Write your novel with US words and spelling, they said.

So I tried, I really did.

After all, Australian television has so many American shows and sit-coms, right?

All I needed to do was make a few adjustments –  no ‘u’ in ardour, behaviour, colour, honour, glamour, flavour, labour, neighbour, odour, valour, vapour, favourite  …

I’d change words like centre, litre, theatre to center, liter, and theater; and replace the odd ‘s’ with a ‘z’.

American and Australian language has a LOT of similarities. However, I ended up changing more words than I expected -


Poor thongs…


Gravel became road metal

Car park  > parking lot

Windscreen > windshield

Boot > trunk

Bonnet  > hood

Lift (building) > elevator

Toilet > washroom, restroom (so much nicer!)

Chips > french fries

Serviette > napkin

Restaurant bill > restaurant check

Bucket > pail

Verandah > porch or deck

Wardrobe > cupboard

Door frame > door jamb

Jumper > sweater

Singlet > talk top, athletic shirt

Bitumen  > asphalt


Photo credit: Yank in Australia

Gutter > kerb

Tyre > tire

Dressing gown > robe,

My writing began to look like a mixed breed dog. Arafura had an Australian setting with Australian characters, but you could hear the fake American accents a mile away.

A rough example - ‘Hey y’all, this dude must have a few kangaroos missing in the top paddock’ , or ‘I’m super excited to be wearing my awesome new togs!’

I gave a very wide berth to ‘fanny’ and ‘rooting’ (not even going there …) For some reason I couldn’t come at blokes saying ‘ass’ instead of ‘arse’, and stubbornly held onto ‘thongs’ (meaning flip-flops, not G-string).

In the end my prose sounded awkward, so I decided to stick to Australian words. Although I tried to stay away from slang, I think a few colloquialisms snuck in here and there. (Hope I didn’t make too much of a galah of myself.)


Photo credit: http://bit.ly/1yhcfYo


This Aussie-American couple have it sorted -

What word differences come to mind for you?

Sizzling book descriptions…

I’m back from the cave (actually, we call it Nanna’s room, for when she visits—otherwise it’s where I write.)

I’ve finally pressed the upload button on Amazon, and Arafura – Unfinished Business (the sequel to Arafura – Blood, the Wet and tears) is floating in cyber-space, hopefully not like space junk.

Arafura – Unfinished Business will have the odd mistake. It hasn’t been ‘professionally’ edited, but a few generous souls have given it the once over, and made valuable suggestions. Overall, they have been very supportive (except the one who wanted to slap a main character, and thanks, that was constructive.)

Every time I edit, there’s still a full-stop or an extra space/letter/repeated word/verb that could be more active/passive voice/split infinitive/spelling-formatting error/quotation mark one space short/incorrect indent/inconsistent voice/joke too far or not funny enough, sentence starting with but ….

But I’m not going to wear my hair shirt over it. At recent editing training for work, the instructor discussed footage of JK Rowling with her editor – who told the author something like, ‘Ooops, here the person with one hand is clapping’, and, ‘You don’t need the whole of chapter three – remove it‘. ‘Okay,’ Ms Rowling said, cool as a cucumber. It’s reassuring, to hear that – cheaper than therapy.

Not being a tactical, military person who lives to play, and/or dream up war games and terrorist plots and shoot/apprehend/chase/blow-up criminals, I hope I’ve accounted for all guns/weapon/wounds where they should be, and when. I think my baddies are bad (they scared me anyhow – how did they sneak into my  romance??)—I’ve drawn on evil I’ve heard about first hand (thankfully not lived first hand). I’ve researched my gaps, interviewed experts, and hope the plot is compelling enough to make the reader suspend disbelief when necessary (as in James Bond movies etc., I can only wish…) Seriously, the things writers get away with…and isn’t a lot of fact stranger than fiction anyway?

I’ve grappled with swear words, suspense and sex, how far I want to go… I’ve tried to follow advice and amend my language to US style (alas, to no avail, and to be discussed in a future post).

I hope Arafura – Unfinished Business takes the reader on an emotional journey, of ups and downs, fear and hope, sexual tension, love, lust and hate, darkness and light; and I wouldn’t be satisfied if the reader didn’t emit the occasional snort of laughter from the banter between the two main characters. Goodness, I wish they would shut up – they are still carrying on – their voices in my head, like a travelling circus of boisterous characters on a steam train that takes ages to grind to a halt.


No, this is NOT the male lead …

Stories are like people, you can’t please everyone. Not everyone will like you/me, or my/your writing/hero-ine/ending/beginning/humor/’ham-fisted’ theme/sub-plot /partner/cooking/dog/fashion-sense/third-cousin removed. But diversity is the spice of life, is it not?

Anyhow, to the theme of this post – how to write a sizzling book description.  After a bit of research, it’s clear a description should have -

  • an implied whole story with a hook, or a question/itch that has to be answered/scratched
  • a story that moves the reader, takes the reader somewhere, and the read must be worth the emotional journey
  • a hero who offers conflict at a basic level, who can transform – one who has a primal goal everyone can identify with, and
  • something to offer the reader. Why should they bother reading the book?

Okay … how about this?

Love is patient. Love is kind. Sometimes love is explosive ….

Schoolteacher Katherine is kidnapped by terrorists outside a supermarket one balmy evening after being stalked by an unconnected, odious suitor – a police officer.

Soon Kat is caught up in a plot to wreak havoc in Darwin, her unruly emotions over the man who rescues her, and an ex-fiancé who refuses to move on.

As time runs out, how can they convince the authorities to take the terrorists’ plans seriously?

Arafura – Unfinished Business is a gritty romance with a bit of sex, dynamite, and hilarity – not always at the same time …

Any suggestions about what compels you to read a book?


From dragons to warships, from fairies to androids – thanks to a talented artist.

In this post I’d like to thank the imaginative, talented, patient woman who designed the covers to my two novels, Michelle Rene Goodhew.

michelle renee 11

Photo credit: Michelle Rene Goodhew

I also love the covers Michelle Rene created for other books and am in love with this little fellow in particular -

Michelle rene dragon

Image credit: Michelle Rene Goodhew

It’s not easy explaining what you want on a cover when you’re not sure yourself, let alone to someone on the other side of the earth, via email and not over a cup of coffee with the advantage of waving your arms around to get your point across …

The founder of Smashwords, Mark Coker, suggested imagining your cover with all the words removed, then asking – is there a question in the cover image the reader wants an answer to? I thought that was really helpful advice (I’ve discovered anything Mark says is helpful! I’ve learnt a lot more about Microsoft Word formatting from his free Smashwords Style Guide).


Image credit: Michelle Rene Goodhew

The cover briefs were tricky to explain because I’m still not exactly sure which genre Arafura – Blood, the Wet and Tears and the sequel Arafura – Unfinished Business belong to. Romantic suspense/comedy/drama/action/?

Here is my description for the first book in the Arafura series:

Nobody said the build-up would be easy. No body …

Sensible schoolteacher Kat is planning to marry when her long-term fiancé finds the time. When the mysterious and damaged Adam arrives in town, Kat is jolted well out of her comfort zone. Despite her loyal intentions, a dead body and enough pre-monsoonal weather to strangle a Kat, she must wrestle with an instant attraction that is emotionally risky and absolutely, definitely fraught.

Arafura will appeal to female and male readers who enjoy quirky, witty suspense with dark edges.

My favourite cover is Michelle Rene’s bold design for the second novel in the Arafura series :

Arafura final

Image credit: Michelle Rene Goodhew

The storyline of Arafura – Unfinished Business just needs a bit of tweaking and will be published by the end of October this year (I keep changing the dates as other life admin sneaks up on me, but this is a deadline, and I’ll be taking a brief blogging hiatus to make target).

The tagline is – Love is patient. Love is kind. Sometimes love is explosive.

This is what Michelle Rene has to say about the process of her design for Arafura – Unfinished Business.

“Working on ‘Arafura: Unfinished Business’ has been full of rewards. The sunset was a new venture that I started with a wax base for texture. I’ve never constructed a painting this way and thought it was vibrant and captured the color I was looking for.

Susan responded with a request to give the clouds more definition and I’m so grateful she did. The final result is striking compared to my first draft. This is a great new style for me and I look forward to trying it again.

I guess I had a good vision of the ship from nearly the beginning. I had started with a side profile and then Susan recommended the front view of the ship hoping for a more ominous feeling. I ran with that and had a clear Idea of how I wanted the colors to play on the surface of the steel.

My intention from the beginning was to have a bit of an abstract feel in the final piece. I thought it would allow me to really bring those bold colors forward, and I think I managed that in the end.

Putting the lights on the ship was tedious but satisfying because each one just seemed to spring to life with a little glow. It was the first time I have ever attempted party lights and my technique proved successful. Joy!

I love the energy I have had while putting this together. Susan has been an amazing author to work with, she has a delightful personality with an edge of humor that really is a great combination to collaborate with.”

I encourage you to visit Michelle Rene’s blog Book Cover Designer to see for yourself what a talented, thoughtful and positive illustrator and writer she is. I’m really looking forward to her first graphic novel. And one day we’re going to have that coffee (or champagne) together. :)

If you’re interested, Arafura – Blood, the Wet and Tears can be purchased from Amazon here, or Smashwords here. It’s also available at Smashwords’ global network of on-line retailers, Barnes and Noble, Apple, Angus and Robertson, Collins, Kobo, FlipKart etc.

So, if you ever need an illustrator …

Michelle Rene curious

Image credit: Michelle Rene Goodhew



A diagnosis I’m happy with…

creative people


Call it denial, but I’d much rather be diagnosed as creative than most of the alternatives. It seems you can get away with quite a lot of things (making mistakes, being a ditz, being idealistic/naive, short attention span), all in exchange for being labelled imaginative, or creative. Phew! 


I like this even better!! Photo credit: bit.ly/1p3FxrC

For instance, everyone in our family has a lot of different pet names, even the dogs. Some visitors have found this quite eccentric, and told us so. Is it really that odd, oops, creative?

Coco, Coco-lossal, Critter, Coco-liscious, Speed-hump, Road-kill-with-a-pulse, Step-cycsta, (the mean ones are my husbands) * Little Miss Cocie-girl, Hairy Prawn, Coco-loco, Lou-la, Zena-Marie Biscuit. Have I mentioned the songs?

But there is one thing that might be a little unique in our household. Speaking of pets, one of our pooches is much more self-centred than the other dog. My daughters and I sometimes talk to each other in what we call the dog voice, which is a higher octave, playful, selfish and sassy tone, spoken from the dog’s point of view. For example:

‘Heh! Where’s my dinner? I said I was hungry!’

‘I saw you give yourself the big bit!’

‘I said, hurry up. I’m going to leave without you!’

“That’s enough of talking about you, let’s talk about me.’

Then one of us will realise and say, ‘Hey. We’re doing the dog voice in public again.’

Why do we do it? I think it’s an extension of the many hours the girls spent playing Barbies and role-playing in their American accents (the accent probably came from Saturday Disney doll advertisements on TV). When our puppy came along we gave her a voice too. This is the culprit, 14 years on, still at it.


You can imagine our delight when we came across a couple of funny Facebook Doge posts (not always funny and the inventor remains a mystery, so I don’t know who to credit). Here the dog’s voice comes across as ESL (English as a Second Language), which makes TOTAL sense. I mean, what dog was born speaking English? They always pick it up later on, even though spelling obviously remains a challenge.

doge 1

Photo credit: Doge Facebook

doge 4

Photo credit: Doge Facebook

My daughters find these hilarious because they reflect exactly how our older dog thinks. They’re probably laughing in relief, that they’ve found someone else who understands dogs’ thoughts and voices them. Someone else being ‘creative.’

Perhaps Doge really is a dog!! You can’t be sure people are who they say they are, on-line, can you?

On the internet

To acknowledge a fellow blogger who is creative and knows about dogs and their opinions, I encourage you to visit Annabelle Franklin’s blog and read her enchanting post, Malamute Magnet. If you like dogs, you will love this story from the dog’s point of view. I did!


Please tell me you do silly creative things with your dogs too. :)

* My husband should have been in advertising. He came up with Abominable Showman for a Rolf Harris headline.





Dirt Music – playing in my head, again…

I’ve discovered that great books are worth a second read in one lifetime. I recently revisited Tim Winton’s novel, Dirt Music, and it’s still a magnificent, compelling read. Besides the accolades on the title below, it won quite a few other awards too.


Dirt Music is a tale of raw psychological depth, about being held back by the violent chains of the past, of a life-inertia born of grief and regret—where the rescuer and the rescued are not clearly signposted (I hope it’s not a spoiler to say that’s the happy part).

Descriptions of the novel are more numerous than Dirt Music covers in this post.

Dirt music 4

Apart from my bolded additions, Penguin Books describe the (love) story thus:

‘Georgie Jutland is a mess. At forty, with her career in ruins, she finds herself stranded in White Point (a ‘personality junkyard’) with a fisherman (with a dirty secret) she doesn’t love and two kids whose dead mother she can never replace. Leached of all confidence, she spends her days in isolation tedium and her nights in a blur of vodka self-recrimination. One morning, in the boozy pre-dawn gloom, she sees a shadow drifting up the beach below – a loner called Luther Fox (haunted by his past), with danger in his wake.’

There are many twists and turns and vivid settings, and you don’t dare skim-read in case you miss the author’s lyrical prose. Tim Winton elucidates things many people don’t talk about, reminding us that we’re not alone. I enjoy the way he walks among us with a universal voice (no matter what country you’re from)—which drops us right alongside his characters. Even if you don’t understand all of Winton’s characters you’ll care, and want to know what happens to them.

My imagination provided me with different settings ten years on from my first reading, a possible cause for concern, but I’m sticking to the theory that it was just a different film version running through the projector in my head. I knew the ending—but couldn’t remember exact details, yet Winton had me on tender-hooks ALL over again.

Here are some of my favourite quotes that won’t spoil the story. -

  • Georgie looked at the martyred jut of his hip bones.
  • “The hot Vegemite breath of a child.
  • “The girls had a slutty self-possession that attracted men and boys like food.
  • When a character is way out at sea, swimming in rough, choppy seas – “The water is all bellies and hips like a packed dance floor.”
  • “The sky was a sea, blue as a coma.”
  • The stars roll by on their wheels.”
  • “Tonight every flurry beneath the rock feels like the breeze of her passing.

Years later, I’m drawn to the vulnerability of the male characters, and am more sympathetic to their poignant loneliness. Winton’s calibrated unfolding of Luther Fox and Big Jim Buckridge, even other minor male characters, shows great sensitivity and highlights a vulnerability, a sense of them being trapped in their own shells. Heath Ledger was expected to play the role of Luther Fox in the movie – he would have been a perfect choice.

Dirt music 5

Below are a few humble quotes from Winton on winning the Miles Franklin Literary Award – from a Sydney Morning Herald interview.

Tim Winton

Tim Winton

“You get a little bit of affirmation [from literary awards], which is nice, but you can’t take it too seriously because if you win it doesn’t mean necessarily that yours is the best book. If you lose it doesn’t mean yours isn’t the best book,” Winton says.

“I’ve been doing it long enough to know that it’s a bit of a crapshoot, a bit of a lottery and you can’t take it too seriously. Otherwise you’ll give yourself a broken heart, you know. Or you’ll start writing with a view to cracking the prizes.”


I enjoy escapism, so Dirt Music is my favourite of Winton’s books. Although his other novels are also evocative journeys, the emotionally compelling and ultimately uplifting story of Dirt Music puts it on my short-list of favourite novels.

Any suggestions for other inspiring writers of succinct prose? I’d love to read them.

Penguin Books Australia

Tim Winton’s Big Issues – smh.com.au

To all the writing perfectionists …

I’m following on from my previous post, Why I Write, and promise this will be one minute and fifty-four seconds well spent. The YouTube clip I’m recommending is titled – Ira Glass on the Creative Process. I know there’s a plethora of wonderful writing advice out there, but this one sticks for me.

What is Ira Glass known for, besides his enviable abs and self-effacing humour?

this american life 1

Photo credit: bit.ly/1j9NpH3 The Onion

Mr Glass’s award winning radio show,  This American Life, tells the stories of ordinary Americans, most of them true and most of them by or about everyday people. Don’t let the word, ‘Americans’ put you off; these stories are fascinating because they are about all of us. This American Life is broadcast on nearly 600 stations (including ABC radio, Australia), and is consistently the top Podcast on iTunes.

Da da … Ira Glass on the Creative Process, it’s gold:

As an aside, if you’re a commuter or planning a car trip I recommend downloading the $3.79 App and listening to Somewhere in the Arabian Sea-

this american life 3

This story is still on their favourites short list and goes for an hour. Fun to listen to Ira Glass getting into big trouble when he asks about sexual relations on the USS John C. Stennis.

What are your golden nuggets of writing advice? I’d love to know. :)


Why I write

The erudite and purportedly flippant Lee-Anne (also champion of the written word, chooks and dogs) at Is It Just Me, has kindly asked me to join a blog hop answering a few questions on Why I Write.

So, here goes, and I’d love to know your answers to these questions.

How does my writing differ from others in my genre?

Genre? No idea what genre I belong in, novel wise. I’ve always been the round-peg in the square hole. Is there a genre for romantic comedy/suspense with a dark twist? The book covers in ‘romantic comedy’ don’t quite match my story. I will work on this…

Like Pinky Poinker, I could blame Monty Python and The Young Ones, (I’d add Absolutely Fabulous) for encouraging my differences.

ab fab

Photo credit: http://bit.ly/1qhLVgu

But I’d also have to add the influence of my dear, one-of-a-kind scientist father who is somehow so culture/gender/race/sexuality-blind that everybody can relate to him. It’s something I aspire to, whether writing or not.


OK, he’s fashion blind too. Orange TOWELLING hat!

Should one write to a prescribed genre? I can’t control what comes out anyway, it’s a lot like having a tummy bug.

Why do I write?

Writing is caffeine for my soul.

When I’m pleased with how I’ve arranged my words, it feels sexier than chocolate and champagne in a hot tub with the man of my dreams. Probably because the happiness from writing is more attainable and lasts longer. Actually, now I’ve found this image …

hot tub

Photo credit: http://bit.ly/1ltsAFP

Why do I write? Like the psychologist Dan Gilbert says – we, as individuals, are a work in progress that mistakenly think our identities and personalities are finished. We live under the illusion that the person we are now is who we will remain for the rest of our lives. The writing journey has liberated me from that illusion, it’s helped me unfurl. I love that word. UNFURL.

Writing is like showing the world my insides. That’s scary but writing is greater fun than this fear. It’s also about connecting with people. I’ve also learnt to toughen up, to take constructive criticism on board, but not to hang my self-worth or the equilibrium of my soul on external opinions. Still, it’s the biggest shot in the arm when someone tells me they really enjoyed Arafura and/or the humour in the story.

Writing and reading can decrease our sense of isolation. We are social beings and besides, it’s cheaper than therapy.

How does my writing process work?

My writing process sounds simple, yet in reality, is fraught. I try to clear my mind of the everyday. It helps if I meditate or listen to music that appeals to my soul. But it can take a couple of days to get in the right zone. It’s not writers block, it’s about feeling light-hearted enough to be funny, or playful perhaps, to find my voice, or the voices of my characters.

Coffee helps. Praise helps. Praise rockets me to the sparkly zone pretty damn quickly.

Then, when I’m there, as Ann Lamott explains – “It’s tea-time, and all the dolls are at the table. Listen. It’s that simple.”

tea party 3

And this crazy… Photo credit: bit.ly/1vc0EY2

Except, like a crazy-lady/ steam train that can’t stop, my characters keep talking to each other – and I scribble conversations on scraps of paper, or in my phone – at red lights, in the middle of the night, even dash in and out of the shower in case I forget. (I really am going to get a whiteboard for the shower.) I look like one of those people who can talk on their phone hands free, except I don’t even have a phone or the earpiece. See? Crazy.

Reading other authors broadens my writing process too. It’s reassuring to see a famous writer break a rule. But as my old-head-on-young-shoulders daughter tells me, “You have to know the rules to break the rules.”

What I’m working on.

I’m working on the second book in the Arafura series, Arafura – Unfinished Business, which should be published in a couple of months, or just as soon as I take my meds for editing disease. Here is the cover, designed by the talented Michelle Rene Goodhew. I think Michelle Rene has walked the fine line of illustrating a cover implying danger but also a more light-hearted element.

Arafura final

The first book is Arafura – Blood, the Wet and Tears.

For this blog hop, Why I Write, I would like to pass the baton to the inclusive, generous Su Leslie at Zimmerbitch: Age is just a (biggish) number. (who understands that age is relative – my Dad would get that!)


and the irrepressible and forthright Shelley Sackier who claims she is all of the below, but she forgot to add her positive aura. Shelley has previously written a post of this kind and her response is at Peak Perspective,


Here are some other links to the Why I Write blog hop, which may interest you:

The Adventures of Pinky Poinker 




With Some Grace

and thanks again, Lee-Anne at Is It Just Me?

Why do YOU write?