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Welcome to First Monday Mentoring when I open this blog to discuss aspects of the writing life we don’t usually get to talk about.

Money is a big one, misunderstood by almost everyone. Either you’re seen as a millionaire or living in genteel poverty in your garret. The truth is usually somewhere in between, and the vast majority of writers have paid their dues  well before hitting the big time if, in fact, they ever do.


I was moved to discuss the money question after reading an interesting blog by Rita Award-winning writer, Barbara O’Neal at

O’Neal’s blog was, in turn, triggered when young writer, Merritt Tierce, penned an essay despairing of being able to make money as a writer. She’d had her first novel published to some acclaim and sold 12,000 hardcover copies, not enough to earn back her unspecified five-figure advance.

Tierce’s essay revealed a problem common among some writers – a sense that they are entitled to live what they see as an author’s life on the strength of one book, sometimes while writing that book. They feel that society owes them support to follow their writing dreams.

As a mentor to emerging writers who win the Valerie Parv Award set up by Romance Writers of Australia, I had one winner state that by the end of the mentorship she wanted to be living off her writing and keeping her family as well.

In her case it was innocence talking, and by the end of our year together, she’d become more realistic.


Not long ago I came across a crowd funding site set up by a writer whose publisher had abandoned her series mid-stream. Her goal was sound – finish the series to keep faith with her readers – but she went a step further, asking for money to allow her time to write.

Logically, to finish any book, you need time. Many people write around day jobs, or in whatever time they can scrounge from everyday life. Those same writers resented her sense of entitlement and were so viciously critical that she felt bound to take down the crowd funding site.

From a young age I knew writing was my vocation, but far from feeling entitled , I accepted that funding the dream was up to me. Early on I set up an office where I wrote press releases, a weekly newspaper column, contributions to a gardening encyclopaedia and some twenty non-fiction titles including my now-infamous book on how to do your own plumbing.

Plumbing was never my passion but I delivered the book I’d been contracted to write, because that’s what professionals do. Afterward,  I resolved to find a more fulfilling way to write and still make a living. That’s when I tried my hand at romance novels, eventually writing over fifty titles for Harlequin’s London editors, then for New York and Toronto.

Had I known then that they received some 10,000 submissions of which they accepted about ten, I might have been less eager.  Not that I rushed in, spending months researching their books and market. Only then, I wrote the book I couldn’t find on their lists, and Love’s Greatest Gamble was eventually accepted.

While waiting for Harlequin’s response I kept writing non-fiction including the one I’m most proud of: The Changing Face of Australia, a 200-year environmental study years ahead of its time.

I was doing what O’Neal said she wanted most to tell Tierce, “get back to work. Write another book. Write three. Write ten. Keep writing until you find the next thing.”

This is good advice for any writer. No-one knows which book might be the charm. Bestsellers are made by readers, movie moguls and plain random chance. All we can do is write the stories we feel compelled to share; the work being its own reward. If more comes, wonderful. If not, we’ve honoured our gift.

It’s great to be paid for writing and I know how lucky I am, as well as how hard I’ve worked. As agent and author Donald Maass commented on O’Neal’s blog, “Money? Yeah, well that’s nice to have. But it’s not everything. When people envy writers, it’s not their income that they envy. It’s their freedom.”

To me, that freedom is priceless.

How do you feel about money and writing? Share your questions and comments in the box below. This blog is moderated to avoid spam but your comments can appear right away if you click “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone.


on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook

Valerie’s Beacon sci-fi  series is OUT NOW

from Momentum/Pan Macmillan

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Nearly all writers seem to be born with the storytelling gene.  Most successful writers I know were spinning stories for their own amusement, for siblings, or to entertain classmates from an early age.

I was writing entries for the children’s pages of the Sunday papers before I knew what a writer was. I thought everybody made up stories. Getting an article accepted by the Australian Women’s Weekly at age fourteen felt normal, my kind anyway.

Fast forward to the present and I’m attending the 2016 national conference of Romance Writers of Australia along with four hundred of my closest friends, where they honoured me with Lifetime Membership.

I know now that not everyone can make up stories, far less get them published. Many try again and again for years without success.

Others put themselves through the ordeal of the pitch – when you give an editor or agent a verbal synopsis of your book in a five- to ten-minute time slot. Yes means an invitation to send them the whole manuscript or sample chapters. No means, sorry it’s not for them.

Either way, you fast-track a response, bypass the “slush pile” of unsolicited submissions, and sometimes strike publishing gold as many writers did at the RWA Conference.

All good so far.

Until you discover that fewer than half the writers pitching their stories and being invited to send material to the editor or agent actually do so.

What’s at the root of this curious statistic? IMO fear. Pure and simple cold feet.


I’ve heard of this from editors who suggest changes to a book only to have the author disappear without trace.

The manuscript vanishes into a bottom drawer or a digital cloud; the author obviously unaware that changes are only suggested when the editor sees potential in the work. Even if you plan to self-publish, by not following through, you lose a golden opportunity to have your work professionally appraised for free.

This is where courage comes in. You’ve jumped one hurdle by applying for a pitch appointment. You’ve prepared your material until you know it by heart. You’ve timed yourself so your pitch takes up only two thirds of the available time, allowing the editor or agent to ask questions.

All these steps take courage. At conferences, I’ve seen writers shaking as they awaited their appointments. It may help to know that the editors and agents are often as much on edge as you. They want to help you realize your dreams by finding the Next Big Book for their houses.  They’re pulling for you to succeed.

cat unstoppable

The saying goes that courage is doing what you are afraid to do.

Knowing this, you can expect a last-minute rush of nerves, telling yourself to feel the fear and go ahead in spite of that.

You can resist the temptation to tell the agent or editor how nervous you feel. This will only make you feel worse.

Far better to plunge ahead as if you had all the confidence in the world. Share the story you want them to love as much as you do. Your passion will be infectious.

Before pitching, have the manuscript largely or completely finished If the answer is yes, you can use the time before submission to polish your work, rather than rushing to a finish line.

Often, having the courage to write is only the beginning. The real test comes when you pitch your work and someone says yes.

Minions take over world

Will you be among the writers filing their manuscripts into the digital cloud because you fear taking the next step?

Or will you be among the fifty per cent boldly following your dream, step by step, until you hold your book in your hand or admire it on your ereader.

Then when someone asks what you do, you can confidently say, “I’m an author.”

What does courage mean to you? Is it writing the book, selling it, telling others about it? Share your comments in the box below. They are moderated to avoid spam, but you can have your comment appear immediately by clicking on “sign me up” at left. I don’t share your details with anyone

Happy (and brave) writing.


Valerie’s Beacon sci-fi series out now!
Beacon Starfound OUT NOW
Beacon Earthbound OUT NOW
Beacon Continuum OUT NOW
Beacon Homeworld OUT JUNE 30

via & – also via
Barnes and Noble (Nook devices)

Google Play (All devices except Kindle)

iBooks Store (iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac)

Kobo (All devices except Kindle)




















Welcome to First Monday Mentoring, when I answer your questions about the writing craft and look at the realities of being a writer.

This month’s blog was inspired by two things – meeting a new baby in my adopted family, and some exciting reprints of my books. How do they go together? Well, the books are my babies, the legacy I’ll leave to the future, not least through the ongoing collection of my literary papers by the State Library of New South Wales.

Amelia baby 2

Meeting my gorgeous new rent-a-grandkid

Seeing my older books reprinted and in new languages – the latest being Chinese and Lithuanian  – tell me my stories still resonate with readers decades on. What will your books leave? Will you have written them or kept them in your mind or computer, unshared, all that inspiration lost forever? Because make no mistake, when you write, you inspire others. You show them how the world might be instead of how it truly is.

Given how bad things are in parts of the world right now, any shred of inspiration is badly needed. Despite being so often belittled, romance novels play a key role. My first, Love’s Greatest Gamble (1982), dealt with the aftermath of a family member having PTSD. It wasn’t known by that name then and the effects even less understood. You came back from a war and got on with it, burying your struggles in alcohol or – in the case of my heroine’s late husband – gambling. She was left to deal with the fallout and the huge debts left to a powerful man.


My novels have also dealt with miscarriage, adoption, self-image, eating disorders, and a very current issue, domestic violence. The book, Man Shy, was challenging to write while keeping  a balance between the issue and the love story. At one point, I almost gave up but my editor encouraged me to continue, and the book has been reprinted in any number of languages.

If you want to write about  a serious problem, you must take it seriously. Before writing about the heroine’s miscarriage, I researched widely and interviewed  friends who’d had the experience, in order to deal respectfully with what – to the mother – is the loss of their child. No trite dismissals or assurances it was “for the best” and “you can always have another.” One of my friends remembered her son’s would-have-been birthday for the rest of her life.

Another favourite is Man and Wife, where the heroine is a corporate maven ridiculed in the media for her clothing choices. No man goes through this. Furious, my heroine hired a man to be her “wife” and give her the same domestic back-up most businessmen enjoy. This connected with readers on so many levels, most telling me they needed a wife themselves. That he turned out to be her industrial rival made the story more fun, but the undercurrent of gender inequality in the corporate world lingers today. Man and Wife came out in 1984.

I’ve been published in book form for 40 years. One of my personal inspirations, Star Trek, debuted on American television 50 years ago this month. Why has that show endured when so many others have vanished without trace? Again, I believe it’s the inspiration the show provided. Star Trek’s creator, Gene Roddenberry, one of my writing mentors, dared to explore racial equality, gender roles, the morality of war, and many other issues – all in the guise of a science fiction show. The pre-CGI effects, cardboard sets and rubber-suited monsters were the best that 1960s television could do. But it was the careful thought behind the scripts (not all, but a significant number) that has kept the show relevant for half a century.


Every writer is asked where we get ideas. It occurs to me now that they may be asking about the substance behind the boy-meets-girl story. On August 9, I’ll explore this question via a Masterclass at the Canberra Writers’ Centre on how to blend our real-life experiences with fiction.  Click here for details. Only on writing this blog, do I see I’ve been doing this my whole career. My own struggles with weight, constantly moving house and being the new kid on the block and the like, form a subtext to much of my fiction.

My beacons science-fiction series published earlier this year by Momentum (Pan Macmillan) are new-kid-on-the block stories, except in the guise of aliens with strange powers, living among us. I didn’t set out to write that issue and only see it now, with hindsight. As it should be. Using stories to bludgeon readers over the head with issues doesn’t work. Instead, you take real people as your characters, figure out what they’re struggling with in their lives, and write that story. How they overcome their struggles is your plot, the inspiration being a by-product of their journey. The readers will “get it” as mine have for the last 40 years. As Star Trek fans like me have been “getting it” for 50 years.

Beacon Starfound3

What of yourself do you or will you give to your readers? I believe it’s why we need to tell stories, and why readers soak them up. We all need inspiration. If it’s not out there, maybe it’s inside you, waiting to be shared.

What do you think? What books have inspired you? What do you want to share? Your thoughts are welcome in the comment box below. They’re monitored to avoid spam, but your comment can appear right away if you click on “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone.

Happy writing and inspiring others,


Valerie’s Beacon sci-fi series out now!
Beacon Starfound OUT NOW
Beacon Earthbound OUT NOW
Beacon Continuum OUT NOW
Beacon Homeworld OUT NOW

via & – also via
Barnes and Noble (Nook devices)

Google Play (All devices except Kindle)

iBooks Store (iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac)

Kobo (All devices except Kindle)

Welcome to First Monday Mentoring, when I answer your questions about the writing craft and the fun stuff about being a writer.

This week’s blog was inspired by an email conversation with a columnist in a regional newspaper (themselves, sadly a dying breed). The column has no website, no email, no means of getting in touch other than by mail or phone.

When I finally tracked down an email contact to compliment the writer, he was predictably pleased that I’d reached out. But on the bottom of his response was the line, “I don’t read all my emails…pick up the phone.”

Well, no. Writers don’t get to tell our readers/customers how they can read our work. That’s up to them.  I used to wonder how you could read my books on a phone. In a word, convenience. You nearly always have a phone with you.

Beacon Homeworld 2

My current Beacon sci-fi series is published by Momentum, the digital-first arm of Pan Macmillan with the last in the series, Homeworld, released last week. I had to edit the series entirely online, rather than marking up a printed copy, which used to involve a language of editorial squiggles we mostly don’t see any more. To me, the hash sign # still suggests “space out” and we’re not talking taking illicit substances, but spreading out a piece of copy.

No longer. I love hashtags because they connect people to your conversation. The Twitter hashtag #AmWriting is read by millions around the world who share an interest in the writing process.

I admit I sometimes struggle with technology. Sometimes it’s me; sometimes the technology. But I soldier on because it’s fun  being part of this exciting world.

Celebrating a couple of decades working together, my agent gifted me an iPad Mini, a generous gift by any standards. I felt totally challenged by it but persevered and it’s now the best camera I’ve ever had. Not long ago, I had a live chat on it with writer friend, Jennie Adams. For her, it was early evening in Australia. For me, it was midnight in Las Vegas and we chatted as I waited for a flight #lovemyiPad

Other ways NOT to be a writer today:

Refuse to deal with ebooks.

Like most writers, I like print books, but my Kindle has over 500 books on it. Sometimes I’ll read the ebook version because I can have it NOW. Then I’ll order a print copy, especially nonfiction, to study at leisure.

Overlook technology in your stories

I see this a lot with entrants in the Valerie Parv Award run by Romance Writers of Australia. Too often characters are stuck in last century. There’s almost nowhere your characters aren’t linked by their devices. I’m judging this year’s finalists very soon with the hashtag #ValerieParvAward on Twitter and I’ll be looking for tech savvy characters.

Change the story to take account of real life. You can only have batteries go flat so many times. Likewise, in a story, you can only have doubt about a person’s parentage for two weeks or less, before DNA testing gives the answer. In Private Sydney, written with James Patterson, Kathryn Fox wrote about new technology that gets it down to one hour and while not as detailed as the longer tests, still reveals a lot. Using technology can broaden your story. Need characters to find answers to something? Let them share on social media or Google the details. Every writer I know blesses Google for making research a breeze.

If you aren’t already, get good at researching. Writing Homeworld, the final  book in my Beacons sci-fi series, I needed to know if you could launch a space shuttle off the back of a Global Express private jet. My net search turned up the PR division of the plane’s makers who sent my query to the designers. They not only wrote back that it could be done but included diagrams, thrilling me with their generosity. Learn the tricks to search terms and dive in.

You notice the difference if you dip into the past for entertainment. I enjoy the1980s cop show, T J Hooker, starring William Shatner, my tweetheart. Thanks for that lovely word, Joanna Sandsmark. He’s seen here with fellow Star Trek alumni, Leonard Nimoy. Watching him in action is fun, but I can’t help wishing for a cellphone every time he has to find a phone to take care of police business.

Kirk T J Hooker 2

Another fav. Is  Murdoch Mysteries, a detective show set in the 1890s where everything is old school. Yannick Bisson as eye candy in the title role doesn’t hurt, either. Former VPA “minion” (what previous award winners call themselves) Erica Hayes writing as Viola Carr, writes a fun series about the daughter of Dr. Jeckyll who inherited his affliction. In these page-turners,Viola employs the tech of the day – plus some neat inventions of her own – beautifully. Don’t take my word for it. The Wall Street Journal reviewed the first in the series – you can’t do much better than that.

Currently I’m developing a book where one lead character steps back in time. The other remains in the present with all its technical goodies, while my character has to deal with the comparatively low tech of the time she finds herself in.

Love it or loathe it, this is our reality as writers today. Technology also changes how we write – but that’s a subject for another blog.

How do you deal with technology in your writing? What books do it best for you as a reader? Share your thoughts in the comments below. They’re monitored to avoid spam, but your comment can appear right away if you click on “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone.


Valerie’s Beacon sci-fi series out now!
Beacon Starfound OUT NOW
Beacon Earthbound OUT NOW
Beacon Continuum OUT NOW
Beacon Homeworld OUT JUNE 30

via & – also via
Barnes and Noble (Nook devices)

Google Play (All devices except Kindle)

iBooks Store (iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac)

Kobo (All devices except Kindle)






This week a new writer asked me if he should tell the publisher he was submitting to that his book was the first in a series. This is a fair question, as many books come out in series these days and are enormously popular with publishers and readers.
The answer depends on your relationship with the publisher. If you have a track record, even in other areas of writing, the publisher may be open to considering your book as part of a series. More likely, however, they would want to publish the first book as a stand-alone to see how it does before committing to more of the same.
Of course if you indie publish, you can do as you like, although I advise you to write two or three books in the series before self-publishing the first. Just as online streaming of movies and TV shows has led to “binge watching”, many readers prefer to collect an entire set of books before starting on the first. Recently I read two books in a series only to find I didn’t have book #3, although I did have book #4. I jumped on to Amazon and downloaded the next book to my Kindle so I could read the in-between book before continuing to the final one. Impatient? Who me? But I have a lot of company.
The results can be rewarding, with follower numbers growing as more books come out. Think of Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander” series or Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” books. Characters such as Sherlock Holmes, Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt, and many others have passionate followings.
If you’re writing series characters or settings, there are a few things to keep in mind:
1. Each book needs to provide a complete story within the pages, even if you have an over-arching story that all the books will span. This leaves readers satisfied but also keen to read the next book in the series. Readers regard your characters as friends, and your settings as places they can feel at home.
2. Filling in backstory in the second and subsequent books needs to be done with a light hand. Too much back story bores the people who read the first book. Too little annoys readers who’ve just discovered your series.

3. Each book should raise the stakes, while introducing new characters and story elements, to avoid any feeling of repetition.
4. If you use familiar elements such as vampires, royalty, small towns etc. you need to give the books your own unique twist.


The best aspect of series writing is being able to fully develop your fictional world. My current Beacons series of sci-fi romances is set in my own South Pacific Kingdom of Carramer, which began as the setting for several series of romantic suspense novels. Although frankly, if I’d known I would set eighteen books in Carramer, I would probably not have outlawed divorce. Over the years, getting characters out of marriages that aren’t working has been an interesting challenge.
When I decided to write the Beacons series, Carramer was a natural choice of setting. I’d always wanted to explore the province of Atai and its population of indigenous people. I saw them as very spiritual, making it easy to place a private space program there and include their natural mysticism in the story.


The next novella in the Beacon series, Continuum, is out next Thursday, June 9, published by Momentum, Pan Macmillan’s digital-first imprint. The three books in the series span the role my Beacons and their superpowers play in defending the Earth against a massive alien threat. Having two novellas in between let me explore individual characters and their histories.

This is another advantage series have over single titles – readers get to know your characters more thoroughly than they might in a solo book.

Cover Continuum
However you approach your series, readers should want to find out what happens next in your world. From the outset, it helps to have an idea of the overall story arc, as J K Rowling did with the Harry Potter books. You don’t need to know everything that happens. With the Beacons series, I certainly didn’t. But I did know how the story would play out at the end, rather like setting out on a journey with the destination in mind even if you aren’t sure of the exact route you’ll take.

Finally, here are five Cs to include in your series:
• Characters – real people your readers come to care about and want to spend time with.
• Continuity – also known as Consistency – if you introduce elements in one book, make sure they are consistent with what happens in the next or previous books. Keep a series “bible” of physical descriptions, back story and other elements in file card form, as charts or on a program such as Scrivener, for quick reference as the series progresses.
• Complications aka Conflicts – even characters with superpowers, like my beacons, must have failings and difficulties to overcome, ideally in each book, the challenges growing to almost unbearable level by series end.
• Change – also known as Character Development. Your story people should grow and change as they overcome the obstacles in front of them.
• Completion – unless you want to keep the series going – and readers will love you if you do – you should tie up any loose ends by the final book. It’s easy to lose track of an individual and leave their story hanging, but trust me, you’ll hear about it from readers. In my romantic suspense series, Code of the Outback, I dealt with the stories of a woman and her two foster brothers. In the final book I mentioned a third brother but didn’t give him his own story. I was still getting emails about him years after the series ended, until I finally wrote his story in a novella, so readers could stop worrying about him.
How do you like to read series books? Do you have favourites? As a writer, do you have a series on the drawing board? This blog is moderated to avoid spam but your comments can appear right away if you click “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone.

Happy writing,
on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook
Follow Valerie’s Beacon sci-fi series
Beacon Starfound OUT NOW
Beacon Earthbound OUT NOW
Beacon Continuum OUT JUNE 9Beacon Homeworld coming June 30
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Welcome to First Monday Mentoring, when I open this blog to discuss the writing craft and what it means to be a writer, the stuff hardly anybody else talks about.

I’ve now had books published for four decades, and almost every time I’ve put a book to bed, I’ve known exactly what I wanted to write next. In fact, I could hardly wait to get started. But not this time.

Oh, I have plenty of ideas. Most writers do. There are books I can write, but nothing that won’t wait. There’s a nonfiction book so far along in development that I have a huge box of reference books getting in the way under my desk. Two potentially strong characters each want to have a book, perhaps a series each. They’re also happy to wait.


When not writing, I’m a shopaholic online and off, whether for myself or as gifts. One day a friend, AJ Macpherson, writing as Maggie Gilbert – – shared the rule she uses to decide whether to buy a particular item. Is it a gotta wanna must have? Running potential purchases through this filter saves me a ton of money and shopping mistakes.

Can this useful phrase help you decide what to write next? Is this project a gotta wanna must write?

If an idea has stuck around for months or years without pushing you to write it, then the answer might well be no. The best stories are those that keep you awake at night thinking about them. The best characters are the ones insisting you write about them.

A gotta wanna must write story doesn’t give you a choice.

Successful New York Times’ best selling author, Chuck Wendig, says the answer is to “art harder”. Bryce Courtenay recommended “bum glue” – sticking your anatomy to the seat of the chair and getting on with it. Both work – some of the time.

But at a time when the book market is awash with books, either indie published by their authors, or trad pubbed, does bum glue work? Yes and no.

Thinking about writing doesn’t get anything written, far less your master work. And as you battle to get the words down, you can’t know whether you’re writing a bestseller or wasting your time. Not one successful author knew which they were writing. Not J K Rowling, not George R R Martin. Not even Shakespeare. Okay, maybe James Patterson, but he’s in a category all by himself.

Beacon Earthbound, Book 3 in my sci-fi series is out May 12

Beacon Earthbound, Book 3 in my sci-fi series is out May 12

There are three things you can do to get yourself moving again.

  1. Stop fretting and write.

In this, Chuck Wendig is right. The harder you art, the more likely you are to stumble on what you need to be writing. It may mean discarding the current words and tackling something else, but at least you’ll know what you don’t want to write.

  1. Fall in love with the words you’re writing now.

Writing books is like an arranged marriage. Sometimes you have to take the step and hope to fall in love later. Many times, a publisher has asked me for a book that is far from a gotta wanna must write, but I’ve taken on the project and surprised myself by enjoying the journey. Not always. The book I was asked to write about doing your own plumbing comes  to mind (yes, it was a real thing). However, saying yes to that project made me determined to write books I could put my heart into, leading to a long career as a romance novelist.

  1. Don’t be afraid to stop writing

If you’re a born writer, and only you know that, the drought won’t last forever. I was there when writers of the stature of Morris West announced their retirement from writing. Yeah, sure, whatever. You’ll be back. And they were. Story ideas will nag at you until one becomes that magic thing – a gotta wanna must write. Then you’ll be lucky if you can art hard enough to keep up. Welcome back, writer.

Are you struggling to find your next project, or to finish one that’s gone cold on you? Share your thoughts in the comments box below so we can all benefit. This blog is moderated to avoid spam but your comments can appear right away if you click “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone.

Happy writing,


PS Since writing this blog, a new idea pushed its way into my head – a gotta wanna must write idea. Stay Tuned!

On Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook

Follow Valerie’s Beacon sci-fi  series

Beacon Starfound OUT NOW

Beacon Earthbound released MAY 12

via & – also
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Google Play (All devices except Kindle)

iBooks Store (iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac)

Kobo (All devices except Kindle)

Full list of titles and publication dates







Welcome to First Monday Mentoring for April.

You’d think after writing ninety-one books that having a new one out would be ho-hum.  But it never is.

Any published author will agree there’s a special excitement about seeing your new baby out in the world, whether in ebook or print. I’m told the feeling is  a bit like having babies  – you’ve brought to life something that never existed before.

It’s an amazing feeling.

You want to touch the newborn; count fingers and toes, show them off to anyone who’ll  indulge you. In book terms, that means reading over words you already know by heart and talking to others about them.

I’ve  been asked if I read my own books. Not in the same way as a new reader, but I certainly marvel that the jumble of thoughts in my head could turn into anything so beautiful. Until you find your first typo. No matter how many times you and your editors have gone over every word, there are always typos and they stab your new-parent self to the heart. You will also see things you could have written better, or differently. But basically you marvel that you did this amazing thing.

Then you wonder if you can ever do the amazing thing again. If you’re a writer, you will, of course, but don’t expect it to be any easier the second – or the hundredth time.

You will know what to expect; what the pitfalls are; but every book is its own creation. That’s what keeps the process interesting.

You need more than a good idea

Many non writers assume a good idea is all you need. Having an idea is wonderful, a new toy for your brain to play with. But just as raising a child involves more than giving birth, having an idea is only a beginning.

I totally get writers like James Patterson, who has so many ideas that he collaborates with writers all over the world. Australia’s own Katherine Fox joined them when she wrote Private Sydney. I was delighted for her. A new challenge, working with the single best-selling author in the world, bar none,  for more than a decade. What’s not to like?

Fox Private Sydney

Ask any parent and they’ll tell you they love all their children equally. Truth is they love them all differently. Some they never connect with at all, no matter how hard they try. Some they love from the moment they open their tiny eyes.

Ideas are the same. Some we can’t wait to write, yet they flounder on the screen. Others we don’t want to write but they nag at us, sometimes for years, until we give them life.

My Beacon series is one of those. I love science fiction, but I was busy writing romantic suspense. Who were these strange, half-alien people with extraordinary powers? Where did they come from? From that same biological soup we come from as people. Ideas exist in the ether, waiting for a writer to inhale them and give them life.

Beacon Starfound3

My Beacons – a listener, a watcher and a messenger from another planet – connect with the universe in superhero-type ways. From the start I knew them. Wanted to tell their stories. What came was a series of three ebooks and two novellas, the first published last month by Pan Macmillan’s Momentum ebook imprint. They’re publishing the whole series between now and the end of June, delighting readers who hate waiting for the next books in a series…cough, cough…me, for instance.

Beacon Earthbound

Here’s where the baby-analogy gets twisted. Unless they’re quintuplets, no new parent has five children in four months. Yet I’m loving that part, although my book-parenting skills are pretty stretched. I get to show off all five book babies in places I’ve never ventured before – iBooks Store and Google Play well as Amazon US, UK and Australia, and a host of other places.

That’s the beauty of book babies. We get to share them all over the world. Readers can buy or download them; review them; share their discoveries with friends. And book babies never get old.

As a book parent, what stories are you nurturing right now, or struggling to? Do you have favourites? How do you feel when you get a shiny new idea? Share your thoughts in the comment box below. It’s moderated to avoid spam, but you can skip this step by clicking on “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone.

Happy book parenting!


on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook

Valerie’s sci-fi series continues with Beacon Starfound, April 14 and

Beacon Earthbound out May 12.

via & – also
Barnes and Noble (Nook devices)

Google Play (All devices except Kindle)

iBooks Store (iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac)

Kobo (All devices except Kindle)

Full list of titles and publication dates



Last week we wished Happy Birthday to all the leap year babies born on February 29. Thanks to Julius Caesar simplifying the early Roman calendar, the extra day happens every four years and was designed to keep festivals occurring around the same season each year.
In Ireland it’s said that women may propose marriage only in leap years, a tradition that has spread worldwide.
But this is a writing forum, so we’re interested in your creative relationships. In 2016 will you be dealing with critique partners and significant others in your life? Proposing (pitching) work to an agent or editor? What will be your relationship with your muse? With the online world?

I’m exploring some of these relationships during a 2-day workshop at the Canberra Writers’ Centre on 2 and 3 April, joined by my long-time agent, Linda Tate, who will share her take on the writer-agent relationship. The workshop sold out within days, showing that there’s a need for writers to focus on these aspects of the work.

Equally important are relationships with family and friends. Writing can make us so inwardly focused that it’s easy to forget there’s life beyond the current manuscript. It’s vital we make time for real people, as well as fictional ones. For without real relationships and a social life, we can end up with little new to write about.

Cat writer

Four questions to ask yourself this leap year:

1. Is this writing project serving the people I care about?
It may bring income, make you a more rounded person – I know when I’m kept from writing, I become very hard to live with – but when my husband was alive, I made sure he knew how important he was to me. After he passed, I was glad I hadn’t put writing ahead of his needs. Keeping a work-life balance is key.

2. Is this project serving my goals as a writer?
Writing reviews or blogs and contributing to social media may feel like work – and publishers do encourage writers to have a strong online presence – but if your real writing work is neglected, it may help to look at your priorities.

3. Is this writing serving my wider community?
This doesn’t contradict point two, because community involvement provides ideas and enrichment to you, as a writer. Serving as a volunteer zoo guide at the National Zoo in Canberra for ten years got me away from the computer, meeting people from around the world, and befriending some truly amazing animals.

4. Is this project the best use of my time and energy?
Only you can write your books. A dear friend talked of a real-life experience she intended to write about “someday.” Sadly, she died with the book not even started. Her experiences were never shared with readers and are now lost forever. A famous meme on Facebook quotes J K Rowling on how she managed to be a single mother while writing her Harry Potter books. Her answer was that she didn’t do housework for four years. Priorities.

Being a writer – if you’re serious about it – is a nonstop juggling act. If you add in a day job, life gets even more challenging. It’s up to you how you handle it. But look first at the time sucks – endlessly checking Facebook or Twitter; sharing so much of your life via your devices that you forget to actually live it; binge watching TV shows and movies.

There’s no harm in doing some of this some of the time, as long as you make conscious decisions on how to have a balanced life and still get your writing done.

2016 can be your year to leap ahead with your writing, and it doesn’t have to be at the cost of other aspects of your life.

Now over to you. How do you manage your writing and relationships? Will you be proposing (pitching) to an agent or editor this year? A leap year is about growth and change. And getting to that all-important happy ever after. Or happy for now. How will you get there?

Share your thoughts in the comment box below. It’s moderated to avoid spam, but you can skip this step by clicking on “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone.
Happy writing,
on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook
Check out Valerie’s online course, Free the Writer In You

We hear a lot lately about reboots. The powerhouse Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens, is considered a reboot because it takes the franchise in new directions with new characters. The recent Star Trek movies are most certainly reboots with much of the story canon amassed over fifty years being replaced with unrelated material credited to an “alternate timeline.” Yes, well…

The term, reboot comes from computer usage. When a device refuses to perform, the first defense is invariably to turn everything off, wait a short time, then turn things on again. Often, that’s enough to get the device working properly.

People can reboot themselves, too. I know of several who are in that process now.
One of the most prominent is actor Wil Wheaton (Star Trek the Next Generation, Big Bang Theory, Neverland, Stand by Me, and many others)
Late last year, he announced in his blog that he was rebooting his life. Unhappy with himself, he made a public commitment to change, doing less of habits that harmed him, and more of those that helped, such as reading more, writing more and exercising more.

In an update this week, he graded himself on progress, giving himself an A on some items and an F on only one – writing more, which had been pushed aside by acting commitments. You can read his story on his blog

A writer friend I greatly admire, Diane Curran, announced yesterday on Facebook that she’s rebooting her life starting Monday, including returning to her beloved belly dancing classes.
“I’ve been a bit slack over the last couple of months. While I never returned to the Caramello and Iced Tea, I did take up Lindt extra dark chocolate and I still can’t moderate [my intake]. Adding back in dairy, grains and potato and reducing exercise and I’m feeling the difference in body and attitude.”
Throughout 2015, Diane transformed herself through diet and dance, until we barely recognized her, except for the sparkle that’s there through thick and thin (sorry, Diane, really bad pun). Starting today, she says it’s “back to Paleo, back to physical activity, back to writing a minimum of 500 words a day.”

Reboots don’t need to be drastic. In the last month, I decided that my writing office wasn’t serving me. I was doing nearly all my writing at the dining table, the room more and more resembling the office I wasn’t using.
It wasn’t rocket science to work out that clutter deterred me from using my “real” office. The big desk I’d had for years was a clutter magnet, unlike the dining table which I had to clear regularly because, well, it beat eating off the floor.
I bought a new, smaller, table in gloss white with chrome legs – the nearest desk I could find to a dining table. Added a gorgeous white file unit with red drawers that could serve as a return as needed, and went to work. With less surface area, paper can’t pile up. I love my new desk and spend almost all my working time there.
Like Diane, I’m also tackling a body reboot, having lost mumble-something kilos in twelve months. While not exactly gym-ready, I move much more, and no longer cringe at photos of myself in the media.
Writing more isn’t an issue since this year I’ll have published 90 books. But I have changed direction. I’m now writing science fiction, a genre I’ve always loved. Naturally, there is romance in there – albeit with a light touch. But the rebooted me is boldly going where I haven’t gone until now, and having a ball.

Is there an area of your writing life you’d like to reboot?

Here are four ways you can tackle the job.
1. Start from your strengths
Rebooting yourself is a choice. It doesn’t mean everything you’ve written is wrong. Every word is part of your learning curve and will feed into the writing you do next. If exercise is needed, simply move more. Watch TV or make calls standing up. Weed the garden. Every little bit counts. Do workshops online or off. Find a critique partner in your new genre, and encourage each other.
2. See yourself succeeding
Spend a few minutes each day relaxing and picturing yourself succeeding. Visualise your book cover, or yourself in the spotlight, whatever fills you with energy and determination. Then look to your reboot list and start to make it happen one step at a time.
3. Be gentle with yourself
Wil Wheaton called his a “soft reboot”, focusing on the items he felt would make his life better. He didn’t throw out all his previous achievements, or come down on himself for the one area he felt needed more work. Like Diane, you may have Lindt extra dark chocolate moments. Recognise them and gently put them aside in favour of new behaviours that support your goals.
4. Feel the fear and do it anyway
This is a brilliant self-help book I suggest you read, although the title says it all. New always feels scary. If it doesn’t you’re not doing it right. Your reboot should take you out of your comfort zone into uncharted space. This week I’ve taken the biggest leap of my life into that space and you know what? It felt terrifying but exhilarating in equal measures. There are no guarantees of success, but if you don’t take the leap, you’re guaranteed to fail.

Minions take over world
Begin your reboot today. As a writer, choose a new direction or genre you’d love to try, and read in that field. Study the available markets. Then plan how you’ll write in it. 500 words a day is good, but 100 will do if it’s all you can fit in. Even at 100 words a day, you’ll have a novella or half a novel done by the end of this year, and that’s with most weekends off.
Let’s compare notes back on this blog in six months time. Not to beat ourselves up over what we haven’t achieved, but to look honestly at where we are and what still needs work.
Do you plan a reboot in your life? Share your thoughts in the comment box below. It’s moderated to avoid spam, but you can skip this step by clicking on “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone.
Happy writing and rebooting,
on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook
Check out Valerie’s online course, Free the Writer In You

Welcome to a new year of writing adventures. On the first Monday of every month, I answer your questions, invite you to share war stories, and help you along your writing journey.

If you’re a regular here, you’ll know one of my favourite tasks each year is mentoring the winner of the Valerie Parv Award, established in my honour by Romance Writers of Australia. For details of the 2016 award click on

Previous winners are nearly all multi-published now, taking out dozens of Australian and international writing competitions in all genres along the way.

What every writer's conscience should look like

What every writer’s conscience should look like

This year’s VPA holder is CARLY MAIN with her Roman-set novel, Memento Mori. With Carly’s permission, I’m sharing some questions she asked as we worked on her current chapters.

Your contributions are always so helpful. I’ve tried a few critique partners before, but nobody has ever suggested new plot points or new ways of telling the story. Is it largely a matter of experience? Do published authors tend to view manuscripts in a different way?

I’m also starting to think about my next book. I have two complete drafts which I now realise – as a result of [the VPA mentoring] process – I need to flesh out in terms of character development, motivations, conflict etc. and I’m worried I won’t be able to repeat the process.

Carly, 2016 is a milestone year for me. My 90th book will be published by Momentum (Pan Macmillan), meaning I’ve had books published every year for the last four decades. I was, of course, a child prodigy.

So experience is obviously a factor. Plus I’ve studied the writing process – my own and others’ – to discover not only what works, but why. Cultivating this awareness solves your concern about repeating the process.
I also try to give my minions (the name the VPA alumni gave themselves long before the movies) tools they can apply to any writing project. They’re tools I use in my own books, and they work.

Minions take over world


1. Ask yourself what work the writing has to do
Whether it’s a sentence, a scene or a chapter, every piece of writing MUST have a job to do. It can be revealing character, moving the plot forward, deepening the conflict, filling in needed background or planting clues and red herrings (in a mystery). Even better if the scene has more than one job.
When you’re editing, if you identify the purpose of the scene, you open up dozens of ways to achieve your purpose, rather than simply rewriting the scene in different words.

If the scene is only “pretty” or titillating, consider deleting it or combining with another scene. In Carly’s case, she had a crucial character to introduce and chose to combine the introduction with a scene that, until then, was doing no identifiable work.

2. Explore as many story options as you can
Say you have a love scene to write and plan to set it in the hero’s (or heroine’s) bedroom. Fine as far as it goes, but can you do better? I suggest listing at least 20 ways you could handle this scene to make it more original. Is there a mountaintop, a cabin, a creepy basement, or other setting you can use? Depending on the story, could you play out the scene on a private jet, in an office, under a circus tent, in an opal mine? I’ve used all of these and had a ton of fun with them. Readers enjoy the freshness, too.

My lists sometimes run to 100 or more options, including the outlandish and plain silly, before I hit on something that excites me. The trick is to avoid self-censoring, just let your imagination run wild. Only when you’re written out, should you evaluate your list, combine or develop the most promising options.

3. Ensure your characters’ actions DO speak for them
It’s all very well telling readers that a character is kind, honest to a fault, and loves small children. But do you show us these qualities? For example, a single mother is desperate for money for her child’s medical treatment. She finds a bag of money by a roadside. Having her use this money, even fully intending to pay it back, creates a different image of her than the one you intend. Equally, if she lies to gain a job to earn the money she needs, what does this say about her? It’s okay to show her being tempted, but she shouldn’t give in. It may nearly kill her to turn the money in, but you can use this to show her honesty is hard-won. You could show her attraction to the detective who takes her statement, or have him protect her from criminals who stole the money and think she has it. Or he thinks she’s in league with the bad guys. Showing the character’s struggles is a great way to reveal their true character and can lead to some wonderful, character-driven stories.

4. Use fewer words to better effect
This definitely comes with practice. Sadly, the words generally have to be written before we can edit out the repetitions, the information dumps (when we tell readers everything we’ve researched), and the slow passages. Give yourself permission to write as much as you feel you need. Let the finished work lie for as long as you can, a few weeks is good. Then read with a fresh eye and a sharp red pen.

Every writer is different and not all tips work for everyone. But it’s the old story about giving a woman a fish and feeding her for a day, or teaching her how to fish and feeding her for a lifetime.

You never stop learning. I still read how-to books on writing, seeking to gain even one new insight. Last week, it was Not Just a Piece of Cake: BEING AN AUTHOR by Hazel Edwards, author of the Australian childrens’ classic, There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake
Writing is a never-ending learning curve.

Feel free to comment or share your experiences below. The blog is moderated to avoid spam. If you’d like your comments to appear right away, click on “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone. What are your best storycrafting tips?


Member of the Order of Australia
Australia Day Ambassador
on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook

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