Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day hasn’t featured in any of my novels, but there’s always a possibility that it might one day. The significance of the date has morphed a long way from the original Feast of St Valentine, though he has been associated with romance since the 14th century.

Valentine's Day Roses

Over the years, it has been customary for lovers, or would-be lovers to exchange tokens on this day. The simple gifts and hand-written cards have given way to masses of flowers (okay – red roses), chocolate, jewellery, engagements and for some a wedding.

It has never featured strongly in my life. Not on a personal level anyway. As a celebrant it certainly did. I recall one year when 14 February fell on a Saturday and I had three weddings scheduled – two of them on the beach on a day that hit 40 degrees. I was able to convince one bride, after reviewing the weather forecast, that standing barefoot on the sand in the glaring mid-afternoon sun was not a good idea. She wasn’t really convinced until I assured her that none of her guests would budge out of the shade or the air-conditioned bar of the nearest hotel.

She still managed to be nearly an hour late though, which didn’t win her many brownie points with those who were waiting in what was a really unpleasant weather and nearly made me late for my last wedding of the day. Fortunately, that last ceremony was early evening and in the foothills, where the heat of the day was starting to dissipate.

The person I was sorriest for on that day was the piper who played the pipes at the first wedding. He was wearing the full Scottish costumes, including woollen kilt, jacket and beret. Hot as I felt, it was probably nowhere near what he was feeling. I was impressed he still had enough puff to play the pipes.

Once you peel away the marketing hype, what is the significance of the day? Different for everyone, but for those in a committed relationship, it’s a reminder of what brought them together and has kept them there. Does it have to be a major event? Not really. All the red roses in the florist shop won’t cement a relationship that’s starting to crack. A simple reminder of all that is good between you is all that is needed. Of course, it can be an excuse for a wonderful day as well.

For the would-be swain, it’s a day that might make it easier to declare your interest or intentions. A simple red rose can speak volumes.

One lesson I have learnt – don’t try to buy any roses on that day. I needed a single rose when I was doing the photo shoot to launch my first novel The Red Heart and was stunned when a single stem was $10. I needed the rose and there were none in bloom in my garden, so I bought it.

Red rose for Valentine's Day

A single red rose

If you have any special Valentine’s Day stories, I would love to hear them.

Fresh and Flirty in Melbourne

Attended my first RWA conference in Melbourne a couple of weeks ago.  It was amazing.  There were over 400 delegates in attendance. That’s an incredible number of people who are currently writing within the various romance genres.

I met some interesting writers, participated in great sessions on a range of technical aspects of writing and publishing, and listened to highly practical advice.  I also had the opportunity to pitch my manuscript to four new publishers.  There are no guarantees of course but at least it is a foot in the door.

On arriving back home, all enthused of course, I decided based on my observation of what is being published at the moment, that my book should probably be a bit longer and so added another chapter and nine thousand words.  In doing so, I introduced a new plot thread and am now happier with the overall plot development.

Work is progressing on the next manuscript, and in fact I wrote the best part of a new chapter while I was in Melbourne. There are time challenges whilst I am in the process of establishing a new business ( but I will try to dedicate a day a week to writing.

I didn’t see a lot of Melbourne but enjoyed the hustle and bustle while I was out and about in the evening, looking for food.  I did not stay at the conference venue, opting instead for more affordable Airbnb accommodation. I was a bit removed from everyone in the evenings, but at least that meant I could get some writing done.

Next year’s conference is in Adelaide, so I will definitely be attending that one.  Should have another novel to pitch by then.

Flying by the seat of my pants

I love the way that characters develop a life and personality of their own.  Sure we create them initially, but at that point we probably don’t fully understand their attitudes, their sense of humour or how they are likely to react in any given situation.  We don’t know what they are going to do next.  As I sit in front of that sheet of paper or the keyboard, these people develop motivations of their own and I am constantly surprised at what they do.  I am there to keep them focussed, but take their directional journey with them.

That’s not to say that the characters have full rein, as I know in general terms what their purpose is within the story – each character is there for a reason – but I draw the stick figure and the story fleshes that person out.  I enjoy getting to know them as the story progresses.

Some stories flow easier than others and The Red Heart was one of those.  It helped that I had lived for many years in Alice Springs and also that this was where I learnt to fly.  I knew the country from the air, I knew the characters and of course I knew the technicalities of flying.

Today, there are many women who make aviation their career but at the time in which this story was set, there were still barriers to women as pilots.  The attitudes encountered by Kathy were very real.  It is a real buzz for me now therefore to get onto a commercial flight, knowing that there is a woman on the flight deck.

I don’t know where Kathy is now, but perhaps she has progressed to the flight deck, still using Alice Springs as her home base, or perhaps she has settled on Mulga Downs with a brood of young jackaroos and jillaroos.  What do you think she would have done?