BlogAt the Romance Writers Conference last year (2017) I made four fabulous writing friends. Through sharing a taxi (and over several glasses of wine), I somehow inveigled myself into the group.
So here we are in 2018, guest bloggers for Romance Writers of Australia, sharing our journey from newbies to…well wherever. I can’t speak for everyone of course, but for me the love story and the romance is in the writing – the joy of the journey, the finger-tapping, brain-zapping, love-blinding thrill of spilling my writing beans regardless of the final destination.
We worry about our writing skills, we share whatever newfound knowledge we acquire, we take pride in our accomplishments and celebrate one another’s successes no matter how small or monumental. These girls have become fabulous friends:
Our first post about why we joined the RWA appeared on 15th Jan 2018 and can be found here:
In February we discuss the pleasures and perils of Feedback (watch this space). If you are an aspiring author with similar worries to our own, we would love to hear from you. If you are already successful in your writing career or the publishing industry we would value any insights. If you would simply like to know more about any of us you are welcome to visit our Facebook pages on the links below:
I love the book title, Force of Nature. Was the publisher making a comment about the epic struggle the characters in this story experience pitted against the Australian bushland, or was it more a statement about Jane Harper herself, I wonder? Set in the Giralang Ranges east of Melbourne, 5 women set out on a so-called corporate ‘bonding’ weekend hiking through the forest, but only 4 come out the other side…
Having devoured Jane Harper’s debut novel The Dry last year, I found I wasn’t as immediately drawn into the story this time, perhaps because it took me a little while to get to grips with the disjointed structure, but once I had the chance to sit down and read at length, I found myself as compelled as ever to read on. Jane Harper’s gift for building dramatic tension and making the vast landscape of Australia seem so horribly claustrophobic is truly impressive. Aaron Falk, from The Dry, features again as the financial investigator from the Australian Federal Police and prior to one of the women going missing (Alice) Aaron was working with her to uncover some dodgy practices within the company, the selfsame company that has sent some of its employees on this weekend experience to improve relations and motivation. Oh the irony…
What really worked for me was the way in which Harper unpeeled the complex layers of relationships between the characters involved, the gradual unravelling of plot and cause of discontent and her ability to build personas in an understated but poignant way. That and the intensity of the setting of course: Force of Nature is as cloyingly damp as The Dry was chokingly dusty. You are immersed in atmosphere.
I envy Jane Harper’s deft handling of the intricacies of the story, the way she weaves her timelines and subtle conflict into the plot. It left me feeling intensely satisfied and chafing for a third Aaron Falk crime novel.
Is it Only Me, or does anyone else get totally confused with some of the titles of Jojo Moyes’ books? Ho hum. However, having successfully purchased the third in this trilogy – Me Before You, After You and Still Me – I was delighted to find the Jojo Moyes can still spin the magic in her latest novel.
Having been totally smitten by her first novel of this trilogy, the Me Before You one, I went on to read many of Moyes’ other great reads such as The One Plus One, The Last Letter From Your Lover and The Girl You Left Behind. I also read a couple of her earlier novels which didn’t have me feeling quite so enthralled but as an aspiring author they at least, gave me hope as they seemed to show that authors’ writing can improve with practice. However, getting back to where I was, the second book in the trilogy, After You (that is after Me Before You and before Still Me) didn’t quite meet my high expectations of Ms Moyes and so I was slightly trepidatious rushing out to buy this latest, Still Me (still with me?). I can happily say, although it did not crush my fragile heart in the way that Me Before You did before, it was still a really great heart-warming read and I still love Moyes’ character Louisa Clark for all her quirky, humorous ways.
Still Me sees Louisa working as an assistant in a fish-out-of-water scenario to the super-selfish and super-rich Agnes Gopnik. She is a Polish masseuse who has married into the New York elite, lives in an apartment inhabited by old moneyed New Yorkers and has a heap of problems of her own that she is trying to hold down with no-one noticing. As ever Louise shows her complete integrity which we love her for, but also makes ones toes curl because of the situation it puts her in (don’t want to give too much away here). In terms of potential love on the scene, the novel features her boyfriend of the previous novel, Ambulance Sam, friend of old Nathan and a new distraction. I have to admit there was a small part of me that was hoping she would accidentally fall into a romance with Nathan – maybe in the fourth book…Forever Me Thinking of You…Hmmm.
Anyway, for any of you of the same opinion as me and Still Stalling this story may not quite reach the dizzying heights of her first Me Before You, but after all is said and done it is Still a Romping Read!
BlogAs a teacher, I know and appreciate the value of feedback. It can make or break a student. For students to make progress, to stay engaged, to feel inspired, feedback is vital and it has to be timely, meaningful and constructive. As someone ex-army I know that feedback can get a little shouty but it’s the sort of predictably, abusive commentary that keeps you on your feet and you learn (the hard way) to appreciate. For an author feedback is in another league…
For starters, each time you show up and hand someone your creative work, you are effectively putting your neck on the block, waiting for the axe to swing…and sometimes you have to be prepared to wait with your guts in your mouth smiling not puking nor showing any sign whatsoever of impatience accepting the blank wall of silence with good grace for as long as it takes which can seem interminable. The agents and publishers’ prerogative is that they may keep you hanging, strung up like a plucked pheasant for…well…forever. Sometimes of course, as we aspiring authors are regularly told (and forewarned is forearmed) they leave your maggot-infested corpse to rot.
And then, if, IF your writing is published, you get to be an open target, running naked in a Hunger Games scenario, wondering whether your bare arse is going to provide some caustic critic, bloodthirsty blogger or joyless journo their next meal. Seriously, who’d want to be a bloody author?
As an aspiring wannabe contestant in this crazy world of writing, I’m already scared, preparing to be scarred – and that’s only if I’m one of the chosen ones.
Last year, I finished writing my first ever novel. It was a little Frankenstein-esque I’ll admit, but dipping a toe in the piranha-infested water, I sent it out to one agent and one publisher. There wasn’t so much as a nibble and perhaps I should be thankful, but I wasn’t. I won a prize for the opening action in my novel – it whetted my appetite for more praise, but I got stuck in the mire of editing. I participated in a recommended and (in my somewhat frustrated and impotent view) over-rated online editing your novel course, in order for my novel to shine enough to blind anyone lucky enough to read it. Unfortunately, it so bedazzled that I was the only one of my cohort not to receive a comment from the Powers-that-be running the show. Again, I’m trying to accept that as no bad thing. After all, for the most part, I have my head well and truly below the parapet. In my white feathered nest I keep writing, honing my craft, attending courses, talking and collaborating with fellow writers, attending festivals and conferences and…
Here’s the rub, the grit in my shoe: I’ve spent so much time preparing myself for battle – dpms (distorted-pattern-material – combat trousers for those of you not in the know), cam-cream (warpaint), weapon (aka novel) loaded and cocked – that I now, finally, find myself in a strange position – heart jitterbugging, palms sweating – ready for a little action.
This year I say, bring it on! This is my declaration of war: in 2018 I shall brave the battlefield and fire out my mark-2 manuscript, (‘A Binding of Book Lovers’ in case you were wondering) to a few more unsuspecting targets and wait to see if they respond. You may be one of them. Lucky, lucky you – at least you are not me, crawling belly-down in the scrubland, all-seeing but unseen.
But go ahead, fling your ammo my way, scatter your shrapnel and let’s see who’s left standing.
I suppose that means I’ll have to get off my belly…if
I wanna be an author.
The Good Son by Paul McVeigh
Okay. My first ever review and what better way to start than with a book that is good, astoundingly good, on so many levels – The Good Son by Paul McVeigh. In this novel the ‘good’ son, Mickey, bowls you over with his dreams and aspirations, surprises you with his acute observations and sharp wit, his love for his little sister Wee Maggie, his Ma and his dog Killer. He is a memorable and brilliantly depicted character, of enormous heart and dauntless spirit. This is a fierce coming-of-age story which had me spellbound and riveted from the first page.
At the outset you are dropped into the time, the feel, and the real sense of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, seated alongside the characters in the Donnelly’s kitchen, seeing everything through Mickey’s young eyes. He might be young but he’s no fool. McVeigh’s ability to bring the characters to life in this novel seems effortless, his dialogue is sparkling and witty, the relationships between members of the family and their neighbours crackling with pathos and humour. The plot unfolds seamlessly and unexpectedly, which I loved. Romance it is not, but it is full of love.
I would possibly never have discovered this novel had I not recently attended a workshop with Paul McVeigh (which I would thoroughly recommend if you ever get the chance). I started reading this book not knowing what to expect. I wasn’t enraptured by the cover, but oh boy, the minute I opened the book McVeigh grabbed me by the lapels and kept me on the edge my seat to the end. McVeigh successfully balances and conveys humour, hope and hard-core, working class grit, and it left me with heartburn. It definitely makes my top 10 list for great read in 2017 and I unreservedly recommend it.
Unfortunately for Australian buyers you cannot buy a printed copy of the book in this country but go and download it, and ask your local bookstore why on earth this multi-award – winning novel is not available.