Tag Archives: Escape Publishing

Friday in Five

19 Feb

Here are five things I loved this week. Feel free to share the love!

Life After LifeBook of the week

Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life.

I didn’t even think I liked it… but I can’t stop thinking and talking about it!

What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right?”

It’s a fascinating premise, and Atkinson’s development of characters and circumstances is masterful.


Song of the week

jacques-brel-cigaretteMy French fascination continues unabated. With Ne Me Quitte Pas, Jacques Brel makes me weep in places I didn’t know held tears.




Picture of the week


Gravitational waves. It turns out Einstein was right. Again.

I rarely can comprehend the magnitude or importance of the discoveries coming out of NASA, but regardless, I find the space discovery absurdly romantic.

And thank heavens we have IFLScience to make the wonders of the universe real and relevant and understandable, even for romance writers.


Flick of the week

28-burry-bale.w529.h352The Big Short should be compulsory viewing for every adult, every year, until we stop being so stupid. Michael Burry, whose role in exposing the fraud that destroyed the global economy and made millions homeless, jobless and hopeless is played so ably by Christian Bale, has abandoned his corporate work and is now investing privately. And what calamity is he betting on now? Water shortages. If that doesn’t frighten you, I don’t know what will.

And finally, person of the week?

The irrepressible Tim Minchin, who says in song what so many people have been thinking: it’s time for Cardinal George Pell to front Australia’s child sex abuse royal commission in person. tim minchinBut since the mountain won’t come to Muhammad (or Melbourne, at least), Minchin is putting the proceeds from his new recording towards the expenses of Ballarat survivors travelling to Rome to hear the Cardinal’s testimony there.


Hope you’ve found lots to love in your own life this week. Happy weekend!

Gracie x

Is it bad…

14 Feb

… that I’m a romance writer and I entirely forgot about Valentine’s Day?

Sorry! But I’ve been busy today preparing for the launch of my new book, A Case for Trust, which is out in just a few weeks.

Belated, I know, but please accept my best wishes for a beautiful day, and a fragrant French bouquet in a bucket.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Roses roses roses

Enemies to Lovers – Shakespeare edition

1 Feb

Benedick and Beatrice

I’m over at Escape Publishing’s Escapades blog today, talking about my all-time-favourite romance story line: enemies to lovers.

For me, there’s nothing more energizing than the vocal thrust-and-parry that’s so vital a part of the great enemies-to-lovers romances. Imagine Pride and Prejudice without Elizabeth’s drawing-room sparring with Mr Darcy. Imagine Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind without Scarlett’s fiddle-de-dee contempt for Rhett.

Enemies-to-lovers stories have long been favourites of mine because enemies have to work a lot harder for their Happily Ever After endings. They have to work hard on themselves to build the trust, respect and empathy so fundamental to love.

That’s why I read them; that’s why I write them. I’d love to hear your favourite examples, here or at the Escapades!


City of flowers

4 Oct

One of my favourite things in Paris? The flowers. Oh, the flowers…Paris florist 1Paris flowers

Paris hydrangeasParis dahlias

City of Light, City of Art, City of Amitié

2 Oct

Ten years ago I was sitting beside a pool in Valencia, explaining to a woman I’d never before met that I’d laid in my hotel bed the evening before, dressed in every garment I had with me, shaking and shivering through Spain’s sweltering summer night.

“You were in shock,” she said.

Yes, I was. But right at that moment, the bigger shock was that I’d confided my vulnerability to a complete stranger. I’m not that kind of person. I don’t conduct personal poolside conversations exposing my fears and misfortunes to people I don’t know at least very, very well. And yet, there I was.

Because Amanda is that kind of person. We had a few more days in Valencia, me travelling back and forth to Madrid to try and replace the travel documents I’d lost during a mugging, her sharing her son and her kindness with my own young son who’d been equally traumatised by the fairly brutal experience and his mother’s resulting stress.

And then we never saw each other again. A rich, deep connection – it seemed too brief to call it a friendship, though that’s what it felt like and that’s what it meant to me – evaporated with time and distance. We wrote occasional messages on Facebook, and mirrored each others’ experiences as single mothers, and the years passed.

I booked this trip to Paris, knowing what I really, really needed after a challenging year was three weeks entirely on my own. Out of the blue, Amanda invited herself along – just for a few days, she was just across the pond after all. I wasn’t sure, but I said yes anyway. And then she wasn’t sure, but she said yes anyway. And it turned out that the very last thing I really, really needed was three weeks entirely on my own.

Healer, artist, friend – Amanda is again working her magic on my soul. It can’t be coincidence – can it? – that for a second time, she’s arrived to take me in hand when I’ve been fragile and fearful. We’ll have only a short time together again, and I hope she gains as much as she gives from her time in my little Paris apartment.

Yesterday we took a long walk to the Tour Eiffel. Amanda wanted to sketch it. When we finally made it home, she wanted to paint it. And this morning, she’d almost finished it. Almost, but not quite. To see the final, quirky, clever result, drop in to her website.

2015-10-02 17.29.44

But give us a few more days first, to talk…

First light, last light

30 Sep

First flush

First light appeared around 7, when I’d already been awake four hours. Twilight crept in around 7, too.

There was a full day in between.

There was an impromptu visit to Chantilly and its magnificent chateau, built for Marshal and Constable of France Anne de Montmorency in the fifteenth century and lovingly preserved ever since by generations of French warrior princes.

There was almond essence wafting up from the patisserie below my writing window in the chill at 4am. It smelled warm, comforting, companionable. And yet, I’m normally repelled by almond essence.

There was the forgotten statue of Gaspard de Coligny, still imprisoned as ever the Huguenots were, behind a tall iron cage with crumbling foundations, surprising me just as it surprised me the first time I saw it.

There were the cheery green crosses announcing pharmacies, every 100 metres or so. Years ago, when my feet were blistered and bruised and bleeding from walking the cobbled streets, I was very glad Paris is apparently a city of hypochondriacs. Today it made me smile again.

There was the most delicious, subtle salmon mousse on crusty bread at lunch. I was proud to be able to string together the French for “I want to lick my plate.” it made the waitress laugh, anyway.

There was that oh-so-seductive French whisper just behind my left ear, on the coach all the way home from Chantilly. Not speaking to me, not understood by me, but still…

There was the most absurd traffic jam. Truly. I thought Mumbai had the stubbornest, stupidest drivers but it turns out that prize goes to Paris.

There was goats cheese and more baguette and fresh raspberries for supper. A little under five euros for this epicurean splurge.

2015-09-30 03.56.09Je suis très fatigué.

Tonight, it feels wonderful.

First there’s the getting there…

29 Sep

Je suis très fatigué.

My Paris neighbourhood

My Paris neighbourhood

The first (and last) time I travelled alone to Paris, I was more than a decade younger and a thousand years less tired. I’d plotted out my first days of pre-conference playtime in 15 minute intervals, determined to see every single thing in case I never returned.

As it transpired, I returned again and again over the following years. A Christmas lunch on a bateau on the Seine with my family; a romp down the Champs Elysees at midnight with some work friends, giggling like school girls; a glorious long springtime weekend with my son, just hanging out in the Jardin du Luxembourg.

But now I’m back here alone, having caught the same flight and arriving at the same ungodly hour as all those years ago. This time, though, I arrived footsore and heart-heavy, vulnerable and impatient. By the time I checked into my apartment (on the beautiful rue de Rivoli – thank you, AirBNB!), I’d been travelling more than 37 hours. In the same clothes. In the same shoes. In the same stressed-out headspace.

This time I didn’t throw my bags on the bed and rush back down onto the street to explore. This time, it was enough to sag into a chair in the streetside cafe below my apartment, order a vin rose and some lunch, and watch the traffic roar past; the impromptu friendships renewed in the middle of the intersection; the crow high on a balcony turning age-creamed walls into art deco cliche. It was enough, just to sit, just to be. Just to be in Paris.

And just like that, the magic was back. I need to rest now, but I can’t wait for tomorrow.

My Paris apartment/workshop

My Paris apartment/workshop

But I promised you pictures, so here are two. The one at the top is my neighbourhood for the next little while, taken from the salon where I’ll be working. And this one on the left is my little Paris apartment – light, bright, high enough for the street noise to be charming, and with a view to inspire all sorts of dreaming and wordsmithing.

Jusqu'à demain!

A Parisienne Pastiche!

28 Sep


Ah, Paris… City of Light, City of Love, my favourite city in the world. And my home for the next three weeks!

I plan on plenty of exploring, musing and observing, and hopefully plenty of writing!

Paris is a wonderland for the senses, and I’ll be posting some highlights here each day. If you have favourite Parisian places and memories, please share – I’d love to hear them.

Hope you find my favourite city as inspiring, exhilarating and just plain romantic as I do!

On coming home

23 Nov

imageNearly 17 years ago I discovered a little timber beach house with a magical sea view, a cooling evening breeze, a relentless ocean soundtrack and a private, sunny deck. It became my home and haven for the next three days, and my dream for the many years that followed.

Away from the beach house, my life was a tumult. I had a new baby, a newly-diagnosed dying mother and a freshly-sealed divorce. I was drowning in fear and grief and guilt – and maritally-transmitted debt. I felt overwhelmed, battered. I couldn’t see a way forward, let alone a way out.

My husband’s parents had taken my son away for a few days, and a long weekend stretched ahead emptily and aimlessly. I found myself driving north, saw a vacancy sign, enquired. Dragged my misery up the stairs of the beach house, collapsed onto the couch. I didn’t move from it for the first day, wallowing in self-pity and a pretty cheap bottle of semillon (even then, I wouldn’t touch chardonnay).

On the second day I climbed down the dunes and walked the length of the beach, and because of the crashing waves or the scuttling crabs or perhaps the ancient sands, I rediscovered my guts. Or at least, enough of my guts to not drink the rest of the cheap semillon that night.

On my last morning, I walked again down my beach and into the village at the end of it. In the struggling little art gallery, I found a painting that seemed to capture my entire stay – three days that had somehow heralded the Rest of My Life. Peregian secret
The painting lovingly laid out my sandy beach path, studded with sheoak cones, shawled in wallum, shaded in banksia, and disturbed only by a single pair of footprints. It was clearly meant for me, a souvenir, a memory, an evocation, an invitation.

I stared at the painting for an age, desperately tempted to take it home, a talisman against the mess I was returning to. But I was struggling, too, and I decided I couldn’t afford it. Instead, on my way back to the beach house, I collected a couple of cups full of the silky, clean, soft sand and took them home and poured them into my mother’s favourite crystal bowl.

The bowl and its sand travelled with me from house to house, country to country, life to life for about 17 years. Sometimes I would pause and trail my fingers through the sand, but for most of the time it sat, unregarded and untouched, on whatever counter I had next set it down.

Yesterday, the bowl with the sand was packed with my other worldly goods and stored for a few weeks until we can move properly into our new home… the little beach house with a magical ocean view, the mighty crash of waves, an immensity of stars overhead and a breeze like a benediction.

Today, I walked on my beach, my footsteps the only disturbance on the tide-tugged sand.image

I’ll do the same tomorrow.

Ghosts of the coast

20 Oct

Christmas, 1977. Coolum Beach.

Coolum Beach, c1980

Coolum Beach, c1980

I had earned a prized cassette player (remember those? You don’t?! A shame…). I used it to record songs from the built-in radio and then played them over and over, throughout that long summer holiday. The Bay City Rollers were in the top 40 that year, and so was Linda Ronstadt, singing out her soul about her own coastal retreat.

In the morning, we would scamper down the coal-hot sand to the sea’s edge, shriek at the chill of the water when it hit goose-pimpled thighs, get dumped by the surf often enough to start hacking our lungs up through our throats, then trudge back to the caravan, complaining all the while about sand itching places we couldn’t scratch in public.

In the afternoons we’d lie wherever we could find some shade, and chain-read Mills and Boons we’d bought by the dozen from the second-hand bookstore. Sometimes we’d be allowed to go alone to the cinema across the road, where we perched, squirming, on hessian slingback seats and rolled jaffas or minties along the old timber floorboards when the projector reel was being changed. That summer, a new space movie was playing, and amidst the groans of teenagers impatient with the stuttering, grainy, beach-cinema images I first saw Luke Skywalker survey the desert sands of Tatooine. 04-19-11-tatooine_full_600

At night we’d hang around the big circus tent that conjured itself for one week every summer at the edge of the caravan park. There were no prancing ponies or trumpeting elephants, though; only proselytising Christians who sang and clapped and didn’t seem to mind when we ate their chips and drank their cordial and played with their kids instead of listening to their sermons.

Coolum Beach is different now. The cinema with the hessian bag seats is long gone, and so’s the lady who ran the bookstore. And Linda Ronstadt’s retired her beautiful, smoky voice to her Blue Bayou, a sufferer of Parkinsons. The new freeway means I don’t even need to drive through Coolum Beach anymore to get to my own coastal hideaway.

But, you know, just for old times’ sake…coolum beach

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