Friday 30 December 2011

#RomanticFridayWriters - Challenge No 28- My story, 'Ties That Bind'. My Demon Spirit's Contest.

Interested in a Short Story Pitch contest? See next post...

My post today is doing double duty. My Demon Spirits was looking for more entries for her Spreading Holiday Cheer Story Contest which closes tomorrow 31st, so I'm making my #RomanticFridayWriters story fit the submission guidelines as well.

Demon's Guidelines: (Read more here...)
 I want to read your most original, scary oruplifting holiday story (I like both, so since this is my contest - I figure I'll make you write what I like to read!).  Now, notice I didn't say "Christmas"; it can be ANY holiday you celebrate!  It does NOT have to be a holiday that occurs in winter months.  The entry can be no more than 500 words.

So here is my story:


Even hassling through airport security I was thrilled to be home; happiness bubbled around me like spilled champagne. 

‘Home for the holidays?’
‘No place like home, si, especially at Christmas?’ 

I wasn’t going to share misery with my fellow travellers. Wasn’t telling them of the lover who’d abandoned me in the cold Connecticut snow. Wasn’t sharing how he’d snatched the diamond from my finger and flown off, the miserable excuse for a human being.

Ah! Peace and goodwill all around. Forget him and his shifty ways!

The taxi dashed through the gauzy light, past fountains of serpents that tossed bouquets of diamonds at me.

The Via dei Fori Imperiali dazzled with flickering coloured lights. I could see the Piazza Venezia just a blink away.


Laughing at the terrified driver, I threw some euros into the air and headed for home. Fifteen minutes before the gates clanged shut. The pesky tourists would be gone.

The Roman Forum – twilight - air tinged with bluish shadowy light playing on ancient stone pillars rising into the darkening sky. Ahhhhh.

I drifted inside the gates; the Senate and the basilicas winked at me, shimmering with glory of times past. I hailed ghostly figures as they darted through slick cobbled avenues on the Palatine Hill, plotting assassinations and planning world domination.

I was lost in the arches, the Colosseum, the monuments. They whispered to me of how time layered over everything, cemented in the gaps, repaired the cracks and broken bits. 

Every stone glowed in the murky haze, every patch of moss shone a spiky blackish-green, with little fingers clinging to edges like mountaineers unroped and fallen.

I surveyed my pleasure garden sitting snugly in its bowl overlooked by the imperious Hills of Rome.

The Forum was my own ruined city, my lover who’d never let me go.

One look at me and the visitors hurtled to the Colosseum exit. I wished them a sly ‘Godspeed’ then sauntered further into the twilight.

Darkness shadows the sky
The Forum is silent
but I hear beating hearts
inside these ancient walls

I dance on the cobblestones - tap, tap, tap.
This is home. High five!
Not Connecticut. Twist and shout!

Humans always ponder broken relationships.
Can time layer over the breaks, the bitterness?
Can time cement the gaps?
Yes, if you hang around long enough, mwhahhahh!

I salute the Praetorian Guard, click my heels, draw my cloak closer and float with my ghosts.

God I love this place.


Image source:

RomanticFridayWriters is a fortnightly meme.
Submissions of prose and poetry of 400 words or less on a given theme.
Some sort of romantic element in story.
All writers welcome!
Word count: 413
Full Critique Acceptable - go for your life! I had fun!

Thursday 29 December 2011

Challenge yourself to write a short story, well, a pretty long short story, for a chance to get publisher feedback or a request.

The Best Reason to Challenge Yourself with a Short Story:

Announcing the Pitch Your Shorts  online pitch session!  
Several editors from Entangled Publishing will be visiting Jami Gold's blog in the second week of January to take pitches for shorter length works.  They’re interested in stories with strong romantic elements that end in a “happily ever after” or a “happily for now.”  They’re looking for stories in the 10-60K word range and are open to many genres:
  • Contemporary
  • Historical
  • Romantic Thrillers
  • Science Fiction, Dystopian, Steampunk
  • Paranormal and Urban Fantasy
  • Fantasy
If you have stories already completed that would fit those guidelines, get them polished.  If you have ideas along those lines or if you’ve thought about attempting a short story, get writing.  (Another great thing about short stories is they’re quick to write and revise.)
The editors have promised they’ll make at least one request from those who pitch on Jami's blog, and for the pitch that excites them the most, they’ll offer detailed feedback.
Do you notice that phrase: “they’ll make at least one request”?  That means this isn’t a contest, where only one pitch can win. This is more like a writing conference, where editors can request every pitch that interests them.  Yes, really.
This is a fantastic opportunity, and I want you all to consider pitching something.  I’m asking for you to help spread the word about this so everyone has time to get something ready.  I love helping my friends and readers out, and this could be a way to start a publishing career, experiment with a new genre/point-of-view/verb tense, or try out a new format.
Even if you consider yourself a novel writer, try writing a short story for this pitch session.  Get a head start on a New Year’s Resolution to work toward a publishing credit with a buzz-worthy publisher.  Plus, this is a chance to improve our skills.  In one shot, we can practice our structure, learn how to write a short story, pitch to several editors, and have a chance at a request and/or feedback.  How cool is that?
Mark your calendar: Pitch Your Shorts will begin January 10th
Have you written a short story before?  Have you ever developed a short story into a longer one?  Is it easier for you to see story structure in shorter works?  Will you be preparing a short story for Pitch Your Shorts?  (Please say yes!)
Excited? Spread the word!

Monday 26 December 2011

Santa Fest Gift - Little Tug to the Rescue with original painting

I participated in the Santa Fest where bloggers sent each other unique gifts anonymously. Today I received my gift, an original story, Little Tug to the Rescue. The illustration is an original painting by the author. It was beautiful to receive and read so I thought I'd share it with you.

Thank you Dear Blogger for the wonderful story and painting!

Merry Christmas!

Little Tug To The Rescue

Little Tug lives in the Hidden Harbour at the end of Long Road in Seatown. Although he is very small, he’s also very strong and important.

 Every day whether rainy or sunny, windy or snowy Little Tug is hard at work. He pulls and pushes, shoves and budges the giant ships out of the harbour and into the Wide Open Sea.

At the end of one very long day, Little Tug chugged up to the harbour mouth pulling his last Giant Ship of the day. When he’d finished he let out a great big sigh.
“What’s the matter Little Tug?” came Sid the Seagull’s voice from far above his head.
“I’m tired of pushing and pulling, shoving and budging all day long. I want to go and explore the Wide Open Sea”

“Then why don’t you go on an adventure?” asked Sid, coming to sit on Little Tug’s head.
“I don’t want to go on my own,” said Little Tug, looking sad. “The Giant Ships always keep me company when I leave the harbour. Without them I’d be lonely.”
“I’ll come with you,” said Sid. “Let’s go exploring.”

So, later that evening as the first of the stars appeared in the sky, Little Tug and Sid the Seagull set off out to sea.
They sailed and they chugged and soon they had left the harbour far behind them.

Soon, they had been bobbing along for such a long time that the sky had filled with stars, and they had both fallen fast asleep.

‘Help!’ Little Tug woke with a start. It was morning already.
“Did you hear that Sid?” asked little Tug
‘W-h-a-t?’ yawned Sid, stretching in the sunshine.
‘That!’ said Little Tug.
“I sure did,” said Sid, “Come on, let’s go and investigate.”

I think we’re getting close! Said Little Tug, spotting a small island. The island had a beach. On the beach was a Big Boat all on its own.

“Did you shout for help?” asked Sid, flying over and landing on the Big Boat.
“Yes I did.”
“Oh dear,” said Sid
“What’s the matter?” asked Little Tug kindly.

“A storm came, and a great big wave carried me here. And now I’m stuck on this beach.”
“Oh dear, oh dear!” said Sid again.

“Don’t worry Big Boat, I’ve got a plan to rescue you.”
Big Boat stopped sobbing and he and Sid the Seagull listened closely as Little Tug explained his clever plan.
“Do you think this will work?” asked Sid
“Of course it will work., said Little Tug.
“I sure hope it works,” sighed Big Boat. “I’ve been stuck here for far too long. Let’s give it a go.”

Sid swooped over to Little Tug and took one of his ropes in his beak. Then he flew back to the island and tied the end of the rope tightly to Big Boat.

“Ready?” asked Little Tug.
“Ready! Cried Big Boat.
“Go Go Go,” shrieked Sid.

Little Tug pulled and pulled...
But the Big Boat wouldn’t budge.
“I’m still stuck,” sighed the Big Boat.
“Oh dear,” said Sid.
“I need more help!” puffed Little Tug. “Grab the rope Sid.”

Sid wrapped his beak around the rope and got ready to pull with all his strength.
“Ready?” asked Little Tug.
“Ready!” cried Big Boat
“Mrph,” muttered Sid through a beak-full of rope.

And they both pulled and pulled... but still the Big Boat wouldn’t budge.
“I’m going to be stuck forever,” panicked Big Boat.
“Oh dear, oh dear!” worried Sid.
“I’m going to need even more help,” puffed Little Tug.

“I have an idea,” said Sid. “I’ll be back soon, wait here.” And off he flew as fast as his wings could flap. Soon he was just a speck in the distance.

Before too long, they could see him again... and as he came closer, and closer, they could see that he wasn’t alone.
“I’m back!” said Sid, landing on Little Tug’s head, “and I’ve brought more help. This is Wanda the Whale. Wanda this is Little Tug, and that is poor old Big Boat.”

“Hello!” said Wanda. ‘As soon as Sid said that you were stuck, I wanted to help – come on everybody, let’s give it a go!”

Sid tied a loop in a second rope and dropped this over Wanda’s head. Then he flew onto the island and tied the other end to Big Boat.

“Ready?” asked Little Tug
“Ready.” Said Big Boat.
“Mrph!” muttered Sid, taking up the rope in his beak again.
“Glub!” spluttered Wanda from under the water.

They all pulled and pulled

And pulled some more
And slowly, slowly
Big Boat started to slip... and slide
And finally SPLOOSH!
“You did it!” cried big Boat, “I’m not stuck anymore, I’ back sailing in the sea!”

“Yipee!” shouted Little Tug
“Woopee doo!” bubbled Wanda
“Hurray!” flapped Sid, swooping a loop the loop.

“Thank you so much everyone!” said Big Boat, happy to finally be free.
“Is there anything I can do for you in return?”
“Actually, Sid and I are a little bit lost. We drifted off to sleep and bobbed far away from our home at Hidden Harbour. Do you know the way back there?”

“Yes I do!” replied Big Boat excitedly, “That’s where I was headed before I got washed up here – I’ll show you the way home.”
“I think I’d better come with you too” said Wanda, “just in case of any more storms – I can’t be having you all washed up on this island again!”

And so they set off in one long line – Big boat leading the way, followed by Little Tug, followed by Sid, followed by Wanda bringing up the rear.

And as they splooshed and swooped along as the sun climbed high in the sky and then dipped back down into the sea.

Finally, just as the first new stars appeared in the sky, they reached the mouth of the Hidden Harbour.

“Here we are at last,” said Big Boat.
“Phew, I’m pooped!” said Little Tug
“I’m starving,” said Sid
“Now I’ve seen you safely home, I’ll say goodnight. See you soon everyone.”
“Good bye. Thank you” they all called as Wanda splashed away.

What an amazing adventure, sighed Sid
“Wasn’t it?!” said Little Tug, The Giant ships will never believe me when I tell them in the morning.

Thank you to whoever wrote this for my Santa Fest gift! I hope all my readers enjoyed the tale. Did you?

Sunday 25 December 2011

Happy Christmas!

Have a great day! The sun is shining here at the beach. A cool summer's day. The best. How is it at your place?
Enjoy yummy food and drink, family and friends.

Short of recipes. Try my Toblerone Cheesecake and cocktail below!

Thursday 22 December 2011

Two of the best Christmas recipes ever - Toblerone Cheesecake and Toblerone Cocktail...yum...

On Boxing Day I'll need to sit on the elf seat at the beach and think about
 New Year's Resolutions re food and drink, lol!
Well there are so many serious posts out there for you to read, but I thought I'd lighten up the atmosphere and try to fatten you all up with a couple of absolutely delicious Christmas recipes fitting for an Aussie Christmas at the beach. I don't know, maybe if you're snowed in you could make the Toblerone Cocktail by scooping up a cup of snow? And you don't have to worry about keeping your glasses chilled, lol! And cheesecake is good to go any time of year, isn't it?

I posted both these recipes to rave reviews last year and some bloggers contacted me to say they'd actually made and enjoyed them so much. So I thought I'd share them again in case you weren't around last year.

Here are my two favourite Christmas recipes (apologies to Weight Watchers) we'll be enjoying again on Christmas night as we listen to the Pacific Ocean roar.



1 cup plain chocolate biscuit crumbs

1/2 cup caster sugar (I no longer add sugar. You don't need it!)
1/2 cup thickened cream
1/4 cup ground almonds
200g TOBLERONE Milk or Dark Chocolate for shaving 
200g TOBLERONE Milk or Dark Chocolate, melted
500g block PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened
80g butter, melted


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

Beat PHILADELPHIA and sugar using an electric mixer until smooth. 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.

This only takes about 15 minutes to prepare. I always bring it along when asked to provide dessert.



We like to make what we call a Toblerone (like a mudslide) for after Christmas Tea. 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.

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!! but you need the Bailey's and about three others), whizz for a bit. 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, around the inside of the glass (do you like my Eiffel Tower?), 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.

  • All right now! Can you beat that? Tell me please, what is your favourite Christmas recipe???

PS The next two posts are also Aussie Christmas related...

Happy Christmas!

Monday 19 December 2011

A leisurely Christmas stroll through Brisbane. Sparkly summer pics from me to you.

Sorry if you've already come by to see my pics. Google has been playing up and I had to re-do the pics more than once! I hope they're okay now...
Judging by the comments from my previous Christmas in Australia post I see many of you are quite interested in a Down Under Christmas. When I was zipping around the Queen Street Mall in the inner city yesterday doing some last-minute shopping, I took a few pics to share with you. I hope you enjoy this little trip around my neighbourhood.

Let's start the Christmas season with lots of Santas running to raise money for sick children. Well, these stragglers with children in prams were strolling to the finish line. They sweltered in their Santa suits but still got into the spirit and raised thousands of dollars for sick children.

My favourite poinciana tree which was under flood water last year. This is my bridge where I walk from where I live amongst the highrises across to the Cultural Centre and South Bank.

Okay, the Queen Street Mall. Right up the centre are restaurants and entertainment areas. During the Christmas season choirs from near and far come to sing our favourite Christmas songs.

There's always an angel watching over us.

Another entertainment venue. Here we have a string ensemble and little children from the crowd
 having a go at some hymns.

The window displays at Myer are always popular. How could you explain to your 
kids what some of the wacky displays mean?

Well, Santa comes from a long way away. Will he find our town right Down Under?

So I needed a fresh juice after all that camera work and shopping. Now who's this at my favourite juice bar? You just never know what you'll see around Christmas in the Mall.

Hope you enjoyed your little stroll through Brisbane. It's another beautiful summer's day here and I'm continuing to prepare for a beach Christmas. I hope you enjoy your log fires, eggnog, shovelling snow, real Christmas trees with real snow, while I enjoy sunning and surfing and eating and drinking.

Happy Christmas everyone!

Friday 16 December 2011

Déjà Vu Blogfest - re-posting that underexposed blog post.

Two blogfests in one day! If you're looking for my RomanticFridayWriters Sparkle! story, it's the next post down.

Thanks to D. L. Hammons: Nicole, Lydia and Katie for co-hosting
Well the Déjà Vu Blogfest is all about re-posting either a favourite blog post or one that you thought didn't get the exposure it deserved. Well, I have plenty that no-one read when I had about 5 followers, but I'd like to share this one with you, not that I think it's the best post I've ever written but just because it's nearly Christmas again. This post is from December 2009:

Christmas in Australia

Been reading the blogs I follow and a few Christmas stories are trickling through, enough to highlight the difference between a Northern Hemisphere Christmas and a Southern one.

In Oz we have been suffering extreme heatwaves (40+C in some parts), bushfires (already!), floods (although I see England had a bit of a one), drought (in my area) and endless debates on Climate Change and Global Warming causing it all. 

We're on our third leader of the Opposition and all due to Global Warming. All shaping up to the usual ding dong Aussie Christmas that we love so well, when the pollies (politicians) take a holiday like the rest of us. Peace at last! 

The last few Christmasas I've managed to be in the Northern Hemisphere struggling through blizzards in Belgium and Luxembourg and driving on snowy roads in France, not to mention being frozen in London. What is worse? Too hot or too cold?

I'm about to become reaquainted with the lovely Aussie Christmas!

For many years in Oz we have struggled with the ridiculous idea of cooking a roast dinner in 30+C heat, but thankfully that is one of our British Empire traditions that has mostly found its way to the archives of modern history - now we go for prawns and lots of other delicious seafood, salads, wonderful tapas and chilled trifle or cheesecakes for dessert. 

Thanks to another British import - MasterChef (which I first discovered when I was in London a few years ago) - Australians have upped their expectations of food. We have our own home-grown MasterChef television series and now we are now ALL masterchefs. The show has taken Oz by storm. We are out trawling the Farmers' Markets and Gourmet Delis to plate up the freshest and finest for our loved ones. So it ain't half bad!

Well and I managed fine getting the Chrissy deckies up yesterday - no lofts to climb, no dreaded lurgy laying me low in high summer as I've read on the English blogs, just a few boxes to get out of the backs of cupboards and bingo! Lights and colour. 

I'm completely addicted to fairy lights, especially the twinkly variety, so all the extra heat is going to add to the already warm temp and I'm going to have to crank up the air-con. What was that I was saying about Global Warming? Who's responsible? It is me after all...

Merry Christmas everyone!

An Oz Christmas is hard to beat - gorgeous beaches, swimming pools everywhere, resort holidays, watersports....and prawns...bring it on!

Click on the Deja Vu image to read more recycled posts.
  • What does your Christmas look like? 
Santa image courtesey

Thursday 15 December 2011

#RomanticFridayWriters - Challenge No 27- My story, 'Sparkle!'

#RomanticFridayWriters is now a twice-monthly blogfest started by yours truly, where writers post a poem or flash fiction piece with a word count of 400 words and under on a given theme. This week's theme is Sparkle! The challenge is open to anyone wishing to take part in a friendly writing exercise, show off an excerpt from a WIP, or just have some writing fun. However there must be some romantic element - in this you are invited to think outside the square. We know romance is more than just chocolates and roses. Are you in love with your car, your new dress, the place where you were born?

Mine is posted early this week as I'm incommunicado tomorrow. Click on the #RomanticFridayWriters link above or in my right-hand sidebar to read more Sparkle! stories...

It was many long years ago on a cold winter’s night in Yellow Springs, Ohio, that Serena first tasted the power of Christmas lights. Their brash sparkle entranced her, she who had never before seen such a display. She drove up and down the magical street in her borrowed car, marvelling at the fairyland of twinkling lights.

‘There’s a spirit behind those lights,’ she thought. ‘They’re an expression of Christmas, a gift to anybody who drives past.’ Well, nobody could walk past here in Yellow Springs, it’s absolutely freezing!

She returned to her hometown in Australia with a plan. The plan would feature her little tree in the garden, the one she’d planted when her beloved Kev died. ‘I’m going to put lights on you, little tree. You’re going to add some sparkle to this town. Every time I see you twinkling away, I’ll think of Kevvie.’

Christmas couldn’t come soon enough for Serena. Usually she dreaded Christmas. She had no family. No one to share the ‘festive’ season with, but that was about to change.

Serena was amazed at the effect of her first little Christmas Lights display. Neighbours she’d never met came walking by (Christmas in Australia is hot, very hot). They exclaimed over the baubles glistening in the summer’s night and vowed they would add some sparkle next Christmas.

Serena eagerly awaited next Christmas to see if their proclamations bore fruitl. She’d enjoyed the year, taking morning tea with the ladies in the street, but best of all she’d met Sam, the tree man. Her little tree had grown so fast that it needed trimming, so neighbourly Sam had attended to the task.

Every Christmas now the gardens in her street transformed into beauties, a sight to behold. Weeks before Christmas there were baubles on gum trees, fairy lights bedecking houses and bushes, talking donkeys and life-sized nativity scenes. Serena saw each and every sparkly house and was thankful.

The little cedar tree that had housed her first Christmas lights was now magnificent, towering over the whole yard. Sam helped her put the finishing touches to her latest display.

Together they hit the ON switch.Woo hoo!

Her roof, balcony and tree glowed with strings of bulbs, flashing, dancing, enthralling.

‘Look!’ someone cried.

The cedartree. Red flickering lights read: ‘Serena, marry me?’

Serena hugged Sam as warmly as a humid Australian December night would allow.


‘Aaahhh!’ exclaimed the neighbours, clapping loudly.


  • How did you like my little fairy tale?

Word count: 402 - MPA - this is just a fun story. No need to go crazy with critiquing. Please leave a comment.

Next challenge. Check it out.

Friday 9 December 2011

Guess my character's age blogfest! Can you suggest improvements?

If you're looking for my book review post, it's the next one down!

Guess my character's age blogfest!

Brenda Drake is hosting a blogfest!Here are her instructions:

Post the first 250 words of your finished, or not quite finished, manuscript (any genre) to your blog. This contest is about voice--whether or not your character's voice matches his or her's age. So if you mention the age or school grade in the first 250 words, please edit it out or block it out for this contest. Don't list the genre or title on your posts. If your 250 words falls in the middle of a sentence, continue to the end of the sentence.

From December 8th-9th hop around each others' blogs and try to guess the age of the character, give critiques, or praise. Revise your entries, if you want, and email them to me by 11:59PM (EST) December 10th. (If you want, you may skip the blogfest/critique portion of this contest and just enter the contest.)

The winners will be chosen from the list of twenty semi-finalists by our fantabulous guest judge ...

Here is my 257 word beginning of revised Chapter One of my first NaNo novel. How old is Ruby?

The moment Ruby stepped outside the observation lounge she saw him.
He was leaning against the deck rail watching the humpbacks. Mon dieu! The glorious creatures frolicking in the Pacific waters took her breath away, but the sight of the captain in his white uniform delivered the knockout blow.
He turned, saw her and smiled. She was lost in eyes that had the ocean in their depths. His long lashes were the colour of sand, no doubt bleached by days at sea. Blond curls peeked from under his captain's hat.  
She stepped towards him.
A wave slapped against the boat, spraying them in froth. ‘Merde!’ Ruby yelped as she slipped, sliding towards the rail.
He was beside her in an instant. ‘Steady on!’ He lifted her, drawing her towards him in one smooth movement.
‘Thanks.’ Ruby laughed as she wobbled in his arms, glad she hadn’t sprawled on the deck and landed at his feet, although that could have been interesting.
‘You okay?’ he asked, leading her to the deck rail.
‘Yes. Foolish of me. Sorry.’
‘Nothing to be sorry about. Decks can be deadly. I’m glad I was here to help.’
‘So am I. You’ve no idea.’
He laughed, a rollicking sound, perfect in the primeval setting of ocean and whales. ‘What a glorious day.’
Oui, yes, it is very beautiful.’
 ‘Oh, you dropped something,’ Ruby said, reaching for a small book lying in the puddle at her feet. She turned it over.
‘Aha, Moby Dick. What else would the captain of a whaling boat read?’

  • Critique, comments, suggested improvements welcome!