Category Archives: Writing Journey

Updates Galore

A lot has been happening in Kookaburra Creek lately. And for those of you not on Facebook, I’m here to share all the latest news with you.

  1. Final Cover and Blurb – the final-going-to-print-any-day-now cover complete with official blurb and tag lines has landed!! And I couldn’t be happier. The art dept at Penguin and my amazing publisher Kimberley have produced something quite special..

 

2. Pre-order now available – You can now pre-order The Kookaburra Creek Café. What does that mean? Well, for you it means that you don’t have to worry about getting to the shops and fighting the crowds, because if you pre-order it will be mailed on April 30th direct to your home (for print version), or delivered direct to your eReader (for ebook). No fuss. No drama.  It also means you can do your Mother’s Day shopping now and be well ahead of the game! And for me, it means that my publisher gets a nice little heads-up that they made the right decision taking me on. Publishers LOVE pre-orders (like, seriously love them!!), so if you are thinking about getting yourself a copy, please consider pre-ordering it.

For Australian readers you can get print or ebook by clicking  here at Booktopia.

For International readers you can a print book by clicking here at Bookdepository – who have FREE world-wide shipping (love that). Ebook will be available at release date for international readers.

Other retailers can be found here.

3. Website Facelift – in the lead up to release, my website has had a bit of a facelift. If you’ve got a few spare minutes, have a look around https://sandiedocker.com/ and see how we’re looking. And while you’re there…

4. Sign up for my Very Important Reader (VIR) Newsletter. With things moving so fast and so much going on behind the scenes, a newsletter seems a great way to keep in touch. Newsletter subscribers will receive exclusive offers, and I promise not to bombard you. If you’d like to sign up to the VIR newsletter, you can do so here. If you’re on Facebook, I do share a lot of “everyday stuff” there so feel free to connect there too.

5. Tour Dates – I’ll shortly be finalising some tour dates where you can come and hear me waffle on about Hattie and Alice and Becca and all my friends in Kookaburra Creek. I’ll post the tour dates here on my new-look website once everything’s locked in, so do check back in a week or so.

I haven’t shared this yet on Facebook, so exclusive for you guys – if you can get along to one of the author events on the tour, I’ll have one of these gorgeous bookmarks with me to give away to anyone who gets their book signed. Shhh…don’t tell too many people – we don’t want a stampede. Oh, actually, yes we do – TELL EVERYONE!Thanks for riding this crazy journey with me, everyone. Only 64 days to go till release!!!

S xo

Cover Reveal

Over the weekend I was able to share on Facebook the cover for my debut novel, but I know some of you aren’t on FB, so I’m going to share it here too.

I don’t mind admitting I was really nervous about the cover. Basically the process is – my publisher, Kim, briefs the art department on the themes, feel, audience etc of the book, they go away and design something, they liaise till they’re both happy with it, then it goes to the rest of Penguin for approval, then I get to see it.

I had no idea how it was going to turn out, but once Kim sent it trough to me, I was so thrilled. It’s so pretty and really does capture the ‘feel’ of my work.

So, without further ado…here it is…..Kookaburra jacket 10.11.17

Hope you like it as much as me. I can’t wait to get my hands on my baby! As for you – you can get your hands on it come May 2018. Yep, just in time for Mother’s Day 🙂

comingmay 2018S xo

A Surprise Round Every Corner

At the Sydney Writers’ Festival on the weekend, one of the events I went to was ‘The Most Unlikely of Paces’ all about authors and their research. It was a fascinating panel and one that I was particularly interested in because one of the things that has surprised me most about my own writing journey, is the amount of research I’ve had to do for my two novels, despite the fact I write contemporary fiction.

If you haven’t read Brooks, do. She’s brilliant.

If I were writing historical fiction, then I would expect to have to do a lot of research. Geraldine Brooks, an absolute writing God when it comes to this genre, does so much research for each of her novels it is mind-blowing. But when you write a story about the first Native American to graduate Harvard in 1665(Caleb’s Crossing), or a story about an English village cutting themselves off from the rest of the country during The Plague in 1666 (Year of Wonders), then there’s no way around doing ridiculous amounts of research.

Writing contemporary fiction, though, I didn’t think ‘research’ would be high on my to-do list.

Wrong!

Granted, in Tall Gum Point, through Ivy’s letters we do go back into the forties and WWII and I had to do research for that – check timelines and dates and how the end of the war was received. But even with The Kookaburra Creek Café when we see part of Alice’s story set in the nineties, a decade I’ve lived through and not that long ago – research! Can I have Alice and Dean using mobile phones at this time? Email? When exactly did they become everyday use by everyday people?

Maybe we can justify the nineties – it isn’t ‘today’ after all.

But…you guessed it…even with parts of the stories that are set today – research!!

In The Point Nicole renovates her cottage. Research! How would she bring the window frames of a 1930’s cottage back to life? Where would she source reclaimed tiles for the fireplace? What would the fireplace have been made of?

Moreton Bay Fig photo credit – http://futuretreehealth.com.au

In Of Cupcakes and Dandelions, I originally had Alice’s favourite tree, where she escapes and dreams, as a Moreton Bay Fig – a tree that I’ve always felt was magical in its growth. Until I checked and discovered that where I’d set the fictional town of Lawson’s Ridge, Moreton Bay Figs would never grow in the wild. So I had to research what trees would grow in the area, and which of them had special properties that would fit Alice’s story. I even had to cut one of my favourite lines because I had to cut the Fig – “Sitting in a tree that grew from top to bottom, anything seemed possible.”

Before you panic, I did find a new tree and I like it (almost) as much my discarded Fig. Which tree? Well, you’ll have to wait till I get published to find out.

I reached out to a few of my author friends (all writers of contemporary) and asked them…

What’s the strangest/silliest/most interesting thing you’ve done in the name of research for one of your books?

Dianne Blacklock

“For my second book, Wife for Hire, I had to move Sam after her divorce from a McMansion in outer suburbia to somewhere cheaper and closer to the city. I finally settled on Marrickville. I barely knew where the suburb even was, so I spent the best part of a day driving around the streets, getting a feel for the place. I didn’t fall in love with it or anything, there was no epiphany, but ten years later, in a case of life imitating art, guess where I ended up after my own divorce? And I have fallen in love with Marrickville. Sam chose wisely.”

Pauline Wiles

“My second book, Secrets in the Sky, involved several scenes with small aircraft. At the time, my husband was learning to fly, so I went with him and took careful note of procedures and terminology… also whether it was possible for the pilot of a Cessna to lean across and kiss the passenger.”

Lily Malone

“I’ve bought biographies from swimmers such as Leisl Jones and Ian Thorpe to find out about training regimes for top level swimmers… I’ve also been googling top 50 disco tunes of all time. Donna Summer comes out on top.

So, who’d have thought? Even writers of contemporary fiction do a lot of research to bring you the stories you love

What about you? What’s the strangest/silliest/most interesting thing you’ve done in the name of your job?

S 🙂

 

 

Special Guest Star

This month I’ve been invited to be a guest blogger on the Eternal Scribbler blog. Yes, I feel a bit special – thank you Ari for asking me.

It’s always hard for me to come up with a topic for my blog, and with the Fiction Writers’ Blog Hop I normally participate in taking a break for Thanksgiving, I wasn’t sure what to write about. I mean it’s one thing to ramble on to you guys, my loyal followers. But to subject other unsuspecting innocents to my waffle, is another thing altogether.

photo source - theodysseyonline.com

photo source – theodysseyonline.com

But, then, just as life often does, it gave served me up my topic.

So, if you want to read my thoughts on just what it feels like to call myself “a writer”, head on over to The Eternal Scribbler site here and check out my post

Own It Baby, Work It.

And make sure you leave a comment, so I know you got over there ok!

Thanks for stopping by.

S 🙂

Write, Learn, Write, Repeat

Blacklock coverTonight I’m starting a course all about “What Women Want”. Now, before you get too excited, it’s not a dating course and I’ve not decided to switch my romantic preferences. It’s a writing course all about Women’s Fiction, run by the amazing Dianne Blacklock through the NSW Writers’ Centre. A course all about Women’s Fiction – my idea of happy a place, I’m thinking.

Those of you who’ve been following me for while will know that some time back I became a bit of a ‘course convert’, so I’m quite excited to be embarking on this program of study for the next six weeks.

snoopy double rejectionWhy this course and why now? Well, as some of you know, I’ve come heartbreakingly close a few times now (heart-break-ing-ly close) to getting that elusive “yes”, but I’m still waiting to hear it. There must be a reason I’m getting so close but not over the line, so I figure maybe this course can help me figure out what’s missing from my writing; what that mysterious element is that will take me from “I came very close” (exact words of one rejection from an uber agent) to “Yes, I want you”.

All the writing courses I’ve done so far have taught me something, and often not what I was expecting to learn from them. But each time I’ve been left with some little nugget of advice, or some slight shift in the way I approach my writing that I believe has help me grow. Some of the things I’ve taken away from courses that have surprised me, either because I was ignorant beforehand or because it was a new way to look at things are:

  1. Your “central event” may not be what you think it is. (Kate Forsyth – Plotting and Planning). This was an interesting lesson to learn, because, surely as the creator of my work I know what my central event is, right? I wrote it, I designed it that way. I know my central event. Nope. youre a writer whenWhen Kate made us take a closer look at our own work and really look at it with a questioning mind, she was right! What I thought was my central event for Kookaburra Creek, actually wasn’t. It was a different event entirely. Now that makes one look at one’s own work quite differently.
  2. Different characters will notice different things about a place. (Felicity Castagna – Writing a Sense of Place). This gave me a whole new way to look at my physical descriptions of places in Cupcakes, making me look at a scene through their eyes instead of mine – they would notice different things to what I would notice. And, looking at things differently depending on whose point of view (POV) I was writing from. There are multiple POVs in Cupcakes and the way Alice sees her café (with fresh young eyes, nervous, excited, a place that might offer her hope) is most definitely different to the way Hattie does (old, tired eyes looking at an old friend that held so much hope, but also so much sadness) and this lead me to one of my favourite scenes in the whole story.
  3. When making up a place, it’s even more important to make it unique. (Felicity Castagna – Writing a Sense of Place). When I first heard this, I assumed she was talking about Fantasy and the world building needed in such novels, but she meant no matter what type of place you’re making up. Even my little Aussie country towns. Why? They’re made up. No one knows what they’re supposed be like. And that’s the very reason why. Because if I used existing country towns, then people will ‘fill in’ the blanks with their own knowledge (assumed or learned) of that place and what makes it special, what it looks like, feels like, what the people are like. When making up my own little country towns, I have to be so clear about what makes them special, what will make my readers want to go to town I’ve created if they could, what will make them feel all the feels they’re supposed to without any prior knowledge, what will make them remember it.
  4. A reader will be bored well before you are. Before editing, read your manuscript as a reader, no pen in hand. snoopy bad story(Bernadette Foley – What Publishers Want). This was one of those light bulb moments. I always thought that, given I was reading the thing again and again, if I wasn’t bored by read-through number 99, then surely my readers wouldn’t be bored the first time through. WRONG! Of course I’m not bored. I love the bloomin’ thing; I’ve sweated it, bled it, given it life. Readers don’t have the same emotional connection to your book, your characters, your places. They will get bored and they will give up. Unless you give them a reason not to.
  5. Everything that happens to your characters has to happen as a natural extension of their character arc. (Toni Jordan – Refining the Manuscript). There are no accidents. Even an accident can’t be an “accident”; it has to be something that is part of the trajectory the character was always on. This was a biggy for me. BIGGY. This doesn’t mean the reader can predict what’s going to happen, but more that you as the author know what choices your characters are likely to make in the situations you’ve put them in that might lead to those “accidents”. This meant a major rewrite for how one of my characters behaved very early on in Kookaburra Creek that lead him to how his journey ends. (I’m deliberately not giving away details here because you’re all going to rush out and buy Kookaburra Creek if no when it gets published, and I don’t want to spoil it for you).
  6. Write, figure out what book you’ve written, then write your book. (Toni Jordan – Refining the Manuscript). Read that again. It’s a gem. Especially as a pantser.

So, I’m going into this course mind completely open, hopeful that I’ll come away with a small something, lots of small somethings, that will help me improve just that little bit more and take me one step closer to realising this tantalisingly close dream.snoopy EducationalWhat about you? Whether for writing or in any other area, have you ever done a course where you’ve learned something unexpected? Let me know in the comments below.

S

Thanks for reading! To return to the FICTION WRITERS BLOG HOP on Julie Valerie’s website, click here: http://www.julievalerie.com/fiction-writers-blog-hop-mar-2016

Once Upon a Beginning

When you hang around writing forums, you read a lot, A LOT, about how to hook that agent, what makes you stand out from the all the other writers clambering for attention and one of the most common tips is to have a ‘kick butt’ opening sentence; something that forcibly grabs the reader and doesn’t let them go. It is said a lot of agents and publishers make their minds up about a manuscript in a split second, so you have to nail that first sentence.once-upon-a-time-719174_1280

Now, I have NEVER (ever, ever) stopped reading a book because the first sentence didn’t grab me. But I have the luxury of time on my side that agents don’t have and I can give a book as long as I like to decide whether I like it or not. And as for a magical opening sentence that captures me in some way – well, I can name only one occasion in the last few years, yes, count it, ONE, where I’ve even noticed how good an opening to a novel is.

“I always thought the next funeral I’d attend would be mine.” Simmering Season, Jenn J McLeod. Now that’s an opening that made want to read on.

Given this is the only example I can think of from the last five years of reading, I’m wondering, just how important is that first sentence?

Time for some (very scientific) research. To my bookshelf!

“Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.” Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, JK Rowling. A debut book that went on to be, well, I’m sure you all know how darn successful it went on to be. As an opening sentence, though, how does it rate? For me its only saving grace is the ‘thank you very much’, which hints at a style and humour I find appealing. But the rest of the sentence – meh.

“People disappear all the time.” Outlander, Diana Gabaldon. If you haven’t heard of Outlander, then you’ve been living under a rock. But what an average opening. “People disappear all the time” – yep, big whoop. Now if this was in front of an agent/publisher that made their mind up based on the first sentence alone, I reckon this would never have seen the light of day. The end of the opening passage, however, does hook the reader in, “…..Disappearances, after all, have explanations. Usually.” That’s got me. If I’d quite after the first sentence, though, I never would have got to that bit.snoopy begin

“We have been lost to each other for so long.” From my favourite book of all time The Red Tent, Anita Diamant. What’s so special about that opening? Nothing, really. The rest of the prologue, (and I’d like to point out here that another tip we always see as beginner writers is NEVER start with a prologue), is beautifully, sublimely written, as is the rest of the book. Seriously beautifully written. But as a first sentence, while it’s ok, it’s hardly going to rock your world, though the book certainly will!

“Dear Sidney, Susan Scott is a wonder.” The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer. Another of my all-time favourites. There is nothing particularly special about that opening – a letter, and a regular ol’ beginning of a letter. In fact, as I read on I panicked when I realised the whole book was written in letters, but I soldiered on – I had, after all, picked it for our book club, so I’d darn well better read it – and I LOVED it. I mean totally LOVED it. Imagine what I would have missed if I’d given up on this after the first sentence, or even the first few pages!

“When he emerges from the bathroom she is awake, propped up against the pillows flicking through the travel brochures that were beside his bed.” Me Before You, Jojo Moyes. Arguably the biggest thing in Women’s Fiction right now, totally taking the world by storm and the movie of this wonderful book is due out mid-year. But, as an opening sentence, how bland is that? And, she breaks the two biggest ‘rules’ for opening a novel. Never start with a prologue – this is a prologue. Never start with people waking up – this is people waking up. This isn’t Moyes’ first novel, and I guess once you’re established you can break any rule you want. After all, you have your agent and publisher and loyal following already. It certainly is her most successful so far, though, and I can’t help wondering if this hit an agent’s/publisher’s desk from a debut novelist, how many would simply say ‘no’ because of the opening?rules novel

I don’t think any of these examples are ‘kick butt’ sentences, yet they are some of the most successful novels in recent years. So where does that leave us?

I think I’ll turn the rest of the (very scientific) research over to you. What’s the best (or worst) opening line you’ve ever read in a novel? Was it indicative of how good (or bad) the novel was?

S

Thanks for reading! To return to the FICTION WRITERS BLOG HOP on Julie Valerie’s website, click here: http://www.julievalerie.com/fiction-writers-blog-hop-feb-2016

The Year That Was

I cannot believe 2015 has come to end. I’m still getting my head around the fact that it actually IS 2015, and now it’s finished and I have to cope with it being 2016. I guess I’m getting older and the years are flying past faster.

peanuts bigger year

High/low lights of my writing year?

  • I struggled to separate my reading self from my writing self (more here) and lost my love of reading, but I’m thrilled to say in the last few months I’ve found my enjoyment for reading again that was missing for so much of this year.
  • I attended my first Writers’ Festival (here), and was blown away by the authors I got to hear speak. It also reinforced that this is definitely the world I want to belong to. One day…
  • The importance of a book’s title, even at the querying stage, became ever so apparent and caused a minor meltdown and a title makeover (here).
  • I found the strength to venture back into the query trenches (here) with Of Cupcakes and Dandelions (new title) and have been riding that rollercoaster for a couple of months now. It’s going ok, with some interest (and of course lots of rejections), coming frustratingly close to having something happy to shout about, but not quite.
  • My book boyfriend Gilbert Blythe/Jonathan Crombie died (here), which was gut-wrenchingly sad and still upsets me to think about it.
  • And I made some really lovely friends out there in cyberspace, (you know who you are).

 

A pictorial rep of my new WIP

A pictorial rep of my new WIP

So, in 2016 I’m looking forward to

getting stuck into a new WIP- I’ve even joined the 85K Writing Challenge (a group of writers supporting each other to write 85 thousand words in 90 days) to help keep me on track;

continuing to try and find a home for Kookaburra Creek;

 

and giving even more of myself to this crazy dream of being a published writer. Maybe this will be my year?peanuts my year

Whatever you are wishing for, or striving towards in 2016, I hope it goes well for you. And most importantly, if it’s your dream, then don’t give up on it. EVER. I for one, will keep chasing this writing dream, no matter how hard, or how long. As the beautiful and talented writer  Kate Forsyth has been quoted as saying about this writing journey…. ‘You will fail. But oh my darlings isn’t it better to fail magnificently than to let your story die and be buried in the graveyard of your subconscious?’

Happy New Year everyone.

S