Prepare for take-off!

My debut contemporary romance/romantic comedy novel, Girl on a Plane, will be released globally as an e-book on 18 July 2016. As I batten down the hatches and prepare for take-off, I’ve been excited to have a bit of pre-release publicity.

A Book To Watch!

First of all, a massive thanks to the AusRomToday site for featuring my book as one of 5 Books To Watch in July. I’m in such great company too, with some fabulous Australian romance authors. I want to read all of these books, stat!

Check out the cool promo video here:

5 Books To Watch in July – AusRomToday

Hearts Talk article

Today, the July issue of Hearts Talk magazine hit the inboxes of about 1000 members of the Romance Writers of Australia. I was lucky enough to have a full-page article published in the magazine, outlining my path to publication following the We Heart New Talent contest win (with Avon Maze/HarperCollins UK).

Hopefully the aspiring and emerging authors who read it will find it interesting, to learn about the process from entering a contest, to winning, to getting the book ready for publication.

Here’s the full article, if you’d like to read it.

Prepare for take-off article in Hearts Talk magazine

Prepare for take-off article in Hearts Talk magazine


Soon, I’ll have something else exciting to share here, in the lead-up to release day. In the meantime, I’d love for you to pre-order Girl on a Plane, or sign-up to my newsletter mailing list on this page, for a couple of exclusives coming soon.

Girl on a Plane – social media cover reveal wrap-up

A few weeks ago, the team at my publisher, Avon Maze, digital first imprint of HarperCollins UK, organised a coordinated book cover reveal on social media. There was a great response, and here’s a snapshot from Twitter. I’m playing around with the Storify site, so check out a summary below.

More book news to come soon and the count down to release day is on! 22 more sleeps until 18th July launch date… but you can pre-order now!

Make sure to follow me on Twitter or follow Avon Books UK for more news and cool contests.

Woman freelancer on beach photo

6 reasons I quit my job to write

A few weeks ago, I made a big decision. Huge. It had been bubbling and brewing for quite some time in the back of my mind. I quit my day job to focus on writing. Gasp!

This is not to imply that I am in any way rich, or swanning about in a gold-plated bikini on a yacht, eating oysters and guzzling champagne. Nope. The husband and I have been working our behinds off for years to pay off our mortgage (done!) and we have enough money set aside to not freak out about minor set-backs such as kids needing dental work. We do, however, now need to rely on one main income and probably don’t have the cash to splash around on big holidays and stuff. And things.

I’ve been working for the same organisation for 10 years, and it struck me as a bit of a milestone. In much the same way that the big number 4-0 loomed at me a couple of years ago. That’s when I decided to get serious about fiction writing. For the 10 year work-a-versary, I thought, seriously, about how long I really wanted to stay and do the same thing.

I’ve had a long-winded career as a communications specialist and sometime marketing communications consultant. I know stuff about things, related to content writing, editing, PR, website structure, direct mail and print publications. Stuff. And things.

I know a lot about some of those things. Probably too much. It was time for a change, a fresh challenge and something to sink my teeth into. If I wasn’t going to do it in my forties, when would I?

So without further faffing about, here is my list of 6 reasons I quit my day job to focus on writing.

  1. Writing is fun. This might sound unimportant, but really it’s a BIG THING. I can’t tell you how many times someone at work had said, “that’s a big sigh”. I didn’t even realise all the air gushing was happening. Not a good sign.
  2. Money isn’t everything. Sure, it’s a big thing. But if I really wanted a six-figure salary and a team of people reporting to me, I could have had that a few years ago. I turned it down then, with good reason. I needed more time for my family, and that reason is as true now as it was then. We’ve been managing fine with an average income, not a super-stellar income.
  3. Work-work was killing my writing-work. This will be familiar to people with ‘brain jobs’. It would be easier to do something completely unrelated to writing at my day job, than to try to switch from dull corporate-speak writing to creative, descriptive writing. Pared-down technical or explanatory content and light and funny romance novels don’t really mix.
  4. I want to give writing a proper crack. By this I mean, I want to focus on it, complete a couple of manuscripts that have been hanging around for a year or so, and see what I can achieve. My debut novel, Girl on a Plane, is coming out in July, but I want to complete some other stories too!
  5. I love learning new things. Seriously, who learns all about writing a novel, social media and the ins and outs of the publishing industry in two years? I do! I love the challenge, and after working in one place and one industry for a long time, this part of my mind was crying out for something new.
  6. Commuting sucks! This is another reason that may sound silly, but each workday I was spending three hours in commuting time on overcrowded trains and dropping off kids at two different childcare locations. Over the course of a year, this was time-suckage on a major scale. I couldn’t get much writing done, because of the driving and then train-surfing (standing up, squished against other commuter-plebs). Now my kid drop-offs are much quicker and I’m straight back home to a quiet house to write.

So, long story short, I quit. Now I’m at home, trying to find a new routine defined by my own goals and timelines around my family life.

Was it a good decision, you may ask? So far, yes. It’s only been a couple of weeks, but I’ve written close to 11,000 words and my stress levels are much lower. The lack of money thing hasn’t reared it’s ugly head yet though…ask me in a few months.

By the way, if anyone wants to give me a gold-plated bikini or a yacht, I’ll be happy to acknowledge you in my next book. You can even be an international playboy or undercover princess/spy if you like.

Image courtesy of patrisyu at

Prepare for take-off graphic

Future shock! Seeing my book on the HarperCollins website

As cover reveals go, this one was pretty fun, because it was a complete surprise to the author. In other words, me. I had a severe case of future shock when I suddenly stumbled across my book cover online, a few weeks ago.

I was sitting in my writers group meeting at the Melbourne Romance Writers Group secret HQ, when my writer friend, P.J. Vye, googled me. Cheeky as that sounds, we’ve been friends for over a year now, so I was okay with it. The googling.

She was looking for my blog when what should appear in the search results? My brand spanking new book cover and synopsis on the HarperCollins UK website! I didn’t know it would be live online yet, considering I’d been asked to keep the cover under wraps.

Well, to say I was stunned would be an understatement. I’d have to grab my thesaurus and say I was staggered, shocked, confounded, dazed, amazed and stupified. Or to use Aussie slang talk, I was a stunned mullet. Strewth! But at the same time I was thinking…you little ripper!

Seeing my gorgeous book cover and MY NAME listed under ‘Authors’ on the HarperCollins site is basically a dream come true. I’ve been writing fiction seriously (as serious as I can be, anyway) for about three years, but it’s been a dream of mine to write a novel for many years before that. I’d say it harks back to when I was in Grade 2, when I wrote a story about time travel, dinosaurs, centaurs and a princess. Hmmm, I may have to revive that story idea.

And the other amazing shock…on the first day of pre-orders on Kobo, my book somehow made it up to number 3 on the Contemporary Women bestseller list! Check out my book, hob-nobbing with JoJo Moyes and Danielle Steel!

Kobo rank screenshot 18 April 2016

Screenshot of Girl on a Plane at number 3 on the Kobo Contemporary Women bestseller list, 18 April 2016.

I can’t wait to see how the book goes on Amazon and other sites. Exciting times!

Prepare for take-off graphic

Winner – We Heart New Talent contest and book launch madness!

carina logoPrintRGB-HarperImpulse-3

In 2015, Avon Maze, Harper Impulse and Carina UK ran a joint global writing contest to search for new romance writing talent. I entered the We Heart New Talent contest in February 2015 and now, my debut novel Girl on a Plane is being released globally as an e-book today, 18 July2015.

Woo-hoo! It’s been an exciting few months since I WON the We Heart New Talent contest run by HarperCollins UK. A few months later, I was offered a publishing contract with the digital-first imprint, Avon Maze.

Let me just backtrack a little… I entered a contest in February 2015 and after almost 18 months of gestation, my book-baby is born! How amazing is that? I’ll tell you what, it’s totally amazing to me, and I wrote the book.

How did I get here?

As a new-ish romance writer – I’ve been writing fiction seriously for nearly three years now – I’ve been lucky enough to participate in some fantastic writing workshops and events such as the Romance Writers of Australia conferences. These have been valuable learning and networking opportunities that were pure gold in terms of giving me direction in my writing career. I also absorbed writing articles and blogs almost by osmosis, subscribing to all sorts of feeds.

The first novel I attempted to write, I drafted in three months. Probably complete rubbish, if I look back on it now (I don’t want to, and you can’t make me). But the next story started as a 10,000 word short story or novelette, which I re-worked and then added words, until finally it became a full length contemporary romance novel. That’s the one that finally became Girl on a Plane.

I entered a lot of writing contests. I mean, a lot. Fifteen or sixteen contests in about two years, which is pretty exhausting-sounding if I think about it. So I try not to think about it. But the reality was, those contests were a training ground for me as a writer. I learned how to write a ‘hook’, a blurb, an interesting first sentence, how to format a manuscript and how to write a synopsis (sort of – I still don’t want to write one and you can’t make me). And I received pages and pages of notes from more experienced authors, which were amazing feedback.

My big break was entering and WINNING the We Heart New Talent contest run by HarperCollins UK in 2015. Several months after entering, I received an email from an editor from HarperCollins in London which was an OMG moment… followed by many months of re-writing and eventually going through the editorial process.

The team at Avon Maze also produced a sensational book cover. It’s so graphic, it stands out well branding-wise on Amazon and everywhere online. Which brings us to the marketing side of the equation.

Promo Central – welcome to your destination!

Once I signed my book contract (SQUEE!), I soon realised the importance of planning and building my marketing promotions online. As a new digital-first author, online content and social media interaction are vital for building your profile. Promo Central seems to be my new address! I don’t mind, in fact I enjoy the promotional side of the publishing cycle, from what I’ve experienced so far.

I’ve had a bit of fun playing around with promo graphics in Canva and also commissioned an awesome teaser trailer video from Trailermade Production. Check it out:


Release day articles and blogs

I’ve also had some fabulous promotional opportunities that I’d love to share with you all again – if you haven’t already stopped by my Facebook and Twitter profiles.

AusRom Today – Tell Us Your Backstory feature

Australian Romance Readers Association (ARRA) release day blog

Melbourne Romance Writers Guild blog – Fun In the Sun or Grey Clouds on the Horizon?

Where to next?

I’ll be continuing the book promotion, blog writing, and maybe get some actual fresh-words down on paper for my next book! Yes, that’s right, somewhere in between all the exciting pre-release madness, I’ve managed to write another almost complete novel. It’s going to need a lot of editing though, so once I have my debut book-honeymoon love-goggles off and I can think clearly again, I’ll crack on with editing the new one.

I’ll probably write some short stories or novellas too, since I have a few more ideas bubbling away in the background. Exciting times!

Girl on a Plane has now taken off — go to my Books page for all buy links!

Cassandra’s words version 1.0

cassandra-oleary-aboutMy name is Cassandra O’Leary. Charmed, I’m sure. I am a writer, reader, Melbourne girl, professional communications specialist and a postmodern mummy. If that makes me sound busy, it’s because I am. Got to keep all those balls in the air… If 2013 has been an amazing and challenging year, then I expect 2014 to be more so. More everything.

In 2013 I met a long term challenge to myself to write a novel. Not only did I achieve that goal, but I rediscovered a love of words and writing fiction for the love of it. I entered the global So You Think You Can Write competition run by Harlequin Books. Although my romance novel wasn’t selected as a finalist, I had so much fun with it that I plugged on and actually was selected for an online pitch to an editor in New York. Not bad for a first attempt I reckon! In fact, I am about halfway through writing my second novel.

Will Cassandra’s words ever be published? I would have to possess the foresight of the Cassandra of myth to know the answer. But one thing I can tell you, just quietly, it’s going to be an adventure. I’m going to keep up the challenges to spur myself on. So I guess the ending to this beginning is just a request to read and enjoy my words in this space for mind dumps and random ramblings.

Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014

Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014

The Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014 encourages readers and reviewers to discover more books by Australian women. I have decided to take-up the challenge and focus on reading a range of romance and contemporary fiction by Australian women.

AWW 2014 badge

Australian Women Writers 2014

Although in 2013 I was not officially signed-up for the challenge, I discovered a group of wonderful writers (new to me) including Rachel Johns, Amy Andrews, Helene Young, Kylie Ladd and Ally Blake. In 2014, I will aim to read and review at least ten books as part of the challenge. #aww2014

Romance reading binge: it’s not fattening

I can feel myself falling into the abyss again. No, no need for alarm, it’s not an emergency (although I do have a penchant for emergency services type uniforms on tall, dark and handsome young men). I have just fallen into a romance reading binge once again. As per the title, it’s not fattening, so why not?

I started the year by reading Easy by Tammara Webber. This was a touching, young adult read about a college student and the dating scene that can sometimes be fraught with danger. The college student world that the author depicted was quite realistic, down to the detail of kegger parties and consuming copious amounts of coffee to stay awake for early lectures. But without revealing a spoiler, the heroine learns a few tough lessons about trusting so-called friends and falling into relationships based on what is easy, rather than right. Highly recommended reading.

I’ve also been reading a couple of Australian women authors, in preparation for the 2014 Australian Women Writers challenge. I’ll work on writing a couple of reviews in the next few weeks.

Then on a visit to Big W today I decided to buy myself a little present. The romance shelf was calling me with her siren song…buy me, buy me. I can’t wait to get started soon. Harlequin Mills & Boon, what fun. Ally Blake is a great Aussie author too.


Yes, I’m Tempted to Write

Today is deadline day. For the last two weeks I’ve been writing like some sort of romance-ninja hepped up on caffeine as part of the #TemptedToWrite short story competition run by Mills & Boon (Harlequin Books). This competition presented a challenge and I’d already decided to try to challenge myself with my writing this year. So I jumped in and got started. 10 questions, 10 days, 10,000 words. The competition ran from January to early February, in the lead up to Valentine’s Day. I could do that, sure I could. Hmmm.


It had been many years since I’d written a short story and once I got started, of course I found the experience quite different than writing my two unpublished novels. I’m very much a novice at the plotting and scheming side of fiction writing. I’ve discovered that I’m a ‘pantser’ i.e. I like to write by the seat of my pants. Usually, a bright and shiny new idea will come to me while I’m doing something mundane like brushing my teeth and then I try to work out if the story has legs.


Anyway, I soon discovered that the short story form presents some challenges, especially in the romance genre. Could my two characters really fall in love in only 10,000 words? I hoped I could convey some meaningful interaction between them and of course some heat (otherwise known as sexy times) in the course of a short story. I hope I’ve succeeded. In any case, it was a really great exercise for me as a writer, to answer so many questions about the characters, their motivations and what they would do in various situations, before I actually started to write the first scene. I don’t know that I will ever be a hardcore ‘plotter’ but this competition has helped me to find a happy medium and to think about key scenes and story length.


I also loved the social media aspect of this competition, forming an online community of like-minded (aspiring) romance authors. Much of the competition was run via Facebook and Twitter.



The #TemptedToWrite competition run by Mills & Boon.

It’s been a real pleasure to virtually chat to the other participants, have a laugh and share each other’s pain in editing. I hope everyone else in the competition enjoyed it as much as I did.

I’m thinking of posting a snippet of my story on this blog soon. In the meantime though, I just wanted to rant a little and also say thanks to Mills & Boon for running such a great competition for aspiring authors. Bravo!

Heart shaped bookcase image

10 ways e-books have changed my relationship with reading, for better or worse

This topic has been on my mind lately, as I have read lots of articles and blogs about e-books and changes in traditional publishing. Some of these writers have been all doom and gloom, predicting the end of authors’ livelihoods, printed books and possibly the world as we know it.


In my own very unscientific study of one person (me) I’ve noticed my reading habits changing. I was given an Android tablet as a birthday present two years ago by my spunky husband. As an avid reader, he thought I’d enjoy being able to download and read books on the device.

It actually took me a while to get going. Although I know a few bits and bobs about websites and had also been a fan of online shopping for a few years, I found I had a bit to learn. Where to buy e-books, how to download them, what viewers or software I needed and how to view them best using my tablet. But since then, I’ve become something of an e-book addict.

It might be fitting to describe my relationship or love affair with e-books in terms of a marriage contract. Stick with me, this is going somewhere (I promise).

So, without further ado, here’s my list of the ten ways e-books have changed my relationship with reading:

1. Love. I love reading and read more books than ever before.

I’ve always loved books and reading. This hasn’t changed. Instead of buying a new paperback novel roughly once a week, I now buy several e-books a week. I don’t always have time to read all the books I’d like to, but that’s another story. So I’d estimate the total number of books I read has doubled, from approximately 50 to 100 in a year.

2. Honour. I now interact with authors who I admire and browse more books.

In this brave new world of social media and interactive forums, I’ve made contact with many authors. I love to honour the work and imagination of authors who I admire and let them know how much I enjoy their work.

Being a mother of young children and also working, I have limited time to wander through physical bookshops. Instead, I’ve discovered the pleasure to be had wandering through virtual bookstores, reading reviews and creating an online to be read (TBR) list. I often find the books I’ve enjoyed reading and then look-up an author’s complete backlist. This is much easier to do online than in a traditional bookshop. Also, I can browse anytime of the day or night.

3. Obey. Rather, I will NOT obey old-fashioned book reviewers.

I regularly read online reviews and recommendations, often by fellow readers. But I will not blindly obey whatever a professional book reviewer recommends I read. Book reviews in the past were always a bit hit and miss for me. I always found reviewers in the big newspapers could be relied on to elicit a groan. Did every book I read really need to be viewed as a potential literary classic or change my life? Could I not just read something light-hearted and entertaining? I noticed that a lot of the books I enjoyed most would not even rate a lot of reviews. Romance, science fiction, comedy, apparently these were not worthy of reviewers’ time.

The rise of independent book bloggers and humble readers like myself, willing to express their own opinions via the internet has changed all that. Not everyone likes this, but I do. I think there is room for many different voices in book reviewing and different ways to appreciate books. Fan-girling included.

4. To have and to hold. Do I need a physical book to hold?

I love books. I mean, as objects. I have two large bookshelves full of them and would probably buy more if I could physically store them. I love looking at book covers and flipping through the pages. But especially for new books or authors, I find e-books a great way to read. They are also fantastic for holidays or commuting. I can load up five e-books on my tablet without adding extra weight to my handbag or suitcase. Books I love and want to keep forever? Sure, I’ll buy a hardcopy too.

5. For richer or poorer. What price e-book happiness?

I now sample more books from new authors or those I’ve never read. This is partly a price consideration. I was always reluctant to spend $20 to $30 on a new hardcover or paperback book from an author who I’d never read, let alone buy a series. But when the price is lower, say between 99 cents and $8, I’m much more willing to give something new a try.

6. In sickness. Even if I’m feeling too busy or exhausted to read a book, I’ll pick up an e-book.

I’m not sure why this is true. Maybe when I’m tired I feel too daunted to pick-up a ‘fat’ book and start reading. An e-book seems more accessible sometimes. Also, I now read shorter, more contained books or books in series. Sometimes I do feel a bit of eye strain from too much screen-time, so shorter e-books are becoming my preference.

7. In health. Is it a good book? Did it make me smile or cry?

A healthy book to me, is one that leaves me feeling. All the feels. Smiles, laughter, tears or just phew, that was smokin’ hot! I post reviews and ratings of the books I’ve read and enjoyed or simply share the links on Facebook and Twitter. I don’t want to be indifferent to a book.

8. As long as we both shall live? Maybe until we separate.

These days, I am less likely to keep reading a book that hasn’t grabbed me from the beginning, or with characters I dislike.

I also make quicker decisions about books I might buy, maybe based on online recommendations. Then I often click-through to an e-book store to check the full details. There is an immediacy about e-book buying that makes it a bit of a spur of the moment decision.

9. I now pronounce you e-book and reader. Maybe a reader with multiple paramours.

I usually have a selection of e-books ready to go, then pick and choose which one to dive in to, depending on my mood. It may be a committed, long-term relationship, a brief affair, or I have been known to share the love around by dipping in and out of several e-books at a time.

10. You may now kiss your e-book. Or not.

I don’t get up close and personal with my books or read e-books in the bath! This probably applies to romance books more than others, but I’m not going there.

As I said, this is all very unscientific, top of mind stuff. Call me a rebel, but that’s just the way I roll. But I’d love to hear what other readers and writers think. Have e-books changed the way you read and was it for better or worse?

If you feel inspired, please leave a comment or feel free to pick up the conversation on Facebook or Twitter.