Fancy Some Fancy Tea?

It’s so important to be surrounded by the right conditions when you’re trying to draft a book. These days, I require low humidity, a temperature of 22C to 23C, cats not sitting anywhere near my lap or keyboard, chocolate, an affogato courtesy of hubby, and an uncluttered brain. I also need the very reasonably priced, very delicious Dilmah Rose with French Vanilla tea*. But today I found that my local supermarket no longer stocks it. Or it has simply run out. Either way, quelle horreur.

So I went across the road to that wonderful tea mecca T2, where I knew they had loose-leaf Madagascan vanilla black tea and also rose bud tea. The total cost was about seven times as much as the Dilmah bags. Gulp. I figure I can get 30 cuppas out of my bulk blend, though…

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T2’s Just Rose + Madagascan Vanilla = Yum.

tea basket

Chuck the teas in a basket and brew for three to five minutes.

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Add a splash of cream and a teaspoon full of sugar.
You don’t have to add either, but I take as much luxury as I can get.

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Admire your pretty, fragrant tea, then savour every sip.

Check out these sites on brewing the perfect cuppa:

*I am not sponsored by Dilmah or by any other manufacturer/brand mentioned on this blog. 🙂

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String Quartet Theory

I’m partial to a good cover version, as you’ll find on a guest post I did a while ago at the blog of the very talented and musically inclined Stephanie Kuehnert (‘I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone’ – MTV  Books). So I was excited to discover a 2004 release of Duran Duran songs covered by the Vitamin String Quartet. This is most excellent for three reasons. One, it contains some of my favourite DD tunes (like Save a Prayer, Planet Earth; LOVE the intro to Hungry Like the Wolf). Two, I can write and listen at the same time, which is usually difficult because I get distracted by the lyrics if there’s a vocal track. Three, I love me a string quartet.

Downsides? Obviously, they lack Simon Le Bon’s dulcet tones and Nick Rhodes’s delicious synths. And the temptation to sing along is strong because I know every word. But if you’re a DD fan and you’re looking to diversify your writing playlist, you can find The String Quartet Tribute to Duran Duran and its eerily familiar album cover on iTunes.

This is Pinklepurr, who is deathly afraid of wolves, so he welcomes the instrumental version of 'Hungry Like the Wolf'.

This is Pinklepurr, who is deathly afraid of wolves*
and runs away if you even say the ‘W’ word.
He welcomes the instrumental version of ‘Hungry Like the Wolf’.

*See this post for the full explanation.

Other noteworthy cover versions I’m listening to now (with vocals!):

  • Suzi Quatro’s cover of the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s Into You, which my hubby intro’d me to recently.
  • Luna’s cover of Sweet Child o’ Mine by Guns N’ Roses.
  • And if I could find Kirsten Vigard’s version of God Give Me Strength that was mimed brilliantly by Illeana Douglas in the underrated 1996 movie Grace of My Heart, I would be sooooo happy. The version in the film is sublime but there’s no recording of it available anywhere. The soundtrack contains a version by Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach, who wrote the song. Confused? Perplexed? Ah, well, just watch this performance:

Where the Wild Things Grow

Happy 2013! How did you celebrate the New Year?

Piper Bubbles

A cherry tomato plant unexpectedly sprouted in our little courtyard over the holidays, so my husband was inspired to plant a potager garden around it. He added roma tomatoes, rosemary, basil, Vietnamese mint, common mint, lemon balm, a lime tree, a passionfruit vine, geraniums, capsicums, a chilli plant that we’re sure came from Hades via the local nursery, and a row of Kermit-green conifers. With everything blooming, it’s so lovely to write in the courtyard now. My current manuscript is growing as fast as the garden. Can’t say my book is looking as pretty as the geraniums, though. It contains an abundance of manure. But then, it is a first draft. I can polish and prune this thing in autumn.

Possum took exception to a premature avocado that dropped from our old tree yesterday.

An extreme close-up of gaura. We had tons of these plants when we had a much bigger plot of land in Brisbane.

‘Little Shop of Horror’-style geranium buds.

In totally unrelated news, my cats now have a Twitter account and a blog, P & P Furball Factory. I don’t know how they’ll manage to keep it up because they’re not very good typists, and one has terrible syntax. I guess that’s why they’ve decided to make the blog chiefly pictorial — mostly photos of themselves. Check them out and give them a cyber pat!

Drink Up, Cool Down

It’s going to be a 30-degree Sunday, and I should be outside enjoying Sydney’s summer. Instead, I’m indoors and attempting to add another 2,500 words to my latest manuscript. As you can imagine, I’ll need a bit of nutritional help to reach this goal. So far today I’ve consumed a block of Lindt chocolate, had an affogato (husband’s secret recipe), and now I’m drinking this refreshing homemade beverage — my summer special:

IMG_1428Summer Special ingredients:

  • 250mL soda water or mineral water
  • 10 or so mint leaves, slightly bruised to release da flavour
  • Juice of half a lemon or to taste
  • Ice, loads of it

Mix it and drink it. Add sugar if you like, but I think it’s fine unsweetened. I just remembered I have two punnets of strawberries in the fridge and I reckon I could put a chopped-up berry in the next batch. A good splash of gin or vodka would work well too.

Speaking of all things summer, my hubby’s band recently released their latest single, Pictures of Summer. Filmmaker Alex Munt shot the film clip for them in Bondi:

The song is on my playlist for Chapter Seven of my WIP.

What’s on your summer playlist? Do you have a favourite cooling drink?

A First Time for Everything!

The lovely people at HarperCollins Publishers Australia have put together a collection of ten short stories, all with a cyber-dating theme, in ‘URL Love: From Texting to Twitter, the Hottest Online Love Stories‘. It’s out TODAY! Yay! I’m so excited, because my story, ‘The Tweetest Thing,’ is in the anthology. It’s the first time I’ve been published in fiction. You can purchase the e-book now from Amazon and iBookstore. Plus, there’s a Facebook fan page here. Check out this cute story-behind-the-story by Mel Saward, a fellow contributor to the anthology.

‘The Tweetest Thing’ was inspired by a Duran Duran concert that my boss took me to back in March. Mind you, this work is fictitious and any resemblance to events and real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental!!! From 2pm AEST today at the Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood site, I will reveal more about the story and how a simple retweet from DD’s Simon Le Bon turned me into a grinning fool for days on end.

Speaking of Duran Duran, as I often do these days, John Taylor, arguably the world’s most photogenic bass player, has just released his memoir, In the Pleasure Groove: Love, Death and Duran Duran. I’m looking forward to finding out all the things about JT and the band that I was once too young to know!

It’s herrrrre!

One of the truly pitiful iPhone photos I took at the Duran Duran concert at the Mountain Winery, Saratoga, California, in August. (Yes, I saw them twice this year on two different continents!) That’s John on the left and Simon on the right. I’d used up the battery on my other camera the night before at the Chris Isaak concert, to which I had front-row seat.

Midi Matilda, Duran Duran’s two-man support act in Saratoga. They were fantastic. I listen to their songs ‘Ottawa’ and ‘Day Dreams’ every morning to put me in a good mood before work. They also connected with me on Twitter after the gig. Nice guys!

Don’t forget to visit me at the Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood blog later today for a lil’ release-day celebration!

And the Nominees Are…

Excitement plus in the romance writing world today! RWA gradually released the 2011 nominations for the RITA and Golden Heart Award and it set off a frenzy at the Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood. Our Jamie Michele kept up a live blog as the finalists were notified and announced.

HUGE congratulations to all the finalists, including some very special people I know: Sharon Fisher (GH), Shoshana Brown (GH), Sara Ramsey (GH), Shelley Coriell (GH — I’m seeing a very cool pattern here with the ‘S’ names!), Anne Barton (GH), Gwynlyn Mackenzie (GH), Laurie Kellogg (GH), Lindsey Brookes (GH), Laurie DeSalvo (GH), and Simone Elkeles (RITA). Enjoy the ride, ladies! Can’t wait to cheer you all on at the July ceremony in New York!

Going by the small sample of entries I judged, it was a tough competition! For those of you who entered but didn’t final (or were disqualified due to postal kerfuffles!), congratulations to you, too! It takes a lot of work and courage to enter a full manuscript in what is known as the most prestigious contest for romance novels. I know it’s disappointing to miss out — many deserving people didn’t final — but pick yourself up, be happy for those who made it, and go work your tail off for the 2012 contest. Better yet, concentrate your energies on polishing and submitting to editors or agents. The fight to get published isn’t over yet! Mark March 29 on your calendar. At the Ruby-Slippered site, we’ll be commiserating with those who didn’t make it, handing out much-needed hugs and chocolate.

Now, I’m off to the beach to work on rewrites…and I’m considering changing my name to Sanessa — LOL!

Book # 6 – Finished!

I spent a looonnngggg time thinking about it, talking about it, procrastinating over it, writing it, but now my superhero cheerleaders from outerspace book is finished! It’s my sixth book (and fifth YA). I don’t think writing gets any easier, do you? The cheerleaders will spend some time recuperating and then I’ll tackle the interesting part—revision.

In other news, I’m very excited about my friend and agency sistah Sharon Fisher‘s transformation into a published author! As part of a two-book deal, Tor Books (Macmillan) will publish her GHOST PLANET, a romantic sci-fi novel. The book was a finalist in the 2009 and 2010 Golden Heart and it’s fabulous to see it win the ultimate prize. Congratulations, Sharon!!!!!

This Thursday, March 17 (Friday afternoon Aus time), I’ll be blogging at the Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood about that old manuscript you have lurking under your bed. I’ve got some ideas about what you can do with it besides using it as a dust-bunny trap.

Writing in a Winter Wonderland

Join us for the Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood‘s first annual Winter Writing Festival! It starts January 10 and runs through to the end of February. If you’re struggling to get started on a book, to finish a book, or edit a book, this is a great opportunity to get your mojo back. We’re offering some fabu incentives to help you get through it all – book giveaways, critiques and gift cards.

Where do you sign up? Click here and register now!