Monday, April 30, 2012


The concept of home lies right at the heart of my war novel. One brother wants nothing more than to leave their home and get away from life as he knows it. The other wants nothing more than to stay. But for both of them, once the First World War arrives and changes things, home turns out to be as much about people as place.

 Home for me has always been a nebulous thing. I was an oil industry brat, raised in a number of different countries around the world. We made an international move on average every two years until I was in high school. I hold passports for two different countries- one I didn't live in until I was 7 years old, the other I didn't even get to visit until I was the grand old age of 22. Because I was often the new kid, I was often asked where I came from. I had a standard answer that summed it all up for me and reflected my lack of an anchor point- "All over the place."

From the time I started high school to the time I got married 12 years later, I lived in one city. But that city still never felt like home to me. It wasn't until we chose to move to the country after our marriage that I finally found a sense of my own place for the first time. It came from the choice we made to be there- the first time in either of our lives that we'd made that choice for ourselves instead of following family.

Our daughter was born there, and we'll never lose our connection to that place. But as she grew, we began to realise that following family wasn't just about the places you go. It's about being close enough that your child has her own toothbrush at Grandma's house, or close enough that when you're sick as a dog, your best friend can drive around the corner to drop you off some soup. We moved back to our original city, bought our first house, and though I've never been struck by the same lightning bolt of belonging that I felt in our country home, I've slowly come to realise that this place is probably as close to home as I'll ever find.

Not just because I'm here, but because I've *been* here all these years, and so have so many of the people I care about. I've graduated high school and university, met the love of my life, married, and now my son has been born here. I've left here and returned a thousand times for work and travel. I've seen it change- I remember it as it was 20 years ago, and I can tell you what's different now. I'm a part of this city, and it is undeniably a part of me. The axis of my life right here, and my world revolves around it.

When I started travelling around the rest of this enormous state for work, I was as unprepared as your average city girl for the impact places would have on me. With time, another area worked itself into my brain and wouldn't let go- the place that is the inspiration for the town of Stonehaven, and Edenvale and Golden Valley farms.

 This is not my place. But it is home to my characters. In one form or another, I've spent a part of every single day of the last six years in that place, even though I haven't physically been there in all that time.

Last week we got an unexpected chance to travel up there and visit. I was kind of nervous that it wouldn't be all I remembered, and it wasn't- because it's not Stonehaven. But it is within Stonehaven, and the sense of place I felt was for the town of my story. It was wonderful to go home, to Bill, Len and Kit's home. They are the opposite to me- people who have always known their place. But like me, they all struggle to accept it at times. Writing this novel has definitely been a way for me to explore my own feelings about place and identity.

So, what makes home, home, for you?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Playing With the Big Boys

Hi All.

Yes, it lives, it breathes! LOL, ah, I’ve been scarce about these parts, I know, and whilst I’d love to say that’s going to change, I’m afraid I’m going to be even more scarce for a wee bit longer.

See, I’ve decided that I need to step up and play with the big boys. For real.

I’ve been writing my novel for mumblemumble years now and it’s starting to drive me batty – the length of time it’s taken me to get where I am (a combination of draft three or four of the manuscript), and the book itself. Yes, I know I’ve blogged before about how patience with one’s progress is a good thing, and how a great deal of the lengthiness of my book writing quest is down to me climbing a very steep learning curve. And I still believe these things.

However, I’ve come to realize that for me, with the busyness of my life as a wonderfully convenient excuse, it’d be so very easy to sit back and let another mumblemumble years slip by without any further progress made with my book, or with my dream of writing for a career. And I don’t know whether I’ve hit that dreaded midlife crisis, but lately I’ve been thinking that while I love being known as someone’s wife and three someones’ mother, it would be so very, very satisfying to do something, and to be known for something, that I did just for me. And I know, in the very marrow of my bones, that writing is that thing.

Anyway. Long story  - and lots of navel gazing on my part – short, I’ve decided that to get where I want to be I have to man up and write like I’m already a career writer. Yeah, I’ve said that before, too, and have done so, to an extent - I write just about every day, I set goals and I’ve definitely got the neuroses and anxieties down pat - but I also too quickly and too easily allow my writing to take a back seat to everything else.

No more.

So the house will be going to even worse rack and ruin; the kids will not die from catching the bus home instead of riding in the car, or from eating the odd dinner of toast and fish fingers. And I also have a couple of deadlines. They’re of my own making but I’m going to pretend like they’re not. And those deadlines are (1) I must have this draft of my book finished by 31st May, and (2) I must have this book to an agent-querying level of completeness by 1st November 2012.  Not “would like to” or “am aiming to”, but I MUST , as in “I’ll have a fire-breathing editor screaming down the phone accusing me of breach of contract if I don’t”, kind of “must”.

And with this in mind, I’m going on a blogging hiatus until the end of May. I may pop in, if things are going well; if not, then I wish the best of luck to one and all, and I’ll see you on the other side!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Seven Times

I know I have been scarce as of late. You're probably wondering who the heck I am, actually -- it's been that long. I apologize for that. To say life has been throwing me some hurdles over the past few months would be putting it mildly. In short, it's been absolutely one of the most difficult periods of my life. I've been hanging on by the skin of my teeth at times, and yeah... I'm hopeful that I'm approaching the downward slope. I need the sweet relief of racing down the other side of this mountain, if you know what I mean. :)

All that said, the one saving grace in all of this mess has been watching the progress of BTPM--knowing it's out in the world, knowing people are reading it, enjoying it (not in all cases, mind). It's been sort of the one shining light in the rest of the muck. LOL. That said, I feel compelled to blog about what an absolutely terrifying experience this is... because like it or not, I've promised book 2 by the end of May. And I'm FREAKED out that I'm not going to get it right. And nothing...NOTHING...brought home that fear more than what I experienced this morning...

So, for whatever reason, BTPM just isn't doing well on Amazon...while, amazingly enough, it's really starting to take off at Barnes & Noble. I have no real explanation for this--just conjecture. Maybe there are simply more books on Amazon, and I'm getting lost among them... ??? NO CLUE. But, the fact remains that while I continue to climb the ranks on B&N, I see very few sales on Amazon. In fact, for every book I sell on Amazon, I probably sell 15+ on B&N. Hey, I'll take it.

That said, my ranking at B&N is literally jumping by leaps and bounds. The neurotic that I am, I've been keeping anxious tabs on it every morning. This morning, I logged in, per my usual....and saw I had a new review. As I don't have very many, I always perk up at that. It's nice...blah blah blah. And then I see that someone who had previously reviewed it has edited their review to say something along the lines of:

"I have read this book 7 times. Please hurry up and write book 2."



Seven times???

Someone has read my book SEVEN times??

Folks, I don't think I've read my book seven times. (Okay, it's probably been many more times than that...but you get my meaning.)

I will tell you what my reaction to this was. First, TOTAL gut shot. My stomach relocated to my toes. I have to make book 2 just as good--if not better--than BTPM. And HOW THE HELL AM I GOING TO DO THAT?!?! Quite simply, I can't. I doomed to fail. Book 2 is going to suck!!!!

So yeah, I had my little moment of panic...and then I cried. From complete happiness.

Someone loves my book enough to read the dang thing 7 times. HOLY HELL.

That being said -- I honestly don't mean to gush over these things, but I can't seem to help myself -- the sophmore freak-out is definitely a tangible thing. I'm scared out of my mind that I'm going to let readers down with a book that doesn't live up to the first. Whether or not people like my writing, I always want to improve on what I've done before. And WALKING IN SHADOW has been a challenge--it's pushing me in some really fantastic ways, but it's also making me take greater risks. What if I fail? What if it the suckiest suck ever to hit "the shelves?"

I keep telling myself to keep my eyes on my own paper--to just keep pushing through--but it's definitely scary to think I COULD legitimately fail. I know I'm not a great success story--hell, most people wouldn't have the first clue who I am or what book it is that I wrote (most of my friends don't even know), but for some readers, it's the friggin' beesknees. I don't want to let those readers down.

I sure as heck don't want to let myself or my characters or my story down.

*deep breaths*

Hope all of you are doing well!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Creating your own pop culture

I recently discovered a seriously awesome blog inspired by Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series of novels- Outlander Kitchen, in which fan (and chef) Theresa creates dishes inspired by the books she loves.

I can't even tell you how many ways I love this idea. The Outlander novels are full of fascinating details of life across numerous countries in the 18th century (and the 20th, for that matter), including vivid descriptions of the foods of the time. What's particularly engaging is that (like every other detail in Diana's books) the food is always intimately linked to the characters and their situations. That's what makes it stick in your mind- and that's exactly what Outlander Kitchen harnesses.

Go have a look- the blogger starts each post with a snippet from the books where the food is mentioned, then follows it up with fascinating research, anecdotes about the background to the food or the hunt to perfect it, and ultimately something concrete- a recipe, and gorgeous pictures that bring to life the foods we readers have wondered about for years.

And you know, I think this is the way of things for the future- value-adding for novels. Every day I see more and more authors popping up on sites like Tumblr and Pinterest, where they can add a third dimension to the way they express their stories. Starting blogs that cover the mechanics of writing and the specifics of the story, but also spin fascinating tales about the stories behind the stories. Having linked Facebook pages to allow further interaction and even more different modes of expression.

I must say, I love it. I love what it brings to the experience of reading, to see the world of the stories through the author's eyes in a more visual way. And I think it does great things for an author's "brand" to be accessible in many different ways, and to show enthusiasm for the things about which they write. It strikes me as very savvy marketing to get into these platforms now that the internet is revolving around new ways in social media.

Several authors from this blog have additional places where you can experience more of their stories through their eyes, so for your interest, an incomplete list:

Kristen's website here contains plenty of fascinating detail about the gothic world of Firelight, Moonglow and Winterblaze, including an awesome webzine and romance trading cards.

Kristen is also pinning fabulous story details to Pinterest,

As is Rachel, here, sharing intriguing details of the 19th century Paris and Victorian London settings that are brought to life in Blood of the Heart.

And Susan, too, picking out the best of the Napa Valley, and the Vietnam era, from her novel Requiem for a Warrior.

I think I'll join Pinterest myself soon, but in the meantime I've been working on a new blog called The Road to War and Back to share the stories of WWI soldiers like Tom Lockyer and the Bleakley brothers, following real-life newspapers, records and photographs from the era of my novel Between the Lines to unravel the myriad experiences of Australians in the First World War. Stay tuned for new stories there in the next couple of weeks.

How about you? Are you using these new ways in social media to extend the way you share your story? And are you enjoying them as a reader? Any favourites you'd like to share?

Friday, April 6, 2012

Double Negative

Ain't no two ways about it, sweetheart, this film is a cleverly disguised English grammar lesson.