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Going to the Conference

Next week I’ll be heading up to Sydney for the conference. “Which conference?” you ask. The annual Romance Writers of Australia conference.  Up until CoVid hit, I’d never missed a conference, but in the last few years we’ve had conferences cancelled and taken on line, and while one in Brisbane went ahead, the Queensland border was closed to people from other states. So this will be the first in-person conference I’ve attended in several years.

I’m looking forward to it, especially because it gives me the chance to catch up with writing friends I haven’t seen in years. I’ll also be giving a workshop on “Surprise and Delight Your Readers.” I always enjoy giving workshops.

Our conferences are also fun. They kick off on the Friday night with a Costume Cocktail Party with a different theme each year. When I first joined RWAust. the cocktail party used to be a “Meet the Authors” one, and everyone was dressed nicely but not many people were game to come up and talk to authors, who were madly chatting and catching up with each other. 

Because we were spread all across Australia, the annual conference was the only time most of us got to see and talk to each other.  It was lovely for the authors, but not so much for everyone else.

Then one year the conference was held in a historic hotel in Melbourne, and we changed it to a costume theme — from memory the first one was “Dress Retro” and even though quite a few people didn’t dress in costume, we encouraged people to at least get a feather boa, and it really changed the atmosphere.  Everybody chatted to everyone else, there was lots of talk about the various costume — “Ooh look at you!” and “Wow, I love your costume!” etc.

It was the perfect ice-breaker, and since then it’s gone from strength to strength.There’s no compulsion to come in costume, but these days a majority of people do. I always dress up — it’s no big deal for me to make a fool of myself: a friend and I used to run the drama cupboard when I was a teacher, and I enjoy dressing in costume. Especially silly ones.

Mine aren’t very fancy — they’re either home-made (very slapdash) with cheap fabric, and various bits and pieces from the $2 shops near me.  

The creature above in pink — no, it’s not Barbie <g>— it’s  me, some years ago dressed  as Dame Barbara Cartland, complete with pekes.

The pic on the left is me at the “Gone Wild” cocktail party and the headdress is made of a brown feather boa, with a series of spiky dried pods from my big old monstera deliciosa jammed into it. And hand-drawn spots on my face — which were ridiculously tricky to remove that night.

Another year it was all about “Fractured Fairytales”. I dressed as the wicked queen and made a tiara with glued on feathers, rats, snakes and spiders and attached plastic spiders to some of my jewellery. And here’s the photo.

Last time I didn’t go to a lot of trouble. It was a fairy-take theme and I went as Briar Rose, using a patterned velvet coat with roses on it that I had, a string of plastic roses from a $2 shop, some green eyeshadow “vines” on my face and a green feather boa wrapped around my head. The photo here is of me with my friend, author Trish Morey, who was borrowing my roses. Pity we didn’t realize how tastefully we were staged — just outside the male toilets!

As you can see, I do like a silly headdress — feather boas are remarkably easy to wrap around a head — tuck the ends in and they just stay there.  This year I’m not planning to go to a lot of trouble with the actual costume. The theme is “Glitter” and to be honest, I would have to make a costume from scratch, as I don’t have any glittery clothes, and I don’t have time at the moment — especially to make a one-off costume. I do have a beaded top, and I’ve bought a length of sequined fabric that I plan to turn into some kind of turban. I do have plenty of glittery jewelry though, and that will have to do. I’ll post some photos of the cocktail party when I get home again.

Do you like dressing up in costume, or not?





Choosing a Cover

Today’s post is inspired by an email from a long time reader who said: 

I am reading The Laird’s Bride, and enjoying it but wanted to tell you the cover is fantastic. The girl on the cover matches the girl in the story. Thank you.

That comment made me smile. So often I’ve had covers where any resemblance to the character(s) in the book is a nice surprise. I’m not talking about my headless heroine’s covers either, though I always liked them because at least they didn’t NOT resemble the heroine in the book. <g>

The reason the cover matches the girl in The Laird’s Bride is because the book is self-published, which means I communicated directly with the cover designer (Kim Killion). I told her exactly what I wanted — the girl, the castle in the background, and so on. I sent her some images  to give her an idea, but of course she didn’t use any of them because they were all licensed. They were just for inspiration.

She sent me a draft, and then we tweaked it a bit until I was happy. Some of the things we tweaked was the color of the shawl and the girl’s eyes  — if you’ve read the story you’ll know the significance of that— the color of her hair, the water in the background and the overall mood of the story — I didn’t want it looking too gloomy. I also didn’t want it looking medieval, because so many Scottish stories are set in that time, whereas The Laird’s Bride is set in the early 1800’s.

This kind of direct communication can only happen because with self-publishing, I am in charge.  With my other books, published by Berkley, I’m part of a chain of communication. I explain to the editor what I’d like on the cover — a description of the heroine and hero (though heroes never seem to make it onto my covers) and suggestions for what the heroine is wearing.  I also attach some location images. 

She passes it on, but from then on it’s more of a group decision — the Art Dept and the Marketing Dept  and who knows who else. And they decide what they think would work best. I’ve given up hoping for those covers to fit the story in the way The Laird’s Bride (and also my self-published Christmas Bride novella) did, but they’re almost always pretty covers that will appeal to readers, so I’m happy.

Quite often, as they did with The Heiress’s Daughter, they give me the choice of two covers. This time it was a very difficult choice to make. One cover was the one you see below (which was the one in the jigsaw — thanks to all those who tried it).  In the other the cover girl was wearing a dress that was more accurate in Regency terms, but it wasn’t as lively a scene. (Sorry, but I can’t show you that cover.) So I chose the livelier cover with the slightly more modern style of bride dress.

(And by the way, you, the readers of this blog, are the first people to see the cover. I’ll be sending out a newsletter later today with it, and then at the end of the week I’ll post it on social media and after that Berkley will share it. So thank you for subscribing to this blog.

What do you think of the cover? 
And did you try the jigsaw puzzle? Did you enjoy it or did you give up?

Almond-orange biscuits (cookies)

I’m doing copy-edits at the moment, which involves going through the manuscript with a fine tooth comb, making tiny changes, and checking the comments and corrections made by the copyeditor. They’re things like changing my occasional Australian spellings (which are UK spellings) to US spellings, picking up missing words, ensuring consistency — I sometimes called Lady Someone Mrs. Someone — that kind of thing.

There weren’t a lot of those to check, but once I’d dealt with the copyeditor’s remarks, I always go through the manuscript again to make sure it’s all as I want it to be. And when I came across a mention of orange biscuits (cookies), I recalled some delicious orange and almond biscuits I’ve made a few times from this website. Apart from being delicious, they’re also gluten free, and being Italian, I realized that Lady Scattergood’s cook might have been given the recipe from Alfonso, Leo’s Italian cook.

There’s also a recipe for the same kind of orange biscuits using pistachios instead of almonds, and they’re also delicious.