Friday, August 31, 2012

Last day to say "cheers" to In His Eyes...

Everyone who's commented on the blog in August has gone in the running to win a pair of these stunning Riedel wine glasses. If you haven't left a comment, today is your last day!! 

It's that easy! You can comment on this post, or another from any time in August and you're automatically in the draw. 

For today, I'd like you to tell me: If my giveaway was $1million dollars instead of a pair of absolutely rockin' wine glasses, what would you do with the money and why? 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Brunch in Singapore... A story in pictures

On Sunday, I went with my sister to the "Pink Brunch" at Equinox Restaurant on the 70th floor of the Stamford Swisshotel in Singapore.

To help you imagine the Pink Brunch, take any food buffet you've ever seen in your life and then multiply it by many awesomes and add an entire, separate room for desserts. Plus, you're on the 70th floor, so include the astonishing view. Then, as a final touch, add endless pours of pink Moet & Chandon. Hey presto! You've got it!

First off, we started with some of this:

(Note the amazing view!) And then we had some of this:

And then, for a change, one of these:
 (No, not the napkin. It was too early for that! The Bellini, made with, of course, pink Moet.)

And then we had some more:

And then we realised how PRETTY it was!! All those lovely BUBBLES!

And then the Pink Pather arrived. I'm pretty sure. I still don't quite know why.

Then it was starting to get a little late, so we also had a coffee. That's it in the martini glass:

Then the bar closed and we had to leave. Awww. But we went back to our hotel and I recovered with one of the world-recognised antidotes to too much champagne, one of these:

And we didn't see the Pink Panther again.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Living the life of a romance heroine...

I'm taking a short (very short) holiday this weekend which feels very much deserved, even if I'm finding it hard to believe how indulgent it is.

Senosa Resort and Spa, my home this weekend.
Want to know what I did yesterday? (Warning, if you went to work, cleaned the house, washed clothes or did any other kind of domestic duty, the answer is probably "no".)

Ate my breakfast while watching one of the many free-ranging peacocks on this resort scavenge for crumbs.
The sound of peacocks crowing adds a distinctly
regal touch to any location. 
Had my feet bathed in salts and frangipanis. Had mud and oil smeared all over my body. Was massaged for 90 minutes or so. Had a facial.

(There are no photos of this. Consider yourselves
lucky. You don't need to see it.) 

Went for a swim in a therapuetic waterfall pool.
The water was actually cold, thus my somewhat
startled posture...
 Had a cocktail by an entirely different pool.
Drinking cocktails by the pool was a goal for this weekend.
Score me: several points!! 
Had another cocktail, just to be sure I'd definitely achieved that goal.
It's important to double- and triple-check the
quality of your hotel's cocktails, I find. 
Went to dinner. Ate delicious food.
Very dark photo, but glam restaurants are like that.
Went to bed.

No photos of me in bed, but here's a rather fuzzy
photo of my quite glam bathroom. 
Today I'm heading out for a brunch of endless Moet & Chandon. Wish me luck -- all this decadence is exhausting. :)

PS -- don't forget you can get a little slice of glam for yourself by leaving a comment on the blog and going into the running to win a pair of gorgeous Riedel wine glasses.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Celebrating In His Eyes!

In His Eyes is out on shelves right now and, to celebrate, I'm running a promotion on the blog throughout the month of August. All you need to do is leave a comment during August and you'll go in the running to win a pair of stunning Riedel wine glasses.

Easy as that!

I'm also offering book giveaways on Goodreads (See over there on the top right-hand side? That's all the details you need.) and if you're quick you could also win a copy over on the LoveCats where my Sunday Smooch included a juicy excerpt of Hugh and Zoe sharing a spicy moment!

Comment away!! Any topic is acceptable. In fact, intriguing, amusing and totally off-the-wall subjects are encouraged!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Romance Writers of Australia - conference day four wrap up

This is a photo from the QT hotel website where the conference
was held, of some of the bar food. Have to say, the venue
was amazing -- great food, great service, great atmosphere.
The breakfast buffet this morning was sumptuous.
I'm tired. Really tired. So was everyone on the plane I caught home tonight -- about 50% of which were RWA-goers, I'm pretty sure.

It was a great final day of the conference, everyone was still excited (if a little tired and emotional) from the night before, and there were still lots of awesome sessions and speakers to look forward to.

The morning started off with a great panel discussion: "Speed Dating with Aussie Publishers". The speakers  included Anna Valdinger from Harper Collins, Clare Foster from Curtis Brown, Joel Naoum from Momentum, Haylee Kerans from Harlequin Australia, and Larissa Edwards from Simon and Schuster.

I tweeted a lot from this session, so for best results, go visit me there and check it out. (You can also search the #RWAus12 hashtag  for more awesome tweets from lots of wonderful peeps.) It was a great session that basically reinforced the fact that publishers generally are hungry for new content and while you've got to find the right home for your story, you need to "date around" to find your own happily ever after.

Once again, I missed a few sessions today. Sorry. I had a meeting or two, and I also had to pop out and visit over at the LoveCats for the Sunday Smooch (which includes a little excerpt from In His Eyes and a chance to win a copy!).

I did get to see Dr John Barletta talk about romantic attraction for a while. I wished I could have  stayed longer, because I love psychology and he was delving into all kinds of love theories and human behaviour stuff. One thing he said that I thought was useful when considering character psychology was that personally he extended the "nature/nurture" elements to include "nature, nurture, fate and choice". I think they are four great headings that would make for great character development and brainstorming. Just think about how the forces have affected your character in terms of nature (their genetics), nurture (their upbringing), fate (the good or bad luck they've had in their life) and choice (those they've made, and those they've avoided making).

Another good session today was from Kate Cuthbert on social media. I think next year it would be great for the conference to run at least a couple of sessions on social media -- one for beginners and one for those more advanced. Kate had some great things to say, including some strong views on the author's role on Goodreads (according to her, authors just shouldn't be participating on there!) which sparked lively debate. Unfortunately there were also people who still needed info on how to set-up Facebook pages, etc, which steered the conversation away from more of the fun stuff I was hoping she might get into. Still, those guys needed the advice, and hopefully they're all have a merry time on Facebook now!

The conference concluded with another publisher speed dating panel, which pretty much said the same stuff as the one in the morning. There were also big, and very well-deserved, thank-yous to the conference committee.

Next year's conference is in Fremantle, and the video that the WA team put together to advertise it was fantastic! I hope it will be up on their website soon. Some exciting guest speakers are already lined up.

I am ashamed to admit that I just simply forgot to take photos today. I was too busy finding all the people I wanted to say "hello" and "goodbye" to, and generally soaking up all the energy and atmosphere I could while I was there. So here are the two photos I did take when I remembered I had none for this blog post:

Waiting for our bags to come. And waiting...
It's chilly back home here in Melbourne, and a little drizzly -- none of that gorgeous blue sky and sunshine. But I've brought a bit of sunshine home with me, I'm sure, in the form of writing inspiration and new enthusiasm. I can't wait to get stuck into my book again!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Romance Writers of Australia - conference day three wrap up

The shoes! 
So, how long can Emmie live on too much wine and not enough sleep? Three days, apparently. The red wine this evening, although the exact same wine as I've been merrily gobbling up for the past few nights, just didn't taste quite right. But that's okay, because there was so much going on that made being a little more alert and alive worthwhile.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. First off, the question everyone on Facebook wanted to know -- would I be brave enough to wear the leopard-print platform heels I'd bought a few weeks back?? And the answer was YES! But only up to lunchtime, then I had to swap to ballet flats. They were actually surprisingly more comfortable (and stable) than I'd thought. Although I did feel VERY tall in them.

Fuzzy pic of
Eloisa James
The keynote speaker this morning was Eloisa James. She gave a terrific keynote full of touching moments and personal anecdotes about her personal journey to writing success. She had the entire room swallowing back tears as she told the story of her mother and her own journey into motherhood. Her key messages were about using the emotions and moments of your own life to build your stories -- "best sellers are born of strong emotion," she said.

Fun fact I learned from the Harlequin presentation this morning: 1 in every 6 mass market books sold in North America is a Harlequin. Whoa.

The lovely Paula Roe took
this photo of me at lunch
with my virgin pina colada!
After this, I have to admit, my conference coverage is woefully inadequate for a while. I had a couple of people to meet, and then Birgit Davis-Todd from the Toronto office of Harlequin took me and a few of the other authors from the Toronto-based lines out for lunch and to catch up. Yes, you heard it right -- I had to go have lunch with my publisher (still so exciting to say that). :)

So the next session I attended was titled New York, New Directions, and it was a panel made up of literary agent Helen Breitwieser, editor from St. Martin's Press Monique Patterson, authors Alexandra Sokoloff and Eloisa James and Harlequin editor Birgit Davis-Todd.

I wrote quite a few notes from this session because I thought there were some interesting things discussed. The two questions that were asked that provoked the most interesting answers were:

What will publishing look like in two years?

  • people will continue to be reading more than ever
  • we will need to find new ways to reach readers who are no longer browsing for books in bookstores -- options like "gamification" and using online algorithms to find them will become important, as readers want to become immersed in the world of their authors (I'm really interested in exploring this topic further!) 
  • there will be more overlap between books, TV, movies and games
  • e-readers continue to provide a more immediate and intimate connection between authors and readers -- and so does social media
  • authors need to be aware of their on-line brand (their franchise, Eloisa James called it) and reputation and of the intimacy of relationships with readers now -- readers think they know you
  • marketing, distribution, etc, might change, but at heart readers will still always want a good story
  • writers shouldn't worry too much about trends -- your book might be the one that starts the next trend! 

What are you buying?

  • yes, stuff like 50 Shades of Gray -- it is big right now, but it could die quickly too
  • stories with strong elements of home and community and comfort -- given how much people travel these days and live away from extended family, they like to feel they are "going home" when they read fiction
  • war themes are not very popular right now -- too close to difficult realities esp, in the US
  • highlander romances

It was a very good panel session and all the speakers provided great information.
And so the Awards night begins! 
Pretty jewelled table decorations at the dinner
- plus plenty of Baci chocolates too! 
This evening, of course, was the fabulous RWA Awards dinner. This time last year, I was on the high of my first sale, I won the Emerald, and I was emcee for the dinner as well. It's been quite a year! I have to say, it was lovely to sit back and relax and enjoy the evening and applaud for all the worthy winners. Anne Gracie's traditional "stand up" closing was as energising and awe-inspiring as usual.
Me and my room-mate for the conference, the amazing
Ebony McKenna. Despite the dim lighting, I'm sure my
bloodshot eyes are detectable.. ;)
Definitely time for me to hit "publish" and then hit the hay! Another big day tomorrow!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Romance Writers of Australia conference - day two wrap up

Okay, so you know how yesterday I said you needed to forgive me any typos and grammatical errors? That goes triple for tonight's post, which I'm posting after a VERY lovely night at the Harlequin cocktail night, thank you very much. (In fact, I'm pretty sure I did see Elvis there, and that it didn't have anything to do with the red wine -- much.)

Alex was kind enough to pose for a photo for me with her
plotting white board of magic!
So, today was a primarily a workshop from Alexandra Sokoloff on Screenwriting Tricks for Authors. As someone who runs training regularly, I first off have to give Alexandra kudos for being such an engaging speaker for a full day workshop with a large group of people. Absolutely the least easy thing in the world.

I have read her book and it is really awesome -- even for a confirmed "pantser" like me! I loved the fact that her workshop absolutely reinforced that although I might not be as planned, up-front, as some other authors, my technique and storytelling is on the mark in terms of structure and pacing. Nice to know, for sure. And her presentation style was great -- even when I was getting tired (and if I was tired in the audience, I hate to think how she was feeling!) I wasn't bored for a moment. I loved when she deconstructed "Four Weddings and a Funeral".  I think because it's a movie I love and am familiar with, and because I hadn't consciously been aware of some of the structure and symbolism she pointed out.

A few learnings from Alex's workshop (I tweeted a few things too, so check there as well.)

  • Try using index cards! (You need to read Alex's book to know her method.) The physical experience of arranging them can help you to get your brain clear about story structure. 
  • Give the visual! Too many first chapters skip over the visual details of the scene. You need to help your read visualise where they are and what's happening. 
  • It is your favourite writers who reveal the kind of writer you want to be. Use them as inspiration. 
  • The theme of your book -- think of it as a collection of symbolic and emotional images, not just one idea.
  • She gave us lots and lots of detail about how to structure the second "act" of your story and what needs to happen there. So much so that I don't think I'll ever accept the excuse of a book having a "saggy middle" again. Understanding that can help (again you need to read her book!).
  • Romance stories need to include a scene that's commonly called "The Dance", where you show your hero and heroine doing something together that demonstrates how perfect they are for one another.
  • The whole journey of a story is the character learning that what they want and what they actually need are two different things. 
  • Characters always have a "ghost" or a "wound" from life that has to be worked through in order for them to find true love. 

That's only a tiny gist of what she went through. I highly recommend her book, and her blog to get more information. Even as a pantser, I found the plotting very helpful and it confirmed a lot of what I'd like to think of as my "natural" storyteller instincts.

At the beginning of the signing with
 stacks of books around me! 
Following Alex's workshop, it was my turn to be the star at my very first ever ARRA book signing. It was absolutely wonderful to meet with readers, to share my books with them, and to sign some copies for them to take away! It was also lovely to meet with some other authors I haven't had the chance to catch up with yet and say hello.

I started out with a stack of books and by the end of the afternoon there were only three left! And, in fact, by the time a few fellow authors popped by, those three were gone too!
By the end of the signing --
almost none left! 
It was fantastic to be a part of this amazing event --especially since I had attended as an avid reader only the year before! So amazing to be on the other side of the table and getting to meet and chat with everyone.

I'm hoping there might be a few people that I've convinced to give SuperRomance a try. I come from a long line of retailers, so I'm hoping that my heretofore latent retail talents may have come to the fore!

The end of the evening was the Harlequin cocktail party. There were, as there are every year, an amazing array of costumes and gloriously-attired authors. I didn't make much of an effort this year, I'm ashamed to admit, but hiring a costume and getting it to the Gold Coast and back again was just too much hassle for me.

Hard to convey the noise and excitement thru a pic! 
However the cocktail party is all about letting your hair down and chatting and getting to know new people and catch up with old friends.

That's definitely what happened.

I didn't take many photos, sorry! Too busy having fun and socialising. :)

 Not sure how much I'll cover from tomorrow, but I'll do my best for you folks!!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Romance Writers of Australia - conference day one wrap up

This is me at tonight's
Harlequin author dinner
with a couple of the cute
sexy gifts from the tables!
Hi everyone! Here I am on the Gold Coast -- and it's warm, and sunny and there's blue sky! Feels like forever since I've seen any of those things! Mind you there hasn't been much time to enjoy it since I got here -- the schedule has been jam-packed full of stuff to listen to, take in and talk about, not to mention all the wonderful people to meet.

I wanted to provide a quick run-down of Day One -- my first Author's Day (known in the inner circle as "A Day"). So here I go. Forgive me if you find any typos or weird sentence constructions -- it's been a big day, it's late, and I've just got back from the Harlequin authors "Naughty or Nice" dinner. But more on that later!

A few of the gorgeous LoveCats ladies (L-R): Helen Lacey,
Annie West, Michelle Douglas and Sue Mackay.
First off, I got to say hello to a few of the gorgeous LoveCats who I'm lucky enough to blog with regularly. It was great to finally put faces to names to some of those I hadn't met before. We've put together an awesome LoveCats gift hamper for the charity auction, which includes a couple of my books!

This is only my second full conference (I went to a workshop in 2010 at Coogee) and I have to say I've already felt much more comfortable this year. There are just more people wandering around that I know and I feel a little more confident about walking up to people and introducing myself.

In terms of the sessions today, to be honest, I wasn't sure what to expect. But there was a good, interesting mix of content. The self-publishing panel was a fascinating insight into how some authors are making self-publishing work for them. What I appreciated most was the level of detail that they discussed about the various platforms, their pros and cons, and how to get the most out of each. The presenters were incredibly generous about sharing their personal information about sales figures and dollars -- which made the session very valuable. Key learnings for me (may not have been the same for everyone):

  • use a professional formatting service because you don't need that drama
  • ensure your cover reflects your genre and works well as a thumbnail (and a good cover is one thing to invest in!)
  • "discoverability" is key
  • you need to learn Amazon and how to make its system work for you. 

I can usually resist table mints. But
Fantales? Who can resist Fantales??
We then had a session from Google+ which, I figured would just be a giant advertisement for Google+. And . . . it was a giant advertisement for Google+. And YouTube. (Which Google owns). But that doesn't mean it wasn't useful. They are doing some really amazing things for the romance community and the word "community" was used a lot. I really liked that they had looked at what users found least likable about other social media platforms and deliberately set out to fix those things.

As a result, I now have a Google+ account. Except right now I can't work out how to provide you with a link to my profile and/or page. Luckily, the Google people are around for the conference, so I'll ask them tomorrow and get back to you on that.

In the afternoon we had a brilliant session from Kate Cuthbert on how to organise (and handle) reviews. I found this very useful as a relative newbie, although I think I've been reasonably good at sticking to Kate's advice. (Still it was nice to know I was doing the right thing!) Her key message was "Don't take it online!". If a reviewer, or a reader, says something you disagree with, call your friends, your mum, someone, and complain, but don't ever, ever, go into battle online. Good advice.

After Kate's session we separated into groups and I spent the rest of the afternoon with the lovey group of ladies that made up the Aussie contingent of Harlequin authors. I managed to get them to all pose for me in a photo:
Too many super-stars for me to name them all here. 
And then, with barely a moment's pause it was on to the Penguin event for the launch of their new Destiny romance line.

There were readings from their first release books and, most importantly, champagne cocktails -- by this time it had already been a long day, and a drink was sorely required. As well as hearing all about the new Destiny line, it was a lovely time to catch up with everyone who'd flown in during the day and say hello before I whisked myself off for the next, and final, event of the day.

The Harlequin authors' dinner was a highlight for me last year, because I was presented with the "new chick" gift. It was lovely to watch someone else receive that this year. There were a number of presentations, including the famous "Woman Fuzzies Awards". There were also four 25-book pins to present. That's 100 books in total from four authors!!

One of the winners of the stunning 25-book ruby pins was the amazing Sarah Mayberry, a fellow SuperRomance author and all-round cool gal. There was much cheering and applause and then there was a standing ovation for a special presentation to legendary NZ author Helen Bianchin.

Sarah and I with her gorgeous pin! 
And, that, my dear readers, is that. Day One done! I'm really, really tired. But in a good way. I'm hoping I might be able to bring you a similar wrap up for Day Two, but it really depends on how much fun I have at the cocktail party and whether or not I'm in any shape to blog. :)

For now, good night!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

RWA Conference and ARRA book signing

Last year I attended my first-ever Romance Writers of Australia conference. It was a pretty big deal: I received my "first sale" ribbon, got to MC the awards dinner, and accepted my award for winning The Emerald with lots of lovely friends there to cheer for me.

This is me from last year's conference looking far too pleased with myself.
This year I'm heading to the Gold Coast for the "Diamonds Are Forever" conference. Excitingly, this year I'm going as a published author and I've even been invited to take part in the Australian Romance Readers' Association book-signing event.

The event takes place in conjunction with the conference, from 4.30-6pm on Friday 17 August at the QT Hotel. There will be more than 60 authors there signing books!

I think I'll just be sitting there hoping someone comes to say hello. :) To encourage visitors, I'm giving away a bottle of the wine that inspired the story of In His Eyes. Anyone who pops past to get a book signed will go in the draw!

And don't forget, anyone who leaves a comment right here on the blog this month goes into the draw to win a pair of these stunning Riedel 'Vinum Extreme' glasses. They're specially designed to enable you to fully appreciate whichever wine you decide to drink as you read In His Eyes.

Now, I must go and pack. Hope to see you on the Gold Coast for a drink or two.


Thursday, August 9, 2012

First sighting of In His Eyes on shelves...

My wonderful friend Kathy has been a great supporter of mine, and she just sent me my first photo of In His Eyes on the book shelf -- this is from the Books-A-Million store:
There it is!! 
She also just posted this picture of her "complete set" of Emmie Dark books -- lol! I love that there is a "set" now!

Kathy's bookshelf
Kathy was part of the "Cassie around the world" tour back in March and took photos of Cassie in lots of places around Florida. She's even giving some thought to doing another tour with In His Eyes!

Thanks Kathy!

Don't forget, I'm giving away a pair of these gorgeous Riedel "Vinum Extreme" chardonnay glasses to one lucky commenter this month to celebrate the release of In His Eyes. All you need to do to enter is to leave a comment on the blog!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Launch celebration for In His Eyes!

Happy birthday Hugh and Zoe!
I'm in Perth, Western Australia, for work this week, but despite a long day's work, I couldn't let the official launch day for In His Eyes pass without celebration!

I asked a few locals for a recommendation for a great wine bar nearby and I was told to head for Bathazar. I have to say it was very good advice, because if my characters Hugh and Zoe were to open a wine bar (and given Hugh's entrepreneurial spirit, that's entirely possible...) it would be one just like this.

The photos are a little on the fuzzy/dark side, despite the best efforts of my roped-in but dedicated work colleague/ friend/ unofficial photographer (he's been the one behind the camera in a lot of my portraits including most of Cassie's tour of the US and I owe him at least the glass of bubbles I shouted him tonight). The bar was dark and intimate and very, very awesome.

It wasn't just awesome because of the atmosphere. The waiter gave us the wine list and they had quite an impressive and very international selection. I knew I wanted red wine, but I wasn't sure what kind. So I asked for him to chose something for me -- something rich, but not too "tannin-y" and fruity but not too light. He frowned for a moment and then said, "Hmm, you're interesting. Give me a moment."

Not everyone appreciates being called "interesting". But I'm quite okay with that. Especially in this context. So he brought me a wine to taste -- something not even on the list. A something that I've already forgotten the name of. But it was perfect. Rich and full of flavour, but not too intense.

I am a little bit of, what you might call, a wine-wanker. I fully admit I know only enough about wine making to be dangerous. And to potentially make a fool of myself by asking questions just knowledgeable enough to be really stupid. When I tasted the wine he'd poured me, I guessed it was Italian. It was Spanish. "Right continent!" I crowed. It doesn't take much...

So here's In His Eyes, snuggled, kind of where it belongs, amongst a wall full of wine.

Now, don't forget that if you're partial to an occasional glass of wine, I have a special giveaway for anyone who leaves a comment this month. You could win a pair of stunning Riedel wine glasses.

I'm also dishing the goss about some of the inspiration behind In His Eyes over on the SuperRomance blog, so come visit me there too.

Happy In His Eyes release day! Hope you enjoyed a nice glass of something -- whatever you chose to drink. :)

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Yet more gratuitous self-promotion...

Here's me in Target in Shepparton! Yes, I found my book and made a Target employee take my photo.
If you're thinking I love that scarf, you'd be right.*
Unfortunately he wasn't very thrilled about the whole thing and no one else noticed, so it was a rather disappointing visit compared to my adventure in Morwell.
One of the most thrilling things was to see the company I was in on the shelf! There was Rachel Johns and RITA-winning Fiona Lowe and (just out of shot underneath my book) Victoria Dahl. All writers of fantastic books -- it's so exciting to share shelf space with them!

I don't think I'll ever get sick of seeing my books on shelves!

*I have realized that I have been wearing that scarf a lot. It's a 100% cashmere pashmina that I bought from the Shanghai Tang store at Hong Kong airport. I'd been lucky enough to get into the first class lounge and had been sipping on a few glasses of Veuve Cliquot when I decided it would be good to fill in the remaining time with a spot of shopping. I'm blaming the champagne for the fact that I didn't do the currency conversion properly and ended up spending a significant -- nay, VERY significant -- amount of money on a scarf. It's lucky I like it. A lot. Because I'm working that cost-per-wear ratio very hard. :)