Category Archives: Life

This Time Last Year…

690756_sydney_nye_2007_1NOTIFYFIRSTHappy new year! I just love January 1st and the feeling of a fresh start, and today is even more exciting… This very day one year ago I started writing a new story. I opened a word document, began typing, and before I knew it three chapters had been written. This story was FAST FORWARD. Now, one year later, it is not only finished but about to be published with Harlequin’s Escape Publishing. My first published book. The scheduled release date is February 1st 2013 and I cannot wait! So if you’ve been thinking of writing a novel, or have an idea for a new one – get writing! You never know, this time next year you could be celebrating a publishing contract. 🙂

So much can happen in a year. I think it’s nice to take a look back and celebrate progress, achievements, and good times…

In terms of writing, in 2012 I… edited a manuscript, did extensive revisions on another manuscript (which I’m still revising), wrote FAST FORWARD, wrote my first novella STARSTRUCK IN SEATTLE, wrote and self-published a short story SISTERS AT HEART, started writing my next romantic comedy HAUNTED HOUSEWIVES, received my first publishing contract, and made the finals in Choc Lit Publishing’s Search for an Australian Star contest with my manuscript THE JANUARY WISH. The events I attended were the ARRA awards dinner in Sydney and the RWA annual conference on the Gold Coast. I connected with a wonderful critique partner who is now a dear friend, and formed an online writing goals group. I also spent way too much time on Facebook and Twitter but we won’t go into that.

Out of all that, the only things I’d planned for at the start of the year were to complete Fast Forward and attend the RWA conference. Everything else ‘just happened’. My main goal for 2012 was to get a contract for one of my books, and I still smile when I think about how that goal came true. 🙂

So what’s the plan for 2013?? I’m still working that out, but I’d like to increase the amount of time I spend writing (or at least, write faster), and at a minimum, complete two full length books. Because I tend to shoot for the stars I’d also like to write another one or two novellas (the next one in my ‘Love Angel’ series to follow Starstruck in Seattle, and a brand new stand-alone one called ‘I Dream of Johnny’), complete a rough (or clean, whatever) draft of the first book in my young adult series The Delta Girls, and write a short story for a Christmas anthology I’ve agreed to participate in. I’d also like to find a way to survive without sleep.

Will I achieve all that? Who knows, but it’s worth a shot! I think the main thing is to keep moving forward, keep learning about writing and publishing, and keep getting those words down. Progress is an achievement in itself.

As for my blog, wordpress has created an annual report for me and I’ll share some of the stats with you:

  • May was my busiest month which coincided with my first ‘themed month’ on the blog; Mouthwatering May.
  • The busiest day was May 27th and the post on that day was Sunday Lunch with Jenn J McLeod.
  • The top five posts that received the most views throughout 2012 were:

1. How to choose a pen name / pseudonym

2. Setting the scene – bringing the story to life through a sense of place

3. Anita Heiss answers Juliet’s Awkward Questions

4. How to use the new Facebook page timeline & How to run a Facebook chat

5. Survey results – what do you like to see on author blogs?

  • I had visitors from 110 different countries! Most of my visitors came from Australia, followed by the United States and the United Kingdom.
  • Most visitors were referred to my blog via Facebook, twitter, my website, Google reader, and Survey Monkey.
  • The most popular words/phrases people typed into a search engine to end up at my blog were:

1. List of awkward questions

2. How to choose a pen name

3. Juliet Madison

4. How to come up with a pen name

5. How to set the scene in a story

  • The most interesting, unique, weird, funny, or non-relevant things people typed into a search engine which led them to my blog were: Little Miss Bossy (me?), plastic surgery Florida (not a chance), luxury hotel foyer, where is Sticklepond (I don’t know, I wonder if they found out?), chatterbox characters, I work at the post office, It was a dark and stormy night (how original), in bed with Juliet (umm…), extreme sport reading (that’s my kind of extreme sport!), Santa Claus hat cookie, and starting fresh.
  • The top five people who left the most comments on my blog (and are now my new best friends) were:

1. Rachael Johns (who has a new book out today in Aus/NZ, Man Drought – check it out!)

2. Jenn J McLeod (whose debut novel, House For All Seasons releases March 1st.)

3. Juliana (any person whose name starts with Juli has to be awesome ;))

4. Rebecca Raisin (a talented writer and winner of short story awards!)

5. Imelda Evans (whose novel, Rules Are For Breaking was released recently)

Thanks guys! And congrats to Rachael for coming first (it was a close one, Jenn) 🙂

What’s in store for my blog in 2013? Lots of author interviews, including my new segment ‘Past, Present, and Future’, posts about writing, reading, life, publishing, and marketing for authors. And I’m sure there’ll be more competitions! Speaking of competitions, I’m giving away some goodies each week until the day of my book release, but exclusively to subscribers of my email newsletter. To subscribe, head over to my website and fill in the subscription form (you’ll also get my free Triple Treat with two short stories and an e-guide for living a life you love).

So that’s it for this New Year’s Day post. Here’s to an awesome, exciting, magical, spellbinding, successful, prosperous, entertaining, happy, fulfilling (and various other adjectives) new year!!

~ Juliet xo

My ‘Call Story’

I’ve been writing fiction seriously for about three years, and when I first started I kept hearing people talk about ‘Call Stories’ but I had no idea what they were. I soon discovered that The Call is when a publisher offers you a contract for your manuscript, even if it happens to be via email. By the time I’d finished my first manuscript I was hooked on writing and hoped that one day I’d be writing about my own Call Story.

Three manuscripts later that day arrived!

But let me backtrack a little…

Late in 2011 I started getting ideas for a new book which would be my third. I came up with the premise (an image-conscious young woman wakes on her birthday to find she’s a middle-aged housewife married to the also middle-aged high school nerd), and let it simmer for a while. Gradually, the character developed in my mind and I came up with the title, Fast Forward. I was also playing around with another couple of book ideas at the time and getting started on some major revisions for my first manuscript.

At the start of 2012 (New Years Day to be exact), I was staying with family and planning on taking a few days off to relax and read a few books, but my muse had other ideas.

Over breakfast, I flipped through one of my mother’s many home and lifestyle magazines and an advertisement caught my eye. It was for an interior design course and showed pictures of beautiful furniture and homewares. Before that day, I had decided that my main character would be involved in designing homewares, so on a whim I cut out the ad for inspiration. I still hadn’t decided yet which book idea I would pursue and was pondering my options as I flipped through the magazine. I asked myself, ‘Which book should I start next?’ (and by next I meant in another few weeks or so), and on the very next page in the magazine was an article titled: Fast Forward.

This magazine cut-out inspired me to start my book.

This magazine cut-out inspired me to start my book.

I had my answer.

And I cut out that title too. (I’m sure my mother didn’t mind me getting all scissor-happy with her magazines ;))

I took this as a sign, or more accurately; a direct kick-in-the-pants to get started on this story, so instead of curling up with a book I opened my laptop and began writing. The first few chapters flew from my fingers to the keyboard over the next three days.

For the rest of the month I worked on editing a different manuscript and put Fast Forward aside until February, at around the same time as I found myself a fantastic critique partner. She read my chapters and enjoyed them and spurred me on to write more. I didn’t work on it every day, but rarely a week went by when I didn’t add more to the story. I couldn’t believe how fun and fast this story was to write. Sometimes I’d stay up till 2 or 3am because I was enjoying myself so much (although I suffered the next day). Don’t get me wrong, parts of it were plain hard work – especially figuring out how to make a 300-ish page story take place over just one day in the character’s life (I constructed a timeline in fifteen-minute increments!).

By the time June came around I only had another 20,000 words to go, so I signed up for RWA’s 50k in 30 days challenge and vowed to finish it by the end of the month.

Half way through June I typed ‘The End’. Overall it took me about four months to write.

I sent the rest off to my critique partner who gave me some very helpful suggestions and I went straight to work editing it. I didn’t want to put it aside for a while like many authors (rightfully) recommend. My heart was still in this story and I wanted to work on it while it felt fresh.

I edited the first three chapters many more times until I was happy with the beginning, and did a final read through. I then entered online pitch contests and began the time-consuming process of researching agents, publishers, and sending out queries. All in all I got about twenty agent rejections and two editor rejections, but received feedback and took (most of it) on board, tweaking some parts of the manuscript.

Then I pitched it at the RWA conference on the Gold Coast in August, and while I was there, learned of Harlequin Australia’s new digital-first imprint, Escape. At first I didn’t think my story would be suitable (for starters, my hero was a nerd!) and I went home and sent off my other submissions. After seeing Escape’s tweets on twitter, I decided I should check out their submission guidelines anyway and they seemed fairly open-minded about different genres and mixed genres as long as it had a significant romance and happy ending. Mine was a combination of women’s fiction, chick lit, hen lit, comedy, romance, futuristic, and paranormal (what was I thinking?!). In the end I decided on romantic comedy and sent off a partial submission, knowing I’d find out in two weeks if it wasn’t suitable.

Much to my surprise I got a full manuscript request less than two weeks later, and three weeks after that I got an offer of publication. 🙂

On that wonderful day I remembered I’d actually had a dream about Harlequin Escape the night before – talk about prophetic! I checked my email as usual first thing in the morning, but there was nothing interesting. I decided to sit outside in the sun for a while to soak up some vitamin D and brought my iPhone with me. My email made that sound telling me I had new email and I glanced at the screen expecting it to be yet another ‘20% off all dresses, today only!’ or a very tempting ‘Booktopia Clearance Sale!’. But it was from Escape.

I mentally prepared myself for another rejection. All I could see was a couple of lines of a message preview:

Thank you for submitting Fast Forward to Harlequin Escape. I am delig…’

Delig? Was that part of the word I thought it was? …Delighted?

Then I thought it might say: “I am delighted that you wrote this story but unfortunately it is not right for us.’

But I knew it wouldn’t. I knew what it was going to say and my hand shook as I pressed the screen to open the message.

‘I am delighted to accept it for publication.’

Here I am just about to sign my contract.

Here I am just about to sign my contract.

The shaking intensified and lots of ‘Ohmygod’s’ spewed repeatedly from my mouth. I’m sure my neighbours thought I was having a heart attack. It was a really humid day and my palms were so sweaty from heat and excitement I could barely scroll the screen down to read the rest of the message!

I had to keep the news fairly quiet at first so I just rang my parents (who sent me a huge bunch of flowers later that day), and then my critique partner (90% of our conversation was the word ‘exciting’), and spent the rest of the day with a permanent grin on my face and completely unable to do anything productive.

It still amazes me that it was only less than a year ago I started writing this story and now it’s about to be released. I love how fast digital publishing works and I’m looking forward to getting this story out into the big wide world of the internet! I’m also excited to be involved with Harlequin, a company who has such a strong foundation and worldwide brand.

To all the writers out there – keep writing, editing, polishing, and submitting, and embrace the digital age.

To all the readers – keep reading, reviewing, and telling your friends about great books.

Thanks for reading my call story! 🙂

…To celebrate this milestone I feel like being generous and giving away stuff! To win some goodies, keep an eye on the blog (or subscribe if you like) for a giveaway coming very soon…

Help, I’m Haunted! Why a ghost is in my novel & how it’s freaking me out!

Seriously, I don’t know how thriller and horror writers do it.

Write scary stuff that is.

As soon as I write or even think about something scary my mind becomes hypersensitive to anything and everything around me. I jump when the phone rings. I flinch when a strand of hair falls loose onto my cheek. I even gasp when the toast pops up (C’mon, I bet you’ve done that too, right?). Yet for some reason I’ve decided to create a ghost character in my new work-in-progress.

Don’t worry, I haven’t gone over to the dark side to write horror novels, I’m still writing humorous and heartwarming fiction. It’s just that I’ve thrown a ghost into the mix to liven things up in my story, appropriately titled: Haunted Housewives.

This is the second in my ‘Touch of Magic’ themed romantic comedy books, the first being Fast Forward (which involves time travel). My aim with these books is to create fun stories of modern life but with some sort of magical or paranormal twist.

So I thought a ghost would be a perfect inclusion into one of these stories to spice up the tension and create some funny scenarios.

Until freaky things started happening.

Since starting this story I have almost started a fire in the kitchen, had a plate slip right out of my hand and break even though I was sure I was holding it firmly, and opened the fridge to find the drink tray on the door filled to the brim with milk (almond milk – we don’t do dairy, but that’s another and totally irrelevant subject!). And my cat is acting like he’s possessed, biting me for no apparent reason. Okay, so those things could just be because I’m a worn out mother going on little sleep (and the milk was probably my son despite insisting he put the lid back on tightly and closed the door gently), but I’m a writer. I like to stretch the imagination a little. Or a lot. 🙂

But this is interesting... When I was deciding on a name for the main character, a name popped into my mind. I liked the first name but the surname didn’t feel completely right. I asked myself ‘What would a better surname be?’ and instantly another one came to me. I googled it. The name was the same name of a murder victim, and (with tears in my eyes) I read about her terrifying ordeal in an online newspaper. Then I gasped. The article mentioned a street name not far from her house which had the same name as the original surname I’d thought of.

Coincidence? Maybe, maybe not.

I decided to keep the first name (Sally) for the character but change the surname to something different. However, I am thinking of dedicating this book to the woman who died to honour her memory.

So for the next few months or so, ghosts will be on my mind. I’ve always loved ghost stories and movies and television shows with ghosts in them, so I’m excited to be writing this ghostly character and seeing what mischief she gets up to and what challenging and funny situations she puts the main character into. It’s definitely not a spooky story by nature, but I hope there will be a few shocks and surprises throughout.

Do you have a favourite ghost story or movie?

Do you have any spooky experiences to share?

Oh, here’s another one… I didn’t even realise this blog post would be on Halloween! How appropriate. Happy Halloween! (And don’t visit my house for Trick or Treating because I’ve already eaten all the goodies. 😉

9/11 – Lillie’s Story

In honour of those who died and those who risked their lives to help others on September 11, 2001, I decided to interview Lillie Leonardi about her unique and compelling experience of that day, and the days that followed…

1.    Thank you for joining me on the blog today, Lillie. Your memoir, In The Shadow Of A Badge, details your experience at the Flight 93 crash site in Shanksville, Pennsylvania; and how the 9/11 attacks affected your life. Can you tell us a little about your book and your experience of that day?

The book reflects my story about the visitation of Angels during the first moments at the Flight 93 crash site.  It is a narrative non-fiction account of the spiritual experience I encountered while serving in my professional capacity as the Community Outreach Specialist with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Pittsburgh Division. What I saw and/or heard is a personal interpretation of the events leading up to and following 9-11 and, in particular, the Flight 93 crash. The book also details my on-going journey of personal healing and recovery from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) following my experiences that day.  The chapters penned include some significant historical facts as well.

 

2.    Can you share with us a brief excerpt from your book?

“On this day, the shimmer of light began to grow and was almost blinding. I looked again and the light began to evolve into a foggy white mist. The white mist then began to take shape. It moved and swirled in patterns of spectacular white light. All at once, the mist took full shape and I saw what appeared to be angels. There were angels standing in the open area to the left of the crash site. There were hundreds of them standing in columns. There was a field of angels emerging from the realms of the mist. They were Archangels with their wings arched up toward the sky.”

 

3.    How did the events of that day change your life and your view of the world?

Like many others who watched and witnessed the terrorist attacks of 9/11, my life was dramatically altered by the very nature of the events.  First and foremost, 9/11 removed any sense of security and left in its stay, a deep seeded feeling of fear.  This frozen fear caused trauma to my heart, mind and soul.  Yet, due to my inability to express the emotions felt, I became afflicted with PTSD.  As a result, every aspect of my life has changed.

 

4.   The memory of 9/11 brings with it a lot of strong emotions for people; do you think there are some positive things people can take from this experience to help them move forward in their lives?

Yes, I do feel there were some positive occurrences on 9/11.

From a law enforcement perspective, I believe many individuals served on behalf of their fellow man.  At each of the three sites, acts of bravery transpired.  When the Twin Towers were struck by the planes, the emergency responders rushed in to save lives and rescue the injured.  When the Towers fell, the responders assisted in recovering those who lost their lives and in the post clean-up efforts.  At the Pentagon, the same type of heroic deeds were witnessed on countless occasions.  And, the passengers and crew members aboard Flight 93, gave their lives to assure others would survive.

While at the crash site, I watched representatives from United Airlines, the law enforcement, human service  and government agencies work in tandem to address the needs of the family members who lost loved ones on Flight 93.  Each of these remarkable individuals gave their all to ease the pain and suffering of the survivors.

Additionally, residents of the surrounding communities rallied and offered unbelievable support to the families.   And, the area business owners provided essential supplies needed for an effective response to the tragedy.

There were so many individuals who helped to ease the pain and suffering of others.  They joined together to help rebuild the lives of those most affected.  It was amazing to watch the strength of spirit exhibited by one and all.

 

5. Your book is the first in a trilogy, can you tell us what the other two books will be about?

My Life In Black And White With A Smidgen Of Blue:

Book two provides the continuing story from where the first book left off. The many chapters trace my journey as a law enforcement officer, the PTSD diagnosis, the necessary healing processes and the difficulties faced.

The pages also unearth aspects of my childhood, spiritual path and the origins of my intuitive gifts. Additionally, the narrative is my version of a love story. Not, the conventional type that one may be familiar with reading, but it is my rendition of the “affairs of the heart”.

 

Messages From the Plane:

The third book of the series provides insight into my treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The pages penned delve into the initial treatment of Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) – a highly successful therapy used to aid those suffering from the effects of PTSD.

“Messages From the Plane” describes my journey to restore my mental health, as well as reveals the extraordinary phenomenon that occurred during each of the EMDR treatments. With my mind open, my intuitive abilities were tapped and my creativity began to reemerge. The pages highlight my path out of the depths of despair to a deeply enriched spiritual connection.

This book was co-authored by Dr. Deborah Conway, PhD.  Dr. Conway is the psychotherapist who treated me through conventional therapy and through the process of the EMDR sessions.

 

Thank you for sharing your amazing story and personal journey, Lillie.

Lillie’s book, In The Shadow Of A Badge, is available at Amazon, BN.com, select Barbes & Noble stores, and Word Association Publishers.

You can also find out more about Lillie at her website.

Do you have a 9/11 story to share? Where were you on that day?

Spring has Sprung… time for the Author Harvest!

The sun is shining in my part of the world today, birds are chirping, the ocean is sparkling, and colours are beginning to burst to life in the garden. To celebrate the start of Spring, I visited author Jenn J McLeod’s blog to be the first seedling to take part in her Author Harvest.

I love reading interviews that help me get to know other authors, but it’s nice to read something a little out-of-the-ordinary and this series of questions Jenn has come up with are so much fun! Click here to check out the interview, and while you’re there, find out more about Jenn whose debut novel, A House For All Seasons will be out in time for Mother’s Day 2013 in Australia. I can’t wait! 🙂

How My Son Got Me Into Writing AND Cooking

Since it’s my Mouthwatering May blog special event, I thought I’d share with you how I got into both cooking and writing, and the role that my son played in this…

Let’s start with the cooking… now, I’m no Masterchef, and nor do I want to be, but I did develop a bit of a knack for cooking when my son was little. As it turns out, he had a few food intolerances, and after doing an elimination diet with him I discovered he was sensitive to almost EVERYTHING I tested him with. Preservatives, MSG, colours..etc were the main culprits. So I began buying ‘additive free cookbooks’ and also experimenting with recipes of my own.

It was around this time I was also studying for my naturopathic qualifications, so I became more aware of food and nutrition and its impact on the body, and I was wanting to cook fresher, healthier meals. Also, I later discovered in addition to many additives he was also intolerant to dairy foods and gluten (found in bread, pasta, biscuits, and almost every single packaged food!), so once again I donned my well-used apron and experimented with even more recipes.

There were many disasters; homemade breads that crumbled to oblivion, inedible muffins that tasted like rocks, and don’t get me started on the pathetic cheese-less pizzas! But time and practise are great teachers, and soon I was whipping up meals and snacks that not only he liked, but other people too. Now, eating this way is a way of life, and I rarely follow a recipe. I’m an intuitive cook – I throw things together and make it up as I go.

Some of my favourite sweet creations (which have no sugar either! …except for the icing ;)) are: choc hazelnut and coconut muffins, gluten and dairy free banana cake, and choc macadamia cookies. And some of my favourite meal creations are: chicken soup with broccoli-stem ‘noodles’, roast balsamic chicken with mushroom, zuchinni, and carrots, lamb cutlets with sautéed bok choy, mushrooms and mustard dressing, warm chicken and red cabbage salad, grilled salmon with steamed broccolini and toasted pine nuts, butter-less butter chicken, and smoked salmon and avocado rice rolls (see pic above). Yum!!

So how did my son get me into writing? I always had a vague idea in my mind that I might write a book one day, but it was one of those things you never really think will happen. I wrote poetry as a teenager, and when I became a mother I started writing a few snippets of random scenes that would pop into my head, and even began a suspense novel, but gave up at chapter two!

Anyway, life moved on, I became busy with other things, and my son began pestering me to take him out of school and home-school him. At this time, I was running a busy and successful business, and could barely cope with helping him with his homework, let alone consider the idea of doing it ALL day EVERY day. But as my son neared high school and his high-functioning autism became more of an issue, it became apparent that the school system just wasn’t suited to his individual needs, and things became too much of a struggle (that’s another story!). So, I left my business to have a break and think things over for a while, eventually deciding on distance education instead of full-on homeschooling. Luckily, after a detailed application process, he was accepted, and although he’s not a fan of school in general, it’s been the best thing for him.

So what’s this got to do with writing? Well, after I left my business and made the commitment to do what was best for my son, the idea of writing a book resurfaced in my mind. I thought… “If I don’t do this now, I never will.” So after we’d finish school for the day I would spend time working on my first novel. And this time, I made it past chapter two (yay!), and eventually, after one year, I reached THE END. It was the best feeling EVER, and I wanted more. So I started my second novel, and nine months later typed THE END again. And now, I am nearing the end of my third novel which so far I’ve been writing for about four months (I must be getting faster!).

So there you have it, if it wasn’t for my son convincing me to home-school him, I may have continued working long hours in my business, with no time for anything else, and with my old ‘one chapter suspense novel’ being the only thing I’d ever written.

I’ve found my true passion, and with commitment to my craft, and a few gluten free choc macadamia cookies by my side as I write… I couldn’t be happier! 🙂

 

From Here To Eternity – RWA 20th Anniversary Conference

I was one of the lucky 350 attendees of the Romance Writers of Australia’s conference, held in Melbourne on 12th-14th August. The organisers did a fantastic job, and everything ran smoothly and professionally, allowing us writers to sit back and enjoy the event.

This was my first writer’s conference, yet I felt like part of a family, and was never without an interesting person to talk to. It was great to meet many of my online writing friends face to face, and I’m sure they were surprised to see that I am in fact a real person and not the cartoon avatar they’ve seen online!

I’m incredibly grateful to have met many wonderful authors, and the support and encouragement they gave me was amazing. There was no ‘us and them’, or ‘published and unpublished’, we were all united as writers, no matter what stage of the journey we’re at.

The venue (Hilton on the park, Melbourne) was lovely, and simply being child-free for four days without having to think about housework or real life in general was absolute bliss! I always love the feeling of arriving home, but I also love being able to think solely about writing and publishing for a few days without the distractions of daily life. Is it too early to book for next year’s conference?? 😉

I took as many notes as possible. Some information was new to me, some reinforced things I’d already learned but needed to be reminded of. Most importantly, I left feeling inspired, empowered, and dedicated to this path I’ve chosen.

The speakers were all fantastic, and I enjoyed listening and learning from Bob Mayer, Susan Wiggs, Lisa Heidke, Nikki Logan, Jane Porter, Christine Stinson, and all the authors, agents, and editors who enlightened, informed, and entertained.

Here are some of the key learnings I got from various speakers at the conference:

  • Writing is an entertainment business – emotion & numbers
  • Always stay one book ahead of your contract
  • Have SOP’s – standard operating procedures, for organising your writing time, social media, emails…etc
  • Write about what scares you most – the emotion will show through
  • Write what you WANT to know
  • Get ideas by thinking, ‘What if?’, ‘What if something is not what it appears to be?’
  • Dissect plots in movies by looking at ‘scene selection’ and scene titles on DVD’s
  • Show a character’s true nature through crisis
  • Find time for writing by tracking how you spend your time over one week – where can you cut back on time wasters and devote that time to writing?
  • Use twitter hashtags to attract target market, eg: ‘If you like #nameofsimilarbookormovie, you’ll like #nameofyourbook
  • Characterisation: Consciously communicate subconscious behaviour that the reader will subconsciously get
  • A book series can be unified by concept, theme, characters, setting
  • Sell a few .99c ebooks as ‘hooks’ to introduce readers to your other books
  • Women’s fiction for the 40+ age group is a hot market
  • Self help books can be useful for researching character issues and how they overcome them
  • Children in books – must bring something out in the characters
  • Technique for endings – try mirroring the opening of the book, unites beginning to end
  • Don’t wait until publication to think about a ‘brand’, do it now
  • A brand is a promise, a symbol, and triggers an emotional response and recognition
  • Can brand yourself as an author, or your books, or a character
  • When stuck with the writing process, do something else within the story – research setting, visual prompts, write a letter from your character to an old friend in first person
  • Content is king, promotion is queen
  • And much more!

 

Apart from the conference sessions, the social part was memorable too. The 1920’s themed cocktail party was a lot of fun, as was the awards dinner (congratulations to all the award winners!), and I was happy to do my bit for the fundraising for the Otis Foundation, a charity I hadn’t heard of until now, who plays an extremely valuable role in providing retreats for women and men going through breast cancer.

Thanks to the RWA team, my fellow writers, the speakers, agents, editors, sponsors, and hotel staff for making it a conference to remember.

I’m looking forward to a successful lifelong writing career – from here… to eternity.

~ Juliet

Reading In Bed – an extreme sport?

Yesterday, July 24th, saw the birth of the first ever ‘Global Read In Bed Day’, an initiative of mine to raise funds for literacy charities (and give participants an excuse to spend a relaxing day curled up with a good book!).

The GRIBD Facebook group has around fifty members so far, and I hope this will grow as word gets out, so the next time we have another ‘Read In Bed Day’, even more people can participate!

But what’s this about reading in bed being an extreme sport? Well, throughout the day, injuries, exhaustion, and obstacles were reported.

Injuries: I fell down the stairs on one of my ‘reading breaks’, resulting in a swollen wrist and aching leg muscles (I have been hobbling around today as though I’m ninety-five!).

Exhaustion: Some participants reported almost falling asleep, and one (yours truly) actually did.

Obstacles: Some participants had to navigate around work committments, taxi duties, parenting responsibilities, and the dreaded ‘that-which-must-not-be-named’ (aka: housework), in order to have a few minutes here and there of reading time. One participant even had the distraction of being in the beautiful South of France. Talk about difficult!

Who said Reading In Bed was easy? If you’re planning on participating in the next event, do so at your own risk!

Some of the books read by participants included:

Just Breathe, and Lakeshore Christmas, by Susan Wiggs.

Sushi For Beginners, by Marian Keyes.

Books by Agatha Christie and PD James.

The Bet, by Jennifer Crusie.

Nadia Knows Best, by Jill Mansell.

Alice Bliss, by Laura Harrington.

The Good Girl’s Guide To Getting Lost, by Rachel Friedman.

Something Borrowed, by Emily Giffin.

Even the Sunday newspapers and a writer’s work-in-progress got some love!

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Don’t Just Write What You Know, Write What You Care About

This is one of my favourite bits of writing advice, and as soon as I read those simple words in Donald Maass’ book, ‘Writing the Breakout Novel’, I grabbed my trusty pink highlighter and slid it across the page. Mostly because I liked the advice, and partly because I love highlighting things! (I love the smooth feel as they glide along the page, and the colours you can get these days are gorgeous! But I’ll save that discussion for some other self-indulgent blog post, perhaps about stationary addiction).

It is SO important to write what you care about, because as Donald says, ‘If you don’t care, why should anyone else?’

Don’t write something just because you think it’s popular, or there’s a gap in the market. You have to like and care about what you’re writing in order to enjoy it and do it for the long haul.

This advice got me thinking about what I care about, and why I have written about certain topics.  In my novel, The Life Makeover Club, I’ve written about women getting a chance to create the life they always wanted. I care about people being able to enjoy their lives and do the things they’re passionate about, rather than feeling like they’re stuck in a rut, or trapped in a life that isn’t what they want. Too many people settle for second best, or say ‘this is just my lot in life’, without thinking or taking action towards making their life better. Sure, there are some things that can’t be changed, but a lot can be, and probably one of the most important things you can change is your attitude.

My novel also explores motherhood, and how to be a good mother while still keeping your own identity – something I know many mothers struggle with. I’ve also highlighted (there I go again!) the humourous side to motherhood, as daily parenting can bring with it both challenging and funny moments, and sometimes you just have to laugh!

Another thing I care about creating awareness of is the often silent ‘emotional abuse’ in some relationships. Domestic violence gets a lot of press, and rightly so, but those suffering in an emotionally abusive relationship often suffer in silence because it is not seen, and the affected partner can feel like they are making a big deal out of nothing, or that maybe they are just too sensitive. I wanted to show a character going through this and finding the strength to come through it; to say ‘I don’t have to put up with this.’

Other themes, issues, and topics I care about, and are writing or plan to write about in future are:

– reconnecting with family

– personal empowerment

– trusting your intuition

– the reality of autism and the gifts it can provide

– the importance of being proactive with your health

– remembering and celebrating life’s little pleasures

– the need for a ‘place to call home’

– the valued role of grandparents

– thinking outside the box – ‘What if?’

– entrepreneurship

– accepting people as individuals

– the valuable role of ‘the arts’ in our lives

– second chances, persistence, never giving up

– miracles

What about you?

What do you care about?

What are you inspired to write or read about?

I Think I’ve Written A ‘Snovel’

What is a snovel you may ask? Keep reading…

When I was going through some pretty big changes in my life in 2009, I said to myself “It’s as though I’m having some sort of life makeover.”

Then, Ta Da! Light bulb moment.

What if I could write a story about a group of women going through their own life makeover, following their ups and downs as they participate in an exclusive club, in a humourous yet heartfelt way? And what if I could impart some snippets of wisdom along the way? Yes! I thought. What a great idea!

And then was born my novel, or my, er… snovel: A Self Improvement Novel.

Now don’t get me wrong, The Life Makeover Club is first and foremost, a novel; a fictional story about women’s lives. But, through the club meetings these characters attend, they learn some important lessons, and tips on creating their ideal life. It is my hope that when (yes, when, not if!) this book gets published, readers will not only find it an enjoyable read, but will also be inspired to make some positive changes in their own lives, and have their own life makeover just like I did.

So what do you think of the idea of a ‘snovel’?

Do you know any other books out there that could be called snovels?

And if you could makeover something about your life, what would it be?