S is for…

I’ve taken on the challenge of an A-Z during April – one post each day on a chosen theme. My theme? Books and writing, of course…

S is for Sexy Scenes

Yep, I’ve written a few. I like to think – okay I hope – that when I have used a raunchy scene that it has advanced the plot or the characters a tad. I’m not, however, comfortable writing them.

So, how does one go about writing a sexy scene? Do I set the stage with mood lighting and soft music? Maybe a few candles? Nope. I wrote some of my more “interesting” scenes in decidedly unsexy surroundings:

  • In my lunch break at work in the food hall near IKEA with screaming kids and flatpack trolleys (Baby, It’s You and Big Girls Don’t Cry)
  • On the bus during my commute (Wish You Were Here)
  • Listening to next door’s washing machine beeping because it was out of balance and needed to have the load shifted and he’d gone out for the day (I Want You Back)

Then there have been those scenes I’ve written while still in bed on a Saturday morning with hubby standing in the doorway asking if I’d like scrambled or poached eggs – or maybe an omelette – for breakfast? Hmm…

The thing is, writing a squidgy scene isn’t a whole lot more different than writing anything else. Plus, if you let your imagination go wild, it can even be kind of fun – although it helps if you pretend that it will never be read by your mother. Before I gave a copy of Wish You Were Here to my mother I seriously considered redacting entire paragraphs. (sorry Mum)

But, I digress. When it comes to writing those scenes essentially:

  • The first sex scene between your protagonists should be the longest one in the book. It’s a turning point and a huge emotional whammy – often in more ways than one.
  • It’s also primarily an emotional act rather than a physical one. Whatever it is that our characters are doing – or how they’re doing it – we want to know how they’re feeling.
  • If you can delete the sexy bits without impacting the story, they probably shouldn’t be there. It has to advance the story in some way – either through bringing your protagonists together, pushing them apart, or complicating things enough to make a situation worse before it gets better.
  • Sex is when we’re at our most raw, most needy, and most emotionally vulnerable – this should come across (no pun intended) in that first scene.
  • Stay away from the IKEA style tab A into tab B type of physical instructions. As, (I think it was) Anne Gracie said in the Trust Your Voice session at last year’s RWA Conference, sex is about more than the “docking procedure”.
  • With your attention (and blood) diverted to areas much further south than your brain, deep and meaningful or philosophical conversations can happen before or after, but absolutely not during. Speaking of which, sex is real – as is humour – so it’s ok to lighten the mood as well.

In One More Dance (yes, I have a name for Book No. 5 now) my protagonists are in their fifties and – even though it shouldn’t have – writing their scenes presented a different set of challenges.

Previously I’d written characters in their late twenties and thirties. It felt easier opening their bedroom doors than it did opening the doors on an older couple – even though it shouldn’t have. In the end, I wrote their scenes in exactly the same way as I’d written for my younger characters. Time will tell whether that was successful or not.

It’s Lovin’ Life Linky time…

It’s Thursday, so it’s time to look for our happy and share it about a bit. The Lovin’ Life Linky is brought to you by Team Lovin’ Life: Deep Fried Fruit, DebbishSeize the Day ProjectWrite of the Middle50 Shades of Age,  and, of course, me…although I’m on holiday at the moment so mightn’t get around to answering or responding to all comments.

R is for…

I’ve taken on the challenge of an A-Z during April – one post each day on a chosen theme. My theme? Books and writing, of course…

R is for Rick Stein

Another of my foodie heroes, I love how Rick doesn’t just give you a recipe, he takes you on a journey. I’m sure some of it is scripted but I truly can imagine him wandering marketplaces and sipping beers in cafes writing notes and ideas in his journal.

Rick Stein is exactly the sort of food writer that I’d like to be – if I was actually writing about food, that is. I’m sure we would be besties if we ever met. Truly.

R is for Reviews

I don’t read them. I can’t – I’m way too thin-skinned. While logically I know that my stories and my characters won’t be everyone’s cup of tea – I don’t want to read that.

The same goes for my protagonists. We’ve all met people in real life who we don’t take to, so why should I be upset if others don’t like my characters? Yet I am.

So I don’t read reviews – in case no one has left one, and in case I don’t like what I see.

I do, however, leave reviews – if I’ve enjoyed a book, a restaurant, a hotel. Having said that, if I have a problem, I address it first with the restaurant or hotel before going to town about it on Trip Advisor.

As for books? I’ll leave reviews on Goodreads only for those that have really touched me. Much of the time if I don’t like a book, it’s because I don’t like the genre – and to review on that basis isn’t fair. If it wasn’t my cup of tea, why should I leave something soul destroying for the author?

I get that the whole business of reviews is, well, a business – especially in the indie author game. I also know that I need reviews in order to have any impact on the complicated system of algorithms that Amazon uses, but I can’t bring myself to actually ask for them. Nor do I think I’ll ever be the author who posts snippets of great ones on social media – only because I would have had to read them first!

Q is for…

I’ve taken on the challenge of an A-Z during April – one post each day on a chosen theme. My theme? Books and writing, of course…

Q is for Queenstown

I’ve told you how much I love New Zealand before, but Queenstown? If you haven’t been to this town you simply must.

Framed by The Remarkables mountain range – one of the few ranges in the world that runs truly north-south. That in itself is a remarkable fact, but I’m more inclined to believe they were named because of just how remarkable they look.

They, and Lake Wakatipu, change almost by the minute as the sun changes position and the light varies. Moody one minute, dramatic the next, but always, well, remarkable.

So remarkable that I’ve (so far) set two books there – Wish You Were Here and One More Dance (previously known as Book No. 5). I’ve also been percolating a new series all set in and around Queenstown.

The pic above is in a cafe in town – my favourite place for breakfast, Vudu Cafe and Larder. This cafe was the inspiration for Jess’s cafe, Beach Road, in Wish You Were Here and One More Dance.

The lookout spot on the road to Glenorchy

I’ve also taken my characters out to Glenorchy and Paradise. They’ve walked parts of the Routeburn Track and all of The Milford Track.

Paradise

In One More Dance, they get to explore Arrowtown and also get a glimpse of the wineries in the Gibbston Valley.

I haven’t yet allowed them to stroll through Old Cromwell or smell the wild thyme under their feet around Bannockburn. No doubt that will come.

Naturally, setting a novel in a place requires research – and lots of it. But in this case, it’s research that I’m more than happy to do.

 

 

P is for …

I’ve taken on the challenge of an A-Z during April – one post each day on a chosen theme. My theme? Books and writing, of course…

P is for Pop Music and Playlists

I’m a pop music tragic and manage to bring it into almost every book that I write. Indeed every book has a title inspired by lyrics of a pop song.

Em, my heroine in Baby, It’s You, has a playlist for every one of life’s moments. When she breaks up with her boyfriend she goes straight to the break-up playlist and the break-up meal.

In fact, that book was written with not just a soundtrack in mind – and yes, I have a soundtrack or playlist for every book – but there was, in the background,  a song allocated to each chapter. In one of the earlier drafts, I used these songs as the chapter titles.

As for using songs and lyrics in the book itself? No, I don’t go there.

I was going to – in Baby, It’s You – but after seeking permission to do so, the cost to use just a couple of lines from Augie March’s “One Crowded Hour” was prohibitive. Instead, I worked the lines into the dialogue. I’ve done the same in I Want You Back, working lines from “Xanadu” and “Blinded By The Light” into what my characters are saying.

Given that I’m not (yet) selling shedloads of books could I have got away with it? Possibly, but I wasn’t prepared to take that risk.

I wrote a post about the process I went through in order to obtain permission. You’ll find it here.

P is for Podcasts

I listen while I’m at my desk in the day job and I listen when I’m walking. Weirdly, I can’t listen while I’m writing – the sound of someone else’s voice and story gets in the way of the one that I’m telling. I say it’s weird because I write best when I’m in a coffee shop or at the Surf Club and am surrounded by white noise – yet can’t do day job work in those conditions.

Anyways, podcasts.

My favourites?

For indie business, I listen to Joanna Penn’s “The Creative Penn” and Mark Dawson’s “Self Publishing Formula.” From time to time I’ll add others into the mix, but these are the perennials.

For story ideas and human interest, I listen to:

  • Richard Fidler’s “Conversations” on ABC
  • BBC Radio 4’s “Saturday Live”
  • BBC Radio 4’s “Desert Island Discs”
  • BBC Radio 4’s “Books and Authors”
  • Gary Mehigan’s “A Plate To Call Home”

I also download specific episodes from:

  • Ideas At The House – talks at the Sydney Opera House
  • The Wheeler Centre
  • Sydney Writer’s Festival
  • Sparta Chicks Radio. This one is for athletes, trail runners etc, but has some great content for mindset stuff.

and enjoy

  • Chat 10 Looks 3 with Leigh Sales and Annabel Crabb
  • Flights of Fancy with my fave travel writer Ben Groundwater and
  • The Pineapple Project with Claire Hooper

I’m on the lookout for new podcasts with writers, so if you have suggestions…

O is for…

I’ve taken on the challenge of an A-Z during April – one post each day on a chosen theme. My theme? Books and writing, of course…

O is for Office

Anyways, I was reading a post not long about how you needed a space that was inspirational in order to produce your best work. Given that I work from home – for both my day job and my writing – I figured that I’d audit mine along the same guidelines…and add a few of my own.

De-clutter your workspace and change habits that create clutter

Hmmmm. I tend to work in what I call creative chaos. I have, however, got into the habit of putting my books back on the bookshelf as soon as I’m finished referring to them. These days, I also spend 10 mins or so on a Saturday morning just tidying things up a bit so that I can start Monday with a relatively clean space.

I also file once a month (instead of once a year), do my bills weekly (instead of when a reminder comes in), and my accounts are also done weekly (instead of the mad rush before we go to the accountants at tax time).

Remove or fix anything that’s broken

Ok, I do this…although I’ve got a MacBook charger that’s waiting to be replaced as a result of a close encounter of the canine kind. With the help of some electrical tape, I’ll get a bit more life out of that yet.

Anchor your purpose in your workspace

Also on the wall is a huge daisy picture by Garry McEwan about love. I’ve had it for years and look at it when I have the gloom and dooms and my creativity has got up and gone. To me, it says creativity and love. It also says:

Love is like a flower-

when it starts blooming in you,

you have to share it, 

you have to give.

And the more you give,

the more love grows.

If you go on giving,

a day comes when

you become a constant,

infinite source of love.

Place your furniture in the command position

Ummm no. Apparently, I should have a view of the door and a solid wall behind my back. My room doesn’t work that way. According to Feng Shui, this probably means that I’m not open to opportunity. Whatever.

Choose ergonomic furniture

Yep. Complete with a beach towel for when I come straight from the pool to my chair.

And my “guest chair,” ie where Miss 20 plonks down when she comes in to annoy the dog, is a swiss ball. So far it hasn’t been used for swiss ball type exercises, but the intention is there.

Something about fluorescent vs full spectrum light bulbs

Whatever

Open windows

Yep…except for when it’s raining. This is the only window in the house where the rain comes in.

Switch to all natural cleaning products

I’m an enjo user, so get a tick on this one too…

Reduce distractions

Trust me, I’m perfectly capable of creating my own. Having said that, I’m lucky enough to have a dedicated office with a door that closes.

Create a view

My view is of our pool. That’s a big tick.

Bring nature indoors

If that means my dog, I have that covered too…her snoring provides the soundtrack to my day. It’s hilarious (to me) when I have to wake her up when her snoring is loud enough to be heard on my teleconferences.

I’m thinking about getting a plant, but I do have a solar-powered daisy that bops all afternoon…does that count as flowers?

What else?

I have a series of three photos by Queenstown photographer Jason Law hanging on my wall – they’re there to remind me of the Routeburn Track (as if I need to be reminded) and the fabulous landscapes around Lake Tekapo and Lake Pukaki.

On my desk is a glass block photo of the Sunshine Coast hinterland near Maleny, a framed photo taken on the Everest Base Camp trek by my bestie’s daughter, and a photo of Craig’s Hut in Mansfield that my daughter gave me for Christmas that is still without a frame.

Another thing that stays on my desk is my Chinese fortune or chim sticks. I bought this set in Hong Kong at Shanghai Tang, and I love them to pieces.

What do you have in your office that helps your bum stay in that chair, and helps you produce words that make sense?

N is for…

I’ve taken on the challenge of an A-Z during April – one post each day on a chosen theme. My theme? Books and writing, of course…

N is for Nigella

Way back in the late 1990s I used to buy British Vogue every month. Not for the clothes – although British Vogue fashion spreads were a thing of art – but for Nigella Lawson’s column. I just loved her writing.

These days I buy the cookbooks – not just for the recipes or the books themselves – but for the writing. There’s something so luxurious in every sentence…and I love how she’s taken the antipodean pav and made it her own.

N is for New Zealand

Speaking of antipodean, if I was ever told that I could only ever visit one other country (heaven forbid the thought) – but could go to that country as often as I liked – that country would be New Zealand.

I like to get to Wellington most years to visit my bestie, but I’ve also done some road-tripping across the North Island and a lot of road-tripping in the South. I’m yet to get to the very top and the very bottom of each island though.

If I had to play favourites it would easily be the South Island. Full of drop dead oh my goodness scenery, sometimes it feels as though there’s a photogenic moment around each bend in the road.

Having said that, I have a soft spot for Wellington and am determined to find the right story to set there one day. One day.

 

 

 

M is for…

I’ve taken on the challenge of an A-Z during April – one post each day on a chosen theme. My theme? Books and writing, of course…

M is for Melbourne

So far I’ve set three books in Melbourne with another three – in various stages of progress- also set in this fabulous city.

Each of the heroines in my Melbourne Girls series lives in a different suburb – giving me plenty of opportunity for research:

Baby, It’s You – Em lives in Richmond – out now

Big Girls Don’t Cry – Abby is in the CBD – out now

I Want You Back – Callie is in Fitzroy – to be published in October 2018

See You Again – Tiff is in South Yarra – to be published in December 2018

The Alice Book (as yet untitled) – Alice lives in Prahran – to be published in March 2019

You can find all my Melbourne posts at this link.

Milford Track

I did this walk in November 2016 – and was woefully under-prepared. I wrote about the experience here.

Yes, I made it, but I still don’t feel good about that achievement – if indeed it was an achievement. The thing is, if you prepare appropriately, an eminently doable walk – and one that deserves the moniker of being the greatest multi-day walk in the world.

For me, my preparation was interrupted by the perfect storm of ridiculous stress at home and at work. Plus we had constant drenching rain for all but the final day. I was so anxious on the track that I couldn’t eat – which made me feel ill and energy depleted. It took my feet months to recover. While I came back from the Routeburn Track feeling as though I could accomplish anything, I came back from Milford feeling broken – both physically and emotionally.

It did, however, give me the germ of an idea – how would it be if you took someone already quite broken out there? Would their complete breakdown result in a necessary breakthrough or would the experience crumble what was still intact?

I explored that idea with Kate in Book No. 5 – now with a tentative title of One More Dance.

M is for Mooloolaba

Just 10 minutes or so from our house, this is my beach, my happy place. I walk down here most weekday mornings and come down to write whenever I can escape the day job.

I firmly believe that Mooloolaba Surf Club should make me the official writer in residence.

Oh, and it does feature in I Want You Back.

M is for Murial Spark

Dame Muriel Spark was a Scottish novelist and came in at no. 8 on The Times’ list of greatest British writers since 1945. I have no idea who else is on that list and normally I wouldn’t care.

I have, however, recently discovered her books. Alan Davies on BBC 4’s A Good Read Podcast selected Spark’s “A Far Cry From Kensington” to talk about – partly, he said, because it was short, and partly because it was brilliant and funny.

So I read it too – for the same reasons. And loved it. I’m now reading “Memento Mori” which she wrote in 1959. “The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie” is next on my list.

 

 

 

L is for…

I’ve taken on the challenge of an A-Z during April – one post each day on a chosen theme. My theme? Books and writing, of course…

L is for Lyon

We’ll be in Lyon later this month and there’s so much about the place that’s already firing my imagination. Sit back while I weave the beginnings of a tale…

If you were to look at a satellite image of Lyon – which you’re probably not inclined to do but please, go with me on this – you’d see a few streets running parallel to the river but not many side streets connecting them that actually run down to the river.

This isn’t a problem if you’re a tourist – so you have to walk an extra 200m, what of it? But it is a problem if you’re a 15th-century silk trader and you’re carrying heavy bolts of fabulously precious silk.

Ok, I’m going to stop right there for a second as the image and the idea develops – 15th century and silk trade.

So, you’re a 15th-century silk trader carrying heavy fabric and you need to get to the river quickly…what do you do? You start to take shortcuts through houses and courtyards and private passageways to get your precious cargo between the river and the city and vice versa. That’s what you do.

We now know this network of passageways as traboules – a word that comes from the Latin trans ambulare which means “to cross” – and Lyon has hundreds of these.

Another pause while we picture this – 15th century, silk traders, a network of passageways to the river and a waiting cargo ship. The colour of the silk striking against the murkiness of the candlelit passageways. Yep, the image and the idea is beginning to get clearer. I’m thinking smuggling and other dark deeds…

Right, back to the history. Although these alleys were associated with the silk traders in that the traboules kept the fabric dry as well as provided a convenient shortcut, they’ve been in Lyon at least since the 4th century.

You see, back in the day, Lyon was a bit of a poster child for the Roman Empire. Signs of this are still around – with the structures apparently still quite impressive. I’ll let you know after we visit them.  It makes you wonder what the Romans knew about building back then?

But I digress. Lyon was important  – or Lugdunum as they called it, which doesn’t have quite the same ring as Lyon – partly because it was a handy stop-over point, but mostly because it has two rivers. The Rhone curves through the centre of Lyon as does the Saone.

Anyways, once the Romans reluctantly left town, the aqueducts bringing water to the city started to fail – a little like an iPhone at the end of its warranty. People started building closer to the river and the first traboules were built around this time to allow people to get from their homes to the water quicker.  Yeah, not much of a story there – I think I’ll stay with the 15th-century silk traders.

These silk workers, known as canuts had to eat… so let’s move forward a couple of hundred years to the 17th and 18th century to talk about the other thing I’m looking forward to in Lyon – les bouchons.

The Bouchon is a restaurant serving Lyonnaise cuisine – which is heavily meat-based and does, shall we say, use the whole of the animal.

These were originally places where silk merchants stopped to have a meal, clean their horses and maybe stay the night. The term Bouchon was used then to describe the twisted straw brushes used to clean the horses. Don’t say you don’t learn anything from this blog.

Most of these Bouchons were run by women – Mere Lyonnaises (the Mothers of Lyon) who left their positions as cooks in middle-class households to start their own businesses. I’m beginning to see another strand of a potential story and I haven’t even visited yet!

Then there’s the tradition of machon (the a has a little upside down triangle over it). This is pretty much charcuterie and all bits porky served with pots of Beaujolais in the early morning.  The silk weavers – or canuts – of La Croix-Rousse would all get together to share these meals at dawn after they finished work. My kind of breakfast.

Tired and down-trodden silk workers, hungry bellies, pork and litres of red wine before the sun is properly up – I’m seeing the perfect environment for the hatching of dastardly plans.

Maybe there’s a way of making this trip tax deductible after all…


It’s Lovin’ Life Linky time…

It’s Thursday, so it’s time to look for our happy and share it about a bit. The Lovin’ Life Linky is brought to you by Team Lovin’ Life: Deep Fried Fruit, Debbish, Seize the Day Project, Write of the Middle, 50 Shades of Age, and, of course, me.

Feel free to link up a post that reflects what you’re lovin’ about life. All bloggers are welcome! Fashion, food, beauty, business, personal, parenting … whatever …

Make sure you click on some of the Lovin’ Life links below and see what else is in the blogosphere. So much to love …


K is for …

I’ve taken on the challenge of an A-Z during April – one post each day on a chosen theme. My theme? Books and writing, of course…

K is for Kali

Allow me to introduce you to my pooch.

Glenbriar Catch a Star…or, as we call her, Kali, Adventure Spaniel (as an aside her Instagram tag is @adventurespaniel).

She might be from a good line of cocker spaniel royalty, but we named her after Kali, the Hindu Goddess. It’s a Pluto, astro thing… don’t ask.

Kali first came into our home in February 2009 – when she was just 12 weeks old. Just how cute was she?

These days she comes to work with me every day – and by coming to work with me I mean she lies on her cushion beside my desk or on one underneath it. There have been times when he snores can be heard on the teleconferences I do for the day job. She holds the honorary position of Staff Engagement Officer.

Hard at work

K is for Kindle

I know some people are completely digital and others will only read print books – I’m happily hybrid. I usually have at least two books on the go at any time – one on the kindle and one print.

The Kindle has changed the way I travel and read. Travelling used to be a reading nightmare – these days I don’t worry about excess kilos of the book variety, I simply have my kindle in my bag. I do, however, still buy a real book at the airport.

As to whether I save money buying books on kindle? Yeah, nah….not really. I do take advantage of Book Bubs and Amazon specials though.

K is for Kiwi

I love all things New Zealand and like to think that if I ever wasn’t Australian, then I could absolutely be a Kiwi. Just saying.

I’ve so far set two books partly in New Zealand – Wish You Were Here and Book No. 5…with more planned…but I’ll tell you about that when we get to N and Q.

 

 

J is for…

I’ve taken on the challenge of an A-Z during April – one post each day on a chosen theme. My theme? Books and writing, of course…

J is for Jo…

As if J could be for anything else?

I interviewed myself a little while back and talked about my writing and why I’m Indie. You’ll find that post here. As for more about me?

Where were you born?

I was born in southwestern Sydney in a fibro house that had 2 dogs and a cat out the back, and a holden in the driveway. My Dad is a country boy who worked in the same bank for nearly 40 years, and my Mum was born and raised in Sydney and stayed at home to raise us kids.

So you’re a Sydney girl?

Not really.

We moved out of Sydney to country NSW when I was 8, and moved back to Sydney for my final year of school. In between we lived in Merriwa (in the Hunter Valley), Bombala (near the Victorian border), and Springwood (in the Blue Mountains). I have a scar on my leg from a cow horn (that ruined my favourite pair of jeans), and a broken bone in my back from a horse fall. I learnt how to ride a horse, milk a cow, drench a sheep (amongst other things) and know the difference between a Murray Grey and an Angus. I also know that Charolais isn’t something you drink.

I moved to Canberra when I finished Uni and met my husband to be down there. We moved back to Sydney (for work) in 1992 and then headed up here to the Sunny Coast (for lifestyle) in March 2017.

Any siblings?

Yep. I’m the eldest of four kids (three girls and a boy). I’m the responsible one.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a romance novelist. Then I wanted to be a journalist. Then I wanted to be a radio announcer. Then I wanted to write airport blockbusters. Then I wanted to be a journalist.

What was your first job?

Shredding files at a major law firm. I blew the entirety of my first pay packet on a dual cassette player.

What was your first real job?

I joined Westpac as an Economics graduate back in 1988. Go on, ask me about the J curve…

Sydney or Melbourne?

Melbourne

Favourite Country to visit?

The next one.

If I can only choose one, it would probably be New Zealand.

Last holiday?

Vietnam – in April 2017.

Coffee or tea?

Wine. That doesn’t count? Ok, English Breakfast tea. I’m fussy about my tea though.

Favourite cuisine?

Asian street food. Especially Pho and Hainanese Chicken Rice.

Something other people don’t know?

I was a rugby league referee – one of the first female referees…and the first one actively doing games. I was 18 and about half the weight I am now.

Mantra?

Seriously, how hard can it be?

One word to describe you?

Emotional.