RWA CONFERENCE MONTH!! Always the highlight on my writery calendar and this year was no exception. Learning about the craft, fangirling over all my favourite authors, dressing up for the cocktail party, drinking, chatting, networking, relaxing… even winning an award! Highlights for me were:

– so many people knew who I was! All that time spent on social media appears to have been well-spent, haha!
– Natasha Lester’s Friday workshop – she’s a GREAT presenter, very polished, well-spoken and most importantly, easy to understand
– the Fight Like A Girl session was amazeballs, so good I bought the book
– Nalini Singh’s keynote speech about writing series was great, learnt so much
– dashing about the cocktail party dressed as Harlequin publishing fairies – granting everyone’s publishing wishes (NYT best-seller was a popular one!)
– I pitched (very last minute) to Nicola Caws from Harlequin and it went… okay? I led with “You read my submission to last year’s Harlequin Romance Blitz and liked my voice but the setting was wrong so this story is like you know the same same but in a different more glamorous setting and did you see me up on the stage last night getting an award?”… at which point I think she may have glazed over which was thankful as I devolved into a blithering mess after that… BUT I think the opening saving me because she did indeed request the first 3 chapters… so, now I just need to work on that *nervous laughter*

I also met the amazing Jacqui Greig from Blush magazine – have you subscribed yet? It’s the most delicious monthly romance news and reviews presented in the most reader-friendly fashion I’ve ever seen – candy for your eyes, get on it!

 

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Quiet month… but that meant lots of reading! some of my faves were A Thousand Perfect Notes by CG Drews, The Kissing Contract by Amy Andrews, and Lies by Kylie Scott. All three blew me away for different reasons – loved them all!

Was lucky enough to attend an author talk evening at my local library, showcasing some of our best homegrown thriller writers… who all happen to be (very talented) women. Especially enjoyed hearing about how they plot their stories – all those twisty turns! I read Bloodtree River by Sarah Barrie in preparation and wow… did not see that ending coming!

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June = my favourite month.. my birthday month! The Festival of Starbuck was an especially good one this year – I got taken to a shop where we created our own lipsticks! Shout out to the lovely ladies at the Lip Lab in Paddington. I also convinced my day job to let my team spend a day volunteering at the RSPCA, cuddling puppies and patting all the kittencats – highly recommend!

Hmm, what else? Sent the first 5 chapters of WIP #2 to one of my beta readers for feedback… judged one last Ruby, but luckily this was one I’d already read, haha! It was actually the lovely Madeline Ash’s The Wedding Obsession which you all should read immediately because it’s AWESOME! Does that give away how it judged it… maybe 😉

Aaaaand, I got a response back from Escape to say they’ve received my manuscript and added it to their reading pile… *sigh*… fingers crossed.

And lastly, I booked a cruise for Oct… if I were published I could write this off as an expense, dammit! #authorgoals

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Ahhh, May…. wait, that means it’s June already… halfway through the year, or as everyone around me knows – THE FESTIVAL OF STARBUCK! A whole month of celebrating my birthday! But first, a look back at May.

Highlight of the month was volunteering to help out at the RWA stand for the Write Now Festival in Toronto (sadly not that Toronto, but the one near Newcastle). Super awesome opportunity to meet a bunch of authors who are already with my targeted publishers (Escape and HM&B). Despite my less-than-stellar networking skills, I nonetheless did my best and smiled a lot!

Also did the RWA online course – Author Branding OWL with Nikki Logan. REALLY interesting, made me think long and hard about how I should be positioning myself in the market. If I can offer one tip to you all, it’d be to think NOW about your branding – how would you define your genre, what is your brand, your positioning statement, and your tagline? What images will you use to link your brand to you and what collateral can you use them on? That was more than one, but whatever. I was SUPER chuffed that she really liked what I’ve already done in terms of my branding (and in particular, this little website), so am feeling like I’m really on the right track with that now.

Book of the Month: non-fiction = Your Beauty Mark by Dita Von Teese (ooooh boy, she’s so glamorous, and now I see why!), and fiction = The Million Pound Marriage Deal by Michelle Douglas (because she’s so lovely and she personally recommended it to me and it made me remember that even though a story can be short, it still make me cry… which is one of the many reasons why I want to be published by HM&B so bad – because the writing is so good!).

Full disclosure, I also binged several series on Netflix because sometimes I just need to turn my brain off and enjoy something visual. Speaking of which, I can highly recommend John Wick 3 – because even though it’s not strictly a romance, it is definitely… pretty *flutters eyelashes at Keanu*

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Well, my Alpha Reader (aka mum) came back with her feedback for WIP#1 and… she liked it! Okay, no great surprise there but it was great to show it to someone whose opinion I value so highly… in fact, she’s the very person who introduced me to the romance genre! Anyhoo, she also had some super valuable feedback, so I incorporated that all in, tidied it up and… sent it off to Escape! EXCITEMENT! Fingers crossed it has reached them and that they’ll actually like it and someone there remembers that the full manuscript was actually requested but the main thing is that it’s done and it’s gone *dusts off hands* . Totally not checking my inbox for a response every 5 seconds… not me, man… ahem…

In other news I thought I’d almost finished my RWA judging duties – 2 more First Kisses and 2 more Rubys – but I still have one more Ruby to go which I’d better finish quickly as I’ve just been given three Valerie Parv entries – yikes! It’s always fascinating to read short and long snippets from authors of varying talents and in all kinds of (romance) genres. I often think it’s just as much a learning experience for me as it is the contest entrants. Highly recommend if you have some spare time on your hands.

My recommendation for Book of the Month goes to Repeat by Kylie Scott because she’s a bloody wizard and I love all her stuff. You will too, give it a try 🙂

Also spent a wonderful day at the National Gallery in Canberra viewing the Love & Desire exhibition – artworks by the Pre-Raphealite masters. Ridiculously difficult to pick a favourite but I might have to say for me it was The Awakening Conscience (below) as the background of this one really grabbed me. The story goes that the mistress in the painting used to have a much more anguished expression but the purchaser requested it be changed… “under his eye”, I guess… *sigh*. Unfortunately the exhibition is now finished but if you’re very lucky you may hear the lovely Kate Forsyth talk some more about these remarkable painters and their muses.

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Finally added a metric shit-tonne more motivation for my Hero, and have now passed MS#1 onto my mummy for more feedback… kinda biting my nails – this is the first full story of mine she’s read, YIKES! She’s responsible for my love of Mills & Boon and has read more of them in her lifetime than I could count – voracious doesn’t really cover it – so her feedback is definitely Expert Level!

It’s still contest season here busy doing more judging. Starting with some Ruby entries… I have 5 books in total to judge, so am slowly working my way through them. Also judged some First Kiss entries… I have 6 of those to get through… judging for these is harder because I need to say WHY I like/didn’t like them… not always easy but does give me great practice at giving feedback for my critique squad.

Fiction book o’ the month for March goes to Misadventures of a Curvy Girl by Sierra Simone – spicy story about a fat girl who finds love with 2 buff farmers… I mean, what’s not to love about that? Non-fiction book of the month goes to Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez – it’s about the gender data gap… basically why women get ignored in the design of everything everywhere all the time and YES it is as rage-inducing as you might expect!

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Let’s start with the good news – I placed FIRST in the RWAus Selling Synopsis contest – woot woot!

I also finally worked through ALL the feedback from my lovely beta-readers on WIP#1… and have now decided to completely revamp my Hero’s motivation. Yikes. So I have to go back and work that all the way through… I’m working on that… slowly…

It’s contest season so I judged 3 entries into the RWAus Little Gems – one of them was awesome so I hope it ends up in the anthology *fingers crossed*! Good luck to everyone who entered 🙂

Reading – I’ve had a few favourites recently: Vox by Christine Dalcher; everything by Avery Flynn, in particular her Hartigans series, and Stephanie London’s Bad Bachelor. All wonderful 5 STAR entertaining reads!

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