Wednesday, 29 April 2009

The importance of strong character names in romance writing

Something was bothering me about my work in progress (wip) but I couldn't put my finger on it.

And then one day last week - in bed at around 3.30am when I was having one of my numerous post-mid-life crises - it came to me.

I hated my hero's name.

About two years ago when I started thinking about the book, the first thing I did was name my characters. I called my hero Robbie. I don't know what I was thinking at the time. Maybe Robbie Williams was in rehab and in the news a lot. Maybe I felt the name had a romantic lilt to it, as in Scotland's favourite son, poet Robbie Burns.

I thought Robbie oozed sex appeal.

Now I'm past the 30,000 word count, the novelty has worn off and the name reminds me of a puppy that whizzes on the carpet or a whiny kid with a runny nose and grazed knees

I can hear his mother in the supermarket, screaming: "Robbie! How many times have I told you not to open the chip packet until we get to the checkout!"

He's the teacher's pet, a Mummy's boy, a dobber and a fibber.

With apologies to all the men in the universe called Robbie, I have dumped you.

This leaves me in a dilemma. I need a new name... a new man.

I have several ideas, but none of them ideal.

If you've got any ideas better than my partner Spanner's suggestions - Stanley, Manuel and Shaun (think 'of the dead') - drop me a line.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Not that I like to brag... Mollymook ocean swim part 2

See this pic? It was taken by Mr Ocean Swims during the Mollymook 2009 Ocean Classic. As he comments on his website, this is what it was like for the 175 swimmers who completed the 2km event.

Un-bloody-real! If I had seen this photo before the swim I never would have done it.

And in my last blog on this very swim I wrote about my swimming mate. Turns out she's 67 years old. Gawd blimey! What a woman. She is my hero.

He he he... just one more thing, Davo beat me into the beach but I beat him on handicap!

For more info and feedback on the Mollymook Beach swim and ocean swimming in general (and specific) go to the bible -
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Monday, 20 April 2009

Mollymook Beach Ocean Classic: the mother of all swims

About 200 mad men and women braved the wild Sunday weather to swim in the Mollymook Beach Ocean Classic on the NSW south coast. Davo and I wuz there and we dunnit.

Prior to the 2km swim, we stood shivering on the sand at North Mollymook while the race starter read the riot act, which always includes stuff about sharks, stingers and how if we die during the swim the surf club takes no responsibility, etc etc blah blah blah. He reached the end of the spiel, reminded us there was always next year, and asked: "Are there any questions?"

From the back of the pack came: "Why are we doing this?" Nervous laughter all round - it was Davo's minute of fame (You've got 14 minutes left Davo).

Why? WHY? WHY? would we battle three-metre swells, blinding rain and a massive surf on the way in and out?

Because we're flaming eejits, that's why. And because bloody Davo is soooooo competitive - he made me do it!

This should be an easy swim. It's what the ocean swimming crowd call a "journey" swim because it starts at one end of the beach and ends at the other. For the past three years the conditions have been idyllic - blue skies and crystal clear water with hardly any chop.

But the Southerly that blew in on the Saturday night had done its job and transformed the ocean from a benign creature into a scary beast.
It took me over five minutes to make it to the first can at the 300 metre mark. The swell was relentless and unforgiving. I could only breathe on my left side because I got a gut full of ocean if I turned my head to the right. As usual, I lagged behind and felt like the lone open swimmer - until I spotted another blue cap up ahead.

I followed that cap like it was a beacon. I had no idea where I was because the ocean was slapping me around like a rag doll. I couldn't see the orange booey at the one kilometre mark because the swell formed a wall blocking the view. My fellow blue-capped swimmer asked directions of a surf lifesaver in a rubber dinghy who had picked up an exhausted swimmer. We were instructed to swim out towards the heads as we were too close to the shore where the swell gathered even more momentum.

Finally, land was in sight as I battled my way around the last booey (the bloody thing kept banging into me). As I got closer to shore, visibility in the water decreased as the drag from the surf churned up the sand. I was careful and checked behind me, ducking under the breaking waves and letting them dictate my arrival. It was a relief when my feet felt the firm sand.

Davo finished two minutes earlier. My blue-capped friend arrived a couple of minutes later and said she was glad to have the company! I am no spring chicken but I would estimate this woman to be around 60. She is a legend.


PS: The photo is of the 500 metre swim held at the southern end of the beach two hours earlier. My 12-year-old, Miss Hissy, swam in this event.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

French cinema is so... French!

How bloody good would it be if the whole wide world was French?

We could all smoke Gauloises - the extra extra long ones, drown in champagne and red wine, mangez le chocolat and wank on about le monde and anything and everything without doing anything about it at all.

This is what happens in the multi-award-winning French film Summer Hours (Heure d'ete) that my arthouse-cinema-loving partner, who in the real world is a tradie (let's just call him Spanner), took me to see last night.

The film revolves around the lives of three siblings. Their elegant (d'accord) elderly mother suddenly dies (le mort) and there is a discussion about the future of her provincial country maison. In the process of selling the house and its valuable contents, the siblings discover that for many years their mother was having an affair with her famous artist uncle.

The response is mild surprise and a round of characteristic Gallic shrugs. They drink coffee, drawback heavily on the ciggies and talk some more - in French with subtitres.

The eldest of the three siblings, who feels most strongly the loss of his mother and of the past (ie home and contents, family get-togethers at the rambling old house), discovers his teenage daughter has been shoplifting and smoking le pot. After a discussion about the issue, she slams a door and he reciprocates.

And so on and so forth. I am so clever I got the theme early on - the world is changing at a fast pace, family life in France is disintegrating and the old traditions are no longer valued.

What I like about the film is that it's French and set in France, everyone wears nice clothes, a lack of gratuitous violence, that everyone smokes their heads off even while handling food (the French don't seem to be bothered about how this might influence a younger viewing audience) and that I actually got it (what the frig are those godawful oceans 11,12, 13 about and who really cares?).

Vive la France!
PS: Afterwards, over a glass of red wine, I asked Spanner for his opinion of the film.
"Juliette Binoche doesn't look good with her hair dyed blonde."
The man is a genius.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Gourmet treats from the 1970s - is this an oxymoron?

I was intrigued when watching tonight's Cook and the Chef on ABC 1 TV to learn that next week Maggie and Simon will recreate recipes from the 1970s.

You've got to be joking! Although I have occasional fond memories of the decade in which I grew up, the food wasn't what you'd call memorable. Back then a good night out was usually spent at the Willoughby Legions Club, either cruising the smorgasbord or ordering the fisherman's basket and a glass of riesling from the a la carte menu!

At home in the 'burbs the standard fare was meat (usually lamb loin chops) and three veg (carrots, potato, peas). The '70s was when frozen foods really came into their own and Birds Eye Fish Fingers fried in butter were a breakfast favourite in our house.

We had butter on everything. I can even remember my dad wacking dobs of it in the porridge.

A Sargeants Pie with a squirt of tomato sauce and a pineapple doughnut were the brown-paper-bag school lunch order every Friday.

Fanta was the drink of choice and Cornettos and Gaytimes were special treats.

I can only imagine the river of cholestoral that seeped into and settled in my arteries. But what the heck! Back then nobody took much notice of the good, bad and ugly fats.

The menu at our house got real sophisticated when it was Mum and Dad's turn to host the monthly card nights with friends Merle and Vic and George and Marie.

Mum specialised in (and still does) a rich and creamy egg mornay topped with a centimetre of grated cheddar cheese. She also whipped up an extra mild Indian prawn curry, easily distinguished by its creamy texture and liberal lashings of Keens curry paste. I think she used a similar bechamel sauce for both recipes, but I wouldn't dare ask her to give away trade secrets.

Dessert was an alcohol-laden rum cream pie or lemon cheese pavlova. Of course, everyone guzzled down the pie and rolled home in their seatbeltless Ford Falcons and Holden Commodores, pissed to the eyeballs.

Those were the days.

I can't see Maggie and Simon's take on the '70s getting any better or nostalgic than this.