Dipping a toe into NaNoWriMo

I don’t know if it’s a good idea or not, but I wrote today, jumped on into the completely hidden waters of my new novel. Why? Simply because it’s NaNoWriMo time, that time of year that sends writers into a frenzy with the challenge of writing an entire novel during the month of November. I’ve never completed NaNoWriMo before. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever started. And I am a day late if I am going to do it this year.

It’s a completely ridiculous time to try to write an entire novel, with a new babe and trying to sell/rent/buy/move/relocate houses. Every day is just a smidge under completely hysterical in our house.

But maybe that’s the point? Maybe that’s exactly the time I should be jumping into the pool to cool off from the high pressure heat of elsewhere?

I was encouraged by Kim Wilkins’ recent post on keeping going even while things are super hard. And I love her fun yet practical idea of picking numbered boxes to motivate the day’s word count.

Today, I clocked up 1909 words. Not bad considering I haven’t actually plotted out my book yet and I just banged them out while the baby was asleep. I’ve no idea where I’m going next but I guess I’ll just have to turn up each day and find out.

Swimming in the dark? Sure… nothing bad ever happens when you do that 😉

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It’s all in the name of research

My lovely sister and me. The chocolate doctors are in!

I love research. And when it’s about food, even better.

Living the writer’s dream for me is about delving into subjects I’m interested in and absorbing a mass of information and, preferably, sensory experience. And it really doesn’t get any better than researching one of the greatest things on earth: chocolate.

Chilli ganache chocolate sandwiches

Chocolate features heavily in my next book and this weekend just gone my lovely (and exceptionally talented) sister and I headed into Brisbane for an afternoon of making chocolates and ganaches by hand. I have to say, though, that they worked us extremely hard. Amanda and I thought we might have a fun afternoon indulging in chocolate. Not so much. More like five hours on our feet, with no breaks, no chairs and (gasp!!!) no coffee!!! I felt like a galley slave.

But I am really glad I went. I learnt many a savvy chocolate making skill for my main

Belgium chocolate ganaches

character to use in her story. And during the two-and-a-half hour drive home I came up with my top line novel plot.

Not a bad day’s work. Not bad at all.

Top 10 Favourite Romance and Romantic Comedy Films

The lovely Anna Campbell recently guest blogged at ALOHA and was asked to name her top 7 romance films. And don’t we all love a good list making? I’m the sort of person who makes lists all the time and, yes, I have been known to add something I’ve already done just so I can tick it off. Totally inspired by Anna’s list, I decided to write my own.

I like a good dash of comedy in with my romance, so I’ll be focusing those, but I do

Ever After, my favourite romantic comedy of all time.

have an occasional favourite romance and have allowed those too, almost entirely so I can include Dirty Dancing, which I would estimate I have seen no less than thirty times. “Nobody puts Baby in the corner!” (By the way, did you see the extras on the DVD that was released after Patrick died? Did you see the love scene that didn’t make it into the film? Holy cats!!!!!!!!!)

In no particular order:

  1. Dirty Dancing. Really, no explanation needed there. This film is as near to a perfect film as you can get.
  2. Love Actually. But I really only love the romance storyline between Colin Firth’s character and his cleaner, who can’t speak English. Such wonderful, captivating tension between them. I was working on my manuscript on the verandah just yesterday and a gust of wind blew the papers all across the yard and I thought of that delightfully funny scene where they both end up in the water chasing his manuscript. Gorgeous.
  3. Sense and Sensibility. Starring Emma Thompson as Elinor Dashwood. You can’t go past Jane Austen for great romance and this is a visual feast as well. Emma Thompson is such a star.
  4. Never Been Kissed. I think I might just have a bit of a girl crush on Drew Barrymore and will watch anything she is in. I just love her. This is one of the many, many Drew romantic comedies I love, and it’s a good one.
  5. The Holiday. An incredibly under-rated film starring Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law and Jack Black. A wonderful combination of actors, a funny and engaging script, gorgeous locations, charming. Another gorgeous film I could watch again and again.
  6. My Big Fat Greek Wedding. I saw this film on the plane on the last leg of my return journey from the UK, so maybe I was delirious with fatigue, but I laughed and laughed and laughed in this film. You know, the kind of laughing that becomes embarrassing when you’re only one of a few people awake and the rest of the plane is quiet. (“What do you mean he don’t eat no meat? Oh, it’s okay, I make lamb.”) And what a clever, clever woman Nia Vardalos is to write and star in the movie! An inspiration to all us writers.
  7. Father of the Bride. What a beautiful and funny film this is, with romance on all levels, starring the wonderful Diane Keaton and Steve Martin.
  8. Something’s Gotta Give. Also starring Diane Keaton, this is a highly amusing and entertaining love story involving (shock, horror!) people over 50.
  9. The Princess Bride. Wonderful fairy tale about love that simply will not die. (“As you wish…”)
  10. Ever After. Although I put this list in no particular order, I might just have to say that this is my favourite romantic comedy of all time. And… gasp!…. it stars Drew Barrymore as a Cinderella but one that gets a good dose of feminist power and humour and gets to save her prince as much as he gets to save her. Funny, funny, funny. Fairy wings. A guest appearance from Leonardo da Vinci. And Anjelica Huston bringing home the evil stepmother. A rollicking good film.

Gosh, it’s hard to end there… I really also want to sneak in Titanic because it has such a powerful love story alongside the visual wonder, humour and historical interest.

What would you add to this list?

Read to your baby for a better life

A few years ago, a principal of a state school told me they routinely had first year

Flynn can’t get enough of ‘Great Galloping Galoot’

students arrive at the school who had never seen a book. Never seenone, let alone read one. I almost cried.

“If every parent understood the huge educational benefits and intense happiness brought about by reading aloud to their children, and if every parent – and every adult caring for a child – read aloud a minimum of three stories a day to the children in their lives, we could probably wipe out illiteracy within one generation.” (Mem Fox, world-famous children’s author)

Look, I was going to write a whole academic, well-researched and authoritative post on why reading to babies is so important. But you know what? Loads of other people have proven over and over how important it is so I don’t need to say it again. And all you have to do is look at a baby with a book and you can see it for yourself. Flynn is never more excited than when one of us opens up a book and begins to read. He grabs for the pages, his eyes turn to saucers, he ooo’s and ahh’s and kicks his legs. He’s utterly enthralled.

And when we recently had a screaming four-month-old baby in the car on a whole day’s car trip the other day, belive me, we were very, very grateful for the rapt attention and distraction and enjoyment that having one of us sit in the back and read a book to him brought.Actually, we read to Flynn before he was born so it’s probably no surprise he loves stories so much. Look, if you need some technical, scientific evidence and the like about the value and necessity of reading, you can have a look here and here. And if you’re raising boys, it’s well worth doing your research on boys and literacy and the extra special importance of demonstrating reading with them to improve their literacy levels.

Read, read, read. What could be more fun? 🙂

Me and Monica

Me and Monica

Are you a Monica McInerney fan? If not yet, you need to be! Seriously. I had the immense pleasure of meeting one of my women’s fiction literary heroes last weekend at Mary Ryan’s in Noosa, when Monica dropped in as part of her current book tour to promote her new book, The House of Memories.

I first stumbled across Monica’s writing when I picked up an audio book at my local library. That book was her first novel, A Taste for It, and I’ve been an avid fan ever since. So far, my favourites have been At Home with the Templetons and Those Faraday Girls, both terrific (and large!) reads. Call me miserly but I do love some good value out of a book 😉

I have The House of Memories on standby for the moment while I finish my current book — I am an appallingly slow reader, not the best asset for a reader and writer, but I like to think I indulge in quality, not quantity and that’s why I know without a shadow of a doubt that Monica’s new book will be well worth waiting for.

Monica is still touring around Australia and if you’d like to catch up with her, visit her website for tour details. Oh, and did I mention how delightful and sweet she is? And funny? And a great speaker?

Do yourself a favour… go visit Monica and grab a copy of The House of Memories. Now. Do not pass go. Do not delay!

Anna Campbell Workshop: Seven Hours in an Author’s Head

(Okay, so it was six hours but I’ve worked on that title for almost a week now so I’m taking my literary license and running with it.)

Last weekend, I had the immense pleasure of attending Anna Campbell‘s romance writing workshop at the Queensland Writers Centre. Now, you may remember that I was hysterically sleep deprived, and within minutes of my arrival I managed to lose the critique that Anna had done on my first ten pages of Take a Chance on Me, lose my sunglasses, fail to master the hot water tap for a cup of coffee, fail to find the sugar that was sitting in a jar right in front of me, and probably unnerve the gentle QWC volunteer who greeted me when my baby brain refused to allow words to move from my brain to my mouth and so moved my jaw noiselessly up and down while making some sort of fish noises in reply.

So that was me.

Now for Anna.

Anna so kindly said to me, ‘oh I don’t know why you’re here really, your story is wonderful’. I smiled and nodded my thanks, but I knew that (a) my story needed help and you never stop learning and why wouldn’t I learn from a master of the craft, and (b) I was a total mess (refer to previous paragraph) and needed some professional therapy to get my head back on track.

And learn I did. Yes, romance writing contains pretty much the same structural elements as any good story, but there were at least two huge lightbulb moments in that workshop for me that had me gagging on my coffee and thinking, ‘oh golly, I have a bit of work to do’. And one of those lightbulb moments was on the importance of the first kiss. My characters have rushed right over that little gem and I’m going to go back and ask them to indulge the reader.

Almost as wonderful as Anna’s workshop was the PILE of free books I came home with!! And… we got free chocolate as well!! Come on. I would have gone just for those two things alone 🙂

Anna’s latest book, Seven Nights in a Rogue’s Bed, is now available and I can’t wait to get my hands on that steamy little number.

Thanks Anna for a wonderful day.