardrobe. Sometimes they do hair and makeup but with babies, the most they do is a little bit of loose powder to even out their skin tone and cover up any scratches, and use a bit of water to tame their hair. After they are dressed and ready, there is usually more waiting. Eventually the baby is called to the set and they begin shooting. Sometimes it is quick and sometimes it takes hours. But the babies are always given lots of breaks to eat and rest. There is usually a big table set up with catered food, snacks, and drinks for everyone. On the more kid friendly sets, there is a separate table with juice boxes and fun kids snacks. Most always, the companies that we work for take great care of the kids and make sure that the parents and children are comfortable and happy. It makes for a smooth shoot.
Was Owen happy to be handled by strangers?
Owen is usually content to be placed on the set, but like all babies, he sometimes gets a bit fussy. That is where the baby wrangler comes in. At most shoots, there is a 'baby wrangler' whose job is to keep the babies (or children) happy on the set and get those big, winning smiles that are needed. They sometimes blow bubbles, or use hand puppets, or squeak toys to keep the baby's attention and keep them happy.
We all know little children are unpredictable. Have there been any humorous or difficult moments?
We have never had anything crazy happen to us, but my friend's baby did a shoot with a VERY big celebrity and she has a great picture of the actress holding her son, while catching his spit-up in her hand. Good thing she was baby-friendly and not a diva! Now that photo's a great keepsake for the baby book!
What other assignments has Owen had?
Owen is currently in an in-store display at "The Children's Place." He was also recently on the cover of Newsweek magazine. He has worked for companies such as Target, Earnshaw's magazine, Baby Talk magazine, Vogue Bambini, Red Heart Yarn, and Coats and Clark. He will be on the cover of another Harlequin book called "The Texas Billionaire's Baby" coming out early next year.
Owen's brothers have worked for companies such as Company Kids, Land's End, Nationwide Insurance, Toys R Us, Babies R Us, Simplicity Patterns and Nestle Good Start.
Any plans for the future?
I have no long term plans to do this with my children as they get older, unless they WANT to continue. If they choose to pursue sports or another activity instead, modelling will take a backseat to that. I started with them when they were babies as a fun thing to do, and it is great that they are building their bank accounts while having a good time. But as they get older, they have to want to do this.

Thanks so much Lesley! And all the best to you and your three handsome and talented sons.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

back in business...

The past few weeks have been non-writing weeks for all kinds of reasons. A lot of real life stuff has been happening, but at last I'm sitting down for a full day's writing. I've actually started this book several times now, trying different approaches. Different scenes. Different points of view. I don't know if it's because I've been distracted, or because this story is tricky, but nothing felt right.
To cap everything off, I spent yesterday with a blood pressure machine strapped to me. It's an interesting experience when the cuff starts to tighten just as you're reaching for something on a high shelf in the supermarket, or when you're changing lanes in peak hour traffic. I thought I'd never sleep last night, but amazingly, I must have slept through several "readings".

Now that's over and I'm at my desk and I think this story is starting to come together. No more advance planning for me. It didn't work. I was bored after chapter one. So now it's a new story (above) and once again, my characters are emerging from the mist... and we're about to set off on a new journey together.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Ten reasons to watch An Affair to Remember again…

If you're a romance fan, have you ever asked yourself why you love this genre? Were you born a romantic, or can you pinpoint influences in your life that have nudged you in this direction?

I’ve often thought that my love of romance started early, shaped by my imaginative and dreamy nature… and the very feminine world in which I grew up. I was the eldest of three girls, and my mother was one of four girls, and her sisters (my aunts) gave me all those wonderful girly books for birthdays and Christmas… the Anne Books, Little Women, Pollyanna, Seven Little Australians… all of these stories had romance at their heart.

And then there were the movies… Our family never had a television and I saw very few movies, so the movies I did see had a huge impact on me. One of these, viewed when I was very young, was An Affair to Remember

I saw this on a Christmas visit to Sydney, and I was only seven, turning eight. My aunt took me to see it, and I always found going out with her quite fascinating. Our excursions invariably included going to a cafĂ© for afternoon tea, and she would have a cigarette afterwards, and then, while sitting at the table, she’d reapply her lipstick and powder her nose. My mum would never have done this in public. And it was in this fascinating context that An Affair to Remember wrapped itself around my tender, young heart and sent down very strong roots.

For those of you too young to know, this is the movie that is referred to in Sleepless in Seattle. Apparently there was an even earlier version and there has been a more modern remake called Love Affair, but in my opinion this isn’t anywhere near as good as the version with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr.

Of course, when I became a romance author I had to watch this movie again (you can buy it in supermarkets and I reckon it’s a worthwhile investment). I wanted to work out why the movie left such a deep impression on me. I’m always trying to examine exactly how romance stories work their magic.

(BTW, there are spoilers here, but this movie is so well known, I’m guessing it doesn’t matter. You could know every line by heart and still cry.)

So why do I love An Affair to Remember? Let me tell you ten reasons…

1. There’s an excellent cute meet. Two urbane and beautiful people (both engaged to someone else ) – international playboy, Nicky Ferranti, and night club singer-cum-kept woman, Terry McKay – meet on a luxury liner and exchange witty retorts shimmering with thinly veiled flirtation. I love the fact that she has the upper hand.
"My mother told me never to enter a man's room in months ending in ‘r’."

2. Right from the very start the sexual tension between this couple jumps off the screen.

3. The characters have just enough depth. We learn through deftly handled dialogue over several scenes, about Terry’s difficult family background. We also discover a completely new side to Nicky when their ship calls into port in the south of France. He and Terry visit his grandmother. (I do love a bad boy who’s lovely to his grandmother.) In this scene there’s also a warning about a test for Nicky’s character that will come in the future.
His grandmother says: "Sometimes I'm frightened that life will present a bill to Nicolo one day, that he will find hard to pay." We in the audience know this is an omen of bad things to come, that will almost certainly involve Terry.

4.The setting of this pivotal scene is visually stunning and super romantic. All my life, I’ve remembered Deborah Kerr kneeling in the grandmother’s private chapel… as well as her gorgeous home and garden beside the sea, and that hauntingly beautiful music… and the moment with the shawl…

5. The turning points are clearly signalled. OK, this might sound corny to you, but I love it when Terry says to Nicky: "We're heading into a rough sea, Nicky."And he replies: "I know. We changed our course today."
These lines are said back on the ship, after the beautiful interlude at the grandmother’s, during which the movie’s lovely and famously haunting theme song is played and sung. We know Terry and Nicky have fallen in love and that their pre-existing relationships are now in jeopardy.

6. The characters have well motivated goals. Inspired by his new love, the hero wants to turn his life around. Not only will he extract himself from his loveless engagement to a wealthy heiress, Nicky now has new goals to earn money as a painter and to prove to Terry that he loves her and is worthy of her.

7. The movie proves my editor is right. My editor never wants me to have too many pages in which the hero and heroine aren’t together, taking centre stage. And the next part of this movie demonstrates why. You actually feel quite deflated once the couple are parted. The dazzle leaves the screen. Luckily this is saved by…

8. A ticking clock! We know that Nicky and Terry plan to meet in six months’ time at the top of the Empire State building, and we get glimpses of how both characters are working towards their goals during this time. We’re desperate for them to get together again.

9. A really big black moment. Tragedy strikes when Terry is knocked down by a taxi on her way to keep this important appointment. Nicky never knows why she doesn’t turn up. He waits for her till midnight. (sigh)

10. A tear jerker ending. I believe everything about this movie’s ending works to bring a lump to the throat.
* The drawn out tension in which we will Nicky to find out that Terry’s in a wheelchair. Or for her to make contact and tell him.
* The fact that it’s Christmas.
* More tension!!!!!!!!!!!! During his arrival at her flat, still not knowing the truth about her accident.
* The gift of the grandmother’s shawl, sent for Terry after the grandmother’s death. … ‘So that’s why my letters came back unanswered.’
* The pain in Nicky’s face when he learns the truth. (Cary Grant does this moment perfectly, and this is where the modern remake falls down completely.)
* And then that line: ‘If it had to be one of us, why did it have to be you?’

Thursday, October 01, 2009

From our city balcony...

These may not be the best shots in the world, but I wish I could play you the sound track that went with them.
I found a peculiar romance in this scene a couple of evenings ago... a lone trumpeter at dusk, sitting beside the river in the heart of the city, playing blues that came to us, clear and haunting, across the water...
I am almost certain he's done this before.
My authorly instincts tell me he comes here once a year, on the same day each year, and he plays beautiful, sad music at sunset.

So many possibilities...