Monday, 10 October 2016

My Pitch Wars 2016 mentee journey


I've extracted myself from my writing cave to write a quick update on what's been happening over the last few months. It's been such a whirlwind! If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you'll already know I was chosen as a Pitch Wars 2016 finalist for my new manuscript, working title: THE MURDER DISK.

Pitch Wars is an amazing competition for authors hoping to be published. All you need to do is submit a query letter and the first chapter to 4 mentors (or 6 if you donate to the competition) of your choice. The participating mentors are either published/agented authors, editors, or industry interns who kindly offer their time to help polish your manuscript ready for agents.

Each year I've wanted to enter Pitch Wars but the timing wasn't right, and again this year I was hesitant as I felt my WIP wasn't ready, however, I couldn't give up the opportunity so I decided to take the risk and send my submission to 6 mentors - all who I would've been thrilled to work with. Half an hour after I submitted, I received my first full manuscript request, by the next morning I had another. Cue excited dance routine!
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I ended up with 4 requests out of 6 submissions, which is the best response I've had in my querying experience. To say I was excited was an understatement. And so I waited and hoped and waited and hoped...

When I received the news I got into Pitch Wars, I flipped out. This book was so new, so fresh and there was so much still to do! But lucky for me, I have two mentors to help me through the next two months. My wonderful mentors are Joan He and Mara Rutherford of #TeamPusheen and we were prepared to battle!

I'm now half way through Pitch Wars revisions and it's been the most amazing experience. Not only have I connected with other authors aspiring to be published, but my book feels stronger and more fleshed out than I could have hoped for. My mentors are my rock, reassuring me whenever I have doubts and their revision notes and suggestions could not be more spot on!

Writing is such a solitary pursuit and it's often hard to explain why I devote so much of my time to friends and familyespecially during the harder times of rejections. But for me, writing is a kind of therapy, which brings much joy, and to connect to others who feel the same has been a wonderful part of this experience. I'm so thankful to have been chosen to be a part of Pitch Wars 2016!

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So what's next? Well, I'm currently waiting to hear back from my mentors on my revised manuscript and then I'll dive into more revisions for my 31st of October deadline. On the 5th of November, my pitch and the first 250 words will go up on the Pitch Wars website for participating agents to peruse. If they're intriguedwhich I hope they will be!they'll ask to read more.

While this is not my first rodeo, I'm hoping this will be the book to land me an agent. Below is my original pitch I used on Twitter for Pitch Wars and my novel aesthetics I put together which encapsulates the mood of my book. I'd love to hear what you think!


MINORITY REPORT meets SIX OF CROWS where a pickpocket must decide if she'll help with the murder investigation of her world's four Queens after seeing their deaths.

All credit for the images goes to their creators

Friday, 1 April 2016

The sparks of inspiration

The process of writing a book is different for all writers. Some begin with a character or a voice which begs to be written. But for me, it’s the whisper of a concept—either the idea of fictional world, or an impossible scenario my characters will find themselves in. And concepts never arrive full formed—how useful that would be!—but rather are fluid, morphing from one thought to another until something sticks.

This process of brainstorming, or daydreaming, can take months before I put fingers to the keyboard, making it difficult to remember exactly when or where an idea first struck. But for my latest book, I remember the light bulb moment with great clarity.

Around two years ago, my father and I were driving from Sydney to Melbourne when we passed a forest which had been destroyed by a bushfire. The gum trees were now black splinters against the blue sky, the earth turned gray, no life in sight. I couldn’t help but worry how many animals had lost their homes or perished in the fire.

And the devastation looked so fresh; the black of the bark still ink-dark with no emerald buds of life to be seen. I was sure I could smell smoke as we drove by, but my dad informed me the bushfire had been years ago. I was shocked and saddened that the trees would never regrow—branding the incident onto the landscape for all time.

This idea of a land striped of life sparked a story within me. A story which wouldn’t let go. And for the remainder of the trip, the concept unfolded in my mind. I began wondering what circumstances could’ve led to such a dry and desolate land. And, most importantly, how such a lifeless environment would impact a society forced to endure it.

And so my YA fantasy was born!

Monday, 21 March 2016

Don't judge a book by its map!

Ever since I was a child, I've loved maps. They weren’t merely a tool for visualizing a fictional land, but something tactile to help transport me into the world I was reading about. The maps further connected me to the story, allowing me to imagine how I would traverse the environments myself.

I mostly read adventure novels where kids would explore distant countries, different eras and far-off locales. The illustrated maps were my favourite part. I would study each and every detail carefully until the world felt as real as my own.

And often I would recreate the maps, so I could roll it into a scroll and carry it in my bag like a real adventurer. Below is a map I made around 8 years old based an Osborne Puzzle Adventure book. I honed my technique, including scrunching, ripping, burning edges and expertly spilling coffee so not to wash away the drawings.

My map masterpiece!

During my travels over the years, I've collected every single guidebook or pamphlet if there was a map inside. My favourites were the Disney Park maps. And though the park doesn't tend to change significantly from year-to-year, I add to my collection upon each trip. For it seems, one can never have too many maps of the same park!

Disneyland's 50th anniversary map has pride of place in my home.

As I got older and began reading fantasy, I was thrilled to discover many included illustrations depicting the imaginary worlds. Many are undeniably works of art; such as the maps in the Grisha books by Leigh Bardugo (drawn by Keith Thompson). In fact, I’ve been known to buy a book simply due to the gorgeous map inside!

The Grisha books are as wonderful as the stunning maps!

I dream of the day when I'm to open a book and find an intricate map designed around the worlds and words I've created, combining two of my passions: fantasy novels and maps.

Are you a collector? What are your prized trinkets? Please let me know in the comments.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

How to carve the perfect pumpkin, Disney-style!

Happy Halloween everyone! As you probably know, Halloween is one of my favourite times of year. Although I grew up in Australia, I spent some of my formative years in the USA, which is why I believe Halloween is a justified celebration. In the States, we’d visit a pumpkin farm and pick the perfect pumpkin, just like hunting for the perfect Christmas tree.

Halloween is slowly becoming a recognized holiday in Australia and this year Coles, Woolworths and Aldi all sold carving pumpkins. I couldn’t contain my excitement and bought a pumpkin two weeks before Halloween. Inspired by a visit to Disneyland, where designers carved into the pumpkin’s skin without breaking through to the middle, I decided to put my rusty carving skills to the test.

While I was happy with the results, this method wasn’t as easy as I’d thought! So yesterday I attempted my second jack-o'-lantern, armed with the knowledge from my first effort. I thought I’d document my process as many people asked how I made the first Disney castle jack-o'-lantern. So read on for tips! :)

Step one:

Find/create a stencil. I wanted to create Beauty and the Beast’s enchanted rose as it’s one of my favourite Disney films and the glass cloche would make for a perfect silhouette for the rose. Unfortunately, there weren’t any free stencils online so I had to make my own. I designed the below stencil in Photoshop from an image in the film:

Step two:

Cut out the stencil and stick it onto the pumpkin with hobby glue. Some sites recommend drawing the stencil on the pumpkin’s skin with a whiteboard pen, this seemed like it could wipe off too easily. Hobby glue sticks well to the skin without sticking too well.

Step three:

Time to cut off the top of the pumpkin! For this, I used my biggest knife, making sure to cut away from my hand. Note: make sure you cut on an angle so the top doesn’t fall back through.


Step four:

The messiest part! Scoop out all the gunk from the inside. I mostly used my hands and a small ladle. This takes time and feels completely gross but it’s quite fun. If you have kids, this is the part they’d enjoy! 

Step five:

Now onto the carving! Cut a section along the stencil with your smallest and sharpest knife. Create a small rectangle, making sure not to cut straight through the pumpkin skin—only around 3mm into the flesh. Next slide the knife under the skin. It will easily lift away, leaving some of the flesh underneath: 

Step six:

Continue cutting and lifting small sections around the stencil. Don’t worry if it’s not all the same depth—as some will lift easier and deeper than other sections.

Step seven:

When you’re finished cutting around the stencil, use a sculpting tool to scrape at the exposed inner flesh to smooth it out .

Step eight:

Remove the stencil and make any final changes and additions. I added the outline of petals so the rose didn’t look like a large blob!

Step nine:

Pop in a candle. And voila! Your jack-o'-lantern is ready for prime position in your home.

Did you make a jack-o'-lantern this year? What did you carve? I'd love to see pictures!

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

I'm still here... Are you?

Hello! It’s been so long. Is anyone still out there? Well, this could get awkward… Me talking to myself…

Sorry it’s been so long since my last post, but I have a good reason. I’ve been spending every moment I can on my next book. It’s a YA fantasy (again, although epic fantasy this time) and it’s been all consuming. But the good news is I’ve finished! Huzzah!

I started my new novel during Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) as a side project, something to work on while I was querying agents with my other manuscript. Then something happened. I couldn’t get the story, characters or world out of my head. So I dove in headfirst, dedicating my spare time to getting the story right, pummeling the pages (and keyboard) until those words were something worth reading, enjoying, loving.

I then spent six months workshopping and rewriting and editing and (mostly) banging my head against the wall. But now it’s ready. Ready to be sent out into the world! Well, the world of agents, that is. :)

And it’s a scary moment, but thrilling. It’s the time when I obsess over whether it’s good enough. Whether the story will sink or swim. Whether the last year of writing will be worth it. I think it is, but only time (and agents) will tell.

So wish me luck friends! Back into the querying trenches I go!

So many pages!

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

Title: A Court of Thorns and Roses
Pages: 432
Published: 01-05-2015 by Bloomsbury Australia
Source: Publisher

Synopsis (from publisher):

Feyre's survival rests upon her ability to hunt and kill – the forest where she lives is a cold, bleak place in the long winter months. So when she spots a deer in the forest being pursued by a wolf, she cannot resist fighting it for the flesh. But to do so, she must kill the predator and killing something so precious comes at a price ...

Dragged to a magical kingdom for the murder of a faerie, Feyre discovers that her captor, his face obscured by a jewelled mask, is hiding far more than his piercing green eyes would suggest. Feyre's presence at the court is closely guarded, and as she begins to learn why, her feelings for him turn from hostility to passion and the faerie lands become an even more dangerous place. Feyre must fight to break an ancient curse, or she will lose him forever.
The start of a sensational romantic fantasy trilogy by the bestselling author of the Throne of Glass series. - See more at:


A Court of Thorns and Roses is a majestic tale of passionate romance, dark magic, brutal sacrifice, mysterious creatures and cursed kingdoms. Based on Beauty and the Beast, it is a strong start to a new trilogy by talented author Sarah J. Maas. It’s a tale that will capture you in its web, and refuse to let go—even beyond the final page.

The novel begins with Feyre diligently providing for her family, which is often a thankless task, but she is the only one who capable of protecting them. In A Court of Thorns of Roses, a wall separates the mortal lands from Prythian, the faerie lands, and humans know better than to venture north or interfere with the dangerous and powerful faeries. 

It’s not long before Feyre shatters the treaty between the lands by mistakenly killing a faerie in wolf form. Her punishment is to live above the wall in a High Fae’s estate, never to see her home or family again. Here she meets her “beast”, Tamlin—a faerie with a jeweled mask permanently attached to his face, a short temper, and who hides a cursed past.

Like Celaena Sardothien from Maas’s Throne of Glass series, Feyre is tough and often abrasive, but still empathetic. Although, I wished there had been a deeper connection to her family, as this would have made her punishment more poignant. The faerie characters of Tamlin, and particularly Lucien, were a delight. They were, at times, both animalistic and chivalrous, and their bejeweled masks added to the level of mystery and magic in the novel.

As I read on, Tamlin and Feyre became more than just characters on a page but people with real thoughts and feelings, and I feared for their future in a world that seemed to conspire against them. It is a rare book that manages to live and breathe between the pages, and A Court of Thorns and Roses was that kind of book for me, a testament to the strength of Maas’s writing.

Towards the end of the novel, the plot turns bleak and frequently bloody and brutal, yet it was all the more exciting for it. Sarah J. Maas’s imagination seems to know no bounds; her faerie world is equal parts beautiful and disturbing and I found myself wishing my time within this world would not end.

My one caution with this book would be that it is being shelved with other YA titles, where I believe it reads much more NA (New Adult). A Court of Thorns and Roses should be read by those looking for something a little darker, and steamier, than most YA novels.

Sarah J. Maas can do no wrong in my eyes. She has proven time and time again that she is a master of fantasy: building sumptuous worlds to be lost in, complex characters and unexpected plot twists and turns. I loved my journey into the world of Prythian, and cannot wait to return.

I give A Court of Thorns and Roses 5/5 stars.

*Many thanks to Bloomsbury Australia for the advanced readers copy.

Monday, 2 February 2015

Review: I Was Here by Gayle Forman

Title: I Was Here
Author: Gayle Forman
Pages: 270
Published date: January 2015 by Simon & Schuster Australia
Source: Publisher

Synopsis (from publisher):

From the bestselling author of If I Stay - this summer's YA blockbuster film.
This characteristically powerful novel follows eighteen-year-old Cody Reynolds in the months following her best friend's shocking suicide.

As Cody numbly searches for answers as to why Meg took her own life, she begins a journey of self-discovery which takes her to a terrifying precipice, and forces her to question not only her relationship with the Meg she thought she knew, but her own understanding of life, love, death and forgiveness.

A phenomenally moving story, I Was Here explores the sadly all-too-familiar issue of suicide and self-harm, addressing it in an authentic way with sensitivity and honesty 


I’ve heard only good things about Gayle Forman’s books, specifically for If I Stay, which has been on my TBR list for a few years. It’s one of those books people tend to gush about and even the I Was Here proof copy included If I Stay praise such as: “intensely moving” and “Forman knows how to write emotion”. So I dove into I Was Here—with its very similar sounding name—expecting comparable results. Unfortunately, I was not as enraptured by the tale as I'd hoped to be.

Starting I Was Here after Meg’s suicide means we’re only told of Meg and Cody’s friendship through dialogue and flashbacks. And while we only get a glimpse of Meg, I felt invested in her story, wanting to know more about the girl that had decided to take her own life. I Was Here takes a rather dark turn about a third of the way through and I felt more engaged with the mystery surrounding Meg’s suicide than Cody’s journey through her grief. Why had Meg chosen to take her life? And why had she kept her best friend in the dark about her depression?

Forman has a very distinct style, almost impassive and detached, in I Was Here. This cleverly mimics Cody’s numb response to her best friend’s suicide. It’s clear to the reader that this is just Cody’s coping mechanism, and not related to her close connection to her best friend. We know that Cody is going to eventually break, and when she does, she’ll shatter. Unfortunately though, this distance from her emotions for most of the novel, makes Cody difficult to relate to.

Where Meg leaps off the page, Cody feels too removed from the reader. I understand Forman’s intention by writing Cody this way, as this is the way she was dealing with her grief, however I felt like I needed more of her feelings, to feel immersed in the story. I wanted to cry with Cody. I wanted to get angry with her. Unfortunately, I did neither.

I found I Was Here a difficult book to read. It’s somber and sad and only a little bit uplifting towards the end. There is an element of romance in the book, however it felt unnecessary to the plot and was therefore not as meaningful as it could have been.

Yet there are many important messages in the book, which shouldn’t be overlooked. To me, the most important message is to not treat depression like an ugly secret, something to be hidden from friends and family. Instead, depression should be dealt with openly—and without judgment. I really admire Forman for tackling mental health issues in this way and she navigates the tricky subject matter with care, without shying away from the darker content.

While I Was Here was not the book for me, I would recommend it to those who don’t mind a more quiet, somber tale where the happily ever after is tainted by the often harsh realities of the world.

*Many thanks to Simon & Schuster Australia for the advanced proof.