Friday 21 December 2012

Merry Christmas everyone! Peace on Earth by U2. I'll be back on January 2!

Only a couple of days till Christmas! We're actually celebrating our main Christmas on Christmas Eve as a daughter is travelling on Christmas Day -- this effectively means two Christmas Days to prepare for.

Tonight things kick off with family members arriving to fill the guest rooms at the, er, Beach Hotel here at Peregian Beach. It's been like living in a sauna for quite awhile now and the swimming pool has been taking a thrashing between house cleaning, cooking, shopping. Thankfully, we are promised cooler weather for Christmas! At the moment I couldn't imagine cooking a hot Christmas dinner - we'll just have to suffer prawns and salads followed by Toblerone Cheesecake and home-made macarons! Pity us!

I go into this festive season remembering those who haven't had such a happy lead in to Christmas. I was so relieved to see that Nas Dean and her lovely husband Ragesh are safe there in Nadi, in their home where we stayed in July/August. Cyclone Evan wasn't kind. Nadi will be without electricity and water for a time, I believe. Those in Samoa are in the midst of a huge cleanup after Cyclone Evan, too. The devastation is worse than in the quite recent tsunami, poor people. But on the bright side, the US, NZ and Australia and probably other countries have been quick to offer aid to both Samoa and/or Fiji. I know planes full of emergency supplies have been leaving Australia for Nadi.

Nas is still smiling because they were able to fire up the generator so she could  keep blogging, lol!

It is sad that there are those living and dying in strife-torn countries too. Children being blown up by land mines in Afghanistan, aid workers shot dead in Pakistan, and civil war in Syria, unrest in many other countries. What can you do?

Hope and pray for Peace on Earth. here are the lyrics to one of my favourite songs by one of my favourite bands -- U2...

Heaven on Earth, we need it now
I'm sick of all of this hanging around
Sick of sorrow, sick of the pain
I'm sick of hearing again and again
That there's gonna be peace on Earth

Where I grew up there weren't many trees
Where there was we'd tear them down
And use them on our enemies
They say that what you mock
Will surely overtake you

And you become a monster
So the monster will not break you
And it's already gone too far
You say that if you go in hard
You won't get hurt

Jesus can you take the time
To throw a drowning man a line
Peace on Earth

Tell the ones who hear no sound
Whose sons are living in the ground
Peace on Earth

No whos or whys
No one cries like a mother cries
For peace on Earth

She never got to say goodbye
To see the colour in his eyes
Now he's in the dirt
Peace on Earth

They're reading names out over the radio
All the folks the rest of us won't get to know
Sean and Julia, Gareth, Ann, and Breda
Their lives are bigger than any big idea

Jesus can you take the time
To throw a drowning man a line
Peace on Earth

To tell the ones who hear no sound
Whose sons are living in the ground
Peace on Earth

Jesus and the song you wrote
The words are sticking in my throat
Peace on Earth

Hear it every Christmas time
But hope and history won't rhyme
So what's it worth
This peace on Earth
Peace on Earth
Peace on Earth
Peace on Earth

  I will be on blog break until January 2nd, when I will be back with a post for IWSG. Until then, I'll be enjoying a family Christmas and continuing to write for three hours every morning before most of the family are awake. Naturally, I'll steal some time to check out the blogs!

So to all my lovely followers and casual visitors -- Happy Christmas!! See you in the New Year!! Be safe!!

Monday 17 December 2012

Holiday Spirit Blogfest - Flashback - Cyclone - Christmas Day - 1974

This is my second entry in the Holiday Spirit blogfest -- flash fiction this time. Cyclones are a fact of life in the Pacific during the summertime. Australia has her fair share, but the current cyclone is to the north. As Samoa and Fiji are battered by Cyclone Evan, my story for the blogfest is completely relevant. As Wellington lawyer Janet Mason says right now from Lautoka (a coastal town not far from Nadi) --  the weather is extreme and empty house has flown through the air and landed beside hers. "Another house has completely disintegrated, its roof is in the trees." Debris is everywhere and much of it is flying through the air. "Everything is going, all the trees are being destroyed, there will be nothing left."
In her own home the roof was coming off and she was losing windows. "It's really bad, it never stops. The wind is howling so strong and it is raining, except the wind is so strong you cannot see the rain.”

Damage to Darwin  



Dawn peeps over the horizon, like a shy child coming late to a birthday party. Dawn’s light reveals crepe paper streamers—red and green dye trickling like blood, swaying nonchalantly in the morning breeze. Gold tinsel, ripped to tatters, is choking fallen timbers that lie on the soil like fallen soldiers. Balloons bobble and bounce across the streets—having a party all of their own—popped by exposed nails or sizzling electric wires that snake along the ground looking for someone to bite. Christmas presents lie spurned and broken like unwanted toys from the birthday child’s gift table.
Humans enter the dangerous landscape, looking as shell shocked as survivors of a wartime bombing raid. Puzzled—disorientated—stepping over a carpet of broken glass—dodging downed power poles—lifting twisted galvanized roofing, making sure no-one lies wounded beneath.
Houses that once stood proudly on stilts are lying crumpled in backyards, fallen on remnants of Christmas Eve barbeques. Odd sights like a car bonnet peep like a child playing hide and seek from under a pile of cement blocks. Rectangles of timber that once housed glass louvers gape emptily, propped like lazy drunkards against walls. The few trees still standing offer denuded fingers to the sky as if in surrender—battle over—battle lost.
Total devastation.
Mandy pulls herself from underneath the mattress that had landed on top of her during the long night.
The night—the darkness—the fear.
No lights—no radio—total terror.
She hurts. Her chest is crushed—her breathing labored—she cannot move any further.
 When will help come? The hideous sound of the wind blowing in from the sea is her only companion. She hears glass shattering, streetlights popping, neighbours screaming.
The long night is over. Dawn is breaking. It’s Christmas Day. Help will come, God willing.



Cyclone Tracy was not a fictional event. It struck on Christmas Eve, 1974,  practically destroying the city of Darwin. Darwin has been rebuilt and is today a thriving tropical city, the northern gateway to Australia. My account of events is of course, purely fictional, and based on my study of the event.

This is not the cheeriest Christmas story, but I hope it helps us to remember those less fortunate --whether affected by natural or man-made disasters -- as we approach the holiday season.

I hope your Christmas is wonderful!

Thanks for reading. Perhaps you have a story...fact or'd like to share. 

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Friday 14 December 2012

Holiday Spirit Blogfest - entry No 1 - RECIPE - Milk and White Chocolate Macarons

Don't you just love walking around Farmer's Markets? Soon after I moved to Brisbane, a Farmer's Market opened in Brisbane Square, in the heart of the city, only a few short minutes from my apartment. Every Wednesday morning I filled my recycled shopping bags with fresh produce, and, er, fresh French treats.

There is a large population of French people in Brisbane and who does food quite as well? I was in French heaven when I stumbled on Monsieur Macaron, a purveyor of French treats, but pride of place, French Macarons (no, it doesn't have a double 'o'). I was their first customer and won a regular supply for awhile--bliss. I've tasted many a macaron in Paris, and these were every bit as good, lucky Brisbane! 

The macaron, thought to have been created in a convent in France in 1791, is two miniature meringue morsels filled with buttercream, jam, or ganache. Especially difficult to make, the perfect macaron should be like an eggshell on the outside and soft and chewy inside. 

Monsieur Macaron did the Aussie thing and soon added to his traditional flavours of lavender, pistachio, champagne--macarons with an Aussie flavour--passionfruit, lemon and basil (gorgeous!) For years now my once-a-week-treat has been 3 small macarons of various flavours--coconut being my all-time favourite.

Unfortunately, like all good things, they come to an end. The macarons just weren't tasing as swoon-worthy any more. Something was different. The owners finally admitted that they had employed a new chef. The macarons were just too dry, but it appears no one else was complaining, so they continue to sell less-than-perfect (to me) macarons. What to do?

I always prefer to make my own food rather than buy it, but only if I can make it better. Now I've decided I won't get mad, I'll get even. 

Come Christmas, I cook up a storm to rival the thunderstorms that will be cracking along most afternoons after a very hot day. I've already tried my hotcakes, crispy bacon, maple syrup, raspberries and ice cream (definitely American!) breakfast on the family to rave reviews, so now I'm going to fiddle in the kitchen and produce the best macarons they've ever had. And...I'm going to share the recipe with you. 

I wouldn't recommend eating these sugar-laden treats very often. They must be savoured with caution and followed by a couple of kilometres run along the beach. 

All ingredients are based on Australian product names, measurements and terms. I'm sure you can adjust...

Milk and White Chocolate Macarons


1½ cups icing sugar
½ cup blanched almonds
¼ cup Cadbury Bournville Cocoa powder
3 egg whites at room temperature
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup caster sugar

80g Cadbury White Chocolate Melts
30g unsalted butter
100g Philadelphia Original Spreadable Cream Cheese
1/3 cup icing sugar, extra, sifted


1.      Combine icing sugar, almonds and cocoa in a food processor and process until superfine. Sift and remove any coarse pieces of almond.
2.      Beat egg whites and salt until soft peaks form. Continue beating, gradually adding the sugar, just until dissolved.
3.      Stir one third of the almond mixture into the meringue and then fold in the remaining mixture until just combined. Spoon or pipe 3cm rounds onto paper lined trays, allowing 2-3cm between each for spreading. Use a wet finger to pat down any tips. Stand at room temperature for 30 minutes or until macarons form a light crust.
4.      Bake in a slow over - 150°C for 22-28 minutes or until firm to the touch. Allow to cool completely on trays.

5.      Combine chocolate and butter in a bowl over simmering water, stirring occasionally, until chocolate has melted. Remove from the heat and cool slightly. Beat together the Philly cream cheese and extra icing sugar then beat in the chocolate mixture. Chill until firm enough to spread.
6.      To assemble:: Spread chocolate filling onto 15 macarons and top with remaining halves, pressing together gently. Serve immediately. (They will keep up to a week in the fridge, but lose heaps of flavour.)

Makes 30.
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cooking Time: 35 minutes
Level of fiddleability: High–recipe must be followed carefully or you will be disappointed
Calories: best left unsaid.

I hope you enjoyed reading my little story and recipe. Do you have one to share?

This is my entry for RFWers' Holiday Spirit Blogfest. Add your name to the list below if/when you have an entry to share...

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Wednesday 12 December 2012

Holiday Spirit Blogfest - you can sign up here! Your fiction, non-fiction, recipes, your photos - share your holidays with us!

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I hope you'll join in the Holiday Spirit and post your entry! Can't wait to read them all!

And I'll leave you with a beautiful photo of a parrot I took on a recent trip to O'Reilly's, a lovely mountain in the hinterland of the Gold Coast.

Friday 7 December 2012

Aussie author Jennifer St George shares 5 tips on revolutionising our writing! Kittie Howard launches Rings of Trust!

Hello all who have come by today!

Today I'm hosting Aussie author, Jennifer St George, who is on a promo tour for her novel, The Convenient Bride, published by Destiny Romance. Jennifer has some awesome tips to share to revolution our writing. We can always learn a little more about our craft.

Over to you Jennifer: 

Five Things That Revolutionized my Writing
Recently I developed a workshop concept with my fellow Destiny Romance author Louise Reynolds for the 2013 RWA conference to be held in Fremantle, WA in 2013. It made me think about the key concepts or ah ha moments that changed my writing for the better.  These are my top five: 
1. Getting My Writing Style Right!
I’m a planner.  Always have been but my writing style was true ‘pantser’.  It didn’t feel right, but I didn’t know how to fix it.  First Draft in Thirty Days by Karen Wiesner gave me the keys to unlocking the natural planner in me.  I credit this craft book with enabling me to write much more efficiently. 
2. I Want to be Just Like Her!
I ventured into my first RWA conference in Brisbane a few years ago and didn’t know a soul.  At the Awards Dinner, I watched as unstoppable Kylie Griffin scooped award after award.  I thought, I want to be just like her.  During a break I asked her was there any one thing that had made a big difference to her writing.  Enter Margie Lawson’s the EDIT system.  This logical, practical edit system shows things in your writing you might otherwise never see.  It can be tricky to master but stick with it.
3. The simple GMC
Debra Dixon’s Goal, Motivation, Conflict is a wonderful tool for writers and I use it before I begin a book. However, my lovely friend, Desire author Rachel Bailey gave me a shorthand version that I keep ‘front and centre’ whilst I write.  Why not this woman for this man and why not this man for this woman?  So simple, yet so useful.
4. Emotional Order is Important
The talented Nikki Logan calls it the natural order of things, that is, how a character reacts to stimuli.  It’s important to have the order right starting with the visceral leading to the subconscious and ending with the conscious.  This is how we react in every day life. For an author, it is important to capture this on the page, or the reader may feel something is not quite right.
5. Always Finish the Book
The very first craft workshop I attended was given by the phenomenal Melanie Milburne. She taught me so many things that I’ve used everyday in the years since in developing my writing skills. One piece of advice that really made an impression was, always finish the book.  Again, sounds so simple, but without that advice I probably would have begun many different books without actually finishing them.  As she said, how do you know how to write ‘the middle’ and ‘the end’ if you’ve never done it?
Combined, these five concepts progressed my writing to a higher level.  Perhaps some of these ideas will provide other aspiring writers with that wonderful ah ha moment!

 Find Jennifer on the web:
Website                Facebook        Twitter          Author Page

Buy Her Book:

Destiny Romance              Amazon       iTunes 

The Convenient Bride
Sienna De Luca will do anything to save her family's hotel, and ruthless Italian businessman Antonio Moretti knows it. With problems of his own, he proposes a marriage of convenience and plans to use Sienna to secure his next business deal. But things don't go quite according to plan.

In keeping with her part of the bargain, Sienna travels to Venice to be with Antonio, who introduces her to a life of great luxury and opulence. As befits the fiancée of the famous Antonio Moretti, Sienna is given a new wardrobe of designer gowns and outfits and instructed exactly how to behave when out in public. But after thinking he can manipulate her at his will, Antonio begins to realise he has seriously underestimated Sienna, her intelligence, her skills, her courage – and her beauty. Unexpectedly, Sienna gets too close and when she discovers his dark secret, Antonio's perfectly planned life begins to unravel.

I will be giving a Kindle copy of The Convenient Bride to one lucky commenter here today!

Denise here!

The Convenient Bride sounds fabulous.

Another book was just launched yesterday by my lovely American blogger friend Kittie Howard. Check out Kittie's site for more details. Kittie just told me that Rings is already Amazon #24,486 on out-of-popular-genre-arena books. Go Kittie!

In "Rings of Trust," fear reigns along a sleepy bayou road in rural South Louisiana in 1953. The Civil Rights Movement has taken root in the consolidated South. Not everyone wants to return to the shadowed past the Ku Klux Klan espouses.

I hope you will support both authors in their new ventures!

Wednesday 5 December 2012

The Insecure Writers Support Group - Finish that novel!

Hello there!

It's great to be back to 'normal' posting now that my NaNo novel is finished. I have participated in NaNoWriMo for several years in a row, but this is the first time I feel really happy with the first 50,000 words of my novel. Perhaps that's something to do with the fact that it's been simmering around in my head during my 6-week hiatus in Fiji in July/August this year. As I cruised the Fiji Islands at leisure and chatted to the locals, I was always on the lookout for locations/characters for the story I knew I'd write back in Oz.

Two kava ceremonies turn up in my novel. Hard to do if I hadn't participated in a few!

Funny, I was reading yet another 'how to' book before NaNo, and it said it would be difficult to write about some places, such as Fiji, without visiting. I know what the author meant. There are so many customs, ways of thinking, histories and characters that would be difficult to find on google.

So many quirky characters, so many ceremonial dresses,
so many things to experience - and write about.

Which brings me to the point of my post today - Finish the novel.

Margaret Attwood said it, others have said it - if you don't finish your story, why are you worried about whether it'll get published or not? Similarly, if you don't ever finish anything you start, what is the point of twittering away on social media (if you have opened accounts expressly to promote yourself) if you never have anything to promote? Luckily, I just twitter away promoting other authors and places.

So insecure writers (isn't that everyone?), get that novel finished - first draft, edits, re-writes, whatever it takes, but eventually call it finished and ready to launch into the world. Hopefully, you won't have as many unfinished novels as I have, but how about we work towards at least getting one completely finished? That aside, I consider my unfinished novels the best hands-on writing course I ever did!

  • Tell me about your writing journey and aspirations. Have you finished your novel yet? Are you published?

Monday 3 December 2012

Laura O'Connell speaks on research. Her new novel, Web of Lies is out! Lynda R Young launches Make Believe anthology!

Hello. How are you today? Thanks for coming by. I hope you noticed my Christmas greeting to you!

NaNoWriMo is over and I completed my 50,000 word novel, Fijian Princess, with an eye on the Harlequin Escape market. They're actively seeking submissions and their range is WIDE! Click HERE to read an interview with the editor. Kate Cuthbert.

Today I have two Aussie authors visiting my blog - Laura O'Connell who has just released her new book, Web of Lies, and...

My blogger friend, Lynda R Young, who is launching the anthology, Make Believe which features her story, Birthright. The anthology is published by J. Taylor Publishing. You can read full reviews on the stories at the Reader's Commute.

By clicking HERE you will access the list of bloggers hosting Lynda through this month-long tour as well as those who are supporting her today.


Now I'd like to introduce you to fellow Aussie author, Laura O'Connell. Laura has just released her novel, Web of Lies. Laura is speaking today of something dear to my heart - research, to me, the real fun part of writing a novel (yeah, I know I missed my calling!)


Hello and welcome to those who've read this far and who I hope will continue to read about what's on my mind today. 

I researched Denise’s website before I wrote this blog and discovered she has travelled throughout the world visiting lots of interesting places that she could use to add authenticity to her stories and novels. I wish I could say I’d been to Africa to do some firsthand research before I wrote African Hearts. Africa is on my list of places to visit, but it seemed my muse wanted me to write this story before I visited, so I had to find another way of finding out about this amazing country of contrasts.

Research for African Hearts started with me interviewing missionaries who’d lived and worked in Africa for several years. They were able to give me the minutiae of day to day life in an African village. I viewed YouTube video clips to get views of the landscape and I borrowed a lot of books, fiction and nonfiction, from the library on Africa and immersed myself in the country and its culture.

To understand the current affairs, I read the Ugandan newspaper online daily. This gave me a feel for the day to day issues that affected Uganda where African Hearts is set.

Throughout my life I’ve read a lot of books on Africa. I took copies of images from these books and made a collage that triggered any information I’d stored away in the deep recesses of my mind.

To save yourself some time, prepare a list of questions centred around the focal point of your novel. You need to have a fair idea of what you want to achieve by the end of the research. This will keep you on track as you find the information you need for your story. It’s easy to get side tracked and spend too much time on research, however, as your project evolves your direction of the research may change as ideas come to you. Be open to these little detours they can take you to areas you’d never considered. These are the gems of your work.

While reading, don’t get bogged down in the text. Skim first for what you think you might be looking for then drill into the specifics as information triggers your imagination.

Be aware that research can be a way of putting off writing. Keep this in the back of your mind and know when to stop researching and start writing.

My latest release, Web of Lies, is set in Sydney, Mount Tamborine and the Gold Coast. I’ve lived in all of these areas so I know them intimately. It was refreshing to have that firsthand knowledge instead of relying on the detailed research I did with African Hearts. However, research time isn’t wasted if we can find a second use for it in a later project. 

Add authenticity to your novels by leaping into research. You’ll find it’s a lot of fun and your readers will thank you for taking the time to get it right.

Thanks for reading...

About Laura O’Connell
Laura enjoys writing stories about second chances in love and life. She calls the Gold Coast home, however, her curious nature leads her on adventures to locations that surprise and inspire her. Laura has a passion for telling a good story set in places where she has lived and travelled.

Laura around the web:
Website             Facebook              Twitter        Author Page

Book Blurb – Web of Lies
High school sweethearts, Stephanie and Lachlan are torn apart by circumstance, bad decisions and a web of lies, leaving an unknown future for their son, Ryan.
Eight years later they reconnect, but the time apart has changed them. The family had made decisions based on lies and deceit and now must find a way to either reveal the truth or find another option. On the surface, their arrangements seemed flawless, but dig deeper, and the people they thought they knew aren’t as they appear.
Lachlan and Stephanie are forced to confront the consequences of their actions and the entire family is compelled to reveal the truth, find forgiveness, and renew loving one another. But the hardest decision is still to come … where does Ryan live?

Buy Links:

Amazon                  Amazon UK

I hope you enjoyed reading about Laura's ideas on research. Perhaps Web of Lies and the Make Believe anthology would be nice gifts for a lucky someone? Please leave a comment for both Laura and Lynda.

It's great to be diving into the blogosphere again! I've missed you all. I'll be around to visit you asap.