Saturday, 25 November 2017

67. Ripples

Hello dear readers. Can you believe it’s been twelve months since my family made the big move west? I can’t. I’m not sure where the time went, but we did manage some exploring of our new state.

We visited an interesting little place known as Gnomesville in the Ferguson Valley. Now, few people know how Gnomesville came to be. Some say it started as a joke. Some say a statue was left behind and people began leaving gnomes and other ornaments there so it wouldn’t feel lonely. It’s not lonely now considering there are an estimated five thousand gnomes there, and tourists are leaving more ornaments behind with each visit. While my youngest loved the place, and so did the many other kids scrambling around, I can’t say Gnomesville was my kind of town. Maybe it’s my paranormal side showing, but there were too many pairs of eyes following my every move...


Fortunately, our trip to the valley led to a more interesting place (for me) and we wound up at the Moody Cow Brewery. I’m giving away a family secret here – my youngest has a changeable temperament, and her nickname is Moo Cow, so we had a big laugh when we saw the name of the brewery. My youngest, however, didn’t understand what was so funny. After a delicious lunch, I came home with a small keg of their homemade chilled cider. It was divine. Come to think of it, it’s about time we returned so I can refill my keg. :) I’ll save Gnomesville for the visitors – the lucky devils.

We also ventured to the Perth Zoo. I think meerkats are gorgeous, and I was stunned to learn lemurs really do sit similar to us. I thought that was just in the animated movie, Madagascar, but here’s the photo to prove it.



We also took in the sights of Perth’s main street mall, shops, and laneways. (You can tell we’re not big city folk, right?) And we ventured south to Margaret River and visited a winery, (I’m sensing a pattern here – lol) and we sampled many, many treats at the Chocolate Factory. :)

In my last blog, you would have read about our adventures to Kings Park and Araluen Gardens. The kids settled into their new schools, and my hubby into his new job. We’ve made some great new friends here as well as catching up with a few old friends too. We survived our first ‘real’ winter, well, real for us, and blossomed into our first wildflower filled spring, although we could have done without the hay fever. Now it’s time to discover if there’s some real heat here because our first summer in WA was decidedly cooler than expected. Maybe we’ve acclimatised now. At least I know we won’t be in for a humid Christmas, for no matter how much I miss my family and friends back home, I certainly don’t miss the humidity.

I’m settling in too though. I’ve met one of my writing idols, Jenny Schwartz, whose latest book I’m reviewing. I’ve also met some fabulous authors whose writing I admire, dare I say envy, and like every author I’ve met, there are so many wonderful people here who are generous with their time, advice, and encouragement. It’s been wonderful to meet them in the real world, and not just chatting online. I’ve attended some fabulous workshops and book launches, which leads me to sharing the cover of Rockingham Writers Group’s inaugural anthology – Ripples. :) I love the cover. :)


If anyone in the area is free to attend, we’d love to see you there. :) They have printed copies for the launch, but if there are plans for an e-book version, I’ll let you know. I’m excited to read the other stories and poems, and I hope everyone enjoys my contribution too. :)

Book Reviews

ASHER – SCI FI ALIEN ROMANCE (DRAGONS OF RIDDICK) by Mel Teshco

The dragons will search the universe for their one true mate...

Riddich king, Asher Mannett, has more to worry about than the agony of shifting into his dragon form. Tantonics, his alien enemies, will do anything to invade and destroy him and his people, and extract their vital energy.
When the last Riddich stronghold is breached, Asher boards a craft and escapes his planet along with a handful of his people. They crash land on Earth, where a rare few human women can breed with his species, giving his people hope of continuing their genetic line.

Thanks to her now dead fiancé, Luke, Marissa Kinkaid’s life has gone from one of decadent luxury to hardship. But then a huge, wounded dragon bursts into her life and opens her eyes to the dreary existence she’s accepted as her own. A life she no longer wants.
Despite her fear of abandonment, leaving her drought-affected farm with Asher seems far less complicated than facing Asher’s Tantonic enemies. She can’t imagine a life without the big, sexy alien in it. But will she lose him too before they’ve even had a chance at love?

Asher is the king of a destroyed planet. While the few remaining survivors are scattered throughout the universe, he, his sister, and a few of his closest friends have sought sanctuary on Earth. He wished he’d listened to his younger brother, Kadin, but now they’re on the same planet, perhaps they can make amends. But first, he must find safety before the Tantonics, the enemy, or the local inhabitants find him. Injured in the crash landing, he escapes the burning spacecraft and staggers into the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen, but could that attraction simply be because he senses in her the ability to renew his decimated race?

Marissa thought love died when her fiancé did and she’d never find happiness again. That changes the moment a giant of a man charges into her life with a look in his eyes that is anything but human. Thoughts of his true nature are brushed aside when she realises he needs help. But that assistance comes at a price because Asher’s enemies are now her enemies, and Marissa’s about to learn her past isn’t all it seems either.

Another delightful story from Ms Teshco that tugs at the heartstrings and keeps her readers turning pages. Oh, and a little bit of her signature naughtiness for added flavour. This is the second in the Dragons of Riddick series and all the twists and turns are just as inviting. Even better, book three is out now. :)


ODD HOURS by Dean Koontz

Intuition has brought Odd Thomas to the quaint town of Magic Beach on the California coast. As he waits to learn why he has been drawn there, he finds work as a cook and assistant to a once-famous film actor who, at eighty, has become an eccentric with as long a list of fears as he has stories about Hollywood’s golden days.

Odd is having dreams of a red tide, vague but worrisome. By day he senses a free-floating fear in the air of the town, as if unleased by the crashing waves. But nothing prepares him for the hard truth of what he will discover as he comes face to face with a form of evil that will test him as never before...

With his supernatural gifts taking the lead, Odd Thomas finds himself far from the town of his birth. He dreams of a cataclysmic event, but nothing makes sense. What’s more puzzling is while he can sense so much death and destruction, the bodachs he associates with these events are nowhere to be seen. And what does it all have to do with the mysterious Annamaria, a young woman who also appears to have a tight grasp on the psychic world? And why, when she asks if he’d die for her, does Odd say yes without the slightest hesitation? In Magic Beach, it’s not clear who’s friend and who’s foe, but if Odd wants to make it out alive, he must learn to tell the difference fast.

This book had a different feel to the previous ones in the series. While I enjoyed it, there wasn’t the same sense of urgency in Odd Hours. I did however, love the short timeframe in which the events took place and the way Odd internalised his experiences. I felt rather than be taken along by the events of the story, he was more proactive. I found a few of the secondary characters intriguing, and I’m keen to discover if they make a reappearance elsewhere in the Odd series. While Odd Thomas remains a fictional character who I wish I could meet, Odd Hours sets its own pace before it reaches its climax. I’m keen to find out what happens next.


COSMIC CATALYST (SHAMANS AND SHIFTERS SPACE OPERA – BOOK 2) by Jenny Schwartz

Everyone has secrets. But some people will risk the galaxy to protect theirs.

When starship shaman Jaya Romanov and her new mate partner, galactic bounty hunter and robot wolf shifter, Vulf Trent, saved the galaxy from the deadly actions of a determined geriatric terrorist, they forgot that old Earth truism: no good deed goes unpunished.

Now, the galaxy is exploding with unexpected aliens, greedy politicians—well, that’s normal enough, it’s what the politicians will attempt that is worrying—and a radically new aspect to sha energy that has the potential to change everything.

And then there’s the mystery of Jaya’s father…who is he? Some big secrets are lurking in Jaya’s past, and to save those she loves, she’ll be forced to risk the galaxy in a shoot ’em up, take-no-prisoners rescue because sometimes there’s no fighting your destiny.

Fortunately, Vulf is always ready for a fight!

Political campaigners use dangerous tactics when members of the Human sector decide they want more power in the Galaxy Proper – a consortium of alien races. The last to join the consortium thanks to another of the alien races taking pity on the humans who’d destroyed their own planet, Jaya and Vulf find themselves political pawns in a game that has dire consequences for all involved. New alliances, old enemies, and those with their own agenda come together in this story of political greed and power. And through it all, Jaya must rely on her shaman gifts and her love for the promise of family that Vulf offers if she’s to succeed where so many others have failed.

I enjoyed this twist in storyline Ms Schwartz used. In fact, I could easily picture the book in my mind as if I was watching a sci fi movie with all its twists, negotiations, double dealing, and humour. There was great attention to detail with the world building for this story, and I can already see how it’s going to work for future stories in the series. All the elements are there. And leading the reader from one book to the next is something Ms Schwartz does so well. And if click on the link provided, you’ll find the next book in this series has just been released. :)


On my list next month, the next in the Odd Thomas series, Paul Summerhayes’ latest release – Billie the Kid from his Sky Fire Chronicles series, some snippets from the Ripples anthology, and Ms Schwartz’ Shattered Earth. :)

News

It’s been another busy month, and I’m starting to feel repetitive on that point. There’s several family birthdays in November, and three of them are in my immediate family – and that’s counting one of the dogs. Everyone’s a year older and a year wiser, except the dog, although I suspect two years for a pup is much too young to be wise. Anyway, with everything going on, I must admit I’ve cheated. The baking tins are still packed, so the family enjoyed a store-bought cake this year. This meant they were saved from my questionable attempts at decorating said cake too. :)

My latest editing job involves some strong philosophical themes, so I’m reading a few intense theories. I have the anthology launch to look forward to, and a book launch to attend for a lovely author’s newest release. My writing group will be interesting considering we’re sharing the opening paragraphs of our current works in progress. I look forward to some great feedback there. My personal editing is progressing, but it appears the script I planned to work on may spill over to next year’s goals. You never know, Christmas is a time for miracles, so I may just get it done.


Next month means a free story for you, yay! But until then, may beautiful words fill your souls with wonder. :)

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

66. It's Wild Out West!

It’s wild out west! Wild with flowers, that is. Spring has brought with it some of the most beautiful Western Australian wildflowers, so this month I took time out to enjoy some sightseeing with the family.

We ventured to two of the South West’s gardens, Kings Park in Perth, and Araluen Botanical Gardens in Roleystone amid the Darling Ranges. Kings Park contains more of the native flora, where Araluen features ‘exotic’ varieties in the form of roses and tulips. The variety and colours were amazing. Golden yellows, burgundy reds, vivid oranges, shocking pinks – it was a kaleidoscope of wonder.

Kings Park meant we trekked to Perth were there was as many varieties of wildflowers on the side of the road as there was in the park itself. I don’t know the correct botanical names, but Kings Park has a magnificent display of wildflowers as well as wild ducks, snakes, and in some cases, some wild kids too.(I swear they weren’t mine.)








I wish I knew all the names, but I have wattle, banksia, and Western Australia's floral emblem, the Kangaroo Paw sorted. And aww, baby ducks. :)

We also took shots of the beautiful Swan River, the war memorial commemorating our ANZAC’s, and we enjoyed a delicious lunch at the café where I had a Cidery Spider Cider. I’m pleased to say that was the only ‘spider’ I saw.






The following weekend we travelled to Araluen. Again, the roadside wildflowers were just as beautiful, and the hour-long journey was made longer by someone’s insistence we stop and take photos... Anyway, where King’s Park was dedicated to native flora, Araluen Gardens is a delightful mix of wild and introduced flowers. This is the first time I’ve seen a tulip outside of a photograph. So beautiful. There were also so many gorgeous, pungent roses I’m sure I had more pollen on my nose than any of the bees could possibly carry.









 We also managed to work some muscles walking around these places, especially in Araluen given it was terraced into the range, and we started at the very bottom and worked our way up to see the roses before heading back down again. While we were at the top, we spotted a little ‘train’, which carries guests to the top to see the roses and then drops them off at the café. Hmm, well I guess my aching legs and I will remember that for next time.

I travelled to Armadale earlier in the month to attend a Short Story Essentials Workshop and caught  up with my lovely friend and writer, Sonia Bellhouse. Sonia, whom I officially met last month at the Rockingham Writers Convention in Baldivis, welcomed me in her official capacity as Liaison Co-Ordinator, and then we met the group’s guest author, Nadia L King. Ms King has several short stories published, is a former journalist, and is completing a Young Adult novel that I’m sure will make an enormous impact on its readership given its contemporary and controversial theme.

Ms King explained how short stories can show more about real life than life itself. The power of a short story is often what the reader doesn’t see, but is left with evocative images and conclusions of their own. Short stories are a wonderful way to hone your craft, and to build a body of work as well as enhance your writing reputation. We covered the five main elements of short story writing – Setting, Character, Plot, Conflict, and Theme. With short stories, every word counts and must work in the story. Setting makes a story real, and places the reader into the story. Characters must be believable and relatable. Most short stories have only one plot, but they still need an introduction, a rising act, a climax, a falling action, and a resolution.

Conflict is essential to a story no matter its length whether it’s an internal or an external struggle. Conflict creates drama and entices the reader to continue reading. The theme lets your reader know where the story is taking them, gives them some expectation, but still allows you to give a story your own twist. The real skill in short stories is in the editing. You must make sure every word and every sentence counts to leave the reader with a satisfactory conclusion.

Amongst these nuggets of information, we also did some writing exercises, which were fun and challenging. Some of us were even brave enough to read them out. :)

You can find more about Ms King, her workshops, and her stories here. :)


When I wasn’t sightseeing, pigging out in cafes, or attending workshops, I managed to tackle some of the reading pile. :)

Book Reviews

SILVER REAPER by Shelley Russell Nolan

How far would you go to save those marked for Death?
When the call to reap uncovers a new threat to Easton and its inhabitants, Tyler is drawn back into a world she thought she’d left behind.

Forced to face her greatest fears, she seeks to uncover the identity of the rogue reaper murdering men employed by her former ally. But the search leads her to a conspiracy decades in the making.

With the line between friends and enemies blurring, Tyler begins to question her loyalties as she fights to stop the storm threatening to engulf Easton. But when the Grim Reaper offers the last hope, death might be the least of her problems.
Who can Tyler trust when even her allies want her dead?

Six months after the fierce battle, which saw her defeat Almorthanos and the Tr’lirians who sided with him, Davilian descendent, Tyler Morgan has moved on. She and Sam are happily together. She’s still Reaping for the Grim Reaper, but she’s in control this time, and clear in her duties. She may have to collect souls, but if she can save one, that’s exactly what she’s going to do.

When Second-in-Command, Killian’s daughter goes missing, and Tr’lirians are being murdered, Tyler finds herself in Cade’s presence once more. But the leader of the Tr’lirians’ clan isn’t interested in finding the murderers or the missing woman. He’s plotting to destroy Tyler’s entire Davilian bloodline, and he’s more than happy to start with her.

Tyler Morgan goes from strength to strength in this story in many ways. Ms Nolan has taken the reader on yet another journey, and stepped up her game when it comes to storytelling. Clues hinted at in the previous two books make sense in this third instalment in which Tyler takes on more than she bargained for. The twists, turns, and changing allegiances keep the reader guessing until the conclusion, and to be honest, I’m not entirely sure we’ve seen the last of this Reaper.


BROTHER ODD by Dean R Koontz

Loop me in, odd one.

The words, spoken in the deep of night by a sleeping child, chill the young man watching over her. For this was a favourite phrase of Stormy Llewellyn, his lost love. In the haunted halls of the isolated monastery where he had sought peace, Odd Thomas is stalking spirits of an infinitely darker nature.

As he steadfastly journeys toward his mysterious destiny, Odd Thomas has established himself as one of the most beloved and unique fictional heroes of our time. Now, wielding all the power and magic of a master storyteller at the pinnacle of his craft, Dean Koontz follows Odd into a singular new world where he hopes to make a fresh beginning—but where he will meet an adversary as old and inexorable as time itself.

A world-famous physicist is conducting experiments in the catacombs of the abbey. Could this be why Odd can once again see bodachs, shadowy harbingers of violence and death? The prowl the halls, suggesting horror to come.

Odd retreats to a monastery in the High Sierra to distance himself from the emotional horrors of his lost love, and the close encounter he had with death. Although he’s not particularly clinging to life, he knows he has a purpose to fulfil before he can join Stormy once more. While Odd thinks he has time to recharge, the paranormal world has other plans. And this time, his ability to converse with ghosts might not be enough. Intent on keeping the brothers, and the sisters and their young charges living across the way, safe, Odd finds that even the humans he’s trying to help aren’t all they seem. The line between friend and enemy is becoming very blurred.

I loved this. It’s my favourite of the Odd series so far. The experiments the physicist conducted resonated with me. I am fascinated that such a thing could be a possibility. So many cultures have made mention of it, so I wonder if the mind is as powerful as suggested. My writing brain is ticking over with possibilities. I also loved the character twists. I’ve come to rely on Odd’s judgement, so I love how Mr Kootnz dealt with that too. Someone pretty please read it so I can talk about the experiments. LOL


MIDNIGHT CROSSROAD by Charlaine Harris

Welcome to Midnight, Texas, a town with many boarded-up windows and few full-time inhabitants, located at the crossing of Witch Light Road and the Davy highway.

It’s a pretty standard dried-up western town. There’s a pawnshop with three residents. One is seen only at night. There’s a diner, but people stopping there tend not to linger. There’s a newcomer, Manfred Bernardo, who just wants to work hard and blend in. But Manfred has secrets of his own...

Midnight Crossroad is the first in a series about a place called Midnight. While it has all the normal amenities one would expect to find in a small town in Texas, the fulltime inhabitants are another matter. None of them are what they appear to be, and for newcomer, Manfred Bernardo, a Gypsy descendent, that suits him just fine. After all, he has his own secrets, well, gifts, that allow him to discover his new hometown harbours a gorgeous witch, an enigmatic vampire, a beautiful woman he suspects is an assassin, and a few residents he’s not exactly sure of, but he knows they’re not human. Then there’s Creek, the only person closest to him in age in the town, and someone he’d very much like to know better, not that her father’s going to let that happen.

They’ve all settled in the Crossroads for their own reasons, and now that Manfred’s joined them, his life is about to turn in a whole new direction.

I loved Ms Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse novels from which the TV series, ‘Trueblood’, is based. These new books also inspired a new TV series, ‘Midnight, Texas’. This book contains the supernatural beings and mystical elements I loved in the Sookie series, but this sets a more genteel pace. I liked that, human or otherwise, even the most ordinary character made you think twice about their actions and motivations. Two were so unexpected in their progress from the beginning to the end of the book, and I only suspected one of them of something sinister. I’m keen to know where the next in the series will take me, but for the time being, the next book hasn’t had another print run yet.

You can find more of Ms Harris’s works here: http://charlaineharris.com/

THE POINT OF LOVE by Monique Mulligan

New girl in town and journalist, Lexie, has been targeted by developers who want to sell her their vision for a marina at Mangles Bay. On paper, the proposal looks good, but when Hands Off Point Peron spokesman and Thor-lookalike Andrew Fletcher takes her to nearby Point Peron, she starts to have second thoughts.

A date at Penguin Island sets the scene for love, but when Lexie’s front page story about the marina is published, Andrew is far from impressed and wants nothing to do with her. Will Lexie be able to turn the situation around? Or is the story a deal-breaker for Andrew?

With gorgeous coastal settings and laugh-out-loud antics, The Point of Love is like a sweet breath of fresh air for the romantic’s soul.

Lexie is working hard in her journalism career despite the editor-from-hell’s dubious input. She’s chasing all the angles to perfect her first front page story, and if interviewing the sexiest man she’s ever seen is part of the bargain, well, she’s going to pull on her big girl panties and get on with it.

Of course, she never intended flashing said panties, but Thor, er, she means Andrew, doesn’t seem to mind. In fact, he takes her on a wonderful date and shows her why he loves the bay he’s so keen to protect.

But when Lexie’s story is printed, an embarrassed Andrew cuts her off cold. He won’t let Lexi explain. He doesn’t want to hear the truth. With other readers voicing their concerns over her article, Lexie is at a loss what to do. One thing’s for certain, if she wants Andrew back, Lexie must turn the headlines around or risk losing not only her career, but the love of her life too.

I loved the comedic moments, innuendo, and word play. (The story stayed on the sweet side.) I also liked the way it showed how difficult relationships are if the people involved in them aren’t prepared to listen. A fun, humorous, thought provoking story.

More on Ms Mulligan here.   http://moniquemulligan.com/

News

Well the news is better this month where writing is concerned. On the great roller coaster that is my journey to publication, one of my short stories has been accepted for an anthology, which will be published at the end of the year. :) I am so excited my little story is going to appear in the same book as some of the region’s writing royalty along with other aspiring writers like me. I can’t wait to read them all. :)


The goals are coming along, with a short story or three thrown in for good measure, and I just found another competition to enter. (Clearly, I am a glutton for punishment.) I’m tweaking the last two chapters on the novella before sending it out once again. Editing the novel is coming along, and I’m halfway through another copy-editing job with a potential new client set for next month. In all, it’s been another busy, exciting month exploring my new home state, meeting some amazing authors, and reading some wonderful books. I hope you’ve all been equally as blessed. :)

Monday, 25 September 2017

65. Convention Capers

Hello dear readers. :) I have so much to tell you, but I better get the not so good news out of the way first.

Unfortunately, my novella submission was unsuccessful. They liked it, but it wasn’t what they were looking for now.  I’m disappointed, but I’m sure I’ll find a home for my story someday. In the meantime, I’m much too excited to dwell on the knock back for long.

Since I’ve moved to Western Australia, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some very special and amazing authors. First, my long time, (unofficial mentor) email friend, Jenny Schwartz. I’ve also met three of my fellow RWA Aspiring eLoop members. It’s been wonderful to meet these ladies face to face, especially when they are so giving of themselves, much like almost every author I’ve met. :)

One of the Aspiring trio and I met for the first time last weekend at the Rockingham Writers Convention in a place called Baldivas. Their local library, and their function and meeting rooms are just stunning. Even the loo was pretty flash. I could have spent hours there. (In the library, that is. Not the loo.) ;)

My new friend went out of her way to make sure I was comfortable. She introduced me to members of her local writing group along with some wonderful established authors too. Particularly another special lady whom I’ll mention in a little while. :)

The day itself began ominously. To travel on a freeway for forty minutes in foggy conditions where I could only see a few meters in front and behind me, and nothing past the lane beside me, ensured my fingers ached by the time I pulled into the car park. I hadn’t realised I had a death grip on the steering wheel until that moment. Fortunately, by the time it came to write anything down, I could straighten my hands again. I recognised my friend by her Facebook photo, properly introduced myself, and we were off to our first workshop.

Overcoming Obstacles to Writing with Author, Annabel Smith.

What an engaging and lovely lady. :) She spoke about the fact that all writers have their issues, and then she showed us ways to defeat them. We learned to note what does and doesn’t work for us, what our perceived and unchangeable obstacles were, and how we could turn some of those negatives into positives. There are some things we can’t change such as work, family, our health, conflicting schedules, and all the things life throws at us. But we can alter our perceptions, and delegate some of our tasks to give ourselves writing time. For example, my family like spending time with me (at least, that’s what they say) and I do have to leave the writing zone to enjoy life experiences and feed my creative side. But to have some time for myself, I can delegate the housework and the cooking so I have more time to write. (I really, really, really liked this one.) ;)

Then there are the things I worry about myself. Yes, there’s always going to be a more talented writer than me because I think my work isn’t good enough, and yes, I will always write things that I think are absolute rubbish, but neither of those things is going to stop me writing and wanting to write better. And my ‘favourite’ – pushing through the introvert tendencies. Although, I stepped out of my little shell at the conference and chatted to a few lovely people who made that effort so worthwhile. :)

Ms Smith also shared suggestions to give ourselves more writing time by tracking how much time we spend on the things we’re doing when we could / should be writing. Like *cough* Facebook and Netflix. As in less of it. Cutting down television time, social engagements, shopping for groceries at the store instead of online, and reading for hours on end, all add up. She’s certainly not suggesting we give up everything, or indeed giving any of it up. Just to manage our time better and decide what’s important to us.

The group was asked what strengths and characteristics a successful writer has, and then to redefine that success into our own terms and improve and strengthen the ones we already have. We should define our success as something we can influence or control instead of focusing on the things we can’t. We also touched on that important first draft. We need to give ourselves permission to have a terrible first draft. In fact, Ms Smith provided us with a permission slip to do exactly that. :)
  

 Unfortunately, the session ran out of time, but as Ms Smith had plenty to share with us, if anyone’s keen to know more, you can learn about Ms Smith, her books, and her workshops, here. :)


After a quick break where I remembered to text my husband and let him know I’d arrived there safely, (oops), we were off to our next session.

Author Tess Woods’ Twelve Ingredients All Page Turners have in Common.

What a pleasure listening to this author speak. She was funny, laid back, and so entertaining.

Using examples from two well-known stories, and her first novel, ‘Love at First Flight’, Ms Woods gave her audience invaluable advice. Things like ensuring we have a strong opening that’s dynamic, enticing, and immediately sets the scene for the reader without giving away all our story’s secrets. The reader must be hooked right from the start. As writers, we must deliver on our promise to provide a fulfilling conclusion by the story’s end. A favourite was ‘the shopping list’ No one wants to read a list of a character’s attributes. I also enjoyed the thought of ‘zooming in’ on one detail to bring a character or a scene to life. (But not in the first draft.) :)

Other writers, I imagine, have heard of Chekov’s Rule – If you write about a gun in chapter one, better be using it by chapter two. In other words, all the details of a story must be relevant whether it’s foreshadowing a future event or moving the story forward.

Something else important to all stories is defining your characters’ goals, the stakes, and whether they’ll achieve them. How difficult are you as the writer going to make achieving these goals? What obstacles are you putting in your characters’ paths, and how are they going to act or react to these situations? And if they achieve a goal earlier in the book, make sure there’s another obstacle for them to overcome. And with each scene, remember to reveal a little more about the story or character.

Other sections we covered were the ‘Show, not Tell’. Action always works better than simply telling your readers what’s happening. (Think back to that shopping list.) Telling does not involve the reader in your story and does not engage them. Neither do filler words and overusing them. My bugbear used to be ‘as if’, and come to think of it, it still is, but I didn’t realise how often my characters said, ‘What the hell?' either until I had a closer look at my work. Something else to work on.

All recommended replacement catchphrases suggested will be considered. :)

And last, but not least, Ms Woods talked about backstory. OMG! The backstory and info dumping I did in my earlier stories still embarrasses me. I couldn’t see what I was doing wrong then, but I certainly can now. Hasn’t stopped me writing it (first drafts are just for the writer. :) ) but at least I am recognizing it for what it is. In all, it was a wonderful session. :) You can learn more about Ms Woods and her books here. :)


After lunch, we listened to our keynote speaker, Ms Meredith Curnow from Penguin Random House who spoke about the Publishing Industry, her background and vast experience/s, and her hopes for the future in storytelling. This was followed by an author panel who spoke about their work in a book, which also featured stories from other writers who were in the audience, called ‘Writing the Dream’ and their writing experiences in general. The panel consisted of Guy Salvidge, Natasha Lester, Teena Raffa-Mulligan, Monique Mulligan, and Karen McDermott – the latter two are the driving force behind Australian Publishers, Serenity Press. Everyone was generous in sharing their goals and the paths that lead to their publishing experiences. Afterwards, they faced an onslaught of eager readers ready to buy their books, and have that very precious signature adorn their front pages. :)

Another quick break led us to our final session for the day.

Alex Adsett - What does a Literary Agent do and do you need one?

Again, we met another lovely lady happy to share her advice and experiences with us. :)

In Australia, writers have a choice whether they need an agent. In America, or to break into the American market, writers must have an agent. It’s difficult to attain an agent in Australia because there are so few Literary Agents here. Having an agent in your corner means you have someone who is experienced, knows the industry, and who is looking for which genres / manuscripts and then matches the right manuscript with the right publisher. They negotiate the best contracts, advances, and deals on your behalf, and ensures the writer has fair royalties, and understands the deal and the contracts provided by publishers. While lawyers can negotiate contracts too, the best negotiators for manuscripts are agents and the ASA – Australian Society of Authors.

An agent receives 15% of what an author earns. A reputable agent will charge a commission only. They learn on the job (there’s no formal training), and they don’t receive any money until they’ve sold your book. They look out for your rights, advise you on your contracts, check on your edit requests, look after Marketing, Options and help manage a writer’s career and most of all, they are a shoulder to cry on when everything seems overwhelming.

The best way to secure an agent is attend Pitch opportunities, research websites, send professional query letters, pitch to the right agent for your genre, and ALWAYS follow the guidelines. Ms Adsett provided examples of positive and negative sides to having an agent, and reminded us that an agent isn’t for everyone, and that’s perfectly fine. Currently Ms Adsett is not looking for unsolicited manuscripts, so I don’t feel right sharing details here. However, if she’s taking pitches at a workshop or conference near you, and you’re looking for an agent in the genres she represents, I’m sure her friendly approach will immediately put you at ease, and I certainly wish you luck with your pitch. :)

Book Reviews
First, a reminder that Ms Nolan’s latest book in her Reaper series, ‘Silver Reaper’, is due out the first of October. :) I’ll share my review on the next blog. :)


Now, I’ve been breaking a few of Ms Smith’s suggestions considering I’d been Netflixing (that’s a word, right?) and binge reading. I did come across a wonderful movie called ‘Odd Thomas’, which starred an amazing young actor, the late Anton Yelchin. No sooner did the movie end, then I wanted to read the book again. And when I finished that, I wanted to read more, so here’s a review of Mr Dean Koontz’s first two books in the Odd Thomas series.

ODD THOMAS - Odd by name, a hero by nature.

He’s Odd. Odd Thomas, to be precise. Genius fry-cook at the Pico Mundo grill; boyfriend to the gorgeous Stormy Llewellyn – and possibly the only person with a chance of stopping one of the worst crimes in the bloody history of murder…

Something evil has come to the desert town that Odd and Stormy call home. It comes in the form of a mysterious man with a macabre appetite, a filing cabinet full of information on the world’s worst killers, and strange, hyena-like shadows following him wherever he goes. Odd is worried. He knows things, sees things – about the living, the dead and the soon to be dead. Things that he has to act on. Now he’s terrified for Stormy, himself and Pico Mundo. Because he knows that on Wednesday August 15, a savage, blood-soaked whirlwind of violence and murder will devastate the town.
Today is August 14. And Odd is far from sure he can stop the coming storm…

Odd Thomas is an exceptionally polite young man who lives his ordinary life as a fry cook, and is deeply in love with Stormy Llewellyn, a young woman whose childhood contains more horrors than his own. Perhaps that’s why she understands him better than most. She’s survived monsters, so it’s no surprise to her that Odd can see them among the ghosts that have been in and out of his life for as long as he can remember. Odd doesn’t know why the dead seem so fond of him, especially the ghost of Elvis Presley, but when they show him they need his help, Odd never refuses them. When the monsters Odd knows as Bodachs surge into his hometown, Odd knows something terrible is about to happen, but since he’s the only one who can see them, then Odd must do everything he can to prevent the coming disaster, whatever it may be.

I loved this story long before Anton Yelchin brought the character so wonderfully to life onscreen. Odd is certainly different, but he’s also the most affable and genuine character I’ve come across. Funny how sometimes you wish a character could be real rather than the clever imaginings of an author’s mind. I wanted him to succeed, I wanted him to have his happy ending, and to overcome all obstacles in his path. The result was a very bittersweet mix that carries Odd throughout the series and shapes everything he does. The urgency in which Odd shifts through the scattered clues the ghosts and his other abilities show him never waivers, and has the reader glued to the pages until the very end.

FOREVER ODD - I see dead people. But then, by God, I do something about it.

Odd Thomas never asked for his special ability. He’s just an ordinary guy trying to live a quiet life in the small desert town of Pico Mundo. Yet he feels an obligation to do right by his otherworldly confidants, and that’s why he’s won hearts on both sides of the divide between life and death. But when a childhood friend disappears, Odd discovers something worse than a dead body and embarks on a heart-stopping battle of will and wits with an enemy of exceptional cunning. In the hours to come there can be no innocent bystanders, and every sacrifice can tip the balance between despair and hope. 

When the ghost of his closest friend’s adoptive father appears in Odd’s room in the early hours of the morning, Odd races to check on his friend only to find the house empty except for the ghost’s body. His number one suspect is Danny’s biological father, recently released from prison. But as Odd utilises his ability and tracks his friend, he finds himself in a burned-out casino / hotel full of ghosts clinging to their own tragic demises and meets the real kidnapper – a kidnapper with abilities that rival Odd’s at every turn.

This story had a great twist, and delves into other cultural beliefs of what happens to the spirit / soul long after death. The antagonist is a character with a brilliantly twisted mind, confident in their own abilities, and a quest for knowledge that’s almost as deep as Odd’s. Once again, the reader is barracking for Odd to overcome the obstacles placed before him thanks to Danny mistakenly betraying Odd’s secrets to the one person who knows just how to make Odd’s gifts and his soul their own. As for the other ghosts in the hotel, for once it’s Odd that needs their help, not the other way around.

Mr Koontz has been a long-time favourite author of mine. I began reading his stories in my teens, alongside Mr Stephen King’s novels, and the magic of his writing has never left me. If you’ve yet to discover this wonderful writer, more on Mr Koontz can be found here.


Remember at the start when I said I met another amazing writer at the conference? I was introduced to the most delightful, effervescent author named Carolyn Wren. She was charming, vivacious, and interested in everyone around her, much like the lovely lady who introduced us. I could have listened to her speak all day too as she was so intriguing. And lucky me, I’m now the proud owner of a copy of her (signed) latest release with Serenity Press. :)

LOVE UNDER FIRE – THE LOVE UNDER FIRE SERIES PREQUEL

British government black ops agent, Remy Cross and his team are sent into a small jungle nation caught up in a government coup to rescue an aid worker, the daughter of a powerful politician.
The assignment appears straight forward, until Remy meets his very stubborn mission objective. She comes with baggage, literally, and she refuses to leave without it.

Astrid James only ever wanted to help people. Now she's locked in a sprawling mansion with two orphaned children, in the middle of a war zone, wearing only a white satin evening dress.
To make matters worse, she just attacked the man sent to rescue her.

Remy knows he only has three days to negotiate the treacherous jungle terrain and reach the rendezvous point. With a gorgeous, hot-headed, barefoot heiress and two tiny babies in tow, what could possibly go wrong?

Remy Cross is a professional, strictly-by-the-book black ops agent on a mission to rescue the stubborn daughter of a powerful politician. He’s all business until the woman he’s been sent to rescue almost succeeds where so many other dangerous criminals have failed – one well-placed blow over the head nearly does him in. There’s no time for apologies though because the monsters holding her captive will be back at any moment, and their chances of escaping are slim – much like the figure of the gorgeous would-be assailant who’s affecting more than just his body and his mind. Remy must get her out fast, as much for his protection as hers. A pity she’s not going anywhere unless he promises to take two orphaned babies with them.

Astrid James is a woman of principles, and she’s not about to back down from anyone to do what’s right, especially if they’re strong, smart, and altogether much too handsome for their own good. She’s strong and smart too, and fiercely protective of her young charges. So what if there’s treacherous jungles to traverse, militant soldiers chasing them, and a team of rescuers who probably think she’s little more than a spoiled brat to deal with. As soon as they reach the rendezvous point, she’ll give them a piece of her mind, and that will be the end of it, right?

I loved this. Stories where the main characters save each other, and are equal in their relationships are my favourite every time. A short story it may be, but it was action packed, well-paced, and answered any question I had about how fast the main characters’ relationship was progressing. In fact, the characters asked that question themselves, which showed me that Ms Wren thinks about her readers and can slip seamlessly between fiction and still have a real life / real time feel to her stories. Even the sub characters played their parts so well, and easily helped bring this story to life. Those sub characters each have their own story in subsequent books, which I look forward to reading. :) Oh, and the passionate scenes – they’ll leave you wanting more. :)

You can find more about this very lovely lady here. :)


News

Wow! Almost done. I did warn you I was a little excited and had much to share.

I'm pleased to say the road was fog free when I drove home later that night. The only thing that had me in a tight grip were the thoughts buzzing around in my head.

Let’s see, I have another copy editing job coming up in October. The unsuccessful novella will have another look over to see what else I can work on. I’ve started rewrites on a novel, and there’s another workshop to look forward to in a couple of weeks as well. I’m currently reading Charlaine Harris’ Midnight, Texas, and I have more of Dean Koontz’s Odd Thomas series to read. So, after all of that, all I need now is to add the kitchen sink.

Oh look!
  



Until next time, apologies for the eye strain, and may words fill your world with wonder. :)