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  • Travel Thursday
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    Travel Thursday – this week we’re off to Scone

    Travel Thursday

    I’m adding a new weekly theme to the Blog – Welcome to the first Travel Thursday Post

    It’s a while since I shaken things up here and I got to thinking about some fun new things to add. I know none of us has travelled much in the last year, and here in Australia we won’t be going beyond our shores, largely until 2022 but because COVID is pretty under control here we are allowed to travel internally. Not only that, but I’ve recently moved to a new area where there are lots of things for me to explore and share with you. Plus, many of my author friends feature travel in their books and I love a bit of vicarious travel every now and then so off we go on some adventures.

    A Trip to Scone in the Upper Hunter.

    A couple of weeks ago my husband and I went with a couple of friends to Scone, NSW. It’s located in the Upper Hunter about 2 hours from where we live now in Newcastle.

    We chose this place because a longtime mutual friend of ours owns a B&B in Scone. If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you might recall I was in a writing group for a long time called The Writer’s Dozen. It formed out of a writing course at the NSW Writers Centre, where we aimed to write a novel in a year. Well, my friend Angella was in that original group, as was Jen who owns the B&B, so it made sense we’d plan our overnight jaunt there.

     

    Me, jen and Angella
    L-R – Monique, Jen, Angella

    Turns out we didn’t see too much of the town itself but we saw lots of our friends so here’s a little recap.

    Pre-COVID Angella and I often met up at the Customs House Library in Sydney for a Friday writing session and lunch and we hope to get that started again soon.

    Our first stop was the Two Rivers Winery for wine tasting and a lovely charcuterie plate. We sat outside in the glorious sunshine and sampled their delicious wine. The cheese plate was so good we asked where the cheese was from and that led us to the (Cheese factory) so we could grab some cheese and crackers for our hostess, we already had the champagne on ice.

    Two Rivers Winery
    Highlights from Two Rivers Winery

    Jen’s B&B – Russley Rural Retreat is all kinds of adorable. I had been there before but not for four years and it was just as adorable as I remembered it. It was also lovely to see Jen who is hands-down one of my favourite people on the planet. She always, always brings a smile to my face.

    These are some pictures of Russley Rural Retreat.

    Russley Rural Retreat
    Images from Russley Rural Retreat

    That night we went to the Linga Longa Inn which we chose because – that name is so Australian. It was basic pub fare, nothing to write home about except the company. Afterwards we sat under the stars talking and laughing for hours. It was food the soul.

    Linga Longa

    After a delicious breakfast and a lot more talking, we headed back towards Newcastle. We stopped at the anotherĀ  winery – Hollydane – which was gorgeous and I would love to have a long lunch there one day soon (Expect a blog post about that!). We tried some wine (and bought a couple of bottles) and when we were finished a family was taking off in their own private helicopter, which was fascinating to watch.

    We meandered back home after a lovely night away.

    It was a good reminder that sometimes all you need is a change of scene, lots of laughs and good friends to reinvigorate you.

  • Blog

    Writing, friendship and blogging – or the need to show up

    7/17/2014

    A Fair Exchange Banner
    I have been an appalling blogger of late.

    For a while there I think I was doing okay in the consistency stakes, but not lately. The thing about blogging is although not many people actually comment I do get quite a lot of readers so I apologise if anyone has been desperate to hear about my writer’s angst and I’ve let them down.

    I’m a big believer in consistency. It works for writing. It’s so much easier to write every day than to put a project aside and try and find your way back into a story. Ask anyone who does it, it’s excruciating, in a way you feel like you have to get to know the characters all over again. Connection to character is built from contact.

    It’s true as well for blogging and it is also true for life. Connection to readers is built through contact and keeping the conversation going even when it feels one sided. It’s about showing up.

    I feel the same way about friendship. Ninety percent is showing up.

    One of the wonderful things about friends in books is they always seem to have time for each other. The main character is heart-broken and she calls her best friend who drops everything to talk to her and maybe run to her side or take her out for ice-cream or alcohol.

    Friendship in life isn’t exactly like that in the 21st century. You have a bad day, you text your friend with a neutral “how are you?” ( a friend who in my case probably has 3 kids, a huge job, a dog, a sick mother-in-law, a looming deadline and PMS – that describes quite a lot of my friends) and she texts you back 3 days later. She tells you how she is and why she couldn’t text you back (read above)and asks how you are. Hopefully it was a hello text you sent and not an I found my husband cheating/I lost my job/I’m having a nervous break-down text you sent, because there was no ice-cream.

    One of the problems with that when it happens over long periods of time, is we lose connection because we don’t have time to discuss the small stuff with the important people in our lives and instead we spend hours making small talk with people we barely know.

    This is how we lose people from our lives. This is how they drift away from us. It’s the same when writing characters. You forget their favourite colour, their birthday, you don’t know what their favourite song is anymore and you have to fight your way back.

    I’m actually pretty good at showing up for my writing and in life. As the world changes I’m starting to feel like the odd man out in real life, but I guess I’ll just have to put that energy into my fictional friends for a while.

    This post wandered off track. I’ll try and be a more consistent blogger because even if I am sitting here alone having an ice-cream, or in my case a glass of wine, it still is important to show up, at least to me.

  • Blog

    Happy Galentines Day – #chicklitlove post…or the importance of friends

    2/12/2014

    ChickLitLove Promo Banner
    Today for #chicklitlove the theme is Galentines Day…what is this Galentines Day you ask? Ok, I’ll be honest I had no idea either but I’m totally loving it. Let’s get the fabtabulous Lesly Nope (aka Amy Poehler) to explain it to us.

     

     

     


    (For the record if Amy Poehler needs a new BFF I would be very happy to help her out.)

    So the idea is for me to talk about the gal-pals and BFF in my novel (s). This posed a problem for me because I love the female friendships in my books and so I really struggled to choose which book to write about.

    In Alphabet Dating Serena’s friends have seen her through heartbreak and through a terrible accident and then decide to set her up on 26 dates in a month in the hope she’ll find someone special based on the theory our friends know us better than anyone else. I really love her friends who all met at college and were part of an all-girl acapella group. (for the record I wrote that book long before the fabulous Pitch Perfect movie was released).

    In Mr Right and Other Mongrels Allegra’s friends are like a surrogate family for her. They’ve supported her through the difficulties of her relationship with her mother and the loss of her grandmother. These are friends who show up for each other no matter what. And the fact that they may have had a few drinks at some of my own favourite haunts just makes me love them more.

    Likewise both Holly (Building Attraction) and Cassie (Hearts Afire) have a best friend who is always there for them.

    I’d love to have a Galentine’s breakfast with all my female characters and their best friends. That would be quite the morning. I think we’d probably start with mimosas and breakfast would turn in to a very long lunch.

    In fact we’d probably end up here – a bar that features in Mr Right and Other Mongrels and that would be a fantastic day.
    Manly Wharf Night
    I try and create female friendships in my books that are real. Real friends do hang in there for each other through the highs and the lows. Real friends are your bridesmaids, your drinking companions, your shoulder during a break-up and the person you ring when you meet a new guy.

    I’m lucky to have had a great many friends like that through my life and I can’t imagine how empty my life would be without my gal pals. I don’t want to read or write about characters with empty lives and that’s why my books are full of wonderful female characters that you absolutely would want to split a frittata or a bottle of bubbly with!

    #ChickLitLove Monique McDonell Promo

  • Blog

    The role of friends in fiction

    9/2/2012

    I’m editing a book at the moment and looking right now I’m looking at the role of the secondary characters in the book. Mostly, I’m looking at the friends.

    I love secondary characters in books. Often I love them more than the main character. Ever since I studied Rosencrantz and Gildenstern are Dead back in high school I have been fascinated by the minor characters and what they do off the page (or stage).

    In fiction, I love the role friends play in showing us more about the main characters, revealing parts of the story and of course calling them out on their ridiculous behaviour. My daughter and I were watching The Princess Diaries yesterday…I love the way Mia’s friend Lily is always frank with her, but kind. Just like good friends in real life.

    In honour of the theme here is the theme song from that long-running TV show.

    I’d love to know if you have a secondary character that stays with you.

    Comments

    Rob Kennedy
    9/2/2012 05:17:28 pm

    Yes some of the secondary characters in books stay with you always. For me, it’s not so much the friends but people like co-workers, waiters and such. Saw the Australian movie Country Life based on Uncle Vanya by Chekhov the other day and the “servants” made the movie come alive.

    They provide a good offset to rigid characters, by bringing them back into reality. I wondered what a book would read like if it was filled with these characters.

    Reply
    Monique
    9/2/2012 07:05:04 pm

    Co-workers are a great example…have you read And Then We Came to An End, Rob…the ultimate co-worker book…in my opinion…

    Betina Miller
    9/3/2012 10:48:53 am

    I’ve been reading books by British chick lit author Jill Mansell – she is the one author that immediately comes to mind when I think of secondary characters with a large role in a book. I agree with you – it gives a main character more depth and makes the setting more three dimensional. With her books, it’s almost as if you read several books in one.