Snowy River Man: the road to publication

imageAs most of my regular readers will know, a few years ago I established the Australian Women Writers Challenge (AWW). Back then, I was trying to find a publisher for a suspense novel I’d written. The novel attracted interest from an agent, and subsequently from several editors, but wasn’t accepted for publication. Instead of fulfilling my dream of becoming a published author, I found myself devoting more and more time and energy to convening the AWW reading and reviewing challenge which aims to overcome gender bias in the reviewing of books by Australian women.

While AWW has been a lot of fun, and I’ve been privileged to work with many fine bookbloggers and writers who joined the AWW team, I didn’t relinquish my dream of becoming a published author.

In late 2013, a psychic writer friend of mine told me that my “guides” had a message for me. They had given me everything I needed to get published, they said; what I needed was a kick up the derriere. Submit, my writer friend told me. Submit one of my old romances that had done well in the Clendon Award competition in New Zealand; send it to Kate Cuthbert at Escape Publishing.

Chastened and obedient, I updated the manuscript and sent it off to Kate. Several months later, Snowy River Man, as it is now called, was accepted for publication. My dream had been fulfilled: finally, I was going to be a published author – in a genre that I’d pretty well abandoned – all because I followed the advice of a psychic!

After finishing the revisions for Snowy River Man, I revised another manuscript from my bottom drawer – a romantic suspense – and sent that off to Kate. I’ve yet to hear whether that will be accepted. Lately I’ve been busy writing articles for AWW, as well as reading and reviewing for pleasure. Soon I’ll have to get back to my own writing. The question is, in what genre? Should I rewrite another romance, pull out the fantasy novel I’ve drafted, work on the thriller I’ve begun, or try once again that literary work I abandoned years ago? My problem is, I like all these genres and have no idea what I should be writing next.

Maybe I need another chat with my friend the psychic?

Snowy River Man will be released on February 22. You can pre-order a copy from AWW’s sponsor Bookworld here or Amazon.

It’s Monday: What Are You Reading?

imageIt’s a couple of weeks since I posted – weeks spent preparing for Christmas and clearing out my garage for a huge council clean-up. But I have managed to spend some happy hours catching up on my reading and reviewing.

On my other blog, I published reviews for Charlotte Link’s The Watcher and Judith Lennox’s The Winter HouseI followed up my reading of Jodi Picoult’s The Tenth Circle with another of hers, Sing You Home. I also read a historical fiction novel by Lisa Jewell, Before I Met You. (Reviews for these will follow.) And I just started Michael Robotham’s thriller, Watching You.

imageMost of these books have been borrowed from the library. Only one of the authors is Australian (Robotham), and most could be labelled “women’s fiction”. The Winter House is historical fiction and Before I Met You is a hybrid of historical and contemporary. This represents a departure from the majority of my reading for 2014 (mostly thrillers and suspense by Australian women writers).

One of my New Year’s resolutions for 2015 is to broaden my reading: to read fewer new releases (hopefully making in-roads into my humongous “to be read” pile) and more mainstream fiction. I know once I start writing again my reading and reviewing output will dwindle, so I’m making the most of it while I’m on this break.

Wishing you all a happy reading year in 2015! What have you been reading?


“It’s Monday: What Are You Reading” is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. Aussie bloggers who contribute include Debbish, Shelleyrae at Book’d Out, Shannon from Giraffe Days, Jess from The Never Ending Bookshelf, Brona at Brona’s Books and Michael at Literary Explorations. (Anyone I’ve missed?)

It’s Monday – what are you reading?

imageIt’s a month since I’ve posted about my reading and, since getting my latest manuscript off to the editor at Escape, I’ve had the luxury of browsing the shelves at both Katoomba and Mona Vale libraries to find authors recommended by my book group on Facebook. (The problem with that system is, I think I got the book piles mixed up and returned a couple of books to the wrong library. We’ll see…)

Since my last post, I’ve read – and reviewed on my other blog – the following suspense novels:

I’ve also read and will post reviews for:

  • Charlotte Link, The Watcher and
  • Judith Lennox, The Winter House (historical saga)

I’m currently reading Jodi Picoult’s The Tenth Circle which I’m really enjoying.

All of the above authors, apart from Val McDermid, are new to me, and most of the books have been really good reads. It’d be hard to pick a favourite, but I loved the Swedish island setting of The Darkest Room, found the concept of Tarnished absorbing and was impressed by the structure of Kind of Cruel.

imageFinally, yesterday I posted a wrap-up of my reading for the Australian Women Writers Challenge this year, which turned out to be mostly of suspense, the highlight of which was Anna George’s debut thriller, What Came Before. I have a hunch I’ll be reading more broadly in 2015.

What are you reading? Have you discovered any great books this year?


“It’s Monday: What are you reading?” is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. Aussie bloggers who normally contribute include Debbish, Shelleyrae at Book’d Out, Shannon from Giraffe Days, Jess from The Never Ending Bookshelf, Brona at Brona’s Books and Michael at Literary Explorations. (Anyone I’ve missed?)

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

I am in awe of what book bloggers manage to read in one week. I’m lucky to read two or three books in a good week. Sometimes, like this week gone past, I manage only one.

At the beginning of the week I was busy trying to get my work-in-progress finished – only to receive feedback that my hero is fine but my heroine could have a little more depth. Back to brainstorming, adding complexity, layering and redrafting. Then on Wednesday I received the final edits for my romance novel, Snowy Mountain Man, which is due out with Escape on February 1st, 2015. Snowy Mountain Man is my debut novel and I was pleasantly surprised the edits weren’t too daunting. The process, back and forth with the editor, took a couple of days of intensive work and it was done. Now I’m waiting to see the cover.

While I’m busy writing, I tend to read short things – blog posts, online articles – or I listen to radio podcasts. The podcasts are especially good when I wake in the small hours and don’t want to switch on the light. I’m a big fan of ABC’s Radio National, including Late Night Live, Law Report, Conversations with Richard Fidler, All in the Mind, Philosopher’s Zone, Religion and Ethics Report and more. I also love the BBC’s In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg. This week it featured a discussion of Hatshepsut, the female pharaoh who ruled Egypt in the 15th century BCE. Hatshepsut was one of the most successful and influential of the pharaohs but after her death her name was erased from records. (Good job there are tenacious scholars out there eager to reclaim her history.)

Yesterday I went up to Katoomba library (which, incidentally, must have one of the world’s best views for a library). Having returned one book, I found another by an author who has been on my radar for ages, Louise Doughty, whose Apple Tree Yard has been highly recommended by friends in my fans of Nicci French Facebook group. Apple Tree Yarimagewas out, so I borrowed Whatever You Love instead. So far, it hasn’t disappointed.

Whatever You Love begins with an event that is every parent’s worst nightmare and gets progressively worse. It flips back and forward in time, revealing the context for an event that threatens to destroy the first-person narrator, Laura, an ordinary single mum from a working class coastal town in the UK who is trying to cope with extraordinary and deeply painful circumstances. Doughty is masterful at depicting the minutiae of ordinary life while at the same time building an atmosphere of suspense and menace. It isn’t often that suspense novels make me cry, but this book did (and I haven’t even got to the end). It certainly won’t be the last of Doughty’s I’ll be reading.


“It’s Monday! What are you reading?” is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. Several Aussie book bloggers are participating, incluing Shelleyrae at Book’d Out, Debbish and Literary Explorations.

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

It's Monday - What are you reading?It’s Monday! What are you reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Book Journey.

Most of my reading this year has been of books for the Australian Women Writers Challenge, some of which I’ve reviewed on my book blog, Devoted Eclectic.

In the past week, I’ve taken time out to read a couple books not written by Australians, ones recommended to me by members of a Facebook group I started a couple of years ago for fans of the UK thriller writing team, Nicci French.

The first of these was The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes. The second was Defending Jacob by William Landey. Of the two, Defending Jacob was by far my favourite.

The Shining Girls is ambitious. It combines thriller (and depictions of gut-churning violence) with time travel in an interesting, innovative way. What didn’t happen for me while I was reading was a strong identification with the woman-in-jeopardy point of view character, Kirby. I was puzzled and curious (and, at times, horrified), but I didn’t care about her fate as much as I should have.

The same can’t be said of Defending Jacob. Right from the start I cared about the first-person narrator, Andy Barber. Andy is a prosecutor whose fourteen-year-old son Jacob is accused of murdering a fellow student. Andy is convinced of his son’s innocence and prepared to go to any lengths to prove it and protect his son. It’s a tense, compelling read that raises questions about children’s behaviour, parents’ love and the justice system. It’s also a taut thriller with twists and turns that kept me guessing until the end. Highly recommended for thriller fans and fans of courtroom drama.

Over to you. What are you reading?


Do images drive traffic to your blog?

It’s late autumn here, my favourite time of year. Blue skies, warm in the sun, cool in the shade. The last of the leaves are falling and–


Katoomba Autumn Leaves copyright RW

Autumn leaves by Rodney Weidland (used with permission)

Is that better?

Last Saturday, I put into practice tips I’d heard at Random House Australia’s National Book Bloggers Forum. (You can read about it here.) I learned a few things from my experiment. Some titles work. Some don’t. Mine, “Jonquils, pancakes and books”, sucks. Use titles relevant to the content of your post, we were told. Why didn’t I remember that?

Another tip was to use images. But what kind of images? Commenting on my post, author Annabel Smith wrote that she find posts that use stock photos “impersonal and offputting”. I agree.

Yet photos do work. In my case, a simple photo of jonquils outperformed many of my other posts, both on my personal Facebook page and the Australian Women Writers page. Someone even shared it. Engagement was even higher when I added a question: “Name your favourite story that features flowers?”

Things were a little different on Twitter. That’s how I knew my title sucked. Not until I tweeted the link with “5 tips for book bloggers” did I get a result. That attracted far more “retweets” and clicks to the blog. (Well, some.)

The trouble is, I hate titles like that. Almost as much as I hate stock photos.

One of the things we hear lots about is the need to identify your “voice” as a writer. The same goes for bloggers. But how are we going to do that if we all start to sound like some third-rate marketing guru? The authors I admire on social media are the ones who aren’t afraid to be themselves, who reveal their creativity, originality, ingenuity and occasional vulnerability in their tweets and posts.

Yet there’s a catch.

It doesn’t matter how creative, original and ingenious authors are, somehow they have to come to people’s attention in the first place. They have to be “discoverable”. The same applies to book bloggers. Reviewing for Australian Women Writers Challenge can help – but even the challenge, in some ways, has become a victim of its own success. There are so many talented Australian authors and bloggers out there, most of whom, it seems, are women.

I’m not kidding.

Last year there were 500+ female Australian authors reviewed for the challenge and many of their books only attracted one review. Of those, I read around 50. How many authors’ names could I rattle off now without thinking? A few more than that, if I’m lucky. (That would be a good test.) But 500? No way. And these are, for the most part, traditionally published authors. Women with a team behind them who have created great stories in their chosen genres. And book bloggers? Of 274 people signed up to read and review for the challenge this year, I’d be lucky to remember… I’d hate to say.

You see the problem.

This brings me back to images, and what to do with them.

Well, here’s the thing. This week, I’m trying something different. As an experiment, I’ve adapted the autumn leaves photo above to include text. The experiment will be to post the photo to Facebook and Twitter and see how many “clicks” or “shares” it gets, compared to my non-visual posts. I’ve also added the URL of this website at the bottom.

Here it is.


Katoomba Autumn Leaves note and LCWill it catch on? Maybe with the Granny set. Perhaps I should have tried different wording? What do you think?

Jonquils, pancakes and books – an experiment in discoverability

jonquils May 2014I’m conducting an experiment.

On Tuesday at the National Book Bloggers Forum, one of Random House’s tech gurus talked about ways book bloggers could boost interest in their blogs and Facebook pages, especially now that Facebook has been cutting down traffic for people who have “liked” your page – unless you pay.

In a fascinating talk that all made sense at the time, this guru (Eva Bui) talked about Google Analytics and trends. She discussed the importance of adding visual elements to your posts. And lists. And catchy headings. Like, maybe:

5 things all book bloggers should do

  • add a graphic
  • create a list
  • use imperatives (“Share this!”)
  • ask questions which engage your audience
  • talk about food

Food? Yeah, right. On a blog about books and reading?

In the break, I asked Eva how posting recipes was going to help a book blogger. She said the benefit would be indirect. Food, chocolate, cats – we all know the posts – are so popular, using pictures of them might drive traffic to your page. More hits on your page means more people start to see your posts in their Timelines. They might even see links to your blog posts and come visit. While they’re visiting, they might read your discussions about books. Extra blog traffic could even mean Google will take notice, and maybe your posts will appear higher on search results.

Ok-ay… It’s worth a try.

So I’m experimenting. Earlier today I posted this picture of jonquils on the Australian Women Writers Facebook page. It’s not a great photo, just one I took in the garden this morning. I put no commentary. Nothing about the unseasonably warm weather we’re having for May, let alone any suggestion of global warming. Just the photo with a question: “What’s your favourite story that features flowers?” (Could have been snappier.)

Guess what? Comments! Not many. Yet. But more than I’ve been getting with my Twitter feed to the page. Someone even shared the photo!

These Random House tech gurus are on to something. The AWW page is (slightly) more “discoverable”. Now I’m going to go away and find a good pancake recipe…

What about you? Share your favourite book blogging tips here.