Outback Writer

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Extract from a review of Vissi d'arte

The following is an extract from a review on Vissi d'arte.

I am awed by your skill, by the breadth of characterisation and the story. Your writing is bold, clear and precise.
Nicholas’s arrival at a house he had no wish to inherit is a great start to the story. I like the detailed descriptive narrative, the measured pace. The subtle way my curiosity is piqued about Sally. And about Harriet – so many questions left hanging.
This story is set in a part of Melbourne I have never visited but it’s familiar to me, because my mother’s family came from there. The mystery of grandmothers, cousins and aunts separated by oceans is something I relate to intimately. No wonder Nicholas is daunted – he has a challenge ahead, to fill the shoes of such a revered director.
My mother always said Melbourne was 50 years behind the times, so Phillipa’s indignant response ‘respectable girls don’t go into pubs’ is perfect.

Phillipa’s family all being killed came as a shock. The conversation about God, unexpected: ‘evil is powerful and inviting’.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Sex in novels

A tricky subject, since the badly written Fifty Shades of Grey is a best seller and has made its author millions. I read it only to so I could see what all the fuss was about. And to have a valid opinion you have to have knowledge of the subject.

I find sex scenes in novels dull, especially ones that go on for pages. Explicit sex is like voyeurism. Well written characters become friends, and I don't want to watch my friends or relations having sex. When people ask me how I handle sex in my novels I reply, 'I stop at the trousers/knickers down part.'


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Stuffed animals

Children, and some adults too, get very upset when they see the tiger skins, elephants foot and  the moose head where I work. They ask me if they are real and I think it's best to be honest, but I do go on to explain that that's what people did in those days.

On my facebook page there is a report about the decline in moose numbers and I thought with regret of the majestic moose that was shot in Canada in 1902 and now adorns the wall in the billiard room.

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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Dangerous snakes

My sister's husband is doing a snake handling course as part of his job at the mine where he is an electrical engineer. Of course this mine is not in the UK, but in Australia. A few years ago there were so many sightings of dangerous snakes the environment agency told their workers to stay on site at the mine.
It is illegal to kill snakes in Australia - even dangerous ones. The snake catcher takes the snakes and releases them somewhere else.
Having lived in Australia and had a few encounters with dangerous snakes I know how scary this can be.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Prince George

The news that Bruni is going to introduce Sharia law - amputations, floggings and stoning is horrifying and makes me so grateful that I live in the West. It's not perfect, but I don't have to worry about being wrongly accused of adultery and stoned to death or having my hand chopped of because someone thought I was stealing. Under sharia law I'd be too terrified to leave the house.

There has been much moaning about Prince George, and while I'm not a great fan of royalty, it's a far preferable situation than living under sharia law. It's not the royals' fault that they were born into the situation and I would hate to be royal. It is something that they have thrust upon them.  

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Droughts & Floods

They sent men into space in the 50's. They landed men on the moon in 1968.

SO - why can't they get flood waters to drought areas to prevent bush fires?

Monday, October 21, 2013

Traditional Publishing versus Indie Publishing

I've just seen a blog post about errors in books that have been published by traditional publishers. It inspired me to post a comment. 

I'm reading a novel where there was NO full stop at the end of a sentence. A few years ago I read a novel set in 1983 which referred to the British Prime Minister as HE. Leaving out a full stop is forgivable. Editors are not perfect. But failing to know that a woman was the British PM is an unforgivable mistake. It wasn't simply that the s had dropped off or been accidentally deleted - it was a repeated mistake.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Writer's block?

I don't suffer from writer's block - the ideas just flow and leap at me. But I did have a terrible block when it came to choosing a title. Help came in the form of a friend from Lanhydrock House. He promised to rack his brains and overnight he came up with not just one title, but ten. One was absolutely perfect.

He also provided me with the idea for the cover.

Suspicion Points will be published in paperback and on Kindle before Christmas.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Opera updating

Is it wrong to move an opera into more modern times?

No - as long as the theme is timeless. I've seen brilliant modern productions and really appalling ones. Carmen set with racing cars instead of a bull ring was terrible. Boheme set in modern times was brilliant as was Rigoletto. I saw the ballet Romeo and Juliet set in the 50's, which worked well and was more shocking than having it set much earlier.

In Vissi d'arte I wrote about a student production of scenes from famous operas.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

New Poirot novel?

Sophie Hannah has written a new Hercule Poirot novel. I know she was commissioned, but she should have refused. She should never been asked.

Agatha Christie killed off Poirot. For another writer to write a novel featuring him is ludicrous. If writers can't invent their own characters they should not write.


Monday, October 14, 2013

Bad experiences are useful

I've discovered as a writer that bad experiences can be used in novels. The same goes for people who have hurt you or caused you distress.

When I worked for the NHS the department was a happy one until our manager retired and we got a new one. She was a liar, a workaholic and she did her best to turn people against each other. The happy department was transformed into a snake pit. Eventually she succeeded in making me redundant. I soon found another job which I enjoyed and ended up being grateful to her for making me redundant. But I also realised that she had provided me with an excellent character for a crime novel.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Book Cover picture approved

A misty background is more mysterious than a blue sky on a summer day. Today was misty - perfect for a cover photo for a detective novel.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Detective novel will soon be published

Suspicion Points - a detective novel set in Cornwall will soon be published.

Friday, October 11, 2013


Thursday, October 10, 2013


The brilliant composer was born 200 years ago today. His music still moves people. The plots of his opera are timeless - revenge, love, hate, lust - all the human emotions, strengths and weaknesss.

Many of his opera lend themselves to updating. Rigoletto is a fine example.

In my novel about student opera singers I use many of his operas for students at work.

It is available in papaerback and on Kindle.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Rescuing a kitten

On our way out this morning we saw a terrified kitten running across the road. My husband ran back to the house, got the cat basket and put on gardening gloves. He managed to lift it out of the brambles where it was hiding. We put it in the basket and took it to the vet.

We thought it was feral, but they said it wasn't. They gave it some food and water and it immediately tucked in. They'll do whatever is medically necessary - it's probably got fleas and worms and then they'll try and find it a new home. Shouldn't have any problems - it's beautiful, black and quite fluffy. If we didn't have a cat already we would have had it ourselves.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Poor plot in Downton Abbey

The latest episode in Downton Abbey suffered from the weak plot. There has been some outrage about the rape, but tragically it did and still does happen. My gripe is that it felt so contrived as if the script writers said to each other, 'How can we spice this up? Rape! Good idea. Who is the victim? Oh let's put some names in a hat and draw them out.'

Having Dame Nellie Melba, who was a fascinating and brilliant women, as a guest deserved far more time than it was given. Her superb voice sang one line and then it was cut to some card game.


Monday, October 07, 2013

Downton Abbey

I was looking forward to last night's episode in which Dame Nellie Melba, played by Dame Kiri, appeared. What a disappointment. We heard hardly any of her singing, which was sacrificed for another sordid plot line.

There were some amusing moments when the butler thought that having an Australian opera singer to dine with the upper class was wrong. It showed how many of the staff who worked for aristocrats were greater snobs than their employers. No matter that Dame Nellie Melba was a woman of incredible talent, cultured and well educated, she was not good enough. When there was a debate about the servants being able to watch her performance Lord Grantham joked about 'The corrupting influence of opera.' Those two snippets and the little we heard of Dame Kiri's singing were the only good things about last night's episode.

Some of the audience spoke during her performance. It's a wonder she didn't stop singing and walk out. But unlike some people, she was too polite to do so.


Sunday, October 06, 2013

Looking for a Title

A friend promised to rack his brains and come up with a title for my detective novel. Rack his brains he did and came up with the following:

Suspicion Falls
A Blaze of Suspects
Narrowing it Down
Suspicion Points
Under Suspicion
Game, Set, Fire

What do you think?

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Pretending to be a servant

Today at Lanhydrock House I was on duty in the kitchens. I wore my costume of long black dress and white apron and cap. For some reason when I'm wearing this costume I get my photo taken far more often than when I'm poshed up.

Some children saw me and got very excited. 'A servant, Mummy, look, a servant! Are you a real servant?' they asked me. When I told them I was just pretending, they looked upset. Maybe I should have lied.


Friday, October 04, 2013

National Trust

Working at Lanhydrock House has widened my experience and knowledge about what life was like when there were servants to do everything for their employers.

The sequel to Eumeralla has a prequel about servants in such a house. The Lanhydrock family were kind and went to the extent of calling their servants staff instead of servants, which showed how they respected those who worked for them.

The family in my sequel are just the opposite to the Agar-Robarts. It's interesting that nasty people are easier to write about than nice people, but writers must be wary of making them cliched and one dimentional.


Thursday, October 03, 2013

Agatha Christie's house

For a writer it is fascinating visiting the houses of famous writers. Yesterday we visited Greenway in Devon, which Agatha Christie bought for £6000. Like Lanhydrock one can imagine that the house is occupied by the family. It is cosy and beautiful with spectacular views. Visitors can play the grand piano in one of the drawing rooms, but while we were there no one did.  The house had a very happy feel about it and there are family photos on display, which add to the impression that people live there.

A wonderful house, knowlegable room guides and we will visit it again.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Life experiences and changes are important for me as a writer and are reflected in all my novels.

The seeds for my first novel Vissi d'arte were sown when I was at opera school in Australia.


Turbulant family relationships, a disputed inheritance and adoption were the foundations of Eumeralla, a family saga set in the Australian outback. 


Living next door to a violent woman who used to beat her husband and intimidate her neighbours, gave me the experience to write The Doll Collection. Even negative events can be turned into positive ones, although I was only able to write this novel when we moved away from this dreadful woman.