Monthly Archives: August 2012

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Query Freak Out

Category : Art

It’s finished.

I think.

Argh. I hate this bit – the bit where I say, it’s finished, and then inevitably find a typo.

Except I can’t find one and I think it might actually be finished, stupid book.

That’s the other thing I hate about this bit of the process: I’m am getting sick of this book. I’ve read it more times than anyone should probably read it. I read Pride and Prejudice four times when I was fourteen; four times in one year. I’ve read this novel, my novel, more times than that.

Too much.

Surely it’s done.

Which means… query time!

Which means… tighten up that tag line till it’s a freakin’ work of art.

 

Here’s what I have so far…

Sun Geary hates rugby, and with good reason. Determined to win her, rugby-legend Scott Black must keep his profession a secret. By the time she discovers the truth, giving him up won’t be so easy.

 or…

Sun Geary loathes rugby, and with good reason, but when she unwittingly falls for a rugby player, opting out of that world becomes much more difficult.

or…

Sun Geary, the odd one out in her rugby-mad family, would never knowingly fall for a professional rugby player. But when Scott Black let’s it slip that he’s famous, she’s determined to find out why, and by the time she does it’s too late.


Which is best? For voting purposes, let’s call them one, two and three.

I’m also open to advice on vocabulary, syntax… I’ll take all the help I can get.

Now I’m off to work on a succinct synopsis. Probably won’t share that on my blog, because it might give away too much, and then you won’t all rush out and read my book if/when it comes out.

My to-do list tells me I should also do laundry and some french homework – but at least I can tick of blog post. (And both the babies are sleeping – hurrah!)


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a little like Dory

I could claim baby brain, but it goes back farther than that.

I’m a bit of a Dory. I only hope I’m as entertaining. I just wish I were exaggerating more about how forgetful I am.

I have a particularly short attention span at the moment. Sure, there’s often a child calling my attention away, but then I forget to go back to the thing I was half-way through doing. So frustrating!

I have like thirty tabs open at a time, on the computer. There’s a baby asleep in our bedroom and so the folded laundry is on the couch until I can put it away. There doesn’t seem much point putting away Mr Potato Head because Louis will play with it again when he wakes up.

There are usually a whole lot of things I could be or should be doing around this place – a rubbish bin needs emptying, the water in the flowers needs refreshing, the dining table is a mess, I’m hungry and want to make a smoothie, I’m in the middle of writing a new bit of a chapter of my novel, there are three new tweets waiting for me, a query letter to write and I’m half way through an episode of Wild At Heart – it’s paused on the television (I’ll watch it next time I’m feeding Elena).

I need to take some forms up to the securite sociale this afternoon, and I should get some bread while I’m up there. Louis has been inside all day, so maybe we’ll go to the park. I’ll take my kindle – but what will I read? I’m in the middle of several books.

I only just remembered, half an hour ago, that early this morning I told Luuk I’d send him a photo, as soon as possible. Oops. It’s a photo of our bedroom wall, which is badly water damaged, probably because the shower is leaking… which means visits from the apartment owner and plumbers and sometime I must remember to take photos of the water meter to gauge the severity of the leak.

I am determined to finish this blogpost before I get up to do ANYTHING else. Even the smoothie can wait.

I have a little to-do list app on my phone which tells me I need to pump – that is express some breastmilk. I try to do this every couple of days so that Elena can take a bottle if/when I go out. Why not just do it the day before I plan to go out? Because if I do it regularly it doesn’t mess so much with my milk supply.

I remembered to sterilize the bottles and stuff – at least that’s something. Kitchen’s a mess though. Luuk’s picking up takeaways tonight so that we don’t have to add any more dishes to the chaos. And after eating our takeaways, we’ll do the dishes. And then maybe watch the special features on the last season of The Wire.

We just finished watching that show. It certainly throws my little slice of chaos into perspective. At least I don’t have to deal with any of that kind of crazy – drugs, poverty, corruption, violence… though a little part of me still wants to be a reporter. Maybe one day.

For now, I will write in my current circumstances, with all of these priorities to balance and decisions to make. In just a year or two things could be entirely different.The future is so hard to imagine. And yet, at the same time, I’m fairly certain that I’ll teach again. I doubt I’ll ever go into politics, or not far into it anyway. I’ll always write, though the genres and medium will probably shift. The babies will grow and parenting will involve fewer nappies (hallelujah!) and more negotiation… hm.

But for now, right here, I’ll write. I’ll post this, then make a smoothie, toss a diaper in the bin, wipe down the kitchen bench, drink my smoothie and then keep on editing that novel. If I can tick off all that – oh, and change the water in the flowers – before the babies wake, then fabulous!

That’s the goal.

Off I go.


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symptoms

I’m a self-aware hypochondriac.

For example, my hand shakes (probably because I’ve been carrying a baby for half an hour and the muscles are tired) and this little part of my brain pipes up, that’ll be the first sign of parkinsons disease. The other parts of my brain scoff and roll their eyes. So it’s okay. I’m not completely mad. And I don’t have any serious illnesses; I just saw too much ER.

But I think I’m coming down with something…

homesickness.

I have a wandering mind and it keeps wandering across the oceans back to lovely New Zealand with all those beaches (which we rarely visited) and mountains (which we mostly looked at from a distance, pretty though they are) and top notch fish and chips for just a few dollars (of which we partook far too often).

On Saturday we drove to Luuk’s work to swap our tiny car for his new bigger one (both are company cars so this is exciting, but not that exciting). Much of this route is the path we drove that first morning when we’d just arrived in Paris. It all looks very different today – trees are green and there’s a notable lack of ice. I was thinking, as we drove along, about how overwhelmed we were then, and how ho-hum it is now, to drive the motorways and find a restaurant, to order lunch and juggle babies and pay the bill.

We are still often surprised at what we get, after ordering from foreign menus, but Cafe Gourmand is a familiar menu item and this is the best one I’ve seen so far: a chocolate macaron, creme brulee and something creamy (possibly fromage blanc) with berry coulis.

The mini-octopuses in my main course were a less pleasant surprise but yummier than I expected.

One of the main symptoms of homesickness is comparison. The comparisons, even if they favour the new place, become more and more regular.

And they come up in conversation all the time.

When I was twelve my family moved to Hong Kong. I remember, after having been there for just a few months, my friends complaining that I was always on about New Zealand. I even did a geography assignment about Mt Ngarahoe. Mt Ruapehu was erupting at the time but there was no article about that volcano in our copy of Encarta (a CD Rom Encyclopedia pre-wikipedia)… And it wasn’t as if there was a book about NZ geography in the school library. New Zealand really is tiny and easily ignored by the rest of the world.

Well, except at the olympics. And in rugby tournaments. And actually in lots of things, though we are perhaps over-represented in sports. But we’re still little and most people don’t know, or care, that we were the first entire country to give women the vote, and that the first person to top Everest was a kiwi.

One of the symptoms of homesickness is extreme patriotism and a desire to educate anyone and everyone about just how fabulous and unique a left-behind-home is.

Yesterday we went for a walk in a nearby forest. The forests here are different – for starters there are whole forests within the city. And of course the trees are very different.

Most of the differences are things I know are different but I don’t actually see or notice. Walking through the forest here is not so very different. The path we took was wide but many of the others were more narrow, like NZ bush paths usually are. I know NZ has unique flora and fauna, but I don’t know much more than that. Still, on Saturday evening, at the pub after writers’ group, I did end up talking to someone about why NZ birds are so brilliantly unique.

In case you can’t tell, I’m trying to focus on the perks of being here. We are learning french and can probably be near-fluent within a year or so, if we apply ourselves. The food, of course, is fantastic, and I walk a lot more than I used to which means I’m more fit, healthy and toned. I have committed myself to my writing in earnest and perhaps this might have happened in NZ, but my isolation here has been a great motivator. Paris is meant to be a key place for a writer to write… sentimental nonsense perhaps, but my romantic heart quickens…

Our options for places to go on holiday in Europe are rather legendary, but this is dangerous comparison territory because most of our holidays in NZ were visiting friends and family… who I now miss dreadfully.

One of the downsides of my creative wandering mind is that I play out these horrific worst-case-scenarios that usually involve serious illness, devastating accidents, betrayal, death… I don’t dwell on these things but the possibility of bad things happening often pops into my head.

One of the challenges of being here in France, is that dealing with disaster would be much more difficult. How would I, for instance, communicate to an official that my kid had wandered off? Panicking, as I surely would be, I don’t think I’d remember an ounce of French.

I shouldn’t think about those things, and yet, perhaps in the interest of being prepared, I should. Being careful isn’t always enough to prevent disaster.

Anyway, moving away from that dreary line of thought, I have realised that when we leave France we will miss our friends here just like we now miss those back in NZ. This is the pitfall, of course, of all this accessible international travel. All my closest friends and family will never all live in the same city. We are spread out across the globe. I will always be missing someone.

And yet life is so much richer for all this international-ness. Once again, a full, rich life is not necessarily easy. In many ways, I suspect, the things we could do to make life easier would also make life smaller and less vibrant. If we’d wanted easy we wouldn’t be in France at all, and that would be a great loss.

One of the things I can’t get my hands on easily in France is peanut butter. We have a small stash from the Netherlands. Tonight I’m going to use a large dollop of this making vegetarian satay for dinner. Back home I wouldn’t hold back on the peanut butter… ah, home.

 


  • 1

breakfasting and breastfeeding

Category : food

I’ve taken to having two breakfasts – one after I first feed Elena, often before seven, and another when they’re both asleep around nine. The first is usually about a third of a baguette with good salted butter, and a coffee. The second will be more bread, or fruit, or a smoothie… and coffee no.2.

This breastfeeding gig makes me hungry.

But, man, good smoothie! Yesterday’s went something like this:

a banana
a pealed nectarine
a handful of frozen blueberries
two generous spoonfuls of greek yoghurt
about a cup of milk

and whiz!

and voila: three out of those five+ a day that we’re all meant to get.

Easily got our five yesterday, probably from dinner alone. Made one of my absolute favourites: spinach cannelloni. There’s half a bush of spinach in there, mixed with a bit of cream cheese, creme fraiche and feta (and really whatever you have or want, if you like to get creative).

Stuff the cannelloni tubes and arrange in an oven dish, then tip a tin of tomatoes and a jar of pasta sauce in with the leftover spinach mixture. Mix all that together and spread over the top of the pasta.

I put a bit of mozzarella, but any grated cheese will probably do, on top and then bake for about forty minutes.

It’s as satisfying as lasagna and way healthier.

One of my other favourite healthy-but-satisfying dinners is the super salad! I fill our plates with lettuce and then make it my mission to turn this into something appealing…

cherry tomatoes, toasted walnuts, some cheese cubed up, some bacon bits, a few croutons, even some boiled potatoes, tossed in a bit of lemon juice and butter. Capsicum slices, cubed cucumber, even fruit: grapes, slices of apple or stone fruit.

I’m food-mad at the moment… I blame breastfeeding, but it’s not actually a bad thing is it, so long as I don’t overdo it and there are plenty of fruits and veggies.

I’ve been doing couscous a lot since arriving in France. I do this in a similar way to how I used to make pasta-salad-ish-thing back home. Basically just chop up all the veggies that need using and do some (mushrooms, always) in the frypan with garlic and butter, leaving the others raw, or steaming them in the microwave, then mixing it all together.

With couscous I always want lots of lemon (juice and rind), some chopped up feta, and sliced sundried tomatoes. These have great potent flavour and make the otherwise-bland couscous fabulous.

You can do couscous as a whole meal or just part of one – a lamb kebab and Greek salad are perfect accompaniment.

The difficulty with eating healthy isn’t so much the meals though, is it? It’s feeling hungry at five when dinner won’t be till seven. It’s the second breakfasts and after-dinner snacks that get us.

At the moment I can’t get enough of this:

peach, tomato and mozzarella, stacked atop some toasted baguette.
Garnished with a little balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, and a leaf of fresh basil – perfect!

This is as much the taste of summer as lime, I think. I just can’t get enough. Very satisfying and successfully keeps me from nibbling away until – oops! I ate a third of a baguette while Louis ate his dinner.

I have a theory that interesting and complex flavours make me feel full faster. Exhibit A: I’ll eat way more mac&cheese than I will eat curry in one sitting.

Just a theory, but there it is.


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elena

Mes Amis!

We are having a very social week! Lunch at new french friends’ place on Saturday and today I had the same friend and her son over for afternoon tea (well… coffee and ice cream if I’m honest.) Conversation, in a french leaning combination of french and english, is a little stilted but we do okay. The kids played happily until Louis fell (with a little help, perhaps) into the bookcase and cracked himself on the head… and then it was time for a little something (as pooh bear would say) – a donut and an eclair (though Louis was not interested in the eclair).

Yesterday our social event was a coffee group with other english speaking mums (and kids) in the area.

It wasn’t sunny but it was still hot and muggy. We drank blended ice drinks that vaguely resembled virgin margaritas – yum!

Recipe…

frozen mango or raspberry coulis
(or whatever you fancy really)
ice!
(about a dozen cubes per jug)
orange juice
(about 2 cups per jug)
lime cordial
(generous slurp or 3… to taste)

and… whiz it up!

We did a mango batch first, and used too much of the orange juice. Substituted some vanilla ice cream and a little water when we made the second batch… c’est délicieux!

Tasted like summer. T’was the lime – the taste of summer, methinks.

Anyway, lovely afternoon chatting and lazing about with icy drinks and good company. The kids played, though Louis is going through a funny shy/clingy phase – he hovered around the knees of my friend rather than me. She was charmed… conveniently. She even blew bubbles for him.

Elena dozed in the pushchair and then had a kick about on the grass, in her swimsuit. I dipped her feet in the water but that was enough. It was hot but not really sunny – so not hot enough for dipping a baby in cold water.

Louis wasn’t at all interested in going in the water. I put him down the slide once, so he got wet, but he immediately got out and then played with the stones on the path for most of the afternoon (except for when there were bubbles, obviously).

There’s another coffee group on friday but tomorrow should be quiet. Might try to work on my writing for more than fifteen minutes at a time. It’s a bit slow going at the moment. I’m also researching agents and publishers – an overwhelming task.

Amidst all this socialising I am missing many of my far-away-friends – those in New Zealand but also well-spread-out all over the globe: in Vancouver, Florida and London, and then there’s my sister in Ohio and my brother back in Christchurch. Ah, the pitfalls of globalisation. We’ll never all be together – though both mine and Luuk’s best friends are in Vancouver at the moment… and all this french we’re learning would be handy in Canada (though not, perhaps, so much in BC).

I suppose the other side of the globalisation coin is that it’s easier than ever to keep in touch with people – though the time difference with the americas is inconvenient to everyone involved. It’s much simpler to coordinate skype dates with people in NZ.

I think I write this blog instead of emailing individuals – which is really not the same thing. Back in the day I used to write actual letters – paper, pen, all that. With one particular friend, from whom I have lived apart since we were fourteen, I exchanged these glorious fat envelopes – treasure troves of letters written in class, at home, on the bus, and all sorts of other things. I once received an envelope packed out with confetti! There was a big long letter and photos and doodles and all sorts in there as well. Better than a present really.

Perhaps I’ll add ‘write a letter’ to my weekly to-do list. Although, bi-weekly might be more realistic.


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Heat and Trepidation

Category : Art

Now that’s a good title eh?

It’s not mine, though perhaps it’d be appropriate. Plenty of heat going on: in the book, and in reality. Yesterday was supposedly cooler, but definitely not actually cool.

Not that I’m complaining. Love summer. Love it. But prefer if I can sit still, not far from the fan, with a glass of iced fizzy lime juice, a book, and within earshot of two peacefully sleeping babies.

Yeah, I could be doing that right now, but that brings me to the trepidation part of the story. I’m trepid. (I’m going to be intrepid with spelling and pretend trepid is a word on its own.)

I’m trepid about two things:

– which agents/publishers to approach (so as not to waste their time or mine, so as to receive as few rejections as necessary, so as to hopefully work out a decent deal… and to get a deal at all)

– whether I’m really ready for this book to be out there and read by people who I know.

I’ve been getting heaps of lovely positive feedback and interest from friends and family about my first chapter. Which is all good, except that I’m wondering if I’ve been a little misleading as to this novel’s genre and nature. This is the romance writer’s quandry, I suppose, and shouldn’t come as a great surprise to me…

– how do I feel about people I know reading the saucier stuff that I write?

– and, alternately, how do the people I know feel about reading the saucy stuff?

My near-finished novel is a romance and there are many types of romance, of course, but this one is sexy in places. So, I’d love to have readers but if that sort of thing is not your cup of tea then maybe give this one a miss.

I have plenty more ideas, and several other drafts… with any luck I’ll finish editing two manuscripts and write another first draft before year’s end. There will be other fish in this particular sea, is what I’m trying to say.

Now, back to fine-tuning chapter two. In a short while I’ll be off to buy the ingredients for frozen mocktails and then we’re going to a friend’s place where the kids will play with water and whatnot, and us mums will sit around with frozen fruit drinks and fan ourselves.

Ah, the baby cries. Might not manage that last bit of chapter two after all.


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Chapter One

Category : Art

This morning, when I desperately needed a nap, my lovely two-under-two wouldn’t sleep at the same time, and now that I’ve finally woken up they’re sleeping like angels.

So I’ve taken to chapter one, considering all this…

… excellent feedback from The Other Writers’ Group. Many thanks to them. (Though I don’t think any of them would have stumbled across this blog, but just in case.)

I think/hope that the opening is now ready for querying.

In all its slightly corny glory, here it is:

 

The Icing on the Cake

 

Sun Geary didn’t go to many parties, and this one had been disappointing. She paused in the kitchen on her way out. There it was, her masterpiece, a cake in the shape of an aeroplane. She wondered how they would cut this marvel atop it’s clouds of meringue.

But she wasn’t going to hang around to find out.

She’d never expected a fantastic evening, and it hadn’t been so bad. But then someone remembered the rugby was on, and someone else turned up the volume, and someone else spread the word, “Quick, or you’ll miss the Haka.”

Rugby inspired something akin to patriotism in this corner of the world. Conversations ceased, someone muted the music, and all attention turned to the television.

She slipped out the back door and took a long, deep breath of fragrant evening air, of cut grass, barbecue smoke and daphne – a whole bush of it overflowed onto the steps.

The all-too-familiar tones of sports commentators wafted out after her. Sun sighed and went down the stairs, then saw her car, parked in by half a dozen other cars.

She’d arrived early and driven up to the house – a weatherboard bungalow, bursting with character on the outside and pizza boxes on the inside. She had a cake to deliver. Driving in had seemed like a good idea at the time, but now she was stuck.

Without starting a riot, she had two choices: She could wait till half time and then ask people to move their cars. Or she could pick up her car tomorrow, and find some other way home.

She sat down on the steps. She certainly wasn’t going back inside. Not yet.

Someone opened the door. She turned, hoping it wasn’t her ‘date’, Ricky. What had Maria been thinking, setting her up with a rugby-nut? Maria was a perfectly nice person, but not a close friend. She had, no doubt, been trying to make up for asking Sun to make a cake, and then inviting her to the party as a sort of polite after-thought.

Sun wouldn’t have minded not being invited. She’d only agreed to stay out of a misguided sense of guilt at having no social life. She’d agreed to being set up on a date for similar reasons. Bad reasons.

But it was not Ricky joining her outside. It was another guy. A better looking guy; his broad shoulders filled out his shirt, tanned and taut biceps half-hidden by the sleeves. And he wasn’t watching the rugby.

Better and better.

He sighed heavily before he saw her, then smiled by way of greeting and sat down a couple of steps up from her, on the other side of the stairs. “Nice night.”

She nodded and looked up at the sky. You could see a fair number of stars, despite the city lights. And it was warm for Christchurch in March. She was only wearing a light cotton cardigan over her t-shirt, and sandals under her jeans. He had faded red flip flops on under his jeans and no jacket. In fact he looked rather like the type of guy who would be inside, watching the game closely, protesting the referee’s calls. “You’re missing the game.” She couldn’t resist.

He shrugged. “So are you.”

“I’ve never ‘missed’ a rugby game in my life.”

He laughed. “I’m Scott.”

“Sun,” She held out her hand. He took firm hold of her hand in his larger one. His skin was warm and dry. His shake suggested restrained strength, harnessed power.

The connection was too brief.

“So, how do you know Maria and Jeff?” Sun asked.

“Jeff’s my brother.”

“Maria and I went to school together.” She volunteered her own answer to the question.

“You kept in touch? Nice.”

She shrugged, “We catch up every now and then. I’m mainly here because I made the cake.”

“Seriously?” He leaned forward, “That cake is amazing.” He shook his head, “It looks incredible. I don’t think anyone will want to cut it.”

“They’d better. There’s a berry-drenched mud cake in there.”

His eyes were wide – impressed. “You’re not staying to try some?”

“I ate far too much of the practice run.”

He looked her up and down, clearly mystified as to how she looked the way she did, after indulging in all that cake.

She felt self-conscious, and flattered all at once. “I usually throw a lot of it away. The plain cakes don’t hold much appeal anymore – I mean plain as in boring, not plane as in aeroplane. This is the first aeroplane. But the plain flavours – I don’t mind throwing them away. Anything with berries, though, and I can’t resist.”

“So that’s what you do – for a job?”

She nodded and fished in her pocket, pulling out a polka-dot card-holder. Inside she kept a couple of business cards, along with the usual essentials: cash, her bank card, driver’s license, and some not-so-essentials: a photo of her mother, and a note from Carly which read, “Just say yes.”

She passed him a business card.

“You have your own business? That is great. Very brave.”

She smiled, “It’s pretty new, but going okay so far. I just moved into a shop, with a proper commercial kitchen. Life is going to get a whole lot easier.”

“I bet.” He pocketed the card.

“What do you do?” Sun leaned back on the banister and stretched her legs out on the step, crossing her feet at the ankles. Waiting till half-time was becoming a much brighter prospect.

“You don’t recognize-” He stopped himself, surprised, then relaxed, pleased about something, and let his shoulders drop, “Oh.” He reclined against the banister and stretched his legs out on the step, his expression turning to mischief.

She looked quizzical, watched him, waited for him to finish what he’d been about to say.

He did not oblige.

“Have we met before? I don’t see a whole lot of this crowd,” Sun nodded toward the house, “It must have been a while ago; I’m sorry. I don’t recall.”

“No,” he shook his head, “We haven’t met.”

“Then why would I recognize you?”

He hesitated, began to speak several times, and bailed from every attempt.

“What?” She laughed at his sudden inability to complete a sentence. “Are you famous or something?”

He smiled and looked away. Busted.

“Seriously?” She watched him, looking for some familiar feature. “Are you on television or something?”

“Ah, not really, well, sometimes, but – never mind.”

“Oh, come on. You’ve got to tell me now.”

He looked at her again, his expression pure mischief, “I don’t know. It’s kind of cool that you don’t know.”

“Is it something embarrassing? Are you on an advertisement for something?” Probably for the Ab-Pro or similar, she’d guess if pushed.

He laughed, “Let’s talk about something else.”

“All right.” She crossed her arms, “What do you do for a living?”

He shook his head. “Nice try. Subtle.”

She sighed and decided to change the subject, hoping he’d let his guard down and maybe, later, let his identity slip. “So, is Jeff your big brother or little brother.”

“He’s the youngest – and off to see the world.” He shook his head, “A fast way to make me feel ancient.”

“Have you travelled?”

“Not in the conventional sense.” He said.

“Yeah, me neither. Not like most New Zealanders, off to the UK, to serve pints and drink pints and all that.”

He laughed, “That about sums it up, doesn’t it.”

“Didn’t appeal much. I went to Hong Kong – shopped and ate, and realised that I’m not as Chinese as I look.”

He seemed interested so she went on.

“My grandmother was Hong Kong Chinese, which makes me a quarter. Feels like more when I’m here, but over there I felt like a total Kiwi.”

“I like Hong Kong. Except for the heat.”

“You’ve been?”

“A couple of times.”

“For work?” This might do it – give him the opening he needed to accidentally tell her what he did for a living, what he was famous for.

He nodded, smiling, clearly on to her.

“Big clue.” She uncrossed her legs and then crossed them the other way.

“So,” He began, a little awkwardly, either because he was trying to change the topic, or because he wanted to say something that made him nervous. He’d definitely looked at her legs just then.

She hoped he was trying to say something that made him nervous. She hoped he’d go right ahead.

“Are you here with anyone tonight?” He finally spoke.

She looked toward the house, “Sort of.” She sighed, “I was set up.”

“Successfully?”

“Not at all.”

He laughed, “Did I catch you escaping?”

“Unsuccessfully. That’s my car.” She pointed to her tiny red hatchback.

“What’s your plan now?”

“Wait till half-time, I guess. Try to make all these people move their cars.”

“I can give you a lift if you like. My car is on the road.”

She hesitated. He seemed nice, but in reality he was a virtual stranger. And he’d probably been drinking. It was a party after all.

“Don’t worry. I haven’t had a drop.” He said in response to her silence.

“You don’t drink?” It seemed unlikely he’d have refrained otherwise.

“I’m on medication that doesn’t play nicely with alcohol.”

She nodded, wondering if it was something serious, but knowing she didn’t have any right to ask. “All right then.” She stood and then rather indulgently watched him stand. He moved so smoothly, with easy strength. That shirt really did fit him rather well. So did the jeans. But it was his arms that held her attention; long lines of toned muscle under lightly bronzed skin, peppered with blond hairs and a few freckles; she resisted the urge to reach out.

They walked down the driveway toward the road.

She paused after a few steps, “Wait, don’t you want to stay, though? I mean, he’s your brother.”

“I’ll see them again. We’re having a family thing next week.”

“Oh.” She kept walking. “Rugby doesn’t hold much appeal for you then?”

“Maybe something else is more appealing.” He had a cheeky smile on his face but wasn’t quite brave enough to look her in the eye as he spoke.

She stared at him, surprised at his frankness. “You followed me out?”

“No. I wanted some air.” He didn’t look so cheeky now. Something was bothering him, but he hid it well. “Just lucky, I guess.”

“I feel bad for pulling you away.”

“I’m probably doing the pulling. I’m only disappointed that I won’t get to try your cake.”

“I can probably rustle up something at home. Call it cab fare.” She surprised herself. She was not usually so forward. She hoped he wouldn’t read too much into the offer.

“Oh, I have an early start tomorrow. I’d better not.”

She was impressed and ever-so-slightly offended. He didn’t want to stay over, or at least, he didn’t intend to. Not that she’d actually been offering, but she couldn’t blame him for assuming she was. “I actually meant cake.” She clarified. “Just cake.”

“Oh, sorry.”

“No, that was my fault. I speak before I think and then I hear what I say and realise… anyway.” She rambled, hoping he’d believe her.

“Cake would be great.”


  • -

Other writing

The Other Writers’ Group has got me thinking about Other writing. On a regular basis I write novels and blog posts and diary entries. But I used to branch out more.

I once wrote a children’s book. I started a second, and a third.

I once wrote terrible poetry and song lyrics without music.

A few days ago I wrote a poem – the first in a very long time. Thought I’d share…

 

Reminders of you

Aubergine, all creamy,
only firm for a moment, then
melting away like ice cream.
Cooked perfectly, they remind me of
you.

Coriander (or cilantro),
how you abhor it.
An over-reaction, I think,
but, still, it reminds me
of you.

Salvador Dali, a poster
in Paris, (en route to the Dutch embassy)
for an exhibition you would adore.
I won’t go, but it reminds
me of you.

Macaroons (or macarons)
at every patisserie and
boulangerie, and chocolaterie.
They’re everywhere. And they
remind me of you.

You’d like it here.
I’d like you here. In a way
you are here.
Because all these
things remind me of you.


  • -
drinks on the seine

before and after

Before:

I spent most of Friday writing but none of it was a blog… again. I was writing a summary of our time so far in France. This is to be shared with our church back in NZ. I had great fun looking back through our photographs and selecting a few to share.

The frozen gardens at Versailles, in February.

It was a challenge not to go on too long about what we’ve been up to. It’s a summary, after all, so there isn’t room for much detail, and yet details make stories real and interesting, so I wanted to sprinkle a little detail throughout. In the end it was only longer than requested by half again… oops.

Louis, in February, helping to build his cot.

I’ve also been working on the start of my romance novel – fine tuning

… and I’ve printed off most of chapter one to take along to writers group this evening. I’m nervous and keep reminding myself that I’m going along to the group to improve my writing, not to gain approval. It is my manuscript and I have to choose which feedback to take and which to leave/ignore. I wonder how many genre romance stories have been read aloud at the shakespeare and co writers group? I get the feeling they’d be practiced at keeping poker faces throughout some racy poetry and prose, but more accustomed to the artistic and odd (and perhaps less marketable).

Anyway, I’m not there to gain popularity. It’d be nice, of course, but there’s more to life than being adored.

After… (writing on Sunday morning)

Well, it was great! I got overwhelmingly positive feedback – they loved the main character, they said I wrote well, they wanted more, and perhaps most importantly, the hook hooked. In the story the guy is famous for something but the girl doesn’t know what. They wanted to know what. Hurrah!

I got some helpful critique and they pointed out some bits that weren’t clear/didn’t make perfect sense. I took back the copies I’d handed out for reading and people had also written notes all over them.

I’m totally sold on this writers group thing. This particular writers group has a few steady members and then a throng of occasional paris-dwelling patrons, but most weeks I suspect it’s half made-up of visitors to Paris who’ll only be around for a month or less.

Went for a drink afterward, then down to the river with some snacks. We had been sweltering in the upstairs room at Shakespeare and Co, and it was cooler on the river but still steamy. I talked to a bunch of different people this week whereas last week I mostly chatted with just a couple.

I think I’ll meet all sorts of people from all over the world, going along to this regularly. Last night alone there was an Italian guy (hilarious poem), an English guy (in Paris for a few days to do research at the Louvre), several Americans, a couple of french women (one of whom I spoke with at length – coming along to improve her English), a Canadian (cool polka dot outfit and gave she me helpful critique) and others who’ve been in Paris so long their accents are hard to pin down (brilliant writer and ex-dancer whose stories have me hooked).

So, that’s writers group. Two weeks so far and I am looking forward to going along most weeks. It’s great to be out, on my own, to have an evening away from the kids, and I come home to find them both asleep and Luuk, who has a great understanding of what I have to deal with day to day. I love being understood.


  • -

chapter two

Category : Art , Daily Life

Chapter one was pretty good. Chapter two needs more work. I’m starting to feel nervous about sharing this around. The writers group might be a bit high-brow for my ever-so-slightly corny romance. I’ll introduce it with a little disclaimer that goes something like this:

Everyone always says how easy it would be to write a mills-and-boon-style romance so I thought I’d give it a go. Forgive the mention of his biceps and her sparkling eyes. That’s the genre.

But figuring out what to take along to writer’s group is tomorrow’s task. Today my brain is all heavy. Full of snot, I suspect. I have a head cold. It’s the first day of the school holidays all over again – as soon as work is finished I get sick. Murphey’s bloody law eh?

I’ve spent much of the day on the sofa. This morning we went to the market with our visitors – helped them to pick out a smorgasbord of french yummies for their dinner tonight. They’re staying in and looking after Louis and Elena so that we can go out for a meal. I just hope I can enjoy it, dosed up on weak-sauce paracetamol because that’s all I’m allowed while breastfeeding.

I had a nap this afternoon – first time in ages. Felt good, though a bit hot. Possibly feverish. Had to get up to feed Elena but watched a few episodes of ‘Goodnight Sweetheart’ on DVD, and then some ER on TV – in French. Urgences!

So I’ve had a pretty relaxed day. It’s strange, but feeling this way (scratchy throat, thick head, runny nose, achy and all that) takes me back to when I was a kid. I had colds regularly. I have rather dysfunctional sinuses. For a while I had annual doses of bronchitis. I’m much better than I used to be. Still, cozied up on the sofa, watching TV and feeling like this reminds me of being home from school, plied with hot lemon honey drinks and gingernuts.

I miss gingernuts. I’m starting to miss New Zealand things, and New Zealand in general. Phase two of culture shock, here we come. That’s the sucky bit where ‘home’ is all romanticised and rosey-glowing while the new home has lost it’s exciting newness and settles down into being ordinary and frustrating.

But at least the language is getting easier. Managed the market this morning and a phone call later in the morning – all in french. All while I felt average to lousy.

Breakfast at the market, ca matin.

This afternoon, watching Urgences I could follow some of the conversations… but that could be in part on account of my ER obsession a few years back.

Slowly but surely, making progress – on the French front, on the editing front, and on the baby front: Elena is getting really close to sleeping through the night, and Louis’s tenth tooth is coming through! Ah, they grow up so fast.

You can do it!