Tuesday 26 August 2014

BOOKS I've been reading - is your book on my list?

Hello everyone!

Thanks to you all for reading my Macbeth-ed up flash fiction for the WEP challenge. I had a lot of fun writing it and apparently those who read it thought the mean girls were a hoot.

I've been reading up a storm as usual. So many good books, both e-book and print. I can't talk about all the ones I loved in one blog post, so I'll talk about just a few today. I'm not even going to mention the James Patterson's, the Jeffrey Deaver's, and the very excellent Richard North Patterson's THE RACE, which is recommended reading for anyone interested in behind-the-scenes US elections. Woah! Boy, does it mess with your mind.  Sorry...I did mention them...

Talk about un-put-downable! The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards. I devoured it in a few gulps! Imagine you hide a life-shattering secret your whole life. By witholding it you sour your marriage, your relationship with everyone around you--your life is lived by hiding behind the lens of your camera.

But secrets will out in an altogether heart-wrenching way.

Mesmerizing, beautifully written, a tale of regret and redemption.

This lady can write! I've known Cathy since my days writing for #FridayFlash. Some of her stories never leave you, so haunting are they. So when I bought her debut novel, I wasn't disappointed. She's a crack up and her book is mighty funny...but also surprisingly poignant.

In the interest of time I'll paraphrase the Amazon blurb: You think you've got the world by the woo-hoo, don't you? Happily married? Oh yeah. Good kids? Uh huh. That's what Weezie Polk thought until one day the man who would never cheat on her (never, never, oh no, not him) was caught massaging bare boobies ... and they weren't hers!  I've just bought 'Friday Girls', her book of short stories.

I'm planning to go to Cuba next year if the world hasn't already gone to hell in a hand basket -- Los Angeles, Mexico City, Cuba, then a bit more of the Caribbean, before checking out Florida or New Orleans before heading back to Oz. Cuba is the main focus, so to get the research started (well, I did read an excellent book, last year-- The Island that Dared, by Derula Murphy), I picked up blogger Jo Carroll's book. She visited Cuba early this year and already has her book out. In Jo's book I found very un-Lonely Planet up to date info. peppered with personal stories from Cubaneros she met. I'd recommend this to anyone heading to Cuba.

I emailed Jo and asked her a question to accompany my shout out--

Denise: Jo, what is the difference between a tourist and a traveller?

Jo:  ...a tourist is generally on holiday. The focus is on the destination - he/she may be deeply interested in where they are, eat local food, listen to guides etc - but this journey is a pause in their normal way of being.

A traveller is more likely see the journey as part of who they are. They could no more stop travelling than chew an arm off. A tourist would miss holidays. But a traveller cannot imagine not dreaming of the next trip.

Check out Jo's blog  if you like travel books and tales.

I've been reading some sci-fi/romance lately, and this is one of the best. Written in collaboration--bloggers Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner. This YA book has won some prestigious awards, including:

  • The Aurealis Award - Australia's most prestigious science fiction and fantasy award for Best Young Adult Novel.
  • And it has been optioned for television by Haven star Eric Balfour and Off the Grid Entertainment. Can't wait for this.

I'm currently reading it with a Year 9 student and we both love it. 
Here's a taster from the website

It’s a night like any other on board the Icarus. Then, catastrophe strikes: the massive luxury spaceliner is yanked out of hyperspace and plummets into the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive. And they seem to be alone.
Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a young war hero who learned long ago that girls like Lilac are more trouble than they’re worth. But with only each other to rely on, Lilac and Tarver must work together, making a tortuous journey across the eerie, deserted terrain to seek help.
Then, against all odds, Lilac and Tarver finda strange blessing in the tragedy that has thrown them into each other’s arms. Without the hope of a future together in their own world, they begin to wonder—would they be better off staying here forever?
Everything changes when they uncover the truth behind the chilling whispers that haunt their every step. Lilac and Tarver may find a way off this planet. But they won’t be the same people who landed on it.
The first in a sweeping science fiction trilogy, These Broken Stars is a timeless love story about hope and survival in the face of unthinkable odds.

And it's a wonderful story. 

So that's just a few of the amazing books I've read lately. Of course my Kindle is groaning with many others. Until next time...

  • What have you been reading lately? 

Image result for images of hearts and flowersAnd congratulations to Deniz and Ryan Bevan on the birth of their daughter! 

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Write...Edit...Publish flash fiction - TAKING CHANCES - Macbeth fan fiction

 Hi everyone!

Today I'm having a little fun with the WEP challenge. I've been teaching Macbeth for years--and here we go again--I'll be teaching it for the next few months. I wrote this flash at writing group, but it is barely recognisable. I've Macbeth-ed it up.

If you'd like to have a little flash fiction fun, or non-fiction fun, you're welcome to add your name to the list in my sidebar and post a story by Friday.

Taking Chances

Alicia was waiting with her group of besties, blocking the top of the stairway outside homeroom. I had to pass these weird sisters to get to my next class. Not that I was overly afraid--Alicia I could handle--but flanked by Natalie and Phoebe, she looked scary indeed, even without a beard. I would need to be crafty to survive.

‘Something bothering you, Michelle?’ Alicia’s voice wafted down the stairs like a bad smell. ‘I was just saying to the girls that something wicked this way comes. You look like you’re going to puke. Come along. Puke on my boots if you dare.’

I massaged the banister knob with my left hand, feeling the silkiness of the aged wood smooth underneath my skin. I liked this place, even though it was a school. I could glide up the stairs and float right through the lot of them, bitch slapping them while I passed, but my cred would be shot if I took that route. I’d finally found a school where I wanted to belong. Or so I’d thought. That was before I met Alicia. Every school has its ghoul!

‘Come on up, girlfriend. We’re waiting. New girls have to pass the test.’

‘What test?’ Oh, why didn’t I keep my big mouth shut? She couldn’t wait to get her long claws into me.

‘The test to see if you belong.’

Did they all suspect I didn’t belong? I shouldn’t have deliberately stepped on her shiny black Doc Martens when I cut her off at the classroom door. But that was pretty tame considering the way she’d baited me all the way through the Shakespeare class, jealous little cow. Not my fault I knew all the answers to Lady Macbeth’s questions. Well, Ms Opine acted like Lady Macbeth in her sleepwalking stage, floating about the room in her long skirt, stroking her long red tresses, curling her dark red lips in distain at the students’ stumbling answers to her questions about Macbeth’s motivations. To tell you the truth, all she was missing was the candle in her hands. She was one of the most frightening sights I’ve seen in awhile, and I’ve been around a looong time. Bet she’d faint if she knew that I’d met old William personally. Used to chat after the show; helped him clean up the mess. I even suggested a few characters in history he might use for his next play. That’s where he got the idea for Macbeth and King Duncan. Yep. I know every one of the Bard’s plays by heart, in ye Olde English, not the modern stuff they read these days.

‘Get off my boot, you weirdo,’ had been Alicia’s reaction to my little stomp attack. ‘Take that!’ She’d swung her long blond mane (yes, she was very horsey, not unusual in an English public school) and delivered a stunning blow to my solar plexus.

‘Ouch!’ I yelled, surprised at the power in her dainty little fight move. She gave me a strange look. Did she feel my flesh was as hard and bony as her elbow? Is that what gave me away? Still, I couldn’t resist another stomp on her boots, grinding my rubber soles as hard as I could without breaking her foot. If you’ve ever tried to hurt someone by stomping on their Docs, you’d know it takes a lot of girl power. Those babies have pretty good toe protection. I put as much power as I dared behind that stomp/kick/grind move. Alicia’s face turned as white as mine and her jagged breath concerned me for a minute as I wondered if I’d gone too far. The tears in her big baby blues were a bonus. But she was a tough chick for a human, or kind of human. The tears stayed where they hovered on her smoky fake eyelashes. The fire in her blue eyes was enough to set the door alight. Now, she’d brought the reinforcements.

Oh, great! They were gathered against me, to destroy me. I have to think fast or my first day will be my last day here. If I use too much power, I’m out. Too little, and these weird sisters will make my life a misery just like the hags did to Macbeth.

Was it worth taking the ‘test’, or should I refuse to listen to them, get back on my horse and gallop away?

As Alicia and I played at outstaring each other, I thought of another school, another Alicia. Turned out that chick was a vamp just like me. She didn’t want any competition, so she demanded I take the test. I’d refused, but lived to regret it. Well, I don’t have much choice, do I? I’m here forever. If I’d passed the ‘test’ I would have been Head Girl at Willoughby by now. There was once a chance I didn’t take…hmm.

*Avaunt! I raced up the stairs, two at a time, nearly tripping on my ridiculously long serge skirt which weighed a ton. What was it about my face that had the weird sisters stepping back as if they’d seen a ghost? Bet they’d never bullied a girl like me before. Bring it on!

I’m taking a chance today.

Soon I’ll be Head Girl of Dunsinane.


Thanks for reading my story. No critique necessary. I just wrote this for some YA enjoyment and for WEP. You can tell me if you enjoyed it though!

And don't forget to check out the blogfests in my sidebar. Deniz Bevan has a few more in her current post.


Please click on the names in the sidebar to read more entries

Tuesday 19 August 2014

How times have changed...in the publishing world! From Daphne du Maurier to today.

Hi everyone!

I've been busy with the River City Writers Conference, (a few of you 'liked' some of the trillion facebook posts), a single day dedicated to writing workshops, networking, launching/buying books, chatting with editors and publishers...and eating and drinking and being merry!

Photo: Vaanguard Writers Group members @ River City Writers Conference. Thank you Raelene Purtill.
Members of Vannguard Writers Group @ the conference - 
Raelene, myself, Charmaine and Nas. 
(Nas is an honorary member of our Brisbane group)

We had some great presenters - Helene Young, pilot and author of a series of excellent romantic suspense single titles set in Queensland's wild, empty north where surveillance is key - Karen Tyrrell, author of 'resilience' books...2 adult (on overcoming mental illness) and 2 for children...one especially successful title Stop the Bully has gained her entree into schools and libraries - Antony Puttee, who runs an uber successful self-publishing one-stop-shop, Book Cover Cafe, who ran an awesome session on how to get your self-published book out there and how to get high Amazon sales - then our very own Nas Dean, helped me judge the flash fiction competition which ran in conjunction with the conference. Nas then presented her session on editing.

Nas Dean presenting on editing in the modern age

Nas' session on editing had some of the died-in-the-wool old-school publishing houses (who sent representatives to the conference to receive pitches from writers) screaming in frustration, claiming publishers did all the things the presenters had been claiming all day that writers did -- editing, promoting, book covers etc. This caused much merriment from those who had already told their story of the hard road of promotion even after being contracted to a publishing house. Obviously these guys have no idea how hard writers are doing it before submitting manuscripts in the faint hope of being picked up, and how little it is perceived that the traditional publishers do after buying rights to your book...(I'm no expert on this, having never submitted anything to an agent or publishing house!)


...Which brings me to some of the changes I see when comparing classic books to modern books. I read a lot of stories of how the old publishing houses used to treat favoured authors--the army of editors who went through the novel after submission, the pampering, the promotion etc. Don't many of us think these oldies were just pure genius? Well, it took a lot of help to polish that genius.

Today, many traditionally-published authors and self-published authors are doing it all/mostly by themselves, some by choice and some because they can't afford/don't see the need for even one editor. (My  opinion is everyone needs an editor, and most savvy readers can tell when this important step has been skipped). I've shared this before, but Margaret Mitchell (author of Gone With the Wind) re-wrote her first chapter 60 times. So these oldies but goodies still did the hard yards themselves before they were touted as overnight/on-going successes.

Along with several other books, I'm currently reading Daphne du Maurier's Frenchman's Creek, (1941). (Well, it does have French... in the title). This book is a classic passionate romance/adventure, one of her most popular novels -- on the best-selling list for thirty years!! But the beautiful Lady Dona and her French pirate adventurer would have been severely edited today.

We modern writers get slapped on the wrist if we carelessly 'head hop' even once in our stories - du Maurier and plenty of her contemporaries did this as a matter of course, and even modern best-sellling author Nora Roberts, a great favourite of mine, does it A LOT, especially in her romances.

Dialogue has changed too. Now we go through our manuscripts with a magnifying glass trying to find/slay most, if not all, dialogue tags, turning them into actions instead.

"Don't touch that!" Jack said to Kiddly Bop. ... becomes...
Jack ran across the room. "Don't touch that!" Kiddly Bop snatched his hand away from the grinding machine just before his arm was lopped off.
(I used the exclamation mark to upset all the 'no exclamation marks' modern rule!! as I think it is quite probable that Jack yelled in this situation.) 

But on p.62 of Frenchman's Creek I found this dialogue...exactly reproduced:
  'William, you are a genius,' she [Lady Dona] said, and he bowed, permitting himself a smile. 'I am pleased you are glad, my lady.'
  'How do I look? Will your master approve?' she asked him, turning on her heels. 'He will make no comment, my lady,' replied the servant, 'but I do not think he will be entirely indifferent to your appearance.'
So...if you don't know what's odd about the above, I'll leave you blissfully unaware. But I'll just say it caused me to be 'taken out of the story' which is the criticism I receive from critique partners whose job it is to make sure we don't commit such writerly sins.

Photo: Another book for my collection...FEMME , by Delia Strange. So pretty...Book launch @ #River City Writers Conference, Brisbane. @#writebytheriver #authorhappiness.
And of course I bought a book - Delia Strange's
FEMME. I'm quite liking the sci-fi romance genre.

  • Methinks it was somewhat easier to be an author in the olden days. What do you think? (And I don't mean -- of course it's not, it's a lot easier today to be an author as you can just self publish). I'm talking about the old style, the third person onmisicient POV etc. as compared to today's more stringent rules about everything.

Nas snapped us heading out to breakfast
Yes, the last bite of Winter was in the air.

Had a great weekend with Nas and Rajesh staying with us... and attending the River City Writers Conference. How was your weekend?

Tuesday 12 August 2014

What gives you energy when you're on a writing marathon?

Hi everybody!

I'm tweaking my blog posts a little. Today I'm sharing with you another passion of mine -- food. When my children were little, I began studying Naturopathy. I've always been interested in nutrition and once subscribed to several health magazines such as Prevention, but Google changed all that. I didn't finish the course, but I'm happy to share that one of my daughters is currently studying Naturopathy and has opened her own vegan, vegetarian, organic cafe, which has taken off like a rocket!

Photo: | In the cabinet | Gluten free black bean brownies | Chocolatey deliciousness |
Gluten free black bean brownies -- I love how you
can have your cake and eat it too when it's made
from healthy ingredients!
Anyway, my lifelong study of food science has never wavered. I throw out the faddish ideas and concentrate on what really works -- remember those days when everything was bad for you -- eggs being the top of the list. Well, some of you may still think so as egg white omelettes continue to do the rounds of the brekkie cafe culture, but I'm for whole food!

Where's this going? Well, I've shared the occasional recipe here, mainly Christmas plonk and Toblerone Cheesecake (swoon!) -- chocolate is so good for you, hahahahahah! (I also subscribe to the belief that moderation never killed anyone, but it is hard to be moderate with chocolate).

Today I want to share a healthy recipe that keeps me going when I write. I make it nearly every day. Gives me such a {{{zing}}} and saves me from endless cups of tea and snacks. I've always been a lover of smoothies, but this one takes the cake...or saves me from cake...

My green smoothie in its healthy setting --
the greenhouse outside my kitchen sink with
the aloe vera within arm's reach


Throw all the following ingredients in a super blender (I have a Bio Chef), then enjoy throughout the day.

INGREDIENTS - (Don't get precious. Adjust portions according to your likes/dislikes)

- half cup chilled water
- half cup coconut water (no added sugar variety of course) 
- dash of aloe vera juice or squeeze a little fresh aloe vera from your plant - don't have it every day
- 2 heaped tablespoons protein powder of your choice 
- a good portion of fresh ginger (I use about an inch) - or add a teaspoon of ground ginger
- a small portion of fresh tumeric (I use about an inch) - or use a teaspoon of tumeric powder
- 1 teaspoon spirulina powder (organic if possible)
- 1 dessertspoon flaxseed oil (keep in its carton in fridge - the darker the better or it will oxidise and then it's bad for you)
- half a fresh avocado, nice and ripe
- between half a cup and a full cup of fresh or frozen blueberries (I usually use frozen as blueberries aren't grown locally and cost a fortune fresh here. Frozen are still good nutrition).

That's it folks! This makes a super healthy breakfast and a constant source of energy throughout the day. Don't keep it too long or it will oxidise and be bad for you!

So let's drink to long writing days and sizzling good health!

In a few days I will be having Nas Dean staying at my place. On Saturday we're attending a Writer's Conference in Brisbane where Nas will be presenting her editing tips. A fun few days!! I may share a few gems with you next week. 

I wonder if I'll convince Nas and Ragesh to join me in a green smoothie for breakfast??


Many people confessed they don't like book reviews/launches on blogs, well, I did one here for Australian self-published debut author, Ella Carey, The Paris Time Capsule, mainly because I'd read it and IT ROCKED!! And just last week I saw this:

Photo: Yay! Woot! Woot! Congratulations to Ella Carey on the #1 Best Seller in Women's Romance Fiction! Look at that yellow sticker!

Ella reached #1 Best Seller in Women's Romance Fiction!! 

If you'd like to read my interview with Ella on her books' debut, go here... Maybe your book might be next!!

And for those of you who now have all that excess energy, perhaps you'll find the time to post for Write...Edit...Publish's August challenge -- anything using TAKING CHANCES. Check it out in my sidebar. Love to have you! We've just started signing up...

Wednesday 6 August 2014

IWSG post - Do you consider romance writers purveyors of 'Mummy Porn' or do you consider us serious writers?

Hello everyone! 

Where do the months go? Already time for the August IWSG and to take our writer's temperature. What are we secure/insecure about this month? What can we share with each other in the common goal of improving our writing experience?

Thanks to the many who joined the discussion re blogging. I've determined to aim for more interesting posts and to keep my writing craft posts to a minimum. And I'm posting more photos which Deniz Bevan reminded me about. Ironically, I've had several requests to participate in book launches since posting, and some I have agreed to, but I will be trying my hardest not to be posting generic information and making sure I've read/enjoyed the book the author is selling.

This is my own edited photo of arriving on the Fijian island
 I chose (and renamed) as a setting for my romance novel

Most of my writing for the past few months has been plugging away at an editor's suggested re-writes on my Fijian Princess novel to fit the Harlequin Desire category. I feel like I  have to justify my choice to write romance when the corner of the blogosphere I move in seems to be peopled with sci-fi, fantasy, YA and MG authors. 

I've never understood why it was acceptable to have the James Bond fantasy for the 'boys', but the mainly female authors of Harleqin Mills and Boon et al are often considered a pre-conceived stereotype. Well, they're laughing all the way to the bank. Attending a Romance Writer's Conference is a Happily Ever After experience! The BIGGIE is in Sydney this coming weekend. No, I'm not attending, but Nas Dean is, and afterwards she is coming to stay with me, as she's a presenter at the River City Writer's Conference here in Brisbane which I am helping with.

Some Interesting Facts About the Romance Genre:

  • There are more romance novels sold than any other genre, even though there's a perception that it's not a genre for serious authors - there's Romance Writers Versus Everyone Else. 
  • There were an estimated $1.35 billion in global sales last year.
  • Over half of all books sold globally are romance.
  • Modern romance novels embrace reality, fantasy, paranormal--everything that 'other' fiction does.
  • This genre continually morphs to satisfy their huge readership. There are all sexual persuasions (authors choose what category they wish to write in), there are teen stories, there are all ethnicities, ages, economic backgrounds, issues. Every sub-genre you can think of is represented - rural, historical, suspense, medical, erotic,...you name it, Harlequin et al has it. Even sci-fi!! There you go!
  • The heroine must be feisty, intelligent, no one's victim--a kick-ass heroine in other words. 
  • The hero doesn't have to be a billionaire, but it helps, as long as he turns out to be a fabulous guy under that aura of entitlement.
  • There must be a Happily-Ever-After (HEA), but the story doesn't have to end with marriage.

Sipping kava in Fiji in the interests of authenticity for the kava party in my novel. My reaction is the same as my hero's.

So what do you think? Do you consider romance writers purveyors of 'Mummy Porn'?, formulaic storylines, the boring HEA ending, or do you consider romance writers serious writers? 

If you're interested in this topic, my post was inspired by reading an article by Kate Belle, romance author. You can read it here. 
Click on the badge to access other IWSG posts.
Thank you Alex and this month's hosts.