Monday, 23 January 2017

Coffee chat with Jack Strandburg, author and editor

It seems that not only Aussie writers join Aussie Facebook writing groups. Sprinkled amongst the membership are writers from all over the world. Today, a writer from the United States joins me in my virtual cafe for a quick chat. Never let it be said that we Aussies aren't a welcoming bunch of people. If you want to join our group, you're welcome to.

Jack Strandburg was born and raised in Cleveland Ohio.  He is a degreed professional with a background in Accounting and Information Technology and recently retired after more than 33 years working for a Fortune 500 company.  He has been writing since his teenage years. 
Join me in welcoming Jack to my virtual café.

DL: Firstly, since this is a coffee chat, how do you take your coffee, and what is your favourite time of the day to partake?

JACK: I drink decaf due to reflux reactions to caffeine. I drink in the morning, no more than one cup, often don’t even finish that cup.

DL: Most of the authors on my coffee chats have been Aussie indie authors. You live in Texas, can I ask how you came to join an Aussie created Facebook group?

JACK: I join Facebook groups based on what I can contribute and what they can provide.

DL: You live in Texas and work with a US publisher. Is there a noticeable difference between Aussie and American authors? Say, our writing style, our marketing approach, our marketability, our community?

JACK: I have seen very little difference between Aussie and American authors, except perhaps the use and spelling of certain words.

DL: You have written a range of genres. Inspirational, murder mystery, a Western comedy. How do you decide which story to write? And do you feel that different styles require different marketing approaches?

JACK: My inspirational was written because I felt the need to share. The Western comedy was originally written for fun, before I thought about being a published author. The mystery is my preferred, and will likely settle into writing that genre going forward. Other than the target audience, I don’t believe the marketing approach differs between genres.

DL: And lastly, are you a biscuit or cake kind of person? And what is your favourite biscuit/cake?

JACK: I am more of a cake person – and white cake with white frosting is my favourite.

About the author


Jack Strandburg was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, and started writing on a typewriter during his teenager years. In 2002 he self-published an inspirational book, followed by his first novel, a Western humor published in 2013 by Solstice Publishing. He has written one mystery, currently in the rewrite stage, drafted 60% of a second mystery, and is documenting material for a follow up non-fiction inspirational.
About the book

A Head in the Game
Chicago Homicide Inspector Aaron Randall faces his toughest case while dealing with doubts about his career and the potential of a romantic relationship.
Jared Prescott, a Heisman Trophy winner and Vice President of a large and respected pharmaceutical company, is found murdered at a seedy motel. The investigation uncovers multiple suspects with multiple motives. When the body of his close friend and informant is found stabbed to death in a deserted alley, followed by the murders of two women, Randall suspects a conspiracy.
Randall is hamstrung during the investigation by pressure from the commissioner down the chain of command because the president of the pharmaceutical company, anxious for resolution to Jared Prescott’s murder, is a close friend with a Senator whose sights are set on the Oval Office.
Buy the book
Connect with Jack
Thanks for dropping by. Good luck with your latest novel!

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Books with Girl in the title

A while ago I wrote an article for NewsWrite, The NSW Writer's Centre's membership journal, about The Girl In The Gown Phenomenon. I reposted this article on my blog, you can read more here. A few years ago, YA paranormal book covers featuring a girl in a gown so heavily saturated the market, it could have been its own genre.

And now we have a new trend. Books with 'Girl' in the title. I'm not the first to notice this trend, but it's bugging me that once something catches on, every writer and publisher follows suit to the point of saturation and ruination. It seems as if the story or the content rarely rates. It's becoming so saturated that once again the option is there to create a new genre. Think of a bookstore. They could easily fill one entire shelf with both sets of books.

Goodreads has a list of 749 books with 'Girl' on the title. Here are just a few examples.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
The Girl Who Played with Fire
Girl With A Pearl Earring
Girl, Interrupted
Gone Girl
The Other Boleyn Girl
The Girl On The Train
The Girl Who Fell From The Sky
Girls On Fire
Girls In The Dark

So where does this fascination come from? Most of these stories feature female protagonists facing a dilemma. A girl becomes a woman through experience, growth, maturity. When you strip away everything we've learned it can be said that we revert to our earlier personalities, to a time of innocence, giving up the chance to learn anew with a clean slate. Really, you can justify anything. It's a marketing ploy, just like having 'Princess' in the title was hugely popular for young female readers. 

'Girl' is a buzz word at the moment that is a proven seller. Publishers are even encouraging authors of psychological thrillers with female protagonists to put the word 'Girl' in the title, as this is a clear branding that speaks to female readers.

Buzz words - the publishing industry loves them. I once attended a convention and a publisher stated that she published the book "Jane Austen's Book Club" because it had 'Jane Austen' in the title, which to them was a proven seller. Given this information, I could combine all three elements and create a best selling book "The Girl Who Was Jane Austen".

Booklist created this list of all the titles with 'Girl' in the title since 2009. You can read the full list here.

So, given that it's a buzz word and a title that sells books, perhaps I should retitle my books.

"The Girl Who Woke Up In Purgatory"
"Feedback Girl"
"Little Red Gem Girl"
"Curious Girl"
 "Poison in the Girl"
"Welcome to the Apocalypse, Girl".

What do you think? Is the overuse of the word 'Girl' in the title ruining it for readers, or do we have no choice but to get caught up in the use of  publishing buzz words. Have you titled your book with 'Girl' and did you feel pressure to do so or were you happy with your title choice.

I love hearing your thoughts on this topic. It doesn't seem to be slowing down, but what are your fears about the future of this buzz word?

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Coffee chat with Aussie short story author Sean O'Leary

Joining me in my virtual café today is Australian author Sean O'Leary, who has twice been short listed for the Booranga Prize for Fiction and his novella 'Drifting' won the 'Busybird Publishing Great Novella Search' and will be published in July, 2017. He is also a regular contributor of short fiction to 'Quadrant'.

Sean writes stories that are based on his real life experiences and people he meets. A lot of his stories are based on the time he spent in Kings Cross, Sydney working the midnight to dawn shift as a night manager.

Please make Sean welcome, and settle down with your hot beverage to read about an Aussie indie author and his journey.

DL: Firstly, since this is a coffee chat, how do you have your coffee (or not as has been the case)? And what is your favourite time of the day to partake?

SEAN: Very strong and from a Nespresso machine at 5.30am

DL: You write short stories in three genres. Short stories typically allows for a writer to write across genres, whereas novelists tend to (not always) stick to a similar genre or write under a pen name because of perceptions from publishers that this is how it must be done. If you were to suddenly become a full-novelist, would you stick to one genre and fit the story to it, or do you think the story must be written however it comes to you?

SEAN: My novella 'Drifting' is the winner of the 'Busybird Publishing Great Novella Search 2016' and will be published in July/August 2017. It is literary fiction but it is quite gritty although at the heart of the book is a love story. I am currently writing a crime novella but the main protagonist is neither a cop/private eye or criminal. He is an every-man thrown into solving a crime.

DL: You're a fan of the movie Less Than Zero (one of my all time favourites), and the book Bright Lights Big City. Literature changes with the times. We'll never have the 80s again with classic horror movies, big hair, cheesy lines, party and drug scenes that made it seem cool, Jackie Collins. When you read these 'social fiction' books you know they were truly postcards from that era. What do you think a typical 00s 'social fiction' book would be?

SEAN: I read a lot of crime fiction and although they are not strictly 'social fiction' as you call it. Good writers usually make comments on the social problems of the time and on the changing face of cities, including architecture and social issue like homelessness. I like Peter Corris and his books featuring private eye, Cliff Hardy. I also like Garry Disher who writes about cops and criminals from all classes. I also like Tim Winton, his recent novels, Breath and Eyrie made strong social comments. I guess Trainspotting fit the bill too. Even books like Looking for Alibrandi look at social status. Less Than Zero and Bright Lights, Big City were of a time and I love them both so much.

Praise by Andrew McGahan is a gritty piece of Australian writing with lots to say about social drinking and drug taking.

DL: You recently joined a writing group. There are pros and cons of anything. One pro is that feedback can improve writing. One con is that you receive conflicting feedback. How do you manage these two types of feedback? And have you yet had a piece of writing you've just had to think 'no, I can't critique this piece of rubbish'.

SEAN: I gave up on that writing group pretty quickly. I had one person re-writing whole slabs of my fiction and I really know what I'm trying to achieve. I find these groups not much use. I was in one other writing group maybe 6-7 years ago and it wasn't much good either. I couldn't possibly tell someone else their writing was rubbish. Certainly not in a social group situation. I have done workshops with the Victorian Writer's Centre and they have been very, very helpful. I couldn't recommend them highly enough. Each time I have worked with an editor, on my two short story collections, and now on my novella 'Drifting' they have made my books so much better.

DL: You have schizophrenia. Is writing helpful in coping with this condition? And if so, how?

SEAN: I think it informs my writing. I probably have a  slightly different take on the world. Perhaps more paranoid about life in general and the motives of people. I've published a few stories that have had characters with a mental illness and they're great fun to write and writing drives me forward, keeps me going.

DL: And lastly, are you a biscuit or cake kind of person? And what is your favourite biscuit/cake?

SEAN: Oh God! I have such a sweet tooth. I am a biscuit and cake man. Can't beat a a Monte Carlo and I love chocolate mud cake and key lime pie.

"Walking" is a collection of dark, gritty, true-life, crime and science fiction short stories by emerging Australian writer, Sean O’Leary.
Sean O'Leary is a writer from Australia. He has published two short story collections and is a regular contributor of short fiction to Quadrant Magazine and other literary magazines. His short story collection 'Walking' is available now @ and on Amazon. His short story 'Nowhere' was shortlisted for the 2015 Booranga Prize and his novella 'Drifting' won the 'Busybird Publishing Great Novella Search 2016' and will be published in 2017. He has schizophrenia and has lived in many different places around Australia including Yulara, Kakadu National Park, Norseman, Darwin, Carnarvon, Broome, Geraldton and in Sydney (which he loves) and he now lives and writes in Melbourne.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Coffee with with Lyn Spiteri, Aussie author of Ya fantasy Watchful Realm

Welcome to my virtual café. I am sitting down with a black coffee fresh from my plunger. By the time you read this I'll have just finished a radio interview where I've talked about the success of these coffee chats.
Some stats - while many of these authors here drink tea, there are still more coffee drinkers. dropping into my café. Most writers eat either a biscuit or cake, with "anything chocolate" a favourite, and since most of the featured writers are Aussies the Pavlova, the Anzac biscuit, and the Tim Tam get special mentions.

Dropping into my virtual café today is Melbourne based author of young adult fantasy, Lyn Spiteri. Welcome Lyn.
DL: This is a coffee chat. How do you take your coffee, and what is your favourite time of the day to partake?

​LYN: I'm afraid I don't actually drink coffee! I'm definitely a tea drinker though and normally in the morning. In the words of Captain Picard -- though slightly tweaked -- Tea. English Breakfast. Hot. ​

DL: I see that you are a  musician. What instrument do you play? And now that you're writing, do you still have time to play?

LYN: My main instrument is the clarinet, which I love. It is such an expressive and versatile instrument. Thankfully I do have time to play; once a week with my beloved Westgate Concert Band and generally almost every day while sharing the joy of music through my teaching. ​

DL: What made you join a Facebook group for writers? And how helpful has this been to have access to other writers?

LYN: I initially joined to network a little and see what else is out there; what other authors are doing and how they are approaching the entire process. ​It has been really interesting to read the other chats, see what sort of questions get thrown around a community of authors and feel that sense of support. 

DL: Your debut novel "Watchful Realm" is young adult. Was writing for this age group influenced by your day job as a teacher?

LYN: I wouldn't say it was directly influenced, although I would imagine residually I was hopeful that the story would appeal broadly and represent interesting characters for young readers. I remember growing up and finding a large variety of genres and authors appealing as a reader. ​Some of my students have really enjoyed reading the book!

DL: And lastly, are you a biscuit or cake kind of person? And what is your favourite biscuit/cake?

​LYN: It is probably super boring of me but I can't really go past scotch fingers. Cheap, tea-accompanying and simple.  ​

Thanks Lyn. We wish you the best of luck in your future writing.

Lyn Spiteri is a teacher, musician, twin and self-proclaimed Star Wars tragic. She loves car-singing, being a concert band nerd and getting obsessed with television, film and music theatre. She hates parallel parking, people who chew with their mouth open and vapid book heroines.

Lyssa belongs to a generally peaceful population of otherworldly and gifted beings who occupy a world above our own. Lyssa is a Watcher, assigned to document all incarnations of Jasper's existence, and at the end of each life, she visits and assists her charge through their reincarnation. With each rebirth, Jasper forgets Lyssa.
Desperate to save the man she loves, Lyssa pierces the protective Veil between the worlds but an ancient evil of the world above unfurls a vengeful plan of destruction. Jasper and Lyssa struggle to untangle the web of his previous incarnations and realise the extent of their love, which has a very real manifested power in forcing the darkness back
Thank you for stopping by. It's almost biscuit time! D L xox

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Coffee chat with Aussie author, Patricia Leslie

How is everyone settling back into the working week? Slowly, I hope. Slowly and with a cup of hot beverage and a book as your weapons to beat the wolf at the door. Today's coffee chat guest is Patricia Leslie. A visual writer, Patricia dedicates time to exploring locations and allowing snapshot scenes to run through her head before combining them together into one story.
She is also a dedicated, some say compulsive, reader and collector of books. “Being an author gives me the excuse I need to spend my spare time exploring, daydreaming, and reading!"
Welcome Patricia,

DL: As this is a coffee chat, my first question must be, how do you take your coffee (even though I know you don't LOL)? And what is your favourite time of the day to partake?

PATRICIA: I always start my day with a cup of peppermint tea, but I do enjoy a coffee every morning as well. I order a long black (americano) at my local café and sit in the corner with book/IPad/notes and spend up to an hour catching up on news, researching, writing, or just enjoying a relaxing read. For the rest of the day I drink mainly peppermint tea, several cups.

DL: You write your stories running visual scenes through your head. Do movies influence this style of writing or is that just how you've always written books?  

PATRICIA: Yes, coupled with the fact that I am a committed daydreamer (and something of an insomniac) and always have been. I run through lots of different storylines in my head inspired by books, movies, music and lyrics. It helps me put myself in a character’s shoes. Some of those storylines find their way to paper or computer screen, many don't. Quite a few of the inspirations may only appear as snippets or as a character trait. I’m lucky that I eventually graduated to writing some of the “daydreams” down so I could turn them into proper stories.

Ideas come from a wide variety of sources as well though not usually the daydreaming kind. Daydreams are for background and motion. Ideas jump out from their source a little more obviously. For instance, the initial inspiration for the manuscript I'm working on now came from a newspaper article. The initial inspiration for "A Single Light" was a poem by Donald Justice (A Poem to be Read at 3am) and "The Ouroboros Key" from a book by the late Laurence Gardner.

DL: Research trips can often be crucial to the novel. For example, I travelled to Colorado for skiing a few years ago, and had I not enjoyed a stopover in Los Angeles, I wouldn't have solved the major plot hole in my novel "Feedback" (it's based in Los Angeles). How much has field research enhanced or made more credible your storytelling?

PATRICIA: A lot for two reasons: field research helps give a realistic sense of place (streets scenes, buildings, gardens, time period, fashion, food etc etc) and 2: I really love exploring and photography.

Stories and their characters need a sense of place so that readers can relate, imagine themselves in the scenes, and visualise the world the story inhabits. Getting out into the settings allows a writer to share the experience: the feel of sandstone when you drag your fingers along an old wall, the heavy heat trapped by thick bush and tall trees as you walk through; the sound of cicadas, waves hitting rocks, people working on a construction site, the view from a cliff top or the top floor of a tall building. A writer takes those experiences, notes them all and is then able to add realistic description in a few words relaying the sights and sounds and feelings as they know them.

DL: This question is because you write urban fantasy. If, during one of your research trips, you came across a secret society of fantasy creatures what sort of creature would you most like to discover? And would you keep their existence a secret?

PATRICIA: Funny you should say that, as there was this one time I was wandering the back streets of Sydney with my camera looking for ghost signs and there was this narrow cobbly laneway with an odd looking building and the biggest oldest tree I've ever seen….

But to be completely serious: Elves and yes, mostly, I would have to tell my daughters because they would be just as thrilled as me.

DL: You're active in your local writing community. Is speaking at events a piece of cake for you or do you have to work at it? And what has been your most memorable writer event so far as guest or presenter?

PATRICIA: Public speaking is a skill I'm still working on. I'm not a natural by any means. However, I do kind of enjoy it and it does get a little easier each time I force myself to do it.

My most memorable event was a recent Local Author Showcase held in Sutherland. There were six of us and about 20 guests. The best part was listening to what the other authors had to say about their projects, processes, and their love for what they do. It's a learning journey for all of us and having the opportunity to share our achievements and hurdles enables us to grow as writers (and speakers).

DL: And lastly, are you a biscuit or cake kind of person? And what is your favourite biscuit/cake?

PATRICIA: Chocolate Montys and chocolate Peppermint biscuits, but I also really love lemon tarts and fruity muffins….


Patricia Leslie is a fantasy author from Sydney whose writing explores a life-long obsession with history and mythology. She weaves stories that bring to life forgotten people and connects them in a visceral way with our contemporary world.

Patricia’s first novel, The Ouroboros Key, published in 2014, is a modern quest through the Rocky Mountains of Colorado to fulfil an ancient prophecy. A Single Light, published this year, dabbles in horror when a pair of ghouls starts to haunt her local stomping grounds: The Royal National Park where the mild seeming landscape becomes the setting for a potential world-altering event. Walks through the bush will never be the same again! Both novels are published by Odyssey Books, an independent publisher in Canberra.


Facebook: Patricia Leslie Author          

Twitter: @patricialesliea  

Instagram: @patricialeslee


When Rick Hendry is contacted by a federal agent to help investigate a growing number of mysterious vanishings across Australia, he finds
himself immersed in a world where normal is a very narrow view of
reality. The two men are joined by a doctor, an archeologist, a
journalist, and an Afflür Hunter.

They soon discover that in the bush, south of Sydney, among the
beach goers, walkers and picnickers, a menace grows. The mysterious
Bledray monsters are preparing for a Gathering; a feast of epic
proportions. Only the Afflür Hunter and Guardians can stop them,
but their strength is failing and humans are needed to help prevent a
second devastation.

"A Single Light" is an urban fantasy tale of ghoulish monsters and
non-human protectors battling to save humanity amid the spectacular
and rugged landscapes of the Royal National Park south of Sydney.


Don't forget to leave a review if you're read any of these Aussie authors' books.
Thanks to Patricia and to you for stopping by my virtual café.
Cheers for now