Banging out the words and writing like a pro

So it’s been a while since my last post. Because reasons. Life. Kids. Work. Winter. I mean, blergh, I’ve succumbed to quite a few germs lately. But in between all of that, I’ve been working on a couple of projects that I’m quietly excited about. Yay! Maybe not so quiet.

Image of heart shaped bookcase

Romance books – love writing them like a crazy person

First, I’ve written a short story of about 9000 words that should be published in a couple of months’ time in an anthology. More news on this development very soon. And a cover reveal coming. Squee!

The other project is a full-length novel that I’ve almost completed drafting. It’s a contemporary romance with humour. I recently entered the first three chapters of this manuscript in the Valerie Parv Award, a well regarded contest for unpublished writers of romance fiction run by Romance Writers of Australia. The competition was fierce, but I was thrilled to receive not one, but two perfect scores from the judges and another score in the 90 per cents… Not bad, and eighth place was better than a kick in the pants.

I’ve been busily writing away, adding words, completing scenes, bringing the plot together in some sane order (I hope) and it’s been such fun. I’m enjoying this project so much. Hopefully, I might find a publisher who enjoys it too.

More news coming very soon. I promise. Really.

Sweet and Spicy and all things nicey…

Cover reveal

I’m very excited to be able to share a cover design! This is the gorgeous cover for the upcoming Sweet and Spicy anthology being published by the Melbourne Romance Writers Guild to celebrate its 25th anniversary. And my short story, Chocolate Truffle Kiss, will be included. Yay!

Without further ado, here’s the cover:

Sweet and Spicy romance anthology cover image.

Sweet and Spicy romance anthology cover design. To be released by the Melbourne Romance Writers Guild in November 2015

To read more about this anthology, go to the Melbourne Romance Writers Guild blog. More details will be coming soon.

Finalist in the Lone Star contest! Yee-ha!

I’ve been sitting on this news for a week, so I’m super-pleased to announce that I’m a 2015 finalist in the Lone Star writing contest, run by the Northwest Houston Romance Writers of America. That’s my name in the Contemporary Series category.

Yee-ha! Since it’s a Texas contest, let’s throw our cowboy hats in the air to celebrate.

Image of cowboy hat in the air

Yee-ha! Cowboy hat in the air.

Now I can finally breathe out. At least until the winner is due to be announced in a few weeks at the Lone Star conference. Then I’ll probably be hyperventilating on this side of the world via Facebook. No, just kidding. I’ll be away for the weekend at a holiday house by the beach with barely any internet connection. BITING MY NAILS.

You know that feeling when you’re buzzing with energy but your brain is so scatty you can’t concentrate on anything? That’s what I’ve been dealing with lately. I’ve actually been trying to edit two separate pieces of writing so it’s been a bit difficult.

But it’s been a fantastic experience to enter a US contest and find that the story I’ve been working on is well-received by reader-judges in America. Their comments have been insightful and helpful, especially as I’m still editing.

My almost complete manuscript, Dating Little Miss Perfect, was the piece I entered in this contest. It’s a fun story about Eden, a research scientist and Brandon, a marketing manager at a big pharmaceutical company in San Diego, California. They are competitors by day, and anonymous online dating partners by night. But what happens when Brandon finds out it’s Eden he’s been chatting to? You’ll just have to wait until it’s published to find out!

In the meantime, here’s my Dating Little Miss Perfect inspiration board on Pinterest if you want to see some pretty images (especially the images of my current hero muse, actor Jensen Ackles from Supernatural) and general story ideas.

By the way, I still have some other exciting writing news that’s burning a hole in my brain, but that news will have to wait until another day. Don’t you just love a cliffhanger?

I’m calling it – as of 10 November 2015, I’m officially a published author. It’s just over two years since I got serious about fiction writing and now one of my story babies is out in the world. Hopefully, this will be the first of many book-aversaries.

Sweet and Spicy romance anthology. Cover design by Jay Aheer.

I’m so excited that the Sweet and Spicy anthology from my fabulous writing group, the Melbourne Romance Writers Guild, is now live and available to purchase from a variety of e-book retailers. This collection of romance and love stories is a celebration of the MRWG’s 25th anniversary, and includes my first published long-ish 9,000 word short story, Chocolate Truffle Kiss.

The MRWG took on this project a few months ago, creating short stories from scratch, critiquing and editing, undertaking a cover design process and developing a promotional plan. All in all, it’s been a fantastic learning opportunity for the whole group, getting the chance to be indie published to professional standard.

Chocolate and coffee fuelled inspiration

My story, Chocolate Truffle Kiss, is a romantic comedy, inspired by my home city of Melbourne and the art of people watching, which I enjoy when out and about in cafés, restaurants and around town. As fellow Melbournites know, food and drink is a serious business to us.

Coffee and chocolate are a couple of the hot button topics for Melbourne foodies, and someone’s favourite café can be a definitive make-or-break in the friendship stakes. Overheard snippets of conversation in the city might go something like this:

She likes Gloria Jeans and Starbucks…whaaat?? I’m more a Degraves Street and Market Lane kind of girl.

So, when a story idea on this theme popped into my head when I was jotting down notes in a café one day, I knew I had to write it. Here’s the full blurb:

A writer, Beth, comes into her favourite café every day for her coffee and a chocolate truffle fix, a decadent treat that fuels her creativity. But what really keeps her coming back, day after day, is the delicious looking man behind the counter. The barista, Samuel. Could he be watching and wanting her too?

There may be some postmodern self-reflexive references going on here, but just so you know, I’ve never fallen in love with a hot barista. Aww. Never mind, I have a spunky hubby at home who just happens to be a whiz with our espresso machine and is an excellent cook. As I love to drink coffee and eat delicious treats, it’s true love!

If you need more mood-setting, have a look at my Pinterest board for the story or read an excerpt on my Writing page. There’s lots of Melbourne-ish goodness, plus my inspiration pics for the hero, Samuel, are kind of nice eye candy. Ahem.

I hope I’ve encouraged you to try a taste of romance, and not just made you hungry.

Read more about the Sweet and Spicy anthology and the other great authors in our group, and find the ‘buy now’ links on the Melbourne Romance Writers Guild website or see my Home page.

Confessions of a writing contest junkie

This blog post was originally published on the Melbourne Romance Writers Guild site on 14th February 2016. However it has nothing to do with Valentine’s Day. Did I plan that badly? Sigh…

I’ve been entering writing contests for just over two years. I did the maths in my head and realised in that time, I’ve entered about 15 contests. I know I may have a minor writing contest addiction problem.

What’s a writing contest?

This is what my family and friends asked me when I first entered one in mid-2013. I hardly knew the answer at the time, having just decided to get serious about creative writing for the first time in (mumble, mumble) years.

For the uninitiated, writing contests are run by publishers and writing organisations such as Romance Writers of Australia and offer the opportunity to:

  • win a prize, sometimes cash, often a publishing contract
  • gain feedback from fellow writers or editors
  • develop your writing, working to specific guidelines
  • finish something, in time for a contest deadline
  • grow your network of writer contacts
  • avoid the ‘slush pile’ of unsolicited manuscripts
  • get your work ‘out there’ in front of key editors, agents and publishers.

Romance novel contest leads to madness…

My little problem started in 2013 when I joined Twitter and started following authors I admired, then a few publishers. I stumbled across a little thing called So You Think You Can Write or #sytycw in Twitter hashtag speak. This is a global writing contest run by Harlequin, one of the biggest romance publishers in the world. A publishing contract was on offer for the winner, but not only that, a squad of fifty editors were on hand to provide tips and feedback.

I asked myself, “Could I write a romance novel?” and despite never having tried before, I answered, “Why the hell not?” I started to write, and I loved it. Was it mad to try to write my first novel in three months? Of course it was, but I’m so glad I did it.

This contest taught me so much about writing, it’s not even funny. I participated in online ‘boot camp’ activities such as writing a 100 word pitch and a synopsis, having work critiqued by other aspiring writers. I was also selected for a first page critique by an editor, which was so valuable it should have been sprinkled with gold dust.

I also had barrels of fun interacting with the other entrants on Twitter and Facebook, and made heaps of writer friends. Some of them formed the core of an international online writing group I still hang out with.

Twitter pitch opportunities

Twitter pitch contests such as PitMad (Pitch Madness) or #pitmad hosted by author Brenda Drake, offer writers the chance to pitch their book in 140 characters or less. Try it! It’s really hard and will make you crazy! Editors/publishers and agents watch the tweets over the course of a day and favourite the ones they’re interested in. Then writers can send it manuscripts or queries in the requested format. Warning: this contest can be really fun and addictive!

Also, look out for regular Manuscript Wishlist or #mswl tweets and other specific calls for manuscripts.

Publisher ‘open call’ contests

Publisher contests offer the chance to post a pitch or blurb relevant to a particular call for submissions. Some examples are the Entangled Publishing blog wishlists or the recent Tule Publishing ‘Pillow Talk’ contest for the new Eros imprint.

The Harlequin Community runs regular writing challenges and series contests e.g. the recent ‘Blaze Blitz’. I know several writers who have fast-tracked their way into book contracts through these types of smaller, more specific contests.

So, follow publishers on Facebook and Twitter, subscribe to their blog pages and keep an eye out for those opportunities. Get to it!

Romance Writers of Australia contests

I was recently chatting to some other emerging authors and realised that the Romance Writers of Australia contests are probably the most helpful thing I’ve done to improve my writing. I started with the First Kiss contest (and was a finalist!) then entered the Valerie Parv Award twice, not making the finals but doing pretty well, also the Emerald Award and Ripping Start were good learning experiences.

I haven’t entered any of the published author contests…yet. I can’t wait until I can.

International romance writing contests

Last year I entered (and came third!) in the Lone Star contest, run by Northwest Houston Romance Writers of America.

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My Lone Star contest 2015 finalist badge – any excuse to re-blog about this!

Most of the US state-based chapters of RWA run contests, many open internationally. The Golden Heart is the big contest for unpublished authors with a full manuscript ready to go.

In return for a small entry fee, you gain feedback from authors more familiar with the US market, your specific sub-genre or simply offer a different perspective. You might not always agree with the feedback but it can be an eye-opener. For example, if that anonymous US judge is reading this, I still don’t agree that ‘British’ English is wrong or distracting…

See the Romance Writers of America website for details or check websites such as Stephie Smith’s writing contest list for contests coming up across multiple genres.

What I’ve learned as a contest junkie

  • They’re fun! The online contests especially have a sense of community and excitement.
  • They offer great insights into your work. You might have to sit back and mull over some of the feedback for a while, or even rant a little if it’s negative, but it’s all a learning experience.
  • They don’t hurt. I was slightly terrified of entering a US contest. I thought, small fish, big pond, they’re going to hate me and I’ll do terribly badly. I was wrong.
  • They give you something to shoot for. A deadline, a goal, a reason to think of a new idea, all of these reasons are gold.
  • They could raise your profile. If you’re working away in your writing cave, getting ready to submit a manuscript, a writing contest credit on your website or in your query letter may help you get noticed (I’m hoping).

As I wait patiently (crazily) to announce something related to another international writing contest, I’m toying with entering (you guessed it!) another writing contest.

It’s the circle of life for a writing contest junkie.

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10 real answers to the question: How is the writing going?

One of the most common things people ask if you’ve ‘come out’ as an aspiring writer, is “How is the writing going?” They are generally trying to be friendly or chatty, I understand. Really, I do.

So why is it that sometimes it feels like that question is prying, trying to access the murky depths of wobbly writerly weirdness that is the mind? Or my mind, at least. I only ask because I’ve been asked the question about eleventy billion times.

The polite and reasonable answer is, “Good!”–even if it’s not entirely true. Even the most polite questioners usually have no idea of receiving an honest answer. But I’m going to attempt it now. Are you ready? Good.

Here’s my list of ten possible real answers to the question about how my writing is going.

10 real answers to the pesky writing question (instead of “Good!”)

  1. I’m writing like an absolute machine. Seriously, it reads like a robot has written it.
  2. I’m up to draft number seven and I’m not sure of the main character’s name yet. She won’t ‘speak’ to me. I think she hates me.
  3. There’s some sort of theme underlying all the references to cupcakes and coffee in my manuscript, but I can’t work it out. I’ll just go for a coffee break…and maybe buy a cupcake.
  4. My kids are demanding things like food and clean clothes and that I actually respond to them when they speak. How is a writer supposed to concentrate in such circumstances, let alone write a sexy scene? (Secret tip: ABC for Kids is awesome)
  5. Well, let’s see. I have a half written scene open on my laptop, which I stare at and then read some Facebook posts. Then I look up exotic locations on Google Maps and imagine my characters there. Then I close the laptop.
  6. It’s all flowing at the moment, it’s like magic. Don’t talk about it or you might jinx it.
  7. There’s this half-written manuscript on my laptop that’s annoying me, because I just realised where the bad guy’s drugs are hidden. I haven’t been working on the story for over a year, and I have another manuscript to finish right now. Weird.
  8. I wrote for two hours and I think I have one good sentence. That’s okay, I’m counting that as winning.
  9. Coffee. I need coffee. Someone bring me coffee.
  10. I think this is alright. I just read over the earlier chapters and they are even interesting. Kind of. A bit of editing and it should polish up nicely.

AAAARRRRGGGH! Editing! Don’t even talk about it.

Oh, and one more bonus answer before I go.

11) I’m scared to open my manuscript right now. I wrote a blog post instead.

Image courtesy of tigger11th at