Romance Writers of Australia Conference 2017


I had a wonderful time at the Romance Writers of Australia Conference in August. This is a fabulous conference for craft, business tips in the writing trade, meeting up with old friends, and finding new. Highlights this year for me were Kate Forsyth's one day workshop, and Marion Lennox's keynote address. Marion, the author of over a hundred novels, gave everyone in the audience a gumnut from a Western Australian tree, and asked us to reflect on what gave us joy as writers. I brought my gumnut home (as did many other writers) and put it in a seashell bowl. It looks at home there too - and I've looked at it many times while writing over the past week. Writing can be lonely and difficult, but ultimately gives so much joy - the process of writing itself, and also hearing about what it is about your words that touches readers.

On the Keeper's Shelf

In at the Deep End was recently featured on author Jennie Jones's blog as a book she would hang onto. You can read Jennie's On the Keeper's Shelf post here - and while you're over at her website, you might like to check out some of her stories. I've admired Jennie's books for years (which is why I'm particularly chuffed that In at the Deep End made it onto her shelf!

The link is

Legal Beagle: Marriage

This month, a few facts on marriage ...

Gretna Green, Las Vegas or Brisbane? I happily re-read two great novels and watched a reality dating show before writing this column. The topic? Marriage!

Who wouldn't want to marry Mr Darcy?

Who wouldn't want to marry Mr Darcy?

Gretna Green is a location just north of the Scottish border and has been, since the mid 1700s, a popular marriage destination. In Lisa Kleypas’s Devil in Winter (Wallflowers # 3), Sebastian, Lord St. Vincent, marries Evie Jenner at Gretna Green. Why Gretna? Evie was under 21 (a minor). Under English law she needed the consent of a parent or guardian to marry. This wasn’t a requirement under Scottish law (where a marriage could take place by declaration before two witnesses). In Devil in Winter it was Evie who proposed marriage to Sebastian. She said:

‘I need a h-husband. You need a rich wife. And we are both equally desperate, which leads me to believe that you will agree to my pr-proposition. If so, then I should like to leave for Gretna Green tonight.’

This novel (one of my all time favourites) can be summarised in one word … swoon.

My second example is a contemporary one, from Kylie Scott’s novel Lick (Stage Dive #1). Evelyn wakes up with David in Las Vegas. She’s wearing a diamond ring, but has no recollection of getting married the night before. David starts the conversation:

‘Let me get this straight, you don’t remember anything?’

‘No,’ I said, swallowing hard. ‘What did we do last night?’

To comply with the State law of Nevada, the prospective bride and groom go to a Marriage License Bureau with relevant identifying documents—such as a driver’s license or passport. Both parties have to be unrelated, unmarried and at least 18 years old. There are few legal requirements, but in order to consent the parties should be aware they got married!

In Australia, the law on marriage is consistent because Commonwealth law, rather than State and Territory law, governs it. In fact, marriage is specifically provided for in section 51(xxi) of the Commonwealth Constitution 1900 (see

In the reality television series Married at First Sight, the couples can’t meet (and marry!) immediately, because the Marriage Act, 1961 (see prohibits this. Under the Act, it is a legal requirement that the bride and groom complete a Notice of Intended Marriage at least 30 days prior to getting married. A celebrant or other authorised person will lodge this document with the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages following the marriage ceremony. On Married at First Sight, participants fill out the Notice, but the 30-day period hasn’t elapsed when the ‘wedding’ takes place. If the couples wish to marry for real, they can do so 30 days after completing the Notice.

In Australia, marriage requires consent. Legally, consent gained by force or intimidation is not ‘consent.’ The age of consent for marriage is 18 unless, with parental approval, a court specifically allows it.

If you are writing about a marriage (or contemplating one!) I hope this helps your characters with their wedding plans!

World Oceans Day 8 June

On 8 June the UN celebrates World Oceans Day, which raises global awareness of the environmental challenges faced by our oceans. Because oceans aren’t only important sources of food and medicines, they provide much of the oxygen we breathe and are a crucial part of the biosphere.

For a great resource about World Oceans Day, and the type of activities organised all around the world, go to the World Oceans Day website HERE.

And for a short UN video, Healthy Oceans, Healthy Planet, click HERE.

For my fellow ARRA members. Do you prefer to swim in wild oceans or sea pools? Or would you rather view the ocean from a sun lounge on the deck of a cruise liner (while reading a book)? Comment below to go in the draw to win a copy of In at the Deep End!


Bookshops and Libraries

One of the joys of being on book shelves in book shops and libraries is receiving photos (by email, text and Facebook) of In at the Deep End. My feelings have nothing to do with fame and fortune, and everything to do with the excitement of sharing shelf space with authors I admire and love to read. And shelf companions differ depending on placement!  Sometimes In at the Deep End is shelved in the romance section, sometimes in the Australian Fiction section, and sometimes just thrown 'in at the deep end' with the rest of the alphabet. But where ever it ends up, I always search for its shelf buddies!

Legal Beagle: Family violence

For the April edition of the RWA HeartsTalk magazine, I wrote about family, or domestic violence. 

Family violence is known legally, and in the community, by many different names—domestic violence, relationship violence, intimate partner violence, and child abuse. Let’s look at a scenario that might come up in our writing lives, and consider the legal definitions.

Jane and John have been married for 12 years. They have a mortgaged home and two young children. Over a three-year period, the following events occur:

·      Jane is keen to return to work. When she tells John she has a casual job, he states she already has a job—caring for the children. Not wanting to argue with him, she resigns.

·      John locks Jane out of the house for an hour to ‘teach her a lesson’ because she forgot to lock the front door when she took the children to school.

·      John refuses to speak to Jane for two days after she forgets to pay the gas bill.

·      John tells Jane they are on a tight budget, so she has to give him receipts for all household expenditure. When he doesn’t approve of something she’s spent money on, he mocks her in front of the children.

·      John initiates sex and Jane says no. John gets out of bed, gathers together Jane’s makeup and perfumes, and throws them away.

An important point to note is that family violence isn’t limited to physical violence. It is a pattern of abusive behaviour used within a family to control and dominate. This includes coercion and intimidation. It is ongoing behaviour that can undermine the victim’s confidence, and ability to leave the perpetrator. There is often an escalation of violence over time.

Each State and Territory has legislation relating to family violence (with different names and terminology—if you need help with the jurisdiction you are writing about, send me an email and I’ll give you a link). I’ll use the Victorian Family Violence Protection Act 2008 to illustrate my points. You can find this Act at

The Family Violence Protection Act recognises emotional, financial, sexual or social abuse as family violence. It also includes, as family violence, behaviour that forces a child to hear, witness or otherwise be exposed to violence after the violence has occurred (for example, seeing broken crockery, or hearing a mother crying).

Jane has been subjected to various forms of family violence, and would be entitled to protection by the law, and support agencies.


Here is another scenario. Mike and Mary have lived together for over two years. The following events occur:

·      Mike and Mary are drinking heavily, and argue. Mike pushes Mary and she falls, bruising her hip. Neighbours hear Mary crying and alert police, but Mary sends them away.

·      On a weekend away with a group of friends, Mike hugs Mary and tells her if she ever leaves him, he’ll track her down because they’re meant to be together.

·      During an argument, Mike shuts Mary’s fingers in a drawer. Neighbours hear screams and call the police again.

Threats of violence, physical violence, sexual assault, and stalking, are illegal. Every person has a right to live free from abuse, and a right to legal protection. Under the Family Violence Protection Act there are various courses of action the police can take.

·      Criminal options. If the police conclude a crime has been committed, they can investigate and charge Mike (even if Mary refuses to make a statement). Mike could be arrested and held by police.

·      Civil options. Police can issue a Family Violence Safety Notice to protect Mary. The notice would prevent Mike from contacting Mary for a set period of time (usually 2 – 4 days) but the notice could be extended. Another civil option, which can be initiated by the police or Mary (and would be the most likely option for Jane in the first example), is an intervention order. This order can apply if violent incidents have happened in the past, and are likely to happen again. The order could prevent Mike from contacting Mary, or allow contact but without violence. If Mike breaches a notice or order, this would be a criminal offence and the police could charge him.

There are organisations in each State and Territory that support vulnerable people (usually women) suffering physical and emotional abuse. These organisations are often an excellent starting point for information and assistance.

Writers at Dural Author Series

As part of the Writers at Dural author series, eleven writers will be appearing over three weeks at Dural library - on 4, 11 and 18 May from 10.30-12. Please save the dates. We'd love to see you there!

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4 May: Lisa Chaplin, Isolde Martyn, Cathryn Hein and Lizzy Chandler


11 May: TJ Hamilton, Sarah Barrie, Téa Cooper and Emily Madden


18 May: Mary-Anne McGregor, Shannon Curtis and Penelope Janu


You can book (just $5 to cover the cost of tea and biscuits) directly through the library website as well.

Books will be available for purchase (cash only) on the day, or the writers will be happy to sign copies of books you've already purchased!

The Rocky Mountains

We're in Canada's beautiful Rocky Mountains.  

The path to Agnes Lake

This morning we walked to Johnston Canyon in Banff, and this afternoon we hiked 10km through snowy passes at Lake Louise. In between, we ate a home made apple cake (to die for). We also bought spikes to put on our boots - the late snow this season has resulted in tricky conditions on the ice. 

Lake Louise ... slightly frozen

Lake Louise ... slightly frozen



It was a perfect day - 5 degrees, no wind, blue skies. Tomorrow we head to another of Canada's National Parks - Jasper. For Canada's 150 year birthday (since confederation), the government has waived all charges for entry to National Parks and other National monuments. We're taking advantage of this!

A path through the snow at Lake Louise
Towards the Tea House (unfortunately no tea ...)


You may note the lakes are frozen. On the bright side, there are hardly any people here because, in this region, summer (hiking, riding, canoeing, camping) is the most popular season.  Spring is a 'shoulder' month - a few people are about, but not as many as in winter (skiing) or summer. 


Walking towards Mirror Lake

More hiking tomorrow, and skiing the following day. My writing is happening early in the morning ...

Mirror Lake - worth the climb!

Legal Beagle: Violence in Sport

Here is the February column I wrote for Hearts Talk, the fabulous Romance Writers of Australia magazine about all things writing. The column gives a few pointers on the laws of defamation, and is directed to writers who may be interested in this topic. So ... I hope the writers among my readers find it useful.

Novels that focus on elite athletes and their involvement in competitive sports (often contact sports like the various codes of football, or boxing and cage fighting) are increasingly popular.  For this week’s column, I thought I’d look at some of the issues arising out of contact sports, and their legal implications. Can our characters injure someone else on the field all in the name of sport? What is the difference between a simple sporting transgression, and a serious assault?

1.  Inherently dangerous games such as boxing. In the late 1800s, the courts took the view that unregulated prizefights threatened public interest in the maintenance of good order. But with more clearly defined rules, and growing popularity, boxing was ultimately held to be ‘a demonstration of sparring’ and therefore legal. Meaning boxing was seen as a skill, and not a criminal act. Today, boxing and other contests (such as kick boxing and wrestling) where it is likely one of the combatants will be injured, are regulated by legislation. For example, boxing in Victoria is regulated by the Professional Boxing and Combat Sports Act 1985 (Vic). You can find this legislation, and other State equivalents, on Other sports have a regulatory framework too, but it is usually left to the governing bodies of the relevant sport, such as a football association, to regulate players and breaches of the rules.

2.  Other contact sports such as football or basketball. The most relevant area of law here is assault. Assault laws can be civil (assault and battery) or criminal (assault), and deal with situations where there is an application of force without consent. These laws are relevant on and off the sporting field—but the law assumes that there is implied consent to most physical contacts in ordinary life (like bumping into someone accidently while getting onto a bus).

In a contact sport, what is the level of physical contact a player is taken by law to consent to? If the act occurs during the course of play, and in accordance with the rules and usages of a game, there will be implied consent. If however there is a malicious use of force that is intended to cause injury, or if the act is reckless (so the perpetrator doesn’t care whether it causes injury or not) there will be an offence.

During an AFL game, Victoria leaps for the ball and catches it. She loses her balance as she lands and bumps into Maria, who falls and breaks her ankle.

Victoria and Maria are participating in a physical or inherently dangerous sport, and Victoria was playing within the rules. Maria will be taken to have impliedly consented to physical violence and the injuries that might result.

David and Drew, playing AFL, leap for the ball at the same time. While still in the air, David elbows Drew in the head and breaks his jaw.

If the level of violence has gone beyond the rules and parameters of the game, it will potentially be illegal. But if there was simply an error of judgment on David’s part (for example, intimidatory conduct instead of a deliberate act or intent to harm), he might not be liable.

To sum up, there is a distinction between what happens on the field and what happens off it, but any person (or fictional character!) who goes beyond the rules while playing sport runs the risk of committing a civil or criminal offence.

UTS Graduation to Publication night

I had a wonderful time last week at the Graduation to Publication night at UTS. I was invited to be on the panel with novelist David Dyer, short story writer and non-fiction author Virginia Peters and Bronwyn Mehan, a publisher, and the mediator for the evening. Gabrielle Carey hosted the event, and it was wonderful to catch up with her and Debra Adelaide (I signed Debra's copy of In at the Deep End which was a career highlight!). I was lucky enough to be in both Gabrielle and Debra's classes when I did the Masters of Creative Writing at UTS, and learnt a great deal from them.

Was also great to catch up with a number of my fellow students who came along for the night, and hear all their news.

Virginia, David, Bronwyn and I. Apologies for the photo quality - we were all too busy talking, drinking champagne, and eating canapés, to take decent photos!

Virginia, David, Bronwyn and I. Apologies for the photo quality - we were all too busy talking, drinking champagne, and eating canapés, to take decent photos!

Australian Writer's Centre Podcast

I was delighted to be part of the Australian Writers' Centre podcast, 'So You Want to be a Writer' this week. Here is the link to No. 159!

I've listened to this informative podcast for years, so it was wonderful to be interviewed by Valerie for this week's episode. I talk about my writing life, getting published, and my newest manuscript.




Legal Beagle: Contracts

I've been so busy posting interviews and reviews I've been neglecting the Beagle! Here is the column I did for the Romance Writers of Australia Hearts Talk newsletter for December . Hearts Talk is packed each month with writing craft tips, author interviews, new release information, brilliant on-line courses (known as OWLS) and many other things. RWA is a fabulous organisation (for romance and non romance writers) - and its magazine (free to all members) is a valuable resource as well!

This month's column is on the topic of contracts (or binding agreements). I know this sounds dry but … contracts are something that come up often in novels. I hope an introduction into what makes a valid contract might prove useful to writers out there!

Legal Beagle: Contracts

Agreements have to comply with the law in order to be binding and enforceable—we saw this in relation to surrogacy arrangements in last month’s column. This column will look at some everyday contractual scenarios that you may come across in your writing.

1. Simon threatens Susie (or someone close to her) with physical or economic harm if she refuses to sell her farm. Any agreement (even if Simon paid a fair price and Susie signed documentation) would be invalid for duress. Consent is an essential ingredient in every contract and Susie did not freely consent to the contract.

2.  Edward promises that if his daughter Emily does well at school, he’ll buy her a car. Emily gets straight A’s but Edward refuses to buy the car. There would be no contract because every contract needs an intention to be ‘legally bound.’ The law presumes that when close family members, or people in a close social setting, enter into an agreement, they don’t intend to contract (the opposite presumption applies in a commercial context).

3.  Jenny and Jay are workmates. Jenny is moving overseas and promises to give Jay her old car. Then she changes her mind. There is no contract because every contract needs ‘consideration’ or some form of payment, and both parties have to provide it. Without payment there is simply a gift (so there’s a chance it will have to be returned if there’s a change of mind). Jay could have given Jenny a dollar when she made her promise—then she would have been bound.

4.  Marjorie, a cat lover, consumes a bottle of wine. Soon afterwards she enters into a contract to buy a $2 000 beagle. Marjorie would be bound by the contract whether she wants the dog or not—provided the dog seller didn’t know she was so affected by alcohol she didn’t know what she was doing.  

5.  James enters into an agreement with Mary, an elderly and unwell neighbour, to buy her land. If James has taken advantage of Mary in some way (for example, he failed to explain the agreement, and didn’t encourage her to get independent advice) the agreement would fail because of inequality in bargaining power—James’s behaviour was unconscionable or unfair. Undue influence could also apply.

6.  Lane offers to pay Adam to teach her about sex. This situation came up in Avril Tremayne’s The Contract (I love this book!) Avril made it plain that Lane and Adam knew their agreement wasn’t binding (even though it was in writing and signed) but merely a series of guidelines. Why couldn’t there be a legally enforceable contract? There would be problems with uncertainty, subject matter, and a lack of intention to be legally bound. And assessment of damages might be tricky too. How do you quantify mediocre sex—not that this was a problem with Lane and Adam …

Statute law applies to many contractual issues—particularly consumer law. Have a look at the NSW Fair Trading site (each State and Territory has something similar). For information on consumer contracts go to the contracts tab (via the consumers tab). Hopefully all your Christmas gifts matched their description, were fit for purpose, and of merchantable quality. If not … consumer law will help!

Interview and review - Sarah Todman

The lovely Sarah Todman received an early review copy of In at the Deep End, and was kind enough to interview me after reading the book. The interview is on Sarah's blog, Say Anything Sare

Sarah also posted a review of In at the Deep End on Marie Delacourt's review site. I particularly enjoyed answering her questions which were really specific to the book and the settings. Here is the link!



1girl2manybooks (all the books I can read) interview and review

1girl2manybooks is a wonderful website and blog for readers across many genres. Bree not only posts thoughtful reviews, she interviews writers - and I was delighted to be one of her guests last week. And reading her comprehensive review of In at the Deep End was a lovely way to end my week. It seems Harriet isn't the only one to value Per …  Here is the link to the the interview and the review. 

Here is the review:

And the interview:

Interview and review from Talking Books Blog

Thank you to Talking Books Blog for hosting me on your blog, and for the lovely review. The link to the interview is

And here is the review that was posted on Goodreads!

In At The Deep End by Penelope Janu was a surprise awesome read. I'm glad it was recommended to me and it has been added to my fave reads for 2017. Harriet and Per were completely attention grabbing together and the plot was a stand out. Emotional, shocking, turbulent, thought-provoking and unputdownable. This was a story I could read again and again and I would not tire of the characters. Both Harriet (Harry) and Per (Polarman) were magic to read. It really was a feel good read and a story that this reader finished with gusto and had me frowning and smiling through to the conclusion :) Loved the story.






Interview with Lauren Keegan, The Australian Bookshelf Blog

Lauren interviewed me on Day 2 of my Blog Tour. There's a link to the interview below, and a review. Lauren's blog has book reviews and other posts likely to be of interest to writers and readers alike. It's a really interesting site.

Todays picture is from the suite of images Harlequin sent me yesterday. As Lauren is a psychologist and we talk about fear in the interview, I'll use one from Chapter 1 of In at the Deep End.

Interview with Beauty and Lace Magazine

From Beauty and Lace On-Line Magazine

From Beauty and Lace On-Line Magazine

On the first day of my Blog Tour to celebrate the release of In at the Deep End, I was interviewed by Beauty and Lace magazine. Here is the link to the interview in which I answer questions, amongst other things, on the path to publication.


The Image is from Beauty and Lace magazine. Isn't she lovely! 


Almost on the shelves!

Not long to go now and I am really looking forward to In at the Deep End being available to readers. I hope you enjoy the book and get something out of it! There have been some positive reviews so far which is lovely, and it is exciting for me seeing it all in print. It took me around a year to write the book, and another year from acceptance by Harlequin to seeing it in the shops, so it is quite a long process. In the meantime I've written another book, and am really looking forward to the editing process for that one, while working on my third (almost finished!) - something I wrote a couple of years ago but have a lot of faith in. One day I hope it will be published.

I am organising some library and bookshop visits, and I'll be at the Romance Reader's conference in Melbourne in February, so it will be wonderful to meet up with readers (and a few of my Melbourne friends!) while I am there. 

In the meantime, here is a photo of my very first book box! 

Legal Beagle December: Surrogacy Arrangements

The social, ethical and legal issues surrounding artificial reproductive technology (ART) are complex and fascinating. This month’s Legal Beagle topic (published in the December issue of the Romance Writers of Australia newsletter, Hearts Talk) is surrogacy arrangements.


In a surrogacy arrangement, a woman (known as the surrogate, or surrogate mother, or birth mother) agrees to carry and give birth to a child on behalf of another person or couple (the commissioning or intended parents). Developments in ART have made the creation of families through surrogacy arrangements—while unusual—increasingly possible.


All States and Territories, except for the NT, have legislation on surrogacy. This legislation is available through the Austlii link we looked at in the November issue of Hearts Talk But for a straightforward introduction to this area, I suggest you read a recent report published by the Commonwealth Parliament. It outlines the rights, responsibilities, and protections available to parties to surrogacy arrangements. The link is


Let’s consider the law by looking at three scenarios.


Scenario One: Amy is a 32-year-old corporate lawyer who doesn’t have the time or inclination to gestate a baby (maybe she’s busy, or enjoys red wine, or rigorous gym workouts). Amy and her husband use their own egg and sperm to create an embryo. Lucy, a 20-year-old law student, offers to act as the surrogate mother.

Issues: Amy isn’t infertile so she wouldn’t qualify as a commissioning parent in Vic or WA (but this wouldn’t disqualify her in some States). In Victoria the surrogate mother must be at least 25, and have given birth to at least one child (variations to this requirement apply in different States).


Scenario Two: Tom and Jack have been together for two years, and want to have a baby. Tom’s sister Tina, a mother of two, has offered to carry the baby for them, using her own egg, and Jack’s sperm.

Issues: A surrogate mother can’t use her own eggs in Vic, so a donor egg would be required—meaning IVF for Tina. Same sex couples can’t be commissioning parents in SA or WA but this is okay in other States. In the ACT one commissioning parent in a same sex relationship must be genetically related to the child.


Scenario Three: April is single, 40, and infertile, but wants to have a child. Anne, who has given birth to her children using IVF, offers to donate a surplus frozen embryo. April puts an advertisement in a magazine, offering to pay a surrogate mother’s expenses, and $20 000 as a ‘thank you’ present.

Issues: Commercial surrogacy (involving payments that don’t strictly relate to medical, legal, counseling and travel costs) is illegal in every State. April’s single status would exclude her from a surrogacy arrangement in NSW and the ACT. Advertising is prohibited in NSW and other States, but allowed in WA. .


Counseling and background checks are required in all States, though legislation in these areas is not as strong as it could be. As in adoption situations, genetic and other information (such as the identity of the birth mother, and donors) should be available to children born under surrogacy arrangements. Under current laws this information isn’t, unfortunately, always available. Inconsistencies between the States complicate matters further. Overseas surrogacy arrangements have their own legal and ethical issues—a topic for another column!