Pink clothes for boys

Screen Shot 2018-02-01 at 12.29.54 pmMy five-year-old son loves pink clothes and has done from the moment he could see clothes hanging in a shop and knew we had money to buy them. I’ve talked about this on my Facebook page before but here I am again, more than two years later, with the same problem.

I cannot find (easily accessible) pink clothes for boys.

Look, men wear pink business shirts (and I know many of us LOVE a man in a pink business shirt); a local surf lifesaving club up here has fluorescent pink shirts on their members; and male tennis champions (e.g. Nadal, Kyrgios, Federer) are wearing it on the the tennis court. To my knowledge, nothing bad has happened in the world because of these things. No hell broke out, no locusts appeared, no cracks in the mantle of the earth, no worm holes in space. It’s all very normal. But start saying that a little boy wants to wear pink and people start getting shifty… oh, what does that mean? oh, do you think… you know? oh, what are you going to do? 

Why can’t young boys were pink too?

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Go into any big chain store and most of the smaller ones and you’ll find clothes that are ubiquitously blue, green, black and white with a smattering of red or yellow if you’re lucky, and to be honest, a whole heap of it is ugly. (For the record, I think there are problems with girls’ clothes too, not least the sexualisation of tiny children, but for now we’ll just stick with the boys’ dilemma of lack of choice.)

Why must we take some sort of hard line action on small boys, as though we must FORCE them to realise that THEY ARE BOYS and BOYS simply DON’T wear pink!!! Seriously, what are we afraid of here? Their role models–grown up men with grown up jobs–are wearing it. It’s time, people. It’s time to bring the little boy clothing line to the modern day.

Please, if you are a designer, I want to talk to you. There is a market for this and I am that passionate about it that I on the verge of creating my own clothing line for boys. They deserve choice too.

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(Pictures sourced just by googling pink shirts for business, surf lifesavers and male tennis players.)

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Now Sponsoring “Story Dogs”, Sunshine Coast

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I am very proud to announce that I am now an official sponsor of a Story Dogs team here on the Sunshine Coast, sponsoring Ella and Charlie (pictured). Story Dogs is a registered charity that supports literacy programs in schools by sending in a volunteer human-canine partnership to help students on their paths to becoming confident, enthusiastic readers.

I first came across the concept several years ago via an American website and then looked for a similar program in Australia. I looked into volunteering with my Golden Retriever Daisy, but quickly realised Daisy was too much of a clown and I didn’t think we’d pass the behaviour test! Now, with my son starting Prep this year, I came across the program again and was truly excited to discover that I could add my name to the list of enthusiastic sponsors who help to keep this program running around the nation.

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While the sponsorship money is pooled across the country to ensure that no child misses out, the beautiful faces of my personal sponsorship are Ella and Charlie, who volunteer at St Thomas Moore primary school here on the Sunshine Coast, and I have committed to sponsoring a Story Dogs team each year that my son is in primary school.

As a former English teacher and now author, I know that reading is the keystone skill to a life of opportunity. 

You don’t have to be an official sponsor to help out too. You can donate or volunteer your time. Just visit the Story Dogs website at www.storydogs.org.au.

Movie Reviews: Ferdinand and Paddington 2

Kids movies are winning at the moment, with Ferdinand and Paddington 2 both delightful films for young viewers.

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Firstly, Ferdinand, the bull who was a lover not a fighter. The beauty of this film is that it speaks to the viewer on so many levels. The fate of the bulls in this Spanish Provence is not unlike that of the gladiators in Ancient Rome–fight or die, and ultimately, you will die anyway–except that it’s still happening today.

As a young bull, Ferdinand watches his father go away to fight and never return. He decides to escape and finds himself in what can only be described as heaven–fields of flowers, a little girl who loves him, a peaceful life. But when he accidentally causes havoc in the town square he is caught and returned to the bull pit where he must save his friends and face the bull fighter. There are difficult themes here–such as humanity’s treatment of animals and even a scene inside an abattoir–but it is handled so sensitively that the younger viewers (such as my five-year-old son) might not directly understand what is happening. (Thankfully, this saved me from having a difficult conversation with him about animal slaughter and meat consumption, which I’m just not yet ready to have.) If you are an animal lover, you will be moved. Everyone will feel hope. A beautiful film. My only small criticism was that it was a tad long through the third quarter (time was filled with singing and dancing) and my son asked to leave. But he stuck it out and was soon rewarded with some fast action to re-engage him. Four stars.

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And then we come to Paddington 2, a charming film that is, in my opinion, better than the first one (and it’s not often you can say that about sequels). I do find Paddington a bit stiff and intellectual for small kids but the physical comedy does seem to counteract it. To my relief, this film isn’t as scary as the first one (which my boy hasn’t managed to sit through at all) and Hugh Grant is just fabulous as the villain Phoenix Buchanan (and Hugh Grant is always fabulous in a villainous role, in my opinion). My son, always short on patience, declared he wanted to leave in the first ten minutes, but I encouraged him to stick it out and was rewarded by him putting two thumbs up at me at the and declaring ‘that was a great movie, Mum’. I’m sure the train chase finale helped.

In this film, Paddington is trying to find the perfect birthday present for his aunty Lucy’s hundredth birthday but his desired pop-up book of London is stolen by Phoenix Buchanan and Paddington is framed for the theft and sent to jail. There are truly delightful moments in jail, especially as Paddington befriends the most feared inmate of all, Knuckles McGinty, played superbly by Brendan Gleeson (of recent film, Hampstead).

Do stay till the end for Hugh Grant’s encore during the credits.

Four stars.

 

 

Movie Review: Murder on the Orient Express

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An all-star cast, a classic tale, lavish scenery.

Kenneth Branagh both directs this film and stars in it as Hercule Poirot, the detective trapped on a train with a dead man and the murder trapped on board with rest of the ensemble in the luxe train after an avalanche blocks the path through the European mountains. The cast includes the likes of Michelle Pfeiffer, Johnny Depp, Judi Dench, Penelope Cruz and William Defoe all playing their part in the plot for this adaptation of Agatha Christie’s famous novel of the same name.

I haven’t actually read Christie’s novel, so I didn’t go into the cinema knowing anything about the characters or the outcome of the mystery. I did expect a visually stunning movie, which it it is. But I felt the film couldn’t quite get the tone right–was this hysterical melodrama, or was it an arty production of a tired old favourite, or was it supposed to be serious drama? All the characters felt flat, except for Hercule Poirot, who really did star in the film, as he probably should.

When I got to the finale and the unravelling of all the clues, I had an overwhelming sense of disappointment and a feeling that I’d actually known the answer for quite a while and it wasn’t a particularly satisfying one at that. (Apologies, perhaps, to Christie.) All in all, this wasn’t a standout film for me.

3 stars.

 

Books are like children: each one is different

There are many similarities with creating books and creating kids–the gestation, the labour of getting them out into the world, the letting go. And most of all, is the nurturing process, the drafts and drafts of ‘growing up’ with them, of listening to what they want to do while simultaneously trying to shape them into what you want them to do. Writers will tell you that each book’s process is different, just as every child is different. Here’s what I’ve learned so far from each of my very different (published) book babies.

The Tea Chest

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As an aspiring author who’d been rejected over one hundred times, I truly didn’t believe this book baby was going to make it out into the world. Perhaps like a mother who’d struggled to conceive and had lost so many babies along the way, I was well prepared to ‘lose’ this one too. I was shocked when this book sold, struggling to find excitement though it was something I’d wanted and worked so hard for for so long. I didn’t trust it. Fortunately, it all worked out, and it worked out far better than I could have dreamed.

But the biggest thing I learned from this book was to trust the magic. Writing a book takes discipline, sacrifice, artistry and more than a sprinkling of magic. I wrote the book I wanted to read. That was it. It was a lesson that took me twelve years and ten manuscripts to learn, but I got it. Finally.

The Chocolate Promise

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This book was written with a young baby in arms, excruciating levels of sleep deprivation, endless hours on long country roads to doctors, specialists and real estate agents as we make a difficult transition from the bush to the beach, gambling everything we had on a 115-year-old renovator’s ‘delight’, simultaneously relocating our family business to a new geographical region, with many months split between homes. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I drank so much coffee and ate so much chocolate (as research, but it doubled as caffeine too), blindly packing up my stuff to go and write for three hours at a time while a friend came to look after my young son. I never want to write a book under those circumstances again. Yet, I did it. I learned that even if a book feels like it’s going to fail, it won’t. I learned that I can make deadlines under the most crippling of circumstances. And I learned that the story always turns up. Even when I think I have no idea what I’m doing, the story has its own ideas and if I turn up at the page, it will turn up to meet me. Trust. Trust. Trust.

The Beekeeper’s Secret

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This book turned up unexpectedly. I’d been trying to write a family saga set on a coffee farm and had done heaps of research into coffee but I wasn’t getting any ‘signs’ to support that I was on the right track. So I had to sit back and say, okay, what else am I interested in. Everywhere I went, I saw bees, beekeepers and honey. I began researching bees and fell head over heels in love with them. I started to write a story (a corporate sabotage), but it wasn’t working and I had Catholic nuns in the background who were trying to wedge into the story. But they didn’t belong there. Again, I had to stop and say, ‘okay, what do you want?’ Maria Lindsey started talking and she didn’t stop. This book wrote itself so easily. Don’t get me wrong; it’s always hard work. But Maria’s voice was there every time I fired up my laptop. I trusted her, stepping outside of my comfort zone, delving into some darker places, and it all came together. With this book, I again learned to trust the story but I also learned to trust my readers. I was worried my readers would baulk at the change of direction this story took, but they didn’t. They came with me and loved it. I also learned that writing a book doesn’t have to be hard. Easy books are still good books.

Three Gold Coins

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Okay, so fourth novel in you’d have thought I’d learned a few things? Well, as previously stated, each book is different. This one was my most difficult book yet. I wrote three separate versions of this story. The final word count is around 110,000 words but I would have easily written over 220,000 in the process.

I mucked it up.

Firstly, I wrote the ‘wrong book’. I started this book in the Cotswolds in England and it was called Foxleigh’s Cheese Emporium and the novel revolved around two sisters, Lara and Sunny Foxleigh. But I got 50,000 words in (half a novel) and realised I’d written myself into a corner that I couldn’t get out of. So, I did what any sensible author would do and ran away to Tuscany 😉 While in Tuscany, I found a way to reincarnate Lara and Sunny Foxleigh into a totally new story.

Next, I mucked it up again. I started writing the story and backstory arrived. But I didn’t like the backstory and didn’t want to go there. I simply didn’t do books like that. So I constructed all sorts of plot and backstory to avoid writing what I didn’t want to write. I sent it off for an appraisal and upon reading my editor’s notes I realised my fatal flaw. I hadn’t listened to the story and I hadn’t trusted myself to write it.

I wrote a third version, one that went to difficult places, far darker than I’ve been to before. It was hard for me emotionally. I struggled. But good advisors kept encouraging me to continue and I pushed through it. I realised how much I have avoided writing about deep, deep pain because I didn’t want to feel it myself. But it was what the book needed and it is far, far stronger now than it was in the second version. It is now the story that wanted to be told from the start. I was a very, very slow learner on that one. In hindsight, I think that the commonly given advice to writers–to write what you’re most afraid of–is actually spot on. I know I am now a better, stronger writer for having gone to the place I didn’t want to go. I’m no longer afraid to go there again. This book made me grow ten-fold over what any of the previous books did.

Book Five?

What’s next? I’m pleased to say that book five is so far behaving itself! Phew! I am hoping it will be the easiest kid yet. It will be out in 2019.

 

 

 

 

Pre-order link now working!

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Huge apologies to anyone who tried to pre-order a hard copy of Three Gold Coins via Booktopia. The technical gremlins were undermining our shopping fun.

But the good news is it is now working. Hooray!

So, if you would like to ensure you are one of the first people to get their hands on Three Gold Coins and help an author out at the same time (pre-orders really help our sales rankings) then hurray on over to Booktopia now knowing all is well in the land of computers.

Thank you!

Three Gold Coins: Three Reasons to Pre-Order Now

‘What a gloriously wonderful read, I loved it.’ Cathy Kelly (on The Tea Chest)

One coin for love, one for marriage, one to return to Rome.

Two days ago, Lara Foxleigh tossed three gold euros into the Trevi Fountain. Now, she is caring for a cranky old man and living in a picturesque villa, half a world away from her home and the concerns of her loving family.

Soon, it seems as if those wishes she made in Rome just might be coming true, and she may even be able to help heal a fifteen-year-old tragedy.

Until Lara’s past threatens to destroy everything she loves…

Three Gold Coins is a masterfully written celebration of food, family, triumph over adversity, and love – a deliciously imperfect life.

 

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I am delighted to share that pre-orders are now open for Three Gold Coins. Here are three reasons to pre-order:

  1. The moment the book is available, it will come to your door and into your hands to begin reading.
  2. Pre-orders help authors. When you pre-order, each one is counted towards the sales in the first week of publication, which means the book rises up up the bestseller lists and makes it more visible to others who are looking for a good book to read. So, thank you!
  3. You can order in either paperback or digital formats.

To order a physical book, go to: Booktopia.

To order digital copies, go to:

iBooks

Kindle/Amazon

Thank you for your support and happy reading!