Friday, August 29, 2008

A Night in Prison

Once on my travels, I spent a night in prison. Mind you, I could come and go as I pleased.

A couple of years ago, while visiting family in Italy, Adriano and I took a road trip through Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovenia. For those who are a little behind on the political turmoils that keep fragmenting countries, Slovenia is one of the countries (in the north west) that the old Yugoslavia broke up into. We visited the capital, Ljubljana, and stayed in an old prison, now called Hostel Celica. It is now a funky, young hostel but even though no longer young or funky, I couldn't resist it.
Each of the original cells has been uniquely decorated by different artists without any structural changes to the tiny cells. Much imagination was necessary to furnish them adequately and often beds are hoisted up high as was the case in our cell. Steep ladders led up on either side of the double bed which filled almost all of the upper cell area. The photo with the strange contraption that seems to be the ceiling is actually the underneath of the round double bed where we slept. I have also included a couple of other cells so you can see how different each one is.
The communal rooms were bright and fun. A band played for most of the night and it was impossible to sleep because of the noise the hostel guests were making so one night was enough but I would so have loved to see the other cells. By the way, everything was spotless and the communal bathrooms were excellent.

On our way out of Slovenia, we passed through the Julian Alps which border Italy. Spectacular. See the photos.
I'm not sure why I decided to post about this but I have just read a book about a woman who is unjustly imprisoned so maybe that's what triggered the memory.
Anyway, the hostel is worth a visit but don't expect to sleep. If you wish to find out more, this is their website.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

RWNZ Conference

I have been very remiss in not blogging about our New Zealand Romance Writer's conference, which happened last weekend.
Our conference is tiny compared to the American one with around 120 attendees. The beauty of this is lots of possibilities to talk to the guest speakers as they mingle with us during the breaks and meals.

We were very lucky to have Margie Lawson (that's her in the photo) as our major guest speaker and she did a splendid job of inspiring us on to greater heights with many tips on how to lift our writing to the next level. I attended a published writers workshop of hers and as there were only five or six of us, we were able to all have a very informative chat with her.

Jenny Hutton came over from Mills & Boon and was very generous with her advice. When I pitched to her, she discussed my manuscript for the new Young Adult line at length and seemed genuinely interested in it. I have already sent off the partial she requested. By the way, soon we'll be able to submit to Mills & Boon by email. They already have a link for it but it doesn't work yet. It can't come soon enough.

Editor Cindy Hwang from Berkley was also there and more than willing to give us copious amounts of information about the publishing world and what was hot and what was not. Paranormals and Historicals are both hot but Historical paranormals are not. Odd, but there you are. Chicklit is dead but rename it Women's Fiction and you're in. Young adult is becoming a hard sell. A few make it really big but then there's an enormous gap down to those who make very little money from them. Their Young Adult line is on hiatus at the moment. I pitched a mystery series to her and have emailed her a requested partial and other story ideas for the series.

We also had representatives from Samhain and Wild Rose Publishing, who filled us in on the epublishing world.

Our annual conference is such a great opportunity to catch up with other writers and to get a regular dose of inspiration. Can't wait for the next one.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Authors Promoting Authors

A great new website has been created where authors of smaller presses can get some publicity. If you wish to be a part of this great opportunity go to the website:
The rules are that once your book has been posted, then you post the previous book on your own blog.
Beneath the Surface is now featured on the Authors Promoting Authors blog and here is the previous featured author - R.K. Smith with her book Learning the Rules.

Karen is beautiful and smart, but doesn’t understand some things others take for granted, such as many of the intricacies of communication.She reads self-help books, hoping to find the ‘rules’, as she calls them. In a college night school Creative Writing course her only friend takes her to, she produces several children’s stories about problem solving, thoroughly impressing the teacher with her knowledge and insight.He has already been bemused by her beauty, and has realized her apparent naivety results in total honesty with no pretence. In turn, she values his patience, understanding, encouragement and generally kind ways.Connection results.However, their son Alex focuses on her limitations, not her strengths, and finds growing up frustrating and embarrassing to the point of humiliation. When a crisis brings him back into her life as an adult, the passage of time and his adult perspective trigger a reversal of those negative views. As well, he develops insight into his own chequered relationships when he discovers her stories.A simple and seemingly na├»ve suggestion from her proves to be the basis for a new life.
Here is the link for buying her book:
and here is her Blog:

Saturday, August 9, 2008


OK, so I said I was back on track, but I'm allowed to change track, aren't I? I've put aside the thriller and have decided to return for a visit to Harlequin. Intrigue is the closest line to what I write but has a little more romance than I am used to. However, I'm sure I can adapt. What I have realised is that even though Harlequin/Silhouette say they want different and fresh, they actually don't. They might want new voices but the guidelines are too strict for any innovation. A while back I wrote an Intrigue and received a personalised rejection saying that my story was too dark and that no one would want to read a story set on a prison ship. That manuscript is my second book to be picked up by Wild Child Publishing so someone wanted to read it. What they actually meant was that no Harlequin Intrigue readers would want to read a story set on a prison ship. And there's the crunch.We are writing for their loyal readers. We are not trying to establish a new set of readers. Therefore it makes perfect sense that we follow their guidelines to the letter. And I will. At least I'll try. And that's the reason I am returning to H/S. Because they have an established readership and the author's promotional input is minimal. What bliss to be able to concentrate my time on writing and not the rest.
At the moment I am trying to decide whether to set the story in Cambodia or Egypt. I have my characters. Now I need an Intrigue for them to get tied up in. And I must remember the romance...

Friday, August 1, 2008

Five alternative professions

If I had the possibility of starting again with the knowledge of life I had now, what profession would I choose for myself? These are my first five choices.
1) Helicopter pilot
I have always loved flying, even the long flights to Italy from New Zealand - approx. 30 hours. When I was a teenager, my parents owned a business which sought out schools of fish by helicopter so the fishermen could zero in on them. My mother has her pilot's licence. My uncle had flown, commercially and otherwise, all his life. One of my first boyfriends was a pilot and took me up in all sorts of planes including an open Tiger Moth and looped loops. So I guess flying permeated a great deal of my early years and left me with a longing to fly. My second book coming out later this year has a heroine who flies helicopters, so I can live vicariously through her. Will I ever get my pilot's licence? Probably not.

2) Game Ranger - in Africa somewhere.
I have been captivated by the parts of Africa I have visited and the animals running free are a marvel to behold. The idea of poachers drives me crazy so if I were a ranger, I could contribute towards keeping the animals alive. I would be constantly out in open spaces - heaven.

3) Travel Journalist.
I was once one of three finalists in a National competition for a new Travel Writer and had a great opportunity to pursue this avenue of writing but, at the time, a Silhouette editor was very interested in my Bombshells and had assured me she wanted me as a Bombshell writer so I concentrated on that for two years, writing five Bombshells before she told me my books were bigger than Bombshells and I should get them published mainstream. In other words after all that writing and waiting, she rejected them all. And the momentum of my win in travel writing was completely lost and no one knew who I was any more. By the way, the book that has just been released by Wild Child Publishing ,Beneath the Surface, was the very first Bombshell I wrote. Travel writing is such a tremendously hard field to break into without credentials that it would be easier to win lotto but what a great excuse to travel the world.

4) Archeologist
Hard work, yes. Frustrating work, yes. Even tedious work, yes. But oh what joy when you strike something. That feeling of accomplishment is what we all crave whether we know it or not. And that feeling is what most of us don't have in our day jobs. We go to work and we come home and repeat it all the next day without significantly achieving anything concrete and that feels like failure - day after day. But if you had an aim, if you knew that in the end, there would be a reward, even though you didn't know when, then it would be all worth it. That's why I would want to be an archeologist. To have a carrot dangling in front of me with the viable hope of reaching it.
5) Forest Ranger
OK, so this is similar to the second choice but this would be in among trees and totally immersed in nature. Solitude with only trees and critters to talk to. What peace - no one to answer back, no bitching, no office politics. Yes, give me animals and trees over most humans any day.

So, I have noticed a theme here with my professions - being outdoors in nature, whether flying over it, walking or travelling through it or digging in it. Strange that all my professions so far have been indoors - Fashion Designer, Teacher, Personal Assistant, Design and Marketing Manager etc. So what does that mean? Any ideas? Because I sure don't have the answer to that question.