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. :)

4 comments:

  1. Sorry to hear your novella wasn't accepted, but at least you got positive feedback. Also sounds like you had a great time attending wonderful workshops and meeting other local authors. Is always great to get together with our tribe.
    I was a big reader of Koontz in my youth. Your post makes me want to find all his books and read them again. As if my TBR pile wasn't big enough as it is. LOL.

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    1. Thank you, Shelley. Yes, I'm sticking to the positives. :)

      I had the best day at the workshop. Always wonderful to meet more of the tribe. :)

      That's exactly how I felt after watching the Odd Thomas movie. I had to read the books. Unfortunately, most of my books are still in storage, but the few boxes we unpacked had the Odd series in them. :) Winning. :)

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  2. Hey, great post as always... and sorry to hear your novella didn't make it.... j-a

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    1. Thank you Julie-Anne. Pleased you enjoyed it. It was great to see you on the day. :)

      And thanks for your sympathies. Maybe next time. :)

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