Thursday, December 18, 2008

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


I got tagged by Jen. I should be writing, but I'll count this as my warm-up. (g)
The idea is to pick the closest book to you, open up to page 56, copy down  the fifth sentence, then the next 2 - 5 sentences. Then, do the same with your own MS.
Here it is!

The book closest to hand is FIGURES IN SILK, by Vanora Bennett. Et voila, page 56 - 
"She'd hardly ever been in her own father's storeroom. It was his holiest of holies; too precious for children, he said. 
She padded down the corridor behind her mother-in-law, secretly impressed; willing Alice Claver, now fiddling with the keys at the door, to learn to like her.
Alice Claver's warehouse stretched all the way along the side of her house: a vast barn of a place, its high rafters lit up by slanting early sunlight from the window slits.
It took a few moments for Isabel's eyes to adjust. Then she gasped."

Ooh, cliff hanger!
Now, from my MS (and this will NOT be my page 56 when the thing is done - I have a whole new idea for how this book will open (funny about that (wry grin)) - but here it is, as it stands:-

"Lewis would be caught in a tangle of half-composed, addle-brained lies - or worse, would blurt the whole nasty truth - and then my darling father would know it was he, and no one else, who had caused it. 

My pulse ticked in my throat. I had to stop my brother. Now.
Dropping my bag to the floor, I gripped the woman's meaty shoulders  and shoved her through the door of the vacant compartment. Her shrieks drowned those of her parrot."

LOL. Sounds like something from an absurdist play! I swear it makes sense in context. (g)
Now, I tag Jenny, Nina, and Claire, if she's up to it.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Things to do when one is an invalid

Surfacing from a rotten bout of a rotten virus that's had my temp up and down like a yo-yo, and my throat feeling as if I'd swallowed a roll of barbed wire. Fun. Not.

All I've been capable of is looking at pretty things on the internet, like the pics on this wonderful blog, Paris Parfait.

Go have a look. It's nice and sparkly and shiny, and makes me feel a whole lot better just looking at it.

Submerging again,  to wallow in sickness like a Victorian spinster.

Friday, December 5, 2008

When I go to Paris ...

Note I said "when", not "if". (g)

I will get there, some day. But for now, I must content myself with wallowing in blogs about all things Parisian, all things French, like that of David Lebovitz , an acclaimed pastry chef who blogs about Paris and its food. 

Today's post is about chocolate; not just any chocolate, mind, but the chocolate made in the laboratory of Jacques Genin, "the most elusive chocolatier in Paris".

Excuse me while I wipe the drool from my keyboard ...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Time flies ...

I was tooling around with photos today, adding ones sent to me of Child #1's 1oth birthday, and it struck me - just when did my 9lb 10oz baby turn into this?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Christmas List

Tagged by Carol and Deniz; and I'm being highly original and tagging the rest of the M:A gang ...

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Wrapping paper. I like to watch others rip. 

2. Real tree or artificial? Fake, fake, fake. Like Deniz, we have a Christmas tree-scaling cat, and plastic tree = no mess.

3. When do you put up the tree? After my son's birthday, on 30th November. Haven't quite got there yet.

4. When do you take the tree down? It has been known to still be standing in February. Working on that.

5. What do you do with your tree after you take it down? Try to shove it back in the box from whence it came. NEVER fits.

6. Favourite gift ever received as a child? A shiny, lime-green bike. Hey, it was the '70s!

7. Hardest person to buy for? My brother. An electronic engineer who takes fussy to a whole new level. And I drew him again in our family Kris Kringle this year, dammit!

8. Easiest person to buy for? My daughter. She's four, and still loves anything that comes wrapped up with a bow.

9. Do you have a nativity scene? Yes, a ceramic one, which the children have hammered. Joseph's beard has snapped off, Mary will no longer walk without a limp, and none of the wise men have heads. Time for a new one, methinks.

10. Mail or email Christmas cards? Mail, email, text message - whatever works!

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? A "Casey and the Sunshine Band" cassette tape. I still bear the scars.

12. Favourite Christmas movie? Home Alone.

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? After Child #1's birthday. So any day now. Yikes!

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Nope.

15. Favourite thing to eat at Christmas? Prawns with lemon juice and tartar sauce. Mmm.

16. Lights on the tree? No - my children would find a way to burn down the house with them in thirty seconds flat.

17. Favourite Christmas carol? Silent Night.

18. Travel at Christmas? Apart from two family members, all my family lives in the same city. "Travel" on Christmas day just involves suburb-hopping. Nice!

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer? Not a chance!

20. Angel on the tree top or star? Does a porcelain cat, with gold wings, halo and harp, count as an angel?  (g)

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? Since Father Christmas still visits our house, definitely the morning.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of year? I think the saying "you can choose your friends, but not your relatives" sums up my position on this quite nicely.

23. Favourite ornament theme or colour? Red, silver and white.

24. Favourite for Christmas dinner? Since it's usually way too hot for traditional Christmas fare Down Under, I look forward to fish - snapper rubbed with lemon butter and stuffed with wild rice is sooo good.

25. What do you want for Christmas this year? New pyjamas so I no longer terrify the neighbours when I go out to collect the morning papers; and, of course, books. :-)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

It has begun ...

The Christmas shopping, that is.

Well, technically, I haven't yet started mine. But I ventured out to my local shopping mall this morning with Child #3, to purchase some filler gifts for Child #1's upcoming birthday, and it seemed as if the words "credit crunch" had never been uttered. The ocean of dazed shoppers! The assault of Christmas "musak" upon my ears!  The smell of burning plastic as credit cards were swiped at the speed of light!

Ok, it wasn't that bad  -  I didn't curl into the fetal position in the middle of K-mart. But gift shopping is a chore for me at the best of times; Christmas shopping is like digging trenches in the Siberian salt mines. 
I guess it's because my kids are definitely past the age where playing with the wrapping paper and box is the best part of receiving gifts -  now, what gifts to give them is the question that does my head in, as there is a veritable  plethora of crap available for kids these days. And the adults for whom I must buy are not any easier; they're either (a) fussy as hell, (b) already have everything that opens and shuts, or (c) a scary combination of both.
What to do, to ease my Christmas shopping panic? Well, the one place in which I can happily, blissfully, shop for hours on end, is a book store. Funny about that. (g) So I've made an executive decision - books will feature heavily, if not exclusively, on my gift list this year, for kids and adults alike. Broaden their minds, do my small bit to ease the publishing industry's financial woes, and leave me with all my hair in tact. 
Sounds like a plan!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

9000 words

That's my word count so far this November, and I'm absolutely amazed - in a good way! Ok, it's small change compared to what other writers are able to pump out, but for me it's a freakin' avalanche of words. And it's got me wondering ... what's up? How is this possible?

Well, there are many answers to these questions. A few jump to mind immediately:- 

- I've been writing for a good two years now, and all that practice is starting to pay off. The words come easier than they did during the hair-pulling extravaganzas of my early writing days. 

- My youngest child is off at kindergarten several hours each week now, which means more writing time for mum. 

- And after employing the trusty index card method (and thanks to Claire for that!), plus re-doing my rough-as-guts synopsis a couple of months back, I've finally got the bones of this story worked out. Which, for this firmly linear writer, makes all the difference. I know where I'm going with this tale, and it stops me veering off into the wilderness (but this doesn't mean that I don't have many surprise detours and developments - I do, with each and every scene I write, which I absolutely love.)

So, ok. Some good reasons for my productivity increase. But I think it goes deeper than that. 

In fact, I know it does. 

See, about three months ago, when my youngest turned 4, it hit me that I had one year left before she started school, after which my days between 9am and 3pm would become child-free. Mine, to do with as I pleased. As much as the thought of sitting on my arse reading all day has its appeal, I knew I'd go bonkers staying home doing nothing more productive than emptying the dishwasher and vacuuming the cat. I knew that come August 2009, I'd need to find me some bona fide employment; to keep me sane, to feel like I was contributing to the world in some small way. 

This scared the living daylights out of me. I've been home with the kids for ten years now - it'll be eleven by the time Child # 3 starts school. What to do? I'm so out of the loop of the law that if I went back to that, I'd be sued for malpractice within a week. And other options are thin on the ground; with DH's job taking him away from the home front on a very regular basis, I need something that fits in school hours and allows me to be home for the kids.

So I took a deep breath and thought - time to get serious about this writing.

 Do you want to be a writer, a real, proper, earn-your-bread-through-your-words, writer? Well, do ya, punk? (g)

I said yes. And that's when I decided to start treating my writing like a job.

I vowed to write every day (I'm sticking to this mostly, bar DH's 40th birthday celebrations -I'm no Stephen King, cannot write with a hangover.)

I vowed to set myself a daily word count to meet, as opposed to just blithely saying "Oh, I'll write for a hour or so ..." (thanks to the brilliant Ms Vicki Pettersson for that piece of advice; and thanks to the wonderful M:A gals for keeping me to that particular goal this month.)

I vowed to let alone my opening chapters and avert my eyes from them until revisions (and boy, was that hard but so bloody liberating!)

And I want to ... no, WILL have this SFD done by then end of April 2009. 

I'm still scared. But at least these days, when I head to the study, I tell my DH I'm "off to write", rather than "I'll be doing some typing now", as I used to say. (g) This is serious business, after all.

So, there it is. 

Wish me luck.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Library, Thailand

So, my dream holiday would involve a month ... or two ... or three, in Paris. 

But a close second would be The Library Resort in Thailand. White sand and loads of books .... 


What more could a gal want?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Grumpy Old Women vs Road Rage

In a few short hours, I will turn 37.

I have been with my DH for 18 years. I have friends I can say I have known for 10 years, 15 years, and a handful who have known all my dirty little secrets for 25. Ample evidence of my impending dotage, you say.

But it was a near rumble in the carpark of my local supermarket last month that really brought home my advanced age.

I'd just finished the weekly flagellation that is grocery shopping with Child # 3, my 4 year old. Loaded her, and the mountain of crap that my family of five consumes each week, into the 4-WD people mover. Cranked the beast into life, chucked it into reverse - only  to be blocked in by the pimped-up, bitumen-scraping, doof-doof music mobile that screeched to a halt behind me.

The window of the offending vehicle slid down, revealing its barely adult, male, driver who sported enough bling to burn out my retinas, and his similarly attired side-kick. They looked REALLY pissed. They looked, in fact, like two enraged bull ants. They began yelling - not at me, but at a guy who'd just pulled into a parking space two along from mine - Captain Solo, I shall call him.

The bull ants and Captain Solo proceeded to engage in a heated debate, right there in the Woolworths car park.

First topic - who cut off whom back out on the roadway, and therefore deserved to die;

Second topic - who should depart post haste to their country of origin, the bull ants being of Italian extraction, Captain Solo looking kinda Chinese.

Thus it went, for a minute or two. Captain Solo, even though out-numbered, would not back down. To the bull ants, this was akin to a slight aganst their (barely-there) manhood. They leapt from their car and swarmed towards the Captain.

This is when I got grumpy. Serious, eye-rolling, "I-don't-fucking-believe-this" grumpy. 

This did NOT happen in my sleepy little suburb. 

This did NOT happen in the presence of my four-year-old.

This did NOT happen when I had frozen goods slowly thawing out in my car!

I clicked on the central locking (hey, the red-mist was not that thick that I didn't remember to do that), opened my window, and yelled like the mother-of-three that I am:

"You had all better settle down, RIGHT NOW, or I'm calling the cops! We don't need this shit around here. Bugger off and go home!"

Not so eloquent - but it did the trick.

The piano player stopped mid-tune. Tumbleweeds rolled on by. Several pairs of eyes swivelled my way.

The bull ants stopped and gaped.  Then dropped their eyes to their shoes.

"Sorry," they mumbled. Then jumped back in their car and peeled out of the carpark.

And since I once was a lawyer, didn't I just follow them down the road for a few kilometers, just to make sure they really were outta there, and to take down their number plate. (g)

Never would I have done this in my 20s. But I'm a realist. I know it was not a show of heroism. I was just plain cranky. But as I get older, I see that cranky has its place. Maybe it's the fact that the older you get, the less time you have on your side. You just don't have the tolerance for crap that you once would have had. 

I don't know.

But I tell you, it felt damn good to scare off two punks simply by impersonating their mothers. (vbg)


Sunday, November 2, 2008

High Tea

I just had a wonderful Sunday arvo.
My oldest and best friends, Bec and Kristen, kidnapped me and took me out for High Tea as an early birthday present, at Newmans, a gorgeous camellia and azalea nursery (and ok, we skipped the tea and drank pink bubbles but still ...)  Two fabulous gals, who, after all the little scones and sandwiches with the crusts cut off,  took me shopping and convinced me to buy a dress I never would have -  and damn, isn't my DH glad they did (g).
Lovely to do something out of the norm. 
And just be a girly girl, for a few hours.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Nineteenth century manias

Child #1 is addicted to collecting Dr Who cards - and, rather weirdly, his finger nail clippings (although I think the latter is more about grossing me out than a serious hobby). 

Child #2 collects marbles. And child #3's vice is caterpillars. Dead ones.

All a little bit odd. But hey, they're my kids, they can  blame their kooky genetics, so who am I to cast the first straight jacket?

However, I  was recently leafing through a wonderful old tome, GOSSIP FROM PARIS (for the third time - the book is just like a nineteenth century version of People magazine) and I'm feeling a little relieved. Some of the collection and hobby fads of nineteenth century Paris make my kids seem very, well, normal.

Such as:-

"Potichomani" - the transformation of plain old glass jars into glazed works of art;

"Seal collecting" - not the collection of flippered sea-mammals, but of the wax seals of royals and celebrities (Victor Hugo's seal apparently bore the motto "faire et refaire", sound advice for a writer!);

Pottery and china - the more avid collectors were known to cover every square inch of their walls, and ceilings, with soup tureens, saucers, tea cups and plates; and

Autographs. Not so unusual, you say. Except that the briskest trade was done in the exchange of autographs of convicted murderers. Apparently, the autograph of  President Lincoln's murderer, John Wilkes Booth, was the big time.

The more things change, the more they stay the same ...

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Mission: Accountability

So, the esteemed Jennifer Hendren had the brainwave of setting up Mission:Accountability. 

There are fourteen of us so far, and our mission is to put our writing goals out there and make sure we all stick to them. There'll be cheering when goals are met, "punishments" when they are not. (g) But overall, it's a great way to get serious about writing. The last month or so, I've been making a real effort to write 600 words every day. Been making that goal most of the time, but I'm hoping that Mission:Accountable will give me that kick in the pants to hit that goal every day. 

Wish me luck!

"It's only the beginning ..."

My dear, never-finished, First Act,

I sat down to write today, and my iTunes random playlist coughed up a dust-covered tune from 1991-  Deborah Conway's  It's Only the Beginning. 

It's only the beginning
But I've already gone and lost my mind
I feel like making daisy chains
And playing hide 'n' seek

When it's only the beginning
The fairy dust is still in flight
And this could be the love of a 
lifetime, even if lasts a week

Or maybe just a daydream ...

I listened to those lyrics in stunned, sweaty silence; for, my dear First Act, they could have been written for us. 

We have a toxic relationship, a sick co-dependency, you and I. Oh, I can hear you tutting beneath your breath - "How dare she watch Dr Phil when she should be writing ME!" But whatever psycho-babble label you wish to apply, it is clear that you are my addiction, my vice, and for the sake of the manuscript, not to mention my sanity, I must break free of your seductive clutches.

Oh, but you're a hard habit to break. The intoxication of finishing you for the first time is still such a sweet memory. You were complete, you were just as I had envisioned you would be, and you were perfect. The time had come for us to part. I felt a pang at letting you go, but you were strong,  you would be fine without me.

But you would not let me go. You hounded me with frantic whispers, day and night - you'd fallen apart; your meticulously woven tapestry of elegant prose now resembled a moth-eaten dish rag; your plot, once water-tight in its logic, now leaked credibility like a sieve. You would be so, so much better if only I'd come back, you sobbed. If only I'd re-write you. 

Ego stroked, I dumped poor Act Two like a hot potato and back I went. I could not ignore you - you were, after all, my first love.

So I tinkered with your opening chapters. Started in medias res, started with dialogue, started on a train, started with a fight, started in Paris, started in London, started with the villain doing his evil worst ... Every time I'd come close to finishing, convinced that this time I'd got you right and I now had the perfect beginning, you'd lay on the guilt - "Don't leave me! I'm a much better First Act when you're around. Stay, and make me perfect." So  I re-wrote you again, and again, and again, adding and subtracting scenes like a woman possessed. And maybe I was. Possessed with the notion that I must write the perfect first act before I could move on. 

But the scales have fallen from my eyes. I know now that you are my crutch; that I will never move forward if I keep working on you; that I will never finish this manuscript if I keep working on you; that I will never, ever, have to discover whether I can actually write a whole damn novel, if I kept working on you.

So I'm breaking up with you until the book is done. 

Aw, don't cry. It's not you - it's me.

You'll be fine, my brilliantly flawed First Act. You're stronger than you think. And I'll be back when it's time for revisions.

But for now, it's a definite "adieu".

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Serenity now ...

I've been flying solo with the three kids all week. 

Hubby's been away. Conferencing. At a schmick resort. With harbour cruises. And champagne. Hmm ...

But now he's home. And he's sent me off to write. A glass of wine has just been delivered to my desk, and as I type he's downstairs doing the yelling (cough) disciplining.

Kinda reminds me why I married the guy ...


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Blood of the Heart

So, about this book of mine ...

I started it about two years ago. I wrote a chapter that will never see the light of day, but it was the first fiction I'd written since I was a teenager and even though it was terrible, it felt good. 
Really good.

Now, after many twists and turns (not to mention the bouts of hair-pulling and self-doubt) I'm reasonably confident about what my story actually *is*, and have some hope it'll be something others will want to read. 

Set in 1864, and with the working title of BLOOD OF THE HEART, it's an historical mystery, of the suspense sub-genre, with a side-serve of romance and a generous helping of the oddities and extravagance of mid-nineteenth century Paris, and nineteenth century medicine.

My main character, Isabel Knight, is an Englishwoman in need of no one and nothing but herself and her ambition. A newly-minted physician fresh from medical school in America, she dreams of becoming a surgeon; quite an oddity herself. She accompanies her father to Paris, the global centre of medical advancement, where she has the rare opportunity to further her clinical experience. 

But she has a secret. She's suffered a trauma her conscious mind cannot fully recall. Her body knows exactly what happened, however, and the result is that she has lost her nerve with the scalpel. She simply cannot cut.

But this soon becomes the least of her worries. Her attendance at the birth of a child leads her to form an uneasy partnership with a Parisian midwife - a sage femme - who has secrets of her own, secrets that seem to link her with the mutilated bodies of urchins that begin to appear on the streets of the slums of Paris. When the midwife is also murdered, Isabel comes face to face with the real killer - but it is she, in the wrong place at the wrong time, who the police suspect. 

On the run from the authorities and the killer,  Isabel follows the scant clues to Daniel Ricard, the young owner of champagne vineyards in Epernay.  Together, Isabel and Daniel must unravel a mystery that takes them from Daniel's murky past, to the court of Napoleon III and the intrigue surrounding the  French conquest of Mexico, and finally, into the clutches of a sadistic serial killer. 

With Daniel, Isabel stands to discover the truth of the trauma that her mind has erased, and to learn that love and vocation are not mutually exclusive - that is, if they ever make it out alive.

Da-da-daaaah! (g)

So, that's it. I'm slogging through the first draft, and I'm sorry to say that even after two years, I'm not all that far into the thing. I've got all my scenes sketched out on index cards, and I recently broke down the whole thing into four acts - only to find I'm just three-quarters of the way through Act 1. Gah!  My life is busy - three kids will do that to a person (g) - plus I have chopped and changed directions with this book A LOT. But the main reason for my lack of progress is the opening of the book. Or, to be precise, the multitude of ways there are to open a story. And the temptation I have to write them all. 

But I'll talk more about that particular little death-trap later ...

Saturday, October 18, 2008


I kinda feel like I'm talking to an empty room, but here goes ...

Cos all the cool kids are doing it, and cos I'm seriously addicted to all my writing mates' blogs, I thought I'd better stop being a major voyeur and put myself out there. 

So, I'm writing a novel set in nineteenth century Paris. Learning volumes about both writing and Paris. Why blog about it all? The tales of my travails may help others. Then again, they may not. At least you'll have laugh.