Friday, May 11, 2012

Out and About in the Hunter Valley!

by Anna Campbell

The start of this year has been full-on writing for me. All that computer interaction has made Anna a very dull girl indeed. So I was really looking forward to a couple of days down south with my very dear friend and critique partner, Annie West, at the beginning of April. 

Annie lives in a very beautiful part of the world, Lake Macquarie in New South Wales. That's the lake behind me in the photo to the left of this paragraph. As you can see, we had lovely weather for my visit!

Her house is set amongst towering gum trees and I love watching the birds that visit - lorikeets and cockatoos and rosellas and other assorted natives.

So I thought I'd share a few photos and a few memories of my writerly visit. Annie herself blogged about my visit in April here at Tote Bags if you'd like to see some more pics: 

Most of these photos were taken on the Friday of my visit. When Annie and I were unpublished, we both promised that once we sold, we'd take the other one out to lunch every time we had a book accepted. This lunch was to celebrate the acceptance of Annie's wonderful GIRL IN THE BEDOUIN TENT so she picked up the tab, bless her. We're at Milano's Restaurant, right on the edge of the lake. Gorgeous setting and lovely food and wonderful service.

I took pictures of the desserts. Aren't they spectacular? Annie's was the delicious chocolate looking thing and I had a very rich banana pudding concoction.

Are you feeling hungry? I've just had breakfast and I'm salivating!

Another lovely thing about being on the lake is that you get to watch the fishermen and the walkers and the prolific bird life. We saw black swans and gulls and cormorants who perched on the boat rails to dry their wings. I love it when they stand there like silhouettes!

It's always such an affirmation of the paths we've taken when we get together for one of our author lunches. The next one is  at the Gold Coast during the Romance Writers of Australia conference. My turn to pick up the tab for MIDNIGHT'S WILD PASSION!

Because I hadn't seen Annie for ages, we both had presents to deliver. Below, you'll see a shot of me clutching some goodies - I think I went home with a heavier suitcase than the one I arrived with! It was like Christmas all over again.

Don't mistake that we just played ladies of leisure on my visit. In between all the highjinks, we did a stack of serious critiquing work. We speak often on the phone and email like fiends, but there's something special about face-to-face sessions. So inspiring. I always come home with a million new ideas.

We brainstorm new stories, talk about writing problems, discuss issues with works in progress, dissect the wider writing industry and how any changes (lately there's been lots of changes!) affect us.

It's always wonderful for me to have such an in-depth session on my career and work. I hope Annie feels the same! I know I always feel very lucky that we hooked up together at my very first Romance Writers of Australia conference.

If any of you are aspiring writers and wondering whether attending a writing conference is worth the expense, take the chance. You never know who you might meet!

We also celebrate good news. Writing tends to be a fairly solitary occupation - after all, you're sitting on your own at a computer getting those words down. There are days when the only 'people' I talk to are the characters in my head. And while naturally those characters are excellent company, it's nice to raise a glass with someone flesh and blood. I dread to tell you quite how many bottles we empty when we get together. I think our livers are grateful that there's a recovery gap between each visit! Annie had recently won a Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award for her sublime PROTECTED BY THE PRINCE so we raised a glass to Alaric and Tamsin. Hic!

Speaking of livers, for ages, we've been talking about visiting the vineyards up in the Hunter Valley, one of Australia's premier wine-producing areas. We had a lovely drive over the weekend up the valley and in the process, visited a couple of vineyards and some historic small towns.

The photo on the left shows the goodies we picked up at Tyrrells Winery, one of the oldest in the area. The views from the vineyard were beautiful - check out Annie's blog to see them! And yet again, the weather blessed us. It's been a wet year in Australia; I've learned not to take the sunshine for granted.

It was also great fun when I was down to catch up with super-talented Harlequin Mills and Boon Romance author Michelle Douglas. We had an uproarious get-together at a coffee shop down near the lake.

I love this fun photo of the girls. They look so happy holding up Michelle's latest book THE MAN WHO SAW HER BEAUTY.  Michelle made that very groovy tote bag Annie is holding up. Isn't she clever? I can't even cut wrapping paper straight so I'm in awe of anyone who does crafty stuff.

So have you been out and about lately? Tell me somewhere nice you've been!


Mary Preston said...

A few weeks ago I went up to the Sunshine Coast & Buderim. The weather was perfect. The beaches pristine. A wonderful visit.

TashNz said...

Hi Anna, I havent been anywhere exciting but I OMG'd a bit when you were describing your visit with Annie. My school friend (we're 37 now) moved to Oz for her hubby's job 18 months ago, 12 of those months have been spent living on Lake Macquarie. Anyway this kiwi thought all of Oz must be just gorgeous because both Annie and my friend Nicci post beaut pics of scenery and Lorikeets and just gorgeous nature pics... I never clicked it was the same place lol. Love the post, sounds like you all had so much fun :)))

Annie West said...

Hi Anna,

I've had the most marvellous time reliving your visit to Lake Macquarie. Didn't we have a ball? As you say, we always work hard and I'm amazed at what we achieve when we get together, but at the same time there's a chance for just plain fun.

You know, I'm sure our promise of a lunch out to celebrate each sale has been a real incentive to getting published! In the days when my books hadn't found a home I could still envisage us eating a leisurely lunch by the water. They say if you visualise success it helps it happen. In this case I'm sure it did.

Thanks for this post, Anna. It's made me smile.

Annie West said...

Tash, what a coincidence that your friend lives here. Yes, it's definitely a great part of the world!

TashNz said...

Hi Annie, she calls it her little part of paradise :) My friend moved two weeks ago "down the road", i'm not sure where but she posted a pic of what looks like the ocean which is her view from her deck? Where ever it is it looks beautiful. Oh, P.S You'll be pleased to know that tonight I discovered Undone By His Touch on our bookshelves... yay! I now have a copy sitting here waiting for me to find the time to read it over the weekend :))

Eli Yanti said...

I'm planning to go to center city of my country on 25/05/2012 to meet with my friends (book friends whom i knew them at facebook) :)

Karen H said...

A cousin of mine living in my former home state of MI was traveling and camping throughout the western part of NC during the month of April. She made it to the Raleigh area around May 1st. I went with her and her husband to visit some historical places in Durham. Places like Duke Homestead, Bennett Place (had significant history at the end of the Civil War) and Stagville, the largest plantation in NC, and possibly all of the southern states...30K acres and about 900 enslaved people. I knew about Duke Homestead but nothing about the other 2 places. All very interesting and informative. In spite of the temps being in the mid 90's, we spent an enjoyable day.

Now I have a question for you Anna. You said to 'talk' to your characters. Well, do you actually speak your dialog aloud as you write or is it only in your head?

Anna Campbell said...

Mary, we're having beautiful weather on the Sunshine Coast right now. Had an awful summer - rained the whole time - but it's glorious now. So glad you had a lovely time.

Anna Campbell said...

Oh, Tash, talk about small world! Lake Macquarie is beautiful and there are some gorgeous places nearby too. I hadn't ever been there until Annie and I became friends. Hope your friend is enjoying being in Oz!

Anna Campbell said...

Annie, thanks for being such a lovely hostess. I had such a lovely visit. And I'm so glad I was with it enough to use the camera. Often we have a lovely time and I've got no mementos. Love that photo of you and Michelle. It's quite classic!

Anna Campbell said...

Eli, it's wonderful fun to meet up with other crazy mad readers. I'm sure you'll have a ball. My next bit of excitement is actually a visit to my place by the famous Annie West! It took me a while to get organised and download photos, etc., and the weeks have passed so we're due to catch up again. Hope the sun is shining!

Anna Campbell said...

Karen, that sounds like a really fascinating, fun visit. I'd love to explore more in America. I've been to a few RWA Conferences and I always do a lot of sightseeing when I'm there. It's really whetted my appetite for more.

Ha ha! No, I've learned that it's better to hold these conversations in my mind. Hold on, I've just realized, I DO talk to them out loud sometimes. ;-)

Anna Campbell said...

Tash, Undone by his Touch is FANTASTIC! You'll love it.

Annie West said...

Tash, for some reason I'm not able to post a reply direct to your comment. I'm thrilled that you've found 'Undone By His Touch' on sale and snaffled it for your weekend reading. Hope you enjoy it.

Pat Cochran said...

Hi, Anna! Beautiful photos! A trip to Australia
has been on my list for ever! No trips for me
lately except attending a reunion of my high
school drill team. Next week, though, we will
be going up into the Texas "Hill Country" for a
reunion of my HS graduation class. (It's our
58th!) We'll be there for part of the weekend
and then we may go on to San Antonio to visit
a little Mexican restaurant that I saw on TV.

Anna Campbell said...

Pat, I've heard a lot about how beautiful San Antonio and surrounds are. There's an RWA booked there in the next few years so I'm really looking forward to visiting. Sounds like you've got a nice few plans ahead of you.

Michelle Douglas said...

Ooh, Anna, I love that photo of Annie and me! It reminds me of what a fun coffee session we all had. It was really lovely catching up with you while you were visiting. :-) (And I don't mind those pictures of your and Annie's desserts either -- yum!'s only 9:30 am here. Is that too early for cake do you think?)

As for being out and about...I spent a weekend in Goulburn recently. I've driven past it on the way to Canberra, but had never stopped there. As "Australia's first inland city" (according to the visitor info centre), it had loads of charm -- gorgeous architecture and big wide streets etc. But it was cold...very cold.

Thanks for the wonderful post -- it made me smile too. :-)

Anna Campbell said...

Michelle, I love that photo of the two of you too. Such a fun afternoon we had. We must do it again next time I'm down. And by the way, still awestruck with admiration over that lovely tote bag you made. Hey, any time is time for cake!!!! I've been through Goulburn too. There's quite a lot of historical architecture there including some National Trust properties. Nice idea to stop there.

Kaelee said...

Lovely photos all around. Thanks for all of them.

I haven't been too far from home lately as we have an old cat on twice daily medication. Now that warmer weather has finally come, I hope we will get out for a few day trips.

Anna Campbell said...

Kaelee, isn't it sad when our pets get old and infirm? Hope your cat's happy and in good health otherwise. So glad you liked the photos - I really enjoyed sharing them with you all.

Mary E said...

Wow! Looks like you had a blast! :)

TashNz said...

Hi Anna, neat, I cant wait to sit down and read it, I'm hoping on Mothers Day (you know, when there's meant to be peace and quiet hahah).

TashNz said...

Thanks Annie, I cant wait to sit down and read it, I told Anna above that I hope to be able to sit down on Mothers Day, when there's supposed to be peace and quiet? Ha ha!

Anna Campbell said...

Msry, we had a lovely time. And the weather was kind to us which was nice as well.

Michelle Douglas said...

Hey, it's a date!

And you and Annie were so wonderfully vocal in your admiration of my tote bag...and about my discovery of the joys of sewing, that I went home quite convinced I would become the tote-bag-sewing-queen. :-)