Saturday, 29 December 2012

AWW2012 Challenge Completed!

I did it! I completed my Australian Women Writers 2012 Challenge by reading and reviewing six books since July this year.

I read two contemporary fiction, two historical fiction, and two YA novels. They were:

The Light Between Oceans by M.L Stedman

Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley

The Hypnotist's Love Story by Liane Moriarty

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley

The Secret River by Kate Grenville


My reviews can be read here.

I'm definitely signing up for the 2013 Challenge!! :-)

Book Review: The Secret River by Kate Grenville

'London, 1806 - William Thornhill, happily wedded to his childhood sweetheart Sal, is a waterman on the River Thames. 

Life is tough but bearable until William makes a mistake, a bad mistake for which he and his family are made to pay dearly. 

His sentence: to be transported to New South Wales for the term of his natural life. 

Soon Thornhill, a man no better or worse than most, has to make the most difficult decision of his life . . . 

The Secret River is a universal and timeless story of love, identity and belonging.'

Historical novel The Secret River was the sixth book I read as part of the AWW2012 Challenge. This was the first time I read a book by Kate Grenville and I must say that while she writes very descriptive prose, I did find myself struggling to get used to her style of writing. At times the descriptions were a little too detailed and abstract for me, but eventually I came to like her use of words.

As I currently live in London and love history I was drawn to the beginning of the novel which told of William and Sal's life in late-eighteenth century London. I enjoyed imagining what the city would have looked like then and I think Grenville did a wonderful job in painting an accurate historical picture. I even learnt a thing or two about old London and the Thames!

Once William and Sal are sent to Sydney I felt the story started to drag a bit. While I am certainly interested in early colonial Australia, and having lived in Sydney I like picturing how the harbour and settlement looked at that time, I wasn't as captivated by William's story at this point. I suppose I was desperate for something to happen. Which it surely does as the story continues on.

Once William begins to interact with the Aboriginal people the story took a very dark turn. This novel does a great job at highlighting the awful treatment the Indigenous Australians received from the British settlers. In fact, Grenville is so thorough and descriptive that it is all a bit too much to take at times. Even though this is a fictional story it is based on fact and it is hard to be reminded of such a dark part of our history. Knowing the Indigenous Australians were subjected to terrible cruelty makes me very sad.

It is that reason alone that I can not say I loved this novel. While Kate Grenville is a very talented writer and the story is perfectly executed, the subject was hard to take. I will remember this novel for a long time - mainly because it shocked me. Which is probably just what Grenville was trying to achieve. She has definitely brought some evils of Australian history out into the light and created a very thought-provoking book. In that respect it's a success! 

Thursday, 27 December 2012

F is for Freedom

It's week six of Alphabe-Thursday!

F is for Freedom...

We all long for freedom and it's a desire that comes in many forms. Some seek freedom from responsibility, or freedom from injustice, freedom from financial hardship, or freedom from fear. But no matter which form we seek or however our individual journeys come about, one thing is shared by all of us - we're searching for freedom in the wrong place!

My own search for freedom led me to the writer's life, it sent me off to travel the world and, I admit, it has often made me shy away from responsibility. I've spent a lot of time and effort seeking a life that reflects the deep-seated sense of freedom I so wish for. And it's not to say I don't have freedom in my life - I most certainly do and it is something I am very grateful for. But what I've learnt along the way is that no external object, place or lifestyle can ever make us feel free. Because freedom comes from within.

The freedom we find in our external environment, the one we work so hard to cultivate and hold on to is a fleeting kind of freedom. It feels great for a while, but eventually the shine starts to fade and we discover that old longing resurfacing once more. We get restless. We begin to imagine a new circumstance that might grant us this elusive freedom. We set a neverending cycle in motion.

We seek to be free because our inner lives are in turmoil. When we're overcome by fear and tension, self-doubt and negativity, we long to free ourselves from the pain. But when we look for this freedom out in the world, rather than within, we are ignoring the real issues that bubble away inside us. And any act becomes futile.

Real, lasting, freedom is actually a state of mind. It is a choice we must make - to develop an inner peace that will forever accompany us through life, no matter what is thrown at us. In its truest sense being free is all about how we feel inside.

I've found that I am free when I look within for the answers, when I choose to not let outside restrictions define me. I am free when I allow myself to be happy, when I choose to let joy be the driving force in my life.

When we focus on cultivating our inner world, our outer lives reflects this. So choose to feel free and you'll never need to search for it again. Choose freedom and it will appear everywhere you look!




Friday, 21 December 2012

21.12.12

Welcome to a brand new world!

The Ancient Mayan gave today's date as the moment the world as we know it would change. A shift is occurring on the planet and within us all. We are in the midst of a rebirth.

We're witnessing a transformation of consciousness

This is all part of our spiritual evolution - humans are awakening to the presence of something more. We're becoming aware of the life energy that links us all together, that feeds our souls, that empowers our planet. We're slowly moving towards a more balanced existence - one that embraces both the physical, material world (the one we can see and touch) and the energetic, spiritual world (the one we feel and know in our hearts to be there).

We're connecting to the truth of who we really are - spiritual beings united in our common purpose to experience human life. We're letting go of separateness and fear to focus more on love and oneness. We're starting to act for the highest good of all.

I believe today is the beginning of this new phase of human evolution and I'm excited to see what the future holds. I wish for each and every one of us a life full of love and joy. May we all be healed of past hurts and move forward into a more peaceful co-existence.

Happy Rebirth Day!

"The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, serenely, divinely aware."
~ Henry Miller ~


Thursday, 20 December 2012

E is for Empowerment

It's week five of Alphabe-Thursday! :-)

E is for Empowerment...

To me empowerment is all about knowing your own strength. I think this is an important issue for many women in particular. Men are generally considered powerful and strong just because of their gender. Women may be less strong physically, but I know women have deep inner reserves of strength that have almost nothing to do with physical ability.

I consider myself a feminist. I believe women should have the same opportunities as men. I'm grateful for all the women who came before me, who stood up against injustice and fought for equality. I'm thankful that because of their bravery I now have a million choices in life. Choices that were once upon a time not even a possibility for a woman.

But what I'm not so much in favour of is the way feminism has encouraged women to forget their inner goddess. In our attempts to find an equal footing with men, I feel we sometimes try to be too much like a man. The sexes are different for a reason. Women are, in general, more nurturing and intuitive. I think these traits are gifts that women need to embrace. It doesn't mean we chain ourselves to the kitchen or that having babies and being wives is our only ambition in life. We've moved beyond that. We can choose that lifestyle if we so desire, but it does not define us. What I think should define women is our ability to empower. 

Men empower themselves through competition and achievement. Women do this too of course, but something that women do much better than men is to empower through love. That's where our nurturing instincts really come into play. Whether we're supporting loved ones through a difficult time, or raising children, or caring for our aging parents, or climbing the corporate ladder, we're doing it all from a place of innate gentleness and love. I'm not saying men can't be gentle or loving because they can and they are, but you know where they learnt those traits? From their mothers! :-)

I believe the power of women comes from our connection to our hearts. When we choose to empower ourselves as the loving, nurturing, intuitive, attentive, passionate, soul sisters that we are, we embrace the strength of the goddess within. And once we're conscious of just how amazing and wonderfully capable we are then we're in a much better position to create a life that fulfils us, that inspires others and that empowers every human being.


Thursday, 13 December 2012

D is for Dreams

It's week four of Alphabe-Thursday. :-)

D is for Dreams...

As in follow your dreams. We all have things we dream about doing, seeing, experiencing, achieving. It's one of the driving forces of human nature. Without goals and dreams to fulfil we would never have evolved from hunters and gatherers. It's our desire to accomplish that pushes us all forward in life.

The beauty of a dream is that we all have the power to create them. Whatever we can imagine, we can create. Sure we often encounter resistance while trying to fulfil a dream, but the secret to resistance is that it's there to show us what we really want. That which we fear the most is the one thing our heart truly desires. Obstacles and resistance are part of the creative process - when we're setting something in motion and trying to bring a dream into reality, resistance inevitably occurs. We can give in to resistance and let the obstacles hold us back, or we can choose to view resistance in a more positive light. We can choose to see the obstacle as a sign post directing us forward, proving we are on the correct path.

Dedication and perseverance are key to accomplishing our dreams. But the most valuable asset is a belief in yourself. Believe you are worthy of achieving your dreams. Go after them with all the courage you possess. Because when you live your dream it's a life full of joy.

Dreams really do come true. So dream big!

Thursday, 6 December 2012

C is for Compassion

It's week three of Alphabe-Thursday.

C is for Compassion...

There is no better act of kindness than trying to understand another person's pain, without judging, so you can help and support them through their suffering. It's a truly beautiful thing.

But sometimes we forget to offer that same level of compassion to ourselves.

I'm guilty of turning against myself during a difficult time. Of being harsh towards myself rather than comforting and caring for myself. I'm sure I'm not alone in this - I bet a lot of people end up berating themselves when things go wrong. Self-compassion is sometimes the last thing we think of. We spend so much time focussing on our faults that we miss an essential fact - no one is perfect.

Striving for perfection is a never-ending source of pain for most people. In our modern, success orientated world we can get so caught up in trying to achieve our goals and trying to stand out from the crowd that we put so much pressure on ourselves to 'get it right'. But making mistakes so we can learn and grow is part of being human. Without experiences (both 'good' and 'bad') to teach us about life we would never grow past babyhood. Mistakes are necessary. That's why we all make them. We weren't put here to be perfect. We're here to experience life, with all its ups and downs. 

That's why compassion towards others is so easy. If we let it be. We're all in the same boat - struggling to negotiate this thing called life - so we needn't be critical of others or of ourselves. No one has it all together, even if they appear that way. No one has reached the height of perfection because there is no such thing.

Remember - You are already enough. Just as you are. Warts and all.

That's the lesson in compassion that we need to bring to ourselves during tough times. No matter what is going on in our lives and no matter how hard things are, being kind to ourselves is the only way forward. So let self-compassion into your life.


Thursday, 29 November 2012

B is for Butterfly

This is week two of Alphabe-Thursday, so we're on the letter B.

B is for Butterfly...

I like to be amazed. I like to be reminded just how miraculous life is. Take the butterfly for instance. When you think about it long enough it really does start to blow the mind. How does a caterpillar change into a butterfly?! It's the ultimate transformation, going from one living thing and metamorphosing into a completely different living thing. That's one helluva party trick! ;-)

The caterpillar comes into being knowing that one day it will change. There is no chance for it to say 'no thanks, not today.' The caterpillar is born to transform. Whenever I'm faced with change and I start to let the fear take over, I like to remind myself of the butterfly. These beautiful creatures wouldn't exist if it weren't for change.

Allowing transformation is one of the most miraculous gifts we can give ourselves. Letting go of those things that hold us back and giving in to necessary change can be enlightening. It can be scary, sure, but for every skin we shed, every negative pattern we let go of, every opportunity we seize, we are able to grow as human beings. By overcoming the fear and trusting in life's plan for us, we move closer to who we really are - a beautiful, loving, joyful being who is just as miraculous as the butterfly.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Book Review: A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley

 'A summer of friendship, romance, and songs in major chords. . . .

Charlie Duskin loves music, and she knows she's good at it. But she only sings when she's alone, on the moonlit porch or in the back room at Old Gus's Secondhand Record and CD Store. Charlie's mom and grandmother have both died, and this summer she's visiting her grandpa in the country, surrounded by ghosts and grieving family, and serving burgers to the local kids at the milk bar. She's got her iPod, her guitar, and all her recording equipment, but she wants more: A friend. A dad who notices her. The chance to show Dave Robbie that she's not entirely unspectacular.

Rose Butler lives next door to Charlie's grandfather and spends her days watching cars pass on the freeway and hanging out with her troublemaker boyfriend. She loves Luke but can't wait to leave their small country town. And she's figured out a way: she's won a scholarship to a science school in the city, and now she has to convince her parents to let her go. This is where Charlie comes in. Charlie, who lives in the city, and whom Rose has ignored for years. Charlie, who just might be Rose's ticket out.

Told in alternating voices and filled with music, friendship, and romance, Charlie and Rose's "little wanting song" is about the kind of longing that begins as a heavy ache but ultimately makes us feel hopeful and wonderfully alive.'


I read A Little Wanting Song as part of the AWW2012 Challenge. I was drawn to Cath Crowley's writing in her book Graffiti Moon, which I reviewed back in August, and I wanted to read more of her work. 

A Little Wanting Song was actually written prior to Graffiti Moon and first released as Chasing Charlie Duskin. Having already read Graffiti Moon, it was obvious to me that this novel came before because it seems as though Cath is stretching her legs and her writing fingers. She has the idea to write from an artist's perspective (Charlie is an accomplished musician, songwriter and singer) but I don't feel Cath does it as well, or as powerfully poignant, in this novel as she did in Graffiti.

What's so prevalent in this book is a sense of longing. Everyone is longing for something, which is a great insight into teenage-hood! That's why Cath Crowley is such a wonderful YA writer - she is brilliant at showing life through a teen's eyes. The characters in this novel deal with a typical teen anxiety - they're desperate to be something they're not, but they are slowly realising that they need to just be themselves. Charlie and Rose both long for their own version of freedom, but seem unable to make it a reality.

This intense idea of longing also incorporates the characters' inability to let go - that's why there is the element of ghosts in the story because Charlie, her dad and her grandpa are each unable to let go of the dead. I see the evolution of their grief in the story - Charlie learns that she's been holding back just like her father has been. It is the sorrow that keeps her from loosening up and letting go in more ways than one. She needs to let go of her mum and gran, but also let go of her fear and allow herself to realise her potential.

A Little Wanting Song is a touching teen story and well worth a read. I liked this novel. It was very well-written and I could empathise with all of the characters, but the language wasn't as poetic as I was expecting after reading the beautifully lyrical Graffiti Moon.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

A is for Appreciation

Jenny Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday is a weekly writing meme based on, you guessed it, the letters of the alphabet. This week starts a new round with the letter 'A'. I decided to join in!

So... A is for Appreciation.

Being Australian I never focussed much on Thanksgiving, even though I've always appreciated the sentiment. Gathering loved ones together to celebrate and give thanks is a wonderful tradition. And now that I'm married to an American I figure hey I can get in on this thanksgiving action! :-)

Appreciation is the 'expression of gratitude' and I've found that being grateful can have a really powerful affect on us. Writing my list of 100 Gratitudes was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. It really helped me focus my attention on all the positives life has to offer, and I found myself viewing the world in a new, exciting way.  

Letting gratitude flow into your every day can help you tap into love and joy and beauty and inspiration. At Thanksgiving we share all this magnificence with others - what a great day it is!

I appreciate so many things in my life that it would take too long to list them all. But special mention must go to my family and friends, who are always there for me and who make my life truly blessed.

Happy Thanksgiving!  

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Guest Post, Giveaway and Review on Book'd Out

I'm honoured to be featured today on Shelleyrae's book review site Book'd Out. I have written a guest post entitled 'Exploring Love'. 

Book'd Out is also hosting a giveaway! I am offering two signed print editions of Run to Me. This giveaway is available worldwide and closes 18th November 2012. To enter head on over to Book'd Out.

And to top it off - Shelleyrae has also reviewed Run to Me as part of the Australian Women Writers 2012 Challenge. Check out her review here.

Monday, 5 November 2012

The Writer in Me

I decided I wanted to be a writer while sitting on a boat circling Manhattan. I was on holiday in the US en route to a new life in London. I was twenty-one years old. I’d just finished university in Sydney. I didn’t have the slightest idea what to do with my life.

New York City had always been a place I dreamt about. My greatest passion is movies and I’d seen NYC many, many times onscreen. I longed to be amongst the bright lights and see the beautiful city with my very own eyes. I was desperate to walk those streets and stand at the top of The Empire State Building, just like Meg and Tom in Sleepless in Seattle. ;-) So being in NYC was a real-life dream come true for this small town girl.

My world was opening. I was na├»ve and idealistic, and I could see my life spread out before me with unlimited possibilities waiting for me to grab them. It was a gloriously sunny day and I was gliding along the Hudson River with the ‘city of dreams’ beside me, and that’s when it happened. It just popped into my head.        I could be a writer.   

It wasn’t such a crazy idea. I’d always been a bookworm, and I studied English literature at university. Sure I could be a writer, I thought. How hard could it be?

Of course writing is not easy. Had that twenty-one year old known what she was letting herself in for she probably would have run in the opposite direction! Sure there are days when I sit at my desk ala Carrie Bradshaw and the ideas flow ever so sweetly from my mind to my fingers and onto the page. But there are also days where I’d rather do anything else, and actually getting the words out is pure torture.

And yet, writing remains. Ever since that moment on the boat in NYC, I’ve been a writer. It took a while for me to call myself one, and years for me to grow the confidence to put my work out into the world. But I did it. And I continue to do it.    I am a writer.

Looking back I realise the creative urge had always been there. Writing had been a source of support for me during many a teenage drama. I’d kept journals throughout my teens and my first broken heart had inspired me to write poetry and short stories (I filled notebooks with stories about him changing his mind and declaring his undying love!) Writing was therapeutic for me. It was where I made sense of what was happening in my life. And as the years have passed from that initial spark of ‘I could be a writer’, writing has allowed me to work out who I am and what I want from life.

Writing fiction in particular is a fascination because I like creating characters and then watching as their behaviour unfolds. Fiction allows me to take those real-life moments I may have witnessed or experienced and turn them into something different. Something straight out of my imagination! :-)

Seeing my novel Run to Me being read by others reminds me just how far I’ve come from that initial spark of an idea. No matter where my future writing life might take me, every time I think back on that moment in New York City I will be grateful for that twenty-one year old me who decided to be a writer and who threw herself so fearlessly into being one. Without her bravery I may never have discovered the joy a creative life can bring. And I wouldn’t be sitting here writing these very words.


** I was just in NYC again a month ago – I was lucky to miss Superstorm Sandy. My heart goes out to those New Yorkers who lost loved ones during the storm, and my thoughts are with the city as it recovers. **

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Author Interview with Chompasaurus Reviews

Today I'm honoured to be interviewed by the wonderful Annie Johnson over on Chompasaurus Reviews! Annie's site offers book reviews, interviews and helpful advice for authors.

Check out Chompasaurus Reviews and my interview.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Book Review: What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

'Imagine losing the most important ten years of your life ...

Alice is twenty-nine. She adores sleep, chocolate, and her ramshackle new house. She's newly engaged to the wonderful Nick and is pregnant with her first baby.
There's just one problem. All that was ten years ago ...

Alice has slipped in a step-aerobics class, hit her head and lost a decade. Now she's a grown-up, bossy mother of three in the middle of a nasty divorce and her beloved sister Elisabeth isn't speaking to her. This is her life but not as she knows it.

Clearly Alice has made some terrible mistakes. Just how much can happen in a decade? Can she ever get back to the woman she used to be?'

After reviewing Liane Moriarty’s The Hypnotist’s Love Story, I was inspired to go back and read her previous novel What Alice Forgot. This is the fourth book I’ve read as part of the AWW2012Challenge


I must admit that I found this book hard to read at the beginning. It annoyed me that the novel deals with such a serious topic in a light-hearted way. To me the characters seemed a little one-dimensional. Alice sustains a head injury that causes severe memory loss and yet everyone is so flippant about it. I didn’t like Alice all that much, mainly because I couldn’t quite get a handle on who she was.

But as the story progressed and Alice returns to her house and her life, I slowly started to understand her. The twenty-nine year old Alice is carefree and focused on love, but the way her family and friends talk about the thirty-nine year old Alice it becomes clear just how much motherhood and marriage has changed her. I was intrigued to see why, and how, someone could shift their perspective on life so drastically. By this time I was hooked and desperate to know how this story would work out.

I liked that this story made me think about who I used to be, as well as who I have become as I’ve grown up. Alice was reminded over the course of the story that it is important to grow up but also to hold on to that youthful view of the world. At times we need to be serious and mature, but we also need to relax and let go too. To just have fun and be present, rather than let ourselves get caught up in our day to day responsibilities.

The story also showed a genuine progression of a marriage – from the carefree loved-up days when it’s just the two of you, to the ‘mum’ and ‘dad’ days where the love you had can get lost in a sea of duties. Love changes. People change. Everything is just a phase. Sometimes there are wonderful phases, sometimes there are tough phases.

While reading I kept thinking of the adage ‘This too shall pass’. That’s what I consider to be the theme of this story – that memories (both good and bad) make up our lives, but really it is the present moment that is most important. We need to savour the good times. And during the bad times we need to remember that this too shall end and all will return to normal again at some point. This is life; the ups and the downs.

When I reviewed The Hypnotist’s Love Story, I thought the theme to that novel could be 'trust in life'. What Alice Forgot is certainly all about life as well. It seems Liane Moriarty likes to explore the complexities of life in her books and I know that is why I have enjoyed her writing. While What Alice Forgot starts out carefree it does become much more thought-provoking as the story progresses. In hindsight I see this is much the same as Alice herself and just goes to show that novels, like people, have room to be a multitude of shifting personalities.  

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Evolving with love: Letting go of stale beliefs

Today I was upset to hear the Australian government has voted against same-sex marriage, and it got me thinking about love, equality and evolution.


What is the one thing human beings agree on?

Love

Our desire for love and our ability to love is universal. Even the hardened criminal has the capacity to love (it was probably a lack of love that made them turn to crime in the first place). We are all capable of loving others and of loving ourselves.

Where things go wrong is when we limit who we love. We allow ourselves to love our family members, our partners, our children, and our closest friends. But some of us stop there. We create a bubble of love that extends only to those we know personally and we ignore everyone else. This is where we let ourselves down as human beings. This is where understanding and compassion get lost in a sea of hatred, discrimination and fear.

Imagine for a second if we loved each and every person on the planet in the same way we love our own family and friends. Would we then go to war to kill those we love? Would we make choices that leave our loved ones homeless or without food? Would we deny our loved ones basic human rights because of their gender, or their race, or their sexuality?

Of course we wouldn’t. We would want the best for our loved ones. We would want them to be happy and safe and loved. We would want them to enjoy all the beauty life has to offer. After all, isn’t that what we want for ourselves already? Why wouldn’t we choose that for others?

To me this is what we do when our governments give marriage rights to heterosexual couples but not to homosexual couples - we are choosing to limit other people. We are saying to them – ‘your life and your choices are not as important as mine.’ We are telling them – ‘the love you feel for your partner is not as valid as the love I feel for mine.’ 

Think about marriage for a second. What is marriage? Is it not the union of two loving people who are choosing to commit to one another and share their lives together? That’s how I view marriage, so in my mind the union of marriage should be available to ANY two people who choose it. That’s what it’s all about – choice. To take away a person’s right to make their own choices means you have stopped loving them. Simple as that. Love no longer exists when we limit each other.

But it’s not all bad! :-) The human race is still evolving. It’s the miracle of life; our ability to free ourselves from shackles of the past, to see the error of our ways. When things are no longer working, or have become outdated, we can change them. We invent new ways of doing things that align with our new beliefs and needs. It’s what happened when we freed the slaves, or gave women the right to vote. And that’s where our views on marriage are right now – in transition. In the past marriage was a union based on property then it became a union based on procreation. Now marriage is a union based on love. And therein lies the answer. Every human being deserves love and every human being desires love. If a couple want to express that love by getting married then that is their right as loving human beings, regardless of sexuality.

I believe our governments will see the light of day eventually. Until then let’s remember one thing - love is a gift we can choose to bestow. So let’s choose to love one another wholeheartedly.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Book Review: The Hypnotist's Love Story by Liane Moriarty

'Hypnotherapist Ellen is fascinated by what makes people tick. So when she falls in love with Patrick, the fact that he has a stalker doesn't faze her in the slightest. If anything it intrigues her, and the more she hears about Saskia, the more she wants to meet this woman. But what Ellen doesn't know is that they've already met.

Saskia has been posing as one of Ellen's clients. Unable to let go of the life she so abruptly lost, she wants to know everything about the woman who took her place. And the further she inches her way into Ellen's world, the more trouble she stirs up.

Ellen's love story is about to take an unexpected turn. But it's not only Saskia who doesn't know where to stop: Ellen also has to ask herself what lines she's prepared to cross to get the happy ending she's always wanted.'

Liane Moriarty's contemporary fiction novel The Hypnotist's Love Story is the third book I've read as part of the AWW2012 Challenge.  It has been described as a 'perfect holiday read' and the book is definitely entertaining and easy to read. The plot itself wasn't particularly heavy, but I was very intrigued by the ideas in the book - that letting go is hard and relationships are never entirely without their issues, even when you're with the love of your life.

The story uses two points of view. One follows Ellen, a hypnotist, as she falls in love with Patrick and learns to deal with his stalker - Saskia. The second is Saskia's point of view so we can come to understand her motivations for stalking Patrick. Moriarty has created a lot of depth for both the female characters, and I especially enjoyed the opportunity as a reader to explore stalker mentality and Saskia's inability to let go.

I related a lot to the main character Ellen. I liked her semi-hippiness, her spiritual outlook on life, her fascination with people and what makes them tick, her ability to overthink every little thing and every little action. I liked her desire to know herself better, to understand her own motivations. I liked her self-awareness.

This book was thought-provoking in its own way. It made me think about the realities and complexities of relationships, and that love can make us all go a little insane at times. I appreciated the book's take on letting go - aside from learning to let go of past loves, we must also let go of expectations and learn to see the big picture. Ellen learns to stop over-analysing her life, and to just let things happen as they are meant to. In that respect the book is about learning to let go of control and 'go with the flow'. If there's a spiritual message to this book it is -  trust in life.

A very engaging, entertaining novel that was more than just a 'summer read' for me. This was the first time I'd read a book by Liane Moriarty and she has captured my attention. I now want to go back and read her previous novels. If you like stories about love and its hardships, you'll enjoy The Hypnotist's Love Story

Monday, 13 August 2012

Self-validation


While studying writing at university, one of my teachers announced that his first novel was to be published soon. I congratulated him, of course, and then I said “it must be great to be validated.” I didn’t say it was great for his work to be validated, but for him to be.  Years later I found myself reminiscing about that day and I realised just how mistaken I’d been – validation doesn’t come from winning the approval of others. It’s something we must all find within ourselves.

I’ve always suffered from a lack of confidence. I imagine it was even there the moment I was born, because it’s been my constant companion as far back as I can remember. For some unknown reason I’ve never felt completely comfortable being me. Growing up, (especially once adolescence hit) I often hid my true self from others, convinced that I had very little to offer. I actually started to believe that my own worth was not as important as everyone else’s. I put other people’s needs ahead of my own and I desperately searched for a way to validate my own existence. It never once occurred to me that I was already enough.

So you see, when I decided to become a writer I had already placed a great expectation upon it. I believed that once an editor agreed to publish my work, I would finally find the approval I so needed. Once everyone else loved me, I reasoned, I would then be able to love myself.

When agents and publishers rejected my novel I took it personally. I wasn’t able to separate myself from my work. It wasn’t my work they didn’t like, it was me. Or so I believed. Whatever amount of joy and self-worth my writing had slowly begun to foster in me fragmented with each rejection. My confidence took yet another beating. I pursued other interests and let my writing slide away.

In hindsight, this self-imposed hiatus from writing would prove to be just what I needed. Without the pressure to prove myself, I was able to step back and take a long hard look at the person I was allowing myself to be. I’d had enough of disapproval and criticism. I decided to focus on my strengths, and I realised that my weaknesses didn’t make me any less worthy than others. My weaknesses were a part of me, but I would not let them define me.

As I was doing all this soul-searching a transformation was occurring in the publishing world as well. Independent authors were choosing to publish their own books, as the growth of print-on-demand and ebook technologies were making this a very real possibility. I re-evaluated why I had chosen to become a writer in the first place and was reminded of my simple desire to create. I discovered I was no longer desperate for external validation. Now I wanted to validate myself, by focussing on my goal to be a published author and using my skills to achieve it.

I realised my achievements weren’t reliant on someone out there giving me a break and saying yes to my work. It was up to me to say yes to myself! So I self-published my novel, and now it sits proudly on my shelf. What joy to hold my novel in my hands, as a finished product, knowing that it all came down to me. I have achieved my dream to be a published novelist, all because I gave myself permission to approve of my own creative work. Freed from the shackles of my computer hard drive, my novel is out there living its life. And people are reading it. That’s an added bonus! :-) 
 
As for me, I learnt a valuable lesson. To validate oneself, rather than waiting for others to do it for you, is very empowering. It’s allowed me to succeed in the only way that really matters – I’m now proud to be me.     

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Book Review: Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley

'School is over, and Lucy has the perfect way to celebrate: tonight she's going to find Shadow, the mysterious graffiti artist whose work appears all over the city. Somewhere in the glassy darkness, he's out there, spraying colour, birds and blue sky on the night. And Lucy knows that a guy who paints like Shadow is someone she could fall for - really fall for.
 
The last person Lucy wants to spend this night with is Ed, the guy she's managed to avoid since punching him in the nose on the most awkward date of her life. But when Ed tells Lucy he knows where to find Shadow, the two of them are suddenly on an all-night search to places where Shadow's pieces of heartbreak and escape echo off the city walls. And what Lucy can't see is the one thing that's right before her eyes.'

Continuing on with my AWW2012 Challenge I read Cath Crowley's Graffiti Moon. This novel is essentially a YA love story set on one night in Melbourne. But it is also much more than that. Graffiti Moon is like one long work of art. It is obvious that Crowley views the world from an artistic perspective; she is very creative and thoughtful, and her language is richly descriptive. It's no wonder this book won the Prime Minister's Literary Award.

I almost finished this book in one sitting. It is an easy read, not because it has no depth, but in fact for the opposite reason - the story is so beautifully written and the characters so wonderfully intriguing that you just can not put the book down. Just like Lucy and Ed, I spent a night wandering in the delicious world of art; Crowley manages to take the reader fully into this world so we are experiencing every single detail, feeling, event.    

I know teenagers (especially artistic teens) would adore this story of late night antics and the search for love. Reading the book reminded me of just how deeply we feel things as teenagers - those first feelings of love are often so overwhelmingly delightful. I could understand Lucy longing to meet the mysterious Shadow. I could relate to her desire to kiss the artist whose work spoke so directly, and eloquently, to her heart and soul. I remember getting lost in those innocent, yet all-encompassing, flushes of teenage love. Crowley's prose transported me back to that time.

My favourite section of the book occurs when Lucy and Ed are looking at Shadow's paintings at the train yard. Lucy talks about her own art work - her memory bottles - and she draws some for Ed to see. I loved Crowley's language here - "Some of her bottles are smooth half-moons, curling at one end so they can hook on to other bottles. Some are misshapen suns that narrow and rise into one long, thin line of light. Some open at the end like trumpets, some in a twist of curls that make me think of a circus." 

Graffiti Moon is a touching story of first love. It is also a story about the attempt teenagers make to try and discover their identity and find their confidence when they're on the threshold of adulthood. The characters will stay with you and Crowley's lyrical descriptions will captivate you. It's a truely wonderful book.  

Monday, 16 July 2012

Book Review: The Light Between Oceans by M.L Stedman

'Tom Sherbourne, released from the horrors of the First World War, is now a lighthouse keeper, cocooned on a remote Australian island with his young wife Izzy, who is content in everything but her failure to have a child. 

One April morning, a boat washes ashore carrying a dead man - and a crying baby. Safe from the real world, Tom and Izzy break the rules and follow their hearts. 

It is a decision with devastating consequences.'

Literary fiction novel The Light Between Oceans is the first book I've read as part of the AWW2012 Challenge. I was intrigued by the book's tagline - 'This is a story about right and wrong, and how sometimes they look the same'. This blurring of right and wrong is the strong theme throughout the novel. Tom and Isabel make their decision based on love and with the best of intentions. Unfortunately, their actions take something precious away from another and for this a price must be paid. 

This may be M.L Stedman's debut novel, but she is a very accomplished writer. The language is exquisite at times. For example I adored this sentence - "the stars, too, illuminate the clear air, and the Milky Way rubs a bright smudge across the darkness." I found the writing to be very lyrical.

At the beginning, it did take me a little time to really get caught up in the story. But once Isabel and Tom had made their fateful decision, I was desperate to see how the truth would be discovered and what the 'devastating consequences' would be. As the story progresses the writing is broken up into shorter sections. I liked this because it kept up a quick pace which I thought mirrored the urgency I felt - I wanted to know how it would all be resolved.  

Descriptions of the setting are wonderful  - I could really feel the remote island of Janus and how isolating yet beautiful it was. Australia itself is a strong force in the novel, which I liked. Character development was very good. I came to really care for the characters and I could understand everyone's motivations, whether they were 'right' or 'wrong'.

What I loved most was the exploration of what it means to be a mother. Who is really someone's mother - the woman who gives birth to you or the one who nurtures and raises you?

The Light Between Oceans is a thought-provoking, touching and sad story which focusses a lot on a person's moral compass. I enjoyed reading the book and the story kept me enthralled. Highly recommended.



Monday, 2 July 2012

Australian Women Writers 2012 Challenge

Even though I am an Australian woman writer I must admit that I've read very few books by Australian women. So when I recently came across the Australian Women Writers 2012 Challenge I decided I had to take part. The Challenge is to read and review books by Australian women writers throughout 2012. I may be starting the challenge six months in, but better late than never! :-)

So I am signing up to do the Miles Challenge Level - which is read 6 books and review at least 3. I might be able to read more than that over the next six months, but Miles is my starting point for now.

I've already chosen 3 of my 6 books:

The Light Between Oceans by M.L Stedman
Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley
The Secret River by Kate Grenville

Stay tuned for my reviews!

Monday, 11 June 2012

Author Interview with Indie BookSpot

Today I'm honoured to be interviewed about Run to Me by the wonderful people over at Indie BookSpot.com. My very first author interview. Very exciting!

Indie BookSpot is a fantastic site for indie authors - they offer news, reviews and features of interest to writers.

Check out Indie BookSpot and my interview

Thursday, 7 June 2012

My FeedARead Experience


I thought I’d write a post about my experience of publishing with FeedARead because it might be helpful for any other new indie authors out there.

FeedARead is an independent publisher funded by the UK Arts Council. They provide a great service to self-publishers – it is free to set up your book for publishing. FeedARead uses Lightning Source to print the books (LS are one of the world’s largest printers) so they guarantee a “bookstore quality paperback”. I have to say – when my proof copy arrived I was very, very impressed with it! It certainly does look like any paperback you’d find in a store.

I found the set up process easy. Once I had formatted my manuscript and cover images to FeedARead’s specifications – I wanted a 5inches x 8 inches book – I simply uploaded them to the website. They were then both approved by FeedARead within two days. FeedARead provide very detailed instructions on formatting and their cover creator will automatically resize your images for you. One thing to note: the cover needs to be three separate jpeg images – front, spine and back. An ISBN is also provided free of charge (this does mean FeedARead are named as the imprint on record).

Once I had double checked the manuscript PDF and cover (note: FeedARead rely on the author to proof their own work and if you find mistakes after publication they do charge you to make revisions), I then had to choose a price for the book. FeedARead sets a minimum price, based on the number of pages in the book and how much it costs to print. Mine was ₤7.99 and as I was happy with that price (and the royalty I will receive after printing costs) I agreed to this. I then went ahead and clicked that wonderful ‘publish’ button. This is where the waiting began as Lightning Source take ten working days to approve the files for printing. I’m not sure why it takes so long, but I suppose they’re pretty busy! :-) All I know is the two weeks felt the longest of my life.

After the ten working days I was able to order a proof copy at a discounted price. I ordered the book on a Thursday morning and was holding it in my hands on the following Tuesday. Very happy! The book looks great; the cover colours are just right and the inside paper is textured cream – just like you’d find in a traditionally published book! I can’t recommend Lightning Source highly enough. They’re excellent printers.

As for FeedARead – I highly recommend them too! I’ve had such an easy run with them; as opposed to another print-on-demand publisher & printer that I started with who managed to post my proof copy to the wrong address, and once it did arrive I wasn’t overly impressed with the book’s quality. The FeedARead and Lightning Source book is far superior.

So my novel Run to Me is available to buy directly from the FeedARead site. I also chose to invest in their distribution package which means the paperback will soon be available through all online bookstores – Amazon, Book Depository, Barnes and Noble etc. Lightning Source has a global network that means books printed by them are available through major wholesalers such as Ingram in the US and Gardners & Nielsen in the UK. This takes 3-6 weeks to set up so another waiting game! Distribution even means bricks-and-mortar bookshops can order and stock the book. But as far as I know self-published books aren’t usually ordered by the big shops.  

For now you can find my book on the FeedARead site - 'Run to Me'  

FeedARead will post to most countries, and Lightning Source has branches in the US, UK and Australia - so if you're ordering from any of these countries you should be able to get a book sent from their local branch. 

If you'd prefer to buy the paperback through other online bookstores then, sorry, you'll need to wait the same 3-6 weeks as I am. What fun! :-) 

All in all, a great experience with FeedARead. Sales and distribution success remain to be seen, but I know one thing for sure - holding my book in my hands (the whole reason I started this self-publishing journey in the first place!) has brought me a lot of joy.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

The long road to self-publication

The idea for my first novel Run to Me was rolling around in my head for two years before I finally got the confidence and motivation to start writing it all down. I wrote the first few drafts of the novel in 2007 and 2008. After that it was time to get some feedback and start the long process of edits and rewrites.

Then I did what most writers do next – I started submitting my cover letter, synopsis and opening chapters to agents and publishers. I remember being excited, and hopeful. With my submissions out there in the world, I duly sat down and began writing a second novel. I was serious about this writing thing, after all. :-)

Over time I got my share of rejections, and some small bites of interest. But no contract. Run to Me sat on my hard drive, and I focussed on other things. It was always there though, in the back of my mind. I wanted Run to Me to have a life outside of my computer. I may not have written something publishers were desperate to sell, but I knew my story wasn’t the worst thing ever written. I wanted to honour the time and energy I had put into getting that story out of my imagination and onto the page. A part of me is forever embedded in Run to Me, simply because I was the one who created it. And I knew that part of me deserved to be heard.

So what’s a writer to do? Take matters into her own hands, of course!

Late last year I decided the time had come to self-publish my novel. I’ve spent many hours researching the many companies that offer self-publishing services, and many more hours editing and formatting the manuscript. My sister has worked hard on creating my cover for me. So finally the novel was ready and so was I! I order the proof copy and sat back to wait for the delivery. Again I was excited and hopeful. I couldn’t wait to hold my book in my hands, to see it as a finished product rather than just a Word document. Here was the moment of completion. A moment that had taken me five years to reach.

Then the book got lost in the mail.

I still have yet to hold my book in my hands. But everything happens for a reason, and the time will come. As soon as that replacement proof copy arrives…

No time like the present, though, to launch the e-book version of Run to Me. The good people over at Amazon offer unknown writers like myself a real chance at finding an audience and seeing their work out there in the world. It’s a wonderful opportunity and just goes to show how much publishing is shifting these days. We no longer have to leave our fate up to others. I’m so grateful.

So as of yesterday, the Kindle version of my novel is available to purchase on Amazon! If you fancy buying it and supporting me in my creative work you can do so here - http://www.amazon.co.uk/Run-to-Me-ebook/dp/B007R3SA6Y/healscri-21

(This is the link to Amazon UK, but you can also buy the book on any Amazon site. Just go to your country-specific Amazon and search for my name in the Kindle Store.)


To read the book you need a Kindle, or the Kindle App for iPad or iPhone, or you can download (for free) Kindle for PC or Mac and read it on your computer.

If you’d prefer to wait for the print version, I promise you it will see the light of day soon. Stay tuned…

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Valentine's Day Love Creations

Happy Valentine's Day!

I can't think of a better day to sit down and make some new Love Creations, so that's exactly what I've done.

Wall Hanging Love -



Mini Canvas & Easel Love -

Look! Even the shadow in the photo above is shaped like a love heart! :-)