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.

Advertisements

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.

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?

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.

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…