Friday, August 31, 2012


Between my own bouts of 'flu and the families ills and chills I've been making slow headway through various projects.

I'm wanting to e-publish a collection of my historical short stories and I've gathered together seven stories so far. Most of them have needed tweaking, rearranging and in some cases extending. They were all written for competitions with word limits so I'm enjoying the freedom of having that restraint removed.

Some were written a couple of years ago and it's good to see that my writing has improved since then, even though that means more work in rewriting. But it's not just the writing I'm looking at. The story I'm working on at the moment, for example, needed some words and historical facts checked.

The Shacklock orion coal range. 

Set in the time of our one and only bush-ranger - Henry Garrett - it features what is probably his most famous misdemeanor. The robbery of 15 men at the foot of the Maungatua mountains, with unloaded pistols. He was a gentleman you see! Checking a few facts I realised that although the sticking-up took place in 1861, I had eluded to Shacklock's wonderful new coal ranges which  were not produced until 1873!  Here's a photo of one. I would simply love to have one in my own kitchen.

And somehow those majestic horses with the feathered feet became Drysdales. I've now renamed them correctly as Clydesdales.

I'm halfway through this project and have decided to put off the whole technical task of formatting and horrible tax things until I'm finished. By then it should be summer and hubby will be on holiday with a little more time to advise me. Hubbies are very useful, aren't they?

On the novel writing front, I've left poor Amelia standing in the doorway of the Crown Hotel's dining room, staring at Mr Theodore Brennan. Poor girl has been there for a week or two - I hope her muscles haven't atrophied. I'm having trouble with her. I just can't seem to bring out her best side and stifle her rather selfish behaviour. She really is a lovely girl and deserves much better treatment from me.

I think I need to leave her there and jump forward in the story. Write lots of scenes where you can't help but like her and feel a little sorry for her predicaments. Hopefully I'll then be able to go back and salvage the mess I've left her in.

And on a final note: NaNoWriMo is fast approaching and I think I'm going to give it another go this year. More on that later.

Enjoy the weekend!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


In the midst of the mad morning dash to school and work there was a little beam of sunshine. My daughter, who has been having a love hate relationship with books lately, came downstairs with one of my well loved books - Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild. It sat by her bowl as she ate her porridge and then was placed in her school bag for further reading during the day.

Ballet Shoes was one of my most loved books as a child. Mum read it to me several times then I read it myself again and again. I just loved those little Fossil girls.

Here's a blurb about the book from Book Depository:

Pauline, Petrova and Posy are found as orphaned babies in different parts of the world by eccentric fossil collector and explorer Gum. He adopts them, takes them to his London home and leaves them in the care of his niece Sylvia and the family Nurse. Then off he goes to continue his exploring, saying that he'll be back in five years' time. When the three little girls are old enough, they choose the surname Fossil for themselves and vow to make the name famous. At first they lead privileged and sheltered lives. But when Gum fails to return after five years, Sylvia's money begins to run out. First she is forced to take in some boarders - an engaging and eclectic mix of characters - but then she decides that the girls should go to acting school. This way they will be able to earn some money before they grow up. Pauline adores the school, as she dreams of becoming an actress. Petrova hates it, all she wants to do is learn about cars and planes and engines. Posy loves it too - she is born to be a dancer and the school is the perfect place for her.

Noel Streatfeild  went on to write a whole series of 'Shoe' books and many others as well, but Ballet Shoes is the only one I've read. You may have seen the tv movie from a couple of years ago starring Emma Watson. 

Ballet Shoes also got a mention in the Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan movie: 'You've Got Mail' - which is one of my favourite movies, but that's another story.

My copy has long lost its jacket and the green cloth cover is faded and worn, but of all the available editions, this one looks just right to me. 

And here's a picture from inside. Uncle Gum and the three Fossils.

Noel Streatfeild OBE 24 December 1895 – 11 September 1986
Have you read anything by Noel Streatfeild and what was your favourite children's book?

Saturday, August 25, 2012


As you can see, things have changed a bit around here. Nothing like a change, is there?

I just wanted to give a big shout out to the wonderful designer, Karen Watson of The Background Fairy.   She designs stunning backgrounds and headers for blogs and has generously made them available at no cost. You can find her site here . Or click on the button below.

The Background Fairy

Friday, August 24, 2012


I'm having a bit of a topsy-turvy week. One of those weeks when outside influences cause you to through your routine out the window. Nothing major, nothing to worry about, I'm just finding it hard to settle to anything.

On a possitve note, our week of persistent rain has fled, for good, I hope. Everything is drying out and the massive pile of washing in the laundry is shrinking. Always a good way to start the weekend.

And an exciting note: I won tickets for two to our local Fortune theatre to see a play called Heroes. It was wonderful: funny and touching. It's 1959 and three WWI veterans sit on the terrace of their old peoples home in France, reminiscing and making plans to escape. A 200 pound stone statue of a dog plays a significant part too! Also, I had never been to this theatre, which was converted from an old church, many, many years ago. I really must try to go more often.

The Fortune Theatre.

 I did start the week off on a very satisfying note. As I've mentioned before I also like to quilt. Before I started writing, I had finished a quilt for the second son and one for my daughter, but my poor eldest son has had to wait far too long. On Sunday afternoon I glued myself to the kitchen table until it was finished. I now have one very happy son!

Here's my quilt threesome.

My oldest's quilt - a musical theme.

A closeup of the fabrics.

And here's the one I made my daughter:

I loved making this - such gorgeous girly fabrics!

This was the very first quilt I made. The cats just make this.

Next is a quilt for me and hubby!

Have a great weekend.

Monday, August 20, 2012


A couple of weeks ago my brother rang to tell me that Maeve Binchy had died. It was sad news indeed. From her first novel: Light A Penny Candle (1982) I was a devoted fan.  I own all her novels and a few of her short story collections. Christmas isn't Christmas without her latest book - usually gifted to me by my brother. That wonderful relaxing time between Christmas and New Years is always spent reading her latest, or rereading one of her old ones.

She was a gifted story teller, who wrote about life: families, communities, people with all their quirks and faults. I especially liked how the same characters kept reappearing in subsequent novels, yet they were stand alone novels zeroing in on different people from the same community.

Her earlier novels were set in 1950s Ireland. Then her latter ones, starting with Evening Class, moved to modern day Dublin.

I read in an interview that she had the 'gift of the gab'; and that certainly translated to her work. Reading one of her books was like sitting down with a cup of tea and hearing all the latest gossip from a friend who really 'got' people.

Although I loved each and every one of her novels and have reread them numerous times, my all time favourites are Tara Road and Scarlet Feather.

Have you read any of her books and if so which is your favourite?

Thursday, August 16, 2012


After days and days of rain the sun came out this morning. I was out the door with my walking shoes on as soon as I'd finished the most essential morning chores. It seems ages since I've been out. The sky was a hazy blue and the sun bright and warm.  Steam wafted up from the road, fence posts, letterboxes, anywhere the sun hit. We're paying for it now. A huge bank of white mist has rolled down the harbour and engulfed us. Good bye sun, hello cold and dreary.

I took my camera with me today, not sure of what I'd snap, but this letterbox and gate caught my eye. So I spent the rest of my walk sniffing out unusual or pretty letterboxes.

I do like the hand painted ones and the red one with the oriental 'roof' is nice too - anything red always attracts me. This bottom one, however, is what I would like for our own home.

What's your favourite?

Right, it's back to the writing for me. Have a great weekend!

Monday, August 13, 2012


Today Dunedin has been plunged back into the depths of winter. The temperature has plummeted and snow is predicted above 500m. Rain has been falling since yesterday and there are no signs of it abating. The best thing about this change is the mist. It lends an eerie air to the world outside my window.

Weather can almost be a cliche when you match it to the events in a novel, but it really does add a layer of atmosphere. Or if the weather clashes with events, that too can add texture: A sinister event in a bright clear day with birdsong on the air; a happy ever after ending to a romance punctuated by a violent thunderstorm has possibilities too.

Mist or fog lends itself to mysteries, but it has a shut-in effect too, which could be translated into cosiness, or security - as long as the protagonist is safely inside or at least near a fire!

And that's where I am today. Inside with the fire roaring, feeling like the only person on earth. Outside everything is drenched in rain and mist and the hills have disappeared.

I need to write a romance for an upcoming competition. Today the weather has put me in just the right mood.

Does the weather effect your writing?

Here's a few photos I just snapped over our back fence.


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Friday, August 10, 2012


This morning, for the first time in months, I did the school run and although I did a little internal moan about having to go out so early - the oldest needed to be there before eight! - it was a beautiful drive.

The last few days have been wet so the world was all dewy and dripping, but the sky was cloud free and tinged with tones of gold and copper. We dropped off the oldest at the polytech's training restaurant - he's taking a test, making vegetarian panini's - and skirted the Logan Park playing fields. White mist hung over the grass so that I could almost imagine it had returned to its original existence - Lake Logan.

With Dunedin's huge roofed stadium behind us we passed the concrete business where several bright yellow trucks stood, churning their contents while they waited for the time when they could regurgitate their wet stony load.

Almost completing the circuit around the playing fields I dropped my daughter at her school, which is nestled between bush clad hills. Then it was time to head back home, more relaxed with no deadline to meet.

Coming up the valley a bright yellow halo hung over the hill where the sun was about to appear. Driving up that same hill I looked across to Mt Cargill where threads of fog clung to the crevices and a cloudy blanket covered the top, shrouding the television mast.

Finally at home and I was delighted to see that the tree at the bottom of our drive has blossomed with tiny white flowers, seemingly overnight. I parked the car, turned off the ignition and sat for a moment, savouring the peace and the wonderful warmth from the very effective heater.

At last I stepped out to be welcomed by the crowing of a nearby rooster; a new day has dawned.      

Blossom at the bottom of our drive.

Mt Cargill from our lounge window. The fog has lifted and sky turned cloudy in the time it took me to write this!
Mention of Lake Logan has got me thinking. It has a fascinating history  - I'll see what I can dig up and tell you about it next week.

Have a great weekend!


Monday, August 6, 2012


Yesterday I was looking through my folder of short stories when I came upon one entitled, 'Sarah'.

I stared at the title for several minutes trying to remember what on earth this one was about, but failed. So I opened the document and read it. There was just over a page and I really rather enjoyed it, except for one glaring ommission: there were no notes outlining the complete story! I do recollect the opening scene now and even some of the subtext, but where to from here - who knows?

Note to self: Make notes on the beginning, middle and end of every story.

Has this ever happened to you?

As a side note, winter appears to be packing its bags. In the garden, shrubs are flowering and bulbs are pushing up through the earth. The grass is growing and looking so lush that a couple of sheep broke through our back fence to mow it for us. Helpful creatures!

Well, it's back to the writing for me. Have a great day wherever you are.

A flowering shrub in our garden.

The silver birches still look wintery, but there are buds forming on the tips of the branches.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


From the drawing rooms of London to the far flung corners of the British Empire and even in the saloons and log cabins of the Old West, (where, of course, she never reigned) the later half of the nineteenth century is simply termed Victorian. As you will know, if you've read any of my previous posts, I love the Victorian era

Map of the British Empire, 1886.

Almost everything I've written has been set in this era. There is just something about it that draws me in. I easily dream up characters and plots anchored in this time period. Early New Zealand settlers, bush rangers, Western outlaws, ranchers, English society ladies, Scottish sheep farmers, gold miners or maids.   

I love the fashions: pocket watches, waist coats, bustles and petticoats.

The blossoming of technology as we know it: telegraph, telephone, steam ships and trains.

This is very similar to the S.S.Iconic - the ship that Amelia travelled on to Dunedin.

In Dunedin, Queen Victoria is immortalized by this wonderful statue perched on the edge of Queen's Gardens: a small park in the city's centre.  Not surprisingly it's one of my most loved statues.

The orb in her hand is the subject of much hilarity in our family. When my sons were younger, every time we drove passed the statue they would point out her 'holy hand grenade'!

I can almost hear her reply: "We are not amused."