Playing God (Agent) for a day

There was an interesting article on Nathan Bransford’s blog today: and it’s inspired me to play agent for a day, plus I have the perfect opportunity, a wet Saturday and Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write competition – voting now on.

The Harlequin So You Think You Can Write competition has more than 700 entries across all the HQN categories. In the category I entered, Harlequin Superromance, there would be about 50. So this morning and last night I’ve gone through every entry in the Superromance category, to see which ones I like best, and which one, if I was an agent, I’d select.

This is my short list:

Sierrra Sunrise (I like this opening line).

Bow-Tie & The Boys (This was the first chapter of any entries – superromance or other – that I read to the end)

Everlasting Inklination

Stealing Home

Bride For The Batchelor (Another one with an opening line I really like). It only has one ‘like’ (it’s got two now) which surprised me because I think this is really good and she’s the first heroine I’ve really cared about. Maybe because my days with a newborn baby are not so long ago that I’ve forgotten what it’s like to walk the halls with a screaming child). It’s by M. J. Esber. I got to the end of this one too. I thought it was excellent.

And I’m not counting my own entry, His Brand Of Beautiful. I’m not the best person to judge it!

If I have to pick just one – it would be Bride For The Batchelor. I like it because it lets the story and scene unfold through dialogue and action whereas in almost all these entries there seems a big info dump early on in the story.

It’s an interesting lesson in writing psychology, taking part in this competition. The Twitter chat is huge. As someone who has only just found Facebook, I’m not yet into Twitter and this is the first time I’ve watched a conversation. A whole heap of plugging is a-going on… At the end of the day they’re probably not pumping the right audience because I’d say the people watching that feed are people like me, other writers. We only get one vote to spread a day and I’d say every writer in the competition will be saving her vote madly for her own story… unless they’re saints if course, which I’m not 😉

So You Think You Can Write – I hope so!

Before I even start, that’s twice now that I’ve typed So You Think You Can Wright (seriously!) It’s not a great look! 🙂

If you’re in romance writing land, and especially if unpublished, I think you’d have to be hiding inside a non-internet connected igloo if you haven’t heard about Harlequin’s global competition, So You Think You Can Write. (There – wrote write without the ght but I had to really concentrate).

I first saw news of the competition on the RWA Cruisin the Blogs. I checked it out but I didn’t think His Brand Of Beautiful fit any of their categories. I confess that whether it fits any of their categories or not, I don’t feel personally that it fits Harlequin’s style – but then I figure there’s nothing to lose by entering. So it’s in as a Super Romance, which has a wordcount of 80,000 and is the longest HQN publish (other than MIRA I think but MIRA wasn’t offered as a choice for the competition).

So on Saturday morning I sat down before the AFL Grand Final to submit my entry. It took forever. You have to write (god I did ght again, what is going on this morning??) a 100 word pitch, which is harder than it sounds and apparently you were supposed to include the HEA in that 100 words too (oops). In recent days I’ve had to write a 200 word synopsis and now a 100 word pitch. Pretty soon I’m sure we’ll be down to 140 characters in a tweet to ‘hook’ readers/agents/editors/publishers…

Well, then I couldn’t seem to get a confirmation email which the site said I should get, and then the FAQs said any problems, email Tech Support… except Technical Support only work 9-5, Mon-Friday and the competition entries closed on September 30 (Sunday). All of which had me thinking I’d left it all too late and I was likely to miss out. So I emailed the lovely Tech Support people and said something along the lines of: “if I miss out so be it but this is what I did and perhaps you could let me know either way if it did, or didn’t make it…”

And this morning there’s notification that they’ve uploaded it on my behalf. So I’m in. Officially.

The public can vote on the entries. I think the top 25 go through to the second round and HQN have 3 wildcard entries they can pick. Some of the comments on the Twitter feed at HQN’s site talk about whether it’s a ‘popularity’ contest or a writing contest, but I think the 3 Wildcards are there to help that in some respects.

Anyway, let’s see how we go. Here is the link to His Brand Of Beautiful. If you have a chance to read it and you like what you’re reading, I would be thrilled if you’d give it the thumb’s up. When I look at it versus other stories it seems a world away from what people are entering. Which I guess either means I’m doing something wrong; or I’m just not in the style they’re looking for. Time will tell. Here’s the link and thanks in advance:

Ryan Gosling in Outback Oz too??

How much beefcake can us Aussie women handle?

Hot on the heels of news Robert Pattinson has signed to star (with our own Guy Pearce) in a new Australian movie called The Drover, we hear Ryan Gosling is also rumoured to be heading Down Under for a new flick.

Rural romance is doing really well for some of our Australian authors at the moment and this movie news tells me that 25 years after Paul Hogan and Crocodile Dundee, the world is ready for a new serve of red dust and flies.

Maybe it’s time for an Outback Anthology?

Surely two of the world’s hottest stars releasing movies in 2013-15 could rekindle interest in the wild regions of Australia. Let’s hope the movie buffs are bookreaders too!

And I think I have it tough

There are inspirational stories wherever you look. Inspirational men and women. Heck – the paralympics is filled with people who have drive, passion, talent and so much determination they put me and my goals to shame.

The ABC’s 7.30 Report is usually on in my house, but 7.30 is when I put the kids to bed, so I usually miss part or all, or get involved with something else.

Last night there was a story that absolutely captivated me, about a one-armed pole dancer, Deb Roach. That is one amazing lady. If you get a chance, you should check it out.

Court and order

My jury service starts today, and I’m on call all month. I’ve been giving myself justice vibes for weeks.

On Friday we had an orientation day at the courts filled with discussions about how real life is not like CSI or Law and Order SVU (which is a shame, I had visions of seeing Elliot from SVU on the witness stand). We were also told not to come home and turn criminal investigator, as in, don’t start researching what we’ve heard all day on Google…

I have my impartial, innocent-until-proven-guilty, hat firmly on.

So my writing will most likely take a backseat this month, unless I take up the offer of bringing my laptop to the court where you’re invited to fill in time waiting with reading or computer work etc. I don’t know how much of a muse I shall find in the jury pool room which was very much grey-beige and not a speck of green to be seen.

We’ve also decided to put our house on the market in the spring. So there’s heaps going on. Lots of open inspections (gah) from October. Hopefully by Christmas we’ll be in a whole new mind-set/environment.

And the good news. The first person to lay eyes on His Brand Of Beautiful, tells me she loves it. She is the friend we visited last month at the Sunshine Coast and I told her then I had just about finished my book. She’s a voracious e-reader of books by Fiona Palmer and Rachael Treasure and I figured if I was ever going to show anyone this book I’d be nuts not to make it Sam.

Here’s what she said.

LOVE IT LOVE IT LOVE IT!!! Just finished your book would have finished yesterday but the day was so nice i had to do outside things !
Fantastic loved the characters the outback was great, it didn’t have a slow bit as most books do, I didn’t have to skim read any of it! I didn’t want to miss anything. Great pace, great start loved that!! Yep get that sucker printed!!
Big congrats from me keep me in the loop.
Sam and Moet xxx

(Moet is her dog! I’d hate anyone to think she had to be pissed to enjoy it!)

I’ve sent my first query over the weekend, hopefully I can get it in front of an agent soon and start the rollercoaster…

And she sighs with relief

Done. Finished. Sent.

When I started my blog in early June I had a deadline in mind. Basically I’d given myself to the end of August to finish my book. August was significant for a few reasons but one of the uppermost was the Choc-Lit competition, Search For An Australian Star, which closes on August 31. It gave me the extra impetus I needed to stop floating and get focused.

For me it means I’m putting this book to bed, right or wrong, until I have some feedback to go on, and until I’ve given it long enough on ice to look at it with fresh eyes. Because my eyes are many things and right now, none of them are fresh!

So I’m celebrating hitting the ‘send’ button with chocolate tonight for good luck. In the meantime, I’m posting my opening scene below. If you or anyone you know entered the Choc-Lit competition, maybe you’d like to post your opening scenes too. I’d love to read some.

His Brand Of Beautiful

Chapter 1

Tate Newell tapped his thumbs against the steering wheel and watched a bunch of fat purple and gold helium balloons try to float away with a wrought-iron gate.

The gate guarded an old stone cottage that might have been pulled from the pages of Australian Country Life; all it lacked was the white picket fence and the rose rambling through it. He’d expected Christina Clay to own some kind of architectural glass and concrete milk-carton-shaped box. The type with a couple spiked agaves out front in shiny black pots. Truckloads of designer gravel.

Without the balloons, he might have thought he had the wrong house.

“Guess she wants to celebrate,” he muttered, as his breath added to the fog inside the window and rain cried down the glass and the balloons gyrated like horny teenagers at a rave.

His pocket vibrated. He didn’t need to look; Jancis had rung him the same time every day for a week. Tate pulled out his mobile and pressed accept.

“How’s the hip doing J?”

“Feels like some asshole keeps whacking it with a hammer. Goddamn thing clicks when I fart. Now tell me you’ve got good news.”

The corner of his mouth twitched. “If you mean the speech, I haven’t written it yet.”

Goddamn. I know you can work miracles Tate honey, but AMPRA starts Monday. You are my keynote speaker, remember?”

He heard cutlery scrape a plate.

“I’m trying to forget. If you were anyone else I’d tell you to stick your Conference.”

“I know Tate. I know. I’ll owe you.”

They both knew that wasn’t true. Jancis Woody had given him his first job fresh out of university and untaught him everything he’d learned in his three-year marketing degree. She was the only person on the planet who could have got him within five-hundred kilometers of the annual AMPRA talk-fest, let alone speak at the damn thing.

“Forget about it J. A trip to Sydney gets me out of the house for a few days. It can’t be any colder up there than it is here.” He slapped the gear stick; let himself dream for a moment about spending the weekend driving over red sand and rock in the Flinders, the only human for miles. He’d bet the sun was shining up there.

Jancis’s drawl brought him back. “I don’t know why you don’t sell that goddamn house. I wish to hell I’d never said buy it.”

“It’s close to the office. Easy to lock-up and leave.” And I don’t want to talk about it. A gust of wind rocked rain from a branch hanging over the Jeep like a claw. “I’ll write your words tonight. I have to go J, I’m late for a meeting.”

“On a Friday night? Who is she?”

“This one’s all business. Brand strategy for a wine firm.”

“Is that what they call it in Adelaide these days? Well just save some creative juice for your speech, you’re my vote-swinger honey and I need you to be brilliant. We can’t let Hank Leyland run the Association for another two-year term. The man has no vision. He can’t see beyond the pile of goddamn beans he’s counting.”

Jesus. Yeah, no pressure.”

“Monday then. Enjoy the flight Tate honey, Hank had a coronary when I told him we were flying you up here business-class. I swear he turned purple. And send me a headshot for the program.”


“Yeah my ass. I need that photo.”

“You’ll get it when you get my speech.”

“Don’t make me hunt through my archives—”

“Gotta go J.” He shoved the phone in his shirt pocket thinking this was why he had a PR team at Outback Brands: they loved having their photo taken. They got off on swanning around at conferences and commerce lunches and sundowners and business breakfasts and—he grimaced—networking drinks.

He peered out the window, hunting a patch of clear sky. Even the streetlights weren’t making much headway. Rain beat across the bonnet, harder now, the wind slapping it against the Jeep like bullets.

There was an umbrella in the back that had been there since Blu Jools’ Christmas karaoke party, his prize for winning best song when Lila Blu dragged him to the stage to sing Leyla. It skittered and thumped whenever he took a corner too fast; a constant reminder that not only could he not sing, he was too old for such shit.

No way would he knock on Christina Clay’s door with the umbrella he’d designed for Lila shielding his head: Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer with a gigantic ruby stud through his famous honker, antlers loaded with bling. He didn’t feel that cheery.

Thanks Ruth.

“It’s getting embarrassing Tate,” Ruth Landers had said, tapping his desk with a finger, leader of the front office mutiny. “All Christina wants is a half-hour brand consult. Last time I looked that was your area of expertise. You’ve had Lisa screen her calls for months. The next time she rings do your own dirty work. Christina’s always nice about it but Lisa can tell she’s sick of being given the run-around.”

And that settled it. Being nice to the person who answered the phone always earned his clients—even the ones he didn’t want—a big fat gold star in Ruth Landers’ book.

He tugged at his tie; Ruth’s other stipulation when he finally agreed to check his diary and schedule a time that fit. “And no jeans! At least try to look like you want her business. It’s professional courtesy Tate. Adelaide is too small to burn your bridges. The Clays have clout.”

The luminous dial of the interior clock was three minutes slower than his wrist-watch, now showing five-thirty-two.

Fuck it. 

He wrenched the keys from the ignition. Just go in. Tell her you don’t want her business. Come out. Job done.

Then he could find himself a pub with a widescreen tuned to Friday night football. Get a schooner of Pale Ale and a medium-rare steak. Think about that damn speech.

He reached for the leather briefcase on the passenger seat. Even a meeting with Christina Clay was better than spending an extra hour at his house.


Robert Pattinson goes Outback

It was even bigger news in South Australia than Kirsten Stewart snogging her director and breaking R Pat’s heart… that he’s filming a movie in South Oz in January next year called The Rover.

Well I’m excited. I wasn’t writing when the Kidman/Jackman Australia movie hit the screens. I know Tourism Australia planned huge promotions around that and I’m sure they’ll piggyback on the R-Pat back too if they can.

I keep reading that rural romance is doing really well in Australia right now and hopefully for those writing rural themes, there may also be a kick to come from this movie, especially from an international audience (and maybe international agents/publishers)… she says fingers crossed 🙂

I don’t write rural romance in the sheep-shearing/cattle station sense, but my current book does have big sections which occur in outback South Australia, the Flinders Ranges and north of there, The Ghan railway track region and then a climax on the Birdsville Track, so I’m hoping there’s lots of red dust gonna get caught in R Pat’s Akubra…

Meanwhile, we leave tomorrow for our Noosa trip, driving across the Hay Plains… my husband keeps on about ‘making hay while the sun shines’ in terms of our driving and I snicker. The kids are really excited about visiting Queensland but I don’t know if they’ve quite grabbed the concept of three days driving. They’re mad keen on the whole Olympics thing at the moment and I keep getting asked if Queensland is further than London and couldn’t we go to London this time instead.

I am on track with the revisions I’ve been doing all July but I can’t decide whether to print and take the book with me, or use the holiday as a break from it and come back with fresh eyes. Given the Olympics will give us lots to watch at night, I’m kind of leaning towards the latter.

I think it will feel like I’ve left the baby behind…