Author Archives: Sandy

Guess whose shoes?

Had a fantastic time at the Romance Writers of Australia Conference. It was lovely to catch up with old friends and make new ones and find out what the writing industry is up to from the viewpoints of publishers, editors, agents, and just as importantly, authors.

I took some happy snaps at the Friday night cocktail party, but strangely, most of these came out with a very pink tinge. I was beginning to think it was some magical RWA magic until I went into the foyer and took a couple more happy pics. Some of these are on my facebook page, including this one:

Now, who do you think would own these delightful items of footwear? Here are the damsels whose only distress was knowing that the party was over and they had to go back to their rooms. Or out to dinner. Or to the bar …

Yes, it’s Sarah Wendell of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books fame, fabulous author and Conference Convenor Shannon Curtis (no relation, I promise), and NY Times bestselling author Cherry Adair.

Here is Shannon in her Conference Convenor/Crisis Warden/is-everything-in-this-cocktail-party-really-pink? mode:

Shannon Curtis in crisis mode.

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Welcome to Maggie Christensen

Australian author Maggie Christensen joins me today.

Congratulations on the release of Band of Gold, Maggie. Was there something in particular that inspired you to write this story?

Thanks, Sandy. A number of years ago I heard a story of someone who placed his wedding ring on the table on Christmas morning. It stuck in my mind and when I started wondering what might happen afterwards. Anna and Marcus appeared and Anna’s story began to take shape.

What did you find were the advantages and disadvantages of writing in first person and present tense?

It wasn’t really a choice. Anna’s voice came to me as soon as I began to write. I think the advantage was that it was easy to see the story though her eyes, and I didn’t have to worry about changing POV. As I was writing, I really stepped into Anna’s shoes, and the present tense made it more immediate. I guess the disadvantage was that everything was from Anna’s perspective, so there was no opportunity to see events form anyone else’s point of view. I have to say that, although I don’t normally write first person present tense, I really enjoyed it.

What did you like most about writing Band of Gold?

I enjoyed my characters. The story flowed well for me, and I think I fell a little bit in love with Marcus. I particularly enjoyed using familiar settings. Manly Beach was the first beach I visited in Australia when I lived for several years in Sydney, and I now live close to beautiful Peregian Beach.

Do you find your readers come from all age groups, or, because your books deal with mature-aged heroines, your readers tend to be in that age group?

When I began writing about women in their prime (I love this phrase), I thought I was targeting older readers – baby boomers. However I’m finding that my readers do come from all age groups. I guess women experience marriage and career crises at all ages, so the situations my protagonists find themselves in are easy to relate to.

Do you think there is an advantage to having background knowledge of two locations, i.e., Australia and Oregon in the US, and how helpful has this been in writing The Sand Dollar?

Definitely! I would never have contemplated Oregon as a setting if I hadn’t spent time there, and I don’t expect I’d be writing about Australia if I didn’t live here. I find that when I write, it’s as if I’m actually in the setting. For example, my current work, The Dreamcatcher, is set in Oregon, and I spend my days there when I’m writing.

What do you envisage writing in the future?

I’m presently writing what will most likely be book 3 in my Oregon Coast series. It picks up Ellen from The Sand Dollar and tells her story. Book 2 stalled part way through so I plan to go back to that one, which tells the story of Rosa, also from The Sand Dollar, and set in the Sunshine Coast in Australia.

Also, although I wrote Band of Gold as a stand-alone book, Anna’s sister Jan has started telling me her story too, so that book is also in the cards. Plus a few more ideas which are still in their infancy.

I intend to keep writing books with mature protagonists, as these are the ones I can relate best to.

That’s great, Maggie. I know what it’s like to have characters start to tell you their story. I’m sure a lot of people think writers are a bit cracked when we say we hear voices in our head, but our characters become like real people to us, don’t they.

Here’s the blurb for Maggie’s book, and an excerpt:

Band of Gold deals with the tricky topic of new romance after a failed marriage.

Anna Hollis is a forty-seven year old schoolteacher living in Sydney. She juggles her busy life with a daughter in the throes of first love, and increasingly demanding aging parents.

Anna’s world collapses when her husband of twenty-five years leaves her on Christmas morning. She makes it through the family festivities, explaining his absence with a flimsy excuse, but later breaks down on a Sydney beach where a stranger comes to her aid.

Marcus King has returned to Australia from the USA, leaving behind a broken marriage and a young son; through their mutual hurt and loneliness, a fragile friendship is formed when he takes up the position of Headmaster at Anna’s school.

Written in first person, present tense the author slips the reader into Anna’s shoes as she struggles to leave the past behind and learns to trust again. Can Marcus be a part of her future?

Excerpt

‘I don’t want to be married anymore.’

The band of gold, symbol of our twenty-five years of marriage lies on the table between us. I am stupefied, unable to speak. Tears prick my eyes as my first coffee of the day grows cold beside me. The sun is shining brightly through the kitchen window. The turkey is sitting on the kitchen bench waiting to be cooked. My parents, daughter, brother and sister, along with her husband and children are due to arrive in five hours’ time. The house is redolent with the scent of pine needles and Christmas pudding. It’s Christmas morning and my world has collapsed.

‘What do you mean?’ I finally utter, thinking this must be Sean’s idea of a bad joke. My mouth goes dry. My head begins to spin. The bottom has dropped out of my world. I look over at the man I have loved for over twenty-five years, his bushy greying blonde hair, his ruddy cleanshaven cheeks. He looks no different from any other morning. He’s wearing the bright yellow tee shirt we bought on our holiday in Bali last year. His steely blue eyes meet mine. This isn’t happening.

‘I can’t do this anymore, Anna.’ His waving arms take in the kitchen including me, ‘All this; family, house, job. I need to get away.’ He pushes his chair back from the table and strides out of the kitchen. I sit there in a daze, my mind going round in circles. Is it too late to call off Christmas lunch? How can I even think of such a thing? Does Sean mean he’s going to leave right now? How will I explain his absence? God, this is really going to be the Christmas from Hell.


Look for Band of Gold at:

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1owK2w6

Barnes &Noble: http://bit.ly/1sZmp2

The Book Depository: http://bit.ly/1nbUiHf

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/maggiechristensenauthor

Website:  http://maggiechristensenauthor.com/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8120020.Maggie_Christensen

 

Thank you, Maggie, for being such a lovely guest. I look forward to seeing The Sand Dollar and The Dreamcatcher available in the near future.

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tweeting – or should that be twittering?

I was asked by the lovely Wendy Davis, administrator of the @WeBundaberg twitter site if I would be a guest tweeter/twitterer for this week. I agreed, and so needed a quick instructional course on how to send a tweet etc without causing havoc. Thank heavens my daughter-in-law, author Cheryse Durrant, is a big twitter fan and although I already had a twitter account and tweeted occasionally, I felt I needed more knowledge.

By the way, check out Cheryse’s website to see how to win an exquisite, one-of-a-kind necklace and heart bracelet.

Although I didn’t choose to live in Bundaberg – my husband was transferred here many years ago – I love the place, particularly the coastal areas. I’m a water baby – love the ocean in all its changing moods. Today it’s like glass and so clear and clean I’m sure I would be able to see right to the bottom if I swam out 100m. When we lived in town I would go for walks in the cemetery near where we lived and loved watching the fantastic sunsets and reading the headstones. The saddest area was the graves of the children who died in the diptheria epidemic, and the old section revealed tragedies and heartbreak like that of one woman whose five children died within two to five months of being born. In those days there was no way to find genetic problems that today would be diagnosed fairly easily. I was saddened to think of her grief as each successive child succumbed to a disease or disorder that today might be preventable.

Now we live on the coast just outside Bundy and it’s a fabulous strip of coastline from Burnett Heads in the north to Elliot Heads in the south. Mon Repos has the largest concentration of nesting marine turtles on the eastern Australian mainland and it’s wonderful to see these ancient creatures lumber ashore and laboriously dig their nests. I know the rangers will tell you that the turtles aren’t really crying, they are simply secreting water to wash the salt from their eyes, but I’ve given birth, I know what it’s like – they deserve to cry real tears :-)

A few days after I’d taken Sydney friends and our eldest grandson to see the turtles nesting, we went to Rifle Range Beach near where we live for a swim. It was 10.30am, and an outgoing tide, and what did we find? A turtle who’d come up on the wrong side of the bay where the high parts of the beach were only rocks and she was struggling to get to higher ground to dig her nest. Unfortunately it was impossible, and then she became stuck on a fallen tree branch. Several men lifted her free and turned her around to go back into the water. During several late afternoon walks we saw turtles laying their eggs but we haven’t been lucky enough to be there when hatchlings emerged. Maybe next year.

Rifle Range Beach

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Who’s tagging whom?

The lovely Kaz Delaney was a victim, and when she cried out for other victims, of course we all put our hands up like sheep happy to be led to the shearing shed on a Outback summer’s day. Or maybe a Melbourne heat wave. Authors are like that – happy to blog about their writing and other author’s books and when we get ‘tagged’ there’s rarely a word of protest.

Amanda Ashby tagged me. Amanda is the delightfully zany author of YA books like Demonosity and Fairy Bad Day. Amanda was born in Australia and after spending the last sixteen years dividing her time between England and New Zealand, she’s finally moved back and now lives on the Sunshine Coast.

She has a degree in English and Journalism from the University of Queensland and is married with two children. Her debut book, You Hand Me at Halo, was nominated for a Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice award, and her first young adult book, Zombie Queen of Newbury High, was listed by the New York Public Library’s Stuff for the Teen Age 2010. Her latest release, Fairy Bad Day, has been selected by Voya as one of their Top Shelf Fiction for Middle School Readers 2012 and was a SCBWI Crystal Kite Award finalist for the Australia/NZ region.

So thanks, Amanda, for the tag. Well, that was my initial reaction when asked, but then I had to think about my answers to the four questions in the tag and I nearly rescinded my effusive gratitude (just kidding, Amanda, and yes, I am winking)

Q1 What am I working on?

I think my head must be in several different places lately, because I can’t decide if I should keep writing the next women’s fiction or the rural romance I started last month. The women’s fiction is the next book on from Murder, Mayhem and Menopause (which hasn’t found a publishing home as yet), and continues the lives of Ellie, Cass and Kandy, women in the prime of their lives (sounds better than mature-age protagonists, doesn’t it J) and their families and friends. I always like to give my work-in-progress a title, but Conceptions and Misconceptions, which is the working title of book two, doesn’t float my boat, even though it accurately describes some of the story.

The rural romance is still in the Chapter Two phase and is on hold while life intervenes.

Speaking of intervening, the edits on my seventh romantic thriller, Grievous Harm, have just landed in my in-box. Not too much to do, but I have to find/make the time. Not easy when I’m organising the Bundaberg writers festival, WriteFest, and helping some family members at the same time. Ah, well, you know what they say about asking a busy person…

My eighth romantic thriller is still in the embryonic stage, with my subconscious mind trying to cement the many scenarios I’ve thrown into the cauldron into something that resembles a cohesive plot.

“Cauldron” you ask? I’ve always thought a writer’s mind is a bit like Macbeth’s witches cauldron where all the ideas and snippets of information go and get stirred around and around and finally spill out and become a full story with living, breathing characters (well, they are that way to the writer, and hopefully to the reader).

Q2 How does my work differ from others in the genre?

I think all writers put their own stamp on the stories they write, and I think my stamp would be the pacing and tension. As one reviewer said, “It’s like reading Matthew Reilly with romance”. I prefer not to read books that take ages to get to the next plot or character turning point or wax lyrical about fashions or floor coverings or describe the scenery in minute detail as I’m a firm believer in what Graeme Green said – “character is plot”. So I like to read books that get right into the guts of characters and keep me interested in them, as well as having a great plot that hooks me.

Q3 Why do I write what I write?

See the answer to Q2. Okay, it’s not quite as simple as that. I grew up reading every book I could get my hands on, but the ones that really grabbed me were the action-adventure kind. I read every Alistair McLean, Jack Higgins, Robert Ludlum etc book, but I found it frustrating that the female characters had only minor roles, or if they were a main character they would inevitably come to a dire end and the hero would carry on without them. Ken Follett’s The Eye of the Needle was an exception, with a resourceful heroine, and I loved the Modesty Blaise novels. So I guess it was inevitable that when I gave in to my overwhelming compulsion to write, thrillers with great heroes and heroines who could match their courage and daring would be my choice of genre. And falling in love while facing all that danger was definitely the way to go.

Q4 How does my writing process work?

There’s a process? I’ve heard about it, and I’m sure it’s not a rumour because I have friends who have one, but no amount of trying has enabled me to master the “sit my backside on the office seat at a certain time and write to a certain time and then have lunch etc, etc.” scenario.

But wait, that’s a writing routine, isn’t it. A process … Well, I guess it’s that I’m always gathering ideas for plots and characters and locations every minute I’m awake. I try to write them down as soon as I can (yes, there’s a pad and pen beside my bed), and sometimes I write a basic outline of the plot. I fill in character sheets for my main characters and some minor ones. It’s a great way of getting to know them, particularly the part that addresses their family and childhood as we are a product of our environment as much as our genes. The character sheet also acts as a continuity check, especially if it’s for a minor character whose eyes were green in chapter two but by chapter ten I can’t remember if I’d changed them to blue or blue-green.

I’m one of those terrible writers who can’t seem to turn off their internal editor and when I start writing each day (or on those days when I can find the time) I re-read what I last wrote and tweak anything that needs it. I also can’t seem to keep writing if something needs fixing – I have to fix it. Anal, I know, but it also means that I do few re-writes before I give it to my beta readers.

Grammar, spelling, punctuation – can’t help myself, I was an English A+ and treasured my writing bible, the ABC of English Usage. One day I think I will go ballistic if I see another incorrect apostrophe – don’t people know the difference between possessive and plural? Ooops, there I go, being anal again …

And now to introduce the next three victims willing and enthusiastic authors who have been tagged and will be blogging next Monday:

Best-selling author Bronwen Evans grew up loving books. She has always indulged her love of storytelling and is constantly gobbling up movies, books, and theater. Is it any wonder she’s a proud romance writer? Evans is a two-time winner of the RomCon Readers’ Crown and has been nominated for an RT Reviewers’ Choice Award. She lives in Wellington, New Zealand.

 

Scott Baker is a film-maker who has recently returned from middle earth, working with Peter Jackson on his epic trilogy – ‘The Hobbit.’

From a young age, Scott was a storyteller, making up elaborate reasons why he wasn’t able to tidy his room when confronted by a sceptical mother. Scott moved from Yorkshire England to the blue mountains of NSW when he was three years old. He grew up learning martial arts, reading fantasy novels and watching movies at every opportunity. He spent his youth playing sports designing elaborate stories to shift the blame for anything that was done wrong onto his older brother.

He studied TV and film production at university, and worked as a consultant in the film industry before lecturing at the Australian National University in digital video. He moved to Canberra to train in the sport of Taekwondo with sights set on the 2004 Olympics, but injury would keep him out of the selections.

‘The Rule of Knowledge’ is Scott’s first novel. He is currently working on the development of two feature films and his second novel. He lives somewhere on the highway between Sydney and Canberra in a little red Hyundi Excel….

 

 

http://www.ruleofknowledge.com

 

 

 

 

 

Heather Garside grew up on a cattle property in Central Queensland and now lives with her husband on a beef and grain farm in the same area. She has two adult children.

She has previously published three historical romances and has helped to write and produce several compilations of short stories and local histories. The Cornstalk was a finalist in the 2008 Booksellers’ Best Award, Long Historical category, for romance books published in the USA. Her rural romance, Breakaway Creek, was a finalist in the QWC/Hachette Manuscript Development Program and is now published by Clan Destine Press.

She works part time at the local library, at home on the farm and helps produce a local monthly newsletter, amongst other voluntary activities.

http://www.heathergarside.com

http://heathergarside.wordpress.com/

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What’s acting got to do with it?

On the last (Sir) Michael Parkinson Show, he interviewed actor Sir Michael Caine and asked him for advice on acting and why he was so successful.

Michael Caine replied that the audience could tell if you were just saying your lines and then thinking about what you had to say next while you waited for the other person to say their lines. He said you had to listen to what the other actor was saying. “You must react to them,” he said.

This could be interpreted as being the same for writing. The author must be involved with the story and the characters to the extent that she/he reacts as her characters would as she writes. If she doesn’t feel what her characters are feeling, if she’s not gripped by the scene unfolding under her fingertips, then her story and her characters will not ring true and will not capture her reader’s interest.

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Australia Day

Australia Day 2013 should have been full of barbecues, picnics, thong-throwing competitions, and happy families celebrating their pride in their country while newer residents proudly took their citizenship oath. But Cyclone Oswald lashed Queensland’s coast, creating six tornadoes and the biggest flood in Bundaberg’s recorded history. Thousands of homes were inundated, thirteen washed away, never to be found, others teetering on holes created by the torrent. Businesses suffered devastating losses, caught by Nature’s intensity and the Burnett River breaking its banks. Boats were washed away, some completely disappearing, some found days later as broken hulks on the rocky shore, debris scattered like broken dreams.

The town was in shock. But as the water receded and help flowed in, Bundabergians created their own Mud Army and went to work helping those whose lives had been traumatised.

One year later, the town has mostly recovered. Some businesses never re-opened, some houses never re-built, some folks still fighting insurance companies and unable to return to their homes, but the ghost-town atmosphere that pervaded North Bundaberg in the months following the flood has been replaced by a thriving community spirit.

So this Australia Day I reflected on that wonderful Aussie spirit, that pride in a country of extremes, from tropical rainforests, snow-covered mountain ranges, vast Outback plains that seem to be either in drought or flood. We started as a penal colony of convicts and guards and evolved into explorers and farmers and graziers and nation-builders. But it wasn’t easy. This is a harsh and often unforgiving land, and it took guts to try to conquer it.

It’s those aspects of the Australian landscape and psyche that I’ve tried to capture in my books. I love this unique land of ours and want to share it with my readers. In Dance with the Devil the rugged Great Dividing Range became as huge an obstacle for Emma and Drew to conquer as the killer who held an innocent life in his hands. In Black Ice a hit-and-run on the Sunshine Coast and a mud slide in the Blue Mountains nearly meant the end for Kirri and Daniel. Deadly Tide was a favourite to write, set as it was on a trawler off Bundaberg’s coast. Putting Sam and Chayse in such a confined space gave lots of opportunities for sparks to fly, and some unusual dangerous situations, and researching beautiful Lady Musgrave Island was no hardship for this dedicated writer J

Until Death was more citified, encompassing Brisbane, Sydney and the Hunter Valley region where Libby and Connor had to cope with a natural disaster as deadly as the killers hunting them.

Dangerous Deception allowed me to indulge in more exotic locations such as Central Queensland’s Carnarvon Gorge before bringing Breeanna and Rogan back to Melbourne. But I couldn’t resist having them go via the Gold Coast hinterland in a daring escape that has them jumping off a mountain.

Ladder to Amphitheatre tunnel entrance at Carnarvon Gorge

The plot of Fatal Flaw only allowed me to take a slight deviation from Brisbane’s suburbs, Chinatown, and nearby Mount Glorious, but it’s Mark’s trip to the sapphire diggings outside Emerald that gives him a clue to who wants to kill Julie’s father.

Grievous Harm (to be released later this year), traverses a lot of New South Wales and Queensland, and depicts the harshness and grandeur of the Outback. This is the darkest of all my novels, and I hope readers can forgive me for what I put Kate and John through. They really deserve their HEA.

What I also strived to do was give my heroes and heroines the kind of courage our early settlers had to have in order to survive. They have to battle not only the highs and lows of falling in love, but danger in various guises and a land that can be as deadly as any determined killer.

We didn’t have prawns (shrimp) on the barbie this Australia Day, but lamb chops (after all, Australia was supposed to ride on the sheep’s back at one stage in our history), and I counted my blessings that I live in this wonderful country that gives me such fabulous settings in which to tell my stories, and planned my next research trips to those states and territories I haven’t yet written about.

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Quirky humour

It happened a while ago, but I thought I’d share with you. When I told my daughter that my sixth book was titled Fatal Flaw, she quickly came back with, “And I guess the sequel will be called Treacherous Tiles, … Continue reading

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Soooo long

When I looked at how long it had been since my last post, I realised just how quickly time passes and how hard it is to keep up with so many things in our lives. Sometimes I despair of ever catching up.

My eldest brother often forwards jokes, pictures, and other various emails and usually I have a laugh and sometimes feel sad if they are heart-rending, but tonight he sent one with a lot of pictures. One of those pictures showed a huge block of concrete in a forest, possibly part of a bunker from World War II. A seed must have fallen on a small crack in the concrete and sprouted, because a tree was growing from the top of the concrete, its roots following the crack to the ground. I was struck by the sheer determination of nature to reclaim the forest. It reminded me of all the civilisations that ended up becoming an archaeologist’s dig. Now, you might think that that would be enough to make me throw up my hands and ask why I should bother to keep on imagining, and writing, and creating stories, but what has survived all those centuries and the passing of so many peoples? Storytelling!

Whether you are a native in an isolated village in the jungle listening to the elders recount tales of their long-dead ancestors, or a songwriter crafting a ballad of lost love, or a child cradled on a parent’s lap while being read a little Golden Book, you will be taking part in the oldest of traditions – storytelling.

As a writer I feel connected to that never-ending thread. Oh, I’m not saying that my stories will live on, never to be forgotten, but I feel great joy that I am connected to something that will only end when humankind ceases to exist.

Long live storytelling!

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Strawberries and books – but missed out on the chocolate

Soon-to-be-published YA/NA urban fantasy author Cheryse Durrant and I shared a stall at the Bargara Strawberry Fair today. The Fair is run by the Coral Coast Community Care Inc and supports their charitable work in the community. It might still feel like winter in the southern states, but Queensland lived up to its “Beautiful one day, perfect the next” slogan and turned on sunshine, blue skies and a balmy breeze. Lots of food stalls, craft stalls, entertainment, art exhibition, and us with our giveaway basket of books from our publisher Clan Destine Press, copies of my thriller Fatal Flaw for sale, and flyers about the fantastic prizes to be won on the Cheryse Durrant website over the coming four months.

Did I mention that there was at least a truckload of strawberries on sale? There were even strawberries dipped in chocolate, but unfortunately the chocolate wasn’t gluten free, so I had to stick with delicious berries au natural.

One of the highlights of the day was handing the prize for the Years 9-10 Poetry Competition to the winner, Jerry McGiffin. It’s not easy for young writers to maintain their enthusiasm for writing when their mates are keen on sports or movies or whatever and don’t have the same passion for creating stories and characters. I hope all parents and teachers support their children who have the desire to write.

 

 

 

The second highlight of the day was presenting the basket of books by the Clan Destine Press authors to the winner, Marietta McLellan. Marietta was thrilled with her prize, even driving back to the Fair at the end of the day to pick it up.

We had many chats with people who, like us, love reading. I even had some people tell me they’ve read all my books and enjoyed them. It’s such a thrill to hear that, as it makes all the hard (and often lonely) work of writing so worthwhile.

 

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Sob sob

I was so looking forward to the Sisters-in-Crime event and the ARRConference this weekend, but after two days in hospital after falling foul of a Rodda virus I had to listen to doctor’s orders and stay home. Not that I … Continue reading

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