Monday, August 13, 2007

Too Tired to Title This

‘Tis the morning after the Romance Writers of Australia annual conference and I’m functioning on borrowed brain cells. This time I was far more relaxed than last year, when I had to pitch to Miriam Kriss, but no less excited for my buddies Fiona Lowe, Sharon Arkell, Tracey O’Hara, Rachel Robinson and Allison Withers who were up for awards.

We spent all of Friday with the incomparable Jenny Crusie. She’s every bit as warm, funny and entertaining in life as she is in print. And she even signed my copy of Anyone But You with the inscription “To dear Vanessa, who is a great writer.” Gosh, she’s so smart. How did she know? (I’m kidding – she forced all of us to chant, “I am a great writer,” out loud all weekend.)

Anne Stuart, whose genteel exterior belies a twisted* mind, talked about dark matter of the literary variety: heroes and heroines who maim and murder. If your heroine must commit a crime, make her goals, motivation and conflict clear, said Anne. Give the reader a reason to empathise with the protagonist. Psycho killers are generally boring because often they kill without emotion or reason.

From Allison Rushby I learnt about applying the three-act play/film structure to novel writing. One of my crit crew members, Janette, found it useful to identify the three acts of her ms and major turning points, and then base her editor pitch on it. (P.S. Worked like a charm.)

Dynamic duo Annie West and Anna Campbell unleashed alpha heroes on us. They cleared up a lot of misconceptions about the definition of an alpha male. Very nice of them to use visual aids, like pics of Indiana Jones and James Bond (the latest model) too. In short, a real alpha male can take many forms but he’s never a bully or brute.

Okay, now I have to go cultivate some more brain cells. Tell me, what have you learnt from a conference or workshop?

* Anne Stuart even describes herself as twisted, but she’s really very sweet.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Never Work with Vegetables and Animals

Special congratulations to four of my writer friends, Christine Wells, Paula Roe, Kate Mulvany and Amanda Ashby, who've all received amazing reviews for their work in the past week.

Christine Wells's historical debut, Scandal's Daughter (Berkley) won four well-deserved stars in the Romantic Times.

"Richly etched and multilayered" is how the Romantic Times described Paula Roe's characters in Forgotten Marriage ( Silhoutte Desire). Paula scored four and a half stars for her debut. Don't you think her coverboy looks just like Martin Henderson?

The Sydney Morning Herald had this to say about playwright and actress Kate on her play The Seed: "Kate Mulvany went to a very candid place inside her heart to tell her family's story. At this stage in her career, Mulvany is often described as an emerging playwright. The Seed suggests she's close to fully fledged."

And finally, Publishers Weekly says Amanda's You Had Me at Halo (NAL) is "The Lovely Bones meets Bridget Jones. It's a fun, witty traipse through the afterlife."

So put these books on your, MUST-be-read list. Kate's play finishes its run at the Belvoir St Theatre in Sydney on August 12.