Ever Read a Book Written by Five Different Women?

The Painted Sky cover imageWell? Have you?

I hadn’t either until I read The Painted Sky by Alice Campion. Alice Campion is actually five women who belong to a writing group. Together they have crafted a warm and wonderful novel about a Sydney girl, Nina, who inherits a farm in Wandalla from her estranged Uncle. The imminent sale of the property causes her to once again question the long-ago disappearance of her father. She travels to her farm for one last trip to rekindle memories and search for new evidence. What she gets is far more than she bargained for.

Where did her father disappear to? What was the double life he lived? What is the deal with the gold locket?  Why is her neighbour, Hilary, so keen to get her hands on Durnham House? These are just a few of the many questions that Nina has to unravel. Add to this her complicated feelings towards her childhood friend, the very-engaged Heath, and you have a story that will keep you flicking the pages till the very end.

I have to admit that I offered to review this book purely out of curiosity. How could five different people breathe coherent life into a story? How could they remain true to their character development and weave us seamlessly  into their tale? I thought it might be awkward. I thought it might be clunky. What I hadn’t expected was a rich tapestry of life to spring forth from their pages.

The storyline ducked and weaved, keeping me on my toes the whole way. I fell in love with the countryside and the people, wanting my own Moira and Deborah and Olivia. (I already have my own Heath or I would have wanted him too!) The only criticism I have is that the bad character (I won’t give you any names cause I don’t want to spoil it for you) was too bad. She acted irrationally from the very beginning and I felt her character was a bit irregular. By the end I understood why she behaved as she did, but even then I thought perhaps a bit more subtlety in the development of her antagonism would have made the trip smoother.

I have been lucky enough to be able to ask the authors of The Painted Sky some questions. Keep reading to see their answers.

Author Interview

Alice Campion author imageSometimes my work reads as if five different people have written it. How did you manage to get the feel and text of your book to flow with so many chefs in the kitchen?

Lots of tricks! First, our process was that we would come together and spend sometimes a whole weekend plotting out a section of the book in detail and then breaking it up into short ‘scenes’ of two to four pages on average. Then we would have a weekly-to-fortnightly writing cycle. Each of us would have one or two scenes to write in that time and we also would send our work to the others for them to think about. Then we’d meet again to review the work thus far. The original author would read out their section and the others would chime in with suggestions. Usually we would all agree on whether these should be included or not – but occasionally we voted.

The strict rule was that when that scene was re-written in future drafts, the original author could not do it. So through the various drafts of the novel, every scene was re-written by all the authors at some stage. We also had photos of what our characters and landscapes looked like, plans of houses and properties etc. And we had Denise, who was version-control Goddess and knew exactly the sequence of events and backstories, the age of characters, whether those plants grew in that area at that time.

How did you divvy up the workload, and how did you decide who wrote which parts of the book?

Pretty much covered above. There were scenes that everyone wanted to write and scenes no-one wanted to write, but we all took our turn. The first time we wrote a sex scene was hilarious because to be good writing it has to be authentic, so you are exposing yourself quite a bit! In the end, we each anonymously wrote a version of that scene, read all of them and rated them on a chilli scale from one to three chillis for hotness! By the end we were totally blasé about that stuff.

Did you have any arguments during the writing process and if so, what about?

I know it’s hard to believe, but we really didn’t argue. We did have creative differences – there were one or two Hemingway fans who regarded all adjectives and metaphors as the enemy! Often someone would come in with a very fanciful narrative twist (I can’t give you an example without creating a spoiler) that made us choke on our chardonnay but sometimes when we broke it down it actually had the core of a good idea. Our main philosophy was that no idea was a bad idea – that our writing circle was a safe space to float ideas that maybe were not fully thought through. But it was also a place where the will of the group had sway. Feedback on another person’s writing always had to be very specific. If you didn’t like a word or sentence, then you had to come up with an alternative for the group to consider rather than just dissing the other person’s work.

How did you keep your character development consistent throughout the book?

We knew our characters so thoroughly that they were like old friends. We constantly said things like ‘no way Nina would say that!’ or ‘That’s not our Heath’. We hated sending them into dangerous or awful situations because we loved them so much – even Hilary, the baddy of the piece. We did back-stories for all the main characters to fill them out and make their motivations and psychological tics really clear. I must confess that the first draft was awful – and character development was one of the main things it lacked. People are never just one thing. To be interesting, they must be complex humans and not just props in the story.

Why did you decide to write this book as a group?

It was completely unconsidered at the time. It was just – hey, let’s write a book, yeah! But once we started, the upside became evident. Just when one person was flagging, someone else would be being struck by inspiration. Having a deadline was invaluable. It was like having a personal trainer – some days you just did not want to do it, but you had to. And then when you saw the results, it was fantastic!

Three of us have set up a community for group writing at www.groupfiction.net that we hope will grow the idea internationally. Come and check it out. We think there are lots of people like us who have the talent but maybe not the confidence or stamina to write a novel, and they could benefit a lot from our process.

Have any of you published other works?

None of us have written fiction before. Years ago Choice published a guidebook to free and low cost Sydney that I did, but that’s about it for published works. Jane R is a journalist and both Denise and I have done a lot of work as professional communicators. Jane S is a film editor, so she had that visual frame of reference.

Who came up with the original concept for the book and how did it develop from there?

It was a very organic process! Jane S suggested a novel, but it’s impossible to say where the main storyline or characters came from. We dreamed them up together!

What attributes did each of you bring to the group?

Maddy: She’s done lots of writing courses, so she brought technical knowledge.

Jane S: A girl from a cattle property originally, she brought authenticity.

Jane R: Left-field story ideas – intriguing twists and turns.

Denise: Control of the process but also a wonderful cheerleader. She was the only truly indispensible Alice!

Me: Denise calls me ‘mistress of the elegant solution’. I think that means nice prose!

 

The Painted Sky is now available for sale on many online distributors in Print and eBook, but here’s the link to the eBook on Amazon, and to the Random House website.

 

 

 

 

Faery Forged Now Available For Pre-Sales

I’m in the final stages of editing of Faery Forged – Book Two in the War Faery Series and I have to say I am pretty excited. I’m confident any of you that read and enjoyed Faery Born are going to love the second installment in the trilogy. (For those of you who are my die-hard chicklit fans fear not, I am also working on Tess’s Tale – Book Three in The Chanel Series.)

Anyway Faery Forged is now available for pre-sales on Amazon for the special price of $0.99. It will revert to $3.99 when the book is released on the 23rd May 2015.

TO PRE-ORDER FAERY FORGED CLICK HERE.

However, if you have joined my Fantasy Book Club (box is up top right of this page) I will be offering you a free copy of Faery Forged in a couple of weeks to thank you for your support. All I will ask in return, is an honest review to be posted before the book is released on the 23rd May. (And if you could post one for Faery Born that would be fantastic too.)

See below for the fantastic cover (thank you Derek Murphy) and back cover blurb.

Faery Forged - kindle coverGalanta is only one step away from successfully releasing Santanas. The faeries must either stop her or hope that their allies stand strong in the coming storm. While they seek her out, they are forced to cement old allegiances and create new ones.

With this in mind, Orion offers himself as a groom to the treacherous night faeries, asking only that Aethan go in his stead to choose his bride. Meanwhile, Galanta’s spell means that while Izzy now remembers Aethan, he has no memory of her.

As Aethan, Izzy and Wilfred travel to the realm of the night faeries to bring home Orion’s bride, they are pursued by goblins and hunted by giants. To make matters worse, Santanas’ strengthening power means that terrifying monsters are unleashed against them. They will need all their strength and cunning to make it safely home and to stop Galanta from releasing a mad War Faery upon the world.

 

 

 

Goons ‘n’ Roses File Error

This morning the lovely Sarah Lucas emailed me to tell me there was a major chunk of story missing at the end of chapter three.

‘No way,’ I thought as I rolled out of bed and crawled to my computer.

But alas, she was indeed correct. Picture me sitting there with a face red enough to match my fiery hair. And of course I’ve been feeling like a right dufus for the whole day.  You see there were hints of this error in some of the latest reviews:

She seemed to throw characters into the book as if we were meant to know who they were. ‘Well she obviously didn’t read book one,’ I said to the pilot.

The kidnapping scene left me confused. ‘Really,’ I said, ‘they shouldn’t let special people write reviews.’

There seemed to be a bit missing at the end of chapter three. Yep, you’d think I would have cottoned onto the fact there was something dreadfully wrong with my file by this stage. My only defense is that I check my files so thoroughly (cough) that I couldn’t fathom there was anything wrong.

Anyway, I want to apologise to all of you who ended up with a faulty file and to let you know that a new one should now be in your kindle library. Or alternatively, please feel free to contact me and I will email you a new mobi file.

Thanks a Bloody Lot!

81PvhBMYibL._SL1500_So I’m meant to be writing. I’m meant to be spending my days off luxuriating in the divine pleasure of immersing myself in my work. I’m meant to be improving my awful social media skills. The one thing I am most certainly NOT meant to be doing is living on the couch with my nose pressed into someone else’s work!

So my troubles started when a friend of mine recommended J.R.Wards Black Dagger Brotherhood Series. I bought the first one (Dark Lover) for a bit of light before bed reading. Trundling through the next day on almost no sleep was certainly a challenge, but I went right out there and bought the second book in the series. Silly me.

If not being able to put the book down wasn’t crippling enough, the depression left by her superlative metaphors and similes certainly was. Her character development was sublime, and her original twist on the tired vampire genre truly inspired. And then there were the love scenes … need I say more?

Anyhoo, I am currently reading number seven in the series and I would just like to send out to J.R.Ward (nup – couldn’t get her full name even from her own website) a big, fat, thanks a bloody lot.

To check out book one in the series DARK LOVER, click HERE and enjoy.

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The Maxwell Sisters

The Maxwell SistersWhen Random House asked me to take part in a blog tour for the release of The Maxwell Sisters I jumped at the chance. While I always love to help out fellow writers, Loretta Hill is a fellow Perth author, which made this book release more special.

I have to admit, what with everything going on (writing the first draft of my new book, Christmas, New Year, getting an honourable mention in the London Book festival ((Sorry, had to slip that one in!)) enough house guests to necessitate tents in my back yard, a motorbike accident in which the Pilot broke his foot and his brother broke his leg, and said carer’s duties from said accident), that I kind of left reading the book till the last minute. I approached it in a mild state of panic with only 48 hours left till my review was due. And I may have spent more time running around the house shrieking about how I had to be left alone so I could read, than actually picking up the book. But eventually I found the time, in between preparing meals, changing dressings and wheeling the Pilot down to the park, to start. Continue reading

Faery Born On Sale

For one week only, starting today (Sunday 19th Oct.), I will be pricing my new book, Faery Born, at the bargain price of 99c. It’s the first in a fantasy trilogy about a young witch, Isadora Scrumpleton, and is suitable for adults and young adults. I haven’t got many reviews on it yet but the ones I have are great. (Which I am very excited about!)

Here’s what one of them (A reader) had to say:

For those who love fantasy, magical creatures, action and romance, you’ll find it all here packed into an exciting storyline. The story drew me in from the start and the pace picked up quickly making it hard to put down. Ms. Usher shows great imagination in creating an entirely new fantasy world filled with witches, faeries, goblins and assorted other supernatural creatures. She sets up a conflict between two co-existing magical factions, while at the same time seamlessly weaving in the romance between the very likeable main characters – Isadora (Izzy) and Aethan. Although there is fighting and violence, Ms. Usher handles it adeptly and does not cross the line into overdone grisly gore that could distract and turn off the reader from her very interesting plot. I also thoroughly enjoyed the bits of humor sprinkled in throughout that lightened the mood when necessary. Bottom line: very well written and imaginative. Looking forward for Book 2 of this trilogy.

To check it out on Amazon click HERE.

I am also very excited to be working with eBookSoda to promote this sale. EbookSoda are a new reader’s site. They send you ebook recommendations tailored to your taste. If you are interested in signing up with them to get their emails, their site is – www.ebooksoda.com

Faery Born Available For Pre-Sale

Well it’s been a long time coming but Book One in The War Faery Trilogy - Faery Born, is finally available for pre-sale on Amazon. Put your order in now and the book will automatically be delivered to you on the 11th of September.

Word of warning to all my fans – although Faery Born embodies my normal writing style and sense of humour, this is a fantasy book suitable for YA readers. It contains some romance, but it also has witches, faeries, goblins, fighting and magic. Here’s the blurb:

It’s been thirteen years since the Dark Years ended. Thirteen years since the mad War Faery responsible was imprisoned in stone. Now, with goblin attacks on the rise it seems Galanta, the Goblin Queen, is intent on returning the land to chaos and terror.

Isadora Scrumpleton is trying not to think about the Dark Years. She’s just been chosen by her ‘familiar’, found out she’s half faery, and discovered she’s dating the second-in-line to the Faery Throne. That’s enough for one teenage witch to handle. But when goblins attack her village, Izzy is forced into action, ultimately joining the elite Border Guard and attracting the attention of the Goblin Queen.

As Galanta weaves a web of deceit, Izzy struggles to control her powers. Will she be able to stop the Goblin Queen in time, or will the world be plunged into a dark new reality?

 

Sound like something you might like? Click HERE to go to Amazon to order your copy. Not sure? I’d love you to try it, but feel free to refund it if you don’t enjoy it.

Faery Born Cover Reveal

faeryborn1.529BIt’s 11.30pm and I should be fast asleep because I have to go to work tomorrow, but I’m too buzzed to sleep. I’ve just finished my rewrite of the first book in The War Faery Trilogy – Faery Born. And although I know there’s still a long way to go till it’s published (like four rounds of editing), I’m extremely excited. So, I wanted to share with you the kindle cover that the brilliant Derek Murphy from creativindie has designed for me.

As you can probably guess by the cover, this one’s a little different from my chicklit/women’s fiction/cosy mysteries. It’s a young adult fiction fantasy novel about a witch, and I’m hoping you’ll all give it a go.

All going well, it should be available on Amazon by the end of August. So watch this space for more information.

Cocoa and Chanel Takes Gold.

I loved writing the first book in the Chanel Series – Cocoa and Chanel, so I was very excited to find out that it had placed first in the 2014 Next Generation Indie Book Awards for the Ebook Fiction Category. Imagine my excitement when a couple of weeks later I found out it had also won the Humor Category in the 2014 National Indie Excellence Awards.

Yay to Chanel and her crazy friends!!

Book Two in the Series – Goons ‘n’ Roses – is doing really well, so as soon as I have finished with my current project (Book One in the War Faery Series – Faery Born, a YA Fantasy novel) I will get cracking on the next installment of the Chanel Series, Tess’s Tale.

Big thanks to the Next Generation Indie Book Awards and the National Indie Excellence Awards for the chance to show that Indie Authors can shine, and to their judges for all their time and hard work.

 

And The Winner Is…

Thanks to everybody who entered my Cocoa and Chanel review competition. Unfortunately there can only be one winner. And that winner is Kieran O’Brien.

As Kieran is also on my subscriber list to find out when my books are released she wins a $30 voucher. A huge thanks goes out to the rest of you for your enthusiasm and your lovely reviews.