In Full Flight

As publication gets closer, I am finally able to reveal the new cover for The Red Heart. I’m thrilled with it, and the cover certainly has that Australian flavour, which was important to me. Looking at it, you can see that aviation features in some way as well.

The official launch date for the book will be 30 May 2018. It will be available from your favourite online book retailers at a cost of $3.99.  Print books will be available at $15.00 (Still in production).

Details about the book are available on Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/Emily_Hussey. For those on my mailing list, advance copies are available at books2read.com/u/bOAroQ.  Copies won’t be available via Amazon until the 30th May.

Reviews are the lifeblood of any author, particularly a new author like myself. If you are able to leave a review on any of the platforms, that would be wonderful.

Autumn Reflections

I love Autumn. It’s a time when the weather is tolerable, and the days conducive to getting out for walks or exploring. Best of all, the long dark nights haven’t begun.

This weekend, I took a break from writing and took a train trip to Clunes in NW Victoria. Each year, the village stages a book fair, complete with guest authors and various writing events. The main street is closed, and marquees down the centre accommodate books on every topic imaginable.

The town businesses support the event, with many of them adopting book-related activities for the weekend. That’s astute, because there are thousands of visitors to this normally quiet town. Strolling to the outskirts of the village, I walked along the creek that runs through the town. Here you can see the local shades of autumn.

Clunes Autumn Creed

Autumn reflections

Much as I enjoyed browsing the books, I really enjoyed the train journey there and back. I eschewed the car, opting instead to ride the rails. It was great. I could relax, read, think, and watch the passing scenery. A change in trains was required at Ballarat station, with enough time to appreciate the historic station and partake of refreshments at the station cafeteria.  Sitting over a cup of tea, I felt as though I was in an English novel; the building had that sort of feel to it.

Autumn didn’t exist in my time living in Alice Springs. Sure, the length of days changed and the weather became milder, but there wasn’t the change in colour that I’ve enjoyed on recent excursions. It was a vista of strong colours; strong blue skies, and the reds and browns of the earth. The vegetation was in more muted shades, but none of it in autumn tones.

This was what Kathy Sullivan discovered when she moved to Alice Springs for work. It was a challenging environment for a young city woman, but introduced to it through the eyes of others, she grew to love it as well. Think Albert Namatjira, for this was his country.

With formatting and print preparation in train, I expect The Red Heart to be released very shortly, but by the end of this week, I will be revealing the cover. Then you can see the colours for yourself.

Evolution of The Red Heart

In the years I lived in Alice Springs, it never occurred to me to write a book based in that location.  I lived there seven years, started a couple of businesses, built a house and learnt to fly. None of The Red Heart is autobiographical, but my experiences whilst in the Northern Territory certainly influenced the book.

Learning to fly was something that I’d always wanted to do, but it seemed an impossible dream. It wasn’t until I went to Alice that I met other people who flew, and realised it was feasible. I could do it too and so I did.  It wasn’t that hard after all.

Getting my Wings

Being awarded with my ‘Wings’ on achieving Restricted Pilot status.

I have always wanted to write, and produced the occasional poem or short story, but didn’t know other people who wrote. Back living in South Australia, I joined the SA Writers’ Centre and after attending a romance writing workshop held by that organisation, the prospect of writing a novel seemed more achievable. Just as learning to fly was a case of taking the first step, so was developing my writing skills.

I wrote the first draft in 1988. The eagle-eyed will notice that Kathy and Sarah listen to music cassettes in the car, and those who know detail about aviation will be aware that some scenes pre-date changes in processes have followed satellite and internet technologies. The interaction between Kathy and Alex that occurred in the briefing office wouldn’t happen today.

I picked the story up again in 2013, and made the decision to leave the plot in the 1980s. That meant I didn’t have to do major re-writes, which would have significantly altered some of the plot scenes.

I thoroughly enjoyed writing the story. Part of that relates to getting to know the characters, and part relates to exploring some of the situations and environments that were very familiar. A common edict directed to new writers is to ‘write about what you know’ and this is what I did in this situation. It removed the requirement to research the background, while I learnt about the craft of writing.

What I didn’t expect was that the book would turn into a series. Initially, I thought it would be a stand-alone category romance for a publisher such as Harlequin, but it is too long to fit their requirements, and probably doesn’t fit neatly into any of their outlined categories. I had to explore other publishing options. As I got to know the minor characters, I realised that their stories were waiting to be told as well. Hence, the second book follows Sarah, and the third explores the challenging character of Melissa.

A Gem of a Story

Don’t you feel great when your creative output has been steady? It’s a fabulous feeling when you reach another milestone.

I have just put the final full stop on this year’s entry in the RWA Little Gems competition. Each year, a different gemstone is selected as the theme around which the story is composed. I can’t give you any detail about my story, in case one of the judges happens to view this post. All entries are assessed anonymously.

Two years ago, my sunstone entry in the Little Gems competition, In the Cards was shortlisted and subsequently printed in that year’s anthology. It was a pleasant surprise as it was the first time I had entered a competition. The judges’ comments are really valuable to an emerging writer.

The following year, the required stone was onyx. That required a bit of creative contemplation, but the story “Capture the Moment” was polished and submitted. Sadly, it didn’t score highly enough, but I took on board the judges’ comments and re-worked a couple of areas. I’m happy with the end result.

This year the stone is Jade. It presented many options and I so enjoyed working on the evolving sApple Green Jade Gemtory. With my research, I learnt more about the stone as well. You will be familiar with the green colour in varying shades, but did you know it also found in lavender, red, orange, yellow, brown, white, black and grey? Of those, an apple green is the most traditional and expensive stone.

It is used extensively ornamentally, but there are also talismans and items of jewellery. It is also known to attract love and bring good luck. Perhaps I should have worn some jade instead of writing about it.

The thing I like about writing is it gets steadily better. My daily word count improves, my writing becomes tighter and more concise, and I’m better at self-editing. What I haven’t overcome is my gut-wrenching nervousness when I know someone is reading my work. It’s that old imposter syndrome that surfaces sometimes.

Aside from that, I really hope that you do read some of it. All reviews and feedback welcome. If you would like to receive a free copy of “Capture the Moment”, fill in the contact form below and I’ll email you the story. It’s only 3000 words so it won’t clog up your inbox.

Capture the Moment CoverWhen Ellie took the house-sitting contract including caring for Princess Leila, she had no idea it would lead to an assault in the middle of the night – nor that she would be the perpetrator. Would Luke Jefferson press charges?

How do I write?

Good question. I would like to say that I write every day, no matter how little it ends up being. Even producing 100 words can be an achievement. There are days when I don’t meet my goal, or else perhaps I am in editing or review mode, which of course is all part of the writing process.

Writing on a paddle boat on the Murray at Echuca.

The location is important to me. The bulk of my writing takes place at my desktop computer because it is there and it is convenient, but there are a lot of distractions around as well. The fridge might call to me or perhaps the plants need watering, or even a load of washing needs to be put in the machine. Often I chase rabbits down lots of social media holes. None of this is good for productivity.

Other days, I’ll find somewhere else to write, either with my laptop or just a notebook. I’ll find a café or a quiet corner of a library or even recently the forecourt of a local cinema, where there are lots of tables. I choose my cafés carefully, as I don’t want to incur the owner’s wrath by nursing my coffee for a couple of hours at one of their tables during peak hour. Knowing that I have to make the most of this time, I usually knuckle down and produce some solid work.

Another advantage of working in a new environment is that it’s more productive for brainstorming. I’m a loose plotter rather than a pantser, so often I’ll start a story without knowing the exact ending, or what twists might happen on the way there. A different location stirs up the creative juices and potential paths present themselves to my pen.

If I’m staring at a blank screen with no idea what to write next, I’ll usually swap to pen and paper and move away from the computer. Even if I just start by jotting down dot points, or snippets of ideas, I soon find that words are starting to organise themselves into paragraphs and appear on my page in some sort of coherent form. Writing in a notebook is often more practical in a café or similar external location anyway. For that reason, I usually tuck a notebook into my bag when out for a walk. I never know where I might be when the muse strikes.

Recently, I was walking down the main street in Echuca when a sudden rainstorm hit. I dived for the shelter of a large umbrella in front of an ice cream shop, and there I sat on the picnic bench for the next half hour. With the steady rain keeping me anchored to that spot, I produced another 500 words. Just as well I had my notebook with me.

Writing with other people is a good incentive to focussing and actually producing work. I’ll often participate in writing sessions, whereby we all just sit in writerly companionship and write. Occasionally there will be a bit of discussion or diversionary activity but predominantly we write and knowing that this is the purpose of the day, it’s what I do.  It’s a great incentive.

I currently have a day job, and so cannot dedicate my day to my writing. I will often produce a few hundred words early in the morning or a few in my lunch hour. I still have that daydream time through the day, when a snippet of dialogue or a new twist suddenly comes to me. The current work in progress is never far from my mind.

How do you write?  What stirs your muse?

The Window of Opportunity

Writing as Dorothy Shorne, I have just had a short story selected for publication in an anthology produced by Stringybark Stories.  The Anthology, just released in ebook form and shortly in print form is called ‘A Gentleman and a Scholar’ and my contribution was ‘The Window of Opportunity’.

Stringybark fosters the writing and publishing of short stories in Australia and their anthologies have featured a mix of well-known and emerging authors. It’s  great that this avenue exists in Australia for our writers. The current anthology and previous books are available online from their bookshop and are in print and eBook format.

There was not a hint of romance in this tale. I enjoy writing in a variety of Genres. Time to polish my entry for their next competition. Thanks to the Melbourne Social Writers Group for suggesting participating in this last competition.

Do you have to like your lead character?

I didn’t, and this was a big problem for me in developing my last novel. I got to know Melissa in the first book, and there was not much about her that was endearing. She was arrogant, rude to people and self-absorbed. She was a secondary character then and so I only got to know her through the eyes of other people, but it was clear that they were not impressed and so I wasn’t either.

Then she did something really stupid and life-threatening; not just to herself but to someone else as well. She ended up looking a bit pathetic really, and once the crisis was over, she was easy to dismiss and to focus instead on the more pleasant people in the story. Nobody felt sorry for her in relation to the humiliation she experienced.

She scored a passing reference in the second story, but was largely a withdrawn character, with her actions in book one still hanging heavily over her. It was probably a conscious decision of hers to remain distant, but her presence was not generally welcomed either.  Surprisingly, she did show concern for one of the characters who fell seriously ill, but still this was a passing reference in the story.

Not sure why, but I decided that the third book in the series needed to be about Melissa. There was a problem though.  From what I knew of her, she was obnoxious.  I meandered around in circles for a while, trying to break into the story, but I didn’t feel comfortable with her. I had to sit down and get to know her back story.

  • What sort of childhood did she have?
  • What was her current family situation?
  • What was she passionate about? (photography) 
  • What was she afraid of?
  • What innate beliefs did she have about herself?
  • How did she behave when she was by herself?

It was only as I got to know her as a person, and the drivers that were dictating the way her life had unraveled that I was able to develop the plot.  Mostly, romance novels are written in the third person, and changing point of view is frowned upon. Currently, the first chapter also shows the point of view of the antagonist as he also gets to know a woman from whom he has learned (in previous books) to maintain a respectful distance. Both he and I were skirting around her.  Melissa developed her voice by the second chapter though, and from then on the book was firmly lodged in the third person.

 

The novel is still in the review stage, and so I will probably address the point of view issues in the first chapter – not because I want to but because it can send publishers into a frenzy. The challenge is how to do so without losing the essence of that chapter.

 

I’m curious. How do other writers get to know their characters?  Do you always like them? What do you do when you don’t?