Tag Archives: Entangled Publishing

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.


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!



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?





FRIDAY FEAST with Nikki Logan

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Happy Friday, Feasters! Are you feeling all spring-y? Isn’t it wonderful to see the sun and experience its lovely warm caress again? Very difficult to feel down when the sky is clear and blue, plants are in flower and nature’s creatures are bouncing around all a-frisky.

Ooh, and speaking of nature’s creatures, we have a rather different focus today. Yes, m’dears, Friday Feast is going animal! And so it should. I mean it’s not every day you get a multi-published author and zoo worker regaling you with tales, is it?

Romance with Nature is Australian author Nikki Logan’s catchphrase and how wonderfully she does it too. Whether it’s one of Nikki’s many captivating Harlequin Romance novels or a heart-pumping romantic suspense, you’ll be caught up in her vivid, wild environments and beautiful, passionate love stories.

Just check out her new release, Wild Encounter.




A wildlife release mission in Africa turns deadly when the convoy is hijacked by smugglers, and veterinarian Clare Delaney is taken hostage. Terrified for her life and her animals, the intrepid Clare establishes a rapport with the man she believes is the criminals’ leader, and reluctantly finds herself under his protection…and falling hard for the enigmatic man.

Alpha-to-the-max Simon deVries sees right through his sexy captive’s attempt to seduce her way to freedom. So when their simmering attraction flares into true passion, it takes them both by surprise. Now he’s torn between completing his secret mission and letting her escape without telling her his true identity. He knows if he lets her go, he will be risking his career, his life…and his heart.


Ooh, I’m a sucker for an African tale. Add in a sexy hero and a wild romance and I’m there. And so could you be! One click and Wild Encounter will be all yours. Go on. You know you want to…

Done? Excellent. Now you can have Nikki!


What To Feed Your Own Zoo


Working in a zoo you get to see and hear a lot of things related to the nutrition of different species. I bring a lot of ideas home to my own ‘pack’. Food enrichment ideas and activities to make the fur-kids work harder for their food and get more enjoyment from it.

The key to an effective captive diet (for any animal, including yours at home) is to replicate the wild one as much as possible. Not just the obvious stuff —wolves eat meat therefore my dog should eat meat—but the incidental diet elements too. Wolves eat meat, and hide, and leathery tendons, and whatever was in its prey’s stomach.

Numbats, for instance, spend huge parts of their day foraging for termites—their primary nutrition source. But while they busily ingest 20,000 termites a day (!), they’re also accidentally ingesting the semi-digested timber and grit inside the termites as well as the material from the termite mound that they accidentally ingest as they tongue-up thousands of termites a day. Their bodies have evolved to not just tolerate but also require that natural fibre for good digestive function. So much so that zookeepers at Perth Zoo grind up chunks of the termite’s nest mound and sprinkle it on their food like cinnamon on eggnog.

(Look at that little one on its back… so cute.)

Cathryn said you guys love recipes… here’s one for you. A termite-charged numbat slurpee courtesy of Perth Zoo.


Water | Eggs | Low-lactose milk powder | Ground up termites | Live Termites (two species) | Ground up mound material | Calcium | Vitamins |

·       Mix water, eggs, milk-powder and cook until like custard in consistency.

·       Mix in crushed-up termites and live termites

·       Sprinkle ground-up mound material, calcium and vitamins

·       Serve chilled

Mmm-mmm. I’m sure you’re all rushing off to make some right now.

Why am I talking about numbats? Because they’re so very, very adorabubble. Here’s one we prepared earlier.

Similarly, the big carnivores may be ‘meat eaters’ but they predate almost exclusively on grazing animals and so a percentage of their weekly diet is green stuff.  Pre-chewed, half-digested greenstuff but plant material, nonetheless. So a certain amount of ‘greens’ is good for carnivores, too.

Note ‘weekly’ diet. Not ‘daily’. Grass grazers [zebra|deer|pig|birds], fruit pickers [birds|monkeys|rodents] and leaf browsers [elephants|giraffe|kangaroo]  tend to spend most of their day foraging for their plant-based food because of its lower nutritional value and relative abundance. But while the top end carnivores have an energy-rich, concentrated meat diet, it does come at a price. They use a lot more energy catching it, they fail as often as they succeed, and sometimes food is just really hard to come by. Or to keep.

Wild dogs, for example, will work in packs, expending enormous amounts of collective energy tracking the right prey (the slowest, the weakest, the least experienced, the most vulnerable), isolating it and then hunting it down. They’re efficient, humane killers once they’ve done that but more often than not as soon as they’ve done all the hard work and settled in for a good feed, along will come a larger prey (lion, hyaena, leopard) and steal their feed out from under their paws. Compared to the muscle-mass of the larger carnivores, wild dogs are pretty rangy and that’s basically because their protein intake is only *just* ahead of their energy expenditure. They go hungry more often than not, work super-hard for their food and—unlike the other ‘me, me, it’s all about me’ carnivores—wild dogs make sure the weak and young are fed first. So a rangy alpha is a good alpha. It means he’s looking after his pack.

Why am I talking about wild dogs? Because I really respect their carnivore values and because I have a romantic suspense called ‘Wild Encounter’ out this week through Entangled which features them. My heroine is up to her elbows inmoving a pack of unconscious and endangered wild dogs across African borders when she and the dogs are kidnapped by wildlife traffickers. I got to spend months researching these beautiful, unique animals and their quirky ways and the affection has stuck.

Just like your dogs at home, animals which are biologically adapted to be foraging and working hard for their food risk becoming overweight if their food is plonked in twice a day and the only thing they have to do for it is haul themselves up and walk to a bowl. So good zoos will implement behavioural enrichment challenges for their captive creatures to make sure that the have to work for their daily food allowance.

(BTW, every single one of these you can do at home for your own captive collection…I’ve modified them for your average suburban kitchen and not the industrial zoo food prep areas…)  There’s so much we can do for our backyard zoo just by taking the lead of the people who look after animals for a living.

Frozen icies: boil up a stock using dinner bones or the left-over blood from the meat tray of your next roast and some water. Freeze a portion, then layer in some small treats and splash a tiny bit of blood stock on them. Freeze to bond them in place. Then add more stock, freeze. Repeat. That way you have a tasty, lickable, layered snack for a hot day that will keep the animal engaged and active. (You can do this for nectar loving birds with diluted peach-juice for stock and fruit pieces inside. Or horses with a super diluted molasses mix and apple/carrot bits inside.)

Scatter feeds: withhold 1/3 of the animal’s daily food and hide it around their environment. Under plants, wedged in logs, tucked in corners, smeared on sticks, buried in sandpits. Release the animal into the environment and watch them go—hunting and foraging like a pro and using all their natural behaviours. (This is also a great one for pets who suffer separation anxiety because they’re so engaged with the ‘hunt’ they don’t have time to indulge the addictive anxiety behaviours as you leave for the day.)

Stuffed pinecones (great for cockies):  Take an open pinecone and wedge unsalted, unbuttered popcorn into the crevices. Hang on a hook in the aviary.

Carcass feed: in zoos, carnivores can be fed entire or half-carcasses which gives them a chance to really work out those natural predator muscles. Zookeepers suspend them from bungees, or affix them to flying foxes so the predators have to chase their ‘kill’. At home you can give dogs entire kangaroo tails (hide-on) and tie them to a post so they can play tug-of-war.

Puzzle boxes:  put some food treats in a discarded toilet roll stuffed with straw. Wrap it in old newspaper. Hide in the garden. Messy but so much fun!

So that’s it. The ideas are as unlimited as your imagination. The secret is to understand what your animal’s wild behaviours would have been and then to find ways to stimulate those.

Good luck! Let me know here if you have any enrichment ideas of you own or if you have any success with one of the above.



How cool was that? A bit different to our usual Friday Feasts but variety is indeed the spice of life, although I can’t imagine I’ll be whipping up any termite slurpees anytime soon. Not deliberately, anyway.

What tricks do you use to keep your menagerie amused or well-fed? My mum used to pong the house out cooking up kangaroo mince mush for the dogs. And my beloved collie, Cooch (darling, darling doggie), had a real thing for horse hoof trimmings. Absolutely loved them. Suppose it was like the canine equivalent of biting someone else’s toenails…

Nikki and I would love to hear your tales (or tails!), so get a-commenting!

If you’d like to learn more about Nikki and her romance with nature, please visit her website. You can also connect via Facebook and Twitter. Or check out her trailer on YouTube.