Breakout 4: The Dark Side: Psychology, psychopathy and stalking – RWAus14

August 26th, 2014

I have to admit that I had a great time at the dinner on Saturday night, and went to a room party afterwards.  I decided to sleep in a bit on Sunday morning so I missed the first session of the day (which was noted as TBA in my schedule anyway), and got there in time for my first breakout session.


The Dark Side:  Psychology, psychopathy and stalking

Professor Karl Roberts

  • Chair and Profess of Policing and Criminal Justice, University of Western Sydney
  • Professor of Criminal Justice and Criminology, University of Massachusetts, MA
  • Expert witness in the UK

This was an excellent, informative session, and provided a lot of information and ideas for those writing crime, suspense, romantic suspense, mystery, thriller or other sub-gentres in the crime category.  Over all I would say it was one of the best all weekend, aside from the Friday workshop.

HOWEVER – and I don’t want to direct this at anyone specific (and I probably wouldn’t know their names anyway) – it also suffered from one of my pet hates.

Professor Roberts took questions from the floor from the start.  People were asking specific questions that presumably related to what their own story.  He jumped to the end of his presentation and despite saying he would go back, he didn’t really.  The whole presentation got derailed by those who only wanted to discuss psychopathy because it related to their own writing.  A lot of the information in his slides wasn’t even shown to us let alone discussed (I think a lot of it was on the psychology, but I’m not sure).

While I had some questions myself, I refrained from asking them at the time.  He provided us with his email address and said he was happy to answer questions we have that way.  I hope that in the future people will be less selfish about hogging the presenter’s time, because I for one was extremely frustrated we missed out on so much content.

And I would suggest that in future, all questions other than clarifications be kept to the end.

And now, on to the presentation we did get:

What do forensics psychologists do?

  • focus on human behaviour
  • assessment
  • human performance
  • explanation of motivation
  • clinical – psychological problems
  • forensic – specific application to crime and offending


Keynote address: Cherry Adair – RWAus14

August 10th, 2014

Cherry Adair is an award-winning and best-selling South African American romantic fiction writer. She lives near Seattle, Washington.

She is a six-time finalist for the RITA Award given by Romance Writers of America, and she has been nominated for the Career Achievement Award for Romantic Suspense from Romantic Times two times. Her book Hide and Seek tied at number eight with author Nora Roberts for Romance Writers of America Top Ten Books of the Year in 2001.

Has series that involves operatives in Terrorist Force Logistical Assault Command (T-FLAC), a fictional secret counter-terrorist force, started in 1994.

Cherry is a funny, entertaining, and engaging speaker with great sense of humour (in a dry self deprecating way that fits with my sense of humour).  She kept getting off on tangents, and distracted herself a lot.   Talks often about bringing ‘the 5 year old in her out’ (5 on the inside, sometimes 3).

Wrote 17 books before she sold

  • all a learning curve
  • don’t think what you are doing is a waste of time
  • try not to get frustrated

Despite the chaos, she gave a very interesting presentation, the rest is below. (more…)

Writing the knockout novel: Pt 7 – RWAus14

August 10th, 2014

How to write Dazzling Dialogue for your characters.


  • Dialogue is a compression and extension of action


The 8 essentials:

1. It has an agenda
Every character who says something in a scene should want something
A way to create instant conflict is to have characters express different agendas via dialogue

2. Flows from character to character
Make it sound natural, what that character would say
Don’t do an info dump via dialogue

3. Conflict or tension

4. Just right in tone

5.  Just right for each character:

  • Vocabulary (education, social class)
  • Expressions (peer group, regionalisms)
  • Syntax (word order, native vs non native speaker)

6. Try to put something unpredictable in every scene
Might be an action (egtapdancing on a boardroom table)
Might say something unpredictable

7. Compressed
Cut it back
More white space for reader
Make it less wordy

8. Subtext
Like an iceburg
Scene is taking place on the surface
What is not said is based on what is below the surface

  • Eg Character web
  • Back story
  • Theme

More details under the break


RWA Conference kicks off – RWAus14

August 8th, 2014

The professional writers workshop was on today, so I wasn’t required.  For the past few years Penguin has hosted a cocktail party on the Thursday night, but for some reason this year they did not.  And by the time I found that out (and confirmed I had today off work), the fundraising Literacy High Tea was booked out.

So today was gym, chiro, cardmaking, family dinner – in fact the usual kind of Thursday for me, minus going to work.

Anyway, holding with past traditions, here is my program for tomorrow. I shall do updates at various time, both here and on twitter – we are using #RWAus14, and I am synaesthezia there also.

Note:  last year I didn’t go to the writers workshop (Kim Hudson, The Virgin’s Journey), I went to the Elizabeth Jolley Conference instead, which was being held concurrently with the writers workshop, and looked at romance writing and academia.  I really had a fab time at that, however that was the first time an academic stream had been offered (by Curtain University), and this year there is nothing similar.    That is fine, the James Scott Bell workshop looks quite interesting – although I think Alexandra Sokoloff’s ‘Screenwriting Tips for Authors’ workshop in 2012 is going to take a lot to beat.  I have structured my writing around what she suggested, down to the system cards (well the ones on Scrivener), and it really makes structure flow easily.

But I digress.  Here is the timetable for tomorrow:


Registration opens

Arrival Tea & Coffee


This Knockout Novel Workshop will get you into the deep tissue of your fiction. You’ll learn the tool and techniques of the masters, including:

  • What plot is really all about
  • The power of disturbance and doorways
  • How to write scenes with no dull parts
  • Creating “jump off the page” characters
  • The fastest way to improve your manuscript
  • The essentials of great dialogue
  • The secret of voice

Trials of a First Time Author *bonus session


  • 10.00-10.20 – Morning Tea
  • 12:00-13.00 – Lunch
  • 14.30-15.00 – Afternoon Tea

Leather & Lace Cocktail Party


Romance, Romantic Love, and the ‘want of a fortune’

August 18th, 2013

Helen Fordham (Notre Dame University) and Barbara Milech (Curtain University) – Romance, Romantic Love, and the ‘want of a fortune’

– Contemporary popular romance has a generic history – it is anchored in the rise of the novel
– like the 18th century novel, popular romance purveys bourgeois assumptions and values in regard to women, they are citices, they are sexual beings, they find ideal love (and economic security) in heterosexual marriage
– women find pleasures in reading popular romance – both the please of reading with the grain of romance, and that of reading against the grain

Sex and Sensibility: The pursuit and recognition of reality through analysis of romance fiction in popular culture

August 18th, 2013

Bridget Ransome (University of South Australia) – Sex and Sensibility:  The pursuit and recognition of reality through analysis of romance fiction in popular culture

– The notion of ‘culture’ is often applied to such things as classical works of literature, music and the arts, with the term ‘cultured’ considered applicable to an elite level within society of attached to a desired aspiration.

– ‘Pop-culture’ as a sub-genre is often viewed as the poor relation to ‘culture’, made up of the bits left over once high culture has been determined

– if this concept is applied to romance fiction, then it might be seen as the remnant ‘low-brow’ writing within the ‘high-brow’ world of literature

– an analysis of the concept of ‘low-brow’ fiction alludes to writing with descriptors such as escapist fiction, slapstick, camp, pornography and exploitation

– however by pop culture reinvents, reinterprets and revisions the meaning of romance and the romance novel – from myth, through the Renaissance, Romantic and Victorian period, through to contemporary wrigin

– it may be possible to assess how social forces and popular culture have contributed to the creation of the romance literary genre, and whether romance in turn is representative of reality


Destabilising Divides and Re-imagining Subjectives: The Romance of Eloisa James

August 17th, 2013

Helen Fordham (Notre Dame University) – Destabilising Divides and Re-imagining Subjectives:  The Romance of Eloisa James

First of all, there was a session between Jennifer Kloester’s Heyer panel and this one. Dr Rachel Robertson of Curtin University did a presentation called Counting on love?: mental illness and romantic engagement in Toni Jordan’s Addition.  It was quite an interesting talk on how mental illness such as OCD and aspergers etc are not usually depicted in novels, especially in romance.  I did listen but I didn’t really take notes nor have I read the book that was being referenced, so I don’t have anything to write up.  However if people are interested in exploring this topic, it looks like an area of potential growth.

And so on to the presentation by Helen Fordham of Notre Dame University

Romance is (still) bad for you – Critics say that:
– bad influence on woken
– poor health and relationship decisions
– give women unrealistic views about what to expect about a relationship


Writing History, reflecting history: Georgette Heyer’s Recency Novels in Context

August 17th, 2013

Dr Jennifer Kloester (University of Melbourne) –  Writing History, reflecting history:  Georgette Heyer’s Recency Novels in Context

b 1902
d 1974
– has never been out of print since 1919 (The Black Moth)
– changing perceptions of her work – her own, publisher, reader
– 20th century woman with Edwardian perceptions
– wrote novels in different genres – confident, clear sighted writer
5 novels in the first four years of her writing life in different genres (up to the death of her father)
The Black Moth (historical)
The Great Rocks Heist
The Transformation of Philip Jetan (pseudonym)
Instead of the Thorn (contemporary) – title comes from Isiah, classical education reference
Simon the Coldheart (historical)

Many of her titles have Shakespearean titles, assumptions about her readers (Behold here’s poison, Envious Casca etc)

Swashbuckling girls and foppish men: the unusual pleasures of Georgette Heyer’s Regency Romances

August 17th, 2013

Jade Armstrong (Curtain University) –  Swashbuckling girls and foppish men:  the unusual pleasures of Georgette Heyer’s Regency Romances

Jane is a lecturer at Curtain University.  Her PhD thesis and research interests focus on adolescent femininity and popular culture, and one of the things that interests her about Heyer books is how they belong to the heroines.  Despite their archly conservative author, the Regency romances in particular feed the reader’s proto-feminist desire to engage with action and power.

The inconvenient truths of the female body present no problems for Heyer’s masquerading heroines who pass into male domains unhampered by binding breasts or visiting the toilet.  Moreover, the vainglorious heroes are the object of the female gaze as reader, heroine and narrator examine their clothes and demeanor before acquiescing to marriage.

– several novels have heroine dressed as a male for a long time
– only the hero notices that it is a woman dressed as a male, displaying the acuity of his masculine gaze
– it is a textual rather than sexual discovery (they do not engage in sexual activities)
– female characters are unhampered by the visible effects of female bodies while they are dressed as males (eg breasts, menstrual cycles) and are able to engage in male style activities such as rapier fighting unhampered


Exploring women and modalities of power in fiction: escaping the straightjacket of genre into digital space

August 17th, 2013

Dr Lynn Allen  – Exploring women and modalities of power in fiction:  escaping the straightjacket of genre into digital space

– when a subject is highly controvertial, one cannot hope to tell the truth.  One can only hope to show how one came to hold one’s own opinion – Virginia Woolf

Modalities of Power
– personal, creative, political, knowledge, cultural, social, physical, positional, economic, etc

For most of history, Anonymous was a woman – Virginia Woolf

warrior queen vs keeper of the home
queen of the dark (Persephone) vs keeper of the light (Vestal virgin)
Virgin Mary vs Aphrodite

Genre in fiction
classifications are not value free
created by white angle saxon christian males where women had highly defined narrow roles
‘literary fiction’ vs ‘general fiction’
‘women’s fiction’ – why is there no men’s fiction.

who does genre serve?
why set out on a traditional publishing route when all the advice was not to bother?
why do we as writers assume that only the ‘best’ literature gets published and self-publishing is inferior

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