On winter

I’ve always hated winter.

When we first moved to the Adelaide Hills, I expected to be miserable for the three months of the year (well, let’s face it, five months up here) that it was cold and rainy. And last year it was more like seven months with all the storms and higher than usual rainfall.

But something has changed this year. Winter is never going to be my favourite time of the year compared to the balmy evenings of summer, the wild flowers of spring, and the mild, colourful days of autumn. But there’s something about the mid-afternoon winter sun that washes the trees with soft light that calms my soul.

Getting settled in our new house hasn’t been without its share of problems and stress, but we’re lucky to have this amazing view from our back deck.


I always seem to have 670 programs open in my brain at once, but when I come out here and the air is still and the sunlight turns every leaf golden, and the kookaburras are cackling in the treetops, my mind goes quiet. I can just exist, without worrying about every little thing I have to do, or the things I haven’t done yet, or how the hell I’m going to pull off the edit I know I need to do on my next book.

I’m never going to love winter. And no doubt I’ll be thinking differently once it starts raining and I’m stuck inside with ratty kids for hours of the week, or dashing from the car into school in the pouring rain with two kids in tow and one on my hip.

But for this first month of winter, I’m going to enjoy the cut glass cold on my back while the fragile sun warms my face for that one golden, quiet hour a day.

Editing, Writers’ Week and Buffy

It’s been a busy few months for me as I’ve been working on the structural edit of my novel, Hot Pursuit. As with all my writing/editing projects, I went through my usual steps:

  1. Excitement to be at the next stage
  2. Pleasant surprise that the feedback isn’t as bad as I thought it’d be.
  3. Procrastination.
  4. Denial.
  5. Paralysis.
  6. Panic.
  7. I’m never going to be able to do this.
  8. Start with the easy bits.
  9. Everything falls into place.
  10. Pleasant surprise that I seem to have pulled it off.

I’ve sent it back to the editor and am hoping I actually did pull it off… In the meantime, I’m now feeling a bit empty without anything to work on. I became so immersed in the world of the story that I’m almost mourning the loss of my characters and find myself imagining them in various different situations. Luckily for me, I have at least another two books in the series to keep directing their lives, and the first draft of the second book is already sitting on my laptop, waiting for me to jump in.

IMG_5885I was also lucky enough to time my final week of maternity leave before returning to work with Adelaide Writers’ Week, my favourite time of the year. I didn’t get to as many sessions as I would’ve liked, but the weather was perfect and the atmosphere as magical as ever. I saw Sara Taylor, followed by a packed session with US feminist Lindy West, the highlight for me. I saw a few bits and pieces of other sessions, but mostly I just sat under the trees with my laptop and enjoyed the atmosphere.

i6guaja7bivibhmegqdnOn other matters, any die-hard Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan would be aware that last week marked the 20 year anniversary of the show airing on TV. I didn’t come to Buffy until around Season 5, I think, after which I immediately went back to the beginning and watched the whole lot (I don’t even know how many times I’ve watched the entire series since then).

I didn’t know it at the time, but Buffy began to awaken the feminist in me. It wasn’t because she was a kick-arse superhero, or that she was physically stronger than men – it was because slaying vampires and demons was the easy part of her life. It was the normal, everyday stuff that she struggled with. Paying bills, raising her sister, making poor choices in her love life, being there for her friends, knowing what to do with her life. She was a flawed human, but she was a whole human. She didn’t fit into the usual female roles of princess or supporting act to a man’s personal journey. And while it is often thought of as being too dark, Season 6 was my absolute favourite for continually knocking her down and letting her pull herself back up and become stronger.

Buffy was one of the first shows to star a tough woman who was also unashamedly feminine…not in the sense that she was beautiful, but that she liked girly things…she was never trying to be a man. While it paved the way for many shows focusing on women, I think it is still unparalleled in terms of character writing. Yes, Breaking Bad was a brilliant series, but there were next to no women characters, and they were only there because of what they meant to men. And it’s indefensible in the 21st century that 51% of the population takes up so little space on the screen (and in fiction, and parliament, and corporate leadership…).

Even 20 years later, while the fashion may be starting to look a little dated, the issues Buffy dealt with remain relevant…same-sex relationships, addiction, violence against women. It also managed to weave sharp, witty humour into some really dark themes, which is so hard to do well.

And for the record, it’s Buffy and Spike all the way for me…

I think it might be time to watch the series again.

I’m going to be an author!

This blog has been sadly dormant for way too long, partly because:

  1. I have three young kids who take up a lot of my time
  2. not much has been happening with my writing because:
    1. (see point 1)
    2. I’ve been concentrating on submitting my most recently completed manuscript, and I don’t want to go into the blow by blow of how many agents and publishers have rejected it.


I finally have some blogworthy news to share, and this time it’s pretty exciting. I’ve been offered (and have accepted) a publishing contract! As with everything publishing-related that seems to happen to me, it was for a manuscript that I’d long ago consigned to the virtual bottom drawer as unmarketable.

It began in September 2015 when I’d been submitting my manuscript Misconception in the hope of securing a new agent. I was receiving rapid rejections for various reasons and, as my list of potential Australian agents dwindled, my spirits were sinking lower and lower when I saw a tweet from boutique publisher Pantera Press that they were seeking comedic chick lit manuscripts. My abandoned mystery series fit the bill, so to give myself a bit of a boost I submitted the first in the series, Hot Pursuit.

I didn’t hear anything for ages and my attention was consumed with finishing up work, starting my eldest son at kindy, moving house, having a baby, and various other unplanned stressful events, and I completely forgot about it. Fast forward to August this year and I got an email from Pantera that they were interested in my manuscript if I could make a few revisions to it.

Still not expecting much but with nothing to lose, I edited the manuscript and sent it back, and a couple of weeks later I was amazed to receive an offer to publish not only Hot Pursuit, but the whole series! After I’d got over my excitement, I sought advice on the contract and, with the nitty gritty out of the way, I was ready to accept.

Last week I was lucky enough to be whisked over to Sydney for a whirlwind visit to meet the whole Pantera team and sign the contract, with obligatory glass (or two) of bubbly of course! It was amazing to meet everyone and of course to hear so many lovely comments about my book!

A week later my head is still swimming with details, but I have plenty of time to absorb everything, as Hot Pursuit will likely be published in January 2018. Next up will be the structural edit of the manuscript, but until then I am continuing to celebrate the amazing news that after all these years of perseverance, I’m actually going to be an author!

Here’s me with Ali Green, CEO of Pantera Press, and Marty, Sales and Marketing Director.


This news was great timing for me, as I’d set a goal to have a publishing contract before I turned 40, which I’ve achieved with one year to spare!

I’m hoping to keep this blog way more up to date now as Hot Pursuit continues on its journey to publication. More to come soon!

A few updates

It’s been a while since I posted, because…well…I’ve been writing. Writing rather a lot, actually.

I’ve been banging out 1000 words a day, which I haven’t managed since before having a baby. There are a couple of reasons for this.

Firstly, I’ve started using Scrivener, writing software that allows you to write in scenes and move those scenes around. Sounds simple. It is. But for the first time I’m able to see my story in a holistic sense rather than as one long, linear document. I see this structure as I’m writing, and I can make notes in each scene to remind myself to go back and fix something earlier on. At the moment I’m not moving scenes around so much, but I’ve found that I seem to have ideas swirling around in my head all the time. My one dimensional, spare first draft is becoming more complex as I write, but the prospect of going back and fixing the beginning is no longer as daunting, because I can switch back and forth between scenes without having to scroll up and down and then find where I was before.

Also, word targets. Another simple tool that is really motivating for people like me, who manage to procrastinate by continuously highlighting what they’ve written in a session to see how many words they’ve done so far. I set myself a word target per session of 1000 words, and as I type, the red bar inches across and eventually turns to green as I reach my target.

The second, and more important, reason is that I’m writing on a topic that’s close to my heart. Four months ago, I was ensconced in a different manuscript, which seemed like it was going well at the time, when I was hit with a new idea. Smashed, more like it. I was forced to abandon the other work immediately and start on this one. The subject matter is difficult, but I’ve never been so driven to write something before. I’m well into the dreaded ‘saggy middle’ now, but I’m more inspired and having more ideas than ever.


My other bit of news is that Parenting Express, an online magazine, has published a blog post I wrote about my experiences of early motherhood back when my boy was only five weeks old. Hard to believe it was almost two years ago already, but it’s amazing how it all comes back when I re-read it!

Remembering Ash Wednesday

Tomorrow, 16 February 2013, marks the 30 year anniversary of the Ash Wednesday bushfires, which tore through the Adelaide Hills, killing 28 people and destroying numerous homes.

I was only five years old at the time, but I so clearly remember that day. We lived on a small property in Bull Creek, an area 10 minutes from the township of Meadows, with few close neighbours and a forest a few kilometres up the road.

I remember how hot the wind was, and I remember looking up into the red sky in the afternoon and seeing the moon, tinged with pink. A bushfire moon. I remember standing out on the dirt road that we lived on with my family, just watching the sky and talking to the neighbours that lived across the road. No one knew what to do.

I remember the whoof! as a small fire ignited in the paddock next to the neighbour’s house, and I remember asking my parents who started the fire, and how confused I was by their answer. I didn’t understand how a fire could just start on its own like that. Of course it must have been a spark or an ember that flew on the wind, but it didn’t make any sense to my five-year-old brain.

For some reason I don’t remember the fire being put out, but I guess it was, and that must have been the point at which the decision was made that Mum would take us and the neighbour’s daughter into Meadows and away from immediate danger while Dad stayed home with the neighbours to protect our houses.

I remember hurriedly packing our two dogs and the cat and the three of us kids into the car, and I remember saying ‘This is fun!’ as we drove out of the driveway. I was too young to understand the danger we were in, and especially what leaving Dad behind might have meant. I remember the neighbours’ kid, who was a few years older, telling me off for saying it. I remember the realisation as we hit the main road that we’d forgotten our bird, and wondering about our horse still in the paddock.

Mum drove straight to the Meadows oval, and I remember how surprised we were to see the entire oval covered with other people from the town. The next few hours were loads of fun for Amy and I as we found our friends and ran around madly. I can’t imagine now how frightening it must have been for my mum, and for others who had left partners at home to fight the fires, but for us it was one big exciting adventure.

At some stage I think Dad joined us and eventually, once it seemed the danger had passed, we drove home. I think the forest along the main road was still burning when we went past, and it was at that point that I started getting scared. That night, I couldn’t sleep because on the hill opposite our house, I could see tree stumps glowing red in the dark.

I remember the following day we went for a walk up the dirt road towards the forest, and I remember the blackened banks on the side of the road, barely a kilometre from our house. I remember seeing movement on one of the banks, and realising it was a black snake, camouflaged against the scorched earth.

We were so lucky to have escaped the fires. Such is nature and its random choices. And Amy and I were so lucky to have been largely protected from the fear that could’ve engulfed us. I know there have been far worse fires in the years since Ash Wednesday, most notably the recent and tragic Black Saturday bushfires, which killed 414 people, but any major disaster in which lives are lost and property destroyed deserves to be remembered and reflected on.

Now, 30 years later, I’m looking at moving my own family to the Adelaide Hills, to a dead-end street overlooking a national park. A crazy proposition, perhaps, considering the potential danger every summer. But despite the risks, my memories of living in the Hills are overwhelmingly positive. I want to make memories like that for my son, like walking in a forest at sunset, the trees bathed red in the soft light, and seeing kangaroos, koalas and echidnas on a daily basis.

Despite the risks, I think it’s worth it.

Ban the grunt? Really?

OK, so this is a bit of a departure from my usual material, but this ‘issue’ has only just caught my attention and I can barely believe it’s serious.

I’ll admit that I know very little about, and have very little interest in all things sports. So it probably looks like I’ve been living under a rock to not be aware of the apparently long-held controversy over the ‘grunt’ in tennis. But it seems that the players’ enthusiastic grunts, groans and shrieks are pissing off the fans.

Let us all heave a collective ‘awwww’ for the poor fans.

Sure, the various sounds that come out of these elite sportspeople’s mouths can range from interesting to amusing to annoying. But is it really that much of a nuisance that we want to ban them from expressing something that I dare say is largely a subconscious response to the pressures of the game as they play it?

Have you ever watched a classical musician play? Seen their heads wobble comically, their mouths move in a range of bizarre contortions as they ply their instrument to create beautiful music? Would we ask them to please refrain from this because it detracts from the beauty of their art? So why would we expect tennis players to stop what is most likely coming unbidden from inside them during the competition?

Some believe the players are using these vocalisations to ‘cheat’ or gain an advantage over their opponent. Not knowing a whole lot about the game, I won’t deny this is a possibility. A few months ago I wouldn’t have believed grunting, yelping or shrieking could possibly do anything to help someone while playing sport. I’m the shy, retiring type, and the idea of using my voice as a thing of power had never occurred to me.

But that was before I went through labour, the majority of it without pain relief. I began with deep breathing and progressed over the hours to bellowing with no embarrassment whatsoever. The louder I shouted, the easier the pain was to bear and the more powerful I felt. I don’t expect any special congratulations for doing this. I’m merely making the point that vocalisation can be a useful tool to deal with intense pressure.

So now I get it. Martial artists use vocalisations in their forms to increase their power. Other sportspeople use it in their chosen codes. So why are tennis players targeted? Is it because it is a so-called civilised, British game, so the players should just behave themselves and act like gentlemen/ladies?

And why do the fans think they should be able to tell these athletes how to play the game? They find it annoying. That’s it.

Well, you know what, fans? I find your whinging annoying. If you don’t like the grunt, don’t go to the tennis. Mute your f*&@ing television. Start watching croquet or lawn bowls instead*. Or how about you try playing the game yourself against the best tennis players in the world and show us how easy it is to face that pressure without uttering a sound out of your perfect mouths?

Like I said, I’m not a great sports fan myself. But I can appreciate a good tennis game, and I honestly don’t get what the big deal is about the grunt. Rant over.

*No offence intended to the fine sports of croquet and lawn bowls.

Why I need to read more Australian books

I’m sorry to admit that I really haven’t been pulling my weight over the years when it comes to supporting Australian authors. It’s not that I’ve actively avoided them, or have any sense of cultural cringe, or think that British or American writers are better. One of my all-time favourite books, Cloudstreet, was written by an Australian author, and will probably go down in history as one of the best books ever written.

I guess it’s partly due to my long-held obsession with Indian literature, in that I’ll almost always buy at least one Indian book every time I go to the bookshop. I also tend to go back again and again to my favourite authors, like Milan Kundera, Louis de Bernieres, Ian McEwan.

My rather random method to selecting books is also to blame. Because I rarely remember when people have recommended a specific book to me, I usually just wander the shelves, randomly select volumes from the shelf, read the blurb and pick out those that sound the most interesting. This has meant I’ve collected an eclectic combination of genres in my bookcase. I’ve rarely regretted a purchase. But it’s also meant that I’ve missed out on a lot of outstanding Australian literature.

There have been a few Australian books I’ve been wanting to check out recently, especially those authors who participated in the same manuscript development program that I did last year, and who have been talented enough to achieve publication. So I decided, on my most recent bookshop visit, to devote my purchase to entirely Australian authors.

And my god, I’ve read some outstanding books over the last month. I began with Favel Parrett’s Beneath the Shallows, moved on to Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey, followed by The Ottoman Hotel by Chris Currie, and I’m almost through Bereft by Chris Womersley. I won’t go into the plot of each of them; suffice it to say that each was stunning in its own way. It’s reinforced that we have some fantastic writers in Australia, and we need to support them.

And going on my experience of the last six months, Australian writers need all the support they can get. The publishing industry is in a big hole at the moment, and I don’t know if it’s going to improve anytime soon. Talent alone is no longer enough – you need a book that’s strongly marketable, and even then you need to find a publisher that’s willing to take a risk on you.

I don’t know if I have the talent to get published; I hope I do. I’ll keep trying. But in the meantime I’ll be sure to support our Australian writers as much as I can. Please check out these books. They’re fantastic stories by fantastic authors.

Should apostrophes be phased out?

Apostrophes seem to be the least understood and most frequently stuffed up element of the English language. Possessions, contractions, quotations, plural-possessive… so many rules to remember. When you throw in the contrary its and it’s, it’s (excuse the pun) no wonder that people get confused. And then there’s the people who add an apostrophe into any word ending with an s. But don’t get me started on that.

We all learnt this stuff in primary school, right? Why is it that I got it and thousands didn’t? Is it for the same reason that I still to this day do not know how to calculate a percentage – i.e. I don’t have a mind for maths and science; others aren’t good with English? Or are the rules just overly complicated?

There’s a school of thought that apostrophes should be phased out entirely. They ARE overly complicated, they’re contradictory and their misuse further mangles the meaning of whatever is being communicated.

The intention of the word/phrase should be clear from what’s being said, not from a little crescent-shaped mark placed strategically between two letters.

Imagine how much easier it would be to teach grammar at school without all these extra rules and clauses that cancel each other out? The English language is complicated enough as it is, right?

University lecturers would be grateful for the extra time students spent actually learning how to write well rather than getting bogged down in punctuation.

It actually sounds like a pretty good idea, in theory. And language isn’t a static thing – it’s developing all the time. Why not make it more accessible for all?

But if you ask me, we’d be selling ourselves short. Why dumb down a language that, when used properly, can be as intricate and beautiful as it can be a simple form of communication? A famous writer, I can’t remember which, once said that there’s nothing in this world more beautiful than a correctly used semi-colon. And someone else said there’s nothing so over-used in university papers.

But if we start by getting rid of apostrophes, what next? Do we ban semi-colons too, because so few uni students know how to use them correctly? And should we then forget about commas because they so often hang randomly and unnecessarily in the middle of sentences? And how about full stops while we’re at it? Maybe if we got rid of all punctuation, then no one would struggle with writing again!

then all our sentences would look like this wed never have to pause for breath people would have to work out the meaning by themselves because thered be no visual indication of a contraction or proper nouns or speech itd be liberating

Or liber8ing, even.

I’m not against change, really I’m not. But as a professional writer, I’m a bit of a purist. I appreciate the English language for all its intricacies and its complications, and I enjoy strumming it as a musician would a guitar.

Sounds selfish, I guess. I suppose it is. But to continue with my music metaphor, it just doesn’t make any sense to me to turn an operatic score into a nursery rhyme.

Words I enjoy

I get a lot of pleasure out of words. Lame, I know. I’m a self-confessed word nerd. Ask my workmates – I got wildly excited when my 4th edition Macquarie Thesaurus arrived, a prudent, yet (for me) luxurious pre-end-of-financial-year-we’ve-still-got-some-money-left-in-the-budget-so-we-might-as-well-spend-it purchase.

So, I really love words. Here are some of the words I particularly enjoy. This list is not exhaustive:

  • continuity
  • concatenate (OK, so I only found this word when learning how to use Microsoft Excel and I’ve never actually used it in a sentence, but I like it nevertheless)
  • vacillate
  • subversive
  • albeit
  • absurd
  • retort
  • riposte
  • intensity (should always be followed up with the words ‘in 10 cities’)
  • lexicon
  • utilitarian
  • investigative
  • juxtapose
  • fiery
  • prodigious
  • surreptitious
  • divulge
  • trepidation
  • pallor
  • devious
  • antagonistic
  • yearn
  • turbulent
  • detestable
  • caress
  • evident
  • linger
  • pursue
  • resonate
  • anticipation (always makes me think of the Rocky Horror Picture Show – antici……….pation)
  • ruminate
  • exultant
  • shrewd
  • languid
  • veritable
There are many more, but these are just a few of the words that make me happy. Small things.