Theory on Thursday with Emmie Dark

Today I have debut Superromance author Emmie Dark for Theory on Thursday and she’s talking something very relevant to both aspiring and published authors – social media! I’m hanging out to read Emmie’s debut (see blurb below) which sounds like a lot of fun. Over to you Emmie…

Social media secrets for new authors  

Hello Rachael and everyone! Thank you so much for inviting me on your blog. I thought, given that Rachael and I know and interact with each other mostly through social media (Twitter and Facebook primarily) that talking a bit about social media might be a useful topic for this Theory on Thursday post!

As a debut author (my first book, a SuperRomance titled Cassie’s Grand Plan came out in March) I’ve taken a very sudden and deep dive into the publicity machine these past few weeks – which has involved a lot of social media stuff. I’ve (almost) come out the other side and I’m now a bit wiser, a bit more battered around the edges, and could quite easily sleep for a week.

But it all would have been a very different picture if I hadn’t already been reasonably social media savvy and had already put significant time and effort into my online presence before I got “the call”. I think probably I’d need to sleep for a month, instead. J

Here are the top three things I’ve learned that might be helpful to you.

1. Be prepared – long before you get “the call”

I was once given the advice as an unpublished author not to get too enthusiastic about being online because, “you don’t open a shop if you have nothing to sell”. I think there is some wisdom in that advice, especially if you are spending a disproportionate amount of time online. Making your “shop” all fancy and fabulous without any “product” in it is a waste of time.  Writing should always be your first priority!

But having made the transition from unpublished writer to published author, there were quite a few things I was glad I had already put in place. I had a Twitter account, a Facebook account and I’d already bought my domain names (although I didn’t have a website or blog actually up and running).

The main reason that it was good to have all these things in place was that I was already familiar with how to use them, not just in a technical sense, but in terms of the norms and style of interactions. As a new author there is so much to learn and do, this is one additional burden you just don’t need.

So get yourself set up, especially if being online is new to you or outside your comfort zone. You want to get as much practice in as you can because – as you know from writing – practicing is the only way to get good!

Not only that, but your editor will Google you before they offer you a contract. Seriously. Google yourself and see what comes up – is the search page filled with items you’d like your potential editor to see?

2. Be the talk show, not the ad break

Sure, once you’re published, you need to use your online presence to advertise you have a book out – let’s face it, that’s what it’s all about!

But if all you do is bang on about your book and your writing, people are going to stop listening very quickly. It’s no secret that the key to successful social media presence is interaction. You have to listen to others, reply to them, participate in conversations.

I like to think of it as “social media karma” – the more interesting and interactive you are, the more people will follow you and (as a result) help build your profile. You also have to help others on their journey – re-tweet links to blog posts, share happy news of new contracts, etc, etc, because then others will do it for you when it’s your turn.

When you’re online, you don’t have to limit your conversations only to writing and your genre – but do remember that you are online as YOU an author, not just everyday-friends-and-family YOU. If you want to analyze the plots of your favorite TV shows, that’s fine, but if you want to analyze the campaign approach of your favorite politician maybe think twice. Don’t say stuff that could be damaging or offensive.

Think of yourself as the CEO of YOU. You don’t have to play it absolutely safe – being controversial can be a useful tactic, but remember you are (or want to be) in the business of selling books. Don’t offend your customers!

3. Do what works for you

As I’ve said, practice is vital because by the time you’ve got a book on the shelves, you don’t want to be fumbling about, posting accidentally, or getting important announcements wrong. But the other vital thing that emerges from practice is that you find what works for you.

Not everyone wants to dive head-first into every kind of social media and I totally understand that.

Do you need a website and blog? Yes, probably. These are pretty much inescapable these days, and you need to commit to keeping them up-to-date and looking spiffy. If design is beyond you, get some help. It’s worth the investment in

Do you need to be on Twitter and Facebook? Well, that depends. You need to know if they’re going to work for you – if you’re going to have the time and, most importantly, the interest to keep them fresh and up-to-date. The only way to find this out is to have a go.

Personally, I find I’m much more drawn to Facebook than Twitter. I really like Twitter and it can be great fun to jump into conversations with other writers about all sorts of things (and it is seriously the fastest way to find out the news about pretty much anything in the world) but it’s just not quite my cup of tea in the way Facebook is. Perhaps it’s because I’m a visual person and I like the photos and visual aspects of Facebook compared to the interface I use for Twitter (Tweetdeck).

I’ve also recently joined Pinterest, but personally, I can see that as an exceptional way to waste time instead of getting on with things – but then we all need an occasional time-waster!

I wish you the very best of luck with your writing journeys and with finding your niche on whatever online media gets you going. Hope to see you on Twitter and/or Facebook soon!

You can find the delightful Emmie on the web at her website, blog, on Facebook and on Twitter!

Thanks Emmie – that was both fascinating and useful! I’d love to hear from readers and writers about their social media experiences! Do you have a favourite platform? What do you like to see on authors’ Facebook pages, etc…?

Blurb: Cassie’s Grand Plan

Four steps to a brand-new life

Cassie Hartman knows what she needs to do to get her life under control. First, she’ll get herself promoted. Then she’ll update her appearance. Steps three and four—marriage and family—well, those will have to wait.

Then Ronan McGuire shows up. The too-sexy, too-polished business consultant has the power to derail Cassie’s plans before she’s even really started. If he doesn’t approve her promotion, she’ll be back to square one—and that’s not an option. Cassie needs to keep her focus on that first step, no matter how much Ronan tempts her to skip ahead to the third and fourth ones….

You can purchase Cassie’s Grand Plan online at Amazon, Book Depository and Barnes and Noble.


Theory on Thursday with Fiona McCallum

Today, I’m very excited to have BEST-SELLING rural author Fiona McCallum on Theory on Thursday (especially because Fiona’s books are also published by Harlequin Australia, so we’re stable-mates). And she’s answering the question EVERYONE wants to know of authors – WHERE DO WE GET OUR IDEAS?! 

Over to you Fiona…

I thought today I’d address one of the most common questions an author is asked: “Where do your ideas come from?” The short answer is “Everywhere and anywhere”. But that wouldn’t make much of a Blog entry, now would it?

I tend to write about what I know. So far my books have been set around a framework of two main themes:
Theme 1: rural setting
I was raised on a cereal and wool farm near the small town of Cleve on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula. I loved farm lifeso much that when I was in my final years of school my dream was to work the farm with Dad. But as I had a brother, it wasn’t even worth mentioning.
I stayed in the area and did what I though twas the next best thing; marry a farmer. I had grand notions of working as atrue partnership. But the man I married turned out to be very threatened by astrong woman with ideas and get-up-and-go. I was to shut up and drive my tractor and stop and get meals when appropriate. We split after three and a half years.
They say “You can take the girl out of the country but not the country out of the girl”. It’s certainly true for me. I write about rural and farm life because that’s what I know and that’s what I have a passion for. Also, by writing about it, in some way I’m probably still processing my thwarted ambition at a psychological level. Beats paying for years and years of therapy!
Theme 2: journey of self-discoverystoryline

It’s a bit of a long story, but after leaving the farm I ended up in Melbourne with an ambitious fellow who was inexecutive sales and marketing. Inner-city life in Melbourne and then Sydney and being embroiled in the corporate world was a huge eye-opener for this down-to-earth country girl with humble values and relatively simple needs.
I was stunned at the huge amounts of money floating around, the excesses being displayed, the worshipping of material possessions, generally, and the adoration of companies by staff despite watching friends being retrenched. It seemed to me that people were offering more loyalty to the company than their own family by working ridiculous hours anddoing lots of travelling away from home.
I felt like an outsider looking in. And the whole time I was thinking, “Can’t you see what you’re doing?” Fascinating stuff! I watched my new partner climb the corporate ladder. The higher his salary went, the less I saw him and the more arrogant he became.
Gradually it became clear that all that mattered to this person was money and looking wealthy to his peers – not just keeping up with the Joneses, but passing them. When I complained that he wasn’t spending enough time at home, I was told to “Take the credit card for a spin”.After seven years together, clearly this person didn’t know me at all.
It was whilst standing in the cemetery at the funeral of a very dear friend, having travelled alone halfway across the country, that I realised I may as well be single. What was the point of having a life-partner if I didn’t have his emotional support? We had all this money to buy heaps of stuff, but all the stuff in the world can’t give you a shoulder to cry on or a hug when you need it.
I had worked towards being a novelist for a few years and written a couple of well-rejected manuscripts. It was then I decided that I would rather be financially poor and chasing my dream than selling my soul, which is what I realised I was doing staying with this man in this environment. So I left and came to Adelaide and started all over again.There’s a whole other long story in here, but you’ll have to wait for my biography in about thirty years for that one!
Apologies, but I’m no good at telling a short story! The point is, I’ve been on the journey of self-discovery that I tend to send my characters on. Sure, I use different settings and characters with different jobs and different dreams, but the emotion behind it is the same. It’s learning to have the courage to have a dream and then chase it, no matter how hard it might get. Because ultimately being rich isn’t actually about financial gains; I believe it’s about how comfortable you are at a soul level. If in your heart of hearts you believe you’re living a truly fulfilling life. If not, do something about it. I think modern society with all its ads and marketing has too many shackled to lives they don’t like in order to conform. Oops, sorry, now I’m on my soapbox! I’m meant to be telling you whereI get my ideas from.
Filling in the gaps around the themes

So, with the basic platform of my stories sorted (the rural and journey of self-discovery themes), the gaps then need to be filled in. This I do with ideas that come from all sorts of places. Gems of ideas seem to pop up in the strangest places, at the strangest times; whilst reading books, standing in the shower, sitting on the loo, when out walking, staring at the TV – really whenever my mind is relaxed enough. They often start as the tiniest seed and then just grow, gathering more detail as they go.
For instance, the idea of using horse racing for Paycheque came from watching the Caulfield Cup in 2005. The runner-up, Mummify, had won the year before. He was a great horse that had made the connections millions. Anyway, he pulled up lame after the race and was put down that night. It really upset me because, while I’m not involved with horse racing and I wasn’t there, I felt that they had just treated him like a money-making machine and not a wonderful creature that deserved every chance. So I decided to write Paycheque as a bit of a tribute, and give Mummify, and every other horse that hadn’t had it, their second chance.
I’m a huge animal lover, so there willusually be a creature of some sort feature in my stories. I had horses for mostof my life until leaving the land; so again, with Paycheque, I was able todraw on the knowledge I had even though it was in a slightly differentrealm.
The origins for Nowhere Else were a little different. I lost two friends in a plane crash in South Australia in May 2000. I was living in Melbourne at the time and hadn’t seen them for a few years when they died. I knew that one day I wanted to somehow incorporate a bit of a tribute to them in one of my books. Somehow,somewhere I realised that having a character who was a journalist tell the story and have a personal connection would do the trick. And of course she had to go on her own journey of self-discovery, and it had to include the bush.
These are just two examples. I could go on forever, but I’d better stop here and let Rachael have her blog back!
So, you see, I tend to write about what I’ve lived, what I’ve experienced, and what I’ve observed. Ideas just pop into my head – and often at the most ridiculous, in opportune times. Many are banished as not worth pursuing at that point. But those that hang around long enough get used. I don’t write a journal so the ideas just float around up there or disappear to come back better formed at a later date.
Thanks so much Rachael for having me on your Thursday Theory segment. I hope I haven’t bored everyone with my long,convoluted explanation of where I get my ideas from. But, as I’m sure you can all appreciate, it’s not a question with a simple, quick answer.

Fiona’s latest novel WATTLE CREEK is available in-stores now and online at You can find Fiona online at her website and also on Facebook.

Blurb for Wattle Creek:

Damien McAllister is a man on the brink. Spending long, hard days on a farm he has no affection for, and nights ignoring the criticisms of his mother, Damien can no longer remember what he’s living for. But in a small town like Wattle Creek, there are few people to turn to – and Damien learned long ago to keep his problems to himself.

Until Jacqueline Havelock, a young psychologist escaping her own issues, arrives fresh from the city and makes Damien question everything he has known about himself…also igniting a spark in his lonely heart.

Soon Damien is daring to ask for more than an ordinary life, and can glimpse the possibility of happiness. Will this accidental farmer dare to fulfil the long-forgotten legacy of his father and find peace in the arms of the doctor?

Or will the ghosts of their pasts threaten the fragile new lives they’ve just begun to build?

Theory on Thursday with Jenny Schwartz

The brilliant thing about Jenny Schwartz is not only is she a Carina Press author but she’s also a West Aussie – I can’t think of anyone better to lose my steampunk virginity to (am going to read her book VERY soon)! But first, I’m thrilled to have her as a guest this Theory on Thursday talking STYLE!!

Welcome Jenny…

7 Secrets of Style
Hi, Rachael! Thanks for inviting me to Theory on Thursday. Here’s hoping that what I’ve painfully learned about writing makes sense to others.

Style is how you tell a story.

  1.   There’s no way around it.You have to start with some boring common sense. Learn the rules of grammar and punctuation so you can break them. A self-editing course like Angela James’s “Before You Hit Send” is a good investment.
  2. Understand the medium you’re writing in. Whether you’re writing a tweet, poem, short story or novel will affect your style.
  3.   Respect your readers’ genre expectations. Writing a story for a literary journal is very different to writing for a tabloid newspaper. Things to think about include the level of description, word play, swearing (or not), vocabulary and use of dialect.
  4. Write outside the space you consider yours. If you write historical romance, try your hand at modern poetry. And don’t forget to value your non-fiction writing, like blog posts.
  5.   Writing outside your comfort zones reveals your writing style to you and lets you develop different aspects of it. Write often. I hate the cliché, practice makes perfect, and I hate it because it’s true.
  6. Read widely. In terms of inspiration, reading widely helps with ideas.
    In terms of style, it expands vocabulary and style possibilities. Remember to read writing guides.  Listen to feedback from people you trust: crit partners, editors, whoever.
    Be confident. It shows. Confidence is not stasis. Dare to experiment, to learn and grow.

Anyone want to argue with me about my style secrets? Anyone want to agree? Most important of all, what did I forget to mention?

Jenny’s latest release:

BLURB – Wanted: One Scoundrel
All suffragette Esme Smith wants is a man. A scoundrel to be precise. Someone who can be persuaded to represent her political views at men-only clubs. As the daughter of the richest man in Australia, Esme can afford to make it worth the right man’s while.

Fresh off the boat, American inventor Jed Reeve is intrigued by Esme’s proposal, but even more interested in the beauty herself. Amused that she takes him for a man who lives by his wits, he accepts the job—made easier by the fact that he already shares her ideals. Soon, he finds himself caught up in political intrigue, kidnapping and blackmail, and trying to convince his employer he’s more than just a scoundrel…

To buy links: Carina Press  Amazon

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!

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)

Theory on Thursday with Joan Kilby


This week I have Superromance and Carina Press author Joan Kilby talking about something that has fascinated me for a while now. SCRIVENER!! I have heard so many people say they use this program to write their books and I always wanted to know HOW that worked. I admit to thinking it sounded like just another procrastination tool to prolong actually writing the book, but I also admit to not looking into it properly at all.

So I was thrilled when Joan said she used SCRIVENER and even more thrilled when she agreed to blog about it.
Here’s Joan herself…

Scrivener has so many great features there isn’t enough space to list them all so I’ll mention a few of my favorites.

Corkboard: Plotting is a breeze using the index cards on the corkboard to keep track of scenes. The index cards are linked to the text of the scene as you write.

You can:

– create as many cards/scenes as you like;

– tag them with colors specific to your characters’ povs;

– write a brief synopsis of the scene on the card;

– add meta-data notes, for example, the date created, first draft or revised.

– hold the cursor over a card and a popup shows you the first line of that scene.

– flip the card over and insert a photo of the pov character (if you have one).

– see at a glance the balance between different characters’ povs.

– drag the index card to a different location, and the associated scene moves within your manuscript, allowing you to rearrange scenes quickly and easily.

Here’s a link to the corkboard of scenes for my wip.

The book isn’t complete and I haven’t separated the scenes into chapters but you get the idea. You can view the manuscript in individual scenes or by clicking on the ‘Chapter’ folder at the top, scroll through the entire manuscript.

Binder: Along the left-hand side is the Binder. This contains all your scenes plus folders for each character, research where you can store hyperlinks, photos, media, and copied text plus any other folder you care to create.

Along the top are a number of icons for managing your manuscript. One of my favorites is ‘Compose.’ Click on this and everything fades to black except the text. What I really love is that by going into Preferences on my Mac I can set the background color. I then set the font color in Scrivener and I can write in white text on a teal background. I find this color combination the most restful on my eyes. I can’t get it in Word anymore, at least not in Word for Mac.

Name generator: Ever have a problem thinking up names for your characters? The Scrivener name generator, located in Edit>Writing Tools, instantly generates up to 500 first and last names in different nationalities. Love it!

Drawbacks: The biggest one for me is that I can’t use the keyboard to perform many of the editing commands the way I was used to doing in Word.

Also, you have to convert to Word once you’re ready to submit it to an editor or agent. However, that’s probably a good thing since the text is easier to edit in Word.

However, I got into a sticky situation. I compiled my proposal chapters, converted to Word, edited the chapters and then submitted them to my editor. Since then I’ve also edited the Scrivener text. Now I have two different versions of the same three chapters. I’ll have to be very careful when creating the final version that I have the most up-to-date elements of both Scrivener and Word. Of course, if you’re writing the whole manuscript before editing and submitting, you won’t have this problem.

Conclusion: I highly recommend Scrivener. The interactive tutorial that comes with it is easy to understand. You don’t need to know much to dive in and you quickly learn more simply by doing. The program was created for Mac so anyone familiar with Macs will have no problem. I understand there’s now a Scrivener for Windows.

I’m still learning about Scrivener but if anyone has questions I’d be happy to try to answer them.

Comment to go in the draw for winner’s choice of one book from my recent trilogy. For titles, excerpts and reviews, go to

Thanks, Rachael, for the opportunity to blog on Scrivener!

Joan Kilby

GENTLEMEN PREFER NERDS March 2012 Carina Press

PROTECTING HER SON April 2012 Harlequin Superromance

Thanks so much for sharing all that fabulous information with us Joan. I didn’t know you could actually write the WHOLE MS in Scrivener. Am going to have to investigate Scrivener for Windows.

Theory on Thursday with Coleen Kwan

This week on Theory on Thursday I’m excited to bring you debut author, fellow Aussie and Carina Press buddy, Coleen Kwan. I downloaded Coleen’s book on Monday and as soon as I recharge my e-reader, I’m reading it. Can’t wait. The book sounds awesome and the cover is fab. So here’s hoping Coleen shares with us some secrets to her success 🙂
Take it away, Coleen:

When Rach invited me to do a blog on my favourite craft book I couldn’t narrow it down to just one, so I cheated and picked two.

When I’m in the midst of writing, my favourite craft book is Jessica Page Morrell’s ‘Between The Lines.’ The subtitle of this book is ‘Master the subtle elements of fiction writing’, and I think this sums up the book very well. It’s not a how-to book but rather it highlights areas where our writing could be improved. The author’s writing style is engaging, and she uses many examples from popular fiction to illustrate her points. In her chapter on Suspense, she uses excerpts from The Lovely Bones to show how the author builds up a truly horrifying scene without going into gratuitous detail.
‘Often this sort of understatement is more potent than a blow-by-blow depiction of violence because the reader’s imagination, fuelled by suspense, fills in the details.’

A good lesson for me as I sometimes find myself slipping into melodrama. When I’ve finished my first draft and into revisions, I like James Scott Bell’s ‘Revision & Self-Editing’ by my side. Bell says ‘Writing a novel is like falling in love. You jump in and write. At some point you pop the question and your novel says Yes. You’re married to it now. The commitment has begun. Then some problems surface. Bad breath in the morning. Crankiness. A shouting match. What happened to the bloom? You begin to doubt. But you’ve made the commitment, so you are determined to work things out. When you do, your marriage comes back stronger. Revision is like the counselling process that renders a better relationship.’

I keep reminding myself of this while I slog through revisions. Bell’s book is divided into two parts. The first part is a sort of checklist of all the usual areas: character, plot, dialogue, etc. The second part gives some practical advice on how to tackle the editing part. I like his suggestion of ‘ping-ponging’ if you’re feeling overwhelmed by a big fat mess of a story. He says when he’s revising a manuscript he’s also writing the first draft of another or planning another.

‘This gives the mind a rest but keeps it active as a writer. So the boys in the basement will be on call, sweaty, warmed up, ready to work.’ Don’t know if that image works for everyone, but you get the picture!

WOW – those two books sound AWESOME Coleen! I might have to stop this series soon, before all my money is spent on craft books. Thanks again for coming and can’t wait to hear about more books from you.
Coleen’s debut book, WHEN HARRIET CAME HOME, is now available at

After ten years of exile, Harriet Brown is back in town. Things have definitely changed, but so has she. Now the confident owner of a catering business, she’s no longer the shy, overweight girl everyone—including her hot teenage crush—used to ignore. In fact, she’s determined to make peace with Adam Blackstone for her part in exposing his father’s secret affairs and corrupt behavior as mayor.
But Adam has changed as well. No longer a pampered, rich pinup boy, he just wants to reestablish his family’s good name. He reluctantly agrees to a truce with Harriet, and is surprised by how changed she is. He doesn’t want to be drawn to her, but he can’t seem to resist her allure.
As Harriet struggles to come to terms with her past, her adolescent infatuation with Adam morphs into something more serious… Will she ever be accepted again? Or will ancient history ruin the chance of a future full of possibilities?

Theory on Thursday with Shona Husk

Today on Theory on Thursday I have fellow Carina Press author (and author from a zillion other fabulous places too), Shona Husk. Shona’s the only person I know to write a Goblin book and I can’t wait to read it. More about her latest release after her book chat. As well as goblins (and lots of other cool characters), Shona writes hot sex. And today, she’s going to share with her one book that helped her in her mission to do so.

Take it away Shona 🙂

Back when I started writing romance I knew I was going to have to eventually tackle a sex scene. At the time the idea totally freaked me out. I mean it was one thing to imagine the characters making love (or having angry sex, or make-up nookie) but it was another to actually put it on paper. So I decided the best thing I could do was jump in the deep end and read a bunch of scorching hot erotic romances from Ellora’s Cave (I don’t do things by halves).

People that know me, or who’ve read some of my erotic romances are probably now blinking and scratching their heads going, really? It wasn’t that I was embarrassed by sex; it was more that I didn’t know how to put it on paper and make it…well, sexy.

I can’t remember where I found Passionate Ink by Angela Knight but it has become a favourite craft book of mine. It doesn’t just cover how to write sex scenes but how to write erotic romance as a whole: hero, heroine, villain, plotting, fight scenes, everything.

There is a fantastic romantic conflict chart which I always use (if you can’t fill it in you haven’t got conflict which means you don’t have a story). She also touches on GMC, BDSM using those four letter words and all manner of kink and bedroom choreography, (yep, you don’t want the reader stopping and wondering how the hero and heroine could possibly get into that position).

So, if you intend on writing sex scenes and are looking for a general romance primer this is the book I’d recommend.

Thanks so much for that Shona. I must admit I won this book at a Romance Roadshow a couple of years back and so far have only flicked through it. Considering that I stress a bit about whether my sex scenes sound okay, think it’s time to take it out again!

What about you? Who writes sex scenes and how to you make them sparkle? Have you read this book?

Shona’s latest release is The Goblin King from Sourcebooks – and don’t ya just love that cover?

Cursed by a Druid millennia ago, Roan lives a bleak existence in the Shadowlands, desperately trying to retain his soul and not succumb to the goblin horde. When a beautiful human summons him to grant a wish, he sees a glimmer of hope. But will she ever agree to be his queen?

Theory on Thursday with Aimee Carson

I have a really timely post for Theory on Thursday this week because my guest is Aimee Carson who writes for Mills & Boon RIVA and as it happens, I’ve just finished reading her fabulous debut book ”Secret History of a Good Girl.” So welcome Aimee – really pleased to have you here and VERY excited to hear about this book which (yet again) is sitting on my shelf practically unopened. *Hangs Head In Shame*.
So… without further ado, welcome Aimee!

I’m so happy to be guest blogging about craft books today. Thanks to the fabulous Rachael Johns for having me!

First of all, I have a confession to make. I am a geek to the core. I love craft books. Unfortunately for my husband, not only am I constantly reading them, I like to talk about them, too. To illustrate how significant this problem is I’ll share a quick story with you.

Last month I was watching The Green Hornet with my husband and son. The movie begins with the main character as a kid, and in the scene his dad is criticizing him in a horribly humiliating way. At the end of this heart-wrenching moment, the father grabs his son’s beloved action-hero figure and breaks off the toy’s head. Without missing a beat, my husband turned to me and said, “Guess we just discovered the main character’s backstory wound, huh?”

Ha! I knew my reading had ruined my ability to watch a movie without analyzing it, but my poor husband is now a victim of my studies as well.

I’ve read several dozen craft books through the years, so picking out my favorite was an impossible task. Instead, I chose the one I often reach for just before I start a round of revisions. It has the rather unwieldy title of Manuscript Makeover: Revision Techniques No Fiction Writer Can Afford to Ignore.

Written by Elizabeth Lyon, the book is broken down into four parts and spans a broad list of topics pertaining to writing fiction. It even includes sections on style, prose, grammar, and punctuation. Boring, you say? But of course! Unfortunately they are necessary elements no writer can ignore. The author’s handling of these subjects is excellent, and her chapter on creating movement and suspense in writing is fascinating. She states:“Everyone knows what movement is; that part is easy. It’s action. In fiction, it is certainly that, but it also encompasses the idea of change. Change of ideas, realities, and emotions. These shiftsaction and changecreate movement of the plot and character . . . One of your most basic jobs is to keep driving your story forward, through action and change, to its conclusion.”

Throughout the book, including the section on movement and suspense, she uses excellent examples to illustrate her ideas, and these really help to clarify some fairly esoteric ideas in an effective manner.

My favorite section of the book is part three. Its focus on characterization is well worth the price of the book alone. It contains a chapter on character dimension and theme, a chapter on character-driven beginnings, and another on character-driven scenes and suspense. If you struggle with the concept of a character-driven plot, these three chapters pack a wallop of information that can help. Entwining the elements of plot and emotional arc is essential to ensure you are writing character-driven stories.

Most authors are familiar with the concept of goal, motivation and conflict. In Manuscript Makeover, this is reframed in a way that really clicked for me. The author explains how every protagonist should be struggling to fulfill a universal need, the goal in a story’s GMC. She prefers to refer to this as a personal yearning, and she calls the traumatic or dramatic event in the past the “hole in the soul” that the protagonist seeks to fill, or to heal. Elizabeth Lyon states, “The protagonist’s quest to fill the hole in the soul creates the internal or psychological story. This character arc is all-important in driving the character’s action in the external story.”

And finally, the most reassuring aspect of this craft book to me is the idea that getting it right the first time around is far from necessary. After the first draft, the author states we should be sure to ‘layer in’ character development, a process which she describes as such: “follow the ‘bones’ of backstory wound, strength, weaknessand the way those factors impede and propel the plot goaland make sure you show and tell your character’s personal yearning of one universal need throughout the story.”

I have to admit I was pretty proud of my husband’s astute observation of the backstory wound in The Green Hornet. I guess he’s been paying attention to all my crazy ramblings, eh?

Secret History of a Good Girl is out now in the anthology Mills & Boon Loves. You can find out more about my upcoming books at

WOW – Aimee, awesome write-up. I can see I’m going to have to pull this book down off my shelf. And soon, because I’m almost at the end of a first draft myself and I’m sure it’s going to be in need of a complete overhaul before I sub it!

Anyone else read Manuscript Makeover!?

Theory on Thursday with Scarlet Wilson

This week on Theory on Thursday I have debut Medical author, Scarlet Wilson, talking about which writing craft book she couldn’t live without!

Scarlet worked really hard and had LOTS of revisions to sell her first book ”It Started With A Pregnancy” which is out now, so she KNOWS what she’d talking about.

Welcome Susan…
My favourite craft book is Writing a Romance Novel for Dummies by Leslie Wainger.

Why? It’s simple. The woman
knows what she’s talking about. Leslie Wai

nger still works as an editor-at-large for Harlequin, and since that was the line I was targeting, it seemed wise to listen to her words.

Some people can be very stuck-up about the Dummies books. But this book covers everything. It starts with picking your genre, then setting up your office. It talks about characters, names, conflict, scene setting and the happy ever after. It also spends considerable time concentrating on “finding your own voice”. Then there is a chapter on dialogue and developing a page-turning story. Finally, it concentrates on the squirmy bits – writing the love scenes.

Leslie tells you how to hook your reader, she also points out how you can bore the reader completely. She gives instructions on the correct format for submission, grammar, cover letters and synopsis.

She also spends a whole chapter going over rejections and revisions. And gives genuine insight into editorial comments you might come across. She also gives advice on closing the deal, whether you need an agent, reading the fine print of a contract, and what questions it’s okay to ask during this process. She also tells you how to do copy edits, dedications, and PR.

For those who aren’t successful there are chapters on the 10 most common mistakes beginners make and 10 reasons why a manuscript gets rejected. In short, like I said at the beginning – this woman knows what she’s talking about.

So, if you want something that takes you from start to finish, this is the book for you. Whilst I love Kate Walker’s 12 point guide to writing romance, that is all about the story. And it’s fab. But this book gives even more on the practicalities. I would buy them both!

It Started with a Pregnancy by Scarlet Wilson is out in Australia now! Please tell me what you think at

Thanks heaps Scarlet for sharing about this book with us. I also bought this book when I first started targeting Mills & Boon and it’s one of my favourites as well.
Has anyone else read Writing a Romance Novel For Dummies!?