Tag Archives: Eleni Konstantine

THIS WRITING LIFE: Riding a Post RWA Conference High!

I’m home and back on the writing job after a week away in Western Australia at the 2013 Romance Writers of Australia Riding the Waves conference. What a ball was had! Romance writers are the kindest, friendliest and most generous people out there which makes conferences a hoot. They’re also hugely inspirational, loaded with wonderful craft and business information, and a fantastic way to connect with people who understand exactly how crazy this writing affliction can be. I always return from conferences more than a little bit excited and ready for action, which is just as well considering I have edits coming and a new book to write. This lark can’t all be flitting around Australia, hanging with glamorous authors…

I had hoped to share a pile of glossy, vibrant photos with you, but some numpty managed to upset the camera settings and half of them came out blurred. Sigh. Fortunately a few survived that I can present for your viewing pleasure.

Oh, and so you’re warned, this post is LONG!

Opening night on Thursday was Destiny Romance’s first birthday and, boy, was it loud. Plonk a hundred or so romance writers in a room, feed them cupcakes and bubbly, and you have a racket on your hands. But what a fun night, and what a delight to receive a fabulous Classic Penguin goodie bag at the end of it. Mine contained Anna Cowan’s much lauded Untamed and Peta Crake’s Harbinger, both of which I was thrilled to collect. Afterwards, Destiny Romance and Penguin Australia authors were treated to dinner at a very nice Italian restaurant and more chatter.

Margareta Osborn, me and Kathryn Ledson at the Destiny Party

Margareta Osborn, me and Kathryn Ledson at the Destiny Party

Carol George, Destiny Romance editor, welcoming and thanking everyone, and toasting Destiny's fabulous first year

Carol George, Destiny Romance editor, welcoming and thanking everyone, and toasting Destiny’s fabulous first year

Fab bag and even more fab reads thanks to Destiny Romance and Penguin Australia.

Gorgeous bag and even more gorgeous reads thanks to Destiny Romance and Penguin Australia.

Friday saw dedicated delegates attend either the Venus On The Half Shell workshop presented by Kim Hudson, or the Elizabeth Jolley Conference – Reading and Writing Romance in the 21st Century. Me? I snuck off and played golf at Joondalup Resort. What can I say? A girl has to wear off cupcakes, fizz and spaghetti vongole somehow, and the course was brilliant!

But I was back in time for the all-important Harlequin Nautical or Nice cocktail party. At my first RWA conference, back in 2007(?), hardly anyone dressed up. A feather boa here, a quirky outfit there, but mostly normal cocktail-conference dress. Now everyone’s into it and the atmosphere is fantastically silly.

Rural romance authors Fiona Palmer and Jennifer Scoullar.

Rural romance authors Fiona Palmer and Jennifer Scoullar.

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Ondine series author Ebony McKenna. You can show me to my berth anytime, Ebs!

Paula Roe as the world's most glittery desert island!

Paula Roe as the world’s most glittery desert island!

Rural romance author and good buddy looking super cute in her onesie!

Rural romance author and good buddy Rachael Johns looking super cute in her onesie!

Glam pirate Fiona Palmer

Glam pirate Fiona Palmer

Saturday morning saw the conference proper begin. Julia Quinn’s keynote address of her top 4 list of top 4 lists was wonderful and if there’s one thing I’ll forever remember from Riding the Waves it’s her saying: You will never hurt your career by helping another author. Yeah.

Harlequin’s sponsor address followed with Margaret Marbury (Vice President, Harlequin Single Title – HQN, Mira, Luna) and Sheila Hodgson (Harlequin Mills and Boon, London) talking enthusiastically about eHarlequin, their range of imprints, and what Harlequin can offer authors.

Paths to Third Party Publication saw Abby Zidle (Simon & Schuster, New York), Nina Bruhns (Entangled Publishing), Sheila Hodgson, Bernadette Foley (Hachette Australia), Kate Cuthbert (Escape Publishing), Alisa Krasnostein (Twelfth Planet Press), and moderator Alex Adsett (Alex Adsett Publishing Services) take the stage to discuss how to submit to publishers and what they’re looking for. My impression was that they were all hungry for your work. Really hungry, and throughout the panel I kept thinking what a great time it was to be an author. We are wanted, no longer beholden and we have options. A lot of options.

Shelia Hodgson, Alex Zidle, Nina Bruhns, Alisa Kradnostein, Bernadette Foley and Kate Cuthbert

L to R: Alex Adsett (moderating), Shelia Hodgson, Alex Zidle, Nina Bruhns, Alisa Kradnostein, Bernadette Foley and Kate Cuthbert

Morning tea: bacon and egg muffins and pastries. Enough said!

For my first breakout session I did Nina Bruhns’s session on Save the Cat! which I loved. She talked about the 10 types of movies (fascinating stuff), loglines and why you need them, and Blake Snyder’s Beat Sheets for plotting. Really useful stuff and some of the worksheets are available on Blake’s website under the Tools tab. Quite a few writers I know swear by his Save the Cat! book and after the amount I got out of this session I’ve decided to join the crowd and have just ordered it.

Nina Bruhns presenting her Save the Cat! workshop

Nina Bruhns presenting her Save the Cat! workshop

I loved Nina’s “when you’re stuck” tip, which I’ve heard a few times before but it never hurts to hear these things again. If you’ve come to a standstill, make a list of 10, 20 or more different things that could happen in your book. Be outrageous, take the editor off your shoulder and just brainstorm. It doesn’t matter if they’re clichéd or unrealistic, write them down. The more you list the more likely you are to come up with something fresh and unexpected to brighten and intrigue your reader. I’m testing this right now as I broaden the plot outline of my next rural romance and have already come up with a couple of good ideas.

For breakout session two I moderated the Shark In Your Story panel (which for some daft reason I couldn’t stop thinking of as the Jump The Shark panel) with Helene Young, Shannon Curtis and Bronwyn Parry. As you’d expect from ladies so highly acclaimed for their romantic suspense novels, the panel was full of fascinating titbits, especially when it came to crafting great villains (Shannon likes to get her freak on; Bronwyn tends to get her ideas for villains from the news). I wish it had gone on longer but there was lunch and more chattering to be had!

The Shark in Your Story panel L to R: Shannon Curtis, Helene Young and Bronwyn Parry

The Shark in Your Story panel L to R: Shannon Curtis, Helene Young and Bronwyn Parry

For breakout three, I joined best-selling historical romance author Anne Gracie and a round table of published authors to discuss business. Again, I wish we had longer because I feel like we barely skimmed the surface, especially when it came to rights and contracts. These are issues authors can never know enough about. Maybe next year in Sydney, when author day returns, we’ll get to talk about the business side of writing a bit more.

Thanks to the Australian Romance Readers Association we had another authorfest on Saturday afternoon with an ARRA booksigning event. 50+ authors seated in the one room with their books for sale and pens poised for signings.  Not quite as loud as the Destiny Party, but close! I sat between paranormal and fantasy romance author Kylie Griffin and best-selling author of The Girl in Steel-Capped Boots (and others) Loretta Hill. Kylie’s books sold like crazy which was delightful to see, and I was seriously chuffed to do a few signings myself. I don’t think I’ll ever get over that thrill. It’s something very special.

All action at the ARRA booksigning

All action at the ARRA booksigning

Amy Andrews came prepared...

Amy Andrews came prepared…

Ebony McKenna brought her ferret, Fiona MacArthur only needed her charming self.

Ebony McKenna brought her ferret, Fiona McArthur only needed her charming self.

Eleni Konstantine wearing her conference team hat. Sweet!

Eleni Konstantine wearing her conference team hat. Sweet!

Me!

Me!

Elise Ackers. An author to watch!

Elise Ackers. An author to watch!

Oof, those romantic suspense types... Helene Young with Bronwyn Parry.

Oof, those romantic suspense types… Helene Young with Bronwyn Parry.

Jennifer Kloester with Juanita Kees

Jennifer Kloester with Juanita Kees

Paranormal and fantasy romance author Kylie Griffin.

Kylie Griffin. There weren’t many of those books left by the end.

Harlequin Romance author Michelle Douglas with historical author Michelle Diener

Harlequin Romance author Michelle Douglas with historical author Michelle Diener. I was thrilled to score Michelle Diener’s kindly donated raffle prize, complete with pretty bookmarks, and look forward to sinking my nose into her stories.

Visiting US author Maisey Yates with Rachael Johns

Visiting US author Maisey Yates with Rachael Johns

Then it was out for dinner and a frock up before returning to the Esplanade Hotel for dessert and the RWA’s Awards Gala, where there was much applauding and cheering for our contest and RuBY winners, and where I was delighted to see Bronwyn Jameson awarded life membership of the RWA. So well deserved. Then we had… dancing! I tell you, these romance girls (and boys) know how to rock on.

A glamorous night awaits!

A glamorous night awaits…

...with desserts. Lots of desserts!

…with desserts. Lots of desserts!

The rural romance girls!

The rural romance girls.

Amanda Knight with Bronwyn Parry

Amanda Knight with Bronwyn Parry

Rachael Johns and Beck Nicholas

Rachael Johns and Beck Nicholas

Harlequin Sexy author and hot sheik expert Annie West with best-selling historical romance author Christina Brooke

Harlequin Sexy and Presents author and hot sheikh expert Annie West with best-selling historical romance author Christina Brooke

Kat Mayo with Alex Adsett

Kat Mayo with Alex Adsett

Me and Fiona McArthur

Me and Fiona McArthur

Those romance gals sure know how to boogie!

Those romance gals sure know how to boogie!

Found resting their dancing feet in the Esplanade Hotel's bar afterward: Jennifer St George and Amy Andrews

Found resting their dancing feet in the Esplanade Hotel’s bar afterward: Jennifer St George and Amy Andrews…

...Christina Brooke and many others. Glam ladies with stamina!

…Christina Brooke and many others. Glam ladies with stamina!

Sunday morning. Ahh, yes, a few bleary eyes can be seen, but all in good cause: ie fun. Harlequin’s second sponsor address followed and my heart was all a-flutter at Kate Cuthbert’s news that Escape’s Australian-set rural romances are doing well in the US. Could this be the start of an Aussie invasion? I hope so!

Then the scary Submission Island panel with Margaret Marbury, Abby Zidle, Laura Bradford (Bradford Literary Agency), Nina Bruhns, Joel Naoum (PanMacmillan/Momentum) and Alex Adsett. Manuscript openings were read out and the panel held up STOP signs when they’d heard enough. Wow. Just… wow. If you ever needed a show of how hard it is to hook an editor or agent then this is it. But what also sank in for me was how subjective opinions are when it comes to manuscripts. Some panellists dropped out early, others hung on to the last. Sometimes there was a point where a few would be put off by the same sentence or paragraph and cards would flip up all at once. Overall, it was a insightful demonstration of how authors not only have to have thick skins, but tenacity too. Keep trying. Just because one or two agents or editors don’t like your work, that doesn’t mean there isn’t someone out there who’d love it.

Survivor: Submission Island with L to R: Margaret Marbury, Abby Zidle, Laura Bradford, Nina Bruhns, Joel Naoum and Alex Adsett

Survivor: Submission Island with L to R: Margaret Marbury, Abby Zidle, Laura Bradford, Nina Bruhns, Joel Naoum and Alex Adsett

I did Anne Gracie’s The Power of Detail for my first Sunday breakout session and enjoyed it immensely. Anne is a passionate speaker, with a real knack for getting information across in a way that resonates, and I walked away with excellent tips on how to bring the particular and every person together in my writing.

For the post lunch breakout I attended the self publishing panel with Cathleen Ross, Nina Bruhns and Kandy Shepherd. As with all the other panels, this contained more gems of insight from highly experienced authors, from the importance of meta-data, to advertising, to making sure that your books look as professional as traditionally published editions, and beyond. Given the attendance and range of questions, I suspect there’ll be even more on self-publishing at next year’s conference.

Self publishing panel with L to R: Kandy Shepherd, Cathleen Ross and Nina Bruhns

Self publishing panel with L to R: Kandy Shepherd, Cathleen Ross and Nina Bruhns

My last session was a free-for-all chat with Julia Quinn where delegates could ask her anything. I was so pleased to hear she was an edit-as-you-go writer too, because that’s how I work and I can’t help feeling that it somehow lets me down productivity wise. Doesn’t look like it’s hurt Julia!

Those that attended the Navigating the Choppy Waters of Online Reviews panel with Sarah Wendell (Smart Bitches, Trashy Books), Kat Mayo (Bookthingo and Booktopia) and Kate Cuthbert said that was worth attending too, offering plenty of cautionary advice about social networking and online communities.

We closed the conference with plenary addresses from Kim Hudson and Sarah Wendell, more raffles (I won something, rah!), the announcement of next year’s conference venue (Romance Rocks at the Novotel Sydney Olympic Park, double rah!) and Anne Gracie’s now traditional stand-ups where we celebrate all our achievements for the year (rah, rah, rah!).

After that, it was back to the bar for more chatter, a few drinks and farewells.

L to R: Fiona McArthur, Anne Gracie, Kaz Delaney, Bronwyn Jameson, Alison Stuart and Melanie Milburne

L to R: Fiona McArthur, Anne Gracie, Kaz Delaney, Bronwyn Jameson, Alison Stuart and Melanie Milburne

To the Riding the Waves conference committee and the RWA, I say thank you and bravo. Wonderful, wonderful conference and I can’t wait to do it again next year. So much so I’ve even put my hand up to help.

So now I’m home, furiously plotting when all I really want to do is soak up the glorious weather we’re having and snuggle down on the patio with a book from my RWA haul. But where-oh-where is a girl to start when she has all these beauties on offer?

Books

 

 

 

Rising to the challenge!

Earlier in the year I signed up for the Australian Women Writers Challenge, with the goal to read at least 10 books by Australian female authors this year. By mid-Feb, when I did my last update, I’d read four. Ten was looking easy. Then I managed to get a bit distracted and didn’t read any for a few months, but lately I’ve been back on the job, reading some wonderful Aussie authors, and discovering some great new voices.Australian Women Writers Challenge 2013 logo

Added to my read list are:

The stand-outs were The Secret Keeper (Kate Morton is such a wonderful storyteller), These Haunted Hearts (I adore Anna’s lush historical romances and this one, with a bonus ghost story, was gorgeous!), and Ask Me To Stay (Elise Ackers is a new author to me and one I’ll be reading again. I loved this story and she has an unique voice that I really warmed to).

I’ve been a bit naughty-good on the book buying front lately and have plenty more books by Australian authors loaded in my e-reader. I haven’t reached my goal yet (and do novellas and short stories count?) but I’m confident I will. Mind you, a nice long lazy holiday with plenty of reading time wouldn’t go astray, and it’d rather help if I could finish my own book, but that (I hope) is for later in the year. Anyway, this is meant to be a challenge!

How about you? Read any wonderful Australian female authors lately that you want to tell everyone about?

 

FRIDAY FEAST with Eleni Konstantine

Ahh, Fridays. I just adore them. After a big week writing there’s something completely satisfying about turning my brain (and belly) to some feasty goodness. And what feasty goodness we have in store!EleniK

This week I’m absolutely delighted to introduce a new guest to Friday Feast. Adelaide writer Eleni Konstantine is not only a talented author and designer, she’s also a total sweetheart. But if her paranormal and fantasy romances are anything to go by, it appears she also harbours a deep dark side. Probably developed form all those wonderful fairytales her mother gave her when she was young, along with her great love for Greek mythology.

Eleni’s latest release is Sealed With A Kiss. Take a look.

 

SEALED WTH A KISS

 

SealedwithAKiss_smCan a gift from her grandmother protect Lise? 

Lise doesn’t believe in vampires. Or so she tells herself. Though, she constantly wears the garnet necklace her grandmother gave her, which wards off the creatures. Andreas, the man she’s attracted to, seems more than a little interested in it. Could there be an ulterior motive?

Intrigued? I am! Thanks to the joy of ebooks, you could have your own copy with just a quick clickety-click. Visit Smashwords where you can download a file for any ereader format, from Kindle to Kobo to your iPad, and others. You can even read it on your computer. Easy!

 

And now, prepare your tastebuds for Eleni.

 

 

Mana’s Pastitio

I love food. Seriously. I’m not one of these people who only views it as substance. After all, why does food taste so good if this was to be the case?! Lucky for me, food is paramount in the culture I grew up in. And I have a mum (mana or mama in Greek) who loves to cook and experiment as well. Lucky me!

But today, I’m going to bring you one of the traditional dishes I grew up with.

Pastitio.

What is pastitio? It’s Greek and is sort of like a mousaka but instead of putting potato and eggplant (aubergine), you have pasta.

There are three layers traditionally

  1. Pasta – bottom layer
  2. Mince sauce
  3. Béchamel sauce (white sauce) – top

But we mix up the bottom two layers.

You will find variations on the web, but this is the one that always makes my mouth water no matter what. I had to pin my mum down for this as she does this off the cuff and changes according to the size of the casserole dish.

The following is for a dish 30cm x 40cm

pastitio

Ingredients

  • 500gm pasta of your choice. We usually go for penne as it mixes with the mince layer really well. Fat spaghetti is lovely as well.
  • 7 eggs  (3 egg whites, lightly beaten for mince/pasta layer; the remainder egg yellows will go in the béchamel  (white) sauce) and 4 eggs in béchamel sauce.
  • 7 cups milk
  • 6 tablespoons melted salted butter
  • 250gms (1 cup) of cornflour
  • 1 teaspoon of nutmeg
  • salt
  • white pepper
  • grated dried ricotta cheese or Parmesan (to sprinkle on top of the white sauce)
  • 800-1kg mince – we usually do a mixture of Pork and Beef. But you can really have what you like.
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion (whatever type) – grated
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • 1 can diced tomato (or you can put the ready made pasta sauce instead of the diced tomato and tomato paste)
  • ½ cup chopped parsley (continental)
  • 1- 1½ cups water
  • 7 heaped tablespoons corn flour
  • 8 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese or dried ricotta cheese (or a mixture of both)

The mince layer

–          Heat up oil and fry up mince until brown.

–          Add onion and stir

–          Add tomato paste and diced tomato. Stir

–          Add ¾ teaspoon nutmeg.

–          Add salt and pepper to taste.

–          Add chopped parsley

–          Stir until there is little to no liquid left.

–          Take off heat and put to side.

The Pasta layer

–          boil the pasta so it’s al dente. Tip 1: add a few drops of extra virgin olive oil;  Tip 2: when you add the pasta, add some salt to taste.

–          strain pasta

Combining layers

–          Mix the meat sauce and the pasta together.

–          Add the 7 tablespoons of the cheese(s)

–          Add  3 lightly beaten egg whites into mixture and stir.

–          Butter or oil a casserole dish (we use Pyrex) before use.

–          Pour mixture above into casserole dish and flatten out to cover the bottom of the dish.

–          Leave for 10 minutes (basically leave when making the White Sauce)

White sauce

–          Place 6 cups of milk, a pinch of white pepper, ¼ teaspoon with melted butter into saucepan to boil.

–          As this is heating, add into a bowl, the remainder eggs (4 whole + 3 yellows), 1 cup of milk and corn flour and whisk until the corn flour is absorbed.

–          Add the bowl’s ingredients into the saucepan and stir until the milk froths.

–          If there  are lumps in your white sauce, you can sift it through to make it more smooth.

–          Add white sauce to the casserole dish. Spread out.

The Finish

–          Add some dried grated ricotta cheese or Parmesan cheese to top of mixture

–          Put in oven at 180 Celsius(356 Fahrenheit) for an hour.

–          Let it rest for 10 minutes when you take it out of the oven.

–          Cut into how large you want your pieces to be, and serve.

–          A Greek village salad makes a good side dish.

 

Thanks, Eleni, for sharing this wonderful family dish. I’m a huge fan of Greek food and will definitely being giving this one a go. It’ll be perfect for a wintery night snuggle-in.

Now, my lovely Feasters, is there a dish or a food that you go back to again and again? Eleni would love to know. In fact, she’d love to know so much that she’s giving away an ebook copy of Sealed With A Kiss to one lucky commenter.

My go-to food is a fresh rice noodle dish made with chilli bean paste and pork that I adapted from a Neil Perry recipe that was featured in a Gourmet Traveller several years back. It’s hot, healthy, fast and luscious to eat. A household favourite.

So share away and you could win yourself a short tasty read!

Giveaway closes midnight AEST, Tuesday 21st May 2013. Open internationally. Rah!

If you’d like to learn more about Eleni and her stories, please visit her website. You can also connect via her Eleni’s Taverna blog.

 

This giveaway has now closed. Congratulations to Jenny who has won a copy of Eleni’s Sealed With A Kiss. Thanks to all who visited and left comments. Always lovely to see you. Hope you all enjoy your pastitio!