Tag Archives: Writing Craft

This Writing Life: The Book Bible

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When it comes to creating a new book, my book bibles are the most precious things imaginable. They’re not always pretty – in fact, they usually end up looking decidedly tatty – but I protect mine like bejewelled medieval manuscripts.

Last Tuesday, I handed in my 2018 book to my publisher (rah!). There’s still a long process ahead – revisions, line and copy edits, proof reading and more – but the hard slog is done. Although labelling that book a slog is a gross injustice; I loved every paragraph and cannot wait for it to hit shelves.

With that book delivered, it’s time to focus on the next, and this is where my book bibles come in.

What Is A Book Bible?

Every author has a different process when it comes to writing, so I can only speak for myself. The way I operate is that I get struck by a brilliant idea (usually at the most inconvenient time, like when I’m up to my neck in another project and can’t afford to be distracted by this shiny, sparkly new thing) and before it goes flittering off into the universe to be snatched up by some other author, I write it down. Sometimes all I have is a hook or a brief premise, other times it’ll be a synopsis, covering the entire plot, and occasionally it’s as vague as just a character or setting. It varies.

Examples of initial ideas, currently pinned to my white board.

Examples of initial ideas, currently pinned to my whiteboard. Apologies for the pixilation, but I don’t want anyone pinching them!

Now, if the idea has real legs I’ll keep thinking about it and make more notes. Then I’ll either slide these notes into a folder or keep them together with a bulldog clip, and then file that into one of the nooks I keep for this purpose.

My ideas nook.

One of my ideas nooks.

If I’m feeling really excited, I might order some non-fiction books for research or start reading novels with similar themes. I might start actively hunting for newspaper and magazine articles too, and photos of scenery or characters.

If this continues long enough, and my thrill over the idea doesn’t wane, then it’s clear the story is a definite go-er and one I’m going to write. At which point I start a book bible.

What Does A Book Bible Look Like?

Well, like this:

Book bibles for Rocking Horse Hill

The book bibles for my rural set romance Rocking Horse Hill

Yeah, I know. Hardly exciting, is it? But it is, believe me, because contained in these books is everything important to the story I’m going to write.

Mine contain everything from those initial notes, to photographs, draft paragraphs, character outlines, settings, research, name lists… all sorts of weird and wonderful things. They end up loaded with information and scribbles, but apart from draft scenes and names, much of what they contain never makes it into the final book. That’s not the book bible’s point. Its point is to be a kind of stimulus, a physical thing that acts as reminder of all that made me passionate about the story idea in the first place.

Basically…

Book bibles are vessels of inspiration.

To give you a better idea, here are sample pages from a few of my book bibles, some published and some still in progress. As you can see, they’re loaded with all sorts of things.

Pages from RACING HEARTS' book bible

Pages from RACING HEARTS’ book bible with photographs of its setting. I was going to set this in Dunkeld but have since changed my mind.

Pages from THE FALLS book bible

Pages from THE FALLS book bible – the hero Lucas is a farrier, hence the newspaper article, and the blue sticky note is an important moment between the hero and heroine that I felt really strongly about but never made it into the final book.

From RACING HEARTS book bible

From RACING HEARTS’ book bible. One of the characters is a specialist cheesemaker.

Scribblings from CHASING MISCHIEF's book bible

Scribblings from CHASING MISCHIEF’s book bible

Notes and brainstorming for RACING HEARTS

Scene ideas for RACING HEARTS

Another exampled from THE FALLS

Another example from my book bible for THE FALLS – the inspiration for Dominic’s flash beachside apartment.

I used to use softcover books but they tend to fall apart so I’ve swapped to using hardcover sketch books. Much nicer.

Not Every Book Needs A Book Bible

Stories are weird things. Sometimes my passion for them is so strong they just pour out. April’s Rainbow was one of those for me, as was Santa and the Saddler and Wayward Heart. Novellas tend to not need book bibles because they’re shorter and less complex, and I make do with a document wallet stuffed with notes. These usually contain scribbled scenes and character name lists, and must-fixes for second drafts.

The document file for SANTA AND THE SADDLER

The document file for SANTA AND THE SADDLER

Stories are also strange in that – for me – they form at different rates. I have piles and piles of ideas, many of which I adore and feel strongly about, but not all are ready to be written and some might never be. But if a story has made it to the book bible stage, then there’s an excellent chance it will.

Some Stories Demand Special Attention

I have a couple of non-romance/romantic elements ideas I’ve been churning over for a while now, one of which has just made it from the folder-of-scrappy-papers to the book bible stage. But this particular idea is so special, so different, so make-me-hug-myself-with-glee-brilliant, that I’ve decided it needs a book bible to reflect that.

This is going to be my book bible for Briarcliffe, complete with a matching fountain pen for extra inspiration. Gorgeous, isn’t it? I bet you’re intrigued as to what this one could be about. Sorry, not telling!

My extra-special book bible for BRIARCLIFFE

My extra-special book bible for BRIARCLIFFE

As I said in the opening, with my manuscript delivered, it’s time to start a new one, and that means sifting through my collection of stories that have made it to the book bible stage and seeing which one calls the strongest. Easy-peasy, yes? Err, no. The problem I have at the moment is: they’re all calling.

The examples above are just a few of the stories I have on the go. I have a giant list of books that have made the folder or book bible stage, and every one is a contender.

Which will win? Stay tuned!

THIS WRITING LIFE: The End Is Nigh (or perhaps not)

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Breaking News - Author Cathryn Hein has NOT finished her book

Today was meant to be the day.

It’s not.

My book, my (untitled) work-in-progress, my current obsession, still isn’t done.

No triumphant typing of THE END, no running around the house in my trakky daks with my arms in the air squeeing like a banshee, only to screech even harder and retreat to my office in horror as I clock the poor, neglected mess that is my house. No cracking a bottle of fizz. No cooking of celebratory naughty food.

Just my bum back in my chair and my fingers on the keyboard.

I don’t know what it’s like for other authors, but when I get near the end of a work-in-progress I’m usually pounding the keys like there’s no tomorrow. By this point the story that I’ve dedicated half a year to, perhaps more, just wants to burst out. And out it usually comes in a great deluge of emotion and (very often) bawling on my part, because for the last however many thousands of words my characters have been tearing their hearts apart and now, NOW, there’s a chance it could be all right. Except then their HORRIBLE author throws them a googly and it all goes wrong, and unless they find their inner strengths and hearts, all will be lost.

Writing this bit—the black moment and denouement—is emotional and wonderful and the best fun ever, and I’m currently smack in the middle of it when I’d expected to be at the end.

As I’m (still!) learning, every book is its own beast, and this work-in-progress is no different.

This book is slow.

It started out that way too, defying every effort, every trick I could conjure up to speed it along only to ignore me totally and continue doing its snail thing. Now it’s ending exactly the way it started. Perhaps I should have anticipated that, but I didn’t.

I admit that I’m frustrated. I’m so desperate for these two gorgeous characters to achieve their happy ever after it’s killing me, but I’m also filled with joy because being with these two is a genuine delight. I know they’re fictional, I know they’re products of my imagination, but sharing their lives, their love, feels like a privilege.

This book is also proving to be long. I’ve just written a chapter 40. I have never written a chapter 40. Never. Not even before I was published. Of course, this might not be the case with the final book—editing changes things, sometimes dramatically—but I’m loving the novelty. More importantly, it works.

In fact, everything seems to work with this book. I love it, really love it. I’m CRAZY about it.

So I don’t care if it takes me another week, two weeks, or even a month to finish (although I bloody hope not or my Christmas novella will be seriously at risk). The pleasure with this one is in the journey. And it’s a journey I’m savouring.

Long may that be the case with all I write, whether it be a blog post, a tweet or a novel, because pleasure and passion matter.

If I don’t feel them when I’m writing, how can I expect you to?

 

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THIS WRITING LIFE: Bloggy Goodness

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With the release of Rocking Horse Hill I’ve been cantering around the blogosphere, waving my Come Read Me! banner and generally having a rompy old time of it.

Take a look at where I’ve appeared this week:

ROCKING ALONG

On wonderful multi award-winning Australian romantic suspense author Helene Young’s blog, where I show off how life really is in my office

Check this one out. It’s a hoot!

GETTING ANIMAL

With rural romance author Alissa Callen where I take a look at anthropomorphism. Something I practice a lot!

MOTHER’S DAY PRESENT DILEMMAS

Come have yours solved on Margareta Osborn’s blog. Not only are there some perfect-for-mum book suggestions, but revealing insights into what fellow rural romance authors Margareta Osborn, Fiona Palmer, Rachael Johns, Alissa Callen and I plan for this Sunday.

WRITERS ON READING

My answers to Pamela Cook’s wonderful series on books authors read and love. Discover my favourite literary villain, what book has made me laugh out loud, which has made me cry, and more!

OLDER BLOGS

Some blogs I’ve appeared on in previous weeks…

The Australian Romance Readers Association: Rocking Horse Hill Release Day. With a giveaway just for members too. Closes May 13th

My blog: 10 Secret Things About Rocking Horse Hill. All is revealed!

A Q&A with best-selling rural romance author Fiona Palmer. Quirky!

Write What You Know: a writing article on Write Note Reviews. One for authors.

A Q&A on book review site Book’d Out. Come see my sticky note obsession!

Aussie Author Round-Up on Book Muster Down Under. Discover my writing motto.

Friday Feast with Cathryn Hein ie me! Home-made Hot-Crossed Buns.

Friday Feast with Cathryn Hein (Again!). Sweet seduction with a dead easy chocolate pudding.

What Every Author Needs on Rachael Johns’s blog. Friends, that’s what!

Have fun. I did!

THIS WRITING LIFE: The Writing Process Blog Chain

Are you old enough to remember chain letters? They were all the rage when I was a kid. Someone would come up with a daft pretence about creating good fortune or happiness or some other such thing, and write a (usually) naff letter to ten friends advising them they’re a recipient of all this good fortune and joy, but only if they send this letter on to ten of their acquaintances.Shocked person exclaiming: You're going to reveal what? How, in those pre-internet days, Australia Post must have loved these! Think of all those stamps that were needed, with demand growing exponentially as long as everyone kept the chain going.

I was never much of a participant. Probably sheer laziness on my part but I also thought they were pretty ridiculous.

NOT something that can be said about today’s post, which is why I’m taking part!

This is a writing process chain letter – or the modern, internet based equivalent – where writers reveal all.

Okay, so not all. But you get the picture.

My participation in this is all thanks to good buddy Rachael Johns who tagged me in her post to play along. Rachael is an English teacher by trade, a mum 24/7, a supermarket owner by day, a chronic arachnophobic, and a superstar of the rural romance genre. Her best-selling novels include Jilted, Man Drought, Outback Dreams and her Christmas novella, The Kissing Season. Keep an eye out for the second release in her Bunyip Bay series, Outback Blaze, coming May 2014!

And now onto my answers to the chain questions…

 

1) What am I working on?

My next rural romance The Falls. This one is set in a lush New South Wales valley whose idyllic facade hides a community simmering with tension. Some of it rather naughty! Lots of fun animals in this tale, including an evil cat, a couple of guinea pigs named Betty and Wilma, a dog named Goldi and an oversexed ram called Merlin. Oh, and we mustn’t forget the sexy farrier hero who bares more than a passing resemblance to a certain hunky Australian actor (makes for excellent research fun) and an emotionally battered heroine trying to find her heart again.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I’m a sucker for an emotionally charged romance and try to bring that to all my books. I also can’t help including animals that are characters in their own right. I know I shouldn’t anthropomorphise, but I can’t help it. It’s such a blast to have the animals getting up to all sorts of mischief and I think they also act as a great foil to the romance story.

3) Why do I write what I do?

The answer to that is pretty simple: Because I love these stories and want to read them myself.

4) How does my writing process work?

Messily.

Actually, that’s not quite true. It’s messy at the moment because I’m allowing it to be. My goal is to get basic story of The Falls written as fast as possible and then go back and fix it up. That’s not how I’ve operated for the last few books, though. When I first started out I was a complete fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants author, aka “a pantser”. But as I developed I learned to plot a lot more and concentrate very hard on the quality of writing. Unfortunately, as time went on, this search for perfection left me with an awful lot of hang-ups and my output became slower and slower. I went from taking 3 months to write a 100,000 word novel to 7 months. Finally, at the end of last year, I decided I’d had enough.

In December, while I was waiting for Rocking Horse Hill’s line and copy edits, I thought I’d try a new, just-get-the-words-down process. Thirteen days later I had a 40,000 plus word novella. I’ve NEVER had that level of output before. To be fair, I’d been brewing that story – April’s Rainbow – for a long time. Years, in fact. But the exercise proved I could write fast when I wanted. Most of all it gave me back my passion.

The experiment worked. Since January 6th I’ve polished April’s Rainbow and sent it to my agent, and written nearly 65,000 words on The Falls. Most of them pretty ugly but they’re there and editable, and that’s what matters. Because as (I believe) Nora Roberts once said, you can’t edit a blank page.

So at present, I’d call my process that of a born-again pantser. Long may it reign!

 

In the manner of all good chains, I’ve tagged the following excellent authors to keep the chain going. Check out their blogs on February 10th to read how they’ve answered the same questions.

Karly Lane

Cover of Poppy's Dilemma by Karly LaneKarly Lane lives on the beautiful Mid North Coast of NSW in Australia. A certified small town girl, she is most happy in a little town where everyone knows who your grandparents were. She writes women’s fiction – everything from romantic suspense to family sagas and life in rural Australia. Find out more about Karly and her excellent books (I’m a massive fan), including her latest release Poppy’s Dilemma, on her website.

Victoria Purman

Cover of Someone Like You by Victoria PurmanWhen Victoria Purman woke up one day and realised she’d spent most of her working life writing for other people, she decided it was finally time to tell stories of her own. Victoria is published by Harlequin Australia and is now thrilled to spend her days creating dialogue and happy-ever-afters for her imaginary characters. Her Boys of Summer series is set on the south coast of her home state of South Australia, somewhere she feels compelled to do a lot of research. Nobody But Him was released in October last year, and Someone Like You is out now. When she’s not writing, Victoria spends time with her husband, three sons, a disobedient dog, her loving, extended family and dear friends. She keeps promising to buy herself surfing lessons. Visit Victoria’s website for more.

Kris Pearson

Cover of Christmas Holiday Husband by Kris PearsonKris lives in Wellington, the capital of New Zealand. She’s used this lovely city as the setting for six of her novels.  She writes hot, passionate, contemporary romances full of love and laughter. She has an advertising background and is the current membership secretary for Romance Writers of New Zealand. She writes and gardens, and these days is in business with her husband in the decor field. Check out Kris’s books and much, much more on her website.

THIS WRITING LIFE: Sex and the Rural Romance Author

Got your attention? Good, because this is serious stuff!

There was an interesting article that appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers recently about ‘heat’ ratings in romance novels, which prompted me to ponder sex in our home-grown rural romances and what reader expectations might be on that front.

Heartland by Cathryn Hein coverI have no idea, and that bothers me because I’m all for fulfilling my readers’ expectations, but I’ve had no feedback or seen any comment about the sex in my books at all. The explicitness has varied with each release, so what then do readers prefer?

For me it all depends on the characters. Callie and Matt in Heartland, being the people that they are, seemed to suit spontaneous, rompy sex and I had a hell lot of fun writing those scenes.

Matt stumbled his way to the single bed until they fell in a tangle of sweaty arms and legs amid creaking springs and laughter. Callie’s shorts winged across the room, following his cargo pants, the last of her underwear sling-shotting after them. Callie laughed as Matt’s jocks caught on his springy cock, enjoying his hungry, almost pained expression as she levered him out and tugged them over his hips and down his legs. Grinning, she twirled the jocks around her finger before flinging them toward the wardrobe.

I would have felt awkward doing the same for Sophie and Aaron in Promises because they were quite sweet characters, while describing the bedroom antics of my 2014 release Rocking Horse Hill’s privileged heroine would have made me feel like a dirty perv. She’s definitely not the sort of person who would appreciate others being privy to her private life (although, given Rocking Horse Hill’s sexpot hero, I bet she has an amazing time in the bedroom).

So I asked a couple of rural romance buddies how they decide how explicit to be with their sex scenes…

 

Fiona Palmer, best-selling author of The Family Farm, The Sunburnt Country and other great rural reads is of similar opinion to me:

Cathryn, I agree that it is up to the characters. In one of my books it happens on the back of a ute and in another book the sex scene called for a more soft gentle approach.  The Outback Heart by Fiona PalmerSo I go with what I feel, what I think the characters would do and see where it leads. I do love good sexual tension in books and so I like a little sneak peek of when they get to finally act on this tension. I personally enjoy the hot parts, but it doesn’t sway my like or dislike of a book if it has hot sex or not. Just like in Pride and Prejudice, sometimes just the touch of a hand can mean so much more.

I haven’t heard back from any readers saying they didn’t enjoy the sex scenes in my books. (In fact I have the blokes asking for more!) So I will just keep going based on what I think the characters need and want.  Here is a snippet from my latest book The Outback Heart and this paragraph is the raunchiest of the whole sex scene.

‘Amazing.’ Troy’s gaze swept across her breasts as she arched her back, waiting for his touch. A shaky hand caressed her soft skin, his thumb flicking over an already hard nipple. Indi tightened her legs around his waist as he bent to taste one bud, before moving to the next, his tongue flicking and teasing. His hand went down to where she was hot and moist. Indi dug her fingers into his shoulders as a moan fell from her lips.

 

Rachael Johns, best-seller and Australian Romance Reader Award winner expands on the sex depends on character theme:

I consider my rural books very much romance books and therefore exploring the chemistry between the main characters is a must for me. But how heated and graphic that exploration is really does depend on the hero and heroine in each book.

Outback Dreams by Rachael JohnsThings such as whether the characters have just met play a factor and also their previous relationship experiences. In my first book Jilted, Ellie and Flynn were high school sweethearts and the attraction between them was always spicy but at the beginning of the book they are trying to fight it because of the hurt they both carry.  In Man Drought, Imogen and Gibson experience instant attraction but they both have reasons to steer clear of the opposite sex, however each interaction between them gets hotter and hotter till it blows up in his ute on the side of the road. That might be my sauciest rural romance scene.

If I know my characters well, I find the sex scenes almost write themselves. In Outback Dreams, my latest release, Faith and Monty have been best friends forever but have only just realized they also find each other attractive, so their first sex scene had a different tone again.

Her smile gave her consent and within seconds they were tumbling backwards, pausing only to tear up the zip on the tent, before collapsing on top of their waiting swags. She couldn’t tell who hit the ground first but they both reached for each other, tearing at each other’s clothing like hungry beasts. In complete darkness and with no method to their madness they didn’t seem to be getting anywhere, so Faith pulled back and took care of her own clothes. Monty did the same and when he reached for her again, she felt his warm, naked flesh against hers.

A moan of approval slipped from her lips.

Damn the dark. She willed her eyes to adjust so she could look her fill at the specimen beside her.

And then he was touching her. He pulled her towards him, tugged a blanket over the top of them and smoothed her hair. ‘You okay?’

Okay? Words could not do justice to her level of okay-ness. Why had they never gone here before? ‘Yes.’

I like reading about the sex between two people who are in love or at least on the road to falling in love, and so I like to give a glimpse of this to my readers as well. However, I don’t get too graphic with my sex scenes as I believe it is the emotional not the physical side of a love scene that is most important.

 

Karly Lane, best-selling author of North Star, Morgan’s Law and Bridie’s Choice is also mindful of her readers:

I’ve noticed a steady increase in what my editor and publisher expect in my books. In North Star I was asked to trim a lot of the scenes, but in Morgan’s Law I was asked to show the readers more!Bridie's Choice by Karly Lane I think publishers are aware of the whole Fifty Shades of Grey epidemic and that women’s fiction is undergoing a shake up at the moment, and so they’re willing to stretch the boundaries a little more than they may once have.

I personally, write what suits my plot and characters. I won’t write an explicit love scene just to keep up with a current trend. I had a reader who told me she allowed her young teenage daughter to read my books because she knew they weren’t too overly explicit. I’m very conscious of what my readers like which is why I won’t be jumping on the mommy porn band wagon just for the sake of it.

This quote from Bridie’s Choice gives a good example of Karly’s boundaries.

She heard him groan softly next to her ear, and she urged him onto his back, following him down until she straddled him. His surprised chuckle soon faded and was replaced with an intense look as he cupped her face in his hands, holding her gaze silently for a long moment. The depth of feeling in that one shared look made Bridie quiver with a mixture of emotion and lust. Leaning forward, she kissed him, pouring into the kiss the feelings she knew she couldn’t voice.

His hands slipped to her waist, holding her firmly as she began to move slowly against him. The gentle moans of their mutual need drifted away on the breeze above them.

 

Mandy Magro, best-selling author of Rosalee Station, Jacaranda and Flame Tree Hill has a different take:

I like to leave the bedroom door wide open, in ALL my novels. Driftwood 3Actually, I love to take my characters out of the bedroom to make it even steamier 🙂 When two people fall in love, the most intimate way to show this is through love making, be it slow and sensual or hungry, hot and steamy. I love writing these scenes and will endeavour to include them in each and every one of my future novels.

Mandy demonstrates just how steamy with this excerpt from her November 1st release, Driftwood.

Taylor panted as she reached out and gripped the sides of the rock, her hips arching into Jay’s lusciously warm mouth, his tongue and lips seducing her into seventh heaven. Her eyes closed in ecstasy as she teetered on the edge, her entire body quivering. How could a man send her into a sexual trance so beyond the normal realm she felt as though she was floating into an abyss? Finally, succumbing to his enchanting mouth, she toppled over the edge of self-control and screamed out his name, pulsating against his ravishing tongue as she climaxed to the point of breathlessness, every centimetre of her shuddering.

So, dear readers, what do you prefer? Well described sex or more teasing hints? The door open or closed? Do you need sex to complete the romance side of the story? Or does it depend on the characters or plot?

Comment away! Fiona, Rachael, Karly, Mandy and I would love to hear your thoughts.

If you’d like to know more about Fiona, Rachael, Karly, Mandy and their books, or wish to follow them on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks, you’ll find all the links on their websites. Just click a name below to discover more.

Fiona Palmer

Rachael Johns

Karly Lane

Mandy Magro

Cathryn Hein

 

 

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

 

 

 

Hot News & Events!

Keep your eyes out for some fantastic events happening now and soon…

Heartland Review Fun

A wonderful review of my latest rural romance Heartland on the Australian Romance Readers Association blog.

“I’m missing the people in this story. I didn’t realise until I read the last page and shut the book. When I walked away, from it, I realised I felt bereft.” Rosalie for the ARRA blog.

Isn’t that a lovely thing to say? I’m so delighted.

If you’re an ARRA member, leave a comment and you’ll go into the draw to win a copy of Heartland. Giveaway closes 17th July.

You can read more about Heartland, including an excerpt and the story of how the book came into being, on my website.

 

Booktopia’s Australian Romance Month, Featuring Fabulous Giveaways

Join most excellent Australian online bookseller Booktopia for their Australian Romance month, where I, and a fine line-up of Australian romance authors, will be entertaining you with our witty answers to questions like: Who do you swoon over? and Tell us something very few people know about you, and the ever so tricky, Finish this sentence: I would do anything for love, but I won’t do  ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­____

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You can read my answers to those questions and more on July 12th.

There are plenty of other rural-set fiction authors joining me across the month, including Rachael Johns, Fiona Palmer, Rachael Treasure, Barbara Hannay, Jennifer Scoullar, Loretta Hill, Mandy Magro, Bronwyn Parry, Margareta Osborn, Helene Young, Nicole Alexander, Jenn J McLeod and others!

Plus all month there’ll be competitions to win great books, and if you order an Aussie Romance Author book from Booktopia in July, you’ll go into the draw to win a fantastic book pack. For more details, click on the banner above or visit Booktopia.

 

Romance Writers of Australia Conference, August 16th-18th 2013

It’s only 6 weeks until the RWA Conference in Fremantle, W.A. and I can’t wait. This is THE event of the year for romance authors, published and aspiring. A chance to catch up with old friends and make new ones, plus learn more about our business and craft. There are also opportunities for authors to pitch their work to leading Australian and international editors and agents.

I have a great deal to thank the RWA for and can’t recommend the organisation and its conference highly enough.

For more information on the RWA and the conference, visit the website.

 

Australian Romance Readers Association Booksigning Event, Saturday 17th August 2013

I’m signing and so are 55 others local and international authors. These events are a hoot! Register now at the ARRA blog.

BSE3 I'll be signing 500

 

 

J’aimee Brooker’s Spotlight On Aussie Rural Novelists

Last week I answered a series of fun questions on contemporary romance author J’aimee Brooker’s blog as part of her week-long spotlight on Aussie Rural Novelists. Find out the one author I’d spend my last $20 on, who I’d be if I was a character from a novel and more!

Also featured were Rachael Johns, Karly Lane, and Jennie Jones. Check it out!

 

THIS WRITING LIFE: Winter Writing Fun

I’m rather fond of winter, mainly because it gives me an excuse to eat loads of comfort food and drink Guinness and red wine, and there’s footy and my darling Sydney Swans, of course. But I also get to wear wonderfully daggy

Cathryn's new snuggly ugg boots

My snuggly new ugg boots

clothes like ugg boots, tracky daks and windcheaters. One of the great perks of being a writer: you don’t have to dress up.

Winter is also the perfect season for writing. I can snuggle up in my office with the heating on and pump out words without feeling remotely guilty that I should be outside, playing around in the sunshine. And writing flat out is exactly what I’ve been doing. The end is nigh on the first draft of my next novel, and while this is a very, very ugly first draft and there is a LOT of fixing up to do, I’m still excited about hitting The End. Although, in this case, I won’t actually be hitting The End at the end because I’ve already written it.

Rather a change of method for me. My process tends to be linear – I start with the opening chapter and keep on writing the story until it’s told, and has come to a natural conclusion – but about two thirds of the way through this manuscript I managed to get myself in a bit of a head-mess (nothing unusual there) and decided to perk things up by writing the last five chapters. Seems to have worked because things flowed after that and, I think, bar some tweaking and layering, the end will stay as it is.

So if you hear some whooping and hollering toward the end of the week, that will be me, celebrating completion of this book’s first draft.

Then the fun stuff will really begin.

 

THIS WRITING LIFE: A little bit of me…

I was thinking yesterday, as I was working on my next book, how little scraps of  personal memory can seep into a story. As much as I try to make each story and character individual, leakage from my own life seems to always occur. In my current work-in-progress, it’s cooking (hardly a surprise for anyone that knows me) and the heroine’s gorgeous fluffy-coated collie, who is a reincarnation of my beautiful dog Cooch. In Heartland, there were many things, but what struck me most yesterday was the inclusion of the sewing machine my grandparents bought me when I was very young. So young that this is the machine on which Nanny taught me how to make trousers for my teddy bear – pink and purple tartan ones from left over fabric she’d used to make a pair for me (hey, it was the 70s and I LOVED those tartan duds).

I still have that sewing machine. It’s followed me all over Australia and it still works. Even though I have a modern Janome I don’t think I’ll ever get rid of the Singer. It’s too pretty for starters, and as Callie muses in Heartland, it’ll sew anything. But I guess it’s the memories. Papa passed away when I was very young but Nanny’s still kicking along in her nursing home at age 97. Kicking along so well in fact, that just the other week she staged an escape on her walker and frightened the hell out of everyone, including, I suspect, herself.

It’s nice these little things survive outside my mind. I think there’s some sort of peace in that.

 

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THIS WRITING LIFE: Edits have landed

As the above suggests, edit notes have arrived for my next book (title coming soon, I promise), due out in May 2013.

Excellent!

With the help of my clever editors, I should be able to knuckle down and fix all those fizzling bits in the first draft and – fingers crossed – mould this book into a truly compelling read.

And hmmph!

Why? Because it never ceases to amaze me how often edits coincide so perfectly with the urge… no, need to start the next book.

Yes, yes, I know, but you have been deceived. Deceived I tell you! All that pottering in post-book blissdom these past few weeks has been surface only. Inside I’ve been hard at work, cogitating. Truly I have! Plots have been brewing. Characters imagined. Horrible, mean fates thought of. I even have an opening and, miracle of miracles, a fabulous title.  So, as is typical, just when I think I’m ready to start pounding that keyboard again, edits come a-sailing in and I have to drop it all and bury myself in those, hence the hmmph.

Ahh, well. No one ever said this writing life was easy.