Sunday, August 24, 2014

Mt Macedon

Next Saturday I'm going to be speaking at The Gallery in beautiful Mount Macedon -- a lovely gem of a town a little over half an hour's drive from Melbourne. It's historic, and is best known for scenery and gorgeous gardens, and as spring has sprung in my neck of the woods, I'm looking forward to seeing the spring gardens. 

So, art, spring gardens, book talk and a delicious afternoon tea included in the price — what could be better? To book email: info (at) thegallerymtmacedon (dot) com (dot) au  (no spaces)
or phone: 5426 3322   Hope to see you there.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Romance Writers of America — San Antonio

I arrived here last night, exhausted after my 26 hour journey -- staggered in to my hotel feeling like a limp rag, and hey, the hotel was overbooked, so I was given an upgrade — a lovely room with a balcony that looked out on this view.
It looks down on the San Antonio Riverwalk, which is a brilliant conception and makes for a lovely focus of the city. That's part of it below.
 Boats filled with tourists float by on a regular basis -- you can see some of them in the pic below. I didn't take a tour — I wanted to walk and straighten out the kinks from sitting a plane for so long and try to reduce the effects of jet-lag by resetting my body clock with exercise in the sun.
This is the same view from my balcony at night. Gorgeous, isn't it? I feel very lucky at the moment.
So I'm off to bed now, though I don't feel the slightest bit tired. It's 1 am here, but despite all the walking in the sun, my body still thinks it's on Australian time, which is mid-afternoon.
Oh well, let's hope I'm not a complete zombie in the morning.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

My RITA pin

Look what's just arrived in the post. Isn't she pretty?
I'm so happy to have her.
I can't stop smiling.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

More Paper Earrings

Several times I've made paper earrings from my book covers, for me, and also for a few of my friends. Book award time coming up, I had a request from another friend for earrings made from the cover of her award-nominated book. So I made them.

I put them on FB and it provoked interest from a couple of other friends. So here are some more - the covers and the earrings. Kelly Hunter's RBY final What The Bride Didn't Know — a wonderful book— and her two books for Tule Publishing, both of which I loved — and they had such pretty covers I had to make them into earrings, too.

And BTW the blue bikini one —The Honeymoon Trap—is on special for the next few days at 99c and it's fabulous - set at a gaming convention and so sexy and funny.

Can you match the earrings with the covers?

And Trish Morey's RBY finalist book - A Price Worth Paying. I couldn't decide which cover to use, so I made both.

I'd already made some tiny books of my own RITA nominated Autumn Bride cover for last year's conference, so that'll do for me. Unless I get inspired again tonight — I make things in front of the TV when I'm relaxing.

But I did make some tiny earrings out of some leftover Japanese paper and I think they look pretty gorgeous, don't you?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Regency Dresses

Yesterday I was putting together some thoughts for the cover conference for the cover of my next book, The Spring Bride. I'm still writing the story, but in my case, because Im not a speedy writer, the cover is always finished long before the book.

They'd asked for some suggestions, and so, because the title is The Spring Bride, it'll be no surprise to you that there will be a bride on the cover. And it will be spring.

So I went looking for a few regency-era dresses for Jane, my bride.  Daisy, her sister, will be making the dress for her. Jane remembers her mother telling her about a beautiful pink dress she wore the day she met her future husband, and so Jane wants to get married in pink. It doesn't have to be all pink -- a cream dress with a few touches of pink would be fine.

Pinterest -- otherwise known as The Endless Tunnels of Gorgeousness. A place so easy to get lost in. Honestly, I could spend all day looking at stunning regency clothes. But I did manage to resist all the other gorgeous period collections. And I came up with a few possibles: So what do you think?
We'd need to make this one a little less apricot and paler for Jane, but I love it as is and I love the embroidered net overlay.

Such a pretty dress and the touch of pink roses around the hem and train are gorgeous. Not sure about the ninja scarf around the bride's face, though. :)

I loved this one with its lace overlay — this was very popular on FaceBook when I showed it.

Of course we'd need to do this in pink instead of blue, but otherwise, it's lovely, isn't it?
This was popular on Fb, too. I'm not so sure about the leaves. I do like the idea of appliqued and embroidered leaves, but these are a bit big for my taste. But the fabric of the gown is beautiful.
A lace veil or possibly a shawl. It's Spring, after all, and in England, so the weather won't be guaranteed sunny.
Or how's this if the weather is a bit nippy — a gorgeous cream pelisse, fastened with shell buttons.

I'm nowhere near writing that scene yet, so it might not be any of these dresses. In the meantime, oh dear, I might have to wander down The Endless Tunnels of Gorgeousness. I can justify regency clothes  because it's 'research' but there are luscious clothes from all eras, and all kinds of other beautiful things.
Which I must and shall resist. She says firmly. 

Do you have any favorites from the ones above?

Friday, May 16, 2014

Making yoghurt

When I was a kid, my friend Fay lived with her grandmother during the school week. Grandma was Macedonian and spoke little English, and our conversations revolved mainly around cooking and eating. She was a brilliant cook and showed me some recipes and methods that I still use to this day. One of the things she made was yoghurt. She nearly always had a large glass jug of it in the fridge, home-made and different from the commercial variety we used to get in the shops. And yummy.

The very first time I tried to make yoghurt was with Fay and some school friends when we were staying in a caravan on holiday. We were about fifteen or sixteen, and of course Fay knew what to do. We heated milk until it just started to bubble around the edges, then took it off the heat until it cooled to "blood temperature" — we stuck a finger in and guessed. Then we stirred in half a cup of commercial yoghurt, put the lid on the big glass jar we were using, wrapped it in a sleeping bag and put it in the cupboard. To our delight, the next morning it was yoghurt, almost as good as Grandma made —yoghurt like this.

Recently I had a yen for some of the yoghurt that Grandma used to make. I haven't had it for years — these days you can get good plain yoghurt in the supermarket, and it's delicious. But I enjoy making things from scratch sometimes, and so I decided to make my own.

To cut a long story short, and as you can see from the picture above, it worked beautifully. And then, of course I had to play with it, didn't I? First I decided to turn some of it into "Greek" yoghurt -- a process that basically involves draining some of the whey from the ordinary yogurt.  You can see the difference it makes here.

I used a brand new chux superwipe, which I sterilized by pouring boiling water over it, then lined a wire drainer, tipped in the yoghurt. and left it for a few hours.  (I developed this technique when I made cottage cheese with the same method, only using rennet from junket tablets instead of yoghurt. I believe in using what I have to hand, rather than getting in special equipment.)

Then I decided to make some lebne --a thick kind of cheesy substance (Lebanese, I think) that's basically yoghurt left to drain even further. The same process again. And here's the result -- left to drain an afternoon and overnight -- you can see how much firmer it is from the imprint of the cloth on it.
So that's it, my little trip down memory lane. I'd forgotten how easy it was, and how delicious the result is. I'll be making yoghurt and lebne much more often, now I've reminded myself. Fay's away with her husband, gadding about Queensland on holiday, but when she comes back, I might have to take her some of "Grandma's yoghurt," which is what it will always be to me, even if it's not in a tall glass jug covered with a cloth.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Short Interview with New South Wales Writers Centre

I did a short interview with the NSW Writers Centre in Sydney, in preparation for the Romancing the Page workshop I'm doing there, and thought I'd post it here as well. Please note that the workshop date has changed — it's now on May 4th 2014

How did you get into romance writing?
Initially I thought writing romance would be a quick and easy way to fund a more "literary career" -- I knew nothing about romance then, only the urban myths that abound about the genre. But once I started reading widely within the genre and saw the huge range of stories published, I realised I could write the stories that I wanted to write, that I didn't have to write "to formula" as I'd assumed.  I found that writing romance isn't easy, but it is a lot of fun. I've never looked back.

Sixteen books published! How do you stay inspired and find fresh stories?
It's easy. New story ideas come all the time, and the genre itself is constantly reinventing itself and expanding. But at the heart of every romance novel there are people, and people are endlessly fascinating and surprising. The difficulty isn't about staying inspired, it's finding the time to write all the things I want to write.

Do you consider yourself a hopeless romantic? 
I am in lots of ways. I do believe in the power of love to change people and inspire them  to change their lives. Its one of the most transforming things in our lives. I'm a "Love Actually" kind of romantic, though -- the sort that sees all kinds of love in all kinds of people. I've spent my life working in underprivileged areas and with people whose lives are often in crisis, so I'm not blind to the problems in society. But I still believe in love and I see it all around me.

Who is your favourite literary lover?
That's a hard one-- there are so many to choose from. I'm going to avoid all the literary lovers who ended up dead -- I like a happy ending, thank you. I'll go for Damerel, in Georgette Heyer's Venetia. He's a wicked funny, poetry-spouting, flirtatious bad boy, a nineteenth century rake who, when he falls for the lovely Venetia, tries to stay away from her for her own good. Of course she's a spirited heroine who gives as good as she gets, and she won't stand for such foolishness.

Anne Gracie's next book, The Winter Bride (Berkley USA and Penguin Australia) is on sale from March 26th.