Monday 29 October 2012

Song of the Humpback Whale - or 'Scientific Research'? The annual whale wars begin in the Antarctic.

Hi friends!

Sitting on the deck at the beach watching the humpback whales (Latin name  Megaptera novaeangliae - 'big-winged New Englander') take their annual migration south to the Antarctic, I wonder which of these beautiful creatures is destined to board a Japanese whaler ship bloody and battered as a 'scientific experiment' and which will swim past heading north after its annual feed in the cold Antarctic waters during  the Southern Hemisphere's summer. 

Some whales stay in the mid-Southern Ocean, while others feed at the edge of the pack ice. Their hunters understand their predictable movements, making them relatively easy prey. This annual battle is fought in the Antarctic with the Sea Shepherd and Greenpeace vessels hounding the huge Japanese refrigerated ships. Their philosophy is while the Japanese are fighting them they're leaving the whales alone. All the action is live on our television screens nightly. It's about to begin again...

Whaling has a long and cruel history. Australia itself, even though vehemently opposed to whale hunting today, only ceased to participate in the 1970s. Today it is easy to judge the Japanese who continue to claim they need to kill whales for 'scientific research' and that it's part of their culture, even though many Japanese people have joined in the global protests against this practice, claiming that tons of unwanted whale meat and by products languish in cold rooms.

According to the anti - whaling 'terrorist' Sea Shepherd captain, Canadian Paul Watson, alongside Japan, other countries and tribes continue to whale hunt. There's Norway, the Inuit in Alaska, USA, the Yupik in Siberia, Denmark, along with aboriginal groups in Canada and Iceland. 

Where there's whales there's birds aplenty.

Whaling is a topic dear to my heart. I have explored this issue in one of my novels. I found this poem for the frontispiece:

           Song of the Humpback Whale

From oceans huge with time the whales surface

and plunge in a rolling of hills. The curious soft
indigo explosion of their cries
that trail like comets in the night are heard as

trumpet-calls, submerged, sharp, shuddering,
as the spatial music of gulls, as sounds of blunt
tugs nosing mournfully through eternal mist.
It is a salt-white sorcery: they sing

of artic pilgrimage, the bleak migration
ordained by the rhythm of seasons. Buffeted
by surface storms of their known world, they flow
as we ourselves in terrible formation,

trapped each a lifetime in compelling seas,
plunging half-blinded, calling one to another
from green-scarped waves, set on divergent courses
but frozen, frozen to our destinies.

From Song of the Humpback Whales, Selected Verse by Jill Hellyer - open copyright

I am currently applying the final layer of nail polish to my first NaNo novel, Ruby, aimed at the HarlequinEscape market. This novel is a love story between a French girl, an Aussie sea captain and humpback whales. This scene is taken from Chapter Eleven where the heroine Ruby confronts a Japanese whaler. (I wanted to give both sides to the story). He addresses the diners at Ruby's hotel restaurant:

My name is Izuru Ito. I was brought up in a tiny fishing village in Japan. Everyone was involved in whaling, including my whole family. You must understand. It was our life for generations. I followed my father before me, becoming a scientist, then a whaling ship’s captain. But it was different for me.
‘My voyages to hunt the whales started my love affair with the Southern Oceans. I fell in love with the wildness, the vastness, the remoteness. The different breeds of whales–from the humpbacks to the majestic bluestook my breath away with their haunting whale songs. To hear them singing amongst the icebergs changed my life.’
The restaurant was quiet–no one lifted a knife or fork–no one swallowed–all were mesmerized by Ito's story.
‘My voyages through this great ocean overwhelmed me. There life is in its rawest, most primal form.’ 
To Ruby it was a Moby Dick tale. She leaned closer.
‘It took me many expeditions, but I came to appreciate how fragile and utterly beautiful life and the natural environment really are. Seeing whales harpooned became an ugly paradox. I had to make a choice. I chose life over death. I still hunt whales, but as an object of beauty, not prey.’
Some of the guests were dabbing their eyes. A slow clap began, picked up by everyone. Ito looked around, humbled.
‘Tomorrow will be an experience none of us will ever forget. The whales await. They are close. Tonight gave us a glimpse. Tomorrow, the conditions will be perfect. For those of you who have never seen whales up close, prepare yourself. It is a most spiritual moment.’ He gave them the thumbs up. ‘Thank you for listening to my story.’ 
He stood and bowed politely.
And was gone.

Friday 19 October 2012

Halloween House of Horrors - Is there love beyond the grave?

My entry for the RomanticFridayWriters Halloween House of Horrors is taken from Chapter Three of my WIP, a 16,000 word ghost story novella, Paradise Can Wait, set in Afghanistan and the US in 2009. The protagonist, Delbar, has lost her husband Alam in the ongoing war against the Taliban. She has escaped her country, but can she escape the dead? 

As I am seeking publication for this story, I would appreciate all feedback.


Trick or Treat?

The flames of the fire flickered and died. The room plunged into darkness. The chandelier's crystal droplets clinked against the draft that crept into the room like a stealthy ghost. Trees moaned against the walls, a lament of damned souls.

A white flare fizzed through the room.
Delbar leaped from her chair in front of the fire. Rough hands clamped her mouth. Her arms wrenched behind her. She was thrown onto the couch where she lay on her back, juddering with terror.

Damp enveloped her in a watery cloak. What is this? Water boarding?  My hiding place discovered so soon? 
She struggled to see her assailant through the dark shadows…she saw no one…then…a kaleidoscope of color swirled at the top of the staircase. It spilled onto the stairs like molten metal tipped from a cauldron. Colored shadows glinted as the liquid dripped downwards, then puddled at the bottom of the stairs.

Mmmh...mmmh…ughh...” Delbar fought against the invisible hand that pressed her lips together. Water continued to drip. Blinking through the damp, she stared at the man who arose fully formed from the puddle–face…limbs…body…hair…clothes. The garments were bright white as if lit from within–baggy trousers, tunic, turban.

“Yaa Ilaahee!”*
Delbar struggled against the invisible ropes. She jerked from side to side, moaning. Abruptly the binds loosed, the dripping stopped and she could speak.

“Al…am? Is…you..?” Water dribbled from her mouth. She brushed her hand across her face. “No. You are dead! You died in the mountains! The Taliban killed you… I’m dreaming…why was my mouth stopped and my arms tied…why did water nearly drown me? Why..? Why..?”

He stepped forwards, knees high, like he waded to shore from a turbulent ocean. He stopped a few meters from her. Delbar smelt rosewater and spices, the strong scents of her homeland. Hair escaped from under his turban, long and lustrous. The gray streaks in his beard had gone as had the scars on his hands from that hideous time when he’d been imprisoned and tortured during the Mujahedeen wars.

“So you could feel me die.”

‘That was cruel…I feared…for my life.” She reached for the rug that had fallen from her shoulders, dabbed her mouth then hugged the soft wool to her chest and sobbed.

 “But you live. I’ve been waiting. So long. You’re here. I need you to trust this.” He pointed to his body. “See me. Your Alam?”

She turned away.


She spoke to the room. “I’m dreaming, I know. What I see isn’t real. My husband is dead. He’s in Paradise. A demon uses a husband’s body to trick a wife.”

“Delbar. It is me. Look. This is no dream. I drowned. The portal opened, the angels came. I turned back. I was to enter the Door, but I answered, no, I’m not ready for Paradise.”

Daabí Ashkun!”**  She clamped her hands over her ears.

“My Paradise is being with you.”

“No. Jannah awaits you. If it is indeed you? My Alam would obey the angels. Go to your reward.” She pointed to the door.

“My reward is to be with you.”

“No. Jannah awaits the righteous.”

“The things I’ve done were not righteous. I’ve no business in Paradise with killers of women and children. Scoundrels like me deserve to wander the earth, hungry, never satisfied.”

“A soldier under orders obeys orders. You tried to ease the suffering of the Afghani people. Go to your blissful, happy life.”

“My blissful, happy life is here. In my new body. You need me…”

“I need Alam, but not this way. Continue your journey.”

“My journey ends here.”

“No. Leave. This is a trick. Go back to the portal if you are man, not demon.”

He dropped to his knees as if shot. “Let me stay. One night?”

Dreamy sensations flowed through her as she floated into a fantastical world. He has cast some spell over me. A spell that holds me entranced. Her heart cried out for Alam. A tidal wave of power suffused her–where before she was weak, now she was strong–where before she had mourned, now her heart danced.
Alam is here!

He saw her thoughts.

He reached down, tore the rug from her hands. He stroked her shoulder, testing her–chilly hands, icy fingers. He sat on the edge of the couch. Embraced her.  Pressed her warm flesh against his coldness. Oh, the chill! Icy lips found hers. 

Water rushed down her throat–spurted out her nose–her eyes filled–overflowed. She panicked. Pulled away.


She cried. Scrubbed her face with the rug.

“Relax,” he said, “Control your fear. The drowning sensation will vanish. I promise.”

“Who are you? Which demon has stolen Alam’s body?”

I am your Alam.” He kissed her again. “My precious wife.” His garments disappeared as if by magic. Naked, he covered the length of her warm human flesh with his otherworldly coldness.

 “I am so cold. The fire...” she said.

“This new body has an enemy–fire.” He turned and blew into the fireplace. Flames lit up the space. “But I can try to bear it…for you, my love.”

Her heart leaped into the flood of pleasure offered by his arms. Do I care whether he is dead or undead, cold or warm, ghost or demon?
They lay side by side. Stroke for stroke they sought remembrance of times past…but...something jarred...
Delbar felt it creep along her nape. Something frightening, more frightening than what she’d already experienced. She sensed absolute evil.
Too late she saw the malevolent glint in eyes turned red. The beautiful face melted into a hideous mask. The body bunched, the back humped, hands curled into claws that raked her face. Pain stole her breath. The mass twisted into a formless black that blasted putrid air over her like a toxic cloud. Hands forced her arms behind her back. Filthy water poured down her throat. Life squeezed from her.
The flames flickered…and died.


* Yaa Ilaahee! (Oh my God!)

** Daabí Ashkun!”* (No!)


***L'Aussie Image edited in

WORDS: 986

If you'd like to add your Halloween story/poem to the list, submit in the right top sidebar or wherever you find the linky until October 21 AEST.

This challenge is being judged by venerable bloggers, Ann Best and Nas Dean, who are on a quest to find the Featured Writer.


Monday 15 October 2012

What is a Contract for Marriage? Join Barbara DeLeo today as she answers my questions about writing for Entangled Publishing.

Hello my friends. Today I am chatting with romance author Barbara DeLeo about her newest release, Contract for Marriage.

Denise: Barbara, lovely to meet you.  Thanks for stopping by here at L’Aussie Writing on your tour to let the world know that you have a new novel released. Contract for Marriage sounds a riveting read.
Barbara: Hi Denise! Thanks so much for hosting me on your blog today. It’s been a hectic couple of weeks since the release of my debut novel, Contract for Marriage, so it’s lovely to stop in for a chat. I’m a New Zealander so just across the pond from you, but am currently on a three month trip to Greece and Cyprus with my family. Today I’m in a tiny village on the west coast of Cyprus and it’s gorgeous.
Denise: I'm so jealous! I've not made it to Greece yet! But tell us a little about your writing journey thus far. How many books have you previously published or do you have in the works? Tell us about being picked up by Entangled Publishing.
Barbara: I’ve been writing seriously for the past seven years and in that time completed six manuscripts. I’ve always written romance but in the last few years targeted category length stories specifically.
I completed revisions on a number of manuscripts for different editors but my stories always seemed to be a little out of the box. When my agent suggested we submit my latest manuscript to Entangled Publishing, I was very interested. They’d only just started the Indulgence line and the titles were so fun and fresh that I was more than happy. When my agent called only a couple of weeks later with the offer for Contract for Marriage I was thrilled. I’ve since sold another book to the Indulgence line. “Last Chance Proposal” is out in January.
Denise: Why category romance? For readers who might not be familiar with these books, what do you think their appeal is?
Barbara: Category romance is generally defined as a romance between 40,000 and 80,000 words in which the primary focus is on the developing relationship between the hero and heroine. Someone once described category romance as a hit of rich dark chocolate while a Single Title romance was a three-course meal. I love a three-course meal as much as anyone but I also love my indulgent quick treats and that’s the way I like to think of my category romances. In terms of craft, they are an intense, tightly written story which needs to have full character development, a satisfying story and a happily ever after in one neat package, so they are an exciting challenge to write.
 Denise: I see you love to travel and also that you set your stories in exotic destinations. Did any of your travel experiences turn up in Contract for Marriage?
Barbara: My husband’s family is from Greece and Cyprus (hence the current trip with him, his parents and our four children now!) and we lived and travelled in Europe when we were in our twenties. I love different sights and sounds and smells, so try to layer these into my stories. Contract for Marriage is set in New Zealand but Christo has Greek heritage so I was able to weave in some of my experiences with the Greek culture. While I’m in Europe now I’m taking photos and notes for some settings in future books.
Denise: Both your hero and heroine, Christo and Ruby, sound like very strong characters. How did you find the balance with their strengths? How did you play one against the other?
Barbara: What a great question! I love strong characters, strong alpha males because they know exactly want they want and will do whatever it takes to get it —including moving any obstacle to get the woman they desire— but I believe a strong hero also needs a strong heroine. When each of the characters is challenged by the other we not only get lots of spark, but lots of passion and emotion too.
In Contract for Marriage, Christo and Ruby are not only strong in their belief that they each should have the house, they’re also very strong in their desire to fight for someone they love. For Christo, it’s getting the house for his mother who has lived there for forty years, for Ruby, it’s acquiring a legacy for her baby. I think the fact that both their goals are such honorable ones, readers are prepared to see some fire and conflict between the two. The fact that they’re required to share the house until they can sort their issues out leads to all sorts of interesting shenanigans!
Thanks so much for hosting me today, Denise.
You can find Barbara at:

Read Chapter One of Contract for Marriage free!

Barbara DeLeo’s first book, co-written with her best friend, was a story about beauty queens in space. She was eleven, and the sole, handwritten copy was lost years ago much to everyone’s relief. It’s some small miracle that she kept the faith and now lives her dream of writing sparkling contemporary romance with unforgettable characters.

Degrees in English and Psychology, and a career as an English teacher, fuelled Barbara’s passion for people and stories, and a number of years living in Europe gave her a love for romantic settings.

Discovering she was having her second set of twins in two years, Barbara knew she must be paying penance for being disorganized in a previous life and was determined to get it right this time. It’s amazing what being housebound with four preschoolers will do for the imagination and she decided it was time to follow her writing dream. Funnily enough, those first manuscripts had not a single child in them.

Married to her winemaker hero, Barbara’s happiest when she’s getting to know her latest cast of characters. She still loves telling stories about finding love in all the wrong places, but now without a beauty queen or spaceship in sight.

  • Barbara would love to gift a copy of Contract for Marriage to one lucky commenter, so please comment before leaving. You never know...

Wednesday 10 October 2012

Before you Submit Checklist, NaNoWriMo and Halloween House of Horrors.

RomanticFridayWriters is going on hiatus in November, so the hosts and other members and friends can devote more time to NaNoWriMo. Unless you've been asleep under a rock, you'll know this is the month of allocated writing frenzy where you sign up to write 50,000 words of a novel. By tapping out about 1,500 words a day, you will reach the goal. There's lots of cool gadgets and stuff to help your motivation and writing buddies to cheer you on.

So after the writing frenzy, the re-writing and editing begins, until you're ready to submit your masterpiece of a manuscript. I came across this very useful checklist in Writer's Digest, by Sage Cohen which I've been using on my current projects before submitting and will keep on using it.

On the RomanticFridayWriters website, you'll find lots of publications waiting for your work. Before you submit your work, Sage suggests you tick these boxes:

c  Have I completed the three-step revision process - big picture to nitty gritty?

c  Have I reviewed and revised this story at least three times?

c  Has this piece had time to 'settle' before its final full revision?

c  Have I carefully proofed for spelling, grammar, consistent verb tense, and an overall cohesive reader experience?

c  Have I done everything in my power to make the craft of the piece - language, action, imagery, dialogue, narrative arc, use of line and stanza, voice, POV - as powerful as it can be? (Make your own craft checklist for your particular genre of writing, and tick off each item each time you revise to ensure that you're covering all your bases.)

c  Has this piece been read and edited by at least one colleague or adviser whose expertise and opinion I trust?

c  Have I run spell checker?

c  Have I made sure there are no strange formatting errors or page breaks?

c  Where have I said something that could be simpler or clearer?

c  Does this piece integrate and reflect the knowledge I've gained working with (or being rejected by) this (or a similar editor/agent in the past - if applicable)?

c  Does it integrate and reflect what I've learned about being productive and successful with this genre of style of writing in this type of market?

c  Does this meet stated submission guidelines such as word count, formatting, packaging, presentation, topic and/or theme?

c  Does this meet the objectives stated in my assignment contract or my own stated creative goals?

c  What does my gut say? Am I really finished, or is there more work to do here even if I'm not exactly sure what that work is yet?

HAPPY SUBMITTING FELLOW WRITERS! And enjoy NaNoWriMo if you're participating.

The next RomanticFridayWriters challenge is for Halloween. As always, open to all writers and poets - you can sign up here and post your story/poem on October 19.

get the InLinkz code

Friday 5 October 2012

#RomanticFridayWriters - Challenge No 46 - Birthday Madness. 'Satin Sheets to Cry On.'

It's RomanticFridayWriter's time! This challenge is to write 400 words of prose or poetry to the prompt, Birthday Madness. All my attempts were rubbish, so in desperation I've reworked a much earlier story so it fits the theme somewhat. I hope you enjoy my story based on the delightfully dreamy Country and Western song, 'Satin Sheets', sung by Jeanne Pruett and others.

'Satin sheets to lie on
Satin pillows to cry on
Still I’m not happy can’t you see?'

‘Angelique! Stop with that maudlin rubbish!’

‘What’s wrong with country music, Antoine?’

‘It shows your roots.’

‘That’s mean.’

‘Enough of your teary eyes and dreamy looks. It’s party time.’

‘I’m not going!’

‘It’s my birthday. I brought you something to wear.’


‘We can’t have anyone outshining you my dear, especially Lady Rushmore.’

‘And I care?’

‘It’s time you did. It’s what keeps you in trinkets.’

‘I don’t care for those things.’

‘But you do. You’re the perfect model for the fine things in life, Glamourpuss.’

‘Is that why you married me?’

‘And to save you from that cowboy you still pine for. Ha! He could never afford to shower you with expensive gifts. You’d still be wearing torn jeans.’

‘I remember you walking into that bar and heading straight for me. You couldn’t keep your hands off my torn jeans.’

‘And Randolph didn’t like it, did he? But he was too busy wailing all that country music to all those women falling at his feet. You stood out from the crowd.’

‘So did you in your business suit and sawdust on your fancy shoes.’

Antoine reached into the pocket of his tux and drew out an exquisite box scrolled in gold script - Cartier.

“For you.’

‘But it’s your birthday. This makes my present look pathetic.’

The box sprung open to reveal a necklace of sparkling diamonds.  She looked at her husband and was stunned to see the adoration in his eyes. Does he actually love me? Why can’t he convey his love without expensive gifts?

‘Don’t cry darling girl.’

‘Why? I’ll offend Lady Rushmore?’

He kissed her, lifted her blonde curls and gently hung the diamonds around her neck.

‘No, my love, you’ll terrify me that you’re going to leave me for that guitar-strumming poseur. The only gift I crave is your promise to stay with me forever.’

‘Lead me to your Cadillac, darling. I’m not going anywhere.’

‘I know how that song ends.’


‘You want me to set you free.’
‘Walk away from all this?’ She swished her red satin gown, shrugged into her white fur stole, then clattered across the room in her black stilettos. ‘Why would I want to be set free? To starve with Randolph?’

But Antoine heard the catch in her voice.

She was leaving him…though he’d given her everything that money could buy.




Wednesday 3 October 2012

Insecure Writer's Support Group Post - exploring your creativity within a writers' group.

Aren't the months whizzing by? First Wednesday of the month again, so it's time for Alex J Cavanaugh's IWSG. Here we are to post about what we're insecure about re our writing, or post something that will help our writing buddies out there.
I'm not at home, so have no access to all my stuff, and I know I promised to continue my 10 sneaky tips for writing that novel quickly, but something else is burning on my mind today...

Perhaps the best tip I can offer to give your writing career a boost, or get it started in the first place, or to give you that encouragement you need in the face of rejection is to  - JOIN A WRITING GROUP. Not any old writing group, but one that is just made for you. 

It can be problematic finding a writing group, finding a critique group, finding even a critique partner - all these things are fraught and need to be a good fit, otherwise they detract from our writing career. So today I'll give you my experience of joining a writing group. You may take away something helpful and that is all I ask.

I am a proud member of the Vannguard Writers Group.

Some of us in our favourite hats for our 'hat' writing exercise
I've been a member of the Queensland Writers Centre for sometime. A great resource for writers and just across the river, a 5 minute walk for me. It offers the most amazing courses/workshops/seminars all year round, and as selling short stories is my bread and butter, I decided to attend a Short Story 4-week course earlier in the year. The course was fabulous, but the best thing was that we were a group that jelled right from day one - not everyone of course - but about 8 of us didn't want the comaraderie to finish, so we decided to keep meeting at the same time as our regular courses - each Wednesday from 10.30 - 12.30. As our wonderful tutor was called Meg Vann (who is the incoming CEO of the QWC), we called ourselves Vaanguard Writers. Boy, are we an interesting crowd!

Paul Smith turned up one day in full  gangster garb as he's written a detective novel (and has been a  Private Investigator).

We have been meeting for 6 months or so now. Our major mission is a collaborative project of writing a fantasy novel. We have each taken part in creating the world, and have chosen our characters to place within the world. When our group meets, we devote half of our time to our project and the other half to writing challenges which may/may not be related to our novel. But all improve our creativity. We usually have writing homework and post them up on our Facebook group page, linking to google docs.

Jamie got right into the spirit of things when Charmaine organised  a hat challenge, which she wrote about  here...

What else do we do? We encourage each other to send our work out there - we regularly swap competitions and opportunities and try to send work out there every week. 

We are a diverse group and have much to teach each other. We also bring along special activities to spur our creativity. Before we broke for our school holiday period last week, I brought along an activity which took us into the Queensland Art Gallery, right next door to where we meet in the State Library of Queensland.

The instructions were:
  • Choose a painting
  • Decide whether you're the painter, a character in the painting or an onlooker 
  • Write in first person present tense about what is happening...

I chose Tintoretto's Risen.  I am the sleeping  Roman soldier asleep in the bottom left of the frame. 

Jillanne chose John Faed's Annie's Tryst. 

Charmaine got quite carried away with her story which resulted in murder, mayhem and Gothic characters...

Raelene's The Eviction led to a powerful story from the little girl's POV.

So you can see we have a great time working on our craft at  Vannguard Writers Group . Watch out for our novel - should be out this century!

I hope I've encouraged you to explore your creativity, as that's what writing is primarily about.



This challenge is to celebrate the shared birthdays of your hosts, Denise and Donna. Perhaps you share an October birthday too? 

Have you ever been to a birthday party that was so extravagant it actually made you jealous? Create a story or poem in which a character goes to a birthday party that is completely out of his/her  league. This especially includes the present that you got this person. Totally inadequate :).

Get penning your 400 words of prose/prosetry now!

The Linky will go up today at Romantic Friday Writers.

CHALLENGE NO 47 - Friday October 19

It's Halloween!

Another FW/RU Challenge

We’re looking for chilling stories of ghosts and haunted locations – and maybe even love from beyond the grave. 
A romantic element is essential, but we’re looking for stories with a thrilling edge of fear to add to the romantic tension building between our Hero/Heroine.

Have fun with this one! 
Don't forget the Romantic Element!

Let your head go! 
You can write up to 1,000 words of prose/prosetry!

The Linky will go up on October 12 at RomanticFridayWriters.