Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Luscious Christmas

My lovely friends at Luscious have made me a Christmas wishlist gallery, with lusciously gorgeous pictures of all the things I'd like Santa to bring me. I wished for indulgent things like expensive lingerie and scented candles, reasonable things like pretty cupcakes and a nice cup of tea, and impossible things like Hugh Laurie and Jensen Ackles. If you're on Facebook you can check it out here. Otherwise, you'll just have to soak in the thumbnail goodness of this gallery pic:

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Authorly wisdom

Last Friday I went to see Tom Stoppard and Neil Gaiman speak at the Athenaeum Theatre in Melbourne. It was packed, for both speakers, and I love that in my city there are enough people interested in such things to fill a large theatre like that. Melbourne rocks!

A few different people have blogged about the experience. Anne Gracie wrote a great overview of the night and The Wheeler Centre (organisers of the night) have posted two other links to blogs with interesting reviews of what was said, here and here. There were cameras there, but so far I don't think any video of the night has been posted.
Photo courtesy of my friend Troy (I took a picture too,
but of the empty chairs before they came on stage. Good one.)

I didn't take notes or obsessively tweet -- a considered decision. I decided I just wanted to be 'in the moment' and soak up what I heard. I knew there'd be others out there recording things for posterity, so I just wanted to sit back and let their words wash over and see what stuck.

Here's the two things that stuck for me.

One - Tom Stoppard talked about the magic of being 'the first reader' of your story. I'd never thought about it that way, but that's exactly how I feel about my writing. I'm not much of a plotter (although it does start to happen organically as the story grows). The main reason I don't plot is that I'm writing the story to find out what happens. I know that sounds weird, perhaps even vain, but it's true. Once I know what happens in the story -- how it all turns out -- I tend to lose interest a little. Of course, there are always revisions (don't I know it!) and refinements, but if I started the book knowing exactly where I was headed, I don't think it would have the same kind of magic for me.

Two - Neil Gaiman was asked a question along the lines of "Do you enjoy writing?". His response was "I love writing... (pause) ...the first draft."

As I had just spent the preceding hours boring my companion to tears complaining about the agony of revising, I couldn't help but laugh. Oh, the pain of revising! It was so nice to find I share something in common with a writer like Neil Gaiman. Hearing about his eleven versions of his script for "The Doctor's Wife" including the fact that it had all taken so long the characters in the show had changed and he had to fit in an entirely new one (Rory) and the pain he felt doing it was, well, somehow cathartic.

So, now, back to revising for me...

Friday, December 16, 2011

Baking and trophies (but not trophies for baking)

I have never been a sports-minded kind of girl. (Except when it comes to watching some sports, like baseball, for obvious reasons like CJ Wilson.) So my childhood/teenage bedroom, whilst exceptionally stylish, was never filled with trophies. I was a musician and scholar, so I had certificates, and ribbons, and funny colored-cardboard meritorious achievement slips from the local Eisteddfod, but I didn't have trophies.

But now, in my office, I actually have a shelf set aside. Yes, it's only taken forty years, but I finally have a trophy shelf. Check it out:

The latest trophy is the one on the right -- for First Book Sale from the lovely ladies at MRWG - the Melbourne Romance Writers Guild. Next to that, in the middle, is another MRWG trophy -- for the Joan Hunt Award which I was presented with last year. It's an award that's given each year to the member of the group who's put in the most effort during the year. This year the trophy went to the amazingly talented and prolific Charlie Kramer from an outstanding list of contenders.

The trophy on the left is for my RWA Australia Emerald Award, presented at the RWA conference mid this year. (Which, incidentally, is how I ended up with Cassie's Grand Plan coming out with SuperRomance!)

The MRWG trophies are presented at the annual Christmas party, which is a wonderful meeting where the group gathers together to celebrate the achievements and wins throughout the year. I've been a member of MRWG for four years in January (gasp!) and I have learned so much and met some lovely people as a result. I know writing groups are not for everyone, but for me, having a monthly meeting to hold myself accountable for meeting goals and writing a set number of words was really helpful. Writing is a very solitary thing, and for people like me who need a measured amount of interaction with actual human beings, getting together with a like-minded group of people regularly was a life-saver.

The MRWG gals have encouraged me, commiserated with me over too many knock-backs and rejections to count, and celebrated with me when the cards finally fell into place.

So, where's the baking in all this, I hear you asking? Well, no Christmas party would be complete without a table groaning with delicious goodies, and the MRWG party is no different. This year I made "Honeycomb Cream" cupcakes. I love a good Women's Weekly recipe -- they just always turn out well and the decorations always seem achievable.

Here's what mine looked like:

Carving up the Violet Crumble for the topping was actually quite good fun.

I was pleased with how they turned out compared to the picture in the book. (Again, thank you Women's Weekly.) Brown cupcake cases would have looked nicer, but the silver gave them a Christmassy look and I put them on a gold plate to serve them up.

This weekend I'm going to be baking my Christmas cake, with fruit that has been soaking in Grand Manier for almost three weeks. It's going to be 30 degrees (85F) or something fun like that, so having the oven on for three hours is not the best idea, but that's Christmas in Australia for you.

Hope your Christmas plans and preparations are all going well.

Friday, December 9, 2011

A new me

With thanks to my lovely and talented photographer friend, Dan O'Brien, Emmie-The-Author now has a new look! Up to now you've seen me looking like this:

I still love this picture, which was taken by DeanFun-pants-Hayley in an impromptu photo sesh in her loungeroom, but I needed a proper, 'grown up' photo to use now that I'm officially appearing in places like Amazon, etc. So this is my new look:

We took the photos at the gorgeous Greengrocer Cafe in North Fitzroy. Kudos and much thanks to the lovely staff there who allowed us to fill a corner of their bustling establishment with photography equipment and, well, me.

It's incredibly difficult to be objective about photos of yourself. I admit to asking Dan if he could photoshop a couple of them just "so they looked a little less... like me." To his credit, and testament to his portrait-taking experience, he just nodded and said something reassuring and then asked me to lift my chin and kept clicking away.

I like the teapot in the shot, because it references one of the critical ingredients for my writing -- a good cup of tea. (Right now: Husk Green Lapacho.)

Hope you like them.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Funny girl

My friend Hayley, who is made of awesome, warned me that she'd purchased me a very silly gift that made her giggle every time she looked at it. Knowing Hayley as I do, I was intrigued and a good bit scared by that pronouncement.

Well, today, I received the gift from my enabler/friend with the following semi-serious advice: "This is in case you sleep with Dean Winchester."

It reminded me of this:

Well, maybe someone does. Thanks, Hayley. I'll keep them in a special place for that inevitable moment...

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Wow. Just, wow.

I just discovered that Cassie's Grand Plan is no.58 on Amazon's SuperRomance best-seller list. I guess no. 58 isn't that much to crow over, but as a newby author who's never been on any best-seller list before ever, I'm pretty much over the moon. And given the book isn't even released yet, I think it's a pretty awesome achievement. Thanks to everyone who's placed a pre-order and helped get Cassie and Ronan up there.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Christmas present from SuperRomance

The SuperRomance authors have got together and created a Christmas present for readers -- and in my case, the readers yet to come! (That seems a fitting description given it's Christmas...)

The recipe book includes recipes from a range of authors and includes all kinds of sweet and savoury treats. My contribution is the zucchini and pistachio spice cake that is my favourite special occasion cake. It's reasonably simple to make, looks glam and tastes amazing. I hope you'll try it out.

I'm about to get started on my own Christmas baking -- there is some dried fruit that needs to be soaked in a lot of booze! But first the Christmas decorations must go up and that's today's job. Hope you're all having a lovely festive season...

Thursday, December 1, 2011

My crazy week

So the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen (GISHWHES) is over now. (Cue: awwwww.) Although it was far more time-consuming than I predicted (and the deadline just happened to coincide with my deadline for book two -- eek!) it was a huge amount of fun. The purpose -- to create 'art', to break out of the dreariness of everyday life, to collaborate internationally -- was fully achieved, as least as far as I and my team were concerned.

Here's some of the crazy things I did in the past week:
  • broke the law in Singapore by chewing a whole pack of chewing gum while having my photo taken with skyline in the background (publishing that isn't going to prevent me from being admitted to the country again, is it? Hmmm.)
  • tied a pink feather boa to Puffing Billy
  • tried (futilely) to add up a bill on an antique comptometer (in pounds, shillings and pence)
  • posed in front of a Dutch bakery eating something yummy (to show the after-effects of a 'Dutch oven')
  • convinced my friends to exploit their children on my behalf, including having someone bake Frikadella from scratch, another stage a sibling fight over maple syrup, and yet another let her six-year-old pretty ballerina read "Guns and Ammo" magazine
  • improvised a ship in a bottle in front of Captain Cook's Cottage -- much to the amusement of a busload of Japanese tourists
  • wrote an email to Oprah asking her to video herself reading aloud from one of my books (FYI -- she didn't reply)
  • learned about a yet-to-be-completed bridge in Brazil, even though we weren't able to secure the required photo
  • had a friend photograph herself trying out karate moves on Bruce Lee's statue in Hong Kong.
Me and the results of a Dutch oven -- the nice kind.

It's been quite a learning experience! I've not only expanded my vocabulary, I've expanded my knowledge of the world (in slightly bizarre ways, but it still counts). And I've learned that I have a wonderful international network of friends and colleagues who, just like me, are prepared to do something silly, or fun, or ridiculous, just for the hell of it. (I also expanded that network by nine lovely ladies -- the other members of my GISHWHES team.)

Personally, even though the competition is over, my aim is to continue to inject an occasional bit of GISHWHES eccentricity in my life whenever the spirit moves me.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Friday Favourites - Randomly nice people

This week I have been participating in GISHWHES -- aka the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen. The project was the brainchild of Misha Collins, an actor, tweeter and slightly insane guy who doesn't like Australia for hilarious reasons. It aims to raise some money to help out in Haiti as well as basically just provide a bit of fun for the participants involved.

The rules of the game are that you are not allowed to post any of your submitted images on blogs, so unfortunately I can't show you some of the awesome things I and my international and amazing team have been able to do (including the nerve-wracking excitement of breaking the law in Singapore!).

Going out and asking complete strangers to do weird and occasionally inconvenient things is something outside my comfort zone. But I have been absolutely astonished by the genuinely nice people who have, mostly, just gone , "Oh, okay. Sure, I'll help."

Asking nicely, smiling, explaining why -- this all goes to assist in getting people on side, but so far (touch wood) I'm yet to come across someone who has been rude or unhelpful. Restores one's faith in humanity, if such a thing was needed!

Today I met John Wolff, a man from Upwey (outer suburb of Melbourne) who runs a calculator museum of sorts. John was kind enough to lend me a comptometer, which, I learned, is basically a sophisticated calculator from the early 20th Century -- a precursor to adding machines and computers in the days before we had such things. Comptometers were used in offices right up until the 1970s.
A comptometer from the 1930s

John surrounded by part of his collection

We (my brother and I -- Chris was along for the ride to provide essential logistical assistance like carrying the heavy comptometer around!) took John's precious almost-computer to a local restaurant where we attempted -- as per the instructions -- to calculate the tip required for our meal of sandwiches and tea. This was made challenging by the fact that the comptometer operated in pounds, shillings and pence, and more generally by the fact that that waiters in Australia generally don't expect to be tipped.

After visiting John (and returning the precious piece of calculating equipment) we headed to Puffing Billy to photograph a pink feather boa hanging out the window of the engine carriage. Once again, we encountered helpful -- if highly bemused -- people, who willingly allowed the dignity of the grand old Billy to be compromised for the sake of a photo.

I've also had some lovely friends helping me out, in far-flung places such as Hong Kong, Canada and Brazil. And some a little closer to home, who have willingly exploited their children on my behalf.

Working with my randomly selected team (two Aussies, one Puerto Rican, the rest American) has also been a great experience. I have been astounded by their creativity, efficiency and helpfulness. Just to get a bit business-like for a moment, if anyone ever needed an exercise to prove the effectiveness of social media in creating and enhancing innovation, collaboration and connectedness, then this would be a brilliant case study!

If we don't win the challenge (and, oh, I would like to -- first prize is a trip to Rome!!) then at least I've had some fun, donated some money to charity, met some new people, and done a whole heap of things I thought I'd never find myself doing. There's something pretty magical about that.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Feeling Christmassy

If you celebrate Christmas, I'm betting you're either a person who love, love, loves it, or a person who hates, hates, hates it. Christmas, in my experience, tends to be a polarising thing. And the reasons for each extreme are varied and complex.

Personally, I generally come down on the loves, loves, loves side. But as I get older (insert sound of creaking bones) I am finding it harder to snare that elusive Christmas spirit and find it gets closer and closer to actual Christmas time until I start to *feel* the Christmas.

This year I'm surprising myself by already beginning to come over all Christmassy. A friend recently posted her Christmas cake preparations on Facebook -- and the photo of glossy dried fruit soaking in a bath of scented alcohol was enough to make me breathe in deep and begin preparing my shopping list for Christmas baking. I also headed out and bought a couple of expensive food magazines so I could begin to drool and plan the family Christmas meal.

I'm in Singapore right now and I think that's definitely helping, because apart from some places in Eastern Europe in winter, I've never seen a city so totally embrace the celebration. Singapore is Christmas on steroids! Take a look at some of the fantastic pics I've snapped over the past couple of days. Unfortunately the camera can't really do justice to the spectacular scene that it is!

I cant' wait to get home and put up my Christmas tree. It's not too soon, is it?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Today's romance soundtrack

Trying to pull together my HEA today. (That's Happily Ever After for you non-romance-writer types.) Needing some musical inspiration to help me along. Don't know why, but I heard a cover of this song the other day and it's been stuck in my head ever since. The original is SO 80s, but that's not necessarily a bad thing in my book...

All I needed was the love you gave,
All I needed for another day
And all I ever knew
Only you


Friday, November 4, 2011

Friday Favourites - Struggling with the WIP and the sexy cowboy

The WIP (that's "Work In Progress" for the non-writerly) is kicking my butt right now. I love this story. Seriously, I love it, I love my characters, I cry for them and for what I'm putting them through, but some days, geez, I hate it too. Does that make sense?

This isn't much of a start for something that's titled Friday Favourite is it? Oops. Meh, it's Friday, I'm blogging, and this is what's on my mind.

So I love this story and I hate it at the same time. That's got to be a good thing creatively, right? Not just something that's going to drive me slowly insane? (Please! Give me an answer! Not a rhetorical question!) Given that where I'm at right now is a place that I hate, I'd try to remind myself what it is that I love about this story.

First off, there's my hero. He's hot. Seriously--if he was real, I'd do him. My CPs agree. I have a photo that inspired him, and it's a little NSFW, sorry, but here you go. I guarantee you'll be pleased I posted it. My friends and I used to call him the sexy cowboy. For obvious reasons.

(No source, sorry. If you know, let me know and I'll credit it. I did try Googling "naked tattooed cowboy" images, and while that was immensely entertaining, it didn't produce any results as such.)

Of course, he doesn't get around naked like that in the book. (Well, not very often, anyway.) And he only has one tattoo, but he does rock the beard.

Pretty much this whole book sprung from that photo. Oh, and some red wine. (It'll make sense when you read it.)

Speaking of wine, the story is set in a fictional version of the Yarra Valley, amongst the grapevines of a vineyard. It's winter, in my story, so there aren't any lush grapes or green leaves, but it's still quite a spectacular spot. In my head, it looks a little like this:

No credit needed here, because this is my photo. I took it on a trip to Coonawarra in South Australia with a dear friend. For one of the days we were there, we hired a driver to drive our car while we tried every wine we could get our mitts on. We bought A LOT of wine on that trip. Seriously, on the drive back, our luggage was on the back seat because the back (a station wagon!) was full.

And my heroine. Oh boy. She's complicated. She's pretty, of course, but a little unique looking too, and she's got an inner wild-child streak a mile-wide. A bit like this.

(Sorry, another photo with no source attribution. I copied this one and the other one before I figured out I'd do things like blog about them and the proper thing to do would be to provide credits.)

She's carrying around the weight of the world and being in her head is almost painful. She's been through so much and I'm just making her go through more. You really should feel sorry for my characters. I torture them unbearably.

I think it's incredibly dull to read about other people's music preferences. Almost as dull as reading about their kids and pets. However this post wouldn't be complete without me mentioning my WIP's soundtrack. Every story I write has one. Sometimes the music has no relevance at all to the story -- it's just about the feeling or the vibe of the song that somehow meshes with the words I'm writing. And sometimes the music itself is incredibly embarrassing. Why, I think to myself, am I listening to that? My musical tastes are usually well outside the top 40, but then suddenly, I'm listening to some classic rock or ridiculous pop and thinking yes, yes, that's it!

Unsurprisingly, this book has been accompanied by many sad songs. But one song that I'm hoping will get me to the end is "We Belong" by Pat Benatar. Because if there's one truth about these two, it's that they Do. Belong. Together.

And on that note, it's time to get back to writing. Take it away Pat. Get us to "The End".

Enjoy your Fridays, all!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Writing satisfying endings

Wanda Ottewell is blogging today over on the SuperRomance Authors Blog about writing satisfying endings. Quite timely given right now I'm struggling with the final chapters of my WIP! She's also answering some of the questions posed by commenters. If that wasn't enough to entice you to head on over and leave some love, one lucky poster will win all six of this month's new release SuperRomance books. Run, don't walk!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Extra-extra long weekend

Tomorrow (Tuesday) is Melbourne Cup Day -- the 'race that stops a nation'. I used to be a fan of the Spring Racing Carnival, but I haven't been to anything for a few years now. A group of friends and I used to dress up -- hats and all -- and make a special day of it. Usually Oaks Day. Now, though? It's too crowded and too expensive and I just can't be bothered.

Oh, old and grinchy am I!

Given Tuesday is a public holiday in Melbourne, many people take Monday off as well. Which means that good old Melbourne town begins to wind down on Friday afternoon and doesn't really rev back up again until Wednesday morning. This little window of unofficial 'holiday' means I don't get very many emails, or phone calls, or other work demands. And for the past few years, I've taken advantage of that fact by having a little writing spree.

A few years ago, I did NaNoWriMo, but after that one time, I haven't done it again. It's a great exercise, and really great for getting into the habit of writing every day. But I already have those habits and didn't need the extra pressure!

This year's writing spree has come at a perfect time. I'm facing down my first-ever deadline as a published author and my book was misbehaving on me -- characters not doing the right thing, story arcs not cooperating. So I sat down on Saturday morning and started writing. I spent most of Sunday doing it too. Today I've done another good chunk and by tomorrow, I'm hoping I'll be getting close to 90% done with this one. Well, maybe 75%, now that I think about it, but I'll be close -- and I always find that last little bit moves reasonably easy.

The trick, I've found, is to find a balance between a solid effort and an 'overdose'. Doing too much is like driving a car too fast -- my brain overheats and there's nothing to be done except stop and let it cool down. Which is frustrating and feels like wasted time. So here I am, blogging instead of writing and about to head out and run a few errands. Hopefully, when I get back to the computer, there'll be a few more puffs of energy left in me to finish the scene I started writing this morning. And then another fresh start awaiting me tomorrow!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

In the mood for a fun, sexy story?

...Then don't miss Robin Covington's "The Fourth Date's The Charm" on the Waterworld Mermaids blog. Robin is my wonderful CP and friend and she has a knack for writing amazing, sexy, funny stories that leave you smiling and just a little bit hot under the collar, if you know what I mean. ;)

Robin has been an absolute guardian angel for me -- she's always ready with just the right amount of praise and constructive criticism to help make my writing better. I've also been fortunate to be able to read some of her brilliant stories that will, very soon, be published by Blaze -- I'm absolutely positive of that.

I think I will write a blog post soon about the importance of critique partners. I know not everyone works the same way, and not every writers finds having a CP an essential part of their process, but I do. I've learned a great deal from the wonderful people I've worked with over the years to help improve my writing.

Cassie's Grand Plan now available for pre-order

Well, if there was any doubt that this whole 'published author' thing was just in my head, I got concrete proof yesterday that it's not all a dream! Cassie's Grand Plan is now available for pre-order from Amazon, Book Depository, Barnes & Noble and all your usual places.

There's still no cover art as yet (don't worry, I'll be sharing that as soon as I can!) and no description. But the whole point is, it's a real book and you can buy it. Squee!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Friday Favourites - Playing dress-ups

I am a huge fan of costume parties. I just love the creative thought that goes into coming up with a fun idea, the search for the costume itself, and then all the preparation on the night getting ready. I think it makes a difference to the "vibe" at the event itself too -- everyone turns up with their 'extrovert' side on show and you instantly have a conversation starter with strangers.

Last night I went to a fantastic party held by my friends Kate and Antony. It was a combined birthday/engagement party and the theme was 'A journey on the Orient Express'. The invitations included a train ticket and a tag with the character you were required to dress up as. I was very excited to be asked to appear as Agatha Christie. Here's me with Kate, who did a gorgeous and very glam Coco Chanel:

Kate did an awesome job with the table decorations too. There was a train set running down the middle of the table which began in Paris (tiny Eiffel Tower, maps, etc) and ran through several destinations down the table to Constantinople. Each place setting was beautifully set as well:

Earlier this year, I had a costume party for my birthday. My theme was Marie Antoinette's court, and I mostly chose that idea because I was desperate to wear one of those gowns! It was a fantastic party and I was so thrilled that my friends really took it to heart and went all out with their costumes. Here's me and a photo of the room:

It was an absolutely gorgeous evening and totally managed to distract me from the nasty business of turning another year older.

Something I recently discovered is that there are some people in the world who do this dress-up thing not just for parties, but as a kind of hobby or lifestyle thing. It's called 'cosplay' and it started in Japan with manga, but it's evolved much more broadly since. The idea is to accurately represent a fictional character and people go to a lot of trouble to create amazing costumes. I really enjoyed watching this video clip that shows some of the fun people have getting wrapped up in their fandoms. Watching this clip makes me want to go hire some outrageous costume and wander around the city, just for the hell of it. :) Let me know, do you like dressing up? Or do you groan if an invitation for 'fancy dress' arrives in the mail?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Friday Favourites - Looking at pictures of cake

I fancy myself as a bit of a baker, but when it comes down to it, most of the baking I do is in my head, rather than in the actual kitchen. I have a large collection of something a friend of mine refers to as "food porn" -- stacks and stacks of food magazines and recipe books that I really do enjoy reading. I love reading recipes and thinking about cooking. And let's face it, thinking about cooking, rather than actual cooking, is way easier from a clean-up perspective and has far fewer calories. Especially when what I love reading about most is cake.

I don't quite know why it is that I have such a fascination for reading about cake making, because I'm actually not that much of a fan in real life. I don't have an extreme sweet-tooth, and often the things I dream about baking are more than likely things I probably wouldn't overly enjoy eating. Doesn't stop me.

There are a collection of baking blogs that I particularly like visiting. First is Bakingdom. This blog is awesome, because not only are the cakes delicious-sounding, they look spectacular. Just take a look at this very pretty cake that was designed to celebrate the release of the last Harry Potter movie:
It looks pretty good just like that, but what really blew me away was what it looked like when you cut a slice to eat, revealing all the Hogwarts house colours:

This is just the sort of thing the baking goddess at Bakingdom does all the time and quite frankly, I'm in awe. One of these days, one of these days, I'd love to have a go at making something like this, all the fuss and fiddle and everything.

Another baking blog I really enjoy looking at is i am baker. This baking goddess is also responsible for making some totally gorgeous, amazing, stunning-looking cakes. Look at this one to get you started:
Aren't those colors gorgeous? And I think what gets me most is that it looks deceptively simple. Yes, I think to myself, it's just a nice cake and lots of buttercream icing and a star tip on an icing bag. And a hell of a lot of patience. Maybe it's that last ingredient that I'm missing.

I love this one too:

On the inside, it's a cherry-flavored cake. Genius! And, I will admit, beyond my skill level, I am sure.

Perhaps one of the reasons that holds me back from taking all this dreaming into reality is that I'm afraid of what the outcome might look like in comparison to the beautiful pictures. Or perhaps that might end up on one of my other favourite sites: Cake Wrecks.

It's not exactly a baking blog, but still lots of fun and their "Sunday Sweets" always feature some very beautiful cakes. The Sunday Sweets kind of cakes are cakes that are beyond the dreams of mere mortals such as myself, one must be a professional cake decorator to even begin to think about how to make them happen, but I still like to look.

One of these days I will find the will, time and necessary patience to actually have a go at creating one of the works of edible art that I lust over in my food porn. And when I do, I promise to post pictures, even if they're of the wrecky kind.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

New SuperAuthors post

Rabbiting on over on the Super Authors blog again. There are pictures of cake. Yummy cake. And you can win a Kindle if you comment!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Friday Favourites - Things that make you go... WTF?

Dontcha just love the internet? For me, I sometimes feel like Alice following the white rabbit down the rabbit hole. You click on a link which takes you somewhere where you click on a link which takes you somewhere else and suddenly an hour has passed and you can't quite remember the journey you took to get where you've currently found yourself...

But the one thing I love about the internet is all the fun stuff that it brings to my fingertips. Of course, there are all those interminable email tropes with "send this on to all the women you know who'd like a laugh" and crap like that, but there is genuine, wonderful funny to be had out there too.

I used another Friday Favourite to talk about The Bloggess, who is still regularly providing me with my recommended daily allowance of giggles. But there are plenty of other places I go to for laughs, smiles and just plain WTF-ness (which is sometimes just as amusing).

The web comic xkcd (apparently the name doesn't mean anything) combines high-concept maths, physics and technology with knowing winks at what it means to be part of the online world. It's also occasionally very heartfelt.

A recent comic that made me laugh was this one:

Because I think that is, quite seriously, what most of us are thinking when someone offers up the "best You Tube clip you've ever seen!!"

But in that spirit, I offer up one of my perennial favourites. I think I first found this clip (and I don't remember how) five or six years ago because I remember I was at a particularly workplace at the time (no comments on my productivity please) and shared it with the whole office.

It never fails to make me laugh because of its complete WTFness. And, it appears from the stats at You Tube, 13 million other users think the same. Enjoy your Fridays and feel free to share your favourite piece of internet WTFery with me!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Fond of short stories?

Check out Waterworld Mermaids -- my brilliant CP, Robin Ray Coll is a member of this group of talented writers who, in October, are hosting a "Come Inside My Garden" short stories festival. Today's steampunk offering by Avery Flynn is lots of fun.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Not so favourite Monday

Okay, so I missed my last week's "Friday Favourite" -- and I was all determined that I was going to keep on top of this blogging thing! But that was before my back had other ideas. Early last week, it decided it had pretty much had enough of carting my ungrateful body around and so it stopped. Well, it didn't exactly stop, but it only did so with a great deal of complaining. Very ouchy and nasty complaining.

Source (And handy hint - don't do a Google image search on the word "ouch". Ew.)

So I then took myself off to the doctor, as you do, and got this awesome cocktail of drugs that, as my osteopath so wisely said: "Don't make it hurt any less, but do make you care less about it hurting." Amen.

I spent most of last week off with the pixies, reliant on friends and family to drive me around (seriously, you did not want me behind the wheel), make me dinner and even do my washing. Very glamorous indeed, being my friend, I assure you.

As a result, no work, no writing and in fact, not much else has been done at all. When I did have the brain space I did some reading. I'm sure the drugs were not entirely responsible for the tears I shed reading Sarah Mayberry's "One Good Reason" and "Home for the Holidays". Or the giggling I did reading Victoria Dahl's "Good Girls Don't" and the green-eyed writer's jealousy I felt over the astonishingly glorious sentences in Susan Elizabeth Phillips' "Call Me Irresistible". Seriously. Check this out from page 10:

"He strode down the centre aisle with a long, easy gait, his dark brown hair kissed with copper. Jeweled light from the stained-glass windows flung precious gems in his path, as if a simple red carpet weren't good enough for such a man to walk upon."

I mean, really. Come on, SEP, leave some hope for us mere mortal writers... :)

Today, though, along with some sunshine (thank you, Melbourne) my back seems a little better able to cope with sitting at the computer for about half an hour at a time. And my brain is slowly getting less fuzzy as I work off the pixie dust. With any luck, tomorrow I'll be able to tackle some actual writing. Blogging is easing me into it...

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Friday Favourites - Being a Daddy's Girl

Today’s Friday Favourite is all about my Dad, because it’s his birthday today – his 70th birthday. When he was a young man, Dad was quite the debonair man-about-town. Just take a look at this for proof:

According to my family legend, he snared my Mum with a fancy car and smooth talking, and the rest, as they say, is history.

We’re having a big family party this weekend, and people have travelled all kinds of distance to be here. That’s the kind of man my Dad is – he inspires people to want to be there to celebrate. For all of his life, whenever there’s been a big party, it’s never really started until Ken gets there.

Just yesterday, at Part One of the party weekend, someone asked me about my writing and they said, “So how did you get into that?”. Dad overheard and said, “It’s all thanks to me. See this bad back of mine? These broken fingers?” (Note: He doesn’t have broken fingers. But he does have a bad back.) “That’s all from the hard work I did to send her to university. Seven days a week, I worked, all so she could go to school.”

Because my Dad likes a laugh.

But also because he’s kind of right.

Thanks, Dad. And Happy Birthday.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Friday Favourites

Happy Friday everyone! Today is a particularly lovely Friday in my part of the world. This what I found on my way to the gym this morning:

So with some lovely sunshine, after what has felt like a very grey and miserable winter, it's time for uplifting, Spring-like music. Anthems. Songs about feeling good. Songs that make you feel good.

One of my favourites is Mr E's Beautiful Blues by The Eels, which despite its name -- and the band's usual sombre repertoire -- is incredibly cheerful. It never fails to make me smile.

Another favourite is You Are My Joy by The Reindeer Section -- and it has a rather sweet and uplifting video that I've only just discovered by posting it here for you. This Scottish band was formed by members of lots of other famous Scottish bands like some of my favourites - Belle and Sebastian and Teenage Fanclub. (And also some band called Snow Patrol - no idea what happened to them... ;))

But the winning song for me today, mostly because it's new to me (I was late to the party on this one) is Elbow's One Day Like This. It's definitely a day to "throw the curtains wide". And this is an awesome, live version of the song. Enjoy! And, if you feel like staying in front of your computer long enough, leave me a comment and tell me your favourite uplifting anthem.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Happy Birthday, Morten

It's Morten Harket's birthday today. He's 52 years old. Seriously. How good does the guy still look?
Some of you might be wondering, who on earth is Morten Harket? I give you:

Now, do you remember?

As my family and many of my friends know, I had a crush on a-ha for years. Years and years. I never got to see them live when they toured Australia in 1986, because my parents said I was too young to go to Melbourne for the concert (we lived in the country). So in 2005 I flew to London to see them live on stage at Wembley. Best. Concert. Ever.

I also went to London again in 2010 to see them perform in their farewell concert at Wembley, because, you see, a-ha is no more. They went splitsville after 25 years together. *pouts*

The power of my teenage crush is such that my brain still retains the birth dates of all three members. And when I looked at the date today - 14 September - my first thought was, Happy Birthday, Morten.

Oh, and my second thought was: today's the day I'm blogging on the SuperRomance Authors Blog. So I did that. Go there and check it out.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Making my brain play nicely

As an unpublished author I never really thought too much about juggling stories. I tended to write a story, revise it, type 'the end' and then move on to the next one. But now that I have proper deadlines to meet I'm finding myself in the situation with three books on the go -- a new one just started, the next book for SuperRomance which I'm in the midst of writing, and another that I've finished but not revised. It means having three sets of characters and their conversations in my head. It's a little noisy in there, to be honest.

It makes the soundtrack I play in my office all the more critical. What I'm listening to -- even when I'm so subsumed by my story that a truck could hit the building and I wouldn't notice -- seems to make a big difference to me. Even just subliminally, I guess the tone, lyrics and 'heart' of a song make their impact on the melting pot inside me.

This past week or so, I've been playing British Band Elbow on high rotation. (You must have a play on their website home page with the twinkly little noises the letters make when you scroll over them.) I've also been listening a lot to Aussie band Seeker Lover Keeper who have this awesome song, Even Though I'm a Woman:

Hope you enjoy! Do you find music inspiring or do you need silence to concentrate? Let me know!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Friday Favourites

I figured it'd be a good idea to have something that makes me blog at least once a week. This is not an original idea. There's the luscious Man Candy Mondays that my lovely and talented critique partner Robin Covington takes part in. There's Blaze author Meg Maguire's equally luscious Thrusty Thursdays that are just as often hilarious as hawt. Then there's things like Six Sentence Sunday which I might well join in with at some point.

But I want flexibility. I don't want to have to wait until Monday to post a photo of a gorgeous bloke. (See Jensen Ackles post below as case in point. (Or click on that link I just put in to the ridiculously named 'The Hunkies', in case you need more, like I did...))

So I came up with Friday Favourites. It just means that on Fridays, I'm going to talk about, link to, and/or feature photos of, things I like. They could be any thing. At this point in time you'll be lucky if it's not just Supernatural, Nerada Organics Rooibos and Vanilla tea and ridiculously expensive side tables, as they seem to be the key things keeping my tiny mind spinning right now.

Today's Friday Favourite is my favourite blog discovery of recent months. The Blogess came to my attention (and lots of other people's) with her post about buying a six-foot-tall metal chicken that she named Beyonce. It is, seriously, the most hilarious thing I've read. Probably ever. (Aside from a couple of entries on 'Damn You Autocorrect', but that's for another Friday.) I have read it several times, and still, when I re-read it, I chuckle all over again. And then my writer's brain tries to work out what makes it so funny.

Since Beyonce, the Blogess has continued to impress me with her bizarre take on the world and its people. She was an instant add to my 'fun stuff' category in my Google Reader. It is borderline NSFW, depending on how strict your policies are with swearing (there's quite a bit of that). But I get a thrill when I see there's a new post to read. For those of you new to Blogess, please go, discover. For those of you who already worship, I have two words for you: 'Knock, knock'.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Learning the ropes

There's so much to learn when you become published! I don't mean to whine, because let me tell you, it's still so incredibly awesome to have a real book out there (well, in a few months I will, anyway!). But I don't think I realised there would be so much to learn and do and a whole new set of things to think about once it happened.

It's not like I really thought it would be my very own HEA. But I have to admit I probably hadn't given much thought to what would happen after I got 'the call'. When you work for years to get published, getting that call is everything you dream of and the 'what comes next' is remote and shrouded in the mists of possibility.

Now I feel a little like Cinderella the day after the ball. I might have won the prince, but now I have to make the marriage work!

I have had to do a little mind-set adjusting to work in this new reality. Basically, I have a new job and like any new job, there's lots to learn, new things to consider, new issues, challenges and delights. I've had to do some re-prioritising in my life: I still have a full-time job that I can't afford to let go as yet (and actually really enjoy), so finding a balance between having two jobs, spending time with family and friends, having a life and trying to stay healthy and do some occasional exercise to make up for spending hours on end at the computer is, well, a little tricky.

But I'm not complaining. :)

PS - In a spooky bit of coincidence, I just received an email invitation to attend a meditation session, the subject of which is 'creating more balance in your life'. I think I might need to attend!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Research is so important...

...although it probably doesn't justify the amount of time I've spent watching Supernatural in the past couple of weeks.

This, on the other hand, absolutely does:

The joy of starting a new book

This morning I started working on a new story. I only typed 'The End' on my last manuscript on Saturday, and I'd normally take a little break, but the characters in this story were banging on my brain, waiting to be let out!

I'm definitely a pantser, at least when it comes to the first few chapters of a new book. I need to write a little way in to get my head around the characters, who they are, what they want and where they're headed. This can mean that I sometimes need to go back and re-write or edit, but then I don't think this is much different than time spent on planning writing character outlines/profiles, etc.

I do end up doing a little plotting as the book progresses, in that I start seeing the direction we're headed and what's going to need to happen in order to get us there. I don't have a structured approach to this, it's just something that seems to happen - lucky for me!

The best thing though, is when I surprise myself - when something I wrote back in chapter 2 suddenly becomes vitally important in chapter 11. It's both awesome and a little scary - I love that my brain works in ways I'm not even conscious of, although I do worry about what else might be going on in there that I don't know about!

I'll tell you more about the new story as I get my head around it...