Nearly There …

Gwydir Wetlands

Credit: Daryl Albertson – Gwydir Wetlands

My new book (working title Billabong) is due for submission to Penguin on Monday. I’m putting the final touches on the first draft … and it’s good, if I do say so myself! The story is set on an imaginary river in the Murray-Darling basin, somewhere in north-western NSW near the junction of the Namoi and the Barwon – land of the Kamilaroi nation.

Brolga 2It’s a star-crossed love story between a cotton grower and a floodplains grazier. For riverine farmer Nina Moore, the rare marshland flanking the beautiful Bunyip River is the most precious place on earth. Her dream is to buy Billabong Bend and protect it forever, but she’s not the only one wanting the land. When Rocco, her childhood sweetheart, returns to the river, old feelings rekindle and she thinks she has an ally. But a tragic death divides loyalties, tears apart their fledgling romance and turns her dream into a nightmare. Will Nina win the battle for Billabong? Or will the man she once loved destroy the wild wetlands she holds so close to her heart?

Egret 3It’s a story about first love – that original blinding passion that is never forgotten. When you believe that anything is possible. When you first believe in something more than yourself. But it’s also the story of a river, of water use in a thirsty land, and the division and conflict it inevitably causes. And if you love birds like I do, particularly our magnificent wetland birds, you’re in for a real treat!

Rural Romance AuthorsAnyway, I’d better stop talking and go back to polishing that first draft. I’ll finish with a bit of  Aussie rural author-watching, instead of bird-watching. This photo was taken at a recent conference, and is courtesy of Cathryn Hein. How many can you identify?

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Smart Bitches and Thursday Blogs

Sarah Wendell 2For the past week or so, my life has been a literary whirlwind! The RWA Conference was, as always, a hectic mix of meeting friends and attending workshops. Before long my head was spinning, and it wasn’t just from all the chocolate and champagne. There is a wealth of craft and publishing information available at these conferences.

 

Sarah Wendell 1One of the sessions I attended, Blogging 101, was presented by Sarah Wendell. She’s better known as Smart Bitch Sarah from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, the most popular blog worldwide examining romance fiction. It ranges from discussions of the popularity and market reach of romance novels, to reviews and essays. She is also the author of the informative and hilarious Everything I Know About Love, I Learned from Romance Novels. Well, I learned a lot about blogging in Sarah’s session. One of the things I learned was that for maximum reach I should stop blogging on Sundays and post mid-week instead, hence this Thursday post!

MWF 2I’m meeting Sarah again tonight at a welcome event for her at Penguin Books. Sarah is also presenting at the Melbourne Writer’s Festival. I would venture to suggest that the MWF is Australia’s preeminent literary festival. It starts today and runs until the 1st of September.

Magda SzubanskiAfterwards I’m attending The Moth Mainstage, New York’s hottest and hippest literary ticket. The Moth is a story-telling night  that’s set to make its Melbourne debut at the Writers Festival and is a beautifully staged, live theatrical production. Internationally acclaimed masters of storytelling, including comedian and host Ophira Eisenberg and Australian’s own Magda Szubanski, Tony Wheeler and Melissa Lucashenko will explore the theme of courage. According to the program, The Moth brings together entertainment, enlightenment and festivity, and promises to take the audience on a storytelling journey that will leave us spellbound. Can’t wait!

Add to this the fact that my new manuscript is due on the 2nd September (I cadged a week’s extension from my publisher Belinda Byrne at the conference!) and you can see that I’m up to my eyes in stories – and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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The New Romantics

The New Romantics

L-R Kate Belle, Me, Jan Bull, Kathryn Ledson and Margareta Osborn

I’ve joined forces with authors Kate Belle, Kathryn Ledson and Margareta Osborn to form a panel called The New Romantics. Together we present a fresh and modern take on Aussie love stories. Though none of us write traditional ‘romance’, we all have strong romantic elements in our books.

 

 

CC 1 003Yesterday was our very first gig. It was in celebration of National Bookshop Day, and we were warmly welcomed and entertained by the gorgeous people of Foster and South Gippsland. Many thanks to Jan and Bob of Foster’s Little Bookshop, for organising and hosting the event!

 

Rough Diamond Front Cover FinalI talked about how a modern romance may be all about passion, but it’s not just about the passion between two people falling in love. The medieval concept of romance always involved some sort of a quest, and so does a modern love story – it is a character’s search for herself. I also talked about how my passion for the environment is channelled into my stories.

 

 

Hope's RoadMargareta (author of Bella’s Run and Hope’s Road) talked about her own, marvellous brand of rural fiction. As a fifth-generation farmer, her ties to the land are very strong and her books convey a sense of place, community and belonging. Kathryn (author of Rough Diamond) gave us her hilarious take on romantic comedy. Kate (author of The Yearning) discussed whether or not that happy-ever-after ending is an essential element of a modern romance novel, and much, much more.

Yearning lo resAll in all it was a fabulous day, and an encouraging beginning to our life together as an author panel. We are available for events and festivals! Contact the lovely Kate Belle (ecstasyfiles at gmail dot com), who has become our de facto organiser. I look forward to many more stimulating authorly discussions and would love for you all to join us sometime in the future!

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Sunday With Catherine Lee

Catherine Lee PhotoPlease welcome a terrific new indie crime writer to Pilyara – Catherine Lee. I first met Catherine in 2008 at a Varuna Residency with the legendary Peter Bishop. The question posed in her then fledgling manuscript has intrigued me ever since – does the heart have a memory? Her terrifying novel has since won a Varuna crime-writing award, and I’m thrilled to announce that Dark Heart is now available on Kindle and POD from Amazon. So without further ado, it’s over to Catherine!

Welcome Catherine. Can you tell us a little about your new release, Dark Heart?

Dark HeartDark Heart is the story of Eva, a young woman who gets a second chance at life when she receives a heart transplant. After the transplant Eva begins to have nightmares, and she soon discovers that the previous owner of her new heart was a serial killer. The killer’s final victim is still missing, and Eva realises that it could be the missing woman now haunting her dreams. She teams up with the victim’s husband and a fellow transplant patient, who has also experienced the phenomenon of cellular memory, in order to listen to her heart and help find the missing woman. Meanwhile Detective Charlie Cooper and his new partner Joey Quinn have two mysteries to solve – can they reach the final victim in time, and who murdered the serial killer?

What do you love most about writing thrillers, and do you think it’s important for books in this genre to have an element of romance in the story?

I love the twists and turns that thrillers take, I love coming up with outlandish ideas and figuring out how to make them work. I’m not sure that all books need to contain an element of romance, but quite often it’s a good fit for the story. Once you get to know your characters they tend to tell you what they need, and Eva just happened to need a hint of love in her new life.

Are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you write detailed character profiles, or do you find the characters come to life as you write?

Plotter, definitely. I had an elaborate spreadsheet for Dark Heart, which I developed after discovering that the first 30,000 words I’d written were going nowhere. I needed a plan, so I ditched the draft and spent the next three months plotting every chapter on my spreadsheet. It worked, and I’ve been refining my process ever since. I’ve moved onto Scrivener for my second novel, Dark Past. I love Scrivener, it’s a brilliant tool for writers. As for characters, I find character profiles quite boring to write. I prefer to let them speak for themselves, although I did find one exercise suggested by a friend quite valuable to use when a character is too wooden or boring. Rather than answering profile type questions, sit down and come up with twenty random things about them. It sounds too simple, but I find I get a much clearer picture of the character by doing this.

How long does it usually take you to write the first draft of a novel?

I’m not sure I’ve worked out what’s usual for me yet, as I’ve only just finished the first draft of my second novel. I do know that the second was a lot faster than the first, and the faster I write the better the quality of the draft.

What is a typical day like for you?

Dark Heart 3I like to write in the mornings, I find that if it’s not my first job it doesn’t get done. It’s my most important job, so I’m slowly getting it cemented into my daily routine that mornings are for writing. I’m almost halfway through a degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice, so my afternoons are currently taken up by study. In the evenings I try and wrap my head around all this social media stuff. It’s a lot of work, but being able to connect with readers and other writers so easily is priceless. There are a lot of really lovely people out there.

Since everybody needs a break, even when doing something they love, how do you like to spend your time away from writing?

I try and go for a walk every afternoon, just to get away from the screen. But the thing that really takes me out of my writing head, which as a crime fiction writer can be quite a scary place, is looking after other people’s children. I have none of my own, which is a personal choice, but I just love being Aunty Cat to all my friends’ kids. I’m sure that in years to come I’ll be known as the crazy aunt who reads and writes books all day, and I’m just fine with that.

Describe your writing in three words.

Man, that’s a hard one. Let’s see, if I could be so bold I’d probably go with intriguing, fast-paced, and unpredictable. Dark Heart certainly meets those criteria, and I’d love to think I can do it again!

What are you working on next?

My next book, Dark Past, will again feature Detectives Cooper & Quinn. This time they are investigating a family with a secret in their past that someone is willing to kill to keep hidden. I can’t tell you too much about it just yet, but it will include some genealogy as well as delving into the cutting edge territory of gene therapy.

Thanks so much, Jenny, for hosting me on your fabulous blog.

Dark HeartCould you live with the heart of a killer? Fraser Grant was a kidnapper, a vile, murdering sociopath. Now he’s dead. Murdered in his own home, the women of Sydney can breathe easy again. All but one. His final victim is still missing — chained up, running out of time, and awaiting a captor who will never return. Detective Sergeant Charlie Cooper is desperate to find the missing woman alive. On the verge of quitting Homicide after a decade chasing the brutal killer, this is his last chance to atone for all the victims he failed.

After a life-saving heart transplant, Eva Matthews just wants things to get back to normal. But when she learns she has the heart of the serial killer, will nothing stop the nightmares that plague her? Dark Heart is a detective story, a race against time to save a life. But it’s also an exploration of cellular memory, the intriguing medical phenomenon of patients receiving more than just an organ from their donor. The terrifying serial killer may be dead, but that is just the beginning…

Connect with Catherine on Twitter, Facebook or on her website.

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