I spent the middle of August in Queensland. Respite from Melbourne’s very chilly winter was a bonus but not the purpose.
Instead, I was attending my first ever Romance Writers of Australia conference, and then loitering a little longer so I could join Tim on the Sunshine Coast for his conference with the Australian Society of Travel Writers.
And then I got to cuddle a snake.
Love Gone Wild
The RWA conference – Love Gone Wild – was a big financial commitment, but it was definitely worth the time and the money to attend. Apart from getting to meet with hundreds of fellow writers of romance, I was able to attend the conference sessions. I learned something new at every single panel, even ones where I felt fairly sure I knew the material being covered.
I was able to hear from established writers, publishers and agents about how the industry is changing, how people are responding to the changes, the opportunities that are out there and how writers can look for new ways to engage readers. The conference was what finally made me work out how to import my blog, which used to live on a separate site, into my main website here!
I’ve learned a lot about marketing and more than a few things about how to approach submissions and agent queries.
I even won a raffle prize where I get to consult with a swordsman about writing fight scenes!
My new novel, Ravenfall, made its first appearance at Love Gone Wild – and it was the first time I got to lay hands on the trade paperback of this little beauty!
The ebook is coming later, but for now the paperback is due out officially on 1 September and is up for pre-order on:
The fancy dress evening was a delight too – a flock of flamingos were there!
In all, if you’re a budding or established romance writer, I can highly recommend both membership of the RWA and attendance at their annual August conference. Not only are the sessions of enormous value, there are opportunities to pitch books to a range of publishers and agents. It’s being held at the Sofitel Wentworth in Sydney next year, so you can start preparing now!
I’m not myself a travel writer but in my other life as a freelance writer, I’ve written for universities, hotel chains and entertainers. With Tim attending a conference only the weekend following Love Gone Wild, it made sense to hang about (and spend some time with my fabulous brother Stephen, who lives in Brisbane) and join Tim for some of the events that partners were invited to.
So it was that I found myself learning to paint watercolours in the Sunshine Coast hinterland with artist James McKay and later making pottery chickens at Fried Mudd.
Not to mention seeing critters being cared for at the wildlife rescue centre and cuddling snakes at the Australia Zoo. This place is huge and witnessing two blokes feed a crocodile while attempting not to be eaten by one gives me even greater respect for crocodiles.
My favourite part of the croc show was actually the birds – watching the bright parrots and macaws, the beautiful whistling kite and the massive Andean condor. I was fortunate later to meet a macaw up close.
It’s important just as a person to be curious about the world and to seek out new experiences. As a writer, your curiosity is one of your best writing tools – to go forth and try things out. You never know if you’ll need to write about them. More to the point, I often write about things soon after experiencing them.
Now. How soon can I get a character to muck about with a snake?
This morning I picked up a large (and surprisingly slippery) pile of bookmarks ahead of my attendance at the Romance Writers of Australia conference, Love Gone Wild, being held this weekend in Brisbane.
This will be my first RWA conference, and I’m looking forward to learning more about my fellow members and about the world of writing romance (and how best to get word out to readers old and new about what I’m doing).
One of the things I’m looking forward to, of course, is that my new book – paranormal romance thriller Ravenfall – is being launched at the conference!
Ravenfall is the story of James Sharpe and Gabriel Dare and a monstrous plot that threatens all Great Britain! The paperback is available for pre-order now, becoming officially available later this month, and the ebook due for release later in September.
Near Missis due out this month, but even before that’s hit the digital stands, here I come with a new cover reveal!
Ravenfall is a queer, paranormal, erotic romance thriller, set in contemporary London, and published by Clan Destine Press. It’s due out in mid August 2017.
In London, war veteran James Sharpe struggles to come to terms with what he’s become: a vampire. His new lodger, artist Gabriel Dare, is best thing that’s happened to James since his discharge. Or he would be, if James knew whether he was still capable of love. He knows he’s capable of much worse things; the things he fights within himself every day.
Is James a danger to those he cares for? What will happen if Gabriel finds out what James is?
Gabriel, however, has a secret history of his own. And when some of his friends, the subjects of his art, go missing from the streets, a whole nest of secrets and a dangerous plot are revealed: involving a clairvoyant cop, Gabriel’s brother and a host of London’s monsters.
Cover art by Willson Rowe
Keep an eye on Ravenfallfor links when the book is launched in August 2017.
Catching you all up with some of my Happy June reading, because part of it was catching up with all the Baleful Godmother stories by Emily Larkin I hadn’t yet read before launching into Ruining Miss Wrotham!
I’ve already said how much I loved the first in the series, Unmasking Miss Appleby, and I’ve also read The Fey Quartet, which follows the stories of Maythorn Miller and her three daughters, the progenitors of the faerie gift that keeps on giving.
When Ruining Miss Wrotham came out just when I needed a happy book, I gobbled it up pretty quickly, and then went back to the intervening tales – Resisting Miss Merryweather, the second in the series, is a novella, as is #4, Claiming Mister Kemp – and it was seeing that the series included an M/M romance that made me keen to see what Larkin was going to do with it all.
Resisting Miss Merryweather
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that Faerie godmothers do not exist.
Thus proclaims the facing page of each of the Baleful Godmother series, just before launching into a story where a woman descended from Maythorn Miller’s three daughters either has received, or is about to, her faerie gift from a resentful Faerie queen. These women must choose well, or risk madness and death. Even when they have a gift, life isn’t necessarily made easy.
In this novella, following up on Unmasking Miss Appleby, we meet Anne Merryweather – known as Merry to her family and friends – and her encounter with Barnaby Ware.
Ware is on his way to meet his estranged friend Marcus Cosgrove and his new wife – none other than the Charlotte Appleby of the previous book! Barnaby is grappling with the way he cuckolded Marcus with Marcus’s devious first wife, and is unable to forgive himself although his friend is certainly ready to forgive him. But that betrayal means that Barnaby doesn’t think he’s fit for love. He thinks he’s irredeemable. Merry thinks he’s wrong, and sets out to prove it.
Readers of the first book in the series will know what Marcus’s betrayal was, and how he was not entirely to blame. He’s a very hangdog character for a while, though it’s easy to see his more admirable qualities. Fortunately, Merry – Charlotte’s cousin, whose father was a dancing master and her mother a noblewoman – has got plenty of joie de vivre for them both.
An accident while exploring a cave brings all these unhappy events and unresolved guilt to a head. Between Marcus and Charlotte Cosgrove, the sparkling Merry (and her imminent Faerie gift), self-respect, trust and hope are restored, love is declared and happiness ever after is achieved. It’s a charming, snappy, happy read. Just the ticket for #happyjune.
Trusting Miss Trentham
With Trusting Miss Trentham, Larkin goes back to a full length novel to tell the story of Letitia Trentham, a wealthy heiress, still unmarried because she’s turned down every offer of marriage ever made to her. She already has her faerie gift, you see. She can tell truth from lies, and no man has ever wanted to marry her for love. Only for her wealth.
She’s resigned herself to never knowing love when Icarus Reid comes into her life. Reid is a former soldier, traumatised by dreadful events at the Battle of Vimeiro. All he wants from Letty is for her to use her unusual ability to find out who betrayed him and his scouts before the battle – who is responsible for the deaths of his comrades and something worse that happened to him.
Letty finds herself challenged out of her ladylike comfort zone, pretending to be someone she’s not, doing things she never thought a lady would do, to find out who betrayed this troubled man, and perhaps bring an end to his nightmares.
Letty is lovely – a woman who is profoundly tied to the necessities of truth, who finds herself committing little falsehoods in pursuit of helping this emotionally scarred war veteran. She learns about herself and the sometimes too honest Reid, including his darkest secrets. For all that she’s so aware of how much lying people do, she’s kind, spirited and will always stand up for those who need protection. Especially if they’ve been unjustly accused of wrongdoing. She, after all, can tell if they’re innocent.
I loved the way Larkin explored Reid’s experience of PTSD, long before the term was ever applied to traumatised survivors. I also loved the attention she paid to creating Letitia Trentham, who has endured a lifetime of disappointments in men who don’t see her, only the way her wealth can give them ease and repay their debts. Instead of being bitter, Letty is strong and kind. Her determination to find the truth of what happened in France, motivated by compassion, is a nice counterpoint to Reid’s more despairing need to find the truth. His slow recovery is well handled – not too pat. Letty’s connection with and love for him can’t save him, but she can help show the way to safety at last.
I enjoyed the crossovers hinting at events in the next book in the series – Claiming Mister Kemp – so that the series is loosely tied together by more than the theme. We even get to meet Barnaby and Merry Ware again!
There’s grit and pain in Icarus Reid’s story as he confronts people on the trail of the traitor, but there’s also hope and redemption, led by Letty’s kind but not naive heart and mind.
Claiming Mister Kemp
There was so much to love about this novella, but I confess I found it occasionally uncomfortable. Being set in the regency period, attitudes to homosexuality were naturally going to affect the storyline and the way in which Lucas and Tom interacted.
Lucas Kemp’s twin sister has recently died, and he’s still overcome with grief. When his childhood friend Thomas Matlock returns from the war in France in which he came too close to death, Tom’s decides to act on his love for Lucas, which he is certain is reciprocated.
It is, and we know it is from early on, but Lucas is also struggling with shame about his desire for Tom, as well as all the grief he bears from the loss of his beloved sister Julia.
In so many ways this is Larkin’s usual charming, witty love story, with just a touch of the magic that is such a feature of the other stories in the series. The nature of Lucas’s discomfort with his desire, however, means some of the intimate scenes with Tom are what might be tagged ‘dubious consent’. Tom sometimes pushes past Lucas’s “no” and it later becomes a “yes” but I confess a preference for clear consent. Tom promises never to push Lucas beyond what he wants, but he skates very close to and occasionally over that line for my preferences.
But Lucas’s heart is definitely saying yes, even if his brain is throwing up walls, so ultimately, they work themselves out and even find they have the support of family who just want them to be happy.
That unreconciled discomfort I feel is at least counterbalanced with some loving scenes, some wonderful crossover moments with the preceding book, Trusting Miss Trentham, and after trials and anguish the happy ending.
I hope Emily Larkin continues to write love stories for all kinds of people, and I’m very much looking forward to #6 in the series, Discovering Miss Dalrymple.
Reading Miss Larkin
Visit Emily Larkin’s website – where you can join her mailing list and get The Fey Quartet and Unmasking Miss Appleby for free.