Running Away

I’ve just got back to Sydney after a lovely little break away. We spent a few days in Berry – a country town just two hours south of Sydney. See how beautiful it is there:

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Here I am. I love my nipped-in waist, not too sure about my husband’s shorts though.

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Berry countryside. It’s not all hot and barren and dry in Australia.

 

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This is my pretend back garden, the one I’m getting when I move to the country. Still dreaming.

Gerroa Beach, only 5 minutes from Berry. When I go to the country, I like a bit of surf with my turf.

Gerroa Beach, only 5 minutes from Berry. When I go to the country, I like a bit of surf with my turf.

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A snap shot of some of the Berry locals.

I’ve just come home and already I want to go back again. That’s a good sign.

 

Father’s Day Fun

 Happy Fathers Day

The Sheep Family by Chalkie, via Flickr

The Sheep Family by Chalkie, via Flickr

It’s Fathers Day in Australia  so today’s blog had to be about Dad.

Courtesy of Chris Nystrom, Flickr

Courtesy of Chris Nystrom, Flickr

We let hubby sleep in while we made a special breakfast (actually, it wasn’t that special).

 

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I bought hubby something from his new favourite shop,  West Elm.  He loves it (he’s had many years practice at pretending to love my presents so he’s pretty convincing these days).

 

courtesy of Susana, via Flickr creative commons

courtesy of Susana, via Flickr creative commons

Then, we all came from far and wide and shared a Father’s Day lunch together. 

 

Picture courtesy of  Nao-cha, via Flickr creative commons

Picture courtesy of Nao-cha, via Flickr creative commons

Scout got hubby something yummy to eat . Scout  always gives food  because it’s so close to her heart.

photo (5)Here’s a photo of my mum. It makes me laugh because I know what is really happening here. This was taken recently when she visited a monkey reserve in Bali. She thought she was about to pat a baby monkey and instead this hunky fully grown male jumped onto her lap and stayed there. That tight smile of hers says, “Get the baboon off me, quick.’ The old male took quite a shine to Mum and pee’d down her leg, claiming her before any of the other males had a chance.  I can’t take her anywhere!

Funny animal pick-me-ups

At the moment I’m busily editing my second book  and that’s hard work. While procrastinating, I came across these uplifting animal photos. I love animals so these warmed my heart:

The photos are courtesy of  John E Bullas, via flickr creative commons:

 

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No worries!

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Rusty might be an old dog but he still comes in handy sometimes.

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I’m not eating it yet so back off. I’m just licking it and saving it for later.

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There’s nothing like a feather blanket.

 

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Walking – it’s overrated!

 

Am I imagining this or is there a weird furry thing stealing some of my milk?

Am I dreaming this or is a weird furry thing stealing some of my milk?

 

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Best fish pie – ever

We had friends around on Saturday night for dinner so I made my favourite dish, fish pie. I’ve made lots of fish pies over the years, but this one is stand-out best.

Warning though, it’s a for-guests type recipe only. I reckon it’s too much work for a family meal, and a little expensive too. But if you’re having someone around, then it’s perfect.  I wish I could lay claim to the recipe, but nope; this is Gordon Ramsay’s creation from his book/series  ‘The F Word.”

 

POSH FISH PIE (serves 4 or 5)

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Heat 25 g butter and cook 4 chopped shallots and 1/2 a finely chopped fennel bulb until soft. Add 1 cup dry white wine and 1 cup vermouth and reduce by half. Add 2 cups fish stock and bubble away till reduced by 1/2.

 

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Pour in 2 cups cream. (I used lite) Boil until reduced to a thickish sauce like consistency. Strain through a sieve, discarding shallots and fennel. Stir in 2 tablespoons whole grain mustard and salt and pepper according to taste. Leave to cool.

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Heat oven 180 degrees Celsius/gas 4. Cut 800 g of white fish fillets (I used snapper) into chunks. Poach the fish in just enough water to cover, along with a squeeze of lemon juice and a few sprigs of Thyme, until slightly undercooked.

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Remove fish with a slotted spoon. Gently fold the fish and 200 g raw peeled king prawns into the sauce with a little extra lemon juice and a handful of mixed herbs.

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Make mashed potatoes. You’ll need about 5 potatoes for this recipe. Obviously, the mash gets spooned or piped on top.Ramsay puts it in one big pie dish but I used individual dishes because I like individual pies. Bake for 20 minutes until golden on top.

 

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My friends loving their fish pie

 

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…and lots of drinks later

We had a lot of fun; I have a mother of a hang-over to prove it.

Editing – the way I do it

It’s time to pull out my WIP manuscript and begin the editing process.

 

Nic McPhee, Flickr

Nic McPhee, Flickr

I shelved it  6 weeks ago  (I usually do this when I’ve finished writing a story) because I need distance, I need a break away and fresh eyes for when I return. Without a decent break, I can’t see my story as it really is, warts and all.

 

Teresa Robinson, Flickr

Teresa Robinson, Flickr

 

Firstly, I type out  and bullet point the main events happening in each chapter. Every event gets one line only. Each chapter gets its own page, so 20 chapters equals 20 pages. Print the lot off. Next,  I lay my 20 sheets on the floor in order. Then I read my summarised story through, looking for plot holes, or events that dominate and need to be pared back.  I can’t see the story as a whole until I’ve done this spread-out-on-the-floor-thing. Sometimes I rearrange chapters, putting them in a different order.

Toca Boca, Flickr

Toca Boca, Flickr

Next, I look at the characters themselves. The protagonist should have the biggest part. The others should be represented in order of importance. Is anyone getting too much or missing out? Are they all unique and distinctly different? Does each character have his own goals, motivation, conflict? Does each character grow and change by the end? Is the hero and heroine appealing, with decent character flaws (no sugar sweet characters for me)? Is the baddie, bad enough?  Do my characters act in a true-to-themselves way.

Nick Kenrick, Flickr

Nick Kenrick, Flickr

Next, I look at the phrases. Am I using fresh imagery and avoiding all clichés? Be on the look out for overused words, ideas and overused dialogue tags (he said, curling his lip, or she said, gritting her teeth). Is the dialogue snappy and does it have a natural flow?  Do I have a good mix of action, thoughts and dialogue? Be vigilant about showing rather than telling.

The ending. If you’re writing romance, you must have a satisfying ‘Happy Ever After.’  Do not end the book too abruptly. Romance readers like to enjoy a drawn out HEA. But, the reward must not be too easily won. It must be well deserved.

I’m aware that I haven’t mentioned spelling and grammar. By this stage I can’t see spelling mistakes or typos. If I was self publishing, I’d need to put the manuscript away again, for another few weeks break.  But if I’m going with a publisher, then I’d press submit, and hope to pick the typos up during the in-house editing process.

I know that this is a hell of a lot of work. But, each book needs to be as good as we can make it.

 

Courtesy of Live Life Happy, via Flickr

Courtesy of Live Life Happy, via Flickr

I’d love to hear about other ways to edit.

 

Sydney Winter Wandering

It’s winter in Sydney right now, so Scout and I rugged up and went wandering.

Scout and I enjoying a leisurely lunch out

Scout and I enjoying a leisurely lunch out

Coogee beach in winter

Coogee beach in winter

There's got to be a rabbit around here somewhere

There’s got to be a rabbit around here somewhere

Hubby collecting Scout's pinecones

Hubby collecting Scout’s pine cones

The new family that has just moved in next door

The new family that has just moved in next door

Have a happy week ahead everyone.

Amazon.com sales rankings…

I drove myself crazy this week. Suddenly, out of nowhere, I became obsessed with my ebook sales figures. And the crazy thing is, I’ve never cared about the money. Writing has never been about earning, not for me. For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to write books and be a published author. I finally get what I wanted a week and a half ago, and what happened? I went and moved the goal posts.  Suddenly, I wanted to be an author that sold books.

Image from Wombatarama, Flickr creative commons

Image from Wombatarama, Flickr creative commons

 

For most of the week, I obsessed about my Amazon sales ranking, as if that was now the new measure of my success. Those rankings go up and down in silly amounts and never stay put, or more accurately, never stay where I want them to be. I even got to the point of taking screen shots, as if I could freeze the figure in time. Those wretched bouncing figures woke me up at night.

Image courtesy of Andrew Braithwaite, flickr

Image courtesy of Andrew Braithwaite, Flickr

 

Then I worked Amazon out. This is what I came up with:

1) Those rankings do not take into account international sales (i.e. sales from Australia). The figures show American sales only. They also do not include sales from other places/devises such as Kobo.

2) The rankings change every hour.

3) The figures are not cost sensitive. Famous authors ebooks selling for $10.00 each often  rank lower than cheap ebooks selling well for .99 cents. In reality, the famous author is the one making more money.

4) Spending time obsessing about figures is counter productive. Instead, focus on book two and write it well.

 

Now that I’ve worked all that out, I’m happy again. What a relief!

 

Image of Socs chasing and being chased by emu, courtesy of David Clarke, Flickr

Image of Socs chasing and being chased by emu, courtesy of David Clarke, Flickr

This picture has nothing to do with anything. I know dogs like to chase and catch birds but Socs might need to re-think this one.