Category Archives: Write Round Oz

When is a killer not a killer (a lesson for writers!)

There are faster, easier, more caravan-friendly roads to drive between Coffs Harbour and Victoria. We chose the more scenic coastal route—The Princes Highway, which is less highway and more a bitumen goat track (a drunk goat, in parts).

Our reason?

My family holidayed on the south coast when I was very young (Ulladulla, Kiama, Batemans’ Bay) but we never went as far south as Eden.

We knew the road would be challenging with 25 feet of Myrtle The Turtle in tow, but the town of Eden was a bit of a bucket list town for me. I’m not sure why, although I am certain it was not for any biblical reference: no gardens, naked men, or apples tempted me. The only temptation was the stunning Two Fold Bay and had the temperature not been single digit and the wind gale-force, I might have had a quick dunk, despite tales of killer whales.

Eden did teach this roving writer something about the power of a single word in storytelling and how reader interpretation can change the story—and that’s not a bad lesson for any author.

My lesson.

What I learned is how our words can incorrectly influence our readers and my teacher was those so-called ‘killer whales’.

You see, the Killer Whale did not get their rather unfortunate name from hunting down and snacking on humans, as I’d always assumed. They were, in a way, man’s friend, even when whale oil was a much sought after commodity in the 1800s. Twofold Bay legend of that time tells of the Killer Whale being the first known sea creature to work in ‘partnership’ with people. I recommend you read this more detailed (and short) version by Australian Geographic about the cleverness of these giants of the sea, and how they protected their species from whalers in search of whale oil, by herding the unsuspecting humpbacks (and other species) in to be killed instead. Extract: from the Australian Geographic article:

“Whaling in Eden took off in 1828, but it wasn’t until 1844 that stories of the peculiar behaviour started to emerge. Eyewitnesses talked of orcas prowling the entrance of Twofold Bay for migrating humpback, blue, southern right and minke whales. Using the unique geography of the bay, the waiting orcas would ambush whales that were vastly bigger than themselves – ripping at fins, diving over their blowholes, and forcing them into shallower waters for the whalers to finish off. Once a whale was dead, they’d feast on the lips and tongue, leaving the rest of the carcass for the whalers.”

So, when a killer is not necessarily a killer.

That’s how the killer whale got such a demonised name and reputation. Not by eating people! Over the years, legend and misunderstanding has seen the single word ‘killer’ interpreted in different ways and this is the lesson for writers.

We need to choose and use our words carefully. We need to look at words in context and understand that a single word can have different meanings or be misconstrued.

We need to be as careful with our word choices as we do our commas and apostrophes. Or else when someone says, “Let’s eat Grandma” we are not perceived to be killer grandkids when what we really mean is: “Let’s eat, Grandma.”

Discover more about at the Eden Killer Whale Museum.

Life as Jenn #rovingwriter

So there I am writing a big story at my tiny desk, when I hear the squeak of excited voices outside the caravan door. I pop my head out and see two women in a huddle. They’re pointing.
‘Hi,’ I say, slipping into my shoes. ‘I’m Jenn. Nice day!’
What transpires makes my day very nice indeed.

The women have seen my lawn sign shoved in the ground and guess what?They love my books. So there I am, in my uncoordinated Crocs, socks, shorts and T-shirt and feeling absolutely fabulously famous. We talk, they buy a book (they didn’t know my fourth one was out) and I sign it. Word spreads and soon I’m selling more books. (Let me tell you, there’s no greater feeling than taking an afternoon walk around the van park and hearing multiple new readers call out, “Just up to where blah does blah.”) There are definite positives to being Jenn, #rovingwriter. (There are also negatives. I’ll get to that).

The important message is, the only reason those ladies knew who was inside the caravan is because I told them. I have my name EVERYWHERE—and it works. (All I need now is the T-shirt!)

I’ve probably worked harder on marketing since hitting the road. And it’s the nicest kind of promo because I’m away from the computer and face-to-face with people. My response is also less awkward when someone asks what I do for a living. (It’s only taken four books!)

Since hitting the road I’m learning to be brave and make a noise (because squeaky wheels get attention. Facebook will tell you that!)

  • Every van park office, every small town coffee shop waiter gets a signed bookmark that says ‘thank you’.
  • Once set up on site, my first stop is the laundry. Travellers leave books they’ve finished in the laundry and those books need bookmarks!
  • Most caravan parks will display my Camp Kitchen Book Chat flyer, inviting fiction lovers to BYO wine for a bookish happy hour.
  • When I know where I’ll be well in advance I contact local bookshops and libraries. In Coonabarabran (this year I did a NSW mid-west tour, en route to a Mudgee Readers Festival gig) I visited the library. As I was only in town a couple of nights I hadn’t arranged a formal event, but I asked if they had a book club, and could I leave them some bookmarks? Guess what? The book club was meeting the next day and I was invited to gatecrash.

Apart from the Mudgee event itself, Tamworth was a tour highlight. Not only did my library event garner lots of attention, I scored the promotional trifecta: print, radio and a spot on the local TV news with a film crew visiting the caravan. (And I got to catch up with Len Klump—friend/reader extraordinaire.) See the media my NSW tour achieved HERE or View the TV News footage.

Why to I do all this?

So I can keep my name out there 365 days a year. (The norm in traditional publishing is a six-week (from release) publicity campaign.) While the publisher supports me with posters on my self-designed tours, I arrange the events and secure media exposure. (Cursor over for captions)

As you can see, so far I’ve knocked over the north-west of NSW (catching up with author friends along the way) and as I write this I’m making my way around Victoria in much the same way: bookshop signings, library talks, catch-ups with writing friends. (Friend me on Facebook to know where I’ll be next.)

Catching up with Nicole Alexander and Greg Barron.

So, is the #rovingwriter life all positive?

No. There are just as many frustrations, especially when Telstra makes you pay in blood for pathetically slow and mostly intermittent mobile data ($110 / mth for 20 GB!); or running out of laptop battery when the words are flowing and the solar panels don’t have enough charge. (We just bought a generator, because if you think 24 feet of caravan is small, try sharing the space with a cranky writer with a flat battery!) Although, I confess, de-stressing is not too difficult.

While I dreamed of hitting the road, my four-book contract gave me the nudge I needed and it’s fitting that I call myself Jenn, #rovingwriter. I love the roving life and Gypsy is the character from my debut novel, House for all Season, and she once dreamed of running away with the circus.

I appreciate not everyone can sell, or give up, everything to live in a caravan. But that shouldn’t keep you chained to your desk. Get out and find ways to make a noise in your community. If you have caravan parks, drop bookmarks into the laundry regularly. My car signage works a treat, too, with people tooting and waving madly. (I assume they’re adoring fans and not giving me the finger because I’ve inadvertently cut them off in traffic.)

So if you do see Jenn the #rovingwriter in your travels, please wave.

 

(Republished from RWA Hearst Talk Feb 2017) And if you are a writer and not yet a member of Romance Writers of Australia, I highly recommend you think about joining.

A Birthday Bog! Err, I mean BLOG!

Yes, today was my birthday and The J was in top form this year, promising me I would do things I’ve never done before, so…

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My property sit near Yeppoon (QLD).

I woke to this… Our first property sitting job in a beaut little spot near Yeppoon, Qld.

 

 

 

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Clancy, Wilbur, Paddy and Lacey said g’d-neigh Jenn! Happy birthday.

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Birthday cuddles from this cutie – Coco is a sweetie.

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Then we were off! First stop – the dump point (where we…. you know?)

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And a pub lunch in Yeppoon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I stopped by Big W and left pressies with my books for five lucky shoppers!

I stopped by Big W and left pressies with my books for five lucky shoppers!

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She went all out when it came to a birthday card.

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And birthday bonus… Vinnies was having a sale!!

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I didn’t really have to cook my own dinner. This was purely about me wanting to be in every photo today. Now… I’m told to expect one more treat tonight. If it happens I’ll add it to Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/JennJMcLeod.books/

 

Jenn’s #WriteRoundOz Book Tour – NSW

The long way to Mudgee Readers Festival – a big literary event in a small town.

Mudgee 2016 opening drinks

Opening night: with organiser Portia Lindsay

And what fun! From opening night drinks and mingling with *warning: name-dropping ahead*: Kate Forsyth, Charlotte Wood, Jane Caro, David Dyer, and more) books and bookish types took over the pretty streets of Mudgee, where every second shop is a cafe and every second person a book (or wine) lover.

Officially, I was there as a presenter and I talked ‘Books With Heart’ with Amy Andrews, Alissa Callen and Charlotte Nash (about how the heart finds its way into all sorts of books: fiction, memoir, medical, sporting stories, even . . . cook books!! A robust cab sav is required in such instances! That’s ‘offal’ I know! ) We stuck mostly to fictional hearts: hearts that flutter, bang, burst, pound, race, tear, rip, break, swell, jump, thump, beat, bleed and skip and love, hate, ache, sigh, melt, palpitate, sink, shatter, somersault, radiate, glow, embrace, adore and feel. We discussed how hearts talk to us and betray us; become our weakness and our strength; and make us spontaneous and (according to the character in my next book) sometimes makes us wait.

Laughing about serial killers in the outback!

Laughing about serial killers in the outback!

Then, for something a little different, I had a few laughs with Candice Fox about outback serial killers and psychopaths. In fact I asked Candice for her thoughts on the most effective means of warding of potential psychopaths from my caravan door while free camping. I offered her a list of strategies:

  1. Leave out a pair of size 11 work boots and an empty box of bullets?
  2. Set up a chunky dog chain and a big, empty dog bowl—the words STILL HUNGRY visible on the bottom?
  3. Or a sign that tells the truth: “Beware – two angry, menopausal women on board?”

(Yes, she thought #3 might work, too.)

While the welcome was warm (the atmosphere too) the temps were a tad chilly. (Minus 2 over night.)

Despite it being winter, Mudgee was a great destination. But …

Of course my book tour of NSW started well before Mudgee. We took the long road, starting with the launch of book four – The Other Side of the Season – at my home base – The Coffs Coast and after that a whole lot of small towns.

Nambucca was niceCoffs Advocate_2 TOSOTS

May 19, 2016
Author talk: Nambucca Library
Lots of lovely local media.

Coffs Harbour was commemorative The Book Warehouse 2016

May 25, 2016
Library Event/Official Launch
Book number 4 of my Season Collection with more
 great PRINT MEDIA and a book signing at The Book Warehouse.

MOREE was magnificent

Catching up with Nicole Alexander and Greg Barron.

Catching up with Nicole Alexander and Greg Barron.

July 9, 2016
Library Event and a catch up with Nicole and Greg

DIGITAL MEDIA Moree Champion

and Local businesses got on board.

Big Sky Libraries online newsletter

Moree Plains Shire Council (online)

 Moree Champion (print and online)

COONABARABRAN was a little crazy

July 19, 2016
Only because I gatecrashed the local book club discussion! What fun!

TAMWORTH was terrific

Tamworth crowd

Tamworth crowd

July 23, 2016
Library Event – huge turnout. They made me feel like a star, even without a guitar!
RADIO CHAT ON 88.9 FM (Pulse)
TV News coverage – NBN: NSW Western District CLICK to Play
Articles: PRINT and DIGITAL MEDIA: Northern Daily Leader article and Northern Daily Leader f/u story

DUBBO was adorable (I’m talking meerkats at the zoo!)

August 6, 2016
Book Store/Book Signing: The Book Connection: SOLD OUT of stock!Dubbo phot news 2

PRINT MEDIA (two pages): Dubbo PhotoNews Magazine Dubbo photo news 1

Advertorial mention by The Book Connection

August 7, 2016
Special Author Event: Jenn J McLeod – In conversation @ Red Earth Vineyard (yes, there was wine). (Dubbo retweets)

Meerkat on log

Meerkat with no idea I was a famous author

Dubbo Tweets

Dubbo Tweets

MUDGEE READERS FESTIVAL was amazingMudgee mention

August 13 and 14, 2016
PRINT/DIGITAL MEDIA: : Guardian Festival features Jane Caro and Jenn J McLeod
And pre-event PRINT MEDIA: Discover Magazine
Massive social media coverage by MRF

NEWCASTLE was noteworthy
(I mean, seriously, look at the size of the poster!)

THAT's not a poster...

Now THAT’s a poster…

August 20, 2016
Book signing: Big W, Charlestown (biggest shopping centre EVA!)

 

Back to NAMBUCCA

Elizabeth's Turning Pages on 2NVR Radio

Elizabeth’s Turning Pages on 2NVR Radio

August 25, 2016
RADIO interview: 2NVR Radio – Elizabeth’s Turning Pages.

So, there you have it.

 

 

 

And home in time to remember Mum on her birthday and share Father’s Day with Dad.

Oh, and by the way… If you are into stats, we did around 3,200 kms and fed the beast about $650.00 in diesel. While it was a great experience and fun, I do hope my tour helped to get my name out there and I found some more lovely readers. Word of mouth is the best compliment. (Have you told someone today about the last great book you read?)

A-weema-weh, a-weema-weh

Yes, the lion was sleeping. Wish I had been. Instead we were up at 5.30am and dressing in so many layers I looked like the Michelin Man.

“It’s fun”, they said.

“A not-to-be-missed experience,” the brochure claimed.

Not only was it only 3 degrees, it was a foggy day in Dubbo today. We thought the fog might have ruined the up close encounters. Instead it added a serenity until about 10am when it finally lifted.

We walked about 10 km and we’re totally exhausted, but what an experience. Not hard to tell my favourites. We are going back for more tomorrow.

Giraffes in the mist

Giraffes in the mist

Spider monkey island

Spider monkey island

 

#WriteRoundOz w/ Rachael Johns w/ giveaway

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Have you heard?

Rachael Johns has a new book out. So I am dropping by to say ‘Hi’!

Rach! Thank you for letting me park my rig on your…. new half-finished driveway. Mind the steep hill, Jenn. On second thoughts maybe you’d better park in the bay across the road, near the entrance to one of the many bushwalk trails around here.

What’s that I see written on your ‘welcome mat’?

The neighbours have better stuff!

Downsizing my life into a 24 ft caravan meant leaving lots of things behind in boxes. What (or who!!) would you have trouble leaving behind if you took off in a caravan?

I could NOT leave my pets behind – our huge, very naughty (Maremma) dog, Rose and our old, extremely affectionate tabby cat, Simba. I’d also need my electric blanket!

Whose home would you like to visit in your caravan and why?

I’d like to do a road trip right round Oz, a bit like you’re doing Jenn, and stop in and visit all my writing friends. They live in some very interesting places from the very bottom of Australia to the very top. We have such a big beautiful country and I reckon visiting all them would have me seeing a diverse slice of it. 🙂

(Oh, do it, Rach! We can have ourselves an author convoy and talk books all night long!!)

Do you REALLY have room at your house to park a fifth wheeler caravan and do you mind visitors? Oh, sorry, you don’t have to answer that one!!

See above re the caravan but yeah, happy to have visitors, as long as they don’t stay TOO long and disrupt my writing time. Us authors have to protect this time!

 Country curiosities…

My latest novel, Season of Shadow and Light, has a strong horse theme. (I love what horses can teach us). If you were an animal what would you be?

Definitely a cat. I’m a huge cat lover. But can I specify that I live with a very good family who feeds me only the best tuna and lets me lounge on their beds all day?

You’re cooking and your food going up against the best cooks from the CWA (Country Women’s Association). What would be your winning dish?

Scones – proper ones, not the three ingredient easy variety. I’m a pretty much hopeless cook these days but for some reason I’ve always made perfect scones. And really, who can resist a warm scone fresh from the oven with a dollop of jam and cream?

About you…

What is the hardest part of writing for you?

Coming up with the initial idea and then pushing on through the doubt while I try to get the words down. The doubt seems to be arriving earlier and earlier in each book now and I always think I’ve finally lost the ability to craft a good story.

If someone was to write your biography, what do you think the title should be?

A Little Bit Crazy

Rach, you’re a fiction writer. Tell us a secret (any secret – about you, your books, etc) and we’ll guess if it’s fiction or furphy. 🙂

I write crime novels under a pseudonym.

Favourite four…

Favourite place in Australia – by the pool at my house in the hills.

Favourite holiday destination – French Quarter of New Orleans (I even set a book there)

Favourite movie – Father Of The Bride

Favourite quote – Don’t regret the things you do, regret the things you don’t do. 

If I said to you, “Just entertain me for five minutes, I’m not going to talk,” what would you do?

Hand you over to my children – three boisterous boys can be VERY entertaining!

Find out more about Rachael Johns and her books…

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Website – www.rachaeljohns.com

Publisher – www.harlequinbooks.com.au

Latest book – http://www.booktopia.com.au/the-patterson-girls-rachael-johns/prod9781743693070.html and

 

THE PATTERSON GIRLS

How can four sisters build the futures they so desperately want, when the past is reaching out to claim them?

When the Patterson daughters return home to Meadow Brook to be with their father after their mother’s death, they bring with them a world of complication and trouble.

The eldest sister, obstetrician Madeleine, would rather be anywhere but her hometown, violinist Abigail has fled from her stellar career, while teacher Lucinda is struggling to have the children she and her husband so desperately want. The black sheep of the family, Charlie, feels her life as a barista and exercise instructor doesn’t measure up to that of her gifted and successful sisters.

Dealing with their bereft father who is determined to sell the family motel, their loves old and new and a series of troublesome decisions doesn’t make life any easier, but when they go through their mother’s possessions and uncover the shocking secret of an old family curse, they begin to question everything they thought they knew.

A warm and wise novel about secrets revealed, finding your soul mate and the unique bond between sisters. 

Want to WIN a signed copy of THE PATTERSON GIRLS (Australian postal address only.) CLOSED: Congrats Dale. Your book will be on it’s way soon.      

Leave a comment below.

Take a stab at the FACT or FICTION. (Does Rach write crime novels under a pseudonym??)

If you like the sound of The Patterson Girls, check out my 2013 release, House for all Seasons, about four women finding their way back home to the country over four seasons.

HFAS Email-Sig_Final

#5 Best selling debut novel – 2103

 

 

 

#WriteRoundOz w/ Georgina Penney

Fly In Fly Out Georgina PenneyEveryone needs a holiday – right? Even those of us travelling full time. Well, I am doing a ‘fly in’ to visit Georgina Penny, before I ‘fly out’ and she’s thrown in a little ‘fact or fiction’ question at the end. ***

Georgina, if only I could have put the van on the plane, I could have parked my rig on your… Hmm,  4 acres of ridiculous lawn (that isn’t quite a farm) in the middle of some lovely hills in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

And what’s that I see written on your ‘welcome mat’?

You’d see a lot of spray painted bunnies covering up any writing that might have been there. Given how many real rabbits live in and under our lawn, we thought it would set the tone.

If I looked in your refrigerator right now, what would I find?

Raspberries! We recently moved here to Scotland and it’s berry season. I spend most of the time I’m meant to be walking and getting fit picking berries out of the hedgerows. There might also be a couple of bottles of Aussie wine in there too. Whenever I’m homesick, a glass of Margaret River white never fails to cheer me up.

Downsizing my life into a 24 ft caravan meant leaving lots of things behind in boxes. What (or who!!) would you have trouble leaving behind if you took off in a caravan?

My king sized bed! My lovely husband has the sleeping habits of a starfish and I would miss having the room.

Whose home would you like to visit in your van and why? 

Right now, I’d probably vote for visiting my godson in Singapore. It might be hard to fit the van along side my friend’s apartment building but we’d give it a go!

Do you REALLY have room at your house to park a fifth wheeler caravan and do you mind visitors? Oh, sorry, you don’t have to answer that one!!

We love visitors! The more the merrier. We don’t know how long we’ll be in Scotland so we’re encouraging anyone and everyone to come take advantage of our hospitality. Put floaties on the caravan and come check out bonny Scotland while sipping a nice glass of Aussie wine. 🙂

Country curiosities…

My latest novel, Season of Shadow and Light, has a strong horse theme. (I love what horses can teach us). If you were an animal what would you be?

Given how much fun the bunnies in our hedgerow look like they’re having, being a Scottish rabbit doesn’t look like too difficult a life but if I really had a choice, I’d probably go for a squirrel. Our last expat location was Brunei and there were squirrels in the trees everywhere. They spent all their days nibbling nuts, teasing the monkeys and playing. Looked like a pretty great deal.

You’re cooking and your food going up against the best cooks from the CWA (Country Women’s Association). What would be your winning dish?

Nasi Ayam (Chicken Rice). I learned how to make it from a Eurasian Aussie master years ago. It’s super simple, just rice, chicken, soup and veges but so tasty. The perfect comfort food. If that didn’t suit the ladies’ tastes, I’d probably go with my mum’s tried and true caramel slice recipe. It used to win hearts and minds when I was growing up in country WA and I doubt it’s lost its magical powers in the intervening years 😉

About you…

What is the hardest part of writing for you?

Getting anything done in between moving around the place has proven a challenge of late but I’d say the first draft is the hardest bit for me. Pinning my story and characters down on the page is always a challenge. After that, the editing is a breeze.

If someone was to write your biography, what do you think the title should be?

‘So, Where Am I Again?’ So far I’ve lived in over 25 places in Australia and around 30 all up if you include international moves. It’s getting to the stage that if I’m unpacked completely, I begin to wonder when the next move is coming!

What question have you always wanted to be asked in an interview? How would you answer that question?

Q: Are you inspired by real-life people and events?

A: All the time. I can’t write anything I don’t feel and I frequently ‘steal’ things from my own life and from those of my friends/family (or just plain anyone I run into). Although, by the time my books get written, any recognizable relation to the actual real-life event is usually so obscure it would take a detective to trace the source!

Favourite four…

Favourite place in Australia – Margaret River in WA.

Favourite holiday destination – I’m going to have to go for Margaret River again. From the beach to the bush, the place is amazing. The wine and the great food helps as wellJ

Favourite movie – Jaws

Favourite quote – ‘Lower your expectations and don’t assume anything’ from a fellow expatriate not long after we moved to Saudi Arabia 8 years ago. It’s proving to be a pretty good life motto.

If I said to you, “Just entertain me for five minutes, I’m not going to talk,” what would you do?

Probably tell you a crazy story from my time in Saudi Arabia. That or I’d give you a good book and read with you. 🙂

***You’re a fiction writer. Tell us a secret and we’ll guess if it’s true or not.

Georgina says: “I once knew a dog like Gerald in Irrepressible You.”

True or fiction, folks? 

Thanks for dropping by,

Jenn J

Current release: Season of Shadow and Light (click image for more info)

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