Friday, 31 July 2009

Sad Songs guaranteed to make you cry

I love a sad song, hence the list of five sad songs to make you cry (look to your right and you'll find them).

I can't even think about any of these songs without getting teary. They are just so beautiful, and each so different yet similar - exploring themes that touch all our lives.

The day you went away would have to be one of my favourite songs of all time. It's a simple song about the end of a relationship (or that's how I read it). Like Paul Kelly's poetic narrative To her door, it's so pared back and wrapped around the everyday, which helps explain why it hits a nerve.

"Hey, there's not a cloud in sight
it's as blue as your blue goodbye
and I thought that it would rain
the day you went away"

Of course, there are millions of brilliant sad songs. I'm sure everyone has a song that makes them cry because it holds some special significance and triggers a memory of an event that shaped their life.

I haven't put Darryl Braithwaite's The Horses on the list, but I adore it (it's not like me to be too mainstream!). It was a hit in Australia just after my first daughter was born in 1991. I was pretty emotional at the time and whenever it was on the radio I would think of my daughter and start bawling.

I still can't listen to it without breaking down.
Another tearjerker worthy of the list is Cold Chisel's Flame Trees, but not the original. Sarah Blasko does a gut-wrenching rendition, and there's a spine-tingling version on the soundtrack to the film Little Fish, performed by the Sacred Heart School Choir from Cabramatta.

(Pic: Wendy Matthews)

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

The role of the beard in romance writing

The hirsuit modern hero is hard to come by.

I've wracked my brain for 30 seconds (because it gets sore if I wrack for too long) and can't think of any leading male character in a novel I've read recently who sports a beard.

Maybe historical romances are the exception to the rule - where the hero maintains a neatly trimmed moustache or beard a la Sir Frances Drake or the Three Musketeers?

Facial hair can be problematic for several reasons:

1. By association: the homeless man who waves a polystyrene cup at me on my way to work has a beard
2. It is there to cover up an imperfection - no chin, thin lips
3. It's rough and scratchy - girls (and boys) - have you ever seriously kissed a man with a beard? Ouch
4. Food can can get stuck in it
5. It can be threatening

I know I am being 'beardist', but when did you last see a film with a bearded protaganist unless he was evil or quirky/eccentric (and those are never the heroes)?

The right beard in the right context eg: 19th century romance, could work.

But in 2009 women tend to like 'em misbehavin' and clean shaven.

PS: This photo is of Prince William in 2008. Maybe he's compensating for the thinning pate (I'm talkin' head, not liver).

Saturday, 25 July 2009

My brother-in-law is reading my MS

Mr Flyby (Spanner's sister's husband) kindly offered to read my ms (manuscript).

This is not as strange as it seems.

In the past, Flyby has flirted with romance writing - his short story was published in one of the Romance Writers of Australia Little Gems anthologies and in 2004 we went to an RWA conference together.

Afterwards we both stopped writing, but Flyby turned his back on the genre.

Now, he reads widely, writes a fine blog on light planes and keeps bees (he has other hobbies too numerous to mention).

OK, maybe it is strange to have your brother-in-law reading your romance novel.

Or could it be that Flyby is strange?

I decided he was the best person for the job. And so far, I've not been disappointed. He's given me some excellent tips on dialogue, pov and showing not telling. I am a bit worried about him reading the more explicit chapters. Embarrassed.

However, I will have a better story because of his wise advice.

There's still got a long way to go before I can honestly type THE END.

PS: Photo borrowed from the blog edited by Flyby - it's taken by pilot Darryl and shows the mist over Warragamba dam. It illustrates where I'm at with my MS, lost in the mist.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Why do we accept older men dating younger women but not the reverse?

Why is an older woman who dates a much younger man dubbed a 'cougar', yet an older man with a young girlfriend is regarded as a lucky bugger?

The word cougar implies the woman is an aggressive feline stalker of young males.

Then there's the term 'toy boy'. Is there an equivalent for the much younger woman with older man? Oh, that's right, she's just a gold digger.

No matter what, women never seem to win.

I am stewing over this, having just seen a story in one of the gossip magazines on the latest celebrity couple Chris, 41, and Julia, 23, from MasterChef Australia. There's 18 years in it.

In the story, MasterChef runner-up Poh says she supports her friends' relationship, the pair have much in common and the critics should bugger off.

It doesn't really bother me, and Chris has one of those strange manchild faces (like Moonface in The Magic Faraway Tree) so you really can't pick his age.

But if it was my daughter, I would be asking, "Darls, are you sure about this?"

My good friend from school married a man 16 years her senior. When their kids grew up, she was 40 and he was 56. He was ready to play golf with his 60-year-old mates. But she wasn't.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. It can happen to anyone regardless of age. But that's not my point.

If we're cutting Chris some slack because he robbed the cradle, then let's do the same for older women who decide the young boyfriend option is better than some old bloke with man boobs who snores, dribbles and farts in bed.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Passion: the secret ingedient in MasterChef Australia

In the wash-up following the phenomenal success of the reality TV show MasterChef Australia, one critic noted that the show succeeded because it was driven by passion.

The contestants loved cooking. Their everyday ordinariness disappeared when they entered the kitchen. There they thrived and bloomed as they devised or tweaked recipes, gathered and prepared ingredients and, finally, 'plated up' their meal for others to enjoy.

There wasn't a lot of ego there (except for Chris - and I reckon that's one of the reasons he didn't get the crown). The contestants were generous people and their passion for food was all about giving, not taking.

It's all about passion. And giving.

PS: photo from The Age newspaper

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Palm Beach is the place to be in the middle of a Sydney winter

Spanner drove up to Palm Beach yesterday to show his dad heaven.

Not that the old codger is heading off to the other side just yet, but Palmy (as we pretend-locals like to call it) is a heavenly place.
It has sailing nirvana, Pittwater, on one side of the peninsula and magnificent surfing beaches on the other.

Spanner told me the water was warm enough for a swim. I'm soooo jealous because I'm stuck at home on the computer supposedly doing real work that contributes to my paid job. It's not fun because I would rather be in Palmy or writing.

I am tired of winter, though many would argue I'm a lucky sod for living in GodZone, with its mild climate and good coffee.

But even these things haven't saved half of Sydney from the swine flu and every other lurgie imaginable.

To make matters worse, tomorrow I rejoin my sniffling, snuffling sneezing fellow commuters on the bus into town in peak-hour traffic.

Back to work.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Rhyming couplet madness inspired by MasterChef and Miss Hissy

Youngest daughter Miss Hissy has a tendency to go feral (mad as a meat-axe).

She has a school English assignment, where she has to write five poems in different styles. There's haiku, free verse and narrative (what's the difference?), something else involving adjectives and verbs, and the rhyming couplet.

The other night she was taking forever to get her rc together. Nothing worked, it was a dog's breakfast and she was growing more and more frustrated (lots of pacing the room like the mad wife in Jane Eyre - scary stuff).

Just to rev her up, I jotted down a rc in about 60 seconds. I would have been dead meat had there been any knives lying around.

Here's the witty pome
that nearly broke up a home:

My mother thought she could cook
Without the help of a recipe book

She got the butter, eggs and flour
And was going strong for half-an-hour

Stirring, shaking, frying, beating
Baking, soaking, oven heating

But then, before our very eyes
The cake fell flat, it wouldn't rise

The pie crust burnt, the quiche just sucked
Eggs went flying, we all ducked

My Mum is not the best at cooking
What a relief she's so good looking

I know, I know... I won't be giving up my day job anytime soon.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Finally finished - now for the hard part

I have finished the first draft of my first-ever romance novel.

It's very rough but I am thrilled to have finally knocked out almost 49,000 words.

It felt good at first.

It's taken me half my life to get to this point, but now the hard work begins. I have to convince someone my story is worth publishing.

It means I have to now write a perfect synopsis and pitch, as well as finesse the story.

If only life was a piece of cake,
Easy to mix and a cinch to bake

(My rhyming couplet is inspired by my youngest daughter's English homework assignment)

And so to bed.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

A rave about the JJJ Hottest 100 of all time and The top rating TV show Masterchef

Forget the G8, Kim Jong Il's obsession with nuclear weapons and all the fuss around the Middle East and the GFC (no, it's not about chicken).

Here in Australia, the land of "no worries, she'll be right mate", we've been glued to radio JJJ's Hottest 100 of all time and the final countdown in Network Ten's reality show, Master Chef.

I breathed a sigh of relief when Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit and Jeff Buckley's version of the Leonard Cohen masterpiece Hallelujah topped the JJJ poll in first and second place respectively. But I am puzzled that an ordinary tune from Rage Against The Machine, Killing in the name, came in at number 3.

It just shows there's lots of Resch's drinking bogans out there with nothing better to do (that's the GFC for you) than cast multiple votes for their fave beer-swilling, head-banging anthems. Boring.

However, I was happy that Joy Division's ode to self-harm Love will tear us apart was number 4. I still clearly recall laying in the foetal position on a flea-infested lounge listening to Transmission back-to-back with Morrison Hotel in a share-house in the early '80s. Happy days.

But now I'm approaching senility, Masterchef Australia hits all the right buttons.

The show is rating off its crispy-skinned bottom. The contestants are cooking up a storm for the chance to win $100,000, a cookbook deal and something else (can't remember, but it's good).

It's an excellent show, but the irony is that most Australians barely know how to barbecue a snag and the idea of good night out is *Macca's, a bucket of KFC (yep, that's sort of like chicken) or Subway for something healthier.

Still, this week I'll be rooting for my favourite contestants - Julie (I have a feeling she'll be booted off), Justine with the big cow eyes, Julia and Poh.

That leaves the two boring male competitors. Can't remember the first one, but Spanner likes Chris. I think he's an arrogant Melburnian (what else is new?) who can only cook a lump of meat. Give him anything complicated and he falls apart.

It's a man thing.

*G'day to any Americans reading this. You will feel right at home when visiting our lovely country

Friday, 10 July 2009

Playing with fire at Wategos Beach

I will return to the romance writing diary, but just to break it up I thought I'd throw in some pics of fire jugglers I snapped at Wategos Beach in Byron Bay in May.

They were hired to perform for a wedding party being held at the exclusive hotel Rae's on Watego's, which reminds me a bit of Hotel California - arches, columns and palm trees.

Anyway, lucky Mrs Snorkel and me just happened to be walking back to our budget hotel from a magnificent swim. Cossies still damp and towels around our waists, we witnessed the fire jugglers' amazing performance in front of a fully frocked-up audience.
Orstraileeeea! Where budget meets big money and no one bats an eyelid

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Men don't get romance writing

Romance-writing diary part 2...

I was having a lot of problems with that first kiss, especially the lips. I started out with: 'His lips found hers...' but was reminded of the TV commercial for a brand of beer where the tongue escapes from its sleeping owner's mouth and crawls/tongues its way to a nightclub to get a beer.

'Their lips met' is another tricky one. Where did they meet? A nightclub? A dinner party?

I get past the lips meeting dilemma and move onto where the hero 'fondles' the heroine's breasts. My partner Spanner arrives home and I ask him what it's like to touch up a nice firm breast.

I tell him: "Cast your mind back to when we first met."

He says: "I don't know what it feels like. Can't you just say he couldn't describe the feeling?"

God, men are useless.

Five minutes later, my first minor love scene is complete. Spanner insists I read it aloud.

After I stumble through it, highly embarrassed, he comments: "That's pretty light-on."

"What did you expect?" I say. "It's their first kiss and I can't have them having sex yet."

"I want porn," he says.

To be continued...

Monday, 6 July 2009

The romance-writing diary and the first KISS dilemma

For the next couple of posts I'll share with you several entries from a romance writing diary I kept back in 2004. It was at the suggestion of a friend, who thought it might encourage me to write. How embarrassing.

Here's an entry:
I must get started. I have reached a crucial stage of my novel where the hero and heroine may or may not kiss face.

The first kiss must contain all the romantic elements - surprise, sexual tension, realism and that most palpable sensation of lips pressed to lips (no tongues yet).

I'm so nervous. I must get this right. I refer to the bible -Valerie Parv's The Art of Romance Writing.

I look up Kiss in the index. It's not there. All I find is First person and below it Forced sex. I go to the contents. Under the heading Sense and sensuality I find Sensual tension checkpoints.

Valerie writes that I've got to work on creating a scene that so involves the reader that they can 'see, hear, feel, even smell, all that the heroine does, vicariously experiencing the heroine's reactions to the hero and what they mean to her'.

She doesn't give a rundown on how to make it to that first flesh-on-flesh experience. I'll have to work out the finer details on my own.

To be continued...

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Don't try this for a living: on blogging and the Clustr map

Blogging is a strange pastime.

For me, it's an excuse to rabbit on about the things I enjoy (ocean swims, writing) and things I should be doing (making a living, mimimal dusting, making sure my kids get more to eat than stale Weetbix).

I was quite content to send my twaddle into the ether. Not too concerned about whether I was read or not.

Then I got a Clustr map and now I'm obsessed. Every day (sometimes twice if I'm at home) I click on the map to check on who's reading and from where around the world.

I wonder, if I'm so clever why has the person from Singapore tuned out? Why aren't my American and Canadian readers sticking around? Do they want to read about swimming or romance writing? Why on earth would someone in India be bothered? I wouldn't.

The Clustr map has turned me into a neurotic mess. What? Only six hits today? Why am I doing this? What is the purpose of this blog? Why do stupid people become celebrities? Whatever happened to Robbie Williams?

I should dump the map for my own peace of mind. But it's too late now. I'm hooked on those red dots growing plumper day after day after day.

PS: From other blogs I've read, it seems that to attract readers one has to espouse words of wisdom. So, here goes:

Screw the journey, I want the destination

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Do you really want to be JK Rowling?

'Wish you were JK Rowling?'

This is the opening line to a promo for a workshop on fantasy writing being run by a local writers' centre.

When I saw it, my initial reaction was: "Yes!"

Who wouldn't want to be JK Rowling, the world's most successful author in recent history?

But then, I thought, what would be the point of being JK Rowling if I couldn't still be me?

And do I really want to be JK Rowling, or am I only after her success and fame (and brilliant mind)?

And what is the value of these things if I haven't achieved them all by myself?

That's why questions that address the reader are so frustrating. Often there's not a straight answer.

So, no, I don't want to be JK Rowling.

I'd like to have a chat with her over a cup of Twinings English Breakfast Tea served with warm scones, strawberry jam and clotted cream (maybe we could meet for high tea at her estate) and it would be fun to have her as a critique partner.

But I don't want her fame or fortune (OK, maybe just a small portion of her fortune - enough to buy a holiday house on the south coast!).

In the cut-throat world of writing, authors have to create their own 'unique' voice in order to be read. There's only room for one JK Rowling.