Changing Direction

The map of Coorah Creek

For more than four years, I’ve had a sheet of cardboard stuck to the door of my office.

On this cardboard, I’ve slowly been building the town of Coorah Creek – the setting for five of my outback Australian novels.

With each book, something else has been added to the map. Houses and the names of the people who live there. A property and a national park. A church and one statue. I started the map when I started the series, because I knew I would be coming back to Coorah Creek again and again. I wanted to make sure I was consistent, and didn’t forget where something was, or accidentally move something.

I didn’t want Max driving across the creek in a place where there wasn’t a bridge. Or I didn’t want Jess landing her plane on the wrong side of town.

Saying goodbye to Coorah Creek – at least for now.

After the first couple of books, I used the map less and less, because the town was so fixed in my mind. It was so very real to me, I could simply close my eyes and see it.

With the publication of Wedding Bells by the Creek this year, I’ve taken the map down. It was a surprisingly important and emotional moment.

I am writing something different now. I am working on two books, one set in England and one in Australia, but that Australia book is set somewhere else.

So now I have a new map. It’s the map of a horse stud called Willowbrook on the Hunter Velley of New South Wales.

I’ve marked a house and the creek. There are stables and an old stone fountain. An old wooden church has been converted to a home on the other side of the creek. These are the places where my new characters live. I’m started to get to know those places now. They fill my head, and will soon be attached to my door.

My new map – it’s just staring to develop.

The map of Coorah Creek is now safely rolled up and stored with my research notes on top of one of my bookcases. There are times when I miss Trish at the pub, and Jack and Ellen. Max and Tia are still on my mind, but for now, I am enjoying exploring a new place and meeting new people.

It feels just a little bit like when I left home to study at university. I left my own small country town and family and friends to move to the big city. It was a bit scary… but it was exciting too. Finding new stories to tell is just like that – both scary and exciting.

Inside the old barn – a photo from my research trip through the Hunter Valley in New South Wales.

I will never forget Coorah Creek and the people who live in the town. And I am not saying that I won’t return. There are still more stories to tell there…. maybe one day I will put that map back up on my office door.

What makes authors smile?

As Julia Andrews once sang…. Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens and so forth.

Brown paper packages too – if they have books in them.

I’ve been smiling a lot this week. Authors are like everyone else when it comes to things that make us smile. Lunch with good friends, finding exactly the right birthday card for a family member, progress on my knitting project. In my case, watching Say Yes to the Dress on TV. (If you haven’t watched this – you really must. It’s my secret guilty pleasure.) All these things, and more, make me smile.

But this week has been full of ‘authorial’ smiles. Those are very special. As a rule, we authors can be a tad insecure. Especially about our work. There is often more tearing out of hair than smiling involved in writing a book. But… we do have our moments.

So – what are these mysterious things that make an author smile? Here are my top five.

Seeing a very small number next to your new book on Amazon is a smile worthy event.

1. Publication days.

Letting go of a book you have spent months working on can be hard. I always wonder if it’s any good. Will my readers like it? Are there any things I could have improved? Are there any (heaven forbid) typos or spelling errors or grammatical errors? The answer to the last question is… possibly. Sometimes one slips through the reading and re-reading that goes into a book before it’s published. But…. despite all those fears. Publication days are wonderful. This week my 9th book was officially published. I smiled. A Lot.

 

 

2. Reviews.

Hard on the heels of publication day is the breathless wait for the first reviews, and more obsessive checking on Amazon. When that first review comes – and it’s good. The sigh of relief is quickly followed by a broad smile. Someone likes my book! My characters have found new friends. Definitely smile worthy. Think about that and if the urge strikes you – please do reviews for your favourite authors. They are important to us.

These had me reaching for my handkerchief.

3. Messages from readers.

Up there with a five star review are messages from readers. Authors are pretty easy to find. Websites, blogs, Facebook and Twitter make it easy to send a favourite author a message. I send messages to some of my favourite authors when I’ve enjoyed their book. When I get messages from my readers, it is quite possible that I get a bit misty.

This came from one of my Aussie readers. He sent me a screen shot of him ordering my book How cool is that!

4. Planning a new book.

Thinking about a new book is always fun. There are so many possibilities. I sit at a desk with computer, notebook, sketchpad, coloured pencils and a cup of tea. I doodle while my brain goes into overdrive. Then I Google the things I am thinking about – just to make sure they really are feasible. Research is important and can be so much fun. I love it when I stumble across something when researching and realise there’s a whole plot strand there.

My desk in book planning mode…. and yes that IS a Dr Who pen with a TARDIS on the end of it. How could anyone write a book without one?

5. And something very exciting and super secret that I am not allowed to even hint at yet.

I promise I will tell all as soon as I can.  There is one other thing that always always always puts a smile on an author’s face. It usually involves an email. I had one of those emails this week – but I can’t tell you anything at all about it. Not yet. I can almost hear you gnashing your teeth and wanting to know more. Guess what – that’s another thing that makes an author happy – putting a reader on the edge of their seat, desperate to know or read more.

Stay tuned – there will be more news coming soon.

You are invited to a wedding

I am so in love with this cover.

I’m really excited to  invite you all to a wedding in Coorah Creek. Wedding Bells by the Creek is the fifth book on my Coorah Creek series.

Isn’t the cover just lovely? It really captures the spirit of the book.

The novella picks up the story of The Creek and its residents after the events in Little Girl Lost – the book that won the Romantic Novel of the year Award for an Epic Romance. I realised there had yet to be a wedding in The Creek – and what is better than a Spring wedding?

Here’s the blurb….

How do you forgive what you can never forget?
Helen Walsh has never stopped searching for the daughter who ran away from home when she was just fifteen. Now, her daughter has found her. Face to face with the woman her child has become, Helen longs to be forgiven for her mistakes.
Ed Collins has walked Helen’s path, and he knows that she needs more than her daughter’s forgiveness. He would help her if he could.
Ed’s wife Stephanie returns – thirteen years after she deserted Ed and their young son. Now Ed is being asked to forgive. Steph was his first and only love… but are some things impossible to forgive?
In the tiny outback town of Coorah Creek, secrets are hard to keep.
What will happen when Ed learns the truth about his wife?
And as Helen plans her daughter’s wedding, dare she dream of her own?

I’m so please to send this story out into the world. It’s available for pre-order now, and will be officially released on May 2nd.

You might not want to read my latest book…

That seems a strange thing for an author to say – but the book I just finished writing is a bit … Well… it has lines in it like…

10 0 * * * root /exc/dbdump Cdiv –f + | gzip –c >      and so on.

I guess this is where I confess that I am a bit of a geek. Or nerd. Or techie… there are a lot of words for it.

In my day job I do database and workflow design with large computer systems for making TV programmes and films. I’ve just finished writing a training course for system administrators, including some pretty advanced IT ‘stuff’. The book is almost 400 pages long. I think that’s longer than any of my novels.

The cover is definitely not as pretty as my novel covers.

Although it’s a totally different type of writing, as I did it, it occurred to me there are some similarities between writing a technical training course book and writing a novel.

First – good grammar and spelling and sentence structure are essential for both. Punctuation too.

A novel has to show an unfolding story – provide some background and explanation – otherwise what happens next won’t make sense. The same is true of a training manual. The early chapters (well… lessons) prepare the attendees for what’s ahead and give them the knowledge they need to carry on.

There’s no dialogue in a training guide, but it does have to contain explanations of various things – presented in much the same way as the trainer does when speaking.

Part of me wants to open the technical book at random and turn something like this…….

… into this and see if any of the students notice.

You have to maintain the reader,s interest in whatever you write – a novel or a technical manual. It’s probably easier in a novel, because the reader is there for enjoyment. Although, a lot of people enjoy learning new things as well.

And of course, there has to be a climax… That’s easy in a novel – the moment of greatest conflict and resolution.

In a training course – it’s the exam. And the happy ever after comes when you pass and get the certificate. And you may even catch the glimpse of a promotion or pay rise in your future.

In totally honesty, I enjoy writing novels more than writing technical manuals – but both provide their own challenges. That’s what I like to do all the time – challenge myself. And I do believe that whatever you write, if you do your best to write it well, the experience will make you a better writer for all things.

And now – it’s back to the Aussie bush and my next novel.

A night to remember

Candles and chandeliers. And books. It’s a fabulous setting.

Last night the Romantic Novelists Association held their Romantic Novel of the Year Awards Ceremony. This is a glittering evening of canapés and bubbles in the wonderful Gladstone Library in Whitehall Place.

It was particularly special for me this year, because my book Little Girl Lost was shortlisted for the Epic Romantic Novel of the year – a category that includes books with a central romance at the heart, but that cover broader issues and themes as well.

To cut a long story short – I WON!!!!

Yes.. I cried. In fact, the lovely Prue Leith who was handing out the awards gave me her tissues. Thank you Prue.

I was so excited, I can barely remember my acceptance speech – but a few people have told me it was very nice.

Also very nice is the beautiful glass star that now sits in my office.

 

It is so pretty!!!!

Thank you to the RNA, and the judges and the award organisers and everyone involved. I am thrilled and honoured to hold this award. I have now written three Coorah Creek novels – and all three are award winners. It’s going to take a long time for the smile on my face to fade.

The three Coorah Creek novels. I am very proud of them.