Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Prattle House 1415

Here is the first chapter of Prattle House 1415. If you think it is any good, lobby the mainstream publishers for me to have this book published. The Joy of the Season to you all.

Chapter 1
Packed off to Grandma’s

“Elizabeth!” yelled mother, who was rushing around in her usual manner, teetering on high heels that made a loud clacking sound on the highly polished floorboards. Mother was constantly in a hurry. Her mind was always concentrating on the next thing she had to do, and it was sometimes hard for other members of the household to keep up with her. It was probably quite true that she had a million things on her mind, but Elizabeth was pretty sure that most of mother’s problems were entirely self-inflicted. If only she would stop for a minute, maybe she could catch her breath and calm down, which would have the wonderful effect of allowing everyone else in the household to breathe easy for five seconds.
Trying their best to stay out of mother’s way so as not to cause any further problems, Elizabeth and William had stayed in their rooms away from the hustle and bustle. It was much quieter there, and they could attend to their suitcases themselves anyway. They were about to be packed off to Grandma’s for the entire summer holiday, and as they had never even met Grandma before, they were feeling a bit put out.
Mother and Father were high flyers. Ninety percent of the time they were Janet and Alfred Hollow, career people. They seldom actually played the role of mother and father. Janet was a lawyer who had worked her way up through the ranks of her law firm and was now a partner. She was thirty-two years old when the twins were born, and had taken little time off from her career before hiring a nanny and going back to work. Alfred was the CEO of a major company and a director on the boards of several others. The twins did not precisely know what their father did, because they hardly ever saw him. At least mother would fly in through the front door of an evening and see them for half an hour or so before they went to bed.
Freda was the one they spent most of their time with. She was the housekeeper and lived with the Hollow family, her room being at the back of the house. Her main tasks were keeping the house clean and cooking the family meals. That usually meant she cooked for herself and the twins, because Father was so often interstate somewhere and Mother often had her meals at the office while she worked. However, poor Freda had had a scare yesterday when a letter came for her saying that her own mother was very ill and she needed to go home to Germany to look after her. That was why the twins were now packing in readiness for their journey to Grandma’s.
Mother had not mentioned Grandma much at all. They knew she existed but never knew where she lived, what her name was, or what she did. Last night they had asked Mother all sorts of questions about her, but their questions were mostly avoided and they did not find out much. So now they were feeling abandoned, sent away as punishment for something they had done, with no idea what. Elizabeth was packing her case with a scowl on her face and her lips pulled tight when she heard her mother call out again, this time with more desperation in her tone.
“Coming!” yelled Elizabeth as she slammed the lid of her suitcase and walked out to the kitchen where Janet was racing around like a headless chook.
“Elizabeth, I need you to call a taxi to take us all to the station. We have to be there in an hour or we’ll miss the train.” Janet puffed as she pulled at some containers in the cupboard.
“Sure,” replied Elizabeth as she walked over to the phone and picked it up. She had to look up the number of the taxi company and as she dialled the numbers she caught a glimpse of her mother fighting with pieces of plastic, trying to match lids with bases.
“I’d like a taxi immediately,” she told the operator.
“How many passengers?” asked the lady.
“Three,” replied Elizabeth. She gave the operator the pick up address and destination, still watching her mother fighting with lids and bases, and grinned to herself to see such an intelligent woman having a hard time with little pieces of plastic. It was amazing how her mother could cope with difficult cases of litigation but had trouble with some of the simplest domestic duties. Elizabeth thought it was time her mother was rescued from the plastic.
“Here, let me help you with that,” she said, as she gently took the containers from her flustered mother and delved back into the cupboard where she retrieved the correct lids.
Janet click-clacked over to the large, stainless steel refrigerator and opened the door. She stared into its depths. “I don’t know how Freda expects me to organise everything at a minute’s notice like this. She must think I’m superwoman!”
“What is it you are trying to do?” asked Elizabeth in an effort to calm things down.
“I’m trying to be a good mother, that’s what I’m trying to do!” Janet glared at her daughter for a second and then stuck her head back into the fridge. She did not have the slightest idea what she was looking for. She stuck her head back out again and turned to Elizabeth.
“Where does Freda keep the peanut butter?” she asked her daughter.
“Well she doesn’t keep it in the fridge, Mum,” replied Elizabeth. “It will be in the pantry. But what do you want peanut butter for anyway?”
“I’m trying to make the two of you some peanut butter sandwiches to take on the train. And if I could find some cake I’ll pack that up for you too,” said Janet, as she spun around on her high heels and headed for the pantry. “Don’t all good mothers make food parcels for their children to take on the train with them when they go on a long journey?”
Elizabeth put on a wry smile. ‘I think you read too many Enid Blyton books when you were a girl,’ she thought to herself. She watched her mother, who continued to prattle on while she peered into all the shelves in the pantry. This was going to be hard work, Elizabeth could see, and if they were to catch the train at all, she needed to step in and take control. It was quite normal for Elizabeth to have to take over some of the domestic situations in the Hollow household, when it was obvious to her that her parents were not in their comfort zone, and when Freda wasn’t around. She was, in a way, quite mature for a girl of twelve.
“How about you go and see how William is getting along with his packing, Mum, and I’ll make the sandwiches,” said Elizabeth.
Mother put her hand on Elizabeth’s cheek and looked at her for a short time and smiled. “You’re a great kid, Elizabeth,” she said. “I’ll miss you these holidays while you’re at your grandmother’s.” She took her hand away quickly and started to teeter across the family room in the direction of William’s bedroom. The moment had been brief, and as Elizabeth watched her move away she seriously doubted that her mother, or her father for that matter, would notice they weren’t there. She quickly made some sandwiches and put together a nice lunchbox each for her and William.
Ten minutes later they were in the taxi heading for Southern Cross station. The city skyline ahead of them was covered in a slight haze, as was common for Melbourne. They lived close enough to the city to be able to reach the station within twenty minutes. It was not much longer before they were seated in the train and Mother had kissed them quickly, tottered off the train and was standing on the platform waving them goodbye. She had not been able to resist a quick glance at her watch, and Elizabeth sighed to herself, thinking that it would not be long before her mother was back in a cab racing off to work, even though it was Saturday. Oh well. Mother was happiest when she was working.
Elizabeth put on a happy face, smiling at her mother as the train jerked forward. She nudged William in the side to remind him to do the same, and together they waved goodbye as the train picked up speed and headed out of the station. William went back to reading the book he had brought with him and Elizabeth looked out at the passing buildings. They were heading for Ballarat, where their grandmother would meet them. She lived in a small place in the goldfields, called Last Metle River, which was an hour’s drive from Ballarat, but the train didn’t go near there and Grandma didn’t like to drive in the city. They had a two-hour journey ahead of them, plenty of time to wonder what Grandma was like.
“Hey, William!” said Elizabeth, giving him another nudge in the side, which jolted his book more than the train was already managing. William scowled and looked up at her. He always had his nose in a book. William was a quiet boy, younger than Elizabeth by all of five minutes and never allowed to forget it. He thought she was a bossy older sister, but it didn’t much bother him. He just liked to make her think it annoyed him sometimes. He kept to himself generally and was a lad of few words. Elizabeth had worked out, though, that when William had something to say it was usually profound and important.
“What do you think Grandma will be like?” Elizabeth asked her brother.
William shrugged and went to go back to reading his book, but Elizabeth was bored and wanted to talk.
“How will we know who she is when we get to Ballarat?” she asked.
William shrugged again. “I don’t know,” he helpfully offered. “Maybe she’ll be holding a sign with our names on it. You know – like they do at the airport.”
“Don’t be silly,” Elizabeth chided. “Why would she do that?”
“Well you do realise she doesn’t know what we look like either,” William ogled his eyes at her as he said it. “It would be a very practical way of finding us amongst all the other passengers,” he said.
“True,” Elizabeth admitted. “And I suppose the train isn’t actually very full, is it?” she said.
“I don’t think there will be very many sets of twins getting off at Ballarat station, all expecting their grandma’s to be there to pick them up.” William said. Elizabeth rolled her eyes. “Even though we don’t exactly look like twins.”
That was true. Whilst they both had dark brown hair and were fairly skinny, they did not in any way look the same. Elizabeth had a heart-shaped face, fair skin with some freckles upon her nose, whereas William had a round face, olive complexion and was shorter than Elizabeth by a full six centimetres. Elizabeth also had one very distinctive feature, but you could only see it if you were close to her. Her eyes were two different colours – one blue and the other green. It was quite an unusual feature and people would often forget what they were saying when they noticed the peculiarity. William, on the other hand, had two perfectly ordinary blue eyes.
“Well what do you think she looks like,” Elizabeth asked for a second time.
“I don’t know,” William responded, resigned to the fact that he was not going to get back to his book in a hurry. Elizabeth was on for conversation, and as he was the only one in the vicinity that she knew, he was a captive audience. “Aren’t grandma’s supposed to be fat and grey?” he offered.
“Ewww! That doesn’t sound the least bit appealing” said Elizabeth. “Can’t she be thin and dye her hair?”
William rolled his eyes again. It wasn’t going to make a scrap of difference what he said, it would probably be the wrong thing. So he threw the ball back in her court “Well what do you think she will be like?”
Elizabeth contemplated for a while, trying to imagine her ideal version of a grandma. “I reckon you’re right, William” she acceded. “Grandma’s are cuddly. That’s much better than saying they’re fat. And I suppose she must be really old so she would have grey hair.” Elizabeth was starting to form a picture in her mind. She continued to describe it out loud to William. “She will have a jolly round face, probably an older version of you, William!” she laughed and nudged him in the ribs yet again. He grimaced and moved in his seat to make it a little harder for her to jab him in the ribs. “She will have a hanky in her hand and she’ll wave it at us when she sees us.”
“What’s a hanky?” asked William.
“A handkerchief” exclaimed Elizabeth, and she tried to nudge him again, but he was quicker this time, and moved out of her way before she could manage a good jab. “A handkerchief is a square piece of fabric that you blow your nose on, like a tissue only you can wash it and use it again.”
“Ewwww, barf!” said William. “That sounds revolting. I hope she doesn’t wave anything like that near me!”
“Don’t be silly” said Elizabeth looking haughty, “all grandma’s must use hankies. It’s old fashioned and grandma’s do old fashioned things.”
Elizabeth was starting to sound like she thought she was an authority on grandmas. William thought her imagination was probably running away from her. Unfortunately she continued.
“She will be wearing a pink dress and carrying a handbag. In her handbag she will have a red purse, a nail file, cough lollies, a spare hanky,” William rolled his eyes but Elizabeth kept going. “her keys, a pill bottle…”
“What?” William interrupted her. “I suppose she has a multitude of ailments because she’s so old, does she?”
“Oh yes,” said Elizabeth “she probably has high blood pressure and heart problems, maybe she even needs a stick.”
“A stick!” cried William. “Oh, I know, that’ll be to beat you with.”
“No, der-brain!” said Elizabeth, attempting a nudge. “A walking stick.”
“It’s a wonder she’s able to meet us at the station.” William said half to himself, half to the train window. “She’s so old and sick I can’t imagine she is able to drive a car. She must have one foot in the grave and the other on a banana skin.”
“Well if you’re so clever” said Elizabeth “what do you think she will look like?”
“I don’t know,” said William. “I’m sure we’ll find out when we get to the station.” And with that he finalised their conversation by opening his book and beginning to read.
Elizabeth just huffed and looked out the opposite window. It was just so typical of a male to end the conversation like that. It was going to be a long two hours if William was not going to entertain her with conversation at all. She crossed her arms and gave him a glare. He didn’t respond so she was left to her own thoughts once more.
Actually she was feeling a bit scared. Despite all the self-assuredness she displayed on the outside, inside she was feeling worried and anxious. Here they were heading off into the country, two city kids, to spend the next eight weeks with a relative they had never met. She had asked her mother a few questions about Grandma the previous night, when Freda had told the family she was urgently needed by her own mother and could not be with the twins for the summer holidays. Mother had gone into a flap about what to do. It was such short notice there was no way she could hire another housekeeper straight away. It had been many years since Janet had spoken to her own mother, the twin’s grandma, but she had resolved that it was the best solution to a difficult problem and had phoned her. Elizabeth had thought that they must have had some sort of contact for mother to know where to call. There was something strange about her mother’s relationship with Grandma, but when she asked questions she was told to be quiet.
She did learn a few things about Grandma though. Grandma had recently returned from overseas and was now living in the goldfield district of Victoria. She was in her late seventies and had finally retired after spending most of her life travelling the world. Just what she was doing travelling the world Elizabeth didn’t know. And that was the sum of what she did know.
To Elizabeth’s surprise she had been daydreaming for a while because when she gathered her wits about her she found they were well into the countryside. The paddocks were brown and parched as a result of a long drought that had hit the country areas hard for several years now. In the distance she could see some mountains. They were not very tall but they did make shapes along the horizon. She nudged William who elbowed her back this time.
“Look at the mountains, William” she said.
William looked up from his book and stared out of the window. “What mountains?” he asked.
“Over there” Elizabeth pointed.
“They’re not mountains,” said William in disgust. “They’re just hills.”
Elizabeth didn’t bother to argue with him this time. He was back to reading again so she decided it was best to amuse herself with her own thoughts for the rest of the journey. She looked at her watch. It was 11:55 am. The train was scheduled to arrive in Ballarat at 12:30 pm, so with another half hour to go Elizabeth decided it was a good time to pull out the lunches she had made for herself and William. She handed William his lunchbox, and he opened it and started eating his sandwiches without skipping a line in his book. Elizabeth opened her own and started eating in the hope that some food in her stomach might rid her of the butterflies that had been there for most of the journey. They would soon be there.

Are you good at anagrams?

In my next blog I will be giving you a gift for Christmas - the first chapter of my tweens novel titled Prattle House 1415. Here's a little competition for you: Can you work out what "Prattle House" is an anagram for? Leave a comment with your guess.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Day 88

Here I am standing on top of the tower at the Botanic Gardens, Daylesford - white knuckled because I'm afraid of heights (but trying to overcome this)
Well, haven't I had a few weeks of frustration! - becuase I couldn't do everything I wanted to do. The day after my last post I came down with blood poisoning after a sore on my ankle became infected (I was even sick for my birthday!). I was laid up for a few days, quite ill until I was able to get to the doctor and start antibiotics. It meant I didn't get my full week away to research in Daylesford, but we did manage a few days there. I was very tired and unable to concentrate particularly well, however, the trip was not for nothing and I came away with plenty to work with.
Since then I have struggled with tiredness, perhaps due to the antibiotics, so computer stuff has been on the backburner. I hope to blog a lot more often now and tell you how my writing and patchwork is coming along.
Today I can tell you that I have begun the writing of my ghost story - the first steps in the long journey have been made.
Want to come along for the ride?

Friday, 13 November 2009

Day 69

I will be away for 10 days while I do some research for my next novel. This one is not patchwork-related and will be aimed at the young adult age group. I won't let out any secrets yet, other than it will be set in Daylesford.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Day 68

Here it is, Day 68 and I feel like I'm losing the lot (not the plot). I feel like everything is untangling, like a ball of wool that falls from your lap and races across to the other side of the room at great speed. I've just read someone else's blog who is feeling low and uninspired and wondering why and how, and I can feel empathy with her.

For me it's the demanding nature of this computer. Every morning I sit down to deal with the emails, read through the posts on a chat group, check the emails on my other email address, check Facebook to see what's happening, pop over to a forum where I become completely overwhelmed with all the writing, back to check the blogs I'm following and finally to stop and write my own blog. It's all too much.

Two days ago someone said something a little unpleasant online and that set me off. I was prepared to cancel the whole lot. There are much more interesting and productive things to do with my time than sit at this computer. I could be sewing, researching for books, writing, creating.

Time to decide what my goal is. Time to work out what I want from the computer and how to make it work for me. Time to set myself free.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Day 65

Am about to head to the post office to post away 14 more books. Good stuff. Makes me very happy.
Have designed a nice looking brochure for my books which I will post out to patchwork shops next week. Am pleased with what I did - for an amatuer it looks pretty good. They say self praise is no recommendation:-
So what's the difference between self praise and self motivation?

Friday, 6 November 2009

Day 64

My new book! This is another handmade book by my daughter, which she has made from scratch using lined exercise books from her school days that were surplus to needs. Taking these unwanted books and turning them into a whole new, beautiful book is a great way of recycling. And it looks incredibly gorgeous.
I will be using this book for writing exercises to improve my skills as an author, taking myself off to different places where I can sit and be inspired. I love the patchwork paper used for the cover - it matches both my loves, writing and patchwork.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Day 62 Receiving a quilt home again - a writing exercise

The doorbell rang abruptly, interrupting the patchworker who had been happily sewing at her machine. It was a new quilt, something she had wanted to make for a long time, now finally those fabrics were running lovingly through the sewing machine. Pure bliss - the feeling of a new project. But who could be here at this time of night?
The door was opened to the Quilter, an old friend who was a professional machine quilter. She carried a large bag in one hand. Patchworker looked down at the bag and excitement brilled as she recognised a small piece of blue chenille showing at the top. Quilter was ushered inside eagerly with a warm welcome and a cheery smile. Patchworker was keen to see the toile and chenille quilt she had made so long ago, now finally expertly quilted by her friend. Quilter always did a fantastic job. Together they opened out the large quilt and Patchworker looked upon it with a large smile upon her face. The quilting was definitely beautifully done. Every block had a fleur-de-lis design it it specially chosen by Patchworker. Quilter had used a matching blue thread that showed the pattern nicely on the blue toile. Even on the wide blue chenille border Quilter had done a superb job, unfortunately not able to be seen from the front. Her work was meticulous.
Patchworker smiled broadly as she inspected the quilt and told Quilter how lovely it was.
"It was the quilt from hell!" excalimed Quilter.
Patchworker's smile slowly faded from her face. "What do you mean?" Quilter went on to explain how much trouble the quilt had been, how none of the blocks were square, some borders too tight, others extemely loose and wavy, asked how the borders had been measured and cut. Patchworker was dumbstruck. The quilt had been machine pieced a couple of years ago so memory was quite faded in regards to the construction, although she remembered enjoying making the quilt and did not recall having any problems. How could this be so? How could the quilt be so bad?
Quilter left Patchworker alone. She returned to her sewing machine and sat down, staring at the wall in front of her, crushed. 'The quilt from hell.' Never in a million years did Patchworker think she was capable of making a quilt that could deserve such a title. She knew she was not the best patchworker in town, that her work was often rushed and could definitely be improved upon, and that was something she was working on. Simultaneously she did not believe she was incredibly bad either. But the quilt from hell proved otherwise. She twisted around where she sat and looked at the quilt now bundled in the corner of the room. How could she look at this quilt ever again? Every time she did she would think of it as the quilt from hell, the quilt that yelled at her "You're such a bad quiltmaker!" "Don't delude yourself - you'll never be any good!"
Patchworker turned her back on the quilt. Her shoulders were slumped, her head tilted forward, eyes sad. There were no tears, just a mass of thoughts going through her head. Nobody would ever know it was the quilt from hell because Quilter had done such a good job with the quilting that it now lay flat and looked even all round. Quilter was very good at what she did, unlike Patchworker. Patchworker began to wonder if she should quit while she was ahead, stop making quilts and look for something else to do with her spare time - something she could be good at. But then she had been trying to find that something all her life and never found it.
She looked down at the beautiful olde world fabrics of the new quilt she had started that day, switched off the sewing machine and went to bed.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Day 61 (take two)

I've just been looking at someone else's blog and thought it wonderful. Her name is Quiltsalott and she writes a fantastic quilting blog. It does seem as though she has a lot of time to quilt and I think she is very fortunate. Go girl! Love your stuff.
Today I spent most of the day proofreading Ancestor magazine (the official journal of the Genealogical Society of Victoria). Those of you who have read early blog entries of mine will know that I have been the sub-editor of this magazine for 10 years now and recently I was awarded a Medal of the Society for my services. I was extremely thrilled to receive the honour. Now I am working on the last issue before my retirement from this position - forty issues. I am taking a lot of pleasure from this issue and feel like I am going out on a high.
Now that I will have freed up a bit of time (that's actually a joke, Joyce!) I will be putting my efforts into a new challenge. More about that some time later. But I'll tell you now - IT'S BIG!!

Monday, 2 November 2009

Day 61

And the winner is ....... KAREN! Congratulations Karen, and thank you to everyone who participated in my little competition. Karen, you have won a copy of both of my books, The Maria Challenge Quilt and The Elizabeth Challenge Quilt, from the Australian Challenge Quilt Series. I really hope you enjoy them. If you would like to contact me at rowekeys101@optusnet.com.au with your snail mail address I'll pop these in the post for you. Happy reading!

Friday, 30 October 2009

Day 59

It has been a bad week for computers. We've had Optus out three times for the Internet, as mentioned before, then last night the computer programme that runs the switchboard at work wouldn't function and I spent two and a half hours logging back on every sixty seconds. It was like Chinese water torture. Now I've had trouble logging onto my blog because hubby had changed the pasword without knowing he'd affected my blog. All sorted now. Phew.

Beautiful pussy cat. Has to go to the vet again tomorrow morning for the third visit in a week. She's had a rough time of it - and has a few teeth less than this time last week. Eating must be horrible for her. We love her SO much.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Day 58

Another rant at Optus! I haven't been able to get onto the internet for two days, not because of my computer, but because the Optus equipment wasn't working. Hopefully it is all fixed now - we have had 6 visits from Optus in the last two weeks, and I'm over it!
How do you like my fabrics? These were purchased on Tuesday morning when I had a lot of fun picking out my rainbow. In my mind the Korowa quilt was always going to be in Jinny Beyer fabrics and that's exactly what I bought. I love the colours in her palette and feel compelled to run my hand across the bolts when I'm looking at them all on the shelf. Bliss.
Now to start cutting them. Oooh, the anticipation.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Day 56

A new project! Doesn't every crafter love a new project?
I attended Korowa Church of England Girls' Grammar School (now Korowa Anglican Girls' School) in Melbourne. I loved my seven years there. Next year the school will be celebrating its 120th anniversary and as part of the celebrations they are having a quilt challenge. The challenge part is to include a piece of summer unform fabric in the quilt - from any era. Naturally I chose the fabric from my era, the 1970s. The quilt also needs to be pertinent to the school in some way.

For several days I deliberated over the design before coming up with a perfect solution. In 1980 when I was in Form 6 (Year 12) we were all prefects and we were given the privilege of a common room where we could chill out, study, drink coffee (and some illicit activities as well I suppose). Every year level would contribute something to the improvement of the common room. We felt the room was drab and needed brightening so as true children of the '70s we decided to paint a mural on the large blank grey wall at one end. A competition was devised to find a design. Naturally I entered. My design was chosen to go on the wall. A friend of mine had a father who worked for Dulux and he generously donated the paints we needed and with a lot of hard work by a few good people the wall was painted. It looked great. Sadly, a few years later the building was extended to provide more facilities for the students and the mural was knocked down.
So what better idea than to recreate the mural as a quilt in memory of the short time it was there as part of the school. From a small 10cm square photo of the incomplete mural I drew up the pattern. First I had to stick several large pieces of paper together to create my blank canvas, about 57" square. My husband and daughter held string across the diagonal so that I could follow it with my ruler and draw in the straight lines to form the rainbow. Then it was simple to fill in the rest of the pattern. After the drawing was completed I cut it all into the various pattern pieces. Using these pieces I calculated how much fabric I needed and wrote up my shopping list. Don't you love fabric shopping lists!?
Shopping tomorrow. Wahoo.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Day 55

Need to have a rant at Optus!!! We have had technicians out 4 times in the last two weeks to fix Foxtel and the internet and they still do not work properly. My computer monitor now has an annoying hum and the screen flickers so badly I can't stand looking at it. So today's blog will be short (for me). Technology can be such a time waster.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Day 54

Have decided to go to Daylesford for a week in November to research my next novel. Some of you may be sorry to hear that the 'next novel' is not going to be for the Australian Challenge Quilt Series. This one is completely different and aimed more at the young adult sector. It will be much longer than the quilt novels. I am very excited about it but I'm not giving anything away about the plot just yet - other than it is obviously going to be set in Daylesford.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Day 53

Part of a special project I spent the day handsewing. I enjoy needleturn applique but I'm not fussed about embroidery. However, embroidery really does enhance the applique. Several more hours still required to finish the 6' strip. Perhaps I can reveal more next month.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Day 52

I'm joining the Blogtoberfest giveaway bonanza by offering one lucky winner a copy of each of my self published books - The Maria Challenge Quilt and The Elizabeth Challenge Quilt. To win the books you will need to leave a comment on my blog - that will earn you a ticket in the draw. To earn two more tickets, become a follower. If you are already a follower, tell me in your comment and you will also receive the extra two tickets. I will choose the winner out of a hat, the old fashioned way, on 31st October. Good luck and thanks for participating.
Here are the blurbs for the books:
The Maria Challenge Quilt
Patchwork and quilting is the common link between friends, Amelia, Catherine, Isabel and Ann. They meet fortnightly to sew, talk, share stories and ultimately support one another. Outwardly they lead balanced, happy lives, but some of them have secrets! At the first guild meeting for the year a guest speaker enthralls her audience with the poignant story of her convict ancestor, Mary Lewisham who was transported to Australia in 1818. This is an intriguing novel weaving threads of fact and fiction taking the reader on a fascinating journey from England in the nineteenth century to the present.

The Elizabeth Challenge Quilt
This is the second novel in the Australian Challenge Quilt Series. Four friends who share a love of patchwork and quilting continue the wonderful journey of life, challenged again by their Guild Committee to create a quilt following certain rules. This time their challenge comes out of the story of Australia's first lady, Elizabeth Macarthur and the birth of the wool industry. One of the women feels a deep connection with Elizabeth Macarthur, another is less involved and a new person is welcomed into their group, changing the dynamics forever. But Amelia is not happy about the newcomer.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Day 51

Yesterday I promised to share a few things from my bucket list. Here they are:
To live in England for a few years (to soak up the history)
Learn to fly a helicopter (wouldn't that be a hoot)
Drive in a drag race (wouldn't that be a rush)
Do a patchwork tour of the U.S.
Own a Mercedes
Learn to read faster (that would be very handy)
Improve my patchwork skills

What things are on your bucket list? If you haven't got a list, write one today; it is very inspiring. And once you have your list you can add to it any time you like. Then, after some time has passed, you can revisit your list and see what you have achieved. Today I've revisited my list so that I could share some of the above things with you, and I have noticed there are quite a few things I have already achieved. What a great feeling.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Half Way Through Counting

Day 50 has now passed and after 8 weeks of blogging every week day I hit a wall and stopped writing. Initially I tried to work out why but have now decided that it doesn't matter why I stopped writing then, it matters that I am writing now. It is time to remind myself why I was doing this in the first place.
I heard that new CEOs can do a 'course' of sorts whereby they learn how to best do their high-flying job. One of the ideas is to count the first 100 days in the job with the theory being that if you are going to achieve anything you'll begin it in those first 100 days. Taking that idea I thought it would be useful to do that myself in regards to my writing career. By writing every week day I become accountable. It works on the principle that I am always prepared to do things for others and less inclinded to do things for myself. By making this commitment online I feel unwilling to let readers down after having made a promise, so it compels me to blog. Furthermore, it spurs me to action instead of inaction, meaning that every day I do something towards my goal of being published by mainstream publishing and becoming a bestselling author.

This all started when I wrote my bucket list a few years ago. One of the things on the list was to write a bestselling novel. Well, I've written the novel (I've written 3) - now I need to make it a bestseller. Perhaps the next one I write will be a bestseller.

Tomorrow I'll tell you some more things that are on my bucket list. Perhaps you might like to write one of your own.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Day 47

I thought I'd work on some family history by going through old paperwork. From the filing cabinet I pulled out a couple of wills I had researched and copied way back in the very early days of my genealogy career, when I was about 20 years old. I painstakingly transcribed the shortest one, half a page long, and upon completion went to my genealogy program to make a note on that person's entry that I had a transcript of the will. He wasn't to be found. Half an hour of intense research later, using the Digger indexes, I determined that this particular bloke wasn't a relative at all !!! Joke's on me. ~ The upside - I can shred that piece of paper now.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Day 46

Am going through a real phase of 'cleaning out'. It's not simply because it is spring - and in spring I do tend to want to spring clean. This time it's different somehow. I feel a real change of directon in life and cleaning out old stuff that has been hanging around for a long time - years in fact - is proving very cathartic. Hopefully when the job is done I will be better able to focus on what I am doing. Already I've noticed that when I have completed something that has been hanging over my head for a while a weight seems to be lifted from me. For example, completing the Dahlia quilt. I had pieced the top 2 years ago and it had sat in the drawer waiting to be quilted all this time. Finally I took it to a machne quilter, paid $87 and got it done. Now I feel good about it. I am surprised at how weighty some things can be, and strangely you don't always notice it until it is resolved. Unfortunately, when I look around me I see dozens of incomplete projects or things that truly need to be discarded. Why am I hanging on to them? It will be interesting to see how ruthless I can be in the coming weeks.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Blue Giant Dahlia

Finished a UFO! What a great feeling. This giant dahlia pattern is by Michelle Yeo. Back in October/November 2007 I attended a class she taught for this quilt where I learned a number of things. It was the first patchwork class I have ever undertaken since taking up quiltmaking in 1995. Michelle is a lovely teacher and very caring and patient. She is also an amazing quilt designer and prolific quiltmaker. Her work can be seen on her website at http://michelleyeoquiltdesigns.com/ where you can also buy the templates and pattern for the giant dahlia. I have made two dahlia's to date - the other one is a black dahlia, still to be quilted. Meanwhile I am going to enjoy my blue dahlia. Hope you do too.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Day 45

Stamps, stamps and more stamps. We took a large bag full of used stamps to the phillatelic shop and got $5 for them. Oh well - better than a poke in the eye with a burnt stick. So we bought the latest stamp catalogue to help us with our sorting - it cost $20. Ha. Easy come, easy go.
I haven't done any sewing for a couple of days and really need to get to a particular piece I'm working on. Maybe at the weekend. I did manage some reading time to research the next book. The days go so quickly.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Day 44

It felt really good today to take 20 copies of The Elizabeth Challenge Quilt to Michelle's Sewing Basket in Ringwood. What a great order! Thanks Michelle. If anyone is after a copy of the second novel in the Australia Challenge Quilt series, then get yourself down to Michelle's Sewing Basket.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Day 43

DD and I thought we would continue our cleaning out and rationalising process by going through all the used stamps that had been sent our way by an aunt who has been collecting for many, many years. The pile turend into a modern-day version of the basket of loaves and fishes. No matter how long we sat there sorting through the stamps the bag continued to contain a mountain of stamps. The task was not finished before I had to head off to work so tomorrow will be spent finishing it off ... I hope.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Day 42

A day off. Lovely.

The temperature was low, the air crisp, the showers frequent, even hail a couple of times during the day. At one point I would swear it snowed momentarily before the hail came down. It was the perfect day for staying inside and that's what I did. Daughter and I spring cleaned our sewing baskets with plenty of moving along of unwanted items that are now ready to find new homes. Sometimes you just have to admit that you are never going to have time to try that 'other' craft that lookd so appealing a decade ago.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Day 41

I can't wait to write in my new handmade book. It was made specially by my daughter. She has made it from scratch - folded the paper into signatures, sewed the signatures together, made the cover and put end papers in. Actually it is not quite as simple as that sentence makes it but it gives you an idea. The cover is cotton fabric from my patchwork stash. I love the florentine scrolls. The cover is also slightly padded with some wadding.

I intend to use the book to record my patchwork quilts as I make them. The inside of the book is all blank pages which means I have the freedom to draw pictures and diagrams and write as I please. The plan is that this book will keep me from developing a pile of UFOs. How? I will write about the work in progress from beginning to end. A second work in progress can be written about by turning the book over and starting at the back - a double sided book. I will be unable to write about a third project until at least one of the first two have been completed. Good idea?

My daughter sells the books she makes. This is the first fabric covered one she has made (mum should always get the first of anything !) so I am encouraging her to consider the market available to her in patchworkers, or any other crafters who want to record their works. If you're interested then email me at rowekeys101@optusnet.com.au

Monday, 5 October 2009


Yesterday was really a very big day for me. In the morning my family and I were running around picking up glassware, food, platters and doing last minute preparations for the book launch. In the afternoon the AGM was scheduled for the Genealogical Society of Victoria, of which I am a member. It had been suggested to me that I should go. But being in the middle of a very important day for me in regards to the book launch, I wasn't sure I'd be able to.

However, prompted by the President to make the effort, my gorgeous husband drove me into the city and dropped me off at Collins Street. The meeting was not very long, as it turned out. The highlight for me was the surprise I received on being awarded a Medal from the GSV for services to the society. This has been in recognition of the work I have done for the past ten years as sub-editor of Ancestor, the official magazine of the society. The editor, Lesle and I are both retiring at the end of the year, completing a full decade of dedication to the magazine and allowing someone else the opportunity to move the publication forward to even bigger and better things.

I have enjoyed working on the magazine and being a quiet, unseen volunteer to the society. Along the way I have also contributed articles to it. To be recognised by the society with this award has been more than I expected and I am truly grateful for it. Thank you, GSV.

Sunday, 4 October 2009


The Elizabeth Challenge Quilt, second title in the Australian Challenge Quilt series, was launched this evening. I was very happy to meet a number of other patchworkers with varying interests who came to support and help me launch my latest title. There was plenty of food, bright balloons filling the hall and happy chatter about all sorts of things.

A big thank you to Michelle Aitken and all her friends from Michelle's Sewing Basket who supported the event. There were other ladies I had met recently, or who were new to me on the night, my friend who encouraged me in the first place, and a couple of very dear friends from school. I am grateful for all of them. Thank you.

My talk was well received and questions were asked, indicating some interest. For that I am also grateful. The ladies showed interest in my small demonstration on how to cut striped fabric for hexagons and piece them together ensuring the stripes match, just like Elizabeth Macarthur did in her quilt. They took away a specially produced Glenvale Patchwork and Quilting Guild letterhead with the Elizabeth Challenge quilt rules.

Thanks also to all those who purchased a copy of the book. I hope you enjoy reading it.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Day 40

Figured I needed to relax the nerves as I worry about tomorrow being problem free, but in my heart I feel it is more likely to be stressful. Murphy has been such a constant companion these past three weeks - anything I touch has gone pear-shaped in one way or another. I'm really quite over it. So I thought I would try some sewing therapy and bind a quilt to have on display at the launch. It was the first time I had sat at my sewing machine for a long, long time. I cut out the fabric for the binding (picture - isn't it pretty) and sewed it into one long bias strip then pressed it in half. Pinning the binding on is recommended to ensure there are no joins at the corners where they would create too much bulk. I pinned around to corner #3 and had a join. This meant redoing it which I did by working backwards. I moved the fabric along a little to keep the join away from the corner, repinned all the way back to corner #1 - there was now a join at this corner! Third time lucky - I finally got it all pinned on and sewn all the way around. I needed to check a reference book to remind me how to join the ends with a mitre. This took three attempt as I kept getting it twisted around the wrong way. I finally got it right and with a sigh of relief I thought I was on the home stretch only to discover I had now pulled it too tight and the binding was not long enough for the final section. Sigh. It won't be on display. It has been put aside to come back to when I feel able to fix the mistake.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Day 39 + Blogtoberfest

What have I got myself into?

I've signed up for Blogtoberfest through Tinniegirl, who is a friend from my recent past, now gone off to find her creative self that was always there, and from what I read, doing a good job of it. The fest is about blogging every day during the month of October. I figured I had already committed to blogging every weekday anyway, hence the numbered days (see post Day 7 for a further explanation on why I'm counting days). Blogging at the weekends as well will not be much harder - or will it?

From a quick look around the sites of other participants they all seem to be the creative, sewing, arty types. Whilst I am a quiltmaker, and I do have creative ability, albeit supressed, my blogging is about the creative side of me as an author. I have been relating my journey as I write novels and self publish them, self-market and handle every aspect myself. At the same time I am attempting to have a children's novel published in mainstream. It is an interesting journey.

Today I was flat out driving here there and everywhere doing errands in preparation for my BOOK LAUNCH on Saturday night. Stay tuned for the results.

Day 38

I avoided contact with human beings as much as possible today. My 'happy' contacts yesterday had concluded with a code red at work (fire) and I was glad to reach the time for my cup of tea before going to bed. Actually the code red was quite funny in the end. Apparently someone was chasing a blow fly with a can of fly spray and gave the fire sensor a big blast of Mortein, enough to set off the fire alarm. Two fire trucks attended so the dead fly cost a couple of grand.

So today I had a quiet day at home attending to paperwork, processed orders for a couple more books, drew up a checklist for the book launch on Saturday and fitted in some sewing. I also managed some research reading. And it was a great day for a couple of loads of washing. It dried in no time.

There is nearly always something positive to find in the day.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Day 37

A venting day today.

About 20 years ago my husband and I took a trip to Tasmania. I made all the arrangements and bookings myself, including car hire with Hertz via a phone call to their Launceston office. At the time I was an Office Manager and quite in the habit of recording 'detail' so all my arrangements were noted in my diary - who I spoke with, the prices quoted, times, places etc etc. I took the diary with me, fortunately, because I was to refer to it as soon as we landed in Launceston. We arrived at the Hertz counter only to be told there was no booking for a car in our name. Fine - we will book one now then. No can do - there was a HQ car race on in Launceston that weekend and every hire car in the area was booked. I referred them to my diary where I had written down all the details and the name of the person I had spoken with who took my booking. Their answer - no person by that name works here, we've never heard of her before. Was the customer right? No! Did the customer get satisfaction? No! We had to catch a bus.

So what have I learned from that experience and from another 20 years of experiences since then? That it doesn't matter how well you organise something it will proboably go wrong. As my husband says, you can't put brains in monuments, and a lot of the time these days you are dealing with people who don't care, can't be bothered, don't like the way you look so won't give you service, have a chip on their shoulder, don't have any standards, can't spell, can't write, can't get out of their own way ... I could type all day.

My reason for venting is related to my attempts to organise things for the book launch this weekend. Everything I need to do should be simple. I'm not organising a wedding for Prince William or High Tea for the Prime Minister with several hundred guests. It is a simple book launch for 50 people.

My husband went to the local supermarket deli last Sunday to obtain a brochure for me detailing their platters. He came home empty handed because the helpful person behind the counter said "The manager has put them somewhere and we can't find them." So I returned to the store on Monday to obtain a brochure, expecting the manager would be there and know where they were. I came home empty handed. This time the response was that they actually didn't have any brochures but I could look it up on the internet. Fine. That's what I did. I compared one supermarket with the other for prices and value and made my decision.

Today I returned to the supermarket to place my order. The woman strolled around the back to fetch the order book and strolled back round to me. (That's okay - I have all the time in the world to stand around awaiting her pleasure.) She then stood there, pen poised and just lookd at me. I looked back. I raised my eyebrows. She remained mute. I asked "Well what are my choices?" (As far as I was concerned, this woman had no idea that I had lookd at the internet, or that I knew what options she had for me.) "I could read them all out for you if you like." I knew this would be rather tedious so I thought "here we go - I'm going to have some fun with this!" (Fun in a sarcastic way, not a happy way.) So I asked the logical question "Well, don't you have anything I could look at to see what my options are?"



"Do you have any sandwich platters?"

"Yeah, we've got rolls."

I actually knew what she meant from searching the internet so I said I'd have them.

She noted the number and then stared at me again.

I stared back.

The pause became too long. I felt like Clint Eastwood in a major staredown. "What about the Aussie platter?" I asked.

"Yeah. How many?"

"What's included on the platter?"

"Kabana, ham, cheese, biscuits and dip."

"What about twiggy sticks?"

"Nah, there are no twiggy sticks."

According to the internet, there were twiggy sticks. The woman tossed a question over her shoulder at a younger woman who then strolled over and informed me categorically that the twiggy sticks were not on the Australian platter, they were on the gourmet platter. I told her that if they had brochures or some form of pictures with lists available we would have been able to compare the contents and resolve the issue because I was adamant that the internet showed tiwggy sticks. She repeated about four times (because naturally I am the stupid one) that they had ordered the brochures several times but they just hadn't come. In my mind I'm thinking the store should have a folder with at least one brochure in it so that the staff know what they are supposed to be selling/preparing, but it seems that would be too sensible.

In the end I threw up my arms, told them to forget it (I knew anything I ordered today would be totally messed up when I went to pick it up on Saturday) and I told her that it simply wasn't good enough. There had been 3 attempts to organise this and I still couldn't get satisfaction.

Did the two women care.


Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Day 36

My feet hit the floor running today. Took hubby to the station at 6:45am then after breakfast I spent quite a while sorting out emails and responding to same. I hadn't blogged since Thursday so had to catch up with that. I've been concentrating so much on trying to finish the quilt for the launch that I have not paid enough attention to the launch itself. That was rectified today as I ran about researching catering options and balloons. Being unsure exactly what the numbers could be on the day, catering is somewhat difficult, particularly in relation to drinks. My husband will tell you I make a very poor hostess indeed, but I can't be good at everything! (wry grin). Daughter helped me surf the net for catering and we resolved where to go and how to go about it. Balloons are ordered and I'm picturing lots of fun and games picking them up on Saturday and getting them all to the hall.
While sorting out some paperwork I found a list I had drawn up a couple of months ago with ideas for the book launch. It had a few things on it that had slipped my mind. One was to send invites to publishing houses (you never know if you don't try something). I had to put together a quick read bio to print out and sent that with a couple of tickets to the launch to 14 publishers and 2 main newspapers. We'll see what happens.
Meanwhile, I was waiting for the fabric to come from Canberra, sent express mail (or that's what I paid for) so that I could continue sewing my Elizabeth Challenge quilt and get it to the quilter. The mail arrived but it did not include the awaited fabric. Something has gone wrong - again. I finally took this as another sign from the universe that the quilt is not meant to be completely finished by next Saturday and resigned myself to this fact. I'm hoping the reason for this will be revealed in the next week.
Other achievements for the day were 5 sales, a review copy sent to Homespun magazine, the key to the hall pick up, hall paid for, a little bit of sewing done and a little bit of research reading.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Day 35

I don't know why I didn't post this on Friday because it was a VERY EXCITING day. My new book, The Elizabeth Challenge Quilt, was delivered to my house by my wonderful printer. Thanks Rob, from Maroondah Printers in Ringwood. He really looks after me. I can't say there weren't any problems with production because there were, but Rob overcame them and now the book is in my loungeroom waiting for readers. I was at work when the delivery was made so missed out on that excitement. My loyal family greeted me a little after 9pm by coming out onto the verandah in the rain and ushering me inside quickly to see the books. I have been feeling nauseous for the past two weeks hoping I have not made any mistakes putting the book together.
It is actually Monday morning. The rain is still falling and the rain gauge is almost full. I'm enjoying the rain because the more we have the less struggle we will have over summer. I hope the rain keeps falling. Another positive aspect to constant rain is that I don't feel at all bad sitting inside in the warmth, sewing. That is what I did this weekend just gone. My hand is holdng out thanks to a reducton in computer work. Friday presented another hurdle to overcome when I received an overnight delivery from a patchwork shop in NSW of the fabric I needed to continue with my Elizabeth Challenge quilt. It was the wrong colour. I hopped on the phone and found another shop in Canberra that had the fabric I needed in the right colour. It will be here on Monday. So many obstacles have been put before me in regards to this quilt that my daughter keeps telling me it is not meant to be completed - certainly not in time for the launch. At this point I have to agree. But I will have the top completed even if I cannot manage the quilting and binding.
On Saturday morning I picked up my new spectacles. This was a good thing because I have had to resort to wearing two pairs of glasses while sewing - the magnified pair to see my work and my normal glasses to look up to see the TV. My family have become quite used to this strange spectacle (pardon the pun). My husband just looks at me and shakes his head. But I like to watch tele as I sew and my old glasses wouldn't permit me to do both things. The up side to the new specs is the reduction in weight on my nose. Plus they look prettier.
Now - time to organsie book orders and hone the plans for the book launch. We'll see what the week brings.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Day 34

After another day of sewing like a madwoman in an attempt to finish my Elizabeth Challenge quilt I required an ice pack to relieve my swollen hand. I have pain in my right hand and wrist, elbow and shoulder, all strange when you consider I am left-handed. The reason for the right hand playing up is twofold. I am holding the quilt firmly in my right hand as I sew, using the same pinching position all the time. The second reason is because I use that hand to operate the mouse when working on the computer and find my wrist rests on the edge of the desk, causing pressure that results in what I assume is pinched nerves. At work I have nothing to rest my arm on when doing computer work so that my arm hangs in the air and this results in the shoulder pain. The only resolution I can think of is to not do work!

Seriously though, I had spent an hour and a half in the morning creating the letterhead for the Glenvale Patchwork and Quilting Guild. I designed it a couple of nights ago and it was just a matter of making it a reality on the computer. I am very pleased with the result. Then I put together the rules for the Elizabeth Challenge quilt on the letterhead to be given to my guests at my book launch on 3 October. Am thinking I'll get them printed properly at the printer rather than on my home printer. They'll look much better.

I received and posted another order, tried to contact my machine quilter about getting the Elizabeth Challenge quilt done and even fitted in a little reading time. A fruitful day.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Day 33

It's official !! I'm a duffer. According to my friend Karen I have now been dubbed a 'duffer' for spilling tea on my Elizabeth Challenge quilt. Fair cop. I'll wear the title just like my quilt wore the tea. Apparently that now means I am (according to my dictionary) an "ineffiecient, useless or stupid person". I felt all of those things when I did it. However ... I have now completely repaired all the damage done to the quilt. So Karen needs to come up with a new noun for me.

Here are the photos of the book I mentioned yesterday. Within it I write all my ideas. The pages are completely blank, giving me a canvas on which to paint with words and ideas. I've taken to carrying it with me. Unfortunately a lot of my ideas come to me as I'm drifting off to sleep, when I am way too tired to write them down. I figure if I can remember them in the morning they are worth writing down - if not, perhaps they were bad ideas.

Apart from all the time spent fixing the quilt I also managed a phone call to a patchwork shop; received and posted off an order; sent away some more tickets for the book launch; AND I managed to read a whole chapter for research. Furthermore I came up with a design for the Glenvale Patchwork and Quilting Guild letterhead. Tomorrow I'll have to see if I can put it together on the computer.

Am very pleased with the amount achieved today.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Day 32

As you know I had a disaster with my Elizabeth Challenge quilt yesterday when I spilled tea over the quilt and a number of garden blocks. Today I had patchwork group with my friends so I sat down and unpicked all the hexagons that are now stained from the ink on the (recycled) papers. Here are the photos showing the unsewing I did and some of the offending hexagons. This means I will probably give up on the idea of having this quilt finished in time for the book launch on 3 October (notice I said 'probably').

Otherwise, the more positive things of the day were: another order received and a few more enquiries; the last of the sheep tickets for the launch were cut out and several handed out to people at work; and I read another chapter in the book I purchased recently to research my next novel. I also did some handwriting - put down some notes in my special handmade book about the plot for my next novel. I'll have to put up a photo of my special book - tomorrow.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Day 31

Fantastic news and not so fantastic news...

Saturday was a huge success. I went to Geelong to speak at the meeting of the Geelong Patchwork and Quilter's Guild where I was warmly welcomed. The ladies were all very freindly and made me feel comfortable. I am always nervous about speaking because I don't feel I do it particlarly well - that's why I'm an author! I prefer to write rather than speak. But many ladies thoughtfully made a point of telling me they enjoyed my talk and thought I spoke very well. The day finished with book sales and signing. Before I knew what had happened, I looked up from the little table where I was seated with my books in front of me and saw a long queue of women with cash in hand waiting to buy my book. It was a wonderful experience, and for half an hour I truly was an author. I signed books for everyone and sold all the copies I had with me (30). I want to thank the women at Geelong for supporting me and making me feel like I was doing something worthwhile.

Unfortunately I don't have any photos of the day.
Today turned out a bit of a bummer when I was discussing my Elizabeth Challenge quilt with a friend while having a cup of tea. I knocked the cup with only two mouthfuls of tea in it but enough to cover a fair distance. The edge of my quilt and many blocks sitting in front of me were covered with tea. The papers still in the white linen hexagons around the edges were made from reused paper with printing on one side that leached as soon as the tea hit it and consequently stained the white fabric very successfully. My friend and I took the papers out as quickly as possible but the staining was instantaneous. I'll look at it tomorrow to see how much extra work I have created for myself.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Day 30

Spent most of my day with my daughter. We went looking for new papers she can use to cover her books with and found some fantastic, colourful papers that will look superb. Progress for my own goal included answering 8 email enquiries, received an order in the mail and read one chapter of a new book I purchased for research for my next novel.
... And I cut out some more sheep!
By bedtime I felt I was coming down with my husband's cold - just in time for my special day tomorrow. Saturday: I am guest speaker at the Geelong Patchwork Guild. Mum is coming along too, and a family friend which will make it even harder to speak. It's easier speaking to people you don't know, and easier speaking to larger numbers. But I've done this once before so I should be okay. Can't deny a few nerves though.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Day 29

Today I'm going to write about my daughter's achievements instead of my own. A little breaking of the rules.

My girl has been working hard making books by hand. She starts from scratch, folds the paper into 'signatures', sews them together, glues and mulls the spines, makes covers with pretty papers and puts it all together somehow. She's very clever. Today she had her very first stall to sell her beautiful books. Unfortunately she was placed in a poor position where people could not find her easily, but despite that she had plenty of interest and sold a few books. Further to that she learned a heap of stuff - what people are attracted to, that colour is important to people, how to talk to them, that people need guidance when shopping etc. Her head was spinning when she got home. Best of all she was really inspired. It was such a joy to see. I'm so proud.
My girl is also very selfless - she had copies of my book, The Maria Challenge Quilt for sale alongside her own. She sold two copies for me. I think that is incredible to share possible customers like that.
I am trying to talk her into covering books with fabric - patchwork fabric! Ooooh - can you imagine the possibilities?

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Day 28

After a day of more emails and phone calls I found a little bit of time to sit and sew my Elizabeth Challenge quilt. You may not believe it, but I am still trying to finish it in time for the book launch. The trouble is, I am having a lot of difficulty turning a giant hexagon into a rectangle. I can hardly believe how stumped I am as I sit staring at the quilt spread out on the floor and ponder where to place the next flower gardens so that it will start looking like a square or rectangle. Usually I am very good at puzzles. This time I think I need to take a walk down the street and consult a patchwork friend. Maybe tomorrow.
After admitting to myself I'd lost the battle for the day (but definitely not the war!) I put aside my sewing and went to my paid job. My day was finished late in the evening with the most fantastic, supportive email received from a reader of The Maria Challenge Quilt in response to yesterday's blog. Thank you, Vicki, for finishing my day on such a high note.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Day 27

A good day. I received 2 orders for a total of 48 books. It was the result of all the hard work I put in during the morning putting notices on email groups and contacting people. I also contacted the local newspapers about my book launch and they will do an article in both Whitehorse and Maroondah. I also sent an email to the Herald Sun. A phone call to the book reviewer at the Melbourne Age was not as positive as I would have hoped, but then it wasn't entirely negative. I was told (bluntly by his admission) that self-published books were not edited by professionals so they generally weren't of an acceptable standard. I'd like all my readers to negate that statement - I may not officially be a professional editor, but that doesn't mean I can't write an inspired story, with good grammar and spelling. I've read plenty of books that were total crap in all the aforementioned ways and they were edited by professionals. And as for newspapers - one could hazard a guess they aren't proofread at all these days. Still, I'll send him a copy of Elizabeth when it's available and see what happens. I'm not perturbed - I sold 48 books today!

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Day 26

After a weekend of much sewing culminating in a swollen hand and the ice pack being retrieved from the freezer, today I continued without too much pain. I had to seriously consider my intentions with this project. Now the bed, for which this quilt is intended, has been raised to 30"- a considerable height - the quilt would need to be 11' by 7' in size if it is to reach the floor on both sides. Currently it is about a third of what it needs to be. I calculated a required 10 yards of fabric for backing, finishing and binding and the costs involved and have to conclude that all of this is simply not reasonable in a ten day timeframe. I do think I could do it if I put my mind to it, and all my time, but have decided to concentrate my efforts elsewhere. The quilt will be made, but considerably smaller.
Today I also contacted the printer to give them the go-ahead, having completely checked the proof over the weekend. Can't say I'm not nervous because I certainly am.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Day 25

I met a lovely lady today, a fellow patchworker who came to pick up a copy of Maria for a woman in England. That is so exciting! My book will be in England! We had a pleasant chat about things and I invited her to me book launch. Meanwhile I did a lot more sewing on my Elizabeth Challenge quilt - still a long way to go.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Day 24

For the first time in months I woke up without thinking I had to either write or edit, which was a good feeling. I took it a little easier today and spent my time sewing. The pressure is not off though - we decided the Elizabeth Challenge quilt I am making would be nice on our bed and look particularly good if it went to the floor on both sides. Then we bought a new bed which was put together last night. I came home from work to find I need steps to get into my new bed! I'm not joking. The top is 76cm (30") from the floor which means an extra 5 feet of patchwork quilt I have to make with a deadline ten days away. Seems I have two chances and they're both in Bourke Street (Buckleys and Nunn). So blogwatchers - can she do it? Watch this space.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Day 23

Today simply had to be my lucky day. According to numerology my lucky number is 9 and today's date is 9/9/09. I took my book, The Elizabeth Challenge Quilt to the printer! Here I am with my usb about to enter. Before I got there I had a little more editing to do, had to put the back cover together and do a final check over the whole thing. I have to say I was full of nerves but that's what going out of one's comfort zone is all about - stretching your personal boundaries. Everything looked all right at the printers and I shall have a proof before we go ahead. It's now becoming very exciting.

Day 22

How can I turn today into a positive?
I spent the morning reading, reading and more reading only to conclude I wasn't going to be able to read it all in the timeframe I had. Furthermore, I found I'd changed one of the character's names! He was not a major character, but still ... I'm sure readers would have picked up on a character being one name in the first book and a different name in the second book. It sent me into a panic. Thank heaven for 'find and replace'. I fixed the error easily enough but I have to admit it shook my confidence. What if I've made some other big mistake? Self-publishing has its advantages. This type of thing is one of the disadvantages. If I make a big mistake and have to reprint, then the financial responsibility is all mine and I can't afford to make any mistakes. Hence my confidence has been shaken up, big time.
So how do I turn it into a positive. Well, I found the mistake before it went to print. That's a HUGE positive. It made me slow down after which I was able to read the rest of the manuscript all the way through. Only small details were picked up that needed changing, and even if I hadn't picked them up they were not consequential. I'm another day late taking it to the printer but that is probably a positive too.
I had some enquiries by email, a really positive conversation with someone about future directions, and at the end of the day I cut out some more sheep tickets for relaxation. And a final really nice thing that happened - I received 5 metres of fabric in the mail that I had ordered from the US - beautiful pieces to inspire beautiful quilts.
Tomorrow is a new day.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Day 21

Reading, reading and more reading.
I started the day going through emails and catching up on some I had overlooked. Then I sent off a few requests to people asking them for testimonials, but not before I had spent considerable time trying to find their original emails. I went through nearly 200 deleted emails, twice, looking for them. Panic set in for a while, resolved by a cup of strong coffee and a lamington. Lamingtons can fix most things. I found what I was looking for and was back on track. Three phone calls resulted in left messages and the inevitible wait for them to follow up.
Finally my proofreader, aka daughter, finished the book allowing me to get on with the changes that needed to be made. We consulted over a number of points with decisions being made to a satisfactory end. Then I dumped the whole file into Publisher and laid it out as I wanted, going through it twice to check that it flowed correctly from one page to another and that the style was consistent. I ran out of time to print the whole lot before I had to go to work, but did manage 7 chapters. Five of those have now been re-read with the rest waiting for me when I go to bed - more reading. I HAVE to get it to the printer tomorrow ...
Oh ... and I designed and put together a little add on for those who attend the book launch.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Day 20

Received two cheques in the mail, one order for a Maria, visited a patchwork shop to chat with the owner about the Elizabeth book launch, popped in at the printers to check all okay, managed some research reading and cut out lots of sheep. All in all a forward moving kind of day. I still have several emails to catch up with and editing and proofing to do. Why do I always leave things until the last minute?

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Day 19

Cutting out the tickets for the book launch is fun ... for a while. I love the shape of the sheep so the effort is worthwhile. Tickets for the launch are limited and entry is by ticket only so request one via my email.
Received a cheque in the mail (always nice). Otherwise my achievements today included responding to more emails and further research reading ... and some more cutting out of sheep. I shouldn't have any problem falling asleep tonight.

Day 18

Whoooaa ... don't you hate late night hangovers! They're more annoying because you don't even have the fun of drinking alcohol, and you just feel hung over. It's been a doozie of a day feeling worn out and then havng bad hay fever on top of it. I really struggled to get through the day. Still, I managed a few emails regarding my new book and I fitted in some reading time to research the next novel. I also picked up the tickets for the book launch from the printer and they look fantastic. The day wasn't wasted.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Day 17

What a busy day! Joined the scquilters commercial group so I could advertise my book launch and by lunch time had a request for a ticket, request for wholesale information and someone wanted to buy a copy now. By the end of the day there were more than a dozen enquiries. Meanwhile I raced down to my printer to organise the printing of the invitations for the book launch. Fortunately I can pick them up tomorrow. Am also organising the printing of a little bonus to go with the latest novel, The Elizabeth Challenge Quilt - quote on it's way. While at the printers I checked that the cover will print clearly because it didn't really look the best on the screen. It came out very well, so I'm happy.
My day fnished with a three and a half hour phone call from my friend who has edited the book, as we went through corrections and additions. Now that's done I feel like I'm better organised. Thanks LM for all your wonderful work and the fact that you care so much. What a brilliant friend.
My head it the pillow at 1:30 am.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Day 16

Sent off and order for a copy of Maria, wrote four letters to people, and sent of several emails to advertise the book launch on 3 October. Managed a few hours of reading time in which I researched for my next novel. This one is not a part of the Australian Challenge Quilt Series, but a new one aimed at young adults. It has absolutelt nothing to do with vampires and I think it will be the next big thing.

Friday, 28 August 2009

New Phase Day 15

Here I am at the end of the third week and things are looking pretty good. I took it a little easier today - actually I got sidetracked doing some genealogy research for a friend. I always lose all track of time when I'm doing that. It's a great feeling. I found lots of things and was busy writing down lists of names and dates and registration numbers.
Book related work was limited to buying a new ink cartridge and finishing the printing of the novel for daughter to proofread. I also received three enquiries about how to purchase a copy of The Maria Challenge Quilt. It's nice talking to people who are interested in my books and are keen to read them. What a fantastic feeling to finish the week with.

New Phase Day 14

Finished reading through for the first edit and sent it off to my editor, poor thing. She has very little time to work through it if I'm to take it to the printer by the end of next week. I also sat down and did some letter writing and started printing out a copy to proofread but ran out of ink.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

New Phase Day 13

The next step after finishing writing my book is to read right through it and make any corrections I wish to make. I managed to read 66% today and have sore eyes from reading a computer screen all day. Will be able to finish it in the morning though.
I thought I might have to change the day of the book launch because I have to go into the city for a meeting that day at 2 o'clock, but ten minutes of chatting with my daughter and I talked myself into keeping the date. There were too many reasons not to change it. However, it does mean I will have to be very smart about the way I prepare for the launch because a huge chunk will be taken out of my day, and not going to the meeting is not an option.
It'll work. I'll make it work.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

New Phase Day 12

I'VE FINISHED WRITING MY BOOK. It only took another 1,000+ words today to finally reach the end of my story. I feel very accomplished. Now I need to proof, proof, proof, edit, proof some more and then desktop publish, print and market. Not much to do! I love doing this stuff. It makes me feel good.
This afternoon was patchwork group with my friends and I worked on my Elizabeth Challenge Quilt. That will be the next challenge as I try to finish the quilt in time for the book launch on 3 October. It's booked in with the machine quilter so I have another deadline to meet. Deadlines are just times you set to make your dreams come true.

Monday, 24 August 2009

New Phase Day 11

Where did the day go!? Time did not seem to be on my side today as I ran out of it very quickly. I wrote over 2,700 words, which in itself is very good. I was only disappointed because I expected to finish the book today, and probably would have done so if I had not needed to fit in washing, ironing and work. Tomorrow is another day wherein I expect to complete the novel. Then I can start proofreading. No doubt I will make some changes - there are already a few in my mind to be made.
I received two cheques in the mail for books already despatched to library suppliers. There's a good reason to smile. And last night I received an enquiry from New Zealand about Maria. News is spreading.

New Phase Day 10

I didn't blog on Friday evening because I was enjoying myself at a wedding. We had a lovely time indeed, at Poet's Lane in Sherbrooke Forest (in the hills outside Melbourne). The venue was exceptionally nice, the food was very good indeed and the bride and groom seemed incredibly happy - it was a joy to watch. We were even given the pleasure of the groom and a couple of mates having a jam session. The star of the show, however, was a real crawler. A bald male dressed in a blue suit with white shirt and red bow tie. He was the best dressed lad in town - and was about nine or ten months old! He was so gorgeous he stole all our hearts and his little grow suit that looked like a real suit was a gem. He was a happy little chap and provided quite a bit of entertainment.
Meanwhile, I had managed to type another 2,200 words for The Elizabeth Challenge Quilt - work before pleasure. Not that I can call writing 'work'. It's a lot more fun than going to the office. Am very close to the end of the book now.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

New Phase Day 9

Another positive day with a total of over 2,300 words. I surprised myself actually - the first 1,000 didn't come easily making it rewarding to see I had achieved so many by the end of the day. I also received, and posted off, two book orders. I confirmed with the printer that he has my job booked in for the 1st September and I am mulling over the book launch details in the back of my mind. Am VERY close to finishing now.

New Phase Day 8

Another successful day with over 3,100 words written. I wrote a very emotional scene today which I found quite draining but I was very happy with it when I finished. I'm very close to the end of the book now. Perhaps another two chapters, maybe three. I really need to finish by the end of the week if I'm to get it to the printer on time.

Meanwhile, a little story of why I should not work in the garden (apart from the fact that I really don't like gardening). I had a packet of Flanders poppies that needed to be planted and thought the bed by the front step would be the perfect spot. It needed weeding and tidying up first so I did that then fetched a rake to pull back a layer of soil and mulch. The packet said there were a wopping 7,250 seeds so I figured I wouldn't have any problems filling the whole area of approximately 1.2m x 0.5m with that many seeds. Soil duly raked back I ripped open the packet and took a look inside. The seeds were miniscule which sort of confirmed the idea that there might be 7,250 seeds therein. The plan was to sprinkle some in one spot, cover them with soil and do the next spot until I'd reversed myself out from the corner back to the footpath. I gave a little sprinkle starting in the corner and POOF - all the seeds were gone from the packet. I stared into the packet in disbelief. Where did they all go? All 7,250 of them! Obviously all in the very corner of the garden bed. And being so small there was no hope of 'seeing' where they were. I tried spreading them around by rubbing my hands over the spot I thought they might be, then with resolution I covered them up and watered them in. I expect in 90 days we'll have a very pretty CLUMP of Flanders poppies tucked into the corner of the garden bed! Ho Hum.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

New Phase Day 7

I have heard recently that when a new CEO takes up his/her position it is said they will make their mark in the first 100 days. Hence it is common to find them counting down those days. Perhaps if I do it too I will be able to see the difference 100 days make. My aim, however, was to make myself accountable to someone or something and if I think people are reading my blog then I feel duty-bound to give them something to read each day. It's a theory.
Today I managed 1,500 words. This was not what I'd aimed for but when I consider I spent most of the day working in a voluntary capacity on a different project then 1,500 words is okay. I have a whole day to write tomorrow - so long as I don't allow distractions. I also had a phone call from a lady wanting to order a copy of Maria.
BTW - the 100 day thing reminds me of the 1969 movie, Anne of the Thousand Days with Genevieve Bujold as Anne Boleyn and Richard Burton as King Henry VIII. There is a scene where Anne is imprisoned in the tower awaiting her execution and counts out these little sticks that represent the days she was Queen. I saw it again recently and thoroughly enjoyed it. (I love Tudor history!)

Monday, 17 August 2009

New Phase Day 6

I took the weekend off, although I probably should not have done so. Today I made up for it by writing over 3,000 words. I'm happy with that. I also surfed the 'net to research catering for the book launch in October and concluded that it was going to cost a huge amount to have caterers in. Looks like the best thing in regards to my budget is to do it myself. I know what I want to serve, making the planning easy enough. That's one thing off the list of things to do.

Friday, 14 August 2009

New Phase Day 5

Not many words today - only 700. But that's 700 more than yesterday. I also sent off some advertising material to Quilters Companion for the November issue. That was a real positive as well as being the point of no return. I'll have to get the book printed and launched by October as planned. Nothing like a bit of pressure to keep a girl honest. I also received an order via email. All together a successful day and a good week.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

New Phase Day 4

Very little steps forward today. I didn't even reach 500 words and am not sure I'll even keep them - the delete button may be used on them tomorrow. I did manage to put together the cover for The Elizabeth Challenge Quilt with the help of my daughter and her good camera.

New Phase Day 3

Received another order in the mail and managed to write 3,000 words. A successful day.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

New Phase Day 2

Managed to write 1,400 words today putting me half-way into Chapter 9. Was happy enough with that. Today was patchwork day with my private group and I worked on my Elizabeth Challenge Quilt. Have more than enough of the quilt done for the cover of the book, which I need to put together tomorrow for advertising purposes. Feeling positive about things even though my deadlines are looming.

Monday, 10 August 2009

First day of the new phase

I've recently changed things in my life to allow me to work on my writing more. This meant resigning from one of the two paid jobs I have, a decision which will have financial consequences but which I feel is the leap I need to take over that chasm in order to reach my goal. Now my days are better organised. I start and finish paid work at the same time each day leaving me free to work at my writing and self-marketing during the day. It's a good feeling.
Today I finished a difficult chapter with a sigh of relief. There was nothing hard about the writing of it, only that it was a chapter that had to be researched thoroughly in order to have my facts correct. It certainly wasn't my aim to instruct the reader in a particular field but the reader does deserve to have the right information. Besides, I love learning about new things, or adding to my current knowledge. Now I can move on with the rest of the story.
I also applied for the ISBN today. This is always exciting because it makes the process feel very real. It is one step towards making the story a tangible book. And I received another order in the mail which will be posted out this afternoon.
All in all a very satisfying start to the 'new phase'.