ON WRITING

“It’s very easy to quit during the first ten years of writing. Nobody cares whether you write or not, and it’s very hard to write when nobody cares one way or the other. You can’t get fired if you don’t write, and most of the time you don’t get rewarded if you do. But don’t quit.” Andre Dubus

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Thursday, 31 December 2015

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year all who pass by. As I type this, it's only 8 hours before the fireworks start in Australia. 

The Sydney Harbour celebrations just get better every year! 

Sydney Harbour New Year's fireworks showing the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House

It is sad to hear the roll call of New Year's celebrations being cancelled because of terror threats. Hmm. Peace on Earth is slow coming.

And in the face of the natural and man-made disasters happening around the world (not least the roaring bush fires and heatwaves in Australia, floods and tornadoes in the US, floods in the UK and Uruguay), fireworks may seem a trivial act and a waste of money, but there is something inherently human about fireworks as a symbol of hope in this battered and burning world. 

Looking forward to interacting with you in 2016! See you on Wednesday 6th January for IWSG! Whoa, the day the winner of the Anthology contest is announced. Will be a big day!

New Year's fireworks and laser light show on the Brisbane River last year

Thanks for visiting!



Monday, 21 December 2015

It's beginning to feel a bit like #Christmas...and yummy food and drink.

Well, we're well into December, and my life has been so crazy with travel and now renovations at our beach house that I've hardly given a thought to the upcoming festive season. When I do I crumple in a heap as we're having our usual sweltering weather which makes everything take twice as long. And writing? What's that again?

I'm not into dissing the commercialism of Christmas, rather I choose to wallow in this time of celebration. I have Jehovah's Witness friends who bite my ear off about the pagan festival enjoyed by Christians, that's okay, but to me the spirit of Christmas is still thankfulness for a civilized life in a civilized country which I did nothing to deserve. Nor did I deserve the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which is what Christians celebrate.

I teach students from Iraq, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and other such troubled areas of the globe. They don't have a problem wishing me a Happy Christ-mas. They are so thankful to be living in Australia and celebrating their own new-found freedom however they wish.

Now, to me, Christmas is about sharing with family, friends and the community. How about you? Carols by Candlelight is HUGE in Australia, with cities and country towns alike all offering outdoor venues for celebrating Christmas together in the spirit of well-loved hymns, with Santa arriving with much pomp and circumstance, showering children in sweets and gifts. Large stores and libraries offer places where we can donate food and gifts which are delivered to struggling families and the homeless. There are plenty of Christmas Dinners provided for those with no families, so no-one misses out unless by their own choice.

Christmas at the beach house


A snowy Christmas in Paris
 When I'm not overseas checking out white Christmases, I always celebrate Christmas at our beach house. Plenty of room on the deck to eat, drink and be merry, and an excellent Carols by Candlelight in our little village...yes, it is called Peregian Beach Village. So European and cute.

Alongside writing, reading, travel...food looms large in my life. I adore cooking and especially love trying new recipes for Christmas. Not just dinner, but all the other meals we take together.



MY FAVOURITE TRIED AND TRUE CHRISMAS RECIPES for a heatwave-infused Christmas are below. My aim is to cool off, so no heavy, hot Christmas pudding or eggnog or whatever you have 'up there'. Most Australians gave up the British tradition a long time ago. Seafood and salad works for us, followed by cool desserts and leaves us more time for the pool or beach.


TOBLERONE CHEESECAKE


Gather all this yummy stuff:

1 cup plain chocolate biscuit crumbs - our only option these days is Chocolate Ripple
80g butter, melted
1/4 cup ground almonds (OPTIONAL - but lowers the GI, ha ha)

500g block PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened
1/2 cup caster sugar (OPTIONAL – I don’t add any!)
1/2 cup thickened cream - I'm guilty of having a heavy hand when it comes to cream (((licks lips)))
200g TOBLERONE Milk or Dark Chocolate, melted

200g TOBLERONE Milk or Dark Chocolate for shaving 

Here we go:

Combine biscuit crumbs, butter and almonds, press into the base of a lightly greased 20cm springform pan. Chill.

Beat PHILADELPHIA cream cheese and sugar until smooth using an electric mixer. Beat in the melted Toblerone and cream until well combined.

Pour onto the prepared crumb base and refrigerate 2 to 3 hours until set, or overnight. Serve topped with the TOBLERONE shavings. I often add sliced strawberries.

This cheesecake is easy as...only takes about 15 minutes to prepare. I always bring it along when asked to provide dessert to a gathering.



Image result for christmas blog divider


TOBLERONE COCKTAIL

We like to make what we call a Toblerone Cocktail (like a mudslide) for after Christmas Tea or for cool (ha ha, not exactly snowy) nights on the deck. It makes a delicious change after all the wine or whatever you've been sipping during the day along with the odd majito or two! And it really takes the place of dessert if you want to feel especially pious.

I’m not a measurer, so pretty casual with the amounts.


In a blender throw some icy cold milk, a few scoops of vanilla ice cream, shots of any liquor you have left - (Tia Maria, Kahlua, Frangelico, Cointreau, Bailey's Irish Creme - get the drift - not all!! You definitely need the Bailey's and about three others). Whizz for a bit in that blender you usually use for your health-giving green smoothies. Get some parfait glasses or somesuch out of the freezer (or snow, lol!) 

Artistically drizzle (if you can keep your hand steady by this stage), melted Cadbury's chocolate or Toblerone chocolate or at the very least, chocolate sauce (ugh), around the inside of the glass, then gently pour in the mix. Top with whipped cream if you're absolutely disgusting! And why not some hunks of Toblerone or chocolate sauce if you're determined to milk this for all it's worth!


Sip reverently and dream about Christmas 2016 when you can drink this again.

Image result for christmas blog divider

Here are some of my Christmas Posts from the past if you've got nothing better to read:

13 Desserts of Provence
Christmas Quiz sent while travelling from Malaga, Spain
Christmas in Brisbane


  • Now I'm interested in your Christmas or cultural celebrations. What do you do? What do you eat? 
  • Would you share a recipe if I asked nicely? I love to try new things and I'm sure others do too...


Thanks for calling!




Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Holiday Celebrations that are Out of this World - my science fiction #ff for the #WEPff December challenge.

Here we are! WEP's final challenge for the year 2015. Today we have been asked to present our entry with a science-fiction flavour. That was a big ask, so Yolanda and I asked the ninja, Alex, to do a guest post on writing in this genre. It helped my feeble efforts, so I hope it helped others.
But my default genre is romance, so, sure, I think I cover some of the science fiction tropes, but I meandered off into the realms of romance, mixed up a little with ironic words from George Orwell's 1984. 
I hope you enjoy my foray into sci-fi. Click on the badge to read more entries.

The Pod Faded to Black




Rachel was skinny, wan, with hair dank brown, darkening to black. Her eyes were grey mist, inviting closer scrutiny. Edward wondered why he felt a strange emotion on seeing her. It grew in his chest and moved upwards, causing his throat to tighten. When he spoke, he sounded like a schoolboy. 
Edward didn't understand Rachael's attraction. He didn't understand attraction, full stop. Random attraction wasn't encouraged on Xcelsior. But Rachel. He counted it as extraordinary luck that he worked side by side at the Ministry of Literature with a legend. She was probably the greatest writer of this generation. 
They met regularly at the Xcelsior Social Gathering of Like Minds for New Reincarnates. Both had been teleported to Xcelsior--she from Bandanland, he from Paradox 21--to prepare for the Annual Holiday Gathering and End of Year ReBooting of Minds. Edward was a poet. They needed his pen to create uplifting, soulful words for the Season of Celebration of Technological Miracles.

Rachel was already quite famous on Bandanland and beyond for her romance volumes which were widely distributed in special reading pods throughout the galaxy. Her exquisite words filled a void in the population who suffered from a surfeit of technology, whose regimented lives permitted no idle time for reality romance. Indeed, Rachel’s first lecture addressing the New Politic had been revealing: she’d waxed eloquent on the need for love and romance in people’s lives to make a sterile world more palpable. Edward, always a coward, had studiously kept his face passive, as he’d seen the Grand Enforcer and his minions frowning at her tender words. Finding partners for the population was their domain.
During the Social Time that followed, he found Rachel had not read any of his poetry. Few people had. He was a pedant, but the poems he penned on his stylistic device were empty, soulless, utilitarian. The poems in his head, they were a different thing entirely. Thirty-first-century poets in the Poleaxer Galaxy were obscure, even more irrelevant than their predecessors on the defunct planet Old Earth from which the Reincarnates sprang.
Rachel and Edward. They were the only people at the Social Gathering who were not involved in the intricacies of the New Politic skirmishes. The two of them often ended up in a dark corner, talking about their shared love of the literature of Old Earth.
‘I do miss having someone who knows who Shakespeare was,’ Edward hissed, well aware he had just committed Thoughtcrime. ‘I recite his sonnets by heart every morning. It helps me retain a fragment of my soul.’ He beckoned her to follow him and they leaned against a wall of glass impregnated with bright rolling lights which reminded him of drunken snakes. He squeezed his eyes shut and imagined a bright picture of the Bard instead. The lights were meant to stimulate your mind, but they unnerved him, and his glass of Health-Giving Herbal Tincture trickled down his once-pristine white jacket much like the edicts from the New Politic trickled down into his mind, displacing the finer things of his life.
Edward hated who he’d become. He felt the person he’d been, his reincarnation, was of a farmer on Old Earth, happily tilling soil and gathering real food.
“Looking around me,’ Rachel whispered, as to be heard speaking words that typified Ownlife was dangerous in this company, ‘I don’t see anyone who appears to have a soul.”
Rachel’s face, when she looked at him, seemed lacking. Her muscles and tendons didn’t really support her face frame. Odd. Was she a reincarnation or a robot?
“The only thing I find scintillating is literature and –”
“And?’ There was that unfamiliar pumping feeling in his wellspring, a strange bellyfeel. ‘Why don’t we move away from these drunken snakes to OurSpace?”
Edward knew then that he was going to love and romance her, despite it being a Sexcrime and despite her odd face. He knew they would make Goodsex together. But partnering was ordered by the New Politic. They would be relegated to the status of Unpersonhood if discovered.
They settled on an ugly plastic couch which could be impregnated with listening pods, so he spoke quietly. If the Love Ministry heard his next words he’d be subjected to ReOrientation Activity class after work each day. He’d be locked away until early in the Year Next because everyone would be busy practicing Relaxation, ReCommuning and Mindfulness to prepare for new technological discoveries.
“So we have to do something about this dearth of literature,” he said. Both knew to substitute “romance” for “literature.”
Rachel smiled. At that moment Edward understood why her face seemed curious and incomplete. Her face was a superstructure which until now had never supported a smile.
They did not, of course, return to his pod and sleep the night clasped in each other’s arms, although that was what Edward had on his mind. Instead, he invited her to join him for his Early Rising Feast the following morning. It was Xcelsior’s Annual Holiday Gathering and End of Year ReBooting of Minds’s Eve, so they would be offered a glass of historic Egg Nog that had originated on Old Earth. The eggy drink would be followed by Xcelsior’s chef’s attempt at pancakes created with nano-blasted cereal pellets drowned in manufactured sweetener mimicking honey found on Old Earth.


***  
Those first moments as they found their table for the Early Rising Egg Nog and Pancakes feast were a new, exciting dance. Sipping their fat, yellow drinks that brought a sparkle to Rachel’s cheeks, Edward thought: This is what it feels like to be alive. I never knew this feeling inside before. Rachel and he were like two ballet dancers executing a new move. Touch. Swirl. Touch. He dreamed of lazy hazy days in the country, running through fields of sweet grasses. 
Something sparked between them. Satiated by a full stomach, he asked her to join him at the Simulated Ozarks’ pod to see the flaming maples. Rachel accepted. In the Ozarks, Edward would be himself, his best self.
When they were surrounded by a particularly fine farmhouse amid crimson and vermilion foliage, he whispered to her his secret poems on country life.
When he finished, they kissed with a careful passion. This was going to be the best Annual Holiday Gathering and End of Year ReBooting of Minds in history.
Then the pod turned black.
WORDS: 1064
FCA

Thanks for coming by and reading my story. I hope you check out more stories. Not so many this month! 







Monday, 7 December 2015

Sci-fi queen Isobelle Carmody closes the book on a much-loved series.

Hello there!

After you read my post, if you have time to check it out, I'm guesting over at Nilanjana Bose's excellent blog talking about the Gothic Novel and Italy.

IT'S ALL ABOUT SCIENCE FICTION!

WEP has a science fiction challenge coming up where we have to write a sci-fi story set in an alternate world. That turned my mind to the genre, not one I write in. BTW, if you're into sci-fi, I hope your story impressed the judges for the #IWSG Anthology.

Yolanda and I asked Alex J Cavanaugh to write a guest post on how to write sci-fi. I hope you'll pop over to the WEP site and check it out and leave Alex a comment.

Struggling to get that book/series finished? Well, you're in good hands. I read an article by Isobelle Carmody recently where she talks about her series that took 35 years to complete. I never actually knew Isobelle was now a Brisbane-based author, (once winging it between Victoria and Prague) so that explains why she did a book signing at my favourite book store/cafe, Avid Reader at West End to announce the arrival of The Red Queen, the seventh and final installment in her science-fiction series, Obernewtyn Chronicles. She started writing this  series when she was 14 years old (she's now 57!)

Brisbane-based writer Isobelle Carmody has published the final and seventh book of the Obernewtyn Chronicles.
I'm not a huge fan of science fiction but I do read some authors in the genre (Alex J Cavanaugh, of course!) and Isobelle is one sci-fi author I like, mainly because students I teach rave about her so I started reading her books.

At her book signing, Isobelle said it was an odd feeling to have finished the series. "It's strange and odd to hand it over, especially after all the pressure from fans begging for a new book over the years." She went on to say that now that it's ended she felt an outpouring of grief. Do you feel like that when you finish a book/series?

It's interesting to hear the motivation behind the Obernewtyn Chronicles, a long-running dystopian fantasy series.  Being the eldest of eight children, Isobelle found writing a way to deal with the grief of losing her father in a 'horrible car crash'. "What's more like a nuclear holocaust to a child than the death of a parent?" she says. "There's no doubt that I was drawing on that."

Now I can sit down with the complete series and read from beginning to end. I'm one of those readers who grab a book in a series in no particular order, and read it, then am piqued to read the earlier novels.

I wish Isobelle Carmody all the best as she takes a break from deadlines and fan's desperate letters.

Her website will be unwomaned until June...

Isobelle_Carmody_the_red_queen_site_poster_promotion


  • How about you? Have you read any of Isobelle's books?
  • Do you insist on reading series from the beginning and wish the author would hurry up and bring out the next one?
  • Do you write series? How long do you leave between releases
  • If you enjoyed this post, please hit my Share buttons!

Don't forget to join the WEP science fiction challenge. The sign up has been quieter than usual. Are people scared of science fiction, or just busy with Christmas looming?

And don't forget to click on over to say hi at Nilanjana Bose's excellent blog.







Wednesday, 2 December 2015

#Insecure Writers Support Group (#IWSG) post. Today, a little help with photo editing and a new book by T.B. Markinson.

NEWSFLASH! If you've come by looking for a new post, I'll alert you to the fact that I'm guesting over at Nilanjana Bose's excellent blog today talking about the Gothic Novel and Italy.

December #IWSG is upon us. Here we talk about our trials and tribulations and terrifically exciting stuff once a month. You might ask for help, or you might tell us about something you think might be helpful.

First Wed of Every MonthThis month, helping our Captain Alex J Cavanaugh are:  Sandra Hoover, Mark Koopmans, Doreen McGettigan, Megan Morgan, and Melodie Campbell! Go visit them if you can!

I'm going to tell you about one techie thing that I've found useful. If you like it, I might do some more. I don't share much along these lines as I think everyone knows everything there is to know and who am I to tell you anything techie, but just in case there's someone out there who can do with a little heads up, here are a few things I've learned in the last few years about editing pics.

EDITING IS MONKEY BUSINESS

Okay, editing our pictures, images and whatever used to be straightforward when google made picasa etc available, but they slowly took away the extra bling that made these work, so I went hunting to find out what the next editing thing was. Sure, I have a fancy editing program, who doesn't, but most of the time I want a quick fix. I hate wrestling with those big guns like Adobe Photoshop.

I discovered PicMonkey. Now if you use PicMonkey, move on, as users of this program know it's not rocket science, but gives a lot of bang for your buck...or for free! Many long-term users including moi, have found no good reason to register for the Royale, ad-free version. I put up with a bit of adwork along the bottom, quite blind to it, really. And if you install fantastic fonts that you download, they are automatically added to PicMonkey, maybe not all, but enough to make life exciting. And you can superimpose your own photos as overlays to add that personal touch.
  • So...if PicMonkey is new to you. How do you get it?
Simply go to picmonkey.com and you will come to this screen:


 You can do all sorts of things from here--
  • choose one of your saved pictures to edit from your picture file, facebook, OneDrive, Dropbox...
Here is where I make my badges for WEP such as this one for a past December challenge using a shot of a cute ice cream van on the beach at Biarritz in SW France. Went a bit gang busters on the overlays, but what the heck!


  • You can opt to Touch up one of your images, or you can click Design, which gives you the option of automatically sizing for facebook headers (which work for twitter too), or squares or rectangles of various sizes so you can make your own quote badges, or, whatever, really.



  • Or you can make a Collage. Several options are available...here's some of my Morocco trip I made for my facebook cover photo on my return.
  • Now within all these marvellous applications, you can edit your heart out--
Once you choose your picture to edit, you will see this on the left:


There are SO many options--you can crop, rotate, adjust size, create textures, add a frame, enhance...just to name a few. Such a great tool for blog headers, blog badges, blogfests, blog quotes...


You might get the idea that I love PicMonkey. I do. It's so quick and easy, yet with a deft hand, it can turn out professional-looking images for whatever you want. So that's me done. Now I have some news. See below:


Yes! Another book from T.B. Markinson...A Clueless Woman. If you've read T.B's books, you'll appreciate what a treat her new book will be. Now released:








Blurb:
Graduate student Lizzie Petrie feels more comfortable around books than people. Although an expert in the Hitler Youth, she’s a novice in love. Her former lesbian lover is blackmailing her, and not even those closest to Lizzie know the full story of their abusive relationship.
When visiting high school English teacher Sarah crosses Lizzie’s path at the campus, their attraction is instant, but not without complications. As they start to spend more time together, suspicions arise from both women in this sexy piece of LGBT fiction.
Plenty of good-natured teasing takes place between lovers as well as between PhD students in this lesbian contemporary romance. No relationship path ever runs smoothly, and oftentimes, those who can’t keep their mouth shut hasten necessary confrontation.
Lizzie finds herself buried in a mess of lies in this romantic comedy. The harder she tries to keep Sarah and the rest of her friends from finding out the truth about her first girlfriend, the more endearingly clueless she becomes.
About the Author:

T. B. Markinson's profile photoT. B. Markinson is an American writer, living in England. When she isn’t writing, she’s traveling the world, watching sports on the telly, visiting pubs, or taking the dog for a walk. Not necessarily in that order.

Mailing List:
Get the first book in the series, A Woman Lost, for FREE by signing up to TB’s Readers’ Group here.

Links:
Twitter        Facebook        Blog        Goodreads     Amazon Author Page

Here is an excerpt I've especially chosen from the offerings T.B. sent to me:

“Well, well, well. What do we have here?” If Meg hadn’t been standing right in front of me, I would have recognized her snide tone, even despite the fact that she’d dyed her once-blonde hair a rich, fiery red. “Getting drunk on a school night. Shame on you, Lizzie. What would Dr. Marcel say?” Meg’s companion helped her slip into a coat. Hopefully, that meant they were leaving and pronto.
         Approximately 150,000 people lived in Fort Collins, and the one person I didn’t want to bump into ever, let alone with Sarah, was peering down at us.
         “Hello,” was all I could force out.
         Meg’s gaze wandered over Sarah’s face and upper body before settling on me. “What happened to only drinking at home?” She crossed her arms.
         “I’m afraid I’m a bad influence.” Sarah came to my defense.
         “I see.” An older man tugged on Meg’s arm. She wore a tight dress—not her usual jeans and J. Crew sweater. And she was with a man—very unusual. “Have a good night, Lizzie.” She turned each Z in my name into a weapon. “Oh, I’ll be calling you to discuss that financial situation you brought up last time.” She gave Sarah a final glare and rolled her eyes. Red-hot anger raged through my mind and body as I clamped my lips together to keep everything bottled inside. How dare she treat Sarah so flippantly?
         I counted to ten before I said, “I’m so sorry.”
         Sarah’s eyes darted across the room to where Meg and her companion were exiting into the darkness. “Is she a friend?”
         I snorted. “Former ...” I’d been about to say girlfriend, but instead added, “acquaintance.”
         “I’d use another word for her.”
         I let out a rush of air. “Really? What would that be?”


  • Thank you for coming by! T.B's book sounds pretty good, doesn't it? I'm sure she would appreciate a supportive comment.
  • I know some of you are going to recommend your favourite editing program to us. Don't be shy! What editing program pushes your creative buttons? Tell us why.
  • Thanks for visiting my blog. Please leave a comment so I know you've passed through.
And the fun never stops! It's time for WEP's December challenge, which involves something science fiction-y. Details are in the current post at WEP. Please visit and check it out. You can sign up here or at WEP. Love to have you!