In My Library: The House of Memories by Monica McInerney

The House of Memories

Last night I finished reading Monica McInerney’s latest book, The House of Memories.

I was a tad nervous about reading this book–sad subjects are really not my preferred storyline. But I know what a wonderful storyteller Monica is and therefore I entered the world of Ella and her family feeling safe in Monica’s hands.

There are sad moments, yes. But they are handled with such skill and sensitivity that in no way will you be left feeling bludgeoned or overwhelmed. It’s a beautiful book, executed perfectly. A very clever, touching and deep book, one that will resonate with you for long after the last page.

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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 😉

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.

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!

In-house Writing Retreat

When I think of a writing retreat, I think log fires, mountain cabins, massage, gourmet food and days of uninterrupted writing glory. Well, sometimes life is a wee bit more complicated than that, say, when you have a three-and-a-half-month-old baby. What’s a girl to do when she desperately needs intense writing time?

Thankfully, my Love came up with the most timely and inspired gift this weekend just gone and played cook, cleaner and baby sitter while I had an in-house writing retreat: the retreat you have when you can’t go out for a retreat.

He made me gourmet pizza. He massaged me and ran me a bath. He bought me chocolate and coffee, made me fresh apple and orange juice, cooked me pancakes for breakfast, and made me chocolate cake and reminded me to take my vitamins in the morning. In short, he was an absolute angel.

It was just what I needed to forge through some editing and writing of new scenes in this latest draft of Take a Chance on Me. My lovely husband, Alwyn, I cannot begin to thank you enough.

Today, I’m completely shattered. My tailbone hurts from sitting on it. My wrist has RSI. I’ve barely slept for three nights in a row and am now playing mummy on my own so need to get those toothpicks out to keep my eyelids open and on the job (the coffee’s long since stopped working). I’m trying to be nice to myself and simmer in the warmth of knowledge that my book is on track and all will be well.

But it doesn’t mean I can’t whip out the credit card and order a year’s worth of books online, does it? 😉

Take a Chance on Me signed with Curtis Brown

The Moet’s been cracked

My women’s fiction manuscript, Take a Chance on Me, has found a home with Australia’s esteemed literary agents, Curtis Brown. The way this came about is a fantastic story in itself and one I will share down the track. Oprah defines luck as preparation meeting opportunity. And I’ll throw into that equation a bucketful of crazy inspiration, a few dedicated readers, and serendipity. Mix it all together and my long-held dream has come true.

I’ve been writing for thirteen years and completed ten manuscripts in that time, most with no tangible reward. So it was a fantastically gratifying moment to receive my agent’s (gosh, it’s still fun to say that), Fiona Inglis’s, email with contract attached. The Moet that had been sitting in the bottom of the fridge for six months, determinedly waiting for a chance to pop, did indeed get its way (and left a dent on the ceiling too).

I’m counting my blessings, but I’m also working very hard, juggling a newborn baby, the winding up of the horse rescue charity I began three years ago, selling our house, and finishing another draft of my story. So back to the story I go now, as my dear supportive husband has gifted me an in-house writing retreat this weekend to make good headway and meet my deadline. I don’t have a moment to waste.

Speak soon…

Life Changing Moments

I’m madly editing my women’s ficition novel (Take a Chance on Me) manuscript right now… riding the wild donkey as the inspirational Goddess Leonie calls it. And I am doing some serious rewriting of one of my main character’s journeys. In particular, I’m looking at her motivation and her passions. And it prompted me to think about those life changing moments that our characters need to have, as well as my own. I stumbled across someone’s list on the intermawebby thing where he listed his top 101 life changing moments. I don’t have time to do 101 (I have a wild donkey to ride), but I thought I’d throw out 25 to ponder.

25 Life Changing Moments (in no particular order or chronological plan)

  1. Being shortlisted for the Text Prize
  2. Winning One Book Many Brisbanes
  3. Attending my first dogger sale (horse meat auction sale) and spontaneously saving four horses
  4. Starting my own horse rescue charity (Charlie’s Angels Horse Rescue Inc.)
  5. Having ankle surgery
  6. Meeting my husband as he rushed into Tongue and Groove cafe in West End, late for our first date after we met online
  7. Becoming a teacher
  8. Quitting teaching, turning to unemployment and writing my first novel
  9. Meeting Hercules, my first horse and the subject of my memoir, Webs of Light.
  10. Attending my first Woodford Folk Festival by myself, camping in a cow paddock in 40-degree heat, and going on to to write Woodford Virgins.
  11. Getting married to my love.
  12. Falling pregnant, having a miscarriage, falling pregnant again.
  13. Swimming with a mother humpback whale and her calf in Tonga in 2009
  14. Finding myself alone in Athens, with taxi cabs on impromptu strike, in searing hot temperatures, unable to speak Greek, pulling my luggage over cobbled roads and playing charades with Athenians to find out how to get to the airport.
  15. Getting my dog, Daisy, as a puppy and as a surprise gift from my boyfriend (now husband), forcing us to move out together for the first time so Daisy could be in a dog-appropriate home (and my sister/housemate didn’t kill any of us for having a puppy in a house with no fences, no prior permission to introduce a dog, and two cats living indoors).
  16. My cousin, Ken’s, death when I was 19. Being at the beside of my Nan when she passed away several years later.
  17. Meeting Justin, my first and most significant long-term relationship prior to meeting my husband.
  18. Breaking up with Justin and feeling the pain cleave through my chest until I was sure I would die. And, later, not dying.
  19. Swimming with wild dolphins in Bunbury, Western Australia.
  20. ‘Delivering’ my first foal, Leila, under a full moon at 4.30 in the morning, being splashed with amniotic fluid, wiping the fluid from her nostrils as she coughed repeatedly to clear her airways, and watching her perfect, perfect body spring to life on those long, long legs.
  21. Becoming an aunt for the first time (and the second time).
  22. Moving to rural Australia.
  23. Giving up full time work and working from home.
  24. Working hard in the corporate world, dealing with insane levels of stress and eventually giving myself chronic fatigue syndrome, which took years to recover from.
  25. Buying my first house.

So many more… but I do need to get back to that donkey.

I’d love to hear about some of your life changing moments.