A Writer’s Life: Plotting, with Helen Bianchin

This fabulous (italics mine because I think it’s fabulous – Ed.) article first appeared in the September 2016 edition of Hearts Talk, the journal of the Romance Writers of Australia.  For more info on the column, and on RWA membership, see the end of this post!  But for now, over to Helen…

helen-bianchin-portrait

Plotting with Helen Bianchin

I spent the first year of my writing career convinced a book had to be written from page one through to the end. I stalled so many times, eventually threw my hands in the air, muttered something pithy in Italian, then vowed out loud: where does it say there’s a rule a book has to be written consecutively from start to finish?

Remember, in the early 1970s, there were few ‘how-to write’ books around, and the only other M&B authors I knew were Essie Summers and Gloria Bevan. That was until one day Robyn Donald and her husband were in Auckland, discovered there was only one Bianchin in the phonebook and rang me. They visited that very day, and a friendship was forged, which has lasted until the present. Not long after that, Daphne Clair began her Ring o’ Roses newsletter and there was contact!

I tried the pantser route way back when, and ended up with sentences, paragraphs, pages all over the place. Soon I discovered it was a method that didn’t work for me.

What did work was to choose a premise (or it would choose me) and I’d make notes, choose names, setting, get it all handwritten into a notebook, think about it (including procrastination), compose a supposedly perfect scene on the edge of sleep, positive I’d remember it in glorious detail on waking the next morning. Yes, well, we know how that goes…

Through trial and error, I discovered I think in scenes—usually out of sequence. I have to say curling up in a comfy chair with pen and notepad works. The ideas happen and I scribble them down. Then I key them into the computer while the ideas are fresh and there’s hope I can decipher my scribble—or at least get the gist of it, editing as I go along, expanding, enhancing, numbering each draft scene before printing it out. It’s a weird method, and you wouldn’t believe how many times I vow to discard it and write in a professional manner (whatever that is!)

However, I have tried other methods. I know Joy Dingwell used to hand-write on the right side of a lined notebook—mainly all dialogue—then she’d go back and handwrite on the left side of the lined notebook the emotional bits, the scenery, etc. and balloon each bit into where it should fit. When the handwritten notebook was complete, she’d edit, add, then type it all out on an old typewriter in what passed for MS format at that time.

I know of authors who have adapted a similar methodology with handwriting on the right side of a lined notebook (or unlined) and use different-coloured sticky-pad sheets containing handwritten emotion, scenery etc, high and low points, and stick them onto the left side of the notebook. At least with the latter, the sticky-pad sheets can be easily moved and switched around. When the current long-languishing MS is finally finished, I think I’ll give this method a try.

Others use a whiteboard—I think if I tried that, I’d end up erasing something deep and meaningful to be lost forevermore.

Then there’s Scrivener. Some authors swear by it. Others try it and decide it’s not for them. I bought the program with the intention of trialling it when the long-languishing MS finally travels through the ether to London. I even upgraded to the latest version. I’ll let you know how I go (just don’t hold your breath!).

I must admit I witness the published output of varying authors and wonder if they sleep. Writing must occupy every waking minute of their lives…or they have glorious brainpower whereby they key in the right words with the speed of light.

In conclusion, there is no right way. There’s only your way. Even so experimenting with different ways may work really well.

– Helen Bianchin

 

A long-time bestseller for Harlequin Mills & Boon, Helen Bianchin’s books are sold in 26 languages in more than 109 countries. Helen is much beloved in the romance writing community, and was RWA’s first-ever Hall of Fame author. She’s always been a huge supporter of new writers as well as established authors and still participates on the RWA email loops.

Anne Gracie’s A Writer’s Life is a regular column featured in Romance Writers of Australia’s monthly journal, Hearts Talk. Packed full of articles on craft, the publishing industry and interviews with romance authors, Hearts Talk is a valued and much-loved benefit to your RWA membership. If you’re not already an RWA member, join up here [http://www.romanceaustralia.com/p/99/Join-RWA].

 

April New Releases

I hope everybody enjoyed the Easter long weekend and reading some extra books while enjoying their chocolate. Don’t the two make a fabulous combination?  Books and chocolate,  chocolate and books … it really does’t matter which way you mix them.

Chocolate levels may have returned to normal, but happily we have some fabulous new releases available this month from our members so there is no need to limit your book rations. Mix and match as much as you wish to. Happy reading everyone.

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DOWN-UNDER FINALISTS IN 2015 RITA® AWARDS

Romance Writers of America announced the finalists for this year’s RITA® awards yesterday and we were delighted to see four Australians on the awards shortlists. Congratulations to Beck Nicholas, Bec McMaster, Louisa George and Sarah Mayberry.   *Late correction*  Apparently, the lovely Louisa George is not actually Australian.  She’s English by origin and lives in NZ.  But since she IS a proud member of RWA, we will happily claim her as our own, for the purposes of congratulations!  Happily, they are all shortlisted in different categories. The winners will be announced at a black tie dinner on 25 July, so fingers crossed until then please everyone. (Oh, all right, if you have to edit or write your own book, you can use one hand!)

Here’s a quick look at the four fabulous finalists and their books:

Her Kind of Trouble Louisa George Enemies with Benefits 

Finalist: Contemporary Romance (Short)

Publisher: HMB Modern Tempted/ KISS

Poppy Spencer has discovered that there’s one thing worse than Christmas alone in her flat – and that’s spending it with Isaac Blair, her sworn-enemy-turned-reluctant-flatmate! And it is not just because he knows all her secrets – his sexy-as-sin smile and taut physique are making her all hot and flustered despite the icy cold outside!

Unless a casual hook-up is just the thing she needs…? It’ll certainly break the simmering tension between them. The trouble is, with their history, it will be anything but casual!

Her-Kind-Of-TroubleSarah Mayberry Her Kind of Trouble

Finalist: Contemporary Romance (mid-length)

Publisher: Harlequin Superromance

It takes one to know one … the moment Vivian Walker spies Seth Anderson she knows they are a match made in hedonistic pleasure. And they both agree their one night together is all about fun, not forever. Now, years later, Seth remains a favourite memory. Surely the sizzling chemistry has faded, though, right? Apparently not. Because he’s still sinfully attractive, and she likes the man he is. When he suddenly becomes a full-time dad to his newborn daughter, Vivian falls hard. Yet despite the responsibilities, he’s not a good bet for commitment. And she needs to guard her heart before she gets into trouble!

ForgedByDesireBec McMaster Forged by Desire

Finalist: Paranormal Romance

Publishers: Sourcebooks, Casablanca

Captain Garrett Reed of the Nighthawk guard has a deadly mission: capture a steel-jawed monster preying on women. He hates to put his partner Perry in jeopardy, but she’s the best bait he has. Little does he realize, he’s about to be caught in his own trap.

Perry has been half in love with Garrett for years, but this is not exactly the best time to start a relationship—especially when their investigation leads them directly into the clutches of the madman she thought she’d escaped…

FakeBec Nicholas Fake 

Finalist: Best First Book

Publisher: Harlequin Teen

Seventeen-year-old Kath McKenny has a date to the end-of-term party with her since-forever crush. He publicly messaged her to confirm, but there’s been a recent status update: he’s taking the new girl — giggly, pretty, well-developed Lana Elliot — instead.

After being thoroughly humiliated in front of half the school, best friend Chay talks Kath into revenge: a scheme to create the perfect — and very fake — online guy for Lana. Once she falls for him, they’ll show her what it’s like to get brutally dumped.

Everything is going to plan until Kath starts spending more-than-just-friends time with the other new kid in town — Lana’s dreamy older brother, Sebastian. Kath finds herself getting in deep — in love and drowning in guilt, she tries to put an end to her prank, but it’s taken on an unstoppable momentum of its own, with very real consequences.

You can read the full list of finalists here – it makes a great reading list.

It’s International Volunteer Day!

Happy Volunteers Day!

Hip, Hip, Hooray and a giant thank you, to each and every one of RWA’s volunteers.

You are the reason this organisation continues to flourish and, as a member, I thank you for the generous contribution you make to the romance writing community.

I’m sure many of you would agree that volunteering is a deeply rewarding experience where friendships and connections are formed, and lots of fun is had.

For those who don’t know, our volunteers, who mostly work behind the scenes, are the reason we have conferences, competitions, online groups, professional development opportunities, group and crit partner schemes and, well, everything.  Whatever you see RWA do, there is dedicated volunteer, or team of volunteers, making it happen.  So next time you encounter one, say thank you!

And if you would like to be one of our RWA heroes, please contact Renee at volunteers@romanceaustralia.com. We’d love to have you on board!

Author Spotlight and $10 Amazon gift card giveaway: Noelle Clark

Welcome to the Author Spotlight, Noelle, and congratulations on the recent release of ‘Honor’s Debt ’! Can you give us the blurb, please?

On a quest to make amends for a long-ago indiscretion, Honor unexpectedly discovers the one thing she’s been missing in her life.

Honor Quirk arrives in Ireland excited—and a bit anxious—about meeting up with the estranged family of her late great-grandmother. The welcome from the residents of Robinhill Farm, Dermot and Bryan, is confusing and far from comforting. One is warm, the other aggressive. The outwardly antagonistic Bryan makes it very clear he doesn’t want her there, branding her a gold digger.

Dermot, on the other hand, is delighted to meet her.

But Honor is no pushover and stands up to Bryan, letting him know that his bad attitude and trail of baggage have nothing to do with her. Despite their confrontational and hostile relationship, an undeniable attraction to each other creeps insidiously into the house on Robinhill Farm. They both desperately try to stifle the sparks, but living under the same roof makes it impossible. Unable to cope with the turmoil of living with Bryan, Honor runs away, straight into the arms of a charming newfound friend, Sean, who offers her a home—and love.

Shattered, Bryan finally takes control of his irrational belief that all women are evil, and fights to bring back the woman he loves. But is it too late?

aad

Your novels are set far and wide across the world: Cambodia, Italy, Brisbane, Ireland, and China. How important is location, and how important is it to describe those locations and cultures accurately?

I love selecting places I’ve been to, and fallen love with, for my stories. I set my heroines, and sometimes my heroes, in unfamiliar surroundings as I believe that we behave differently when we have to deal with new challenges—such as solitude, language, social mores, and cultures—than we do when we are in our comfortable hometown environment. There’s something about the human psyche that suddenly bursts into life, blooms if you like, when there’s a prospect of something new and different. We are more open to change when everything around us is fresh and exciting.

Apart from personal experience of places, I undertake research to ensure I give the reader an authentic taste of a place or culture. When other languages are involved, or even slang, I always enlist the help of someone from that place to check that I’ve got it right. I visit restaurants, cook authentic meals—I even did a course in Italian language for Rosamanti. But it’s the visits to the place that are the best way to pick up the aromas which will add spice to your tale, to spot the blossoms that will decorate your story, to get to know the people who your readers will fall in love with, and to infuse the story with all the elements of the senses.

Do you have a favourite location/culture, or part of the world?

This is a hard question. But to pick one, I would go with the Antrim coast of Northern Ireland. There’s a little seaside village there called Carnlough that is just beautiful and I’d like to set a story there.

You write both contemporary and historical romance. What are the best parts of each?

I’ve only written one full length historical to date – Stone of Heaven and Earth. It’s not romance although it’s a bittersweet love story. Research is the best part. That and bringing characters to life so that you feel you know them. I love doing research as much as my dogs love liver treats. Can’t get enough of it. But even writing contemporary romance, there still needs to be a degree of research to ensure that the setting, time, and the way the characters behave, are accurate.

 ‘Stone of Heaven and Earth’ is set during the period of 1914-1929 in both Brisbane and China. How did you go about researching historical accuracy for this novel?

This book is based on fact so I had some basic major plot items to begin with, and some primary documents such as letters and photographs. I contacted the head of a study conducted by Bristol University in the UK whose specialty is one of the major areas of interest in my book. He was very helpful, gave me lots of information and resources. I travelled to China and spent time there trying to piece together the story whilst dealing with the massive changes that have occurred in China since the beginning of the last century. I had two eye witnesses too, but sadly they both passed away a few months ago. The bits of the story I couldn’t validate, I made up, ensuring they are historically accurate in the political climate of the day.

Your heroines are mature women and heroes who usually don’t know they are ready for love. What is it about this combination that inspires you?

For many people, love the first time around doesn’t work out. There’s a good chance it will work out the second time around, mainly because people are older, wiser, and find the right person. Putting my heroines in a different, challenging, or even dangerous setting, can set off a series of inner changes. The light bulb moments when they change tack and move forward in another direction. In fiction, the hero happens to be there at exactly the right moment, and he too discovers that change can be a good thing.

Of all the characters you’ve created, do you have a particular soft spot for one?

Oh yes. Pietro Lombardi from Rosamanti is my ultimate hero. He’s not alpha, not particularly rugged – in fact he’s a chef, he sings while he’s cooking, he sings love songs to his pet goat Geraldina, he doesn’t mind shedding a tear when something moves him, and he’s beautiful on the inside as well as outside.

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What has your path to publication been like? How important is it for writers to learn their craft properly?

My first published book, Let Angels Fly, was accepted by US small digital-first publisher, Etopia Press. They’ve since published a further three books of mine. Honor’s Debt, which released on November 13th, was contracted by Secret Cravings Publishing. They’ve also bought books two and three of the Robinhill Farm series. I’ve learned so much since my first book. When going through publisher edits, I add my repeated errors/styles to a list and in each successive book I check for those. It’s vitally important to learn from the editors and try to never repeat the same things book after book.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?

Join organisations such as the RWA; go to conferences; network with peers; and do as many courses as possible.

When you’re not writing, what would we find you doing? How do you relax?

I’m always writing, or editing, or blogging, or networking with other writers on social media. I retired last Christmas from a lengthy career and now I’m a full time writer and I take it seriously. I relax by playing in my veggie garden, walking my little dogs, and I spend quite a lot of time with my five very small grandchildren.

aab

Could you give us a sneaky peek at one of your favourite parts of ‘Honor’s Debt’, please?

Here’s an extract from Chapter 5 of ‘Honor’s Debt’ – Book 1 in the Robinhill Farm Series.

The sound of a noisy vehicle coming to an abrupt stop outside made them both look up.

“That’ll be himself now.” Dermot stood, the smile that seemed to so easily grace his face suddenly gone. He went to refill the kettle then, as if on impulse, turned back to look at her. “Now, don’t you go worryin’ about Bryan, okay?”

The kitchen door opened and a shadow fell into the room. Honor glanced up to see the doorway totally filled by the silhouette of a tall, muscular man wearing dark clothing. His features were impossible to see, but a shiver rippled its way up her spine as the hulking figure oozed bad vibes in her direction. He didn’t move, just stood there.

The room seemed to tremble as his deep, resonant voice entered the small space of the kitchen.

“So, if it isn’t the crazy English tourist who can’t drive. I take it you’re lost now, and asking for directions.” He paused and his dark gaze flicked from Dermot’s to hers, obviously taking in the scene before him. “Well, if this isn’t a picture of perfect domesticity. Bacon and eggs?” His mocking tone stung and he stood, still blocking the doorway.

She glanced at Dermot whose face showed no trace of the relaxed, affable man of a few minutes ago. Instead, he looked at her for a second then over at the man in the doorway.

“Oh won’t ye come in now Bryan. Come and meet Honor.” Dermot reached over and picked up another cup and saucer from the sideboard behind him and placed it on the table. His voice was somehow different. “There’s still another cup in the pot.” He picked up the teapot and swilled its contents around, then poured it into the empty cup. The air in the kitchen had suddenly got very cold.

Slowly, the hulk in the doorway moved and entered the room. She gasped as she recognized him. The jet-black, short-cropped hair and beard, the strong jawline, those black eyes…now she understood what he meant about the mad English woman. A shiver ran through her as she realized that things had, all of a sudden, taken a turn for the worse. Ill-humor darkened his face, his eyes smouldered with disdain, and his countenance was most unfriendly. She took a deep breath and, even though her knuckles under the table were white from squeezing, her voice came out strong.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you at last, Bryan.” She extracted one hand and held it out to him, hoping he wouldn’t notice the slight tremor of her fingers. A flash of uncertainty showed in his eyes, ever so slightly. Good, he’s not as tough as he’d like to think.

His large paw reached out and took hers to give it an almighty squeeze. She couldn’t tell if the pain was meant to be a punishment, or whether he always shook hands like that. Whatever it was, it was certainly a different welcome from the warmth and affection she’d received from Dermot. She stared at his long fingers, the dusting of black hairs on the back of his hand and his olive skin.

“Here, Bryan.” Dermot handed him the cup and saucer. Bryan released her hand and wrapped it delicately around the fine china. The man’s a litany of opposites, she thought, vacillating from harsh to gentle in a heartbeat.

“Can I cook you some breakfast?” Dermot’s friendly smile was back. Honor breathed a sigh of relief and took a sip of tea.

Bryan pulled out a chair and sat down opposite her, staring at her with a mixture of loathing, curiosity and familiarity. Dermot busied himself at the gas range and the sound and aroma of bacon sizzling on a hot pan once again filled the small kitchen.

“Honor.” His voice, deep, almost a growl, sounded like it came from way down in his boots. “I’m truly sorry about your car. I’ll pay to have it fixed.” There was no doubting the sincerity of his words. Relief swept through her. She glanced at Dermot who, although curious, seemed obviously pleased that Bryan was now being sociable.

Her shoulders relaxed slightly. “Those narrow roads are really something, aren’t they?” She held his black eyes with hers, never blinking. “I appreciate your apology, but I think the insurance will cover it.”

A deep frown transformed his face. Did she imagine it, or did he glower at her now? Maybe he’s not used to women standing up to him, she thought.

Dermot broke the awkward silence as he placed a plate, piled high with shiny, steaming bacon rashers and fried eggs, in front of Bryan. “I’ll make ye some toast.”

Bryan’s eyes held hers as he responded. “Thanks, Derm. I could eat a horse.” A small sigh escaped his lips and he broke the intense gaze and turned his eyes to the meal before him. He grabbed the knife and fork and attacked the food.

The kettle on the gas hob began to whistle, the toaster popped, and the telephone rang. Honor, breaking her fixated stare at this brutish man, snapped into action. She grabbed the teapot, whisked off its woollen jacket and took it over to the kettle. While she busied herself adding tea leaves and filling it with boiling water, she glanced back over her shoulder. Bryan shovelled food into his mouth as though he hadn’t eaten in weeks. Dermot chatted on the phone, something about a delivery of lucerne bales. She placed the now filled teapot on the table, grabbed the toast and placed it next to Bryan.

He looked up at her and again their eyes held. This time, though, she noticed that some of the fire had gone out. In fact, he appeared tired. Exhausted. There were fine lines etched at the corners, near the place where his thick, dark brows ended and his beard began.

“Your eyes. You have Dermot’s eyes.”

She stared, unblinking, as his deep voice resonated in her ears. It was as though he had two personalities, she mused. For some strange reason, she felt a surge of tenderness for this aggressive, bad-tempered, beast of a man.

aac

 

Web links

Website

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Buy link

Noelle is kindly gifting one $10 Amazon gift card to one lucky reader. To be in the running all you have to do is sign up for Noelle’s newsletter during the duration of this competition. The link is here or here.

The winner will be drawn at random and announced here. This competition is open world wide.

 

Thank you for taking part in our Author Spotlight, Noelle!

Thanks so much for having me, Sarah.

Event Announcements

Do you have an event or workshop you’d like to share? Email your event news to cruisin@romanceaustralia.com

In Person Events

  • Anne Gracie – Ripponlea Writing Workshop (Melbourne)ripponlea

On Saturday, 13 September, Anne Gracie is conducting a writing workshop for the National Trust, as part of the wonderful Love, Desire and Riches exhibition in the beautiful historic house of Ripponlea, in Elsternwick, in Melbourne. 10 am – 12.30
For further details and bookings go here.
http://www.trybooking.com/Booking/BookingEventSummary.aspx?eid=88770&bof=1

  • Western Australia Tour
    Fiona Palmer and Rachael Johns are having a RuRo tour through WA in September. You can find details and dates at
  • Romancing the Pagebeing_jade_COVER_HI_res small

    Contrary to popular belief, a good romance is not as simple as falling in love. Writing good quality romance requires creativity, innovation, skill and well-formed characters embroiled in believable conflict.
    Explore the diversity of the genre, get tips on convincing emotional connection and sex scenes, discover what readers and publishers want, develop a winning story synopsis and killer pitch, and learn about the earning opportunities the romance genre offers.
    For beginners, early & emerging writers.

    When: Saturdays 13, 30 and 27 September, 10am–1pm
    Where: Writers Victoria, 176 Little Lonsdale St, Melbourne
    Tutor: Kate Belle (author The Yearning & Being Jade)

    For more information and bookings: http://writersvictoria.org.au/what-s-on/event/romancing-the-page/

    To send an Event for inclusion in RWA’s Hearts Talk monthly magazine, contact Kate at: htevents@romanceaustralia.com

 Australian Writer’s Centre

The Australian Writer’s Centre offers a range of Writing Courses as well as informative Podcasts:

  • Podcast: Episode 24 – So You Want to be a WriterIn Episode 24, Valerie and Allison discuss how to contact your fave author, how to find time to write, and what it means to “show don’t tell”. They also try out an app to find names for your characters and blogging sensation Nikki Parkinson’s launches her new book, Unlock Your Style!

You can listen to the podcast here or find it on iTunes here. If you don’t use iTunes you can get the feed here.

  • Courses starting soon

You’ll find a course starting soon to suit your writing goals:

Creative Writing Stage 1 (Online)

Your online course starts:

Monday 18 August 2014

Stories, ideas, fiction… where will your imagination take you? Book now
Advanced Fiction Writing Techniques (Online)

Your online course is on:

Monday 18 August 2014

Let your creativity soar! Book now
Blogging for Beginners (Sydney)

Your course is on:

Tuesday 26 August 2014

Because if you’re going to do it, do it right… Book now

The Great Aussie Book Prize

The inaugural Great Aussie Book Prize is being run by Barnardos Australia and as well as supporting children in need, also dangles one mighty fine carrot for novelists. In their words, they’re looking for “inspiring true-life stories from everyday Australians”, with the winner receiving agency representation from Australia’s most renowned literary agent Selwa Anthony, and print, ebook and audio book contracts from a well-known Australian publisher. A great prize! Submissions close 31 August, so check out their website for more details.

Online Events

RWA is looking to offer our members a series of online writers’ workshops in the second half of 2014 through its new Online Workshop List (OWL). OWL events will be hosted, facilitated and promoted by RWA on a 75:25 profit-share arrangement with the presenter (the greater amount being the presenter’s). We would like to invite interested RWA members and non-RWA members to apply to conduct a workshop online through RWA in the inaugural OWL calendar. Please download the proposal form http://www.romanceaustralia.com/p/89/OWLs, complete by May 1 2014 and email to owl@romanceaustralia.com

Classes are run from Margie Lawson’s website using on-line teaching software used by universities. Take a cyber tour before you start your class and introduce yourself.

Affordable forum-style writing classes

A double Golden Heart finalist in 2006, Julie Rowe has been writing for over ten years. Julie  teaches a variety of workshops and is the moderator of the Announce Online Classes email loop, which promotes online classes for writers. To subscribe to the Announce online Classes email loop, send an email to: Announceonlinewritingclasses-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

Event Announcements

*Ed’s Note: The Cruisin Crew will be taking a break for the week of the Romance Rocks Conference but we’ll be back on August 14 on Cruisin’ with RWA to bring you up to date on all the good news and announcements. In the meanwhile, keep the good news and events coming to cruisin@romanceaustralia.com*

Claytons Conference 2014

Registration is now open! Registrations close midday 7th August.

The Presentersclaytons14_sml

  • Shona Husk

Three time ARRA finalist Shona Husk lives in Western Australia at the edge of the Indian Ocean. Blessed with a lively imagination she spent most of her childhood making up stories. As an adult she discovered romance novels and hasn’t looked back.

With stories ranging from sensual to scorching, she writes contemporary, paranormal, fantasy and sci-fi romance.

Shona’s presentation will be about using Tarot Cards for characterisation, plotting and inspiration.  A lot of it will be hands on and interpreting the cards to make sense for a story. By the end the participants should have two characters and an outline. All you need to bring is your imagination, a genre or a spark of an idea to work on and a set of cards.

  • Zana Bell

Zana grew up in Harare, Zimbabwe and studied English Literature at the University of Cape Town. After traveling for several years doing a wide range of jobs, she immigrated to New Zealand where she now lives with her family and cats in a small harbourside community.

She began writing, just for the fun of seeing whether she could actually complete a novel and immediately became hooked. Research is her primary love and writing gives her an excellent excuse to be obsessive or just plain nosy. She enjoys writing in a variety of genre but has a particular fondness for all things historical.

Zana will be exploring World Building at The Claytons.

  • Jamie Meadows

As a child, Jamie Meadows escaped small town life through a vivid imagination. While having actually escaped the small town as an adult, Jamie’s imagination still loves to dream up other lives and other worlds with fabulous adventures.

Jamie’s love of writing and is matched by her love of marketing. Twenty years of marketing experience have made the marketing side of self-publishing a unique challenge that she’s still finding exciting strategies for.

When not off traveling to find new exciting locations for stories, Jamie lives in Washington, DC.  She has just published her first novel, Against All Odds, a gay romance on Amazon.

She will be sharing her marketing and Amazon self-publishing experiences with The Claytons delegates.

  • Gwenna Sebastian

Gwenna lives in Upstate New York with her husband and three cats. She has been writing since she was a teenager and over the last ten years has developed a keen interest in all things related to the Vietnam War.

Gwenna’s true love is creating complicated characters who are active or former military and writing about the relationships they form under the duress of war. More specifically, about military men who are gay, be it back in Vietnam or in the present.

When Gwenna isn’t writing or researching the time period for her next novel, she’s busy helping support our troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan by raising awareness and helping to organize both care packages and Christmas card events. She supports both the NY State marriage equality act and gays in the military, including the abolition of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Gwenna writes in a very niche market.  Her historical gay romances are generally set in the Vietnam era, and are also e-published.  She is looking forward to sharing her knowledge with you.

  • Louise Carter

With an imagination that knows no limits, Louise Carter is an emerging writer who spends her days toiling with her other passion, education.  Her visionary tales are romance entwined with mythology that is heavily influenced by her love of nature and travel.  Whilst she is not yet published there is no doubt that she will find her own niche in the published world sooner rather than later.

Louise is a wiz with social media and is eager to share that knowledge with you.

  • Lexi Bryant

Lexie lives in rural Queensland and has always dreamt of being a writer.  After seventeen years in government servitude she’s finally getting her chance.  She’s currently studying a Bachelor of Creative Writing at the University of the Sunshine Coast and working diligently on her first manuscript.

She will be giving everyone a refresher on what the RWA can do for you.

We’d love to have you with us.  Please register as soon as you can.

See you there.

The New Romantics @ Mansfield

What makes romance the most popular, best selling genre on the planet?

Romance has evolved from its early bodice ripping beginnings to a sophisticated and diverse genre reflecting our modern experiences of love.iPad pictures 170
The New Romantics are four popular local authors who each write different kinds of love stories, from the comic, to rural and environmental, to the dark and sensual. They will share their experiences of writing and reading in this diverse and popular genre and explore the changing ways women and love are represented in modern romantic storytelling. What makes a good love/sex scene? What defines a happy ever after ending? And where do they draw the inspiration for their diverse work?
During this interactive discussion they will encourage you to explore the important place love holds in our hearts and in the literary landscape.

  • Kath Ledson – suspense/thriller romance; author of the Erica Jewell series Rough Diamond and recently released Monkey Business (Penguin)
  • Margareta Osborn –rural romance; author Bella’s Run, Hope’s Road and Mountain Ash (Random House)
  • Jennifer Scoullar – environmental romance; author Brumby’s Run, Currawong Creek, and Billabong Bend (Penguin)
  • Kate Belle – dark, sensual (even erotic) love stories; author The Yearning and Being Jade (Simon & Schuster)

When: Friday 29th August
Time: 6pm – 8pm
Where: Mansfield Library
Cost: FREE
Includes drinks and nibbles, door prizes, and book signing and sales.

Beijing International Book Fair

Take your book to Beijing!Beijing Book Fair

When: 27 – 31 August 2014

The Australian Self-Publishing Group simply shares the costs of the stand with as many authors as possible, making it economical for all authors to send their book along.
The more authors who give us their books, the cheaper will be the cost to individual authors.
At the end of the fair, your book will be given to our Chinese literary agent partner, who will promote it for you if that is what you decide to do.
English books are booming in China. Books that sold last year were novels, romance, historical fiction, kids, business, teaching and self-help.
Contact: William Webster
Phone: 02 62912904
Mobile: 0414467500
Email: publish@publishaspg.com
http://www.australianselfpublishinggroup.com

Book Expo Australia

Where Books Come Alive – Books for everyone and all genres.

When: 30 – 31 August 2014

Where: Exhibition Hall 5, Sydney Showground, Sydney Olympic Park, NSW 2127

FMI: www.bookexpoaustralia.com

Times
From 9:00am for Teachers and librarians
From 10:00am for General Public
Close at 5:30 pm Saturday and Sunday

Tickets are Now On Sale!

$5.00 – Teachers and Librarians (proof of employment may be requested)
$20 – Family ticket (2 adults and 2 YA)
$8.50 – Adult
$5.00 – Children(YA) over 12 to 18
Free – Children 12 and under (proof of age may be requested)

Romancing the Pagebeing_jade_COVER_HI_res small

Contrary to popular belief, a good romance is not as simple as falling in love. Writing good quality romance requires creativity, innovation, skill and well-formed characters embroiled in believable conflict.
Explore the diversity of the genre, get tips on convincing emotional connection and sex scenes, discover what readers and publishers want, develop a winning story synopsis and killer pitch, and learn about the earning opportunities the romance genre offers.
For beginners, early & emerging writers.

When: Saturdays 6, 13, 30 and 27 September, 10am–1pm
Where: Writers Victoria, 176 Little Lonsdale St, Melbourne
Tutor: Kate Belle (author The Yearning & Being Jade)

For more information and bookings: http://writersvictoria.org.au/what-s-on/event/romancing-the-page/

Online Events

 

owlRWA is looking to offer our members a series of online writers’ workshops in the second half of 2014 through its new Online Workshop List (OWL). OWL events will be hosted, facilitated and promoted by RWA on a 75:25 profit-share arrangement with the presenter (the greater amount being the presenter’s). We would like to invite interested RWA members and non-RWA members to apply to conduct a workshop online through RWA in the inaugural OWL calendar. Please download the proposal form http://www.romanceaustralia.com/p/89/OWLs, complete by May 1 2014 and email to owl@romanceaustralia.com

Classes are run from Margie Lawson’s website using on-line teaching software used by universities. Take a cyber tour before you start your class and introduce yourself.

Affordable forum-style writing classes

A double Golden Heart finalist in 2006, Julie Rowe has been writing for over ten years. Julie  teaches a variety of workshops and is the moderator of the Announce Online Classes email loop, which promotes online classes for writers. To subscribe to the Announce online Classes email loop, send an email to: Announceonlinewritingclasses-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

Seeking expressions of interest from established authors in the romance genre to assist with writing course material and tutoring student assessments.
Rebecca Timmis is the Creative Manager of a new online education business, ASPIRE Online Courses. We are seeking expressions of interest from established authors in the romance genre to assist with writing course material and tutoring student assessments.
This is real, paid work and a great opportunity to build a profile name and get exposure as an author. We are offering flat fee or royalty-based payments for course material, and a per-assessment fee for tutors.
Our online team is creating a dynamic website and we will be investing heavily in online and offline marketing strategies.
I am a writer for children and young adults and have seen so many aspiring writers try and take on the world of self-publishing without first learning the craft of writing. I am passionate about education and want to establish a team that will bring the best out of our students.
If you would like to apply or wish to share this opportunity with a qualified colleague, please visit ASPIRE online courses and complete an application form.

Writers Festivals 2014

Melbourne Writers Festival (MWF) is Melbourne’s annual, two-week celebration for writers, readers and thinkers. Each year in August, the Festival celebrates the talent and ideas of hundreds of writers from Australia and around the world, through a vibrant program of storytelling, conversation and discussion, intellectual debate, educational programs, live performance, music and art events. The Festival includes events for people of all ages and more than a quarter of the program is free. Their highly regarded Schools’ Program attracts more than 15,000 students.

When: August 21–31

Details to be provided as soon as they become available.

When: September 3–7

Author Spotlight and Giveaway: Contemporary Romance novelist, Alexa Bravo…

Welcome to the Author Spotlight, Alexa, and congratulations on the release of ‘In Bed with the Boss ’!  Could you tell us about your road to publication?

Last year I decided to fulfil a lifelong dream and see Europe.  Of course, when I formulated my dream I was young, single and unencumbered but now I am not quite so young, not single and 3-children (plus a mother-in-law) encumbered!  Deciding I needed a boost to my finances I jumped on the idea of polishing up one of my many unfinished manuscripts and seeing what it could do.

In Bed With The Boss is a story I started writing around five years ago.  I was very fortunate that the story was accepted for publishing and released in May 2014.  My finances are still the same (huge reality check there!), but I get to share something I love to do with others, which has been an incredible journey so far.

BedBoss_Final (2) (392x600)

How would you describe your writing style? Which authors/ books have influenced you the most?

I am definitely not a planner.  I immerse myself in the story and once I can hear the characters in my head it’s almost like taking dictation.  Sometimes the twists in the story surprise me and once I made the mistake of not listening to the character’s voices because I wasn’t comfortable with a scene and this led to a two-month writing drought.  I am much more receptive to the muse now!  I edit as I go so by the time I finish a book it’s almost ready to send off.  I’ve yet to see, however, if this method will work for more complex plot lines.

I read prolifically and enjoy all types of genres, in particular historical romances.  Georgette Heyer epitomises romance for me and of course the magic of Jane Austen and her insights into human behaviour is a constant source of delight and awe.  For the contemporary romance genre, however I would have to say Jessica Bird (AKA J. R. Ward) is a favourite.

You’ve been writing since you were 12. Have you always wanted to be an author?

I’ve always loved writing, but putting words on paper to tell stories has never felt like a deliberate choice, more like a lifetime’s compulsion.  In my various “real” jobs I have always taken on complex writing tasks and have actually been working as a medico-legal report editor (one of my many tasks) for the last ten years.  Checking every minute detail of a lengthy legal document before it goes to court has taught me attention to detail so my manuscripts are generally pretty clean.  But it’s only been in the last twelve months that I’ve actually taken the leap into submitting my own work for publication.

You write contemporary romance. Are there any other genres that you are wanting to experiment with?

Start with what you know, is a piece of advice about writing that I’ve never forgotten, so beginning my writing career with what is familiar to me seemed to make sense.  My books are set in the corporate world which is my daily reality, although in my books there are a lot more handsome, available alpha men!  The familiar setting gives me a chance to focus more on plot and character development rather than research.

My favourite romance genre, however, has always been historical, so once I find my confidence as a writer, I hope to be able to write in that genre.  There are so many talented authors writing historical romance that it would epitomise success as a writer for me.

Tell us something about yourself that no one would guess.

I hold a master’s degree in psychology and for two years I co-ran a research project investigating the causes of reading difficulties in school-aged children, such as dyslexia.  The research involved successfully implementing a remedial reading program in local schools.  Being able to teach children to read who would otherwise have missed out on all the joys of discovering the written word was incredibly rewarding.  The results of the study were published in the Australian Journal of Psychology.

Can you tell us a little about your works in progress?

Currently I am working on a follow up stand-alone story to In Bed With The Boss, based on a secondary character, Brendan.  I have approximately ten other works in progress, all of them contemporary romances, though there’s a mix of drama, comedy and a very daring older-married-man story that I think has a lot of potential.  I also have the outline of a historical romance I want to write so I will have to make a choice on what project to work on next once I finish Brendan’s story.

Are you a plotter or a pantster?

A panstster, without a doubt.  I foresee a time, however, when plotting will become essential.  I want to try my hand at more than one genre and I also have an outline for a paranormal series that already sounds very complicated in my head so if I ever take the plunge, whinging it is definitely not going to work!

Alexa Bravo

Do you have any quirky things you need to do prior to settling into a period of writing? (organise your desk, have a coffee, turn around three times and clap?)

I have to have a clear run, like a plane about to take off on the tarmac.  No other planes are allowed to be in sight, it has to be clear flying weather and the safety checks all have to be completed.  For me this means kids are taken care of, chores are done, social media is out of the way and I have no other distractions.  Needless to say finding my writing “headspace” is a somewhat rare experience!  Caffeine definitely helps.

As a debut author, what’s the most valuable piece of advice you’ve been given?

Rather than one piece of advice per se I’d have to reference all the strategies that I wasn’t aware of before submitting my first book, such as critique partners and writer’s groups and Beta readers to help make your work as good as it can be.  I am certainly embracing those concepts for my second book and hope that it leads to growth for me as an author.  There is so much to learn from my fellow writers and I feel very privileged to be a part of this community.

Could you give us a sneaky peek at one of your favourite parts, of ‘In Bed with the Boss’ please?

I loved the interaction between Keith (the hero) and his best friend Brendan (whose story is the basis of my current work in progress).  In this scene, Keith finally confesses to Brendan, his business partner , that he has feelings for the one woman who can save their company.  Keith expects fireworks, but Brendan proves more insightful.

‘What’s going on?’ Keith genuinely thought through that question and decided he’d very much value his friend’s advice. Brendan was the antithesis of a hothead and if Keith was being an idiot then Brendan would tell him to his face. And somehow, Keith suspected that “idiot” very accurately described his current behaviour.

‘She’s at breakfast.’ Keith tried and failed to keep the scorn out of his voice.

‘At breakfast?’ Brendan sounded bemused and Keith could not blame him.

‘Yes. With a colleague. A male colleague.’ Just saying the words brought that former image back and Keith wanted to swear all over again. 9:50. Ten minutes before she’d have some serious explaining to do.

‘Ah, I see.’ Brendan said nothing else, but his look said it all. It was suddenly full of understanding, some amusement and a hint of pity, neither of which helped improve Keith’s mood in the slightest.

‘What the hell do you see?’ Keith asked with more volume than he’d intended. Damn it all, 9:51. Was that clock faulty?

‘You’re in trouble, mate.’ Brendan was cool, calm and definitely collected whereas Keith was thrown very much for a loop. At the very least he’d expected recriminations, at worst sheer panic. Where was all this cool coming from?

‘What does that mean, I’m in trouble?’ 9:53, surely she’d be back by now?

‘You’re jealous.’

Keith didn’t bother to deny it — what was the point?

‘Why does that mean I’m in trouble?’ 9:55, okay, it was definitely working.

‘I’ve never known you to be jealous over any woman, not even Claudia.’ The sound of Claudia’s name coming from his friend shocked him. Not once, in over a year, had he said her name. If he’d made any allusion to her, he’d immediately backtracked and Keith had initially felt grateful, and had then stopped thinking about it. Now, though, the deliberate use of her name told Keith more clearly than anything else could that the game had changed and that Brendan knew the rules, but Keith was still in the dark.

‘Why am I in trouble?’ The question was asked again, this time with a growl. Keith did not want to hear the answer, but at the same time he felt no surprise as his friend replied.

‘You’re in love with her.’

Thank God, it was 10:00.

 

Web links

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Alexa is kindly gifting one ecopy of her novel, ‘In Bed With The Boss’ to one lucky reader. To be in the running, all you have to do is answer the following question in the comments section below:

Where do the hero and heroine of In Bed With The Boss have their first explosive encounter?

  1. In a ski-lift
  2. In an elevator
  3. In an office
  4. In a bed

(Check website http://alexabravo.com/books/ for clue)

This competition is open world wide and will be drawn on June 30, 2014. The winner will be notified by email so please ensure that we can contact you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Author Spotlight is getting a mini-facelift!

Instead of focussing solely on published authors as individuals, we thought it would be fun to turn the spotlight on authors who work together as collaborative bloggers!

If you belong to a group that is:

1. Largely filled with current members of the RWA,

2. Maintains a regular blog and website to promote the group’s work, and

3. Has at least one published member,

then we’d love to hear from you!

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Think, Love Cats Downunder, Word Wenches and Naughty Ninjas!

If you belong to a group like this and would like to be in the spotlight, please send an email to:

authorsp@romanceaustralia.com

Be sure to include your group’s web/blog address in the email!

ALSO…

Published Authors who are looking for space on the Author Spotlight in the coming few months, please send you query now

so that there is plenty of time to accommodate your post!

Author Spotlight: Georgina Penney…

Welcome to the Author Spotlight, Georgina, and congratulations on the release of ‘Irrepressible You’.

Thank you so much. It’s an absolute honour!

You write warm and funny romance novels, can you please tell us a bit about them?

My favourite books ever are ones that make me smile, cry, and that leave me a little hot and bothered so that’s what I set out to achieve in my writing.

My books are set all over the place but Irrepressible You is based in Fremantle, Western Australia with a bit of London thrown in. It features a lady barber with a penchant for nineteen fifties fashion and a terribly naughty and very sexy British satirist who’s out for someone to write about in his newspaper column.

I loved putting a Brit with an Aussie in this story. I think the Australian vernacular and temperament adds an extra special element to romance. We’re a pretty blunt people and it leaves a lot of room for juicy conflict!

Irrepressible You Cover

You have travelled extensively and lived in some very exotic locations, how has this inspired you as a writer?

Tremendously. Our first big move overseas was to an isolated expatriate compound in Ras Tanura, Saudi Arabia and my husband and I were among a few Australians living there. It didn’t take long to work out how different we were culturally to the Americans living in the compound at the time, not to mention the Saudis outside. The culture shock was huge!  (We shall never speak again of that time I took home-made pumpkin pie to a coffee morning in January and had all the Texan ladies telling me with sympathetic expressions that it wasn’t thanksgiving.) The entire experience left me feeling a little homesick and wanting to write about Australia.

In general though, being an expat made me hyper aware of just how similar we all are at heart, no matter colour race or creed. I think that’s why I gravitated towards romance. Love and laughter are universal, no matter where you go. The most popular books in Saudi Arabia were romances that featured the full old-school bodice-ripper covers and when I moved to my now-home Brunei, I found the same was true here. It was wonderful inspiration.

Your past life (prior to writing) is fascinating, can you give us a brief run down of what you’ve studied and worked as, please?

I’ve done a little of everything! My parents moved around a whole lot when I was a kid so I started working odd jobs on farms at an early age; feeding poddy calves, helping with worming, lambing, milking… all that kind of stuff before heading off to the big smoke to study fine art.

In addition to that, I’ve been a weigh bridge clerk, waitress (only job I was ever fired from… I am totally not cut out for the service industry), a receptionist, an administrator, a graphic designer, a web designer, the registrar of a naturopathy college. After that I decided university would be a little better and studied Communication and Cultural Studies and then headed off to UWA to do a PHD in Peak Oil, which I escaped by moving to Saudi Arabia with my husband in 2007. Oh, in there was also study and work in psychotherapy and hypnotherapy that started in my early twenties. I know I’ve probably missed something out here but that’s the bulk of it!

In all that time you must have met some very interesting people – do they ever make an appearance in your novels?

People watching is my favourite hobby. All of my characters have features or personality traits I’ve “stolen” from someone I know. My book, Irrepressible You, features a heroine, Amy, whose bubbly personality and steel backbone were inspired by one of my dearest friends and my hero Ben… well, he’s an amalgamation of a couple of charming gentlemen I’ve met over the years.

Wherever I go, I try to keep a notebook with me to write down things I overhear or see so I’ll remember them later. As it is, I’ve got about five full notebooks and counting! My most recent note is about the Bruneian gentleman who cuts our lawn wearing, for some undefinable reason, a bright orange wig. It would be a sin not to put him in a book at some stage.

You are currently living on the edge of the Bornean jungle – how’s the internet connectivity there?

“Dire!” We were under half a foot of water from torrential rain all January and landslides took out a bunch of wires and cables near the capital city, Bandar Seri Begawan. It’s left me with the kind of internet speed that old-school dial-up would sneer at. Mice on tiny treadmills could run the internet faster.

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You’ve described yourself as ‘incredibly pedantic’, does that mean you are a plotter or a panster?

I’m a total pantser but a total nit-picker when it comes to editing. I usually like to write my first draft then sit it for a couple of months before editing, repeating that process at least four or five times before I’m even vaguely happy with things. There’s a lot of swearing involved and a considerable amount of alternating wine and caffeine!

Can you please tell us about your path to publication? Is there anything you wish you’d known sooner?

When I moved to Brunei nearly 5 years ago, I was in the position of choosing expat wife coffee mornings or trying to write a book and I chose the book.

I did a bit of research and came up with a three-year plan. I’d write three first-draft manuscripts the first year, edit them the next and then see about publication after that. That’s pretty much all I did. Oh, I’m an inveterate procrastinator so I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t join any writing groups or go on Facebook or Twitter until I had all three done.

I then did a little more research, found out I had to get pro-edited if I wanted a shot at things, did that and then started submitting to American agents. Eighty rejection letters later, I had a very lovely agent tell me that my writing wasn’t so much the problem. The problem was that I’d written chick lit set in Australia, which was already a tough sell (at the time) as all people wanted during that period were sexy toothy vampires with mighty attributes or cowboys (with mighty attributes). With that news, I decided to try submitting to Australian publishers and was lucky enough to get offers from both Destiny and Escape, resulting in a three book deal with Destiny.

If I could do it over again, I think I would have started from the beginning with Australian publishers. Everyone is so professional and friendly!

Your blog is called ‘Steamy Puddings’. How did you come up with that name?

It was borne out of my love of all things dodgy in old school romance, including the covers where the heroines looked like they were being given the old Heimlich by Fabio, their “steamy puddings” were bursting out of their bodices for the masses to see.

And finally, could you please give us a sneaky peek excerpt from ‘Irrepressible You’?

“What do you think her deal is?” Alex Crane asked over the heavy roar of rain hitting the canvas awning covering the Norfolk Pub’s convict-built limestone beer garden.

Ben Martindale idly played with the packet of Gitanes he’d just placed on the ale-polished table in front of him while covertly studying the lady in question, who appeared to be the end product of an improbable romantic liaison between a Kewpie Doll and a fifties Barbie.

Her artfully curled platinum hair was pulled into a high ponytail that framed apple-cheeked features, and her rather delectable little body was decked out in a cinched waist red and white polka dot dress, red cardigan and black patent leather heels. In the dimly lit surrounds, she stood out like a rare bird of paradise lost in a penguin exhibit.

If Ben and Alex were prudent men, they’d take all that red as one of nature’s warning signals, but Ben had always been fascinated by things that didn’t quite fit—in fact, he’d made it his business—and Alex… well, Alex was full to the brim of that unique blind optimism possessed by a certain brand of Yank who travels abroad. As far as Ben knew, there was no known cure.

“Twenty dollars says she’s in the theatre,” Ben replied in clipped British tones, allowing himself a smirk at Alex’s instant censoring frown.

“I don’t know man, the fifties look is in. A lot of girls dress like that.”

“I must have been experiencing momentary blindness.” He poured himself a glass of a passable Cabernet Sauvignon, absorbing its earthy aroma, and leaned a little further back in his chair, projecting the boneless placidity of a big cat at rest. “She’s certainly not taking advantage of the attention she’s getting.”

“The sailors?” Alex looked around the outdoor bar, which was currently infested with an entire battleship’s worth of American sailors on shore leave, some in uniform, some in civvies, all on the prowl. Or as on the prowl as they could be clustered around a bevy of upright outdoor heaters spaced at random. Over the past hour or so, Ben and Alex had watched as they’d approached the lady in packs of twos or threes. Without fail, they’d all been given a double dimpled smile designed to charm and sent on their merry way.

“Hmm mm.” Ben took another sip of wine.

“She’s free to take advantage of me.”

“Just remember, Australian women are a tougher breed than the sensitive plants you’re used to. You’re getting yourself to the hospital if she beats you to a pulp. I prefer my car seats free of blood spatter.” His harsh, bare-knuckle-boxer’s features momentarily took on the menacing aspect the British tabloids had frequently remarked upon of late.

Alex chuckled, his booming, liquid-gold voice almost, but not quite, drowning out the rain. “Why would she do that? I love Aussie women. They love me too.”

“I know. Too much. Have I told you how little sleep I managed last night thanks to your stellar full volume performance with… Susan?”

“Sarah.”

Ben waved a hand dismissively. “Forgive me. Sarah. When I said mi casa es tu casa, I didn’t mean you and whatever banshee you pick up after your show. And I certainly didn’t request the encore performance, either.”

Alex shrugged unapologetically. “Is it my fault you brought a place with amazing acoustics?” He narrowed his eyes at the cigarette Ben had just tapped out of the packet and lit on autopilot. “Put that out or you’re a dead man. They screw with my vocal chords.”

“I know,” Ben said with a wicked grin, but stubbed his cigarette out on the bottom of his brown Italian loafer without taking a puff. He’d quit seven months ago and only carried the French cigarettes around out of habit. They were long past stale. He’d throw them out one of these days. Not yet, but one of these days.

“You coming tomorrow?” Alex asked, casually belying the fact he was referring to a sell-out performance of Pagliacci. Opera Australia had paid an obscene amount to lure him across the Pacific to play the lead, Canio, and they were getting their money’s worth if last night’s packed house was any indication. Alex possessed the heady combination of pretty-boy Filipino-American features, a golden voice and the grace of Astaire. In everything but hair color, he was the opposite of Ben, who couldn’t sing for shit, had the features of a hardened criminal and used his tongue to wield words like weapons, usually for comic effect but sometimes for the hell of it.

“Of course. How else will I be able to tell you what you did wrong?” Ben’s smirk transformed to a scowl as Alex leveled a punch at his shoulder. “Bastard. That’s my writing arm you know.”

“You don’t need it.”

“I bloody well do.”

“Just phone your column in.”

“How about you phone your performance in tomorrow? Oh just wait, you always do,” Ben shot back, only to see his friend hadn’t caught the dig. Instead Alex’s attention had been snared by the little blonde again.

Ben sighed. “Can you be a little more obvious? You’re looking at her like she’s a postman’s leg and you’re an amorous Labrador. Down, Fido.”

Alex ignored him, his expression turning thoughtful. “You know… I’m gonna go for it.”

“At your own risk. What do you think you’re going to achieve? Well, other than being thoroughly humiliated when she sends you packing?” He returned his gaze to the lady in question, who was currently peering at a small handheld mirror and wielding a tube of lipstick with the precision of a Dutch Master. He had to admit he was just as intrigued as his friend. His fingers twitched in the way they always did when he sensed a good story about to unfold. “And please make this amusing. I do have a word count to fill for next week.”

Alex ignored him, his broad brow puckered in a pensive frown. He was obviously working out what he was going to say to impress the lady, which was both ridiculous and rather endearing. Given Alex’s appearance, success and celebrity, he should have all the confidence in the world; still, he remained stubbornly oblivious to his own appeal. Ben, on the other hand, knew he was a charming bastard when he wanted to be and rarely questioned his attractiveness to the opposite sex.

“Watch and learn.” Alex pushed back his chair, then sauntered with painstakingly deliberate nonchalance over to the woman’s table.

Thank you for taking part in our Author Spotlight!

It was my absolute pleasure!

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