Researching “Handpicked”

When I first began writing the third story in the Muller’s of McLaren Vale trilogy, I knew that it would be based around the grape harvest. Over the course of writing the books, based at the fictional winery of Muller’s Field, I have done a lot of research into how wine makes it from the grape to the bottle. It’s been a hard and exhausting few years of constant day trips down to the McLaren Vale wine region in order to get these stories absolutely correct. (Can you hear the sarcasm in my voice?) Nope, researching the wine regions was not a chore at all!

However, it wasn’t all about touring cellar doors and tasting as much wine as possible. As I write, the wine regions of South Australia are preparing for harvest 2017. Expensive machinery is being sourced, staff are working long hours and casual workers are being inducted to help with handpicking grapes the huge mechanical harvesters can’t reach.

Andrew, the youngest of the gorgeous Muller brothers, finds his love interest in childhood friend Taryn, who returns to Muller’s Field to help with the handpicking of the grapes. Taryn is a free-spirited drifter who follows the harvest trail around Australia, picking fruit in places like Kununurra, Gol Gol and Bourke.

To ensure I knew what my characters would be doing – in between fighting off their lust for one another – I dragged my friend (and Handpicked cover artist) Belinda out of bed before dawn in the cold March of 2014, and down to Yangarra Estate vineyard where they were mid-harvest. Yangarra Estate offers members the opportunity to be a part of the harvest and we joined the Yangarra crew and other volunteer members in handpicking several rows of the grenache. Yangarra Grenache bushes grow low to the ground, and can therefore not be picked by the mechanical harvester. Winemaker Peter Fraser and vineyard manager Michael Lane, gave great insights into the process of winemaking from grape to bottle as well as a tour of the winery. All in all, the day helped me to write “Handpicked” with as much accuracy as possible.

One of the best parts of the day, was being able to jump into a barrel of cold, sticky grenache grapes and do a little foot stomping. This fun, time-honoured vineyard tradition became one of my favourite scenes in “Handpicked”.

I know what you’re thinking: Yangarra are clever. Luring gullible city folk in to help them pick their grapes for free. Well that may be so, but the rewards for a few hours of picking included a fantastic brunch of locally sourced McLaren Vale morsels, and lots of lovely Yangarra Estate wines. And they had to endure my endless questions!

A year later, we were invited to return to Yangarra Estate and help bottle the wine made from the grapes we helped pick. We also got to sign the label as winemaker and purchase as much of the 2014 Small Pot Members Made Grenache as we wanted. Yes, sometimes research for an author can be arduous – this was not one of those times. Cheers! And below, enjoy some of the photos from the picking and bottling days and the links to buy my books are on the right menu of this page. Thanks!

Ain’t Love Grand!

The Romance Writers of Australia Conference 2016 held at the Stamford Grand, Glenelg in Adelaide has come and gone.

As usual this conference was a combination of head exploding “aha” moments, terrifying times of despondency that I am not doing enough to further my career, too much creative lubrication (read “massive amounts of South Aussie wines”- coz when in Rome? still drink South Aussie wine!) And the best part, . . .  the love and support of all the friends and talented and giving authors I have met over the last three years of attending conferences and being part of this fantastic Romance Writers of Australia organisation.

This year was busier than usual for me as not only did I pitch my finished Australian historical romance based around the Eureka Stockade to two publishers, running in and out of the fabulous story mastery session run by Michael Hauge – screenplay consultant to the Hollywood stars – shoving Tim Tams into my mouth or taking cleansing walks along the beach after each pitch to calm my poor nerves BUT, I also presented the “Microsoft Word Tips & Tricks for Authors” session.

Working as an IT Trainer in my average joe life prepared me for all the things that can go wrong on the day. Technology is a cruel mistress and she will mess you around at every opportunity. We had a few ups and downs but I think I managed to get across to the attendees what was important. Feedback was wonderful and thanks to those who made a special effort to come up to tell me so after the session, it is so appreciated.

But what wasn’t on the handouts I provided after the session (see below for links to said handouts) was this important author Microsoft Word tip: If you are going to submit your manuscripts to publishers, LEARN how to use TRACK CHANGES. Yes, Track Changes. That beast, that ugly red strikeout, blue underscore, purple formatting, delete, deleted, comments-in-the-margin-horror of a MS Word tool that we all despise, but that every author NEEDS to know. LEARN IT.  Am I wrong authors? It will save you much stress.

Anyway, I digress. I shall leave you with a few fun images of the weekend and since I had so many people request my notes when I put the opportunity out to Romance Writers of Australia members, I have decided to upload the notes from my “Microsoft Word Tips & Tricks for Authors” session here (both PC and mac). I hope that you find them useful if you are an aspiring author. They are tips that I use in my writing life and hope that perhaps some of them will make your life easier too.

Peace, love and may the muse be with you.

Microsoft Word Tips & Tricks for authors – PC version

Microsoft Word Tips & Tricks for Authors – mac version




Rural Romance Q&A with cousin Peter

When I was about eleven years old my cousin left his family in the Northern Territory and came to live with us while he attended high school in Adelaide.

Recently I caught up with him at my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. We got talking about books and I discovered that he is a rural romance fan. Naturally I put him onto my own rural romance novels and the Australian Rural Romance website.

Male readers of rural romance are most definitely out there and I think it is always interesting to get their perspective on what it is they love about the rural romance genre. So I asked Peter to join us on the Australian Rural Romance website and answer a few probing questions about family, life on the land and loving rural romance.

Read more here . . .