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

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,