My Books

My Books
My Books

Monday, 10 April 2017

Writing a novel - the important bits you have to have!

So, years ago I attended a workshop in which Michael Hauge's resources were shared. Michael is a screenplay writer, novellist and teacher who shares amazing resources on his website.

Once I found Michael I downloaded everything I could find, printed and bound it all in a  book. It's now a sort of novel writing bible I use to make sure my structure actually works, thus getting me the contract.

One of the most useful and quick references he provides is this - 'Key Story Questions'

Michael Hauge’s key story questions for novels

1.                  Who is the hero or protagonist?

2.                  Why will we immediately empathise with the hero? In other words, why will we identify with her when she is introduced?

3.                  Where is the hero at the beginning of the story, before anything new occurs to get the plot going? What is the everyday life she’s been living and how does the story show that?

4.                  What is the hero’s longing (deep desire he’s just paying lip service to) or emotional need (which the hero won’t admit or is unaware of – usually this is to connect with others in some way).

5.                  What opportunities presented to the hero at the first key turning point?

6.                  What new situation is he placed in as a result of that opportunity? Is it by choice, or is the hero forced into it? What will the hero have to figure out, or adjust to, in this new situation?

7.                  What specific, visible goal or finish line does the hero want to reach by the end of the novel – in other words what’s the outer motivation?

8.                  What’s the outer conflict – what makes that goal impossible to achieve?

9.                  What is the hero’s greatest emotional fear?

10.              What wound – what painful event or situation in his or her past (usually in adolescence) – led to that fear?

11.              If the novel contains a love story, why is the romance character the hero’s destiny? Why did they choose each other, out of all the other people they’ve been involved with?

12.              What is the hero’s identity – what protective persona keeps the hero from facing and overcoming her emotional fear?

13.              What is the hero’s essence or truth? Who would she be if her identity were stripped away? In other words, who does she have the potential to become, if she’s courageous enough?

14.              What is the hero’s arc or character growth? How does she gradually make the transition from her identity to her essence? What gives her the courage to do that?

15.              What is the story’s universal theme – how does the arc for the hero provide the reader with a prescription for living a more fulfilled life?

16.              What deeper issues – political or social – does the novel explore?

17.              What other successful antecedents for the film – recent, successful novels similar in market demographic, genre, style, tone and/or story, that you can point to and say, “ because those made money, this one will make money.”

18.              What is the passion for this project – what do you love about it?

19.              What are the biggest weaknesses in the story right now?

20.              What makes this a novel – why will thousands of people want to spend their time and money to read it?

Story 2010 Michael Hauge

Below is the jpg. Right click and print.


Sunday, 19 February 2017

When politicians get to do something worth smiling about - Trish Doyle launches Little Free Libraries

As part of the CBCA (Childrens Book Council of Australia) our local Blue Mountains branch has had the enormous fun of putting together five Little Free Libraries loaning centres, located in shops around the  mountains. These are intended for kids (and adults) to borrow books free of charge and return them to the location (or a new book of their choice). So far we've had a fantastic response from the community.

When launching this initiative, we were so fortunate to have our local ALP member Trish Doyle to do the honours. Herself a former teacher, Trish is very enthusiastic about literacy and was very pleased to launch our program. Normally she has her photo taken for the local paper and its usually to do with issues that the community is NOT happy about, therefore, she cannot smile and be her lovely self. But when launching LFF Trish got to smile! And had a great time at The Gingerbread House, Katoomba.

What a beautiful way to build community and improve literacy for everyone!

Little Free Libraries are popping up all over the world in neighbourhoods, in front of businesses and even private homes. You can find out more here:


Friday, 10 February 2017

Chickens, quolls and a wild Water Dragon that let's you feed it banana!

We drove to the stock feeds place the other day to buy yet another chicken, after third one was taken by a QUOLL. Cute, but vicious little things. And very clever. Yes, a wild quoll has been decimating the chicken population in our street for some months now, slowly making its way down to our place, the last stop chicken shop. After many tears and a burial, we decided to re-enforce the chicken pen and get a new birdy.

We ended up choosing a Rhode Island Red cross. But the BEST PART of all was that I met this little guy! (Well, not so little, about the size of a cat) and he let me stroke him and feed him banana.

Apparently he comes into the stock feeds shed most days looking for bugs and any food on offer. My daughter happened to be eating a banana at the time, so i whipped it out of her hand, broke off half and gave my new friend some small pieces, which he took very gently. I was allowed to stroke his side. So gorgeous! Although I'd love a pet iguana or something I am happy to see one so well fed and fully grown surviving on his own. (he lives in the bush at the back of the premises).

Nature - its wonderful.

Friday, 3 February 2017

UNPUBLISHED? Here's your chance! KYD Awards for early career writers

Just saw this in the KYD (Kill Your Darlings) newsletter. Unfortunately, I'm not eligible, but you might be!

The KYD Unpublished Manuscript Award

This award will assist an early-career author in the development of their unpublished manuscript. The award is open to writers of adult fiction and adult non-fiction.

The winner will receive a $5000 cash prize and a mentorship with KYD’s Rebecca Starford (non-fiction) or Hannah Kent (fiction).

Submissions open 9am AEDT Wednesday 1 February 2017.
Submissions close 5pm AEDT Friday 31 March 2017.
The shortlisted entrants will be announced on 1 June 2017.
The winner of the KYD Unpublished Manuscript Award will be announced on 3 July 2017.

Please read the full KYD Unpublished Manuscript Award Submission Guidelines and Terms & Conditions here.

The judges for the KYD Unpublished Manuscript Award will be announced in 2017.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

A cure for insomnia, anxiety and over stimulated brains! Why Colouring in is so effective

I only ever won one competition at school 
It was a colouring in competition. And guess what the prize was? A colouring in book! I have always loved to colour inside those lines carefully, adding my own colour scheme with vibrant combinations.

Something we left behind
But as I grew up I left this cherished activity behind. It was considered childish.
Until adult colouring in books hit the shelves and everyone went mad with it! A former editor in a large publishing house lamented the demise of what he called 'proper books' as he spent most of his time helping to publish colouring in books. Discouraged, he quit the industry.

What's the point?
Having been an insomniac since I was a child, I am always looking for ways to wind down and slow the endless processing of a creative mind. And guess what? Colouring in helps. There's no blue light to keep stimulating the visual cortex. There's no noise. I just sit up in bed and scribble to my heart's content until its time to turn out the light.

These are the pages I've done so far, from Adam Fisher's amazing book of 300 odd pages - Brothers Grimm Coloring Book. It has thick, excellent paper and the pictures are only printed on one side. Best of all, the designs aren't completely covered in lines, so you can make each picture your own by adding shading etc. (I hate those mandala thingies!)

Adam's book has a lot of devotees. Just google it and check out the images. So get yourself a decent colouring in book and go for it!

Wednesday, 30 November 2016


How do kids become non-readers?
Is your child struggling to learn to read, even after being in school for one or more years? There are  many reasons why some children fail to pick up the skills required for reading. It's usually down to their specific learning style, be it visual, auditory, kinaesthetic or multi-modal. There are usually bits missing, because of the peculiar way your child learns. Filling in those missing bits is what I do best.

It can be shattering to confidence, especially to older children who have experienced difficulty over a few years. I once had a student in year 11 whose reading age was 6 years. He had managed to get through the school system without being able to read and was facing year 12 HSC. Amazing! You'll be happy to know that within the year he was reading books on psychology and changed his original career plans when he realised reading was no longer a barrier to achieving his goals. He's now at university.

Help is here!
Anyway, back to your child.
I have 27 years experience teaching literacy to reluctant and struggling reader of all ages. If you live in NSW in the Greater Sydney or Blue Mountains area, bring your child along to my 2-day workshop and I guarantee he/she will have a fabulous time and will finally become a reader!

The flyer at the top of this page is easy to download and print, should you need a hard copy. Just right click on it and select 'save.'

Thursday, 3 November 2016

ZENA SHAPTER'S new book INTO TORDON out now!!!

My gorgeous friend and colleague Zena Shapter has a new book out, one that's a LOT different to most - it had NINE authors. She is my guest today. :-)

So, tell me about “Into Tordon”?

“Into Tordon” follows two online gamers on an adventure that’s out of this world! It’s a middle grade novel for 8-14 year olds, set in a slightly futuristic Australia, and there are dangerous creatures, exotic cultures, scientific impossibilities, riddles, advanced technology and challenges. Our two main characters, Beth and Zane, must face them all to survive!

Sounds like a wild ride! Nine of you wrote “Into Tordon” together. That sounds like a wild ride too. How did nine authors write a book together?

With patience and understanding! When writing collaboratively with so many people, you have to leave your ego at the door and contribute as much as you can with enthusiasm and a good spirit, knowing full well that your actual contribution is likely to go unnoticed once the book is released. There’s an element of trust too. One of you has to take the lead, to keep everyone on track, drive the project and make decisions. Thankfully, when I suggested the book to the other authors, they were all members of my writers’ group, the Northern Beaches Writers’ Group, and had written under my leadership before, so knew and trusted in my abilities.

Is that because you’re the founder and leader of the Northern Beaches Writer’s Group?

Yes, but also because they know and like my writing. Not only did I write a chunk of “Into Tordon”, but as ‘Editor-in-Chief’ I also rewrote other parts, then rewrote the whole book to give it a single ‘voice’ (the words, not the story itself), and polished it again once we had a publisher on board. I’m a freelance editor and mentor too, so they trusted in my experience when I picked up on things like inconsistencies, plot development, character arcs and worldbuilding issues. I’m so glad they did! “Into Tordon” is awesome!
colouring-in page for the book
How did you get a consistent voice / tone from nine separate authors?

It was tricky! We don’t all write in the same style. Some of the other authors don’t even write speculative fiction! (*gasp*) But I found the right tone with time, respect and experience. We had a solid consultation process too, where everyone got to critique everyone else in a safe and nurturing environment, until every single word was perfect. It was a real team effort. I also had a good second-in-command, Zoya Nojin, who always had my editorial back.

What was your favourite part of the process?

The writing of course! Though I’ve also enjoyed the promotional side of things: designing the website, posters, bookmarks, social media, this interview of course, and even a colouring-in sheet for readers. I’ll include one readers can download from here if they like.

What’s your favourite scene in “Into Tordon”?

I love discovering new worlds, so my favourite scene is when our two main characters, Beth and Zane, first enter the ‘strange world’ mentioned in the blurb. By the end of that chapter, there’s only one option left to them, which Beth phrases perfectly: “Run!”

Zena's book launched by the fabulous Susanne Gervay
Will you be doing author visits?

Yes, all of us will – to schools and libraries of course, but also to writers’ groups, festivals and centres who want to know about collaborative writing. Anyone interested can contact us through the website at

What’s next for Zena Shapter as a solo author?

I have my own debut novel coming out next year! It’s called “Towards White” and is set in a fictional Iceland. Scientists have discovered where the electrical energy in our brains goes when we die, which brings about certain cultural developments. Becky’s brother visits Iceland to study those developments, but goes missing… I can’t wait to see it on the shelves! Details will go on or my publisherswebsite, IFWG, as production progresses.

In the meantime, when and where is “Into Tordon” available?

All good bookshops on the highstreet and online. Here’s the blurb, I hope readers enjoy it! Thank you for having me, Dawn!

Into Tordon
Only champions dare to enter!

Thirteen-year-old Beth has been waiting for weeks to play in the championship of her favourite online game, Tordon. Now tribes of beastmen roar through her speakers. Game on! She plays to win, until her gaming nemesis Zane challenges her to a real-life risk that has them sucked into a strange world. Here they must push their skills to the limit just to survive! 

Faced with riddles, a multitude of dangerous creatures, exotic cultures and scientific impossibilities, Beth and Zane are forced to take on challenge after challenge if they’re ever to return home.

‘a pacy, exciting read’ Books+Publishing

Zena Shapter
Zena Shapter writes from a castle in a flying city hidden by a thundercloud, creating what-if worlds and adventures. She’s the winner of twelve national writing competitions, including a Ditmar Award and the Australian Horror Writers’ Association Award for Short Fiction. Her work has appeared in numerous online and print venues including the Hugo-nominated ‘Sci Phi Journal’, ‘Midnight Echo’, ‘Award-Winning Australian Writing’ (twice), and ‘Antipodean SF’. Reviewer for Tangent Online Lillian Csernica has referred to her as a writer who “deserves your attention”. She’s the founder and leader of the Northern Beaches Writers’ Group, a book creator and mentor, creative writing tutor, movie buff, traveller, wine lover and all round story nerd. Her novel “Towards White” will be published by the IFWG in 2017.

Monday, 10 October 2016


I've been in this game for a while now and found some things are really helpful in raising my profile (not easy when you basically want to stay in your cave and write most of the time). Some very generous people have shared their ideas with me, so now I pass on what I know to you. And you don't have to pay a fee to know my secrets.
  1. Your platform - what is it? How you market yourself will open doors. What do you want to be known for? Have a media release ready (and regularly polished) to send out.
  2. Contact other bloggers in your field of expertise/interest and offer to send a copy of your book for them to review, in exchange for reviewing theirs.
  3. Promotional materials, for business cards, posters of your book covers, bookmarks, banners, freebees. Being an author is a business and you need the promotional tools handy. I use Vistaprint or make my own using MS publisher and Powerpoint.
  4. A flyer with what you offer, ie: author talks, writing workshops, school visits. these can be emailed and printed out to give when you are out and about at festivals, libraries, schools, etc.
  5. Amazon author page. If your books are available on Amazon, it is imperative that you have a presence there. Its easy to do, just follow the prompts. You'll need to write a blurb about yourself and your books. Hunt for them on Amazon and then add to your author page. 
  6. Slide shows of your books - how they were made, what influenced you, where you write etc. These are fabulous for school visits or conventions. People want to know WHY you wrote a book, not just about the content.
  7. Swap book reviews. Invite people to review your book on Amazon. 50 reviews gets attention from Amazon and help from their marketing juggernaut
  8. Blog or website. My blog (blogger) functions as my website. Its free and I have total control of content. The downside is I have to do it all myself. but with labels on your blog posts you can attract attention to your pages and books. Also, provide handy links for purchasing. If things are one click away you'll get more sales. Every time I blog about my books I get a spike in page views and then sales. Also, I have 10 pages of information on my blog, which also attracts people.
  9. Networking! Be part of groups with similar interests. These don't have to relate to your books, just to your interests. all sorts of conversations begin randomly, centred around mutual interests.
  10. Social Networking. Facebook - regular profile and separate pages for your books for people to 'like'. I don't do twitter or instagram. Haven't the time quite frankly! But it might work very well for you. Linked-In - this is an awesome way to network too and stay up to date with whats happening. Share your tips there and follow interesting people.
  11. Events. Conferences, book days, conventions etc. pester (nicely) until they let you in, then you can set up your own table with books and flyers etc.
  12. Blog tours. I admit I don't do a lot of this. Wish I had the time! But they are brilliant and mutually beneficial for each person who swaps 'exposure' on another person's blog.
There we go, lots of ideas for you to munch on. I have included some of mine below to give you an idea.
Good luck and keep writing!