Come play inside a writer's brain, scary!

Posts tagged ‘Star Trek’

Birthright book review contest…and the winner is…

Congratulations to MARIA PERRY MOHAN

My agent, Linda Tate, chose Maria’s review as the winner in her book review contest. Maria receives a $50 Amazon gift card with compliments of Corvallis Press, Publishers of Birthright. Maria’s personal touches while commenting on the book made her review a standout. Maria blogs at and is on Twitter @gaelikaa

You can read about what makes a good book review here 429113_349871168392347_236124369767028_1038466_391070353_n

Now over to Maria for her winning review:

So there I was, about to embark on the assignment of reading a science fiction novel for perhaps the first time in my adult life and I’m thinking “Valerie Parv?”  Oh, yes! Successful Australian author of romances for Silhouette and Harlequin, not to mention a particularly fine writing craft book!  A combination of sci fi and romance, as I live and breathe.  I wondered about the future implications for readers.  Is Harlequin about to embark on an as yet classified but admittedly thrilling mission?  Are they boldly going to go where no romance publishing company has gone before and give us a new category in romance, sci fi, at two titles a month?  Or maybe four?  What will it be?  Passion among the planets?  Get amorous among the asteroids?  Sex in a spaceship?

Perish the thought, earthlings, it was nothing like that.  I thought I was going to get a romance novel with a backdrop of Star Trek. What I got was a serious piece of contemporary literature.  Contemporary as in written today but futuristic in the sense that it’s science fiction.  Serious but readable.  Scientific but accessible, even if you are almost innocent of all things scientific as I am.  A story of one man’s search for his true self.  And does he find himself?  Yes he does.  And when he finds his true self, he finds his mission.  Adam Desai (I initially thought he’d be of Indian origin, the real Desais are from Gujarat, not Carramer) is not your regular alpha hero, ready to sweep you off  your feet and give you great orgasms!  But he’s an enigmatic individual who will intrigue you and have you rooting for him.  Yes, Adam’s love story takes place in the course of the story too, but it’s as enigmatic and beautiful as he is.  There’s Shana, a talented administrator, the acting governor of  Carramer, an indigenous woman in a formerly colonial nation, proud of her origins, beautiful and Adam’s soul mate.  There’s his working colleague and ex-lover, who walked away from their relationship with great sadness when she realized that Adam was never going to buy into the dream of a semi-detached home with a white picket fence and 2.2 children.  Yet she still loves him and is ready to support him professionally.  I loved the fact that he loved her, even if he wasn’t ‘in love’ with her.  I also loved the fact that bitterness was absent on the ex lover’s side.

There’s a host of intriguing and unforgettable characters in this sci fi thriller. 

Burton Hackett, the villain is an evil yet strangely fascinating character.  There are the half aliens, Garrett and Elaine, who always knew they were different but who have been supporting each other all through, having all the human characteristics but with highly developed psychic abilities.  What this duo need is to convince Adam to come to terms with the fact that he is not of unknown parentage but of alien origin and to combine forces with them on a mission to save their adopted planet from certain disaster.  I was holding my breath until practically the final scene.

I am in awe of Valerie Parv’s talent as an author, of her versatility and creativity.  An author who has what it takes to satisfy a reader of category romance and at the same time who can come up with a novel as hard hitting as ‘Birthright’ is a formidable talent indeed.  The author voice was so strong, it was neither male nor female.  It was a human voice, a compassionate voice.  It did not scream ‘contemporary romance author’.  It spoke with quiet reason of the dilemma which affects every human being sooner or later – who are we, where have we come from, where are we going.

Set in the fictional south Pacific nation of Carramer, a country created by the author as the setting for many of her novels, I found everything about this novel fascinating.

This is a novel which can please readers of a very different calibre than the ones who read category romance.  Not that category romance readers aren’t a discerning group. But they are readers of a particular sex and age group. ‘Birthright’ is a novel which can please a wider spectrum of readers than those for which  Valerie Parv has usually written.  As it is an impacting science fiction thriller, I expect male readers would certainly enjoy reading this.

 There you have it. Congratulations again, Maria. What do other readers think about reviews? What’s your best or worst experience of a book review. Add your comments below.



on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook

Read some reviews already up at

How much truth should be in your fiction?

“Is truth not truth for all?” asks a character in Star Trek, the original series. Well not necessarily. The quote may not even be accurate, since I’m relying on memory. To be sure, I’d have to check.

In my writing workshops, a common defense against criticism is, “But that’s how (the event) really happened.” Yet truth does not automatically make a piece of writing better than something you made up. In real life, coincidence is all around us. In fiction, a writer has a hard time making coincidence acceptable to a reader. It seems too easy, too convenient for the author. We’re permitted a certain amount of coincidence, usually at the very start of a book, often as a way of bringing the characters together. After that, a good story should rely on cause and effect: this happens because that happened, leading to this happening. When you plot out a story, this “domino effect” of one thing leading to another needs to be there and the connections should be clear.

When events in a story seem inevitable – as if they couldn’t have gone any other way – the story is convincing. Using cause and effect makes our lies seem like truth. The reader suspends disbelief long enough to enjoy our lies without questioning them. Sometimes the lies become so strong, people believe they are true. Visitors to Rosslyn Chapel near Edinburgh, Scotland, more than doubled since author, Dan Brown, used it as a location in his mega-seller, The Da Vinci Code. Another location in the book, the church of St-Sulpice in Paris, really exists and has a brass “meridien line” on the floor used for scientific observations in the 18th century. But the church was not built on the site of an ancient temple and Dan Brown changed or invented many other details used in the book , not that fans visiting the church are fully convinced.  Much of Dan Brown’s success depends on the literary lies he makes us believe.

If truth is not a defense, how does it work in fiction? The answer lies in the universal truth underlying the actual events. Thankfully, few families lose a member as a result of violent crime. Yet sooner or later we all lose someone or something we love. The universal truth we share is that sensation of loss.  If you can pinpoint and use  the feelings that accompany great loss, and apply them to the characters in your fiction, readers will be right there with you. They’ll mentally nod and think, “Yes, that’s how it is.” They will be convinced.

In a previous blog, I mentioned that it’s okay to be real, your family won’t even notice. Many writers worry about hurting someone if they include a real life event in a book. If you’ve done your job properly, that person won’t realise their involvement. You’ll have picked out the universal truth, the feelings associated with the event, rather than the event itself. My family were migrants from England, and the resulting sense of being a “stranger in a strange land” stays with me. I give many of my characters similar feelings – not always consciously. But because I write about the feelings, rather than the exact details,  others take my story at face value. It’s about the daughter of refugees, not migrants. Or an adopted child seeking her origins. Sharing the universal truth rather than the actual truth is what matters.

Next time you’re alone, afraid, exhausted or reduced to tears, try to record your exact feelings. Take note of your body language, specific responses, thoughts, behaviours. Then use them in a completely different story where only the feelings are similar. I guarantee your story will ring true.

Have you used your own experiences in your writing? How do you translate them into something a reader can “get” even if they’ve never had the same experience? Have you read a story that totally convinced you even though you knew it was fiction? Please share your comments here.


Proud Friend of the National Year of Reading 2012

Established Writer in Residence, Katharine  Susannah Prichard Centre, Perth, July 2012

on Twitter @valerieparv

and Facebook

A chip off the old writer’s block

I never thought I’d write this but after more than 70 books, countless short stories, articles and film scripts, and as my friends are only too well aware, many terrible limericks, I’ve hit a patch where it’s an uphill job to put words together. I can blog (obviously), tweet, post to Facebook and write to order if needed, and the limericks keep coming (sorry!) But when it comes to writing new creative work I have to drag myself to the computer, and I delete words as quickly as I put them down.

Discussing this with a writer friend recently, she said my brain was taking long service leave. Is this the explanation? If so, it’s an extended vacation. In the last four years I’ve written four books, two of those anthologies where I was contributing editor. Now if the other two were War & Peace or even Twilight, I’d be more than happy. But they’re not. I’m glad I wrote my Superromance, With a Little Help, so I know I can still write romance, yet I feel no inclination to keep going.

This feels more like a time of cocooning, of waiting to see what writer I might turn into next. I’m not even sure if “writer’s block” is the right term. Writer’s pause? Writer’s drift? This last seems to fit, but drifting where? Toward what?

Last week I watched an old episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation in which the Starship Enterprise’s resident counsellor, Deanna Troi, lost the empathic ability that made her a success at her job. As a Betazoid she can sense the emotions of others. She advises the captain if she senses deception or evil intent from the different species they encounter. Losing her empathic sense was like a human losing their sight, hearing or perhaps a limb. She also felt adrift, angry at the loss, and had to find new ways to operate.

Without being overly dramatic, I feel a similar sense of loss. I’ve made stories since I was a child, been published in some form from the age of 14, and collectively written about four million words for publication. Finding myself sitting at the keyboard with no words there feels as if a key part of me has gone missing.

Deanna Troi’s empathic sense does come back, but not until she discovers new aspects of herself beyond those she’d come to rely on. I’m still waiting. Don’t get me wrong, stories aplenty still crowd my brain and I’ve written volumes of notes for characters and plots. So the words are there in the background, but not yet willing to let me shape them into something I can share.  Yet I know all the tips and tricks there are. I’ve written about them in The Art of Romance Writing and my other books on the craft, and taught them at workshops. I’m qualified as a counsellor, yet like Deanna Troi, the physician isn’t making much headway healing herself. All I can do is keep trying. When I figure out what this strange fallow time is all about, I’ll blog about it – then we’ll both know.

Have you experienced writer’s block? What was it about for you and what eventually broke the drought, if it did break? Your comments are very welcome below. As a writer, what do you do when the writing isn’t happening?


On Twitter @valerieparv

and Facebook

Why we need a National Year of Reading more than a Year of Writing

“Nearly half the population struggles without the literacy skills to meet the most basic demands of everyday life and work. There are 46% of Australians who can’t read newspapers; follow a recipe; make sense of timetables, or understand the instructions on a medicine bottle.”

This sobering quote comes from the website devoted to the 2012 National Year of Reading officially launched on February 14. The website is here

I am proud to be a Friend of the National Year of Reading and will do as much as I can to promote all forms of reading for everybody including promoting the cause of reading at workshops, during my tenure as Established Writer in Residence at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writing Centre in Perth, and in regional NSW through our library network and local writing groups.

But why a Year of Reading? Why not a Year of Writing?

Unless we have readers, writers have no one to write for. I believe writing – like all communication – needs a sender and a receiver. Until the writing (the message) is received/read by a reader, the transaction isn’t complete. The reader doesn’t have to receive the message exactly as the writer sends it. They are free to add their own interpretation to the words. For me, that makes the process much richer. But to have the words disappearing into the ether like a shout echoing down an empty valley, would feel like my job is only half done.

Among the goals which the National Year of Reading has identified are three key ones:

  • For all Australians to understand the benefits of reading as a life skill and a catalyst for well-being;
  • To promote a reading culture in every home; and
  • To establish an aspirational goal for families, of parents and caregivers sharing books with their children every day

I was lucky enough to grow up in a family where reading was taken for granted. Reading was never seen as idle or wasted time. It was our entertainment. It was also education but we didn’t know that then. Reading was just fun.  Among my earliest memories are my father reading to my older sister and me in our cots, his inventive voices bringing the stories to life. Later when we moved to Australia, to a town without television (I know, shock! horror!) he read aloud the story of Sam Small, the Flying Yorkshireman, in the dialect of his youth. Unless you’re born to it, Yorkshire dialect is almost incomprehensible on paper. Read aloud it made perfect sense. Many years later in an astonishing coincidence my writer friend, Susan Sackett, told me that her boss, Gene Roddenberry, creator of the Star Trek universe, was adapting The Flying Yorkshireman as a film script. I wish I’d kept Susan’s letters from that time because this detail is never mentioned in his official biographies.

Reading has many different appeals.

So we grew up with a reading culture and learned a life skill that added to our well-being. Two of the boxes ticked. If I can help to pass that joy along to families and caregivers who haven’t grown up with reading as an everyday activity, I’ll help tick the third box, and be a true friend of the National Year of Reading.

Did you grow up in a reading culture? What can you do to share that pleasure among your circle? How can you help spread the message of the National Year of Reading 2012?


on Twitter @valerieparv

and Facebook




Tag Cloud