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Sunday, November 14, 2010

A trip back to childhood with an old friend...

I recently had cause to buy a young niece a birthday present and lacking both time and imagination, I gave in and decided to buy some "clothes" for her large collection of Barbies. I had fond memories of my own childhood companion, Sindy and thought the many Barbies could probably do with a change of outfit or two. I was horrified to find the choice on sale was extremely limited and basically came down to "sexy nurse Barbie" or "hooker Barbie". I opted for the latter - very short glittery skirts and tops and high heels - and had a delighted niece.

Sindy in her "country walk" outfit"
It gave me a moment of nostalgia for my own beloved Sindy, her boyfriend Paul and little sister Patch, who still reside in a box at the top of my cupboard. My Sindy had endless outfits of great respectability - including a tweed skirt and suede jacket and sensible lace up shoes - for "country walks", a proper nurses outfit (yes Sindy was the nurse, Paul was the doctor - this was the 1960s), riding jodphurs with a hacking jacket (alas despite many hints Santa never provided the horse!), a puffy ski jacket with down trim...and so on. Her party outfit, a pink mini dress with kitten heel shoes was the sexiest poor Sindy got.

In an endeavour to procrastinate while studying for an exam on Corporate Finance, I found myself trawling the web in search of Sindy. (All I can say is I am grateful the internet did not exist when I had to do exams seriously! My diversion in those days were endless games of patience - played with ACTUAL cards. Yes Virginia...that's what we used to in the old days.)

I discovered a world of Sindy collectors out there in internet land and from their comprehensive web pages, I learned that my beloved auburn haired Sindy with her striped "matelot" jumper and jeans and red "Alice" band must have been one of the early models - certainly between 1963 and 1968 (when she grew her hair). Poor Sindy wasn't terribly robust and did not survive all the clothes she was routinely changed in and out of and her head broke off. Mum dutifully elastoplasted it back on again and the repair still survives - just as well as it would now cost over $250 to find the same model in mint condition. Patch also lost her head. Paul managed to keep his but I suspect he was not played with quite as much.

It got me thinking what a microsom of history my Sindy was with her tweed skirt and her pink party dress. Mum (God bless her!) added to her wardrobe with delicate hand made outfits - all so wonderfully 1960s! My grandmother had a lovely wax doll from her childhood called "Priscilla" with whom I was allowed to play on very special occasions. She had beautiful hand stitched clothes and sheets for her turned wooden bed. I wonder if I ever a grand daughter I will produce Sindy or if the new generation will turn up their noses at such silly, dated toys.

Just a couple of the Sindy sites:

Do you have a special toy from your childhood that still lives with you? Any other Sindy girls out there?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Back in Print!

"We have the technology..." Do you remember those famous words from the 1970s "Bionic Man"? 

In 40 years even the makers of that series could not have envisaged the technology available to us today. Publishing is one of those industries that is still coming to terms with technological advances and for years e-publishing has been struggling to make its mark on the world. Now we have KINDLE and IPAD (I am irrationally hankering after one of those machines - so many apps...) and it looks like the e-book may finally have come home.

At least I hope so! My two books, BY THE SWORD and THE KING'S MAN went out of print early last year, ironically just as they were starting to make a bit of a market for themselves and for eighteen months I have been making apologetic noises about the unavailability of my books, particularly following the recent "showcasing" of THE KING'S MAN on the ABC. Attempts to find new publishers for them have been unsuccessful, even with the promise of a previously unpublished sequel so I made a decision to go it alone. I figure I own the electronic and print rights to both books, they've both been published so it's not as if it is a "vanity" publishing. Publishing as we know it is changing!

Originally I thought I would just make up a couple of .pdf files and make them available through my website then a friend put me on to Smashwords, a site run by Mark Coker. 
"Smashwords is an ebook publishing and distribution platform for ebook authors, publishers and readers. We offer multi-format, DRM-free ebooks, ready for immediate sampling and purchase, and readable on any e-reading device. 

At Smashwords, our authors and publishers have complete control over the sampling, pricing and marketing of their written works.It's free to publish and distribute with Smashwords.
For readers, Smashwords provides an opportunity to discover new voices in all categories and genres of the written word. Once you register, the site offers useful tools for search, discovery and personal library-building, and each week we add new features based on feedback from members."
Why not! The process of re-editing the books myself (the original publisher did a shocking job), getting spiffy new covers designed and getting the books up has been time consuming but I'm really pleased with the result and I hope the readers are too.Thank you to everyone who helped me along the way.
For those of you familiar with THE KING'S MAN, I have taken a  liberty. THE KING'S MAN was originally intended to have a sequel close on its heels but with the termination of my contract the sequel never happened. As a result the book ends on a cliff hanger - unforgiveable as every book should be complete in itself. So call it "Director's cut" but I have tied off the loose end I left at the end of the book and will be happy to share the new last chapter with anyone who has been  teetering on the edge of that cliff!
I have also been working with one of Smashwords affiliates, WordClay, to get a print (POD) edition of BY THE SWORD available at a reasonable cost. It should be available in a couple of weeks.
All in all, an educational experience and I certainly don't expect to be giving up full time work just yet.  I am just happy that my books are "back in print".

Sunday, May 2, 2010

My Secret Arts Life

Andy Warhol once said we are all entitled to our 15 minutes of fame but I don't think I quite understood what I had let myself in for when I was approached by the producer of "My Secret Arts Life", a segment of ABC Arts Nation, to see if I would be interested in appearing. He explained that the segment was looking at people with busy full time jobs who had secret passions for artistic pursuits. For example an eye surgeon who did ballet...and, yes, a senior executive (in a fire service) who wrote romantic fiction would be perfect!
It could have been awful. Writers of romantic fiction are used to being held up to ridicule as latter day Barbara Cartlands or bored housewifes in fluffy slippers. It is one thing to bear that burden in your writerly guise but quite another to carry it over into the real world where, yes I am, a senior executive in a very male industry! I should have had more confidence in my work mates, after all the first question I was asked when I went for my interview was where my books were available. Still...
I tried very hard not to think about it and put off the dread date till as late as I could possibly make it, only to have it brought forward on me. They would need at least a couple of hours at my workplace and would then film me at home. As luck would have it, the date and time we chose for the filming at work coincided with a rally by our friendly neighbourhood union which would culminate in a noisy gathering outside my window. The last thing we needed was a film crew pushing its way through ranks of annoyed workers! It was agreed to delay the filming session to the afternoon.
I had envisaged a discreet hand held camera and maybe one other person, not a film crew consisting of the producer, the camera man and the sound man, all hoisting huge amounts of gear! All very disruptive to a work place. So under the bright lights, I held imaginary conversations with my PA (who was choking with laughter in the outer office), checked files and stared intently into the computer screen (OK - my job really isn't that interesting!). Bemused work colleagues got dragged into my office for instanteous meetings, one of my fellow Directors had to quickly don a uniform for a one on one interview (which sadly wasn't used) and the afternoon receptionist had to bid me good morning (no less than 3 takes). It all culminated in a visit to the Fire Station (downstairs - I work above the shop!). Two charming, but  amused young firefighters were commissioned to show me over the Mk5 pumper truck (I do love those big red trucks).
It was with some relief we adjourned to home (thankfully the cleaning lady had been!), for the interview, the book reading and more filming of me typing on my computer. My dear friend, Anne Gracie, came along for moral support and DH arrived home in the middle of it all. Having declared he wanted no part of it, he found himself dragged into the filming and acquitted himself with all the aplomb of a true hero. Admittedly he did announce on national television that while I am a romantic person who loves flowers, he himself would never buy me flowers because he'd hate to think he was manipulating my emotions. Any wonder I write romance???
I was told the piece would go to air on May 9 and would include a re-enactment of part of the first chapter of THE KING'S MAN. While we all long to see our work on film, I cringed inwardly at that prospect.
Last weekend we went camping with friends and just by sheer chance I checked my telephone to see a SMS from the producer telling me it would be going to air that afternoon at 5.30pm! Stupidly we had forgotten to pack a TV but our friends came to the rescue. Their new car, they told me, had TV reception so at 5.30pm 8 of us crowded into the car to watch ARTS NATION.  The five hours of filming had been reduced to 5 minutes and the result was respectful of both myself as a writer but also of romantic fiction. Even the re-enactment worked (and can I please have the actor for Kit in the full screen version???).
Unfortunately while it is available on the internet, for copyright reasons (apparently) it is not viewable outside Australia, so my vain hope of the snippet being picked up by some bored Hollywood producer anxiously searching for new ideas, has been scotched and I have had my few minutes of Andy Warhol fame!

Watching Arts Nation on a 6" TV screen while camping!

BREAKING NEWS:  Both THE KING'S MAN and BY THE SWORD will be re-released shortly as electronic books only. Watch this space....

Sunday, March 7, 2010


How often have you read a book or watched a film where the plot has turned on a coincidence? I bet your lip curled at the use of such a trite plot device and the credibility of the author sunk to an all time low?

Any writer worth their salt will do ANYTHING to avoid the use of coincidence in their writing and yet coincidence occurs in real life all the time.

This was brought home to me over the last weekend.

Sometime before Christmas, DH and I had booked what is now quaintly referred to as a "mini break" to our nation's capital to take in a travelling exhibition of Impressionists from the Musee D'Orsay. As the year sprinted through January and hurled itself into February our weekend away was upon us.

On the Thursday before we left, DH rang his brother in Sydney to discuss some family matters. At the conclusion of the conversation the talk turned to the weekend plans.
"We're flying up to Canberra for the weekend," DH imparted.
Pause. ""Oh, so are we! We're driving down Saturday morning with some friends."
DH:  "Great! We must catch up for dinner on Saturday night. Where are you staying?"
His brother named the same hotel where we were booked. They had only made the decision to go to Canberra the week before!

(A tip for visitors to our National Gallery, it is worth every cent to pay for "preview" tickets - no queue and we were in the front door at 9.00 am).
As we left the exhibition, the queue now stretched the full length of the hall, out the front door and down into the car park. We heard our names called out and scanned the waiting line of people to see right before us, some old friends from our Singapore days who, although they live in Melbourne, we probably only see once a year. Like us they had flown up for the weekend with some friends.

That evening, we gathered for dinner with DH's brother, wife and their Sydney friends. We chose a random restaurant (among the many) in Manuka and settled in for a pleasant evening. Just as our meals were served, DH leaned across and said "Look at the table behind you." I turned around to see an old colleague from my Army days with his wife and their Melbourne friends (I'm not sure if the whole of Melbourne had decamped to Canberrra for the weekend but it was beginning to feel like it!). We had not seen each other for well over 10 years and enjoyed a wonderful catch up over lunch the next day.

So - coincidence? Once maybe, twice but three times in two days? Imagine if those encounters had occurred in the book you are reading? You would probably have hurled it at the wall!

Strange coincidences in your life? Fact being stranger than fiction, I would love to share your stories with you.