Thursday, July 28, 2011

Why not grab a bargain...

If you live in the UK and you own a Kindle, the e-version of Rancher's Twins is currently selling for 99p. Actually, I think all of Mills & Boon's May releases are selling at that price. There are some great titles there.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

To have or not to have a grand writing space…

A little over a year ago, a friend who just happens to be both a writer and a builder, offered to build me a writing room. He came up with a fabulous design for a gorgeous room and for about two days I was really excited.

And then I began to worry… what would happen to my writing while I sat in this beautiful room? Would I feel that I needed to suddenly write The Great Australian novel? Would I feel dreadfully inadequate and freeze with fear? After all, I’m not a candidate for the Man Booker prize.

And somehow, out of this original plan, came our decision to build and extra bedroom and bathroom instead, with a tiny cubby hole at the back for my writing space. See this post for details…

And I’m quite happy in my little nook, honestly. If I want to get up very early while E’s still asleep, which I often do, I simply take my laptop through to the dining room. There, I have a lovely view of the dawn light creeping over the hills and the mist rising from the valleys, but after breakfast, I’m happy to return to my viewless den.

I thought, perhaps, that I was especially weird and insecure in shying away from the idea of a grand office (although nearly every writer I know is a little bit weird and insecure). Then I came across this passage in Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg.

‘I have watched friends who’ve made perfect spaces and then couldn’t bear to go into them. They felt more comfortable writing at the kitchen table. It’s hard to sit in an exquisite space and rub up against our imperfections which writing brings up.’

Well, thank you, Natalie Goldberg. I don’t feel quite so weird, after all.

But what about you? What’s your idea of a perfect writing space?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

For writers... 1 kph

A few of my writing friends and I are on deadlines, which can sometimes be rather stressful, so we're egging each other on with a new (to us) technique. 1 kph...

In other words, we're aiming for a thousand words in an hour. (Not every hour!!!)
To be honest we rarely manage this, but the system still works well. We set a time, turn email off (and in my case I plug in headphones and turn classical music on) and then we try to write without stopping for an hour.

In short bursts it's doable. I often get 500 or 600 words down which is much faster than my normal snail's pace. Of course, we still need to go back over our work to edit, reifne, polish and, sadly, sometimes delete... but for people who have to write day after day, these short bursts can be like a shot in the arm.
Do you gave a writing buddy? Why not try it? I'll be sprinting again this afternoon -- 3.30 till 4.30. Want to join me?

Monday, July 18, 2011

My life with pigs...

It’s funny, isn’t it, how you hear phrases all your life and you accept them without having really experienced their true significance. I can now say, after several weeks of pig ownership, that I understand all the popular sayings about pigs on a personal level and they now have a much deeper meaning for me. They are SO apt and true.

 as greedy as a pig
 snouts in the trough
 as happy as a pig in mud – (oh, boy, do our pigs LOVE mud)
 pig out
 casting pearls before swine (they show absolutely no interest in their beautiful view of hills and sunsets)

But I do love them, just because they are so piggy. And I’m inclined to agree with the final conclusion of the pigs in George Orwell’s Animal Farm. All Animals Are Equal But Some Are More Equal Than Others.

Love this quote form Winston Churchill, too... “Always remember, a cat looks down on man, a dog looks up to man, but a pig will look man right in the eye and see his equal.”

And I spend a good deal of time digging up dandelions. I’ve concluded that dandelions are to pigs as Grange Hermitage is to humans.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Appeal of the Outback Hero...

This is an article I wrote years and years ago, that I decided to post here to give it another airing, so to speak. :)

The Appeal of the Outback Hero - More than a Cowboy Down Under
Most Australians like to think that they have a strong connection with the outback. We’re proud of our country’s amazing red centre and its reputation for unusual rugged beauty combined with danger. However, the truth is that while our country has a land mass as big as the USA, our population is smaller than some of the world's cities, and over 90% of us live on the coastal strip. And yet we feel very nostalgic about the outback.

In reality, other brave souls are living the life for us.

I think this must be why I love outback heroes. They are larger than our lives. They are living the life... living the legend... for us.

While we in the city couldn’t cope without our convenience stores and our coffee shops just around the corner, people in the outback cope year after year with not only isolation, but droughts, floods and bushfires... They embody the image of man against the elements. And we city slickers manage to hoodwink ourselves into believing that we are somehow sharing that harsh, dangerous existence. We read about the resilience and toughness of our rural countrymen and we feel stronger... uplifted by their fortitude.

In romance novels, the outback hero has become a recognisable archetype, a character who evokes certain expectations in the reader’s mind. Readers know the outback is rugged and harsh and first and foremost they know that its men are tough and skilful - like Tom Burlinson, who thrilled us when he took that magnificent horse down the shockingly steep mountainside in the movie “A Man From Snowy River”.

I believe that an important part of the allure and the mystery for female readers is that the outback has a reputation for breeding men’s men. We don’t really belong... and therein lies the challenge.

Outback men stick by their mates. Remember Mel Gibson and his friends in the movie “Gallipoli”? The mateship they displayed in World War 1 had been forged while they were growing up on outback properties. Mateship is an Australian tradition that has grown out of the continuously dangerous lives outback guys lead as they do battle with a vast, primal landscape. Whether they are cattlemen or mining engineers, Flying Doctors or crocodile hunters, they’re physically tough and mentally strong and this is usually counterbalanced by an appealing irreverence for authority and a wicked sense of fun. In “Gallipoli” Mel and his mates made fun of the stuffy English officers.

Apart from the obvious allure of a sexy, naughty-boy grin allied with a toned, fit and athletic body, the special appeal of the outback heroes is that they hide powerful emotions behind all their brashness and toughness.

Deep down, these heroes are usually conservative, salt of the earth, true blue types whose feelings run deep. We suspect that behind their Alpha exteriors beat Beta hearts of pure gold and we love to see these loners - often remote, strong and silent types - brought to their knees as they admit they can’t deny their feelings any longer. And we know that the heroine, who manages to penetrate the outer shield to expose such a man’s tender feelings, wins a rare prize indeed.

Of course outback romances invite the obvious opportunity to explore the vast contrasts between city and country lifestyles and values and in this situation, they set up immediate conflict. In my novella CHARLOTTE’S CHOICE, Lady Charlotte Bellamy, a young English aristocrat, calls herself Charlie Bell and lands a job as a jillaroo on a remote North Queensland mustering team. In A BRIDE AT BIRRALEE, a Sydney based scientist ventures into the outback to seek out the father of her unborn baby. These situations open up the whole opposites-attract scenario and they have built-in, ready-made tension.

And I believe that just as the right woman can discover the hidden depths of a man’s emotions, outback heroes bring out the best in city women. A woman who is weak or helpless just won’t cut it in the bush. In this isolated, often harsh, hot and dusty environment, heroines must be strong and self reliant as well as having initiative and a sense of humour. By the time an outback hero has expressed his love or proposed marriage, the heroine will have demonstrated that she has the strength of character to face up to the demands of his lifestyle. The fact that a woman can give up the comfort and convenience of city life for the hardship and isolation of the outback is testimony to the strong appeal of the outback man.

Mind you, because I am also a bit of a feminist, there is usually a point in my books where the hero realises that his love for this woman is so great, he would be prepared to give up his bush life to keep her. This startling realisation is what sends Fletcher Hardy back to Melbourne to find Ally in my very first book, OUTBACK WIFE AND MOTHER and it’s what sends Jonno Rivers all the way to Paris in a A PARISIAN PROPOSITION, a book coming out later in 2003.

But I don’t want to give the impression that when a heroine marries an outback hero, she faces a grim life of endless hardship. In OUTBACK BABY, Gemma Brown longed to return to the bush where she grew up and in A WEDDING AT WINDAROO, Piper O’Malley, a heroine born and raised in the outback, loves the life and is fighting to keep her family’s property.

Any woman who marries an outback hero, whether she’s city or country bred, is marrying a man who is more much than a simple cowboy. An outback hero is a true man for all seasons, who can keep house and cook, who has university degrees and likes to travel the world and can provide for his family. He looks as comfortable in an Armani tuxedo, hosting a ball on the sweeping lawns that surround his homestead or escorting a beautiful woman to a concert in the Sydney Opera House, as he does in blue jeans and riding boots while he risks his neck on horseback leaping down gullies searching for wild, cleanskin cattle.

Like his real life counterparts, he’s living the legend. For us.

© Barbara Hannay October 2002

Thursday, July 14, 2011

One big advantage of our new lifestyle...

Salad greens from our own garden... so crisp and delicious

Monday, July 11, 2011

Half a year gone already...

It’s been an ongoing surprise to me that living in the country can be really quite busy. We haven’t found time for nearly as many of the quiet, relaxing activities we anticipated – like rowing on the lake, or taking walks around the lake, or simply exploring the countryside in our car.

Perhaps, because this is out first year here, fulltime, we’ve had more visitors than we will in future years, and that’s one thing that’s been lovely, but certainly kept us busy. It doesn’t help that I’m a slow writer and that I still have deadlines to meet, and that even if I sit at my computer all day (which I do on many, many days) I can only produce 1500 words max.

If I write faster than that I write rubbish and only have to delete it a few days later. For me, speed just doesn’t work.

So these are also my excuses for the slow progress of our renovations/extensions. However, I do think it’s about time I showed you what’s been happening to Cloud Cottage.

To begin with, here is my study which looks very much like my old one because I brought my desk etc with me. It's tucked behind the bedroom and has a very high ceiling and a cut-out opening in the wall through to said bedroom (for airflow). Behind me are bookshelves and a window. Some people are surprised that I don't have a view, but I don't need a view when I'm writing. It's all in my head. And a good view of my collage is more important.
  (I can't get rid of this space here)

This is our lovely new bedroom. The high ceilings (not very well shown here) help to make it feel very spacious and we just love it.
(You can click on the pics to make then bigger.)
Next to it is our bathroom, which is possibly my favourite room in the house -- it's certainly my favourite bathroom out of the many that we've had. I was standing in the shower area to take this pic. You can see we've continued to recycle old windows and furniture to keep the feeling of a country cottage.

I also love the connecting corridor between the new section and the old.

And going back to front, we now arrive at the front door. We've been busy painting the exterior walls ourselves, but a wonderful young single mum has been doing the crazy paving, which is beautiful, isn't it?

We're getting there slowly...

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Busy days...

Sorry for my silence, but I've been kinda busy. Have to say I have a pretty cool family and that our experiment with Christmas in July actually worked. We managed to squeeze 14 into our little place over a long weekend (show holiday in T'ville). Nan and Pappy (that's E and me) slept on a mattress in front of the fire -- rather nice, really.

Two long tables on the veranda worked well for main meals and everyone pitched in with all the jobs. Everyone in the family loves food and cooking so we ate well and partied well, and there was always someone to take an interest in the littlies. At night there were glow sticks and sparklers and during the day, lots of storytelling and imaginative games (some inspired by the book Pookie Puts the World Right which was one of my childhood favourites that I bought on ebay -- my first ebay purchase -- yay!!), so we survived having to stay inside.

Here is accommodating Tom minding his little cousins' dolls while continuing to play on his computer. And below are the twins reading a bedtime story to a sick doll. (A Julia Quinn book, I believe -:)

I say we managed well because it rained non-stop for 8 days except for about four hours of sunshine on Sunday afternoon. And boy, did we make the most of that sun. Sons made a makeshift go-cart out of things they found in the shed and lots of folk had fun riding it down the hill. Then we also constructed a slip and slide with black plastic and detergent and again it was a great hit. This was followed by baths and then a trip to Yungaburra to see a platypus. The tinies were amazing down by the creek, picking up from all the adults that they had to be super quiet -- and we had really good viewings of three platypuses -- so very satisfactory.

You can view more pics of our July gathering here