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.