CYA turns 10!

CYA2015 weclome banner

I was very honoured to be invited to speak at CYA’s (Children & Young Adult) tenth anniversary conference in Brisbane  last weekend.


Me, during my 90 min preso, offering words of wisdom – or maybe asking directions to the loo…

CYA2015 Tin and birthday cake

Tina Clarke – convenor extraordinaire – and that cake! Happy 10th CYA 2015.

While there, I attended a great workshop with the ever vivacious Jacqui Honeywood ( on blogging and social media, and someone in the audience mentioned that she’d checked someone’s blog recently and they hadn’t added anything for over a year and I suddenly had a massive guilt attack. I barely restrained myself from diving to the floor and begging forgiveness – even though it probably wasn’t even my blog she was talking about! Or maybe it was…

Whether it was or wasn’t – I’m back and bringing a new resolve with me. I’m not going to explain. It’s been a tough couple of years for me – as anyone who’s close to me knows. But I’m coping well now and trying to get myself back into gear.

And what better way to do that than with wishing CYA a very happy birthday!

It was brilliant! And there was cake!

CYA2015 Tina peter Ally

Tina with Peter Allert and Ally. Ally is Tina’s CYA offsider and Peter is the official photographer – and all the shots here are his work. Well done Pete! And thank you!

And there was also the inimitable Maurice Gleitzman!

CYA2015Maurice Gleitzman

There was also a whole babble of friends old and new – and some I knew from afar but got to meet first time face to face.  There was also my brilliant agent Jacinta di Mase (JDM Management  and we got to chat about direction and that was fun and reassuring.  There was my other agent mate, Alex Adsett and whole slurry of editors from just about every major publishing house.

There are tonne of other photos on the CYA site and hopefully we might see some notes up there (from the other workshops) as well. I spoke about ‘Ditching your Control Briefs’ – which was of course, about the structure of your story and holding up that sagging middle (without pain).

CYA2015 success wallAbove: CYA Success Wall:  if anything good happened to you as a result of CYA – publishing etc – then you get to go on their Success Wall. I met and signed with my lovely Lit Agent there a few years back – so I’m on the wall. And those of us in attendance each received a very groovy gold pin as well this year! And got a photey!

I have to say that CYA is one of my fave events each year and I aways make sure I don’t book myself out for anything else for that first weekend in July. If you haven’t made that trip yet, and you write for kids or YAs or you’d like to start – or if you’d just like to rub shoulders with some of the best kids and YA authors in the country – then give yourself a gift and head on up to Brissie next July!  (the 2nd to be exact!) I’ll certainly see you there!

Right now, I’m knee deep in edits  for my next novel, due out in January 2016, but in the coming weeks, I hope to share some of the lovely events I’ve been fortunate to attend so far this year.

Until then happy Birthday CYA and hey, it’s good to be back! xxx


Singleton Library Rocks!

St Val's image 2Valentine’s Day is a time to remember why we fell in love, to relive those delish moments and generally get all gooey.

Yes, yes, I know it’s also a time for some to reload the shotgun and or smack themselves up the side of the head for some past (or present) hormone induced stupidity… But for the moment we’re going to let those people sit in the corner and mutter obscenities while they wait till all the red hearts and streamers have left the shop buildings and people like me stop talking about (I’ve dropped my voice to a whisper) “St, Val’s Day.

This year, on St Val’s Eve, my husband took me to the country. It was a beautiful balmy evening, and after some reasonably frenzied and heated activity and nice wine, we shared an al fresco meal before heading home.  Romantic?St Val's image 1

Yeah, well that’s the romance writer’s version. The truth is in there, but perhaps not quite as it was portrayed.

TRUTH ONE: My husband DID drive me to the country, with author mate Michelle Douglas hitching a ride in the back seat.  We travelled an hour and a half north west(ish) to beautiful uptown Singleton so we could meet up with another  author mate, S.E Gilchrist to speak to Singleton Library patrons about all things romance.

S.E Gilchrist, Kaz, Michelle Douglas - and our driver my wonderful hub in the background!

S.E Gilchrist, Kaz, Michelle Douglas – and our driver, my wonderful hub, in the background!

TRUTH TWO:It was indeed a balmy evening. Gorgeous in fact. And two local vineyards, Catherine Vale and Hope Estate, supplied wine for the library event. So, yes, there was wine and it was yummy! 

TRUTH THREE:  Hot and frenzied activity did sort of happen. It was warmish  in the library  – or was that the wine(?) – and the discussion was quite lively! 😉 

TRUTH FOUR: Al fresco dining? Does Macca’s  on the run count? 😉  It was too late to find anything else and would be even later by the time we got back home, so we shared a quick meal before heading back down the highway.

TRUTH FIVE and the only one that counts: We had a wonderful evening. Rob Stewart and the staff at the library were so welcoming, and the patrons and guests were just a delight.  It was a truly special evening – fit for St Valentine’s eve. We made some new friends, caught with some old ones (writers from the Hunter Romance Writers ), sipped wine and talked books for ages and ages. We all write different types of books  which made it even more fun. 

S.E., Kaz and Michelle with some of the Hunter Romance Writers. Thank you Sandie James I(back right) for the photo.

S.E., Kaz and Michelle with some of the Hunter Romance Writers. Thank you Sandie James I(back right) for the photo.

  Thank you Singleton! Hope to see you again soon!  And a very happy (belated) St Valentine’s Day – and remember you don’t need a special day to show someone you care about them and that you appreciate them being in your life. 

Till later! Kaz

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Let’s play Author Tag!

dalenoflowerBig bone-crushing Kaz hugs to Dale Harcombe for inviting me to be part of this Author Chain. It was as much fun being tagged as it was tagging other – what a cool game! (And I didn’t even break a sweat! Now, that’s my kind of game…)
 Dale is such an interesting person – not only an author of books, she’s authored and created all kinds of fascinating works including articles, puppet plays (mega cool!), skits, finger plays, songs for little people and a radio play which was broadcast in 2005!  And she’s an owl-aholic! She adores and collects owls – well, images and recreations of them anyway.
Her latest book  Streets on a Map is a poignantly beautiful book that will keep you turning the pages right to the very last one.StreetsOnAMapCOVER
As Dee White said: ‘The action just keeps coming in Streets On A  Map, and keeps the reader turning the pages wondering what’s going to happen next to the characters they have come to know’.
Dale is also the queen of titles. I’ve always loved the title Streets On A Map, and her work in progress has another wonderfully evocative title: Sandstone Madonna. Good or what?
Thank you for tagging me Dale! And good luck with your WIP!

So, now to play the game. Every author tagged has to answer these same four questions – so here I go…

Q1: What am I working on?

Okay, don’t judge me but I have two works on the go. I’m not revealing titles as I never do that publicly until I know they’re in the bag. I work hard to find interesting titles, they don’t come naturally to me, so I like to keep them close until I’m sure. However, one is a fun – but tricky   – work for boys 7-10.My issues with this are huge.I have a character I love – who’s a bit extraordinary but not extremely so, therefore do I make him more extraordinary in the real world, or make his world so wild that he Almost Deadappears to be the sane centre? Decisions, decisions. This story is a diversion that’s eating at me as I write the next YA which is a follow on to Almost Dead. 

Q2: How does my work differ from others in its genre?

I began answering this in so many different ways. Do I act all coy and pretend that I don’t think my work is different? Or do I let my ego reign? Okay, ego wins: Maybe if I had to seriously pinpoint a difference it might be humour?  Mixing humour and horror/mystery? I do also have habit of creating characters that are, initially, hard to love. Almost Dead and Princesses Don’t Sweat are two  that fall into that category. As an author it’s a huge risk – what if the reader gives up too soon? But if they stay with it, the payoff is worth it. At least that’s what I think…  Macey  the protagonist and star of Almost Dead was such a tough character to write. To make her likeable – even loveable – and not lose her in the process was one of my toughest writing journeys. But I think we pulled it off and for me, that’s the payoff.

Q3: Why do I write what I write?

You know, I doubt that many serious authors would differ in their answers to this question. Not much anyway. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again here – I believe authors are born, not made. I don’t think we have a choice. It’s a fire that burns hard inside us and doesn’t ever let up.  After that, it’s finding where you fit. I started my career writing for adults and I suspect I may end up there again because a part of me still wants to write for grown ups as well, but when I first discovered YA fiction it felt like I’d come home.  I haven’t lost that wonder yet. Writing for kids is similar.  If I had to take a wild guess, I’d say the success I’ve had in these genres is largely due to the fact that I haven’t grown up yet. It helps… 😉

Q4: How does my writing process work?

Um seriously,  I think it changes with every book.  Sometimes a character will come to me who is so compelling, so much fun, that it’s simply a matter of finding his or her story. Sometimes it’s even easier than that. Like a story for young readers I wrote recently called Penelope Plotter. As soon as her name drifted into my head her story appeared.  It pretty well wrote itself.

The idea for this last series of YA books, those I affectionately refer to as my Dead Books: Dead, Actually and Almost Dead ( and no, I don’t have a fascination with death. Much), came from three words emblazoned diagonally across a teen mag: It’s a Bitchfest.  Those words resonated; grabbed me.  But I wanted more than just the usual Mean Girl scenario. I like ‘story’ and plenty of it – and I liked the idea of the dead

It's Live!

communicating with the living. And I LOOOOOVE a good mystery – a good ‘whodunnit’.   And what teen story would be worth its salt if it didn’t have a few romantic sparks tossed in to keep the poor heroine off balance just when she needs a cool head more than ever?

I guess that kind of sums up both Dead ActuallyAllen & Unwin March 2012,  and Almost Dead, Allen & Unwin, Jan 2014.

Would you agree? Am I brave enough to cope with the answers? of course I am (she says grabbing the family-sized bag of Smarties and chewing furiously, manically even… Her eyes twitch, her lip quivers.) “Of course I’m brave enough,” she repeats to anyone who’ll listen. “I think…”

Almost Dead is available at all good bookstores – if they don’t have it maybe they’re not so good <g> so ask them to order it.

Or online at Booktopia

It’s also available as an e-book. Check out for all the deets! 

 On that note I’m handing over to three amazing, wonderful authors and friends whose work I so admire – and ruthlessly tagged.    Two belong in the crazy bin with me, and the other is here to give us much needed class. And that’s all I’m saying. Mwahaha. (Now they’re all preening, each imagining she is the classy one. Snigger...) 

Cue the drumroll: Here they are in alphabetical order because I’m like that and  because I don’t want any of them to cry themselves to sleep because they think I love one more than the other:

Amanda Ashby. 

Amanda Ashby writes young adult and middle grade books for Puffin inAmanda Ashby photo 2 the US. She was born in Australia and after spending the last sixteen years dividing her time between England and New Zealand, she’s finally moved back and now lives on the Sunshine Coast. When she’s not moving country, she likes to write books (okay, she also likes to eat chocolate, watch television and sit around doing not much, but let’s just keep that amongst ourselves, shall we?)


Demonosity cover

Ebony McKenna

Ebony McKenna writes about ferrets that talk in a countrybrugelswimsuit stuck in a ‘post-soviet, but pre functioning internet’  time warp.
Her Ondine series began in 2010 with The Summer of Shambles, and was followed up with the sequel, The Autumn Palace. It is now joined by the trequel, The Winter of Magic, which is available where all good ebooks are sold.
She loves trivia nights, train sets and the Eurovision Song Contest.
When not writing, she can be found on the following social media outlets:
Ondine # 3 The Winter of Magic
Sally Murphy
Sally Murphy has written over 30 books and still IMG_2277has time to study, teach and run a review site, Aussie Reviews!  Oh and look after her six children… Her wonderful picture book (That’s me, Kaz saying that!)  –Do Not Forget Australia – was evocative  and heart-warming despite dealing with the tragedy of war. A definite keeper for every bookshelf.
These three gals will be answering the same four q’s next Monday, 17th Feb, so don’t forget to look out for them and what they have to say! This is indeed a feast of authors!
Till next time!
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Wow – I’m being Immortalised in Clay!

Okay – maybe not me per se – but just as good.  My book! ‘Almost Dead’ will be immortalised in clay.  Well, an artist’s perception of the book will be immortalised in clay.  And that’s even more exciting. Almost Dead

Can you believe this? I’m so excited I want to jump and shout! Oh. That’s normal, right? Okay then, I want to jump and shout while swinging flaming batons! (And anyone who knows how clumsy I am will know that this is BIG because normally no one would ever put (myself included) me and anything flaming and swinging in the same room. So that will tell you how crazy excited I am: I’m even throwing caution to the wind! And probably my hair…)

So, what’s the deal?  Okay so, this clay/ceramic sculpture will be part of an exhibition called SUBTEXT. Here’s the media release.

” SUBTEX is a group exhibition celebrating the links between literature and the visual arts. It is a representation of concepts expressed in literature transposed into visual images through the fine arts. This is not a new idea. Historically we can trace the links between the two forms of expression, the language of the written word and visual representation. Perhaps the most prevalent has been images inspired by the Bible. The Divine Comedy has also inspired many including the famous works by Blake. Looking for new subjects the Pre-Raphaelites drew on Shakespeare, Keats and Tennyson while in contemporary times the appropriation of literature by postmodern artists often create a multi layered interpretation.

Newcastle has a rich cultural community. In this exhibition a group of thirteen professional artists from the area has taken the writings of a group of Newcastle authors to create a visual narrative in their respective art form.

Artists include Brett Alexander; Brian Cox; Jan Downes; Caroline Hale; Varelle Hardy; Ann-Maree Hunter; Barry Maitland; Margaret McBride; Giselle Penn; Sharon Taylor; Sharon Tompkins; Sylvia Ray and Sue Stewart.

The amazing Sue Stewart contacted me and announced she’d chosen my book, Almost Dead, for her work in the exhibition! I love Sue’s work. I’ve followed her for years and have several of her early pieces in my home.  I can’t wait to see what she comes up with. I know it involves a handbag and in fact she’s chosen one of my own – a hot pink leather Guess that I adore, as her inspiration. 

But the rest will rest in her very talented hands. This is truly such an honour and I simply can’t wait until March 27th and the exhibition opening.

Down a bit further is a peek  at some of her later works. Can you see why I’m excited?

Rosemarie MilsomThis exhibition will be running during the fantabulous  Newcastle Writer’s Festival (Apr 4-6) , now in its second year,  which will kick off with an official opening the next night by NWF Director, Rosemarie Milsom  (pictured left) on Friday 28th. What an amazing week for Newcastle! 

Now let’s take a peek at some of these Sue Stewart masterpieces. 

Sue Stewart 1 


Sue Stewart 4

Sue Stewart 3

It’s been a long hard road, but I’m back…

Tulips Hi everyone. So, it’s been a       while. It probably seems longer to me than it does to you – and that’s because the latter half of last year was possibly one of the  most difficult times of my life. In a wonderful twist, in a couple of ways, it was also one of the most joyous.

You know, I’ve known grief. I’ve lost people I was close to and traveled the rocky path that we call ‘family’ and endured the pain that inevitably comes with that particular joy. But, despite all that, nothing prepared me for the loss of my precious mum. It’s still a struggle every day, and I feel I’m only now beginning to find my feet again.

But life is wonderful in that even though they have thorns, the roses it offers are breathtaking.  Despite all the devastating pain, two wonderful things will always be associated with that time – and they make it impossible for the memories to be all bad. One was the birth of the most amazing little boy whom I believe was sent to remind us to smile – and he does so every day. As a family we are so grateful to have him.  The other was that I spent every day for eight weeks holding my mum’s hand. I’ll always be grateful for that.

On the work front, my next YA in the Dead series, with Allen & Unwin, has been pushed back to January 2014.   I’ve been working on the revisions, and trying to get back into the swing – something that’s been way harder than I expected.

I know I owe people prizes, which I will attend to as soon as I can.  I also hope to establish some regularity here again after I get back some of this back-load of work done. I have some nice little bits of news, so will probably post those soon.

To anyone I ignored in the past several months? Forgive me, and if it was important, give me another nudge.

Until then – enjoy every day; tell the people you love that you do. Don’t miss an opportunity. So, here I am – saying I love you. Hugs.

Me & Her: A Memoir of Madness

We’re having a complete change of pace today, and I’m totally stoked to play host to my friend Karen Tyrrell whose amazing book ‘Me & Her: A Memoir of Madness’ hit the streets this month.

I met Karen through the children’s writing community and I was immediately struck by her enthusiasm, dedication and how supportive she was of  fellow writers. Little did I know that underneath that warm, bubbly exterior lay a dark story that had sent her to the edge – and it was only through sheer determination that she managed to claw her way back to sanity.

Me & Her: A Memoir of Madness recounts that dark story. It is Karen’s  brave account of how, as a primary school teacher, she reached breaking point after parents at her school repeatedly harassed her. ME & HER reveals Karen’s gradual decline and disintegration, how her illness manifested and how she recovered. Karen shares what inspires and motivates her to write.

I came across this story when  I happened to read the opening chapter on her blog, and was so taken by it that I sent her a message. That message  now graces the cover of Me & Her and I was, and am, very humbled.

Let’s find out some more of Karen’s story…

1.      When did you start writing ME & HER: a Memoir of Madness?

 In 2005, I started writing ME & HER when I was psychotic and manic, scribbling what was happening to me in notebooks and dairies. I interviewed doctors, nurses and patients. In 2006, after I was released from hospital, I joined a writing group and enlisted in several writing courses to learn the craft of writing.

 2.      Why did you want to write such a personal story?

I always knew I had a unique story.  I was determined to discover why I became so ill and how I was to recover. Once I developed a wellness plan that worked, I wanted to share with everyone.

3. Your story strongly echoes Agatha Christie’s story.  Both manic due to unbearable stress, you ran away, registered in hotels under assumed names, and were listed  as missing for several days.  Does that seem as uncanny to you as it does to me?

Agatha recovered and went on to produce the best works of her career after that event. I would hope that I am on the same road.  Fingers crossed!

4.      Did you write anything before penning this memoir?

No. I was a full-time teacher, creating teaching plans and programs. Since my illness, I continually write what I feel passionate about… Mental health stories, children’s sci-fi, adult crime stories and articles for magazines.

5.      How has writing your memoir helped you recover?

I literally wrote my way to recovery. Each time I expressed my angst and emotions on the page, I grew emotionally more stable, able to resolve my issues.

To find out more about Karen Tyrrell and where to purchase ME & HER: A Memoir of Madness, please check out her website:


Late breaking news: 


ME & HER eBook  (kindle) & Print Book

BOTH now available on

WIN a FREE eBook!!

But wait – there’s more! To help Karen celebrate, she’s offering TWO electronic copies of ‘Me & Her: A Memoir of Madness’ – and I’m offering a free hard copy! 

All you have to do to win, is leave a comment and you could be one of the lucky winners!

If you want more of Karen’s story and insights – you might want to check out other stop-off points along her blog tour.


Blog Tour 14th – 20th May

14th May Kaz Delaney- Writing Inspiration

Prachi S.Vaish – Psychologist – Interview

15th May Tuesday Writing Tips- Writing Memoirs

Dr Happy – Happiness after the Gloom

16th May Sally Odgers – Writing & Editing Process

17th May Gabrielle Sheppard, UK – Bipolar Recovery

18th May Natasha Tracy, Canada – Writing for Recovery

19th May Jill Smith- Book Review & Interview

Kids Book Review- Mental Health Books 4 Kids

20th May Ang Hall – ME & HER Book Review-

Failure to (photograph)Launch!

Display created by my husband Rob

Well wow – where did that month go? It seems like forever since I was here, and yet the days have flown. One of the reasons for my failure to appear was that my limited time and energy was taken up with planning  – and enjoying – the official launch of Dead Actually on the  26th. You know – the important one. The Party! And then afterward there was the cleanup and the returns of all the hired stuff – and the thank you notes. After all that, I settled to excitedly give you a full report here. And that’s when it hit… We had no photos. My camera had stayed safely in its little pouch, in my bag  ALL DAY!! Suffice to say it’s taken me this long to beg, bribe and blackmail guests into handing over the loot – aka their photos. Thank you especially to my beautiful son Paul. We had a great day despite mega stressful last minute venue changes.

Some of the 130+ people who came to party.

Were there things I’d change? Do differently?  Obviously not every event is perfect and this had one had its stresses – so yes, there were things I’d tweak for the next one. As a matter of fact, I now have a whole new perspective and will blog on the dos and not-to-dos of a successful book launch very soon. However, the two only questions that really needs answering for an event like this are: Was it fun? & Was it effective? And the answer to both is a resounding YES.

With gorgeous Molly

So what did we do to make it a fun day? I’ve always wanted my launches to be fun – to offer something in return to the people who turn up to support you.  So, yep, we had food;  boy did we have food. 🙂 And I wish we had some photos of that. And naturally we  had drinks, but I wanted something more than just sustenance for this event — I wanted it to be

Heather Cleary for the VGs. Backgroud from L-R: Annie, Judy, Rob, Kaz, Mary, Lea and Michelle. venue: Charlestown Library.


Coming up with a theme was both easy and frustrating. The theme of the book is ghosts right? Like, dead people.  So what do we associate with dead people? Funeral directors? Call me unadventurous, but I just wasn’t seeing the fun in that.

So back to thinking board and then I had the most ingenious idea. Well, I thought it was… No, it was. Truly… LOL.   I decided to have a psychic medium as a guest speaker.  After all, the character who almost shared the lead with Willow was JoJo – in fact there were times when JoJo almost stole the story!   But wait – it didn’t end there… Once I had that idea – I was on a roll.

Great idea number 2? Offer free psychic readings!

A trio of authors: Paula Roe shooting (hehe) Shannon Curtis & moi. Foreground: Jo Ramsey, one of our brilliant psychics at work. Jo was also our Psychic Medium guest speaker.

We had four. Four beautiful people who gave readings to the 125-130  assembled guests. What a hoot! Some people lined up for all four and then chose the best reading!  There was lots of laughter and lots of shared stories.

My youngest daughter, Ree, then had the great idea that we needed serving girls dressed as black angels. (If you’ve read the book you know the reference). Again, four gorgeous girls dressed in black and donned black wings, and served the food and helped my daughters Mel (who was also MC) and Ree run the games.

Signing, signing, signing! What a buzz! With Kerry Stove.

Yes! We had games.  Well probably more like competitions, really. Nothing too strenuous like pass the orange or pin the tail on the author. No, we had games like: share what you’d like your epitaph to be.  What would you like your gravestone to say? Sounds morbid? No! It was a hoot! My own isn’t original but it’s one I’ve always loved, so my offering was: ‘I told you I was sick!’  My husband’s was typical of his humour: ‘Get off!’       I’ll share some more in the next weeks.

Ree made small grey tombstone shaped cardboard pieces and we had boards to pin your entries on. In the spirit of sharing rather than comps, we drew the winners from a box.

We also had another that was  ‘what is/was the best part of being a

Happy people.

teenager?’, and those responses were so interesting I’m going to do a whole blog on the responses. And a third comp that was to name the next book. All had to feature the word, ‘Dead’ to stay true to the series, and I have to tell you that some of those suggestions were darned good!

Specific Deets? The bookstore chain Unleash supplied the book stall – and yes we sold a lot of books. 😉

With Madi and fam. Madi was the star of some of our promo and one of our gorgeous black angels!

The book was launched by my crit group – the Valley Girls. Why? Well, I wracked my brain for months to think of someone who knew me and knew the book well enough to do this justice.  It hit me one day that while I knew some high profile people, they didn’t know the book – and that to me was of the utmost importance. The second hit was harder and hurt more because I should have seen it immediately. Who knew the book as well as me? Those who had lived every word with me – the VGs: Heather Cleary, Leanne McMahon, Mary Brehe, Lisa Chaplin, Judy Griffiths, Tanya McGovern, Annie West and Michelle Douglas.

Suzanne Boyle - getting the finger, Lisa McKee & the beautiful Smith fam

It was a lovely day full of love and warmth. Lots of laughter and friendship and yes, my book and I felt special.

Thank you so much to my beautiful husband – who did everything and was everywhere. The amazing display was all his idea and he carved that 3D shoe! can you believe it!

And my gorgeous family – Paul, Lisa, Mel, Pete, Ree and Michael –  I so, so  couldn’t have pulled this off without you, especially given our last minute dramas (stay tuned for those in the next post).

Thank you so much to my beautiful extended family and huge hugs to my friends – old, new and brand new that I met on the day.  Kimmy – we missed you!