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Archive for September, 2013

I’m back from my Slimefest weekend with my boys, my sister and her son for my youngest one’s 8th b’day. He loves Big Time Rush – the Nickelodeon show that’s like a modern day The Monkeys; lots of fun and cute boys and girls, silliness and good, catchy tunes. BTRI actually enjoy watching them with the boys and they were really good at Slimefest – although, it would have been great if they’d done more than 3 songs given they were the headliners with Guy Sebastien (who was great too, and only did 3 songs.) There were heaps of other acts as well and the MC’s, Luke and Wyatt were suitably loud and silly and fun. My sons had a fabulous time, although I have to say, kids make the strangest audience, as most of them just sit there like stunned mullets watching and have to be asked to call out, wave and clap. They just don’t seem to spontaneously do it. My youngest one actually leaned over and pushed my hands back into my lap when I was clapping to one of the songs because nobody else around us was clapping! How funny is that? We also weren’t in an area that got slimed. For a thing called ‘Slimefest’ it seemed only about 1/4 of the audience got slimed – a little disappointing for my boys. I thought there might be a booth outside that they could get slimed at, but there wasn’t. We did pass a girl who was covered in it, however, and she very kindly said it was okay, when I asked, for the b’day boy to rub some of the slime from her arm and put it on himself. That made him happy! She was very nice to share in her slime.

It was a mad weekend. We drove to Sydney on Thursday – it took us 9.5 hours and the boys were pretty good – then went out to dinner with extended family Thursday night. Slimefest was on Friday, (check out some of the videos of Slimefest itself here if you’re interested: http://www.nickelodeon.com.au/_/slimefest2013/videos ), then we went back to my cousin’s house so the boys could have a swim then I cooked dinner for my aunt and uncle and cousins on Friday night. We caught up with a family friend on Saturday morning and then went to Luna Park with the boys and my cousin and aunt on Saturday afternoon and didn’t get back to my aunt’s until 7:30pm. On Sunday we had a quiet morning, but then had lunch at my cousin’s house so the kids could have a swim and spend time with their second cousins who were visiting from QLD. Then the drive back today (which was touch and go given my sister caught a tummy bug yesterday and spent most of the night driving the porcelain bus!)

Luna ParkGoing to Luna Park was tiring, but it made me feel like a kid – the noise of the rides and the screams, the main street shows, the smell of greasy food and fairy floss, all took me back to when we were kids and visited as a treat when we were up in Sydney to spend Christmas with the extended family.

Not much has changed about it since I was last there over 25 years ago, except the Big Dipper is gone (removed because of noise complaints by loca residents my aunt told me 🙁 ) and the ghost train I always loved burned down quite a few years ago. Rides have been upgraded – so there were some new ones, or new versions of old ones – but Coney Island was very much the same as was the Mad Mouse – so much fun – although it’s sad it’s the only rollercoaster there anymore.

I love rollercoasters.

We did a bunch of other fun rides and of course, the slides in Coney Island – which really brought back memories of when I was a kid. I giggled so hard all the way down. I think I actually said ‘weee!’ as I raced my oldest down the big slide. The entire day made me feel like a kid again. I love rides. They make me feel all giddy and giggly and I’m so glad my boys (especially the youngest one) enjoys them with me. I’m teaching them the joy of yelling and ‘yahooing’ during the ride to let out the adrenaline so it’s all fun. We laughed a lot.

That was until the youngest one (b’day boy) insisted on going into Hollywood Horrors and got so scared by it he wouldn’t go on any rides for an hour after – he was all pale and shakey. Hollywood HorrorsI thought it was going to be a normal ghost house – a bit silly with a few scares – but it was really scary for a lot of adults, let alone the kids. After seeing The Conjuring last week, I feel a little numbed to that kind of thing, but it really should have come with a warning for kids under a certain age. Many kids ran screaming from the exits – all of them were girls, so my b’day boy did the tough boy thing and insisted he would be fine because he ‘wasnt’ a girl’. He was fine most of the way through, but the Texas Chainsaw Masacre guy was in the last room and chased us with a prop chainsaw that was really loud and despite all the freaky things we’d seen beforehand, this really got to him and he yelped and ran from the room outside, dragging me behind him.

Despite the fact he said he knew it was all pretend and the guy was an actor, I had to go to bed with him at night because, despite the fact we were staying with my aunt and uncle and he knows their house well, he was still a little scared. I felt like a bad mum, even though he slept fine and didn’t have any nightmares that night or last night and is fine today and is talking about it in that excited ‘I survived a big fright because I’m so tough’ little boy voice. But, he is so stubborn and there is just no talking him out of things sometimes. He has always been a learn by doing kind of kid. However, if I’d known it was that scary (there were no warnings as to what it actually was, and we all thought it was just a regular kind of ghost house, which he’s been through before and enjoyed), I wouldn’t have let him go in, despite all the whinging.

After a few goes on the slides, a few games and a lovely, scenic, relaxing ride on the ferris wheel, he was over it though and ready for a last ride on the Mad Mouse, an icecream and the ferry ride then train home. It was a super long day (we caught the train at 8:30 in the morning to meet our family friend for a catch up in the park near Luna Park and didn’t get home until 7:30pm) but fun was had by all (despite the scare!)

It was an exhausting weekend but completely brilliant, and the boys didn’t kill eachother on the drive up or down (and added bonus – we didn’t have to kill them either: they were pretty good.)
All exhausted now and glad to be home – less glad I have to get up early tomorrow to go to work early, though 🙁

Hoping for an early night tonight.

Today on my blog I have special guest author, Renee Novelle. She is a multi-published journalist and is now the author of psychological and paranormal thrillers.

Renee Novelle PhotoRenee is preceded by a long line of published family members, including Pulitzer Prize nominated author and Poet Laureate of Kentucky, Jesse Stuart. As a child, Renee was already gaining recognition for several of her works, and in her formative years, she continued this trend by earning local awards for her short stories and poems.

Inspired to cultivate her talent, Novelle pursued freelance journalism and has found placement of 75 of her pieces in both online and print publications since 2008. Additionally, she has written multiple screenplays, and contributed her savvy, effective writing style to many non-profit and for profit organizations. She launched several blogs over the years, which garnered international attention.

In 2013, Novelle returned to her first love – fiction. She writes psychological and paranormal thrillers, as well as contemporary fiction and new adult fiction. For a complete schedule of upcoming releases, please visit www.RSNovelle.com

Though she received her Bachelor’s of Science in Communication, Summa Cum Laude, she considers herself a constant student of the written word. She’s an avid reader, an enthusiastic quote poster, and rarely takes “no” as a final answer. She has an unhealthy obsession for theater, dance, music and art, and strongly believes that wine is simultaneously the beginning of, and resolution to, all of life’s problems. She believes in following dreams, and that in the end, you always end up where you meant to be.

LL: Thanks for being a guest on my blog, Renee. It’s really exciting to have you here.

RN: Thank you so much for having me, it’s an honour. J

LL: Tell us a bit about your new thriller, Calculated.

RN: Calculated is the first book in a series of three. It’s a psychological thriller that follows journalist Ana Meyers after she receives a tip from a mysterious informant who quickly turns up dead. As she follows the story, twist after twist leads her to believe that a prominent religious leader and a governor are conspirators behind one of the largest murder cover-ups the city has ever witnessed. But by the end, she’s left to wonder if any of it was true, or if she had merely been used as a pawn in an even greater scheme. The readers will have to determine it for themselves. It’s currently available on Amazon as an eBook.Calculated

LL: Calculated is part of the Discovered series – I love a good series. Can you fill us in on what makes this a series? Is there a linking story? Characters?

RN: I love a series too! They’re great for both the writers and the readers. In this particular series, the first book, Calculated, is told mostly from Ana’s perspective. We’re following her story and watching as a series of events unfolds according to her. In book two, Driven, I use a mirror plot technique to show the exact same timeline, but tell how the events occur for Mara – who you’ve met in book one. In the third and final book, Avenged, the timeline progresses forward, the two women are thrown together and readers see the story from all angles.

LL: Sounds fascinating. What inspires you to write thrillers? What’s their appeal to you? Where do your ideas come from?

RN: My ideas come from all over, but I guess I must have a bit of a dark side to me. My imagination tends to go down the “what-if” direction – what if this happened, what if they were lying, what if something was never real to begin with… that sort of thing. I’m fascinated with how the mind works and interprets things. By how five people can be looking at one thing and each walk away with their own interpretation of reality. It’s all about perspective, and I enjoy exploring this in my writing. I’m also a fan of writing tight, fast paced stories. I guess the combination just lends itself toward thrillers.

LL: I love thinking about perspective as well. It’s a fascinating subject. You have had a successful career as a journalist. Tell us a little about yourself, how you came to be a journalist and what led you to writing fiction.

RN: Fiction has always been my first love. I’ve been jotting down stories since I was nine. At twelve I attempted to conquer my first novella. I’d always dreamed of having a book published, like so many of my relatives have. But, like so many writers, I believed all the people who had always said that no one can make a living off novels. Unless you’re that one-in-a-million person like Stephen King, or James Patterson, or JK Rowling, that is. So journalism was my attempt to stay connected with writing while still paying my bills. It worked. But after a while, I found it was actually stifling my creativity, so I began the slow return to fiction. Once the eBook revolution hit, it just solidified that decision for me.

LL: Aside from being a writer of thrillers, you also write contemporary women’s fiction and new adult. Do you have a favourite genre?

RN: Not really. I think all genres have something beautiful and interesting about them. And I’m a big fan of mixing genres for a really unique story. But after writing something dark and serious, like a thriller, I enjoy turning to something more light and playful. It keeps my mind and life balanced I think.

LL: Apart from writing, what hobbies do you have? What gets you up in the morning and going every day?

RN: Every morning I make sure I get my workout in – a nice long jog, yoga class, dance class, something to get the creative juices flowing. I really enjoy traveling and discovering how other people live. I’m addicted to the arts – theatre, dance, music, art, sculpture, anything! – so any chance I get I’ll attend performances or gallery openings. I live close to the beach so I spend a lot of time there too. I think I just enjoy life, and living it fully.

LL: Sounds great. Filling the well is a so important to stay creative. So, what’s Renee Novelle’s pet peeve? What’s your favourite thing?

RN: In writing? Hmm…My biggest pet peeve is seeing established authors discourage up and coming writers. We’ve all had to start at the beginning, we’re all betting against a thousand odds, and we’re all just trying to turn our dreams into reality. I don’t like when people try to crush another person’s passion just because they had a hard time themselves.

LL: I’m with you there. What about your favourite thing?

RN: My favourite thing is getting a five star review J There’s absolutely no greater feeling in the world than knowing someone else fell in love with and connected to something I’ve written on that level. It’s so rewarding.

LL: I know what you mean. I love that too. I know authors love to tell their ‘Call’ story, but with the rise of indie and self-published authors, not everyone has a ‘Call’ story. But there must be something about being indie published that is really exciting for you to. Can you share your exciting published moment with us?

RN: I’m indie published, so I’m still waiting to get “The Call” lol. But when I first got the email that my book had “gone live” and was available for people to start buying, I literally started hyperventilating. I was a total ball of excited, anxious energy. I couldn’t sit still, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat; it was a really thrilling time. J

LL: That does sound exciting. What’s been the most surprising aspect of your career as a journalist and moving to being a published author?

RN: Good question! I think the most surprising realization has been how I’ve been received by others. The support has been tremendous, and people seem to treat me differently now that I can say I’m a journalist AND author. It’s been very rewarding.

LL: What’s up next for you? Any projects on the boil that you’re particularly excited about?

RN: Right now I’m trying to finish the Discovered series, which I’m very happy about. I also have a short paranormal thriller that will be finished soon that I can’t wait to share with everyone. And next year I have two books – White Butterflies, and The Seventh Second – that I’m on cloud nine about releasing! They’re mixed genre thrillers and I really think readers will connect well with them.

LL: Thank you so much for being a guest on my blog today, Renee. It was fun finding out a little bit more about you and your writing.

RN: Thank you for having me! It was a pleasure to share with you today.

CalculatedLL: You can buy Renee’s new novel, Calculated, from:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00EW6J7G6

You can find out more about Renee at:

https://www.amazon.com/author/rsnovelle

https://www.goodreads.com/RSNovelle

https://www.facebook.com/ReneeNovelle

https://twitter.com/RS_Novelle

Finally, Renee has kindly offered to give away 1 Kindle copy of her novel, Calculated. All you have to do is leave a comment and answer the question:

What do you love about psychological thrillers and why do you keep coming back to them?

Good luck. It’s always great to read a new author and discover a great new book.

 

I’m the guest blogger over on Defending the Pen today. Please go and check it out.

http://www.yolandarenee.blogspot.com.au/2013/09/killing-me-softly.html

 

 

 

I have recently become the Contest Co-Ordinator for Romance Writers of Australia and I’ve had many people ask me what’s so important about entering contests in the journey of a writer. I get the reticence, particularly from writers who are working by themselves and haven’t had much experience with getting their work critiqued by a critique partner or don’t belong to a writing group.

I remember back to the time when I was a newly fledged writer and someone who thought they were being very helpful said, ‘Why don’t you enter a writing competition?’

I laughed and said, ‘I’d rather have someone shove a hot poker in my eye.’

The helpful person didn’t seem to understand my reticence. But how could anyone but a fellow writer understand that the idea of having someone I didn’t know criticise the manuscript I had been sweating blood over just wasn’t something any writer looks upon with happy bunny feelings. Besides, what could contests offer me? I was doing okay all by myself. I’d had some requests for partials and fulls and even though nothing had come of those requests, I’d received some nice letters from the editors explaining what I needed to do to improve. I also had a bunch of ‘how to’ books and articles to read and I’d gone to a number of workshops. What could contests offer me that those things weren’t?

The self-justification to continue on as I was as a loner writer went on for a fair bit of time, even when I got no further with my writing than I already had. But I won’t bore you with all my many and various reasons for not entering comps, or joining a writing group or getting a critique partner, suffice it to say that they all seemed perfectly logical and reasonable excuses to me at the time.

I would have continued on in this vein, if not for a chance meeting with Anne Gracie who insisted I join RWA, join a writing group, get a critique partner and ‘gird my loins’ and enter the competitions. She was really nice about it. She was also very insistent that this would help make all the difference for me in my writing journey.

‘No, really. You must do it. In fact, here’s my email address and when you get home I want you to join RWA and email me to let me know you’ve done it,’ insisted Anne. ‘And send me those rejection letters so I can interpret them for you. We must figure out why you’re not getting any further.’

‘Alright,’ said I, giggling a little (because I was having an overawed fan moment).

I suppose I could have walked away and ignored her advice – I mean, she couldn’t make me do any of those things. But, this was Anne Gracie. Apart from being one of my favourite writers, she really seemed to know what she was talking about. And she seemed to be very interested in helping me. She’d given me her email address for goodness sake.

So, I did what she suggested. I joined Romance Writers of Australia, I joined a writing group, I got a critique partner, I emailed her those rejection letters and I entered my first competition. I even went all out and entered three different entries in the first competition I could (being all enthused by Anne’s encouragement.)

Wow. Was that an eye popping experience? Not only did it teach me things about formatting and deadlines, but (once I got over my immediate reaction of vacillating between, ‘I can’t write’ and ‘They don’t know what they’re talking about!’) I realised the problem was not that I’m not a good writer, but that I just didn’t know about writing. I knew some, but not enough to make a cohesive, well-structured whole. I told, rather than showed. I used passive voice a lot. I info dumped and used too many flashbacks and had a tendency to write really long sentences without a comma in sight so the person reading just couldn’t take a breath kind of like in this sentence here. Not that that sentence really needs a comma if I don’t feel like putting one in. No. Really. But part of the problem was, all my sentences were like that. I didn’t use different sentence lengths.

Or white space.

Or punctuation to really help with comprehension; to emphasise emotion.

And those things are important.

Very important.

These and many other things besides were all things I had not seen, but when it was pointed out to me in detail by some very helpful and well-meaning judges, it was a revelation. They had a point. A whole heap of very helpful good points.  And not one of them said my work was crap (that hot poker in the eye fear I’d always had.) They were all very encouraging (even if some of the comments didn’t seem that way at first, especially when they were accompanied by scores that were the equivalent of a fist to the gut and a two-by-four to the back of the head at the same time.) But, I had been an actor and performer, and so I knew all about taking it on the chin; that while much about the creative arts is opinion and perspective (I missed out on many roles because they were looking for a short brunette and I was a tall redhead) much of it is about hard work, learning about different forms of performance and not only getting to know your audience, but getting to know their expectations. The judges were writers – so they knew about technique. They are also readers – so they know what speaks to them and what they like. They are my audience. From my theatre experience, I knew I needed to listen to them and take note. (How I learned to do this and my advice is on that is a whole other article which if you’re interested, you can see here: http://www.leislleighton.com/?p=83)

So, I learned and improved and grew more confident and lo-and-behold, my competition scores got better, the comments became less, ‘this writing needs work but it shows promise’ and more ‘this should be on a bookshelf’, and I started to get into finals and placing and winning. (see the list of my competition successes on my website http://www.leislleighton.com/?page_id=26)

I’m not saying that competitions were the only thing that helped me improve and get published. My writing groups and critique partners also had a huge hand in that and I will be forever grateful to them and continue to work with them, because hell, you can’t do this writing thing alone. But there is my point. And I think it was Anne Gracie’s point too.

You can’t do this alone.

Writing is a very lonely occupation and it is really easy to get so caught up with your characters and plot ideas that you can’t see the tapestry as a whole picture, but rather as the individual threads that make up the whole. Or maybe you see the whole and don’t understand the structure of threads that create it. Getting another person’s perspective can be very helpful in doing that. The people who judge for competitions are a mix of readers, published authors and your fellow writers who are willing to share some of what they’ve learned on their journey with you. They are also the people who will one day buy and read your books (how wonderful to get their feedback early!) They will give you their opinion – and remember, it is ONLY their opinion. Sure, sometimes what they say may seem a bit harsh (after all, your mum, grandma and best friend all loved your heroine and her interesting trait of sneezing every time the hero comes around!) but their opinion is impartial and given with the best of intentions to try to make your novel stand out in an increasingly competitive market.

Not only that, many great agents and editors volunteer to be the final judges in RWA competitions here and in NZ and the US – so it’s a way of getting your work seen by people who might not normally be open for submissions.  Not to mention, it can really prepare you for the reviews you will get (some glowing, some not so much) when you are published.

I got a huge amount out of entering competitions and have (if I might say so myself without sounding too big headed) an impressive list of placings and wins. The feedback I got helped me to build on my strengths and improve my weaknesses and helped me get so much closer to that amazing ‘call’ I got earlier this year. I believed in the value of competitions so much, I decided to volunteer to manage one for Romance Writers of Australia, and have done so for the last four years and now, as of August, I am Contest Co-Ordinator, overseeing all the contests on the RWA schedule. I fully believe in the value of entering writing contests if you are serious about becoming a better writer and hopefully, one day, becoming a published writer. Entering competitions have helped me on my goal to being published and if you enter them with an open mind and a willingness to let go of some of your preconceived ideas about your work, they just might help you too.

 

 

I’ve had some lovely news that I’ve been sitting on for a few weeks, but now I feel free to tell the world – Dark Moon is going to be published by Destiny. I’m so excited. It was a nail biting time waiting to hear back from them (the usual worries of would they like it were added to by the questions all first time published authors have – ‘am I a 1 book wonder?’ and ‘can I write anything else that is any good’. I could go on with the worries, but I’ll spare you the neurotic and just embrace the happy.

Paranormal and fantasy novels are my passion and I am so excited that the first one of my Witch-Were Series is going to be published. I will let you know more as I know – publication date, cover when I get it and so on.

You’ll find a blurb about Dark Moon on my WIP pages.

Sorry, I’ve been remiss in announcing the winner of Peta Crake’s competition for a copy of her new novel, Revelry (life has been a bit hectic – I apologise to Peta for my lag!)

The Winner Is:

IMELDA EVANS

Her comment about a shapeshifting owl caught Peta’s attention, not to mention, her name was the one she drew out of the barrel!

Congratulations to Imelda. I will email you with Peta’s details so you can collect your winning copy of Revelry. I’ve just finished reading it and I can tell you that it is a wonderful story, full of intrigue, passion and strong, endearing characters I wanted to stay with long after the novel had finished. I know you’re going to enjoy your prize.

Romance Writers of Australia