Posts Tagged ‘freedom’

My new book ‘Belonging Places’ examines the universal theme of ‘belonging’, taking the reader on a journey through the eyes of three women – all at various stages of their lives.

“It’s a story that all women can relate to, and offers one answer to the age-old question: where do I fit in; where do I belong?” Maryann says.

Weston1-7 (1) small“It’s very much a healing journey for the reader and is set in real life scenarios. The issues my three central characters face are issues I’ve faced, and the women in my life have faced.”

The contemporary fiction novel tells the story of Liliana, Estelle and Jill. “Liliana Flint-Smith is young and starting out on her own. Leaving a dysfunctional family behind her and with nothing but a university degree in librarianship, Liliana moves to a remote village in the country,” Maryann says.

“Different from everyone else in the town, she must find her place in a society that doesn’t take kindly to strangers. With the help of an old woman who lives in the flat next to her, Liliana begins to find herself and discovers it was never about her changing, but about learning to be herself.”

And then there’s successful career woman, Estelle Wainwright.

“She’s burning up the career ladder and has just made editor at a national women’s magazine. Her husband Joel is also carving out his niche as an architect and, together with son Corey, is the picture of success. Or are they?” Maryann says.

“Estelle is fighting the tension within herself: work and home, career and husband, businesswoman and woman. She then has to navigate through a health crisis that will test the decisions she has made about how she lives her life.”

Our final character is Jill Bridges who’s ageing and struggling to stay afloat after the death of her lifetime partner, Maryann says.

“Her children are busy with their own lives, and she’s facing the prospect of a nursing home. But it’s her independence that makes her life worth living and she’ll be damned if she’ll bow to society’s plans for her,” Maryann says.

“She must find a way to triumph over old age and emerge into a life that still holds meaning.

“These are definitely experiences, challenges and triumphs women face every day. And that’s not to say that men shouldn’t read this book. There’s something in it for everyone, because that sense of belonging that gives us happiness in life is a quest all human beings, regardless of age and gender, are on.”

Belonging Places is available on Amazon:

In print, here;

As an eBook, here.

You can find out more about my books by visiting my website.

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Freedom is one of those words that says a lot and a little. You can say you want freedom, crave it even, but staring at the horizon and lamenting the ties that bind you to a particular situation or place, is really not going to cut it I’m afraid.

Real freedom comes from within. It’s when you can rise above whatever is dragging you down and find a calm and centred place from which to view the world and yourself. Reactions and emotions are the ball and chain that prevent feeling free. Anger, sadness, frustration…jealousy even, are the irons of self made prisons.

Rising above life’s petty frustrations is not always easy. Human nature is often drawn first to the melodramatic and insular and second to the unconditional, and almost always not to the present moment.

And then there is the freedom that is relative. We bemoan an old knee injury and then see someone in a wheelchair. We ought to feel grateful for our sore knee but, hey, we give the wheelchair-bound a two minute thought and move onto the latte that is on the table at our favourite coffee shop.

What I know about freedom is this. There is inner freedom that takes work to achieve but it’s worth it. It’s real, and if you practice discipline, can be long lasting. And then there is the freedom of new experiences. Swimming in the clearwater of an unknown stream, watching a ceremony or ritual that opens your mind to new cultures, walking barefoot on the grass of a park in an unknown city at 5.30am in the morning.

I try to remember that in every new sunrise there is a beginning. If you are anchored to a particular place or situation, then cultivating inner freedom may just result in seeing the sun rise with new eyes. And that’s freedom.

My young adult paranormal adventure story, Shadowscape, that is all about mind power and heightened psychic sensitivity is half price until 3 February via Smashwords. You just need to redeem the voucher by quoting the voucher code HC74R. You can download to your Kindle or PC, Smartphone, Android or I-pad as it’s available in both mobi and e-pub formats.

Given I have some time off from work and have the luxury of extended reading, I have been catching up on blogs, New Year messages and generally any posts about publishing. One of the sanguine topics at the moment is goals for 2014. Sure I could write a post about them too – that I’m powering ahead with my Indie publishing dreams, and that I’ll try and do everything better this year. I could write about those things but I’d prefer to look at reality for a minute.

Reality. It’s not something that we want to spend too much time on is it? We prefer to live in some future tense or we dwell on the past because regrets are a natural human condition. Rarely do we stay put long enough to live in the present.

Capturing the present moment is not hard when you don’t over think it. It’s about taking stock of what’s around you and really experiencing that. Trouble is, our lives are rarely perfect or where we want them to be. That’s called reality: the way we are thinking and feeling in this minute.

Most likely there have been stresses over the ‘festive’ season. I know there have been for me. I’m probably one of many where Christmas and New Year haven’t gone quite right for various reasons – concerns about family health matters, a look in the mirror that says some things will need to be done differently in 2014, or simply taking stock of the old happiness barometer and finding it needs to rise a tad.

So given my present ‘reality check’ here are a few things I will be thinking about over the next few months (before I dare make any ill-informed, naive and unrealistic goals):

  • Learning to love yourself…as the Whitney Houston song goes. Tricky, very tricky. None of us had a perfect childhood unfortunately and this is where we learn to love – well even like – ourselves. To get it right in adulthood requires a whole lot of unpacking and repacking of those negative thoughts and experiences.
  • Better health: Not to strive for it is simply unacceptable. Everyone can find two small things to do better, even if it is brewing a green smoothie in the morning with all the good stuff to start the day. Or finding 15 minutes at least for exercise. Simple.
  • Relationships: We are born to get old. Yes everyone of us, you and me. Sometimes it’s time to throw out the relationships that aren’t working, and probably haven’t been for a long while. At the very least, we can demand more than just complacency from our relationships.
  • Standing strong: It requires courage to be true to yourself. Say what you mean, when you mean it. No games or clever double entendres. Stand firm in what you want and need and avoid the footsteps that will, otherwise, be planted across your person (don’t let people walk all over you).
  • Follow the dreams that have been with you since childhood because they are the best indicator of your ‘purpose’ in life. Yes, yes and amen to that!
  • Don’t forget kindness and compassion. Without it, we suck at life.

Maybe that’s enough for the moment to think about. On another note, I’ll be releasing Shadowscape – The Stevie Vegas Chronicles (Book 1) in mid January as an Ebook across all the major publishing platforms. Thanks to all the Indie authors who have been so kind with their information and resources. Yes, kindness and compassion are most definitely part of anyone’s ‘reality check’ if they look hard enough.

All the best for 2014.

Well, here I am at the end of a huge year of writing, working and living. With just over a week left to say goodbye to 2014, the John Lennon song keeps playing in my head, ‘Happy Christmas’, as it always does each year:

“So this is Christmas
And what have you done
Another year over
And a new one just begun…”

What have I done indeed. I know I have worked extremely hard at my day job, and at my fledgling career as an author. I’ve driven myself in 2013, all the while pondering the big questions: what’s my purpose, what should I really be doing, am I doing enough, am I enough… And so it goes on.

But it was towards the end of the year that I really got a burr in my saddle. I began to think about mortality. I began to think that as I was into middle age, I could no longer afford to muck about with the same stuff, doing it the same way, in the same patterns any longer. Something had to change; something was going to change in 2014 and that something would be me.

The only advantage of growing older is the getting of wisdom. After a while the same old dysfunctional patterns lose their meaning and become a little absurd in light of the reality that time is running out.

If I had intentions for 2014 it would be to live each day as well as I can. To say no more often; to cultivate my ‘spark’ of creativity instead of feeling it extinguished under the weight of the daily grind and other people’s demands that so often get put before my own needs, and to surround myself with positive, life affirming people more often.

I also need to spend more time at home, drinking the tranquillity and restoring the soul . Soon my children will go their own ways. Time is precious, it really is. I also need to spend time with myself, reflecting, making choices, deciding on ways to live, and living them.

This is called being true to yourself, and I need to focus on that too.

My creativity and writing deserve also to be nurtured because I’ve discovered that while I do that, life is richer and more rewarding. There is a deep satisfaction when I fulfil that particular contract with myself.

So, yes, John Lennon is going through the reel setting of my thoughts, over and over, and particularly the ‘Another year over, and what have you done…’ I should be satisfied with writing two novels in 2013, while raising three boys, keeping a home warm and welcoming and holding down a busy day job, while managing to put whatever energy I have into my special friendships with the women in my life.

When I look at it like that I’ve accomplished quite a lot really, and I’m more than thankful to myself for such a stupendous effort in 2013.

I’m determined though, that 2014 will be done with a little more time for ‘me’ because I deserve it and I’ve earned it. And because I simply want to stop for a while and reflect.

For those that celebrate Christmas have a wonderful one. And to all, a happy and healthy New Year where, when you find yourself in amongst the muddle that is sometimes life, you remain above everything else, true to yourself.

I have almost reached the end of my National Novel Writing Month journey, writing every day and shaping my manuscript during November along with hundreds of thousands of writers from across the world. My final novella in the manuscript “Belonging Places”, is the story of Jill Bridges, an elderly woman facing the prospect of a nursing home, who fights to hold onto her independence. It’s a story of love and loss and how freedom can be found in the most vulnerable of circumstances.

Chapter 1:

She placed the delicate posy of lilacs on his coffin before it was lowered into the ground. He had loved to garden and the heady scent of the October bloom had always brought memories of his childhood. She wanted to fill his dark grave with the scents he loved best. She couldn’t look anymore at the disappearing coffin, so she turned away, a lump in her throat, hopeful no family members would approach her when she could barely speak. She wanted a moment alone to control her grief, so she could look up and talk to them all, tell them she would be ok. She turned away to face the hillside and listened to the priest reciting the graveside prayers. Oh yes, he would be accepted into the Lord’s house on angel’s wings. He was, after all, a good man.

They had been married 40 years, though he was slightly older than her by 10 years. Enough time for death to take him first and leave her widowed and alone. She remembered their first date. It had been a picnic at his uncle’s farm. It was spring, she recalled and what a spring it was, coming as it did after three rainy seasons. The ground was jumping with life and she could feel the fertility beneath their picnic blanket. She even remembered their first real meal together – crusty Italian bread and thick wedges of cheese, fresh ham and billy tea. They had been so innocent then. She was shy by nature and those early adult years had not been easy for her. One on one she showed her true self, but within crowds she would clam up, anticipating the end of her ordeal when the evening was at a close, and she could return to the safety of her home. But on that first picnic, she felt strangely at home with him, this man she hardly knew.

Bill Bridges was a man’s man, but he made an exception around her. She knew this; knew that he was putty in her hands, but she never used it against him, never. She wasn’t sure when she fell in love with him, whether it was on that first springtime picnic as they munched on the most wonderfully tasting bread and cheese, sipping the tea so that the flavours mixed together, so typically Australian, or whether the love came later. It had been so long ago. The tears ached at the back of her eyes as she recalled that picnic, surrounded by the wild daisies and the gentle hum of springtime. And now, as the coffin disappeared into the ground, the dull whirring of the mechanical gears, the only sound aside from the silent sobbing of his two children; their two children, she struggled to remember…their special times together.

They married quickly, within six months of that first spring picnic, and were so in love by then. Jill and Bill Bridges. It always had a nice ring to it, like they were meant to be together. And perhaps they were. She had had a good marriage, plenty of passion in the beginning and they had shared the good and the bad, like any strong couple. What affected her certainly affected him and vice versa. That was the way it was in their marriage, a symbiotic partnership. When she was depressed after her first child – postnatal depression they said – life was equally bleak for him. When he was wronged by a business partner, that man who long after remained nameless in their household, was her enemy too. In sickness and in health, was never truer for them. They even suffered the same ailments. Two peas in a pod, her mother had said, and she was grateful she had found love in this lifetime, from the beginning.

Their two children had come quickly, one after another, a boy and a girl, their pigeon pair. Life had been complete. That wasn’t to say they didn’t work hard. They did, for every penny they earned, and saved. They had made their home in a modest three bedroom brick veneer, in a small country town, a couple of hours from Sydney. It was a town where everyone was known to everyone, and they had become fixtures, joining in the various clubs and, in her case, the women’s groups. She knew she was particularly rated for her cooking. It didn’t matter what she cooked, she had that special touch. Her pumpkin scones were well known at the various fundraisers over the years. Jill Bridges pumpkin scones, she thought ruefully. Was that her contribution that would be remembered? She wondered how Bill would be remembered.

He had set up his own mechanics business not long after they had married. They had debated the risks: was it better to work for someone else and play it safe, or take that leap of faith on their own. She supposed being married had given Bill that extra courage because he handed in his notice to the largest mechanic business in their town, where he had worked since leaving high school some 10 years before and rented a small, rundown shed on the edge of town. It had been hard at first, and she had worked extra hours cleaning at the local motel, just so they could get by, but little by little their business grew, and now it was the biggest in town, run by her son Jeff.

Memories. She turned back to the graveside to see the coffin firmly planted in the ground. She was not expected to watch the earth being thrown over it. It was time to go. Her son and daughter Ellen were approaching but she had no desire to leave Bill. The tears came and she let them fall down her face, making no effort to dab them away with her handkerchief.

“Mum?” Elle said, in a particularly soft tone for her. She glanced at her daughter, noticing the grief that weighed her down. Unlike Jeff, she was close to her father.

“I’m ok Elle. Just give me a minute.” Her voice was stiff and formal. She was not as close to her daughter as she was to her son. Funny how that went, she thought, that Elle was the apple of Bill’s eye, while Jeff understood her, and was distant with his father. Family dynamics were at best, fathomable but not fully understood.

She reached out for her daughter’s hand, bonded as they were in that moment, by their grief. Jeff approached with his new wife Narelle, a pretty young girl and clever beyond her years. It was a good partnership.

“Mum, it’s time to go,” Jeff said, placing a firm and supportive hand on her arm. “Everyone else is leaving, and we should be down at the club to greet them.”

She looked at her son, wondering about his grief. He didn’t have the easiest of relationships with his father. They were too similar, both men’s men and as stubborn as each other. Jeff had taken over the business five years ago, when Bill’s hands and knees were crippled with arthritis and the dusk of old age had begun to fall. It hadn’t been an easy transition for Bill. He had built the business from the ground up with the sweat of his youthful years etched into every brick and mortar, every contract they had ever won, and into the all the relationships built over 40 years with workers, clients and the townspeople who supported them. He had resented Jeff’s new ideas at first, distrusted them and rallied against them. They were, after all, not his and he loved his business almost as much as life.

But never as much her, she thought. She had been his one true love, and he would have sacrificed it all for her, had she told him to. She turned back to Jeff, forgetting he and Elle were waiting on her.

“You two go, and be there to greet our guests. I need a moment alone…to say goodbye. I’ll be alright; just leave me be…for a minute.”

They were puzzled and worried by her request, reluctant to go but Narelle stepped forward. “Leave her Jeff…Elle. She needs this time. We can arrange with Father Percy to drive her to the club.”

So they left her alone with her husband. They were starting to shovel the earth over the coffin. She watched as the clods of dirt fell softly onto the red ornate cedar of the coffin. She pictured him in there, sleeping peacefully. He had died without any pain, knowing it was his time, but reluctant to leave her. He had held on, long after the doctors thought he could, and they had tried to make the best of those last few months. She had fitted their home out with rails, and non slip matts in the bathroom, and a special bed. They had oxygen cylinders in the bedroom and the lounge room, and Bill had used a walker until he could no longer manage. Then they had used a wheelchair. She wanted to keep him in his home, as long as she could manage and with palliative care, they had done better than predicted. Bill had only been taken to hospital to lie in his deathbed two weeks before he passed.

“Thud, thud, thud…” She should go now, before they finished, and there was only a mound of newly turned earth to mark his grave…until the headstone came. She reached into her bag and took out an old black and white photo of them taken on the day of their first picnic. The faces of two young lovers stared back at her, hardly recognisable now…except for the eyes. Real joy and a growing love were there in the depth of their expressions, windows to the future. Momentarily, she paused, drinking in the familiarity of his face, and the mischievous humour always at the edge of his expression. She put her lips gently on his photographed face, and kissed him softly. Kneeling down, she placed the photograph in the dirt as a talisman for him, so that he would know he did not need to make his journey alone.

“I’ll always be with you Bill,” she whispered softly.

The grave diggers had paused out of respect to allow her to say her last goodbyes. She got to her feet and nodded stiffly to them, wanting to maintain her dignity. She knew that now people would be watching her, alone, ageing and vulnerable. She knew that without Bill at her side, she would need to struggle to keep her freedom. She felt the pain in her hip. It had been replaced three years ago and she feared the other would need the same. She walked slowly to the priest’s car. Father Percy was waiting patiently for her.

“I know this is hard for you Jill,” he said, gently, “but Bill was a good man, and is resting with the Lord now.”

She nodded, afraid to say anything at all in case she began to cry again, and could not stop. The Lord gave her no comfort today, none at all. Rather, she felt only anger that she had lost her love, and at the prospect of the lonely years to come. She took a deep breath and got into the car, letting Father Percy take over the job of getting her to the wake, where her children would be waiting with the many of the townsfolk who had come also to say goodbye to her husband.

She wondered how she would get through the afternoon, and dug deep for a resolve. But what else was there for her to do. She would go home tonight, to their empty marital home, perhaps switch on the TV to drown out her thoughts. She would not be hungry, and would put the kettle on for a cup of tea, one cup not two, and then when she felt the heaviness and mercy of sleep come, she would go to their bed and lie there in the dark, conscious of the empty space beside her. And that would be how it would be in the long coming months, empty spaces where he should have been, and always her, feeling only half complete as though a part of her was missing. And it was.

I have managed to file almost 30,000 words so far this month in National Novel Writing Month (#nanowrimo). It’s been a good experience for me because it has taken the seed of a novel and literally forced its germination. Belonging Places will be finished by November’s end. It is three novellas bound together by the common theme of finding your belonging place, and that place is always within. Here is the first chapter from the second novella, about a career woman who seemingly has it all, but does she?

ESTELLE’S STORY

Chapter 1

She flicked the cap machine on as she whizzed through the kitchen, brush in one hand, daycare lunch in the other. A quick, furtive glance at the kitchen clock told her she had exactly 10 minutes to get Corey ready. “Joel, Joel, we’ve got to go, can you hurry…please,” she yelled up the stairwell. By some miracle he would have heard and would miraculously appear down the stairs, on time. She knew he wouldn’t be doing that, so she called again, louder this time. “Joel, Joel. Come on!”

She grabbed a piece of toast out of the toaster and smeared it with vegemite. Corey was getting fidgety in his high chair. She smiled at him, as she reached for his coat and hat from the table. “Coming my little man. Just give mummy one more minute. Joel, I’m not kidding…”

She was about to tell her husband what she really thought about his lateness but he appeared round the corner while she was in mid-sentence. His blonde hair untidy, but in a suite and with his briefcase nevertheless. “In the nick of time, by the looks of things,” he said, planting a quick kiss on her cheek as he walked past, eager to get to the cap machine. Two cappuccinos coming up,” he said, getting the stainless steel flasks out of the cupboard on his way past.

“You are a lifesaver,” she said, unstrapping her young son, the image of his blonde haired, blue eyed dad, out of the high chair. “There you go baby. Mummy’s just about ready.” She kissed his round, still baby cheeks and ran the brush lightly through his hair. “Now, let’s get your coat on. It’s brrrr cold outside and I don’t want you getting brrrr cold.” Her son looked up at her with his big blue eyes, a smile on his face. She could have said anything to him, she thought, and he would still be smiling up at her. A pang of guilt shot through her. Why was she dragging her toddler out the door on such a cold winter’s day? She shook her head. “Now let’s not go through all that again Estelle,” she said, more to herself.

“What darling? What did you say,” her husband said, bringing her coat for her.

“Nothing. Talking to myself. Going mad actually, must be this new job promotion.”

He took Corey from her and pointed to the freshly brewed cappuccinos in their steel flasks. “You take these darling and I’ll go and strap munchkins in his car seat. Oh, and Estelle don’t forget your briefcase like yesterday.”

She looked at him as if to say ‘are you questioning my memory’. “Ok Joel, yes I forgot it yesterday, but we were in such a rush…”

“Like today,” he countered. “And I’m only trying to help.”

She waved him out the door and did a last minute check of the kitchen to make sure everything was off. She picked up a half eaten vegemite toast, the baby bag for Corey and her briefcase. One last hurried look in the mirror, and a mental note to get her long black hair cut on the weekend into a more manageable, shorter style, and she was out the door.

Hopping into the car with her son and husband, she heaved a huge sigh of relief. “Made it.”

He smiled at her and flicked the car into gear. “God the day has only just begun and I’m exhausted,” he said with a grin on his face.

She smiled a half-hearted attempt in agreement and fell silent. Corey dozed in the back. She had been up half the night with him. He had come home from daycare with the snuffles, a head cold picked up from one of the other 50 children there. Another pang of guilt. Stop it, she told herself. Just stop it. She leant her head back on the plush leather headrest of their Audi. Money had not been a problem for them for the past two years. Before, she was struggling to make it up the ladder in the editorial room, and he hadn’t been promoted to senior architect. Since then, they both had received promotions, she to Editor of the Woman’s Post and he to senior partner in Bladwell & Sons Architects. They had upgraded their home to a posh part of the city, and along with the move, bought the Audi. To anyone who noticed these things, they were a highly successful couple, with a beautiful baby boy. They had, quite simply, everything…and nothing she thought. She craved a day at home and reasoned that must be why she couldn’t lift herself out of her downer. She was just tired and nearing the end of her patience with the breakneck pace of her life, and its impacts on her family.

She gazed at the blur of suburban Sydney as it whirred past the tinted glass of the Audi’s windows. They lived on the North Shore now and it was a longer drive into the City. She had found a good daycare a few suburbs along and they were approaching it. She called softly to her son. “Honey, we’re nearly at daycare. Nearly time to see Benny and Matilda. Corey, wake up.”

Her blonde haired son stirred in his seat as the car came to a stop at the daycare. “I’ll take him,” Joel said to her, unstrapping his seatbelt.

“No. I’ll do this. You know how he hates you doing it.” She unbuckled her seatbelt, got out and opened the back door. Her son, bleary eyed was beginning to look around eagerly for his two friends. “Benny,” he murmured.

“That’s right petal,” she said carrying him through the front doors. “Let’s go and find Benny.” She put him down and he ran toward the main playing room. A daycare worker was there to greet him. “Let’s go find your friends Corey, shall we?” she said brightly, and the little man grinned at her. Estelle could only look as his tiny, tiny legs disappeared through the door. She turned away. It didn’t matter how many times they did this, every time sent a shiver of anxiety through her. She just didn’t like being separated for a whole day from her baby.

Deep in thought, she returned to the car. Joel had his usual worried frown to greet her. “Ok, he got off ok?”

“Yep,” she said, glancing at her watch. “We’ll need to hurry now to beat the bridge traffic.”

They were mostly silent during the remainder of their journey into the City. Luckily they worked close by each other, and Joel had access to free parking in his building. From Joe’s building, she only needed to walk the two remaining blocks to the Woman’s Post head office, the magazine she had started on as a cadet journalist more than a decade ago. Now she was editor. She pulled out her I-pad and checked her schedule for the day. There was a meeting with the advertising manager scheduled for 8.30am, a mere 25 minutes away. She hoped she was on time. And then was an editorial meeting with the heads of department at 10.30am. Next, lunch with the Editor in Chief, and there was an afternoon brief with legal on the Bannister story they putting on the front cover – a story about a young woman who had been raped. It was a brave call to put her on the cover, but it was national rape victim’s week and the Bannister woman was topical at the moment, because she had fought back against her attackers and had escaped certain death. Her bravery was inspiring. It also helped that she was young and beautiful, and someone people could relate to – everyone’s daughter, she thought ironically.

“Umm, busy day honey,” she said, without looking at her husband.

“Me too,” he said without taking his eyes of the looming traffic. They would just make it into the City before the worst of the peak hour rush. It wasn’t long before he was manoeuvring the Audi into the spot that was reserved for him. He leant over and began kissing her goodbye.

“This weekend promise me no more bringing home work from the office,” he said.

“I won’t if you won’t,” she answered, playfully.

“Seriously,” he said, looking directly into her eyes, “we need some long overdue family time.”

She kissed him back then, a lingering kiss. “I know. I know. And we will. As soon as the Bannister story is done…but this weekend, I promise no work on Saturday. No I-pad, no mobile, just you, me and Corey.”

He smiled warmly and all was forgiven, and she was reminded yet again just how much she was still in love with her childhood sweetheart, even after a decade of marriage. She grabbed her briefcase and headed for the street exit.

“Later,” she said winking at him, as he too disappeared through the building’s carpark lift.

He blew a kiss to her, as the lift doors closed on him. She quickened her pace, to try and make the seven minute walk in five. Damn, she thought to herself, she should have brought her flats. The new heels crunched the front of her feet up, and irritated the bunion that was beginning to form on her right foot. She compensated and put most of her weight onto her left foot. Arriving at her building with exactly two minutes to spare before the meeting with Miranda Bonnington, she flew past her personal assistant.

“Mail, coffee and hold the calls. Thanks Suzie.”

Suzie gave her an understanding smile. “Sure Estelle, copy that.”

She smiled, shut her door and made herself comfortable behind the huge oak desk that had been at the Post for almost a century. She settled into the leather chair and kicked off her shoes under the desk. Firing up her computer, she took note of the messages already on her desk and began prioritising them. She grabbed her notebook and pen, a legacy of being a journalist. She took them into every single meeting she attended, whether it was with the Prime Minister or to lunch with the Chair of the Board. Pen in hand, and sifting through her emails, she was ready for Miranda when she walked through the door.

She liked Miranda, but they rarely agreed. Miranda was, after all, the enemy. She was concerned primarily with making her bonus, and ensuring that sales revenues were met. On the other hand, Estelle was always concerned with preserving the editorial quality of the magazine. They often fought, always over a request for advertorial, the kind of content dressed up to look like a story, but designed to ‘sell’ the advertiser’s products. More and more, the commercial realities intruded for Estelle and she knew that sometimes she had to give into Miranda, but not always.

Today’s meeting was over a big pharmaceutical account Miranda had landed, and she wanted editorial support for a four page advertorial feature she planning for them. They were supposed to be talking about what stories might populate the feature and Estelle had made up her mind to be hard arsed about it. It might be an advertorial feature, but it was also going to contain meaningful and helpful content, in keeping with the ethos of Woman’s Post. Estelle could have done without the meeting today with Miranda; she didn’t really feel like a fight, but she was also conscious of the Board’s expectations of her, and that was to deliver a product that brought in revenue. Content was one thing, sales were another and the two were supposed to work seamlessly together to produce the revenue. She sighed heavily, wondering what was wrong with her today. From the very start, she had been dragging her heels. Her PA phoned. Miranda was outside her office. “Send her in Suzie, thanks.”

Miranda flung the door open with such confidence and strode in, in her nine inch heels. Estelle wondered how she walked in them, when she could only manage ‘sensible’ stilettos with her bunion. She got up and extended her hand.

“Miranda Bonnington. How are you, sit down.”

Miranda fired back. “Estelle Wainwright. Long time between meetings.”

“Yeah. Sales must be going well,” she said, immediately regretting her sarcasm.

Miranda sat down in her impossible straight, short skirt, and gave her long, honey coloured hair a flick, pretending to ignore Estelle’s comment.

“Well, let’s get down to business, shall we. You might have heard that I’ve got the Raine account and we want to do a four page feature. I was wondering if I could have Steph Jones to work on it?”

Estelle closed her eyes and forced back the cynical smile that had begun to form. So typical of Miranda to want control, and taking a backdoor approach to get it.

“You and I both know that Steph is one of our lead writers and is actually working on the Bannister story at the moment. What I can give you is Dianna Greenway, but under my direction not yours. You and I both know my journalists do not answer to you Miranda. In any case, you have your sales feature writer, why not use him?”

It was Miranda’s turn to smile cynically. “You and I both know that he’s not up to the job. The Raine account needs a quality writer…”

“Which is why you can have Dianna under my supervision. You’ll get your quality.”

Miranda sensed she did not have the power in the conversation. “Ok, I can work with that, but I want to suggest the story leads.”

Estelle nodded. “Sure, send me your suggestions and I’ll consider them.”

Miranda was not going to be rolled that easily. “Well I was talking with one of the Board yesterday and they are also on the Raine Board as well. Turns out he wants the best possible stories done, and I suggested something on their leading market position…written non-commercially of course.”

“Alright Miranda, you’ve made your point. We’ll include that story in our mix. But I really need to cut this meeting short – got to get to the editorial meeting later this morning and I’ve a million and one things to do before then.”

Miranda got up, stretching her legs and smoothing her skirt like a panther arising for her morning walk. There was definitely something feline about her, Estelle thought.

“Well, I’ll be in touch, via email. Saves time.”

Estelle smiled at her. “Yes, that’d be the shot. Email.” As she watched Miranda slink her way out of her office, in her nine centimetre heels, she knew she had won the battle but Miranda had also made her point too. She needed to watch that one more closely, she thought. She yawned, and sipped her coffee which was cold. Swinging around in her chair she took in the view of the city’s skyline. What a view, she thought. Immediately Corey came into her mind, and she knew he’d be having little lunch by now.

A lot of things have crossed my radar this week, inspiring me to post a blog so rather than talk about one specific subject, here’s my week in review. Well, firstly I received my copy edited manuscript from Lodestone Books, an imprint of John Hunt Publishing.

I’ve never had an editor before – well, I’m trained as a newspaper and magazine editor, but not as a book editor. What a great experience having someone who is professional go through your manuscript. It reminded me of my early college days, where in a lecture a light would come on, an Ah Ha Moment when you got that much needed visual on what the problems or issues were. Eureka, as we say in Australia.

One of the things I am guilty of from time to time is ‘author intrusion’ – so the reader will have their head in the dialogue and the descriptions, getting right into the characters, and next thing my voice is right there in the mix. Being made aware of that by the editor, was good. And she didn’t correct it, but left it to me to rewrite. Wonderful. I’m learning.

Re-reading over Dawn of the Shadowcasters which will hopefully be out on Lodestone Books in the very near future, was a good experience and while it’s hard to be objective about your own work, it made me sit down and congratulate myself…just a bit (hubris is quite dangerous you know). The manuscript was written on weekends and in holidays, at a time when I was particularly busy with my day job/career – it’s a testament to the willpower of authors that they stick with the task, and perhaps an indication of the passion with which we go about achieving that task.

From novels to dogs. I am a self-confessed dog lover with the most adorable English Staffordshire you could wish for. We are thinking about fielding him in one of the Australian Rules Football sides because he is an avid football player, using his feet to ‘hold onto’ the ball and jumping in the air, like the best of the highflyers, to catch a football when it’s kicked in his direction. I reckon he would go alright at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on finals night.

And onto social media. Came across the debate this week on whether Google+ is better than Facebook. The evidence says no – it’ll take a bit longer to knock the Facebook juggernaut that blazed the path for social media, off it’s course, but I really believe all the platforms offer something valuable for authors. I’ve found that different ones suit me better than others. I love Twitter for it’s community, information and opportunity to express. I’ve only just joined Google+ and I find it interesting. I’m not a big fan of Facebook, but I know that’s where you’ve got to be to connect with readers, so I persevere. And I love to blog, on the weekends when I’ve got time.

Speaking of social media, I got a comment on a post about the importance of ‘being who you are’. The commentator pointed out it was often easier said than done. True enough, but it’s got to be at least an intention. I replied that it was always a goal that was right to strive for and that doing what makes you happy is a good place to start. Ummm. Intention + goal + choice = happiness. A most logical equation.

And on that note, I’ll end where I’m happiest – ready to do some more with my edited copy of Dawn of the Shadowcasters.

Oh, and if you want to follow me on Twitter I’m @MaryannWeston. Google+Maryann Weston and if you feel inclined to like me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/shadowscape.stevievegas