Valentine’s Day

Tomorrow is the day that florists, chocolate manufacturers, and restaurants love: Saint Valentine’s Day.

I’m excited that I’ll be flying to Melbourne first thing in the morning to participate in Sisters in Crime’s celebration of the day – a panel discussion tomorrow night, titled ‘She Always Gets Her Man’ with fellow romantic suspense authors Helene Young and Cheryl Wright, chaired by crime writer Leigh Redhead. If you’re in Melbourne, come along and join in the fun – details are on my events page.

And yes, I’m leaving my beloved at home on Valentine’s Day and heading off for a weekend in Melbourne without him. But don’t worry – we’ve been together for 20 years now and there are plenty of ways we express our feelings on many more days a year than just one, so he won’t be feeling neglected! (And there’s a box of chocolates in the fridge and double-choc chip muffins in the freezer, so if he suddenly has any chocolate cravings he’ll be fine…)

Romance writers are often expected to have something to say on Saint Valentine’s Day – and why not, since we write about love? Now I confess that I’m not overly fond of all the hype and marketing of the day; don’t get me wrong, I love chocolates and flowers and intimate dinners for two and celebrating a loving relationship and if you’re doing that tomorrow, have a wonderful, joyful time! But love, and building a loving, committed, lasting relationship is much more than the marketers tell us; it would be wonderful to see more emphasis and discussion on love itself, rather than the pressure to buy things to ‘prove’ your love.

So, in honour of Saint Valentine’s Day, I’m posting in my Articles section an article I wrote a few years ago for the Romance Writers of Australia magazine, Hearts Talk – The Heart of the Matter: Elements of a lasting love. It was written for romance writers, but maybe there’s something in there for readers, and lovers, too. I’d love to know what you think of it!

Australia Day Giveaway Winners

I’ve finally drawn the winners of my Australia Day giveaway! My apologies that it took so long; things have been extra-busy with an unexpected trip to Tamworth, and it seemed every time I sat down to do it our internet connection went to go-slow. (The joys of rural living…)

But this evening I’ve counted up the entries in each draw, and have been over to random.org, to ask it to draw the winners.

For the Australian draw, random.org said the winner is entry number:
Screen Shot 2014-02-03 at 9.04.33 PM

Congratulations, Sally (sallyfromoz)- you’ve won your choice of either Helene Young’s Half Moon Bay, or Jenn J McLeod’s House for All Seasons. I’ll email you soon to find out your choice and your address.

For the international draw, random.org said the winner is entry number:
random.org screenshot

(Yes, I know – two number 1s! But in true random, that can happen, and there were only 4 numbers in the second draw…)

Congratulations, Laura! You’ve won your choice of either Helene Young’s Half Moon Bay, or my Darkening Skies. I’ll email you soon to find out your choice and your address.

Thank you, everyone, for participating and for your lovely comments.

Australia Day Book Giveaway!

The wonderful Shelley-Rae at Book’d Out is hosting the Australia Day Book Giveaway Blog Hop again this year, and I’m joining in a little late! After you’ve been here, click over to Book’d Out to find other wonderful opportunities to win Australian books.

Today is the day we celebrate our pride in our nation and its people. I count myself as incredibly fortunate to have been born here, because it is an amazing country, with a wide diversity of resilient, courageous people.

Around this time of year though, as Australia Day approaches, I always find myself pondering what it means to me. And to be honest, sometimes I’m not always comfortable. I want to acknowledge that for many first Australians, the Indigenous people of this country, today marks an anniversary of a devastating event for their cultures – the first European Settlement of this vast continent, and the ‘claiming’ of it for the British Empire.

I also feel uncomfortable occasionally with some of the jingoism and the ‘pride’ that is loudly expressed, because ‘pride’ is a word we often use lightly and without thinking. In the media sometimes it seems it’s a ‘pride’ that excludes others, that places ‘us’ above ‘them’, that says that no-one is as good as ‘us’. And at those times I’m reminded of a quote from Ursula Le Guin’s amazing book, The Left Hand of Darkness :

And I wondered, not for the first time, what patriotism is, what the love of country truly consists of, how that yearning loyalty that had shaken my friend’s voice arises: and how so real a love can become, too often, so foolish and vile a bigotry. Where does it go wrong?

Ursula le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness (p. 235)

Now, please don’t get me wrong – I love my country, and I love that my fellow Australians are so passionate about it. I love the landscapes, the people, the places we’ve built, and the long history of struggle and achievement. But it was pure luck that I was born here. And that’s often made me think – can I be proud of that, when it wasn’t something I chose to do? What can I be proud of? What have I personally done, of my own choice and effort, to contribute to this country?

It’s a big question. I hope I uphold many of the ideals that my forebears who came to this country in the nineteenth and early twentieth century lived their lives by. My ancestors were all ‘ordinary’ folk – they weren’t famous or wealthy; they’re not mentioned in history text books. But they worked and raised families and contributed to their communities; they educated their children and volunteered their time to community groups; they took part in the lives of their towns and suburbs and took an interest in politics and had their say. Even my convict great-great-grandfather (transported for theft in 1837), respected the lives of others, rescued people from a shipwreck at great risk to himself, and eventually settled to become a respected family man and community member.

My forebears, right through to my parents and my immediate family, have all served their communities and through them their country in a multitude of ways. I could say that I am proud of that – but what they have done is not my doing. I can only truly be proud of what I have done, of how I contribute to my country, of how I uphold the traditions and ideals that have helped to make this country what it is and what it should continue to be – a wonderful, diverse, welcoming country, made up of peoples of many cultures, a safe haven for those fleeing persecution for a century or more, a nation that believes in a ‘fair go’ for all, and works to enable that.

I’ve worked in service industries (education and health) much of my career, I’ve volunteered in community organisations, I’ve served on committees, I’ve on numerous occasions written to politicians to express my view, and I’ve accepted and taken seriously my responsibilities to vote at all elections. I’ve always tried to treat others with respect, and have sought to understand the complexities of culture and history and to recognise similarities rather than emphasising differences.

I’ve tried to write my love of this country into my books; to write with respect for my readers, and to create with my fictional characters and communities a reflection of the diversity, the resilience, and the courage, that I see around me in rural Australia.

So yes, I’m proud to be Australian, and to be a part of this country. I could do more; I probably should do more. Perhaps this year I will volunteer my time again for a community organisation – I haven’t done enough in recent years, and our country relies so much on volunteers.

But enough of my rambling thoughts! Let’s get on to the book give aways! To be in the draw, just leave a comment on this post by midnight on Monday Tuesday, 28th January, about what you’re proud of – whether you’re Australian or from somewhere else. (Because while we know that Australia is great, we also know it’s not the only great place in the world!)

For Australian residents: I’ll draw one winner who can choose between two wonderful books by Australian authors: Half Moon Bay, a thrilling romantic suspense set on the north coast of New South Wales, by Helene Young; and House for All Seasons, set just a little inland in northern New South Wales, by Jenn J McLeod.

Cover - Half Moon Bay by Helene Young House-for-all-Seasons-Jenn-J-McLeod-194x300

For International residents: I’ll draw one winner who can choose between the ebook version of Helene’s Half Moon Bay, or an ebook version of my book, Darkening Skies – assuming those are available in the country where you live. Otherwise, I’ll send a paper version of my book Dead Heat.

Cover - Half Moon Bay by Helene Young Cover of Darkening Skies by Bronwyn Parry

When you comment, please mention which draw you’re entering.

For my fellow Australians, I hope you enjoy Australia Day, however you’re celebrating it!

Oops – website woes

There appears to be a problem with the design I use for my website – my last post apparently broke it! So please excuse this temporary one while I rebuild or create something new in the background. It may take me a couple of days…

Beginnings

I seem to be at the ‘Beginnings’ stage of everything at the moment. It’s the beginning of the new year – well, still early days, anyway! I’m not quite sure how 2014 will evolve yet, but there will be plenty to keep me busy!

I’ve been working on my next book, which has the working title Dead Certain. This is Simon and Erin’s story – they appeared in Dead Heat, colleagues of Jo’s, but this book will stand alone, unconnected to the crimes of Dead Heat. It’s well underway, but not as far advanced as I’d like yet, and I don’t have an estimated publication date at this stage. The first part of a book is always the slowest part for me; getting the characters established, laying the groundwork for the plot and for the twists and turns. I think it’s all starting to come together…

I’m also in the beginning of a new relationship… no, not the romantic kind! Meet Pippin, our new border collie puppy:

Pippin the puppy curled up in toy basket

Pippin at nine weeks old in the toy basket.

Gordon and Pippin the puppy

At 10 weeks old, she has us wrapped around her little paws.

Pippin came home with us on 14th December and has kept us on our toes ever since! She’s now almost 14 weeks old. Being a border collie, she’s smart, energetic, quick to learn, and eager to stay on top of everything.

Pippin sitting on top of Skye

‘You want to play, Skye. Really you do.’

That’s Skye, our three-year-old underneath. She’s been wonderfully patient with Pippin, and most of the time loves to play with her – although Pippin is definitely an Energiser Puppy, who just keeps on keeping on, and some days Skye, like us, begins looking for the ‘off’ switch! Tansy has been very good with Pippin, too, and they seem to have reached a general understanding that Tansy doesn’t play much and doesn’t like being leapt on, but if Pippin wants to lie down nearby or maybe have a little nuzzle, that’s okay. So we’re all happy and adjusting to our new ‘family’ member quickly.

 

Another recent beginning is on my stalled PhD candidature. Because of all the medical dramas from 2008-2010, I withdrew from candidature a few years ago, but as of late December I’m officially back on deck, with a revised research proposal that builds on what I did back in 2007-2008, but takes it in a new direction, with a focus on the creative process for authors in the rapidly changing publishing environment. I plan to write and publish two novellas as part of the research project, exploring not only the creative writing process, but the publishing and readership context which influences the choices facing Australian authors of commercial fiction. I’m hoping to do the two novellas this year – perhaps for a pre-Christmas publication date – and finish the exegesis/thesis next year. Fitting it all in around writing full-length books, of course!

 

Yet another beginning in recent months – I’m on my way to the new, slimmer ‘me’! Those of you who’ve met me in person know that I am short and decidedly overweight. My natural tendency to roundness wasn’t helped by four years of limited exercise because of the unexploded bomb in my head. I’ve tried Curves, I’ve tried calorie counting, but as ‘a lady of a certain age’, I’ve found it very difficult to shift any weight. In mid-November I read about the 5:2 Intermittent Fasting way of eating – often referred to as the Fast Diet. Basically, on 2 non-consecutive days of the week, you limit calorie intake to about 500 calories (600 for men). The rest of the time, you eat normally. I’ve been doing this for two months now, and 500 calories is actually not too hard. Poached eggs, smoked salmon, asparagus, lentil soup, fresh fruit – not too hard at all! Especially since it’s only two days per week. In two months, I’ve lost 6.5 kilos. This week, I wore jeans for the first time in more than three years, and as I look at my wardrobe, and look at my sewing fabrics, and browse clothing images on Pinterest, I can now imagine myself as not-so-fat. There’s still a whole lot more to lose, and it won’t happen overnight, but I’m feeling positive about it now in a way I’ve not been able to before this way of eating.

So, with all these exciting new beginnings, I’d better keep moving and get on with achieving things in 2014!