ICYMI: #RWAus22 – Baby, we’re back!

I’m still here, see <waving>

See, in case you might have missed it, there’s been a bit going on in the world since, oh, I don’t know, March 2020 (and, honestly, in my family from a bit before that). Which means I’ve not been here as much as I’d have liked… But I’m back!

And earlier this week I was over on the Breathless in the Bush blog, talking about my takeaways from the #RWAus22 conference. Our first national, in person, conference in THREE YEARS!


OMG! I won an award…

IMG_6804Last night I was HONOURED to receive the Romance Writers of Australia’s Lynne Wilding Award for Meritorious Service.

While I have to admit to being a bit bummed that we weren’t all together for the awards, it’s probably a good thing as who knows what babble might have spilled from my lips! Knowing the other nominees, I certainly did not think I would win, I did not give any thought to what I might say if I did win and I probably would have had a drink or two (or maybe three or four) by the time the announcement rolled around. So, it’s probably a good thing that I’ve had time to sleep on my ‘acceptance speech,’ so to speak.

But, I do want to say something. I promise I won’t take too much of your time.

I want to start by acknowledging the other finalists. I KNOW how hard all of the nominees have worked, or are working, for our organisation, squeezing time from all of their other commitments, and I want them to know that their contribution is seen and APPRECIATED.

Our organisation is a membership driven organisation. We have one part time paid employee, and we aren’t rolling in dough. We can ONLY continue to grow and thrive if our members step up to the plate. And there are plenty of opportunities for members to do that.

So, if you are already volunteering in some way, shape, or form, THANK YOU. And I see you.

If you aren’t, why not?

117391634_10159547209911808_964694527113813950_oI completely get that we’re all busy. I care for my Mum (my Dad passed away last year). I work full time (sometimes more than full time). I have family commitments, friend commitments, wanting to curl up and introvert commitments. I eek out time to write (and, frankly, lately, it’s not been a lot). But I also take time in my schedule to volunteer.

I’ve volunteered at conferences to help with newbies, I’ve introduced presenters, read from the slush pile and organised and manned the pitch desk (with a friend!). I’ve judged contest entries, I’ve coordinated contests, I’ve taken on the judge coordinator role, and now I’ve put my hand up for committee.

I volunteer because I think it’s IMPORTANT. And because if I don’t, who will? I mean, I can’t expect everyone else to carry the load just so that I can enjoy all the fun.

And so, I’m putting out a call to arms.

If you’ve got other stuff going on in your life, I get it, I really do. But if you truly think RWA is valuable (and I’m assuming you do if you’re a member) there’s always SOMETHING you can do. It doesn’t have to be massive.

Start by putting your hand up to judge a comp (yeah, I know, this one’s near and dear to my heart -we’re always looking for judges). All you have to do is read some great stories and give some KIND feedback. Some of our comp entries are really short. And you don’t have to read hundreds. Two, or three or four will do. A couple of hours of your time.

If you can commit a bit more time, think about Committee, or some of the other volunteer roles that are going around online at the moment. If you don’t know what’s up, contact me, or anyone on the Committee and ask. We might sometimes be slow at coming back to you because… you know… life, but we will.

68284523_862568540779923_419858900297187328_nAnd, when conference rolls around again, think about putting your hand up to help there too.

Because RWA doesn’t work unless you do.

And I really want RWA to work.

After #RWAus20… What’s Next?

ViewBecause of COVID-19, the Romance Writers of Australia took their conference online this year with five full days of jam-packed craft and business sessions.

With the benefit of all online sessions, conference goers got to ‘see’ everything and, frankly, I think we should all be careful what we wish for… It’s funny how, even when you’re just sitting at watching, and not engaging in all the social extras that you’d have at an in-person conference, you’re as exhausted by the end of it as you would have been had you been there in person!


Anyway, despite the conference exhaustion and general day job woes, I’ve been trying to process all my takeaways and tips and trying to figure out how I can fold all these into my writing practice. And, of course, I figured I needed to blog about the experience.

So, here goes, my top fifteen takeaways from #RWAus20 (I was going to try and get to 20 because, you know 2020, but too many words!)

  1. Storytellers are bestsellers.

Day one of the conference was a full day workshop presented by Liz Pelletier of Entangled Publishing. I’m going to say here that I’m aware Entangled has had some questions asked of it over the last 18 months or so, but even acknowledging those, I’m a fan of Liz’s style. She has a clear way of working and she’s not shy about it. And she prioritises a good story – which is where we get our first takeaway – Storytellers are bestsellers. This is pretty true. Think of Fifty Shades, or Twilight. They’re not the best crafted books ever written, but both authors spin a tale that clearly engages readers.

  1. Voice is everything

Another piece of wisdom from Liz. And again, I think this is true. You can teach craft (to a greater or lesser extent). But, you can’t teach voice as easily (if at all). And if the voice isn’t there, the story’s pretty boring…

  1. Define what success means for you.

Despite this being #3, it’s actually what’s been taking up most of my thinking following the conference. What do I want to achieve in my writing career? Not what do others think I should achieve – but what DO I WANT? I’m pretty sure the answer to this is hybrid author bringing in enough money to reduce the day job to part time (as much as I whinge about it, I like the day job, and it provides plenty of material for books) but I’m still refining that thought.

  1. Edit less. Write more. Rewrite rather than edit.

Another takeaway that burned straight into my soul. I’m a perfectionist writer – and while I’m working on those tendencies, I do tend to like to have things (be that chapter, paragraph or sentence) ‘right’ before I move on. That said, the more I edit, the more I lose my voice… and/or the story I’m trying to tell becomes a jumbled mess, and so I need to write – or rewrite – more, rather than editing.

  1. Don’t be afraid to rework or repurpose anything.

I have SO MUCH stuff on my hard drive. I’m keen to see what I can turn it into… I’m particularly hoping to repurpose some shorts into an anthology next year. They’re better on Amazon and its ilk than on my hard drive… they can’t be bestsellers there!

  1. First impressions count.

I did know this, but Tanera Simons, Agent at Darley Anderson made the point in her session on agents and the slush pile and it bears repeating.


Don’t try to be clever with your agent submission. Be professional.

  1. Work smarter not harder. Keep it simple, stupid.

Well, no shit Sherlock. This also resonated given I’d just completed Becca Syme’s Write Better-Faster course as I came into #RWAus20. But hours sitting staring at the manuscript (or, more correctly, scrolling on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram) is not ‘working’ no matter how good I am at it. And I’m REALLY good at it. So, now I’m working on trying a few new process tricks to see if I can get more words on the page. I’ll let you know how I go…

  1. The hard stuff. The STAKES.

We all know, to get to the Happy Ever After, we have to pass through the Dark Night of the Soul (or whatever you call your bleak moment). This is where I get perpetually stuck. Even though I have Anne Gracie’s voice in my head telling me to ‘make it worse’ I don’t like making my characters suffer. I just like giving them all the sex. But I digress.

I’m going to HAVE to work on my STAKES. Because stakes are EVERYTHING.

  1. Write the books. Get them out there. Do it again.

This is how publishing – traditional or self – works, right? I have lots of half finished stuff. And I think it’s okay. But unless I get it finished, and in the hands of readers, I’m not actually an author, right? Time to WRITE THE BOOKS.


  1. Ellipses can be a crutch word. Who knew?

I use ellipses… and em-dashes­— ALL THE TIME. And all the editors out there just flinched. I know. Sorry. I particularly love ellipses and em-dashes in dialogue. My characters are always trailing off… or cutting each other—


I’m hilarious.

I’ll limit them. I promise.

  1. Cut the boring bits from your dialogue

As Rachael Bailey told us… dialogue isn’t real speech. We don’t need the boring bits. Cut!

  1. Stop blogging.

Hahaha. I saved the best for almost last… I’m unlikely to stick to this one because I like chatting to you all from time to time. But, I won’t be holding myself (or, at least, trying to hold myself) to a schedule. I’m just going to keep on popping by when I have something to tell you. Eventually, I’ll shift this to a newsletter… but am going to focus on getting the words done first.

  1. Online conferencing is worse for my bank account than an in person one…

I bought WAY TOO MANY books because, you know, my Amazon account was RIGHT THERE as people mentioned them.

Oh, and, do you like my new t-shirts… I blame Tanya Nellestein and Kerrie Starbuck…

If you also want to match, check out jordandene.com Photos also from jordandene.com.

  1. Delight in the dull.

So, the order in which I’ve attacked these takeaways is a little all over the place. But I wanted to finish with a few other points from Anna Hackett’s keynote, which closed #RWAus20 on Sunday night – and was fabulous.


  1. Romance sells joy.

Life in the time of COVID-19 has been hard work. Everyone’s had their trials and tribulations – and they’ve been different for everyone. I’m still counting my chickens. My family is well, thankfully, and I can still work from home. Both of which make me very privileged in the current environment.

But to balance the dark, there is always some light. And hopefully, for some, that has been romance. Romance sells joy (so said Liz Pelletier). We’re writing, and selling, the fantasy of the billionaire, the brother’s best friend, the friend turned lover, the enemy turned lover, the happy ever after.

My peeps at #RWAus19… joyful exhaustion…!

We are selling JOY, damnit.

And the world needs more of it.

So, go forth, Romancelandia, and spread your JOY!

My Dad…

54433696_260191091586262_3790410137387139072_nSix months ago today my Dad passed away.

And today, I’m sharing his eulogy.


For those of you who may not know me, I’m Kristine, and I’m the baby.

When I started to think about what I would say at this time, it was the middle of 2019 and Dad was still with us, beginning the seventh week of his longest hospital stay. Understandably, he was feeling pretty frustrated although he could still count backwards from 100 in sevens.

I needed a pen. And my fingers.

Despite his frustration, I’d have been quite happy if he’d stayed safely tucked away in his favourite hospital room, watching the planes and being monitored in hospital forever. The doctors and nurses at St George Private, and St George Public, who have spent time looking after him have been wonderful and have kept him going until he couldn’t go anymore. I can’t possibly name all of them, but special call out to Dr Lynch, Fiona, and Nurse Chris, and Dr G and all the nurses on Level 4 at St George Private Hospital.

They helped him keep going, and he amazed them – and us – at every turn.

None of them could understand how he managed to survive the extraordinarily high potassium counts.

Or the extraordinarily low sugar counts.

Or could fault his ever-present sense of humour.

Every time some poor nurse asked him what he was allergic to, the answer was… women.

He also apparently told highly inappropriate jokes to poor Nurse Chris, who was the only person he ever wanted to change his catheter. No one else ever did it right. And none of the jokes are suitable for polite company.

But at that first hospital admission back in September 2018, we knew we wouldn’t have him much longer.

We were so lucky to have had him for another 14 months.

History IMG_4908_Original

Dad – born Cecil John Thomas was named after an uncle and known throughout his life as variants of Cec, Jack, John and CJ – was born in 1935, the first son of parents William Charles and Ivy Mavis. He was the first of four kids – followed by twins Julia and Helen and then baby Josephine.

He grew up in Redfern – a much different place to what it is now – married twice and had five kids – Sue, Bob, Natalie, Darren and me, and seven grandchildren – Nicolette, Timothy, Rachel, Tamika, Cody, Bailey and Ruby and a few kids-in-law – Michael, Donna, Ryan and Hayden.

He was so proud of his kids and grandkids, even if he did give a few of them a hard time about climate change from time to time. He liked to call it weather.

He loved being a little contrary, to play a little Devil’s Advocate. He loved seeing how we’d argue back and engage and fight for what we believed in. Even if he didn’t always agree.

He was the best essay editor I had through University. And I think he liked learning as he read. He’d always been a thinker.

After finishing school at Sydney Boys High, he won a Commonwealth Scholarship and studied Economics at the University of Sydney. Later he studied Actuarial Studies at Macquarie University, and at the University of New England.

While studious when growing up, Dad also played a lot of sport.

He claimed to have played rugby league, rugby union, tennis, squash, golf, cricket, soccer, ten pin bowling, basketball, and netball, although I’m still not convinced he played netball, despite his insistence. He was also a rather good hurdler at school – which given his height topped out at about five foot eight or nine, and the fact that he most certainly never had long hurdler legs – surprises me to this day.

After leaving school (where GPS union was the rugby of choice) he played league for the Chelsea United Rugby League Football Club. He played with a few of my uncles and it wasn’t that long ago that I heard the story about him combining with my Uncle Rod to score for Chelsea in front of 40,000 people on the hallowed turf of the Sydney Cricket Ground.

What I wouldn’t give to have seen that!

They used to call him something like the ‘little high-top winger’ and he played against today’s rugby league royalty, having fronted up to Nick Moriatis when he played.

He played President’s Cup for the Bunnies, and he’d have loved to have played first grade for the Rabbits instead of going into the corporate world, but he ended up retiring due to an unfortunate ingrown toenail that gave him trouble – an injury earned during National Service.

Though, if he’d played first grade, he’d probably have gotten into trouble for talking back to the refs – at least, he would have if the last few years were anything to go by. The NRL refereeing drove him nuts – to the point he actually gave up his season tickets at the Sharks.

But he’d still watch. And occasionally we convinced him to come to a game.

And sorry – even though he loved them, I think the Sharkies were always his second team. He was a Rabbitoh at heart.

More recently, while we were walking the corridors of St George Private Hospital – I liked to nag him until he went for a walk – he told me about tackling some guy who was bigger than him – which probably wasn’t that unusual given, as I said, Dad would never have been considered a tall man in stature – during one game. Dad tells me it took some doing but he’d tackled the guy around one leg, and the guy had managed to get a pass away before going down. When they’d both got up from the tangle of the tackle the guy patted Dad on the head (probably ruffled that fabulous hair), said ‘good try’ and jogged away.

Dad was pretty persistent. I reckon he might have gotten him the next time around.

Dad worked at the Commonwealth Bank before moving into the insurance industry, working at Legal & General and later Mercantile Mutual/ING.

Dad didn’t have an issue with telling truth to power. It got him into trouble at least once when he challenged a manager about a decision to send a particular letter. He was the only one to ask why they were sending it in the first place. A good question but a career limiting move.

But he got on with life.

And he instilled in us a sense that people were just people.

And we were pretty much all the same.

That being said, Dad didn’t have a big issue with nepotism, at least when it came down to his kids. Dad signed my first ever pay cheque in the early nineties when I got a summer holiday job working at Merc. I think he might have signed Darren’s first pay cheque too – at least his first ‘full time gig’ one. I’m not sure what Daz did with his, but I promptly cashed mine and bought a discman.

It was a little later that Dad’s lessons on saving and investment rubbed off.

Dad drove to work every day and, working at Merc meant that I often travelled home from work with Dad. He’d also pick me up from Uni from time to time. And there was one ‘Rule of CJ’ that he drummed into us during those drives. Don’t be impatient in traffic. Whenever you’d be in the car with him and there was someone else was dodging in and out of the traffic, he’d tell you to just watch. And, almost without fail, you’d pull up at a set of lights a few minutes later and the dodger would be next to you.

And he’d make sure to point them out. Dodging traffic never got you there faster. Patience was a virtue.

Dad grew up with a love of horse racing, running bets for his grandmother to the SP bookies down the street. He started his kids gambling young, I started at three or four. I think it was something about the numbers that attracted him. Working out the probabilities, studying the form.

That said, I started picking the horses by colour of the jockeys, or by name, and taking the Kirrawee TAB mascot bear Winston home for the weekend. Winston was huge (at least he was huge to me at the time). And Dad would always pay for the bets but, if I won, I’d have to pay him back before I could keep the winnings. I actually thought that was pretty fair and carried this arrangement a fair way into my teenage years!

In later years, before the TAB moved with the times and allowed you to choose your maximum spend, I’d have to call Dad and ask him to do the maths on my bets. I never could work out the multiplication for six horses in a box trifecta for the Melbourne Cup.

I still can’t. But I bet if I’d have asked him this year, he’d have got it spot on.

IMG_0414_OriginalHe’d always wanted a horse – which he finally got at eighty-something (at least a leg or so anyway) but we’ll come back to that.

He was also pretty laid back most of the time – eating any number of pink scones that I baked, or letting Natalie, Darren and I draw all over the walls of the unit at Jannali.

In hindsight, that was a bad idea… when he tried to wallpaper it before moving to Kareela, the texta kept bleeding through the paper… whoops.

He was also pretty tolerant every time my precocious-self corrected his pronunciation of dinosaur names, trashed the lounge room with sheets for a cubby or when I assigned places at the Sunday night family dinner table and made people change seats – much to the annoyance of other family members.

Dad indulged me a lot.

He’d tell me about walking to the corner store on Sundays as a kid and buying individual Arnott’s Montes. One for each of the family members living in the tiny three-bedroom house at 813 Bourke Street. He’d talk about the struggle not to eat his on the way home.

He preferred his ice cream Blue Ribbon, his margarine Meadow Lea and his chocolate Cadbury’s. He had such a sweet tooth… There was ALWAYS a block or two or more of Cadbury’s in the fridge.

And he was easily convinced to stop and buy ice cream and/or chocolate of an afternoon when he was taking me home. It became quite the ritual…

There was also the time he let Natalie, Darren and I order breakfast our first morning in Los Angeles in 1987. Dangerous letting the kids order breakfast – especially kids who didn’t really understand pancake stacks and couldn’t all agree on what to eat. We ended up with plates full of food. PLATES. Pancakes, doughnuts, buttermilk biscuits. We could have eaten for days. Another whoops!

He could have a horrible sense of direction and distance. He’d get lost on the casino floor in Vegas, though, to be fair, casino floors are designed to be hard to navigate and I’m actually not sure whether the getting lost was accidental or deliberate given his phase of love for the poker machines. They seemed to appeal to his mathematical mind, even though that mind knew the House always won.

Then, showing further issues with distance, on our first or second night in Vegas on a family trip in 1997 Dad decided that we’d walk to a casino where we were booked to see a show. It’d be faster than a cab he said.

Yeah, no. It wasn’t.

In fact, Google tells me it was four point six kilometres. A 59-minute walk. Or thereabouts.

And it’s cold at night in Vegas in January. Really cold.

So cold that, the next day, we hit the outlets for scarves and gloves instead of cheap Reeboks and perfume.

He loved encouraging us to see the world. He’d always ask me where I was planning my next trip, or where my favourite place was. He wanted to know we were living our best lives.

The thing I will miss the most is going to Dad for advice. He always gave the best advice but it was always simple and straightforward, never fancy or overwrought.

I’ve always known that Desiderata – A Way of Life by Max Erhmann was a poem he loved, but the words never really resonated for me until last week, and it’s probably because, when I read it again, it sounded exactly like him.

So, today, in closing, I wanted to share it with you.

Because, at the bottom of it all, while he wasn’t perfect, this is how Dad tried to live.

GO PLACIDLY amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore, be at peace with God, whatever you conceive them to be. And whatever your labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.

Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.

Love you Dad xx



#TBT – Chicken Dinner

Recently, like a lot of other people, I have been #pandemiccleaning and #pandemicorganising – which has included trying to consolidate the mess that is all over the house, stored in various drawers, cupboards and boxes.

Which means I’ve been finding some great stuff!

This week – for #throwbackthursday – I’m sharing a short story I wrote in year nine called CHICKEN DINNER.

This has been transcribed, as is, from the original. Please excuse my complete lack of respect for apostrophes, and full stops.

Mature farmer giggling and looking at hen jumping out of basket with fresh eggsI can’t believe it, out of all the chickens in the farm yard, they had to choose me for Sunday dinner, didn’t they. Really, I’ve always dreaded this moment, I mean, who wants to be roasted. It’s not a driving ambition that every chicken has, so why do we get roasted. I’ll tell you, we get roasted to feed some greedy family at the Sunday family meal.

I knew it was going to be me yesterday, when the farmer came out and moved me into a pen right outside the back door. A while later the farmers wife came out and began to pluck out all my feathers. How painful! Imagine plucking your eyebrows and magnify the pain a few hundred times, not a nice experience, I can tell you. I spent the night freezing cold, with no feathers and they didn’t even give me a blanket.

scared_chickenNothing happened until late this afternoon when the farmer came for me again, this time to chop my head off. He wasn’t doing this one easily. As soon as he opened the gate I was off and running! The farmer chased me round and round the farm yard until he lost all his puff, so then he called his kids. There were four of them and it didn’t take long for them to catch me. The eldest boy held me on the chopping block while the farmer chopped off my head. If you thought being plucked was unpleasant try having your head chopped.

As soon as they’d chopped my head off, the farmer cleaned me out, everything, heart, lungs, stomach, the lot. That farmer has no respect for the dead. The he hands me over to his wife so she can cut me into pieces, easier for her to cook, that’s what she told her youngest daughter. She gets to chop me to bits, to make life easier for her.

After I was chopped to pieces, she rolled the bits of me in flour to help crisp up my skin, when she cooked me. When all this was done she laid all my pieces out on a baking tray and put me in the oven.

roasted chickenI’ve been in the oven about fifteen minutes and it’s really just like a very hot sauna, although it’s not very nice, sitting in all this fat and not only is the oven hot but the tray is starting to get very hot and it is burning my bottom, ouch! Oh, look, the farmers wife is coming to take me out now, I’m about to be eaten, oh, help, no, please don’t eat me, no, no!

© Kristine Charles 2020