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I am absolutely delighted to announce that I will have TWO books out this year.

My latest rural romance, Rocking Horse Hill, hits the shelves in less than a month, but come September I’ll have another release in a brand new genre.

The French Prize is the first in what I hope will be a long line of romantic adventure novels. The French Prize features gutsy Australian heroine Dr Olivia Walker and her quest to discover an ancient sword called Durendal. There’s drama and history, gorgeous Provencal scenery, and even a touch of French food. And because I write romance, there’ll also be plenty of passion and sexy good sorts to get all gooey over.

I’m ridiculously excited about this news. With these books we’ll be able to experience all sorts of thrilling adventures in colourful foreign lands while in pursuit of historical and legendary artefacts. A fine excuse for a research trip or two if ever there was one. Not to mention long couch sessions spent watching Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones. Sigh.

Indy3The French Prize will be released under Harlequin Australia’s MIRA imprint. Harlequin, as you probably know, is a leading global publisher of romantic fiction. A second book, as yet untitled, has already been scheduled for 2015.

And rural romance fans, never fear, there are still more of those in the pipeline!

 

 

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Last week I finished the extremely messy first draft of The Falls, my 2015 rural romance release. Much slurping of pink champagne followed, but so did that horrible, hollow feeling that comes with leaving characters behind; what I’ve come to think of as my book hangover.

It doesn’t seem to matter that I’ll be playing with them again in a week, when I knuckle down to the second draft. Writing The End still brings on a sense of loss and yearning. It happens with every book and I can’t help finding it odd. I mean, by the time the book is through its final edit I’ll be well and truly sick of it. Yet at this point, without fail, all I ever want to do is dive back into my characters’ lives and fall in love with them all over again.

I miss them. Badly. Like this…

empty

I think that’s why we adore serial fiction so much. It keeps us connected with people we’ve been through a great deal with and fallen in love with; that have become part of our world. Which is why I’ve planned three, maybe four loosely linked books to follow on from my upcoming May release, Rocking Horse Hill.

Emily Wallace-Jones, the heroine of Rocking Horse Hill, has two best friends, Jasmine and Teagan. The Falls is Teagan’s story, Admella Beach will be Jasmine’s and there’s a possibility of a fourth with another character. Plus a novella I’ve already half completed called Summer and the Groomsman.

I have to say it was hugely satisfying being able to include Emily and Josh in The Falls, even if only in a minor way. I look forward to doing the same for Teagan and Lucas in the other books I have planned.

Now, if there were only more hours in the day to write these stories…

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Are you old enough to remember chain letters? They were all the rage when I was a kid. Someone would come up with a daft pretence about creating good fortune or happiness or some other such thing, and write a (usually) naff letter to ten friends advising them they’re a recipient of all this good fortune and joy, but only if they send this letter on to ten of their acquaintances.Shocked person exclaiming: You're going to reveal what? How, in those pre-internet days, Australia Post must have loved these! Think of all those stamps that were needed, with demand growing exponentially as long as everyone kept the chain going.

I was never much of a participant. Probably sheer laziness on my part but I also thought they were pretty ridiculous.

NOT something that can be said about today’s post, which is why I’m taking part!

This is a writing process chain letter – or the modern, internet based equivalent – where writers reveal all.

Okay, so not all. But you get the picture.

My participation in this is all thanks to good buddy Rachael Johns who tagged me in her post to play along. Rachael is an English teacher by trade, a mum 24/7, a supermarket owner by day, a chronic arachnophobic, and a superstar of the rural romance genre. Her best-selling novels include Jilted, Man Drought, Outback Dreams and her Christmas novella, The Kissing Season. Keep an eye out for the second release in her Bunyip Bay series, Outback Blaze, coming May 2014!

And now onto my answers to the chain questions…

1) What am I working on?

My next rural romance The Falls. This one is set in a lush New South Wales valley whose idyllic facade hides a community simmering with tension. Some of it rather naughty! Lots of fun animals in this tale, including an evil cat, a couple of guinea pigs named Betty and Wilma, a dog named Goldi and an oversexed ram called Merlin. Oh, and we mustn’t forget the sexy farrier hero who bares more than a passing resemblance to a certain hunky Australian actor (makes for excellent research fun) and an emotionally battered heroine trying to find her heart again.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I’m a sucker for an emotionally charged romance and try to bring that to all my books. I also can’t help including animals that are characters in their own right. I know I shouldn’t anthropomorphise, but I can’t help it. It’s such a blast to have the animals getting up to all sorts of mischief and I think they also act as a great foil to the romance story.

3) Why do I write what I do?

The answer to that is pretty simple: Because I love these stories and want to read them myself.

4) How does my writing process work?

Messily.

Actually, that’s not quite true. It’s messy at the moment because I’m allowing it to be. My goal is to get basic story of The Falls written as fast as possible and then go back and fix it up. That’s not how I’ve operated for the last few books, though. When I first started out I was a complete fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants author, aka “a pantser”. But as I developed I learned to plot a lot more and concentrate very hard on the quality of writing. Unfortunately, as time went on, this search for perfection left me with an awful lot of hang-ups and my output became slower and slower. I went from taking 3 months to write a 100,000 word novel to 7 months. Finally, at the end of last year, I decided I’d had enough.

In December, while I was waiting for Rocking Horse Hill’s line and copy edits, I thought I’d try a new, just-get-the-words-down process. Thirteen days later I had a 40,000 plus word novella. I’ve NEVER had that level of output before. To be fair, I’d been brewing that story – April’s Rainbow – for a long time. Years, in fact. But the exercise proved I could write fast when I wanted. Most of all it gave me back my passion.

The experiment worked. Since January 6th I’ve polished April’s Rainbow and sent it to my agent, and written nearly 65,000 words on The Falls. Most of them pretty ugly but they’re there and editable, and that’s what matters. Because as (I believe) Nora Roberts once said, you can’t edit a blank page.

So at present, I’d call my process that of a born-again pantser. Long may it reign!

In the manner of all good chains, I’ve tagged the following excellent authors to keep the chain going. Check out their blogs on February 10th to read how they’ve answered the same questions.

Karly Lane

Cover of Poppy's Dilemma by Karly LaneKarly Lane lives on the beautiful Mid North Coast of NSW in Australia. A certified small town girl, she is most happy in a little town where everyone knows who your grandparents were. She writes women’s fiction – everything from romantic suspense to family sagas and life in rural Australia. Find out more about Karly and her excellent books (I’m a massive fan), including her latest release Poppy’s Dilemma, on her website.

Victoria Purman

Cover of Someone Like You by Victoria PurmanWhen Victoria Purman woke up one day and realised she’d spent most of her working life writing for other people, she decided it was finally time to tell stories of her own. Victoria is published by Harlequin Australia and is now thrilled to spend her days creating dialogue and happy-ever-afters for her imaginary characters. Her Boys of Summer series is set on the south coast of her home state of South Australia, somewhere she feels compelled to do a lot of research. Nobody But Him was released in October last year, and Someone Like You is out now. When she’s not writing, Victoria spends time with her husband, three sons, a disobedient dog, her loving, extended family and dear friends. She keeps promising to buy herself surfing lessons. Visit Victoria’s website for more.

Kris Pearson

Cover of Christmas Holiday Husband by Kris PearsonKris lives in Wellington, the capital of New Zealand. She’s used this lovely city as the setting for six of her novels.  She writes hot, passionate, contemporary romances full of love and laughter. She has an advertising background and is the current membership secretary for Romance Writers of New Zealand. She writes and gardens, and these days is in business with her husband in the decor field. Check out Kris’s books and much, much more on her website.

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GenreCon, recently held in Brisbane, was fantastic in so many ways but one session that fascinated me was Rule of Knowledge author Scott Baker’s workshop on book trailers.

I must admit, I’m very much a sceptic when it comes to book trailers. Most I’ve seen are shockers and, really, who looks at these things besides curious authors? But Scott’s workshop left me a little bit swayed.

Not because I’ll ever be able to produce anything like his Rule of Knowledge Trailer, which is pretty gobsmacking (much like the book itself which I’ve just finished):

 

 

But because I might now be able to produce, in a humble way, something like this Jackie Collins effort:

 

 

Or, perhaps with time and a lot of swearing, even a teaser like this from thriller author James Rollins:

 

 

TYPES OF TRAILERS

Teasers

Not every trailer needs to be cinematic. Trailers can come in all sorts of forms and lengths. Teasers, for example, are short, 15 to 30 seconds maximum with high visual impact, and typically pose a question that captures the reader’s attention. They keep to one key message and end with the important stuff like the book’s title, author, cover, release date and website.

Check out Scott’s Rule of Knowledge teaser for a demonstration or watch this one for The Thirteenth Tale author Diane Setterfield’s new release Bellman & Black (The Thirteenth Tale was brilliant, by the way. Very excited about reading Bellman & Black.)

 

 

Author Talks

Can be short and impactful like the Jackie Collins one above, or longer and more involved, like this seriously slick one from Iain McCalman, author of The Reef: A Passionate History.

 

 

Or this one from Kate Morton, promoting her excellent book The Forgotten Garden.

 

 

Scott says the main criteria with these trailers is to get the fundamentals right, and that means the high quality sound and steady hand on the camera. Keep it short. Know when to stop. And always be aware that personality is key. If an author comes across like a complete prat, no one’s going get enthused about his or her book, no matter how good.

 

Photo/Text

Ooh, there are a lot of these about and most of them aren’t great. Why? Because the images were bought on the cheap or don’t suit, the text isn’t readable or not written in a way that hooks, the music doesn’t match or the sound is poor, or the whole thing just screams amateur production.

And, as Scott pointed out in his workshop, an amateurish trailer can do more harm than good. It’s harsh, but if you see a dodgy trailer then there’s a good chance you’re not going to have positive feelings toward the book.

So what’s a good photo/text trailer? Scott showed several, ranging from awful to good, like this one for Water For Elephants.

 

 

But check out this one for Pantheon by Sam Bourne.

 

 

Great, isn’t it?

The whole idea is to create a hook, like cinema trailers do, and back it up with great visuals that resonate with the viewer and tell more about the story than an author talk or short trailer can. How? By using cinematic language. In other words, colour and sound and all those other communication tools that have a greater psychological impact than straight text or talk. Consider things like what colour your genre is. What feeling do you want to convey? Romance? Crime? Fantasy? Then make the visuals reflect that. A black and white background with flashed images of blood red claw marks or yellow crime scene stickers reveals more in a split second than any words could.

Remember the film The Holiday, where Cameron Diaz’s character keeps constructing movie trailer voiceovers in her head but about her own life? That’s what you’re aiming for, but told with text and using only a few words instead of a voiceover, and using photos to show a bigger story in a short timeframe.

To demonstrate, Scott gave us an exercise. We had to break our story down into five elements…

1/. The world

2/. Hero

3/. Task

4/. Problem

5/. Twist

…and turn that into a tight, hooky blurb.

Then we were to imagine 5 photos or images to match those elements that could be used to communicate all the other aspects of the book.

From there it’s a matter of looking at all the other stuff, like which font would best represent the book, what colours would clarify genre, what music would give the most psychological impact, and so on. Thinking on these things before you start mucking around on the computer will not only help you make a better trailer but save you a lot of time because you’ll have key words to plug into searches.

Thinking about these 5 elements made me recall Alexandra Sokoloff’s excellent book, Screenwriting Tricks For Authors. It has a section on creating high concept premises/tags which might also be useful here. She reaches the same end but does so by posing slightly different questions. I find these work really well for me when I’m working on premises. Check Alexandra’s blog for an article on developing premises (and lots of other handy stuff), but I think the book, which is very reasonably priced, is worth the money.

 

Motion Graphics

These trailers use moving photoshop layers and other technical type stuff that makes my brain melt. But they can rock, bigtime when done well. Don’t believe me? Check out Chuck Wendig’s trailer for Blackbirds, Mockingbird. Awesome.

 

 

Or this teaser for Kristie Clements’s upcoming release Tongue In Chic.

 

 

 

Film Style

Okay, I know people can and have produced film-style trailers for their books that have turned out great, but the way I see it these are for clever-trousers like Scott, or authors and publishers with the funbucks to finance it. Either way we’re talking a lot of expense or expertise, and that’s not your average author. It’s certainly not me!

Cinema-style trailers can be cool though. Like really cool, and Scott says they’re a great way to get a producer to “see” your book as a film. Plus do it right and your trailer could go viral, reaching into places you never imagined and being picked up by mainstream media outlets.

Here are another couple of trailers that I just love. Mo Hayder’s Gone, which is amazing and never loses its impact no matter how many times I watch it.

 

 

And this one for Australian author Honey Brown’s Dark Horse (brilliant book!)

 

RESOURCES

 

Still keen to create your own trailer? There are loads of resources out there. Google and ye shall find, but I came across a really cool You Tube channel run by James Wedmore which has a great range of how-to videos. Think topics like How to Add Text To Your Videos, Royalty Free Music and Video Editing (For Non-Editors). Perfect for techno-numpties like me.

Joanna Penn has a handy post called How To Create A Book Trailer, with loads of resources links, on her The Creative Penn site.

If you prefer to pay someone to do all the hard work then there are plenty of places to choose from. But it’s also worth visiting these business sites and checking out their samples to see how great a trailer can look when done professionally. Awesomebooktrailers.com, for example, have some fab examples of their work.

And here’s one for your diaries. Scott Baker will be conducting a session on book trailers at the Sydney Writers Festival in May. Yes, your chance to learn from the guru in person. Not to be missed!

 

SO…

 

WILL YOU SEE ME JUMPING ON THE BOOK TRAILER BANDWAGON?

 

I’m a terrible sucker for things like this. Marketing and all its related subjects was my favourite topic when I was studying business management. I can get completely absorbed in reading blog posts, listening to podcasts or watching videos on the subject because I find it so fascinating. Alas, like my golf game, I’m a keen student but not so good at implementation.

I remember spending hours creating a book trailer for the first book I had published (under a pen name and not a rural romance, and, no, I’m not telling you any more about it), and it was frustrating, fun and satisfying all at the same time. Did it sell more books? I doubt it. Would I have been better off channelling my energies into writing? You bet, but I did have fun and it added a nice bit of content to my alter-ego’s website.

But… book trailers are a time suck. A really big time suck, especially for someone like me with limited computer skills, and I have to ask myself whether it’s worth it. Surely all my readers really care about is the next book? Far more important to write, hmm?

If I was going to do anything it would most likely be an interview style trailer, like the Jackie Collins one embedded above. I reckon I could manage that. My phone seems to take surprisingly high quality video and I’ve even figured out how to download the files (a small victory!), plus I really like the idea of being able to talk to readers personally and tell them about my book(s). And thanks to Scott’s GenreCon workshop I have at least an inkling of what I need to concentrate on, and what not to do.

So perhaps one day when I’m not editing or plotting or writing, I’ll make a video. Then again, I might just leave book trailers to the wouldn’t-it-be-nice pile, concentrate on writing a bazillion copy selling book and then my publisher will make the trailer for me.

Ha! Now that’s what I call a plan…

 

 

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Ahh, Brissy, what a warm and friendly city. And made even better by the staging a few weekends ago of GenreCon, the conference designed for that most excellent of authorly species, Genre Writers. I’ve been a quite a few Romance Writers of Australia conferences now and GenreCon was a lot like one of those, except it had men. A lively, lovely lot of them too. It also had, thanks to the irrepressible Alex Adsett of Alex Adsett Publishing Services, karaoke, an event from which my voice didn’t recover for a week. A week of gravel-throat and I didn’t even get to sing Dancing Queen or Paradise by the Dashboard Light. Although I did get hear editor and writer Patrick O’Duffy do the most amazing deep-voiced version of Total Eclipse of the Heart imaginable.

But I’m getting ahead of myself…

 

Friday: The Start of Sleep Deprivation

 

Before karaoke and the conference proper, there was lunch on Friday at GOMA Restaurant with romance authors Amy Andrews, Anna Campbell, Keziah Hill, Rachael Johns, Bronwyn Parry, Helene Young and myself where much prosecco was drunk, rabbit terrines savoured, desserts drooled over, and happy birthday and Frocktober ditties sung. There may have also been unsubtle mention of the Penis Beaker Debate and He of the Mighty Wang (Amy Andrews’s fault). Personally, I think we added a nice splash of colour and noise to the restaurant although I’m not sure the staff would agree, but at least they were good sports about our rowdiness.

GOMA lunch ladies, left to right: Anna Campbell, Helene Young, Rachael Johns, me, Bronwyn Parry, Keziah Hill and Amy Andrews

L to R: Anna Campbell, Helene Young, Rachael Johns, me,  birthday girl Bronwyn Parry, Keziah Hill and Amy Andrews

Friday night was the opening night reception on the State Library of Queensland’s aptly named Queensland Terrace. Fantastic venue, partially open to the sub-tropical air and a great area in which to mingle, sip wine and eat naughty things.

Anne Gracie and Alex Adsett

Best-selling Regency romance author Anne Gracie and Alex Adsett

Anna Campbell, Lea Scott and Sandy Curtis

Regency romance superstar Anna Campbell with crime and thriller authors Lea Scott and Sandy Curtis

Rachael Johns and Dianne Blacklock

Good buddy and fellow rural romance author Rachael Johns with women’s fiction author and lovely lady Dianne Blacklock. Best-selling babes!

Amy Andrews and Sandy Curtis

Romance author Amy Andrews (and Penis Beaker Debate enabler) with Sandy Curtis

This was followed by a trek back to the bar at Rydges South Bank, the official conference hotel, then cabs into town to Fat Louie’s for some karaoke where so much silliness was had that this may become tradition. I hope so, although if next time anyone tries to make me sing Summer of ’69 again there will be reckoning…

Chuck Wendig in full karaoke throttle

Author and Terrible Minds blogger Chuck Wendig in full karaoke throttle. I have no idea what he was singing but by that time of night I’m not sure anyone did!

Saturday: Brain Awakenings

 

Saturday opened with the Power of Genre Fiction, featuring speeches by Anne Gracie, Kathryn Fox and John Birmingham to well and truly put us in the mood. I then attended Rule of Knowledge author Scott Baker’s Worth A Thousand Words workshop which I found brilliant. Scott has spent the last year working with Peter Jackson on the Hobbit films and was also a consultant in the film industry as well as lecturing at the Australian National University in digital video. How well he knows his stuff was shown in the booktrailers he made which are nothing like I’ve ever seen and, quite frankly, amazing.

Scott Baker

Rule of Knowledge author and booktrailer guru Scott Baker

In fact, this was such an interesting session that I’m considering writing a separate post on it, so stay tuned! After lunch I attended the Writing Fast workshop with Anne Gracie, Charlotte Nash and Anita Heiss, hosted by Denise Rossetti. Thank goodness for Anne making me feel semi-normal over my painful writing process, because Charlotte Nash’s super speedy production levels just left me feeling completely inadequate and even more depressed about my output. But you know what? We all have our processes. I’m slow and horribly pedantic, but I get there in the end. Time to stop beating myself up about it.

Denise Rossetti and Charlotte Nash

Award winning erotic romance author Denise Rossetti and Ryders Ridge author Charlotte Nash

Writing Fast was followed by What Writers Get Wrong with Helene Young, Kathryn Fox and Deborah Burrows. My take away from this was that if you don’t know something, then ask. People tend to be fascinated by this strange writing business and are usually delighted to help.

Helene Young

Award-winning romantic suspense author Helene Young, looking lovely as usual.

John Connolly In Conversation was the last Saturday session and it was funny and fascinating, with the auditorium completely charmed and engaged. One point John made that struck me enough to write down was: In genre fiction, it’s the characters the readers care about, and authors can and do make a living off this affection and investment in character. An important thing to remember when writing.

John Connolly in conversation

Internationally best-selling Irish author John Connolly in conversation

Dinner at Rydges was a great night with crackup author and Terrible Minds blogger Chuck Wendig entertaining the crowd with his 25 Reasons Why I F**king Love Genre Fiction followed by a Q&A with Escape Publishing’s Kate Cuthbert. And then, surprise-surprise, another, even later night gasbagging in the bar.

Listening to Chuck Wendig

Some of the rapt dinner crowd listening to Chuck Wendig

 

Sunday: Can We Do It Again?

 

Alex Adsett of Alex Adsett Publishing Services and karaoke organiser

Alex Adsett of Alex Adsett Publishing Services and karaoke organiser

Sunday’s Plenery Session was The Future of Genre Fiction, featuring agent and contract lawyer Alex Adsett, Leanpub’s Peter Armstrong, and author and academic Anita Heiss. Alex, seemingly unharmed and in good voice despite Friday night’s  karaoke-ing, gave a great overview of industry changes (including a handy tip about reversion clauses on print rights with digital deals), while Anita’s discussion about targetting her audience was equally thought-provoking.

Anita Heiss

Author and academic Anita Heiss

Peter Armstrong of Leanpub

Peter Armstrong of Leanpub

But it was Peter’s rundown of the history of genre fiction and serialisation which had my mind a-spinning and triggered an excellent discussion with good buddy and GenreCon roomie Rachael Johns as we headed back to the hotel to check out, and which so caught us up that we missed the next workshop. A bummer because by all accounts Beyond Rippling Muscles and Uzi 9mms was a hoot.

Amy Andrews, Rachael Johns and Dianne Blacklock looking mighty fine for a Sunday lunchtime.

Amy Andrews, Rachael Johns and Dianne Blacklock looking mighty fine for a Sunday lunchtime.

Post another excellent lunch (the food was fabulous at GenreCon!) I attended the Thinking Like A Pro workshop with John Connolly, Valerie Parv and Keri Arthur, followed by Know Thine Enemy with Chuck Wendig, PM Newton and Kathryn Fox. The fact that I stayed awake throughout both after an extremely late night proves how entertaining they were.

Thinking Like A Pro Workshop. L to R: Aimee Lindorff (Chair), Keri Arthur. John Connolly and Valerie Parv

Thinking Like A Pro Workshop. L to R: Aimee Lindorff (Chair), New York Times best-selling paranormal and urban fantasy author Keri Arthur, John Connolly and romance queen Valerie Parv

The Great Debate: Genre Just Wants To Have Fun was a blast. John Birmingham opened strongly with a story about a certain literary author’s pillow problems that had everyone laughing, only to be neatly countered by Anne Gracie with her “Paris” jibe.

And a new nickname is born: Anne Gracie giving John Birmingham her "Paris" dig

And a new nickname is born: Anne Gracie giving John Birmingham her “Paris” dig

Lindy Cameron and Dianne Blacklock (gorgeous lady!) put in sterling efforts but the negative side, with their brilliant goblin story and Scott Baker’s clever revisioning of The Raven, were just too strong. And so it was proven that genre doesn’t just want to have fun. Which could be said for all GenreCon attendees, I think. We had fling your arms in the air and sing it out, loud and proud fun, certainly. We had karaoke, great food, met lovely old friends and made gorgeous new ones, but thanks to a fantastic program, excellent speakers and plenty of opportunity to network, we also learned an enormous amount. And for that I can’t thank Peter Ball, Meg Vann and their team of ninjas enough.

A wonderful conference. I’ll be back in 2015 with bells on.

 

 

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Got your attention? Good, because this is serious stuff!

There was an interesting article that appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers recently about ‘heat’ ratings in romance novels, which prompted me to ponder sex in our home-grown rural romances and what reader expectations might be on that front.

Heartland by Cathryn Hein coverI have no idea, and that bothers me because I’m all for fulfilling my readers’ expectations, but I’ve had no feedback or seen any comment about the sex in my books at all. The explicitness has varied with each release, so what then do readers prefer?

For me it all depends on the characters. Callie and Matt in Heartland, being the people that they are, seemed to suit spontaneous, rompy sex and I had a hell lot of fun writing those scenes.

Matt stumbled his way to the single bed until they fell in a tangle of sweaty arms and legs amid creaking springs and laughter. Callie’s shorts winged across the room, following his cargo pants, the last of her underwear sling-shotting after them. Callie laughed as Matt’s jocks caught on his springy cock, enjoying his hungry, almost pained expression as she levered him out and tugged them over his hips and down his legs. Grinning, she twirled the jocks around her finger before flinging them toward the wardrobe.

I would have felt awkward doing the same for Sophie and Aaron in Promises because they were quite sweet characters, while describing the bedroom antics of my 2014 release Rocking Horse Hill’s privileged heroine would have made me feel like a dirty perv. She’s definitely not the sort of person who would appreciate others being privy to her private life (although, given Rocking Horse Hill’s sexpot hero, I bet she has an amazing time in the bedroom).

So I asked a couple of rural romance buddies how they decide how explicit to be with their sex scenes…

 

Fiona Palmer, best-selling author of The Family Farm, The Sunburnt Country and other great rural reads is of similar opinion to me:

Cathryn, I agree that it is up to the characters. In one of my books it happens on the back of a ute and in another book the sex scene called for a more soft gentle approach.  The Outback Heart by Fiona PalmerSo I go with what I feel, what I think the characters would do and see where it leads. I do love good sexual tension in books and so I like a little sneak peek of when they get to finally act on this tension. I personally enjoy the hot parts, but it doesn’t sway my like or dislike of a book if it has hot sex or not. Just like in Pride and Prejudice, sometimes just the touch of a hand can mean so much more.

I haven’t heard back from any readers saying they didn’t enjoy the sex scenes in my books. (In fact I have the blokes asking for more!) So I will just keep going based on what I think the characters need and want.  Here is a snippet from my latest book The Outback Heart and this paragraph is the raunchiest of the whole sex scene.

‘Amazing.’ Troy’s gaze swept across her breasts as she arched her back, waiting for his touch. A shaky hand caressed her soft skin, his thumb flicking over an already hard nipple. Indi tightened her legs around his waist as he bent to taste one bud, before moving to the next, his tongue flicking and teasing. His hand went down to where she was hot and moist. Indi dug her fingers into his shoulders as a moan fell from her lips.

 

Rachael Johns, best-seller and Australian Romance Reader Award winner expands on the sex depends on character theme:

I consider my rural books very much romance books and therefore exploring the chemistry between the main characters is a must for me. But how heated and graphic that exploration is really does depend on the hero and heroine in each book.

Outback Dreams by Rachael JohnsThings such as whether the characters have just met play a factor and also their previous relationship experiences. In my first book Jilted, Ellie and Flynn were high school sweethearts and the attraction between them was always spicy but at the beginning of the book they are trying to fight it because of the hurt they both carry.  In Man Drought, Imogen and Gibson experience instant attraction but they both have reasons to steer clear of the opposite sex, however each interaction between them gets hotter and hotter till it blows up in his ute on the side of the road. That might be my sauciest rural romance scene.

If I know my characters well, I find the sex scenes almost write themselves. In Outback Dreams, my latest release, Faith and Monty have been best friends forever but have only just realized they also find each other attractive, so their first sex scene had a different tone again.

Her smile gave her consent and within seconds they were tumbling backwards, pausing only to tear up the zip on the tent, before collapsing on top of their waiting swags. She couldn’t tell who hit the ground first but they both reached for each other, tearing at each other’s clothing like hungry beasts. In complete darkness and with no method to their madness they didn’t seem to be getting anywhere, so Faith pulled back and took care of her own clothes. Monty did the same and when he reached for her again, she felt his warm, naked flesh against hers.

A moan of approval slipped from her lips.

Damn the dark. She willed her eyes to adjust so she could look her fill at the specimen beside her.

And then he was touching her. He pulled her towards him, tugged a blanket over the top of them and smoothed her hair. ‘You okay?’

Okay? Words could not do justice to her level of okay-ness. Why had they never gone here before? ‘Yes.’

I like reading about the sex between two people who are in love or at least on the road to falling in love, and so I like to give a glimpse of this to my readers as well. However, I don’t get too graphic with my sex scenes as I believe it is the emotional not the physical side of a love scene that is most important.

 

Karly Lane, best-selling author of North Star, Morgan’s Law and Bridie’s Choice is also mindful of her readers:

I’ve noticed a steady increase in what my editor and publisher expect in my books. In North Star I was asked to trim a lot of the scenes, but in Morgan’s Law I was asked to show the readers more!Bridie's Choice by Karly Lane I think publishers are aware of the whole Fifty Shades of Grey epidemic and that women’s fiction is undergoing a shake up at the moment, and so they’re willing to stretch the boundaries a little more than they may once have.

I personally, write what suits my plot and characters. I won’t write an explicit love scene just to keep up with a current trend. I had a reader who told me she allowed her young teenage daughter to read my books because she knew they weren’t too overly explicit. I’m very conscious of what my readers like which is why I won’t be jumping on the mommy porn band wagon just for the sake of it.

This quote from Bridie’s Choice gives a good example of Karly’s boundaries.

She heard him groan softly next to her ear, and she urged him onto his back, following him down until she straddled him. His surprised chuckle soon faded and was replaced with an intense look as he cupped her face in his hands, holding her gaze silently for a long moment. The depth of feeling in that one shared look made Bridie quiver with a mixture of emotion and lust. Leaning forward, she kissed him, pouring into the kiss the feelings she knew she couldn’t voice.

His hands slipped to her waist, holding her firmly as she began to move slowly against him. The gentle moans of their mutual need drifted away on the breeze above them.

 

Mandy Magro, best-selling author of Rosalee Station, Jacaranda and Flame Tree Hill has a different take:

I like to leave the bedroom door wide open, in ALL my novels. Driftwood 3Actually, I love to take my characters out of the bedroom to make it even steamier 🙂 When two people fall in love, the most intimate way to show this is through love making, be it slow and sensual or hungry, hot and steamy. I love writing these scenes and will endeavour to include them in each and every one of my future novels.

Mandy demonstrates just how steamy with this excerpt from her November 1st release, Driftwood.

Taylor panted as she reached out and gripped the sides of the rock, her hips arching into Jay’s lusciously warm mouth, his tongue and lips seducing her into seventh heaven. Her eyes closed in ecstasy as she teetered on the edge, her entire body quivering. How could a man send her into a sexual trance so beyond the normal realm she felt as though she was floating into an abyss? Finally, succumbing to his enchanting mouth, she toppled over the edge of self-control and screamed out his name, pulsating against his ravishing tongue as she climaxed to the point of breathlessness, every centimetre of her shuddering.

So, dear readers, what do you prefer? Well described sex or more teasing hints? The door open or closed? Do you need sex to complete the romance side of the story? Or does it depend on the characters or plot?

Comment away! Fiona, Rachael, Karly, Mandy and I would love to hear your thoughts.

If you’d like to know more about Fiona, Rachael, Karly, Mandy and their books, or wish to follow them on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks, you’ll find all the links on their websites. Just click a name below to discover more.

Fiona Palmer

Rachael Johns

Karly Lane

Mandy Magro

Cathryn Hein

 

 

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THIS WRITING LIFE: Riding a Post RWA Conference High!

I’m home and back on the writing job after a week away in Western Australia at the 2013 Romance Writers of Australia Riding the Waves conference. What a ball was had! Romance writers are the kindest, friendliest and most generous people out there which makes conferences a hoot. They’re also hugely inspirational, loaded with wonderful craft and business information, and a fantastic way to connect with people who understand exactly how crazy this writing affliction can be. I always return from conferences more than a little bit excited and ready for action, which is just as well considering I have edits coming and a new book to write. This lark can’t all be flitting around Australia, hanging with glamorous authors…

I had hoped to share a pile of glossy, vibrant photos with you, but some numpty managed to upset the camera settings and half of them came out blurred. Sigh. Fortunately a few survived that I can present for your viewing pleasure.

Oh, and so you’re warned, this post is LONG!

Opening night on Thursday was Destiny Romance’s first birthday and, boy, was it loud. Plonk a hundred or so romance writers in a room, feed them cupcakes and bubbly, and you have a racket on your hands. But what a fun night, and what a delight to receive a fabulous Classic Penguin goodie bag at the end of it. Mine contained Anna Cowan’s much lauded Untamed and Peta Crake’s Harbinger, both of which I was thrilled to collect. Afterwards, Destiny Romance and Penguin Australia authors were treated to dinner at a very nice Italian restaurant and more chatter.

Margareta Osborn, me and Kathryn Ledson at the Destiny Party

Margareta Osborn, me and Kathryn Ledson at the Destiny Party

Carol George, Destiny Romance editor, welcoming and thanking everyone, and toasting Destiny's fabulous first year

Carol George, Destiny Romance editor, welcoming and thanking everyone, and toasting Destiny’s fabulous first year

Fab bag and even more fab reads thanks to Destiny Romance and Penguin Australia.

Gorgeous bag and even more gorgeous reads thanks to Destiny Romance and Penguin Australia.

Friday saw dedicated delegates attend either the Venus On The Half Shell workshop presented by Kim Hudson, or the Elizabeth Jolley Conference – Reading and Writing Romance in the 21st Century. Me? I snuck off and played golf at Joondalup Resort. What can I say? A girl has to wear off cupcakes, fizz and spaghetti vongole somehow, and the course was brilliant!

But I was back in time for the all-important Harlequin Nautical or Nice cocktail party. At my first RWA conference, back in 2007(?), hardly anyone dressed up. A feather boa here, a quirky outfit there, but mostly normal cocktail-conference dress. Now everyone’s into it and the atmosphere is fantastically silly.

Rural romance authors Fiona Palmer and Jennifer Scoullar.

Rural romance authors Fiona Palmer and Jennifer Scoullar.

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Ondine series author Ebony McKenna. You can show me to my berth anytime, Ebs!

Paula Roe as the world's most glittery desert island!

Paula Roe as the world’s most glittery desert island!

Rural romance author and good buddy looking super cute in her onesie!

Rural romance author and good buddy Rachael Johns looking super cute in her onesie!

Glam pirate Fiona Palmer

Glam pirate Fiona Palmer

Saturday morning saw the conference proper begin. Julia Quinn’s keynote address of her top 4 list of top 4 lists was wonderful and if there’s one thing I’ll forever remember from Riding the Waves it’s her saying: You will never hurt your career by helping another author. Yeah.

Harlequin’s sponsor address followed with Margaret Marbury (Vice President, Harlequin Single Title – HQN, Mira, Luna) and Sheila Hodgson (Harlequin Mills and Boon, London) talking enthusiastically about eHarlequin, their range of imprints, and what Harlequin can offer authors.

Paths to Third Party Publication saw Abby Zidle (Simon & Schuster, New York), Nina Bruhns (Entangled Publishing), Sheila Hodgson, Bernadette Foley (Hachette Australia), Kate Cuthbert (Escape Publishing), Alisa Krasnostein (Twelfth Planet Press), and moderator Alex Adsett (Alex Adsett Publishing Services) take the stage to discuss how to submit to publishers and what they’re looking for. My impression was that they were all hungry for your work. Really hungry, and throughout the panel I kept thinking what a great time it was to be an author. We are wanted, no longer beholden and we have options. A lot of options.

Shelia Hodgson, Alex Zidle, Nina Bruhns, Alisa Kradnostein, Bernadette Foley and Kate Cuthbert

L to R: Alex Adsett (moderating), Shelia Hodgson, Alex Zidle, Nina Bruhns, Alisa Kradnostein, Bernadette Foley and Kate Cuthbert

Morning tea: bacon and egg muffins and pastries. Enough said!

For my first breakout session I did Nina Bruhns’s session on Save the Cat! which I loved. She talked about the 10 types of movies (fascinating stuff), loglines and why you need them, and Blake Snyder’s Beat Sheets for plotting. Really useful stuff and some of the worksheets are available on Blake’s website under the Tools tab. Quite a few writers I know swear by his Save the Cat! book and after the amount I got out of this session I’ve decided to join the crowd and have just ordered it.

Nina Bruhns presenting her Save the Cat! workshop

Nina Bruhns presenting her Save the Cat! workshop

I loved Nina’s “when you’re stuck” tip, which I’ve heard a few times before but it never hurts to hear these things again. If you’ve come to a standstill, make a list of 10, 20 or more different things that could happen in your book. Be outrageous, take the editor off your shoulder and just brainstorm. It doesn’t matter if they’re clichéd or unrealistic, write them down. The more you list the more likely you are to come up with something fresh and unexpected to brighten and intrigue your reader. I’m testing this right now as I broaden the plot outline of my next rural romance and have already come up with a couple of good ideas.

For breakout session two I moderated the Shark In Your Story panel (which for some daft reason I couldn’t stop thinking of as the Jump The Shark panel) with Helene Young, Shannon Curtis and Bronwyn Parry. As you’d expect from ladies so highly acclaimed for their romantic suspense novels, the panel was full of fascinating titbits, especially when it came to crafting great villains (Shannon likes to get her freak on; Bronwyn tends to get her ideas for villains from the news). I wish it had gone on longer but there was lunch and more chattering to be had!

The Shark in Your Story panel L to R: Shannon Curtis, Helene Young and Bronwyn Parry

The Shark in Your Story panel L to R: Shannon Curtis, Helene Young and Bronwyn Parry

For breakout three, I joined best-selling historical romance author Anne Gracie and a round table of published authors to discuss business. Again, I wish we had longer because I feel like we barely skimmed the surface, especially when it came to rights and contracts. These are issues authors can never know enough about. Maybe next year in Sydney, when author day returns, we’ll get to talk about the business side of writing a bit more.

Thanks to the Australian Romance Readers Association we had another authorfest on Saturday afternoon with an ARRA booksigning event. 50+ authors seated in the one room with their books for sale and pens poised for signings.  Not quite as loud as the Destiny Party, but close! I sat between paranormal and fantasy romance author Kylie Griffin and best-selling author of The Girl in Steel-Capped Boots (and others) Loretta Hill. Kylie’s books sold like crazy which was delightful to see, and I was seriously chuffed to do a few signings myself. I don’t think I’ll ever get over that thrill. It’s something very special.

All action at the ARRA booksigning

All action at the ARRA booksigning

Amy Andrews came prepared...

Amy Andrews came prepared…

Ebony McKenna brought her ferret, Fiona MacArthur only needed her charming self.

Ebony McKenna brought her ferret, Fiona McArthur only needed her charming self.

Eleni Konstantine wearing her conference team hat. Sweet!

Eleni Konstantine wearing her conference team hat. Sweet!

Me!

Me!

Elise Ackers. An author to watch!

Elise Ackers. An author to watch!

Oof, those romantic suspense types... Helene Young with Bronwyn Parry.

Oof, those romantic suspense types… Helene Young with Bronwyn Parry.

Jennifer Kloester with Juanita Kees

Jennifer Kloester with Juanita Kees

Paranormal and fantasy romance author Kylie Griffin.

Kylie Griffin. There weren’t many of those books left by the end.

Harlequin Romance author Michelle Douglas with historical author Michelle Diener

Harlequin Romance author Michelle Douglas with historical author Michelle Diener. I was thrilled to score Michelle Diener’s kindly donated raffle prize, complete with pretty bookmarks, and look forward to sinking my nose into her stories.

Visiting US author Maisey Yates with Rachael Johns

Visiting US author Maisey Yates with Rachael Johns

Then it was out for dinner and a frock up before returning to the Esplanade Hotel for dessert and the RWA’s Awards Gala, where there was much applauding and cheering for our contest and RuBY winners, and where I was delighted to see Bronwyn Jameson awarded life membership of the RWA. So well deserved. Then we had… dancing! I tell you, these romance girls (and boys) know how to rock on.

A glamorous night awaits!

A glamorous night awaits…

...with desserts. Lots of desserts!

…with desserts. Lots of desserts!

The rural romance girls!

The rural romance girls.

Amanda Knight with Bronwyn Parry

Amanda Knight with Bronwyn Parry

Rachael Johns and Beck Nicholas

Rachael Johns and Beck Nicholas

Harlequin Sexy author and hot sheik expert Annie West with best-selling historical romance author Christina Brooke

Harlequin Sexy and Presents author and hot sheikh expert Annie West with best-selling historical romance author Christina Brooke

Kat Mayo with Alex Adsett

Kat Mayo with Alex Adsett

Me and Fiona McArthur

Me and Fiona McArthur

Those romance gals sure know how to boogie!

Those romance gals sure know how to boogie!

Found resting their dancing feet in the Esplanade Hotel's bar afterward: Jennifer St George and Amy Andrews

Found resting their dancing feet in the Esplanade Hotel’s bar afterward: Jennifer St George and Amy Andrews…

...Christina Brooke and many others. Glam ladies with stamina!

…Christina Brooke and many others. Glam ladies with stamina!

Sunday morning. Ahh, yes, a few bleary eyes can be seen, but all in good cause: ie fun. Harlequin’s second sponsor address followed and my heart was all a-flutter at Kate Cuthbert’s news that Escape’s Australian-set rural romances are doing well in the US. Could this be the start of an Aussie invasion? I hope so!

Then the scary Submission Island panel with Margaret Marbury, Abby Zidle, Laura Bradford (Bradford Literary Agency), Nina Bruhns, Joel Naoum (PanMacmillan/Momentum) and Alex Adsett. Manuscript openings were read out and the panel held up STOP signs when they’d heard enough. Wow. Just… wow. If you ever needed a show of how hard it is to hook an editor or agent then this is it. But what also sank in for me was how subjective opinions are when it comes to manuscripts. Some panellists dropped out early, others hung on to the last. Sometimes there was a point where a few would be put off by the same sentence or paragraph and cards would flip up all at once. Overall, it was a insightful demonstration of how authors not only have to have thick skins, but tenacity too. Keep trying. Just because one or two agents or editors don’t like your work, that doesn’t mean there isn’t someone out there who’d love it.

Survivor: Submission Island with L to R: Margaret Marbury, Abby Zidle, Laura Bradford, Nina Bruhns, Joel Naoum and Alex Adsett

Survivor: Submission Island with L to R: Margaret Marbury, Abby Zidle, Laura Bradford, Nina Bruhns, Joel Naoum and Alex Adsett

I did Anne Gracie’s The Power of Detail for my first Sunday breakout session and enjoyed it immensely. Anne is a passionate speaker, with a real knack for getting information across in a way that resonates, and I walked away with excellent tips on how to bring the particular and every person together in my writing.

For the post lunch breakout I attended the self publishing panel with Cathleen Ross, Nina Bruhns and Kandy Shepherd. As with all the other panels, this contained more gems of insight from highly experienced authors, from the importance of meta-data, to advertising, to making sure that your books look as professional as traditionally published editions, and beyond. Given the attendance and range of questions, I suspect there’ll be even more on self-publishing at next year’s conference.

Self publishing panel with L to R: Kandy Shepherd, Cathleen Ross and Nina Bruhns

Self publishing panel with L to R: Kandy Shepherd, Cathleen Ross and Nina Bruhns

My last session was a free-for-all chat with Julia Quinn where delegates could ask her anything. I was so pleased to hear she was an edit-as-you-go writer too, because that’s how I work and I can’t help feeling that it somehow lets me down productivity wise. Doesn’t look like it’s hurt Julia!

Those that attended the Navigating the Choppy Waters of Online Reviews panel with Sarah Wendell (Smart Bitches, Trashy Books), Kat Mayo (Bookthingo and Booktopia) and Kate Cuthbert said that was worth attending too, offering plenty of cautionary advice about social networking and online communities.

We closed the conference with plenary addresses from Kim Hudson and Sarah Wendell, more raffles (I won something, rah!), the announcement of next year’s conference venue (Romance Rocks at the Novotel Sydney Olympic Park, double rah!) and Anne Gracie’s now traditional stand-ups where we celebrate all our achievements for the year (rah, rah, rah!).

After that, it was back to the bar for more chatter, a few drinks and farewells.

L to R: Fiona McArthur, Anne Gracie, Kaz Delaney, Bronwyn Jameson, Alison Stuart and Melanie Milburne

L to R: Fiona McArthur, Anne Gracie, Kaz Delaney, Bronwyn Jameson, Alison Stuart and Melanie Milburne

To the Riding the Waves conference committee and the RWA, I say thank you and bravo. Wonderful, wonderful conference and I can’t wait to do it again next year. So much so I’ve even put my hand up to help.

So now I’m home, furiously plotting when all I really want to do is soak up the glorious weather we’re having and snuggle down on the patio with a book from my RWA haul. But where-oh-where is a girl to start when she has all these beauties on offer?

Books

 

 

 

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