Meet Elisabeth Rose

Elisabeth has been an avid reader all her life. She dabbled in writing as a teenager, but gave it away to study music which has also been a lifelong passion. It is why musicians are often, but not always, her main characters. She plays clarinet in a community orchestra and loves getting back into regular practice and music making. Tai Chi is a part of Elisabeth’s life and has been since 1987. She and her husband travel a lot and she also plays tennis on a regular basis.


Thanks for the invitation, Jennifer. I enjoyed going down memory lane for this post.

I grew up in the 1950’s on a small farm near Canberra. Dad started out with poultry, but switched to apples when I was about ten or eleven. It was an idyllic childhood, looking back. My brother and I, when not at the small primary school down the road, did pretty much what we pleased. We played tennis, rode our ponies or bikes, played in the creek and generally mucked about with the other kids in the small community of five and ten acre rural blocks. Nobody’s parents seemed worried where we were or what we got up to.

We lived next door to Monty, a race horse trainer, and I spent many happy hours hanging around the stables and probably annoying him.  He taught me to ride and loaned me a pony called Midge, short for Midget, who I rode bareback everywhere. Later, as a teenager, I had a chestnut mare called Del, the result of a swap Dad did with Monty for a jersey cow. I’d ride her after school, and on weekends head off with a friend to explore the area or attend a pony club meet which involved our horses being floated across town. All those quiet dirt country roads we travelled on horseback, singing Beatle’s songs, laughing and gossiping about boys, are now long gone — tarred and filled with fast moving traffic.

My latest release, Where There Is Smoke, draws on my experience with horses but I did have to hone my knowledge through chats with a horse owning friend and a very obliging breeder of Arabians. The story revolves around a thoroughbred mare called Calypso Sun and a look-alike called Arch Rival. Which one is the beautiful animal in the above picture, I wonder?

is the second in my Taylor’s Bend romantic suspense series. I chose the beautiful area around Batlow and Tumbarumba as the setting for the town because a cousin owned an orchard there. My fictitious stud farm, The Grange, is a twenty minute drive away—far enough to be isolated but close enough to be the subject of gossip about the wealthy owners. And far enough for my heroine Krista’s hair raising drive to safety when a bushfire threatens.

I’m fortunate in that I’ve never been in the path of a raging fire although Canberra lost 503 homes, and four people died in the terrifying fires of January 2003. I’ll never forget the weird light, the smell, the smoke and the wind bringing charred leaves and twigs from kilometres away before the fire hit the suburbs on the far side of town from us. My suburb backs on to natural bushland and every summer we know the possibility is there.

My heroine Krista, although frightened and knowing she has to drive four horses to safety can’t leave without her little dog Lola, who has disappeared. Lola, a Cavalier King Charles spaniel, has quite a role to play in the book.

I haven’t owned a horse for many years, but riding is a great way to enjoy the Australian countryside and the ways less travelled. Now, when we’re travelling overseas, my husband and I sometimes go horse riding and explore different landscapes.  Here I am riding Carlos  on Maui, which, on the south western coast inland behind Kaanapali is surprisingly scrubby, rocky and dry and very like parts of Australia. Carlos resembles Calypso Sun. He liked going backwards, however, and needed stern words to make him behave, whereas she would never do that.

Where There Is Smoke is available HERE

Come visit me on my website. www.elisabethrose.com.au


Discover more about Australasian rural authors at our Australian & NZ Rural Fiction website!

Meet Pamela Cook

Pamela Cook writes page-turning women’s fiction set in escape-worthy places. Her novels feature tangled family relationships, the ups and downs of friendship and explore life issues like grief, belonging and love. Her novels include Blackwattle Lake (2012) Essie’s Way (2013), Close To Home (2015) and The Crossroads (2016). Her September 2019 release is Cross My Heart. Pamela is the co-host of the exciting new podcasts Writes4Women and Writes4Festivals, and Assistant Program Director for the Storyfest Literary Festival which takes place in Milton, on the south coast of NSW, Australia in June each year. Pamela is proud to be a Writer Ambassador for Room To Read, a not-for-profit organisation that promotes literacy and gender equality in developing countries. When she’s not writing, podcasting or festival planning she wastes as much time as possible riding her handsome quarter horses, Morocco and Rio.


More Than Research: Re-connecting Through Equine Assisted Learning.

Like my lovely host Jennifer Scoullar, I’m an animal-lover and horse rider. I only came to riding as an adult – apart from a few trail rides when I was in my teens – but have always had a sense of the power and sensitivity of horses.

Back when I was researching the Black Saturday bush fires for my first novel, Blackwattle Lake, I came across an article about horses being used as a unique form of therapy. Overcoming trauma by spending time with horses in a supervised, supportive environment was helping some of the victims of the fires come to terms with their experiences.

Intrigued, I kept that article from The Good Weekend and always knew I’d write about it someday. So when it came to finding a form of therapy to help a traumatised child in my latest story, the idea appeared instantly. I read quite a few pieces on the various forms of therapy, watched some you-tube videos and checked out websites but it was spending a day actually working with horses at Horsanity that really helped me to understand how life-changing working with horses can be.

I’d gone to the centre purely to research the process for my book but in a very short time found myself immersed in the sessions in a much more personal way.  The small group session included a combination of talking to the practitioners, spending time purely in the presence of the horses – in this case, a small herd of magnificent Friesians – and then grooming and doing groundwork with a particular horse. This was followed by deep reflection on the process and the emotions it triggered. A huge part of the process – this form being equine-assisted learning rather than actual therapy – was to slow down, listen to both the horse and your own reaction and to take the time to truly connect in the moment. Dealing with my own grief after losing my closest friend wasn’t something I anticipated but those feelings decided they wanted out and while this sort of loss isn’t something you ever really recover from, working with the horses was a hugely cathartic, helpful experience

I came away with invaluable information for my book but also feeling refreshed, grounded and more at peace. I’m hoping that the information I’ve included in my plot for Cross My Heart will intrigue readers, even those who are (weirdly!) not horse lovers.

While Equine Therapy and Equine Assisted Learning remain quite left field, they are being used more and more to help both children and adults overcome trauma, including returned soldiers and victims of domestic violence. Tapping into the primal wisdom of these beautiful creatures for my novel was such a joy and it’s an experience I hope to repeat some time in the future.


                     CROSS MY HEART
When a promise kept means a life is broken …
Tessa De Santis’s child-free marriage in inner-city Sydney is ordered and comfortable, and she likes it that way.
Leaving her husband and successful career behind, Tess travels to an isolated property where the realities of her friend’s life – and death – hit hard. The idyllic landscape and an unexpected form of therapy ease her fears, and her relationship with Grace begins to blossom.
          Cross My Heart is a haunting story of guilt, redemption and friendship set in the beautiful central west of New South Wales.
            * Universal Buy Link – click here


Discover more about Australasian rural authors at our Australian & NZ Rural Fiction website!

Meet Wendy Lee Davies

Today I’d like you to meet Wendy Lee Davies, a relative newcomer to our Aussie rural fiction family. She began writing romances as a lark after leaving her communications and editing job of many years. 

Wendy won the Romance Writers of Australia Emerald Award in 2017 with her small-town contemporary romance, The Drover’s Rest. The same story (renamed Good Enough For Love prior to publication), was also a finalist in the 2017 Mid-American Romance Writer’s Fiction from the Heartland competition. So, over to you Wendy …


Landscapes are strange things I reckon. They evoke such a wide range of emotions, from deep longing all the way to abject fear. I think that’s why painters and photographers endeavour to capture them in their art. And writers do too.

My Cousin’s Farm

I’ve been roaming around Australian landscapes my entire life. One of my first memories is of piling into the family car and going for long drives into the countryside. We also visited my cousins often. They lived on a wheat and sheep farm in the northern part of Victoria, so shearing sheep, harvesting wheat and cooking over a wood stove all formed a part my growing up. It’s why my story – Good Enough For Love – is set in a fictional town right in the middle of the sheep and wheat growing area of Victoria. A landscape I know well.

From the time I was a teenager, I’ve loved bushwalking. I “discovered” this activity basically because a girlfriend demanded I join her on a walk. But I soon fell in love with it, not the least because we were always outnumbered by the guys on these great adventures – like two females (my girlfriend and me) to at least six guys. I walked the mountains and along some incredible rivers and vast, deserted beaches carrying everything we needed on our backs. And bushwalking led to cross country skiing. And then I got into cycling, especially cycle touring. (I’m about to boast, so forgive me.) I’ve ridden my bicycle from Brisbane to Sydney, from Sydney to Melbourne and from Launceston to Hobart. It is a wonderful way of immersing yourself in the landscape you are riding through. The hills, the scents, and the environment are up close and personal, I can tell you.

I love our landscapes. I adore vast mountain ranges disappearing off into the clouds. The vast forests of gum trees, where the light and shade play peek-a-boo while the scent of eucalypt permeates the air. And the rolling hills around Gippsland. Then there’s the red sand and huge vast vistas of the outback. I’ve done my best to capture it all in photographs, but it’s never as good as being there.

Being out in the ’great outdoors’ feeds my soul. Always has. Probably always will.

Iceland

Just a few weeks ago I was sitting by a bubbling river, in the middle of nowhere on the other side of the world (Iceland). I was sitting in the sun, completely alone, with snow-capped mountains in the background and no trees in sight, just enjoying the peace and solitude. (see picture left)

Then I got to thinking about all the emotions I’d experienced while travelling around this far-off land. Exhausted. Worried. Laughter. Annoyed and disgusted at my inability to do what I used to find so easy – walk up steep hills without huffing and puffing – in my younger years. Awestruck and gobsmacked by the sheer beauty before me. The sheer joy of being there capturing all this fascinating and wonderful scenery. And here I was, sitting there feeling so at ease, so at peace, that I never wanted to leave.

All that emotion… It’s not the first time I’ve felt those things. But this time I finally understood.

Landscapes are why I write small-town, country romances. The environment, the scenery, the whole landscape becomes a character, a presence that goes mostly unnoticed, but significant. It isn’t the landscape itself that makes my heroes and heroines react, but it reflects their deepest fears and their greatest joys. If done well, our Australian landscape can make any character feel insignificant, immaterial … or able to step up and overcome their own issues.

You see what I mean? Landscapes are strange. But where would we be without them?


Good Enough For Love
Moving to the country challenges everything she
knows…

When Amber Hutchinson inherits a country hotel, she plans to do it up, sell it, and move on. After all, living in the country never featured in her plans. That is until she comes across a handsome local sheep farmer.

He always tries to do the right thing…
When Zach Wentworth comes cross a gorgeous, blond-haired woman stuck in his hometown’s hotel window, trying to break in, naturally he tries to find out what’s going on.

Without the hotel, Willow’s Bend is likely to die a slow death. So, Zach does whatever he can to secure his town’s future. But doing the right thing means risking his heart. Again. Amber’s determined to make the hotel into a thriving business once more. On her own. She has little time for her growing attraction to Zach. Something she’s desperately trying to ignore because she knows it won’t last.

While the town gossips eagerly discuss every interaction between them, Amber and Zach must choose between protecting their hearts and taking a chance on love.

Get in touch with Wendy via her website, Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, Instagram and Bookbub.


Discover more about Australasian rural authors at our Australian & NZ Rural Fiction website!

Meet Kim Kelly

Today I’m introducing Aussie author Kim Kelly, who is also a widely respected book editor. Stories fill her everyday – most nights, too – and it’s love that fuels her intellectual engine. In fact, she takes love so seriously she once donated a kidney to her husband to prove it, and also to save his life! Over to Kim …


Home

Australia is a bold, romantic character herself and she makes her presence felt in all my novels, whether they’re set in coastal Sydney, where I was born and raised, or west of the Great Divide, where love has taken me. We’re never stuck for dramatic backdrops in this country, are we? From glittering harbourside cities to red desert vistas that stretch on forever under bright blue skies, we have it all.

My heart country lies in the centre of New South Wales, beyond the rugged sandstone escarpments of the Blue Mountains. This slice of Australia I call home today is a land of wide rolling hills, tall sprawling eucalypts and golden sunsets, circling the tiny village of Millthorpe, where summer is sun-crisped and winter snow-dusted.

Beneath rich layers of basalt soil, these hills are full of gold, too, and the whisperings of history. Almost the minute I moved here, I knew I was going to have to write a goldrush tale, and so l did: Lady Bird & The Fox, published just last year, a very Australian wild west story of bushrangers, reckless riding, and a quest for a place to call home.

This is a place where, in the dawn mists, I can almost see the Wiradjuri warriors who fought their fierce guerrilla war against the British army for their country – a country as big as England. Land that was never ceded by treaty of any kind.

The privilege I feel at being lucky enough to live here sings through everything I write. How did this scrappy descendant of Irish and German immigrants get here at all? It’s this sense of wonder and curiosity that almost fifteen years ago drove me to write my first novel, Black Diamonds, set in the coalfields of Lithgow at the foot of the mountains, during the First World War. It’s a story that looks up at the sandstone cliff-faces of the mountains, flashing fire under the setting sun, and says: Wow.

Following the footsteps of my real-life falling in love, my next novel, This Red Earth, traces paths further west, out to the broad plains of Nyngan and the drought that gripped the country there during the Second World War. My muse de bloke, Deano, who works in exploration, was out that way at a time when I was wondering where on earth I was. He has a way of drawing me home wherever he is, sending me photographs from all over, especially of birds and flowers, many of them finding their way into my stories too: a willy wagtail on a fence post; a tiny purple daisy sprung from copper dirt; overgrown railway tracks to nowhere.

When Deano was surveying underground at Hill End, in the lonely, ghost-town high country north of Bathurst, he took me out along the original, crumbling bridle track in a four-wheel-drive that seemed almost as ancient as the towering range through which the old road snakes. Breathtaking. Terrifying. And it inspired another novel, Paper Daisies, set in that same country at the turn of the twentieth century, exploring some worse terrors that women in those days too often faced alone. But when the heroine of that story breaks into a sweat along that treacherous track, you’ll know there’s a bit of autobiographical detail going on there.

There really is no place like the home that pulls you back and back, though. My latest tale, Sunshine, is set on the banks of the Darling River, near Bourke, on the desert’s edge in the north west, where Deano was born. I’d wanted to write a story for him, of him, for a long time, but stories often take their own good time. Sunshine takes us to 1921, when the river was high and healthy, and ripe for that country’s first citrus crop. A time of soldiers returning to rebuild shattered lives, finding their own paths through healing, and remaking home by their own hands and hearts.

But it’s the home I wake up to every morning that gives me an endless, everyday joy. When Deano and I were looking for our forever patch, driving around the dusty country lanes of Millthorpe, we found lovely drifts of sky-coloured blooms along the verges. I had no idea what they were, so of course I had to fossick for the facts straightaway. It was chicory, a crop grown here a century ago, now gone wild. On wondering how this hardy, cheerful little plant got here from Europe, I wondered again how I’d got here, too, and Wild Chicory was born. It’s a love song to my grandmother, and to every immigrant who’s ended up here, searching for home. We’re all just beautiful weeds.

Latest book: Sunshine by Kim Kelly

A tale of longing, loss and growing love under the bright Australian sun.

It’s 1921 and the Great War has left in its wake untold tragedy, not only in lives lost, but in the guilt of survivors, the deep-set scars of old wounds and the sting of redoubled bigotries.

In the tiny hamlet of Sunshine, on the far-flung desert’s edge, three very different ex-servicemen – Jack Bell, an Aboriginal horseman; Snow McGlynn, a laconic, curmudgeonly farmer; and Art Lovelee, an eccentric engineer – find themselves sharing a finger of farmland along the Darling River, and not much else. That is, until Art’s wife Grace, a battle-hardened nurse, gets to work on them all with her no-nonsense wisdom.

Told with Kelly’s inimitable wit and warmth, Sunshine is a very Australian tale of home, hope and healing, of the power of growing life and love, and discovering that we are each other’s greatest gifts.

Author bio

Kim Kelly is the author of eight novels exploring Australia and its history, including the acclaimed Wild Chicory and The Blue Mile, and UK Pigeonhole favourite, Paper Daisies. Her stories shine a bright light on some forgotten corners of the past and tell the tales of ordinary people living through extraordinary times.

Originally from Sydney, today Kim lives on a small rural property in central New South Wales just outside the tiny gold-rush village of Millthorpe, where the ghosts are mostly friendly and her grown sons regularly come home to graze.

Praise for Kim Kelly
‘ … colourful, evocative and energetic’ – Sydney Morning Herald
‘Kelly is a masterful creator of character and voice’ – Julian Leatherdale
‘Why can’t more people write like this?’ – The Age

Buy Sunshine paperback at Booktopia, Book Depository and all other major online retailers. Buy the ebook at: Amazon, IBooks, Kobo and Google Play.

You’ll find Kim at her website, kimkellyauthor.com, and on Facebook (@KimKellyAuthor), Twitter (@KimKellyAuthor) and Instagram (@kimkellyauthor)


Discover more about Australasian rural authors at our Australian & NZ Rural Fiction website!

The Aussie & NZ Rural Fiction Showcase is Coming!

Lofty Enjoying The Sunshine!

I am proud to be part of Australasia’s small but close-knit community of rural fiction writers. We are in turn supported by many loyal, generous and enthusiastic readers –readers who can’t seem to get enough stories set in regional Australia & NZ. Lucky for us!

In an uncertain and rapidly changing publishing landscape, Aussie & NZ rural authors are shining stars. We’ve been regularly outselling other genres for years, and this popularity shows no sign of waning. You might think this would lead to robust competition between us – it does in some other genres. However far from being rivals, we are friends who help each other extend the popularity of our writing.

A win for one is a win for all! The website Australian & NZ Rural Fiction demonstrates this principle, as it is built and run cooperatively by the authors themselves.

 

Another wonderful thing about Aussie & NZ rural fiction is that so many of our authors are women (apologies to Greg Barron and Peter Watt!) Gender parity has been slow in coming to the literary world. The UK’s prestigious Women’s Prize For Fiction and Australia’s own Stella Prize are attempts to redress this inbalance. But our own genre transcended this boundary long ago. Aussie rural literature written by women is not new. Quite the contrary, it’s steeped in history. From Henry Handel Richardson’s (yes she’s a woman) Fortunes Of Richard Mahoney, Nancy Cato’s All The Rivers Run through to Colleen McCullough’s Thorn Birds, the drama, difficulties and romance of the bush has long been the stuff of great narrative tales. And the tradition continues!

In celebration of this proud tradition I will be showcasing Australian & New Zealand rural writers on my blog each week. I hope this helps new readers discover the richness and variety of our hugely entertaining and home-grown genre 🙂 


Congratulations to the winners of last month’s prize draw! I shall be emailing you shortly.

Fortune’s Son

I am thrilled to announce that a new edition of Fortune’s Son is now available for overseas readers. As a bonus, it sports a gorgeous new cover!

Can one man’s revenge become his redemption?

Young Luke Tyler has everything going for him: brains, looks and a larrikin charm that turns heads. The future looks bright, until he defends his sister from the powerful Sir Henry Abbot. His reward is fifteen years hard labour on a prison farm in Tasmania’s remote highlands.

Luke escapes, finding sanctuary with a local philanthropist and starting a forbidden relationship with his daughter, Belle. But when Luke is betrayed, he must flee or be hanged.

With all seeming lost, Luke sails to South Africa to start afresh. Yet he remains haunted by the past, and by Belle, the woman he can’t forget. When he returns to seek revenge and reclaim his life, his actions will have shattering consequences – for the innocent as well as the guilty.

Set against a backdrop of wild Tasmania, Australian gold and African diamonds, Fortune’s Son is an epic story of betrayal, love and one man’s struggle to triumph over adversity and find his way home.

PRAISE FOR JENNIFER SCOULLAR

‘Lovely lyrical prose. Scoullar, it turns out, is a writer of documentary calibre.’
The Australian

‘An excellent read!’ Newcastle Herald

‘Superb! … Scoullar’s writing has a rich complexity. Poetic and visual … the landscape vivid and alive.’ Reading, Writing and Riesling

ARRA Treasure Hunt

ARRA Treasure hunt

The Australian Romance Readers Association will be hosting a book-signing event in conjunction with the RWA Conference at Melbourne on Saturday 22 August. It will run from 5.00 to 6.30 pm at the Park Hyatt Hotel. In total there will be seventy-two authors signing, including me (see the list below). Come along and meet your favourite authors and maybe find some new authors to try. Tickets for the signing will go on sale on 15 July.

A very special online Treasure Hunt is now openIt gives the opportunity for readers to win free tickets to the signing. All you need to do is find the purple ARRA button on the websites or blogs of the authors marked with an asterisk below, click the symbol and then send the email through to the ARRA. Each participating author has a unique code number, so you can enter once for every code you find. (That’s 37 chances to win a ticket!) But don’t expect it to be easy to find them all—it is a treasure hunt after all.

The button is linked to an email command—when you click on it an email should open in your email program with an author code pre-filled in the subject line. If you don’t have your email program linked, you can hover over the button to see the code and then email arra.contests@gmail.com, including the words “Treasure Hunt” AND the code number in the subject line.

The Treasure Hunt will close at 5.00 pm on Tuesday 14 July. Terms and conditions are available here. Why not start by finding the button on my website? I hope to see some of you at the signing, which will be held in conjunction with the Romance Writers Conference. For the first time this conference will be held in partnership with the Melbourne Writers Festival and Writers Victoria, and promises to be the best ever. I can’t wait!

Signing authors

Here’s the full list of authors signing:

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Easter Sunday With Jenn J McLeod + Book Giveaway

Season Of Shadow And Light Please welcome author, friend and fellow animal nut, Jenn J McLeod, to Pilyara on this Easter Sunday. Her wonderful new novel, Season Of Shadow And Light, is coming out on May 1st. What a luminous cover! I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy and can tell you that readers are in for a real treat. Such a multi-layered, thought-provoking story about the best and worst of families, and it also features a horse! Over to you Jenn!

 

I was six the day a horse ate my buttons

‘We share so much more than a great name, Jen. For a start, we both love animals—all animals—and we hate seeing them neglected and mistreated.

If I had to pick a favourite animal it would definitely be dogs. And  I know you love dogs. But I REALLY, really, really love dogs. Every day when I wake up and my old (now blind) rescue baby is at the foot of the bed (staring and telling me to get up) I feel blessed and lucky to have her in my life, even though her vet bills are now slowly siphoning away my retirement savings!

Jenn J McLeod_54A1139 tI love dogs so much I wanted to feature one in a novel. So, the original Season of Shadow and Light plot featured a mangy mutt as the star of the story. That was until I started researching the world of animals as therapy and developed a fascination for the human/horse connection. Around the same time (coincidental or karma) I discovered a very personal horse-related project to test out a few theories—and it was almost next door to where I lived.

Looking at the final cover for Season of Shadow and Light, I hardly have to tell you that the horse theme, and not the mangy mutt, won in the end. My love of horses goes way back to when, as a young child, my Dad (a NSW Police Bandsman) would take me to the Sydney Royal Easter Show. He’d leave me in my special seat (ie in the horse float and hay stores area under the grandstand) to watch the NSW Police Band do a special performance called, The Musical Ride, in which the mounted police and the brass band would do a choreographed marching routine that weaved between the horses. When they finished several routines, the horses would return to the staging area while the band played on. It was all very thrilling—until the unthinkable happened.

One day a horse ate the buttons off my shirt! For some reason that incident traumatised me. I remember the moment as though it was yesterday—and as clearly as I remember the shirt that buttoned up at the back with little pearl buttons. After that incident, I still loved watching my Dad in The Musical Ride performance, and I still loved horses, but I couldn’t get up close to a horse any more. For years I was like a person who loves the beach but can’t be in the sun. In saying that, just as the might of the sea can still spellbind an observer, I remained awestruck by the magnificence of a horse.

I have since reconnected with horses and made a horse friend—all thanks to my research for Season of Jenn J McLeod Simmering seasonShadow and Light. Readers of Simmering Season might recall Maggie visiting an old horse that stood alone in a paddock in all weather—neglected, with no shelter, it’s blanket tatty and torn. There’s a bit of me in those scenes as it was a real horse that inspired that equine character. On my morning walk I would stop and chat to a lonely, neglected, nippy old horse being agisted on a nearby property. (Neighbourhood goss suggested the owner was not a local, nor a rider any more due to declining health.) Initially I called the horse, Ed (yes, the talking horse) and over a time (carrots helped) he let me get closer.

Jenn J Mcleod Horse 1I’d like to think that horse and I helped each other. He certainly helped me. When we sold up to hit the road in our caravan I was so sad to leave Ed behind I decided to write him into Simmering Season. As it turns out, Ed was no ordinary horse either. He was (more neighbourhood goss) once a prize-winning race horse and while his real name was Nevaeh, to me he will always be Ed. (Oh, and by the time I left the area, other locals had taken on the morning, noon and night visits and treats.)

Jenn J Mcleod Horse 2With trust and loyalty as the main theme throughout this novel I think it’s fitting that a horse be featured. Humans can learn a lot about both those qualities from horses (and from dogs). Animals put their trust in humans and I don’t think there’s anything sadder than a neglected animal. I do hope readers of Season of Shadow and Light will excuse my mini soapbox moment when I bang on about some animals being a life-long commitment, and with horses that life can be a very be long time. And look out for my tribute to Nevaeh.

With early reader reviews already in like this one “Jenn J McLeod is an author for all seasons  . . .  and all readers.” Shelleyrae, wwwbookdout.wordpress.com, I am super excited about this story of secrets and love, of family loyalty, and of trust—the kind that takes years to build but only seconds to wash away.

Cheers, Jen. I look forward to seeing you at my place soon for my #WriteRoundOz Author Series.’

Jenn J McLeod bannerI can’t wait Jenn, and thanks for dropping by today! Readers, for your chance to WIN all THREE Jenn J McLeod novels* simply leave a comment below. From now until the end of May, Jenn drops into some of her favourite author blogs to say hello to readers old and new. She’ll then collect the comment names from each author blog post, picking a lucky winner from one major draw and announcing the name at the end May of on her blog

If you’d like to find out more about Jenn and her contemporary women’s fiction about small towns keeping big secrets, head on over to her website or, like me, follow the Facebook and Twitter fun.

Website:   www.jennjmcleod.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JennJMcLeod.Author
Twitter:     @jennjmcleod
*Book Pack: House for all Seasons (#5 Top Selling Debut novel, 2013), Simmering Season, and Season of Shadow and Light. (Australian postal address only)

And now to announce the winners in my Turtle Reef prize draw! So many books to giveaway today :). Congratulations to Karla Oleinikoff and Kim Foster. I’ll email you soon for your postal address. Many thanks to all who left comments.

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‘The Maxwell Sisters’ and a Book Giveaway!

Loretta Hill Photo 2Today please welcome best-selling author Loretta Hill to Pilyara, talking about her latest release The Maxwell Sisters a heartwarming romantic comedy about three extraordinary women on a journey to find love and rediscover family. This is Loretta’s fifth novel, and a departure from her previous mining theme. It is based at a vineyard in the beautiful Margaret River region of Western Australia. Leave a comment to go in the draw for a chance to win this fabulous book. Now it’s over to you Loretta 🙂

Hi Jennifer,

How are you? Happy New Year! It seems like such a long time since I saw you at the RWA conference in Sydney. Hope your writing is thriving. Did you have a nice Christmas?

maxwellsistersfinalI’ve just started, “Chapter One” of my next novel. Seven thousand words on the page. Sigh! There’s a long way to go. The ride starts this way every year. In the meantime however, my Margaret River Wine Region story, The Maxwell Sisters finally hits shelves this month! I’m both nervous and excited to see how it will be received. It’s not the same as my other novels. No construction site. No jetties. No teams of men in hard hats. I decided I needed a change of scenery.

My husband and I take our kids to the Margaret River Wine Region at least three times a year. We have family there so we like to visit but also it’s got to be the absolute perfect place to eat, drink and relax. With so many wineries in the area, it’s also the ideal place to get married.  So setting my novel here was definitely a no brainer.

“The Maxwell Sisters” is about family and the rivalry and secrets between siblings that always comes out in big events like weddings.  I think the relationship particularly between sisters is a very special one. There’s love, competition, envy, protectiveness and pride all at work here. Sisters know about the best of us. They also know the worst.

The three estranged sisters, Phoebe, Natasha and Eve, must return home to the family winery when Phoebe decides to get married there. They need to find a way to put the past behind them and get along in preparation for Phoebe’s big day.

Each of the sister’s has a secret which immediately colours their mood and perspective when they return. Natasha Maxwell, the eldest of the three, has not told anyone she and her husband are separated.  Known for being a Sydney corporate bad arse, she is hiding a lot of pain behind her hard wearing, city slicker façade. Still hurting from the ordeal, the last thing she wants is for her family to wade in with advice, so she decides not to tell them and keep her reputation as the woman who has it all intact. This is her biggest mistake.

When she turns up at Tawny Brooks Estate to help prepare for the wedding, the first person she sees is her husband, Heath. He’s found out about the family gathering and has turned up with his own agenda. She can either blow the whistle on their separation and spoil her sister’s wedding or play happy married couple for the four week lead up to the wedding.

I loved writing about Tash’s dilemma. It was so emotionally intense to be forced to be with someone that you both hate and miss at the same time. I don’t think I’ve ever tortured a heroine this much before. I do believe in strong character arcs for my heroines. I think Tash gets to grow a lot in this book because she has such a difficult problem.

I wish I had time to tell you the secrets of Eve and Phoebe but you’ll just have to follow me to Helene Young’s (http://www.heleneyoung.com) blog next week to find out!

Don’t tease us like that Loretta! Many thanks for telling us about your fabulous new book. Readers, don’t forget to leave a comment for your chance to win a copy. You can connect with Loretta at her website, on Twitter or on Facebook.

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The Author Unmasked

cross blogWelcome to our monthly blog chat with writing guru Sydney Smith and fellow Penguin author Kathryn Ledson. Today we’re talking about how authors must remain hidden.

KATH
Possibly the most important job an author has is to remain invisible. Expose yourself through weak writing and the reader will be dragged away from the world you’ve spent so much time creating, straight into your office. Even a typo or printing error can cause a reader to think about poor editing instead of that desperate, blood-deprived vampire. Here are a few other ways authors (and lazy editors) can expose themselves:
– Trying Too Hard. This is a common mistake of beginner writers (and, ahem, not so beginner). Trying to find sexy or poetic ways to express a thought or action, often with the idea that it’s “fresh”. The mouth seems to cop much of it with smiles teasing the corners of mouths, sighs and moans escaping trembling lips. It’s made worse when those lurking smiles/sighs/moans keep popping up in the same fashion throughout the story. If you can’t come up with something truly fresh, try instead: He sighed. He smiled. He moaned. I’ve learned this is the most effective way to convey to the reader a sense of what’s going on, without losing them to another author.
Author exposed - cliches– Not Trying Hard Enough. Clichés! I found one in my current work-in-progress: “She stared at him with a look of horror.” We do get it, but it’s so dull, uninspired, overused, that we glide right by without getting the full impact of what the author’s trying to show (because, of course, we always show, not tell, don’t we, authors?) How about instead: “She stared at him, hand at her throat like it was Dracula, not a tennis player, standing in her kitchen.” (Excuse me while I adjust my WIP.)
Inappropriate Scene Setting. A high-octane moment is not the right time to tell us about the flowering jacaranda in the front garden, unless that’s where the body’s buried. The moment might be tense just in the narrator’s mind―thoughts about a husband’s infidelity or a missing child. Having the smell of a freshly-baked cake lovingly assault her nostrils* right then, simply for the sake of placing the reader, is probably a mistake. It interrupts or brings the tense moment to an abrupt halt which is NOT what we want to do, right? (*see purple prose below.)
Purple Prose. Too many nouns with adjectives, verbs with adverbs, adjectives with adverbs―argh! When we think we’re adding to a scene, really we’re weakening it with overdone prose. “The gleaming white moon rose slowly over the glistening, mirror-like lake while nearby tiny lambs frolicked joyfully amongst sun-kissed daisies in grassy, green meadows…” Quite apart from the wrongness of lambs frolicking at night, we know the moon is white and rises slowly, and we know what lambs look like and what they do; we don’t need to be told in such flowery detail. This kind of narrative is tedious for the reader, who will think the author is showing off.
– Speaking of which … Showing Off The Results Of Your Research. Know what to use and when/how. In my novel, Monkey Business, I devoted a whole scene to a particularly interesting fact about jungle survival. It read like an instruction manual, thus exposing its silly author.

SYDNEY
Plot controlling character is one of the ways a writer can reveal themselves working the puppet strings behind the scenes of a story. It’s also one of the sneakiest ways to avoid conflict ever invented.

Most writers think about important plot events before they write them. They will know some before they start writing the story, and they will imagine some as they write it. That isn’t necessarily the problem. Issues arise when the writer thinks about how to get these plot events to come about. An experienced writer will create characters who are able to bring these events into being. They will understand whether these events are doable by these characters or not. They will jettison any that are impossible logically or psychologically. Or, more often, their characters will jettison them. When characters come to life, they decide what they will do in pursuit of their goal. This is what it means when writers say their characters come to life and tell them what to write.

In fiction by new writers, this kind of situation doesn’t happen. Characters stick to the plot’s agenda like grim death, changing their personality as required, acting illogically, behaving as if they’ve got no agenda of their own, or not one they’re prepared to stick to. The plot is the dominant agent in the story. The plot decides what characters will do, and is ruthless in getting them to do it. It brooks no argument. It’s a tyrant.

This is a very different situation to characters creating plot, which is how it’s meant to be. If you look at it this way, plot becomes character in action. Characters shape the plot. Characters decide what will happen by pursuing their own agendas come what may, going after what they want with dogged determination, and dealing with opposition as it comes along. So here’s a little example of plot controlling character:

Shay is investigating the death of Marcus. He was shot in the back of the head, behind his left ear. The cops have ruled suicide. But Shay doesn’t believe it.

This is the first instance of plot controlling character: the cops ignore the obvious so that they can close the case. That gives Shay the chance to investigate.

Shay receives a note in her mailbox that tells her to go to 14 Garrod Street, Brunswick, where she will find something of interest. She gets there and is yanked inside by a ruffian with bad breath who tells her she’s too dangerous to stay alive. She’s been investigating the death of Marcus. ‘You should’ve accepted the police findings,’ he says as he straps Author exposed - hands tiedher wrists together with gaffer tape. He binds them in front of her, not behind her, leaves her ankles free, splashes petrol around the place and lights a match. As flames leap up the curtains, he whisks himself out of the house, leaving the door unlocked.

Again, this is plot controlling character. He’s tied her hands in front of her so that it’s easier for her to free herself. He’s left the front door unlocked so that, when she’s free, she can get out of the burning house without further difficulty. It might seem shockingly untenable, this whole situation, but believe me, I come across instances as blatant as this, even more blatant, of plot controlling character, every day of my mentoring life.

Not only is the situation unbelievable, but it’s avoided conflict. Yes, a man lured her to the house. That’s a conflict, since he wants to get rid of her and she wants to go on investigating the murder of Marcus. But he’s made it easy for her to escape. Making it hard for her to escape would involve levels of conflict the writer feels uncomfortable with. Then there are the cops and their decision that Marcus killed himself. If the forensic evidence supported suicide, it would be harder for the writer to figure out how to knock off Marcus in a way that looks like suicide but isn’t. Writing a novel involves the author in conflict as they wrestle with their characters and their own powers of invention. Plot controlling character minimises conflict for everybody, but especially for the writer.

Now look at the ruffian’s agenda. What is it? It seems to be that he wants to get rid of Shay so that the truth about Marcus’ death will never come out. But if he was committed to his agenda, wouldn’t he do his utmost to make sure Shay dies in the fire? How does it help his agenda if he makes it easy for her to escape? It doesn’t, but it helps the plot’s agenda. The plot wants Shay to escape and makes the ruffian forfeit his agenda in order to make it happen. I call this kind of character the uncommitted antagonist: he’s not committed to his agenda. Characters have to act out of who they are and what they want, even if that makes life hard for them, even if it makes life hard for the writer. The outcome of character commitment is compelling fiction.

JENNY
That’s a brilliant explanation of why the best stories are character-driven, Sydney! (Love the word ruffian.) And there are plenty of other ways that the author’s hand can reveal itself, giving readers an unwelcome reminder that they’re being spun a story. Telling, not showing is an obvious one. Inexperienced writers can become dictators, ordering us how to feel about their fictional world. Readers don’t like that. They like to come to their own conclusions. Saying that a character is scared or shy or happy robs the reader of Author unmasked - adverbsthat pleasure. Too many adverbs will have the same effect. Saying that the day is uncomfortably hot, or that a character is dangerously close to the cliff, reveals the lazy author behind the scenes. Readers must be able to assess for themselves how hot it is, or how dangerous a situation might be. As Anton Chekhov so famously put it, ‘Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.’

Then there’s flat out author intrusion, when the writer speaks directly to the reader under the flimsy guise of narrative or characters. Writers can unintentionally project themselves into stories because they haven’t created multidimensional, fully-formed fictional characters. Instead, they fall back on their own beliefs, opinions and ideas. I’ve been guilty of this myself. It’s easy to spot, once you know what you’re looking for. Are there certain words or phrases that seem out of place, that don’t fit the character? Does your character voice an opinion that has little to do with the actual story, but happens to coincide with your own beliefs?

Other examples of author intrusion relate to Sydney’s point about plot controlling character. Does your character have knowledge that she wouldn’t be expected to have? A humble salesgirl who just happens to be an expert in nuclear physics, or can miraculously disarm a bomb with a safety pin. Or have you done so much research on a particular subject that you want to squash it into the story, even though it doesn’t fit? Research should be like a floating iceberg, most of it invisible beneath the narrative surface. These kind of things stick out. The way to avoid the trap of author intrusion is simple. Always remember that your story belongs to your characters.

SYDNEY
Now I feel like I have to interrogate every word of my new WIP. But not at the moment. I’ve started the first draft of “Rosings”, a spin-off of Pride and Prejudice, which follows the adventures of Anne de Bourgh after her mother dies. (Am I allowed to say that?) First drafts should be allowed to be bad. It’s the next draft that has to be combed through for intrusions by the author. And here’s a final intrusion, one I never thought of before I started writing “Rosings”―if you sound a little bit like Jane Austen but not enough, or if you don’t sound like her at all. Whatever you decide in a spin-off of Jane Austen is going to come across as authorially intrusive.

Kathryn Ledson is the author of Rough Diamond and Monkey Business (Penguin), part of the Erica Jewell series of romantic adventures. You can visit her website and find her blog at www.kathrynledson.com
Sydney Smith is a writing mentor, teacher and author of short stories, essays, and The Lost Woman, a memoir of survival. She will soon be releasing The Architecture of Narrative, a book about how to plot and structure fiction. She offers writing tips at www.threekookaburras.com. If you have a question on any aspect of writing, feel free to visit her at The Story Whisperer.

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