Ruby finalist: On The Right Track

So this happened … I was delighted to have been announced as a finalist in the Romance Writers of Australia RuBY (Romantic Book of the Year) award in 2019 (in the Contemporary Romance category) for my Harlequin Mira/ HarperCollins novel, On The Right Track. This award is the premier award for a romance published in 2018, and is judged by reader judges. It is SUCH an honour to have made the finals, and I look forward to attending a dinner on 10 August 2019 with the other four wonderful finalists, when the winner will be announced.

Can’t wait!

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November release: Up On Horseshoe Hill

Up On Horseshoe Hill, which will be on the shelves - and available as an ebook and audiobook (more on this in another post!) - will be out on 18 November. It’s so exciting when a book has a cover! If you would like to pre-order the book to ensure it jumps into your kindle on 18 November, or arrives on your doorstep around this date, please CLICK HERE for links. You can also order at your local bookstore, or ask your library to order the book. As many readers know by now, I get just as much pleasure from seeing my book on a library shelf, as I do on seeing it on the shelves in a bookstore.

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I find the thought of launching a new book a strange combination of relief, joy and trepidation.

Relief in that I don’t have to read the manuscript yet again (100,000 words takes a few days out of my week …), and I can look forward to working on my next book.

Joy because a book release coming up means readers have the chance to get up close and personal with my characters (like I have been for a year or two …).

Trepidation because … it’s judgment time! Much as Up on Horseshoe Hill has been praised by the readers that have taken a peek between the covers so far, and my editor and my publisher are really excited about it, I find book reviews a little confronting. Much as I love writing, I don’t particularly like telling people what a fabulous book I have written (it’s just not me!) so I hope that others will do that for me.

And finally on the release … I love this cover! Firstly because Victoria Purman, whose novels I have read and enjoyed for years, was kind enough to give the book a wonderful endorsement. I first knew Victoria as a writer of novels set in a coastal town in South Australia. These contemporary novels feature a wonderful bunch of characters (look up the Boys of Summer series!). More recently, Victoria has written page turning stories of Australian historical fiction, including the novels, The Last of the Bonegilla Girls, and The Land Girls, both published by HQ (HarperCollins). And the other reason I love the cover? Because there is a horse on the cover, and (even though it is up to readers to imagine what the characters actually look like) I think the model has a really nice natural look, which reflects the main character, Jemima (Jet) Kincaid really well.

Author Talk: Thursday 15 August

I can’t wait to join the delightful duo Cassie Hamer and Joanna Nell for an author event on Thursday 15 August from 6.00 - 8pm at Manly Art Gallery and Museum. It’s a brilliant venue right opposite the beach, and we’d love to see you there.

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Cassie’s debut novel, After The Party, was published by HQ (HarperCollins) earlier this year to critical acclaim. Joanna’s first novel, the bestselling The Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retirement Village, was published by Hachette last year, and her newest release, The Last Voyage of Mrs Henry Parker, will be released in September. Cassie is a journalist, Joanna a medical doctor, and my background is in law, and we’re planning a lighthearted chat about change - the chaos, camaraderie and challenges of embarking on a career in creativity. Click on the link below if you’d like to come along. We hope to see you in Manly!

Here is the link: Manly Author event.

Up on Horseshoe Hill cover reveal coming soon!

Photo credit Paolo Nicolello

Photo credit Paolo Nicolello

A new cover is always an exciting time. And much as I love the pony hiding behind the forelock, I can’t wait to launch Up On Horseshoe Hill into the world. Especially because early links for the book are coming out on bookseller sites and in other places in cyberspace, and the blank page with ‘cover coming soon’ is starting to annoy me!

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Creating a cover is a complex business in publishing, and I pretty much rely on my lovely publisher to come up with their concept. Yes I always have a few ideas - my novel’s covers have all portrayed a woman facing the camera, so I like the age and colouring to be right, much as readers will put their own spins on those things - but the rest I am very happy to leave to the creative minds at HarperCollins! I know this cover will be ‘rural’ in terms of the backdrop, and I am very happy with that. Will Jet be wearing a hat or not? I’ll have to wait and see.

All will be revealed very soon, in anticipation of the late November release of Up On Horseshoe Hill!

Legal Beagle: High Seas Dramas part two

Those following the Legal Beagle columns I post here ( I write these for the fabulous Romance Writers of Australia magazine, HeartsTalk), will know they aren’t written as legal advice, but tips that might be useful to writers dealing with similar issues. Because legal issues come up all the time! Here is an excerpt of an article I recently wrote on the law of the sea:

Aidan Turner (Ross Poldark)

Aidan Turner (Ross Poldark)

Some of the principles on the law of the sea are centuries old and will, I hope, be of interest to both contemporary and historical romance authors.

The world currently has a commercial fleet of over 90 000 vessels. Greece is the largest ship owning country, followed by Japan, China, Germany and Singapore. This could explain why decades of Mills & Boon titles have featured Greek shipping tycoons as heroes! Writers of historical fiction have also written gripping historical tales about the passage of ships across oceans.

The ocean, always intrinsic to trade and commerce, covers over seventy per cent of the earth’s surface, and most of the world’s population lives within a few hundred kilometres of the coast. So who has command of the sea? The doctrine of ‘freedom of the seas’ can be traced back to the seventeenth century, and is based on the idea that, besides a nation’s rights and jurisdiction (power) over ‘strips of sea’ adjacent to their coastlines, the seas belong to no one.

Technological developments, particularly from the mid-twentieth century, facilitated the exploitation of offshore resources, and the width of the ‘strips of sea’ became increasingly problematical as nations sought to extend their claims over the oceans. With rising populations, issues such as the depletion of fish stocks by long-distance fishing fleets, and environmental concerns surrounding pollution and waste from oil tankers and other commercial vessels, were also contentious. The development of weaponry on naval and other craft, as nations sought to use the ocean to pursue (increasingly long range) military objectives, was another matter of concern.

Demelza Poldark (Eleanor May Tomlinson)

Demelza Poldark (Eleanor May Tomlinson)

            Enter the United Nations, and its efforts to legally define the uses of the oceans for the ‘individual and common benefit of humankind.’ Cooperation between nations was intrinsic to laying down international law in respect of the ocean. Many nations signed a treaty banning nuclear weapons on the seabed, and acknowledging that all resources of the seabed are ‘the common heritage of humankind.’ Decades of negotiation went into the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which was finally adopted by the UN in 1982. This Convention, or international treaty, means that a clear set of laws applies to water resources. There are over 165 countries that are signatories to the Convention and they are bound by its principles. The Convention provides for:

·      An exclusive territorial sea boundary of 12 nautical miles (22 km). Nations can enforce their own laws and use resources within this offshore zone, which includes the seabed and its subsoil, and the air above it. It covers elements like fishing, mineral rights, and sea floor deposits.

·      A Contiguous Zone of 24 nautical miles offshore, which can be used to enforce laws on matters like immigration, customs, and pollution.

·      An Exclusive Economic Zone gives a nation limited rights over areas of up to 200 nautical miles offshore (provided there is no clash of rights with any coastal neighbours that ‘share’ the same zones).

Notwithstanding these outcomes, the UN Convention allows for ‘innocent passage’ through ocean waters by foreign vessels, provided they do no harm to the relevant nation, or break its local laws. UN bodies have been established to settle disputes between nations regarding the zones, their ‘boundaries,’ and activities within them, and also to develop a body of law that will be universally adopted and implemented.

Principles on the law of the sea are relevant to crimes committed at sea, the arrest and sale of ships, the salvage and recovery of ships lost at sea, and the prosecution of those responsible for environmental damage. Ships that operate in Polar waters (increasingly important because of the proliferation of cruise ships in polar regions) are now regulated by the UN Polar Code.

And to add to my last column… Why does the law treat flotsam, jetsam and derelict differently? Poldark anyone? There was an episode in an early season where debris was washed up on the Cornwall shore after a shipwreck, and villagers waited patiently on the sand to retrieve it. What law would apply?

Under traditional maritime law, there are distinct types of marine debris. Jetsam (the word is related to ‘jettison’) is an item deliberately thrown overboard (to lighten the load of a ship, for example). Flotsam refers to debris in the ocean that got there as a result of a shipwreck, or accident. If ever found, flotsam can be claimed by the original owner (because they never intended to relinquish ownership). In the case of jetsam, the finder will likely get to keep the item, as it was relinquished with the intention the owner would never be able to reclaim it. Derelict is another kind of debris, and is property deliberately deserted at sea by those in charge of it (so it is effectively abandoned).

Our current law is a little different from the Poldark situation. Under the UK Merchant Shipping Act, 1995, for example, there is an obligation to notify the authorities of property recovered from the ocean, and there are regulations around reporting wrecks as well.

All this is fascinating stuff, and much as I’d love to talk about Ross and Demelza Poldark in more detail, I’ve run out of space….

Author signing: Sydney 24 March

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I’m delighted to be involved in an author signing event, in Sydney, on Sunday, 24 March, from 10 - 4pm. The event is hosted by the Australian Romance Readers Association (ARRA), and will be held at the Bankstown Sports Club. Tickets are only $25 ($20 for ARRA members) and available via this link:

https://www.trybooking.com/book/event?eid=433758&

The attending authors are listed below. All authors will be available for book signings (or just for a chat about books!). Readers are welcome to bring along books they have already purchased, but books will also be available for purchase at the event.

For more information about ARRA, and the event, the link is https://ireadromance.com.au

I’d love to see you there!

SYDNEY EVENT AUTHORS

  • Alyssa J Montgomery/Alyssa James

  • Amanda Knight

  • Ann B Harrison

  • Ash Hosking

  • Avril Tremayne

  • Bronwyn Parry

  • Catherine Evans/Cate Ellink

  • Cathleen Ross

  • Cathryn Hein

  • Celeste Bradley

  • Dani Kristoff / Donna Maree Hanson

  • Ebony Olson

  • Emilia Finn

  • Jasmina Siderovski

  • Jessica Gleave

  • JO Mantel

  • Jodi Perry/JL Perry

  • Kandy Shepherd

  • Karen Deen

  • Kelly Hunter

  • Khloe Wren

  • Laura Boon

  • Lee Christine

  • Lexxie Couper

  • Maddison Michaels

  • Maggie Nash

  • Michelle Montebello

  • Monique McDonell

  • MV Ellis

  • Penelope Janu

  • Renee Dahlia

  • SE Gilchrist

  • Shandi Boyes

  • Shannon Curtis

  • Sherrilyn Kenyon

  • Tea Cooper

ARRA Awards 23 February

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I was delighted to be nominated in the 2018 Australian Romance Readers Awards. In three categories! Firstly, for Favourite Australian Romance Author (with other writers I’ve worshiped from afar for too many years to mention!), Favourite Australian Romance, for On the Right Track, and Favourite Laugh Out Loud moment in a romance, for On the Right Track. The awards will be held on 23 February, and I’m really looking forward to catching up with many reader and writer friends.

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ARRA is a wonderful organisation for readers, with chapters in most capital cities. It’s very inexpensive to join, and provides a host of wonderful opportunities for readers to discuss books, on-line and in person, and meet many favourite authors at functions all over the country - from Australia and also overseas guests.

I’ll keep you posted on what happens at the awards!

Book launch: On the Same Page

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So… I love having parties for other people, but for myself? Not so much. But as On the Same Page was my third full length novel, and I’d recently also had a novella published as part of the Our Country Christmas anthology, I thought I’d give it a go!

Not playing football, but making a speech!

Not playing football, but making a speech!

The venue was Better Read Than Dead, a fabulous bookshop in the busy heart of Newtown. I love this shop, but being given the opportunity to have the launch here was particularly special because On the Same Page is set in Newtown, Redfern and Sydney city, a very busy bustling hub, just like the busy bustling pace of On the Same Page!

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All of my children attended the event which was wonderful. One daughter drove up from her workplace in Canberra, and another daughter juggled two toddlers and endured an hour of peak hour traffic to be there. There were lots of friends who came along too (and made comments like ‘I knew her before she was famous’ (ha!), and there were a number of writer friends as well. Some writers I had met while studying creative writing at UTS Sydney (also close by!), and some I have met as a published author. It was heartwarming to have their wonderful support. And, of course, there were readers I’d never met before, but they had enjoyed my books so came along to celebrate the publication of another. Wow! I often chat with readers by email and on social media, and at conferences and so on, but it was really nice to meet some new people, and even have the chance to introduce them to other writers they admired - and my family of course!

The venue space was wonderful - to be surrounded by books while launching my book upstairs, while shoppers were downstairs browsing the shelves, and buying books for Christmas, was great. The champagne flowed, the Lebanese dips were amazing, and I signed a lot of books.

Will I have another launch? I will seriously think about it!

Legal Beagle: Cruise ship dramas

Those following the Legal Beagle columns I post here ( I write these for the fabulous Romance Writers of Australia magazine, HeartsTalk), will know they aren’t written as legal advice, but tips that might be useful to writers dealing with similar issues. Because legal issues come up all the time! Here is an excerpt of an article I wrote on cruise ships. What happens if there is a death or crime on board?

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If you are planning to set a novel on a cruise ship, if your characters go overseas for work or pleasure, or if one of your characters dies while on a ship or on an overseas holiday, I hope you’ll find something to interest you in this month’s column.            

Many cruise ship companies operate in Australian waters, and carry thousands of Australian passengers each year, but they are overwhelmingly owned and operated by overseas interests, primarily based in the US and the UK. The ships, however, are highly unlikely to be registered in these countries. They will be registered in ‘flag States,’ or ‘flags of convenience,’ countries like Panama, Bermuda or Barbados, with little or no control over the cruise ship day-to-day operations. Why? Often because it’s cheaper to register in flag states, and the regulatory requirements are less onerous.

If a crime is committed on a cruise ship (given the number of people on board, this is not an irregular occurrence) it can be difficult to work out who is responsible for the investigation and prosecution of crimes. And to add to the complexity, there are many possible laws that will apply to any crime. There is international law, in the form of The United Nations Convention on The Law of the Sea 1982, the law of the flag state, the law of the countries of the citizens involved, and often the law of the port the ship is either leaving, or sailing towards. Here is an example of what can occur:

Annabel, an Australian citizen, books a ten day cruise on The Princess Charming, a ship owned by a US company, and registered in Bermuda. Annabel boards at Circular Quay in Sydney. The ship is only a few nautical miles from New Caledonia when Sigrid, a citizen of Sweden, assaults Annabel (Sigrid claims she committed the act because Annabel spiked her drink the night before). Annabel sustains a broken arm. What law applies?

The law of Bermuda will apply because that is where the ship is registered. The law of New Caledonia will apply because, within the 12 nautical mile zone, the ship is in New Caledonian waters. Australian law would apply because Annabel is an Australian citizen. Swedish law could also be relevant, as the perpetrator of the offence is a Swedish citizen. The ship is owned and run by a UK company, so the laws of that country would also be relevant.

So… there will be a multitude of jurisdictions operating concurrently. A ship will always be subject to the domestic laws of the country in which it is flagged (there are no Australian flagged cruise ships), but while in territorial waters it may also be subject to the laws regulating those waters, and ports. If it is in international waters, those laws will come into play. And in the case of a crime being committed, the perpetrator and victim’s countries of citizenship will have jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute. So there will be ‘competing jurisdictional claims.’ The countries themselves will have to work out who takes action, and which jurisdiction and laws will apply (often the flag state doesn’t want to get involved—it doesn’t have the resources, interest or will to do so).

On a side note, most people are familiar with the notion that if you commit a crime in another country, you will be liable under the laws of that country. The same concepts apply on a cruise ship, and ignorance of the law will never be an excuse. This means that, for example, some medications or recreational drugs allowable in one country might be prohibited substances in another country, and this will be relevant when the ship sails into that country’s territorial waters.

Felix, an Australian citizen, has planned a ‘trip of a lifetime,’ a cruise to Antarctica, for years. He boards a cruise ship (owned by a British company and registered in Malta) in Argentina. He has been on the ship for three days, and is in international waters, when he dies of a heart attack.

Death at sea from natural causes, particularly given the demographic of many cruise passengers, happens relatively frequently. All cruise ships are required to have a suitable storage area should a death occur on board.

What happens to a deceased person’s body will depend on the laws that apply on the ship, and in the next port of call.  That destination port might allow the body to be handed over. Or it might refuse to take the body (smaller countries without appropriate storage or repatriation facilities often reject a body). Should the body be unloaded (and, anecdotally, it appears that this will be the preference of the cruise ship company) the family will bear the full cost and responsibility to bring the body back to the home country. This is where travel insurance will be important!

The message from this month’s column is… should a crime be committed on a ship, or a death occurs on board, there are no simple answers to how things might turn out. The romance aspects of cruising are easy to see. But criminals and coroners, diplomats and detectives, could also be part of the mix! Romantic suspense, anyone?

The story behind On the Same Page

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On the Same Page has been a long time coming, but is a story I've always had faith in - and I'm absolutely delighted that it's not long now until it will be out in the world. I started writing On the Same Page (working title Lars from Iconic) when I was a student at UTS studying creative writing. This was my 'break away' from academic and legal work and (together with a weekend course I did with Lisa Heidke at the Australian Writers Centre, where the concept was created) has led to years of new challenges. I've been taken out of my comfort zone many times - but have been rewarded with countless opportunities along the way. And one of the most exciting of these? To see characters and situations I've thought up in my head, transferred to the page, and ultimately to readers (and hopefully into a special place in their hearts and minds as well).

On the Same Page won the 2017 XO Romance Prize. But that wasn't its earliest prize .... I wrote the first draft of the manuscript in 2014 and I think my poor kids suffered with me every time I had to workshop snippets of it in class. There were many groans of Mummmmm. But so much encouragement as well. 'Yay Lars!' was a common refrain. Lars Kristensen is the hero of On the Same Page (yes another Norwegian - though he was brought up in England) but the book is set in Australia, and Miles Franklin, a twenty-eight year old lawyer, is the heroine. But back to the prize ... for my birthday in 2014, one of my daughters, Gabriella, gave me this card. I am so glad I photographed it - but regret not hanging onto the original! You will note that I am already dubbed a 'best selling author' with a golden sticker to prove it - and this happened before I wrote In at the Deep End or On the Right Track (as I mentioned, On the Same Page took a while to finish off!) Thanks for your faith in me, Gabi - and also in the book. 

Artwork: Gabriella

On the Right Track release

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The launch of a new book is always an exciting time, and it's been wonderful to see On the Right Track on the bookshelves in the past few days! I think my children might be relieved to see the book out on the shelves - because it signifies that the story is now out of my hands, and into the hands of readers! Thank you to those who have purchased the book already, and do let me know if you have enjoyed it. Thanks to those who have left reviews on Goodreads or Amazon already - these mean so much to a writer personally, and are useful to other readers as well. I hope you have a wonderful reading month!

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The winner is...

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Thank you to all my newsletter subscribers who were eligible to win the penguin bookmark and soap gift. I've drawn a name out of the hat and will email the lucky reader very soon. Then I'll send out the gift! And as soon as On the Right Track arrives on my doorstep (I'll get a few early copies before it is out on the shelves), I'll be announcing another give-away to win a signed copy! So if you have any reading friends who might like to be on my newsletter list so they will be in that draw, please send them a link and let them know they are welcome.

Here is the link  http://www.penelopejanu.com/newsletter/

And just to confirm, I'm not selling anything and I won't be inundating readers with emails. I also don't share your email addresses or any other details with anyone. And of course you can unsubscribe at any time!

Happy reading as we move into winter. A nice warm fire and putting my feet up is my idea of a perfect evening's entertainment!

Our Country Christmas Anthology

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I'm delighted to be part of Our Country Christmas (Harlequin Mira/ HarperCollins) a combination of five stories by favourite Australian authors (all set in rural Australia). I loved writing The Six Rules of Christmas. It is set in the fictional town of Warrandale - which is a based on a few real life towns in the beautiful Upper Hunter region of New South Wales.

This is the blurb:

The Six Rules of Christmas
Picking up the reins of her father's law practice, Ariella Blake has made a place for herself in small–town Warrandale. But when stand–in farrier Jack Adamson blows in for the holidays, with his good looks and infuriating evasiveness, he challenges her to embrace the rules of Christmas. Step by step, will Christmas – and Jack – get under her skin? 

Jack in the story is a farrier, and I was so privileged to spend time recently with Michael Fruin of Fruin Forge and his team. Michael has worked all around the world as a farrier, his expertise and the stories he had to tell were wonderful, and I hope to catch up with him again for another farrier story that's in the pipeline.

I do hope you love the stories in Our Country Christmas. The book will be available in September - in paperback in bookstores and Discount Department stores in Australia and New Zealand, and on-line all around the world!

Cover Reveal: On the Right Track

On the Right Track

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A traumatic past, a charismatic stranger and a family legacy … Golden’s quiet country life is about to get messy …

When the diminutive but fiery Golden Saunders falls from her horse and smashes her leg irreparably, and her racing family is disgraced by a corruption scandal, she thinks she’s hit rock bottom.

Then the enigmatic Tor Amundsen, United Nations diplomat (read: spy), arrives on the scene and proves her wrong. His investigation into her family pulls her back into a world she had escaped, and the branch of the family she has tried to avoid at all costs. Tor is infuriated and frustrated by the impossible mixture of fragility and fierceness that is Golden, true, but he is also strangely protective of her.

Golden wants no part of it. Men have pushed her around her whole life. The last thing she needs is an arrogant, irritatingly handsome man telling her what to do. But it turns out Tor has a way with animals, children and, well, Golden…

Before too long, she finds their overwhelming attraction is overriding her good sense, and as they are both pulled deeper into the murky world of dirty money, things are about to get messy, and Golden’s small, quietly ordered life will change beyond recognition…

Can Golden overcome her fears and the shadows of the past and reach for a new kind of future? Will she ever be able to get her life back on the right track?

On the Right Track will be available on 18 June. See pre-order links on the home page. I LOVED writing this book, and hope you will enjoy reading it!

XO Romance Prize

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I'm delighted to have won the XO Romance 2017 prize, particularly as I was selected from an amazing bunch of authors (details in the shortlist below). 

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The prize means that I will have another novel in the bookshops this year! XO is an imprint of Brio, a wonderful publisher of Australian voices, and I am very happy that I will be added to their list of authors. On the Same Page is a novel very close to my heart, because it was my first lengthy creative project, and I worked on it with a number of fabulous fellow students, and amazing teachers, when I was studying for a MA a few years ago. I've never been able to let this novel go ... and it is wonderful that it will now be published. For the details, please see http://www.xoromance.com.au/

I couldn't be happier that On the Right Track will be published mid year (the cover will be coming soon!), and I'll have a follow up novel later in the year! 

New Year 2018

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I'm notoriously late with my Christmas cards, New Years wishes, and other festive things this year. I blame finishing a manuscript in November, editing a new release for 2018, and plotting next years books! But this is more or less what Christmas looked like in the Janu household. Daphne misbehaving, Bella tolerant, and too many decorations! I hope you and your friends and family enjoyed a wonderful break.

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New Years Resolutions so far. Ride more often. Attempt to plot more regularly (I love to write organically but I think it slows down the process of producing a book). Write Christmas cards in time for them to arrive before Christmas.

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The Writing Life

Fudge

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I've had a number of queries lately about about the book I have coming up next. I've enjoyed seeing In at the Deep End on the shelves so much, it's exciting to think another book is on the way. But ... it is quite a process having a book published! My second novel (as yet untitled) will be published by my wonderful publisher Harlequin Mira in July 2018. I finished this novel at the end of last year, and now the editing stage is about to begin, it is exciting to be getting into the book again. This book is one that I loved writing, and I hope readers will love it as well. It is, like much of In at the Deep End, set in Australia, but the protagonist lives in a rural area on the outskirts of Sydney. It was wonderful returning to (in a fictional sense!) some of my early experiences with horses for this book. So this post is somewhat of a teaser.

Many people ask whether the characters I write are based on real people. The answer to that is generally no, although the people I know, and my reading, often informs what I create in terms of character and personality traits. But the photo of the pony in this post is of a real life 'character' in my next novel, a pony I had for many years when I was growing up. His name was Fudge, and he was a palomino pony who stood about 13 hands high. Fudge could, on occasion, be very ill mannered! He only has a small role in the book, but he has quite a back story in real life. Maybe I'll post about that some day!

I'll be posting on what is happening with the editing process with book number two, and hopefully filling you in on a title and cover, as soon as I can!

Legal Beagle: Marriage

I really enjoyed writing the Legal Beagle column on marriage. Plenty of books, movies and television shows came to mind! This post was first published in the Romance Writer's of Australia newsletter. If you are a romance writer (or a writer generally) I recommend the RWA. It is a wonderfully informative and supportive organisation. And I'm not just saying this because I'm the Secretary - RWA was so important to me when I started on my writing journey.

Anyway, here it is ... marriage! 

Gretna Green, Las Vegas or Brisbane anyone? I happily re-read two great novels and watched a reality dating show before writing this month’s column.

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 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?’

‘We got f****** married,’ he growled.

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 http://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Senate/Powers_practice_n_procedures/Constitution.aspx)

In the reality television series Married at First Sight, the couples can’t meet (and marry!) immediately, because the Marriage Act, 1961 (see http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/consol_act/ma196185/) 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.

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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 marriage, I hope this information helps your characters with their wedding plans!

RWAustralia Conference 2017

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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 

http://www.jenniejonesromance.com/jennie-jones-blog/on-the-keepers-shelf-in-at-the-deep-end