Thursday, February 28, 2008

My Bucket List

Having seen the movie, The Bucket List, here for your reading pleasure is mine. In other words, a list of things I want to accomplish, see or do before I kick the bucket. If you wanted to share yours as well, I wouldn't say no. Here goes in no particular order:

1) Skydiving has always lingered in the outskirts off my mind as an activity that has to be experienced at least once and probably only once. In tandem with the greatest expert in the country, of course.

2) All right, let's get the obvious one out of the way. Being print published is clearly high on the list. No need to be a best selling author - at this stage it would just be enough to have someone other than my dear cps recognize my work for the fabulous writing it is. Yes, of course it's fabulous - it's just that not too many have recognized that fact yet.

3) I have several travel related desires but none more than seeing Machu Picchu in Peru. The reason I haven't got there yet is that we have this obligation to return to Italy to see husband's side of the family on a fairly regular basis and Peru is not en route. Every time we go back to Italy, we (or often just I) take a side trip to somewhere new but usually enroute or in Europe. This year in April, it's Egypt, just for me. Agatha's Christie's Murder on the Nile has inspired all sorts of drapey, cool clothes to be packed for the cruise part but I guess at the end of the day, it will just be cargo trousers and t-shirts. Much more practical on donkeys and camels.

4) This one is a little strange but I've always wondered what it would be like to have an out-of-body experience. Floating about above everyone else, invisible, seems the ultimate in voyerism. But that wouldn't be the central aim of the journey. I used to dream of flying and it was other-worldly, but life and responsibilities crushed the flying dreams right out of me and I would love just one more time to experience that sensation.

5) To talk to my father once more before his illness and death, without that tragic cloud of knowing death is near, which makes one incapable of saying what one wants to. The day to day effort of surviving the unsurvivable renders one incompetent in the area of expressing one's true feelings. Maybe I'll achieve this in another dimension but certainly not in this lifetime, so I'm not sure if this should be on the bucket list but I'm the boss and it's staying.

Friday, February 22, 2008

My 5 Favourite Rainy Day Activities

Today, in Auckland, New Zealand, we have a storm howling outside, whipping up the waves, bending the trees and causing its own special kind of havoc. It's the weekend so all outdoor activities have to be replaced by indoor ones. Not that I mind this because a sunny day induces all sorts of guilt if I don't get out there and enjoy it despite my itching to keep writing or reading.

Going backwards towards my favourite, let's go:

5) Planning the next holiday. The photo is the three of us on a beach in Korea a couple of years ago.
I have recently been planning our next holiday in July back to see family in Italy with a side trip to Russia but believe it or not there were no plane seats available because of it being the school holidays here and obviously somewhere else as well because I have been able to book for the April school holidays. So complete change of plan - we are going in April with a side trip to Egypt because Russia would still be too cold while Egypt should be quite pleasantly warm. As you get older, the question of air and water temperature becomes more important. The only problem is that my chosen Intrepid tour (I love Intrepid because they go off the beaten track) expects us to sleep on the deck of a felucca. I have done that several times through my life (not on a felucca) and not thought twice about it but there was no mention of mattresses and that's a worry. In the Okavango Delta in Botswana, we slept on the thinnest mattresses you can image straight on the ground and I had painful pressure bruises for days after. Not good. This needs a little more thought.

4) Surfing my favourite blogs. I get up early each morning before going to work just so I can squeeze in a little blog surfing but a rainy weekend is the perfect excuse to catch up on all my bookmarked ones. Sometimes I feel quite panicky if I get too far behind and I see lots of new blogs and yet I feel deprived if one of them has failed to blog for a while. Go figure.

3) Reading. As a writer, this is not surprising and I would feel as if there were a gaping hole in my life if I didn't have at least one book on the go at any one time. My current one is the book in the photo - the story of how one man single-handedly solved a centuries old mathematical problem. My last book was quite different -Jodi Picoult's The Pact. I love her work. It's so understated, so full of subtle emotional punch and so inciteful.

2) Writing. Of course. If I go a day without writing, I feel quite dissatisfied with myself. Since the current story is swirling around inside my head, it is quite painful not to get it out there on paper so I can move on. The story never leaves me while I'm writing it and so becomes a driving force through each day. It gives a pleasant structure to my life outside of family and work.

1) The Movies. I love, love, love going to the movies. Every Saturday, I go rain or shine and will even see a mediocre movie to have the experience of going to the cinema, buying my popcorn and diet coke, settling into my seat and letting myself get carried away into another world. Today's movie choice is The Bucket List with Jack Nicholson. It was either that or PS. I Love You but I can see that one next week. In fact I must go right now or I will miss the shorts, which help me choose my future viewings.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Five Most Beautiful Spots on Earth

According to me, of course, and I have only visited 40 of the 200 or so countries. I do wish they would stop dividing countries up, though. My son said I have to start at number 5 and end up at number 1 with my first choice so here goes.

5. The Scottish Highlands. I loved Scotland - rain and all. My mother is a Macdonald and so their blood runs thick through my veins. I felt at home there with its dramatic history of deprivation and the eerie folklore of the land. The atmosphere was laden with mystery and I felt overwhelmed by its beauty. Visit it some time and see if you agree.

4. The Yasawa Islands in Fiji. I lived and taught in Fiji for a year on Volunteer Service Abroad when I was eighteen and fell in love with Fiji. I spent one school holiday on Yasawa-I-Rara, the northern-most island of the Yasawa Islands before any businessman had decided it had the potential to make him a heap of money in the form of an exclusive resort. Unfortunately this influx of tourism is killing the beautiful, multi-coloured coral as luxury boats cruise the waters, polluting the seas. But there are still many unspoilt areas in Fiji if you know where to go.

3) The Angkor Wat complex in Cambodia. Yes, there's a photo of it below as well. This ancient complex of temples, which is visually, artistically and architecturally breathtaking, was at its power between the 9th and 12th centuries. It was rediscovered hidden in dense jungle in 1860 by Henri Mouhot. The first Tomb Raider movie was partially filmed here and a more haunting place you would have difficulty finding.

2) My uncle's fishing and hunting lodge on the Zambezi River in Zambia. Yes, I've mentioned this before too and I could have chosen a different place but this is truly number two in my mind. Eight hour's four-wheel-vehicle driving from the main road, this paradise on earth is truly isolated. Overlooking the mighty Zambezi River, it has views straight across into the wilderness of Zimbabwe. I've mentioned the brilliant red sunsets and sunrises before but they are inextricably wound up in my mind with this place. Visit in winter when the heat is not too overwhelming and most creepy crawlies are hibernating.

1) Rome. As you can probably guess from my choices above, I am not a city lover and yet Rome is my number one choice. I have seen it several times and each time, it takes my breath away. Every corner you turn has another magnificent monument to the artistry and creativeness as well as tenacity of man. Each building has a history and glory that makes you want to touch and smell and absorb its essence. Staying in Rome transports you to another time when life was very, very different from today and yet when man essentially was just the same. Our need for beauty has never wained.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Five scariest Things I've Experienced

1) I was sitting beside my father's hospital bed after he had had a major life-threatening operation when my husband appeared at the door looking ashen. He told me Dario (our fifteen-year-old son) was down in the Emergency Department. My heart stopped. He had flown off his mountain bike after hitting soft sand and had landed on his head and shoulder, knocking himself out. He had mild concussion and a shoulder bone badly broken in two places, which required a metal bar to hold it together. What amazed me was that when he came round, he insisted on pushing his bike out of the forest for twenty minutes to civilisation. One tough little buggar.

2) Many years ago, a male friend and I were driving the narrow, metal country roads of New Zealand alongside a river, arguing heatedly. We approached a corner at speed and misjudged the its sharpness. The dark green MGT sportscar flew off the road straight towards a sheer drop into the river. I felt terror and then the strangest thing - complete calm. I was going to die and that was that. There was nothing I could do about it. I closed my eyes and relaxed - a rag doll going to its fate. The tires screamed and we came to a halt. I opened my eyes to see the drop inches in front of the car. A foot more and our fate would have been sealed. That was thirty years ago and I still remember that sensation of calm acceptance.

3) The day I took my beloved father to the hospital to have tests to see why he had difficulty swallowing. An hour later we had the diagnosis - cancer. Enough said. Sadly he is no longer with us.

4) The day my son (four years old) disappeared. I searched the house and garden, calling his name, becoming rapidly more and more agitated. Any mother will understand the sheer panic that takes over your body. He had never left the grounds before and it took a while before I went out onto the road. Way in the distance, up at the busy main road I saw him turn the corner and start to stroll towards me. A weight the size of Africa lifted off my heart. The funny thing was that I gave him his first lecture on stranger-danger and a couple of days later he wanted to know if that bad man was still outside our house. You never know how a kid is interpreting your words.

5) One day while living in Turin, Italy, I was sheltering from a sudden heavy thunderstorm against a wall in a narrow shopping street in the centre of town, when I saw an interesting shoe shop on the opposite side of the road. It was pelting down but I was bored where I was so I made the decision to run helter-skelter across the road. Completely drenched, I had only just arrived when I heard an explosion behind me. I turned to see great sheets of lightning erupting from a power cable which was snaking down the wall exactly where I had been standing. It had been hit by lightning. I can still shake at the memory of that close call.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

5 Weirdest Sights I saw in Southern Africa

1) In Chobe Park in Botswana, a male baboon ran across the road in front of our vehicle pursuing a fleeing female baboon. He grabbed her, copulated with her with the speed of the shifty and ran off, leaving his bewildered victim sitting in the middle of the road. The crime was so swift that many in the van missed it.

2) On the way to Kruger Park in South Africa, in the middle of absolutely nowhere with no houses in sight, we saw two small children standing on the side of the road. One was dressed in a bright blue track suit and the other in red track suit. They didn't seem in the least distressed, just completely alone.

3) The toilet we were expected to use in Zambia. My uncle was in the process of constructing a fishing lodge on the banks of the Zambezi River. The position was glorious and overwhelmingly beautiful so the toilet was constructed to take advantage of the view. It was a three-sided, thatched palace with a toilet of sorts perched over the deepest and smelliest hole I had ever seen. If you timed your longest sitting of the day at sunset or sunrise, you were privileged to Paradise on Earth as the brilliant red sky turned the river to rose wine. The only problem was the passing traffic of hippos, crocodiles and fishermen.

4) In South Africa, not far from the Botswana border, we saw a woman strolling across a vast field with a wooden hippo balanced on her head. Most people ignored it but I couldn't help but wonder as to the purpose of her stroll and the role of the hippo.

5) The toilet (yes, there is a slight theme here) we were expected to use on an island in the Okavango Delta. It was a hole in the ground with some wickedly devised wooden construction laid on top to prevent animals from falling inside. But what about us falling inside as we manoeuvred our feet into position for accurate aim? This toilet was about thirty meters from camp in the middle of a path which led out into the wilderness. We wondered if the lions and hyenas simply knew it was our toilet and didn't approach out of respect?

Saturday, February 9, 2008


I'd love to know where and how this blogging kick started. It's sure big in the writing world as a method of keeping in touch in what can be a lonely profession and also as a splendid way of marketing one's books.
So far I'm loving it but I have had several comments about how many blogs fade out, the postings coming further and further apart and then dying. I can see the problem many bloggers face - few or no comments. That doesn't mean no one goes to their blogs, but it feels like it. That makes it just one more lonely activity with no feedback. However, there are several blogs out there that get considerable traffic. They are consistent with their postings and always interesting. For example, my dear friend, Nancy's blog: But there are other bloggers out there that I have stumbled upon by accident and they are just as interesting but getting no comments. What makes the difference? Any ideas?

Friday, February 8, 2008

Writing Award

I have been awarded A ROAR FOR POWERFUL WORDS by Nature Shows and Dreams.
Thanks Nancy so much for your kind words. Now I must let you know about the three things I feel make a powerful writer:

1) Toughness. The meek might inherit the earth but they would not survive this business. The ability to pick yourself up and dust yourself off is imperative.
2) A passion for understanding the human condition. Curiosity as to the motivation behind people's actions is crucial to creating believable characters with layers.
3) A need for solitude. Writing creativity grows inside solitude, whether in the shower, on the beach or in one's study. For some that means absolute silence. For others, music. For a few, television as background noise. But writing while someone is demanding your attention doesn't work.

Now I'll name my five recipients for this award. This award originates from The Shameless Lions Writing Circle.
My choices for passing this award on are:

1) Tawna Fenske: a determined, dedicated writer who has weathered serious ups and downs with dignity. A former Bombshell writer who suffered from their closure, she is now on a new adventure with her latest manuscript about a woman undertaker!!
2)Erica Orloff: Erica captured my imagination with her Bombshell novel, Urban Legend. She actually had me reading a Vampire story and they are just not my thing. This versatile writer creates stories from her heart. Go see her blog and meet an extraordinary woman.
3) Linda Brundage: A great writer who must continue on her path to publication. She has the skill, as seen by many agent requests, and the ability to follow through despite all else. You go girl and show them.
4) JJ Loch: I decided I had to give you a second award - for your loving nature, genuine pleasure in other's successes and wonderful, sensitive, pure writing. Love you, girl.
5) Raine Weaver: One of the most talented writers I have read in a long while. She is deep, quirky and intelligent. A special lady who deserves all the success in the world.

You can read the rules for the award here .

Loved doing this.


Tuesday, February 5, 2008


Photo: Me & hubby in front of Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

I travel a lot. Love it. Approximately forty countries so far and climbing. Travelling makes me feel a part of the world and not just of New Zealand. There's nothing like travelling to stop you whining about your own country. It puts many of your own petty issues into perspective.
It is also a great source of inspiration for storytelling. A story needs a setting and, at least for me, it becomes monotonous to always use your own city or country. For some, this is their comfort zone and their inspiration - to describe their homeland in all its colour and nuances. But I prefer to take my characters out into the world. They usually start off at home in New Zealand then take off for one of the countries I have visited. I seldom use settings I haven't seen with my own eyes but it can happen and then the research is exhausting. Get a detail wrong and someone will know - after all someone lives there. It's a very tough call to describe a city or rural setting if you haven't touched the surfaces, smelled the aromas, heard the sounds of the place.
When I travel, I, of course, take photos to cover the visual aspect, but then also make copious notes of the impressions of the place on the other senses. You think you will remember when you get back home but our visual sense is the strongest and it can dominate and blur the memory of the others. Take notes, keep a diary, record your impressions - whatever works for you - but don't rely on memory. That is my humble advice.

It's a national holiday in New Zealand so I'm off out into a brilliantly sunny day to make the most of this weather.


Saturday, February 2, 2008


This is my very first post in blogland.
Last week I had an offer from Wild Child Publishing to buy one of my manuscripts and I couldn't be more pleased to get one of my stories out there. It's been a long winding road paved with the support of good friends - Nancy, Vanessa, Tawna and Linda. Thanks so much to you all.

I have been submitting and being rejected for about six years and now am more than ready for the next stage. I know from some of the above friends who have been down this path that this could be even more winding and treacherous. When one starts writing, it is with the sunshine dream of leaving the day job and spending one's working hours in a sweet smelling, music filled study, surrounded by one's special, lucky objects. With the passing of the years, the dream turns yellow with age and drops off the page to leave reality - that this is damned hard work and only those who are truly tough and passionate about this game survive. Well, guys, I'm tough and I'm here to stay.