Saturday, November 26, 2011

Friday Favourites - Randomly nice people

This week I have been participating in GISHWHES -- aka the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen. The project was the brainchild of Misha Collins, an actor, tweeter and slightly insane guy who doesn't like Australia for hilarious reasons. It aims to raise some money to help out in Haiti as well as basically just provide a bit of fun for the participants involved.

The rules of the game are that you are not allowed to post any of your submitted images on blogs, so unfortunately I can't show you some of the awesome things I and my international and amazing team have been able to do (including the nerve-wracking excitement of breaking the law in Singapore!).

Going out and asking complete strangers to do weird and occasionally inconvenient things is something outside my comfort zone. But I have been absolutely astonished by the genuinely nice people who have, mostly, just gone , "Oh, okay. Sure, I'll help."

Asking nicely, smiling, explaining why -- this all goes to assist in getting people on side, but so far (touch wood) I'm yet to come across someone who has been rude or unhelpful. Restores one's faith in humanity, if such a thing was needed!

Today I met John Wolff, a man from Upwey (outer suburb of Melbourne) who runs a calculator museum of sorts. John was kind enough to lend me a comptometer, which, I learned, is basically a sophisticated calculator from the early 20th Century -- a precursor to adding machines and computers in the days before we had such things. Comptometers were used in offices right up until the 1970s.
A comptometer from the 1930s

John surrounded by part of his collection

We (my brother and I -- Chris was along for the ride to provide essential logistical assistance like carrying the heavy comptometer around!) took John's precious almost-computer to a local restaurant where we attempted -- as per the instructions -- to calculate the tip required for our meal of sandwiches and tea. This was made challenging by the fact that the comptometer operated in pounds, shillings and pence, and more generally by the fact that that waiters in Australia generally don't expect to be tipped.

After visiting John (and returning the precious piece of calculating equipment) we headed to Puffing Billy to photograph a pink feather boa hanging out the window of the engine carriage. Once again, we encountered helpful -- if highly bemused -- people, who willingly allowed the dignity of the grand old Billy to be compromised for the sake of a photo.

I've also had some lovely friends helping me out, in far-flung places such as Hong Kong, Canada and Brazil. And some a little closer to home, who have willingly exploited their children on my behalf.

Working with my randomly selected team (two Aussies, one Puerto Rican, the rest American) has also been a great experience. I have been astounded by their creativity, efficiency and helpfulness. Just to get a bit business-like for a moment, if anyone ever needed an exercise to prove the effectiveness of social media in creating and enhancing innovation, collaboration and connectedness, then this would be a brilliant case study!

If we don't win the challenge (and, oh, I would like to -- first prize is a trip to Rome!!) then at least I've had some fun, donated some money to charity, met some new people, and done a whole heap of things I thought I'd never find myself doing. There's something pretty magical about that.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Feeling Christmassy

If you celebrate Christmas, I'm betting you're either a person who love, love, loves it, or a person who hates, hates, hates it. Christmas, in my experience, tends to be a polarising thing. And the reasons for each extreme are varied and complex.

Personally, I generally come down on the loves, loves, loves side. But as I get older (insert sound of creaking bones) I am finding it harder to snare that elusive Christmas spirit and find it gets closer and closer to actual Christmas time until I start to *feel* the Christmas.

This year I'm surprising myself by already beginning to come over all Christmassy. A friend recently posted her Christmas cake preparations on Facebook -- and the photo of glossy dried fruit soaking in a bath of scented alcohol was enough to make me breathe in deep and begin preparing my shopping list for Christmas baking. I also headed out and bought a couple of expensive food magazines so I could begin to drool and plan the family Christmas meal.

I'm in Singapore right now and I think that's definitely helping, because apart from some places in Eastern Europe in winter, I've never seen a city so totally embrace the celebration. Singapore is Christmas on steroids! Take a look at some of the fantastic pics I've snapped over the past couple of days. Unfortunately the camera can't really do justice to the spectacular scene that it is!

I cant' wait to get home and put up my Christmas tree. It's not too soon, is it?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Today's romance soundtrack

Trying to pull together my HEA today. (That's Happily Ever After for you non-romance-writer types.) Needing some musical inspiration to help me along. Don't know why, but I heard a cover of this song the other day and it's been stuck in my head ever since. The original is SO 80s, but that's not necessarily a bad thing in my book...

All I needed was the love you gave,
All I needed for another day
And all I ever knew
Only you


Friday, November 4, 2011

Friday Favourites - Struggling with the WIP and the sexy cowboy

The WIP (that's "Work In Progress" for the non-writerly) is kicking my butt right now. I love this story. Seriously, I love it, I love my characters, I cry for them and for what I'm putting them through, but some days, geez, I hate it too. Does that make sense?

This isn't much of a start for something that's titled Friday Favourite is it? Oops. Meh, it's Friday, I'm blogging, and this is what's on my mind.

So I love this story and I hate it at the same time. That's got to be a good thing creatively, right? Not just something that's going to drive me slowly insane? (Please! Give me an answer! Not a rhetorical question!) Given that where I'm at right now is a place that I hate, I'd try to remind myself what it is that I love about this story.

First off, there's my hero. He's hot. Seriously--if he was real, I'd do him. My CPs agree. I have a photo that inspired him, and it's a little NSFW, sorry, but here you go. I guarantee you'll be pleased I posted it. My friends and I used to call him the sexy cowboy. For obvious reasons.

(No source, sorry. If you know, let me know and I'll credit it. I did try Googling "naked tattooed cowboy" images, and while that was immensely entertaining, it didn't produce any results as such.)

Of course, he doesn't get around naked like that in the book. (Well, not very often, anyway.) And he only has one tattoo, but he does rock the beard.

Pretty much this whole book sprung from that photo. Oh, and some red wine. (It'll make sense when you read it.)

Speaking of wine, the story is set in a fictional version of the Yarra Valley, amongst the grapevines of a vineyard. It's winter, in my story, so there aren't any lush grapes or green leaves, but it's still quite a spectacular spot. In my head, it looks a little like this:

No credit needed here, because this is my photo. I took it on a trip to Coonawarra in South Australia with a dear friend. For one of the days we were there, we hired a driver to drive our car while we tried every wine we could get our mitts on. We bought A LOT of wine on that trip. Seriously, on the drive back, our luggage was on the back seat because the back (a station wagon!) was full.

And my heroine. Oh boy. She's complicated. She's pretty, of course, but a little unique looking too, and she's got an inner wild-child streak a mile-wide. A bit like this.

(Sorry, another photo with no source attribution. I copied this one and the other one before I figured out I'd do things like blog about them and the proper thing to do would be to provide credits.)

She's carrying around the weight of the world and being in her head is almost painful. She's been through so much and I'm just making her go through more. You really should feel sorry for my characters. I torture them unbearably.

I think it's incredibly dull to read about other people's music preferences. Almost as dull as reading about their kids and pets. However this post wouldn't be complete without me mentioning my WIP's soundtrack. Every story I write has one. Sometimes the music has no relevance at all to the story -- it's just about the feeling or the vibe of the song that somehow meshes with the words I'm writing. And sometimes the music itself is incredibly embarrassing. Why, I think to myself, am I listening to that? My musical tastes are usually well outside the top 40, but then suddenly, I'm listening to some classic rock or ridiculous pop and thinking yes, yes, that's it!

Unsurprisingly, this book has been accompanied by many sad songs. But one song that I'm hoping will get me to the end is "We Belong" by Pat Benatar. Because if there's one truth about these two, it's that they Do. Belong. Together.

And on that note, it's time to get back to writing. Take it away Pat. Get us to "The End".

Enjoy your Fridays, all!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Writing satisfying endings

Wanda Ottewell is blogging today over on the SuperRomance Authors Blog about writing satisfying endings. Quite timely given right now I'm struggling with the final chapters of my WIP! She's also answering some of the questions posed by commenters. If that wasn't enough to entice you to head on over and leave some love, one lucky poster will win all six of this month's new release SuperRomance books. Run, don't walk!