Category Archives: WIPs

Bookstore Bliss

For someone who has a TBR pile numbering over 95 books (I say over now as I might have been shopping since I wrote this post here – shhh), the topic set by Fiction Writers Blog Hop host Julie for this month’s hop being BOOKSTORES is a dangerous thing indeed. Just imagine the “research” I could justify, doing it all in the name of a blog post!!books gilmore girls.gif

Oh, and where to take the topic? Bookstores in films? Famous bookstores around the world? The death of bricks & mortar bookstores debate? Oh me, oh my.

For me a bookstore is a sanctuary of hope and possibility, where I might discover my next favourite author, where I can get lost for hours looking at covers and reading blurbs, trying to limit myself to buying just one or two of the many I decide I simply MUST have.

My sister and I have had discussions (albeit not very serious ones), about opening a cupcake café/bookstore back in our home town on the coast, where we’d be surrounded by books and book people and would get paid to buy and read our favourite titles – every day! Let’s just ignore for the moment the obvious problem of sugary frosting being smeared between the pages of Austen, or sticky chocolate ganache gluing the sheets of a Game of Thrones volume together, and just imagine the joy of turning up to work each day. And once our cupcake/bookstore is up and running and I become an established author, I can get my author friends to come and run writing workshops. Cupcakes and books and writer workshops….I don’t know about you, but that’s my idea of paradise.

Of course, the fact I can’t convince my hubby to leave Sydney, and the fact my sister and I don’t have any start-up money, and the fact that neither of us has any retail experience, and the fact that this becoming-a-published-author caper is taking much longer than I thought…means this cupcake/bookstore dream might just be that – a dream.

Oh, but I won’t let that dishearten me. I’m a writer, right? And that means I can create any kind of world I like on the page and spend as much time as I like there. So, good friends, in my newest WIP I have a bookstore! It’s not a cupcake/bookstore (I kind of exhausted my cupcake quota in my last work OF CUPCAKES AND DANDELIONS), but it is a bookstore…with a café… on the beach! Snap! And over the next few months, I plan to spend a lot of time there. This is my inspiration board for my WIP. Collage insp boardOh yes. I’ll be spending lots of time in this world.

If you can’t make it happen in real life, make it happen in your books I say!

If you could create your dream bookstore, what would it look like?


Thanks for reading! To return to the FICTION WRITERS BLOG HOP on Julie Valerie’s website, click here:



Writing Your Way Out Of The Rut

So, I’ve been in a bit of writing slump the past few weeks. I don’t know if it’s because I’m in the query trenches, and that’s never a fun place to be for a writer (though it is going ok, with a few requests already), or if it’s just one of those life-doing-it’s-cycle thingies, or maybe it’s straight up procrastination borne out of fear starting a new WIP, but I haven’t written a word in quite a few weeks. Until the other day.writers-block-is-it-real

What happened the other day? I hear you ask. Well, I did something completely different to my usual daily routine. I took a bus (something I do only a few times a year), into the city (something I do even less frequently) and I did it in peak commuting time (something I NEVER, EVER do). And lo and behold, the change in circumstance and scenery flicked that elusive little switch and words filled my head again. Woohoo!

And, even better than that, with some tweaking I might even be able to use those words in the above mentioned procrastinated WIP. Double woohoo.

Would you like to read those words? No? Well, stop reading now. Oh, you would? Ok then. Here they are…

So many people standing; one hand gripping  a pole, the other holding a smart phone, thumb tapping furiously; head phones jammed into ears, eyes cast down. No one looks up. No one smiles.

Not the lady dressed in red, reading her paperback (I wonder if one day I’ll see someone reading my book on the bus), her tick making her head jerk three times in a row; then three times more. And again. Not the heavy man in the heavy wool suit, beads of sweat pooling on top of his bald head. Not the slim blonde, immaculately dressed, perfectly manicured toes peeking out from under tight black trousers, feet incongruously comfortable in flip-flops; I imagine she has a pair of heels tucked inside her oversized black handbag. Louis Vuitton? I wouldn’t know. More people step on, press forward. The air is thick. No one looks up. No one smiles.

Except the man near me; fifty, grey. He stands. Offers me his seat. Maybe the shirt I’m wearing makes me look pregnant. It wouldn’t be the first time someone’s made that mistake. Or perhaps my discomfort in this strange place, so tightly packed against others, is written all over my face, my stance unsteady with every bump and jolt, and he takes pity. Whatever the reason, I’m grateful. Three times I thank him. No one looks up. No one smiles.

The great steal icon stretching across the harbour goes unnoticed as we move across it. Unseen also the bright white sails of the Opera House lifting up out of the blue water to greet the day. They’ve seen it a thousand times before, I suppose. Or perhaps not. Not properly. Tall concrete and glass sentinels mark our arrival at the city’s edge. From the belly of the bus we spill out onto the shadowed street where the morning sun cannot touch us. peanuts writers block

So, my writing lesson for this month – when in a rut, go do something completely different, somewhere completely different, and see what happens.

What do you do when you’re in a rut? How do you snap yourself out of it?

S 🙂


Title Turmoil

peanuts The...Ages ago I had a mini meltdown about the title of my current ms and I did a little poll here, to gauge how you all felt. Well that poll gave me a 50:50 result, so I stuck with my original title This Shadow Life and let it go, because I figured if/when I got a publisher, they’d change the title anyway, so it didn’t really matter what I slapped on the top of my ms, because it was inconsequential anyway.


Apparently it does matter. I was at a seminar recently with Harper Collins and one of the many interesting things discussed was how important a title is. They talked about how most of the biggest sellers in recent times had either the word ‘Girl’ in the title (Gone Girl, Girl on a Train etc), or ‘Secret’ (The Husband’s Secret). It became a bit of a running joke throughout the morning and by the end of it we were laughing at trying to meld girl and secret and husband/daughter etc into the one title. ‘The Girl’s Husband’s Secret Daughter’. All jokes aside, though, they did make a point of how important the title was, even at the querying stage. Yes. Even at the querying stage. What? Really? But I had the complete opposite belief. Okay then. It’s just a title and mine is ok.

Don’t panic.

Each of the attendees got some one-on-one time with a publisher from Harper Collins at the end of the day, and guess what? My publisher didn’t like my title! At all! Okay then.

Mild panic.

But that’s ok. That’s one person’s opinion and I still wondered if it was really true – Did a title really have an impact at the querying stage? Come on. It’s only the querying stage, right? Then, a few days later I read an interview with one of the UKs top literary agents and guess what he said? The title absolutely, without doubt, can make a difference at the querying stage.

Massive panic!!!!

One publisher doesn’t like my title, so obviously none of them will, and I’m not overly attached to it anyway, so I should change my title, but what do I change it to, nothing else is coming to mind, what if my title is the difference between getting published or not, what a silly thing that could be so easily fixed, but why can’t I fix it, why can’t I think of a good title, is this the end of my writing career before it’s even begun, surely I can think of a suitable title, why is my brain empty, it’s just a title, won’t my writing stand out in the query trenches and they’ll forgive my title, but that’s two industry bigwigs now saying how important it is, if that’s not the universe telling me something I don’t know what is, oh why can’t I think of a good title…

Fall to the floor and rock in the foetal position.

So here I am people. With another title dilemma. And what better way to solve my dilemma than with another poll. It worked so well for me last time, right? Blind optimism says this time it will. Vote people and save me from a fatal query-trench mistake….Peanuts help

Or read the blurb here and come up with something completely different in the comments!peanuts advice


Thanks for reading! To return to the FICTION WRITERS BLOG HOP on Julie Valerie’s Book Blog, click here:

Seventh Heaven?

The dreaded lurgy has been through our place. And for us that doesn’t just mean sloth-ing in front of the telly and a trail of tissues strewn from one end of the house to other. tissuesNo, for us, a simple virus becomes a major ordeal as my daughter has Type 1 Diabetes and Virus = Blood Glucose Level Havoc. So, for the past two weeks I’ve been up nearly every night at midnight, 2 am, and 4 am, working to keep my girl’s BGL in ‘the safe zone’.

Needless to say, I’m pretty shattered right now, so I’m going to cheat on this blog post a bit. I read on someone else’s blog about the Triple 7 Challenge, and while I wasn’t ‘tagged’ to do it, I’m going to tag myself and steal the idea as it means a quick and easy post.

Good news (or maybe not), for you lot is …. More sharing!

The Triple 7 Challenge is this – Take 7 lines from the 7th page of your manuscript and share, and then tag 7 other bloggers to do the same.

So from This Shadow Life – 7 lines from page 7…

When she opened her eyes again, the morning chorus of magpies and lyrebird no longer floated through the open window, the constant, gentle buzz of the old fridge could not be heard: The Silence.cupcakes

Her hands steadied as she hulled the strawberries and folded them into the batter. She pushed a square of white chocolate into the centre of each waiting cupcake and her breathing quickened. Strawberries and white chocolate were not a combination she’d ever used before; ever wanted to use. Strawberries, yes. White chocolate, yes. But never together. How could Sylvia have known?

I’m not going to tag others as such. But how about any writers reading this, do the Triple 7 Challenge for your next blog post. And any readers popping by, open up the 7th page of whatever you’re currently reading and share below in the comments your favourite line from the page.

Thanks for reading! To return to the FICTION WRITERS BLOG HOP on Julie Valerie’s Book Blog, click here:

S 🙂

What’s in a Name?

Last time we chatted I was waiting on some editorial feedback, keeping myself busy (distracted) with card making and staring at The Rock, and playing around with a few story ideas in my head wondering which one would take hold and become my next manuscript.

Well, the feedback is in, and it’s good. A little more work to do (not surprising), but hopefully I’ll be ready to send Shadows out into the query trenches at the end of next month (fingers crossed).

I’m sure you’re all dying to find out whether any of the story ideas that were floating round stuck. Guess what? They didn’t. But no need to despair. As I was playing with the characters in my head, sussing them out, getting to know them, an entirely new story came to me. I should say scene, really, not story, because it is far from a fully fleshed out idea. But this one scene kept popping into my mind – think of it like a 30 second clip from a movie (because that’s how it is in my head) – and it just wouldn’t go away.

So I madly scribbled some ideas and I think, just maybe, this is the one I’m going to run with. Now, it will be a while before I can give it the attention it needs, while I finish off Shadows, but I’m finding that in those quiet moments, like driving to school pick up, doing the dishes, the story is firming up and I can’t wait to get started on it.

One of the biggest problems I have when starting something new is figuring out the name of my main character (MC). Even harder than naming my own children.  The supporting cast I manage well, even the male MC I seem to name easily, but my female lead, man she always gives me trouble.

As the lead, she is kind of important, so it’s important to get her name right, and there are so many things to consider.

  • Age and era appropriateness – let’s face it a girl in her thirties in 2015 Sydney is unlikely to be called Eunice (unless there’s a deliberate plot point around that).
  • Cultural appropriateness – a girl born in rural Australia in the 70s probably isn’t going to be called Shakira or Amandine. Likewise a German girl born the same time probably isn’t going to be named Sharon (or Shazza as we Aussie’s like to say). And if her father is Italian, her last name is unlikely Smith.
  • Then there’s your own personal bias – if your arch nemesis in high school was a girl named Kylie, you’re probably not going to call your heroine that. Or if it’s the name of the school mum in the playground who always thinks everything is about her, she’ll think the story is about her when it totally isn’t and you don’t want to go there. And for me whenever I see a character with a name like Tallulah Blossom, I find it hard to cope with the fact she’s supposed to be a doctor. (That may be unfair, and sorry to any doctors out there named Tallulah Blossom, but I did say it was a personal bias.)
  • And then, of course, there’s the ‘it just sounds right’ component – again this is quite personal. I love the name of my MC in Shadows – Alice Pond – but one of betas really doesn’t like it.

Trouble is, I find it hard to move forward with a story unless I have my MC’s name locked in. Probably because it goes with truly knowing your MC, and how can I write her story if I don’t even know her name? I’m not someone who can write a story leaving the name blank to come back to later. With minor characters, yes, but not with my MC. If I don’t know her name, I can’t picture her in my head.

So, I thought maybe we could have some fun together, and you my lovely readers and writers can help me brainstorm some names for my new MC. First name a must, last name a bonus (I have trouble with that too).

To help you, a little about her – She’s going to be in her mid-to late 30s. Born in Sydney, lived there all her life. Ethnicity of parents undecided yet so knock yourself out with that. But I do see her as a brunette, not blonde. Intelligent but not a genius – corporate type. Quite serious (part of her journey is going to be ‘lightening up’). Has a secretive grandmother and trying to find out more about her is what puts MC on her new path. That new path leads her to a small coastal town with an amazing little bookshop owned by grandmother’s estranged BFF. Male lead who may or may not be a romantic interest (still deciding) is named Shawn.

Not a lot to go on, but as I said, a bit of fun. Leave a comment with suggestions. Unfortunately no prizes for the winner, except the honour and glory of acknowledgment when I finally get published.

Looking forward to seeing what you come up with.


As always I’m hoping with Julie again. Check out what other writers are up to… Thanks for reading! To return to the FICTION WRITERS BLOG HOP on Julie Valerie’s Book Blog, click here





When A Writer Isn’t Writing

Well, good people, the manuscript is done! Again.

The "last" plot board - see what I did with the push pins? See?

The “last” plot board – see what I did with the push pins? See?

I say ‘again’, because if you’re a writer, or have been following this crazy journey of mine for a while now, you’ll know as well as I do that the manuscript is never really “done”. But for me, the next stage is. A while back (here) I mentioned how I met Nicola O’Shea  and that we’d be working together on Shadows. And I mentioned she had a whole bunch of feedback and suggestions that required me to knuckle down and put in some pretty hard yards. Well, two weeks ago I hit send, hurling my “completed” MS through cyber space to land back in Nicola’s hands.

And now I wait. I hate waiting. Never have been patient. Never will be. I wait and I wonder. Wonder if she’s even opened it yet, wonder if she’s read it, wonder if she’s liking it, wonder if she’s disappointed, wonder if she’s going to come back and say, ‘wow, you’ve done an amazing job, you should start querying’ (unlikely), wonder if she’s going to come back say ‘wow, you’ve done an amazing job, BUT…’ (a big but and most likely). Wondering. Wondering. Wondering.

The only way to stop The Wondering is to keep busy… Oh who am I kidding? The Wondering never stops. But, keeping busy can (sometimes) take the edge off The Wondering, so I’ve spent the last two weeks packing my days with…

You thought I was going to say ‘writing’, didn’t you? Well, that is usually the case. Move on to the next story to take your mind off the one that’s ‘out there’. And I did that when querying The Point, and I will do it when I query Shadows, but I decided in this instance to have two weeks off writing! Gasp, shock, horror. I can hear all those “you-must-write-every-day-if-you-want-to-be-a-writer” devotees screaming at me. But ppfflltt to them. I took two weeks off. Sort of.

I did a lot of card making.

just some of them

just some of them


A lot!

still not all of them

still not all of them


The Rock

And I went to the movies. Pitch Perfect 2 made me cry (can you believe that?!), and so did San Andreas (but looking at The Rock for 2 hours made up for it).

And…yep, you guessed it. Despite my best efforts, I just couldn’t stay away from the writing completely, so I scribbled down some ideas for some new stories and even when I was busy card making or staring at The Rock my mind kept wandering to which of those ideas I should follow through with. I also did some work on my synopsis, you know, just in case Nicola does come back and says I’m good to go.

So, what’s next while I’m still in The Wondering, waiting oh-so-not patiently? Well, I figure two weeks is a long enough break from writing, so I’d better get back to it today. Only trouble is I don’t know which story to pursue; which one is speaking to me loudest. When I was querying The Point I started on a story (Knowing Nora), but Alice kept talking to me (yes, we authors really do hear voices in our heads), and she just wouldn’t leave me alone, so I gave her some attention and Shadows was born. Perhaps this week I can play with Nora again and see if she takes flight, and if she doesn’t maybe one of those other ideas I sketched out will start shouting at me.

I guess this will be a week of playing with new and old friends (characters) and seeing what they have in store for me. And a lot more of The Wondering.

What do you do keep yourself distracted when you’re waiting on something important?


Thanks for reading! To return to the FICTION WRITERS BLOG HOP on Julie Valerie’s Book Blog, click here:

A Trio of Beginnings

I did another writing course this last weekend. It was a master class on Refining The Manuscript, led by the amazing Toni Jordan, author of Addition

photo courtesy of Toni's website

photo sourced from Toni’s website

(among other great novels). Seriously, this writer knows her stuff and learning from her was a brilliant experience. We covered a whole gamut of issues you should be focussing on after that first draft is complete, like dialogue, verbs and those pesky adverbs (the scourge of the literary world), point of view, endings, and, of course, beginnings.

Now, I blogged a little about beginnings here and their importance, but what we had to do on the course was take the beginning of our MS (the first paragraph) and re-write it three different ways using a style or technique she gave us. It was such an interesting exercise and more than one of us on the course is now changing the beginning to our novel.

So, how do you all feel about me sharing the three beginnings for Shadows  I wrote on the course? No? Good. I was hoping you’d say that. *wipes brow*

my scribbles from the course

my scribbles

What? You meant yes? Darn it!

Okay. Before we start though, a disclaimer. We were given ten minutes per opening and mine appear below as they were written on Saturday, unedited (except for spelling). We also got asked to read one out to the whole group and I got to read number three. Well, here goes….

I did tell you these are unedited, right…


1. The Concrete Beginning – where you plant your reader firmly in the story and there’s no mistaking what’s happening or who it’s happening to. This is the closest to my original opening. 

Alice Pond opened the door to the Kookaburra Creek Café expecting the brass bell to announce her arrival as it did every morning at precisely six-thirty-three in the morning. But when she pushed the glass door open she was met with silence. Everything else appeared to be as it should be; rainbow chairs stacked up on white tables, gingham curtains drawn, the coffee machine waiting for her over on the blue bench. It was only the absence of the loud clanging that made Alice pause. But it was enough to tell her that something was most definitely not right.

2. The Deep End – throwing the reader in with no clue as to where they are, who they’re dealing with, or what’s happening – being all mysterious like. I had to move a bit further along (to the second page) to pull this one off, and I don’t dislike it, but I’m not sure it fits with the overall tone of the MS.

She looked at the crumpled mess that lay at her feet. Was it alive? Was it breathing? She pushed it with her toe. No movement. She shoved it with her whole foot.

“What the Hell?” The crumpled mess jumped up, eyes darting left, right, arms tense, ready. 

“What the Hell me?” She reached behind her for anything solid. “What the Hell you?

3. Setting – one of the hardest ways to begin because setting is generally static, and our openings should be anything but static. The challenge here is to make something static feel alive. I’ll let you be the judge of that.

Alice took the stairs in twos until she reached the deck below. The morning sun kissed the creek with soft gold glitter as it meandered through the green field and she watched the fallen gum leaves float upstream toward the white bridge. Maybe this afternoon she’d have time to dip her toes in. It would still be warm enough. She turned around and looked at the grey weatherboard building, a hand-painted sign swinging in the gentle breeze telling anyone who happened by they’d reached the Kookaburra Creek Café. Her café. After twenty years it still managed to surprise her – it was her café. She pushed the glass door open, expecting the brass bell to clang news of her arrival, but she was met with silence.

So there they are, in all their unpolished glory. I guess the only question is – what do you think? It’s okay. I can take it. *goes to buy more chocolate before reading comments*


It’s the last Wednesday of the month which means I’m hopping along with the wonderful Julie Valerie. Hop along too and discover other bloggers.  Like to party? Hop along the Hump Day Blog Hop on Julie Valerie’s Book Blog. Click here to return to the Hump Day Blog Hop.