Friday, December 19, 2014

52 Author Dates ~ Weeks 49 & 50


Visit A Castle AND Assume An Alias. 

There are days when we find ourselves so far from home, we might as well have assumed an alias. Who are we when we’re not in our natural setting or comfort zone? How far can we really stray from our everyday persona?

Assuming An Alias was a challenge from my 52 Dates for Writers book, designed to push me into beh
avior not consistent with who I am, so my characters don’t end up all sounding and responding like me.

Pushing myself to be someone I’m not... is meant to be good for me. It teaches what my ordinary life can’t. Shapes me with a new awareness and leaves me with something fresh to use in my writing. 

Nearly all of my challenges have allowed me to slip into an alias of sorts. Most times I’ve needed an extra layer of boldness or bravery. On a few occasions I’ve had to pretend I could achieve something, until I realised if I stretched myself... I actually could. 

Bundled together, weeks 49 and 50 found me in Singapore, tagging along on a work trip with my Beloved. I’m always thrilled to meet up with him on a business trip for a happy chunk of writing days while he teaches. This trip offered three of these days. And a few days of sightseeing as well.

I’m not overly fussed with my writing location. I’m just glad for the uninterrupted writing time, which in the past I’ve enjoyed in relaxed airport lounges, in our room, in the executive lounge, even the hotel foyer. This time, my Beloved booked a dedicated room for me to work in.

You know, the kind of room where professionals gather to plan schedules and strategies. With secretaries and assistants. Big company meetings. Corporate affairs... and attire to match. 


What was I doing in this fancy room with the RESERVED sign on the fat round table? All by myself. All for .... just me?

I felt a little uneasy being watched all day by the hotel staff and those who stopped in the lounge to read the newspaper while they waited on their pots of tea. Where were my colleagues? The ones who would occupy the 7 empty seats around the boardroom table.

I messaged a few writing friends back home, telling them how much I wished they were with me. I sent photos of my writing space, wondering how I came to sit there with my pretty dress and work heels. Like someone at their day job.

Didn’t my writing day happen in ordinary Melbourne cafes or by the fire at Crabapple House? In my thrift shop writing shawl. With Gilbert the cat nearby and the pull of domesticity not far off.

One dear soul wrote back to remind me I am an author. No matter what I’m wearing or where I’m sitting. She reminded me of the agents and editors who’ve communicated with me as a professional and how important it is to believe in myself.

Oh... that. You mean I can’t deny it, even when I feel like a fraud? When the author mantle weighs on my shoulders like a well braided costume from a medieval theme park?

Nope. She wasn’t buying that. She’s read Carry Me Home, the first book in my Phillip Island series and that makes her my reader.

She’s a happy reader. And I’m the author. The happy author.

That RESERVED sign reminded me there’s a place for my books, and it’s not so far away. There’s a place and a time when I’ll be able to share my writing with other readers.

And if I have to slip into my working heels and fancy dresses, and take command of the big fat table to make it happen, then so
Shrek's Castle ~ Universal Studios, Singapore
be it. I’m getting closer to that day and soon enough, that RESERVED sign will make room for the OPEN FOR BUSINESS sign.

And I can’t wait to share that with you, dear friends.

Oh ... and Visit A Castle?

That happened at Singapore’s Universal Studios. I’d battled a stomach virus the day before, so I did what my 52 Author Dates challenge instructed. Soak up the atmosphere and focus your thoughts on the castle’s history.

As a fan of the Shrek franchise, I did just that. 

Blessings for a wonderful weekend, 

Monday, December 08, 2014

Regina Jennings ~ A Most Inconvenient Marriage


It's my pleasure to welcome Regina Jennings to Ink Dot this week. Regina is homeschooling mother of four from Mustang, Oklahoma. She enjoys watching musicals with her kids, traveling with her husband and reading by herself. Regina graduated from Oklahoma Baptist University with a degree in English and a history minor. She has worked at The Mustang News and First Baptist Church of Mustangalong with time at the Oklahoma National Stockyards and various livestock shows. For more posts by Regina or information about her novels—A Most Inconvenient Marriage, Caught in the Middle, Love in the Balance and Sixty Acres and a Brideplease visit her website - www.reginajennings.com.


A Most Inconvenient Marriage ~ Abigail Stuart Thought She was Jeremiah Calhoun's Widow.

But Jeremiah Calhoun Is Very Handsome, Very Alive, and Very Perplexed.

Most Inconvenient Indeed.

With few options of her own, nurse Abigail Stuart agrees to marry her patient, a gravely wounded soldier calling himself Jeremiah Calhoun. They arrange a quick ceremony before he dies, giving Abigail the rights to his Ozark farm and giving Jeremiah the peace of knowing someone will care for his ailing sister after he's gone--a practical solution for both of them.
 
After the war, Abigail fulfills her side of the bargain--until the real Jeremiah Calhoun shows up, injured but definitely alive, and wastes no time in challenging Abigail's story. Abigail is flummoxed. After months of claiming to be his widow, how can she explain that she's never seen this Jeremiah Calhoun before? How can she convince him that she isn't trying to steal his farm? And will she find a way to stay, even though this practical arrangement has turned into a most inconvenient marriage?

*****

Regina Says... 

If I could explore anywhere in the world tomorrow, it would be...  Scotland. We were in Edinburgh for a few days last year, but I’d dearly love to explore the Highlands. I don’t know if it’d be warm enough in December though. Maybe I should pick a warmer location. Australia's warm in December, Regina. You could try visiting us! 

The best thing I did today is... spoke to a group of Girl Scouts earning their “Make a Book” badge.

A secret pleasure of mine is... sniffing essential oils. I only have two kinds and I don’t use them for much, but whenever someone pulls one out of their purse, I have to have a sniff. I like smelling stuff.

I wish I could relive the days when… my family was traveling together. When the kids were smaller my husband traveled a lot with his work and we tagged along. We grew so close being in a new city every month and only having each other to rely on. We still travel occasionally, but now the kids have more commitments and it’s not as easy to pack up and leave for a month. Oh, we've done something similar. We followed my husband to Bangkok for a year when the children were little. Right now I'm with him in Singapore. Minus the kids, sadly. :( 

When I was a child I dreamed I would... have a maid. In fact, I swore I would have one. That’s what I told my mom every time she bemoaned the disorganization of my bedroom. I’m still dreaming about getting one. I hope that dream comes true someday, Regina. 

I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but... I’m extremely laid back about germs. Hand sanitizer? No, thanks. I’m building immunities. I’ve been to leper colonies in India, shared a ceremonial cup of tea with a (topless) woman suffering from malaria in Africa, and spent more time at various stockyards than I care to recollect. Not much grosses me out. Wow... you are not easily turned off! Good for you. Thanks so much for being my guest this week, and I wish you every success with A Most Inconvenient Marriage. 

*****

For the chance to win a copy of Regina's A Most Inconvenient Marriage (e-book outside the US) tell us which essential oils you love (like Regina)... or perhaps cannot tolerate. I'm a big fan of my own blend of eucalyptus and lavender. Great for adding to bath salts. How about you? 

I'll announce the winner in the comment thread here, next Monday. 

Good luck and happy reading, 



Friday, December 05, 2014

52 Author Dates ~ Weeks 47 & 48


Our Tandem Bike
Ride A Tandem AND Take A Tour Of Your Hometown

It’s only fitting my blog post about a bicycle built for two, should also carry a second author challenge. (And yes, I’m piggy backing a couple together to make up for the weeks I lost earlier this year in the US.)

This week I Toured My Hometown on a Tandem Bike with my Beloved. How clever, right? Two challenges wrapped in the one fun activity?
Melbourne's Luna Park

Well...I could list at least ten ways I’d prefer to explore Melbourne and none of them would require riding a bike with two wheels, two seats and two brains at the helm. This challenge tested our communication and trust...and that’s what the tandem challenge was all about.

Forced to work out the delicate balance of riding together, when only one of us really made the decisions and set the pace, brought a different dynamic to our date. In the end I’m glad my Beloved steered. And I’m not ashamed to admit there were a few turns on the bike path between Melbourne’s Luna Park and Brighton Beach, where I closed my eyes and hoped for the best. You can do this when you sit at the back. But you’re not allowed too much snooze time.

I pedaled faster when I was told to, slowed down when instructed, and tried not to panic when I heard the words, ‘bump coming up.’ 

Palais Theatre Melbourne
And the most valuable lesson I learned was not so much on the tandem bike, but on the dismount. The rider in the back must hop off first. Completely. And move away. Or else the front seat rider might knock her and the bike over when he dismounts. Tricky. And nothing we could have known by just looking at our fancy contraption.

Much like a marriage, this challenge had us laughing at the parallels between riding a bike path as one entity, and taking life’s road together as husband and wife. As an author challenge, it was designed to make me contemplate how two of my characters on the same path, with the same desired outcome, might strike difficulties and have to work together to sort them out. 

That real life blend of experiences. Bumps in the road, alongside beautiful beach breezes. Clear and constant communication vital for our safety and enjoyment. Total trust that the other person wouldn’t topple our combined efforts. 

We learned from earlier mistakes. We laughed at ourselves, proud that after a few hundred metres, we had worked out a way to stay aloft and take in the seaside views without falling into oncoming traffic.
At the halfway mark we stopped for a drink and long look at Melbourne’s cityscape behind us. Luna Park and the Palais Theatre just a shadow on the horizon, the legacy of early 1900s architecture and innovation. The Scenic Railaway at Luna Park is the only remaining roller coaster of its era operating in the world, built by JD Williams and the Phillips brothers from America. 

Listening to it’s rickety rumbles, one might think a time machine had transported us to 1912. And I was happy to let the kids scream their way around Luna Park, like generations before them.

Like many couples before us, we sat on the grass and watched the gulls fly. Glad for the cushioned car seats which would take us home, gladder still for the day out together exploring an historic slice of Melbourne town... and giving repeated thanks we wouldn’t have to ride a tandem bike, perhaps, ever again. 


Are you a fan of bike riding? Where do you ride?

Have you ever ridden a tandem bike?

Blessings for a wonderful weekend, 


Friday, November 28, 2014

52 Author Dates ~ Week 46


Embrace Something You Dislike

I don’t watch horror movies. 

Or thrillers. 

If it’s got a werewolf, a vampire, a zombie or any of their first cousins, I’m out. I don’t even care for the scene in The Sound of Music when the Von Trapps hide from the Nazis behind the Abbey tombstones. 

So for my author challenge to embrace something I dislike, I summoned my eldest son to suffer alongside me and watch Red Riding Hood with Amanda Seyfried. 

I chose this thriller from a list of much worse options. Titles with dripping-blood-font never even made the cut. But I stopped at this well known story, curious to see how a dark children’s fairytale might translate into a full blown adult thriller. 

It didn’t hurt that the setting and time period appealed. A medieval snow-bound village, reminiscent of what might have been on the other side of Hansel and Gretel’s wood. 

But the gingerbread cuteness didn’t last long before the sinister wolf threat, (and the mysterious and elusive villager who transformed into him every red moon,) took over. The scenes transfixed me. Each one worse than the previous one. Each one closer to finishing off Red Riding Hood in lurking shadows, those wide panicked eyes of Amanda Seyfried's, bigger and more tear filled with each passing death threat. (The bigger to see you with...)

This is when I pressed back into the couch. 


But, be proud. 

Instead of taking a convenient bathroom break I let myself sift through the myriad of twists and hints to work out who the villain might be. I pushed through the instinct to hide behind clenched fists. Kept taking in the picture perfect snowy scenery where hideous murders took place. I breathed through heart stopping music designed to heighten my fear and make me believe a wolf might actually be ready to bust through my own front door. 

Why did I push myself to embrace this much-avoided movie genre?

To remind myself that in fiction, characters need to demonstrate the capacity to change. If they did not, readers would not be very interested in following their struggles. 

Did I change? Did I break a long held barrier? Will I return to the Foxtel list of thrillers and chance another movie in this genre?

Perhaps. If I have someone with me. And all the lights on. And the volume on low. 

The real test might come in a darkened cinema with surround sound and my Beloved beside me, agreeable to severe bruising and perhaps a fractured finger bone or two. 

Are you a thriller or horror fan? What film/book genre do you most dislike? 

Blessings for a wonderful weekend, 

Friday, November 21, 2014

52 Author Dates ~ Week 45


Attend An Opening

Schramm's Cottage 
Last Saturday the local historical society opened their doors to the residents of Doncaster and Templestowe for a unique family reunion. They commemorated the 150th wedding anniversary of early settlers Max von Schramm and his young bride, Kate Pickering, with a re-enactment of their nuptials in front of 60 of their descendants, and a few hundred extra sticky beaks from the community. 

Me included. I'm a sucker for weddings. Even pretend ones. 

For this week’s author challenge I’ve been waiting to take up just the right invitation. And the open doors to the local historical society, wedding celebration and olde worlde wedding dress exhibition fit the writing, historical and romance bill. 

Wedding Re-enactment
For the history nerd in me, there were speeches to honour the vision of this bride and groom who made their new home in 1868 among the apple orchards of the suburb I grew up in, Templestowe. Hymn singing and stories told of the newly weds who committed themselves to each other and to teaching local children in one of only 70 Melbourne schools at that time. They also dedicated their lives to ministering to the community as pastor and pastor’s wife in the Lutheran church. 

After the ‘wedding’ we were invited to sit for a generous afternoon tea or wander through one of the historic buildings on site. An exhibition of wedding dresses drew me to the old stone homestead where 150 years of bridal fashions dotted the rooms once occupied by those who lived and worked beside our honored bride and groom. For me, this delivered the perfect afternoon of pottering around a location dedicated to the preservation of history. An invitation to step into ribbons and lace of yesteryear and soak it all up. You don’t have to ask me twice to peer at dresses from the 1800s. 


Attending this opening was designed to remind me as an author, it’s my duty to comfortably invite my reader to a unique world. One created by me, where my characters should find themselves in some of the most uncomfortable scenes of their lives. Much like many of my characters finding themselves ‘out of place’ in the newly settled colonies of 19th century Australia. 

Wedding Flowers
And while the lesson of this challenge sounded as clear as a Victoria era wedding bell, what I came home with was renewed inspiration for the apple and pear orchard stories I plan to write someday, set in my own backyard. 

Or perhaps that should be Max and Kate von Schramm’s backyard.  

Does your neigbourhood hold any book-worthy stories or settings?

Blessings for a wonderful weekend, 

Friday, November 14, 2014

52 Author Dates ~ Week 44




Peach tree splendour ~ Crabapple House
Attend A Concert 

The soundscape of a novel can be manmade or the sounds of nature. Or a unique blend of both. This week’s author challenge sent me to the best seat in the house when I attended a concert geared towards capturing what is heard when one is still enough to listen. 

I had plans to attend an orchestral concert, but time ran away from me and instead I took my writng outside to keep company with the birds in my backyard, perched between the nectarine and peach trees.

Above me, a riot of birdsong as orchestrated and melodic as any concert, took off with no conductor other than the One who’s created these birds to sing as they do. 

Nectarine Goodness.... if the birds don't beat us to it.
Many contributed their short tweets, often and short, one after the other as if in chirpy reply. Other birds screeched long and high. The background hum of a street sweeper and distant ride-on-mower reminded me I sat in the tail-end flourish of spring. Ubiquitous bees and other bugs hovered, searching nectar with the soft buzz that comes to a garden when fruit blossoms have given way to fruit buds. And I wondered if the musical celebration was in honour of the summer fruit we all anticipate and will ultimately fight for. (The birds always win. I won’t kid myself) 

From the Crabapple House rooftop, one sassy bird jumped in for a solo performance. Puk, puk, puk-puk. Another kindred of his joined with her own far off echo. Puk, puk, puk-puk. A duet against the soft cooings of distant pigeons. 

Beyond warm up, we were now in full birdsong symphony. The soundtrack of my writing afternoon, the last songs of spring. 

Gilbert, my writing companion ~ Crabapple House
Not to be left out, a latecomer I imagined owned the piccolo, added his high pitched pick-pick-pick. He dominated the music until the approaching street sweeper turned the corner and came our way. Piccolo-bird swooped off with the smooth woosh of his feathers bringing the concert to an end... and only the tss tss tss of crickets remained, perhaps the natural applause for the outdoor performance. 

Recording the soundscape of my backyard in words was a fun exercise. It reminded me of the many times I’ve listened to the sounds of the beach at Phillip Island and taken notes for my story-telling. 

Each season offers something unique to the story. Its own melody and lyrics.

What’s the soundscape from your window? What do you hear today? Or are you more inclined to ignore the sounds and nap under the wisteria like my writing companion? 

Blessings for a wonderful weekend,

Friday, November 07, 2014

52 Author Dates ~ Week 43


Climb A Ferris Wheel

Melbourne Star
The last time I hopped on a ferris wheel with my Beloved, I wore a brand new diamond ring on my finger, a dozen of his kisses on my lips, and held a thousand bride-to-be hopes for our future.

Fast forward 25 years and we got to do it all again on my author date last week when we braved our very own Melbourne Star. 

Here’s some touristy stats we learned about Melbourne’s newest ferris wheel:

*It’s as tall as a 40 storey building
*Rotates very slowly ~ one revolution takes 25 minutes
*It’s one of 3 giant observation wheels in the world (After London and Singapore)
*All cabins are fully enclosed and air-conditioned 

Although each cabin fits 20 people, we had one to ourselves thanks to our quiet mid week date.  

Charged to consider how easy it is to stay in one fairly descriptive mode throughout my novels, this sky high challenge could only be about one thing. Perspective. The zooming in and out and focusing on something off centre from what’s happening in my immediate scene. The journey I need to take as a writer in and around my world. 

Melbourne Skyline

Well, there was a lot happening in the real world on this cosy coach ride that morning. Our focus went from inspecting the giant metal structure keeping us aloft and alive, to peering into the distance over 60 kms across the city, the bay and as far as the mountainous edges of our view.

Below us, shoppers gathered to hunt a find at the Harbour Town shopping outlets. But street life faded from view and a bigger picture emerged when the city sprawled before us. I pointed out looming buildings and sports fields that shrank by the minute and my Beloved turned me to see the bay beyond, hiding behind low cloud cover. Together we spotted the distant Mount Macedon to the west and Mount Dandenong in the east. Bookends for the city we call home, but never from this angle. 

By the time we’d reached the very top of the world, everything looked like one broad yet tiny landscape. More open than city-grid. More sky and sea. More of everything, except up there, in our cloud bubble, for a few rotating minutes the most in focus part of our world only held the two of us. The rest had become the fascinating, far off background. 

Unashamed Ferris Wheel Selfie

Zooming in and out of scenes encourages me as a writer to see details I may have missed. A stain on a character’s blouse she’s trying to hide, a poster on a railway station wall, the absent lace of a child’s boot. 

Zooming out might show me there’s a burglary taking place in the house next door, the street lamps might be lit, bar one, and someone might be stealing a kiss from his girl at the garden gate. Or from the top of a ferris wheel. 

When did you last ride a ferris wheel? 
What did you see?

Blessings for a wonderful weekend, 

Monday, November 03, 2014

Narelle Atkins ~ Her Tycoon Hero


It’s my pleasure to welcome dear friend and Aussie author Narelle Atkins to Ink Dots this week. We’re celebrating the release of her fourth Heatsong Presents book, Her Tycoon Hero.  

A fun loving Aussie girl at heart, Narelle was born and raised on the beautiful northern beaches in Sydney, Australia. She has settled in Canberra with her husband and children. A lifelong romance reader, she found the perfect genre to write when she discovered inspirational romance. Narelle’s contemporary stories of faith and romance are set in Australia. She sold her debut novel, Falling for the Farmer, to Harlequin’s Love Inspired Heartsong Presents line in a 6-book contract. Her Tycoon Hero is her fourth release and the first book in her Sydney series.

She blogs regularly with Australasian Christian Writers, International Christian Fiction Writers and Inspy Romance.

Narelle is also a co-founder of the Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance (ACRBA).

Twitter: @NarelleAtkins https://twitter.com/NarelleAtkins

Her Tycoon Hero ~ Set on proving to everyone that she's no longer a party girl, Cassie is focused on her career as an event planner. But her dad's top executive, Ryan Mitchell, proves to be a handsome distraction. Especially when someone from Cassie's wild past tries to get her tangled in the life she's worked hard to escape. 

Ryan is taken with his boss's beautiful daughter. But having been fooled by a brother who ran in her same circles, he is slow to trust. When Cassie's newfound faith works its way into his heart, Ryan soon finds he wants to claim both her faith and Cassie as his own.  

Narelle Says... 

One thing I miss about childhood is... having a lot more time to read. I was a voracious reader from a young age and I loved escaping into a great story. I wish I had more time to read for pleasure. Same. I can so relate to childhood reading bliss. 

The weirdest place I've ever slept is... on the shag pile carpet at my friend’s house when I was a teen. I’d gather a few cushions and sleep quite well on the floor. Now I’m older, I like to sleep in a nice, comfortable bed. 

My favourite thing to do in the summer is... go to the beach. I grew up on the northern beaches in Sydney, Australia, and loved visiting the beach in summer. It’s a two hour drive from Canberra to Batemans Bay on the South Coast, our closest beach. Not long before summer days hit us, Narelle. Can't wait for beach days!

My ideal breakfast consists of... eggs benedict with smoked salmon and hollandaise sauce on Turkish bread. It tastes wonderful but it’s not low in calories. My usual breakfast is the healthier option of Weetbix and yoghurt. Oh, that eggs breakfast would be my first pick, each and every day... without the bread of course. 

What I love the most about my hometown of Sydney is... the harbour. Sydney Harbour is beautiful and it’s so relaxing to be out on the water, either sailing or sitting on a ferry. Yes, I've enjoyed lovely days on Sydney Harbour, too. A beautiful place to lap up our stunning country and it's beaches. Thanks so much for being my guest this week, Narelle. I wish you every success with Her Tycoon Hero. 

*****

For your chance to win a copy of Her Tycoon Hero, tell us about the weirdest place you've ever slept. 

I think for me it was beside my poor sick mum in a Greek health clinic. She was discharged in the early hours of the morning and I was never happier to get into a bed to the sound of village roosters crowing a fresh lullaby beneath my window. 

How about you?

I'll announce the winner in the comment thread next Monday. 


Good luck and happy reading, 

Friday, October 31, 2014

52 Author Dates ~ Week 42


Gatecrash

No guessing why I kept this challenge for almost last on the list. 

By nature, I’m not a gatecrasher and the introverted author in me has enough issues attending events where I’m on the guest list. 

Forget the ones where I’m not expected

Photo Source ~ Pinterest 
So I cheated a little on this one. I snuck in unannounced for the tail end of the Melbourne Christian Writers' Conference last weekend. Like a rude guest, I appeared at the door during the final mouthfuls of lunch, hoping that would end this difficult challenge once and for all. (And make up for not being able to attend in full, with my Beloved too absent on his overseas work trips this year.) 

Did I feel nervous driving onto the dirt driveway of the conference venue? A little. I stopped to catch my racing breath at the gate. The one I was meant to storm. But not for long. 

Soon enough, the Sunday drive to collect conference presenter and NZ editor/reviewer, Iola Goulton, delivered me right to the dining room doors. With all present busy at their plates, I had no choice but to enter alone and face the hungry crowd.  

Yikes. I had hoped to slip into a back row somewhere. Unseen. Isn’t that how gatecrashers operate? Blend in and take their place as if they’d always been there? 

Alas, I had no choice but to face my audience.

But what a wonderful reception! Good friends leapt to welcome me with warm hugs and bright eyes. Dear ones I’d not seen for a year fell into step with me, picking up conversations we’d left hanging since our last heart to heart. 

Friends I only knew online stopped to say a real life hello and the gatecrasher in me clattered to an early stop. I was done. I was amongst friends who cared little about my absent rsvp and more about my presence. In the writing world we call this coming home. And I was home. 

This week, I learned if you want to experience the true essence of gatecrashing, it really only works if you’re not known to the crowd. Because if they’re sweet-souled writers like the ones in my life, there’s a bear hug and chorus of welcome waiting for you the minute the gate swings shut. 

Have you ever gatecrashed an event? How were you received?

Blessings for a wonderful weekend,