Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Me and Alex Adsett - super agent

Me and Alex Adsett – super agent

I haven’t posted for a long time, and one of the reasons is after advice from my brilliant agent, Alex Adsett, I became a bit of a writing hermit (when I wasn’t doing family stuff, working or doing presidential things for Romance Writers of Australia!) and was concentrating on finishing the Witch-Were Chronicles so we could go out with them and try to get a publisher as interested in these stories as we are.

And guess what? After a year and a half of hard work, writing my writerly fingers to the bone and wearing out a computer (and frustrating my family when I wouldn’t answer them as I was too caught up in my characters and their problems 😉 ), the wonderful Kate Cuthbert at Harlequin Escape, proved to be just as interested as Alex and I are in this world of Were, Witches, Shifters, powers gone wrong, curses and a prophecy that could destroy them all.

I now have a 4 book contract with Harlequin Escape for the Witch-Were Chronicles – so, really, hard work and being a writing hermit truly does pay off!

You can see Alex’s post announcing this exciting news here:

The Witch-Were Chronicles sells to Harlequin Escape

Or simply read what she said about the sale here:

AAPS is excited to announce that the amazing Leisl Leighton has signed with Harlequin Escape to publish The Witch-Were Chronicles. This four-book series is paranormal romance at its best – brilliant world building, strong heroines, and sexy heroes, with ancient curses haunting the werewolf packs of modern Australia.

Leisl is the much-loved president of the Romance Writers of Australia, and has previously published two titles with Penguin Destiny.

Escape will publish all four books of The Witch-Were Chronicles later this year as a digital box set. This means that Leisl’s fans and new followers can binge-read the whole series in one go – no waiting.

Harlequin Escape is the digital-first imprint of Harlequin Australia, and this represents AAPS’ first official sale to the Escape imprint.


I am really excited that these books, tentatively titled, Witch, Healer, Blood and Ghost, will finally go out to readers later this year and hope that everyone will fall in love with my Witches, Weres and Shifters as much as Alex, Kate and I have.

Happy reading everyone and stay tuned for more news on the Witch-Were Chronicles – I will share publication dates, covers etc as they come to light.

I was thrilled to be asked this week by a group of highschool students about my writing process and how I do what I do. After answering the questions, I thought they were actually quite interesting – mostly focused around how I start, how I continue and how I end (questions writers try to answer for themselves all the time).

I know that how I go about all this won’t work for everyone, but I thought I’d share my thoughts with all of you. I’d love to hear how you would answer the questions I was asked.

DarkMoon_cover1. Where do you get your inspiration from?

Generally I dream my ideas. I have a scene that keeps repeating or a character that keeps appearing in my dreams. If this happens a few times, then I know it’s a story that needs to be told and I start to write it. Sometimes a scene will play out and then continue on the next night and more the night after as the story unfolds in my head.

2. When you start writing a novel how do you keep in the zone of that novel genre? For example if you start writing a werewolf novel how do you read books of other genres without wanting to start another novel of a completely different genre?

My reading is really quite a different experience from my writing, so the one doesn’t really affect the other. When I’m reading, I want to be entertained, to be taken away by someone else’s words into a story and world I don’t know. When I’m writing it’s like a creative space inside me needing to be filled with exploration of character and world building – it’s almost like a voice speaking to me and I have to write it. When it’s something that I’m really into, there is no stopping until the story is all out of me. The hardship truly comes only in the editing phase when you take that initial draft (what some writers call word vomit) and try to turn it into what you truly want to say. That can be difficult to stick with, particularly when you’ve done it a number of times and know what a huge job it truly is.

3. Do you write more than one book at the same time or do you wait until you finish one book to start another?

At the moment I am writing 2 new books in different genres (one is the 3rd book in a paranormal series and the other is a romantic suspense) and redrafting another book (the 1st in a new paranormal series). I usually need a few different projects to work on at a time, because if one day I’m having trouble with one of them, I can turn to the other. Or if I’ve finished a novel and need to give it ‘space’ before I sink into the re-edits/redrafting, I’ve got something else to go on with.

4. Is it difficult to stick with the one book?

I think first time writers often have this problem – there are a lot of great first 3 chapters out there that begin to lose their lustre for the writer when they get further along. Writing a beginning is easy – it’s getting through the middle to a satisfying end that’s tricky and not everyone has this in them to do. It’s hard work and often requires a stubborn determination to soldier on despite the fact things aren’t turning out like you thought they would or wanted them to until you come to the end. It’s also understanding that you can’t properly redraft until you have written the entire thing – anything else is just tinkering. It’s when you don’t understand that that writers keep starting new projects and don’t finish them. Everything about writing and publishing is perseverance; perseverance to understand you can always learn more about craft; perseverance to soldier on and finish; perseverance to sit down and redraft, redraft, redraft until it’s the best you can make it; perseverance to get someone to beta read your work and/or properly critique it and to not take offence when they don’t think it’s perfect, to take what they say and think about it and use what seems like something that could help; perseverance to keep trying and submitting until someone says yes…and on it goes.

Killing Me Softly front cover

Killing me Softly would never have got published without perseverence.


I have a number of books that I have started but didn’t finish because I ran out of steam on them, but I learned in writing every one of them and came to understand what was needed to finish the one that didn’t run out of steam, and then the next and the next. I always finish books now – although, once I’ve finished them, I might decide I’m not keen enough on what I wrote to go through the redrafting process – because if you don’t love it, you’re not going to make it through that difficult, least fun part of the process.

5. Do the characters relate to you in any way or are they fully made up?

Generally they are fully made up, although they will often have a characteristic of myself or someone I know in them in some small way. I think the old adage ‘write what you know’ is true to a certain respect. If you can always bring some aspect of ‘truth’ to your writing by using something you know, it will feel more real to you and therefore more real to your readers.

6. Do you ever stop writing a book and start a new one because you had an idea? Or do you write the idea and keep going with the book?

Yes. If I’ve had a persistent character or scene playing in my head, I do need to start to write it. In the past, this meant that I would give up what I was writing and give myself fully over to the new idea, but what that meant was that I’d end up with a bunch of first few chapters and no finished books. So, I no longer give up what I was writing. I make sure I give myself time to finish what I was working on and split my time. It helps that I am used to working on a number of projects at one time.

7. Do you ever create too many characters and confuse yourself but you can’t get rid of them because they all play such an important role?

That happened with the first book I wrote which was an epic urban fantasy that stretched across 3 planets and 4 different time spans with 11 different story threads I was following by 3/4s through the 2nd novel. It all got too hard to juggle because I didn’t know enough about writing at that point to know how to handle it. I made myself leave it alone and forced myself to concentrate on much simpler, smaller novels and learned a lot by doing that. I also enrolled in workshops, joined a critique group and got myself some critique partners through Romance Writers of Australia. I went to their annual conference and learned so much at the workshops and talking to other writers both at my level and far more experienced. I read some great craft books (Debra Dixon’s ‘Goals Motivation Conflict’ and Robert McKee’s ‘Story’ being seminal ones for me) and blogs on writing that have really helped. I entered competitions and got feedback from strangers and when I started doing well in them, feedback from editors and agents. All of this helped me in how I go about writing and structuring how I go and then how I edit. I also have some great critique partners/beta readers who I trust explicitly to tell me what is and isn’t working.

I am still what is called a ‘pantser’ (I don’t plot, I fly by the seat of my pants and just go with the flow), but I use all the knowledge I’ve learned and am still learning to help me not get bogged down by being too clever for myself. I’ve also learned to look at whether a character or scene is adding something to my novel, if they’re forwarding the action or deepening our understanding of the goals, motivations and conflicts of the main characters/story thrust. If they’re not, I’ve learned to be harsh and cut them out. I’ve got rid of entire characters and scenes I love this way, who were great, but in the end added nothing to the novel other than some amusement for me.

Frana, Marnie and me - members of my RWA writing group and essential tribe members

Frana, Marnie and me – members of my RWA writing group and essential tribe members

The best thing you can do as a writer is write and learn and inform yourself and surround yourself with people you can talk to who are on the same/similar journey as you, people you can workshop and brainstorm with, who can help you through story/character problems and any blocks you might have. This is what I do and I plan to very soon return to that original story idea and rework it so I can turn it into something great, not something that ran away with me.

Book Launch for Killing Me Softly with my friend, fellow writer and tribe member, Liz

Book Launch for Killing Me Softly with my friend, fellow writer and tribe member, Liz



DarkMoon_coverI’m over on Darkside Downunder today featured in their Magic Thursday blog talking about what I love about being creative and how it works for me in my writing and acting and how that affected how Dark Moon became a Paranormal Romance. I’d love you to visit and comment and let me know what in your life is magic for you.

Earlier on this week, I wrote about the importance of having a tribe when you do something crazy like, ah…I don’t know…write. I wasn’t planning on writing anymore about it, but something happened this week to a friend of mine that just backs this up and I thought I’d share. It’s important to share. Without sharing, it’s even easier to feel like you’re even more alone, and when bad or difficult things happen,

Not all dreams are behind this door.

Not all dreams are behind this door.

when doors you really wanted to be open suddenly close, it makes it even harder to pick your splattered carcass off the floor, reform into a 3D emotionful being, and keep on keeping on (which, by the way, is the only way to succeed at this writing thing – but that’s another blog.)

What happened to my friend is something that’s happened to me multiple times, has happened to other writing friends of mine and is bound to happen to all of us again. In fact, despite the fact that I have been published, that doesn’t make me suddenly immune to all those ups and downs that go with writing – in many ways, it’s even worse now, because there is more to try to hold onto and the slope is just as slippery as ever.

Anyway, my friend’s latest work was rejected. It’s a brilliant historical YA novel set in Tasmania and has had much interest (as my writing group knew it would from the first moment she brought it to the group for critique, because she has an engaging, unique voice, fantastic characters, has done brilliant research and weaves it in in the best way so that you feel immersed in the time without feeling like you’re having a history lesson and the story is full of emotion and conflict.) However, it was rejected right at the last step of the process.

Reject Rejection c/o Alex Pattakos via

Reject Rejection c/o Alex Pattakos via

The editor loved it, there were other people at the publishing house who also loved it, but it was still a no because marketing just doesn’t have confidence in YA historical at the moment from a new author.

An absolute, total bummer. The worst thing ever, to know you’re so close and yet still so far. Particularly as there is nothing she can do about that. It wasn’t like they were saying her writing was bad – they loved it – it’s just that they don’t think there’s a market for it at the moment, so it was a ‘no’. A horrible, unfair, totally devastating no. A no that felt like a bullet to the heart. I felt so terribly bad for her, so desperately wanting to make it better in some way, even though I knew the only thing that could truly make it better, was for the answer to have been ‘yes’. Which, I can’t do anything about.

But just like when I got bad news in the past and shared it, when she wrote that awful email to us, her writing group, her tribe, we rallied around her, pointing out the positives of the letter she was sent and the phone conversation she’d had. There were many emails that day and in the days following and the emails went from desperately depressed and hopelessly disappointed, to, if not happy, encouraged and willing not to throw everything in, but try again in the near future, while talking options, plans, possibilities.


Frana, Marnie and me - members of my RWA writing group and essential tribe members

Frana, Marnie and me – members of my RWA writing group and essential tribe members

I know from personal experience how important this process is. When I first started writing, I tried to do it by myself. I honestly thought it was best. I wrote, I put my work out there, I got rejected and so I put that manuscript aside and wrote another one, starting the process all over again. I might still be doing that if not for a lucky meeting with

Anne Gracie

Anne Gracie – one of my favourite authors

Anne Gracie who explained the rejection letters I had been getting weren’t just rejection letters, but were asking me to work on certain things in the manuscripts and try again (I never saw them in this way, and just thought my manuscript had been rejected because it was crap and put it aside.) She encouraged me to join RWA, to get a critique partner, to sign up to a writing group, to go in contests, to improve, to network, to understand what I was doing on so many levels that I couldn’t possibly do by myself. RWA logo

Thankfully I was wearing my sensible pants that day and didn’t just listen to her advice, but actually followed through, because, not only did I learn things about my writing that I really needed to learn so that I could get better and get published, it led me to my tribe. Or tribes. The people who have lifted me up when I’ve been down, who’ve encouraged when I needed it the most, who kicked my arse when I needed it, who helped me see the strengths and faults in my work, who celebrated with me through the good news and even helped throw me a Release Day Party when I wouldn’t have thrown one myself. I couldn’t do without them. And this week, I know my friend couldn’t have done without us too.

Book Launch for Killing Me Softly with my friend, fellow writer and tribe member, Liz

Book Launch for Killing Me Softly with my friend, fellow writer and founding member of one of my writing groups, Liz, at her house. 


I’m sure she, just like me, has wonderful, loving, supportive loved ones, family and friends, who would have been there to help buck her up in her time of need, but there is something a little different getting that same support and caring from others who share in your madness. Your tribe understands the exact nature of those highs and lows and they tend to know the exact right thing to say to help you out of the deepest crevice. I know my friend will make it out of her crevice and will strive onward and upward and will eventually reach her goals because I see her and her work in the way she can’t at the moment – as brilliant and true and worthy. And as one of her tribe, it is my job to make sure that one day soon, she not only remembers that, but she sees it and believes it too.

A writer needs a tribe. If you don’t believe me, ask anyone who has got one and they’ll tell you the same because it’s true.

The Melbourne based Destineers Tribe

The Melbourne based Destineers Tribe








Every year I hang out for August for 2 reasons: 1) It is the time of the year we usually take a few days to go skiing with my family and 2) It is the RWAustralia conference. As a writer, I look forward to the RWA conference every year – it is a place to hang with other people who completely understand the madness that overcomes me and makes me want to write.

Frana, Marnie and me

Frana, Marnie and me

No, not just want. Need. It is a heat in my veins, a pressing in my brain, a twitchy feeling in my fingertips that makes me have to sit down at the keyboard and tippy-type the words that have been piling up in my mind to express the characters and stories that build and build there.

Only other writers truly understand this particular madness. Only they really know what I mean when I talk about the characters in my head as if they’re real people, talking to me, pressing me to tell their stories, not leaving me alone until I have. Only a fellow writer understands when I talk about pantsing, and the fact that I sit down to write something and yet the characters often take the words and turn them into something entirely unexpected, and joyful. They understand when I talk about my Muse. They know what I mean when I talk about Hero and Heroine’s journey, 3 act structure, GMC’s (Goals, Motivation and Conflict – c/o Debra Dixon), the black moment, POV, head jumping, character and story arcs and so on. They speak the same language. They have the same, or similar goals. They are my tribe.

My Destineers Melbourne Tribe

My Destineers Melbourne Tribe

Having a tribe is incredibly important when you are doing something as singular and lonely as writing. I didn’t realise this until I joined a writing group. I thought I could do it on my own. I was so very wrong. I am now a member of two writing groups who I discuss the trials and tribulations of being a writer with and help me with the ‘big stuff’ in my writing. I have critique partners who help me with more indepth critiques of my writing. And I have Romance Writers of Australia.

Alli, Alex and me

Alli, Alex and me


I have made some wonderful friends and great contacts through RWA and continue to meet more and more people every year at the conference – all these wonderful, lovely, mad people who are part of my tribe. It is a time for us to hang loose, have fun, get away from the normal every day stresses of our lives and just concentrate on learning and networking and thinking about our writing. It has become a must for me every year to save up the money and make sure I go. It helps to keep me sane. It helps to inspire me. It fills my well.

Helene, Jennifer and me

Helene, Jennifer and me

When people ask me about what advice I would give to someone starting out on the path I have journeyed down (a path of learning and discovery that never ends) the best advice I could give is to find your tribe – those who think and are driven by the same thing as you. I think this is true for any endeavour – it is made better by sharing it with others who have the same obsession/love as you. But with writing, because it can be so lonely, I think it is even more important. Whether it is a writing group that meets online or face to face, a critique partner or a larger organisation like RWAustralia, I think it is essential for writers to have their tribe.

Rachel Bailey and me

Rachel Bailey and me



As a writer, I am often mystified and horrified by the way people mangle language. I receive emails from work and other places of business that are purporting to be professional and ask me to trust that they know what they are talking about, that are full of spelling, grammar and punctuation mistakes, not to mention incorrect use of words (there instead of their or they’re as just one example).

I spend so much time trying to craft language into engaging sentences that people will want to read, so it can be galling to see just how little people seem to care about such things these days. Although, I have to say, I am not a grammar, punctuation or spelling expert, although, being well read and well educated (I have a BA in English literature and a DipEd (Secondary) for English), I am aware of the basics and endeavour at all times to do my best to be faithful to what I’ve learned.

I know ‘voice’ can often influence the correct usage of English, so what I write isn’t always going to follow every rule, but in the main, I think I do a pretty decent job.

I often hear other writers expressing the same dilemma over the dilution of the English language and what this will mean to the skills that go into writing it. English is an ever-evolving language (you can now find all sorts of things in the dictionary that weren’t there even 10 years ago – Bootylicious for one!) and so things will change and language must evolve. But all the same, there are some basics that should be observed and it irritates me, particularly when it’s coming in a professional medium (like from work, or in an article I’ve read, or a review etc). However, I’ve often wondered if other people feel the same way.

I just came across this Weird Al Yankovic clip which suggests that, yes, there are others who feel exactly the same way. I just showed it to my boys and they had a laugh (and hopefully, got the point, too). I hope you enjoy. 

Weird Al Yankovic – Word Crimes


Romance Writers of Australia