I have two extremely talented and lovely critique partners, Juliet Madison and Alli Sinclair.
Today one of them, Juliet Madison, is celebrating the first birthday of her first book Fast Forward and the release day of her 5th book, February or Forever and Alli and I are celebrating with her. In person celebrations occurred three weeks ago during our cp weekend in Kiama…
Tonight the celebrations are in cyberspace…
Here’s more about Juliet’s brand-new release: February or Forever
FEBRUARY OR FOREVER by Juliet Madison
Genre: Contemporary coastal romance, women’s fiction.
Available worldwide from all ebook retailers 1st February.
Published by Escape Publishing.
In this heartwarming coastal romance, Escape bestselling author Juliet Madison asks, what if your favourite celebrity fell in love with you?
Yoga teacher and single mother, Chrissie Burns has a plan: move into the rundown beach house left to her by her deceased aunt, renovate it, sell it, and move on. The scene of a terrible accident years ago, the house needs to get out of Chrissie’s hands as soon as possible.
But Tarrin’s Bay, where the house stands, has more to offer than bad memories. The town is lovely, the people friendly, and even Chrissie’s young son finds friends and begins coming out of his shell. Employed at Serendipity Retreat as a yoga instructor, Chrissie is shocked to be given the role of private teacher to Drew Williams, Australia’s top singer/songwriter for the month.
Relationships between instructors and clients are strictly forbidden, but Drew draws happiness out of Chrissie with his down-to-earth nature and sense of humour. Days of stretching and bending may bring Chrissie unexpected peace and strength, but she knows that this interlude must end, and there’s no pose or position to aid her when Drew walks away and leaves her broken-hearted.
Watch the Book Video Trailer: http://youtu.be/TI3adsN70VQ
Chrissie’s hand poised above the electronic lock, and she plastered a smile on her face.
‘Hi, Drew, I’m Chrissie,’ she practised.
Urgh. Too casual.
‘Good morning, Mr Williams. It’s a delight to meet you.’
Too serious and old-fashioned.
‘Drew Williams, what an honour. My name is Chrissie and I’m absolutely thrilled to be your yoga instructor. I’m here to help in any way I can.’
Strike three. Oh c’mon, Chrissie. What are you trying to do, convince him to put you in his will?
She pushed out a breath and slid the key card down the slit in the lock. It lit up green and she pushed open the door, letting it slowly close behind her.
Suddenly aware that now, beyond this door, it was only herself and the multiple Grammy award-winning artist, she felt a tad underdressed in her Lycra outfit and comfortable rubber slip-on sandals. An occasion like this should call for a nice dress, or even trousers and a classy top, and definitely heels. But no, she’d be meeting her favourite singer in the clothing she wore every day. At least the requirements of her job had allowed her figure to regain its sculpted firmness after the birth of Kai, combined with eating a healthy diet and doing circuit sessions at the gym.
Why am I worried about how I look? Yoga is not about appearances, it’s about the unity and oneness of everything. Aesthetics don’t matter when we’re all the same on the inside.
Chrissie tried the whole ‘talking herself around thing’, but couldn’t help feeling exposed, vulnerable, uncertain. Was she really cut out for this job in her sensitive emotional state of late?
A sound from above yanked her back to the present moment, and she realised there was no time or point in pondering such things. She had a job to do, and she had to get on with it. Now.
I haven’t critiqued this book but Juliet’s last release The January Wish was a fantastic introduction to the fictional Tarrin’s Bay (followed by our real life introduction to the inspiration for the town), and I’m looking forward to reading the next in the series.
I spent Christmas this year with my lovely Aunty Brenda and she challenged me to list my highlights of 2013 from A-Z.
Here we go:
Airbnb and Annette
My work colleague Di put me onto airbnb.com and I used the site for my accommodation in both Hobart and Perth. Annette was my host in Perth and I could not ask for a more friendly host family or lovely place to stay. Thank you, Annette.
Three years of bellydancing – though sometimes, it still has me quaking and confused, dancing is beautiful and I am surrounded by my lovely and very supportive Sacred Lotus sisters. This year, I performed two dances in the Queen of the Nile concert and I can’t wait to see the DVD. Thanks to my wonderful and gorgeous bellydance teacher, Kylie, I no longer feel like I have two left feet and a broken leg.
What would I do without these two gorgeous ladies, Juliet and Alli, who regularly kick my butt, challenge me in my writing and inspire me to produce the best manuscript I can. Fabulous role models blazing a trail and also great friends. Though we live miles away, we regularly talk online and I’m looking forward to a get together in a few weeks time.
Driving Miss Daisy
In February, I met long-time online friend, Karina, in Brisbane to see Angela Lansbury and James Earl Jones in Driving Miss Daisy. It’s the first time that Karina and I had met in person and we had a fantastic weekend, and had the privilege of meeting Ms Lansbury after the matinee.
This year’s RWA conference was held at the Hotel Esplanade. The first 2 nights I was upgraded to a spa suite which was lovely. Centrally located, the hotel was a great place to try Fremantle’s eateries. My first time in Fremantle, I fell in love with the history, the buildings, the cafés, and oh, did I mention the umpteen book shops. I will return.
My family is scattered around Australia and though I endeavour to catch up with my east coast relatives as much as I can, I hadn’t seen my W.A. Cousins since they were kids. And now they have kids of their own. But my trip to WA meant that I was swamped by cousins and second cousins. Lovely to catch up and commence relationships in our adult life.
Music is such a binding force, and when it comes to the group that was the soundtrack to your teens, and then meet their other fans, you are bound for life. And I thought I was a MP groupie, I’m a novice compared to some of them. Tracey, Daneal, Cath, Warwick, Steve, Comrie….I’m looking forward to Bustin’ Loose with you again.
My trip to Hobart was another first and I visited when the 10 Days on the Island arts festival was taking place. Highlights included the intriguing MONA (what an asset!), Salamanca Markets, a chick lit Masterclass with Anita Heiss, meeting And talking writing with Sara Brazabon, tons of culture, a personal tour of the Theatre Royal including the dressing room used by Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh, the newly refurbished museum and art gallery and seeing Hannah Gadsby give her funny lecture on the Virgin Mary in Art history. Tassie, I will be back.
interesting People I met
Anita Heiss, Hannah Kent, Hannah Gadsby, Anna Romer, writers, writers and more writers.
Two interstate journeys this year to new places. Which only leaves the NT unexplored.
However, Karina and I have booked the Bravo Performing Arts cruise for November 2014. An arts festival at sea – they had me at Elaine (Paige).
Kate joined Romance Writers of Australia a year ago and we started chatting during the 50ks in 30 days event, then became Facebook friends. Then through FB posts we discovered that we are second cousins, sharing a great-grandmother. Meeting Kate was a definite highlight of my year.
There’s a new Mexican in town, and it’s a fabulous fiesta. I planned to test it out on my birthday but severe storm warnings, hail warnings and tornado warnings nixed those plans. But Shou and I more than made up for it a few weeks later with mock tails, chorizo and black bean salsa, stuffed jalapeños, beef fajitas, churros and bunuelos. Yum.
Just when we thought the 2011 tour was a once-off, the boys announced another tour, this time in pubs and clubs. I managed to squeeze in two shows in Sydney on the way back to Perth and had a fabulous time. The Moving Pictures Facebook group came to life and we made lots of new friends, swapping stories and photos. I was lucky to see a show at Dee Why RSLon the Saturday night, followed by an intimate pub gig on the Sunday at Heathcote Hotel. And this time, we could buy CD and DVD of the 2011 concert. Looking forward to seeing the boys again.
Niece and nephew
It’s always fun to spend time with my niece Abbie and my nephew Damon, whether it’s interpretative belly dance, fishing or playing Xbox konnect, they’re fun to hang out with.
I’m not saying all writers are odd but a recent writerly lunch resulted in us deciding to have the Odd Writers’ Lunch. I don’t mind being an Odd Writer, I ‘d rather be an Odd Writer than an Occasional Writer. Our writerly gathering included Jenn J McLeod and Jeannette, Greg Barron, Bronwyn Parry, Shannon Garner and Anna Romer, who I’d not met before and showed us her jaw-dropping notebook for Thornwood House. It was a lovely afternoon at the Old Butter Factory at Bellingen, talking all things writing, and I came away thoroughly inspired. I look forward to more Odd Writers’ Lunches in 2014.
Why did it take me so long to get to Perth? I didn’t spend a lot of time in Perth itself as most of my trip was taken up with the RWA conference, but what I saw, I liked. This included taking a River cruise to Fremantle, and gazing at all the magnificent homes along with the Swan River, visiting Cottosloe with my cousins, and visiting the most impressive cultural precinct. I spent hours in the Van Gough to Picasso exhibition from MOMA in NY, and was delighted to see a couple of Dali’s in real life, along with a Frida Kahlo I hadn’t seen before, and Warhol’s iconic Elvis image. I finished my cultural day with a relaxing afternoon at The Muse Cafe behind the museum.
I think Qwerty will always be my ‘Q’ highlight. He is delightful, entertaining, full of personality, and fills me with love.
Every year, I get to hang out with my writing pals for 4 days at the Romance Writers of Australia conference. We laugh, we drink, we eat, we dress up in fun costumes, and glamorous outfits, we celebrate each other’s successes, we network and we learn. RWA has enriched my life, introduced me to some fabulous friends, and joining has been one of my best-ever decisions.
Actually, I hate Smurfs,but they’re an essential part of this highlight. For the 2013 Sawtell Chilli Festival, Sacred Lotus appeared on the Weekend Today show and we were photo-bombed by Smurfs. Yes, I belly-danced on national television – now that particular item was never on my bucket list, but there you go. We really wanted to bash up the opportunist Smurfs. Belly dancers belting up smurfs – that would have made some interesting footage.
Yes, I’m hooked. Trivia at the Bowling Club has become a Wednesday night ritual. Sometimes, theyaskthe right questions and we walk away with a voucher, sometimes, they don’t.
But one night, we blitzed the $1000 jackpot round, and there were only four of us in the team that night. Nice!
My trip to Perth also included a catch up with my Uncle Geoff. Lovely to see him again.
My honorary little sister, Traciee, became a vet nurse this year. Very proud of you, Traciee.
My landlady and adopted granny. I’m storing up my own Val stories to rival an episode of Mother and Son. And it’s been lovely to become a part of Val’s family.
Continuing to work on Cindy and Edward’s stories in After Ever After, with the goal to submit in March 2014.
Another fabulous Byron Bay Writers festival, with my writing buddies, Roby and Lisa
Writer friends who encourage me, kick my butt, commiserate and celebrate with me.
And Nambucca Valley writers Group – somehow I became president this year.
Xmas has been a difficult time of year for me since losing Mum. Though lovely and appreciated invites came in from friends, this year I decided to spend it with family. First I spent a night with my brother and sister-in-law and the niece and nephew, and my Uggly’s presents for the kids hit the mark.
Then I caught the train to Nowra to spend Xmas with Aunty Brenda and John. Aunty Brenda and I went to the Carols in Berry on Xmas Eve, and I got excited when I spotted Santa driving pasting a truck and broke the arm on the fold-up chair. A minute later, the whole ting collapsed, and I ended up on the ground, laughing. We reminisced over old photos, and cooked Xmas lunch together and had lots of pressies. It was a lovely Xmas.
On the way home, I also spent a night with Aunty Charmaine and Uncle Colin. Triple the family for Christmas.
One of my favourite books for the year was The Yearning by Kate Belle. It told the story of a young girl’s affair with a school teacher; a story of desire and obsession. The older man/young girl relationship resonated with me and took me back to my all-comsuming first love. And I loved the ending of the story. Of course, I had to meet Kate Belle at the RWA conference and we had an intriguing conversation about the novel. Read this book, especially if you’ve ever been obsessed with an older man.
Thanks to Tracey N for this heading.
Zzzzzz’s is for my beautiful new bed. For sleeping in, for sleeping, for reading in bed, for cuddling with Qwerty. It was a case of out with the old and in with the new this year. And the new quilt cover waited for months until I purchased the bed. I managed to purchase the bed in two lunch hours at Forty Winks. It was delivered 3 days later and assembled by the guys. Love my new bed, and so does Qwerty.
Wow! What a full on year.
A-Z challenge met, but so many great topics that I never blogged about during the year.
Bring on 2014!
What were your highlights for the year?
One thing I’ve learned from being a member of Romance Writers of Australia is the power of writerly relationships and the importance of networking.
Every step on our road to publication, we have teachers, mentors, supporters, critique partners, beta-readers and friends guiding us, supporting us, consoling us and celebrating with us.
It is important to honour and nurture these relationships, no matter how big or small the contribution the person has made on your writing journey.
Following the acceptance of the short story version of Beyond Happily Ever After by Wet Ink magazine, I had a new confidence. I was able to introduce myself to authors as a writer, and set about having my photo taken with authors as something to aspire too.
This year at the Byron Bay Writers Festival, I made a conscious decision to seek out some wonderful ladies who have taught me and encouraged me in the past year: to re-connect, to thank them and to update them on my writing journey.
In July 2012, Cate Kennedy gave a workshop in Coffs Harbour and was very encouraging about my Cinderella story. I sat in on one of her sessions in Byron Bay and managed a quick hello at the end of it.
Last November, I travelled to Byron Bay to do a two day structural editing workshop with Shelley Kenigsberg. I spent the weekend changing scenes from third person to first person, which gave me a better insight into Henry’s private persona – once in first person, he really let me know what he was thinking. Shelley also encouraged me to find a story-related premise for the story, and a few weeks after the course, I came up with a premise that nailed it perfectly:
Fairy godmothers are over-rated. Real magic begins when you’re true to yourself.
I’ve had this printed on my new business cards and I presented one to Shelley when I caught up with her at Byron Bay Writers Festival.
I also attended the book launch of The Inevitability of Stars by Kathryn R Lyster, a newly published author and one of Shelley’s Editing in Paradise alumni. It was touching to see how moved Shelley was, and how invested she was in Kathryn’s achievement. The book launch was a beautiful celebration of Kathryn’s success and I’m happy to have attended (and purchased the novel).
I also attended the Chick Lit Mass Market session which included Anita Heiss on the panel, who gave the Chick Lit Masterclass I attended in March in Hobart.
The session was funny (as evidenced by the picture below) and even though I wondered about the token male writers on the panel, they were just as funny.
Earlier this year, I attended and editing course in Bellingen, led by Laurel Cohn. During the course of the workshop, Laurel read my synopsis for Beyond Happily Ever After/The Wrong Prince/After Ever After (No, I haven’t settled on a title yet) and identified a flaw in the plot, telling me ‘That wouldn’t happen.’ Laurel was right and I had to work out a way to get Jared into Henry’s employment at the time I needed him to be there. It meant rewriting several scenes, but a disguise, a new name, a tour of several famous horse races and Jared is logically back right where I need him. His hair has changed colour and his facial hair means that he’s not recognised immediately, and with his denial of his former life, he has key characters second-guessing that they know his true identity. Plus, I added a chase on horseback. That simple change resulted in intrigue and suspense in a scene that was previously quite preditable. During the Festival, I made sure that I thanked Laurel for her input and that I had fixed the plot problem.
I am friends with Shelley on Facebook and I follow Anita on Twitter. Whether you connect online or seize the opportunity at a Festival or conference, it’s important to keep the connections going.
There was another author at the Festival that taught a workshop I attended, but she told me that I was too good a writer to be wasting my time on genre. Nice back-handed compliment, but a total diss of what I want to write, so no, I did not cherish her or seek her out.
Networking – learn it, practice it, do it. Cherish your writing mentors.
The music that surrounded you as a teenager is the soundtrack of your youth. It speaks to you in a way that the parentals can never understand, it paints your life in song and gives voice to your hopes and desires.
As a teen, I inhabited the music I loved and it inhabited me. It was an all-consuming relationship — I lived and breathed the songs, I knew every word (if the printed lyrics came with the album) or thought I knew every word (when I had to work the lyrics out for myself). I sang along with every song of the eighties: the classics and the one hit-wonders. Even today, when I hear the music, a tiny filing cabinet in my head unlocks and the words come flooding back.
As a teenager, I could not live without my record player, my tape recorder and my weekly dose of Countdown.
Several decades later, I still can’t live without music but my relationship to it has changed. Today my relationship with music is more subtle, more casual, almost a friends-with-fabulous-benefits arrangement. Sometimes it will serve as background music for housework, driving, working but new songs come and go and I barely hear the lyrics, let alone remember them. Sometimes I couldn’t even tell you who sings a particular song. Contemporary music melds into one big white noise – hip hop sounds like all other hip hop, one female pop artist morphs into another. It’s background noise, incidental to my life, the intensity and passion is no longer there –
–until I play songs from my teen years and I feel like I’m sixteen again. It’s like rekindling an old flame.
For the last few weeks, I’ve been teased by my workmates because I’m excited about the upcoming Moving Pictures tour. ‘Thelma’ has been warbling ‘What about Me?’ and proclaiming that was the band’s only song, despite the fact that she admitted to see Moving Pictures play in the eighties. I asked ‘so, did they sing the same song over and over all night?’ but it’s too convenient to remember that kind of detail.
I’ve challenged these gals to name their own teenage musical obsessions. Thelma confirmed that she liked Cold Chisel, but she didn’t go to see them when they played in Coffs Harbour eighteen months ago. Louise nominated Duran Duran as her teenage obsession and quickly added ‘but I wouldn’t go see them now.’ I guess their obsessions were more about the band’s looks than the music. Or Thelma and Louise are just fickle.
So despite their teasing I will remain excited because:
1. I get to see my favourite Aussie band again
2. I’m on holidays from Monday and they’re not.
Besides, I’ve found many like-minded MP fans on Facebook.
On this tour starting Friday 9th August, not only do we get to see Moving Pictures live on stage in pubs, clubs and theatres, we can souvenier a CD of their live show at the State Theatre in 2011.
As a taste of things to come, Alex Smith cameoed with The Soul Shakers in Byron Bay last Friday night, showing he is still in fine voice. I managed to capture one song – Alex sings ‘I’m Ready’ and so am I!
Are you ready to see Moving Pictures again?
For the past 12 years (minus one or two). I have come to the Byron Bay Writers Festival with friends from the Nambucca Valley Writers Group. We started in 2001 with a trio, and gradually each year, more and more people would be added to the mix, until last year we numbered 10 with a large age span that equalled a generation.
It became unruly with too much politics, and way too many women sharing two cabins and two bathrooms. The pull between the larks and the night owls was also stronger and at the point where the fuse blew (literally not figuratively) and the tourist park management could not work out where the fuse lived to fix it, my own fuse blew and I wondered what the hell I was doing there. You see, everyone else had gone to bed because there was no lights, it was dark and ‘there was nothing to do’ and left me to let the manager in and out until the fuse was finally fixed.
I’d never felt the generation gap so strongly before in the group, but it was distinct and made for a very long weekend.
This year, we’re back to a trio. Only two of the originals, but we are all closer in age and on the same page. Sleeping arrangements were worked out quickly and amicably – there was no fighting over the double bed or who had to sleep in the top bunk (No-one!) No fighting over the bathroom and none of us bought a hair drier.
So when Alex Smith from Moving Pictures posted that he would be playing with The Soul Shakers at The Rails on Friday evening, I was pretty sure that my entertainment suggestion would be met with enthusiasm and not derision, or flat out ‘we can’t do that’.
What a night!
Not only were we entertained by the smooth sounds of The Soul Shakers with Alex joining in on a couple of songs, we were mesmerised by the action on the dance floor. Note: all names and back stories concocted in the imaginations of three writers out on the town. There was Shazza, scary shimmy woman who hypnotised us with her pelvic thrusts – a shimmy that seemed to occur only at pelvis level. I tried to imitate but could not pull off her signature (and only) dance move. There was Lin, crazy Asian lady, with her supplies stored in her skin tight snake skin leggings. At one point, I thought she was going to strip, but she was only storing her lighter. There was Reggie – if you thought that Cliff Young could do the shuffle, you haven’t seen Reggie and his infamous shuffle dance – never did a foot actually lift from the dance floor. (That’s ‘Reggie’ in the photo above on the dance floor) We only stayed for two sets but that short experience of Byron nightlife made it worth it, even if we had risen at five that morning.
I also had a quick chat to Alex (so looking forward to the Moving Pictures gigs at Dee Why and Heathcote in 3 weeks time). So day 1 of the 2013 Byron experience was fabulous and I haven’t even mentioned our day at the festival.
Eating out in Byron Bay was always an issue when we had such a large group, and for some reason it was decreed that the entire group should always eat together – we couldn’t break into smaller groups and go our separate ways. So 1. We had to find a restaurant that had room for a large group and 2. We had to reach a unanimous decision. One year, we suggested Mexican but that was flatly turned down. So we’d usually end up one night at The Great Northern or Beach Hotel, one night at Earth and Sea Pizza and one night at The Curry House, which had a room upstairs we could squeeze into.
I looked up Mexican restaurants on Trip Advisor and discovered there was a new one called Miss Margarita but we couldn’t quite work out the address. Tonight we discovered that our usual haunt The Curry House had turned into a Mexican joint, Miss Margarita. When we first rolled up, it was packed out, so we thought we’d check out the other options, strolled around for an hour or so, then found ourselves back at Miss Margarita and the maitre d’ said he had a table for us. We ordered enchiladas, burritos and fajitas. Way too much food but very yummy. And we had rewritten our Indian banquet tradition. This was young person’s food. We will go back there again.
There was no way we could turn our back on our Sunday morning tradition – strolling around Byron Bay markets. And what a score – we all came away with goodies: I got a yellow coin scarf, 2 flower wreaths hairpieces, something for my RWA cocktail party costume and this Frida Kahlo bag.
Then we spent our final day at the writers festival. But more about the writers festival later.
More than once, I’ve nominated myself as the Queen of Procrastination, usually fuelled by self-doubts about my writing. The best defence against this is to open the manuscript and start working but some days I don’t get that far. Instead I wallow on the lounge, under the electric throw rug, snuggled up to my Qwerty cat, filling my head with the mindless trash of reality TV.
And yet there is no better feeling when the writing is flowing or the editing is working, or I’m smiling because the scene conveys exactly what I want.
I can’t reach the writing bliss without going through the writing pain and so yesterday I took yet another step to make myself publically accountable for my writing goals.
Last month, I became President of Nambucca Valley Writers Group. I’ve been a member of the group for approximately fourteen years and I’ve been on the committee for almost as long. After my election at the AGM, I asked the other members to think about how the group could support their writing ambitions.
Yesterday we had a group excursion to The Pub with No Beer. After lunch, we had our meeting and I asked them questions that they weren’t expecting. I asked them what they wanted to achieve in their writing by the next AGM? How the group could support their goal? What did they need to do by the next meeting? How could we hold them accountable?
I wrote down everybody’s answer. I asked more questions to establish the accountability? And I learned a lot about different members of the group and their various writing projects. The answers will be sent out to everyone to remind them of their own and their writing comrades’ commitment. I will ask for a report from each person at the next meeting. I will hold them accountable.
Making them accountable is also making me accountable.
My goal is to have my current manuscript edited and submitted by May 2014. I’d love to have it published but that is out of my control. (I’m not ready to go down the self-publishing route at this point). By next NVWG meeting, I will have sent the complete manuscript to my critique partners. (And perhaps a couple of gay beta readers, if I could find some willing)
I will lead by example, NOT by procrastination.
I wrote last night – 850 words.
And then this morning, still bleary-eyed and still warm and cosy in bed, I opened my manuscript on my ipad and I edited. And edited. And edited. 16,470 words before I even got out of bed. Another chapter later in the morning. Tonight I sent those chapter to my critique partners.
I’ve spent the last few years treating my manuscript like my high school cross-country race – my friends and I would walk the whole way, throwing cow pats at each other.(I went to an Ag High School, lots of hectares, and cows) By the time, we got to the finish line, everyone had packed up and gone home.
Sometimes it already feels like the finish line has packed up and gone home. So many writing colleagues have sold this year, so many writing colleagues have released books, and while I’m very happy for them, I feel like I’ve been running the same mile over and over again, the finishing line a mirage in the distance.
Not any more! The finishing line is in sight and I’ve got the energy to get there. (Yawn! Well, maybe not tonight).
Wish me luck!