Monday 29 June 2015

Hello from New Caledonia (Nouvelle Caledonie) in the South Pacific.

Hi friends!

I promised on Lexa Cain's Summer bloghop that I was heading north-east to New Caledonia and here I am. Arrived a few days ago now and as travel always is to me, it's a blast.

Here's some of the highlights so far...paddling in the Baie de Citron, and lovely locals at the Noumea Markets which take place 6 days a week. I'm down there for my banana and chocolate crepe for breakfast every morning. It's a carb-fuelled country.Thankfully I'm walking well over my 10,000 steps, hahahaha!

A very important motivation for this trip was to brush up on my French. So much easier when everyone around you is speaking the language. But after being here a few days I'm exhausted from speaking in a foreign language, as practically no one speaks English! Gulp!

Hope you enjoyed your virtual trip to this wonderful island in the Pacific Ocean.

You may have heard on the blog-vine, that Write...Edit...Publish is starting up again. The lovely Yolanda Renee is helping me get it off the ground. Big announcement today on the WEP website. I hope you'll join us for at least some of the challenges as we have some great prompts coming up.

Tuesday 23 June 2015

Up! Up! And away! The Write Way to Travel

Hello there!

Tomorrow I'm off to New Caledonia in the South Pacific! I wrote about it here. So excited! Another research trip from which I should glean several travel articles. It'll be fun living and learning about a new country/culture for 11 days while my trusty critique partners review the novel I have been editing forever.

Seeing as I have no time to maintain several blogs, including my dedicated travel blog, I need to include more travel on this blog. I hope you enjoy that focus, as don't we all like to visit new places, even vicariously.

I've been practising using my iPad Air 2 for everything and today was the first time I've tried adding a blog post. As the iPad is my travel notebook--I take photos of everything rather than writing down details--I needed to know if I can leave the laptop at home. Great success with this blog post. Adding photos was a breeze.

I got into travel writing via a competition. Having just returned from a European trip, I wrote about something unfortunate that happened to us--my laptop, which included all our photos of our trip so far, our CD downloads of photos, and jewellery I'd stuffed into the case at the last minute, idiot!--was stolen. You certainly live and learn.


I love the medieval heart of European cities, and Genoa (Genova), capital of Liguria in Italy, has the biggest--an immense centre of stunning palazzo, theatres, museums, cathedrals and art galleries. Yet Genoa, painted with such bold brush strokes, has a dark side.

I was enchanted by her superb setting--hemmed in between sea and hills covered with terraced pastel villas, but found that in Genoa many buildings are rough around the edges like some of her less savoury characters.

I headed for the Strade Nuove, and marvelled at the Unesco Heritage buildings. I fearlessly wandered the labyrinth of dark alleys (caruggi) with buildings so close you could reach out and touch both sides. I was awed by the beauty of her sun-touched squares where faded noble buildings stand side by side with poor crumbling houses.Fresh food markets overflow with cheeses the size of Fiats, and the memory of earthy Genovese pesto drizzled on silky pasta still has me swooning.

‘You like, si?’

Si, I like!”

After a week discovering this city of Christopher Columbus, culture, colour and caruggi, I was jolted back to reality. My laptop was snatched inside the historical and ornate P. Principe Railway Station, where illegal immigrants lurk.

‘It’s always Australians and New Zealanders,’ sniffed the irritated Polizia, who obviously would have preferred to be sipping a cappuccino to dealing with me. Frantic form filling followed…

I collapsed into my carriage, determined to enjoy the trip to Milan, then focusing on snow falling in Lake Como, our next overnighter.

The evening passeggiata ("little walk") between 5 and 7pm.
Take the funicular up the hill to watch the sunset from the
best vantage point.
Goodbye Genoa! Goodbye laptop! I’d lost hundreds of photos, but felt smug about my favourites I’d loaded onto Facebook! And I still had all those I’d taken of beautiful Genoa!

Look on the bright side of life wherever you are, whatever happens! I just hope whoever stole my belongings needed it more than I did.

© Denise Covey 2008

I hope you enjoyed my travel article. I didn't win the competition, but it opened up a whole new world for me.

  • Do you like to travel? 
  • Do you have a favourite destination?
  • Have you ever been robbed? (Funny how I learned the Italian word for 'I've been robbed!' (mi hanno derubato!)  before I left Paris where I was warned...

Travelling with Denise

Wednesday 17 June 2015

From the couch with Nilanjana Bose, reflecting on crafting a poem and other fascinating aspects of a writer's life.

Hi friends!
Words are the building blocks of our craft, yet, ironically, the way words are put together is often one of the facets of storytelling we’re most likely to overlook in our mad dash to perfect plot and character, dialogue and POV, and yes, to finish that novel/poetry collection/short story collection etc? But then comes a book, a luscious book such as Frances Mayes’s Bella Tuscany. You are reminded of the importance of beautiful words singing together within the harmony of perfect sentences.

Mayes sketches her life in Italy with elegiac prose that makes us feel as if we've stepped inside a poem. You can close your eyes and savour the bliss of such phrases as “The ripe peach colors of the house rhyme with yellow, rose, and apricot flowers.”

It also kind of makes you want to throw up your hands in defeat, thinking that there's absolutely no way my prose is ever going to trickle off my pen in such beautiful patterns. 

But walking amongst us are real-life poets, poets of the 21st Century. I've met some in the blogging world and I treasure them as personally I believe poetry writing is the most difficult type of writing. 

Today, reclining on the couch, is one such elegant poet, Nilanjana Bose, whose poetry seems to flow effortlessly. Perhaps she will share some secrets with us today.

Take it away, Nilanjana!

A vivid childhood memory is…
The drive back from school.  At a place called Bauchi in Nigeria.  A lot of negative news from there lately, but back then it was paradise on a platter.  The road at one point used to run straight to the horizon, and there was a little hillock at the end of it.  Very scenic. It gave me a thrill on the drive back every single day, I used to wait for it to come into view.

My most treasured possession is …
Impossible to answer! Obviously I treasure too many, must cut the clutter.

The word that best describes me is …
Amazed, most of the time.  And gobsmacked when not.  Clueless is also a good fit.

My favourite smell is…
Baby hair, preferably attached to head, and preferably of own baby. Coffee. Petrichor. In that order.

Ha! Coffee! Wish we could share a cup together! Now what song gives you goosebumps?
Hallelujah. Imagine. Blowing in the Wind. Annie’s Song. If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out. Bridge over Troubled Waters.  Where the Streets Have no Name. Mull of Kintyre.  Among many others, Western and Indian. And it’s perfectly possible for me to get goosebumps from instrumentals too – the Chariots of Fire theme, or some of Armik’s stuff, for instance.  I know!  I’ve got weird skin.

I can't believe how many are my favourites too. That Chariots of Fire theme is incredible. Now let's see if we share a favourite movie…
Gone with the Wind. Phew! Finally, an easy one.

I certainly share that love with you Nila. My heart's in Atlanta! Now how about your first job…
A market assessment for typewriters.  Gave away my age with that one, oops.

I began writing when…
I was 8 years old, my Mum still has those poems and she threatens to publish them anytime she wants me to shut up.

Mums can be evil. Tell us about books you loved as a child…
Thinking here more in terms of authors than specific books, really - Enid Blytons, Richmal Crompton’s Williams series, Biggles, a series called the Bobbsey twins, Nancy Drews, Perry Masons, Agatha Christies, du Mauriers, Alistair Macleans and Desmond Bagleys are top of mind still.  I did not start reading English books till I was around 9-10 years.  All my leisure reading was in Bengali initially, English was strictly for textbooks!
Books I couldn’t put down recently…

The Lemon Tree by Sandy Tolan; Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel; The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin; Levels of Life by Julian Barnes; The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee. All very different, but each one very, very good. 

Books that I enjoy are…
A bit hard to define.  I will read anything that holds my interest, and I will read up to 50-60 pages before I decide.  I won’t go out of my way to read sci-fi or spy-thrillers, but if that is what is lying around (big fans of those in my immediate family) and I have nothing else, then I will get my nose in those too. 

Not finishing books scares me. I was reading Peony in Love by Lisa See and the first half didn't grab me, but when I got to the second half of the book, it was, like WOW!! I could have missed this! 

Now I know you're a writer, Nila, so tell us about your latest project…
I have two on-going  – one is a book of short stories, am working on the tenth one there.  Don’t know if that will be final, or there will be others.
The other is a novella – which is kind of first-draft-standing-at-a-crossroads-cooling-its-heels type thingy right now.  It can get shredded and rewritten into a full length novel.  Or it might get shredded into a short.  In the latter case I am going to coolly insert that into the first project ha!
…and I have just put together my first ms of poetry

What is your writing plan?
Get up, grab a coffee, swat a few flies/mosquitoes buzzing around the vacant brain, wait for words to come, wrestle them to the ground/screen if they turn up.  If they don’t, grab another coffee, swat a few more flying bugs...repeat till the poem/flash/story looks like one.
Seriously flawed in the planning department - I just look at prompts and look blank and swing between panic and writing. Push the words out, and then tweak.  Sometimes I have the ending clear in mind, sometimes the beginning, and I join the dots A to B somehow.  Sometimes I have more than an A and B, maybe a C, D, E as well, but that is rare. It holds together for me presumably because I write shorts.  Poetry is of course slightly more unplannable and messy.

Where do you do most of your writing?
On the couch… :)
I don’t have any special room/space where I write, do it anywhere.  There is nothing special about my writing, I just get up in the morning, and if life doesn’t get in the way, sit down and write.

I relax by…
Reading mostly, walking if I have nothing to read.  Getting into some open space or other, listening to water, watching the open skies will also do the trick.

The point of life is…
Never to arrive, and never to return -
“Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.” ~ Matsuo Basho

What is your process for crafting a poem? 
The process is a a kind of haphazard ride, hard to pin down exactly.

It can begin with anything, a snatch of song or conversation, an image, a news story (a recent poem Asylum took off at a news item about the Rohingyas), a writing prompt or even reading a book.  Sometimes the 'prompt' gets in the head and sits quietly for ages without you knowing and then one day (or night, or at some most inconvenient time) it just takes flight, buzzing round and round literally like a bat  :-) and you have to open a window and let it other times it is immediate. Whenever it happens, you just have to give in and write, it will give you no peace till you've done that, you can't focus on any other task.  

The first draft of a poem is just sitting and letting the fingers 'bleed' -  the words come in a rush and you put them down as best as you can on the laptop if it's handy, otherwise on any scrap of paper.  It is rough and maybe rhymed, maybe not, you can't force rhymes or any form onto a poem at this stage, you're just trying to put down the flashing pictures in your head before they disappear...then when that is done, you fine tune and shape it - in a way more pleasing to you, retaining the pictures but hitching a different word here and there to make it clearer and sharper.  Some poems feel complete right after this second stage, and you leave them alone if that is so.  Some don't, so you revisit them later and try to find out why they feel a little 'off the mark' and edit further till they do feel right.  There is only so much control you can exercise. It is almost entirely an intuitive process. Something is already there in you almost fully formed, and you are just trying to chip off the extra material.  
More about Nilanjana...

Nilanjana is a parent, writer, poet, blogger and a market research professional.  Born in Kolkata, India, brought up in New Delhi and West Africa, she is widely travelled – her mailing address has changed some 15 times and she is always ready for the next change.  She believes in travelling light, and a sense of humour, along with the passport, is top on her packing list. Dipping into other cultures and countries, whether as an expat resident or as a tourist, refreshes her soul/writing muscles. Her bucket list includes a round-the-world trip and writing an historical novel set in Mughal, India. She speaks English, Bengali and Hindi, and understands more Arabic than she can account for.

Her poems, short stories and travel memoirs have been published in both print and on-line.  Her first book was a collection of short fiction in Bengali called Seemaheen Bidesh (Borderlessly Foreign).  Her work has appeared in print in Ananda Lipi, in multi-author Social Potpourri – An Anthology, and also online in ezines like eFiction India and other forums.  She was a contributing editor to Inner Child magazine with the byline - Passport to Our World – a monthly travel feature which ran to a 24-part series. A multi-author short fiction anthology, published by Harper Collins India, is slated for release later this year.

She is presently working on a book of poetry - The Art and Smarts of Bystanding - which explores themes of love, loss, and the singular sense of homelessness an expatriate life entails. Another WIP is her second collection of short fiction, called The Intricacies of Return, and a novella loosely titled Moonlit Waters set in post-revolution Cairo.

She lives in Bahrain and can be found on-line at Madly-in-Verse.  

Whoa! So you see Nilanjana is a prolific author. If you haven't already, please visit her blog on which she posts poetry and at times prose.

Thank you for visiting my 'From the couch' series and are enjoying learning more about the wonderful bloggers who inhabit the blogosphere. In the future I'll be welcoming Hilary Melton-Butcher and Clem Mackenzie who will pop up after their blogging breaks.

  • Do you know Nilanjana? Have you read her poetry?
  • Do you write poetry? Do you want to write poetry?

Thursday 11 June 2015

From the couch - with Yolanda Renee, Dial M for Murder.

Hello everyone!

Time for another guest to recline on the couch and share with us their thoughts and musings. Today's guest needs little introduction. Yolanda writes murder series for Curiosity Quills Press--the thrilling Detective Steve Quaid stories enjoyed by many.

Let's get this interview going, Yolanda! By now you should have finished smelling the roses!

As a mystery writer, you must have a very vivid imagination. What is your most frightening childhood memory…
         I remember being afraid to go to sleep at night for fear someone would cut my head off. I was 10 when I read in the paper that three young men had been decapitated in a car accident and for some reason being beheaded, became a phobia. I would sleep with my blanket up to my neck, certain if they couldn't see the neck, they couldn't remove my head. Who were they? I have no idea. I was a kid.
Do you have a favourite movie about murder?
         The original 1954 Alfred Hitchcock movie Dial M for Murder, with Ray Milland and Grace Kelly. There was an excellent remake in 1998 with Michael Douglas and Gwyneth Paltrow called A Perfect Murder. I enjoyed the remake as much as the original!
I love both of those films too. Now do you have a favourite song about murder?
         Delilah by Tom Jones is a favourite. The antagonist kills her with a knife after she spends the night with another man. Did you know there are nine songs written about murder?
I would have thought there were more, actually. Now how about books? What's your favourite book about murder?
         The Murders in the Rue Morgue, a short story by Edgar Allan Poe published in 1841, and recognized as the first modern detective story. I found the story quite frightening at the age of twelve. This was my first introduction to murder mysteries.
Have you ever thought about how you would commit the perfect murder?
         Guns are too loud and nosy, knifes are too messy, poison is so cliché. I would find a way to make the death appear as an accident. Maybe place baby oil in the shower. Baby oil is a great way to moisten the skin, but can make a bathtub a very dangerous place.
Remind me never to take a shower at your place! How did you choose this genre?
         It was always my favourite genre. I wanted to write a mystery with several suspects and the reason for the murder had to be unique. I think I achieved that with my first book. Murder, Madness & Love is the very first book I ever wrote. They say don't count on getting your first book published, but don't believe everything you hear.
That's encouraging. Plenty of writers will be pleased to hear that. What is your latest project/s?
         I just recently finished the third book in my murder trilogy.
Due to hit the shelves in March of 2016 – Murder & Obsession
Tagline: Flames burn between a hard-boiled cop and a gifted artist but soon extinguish as another man’s obsession ignites into a towering inferno of desire, driving him to destroy the object of his madness…Sarah.
I also have a book of short stories and flash fiction coming out in June titled When Zombies Attack. I enjoy the horror genre too; Stephen King has always been a favourite author. I admire his imagination.
In August, I should have a prequel to the murder trilogy ready for publication. The Snowman is a short story about Steven Quaid's first case as detective.
Moving from fiction to real life, have you ever known anyone who was murdered?
         Yes, my sister's ex-husband was stabbed once in the heart outside a bar. He died instantly. I originally had one of my victims die the same way, but an editor claimed it wasn't possible. Even though she was wrong, I changed the story.
Have you ever met a murderer?
         I've read that during our lifetime most all of us will have been in the same vicinity as murderer, at least 36 times. Crazy fact isn't it? I do think I met a man who could have been. I've never had a similar reaction to an individual as I did this man. He scared the crap out of me and my reaction bothered me greatly. I had an instantaneous dislike and couldn't figure out why, but I knew I did not want to get to know or be in the same room with him. He was a very unassuming looking man, but there was just something about him that had all my warning bells going off.
Will you create a new detective or stay with Steven Quaid?
         Steven keeps popping up in my head regarding the next mystery I'm formulating. So, I think he'll be around for at least one other book.
Would you consider doing a female detective?
         I've been mulling it over for some time. And if I write a fourth Steven Quaid mystery, then yes. I'd like a new series with a female detective.

Available Now:
             Murder, Madness & Love - After a gritty detective becomes involved with a beautiful widow suspected of murder, rumour and obsession obstruct his quest for justice.
             Memories of Murder - World damnation is a psychotic man’s goal, but two obstacles stand in his way, greed and a dedicated detective.
Coming Soon:
Murder & Obsession - Flames burn between a hardboiled cop and a gifted artist but soon extinguish as another man’s obsession ignites into a towering inferno of desire, driving him to destroy the object of his madness…Sarah.

 Love is never easy, but for Detective Steve Quaid and his fiancée, Sarah, their road to happiness is laden with minefields.
 Steven’s countless hours reconverting his grandfather’s cabin into the perfect honeymoon retreat for Sarah soon becomes a bloody crime scene detailing her death. Accused, Steven escapes into the Alaskan mountains, biding his time to find the truth…
 Who killed his beloved?
 A seasoned woodsman, he outsmarts even the cleverest of trackers. All but one…
 Mauled by a grizzly, a half-dead Steven barely escapes.
 But will he live to bring the true murderer to Justice?


Although she grew up in Pennsylvania, Yolanda Renee has an adventurous spirit that has taken her to Alaska where she hiked the Brooks Range, travelled from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez, and learned to sleep under the midnight sun. The time she spent in Alaska greatly influenced her writing. Her favourite genres – mysteries, with a touch of romance and horror - describe the murder trilogy she's just completed.
Yolanda's bucket list includes drumming lessons, driving a race car and owning her very own fire-breathing dragon!
After all, anything is possible!

 You connect with Yolanda Renée here:

Cafe Writer presents:
The best iced coffee in the world
@Baked Poetry Cafe
Peregian Beach
  • Thanks for coming by and learning more about Yolanda.
  • Do you like murder mysteries? Have you read any of Yolanda's?
  • Yolanda maintains a blog, as well as many other social media platforms. Here is a link to a great post by Anne R Allen's latest advice to author-bloggers. Remember, you will be googled!

Wednesday 3 June 2015

Insecure Writers Support Group Post for June--Mindfulness

Hello everyone!

Here we are again for IWSG, thanks to Alex J Cavanaugh and the team for the month.

A buzz word at the moment appears to be 'mindfulness' and it got me thinking about how it relates to writing.

Speaking of writing, our lovely Hilary Melton-Butcher (who is taking a blog break) dubbed me the 'cafe writer' and I decided to run with it on my new blog header. Why? Well, I do most of my most productive writing in a cafe in West End here in Brisbane. It is an ancient (for Australia) building with 6 areas where you can ramble. I have a favourite table in the back amongst the palm trees and can write my heart out for hours.

Now...mindfulness. It resonates with me as I've always been a 'stop and smell the roses' type of gal. You never know, next time you pass by they may have drooped or been dead-headed or ripped out to make way for a road.

Mindfulness is about living in the moment, not letting your brain run ahead to the next thing and the next instead of enjoying what you're doing at the time. For example:

When you're taking a shower or bath, instead of planning your day, or running over the events of the day, take time to relish the feel of the gorgeous soft water flowing over your body and being thankful you live in a country that has water, and hot water at that. Inhale the scents of the shampoo, conditioner, bath gel etc. Enjoy the experience. Let your mind declutter and rejuvenate.

Now what does mindfulness have to do with writing? Well, instead of furiously tapping that keyboard or scratching that pen across the page, thinking 'when will I ever get this done?', 'I hate this story!', 'Will my editor approve these changes?', 'Will the public want to buy my book?', relish the time to write. Be thankful that you have the time, the motivation, the creativity. Allow your brain to create without being short circuited by superfluous thoughts.

Maybe if we let our creativity flow unhindered, maybe if we practise mindfulness, our writing will shine even brighter and all those other questions that demonstrate our insecurity will be banished (for a moment, anyway).

  • What do you think? Do you practise mindfulness in your life? In your writing? Tell us about it.
  • Thanks for coming by. Click here to go to other posts for IWSG.
  • May your month be sweetened by the fragrance of roses.