Friday, 27 August 2010

A tale about a sucked sock and the Pakistan floods

This is what I got for my birthday: a waterproof watch so I can accurately time my poor performance in the pool; a lasagne dish to use when the oven is fixed; a vacuum cleaner.

Here's the story:

Miss Hissy asks if she can help around the house. I assess the chaos through semi-closed eyes (the best way to view it) and grant her permission to use my new vacuum cleaner, as though I'm allowing her to perform a magical task when it's really just an induction into the modern working mother's weekend pastime.

I instruct her to clean the upstairs bedroom. But before she heads off, I give this warning: "Be careful, that thing has the power to suck up a small child."

Minutes later, as I begin to settle into another mundane job, I hear a shriek from above (and it's not the resident possum in the roof): "Mum! Come up here. NOW."

Panicked, I sprint up the stairs to find Miss Hissy in a crumpled heap next to my shiny red vacuum cleaner. I do the count - 10 fingers, 10 toes, a nose.

"What's the problem?"

"I sucked up a sock."

I look over to the single sock on the floor. Its partner is gone. Just in case you don't know, I live in a house of odd socks. And to me the dearth of matching socks is just another marker of my failure as a homemaker. Good homemakers don't lose socks.

"You sucked up a sock? How?" I barely hide my agitation.

Miss Hissy gulps. She is acutely aware of my matching-socks obsession. "I wanted to see what would happen, so I held the vacuum cleaner over the sock."
In a frenzy, I dismantle the cleaner to ensure the sock isn't stuck halfway up the blood-sucking tube thingy. It isn't. It's locked forever in the hermetically-sealed dust bag.

WHAT IS MY PROBLEM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

There are over 17 million people (eight million of them children) in Pakistan who have lost everything in the worst floods in history. They are starving and in desperate need of clean drinking water and lifesaving food.

I don't give a fock about the sock.

Miss Hissy and I do the mother-and-child embrace and I gently chide her. She can buy me a pair of socks or donate to the Pakistan Flood Appeal at UNICEF:

Sunday, 22 August 2010

What I learnt at the RWA conference: part 2

So, what happened next?
Saturday night was the BIG DINNER to announce the winners of all the BIG awards. This is the second awards dinner I've attended - last year's was in Brisbane - and they are great fun.

This year was better because I met some unreal women - generous, optimistic, warm and funny chicky babes who are passionate about writing.

But I digress. Here are my personal highlights from the two SUPER Sunday sessions.

Sunday AM: Writing from the Inside - Deep Point of View with Denise Rossetti

This was my favourite workshop because Rossetti, a tiny, elegant powerhouse of a woman, made us write stuff. We had to "hitch a ride in the character's head" and see the scene through the character's eyes. She projected six images onto a screen and everyone had 10 minutes to write about one of them, using deep point of view. Initially, I was keen to read mine aloud. But then I heard some of the others. The competition is tough out there.

Lightbulb moment: You have to see, hear and feel what the character feels.

Sunday PM: Make that Synopsis Sell with Erica Hayes

Next favourite after Denise Rossetti. Hayes is another dynamic and entertaining speaker who explained the art of synopsis writing in simple terms - a synopsis is a showcase of "everything that is cool and awesome" about your book! But she gave us much more than that. The session was a blow-by-blow description of how to structure the synopsis that will keep an agent or editor engaged. Hayes used Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice as an example and wrote a synopsis around that story.

Lighbulb moment: A book is a series of turning points

And isn't that just life?

Thursday, 19 August 2010

What I learnt at the RWA conference: part 1

What a week it's been. Most days I feel like I'm chasing my tail, but just lately I'm more of a spinning top that can't be slowed down. There's a riduculous 1960s movie called Stop the world - I want to get off. That's how I feel a lot of the time.

Today, I finally drew breath. So, here's the first part of my summary of the 2010 RWA Conference held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Coogee (I barely got to see the beach).

Friday: Debra Dixon - GMC and the hero's journey. American Debra Dixon is hailed as the authority on goal, motivation and conflict and, for someone like me who hasn't read all the how-to books, there was a lot to learn.

Lighbulb moment: 'Dominant impression'. This is a two-word description of the story's main protagonists - 1. adjective 2. descriptive noun. Debra gave Star Wars' Princess Leia as an example. The princess is a 1. royal 2. rebel.

Saturday: Melanie Milburne - From Bin to Bestseller. Melanie writes Sexy for Harlequin. She used the classic fairytale movie Pretty Woman to illustrate structure (story).

Lightbulb moment: "Layer in knowledge early in the story and resolve it later in the story."

I have reams of notes, but these gems are the standouts for me. Bleeding obvious?

More soon from the two Sunday workshops. But for now, it's back to the spinning top.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

I say it's my birthday: I really had a good time...

The weekend is over and so too is the RWA annual conference held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Coogee - more on that during the week.

I am exhausted. But TODAY IS MY BIRTHDAY. I wouldn't usually promote the occasion, but for my brother-in-law.

I have more than a few brothers-in-law on Spanner's side of the family, which is Catholic - "say no more". But this is my sister's hubby and my ocean-swimming mate, Davo.

For many years Davo penned poems aka pomes for relatives' birthdays. I haven't received a pome for a couple of years, so it was a pleasure to open my present from my sister, Davo and two nephews - a MasterChef oven mit, wine glasses and groovy inner-west necklace - and find a pome in my birthday card.

I'm sure Davo won't mind if I share it with you. However, I have taken it upon myself to blank blank the age (it's my blog and I can do what I want):

Speakers of Russian
Dutch and Tagalog
Tune into read Shayne's
Birthday blog
From Serbia, Mauritius
And maybe France, they
Thrill to the swim of the
Queen of romance
In Guam, New Zealand
And Mandalay
They comment, "Happy Happy
blank blank birthday."

PS: I make no apologies for my vanity.

PPS: The Tagalog is an ethnic group in the Philippines - I had to Google that one.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Reasons to be cheerful: part 1

I am so sick of winter. But doesn't that sound so selfish when I have nothing else to complain about (except Spanner)?

I mean, half the world is either on fire or drowning in massive floods. What's my bloody problem?

But summer is around the corner and before you know it the swimming season will be in full swing. I checked out my ocean swims calendar and on September 5 there's a swim at Burleigh Heads in Queensland (can't make that one). On October 16, the first swim of the season I might be able to do is at Forresters Beach in NSW.

For now, I'll have to make do with checking out the surf at Coogee over the weekend of the RWA conference.

In the next two months I'll have to work on losing some kilos! I've grown love handles and other fatty deposits over the colder months.

I am a seal - not a walrus - and so smooth and sleek with my fatty winter coat that I will make perfect shark bait if I don't get active.

PS: My next post will be a report on the conference, which runs for three days - and nights! Romance writers know how to party! I'll postpone the diet until Monday.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

It's official: Aussie blokes make the best heroes and Italian men are wimps who lack a sense of humour

It's been a long-held view that Australia produces some pretty hunky blokes. I recall that several years back American 20-something chicky babes flocked down under in search of the legendary (some say mythical) Aussie-male-in-a-box featuring tanned muscular torso, twinkling eyes, charming smile, cute accent and laconic manner. Move on out Ken!

And now Hollywood is trawling the Antipodes for blokey actors with the AT factor (Aussie Toughness - I made that up).

In an interview in last Wednesday's SMH, Hollywood producer Lorenzo Di Bonaventura said the pool of US actors who radiated genuine toughness was drying up. Of Australian actors, he said: "They are not afraid to be men."

Another producer Donald de Line, who worked in Australia on that awful flick Fool's Gold starring Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson, said that even the Australian male crew members were "hale and hearty. They are outdoorsmen. They're guys' guys." (Note that he didn't say they were girls' guys).

Avatar director James Cameron watched hour upon hour of audition tapes of "pretty boys" in his search for an actor suitable for the role of paraplegic marine Jake Sully. When he saw Aussie Sam Worthington's tape, Cameron said: "Get him to LA."

Then there's the Hemsworth brothers, Liam and Chris. The former is dating Miley Cyrus and will star in the 3D action thriller Arabian Nights, alongside Sir Anthony Hopkins. Chris will play the lead in Thor, an action blockbuster cast by English actor and director Kenneth Branagh.

It's all good news for Aussie romance writers looking to draw their characters from the Aussie bloke stereotype. And as for the eye candy... well, you're never to old to ogle.

PS: It was a bad week for the Italian male (IM), with a report from Agence Presse-France that Italian men had lost their mojo. Nearly four in five female tourists were unmoved by the IM's charms. Most complained that the IM showed too much of his feminine side and not enough of the masculine. The IM was also regarded as childish and lacking a sense of humour and athleticism.

PPS: If it's any consolation to American and Italian men, who may feel disheartened to learn they are behaving like 'girls', I live with an Aussie bloke. And they're not perfect. But that's another blog post.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

It's that time of year again: the RWA annual conference is on at Coogee and it's pumpin'

I'm used to it by now. The quizzically raised eyebrows, the poorly concealed snigger, the patronising, "How interesting."And so it goes whenever I tell people that next week I'm off to the RWA annual conference. The RWA stands for Romance Writers of Australia.

I don't tell many people I write romance (or fiction with romantic elements). I'm more inclined to refer to it as plain "chick lit", though that is also likely to be dismissed as lightweight formula fiction.

The truth is RWA represents a hugely diverse group of writers. Sure, category romance is well represented and the publisher Harlequin is a gold sponsor of the event (Baci is the silver sponsor - yummy).

But romance doesn't stop at category. Some of the genres and subgenres include Young Adult (YA) fiction, historical fiction, paranormal, fantasy, steam punk, single title and crime fiction.

The conference caters to this with workshops that span topics for every writer, no matter what the genre. For example, on the Friday I'm doing a goal, motivation and conflict workshop. I reckon a lot of your so-called 'literary' writers could learn a thing or two from this.

The same can be said of the weekend workshops, which cover author promotions, making the most of the web, tips for crime writers, the art of writing fight scenes and the relationship between writer and editor.

It's gonna be a big weekend.

And I don't care what the literary snobs think. I'm excited!