Fuel for the Worker

I’ve been writing a lot lately.  This is a good thing for my fiction.  Apart from getting one project finished, it also means that my fiction juices, so to speak, are flowing abundantly.  My brain it truly teems with endless schemes, both good and new.  I’m fired up, I’m excited, I want to write ALL THE THINGS.

Sadly, life will insist on intruding into my writing time.  I managed to ignore life for a bit while I finished the project o’doom, but while I was doing so, my desk became a minefield of bits of paper with jobs-to-do on them (some of which didn’t get done, as evidenced in Monday’s post).  So before I wade into the wondrous seas of NEW! SHINY! PROJECTS! I have to sort through the detritus and try to reclaim the non-writing portion of my life.

Now, clearly, I can’t do this kind of work on my own.  We all know that writers are fueled by caffeine and chocolate and I am no exception (although I would also add potatoes to that list – it’s the Irish heritage).  But when it comes to the tedious-but-necessary non-writing tasks, the writer needs more.  I don’t just need caffeine, I need moral support with my caffeine.  Someone cheerful and encouraging, but quiet and very unlikely to make ‘helpful’ suggestions.  Fortunately, I have just such a friend.

Allow me to introduce Bruce:


For those of you not familiar with the concept, Bruce is a tea-cosy.  He is made of wool (what else? he’s a sheep) and sits over my adorable small, just-for-me-sized teapot and keeps the tea warm.  He is special for several reasons.

First, and possibly most important, he’s adorable.  He makes me smile and trust me, when I’m sorting out finances and the like, I need all the help I can get with that.  Second, he’s hand-knitted and being in the presence of awesome handcrafts also makes me very happy.  Third, he was a gift, from my Mum and one of my sisters, who found him in a craft shop and had to bring him home.  (There is nothing that shows our kinship more than our inability to leave in a shop a truly fabulous piece of craftiness.)  Fourth, he is the perfect size for my little teapot, which was a gift from another sister, which has a serendipity that pleases me.  And fifth, his name is Bruce and for reasons I can’t explain, it’s a name that makes me smile.  Especially when given to a sheep tea-cosy (The sister who bought him named him, once again demonstrating the kinship.)

Although, now that I think about it, we are not the only people amused by the name Bruce for animals…

Although my Bruce is, I’m sure you’ll agree cuter.  And not as dangerous.

I just hope that he has as much stamina as a shark.  Because I foresee him getting something of a workout over the next few days as I detangle the cat’s-cradle of crud I’m drowning in.  Wish us luck!

What are you up to your eyeballs in?

Technology fail and an important subject

So, last time I posted I said I was off to look at furniture.  And I did.  I even found some and got it home and everything, but have a managed to take photos to share with you?  I have not.

Or, rather, I have, but then the batteries ran out on the camera and I don’t have any more, so I can’t put them onto the computer.

Oh, okay, it isn’t just that.  I mean, I could go to the shop and get some more, except that would require walking, because my car blew up the other day and what with all the furniture moving and whatnot around here lately, I am BROKEN and tired and coordinating my fingers to type is about as much as I can manage at the moment.


In the absence of pictures of furniture (which I’m SURE will be as fascinating to you as they are to me), I want to share a post I came across recently which got me thinking.

It’s about the depiction of rape and rape victims in romance stories and it’s here.

This is a subject dear to me.  I have not (yet) depicted rape victims in any stories I have written, but my girly thriller (one of my current works in progress) does include a victim of domestic abuse.  I did an enormous amount of research on the subject before even starting to write that story and it has been a constant concern to try to get the character ‘right’.  I feel a responsibility to real people in the situation to present her in a way that they will recognise.  That’s partly because I don’t want to trivialise the subject to non-victims and partly because I think one of the purposes of stories is to tell us that we are not alone and that we can overcome the demons that beset us.

G.K. Chesterton apparently once said, about children and scary stories, “Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”

I think the same is true of modern stories of the dragons that exist in grown-up lives.

I’m not saying that every story needs to deal with the darkness in the world.  But if they do, I think they need to do it well and realistically.

What do you think?  Do you like stories that deal with dark subjects?  Are they appropriate in romances?  I’d be really interested to hear your thoughts.

Cross-eyed and behind

Behind the eight-ball, behind the times, behind on my to-do list – just behind!

I have helped to graduate approximately 4,500 students in the last week or so.  This has involved leaving the house with the commuters, driving into the city and spending five and a half hours at this lovely place:

Picture from Wikipedia

Picture from Wikipedia

most of it on my feet and all of it concentrating hard.  The job I do is on stage with the Chancellor and the Deans, helping to make sure that the right names are read with the right degrees and the student gets the right piece of paper.  It sound simple enough, but it can be tricky when you have many hundreds of graduands at a time.  And you know, when some of them have difficult names, like this girl:

This is why, at Melbourne University, they don’t let the students fill in their own pronunciation cards for the Deans to read… (Doesn’t mean we don’t laugh when it happens at someone else’s ceremony, though…)

Was it more than a lot of people do regularly? No. But I am out of practice with the whole drive-commute thing and graduations are very intense and it really took it out of me.  With the result that, all the other things that were on my list to do have fallen WELL behind.

So tonight, instead of finishing a stack of shiny blog posts and doing the draw for the pretty bangle and the like, I am frantically wrapping presents that should really have been posted today, but will now have to go tomorrow and wondering when I can go to bed.

I am hoping that, tomorrow, once the post is gone, I will be able to do the draw, do some proper posts and catch up!  But in the meantime, if you are looking for some good Christmas presents, don’t forget books, e and paper.  There are many lovely books out there, new and old, just waiting to beguile your break, or soothe your working days.

If you are in Australia or NZ, all the Destiny Romance titles, including Rules are for Breaking are on special, through all the outlets and they are now available worldwide.  So if you are getting or giving a Kindle or Kobo or iPad mini or other reading device for Christmas, they’d be a great place to start!

If you were a student this year, I hope your results were all you desired and that next year is shaping up well!

NaNo, Planning, Persistence and the curious incident of the dog and the blog post*

Okay, I’ma goin’ to tell you what I’ve been up to (sorry, channelling Kanye there – and that’s a sentence I never thought I’d write) but first, I have to ask, do you think that somewhere, sometime there was an actual dog-eating-homework incident?

Do you think that at some innocent time in history, a good and conscientious child actually did their report on the Greater Northern Brown-Snouted Crocodile, complete with diagrams and graphs and neatly ruled borders, only to have it mauled beyond recognition by a puppy with self-control issues?**

I like to think there was.  Because I have had my post eaten.  Admittedly, not by a puppy and my borders probably weren’t as tidy, but I had a writing post for Monday and I wrote it and it was nearly finished and almost completely made sense, when the internet ATE IT.  (Which should teach me not to compose on the blog server and probably will – until I forget and backslide and it happens again.)

There was an upside to all this: I learned that I can swear with a fluency and vehemence that frankly, impressed me.  But I will not demonstrate that for you here, since I like to keep myself naice in print.  Also, now that I have calmed down, I would blush and blushing does not become me.  I’ll redo that writing post next Monday and you can tell me whether it was worth the effort!

In the meantime, though, I would like, if you would bear with me, to update you on my NaNoWriMo progress and lessons learned in the attempt.  You will remember, if you are a regular, that I took on NaNo (unofficially) mostly to overcome The Fear.

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How a horse race made me forget what day it was and an interview!

Ahem.  Apparently, I forgot that yesterday was Wednesday.  This is because Tuesday here was Melbourne Cup day.  Which, because I live in Melbourne, was a public holiday.

Yes, the Melbourne Cup is a horse race.  And we have a holiday for it.  And we have the cheek to say that other places are mental! 😉  If memory serves me right, it used to be a holiday NATION-WIDE.  I feel I should say this is shocking, but actually I find it kind of endearing.  There is too little eccentricity left in the world.

For those who have never been, this little video gives you some feel for what it’s like.


Some do come for the racing, but most come for the party. Many, many people descend on Flemington, frocked to the nines (or dressed up in costumes, if that’s how they roll) and proceed to drink and bet the day into submission.  There are so many people indeed, that some don’t even bother trying to get in, but bring their picnic baskets and four-wheel drives and have their party in the carpark.  I kid you not.

But for others, it’s ALL about the frock.  And the ludicrous hat.  The more ludicrous the better.  And the completely nonsensical high heels.  If you’re a woman and you aren’t crippled by the end of the day, you just aren’t trying hard enough, in the footwear department.  Should you ever find yourself sharing a train carriage in Melbourne full of young women in slightly bedraggled finery, with their shoes in their hands and their bare feet glowing like rivets on the dirty floor, you’ll know it’s the end of Melbourne Cup day.

So important is the fashion, that they even have a hotly contested competition called Fashions on the Field, weather notwithstanding…


So with all this excitement, is it any wonder that I forgot what day it was?

Oh okay, I wasn’t there.  I was making 38 bottles of lemon cordial from scratch for the school fete.  But I watched the race!

And then, I discovered that this interview that I did for Destiny Romance, was up on their website.  I think it came up okay, but after having paused it several times I now know why happy snaps of me at parties always look dodgy.  For your amusement, you might like to stop it 0.18, 1.29 and 3.41.  One day the wind will change, then I’ll be sorry!  Hope you like it!

Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday WIP: Unexpected writerly inspiration and ideas from my friends

So, on Monday, I took up a writing challenge and put out an open invitation to others to join in.

(BTW, that invitation is still well and truly open so if you haven’t had a chance to throw your bit into the ring yet, please do! Click the blue ‘Monday’ above.)

I was delighted to see how many people responded and how good their snippets of work were.  If you haven’t seen them yet, do have a look and if you feel inclined, I’m sure the contributors would love your feedback.

I was expecting to enjoy reading the work.  What was an unexpected pleasure was finding two little gems of ‘advice’ that I can use immediately in my current manuscript.

The first was this one, from Bella

One thing that always works for me is to have an “out of body” experience. That’s when I have a look at what’s currently taking place as if I were a spectator of the tragedy or comedy unfolding before me. No longer am I the protagonist, but instead, a bystander who is able to observe so she can later recount what she has witnessed.

She was talking about finding inspiration for a blog post, but it burst upon me as a way to overcome the slight block I’ve been experiencing in my story.  I need to get some of my characters through a list of tasks and wasn’t sure how to approach it.  But this has made me realise that perhaps I’m overthinking it.  I’m well into this story.  These characters are well fleshed-out now, with personalities and ideas of their own.  Maybe what I need to do is just give them the task list, perch like the proverbial fly on the wall and watch what they do.

If you’re not a writer, that may sound extremely odd, but if you are, you might like to try it too.  I know it’s made me excited about writing these scenes I’ve been avoiding, and I’m all for anything that can do that!

The other little nugget of wonderful was from Jett, who said this:

As a rule, I want each character to be interesting enough – even if they only have a couple lines – that if I had to I could write a story on them.

This is an excellent reminder.  I once read somewhere – I think it was in Stephen King’s, On Writing, that every character in a scene thinks they’re the protagonist and as writers, we need to remember that.  If a character doesn’t bring wants and needs to a scene, he or she shouldn’t be in it – or the story.  Since my ‘list of tasks’ involves several minor characters and a hovering bad guy (who thinks he’s a good guy) this is a timely reminder for me.  So thanks, Jett!

Incidentally, Jett has recently set up a Kickstarter for what sounds like a fascinating project dealing with unknown women’s history.  He was too polite to mention it in his comment, but this is a subject close to my heart, so I’m doing it now! Check it out his post about it here.

So I’m off to get some scenes done in the story, refreshed by an unexpected source.  What about you? Have you had any serendipitous moments of clarity?

Offline October: Are you in?

If you are reading this, then it is pretty much a given that you love, or at least like, the internet.

As a blog writer, can I say, I love you for loving it, and thanks!  Knowing that at least some people enjoy your work makes it worth doing and is a wonderful, irreplaceable encouragement.

It’s also wonderful to know that it’s not just me.  Because oh my giddy aunt, I do love the interwebs!

It’s writer heaven, the online world. Where else could I find detailed instructions on how to field-strip a pistol in the middle of the night?  (When I need it for book research, natch.  What were you thinking?)

And blogs, twitter and the faceplace keep me in touch with my tribe.  Writing is a solitary business, but thanks to the internet, it doesn’t have to be a lonely one. I have met wonderful new friends here online, both writers and non-writers and I cherish them.

But… there are only so many hours in a day.

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Wednesday Work in Progress: The perils of editing and (squee!) a cover preview

I have been doing some revisions lately on my contemporary romance that is coming out soon with Destiny Romance. (Have I mentioned that? I have? Oh, right-o. Moving on. 😉 )

I’m done with them now and am back to working on my longer novel and have discovered something.  When your brain is in edit mode, trying to do a quick read of your current wip to get up to speed sucks like an enormous sucky thing.  All you can see is redundancies and clumsy sentences and things that need tweaking.

I have always edited as I go.  It’s how I roll.  I know people say you should just get it down and turn off the internal editor and come back and fix it later.  I can’t do it.  I can’t write any old rubbish, I have to make the sentences at least reasonable and I can’t leave the chapter until it makes sense.  My internal editor just rides along with me.

At least, that’s what I thought until now.  Now, having put myself in true editor mode (as opposed to self-editing writer mode) on my own work, I understand what people mean by needing to turn off the editor when writing.  It really is a different way of looking at the text.  It’s a different skill set.

I’ve always known that.  I’ve been an editor (of a magazine and non-fiction) and I’m quite good at it, but I’ve never edited fiction.  The process I’ve just been through with Rules are for Breaking (my romance title, do you like it?) is my first exposure to professional fiction editing and while I enjoyed it, mostly, I really now need to turn it off.  It can come back later – needs to in fact – but for now, I need to let that level of scrutiny go and concentrate on the story.

Yet another example of how in this business, as in so many others, you should never say never, or think you know how things are, because there’s always something more to learn!

But all of that is really an aside, because what I really wanted to do is tell you that I have a cover for Rules are for Breaking!  It’s due to be released as an ebook through Destiny Romance next month (there’s a blurb up on their site under ‘coming soon’) and I’m just a wee bit excited.  So, without further fanfare, here is my gorgeous cover.  What do you think?

Wednesday Work In Progress: Editing

Today I am having another new experience: I am going through edits from a real live working editor.

If you are multi-published this experience is about as familiar as lunch, but it’s new for me and I’m (mostly) enjoying it.

Most of the edits I agree with.  Some are simple matters of house style, or minor punctuation things that aren’t worth even discussing.  It’s a ‘you say po-tay-to, I say po-tah-to’ thing and one just reads, shrugs, and skips on.

Some are pick-ups of things which I didn’t notice, which are really valuable and show the importance of fresh eyes.  Word repetition, for example, is something I try to keep an eye on, but the copyeditor has flagged a couple of places where I have used the same word in adjacent sentences without noticing, sometimes because it means different things in the different context.

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Wednesday WIP: Historic Portsea on Parade

Two Wednesdays ago, I mentioned that one of my works in progress is set in picturesque Portsea (that’s Portsea, Victoria, Australia, not Portsea, Portsmouth, England, just in case you were wondering).

As part of my research, I looked at (and took) a lot of pictures of the Portsea pier, which is on the beach behind the Portsea Hotel (which featured in the other post).

In the process of finding these photos, I came across some gems from the Australian screen archives.

They show happy people – probably mostly day-trippers from Melbourne – frolicking on the beach and pier at Portsea in the 1920s.

I love the stripey beach shelters, the variety of 20s beach fashions and the blase attitude people show to being filmed. I wonder if we would be more or less relaxed about a camera on the beach these days?

It’s also interesting to see how many people were there.  Now wonder someone thought it was a good idea to set up a pub in those sand dunes!

My novel is set in the present day, but I still found these fascinating and thought you might too.

I’m sorry, I can’t embed them, but if you click on the links you’ll be taken to the page.  Don’t bother turning up your sound – they’re silent!



I love little snippets of history like this.  What about you?  Have you come across anything interesting in your travels lately?