Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Fun

I love it when people go to that extra little bit of trouble to make Christmas special and fun.
This is what someone in my neighborhood did.

 Brilliant, isn't it? It looks so lifelike, the first time I saw it I got quite a start.  From any angle it looks completely real.

People keep stopping to take photos and they often lift back the wig to check what's beneath.
I love that someone's taken the trouble to make such a fun and clever display to give us all a laugh at Christmas. They've gone to a lot of trouble, too — you can't really see it but the writing on the car door says "R&N Reindeer". The car is an old "ute" (utility truck) — a bit of a classic car in Australia.
(Following up a comment from Theo, I looked up the history of the ute, and turns out it's a fascinating one — and came from a request from an Australian woman farmer in the 1930's to the Ford Australia factory in Geelong to give her a car she could use to drive to church in, as well as take the pigs to market. The story is here.)

I also love that in the couple of weeks or so that it's been here, on a fairly busy street, nobody has damaged it or interfered with it.
Thank you neighbors.
All the best for Christmas and the holidays. Peace on earth.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

An Exciting Package

A courier just came to the door with a lovely big box. Great, I thought, copies of The Autumn Bride in time for Christmas. But no, instead, the box contained a pile of foreign editions of my books.

There were two in Indonesian (they're the ones in the pic with the title in English), all four French editions of Les Archanges Du Diable (love that French series title — The Devil's Archangels, instead of the Devil Riders), a copy of Princessa Furtiva, (Stolen Princess, or maybe Secret Princess in Spanish) and a Japanese edition of the Accidental Wedding. 

The titles in other languages aren't always the same as the ones in English, and I always find it interesting to see what they've named them. The only ones I can read are the French ones (and then not all that well, so please forgive me if I've translated the titles wrongly or clumsily) and from right to left in the top line of the photo, they are "Rider of the Storm,"(The Stolen Princess),  "Lady of my Torments," (His Captive Lady),  "A Lady to Marry,"(To Catch a Bride)  and "Nothing But Passion," (The Accidental Wedding.)

 I love getting my foreign editions — and so do the libraries I usually donate them to.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Men in Trees

I have a very large gum tree in front of my house. It's the biggest tree in the street, and I do love it. In spring it's always filled with rainbow lorikeets, feasting on the red blossoms, and chittering with delight, and there's a possum who lives there, too.

But gum trees are notorious for dropping branches without warning, and each time we have a storm or a big wind, I've worried that the branch that overhangs the house might fall on it.

Yesterday I had a tree man come to talk about removing a fig tree from the back garden. Don't get me wrong — I adore figs and if this tree ever produced an edible fig it'd be the most pampered tree in the garden, but it doesn't. The figs are always dry and inedible, so I've finally given up on it and it's being removed right this minute.

Anyway I asked the tree man about the gum tree — I was worried he'd say the best thing was to chip it down, but he said "Yep, we can prune back the overhanging branches and it'll be fine." So yay, I have a bad fig tree gone, and a newly pruned gum tree, so the lorikeets will stay happy and the possum will still have a home.

And if you ask me, tree men are heroes.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


 For a short time only, Destiny Romance (an e-book division of Penguin) is giving away a free copy of my little Scottish story, The Laird's Vow. 

To get it, all you have to do is register at the Destiny website — it's free, there are no obligations and you'll get my story. 

It's a 15,000 word historical set in Scotland and was originally published in the Mammoth Book of Scottish Romance. To find out more about the story, or read an excerpt, go to The Laird's Vow page

Sunday, October 14, 2012

A day out

Yesterday I drove a visiting writer friend down to Queenscliff, on the beach, where she was going to do a week of intensive work on a joint project with another writer friend. It was a glorious Spring day — clear and sunny with a balmy breeze — a gift after a patch of cold, rainy, miserable weather.

My original plan was to take my friend there, have lunch with them and then go back home, where I had a mound of work waiting for me, but it was so beautiful I allowed myself to be talked into a walk. A long walk. And then dinner.

 We walked around the salt water inlet — Swan Bay and saw pelicans, black swans, seagulls and oystercatchers
There's a group of steam engine enthusiasts who, on certain days, run a little engine from Queenscliff to Drysdale — it's a Thomas the Tank Engine choo-choo train, with the face on the front, and there's even a Fat Controller, who looked wonderful in his top hat and formal coat.
I didn't take a photo of the front, with Thomas's face, and I missed the Fat Controller, but here's the little train choofing past us, with a bunch of happy kids on board.
We took the dog, too.
 After Swan Bay we cut across (Queenscliff is a kind of small promontory) and got our first glimpse of the ocean. 
On the way we saw a beautiful Eastern Rosella sitting in a bottle brush tree. Isn't he a handsome fellow?
We wandered back along the ocean beach, picking up shells and the occasional bit of sea-glass (for my jewellery) and admiring the contents of the rock-pools. Here are baby mussels growing in colonies around the edge of a rock pool — they're only visible for a few hours of the day.
It was so refreshing and cleansing to be on the beach in the sun.
We rounded the point, one of the heads of Port Phillip Bay, where there is an old fort built on top of and into the rocky outcrop. I loved the sea-worn rocks.
 Once inside the bay, the beach was strewn with seaweed of all kinds, including an amazing variety of pink seaweed. I gathered some of the pink ones up but I haven't sorted them out yet for a photo. But here's one little clump.
And the seaweed didn't stop this little girl from creating a fabulous sand castle.
It was only an afternoon, really, but when I drove home last night I felt as though I'd had a little holiday.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Persimmon Tree

I dropped over to a friend of mine's house yesterday, and remembered to take a photo of one of my favorite trees ever — the persimmon tree in her back garden. This is the view from her lounge room — gorgeous, isn't it?

It's beautiful all year round — even bare of leaves, the tree has such a glorious shape.

It's also amazingly prolific and bears hundreds of gorgeous orange fruits. I love persimmons—well, I did once I learned how to eat them. These ones are the kind you need to leave to ripen until they're very soft and the skin looks transparent and ready to split— you'd think they were almost rotten, but instead, they're soft and utterly delicious. My favorite way to eat them is just to scrape the pulp out and drizzle it over vanilla ice-cream. Bliss.

Some years ago I tasted a black sapote — an almost chocolate-tasting persimmon, grown in the tropics. My friend Barbara Hannay introduced me to them some years ago, first as black sapote ice-cream — deeeelish!—and then as just the fruit, and I was hooked. I keep wondering whether I could grow one down here in our cold/temperate climate. I figure if orange persimmons can grow and fruit here, why not black ones? One can only try.

More conference pics

I promised you some more photos of the RWAust conference and here they are. Eloisa James giving a fabulously inspiring speech.

Three gorgeous galz in red — Bronwyn Jameson, Fiona McArthur and Trish Morey talking to Rachel Treasure, who was at her first RWA conference dinner.

 The fabulous Helen Bianchin is the inaugural Australian Romance Hall of Fame member. She got a standing ovation, naturally. That's Barbara Hannay with her in the pic.
Mark Antony.... or perhaps Richard Burton at the 1950's cocktail party. 
 Christina Brooke and Denise Rossetti in their 1950's cocktail frocks.
The wonderful Emma Darcy with editor Jo, who was wearing her "womanfuzzy" headdress— it's a fun award we give at the Harlequin author dinner.
The authors at the ARRA signing — all but Eloisa James who was delayed at the airport and arrived just after the photo was taken. I'm right up the back on the left.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Diamonds are a girl's best friend

I recently returned from the annual conference of Romance Writers of Australia. The conference always kicks off with a cocktail party sponsored by Harlequin — but it's a cocktail party with a difference. It's a costume party and it's always huge fun. This year the theme was Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend.

When I first joined RWAustralia, the cocktail party used to be called the Harlequin Meet the Authors cocktail party, and it was a quiet, elegant, fairly intimidating affair. A lot of people didn't attend. Those who did either watched the authors from a discreet distance, or were the authors. It wasn't really what you'd call a social mixer.

Then about twelve years ago, the conference was in an old historic hotel in Melbourne (my home town) and the organizer decided to make it a dress up affair — "Dress retro" we were told.

It was great — some came in gorgeous vintage outfits, some had made their own outfits, some simply wore a long scarf or a feather boa. (There's a funny story here from that first conference— about buying feather boas.) But it was fun and friendly and people talked so much more easily — the costumes were an icebreaker.

That first cocktail party, about a third of the attendees dressed up — these days it's getting on toward 80% or 90%  but there's no pressure to dress up if you don't like it. It's the ice-breaker aspect that's important, not whether you're in costume or not.

We've had some fabulous themes in the past, and i have fond memories of some of the overseas guests who've joined in good-naturedly.

So this year the conference had the theme of "Diamonds" with the cocktail theme being the 50's. I'm not one for glamour, but I love Marilyn Monroe and her Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend, and it occurred to me that Marilyn in her 50's might have let herself go, just a little bit... in pink jammies, dressing gown, rubber gloves, headscarf, and loads and loads of bling. Here's me with my friend Bron, who also managed to come to the party in  a blonde wig and her jammies.
In fact there was a positive rash of Marilyns. Here's me with Young and Gorgeous Marilyn, from Harlequin Australia.
The queen (aka Jennifer Kloester) graced us with her extremely regal presence.
The Queen, the King and an old version of Marilyn
Some took pink to extremes and still managed to stay tasteful.
And the Marilyns continue...
Thanks Harlequin Australia and RWA for a fun night.
I'll post some more of the costume pics in a day or two — the non-Marilyn ones.
PS: Just had to add in another couple of pics — my friend Keziah Hill took a photo of my hands in the rubber gloves, covered in bling — and had it made into a post card which arrived in my post box today. 
 What fun!
Thanks Keziah.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

RWA conference & Destiny Launch

I've been away at the Romance Writers' of Australia conference, and I thought I'd share some photos. It was held in the QT hotel on the Gold Coast, so while it's cold wintry weather where I live, on the Gold Coast it was warm and balmy. This was the view most days from my room. Nice, eh?

And since it's the east coast of Australia, each morning we woke to bright sunshine streaming in the window. A couple of mornings I even woke at dawn and snapped a few pictures of the rising sun.
It was a busy conference for me, even though I'm no longer involved in any organizational work. On the Thursday we had Author Day — for published authors only — and a very informative day it was indeed. The first panel was on self-e-publishing, and that was brilliant. After that was a presentation by Louise Sherwin-Stark on Google hangouts and . . . all I can say is expect more of these hangouts from me in the future. I did one on the Saturday following with Eloisa James and Christina Brooke and some others and it was fun, even though I was battling with server problems and kept dropping out. I'll write more about it in a day or so — I'm limiting my time on this — need to be working on a book. See the hangout here.

In the afternoon, Penguin Australia organized all their authors for cover photos, with hair and makeup professionally done. That was equal parts of traumatic and hilarious — I am not photogenic! Some people were also interviewed for the Destiny website (see below)

On Thursday evening we launched the new romance digital-first line for Penguin Australia, Destiny. It was a brilliant launch, with pink champagne and strawberries, and yummy nibbles, and a few brief speeches, and then the four launch authors and I read a 2 minute excerpt from our stories. It was lovely — you could have heard a pin drop in the crowded bar.
Here are the launch titles. I've read the first one—Wish—and it's fabulous.

 And then they gave us each a beautiful bunch of flowers! How nice was that?
A friend of mine came up afterward to congratulate us (a famous author whose initials are AC) and she  SAT ON my bunch of flowers! Right plop on top of them!  
I shrieked and shoved her off them and . . . amazingly the flowers survived. LOL.
And why was I up there? I'm not a launch author, but my Scottish story "The Laird's Vow" will be given away free with the launch titles in the first month of launching. 

Here are all the Destiny authors who were at the launch, along with Sarah Fairhall and Carol George from Penguin Australia, the commissioning editors.
Thanks Penguin, for a brilliant launch.

Tomorrow I'll put up some pics of the cocktail party, which is always a mad dress-up affair. The conference theme was Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend, and there was a 50's theme for the cocktail party, and it was all huge fun.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Creative Procrastination

In my Twitter profile I call myself a creative procrastinator and it's true. There are times when I'm trying to nut out a scene or a plot point when I have to drag myself away from the writing arena and do something else — take a walk, or if it's raining or night-time, do some kind of fiddly craft activity. I find fiddling with small things helps free up the muse.

As well, if I'm watching TV I like to do something else at the same time. My mother was the same. In her case it was knitting, but I'm no knitter, so for me it's fiddling with small things — usually dolls' house stuff, or making Christmas decos or jewelry or on the odd occasion, I'll crochet.

These days it's mostly making jewelry and I thought I'd share with you this pearl set I made recently, while watching a Burn Notice DVD. I made it for the Romance Writers of Australia silent auction fundraiser. We've been doing this at the RWAustralia annual conference for years now since the first one was organized on the initiative of Harlequin author Carol Marinelli.

We usually raise money for medical research that will benefit women — we've raised heaps for research into breast cancer and ovarian cancer but this year the money will be going to the Heart Foundation. I did wonder if I should make something in red — a red coral necklace, perhaps, but in the end I went back to pearls and a crystal heart, though not pink pearls for a change. The pearls are baroque pearls, because I love their individual shapes and the tiny silken ripples on their surfaces.

One of the first necklaces I ever made was the black and white pearl necklace I'm wearing in my blog photo.  I'd never been a big fan of pearls until my dad bought me a triple string of white pearls interspersed with small chips of black jet. I love black and white and these were funky pearls, not boring,  and I wear them a lot. That's why when I came to make my first pearl necklace, I put in some black beads as well. I often mix my dad's pearls with the ones in my photo.

Below are some pieces I've made for the auctions in past years. Since they were for a "pink" (ie women's cancer) fundraiser, I mostly used pink pearls and crystals. I like to make them a bit different every year.

And below are the ones I made in 2010 for the silent auction - a mix of pink real pearls and white synthetic pearls.
This one was to raise money for  flood victims —grey pearls and crystals.
And the woven pink pearl necklace and bracelet was for last year's pink auction.

So it's fun for me to do, and nice that some money is raised for a good cause.
So what about you — do you do any craft? Are you a skilled procrastinator? Are you fond of pearls? Do you think I should make something in red for the silent auction, seeing the theme is heart health and we're supposed to wear red on the day?