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Monday August 11th : A whirl wind trip and insights into The Rosie Effect…

After a short reprieve, things are about to go crazy again (in the nicest possible way!). Next week we’re off for a week in rural France to complete (I hope…) edits of my psychological thriller (written under my real name) Medea’s Curse due out with Text end of January. Okay, it’s true there will be some French food and wine and walks in the countryside too. There will need to be some walking because of what is happening later in the month (read on!). Then a few days in Amsterdam (Graeme Simsion talks more Rosie Project…when we return it will be full on The Rosie Effect, due out September 24th, the sequel) before we walk across England along Hardian’s Wall. When we walked (swam…) the Coast to Coast walk a couple of years ago we thought that was the shortest part of the neck, but this walk is only 134km (cp 307km). But looking at the weather forecast, probably just as wet! Then to Swansea for a conference , London and home.

So I have (and now a few others with ARC’s have also) read The Rosie Effect. When Graeme asked me as first reader of The Rosie Project “is it a real book” I said I don’t know! (Later i decided it was, I just couldn’t think of anything else it was like. But I reckon early John Irving). This time my response was easy – yes and I think it’s better! Of course I am biased, but I am not the only one who said these exact words!

Firstly – the Americans have it wrong. It is NOT a romance (or Chicklit – for heaven’s sake, Bill Gates called it profound!). That said, it is at times sad, and romantic. At other times it is also very funny. Laugh out loud, though maybe not as roll around floor laughing as The Rosie Project (lot of giggling though), but it has a lot more heart, and it’s deeper. Despite someone tweeting – “ARGH Pregnancy that’s not romantic”, this is a deeply movingly romantic book at times because it is real. As it is from Don Tilman’s perspective, not Rosie’s, it isn’t about “pregnancy” as it would be in ChickLit. This is Don, with his own peculiar take on everything, that goes very close to many men’s hearts. Go Don, we’re rooting for you!

 

 

 

 

 

Monday July 14th

Parenting: Pitfalls in the Culture of “Me”

There is a lot of talk about the “culture of me”; Anne Manne’s new book on the Life of I (I haven’t read it but I heard her on the radio) and articles on the explosion of narcissism in the first world. Marry this up with the explosion of articles on parenting: helicopter, tiger, attachment parenting and many more and the bursting at the seams of our adolescent psych units with children as young as 8 and 9 years old bouncing off the walls after family breakdowns or/and taking Ice there isn’t much to look forward to if you’re having a family. How to negotiate? Who to listen to? It used to be just conflicting advice around breastfeeding. Now it’s whether they should be doing three hours piano practice or allowed to play in the mud by themselves.

As a perinatal specialist (in my non-author time) I see the anxiety, worry, and frantic attempts to be perfect and do things right and the cost this has. There is no such thing as perfect parenting, rather it needs to be good enough—imperfect but with a robust structure of respect and confidence that allows ruptures to be fixed. Many of the mothers I see don’t have the role model in their own childhoods to have the confidence, and depression, anxiety and marital tensions make it worse for them as well as for the children who feel the tensions and without the robust structure blame themselves, feel confused, angry and “act out” though it is almost always because they desperately need connection.

We as parents have a responsibility to bring up our children to the best of our ability and get help when we can’t. BUT…society isn’t helping and this takes us back to the cult of “I”.

I have been doing family therapy with an intact loving (and imperfect family) from a traditional Asian background whose 12 year old daughter has been raised in Australia. They in keeping with their traditional values “spoilt” the little girl and though not rich gave her all they could. They made mistakes, probably intervening too early when she was young and not putting enough boundaries around her and allowing her to learn to deal with her own emotions at a younger age (The common parenting problem of being ruled by wanting to avoid conflict and have the child love me).

But what her father said to me today opened my mind to how else we are failing our children. They had just had the police out again; the child’s behaviour is aggressive and threatening and she isn’t little any more. She keep swearing and threatening until the father lost his cool and said he would hit her (acceptable in his culture), which he was told by the police was inappropriate. However this was just what the child (and in this moment her out of control rage was child not adult) wanted—to feel that power. In his home country he said, it would never happen because the culture (and the society and law) is about respect and dire consequences if not adhered to. So this child would have got the same or worse anywhere else the state puts her.

This child is on the verge of going into foster care. I have another patient now thirty who had exactly the same story at 13 and did go into foster care. But rather than show her this was worse than loving parents it had the opposite effect—gave her new freedoms and drugs and sex to experiment with. I have other patients who because of their childhoods are never going to work and will rely on those of us who do to support them throughout their lives; I rarely have any discussions with them about them feeling guilty about this or trying to put back into society. It is all about not taking responsibility for themselves and letting the state do it—which reinforces their sense of low self esteem, poor self efficacy and contributes strongly to their mental illness. I have a friend when in his twenties all the forms were set to go for the disability pension which he would have stayed on for life; until a psychiatrist refused to sign them, said it would be a death sentence for his mental health and that he needed a job. He did just this and believes that advice saved his life literally; he is now in his sixties with no plans to retire from a successful lucrative career.

I am not suggesting that we have an authoritarian regime as in some other countries—that has many problems! But I do think we need to adopt more a culture of with freedom comes responsibility not just to the self but others. We can start this in the home but if we don’t as a society unite to support the importance of responsibility to the greater good, I see an inevitable sad decline of all that is good into a society none of us will want to be a part of; when it all disintegrates remember Noah will only save the animals. We have to save ourselves before it’s too late.

Monday May 26th

Criticism: Makes us stronger or sends us running?

I don’t care what anyone says; no one likes criticism. It’s just that some people are in a deeper denial (they would say better defended) than others.

At one extreme my writer friends are paralysed and keep re-writing the same bit, never to finish, because of fear of failure. With my early books I cut the umbilical cord and rejected the baby to some extent, only to be told (rightly) by my writer’s group that the baby still needs nurture (mmm…editing).

I tend to say “criticism is fine if it’s constructive” which is true to a point, but it doesn’t mean I don’t secretly want everyone to agree with me and think my work if something of pure genius (I’ll settle for a ripping good yarn, or made me think or enjoyable. With my Simone Sinna titles, had the best sex in years after my husband read it will also do). We certainly need to be able to hear criticism  to improve and are more likely to be able to tolerate it if given constructively so it’s worth learning how to do this. My best teachers have been (in no particular order): my writer’s group, Syd Field’s Screenplay, Myers Briggs and Kent Hoffman (a psychotherapist involved with Circle of Security based on attachment theory that I use in my other job) and a final nod to James Blunt (yes I do like his voice and songs and I have all his albums).

Okay I’ve probably lost most of you now and the ones still reading are thinking something like WTF?

First and second go together: Syd Field’s book, though I am not and never wish to be a screenwriter, is great for understanding story structure (for plot Christopher Booker’s Seven Basic Plots was more interesting and engrossing) and being able to anchor your thoughts and know about story structure. I read extensively and I intuitively know when something is working and when it is not. I know that in crime/thriller books there are a number of things they almost all adhere to like giving hints and red herrings. But to actually be able to say what it is that is wrong is much harder and harder again to suggest how to fix it. Editors are good at the former, but not at the latter (hence why they are editors not writers), though to be fair fixing the problem has to come from the author who knows their characters and has a big picture of what happens and how it needs to be set up. From Screenplay I learnt to identify clear import parts of story which is critical to screen plays but perhaps is just as important in stories and books where the story is clear. So this means genre, yes, but also to my mind, better, literary books that stay with you, Like Burial Rites. Beautiful writing to me, alone, will just send me to sleep. Add good characters I’ll be up for a while, but add in story – then you have a masterpiece. So enter writer’s group who didn’t always use the words inciting incident or first act turning point but by identifying weaknesses in places like this it made it much easier to see how you could strengthen your writing. I need to add here some great advice I got last night from Text author Chris Flynn (A Tiger in Eden) which was in the end, don’t try to write by committee.

Next? Myers Briggs and Core Sensitivities (Hoffman et al from circleofsecurity.net) basically helped me understand myself and how I take criticism. I am an extrovert unlike a lot of authors, so I get my energy from the outside world. This means that reviews are going to draw (and repel) me like a magnet and I will find them irresistible (I read about one author that never reads them. I understand not looking up Amazon/Goodreads but reviews? Really?). Not replying is also not something that comes naturally but the advice is to ignore (James Blunt of note has some hilarious responses on Twitter to his hate tweets). I have also heard horrible stories about increasing aggression and that would be even worse.

From Hoffman I know I am esteem sensitive. Think narcissism without having to be a full blown politician. This means that reading bad reviews is soul destroying. Esteem sensitive means just that – not that you believe you are great, just that you bolster yourself up to get through life (not to delusional level, but, well, it is nice to focus on the positive reviews not the negative).

The final advice comes from James Blunt. He told the Sydney Morning Herald reporter something like this about his detractors: I don’t know them so why should it bother me?

I’m going to practice this one.

 

Another manic month- at least it helps me identify with the heroine in my psychological thriller, out under my real name early next year! I don’t think I get a weekend at home until July….having just been shopping in New York I’m not complaining too much though!

And the photo is New York (along the Hudson River), not Amsterdam….

Monday May 5th

The Writer’s Life

There is a lot of romantisization of a writer’s life – and having after many years of rejections and three unpublished manuscripts (over 140,000 words each!) on the bookshelf to now have a book contract with a prestigious publisher for a mainstream book (after 10 erotic romances…) I’m not about to complain here, just put things in perspective. I run a group called putting your life in perspective (It was called Putting your Problems in Perspective, but it is for new mothers and I changed the name when they started identifying the baby as a “problem”- the problem is lifestyle change. Not the baby) and on the plane to New York (not to research a book but for the “other” life professional conference, my husband however is doing the research) I saw a lovely movie About Time which added to the whole perspective idea. While overdoing it a tad and being arguably schmaltzy (I cried and if I ever get a second father I want it to be Bill Nighy) I loved it and the take home message was to cherish every minute of your life. I have been living that idea to some degree ever since walking the Camino de Santiago and going part time and writing the rest of the time, but it was a timely reminder.

So yes I am jet lagged (Melbourne-New York really does bad things to my sleep pattern), and there is not enough time to go to the conference, write, shop, go to Broadway, eat at all our favorite restaurants, see all our friends…yep, first world worries! But there is time to be wowed by NY in spring. Amazing daffodils on the Highline. Great views as we fantasize about where Don Tillman might live in The Rosie Effect (the book my husband is researching, out in September), to combine the bar visit in Brooklyn with catching friends in Long Island and …okay not much happening with my book but I am waiting for the edits on Medea’s Curse (and rethinking the name; The Medea Curse maybe?) due in a couple of weeks and it’s hard to think about the drafted sequel of the new Simone Sinna Book (Rulebreaker, which I am half way through!) when so much to distract me.

There was also the quick trip here via Canada… I was giving a talk in Vancouver (beautiful city!) as my husband lived the promotion side of being a writer. He likes talking and the Canadians love the book which helps, but you do get a small taste of what it is like to be a celebrity (novelists thankfully aren’t as easily recognizable as actors) but you could understand authors who want to sit in a garret and write would find the publicity tour daunting to say the least (my husband has been on the road since The Rosie Project came out in Australia in January 2013). Mine comes out in Feb 2015 and I’ll happily go on the road though the one (or none) turning up to events, the bookshops who don’t have your book are all things ahead of me I rather suspect… but that’s a writer’s life. Bring it on.

Monday March 31st

Writers: Do You Want to Know What You Don’t Know?

 

Two weeks ago I attended a Master Class for published authors.

Though my husband is a great help and fountain of knowledge, (and he studied writing and screenplays for more than five years) it is many years since I did the couple of brief writing courses and most of my knowledge has come through reading fiction with a passion (some 200 books last year!) and practice. We are told to get 10,000 hours and that was certainly what I needed to be an expert in my “other” area of work where I worked for a number of degrees. I have had a couple of  150,000 word manuscripts almost get published, one 143,000 word document thrown in the bin (by me) and all which added to those hours. Most recently writing and publishing as Simone Sinna has enabled me to write in a positive feedback loop- and get better developing character and plot line. One review of my first book said the characters were two dimensional and it hurt … but I took it on board (though I have to say the romance genre does tend to lean towards this, as does novellas where there can be limited character development).

But I have also been writing a psych thriller and felt out of the positive feedback loop with this- hence the master class. A group of more different writers you can’t imagine; fables, literary drama to postmodernist paranormal. And my thriller Medea’s Curse to be published in Jan/Fen next year by Text. The only “genre” piece of work. But after being frozen in my twenties through fear of not being able to write anything important enough to writing erotic romance suspense I have become content with what I can and cannot do – and what I want to do. Medea’s Curse might be broadly genre but it has a multi-layer plot(s) and moral and ethical issues. And I don’t think the criticisms will be about two dimensional characters. I have worked on this for nearly three years and didn’t think I could get it better…until my editor (who hasn’t attacked it yet) made some suggestions and the Master Class got to it.

Two weeks later I am looking at the manuscript in amazement. I have made a lot of changes. After the editors get at it I’m sure it will be better still. It will never be perfect, but the outside knowing eye of a knowledgeable reader who can pinpoint problems versus someone reading for just pleasure is very telling. Thank you class!

But the other gift they gave me was to tell me to read 7 Basic Plots by Christopher Booker. I was reluctant. I mean I could hardly change the plot of my book now could I? I figured when I found it was only $16 that I’d do a quick peruse…

It usually takes me a day to read a book. This took me a week and a half. The first quarter? Yeah, like the name, 7 Basic Plots; Overcoming the Hero, The Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy, Rags to Riches, Rebirth. But there are the discussion around the books that fit (and don’t fit) the mould, and then the rest of the book which is Booker’s ode to history, including science and sociology, psychology (he’s a Jungian who studied history) and an amazing (though I don’t always agree with him) attempt to pull it all together and look at why and where we are with stories in 2014.

I wish I had read it thirty years ago. I don’t think it’s too late to read it not matter how long you’ve been writing. I guess it cheers me up to see my book has got the features of a good story (doesn’t mean it is good of course!) though he is fairly scathing about crime stories and stories for mere entertainment. I read to wind down and I often use that as an excuse to read “light” thrillers rather than literature/ Pulitizer-Booker winners (which I also read). But I have never enjoyed stories without a plot and how much more rewarding to have one that is well written by someone who knows what they are doing and can maybe, even in thrillers, allow the hero/heroine to move towards learning something about themselves and teaching us at the same time.

I am now writing the sequel to Medea’s Curse. I hope that all I have read will settle in and inform rather than overwhelm. It means a far more rewarding and exciting journey.

 

Monday 17th February

The Magic of Victoria’s Surf Coast

After six weeks in the cold winter from Boulder (minus 20), to snow in New York and a pleasant but still chilly rural France, its great to be back in Aus and seeing some sunshine! This weekend I was showing off my favourite part of the world, taking a Brazilian friend along the Great Ocean Road to have prawns on the barbie (fighting off Kookaburras though not as bad as the last time I was here) and magically, soaring over the 12 (well 8) Apostles in a Helicopter. Oh and we got to see koalas in the wild too…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday November 11th

Another Day Another City

Arrived Hong Kong on Friday for their Literary Festival. Different I have to say than the others I have been too; more spread out, smaller venues. Listening to Graeme Simsion in a quaint old space that would have only fitted a 100 people max was different to the huge marquees of Byron Bay or the lecture theatres of Perth.

I have been to Hong Kong many times, but each time I see a different aspect, a chameleon city of many faces. Last year I was here for a forensic psychiatry conference and we stayed (I think) on the “other” side of Hong Kong Island. I say think because I was mostly at the conference and the two times we went other places it was by cab and I really had no idea where we went. Yes there was a mountain in the middle, views, islands and bridges. But what where and when? Well in this city I am very geographically challenged.

But I was determined this time to make some sense of it. So first I went walking. Wow. Staying in central on Hong Kong Island firstly all the streets look the same. But I had my trusty map. Luckily. The first time we were picked up to go to an event we had to make our own way back. By my reckoning we were led in a circle. Picturesque but hardly easy navigation. My bemused husband couldn’t work out how I got us back to the hotel in five minutes. He’s more geographically challenged than me – and he didn’t have the map.

Next I set out to find the water. Once map orientated – easy. Then I found the walk ways. OMG. It was like every mall and shopping centre I had ever been to was joined (and stretched upwards). For those of you (read my mother) that like shopping centres, this is your heaven. For me, who has panic attacks in the car park just imaging those endless corridors of fluorescent lights, the only saving grace was the walkways were under cover but outdoor (read natural light). This was the HK we read about but I was pinning for steep alley ways and rickety architecture.

The latter still exists. The hotels and buildings that looked new the first time I was here over thirty years ago when the place was full of “old China” are now held up with bamboo poles and added corrugated iron. Not many, but still there. And a bus ride to the Stanley market reunited me with the markets of cheap and cheerful where I really don’t want to buy anything.

Then there is the nightclub HK where we crawled between glitzy bars too early for the hip crowd and found ourselves in the new happening thing- wine bars. This one only had Californian wine and food. Oh well, why not? Not all of HK’s faces can be Asian I guess!

 

 

 

Monday October 14th

Writers- Beware What You Wish For (Or: If its 4am it must be an airport)

I have been writing since I was eight, almost published 15 years ago then published with Siren two years ago (anniversary coming up!). I am about to submit a mainstream novel (again after 15 years) after two years of hard work rewriting and editing. I like all authors (well a majority) want to be published and read. We want our readers to like our books and maybe learn, laugh or cry, maybe all three. But a majority of writers aren’t published (I have now been to sooooo many writer’s workshops where everyone is on their first novel; its either intimidating or you want to cry, sometimes both) and even those that are, in Australia at least, a 2000 print run is considered very good (well beyond anything I have got to with Siren). And this is with a big publisher and their publicity team behind you.

At the many writer’s festivals I have been too this year (courtesy of my husband being an invited speaker)  it has been fascinating to watch and learn from a range of wonderful authors with a varied success behind them; I met Michael Robotham at a time Watching You was about to hit the mainstream Aussie best seller list, and Jo-Jo Moyes just before Me Before You hit the NY Times best seller list. Heady, exciting moments, in these cases, for authors who were well established. They had worked hard writing and re-writing, their publishers had worked hard too. But beyond the writing and re-writing and editing, what else do these authors do?

Writers Festivals is one obvious answer- I’m feeling a veteran and only just started this year (except going to Melbourne Festival in past to see some Crime writers). They have been doing it a good deal longer. From the outside (from within the Green room) there is it seems to be a mix of responses from writers; cliques of the “literary” ones that keep to themselves, some who keep to themselves if for no other reason than they are nervous (Jared Diamond was one of these to my surprise, given he is well established, and intellectual, but it may be because he gets some negatives for his ideas- never think that this doesn’t have an effect. Always be constructive with your feedback!). Then there are the up and comers (and some who are just extroverts) who have lots of fun and support each other. A few narcissists stand aside but as they are swamped by their adoring audience they may not care (I suspect they are constantly checking their Amazon rating compared to the others at the festivals).

Then there is the book tours. Most authors do six weeks maximum. I have toured myself for work seminars and hypotheticals I have run; touring is, let me say, overrated (yeah, yeah, I’d take it if I was offered). Hotel rooms, constant need to be polite to strangers (some of whom are very strange), away from family, friends and familiarity. It all gets wearing. But add in a compact tour with jet lag…

My husband’s book launched in the USA last week. It’s his first. Sold into forty territories it has got great reviews (eg Washington Post last week) but unlike Dan Brown his name is unfamiliar and people don’t just automatically pick it up (as I did for instance when I saw Elizabeth George’s latest in a book shop on the weekend). Because he’s Australian they get him for two weeks (okay we are going back together in December) and the six week tour is packed into two. With the worst time differences possible, and me here and him there, it’s hard to catch each other. Particularly as he is in one to three airports every day. For the last two days there have been texts from him at 4am his time. He only had 12 hours before his first talk (at  Lobster truck in New York…go figure!.. But at least he got a hug…no not random stranger, good friend! Hope they gave him a lobster roll) he is still jet lagged. I imagine he is running on adrenaline and his talks (competing for attendees at small towns across the USA with anything from a baseball game to a rodeo) will be fun and informative. But when I do speak to him, let me say that isn’t how he is with me! I am reminded of my son aged 15; you know, at the grunting stage.

Would I want the chance to do the same? You bet, but I have been sobered a little. Even for “successful” authors the glam bit is light on. You enjoy every bit you can because it may never come again…live the dream, and even if it’s at a lesser level than overseas launches, maybe that one person who reads your book that it makes a difference for, is all that is needed. Some of the emails to my husband have given him just that. So I’ll wish for this, and if any of the rest comes…well I’ll take pseudoephedrine, a coffee machine and stilnox. And pray I end up in the right place at the right time and talk about the right thing!

 

 

 

Monday September 9th

Brisbane Writer’s Festival 2013 see http://simonesinna.blogspot.com.au/

Just have to brag (a little); it was only a first para but mine won the Sister’s of Crime Comp from this crime scene… Just so you know, amongst other clues there was a Harry Curry The Murder Book laying open, written by Stuart Littlemore (a QC).

 

Now this was a frame up if I ever saw one; circa 1920. Watch stopped at the time of death? Fingerprints on the sunglass that the victim wasn’t wearing? I’d lay bets on DNA on the mint packet where the owner put his lips to extricate one? Give me a break. I knew this woman; she didn’t read anything heavier than a Vogue magazine. So the question really was; if the boyfriend didn’t do it, what grudge did the real killer have against Stuart Littlemore?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday 5th August

Byron Bay Writer’s Festival Day 2 (okay I am putting this up on a Saturday)

(for Day One see my other blog http://simonesinna.blogspot.com.au/ )

 

The weather has continued to be the number one star of this festival – or at least for a refugee from a Melbourne Winter. Stunning warm sunny days (and it is possible to manoeuvre your chair to the periphery of the tents where the events are held, near the loud speakers, to both hear and sunbathe) and chilly nights for sleeping; all wrapped up in the perfect package of stimulating and interesting people and conversations. And not just about writing- there is a sculpture competition in our midst. The one here that is my favourite, a Jodi Poulsson (with someone by my apologies, I can’t recall his name). I had a picture but alas it won’t upload.

My day started with a fun yarn in the green room with Robert Power (and yes Irishmen can talk!), then a brief look in at fabulous first books with (Inga Simpson, Graeme Simsion & Christie Thompson). Then off to an engrossing, stimulating and inspiring (my editors say I use too many adjectives and adverbs, but honestly, these had to be put down) John Elder Robison talking about his own and his son’s Aspergers (relevant as husband Graeme Simsion’s book The Rosie Project has a socially challenged protagonist, arguably with Aspergers – he (husband, not Don Tilman) doesn’t want to read Robison as he doesn’t want to be influenced, but would have loved to have heard him speak and couldn’t because they were on at the same time. I figured I should read John’s books so when I’m reading future first drafts of the Rosie sequels I can be well informed). John is a wonderful dead pan speaker courtesy of his Aspergers, and is therefore wonderfully funny and yes, like Don Tilman, it became very clear that people with Aspergers do want connection and do care. He talked about writing and doing these talks to help other people (and children particularly) not suffer as he did, through being informed. He had to learn to stop doing off putting behaviours, and though I think still struggles at times on a one to one, this wasn’t evident in front of an audience. His take of his house being put into shut down for three days because of his son’s interest in chemistry had naturally led to test driving army level explosives and putting it on You-tube, was priceless- I gather it’s in the book I have bought but yet to read.

Next with a slight overlap (I was running between tents, worsened when I bought their books and wanted to get them signed and had to judge signing line lengths as well) I was in to M.J.Hyland’s session telling me how it was done. This was particularly worthwhile for me as her hints on success were all what my husband tells me…and it’s so much easier to hear from someone you don’t sleep with…For those interested:

  1. Leave lots to the reader’s imagination. They don’t need to know every detail eg about what someone looks like (or even all that many); that’s what a film is for.
  2. Leave the manuscript and come back to it.
  3. Lots of rewriting required (this is the one I really hate)

Unlike my husband and I she’s a “pantser” -as in seat of your pants- not a plotter/planner, as most authors I have heard at this festival have said, but I’m not sure I entirely believe them. I think they have more in their heads when they start than they admit to or know.

She’s a pretty interesting person; has MS which affects how long she can write,  comes across as rather like my heroine in the psych-thriller I’m writing, somewhat Goth looking in a hot way, and very ballsy (she used both F and C word in her talk). I gather she had a pretty colourful childhood.

Next I needed another dose of crime, so off to Sally Breen, Ed Chatterton, Tanya Levin and Michael Robotham (chaired by Marele Day); the only one I have read was Michael and his new book isn’t out yet but there were pre-release copies for us. Yes, Watching You  is now another to squeeze into  my carry on luggage (I hope Jetstar don’t weigh…). Then a whizz through story boarding where hubbie was, as well as Robyn de Crespigny who has written a heartfelt story about a refugee who happened to be a people smuggler closer to Oscar Schindler than how they are currently depicted, and a film documentary maker Mandy Chang.

The finale? A brief liaison with the CIA, Glenn Carle, author of the best selling book yesterday at the festival, The Interrogator. Okay now I need to …start reading some of these books…but I should be editing. (Sigh).

Monday 15th July : Weekend Indulgence

It was that time again. More than six months since our last Gourmet weekend. It had been looking like our calendars would never align and then (thank god) the numbers fell into place; yes all three couples were free.

We’ve been doing this for years. Three couples who all love food and wine and have a country house. We take it in turns to host and on your weekend “on” depending on your choice of menu, it can be hard work, but always milling around a fire (winter) or BBQ  (summer) with glass of wine, good friends and good conversation.

This weekend we were in the south east of the state, famous for cows, wine and cheese – and rain. We had plenty of all three. The house is perched on a hill, below us in the mornings the valley was hidden by cloud, and as I drew closer to the fire, watched the fingers of mist creep higher as there was no sun to warm them away.

It was Bastille day weekend so in honour we had steak frites, salad (from the property) and amazingly light crepes on the Friday night, with a selection of big reds (after a Caipirinha, a Brazilian cocktail).

Saturday I moved between table and couch and not much further, though we did manage to not drink at lunch time (a small miracle), and it was five before the screw the screw top (horreur!) of the Beaujolais came off. Then an amazing menu followed courtesy of our inspired hostess, in the theme of my husband’s book The Rosie Project; Claudia’s mushroom cappuccino (an amazing amount of mushrooms went into this, with truffle on top of course!), Don’s Incredible slow cooked lamb (made with precision of course!), Gene’s “cheesy” serve and Rosie’s champagne jelly and petit fours (with amazing salted caramels, all home made). Somehow we still ate the egg and bacon pie and stewed rhubarb the next morning but after the count was a bottle of wine each on Friday and Saturday, no alcohol for a while!

Monday 24th June Noosa Long Weekend

We don’t have a beach holiday house and any time I have ever thought about getting one a whole heap of things have got in the way; how far is it? how often would we get there? how much will it cost? One or all of these have got in the way. Living (mostly) in Melbourne the attraction of the beach hasn’t been accompanied by the idea of long luxurious summer days, sunsets with a cocktail of chilled white, walks along the sand in the early monring sun. Rather, it has been thoughts of long queues of cars, irrtable children (okay they are too old now, but this has been on the agenda for years) with melting icecreams smeared over the car interior and gale force winds and water too cold to swim in.

Enter Melbourne’s most northern suburb; Noosa. For those who aren’t Australian this is a joke. Its a two hour plane flight, Florida from New York. Yet most of the people living here are from Melbourne. Many are scarily young…and retired. AHHHH!!! My husband has just began his new career and I haven’t yet submitted the psychological thriller which I want to do sequels to for the rest of my life.

I was here about a year ago for a health professionals conference and it was wall to wall people and it rained constantly so I swore I wouldn’t come back. But then along came the Noosa Long Weekend (actually ten days, over two weekends) and my husband was talking about yes, The Rosie Project, so we got to take a five day weekend. We arrive and it pours, great. But then … the days have since been a magic twenty (seventy five Farenheit), blue skies, sun sparkling on the sea, I’ve read four books and eaten fabuliusly as well as a brisk walk through the state forest. We got to see Mrs Bang, a wonderful caberet performer with a great voice (Miaou Miaou was also here) and another array of authors trapsing through; Michael Leunig (beautiful book of cartoons), Sarah Turnbull (book should be Almost Tahiti after the one I read and loved, Almost French) and here I am reading Love With  a Chance of Drowning (Torre DeRoche, about sailing around the world). So maybe I could just stay here and write?…

Sydney Writer’s Festival

We came in late to the festival, on the closing weekend, the car from the airport easing carefully through puddles that were likely to swallow us whole if the ferocity of the pelting rain had been going for any length of time. We watched it from Flying Fish, still fortunately able to make out the changing colours on the Harbour Bridge, part of the opening on Vivid, an arts festival that uses technology to light up various parts of the city. We saw the Opera house the next night- one minute an Aboriginal Art spectacular, next a Ken Done painting. It was truly magical. As was Sydney’s weather for the rest of the weekend. It is coming into winter but blue sky and sunshine as my mother texted from Paris saying it was cold and miserable there.

So the festival- my second now as Graeme Simsion’s (The Rosie Project) hand bag. Bigger than Perth’s – even in the glorious weather people were out early Sunday morning to hear Nick Earls and Graeme fire one liners off each other (and some quieter reflection from Robyn Davidson who had just seen the yet unreleased version of her book Tracks on the silver screen; an amazing enough thing but even more so given it was a memoir and she was watching “herself” of thirty years ago. It took this long for Hollywood to finally get it ltogether. Hope The Rosie Project is faster or I’ll be seeing it in the Old People’s home!)

Other highlights? A wonderful hour with Carlos Ruis Zafon (Shadow of the Wind, Angel’s Game and Prisoner of Heaven). He’s currently working on the fourth and final in the series (and he assured us we might think we know what is going on but we don’t!). The amount of effort he put into getting the right English translation (he is fluent but believes he writes better in Spanish) was staggering. But he doesn’t speak the other 38 languages it is in, so who knows about them! And no it won’t be a film; while I would go to see it were it made, it was nice to hear him want to keep a book about words and books just where it belongs- in print.

I also enjoyed 50 Shades of Feminism (in Perth it was 50 Shades of Chick Lit. This was a tad more high brow!) which was telecast so you may well be able to hear it on ABC somewhere. Natasha Mitchell compered, with Jude Kelly (director of Southbank centre in London), Shami Chakrabarti (human rights lawyer once described as UK’s most dangerous woman) and Kate Mosse (author of Citadel most recently). Wow! Thoughtful smart stuff, a pleasure to listen to. Women of the world- let’s all Lean In and listen and support our fellow women where equality does not exist and continues to be undermined (I’m talking Congo, Pakistan but maybe France too with the burka ban preventing some women leaving the house).

All in all? Bring on more authors and more books! Loving it!

Monday April 15th

Dining in Style (and not on a Broomstick)

Okay it hasn’t been a month since the last Monday blog but this month is even more manic than normal…

Last week we arrived in London and after a dash to Exeter for the day I indulged myself, or rather a very good friend did: we regressed and went to Warner Brothers studio outside London for the full Harry Potter submersion. Did you know that it was properly laid Yorkshire slate on the floor of the great hall? As I thought they had used a hall in Oxford for that, I didn’t! But I got to walk on it… All the props with an amazing attention to detail, and yes the layout wasn’t quite as in the movies, though the person height model of Hogwarts, used in the movie as if real, was just as we saw it. Seeing the broomstick with the apparatus that made it look like it was flying did somewhat take away from the movie experience…

Then we ate, and London has definitely come along in the last twenty years- thank you Jamie, Nigella and yes, Gordon Ramsay whose restaurant we dined in in style. There were almost as many wait staff as guests and as we couldn’t get a booking until 10.15, we were the last to leave. Fabulous eastern European (to say nothing of the herb, dill, chilli and other vodkas we tried) at the Baltic and the private room with The Rosie Project launch at The Walmsley.

 

Yes, ready now for some plain…er French food here in Burgundy.

Monday April Ist

Nothing Foolish on this April 1st…

Just had Easter and even though it was a little later this year than some years the weather stayed mostly good with the wonderful sunny clear mornings and chilly nights typical of Easter in this part of the world. After an eight day March record streak of days over thirty Celsius (eighty five or so) you can’t rely on typical of course!

Easter tradition for us includes the eggs, hot cross buns and Easter egg hunt (though now my children set it for their younger cousins) and my daughter managed to source my favourite nougat egg from Darrell Lea- no mean feat as they went out of business! The other fun thing is out bacchanalian Roast Pork Good Friday fest. No, we aren’t religious…This year was accompanied by a double magnum of Bordeaux – see photo (called a jeroboam had it been filled with Champagne).

So now recovering on Easter Monday…it’s back to work! My husband is busy writing an article for Vanity Fair (commissioned, don’t you hate it?) on finding the perfect women. For some reason I haven’t been mentioned. I have got the edits back from my daughter of Icebreaker- first time I’ve got her to read a Simone Sinna book draft (though she skipped the sex) so I need to go through them then off to the publisher with it before leaving for London on Thursday! And a short story off as well.

This month is going to be a definitely fun one. Book launch dinner for The Rosie Project (it had an amazing review yesterday in the Sunday Times UK) on the 11th after dinner with friends and a trip to Warner Brothers to see Harry Potter with another good friend. Oh and a birthday dinner before catching the train to our house in central France. There I have a week editing Balance (working title, have another catchier title) after some input from my husband and a judge I had dinner with and then hope to get that into the publisher.

Then a week in Milan and Rome again with The Rosie Project. Friends pointed out that the Italians are brilliantly dressed so I’ll either have to shop madly in Milan (mmm could think of worse options) or hope I can fit an item or two extra in the carry on (it’s all I ever travel with).

May? I’ll be back home…

Monday March 3rd – Writing, Reading and Travelling. A writer’s pep talk.

Well February kicked off husband Graeme’s The Rosie Project launching it onto number three on the Indie best seller list and him around the country. It was month of ‘What is the name of the town you are in tonight’?  The answer as amazing as the fact that it also has a library. There is a national scheme to encourage people in the country to read. So libraries and book sellers in obscure places host authors for whom the government pays the airfares. Little old ladies come for the tea and scones and add their name to the library list. But he managed a sell out in one town. I think he sighed and hinted the book seller was going bankrupt…

It has been nice having lots of people actually reading it and saying how much they liked it, and of course being treated like royalty (same authors tent where the handbag(me) also got to go at the Perth Writers festival with luminaries  Jared Diamond, Margaret Attwood and fun people like Zane Everett, Zoe Foster and Anita Heiss (wow is she great – makes me proud to be an Aussie and hopeful that with women like her there might be a happy resolution for our Indigenous people).

So this month? It has started with ‘what country did you say you are in?’ Hit me acutely this am after the spread in yesterday’s paper on Central Park made me acutely nostalgic for New York (we lived there for 7  months and if I lived anywhere else in the world it would be there) and Graeme tells me he’s having a Margarita at our local on 17th st Suenos….wives have killed for less. Still I get London, France and Italy in April when there is better weather and I missed (thank goodness) Brighton in winter (yes, Brighton UK).

But I have to write!!! Went to see Katherine Howell and Sue Williams last Friday (Sisters in Crime) and I am so close to submitting my psychological thriller…but I have to keep polishing. Has to be just right…nerve wracking because this really counts. I feel I am living Natalie Richards life and that’s nerve wracking too…In the spare moments I have the new Simone Sinna MFM BDSM to go through as well before I submit. So much harder to get excited and sit down to editing rather than the writing! Particularly as now reading Ruth Dudgell’s first psychological thriller and its good…I want it to be mine!

So I will keep plugging and dreaming a bit, but knowing dreams without the work don’t actually have any chance of eventuating. Better to try and be rejected than never to put in the effort.

Monday February 25th

THRILL ME- TALES FROM THE PERTH WRITERS FESTIVAL

http://simonesinna.blogspot.com.au/ for a take on the sessions, below for the photos!

Andrew Croome, Zane Lovett & Parker BilalComic Relief with Ben Law, Zoe Foster & Graeme Simsion

 

 

Jared Diamond

Thrill Me- LA Larkin, Andrew Croome & Steve Worland

Graeme Simsion signing next to Margaret Atwood

Monday February 4th

January was a definite bipolar month. Highs and Lows. Lows first so I can get them out of the way and concentrate on the positives!

I am so like never going to think anyone with a sore back is a whinger ever again. Sciatica came out of nowhere and had been pretty relentless. One ultrasound, one MRI, three GPs, one Emergency Dept visit, two new chairs, two massages (sadly female masseurs but I probably wasn’t up for much other than groaning), a course of prednisolone  and over a thousand dollars later, still no better. I didn’t even go manic (the thought of me on steroids had several people including the doctor worried- I usually operate at around 9 out of ten average. The thought of over ten I found rather appealing but strangely no one else did….). Next week it’s the Osteopath and the week after the neurosurgeon. The latter was recommended to me as “wouldn’t let anyone else near my back, but man’s an asshole.” I gather this is a prerequisite for neurosurgeons.

Okay that out of the way! Wow, highlight of the month was The Rosie Project book/party launch (bookstore launch is this Thursday). This was for the connected, literati and those who had helped the author (my husband). Nearly two hundred people and four cases of rosé champagne later, a hilarious intro by Danny Katz (who on finding I was an erotic author suggested we adopted him as a plaything…) and first 100 books sold! There are now 1000 posters around Sydney and Melbourne saying “Don is getting married…he just isn’t sure who to yet…” Just seeing his book on all the main bookstore shelves gives me goose bumps. Don’t quite get that as an erotica writer- well unless you are EL James (I’m not though I think her husband is a screenwriter and my husband is in conversation with Hollywood).

So for February. It hasn’t begun well. I have tickets to the Paris Opera Ballet doing Giselle. Cost a fortune, oldest ballet company in the world. Get them out to check the time last week. It’s in Sydney. Currently I live in Melbourne. For non Aussies that 600 miles. Two flight tickets and an overnight stay later, this makes it the most expensive ballet I have ever been too…

I then get to hand my husband over to the world and say goodbye. He disappears to UK and USA. He is in a different US city every night for five nights with his publisher, Simon and Schulster. I think he can keep that gig. I do get to go to the Perth writer’s festival though with him before he leaves. I’m going to some fun workshops (crime & thriller and of course the ones my husband is doing) and will check out the “50 Shades of Chick Lit” and report back next month!

Meantime I keep writing! Current Simone Sinna is a MFM BDSM. I like to put my hand to …most things. This one is set in the snow but I may even try an Aussie outback cowboy one after that. Also writing a thriller (temporarily put the love story on the Camino on hold) which is fun, but much harder work. Particularly doing it standing up, kneeling or on my stomach…At least I can say I have suffered for my craft!

Have a great month, and write, read or both!

 

 

Monday January 7th

Last year I managed to blog five days a week without missing, despite time overseas (Including a two week walk across the UK!), and gain nearly a thousand twitter followers. I was suitably proud of myself, and my husband thought I was mad. He doesn’t blog (but is now addicted to twitter and I have to make an apt to speak to him sans i-phone). His book (one to my 5 with two coming) isn’t out until end of this month and he’s already sold more than I have. Lucky really…helps pay the bills!!!

But my next one comes first!!! The Ghosts’ Return is out January 24th with Siren and Weredevils’ Revenge should be on Amazon soon. But no cover yet…

So this month- is THE ROSIE PROJECT launch. An in house one but one open to everyone at Readings in Carlton on February 7th. Check out the website and do the questionnaires… we all had a lot of fun with them! ( therosieproject.com.au)

Until then some frantic writing before I lose him and peace and quiet. This is the year where I get to carry his luggage, but the Writer’s Conferences and world book launches should be loads of fun! Pity about having to fir the day job in! Still his adoring fans might bet a bit much. My family all read the book over Christmas and them falling all over him was hard enough!!!

I have decided to rationalise the blogs though- particularly as now I also do one on Google + (http://simonesinna.blogspot.com.au/) So Mondays and Fridays will be monthly, Tuesdays will continue with the Camino blog (I love this walk and writing about it just reminds me and is good practice for the fiction book I’m writing with my husband on it) and I read more than enough to do a weekly book review on a Thursday. On Wednesdays sins will continue- but hopefully with a few others sinning too…

 

Monday 31st December- Last Blog for the Year!!!

Triumphs 2012 … and 2013…?

I reviewed the sins of the year last week in my Wicked Wednesdays Blog so here’s for the triumphs as we farewell yet another year (OMG where does time go?) and perhaps things to work on more…

WRITING

Haven’t for one moment regretted going down to half time in the academic/clinical role I have done 60 hour weeks in for 20 years or more. Might not have won the Booker or had 50 Shades’s sales but it has been fun and Siren Bookstrand and their team fabulous-thanks guys! The great network of sirenistas has also been a wonderful bonus though the number of emails would be headache inducing if not for the delete all button at times!

Next year? Haven’t decided which of the three books drafted to work on! AHHHHH!!!!

Speaking of writing- The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion is out in Aus on Jan 30th and wherever I can I’m tagging along to writer’s festivals and book tours in 2013. Should be fun!

CHILDREN

They’ve both finished first round of uni courses but I’m not facing empty nest just yet. One doing honours (then masters or PhD) and the other tossing up between honours and a JD. They won’t be going anywhere soon and I will continue to enjoy having them around and being grateful for them!

 

TECHNOLOGY

This was the year of Facebook, Google + and Twitter. My head is still in a spin with them all and I have a long way to go…

TRAVEL

I LOVE TO TRAVEL. We couldn’t get time off for the Assisi walk this year (or next) but managed the Coast to Coast walk across the UK in the rain in September. Who knows next year? Definitely some time in our house France, then UK and USA with husband’s book tours- look out for them and come and say Hi! I’ll be the one in the front row glaring at the hot women throwing themselves at the author…

BALANCE

Text publishers and my husband came up with this questionnaire (online – www.therosieproject.com.au ) related to the book and score tells you (in a light funny way) which character you are most like. Whether I  am more Rosie (feisty heroine) or Claudia (mother, psychologist and somewhat long suffering wife) hangs on one question. I know even maybe two years ago, and certainly ten years ago I would have answered as passion in my work being the most important. It still is, very, but I err now towards answering ‘balance’. I work hard and am passionate about everything I do, but it is so important to have work, family, social and exercise all into your life to really live it well.

Monday 24th December

Monday- It’s Christmas Whether You Are Ready or Not…

It’s weird having Christmas on a Tuesday. We’ve just had the weekend and one day then two more off. Though over the weekend of course the shops were open, keen to wring every last cent out of us. All those last minute presents and people we’ve forgotten.

I’m not working this Christmas but I have in my younger days. The day when it is meant to be about families and good cheer, but all too often it isn’t. In the Emergency department there are all those accidents in the day – new knife that slipped through more than the turkey, the bike junior wasn’t quite big enough for just yet. By the evening it’s the brawls. There is a reason families don’t get together except at Christmas. It might be better never to get them together.

One particular family used to be infamous. There was a strong history of drugs and alcohol, violence and mental illness. Case managers go one leave and the brother they always hated turns up with the weed, mother pours alcohol into them to calm them and of course it does the opposite. There used to be a betting scheme out on them- which of them would be admitted to the psych ward and which one to the surgical.

It’s a bit like putting together Sarah Palin, Osama Bin Laden (when he was alive though sometimes on home visits this is hard to tell) and the Pope together for the day. Well at least in this case their tweets would be entertaining.

“Fuck you all”

“You are fucked.”

And “Bless you all.” But then that would have been prescheduled.

As they all think they are in the right do you suppose they all end up in an individualised Heaven? Putting them all together would be beyond anyone’s definition of Hell surely?

It is for others a day of sadness, a day of lost hope and wishes that never came true. Of Christmases without the child that presents had already been bought for. My heart goes out to the parent’s of the Connecticut massacre (and all others that have lost children). I lived and worked in Connecticut. The people I knew were pro-gun control. But it still didn’t help if the laws don’t make sense.

When I stopped full time work about 18 months ago it was because I thought life was too short not to try and do everything you want to and live every single moment. I haven’t changed my mind on this, and Christmas is one of those times for reflection. If life and your family isn’t what you want it to be, what can you do to change it? You can’t bring someone back to life, but you can cherish and honour memories, forgive and be more tolerant (okay I’m thinking of the sister you want to strangle here).

My husband did a wonderful short movie once called push-up. It covers forty years of Australian family Christmases, 1966-2006 (not every year of course!). The father and son end up doing push up competitions, originally for a watch, in the end one wonders if the now forty something year old son who has never won wants to bump his Dad off. He doesn’t and in the process learns about the futility of this aspect of a father son relationship.

The bit I really like though is the Aunt. Each year she turns up with a different man, from a different nationality, dressed like him; Chinese (cutting room floor), African, and Spanish. She also does punk (its wild, as she was an ample sized woman and dressed in a pink tutu she’s unmistakable and unforgettable) and finally gay. It’s a wonderful brief commentary about accepting change and difference. May we all try and do that this Christmas.

The warmest, merriest and most congenial Christmas to you all!

 

Monday December 17th

A Belated Christmas Tree

Is it REALLY the 17th??? Ahhh… the spot in the corner has been carefully cleared by my daughter. I look at it and feel guilty (this is normal, I’m a mother). I won’t list the things that got in the way of a Christmas tree, suffice to say, there were a few. And subtly suggesting the small synthetic one in the cupboard might do wasn’t working. We had to kill a tree. In 2000-1 we bought a live one and planted it later which made me feel better but it got to the balance of guilt and where it was strongest. Mother guilt won. Having A tree was better than none which is what would have happened if I had had to find a correctly sized tree in a tub that would have survived until I found a spot to put it (and then thoroughly neglected it).

When they turn into hot men- much cuter to put under the tree! checkout Were-Devils' Curse and Were-Devils' Revenge!

We have had Christmas’s all over the world. I grew up in Australia with English Christmas cards (you know, the snow, reindeers etc) while I was asking for bathers and water related toys. We ate roasts and plum pudding and it never felt right. My children have had at least half a dozen Northern Hemisphere Christmases. But given we now in Australia use Christmas cards with sunburnt reindeers and the odd kangaroo, this has probably confused them as much as I my childhood confused me (probably a role of parents by design or default).

But wherever we have been, we have always had a Christmas tree, and the whole process and decorations and everything is surprisingly similar in London, Paris, rural France, Australia- Sydney, Melbourne, New York and New Hampshire (the places I have had Christmas).

There is something therapeutic about it. Tradition, and whatever religious roots it may have had, it has transcended that to be part of a culture that in Australia at least is quite separate from religion.

So we take my husband’s 4wheel drive, recently cleaned (I wonder how he feels about the smell of pine? The odd needle or two?). Having tried online for the elusive live tree we give up and drive. Then there it is. Okay, a bit small admittedly, but the guy selling it swore to me it would survive my maltreatment.  We have a tree and we get to feel good when we plant it. To say nothing of entertaining the cockatoos who love ripping pine cones for the nuts. Better that than my window sills…

Monday December 10th

Mid Life Crises

Of course it becomes a crisis because of the fear that it might be past midlife (no guarantees in this world after all). A few hundred years ago midlife was likely to be about twenty if you were lucky. Now children born in the western world can expect to live to over eighty on average and having got to forty or more then it goes up as you’ve already survived baby diseases and teenage stupidity (sometimes more by good luck than good management).

So you do sit down (or fall down after too much to drink) on your forty plus birthday there are all these possible questions and thoughts:

  1. What the f*ck have I been doing for the first forty years?
  2. Do I want to keep doing this (if you’re asking the answer is probably no)?
  3. What else can I do? (The answer can be depressing. Yes you can learn a musical instrument for the first time but you aren’t going to be very good at it)
  4. I can’t be forty- it’s all a mistake. I don’t feel any older than when I was twenty.
  5. Who is that person in the mirror (after fifty your eyesight deteriorates so this isn’t such a problem).

 

Then you have to look for answers:

  1. Drink more. Except that you aren’t as young as you used to be and you’ll start to feel really old.
  2. Have an affair with someone twenty years younger. But when they run screaming from your sagging ….fill in the gap…body part, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
  3. Buy a Harley. This will solve getting old. I believe the death rate in the midlife crisis group is high so hopefully you won’t have to worry about wheelchairs.
  4. Buy a sports car and dress like a James Bond or one of his heroines. I did this at my thirty year old crisis I feel it worked better at that age.
  5. Perform some death (possibly) defying feat such as-
    1. Climb Kilimanjaro (altitude sickness makes this less than fun- one good bit of news is that young men are more likely to get this badly than oldies
    2. Walk the Kokoda trail (warning, this killed able bodied army guys and there are leeches)
    3. Walk the Camino de Santiago (now this I can definitely recommend but if you do the Camino Frances with the hoards and hostels beware bed bugs, sleep deprivation, bad backs (from sleeping on the floor because you didn’t get up earlier enough to get a bed at the next hostel))
    4. Write a book. Okay this is one thing older people can do. And its fun! If you’re like my husband you might even make money out of it!

Monday December 3rd

Paranormal fantasy- what’s the attraction?

Why exactly are we fascinated with werewolves and vampires? And I contend we are- you only have to look at the best seller lists and they’ll be there, and the popular TV programs.

It isn’t because the Twilight series was that good. Certainly the movies weren’t.  But maybe these books did bring in a younger audience and just opened up the possibilities for them, a bit like Harry Potter books did for a generation of young boys.

Buffy was the first to hit the TV in a big way (and then Angel), this mostly had the vampires as the bad guys and loads of action, and a feisty heroine. Definitely not a Bella. Things weren’t as clear cut in this as in other super hero series. There was a ‘bad boy’ element and more complex characters than the Joker and Scarecrow. Somehow it’s easier to identify with someone who occasionally bares teeth and drink blood than someone in full white makeup and a painted smile.

Vampire Diaries are all about the love triangle so closer to the erotica and romance fiction. This also adds other characters; witches, werewolves and occasionally ghosts. What is so good about this series I ask my 20 year old daughter?

“Damon.” This seems to be reason one two and three. My son doesn’t watch it…

The danger seems to be a key too though because this constantly puts the hero into a situation that is compelling. Some easy accessible escapism. Having extra powers, being invincible…this appeals to us all somewhat. It’s like watching James Bond ride his motor bike over the rooves of the Turkish markets and knowing he’ll survive. The adrenaline rush but not at the paralysing level that it might be if it was for real (I jumped out of a plane once and was frozen with fear!).

For me the possibilities beyond the confines of the real allow me as the writer to open up new dimensions and tap into mystery, secrecy, action, romance and magic all at once. What’s not to like? Developing my world of were-devils and ghost vampires inspired by real animals and their viral curse, opened up all sorts of possibilities that by the final one includes a love that has gone through different times and places and then finally resolves. Across the four novellas we have five love affairs between the ghosts and were-devils (the fifth is the one that went wrong and caused the curse- we hear about that in Were-Devils’ Revenge). There is also an intricate curse, races to find the vaccine to save lives, death at the hands of the ghosts, a bushfire that threatens to wipe out the were-devils (Ghosts’ Return out in February), deaths of the true vampires and a flood (Ghosts’ Release the final book). It isn’t dull…

So – more were-devils coming! Actually there’s a whole family of them and I put up the family tree (as well as their rivals, the ghosts) on my website- just click on the were-devils and ghosts tab! My husband suggested this as he was getting a bit lost when editing. But I think women are used to juggling who is who so most people will manage. Compared to Game of Thrones this is nothing!

Today, Were-Devils’ Revenge, the second in the Were-devils of Tasmania series is available at siren

 

Monday November 26th

Bondi, and short films to laugh and cry over

When my husband started a screen writing course some years ago it took us into a world we knew little about. Because most of the people in his class were younger, and no one had any money but loads of enthusiasm, it sent us on a journey of film making- short, sharp, sweet …and cheap. Students get to use the expensive camera equipment free (though truth is a digital Sony does a damn fine job) and by the time you link up with an acting school and audio-visual students everyone gives their time for free (and a credit).

It’s been a lot of fun, though you can’t help but feel sorry for the actors who are mostly making do with hospitality jobs until they finally give up and move into something that pays a little better but doesn’t using the acting skills they have been honing. The audio-visual students do better. There’s always a job for technological knowhow.

My husband isn’t techie- he’s a writer, but he’s driven, a good networker and practical, so he worked out early on that if you want to see your work on the screen you need to organise it yourself. By default he’s done a lot of producing. His one and only cinematographer and director credit got into the Bondi film festival, shown this last weekend in Sydney. ‘Reason for Living’ was made for his documentary class, on a hand held Sony. It didn’t win anything – ‘The Maker’, a beautifully crafted short with dolls took out most of the awards− but it was one of the few at the festival with a story and a story arc, which made up for a lot of the technical faults (not that I saw these, not being techie myself).

It’s about a socially challenged guy now 60, talking about his early struggles, how he finally married in his forties and then the ensuing difficulties and illness. It’s very touching, and the audience struggled to know whether to laugh at his nerdiness or cry at his insights, or both. I have seen it many times and never fail to be moved by it, perhaps even more so this time. I know in his twenties he nearly killed himself. People like this at the end of their tether ring lifeline all the time. Some don’t make that and it’s tragic to think that with time and maturity they might have, like Rod, found a Reason for Living.

The festival showed a number of documentaries, one on Boxing, one on Alex Jenkins the sole survivor of a WW II plane that was hit and a delightful one about garden gnomes and the eccentric woman who bought them and filled her garden with them. It had started after her husband left her and they well and truly replaced him. We all need a reason for living- these had become hers.

We also need to laugh- there is far too much bad news and seriousness in the world and it’s important to keep a balance. The gnomes helped with this. I still picture the one from Amelie travelling the world…in this short they were quick to tell us that none of this woman’s gnomes had been harmed in the making of the film and instead special stunt gnomes had been employed…

As a final note, though Rod’s partner has been dealt a bad hand, she keeps in good spirits and has him to care for her, a better deal than many. And his quirky take on the world inspired the Feel Good Novel of 2013: The Rosie Project, out in Australia in February.

Monday November 19th

Just Over a Month to Christmas

Not wanting to panic anyone but…

If you are one of those well organised people who bought all the pressies on sale a month ago, stop reading now. Or read and gloat. The rest of us will be edgy for the next four weeks then panic will unleash itself and we will hit the chops with everyone else, want to kill them, remind ourselves we don’t like (fill in the space here) and why are we buying them anything anyway? So we won’t and then in a day or two feel guilty and get the voucher (guys) or the soap/bubble bath (girls) that they will smile wanly upon receiving and give you the same thing (probably what you gave them last year).

A few years ago we decided we had too much “stuff” and with my sisters decided to put in to a collective fund and buy a chicken/goat etc of which we received a photo but they went to a deserving family in a third world country. We felt good, they got something they needed, everyone was happy. Except my mother. She thought this was a ridiculous idea and while my sisters and I still do it, we still have to get parents and out children’s presents.

Christmas is really about the kids, and I love getting them pressies so I understand where my mother was coming from. But it was easier when they were five. Now in their early twenties it usually means clothes shopping, for which they have to be present and it takes away the surprise somewhat! My son is a delight to shop with. Maximum two shops, one hour, all over. My daughter? Days, weeks, sore feet and many headaches later we still have only one item…

Then there’s the food to consider. Not just what, but where. My husband’s or my family? Usually both, on the same day, with vast amounts of food and about fifty km (forty miles) between. Now I remember why we’ve spent so many years overseas at Christmas. We told the family we wanted a white Christmas, but it was just so we could stay in one place. Besides its easier to eat more if it’s cold. Who wants turkey and plum pudding in thirty (eighty) degrees? Maybe it’s not too late to book out tickets.

Monday November 12th

Monday and all the Reasons I Need to Get Up

It’s warmer than it was. Not that warm true, and now the heaters are off (and we can now afford to eat. Yeh, yeh, my husband sold his International book rights for trillions but not one book has sold and he doesn’t get a cent until mid next year. We could starve by then…). It is going to rain. Okay scratch this as a reason, bed is looking cosier by the minute.

I don’t have a hangover. Excellent, but this is only because I drank at lunchtime yesterday rather than dinner (and in the afternoon at my friend’s art exhibition) so more time to recover. But if I stay in bed all day then I can totally clean out the system. Not good enough, I’m staying put.

I need more sleep. I thought it was the Texas Grand Prix early this morning (Aus time) and I had to watch it. Only I got up and had my weeks mixed up. Next week. I was just keen not to miss it.  In Exclusive this is where the tear jerker scene happens. Well at the Texas Grand Prix ball. Stephanie finally makes up her mind and has to say goodbye to the man she isn’t going to have a HEA with (she then goes onto a wild sex scene in the Texas penthouse with the one she does have the HEA with, but for me Texas is the tears over man one, which are really tears over a lover farewelled in real life many moons ago and it’s not that I want to be with him, it just takes me back there. Bridges of Maddison County does it to me too). But trouble is I’m awake now and unlikely to go back to sleep.

This is the best time to go to the gym. I can’t do gym later in the day, things get in the way. Right now I made the mistake of allowing an option rather than getting up without thinking. Things are starting to get in the way. My great grandfather smoked and spent the last twenty years in an armchair and still lived to 96.

I have a meeting. This is why I am at home and not up the country writing. I need to go to this meeting. It was the only day we could all do it, and it’s about planning for next year and I managed to raise money this year through this group that got a couple of my hard working staff to conferences they wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise (public service has all sorts of awards that all fall apart when the manager says “no”). Mmm maybe I could Skype them?

I have hours of wrestling with social media ahead. I seem to now have another account and I’m not sure what to do with it. Having nearly missed a review of Were-Devils’ Curse I also have to add a google search regularly. And I have a masochistic need to check how many books I’ve sold (or haven’t). Blogs to write. Okay, definitely staying in bed.

The cat is driving me nuts (wants his bone) and the children are unlikely to be up before midday. It’s swatvac. If they can stay in bed why can’t I?

Okay, I’m getting serious now. GET OUT OF BED AND STOP SNIVELLING. YOU’VE GOT A BOOK TO EDIT. Shit I mean WRITE!!! And the really exciting thing that’s going to get me out of bed to alas rewrite another draft is that my sister bless her stayed up to midnight to read the draft I put out and loved it. This is my mainstream one…yes I can and will do it!!! This is the only reason I need but I will go to the gym and my meeting too.

Monday November 5th- From Stephanie Beauman

Abu Dhabi- Stephanie’s Grand Prix Review

I’m posting this today en route to the plane I’m taking to the Melbourne Cup which will feature in tomorrow’s blog – a bit of a change of the usual order of things but then the Melbourne Cup doesn’t happen every day.

The GP circuit has been heating up- two GP’s in a week and literally in the heat of the middle east (unless you’re indoors, including the garages, which are all airconditioned!). Abu Dhabi is extraordinary. The circuit looks like its straight out of a Fisher & Paykel box and the locals are still enjoying undoing the wrapping. I wasn’t sure I’d leave the hotel. Besides being stunning (and cool) there was the small problem of everything being done by the touch of a button…and I couldn’t find the button.

In contrast the race had been getting a bit predictable. Boy wonder was slow start to the season but then hit his straps and the championship is all but his. Vettel was, I’m sure, starting to think he was God, but it’s all a plot by the FI management to ensure we don’t get bored or to remind all this is about more than just the drivers. Vettel ran out of petrol in practice- and the rules are clear. You finish on the track without petrol to test, go to the back of the grid. So instead of on pole Vettel found himself at 24th.

Hamilton was delighted to have the opportunity to be in the lead, Webbber second, Maldonado in third and Raikkonen fourth, Button fifth, Alonso still in contention for the championship but with ever dwindling hopes, in sixth.

The start was magic to watch. Raikkonen took off like a man on fire, but with all the intuitive expertise of a champion, taking him right into second. Alonso, also with fire in his belly, took the opportunity to go into fourth, completely reordering the top four before the first lap was over.

There was plenty of excitement elsewhere. Hulkenberg and Senna flew off the track together and with safety car out after lap 9 when Rosberg and Karthikeyan had a spectacular crash they both walked from. Vettel’s front could hold on no longer and had to take a pit stop for a front wing change. Hitting the DRS sign didn’t help. Either the car or his humour. Puts him back at the end again.

Lap 14 they were all back racing once more, Webber unusually aggressive but it did him no good, Alonso holding on. Vettel wasn’t about to give up (the boy has spunk) and from the back began racing past everyone. But lap 20 after doing all things right, Hamilton (another boy wonder and this one with an excess of self-opinion somewhat at odds to his performance at times) came to a stop, not for the first time as lap leader and due to electrical faults. Goodbye to any championship hopes he might have still entertained. This put Raikkonen into first and Alonso not wanting to be left out of the excitement passed Maldonado into second, Webber closing in but unable to do likewise. Then in Lap 23 Webber hits Maldonado as he tried this again, spinning off and though returning, now in 7th. Poor Webber, he just doesn’t do aggressive well. It was investigated and dropped. Vettel meantime has made it to 10th and Button does pass Maldonado!

Lap 26 Webber does it again!!! This time he and Massa spin each other around! This is also investigated… surely they must be saying you are giving us the wrong name- didn’t you mean Grosjean? Maldonado? I’m starting to wonder if this is the same staid driver we’ve got used to! Someone added something to his cornflakes…Webber comes out best in 6th and Massa drops to 15th– but Vettel is there on Webber’s tail.

Vettel needs the points more than Webber in fourth, but Webber comes in for stop (probably told to in order to get him out of Vetttel’s way) as does Raikkonen. Suddenly Vettel, incredibly, is in second briefly! Whether he can stay there is another matter- his tires were changed some time ago. By lap 33 its Raikkonen, Vettel, Alonso and Button.

By this stage, quite aside from the race itself, the view is stunning and if it wasn’t so noisy (okay its sexy but wearing on the ear drums, ear plugs or not) a lot of time would be taken just looking at the marina, the pink shaped roof or the blue glow of the wave shaped roof, the harbor and hotels lit up like magic.

Then just when things were looking like they might settle for a while (it was the middle sector after all), there was Webber (in 8th) again. More than amphetamines overdose (or multivites as these are the ads he keeps popping up in) in the cornflakes, it was like third time bad luck. The sort of flip side of the karma that Vettel seems to be getting. Perhaps he’d been looking at the view- probably ahead the far distant rear of Vettel. Bad mistake. Vettel pits again but emerges well ahead of the bunch and clear of the melee, starting with a Perez overtake, Di Resta going off and ending in Grosjean (not his fault, poor boy has been on his best behaviour for some time) and Webber spinning off- and out. Bye Bye championship well and truly. Another investigation. Perez penalised.

Lap 42 they’re back racing again. Raikkonen, Alonso, Button, Vettel and Maldonado. Now things will really matter. Vettel sat right behind Button. I’m sure he could have felt his breath on his neck. Alonso meantime is doing the same to Raikkonen. Then Vettel makes his move and takes Button getting into third, which not only keeps his hopes alive but also Red Bulls. Beautiful clean professional driving from them both.

So they come in, Raikkonen, an older champion showing he still has what it takes for Lotus, Alonso and then Vettel, an amazing third from the back position to maintain his overall lead. A boy wonder indeed.

Monday 29th October

It’s hard not to be inspired. Three days away and from the floor to ceiling windows across the front of my girlfriend’s house the view soars high above houses below to the ocean. We can hear the waves at night and during the day soak in the salt air mingled with eucalypt, the tress in the National park behind us full of koalas. It is tempting to just go animal spotting rather than writing though they have been coming to us. The kookaburra was particularly welcome when it swooped in through the open balcony door to collect the huntsman spider I had been trying to sweep out the door and had bounced back towards me. Saved by a bird.

The coastline here is superb. We’re not quite in the huge tree house on the Californian coast that Katherine Neville wrote The Eight in, but close. Restaurants in either direction but we just want to sit and enjoy, a BBQ lunch, crisp cold Chablis and seafood for dinner. Bliss. I just wish I could do with less sleep- so much to enjoy and do!

Eating out with Text publishing last week I ended up armed with four new books to read. Two at least relevant to books I have partly written and hope to make a full time career out of: Guilt & Crime. No I don’t want to become a criminal, just use my forensic psych experience to write fictionalised nonfiction or crime psychological thriller. I have one of each (the former not completed because I thought the second would be better). I also had Nine Days by Toni Jordan- I reviewed her first book last week and though there has been another in the middle, this is completely different to both. And finally the latest Carlos Ruiz Zafon. I loved Shadow of the Wind.

So all good? Well I also need to write…current novel on hold until we get some feedback from publisher and friends who are busy reading. But I need to do final check of The Ghosts’ Return and start the final in the Were-Devils of Tasmania series. Help! I need some amphetamines, a personal assistant, no make that a PA and a chef. At least no TV, internet and I can turn the iPhone off. Then I’ll need a break…

Monday 22nd October

Wedding Anniversaries

Okay there is no doubt that the commercial band wagon is out in force at every opportunity. Valentine’s Day leaps to mind. But what about wedding anniversaries? There’s now competing lists of ‘new’ and ‘old’ presents you can pick from. But guys (you, the ones wanting to make a buck) where is your imagination? Or rather mine is not being inspired. It started off hard enough. Paper? Really? The alternative of clocks had more potential but I’d given my first husband a huge station clock that sat proudly over our stairwell and was still there when I left and somehow I just didn’t want to go back there. This time it was a framed print of exotic dancers.

Second. Cotton? China? Men are hard enough to buy for anyway let alone expecting this to be inspiring and it wasn’t much help to him either. Given we have an Antique store china just seemed a bit passé.

Now leather. I’m a clothes girl and things were looking up but putting my husband into leather trousers? Ugh, did that to the first one and I do think you have to be Elvis Presley or gay.

Wood? If he had been a handyman maybe. Mind you, he found me a fabulous Chinese wooden jewellery cabinet.

Wool was a highlight- a fabulous heavy woollen cloak from Venice that I flounce over to the cloak room in and announce that it will be the only cloak for the night. There may be a reason for that.

Tin? I found a band called Tin something…

My husband is soooo much better at this than me. For Lace he got Our pLace. The deeds to a French farmhouse. So much better than a trip to Belgium or the Lace island of Venice, or the more realistic doily.

I really like rubies, but fortieth? That seems a long unlikely way off…and the in between numbers are so uninspiring. This years? I’ll just have to keep thinking.

Monday 15th October

Monday Spring Clean

After spending my break up to my ankles in mud and water walking the Coast to Coast in England I returned having missed the one warm spring day, to more cold and wet. But yesterday was Melbourne spring at its best. Brilliant blue sky, the sun assuring me it was at least twenty degrees (seventy five-ish Fahrenheit) even if my iPhone was saying it was still 12. The wisteria is white at the front of the house and purple at the back and the banksia rose is masses of yellow blooms. Suddenly I feel like gardening – and a spring clean of the study.

Where a writer works is fairly critical. I can rewrite and edit just about anywhere, and sometimes when engrossed in the story can even write on a plane (the last of my creative choices. Planes even ruin movies). But mostly, if I want those creative juices to flow (mmm maybe not the best turn of phrase for an erotic fiction writer), I am mindful of the surrounds. The family are generally pretty good at keeping interruptions to a minimum (the kids congregate enmass to enter the inner sanctums, but that’s because they are usually after money). No one rings me because they know I’m either not with my phone, it’s on vibrate or the battery is dead.

My first choice is either our French farm house or a cottage north of Melbourne where we do most of our writing. No phones apart from our iPhones and no internet (we can get it in France) and no TV. Not that having a TV there is an attraction for me, it wouldn’t get turned on (that said I watched Daniel Craig in Casino Royale last night and relived my character Stephanie’s love affair with Jeffrey Carraway in Exposé and Exclusive. I clearly had Daniel Craig in my head when I wrote them as every time I see him I turn into Stephanie and feel he’s being unfaithful when he gets it on with the film heroine. Oh well).

But at least three days a week I am in inner city Melbourne and occasionally on Fridays to Mondays which are my writing days. So it needs to be right.

I have a lovely French antique desk with secret drawers and a large open surface. Or it would be if it wasn’t covered in: phone, fax phone, lamp, statue (gift from colleague), a computer backup disc, a pile of discs, a sticky tape dispenser in the shape of a high heel shoe (another present- someone knows me…), and then the three piles of ‘to do’. No wonder I like going to the country. A spring clean is in order. The pile of documents on the floor is going to have to stay. I wonder about all those boxes…?

Up until yesterday the walls were covered in my favourite film photos. Now I’ve pruned those down (Gone With the Wind remains…) and added by book covers. Bless you Jinger Heaston and Christine Kirchoff. The words are flying off my fingers…

 

Monday 8th October

Farewell to France

I’m feeling a little Hemmingway, even if when wandering in Paris at midnight trying to flag a taxi he didn’t materialise. Nor did a taxi. Or at least not until the one that wouldn’t take four people stopped and we packed our friends off into it, and then another finally that only took us because we refused to close the door. He didn’t want to take us because he couldn’t understand our accents and didn’t want to bother trying. I bet Hemmingway had a lousy French accent too. Anyway Farewell to Arms was a crummy movie.

But arrogant taxi drivers aside, as always I enjoyed the Paris (and before that rural France) retreat. All hotel rooms in Paris are designed to make you feel like you’re a struggling student in a garret−about the size of a postage stamp, no lifts or is there is two people have to breathe in to fit, and hot water that either trickles or scalds. That said when you husband is disappearing into the bathroom at odd hours of the night to talk to his Hollywood agent it is hard to maintain this belief. Since first coming here as a struggling student the concierge’s attitude has improved. I had thought it was my improved accent but given the taxi driver experience perhaps not.

There is the shopping, the food, the ambiance. Given I was at a conference there wasn’t really time to reacquaint myself the Louvre or Musee D’Orsay but I enjoyed vicariously my friend’s sisters art through the book she showed me from the exhibition opening she had been to when we’d been toasting the success of The Rosie Project with my husband’s delightful French publishers. The exhibition was loosely titled In the Body of the World or the Origin of the World and was about women’s bodies essentially. Her sister’s piece related to a painting she had been commissioned to do, recreating an explicit piece that left nothing to the imagination (and beautifully painted in both versions) but even more interestingly, the video of people walking past her as she was doing so and their comments. Everything from pornographic desire to horrified parents herding their children past rapidly.

So farewell to all this, the long dreary flight home (no upgrades have miraculously appeared) and then- well our food and art is up there, taxi drivers the same and you can only miss tiny hotel rooms and shopping for so long…

Monday 1st October: Writing in France

After the wet and cold of Yorkshire, I was greeted by brilliant sunshine the first morning in our house in central/east France, somewhere just out of Beaujolais. I can see why the Brits are buying up here, though our town is thankfully very French. Nothing wrong with the British, but, well, this is France.

I’m here to write. Peace and quiet, no land lines, no TV. Green countryside with a short walk into the village for a coffee and croissant. A fully fitted out kitchen to whip up the odd Coq au Vin, and a cellar full of wine. What could go wrong?

The mobile. I personally turn mine off. But then I didn’t just sell a book for over a million…My husband’s phone has been ringing constantly. Hollywood called. The email box is overflowing. He was interviewed by the Age newspaper. Everything is all about Rosie, while we are meant to be writing our joint project and need to workshop the refinement of our secondary characters. Is the youngest Brazilian walker going to be a sulky teenager (think daughter, niece aged 14) or my daughter’s delightful but flaky friend?

I think I’ll be making the decision myself, but then, that’s the fun part about the creative process. Just this is a book we are both writing−or rather he’s writing the male version and I’m doing the female one. Two completely takes on the same story. Challenging but lots of fun! Trouble is if I have a sulky teenager and he has a gorgeous flake, will they be recognisable as the same person from two perspectives?

Then there’s the other thing that goes wrong. The wine. We’re in France, the cellar has a few good bottles and my cousin who stayed here last left us a half dozen top wines. We’re only here six days. Wine I find is not conducive to writing. Well. Not well unless you’re Hemmingway (I’m not). If I have a glass of Beaujolais at lunchtime (and how can I not, the sun is shining, there it is open…) sends me directly to bed for an afternoon sleep.

I have a group of party goers in my book, taking a cocktail tour of France and Spain. Maybe I can just channel them? Can I tax deduct the wine and spirits as research???

Monday 24th September

Coast to Coast Finale- Lessons Learnt

With Monday comes the last day for us of the Coast to Coast walk across England, made famous by Alfred Wainwright. I gather he never did the whole thing at once. We did it (307 km or 190 miles) in 16 days which was the shortest way of traversing without doing over 30km (20 miles or so) on any one day, or at least with Contours who organised it and had our luggage carried by packhorse. With respect to the latter this is a company, not my husband.

What have I learned?

  1. Human beings are designed to walk. I knew this from walking the Camino, but had forgotten it took me 10 days for my body to be reminded of this. On an 87 day walk this is okay, not so much on a 16 day walk!
  2. England is cooler than Australia.
  3. The Lakes district has lakes that have to get their water from somewhere. It doesn’t come from vague rivers from somewhere else; it rains. A lot.
  4. Climbing, scrambling and sliding up mountains in the rain is not much fun.
  5. Sunshine makes an enormous difference to one’s sense of wellbeing. We were lucky, we did get some.
  6. There is no such thing as water proof gear.
  7. Stuffing newspapers in wet boots helps them dry but not as much a damn hot fire.
  8. Cathy may still be looking for Heathcliff on those moors but I didn’t bump into Rochester on his horse. The moors are however, beautiful.
  9. English pubs are quaint but they don’t put the heating on as early as they should.
  10. The English gentry speak nicely, wear weird things to hunt grouse, have nice Manners and Manors and occasionally you get to stay in one of the latter because things aren’t the way they used to be. I was grateful.
  11. English pub food has improved in the last 30 years but avoid the breaded anything and still expect stodge in Yorkshire.
  12. English pubs don’t know anything about wine.
  13. I don’t like English beer.

Did I enjoy it? Definitely. A great way to spend a couple of weeks, even if your husband is Skyping his publisher every morning.

17th September

Monday and it’s Yorkshire

Day eight of the Coast to Coast and we’re now in Yorkshire. Yesterday to be fair we had sunshine (a little) and it was fine and we were greeted in Kirkby-Stephen with tea and cake and great steak and cabbage (yes cabbage with cream, peas and zucchini was best I’ve ever had) at the local bistro. But today – yes, you guessed it- more rain. Blisteringly dreary, constant, cold wet, monotonous, continuous, annoying…you’ve probably got the gist.

My husband reminded me we have chosen and paid for this. The Englsih couple at breakfast, who had moved to Sydney six months ago but returned because this holiday had already been booked, had been considering option two. A plane to Rome and a glass of Chianti in the sun. In the midst of peat bog, slush and mud I want my ticket NOW.

We arrive in Keld. There is only one pub. We didn’t book early enough to get accommodation there so we have to wait for a taxi to where we are staying. Back where we were lsat night. There is just something wrong about arriving in Yorkshire then watching the road you walked flash past as you return to Cumbria. The weather is no better here.

But the car will come to take us back to Keld tomorrow and I’ll stifle an uurge to say ‘take me to the station’ and keep praying that the weather improves…

10th September

Coast to Coast

Since discovering the joys of long distance walking I have had my eyes on the Coast to Coast, Alfred Wainwright’s classic 307km (190 mile) walk from the Irish sea at St Bees to Robin Hood’s Bay on the west coast of England. I should hasten to add that when I say walk, there is no tent or cooking is required, but rather the luxury of a bed and bath, to say nothing of someone else providing you dinner – and the accompanying wine!

So finally there was space in our diary and we arrived after two trains trips (the second sounded like a large truck and you had to request your stop) we arrived at St Bees (misspelt and heard, after an Irish woman called Bega. Given the accents I understand what went wrong). A bottle of Spanish wine later (okay we hadn’t started walking but we were getting into the spirit of things), a not half bad plate of moule (mussels) and some faijitas, still on Australian time I fell into bed.

We were up and out the door shortly after seven, deciding nine was too late for breakfast and followed the trail as it wound around the coast, past the lighthouse and then inland. We were lucky and I’m not expecting it to last (this is England), but the morning was sunny and we stayed dry, apart from the boggy marshes- and we’re nowhere near the moors yet! We only saw one set of walkers who powered past us (but when we arrived and as I sit in the bar, seven suit cases are in the hall yet to be picked up…).

The country is truly beautiful; green, lush, then windswept, barren and bracken covered on the hills, back to ‘burbling becks’ (small creeks) and the fells (hills) we went up and over and slowly, painfully down. Now having had a bath and a G&T I can almost forget that we did 25km (14 miles) and my legs and back are aching and feet protesting that they thought I’d retired them. The Camino was sadly over 18mths ago…but I’m ignoring the body as the soul is soaring.

3rd September

Jet Setting Again

I’m doing my bit for Qantas. Well I thought I was then found I’m on Cathay. I still get points, though the way our national airline carrier is going it may all be for nothing…Off to Hong Kong tomorrow for a conference, where my husband’s friend who is Chinese-Australian is currently back. Why? Because she’s had a baby and you’ve got to believe that the Chinese do the whole ‘let’s nurture the mother as well as the baby’ better than Australia does. Given we don’t do it at all this wouldn’t be hard. Her partner her work’s with me will be at the same conference. He’s looking shell shocked. I’m not sure if the Chinese nurture the Dads too. Maybe not if they aren’t Chinese.

So she’s invited us out- a classy up market place with a foot massage before hand. Yeah, I’m thinking why would anyone have a baby in Australia (though I somehow doubt the average Chinese farmer is having her foot massaged, baby or not). For a communist society I think they’re just as hierarchal and money driven as the West. Just with a few more rules. Like the one child policy. I booked at the hotel. No double beds. A Chinese thing I was told. Really?

Then we’re walking in Yorkshire, (and some time in France and a conference in Paris). Plenty of writing time on the plane, in France and at the end of the walk each day- as opposed to when we did the Camino, on this one we’re having our gear carried so both computers are being packed!

The walk we are hoping will inspire memories of the Camino which were are both currently writing a fiction travel romance story about. I already revisited the walk when writing Exposé (Stephanie is working under cover on a film crew filming the Camino across France and Spain, but in her Manolos there isn’t much walking done!. Exposé had its launch Saturday- thanks to my die hard friends, family and fans!)

But we hope it will inspire writing in general as the coast to coast walk goes in the footsteps of Coleridge and Wordsworth, so maybe what inspired them will also work its magic on us! The weather report says 14 degrees (Celsius) max and yep, rain every day. When we did the Ring of Kerry in Ireland in June (summer) it rained five out of seven days so we’ll see if Yorkshire can beat that! There are wonderful bits of advice from the walking company like “DON’T stray from the path, in fog this can be dangerous”…I somehow think Wordsworth and Coleridge were indoors smoking opium on these days…

 

27th August

Exposé Book Launch

This will be my second but I think I’m more anxious than the first. I mean the first was a novelty for friends. The second is starting to become habit and I’ll have third out by the end of the year which will seem a bit Ho Hum. It’s not like I have the fan fiction line waiting for the latest Harry Potter. Maybe I need to redirect the Fifty Shades line. They don’t improve where as I put a lot of research into this book (we did walk the 2038km of the walk this book takes a film crew along) and I think my writing improved in this and then again in the final one, Exclusive (also well researched including poker champions and a trip to Monte Carlo!).

At least there should be less drama. Last book launch the books went missing and we had the few I’d ordered, a few the bookstore had left from the initial rush (which was kind of exciting!) and then a book mark to hand out saying the book would be sent. This time they arrived in plenty of time.

Feel free to come along, coffee not champagne which would be more in my heroine’s style but the coffee shop isn’t licensed and besides it’s before lunch!

11am Rendezvous Bookshop Saturday September First

118 Lonsdale St Melbourne.

20th August

Teenage Idols

Having endured the family function for my ‘baby’ sister’s big birthday (we don’t mention the number because then I’d have to think about how old I was) last Saturday was the friend’s function. I was kind of pleased I wasn’t considered too old to be invited and let’s face it this was more likely to be fun than the family gathering where my son’s left wing leanings gets dumped on by my conservative mother (she thinks he’ll grow out of it).

But it was fancy dress. Not that this is a problem−I like dressing up as much as Stephanie (heroine of my erotic trilogy)−but the theme was ‘Teenage Idol’. My teenage years are ten years later than my sister’s. My partner went as Bob Dylan who is seventy. I guess this just means it’s good to have an older role model (my partner isn’t anywhere close to this age). To be fair the invitation had pictures of Get Smart and 99 as well as Harry Potter, and other oldies like Jon Bon Jovi who my daughter liked for quite a while.  So maybe I need to put the paranoia aside.

Unlike my daughter who has a steady stream of fancy dress clothes arriving in the mail from being ordered on the internet (currently she is dressed as Robin, her boyfriend as Batman and they are skiing…), I had to resort to the wardrobe and a lifetime of hoarding. It has to be good for something, and the architect did have to put in two extra built in wardrobes for the purpose of storage…

There was really no choice (see Friday June 29th Stephanie’s blog for picture of Desperately Seeking Susan). Yep, it was time to brush the dust off the conical bras, bodices and dig up the chain belts and heavy silver artillery for neck wear that I haven’t worn in … well a long time. Madonna it is. As role models go she’s doing okay though she’s at the gym a good deal more than me and I wish she was still with the hot guy in the Scottish castle (I can’t help it, I do write romance after all).

And this had to better than the Spice girls (even if they did get together again for the Olympics) or Princess Di. Go Madonna.

13th August

Getting a Tradie

This has not been a good winter. It’s not that I’m not used to cold. I’ve lived in Europe and New York and on actual temperature scales Melbourne is well above. Though I like how our weather forecaster is now following the American habit of reporting temperatures as “11degrees (Celsius) but feels like 4. How do they work this out?). But the NY apartment and French house were centrally heated. It was never cold. The department stores are frankly hot. Somewhere like Minneapolis you go from heated garage to heated carpark to underground (the Gopher tunnels) or heated walkways in the air.

In Australia we have this idea it’s hot. As it is in the North. Melbourne is South. Yes we can get warm in summer but no more than New York. And it a house with no heating in the main area it’s downright freezing in winter!

The problem began with the architect. Architects are these wonderful arty people who sue your money to create their dream that looks good- but they don’t have to live in it. Our architect won a building award with our house. It’s gorgeous. We asked for light and we have wonderful bright stair wells and windows. The air-conditioning is essential in summer and it does work (alas the design was pre-global warming going viral…). But the heat never gets there. Bedrooms and my office no problem. My husband works witting in bed at the moment because he doesn’t have a door on his office.

The entertaining area (fab in summer with doors opening everywhere) has the large TV and if we want to watch it coats and blankets are required. Because the underfloor heating which used to just stopped the chilblains isn’t working. Last year the roof caved in in a deluge, drowned the huge TV and ruined the rug. The kids thought we’d be able to get a new DHD TV. Amazingly, the TV dried out and works (bad luck kids) and even the rug is okay with the sofa hiding bits. The heater worked throught he winter then we turned it off – and it hasn’t been going since.

At the beginning of winter we called the company. He (the ONLY person in Australia prepared to touch our floor) is coming next week. He has an operation the week after. I picture him saying “It’s a 50-50 chance I’ll make it and as for your floor….well good luck.”

Is this for real??? Can I blame the architect (probably) for the choice of floor heater? (I did have to stop him putting in 8, thousand dollar heated towel rails…).

Will he be able to fix it? How does someone get under your floor? This one has a concrete slab and granite on top. This could be really scary. Then there’ll be the bill… Maybe I’lls end it to the architect.

6th August

Monday and my baby sister is older than I feel…

What happens when your baby sister is turning an age you don’t feel you’ve got to yet? Years of therapy? Look into the mirror? Get glasses and get real? Go by the adage that you’re only as old as the man you feel and turn into a cougar?

Well the last has some appeal. In theory of not practice anyway. Let’s face it there has to be an upside to the hours of writing and editing…Some of the guys on the covers are really hot. My girlfriend’s son’s wedding photo and him and his wife naked from the waist suggesting sensuality is alive and well (okay she was behind him and you could only see the side view) and 50 Shades has made us almost mainstream so forget the glasses except to get a better view of the covers (I don’t need reading glasses just yet but maybe a bit of magnification?). The Aussie 8 member male rowing team looked so hot I really didn’t care they came last (possibly they and rowing enthusiasts did).

Anyway regardless, she had the birthday and wasn’t going to wait around for me to get used to the idea (and let’s face it, must be worse for our parents). So there’s the present. What to get her? She plays hockey and is high school teacher. Out there with the young but living in Boganville (she may be related to Kath and Kim (a TV program of would be’s if they could be’s but they definitely weren’t) but if so I was adopted).

So I thought clothes. Get Stephanie’s help. Alright maybe my sister isn’t up to Manolo’s (which feature in the Stephanie Beauman books) and my mother unlike Stephanie’s is not going to pay for them. A dress? Mmm she must wear them to work but I can’t remember not seeing her in jeans. A bag? A scarf? A hat? My husband and children are laughing. Not that my sister might not like these but the ribbing I am going to get over my taste which is, let’s be honest, completely at odds with my entire family, daughter included. Maybe I was adopted.

Next and I have nowhere to go after this (no I am not buying her a chance to scuba dive with the sharks as her children might never speak to me again and hot air ballooning you have to get up early- I don’t think so). Jewellery. Easy, right?

No.

First she likes white gold. Priced that recently? OMG! I love her but!!!

I figure silver looks similar. Old or new? Fine or chunky? I keep picturing her playing hockey in what I am buying and when I mentioned this to the jeweller she nearly passed out. As she did when I suggested the diamond white gold heart looked the same to me as the $69.95 version. Well, close, and I wouldn’t have to mortgage the house…

Then it jumped at me. An 1870’s silver locket. It’s gorgeous and I gather the rage. Besides she can exchange it if needed. And I’ll have it if she doesn’t want it…

30th July

Too much to do and too little time!

I need to get better at time management. Actually learning to say no to things would probably help even more. What was I thinking saying I’d do two talks interstate at the end of the week and then another on a SATURDAY? From this writer’s perspective Friday to Monday is becoming hallowed writing ground. I tend to start in the morning Friday and write only to stop for meals and sleep until Monday night. So where did I think the talks were going to fit?

Throw into the mix my computer (brand new) coming to a complete halt (I find out later because in my enthusiasm to stop viruses – oh how I hate them- I had been trying to run two antivirus programs and my computer just said NO!) so I didn’t have it with me to work on the plane (or the three hours at the airport) and then yahoo didn’t seem to want me to check mail and put up blogs, the one I did for Melodee Aaron- check her website out.

What I did do while staring into space at the airport/ on plane/in tram to Saturday talk was to plan the next book. Or several actually. Were-Devil’s Curse set in Tasmania has just been accepted and I have two more for the series. The next one is going to go back briefly in time to the origin of the curse (the real Tasmanian Devil is endangered because of a rare contagious facial cancer and I’ve woven this into my story, along with a group of Vampires stemming from the real ones called False Vampires or Ghosts…). I hope I don’t talk out loud when I’m thinking but my fellow passengers were looking at me strangely….

23rd July

Exercise- it’s good for you, right?

We are told we are a sedentary nation going to fat, getting diabetes and that our children will be the first generation ever to have a life expectancy lower than their parents. After a three day stint of 12 hour days attached to my computer in a flurry of enthusiasm for my new book, I then read that this type of behaviour was going to significantly increase my chance of death even if I had also been to the gym daily for an  hour.

Well on those days I don’t move out of the chair by the fire except to get dinner (we only have soup for lunch and no dessert…do I get brownie points for this? And the wine helps dissolve the fatty plaques in my blood vessels doesn’t it? As long as it doesn’t start to mess with varying other organs…)

But during the week I dutifully go to gym where I do a warm up, weights (limited due to the tennis elbow or is it golf elbow it causes), aerobics and finally stretches (carefully,  given there seems to be as many pros as cons). If I get there early I’m there with the Director of the Australian ballet (who wouldn’t know me if he fell over me, come to think of it with my early morning bleary eyed uncoordinated state, he probably has through no fault of his own) and a group of office types that clearly didn’t read the article that said this was going to do them no good.

If I’m there a little later I have the gym to myself but if I’m unlucky the change room is full of dripping (there is a pool at the gym) elderly women. I don’t want too be cruel to the sisterhood (and okay I have been known to cringe at Julia Gillard’s clothes making her backside big and wishing Hilary Clinton would get a hair stylist) and it is great they are exercising but ahh…is this what I’m in for? I’d better start dimming the lights.

Actually I shouldn’t worry because after the stretching causes my calf muscles to go, the weights mean I will need steroids for my elbows, the steroids will cause me to get diabetes, particularly after I stop exercising. I’ll be depressed and drink even more and my liver or brain will go. The latest article says one of them will get me in the next three years. So I should just give up, right?

Actually maybe rather than listening to the experts we should be listening to our bodies. We have I think got out of the habit of it. Stretching before exercise makes no sense to me, slow warm up does. I feel better after a half hour workout and it seems to help my weight stay healthy and stable. It means I can go on long walking holidays and skiing without puffing like a steam train. I think I’ll keep it up…

16th July

Monday I’ve Got Friday on my Mind…

After going to part time work (which means I’m busier than ever because I’m writing the rest of the time weekends included..) I quickly got used to having my week over by Thursday evening. It’s delicious. Get in the car then or when my husband is working, on the Friday evening after I’ve had a day to myself, and go to the country, stoke the fire and write. Bliss. My husband suggested a walk and besides the fact that it was four degrees and raining intermittently, I was aghast. I didn’t want to move thanks all the same.

So then there’s a report on how if you have a sedentary occupation meaning 8-10 hours sitting your chances of dying in next three years go up.  Even if like me you go the gym. And I’m sitting 12-14 hours DAMN!

So I should be pleased that I am working four day week for two weeks. Running to the airport, on trams to meeting, occasional video pretending I am not very good at some task for teaching (this usually comes easily and it has nothing to do with acting talent…). But instead I am now looking longingly to Friday- in three weeks. Ahhhh….

I’ve also got September on my mind (what is this wishing my life away?). Actually its good to have something to look forward to. Just booked a walking holiday – totally hooked since walking the Camino. This time a mere three hundred kilometres, luggage carried and all booked for us. Coast to Coast Lake District/Yorkshire. The scenery looks fab and my grandfather came from Whitby (home to Bram Stokes, Dracula got delivered here in a coffin) so have a soft spot for the region. Was very cold and Dracula like in October…hope it will be a bit warmer in September though after walking the Ring of Kerry in Ireland in June and it raining five out of seven days, I know to take my rain coat…

Okay back to enjoying the day. It’s not so bad a week, just have to put aside writing….

9th July

Women Having it All

There has been an awful lot of talk about this topic over the last week. I once thought about writing a book about it but I’m pleased I didn’t. Whoever wrote the latest in the USA has been canned as a one of series of offenders. One end of the argument is why would you want it, the other is it’s not a woman’s issue it’s a family issue and the men need to come on board.

I guess I was really lucky. Am still. One of the reasons why I didn’t want to write the book was it might have jinxed the luck! I have had a very successful career (no, not writing!) and considered an Australian leader in my field. I get paid to talk and teach others about it, I get to help people and I love the work. But I was also able to go part time, take a year off – and I wanted to do these things and I never felt guilty.

Many of the women are guilty at work for not being with their kids and when their kids missing work. Not me. I loved both when I was with them, and having a part time nanny meant when I was with the kids I didn’t have to do housework (which I most certainly don’t love!). I was lucky to have a job which could afford this, to having had a parenting experience that gave me a good sense of self and lucky to have perspective.

What I haven’t heard in the arguments is – what about what the children need (and deserve)? A lot of emotional building blocks get put down in the first couple of years (even first year). A parent who is able to give the message “I am here and you are worth it” (see www.circleofsecurity.org) to the child by the age of one has a child with inbuilt resilience that will buffer them against bullying, bad days, failing a school test and a teenage romance gone wrong. But parenting that says ‘I am putting my needs first” is not going to do this. It doesn’t mean you have to be a slave to your child, but you do need to remember you’re the grown up and not to let your shit get in the way of that message.

It doesn’t have to be mum all the time either! There is an African saying that it takes a village to raise a child. Unfortunately that village was disappeared with the ‘having it all’. We shouldn’t be wanting it all and including in that the bigger house, car etc. We should be including a community, an extended family, and of course our partners, the child’s father! Don’t hit yourselves over the head with not having it all- celebrate what you have and remember those early years go fast.

2nd July

Film Editing and Things we do for our Mothers

I love my mother, truly I do. It’s just that right now she could be responsible for any number of stress related illnesses and for my computer dying (well it will die because I’ve thrown it against the wall).

Of course it’s all my fault, as my mother would be quick to point out. In my other life I run a group for women and a lot of time is spent on mother’s and their faults and this is high on the list. Pointing out things you know and really don’t need to hear from her, or anyone for that matter. Being allowed to be delusional should be considered a sign of love. I wish I could say that practised this with my daughter. I try. At least I don’t tell her she looks dreadful (My mother thinks I need some of my sister’s fat on my face) because she always looks nice. Sometimes I think she should be wilder, isn’t that what you’re meant to do as a teenager?

Anyway back to the more recent issue.

My husband and I walked the Camino (see Tuesdays blogs, alternating with the Grand Prix) in 2011- 2038km over 87 days. My mother was impressed and we’ve given several talks for various community groups she runs (it’s hard to stay annoyed at someone who does so much volunteer and Good works). My husband spent days if not weeks sorting out the hundreds of hours of video we took on out Flip, and put together a ‘Walk Simone Walk’ video – lots of me well, doing what we did- walking.

But my mother for the recent talk wanted a ‘See Simone See’. She’s a tick person. Why hadn’t my husband included the Foi Abbey? The Le Puy monuments? And surelt there must have been other Things.

So with my husband away and not knowing how to use his proper editing suite, idiot here thought I could whip up five minutes of monuments in an hour or two. Let me tell you, this is neither possible on my computer nor with Windows Movie Maker. Or at least not with me operating it. The computer froze (I had saved the file) completely five times and after every addition for at least a couple of minutes. When I say every addition, I mean doing ANYTHING. Ten hours later when I thought I was going to have to give up (something I’m really bad at) I got it together, It even looks half reasonable. But what’s the chances my mother will think I could have just done a little of this or that….?

 

25th June

Monday and it must be Texas…

My daughter noted my flight schedule had a not truly needed stop in Texas. I would have liked to have gone and seen my publishers in Austin but that wouldn’t fit time wise (I did think about the drive but a flight would have been more sensible), so it was (just) Dallas. She rolled her eyes and said she presumed this was part of the bucket list.

Okay I confess. When I was young my girlfriends wouldn’t travel around the UK with me because I had too many castles on the list I ‘needed’ to see. Then it was churches in Europe. My husband isn’t a list person so after many years of marriage he has almost beaten (metaphorically) it out of me. But I d have this thought that wouldn’t it be nice(interesting, whatever) to go to every State in the USA.

I’m over 20, which is a good deal more than a lot of Americans I should think. The easy one was California because your plane lands there from Australia (and Hawaii once as a stop over)! My parents bought a holiday home in Florida, so add that. When I was living in NY (another two states as visited New Jersey)I was doing the Fall watch (it’s on the internet and shows exactly where in New England the leaves are at their best) so the bucket list raised its head and a train ride and car hire later, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine, tick! Friends invited up to Colorado for Thanksgiving and we flew via Las Vegas and drove to the Grand Canyon (naturally…) so two more States! Also saw friend in Boston (can’t spell the state that is in….) and went to Martha’s Vineyard via Rhode Island. Had a course in both Washington State and Minneapolis and a conference in Iowa and Pennslyvannia so tick to a few less travelled by tourists. Managed on weekends out from the courses, both Dakotas, Montana and Idaho.

Finally now I have Texas. Out to see where JFK was assassinated as soon as I recover from the two excellent Margaritas and the HUGE (this is Texas) dinner. But before that – the view from the hotel window was just so what I expected (though where are the oil rigs the tower off to right, not in photo, will do…) where if you look carefully you’ll see a freight train. I cannot believe how long it was- went forever! And of course the flag!

18th June

Minnesota Monday

Minnesota isn’t on the usual tourist list. So my accent stands out and everyone is suitably amazed I am here to do a course that pretty much is only run here or London.

It’s very mid West. Friendly, warm and number plates that say 10,000 lakes, only the locals know it’s really 11,000. I spent the weekend on Gull Lake and passed a few others but boy, is that a lot of water.

It’s hot which is kind of a surprise, and at odds with the town gear up for winter. I am staying at the University and there is an underground system they call the Gopher tunnels. So you don’t ever have to be reminded it’s minus 30 out there. In the centre all the buildings are connected by tunnels in the air for the same purpose. It’s kind of weird. I’m glad I’m here in summer, I don’t feel I need to see it operational.

USA does Weather with a capital ‘W’. There is a TV station dedicated to it. I thought this was overkill until I lost count of the thunder storms, lightning strikes, tornadoes, and floods that were being reported. In summer this means you get wet. I could say you carry an umbrella but the wind is such that it really isn’t going to survive. Mostly you hope a lot, and plan your day.

The friendly is kind of interesting too. The waiters or wait staff are uniformly pleasant. Sitting at the bar, and on a bus, you take your chances a bit more. Coming from the airport there was the discussion about Australia being close to Germany. Mmmm geography not a local strong point. On the bus, the guy from Wisconsin here for a ball game had actually been to Australia. We heard about it in great depth. Five out of five for enthusiasm. At the bar, keeping quiet seemed a good idea when four letter words were flying attached to ‘liberals’ and people taking handouts and the president. It didn’t seem the right moment to say I liked Obama (who I can’t vote for anyway) or that the mentally ill people I work with aren’t capable or working and any reasonable society should provide for them. I might have got my husband slugged and the Republican was ex-navy.

It is a country of passion, which is one of the things I love. Just sometimes the passion is informed to my mind by ignorance. Perhaps at the end of the day one of the reasons I rarely get passionate about issues (as opposed to people or writing say) is because I can usually see both sides of the argument. There are exceptions but at the risk of losing readers I might bypass them.

Right now I’m back in Minneapolis, working hard and trying to fit in writing around everything else. The usual manic Monday.

 

11th June

Fabulous New York (even if I am indoors writing…)

Okay it did dump a bucket of rain on us on the first night and naturally we were unprepared and got drowned. But it’s been sunshine ever since and well – it’s New York!

Summer here the streets are full of people, taxis impossible to get (literally when it’s raining) even though the streets are full of them. Luckily there is a great subway (with a really easy ticketing system- why couldn’t Melbourne have this instead of Myki???)

We’ve been eating Mexican and drinking Margaritas since arriving, though with time to buy 12 poke-dolls at the Nintendo store: they read “four years up”…my daughter is twenty…

And have also been doing a lot of writing. It seems a shame to stay indoors but the edits came back for Exclusive, I started a MFM (ménage a trios) novella about were-devils that is in the critical – and exciting– end stage (heading towards the finale sex scene), I had to do a final rewrite of a short story for a competition on the Seven Deadly Sins (which I just couldn’t pass up, and besides it was finished, just needed polishing) due yesterday, a completed crime/psych thriller that needs a serious relook … and I have a publisher interested in a new (mainstream) novel that I need to have two chapters to submit by August. Yep, on fire, not really time for a holiday! Am squeezing in a play tonight though. It is New York after all…

Fortunately I can write just about anywhere, though I am pleased out 32nd street studio is facing the street meaning more light. We lived for three months in one facing the alley. Good for sleep but in the day you just had to get out. Favourite places to write however are French or Australian country houses with no TV or telephone…

Edits. Not my favourite I have to say, though when you’re pretty sure it will be published, that takes away a lot of the pain.

The editors were worried about Exclusive, yes there were the usual comma and comma splice problems (not that many I didn’t think but I guess I wasn’t being drivel nuts by them- bless the patience of editors). But the real problem was my story had strayed outside the very defined rules of the genre. Ahhh!!! I’m not a great one for rules because the story kind of takes me where it has to go, and when I first read the covering letter it was “OMG” I’ll have to do a complete rewrite. As usual, after I calmed down things weren’t as bad as they seemed. But it was interesting to reflect on how the rules of romance – the aim being positive fantasy- really do skew reality. I have been criticised (one reviewer on Amazon hated my book) for stereotypic/ superficial characters, but when you give them depth and make them real I am told they may be unsympathetic and inadequately noble! Mind you there are a few saying this in Amazon about Fifty Shades of etc as well!

Oh well, now done, fingers crossed. Exclusive I hope will appear soon – Stephanie gets to travel around the world as I am now (but not stay inside writing!) following the Grand Prix circuit (I did get to go the Monaco GP), and she finally gets her HEA ending…with a hero that’s now not quite as bad as he was….

4th June

Catching Up with Old Friends…and Lovers

France at this time of year is magnificent. There is a reason there are more tourists in this country than any other. Great food, wine, and weather. We get to catch up with old friends–their son and ours went to school here together many years ago. R is American and M French and though R had spoken always to his son in English, it wasn’t until E was frustrated with our son’s French that he spoke his first words of English. A few years ago they moved to Colorado but still have their French house so we try and aim trips to meet them in one or other country. Last time we saw them it was for Thanksgiving in Colorado.

This year we’re also catching up with someone else. My ex. No, not ex-husband though I have one of those too. He wouldn’t bother speaking to me if we were sat next to each other on a twenty hour flight so it wouldn’t be likely to accept an invitation to stay with us in France.

No this is the guy I went out with in between husbands, over twenty years ago. He married someone else, lives in the UK, so I saw him probably twice in 20 years. Then his marriage broke up. What can I say? I’m a therapist in my other life and middle aged single men who drink too much worry me. One of our friends in this category topped himself after his wife left him. So I invited him to come cry on my shoulder. This was last year. It went well enough that we’re trying for a repeat. I think my husband’s ready agreement was because the last visit sent his imagination off on a tangent, and he wrote a short story about it called Savoir Faire that Stringybark published. Now he’s finishing off the novel.

For most of us who picture many rejection slips it would tempting to think it’ll probably never see the light of day and why worry about trying to explain this didn’t happen to our kids isn’t worth worrying about. Except that last week his first unpublished manuscript won the Victorian Premier’s literature award and will maybe get this and future books published!.

Our kids loved The Rosie Project (the one that should come out next year and be made into a film….ahhh….) but they don’t read mine. I have a version of Embedded for my daughter with the naughty bits taken out, but I missed one and she’s still traumatised. I think my husband’s new book may fit into the same category. Okay it isn’t erotica but there is lots of sex, and the heroine (who everyone will hate) bears an uncanny resemblance to me … that is me without the common sense and husband to bring me down to earth. But anyone who knows me….so then they’ll think ….what else in this is real?

My husband has managed to mix his and my ex-s characters up but they’re both in there. And now he wants to spend the next few days ensuring he’s got the Manchester terminologies right. While they’re having beer and telling dirty jokes (which in any other company my husband never does) and the ex thanks my husband again for taking me off his hands… I think I’ll just go to bed alone.

28th May

Air Travel

Anyone who has travelled at least once a year by plane has a plane story. Usually more than one.

I travel around by air Australia giving talks (at least once a month) to places as close as Mildura 1 and a bit hours in small aircraft) and others as far away as Broome (five hours plus a stopover). I also travel to Europe and USA at least once a year each or as on this occasion, on a round the world fare. I am not helping global warming. I am adding to the carbon footprint I worry about and my mother uses my air travel as a way of proving there is no Global Warming. Go figure.

I am not proud of this but since desperately escaping the country at 18 (and equally as desperately returning at varying times) I have an ongoing love affair with the exotic, the different, places I wish to return to and places I have never been. Despite my girlfriends at 18 calling me Castles (I think I have seen them all in the UK…well a lot anyway) and my husband lamenting the bucket list (not because of the suggestion of our finality but because he thinks I tend towards tick tourism. You know, walk past Notre Dame, tick I’ve seen it), there are just places I want to go, things I want to see and things I want to do.

But there is that 20 plus hour flight between Australia and the Northern hemisphere. For the most part we are a stoic lot who just put up with it (once in the past they put up with smoking as well so I am spared that).  Yes it is cramped, yes it is true that the food in economy leaves a lot to be desired. That the sound and film system often breaks down. But a part of me still marvels that it gets up there at all. Physics was never my strong point. I understood the little Greek mamas on the Olympic airways flight crossing themselves as they landed. Might have had something to do with that I had told one of them I thought her husband was dead. Mind you she didn’t speak English and he woke up as I was trying out my Greek. Okay first aid isn’t my strong point either.

The last few years, I guess ever since September 11, the security measures have taken a lot of the fun out. Common place are delays, and murderous thoughts towards the person who failed to board and whose luggage is now being searched for (I’d love to know who gives it back to them. In Heathrow I’m sure it would be blown up. One of my bags is either still there or has been, but through their fault not mine). Airline lounges not calling, me not listening, flights rushed for, mostly made and occasionally just missed. The Air Mauritas flight turned back because someone had put a coke bottle in the bathroom with Bomb written on it. Flying really doesn’t bring out the best in people.

But there are some great movies about flying (Flying High to Airport with the delicious Elizabeth Taylor and Louis Jordan, and Die Hard II) or films I’ve seen on movies- cried constantly through Bridges of Maddison County to the hostess’s concern and all but di martial arts in my seat through Hidden Tiger/Dragon (never can remember its real title but great movie!).

This time? Upgraded to Business for Singapore leg – Bliss. Writing, eating, leg room. Then back to economy to Paris. I guess I’ll be able to feel my legs again one day soon. Still my memory is short and there are lots of fabulous things to distract myself with until I have to reboard. Just please no Sumo wrestler and Mother with baby.

21st May

Salamanca Market, Hobart Tasmania

It’s always nice to get away, even if it’s for work. Tasmania isn’t very far from Melbourne and although it can be quite cold in winter, it’s always a great place to be. Actually it can be cold in summer too. I went to Cradle Mountain (and we aren’t talking Everest here) and it snowed in December- that’s meant to be summer in Australia!

So I’m here for a conference. I wish I could say it was an erotic fiction conference. Siren is having one later in the year in Texas and I’d love to go. Some people thought August in Texas would be too hot, but I just keep picturing the male book cover models strutting around and who wants them rugged up??? Anyway I can’t go (royalties wouldn’t pay for the tax to get out of the country let alone the airfare and accommodation).

So I’m at a more standard conference, you know serious looking people showing they are… well…serious about their job.

Mmmm I like to have time out too, so arrived Friday night where we bumped into friends (nothing to do with the conference) and ate well at Monty’s (okay, drank a bit too well) and then spent Saturday morning at Salamanca market. As markets go, this one is fun. Great coffee, tempura mushrooms followed by nice heavy stodgy Dutch donuts for brunch – perfect really! Jewellery, clothes, food, books, DVD’s. The usual T-shirts with Tasmanian devils which I succumbed to; my niece and nephew are having birthdays.

Sadly all things come to an end. Running a workshop Sunday morning (ugh) and then conference all day today. Not a hot male model in sight….

 

 

 

 

14th May

There was a slight hope as I clicked the icon on ‘Monday’ that I had already written today’s blog. The rest of the week is easy as Travel Tuesday is either a review of the Grand Prix (this week Barcelona last night) or the 87 days of the Camino with still weeks to go, Wednesday can be difficult but at least has the sin theme, Thursday I read prolifically so reviewing a book or film is no problem. Okay Friday can be challenging- Stephanie’s fashion blog. Particularly as today’s angst about blogging relates to an article in The Age last Friday talking about other people who do very successful fashion blogs they not only have people read (ahhh what a wonderful thought, that someone actually reads what I write rather than it sit there gathering cyber dust) but that also get paid.

So I am having a moment of despondency. I have clicked onto a blank page which reminds me of how few comments I ever get even after a lot of tweeting and emailing yahoo groups. This is better than the 200 comments I was getting daily before I worked out how to use Askmet or whatever it’s called (bless it). Comments that told me in bad English what I read job I was doing and then adding an inane comment. The purpose of these was a complete mystery. Or the one that told me to stop whining. Okay, NOW I’m whining but after briefly feeling about this criticism (before relegating it to the spam folder) but as no one is going to read it what the hell. Don’t shrinks call it catharsis???

Okay one more whine. My technological incompetence (yes I will take responsibility and am working to empower myself to take on cyberspace) I subscribed to a readers group with my work email. I can’t remember how to get them to come in groups like my other readers group does so I now click onto email to hundreds of comments I am probably not interested in and figure anything I write no one else is going to be interested in. Maybe I should just write for myself and keep myself happy.

Whining over. On the positive note of writing, my husband is well into his second novel (first which is great is with three publishers, one asked for the whole book so fingers crossed) and reads it to me as we go to bed. He’s writing manically so that usually means a whole chapter. As it is kind of about a menage a trios this should make good bed time reading, and it’s great so I love listening. Mmmm but the female lead is turning into a prima donna of extraordinary proportions and there is an uncomfortable resemblance to someone I know – me. Is he trying to tell me something?

 

 

 

 

5th May

Roses and Chocolate Blog Hop and Giveaway

Starting at one min after midnight May 5th, it’s up and running until one minute before midnight on the 9th May! Try and read all the blogs, there’ll be some great giveaways and who doesn’t like Roses, chocolates and pressies!!!

For a chance at a copy of one of two short erotic story collections (print) published by Stringybark, Between the Sheets or Heat Wave of ’76 (Australia only) or a copy of Embedded (erotic romance suspense, ePub or lit version) then just leave a comment on my website saying why you like or don’t like roses and chocolates or about the story below! Winners notified by email/tweet/facebook (and asked for address via email for books to be sent) on May 10th.

You can also enter by tweeting @simonesinna with chocolates and roses in the message or via Facebook, but maximum of three entries per person! I’ll draw it out of a hat.

For links to other authors check out under Competitions (main menu on left)

 

A Roses and Chocolates Story: The Language of Roses

See www.rkdn.org/roses/colors.asp

Chrissie had never had a boyfriend. As her mother liked to remind her and everyone else that ever came to visit. The last time had been the final straw. Her mother’s friend Sally had had her son Ben with her. Six foot, blue eyes, a nice smile, a year older than her, studying science … and no girlfriend. Chrissie could almost see his eyes glaze over when the words came out of her mother’s mouth, relegating her to ‘loser’ in Ben’s eyes. So much for the passing thought that maybe she could ask him to the end of year party. She was the only one of her friends without a partner to take.

So she had been surprised when Ben hadn’t run a mile when they bumped into each other in the university coffee shop. He’d actually bought her a coffee. The boost to herself esteem must have done something – though it was paying less notice to traffic that had drawn her to Matt’s attention. A waiter in the restaurant near where she was crossing the road, he had called out and woken her from her day dream and then made her a coffee. He was a little skinny and gawky, a bit taller than her, and he was able to make her laugh.

Ben had rung five days later – unfortunately getting her number via the mother connection ­­– and asked if she wanted to catch up. Finally Chrissie felt that maybe she didn’t have BO or some major personality disturbance.  Matt accepted her friend request but didn’t look like he was too much into Facebook book given lack of well – anything much on it. But he did keep ‘liking’ the things she put up.

She saw Ben a few times, and he was polished, confident and polite, but maybe just a little too smooth. The more her mother talked about him the more Chrissie wanted to either elope or never see him again. She tried to ignore her mother’s less than subtle hints to ask him to the party.

Matt got a bit more friendly on Facebook, even put up photos and commenting on hers. She dropped in and had a bowl of pasta when he was working and he made not just her but also her friends laugh. When he finished work one day as she was leaving uni, he asked her to have a drink with him and she got to know him a bit more. He wanted to own his own gardening business one day, the outdoors clearly his main passion and waiting just a way to make ends meet for the time being.

The single lavender rose – love at first sight – arrived a month after she met them both, without a note. It was so romantic! Chrissie wasn’t sure what to do. What if she thanked the wrong one? She went to a party with Ben, had another drink with Matt. Neither gave anything away. She tried to smile knowingly at both of them.

Pink came next. Appreciation. Okay, she told them both she really appreciated their friendship and breathed a sigh of relief.

Next was white. Her purity or that he was worthy? Chrissie viewed the website in panic.

The next rose that arrived, as always, single and without a note, was orange. Desire and enthusiasm. Was this a way of asking for a sexual relationship? Chrissie started to get nervous. She needed to know who was sending them.

She had to find out. She liked them both. Ben was easy to be with and would have clearly been her mother’s pick but there was something appealing about Matt. They had interests in common and he was fun, less serious than Ben. But how to find out?

Then a box of chocolates arrived – Guerlain, not exactly her favorite but then it was the thought that counted and after all the roses had been stunning. She made her way through them while she was studying and wondering how to word a Facebook post that would flush the right person out without the other knowing, when she got to the last chocolate and went to the next layer. On top was a note. From Matt.

Chrissie sighed in relief. The choice had been made. Matt it was. He was delighted to come to the party. Ben was polite and she felt sad, but at least she felt she was being honest now.

“I have a date for the party,” she announced to her mother.

“Oh thank God,” said her mother. “Sally said poor Ben was going spare over working out whether you thought he was too over the top.”

Chrissie starred at her mother with a sinking feeling.

Her mother smiled brightly. “I assured Sally that you loved the roses.”

30th April

Romance isn’t Dead

This was inspired by the end of the week competition and blog hop- be sure to drop in and see the Friday blog to tell you more!

Well we all know it isn’t for women (who make up 40% of the book market with romance novels) but what about guys?

Aussie guys have a reputation as being drunken louts so it’s hard to imagine from this picture buying roses, chocolates or getting down on bended knee. Certainly attending a game of Aussie rules football would be enough to send any woman looking for romance out of the country in a hurry.

It is true that my husband’s friend gave his wife a toilet seat for her birthday once. They are no longer married. Then my son’s friend (currently single and desperate for a girlfriend) suggested practical presents were obviously the sensible gift. And my Asperger’s friend who told his wife he loved her once and didn’t see the need to repeat unless the situation changed.

But wait. They aren’t all like that!

In any relationship you have to both work at keeping it alive – in general for men it means they need to work on the romance which isn’t (for most) ‘wired in’. For women, at least after having children, it’s the sex they need to work on (see Bettina Arndt’s books). If both work on the ‘weaker’ part of their wiring, the relationship can be pretty damn good!

My teenage son carried a glass rose from Prague around in his back pack for six weeks for his girlfriend- it miraculously survived (okay the chocolates didn’t do quite so well as he came home via Asia where the temperatures were a tad warmer…).

My husband makes romance an art. He is to put it simply, the master.

He spoils me and I’m sure I don’t deserve him but wow it’s nice! Fabulous jewellery (no toilet seats or electric carving knives in sight) and the most amazing birthdays! One year we made a film that I starred in (no, acting is not on my resume for the reason anyone who saw it could tell you) and we showed it at the Kino cinema, complete with limousine, red carpet and photographers. Another time we sipped champagne watching the sun set over the Taj Mahal.

The picture included here is from a full poster size card that he made for me one Valentine’s Day. It really says it all.

23rd April

The Moment You Realize Your Parents Aren’t Perfect

No this is not going to be a teenage rant. As a teenager we would never have considered our parents anything other than so not cool, so old and so boring that the word perfect would have been laughable.

Nor is this going to be a ‘it’s my first day at school and how can I stop my Mum embarrassing me’. Yeh, yeh we knew they meant well. It wasn’t that they weren’t perfect, it was we were afraid we weren’t.

Nor is this the moment in psychotherapy where you uncover all the nasties you’ve been denying for the last decade or so. No, this is the moment when is you were lucky enough to have had pretty good parents who did their best and meant well and more often than not got it right (not as easy feat as anyone who is a parent knows), and you see their bad points without the rose coloured glasses. You keep things in perspective, everything else is still true, but you just think….Mum did you really have to?

I’ve had many of these moments, just I’ve ignored the reality of their sum up until now. We all know, my siblings and I, that well, that’s Mum. Not exactly oozing sensitivity. But wow so much overshadowed by all the good things that who’s to complain? I think my mother must have put in more volunteer hours over the last forty years than anyone else I know has put into a paid job. Red Cross, Country Women’s, local political party, local old people’s home, Probis, the list goes on and on. If there’s a bushfire she’s there making sandwiches, if there’s a tree fallen on a house she’s taking the family to new accommodation. Yep, prefect, right?

Mmm, okay the gripe. Did she have to tell me twice (maybe this is Alzheimers) that her friend hated my book? Given the friend is 80 and my book is aimed at 20-50 year age group, this is hardly a surprise. And erotica is not exactly everyone’s cup of tea. Going on from last week’s blog on taking criticism I take a breathe and move on.

But then over the weekend I have my aunt and uncle’s fiftieth wedding anniversary. I expected most people to be, well not exactly young. My mother and father would be there. I dressed carefully. Meaning that I got out the conservative (and elegant Akira number I own) so mum wouldn’t be horrified (she normally is, and to be honest it’s become a bit of a baiting thing- how wild can I look? One year I convinced husband and two kids to join with me and we turned up to Christmas dinner all with different colour hair – green, purple, yellow, pink…).

But it still wasn’t good enough. Apparently my great aunt thought my stockings were hideous (dragons twisted up the leg, French and probably $50 worth…). My husband said they were tattoos and for a moment mum believed him. Maybe that’s what I’ll do next time…

So no, not perfect. But then again, nor am I.

16th April

Taking and Giving Criticism

No one likes getting criticized. Just some people hide their sinking emotions, surging anger or sheer desolation better than others. We like to believe we’re right, and that we’re doing well. We know we were trying our best…and if we weren’t, well no one is perfect and everyone is entitled to an off day, right?

But sometimes like it or not, what we do isn’t good enough. If we have tried our best we can say that at least. When I got a psychological drama (all 153,000 words of it) to the last phase at Random House and they rejected it, this thought gave me some comfort. I had been saying ‘I must write a book’ for years; at least I finally had. It gave me some satisfaction that at least that it had got that far, more than a lot of books. Trouble was the need to write kept coming back, the desire to be published still bubbled away beneath the surface and looking back at the work it wasn’t as good as I could do. I was very experienced and at the top in my profession – but my profession wasn’t writing and I quite simply hadn’t practised enough.

How the criticism is framed (and by whom) makes a difference. If it is from someone you don’t respect and who delivers it badly then it’s easier to brush off. If it’s someone who knows what they are talking about and deliver it well- then this is the criticism to learn from. So when we deliver the words people don’t want to hear- think about how you say it because you don’t like being hurt and the old do unto others…but also people will listen if you are respectful.

For a number of years I supervised people training in therapy. Or rather I supervised their supervisors and found out quickly that they complained to me about their trainees but couldn’t and wouldn’t deliver the bad news to the trainee. This resulted in people being in jobs they were unsuited to because they didn’t get the appropriate feedback, and gave them no chance to improve.

I was criticised twice recently and listened to both. One was about my presentation style. I do a lot of professional talks from which I generally get very positive feedback (a company is paying me to go around Australia talking so I must be doing something right- looking for objective evidence like this incidentally is a good way of getting through badly delivered criticism). But this woman pulled me aside, thanked me for the knowledge but also pointed out I had been a bit casual and wondered if the students might have misinterpreted what I said. She was right. It’s something I have a tendency towards and it was great someone reminded me.

The other was about my writing, much harder to take as I don’t have a list of credentials to back me up and my book isn’t selling as well as I’d like (though this is a marketing issue primarily – just look at Fifty Shades of Grey!). The person criticising at least said he took some blaming for reading the blog. I personally have flicked past lots of blogs I didn’t think were for me, and mine probably wasn’t informative or whatever he was looking for. So it left me a bit bemused. How do I fix it?

But then there is the issue of no one is going to be liked by everyone, as much as we might want to be. ‘Ulysses’is a pinnacle of literature and I can’t get past the first page. What is to my taste is not to others. So I review, reflect – and try to toughen up. I want to write and I’m going to keep at it.

9th April Easter Monday

Reflections on Eggs, Marzipan, Bunnies and Bilbies

I love Easter. In southern Australia the weather is almost always perfect. Cold crisp mornings warming up to mid twenties (mid seventies farenheit) with blue skies and sunshine. Leave starting to fall, the hint of winter coming but with summer still not letting go. There is also of course two public holidays making for a four day weekend. When I was younger we would often go camping up near on the Murray river, waterskiing and swimming. As I got older we did this but added bonfires at night and casks of wine and beer with the BBQ.

Having kids adds an extra dimension. The Easter egg hunts where the dog finds most of them. And you keep finding the rest over the next six months.

Then we had an Easter in Germany which was amazing- their marzipan eggs are to die for and I have never felt the same about plain Cadbury eggs since. Fortunately Australian is pretty cosmopolitan and if you look hard you can find some European imports or Australian takeoffs.

Australia’s contribution to the enhancement of Easter has been shall we say limited? Of course it’s all the fault of the British. Whatever possessed them to bring rabbits to Australia? They have taken over. Ever seen the movie Rabbit Proof Fence? Based on a true story, the fence was constructed in an attempt to keep the rabbits contained. It didn’t work, they are everywhere. They’ve tried myxomatosis and then Calici virus but all that did was mean you tripped over slow sick rabbits with white eyes that made you feel ill. A month or two later the ones that were immune had bred and we were back to where we started.

So it’s hard to feel fuzzy and warm about chocolate Easter bunnies. To say nothing of the fact that it had nothing to do with an Australian national identity. So some bright spark came up the bilby. The bilby is a bit like a rabbit but an Australian native and thus is in tune with the environment and hasn’t run rampant. Not sure the kids get it though. Actually, all they want is the chocolate.

2nd April

Disorganisation allows lots of surprises!

For those of you who read an earlier blog on personality styles, referencing the Myers Briggs scale, you will know that organisation in my life comes from necessity not natural talent. When you’re married to someone even more ‘P’ on the scale than you then when you have young children, unless you get your act into gear, they are going to keep getting notes from the teacher about being late, not having had their homework done or with them and starving at lunch because the lunchbox is still sitting on the kitchen bench (with or without food in it). But now my children take responsibility for themselves (and occasionally their parents) my natural lean towards letting things run their own course, planning on the run and being surprised where you end up, is starting to take over my life again.

So this is how I found myself on a plane last week going to Newcastle (about 1 ½ hrs North of Sydney) wondering if I was on the right flight. I had thought I was talking in Nowra (2 hrs south of Sydney). Fortunately I had it wrong – that talk is next month. Ok, I think. Newcastle is a bit of an industrial town but they must have a decent restaurant.

After we’d been driving an hour I started to think that the residents of Newcastle must have been more than a little militant to have had their airport this far out of town. So I enquire of the driver when he thinks we’ll be there. Another hour I am told. It is dawning on me. I’m not talking in Newcastle.

We end up in Taree. Or actually Wingham in a bank. Well it was a bank once and I have the bank manager’s office now converted into a bedroom. The old safe now houses the restaurant pantry. Not large but quaint and a very typically Aussie country town with wide streets, greasy take outs, verandas on two levels around the corner pubs.

Then the surprise. The next morning (before we drive even further north to tonight’s talk in Kempsey) I have a few hours free and no internet. The weather is gorgeous and I know there is a river somewhere so I go searching. Along the way, no more than 100 metres out of town, I find an entrance to the Wingham Brush. Whatever that is. The next sign is more helpful, introducing me to a board walk and rain forest. With huge Moreton Bay Figs (see photo). Virtually all that is left in the Manning Valley since man did his thing. Our arrival as a species also almost but failed to eradicate the species of flying foxes, a sort of possum with wings that looks like a bat.

Then I hear it. Stepping into the forest it is deafening. As I get used to the darkness I have stepped into a different world. There must be thousands of these animals here with me. As I look into the treetops they are in every tree, talking to each other in a cacophony the likes of which I had only heard before in the Amazon. In the photo that’s them in the trees- just imagine really loud chatting sounds!flying foxes in the last remaining rain forest of Wingham

I suddenly want to join every anti-logging group and chain myself to equipment. To lose this from the world would be a loss too great to imagine. A part of our inner-selves because as I stand here I am more in touch with myself and what is important than I ever am while in the ‘real’ world.

26th March

Nannies- Pros and Cons

Use of nannies is apparently up. Doubled according to today’s paper.  This is in Australia remember, not the land of Mary Poppins and ‘children should be seen not heard’ Victorian culture. Maybe up to 4.6% of the 50% of under twos with two working parents. Grandparents are still number one as the answer to working parents’ dilemma of making working worthwhile financially, but for those where money is less critical a reason for work, or more readily covers the costs, then nannies come next.

Let’s put aside the cost because that’s individual decision and circumstances. Put aside also those who are battling mental illness, drug addiction, poverty and survival because nannies probably aren’t in their sight.

We’re a nation of helicopter parents who want the best for our kids, right? But we also want to be able to balance our lifestyles so it’s not all nappies and play-doh. So the choice is you’re parents work still or live inter-state or you just don’t get on (and certainly don’t want them doing to your child what they did to you) then your choices are a group child-care arrangement – or the nanny.

I was lucky enough to be able to afford a nanny. I was only working part time and wanted to enjoy my kids and do all the fun stuff when we were together so house work was something I didn’t want to waste time with, and it was important for me to keep my hand in at work for intellectual reasons as well as career prospects. Only one of my friends was a stay at home mum and we drifted apart quickly with little in common. I wanted it all! Career, husband, kids and family life. Fortunately my job was one that was very accommodating with flexible times.

Childcare just wasn’t a consideration. It’s a personal choice thing (and I did have the luxury of choice, though had no nanny been available I suspect I wouldn’t have worked until they started school as my wage wasn’t needed) but little kids to me need stability and nurture and they aren’t going to get that in a child care centre. Time enough for the rat race when they go to school- for me the longer they had in a home setting the more stable and secure they’d be. There is some evidence for this being a positive, though mainly under the age of one, as babies struggle to regulate themselves – still learning to do this both emotionally and physically.

My one aside from this was starting our son at school. We were told he was too ‘emotionally immature’ and I disagreed. The education department said try him in child care so at four and half once a week I left a very miserable little boy in a perfectly nice childcare when he’d much rather have been at home. The education department didn’t shift, meaning public schools were blocked so we sent him to a small private school with a class of 12. He was shy, don’t get me wrong, a careful kid who spent time assessing before jumping in (he was the same 18 months later when he started school in France) but he loved school and settled in just fine. My mother’s instinct was right and I should never have put him in that child care centre.

So, nannies. Our first was a lovely bright young thing who loved the kids and had fun with them. Oh, she did the housework too and because it was very difficult to find someone part time we ended up getting a full time nanny but one who would do flexible hours. So she did two nights a week so my husband and I could go out. The kids were asleep and didn’t miss us and we got to maintain our relationship- in the end a critical thing in successful parenting.

Our next one was a little less successful, sweet enough but a country girl, not very bright and she was homesick, so she went back home. The next, fortunately only part time, was a French girl who spoke with a BBC accent (she’d learnt English in London) who we hoped would keep our kids tuned into French after having gone to school for six months in France. We didn’t discover that her French accent was gutter Marseilles (not my words- this came from a French friend) until after I had the police escort her out of the house. She’d stolen several hundred dollars and some of my clothes.

The best of the nannies was one my age who I am still friends with. Mother of two (plus three step-kids) she had been left with them all by the father and needed to make ends meet. A smart bubbly woman who was attracted by the hours and loved kids, she was great. The most problematic one was probably the Southern European one who was really fine but I still blame her for my daughter’s hypochondriasis! Remember if you bring in significant others into your child’s life they will have an impact!

It sounds as if we had these nannies parading through our lives ever-changing but it didn’t seem like that. My friend and the Southern European lasted a year each and we only stopped them because we either moved or both kids had started school. They made life so much easier than it is for mother’s rushing to pick their kids up from child care and clocking up an extra $10 a minute after six pm. They took the stress out of being a working parent. Your kids were in an environment which was safe and comfortable, one carer to two kids, the house work was done and there was the option of dinner being bought or even prepared. I know two surgeons who thought it world so well they had three- covering every hour of the day so they could both be called into work! Not my idea of parenting but innovative…

Apart from the robbery the most negative experience was interviewing on one occasion when we’d moved to Sydney. After about the eighth interview I burst into tears. The previous one I was sure had untreated schizophrenia (I have a mental health background), the one before barely would have clocked an average IQ, and before that an array of personality styles and backgrounds that was well not ‘good enough’ for my kids. I hadn’t thought I was that difficult or that I was particularly grandiose or that I thought my kids deserved more than any other mother, but I began to wonder. It’s such a hard thing- you love your kids, as babies they are so vulnerable, and yet you have to decide how to manage this balance which has an enormous selfish component.

In the end I had one more interview booked and it was with the one who became my friend. Perhaps having a high standard isn’t such a bad thing.

Maternal guilt? Yes it always pulls at us. But carefully chosen, particularly if your nanny will do nights and you can have time with the kids during the day supplemented by time with your husband at night, then for me it was a perfect compromise. The kids seem to be doing okay too.

March 19th

Grand Prix Action

Okay I’m a petrol head. In a previous life I raced cars and was one year the mini car club champion. Ladies champion that is. Frustrated the hell out of me that I wasn’t even close to the times for the slowest male driver. Testosterone either gives you a better relationship with your car or just makes you value life less. Possibly both. Minis aren’t exactly Formula One either, but it’s enough to give you the flavour. When you see them screech down gears into a corner and power out you know the feel. Broadly.

Start of Grand Prix season

McLaren and Red Bull dominate

A lot of people in Melbourne would be happy if the GP never returned and given the cost this is a real possibility. If I lived in Albert Park I could understand this. It’s not like this is some distant race track that you can ignore. Everyone in Melbourne can hear those engines (Ahhhh…) Unfortunately for them they don’t all have my reaction, which is something like an instant regression from a previous hypnotic suggestion such that suddenly I’m in my early twenties again and feeling very twitchy hormonally. If you get my meaning.

So this year I’ve been every day. Thursday and Friday I got wet. We are in Melbourne after all. But the weekend was perfect. Brilliant sunshine, previous champions spinning off into the gravel, a Formula Ford stack, both Aussies boys making it into the top 10. What more can you want?

Of course I was there working. Research that is. Next book, Exclusive is about to be sent off to Siren is the third in the Stephanie Beauman series, is set around the 2012 GP circuit. Essentially finished, just making sure I’ve got the details right. Naturally as she’s American the grand finale is on the new Austin circuit in Texas (yes I know Saó Paolo is after this but in my story it’s all sorted by then).

So the highlights? Drivers disappearing into the gravel always adds a little extra something, to say nothing of the Caterham car just stopping on the straight. Petrov was out so fast and through the window they normally hold boards out of I was certain he must have thought the car was going to explode. It certainly smoked. You had to feel sorry for Maldonado who had been doing so well until tire and car came apart in the very last lap. And of course it was great that the two Aussies stayed in the top ten though I’s sure Webber would have liked better than fourth.

Won’t be at the Malaysian one next week unlike Stephanie, but I just might have to tune in…the petrol in the system has been reignited…

March 12th

Gourmet Weekends

It’s been a long weekend in Melbourne, and not that we needed this excuse, but we headed away to friends for break. This is something we do about every six months. Three couples that take it in turns to host a weekend away; all of us having in common a love of food and wine. The weekend that is our turn, we go all out. Over the years, we’ve had pheasant, crayfish, duck, rabbit …and all the usuals!

This weekend we headed to Leongatha. For those who don’t know, this is about a hundred and thirty km (eighty miles) west of Melbourne. Not far from the ocean, the farm property our friends own is in the heart of picturesque green hills, steep slopes, dairy cows, and the occasional deer. No sound of cars, lawn mowers or screaming children. Just the odd kookaburra laugh and the bray of Celeste, our friend’s donkey.

By the time we arrived at half past seven ­– after nearly three hours of peak hour traffic that had been monotonous for the first eighty km –  we were in need to the glass of Chateauneuf du pape our hosts had opened and breathing for us. It heralded the vertical tasting we proceeded to indulge in for the remainder of the evening. Starting with 2007 we finished with 1985. Liquid heaven, last week’s gluttony in action.

Sue of course had cooked up a storm to have with it. Home potted prawns (shrimp) with toast, then herbed lamb done in their outside oven as we watched the sun come down, with home grown baby potatoes, sugar snap peas and snow-peas and mint. Finishing off with dark chocolate with prune and nuts- home baked of course.

Today started with granola made with oats, nuts and local honey, toasted to a crisp; stewed plums off their trees and yoghurt. Chris had the smoker up and running shortly after, preparing the trout for lunch (had with a very cold Giaconda and a Mersault). Time then for a walk, sleep and then another round!

Beef Wellington

Dinner started with jamón, figs and buffalo mozarello, followed by a stunning beef wellington (pictured) with spinach and roast potatoes and the piece de resistance, the rose water cheesecake. This was accompanied by Gruaud Larose from 2000 to 1962.

Brunch before we left? Baked eggs, jamon and tomatoes with fresh herbs in individual ramikins and french toast with hot strawberry jam….heaven!

Okay back to reality now. Where’s the toasted sandwich maker?

March 5th

Why Your Girlfriends Are Invaluable

Last weekend we had a girl’s weekend. Partners where they existed were left behind to deal with the leaking shower, hot water service not working, and the brewing family crisis. A long drive, a beach house with a stunning view and lots of wine and six koalas spotted. What more can one ask? Girlfriends we decided long before the end of the second bottle, were invaluable. Here’s why.

  1. They do the dishes when you’ve cooked for them. They usually bring dessert too. (Okay it’s true we couldn’t get the BBQ started)
  2. They help you put your pictures on the wall. No I mean help, not offer advice from behind the computer. Okay so they are a bit crooked…
  3. They don’t yell at you when you turn the map upside down to read it
  4. Encourage you to do things you wouldn’t normally do (we finally convinced Tara to hit the internet dating site)
  5. Let you cry on their shoulder without them trying to get into your pants (if one wants this from a guy then you aren’t really wanting to focus on the crying)
  6. They never cease to surprise (hide in cupboards rather than face the ex – this woman is terrifying so I’m glad I haven’t met her husband, naked calendars, nudist beaches, picking up men you’d NEVER have imagined they would have fancied…)
  7. Sometimes they have cute husbands…

Seriously … as I get older I value of the sisterhood more and more. I guess as we’re going to live longer than our men we’ll need each other in the nursing home…

 

February 27th

Embedded Book Launch Postmortem

"Sold Out"

"no books left but bookmarks going cheap"

Who was it that said if something can go wrong it will? Murphy? Thursday before the book launch it looked as if this was where we were heading. Not that it was all bad- just that Rendezvous, having advertised ‘Embedded’ in their newsletter two weeks earlier had virtually sold out prior to the launch (sales are good!!!) and their second delivery hadn’t arrived. Or at least it has arrived somewhere else.

Fortunately I had my own supply (the ones I lovingly stroke and sigh over as I walk past) so I threw these into the car, Rendezvous promised to do free deliveries of any ordered, Sinnaman is ready to take coffee orders and we are set to go.

Okay, then we find the road is blocked off. And there is a city event on in a street usually quiet on a Saturday morning so parking is tricky. I managed to con the Hotel car park to let me in- I think they were dubious about the red fish net stockings and high heels even though it wasn’t that end of town. But will everyone else give up in despair?

Fortunately no. The morning passes quickly with a steady flow of familiar faces, some more so than others. WE SELL OUT- again. I get to sign books and write messages and feel…well I am actually a writer.

Book launch for "Embedded"

sold!

Thanks everyone for the support and enjoy reading!

Rendezvous have more on order!

www.rendezvousbooks.com

 

 

 

 

Februrary 20th

This is a weird Monday. Returning from Broome and it’s going to take all day with time changes, starting before nine am and finishing after nine pm. That’s two planes and a tour of Perth airport. Lots of time to read, write and think of all the things that aren’t getting done. Then another week of squeezing work into two days to then rush off to Canberra and Liverpool. More well paid work just no beaches this time. But what a week!

The week finishes off with a Book Launch – my first ever – for Embedded. I have to say I’m a little nervous. Good twitter buddy @deliciouslybad with whom I share an evil sense of lust will be there…. but er…so is my mother. True, she did laugh when I finally got the nerve up to tell her. But she hasn’t actually read it. Nor do I want her to. My children may well be there also- but at least they have voluntarily insisted on looking no further than the cover (and have promised to divert their grandmother’s attention).

I have some colleagues from work coming though they blushed when they told me, and others who I sent invitations cross to the other side of the corridor when they see me. I guess I won’t be seeing them. One from school though has it in her diary- more frustrated authors also dreaming of writing.

Then there are the girlfriends. Thank God for girlfriends. Two I went through fourth, fifth and sixth grade with, another have known for over twenty years, a fourth at least fifteen. One is bringing her eighty year old mother (hence shaming me into telling mine…). Sinnaman’s screen writing group may be represented (babies in tow), some of his ex-colleagues. None of these people have probably ever read erotics before! And may never again…The price of friendship…

Then the boyfriends. Or ex’s. One will be there in spirit at least, but tricky to do in person from the UK. Ex-husband? Ah no, I think not. Probably just as well. He’d have an apoplexy … Mind you if I’d written Erotica while still married to him he would have had far worse than an attack of the shakes…

So anyone in Melbourne come along to see the fun! Brunch at Rendezvous Bookshop, 118 Lonsdale St Melbourne, 10.30am 25th Feb.

 

February 13th Singing in a Rock’n’Roll Band

Maybe it just as well the weekend is only two days. It curtains my overinflated ideas of my capacity to do everything to a narrow time slot. Actually it’s not the weekends that are the problem, it’s that I have a glass of wine or two and then the opportunities seem to escalate. Like the last weekend. Invitation to a friend’s soiree. Harmless sounding enough, right?

Trouble is I have this deep seated…well maybe not that deep…desire to sing in a rock’n’roll band. Doesn’t everyone? I did it a few memorable times. Sang ‘It’s Raining Men’ in a black short plastic dress while four men in rain coats danced behind me. It would have been a totally cool experience had the acoustics not stunk (for those who aren’t professional singers, believe me, you need to be able to hear yourself to keep in tune…). It was probably the most terrifying moment of my life,  knowing I just had to sing anyway and my singing teacher was not going to rescue me (she was hiding under the table). The piano player was very kind. Maybe too kind because he invited me to last Saturday night’s soiree…

Yes, you guessed. One glass was all it took (mmm I think there might have been a lot of vodka in it). And it’s been a while since the singing lessons. Ugh. Well the acoustics were better. Outdoors. With a bit of luck everyone else had drunk a lot more and the rest didn’t hear me. Did I really sing a Doris Day song? It’s lucky I wasn’t lynched…

Okay so now for Monday. It’s is going to be a totally mad day because I’m squashing all the normal paid work for the week into two days (today and tomorrow) so I can do some extra work….There is a bright side. It pays well, and though there be a small case of jetlag (three hour difference between Melbourne and Perth) they are also send me to Broome where I’ve never been. This is going to take four hours flying to Perth and then a few to Broome (for those who don’t know, half way up the west coast of Australia) so I’ve convinced Sinnaman (who is recovering from jetlag having just arrived back from the Netherlands) to join me for the three days afterwards to sit with me on pristine miles of beach. While having a cocktail. Or two. Watch out for pictures in future Tuesday travel logs- I’m sure I can convince Stephanie to do a quick trip there…

So I just have to survive two days. Not so hard…

February 6th – Single Motherhood

How do single mother’s do it? Maybe they don’t. The forced adoption stories and stolen generation will be replaced in the next generation with the revealed secret that they are all screaming inside (or maybe not so silently): ‘Take. Them. Back. Now.’

Sinnaman is overseas for a week. I have two paid jobs to juggle, two days of voluntary work (whatever possessed me?), two children and a cat. Oh and the plumbers I’ll be seeing all week because the sewerage exploded (and despite what they charge they don’t clean up afterwards) and they are now digging up my beautiful cultivated garden. Well, organised chaos the last gardener who looked dubbed it. And that was before the plumbers arrived. Now just chaos I guess. Smelly chaos.

It’s okay. We can do it all. Have it all (does that include the cute plumber?).

Starting when they are babies. Yep, no problems impressing the mother-in-law thought my friend. Just wish she hadn’t turned up at 2pm when I hadn’t got out of the nightie, baby had just thrown up, breasts were leaking and infected Caesarian scar oozing.

Okay maybe we get it all after the baby phase?

Right after we’ve worked a sixty hour week, paid the extra for being late picking them up from Childcare (all the time I should imagine if you’re single), explained to your children that no, ‘work’ is not the name of the person you are having an affair with even if you’re wondering that if you did would your boss let you leave earlier.

Okay teenage years, right? As soon as I’ve mastered how to revive someone after they have chugged a litre of vodka. Either that or get them off my property so their parents won’t sue me. And surviving the 120 hours of driving practice.

Actually I’ll keep the children. I’m trying to convince one to become a plumber. Please someone take the shit out of my backyard instead. It’s getting hot…..

 

January 30th Perosnality Issues

Okay this week is going to be even madder than usual and it all starts today. Why does Monday dawn and I feel that it’s all too daunting, that there’ll never be enough time and why am I doing this to myself? It’s rarely as bad in reality. A bit of organisation goes a long way.

Ever done a Myer’s Brigg test? Because this may explain a lot to you if 1). You have no idea what I’m talking about (you’re a ‘J’) and 2). If you can so identify (you’re a ‘P’).

Let’s just take an example.

I have a friend who was very bemused by my supermarket  shopping style. My mission is to get in and out as fast as possible. This is a problem because I try to only do it monthly which means there is so much stuff I can’t carry it all and thus need someone with me. Someone is usually a child or the Sinnaman, neither of which is conducive to either fast or cheap shopping. But regardless the pressure is on – I am in there cracking the whip, racing down aisles and throwing things in as fast as I can. Because I’ve forgotten the list which I didn’t write (daughter is a J) unless she is with me I end up doubling up and missing stuff (I am a P in case you hadn’t worked this out).

My friend is a J. General’s are J’s which is a really good thing. A disorganised army is a scary thought (think of Beluscosi and the Italians versus Caesar). When my friend shops he always starts at the opposite end to the green groceries. I had never thought of this. He suggested I try when he watched me unloading squashed cherries…So P’s can learn, I have adopted this. But he also stacks the trolley and puts things in sections (meat together etc). Forget it. I can always do that at the check out if I have to. Which is unlikely. It can all happen at the fridge and cupboard putting away level.

Imagine what it’s like for two P’s together? Chaos? Actually I just find my inner ‘J’ when needed. The kids are always at school on time…

Two ‘J’s together? Mmm could be same holiday place every year. Orderly that way.

Now for the fun bit – a J with a P. It’s funny to watch, you just don’t want to get caught up in the melee. Like another male friend (J) with wife and three daughters (all P) booked for a three day trip to other side of the country. Missed the plane (well there was a lot of clothes to pack). Because it was only three days they couldn’t wait until next day, only available flights were Business Class…another $3000 later I suspect my poor J friend didn’t relax for months after.

Okay so I’m focused now. Some learnt J behaviour and the week will be fine…

 

 

January 23rd Just Bloody Mondays

Mondays always start badly because I haven’t slept well the night before. No matter that now I’m not working a nine to fiver, five days a week, that Monday is actually a day which can hold hidden delights instead of a weekend build up of emails and messages. There is something about saying goodbye to the weekend that immediately puts me on edge. The mind that contentedly switched off as my head hit the pillow on Saturday night, suddenly now has an urgent need to remind itself everything that has to get done, who has to be spoken to, emailed, called, tweeted or texted. And at the moment I have that extra dread of how many direct messages will I have telling me my account might have been hacked.

I am seriously over this current twitter virus which arrived in my direct message service to tell me someone was saying ‘terrible things’. After an initial thought of ‘how awful’ it was obviously spam and I ignored it. A few days later I have half a dozen people direct messaging me telling me I’ve sent it to them (which of course I hadn’t, or rather not deliberately – my apologies to anyone who got it from me). People start blocking and unfollowing me. This does not make me happy. I check for viruses, change my password (twice) and swear a lot at hackers and people who think this is funny. This one is still out there…

Last night was hot too which didn’t help. And I had to stay up for the tennis open. Not normally much of a tennis fan but Tomic at 19 is doing Australia proud, and besides he needed all the support he could get against Roger Fedderer (In ‘Embedded’ Stephanie has an interesting encounter with a tennis star in the Singapore Qantas lounge…).

I’ve tried yoga and relaxation tapes. They obviously work for some people, like my French teacher who unlike the French living in France, floats around in a Kaftan mumbling unintelligibly (several years of French and living there haven’t helped me progress much on the deciphering) and shaking her head about meat. But she does so very serenely. Blissfully even. Perhaps she doesn’t even need to sleep.

Sleeping tablets work of course, but I now only use when sober and on long distance flights after my husband convinced me that I had wandered into our guests bedroom in a negligee after one (admittedly with a healthy dose of wine, never a good idea with medication, let alone stilnox). I’m pretty sure this didn’t actually happen, but the female of the couple did look at me askew for a while. It was probably the collection of erotic literature though – this was before I ‘came’ out.

Hot Chocolate makes me think at least I’m doing something purposeful towards the task but with every new idea that pops into my increasingly weary brain necessitates another Hot Chocolate. One night can have my entire day’s calorie content covered, meaning the day isn’t only not going to start well but continue in this vein.

Then of course there’s my cat Pirate who likes to seize the opportunity of my restlessness to encourage play, patting or trips outside. He has a cat door on the ground floor, but on the third flight where my bedroom is, it’s the balcony he’s after. If I ignore these night diversions then he is happy to entertain me with sitting as close to me as possible and loudly purring, or better still, washing himself and with gay abandon including any bit of me that gets in the way.

Sleep. Well at least tonight I’ll be so tired I’ll fall into bed in a heap and be ready to repeat the cycle next week.

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