• 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

    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

    A musical interlude for a sunny day


    Beach view from towel
    I was down at Manly today writing and having a coffee. As a writer who also writes for her day job sometimes sitting in the same place day in day out can squash the creativity and a change of scene helps.

    It’s a seriously beautiful autumn day in Sydney and there were tourists everywhere. I have some serious guilt issues and whenever I see tourists in Sydney and the weather is less than stellar I feel very guilty. I always want to go and apologise. Issues man issues.

    Anyway today there was no need at all for that.

    On my way home this song came on the radio and it seemed to fit so well with my current WIP (Work in progress) that I thought I’d share it with you.

    I do happen to believe that love should be easy and shouldn’t hurt but as know in a romance or a chick lit novel the path of true love usually is rather bumpy…that’s one of my challenges in writing actually. I consider my characters to be friends and just like with friends I can’t help my characters to be happy.

  • Blog

    General catch-up…and the winner is…


    Girl Holding Books IllustrationI can’t tell you how beautiful it is in Sydney today. Right now there are cicadas singing outside my window and kookaburras have been laughing on and off all morning as well. It’s a gorgeous summer day.

    Last night my husband and I went down to Manly for dinner. Manly is where Allegra, yes that girl there with the books, has her bookshop and we actually had a drink at a bar in the very street I imagined her bookshop to be. That was kind of fun. I didn’t see Teddy an Allegra there but it was crowded and as far as I know they’re in L.A right now. I really must organise myself to get over there and visit them!

    I’m anxiously waiting to see what Lisa, my lovely book designer has come up with for my third book Alphabet Dating which will be out next month. She said she’d get back to me by the weekend so fingers crossed.

    I’m busy working on the edits for the book and will be sending it off to some fresh eyes on the weekend as well.

    Meanwhile I should announce the winner of the copy of Hearts Afire from the New Year’s Hop I participated in last weekend. Thanks to all who stopped by and commented.

    The winner – chosen at random is Lucinda Moebius. So I’ll be in touch with Lucinda later today!

    Hearts Afire

  • Blog

    Place in a story

    Sydney Opera House VividAs I was having lunch with my lovely husband on a recent Saturday we had an interesting conversation about place in books.

    We’re Sydney people, though we’ve both travelled and lived elsewhere. There’s something about this city that is just magical. It’s the beaches, the harbour and the climate combined I think.

    The disadvantage of Sydney, which is also part of it’s charm and really the whole of Australia suffers from this problem, is its distance from the rest of the world.

    It’s a very long way on a plane to just about everywhere. Still Australians like to travel, we don’t let this deter us. When you write a story it’s important to have a good sense of place and yet so often in books towns are fabricated. Partly that’s because it’s fun to create your own town or city and sometimes these places are amalgams of real towns or are in fact a real town with the name changed (to protect the innocent – I suppose).

    When you write about a real city or town and don’t change it’s name you have to get it right. People will know you can’t get from Kirribilli to say Watson’s Bay in Sydney in seven minutes, people know where the cafes are, how long a train trip takes and whether the 136 bus does in fact go from Manly to Chatswood or not (it does but it’s a very slow bus!).

    In Mr Right and Other Mongrels I set the book in Sydney and I left everything apart from a couple of street names the same. (For your reference there is in fact a Dream House Lane in Sydney but it is not in Lavender Bay where Teddy lived but in another Northern Sydney suburb…I just wanted you to know that while it is a very cheesy name it is real.)

    In Hearts Afire I used parts of Sydney but I did create the name of the suburb where Cassie lives. That suburb is an amalgam of a few suburbs in Sydney’s inner west. (Feel free to guess which ones). The island on the Reef is based on a couple of islands I’ve visited up there.

    So do you like books set in real places you know, or places you might visit or do you prefer a whole new created world?

  • Blog

    Scenes from Manly or Mr Right and Other Mongrels Picture


    Foot print in sandYesterday my family and I went down to Manly to take some pictures of places featured in Mr Right and Other Mongrels. Almost in defiance of the hideous wet winter we’ve been having here in Sydney the sun shone, people were in the water, lying on the beach, walking by the foreshore and enjoying this beachside destination for all it has to offer.




    Manly Corso



    Manly Beach Surfers










    These images all reflect the atmosphere and culture of the Manly area where Allegra runs her bookshop and where she jogs every morning down from a side-street of awning covered shops to the beach and along the foreshore.





    Manly Markets - Inspire Signs
    Manly Beach
    Manly Beach Rock Pool

    Shelley Beach Coastal Walk

    Manly Beach Sculpture By the Sea
    Next time I’ll include some specific places the characters went to in the book!


    Betina Miller
    7/8/2012 10:52:39 am

    I love seeing these pictures!

    Still enjoying the book, about 3/4 done and I find myself savoring it (you know, like the last cookie or the last pieces of chocolate – you slow down so that you really can enjoy of what is left).
    7/8/2012 10:58:44 am

    Thanks Bettina, it’s so nice to hear back from people that they are enjoying the book. Makes me so happy!

    Jen Schaefer
    7/8/2012 11:42:29 am

    Those shops are exactly what I pictured!
    7/8/2012 11:45:01 am

    That’s good Jen, it must mean I described them reasonably well then.

    7/9/2012 03:55:47 am

    Love the pics! I’m dying to see Manly in real life and swim in that pool!
    7/9/2012 07:42:08 am

    I certainly hope you get to visit one day Deanna.

  • Blog

    Some photos of places in Mr Right and Other Mongrels


    Manly CorsoIt’s been a busy Saturday here in Sydney. It was a cool day but gorgeous and sunny. Now it’s a freezing night.

    I’m having a fun weekend reading through my next novel, Hearts Afire, which I hope will be released in August. As an extra bonus I’m also editing an annual report as part of my day job.

    With that in mind I thought today I would go with some pictures rather than quite as many words. I’ll do a photo run soon and get a few more location shots.

    In Mr Right and Other Mongrels the main character Allegra lives above her bookshop in Manly on a street that runs off The Corso.

    A street that is in fact quite a bit like the one on the left. Can you see her bookshop…it might be tucked in there somewhere on the left.


    Manly Corso - Surfection
    This is Manly Corso. The Corso, as it is known is a paved plaza or walkway that runs from Manly Wharf on the Harbourside of Manly down to Manly Beach. It’s lined with shops and restaurants and full of tourists who pour off the ferry on sunny days.

    Manly Beach
    And this is Manly Beach (Admittedly this won’t win me any photography awards -it was a rather drab day when I took this and the surf is terrible.) Allegra runs along the beachfront from here around to that headland.
    Hopefully this photos give those of you have never seen Sydney what it’s like in this little corner anyway. I’ll add more photos in the next


    Pamela Cook
    6/23/2012 07:43:55 am

    I can picture the lovely Allegra wandering through the corso and running along the beach. Look forward to the next installment.

    Julie Anne Lindsey
    6/23/2012 11:29:11 am

    Love the photographs. I can’t wait to read this book LOL

    Betina Miller
    6/23/2012 12:06:30 pm

    I’m about 1/3 into your book (I’m a slow reader…lol), and I enjoy seeing the pictures. I’m waiting for you to post more!
    6/23/2012 12:12:26 pm

    I absolutely will Bettina. And now that it’s sunny I’ll be able to capture the true vibe of the places alot better.

    6/25/2012 07:45:45 pm

    I have seen Sydney before, but do they have these markets at Manly near the Corso? I went once and got a really pretty necklace made of this cool cork stuff but I can’t quite remember where it was.