Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas!

The second turkey I've ever cooked.

Our simple, delicious Christmas lunch.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Book recommendation

My most recent order from amazon arrived yesterday, including two copies of this book, written by my friend Joanna Sandsmark.

It's gorgeous! Beautiful illustrations, with the text a warm, gentle 'philosophy' that is delightful and meaningful.

I bought one copy for me and another to give as a gift, but I think I'm going to have to order a couple more. It's too beautiful not to share with others.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Five things you mightn't know....

1. The first actor I had a crush on was the guy who played Thierry la fronde in the (very early) 1960s French series, which was shown here as The King's Outlaw.

Yes, he's the one in the left front in the short jerkin and the tight tights - as all good heroes should be :-) Thierry was played by actor Jean-Claude Drouot, who apparently went on to become a significant actor in French theatre.

2. Much though I wish I could, I can't sing very well. I can hold a tune only if there's no other harmonies going on around me.

3. I was dux of my school in 6th grade.

4. I've always been a romantic. When all the other girls were going through the 'I hate boys' stages, I didn't. (Maybe that was Thierry's influence.... :-) )

5. I started writing when I was about 7 or 8 years old. We moved to a new suburb, and a girl two doors down, a year older than me, was writing a story about the Beatles. She had hundreds of pages of dialogue. So, I began writing too - first I did fan-fic of Lost in Space and Danger Island (because there just wasn't anywhere near enough romance on screen for me), but I quickly began creating my own stories. If I recall correctly, my first hero's name was Max.

Now I'm going to tag.... Grace Tyler.

Tagged by Jennie

Jennie Adams has tagged me. She wants me to reveal 5 things that no-one (or hardly anyone) knows about me.

Hmmmm... might have to think about this. What secrets shall I reveal?? Is there anything interesting about me that not many people know??

Stay tuned...

(And in the meantime, go and visit Jennie's blog.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Jo Beverley's 'The Shattered Rose'

Many of the big name, American, historical romance authors are hard to find here. Borders only has stores in the capital cities, and they're the only place I've come across that actually has a 'Romance' section. Sadly, I don't get to the city very often. Our local bookstores have some romances sprinkled in with 'Fiction', but not a large range. However, I've managed to hunt a few historical BNA down in the past months, as I'm trying to expand my reading across the genre and at least be familiar with some of the authors being talked about on various blogs and email lists.

The romance book that's stood out for me this year is Jo Beverley's The Shattered Rose. Out of interest, I had a look recently at the reviews for this book, and discovered that it was a 'love it or hate it' book. I loved it. It's not an easy book, and it certainly isn't a light, comfortable romance - hence the negative responses from those perhaps expecting something more traditional and undemanding.

However, for those who like their romance real rather than fantasy, then The Shattered Rose is satisfyingly challenging. The historian in me really appreciated that the characters were people of their times; these were medieval nobility, with the world and religious frameworks of the period, not modern people dressed in medieval costume. I loved the way that Beverley drew both Galeran and Jehanne and their responses to the situation they found themselves in; their story was heart-wrenching and the resolution of their difficulties in keeping with both character and time - even if as challenging to the reader as to Galeran and Jehanne themselves.

The secondary romance was rather less satisfying for me; although it was fun, it felt too light for the drama and depth of the primary story. However, the book still rates as probably the best romance I've read this year.

If anyone has recommendations for more books with that level of realism, please feel free to make them!

I found Laura Kinsale's Flowers from the Storm in a second-hand bookshop a few weeks back, and picked it up because of all the positive comments at the Smart Bitches and other places. When I'm finished with my current deadline, I'll reward myself with it.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Celebrating with Kelly

My friend Kelly Hunter's first book Wife for a Week burst onto Australian shelves this week. (Okay, it was a bit slow getting to our town, but made it eventually!)

I had lunch with Kelly and fellow writer Michelle today to celebrate - a thoroughly pleasant lunch, with two wonderful writing women to chat with and a gorgeous, happy baby to cuddle. Can't think of a better way to spend a Friday afternoon :-)

Signing my copy of her book (every romance writer should have a feather pen!)

After lunch, we went to the local K-Mart to admire the book on the shelves.

Congratulations, Kelly, on sticking with your dreams and writing such a warm, wonderful and fun book! May there be many, many more.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Congratulations, Jennie!!

When I went to my first romance writers' conference, I didn't know anybody. I'd never even met another romance writer. One of the people I met was Jennie Adams, who was wonderful and introduced me to others and made me feel welcome and included. Jennie and I also met up again at the RWAus conference in Melbourne last year, and have maintained a great online friendship.

Jennie's first books for Harl/Sil were published in Australia last year, but the first one to be published in the US only came out this month - The Boss's Convenient Bride.

Today, I found out that The Boss's Convenient Bride is #10 on this week's Waldenbooks Romance Bestseller's list.

It's a great book, and so it's no wonder it's doing well. And the author is such a wonderful, generous person as well as being an excellent writer. Well done, Jennie! It's definitely a day to wave that pink feather boa around!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Updated look

I've just updated the look of the blog - I was getting a little bored with the old theme, and at least this one has some colour similarity to my web page. I was trying to edit the stylesheet to include some of the photos from my web page, and make the designs more similar, but it was too hard after a long day at work, especially given that CSS and I have only a nodding acquaintance!

I may do some more changes later, when I'm not so tired. In the meantime, I'm off to bed - it will be another busy day at work tomorrow.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Golden Anniversary

My parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on Friday night. It was a wonderful night, with 50 or so friends and family including cousins I haven't seen for many years who travelled from Melbourne for the event. The photo above is my parents with my sisters and I. (I'm the one who looks just like my Mum!)

My folks are two very special, amazing, and inspirational people and it was a great joy to celebrate their anniversary with them.

And, yes, they're a significant contributing factor to me writing romance :-)

Sunday, August 27, 2006

I'm back...

We returned home this afternoon after just over two weeks away in the eastern Outback. It was a great trip - great company, fantastic weather almost the whole way, and amazing landscape - but I'm a bit too tired tonight to try and write anything intelligent about it!

Keep an eye on the photoblog - I'll put some pictures up over the next few days.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Kookaburras and old gum trees.

There you go. I've obviously hit the big time of some strange cult following, since 18% of the last 100 searches that brought people to my blog are for some variant of 'kookaburra sits in the old gum tree.' I've been noticing this for a while, actually - ever since I made a post with that title. People from all over the world - the US, UK, Europe, Japan, are searching for kookaburras and old gum trees and finding their way to the post on my blog.

Don't get me wrong - I love having people visit my blog. Anyone (other than spammers and psychotics) is welcome here. I'm just fascinated as to why so many people are searching for the song. School projects? Camp songs? Or has it attained some cult status and meaning that I'm innocently unaware of?

We used to sing it in rounds, when we were kids. It passed some of the time when going on long car trips in the days before car radios, and I much preferred to 'Three Blind Mice'.

Anyway, here are the words, for those searching for them:
Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree,
Merry, merry king of the bush is he,
Laugh, kookaburra, laugh, kookaburra,
Gay your life must be.

Hmmm... they've probably changed the words in recent decades, since 'gay' has changed it's meaning. But that's what we used to sing. So, all you Kookaburra seeking blog visitors, please feel free to comment about what you're looking for.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Catching up (yet again)

Okay, so it's been quiet here lately. What have I been up to these past few weeks? Apart from the normal work/life stuff, I've been:
  • dealing with a bad shoulder, which meant limiting my computer work
  • spending limited computer time writing
  • planning our Outback trip
  • making lists for our trip
  • shopping for our trip (food, emergency supplies, first aid gear, equipment etc)
  • trying to work out how to organise and pack all the stuff into the truck
We'll be off in a bit over a week, for 16 days travelling with another couple up to Roma in Queensland, across to Birdsville, down the Birdsville Track to Marree in South Australia, across to Arkaroola in the Flinders Ranges, then to Rawnsley Park near the spectacular Wilpena Pound, then to Broken Hill, Nyngan and home. I think all up it's about 4,500 kilometres. And yes, I'm getting quite excited. I visited Wilpena Pound and Marree on a trip in 1988, but everything else will be new to me. It's amazing country - and great inspiration for novels!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Painted warp

I suggested that our Spinners and Weavers Guild have a 'Something New' Challenge for the rest of the year - participants to try out a technique new to them, write a report for the newsletter, and everyone who participates goes into the draw at the end of the year for a voucher for a fibre or yarn supplier.

So, to provide a first example to the guild, I decided to try out painting a warp, something I've not done before. I wound the warp this morning - a fine white wool - and I ended up going into our guild rooms this afternoon to dye it as it's much better set up for laying out long warps, plus the microwave and dyeing equipment is all there.

I'm quite happy with the outcome, particularly given that my dye mixing was definitely not scientific! There's enough to make two scarves, each one going from red through purple and blue to green and then back out to red again. Now I just have to wait until it's dry, then put it on the loom, then decide what pattern and colours to use in the weft and do the weaving. That's all ;-) In all that spare time that I have...

The Ancient Art of Par-King.

(Procrastination hit this morning, and I was inspired to write this for my batty writers' group after some discussion about the terrors of parking.)

The Ancient Art of Par-King.

The origins of this art-form are lost in the sands of time. Earliest recordings are found in Asian poetry scrolls dating to 1000BCE, where Par-King appears to have been practised by court poets near lakeside views. It is said that some poets entered a prolonged trance state while Par-King that could last for weeks.

As with many adoptions from the East, the artform appeared in the Mediterranean during the early Roman period. The Romans, however, turned it into a competitive sport, with competition amongst chariot drivers for Par-King spaces in the centre of Rome rivalling that of the Gladatorial contests in the Arena. Par-King differed from the Gladitorial contests in one key aspect; it actively involved spectators, who paid for the privalege of riding with the chariot drivers while they Par'K'd and who could become as aggressive and combatitive in defending a Par-King place as the drivers themselves.

The practice of Par-King ebbed and flowed during the Dark and Middle Ages, with many regional variations evolving. (The Venetians, for example, used boats.) Popularity again soared from the eighteenth century onwards, when large proportions of the populace across Europe moved to the rapidly growing cities. The competitive version of Par-King has always been more widely practised in metropolitan areas, whereas rural areas - particularly isolated rural areas - maintained the original, meditative art-form. (Except on market days, when a friendly, informal version of the sport was played, usually with much good-natured humor.)

In the modern era, high-stakes Par-King contests are conducted every day across much of Europe, North America, and in major cities in Asia. Participation in the sport of Par-King is higher than in any other sport, involving some 70% of the population on a daily basis. Competition has grown so fierce in some places that the competitors spend vast sums on large vehicles to terrorise competitors in smaller ones, and injuries, while still relatively rare given the vast number of players, do occur. Elitism has also entered the sport, with some competitors paying large daily sums to compete on less-crowded Par-King fields.

Sadly, it is only in the backwaters of modern life - rural communities, and some small towns - that Par-King is still practised in its original art form, as a joyful, meditative practice. While some urban youth do practice a version of Par-King - in pairs, in dimly lit areas at night - adherents of the old ways consider the limitation to pairs in the night-time to be a corruption of The True Practice of Par-King, which, they say, should be able to be undertaken by any devotee, at any time.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Out and about

We had a great trip with friends on Saturday down to part of the Oxley Wild Rivers National Park. A wilderness area, gorgeous scenery, good company - what more can anyone ask for?*

After enjoying the view from the lookout at Budds Mare, we then drove along a 4WD only access track down the escarpment to the Riverside camping area on the Apsley River, nestled in the narrow valley. There we boiled the billy and had morning tea in glorious winter sunshine, then went for a mild bushwalk, then picnic lunch. We didn't see a lot of wildlife, but there were tree-creepers on the nearby trees, and a wallaby munched happily 100m or so away from us. We had the place to ourselves otherwise - not another soul for miles around.

Sunday afternoon saw another short excursion into the landscape - DH and I took the dogs over to Bakers Creek Falls, at the top of the Metz Gorge, the nearest part of the vast New England escarpment to our place (only about 5km as the crow flies.) So we had a pleasant walk along the road there, and the dogs had a great time exploring a new place - lots of exciting smells to sniff, although once again we didn't see anyone else. A pleasant stroll in a country lane with stunning views off to one side... life is indeed rich!

*Other than wealth, copious quantities of chocolate, time to write, and a large publishing contract.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Historical resources

I finally remembered to put a link in the sidebar to the Historical Resources for Romance Writers wiki that I set up a while ago. I haven't done a lot with it yet, but I updated a few things today and realised that despite me not spreading the word about it much, there's been 300+ visitors to it in the past few months. Nobody's added anything yet, but I hope I made the invitation to do so a little more obvious in my minor edits today.

So, don't make me feel all alone and unloved in the webiverse. If you've got interesting information about anything historical that might interest romance writers, go and add it!

(Yes, Kate, that includes you. You know lots of interesting stuff - like food, and photography, and NY police.)

And talking of hysterical stuff, we watched the DVD of 'The Mists of Avalon' a week or two ago. That spinning wheel in the opening scene?? About 1,000 years before its time. Spinning wheels didn't come to western Europe until about the 11th century - and treadle wheels like the one in the film were a 15th century development.

Yes, yes, I gnashed my teeth. Wonder if I could make a living advising movie makers on historical spinning and weaving...

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Adverbs - A podcast experiment

In my day job, I work with academics, assisting them in developing online teaching materials. So, I need to make sure I know how to do things, in order to assist them.

I've been experimenting with making short, teaching podcasts, so I recorded a podcast on using adverbs in writing. If you'd like to, you can listen to it here (2.47MB, 5:24minutes).

It's mostly aimed at early career writers. I may record a series of podcasts on aspects of writing, if anyone thinks it's worthwhile. Feedback's welcome - just post it in the comments. I know it's far from perfect, and I'd like to know what works and doesn't, so I definitely won't throw a hissy fit about constructive criticism! (Yep, I talk a bit fast in the last half.)

Wednesday, June 21, 2006


I've been sick lately, so there hasn't been much to blog about. But this morning my mood lifted when I looked out the kitchen window to the tangle that is called 'the herb garden' and saw that our little Eastern Spinebill Honeyeaters are back. There were about six of them, flitting in and out of the tree and into the 'garden', feeding on the rosemary flowers.

We don't have them all year; it seems that they follow the flowering plants around the region. Why we get them in winter, I've never quite worked out, but in previous years they've fed on a pineapple sage that we've had growing, which flowers in winter. Unfortunately, the sage has few flowers this year - just as well the rosemary has grown up enough to have some!

Monday, June 05, 2006

Old English, new English

I'm looking for a word for 'envoy' that isn't French in origin. Envoy, ambassador, emissary - they're all Frenchy. I'm fiddling with an idea for a Viking/Saxon historical, and seeing if I could do it without any of those new-fangled French words that the Normans brought later.

I suppose I could write it all in Old English (I did study it for a while at university), but, well, there might be a limited market for that ;-) And I'm not going to write it in any form of fake romancelandia dialect (cringe!); I just want to convey a sense of the language, through word choice and rhythm.

So, I'm trying to avoid obviously French words for things important to the plot. Words like, you know, 'marriage'. Which, for a romance, may be something of a challenge.

Fortunately, 'wife' and 'man' have their roots in good old Anglo-Saxon, as do an assortment of words related to sex in its rawer forms. But finding an equivalent for 'envoy' currently has me stumped.

I can see, if I ever decide to actually write this book, that I'll have to go and re-read some Old English... just as well I never threw out all those text books!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

A bit of fun

Wow. I'm famous. Or maybe that's infamous.

We had a bit of fun today on one of my writer's loops, and the Bat Dame herself (aka the amazing Ann Wesley Hardin) thought my contribution was amusing and copied it to her blog.

That's me - the occasional rare moment of brilliance, interspersed with interminably long periods of boring inanity.


I'd copy it here, but the Dame's blog is much more interesting than mine, so you should go over there and read it. Read her books, too - they're great.

I will however comment here (purely to a. get you to go and read the whole thing, and b. get an increase in my stats), that I probably should have added 'premature ejaculation', 'disappointment' and 'regret' to the definition.

And no, I am not referring to my love life ;-)

Saturday, June 03, 2006

'Answered by Fire'

I've just watched part 1 of the excellent 2-part mini-series 'Answered by Fire', which is about the UN Mission to oversee the Independence vote in East Timor in 1999. David Wenham (he played Faramir in LOTR) plays an Australian police officer, part of an *unarmed* international force there to protect the voter registration process and the vote itself, amid violence from Indonesion-sponsored militias.

I remember it being on the news at the time, but seeing this dramatisation, focusing on one UN post in one region of the country, was unsettling and moving. Especially so, given the new wave of violence and political turmoil in East Timor in the past two weeks. The sorrows and the struggles have not yet ended for the East Timorese people; the legacies of colonialism, invasion and occupation, and international politicking have human ramifications, on through the years. Ordinary people, like you and me - fathers, mothers, wives, husbands, young men and women, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters. People who have lived most of their lives under foreign rule, who risked being hacked to death or shot or tortured simply to register to vote - but who went, anyway. Ninety percent of East Timorese cast their ballot on the question of independence; over seventy percent voted for it. And then the next nightmare began.

What has this got to do with my writing? It reminds me of why I write what I do - quite serious romances. Stories of people facing very real and difficult circumstances in a world which isn't always right or just, where complexities make shades of grey instead of an easy black and white.
Yes, I enjoy a light romantic fantasy - there's nothing wrong with a bit of escapism! But the stories I'm moved to write aren't light or fantasy. I have to acknowledge, somehow make sense of, the real world out there. To write my belief that the emotions that join us, keep us going through dark days and times, are the strongest, most human aspects of us, giving both courage and the possibility of healing.

Only a few of my stories have world events as backdrops or part of the plots, but even in the 'Darkness' trilogy, set in an outback Australian town, dealing with local events, there's still I think a sense of the town and those events in a broader context and history. At least in my mind, anyway! My outlined 'Shadows' trilogy has a more extensive international context, with part of the action occuring against the backdrop of Central Asian struggles. I did think for a while about making up a fictional country, but I decided that I couldn't do that; that I had to go with the fictional story in a more real context. Which of course means that, in order to do justice to the issues, even in a romance book, I need to do more research.

The second part of 'Answered by Fire' is on tomorrow night; I'll be watching it. It deals with the time after the results of the vote are announced, and the impact on the police officers forced to abandon their post, and the people they'd come to care about, in the violence that follows.

(And please, don't anybody from any of the lucky countries try to tell me that they were 'too busy' to vote in their own elections. It's not an excuse I have much patience for. In some places, people die for the chance of voting; so, as far as I'm concerned, for those who can, voting is a sacred responsibility.) (Here endeth my political comment.)

Friday, May 19, 2006

Recent reading

Yesterday's post reminded me that I've read a few books recently while on sick leave. The following comments are not by any stretch of the imagination intended as proper reviews - I didn't read them to review, and my mind was pretty distracted by other things, anyway, so they didn't get 100% attention!

Poison Study by Maria Snyder. I enjoyed this fantasy; it's well-written with a well-created world and likeable characters. Of course, taking a book called Poison Study when going to ER with weird symptoms is probably not the wisest thing, but fortunately nobody arrested me ;-)

Nora Roberts' In the Garden trilogy. These were fine, but in my distracted state I didn't find them as good as the Quinn brothers quartet, which was my first introduction to La Nora. I wasn't totally convinced that the first two couples really were the best match for each other; I didn't feel a strong emotional connection either between me and them or between the characters. But, as I said, I was distracted by other things so maybe that was just me.

March, by Geraldine Brooks. I'd been thinking about buying this one before it won its big prize, so picked it up when I was going away the other week. It was okay - competently written and constructed and well researched - but it didn't grab me. I couldn't really relate Brooks' portrayal of March and Marmee with the characters in Little Women, so it didn't work for me in that way. I also found the mention of all the famous people - Thoreau etc - a little contrived. Brooks based the March character on Louisa Alcott's father, who did know all the luminaries of his area, but I sort-of felt that they didn't have much of a place in the plot other than to impress with all the famous people March supposedly socialised with. But then, I'm a hard to please beech when it comes to literary fiction ;-)

The Crimson Code, by Rachel Lee. There was nothing on the Australian edition of this book to indicate that it's part of a series, but there were a lot of references in the text to previous happenings that strongly suggested this is part 2 of a series. It's also not a romance, which is okay, except the back cover blurb could have been for a romantic suspense and I started it assuming it was. (It's published by Mira, who do a lot of romantic suspense, but also a few non-romantic ones.) Anyway - it was quite okay. Once again, competently written, lots of twisted plot strands woven in, and nothing that jerked me out of the story. It entertained me sufficiently that I kept reading (on the rocking chair in the sun room) until I finished it. Although I haven't read The Da Vinci Code yet, I suspect this book has some similar themes - the Mary Magdalene and Christ were married theories, Templar conspiracies etc, but this book has other elements as well, including international terrorism etc.

So, that's what I've been reading lately. We're off to Perth tomorrow for 10 days, which I'm looking forward to, so one of my tasks tonight is to raid the bookshelves for some reading material to take - we spend most of the day tomorrow on planes, which should be at least two books' worth! However, having had a reading binge lately, the TBR pile is not very big - I may have to take an old favourite or two, or check the airport newsagent in Sydney when we're in between planes.

The blog will probably be quiet again while I'm in Perth, as we won't have a lot of time for internetting. Have a good week while I'm gone!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Wow! books, Ahhhh... books, and feel-good books

Yes, it's been ages since I posted - life happens, including being away for over a week dealing with family things, and being in hospital (I'm fine now) and general life stuff.

Kate Rothwell's been talking about great books, I think arising out of general blogosphere discussion about the best books of the past 25 years.

Nope, I'm not going to come up with my list, because that would take more brain space than I currently can spare. But it did make me think about some books I've read that have made an impression. Some books I've read are Wow! books - books that blow me away for some reason or another. Other books are Ahhhh... books - books that make me think, stay with me, that I read and re-read and always find something in. And other books are feel-good books; ones that I curl up with and enjoy - sometimes repeatedly - as pure pleasure.

Wow! Books
Perfume, by Patrick Susskind
Kate mentioned this one and I made some comments on her blog. It's not an easy book, by any stretch of the imagination, but the originality of the idea and the writing is amazing, IMHO, and they work together seamlessly in this story. Definitely not everyone's cup of tea, so to speak, and I can't say it was a book I 'enjoyed', but I did find myself going 'wow!' as I progressed through it, and it stays in my mind as an original, well-crafted, and different book.

Ahhhh... books
The Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula Le Guin
I've read this about a dozen times in the past 15 or so years, and every time I still find something new in it. It's a beautifully layered book, with subtle themes woven through a story that on the surface is straight forward, but which is enriched by the complexities and depth of the world and characters that Le Guin builds.

Brother Cadfael's Penance, by Ellis Peters
The last in the series of 20 or so Brother Cadfael medieval mysteries, this book brings a beautiful, touching conclusion to the series, as Cadfael faces difficult choices of devotion, duty and loyalty. There is an additional depth to this book compared to the others in the series, and there were many Ahhh... moments for me - such as this one in the first chapter, where Cadfael is contemplating the garden:
He had never before been quite so acutely aware of the particular quality and function of November, its ripeness and its hushed sadness. The year proceeds not in a straight line, through the seasons, but in a circle that brings the world and man back to the dimness and mystery in which both began, and out of which a new seed time and a new generation are about to begin. Old men, though Cadfael, believe in that new beginning, but experience only the ending. It may be that God is reminding me that I am approaching my November. Well, why regret it? November has beauty, has seen the harvest into the barns, even laid by next year's seed. No need to fret about not being allowed to sow it, someone else will do that. So go contentedly into the earth with the moist, gentle, skeletal leaves, worn to cobweb fragility, like the skins of very old men, that bruise and stain at the mere brushing of the breeze, and flower into brown blotches as the leaves into rotting gold. The colours of late autumn are the colours of the sunset: the farewell of the year and the farewell of the day. And of the life of man? Well, if it ends in a flourish of gold, that is no bad ending.

Feel-good books
The Faeries Midwife, by Lawrie Ryan
This book came out in the late 90s here in Australia, and it really appealed to me. Here's some of the back cover blurb:
In search of her unknown father, Mary Lightfoot - carpenter, nurse, animal-trainer and ex-detective - stumbles across an unexpected family drama. Two cultured old ladies are being drugged into senility by their greedy, hypocritical nephew, their housekeeper is dead; and a gang of thugs lurks nightly in the swamp at the bottom of the garden. The house is guarded by intimidating spirits, not least of which is Charlie the swamp owl who occasionally, fleetingly, transmutes into a dragon.

Mary takes on responsibility for the two old ladies, and enlists the aid of a number of colourful characters - Penny the inspired cook, with her devoted duck Debbie; ... Greenhut the reclusive gardener; Jonathon Crow the art and antiquities expert...

It's a wonderfully warm story, with gentle humour, and delightful, likeable characters. The subtle touch of the supernatural is deft and perfectly in keeping with the characters and the plot.

So, does anyone else have recommendations of Wow! Ahhh... or feel-good books they've read??

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Viking life

This is the reason I haven't posted for a while:

A couple of months ago, I agreed to set up and take a warp-weighted loom to the biennial Easter gathering hosted by the New England Medieval Arts Society (NEMAS), which is held in a wonderful pine forest setting about 10kms from Armidale. Several huundred reenactors come from all over Australia (and some from New Zealand) and camp out in an authentic setting for 4 days. I didn't camp out, but I was there all day Saturday and Sunday, setting up and demonstrating the loom, and also showing and teaching spinning on a drop spindle.

Preparing for the event took a lot of time. A friend and I built the loom, and then had to work out how to use it. I also had to make a costume for me, and adapt one for my niece, who came with her family from Canberra so that she could come to the event with me. (My costume is a rush job; one day I'll make a better, better fitting one!)

This weekend NEMAS had an open day for members of the public to come and see the long house and various demonstrations, so I took the loom out there again. As our first warp - which took us 3 hours to wind - didn't work too well at Easter, I wound another one with less hairy yarn during the week, and then my friend and I had to get that warp onto the loom this morning.

The whole experience was fun, although quite tiring; at least we have two years to recover and prepare for the next one!

I'll post some photos on my photoblog in the next day or so.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Geoffrey Chaucer

I love the blogosphere. There are so many interesting, imaginative, talented people out there.

And now, Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blog. Yes, it's in Middle English (of sorts!) but it is well worth it - an absolute hoot!

Fyghten togeder we dide, this valet and ich, in Rethel-toune whanne the Frensshe layde waste to yt to letten the Prince Noir from crossinge, and in the melee we were scatterede from the hoste, and we two dide runne like eye makeupe on a televangelistes wyf.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Mariner's tales

I spent a couple of hours yesterday dallying at the website Mariners and Ships in Australian Waters. This site includes transcripts of crew and passenger lists of ships arriving in Sydney in the latter half of the 19th century. With more than 700 ships a year arriving - from all over the world, including other Australian colonies - it was a busy, bustling port.

The historian in me loves these old records - and so does the novelist! The historian wants to pull the records into a database, so they can be sorted, analysed in an effective way. How often did individual ships make the journey to Sydney? Were crews relatively stable, the same men with the same masters?

The writer in me is constantly inspired - in this case, especially by the glimpses of women. Mrs James, wife of the Oliver Cromwell's captain, Donald James, made two voyages from the UK to Sydney on her husband's ship. James captained the ship for a number of years - are these two journeys that Mrs James made indicative of the early years of a marriage? Did she accompany her husband until she was pregnant with their first child, and afterwards stay at home, only seeing him in the short spaces between long voyages?

A captain's wife is one thing; but I'm also fascinated by mentions of women in the crew lists. They're not common, but they're not as rare as one might expect. Take, for example, Emma Lindsay. She was a crew member of the Salsette, which voyaged from Suez to Sydney three times in 1860. She was 33 years old, and listed as a stewardess - the only female crew member. The Salsette was a steamship of 965 tons, with a large crew - about 60 named crew on each trip, plus 100 or more merely listed as 'Asian'. In 1860, the Salsette docked at Sydney in January, July and October - and Emma is listed as crew each time. Passenger numbers ranged from 16 in January, to 31 in July, to '106 Asians' in October. In Aug 1861, the steamer arrived again, this time from Point de Galle, rather than Suez, and this time Emma is not listed; but there is a new stewardess, J.A. Corbett, aged 23.

What must it have been like, being the only woman in such a masculine environment? How did a youngish woman become a stewardess, and why? I did wonder if it was a euphemism for 'Captain's mistress', but given the way it's listed, in amongst the other crew, I doubt it. I also doubt the position translated to 'ship's whore'; if this was acceptable practice, then I'd expect more than one woman on the occasional ship.

Steam ships were a more luxurious way for passengers to travel, and presumably having a stewardess to assist the female passengers would have made the journey more tolerable for the ladies. In that circumstance, I'd guess that there would need to be at least some degree of propriety around the position in order for it to be acceptable.

I confess I'm fascinated by Emma and others; and yes, I can see a story line or 3! However, I can also see the need for more research - as always!

Update: I spent an hour in the uni library at lunchtime, reading microfilmed old newspapers, and I noticed on several adverts for ships travelling to London from Melbourne that 'a stewardess is on board for attendance on ladies'.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Four things meme

Yes, yes, it's been deathly quiet in here. Work and general life have been way too busy, and the brain cell fused way back a week or two ago.

This meme's been going around, so I figured I'd be lazy and use it as a blog entry.

Four jobs you have had in your life:
1. Pay clerk in a hospital
2. Youth refuge coordinator
3. YMCA manager
4. Organisational development manager

Four movies you would watch over and over:
1. Little Women (the Wynona Rider version, directed by Gillian Armstrong)
2. Shadowlands
Hmm, can't think of any others.

Four places you have lived:
1. near the Dandenongs, east of Melbourne
2. Canberra
3. Glebe, inner Sydney
4. assorted rural places around Armidale

Four TV shows you love to watch:
1. Spooks (called MI5 in the US?)
2. Silent Witness
3. Maccallum
4. Dr Who (the new series)

Four places you have been on vacation:
1. the UK
2. New Zealand
3. Jerusalem
4. New York (long time ago....)

Four websites I visit daily:
1. the Bat Cave at
2. SmartBitchesTrashyBooks
3. Kate Rothwell's blog
4. my bloglines page

Four of my favorite foods: (in no particular order)
1. chocolate
2. a good steak
3. the seafood charentaise at Jean Pierre's restaurant
4. roast lamb cooked with rosemary and honey and baked vegetables

Four places I would rather be right now:
1. here, but settling down for a day of writing instead of running late for work
2. on holiday in some beautiful place
3. accepting a cheque for winning the lottery
4. sleeping

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree...

Living in the bush, we have a fair few kookaburras around our place. If you've never heard a kookaburra's laugh, there's a recording of a pair here.

There are days when hearing one, or two or more kookaburras bursting into their chortle is a wonderful, life-is-good kind of sound.

Then there are days when hearing a group of birds bursting into their cackling right outside the window reminds me more of MacBeth's mad witches, and I know they're laughing at me, not with me.

Today was one of those mornings. Work's been a shit 'challenging' lately, every step forward seems to be followed by either two steps backwards or a stumble, and I'm going to have to work most of the weekend instead of writing. Bleurgh.

However, on the plus side of life, I booked the DH's and my tickets to Perth to see his family in May yesterday, and plans for our outback trip in August are coming along well. That's two trips away with the DH in the space of a few months. I will miss the RWAus conference in August, unfortunately, but two weeks in the outback with the DH and our friends will be great!

Yes, yes, I'm trying to talk myself into being cheerful. Not sure it's working entirely, but at least I haven't whined for the entire post!

And now the kookaburras have gone, and there's only the sweet, simple whistle of a rosella, and I'd better get some work out of the way.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Living history

People often ask me why, with an Honours degree in history, I'm not writing historicals. Well, I probably will, one day, but in the meantime, I'm not because there's waaayyy to much research to do. My problem is that I'm interested in everyday history, in the practicalities of life for ordinary people in earlier times. I don't want to write about lords and ladies, and I don't want to just go along with the Hollywood notions of historical life.

I'm also a spinner and weaver, and every time I'm reading an historical and a hapless heroine gets stranded in a castle/fort/cottage after being drenched in a thunderstorm, and someone produces a garment, I think - 'oh, yes, and where did that come from, huh?'. While occasionally a book will refer to peasants/villagers/trades people weaving or spinning, I've never yet come across a heroine who picks up a spindle or winds a warp. Nor does anyone much seem to worry about the seasons, the planting, harvesting, grinding, retting, etc, or what produce is available for the table when, or the phases of the moon and whether it's light enough outside at night - all of which were integral to survival in times not so long ago.

Anyway, at Easter I'm going to be getting some real-life practice at medieval life. The local medieval arts society holds a camp every second year at the pine forest outside town, complete with a long house, and people come from all over Australia to camp in authentic Dark Ages/Viking style. I've visited once before to demonstrate spinning with a drop spindle, but this year, a friend and I are making a warp-weighted loom, so I'll be spending a couple of days in the long house weaving on that. Which means I've got only a few weeks to work out how exactly to warp a warp-weighted loom - it's more complicated than the 'modern', 1000 year-old loom types I'm more used to working with.

And I'm sure that spending a couple of days with plenty of young, energetic warriors around will give me a story idea or two... ;-)

Belfry blog day

I blogged over at The Belfry today.

I also put some photos up on my photoblog last night.

At some stage, I may even post something here...

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Writing space

Ann Wesley Hardin posted about writing space, and the struggle to find the right space. Yep, I can relate to that struggle. When we designed our not-very-large house, I wasn't a writer. We also had to cut back on our plans, due to the high cost of building. The sunroom became my space - for my work materials, weaving, spinning and sewing equipment and stashes, and writing. It's a nice room, but it's crowded (two large looms don't help), and it gets stinking hot in summer during the day, and freezing cold in winter at night. Not to mention that in winter during the day the sun always seems to be shining onto the laptop screen.

The DH installed a wireless network, and I moved to the dining table in our living room. That was better temperature-wise, no matter the season, but the wooden chairs were uncomfortable for long periods, and if the DH wanted to watch TV I had a hard time not being distracted by it.

About this time last year, I moved my small desk from the sun room to the guest room, and bought an inexpensive, cushioned office chair. At first I put the desk into a corner beside the queen bed - but I found myself feeling claustrophic. I finally did a major clean-out, sorting out boxes that had been filling the small alcove which will, one day, house a piano. Now it houses my desk, and we've moved the DH's old bookshelf into the room so I have a place to store books and files. It's still not spacious, but it works much better. The window to my left looks out to bushland, and to my right I look down the passageway and out the french doors in our bedroom; I don't feel as claustrophobic. DH also hooked speakers up to my computer, so I can listen to decent quality music without having to wear headphones.

Here's a close-up: my favourite mug with tea, my knitting, Ann's blog on the screen, a pin-board with photos for my wip, Bats to watch over me, and yes, that's a giraffe riding on the computer ;-)

Thursday, February 23, 2006

I don't think I'm going to be one of those writers where readers say all the characters are the same. They're certainly very diverse in my imagining. Occasionally I almost wish that I could write more stereotypical ones - or maybe I should say 'archetypal' - but each one of mine lands in my imagination with a strong and very individual emotional core, and I have to then build on that, keep the character consistent and true to themselves, and work out all the whys and hows of who they are.

I've mentioned before that I've been jotting notes and ideas for the second book after Shadows and Light; I really have to know in my own mind where I'll be going with this linked trilogy before I can proceed much further.

I can already tell that the heroine of this book, Mariane, is going to provide me with some significant writing challenges. She's a quiet, dedicated, academic historian, thrown as soon as the book opens into a world she's totally unequipped for - on the run from the CIA, MI6, and ASIS, not to mention a powerful arms dealer.

My challenge in this will be to keep Mariane real, without slipping into the convenience of traditional characterisations; she's neither a kickbutt heroine, nor a wimpy heroine who has to be rescued. Yet in the first chapter, she will be struggling in a world she doesn't understand enough to deal with - but I have to keep the plot real, too, without building in contrivances to enable her to show her strengths. (Yes, I know being on the run from assoretd intelligences agencies and arms dealers sounds very James Bond fantasy-ish, but that's not the style I write in ;-) )

It's just as well I've got a while to mull this over before I get serioulsy into writing it ;-)

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Teeth grinding

A week or so ago, I bought Bronwyn Jameson's book, The Rugged Loner. The Harlequin and Silhouette books aren't published here until several months after the US, and so I'd been eagerly awaiting Bron's book - I don't read many books of that line, but Bron is not only a good writer, she's a wonderfully warm and supportive member of the Romance Writers of Australia and great company at conferences. (Plus she has a really great name ;-) )

So, I went into K-Mart to buy her book. They publish some of the Harl/Sil lines here in Australia as duos, so you get two stories in the same book. And my heart sank. Bron's book was packaged with an author whose stories I really don't like. I bought it anyway, of course, but I confess I did feel cranky with Harlequin.

The other author? Diana Palmer. I know that many people love her, she's a Big Name Author who's sold a gazillion books, and she's probably a wonderful person. But I've tried to read two of her books in the past and have been grinding my teeth by page 2. Those books just didn't mesh with my taste in reading. Obviously, she does appeal to millions of readers, which is fine, and just goes to illustrate that there's no right or wrong, and personal taste is subjective.

Anyway, after I read Bron's fantastic story, (woo-hoo Bron! Can't wait till the next one comes out!), I decided to try Diana's, thinking maybe I just didn't read her best ones previously. Maybe this one I'd enjoy....

I gave up on page 5. I wanted to throttle the heroine for being spineless and TSTL, and knee the hero. Not a great start for relating to characters and believing in the possibility of a HEA. I looked at the copyright page, assuming it was an early 1980s novel re-released. Nope, it was first published in 2005.

So, what's my point in relating this? The romance genre is wide, and the readership is not some homogenous lump of all exactly-the-same women. Diana writes, very successfully, books that appeal to some of those women. No writer - not even La Nora, or Jennifer Crusie - appeals to everyone. Some love them, some hate them, some are merely indifferent. That's more than okay - that's the way it should be. Diversity is wonderful! Without that diversity, our genre and our industry would be tiny.

So, with all due respect to Diana Palmer, I'm not going to try and finish her book. I don't wish her ill, or even really begrudge her the $$ I spent, but my reading time is too limited to read books I'm not enjoying.

What I do wish, however, is that Harlequin in Australian gave some more consideration to the whole publishing of two books in one volume thing. I don't know if others found the pairing of Bron's and Diana's books strange, but I wouldn't be surprised if they did - it would seem to me that Bron's gutsy, independent heroines and Diana's more traditional ones would appeal to different readers. Maybe that's Harlequin's ploy - get both readerships to buy the book. That's fine for Bron and Diana - but do you think I can send Harlequin the bill for getting my teeth fixed???

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Belfry Blog day

It's my day to post over on the Belfry Collective Blog today.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

My (weird) writer's imagination

Are you ready for this train of thought?? Follow closely and hold on tight, because we're going round some bends mighty fast....

Over on the Smart Bitches the other day, there was discussion about pennames and someone also mentioned porn star names - the name of your first pet, plus the name of the street you grew up.

Sugar Tulip. That's my name according to this formula. Yep, it has a certain ring about it - although I'm definitely no porn star... (watch out - first bend coming up) ...but maybe Sugar writes spicy...

The 'Sugar' and the sort-of rhyming with 'Mint Julep'? Southern USA, and I naturally think of New Orleans, (since we've been thinking spicy) and can't you just see a large, older woman with a definite wicked glint in her eye and a whole-hearted appreciation of life? Okay, so she's probably African-American, and I'm definitely not, so the equivalent would be....

The women in Sue Janson's art work, that I saw in a gallery in Bendigo, Victoria a few weeks back, and absolutely loved. Gorgeous colours, large older women full of joie de vivre, a sense of fun and adventure, loving life and not afraid to live it on their own terms, with plenty of humour.

(Go over to her website and take a look - the images are copyright stamped, but you'll get the idea anyway - and you can order prints and cards. The original paintings are large and I'd love to buy a couple, but that will have to wait a while... in the meantime, I think I'll buy a print. Or two.)

So there you go - in just a flash of a train of thought, Sugar Tulip comes to life ;-)

I don't think I'll actually ever write as her, but I could definitely see her as a character in a book ;-)

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Catching up (again)

I know, I haven't posted for a while. But I have put some photos up on the other blog - evidence that I've actually been exercising. And I've been to the gym a few times. I'm never going to become a gym freak, but I'm trying to be serious about losing the weight I need to lose. Not manic - I'm sooo not into pain or deprivation - but by upping my exercise and reducing my intake a little, I'm hoping to make a difference over the next few months.

In other news, today I had lunch with the only two other romance writers in my town. Kelly Hunter and I have had lunch a few times before, and Michelle has just moved to town, so it was great to get together and natter about writing. I don't get to talk to real, live romance writers face-to-face very often - one of the few perils of rural living - so it's always enjoyable when I can.

Kelly's first book, Wife for a Week, a Mills and Boon Modern Extra, will be published in the UK in March. I'm not sure when it comes out in Australia, but we're going to try to talk Kelly in to a local booklaunch and celebration ;-)

It's a great cover, and you should read the excerpt on Kelly's website. It's wonderful - and I'm definitely going to buy the book when it comes out here. Not to mention be first in line for an autograph at that booklaunch we're going to have ;-)

Monday, January 09, 2006

Face of a hero (or three)

One of my challenges as a writer is that I'm a kinesthetic person, rather than a visual one. So, while I have a strong sense of my characters, I find it hard to actually get a clear visual picture. But I need an image, so that I can study it and work out how I might describe the person in visual terms if required. And to pin up on my notice board as inspiration (or perspiration, in some cases ;-) )

So, since I don't get to see a heap of TV or movies these days, I gave my batty writing group some brief word pictures and asked for suggestions of faces that might work for two of my characters in books I'll be seriously working on shortly - Cole Tanner in Shadows and Light, and Morgan 'Gil' Gillespie in Dark Legacy.

For Cole, who can pass as a local in parts of Central Asia (the '-stan' countries), Kris suggested Nicholas Lea:

Hmmm.... Yum. Yep, I could drool look at that face for a while ;-)

But he's a little young for Cole, unfortunately. And, as a friend of mine once said about someone, 'This is his first time around.' Now, I'm not really into reincarnation, but there are some people who seem to have older souls than others, and Nicholas (in this photo anyway) doesn't seem to be one of them - whereas Cole knows life on a deep level. So, Nicholas is going into the resources file - and he may well appear as a hero in another book... yes, there's a definite possibility...

Angie sent me a link to a website with thousands of photos of aspiring actors and models, and I found this guy (a model called Loukas), who isn't right for Cole either, but I'll post him anyway in case it prompts someone to think of other suggestions:

(The face shape, skin, hair is right, but the mouth seems wrong to me - a bit self-indulgent, pouty, soft. Which Cole definitely isn't in the slightest. And the eyes/expression aren't quite right, either. All in all, this guy just isn't deep enough for Cole.)

Now, for 'Gil' Gillespie, last night I rummaged through a few pics I'd saved over the years, and found this one:

Give him black hair and dark eyes, and this particular photo of Clive Owen could well be Gil - tough, hard, and walking sometimes on the edge of the law. Not to mention droolable. Oh, yes....

I didn't ask the Bats about images for another hero, Ronan. Ronan appears as a colleague and friend of Cole in Shadows and Light, and will be the hero in Shadows and Dreams. Ronan gives the impression of a less complex personality than Cole - a fun guy, less serious, taking life lightly, although in reality he is a dedicated and serious professional. He just hides it well ;-). (Of course, in his story, he will be thrown into some extremely heart-wrenching situations....)

I found this image on the model/actor site, and it kinda works. There's a depth of character there, but you can see there's a grin not far below the surface:

But for Ronan, I suspect that I'll come back to Hugh:

Oh, yes, we do men well here in Australia ;-)

This 5 minutes of bliss was brought to you by Bron's usually-Boring Blog.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Your library online

Here's a free, fun and useful tool for romance readers:


You can quickly build an online catalogue of your books, tag them, rate them, share your list with others, and see what people who have the same books as you are also reading - a great way to find out about new books to read! The service draws on worldwide amazon and library databases, so cataloging books is not a laborious process - simply enter title key words and author's name, and then select the correct book from the listing that comes up.

I haven't had time to enter more than a couple of books yet - just trying out the site - but you can see my very meager listing here to see what a listing looks like.

The free service lets you catalogue up to 200 books; you can sign up for an unlimited catalogue for a small fee.

Have fun!

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Everywhere but here..

It was my day to post at The Belfry Collective yesterday - so I did.

And this morning I made a walk into a photo exercise (because I hate any other sort of exercise) and the results are in my photoblog - and also up at Flickr, because I'm exploring it at the moment (as part of research for my day job - I'm supposed to know about these social software sites).

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The backup fiend

Today I came across a free site for file storage that allows up to 1GB of space, and enables you to directly upload files and apply tags to them for easy finding. You can also, if you wish, share files from the site, (and there is support for developing and/or running assorted applications to automatically doing things with the files - not that I'm planning on using that, since I don't actually understand that side of it.)

The site is

What's a tag, you ask? Rather than using a folder structure, you can apply one or more tags (or keywords) to each file. Then, you can easily find it by looking under any one of those tags. You don't have to search through folders to find where the heck you put it ;-)

You can also upload zipped files to openomy, which means you can get a fair amount in that 1GB of space.

I'm a bit manic about back-ups, having seen too many writing friends and others lose significant amounts of work. One back-up isn't enough, because they can and do fail (especially if it's a flash-drive or CD). So, I'll be adding openomy to my back-up system.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Muse music

Like many writers, I often use background music to inspire the Muse. For me, it can't be just anything, and I've put together playlists to evoke the emotional ambience for the various characters and novels. For some, it's easy - Calli and Elliot in Falling into Darkness have a mix of haunting instrumental and folk pieces, and the raw earthiness of The Waterboys is perfect for Gil and Kris in Dark Legacy, especially Gil.

But I'm a bit stuck putting together a play list for Shadows and Light, even though we have over 350 CDs in our ecletic collection, including classical, gregorian chant, medieval, folk and world music, jazz and blues, rock, and alternative, and just about everything in between.

I've so far picked out Jane Sheldon's 'Silencium' (the theme for the British TV series 'Silent Witness'), and Dead Can Dance's 'The Writing on my Father's Hand'; the haunting, ethereal melodies and harmonies of these are right for the heroine, Sonia, for the different paths she's chosen, for the suffering she's seen and survived herself. There's strength and sorrow and grief and hope in those songs, just as there is in Sonia.

However, for the hero, I've so far hit a brick wall. The only thing that's come close so far is Morricone's 'Gabriel's Oboe' (from the film, The Mission.) Cole is a man who's given everything - even his own identity - to serve as only he can. He's isolated, alone, never able to be himself, no longer even sure who he is. 'Gabriel's Oboe' has the sense of isolation, of struggle and exile, that is right for Cole. However, it's only one piece, and I need some more!

I suspect have a few tracks in the LP collection that would be appropriate, but unfortunately I currently don't have a way to transfer vinyl to digital, nor much space left on my computer to download individual tracks. I might just have to clear up some space and do a bit of a hunt on the web, though - because I think that the love theme from Renaissance's 'Scheherazade' will work for them, and there's a beautiful track on Rick Wakeman's soundtrack for the 1976 Winter Olympics film that will probably fit, and I might be able to download both the from the web.

And then the Muse will have no excuse!

New Year

We made it back from our wanderings, and had a good time down south. The last few days the weather has been stinking hot, but we're looking forward to a cooler change today. or tomorrow. Or sometime soon....

So, the New Year has come, and 2006 is happening.

Looking back, 2005 wasn't the best year of my life, but we made it through. Around September, I realised how burnt out I really was; in the previous year or two, I'd had four family members battling life-threatening illnesses, a close friend nearly dying several times, my own major surgery and the consequent painful leg injury that resulted, major projects at work and constant swapping between part-time, full-time, and assorted other job contracts. Being overweight, with high blood-pressure, and suffering from some variety of sleep apnoea wasn't helping much either - although probably isn't surprising!

And in the middle of all of that, I was trying to write very emotional scenes, and feeling like shirt because it just wasn't working. I finally realised that my emotional energy was gone, drained, and that I needed to restore that before I could really, seriously, get back into writing again. I'm not the sort of person who falls apart easily - I'm a 'coper' - but I realised how little was actually holding everything emotionally together, and that underneath the surface coping cheerfulness, I just wanted to crawl into a hole. So, I stopped beating myself about the head for not achieving, and for the last few months I've tried to feed the soul a little more, recharge the creativity, and improve my physical health. I've never been one for drugs and therapy, so I'm doing this my way, with only a little help from blood-presure medication, which is also reducing the migraine frequency.

So, for 2006, I'm looking forward to a better, more productive, more enjoyable year. There's still illness in the family - my parents are ageing, and battling assorted conditions - but my sister and brother-in-law are both doing well at present, and my friend's health is slowly improving. Work will continue to be mad for a while, and I'm not sure yet whether the restructuring about to occur will see me promoted, demoted, or made redundant - but I'll worry about the later two if they happen, not before.

And as for writing, while I haven't been productive, word-count wise, this past year, I have made decisions about direction - what it is I want to write, and where I'm aimining it for - and now I can focus on getting there.