Tuesday, December 18, 2007

An oldie but a goodie...

Well, he's not an oldie for me. Speaking hypothetically, if Richard Gere and I were to meet in a romance novel, we would make a great couple. He, the older, wiser, man-of-the-world, and me, the thirty-something (ha ha) feisty heroine.

I found so many breathtaking photos of Richard Gere that it was hard to choose only a few. I've loved him ever since he made 'An Officer And A Gentleman', and I don't quite remember if I was aware of him before that. Back in the early eighties, he wasn't the conventional leading man. His looks weren't as 'chiselled' as say, Tom Selleck, or Pierce Brosnan. But right from the start, there was an animal quality about Richard Gere that is irresistible. Plainly speaking, he's just too sexy for words. And that sex appeal was what set him apart from the other 'pretty boys' around at that time.

He could have been a one, or two-hit-wonder, but somehow, he has managed the seemingly impossible task of keeping his career sailing steadily through the unforgiving waters of Hollywood. His movies have never been acclaimed masterpieces, but starring in such landmark love stories such as 'An Officer And A Gentleman', and 'Pretty Woman', have earned him his place in cinema history.

And, just like a fine wine, he's improved with age. His hair is now silver, and his figure not as taut as it once was, but that makes him infinitely more lovable at his age. He doesn't look as if he's trying too hard to stay young, which is so attractive. Take one of his latest movies, 'Shall We Dance', where he plays the part of Susan's Sarandon's disillusioned - or just plain looking for more in life - husband. The fact that he may be lusting after J. Lo, but doesn't follow through, just makes him even more desirable. And the ending is pure romance. Every time I watch the dancing scene in the kitchen, I am totally carried away by the intimacy and wish that I was in Sarandon's place, sampling that spoonful of pasta sauce... swoon...

In fact, Richard Gere seldom plays unpleasant characters. That was why his movie 'Unfaithful', didn't quite work, for me. Here he was, a seemingly perfect husband with a good job, a great house, kid, dog. So what made Diane Lane stray??? It didn't make sense.

'Chicago' was a great example of how Richard Gere tries not to become typecast. When he came out singing and dancing, I have to admit I felt the urge to giggle, but he's so accomplished that he carried it off very well, and was a credible part of that talented cast. And given my weakness for musicals, I was bound to love him even in this unlikely role. So it's official. Richard Gere, lovable hero for all ages.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Lovable Hero

My WIP is off and running. I've written 2 chapters to my satisfaction, and I'm flying on the third. So far, the ideas are in good supply, and I can't wait to skip from one encounter to the next, knowing I've got a fairly meaty story to help me along.

But having a good plot depends on having great characters, and keeping these characters great is vitally important. If the hero or heroine say or do something that isn't 'lovable', then the writer risks alienating her readers.

This is something which I've been aware of for some time, but though I try my best to make my hero and heroine lovable, sometimes I write them in a less than flattering light. And since this is not always easy to ascertain, from a writing point of view, that's when critique partners become an invaluable part of the writing process. I say this, because when I showed my latest chapter (Ch 2) to AbFab, she said my hero was behaving in a way that made it hard for her to like him.

When I studied the scene, I too could see what she was talking about. I had decided to divulge some information that my heroine was unaware of, but when I made the hero impart this news, it painted him in a rather unattractive light. AbFab pointed this out, and at first I had the usual reaction to rewriting the scene. Not happy. Luckily, it usually takes me all of about two minutes to get over myself. When I thought about the problem, I decided the information my heroine was getting directly from the hero really wasn't great news, and it would be best if she found out through another - minor - character. That way she could feel all the same indignation, but it wouldn't be aimed directly at the hero... not yet, anyway.

Of course, there are going to be mitigating circumstances and of course, lots of emotional conflict. It's a romance, after all, and the hero and heroine will have a chance to discover each other's flaws as well as strengths through the course of the novel. They will also have enough opportunities to uncover the truth about each other. Though the beginning of the novel is the time to complicate things, everyone knows it will all end in smiles and big love-hearts. And through it all, no matter what, the hero has to stay lovable.

All this made me muse about lovable heroes. It's a fascinating subject, as one woman's cad can sometimes be another's cup of tea. Currently, I'm reading a romance where I find the hero extremely unattractive. I'm having trouble getting through the book, but I must. I am a student of romance, and I want to see how this very experienced author ties up all the loose ends and justifies the protagonists' misconceptions. There is a fair amount of 'misunderstanding' in this story, and at the half-way mark, the hero is coming across as a brutish, unfeeling bastard who's only interested in one thing - getting the heroine into bed. I'm sure there would be many readers who would be titillated by the hero's behaviour, seeing it as a display of attractive masculinity, but I have to say in very loud words: IT DOES NOTHING FOR ME.

My heroes are definitely tender alpha males. That preference is demonstrated in the kind of man I chose for myself. And the heroes I find attractive in books and films. There are so many wonderful heroes I can think of that to mention them fleetingly in this post wouldn't do them justice. Stay tuned for a more comprehensive list...

Friday, December 7, 2007

Contest Epilogue

This week (or was it last week - time goes so fast), I found out that I didn't place in the competition I entered recently. Seven finalists were selected out of 61 entries, and these were sent to a Harlequin Mills&Boon editor. Still, to be in that top seven ain't bad.

But the great news is that my dear friend and critique partner, AbFab, wait for it.... WON!!!!!!

It's a fantastic achievement, and I'm thrilled for her. A step in the right direction, and no surprise, since her writing is of such obvious stand-out quality. Congratulations, friend. A well deserved accolade.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

A new WIP

Now that the busiest part of my work is over for the year, and won't begin again until well into January or later, I've started a new novel. As I'm waiting to hear about two manuscripts I sent off to Harlequin this year, a new romance will keep the writing machine well oiled.

The inspiration for this new WIP comes from a short story I had published in the RWA Little Gems Anthology this year. In my story, 'Cool Rock', an ambitious young lawyer meets a rock star in a shop. The two argue over one of the items on sale, and the incident well and truly gets the chemistry going between them. When Genevieve walks away from the shop, she is unaware that the man she just gave her business card to, is a world famous musician. Regrettably, Ben loses Genevieve's business card, and it's two years before fate brings the couple together once more.

Without giving too much away, the novel picks up where the story left off. How is a lawyer to make a life with a rock star? How is a rock star - accustomed to a nomadic life and irregular working hours - to make a life with a lawyer? Mmmm... lots of interesting conflict there.

I wrote a chapter and a half of the continuing story of Genevieve and Ben, but quickly realised I'd started about a quarter into the story. Yesterday I pulled the reins on the project and began again. I'm much happier with the revised beginning.

And the inspiration for the two protagonists???? If this was a movie, my pick would be Keith Urban and Anne Hathaway.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Drum roll...

A couple of months ago, I entered the first five pages of my novel (the one I subsequently sent off to Harlequin in London) in a RWA competition, "High Five".

Today, I received notification that I'm a finalist! I am absolutely chuffed to have made it this far. What a thrill. I'd like to wish all other finalists (one of them my great friend AbFab) luck. The entries will now be judged by a Harlequin editor, which is such a wonderful opportunity. I look forward to getting some helpful feedback.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Says Who???

A men's magazine compiled a list of the "Unsexiest Women Alive", and Sarah Jessica Parker was voted number No. 1. Well, how do you like that??? The Sydney Morning Herald article reported the results of this unfortunate survey, and included an unflattering photo of Parker just to drive the point home a little more brutally. I saw the article a few weeks back, and at the time, I was appalled and saddened for Sarah Jessica Parker and the other women named as numbers 2 to 5 in the list. Since then I've been thinking about it quite a lot, and the more I think, the more it bothers me. Here's a snippet from the article:

The list, published in the latest edition of Maxim Magazine, named Sex and the City star Sarah Jessica Parker as the No. 1 Unsexiest Woman Alive.

The magazine said Parker was the "least sexy woman in a group of very unsexy women" that ironically starred in a show with the word "sex" in the title.

Firstly, I know there will be some who will say Parker and the other women who made the dreaded list are celebrities who make squillions every year. They sought out notoriety and consequently, are fair game.

I don't subscribe to this viewpoint. Choosing a life in the entertainment industry does not mean expecting to be humiliated. And who voted these women "unsexy"? Are they readers of Maxim magazine, and thus male? If so, what kind of men are they? I'd like to see how these men would rate on a similar scale. I understand magazines do these surveys to sell issues, but they should keep them to positive themes: World's Sexiest, Most Beautiful, etc. Who magazine regularly publishes such surveys, and what I like about them is that they feature a number of celebrities who aren't shining examples of what is considered to be "conventional" beauty. In fact, I'd be willing to bet Sarah Jessica Parker and the other stars of Sex And The City have been featured.

Sarah Jessica Parker's beauty is not conventional. That's what I like about her. And it was one of the reasons Sex And The City was such a popular, well-loved show. She is gorgeous, that is undeniable, but in a much more interesting way than the numerous - and forgettable - starlets who sparkle with a faint veneer of Hollywood gloss. Parker and the other characters of the show portrayed a realism that many women could connect with. Okay, their sexual escapades were a bit over the top, and there aren't many good TV shows or movies where you don't have to suspend disbelief just a little. That was all part of the fun. And the heart of the show, what made it poignant, funny, touching and absolutely gut-wrenching at times, was not the sex. It was the portrayal of these four women and their relationships with men and with each other.

The other admirable quality displayed by Sarah Jessica Parker, what I appreciate every time I watch her on screen, is that she looks 'real'. She's been in Hollywood a long time now. I think the first time I noticed her was in Steve Martin's LA Story, and apart from aging a bit, she hasn't changed much. By this, I mean she hasn't bowed to Hollywood pressure to get her nose done or substantially change her appearance by surgical means. Who knows, she may have had face lifts, but she hasn't become one of those generic clones we see splashed all over magazines. Women who used to look real once, and now look 'done'.

And what about her style? It's fantastic. Watching Sex And The City was a sheer visual delight. The outfits - though sometimes leaning towards the bizarre... or tragic - were an asset to the show and its creators. In its attempt to define style and fashion, the show had to go 'out there', take some risks. And those risks truly paid off, providing a visual treat only surpassed by classics like Breakfast At Tiffany's. Since I own the complete series of Sex And The City, I sometimes indulge myself in the visual spectacle, and love every minute. There is no doubt Parker was the wardrobe director's muse. Her natural chic and flair with clothes was the inspiration for the many wonderful outfits, which ranged from flea market treasures to haute couture.

Putting Parker aside, I find the "Unsexiest Woman Alive" survey an insult to women in general. If it were done in a workplace, or a school, it would be considered harassment or bullying. The perpetrators would be castigated.
Shame on you, Maxim magazine. I say Sarah Jessica Parker is FABULOUS. She represent so much more than "sexyness". In the character of Carrie Bradshaw, she was the quintessential single girl looking for love. An icon for our times. A courageous career woman who refused to settle for second best. The photos illustrate some of the things Sarah Jessica Parker represents, the most improbable of them, "unsexy".

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Verdict

For a while, I was hanging in there bravely. The grey hair was out for everyone to see. Sometimes I didn't mind it at all. Rather liked it, in fact. But there were other times when I looked at myself and thought I looked ten years older. Which, a day after celebrating my 44th, is not a good thing.

Yesterday, I took out the tube of 'Cherry Bomb' hair colour I'd bought in the event of a 'grey crisis'. I squeezed out a generous amount and started to brush it on. It looked fabulous. The red was deep and rich, covering the whites to perfection and blending in beautifully with my black hair. I left the colour on for the required 30 minutes and even put on a plastic shower cap to maximise the effect (a tragic look).

But when I washed it off, disaster. Almost all the red washed away, leaving my greys a weak shade of pink. I looked like Dame Edna with a buzz cut.

Off to Hairhouse Warehouse. They have all the answers. In the end, I opted to return to permanent colour. A shade of brown that will colour my greys and blend in with the black hair to give a 'textured' effect. I went home, put it in, and am much happier with the result. All I can say is, I gave it my best shot, but maybe I'll wait till I'm 60 to go grey again. By then I might be almost all white and it could be a great look.

...of droughts and flooding rain

We went camping to Sorrento last weekend. The weather forecast wasn't flash, so I flagged the idea that the trip could be cancelled. Husband laughed. 'They said "showers". That could mean anything,' he said. 'It might be fantastic!'

What can I say? I was right and he was wrong. It wasn't showers, in the end, it was rain. And what rain. In a time of drought, I don't think I remember such a heavy rain fall since the last time we had fierce storms in Victoria, back about 2 or 3 years ago.

The rain that began to fall on Saturday afternoon and didn't stop for twenty four hours was more like a deluge than 'rain'. All through the night, I kept being woken by its drumming on the tent, and by the occasional strong gust of wind that made me wonder about the nearby tree we'd used to string our washing line. Would it fall and crush us as we slept? There was a lot of flapping at one stage, and husband went out to investigate. The wind had blown the awning off one of the corner poles, which fell of course, leaving half of our 'veranda' collapsed. Of course, everything we'd placed under it got soaked. We had water through food bags, towels, cloth chairs... well, everything.

I lay in my bed listening to him hammer the peg back in. A few minutes later, when he was back inside, we heard someone else hammering in their pegs. Let's just say not a lot of sleep was had by the general camping community that night. That would be fine, if it weren't for the fact that in the morning, we woke to find water had leaked into the tent!!!!! The canvas tent that was meant to be absolutely 100% waterproof. It cost enough money, so I was sure it was going to deliver on the promise.

In the morning, the inside of the tent was saturated in condensation - or so we thought. It was probably water coming in from outside. There were puddles here and there on the floor and some of the bedding was slightly wet.

We left the tent for a hearty brunch at a local eatery with the other families on the trip. The temperature had dropped to 13 degrees by now, and the warmth was more a necessity than a treat. Some of the children came in their pyjamas, and our small one had no choice but to wear thongs (all her socks and shoes got soaked in the downpour).

From there, we migrated to the Hotel Sorrento for a long lunch before dropping off all the children at the movies while we grown-ups packed up the went tent site. And yes, you guessed it, by then the weather was clearing. Still, it was lovely to get home to a warm, dry bed. We slept in till 9 the next morning. There was a lot of lost sleep to catch up on.

And some research on the tent manufacturer's web site yielded some answers: The tent needs a few 'thorough soakings' to become 'seasoned'. That done, it will be 100% waterproof.

I am sooo looking forward to the next rainy camping trip so we can put it to the test.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Junk Communication

Every day now, I get at least one or two phone calls from companies that want to sell me 'stuff'. Oh, they often begin the phone call with, 'I'm not trying to sell you anything...', to which I always think, 'Oh, yeah, then who's paying your wages?'

I try not to insult these poor telephone people. After all, it's not their fault they've got such a terrible job. Imagine having to sit in a tele-marketing room all day with dozens of others, all punching numbers into phones, all reciting the same, tedious mantra.

I try not to insult them, but I'm sure my annoyance comes through. I usually cut them off by saying, 'Not interested, thanks,' and quickly hanging up. The quick hang-up is usually to prevent the poor tele-marketer's counter attack. Sometimes they even sound annoyed that you're not interested in their amazing offer. 'Oh, so you're not interested in learning how you can take thousands of dollars off your mortgage,' they say in a shitty tone.

This is when I remember Jerry Seinfeld, and smile. There was that episode when Jerry gets one of these calls and he says politely, 'I'm sorry, but I'm busy right now. If you give me your number, I can call you back at home.... Oh, you don't like people ringing you when you're home? Now you know how I feel.'

Still, when the charities call, I count my blessings and don't hang up.

Then there's the other 'scourge'. The 'chain e-mail'. Usually they're syrupy sweet, corny, cliched and frustrating. Some - under the guise of wisdom or altruism - are downright offensive. They're the ones that promise stuff:

"If you pass this e-mail on to six other people, ten great things will happen to you...
...money will come to you...
...luck will come to you...

They remind me of those pernicious chain letters that used to come in the mail, hardly legible after repeated photocopying. Remember how they told of unspeakable family tragedies that befell people who didn't keep the chain going? And how those same tragedies or financial ruin were reversed once the victim fished the letter out of the bin, made 50 copies and sent it to all their unsuspecting friends and relatives? It's a source of endless fascination to me that anybody is taken in by that stuff!

Sometimes I get a forwarded email that makes me stop and think. These are usually long-winded monologues about the preciousness of life and those around us. I read it, start feeling nostalgic about the past, feeling all warm and fuzzy about my loved ones. Yeah, the sentiments are often true, and it IS good not to take life for granted. I get that, and I guess it's a good thing to be reminded. But then why do I always feel a little manipulated? Why do I always feel like I'm a member of the great cyberspace congregation and someone's giving me a sermon. One I didn't ask for.

The problem with these kinds of messages, is that they're often full of generalisations, and they paint a picture of the past as perfect and of the present as hopeless. Frankly, I don't have any time for this. Why can't we be happy and positive about the great things we enjoy in life today? If we don't focus on what's good (and there's plenty of it), how can we expect young people not to feel hopeless about the future of the planet?

Perhaps it's time to start my own e-mail chain. The good news mail. Ten reasons to rejoice that we're living now instead of the fifties or sixties or some other decade when hundreds of Australians died every year of preventable and/or curable diseases. Ten reasons to turn off the computer and spend some time reading - or writing - a book instead. And what about forwarding great art (see, the inclusion of the above Klimt was not gratuitous). That's always uplifting, as is poetry or a good quote.

And humour is always welcome. Send me a funny photo, or a joke, and the quality of my day improves.

Writing? What was that again?

I am completely exhausted. The last few weeks have been full of activity, which have left me with little time to write. I tell myself I'll get into it in a few weeks, when I get past the mountain of work that's built up. I will get past it soon. A few weeks should do it, and I can already see the proverbial light...

While I've been doing that work, a lot of other 'stuff' has happened. Should I mention it? The list would be really long, and maybe it would be fun to even try.

Okay, I'll have a little go:
  • Install word 2007 on computer - Hate it, but have to do it to be compatible with the rest of the world
  • Ask for another year's leave from 'real job' - granted.
  • Do tax return - two years' worth!!!
  • Celebrate 13 year old daughter's birthday - big bash.
  • Celebrate father's 83rd birthday - very quiet, but very special.
  • Let hair 'grey' - the jury's still out.
  • Buy some groovy clothes for summer - Yay!!
  • Buy some fantastic shoes for summer - alas, only one pair.
  • Make Halloween costume for 13 year old - black fairy.
  • Listen to 90 presentations at work - each goes for about 20 minutes
  • Grade said presentations.
  • Write for money - non-fiction, instructional, and very, very boring.
  • Catch up with doctor, dentist, vet visits long overdue.
I could go on, but I won't. You get the picture. Soon, very soon, the writing part of my life will get a run again.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Twiddling Thumbs

Not exactly, but almost. Since posting off my manuscript, I've caught up on all the procrastination I missed in the last six weeks.

For one thing, I've done quite a bit of internet time wasting - so much so that we got the notice from our provider to say that we'd used 80% of our monthly total. Seeing as we recently 'upped' the total to 4G a month, I thought exhausting an amount that vast would be beyond us. I blamed the kids at first, until my husband reminded me of my fondness for YouTube.

Oh, yeah... YouTube. I've been re-living a lot of fun stuff on that little time waster. Anything and everything musical, usually. I had the Elvis fest at one stage, then moved on to Barbra Streisand. OMG, she's so divine. There was this montage of Barbra photos from the seventies while the soundtrack of 'Stoney End' plays. Oh, it's pure heaven. As is the clip from 'A Star Is Born' where she sings on the stage for the first time in front of her rockstar boyfriend's packed stadium. The song is 'Woman In The Moon', and it's one of her most powerful performances. It even held the attention of my almost teenage daughter!! Now that says something.

A dinner time conversation about John Travolta in 'Grease' took the whole family to YouTube for a sampling of his talents on the disco dance floor in 'Saturday Night Fever'. The movie's not suitable for the kids to watch yet, but boy, it's sweet watching the man move.

Then there's been 'Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat', a perennial favourite at our house that is currently getting a spin in the CD stacker. I entered the name of the musical in YouTube and got several 'bad' high school, or amateur versions. Some of them had less than adequate Josephs in the lead. And as the role requires Joseph to don a slave's outfit (loin cloth with the obligatory bare chest) for part of the show, let's just say some of the candidates were in a no-win situation from the start.

Just when I thought there wasn't going to be any decent, West End versions of Joseph on YouTube, I stumbled across a sensational man. The guy's name is Lee Mead, and as I followed the trail of video leads, I pieced together his story. Apparently, in the UK, there's been an 'IDOL' type of TV program to find the lead for the latest run of 'Joseph'. Andrew Lloyd Webber has been involved - as evidenced by his appearance at the auditions. Well, this guy Lee Mead - who had already been starring in The Phantom - blew everyone else out of the water. His voice is sensational and as for the slave outfit... well, that is something to be seen. One of the judges accused a fellow (female) judge of being in love with him. Fair enough accusation, I suppose, since there was lipstick on the photo of Mead she had in her hands as she gave him her 'feedback' after his audition.

Since we seem to follow close on the heels of London's stage 'revivals', I look forward to seeing 'Joseph' on stage here in Melbourne. The first time I saw it, a cousin took me to see it in London's West End. The year was 1992, and he said he only got tickets because, 'Jason Donovan's not in it any more, so it's okay to go.' Back then, I'd never heard of the musical, and I thought the title was ridiculous. The bible story wasn't one I was familiar with, and even if I'd known about it, it would have been hard to envisage it as a musical. I have no idea who made up the cast, back then, but the narrator was a woman with such an amazing voice that I often wonder if she's now a household name. At one stage, I remember she stopped the show. So much applause that the orchestra had to wait until the audience was quiet again before going on!

For a look at Lee Mead's 'slave' version of Joseph, and more importantly, his impressive vocal chords, have a peek below...

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Fare thee well, dear manuscript

Today I finally handed my current manuscript over to the post office clerk. It was a big parcel, too. Heavy. I haven't sent off a full manuscript before, so the postage was a bit of a surprise.

I have to thank my critique partner, AbFab, for poring over the chapters one by one as I produced them, for giving very balanced and insightful comments, and helping me to shape the writing into something better. AbFab and I went away for the weekend, and we pretty much did nothing but write - or re-write.

Thanks also for my other critique buddy, Lisa Mc, who despite being the busiest working mother in the world, still managed to read my novel and offer some really helpful comments, which I took into consideration during the writing weekend.

During the weekend, AbFab read the entire novel from start to finish, and found some mistakes. Then I read it, and found others. I made the necessary alterations, and when I got home, I printed the entire manuscript out once more. And then, of course, I read it again. I couldn't help myself. And naturally, I found some more things I needed to change.

This morning, I began to read it another time, and again fiddled with the prose. I got about halfway through the manuscript, when I realised it was time to STOP.

Ever had that feeling? The manuscript is technically finished, but it's hard to stop tweaking sentences, changing words here and there - and then changing them back to the way they were at the start. AAARRRGGGHHH!!!!!

Thankfully, I recognised this was such a moment. Halfway through the fourth read-through, I stopped and hit the 'print' button. Honestly, I've been through the final draft so many times that there was nothing left to find. Only things to move around and re-arrange. There comes a time when you just have to say, 'That's it. I'm finished.' And I did that today, about 3pm.

And then I slipped the pristine manuscript, complete with cover page and bound with rubber bands into the envelope that will take it to Mills & Boon in London. I included all the necessary bits and pieces and sent it on its merry - and I hope successful - way.

Tonight, like an addict, I thought to myself, 'What shall I write now?' But the laptop was turned off, and will stay turned off for quite a few days, I think. Time to work with pen and paper, first. New characters, new plot, new project.

Friday, September 14, 2007


It's been a long time since my last post, I know, but I've been extremely busy with work and a few hectic weekends - some of them away from home. On the writing front, I've also been snowed under, polishing my latest manuscript for submission.

But though I haven't really got time to post, I just couldn't let the passing of a giant go by without acknowledgment.

Luciano Pavarotti, the golden voice of opera, died last week. There aren't many performers who could carry the label of having the greatest voice of their genre. Pavarotti is such a star. I don't think anybody could argue there has been a better tenor. Ever. The power and finesse of his voice is unsurpassed, and all over the world, music legends have for years been paying their respects, as well as lining up for a chance to become immortal by singing alongside him.

I have many old VHS tapes of Pavarotti concerts, including the first (and best) of the Three Tenors performances. One of these concerts is, 'Pavarotti in Hyde Park', performed in front of Charles and Diana. What made this concert stand out from many others just like it, wasn't so much what took place on stage, but the weather. About half way through the show, the sky opened up with a great deluge, turning the the audience - including Charles and Di - into drowned rats.

In spite of that, Pavarotti's divine voice held the audience captive, and nobody left their seats. Diana and Charles appeared enthralled, while becoming more sodden by the minute. After the show, the members of the orchestra and Pavarotti lined up backstage for the traditional royal 'meet and greet'. The image of a completely soaked Diana, her hair plastered to her skull, but nevertheless glowing in the presence of the great Luciano, is powerful and enduring.

Back in 1993, I sat in the audience of Pavarotti's concert in Melbourne's Rod Laver Arena. I'll never forget his incredible performance, and the energy radiating from the crowd. It was as if we all knew we were part of history, that night. He saved his signature aria, 'Nessun Dorma', for last, and it gained him a standing ovation. The applause was deafening, and I thought my hands would fall off from so much clapping. What a thrill to see him live, and only a few rows from the front.

Every star in the music world sang with Pavarotti if they were lucky enough to get the chance. I've seen the likes of Andrea Bocelli, Bono, James Brown, Meat Loaf and Queen - among others - take up the microphone. But the clip I've chosen for this blog is of Pavarotti singing alongside the Spice Girls. Never my favourite band, that girly bunch, yet this unlikely coupling works. The mix of feminine voices contrast with Luciano's reverberating tenor surprisingly well. This collaboration also highlights what a versatile performer Paravotti was, and demonstrates what was probably his greatest achievement: making opera accessible to the masses and creating a whole new generation of fans.

Thank you Luciano. The world loves you and will always miss you.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Sometimes, you just gotta....


Does life get too serious, sometimes? It certainly does for me, and then every little thing seems so big, other people's annoying habits become unbearable and days can go by without a good belly laugh. This is why it's so good to stop and have a bit of fun for no particular reason, as often as possible. And the best laughs are the ones that come unexpectedly, sometimes shared with strangers.

Today I was in the video shop, and I decided to borrow a Seinfeld DVD. While reading the episode blurbs on the back, I remembered just how funny the show used to be, and I started laughing. A woman looked at me, and all I had to do was to hold up the DVD cover, and say, 'Pez Dispenser'. She got it, and laughed too. There was a moment of real connection, though I'd never seen her before, and probably won't ever again.

This morning my kids found this little piece of comedy, and thanks to the creators, we shared a few laughs in our pyjamas. Here is the talented troupe of Harry Potter Pals. Enjoy.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

New Project

I have a new project. Not that I've abandoned the last one, but this one has kind of taken me by storm. The idea for this medical romance was such a good one that I kind of ran with it. Sometimes it's good to give ideas and themes enough time to develop, so Hugh and Libby are having a short rest as they make way for Matt and Evangeline.

My strong visual sense demanded some real-life inspirations, and for my central characters, I chose Joaquin Phoenix and Julianne Moore. Joaquin is exactly Matt - nothing needs changing, but in order to become Evangeline, Julianne would need spiral curls. I still want her red hair, but it's just too straight for the heroine I envisaged.

The plot is quite dramatic, and the first chapter works hard to establish the tension. Difficult thing - as always - will be not only to maintain that tension, but to escalate it. I'm working a lot harder with my chapters, trying not to ramble too much. I give myself 5 points of reference, 5 things that have to happen before the chapter ends. So far I've stuck to it quite well, and it's been extremely enjoyable. Though I have a busy life, the nights I fall into bed after midnight with a few pages under my belt, I swear I go to sleep with a smile on my face. When I'm writing, producing well, I feel an enormous sense of satisfaction and feel really happy.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Winter in the Alps

Just got back from a fabulous week at Mt Buller. We got there as the mountain was engulfed in a blizzard of biblical proportions. Gale force winds kept all but about four lifts from running, so we enjoyed a snug day in the lodge on the first day there. There was a bit of snow play outside, which kept the little ones happy, and the white stuff was awesome. With more than a metre on the ground, a steady supply coming out of the sky, and below freezing temperatures, it stayed powdery all week.

Being strictly a fair-weather skier, I waited until the sky had cleared a bit before venturing out, and when it did, I had four good days on the slopes. It's so magic up there on top of the world, and I get as much of a buzz out of the beautiful scenery all around as I do skiing.

The kids went to ski-school some of the time and are now good enough to keep up with us older skiers (okay, actually skiing past me now!). Some friends joined us on the weekend, and they were kind enough to cook a Thai feast on Saturday night, followed by gorgeous blueberry mini-cheesecakes. If that wasn't enough indulgence, on Sunday morning, they cooked pancakes with berries!

What a great holiday... Just what I needed before getting back to work next week.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Spirit of Romance

Grace Kelly (the screen icon, not the real woman) has always embodied the essence of romance, for me. She was sublimely beautiful, looked spectacular in anything she wore and she was the epitome of style, refinement and... perfection. Of course, her seemingly perfect private life was anything but. I still find many of her movies a delight to watch. 'To Catch a Thief', 'Rear Window' and 'High Society' are among my favourite classics. In these, she plays heroines who are courageous, independent and strong-willed. What's not to love?

Mika's song - 'Grace Kelly' - is cool and boppy, it's loaded with the real goods. A rock solid melody that won't be forgotten overnight. Don't know if I agree with him that '...her looks were too sad', though. Dear, lovely, Grace Kelly. The silver screen misses you.

Check out the groovy video clip below...

And by the way...

I'm bald!!!

A career change, shifting commitments and a new sense of adventure deserve a crazy new look! Today I took the plunge and cut (nearly all) my hair off. I didn't do it myself, of course. I let a professional do it, and did it feel good. Man oh man.

When the hairdresser was finished, she spiked me up until I hardly recognised myself. Next step will be to experiment with some wild colours. But I think I'll wait a couple of months to do that. Best to let the shock of the new subside, first.

Winter by the beach

Just got back from a wonderful week away at Rosebud.

Rosebud, what a beautifully evocative name for this special place on the bay side of the Mornington Peninsula. It's named after a ship that was shipwrecked off the coast there, many, many years ago.

I'd say the defining feature of our time away at Rosebud is always sleeping in and lazy mornings in pyjamas until noon, when we finally emerge from the house and go looking for things to do. In Summer, it's almost always the beach, whereas in Winter, we have to get a bit more inventive.

It was a rainy week, this time, and we had one outing to the Ashcombe Maze, but it turned rather dark, rainy and cold while we were there. We explored the place, found all the fairies and almost all the gnomes, but it wasn't as pleasant as it could have been on a fine day. The man-made landscapes there are quite breathtaking.

I always, always take my laptop and write late into the night, or catch up on reading that I have less time for at home. Sometimes I take a notebook to the beach so I can write down ideas that come to me. Supervising children playing on sand, or swimming (in the warmer months) does lead to a lot of pondering, and from that can spring some gems of ideas, which have to be captured before they vaporise.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

My coat of many Daemons

You got me, AbFab and Ellen. I finally succumbed and took the Daemon test. And aren't I magnificent? The most beautiful, the most revered, the most breathtakingly magnificent animal that ever walked the earth. Immortalised in poetry by Blake, too:

Tiger! Tiger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry? etc. etc...

Well, I have a confession to make. I wasn't always this impressive. The first time I took the test I was... (drum roll) a MOUSE. But that test kind of didn't count for the blog, as I took it using my real name. Which meant I had to take the test again as Scribbly. This next time I was... (bigger drum roll) a HARE. A hare???? Mouse was bad, but hare was bordering on ridiculous.

Then my children got in on the act. The eldest has read the books the movie is based on, and apparently, they're fantastic. I guess we'll all be lining up to see it when it comes out. They took the test and came out as a jackal, a fox and a tiger. Not bad, I thought. Then husband had a go. He came out as a big chimpanzee. We all laughed. But when we tried to save his effort, it didn't work, so he tried again. This next time, his Daemon was a snow leopard. Which was much, much more dignified a result. And it got me thinking. Maybe if I answered the questions a bit more assertively, with a bit more, say... attitude, I'd score a better Daemon. Still being truthful, I reached inside the non-mouse and non-hare part of my psyche, and took the test a final time. You can imagine my thrill when I saw a tiger's shadow appear.

If I believed in any of this, I'd say that people don't have just one Daemon. It all depends on what mood we're in. One day's mouse is another day's tiger.

My (latest) Daemon

Leunig magic

How I love Michael Leunig's cartoons, poetry and general commentary on life. With a few simple strokes of the pen (or paintbrush), he manages to convey so much about the human condition. This image is one of my favourites. With its poignant and universal theme, I'm sure it's been the driving force behind many a profound lifestyle - or career - changes. The signs read: "THE LIFE YOU LEAD", and "THE LIFE YOU COULD HAVE LED"

Are we living the life we really want? Or did we instead choose one that disappoints us? If we are indeed walking along that darkened stretch of road, how do we turn around and get on the path of light? Every time I see this cartoon, it drives home all the things that are important to me. The message is loud and clear: 'Carpe Diem' - Seize the day!

In yesterday's edition of The Age, another vintage Leunig made me think - and laugh - about my choices in life. The cartoon in question was about writing, and had no particular title. In it, a man is talking to his therapist and the conversation goes like this:

MAN: Help me doctor. I've got a book inside me!

THERAPIST: Most people have a book in them. Perhaps I can refer you to a publisher.

MAN: No! I don't want it published. I want it surgically removed - or dissolved with herbs or something - maybe some sort of therapy. I WANT TO BE RID OF IT! PLEASE!

THERAPIST: You seem ashamed of your inner book?

MAN: Not at all. It's just that I don't want to become a... a... I don't want to become a WRITER!

THERAPIST: There, there - it's not so bad. We all have to become writers sooner or later. We must learn acceptance. We are born, we live and then, sadly, we must write.

MAN: It seems so unfair. Life is so cruel. I thought I could escape.

Dear, dear Leunig. What would we all do without you? Sometimes the writing process feels just like it's described in this cartoon. Writing is agonising and confronting at times, but could I stop if I tried? I'm definitely in too deep, now. There are moments of exhilaration, and yes, there is the book - or many books - inside that are screaming to be written.

I'm baaack!!

This sounds like a lame excuse, but I really wanted to post this week. Blogger, however, had other ideas. No matter what I tried, it wasn't letting me sign in. I've finally managed to do it for the first time today, but am still having problems with saving drafts and editing. Fingers crossed and let's hope it works from now on.

The X Factor

Last week I went along to see my child compete in a short play competition. The stakes were not at "sheep station" levels, so it was relaxing and entertaining. The kids did a great job, and we (a few mums and the teacher) were thrilled to see them enjoying themselves to such a degree. Performing in a "real" theatre in front of an audience they didn't know was an obvious boost to their confidence as well as an invaluable experience.

But the interesting thing for me, was watching the development of the competition as each of the eight schools performed. It was obvious early on that our school's play was going to be in the front running for a prize. But soon we had a serious contender. The consensus amongst the other parents and the teacher was that this other school could take first prize off us.

As it turned out, we came second. The kids were thrilled, and waited to hear the expected result for first place. However, there was an upset. The school we thought would get first prize didn't get a mention, and the winner was instead another school, whose performance was - quite frankly - not that good (I'm being kind).

It's fascinating, isn't it, how things turn out. Sometimes what we think is marvellous, and deserving of accolades doesn't - for whatever reason - make the grade. Perhaps there was something we - as audience - weren't aware of. Maybe something that caused the entrant to be disqualified for some unknown, but valid reason.

The parallel to writing in all of this, is obvious. A rejection letter doesn't equal a failed manuscript. And sometimes, something unexpected catches an editor's eye. The X Factor. Assuming the work is presented in a professional and appropriate format, it's difficult to know what drives the selection process. Sure, great writing is always going to get there in the end, but a little luck can't hurt.

I write this as I await my response from Harlequin. My partial was sent off at the beginning of March, and I know that soon there will be a letter in the mail. And wouldn't it be wonderful if my three chapters caught some editor's eye? How would it feel to have a full manuscript requested? But writing is full of pitfalls. A rejection letter is just as likely, and I'm fully prepared to face that possibility. As I'm halfway through the next novel, I'll have lots to keep me busy.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Calling Chenna...

Dear Chenna,

I've been reading about your plight and I have to say, I simply can't stop thinking about you. Your evil owner is guilty of a particularly callous type of abuse. Leaving you alone in the house, locked up for days at a time, is bad enough, but your bathroom ordeals sound unbearable. It's no wonder your joy for life and creative spirit struggle to break free during these intolerable periods of solitary confinement. Being forced to use a non-flush bathroom system that would have been considered primitive in the dark ages is nothing less than emotional torture.

That Ellen is a cruel owner not deserving of your sweetness and devotion. Who is she to question how you use your time when she's guilty of such neglect! Who is she to put you in therapy! She's the one who needs a shrink. I'm sure therapy would uncover quite an interesting and twisted history. More than that, she needs a padded cell!

I have been so disturbed by your pitiful story that I have been looking for ways to help you. I trawled the internet for hours, and finally found a charitable organisation set up by the late Madame Adelaide Bonfamille (You know, the one who had that beautiful Persian cat, Duchess and her three adorable kittens: Toulouse, Marie and Berlioz. Later there was all that trouble with a butler and a stray cat with a heart of gold called Abraham de Lacey Giuseppe Casey Thomas O'Malley). With her considerable fortune, she set up a fund for unwanted, undeserved and maltreated cats. For years, her mansion in Paris has been home to a cat refuge/resort/spa (see above photo).

Unfortunately my limited finances don't allow for an international air ticket to France, but perhaps if you start 'borrowing' a few gold coins from Ellen's purse or 'tidy up' where she leaves money laying around, perhaps you could save enough to get yourself there. Leave me a message here to let me know your intentions. One miaow from you and I will make all the arrangements.

I understand your suffering and dearly want to help you. Love, Scribbly

Blog Challenge!

Had a very pleasant evening tonight with my two writer friends, AbFab and Ellen talking about writing and our lives, childhoods - some with and some without television. We shared a lovely dinner at Chocolate Buddha in Federation Square, enjoying sushi, sashimi and some very relaxed beef. Conversation was varied, but there was one hot topic: blogging. My friends waxed lyrical about all things to do with blogging. They discussed how to do all that fancy stuff I've only half learned. They compared their blogs to others of note. They explained how they follow links from blog to blog to find themselves in quite unexpected and surprising places. A couple of blogs mentioned were one about the art of scrapbooking, and another about places to have breakfast in Melbourne (very useful, I say). But there were many, many others. My friends mentioned that they do check my blog quite regularly and find that it's not updated very much (surprise). Of course, there's always something to blog about, so I've set myself a challenge to satisfy their obsession - and my burgeoning one. I must blog more. Even once a day, if I can stand it.

So I'll need to add another section to my writing ideas' notebook: Blogging ideas to thrill. I have a very select audience, I know, but it's a discerning one. And another challenge: images to suit. This one is dedicated to us crazy book cats. Let's keep the sisterhood going and the blogging passion alive.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Artist Date

Well, it wasn't really, not in the way Julia Cameron advises (a day spent indulging in something to replenish creativity). But it was the first day I'd spent at home with time to write for ages!

I finished chapter 6 today. Sent it off to AbFab, who advised some minor changes. It was the chapter when my hero and heroine have dinner together. They haven't seen each other for twenty years and their lives have just intersected once more. Libby doesn't quite know why she's let Hugh drag her to this fancy restaurant, where she feels like an outsider. She doesn't know why she's there, yet she is, and this is the beginning of their journey. More complications will arise out of her decision to open the door and let him into her life. I don't quite know what these complications are going to be... Well, I have a few ideas, but for me nothing quite works like putting it on the page.

In the name of research, I had to delve into music from the 80's and into exotic cut flowers. I had in mind an amazing arrangement of Heliconia as a way to enhance the setting for this important scene. The images I found were striking, bold, and exactly what I was looking for. They come in shades of green and yellow, but the most spectacular images I found were stunning reds.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Crazy Woman!

At least I'm not weeping, that's all I can say! But I am crazy, that's confirmed. What a week! Not much writing, but just about everything else in between. But busy is good, I suppose, as long as no disasters strike.
I love the NGV's 'Weeping Woman'. It says so much about our condition. She's green and all in pieces, and not too impressed about something (I'm being flippant - I believe the cause for this one's distress is WAR), but she still manages to look bloody arresting. Beautiful. We went to the gallery for an hour last Sunday, and she was there. See, I haven't had a minute to even blog since then! Anyway, she's a particular favourite of middle child. So when at the gallery, we have to say hello. We have a few favourites: 'Cleopatra's Banquet', by I don't know who, 'The Pineapple Girl' (not the actual title - our nickname for the gorgeous 14 year old heiress to a pineapple plantation fortune), by Joshua Reynolds, and the weepie lady.

What a great place, the NGV. And it's free! I can't actually believe these wonders are there for everyone. Because they're free, you can take kids and just "keep 'em movin'" from room to room as you view the magnificence. At one point, we had two a-rollicking on one of those austere leather squares in the middle of one hall. You know, the ones you're meant to sit on in silent contemplation. Even the lady guard had a smile on her face. We just kept right on moving before she had a chance to catch us.

Then there was the crying session in the NGV shop. Little one says, 'I didn't know there was a shop!' and demanded to go in there. I warned, 'We're not buying anything. Just going in there for a look.' Amazing really, that they don't charge you to look. Middle child picked up a bookmark of her favourite sad green lady and asked if she could have her. I said, 'Ask the price at the counter.' She did. $5.95! For a piece of printed cardboard. I reckon Picasso's smiling. It was lovely looking around at all the nice stuff, and we did leave, eventually, with little one shrieking all the way out and husband telling her she could grab any one of the free brochures instead. That only made her shriek louder.

Anyway, since that beautiful interlude, there's hardly been any time to write. I've worked, worked and worked some more. Today, sunday, I worked for about six hours, finishing some heavy duty marking that has to be done by tuesday. Tomorrow and wednesday, more work. In between, there's been the evil sore throat that left me speechless and a few other unexpected events such as finding myself on the committee of the sporting club I belong to. I went off to the meeting telling my husband I wasn't interested in getting involved in the politics and came home to announce I'd accepted a nomination, thinking I wouldn't get voted in. I'm new, after all, and nobody knows me. Just my luck that they've been looking for new blood, so my unknown face was just the thing everyone was looking for. And so I guess new blood will become 'fresh' blood. Mine. All over the floor, once those old guys assert their supremacy. I can see myself become green, weepy and fragmented already. But no matter what, I declare the mascara and lipstick will stay on!

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Winter Reds

It's Winter. The garden looks gorgeous, particularly the plants that change from their Summertime incarnations, transforming into something quite magical before they lose all their leaves. I don't mind the look of naked trees, quite love it, actually. And it makes so much sense. Mother Nature is a clever cookie. More sun while it's cold, while a leafy cover in Summer is so refreshing.

But it's these moments of contemplation about seasonal change that usually remind me of the relentless marching of time. It's already halfway through the year, and what have I achieved? When I start the year, I'm always over-optimistic about how much I'll get done. Oh, yes, I'll get that novel finished and send it off to the publisher, or even more ambitious: will get another novel on the drawing board.
So what have I achieved so far this year? Well, I did send off a novel in March, and I'm now on the sixth chapter of a fifteen chapter project. In my idealistic schedule, I write a chapter a week. Realistic schedule? One chapter every two weeks, and that's keeping a mighty fine pace.
I wrapped up chapter five last night at about midnight. I could have written for hours more. That's the problem with my progress, I suppose. Time doesn't stand still when the words are flowing. During the working week, it's even worse, with consecutive days when I don't get near the laptop. What happens to all the creative energy in that time? How do I stop it all leaking into the nothingness abyss of forgotten ideas? I know I'm not alone in this. Most writers' lives are crammed with other obligations, just like me.
It's during these non-writing times that wonderful revelations can strike - a new twist to the plot, or a great idea about how to 'stage' a difficult scene - I hold on to the thought in a variety of ways. Writing it down immediately is the most reliable way, but a pen and paper is not always handy - especially when I'm in dreamland. The idea is always so clear, so obvious and perfect that I think I wouldn't forget it in a million years. But if I haven't written it down, I arrive at the keyboard with the gem floating amongst other debris in the abyss. I can spend hours hoping to re-generate it, or just get on with it and pick an alternative route.
The best thing I can do to keep the novel alive when I don't have time to write is to invite the story into my life. The characters keep me company constantly, sometimes speaking to me... or to each other. As I go about my business, I see them in their world, and I learn new things about them all the time. Quite an amazing experience, and one that confirms that I am a writer, and not just pretending. In this way, the story continues to develop, organically, on an almost subconscious level. The act of placing my fingers on the keyboard completes the process, releasing the ideas for further tweaking. Some of these actually make it onto the page.
But that's not all. Partly to allay the fear that I'll never be able to think up another novel, I find myself constantly looking ahead to the next novel. Already, I'm auditioning characters and a situation for the next project. Like seeds in the ground over winter, the characters need a home to germinate and develop into three-dimensional beings. They can't just 'come to be' one day and be thrown on to the page the next. I've tried it before and the result is generally flat and lifeless.
So as my garden sleeps, gathering strength for the regeneration phase, so the creative process keeps rolling on. My sleeping beauties, nurtured through their winter sleep will hopefully emerge as robust and graceful creations when the time is right.
Well, that's just me being optimistic. Fingers crossed.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Slash and Burn

Writing is such a rollercoaster. One minute I'm in the depths of despair and the next I'm completely chuffed with myself.

Right now, I'm taking a huge dive, stomach in my throat as I jam the gear stick into first draft mode. Honestly, half the time I don't even know what I'm writing!!! Yes, I have the scene in my mind, but what comes out of my fingers is not the same. It's a jumbled version, clogged with too many conflicting thoughts, images, distractions... You name it, I've put it in there.

It's like my characters are screaming at me, 'Let us shine. We can be better than this!'

And they are better. They improve with fiddling and much, much shaving. More like slash and burn in my over-writing kind of style. I tend to do the same when I'm dressing to go out. I'm one of those people that gets ready, then has to take off 5 things.

It's hard to know what's going to work on the page - or not work - until I trial it. When it's there in black and white, it's easier to cut the crap. And there's a lot of it to cut. But even then it's a fine balancing act. Over the years, I've found that if I over-work my writing, it sucks the life out of it. What seems to work best is to throw down the first draft, get the emotions, sensual details and dialogue right, then stand back and work out what needs to be slashed and burned. After that, though, it's best not to agonise. There are many 'right' ways to say something, but I believe there are a lot of writers out there who think there's only one right way, and they fiddle and fiddle - for years, sometimes - to find that writing Utopia. Great if you find it, I suppose, but not that good in terms of creating, shaping, polishing... AND MOVING ON.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Writers' Rest

I wonder, do writers ever rest? Since deciding to put my writing in 'full throttle' mode, my life seems to have spun out of control.

Naturally, writing doesn't cancel out the other compartments of my life. And those compartments were full to bursting before I decided to squeeze in writing. So how do writers do it? I imagine that, like me, they 'juggle', and perhaps it explains why writers are always interested in other writers' routines. 'When do you get time to write?' is an oft repeated question, and writers everywhere crane their necks to hear the answer, hoping it might yield a secret to how to do it better.

When I decided I was going to give my writing a serious chance of succeeding, I didn't imagine how it would take over my life. Yes, I had to make room for writing, while the usual demands remained - family, work, household chores and keeping connections going with friends, which are the important threads in our lives. Without these, there would be little to write about.

Creating room to write has definitely put a squeeze on everything else. My house is messier than it's ever been, my husband has less time to spend by my side in the evenings, my children - loved to the extreme as they are - forget excursion notices and party invitations in their school bags, because I'm one of those bad mothers who forget to check!!! I only ever skim the newsletter, and one day my husband delivered the youngest to a deserted school only to be told by the bemused office staff, that it was curriculum day. And yes, it had been advertised in the newsletter for weeks. Obviously one of the bits I'd skimmed - repeatedly.

To compensate for this 'squeezing' effect, the less-important things had to go. One of those was spare time - LEISURE. Now, that is a sad thing, and I think my writing has missed it. Lately I have been besieged by migraines that are aggravated by lack of sleep and no time to relax, so I have decided that my writing future is demanding back some of that greatly missed spare time. Bring back a bit of TV time-wasting, I say. There are some great romance movies that will inspire my writing in all sorts of ways. Plotting, dialogue, characterisation, setting and visual stimulus, which I thrive on. And watching telly always brought with it another pleasure: knitting. Perhaps if I force myself to have some 'down time' in front of the telly, that other love will be revived and I'll finally finish the beanie I started three winters ago.

Yes, it's definitely time to make a pledge:

Tomorrow, I welcome leisure back into my life. My dear, dear friend - also a writer - AbFab and I will meet for a brunch and a chat, and when I return home, I vow to spend Sunday on the couch. Sunday on the couch - it sounds so decadent, but isn't that what Sundays used to be for? When I was a child, my mother (the devout Catholic) used to tell me it was a sin to work on Sundays. If a button came off my father's shirt, she would refuse to sew it back in place, on religious grounds. She - the ever industrious housewife - had a dispensation from the Pope to have some time off. So where's my dispensation? Six days of work deserves a day off. Tomorrow I will start to claim back my seventh day of leisure. For the sake of my health - body and mind - and for the sake of my future writing career.

If I'm a good girl, I'll allow myself some writing time after dinner. Promise.

Queen of Procrastination

Procrastination must be my middle name. Good thing I seem to hear it's a familiar theme amongst other writers. Blogging is a great procrastination tool, as is checking out other people's blogs, interesting websites, etc. etc.

The last few days I've been busy with work (yes, we do have to make a living until the publishing contract kicks in - and then don't quit your day job is the advice from many published writers) and family commitments.

Then there are always other distractions that come even when I've got all my writing paraphenalia arranged attractively around me, the computer is turned on, I've rubbed my magic stone (a present from thoughtful sister in law) and my fingers are poised on the keyboard. That's the moment I think, 'I'll just play a quick game of Solitaire, or Spider Solitaire, or Freecell, or Hearts until the creative juices flow.' That's the theory, anyway. What usually happens is that I end up staring at the screen - bug eyed - for a half hour or longer, thinking nothing about my characters, plot, setting or anything remotely useful. Yes, if I was using the half hour to dream up, or recall some frisson of passion that would end up on the page, that would be useful. But no. Computer games are a total waste of time. And just when I thought I might have finally become bored with the card games, finally managed to get a grip on my dependence, something happened...

I bought a new laptop. The new laptop has newer versions of all my old favourite games, and then some new ones I'd never even heard of. Enter: MAJONG TITANS! Oh, my God! Another way to waste precious writing time glued to the screen, thinking nothing about writing. It's such a satisfying game, too. All those gorgeous little tiles with decorative images, and the dragons and flowers make rewarding sounds when you match and remove... Oh, I feel like playing a game now. But I won't. Time to write. Chapter 4 beckons.

I made a start yesterday, and a good start, too. My hero and heroine confront each other. After I'd put 5 pages down, I realised it was all a bit of fancy 'how-de-doody'. A lot of hollow chatter that seemed to address their issues, but didn't feel quite right. My heart wasn't in it. It was only when I'd been away from the page for a few hours that I thought: nothing happens. My scenes work best when there's an event, an action - something happening. So I thought that tonight I will return to the page and make some changes. My hero won't just turn up wanting to dredge up the past (for a whole lot of complicated reasons to do with his emotional conflict). He will turn up bringing with him SOMETHING from the past. An object, something that the heroine will connect with her past with him.

Now I should go and make a start, shouldn't I? Well, that's just the thing with procrastination. I do believe that in my case, procrastination has a lot to do with fear. I put off going to the page because it's so hard to create the vision in my head. How do I convey all the details of setting, character and pure gut-wrenching emotion I've built in my head. The written product always seems to fall short of the mark. So to avoid that feeling... I procrastinate. But procrastination doesn't solve the problem, doesn't improve the situation. Only facing the fear - or the page - does that. So goodbye dear cyber-friends. I now prepare to remove my armour and face the page. Wish me luck.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Describe... or not

Being a visual person, I tend to over-describe in my writing. As my friend AbFab said, 'You see everything like a movie, and you want the reader to see what you see.'
'You're exactly right,' I told her.
She then proceeded with some terrific advice. I'd been told before - mostly by her - but this time it really hit home. She said, 'Don't put in description for description's sake. Only put it in if it moves the story along.'

Of course, I thought. I knew she was right. I had sent her my 2nd chapter, you see. I'd polished it and was quite pleased with myself. It was 22 pages long. In this chapter, the hero and heroine meet again after 18 years apart. The chapter is a chronicle of the evening's events before they reach that moment. I switch between their POVs, in increasingly smaller sections. I thought this would heighten tension, make the reader want to reach the point where they come face to face.

She e-mailed back a lukewarm response, and suggested I cut out what was unnecessary. In her opinion, my 'stringing' out their meeting for so long actually dissipated tension. She said she found herself 'skimming' the writing to get to the vital point. My reply must have sounded so disheartened that she was on the phone in a few minutes. We talked for over two hours, going through what she thought was superfluous.

Now you might be wondering why on earth I would let someone tell me to slash a quarter of my chapter, but it's easy. Her writing is absolutely fabulous, and I trust her judgement. So I got off the phone at about eleven at night, and couldn't go to bed without fixing my ailing chapter. I finished making the changes after midnight and sent them off to her. My chapter reads much better. Paragraphs of description that weren't central to the characters or plot are now a sentence - and some that were completely irrelevant are gone altogether.

As I said, I'd been told this before, but Saturday night, I really GOT IT. Now I tackle my chapter 3 with renewed focus. No more waffling, useless description. As AbFab said, it diffuses tension rather than increasing it. And the big question is: can I stick to it, or will I fall back into my old ways?

Tuesday, May 8, 2007


My dream of having a romance novel published is still that... a dream. I have two great writing friends (one of whom has been a close friend for years and was a work colleague in a previous life) who are striving ahead beautifully. The old friend has had a full manuscript requested by Harlequin and is frantically keeping her fingers crossed. No need to be so nervous, I tell her. Her writing is absolutely wonderful. I wish I could write that well. And the other friend, the newer writing buddy has also had a manuscript requested. Her writing is very powerfully evocative, so much so that when I'm reading encounters between the hero and heroine, I feel weak in the knees - as if I was there. Her request for a full manuscript came about as part of finalling in a writing competition, not through submission, which shows there are several ways to 'get there'.

Either way, their journey has begun in earnest, and I hope to soon join them. Every day, when I check out my letterbox, I expect to see the Harlequin letter sitting there. It's giving me mail anxiety, let me tell you! And it's hard to believe it could be good news, but a dream doesn't stay alive without positive thinking.

Still, positive thinking doesn't write books. At the moment I'm writing the third chapter of my current manuscript. I've veered off the track of my usual Harlequin line: Harlequin Romance (Sweet, here in Australia), by tackling a new line: Harlequin Everlasting Love. These novels are slightly longer than the usual 55,000 word Sweets, and follow the 'history' of a romance - think 'The Notebook'. This manuscript is my first novel ever written, which I just kind of shelved. I knew I didn't have the experience and skill to tell the story the way it ought to be told. It's amazing coming back to it now, after three years and finding half of it is redundant. There is so much that isn't central to the story, or to be more precise, so much that doesn't move the story along. There are minor characters that wouldn't be missed if cut, so of course I've cut them, along with the subplots that would do well in a long-running soapie, but have no place in a 75,000 word novel.

So, I take heart in what I've learned and keep at it. Amazingly, my desire to write has only grown. The pleasure I take in it is quite addictive. Most nights I sit at my laptop fiddling - or scribbling - to my heart's content.

Tonight I have to fix the part where my hero and heroine meet again (after 18 years). I have to approach the scene with more courage. When I first wrote it, a couple of nights ago, I just had my heroine running away! She just ran out of the crowded room (an art gallery exhibition) into the night. Imagine that! I am such a coward. It was only later that I realised how I was dodging the conflict that makes novels great. Of course they have to talk, I told myself. But what are they going to say to each other? What can they say after all that time? Their history wasn't a happy one (they had a teenage love affair with dire consequences), so they both would like to avoid stirring up the broken pieces they left behind. So much to convey, and so difficult to do it just the right way...

Sunday, May 6, 2007


It's now my 4th year of serious writing. It's been an amazing journey so far, and though it's been difficult at times, turning back is not an option. A huge romantic at heart, I've focused my efforts and talents towards writing romance (of course).

With a manuscript in the post, I'm now dedicating my writing time to a new novel while I wait for the verdict!!! This is my writing journey.