Sunday, 22 December 2013

21. 2013 in Review and 'Abby's Revenge' - short story

Where did 2013 go? Did I blink and miss it? It certainly feels that way. The majority of this year has been wonderful so perhaps that’s why 2013 disappeared faster than a block of chocolate does at my house on any day ending in ‘y’.

As much as I would love to scream from the rooftops ‘I’m a published writer’, it hasn’t been my year to receive ‘the call’. However, I’m proud of my results in the competitions I’ve entered. Two wins at Claytons, (a scene and a sensual tension paragraph.) One was for a chapter critique. A First and a Highly Commended with the Capricorn Writers and Friends competition and another First place in my local writers group competition definitely left me on a high and in some cases, with a little extra cash for more paper and ink. :)

There are still a few competitions ahead of me, but they belong to the 2014 season. I’ve also added a short story for your reading pleasure. The first half of the story is the winning entry from the Claytons’ bathtub scene challenge. I had my cowboy’s point of view, so it’s only fair that I add my lady’s. No explicit warning this time, dear readers, just to prove I can behave myself on occasion. :)

Before the story begins, I’d like to share my writing goals for 2014. I have a novella to edit and another to complete. The second novella is the one I’m writing under the guidance of Ms Bette Shiels. So far, she has been full of praise, but she pulls me up for my mistakes too. Somewhere in there I have the Little Gems competition and a novel to edit that I must admit I’ve neglected. I don’t know if 2014 will be the year I can finally say I am a published writer, but I’ll be doing my best to get there. In the meantime I’ll practise my exhilarated screaming and hope the neighbours don’t get the wrong idea.

So, all the best to you all for the festive season. May you enjoy time with your loved ones, have a wonderful new year and may many great books find their way into your hands. :)

Abby’s Revenge

Jeff scrunched the rag between his hands to wipe the remaining grease from his fingers. He looked at the darkening sky and knew it wouldn’t be long before the storm hit. Heading toward the house, he’d circumnavigated the barn and was halfway across the yard before he spied her.
Bent over the old bathtub her father had converted into a feeding trough when they were young was the magnificent view of Abby’s denim-covered rear. In an instant he was transported to the first time he’d seen that bottom jiggling as she grudgingly completed her task.
Closer. Closer. One more step. Freeze!
Jeff held his breath as she paused to wipe a strand of hair from her eyes. When Abby resumed her task, he closed in on the oblivious girl. As she worked the hard bristles of the brush along the side of the bathtub trying to loosen stubborn, half chewed clumps of feed from their cast iron confines, he edged closer, her discontented grumbles covering his footfalls.
She bent over; her little legs supported precariously by little more than a toe hold on the muddy ground as she reached deeper into the tub. The temptation was too much. Jeff took the final step, placed both hands firmly on her back and pushed.
There was a screech, a thud and then a thunderous roar as Abby came up for air.
‘Jefferson Malcolm Davies! When I get my hands on you...’
He looked over his shoulder as he ran, his reward, the sight of a bedraggled girl climbing out of the bathtub only to step onto a freshly laid cow pat. His peal of breath-robbing laughter drowned her indignant cries as she slipped and hit the ground with a thud. He scrambled over the fence and bolted across the paddock with Abby’s promises of revenge still ringing in his ears.
She made good on that promise too. His stomach recoiled as if he could still taste the huntsman she’d stuffed inside one of his sandwiches at school. It hadn’t stopped him. To sneak up on Abby as she griped and groaned about her most hated chore was his favourite pastime. Sometimes she’d catch him and her revenge would be swift, but usually Abby would be covered in slop and, if he was lucky, sliding into another cow pat to complete the hilarity.
Jeff hadn’t seen her since he was eighteen and Abby, having just turned fifteen, left for boarding school and then college in the city. Busy with work, competing in rodeos and romancing the pretty girls in town, he never gave Abby a passing thought. He’d heard she was back. When he collected a part for her father’s motorbike, the town was abuzz with the news of little Abby all grown up. Every male from eighteen to forty had a stupid look on his face when her name was mentioned in the pub where he stopped for lunch, and now here she was, grumbling as she cleaned the bathtub that was little more than a rusted-out shell.
He grinned. Tossing the rag aside, he contemplated giving her a little push; just to show her that she was still bratty little Abby to him but the girl he knew had gone. In her place was a woman of lush curves and legs that went on forever. Even her vocabulary was more colourful than he remembered. Temptation of a different kind called to him as he watched her work.
He blinked, struggled to recall why he was there and then he was moving again. He didn’t know why he put his arms around her waist rather than carry out the push he intended. And it was hard to say who was more surprised when she spun around and crushed a spectacular pair of breasts into the hard wall of his chest.
Neither spoke as the first drops of rain fell. Abby gazed at him, her expression changing from startled anger to pleasant surprise. The rain grew heavier, soaking them in icy liquid. He couldn’t help but notice the way the dampening material of her t-shirt clung to her skin. She smiled when she caught him staring and stepped closer. Surprised, he’d stepped backward. Abby followed. He raised an eyebrow. Abby looked past him at the barn and her grin widened as she looked back at him. The heavens opened as they raced toward shelter.
‘You were going to push me, weren’t you?’
Jeff couldn’t help himself. He nodded and gave her a lopsided grin, the one that melted many a girl’s heart.
‘You realise that means revenge, right?’
His hat went sailing across the barn and disappeared behind a stack of hay bales. The snick of leather moving across material sounded as his belt slid from his jeans and coiled on the ground like an angry snake. She pushed him back onto the pile of blankets they kept for the horses and pulled off his boots, the mischievous grin never leaving her beautiful face. Abby moved so she was straddling him, her eyes widening when she realised she had his full, and straining, attention.
With deliberate slowness she leaned forward to undo the top button of his shirt but he was too engrossed with the splendid view he had of her cleavage to notice. It wasn’t until she was pulling out his shirt, unbuttoning, and then lowering the zipper of his jeans that he figured he’d caught on to her little game.
Jeff raised his hips and manoeuvred so the denim inched down to reveal a pelvic area well-muscled from years of physical labour. He was keen to see just how far she’d take this ‘revenge’ of hers. Any second now he was sure she’d bolt like some skittish mare and head for the safety of the house. He told himself he could handle that eventuality, but he couldn’t ignore that inner voice that prayed she wouldn’t.
Whenever she thought of Jeff, visions of a tall, thin boy with shaggy hair and a penchant for mischief would fill her vision. Years of torment by his hand made her teeth grit, her eyes narrow and her hands clench into tight fists of fury. Sure, she’d retaliated. She knew he’d never forgiven her for the huntsman flavoured sandwich at school, but he never saw her as anything more than his best friend’s bratty little sister. Well, all that was about to change.
Abby changed into the denim shorts she’d worn at fifteen. They were snug and a little higher cut than she remembered, but they made her legs look exquisite. She reached for a dark coloured t-shirt then paused when she heard a distant rumble of thunder. A glance out her bedroom window had her rushing back to her suitcase and picking out a white t-shirt instead. Never let it be said that not-so-little Abigail Wentworth didn’t take advantage of situations as they presented themselves.
Barefoot and brush in hand, Abby poured her concentration into scrubbing the tub. For the first few minutes she listened hard, waiting for Jeff to come around the corner. Busy checking her dad’s motorbike, he hadn’t noticed Abby as she passed. As the time stretched, she became angry. What was taking him so long? The increasing rumble of thunder must surely make him emerge from the shed and come around to her side of the barn to see how close the storm was. Her plan wasn’t going to work if he stayed where he was. No, he had to see her like this. He had to remember those years of torment at this very spot beside the old bathtub. And when he came close, whether it was to gloat or to engage her in conversation, he’d never know what hit him.
Engrossed in her pretence of cleaning the tub and her infuriation that Jeff hadn’t noticed her, Abby didn’t know anyone was behind her until a pair of strong, tanned arms encircled her waist.
Startled, she twirled in the man’s embrace. It wasn’t until she rested her palms on his biceps to push herself away from him that she realised who was holding her. Unsure whether he’d pressed her closer or she’d moved forward, Abby held her breath when the softness of her breasts crushed against him.
Neither spoke as the first drops of rain fell. Jeff stared at her, his expression changing from pleasant surprise to one of pure lust. Her stiffening nipples weren’t because of the chill rain soaking her now transparent t-shirt. It was the heat of his gaze coiling them into hard peaks. She released a sigh as his embrace loosened. Inwardly she smiled. Her plan was working. She could see how uncomfortable Jeff was, how hard he fought to keep his eyes from her chest only to look straight back there again. He was struggling with his desire and Abby knew it. She grinned and stepped closer. He stepped back so suddenly he almost let her go. Abby was quick to follow. In answer to his raised eyebrow her grin evolved into a come-hither smile as she looked toward the barn and then back at him.
No sooner had they taken refuge from the storm than Abby was stepping into his personal space.
‘You were going to push me, weren’t you?’
Desire coiled in her belly when he nodded, his trademark lopsided grin affecting her more than she wanted to admit. Still, she’d started this dare and she’d see it through.
‘You realise that means revenge, right?’
She didn’t give herself time to think. His hat and belt disappeared. The cold, wet cling of her t-shirt vanished as she peeled it off and threw it beside a pile of old blankets. Seconds later she was pushing Jeff back against the blankets and pulling off his socks and shoes. He didn’t protest. He seemed incapable of doing anything more than stare at her as she straddled him. She couldn’t contain her gasp of surprise when she realised her effect on him as he strained against her but there was no backing out now. She leaned forward, her fingers working the buttons of his shirt and pushing it back to reveal a cluster of muscles that brought the tip of her tongue to her lips. She couldn’t wait to taste him.
Her hands unsnapped the button, pausing only when she’d undone the zipper of his jeans.
Now what did she do? Should she keep going? Would he stop her? She’d been bratty little Abby to him for so long, would he even realise she was a grown woman with desires that threatened to overwhelm them both?
She raised her gaze to his, her uncertainty revealed. An all-too familiar smirk consumed him and then he was lifting his hips and easing his jeans down to reveal firm flesh that was every bit as enticing as his chest.
He was challenging her. She knew it from the way his smirk brought out the sparkle of mischief in his eyes. She normally saw that expression from a distance as he was running away from whatever prank he’d played on her. Up this close, that teasing look was overwhelming. A part of her wanted to stand and run for the safety of her room, but she’d never live it down if she did. Instead, she listened to the part of her that desired him, that wanted his touch. She latched on to that inner determination to be his equal, to carry out her plan. And when he stilled and gave her a look that was both wanton and hopeful, she knew she had him.
When she was flush against him and their lips met, Jeff no longer cared that this started as a game. There was no thought to besting bratty little Abby. The coolness of her rain-drenched skin burned into his. Already his body demanded release and she’d done no more than kiss him.
The thunder overhead was nothing to the shattering race of his heart, its clamour matched only by Abby’s. Rain peppered the tin roof like a million liquid missiles locked onto their metal target. His nostrils flared as the sharp, fresh hit of ozone mixed with the aroma of Abby’s enticing scent. He tried his best to ignore the sharp scratch of the hay pressing into his backside where his jeans and shirt parted ways. He wanted nothing more than to concentrate on pleasuring Abby and lose himself in the sensation of their bodies becoming one.
If it were at all possible, the pounding in his chest gained momentum when his thumbs hooked into the waistband of her shorts and tugged at them. It was hard to tell who was more agitated when she eased herself away from him long enough to undo the fastenings and divest herself of her clothing. The disappointment he felt at not getting to unwrap the gift she’d made of herself vanished when he realised she hadn’t been wearing underwear.
God damn it, he was going to come in his pants like a randy teenager.
A predatory growl emerged unbidden from his throat and he liked the look she gave him when he did it - startled and aroused all at once. He shifted and unfolded the topmost blanket with a dexterity that impressed them both. Deftly he drew her to him and eased her on to her back, assured she would not suffer the same discomfort he had. It was only when she laughed softly and her face glowed like a beacon that he realised moving the blanket had exposed a secret.
It took him a moment to realise what the little packet was and then it dawned on him that she’d planned this. Bratty little Abby who’d done nothing but swear revenge at him for as long as he could remember, the girl he thought would never look twice at him after so many years of torment wanted him. The girl whom he’d secretly adored and tried to forget since her fifteenth birthday and whom he’d never found an equal desired him. So many emotions filtered through his mind like the howling wind soaring through the barn’s eaves was.
Did she feel the same? What if this was more than just desire? What if she truly wanted him?
‘Are you sure about this?’
The words were out of his mouth before he could stop then. She wasn’t to know the thoughts churning through his head.
In answer, she retrieved the packet and placed it between her teeth, ripping the foil as if it were little more than tissue paper.
Before she could hand it to him, he was taking it from her fingers and putting it on. Then he swept her into a kiss that left them both dazed and breathless.
The thunder rumbled its approval, the rain a cascading applause. And the last thought that crossed Jeff’s mind as he whispered her name was the knowledge that Abby’s revenge was the sweetest he’d ever known.

Monday, 25 November 2013

20. NaNo, Birthdays, Workshops & Doctor Who

NaNo certainly teaches you to acquire the habit of writing daily, but more importantly, it demands you switch off that annoying internal editor so you can just write. There’s no wondering if you've chosen the correct word or phrase. None of this going back and deleting paragraphs that were sheer brilliance yesterday and yet today looks like absolute drivel (and sound worse). No telling yourself the words you've written aren't worth the ink you wrote them with either. You just sit down, start writing and watch that tally soar. So far, my word count is on track but come the first of December, well, I imagine my internal editor will return with friends and a ‘to delete’ list. At least I know that with the more drafts that I do and the more I improve, that internal editor will have less to do.

It helps, I think, that I write my stories longhand. I listen to the sounds of nature outside my window, my kids either proclaiming their ever-changing feelings for each other and whatever blend of background noise has joined the competition. There’s no sitting at the computer with a finger hovering over the delete button. And no distraction of Facebook either (boy am I guilty of that one). I don’t listen to any specific music as I’m writing either, but when you’re in the zone; you don’t hear a thing anyway – especially the kids fighting. ;)

November has been a busy month. In addition to NaNo, I helped a couple of special family members celebrate birthdays, attended a ‘Getting Published’ workshop and took great pleasure in watching the 50th Anniversary special of Doctor Who.

There isn't a baker on the planet who’d consider my efforts as competition when it comes to cake decorating, but I had a brief to follow and I did my best to comply. With two family members sharing the same birthdate, we normally have a combination birthday cake. This year I had a request for a ‘Batman’ cake and a butterfly cake. Not a combination one would consider compatible, right. Well, I did my best and while they were very kind about the questionable decorating, everyone agreed the cake was delicious, which I'm going to take as the sign of a job well done.


Dr Robyn Sheahan-Bright hosted the Australian Authors Association ‘Getting Published’ workshop and I was under no illusion that the hard work stopped once the words ‘The End’ appeared. I just didn’t realise just how many more steps were involved in the process of publishing. Besides the obvious points of whom to approach and did I need an agent there are so many other things to consider. How legal and binding are contracts and do they negate any of my rights as a writer? Are there allowances for the change of technology? In the past, contracts didn’t allow for the possibility of turning books into movies. The sharing of stories and the medium in which they’re utilised could go in so many directions in the future. Then there are the legalities and your rights working with a publisher and your choices when that relationship isn’t working. There were points mentioned I hadn’t even considered, didn’t even know about. It’s clear I need to know more about the publishing world BEFORE I am published (staying positive, folks.)  :)

And then there’s Doctor Who. I’ve been a fan of the series since I was a small child. I’ve been terrified, exhilarated, sad and mad, sometimes all in the one episode or storyline. I grew up waiting for the T.A.R.D.I.S. to land in my front yard and whisk me away on many a grand adventure. When the good doctor didn’t appear (because he was busy saving the world, obviously) I turned to my books and the over abundant imagination that has always been in ready supply. 

I watched the special with my family (passing the love on to the next generation) from the edge of my seat in rapturous glee. Now I’ve never had the urge to try script writing but if I did, Doctor Who would be my ultimate goal. Just to sit around the table and listen to the team of writers as they verbalised their ideas would be an unimaginable thrill. In truth, I think I’d be too in awe to write anything but oh the possibilities and daydreams that would be running around in my head. :)

Well, just a few days left of NaNo and I can already hear that little editor (and friends) calling so I’d best get back to it. One last thing, a little something from my favourite ‘doctor’ – would you like a jelly baby?  :)

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

19. Workshop 101

Whew! One story finished with several to go. I’m pleased with my novella but we’ll see how things go when I check it in a few weeks’ time. I’m sure the mistakes will be glaringly obvious by then.

My hometown hosted a workshop presented by Mrs Bette Shiels last month. For those who don’t know her, Mrs Shiels is an accomplished author. She’s well-travelled, a patient teacher, is generous with her tips and tricks for budding writers and is an amazing storyteller who I could have listened to for hours. Unfortunately, we didn’t have that long.

Mrs Shiels is also the founding member of the Bundaberg Writers Group, which is in turn a well-renowned host city for its annual writers workshop held in the third week of May. You always learn something new at a workshop no matter how many you attend. There is so much information and so many authors, publishers etc. more than willing to share that knowledge and experience. They’re well worth investing your time while working toward your writing goals.

One of the workshop exercises we had was to create a character, which we then read out to our fellow attendees. The next step was to create a story involving these characters in thirty minutes. All we had to work with were their ages, gender, some basic characteristics and a few sentences regarding their backgrounds and we were off and writing. It was such fun. The amazing thing was how well those random characters came together. Not one of us expected that. Once the workshop finished, Mrs Shiels invited us to polish our short stories and send them to her for a critique.

What an opportunity. :)

My personal bugbear ‘too much telling’ was evident, but from the story I sent, Mrs Shiels has challenged me to turn it into a novella. November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWrMo). This is an event for writers to set themselves a goal of writing 50,000 words in 30 days in view of creating (and perhaps finishing) a new story. One can commit to any number of words but 50 K is the standard. Since a novella is between 20,000 – 40,000 words, I believe I have my writing challenge for November ready and eager to go. :)

At Mrs Shiels workshop, she talked about her published works. One of her stories – Home of Tortured Souls – was a book I was very interested in reading. The paranormal and supernatural worlds fascinate me so of course I had to buy it. There’s something special about having the author speak about her book, share her motivation, her compulsion to write it and how it made her feel. I had chills listening to her describe the events that lead to this story just as I had chills reading it.

The most fascinating part of the story (to me) was the fact that Mrs Shiels visited this very building and had a sense of a story that had to be written. She wrote most of it whilst waiting for her daughter to find more information about the abandoned Colonial Orphanage, which is the cornerstone of her story. By the time the information came through, she learned most of the history behind the story she’d created actually happened. Coincidence? Maybe. Or maybe those tortured souls reached out to Mrs Shiels in order to have their story told.

Home of Tortured Souls is the story of a family that ventured into an abandoned house and witnessed something they couldn’t forget. Lee Bray, a loving grandmother resolved to discover more about the abandoned building upon discovering her three-year-old grandson conversing with a spirit child trapped in the Home, a ghost begging for release. Soon after, Luke, the grandson, begins speaking in an Irish brogue and talks of ‘nelope (Penelope) the child that only he could see. Although Lee can’t see Penelope, she soon has visions of other ghosts that lead her to solving a puzzle to help set the tortured souls free. How she does this will leave you amazed. The line between fact and fiction is seamless. This story will give you chills and definitely wonder ‘what if’.

Learn more about Mrs Shiels and her books at

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

18. Busy Days Ahead

I don’t know where the time’s gone. What’s happened to September? Well that old adage ‘time flies when you’re having fun’ certainly has me well within its grasp. I promise no husband, children or pets were completely abandoned these past few weeks because I was here in body. My mind however...

In just a thousand or so words I’ll be finished my latest novella, which will then rest for a few weeks until I’m ready to edit. Hopefully it will wow the publisher I’m coveting. I’m pleased with the way it’s come along. No doubt, there’ll be errors to fix but it’s hard to beat the feeling of accomplishment for another story that’s (almost) complete and what a joy it was to write.

Then there are the competition stories. I had a good run with competitions last month as you know from the previous blog, but that doesn’t stop the nerves from resurfacing when you enter a new one. RWA has a new competition this year called ‘The Ripping Start’. I’ve entered the first few pages of my novella. Soon I’ll have feedback on those pages and see where I can improve. Of course, a win would be lovely but it’s the impact I’m after. I’ll elaborate on this further along.

RWA also has a Little Gems competition at the end of the year. Our gem this year is Moonstone. I’m also excited about this one as I have a few ideas in mind of where to take this story. This will be my third Little Gems competition. I’ve done well with this one (though not enough to earn a place in the anthology) but who knows, it might be my turn this year. :)

My local writing group also has a competition due in November. It’s an open theme, which is both a challenge and a joy at the same time. I’ve started writing this one too. It began as one of those random ideas for homework that went off on its own tangent. I’m trying to discourage myself from doing too much pantstering(Writing by the seat of one’s pants). I know that’s not a real word but that’s how one describes someone who writes randomly and allows the story and characters to take over and lead where they may.  Instead, I’m concentrating more on plotting my stories and giving them structure to build on (which I did with my novella and mostly kept it on track). ;)

That reminds me, I have next month’s writers group homework to do too....

Now it hasn’t all been about writing these past few weeks. I’ve made time to get some reading done too, hence the house looking like a bomb, a cyclone and a horde of demons had a mash-up in it. I’ve reviewed these writers before, but I’ve found new favourites of theirs to read. :)

I mentioned in the last blog that I’d won a copy of Ms Annie West’s latest book – ‘Imprisoned by a Vow’ as well as having purchased a copy the day before so I’m pleased to announce that I have Ms West’s permission to offer this second copy as a gift. All you have to do is either make a comment on my blog or on Face Book and the copy could be on its way to you. Once you’ve read it, I’ve no doubt Ms West would love to hear from you too. Reviews are a great way to support authors. :)

In reference to the Ripping Start contest, this book’s opening pages would easily win. I instantly knew who the protagonist and antagonist were. I sympathised and yet was angry for the heroine and I wanted her to achieve her goals. As for the hero, I wanted to grab him by the lapels and give him a good shake. Ms West’s characters are always realistic. You feel what they feel, want what they want, feel frustrated when they make mistakes and cheer when they triumph and this story is no exception. On a personal note, Leila (the heroine) has an inner strength that I admire because the frightening thing is, her situation at the beginning of the story is all too real. No one should endure what she did. You know the writing is exceptional when you are made to feel anything that strongly.

I also read Ms Jenny Schwartz’s ‘Drawing Closer’. It is because of this wonderful writer that I ventured into the world of novellas. Ms Schwartz is an expert in compacting extensive detail, passion, emotion and wonderment into just a fraction of words. She doesn’t skimp on anything. I’d be thrilled if I could follow her lead. Drawing Closer is Zoe and Nick’s story – two artists, she a painter and he a sculptor, who share a studio on what’s meant to be an impersonal level, yet each harbour feelings for the other. Her build-up of intimacy between the two is so clever and as in any good romance story, love will always find a way. You won’t be disappointed.

Ms Margaret Sutherland’s latest release will tug at your heartstrings. Anyone with an affinity with animals, especially dogs, will love this story. ‘Seven Little Words’ is sweet, gentle, romantic and then Ms Sutherland throws you a curve ball that compels you to keep turning the pages to make sure ALL the characters get their happily ever after. I was cursing Ms Sutherland when I got to that particular scene. It was OMG she can’t kill David’s father to tears streaming down my face when I realised Banquo (one of the dogs) had raced inside to save his former master’s life and I had to worry about them both being safe. Where was my ‘tissues required’ warning? Cathy and David were compelling characters but what really tore at my emotions were the relationships and trials they had with David’s father and Cathy’s grandmother. Best of all I liked how Cathy and David didn’t play any games. They really communicated with each other and they listened. That was such a refreshing change. Finally, as I have family in Newcastle, NSW, I loved all the landmark references. I felt like I was right there where the action was, the places were all so familiar.

Well, best keep going. Like time and tide, writing waits for no one. :)

Saturday, 24 August 2013

17. Post-Claytons 2013

Nope, couldn’t contain myself. :)

So far, August has been a spectacular month. My loved ones are safe, well and happy. I witnessed a beautiful wedding and was geared up to attend the online Claytons conference. I’m pleased to say it was every bit as wonderful as last year’s. I caught up with writers I knew and chatted to some who were not so familiar. There was fun, frivolity and a cache of cheekiness all at the click of a button.

Friday night was our familiarisation night. We made sure we knew which chat room we needed to attend for each session and enjoyed a virtual party complete with champagne and canapé’s. Some of the wait staff were very, very hot! ;) Thanks to generous donations from RWA’s many accomplished authors, there were prizes galore. E-books, vouchers and offers of critiques peppered our conversations. There is a new E-book coming my way from Friday’s ventures. :)

The next morning, the ‘other’ fun began. First we had Ms Alexandra Sokoloff – accomplished screen writer and novelist – who briefed us on the 3 Act, 8 Structure method of writing. Generally speaking, you could say your story (or movie or television show) has a beginning, middle and end and each are defined by a specific act or emotional climax. These are your three acts. To break this down further, you could say there are four main parts – the beginning, the middle which is broken into two parts, and the end. These in turn are halved by a specific act or emotional climax – your eight structures. For example, a climax (plot twist) could be a death, a sex scene or the giving of a vital clue that leads on to the next part of the story and on to its conclusion. Naturally Ms Sokoloff’s books explain this in greater detail. (And much better than I do.)

I downloaded her book – Writing Love (Screenwriting Tricks for Romance Writers) - as Alexandra’s time with us was over far too soon. Also available is her book - Screenwriting Tricks for Writers - which covers different genres and uses different examples to explain her methods. Well worth the read for anyone serious about their writing.

The next session I attended was New Zealand’s published writer, Ms Zana Bell. She asked what our hurdles were for writing and seeking publication and then gave us her tips for overcoming them. I’m afraid I could relate to some of the obstacles mentioned just a little too well. Ms Bell also graciously answered our many questions such as approaching publishers, learning to deal with rejections and the oft-debated need for an agent.

Before we broke for a late lunch, I chose Australian published writer, Mel Teshco’s session on Sensual Tension. Our group learned there didn’t have to be sex to create the ‘right’ amount of sensual tension in a story just as we learned that a beautifully written, no holds barred scene had its place too. Ms Teshco also presided over our first competition for the day.

Along with two other lovely ladies, I was lucky enough to win a critique on one chapter of my work. I bravely sent in my selection and was rewarded with a brilliant critique. She showed what I’d done right and what I’d done wrong and gave tips and suggestions on how to improve my work overall. Now I have to bring the rest of my story up to her standard.

After lunch we had a session on revision with Ms Valerie Parv, an award winning romance writer whose career spans decades. There weren’t too many questions asked in this segment. Perhaps we were all a little in awe of her, regardless of the fact that she was very down to earth and extremely friendly. I’ve mentioned before how wonderful I found her book - The Art of Romance Writing - and she didn’t disappoint in her session either. She reminded us how important it is to switch off our internal editors while writing and then give that writing time to rest before we worked on our drafts and made those all-important revisions.

Saturday night we found our second wind and socialised while we waited to hear the results from the official conference in Fremantle. (Western Australia is two hours behind so we had to wait a while – not that anyone was complaining.) Some of the writers who attended Claytons were also nominated for awards and it was wonderful to be notified of their wins. I’m sure they would rather have been there to accept their awards in person, but I hope we made them feel special with our on-line cheers.

It was also time to announce the winners of the Claytons Competition Challenge and that sexy bathtub cleaning scene. The competition was split into published and unpublished entries and the honour of winning first place (unpublished) was mine. Believe me; I am well aware of the very high calibre of writers who entered so I am in awe of the win. I know the two lovely ladies who beta-read for me were just as excited. Perhaps now they won’t be too mad at me for ‘leaving them hanging’. I’ve promised to finish it for them because goodness knows what may happen to me if I don’t.

Again there were random giveaways and I figure I was meant to have Ms Annie West’s latest novel, ‘Imprisoned by a Vow’ because not only had I bought a copy on Friday, but I also won the E-book version that night.  :)

We had a break for most of Sunday, but in the evening we returned to our laptops and computers for a chat with Ms Charlotte Ledger from Harper Impulse Publishing. A global E-publisher, Ms Ledger told us what they expected from their writers as well as what we could expect if we signed with them. Just the thought of being published worldwide, let alone in Australia is pretty exciting. Currently, Australia is considered an exotic country, which overseas readers want to read and learn about through our stories. It is simultaneously an exciting and sobering thought.

Understandably I was on a high the entire weekend. I was in contact with people who are as passionate about writing as I am. I had the thrill of placing in two competitions and I was receiving an overload of terrific and valuable information. And that excitement didn’t end when the conference did.

I logged off and had dinner with my family who I’d barely seen for most of the weekend and thought I’d just check my email before settling down to watch some TV with the kids. There in my email was a notification that two of my short stories had been successful in a competition I had entered in May. I received a First and a Third (Highly Commended) place for my work. I was beside myself. I even dragged my husband over to the computer to make sure I wasn’t seeing things but it was really there. :)

How wonderful to feel as though my writing skills are improving and I’m headed in the right direction. (It’s always nice to have a few highs to balance out the lows.) And it’s a good thing I have such a wonderful family and support network to keep me grounded because it’s a bit hard to get my swelled head through the door at the moment, but no doubt the arrival of the rates bill will fix that. :/

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

16. Pre-Claytons 2013

You can tell I’m excited when I blog about a conference that hasn’t even happened yet. Next weekend, however, I will be in writing nirvana as I attend my second Claytons conference.

Yes, I would love to be attending RWA’s official conference in Fremantle, Western Australia (I spent part of my honeymoon there many years ago) but attending the Claytons conference is by no means second best. (That’s right, the virtual conference you attend when you’re not attending the physical one.)

Last year I came away with invaluable knowledge given by expert writers and publishers, won some amazing books and even came first place in a fast fiction contest. (My banner was one of those wonderful prizes.) But the most important thing I discovered was some amazing, supportive writers who to this day check on my progress and offer their encouragement. Three of the lovely ladies I met last year have since acquired contracts for their stories. How exciting is that?

This year, we have pre-conference exercises. We had to create a scene in which the cleaning of a bathtub had to be mentioned. Doesn’t sound that romantic, right? Oh it was fun though – when I managed to get an actual 'scene' written and not the short story I kept writing instead. I do hope we get to read the winning entries because I know there will be some fabulous ones.

We also had to complete a paragraph on sensual tension by adding another 200 – 250 words to the original text. Again, I’m hoping we get to read each other’s entries and see how everyone worked their magic. :) The exercises were all in good fun but more importantly they’re all building blocks for our skill levels.

While two of my favourite authors will be in Fremantle, (and yes I’m disappointed I don’t get to meet them in person) this year’s Claytons team has provided a fantastic group of writers and publishers ready and willing to share their knowledge and experience with us regardless of our individual skill levels. Next month’s blog will, no doubt, be a bubbling mess of indecipherable babble as I share my experiences with these generous people – if I can last that long...

To add to this month’s excitement, my family and I attended the wedding of two special friends. They married on Heron Island (it’s off the Central Queensland coast for those who don’t know.) The weather couldn’t have been more perfect. Not a cloud crossed the sky, crystal clear water caressed powdery white sand in effortless ripples and the beginnings of a spectacular sunset served as backdrop for the ceremony. I managed to deliver the reading without my usual nervous stuttering. I even remembered to turn on the microphone so I could be heard before stepping back to witness those wonderful words – ‘I do.’

The story of how they met belongs to them, but to witness their happiness on their special day is something I simply must share. My personal highlight was their wedding dance. My first dance as a married woman was a sedate waltz to the Honeydrippers’ Sea of Love. Theirs was a beautiful re-enactment of Dirty Dancing’s amazing finale. To the tune of ‘I’ve Had the Time of my Life’, they had it covered from ‘Johnny’ leading her on to the stage to ‘Baby’ leaping in to his arms. YouTube may have found itself another wedding sensation. :)

Before all the excitement gets the better of me, I’ll sign off. Think of me next weekend glued to my computer chair, my eyeballs drying out as I refuse to blink, hoping like hell I’m taking notes in my notebook and not on the desk and that no one dares to knock on the door and disturb me. (Of course, I will be taking my WH&S breaks as commanded by Dana, this year’s co-ordinator). ;)