• Blog

    Life’s a beach


    At least mine is…
    It’s summer in Sydney and I happen to live in one of it’s lovely beach areas. I’m not really a sun worshipper because girls with red hair (sadly) are not designed for that sort of activity – big hats, sunscreen and long sleeves are more in my wheelhouse but I love the beach.

    This week Travel Zoo released its list of best beaches in Australia and I was not surprised to find two of my favourites in the Top 10. As you’ll see Shelley Beach and Manly Beach are often in my photos.

    Anyway, I thought I’d share some of my own more recent beach shots with you so you can get a taste of life her on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. We have a small boat we like to explore Sydney Harbour on so I’m lucky that I get to photograph it from land and sea.

    I often go for a walk at the beach to clear my head when writing and when it’s not so hot (we’re having a heatwave right now) I also like to go and write down by the water.

    My most recent novels aren’t set here but both my first two both have scenes on the Northern Beaches – Hearts Afire just towards the end and Mr Right and Other Mongrels is a set in beautiful Manly.

    So enjoy the photos and if you feel the urge to escape to the beach via a book consider one of those.

    Shelley BeachPelican in the ocean










    Manly Beach WalkOcean Swimming Northern Beaches








    Monique McDonell and Husband drinking champagne at the beachCoastal Flowers



















    The Pittwater Northern Beaches

    Northern Beaches Headland Ocean View








    Beach View

    Northern Beaches Beach







  • Blog

    Goal setting and maintaining momentum


    Beach and Surf ClubIt probably seems weird to have a picture of the beach beside a post on goal-setting. Beaches and goals are not exactly natural friends. Or are they?

    The truth is writing is a lonely pursuit. You sit with your bum in the chair trying to block the world out and be creative. It’s not a group pursuit. when it comes down to it you just have to do the work all by yourself. Yes you pay editors and proof-readers but you still have to create something for them to work with.

    I love setting goals. I know this makes me a weirdo. I’m not a competitive person except with myself. The truth is deep down I’m a pretty lazy human being. I need goals or nothing gets done.

    This year I set myself the goal of writing #1000wordsaday and I’m actually ahead of schedule. so far this year I’ve written 240,000 words. That’s more than 1000 words a day. In order to do that I have had to create a system for success. I run a small business, I have a family, I have friends and I like people so to get everything done I need a system.

    Not only is writing solitary but I work from home, alone. That’s a bucket-load of alone time. I probably spend more time alone than just about any person I know around my age. The truth is I’m a very social creature, which brings us to the beach.

    My Facebook posts and Twitter and Instagram feed make it look like all I do is go to the beach and drink coffee. “When do you write?” people ask me.

    Well let’s break it down. I don’t have a commute and I eat at my desk so that’s maybe two hours I have that a lot of people don’t. I work alone so there’s no gossiping at the water-cooler and I know from experience most people spend at least half an hour a day doing that.

    So if I spend and hour at the beach having coffee with a friend it’s time that someone else might spend doing those things. Not only that by choosing to go somewhere beautiful and inspiring I return to my desk energised.

    I’m not a morning person. I get up and do all my tedious admin first up. If I am meeting someone at the beach I’m back at my desk by lunchtime…and then I write. That’s my most creative time. I’ve had my treat now it’s time for business.

    That keeps my on track for my goals. If I’m too punitive with myself or too isolated I feel my creativity wane. I become dull and so do my characters. We all need balance in our lives or we lose momentum.

    When I set goals now I ask myself:
    – Is that realistic? (Do you have time? Do have the resources?)
    – Can you sustain that? (I can do 50,000 words on month but not every month).
    – Do you want it badly enough? (If I’m half-hearted to begin with I always fail).
    – What do you need to reach this goal? (Coffee? Company? Solitude? New software? You have to set yourself up to succeed).

    That’s how I set my goals and maintain my momentum – and get to go to the beach. What about you?


  • Blog

    Let’s talk Australia Day this Taste of Tuesday – or Australian supermarket treats


    Arnotts Tim TamsIf you’re not from Australia you may not be aware that January 26th is Australia Day. Australia day is to Australians what 4th of July is to Americans, or that’s the closest approximation I can make.

    Truthfully it marks the day Captain Cook landed in Australia, (This wasn’t such a great day for the indigenous Australians who were already living here because no one bothered to ask them if it would be okay if the English took over their country. No treaties were signed, no recompense was made. Until the white man came there was no disease here, they brought that with them. I digress).

    Australia Day is a hot day where people host bbq’s (cook outs), go to beachside picnics and enjoy the end of summer. (School goes back this same week but summer doesn’t officially end until the end of February but we all know that when school goes back it feels like an ending). Lots of citizenship ceremonies are held on Australia Day and the Australian of the Year is also announced.

    It’s a day when most Australian’s feel pretty bloody lucky to live in this country of ours.

    There are lots of things that people love about their home country, wherever it is, and food is a big one. So I’m going to share with you some classic Australian foods.

    That photo up the top is of Tim Tams. These are biscuits/cookies with a chocolate cream in the middle and then redipped in chocolate. They’re pretty wonderful. People who move abroad get homesick for the Tim Tam. A great way to enjoy them is to bite the end of and then suck your coffee or better yet your Irish coffee through the Tim Tam. This is known as a Tim Tam Explosion. You’ll thank me later.

    Most foreigners know of and fear our beloved Vegemite. A thick salty spread that is the by-product of beer manufacturing it is a truly acquired taste. You need to have it on toast with butter and then smeared sparingly on top, if you wish to adjust to this salty treat. The truth is Australians (who drink like fsh) have some of the highest Vitamin B levels in the world thanks to Vegemite.

    The Australian meat pie is another iconic choice. I shared a recipe for one last year around this time so you can make your own if you like.
    Of course the frozen foods section of our supermarkets have a lot of shelf space dedicated to the pie so if you find yourself down under you’ll be spoilt for choice. Perhaps you fancy a kangaroo pie just for something different.

    Tumblr now has whole sections asking if certain Australian foods ( and wildlife and language) are actually real. Well we really do have a very delicious ice-cream called a Golden Gaytime. These were the sorts of ice-creams that as a kid they were so expensive your parents never let you have one. You had a Paddle Pop or an icy-pole and your mum got a Gaytime.

    Here’s a sneak peek of the iconic TV commercial that states quite rightly “It’s so hard to have a Gaytime on your own.”

  • Blog

    Beauty in nature


    Today I’m pondering the nature of beauty. Maybe it’s that walk I took down by Manly beach this morning. Or maybe it’s that the leaves are off the trees in my yard and there is a stark gothic beauty in their current form.

    Maybe it’s some recent conversations with young women and their lack of belief in their own all-too-evident beauty. (I stand by my belief that 29 is too young for Botox ladies!)

    To reflect my mood here are a few rather lovely pictures from my recent travels.

    Roses in a shop in America

    Cactus Flowers

    View through ferns and trees - USA

    Fountain in garden

  • Blog

    Photo Friday


    Beach view from towelI thought I’d start a new trend on this blog called photo Friday. I’ll try and get a photo up that relates to my novels or my writing life (Be warned you may see lots of coffee cups). Yes I know it’s Saturday in Sydney but it’s still Friday in lots of places and I did take these on a Friday so I’m going to pretend it counts.

    Yesterday afternoon I happened to be at the beach with my daughter and her friends. This beach features in Mr Right and Other Mongrels briefly. Allegra often takes her morning un around to this beach. She’s certainly not alone. This is a very popular pathway to ride, walk or run.

    The beach is also a popular spot to snorkel and scuba dive and yesterday the water was warm and crystal clear and there loads of international tourists making the most of it, and a few locals.

    Anyway my walk down to the beach had me thinking about hidden treasures tucked away in some of our favourite spots and how we associate certain images with certain places and often miss the other aspects of a suburb or town or setting.

    So here are a couple of other images from the same spot. I’m not the world’s best photographer and I was balancing towels, shoes, snacks, picnic blankets, a bowl of watermelon and bottles of water as I took these.
    Hidden Leafy Beach Path

    Morton Bay Fig Tree

    Mr Right and Other MongrelsMr Right and Other Mongrels


    2/8/2013 04:01:29 pm

    Nice to see where Allegra hung out!