Thursday, December 3, 2009

I've Finished!

Well, I thought the day would never come, but finally, after a marathon writing session this week, I've finished the first draft of Blood of the Heart! I'd always heard that the last chapters of a book often come all in a rush, and mine certainly did (I blogged about my last few days of writing here, at All the World's Our Page.)

I am exhausted, and happy, all at the same time.

And I'm done. For this round. (g)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Today I needed a laugh ...

funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

... and I got one! (g)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The final push

Holy smokes.

It's 43C today (that'd be 109.4F for those of you north of the equator) and all I feel like doing is turning the airconditioner to "freeze" and sleeping out the day.

But I won't. I can't. I've worked out I only have 5, maybe 6, scenes left to write and my SFD will be done. Finito. But there's a catch - in a mere 15 days, my offspring will be home for summer holidays, and writing with them in the house is just a no-can-do, for me.

Can I do it? Finish this thing in 15 days? I bloody well hope so!

Back to the trenches ...

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Butt-glue failure

181 new words today. That's all. Sigh.

But it was Sunday, and the parents dropping in with cake, donuts and other bribes was a trifle hard to ignore. And it was 35 C , and the steam-cleaning I'd promised the winter mud-smeared carpet on the stairs was well overdue.

There's always tomorrow ...

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A new venture

It's been pretty quite round here. It's all good - I'm still busy typing my fingers to the bone, getting closer to the end of my first draft. Yay!

And a really cool new venture has also been keeping me busy - a shiny new blog that three of my writing buddies and I have just launched, All the World's Our Page. I'm super excited about hanging out with three exceptionally talented writers - Jennifer Hendren, Kristen Callihan and Claire Gregory - who love to yak about all things writing as much as I do. I'll still be blogging here, by the way; but in the meantime, come over and say g'day (or bonjour!) at All the World's Our Page.

I'd love to catch up with you there!

P.S. Did I mention we're giving away books? Lots of them, for the next few weeks. I do love a book giveaway ... pity I can't enter!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Throwing salt over my shoulder

I've been pretty slack about blogging of late - ok, please don't choke laughing at that understatement - and my role as forum goals mistress has been executed with an appalling lack of application.

I'd like to say why I've been so lax; but call me nuts, I don't want to jinx myself. So, let me just frame this all in the negative - so that karma doesn't up and bite me on the arse - and I'll leave you to read between the lines ...

My writing is NOT going well. [g]

In fact, I did NOT just write 3000 words today that I'm pretty damned pleased with. [bg]

At the rate I'm writing, I will NOT finish this book by the end of the year. [vbg]

So, please excuse my silence. I'm just busy NOT writing a book.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Got my groove back

Oh, yeah.

3000 words down today, in two hours that simply flew by. And on re-reading, I'm actually happy with most of them ...

I love those days when the writing just flows.

They're rare, but they're gold.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Writing when life has you by the short and curlys ...

Hi. If anyone is still here to read this blog, I'm just going to get this out of the way ...

I'mabadbloggerandhavesadlyneglectedthisblogbutIhavemyreasonswithwhichIwillnotboreyoubut IwilldobetterIpromise ...

So, I'm still plugging away at this book. It, like this blog, has been sadly neglected these past few weeks. So, I'm wondering, how do you all write when you just don't have the time? And I don't mean no time as in "oh gee, I'd like to write but I have my nails to do, the fridge magnets to re-arrange, the cat's hair to plait" kind of no time. I'm talking about the really hard stuff, the days when you don't know how the heck you're going to come out the other end without going mad or forgetting something vitally important. Like picking your child up from soccer. Cough.

Do you get up at 3am and tap away while slugging down the caffeine? Write like a demon in the spare five minutes you find between those jobs on the "to do" list? Or, like Tess Gerritson, do you simply put the writing aside, do the other things that Must Be Done, and come back later?

Help a struggling (and frustrated!) gal out!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Good news

My dad's OK.

There were a couple of days where his blood pressure was seriously, scarily, low, but it came back up and, after the docs ran every test possible on his ticker, he was declared fit to come home from hospital.

I saw him yesterday. He's not one to complain, not one to talk much about his health, but yesterday, when I asked how he was, he took a sip of his tea, looked down at his hands and quietly said "I thought my time was up."

I'm beyond glad that it was not.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Life: what happens when you're busy making other plans

(... to hash a John Lennon lyric.)

Two milestones this week.

Yesterday was the last time my daughter and I had the whole day to hang out with each other, just her and me.

Yesterday, after I picked her up from her second to last day of kindergarten, we chatted over cheese sandwiches about the merits of fingerpainting versus painting with toes, painted our fingernails a glittery shade of plum and chopped up vegetables for the evening meal of pumpkin and potato soup. It was a lovely afternoon; I'm glad we had it, for Miss Four can be one Mighty Handful and it was great that our last free afternoon together did not entail any time-outs and revocation of DVD privileges!

Then today; her last day of kindergarten, ever, marked by a five minute graduation ceremony (apple cup cakes and a farewell song) and photos. Then we managed to kidnap her dad away from his work for a celebratory lunch.
And that's it. My sons are home now for school holidays, and then, come July 23, she'll be heading off to school with them. I'm kinda gobsmacked at how quickly this has come about. It seems like just yesterday she was born.

I've been dying for her to get to this point for about a year now (this is one child who is SO ready for school and all it's busyness, it's not funny), but now that it's here ... hmm. I admit I had a tear in my eye today; which rapidly dried when I reminded myself the alternative was for her to stay home with me forever (lunatic asylum, here I come!)

My kids aren't the only one getting older, though; so are my parents.

Today, my dad was taken to hospital by ambulance after suffering chest pains and generally feeling awful. He's in hospital overnight for observation. Hopefully it's just a side effect of the mountain of medication he takes to deal with the triple by-pass he had eight and a half years ago. But, as he said, there's also a chance that once again, his heart plumbing is shot, which means another bout of open heart surgery, pronto.

And life goes on ...

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Girls & Grandfathers

My daughter loves her grandfathers.

Don't get me wrong; in her estimation, her Nannas are pretty cool. Heck, they're the ones who feed her all the shite that I don't dare, who'll let her spray their perfume all over her and her teddy bear, who'll ask "how high?" when she says jump.

But her grandpas - especially my dad - are something special to her. She loves them to pieces, has them wrapped around her little finger and, as you can see from this photo of my daughter and my dad, the old boys don't mind one little bit. 

And it's just great.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Seriously Good Book on Writing

"The Courage to Write: How Writers Transcend Fear", by Ralph Keyes.

The book arrived via Amazon on Tuesday, and I finished it on Wednesday. Not a mention of "show don't tell", or of the perils of overusing adverbs, or the necessity of story arc, etc etc, and damn, is it a good book! It made me realise all the quirky little  rituals I've unconsciously employed to psyche myself up to write are in fact quite common, and that being afraid and anxious about writing is not only normal, it is vital. That to be afraid to write is absolutely necessary to produce anything worth reading.

And then he helpfully suggests how to harness and transcend those fears. (Phew!)

Go forth and read it. You'll still have all your writerly neuroses, but at least they'll now make sense!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Write when you least expect it ...

... to work, that is.

I've been off air for a while. There are many reasons (aren't there always?) -  I've been busy with the writing (yay!), even busier with the kids, but this last week I've been busy being sick. Head stuffed with cotton wool then set on fire, sick. Stuck on the couch, feeding the preschooler salt & vinegar rice crackers and Barbie DVDs to keep her off my case, sick.

I'm marginally better today. And, somewhat miraculously for a Saturday, I found myself alone in the house for one whole hour. I did not feel like writing. Not one little bit. I have some great books sitting on my TBR  pile, including an excellent beta read I'm part way through (but that's another (really good!) story). Suffice to say, the couch and the books were beckoning. But then the guilts got me. Here I was, with time to write in a quiet house, the very thing I always bitch about NOT having - what kind of hypocrite would I be if I didn't make the most of it?

So I sat down. Typed a paragraph. It sucked. Deleted it. Started again. Still not happy with the para but moved on. And, to my amazement, it all began to flow. I cranked out 1100 words in that hour, not all of them bad. Got my protagonist in the face of my antagonist, with a pistol and a few nifty manouvres with the drapes involved.

It was a lesson I've had before, but needed to learn again. 

Just. Bloody. Write.

No matter how many excuses there are not to, just do it. You just might surprise yourself. 

I know I did.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Ruby Oracle

Today, I finally made it to The Ruby Oracle (their site is under construction, but you should get the picture.)

It's a gorgeous little shop I drive past every day on the run to school, but I'm always too busy to stop and have a browse. Well, I found the time today, and I was not disappointed. It is a Francophile's heaven -  Rocco style crystal earrings, bracelets, and necklaces, all made in Paris using 18th century molds, lace parasols, leather gloves, velvet scarves, white linen night gowns ... despite the many temptations, I was very good. Nothing for myself today, but my mother and mother-in-law will have lovely gifts to open next Sunday, for Mothers' Day. 

But I did, however, drop a none too subtle hint to my husband about where he should shop if he's ever in the mood to buy me a little, sparkly, something.

Friday, April 24, 2009

FaceBook Manners

Oh boy, I just LMAO at this ...


Thursday, April 9, 2009

Salad days

At the moment, my crazy-busy life means my writing looks suspiciously like a yet-to-be assembled coleslaw - little bits of diced carrot over here, chunks of diced cabbage over there, the unifying mayonnaise dressing a long way off being done. Choppy, choppy, choppy! 

But my time is limited; it's the best I can do. 

Someone pass the salad servers, please!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


My book is set in 1864, about the time the crinoline was nearing its apex as the must have fashion item of the Second Empire. Championed by the French Empress Eugenie, consort of Napoleon III, all the most  fashionable ladies wore them beneath their skirts; but crinolines were also popular amongst working class women, with maids and factory girls wearing smaller versions of the huge hoops worn by their wealthier, upper class counterparts. I find the devotion to this fashion accessory absolutely fascinating - they may have made one's skirts look fabulous (and were quite useful for smuggling pigeons beneath whilst traveling by train, a feat attempted by one intrepid crinoline wearer according to the author of Gossip from Paris) but their width placed their wearers at risk of being set alight by lamps, or being pulled into machinery. And many a maid received a scolding (or worse) when her wide skirts knocked over a precious vase.

It seems I'm not alone in my fascination. The Galliera Museum in Paris is currently holding an exhibition devoted entirely to crinolines - SOUS L'EMPIRE DES CRINOLINES. If like me, your schedule is so full (and your purse so empty!) that you simply cannot attend, then head over to Le Canape instead, where you'll find pictures plus a video (in French)  of the exhibition. Plenty of crinolines, of course, but also many beautiful gowns, gorgeous silk slippers, and decorated fans to swoon over.  


Saturday, April 4, 2009


I'm beat.

I've been going like the clappers all day; correction, I've been going like the clappers for the past two weeks, with hardly a minute to spare between the tasks that currently are my life. 

There are so many things I should be doing right now: writing, responding to a bunch of Forum posts, finishing up a manuscript I'm beta-reading (and I really want to find out how this one ends!), unloading the dishwasher, folding the mountain of washing that glares at me when I dare venture into the laundry. But you know what? I'm not going to do any of those things.

What I am going to do is something I've not done in eons - get into bed at the decadent time of 8.30pm, open up the novel I began last week and read, and read, and read, until I fall asleep.

Ahhh. Bliss.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Female - who'd be one?

Nineteenth century contraception   was recently discussed over on the Compuserve Books and Writers Forum. It's a fascinating topic, one I've researched in depth in order to convincingly (I hope!) write the main character of my book,  a nineteenth century physician who practices in the slums of Paris and sees the grim reality of the lives of working class mothers and their children. 

In nineteenth century Paris, nothing really worked as far as contraception was concerned, especially not for poor women. Condoms were very expensive (about 50 centimes, more than twice the price of a loaf of bread) and were negatively viewed as the accoutrement of prostitutes.  The rhythm method was not widely known, and many who practiced it incorrectly believed a woman's fertile time was during menstruation. Cervical sponges soaked in lemon juice were a little more effective, but overall the most commonly used method to control fertility was coitus interruptus; which, human beings being only human, was highly unreliable.

For many poor, working class women an unwanted pregnancy was a catastrophe. If a mother was unable to work due to pregnancy or while recovering from childbirth, she inevitably lost her job. This in turn threatened her survival and that of any existing children. And without a sufficient family income, how was an extra mouth to be fed?

Miscarriage  frequently solved this dilemma. Common amongst working class women, miscarriage was caused by malnutrition or by diseases such as syphilis, small pox, typhoid, cholera, measles. Industrial toxins also played a role, with many female factory workers miscarrying from exposure to mercury, phosphorous, antimony or lead.

But for those women who did not miscarry, and for whom yet another pregnancy would push them and their families into grinding poverty, abortion was the terrible yet logical answer. The fact it was a crime did not deter; nor did the bizarre and dangerous methods employed by abortionists. White wine brewed with absinthe and rue was a commonly prescribed but mostly ineffective abortificant. Yew, savin, and ergot were also used, but were of such toxicity that even the slightest overdose would result in the death of the mother. The most common, and most effective, method of abortion was the injection of liquid (usually hot or cold water) into the uterus, sometimes with irritants such as soap. Unsurprisingly, many women who sought the services of an "angel maker" died as a result. 

The sad tale does not end there. The babies of those women for whom abortion was not an option, or for whom the procedure simply did not work, were sent to wet nurses within days of their birth. In fact, there was a thriving business in exporting babies to wet nurses in rural areas outside of Paris, with menuers and midwives acting as intermediaries to place babies with wet nurses -  for a fee, of course. Cartloads of newborns were sent off to the countryside where many subsequently died of malnutrition, disease, or plain old neglect (wet nurses could have as many as half a dozen babies to care for and feed at once.) A report of 1866, cited in "Metro Stop Paris", gives a chilling description of the journey these babies set out on:
  "I have never travelled on the roads of the Perche without being overcome with emotion, seeing these huge meneurs' wagons in which nurses and nurslings returning from Paris are piled in pell-mell like animals returning from market. This revolting vehicle in known aptly as a Purgatory."

Another option for mothers unable to care for their babies was "le tour", a small, revolving door in the wall of the convent of the Daughters of Charity, the order established by Saint Vincent de Paul in the 1600s. Mothers would place their babies in le tour (occasionally with a note that named the child or explained the circumstances of their abandonment, but not often), ring the bell, then leave. This practice went on from the mid-1600s to 1863. 

In an effort to alleviate all this suffering, charitable creches were established in Paris to care for babies and thus enable their mothers to continue to work without giving up their children. Public Assistance was also available but, for a great deal of the nineteenth century, welfare was tied to marital status - only single mothers threatening to abandon their newborns, or threatening suicide, were eligible - and the bureaucratic wheels turned slowly, so it was often weeks before any aid was actually received.

All rather depressing, isn't it?

It makes me marvel at the strength of the women who had so many babies and somehow continued to work for the pittance that was barely enough to keep their families alive. It also makes me grieve for those women and their babies for whom abortion or abandonment was the only option for survival. 

But above all,  it makes me feel profoundly grateful to live in an era in which women - not all women, but many more than ever before- have the ability to decide whether or not to bear children.

If you're at all interested in this topic, I highly recommend POOR & PREGNANT IN PARIS by Rachel Fuchs, and METRO STOP PARIS by Gregor Dallas.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Mea culpa


My name is Rachel.

I am a blogger.

One who fully intended the title of her blog to reflect its content. Not been so good at that. I am fully aware I could be sued for false advertising.

But this will change. First step is my new goal: to post a tidbit about nineteenth century France each week (or as close to that as I can get.)

Stay tuned ..

Sunday, March 8, 2009

November Rain

My Life in Itunes

OK. I was tagged for this a while ago by Jen and Claire. To answer each question, one is supposed to put the old ITunes on shuffle, and click to get the answer. Let's see what happens ...

IF SOMEONE SAYS 'ARE YOU OK?' YOU SAY ... High Havoc (Corduroy). Too true!

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOURSELF? You've got to hide your love away (The Beatles) Aw, poor me!

WHAT DO YOU LIKE IN A GUY/GIRL? In Between Days (The Cure). Shemales, I'm thinking?Cough. Not quite my cup of tea. (g)

HOW DO YOU FEEL TODAY? Hey Ya! (Outkast) It's Sunday, so that's pretty accurate!

WHAT IS YOUR LIFE'S PURPOSE? We Believe (Red Hot Chilli Peppers). In what? God? Santa? In my constitutional right to use the computer without being interrupted by children? Grumble ...

WHAT'S YOUR MOTTO? Song for Guy (Elton John). I give up. No idea what that means.

WHAT DO YOUR FRIENDS THINK OF YOU? Someday we'll know (New Radicals) ... 'what planet she's from',  is the ending most friends would choose, I think. (g)

WHAT DO YOUR PARENTS THINK OF YOU? You and Me Song (The Wannadies). Kinda creepy, that.

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT VERY OFTEN? The Bucket (Kings of Leon). Very existentialist thinker, I am! (g)

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR BEST FRIEND? Crumbs from Your Table (U2). LOL! My poor husband. 

WHAT IS YOUR LIFE STORY? Black Dog (Led Zeppelin). Oh. Boy. At least it's not Winston Churchill's 'black dog'; well, most of the time.

WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GROW UP? Window in the Skies (U2). Hmmm, remind me to check that it was sugar I put in my coffee this morning ...

WHAT WILL THEY PLAY AT YOUR FUNERAL? Rio (Duran Duran). LOL! That'd be awesome. And so much better than 'Ding Dong, the Witch is dead.' (g)

WHAT IS YOUR HOBBY/INTEREST? Feel (Robbie Williams). Yup, that's me on the bus, brushing up against you in a most inappropriate way. Eeew!

WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST FEAR? Robinson Crusoe (The Art of Noise). Aaaargh! Not a shaggy, shipwrecked man! Anything but that!!

WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST SECRET? Mannish Boy (Jimmi Hendrix) Oh God. I knew I should have shaved this morning.

WHAT DO YOU WANT RIGHT NOW? Son of a Preacher Man. (Dusty Springfield) Oh lordy (fanning herself and reaching for her mint julip).

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR FRIENDS? Scar (Missy Higgins). Did I mention I am a trifle anti-social?

WHAT WILL YOU POST THIS AS? November Rain (Guns n' Roses) WTF is that crap doing on my Itunes?! 

Ending on that note ...

Monday, February 9, 2009

Dig deep

I'm shocked at the horror that has engulfed Victoria. 130 people killed in firestorms, with talk that that number could climb as high as 230. Families burned to death in cars, trying in vain to outrun 100 metre high fire fronts. Hundreds of people injured. Thousands without homes. I cannot even begin to imagine the pain and loss of my fellow Australians, just across the border.

The Australian Red Cross has set up a special donations appeal. Here's the link. '

It's the only way we can help.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Oh, enough already!

Tomorrow's max has been upgraded from 40C to 43C (110F). 

That means more power failures, plus the guaranteed failure of my aircon by midday.
No writing will be done. Nothing will be done, except for sweating like a Scandinavian in a sauna.

A 12 hour long sauna.


Thursday, January 29, 2009

Some like it hot ... but not this little black duck

Seeing as my manuscript, and my blog, purport to be somewhat connected with nineteenth century Paris, I'd planned to blog along those lines this week; then  ... BA-BAHM. Nope. I'm sitting on my butt in the middle of an antipodean heatwave, and try as I might, I just cannot transport myself from my sweltering,  43C (110F) bastard of a day, to nineteenth century, autumnal Paris. We have at least another, whole, goddam week of this shite, saddled with an aircon that only works until around midday, then goes on strike. Little Aussie bleeder that it is. 

Insanely hot weather is really weird. I jumped in the shower three times today (all ablutions done under three minutes, as per our drought-breaker shower timer). I turned on the cold tap only, and it ran hot for half my shower. My shampoo and conditioner were reduced to a molten slick. And when I jumped out, I kid you not, I air-dried in under three minutes. No towel required.

Then there's the bugs. The usually reclusive spiders that descend from pergola beams by their webs en masse, to catch any puff of air -  I have to navigate through this icky mine-field to get to the garden hose, and when I water the plants, the bees and wasps swarm about the hot stream of water from the hose, trying to get any drip of moisture they can. 

At least we haven't had a snake under the front door, like we did last year.

And thank goodness the kids think its a hoot. Money in their pockets to buy iceblocks from the school canteen; dinner at the local cafe, since the temp in our kitchen was 35C today. Going to bed soaking wet from the bath ...

Writing? Ha. I'm amazed the lap top hasn't melted. But while words on the page have been beyond me the last couple of days (and probably will remain so until the heatwave is over) I did manage a little bit of plotting. A silver lining to the cloud.

 Now, if only it was a rain cloud ...

Monday, January 19, 2009

Pre-loved scenes

A question for those of the writerly persuasion ...

A couple of days ago I came to a spot in my MS where I'd already written the next scene I needed. I wrote the scene a long while ago (maybe a year), and much about my characters and plot has changed since then. But being lazy, I thought I'd re-hash the existing scene instead of starting afresh,  and see how it went.
Not well, is how.  There were bits of the old scene I liked, but I found it a chore to tweak and change it to reflect all the changes that have happened. And once it was done, it was forced, flat, not right.

So I left it, mulled over it - and decided to scrap it. Yesterday, I started with a blank page, came back at the scene at a 180 degree angle, and it was much better. Much, much, better.

I can't help but be a bit dismayed by the time and words I lost in this process (and my writing time at present is very limited indeed!). But I guess it's like baking - if you add plain flour when you really need self-raising, if you only put in two eggs when you need three, no amount of tweaking the recipe is going to save that cake. Better to lick the beaters and start afresh; but maybe that's just me? What do you do? Recycle the scene, or start from scratch? 

Friday, January 9, 2009

Writing like a speed dater

Ten minutes on the keyboard here, another ten minutes there ... my writing experience at present is much like speed dating. I sit down, smile, spew out as many words as possible, then  - ding!  - it's time to move on, to the other things that are taking up 99.9% of my time - driving kids to their friends', to doctors appointments, to the pool, to the beach, to the movies, to get their hair cut, to get the new school shoes; doing the never-ending, god-awful loads of washing; doing the never-ending, god-awful grocery shopping; dishing up three meals plus snacks every day, then cleaning up after the little barbarians that pass for my kids. 


I CANNOT wait to have some serious time with my book. An evening of getting reacquainted - slowly, no rushing -  is much needed!