Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Most frequently asked questions by Swedish students

I get a great deal of mail from students in Sweden who seem to have been set a project on their favourite author. If they read this website, they should have enough information about me, and as I really don't have too much spare time to reply to each and every one of them, I thought I would do a short biography here.
I was born in Launceston, Tasmania, on 25th February 1948.
I moved with my mother and grandmother to Devonport when I was a few months old, and remained there until I was ten.
My grandmother adopted me when I was six, and as she was English and wanted to return home, she took me with her. I attended an all-girl's school in the UK which I hated, but nevertheless made many friends, with whom I am still in touch.
I trained as a secretary, worked for a few years, got married, had three children and then got divorced. I remarried, divorced again, and am now married to 'im indoors who I met when I was fifteen. Three children, three husbands, there is a pattern there somewhere.
I began to write when I was forty, and by the time I was forty-six had had my first book published. It was a psychological thriller, as was the following one. In 1998 I returned to Australia for the first time since I'd left, wrote Matilda's Last Waltz, and the rest is history. I get my inspiration from the dramatic scenery of Australia, from the people who cared for me as a child, and from the stories that I hear on my travels. I don't claim to be a literary author, but hopefully a popular one. I live in the south of England with 'im indooors who will remain nameless as he's already quite conceited enough - and we have two cats, five children and four grandchildren between us. I have five out of the six wardrobes in our bedroom - a large part of which is filled with shoes and handbags. Him indoors has the spare bedroom wardrobe, the bedroom chair, floor and bed etc., on which to hang his clothes.
My writing day begins at ten - I don't do early mornings - and goes on until six or half past. I work Monday to Friday, unless under a deadline, and don't limit myself to numbers of pages or words. I let it flow, and if it isn't, then I stop and do something else until it does!

Down Under Adventures

HI there, I'm back - well just about, the jet lag, flue and a nasty cough has kept me low. But at least I am alive, which is a minor miracle considering that 'im indoors tried to kill me during our long trip in Australia. More of that later, can't let you know all the juicy bits too soon!
It has never failed to delight and amaze me that so many love my books, want to meet and talk to me and shower me with praise. This isn't false modesty, just an inherent shyness and inability to handle so much praise all at once. I consider myself to be very ordinary, despite my background and family, and as I sit in my office and write my stories and let my imagination flow, I have little idea of how many lives I am touching. It's awesome and I don't think I'll ever truly take it in, and will certainly never get too blase about it all - an author's popularity rests only on the success of the latest book - not the comfort of their laurels!
Anyway, we're back from Australia, shattered, happy, jet-lagged and dealing with all the winter colds and germs that met us on our arrival. It was a long, but successful trip, catching up with friends and family, seeing favourite places, finding new ones, eating and drinking too much and getting to know my grandsons. My eldest son hit forty this year - shame, as I can now no longer pretend I'm forty - but then I was a mere child when I had him. Or that's what I tell everyone.
His birthday fell on Melbourne Cup Day, which happened to be hot and sunny and we all went out for lunch, lost our shirts on the horse that didn't win, but had a fab time anyway.
This trip was all about getting out there to meet my readers, to talk to them and to do some research for the next book. It was fantastic to see so many eager faces at every event, and I even managed to meet one or two fans who have been sending me e-mails via my website, so that was a real bonus. Glenva was brilliant,so was her afternoon tea! Then, in Tasmania I met up with a tutor I had as a child in Devonport. I remembered only the horrid french lessons, but he was a lovely chap, and I felt a little embarrassed that I hadn't kept up the french after all his efforts - still, I know enough to order coffee, chocolate and to ask how much are those shoes. What more does a girl need?
Tasmania managed to rain on my parade, but having asked for help to do research I was inundated with names, addresses and e-mails - everyone was so very kind, and I can't thank them enough for giving up their time for me. Beryl thanks for all your phone calls and the amazing depths of knowledge you have of Tasmanian horse racing etc., and for your enormous tea - 'im indoors is still getting over it! Thanks to Merle for being such a super fan, to Tracey for giving up so much of her time and to Dianna and Tony for their hospitality.
Our journey took us from Perth to Sydney, up the coast to Buderim, then after a lovely stay with my son and his family, into the country and back down south to Sydney. Tasmania followed for ten days, then up to Melbourne and back to the UK. Eight weeks in all - my cats were delighted to see me again, even though they both resembled footballs after so long in the cattery! In fact, Bluey was so fat he could only squeek, so he and 'im indoors were put on strict diets. Neither of them like it, but I'm only being cruel to be kind - if you see what I mean.
Anyway, I have to get my own back somehow. He almost killed me during a particularly long drive in the hinterland of New South Wales! There I am looking at the scenery, day-dreaming pleasant things, when I glance at the road ahead. There's a lorry, coming straight for us. We're on the wrong side of the road, and 'im indoors is asleep. I yell. He wakes. The car slews off the road and we sit there in the ensuing cloud of dust as the lorry roars past with an angry blast of several horns and much flashing of lights. Needless to say I took over the driving, but it was a while before my pulse rate got back to normal. That's the danger of the hinterland, with a low sun, a heat haze on the tarmac and nothing to look at for miles but the slowly unwinding ribbon of road. It's all to easy to fall asleep, which is why I always take 'im indoors with me to share the driving.
It was an eventful trip, not earth-shattering, but pleasant, feeding kurrawongs on our apartment balcony, watching hawks hunting overhead, visiting stud farms and gazing at foals - super. Can't wait to get back there!

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Jet lag and rain

I'm back, which is probably stating the obvious, but here I am at my desk, looking out onto the sodden fields and grey sky. What happened to summer? I seem to have missed it - even managed to visit Melbourne in their winter, only to return here and find the weather is about the same.
Jetting across the world is exhausting, even if you do it with some style, and although it is always easier coming back to the UK as far as jet lag is concerned, there is a point in the afternoon where the eylids droop and I wake up to find I've been dribbling and snoring in my comfy chair. It's the sign of old age, I swear, but I'm doing my best to ignore it!
Melbourne was cold, damp and grey, but we walked for hours through the city, marvelling at all the changes that have been made there during the eight or so years since our last visit. The art gallery was my first port of call. McCubbin's Pioneers calls me every time I'm anywhere near it, so I spent at least an hour just gazing at it. A group of schoolchildren joined me with their teacher, and it was interesting to hear their view on what the story of the tryptic was telling.
The Melbourne Literary Festival was making the city hum, and Spellbound on Southbank, which was the Romantic Writer's Conference played quite a part in the occasion. The first night was a bit nerve-racking, as I didn't know anyone at all, and was afraid I was over dressed. I needn't have worried, everyone was very welcoming, and as for the dress code - it was fancy dress! There were fairies of every size and age, witches, princes, princesses,, pirates - you name it, they were there. I wish I'd known, I'd have gone as something suitably fluffy and pink!
I didn't win the Romantic Book of the Year award, but I didn't really expect to, and when the winner was announced I was delighted, for I have read the book, and it was indeed a worthy winner, and I enjoyed it very much.
Him indoors drove the hire car out to Gippsland where the lovely people at Bairnsdale and Sale welcomed us so warmly we almost didn't want to leave. Drinks, nibbles, dinner and breakfast were provided, and to top it all, we were accommodated in a fabulous heritage hotel, complete with big brass bed and real lace curtains.
With the Bob Dylan song reverberating in my head (Lay lady lay - lay across my big brass bed) I was looking forward to a bit of fun at the end of the night. Him indoors had other ideas. As I was making myself beautiful - well, doing my best - in the bathroom, he fell asleep. I entered the bedroom and posed in the doorway to no avail, but to the sound of snoring. Charming! Now, if Bob Dylan had been there it might have been a whole different story!
We came back to the UK to rain. Went to Hereford to catch up with school pals I hadn't seen for x number of years - a lifetime really - and it rained. Then we went down to Cornwall. It was raining there too. At this rate I won't have a tan, I'll be rusty!
Him indoors began his usual stint of gardening, and gave me a terrible fright. He crashed through the front door, white as a sheet and breathing hard! Collapsed into the chair, groaned and sighed and was still breathing hard. I thought he'd had a heart attack. Frantic with worry, I knelt by him and asked what had happened. Turned out he'd fallen down a hole, ate grass on the way down, and took ages to get out again - it was a deep hole. I fell about laughing, which wasn't very kind. It was probably relief!
So, we're back here in Sussex again, someone is mowing their lawn in the drizzle, the shetland ponies are nibbling in the paddock and my cat, Tilly is sitting on the printer watching me type. I just know she's about to pounce - far too tempting to have moving things in front of her.
By the way, the back is well, just in case you were interested. It seems that all that sitting about during the so-called summer has healed it all by itself, which means I don't have to have an op, can go back to the gym, and generally get on with my life. Of course I won't be lifting heavy things again, will avoid gardening if at all possible, and will definitely turn a deaf ear when 'im indoors say's, 'Darling, can you just hold this?'
Bye for now. Will write again soon.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Good News Day

Not only has the weather been fantastic - so hot that even I, the original sun-babe found it too much in the sun - but I've had a really good day. First, I got an email from someone I haven't seen since two years after leaving school, and I got to speak to her tonight. She doesn't sound as if she's changed much, still as mad as a hatter, for which I'm very grateful. We were a couple of gals in those days and constantly in trouble with our horrible old headmistress - who has since passed on - and it's nice to know that the spirit of those two young girls is still there behind the aches and pains of age and decrepitude! We spent an hour and a half trying to catch up on the lost years, which of course wasn't nearly long enough, so the next plan is to meet up. That could be a problem, I'm rarely in the country or not writing, and she's a busy wife, mother, holiday letting person and grandma. But we will do it - and not before time!
The other nice thing that happened today was that I found out when Legacy will come out. For all my fans, that will be in May 2008 in hardback, October in paperback, in the UK. I suspect it will be the same sort of time in Australia as well.
So, I can relax, enjoy the sun while it's out - evidently we'll be losing it again on Friday and have yet more rain - and generally sort myself out for the next book. I have realised it will take acres of research, but that's what I enjoy. Putting the pieces of the puzzle together, weaving the tale, agonising over dates and ages....... Well, I enjoy most of it most of the time! I've had a nice day today - I hope you have too, and that tomorrow the sun will shine for you!

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Dangerous Liaisons

It's lovely being married, but there is a dangerous side to living with a man - as I have found to my cost. No, I'm not talking about wife-beating, divorce or nasty things like that. It's the few words he says as he bustles about with tools and diy. The most dangerous words any man can say to his woman is 'can you just hold this while I...'
I have learnt to my cost that I should ignore these words. For they are the cause of my slipped disc. Him indoors denies it, of course. Well, he would wouldn't he. But it is an indisputable fact that if I hadn't held onto the shed roof while he messed about, I would be in this state now.
I never realised how heavy shed roofs are until asked to hold one up while he aligned it. To the right a tad, no left. Up, woman, for goodness sake, I can't line up the screws. Never mind me, wedged against the other shed, arms trembling with the sheer weight of the blasted thing, knees shuddering and threatening to collapse under me. To the right, no up a bit, now left. Hold it. Hold it. I can't. It's too heavy. But I can't let go of it either or it will decapitate me and I have nowhere to run to avoid it - wedged as I am between the old shed and the new one.
He takes for ever to screw in screws, find the hammer, something to stand on etc., while I sweat and strain and generally lose all ability to stand upright. My arms are dropping off. This is worse than the gym!
Finally it is done. 'You can let go now.'
I gingerly let go, expecting any minute for the whole darn thing to come plummetting down - I know him indoors' diy capabilities, and they are legendary (unfortunately for all the wrong reasons.) It stays up! Amazing. But I can hardly walk back down the garden to the house because my knees are sagging and my poor arms are still trembling.
The thing about backs is they don't always go when you expect them to. It was five days later when mine decided to pay me back for being so stupid to hold up a roof at my age - any age is a daft thing really. It went with all the suddenness of a summer lightning strike. My back went into spasm, locking me absolutely brilliantly into twelve hours of hell. The surgeon had me xrayed and zapped in a tube - very odd experience, not helped by the fact the chap in charge forgot to turn on the headphones so I couldn't hear the music, just the rather disconcerting heartbeat of the machine and its rattle and groans.. Anyway, as I was saying, the surgeon decided my disc had slipped and I had visions of something askew in my spine which could be manipulated back.
Wrong. It isn't really slipped at all - it has been squashed, and all the gooey stuff inside has come out and attached itself to the sciatic nerves and anything else that dared to be in the same vicinity at the time. Lovely. Just what you need when you're about to fly off to Australia for an award ceremony!!!!
The surgeon arranged for the operation to deal with this slippage - or seepage - or whatever it is, but there's a problem. The recovery time is six weeks. My flight goes four weeks and he won't let me get in a plane! The answer was to cancel the op. I'll have it when I get back.
I hasten to reasure you, should you care, that I'm no longer in pain thanks to steroid tablets. My chin has remained hairless and my voice is still quite girly, but the pain has gone, and now, I can manage the discomfort with a pain killer in the morning. As long as I don't stand for too long, or walk to far and not lift anything remotely heavy, I can cope.
So, the long and short of it is, if him indoors says to you, 'can you just hold this?' RUN!!! It's what I should have done.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Hair yesterday - gone today and other stuff

I've done something today that usually frightens the life out of me. I went to a new hairdresser. Now you might think that that's really silly to be frightened of someone wielding a pair of scissors - but it's not. Hairdressers are notorious for cutting off too much - turning a fringe into a pelmet and hacking away at the back where you can't see until she whips out a mirror and says, what do you think? By then it's too late. The tresses are gone, the neck is bare and my face is visible to all. A scary thought. I like to really know my hairdresser - to be secure in the knowledge she is listening to me, knows what I want and does as I ask. So a new one is a terrifying ordeal. She has to be trained into my way of thinking. Has to know my particular foibles, as well as my follicles (is that how you spell it? It's too late to dig out the dictionary now) and generally pamper to my every whim. I'm not usually bossy, but I've had the odd - very odd - ghastly experience of hairdressers, so approaching a new member of the sisterhood is a daunting prospect.
But I should not have feared - and here, Chris, I give you my apologies for being unfaithful to you - but when the grey has come through in six inch tramlines along the top of my head, there is no other solution but to try and find a suitable replacement! For those of you in the dark, Chris is a brilliant hairdresser - but she lives in Cornwall, and as I had a bad back last time I was there and couldn't take advantage of her brilliant services, I've had to resort to finding a more local expert. It seems I was worrying needlessly. My hair has been beautifully cut, coloured and generally beautified from the previous sunbleached, tangled mess it was, and I feel so much better that I can actually face my reflection in a mirror. It's been a while.
Other news. Him indoors is going to be a grandfather again - and it's another girl. She will be born when we are in Australia celebrating my eldest son's birthday - but Christmas will be enhanced with her arrival.
Our new cat, Tilly is sitting on my lap, trying to help me write this blog. Not helpful at all. She can not only not spell, but she can't type either, and if I dare to try and get her off the keyboard, she swears at me. Nice. Nothing like snarling at the hand that feeds, cossets, strokes and fusses. Why do I love cats so much when actually they are selfish, stuck up, and generally antisocial except when they want to be?
My second son lives in Thailand and his sister is visiting him at the moment. He's broke as usual, but I seem to have become deaf to pleas of poverty. He's fallen off his scooter so can't do his diving at the moment and is scratching a living by teaching others to take underwater films - I suppose scratching is the wrong word really, as he's managed to scrape a good deal of his skin off on the rubble that's called a road in Koh Tao! Now he's moaning that his sister has brought the rain - I hate to tell him, but I thought it was monsoon season anyway!? I could be wrong.
Better go, talking rubbish and it's late, and I have to get everything done tomorrow morning nice and early so I can lounge about all afternoon and watch the tennis at Wimbledon. It's a terrible time waster, tennis at Wimbledon, but it wouldn't be summer without it. That and strawberries and cream. Some things are so British and so delicious they are impossible to resist. Good night!

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Don't get it right, get it written!!!!

The above is an old writing adage which holds true today as it ever did. I find that if I crash through my stories from beginning to end and lay down the skeleton of the tale as quickly as possible, it makes the whole thing far more exciting - to write, and hopefully to read. Legacy is now finished - or at least I thought it was - my agent has decided otherwise and needs me to do a bit of tweaking before it goes off to my editor. Ho, hum, looks like it's work for me over the coming days, it's a good thing the weather forecast is bad and that my back has become accustomed to my typing chair again. It was murder a few weeks ago, couldn't sit, couldn't stand, couldn't even get into bed and lie down without a great deal of drama and being propped up by 'im indoors. He's fast becoming a legend, you know. People are always asking after him - and he's threatened to start up his own blog in competition. I've told him to go ahead - anything's better than him crashing into mine and messing the whole thing up like last time! Lovely he might be, kind certainly, but he's no computer buff, and I always know when he's been experimenting.
Anyway, with Legacy almost under my belt, my thoughts have now turned to what I am going to do next. It's a puzzle, and not an easy one. Should I continue with the Australian historical romances - should I set the new one firmly in England - or should I start it in England and end up in Australia? There seems to be a problem in the UK with books set in Australia - the supermarkets and larger bookshops don't like them - I have no idea why - so consequently, I'm not very well known over here. If I write a book set in England, will that at last see me breaking into the bestseller list here - or will it alienate all my readers who love the books set in Australia. It's a conundrum - and one I have yet to solve. Ideas on a postcard please - or better still, write to me here and let me know what you think.

A Day at the Races

It's that time of year again, and bad back or not, I was not going to miss Ascot. We went on the first day, Tuesday, and i'm indoors drove us there to meet our friends - much more sensible than last year - and we arrived on time! The weather held up, sunny with enough breeze to make it pleasant, and I had recycled the hat from last year by adding lots of silk flowers. Rather resembled Eliza Doolittle, but hey, why not? It is summer after all and the sun was shining. The back is still bad, so I had a pair of flat, sparkly sandals tucked away in my handbag just in case the wedges got too much. I know I shouldn't have been wearing heels at all, but they were solid, and actually held up really well until the very end of the day. Then I reverted to being Tasmanian and off they came. The grass felt wonderfully cool on bare feet!
I managed to win a couple of quidlettes on the horses as well, although Frankie Detorri let me down by not coming in the first three - how dare he - but I was still down on the day. I'm not a gambler, the most I ever put on a horse is a pound each way on the National and The Melbourne Cup - but as I was at Ascot, could see the horses and watch the odds, I went mad. Five quid each way - talk about reckless!!!!
Lots of champagne, good food, good company and an easy drive home meant the day went well, and although my back suffered the next morning by being a little stiff, no real harm done!
I'm off for an MRI scan tomorrow so the specialist can see just what I've actually done to myself, then he can decide how to put it right. Keep everything crossed I don't need an op!
We finally managed to get to the garden centre today to sort out bedding plants for all those empty pots and hanging baskets - it's a bit late in the season really, but we had a lovely sunny afternoon, 'im indoors carried anything heavy, swore and went pink around the ears trying to put a sun lounger together and generally made himself useful. Love him. I know how frustrated he's getting with me being off form, but he's trying so hard not to lose it - I can forgive him a bit of a swear-up over the sun lounger - the instructions were in Chinese, and the diagrams were absolutely no help at all.
I am writing this late at night because there's rubbish on the tv, football, football, football and repeat programmes - lovely - there are moths coming through the open window, the cat, Tilly is scratching frantically at the door and it's really my bed time. Tilly by the way is gorgeous, running to greet me every morning the minute she hears me up and about, sitting on my lap when I'm working - which isn't as much fun because she thinks she knows how to touch type - and generally endearing herself to me. Now I realise that cupboard love comes into this, she's being fed, loved and sheltered properly for the first time in her life and wants to keep things that way, but I like to think she likes me just a little, and I'm sure if her purring is anything to go by, she likes me quite a lot!
I'd better go, I'm rambling. Wish me luck for tomorrow. I have my flight booked for Melbourne in August, and I don't want to miss it.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Back in the Driving Seat

It's amazing isn't it? One bad back, six weeks of agony and a week of steroids and 'im indoors decides he's the blogger, author - general factotem! He even tells you my biggest piece of news before I can get my poor old bottom back in my chair! So now you know about the nomination and the fact that we're off to Australia in August - not really looking forward to the twenty three hours of flying - not with this back - but I wouldn't miss it for the world. And he's right, the art gallery is brilliant in Melbourne, and I can't wait to see McCubbin's Pioneers again. I have a large print of that tryptic on my wall in my lounge-room, and gaze at it frequently. It is so evocative, so beautiful that one feels you could just walk into it and smell the eucalyptus and the woodsmoke.
Enough of all that. I've had my hair cut and it's very short - too short really, but then I did risk a new hairdresser - always scary - and it will grow again. The one good thing about a bad back is that I've had plenty of time to sit in the sun and get a tan. Not politically correct really, but I feel better when I'm bronzed, and like to think I might even look a bit better too. The upshot is I can now wear orange and turquoise, and even yellow - colours not usually worn when pale and uninteresting in the winter.
The cats have settled in - just. We still have punch-ups in the middle of the night with fury felines doing the wall of death around the bedroom and up and down the stairs. But it's fun - some of the time. Tilly has decided she doesn't like the catflap and will only use it if him indoors opens it up and keeps it open with a bit of elastic so she doesn't have to put her nose against it and push her way through. Very lady-like - which is more than I can say about her language. Poor Bluey, he's quite shocked at her swearing, and when she's really wound-up, it is appalling!
Back to bed now. Will write again soon.

In Sickness and in Health.....

Hi there, it's 'm indoors writing a quick note on 'er upstairs behalf. Poor dear, she's been in a lot of pain with a suspected slipped disc for the last six weeks and can't sit at her workdesk for very long. And it's all been happening just at this most inconvenient time.
First the good news, 'Lands Beyond the Sea' has been shortlisted for the Romantic Novel of the Year in Oz so as it's the first time the old girl has been nominated for anything - apart from the oldest swinger in town -we have decided to make another journey to the other side of the world this year and see what it's all about. Melbourne in winter, that could be fun, even in summer you can get all four seasons in a day but we do love the city itself and it will give us a chance to visit their wonderful art gallery once more.
The bad news? Well, apart from Tam's back I suppose there isn't any. We will miss most of our August break with friends in Cornwall and I do have to go on a boozy weekend in France on my own but if we can repair Tam's back and the pain killing steroids don't result in her growing a beard then the future looks bright. Here's hoping she will be back to write the blog herself very soon so I can get on with the important work of writing lists of jobs which I probably won't ever do.

Monday, 28 April 2008

Mexican Stand off.

We have a new cat, her name is Tyler, but we've decided to call her Tilly. She's six, a tabby with a sweet nature and great big green eyes. She's not very lady-like, her language is quite shocking, and poor old Blue, my ginger tom, is not impressed. She swears at him like a tart on a street corner whenever he dares to approach the food bowl, blanket, her chair, or even the stairs, and he eyes her with disdain and slinks off. Poor old boy, he used to be king of the lane where we live, and he's been usurped by an uppity upstart!
They have settled down - sort of. She sleeps on the spare bed, he sits outside the door, thereby asserting his bossiness by not letting her out of the room. If she's in our bedroom, he sits at the top of the stairs cutting off her escape route. He hadn't really taken into consideration the fact that she's female, very indipendant and absolutely free with her language and her claws. They've agreed to disagree, so it's a start I suppose.
But it's lovely to have a cat, especially a tabby female, who loves being picked up and cuddled, who enjoys my company and will sit on my lap for hours. The only time I don't appreciate her - or Blue, is at night. Two days after her arrival, they were both on our bed. We were asleep, it was four in the morning. Tilly decided she wanted to see what Blue was doing on the other side of him indoors, and POW KAPOW - cat fight on the bed, tooth, claw and fur flying all over the place. A quick rampage around the room, two cats doing the wall of death before they shoot out and down the stairs. The cat-flap rattling in their wake. Talk about a wake up call!
They don't do that any more thank goodness. I need my sleep.

The Moment I've been waiting for

That's it, I've finally written those magic two words - The End - on part three, Legacy. It happened on Wednesday, quite by surprise really. I knew I was close, but didn't realise it was that close. Now that may seem strange to you, but it's the way it happens sometimes. The characters have done and said all they need to, the strands of the plots have all come together, the mysteries solved - there's nothing left but to say goodbye and move on.
It's a sad moment, although it is also a triumph. Ihave never written a trilogy before and it was a mammoth task and a very steep learning curve, but I've done it! It's over bar the shouting - ie, editing, mucking about and having it come back and forth from the publishers to tweak. I'm free for at least three days - then it's on to the next project. I have four lined up at the moment, and know which I'm going for. It's a bit like a kid outside the window of a sweet shop, mouthwatering, heart pounding, already tasting the delicious wares that are displayed. This of course wears off when I'm in the middle of the book and I've hit a snag, got a block, too much going on to concentrate and huge doubts as to my ability to carry it off. But this is where the characters come in. They bully me and chide me and shove me back into my chair so their stories can be finished - I've left them hanging you see, and they don't like it - and neither do I. It's unfinished business. But those characters become very real as I write my stories, and when it is time to leave them behind and meet new friends, it is hard to forget them.
I can hear you sniggering and thinking she's off her rocker, and I fully accept that I'm probably not at all normal. It's a bit like being a schitsophrenic - is that how you spell it? I don't know, but I can't be bothered to reach for the dictionary - I'm off on holiday from writing - anyway, as I was saying, I have a lot of characters racing about in my head, and I know them all intimately, so that probably does make for a split personality!!!!!
So I've finished Legacy, it's sitting here in a box on my desk, waiting for that moment when I read it through and start cutting it down. My editor swears I'm the cause of her hernia, for my manuscripts are always hefty.
The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and I have a new cat. Well, she's not new, she's six, but she's a rescue tabby and utterly gorgeous, and will sit on my lap and purr, and even try to put her own paw on my writing while I'm at the computer. Makes for some very strange wording, but hey, she needs to express herself, just as I do. More about her in another blog. For now, I have raised my glass in salute of Legacy and am planning to just mooch about, do a bit of housework - which him indoors hates - and plot the next project. Him indoors hates it when I'm not writing, I tidy up and get ratty when I have to pick up eight pairs of his shoes which he's left scattered about the house - and don't even start me on the laundry basket. Why can't men put things in it, instead of dropping them next to it? Same goes for the dishwasher - oh well, take a deep breath and just let life flow. The End.

Monday, 14 April 2008

follow up to reunion

I'm glad I made someone laugh, but the truth be told I was crying inside too most of the time. Boarding school is hard enough anyway, but when you've been dumped in a foreign country among girls you don't know or understand, and then have a headmistress who hates you on sight, then it makes for a lonely few years. I made some wonderful friends, who must have been exhausted by my bad behaviour at school - and I was bad - but I think I just wanted to be noticed, to make any kind of impression as long as I wasn't ignored. I'm still doing it!
I was different you see, not only because I spoke with a strange Aussie accent, but because I lived with my grandmother - I was illegitimate - shock horror, plague to all who enter there! But that was the atmosphere in those days, and if I'd known that the headmistress was sending letters to parents warning them of my bad influence and the chances of their daughters being tainted by having friendship with such a terrible person, I probably would have sued. I still may! It's a good thing I was an innocent abroad in those days - these days I'm just a broad and my innocence was murdered years ago - so watch out! I will return, and boy, am I going to make you take notice!

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Reunion

As our school was pulled down many years ago - probably due to the calibre of student that went there - the headmistress was in constant despair, I seem to remember - we decided to have a reunion to celebrate the fact we had reached a significant birthday, and the fact we are all still alive and have mostly all our marbles, it should be celebrated.
It was quite exhausting trying to track various people down. Many of us have moved abroad, had several husbands, changed our names, decided we want nothing to do with our old school, or the people who went there. But the networking was magnificent, and we had letters from those who couldn't come, emails and phone calls as well, but the majority of our year did turn up, and it was great fun to discover who looked the same - and who didn't. We had drinks, lots of them, in a nice hotel bar, then went into lunch and had more drinks, then coffee, then back into the bar - and yes, you've guessed it, more drinks. Then there was cake and champagne. Photos were hauled out of handbags and laughed over, fingers pointing, who the hell is that? I don't remember, yes, someone on the other side of the room knows who it is, and so on. There were the usual reminiscenses about our days in the torture chamber of our school, and the general consencus was that most of the staff were unqualified old spinsters who had nothing better to do with their days, that only a few should have been allowed to be in charge of young girls, and that if the same sort of things went on in a school today, they would have been sued!!!! 'elf and safety would have had a field-day.
I was reminded that I was always in trouble. Every morning at assembly the cry went up and I was hauled into the headmistresse's study to receive my daily telling off, accept my daily incarceration in the library to learn my daily section of the Bible. I used to know the bit about 'a time to be silent, and a time to speak,' but thankfully have blanked it from my brain.
I was also reminded that I was different, with an odd Aussie accent, which added to my behaviour made me a bit of oddity - but they hadn't realised how lonely I was, how depressed to be shut in that awful place with girls who couldn't understand me, and who I couldn't understand. It was a long time before I began to make some real friends, but it was worth it, for they are still friends today, and it was interesting to hear their take on things.
After cake and champagne, we decided to forego supper before the theatre, and managed to stagger down to the congress theatre to see Voulez Vous, an Abba tribute band. A bit naff, yes, the audience suitably attired in some very strange outfits. but actually it was brilliant, and we were soon up and dancing to the tunes that even the younger generations seem to like. Having worn ourselves out, we then went off to an italian restaurant for supper, got chatted up by the waiters and staggered back to the hotel. I was asleep the minute my head hit the pillow. I had a lovely day, and I hope that if anyone is reading this who was there, feels the same way.

A new Arrival

No, I haven't had a baby - too long in the tooth thank goodness. But Bluey, the ginger tom which has featured in my books in various disguises, has a new playmate. Actually, he's singularly unimpressed, even though she's a beautiful tabby with yellow eyes and a deep purr. He sits and looks at her, his tail flicking ever so slightly at the tip, eyes narrowed, nose raised in a sneer as she swears and spits and hisses at him, eats from his bowl and tries to sit in his favourite chair. He puts up with it all, walking away with a strut to show he couldn't care less, but then she made a big mistake, and he had to put her in her place.
Bluey is supposed to be my cat, but he adores him indoors, and at night insists upon sleeping on the pillow, or on his shoulder. Tilly, my new arrival and the second female person in this house to redress the balance, decided she wanted to see what him indoors was dreaming about, and proceeded to walk over him to investigate. Bluey was in usual position on pillow, Tilly trod on him, and at five oclock in the morning we had a full-blown cat fight going on on our duvet. Claws and fur flew, hissing, growling and yowling, then a hectic dash out of the room, Tilly going hell for leather down the stairs, Bluey stopping on the landing and metaphorically dusting his paws as if to say that saw to her!
But she has used her charm on him, and being gorgeous, has deigned to let him sleep on the front bedroom bed in the sun. We found them at opposite ends of the bed, both stretched out and purring, pretending the other didn't exist.
There's a litter box in the kitchen, umpteen bowls of dry food, wet food, water, the odd few prawns and bits of chicken, as well as a cat basket. I'll be glad when the two weeks are up and we let let her out - dirt trays aren't pleasant at the best of times.

All work and no play

Hello, sorry I've been lax in writing my blog, but I've been writing. Yes, I know, it's about time I hear you shout - all I seem to do is swan about on cruise ships and shoot off to Cornwall. But I do work, and when I do I am fully occupied.
To give you some idea of my working day. I have a gallon of coffee and do the soduko, read the paper, make the bed and fill the dishwasher. Dishwashers are a brilliant invention, the kitchen looks tidy in a tick, and I don't know any working woman can live without one. Having woken up it's about nine thirty - I'm not an early riser, preferring to stay up until three in the morning, hence the inability to get up a few short hours later - it's into my office. This is a spare bedroom in my home, which overlooks a line of trees on the top of a hill, a bit of a paddock where there are two shetland ponies grazing, and a chicken run. This chicken run used to be a nuisance, because it contained a rooster who got far too big for his boots and was shouting at two in the morning and was still at it a four in the afternoon. Needless to say he has be removed and is now living a pleasant rural life in another part of Sussex where we can't hear him.
Talking of roosters, no sooner had that one gone than another appeared in next doors garden - talk about over-egging things - sorry for the pun, but you have to admit, it's not bad for a Sunday morning when I've a bit of a hangover. I digress, which I do often - the second rooster has now joined the first, which is a relief to all.
My office isn't very big, but there's a large desk under the window, a proper typing chair and two walls completely covered in bookshelves. A lot of the books are my own, issues from foreign publishers which they give me - the rest are folders and files to do with writing, reference books, atlases, dictionaries, picture books, geography, plant life, trees, flowers and animals, and of course loads of stuff on Aboriginal Dreamtime, customs and rituals etc. There isn't any central heating in this room, I don't know why, we just never got around to it, but I do have the old nursery heater I used when my children were small and this is perfectly adequate. I am surrounded by pictures of Australia, bits of pottery from Cornwall, bronze statues of shearers and drovers and loads of fake flowers. They're easier to keep than real ones and don't die on me.
Having read fan mail and email and done all my other admin, I settle down to work. I usually read over what I'd done on the previous day, edit it, bin it, or think, yes, that worked, and then get on with the next bit. I have to stop now and again to look up something, or read reams of information of which I will need only a sentence, and then carry on. Him indoors supplies coffee, pot noodle etc., and sometimes unwanted company. There's nothing worse than being in full flow when someone creeps in and lurks behind you. Love him, but I wish he'd go and find something else to do.
Writing is my career, it's what I do - and is probably the only thing I do really well, even if I say so myself. So it is my work, and my livelihood, so it has to be treated with respect. I work Monday to Friday, from ten in the morning until six, and usually don't realise what the time is until him indoors enquires as to what we might be having for supper. Urrrrrrrrgh!
Weekends are sacrosanct, it's when I catch up with friends, go down the pub and generally behave like a hooligan. It's incredible when you realise the bush telegraph works just as well in Sussex as it does in the Outback. I went and had dinner in the local pub, had rather too many glasses of very nice wine, and by nine fifteen the next morning, someone who lives at least fifteen miles away, phoned me up and told me I'd been seen staggering home. Not good, but hey, I was on a night off.
So work. I am writing the last of the Oceana Trilogy now, and it's tough going. Having to round up all the story lines, keep the balls in the air so to speak, and make sure I haven't left any loose ends, means I have to really concentrate. I have idiot cards on my desk with my characters' names, ages, eye colour and hair, and who they are married to, and the names of their children - it's funny, I always forget what colour their eyes are! With the trilogy I also have to have a family tree, and that wasn't easy, because I'm dealing with three families and their affairs and the progeny of said affairs. I would have liked to include the tree in the book, but if I did that it would give the plot away - so hopefully I've kept it simple and the reader won't be too confused.
At the end of my working day I usually go downstairs, cook supper, feed cats, empty dirt tray, tidy up the mess him indoors has made during the day and collapse in front of the tve to watch whatever rubbish is on. Bedtime means reading someone elses book until I fall asleep.
That's about it. better get on, I've thought of another blog.

Monday, 3 March 2008

Some like it Hot

Hi there, so sorry I've been remiss at doing my blog, but life has been hectic, and him indoors whisked me away on a cruise to celebrate a rather significant birthday. Lucky me, it was the perfect excuse to down tools, go shopping for posh frocks and shoes and indulge in fantasies of dancing in the moonlight and being the belle of the ball.
It didn't quite work out like that, the first two night on board it was freezing cold and blowing a gale - as for the moonlight, it was being a great many clouds. But that's what happens when you sail from a wintry New York. New York, Broadway, Manhatten skyline against the rising sun, The Statue of Liberty rising up over the bay in imperious majesty, and the shops, Times Square and the Empire State building. Magic. Not enough time, too many shops, too much of everything to take it all in at once. My feet hurt, him indoors got a pain in the wallet and all in all we had a whale of a time.
Our liner - not a ship, and definitely not a boat according to the Commander, was HUGE! When we docked next to the Oceana - how's that for coincidence - we dwarfed her. But as we prepared to leave BArbados, and the band struck up to get the party going, we sang along with those on the other ship as they waved their flags and saw us off the premises. What a blast - had far too many cocktails, and managed to show myself up by doing belly dancing in my sarong and swimsuit - probably not a pretty sight - in fact I know it wasn't because the photographer on board captured the moment!
So I'm back, A Kingdom for the Brave is due out today in hardback, and it's down to work again on Legacy. But I dream of warm nights and white sand, of moon over water and the gentle rock of the liner that sent me to sleep each night. I like it hot - I just hope summer isn't too far away.

Thursday, 31 January 2008

PS another thought

I've had another thought. This writing lark is fine all the while the muse has kicked in - but writers are funny mortals, we have feelings - doubts - worries - uncertainties that we are doing it as well as we should be - and that is a killer. Sitting here, with a blank screen and the cursor blinking, almost daring us to put the first word up is a scary thing. But we carry on doing it. Braving that cursor - daring to believe that what we have to say might actually be interesting, entertaining - even educational or debatable. And do you know why? It's because we're driven. No, not to drink, although the odd gin and tonic does help - we are driven by the need to write, to express ourselves in an imaginary world, where lives unfold, and characters battle with their problems. It's odd, isn't it? Some people take up fishing or stamp collecting - but my hobby - my reason for being here, is to write. And I just can't stop. So, forgive me if I witter on - I'm an author, a story-teller and weaver of tales. I write by the seat of my pants, with only a vague idea of where the story will end. But my characters tell me, they lead me along by the nose. In fact, I have communication with them when I try to take charge, and they put me very firmly in my place. For this is their story, their lives that I am writing about, and although you'll probably think I've lost my marbles, it's true. Stay safe, Tamara

New Year Blues, Reds, Champagne and Rose

Hi, yes, I know it's been a while, but a girl has to do what a girl has to do, and the season of good will is not always aimed at MEN! Apart from cooking lunch, entertaining him indoors' family and generally being a domestic goddess and sex symbol, I've had to put up with a bad back, throat virus and face ache - and it ain't pleasant, believe me!
The good news is that the celebrations (?) were eased by copious amounts of wine, mostly white and sparkling, but occasionally pink when I was feeling particularly girly. The back is good now, just the odd twinge which I can ignore - the virus has gone, the face ache has cleared up, and although I look like Dracula's grandmother, I feel okay. Actually, okay isn't a good word, it's sort of mediocre isn't it? I feel fine - the diet is going well, I can get into that skinny little black dress and when I have the full make-up on I look passable in a good light as long is it's gaslight - or candlelight. You get the drift.
Anyway, I'm sitting here after spending a lovely evening with a girlfriend, in which we drank far too much Jacobs Creek pink wine - we were feeling girly - and talking nonsense all evening. You know, the usual thing, men, children, the vagaries of men, the house, our careers, what bastards men could be given half the chance - the usual thing. Funnily enough, shoes and chocolate never entered the conversation. We must save those topics for another time.
So, how was Christmas and the New Year? It was fine - I survived - and that has to be a good thing - a bonus - because few people will honestly admit they enjoy the season of so-called good will etc. New Year was fun, we were in Cornwall at a fancy dress party. Well, where else would you get a fairy, the phantom of the opera, Elvis, Maid Marion, a cowboy, a nun and the snow queen all in one place? It was a riot, and I bet you can guess who was the snow queen. ME!!!! I just love wearing lots of bling, and I had so much on it was quite blinding - and I actually thought I looked really good in that silver wig - but then I sobered up and realised there was no way one could go with a trolley around tesco in such a get-up! I might frighten someone.
So, here I am - I think I said that before - but I'm in my office, it's past midnight, I've had a drink or ten and thought I'd better catch up. Because I have it on good authority that certain people - Lindsey, I know it's you - are keeping a check on me. Him indoors has left me. Not permanently, just for four days. He's gone to Cornwall so I can have some peace and quiet to write, and I have been writing up a storm, and will probably continue after I've finished this. If there's one thing I've learnt over the years, it's that if you're on a roll, keep going until you fall off the end of the cliff.
Him indoors has been doing work to the cottage in Cornwall - he gets terribly bored if the weather decides not to play ball - and it hasn't this time - so he's been to the pub - several times, and this evening he met up with some people from Ross on Wye. They had attended a rather jolly funeral, judging by their demeanour, and had scattered ashes on a beach before adjourning to the Salutation Pub in Looe. Him indoors knows Ross on Wye, evidently, struck up a conversation and several pints later staggered home to the arms of Digby and Lins - who then poured unsolicited wine down his reluctant throat while holding his arms behind his back. The poor man - I can see it now - the torture!!!!
Anyway, here I am. I've said that twice now, and it's getting boring. I've worked my socks off for the past four days, not eaten much, which is brilliant for the diet - the house is TIDY - there are no shoes in the hall, lounge, kitchen, back door, front door and half way up the stairs. The laundry basket is empty. But the cat has just pooed in the hall. Welcome home Tamara - you knew he would do it one day - and tonight was the night!
So, tomorrow I'm going to sit and write until my arms drop off. NO. I'm going out again to another girlfriend's for lunch. You see, the life of the author is not always about shutting themselves away and battling with the muse - it's about getting out there, finding some stimulation and companionship - then I can write. Oh, boy, you're going to love the next book! So cheers to you, happy new year and have a good one. I certainly shall.