Thursday, April 29, 2010

guineas going for a gander...

We've been keeping the guineas in their cage after one sad mishap with a currawong, but now that they are bigger and able to fly really well, we've started letting them out in the late afternoon under supervision for their green pick.

Dad is very fatherly and watchful and this afternoon a currawong sounded nearby. After one signal from Dad (undetected by us ) the entire flock froze... and froze... and froze... Honestly, we have five photos of them all in exactly the same position.

I know people who have a lot to do with animals and birds will not be the slightest bit surprised, but I can't help marvelling at little but fascinating details like this.

After this, one teenage guinea flew off for an adventure of his own, but then came home to roost. In fact, we think they're big enough and clever enough now to roam free.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

It's all in the nose??

Did anyone watch QI last night? (This is a BBC TV show, but I'm talking about the Australian screening on Tuesday nights at 9.30.)

I'm rather addicted to it. It's rather like having a dinner party with very, very clever guests.
Anyway last night I learned that, apparently, we breathe through alternate nostrils -- on an approximately four hourly rotation. When we breathe through one side our visual and spatial functions are enhanced and when we breathe through the other our verbal capacity

Which might explain why many writers have zones when writing flows quite well
and others when it's like wringing blood from a stone.

This was a bit of a light bulb for me as I had surgery on the outside of my nose a few years ago that caused inside cartilage in my right nostril to collapse. There are times when I can't sleep on my left side, because my right nostril is blocked -- and times when it seems to be OK. Now
I might know why. :)

Now if I can just use that to work out which nostril is working when, I'll know when to get cracking at the keyboard.

I did start a new book yesterday (at last). I'm really looking forward to it, but yesterday was a blood out of stone day. Beginnings can be so tricky. You have to work out exactly where to start and how to grab the reader's attention and how much to tell about the characters and what kind of mood you want to establish, and what kind of world you want to paint, and what's important to know straight up, and...

My wordcount yesterday was dismal, but I know this happens with every book, so I'll stop complaining and just get on with it.

If you're interested, this is what the QI website says about the show.

Quite Interesting - or 'QI' to its friends - could loosely be described as a comedy panel quiz. However, none of the stellar line-up of comedians is expected to be able to answer any questions, and if anyone ends up with a positive score, they can be very happy with their performance. Points are awarded for being interesting or funny (and, very occasionally, right) but points are deducted for answers which merely repeat common misconceptions and urban myth. (Alan Davies has turned this aspect of the game into somewhat of an artform.) It's okay to be wrong, but don't be obviously, boringly wrong. In this way, QI tries to rid the world of the flotsam of nonsense and old wives' tales that can build up in your mind. QI not only makes us look more closely at things, it encourages us to question all the received wisdom we have carried with us since childhood. Think of the program as a humorous cranial de-scaler.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Writing about emotion...

One of the most important ingredients in a romance novel (in any fiction really) is emotion. And one of the reasons people like reading fiction is that they can feel all kinds of emotions without suffering any of the consequences.
In fiction we try to reproduce the emotional impact of an experience. Our narrative comes alive and is made vivid and moving through significant detail. As every liar knows, details and colour make a story sound true.
‘I’m sure I paid that bill. I remember the guy standing in front of me in the line was wearing a vest and he kept on yapping about his granddaughters.’

(It's convincing, isn't it? How can he not have paid the bill when he remembers so much??)
Emotion is usually experienced as a physical reaction, so if you simply write, “she was afraid’, you will keep the reader at a dispassionate distance. However, if you give physical details --

e.g. Her heart was pumping so hard it felt too big for her chest.
Her fingers were too weak to dial the phone.
you allow the reader to share the experience.

So... in the interests of showing emotion rather than telling, I started making a file some years ago, so that I didn't always fall back on the same old ways of describing these emotions and their accompanying sensations. I made notes from a library book on body language (I'm afraid I’ve forgotten title and author).
This year, at our retreat in Sydney my writer friends and I took this a step further. We took four emotions (anger, fear, attraction and joy) and we made two lists. On one side we listed the (external) physical signs that show a character experiencing an emotion (clenching fists, slumped shoulders etc) and in the other column we listed the (internal) physical sensations that the point of view character might be experiencing (sick in the stomach, lightning in veins etc).

At our most recent North Queensland romance writers gathering, we extended this list further and added sorrow. We also added more details to the lists I already had (without looking at the earlier contributions first) and we had a lot of fun. Better still, we now have a resource that helps us find the best way to describe how a character might be feeling or behaving at certain times in our stories. (Great minds and all that.)

It's worth trying in a group if you're lucky enough to have writing friends close by. We all learned heaps and we're inspired to be more original and precise in our writing.

The fabulous resource that inspired this exercise for me was Writing Fiction by Janet Burroway.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A between books hiatus...

I'm still painting.
As my sister commented in an email, it is rewarding because you do see immediate results (although that first undercoat always looks a bit grim.) We're in the dining room now... and... on the writing front, I'm waiting to hear what my editor thinks of my new ideas. Very soon I'll have to dive into a new book.

Yesterday, I made a Tessa Kiros recipe -- honey cake with chopped rosemary in it and lemon icing with rosemary flowers scattered over the top. It's ages since I've made icing, however, and it was a bit runny, so I've had to borrow someone else's photo. Mine looked almost like that, but you could see the brown cake through the icing. In painting terms, it looked like a first layer of undercoat. :)
Honey cake sounds rather romantic and Winnie the Pooh-ish, doesn't it? And it is rather yummy, so once I've perfected it, I'll pass on Tess K's recipe.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A wander at dusk...

I think I love this place best in the late afternoons when the hills are shadowed and velvety and the sun sheds a special light before it finally disappears. On a stroll two evenings ago, we enjoyed these sights...
Our pumpkin haul...

Native violets... (scattered with grass thrown by the ride on mower)Our cutting. It's an old railway track and it forms the main drive into our place., and as we follow it, we see lots of...Tree ferns...

If we gave this place a name, I think it might have to be Tree Fern Cottage, although I don't think it's quite right as we've never gone ahead and named it. Funny thing -- I have all sorts of fun naming places in my books, but I can't quite get it right in real life.

I tried to take a pic of our guineas roosting. They look so cute, all six of them lined up on a branch in their pen, but if I get close enough to take a decent pic, they fly down looking for food.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Autumn in the countryside

'Season of mist and mellow fruitfulness' is how the poet Keats described autumn, and even though we live in the tropics and don't get the lovely colour changes of more temperate climes, we do (on the Tablelands) have the mist...

... and mellow fruitfulness... this year, in the form of macadamia nuts

and pumpkins.

I know pumpkins are only baked into sweet pies in some parts of the world, or they're called something different. We have an abundance this year and so there'll be lots of pumpkin soup. Here's a fabulous recipe from Jamie Oliver, perfect for a cold night.

Pumpkin Soup with Coconut, Chilli and Curry Spices

Ingredients Makes 3 - 4 portions
1 average sized organic Hokkaido pumpkin,cut into chunks (deseed but don't peel)
1 large potato, cut into chunks
1 medium onion, sliced
750ml chicken or vegetable stock
200ml coconut milk
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 heaped tsps of curry powder (or curry paste)
1 - 2 small red chillies, sliced
A little olive oil
Croutons to serve
1. In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil and gently fry the onions, chilli and garlic till soft.
2. Add the pumpkin and potatoes to the pan and sprinkle with the curry powder. Fry gently for just a minute or so.
3. Pour in the coconut milk and stock, cover, then simmer gently till potatoes & pumpkin are cooked (mine took about 10 mins).
4. Allow the soup to cool down a little then pour into a blender and blend at high speed till smooth and creamy.
5. Reheat a little if necessary and serve with some fresh croutons which have been fried in a little olive oil and butter and sprinkled with herb salt.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

I know I've been a slack blogger...

I blame the work in progress... yes, the painting that never ends. (That's undercoat. The room looks much nicer now, I promise)

and I blame the nonstop rain,

but at least I've handed in my revisions.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Happy Easter

I hope you're having a very happy weekend. Ours is happy enough, although it's still raining outside and we're still painting inside, (and E's not well). I can't show you our progress 'cos I left my photo converter USB in Townsville and I can't get another one till the shops open.

Meanwhile, there's plenty of chocolate -- in our case, chocolate Lindt bunnies. And aren't these painted eggs beautiful?

Off to cook bacon and eggs for breakfast.