It’s been a long time since I could say with any honesty that I’m making progress with some writing, but finally I’ve been getting some words down this week. Once again, I have my writing group, The Naughty Ninjas to thank for my word count. They helped me kick off the writer’s block blues with my contribution to our story about synchronised swimmer Stephen, and his experiences in his one-sided thong at the after-olympics party… If you want to read about Stephen you have to sign up to the ninja’s newsletter. You can do that here.
I’m working on something called Butterfly House Book 1. I’ve had feedback from my editor at Escape Publishing and she’s told me to kill a darling, and develop a bit more of the ‘romance’… so I’m working on that. On the whole, she likes the idea of the Butterfly House book(s) and that’s something. Because this story is a bit odd-ball 🙂
So that’s the good news.
Something else that works for me when I’m a bit blocked, is to read, and I’ve been doing a fair bit of that.
I read across a lot of genres and this week I think I’ve covered a fairly good gamut. First up, I finished the third book in Jenn J McLeod’s ‘Season’s’ trilogy, Season of Shadow and Light. I enjoyed this a whole heap. I’ve had it on Kindle for quite some time and Jenn’s new book, The Other Side Of The Season is out now so I felt a pressure to get book 3 read before I ordered book 4.
Tick to me!
Here’s my review of Season Of Shadow and Light.
After that, I got sidetracked thanks to one of my Naughty Ninja buddies, Roz Groves. I fell into the rabbit hole that is Sacrificed To The Dragon. Well, beam me up Scotty – this is paranormal erotic fantasy set in the modern-day UK, in a period when dragon-shifters are recognised by the UK Government and have their own clans and territories – although not everyone is happy to have dragon-shifters in Old Blighty.
I liked this a lot. A lot. Ok. I liked this more than is probably good for me.
Which leads me to my literary quota for the week. I made myself a new years’ resolution to get more ‘literary’ this year and I’ve been making good use of Amazon deals when something I’ve dubbed suitably ‘literary’ has cropped up.
The Eye Of The Sheep by Sofie Laguna is one of these. I started the first three pages before work this morning and oh my holy heck, I am going to have to concentrate to get a good sense of what is going on. This book won the Miles Franklin award for 2015.
So this weekend it should be edits, edits, and some new words on Butterfly… and we’ll see how we go from there.
A shout out to my wonderful Beta reading and writing friends, Jennie Jones and Juanita Kees, both of whom have had wonderful book-related news this week.
Jennie, Juanita and I met on Facebook last year, and then in person at the RWA Conference in Fremantle. We are all Escape Artists (published by Escape Publishing), and we’re living in West Australia, although I’m a fair way south of these two. This, by the way, is a good thing. I’m sure if we lived closer, we’d talk books and drink wine and very little writing would get done! After Fremantle we chatted loosely about joining forces with joint promotions or other bookish things… and this eventuated in the gem of an idea, that we form a Beta reading team.
So far, I’m proud to say, our record is exemplary! We started with Under The Cover Of Dark, Juanita’s follow-up story to Under The Hood in her Tag Raider series, staring the hunky Detective Mark and the lovely (but scarred) widow, Lily Bennetti. How could I not fall in love with Detective Mark when every line I’m reading has ‘Lily’ swooning over his cop charms? (And cop arms, and those big guns, – please, somebody stop me.) We had a giggle on Facebook mid-way through last year when Juanita posted a line about the sexy things Lily had been doing with Detective Mark, and someone (I think it was Susanne Bellamy from memory – thought it was ME!) So I wrote a little story about me, Lily & Mark which I hope to post here one day when Juanita says it’s okay.
Anyhoo… while we waved goodbye to Under Cover Of Dark and wished it well on its journey through the submission straits, I think next cab off the rank was my book, Fairway To Heaven, closely followed by Jennie Jones’ next book in her Swallow’s Fall series. This is ‘The House At The Bottom Of The Hill’ (the follow-up to Jennie’s blockbuster, ball-busting Escape’s biggest-selling wonder-book: The House On Burra Burra Lane). Yes, I am trying VERY hard to get Jennie to cull her book titles… but she does love telling a story on her front cover! Me, Jennie & Juanita call it THATBOTH… it’s much easier!
I like to think of Jennie as writing ‘Chardonnay Country’. You don’t find wheat fields, red dusty outback roads, sheep or cattle stations in Swallow’s Fall, instead it’s in the Snowy Mountains, all green and wildflower-filled, and the community and characters Jennie Jones has developed there never fail to make me giggle. I love visiting Swallow’s Fall, pet pigs and all.
Juanita’s writing is different. Her Tag Raiders series is romantic suspense… tackling all the tough issues like teenage gang culture, drugs, street kids, homelessness and the wonderful people who assist in the rehabilitation of these teens.
Is it any surprise that after the emotion she spent on the page writing Tag Raiders, she threw us a curve ball? Juanita needed a holiday. So off to a Greek beach she went, while we all chewed our nails waiting on news about Under The Cover Of Dark… and phwoar, have we enjoyed watching her Greek Gods in their speedos on Mykonos… my little heart be still.
Then Jennie, in the space of a few months, wrote my favourite story of everything she’s done so far: 12 Days At Silver Bells House. This is a Christmas novella set in Swallow’s Fall, and it is absolutely delightful. Talking about ‘Chardonnay Country’ I loved how her heroine crashes her car in a paddock near Swallow’s Fall and awaits her rescue more worried about how she’s going to get the box of wine out of the boot (trunk), than how she is going to get out of the aforesaid mud patch in her designer heels. This novella is magic!
And the huge news that’s had us all dancing: Under The Cover Of Dark has been accepted for publication by Escape Publishing this week! And Jennie Jones has news too… although I’ll let her tell it!
So huge congratulations to Jennie and Juanita. They are two of the most generous people you could meet in the Australian writing fraternity.
And while I’m dishing out the love: It’s also been a big week (month) for two other buddies, Jenn J McLeod and Kylie Kaden, both of whom have new books (Simmering Season for Jenn, and Losing Kate for Kylie) in print and e-book that have captured readers’ attention in Australia and beyond.
It sure has been a good news week! #girlwritersrock #australianwritersrock
Drum roll please!
I have been buried since Saturday in revisions for my book and that process alone has given me so many ideas for posts!
I will get to them. I promise.
But in the meantime, I am so thrilled to introduce the
WOMAN of the moment! Jenn J Mcleod who has her debut
novel, House For All Seasons, coming out with Simon & Schuster
in March. Thank you so much Jenn for being part of: From Left Field…
The name of the game here is bravery! My blog has been about my path to publication, and while a writer can read any number of articles on writing craft, one of the most valuable things to me was reading excerpts, and well, just reading, to see how good writers put all that craft together.
So the first question I’ll ask is:
Lily M:Share with us the opening paragraph of your book as it began and how it is now.
Jenn J: Okay, on 13/03/10
‘I’m not going back there. Not for three months, not for three weeks, not even for three days.’ Thirty-eight year old Poppy Hamilton, once powerful playground prima donna, still knew how to command a crowd. ‘As lovely as it is to catch up with you ladies after all this time, I can’t do it – I won’t. Sorry. Besides, it makes no sense.’
‘Didn’t you understand?’ Sara tried to project her voice. ‘The Will is conditional on us all doing it – starting with you in spring.’
On 01/03/12 (final edits and I ditched the prologue way back, as advised, changing it to Chapter One)
‘I’m not going back there. Not for three months, three weeks, not even three days.’
Two decades on and Poppy, once powerful playground prima donna, could still command a crowd. ‘As lovely as it is to catch up with you ladies after all this time, I can’t do this. I won’t. Sorry. Besides, it makes no sense.’
Time pressured—as usual—Poppy stood apart from her three companions, alone and restless on the window side of the conference room. She eyed the wall clock hanging at one end of it, then her friends.
Lily M:Share with us 8 lines from the top of page 88 (yes, I stole this idea—did I mention I was head down in edits and time-poor—sorry!)
Jenn J: This is from House Of All Seasons:Part One – Surviving Summer (characters Sara and Will.)
Breathless by the time she’d reached the car, her disquiet turning to exasperation, Sara said, ‘Don’t be angry, Will.’
‘Because it’s not like you to be angry.’
‘Everyone’s funny guy, eh? Yeah, that’s good old Will Travelli. The guy who gives you all a good laugh. The guy who reminds you how lucky you all are. Well, newsflash, Sara, that’s not who I am twenty-four/seven, and not without a lot of bloody encouragement. And by that I mean my kids. Without them I wouldn’t even be here. They were the only thing that made me put up with the frigging pain and humiliation. Can we just go?’
LIly M: (Love those 8 lines Jenn). What is your greatest ‘lightbulb moment’
in terms of Writing Craft?
Jenn J: At this moment in time? The idea that reviewers are reading my book and that my life’s work, my impossible dream that somehow came true, now depends on five little stars or the words they choose to write. (Okay, possibly a little over-dramatic. But you did ask.)
Lily M: If you could choose three items on the list below to take for a week camping in the Australian outback, which three would you pick? There are magic batteries for anything electrical!
my favourite paperback
my significant other
food I don’t have to kill or catch
battery-powered Nespresso & endless supply of Pods
change of clothes
mobile phone/internet connection for twitter & FB
Jenn J: Hello, my name is Jenn and I am an addict! Yes, I picked:
mobile phone/internet connection for twitter & FB. How pathetic is THAT! I do love my iPad.
my significant other (to keep me fed and watered while I write, Twitter and Facebook.)
Dilemma. I don’t need a torch. The iPad will double as that and I don’t need moisturiser/cosmetics/hairbrush as there is no mirror so who cares? Hmm, tough one. Fresh clothes are a must, but so are wine and (to a lesser degree) food.
(Indecisive, isn’t she our Jenn! And not particularly practical. I’d like to see some of those Tweets written on a tummy filled with wine and no food! I think I have to take Answer 3 as ‘fresh clothes’. This is probably just as well for any lost bushwalkers who happen upon this campsite.)
Lily M: My book (being released by Escape Publishing in March) is called His Brand Of Beautiful. Can you tell me what you would describe as ‘your brand of beautiful’?
Jenn J: Hairy, bad breath, annoying at times, but a happy tail and unconditional love. My muse, Strawberry & Daiquiri.
Lily M: Can you tell me the best thing about House For All Seasons?
Jenn J: The best thing about my book?
Oh, you mean inside…story like…?
Hmm, the four characters, based on the four seasons, written in four parts. It’s like four stories in one all tied up with a whopping big secret. I’m inspired by the changing seasons. I love the contrast – and contrast makes for great characters and conflict. So I wanted to create four female characters as different as the seasons.
So, House for all Seasons is four separate journeys of the heart set in a small town with heart: Surviving Summer, Tall Poppy, Autumn Leaves and Wynter’s Way, in which readers witness both the unravelling of friendships and a tightening of family ties.
Lily M: Who would absolutely love it?
Jenn J: I once heard Jodi Picoult say:
“The best books straddle genres and attract a
variety of readers.”
That influences my writing, and with intricate themes that deal with family ties and friendship there is definitely broad appeal. The four-part approach has something for everyone.
I write what the business calls ‘commercial’ fiction. This means stories with broad themes and appealing to a broader audience (making the distinction from what is referred to as more ‘literary’ works). But a broader audience means more people reading my work and that, after all, is why I write. I believe my novels can comfortably sit on a shelf alongside more literary works, general fiction and contemporary romances.
So I’m not sure who would love it. But what I’d hope is that they remember the story, or a particular scene, and talk about it in much the same way people talk about a favourite movie.
Lily M: Can you share with us your favourite 250 words from the novel and tell us what makes it your favourite?
Jenn J: One Favourite Part?! I have lots! But for different reasons. One that makes me cry. One that makes me laugh out loud. One where I sit back and say “Did I really write that?”
For you, I have this one. I hope you enjoy it (and it’s not too long).
(Lily here: AHEM! Did you not see me say 250 words!)
House For All Seasons – Surviving Summer
‘Will said you were back in town,’ Jennifer continued. ‘He mentioned it in passing last night after picking me up and giving me the most beautiful bunch of flowers, then taking me out to dinner at, of all places, La Mystique restaurant in Saddleton, where we drank champagne and he made a toast, to me, of course. It was my birthday, you know.’
Was the woman still breathing? Sara began to wonder, having listened to the longest sentence in history. Maybe Jenny was cheerleader for the verbal Olympics these days. Despite the long-windedness of her monologue, the message could not have been any clearer if she’d tattooed it on that tummy next to the navel stud: Back off, Will’s mine.
‘Well in that case, happy birthday, Jennifer,’ Sara said, trying not to smile.
She should put the woman out of her misery, tell Jennifer she was here to close doors, not bang her head against them by chasing after a twenty-year-old attraction that was never reciprocated in the first place. Sara had moved on from Will a long time ago. She was interested to know how he was doing despite her unforgivable lack of contact and concern, but after fulfilling her obligation with the house, Sara would go back to Sydney. Staying permanently in Calingarry Crossing had never been a consideration. Never again would the town tie Sara down. By summer’s end she would be ready to face the world as a new woman, get a job and get used to how life was for her now. Telling Jennifer she need not worry about any competition from her was the right thing to do, but the devil in Sara decided to let the woman make her own assumptions. Jennifer was probably quite skilled at it.
‘Morning, boss,’ Jennifer chirped as she sashayed past Will on his way back over to Sara.
‘I think my arrival may have upset Jenny … I mean, Jennifer.’
‘Not sure I follow.’ Will wrinkled his nose the way he always used to, except for the time a Saddleton team bully broke it in a high tackle.
‘Jennifer? Your date last night? Wildly romantic dinner? La Mystique? Ringing any bells?’
‘Is that what she just told you?’ He chuckled in a sweet, sympathetic way. ‘Poor Jen. Her husband left her last year. Ran off with a backpacker working at the Saddleton pub. Yesterday was her first birthday alone and I thought a night out would be nice, cheer her up a bit. Besides, she’s a good worker and hangs around to help me close up. She never claims overtime.’
‘Oh, I’m sure she feels amply rewarded, though.’
Sara was teasing, but the pangs of jealousy jabbed a little too seriously hard. Why had there been no Will and no knight in shining armour to rescue Sara when her husband had run out, dumping her at the worst possible point in her life?
Don’t go there.
‘So, speaking of dinner, Ms Sara Fraser, how about you have it with me tonight?’
‘Oh my, La Mystique two nights in one week?’
‘Ah, actually, I was thinking more Le Café, as in here. It’s wages night so I’m slaving over pays after I lock up, but I can have Dom knock us up a meal before he finishes. When I’m done with the wages I can just bung the plates of whatever in the microwave.’
Bung whatever in the microwave!
Sara laughed so hard, the lack of control over her normally tightly controlled emotions surprised her.
‘What’s so funny?’ Will asked, doing a lousy job of keeping a straight face.
‘You—and you know it.’ She buckled her helmet and unhooked her sunnies from the neck of her shirt, preparing to leave. ‘I guess it’s microwaved whatever around six. I’ll be here.’
Lily M: Microwaved whatever at six sounds great to me! What a guy is Will. I’m lucky to have two Will excerpts. Thanks Jenn.
Jenn J: Thank you for having me, Lily.
Lily M: Hmm. You’re being nice now after getting 650 words by me hey? Okay then. You’re welcome!
To find out more about House For All Seasons, and about Jenn J McLeod,
I was one of four writers tagged by Susanne Bellamy and Jenn J Mcleod in the Next Big Thing blog tour. Jenn dubbed her motley crew, the DIGRITS, which (if you’re wondering and I’m sure you are) stands for Dang. I Got Roped Into This S***. Susanne invited me too, a little later, and I hope she will forgive me for linking back to this earlier story!
What is the working title of your current/next book?
My current book, which will be published in the next few months (March is earmarked), is called His Brand Of Beautiful. Right now, I am struggling mightily with my next WIP, loosely called Fringe Benefits. I am procrastinating my arse off, rather than knuckling down to write it. I’m blogging. Reading other blogs. Facebooking. Watching way too much cricket (C’mon Aussie, c’mon) and I even wrote a short story a while ago, just so I didn’t have to get back to Fringe Benefits. And I liked writing the short story so much (I will enter it for RWA Little Gems) that I then threw my effort at a Novella for a Carina Press competition called Harleys & Holidays… So right now, that’s the one getting the BS&T (hmmm… written like that it looks like I mean, getting the bulls***… I meant, getting the blood, sweat & tears).
Where did the idea come from?
I’m not sure where His Brand Of Beautiful ‘came from’ exactly. I think you’d throw me in the ‘pantster’ classification. Pantsters never know where their books come from, right? I know I didn’t want an angst-filled romance where the characters dithered and faffed about and were too stupid to live. I wanted it to relate to the wine industry (most of my ideas are loosely connected there – that probably tells you more about me and my love of all things red, white and rose than you need to know)… and I had this rough idea that I wanted the beginning to involve a case of ‘mistaken identity.’ (Before I knew that was called a Trope, thanks Rachel Johns). Beyond that, I really had no idea.
What genre does your book fall under?
Contemporary romance for pantsters.
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Hugh Jackman would get the nod for Tate. There’s a lot of ‘Drover’ from Australia in Tate. Christina? Possibly Cameron Diaz (shorter though) in a hat and with a few extra pounds. Even Melissa George in a hat and a few extra pounds. Any woman in a hat with a few extra pounds. (Hey FOX, Universal – I could play her myself!)
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A man haunted by his past falls in love with a woman afraid of the future.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I am thrilled to say a publisher will represent His Brand Of Beautiful, but all the paperwork isn’t finalized as yet, so I can’t say which one!
How long did it take you to write the first draft?
May 2011 I began writing it. I finished it fast and sent it out in about September of that year. The first rejections came fast too. They were a huge wake-up call and told me how much I didn’t know about creative writing. I grew much older and wiser in the next 14 months of rewrites and revisions and I will never forget the Saturday morning when I clicked open my emails and read one from a US publisher that said: “I really enjoyed your book and I would love it for our line.”
I was incredibly lucky that an Aussie publisher then told me they liked my book too. Deciding which publisher to go with has been my big dilemma. There are pros and cons to both. The legal side of things has been making my head spin. That’s something I think we could all use more of (by the way), there are so many great writing craft posts and tips, but it has been much harder to find contract and legal information. Once I’m more organized, I will try to shape up a post about what I’ve discovered on the ‘business’ route.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I’m sorry. I don’t know. I know that there are an awful lot of talented Australian writers writing ‘rural romance’. I don’t write that, as such, but it just happens that His Brand Of Beautiful includes an outback camping trip. I was lucky enough to completely freak out Jenn J McLeod & Rachael Johns the other day on Author Harvest and I won a copy of Rachael’s new book, Man Drought. So that will be my first Aussie read, and of course, I am saving myself to read House Of All Seasons.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Ruebens. (Yes, the painter) and probably, Jennifer Crusie, though she would never know it. I think her writing is just amazing.
What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
I’d like to think it has a modern feel to it. My heroine knows what she wants in the world and she goes after it. The only problem is, she wants many things all at once and all of them, she tends to want… er… NOW. (No she’s not at all like me. I’m very gentle and patient!) People who like graphic design, branding and marketing may enjoy the subplots in the book. People who like wine might enjoy it too. That’s a pretty wide net, I’d reckon.
Thank you for getting through The Next Big Thing with me. If you are interested in what The Next Bog Thing was all about – check it out here! This Bog post was by far the most popular one I’ve ever done on this site, and that might say something about the people who post and visit here!
Many writers will already know of the ‘blog interview tour’ going the rounds called The Next Big Thing. I’ve read some great Q&As, one of which you’ll find right now at Come Home To The Country. It’s like an online literary chain letter. I don’t know where it started and I don’t know where it will end, and at some stage soon thanks to Jenn J McLeod, I, and three other lady writers, will become part of The Next Big Thing. (Yes – there is even a badge). If I find it, I’ll post it.
But what I want to write about today, is how VERY close I came to being something else entirely. Yes, although Allison Tait,Cate Ellink and Kerrie Patterson (tagged by Jenn) may never know it… Ladies, last night, we nearly became part of THE NEXT BOG THING.
All evidence is now removed. Jenn J’s typo (if typo it was – I’m tempted to think she was being sneaky to see if anyone was really listening!) is now removed. At midnight last night on Jenn’s blog, we were about to be part of The Next Bog Thing. Two minutes after midnight, we were back to being in The Next Big Thing… but I have spent some time in the small hours thinking about what might have been…
Let’s be honest. Have you seen the Q&A for The Next Big Thing? It’s not very exciting. It’s (dare I say) a bit boring. Like, child’s toy-left-out-in-the-sun-all-summer kind of dull. Jenn J’s Author Harvest questions have far more scope!
The Questions in The Next Bog Thing would be far more exciting! Just think of how you might answer this!
At what point did you decide your first draft was complete and utter crap?
Assuming you send your protagonist rowing up Shit Creek, how did you take away his/her paddle?
How many times did you rewrite Chapter 4, before realising that you simply cannot polish a turd?
Tell the truth. Have you ever taken your laptop into the toilet to work on your WIP?
If you ever manage to outsell the Bible… will you think your shit doesn’t stink?
You get the point? Much more interesting!
Alas. Thanks to the wonders of blogs and their edit and ‘update’ buttons… I am not in The Next Bog Thing anymore, (how I wanted to see that badge), I am in only, The Next Big Thing and so, I shall start honing my answers!
But I do invite anyone out there who is interested in The Next Bog Thing, to leave any new questions they might think of in the comments below (I might even have to come up with a prize!)… or by all means, please join The Next Bog Thing and write your answers if you like and tag someone else… Maybe we can start a whole new BIG BOGGY THING (which one day, someone might make a scary movie about.)
In the meantime Jenn J, I love your work! Thanks for tagging me! And I look forward to reading about Kerrie, Allison and Cate! 🙂
I’ve had some big days in recent weeks, but today just takes the cake. I can only imagine how I might feel the day my book actually hits the shelves, err… cyberspace.
Jenn J Mcleod, who is about to release her debut book House For All Seasons in March, and is also now an official radio and television megastar in the mould of Dame Edna, who by the way I am going to see in Adelaide on her farewell tour in January – but I digress. (I do that). Where was I?
Yes! Jenn J Mcleod has invited me to be part of a blog hop tour called The Next Big Thing. Jenn plus four author friends Allison Tait, Kerrie Patterson and Cate Ellink and yours truly have ten questions each to answer about our book(s). And we also have an official group called the DIGRITS (as to how we got our name, my lips are sealed.)
Plus: Jenn has invited me to be on her Author Harvest blog, which is a series I love reading, and I’ve found out so much about chickens and gnomes from all the talented people who’ve been on her site this year, I am thrilled to be part of it. I had to share just a taste, this was one of my favorite responses to Jenn’s big: “Why Did The Chicken Cross The Road” question, by Kylie Ladd:
JJM: Now for the big question… Why did the chicken cross the road?
KL: Our chickens are so very stupid I have no idea why they do anything. Yesterday a dragonfly buzzed near them while they were sitting together on the lawn. They jumped up in a panic and ran straight into each other. Crossing an entire road would be well beyond them.
Where was I? (Laughing again at the idea of Kylie’s crazy chickens).
Yes! Thrilled to be part of Author Harvest. Thanks for asking me Jenn!
And so, I went off to my email inbox hunting all these blog questionnaires and also looking for notice from OzSales about my Christmas outfit that has YET to arrive and I bought it online WEEKS ago!! (Yep, digressing again…) And there I found this one:
“I have just assigned an editor to work with you on His Brand of Beautiful. Her name is [blanked out – oh this confidentiality until the contract is signed is killing me], and she is really enthusiastic about getting your work ready for publication. She will be working with you directly, which will allow you both more freedom to work to your own schedule.
[Blanked out] has been informed of the final and only due date of February 1 2013, which is when she will need to send us the final edited copy so we can release your title in March 2013. [SQQUUUUEEEEEE] I will be sending [blanked out] your manuscript today, so you should hear from her in the near future.
Please feel free to contact me if you have any queries along the way, and in the meantime I hope you find the editing process rewarding!”
SQUEEEEEEEEE! Now I think I’m gonna go do twenty cartwheels on the lawn. (ahem-in my dreams).