Sunday, 19 March 2017

When a Short Story Becomes More


A few weeks ago I mentioned that I was going to start writing my March short story soon. I had an idea ready to go, and even a market to send it to. I was also positive it would take two-three days to write the first draft.

So, after weeks of this story simmering in my mind, I got started. I was positive that I could get the first draft done before hubby's annual leave.

On my first day I wrote over 5k words, introduced an array of characters I liked, and really fell into the narrator's life. I felt for her because there was an edge of sadness to her story I hadn't expected.

That's when I realised this couldn't be a short story. There's too much story to tell. Too many layers to slowly reveal. So many mysterious, twisted scenes to write. Nope. This had the makings of a novel.

But I wanted to be sure, so I added more words the next day--2.5k, to be exact. And adding these words confirmed what I suspected soon after starting: this YA horror idea was determined to be a novel.

So, it looks like I'll need to come up with another short story idea for the market I had in mind... o.O 

In the meantime, I've taken a bunch of notes for the novel, done some research, and even cast the characters. But I won't be writing it just yet because hubby's got the next two weeks off--yay! After that, I think I'll be tackling this story. 

Writing YA horror fills me with A LOT of excitement. I've always been a huge horror fan, so I'm not surprised to be coming back around to this. Actually, all my stories contain some thread of horror. If you've read any of them, you know what I mean. ;)

Anyway, it's a little strange when this sort of thing happens. But hey, I'm not going to complain about any story wanting to be longer. I'm just happy about getting new ideas.

Like I mentioned above, the next few weeks are going to be full of hanging out with hubby--awesome!--but after that I intend to get stuck into this story. And I'm really looking forward to it.

Happy writing!

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Well, it's official...



I'm now a published author with no currently available published books. 

Yep. It's so weird to say that out loud. O_o

Last week I received my return of rights letter for the 10 pubbed and 2 contracted books I had with Samhain Publishing. That's two UF series and one SFR series.

I'm really happy with how quickly Samhain got these letters out. In spite of everything, I will always be super grateful for the opportunity Samhain Publishing gave my books. As well as the editors I worked with, because I learned a lot from each of them.

Like I've mentioned before, and as sad as it makes me, I have no immediate plans to submit or self-publish any of these titles at the moment. I'm not saying never. Just right now. I didn't buy any of the covers, and am not going to rush out to get new ones. I also won't be proofreading or re-editing any of these just yet.

Maybe I'll consider doing this one day. But not right now.

So I have to say Goodbye for now to my beloved Sierra & Co. and my Recast kick-ass guys & girls. *sniffle* Besides, I still have my paperback editions to help me reminisce. But I need to let go. Even though the last book in the Elsewhere series--the one that pretty much ties up the whole of the Sierra series--hasn't been published at all.

Hopefully Willow will get her chance someday...

Funny thing about all of this is that the other day I sorted through all my previously published novellas and novels, and discovered that I've had over 40 stories published. But because of publisher closures and many other problems, none of them are currently available. It's bizarre. But it's okay.

I have to look ahead now, not back. I need to keep writing the many ideas that hound my brain and hold me hostage until the story is written. I also need to start travelling a new path, and never stop the pursuit of my dream. Because at the end of the day, the fact that I get to write all these stories is a dream come true.

I have several projects (in different stages of completion) in another genre for another market that I want to focus on. I need to see how that goes, and if it leads anywhere. I'm also enjoying the short story writing and will continue to send them out to anthology and magazine markets.

I'm a writer. 
Writing is what I do. 
Being published is what I'll continue to strive for.

Happy writing!

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

THE STEEP & THORNY WAY by Cat Winters


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My rating: 5 of 5 stars

By now, I know that when I pick up a novel written by Cat Winters, it means I'm going to love it. She's got an uncanny way of taking readers back into our unsettling past, and totally hooking them into the story.

It's 1923 and Hanalee Denney lives in the small town of Elston, Oregon. She's just like every other teenage girl: enjoys spending time with her best friend, loves to sketch, is keen to learn, and wants to become a lawyer. But she's different because she's the daughter of a white woman and an African American man. A union that isn't accepted by everyone--including the law--and has always singled her out in a crowd.

Now that the boy who is responsible for her father's death three years earlier has been released from jail, she wants some answers. But what she finds isn't what she was expecting, because Joe Adder isn't who everyone claimed he was. And her father's death isn't as straightforward as the law made it out to be.

Throw in her father's wandering ghost, a good dose of suspicion about her stepfather, losing faith in her mother, and the stronghold of the disgusting Ku Klux Klan into the mix, and it's sure to deliver a Hamlet style mystery that will lead Hanalee on the very dangerous road to solving a terrible small town cover-up...

This book is awesome!

I was instantly hooked into Hanalee and Joe's story. And as the truth starts to unfold, I just couldn't put it down. I was swept away by what was happening and what it really revealed about Elston. These characters--even the awful ones--are all SO well written. Everyone plays their part in a terrible crime that is blamed on a very convenient scapegoat.

This story is rich with atmosphere, scenes that get your heart racing, appalling truths, and so much heart. I love how well this deals with uncomfortable historical situations that modern man seems so determined to keep repeating. So, just like all her other books, I got really angry with some of the things that happened to Hanalee and Joe, but absolutely loved the story.

Oh, and there are some very cool historical photos and information added throughout the book. There are two things you can count on with a book written by this author: the story will be awesome, and the actual book will be beautiful.

I borrowed this from the library, but just like her other books, I'll be buying a copy for myself.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

STARGAZING FOR BEGINNERS by Jenny McLachlan

Stargazing for Beginners
Science geek Meg is left to look after her little sister for ten days after her free-spirited mum leaves suddenly to follow up yet another of her Big Important Causes. But while Meg may understand how the universe was formed, baby Elsa is a complete mystery to her. 

 And Mum's disappearance has come at the worst time: Meg is desperate to win a competition to get the chance to visit NASA headquarters, but to do this she has to beat close rival Ed. Can Meg pull off this double life of caring for Elsa and following her own dreams? She'll need a miracle of cosmic proportions...


I absolutely adored The Ladybirds series, and was looking forward to reading Jenny McLachlan's latest book. So I was super excited when I received an ARC last week. 

Thank you so much, Bloomsbury Australia. :)

Meg is fifteen, loves science and maths, is really clever, and wants to escape Earth by becoming an astronaut. She also spends a lot of time by herself because her interests don't fit in with what the other kids like. Plus she's always competing with Ed, and wants to beat him in the upcoming Reach for the Stars competition. If she wins, she'll get to visit NASA and start making her dreams come true. But in order to do that, she'll have to overcome her fear of public speaking.

When her hippie mother decides to suddenly leave the country to volunteer and help children in Myanmar, Meg is left alone to look after her baby sister. Their grandfather is there to help, but most of the time is more a hinderance than anything else. So she carries on, looks after her sister, covers for her mother, and even starts to make friends while forced to attend the Biscuit Club. But will her mother's actions ruin her chances of freedom?

I love the cover for this book because it's simple, yet pretty and effective. It's so Meg. Meg--or Megara--is a girl who's always loved science, and has big dreams of becoming an astronaut. I really liked how she refused to compromise who she was and what she wanted, so instead chose to keep other kids at arm's length. It wasn't that she didn't trust or dislike them, just found it easier to keep her distance. I always love an independent character with flaws. But when chaos strikes and she's forced to look after her baby sister, it puts things in perspective.

I also really liked the other characters. Annie was a lot of fun and didn't take crap from anyone. Plus she didn't let a disability stop her from doing what she wanted. Rose was a kind and understanding girl willing to help others. Jackson was mostly distracted, but was a good kid. Even Bella and Raj weren't bullies, just didn't understand Meg most of the time. And Ed, what a lovely character he turned out to be!

Funny how Meg's uncertainty and her determination to be left alone sometimes caused needless friction where there was none. She also did this with her sister. Never bothered to spend any time with her until she didn't have a choice.

Lastly, I have to mention the two characters that were so disappointing and frustrating that they bothered the hell out of me. Meg's mother is a free spirit, but her actions in this story are plain selfish. That she volunteers and wants to help others, but dumps her baby daughter on her teenage daughter was appalling and even hypocritical. And that her grandfather pretty much enables this behaviour, and is somewhat irresponsible himself is terrible. But you know what? As much as they bugged me and I disliked their actions, it was a fair portrayal about family and people. About how becoming parents and grandparents doesn't magically mean that someone's personality, hopes and dreams fade.

Still, this didn't affect my overall enjoyment of this book because at the end of the day, it was a fair representation of different types of people. Though I do kinda wish their mother had been held accountable for her mistake.

Stargazing for Beginners is a really cute, fun and interesting coming-of-age story about a girl who plans for everything, except the chaos theory. Meg wants to escape the world around her by learning about space, where she thinks she'll find freedom and like-minded people. But what she finds out (the hard way) is that sometimes, in order to reach your dreams and true potential, you need a support crew to help along the way.

I had a great time reading this!


Stargazing for Beginners, June 2017, ISBN 9781408879757, Bloomsbury Childrens

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

SONGS ABOUT A GIRL by Chris Russell


The first in a heart thudding trilogy about first love, heartbreak, pop music and the power of teenage obsession.

Heartbreak, romance, fame and pop music - for anyone who's ever dreamed of saying 'I'm with the band'.

Charlie Bloom never wanted to be 'with the band'. She's happiest out of the spotlight, behind her camera, unseen and unnoticed. But when she's asked to take backstage photos for hot new boy band, Fire&Lights, she can't pass up the chance.

Catapulted into a world of paparazzi and backstage bickering, Charlie soon becomes caught between gorgeous but damaged frontman Gabriel West and his boy-next-door bandmate, Olly Samson. Then, as the boys' rivalry threatens to tear the band apart, Charlie stumbles upon a mindblowing secret, hidden in the lyrics of their songs...


I have to start this review by mentioning how awesome this cover is. Not only is it totally fitting, but that silvery CD shine and polaroid pic are so nice.

Anyway, I grabbed this book yesterday afternoon to get a feel for it... and ended up reading the first 100 pages in one sitting! LOL. I found Charlie's voice compelling, and had a feeling it was going to be fun. I just didn't know I would love it instantly.

Charlie just turned sixteen. She's in Year Eleven, lives with her busy father, has a hilarious best friend (who also happens to be her neighbour), still misses her mother, and loves photography. All the other girls in school--including her friend--are totally into the hottest boy band in the world, Fire&Lights. But all she knows about them is that one of the guys used to go to her school and she had one conversation with him.

That's why, when she gets a personal message from him, she can't believe Olly actually reached out. But because of him, she accepts an offer she can't refuse and ends up taking a bunch of backstage photos of the band. That's when this quiet girl who likes to be anonymous in a crowd finds herself thrown into their crazy life of stardom.

All Charlie wants is the opportunity to take photos. Instead, she ends up really liking the boys. She enjoys hanging out with them, and gets caught between two of the boys and a web of lies she's told her father. Plus, now that people know who she is by name and face and decide to troll her with insults, threats and allegations, her life changes instantly.

What she didn't expect was to hear familiar lyrics in some of their songs, or to become the target of a bully...

Oh my! This book was SO darn GOOD. I had such a blast reading it. But don't be fooled, because it's not all fun and games. There are so many things going on in Charlie's life that the surprises never stop.

Charlie's voice is interesting. Her life is both happy and sad. I liked her friend Melissa because she was hilarious. I also liked how well they got along and how they supported each other. I loved her passion for photography. And I totally felt for her because she misses her mother so much, and suspects that her father is concealing information from her. Which really puts their somewhat awkward interactions in perspective.

And of course, I have to talk about THE BAND. I loved how the boys in Fire&Lights are portrayed in such a real and honest way. These four talented guys are thrown into an insane amount of fame very quickly, but they're just a bunch of normal, fun guys who happen to be making a lot of money doing something they love. Each of them is very different and have their own quirks and issues with how to survive their everyday lives and the never-ending focus put on them by the press, paparazzi and even devoted fans. It's a crazy world, and while Charlie tries to adjust, she realises how much pressure they really face.

Oh, and I'm obsessed with the mystery at the heart of the story. I'm not going to reveal anything about it, though. But it's sooooo good. 

Songs About a Girl is such a well-written, well-rounded book full of awesome characters, exciting music, strong friendships, and so many complications that I couldn't put it down. It's an awesome story, and one that took me right back to my teens. I mean, what teenage girl hasn't been obsessed with at least one boy band and/or hasn't daydreamed about getting caught up in their world? ;)

Anyway, THAT ENDING killed me. I need to know what happens next.

OMG. I loved this book. Heaps. Where's the next one? O_O


Songs About a Girl, September 2016, ISBN 9781444929157, Hodder Children's Books

Some Short Story Writing...


Since I wrote a whole post about my short story goals a few weeks back, I thought it might be a cool idea to put together a bit of an update.

As you already know, a lot has happened in my publishing life lately. All not-so-great things that I had zero control over. So I decided to focus on this goal for a bit.

I'm really enjoying the short story writing right now. It's nice to spend brief amounts of time with a variety of characters in different locations, while also stretching my writing muscles.

Anyway, here's my current progress:
  • The January story is done: my fantasy-esque, fairy tale-ish story about three very different girls now has a title. I just need to figure out where to sub this odd story about girls, spells and the sea... (First draft: 7,277w --> final w/c: 9,233)
  • The February story is done:  my horror-ish love story set in the underworld also has a title. I even subbed it to an anthology call. Wish me luck! (First draft: 4,773w --> final w/c: 4,880w)  
  • March: I haven't actually started writing a new story yet because I've been revising, but I did get some brainstorming done. And I'm now pretty sure I want to write this YA horror story next. It's going to be creepy & will deal with a few of my favourite urban legend tropes. I'm also hoping to include a bit of fun in there. I'll see how it goes...

I've also got a few other quirky tales and odd characters scratching inside my head. Not sure which ones want to tell short stories or novels, though. So I'm going to have to sit down and sort through the clutter one of these days. LOL.

There you have it! I'm really happy with my progress. I'm also glad to be writing new stories again.

Sometimes, you just gotta go where the muse leads.

Happy writing!


Sunday, 5 March 2017

THE ROANOKE GIRLS by Amy Engel

Beautiful. 
Rich. 
Mysterious. 
Everyone wants to be a Roanoke girl. 

But you won't when you know the truth. 

Lane Roanoke is fifteen when she comes to live with her grandparents and fireball cousin at the Roanoke family's rural estate following the suicide of her mother. Over one long, hot summer, Lane experiences the benefits of being one of the rich and beautiful Roanoke girls. 

But what she doesn't know is being a Roanoke girl carries a terrible legacy: either the girls run, or they die. For there is darkness at the heart of Roanoke, and when Lane discovers its insidious pull, she must make her choice...


I'd been looking forward to reading this book since I first heard about it on Goodreads. So I was very excited when I received a review copy last week.

Thank you so much, Hachette Australia! :)

When Lane gets a call from her grandfather because her cousin is missing, she rushes back to the small town of Osage Flats in Kansas. Heads back to Roanoke, the lopsided house where she spent a summer after her mother died. The same place she thought she'd found a real family. Where she discovered the ups and downs of true friendship with Allegra, the bittersweet highs and lows of her first coupling with Cooper, and a real sense of belonging.

It's also where she uncovered some awful family secrets. Secrets that turned her mother into an uncaring wreck and shaped her young life into a twisted existence. Years later, she's still running away from everything that happened.

Going back means facing the grandparents she can't stand, the boy she walked away from, and the harsh truth she's avoided for so long. But she has to do this, she owes it to the Roanoke girl she left behind...

Wow.

This book is horrifying. 

I love reading stories set in small towns as much as I enjoy a good family secret mystery, but this was totally messed up. And I mean it in every sense of the word. What happens within the walls of this eerie, weirdly-built house is bad. Really bad.

But I couldn't look away. Didn't want to look away because it was SO GOOD.

Of course, it helps that the book is so well written. And that the alternating Then and Now POVs complement each other perfectly as the story unravels and all the secrets start pouring out. Even the brief surprise POVs add another layer to this creepy family saga.

The characters are often unlikeable, but so raw and well developed that they get under your skin. Even the narrator Lane got on my nerves many times because of just how cold and mean she could be. How much easier she found it to hurt others instead of accepting her emotions. Because the characterisation is so darn good, everything fit together in a sad and demented way. Right to the very shocking end.

The Roanoke Girls is an intriguing, yet heartbreaking book that hooked me in with its haunting narrative from the very beginning. It's a page-turner that sinks its horrific claws in quickly, and doesn't let go. Even when the very disturbing secrets spill freely and I was totally disgusted by what's clearly going on, I just couldn't turn away. I had to keep reading, hoping for a satisfying end to conclude such a bleak story. And it didn't disappoint.

I have to admit that it's a bit hard to review this book without including the shocking spoilers, but it's better this way.

I enjoyed this book so much. It's really something!


The Roanoke Girls, March 2017, ISBN 9781473648395, Hodder & Stoughton

Thursday, 2 March 2017

A Sudden Change


The current and  very sudden shift in my author life has really thrown me into a bit of a dizzying spin. 

So I wanted to write a blog post about it...

While it hasn't changed the fact that I'm still an author and will never stop telling stories, it's definitely thrown all the hard work I put into TWELVE books (10 pubbed, 2 contracted) into disarray. Regardless of wherever my writing journey was headed, I guess I always counted on Sierra & Co. + Recast to be out there and available for new readers to discover.

That's not what's happened. Every single one of these books disappeared as soon as the Samhain website went dark. And soon, they'll also disappear from other retailers. I'll even--eventually--get my rights back.

Do you know what that means for me? It means that as of right now, I have ZERO published books. It almost feels like the hard work I put in during the last eight years has resulted in nothing. Of course it doesn't really mean that, because I'll never regret writing these books and will always be grateful for the opportunity to have them available to the world. But the fact remains: I now have nothing to show for all that writing, revision, editing and marketing.

And that makes me sad. 

There's no point in denying it, because deleting all of these books from my website is going to be sad. 

I've now become a published author with no published books. 

What does that mean for me? Well, I won't be rushing out to self-publish these 12 books. They'll just sit for a while. I'm not sure what I'll do with them, if anything at all. And if I did decide to sub or self-pub any of them, it wouldn't be right away.

So, I'm just going to keep writing. I'm determined to keep telling the stories that I can't shake. And I'm going to get back into the submission cycle. Maybe this time I'll target several places, and not put all my eggs in one basket. I don't know.

The one thing I will NOT do is give up. I've been here before and I'm determined to move forward. Besides, self-publishing is something I would like to do in the future. But I won't jump into anything until I'm comfortable with the idea. 

Well, that's about everything I've got crowding my head right now. This is a melancholy post, but not in a negative way. It's just my way of dealing with this situation, letting go, moving on and being honest. As well as realistic.

Don't feel bad for me, I'm cool. 

This is what I intend to do:

Keep writing.
Keep submitting.
Never give up.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

BEHIND HER EYES by Sarah Pinborough


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My rating: 5 of 5 stars

O.M.F.G. That ending. WTF?! O.o

You know, I worked out Adele's secret along the way, and even her intentions eventually dawned on me. But what I didn't expect was that ending! Yikes.

So, um. Yeah. Let's talk about the story.

Louise is a single mother who works part-time as a secretary. She loves her son. She's still not able to trust men after what happened with her cheating ex-husband. She's got a good friend who's always got stories to tell.

The one night she goes out and meets a man she actually likes at a bar... he turns out to be her new--very much married--boss! Ouch.

As shocked and embarrassed as she is, they still have a mutual connection. But then she accidentally meets his wife. And they become friends! Yep. Now Louise is caught between her affair with David and her friendship with Adele.

The deeper she gets with both of them, the more she realises how bad their marriage is. Their picture-perfect exterior hides some festering secrets, and a toxicity that is catching...

Wow. This is some story! It's very well written. The breadcrumbs are many, but there are so many different things going on that it's not easy to know where to apply them. There's also a freaky thread that I didn't expect and totally throws the story into a spin.

Louise was a kind, lonely woman wanting to find her place and be a good friend. But she's also got too many trust issues, is quite gullible and let's be honest, drinks too much wine.

Adele is a beautiful woman who uses her looks as a way to ensnare and deceive and control. She enjoys playing games and is SO OBSESSIVE about her husband that it's a sickness. She's pretty fucked up, really.

Together, the alternating POVs of these two women take the reader on a wild thrill ride with a hint of horror. And it's SO good. I loved this book. It hooked me instantly, and I wanted to take my time with it... but when I got halfway I just had to know where this story was going to end up.

And in typical Sarah Pinborough style, it didn't disappoint. She sure can write a wicked, twisty tale with characters you love, you hate, and love to hate.

Excellent book!

 
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