A Steamy Christmas, out today

A Steamy Christmas for the CEO (1) (1)

 

 

Shannon Slique is my spicy/erotic author alter-ego.  Today, she  has her first standalone novella out on virtual bookshelves.

It’s a lot spicy so definitely only for over 18s, but it’s a romance so there’s the happy ending to look forward to.

A Steamy Christmas for the CEO  is available at the introductory price of $US2.24. It’s a Romance on the Go title at Evernight Publishing, so you can read it on your lunch break.

Let me know what you think – through a review on your favourite ebook site or by leaving a comment here.

 

The High Concept

The high concept is a construct with which I’ve struggled as a new entrant to fiction writing, so today I went looking for some down to earth advice.

I found quite a lot of useful information on a site called #writersstore.

Two writers caught my attention. The first was Steve Kaire who provided this succinct 5-point checklist for what constitutes a High Concept.

https://www.writersstore.com/high-concept-defined-once-and-for-all/

He says the high concept should reflect:

1. Original and Unique Premise

2. Mass audience appeal

3. Story specificity

4. Obvious potential, all in

5. One to three sentences.

Not a big ask at all, really???? Urk. It’s going to take a LOT of practice.

In romance fiction, sometimes it feels like there’s nothing new under the sun, but if one book is to be noticed above another, the high concept needs to be clear in any pitch.

So I tried to find more advice, and again, I landed at #writersstore.

This time, the author of the article was James Bonnet http://www.writersstore.com/conquering-the-high-concept/

This piece offered clear examples. Bonnet’s suggestion is to keep the high concept description to as few words as possible. It should revolve around a fascinating subject, a great title, the inciting action and the hook.

Check out what he says.

There may be hope for me yet!

PitchWars 2019

Well I’ve done it… I’ve entered PitchWars 2019. I looked at it last year but I guess it wasn’t the right time for me to try, so this year I’ve jumped right in.

What is PitchWaPitchWars logors? The PitchWars website explains:

“Pitch Wars is a mentoring program where published/agented authors, editors, or industry interns choose one writer each to mentor. Mentors read the entire manuscript and offer suggestions on how to make the manuscript shine for the agent showcase. The mentor also helps edit their mentee’s pitch for the contest and their query letter for submitting to agents.” https://pitchwars.org/

It gives writers the opportunity to work with folk who really know their stuff. The mentors are in hot demand, and they have lots of authors from which to choose. My chances may be slim, given the competition, but they’re a lot stronger than they were last year when I didn’t apply.

Wish me luck!

 

 

And the big news today is:

emerald pro 2019 finalists

The Emerald Pro is one of the premier awards for Romance Writers of Australia. It is awarded for an unpublished work by a published author writing in a new sub-genre. So each of the entrants has tried out a new style. Perhaps an author usually writes fantasy and they’ve tried something different like historical, or contemporary or paranormal, or the other way around. You get my drift.

The winner will be announced at a Gala Dinner held in conjunction with the annual conference in Melbourne in August. Whatever the outcome, I’m chuffed to be on this list.

It takes a lot of effort organising competitions such as this and RWAus does it magnificently, relying on volunteers like Tracey Rosen who was the curator for this comp in 2019; volunteer judges who offer insightful feedback over two rounds, and the final judge who is an industry professional.  Huge thanks to everyone involved. It’s an awesome program, especially for those of us new to the discipline of writing romantic fiction.

Z is for Zari thread

And as we wind down to the last day of the challenge, it is fitting to focus once more on the beauty of the vibrant nation that is India.

Today, the focus is on manufactured beauty, more particularly, zari – the gold and silver threads that highlight the richness of Indian fabrics. Some information about the production of zari thread can be found here.

You’ll find examples of zari thread most often in brocades worn by men and women on special occasions. But it is also used as a highlight to lift a garment from ordinary to  something more significant. It’s amazing what a little bit of bling can do for an outfit and for the wearer’s outlook.

Perhaps this is the essence of India. Whatever is going on, no matter how mundane the task, there is always a glimmer somewhere: a piece of gold, a hidden gem or a single thread of silver that catches the light and lifts the spirit.  This is what makes India such a wonderful country.

 

 

 

Haiku:
Metal wrapped cotton –
Golden threads that draw the eye
Zari enhances.

 

 

 

Y is for Yummy

Thanks to the brains trust for coming up with this one. It fits perfectly with our experiences of eating in India.

The flavours we experienced there seemed far more vibrant than similar dishes in restaurants at home. That could have been an artefact of the anticipation of eating Indian food in India or it might have been because the spices were fresher and thus more fulsome in their aromas.

Even on a mass-production scale, as at the Sikh Temple (see post S), the fragrances were enough to make our mouths water.

Flavours are important here. There is little that is bland unless that is done deliberately to highlight the particular characteristics of an accompanying dish.  Yet the variety of tastes does not overwhelm.

I can’t say I’m much of a food photographer, so images are sadly lacking for this post, except for the box of spices that we were gifted by the chef at the Oberoi in Agra. It contains the ingredients for Garam Masala, and the fragrance when the box is opened sends the senses into transports of delight.  I handed it over to the customs people on our return to Australia, fully expecting never to see it again, (that’s why I had taken the photo ahead of time), but the contents were inspected and the box was returned to me. I’m so looking forward to the opportunity to try out the spices. It will be hit and miss for me unless I can find a clear recipe, but the experimentation will be fun.

 

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Haiku:
India’s flavours –
Delicate, sharp or fulsome
Delight the palate.

X is for oXen

Uh huh … a little more poetic licence, but I don’t think the rules say that the topic must actually begin with the letter of the day.

So oxen, or more correctly the variety of bovine beasts that we met along the way … In urban areas, we saw a lot of cattle including some smaller, scrawny animals that seemed to be learning, the hard way, about survival of the fittest.

We saw massive brahman-type bulls lazing near the highway. You’ll note in one of the pictures below, the bull has lost a horn and the egret (? – ornithology is not my strong suit) is cleaning the wound.

There were water buffalo too, with their curved horns and agressive reputations, that we saw in the area around Fatephur Sikri. They’re used for work in the fields or for drawing carts. Apparently water buffalo aren’t seen in the same light as cows and thus can be eaten.

The cow is recognised as sacred by Hindu culture and is protected from slaughter. There are concerns about the growing number of stray beasts making their way into cities – both for hygiene reasons and for traffic safety.

 

 

Haiku:
Bovines not equal:
some must work, others may rest.
Lifetime diff’rences.

 

 

 

 

W is for Wind Palace

The Wind Palace, or Hawa Mahal, is in Jaipur. It’s called the wind palace because of its 953 small windows which allow the wind to pass through.

The Mahal is attached to the women’s wing of the City Palace and was built so that the women could look down on the goings on in the street below without being seen themselves.

 

Haiku:
Curious women
Could watch the world going by –
Envy eyes both ways.

V is for Vendors

Vendors in that part of India we were visiting, set up wherever it appeared to be opportune. This could be in makeshift roadside stalls, stalls on carts ready to be moved at a moment’s notice or in more permanent structures.

They sell everything from trishaw rides, to oranges, jewellery or souvenirs, and we happily availed ourselves of their offerings in several places.

Mostly theirs is a benign presence. They might hawk their wares, but leave it to the customer to decide whether they want to buy or not. This is different in places that are obvious tourist traps.

The only occasion where I felt uncomfortably harrasssed was at Fatephur Sikri where the young vendors seemed to hunt in packs and, despite my signalling my disinterest, they persisted.  It was my own fault, I guess. In other countries such as Thailand and France, I had learned enough of the language to say thank you and to tell them to move on. I hadn’t done that here, believing that our guide would be the intermediary. Unlike all the others, the guide we had on this day was impervious to my signals. Lesson learned.  It’s back to making sure that I can speak up for myself, independent of others.

 

<Photos to follow when I have shore-based internet! :( >

Haiku:
No spinning a yarn,
With money thin on the ground,
Pestering might work.

 

U is for Uttar Pradesh

Uttar Pradesh is the northern Indian state in which Agra, home of the Taj Mahal, is located. But we won’t revisit that in today’s blog.

Instead, the other memories of this region, for me, revolve around the street vendors (see tomorrow’s post), the brickworks that dotted the landscape, the tuk tuks that appeared in any town of reasonable size, and the saris.

There were colourful temples that decorated the highways, and wedding venues that appeared wherever a space was available.

Every image was a contrast with my daily life in Australia.

A smorgasbord for each of the senses was here: the feel of fine cloth and the blends of the carpets;  the tastes of the curries and the beer; the sounds of the Adhan, the motorcycles and the vendors; the colours that pleased and images that assaulted; and, the fragrances and odours that demarcated our movement from one part of town to another.

At one level, it makes me regret the blandness of my usual existence.

On another, it prompts me to rediscover what visitors might experience when they come to where I live: the feel of warm sand against bare feet; the smell of the ocean and the sound of the waves; the flavours of food and wine that I take for granted; and the sights – eagles soaring, whales breaching, golden sand, red and yellow lifesaver flags, and the brilliant green of the hinterland.

The point of travel is to learn about other places. It also helps us to appreciate the freedom and familiarity of what we have at home.

.

 

Haiku:
Uttar Pradesh state
stretches to Himalayas:
taste, touch, hear, smell, see.