Feb 15, 2012

Taking a Second Look - Annie West

Reading: "Warped" YA by Maurissa Guibord
Watching: "Zen" English/Italian TV crime show
Listening To: Baby Magpies' scratchy warbling
Making Me Smile: Our old dog getting used to her fabulous new ultra-padded bed

Hi everyone! I'm thrilled to make my first post as a genuine Love Cat. I suppose that means I should be talking about memorable firsts but what's on my mind are seconds. Second opinions, second looks, second time around.

It's struck me how much a creature of habit I am. I see familiar sights as I drive around town. I cook meals I know well so I don't have to spend too much time in the kitchen. Though I experiment, it's not as often as I'd like. I enjoy being comfortable with friends in places we all know and enjoy. I like to grab books similar to ones I've read before. There's comfort in the familiar, isn't there?

But I've been making a conscious attempt to break a few habits and shake things up a little. Along with that I've found myself taking a second look around me. It's interesting what you see when you take time to really look rather than see what you expect.

Take this. Isn't it the most amazing design? It stopped me in my tracks. Having visited Egypt a few times I noticed immediately the Egyptian influence. That column wouldn't look out of place somewhere on the Nile. Maybe in a recreation of a palace or temple. And as for the amazing tiered uplights - not ancient Egyptian but something else entirely. I'm betting Art Deco. When you take a wider view (below) including the rows of windows, it definitely takes on a new perspective.

And where is this elaborate architectural treat? In downtown Sydney. I recently spent a couple of days in central Sydney but instead of scurrying between appointments, or being caught up in serious shopping, as usually happens, I had time to stroll and actually take a second look at some of the places I thought I knew well.

This building is in Martin Place (ideally situated between Paspaley Pearls and the Lindt Cafe - need I say more?). I've walked past it so often and never bothered to peep inside because I was in a rush. But this is so gorgeous I'm tempted to use it in a book. What a shame I'm not writing a 1920s set mystery...

Then a little later that day I was crossing a road and looked up. This is what I saw - another elaborate Art Deco piece tucked away just above eyesight. To my shame I admit this was on a building just a block from the high rise office where I used to work. Did I mention I used to scurry a lot? I wonder how much I missed seeing by not taking time for a second look?

I'm sure it won't surprise you to learn that I spent the rest of that holiday taking a whole new look at places and things I thought I knew well. Amazing what you see when you really look. Maybe it's the pace of life or maybe we just get lazy coping with everything we have on our 'to do' list to appreciate what's before our eyes and value the surprises just waiting to be found.

Now I think about it, that's what I do instinctively when I'm writing or planning a book. I look and then look again. I think a little and then try to delve deeper. That's how I come to know my characters. The more often I look the more they surprise me with details it seems my subconscious must have already known (since they fit perfectly into their motivation) but at first glance I hadn't recognised. The more I look the more I find - or, it seems, the more they tell me. For they have become real people, and just like the real people I meet every day, they have hidden depths I'd miss if I didn't take a second look.

How about you? Are you ever surprised by what you discover when you take a second look? Do you have a tendency to rush and maybe miss some of the wonderful things around you? Or are you someone who's trained themselves to look and look again? Have you discovered wonderful things? I'd be fascinated to know if taking another look has ever been particularly important to you (like the time my mother took a second look at the branch on a path and realised just in the nick of time it was a death adder). Some of those moments can change your life.

As I feel in party mode with my first post, I'll give away a signed copy of GIRL IN THE BEDOUIN TENT to someone chosen at random from those who comment. It's a March release in North America and you can read all about it on my website.


  1. Annie, I'm laughing at you being a love cat! It's not exactly how I've thought of you over the years. What a lovely post. I agree that we all need to take time to wander. Sometimes we just see where we're headed to and pay no attention to the journey. I love discovering a new place by just wandering aimlessly and seeing what I see. No particular expectations or intentions. Best way to learn about a place, I find. And how lucky the winner of GIRL IN THE BEDOUIN TENT will be. It really is a gorgeous story!

  2. Hi Anna,

    I'm not sure whether to be miffed that you can't see me as a Love Cat! (G). I'll try to live up to expectations.

    You're so right about the value of wandering aimlessly. Some of my most memorable experiences have happened when I did that - but always when I'm on holidays. I suppose it's the only time I have the luxury of wandering, or occasionally on weekends.

    Thanks for comment on Cassie and Amir's story. It was such a delight to write it's nice thinking of that translating into a good book. Actually, I've just woken to the news it's one a CataRomance Reviewers' Choice Award. I'll have to check out the other winners too.

  3. Argh - still half asleep. I meant to write 'won' not 'one'. Sorry.

  4. Congratulations, Annie! You well and truly deserve that award for this great story!

  5. Ah, thanks, Anna. I must say I'm absolutely thrilled. It's a wonderful way to start the day.

  6. Annie, huge congratulations on your CataRomance Reviewers' Choice Award!

    This is a great post and I couldn't agree more! Taking the time to meander and really appreciate our surroundings can be so rewarding - and in your mum's case, LIFE-SAVING! Thank goodness she didn't just reach down to move that "stick" out of the way!

    I do like the columns you "found". There are treasures everywhere - we just have to look. Your blog is a timely reminder for us to do just that!

  7. Fabulous to see you arrive as a new Lovecat, Annie and huge congratulations on your cataromance award. Great omens for a good year to come.

  8. Hi Annie --
    Great first post! Love the pictures. After I read "Lindt Cafe" my brain got stuck on chocolate. I could give the Lindt Cafe a second look any day (and have been known to do just that when visiting Sydney) (-:

    Congrats on the award!

  9. Hi Annie, I'm wondering if you had to undergo an initiation ceremony to join the LoveCats? Lap milky tea from a bowl? Demonstrate a series of different "meows" for different social situations, ranging from watching birds to demanding dinner?
    Seriously, it's nice to see you see you here. Congratulations on your CataRomance award, what a thrill to wake up to that news!
    I love your thoughtful post--I'm as guilty as you were for taking the beauty of Sydney's old buildings for granted.
    Sometimes I've done the same thing with people. Thought someone was nice enough but it wasn't until I sat down and really talked to them--maybe the second, third or even fourth time I met them--that I realized how special they were.

  10. Many congratulations on your Cataromance Reviewer's Choice Award, Annie. I loved Girl in a Bedouin Tent -- it was so wonderfully lush!

    Loved your post too -- it's reminded me to slow down and to take in the sights. I used to do that a lot and now it only seems to happen on holidays.

    Hmm...the Lindt cafe, huh? Shall dream happy dreams for the rest of the day. :-)

  11. Hi Annie - huge congratulations on your cataromance win!
    I love your post. I live by the sea and only this morning was walking one of my dogs along the path by the water and stopped to watch the waves on the rocks - thinking how such a simple thing can be so moving. Sometimes taking in a sunset, listening to the sea, hearing rain on the roof can make even the most blah days turn around into something special.
    And watch out for those slithering 'sticks'.
    And welcome again to LoveCats. :)

  12. Hi Annie - lovely post and mega congrats on the cataromance award - well deserved :)

    I too am guilty of running around and not looking around. In Sydney recently, I did happen to notice some beautiful architecture around Darlinghurst.

    We're all so busy and taking the time to walk slowly and look around is a luxury. But after reading your post I think I'll have to make time every once in awhile to stop, slow down and look around :)

  13. Annie, YAY on your Cataromance Award!! It seems people all over the place agree your books are fabulous.

    Second Looks: I love a second read of a favourite book - I often find extra layers and fun stuff that I missed the first time. The Harry Potters were great for that - clues that were meant to be skimmed over and their importance only realised when you knew what would follow.

  14. Hi, Annie! Congrats on your award and on your first LoveCats post. I'm crazy about Art Deco.
    I'll have to slow down and take a closer look at Martin Place. It's so easy to miss what's right in front of you when you're rushing around.

    No need to enter in me in the draw to win your fabulous Girl in the Bedouin Tent as I already have a copy. :)

  15. Ooh, finally back after a day out and I see there are lots of comments here. Can't wait to read what you all have to say

  16. Hi Sharon,

    Yes, I'm glad too that mum noticed the stick in the path was one of those ugly beasts (apologies to any passing herpatologists).

    I'm so pleased you liked the columns too. I was completely in awe when I saw them. Goodness knows how I hadn't noticed them before.

  17. Hi Zana and thank you for the welcome. Ooh, I hadn't thought in terms of omens for the year ahead. I like that idea. Thank you.

  18. Hi Anna, it's not hard to get stuck at the Lindt Cafe, is it? Actually, we didn't visit that one on this particular trip (though we did just sneak into the Darling Harbour one for quick refreshment). Hard to resist aren't they? Thanks for the congratulations

  19. Hi Kandy, I'm so glad it's not just me. Some people just improve the more you know them, don't they? I've given up trying to assess someone first time round.

    As for the beauty of Sydney's buildings - I always have a good time in central Melbourne looking up. There are some fantastic buildings there that have escaped the developers.

    Hm, well, don't mention to the others the idea of an initiation please. They were pretty lenient with me!

  20. Hi Michelle, how lovely to have Cassie and Amir's story described as lush. That's made me smile.

    I'm glad you've had pleasant day dreams about the Lindt Cafe today. I'll have to remember to mention chocolate to you more often.

  21. Hi, Annie! Congrats on award and first LoveCats post ;).

  22. Hm, I've just had a lovely email from Anita Joy whose having trouble posting here. Coincidentally she's told me about being in Melbourne and getting told to 'look up' to see the fabulous buildings most people miss.

  23. Hi Helen, and thanks so much for the welcome and the congratulations. Isn't walking by the sea the best thing? I always feel rejuvenated after that - as if everything has been put into perspective.

  24. Hi Joanne, it's lovely to see you here. I'm glad I may have inspired you to take a little more time about things. It's something I really have to force myself to do, unless I'm in holiday mode and that's precisely what I want to do. Thanks for your lovely comments.

  25. Oh, Rachel, you say the nicest things. Thank you!

    I can't agree more about a second read of a good book - you pick up so much more and savour some of the things you barely noticed the first time around. I saw a film recently that I know I want to go back to revisit so I can try to catch a lot more of the secondary action.

  26. Hi Vanessa, maybe we can get together one day and have an Art Deco appreciation session. I had a marvellous time in Paris last year at the Museum of Decorative Arts looking at all their Art Deco furnishings. Sigh.

    How nice that you've already got a copy of Cassie and Amir's story. Hope it was fun.

  27. Hi Eli,

    Waving back to you. Thanks so much for the congratulations. They're both very exciting!

  28. I had an experience where not taking a second look worked out much better. I turned up the wrong day for a job interview. A week early in fact. I misread the letter they had sent. I took note of the day of the week rather than the date. They were not expecting me, but thought I was so keen & eager, I got the job.

  29. Oh, Marybelle, how amazing! What a lovely story. How terrific it turned out well, when I suppose you must have felt deflated when you discovered you'd gone there in error. I do enjoy a story with a happy ending! Thanks for sharing.

  30. Hey Annie

    Nice to see you are now officially a LoveCat!

    Congratulations on your CataRomance Reviewers' Choice Award! Brilliant!!!

    I tend to rush around all the time too - but I have a son who notices everything so when I am with him, I have to slow-down and really look at things.

    Bye 4 now

  31. Hi Tina, thanks for the warm welcome and the congratulations.

    Aren't children terrific for making you take notice of what's around you? You see the world in a whole new light sometimes.

  32. Congratulations on the award Annie!

    I've just finished reading Girl in the Bedouin Tent, and was very sad when it finished. I loved it!

    There have been endless nights where I've still been awake at 1am reading the book!

    Amir is hot, hot, hot, and Cassie is a strong and sassie character. I warmed to both of them immediately.

    Those photos are amazing. I haven't been to Sydney for over 15 years, and can't recall even going to Martin Place, but here about it all the time.

    (Don't put me in the draw since I already have your wonderful book!)

  33. Annie, what a great post! I don't rush, rush, rush so much anymore - down to one child at school lol. But I know I focus too much on certain things without stopping to enjoy what's around me. I wonder...does it take more effort to slow down and absorb or less?
    That story about the snake is priceless!!!

  34. Wow, Cheryl, thanks for the lovely wrap for 'Girl in the Bedouin Tent'! I'm immensely pleased to hear you enjoyed it so much. Sorry to hear you're up late but pleased to here it's in a good cause (getting an appreciation of Amir!).

    Well, if you manage to get into Martin Place, take time to walk slowly and look in the buildings while you pass. Some of them look drab from the outside but it's a different story behind the stone and glass. And of course, there's always the Lindt Cafe. It bears mentioning again!

  35. Robbie,

    Well, personally, I don't think death adders look much like sticks as they're so chunky, but the people who walked over it before her obviously did. Maybe the fact it had woken up helped alert her...

    I don't think slowing down takes more effort but it does take conscious thought. Once I'm in the mindset though, it's fantastic!

  36. Just in case you didn't see the next post - the winner of GIRL IN THE BEDOUIN TENT book giveaway is Tina C! Just contact me at annie@annie-west.com Tina with your postal address and I'll send you the book.

    It's been lovely chatting. Thanks, everyone!