Author Archives: AJ Collins

Her Bitch Dress

Category : Let's Launch

Her Bitch Dress

Eugen Bacon

Summary:

Love is …

a moment by the seaside at St Kilda Beach, luminescent sand between our toes, the poetics of a dawn tide pivotal to our playground, the hush of you and me in the whirligigs of the sea, our anxious thrill at the cusp of a new literature. A sombre impulse to walk away. It is the yesterdays, todays and tomorrows that make up the everyday vignettes in this chapbook.

Theme

Her Bitch Dress is about desire and distress. Literary vignettes on the everyday. Preface by award-winning author and distinguished scholar Dominique Hecq.

Details

Author name: Eugen Bacon

Book title: Her Bitch Dress

Genre:  Literary microlit

Launch date:  15 May 2020

Website: Ginnindera Press Chapbooks

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Tell us something about yourself that not many people know.

Random things about me: I can do planks. Dead people visit. I love rain, sun and snow. ‘Must finish’ syndrome—my Achilles heel.

Why did you choose these themes in your book and were you aware of them from the outset?

I’m part of a prose poetry project run by the University of Canberra, led by Prof Paul Hetherington. Its members are distinguished scholars and I nearly fell when they accepted me. We email each other the enchantment of words on the everyday in a safe but addictive environment. Some of my microlit is a response to another’s, and the playfulness is exhilarating. 

How difficult was it for you to write this book? Did you face any obstacles?

It’s a tiny chapbook of 24 microscopic pieces, all cathartic, no obstacles. The first piece ‘for Beachwalk’ is inspired by someone I felt passionately about at the time of writing. Prose poetry was a breaking out of the box, but it has enriched my other writing across forms and genre in a most unfathomable way. 

What are your writing habits or idiosyncrasies?

I am so focused, it’s not funny. I finished my PhD in two-and-a-half years—that’s the kind of focus I’m talking about. A project keeps me awake—I have no choice but to finish the goddamn thing. I grab a good night’s sleep only after the work’s gone to the editor, before the next project haunts and, even then, the editor or publisher might wake up to a STOP! PRESS! THIS VERSION!

If you worked with a professional editor, what was the experience like?

I’ve known this editor fifteen years, sadly she’s now retired and lives in a most magnificent bungalow (yes, I visited) in Tasmania. She understood my writing so intimately. Her feedback was that I theme the collection, which I did. Her words stay with me (sure, I copied and pasted): ‘As usual, I love the way you use words and imagery, very intense and apt.’

I think that sums me: inwardly intense.

What’s next for your writing?

I have so many projects on the go at any one time. Writing across forms means I have flexibility to write short stories, creative articles, novels, nonfiction books. A publisher I adore has accepted my nonfiction proposal for a book in 2021/22. I also have black speculative fiction featuring in tremendous anthologies alongside amazing authors. I’d love to talk about them but can’t just yet. A novel in the works …

Author Bio

Eugen Bacon is African Australian, a computer scientist mentally re-engineered into creative writing. Her work has won, been shortlisted, longlisted or commended in national and international awards, including the Bridport Prize, Copyright Agency Prize, Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future Award and Nommo Award for Speculative Fiction by Africans. Publications: Claiming T-Mo, Meerkat Press. Writing Speculative Fiction, Macmillan. In 2020: Her Bitch Dress, Ginninderra Press; The Road to Woop Woop & Other Stories, Meerkat Press; Hadithi, Luna Press Publishing; Inside the Dreaming, NewCon Press. 

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Love Letters to My Body

Category : Let's Launch

Love Letters to My Body:

Writing My Way to (Self-)Love

Nicole C. Ayers

Summary:

Dear Reader, 

Learning to love my body has been a journey. I didn’t want to live in her, much less learn to love her. In this collection of personal essays, I dig into the complex relationship I have with parts of my body by writing love letters to them.

“My imperfections are always more beautiful than hiding behind a veneer.”

 “I dropped the heavy bag of ‘should’ I carried around for much too long.”

“Your softness, your fullness, your capacity for creation fills me with awe.”

Even though our stories and experiences are different, I bet you’ll catch glimpses of yourself here. My hope is that reading these letters will make you curious about your own relationship with your body. And if after reading and reflecting on your own body, you’re a smidge closer to accepting your body just as it is, know that I’m cheering so loudly for you.

Love,

Nicole C. Ayers

Theme

Love Letters to My Body: Writing My Way (Self-)Love is a collection of personal essays that takes readers through the nuanced relationship I have with my body. But because women universally struggle with body image and self-acceptance, readers will catch glimpses of themselves in my stories.

Details

Author name: Nicole C. Ayers

Book title: Love Letters to My Body: Writing My Way to (Self-)Love

Genre: juxtaposed between memoir and self-help

Launch date: February 21, 2020

Website: nicolecayers.com/writing

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Let's talk about it

Tell us something about yourself that not many people know.

I had fantasies of being a pilot when I was a little girl.

Why did you choose the themes in your book and were you aware of them from the outset?

Love Letters was born out of my first manuscript, Love Notes to My Body. I was writing love notes to various body parts, in an attempt to learn to love my body, from my crow’s-feet to my pinky toes, and some of those notes got longer and longer. Their tone shifted from gratitude and celebration to something more nuanced. Eventually, they turned into love “letters”, where I was able to dig deeper into the grittier parts of my journey to accept and love myself.

How difficult was it for you to write this book? Did you face any obstacles?

It was very hard and also one of the easiest things I’ve ever done. It was difficult to be so vulnerable on the page, knowing that strangers (and loved ones) would “see” me. There were plenty of writing sessions where I cried. And discerning which stories were for sharing and which were just for me was tricky. But opening my heart and giving myself permission to tell the truth meant that I would sit down and the words would show up, every time. I often felt like a conduit for my divine muse.

What would you do differently next time?

I think I’d only publish one book instead of three at the same time. Ha! Three books made publishing intense. But that’s how they unfolded, so honestly, I’d do it again if that’s what felt like the right move.

With hindsight, what would you say to yourself as a fledgling writer?

You kept going, and you did this very hard thing. I am so proud of you! Your voice is powerful, and you have stories to tell that people want to read.

If you worked with a professional editor, what was the experience like?

I worked with three different editors, and it was joy, joy, joy to partner with each of them. My developmental and line editor helped me shape these essays into the strongest, truest versions they could be. And both of my proofreaders polished the manuscript in ways that I could not manage on my own.

Author Bio

Nicole C. Ayers has been playing with words as long as she can remember. While she’s held many jobs in her life, including stints as a server, camp counsellor, telemarketer, print-shop lackey, bartender, and teacher, editing at Ayers Edits was her favourite, because she combined her love of reading with the fun of wordplay, until she added writer to this list. Now it would be hard to convince her there’s anything better than telling her own stories.

Nicole is the author of Love Notes to My Body and the companion books,  Love Letters to My Body: Writing My Way to (Self-)Love and Writing Your Way to (Self-)Love: A Guided Journal to Help You Love Your Body, One Part at a Time (SPARK Publications, 2020).

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The Shifting Landscape

Category : Let's Launch

The Shifting Landscape

Katherine Kovacic

Summary:

Art dealer Alex Clayton travels to Victoria’s Western District to value the McMillan family’s collection. At their historic sheep station, she finds an important and previously unknown colonial painting – and a family fraught with tension. There are arguments about the future of the property and its place in an ancient and highly significant indigenous landscape.

When the family patriarch dies under mysterious circumstances and the painting is stolen, Alex decides to leave; then a toddler disappears, and Alex’s faithful dog Hogarth goes missing. With fears rising for the safety of both child and hound, Alex and her best friend John, who has been drawn into the mystery, join searchers scouring the countryside. But her attempts to unravel the McMillan family secrets have put Alex in danger, and she’s not the only one.

Will the killer claim another victim? Or will the landscape reveal its mysteries to Alex in time?

Theme

While The Shifting Landscape features art and murder, the core theme is one of possession and dispossession. 

Details

Author name: Katherine Kovacic

Book title: The Shifting Landscape

Genre: Crime fiction

Launch date: 31 March 2020

Website: katherinekovacic.com

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Let's talk about it

Tell us something about yourself that not many people know.

I used to dance mambo (and I miss it)!

Why did you choose these themes in your book and were you aware of them from the outset?

I was aware of the themes from the outset, but I don’t feel I actively ‘chose’ them. They were already part of the setting and history for this book. My protagonist, Alex Clayton, is an art dealer and the colonial art of this region of Australia is also rich with the concepts I wanted to tackle.

How difficult was it for you to write this book? Did you face any obstacles?

While I wouldn’t call it an obstacle, The Shifting Landscape is set in Victoria’s Western District with a storyline that involves the Indigenous landscape of Budj Bim. I did extensive research on the history of the region and I wanted readers to engage with that, without being overwhelmed.

Do you always write in this genre or do you like to break out of the box?

I love writing crime, but occasionally I break out of the box! I actually have a waiting room of characters in my head with different stories to tell …

What are your writing habits or idiosyncrasies?

I am definitely a knitter! I have to start at the beginning and keep going without jumping around. If there are particular ideas for later in the story, I write them as notes only and only flesh them out as I arrive at that point in the narrative.

I walk my dogs before dawn, and it’s the perfect time to let a plot unfold in my mind. There is often frantic scribbling the moment we walk in the door!

What’s next for your writing?

Another book in the Alex Clayton art mystery series, and a true crime.

Author Bio

Katherine Kovacic is a former veterinarian turned art historian who works with a wide variety of museums, galleries and historic houses. She lives in Melbourne with a Borzoi and a Scottish Deerhound. The Shifting Landscape is the third Alex Clayton art mystery.

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A Question of Country

Category : Let's Launch

A Question of Country

Sue Parritt

Summary:

On Christmas Eve 1969, a letter from Australia House, London, brings welcome news for newly-weds Anna and Joseph Fletcher.

Young and idealistic, Anna falls passionately in love with their adopted land. Seven months later, an unexpected event causes their life to take a tragic turn.

Years pass, and Anna retreats to a fictional world she has created. But when a different challenge presents itself, does she have the courage to take the risk … or will she take refuge in fantasy?

Theme

Have the courage to become who you want to be, instead of adopting the roles family, friends and society in general expect of you.

Details

Author name: Sue Parritt

Book title: A Question of Country

Genre: Contemporary fiction

Launch date: 19 April 2020

Website: www.sueparritt.com

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eBooks

Amazon

 

Let's talk about it

Tell us something about yourself that not many people know.

I tend to focus on the failures in my life instead of successes. Self-love is a difficult concept.

Why did you choose these themes in your book and were you aware of them from the outset?

I wanted to explore – in a fictional context – the ambivalent relationship I still have with my adopted land after living in Australia for almost fifty years.

How difficult was it for you to write this book? Did you face any obstacles?

I abandoned my first draft after 100 pages, believing the concept wouldn’t work. Several years later, following publication of my novels Re-Navigation and Feed Thy Enemy, I felt confident enough to risk a second attempt. 

Do you always write in this genre or do you like to break out of the box?

I write in different genres: contemporary fiction, historical fiction, speculative fiction. Variety is the spice of a writer’s life!

What are your writing habits or idiosyncrasies?

Creating novels is my retirement career, so I try to write for at least four hours each weekday. Once my domestic chores have been completed, usually by ten am, I retreat to my beautiful garden studio, built by my husband, only emerging to prepare meals! 

With hindsight, what would you say to yourself as a fledgling writer?

Try not to become disconsolate when your manuscript is rejected. If you have faith in your writing, someday a publisher will believe in your work and offer a contract.

What’s next for your writing?

Completing the first draft of my WIP Twenty-eight Days (currently 83,000 words). I’m planning a speculative fiction trilogy again, series title: The Doorkeeper. My protagonist, Emma, age 70, will feature in each book.  A graphic dream that bordered on nightmare, inspired me to write this eighth novel.

Author Bio

Originally from England, Sue worked in university libraries until taking early retirement in 2008 to concentrate on creative writing. Since then she has written seven novels, including a climate-fiction trilogy of a future dystopian Australia and Feed Thy Enemy, based on a true WWII story.

Sue’s WIP, Twenty-eight Days, is set on the Mornington Peninsula in 2100. It deals with overpopulation and extended life expectancy in an increasingly climate-challenged world and the inhumane solutions adopted by a government determined to rid Australia of unproductive citizens.

Passionate about peace and social justice, Sue’s goal is to continue writing novels that address these issues as she believes the extensive life experience of older writers can engage readers of all ages.

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The Decision They Made

Category : Let's Launch

The Decision They Made

Maria Frino

Summary:

Two sisters, Amelia and Simona Lillostra, share a secret. One so distressing to them it is never to be revealed. What they didn’t count on is a young Russian man entering their lives, a man related to Amelia’s Russian lover from WWII. When TV anchor, Larissa Mina meets Alexey Dubrovsky at an awards night, neither has any idea there is a secret in both their pasts. What is this dark family secret and why were two loving sisters torn apart?

Theme

A family saga spanning three generations and three countries. Full of dark secrets, flawed love and a decision no one was supposed to discover.

Details

Author name:  Maria P Frino

Book title: The Decision They Made

Genre: Historical fiction family saga

Launch date: 26 April 2020

Website: Mario P Frino

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Do you always write in this genre or do you like to break out of the box?

I write family sagas, though I’ve also written sci-fi and crime short stories. My stories always have an element of water or the sea. Having grown up in a coastal beach suburb, my love of water has stayed with me even after moving to Sydney.

Where and how do you write?

I write at home and have for years, usually with coffee by my side. And my dog, Sassie. The Decision They Made was written 25 years ago, shelved then resurrected about five years ago. It was first published on 1 Dec 2019, soon after my short story Xenure Station: A Billion Light Years was published.

What are your thoughts on authors reading reviews of their work?

This can be a minefield, especially for first-time authors. It is reasonable to expect that some readers won’t enjoy your story, but your feelings take a hit when you read a bad review. So far, I have more good reviews than bad, which is a relief.

How do you feel about the ‘write what you know’ mantra?

I have just written two blogs about this mantra. I’m a believer of it. How can you write effectively about something you know little about? If you do decide to write about something you know little about, your research had better be up to scratch.

Were there times you felt like giving up? Why?

Many. It’s probably the reason I shelved the novel for so long. I never felt I was a writer until later in life. This was even though I had a career as a PR writer. I didn’t think someone who wrote about products was a true author. I’ve proved myself wrong. Now I wish I had not left it so long to publish my stories.

What’s next for your writing?

I’m currently writing another short story, a novel about two men who become friends late in life and a sequel to the Xenure Station short story. Xenure Station: The Revenge is a full-length novel and this series will be three books, so it’s a trilogy.

Author Bio

Maria has made a career of using words to communicate. A job in television nurtured Maria’s love of words. Studying Communications gave her the opportunity to work with advertising and public relations agencies, corporate companies and newspapers. She has written PR, ads and newsletters for food, jewellery, fashion and interiors, garden and building products. When she is not writing website content or as a senior reviewer for Weekend Notes, she works on her stories. 

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A New Name for the Colour Blue

Category : Let's Launch

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A New Name for the Colour Blue

Annette Marner

Summary:

Ten years after the disappearance of her best friend, and the death of her mother, Cassandra Noble escapes her country childhood in the Flinders Ranges to pursue life as an artist in the city. On the threshold of a promising career as a painter, her creativity suddenly abandons her. Soon after, she finds herself with a lover who wishes to control her just as her father once did. While her last painting just might hold the key to why she can no longer create, what will happen when she discovers the two tragic events of her childhood are linked in ways she could never have imagined?

Theme

The book explores consequences of unaccountable and corrupt uses of cultural, legislative and personal power in the intersecting spheres of the state, the community and the domestic.  Because we are born into already established cultures of power, and they are renewed and re-enforced in education, religion and by the state and community, we develop psychological blind spots or scotomas that distort our vision of what is real and what is truth.

Details

Author name: Annette Marner

Book title: A New Name for the Colour Blue

Genre: Crime fiction (as literary fiction)

Launch date: 5 March 2020

Website:  annettemarner.com

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Do you always write in this genre or do you like to break out of the box?

This is my debut novel. My first book was a collection of poetry.

What themes guided your book, and were you aware of them from the start?

From the time I started writing poetry and then short stories at the age of 6, I have written about violence towards the Australian landscape, and male violence towards women and girls. In 1984, in my first year as an ABC Radio broadcaster, I wanted to make a documentary about domestic violence in country South Australia, because no one had done anything like that before in SA. I took my tape recorder into a women’s shelter and listened to the women’s stories about their broken bones and broken hearts. Two years later, I started this novel. As a current affairs broadcaster, (over many years) I covered terrible stories of male violence against women and children. And of course the violence against the Australian landscape never stopped either. I hadn’t planned to write about racism, but the deeper I explored these themes, the more I had to confront my racist upbringing. It is impossible to explore the destruction of the Australian landscape without confronting the power of colonisation over Aboriginal people.

As the years passed, my determination to work on this book never waivered. What waivered was the time available to do it. My radio career had to come first.

What other creative activities do you do when not writing?

In the life-long and ongoing journey to learn about my landscape, I have become a fine art nature photographer. When I started this book in 1986, I had never heard of Kangaroo Grass. Now, my photograph of Kangaroo Grass is on the front cover of my novel, and my little sketch of it introduces each chapter. Throughout the book, my tiny photograph of a native sedge is used to separate paragraphs, and of course because the novel references galahs, the back cover features my photograph of galahs in flight. I am very grateful my publisher Wakefield Press supported my vision for this book beyond just the text.

I needed a song for characters in my novel to sing. It needed to be a song about longing and separation with a deep Irish feel to it. I didn’t want to bother with copyright applications and paperwork, so I wrote the lyrics myself. It is called Tobar Bride, which is the sacred well of St Brigid.

Several months ago, I had an idea that it would be fun if a songwriter put it to music. I approached Anna O’Neil in Perth who records as Anna O, and she took my lyrics into the studio and, along with Sam Wylde, created the song. It now has worldwide release on Spotify, iTunes etc.

How do you feel about the ‘write what you know’ mantra?

I always wanted to write about my home landscape (the Southern Flinders Ranges in South Australia) because I thought I knew it. As I started to write and compare my knowledge with the way other writers (English mostly) write about their landscapes, I soon realised I knew very little. I couldn’t identify the species of eucalyptus or distinguish between the European weeds and native grasses. I didn’t know about the interactions between the native plants and birds either. So I spent years living in this landscape with my notebook (and later a camera) watching and learning. It was a labour of love. I describe my novel now as my lovesong to the Australian landscape, the Southern Flinders Ranges.

As for the narrative itself, it is fiction. But I drew on the energy of a million experiences and stories I’ve heard, voices that I remember when I was a child, and these things have been enlarged, reduced, dyed and turned inside out. In short, I’ve combined the untidiness of life and my imagination to create both the characters and the story.

Were there times you felt like giving up?

I felt so ablaze – enraged by the themes I was exploring I never once thought of giving up.

My rage kept me going on this project for over 30 years. I wanted to show people the impacts of everyday cruelty. I wanted to show them how we can change the way as non-Aboriginal people to fall in love with this landscape. How we can change the way we talk to it and be in it.

Every hour I had to work on this book felt like a privilege. Never a chore. I loved every minute of it even when it was hard.

What’s next for your writing?

I am working on a very long poem about connecting and communicating with the Australian landscape. I am also working on a collection of black and white photographs to accompany the text.

Author Bio

Photo by Kaz Eaton

Dr Annette Marner is an award-winning writer and fine art nature photographer.

In 2018, she won the Art SA/Wakefield Press Unpublished Manuscript Award at the Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature for A New Name for the Colour Blue.

Her first book Women With Their Faces on Fire won the Unpublished Manuscript Award for Poetry for Friendly Street/Wakefield Press and was on the reading list at Flinders University.

She has exhibited collections of her photography in galleries, won several awards, and is an Associate Member of the Royal South Australian Society for Arts.

Annette has a Ph.D in Creative Writing.

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The Great Divide

Category : Let's Launch

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The Great Divide

L.J.M. Owen

Summary:

In the rural Tasmanian town of Dunton the body of a former headmistress of a children’s home is discovered, revealing a tortured life and death.

Detective Jake Hunter, newly-arrived, searches for her killer among past residents of the home. He unearths pain, secrets and broken adults. Pushing aside memories of his own treacherous past, Jake focuses all his energy on the investigation.

Why are some of the children untraceable? What caused such damage among the survivors?

The identity of the murderer seems hidden from Jake by Dunton’s fog of prejudice and lies, until he is forced to confront not only the town’s history but his own nature.

This is gripping, atmospheric, rural Australian crime fiction at its best.  For fans of Jane Harper, Val McDermid, Alan Carter, Candice Fox, Dervla McTiernan and Emma Viskic.

The Great Divide explores the lingering impacts of being deemed ‘less than’ by one’s own community, reflecting the silent anguish of many.

L.J. drew on her own childhood in small town Australia to explore the shared experiences of children becoming adults in a world that has cast them aside.

Theme

Twisted Secrets. Hidden Victims. Monstrous Crimes. A city detective hunts a killer through a fog of lies in small town Tasmania.

Details

Author name: L.J.M. Owen

Book name: The Great Divide

Genre: Australian Rural Crime/Terror Australis

Launch date: November 2019

Website: ljmowen.com

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Let's talk about it

Where and how do you write?

When I’m in the flow, I write almost 24/7.

I write in my head when I’m driving, cooking, cleaning and (ostensibly) watching TV.

My mind works on plot and character development while I sleep.

Otherwise, I can be found on the couch, in bed or on the balcony with my laptop, typing madly.

What other creative activities do you do when not writing?

I work on TAF’s Booklove Tuesdays, bringing readers and writers from a variety of genres together for an hour of intense booklove once a week; I tinker with photography; I drum (Arabic, mostly); and I experiment with unusual recipes from around the world.

What are your thoughts on authors reading reviews of their work?

Take a deep breath, read them for:

a) great grab quotes:

b) themes in the feedback you’re receiving from readers; and

c) excellent dinner party stories about how a reader thought you (a woman scientist) were a horrible man for being so condescending about women in science.

Or the one who took a star off because – despite admitting they knew nothing about archaeology – they ‘thought the author got the archaeology wrong’.

There are some doozies out there!

Were there times you felt like giving up?

My very first reader review on Goodreads was scathing, not of my book particularly, but of the entire genre it belonged to. The reader clearly hadn’t read my book much past the first couple of chapters, they were just using it as an excuse to grandstand.

At the time, it hurt more than I should probably admit. Now, I can look back and laugh at how hit-and-miss the whole review space can be, but at the time it made me doubt whether I should continue.

With hindsight, what would you say to yourself as a fledgling writer?

Just. Keep. Going.

What’s next for your writing?

Multiple projects: 

  • another Dr Pimms archaeological cold case, this time involving the women of Genghis Khan’s empire;
  • a narrative online game version of Dr Pimms;
  • a foray into graphic novels;
  • a screenplay of The Great Divide; and
  • I’ve had many requests for a follow-up to The Great Divide, so I’m pondering a possible return for Jake Hunter.

Never a dull moment when you’re a writer!

Author Bio

An Australian author, librarian and archaeologist with a passion for reclaiming women’s history, Dr L. J. M. Owen is the host of TAF’s Booklove Tuesdays and literary festival director of the Terror Australis Readers and Writers Festival.

L.J.’s latest release, the atmospheric The Great Divide, is a gripping investigation set deep in the heart of rural Tasmania. A dark departure from her usual Dr Pimms archaeological mystery series, The Great Divide is receiving rave reader and industry reviews.

L.J.’s freelance services include writing, editing and speaking. She is currently in COVID19 lockdown with her partner, two cats, four chickens and a motherload of coffee beans.

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No Defence

Category : Let's Launch

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No Defence

Lauren Wilkinson-Barnes

Summary:

No Defence is the inspirational, heartfelt memoir of Kenny Mcilwain’s extraordinary courage to share his long-held secret of being sexually abused while serving as an apprentice in the Royal Australian Navy and his fight; for his own survival, the truth to be known, and to make those who so profoundly failed him accountable for their heinous and indefensible actions.

Theme

Belief, justice and awareness for sexual abuse victims. No more covering up, no more silence.

Details

Author name: Lauren Wilkinson-Barnes (with Kenny Mcilwain)

Book title: No Defence

Genre: Memoir

Launch date: 9th April, 2020

Website: Lauren Wilkinson-Barnes

 

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Let's talk about it

Do you always write in this genre or do you like to break out of the box?
My last three books have all been in the genre of memoir. I have however, previously written a child’s fiction novel.

What themes guided your book and were you aware of them from the start?
The themes that have guided my three memoirs are real life experiences shared with truth and honesty – bringing awareness to topics considered embarrassing, uncomfortable, shameful or that have historically been hidden and not talked about openly. Betrayal in marriage, mental health, sexual assault, domestic violence.

Where and how do you write?
I write in my study on my desktop. I write when I have the opportunity to do so, usually when I am on my own in the house. No Defence took three years to write as I was working 4 or 5 days per week as a school teacher. I tended to write every second weekend when my boys were at their dad’s house. At the end of the day, a glass of wine next to my right hand certainly helped lubricate my creative juices.

What are your thoughts on authors reading reviews of their work?
I do not recommend authors read their reviews. This comes from personal experience. As much as it is lovely to receive grateful and positive comments from readers, the few scathingly personal, negative reviews, have left me feeling sick in the stomach and disheartened for days. I am now very careful to avoid looking too closely. There will always be trolls no matter what you do.

How do you feel about the ‘write what you know’ mantra?
I agree with the write what you know mantra. Good writing is authentic writing and this needs to come from what’s inside you – your experiences, your thoughts, your knowledge, your beliefs. This applies to fiction writing as well as non-fiction.

What’s next for your writing?
Right now, I am writing blogs for my website. I was planning on writing a third memoir book to follow Smashed To Pieces and Piece By Piece – called The Missing Piece, but I feel I can do this through my blogs and connect more dynamically with my readers. I then want to have a good crack at writing an adult fiction novel.

Author Bio

Lauren Wilkinson-Barnes grew up as a competitive swimmer, winning national medals as a world ranked Backstroker and representing Australia twice in 1985. She lived as an athlete at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra from 1985 – 1986.

Lauren has a Bachelor of Teaching and a Diploma of Professional Counselling. She is a primary school teacher and mother of four sons, living in the beautiful Southern Highlands of NSW.

Despite always having a penchant for writing, an unexpected life crisis in 2008 became the cathartic catalyst for writing her first book, Smashed To Pieces. Piece By Piece followed, continuing the story of her recovery and healing. Her latest book, No Defence is the gripping memoir of Kenny Mcilwain, a remarkable man Lauren met through her swimming, who had a life story begging to be shared with the world.

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How to find a publisher

How to find a publisher or agent

Is it an editor’s job to help a client get published after the editing process?

The answer is no. While I do provide a submission and back cover blurb review service – if I’ve edited your book – it’s not an editor’s role to research publishers or agents for clients. This is the legwork every writer needs to do themselves.

The research you undertake during this process is essential for you, as an author, to be able to provide comparative listings when preparing your submission to publishers or agents, i.e. What other publications can you compare your own writing to? What similar themes do you explore? Which authors do you identify with?

So how to research a publisher or agent?

I suggest you go to a bookshop or library and check what other similar books have been published recently or are still strong sellers years down the track. Make a list of who published which book. Have a look through the acknowledgements sections to see if any authors are represented by an agent. Then you can look up each publisher’s or agent’s website to check their submission guidelines.

Tip 1: Publisher or agent guidelines

Follow these guidelines to the letter, including what and how you submit. This process tells publishers if you’re able to take instructions and will be easy or difficult to work with. If you don’t follow them, you risk having your submission binned without a glance.

Tip 2: Agents vs publishers

Who should you approach first? It’s really a personal choice; however, here are some points to consider:

  • These days, publishers are generally more open to writers approaching them directly, and some have set up weekly pitch opportunities, e.g. Allen & Unwin have The Friday Pitch, and Pan Macmillan have Manuscript Monday.
  • Agents already have existing relationships with publishers, so you have a better chance of getting a publishing deal if an agent goes in to bat for you. They will also look after your contract if you’re lucky enough to land a deal.
  • If you have already approached publishers directly and been rejected, an agent is unlikely to then offer you representation, as you have closed off those publishing opportunities.
  • If you are lucky enough to be offered a contract by a publisher, you are still free to then ask an agent to represent you.

Where to find publisher or agent details

The Australian Writer’s Marketplace is an excellent source of information on Australian publishers and agents. There is a subscription fee for the online version, but your local library should have a current hard copy. *As of Jan 2020, the website was under development, so it’s probably a better option to get a hold of a hard copy.

Agent Query is a free American agent source site with some great tips on how to approach agents and write submission letters.

Be ready before you submit

But first things first. Your manuscript needs to be in the best possible shape before you even consider submitting it. Publishers and agents receive thousands of submissions every year, and each manuscript is often only given a quick glance before being passed over. This means you only have a brief chance at being noticed, so why wouldn’t you want to put your best work forward? And I can help you get there. Have a look at my manuscript editing services and let me help you get your story to shine.


Flash Fiction

30 days of flash fiction

April this year, I took part in the Writers Victoria 30 Day Flash Fiction Challenge. 9:00 each morning, I received a one-word prompt, which was a fab way of forcing my brain into the writing zone. Some days, I wished it would arrive much earlier, so I could lie in the luxury of bed dreaming up a new short story before facing the office. Wishes aside, I set about crafting my flash fiction, which had to be whittled down to exactly thirty words – no more, no less. Each entry then had to be tweeted before close of business. Of course, I’m impatient and wanted the job done and dusted ASAP, so I could get on with my day.

A thirty-word story didn’t seem that difficult at the outset, but when those words have to convey meaning, a story arc, character and scene, each freaking letter counted.

My efforts paid off on day thirteen, when my entry was chosen as the winner for the day. I won’t lie. It was a tiny thrill.

Here are my thirty entries tweeted to: #WVFlashFic @Writers_Vic #word

Pearl

It wasn’t real, but she wore it because it made him smile. She liked the fragility of it in her fingers, knowing the power and acidity of a careless heart.

Perfectionism

She lays the t-shirt flat, runs a hand to ease wrinkles, reshape. The iron hisses and she grits, pulling at the corners, the goddamn seams that refuse to line up.

Treasure

Fresh to this foreign world, each furred and clawed bundle blindly bulldozes past siblings – unconscious sacrifice – searching, sensing, padding, prodding, inherent primal instinct a suckling magnet to mother’s milky bounty.

Nacreous

Muculent lumps showcased on luminescence. Beast and beauty. Try one. He stabbed it with a tiny fork, pressed her clamped lips. Enhances sex, he hinted. Neither initiation was happening tonight.

Iridescent

How the fleeting bubbles, glinting rainbows in the sun, made her eyes widen, sparkle beneath those dark lashes, too long, too lush, while dimpled hands reached and crushed worlds within.

Remember

Two hundred and six bones, lost in a field of war and clay. His smile, his touch, his promise, held within a failing heart, far across the sea. Never dulled.

Transform

When she’d started, she could barely touch her toes. She’d focused, sweated, swore, sacrificed, cried even. Now she could touch the sky, only to realise there was nothing to grasp.

Celebrate

It crept up inside her, a hatchling chick pecking at the crust of her scepticism, hope bound tight as he opened the file. ‘Negative.’ Her relief burst in breathless gratitude.

Inventive

Grandmother’s lace tablecloth, antique; her sister’s ribbons, worn on summer days; mother’s precious brooch, fragile, tarnished; wildflowers in her hair. She wore the love of her womenfolk to her marriage.

 Beginning

He shifts, uncomfortable in his body, closes his eyes with fragile determination. Tomorrow will be different. Tomorrow he will take control, be accountable. Midnight, he wakes and opens the fridge.

Lustre

He rubbed at it, the gold patina, faded along with their lives. Neither had ever removed them. Even now, though flowers, tears and soil separated their bodies, they remained undivided.

Despair

She ached for his mouth, pulling at her breast; keened for his tiny fingers, curling with ecstasy; his fragility, warmly bundled against hers, against the endless cold that stole him.

Precious

She stares, imagines its ears twitching, its nose. Last year she didn’t wait, and it was gone in minutes. This year, she would devour the bunny with her eyes first.

Tenacity

On the verge, a last breath. Let go? All that’s led to now, wasted? Push. Push. Nothing gives. Go under, go around, go over. ‘Go through,’ you say. Experience. Surrender.

Blunder

He didn’t know his heart could bleed. Yet, here it was, dripping, exposed, victim of a rampant rage of misunderstanding. How? He’d spoken so carefully, so specifically. Fucking Dragon Dictate.

Tears

I’d long expected it; it was second-hand, probably third even, the weave having grown finer with each wash, though lately I’d handled it as carefully as a prayer, albeit unanswered.

Gloss

Mike wakes. Harsh light, blue curtain, stethoscope. Fogginess for a moment, then clarity. A slip. A thud, crack. Margie has a ‘told-you-so’ look. Should have used matt tiles.

Layers

In her final hours, she reveals her truth: the vulnerable child who became the crone, who never forgave, never accepted, loved. I touch her hand. I am not my mother. 

19. Wild

It had fastened its suckers to the brickwork, like a thousand millipedes clawing upwards. Mary said there was decay. We heaved, tore, leaving nothing but a memory, a ghostly imprint.

Trapped

Bracken scratches as she weaves towards watery murmuring, a jarring slip in steep mud, catches herself. A moment to breathe, leans forward, satisfied. A flash of silver in her net.

Shell

Charlie was the shyest. They would crawl over him, their spidery mechanical legs straddling him, slipping down the dome of his carapace, while he sat retracted, obstinate. A true hermit.

Imitation

Her tiny feet wobble inside giant shoes as she scoots along the carpet, lipstick smeared across her concentration, an earring tangled in her hair. She stops, beams her mother’s grin.

Baroque

Hangdog eyes, tortured posture and ragged clothing, he stung our privileged consciences, eked our last tourist dollars, coins. His gratitude: a gold-laden grin, blingy enough to gild Shakespeare’s painted lily.

Saltwater

She’s been lying so long crystals have formed on her skin. Crinkling in the folds of her elbows, knees, crunchy under her nails. A garment of the ocean’s dried tears.

Freedom

While he was away, she could breathe. Now, driving to the airport still soaked in a last night of freedom’s wine, she tightened her decision like a wall of muscle.

Rare

Her notes are a soft waterfall, each velvet drop easing through my pores, an osmotic symphony, filtering joy to my hollowed senses. Singularly sweet. Can I die from musical diabetes?

Freshwater

He loves to tease the tourists. ‘Prehistoric reptile,’ he says. ‘Lived here all its life. Swim anyone?’ I dive in. Eleven years and yet to witness the shy, harmless freshie.

Diving

The last one jumps in. Just me and the captain now, abandoned to the breaking bubbles. ‘Nothing down there that’ll hurt you,’ he tries again. I smile, yearn, back away.

Irritation

Can’t believe I missed this one. Too busy having a cervical MRI.

Grit

Teensy particles between her fingers, finer than sugar grit, sprinkled, powdery. A careful touch to her tongue. Indiscernible? Perfect! It would be served intimately, generously, with a terminally sweet smile.