Christmas and Debut Blog Party

This will be a very special Christmas for me – it’ll be my first as a published writer. My debut ONE PERFECT NIGHT releases on December 19th from Carina Press. To celebrate, I’m doing a couple of things.
1) I’m only reading Christmas books in December because my book is a Christmas book too.
2) I’m hosting a whole load of fabulous authors on my blog talking about their own Christmas releases and why they love writing Christmas books, or something along those lines.

Many of these authors have books I’ve either read or am looking forward to reading this month and I hope during my Christmas book blog party, you’ll find some new authors you love as well.

I’ll feature one author each day and there’ll even be some fabulous book giveaways interspersed throughout the month.

So, sit back, eat a mince pie (if that’s your thing, it’s not really mine), fill yourself a glass of bubbly and enjoy the Christmas party.




2012 National Year of Reading

This post was STOLEN (shock-horror) from the fabulous Helene Young’s blog!

Australian Women Writers 2012 National Year of Reading Challenge

Keen on romance, fantasy, crime, YA, literary, mainstream women’s fiction? Contemporary or historical? Memoir, other nonfiction or poetry?

Whatever your preference, whether you’re a fan of one genre or a devoted eclectic, the 2012 Australian Women Writers Book Reading & Reviewing Challenge invites you to celebrate a year encountering the best of Australian women’s writing.

Objective: This challenge hopes to help counteract the gender bias in reviewing and social media newsfeeds that has continued throughout 2011 by actively promoting the reading and reviewing of a wide range of contemporary Australian women’s writing. (Recent discussions on gender bias.)

Readers should approach this challenge with a spirit of willingness. There are no failures, just personal goals. Reviews can be long or short, favourable or “this book is not for me”. Hopefully, along the way, we’ll all discover some future classics and perhaps a few surprises among genres we’re not familiar with. The main aim is to have fun.

Challenge period: 1 January 2012 – 31 December 2012

Goal: Read and review books written by Australian women writers – hard copies, ebooks and audiobooks, new, borrowed or stumbled upon by book-crossing.

My thanks to Elizabeth Lhuede for initiating this challenge. She’s been championing Australian women’s fiction across the blogsphere over the last month and this is another wonderful opportunity to support those writers.

Along with Helene and a bunch of other wonderful people, I’m accepting the challenge for 2012 as I know I won’t have to work very hard to achieve ‘Franklin Fantastic’ Status. Some of my favourite Australian women writers have books coming out in 2012 so I’m aiming to read one a month. They’ll cross most genres from romance to crime to contemporary women’s fiction to literary work.

My list will include Cathryn Hein, Fiona Palmer, Fleur McDonald, Helene Young, Karly Lane, Jaye Ford, Leah Ashton, Fiona Lowe, Lisa Heidke, Kelly Hunter, Sarah Mayberry, Coleen Yan, Loretta Hill and no doubt more!

Who’s joining us??

When do you research?

I must admit research for the novels I’ve written so far has been quite limited. A medical tidbit here and there, something about weather or location. Maybe subconsciously I’ve shied away from too much research because I’m scared of getting something terribly wrong and everyone saying what a silly-billy I am 🙂

My last wip was set in Hollywood and this in itself scared me. The story that I wanted to tell HAD to be set here but I was terrified any reader (or editor) would be able to tell that I’ve never been anywhere NEAR the place. The verdict is still out on this because I haven’t heard from the editor whether it is any good yet.
But in the meantime, I’m starting a new novel (or two). Research for one included a bit of a Google about cat illnesses last night and today I’m moving on to reading about dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. I’m two chapters into the story that is going to quite heavily involve an old man with some form of dementia. Not sure yet whether he’ll have Alzheimer’s or not but I think it’s time to open a few books and do some online research on the disease.
This got me to thinking about how much research I need to do right now. Do I need to find out every last thing about Alzheimer’s right away or should I just dive right in to write the book and stop to research as questions come up? I’m not sure if one way is better or the other. Even if I do some reading now, there’ll probably be some things I need to find out about as I go along.
So tonight, I’m going to start with some vague reading around the subject and maybe look for specifics as they arise.
But I’m curious? How do you research? Does it totally consume you before you start a novel or do you dive right in and pause to research only when absolutely necessary?

Theory on Thursday with Nicola Marsh

This week I have multi-published and speedy, hugely talented author Nicola Marsh talking online writing courses. As it happens, I too have done the course Nicola mentions and I agree that it is fantastic. At the end of Nic’s post, don’t forget to leave a comment about your own fab course experiences 🙂


I’m a sucker for ‘how to’ writing books.

Love buying them.

Love flicking through them.

Love seeing them lined up on my bookshelf.

Hate that I don’t refer back to them again!

With constant deadlines and busy boys to raise, I don’t have the time to flick through resource books the way I’d like to.

What I do flick through time and time again are my notes from 2 brilliant online courses:

LAURIE SCHNEBLY CAMPBELL’S Plotting via Motivation and Plotting from Start to Finish (Master Class.)

These 2 courses inspired me. Laurie’s class notes were brilliant, her motivation checklist worth the fee alone.

While I’m more a pantser than a plotter, using snippets learned from Laurie’s classes I can pretty much nail down my characters’ conflict and motivations from the start these days, and that usually saves a load of trouble later down the track around the ‘sagging middle.’

I can’t speak highly enough of Laurie and her willingness to answer questions offline during the courses too.

You can sign up for her course alerts via her website

(As an aside, my first Romantic Times magazine Top Pick, MARRIAGE: FOR BUSINESS OR PLEASURE? was dedicated to Laurie because of the help she gave me during the writing of this book. I credit the Top Pick to her!)

At the time I did Laurie’s courses, I went through a phase where I did many online courses. My recommendation is to check the credentials of the presenters.

Do your research. Choose wisely. Have fun.

Because we never stop learning.

Care to share any online courses you’ve found particularly useful? (Or another ‘how to’ book I absolutely must add to my bookshelf?)

Melbourne-based Nicola Marsh has written 30 books for Harlequin Romance & Presents series, and BUSTED IN BOLLYWOOD is her first mainstream contemporary romance/romantic comedy/chicklit/women’s fiction novel. Think ‘Sex and the City’ meets ‘Eat, Pray, Love’.

She loves chatting and can be found on her website blog Facebook Twitter

Her blog tour for BUSTED IN BOLLYWOOD kicks off next week and she’ll be providing loads of fabulous Indian recipes as part of her Bolly-Bites. Get your spices ready and join her in cooking up a storm! Plus she’ll be giving away one copy a day of BUSTED IN BOLLYWOOD for 3 weeks!

How To Choose Your Next Project!

Does anyone write two books at the same time? I’m sure I’ve read that author Ally Blake does this and I’m also sure she’s not the only one.

I couldn’t help myself and started writing again even though I was supposed to be having November off to read and relax. My problem is, I’m not 100% sure which idea to write next.
I have a single title Aussie contemporary idea and I also have a shorter romance idea in my Hollywood series. Now it may be a while before I hear back from my editor at Carina about the first Hollywood book, but I love the second idea.
So how do I choose which one to write? Do I write both and hope that at least one is speaking to me whenever I sit down to write?
So far this is what I’ve been doing and I’m having a lot of fun with them both.
How do you choose which book you are going to write next?
PS. Another review that has left me grinning from ear to ear – check it out here.

A Winner and My First Review

First things first, HUGE congrats to Kellie Schache – winner of Cathryn Hein’s fabulous book PROMISES. To claim your prize, Kellie, please email Cathryn your details to cathrynhein @ gmail dot com

The second thing I’d love to share today is that over night my FIRST EVER review was published on Good Reads. You can see the review here: but this is what reviewer Joanne had to say…

I loved this book from start to finish! It is romantic, Christmassy and has great emotional depth. You could understand where both of the main characters were coming from and could feel their pain. This book is well written with the characters properly developed. It has an engaging story line that kept me completely absorbed. After reading ‘One Perfect Night’ by Rachael Johns and enjoying it so much I was surprised to discover that it is her debut book. I hope she has more books in the pipeline as I am very keen to read more of her work and could see her becoming one of my favourite authors.

Reading that, I think it’s safe to say I’m going to be grinning ALL day!

Theory on Thursday with Cathryn Hein

This Thursday I’m so lucky (and so are you) to have my gorgeous friend and best-selling rural romance author, Cathryn Hein with her take on writing craft books.

Best thing is Cathryn has coined a new writing acronym and I think we’ll all be fighting to use it as our own…
Read, read, read. Read everything—trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the most. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out the window.
William Faulkner

I am the writing hang-up queen. There, I’ve said it. Out and proud …well, out. Proud? Er, no. See, the problem with being a WHUQ is that I can’t read anything about craft without developing an issue about it. And when I develop an issue paralysis soon follows, creeping up my fingers until they collapse on the keyboard like drugged-out witchetty grubs. Chapters, scenes, paragraphs, even sentences seem impossible to get right because of the fear that I haven’t take into account issue X or technique Y.

The weird thing is that until I started reading and learning about the craft of writing, this never happened. I’d just sit down and splurk out all the drama festering in my head without a second’s thought to point of view, or transitions, or dialogue tags, or filter words or [insert topic of your choice here]. It all seemed to whizz out naturally. Then I started reading craft books and articles, and panic set in. Oh, I wasn’t doing this right. Oh, I must remember to do that. My word counts dropped from 3,000 to 5,000 a day to around 1,200, sometimes less. The words that I did produce were agonised over and often deleted because they simply weren’t good enough.

Believe me, this is no way to write. It’s inefficient and unsustainable and downright stupid. So I came up with a solution – read craft books only between manuscripts. And it’s helped. A lot. But a girl (or boy) still needs writerly nourishment and inspiration, and the way I achieve this is to read as much as I can when I’m writing. Learning, but with a great creamy dollop of pleasure on top.

Because what I’ve discovered is that, whether it be a heart-hammering page turner, or an infuriating, what-a-load-of-tripe, how-the-hell-did-this-ever-get-published chucker of a book, every book you read (and write) teaches you something. Now days, I have favourite authors I keep exclusively for when I’m writing because they’re so inspirational. The sheer joy of reading those books makes me want write better. They’re positive reinforcements, showing me what’s possible, of what I can strive for, instead of reminding me what I haven’t done.

The best ones are the ones that provide a physical reaction. My most memorable recent experience came from British crime writer Mo Hayder. I can’t remember which book it was (once discovered, I gobbled up every book she wrote in quick succession), I think it may have been The Treatment, but she put me in such a state of anxiety I actually broke into a nervous sweat. My heart hammered, my breathing quickened, all because of the fear I felt for the characters. It was one of the most astonishing pieces of storytelling I’ve ever experienced. I think I went back and read those chapters four or five times, trying to figure out exactly how she built such incredible tension. With a carefully measured and clever tightening of the drama, that’s how.

I’ve yet to see a craft article or book that demonstrates, with the same impact as Hayder so easily did in a few chapters, how to create such an intense emotional response in a reader. Same with novels that leaving me sobbing and hiccupping and needing a good lie down to get over the emotional trauma of the story. Theory doesn’t leave the same impression. It’s too dry.

I remember reading very early on that there are only two things a writer needs to do: read a lot and write a lot. Only two things? I don’t know about that. I’ve learned an enormous amount from craft books, articles, and Romance Writers of Australia conferences, and don’t know where I’d be without that knowledge. Still chasing my long held dream of publication probably. But I also understand that everyone has a different way of learning. Theory is great but, for me, seeing and doing remain the best teachers. Dedicated craft stuff is best left for the floppy days between manuscripts, when I can absorb information without immediately turning into a WHUQ.

After all, I can’t afford paralysed fingers. I have books to write!

Thanks for sharing your writing hang-ups Cathryn.

Cathryn has generously offered to give away a copy of Promises to one lucky commenter.
A father with something to hide, a jockey with a taste for blackmail, a man with an agonising secret … and a young woman in love, defying them all.

Sophie Dixon is determined to leave her tragic past behind and forge a bright future on her beloved farm. While looking to buy a new horse, she is drawn into her neighbour Aaron Laidlaw’s orbit, despite the bad blood between their families.

As the racing season unfolds, Sophie and Aaron’s feelings for each other deepen. But Aaron is torn, haunted by a dark secret he fears can never be forgiven – especially by Sophie.

Sophie believes herself strong, but the truth behind her mother’s death will test her strength,
and her love, to the limit. She’s been broken once. No one wants to see her broken again.
Least of all the man who has grown to love her.

For your chance to win a copy of Cathryn’s best-selling rural set romance, Promises, leave a comment below along with the answer to this question: “Where is Cathryn’s next novel, Heart of the Valley, set?”

The answer can be found on Cathryn’s website. Winners will be drawn randomly from those eligible. Closes midnight, Sunday 20th November, 2011 and announced here the following day.

(Sorry, open to Australian addresses only)

Consumed by Promo

Hey Faithful Blog Peeps

As I said, November was supposed to be chillax month for me – where I read lots of books to refill the creativity well. It’s now 12 days into November and I think I’ve succeeded in reading one novel and one novella. NOT doing well at all.
The culprit sucking my chillax time?
As I want to start my next book in December (probably earlier if my itchy fingers are anything to go buy), I’m trying to do at least one guest blog post a day at the moment for everything I’ve got lined up around the release of ONE PERFECT NIGHT. And I’m trying to make the posts interesting and not generic so that anyone kind enough to read them will not be bored or feel like I’m shoving my books down their throats.
I’m actually really enjoying answering the guest blog questions and also writing up the posts I’ve been invited to do but it’s amazing how time-consuming this task is. I know promo is NOT a dirty word and it’s a fact of the writer’s life but it IS cutting into my reading time.
I guess I just need to be more picky with what I read 🙂
Speaking of reading, what’s the best book you’ve read this November?
P.S. Hopefully I’ll be able to share my good news this week!

Theory on Thursday with Dianne Blacklock

Today on Theory on Thursday I have Aussie Women’s Fiction author Dianne Blacklock. Dianne isn’t talking about a specific book or writing tool but rather those elusive RULES we all hear from time to time…

Golden Rules

What writer doesn’t love a good rule? Tips, mantras, affirmations, motivations … personally, I devour them. I have read many excellent books on the craft of writing, and will click a link to anything with even the vaguest suggestion of a writing tip.

Which is what I did early last year, when the Guardian published a lengthy 2-part article on the Rules for Writing Fiction.

Inspired by the publication of Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing, they asked a host of amazing writers for their own top 10 tips. I was in heaven. But then a funny thing happened as I made my way through the list – I began to see an interesting pattern. I delved into my own stores of favourite writers’ tips and the pattern continued. Take a look for yourself.

‘Read Becoming a Writer, by Dorothea Brande. Then do what it says, including the tasks you think are impossible. You will particularly hate the advice to write first thing in the morning, but if you can manage it, it might well be the best thing you ever do for yourself.’ (Hilary Mantel)

Work in the morning, a short break for lunch, work in the afternoon and then watch the six o’clock news and then go back to work until bed-time. (Colm Toibin)

‘Find your best time of the day for writing and write. Don’t let anything else interfere. Afterwards it won’t matter to you that the kitchen is a mess.’ (Esther Freud)

I write very small so I don’t have to turn the page and face the next empty one. (Michael Morpurgo)

Fill pages as quickly as possible; double space, or write on every second line. Regard every new page as a small triumph. (Roddy Doyle)

You most likely need a thesaurus. (Margaret Atwood)

Do keep a thesaurus, but in the shed at the back of the garden or behind the fridge. (Roddy Doyle)

The greater your vocabulary the more effective your writing. (PD James)

A deliberately limited vocabulary can produce an astonishing emotional punch. (Sarah Waters)

Know the market. (Ian Rankin)

Never worry about the commercial possibilities of a project. (Geoff Dyer)

Don’t look back until you’ve written an entire draft, just begin each day from the last sentence you wrote the previous day. (Will Self)

Reread, rewrite, reread, rewrite. (Helen Dunmore)

In the planning stage of a book, don’t plan the ending. It has to be earned by all that will go before it. (Rose Tremain)

To begin a novel without an ending fixed in your mind’s eye, you must be very clever, and so full of confidence in the voice that tells the story that the story itself hardly matters. (John Irving)

Never stop when you are stuck. You may not be able to solve the problem, but turn aside and write something else. Do not stop altogether. (Jeanette Winterson)

If you get stuck, get away from your desk. Take a walk, take a bath, go to sleep, make a pie, draw, listen to music, meditate, exercise. (Hilary Mantel)

Stop reading fiction. (Will Self)

Read like mad. (Sarah Waters)

Don’t panic. (Sarah Waters)

Do feel anxiety – it’s the job. (Roddy Doyle)

Work hard. (Andrew Motion)

Have fun. (Anne Enright)

Are you getting the idea? It appears that for every golden rule there is an equal and opposite rebuttal of that rule.

So does that mean you can’t trust these pesky writers with their contradictory advice? It’s like when you have your first baby and everyone tells you something different and you nearly lose your mind, and certainly a fair whack of your confidence.

But you soon learn, don’t you? You learn to take on what works for you, what feels right for your situation. You learn who to listen to, and who to just nod at politely.

This is why I think Stephen King’s On Writing is really one of the best books around on writing, because he tells you how he does it, he doesn’t tell you how you should do it. He encourages you to find your own way.

So, write in the morning, or late at night, use a thesaurus, or don’t, whatever works for you. And good luck!

HUGE thanks to Dianne for sharing those contradictory rules with us 🙂 Dianne has a new book, THE SECRET INGREDIENT, out this month (details below) and it looks fabulous. Dianne also runs writing workshops throughout the year. Her first workshop in 2012 will be on Saturday the 10th of March at the NSW Writers’ Centre at Rozelle in Sydney. It will be a full-day workshop entitled “Where Is The Love?” How to put the romance into your writing. The phone number of the centre is 02 9555 9757.

Taste was such an evocative sense; Andie had closed her eyes, with the scone melting in her mouth, and been transported back to her grandmother’s kitchen…

Nourishment is nurture. That’s what Andie learned from her grandmother and what she’s always believed about cooking. But somehow, since marrying Ross, she’s allowed her love of food to take a back seat and given up her dream of becoming a chef.

Lately she’s been craving more. And when her marriage falls apart, she’s determined to find herself again and take back control of her destiny.

The first step is taking a job in the kitchen of renowned chef Dominic Gerou. The brooding Englishman is more than Andie bargains for, but the new Andie is ready for anything, even a bad-tempered chef who makes it clear he won’t tolerate mistakes.

In this beautiful new novel, Dianne Blacklock takes us on a sumptuous journey of the heart as Andie uncovers the secret ingredient for her new life, and shows that no matter how many false starts you may have, if you hold on to your passion and your dreams, anything is possible.

Over-used words

I have just pressed send on Hollywood Heartbreak to my editor at Carina Press. Am really, really hoping it will be my second book with them. Have two more ideas for books to make a Hollywood series and have given them to my editor too. So now I guess the wait begins.

While editing, I got to thinking about words I use a lot that either could be replaced with stronger words or could be deleted altogether. Today in a final edit, I searched my manuscript for the following words:
  • very
  • absolute
  • thought
  • felt
  • just (HUGE culprit for me)
  • knew
  • seemed (another surprising biggie)
  • suddenly
  • looked
  • was
While I didn’t change ALL of these instances – often in dialogue they worked – I did change a lot and delete a fair few as well. I’m putting together a list of words to look out for in a final list. Do you have any words that you over-use and look out for in the final edit?