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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Nappies and Vomit Do Not Romance Writing Make

Let’s face it, there isn’t much that’s either romantic or sexy about motherhood. If it’s not the pervasive stains (and odour) of regurgitated formula, or the endless repetition of This Old Man playing knick-knack-paddywhack (what on earth is that anyway?), or the continual sense of chaos in the house, or that you ran out of facial scrub a month ago and keep forgetting to get more, it’s the fact that through sheer exhaustion and the fact that you have five minutes before your baby needs you again that you can’t even manage to wash your hair.

How then does a girl live the writer’s dream and conjure up images of romance and sexiness when the only fantasy she harbours is for four hours (let’s not be greedy) of uninterrupted, deep sleep?

I plan to take my bedraggled self to the Queensland Writers Centre this Sunday for a Masterclass in romance writing with prolific romance author, Anna Campbell. I’m hoping Anna’s expertise can help me contact my inner romantic woman, who is currently helping my characters, Leila and Lucas, strengthen their compelling storyline.

The littlest man romance

Anna, your timing couldn’t be more perfect. But please know that if I yawn the whole way through your masterclass it has nothing to do with you and everything to do with the littlest man in my life with whom I’m having a romance of an entirely different kind.

The Messy First Draft

The Messy First Draft

Here it is! My messy first draft of my current WIP, Take a Chance on Me, a women’s fiction novel set across Australia and England.

This is, without doubt, the messiest first draft I have ever created. But that’s what the first draft is for: getting it on the page. All 72,000 words of it can now sit and marinate for a month before I get stuck into it and clean it up.

This draft took a lot longer than I usually take to write a draft: three years! Mostly, it took that long because I kept stopping to work on another book project, get it finished, then get back to this one. This is my first women’s fiction novel and the most commercial book I’ve written yet.

And by far the most fun 🙂

Basically, I’ve written the book that I wanted to read. And that fills me with much joy 🙂

The Art of Procrastinating

I’m having one of those days. It’s now past four o’clock in the afternoon, and while I have been busy at home all day, I have not been busy doing what I (thought I) wanted to do. While my latest YA novel is resting, waiting for me to return to edit it for draft two, I have picked up an older manuscript to start again. It is a chick lit/women’s fiction manuscript, and one for which I have created the most charming world in which my characters roam. (In my mind, anyway.) So why am I procrastinating?

I just haven’t been able to pick myself up today. I feel dopey and depressed and desperate to catch up on some sleep, but it’s too hot to do that. So I’m stuck in the lounge room with the air conditioner, trying to convince myself to start work on my chick lit/women’s fic manuscript.

It’s nothing new. All writers suffer from bouts of procrastination. And I’ve never quite been able to work out why. I feel better when I write, and writing inevitably begs me to write some more. (It’s a lot like exercise or, ahem, other sweaty activities.) So, I’ve washed the dishes, folded clothes, found my passport for an upcoming trip to New Zealand, found tiny bottles of shampoo and conditioner, written a long list of everything that needs to be done before said trip to NZ, designed and ordered marketing materials for Charlie’s Angels Horse Rescue, fluffed around on Facebook and YouTube, and wrangled cats, dogs and horses.

And now I’m blogging…

I know that I am not constructively procrastinating. And that’s the real key. I believe that procrastination can be good–indeed, necessary–but only if we do it constructively. Over the years, I’ve worked out some good and bad procrastination activities.

Good procrastination activities (i.e. that actually move and develop me as a writer) include: reading books, reading writing magazines, editing my writing (because it seems easier to deconstruct things than it does to construct them, but it inevitably leads to me wanting to construct once more), going on an ‘artist’s date’ (to the theatre, dance class, festival, delicatessen… anywhere that feeds the senses), riding my horse (the combination of exercise and joy gives me a real boost), critiquing other writers’ work, and meeting other writers for fun/work purposes.

Bad procrastination activities include: housework, going to the post office, emailing, updating websites (such as blogging…), going grocery shopping, paying bills, bookkeeping, researching new appliances/computers/cars/food dehydraters, ebaying, ordering stuff online, organising, filing, and feeling guilty.

All of those ‘bad’ procrastination activities are all useful and worthwhile and need to be done. But not at the expense of writing.

So, here I am, signing off from my current ‘bad’ procrastination exercise to go onto some ‘good’ procrastinating.

Then again, it’s nearly time for Bold and the Beautiful….

Romancing the tome

I am in love.

My husband may not see me for many weeks. He will have to compete for my attention. Tolerate my vagueness as my mind overflows with my new love. And watch as his favourite meals are pushed aside for a quick toast-and-baked-beans dinner. Because who has time to prepare meals when there is another calling me to surrender to the joy of new love?

I have begun my fourth novel. As such I am well aware of the emotional similarity of this phase to a new romance. The beginning stages are exciting. Filled with promise. I cannot sleep at night for thinking of my new love. My heart beats with anxiety when we are separated. And I am filled with joy while we are together.

BUT… As the novel progresses things tend to shift. Affections waver under the routine and predictable nature of day-to-day life living together. Problems that were at first overlooked become increasingly annoying. The long term viability of the relationship seems questionable. At its worst it disintegrates into misery and an abandoned dream.

However I am heartened by an article that I read earlier this year in which scientists have proven that a percentage of relationships manage to not only keep that first rush of hormones alive but can actually increase them over time. They are the same hormones found in animals that mate for life such as swans.

So I am off to settle down with my swan and grow this love into something beautiful and long-lasting. (Fingers crossed!) 

(p.s. I know ‘tome’ actually refers to a non-fiction book but it was such a catchy line that I couldn’t resist!)

Save Peter, save St Mary’s

It seems more than a little ironic to me that on the official day of mourning for Victorian bushfire victims, in which churches are requested to toll their bells for two minutes, that the church of St Mary’s will be mourning another loss entirely–that of their beloved leader.

Getting involved in public discussion of religious debate is not something I set out to do every day but the sacking of Fr Peter Kennedy has me riled. Also, it’s been a while since my last post, due to a broken laptop and a sprained wrist, so I’m ready to say a few words.

For those out of the loop, Father Peter Kennedy, parish priest of St Mary’s church in South Brisbane, has been sacked by Archbiship Battersby for falling out of communion with the Catholic Church. The 1000+ regular attendees of Peter’s services are, understandably, outraged and saddened.

Personally, I am saddened. I was baptised Catholic, attended Catholic schools, was a teacher in Catholic schools and have attended mass at St Mary’s. While I now follow my own version of spirituality that has nothing to do with churches, I credit much of my development to the foundational teachings of the Catholic church. And, amazingly, the more I grow in spirituality the more I truly understand that it’s not very different at all. It’s all just different words and levels of meaning to describe the same stuff. On the rare occasion when I think I would like to go to church, the ONLY place I consider is St Mary’s.

Peter Kennedy has devoted his whole life to serving people, to working at grass roots levels and ministering the very way that Jesus taught to minister… without the pomp and ceremony and rigidness that alienates the very people that need it the most. Yes, Peter blesses gay couples. Yes, Peter says that babies are not born with ‘original sin’. Yes, he encourages women to minister. Yes, he walks in protests and actively stands up against government decisions that he thinks is wrong (e.g. detention centres). Yes, he may be out of step with Catholicism.

But isn’t that the point? How many churches in Brisbane can boast the number of participants that St Mary’s does? To say that change is wrong is to sign the death of the church. The church has and always will change. Vatican II in the sixties saw the most radical changes of all. And it was needed. Without change it would have died.

To stagnate is to die. The people have spoken and yet their leaders are willfully ignoring them. Silly, silly men.

I’ve no doubt Peter will go on, either within St Mary’s (if he and his people can win the fight) or somewhere else. Because he is desperately needed. In an age that is crying out for religious tolerance and inclusion, this is a shameful discrimination by the Catholic church, one that has dreadfully damaged its reputation.

Shame Battersby, shame.

To everyone else, I say go to church at St Mary’s and show your support! You’ll love it! 🙂

Woodford Virgins is Hot!

cover-artMy free novel, Woodford Virgins, is officially hot!

Set at the Woodford Folk Festival, this is a humourous and romantic novel of life, fun and friendship. And after being online for just over two days, hosts Scribd sent me a message to say that it had made the Hot List.

Now, I don’t actually know what that really means, but it sounds good, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t like to be thought of as hot? Okay, it’s not the New York Times’ bestseller list, but for an emerging writer, that sort of feedback is delightful. Go Scribd readers!