I’ll give you a rundown of my year in books next week, but for now, with Christmas just 11 days away, I’m reading only seasonal titles – just to get into the spirit of it all.
In fact, I’m so full of the spirit of the season that I’m planning my own Christmas novel. It will be full of food, love, and two dogs named Nigel and Nigella. As for the rest? Yeah, I haven’t got that far yet!
Anyways, without further ado here’s what’s in my kindle for Christmas…
A Gift From Comfort Food Cafe, Debbie Johnson – part of the fabulous Comfort Food Cafe series
Christmas At The Comfort Food Cafe, Debbie Johnson – ditto
A Paris Christmas, John Baxter – a book about one man’s search to plan and source the perfect French Christmas dinner
Christmas at Claridges, Karen Swan – which, disappointingly, isn’t really about either Christmas or Claridges.
The Christmas Secret, Karen Swan – which, much more pleasingly, is about both Christmas and a Scottish whisky distillery.
Mistletoe and Murder, Carola Dunn – part of the Daisy Dalrymple series
The Mother Of All Christmases, Milly Johnson – I thought this one would be a lot more predictable than it has turned out to be…thankfully. What I’ve loved is re-meeting a whole host of characters from her previous (stand-alone) novels.
The Christmas Wish, Tilly Tennant – on my to be read by Christmas or over the Christmas break pile
An Island Christmas, Jenny Colgan – on my to be read by Christmas or over the Christmas break pile
Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery, Jenny Colgan – on my to be read by Christmas or over the Christmas break pile
Ok, that’s my Christmas reading list – what’s on yours?
Okay, so November is over and I should be proudly showing off my digital NaNoWriMo winner’s certificate, but I’m not – because I didn’t win this year. By win, I mean I didn’t get to my 50,000-word target.
I was on track – right up until the beginning of the last week – and then life, or rather the opposite, got in the way with the passing of a close friend.
In any case, I finished November with over 40,000 more words than what I started the month with – and that to me is a win. (As an aside, if you attempted NaNoWriMo and have more words at the end of November than you did at the beginning of the month, you’re a winner in my book.)
On the whole, this November was theoretically much easier than previous NaNo months – there were no holidays, no work projects and no time away or off the grid as there had been in previous years. The day job hasn’t even been as manic as it usually is.
Despite this I did, however, have more trouble with the whole bum-on-seat-fingers-on-keyboard thing than I do when I’m actively juggling. It’s probably why my likelihood of getting it done increases the more that I have on my plate.
I did more procrasti-watching, procrasti-blogging and procrasti-baking than I usually do too. Plus I was struck with a brilliant idea that I want to write immediately.
Instead, I’m writing copious notes and hope that the idea will still appear as brilliant as it does today when I finally finish editing Careful What You Wish For and drafting It’s In The Stars.
This is a public service announcement for my Mum and Dad who have probably signed on here early on Thursday morning expecting to read my Thursday morning blog and are disappointed because there’s nothing more than this message…
My non-writing posts can now be found over at and anyways. In fact, you’ll find this week’s post at this link…
Here’s a spoiler alert – it’s about dumplings…and other things that I’m loving right now…like street art, jacarandas and murals on busy city underpasses. Oh and butcher birds.
See you over there…
(Oh, and Mum & Dad? I’ll sign you up to the email…) xxx
Ok, so we’re a few days past the halfway point of this year’s NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).
The challenge, as I told you back in October, is to write 50,000 words in November. (If you want to know more the link is here.) The question, I’m sure that you’re all dying to have answered, is how I’m going so far this month?
For a start, I’ve been slack in that I haven’t been updating the official nanowrimo graph every day. I am, however at 35,305 words for the month so far. That’s exactly on target – and given the way that this month has gone, that’s surprising. It truly has been a case of getting it done in between the day job, the release of Happy Ever After, and the myriad of other bits and pieces.
I’m not going to tell you that they’re good words – because they’re not. It’s a messier than usual messy first draft. As someone very smart once said: you can’t edit a blank page.
I do, however, know where the story is going and, more importantly, how it’s going to end. Knowing how this one will end is important as it has to tie up all the characters and all the stories from the chick lit series that started all the way back with Baby, It’s You:
Baby, It’s You – Em’s story
Big Girls Don’t Cry – Abby’s story
Wish You Were Here – Max’s story
I Want You Back – Callie’s story (out soon)
Careful What You Wish For – Tiff’s story (out early 2019)
and finally, this one It’s In The Stars – Alice’s story (out mid-2019)
(Happy Ever After is a stand-alone novel…)
Each of these is a stand-alone novel, but with characters making “guest” appearances. My original idea was to have a set of central stories with everyone being loosely linked and coming together somehow at the end – like if Notting Hill was a series of chick lit books.
It’s working out that way, but it’s also heading towards another stand-alone series I have an idea for…more on that later…maybe.
It’s finally here – release day for Happy Ever After.
Release day is always a tad anti-climactic – especially when you’re an indie author and the book is in digital format rather than in print. Hubby and I did, however, celebrate with a few drinks – ok, quite a few drinks – last night.
My literary stable partner – is that even a term? – and friend Samantha Wood also helped make release day special by featuring me on her author interview blog today. You can find the link here. Thanks so much Samantha 🙂
That’s always the question.
I’m currently in the process of drafting It’s In The Stars – the 5th and final instalment in my chick-lit series; editing Careful What You Wish For – the 4th in that series; and writing the blurb for I Want You Back – the 3rd in that set behind Baby, It’s You and Big Girls Don’t Cry.
In the meantime, here’s a look at all my little book babies in a row together…
Happy Ever After is now available in all regions on Amazon. This link will take you to your region.
I love Queenstown. Absolutely adore it. It’s why Happy Ever After is the 2nd of my books to feature it as a location – Wish You Were Here was the first.
Anyways, these are some of the locations in Queenstown and surrounds that I’ve used…so far…
Of course. Framed by The Remarkables Lake Wakatipu is so amazingly beautiful. In fact, it’s so beautiful that it takes me by surprise. Every time I see the lake and mountains it’s as if I’ve never seen them before.
The Sun rolls it’s way through, lighting different parts of the peaks- almost in time with the breath of the breeze. That in itself is an interesting concept in that the lake rises and falls by up to 20cm every half hour or so, yet it isn’t tidal. It’s as if the lake is breathing.
And that’s all part of the Maori legend of the lake.
Apparently, a local ogre named Matau (they had local ogres in those days) was burned to death for taking advantage of the daughter of an important chief. The resultant fire melted the snow and ice of the surrounding mountains and it all ran into the deep hole where Matau fell- creating Lake Wakatipu. Yet the ogre was so strong that his pulse survives in the daily rise and fall.
I love stories like this.
Vudu Cafe & Larder
My absolute favourite place for brekky. They have another cafe now – Bespoke Kitchen, but the original is still the place to be in my humble opinion.
Down on the lake, I reinvented this place as Jess’s Beach Road Cafe in Wish You Were Here and it has a role in Happy Ever After as well.
The absolute best street food Asian in Queenstown – and possibly the best I’ve had in NZ – and you know I love my Asian street food…#bigcall
The Road to Glenorchy
Check that view. Is that inspiring, or is that inspiring?
There’s a pub here, a general store and trading post, a photogenic wharf and it’s also the jumping off place for the Dart River adventures (absolutely recommended) and a few tramping tracks.
Just down the road is Paradise – the scene of many ads, movies and TV shows…plus a rather spicy love scene in Wish You Were Here…
A charming gold-rush town at its absolute picturesque best in the autumn.
A great place for a Sunday session, the Cardrona is on the Crown Range Road between Queenstown and Wanaka – another road with spectacular scenery.
An old gold mining area now famous for amazing wines. I loved it for the fields of wild thyme and other wild flowers in late spring.
As opposed to Cromwell town which is the new Cromwell.
“Upon the completion of the Clyde Dam in 1992, the valley behind the dam was flooded to create Lake Dunstan. To preserve the town’s gold mining and pioneering past, dedicated volunteers painstakingly moved the buildings from Cromwell’s original town centre to higher ground.” (From the official tourism site…)
In case you missed it…
From next week all my personal, travel, wrap-up and linky posts will be over at And Anyways. I explained why here. I’d love to see you there.
This site will be devoted to books and writing – and the business of writing… I’m hoping that it’s the right way to be going…
Surely, I thought, I can make things easier for myself. The Sunny Coast and astro blogs have their own audiences that don’t tend to cross over to other sites, so I’d leave them be, but I could put all my other posts onto my author site ie this one. That way, I figured, I’d have all my audience in one place.
It made perfect sense – until it didn’t.
Although it was certainly easier for me to post to just one site, something didn’t feel right. The love had gone. Regular blogging was feeling like one more chore and I was *this* close to giving it up.
I told myself it was frustration at how slowly my author business was growing – but that wasn’t what it was about. So, in true project manager mode, I went back to look at my original scope:
When I began this site in August 2016 it was:
to provide landing pages for my novels
to market my novels
to provide information about the process, business, mindset and craft of writing
to provide information and resources for other indies (or trad) authors.
When I started And Anyways back in 2013, it was to provide a place where I could write about everything that my astrology readers had no interest in – ie anything that wasn’t specifically related to astrology. It was where I connected with other bloggers and had fun writing about anything that took my fancy.
It occurred to me that I have 2 audiences – actually 3 if you count the astro readers, and there are rather a lot of them – and 2 reasons for blogging:
Business and content marketing
For fun, creativity and connections
In hindsight, it was a mistake to combine the 2 – I’ve lost what both sites were intended to be about. I’ve diluted the professionalism and purpose of the author page and I no longer write about some of the other subjects that interest me or participate in some of the link-ups that I used to enjoy.
In participating in regular link-ups I’ve made fabulous connections – some which have crossed over into real life, and others that I hope will someday.
And that’s when it hit me – the problem wasn’t that I no longer wanted to blog, but that I didn’t feel free to blog the way that I wanted.
I put it out to the fabulous brains trust that is a couple of my Facebook groups who pretty much confirmed my thinking. So, here’s the deal:
Joanne Tracey – The Hungry Writer
This site will revert back to being all about books and writing. That’s it. I might write about craft or the business and mindset of being an author, but this is, for all intents and purposes, a business page and needs to look, feel and read like one and be true to its niche.
I’ll be breathing new life into this baby. I’ve already given it a facelift – pop on over and have a look.
What can you expect to see? Pretty much the things and places that inspire me, whatever I’m loving now, and anything else that I feel like rambling on with.
Naturally, there’ll be travel – and probably some food inspired by that travel. There’ll also be the weekly and monthly catch-ups, the lovin’ life linky on a Thursday, and maybe even some wellness stuff as I get into training for a long distance hike I’m planning towards in 2020 – if I can ever get this flipping ankle right. Some days it might just be a photo or three.
Okay, this is a secret little corner of the web that I’ve been cultivating for a few months now. It’s where I write about what I’m cooking, what’s inspiring me, what I’m procrastibaking and what I’m testing to use in my next novel.
I don’t write regularly or to any sort of schedule and I don’t intend to – it’s my kitchen diary. You are, of course, welcome to come across and check it out from time to time, although I will link to any new recipes in my weekly round-up.
I also have a companion Instagram account @brookfordkitchendiaries where I post my foodie photos these days.
If you’ve read Wish You Were Here, you’d know that my protagonist Maxine (Max) Henderson lived in a (fictional) village in The Cotswolds called Brookford.
Max worked in a nursery in Brookford – one of those ones that sell gifts as well as plants, with a little local produce on the side. She took what was in season and wrote a monthly newsletter for the shop – what to plant, what to harvest, and what to do with it. It was a kitchen diary of sorts, detailing what she’d been baking or cooking from the ingredients available – seasonal home cooking at it’s absolute best.
Max now lives in Queenstown and is still baking, but through her, I’ve discovered a love for writing about food – so much that my new novel, Happy Ever After, also falls firmly into foodie lit territory. This time though, food and family are closely intertwined.
Anyways, when I was looking for a name for my kitchen diary, I had to channel Max.
What happens now?
Tomorrow’s post for the Lovin’Life linky will be the last of its kind on this site. Likewise, my week in review will be on And Anyways from next week.
If you’ve signed up to receive notifications of new posts from both this site and And Anyways you might notice some duplication of posts over the next few weeks as I transfer some travel posts – especially the France posts – across to there. If you think you’ve read it before, you probably have. It might look as though I’m being very productive, but I’m not – I’m just copying and pasting.
This should all be done and dusted by the beginning of December, so thanks for bearing with me in the meantime.
If you haven’t signed up to receive an email every time I post to And Anyways. You’ll find the “follow” option in the footer or in the sidebar of any post.
For everyone who has been along with me for the ride thus far, thank you. I hope that you come to visit at And Anyways.
And if you’re interested in writing, the business of writing, and bringing a novel into the world, feel free to hang about here from time to time.
I giggled my way through Richard Glover’s The Land Before Avocado – a wise and funny look at Australia in the 1960s and 1970s. As one of the review states, “The Land Before Avocado explains why this was the cultural revolution we had to have.”
It also, in my humble opinion, should be required reading for shock jocks the likes of Ray Hadley and Alan Jones and anyone else harking back to the good old days…but don’t get me started on that.
I also requested and received an advance copy for review purposes of All The Tears In China, the latest in Sulari Gentill’s Rowland Sinclair mysteries. Keep an eye out for it – it’s fabulous.
What I wrote…
It’s November so I’m deep in nanowrimo territory. As I write this blog I haven’t yet done today’s words, but am currently sitting at 18605 words – that’s on target. Just.
What I blogged…
With just a week to go until the official release date of Happy Ever After, I’ve been posting a photo a day from The Milford Track to Instagram. Why? Because Milford Track and Queenstown feature as locations in this novel.
I even wrote a blog post on my Milford experience. You can find it here and if you’re after a preorder for Happy Ever After, you can get it here.
I also popped up something new on my very neglected Sunny Coast blog. More on that below.
Finally, I even managed a couple of posts on my astro site – something I’ve neglected for the last few months. Yep, with this much procrastiblogging I must be in first draft mode.
What I cooked…
I had one of “those” days yesterday – where I was tired to the bone and to the brain. Like my brain had run out of space and important things were beginning to leak out of it. So I hit the kitchen.
I had an aha moment a few weeks ago about why I enjoy baking even though I don’t eat sugar – although I drink plenty of it in its fermented form. When I cook I like to take the recipe as an indication only, but when I bake the measuring and weighing actually helps my brain calm down and find a semblance of focus.
So, what did I make? Piccalilli, for a start. We love piccalilli at Christmas. It’s the perfect accompaniment for hams and cheeses and given that it’s tough to buy a good one I decided to make it..
I also made a berry-topped no-bake cheesecake slice and strawberry ice cream. It’s a really bad photo of the ice-cream – it really is quite creamy.
If you want the recipes, you can find the cheesecake here, the ice-cream here and an approximation of the piccalilli here.
Where we lunched…
A new (to us) Mexican at Alexandra Headlands. Juan Fifty. The food was great, the decor bright, and the vibe Sunday sessiony.
The best part? Locally brewed craft beer on the drinks menu. This one is the Larry pale ale from Your Mates brewing company.
Next week marks 2 years since I hiked the Milford Track in New Zealand. It is then, perhaps fitting that Happy Ever After will also be published next week. Why fitting? Because the Milford Track and Queenstown feature quite heavily in this story.
Over 100 years ago the Spectator magazine declared Milford “the finest walk in the world” – and although I have limited experience of these things, they weren’t wrong. It is way more than fine.
My Milford experience wasn’t an entirely happy one even though the track itself was as wildly beautiful as everyone says that it would be.
This tramp – 54km or 33.5 miles (all the distance markers are in miles) – over glacier-fed rivers, through luxurious beech forest and up and over the alpine crossing that is the MacKinnon Pass – is a truly beautiful one. Yet while I finished the Routeburn Track only a couple of years earlier feeling as though I could do anything I set my mind to, there were a lot of moments on this one – particularly on day 3 with the Mackinnon Pass crossing – where I felt as though it had broken me.
It wasn’t just the rain – although it did rain steadily for the first 3 days. I’d gone with the guided walk option so even though we were soaked through by the end of each day, drying rooms and hot showers soon had us toasty and warm. Besides, rain is part of the landscape down here – and its beauty is even more dramatic in the rain.
No, my experience was marred by a lack of adequate training. This is rated a moderate walk and doable for most people with average fitness. I, however, had not prepared as well as I could have and should have.
2016 was a horror of a year with nasty unexpected surprise on top of nasty unexpected surprise. One after the other. Friends, jobs, finances, losses. We don’t need to get into the unpleasant detail. Between a daily 3 hour commute and all the other stuff that was happening, getting into a regular training pattern was difficult and my head was not where it needed to be.
As a result, I’d trained for the distances and the flat, but not for the uneven ground and certainly not for Mackinnon Pass. After the year that I’d had it felt as though the Pass had broken me into bits. I’m glad now that it did feel that way as I was able to use the experience when I was writing Kate’s story in Happy Ever After.
Day 1 involved mostly getting to the start of the track. After waking to news of an overnight earthquake in Wellington, we left Queenstown on a bus for Te Anau Downs (with a stop at Te Anau for lunch) and then a boat ride to Glade Wharf and the official start of the track.
Day 2 was an easy tramp – 16kms (10 miles) over relatively flat ground in the pouring rain. The amount of rain meant that the waterfalls sprang from absolutely everywhere.
I tramped most of the day alone and it was immensely gorgeous and peaceful and all of those words I was hoping it would be.
That afternoon back at the lodge the keas – large and extremely cheeky alpine parrots – kept us amused with their comical antics – and an active demonstration of why you shouldn’t leave hiking boots outside your room to dry!
Day 3 was different. Although the distance was slightly shorter than the previous day, it was a steep uphill climb to Mackinnon Pass and an even steeper descent.
Going up was physically tough and my lack of preparation showed. I was slow and sore. Once we got above the beech forest, the views though, were magnificent.
At the memorial at the top, the clouds miraculously cleared and we could see the valley below – and just how far we’d come.
After stopping for some lunch and to use the toilet with the best view in the entire world, we made our way down – slowly, with my toes banging into the front of my boots and what felt like knives driving into my knees. Going up was hard, but I spent the entire 4 hours going down being scared of every step I took in case I fell and hurt myself.
The longest of the walking days – 21 kms or 13.5 miles – the terrain was a little rocky, and there were a number of suspension bridges to cross, but otherwise nothing too challenging. It was, in fact, a glorious day to be tramping.
At (aptly named) Sandfly Point we boarded a boat to take us across to our accommodation for the night at Mitre Lodge and a final night dinner with a real party atmosphere.
Day 5 – Milford Sound
On day 5 we woke to a magnificent blue day and a cruise boat in at Milford Sound.
Before heading back to Queenstown we did a cruise of Milford Sound. I’ve been fortunate enough to have been on Milford Sound a few times – twice on a short cruise like this one and once on an overnight cruise that I’ll never forget.
Anyways, these are views that would never get old. And the rain during the week just made the waterfalls even more impressive.
Would I do it again?
I’m not sure. Even though I said that I’d never ever ever do another long distance walk with a mountain in the middle again, it feels a little like unfinished business. Having said that, I’m planning another long distance challenge for early 2020 – if I can ever get this flipping ankle right.
Would I recommend it to others? Absolutely. This truly is a magnificent walk with magnificent views – even in the rain…or maybe especially because of the rain.
I struggled – as did a few of the others – because I hadn’t prepared as well as I should have. Everyone else appeared to manage it very easily. I remain in awe of the group of Victorian hikers – all of whom were well into their 60s – who bounded up and down that mountain with relative ease.
As for my character, Kate Spence, will she do it again? She doesn’t need to – she got exactly what she needed to get from the experience.
I know that I say this every month, but where has October gone?
It was a month that had some pretty big highlights – a glamping trip to the Scenic Rim and a celebration for my father’s 80th birthday – and also a lot of business as usual. It was a month of serious rain – storm season has definitely arrived here in South East Queensland – and sunny blue skies and perfect beach weather.
Just a couple of lowlights – a chronic ankle injury and an attempted fraud on my credit card which has led to the cancellation of said card as I was about to get on a flight to Sydney for a week. Talk about inconvenient! #dontgetmestarted
Anyways, without further ado, let’s wrap this month up.
The month in photos…
The month in sentences…
1.Words at the Surf Club, some great finds at the 2nd hand bookshop and Careful What You Wish For (aka Book No. 6) finished. Plus it’s the Monday of a long weekend.
2. Walk, work, gym, work – just another ordinary Tuesday.
3. Ankle seriously sore – I’ve self diagnosed it as a tendonitis.
4. A big day in the office and more ankle pain.
5. Off to the Scenic Rim and glamping at Ketchup’s Bank. Lunch at the Scenic Rim Brewery and stroganoff cooked in the camp kitchen for dinner. Heavy rain outside, but we’re toasty and warm in our tent.
6. More rain, unusual yet fun wine tasting, and more gourmet delight cooked outside in the camp kitchen.
7. Rain cleared to amazing views this morning. Home again.
If you want to know more about Ketchup’s Bank, check out my post…here.
8. Back to business – walk, whale spouts, work.
9. Hubby in Brissie for the day, massive storm this afternoon – the two aren’t connected.
10. Thunderbolts and lightning – another massive downpour and new phones all round. Wonder of all wonders we no longer have to take our calls on the front lawn.
11. Managed a walk before the rain started. Seriously messy stressy day work wise.
12. Rain, haircut…that’s all.
13. Torrential rain for most of the day – even the cane toads were sheltering on the back step. Spent the morning at the markets in the mud and the afternoon going through slides for Dad’s album.
14. Managed a walk before the rain started again. Spent the day working on Dad’s album – except for procrastibaking triple chocolate chocolate chip cookies.
15. Torrential downpours to start the day. there’s beginning to be a pattern here…
16. Finally a walk before work and there’s a strange colour in the sky – it could almost be blue.
17. The sun is out properly. Hooray.
18. Ankle pain almost unbearable on walk this morning – think it could be time to see someone about it.
19. Caught up on some strategy stuff this morning, podiatrist, lunch date with my daughter at moo-free burgers. And my diagnosis of tendon damage was spot on. Self congratulations all round.
20. Markets this morning and first mango of the year. Weird mushrooms growing in the rosemary.
21. Wander up Maple Street in Maleny, browse in the 2nd hand book shops and lunch at Brouhaha Brewery. Sunday done well.
22. Slow walk on my damaged and taped up ankle, but otherwise business as usual on this blue blue Monday.
23. Another cracker of a day. Happy Ever After sent off for formatting.
24. Ankle slightly better so I took the tape off – possibly a mistake. Fabulous morning that made logging of for work extra hard. Whales spouting away on the horizon.
25. Gorgeous day…and work. That’s all.
26. Happy Birthday to my long-suffering and wonderful husband. Love ya to the end of the blue and back.
27. Off to Sydney and overnighting at my old neighbours…and a rather large night it was!
28. A tad dusty this morning – I’m too old to be mixing drinks. Big family celebration for my Dad’s 80th.
29. Official happy birthday to the old man. Thanks for being the best dad ever. In the actual office for a change.
30. Lunch with my brother and drinks after work with a colleague.
31. Unexpected catch-up with an old friend.
What I read…
It was a light month on the book front. Aside from a few genre romances:
The Girl I Used To Know, Faith Hogan
Billy, Billy Connolly
The Man I Think I Know, Mike Gayle – one of the best books I’ve read this year.
What I watched…
The final episodes of Rake – I think this could actually be the end…
Pacific, with Sam Neill – I’ve really enjoyed this.
Pine Gap – the first episode was really disappointing, but then I got hooked in.
Unforgotten – Series 3…I’m just 2 episodes in, but it’s as good as the previous 2 series.