Judging a book by its cover

They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but readers do, because a well-designed and produced cover gives them a good idea of what’s inside. It tells them what genre the book is, it suggests a broad theme of the book, and it advertises the author’s brand.

Everyone knows a historical when they see it. There’ll be a girl in a long dress on the front. I myself am partial to pics of women in black crinolines, not to mention tattoo images. If it’s a 20th century historical it’ll probably be a photo of some sort. Historical romances will also have girls in frocks, but with a bloke. Modern romances (especially hot ones) often just have the bloke, usually shirtless. I think you know what I mean.

I find crime covers oddly unspectacular (no offence at all meant to crime writers) – and I read a lot of crime novels. They all look the same to me, so if it’s not a writer I know and love, naturally I read the blurb, then the first page to check out the style. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn was like that. So-so cover, fantastic read, though it was more thriller than crime. Paranormals tend to look similar, too, ditto science fiction, and they’re like that for a reason – so readers know what they’re getting. So the message is: do the same as everyone else (ie, you don’t want to put a ‘True Blood’ type cover on your rural romance), but better, so your book stands out.

A survey I saw a while ago reckoned that if a reader isn’t looking for a particular author, they’ll choose a book based on a) the cover, then b) the blurb, then c) the first page. So there you go. Covers are vital.

One book I’ve read lately, just because there’s a cute wee mouse wearing a cape on the front, is Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, a memoir by US humourist blogger Jenny Lawson. I wouldn’t have bought it without the mouse. It’s a good read, too.

Of course, if you’re traditionally published, you more or less get what you’re given, so you have to trust that your publisher knows what they’re doing. In my experience, they do. At a workshop at my publisher the other day, the designer said they send cover concepts to booksellers for feedback, because booksellers know what readers like and want.

It never does any harm to talk to your local bookseller.







Filed under Uncategorized

2014 RWA Conference

The 2014 RWAus Conference was another fabulous event and the Hunter Romance Writers had a lot to celebrate (apart from our general awesomeness!).

First up: So excited to announce our own Erin Moira O’Hara (writing name) has won the RWAus Emerald Single Title Award for her romantic suspense story, The Kalista Diamond.

Congratulations Erin!

erin and the emerald


erin again

Wait! There’s more – Here’s our Kerrie Paterson accepting the award for her Second Place in the RWA Ripping Start Contest. Congratulations Kerrie!

Kerrie ripping start

And here is some of our group, the Hunter Romance Writers at the Awards Dinner celebrating.

at the rwa14 awards dinner

Our Sarah Barrie also has some fabulous news – but will wait until its official – Congratulations Sarah!

We missed our members who for various reasons couldn’t make the conference this year. But, dont worry, we intend to talk your ears off next meeting.


Filed under Uncategorized

Prepare for brain overload in 3 – 2 – 1…


By the time this post goes live, the Romance Writers of Australia’s 23rd annual conference will be about to kick off the core section of the program. By now, some of our members will have taken part in the Professional Development Day for published authors and the Literacy High Tea raising money for the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation on the Thursday.  Most of us will have taken part in the Friday Workshop presented by James Scott Bell, and the Leather and Lace themed cocktail party.

And all this before the core conference starts! The core conference is full of useful workshops, inspiring keynote speakers and entertaining and informative plenary sessions. Not to mention the glittery Awards dinner and after party.

The entire weekend (plus!) is exhausting – my brain fills up and ideas start to come out of my ears. Quite often, many valuable insights don’t register fully until weeks later, when I’ve had time to go back over my notes and process everything. But there is always at least one lightbulb moment that changes the way I think about things or the way I do things.

This will be my 4th conference. The 1st time was scary and overwhelming to start with – I only knew our group face to face. I came away from that conference with a swag of new friends. And each subsequent year, I reunite with my tribe and meet new friends. Most of us only see each other every 12 months so conference is a big noisy, reunion – did I mention noisy?! Imagine 350 romance writers – mostly women – in one room all talking at once :) And laughing, and hugging. *Lots* of talking, laughing and hugging. Which for an introvert like me can be a shock to the system!

But it’s the highlight of my year and as I’m writing this, with 4 more sleeps to go, I’m a bundle of nervous energy and excitement.

Soon, I’ll be with people who understand me!

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Release Day ~ Stacey Nash

eCOV_ForgetMeNot-2Happy release day to member Stacey Nash for her debut novel Forget Me Not


Anamae is drawn into a world which shatters everything she knew to be true.

Since her mother vanished nine years ago, Anamae and her father have shared a quiet life. But when Anamae discovers a brooch identical to her mother’s favorite pendant, she unknowingly invites a slew of trouble into their world. They’re not just jewellery, they’re part of a highly developed technology capable of cloaking the human form. Triggering the jewellery’s power attracts the attention of a secret society determined to confiscate the device – and silence everyone who is aware of its existence. Anamae knows too much, and now she’s Enemy Number One. She’s forced to leave her father behind when she’s taken in by a group determined to keep her safe. Here Anamae searches for answers about this hidden world. With her father kidnapped and her own life on the line, Anamae must decide if saving her dad is worth risking her new friends’ lives. No matter what she does, somebody is going to get hurt.

Available from:

Amazon AusAmazon USAmazon UK, Barnes & Noble,Kobo


Filed under New Releases

Writing Inspiration

Where Do I Get My Writing Inspiration? Everywhere. By Erin Moira O’Harame and tiger

No amount of Internet research can replace the reality of experiencing the real thing.

The atmosphere. The people. The smells. The sounds. The places. The fear. The excitement.

If you have personal knowledge of the location, the culture and the people, you are more likely to show rather than tell in your writing. So in the name of research, we should travel as much as possible, or so I keep telling my husband.

I think we are more likely to do and try things while travelling than we would at home. Whether it’s eating different foods, hiking to the top of a mountain, getting up close and personal to flora and fauna, or doing something completely out of the square.

I make each traveling experience count and use it to soak up the world around me. So take off your shoes, roll up your trousers and cross that glacial stream high in the mountains of New Zealand. It may give you brain freeze, but it’s an experience you’ll never forget. Harness your fear and go paraflying or explore an ancient ruin. Let go of your inhibitions and make the most of the world around you.

Some of the best things I’ve done while travelling:

  1. Para-flying over the ocean in Fiji – Brilliant
  2. Skiing down snow covered slopes – Exhilarating
  3. Racing my sister on Jet skis across Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown – Hilarious.
  4. Scuba diving on the Barrier Reef – Excellent. Especially if you resurface due to seasickness. Amazing how many fish appear to share your regurgitated lunch.
  5. Patting a fully-grown tiger – Absolutely amazing, then scary when you witness your seven-year old straddling a tiger and rubbing its tummy. (A monk was with him)
  6. Riding an Elephant bareback – Awesome. Until you go into the river and the gentle giant decides to give you a shower for free. An experience that thrilled my children.
  7. Stroking a King Cobra – Daunting until the toothless attendant grins and says. ‘You very lucky lady, you touch King Cobra and live.’ But then I’ve always been lucky.
  8. Cancelled a two-year working holiday – Costly. It took 17,000 kilometres to realise I’d just met the love of my life. Needless to say, I threw in my job, got back on a plane and came home. We were married five months later. – Best decision I ever made.

me and head monk of Chiang Mi

When you travel, don’t just play the compliant tourist. Get out there. Go behind the scenes. Meet the locals and discover their culture. Allow your horizons to be broadened. Stay somewhere authentic, historical or unusual. And if there’s no hot water or the bed collapses, who cares. It all adds colour and laughter to your life and memories.

What are my favourite places in the World?

How long do you have. A fishing village in Cornwall, a medieval city in Tuscany, the Lakes in Wales, Powerscourt Gardens in Ireland, London, Venice, Queenstown, The Scottish Highlands, Melbourne, Sorrento, the Bay of Islands, Barcelona, the Daintree Rainforest, etc.

In my own travelling escapades, which now span a few years, I’ve experienced and done thin I never dreamed possible. And many of those things will and do find their way into my books. Open your mind and senses, and I guarantee you’ll have many wonderful holidays without breaking the budget.

I might just add here that I’m a research fanatic. If I don’t know my subject, I will and do use the net extensively. I’ve interviewed an Aboriginal Elder, an underworld figure, a senior policeman and the Abbott in Chiang Mai. I’ve joined a gym, spoken to a cattlemen, a horse expert and watched hours of u-tube tutorials. All in the name of research. I also get inspiration from the words in songs, movies, books, or conversations.

My husband thinks he’s taking me on a romantic holiday to Vietnam. No way. It’s research for my next suspense, but he doesn’t need to know that.


Filed under Uncategorized

News ~ S.E Gilchrist


S.E Gilchrist has just signed a three book deal with Escape Publishing for her Darkon Warriors series. This will take the series up to seven novels with Escape Publishing.

The Darkon Warriors series is an erotic Sci-fi about an alien race on a desperate quest for survival and the the human women who can cure their years-long curse.

Release date for S.E’s new release When Stars Collide is 1st October 2014.

Huge Congratulations S.E Gilchrist.

Looking for the first four novels in the series?

Legend Beyond the Starslegend-beyond-the-stars

Seeking redemption from a mission gone terribly wrong, Captain Alana Knight volunteers to aid a dangerous operation to transport colonists between Earth and alien traders. But on board the spaceship, she learns of a galactic war raging for power. A power that can be transformed into a terrible weapon.

When the colonists are betrayed and sold, Alana’s mission is re-defined. Nothing will stop her from keeping those in her care safe and finding a passage home. But her new captor is nothing like she expects…

Commander Tarak El Rajan is human, male and equally determined to retain his payload. With his race on the brink of extinction he is under strict orders to transport all females to the planet Isla for research purposes. In a world of uncertainty, where the wrong decision could mean the death of an entire race, the last thing either of these two soldiers expects or needs is to fall in love.

Available fromEscape Publishing, Amazon, Amazon U.K, Amazon Australia, Kobo, iTune, Barnes & Noble, Booktopia.

the portal for web pagesThe Portal

When Janni, a young salvager, boards a space wreck, she is caught for daring to steal Darkon tech by a patroller and the one man she had thought never to see again. Several months ago she had allowed him to slip past her defences for a brief and wonderful interlude. But with both of them on either sides of the law, they had walked away. Now they are trapped on a wreck and with an alien life-force hunting them. Will the patroller save her or abandon Janni to her fate?

Available from: Escape Publishing, Amazon, Amazon U.K, Amazon Australia, Kobo, ITune, Barnes & Noble, Booktopia.



Awakening_Final compressed for web pagesAwakening the Warriors

Fran must have been crazy to leave her ordinary, safe life and volunteer as a colonist to terra-form a new earth.Now she is trapped in a prison cell on an alien planet a zillion miles from home and bound for a hideous death in notorious research chambers. She has one chance of escape: awaken the long dormant sexual urges of the Darkon Warriors shackled in the next cell.It’s a desperate job, but someone has to do it.

Available from: Escape Publishing, Amazon, Amazon U.K, Amazon Australia, Kobo, ITune, Barnes & Noble, Booktopia.



Star Pirates JusticeStars Pirate’s Justice

Carly has one focus in her life: to return home to her terminally ill younger sister. When she learns that a Darkon traitor possesses gateway maps to Earth, she uses all her skills to track him down. But capturing the charming star pirate turns out to be trickier than she anticipated…

Volkar is determined to prove his innocence to those who drove him to a life lived on the Outer Rim, and he will overcome anyone who gets in his way. But his surprisingly sweet captor has some skills that will come in handy, so he strikes a deal: the maps for her help. Neither expect their partnership to turn into more, but as dark secrets are revealed, their lives become forfeit — and the relationship blossoming between them nothing but a starburst of happiness in the deep shadow of the sky…

Available from: Escape Publishing, Amazon, Amazon U.K, Amazon Australia, Kobo, ITune, Barnes & Noble, Booktopia.


Filed under New Releases, News, Publishing

There’s an elephant in my cupboard

(Posted for and on behalf of member, Tea Cooper)

There’s an elephant in my cupboard.

I have a confession to make which will probably get me drummed out of the Brownies or at least any self respecting group of serious writers/authors.

I can’t use Scrivener.

I know it is supposed to be the be all and end all, to revolutionise my life, keep everything neat and tidy, easily accessible and generally make me a better writer. But I can’t!

How can you write historical novels? What about the research?

I do a lot of research, it’s half the fun … museum fanatic, that’s me. However it doesn’t matter what genre you write there’s always going to be research of some description. And no, I don’t have piles of dusty tomes sitting in my library or a fleet of research assistants scribbling away with fountain pens in Moleskin Notebooks (mind you I am very partial to Moleskin notebooks but that’s another story). I have Evernote – the elephant in my cupboard.

evrnote 2

To the uninitiated Evernote is a free program (like many programs you can pay for an upgrade but nine books later I still haven’t needed to) that looks after all your bits and pieces.

First you make yourself a “Notebook”. I like that. It feels as though it is volume one of my WIP – the book exists before I have even written a word! Instant gratification.

Look – isn’t it pretty and the rest is just easy.

I have a little elephant who sits on my tool bar and, like Pinterest, if I want to keep something I find on the web I just tell him to put it in his trunk. I can choose which notebook I would like it in and how much of the page I would like to clip and I can add tags (back to those in a moment).Evernote

It has the most wonderful search engine. Extremely important if, like me, you forget where you put something or want to return to it a few books down the track. I just type in a couple of keywords and hey presto all of my relevant notes pop up. This is where the tags make it even faster if you have an organised mind, but you don’t really need them. I keep PDFs, images, web links, word documents, newspaper clippings … you name it the elephant takes it. And, did I mention you can talk to your elephant and he never forgets? There’s a voice option for notes too.

I can hear committed Scriveners say but Scrivener does more, so much more. It is a word processing program. You can move chapters around and a hundred other things, all invaluable to the serious writer.

Evernote 3

As I said, I did try. I really did. I spent a whole month trying. I moved all my “Novel Attempts” (that’s the name of the file I have with all those amazing first chapters and half written wonderful ideas) into Scrivener, all my research, I made corkboards and character profiles and I wrote nothing, zero, zilch, nada. Too much to play with. I know it’s my problem—If I was a horse I’d have mandatory blinkers before I was permitted to set foot outside the stables. So, no Scrivener for me.

A plain old fashioned, boring word document with a document map and headings and my elephant and I’m set – and not sidetracked. It works wonders for my word count!

Seriously though, check Evernote out. I don’t only use it for research. I have a notebook for Writing Tips n’ Tricks, Blog Ideas, Publishers, Recipes, … the list is endless. Oh, and did I mention the elephant syncs to iPad and iPhone? So all my notes are available on any device I use and I can share them … though I’m not really sure I want to share my elephant!

Scrivener or no Scrivener — check out the elephant! There’s a great run down here and I forgot to say it is available for Windows as well as Mac.evernote blog (2)


No peanuts were offered in exchange for this glowing testimonial.







Filed under Blog POst, Something New, Writing Craft

Workshop – Characterisation and Suspense

On Saturday 14th June 2014, a full day workshop for our members was organized – thanks mainly to the tireless efforts of Sandie (writing as Sandie James).

The workshop was presented by Louise Cusack (not only a member of the RWA also, but an author in her own right as well as manuscript developer, editor, mentor and workshop presenter). Visit this website for writing editing mentoring and her  author website for further details.

Louise was a great presenter with clear and concise information to impart as well as hands-on exercises which clearly benefited all members. The workshop was held at the Old Maitland Inn and was fully catered.

Several members have furnished personal testimonials which we’ll use in our article for the RWA Hearts Talk magazine.

Thank you to everyone for attending and for making it such a successful day. Photos are courtesy of Suzanne Brandyn – thanks Suz. Sandie – you are awesome – thank you.

The Hunter Romance Writers would like to say a big and very special thank you to the RWA for the Group Grant we were awarded which made it so much easier for our members to attend.

workshop hunter group 013 workshop hunter group 008 ???????????????????????????????

Leave a comment

Filed under Blog POst, Workshops

Cover Reveal & New Release – Stacey Nash

Stacey Nash signed with HarperCollins Australia for the publication of Forget Me Not and Remember Me under their Impulse line. Forget Me Not will re-release on August 1st and Remember Me will hit e-retailers on October 1st. Both books are already available for pre-order at the following stores. (click the buttons to reach them)

Now for some more exciting news. Forget Me Not has a new cover! (that’s at the very end of the post) For those who don’t know anything about the story, here’s the…


Anamae is drawn into a world which shatters everything she knew to be true. Since her mother vanished nine years ago, Anamae and her father have shared a quiet life. But when Anamae discovers a brooch identical to her mother’s favorite pendant, she unknowingly invites a slew of trouble into their world. They’re not just jewellery, they’re part of a highly developed technology capable of cloaking the human form. Triggering the jewellery’s power attracts the attention of a secret society determined to confiscate the device – and silence everyone who is aware of its existence. Anamae knows too much, and now she’s Enemy Number One. She’s forced to leave her father behind when she’s taken in by a group determined to keep her safe. Here Anamae searches for answers about this hidden world. With her father kidnapped and her own life on the line, Anamae must decide if saving her dad is worth risking her new friends’ lives. No matter what she does, somebody is going to get hurt.


Are you ready to see the new cover?


eCOV_ForgetMeNot (2)

Now for the cover for Remember Me:
remember me

Leave a comment

Filed under New Releases, Publishing, Something New

Show, not Tell – how very true

Last weekend, Louise Cusack, presented a workshop to our group. It was a great day, we all took plenty of notes, and worked our way through many thought provoking exercises to better understand our character. I admit I struggled with them and on the way home I wondered what my answers would be if I put me to the test. Would I struggle as much? We came prepared with our stories, we had our Goal, Motivation & Conflicts worked out for our characters, and we learnt how to better work out our subplots to strengthen our stories. We also spent time discussing viewpoint and showing rather than telling. I walked out of that workshop thinking about the showing component of my story and the part the five senses play – how they see, hear, smell, taste and touch. To capture your character’s essence you show them in:

Action – whatever they do

Dialogue – what they say and how they speak

Internal thoughts – anything they think

Internal emotion – what they feel

Description – of what they see, hear, smell, taste, or touch.

Two things struck me:

  1. I have to imagine any of these components for my character; and
  2. What is my own Goal Motivation & Conflict?

We spend so many hours a week in a safe routine that our own experiences are either forgotten or muted by that routine. We put our characters into some incredulous situations, with some hunky spunky heroes and our heroine has attitude – she’s feisty – and marvel at how our heroine manages to get out of one sticky situation after another, improve her lot and keep the man of her dreams.

When are we ourselves ever put to the test, to truly understand what our heroine has gone through? We imagine it, yes, but in our daily, weekly and yearly life, in that predictable routine we’ve created – when did we last experience even a glimmer of what our heroine has? For me, I have to recall emotions and memories from my travelling years – over 30 years ago – and the times have changed. The heroines of today have ambitions and with it careers, and rather than travel extensively, they go to Europe or America via workplace secondments or seeking higher education and travel during that time away.

I can’t do all the fantastic things I have my heroines do, but I can give her what I do know, and those components of living can be shown in her daily routine of life, that part of life none of us can do without.

From now on I will try to:

  • Surround my characters with people who love them.
  • Let my characters do something ‘out of character’ for either the fun of it, or the spontaneity of it and see where it takes them, and how they deal with the outcome.
  • Show that they care (eg exercising/eating healthily or not) about themselves in a daily routine or how they care about their friends, bosses and strangers.
  • Allow them an opportunity to open their mind (and heart) to new experiences.

As for my own Goal, Motivation and Conflict – that’s proven to be a tough one to answer. I think all those parts are movable and it will forever remain a work-in-progress with shifting goals as each of those components changes. The conflicts list is very different. It’s growing, it’s very real and the longest of my three lists. How I deal with them will be the true test. I have decided to Show, Not Tell myself what my GMC is, because in the end I just switch off when I tell myself the same thing over and over.

Conflicts deserve better treatment than to be put in the ‘too hard to deal with now’ basket. Our heroines do not procrastinate and ignore any of their conflicts, so neither should we.

What I’ve learned about Conflicts will not only help me deal with them, but also my heroines.


  • Are much more than a simple disagreements
  • They fester when ignored
  • Our response is largely based on our view of our world – our perceptions
  • Bring out strong emotions
  • Once resolved, allow for an opportunity and change

There are so many truisms we’re taught growing up, but there’s one truism I’m working on, as are my heroines, and that is, it’s a good policy to show, not tell.


Filed under Uncategorized