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Posts tagged ‘Hugh Jackman’

First Monday August 2020 – how to be a Valerie Parv Award writing “minion”

Over and over, we’re hearing how our world has changed. If you’d told me last August that I’d be announcing the winner of the 2020 Valerie Parv Award via Zoom at a virtual writing conference, I’d have said you’re dreaming. But thanks to a nasty bug which doesn’t need any more publicity, this is our “new normal.”

Even more astonishing is that this year we’re celebrating 20 years of the Valerie Parv Award under the banner of Romance Writers of Australia.

The winner’s name is a secret until the official announcement later this month but the short list is already out. Congratulations to the finalists, in no particular order, Amanda Newberry, Karen Lieversz, Kristin Silk, Davina Stone, Dianna Lennon, Rachel Armstrong and Frances Dall-Alba. One of you will be my new “minion” as past winners call themselves. As a previous minion tweeted when the list came out, someone’s life is about to change and they don’t even know it.

I’m always thrilled to see the minions winning awards, publishing all over the world, and becoming great friends. The saying is, “once a minion, always a minion.” Sadly, a virtual conference doesn’t allow our annual Minions’ Breakfast where we catch up wearing our special tiaras.

Valerie Parv am and VPA Contest Manager       Karina Coldrick

This year, because of the lockdowns, we all got so much writing done. Yeah, me neither. The world is so crazy that it can be difficult to write at all, with crafting and baking having more appeal.  When actor, Debra Lee Furness, complained about being locked down with her family, a friend said she had no sympathy. Asked why, the friend pointed out that Furness was locked down with Hugh Jackman. Such a sacrifice.

Despite such challenges, this year’s VPA finalists are an impressive group. The entries ranged from a gritty Regency heroine; to a reunion romance; a challenging birthday gift; a mismatched couple finding love in the outback; an escape-worthy fling in the fairytale world; a friends-to-lovers story; and a page-turner “secret baby”.

The final entries, give readers respite or head-on challenges, sometimes both. There’s much experimenting with present tense. Backgrounds are sketched in with a light hand..

So how does a writer become the next VPA minion? These are some aspects I take into account:

  1. You write from the heart

Every highly-placed entry is a labour of love and it shows. Your story may not be perfectly written but your characters are people we care about from the start.

  1. You add a touch of originality

If two entries vie for the top prize, I generally favour the more original. Your story will have something special that transcends genre.

  1. You’re a storyteller

I look for a story that comes to life right away, giving us people we want to see triumph against the odds. I’ll read any genre or time period as do agents and editors. Like them, I forgive occasional writing slips as long as you give me a page-turning story.

  1. You have the X-factor

I know it as soon as I see it. The entry may not be the one I want to choose but the writing makes the choice inescapable. In her winning book, Shadowfae, Erica Hayes thanked me “for wanting so hard for this book not to win, that it did.” A great review in the Wall Street Journal backed me up.

In The Last Voyage of Mrs Henry Parker, one of two books we worked on together, minion Joanna Nell included her “heartfelt thanks…for encouraging her to trust her instincts and tell [her] story from the heart.” IMO this is the very best way to write.

Rather than answers, I give the minions tools they can apply to any story. For example, identify the work the writing has to do. Every sentences, scene and chapter must have a job to do, revealing character, moving the story forward, deepening conflict, filling in essential background, or in a mystery/suspense, planting clues and red herrings.

Another VPA minion, Carly Main, said, “I’ve tried a few critique partners but nobody has ever suggested new ways of telling the story. Is it a matter of experience or do published authors look at manuscripts in a different way?”

I can’t speak for other authors, but I’ve known that once you identify why a scene or chapter is in there, you open up dozens of ways to achieve the purpose, rather than simply rewriting the scene in different words, making rewriting and editing much simpler.

Minion Michelle Somers
checks out a poster in LA

A well-honed story sense is part of the X-factor. The rest is studying your craft to discover not only what works but why. Curiously, however far you go into fantasy and sci-fi, or human psychology, as author and TV show-runner, John Yorke, points out, the basic human story structure remains constant, explaining the world to us, and us to ourselves.

Could you be a future VPA minion? Share your thoughts in the comment box below. The blog is moderated to avoid spam, but your comment can appear right away by clicking on “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone. Happy writing,

Valerie

On Facebook and Twitter @valerieparv

Romance Writers of Australia virtual

conference details at – http://tinyurl.com/yyk76wyd

Tips for writing a good book review, and a contest

For something new, I’m chatting with my lovely agent, Linda Tate (pictured below), about my near-future romantic suspense novel,  Birthright, which has already received some great reviews. To celebrate, I’m off on a blog tour starting January 8. I’ll tweet and Facebook the stops. Feel free to visit and comment to win a download of the book and a personal authorgraph.

LINDA: to help things along I’m launching a contest for the best review of Birthright posted anywhere online during January.

Linda at Valerie launch

VALERIE: a contest means prizes, right? I’m thinking a date with Hugh Jackman.

LINDA: Me too, but being practical, I’m thinking $50 Amazon gift card from your publisher, Corvallis Press, and posting the winning review here for all to enjoy.

VALERIE: No Hugh, sigh. But this is a challenge. What do you think makes a good book review?

LINDA: I like to see the book details and cover photo up front, giving the reader a feel for the book without having to hunt for the information.

VALERIE: then show us what the book is about, without retelling the story or giving too much away. A review isn’t a plot summary.

LINDA: yes, for example I like the way fantasy author, Erica Hayes, calls Birthright a “romance with aliens and evil astronauts”, covering the key elements in a clever way. To grab me, a reviewer also needs to write about what they liked and didn’t like about the book, and why.

VALERIE: the blurb gives an overview of the story, but avoid spoilers. Using brief quotes is one way to give readers a taste of the author’s style.

LINDA: I like reviewers who write in their own style, as if talking to a friend. The reviewer’s excitement, or otherwise, should come through, a bit like when I read a new manuscript.

VALERIE: I like to know how well the reviewer thinks the author built the book’s world/setting. And did they relate to the characters enough to care about them.

LINDA: when I first read Birthright, I felt you brought characters such as Adam to life. He’s gorgeous and brilliant, but a Neanderthal around women. Having strengths and weaknesses makes him very real.

VALERIE: he’s one of my favourites, but then all the characters are. I like reviews that comment on the theme, what the book is really about, and whether it kept you reading to the end.

LINDA: and it helps to give the book a rating, whether as a ‘keeper’, with stars, coffee cups or whatever the site awards.

VALERIE: not every review has to cover every point, as long as they have the general idea.

LINDA: so reviewers, here’s your challenge – review Birthright and post the link (not the whole review) in the comment space below, or on Valerie’s timeline on http://www.facebook.com/valerieparv to win the $50 Amazon Gift Card. Good luck.

VALERIE: See you on the blog tour. Happy holidays and happy reading!

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http://www.valerieparv.com

on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook

Read some reviews already up at http://www.valerieparv.com/birthright.html

To writers, looking at pictures of Hugh Jackman is work…honest

Pictures, YouTube videos, magazines…we writers have the best excuse to study them all. Whether it’s Hugh Jackman, Johnny Depp or Justin Babemagnet, they’re our source of hero material. The same with travel. Anywhere a writer goes is fuel for a future book, and the trip most likely tax deductible. Check with your accountant on this, it’s not my field, but we have to get our material from somewhere. Vacations are a great resource.

A few years ago I sailed to Cape York and Thursday Island on a converted cargo vessel. Before setting off I decided this would be a complete vacation. I wouldn’t take notes, hunt out possible locations, collect local real estate magazines for property references. My writer brain would be completely off line. After travelling widely in the name of research, this really appealed and I soaked it up. Snorkelling, fishing, sight seeing, wining, dining, all done without a notebook in sight.

Then I came home and…I’m sure you can guess the rest. Yep. I wrote the entire trip into a book called Island of Dreams which was later serialised in Woman’s Day. And I kicked myself for not keeping receipts as proof that I’d been working the whole way. Because I had. Unbeknown even to myself, I’d stored away scenes and story possibilities for what became a widely translated book, one of my favourites.

Research beckons...

Lesson learned. No matter where I’ve travelled since, I consider the trip at least partly research. Because the well has to be filled somehow. Your first few books may be written from experience and set in familiar places. But sooner or later you’ll need new input and the stimulation of new experiences.  You may not use any of it for months or years, but you will find yourself dipping into the well and coming up with a snippet you don’t remember storing away, and giving it to a character in a current project.

You see, writers are never off duty. Always some part of us is observing and taking note of the people, sights, sounds and smells we’ll later use in a story. That’s just how it is.

There’s only so much you can learn from online research. To really bring a location to life, you have to be there and feel how it feels. Writers of fantasy or paranormal books have different challenges. For the most part you can’t physically visit the places in your books. But I’ll bet anything that the rainforest glade on Planet Glorious will have its inspiration in some magical place you visited here on earth.

What’s your favourite kind of research? Have you been intrigued enough by an author’s research to want to visit the places she describes? I created a restaurant in the Adelaide Hills, South Australia and had readers asking for its address, as sorry as I was that it’s made up. People also say they’d like to visit Carramer, my South Pacific island kingdom. It’s a fantasy, too, but if you visit Noumea and Hawaii, you’ll see where my inspiration came from. Research is fun and writers are always doing it, whether we know it or not. So look at your hunky guy pictures and dream of your faraway places. For a writer, it’s all in a day’s work.

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com

on Twitter @valerieparv

and Facebook

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