Fact-checking Angelique today. She’s the French dessert chef in Her Holiday Fling. I made a Tarte au Figue, rather than the apple version of Tarte Tatin. (My wonderful sister Daphne gifted me a shoe box full of scrummy fresh figs.) In the story, Angelique planned to make these luscious desserts on demand. Reality: Unless she has some truly secret cheffie speed cooking tricks, she’s not going to do that. They take a while: making the caramel sauce; prepping fruit; rolling pastry (I used two sheets of butter puff pastry rolled together); arranging fruit so it fits neatly together; layering the pastry on top and tucking it in (easier said than done); baking; cooling; inverting without losing the lot; then serving 😅. Nope. Not a dessert you make on the run. Worth it though. Delicious.
In order to flex my writing muscles on the days my WIPs won’t whip, I’m free-writing whatever experiences come to mind. I’m aiming for about 500 words. Today’s effort is 780 describing a recent excursion on the river with my husband.
Scamander, Feb, 2023
The low thrum of the engine on our five-metre fishing boat, albeit registering eighty decibels on my watch’s volume warning app, presents the perfect white noise soundscape as we travel up river. The boat is not a sleek, modern craft, but rather the Holden ute, paddock-bashing equivalent of functional, much loved and well-used vessels.
The water ahead glistens with a mirror finish; the chaos that follows us can be described as three distinct trails—a wake from each side and one straight down the middle caused by the churn of the sixty horsepower motor thrusting us onward, its propellers well-clear of the riverbed to limit collateral damage both to creatures below and its own propellers.
Our immediate goal is a small indent in the river’s course, port-side, where we begin each fishing adventure. We’ve been successful here on previous occasions, harvesting the one or two black bream required to satisfy a meal for two. When our teenage grandson, JB (Junior Beloved) visited, he and I each caught a decent-sized fish on which we dined handsomely.
When I say, “I” caught…, I should offer a disclaimer. My Dearly Beloved (DB), once I’d lowered the anchor to stay the boat’s drift, retrieved the fishing rod notionally regarded as “mine”, attached the leader, sinker and hook, baited it, cast the line, then passed the rod to me to guard. I might point out that I’m quite able to do all of these steps myself, having been well-schooled in the art over the fifty years (next week) of my association with this man. I accept what he’s done, as intended, as an act of love and consideration.
Some time later, I set aside my weapon of piscatorial murder to deploy a micro-table on which to stand the Thermos, mugs, milk and this morning’s box of treats (Audrene’s Anzac Biscuits and the Cheese Puffins JB requested). In my brief absence, the line screams. JB captures the rig before the whole lot goes overboard, and hands it off to DB to reel in the trophy. JB assists by sinking the landing basket to hold the fish and raise it safely on board.
Having secured the catch, the males applaud my achievement. It’s the best specimen of the day. I ask you, can I seriously claim any level of credit? I hadn’t baited, cast, maintained any vigilance nor reeled it in.
“Well done, Ma.” (Teenager’s title for ageing grandmother.) “That’s an excellent catch.”
I accept the plaudits with good grace, (they’re well-intentioned), dole out mugs of tea and pass around the box of goodies. (Yes, I’m a feminist, still a grandmother.) It’s been a great experience building memories for all three of us.
Today’s foray is not so successful hunter-gathering-wise. Instead, the delights are aesthetic—a joy to the senses.
Sound: A cacophony of bird calls, laughing kookaburras, choked cries of honeyeaters, raucous crows and rasping black cockatoos. Overhead the hum of a plane (rare in these parts) disturbs the natural sounds for a mere five minutes.
Sight: Sun on the water, the surface so still it’s difficult to discern where the reeds near the bank enter the water and their reflection begins, puffball clouds in a stark blue sky.
Smell: The after-waft of engine vapours, then nothing. Clean, fresh, pure air—trademark Tasmania.
Taste: A salty residue on my lips displaced by the coconut macaroons and carrot cake for today’s morning tea.
Touch: The dratted march fly which persists in its attempts to suck my blood; a fine thread of filament my fingertips press against the carbon-fibre rod; the sun’s heat pervading the protective covering of my salmon-coloured fishing shirt.
We spend two hours or more communing with the natural world and feeding the fish (bait disappears in stealth attacks with monotonous regularity). DB turns the switch to start the engine then raises the burley trap. It seems the fish didn’t care for his concoction of ham rinds, leftover rice and teriyaki sauce. I weigh the anchor—a less heavy version than its predecessor, thank goodness.
The ride to the ramp takes fifteen minutes. We’re accompanied for a short time by a juvenile swan that, as much as it tries, flapping its wings and running on the water beside the boat, cannot lift its body into the air. Once we pass, it settles close to the shore, relieved, I suspect, to be left in peace.
Trailering the boat is quick, born of practised efficiency, and in minutes we’re home again. Tonight we will still have fish and chips as planned. DB will gather it from the local café.
“A bad day’s fishing,” they say, “is better than a great day in the office.”
At a point between two black moments in “Her Holiday Fling”, when Angelique fears Vincent is becoming engaged to someone else, they are on his Harley, riding from Sydney to his aunt’s home in the Blue Mountains. Along the way, they encounter the calls of local birdlife. Here’s a brief excerpt:
“I’m going to turn off the noise canceling. You’ll hear whip birds and bellbirds.”
She concentrated, listening past the rush of wind on her helmet. Amongst the noises came the mid-pitch sound of Eeeee-whip!Eeeee-whip! like a whistle being sucked into a mouth or a whip being cracked.
“That’s the whip bird,” he said into her ear. “You won’t find them. They’re shy and keep to themselves.”
Following the highway higher up the mountains, Angelique noticed several shrill sounds, as though one of the shock absorbers on the bike objected to being bounced. “Have we got a squeak? Do we need to stop and check?” she called.
“Listen,” he said. “Can you hear more of them?”
She tilted her helmet onto his back. “Are you sure we don’t need to stop?” she asked.
“Nah,” he said, “They’re the bellbirds.”
You can experience a little of what they heard here. You’ll mostly identify the bellbirds. There’s a whip bird at about the four-second mark.
I’m joining a group of fabulous Champagne Book Group authors to discuss our books. We represent a range of genres: fantasy, sci-fi, historical romance, time travel, and contemporary romance (that’s me.) I’ll be talking about my most recent publication, Her Holiday Fling. The Facebook event, Cupcakes and Cocoa, is on December 10, 2022, at 1pm EST. (That’s 5am AEDT on Sunday 11th December in my neck of the woods.)
Each of us is sharing a favourite recipe – beverage or other – to mark the occasion. I’ve chosen to acknowledge the humble Anzac biscuit as my contribution. The snack has a storied history from both sides of the Tasman Sea. That suits me well, given I sit in Australia but my children were born and spent their early childhood years in New Zealand while my husband and I were working and studying there. We still hold the country in great affection, travelling across when we can.
During the first world war, Anzac biscuits were sent to troops by their families. Their calorie load made them a good source of quick energy. Fresh from the oven or weeks old, they remained edible, and of course, they came with love stirred in – by their mums, sisters, wives, or significant others.
I’ve used various recipes over the years. The most consistently good product comes from my sister, Audrene’s recipe. Because everyone has their own idea of whether they should be crunchy or chewy, dark or light, she has helpfully provided options. The standard version is the one I most often use. You’ll see in the pic, I flatten mine with the tines of a fork about three minutes before they’re ready to pull from the oven.
Join us for Cupcakes and Cocoa (or English Breakfast and Anzacs) at 5am, Sydney time, Sunday, December 11, 2022.
Audrene’s ANZAC Biscuits
1 cup plain flour (all-purpose)
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup desiccated coconut
¼ cup sugar (caster if available)
½ cup brown sugar
125 g/ 4 oz butter
2 Tblsp golden (cane) syrup
2 Tbsp water
½ tsp bicarb (baking) soda
Combine flour, oats, coconut and sugar.
In a separate jug/ saucepan, heat butter, syrup and water until butter is melted.
Stir in bi-carb soda.
Add syrup mixture to dry ingredients, stir in well.
Roll into balls and flatten to 1 cm (slightly less than ½ inch)
Bake at 160oC (320oF) for 5 mins until golden.
Soft and Chewy version: Omit brown sugar; increase caster sugar to ¾ cup
Dark and crunchy: Omit caster sugar; increase brown sugar to ¾ cup
Thin and crispy: Omit caster sugar; increase brown sugar to 1 cup; reduce flour to ¾ cup
The wonderful people at Champagne Book Group have worked with me to strengthen characters, update the storyline and radically improve “Loving the Celebrity Chef”. If you read the earlier story, you’ll recognise many elements but will be pleasantly surprised by the new edition. We’ve renamed it, “Her Holiday Fling”. After all, Angelique’s intention was to do exactly that, have a holiday fling then head home to France to earn her Michelin star. She didn’t count on falling for Sydney’s celebrity chef and he, sure as heck, wasn’t looking for someone who’d criticise the way he made tiramisu.
The original was the second romance novel I ever wrote. I thought it was wonderful…then. I knew very little about crafting a good story and focussing on the characters’ goals, motivations and conflicts. My writing has come a long way over these seven years.
We’ll be presenting a new version of “Happy with the Millionaire” too. That will be out by the end of the year.
I’m thrilled for everyone’s favourite Nonna to be out in the world again along with Vincent, Angelique and the rest of the Rosettis.
Thank you so much for your continuing support and encouragement. They make a writer’s life worthwhile.
In December, A Romantic Rendezvous, ARR2021, is happening on the Gold Coast. In the lead up to the event, ARRA is profiling the authors who will be signing their books at the event. Today it was my turn!
I have an amazing niece. To be fair, all our women of her generation, whether born into the family or introduced by love matches, are pretty remarkable. There are a few of them – about twenty-one at last count.
One or more of them is an engineer, forensic archaeologist or pharmacist; human relations manager, counsellor, service deliverer or administrator; world-renowned dancer or entrepreneur; military or police; teacher, nurse or artist. We even have one who designs the most extraordinary celebratory cakes with an added passion for getting behind the wheel of her racing car.
I posed the problem of a logo for my new self-publishing press to one of these exceptional people.
Throughout the whole COVID thing, she’s been living and working in a country far away from family in Australia, making contact only through technology. I followed her on Insta, as a good aunt would, and was blown away by her imagination and creativity. She uses the handle, kabocha_no_neko_art. Her work is different and exciting and fed into my logo plans.
The idea of establishing a press name for my self-pub came from members of informative Facebook groups like Indie Royalty and the Romance Writers of Australia community group (thank you!!) I’m happy to be a traditionally-published author, but there’s always a book or two that won’t fit into a publisher’s profile. I wanted to be ready.
Because I also have an interest in crystals, I searched for one encapsulating passion and romance. There were several. I chose red aventurine and bought a couple of ornaments, an elephant and an angel, to act as my daily reminders to get things moving. I suggested my niece might do a line drawing incorporating both, and did she remember I write romance? Adding an allusion to love would be good too.
What she produced was a forward-facing elephant ready to stampede across the globe, with an angel, as protector and guide, hiding in plain sight on the elephant’s back in the form of a pair of wings—shaped as a heart. How neat is that?
“Return to Calypso Station” is the first book published using Red Aventurine Press. It’s currently available on Kindle with the paperback becoming available on August 2. Australian readers can contact me directly if they’d like a paperback copy.
I’m thrilled to present the cover for “Return to Calypso Station”, my fourth full-length novel and my first in a rural Australian setting.
Official release day will be August 2 when the paperback becomes available, though the eBook is already on Kindle.
Military strategist, Nash Broderick, harbors the dream of coming home to Calypso Station to resume the legacy passed to him by his father but Danielle is there with her son. He’d been in officer training a matter of weeks when he got the news Danielle was pregnant to another man. He’s found excuses for years not to return but now his beloved grandmother has had a heart attack and time is running out. If he doesn’t come home, he could lose everything. Without a Broderick working Calypso, his father’s trustees can redistribute the land amongst the extended family and Nash will have no further claim on his birthright.
Danielle Tillson is a hard working single mother. She tried to forget Nash after he refused to acknowledge the child they created. Now he’s back, and she must protect her son even from the father who denies any parental responsibility. Her son will never know the abandonment she endured – first by her mother, later her father, and then Nash. Her child’s security depends on her work and their home on Calypso Station. If Nash returns permanently, the refuge she has built will disappear.
When Nash is confronted by another betrayal, this time by those he thought he could count on till death, he finds he must unravel the secrets of the past. Only when the truth is revealed, can he plan a way back to Danielle, to rebuild the dreams of their youth and a life for their family. After everything he’s put her through, why would she give him a second chance?
There’s a big weekend coming up for me in August, focussed around romance writers and readers. The Romance Writers of Australia conference is being held at Mantra on View, Surfers Paradise. The annual conference is where I do my writerly professional development amongst a swathe of authors also writing romance – from contemporary and rural like me, through historical, steampunk, suspense, paranormal and fantasy.
The conference coincides with ARRA’s A Romantic Rendezvous on the Gold Coast where I’ll be signing a couple of my books, along with a who’s who list of Australian romance authors, on Saturday, 14th August, 2021 from 5.00 to 6.30 pm.
VIP tickets for the Rendezvous are on sale now. General admission tickets will be available soon, for one of two 45-minute sessions. Find out all the details here: https://wp.me/pGPr3-ay1
I’m looking forward to meeting readers new and old, so come along and say hello.
Catriona Cameron and Lachie McKell have their story out in the world. It’s release day for THE SALIGNAC LEGACY.
I had so much fun writing this story. When I posited the premise to my husband, his response was, “You can’t write a romance about chicken livers!” Well, you can if the chicken livers are fundamental to a centuries old pâté recipe upon which an entire community is dependant and the protagonists live on opposite sides of the world – she in Melbourne Australia and he in the highlands of Scotland.
It’s how they bring both sides together that’s the fun part.
Available directly from champagnebooks.com or through Amazon.