Tag Archives: Writing

THIS WRITING LIFE: The 2013 Newcastle Writers Festival

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Miriam Margolyes in fine form

On the first weekend of April I took to the road and headed up to Newcastle – one of my favourite places – for its inaugural writers festival. What a great weekend! Massive kudos, congratulations and thanks to Newcastle Writers Festival manager Rosemarie Milsom and her team of helpers for hosting a truly wonderful event. I’ll be back next year for sure.

Opening night was a blast with acclaimed actor and Dickens devotee Miriam Margolyes expounding on Why Words Matter. Her speech was rambling, funny, poignant and everything in between, and it’s a great sign of her talent that she managed to convince the entire University of Newcastle Conservatorium to sing along with her to Daisy, Daisy. We all decamped across the road to the library for drinks, nibbles and mingling afterwards with huge smiles on our faces.

If you’d like to hear Miriam’s opening night address, The Herald has kindly made the audio available on their website.

Beachgirl!

Beachgirl!

Except for a few dark clouds out to sea, Saturday was a typical gorgeous Newcastle day. We spent the morning taking in some of the (very familiar) sights before wandering up Hunter Street to Newcastle beach for a gaze around. Then it was time to join my fellow Heart of the Matter panellists Kaz Delaney, Michelle Douglas, Deborah Challinor and moderator  Annie West for a spot of lunch at Raw Cafe, a rather inspirational place for a bunch of romance writers given the wait staff!

Inspirational also was the venue for our Heart of the Matter: Writing Romance panel. The session was held at the Newcastle City Business Centre, in an historic sandstone former bank, and the interior was sumptuous, with polished timber panelling, marble mountings and a beautiful chandelier. Although Kaz Delaney, bless her, managed to out-glitter even that with all her bling.

Heart of the Matter Paenl: Michelle Douglas, me, Kaz Delaney, Deborah Challinor and Annie West

Heart of the Matter Panel: Michelle Douglas, me, Kaz Delaney (note that glittery gold bag), Deborah Challinor and Annie West

We had a lovely, clever audience who had our brains working overtime with some astute questions. I think this was the first occasion I’d ever described the themes of my work in public. For me it’s forgiveness, especially self forgiveness, and it was fascinating to hear my fellow panellists’ thoughts on the subject. Kaz wrote similar themes to me, but Michelle’s and Deborah’s stories offered different messages. We were also asked what was the worst

Michelle's gorgeous tights!

Michelle’s gorgeous tights!

thing about being a romance author. I said structural edits, which had everyone nodding. Everyone except Deborah Challinor, who, for some odd reason, actually likes them. A sentiment also repeated on Sunday by Courtney Collins, author of the Stella Prize nominated and highly acclaimed novel The Burial, during our A Fine Debut session. This, dear readers, is not normal! I know structural edits are very, very good for us, vital in fact but, believe me, those babies hurt.

Speaking of A Fine Debut, Courtney and I were delighted to host a near-capacity crowd in the City Hall Banquet Room on Sunday afternoon. Rosemarie Milsom was our moderator and she took us through the massive learning curve and somewhat startling experience that was our first books’ birth. I was fascinated to hear Courtney speak about her experience with The Burial, in particular how long she worked on it and the way it seemed to explode into existence for her in the most thrilling way. We’re talking a feature film option, around the world sales, critical acclaim and major

Wondering how the hell to answer THAT curly question!

Wondering how the hell to answer THAT curly question!

literary prizes. And there I was yabbering about being thrown out to do radio interviews with no experience at all, which turned out to be great fun in the end, but nothing like the hoopla Courtney’s had and is still enjoying. Good on her, too. She was lovely and interesting and I’m very much looking forward to reading her book.

So all in all a joyous time, and another heartfelt round of applause must go to the organisers and to Newcastle itself for getting behind this excellent event. There were lines snaking into the street for some sessions and I just loved how there was a session to cater for every taste. No literary snobbery in Newie! I must also say a huge thanks to MacLean’s Booksellers who did a fine job of stocking and displaying everyone’s books. Special thanks to Kylie who had me signing store copies and is going to help me arrange some more talks in Newcastle later in the year. Stay tuned for details on that.

If you’d like to see more photos of the weekend check out the Newcastle Writers Festival Facebook page. And while you’re at it, mark your calendars for next year’s festival. I’ll be there with bells on!

 

 

 

NEWS: The 2013 Newcastle Writers Festival

Only eight sleeps until the opening night of the inaugural Newcastle Writers Festival. I can’t wait! I so adore Newie. The harbour and beaches are beautiful, the city itself has a unique culture that makes it very special, and it abounds in history.

Plus it’s home, or has been home, to some of this country’s best writers.

So why not book a weekend in this fabulous city, say the weekend after Easter? Not only are there excellent Writers Festival panels and chats to attend, you can enjoy many cultural, gourmet and outdoor activities, plus a fascinating working harbour to watch. I mean, who wouldn’t want to camp at this bar and watch a sunset like this?

Honeysuckle Hotel Sunset

I’m on two panels during the festival:

Saturday 6th April

Heart of the Matter: Writing Romance with Michelle Douglas, Deborah Challinor, Cathryn Hein and Kaz Delaney. Hosted by Anne See.

2-3pm, Newcastle City Business Centre, cnr Bolton and Hunter Streets, Newcastle, NSW.

Sunday 7th April

A Fine Debut: The pleasure and pain of your first book. Courtney Collins and Cathryn Hein. Hosted by Rosemarie Milsom.

1.30pm-2.30pm, Newcastle City Hall – Banquet Room – Free Session.

For more information and to book your tickets, please visit the Newcastle Writers Festival website.

 

Hope to see you there!

 

 

THIS WRITING LIFE: Going Plotty

After a few weeks of brainstorming ideas, I’m down to the nitty-gritty of plotting my next book, scribbling lots of character and setting notes, mulling over conflicts and turning points, and generally letting my head get full of this new (rather exciting, if I do say so myself) tale. Naturally, just as I decide it’s time to start work on a synopsis, perhaps even a first chapter, our aging laptop coughs up a furball of corruption and carks it.

Perfect.

Fortunately we’re pretty good at backing up files and there wasn’t much screaming or tears –well, maybe a little expletive-enhanced screech – but things were as calm as they could be. The lovely Geeks2u man who came to resuscitate the computer managed to save most of our data anyway but, oh, what a pain it all is. Not only am I consigned to a netbook with a screen so tiny it’s turning me cross-eyed, we have to go through all the drama of buying a new computer and reloading it with all our stuff. Then, seeing as we’re Windows people (yes, Apple fanatics, I hear your lament but someone has to keep Bill Gates in his millions), we’ll have to learn a new operating system and work out where everything goes, and and and….

It’s all a bit much, really. All I want to do is write.

But you know what? There’s always a pencil and paper. A bit archaic perhaps, even a little slower, but wonderfully easy on the eyes and blissfully safe from the blue screen of death.

Methinks there’s a lot to be said for that.

 

THIS WRITING LIFE: Edits have landed

As the above suggests, edit notes have arrived for my next book (title coming soon, I promise), due out in May 2013.

Excellent!

With the help of my clever editors, I should be able to knuckle down and fix all those fizzling bits in the first draft and – fingers crossed – mould this book into a truly compelling read.

And hmmph!

Why? Because it never ceases to amaze me how often edits coincide so perfectly with the urge… no, need to start the next book.

Yes, yes, I know, but you have been deceived. Deceived I tell you! All that pottering in post-book blissdom these past few weeks has been surface only. Inside I’ve been hard at work, cogitating. Truly I have! Plots have been brewing. Characters imagined. Horrible, mean fates thought of. I even have an opening and, miracle of miracles, a fabulous title.  So, as is typical, just when I think I’m ready to start pounding that keyboard again, edits come a-sailing in and I have to drop it all and bury myself in those, hence the hmmph.

Ahh, well. No one ever said this writing life was easy.

THIS WRITING LIFE: The Lucky Seven

I tend to ignore blog challenges. They remind me too much of chain mail and other 70’s schoolyard games, but this one for writers is a bit cool. Plus I’ve been tagged so many times to play along that I’m starting to feel like a grump for not joining in.

 

Here’s how ‘The Lucky Seven’ works:

  • Go to page 7 or 77 in your current manuscript (fiction or non-fiction)
  • Go to line 7
  • Post on your blog the next 7 lines, or sentences, as they are – no cheating
  • Tag 7 other authors to do the same

Except I’m going to ignore the last directive because everyone I know has already been tagged, and I kinda like the idea of breaking the chain. Can’t help it. It’s the bah humbug in me.

 

So here we go. This is from page 77 of my current work-in-progress, scheduled for release by Penguin in 2013. Enjoy!

 

Callie picked at a loose thread on the hem of her shorts. ‘I’m all right. Things just aren’t going as smoothly as I’d hoped.’

‘It was always going to be hard, going back. You’re braver than me. I still haven’t visited where Des was killed. Mum and Dad and Ross go all the time, for his birthday and at Christmas. They put flowers by the tree and talk to him like he’s still alive, but I’ve never been able to do it. I don’t want to remember him there, all mangled up. You’re probably the same with Hope and your gran’s farm, not wanting to remember.’

© Cathryn Hein 2012

FRIDAY FEAST with me…again!

Greetings, Feasters, from (sort of) sunny South Australia. I’ve been on a library tour all week around the south east of the state, chatting about Heart of the Valley and my journey to publication, plus whatever else I go off on a tangent about. And it’s been huge fun! Delightful crowds who ask lots of questions, and the hospitality of the library staff has been wonderful. There are links on my Facebook page to photos if you want to take a look, and a radio interview I did which was rather fun.

Heart of the Valley has been earning some amazing reviews, which is really heart-warming. How about this one from Shelleyrae at Book’d Out.

Heart of the Valley is a novel about letting go and moving forward that mixes tender romance with heartfelt drama. I finished Heart of the Valley with a contented sigh for a story well told and a longing for a horse of my own. Cathryn Hein has joined my ever growing list of must read Australian women writers.

And this from 1 girl… 2 many books!

Heart Of The Valley is an excellent addition to the ever-growing rural lit genre – it showcases a beautiful area, contains wonderful, well thought out characters that I really, really enjoyed and I felt the story was rounded and well paced.

And the Facebook comments keep coming too. So on the off chance you haven’t seen Heart’s cover or read the blurb, and to keep the Friday Feast posts consistent and me from getting twitchy about them not matching, here it is again!

 

HEART OF THE VALLEY

 

Brooke Kingston is smart, capable and strongwilled ­ some might even say stubborn ­ and lives in the beautiful Hunter Valley on her family property. More at home on horseback than in heels, her life revolves around her beloved ‘boys’ ­ showjumpers Poddy, Oddy and Sod.

Then a tragic accident leaves Brooke a mess. Newcomer Lachie Cambridge is hired to manage the farm, and Brooke finds herself out of a job and out of luck. But she won’t go without a fight.

What she doesn’t expect is Lachie himself ­ a handsome, gentle giant with a will to match her own. But with every day that Lachie stays, Brooke’s future on the farm is more uncertain. Will she be forced to choose between her home and the man she’s falling for?

A vivid, moving and passionate story of love and redemption from the author of Promises.

 

Right, enough promo, it’s FOOD TIME!

I had planned to write another Heart of the Valley themed post, maybe sharing another Nancy Burrows-style, hearty country recipe, but then I realised that Sunday was Mother’s Day. Given Jim and I move around quite a bit, and sometimes reside long distances from our families, we don’t get to see our mums as often as we’d like and it’s rare for us to spend Mother’s Day with them. Things are easier for me now we’re in Melbourne because that makes Mount Gambier only a 4 ½ (give or take a bit) hour drive away, but it’s still not pop-around-the-corner easy.

So this will be the first Mother’s Day I’ve been able to spend with Mum for donkey’s. To celebrate, we’re planning a nice family brunch on Sunday morning at Mum and Dad’s. There’ll be fresh eggs from my brother’s chooks, maybe a bit of bacon or some chipolatas if I can track some tasty ones down, fruit, cereal, toast and whatever else we can think of. Simple, but good. Anyway, like most celebrations the food won’t really matter. It’s the company that counts.

If I was home, though, and had all my cooking toys at hand, I’d probably try something a bit fancier. In fact, I’d probably make it a Mother’s Day lunch instead of a brunch because then I’d have an excuse to crack a bottle of fizz. Always feels a bit naughty to drink fizz in the mornings, even for a champagne breakfast on Melbourne Cup day, but lunch is another matter. There’s something deliciously indulgent about it, and let’s face it, Mother’s Day is all about indulging Mum.

But if you’re considering lunch for your mum and have a bit of time to prepare, here’s a recipe that might appeal. Serve with a nice green salad, and a glass of crisp white wine, rosé or even fizz, throw in good company, and you have yourself the makings of a perfect afternoon.

 

LEEK, FETTA AND TOMATO TART

 

Serves 4

Pastry

This will make much more than you need, but it’s very hard to measure half an egg. Refrigerate or freeze the rest for another time.

225g (1 ½ cups) plain flour

90g butter, chopped

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 tablespoon cold water (you may need more)

Place flour and butter in a food processor and whizz until crumbly (or use the tips of your fingers to rub butter into flour). Add egg and water and pulse until a ball forms. You may need to add extra water. Tip out onto a floured surface and knead lightly. When smooth, wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 180°C

Take a 35cm by 13cm loose bottomed tart tin and line it with pastry. Rolling out the pastry can be extremely painful so just use your fingers to press balls into the tin until a nice shell forms. Bake for 15 minutes, or until lightly golden.

Filling

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 leek, halved, washed and white part very thinly sliced

200g pancetta or good smoky bacon, cut into small fine batons

1 clove garlic, crushed

A few good handfuls of baby spinach

100g fetta, crumbled

6-8 cherry tomatoes, halved

3 eggs

180ml cream

3 or so tablespoons of finely grated Parmesan cheese

Heat oil in a non-stick pan. Add leek, garlic and pancetta and cook over medium heat until the leek is nice and soft and starting to caramelise a little. Add spinach and wilt.

Spread leek mixture over the cooked pastry case. Top with fetta.

Whisk eggs with Parmesan cheese and then stir in cream until well-combined. Pour over leek mixture. Dot surface with halved cherry tomatoes.

Bake 30 minutes or until set. Serve warm.

 

I’d love to hear what would make a perfect Mother’s Day for you, or even how you plan to celebrate with your mum. Maybe you get to flop around in your PJs all day with people waiting on you hand and foot. Perhaps you’ll be picnicking or adventuring or doing something completely indulgent. Maybe Sunday will find you whipping up your favourite recipe for your mum. I bet there are some wonderful ideas out there we could all gain inspiration from.

FRIDAY FEAST with me!

This week on Friday Feast we have a very special guest… me!

Heart of the Valley released yesterday and as I want as many people as possible to buy and read it, I’m taking over this week’s Friday Feast to mercilessly plug my book. Well, not mercilessly – I’m not that enamoured with self promo – but I’m going to make sure you know aaaaall about this wonderful, emotional read.

Yes, emotional. I have it on good authority that people have been so moved by Heart of the Valley and the fate of its characters that they’ve cried. As Michelle, book editor of online magazine Beauty and Lace warns in her recent review, “…regardless of how tough you think you are you are going to need the tissues.” I also shed many tears during its writing, although not always for the same reason. As any (normal) author will tell you, writing can be bloody stressful!

So in keeping with the established Friday Feast format, and because I’m painfully pedantic and like to keep things ordered, here’s the cover and blurb. You can also read the opening chapter at my website.

 

HEART OF THE VALLEY

 

Brooke Kingston is smart, capable and strongwilled ­ some might even say stubborn ­ and lives in the beautiful Hunter Valley on her family property. More at home on horseback than in heels, her life revolves around her beloved ‘boys’ ­ showjumpers Poddy, Oddy and Sod.

Then a tragic accident leaves Brooke a mess. Newcomer Lachie Cambridge is hired to manage the farm, and Brooke finds herself out of a job and out of luck. But she won¹t go without a fight.

What she doesn’t expect is Lachie himself ­ a handsome, gentle giant with a will to match her own. But with every day that Lachie stays, Brooke’s future on the farm is more uncertain. Will she be forced to choose between her home and the man she’s falling for?

A vivid, moving and passionate story of love and redemption from the author of Promises.

 

Vivid, moving and passionate… yup, that about sums it up. But I should also mention that the hero, Lachie, is a complete and utter babe. There’s this bit where he… Oh, just go and buy the book and you’ll soon see what I mean.

Right, enough of that. Let’s talk FOOD!

 

There’s a sweet character in Heart of the Valley named Nancy Burrows who’s a gun country cook and one of those wonderfully generous souls who loves nothing more than to spoil those she holds dear with her delicious food.

Nancy doesn’t do fancy food. Nope, Nancy makes hearty country fare like beef casseroles, chicken and vegetable soup, and Lancashire hot pot. And she bakes. Oh, does she bake. There are ginger biscuits, apple and rhubarb crumble, and Lachie’s favourite, bread and butter pudding.

So I thought I’d dedicate this Friday Feast to Nancy Burrows and share the sort of recipe that she’d make. Which is rather fitting now that fickle Melbourne has finally abandoned its Indian summeriness and instead decided to blast us with cold and rain. I don’t know about you, but when the weather turns horrid, my stomach craves old-fashioned winter comfort food, and what better warming food is there than a rib-sticking soup?

My mum, bless her, isn’t the most enthusiastic of cooks, although she can whip up a damn fine pavlova. My grandmother taught me how to bake but, overall, I’d call myself a self-taught cook. However, one of the recipes I did learn from Mum growing up was her pea and ham soup. There was no recipe as such; Mum just knew how to make it. I assume she learned from watching her mum, which is exactly how I learned too.

This is perfect winter fare. Thick, delicious, warming and satisfying. I loved coming in from the freezing cold, soaked and mud-smeared after a game of hockey or hair-covered and reeking of horse after a morning spent riding, and being served a great bowl of this soup with buttery toast. It was so damn homely. Nearly as good as a hot shower or a loving cuddle.

Mum always made her soup with bacon bones, but I use a smoked ham hock because I enjoy having all that gooey meat to chew on. Just make sure you allow plenty of cooking time so the meat completely falls away from the bone. I also occasionally substitute some of the soup mix for plain barley simply because I love the stuff.

Oh, and all quantities are variable. Adjust to however you prefer or to the ingredients you have on hand. As for how much this recipe makes… um, a lot. Enough at least to feed a ravenous family with some left over.

There you have it. A recipe even Heart of the Valley’s Nancy Burrows would be proud of.

So what are you waiting for? Go grab that stock pot and start simmering!

 

MUM’S PEA & HAM SOUP

1 smoked ham hock

6 stalks celery, finely chopped

3 large carrots, diced

5 onions, peeled, halved and each half cut into thirds

Enough water to cover

300g soup mix (McKenzies)

Salt

Place ham hock, onions, carrots and celery into a stock pot and pour in enough water so the hock is covered. Place on the stove and simmer, lid on, for three hours or until the meat is falling off the bone and a good stock has developed, adding more water if necessary to ensure the hock is always covered.

Remove ham, peel off the skin and discard. Shred the meat, then return meat and bones to the pan. Test the soup for salt – usually quite a bit is required.

Add soup mix, and simmer with the lid on for another two hours or until the pulses are soft.

Serve piping hot with good crusty bread or hot buttered toast.

 

Now, my feasty lovelies, it’s giveaway time and what a prize I have on offer. Oh yes indeedy! One lucky commenter has the chance to win a signed copy of my brand spanking new release, Heart of the Valley, that vivid, moving and passionate book you see above, which is already earning rave reviews (I have proof!).

Winter is just around the corner (or already here if you live in Melbourne) and I’m on the hunt for some comfort food inspiration. Winter-perfect meals are what I’m after. Casseroles, puddings, soups – whatever makes your mouth water. Just share your favourite winter dish and you’ll be in the running to win a copy of Heart of the Valley. So get commenting!

 

I’m going to use my blog owner’s prerogative and add a few more days to the normal giveaway closing time so I can pimp this post and my book for longer. Hey, a girl has to do what she can! Anyway, this time you have until midnight, Thursday 3rd May, 2012 to leave your comment. Australian addresses only, sorry.

Now, in case you haven’t interacted enough with me yet, besides this blog I also play around on Twitter and Facebook, but only when I’m not hard at work daydreaming of bestsellerdom.

 

This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to our lucky winner, Beck! Your copy of Heart of the Valley will be winging it’s way to you very soon. Thanks to all who entered. Some great comments as always.

FRIDAY FEAST with Helene Young

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Well, are we in for a treat today on Friday Feast. This post is a hoot!

I am absolutely thrilled to host Helene Young this week. Helene is not only an award-winning romantic suspense winner, with two Australian Romance Reader Awards and a prestigious Romance Writers of Australia Romantic Book of the Year to her name, she’s also an accomplished pilot and senior Check and Training Captain with Australia’s largest regional airline.

Yeah, I know. Over achiever. I’d rather like to hate her but I can’t. She’s far too talented and nice.

Helene’s new book, Burning Lies, the third novel in her Border Watch series, releases in July and we don’t have a cover to tempt you with yet, but if you watch her website it’ll be appearing soon. In the meantime, here’s a taste of Shattered Sky, the ebook of which Helene has very generously offered to give away to one super-lucky commenter. But not until you’ve read her wonderful post!

 

SHATTERED SKY

Surviving a missile strike on her aircraft suddenly seems like the easy part for Lauren Bennett. A year after being attacked mid flight, Lauren is sure she’s overcome her guilt at losing a friend in the ensuing crash. Her brittle, glossy veneer doesn’t fool Callam Granger, though. But the naval patrol boat captain knows he’s got no right to an opinion. He wasn’t there when she needed him most and she’s not going to let him forget it.

On a routine surveillance assignment Lauren uncovers an operation trafficking sex slaves. Pursuing the women – and their captors – will take her deep into the Australian outback and a reluctant Callam knows this time he can’t let her go alone. Is it possible for Lauren and Callam to put aside old enmities to outwit, outrun and ultimately out-fly the traffickers? Or will the frantic race to free the women simply ignite their emotions, endangering yet more lives?

 

Excitement, danger, romance. Oh, I’m swooning right now, but before I wander off to pour a jug of water over myself Flashdance style, please let me welcome Helene Young!

 

Put a little bounce in your life.

Thanks for inviting me to ramble on your Friday Feast, Cathryn. Your blog is a must read for me every week!

Today I’m admitting to an eclectic employment history.  Before I was a writer, I was pilot (or still am, I suppose…) Before I was a pilot I was an Adventure Sports instructor. Before that I was a cook (although I was never qualified except in my imagination…).  I’ve been a gardener, a junk mail deliverer, a waitress (several times), and a McDonald’s chick – fries were my specialty. I enjoyed all them while I was gainfully employed, but the cooking gigs were right up there with flying and writing.

I love to cook. My passion for food originally grew out of need. Mum was an unadventurous, albeit healthy, cook who clearly looked on meal prep as her duty. It was never going to be her first love. She was happy to surrender her place in the kitchen and let me experiment. Predictably I had some disasters – blood rare lamb, fallen pavlovas, fiery hot curries, chewy bread, and tastes that really, really should never appear on the same plate. But I had fun!

At the end of school a girlfriend and I got a summer job instead of indulging in the madness of schoolies week. Kev’s Diner at Coolangatta was not the height of culinary excellence, but we were dab hands at hamburgers, anything that could be deep-fried, and smoothies.  The local surfers called it Chew and Spew as it was the only place open after midnight so the inevitable outcome of too much alcohol and greasy food was a deposit in the gutter… Not necessarily a comment on our cooking… We were probably the straightest chics the place had ever hired in our white uniforms and no dating policy. Ah the lost opportunities… sigh…

Sorry, I digress.

After a stint at Uni, and a close encounter with a lawn mower, I moved up the summer employment ladder to Jo Jo’s restaurant at Southport where desserts, dips and quiches were my domain. That was a fairly tumultuous but highly educational stint. Most importantly it looked great on a resume.

One thing led to another and after a couple of detours (including meeting my husband to be) I pitched up in North Wales at Llandudno working as a cook in a nursing home – with a difference. It was a psychiatric nursing home for dementia patients in a rambling 1800’s manor house with three floors of locked doors and a cavernous kitchen. My job was to do lunch, and prep dinner for the night cook.

Being a lover of all things fresh I decided I could make huge savings by swapping the frozen veg for something a little more gourmet. I sailed along for a couple of weeks with empty plates returning to the kitchen and the nurses even eating my food. I was on a roll!

Then the boss deposited a sack of brussel sprouts on my bench. They’d been on special, apparently. Hmmm. I hated them as a kid, over cooked, mushy baby cabbages. But then I’d eaten them more recently – lightly boiled, tossed in butter and garlic with a scattering of crispy bacon. Yum. They’d love it. I just knew it.

I peeled and scored, sautéed garlic and butter, baked wafer thin bacon to a crispy crunch. The smell was divine. Lunch was served and I leant against the bench with a smug smile. Five minutes later even I could hear the peels of laughter from the dining room. In came one of the nurses laughing too hard to speak. It was so entertaining they unlocked the doors and dragged me in to watch.

Turns out lightly boiled brussel sprouts bounce very well off ceilings and floors… Off tables and chairs even… No one complained about the mess because everyone was laughing too hard. Except me, initially… Hard to be offended in the face of real honest-to-god belly laughter.

The mere mention of sprouts or brussel sent the staff into fits for weeks to come. And it’s amazing how many conversations can give those two words a home…

Brussel sprouts still have a place in my heart, but twenty-five years later I make darn sure there’s no bounce left in the little suckers!

 

Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic Vinegar

500 gms fresh Brussels Sprouts

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced

1 medium onion, peeled and thinly sliced

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons butter

Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

Trim off the stems and remove any limp leaves from the brussels sprouts. Blanch the sprouts in boiling water to cover for 5 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking. Heat a large frying pan and add the olive oil, garlic and onion. Sauté a few minutes until the onion just becomes tender. Add the blanched, drained brussels sprouts. Sauté a few minutes. Add the vinegar and toss so that all the brussels sprouts are coated with the vinegar. Add the butter and salt and pepper to taste and toss again.

So, over to you. Time to ‘fess up. What culinary disasters have you had??

 

Oh, Helene, far too many to mention in the Hein household! One of these days I’ll get over my embarrassment and blog about my flambéing adventures. Still figuring out how we survived the Great Cognac Fire of ‘05…

So it’s up to you, dear Feasters. Start typing your disaster stories because one super fortunate commenter will win an ebook copy of Helene’s RuBY and ARR Award winning romantic suspense, Shattered Sky.

Giveaway closes midnight AEST, Tuesday 20th March, 2012. Open internationally.

Right, I’m off to test out Helene’s delicious-sounding sprout recipe and remind my other half that not all vegetables taste like they did at boarding school!

If you’d like to learn more about Helene and her wonderful books please visit her website. You can also connect via www.australianromanticsuspense.com, on Twitter and Facebook.

 

Helene’s giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to Rob H, who has won an ebook copy of Shattered Sky, and thanks to everyone who took the time to pop by and say hello. I hope to see you again. And don’t forget to keep an eye out for Helene’s next book, Burning Lies, which hits the shelves in July.

FRIDAY FEAST with Louise Cusack

Brace yourself, dear readers, because this week on Friday Feast we’re entering another realm. Think romance, think fantasy, think the most gobsmacking savoury pie you’ve ever seen…

Oops. Got ahead of myself. Bit hard not to though when your guest is international award winning fantasy author Louise Cusack. Among other achievements, Louise’s best-selling Shadow Through Time trilogy with Simon & Schuster Australia was selected by the Doubleday book club as their ‘Editors Choice’.  In Feb 2012 the series was released digitally by Pan Macmillan’s ebook imprint Momentum Books. Which means you can buy these superb stories right now! On your Kindle! On your Sony, Kobo, phone, tablet, computer, you-name-it!  With just a little click! Instant booklove! Ahh, technology, we readers so love you.

Louise’s resume is incredible. Not only is she a wonderful author, she’s also a highly respected writing tutor, with her own business Writers: Working with Louise Cusack. Louise has completed 150 manuscript assessments, tutored over 80 writing workshops and mentored over 300 hours with more than 50 clients.  There’s more, but I’m feeling awed enough as it is and I’m sure you’d much prefer a peek at the first in the Shadow Through Time trilogy, Destiny of the Light.

DESTINY OF THE LIGHT

Ennae is a parallel world joined to our own world by the Sacred Pool, a portal that can only be opened by one with the Guardian blood running through their veins. It is through this watery gateway that Khatrene leaves her modern-day life behind forever, drawn into a quest that will take her into the depths of the unknown.

Khatrene must fulfil her destiny as The Light, the woman whose child will unite the four elemental worlds. At each turn are real and imagined enemies who will do everything in their power to prevent her from fulfilling the prophecy, including the ethereal and erotic shadow woman, the enigmatic tattooed man, even her beloved brother Mihale.

Talis, her appointed Guardian, must help her through the dangerous terrain of Ennae, sacrificing everything to ensure her safety in a land where magic prevails and nothing is as it seems.

From an exciting new voice in Australian fantasy fiction comes the first book in the Shadow Through Time trilogy. Beautifully crafted and written, Destiny of the Light combines intrigue, magic and horror to create a reality that is out of this world.

Out of this world indeed! An absolute must-buy for romance and fantasy fans alike.

And now, without further ado, here’s Louise…

Thanks for inviting me to share my signature dish King Island Pie.  It’s one I invented myself, and every time I make it I reflect on the fact that cooking is so very much like writing.  Creating a meal is like creating a story where we bring together all the ingredients we like and mix them in pleasing combinations.  Sometimes we surprise ourselves.  I’ve been a vegetarian for over thirty years, and had no idea that my eating choices would impact on my writing, not even when the sepia world of Ennae that I had created for my Shadow Through Time fantasy romance trilogy had no animals or insects in it.

Publishers who bid for the series were excited by the novelty of such a world, peopled only by humans and plants, and for my part I was happy they liked it, but I felt as if I couldn’t take credit.  As a seat-of-the-pants writer I’d simply been describing the world my heroine was entering, as seen through her eyes.  After the first novel was published a friend who knew me well pointed out the obvious, that every brawny, protective hero I’d fallen in love with while writing the series had never eaten meat.  I’d been falling in love with one gorgeous vegetarian man after another, and clearly that’s where my subconscious had been heading while it had been constructing Ennae.  I knew that worldbuilding was a component of what we call a writer’s “voice” and what makes it unique, but will readily admit I was surprised that I’d inadvertently revealed so much about myself!

Still, I was thrilled to have the books print published, and am now delighted to see this series have a new life, recently republished as eBooks by Pan Macmillan’s digital imprint Momentum Books.  I’m also excited to be sharing my recipe for King Island Pie with you!  As the name suggests, the pie is iconically  Australian, and for those non-Aussies reading, King Island is a lush jewel that sits in Bass Straight between Tasmania and mainland Australia.  It’s main claim to fame is the King Island Dairy which produces some of the most decadent and delicious dairy products in the world.

When sourcing ingredients for this recipe, try to find as many King Island brand as you can to ensure the rich flavour of the pie.  But when substituting other brands (or lower fat options) you’ll find this is still a fabulous vegetarian meal that will please even the most ardent carnivores.  Trust me, it’s Tradie tested!

LOUISE’S KING ISLAND PIE

Ingredients:

  • a 500g bag of washed baby spinach wilted in the microwave then chopped
  • half a small pumpkin cut into 2cm cubes and roasted in oil
  • a cup of roasted cashews
  • 6 eggs
  • 200-500ml of King Island cream (you can substitute sour light cream)
  • one King Island triple cream brie cut into tiny chunks (you can substitute crumbled Persian fetta and use the fetta oil to roast the pumpkin and brush over the puff pastry)
  • a cup of grated tasty cheese or, for more flavour, shredded Cracker Barrel extra sharp
  • sheets of puff pastry and oil to coat

Method:

  • Mix the eggs and cream together and season with salt and pepper
  • Line a big lasagne dish with Glad Bake and lay out the oiled puff pastry (oiled side towards the paper) to form a shell for the pie.  Seal any joins so wet ingredients won’t leak out and spoil the crusty bottom of the pie
  • Put a layer of pumpkin interspersed with cashews on the bottom, then sprinkle tiny chunks of brie (or crumbled fetta) over that.  Dust with a smattering of grated cheese.  Then layer your chopped up wilted spinach over that and carefully pour the well mixed egg & cream over the top.  Finish off with the rest of the grated cheese and pop into a moderate oven (200 degrees C) for as long as it takes to cook the puff pastry and set the filling.  A clean knife in the middle will tell you if it’s set or still mushy.
  • When cooked, take out of the oven and sit for five minutes before cutting and serving with either salad or light vegetables.  This is a very rich pie, so if you serve it without accompaniment try to have fresh fruit for desert to clean the palate.

As you’ll see from the recipe I’m a bit loose with quantities, and this ensures that every time I bake the pie it tastes different, which I love.  So don’t concern yourself overly with details.  Feel free to put in more or less cheese, to substitute mushroom for cashews or chives for spinach, or potato for pumpkin (roasted potato & well-cooked leek is a particularly delicious combination).  See what new forms you can come up with.  This also works well to make baby pies in cupcake moulds for lunchbox treats.

Enjoy experimenting!  And thanks again Cathryn for giving me the opportunity to share my books and my pie recipe!

I’d love to give the first eBook of my trilogy away to one commenter.  Please tell me the most surprising thing you’ve ever cooked/eaten in a pie, and why you loved/hated it.

Thanks, Louise, for your fascinating post and that completely drool-worthy pie recipe. I’m definitely making this baby. It sounds incredible.

Your question reminds me of an enormously popular pie shop on the Pacific Highway at Frederickton, on the NSW north coast. Fredo Pies produces the most weird and wonderful pies. Among other marvels, you can even eat our coat of arms!

If you’d like to know more about Louise please visit her website. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

Contest entries close midnight Australian time, Tuesday 6th March and open to all. Please remember to include a way to contact you in case you win.

Let the drooling begin!

Congratulations to Nicole H. who has won an ebook copy of Destiny of the Light, the first in Louise’s Shadow Through Time trilogy. Thanks so much to everyone who visited and commented on Friday east.

FRIDAY FEAST with Jenny Schwarz

Happy Friday and welcome to another fabulous edition of Friday Feast. And what a treat we have this week!

Break out the good china and cock those pinkies because Carina Press author and proud West Australian Jenny Schwarz is here to talk about that most delicious and civilised of traditions, afternoon tea.

Jenny has the most marvellous book out at the moment. It’s a steampunk. Don’t know what steampunk is? Think a Victorian-era parallel world full of brilliant contraptions and technology advanced way beyond what we understand from the time, sometimes even beyond our own modern technology. A great example is the graphic novel series and film, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, but there are many more. Google and ye shall find.

But you know what makes Jenny’s book different and even more exciting? It’s Australian steampunk. How cool is that!

Check it out…

Wanted: One Scoundrel

All suffragette Esme Smith wants is a man. A scoundrel to be precise. Someone who can be persuaded to represent her political views at men-only clubs. As the daughter of the richest man in Australia, Esme can afford to make it worth the right man’s while.

 

Fresh off the boat, American inventor Jed Reeve is intrigued by Esme’s proposal, but even more interested in the beauty herself. Amused that she takes him for a man who lives by his wits, he accepts the job—made easier by the fact that he already shares her ideals. Soon, he finds himself caught up in political intrigue, kidnapping and blackmail, and trying to convince his employer he’s more than just a scoundrel…

Isn’t that fantastic? Definitely one for the to-be-read pile and available right now with a speedy click.

As usual I’ve rabbited on far too much, so time for me to shut up and hand you over to Jenny.

Hi, Cathryn!

Thanks for inviting me to Friday Feast. I’m here to celebrate the joys of afternoon tea, memory and writers’ inspiration—plus Mum’s custard sponge cake recipe 🙂

Last year I wrote a steampunk story, Wanted: One Scoundrel set in Western Australia during the goldrush of 1895. Back then, WA was known as the Swan River Colony and ambitious and/or desperate men from the eastern colonies flooded over here to try their luck. My great-granddad was one of them.

Strangely, when I wrote my history-with-a-twist story I didn’t realise great-granddad had arrived in the state that early or that my great-grandma had grown up here. Amazing what you can find out with three tools: Google search, Births, Deaths and Marriages registers and Trove.

But as I thought about my family history I realised that its traditions had been the basis for the afternoon tea scene in Wanted: One Scoundrel. Not that my family were rich—far from it! Great-granddad worked on the railways. But they did enjoy their afternoon tea.

As a kid in the ’70s and ’80s I grew up with Sunday afternoon tea at Grandma’s every other week. Three generations of an extended family would gather around Grandma’s kitchen table to eat, talk and then wander around the garden for more talking!

Social commentators and historians label things “colonial” or “interwar” or “modern”, but in real life, people don’t stop doing something just because the calendar or century has changed. I grew up with the experience of a working class Sunday afternoon tea tradition that started in the colonial days—and it was fun.

The best days were in winter. Grandma had a wood stove and I was allowed to feed it. Once tea was made in a big brown teapot and covered in a tea cosy to steep, another kettle of water was kept simmering on the stove for top ups. We ate scones—yes, even pumpkin ones!—sandwiches (ham and tomato, which when I think about it, maybe went all the way back to great-granddad’s habit of raising his own pigs and smoking his own ham), various biscuits and cakes that changed over time, but I really remember the lamingtons.

Ah, lamingtons. Mum experimented with them once. She’s Polish—which means an entirely different food tradition that Dad’s family never adjusted to. She used a light cupcake mix in place of the traditional sponge cake. It made dipping the squares in the chocolate syrupy mess and then in the coconut much easier. I wonder if anyone has ever taken that idea to the next step and made lamington cupcakes, dipping the mini-cakes?

But when I look back at childhood cakes, my favourite has to be Mum’s custard sponge. Even now, she still uses it as the basis for her famous Christmas trifle. The recipe is decades old, so I’ve no idea where she found it—apologies if I’m trespassing on someone’s copyright, but here is the yummy recipe.

Custard Sponge Cake

Oven temp: Heat oven to 220C (reduced to 160C when cake goes in)

4 eggs

6 oz sugar

4 oz custard powder

1 oz plain flour

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/2 teaspoon bicarb soda

2 tablespoons water


Beat eggs and sugar together till thick and creamy, add water and continue beating for a few minutes. While the lovely mix master beats the concoction, sift the dry ingredients together 3 or 4 times then fold gently into the beaten concoction. Pour into a 9 inch greased tin. Heat oven to 220C then reduce to 160C when the cake goes in. Bake for 30 minutes. Don’t let anyone jump up and down in front of the oven during baking, though this actually a fairly robust sponge. Store in fridge, or better yet, in tummy!

I hope I’ve stirred up your memories of afternoon teas and childhood treats. I’d love to go all nostalgic with you, so please share them! Chocolate crackles, anyone? And looking to the future, well, how can we resist afternoon tea at the Writer’s Bar at the Raffles in Singapore? One day…when I’m rich and famous…or when I win Lotto…I hope to see you there!

*

Well, I can vouch for this cake because I made it yesterday and it turned out lovely, as you can see from the pics above and to the right. Naturally, I then had to make pot of tea cut myself a slice for my morning break. Gorgeous flavour and wonderfully light texture. I’ll be making this again and perhaps using it in a trifle as Jenny mentioned. Hmm…

Thank you so much for coming on Friday Feast, Jenny. It’s been a delight.

Does any else have any afternoon tea or childhood treat traditions? Honey crackles are mine. Oh, I LOVED those, and don’t get me started on caramel tart. To this day I still can’t resist its sticky sweet lusciousness. What triggers your childhood memories and turns you gooey with want? Please share. We’d love to hear.

If you would like to hear more about Jenny and her wonderful Australian steampunk and paranormal romances, please visit her website. You can also connect via Twitter, Facebook and Google+