That’s a Wrap! GenreCon 2017

by Jacquie Underdown

As the attendees streamed from the State Library of Queensland at the close of the 2017 GenreCon held from Friday to Sunday last week in Brisbane, the overarching take-home message was that in Australia, there is a thriving, supportive community of genre writers who are passionate about writing, live and breathe inclusivity, and really know their craft.

In not-so typical Brisvegas fashion, the weather welcomed this numerous cohort of genre-fiction writers and readers by lowering the average temperature seven degrees. This made the simple act of wearing clothes and participating in activities like standing and sitting possible.

But the agreeable weather can’t take home all the accolades. Many of the weekend’s big moments were associated with the attending big names like best-selling Australian author Garth Nix who, during Friday night’s opening address, gave his writing advice ‘tell a story’ to an eager audience in a manner expected from a prolific writer, which was by telling a bloody good story.


Garth Nix – Opening Night speech

The teary-eyed crowd may have, at first, felt shocked when after hearing Nix’s heartfelt story about meeting his 95-year-old writing hero days before he died, he then admitted that this story was, in fact, fictional. But who better to give a masterclass on the art of ‘show don’t tell’ than one of Australia’s top genre authors.

Nix continued with his stellar advice to attendees throughout the weekend.

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And provided his blanket solution to nearly every problem a writer will encounter no matter where they are in their career.

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International guest author Delilah S. Dawson took the floor among an audience dressed to the mods and monster’s costume theme at the Saturday night Speakeasy to give a rousing speech on how to ‘not give up’.


Delilah S. Dawson – Speakeasy speech

Dawson spoke about the trajectory of her career from her unsellable first story—which had all the rookie mistakes including an opening line from hell (that mentioned white Capri pants, Greek street food and the unmentionable side effect of said street food while wearing white Capri pants)—to her eventual, hard-earned successes.

But where the real gems of wisdom were uncovered was during the weekend’s workshops, panels and morning plenary sessions that took place in packed auditoriums and rooms throughout the State Library of Queensland.

Claire G. Coleman, black&write 2016 Indigenous writing fellow, gave an inspirational speech on how she wrote through her fear.

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Anne Gracie, Australian romance writing royalty, thrilled her workshop audience with tried and true writing advice along with practical methods on how to dig deeper into character.

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Fellow Escape Publishing multi-award-winning author Amy Andrews gave a truthful account of author earnings by providing her writing income from her last fifteen tax returns. And, on top of this, read a sex scene from her novel Numbered in front of a large audience at the Author Salon on opening night. One word that could describe Andrews: COURAGEOUS!


Amy Andrews talks author earnings

In one panel, attendees were able to pull back the curtain and look into the world of the publishing houses. Escape Publishing’s Managing Editor, Kate Cuthbert, joined a panel of industry experts who offered insight into the process at their end once they received an author’s submission.


Panel of industry professionals

To accept or reject an author’s work for publication isn’t a simple case of ‘this book isn’t good enough’. Meetings are had, discussions are entered into, and many factors are taken into account before the final decision is made.

And those writers in the audience dealing with idea-hopping were able to hear international best-selling author Nalini Singh not only give permission to pursue those ‘squirrel’ ideas but also a practical way to manage those ‘squirrels’.

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So many fabulous panellists appeared at this year’s GenreCon. They wrestled with messy questions on the writing craft, spoke about the real-world implications of writing imaginary worlds and characters, and offered advice on how to deal with introversion, failure, fear, success, and many of the gritty nuances of being an author.

Over the course of the weekend, the attendees were schooled, reassured and inspired. GenreCon was a celebration of genre fiction but not once did it ask its audience to believe that being an author is easy or that a writing career should be perfect, and that’s what made the event an enjoyable, relatable success.

Top 3 highlights

  1. GenreCon convenor Peter Ball’s T-Shirt


Peter Ball – 2017 GenreCon Convenor

  1. So many incredible authors and industry experts in the one place, unafraid to drop the F* bomb, unapologetic about what they write and who they are, and willing to share their expertise.

all panelists

Last chance Q & A panel of authors

  1. So many amazing authors and readers in the one place, each unashamedly in love with writing, reading and talking about genre fiction.


2017 GenreCon attendees

Top 3 take-away messages

  1. Readers, your reading future is in incredibly safe hands. Australia has many dedicated, helpful, and passionate writers producing fantastic titles each and every year.
  1. Writers, no one writing career is the same. You don’t know the bigger picture yet or what the future holds, so you may be exactly where you need to be in your career, even if it doesn’t feel that way.
  1. Persistence is key. Write the next book. And as Emma Viskic, award-winning Australian crime writer would say, fill those blank pages with ‘words of liquid gold’ even if it takes many redrafts to achieve it.

Final note

Don’t underestimate the cathartic consequences of stepping away from the keyboard, talking with fellow authors, readers and editors, and donning a good costume.


Liz McKewin, Jacquie Underdown (me), and Meg Vann

32702A vineyard, a family in pain, and the healing magic of cupcakes…

Amy Jenkins, a talented and ambitious chef, is left humiliated and debt-ridden, after her city restaurant fails. When her best friend calls asking for help in her small town cupcake shop, Amy jumps at the chance to hide out in the small town of Alpine Ridge while her shattered ego mends.

The youngest Mathews brother, Tom feels over-looked and under-appreciated. His brothers remember every mistake, but never give him the responsibility or opportunity to take his place in the family business. So, he spends three weeks out of every month working at a mine in the back-end of nowhere. But then Amy moves to town to help run his pregnant sister-in-law’s bakery, and suddenly home seems to be where his heart is.

Amy’s move was only ever meant to be temporary, but when tragedy strikes the Mathews family, Amy finds herself unable to move on. As she and Tom get closer, Amy finds every excuse to stay: first, she claims it’s for the family, then she claims it’s for the shop. But maybe, it’s for her own heart…

Bittersweet, the first book in the Brothers of the Vine trilogy, is available for pre-order now!

ARRC2017 – A Wrap Up!

Renee Dahlia attended her first Australian Romance Readers Convention this weekend, and she wrote up a recap for us!

The romance community celebrated and discussed our best-selling genre at the recent Australian Romance Readers Convention. Romance readers welcomed me into the group, and made my debut experience one of easy acceptance. This sense of community is special to romance. The shared camaraderie over books is delightfully refreshing in the current climate of cynicism that has invaded world politics.

Being the geek that I am, I took notes on every session I attended. Here are a few personal highlights (you can get all the details at my website).

In the “publisher” session, readers had their chance to speak directly to publishers. The panel asked questions to the audience about how they read, where they find new authors, and importantly, what type of heroines do they want to read about but can’t find.


Female sports stars got the biggest cheer.

The session Feminism and Romance created plenty of discussion between panel and audience. Everyone agreed that in a genre written by women, for women, there is no conflict. On wider societal issues, Erica Hayes spoke about how romance is a safe place to write about issues that affect women, because the reader knows it will work out. Any other time these issues are discussed in literature, the women end up abused and dead. Romance readers want to see heroines who get on with their lives, and heroes who respect their choices.

The Dukes Need Not Apply session descended into giggles (and super fandom) when Courtney Milan read from her current work in progress. It will be part of an anthology inspired by the popular Broadway show Hamilton. Kat Mayo (Book Thingo) kept the fan moment alive by asking Milan how to say ‘suffragette!’ (From: The Suffragette Scandal).


Back to the theme of what readers want, someone asked the panel if they knew any books that turned the wealthy Duke trope upside down. I mentioned Alisha Rai’s A Gentleman in the Street where the heroine is a billionaire, and enjoyed an “OMG, I love that book” moment with someone. Instant book buddies. Once again, welcomed into this community.

Another questioner said “I’ve never read an historical novel, because I don’t care for the damsel in distress trope. How do you get beyond real history and create strong women?”

Milan answered for all us.

“History has lied to you.”

She went on to say that we aren’t damsels in distress. We’ve always been strong. We just get erased from history because it’s been told by men. Milan bases her characters on these strong women that she finds when looking deeper into history.

30778-1She wants to be one of the world’s first female doctors; romance is not in her plans.

1887: Too tall, too shy and too bookish for England, Lady Josephine moves to Holland to become one of the world’s first female doctors. With only one semester left, she has all but completed her studies when a power-hungry professor, intent on marrying her for her political connections, threatens to prevent her graduation. Together with the other Bluestockings, female comrades-in-study, she comes up with a daring, if somewhat unorthodox plan: acquire a fake fiancé to provide the protection and serenity she needs to pass her final exams.

But when her father sends her Lord Nicholas St. George, he is too much of everything: too handsome, too charming, too tall and too broad and too distracting for Josephine’s peace of mind. She needed someone to keep her professor at bay, not keep her from her work with temptations of long walks, laughing, and languorous kisses.

Just as it seems that Josephine might be able to have it all: a career as a pioneering female doctor and a true love match, everything falls apart and Josephine will find herself in danger of becoming a casualty in the battle between ambition and love.

What a Weekend!

Freshly back from the Romance Writers of Australia conference, Romance Rocks, this past weekend in Sydney, with our heads still spinning and enormous grins on our faces.

Here are the highlights:

  • Kicking off the conference with a Literacy High Tea, where librarian Vassiliki Veros charmed the pants off everyone in the room with her romance journey, her study of librarian-heroes and heroines, and the work she’s doing now for her PhD.

    Nobody knew this book existed, and now everyone is desperate to read it...

    Nobody knew this book existed, and now everyone is desperate to read it…

  • The Harlequin Author dinner where we celebrated with our Harlequin family, including lovely international guests Flo Nicholl and Malle Vallik
  • We also celebrated with our lovely (shirtless) guests for the evening, Marco and Jeremy.

    Marco, R*BY nominee Juanita Kees and I, you know, hanging out, talking

    Marco, R*BY nominee Juanita Kees and Managing Editor Kate Cuthbert, you know, hanging out, talking

  • Escape has had an amazing year, so it was fantastic to be in one room together, sharing our highs, and supporting each other.
  • The Leather and Lace opening cocktail party was a chance to catch up with people we haven’t seen for awhile (or have never actually seen in person!) While the lighting was decidedly purple (very strange), the food was great, the costumes inspired (hello Ros Baxter!), and the good times had by all.

    Managing Editor Kate engaged with Engaging the Enemy author Susanne Bellamy!

    Managing Editor Kate engaged with Engaging the Enemy author Susanne Bellamy!

  • Cherry Adair was an absolute delight and joy as an international guest. She was present, hilarious, generous with her time and her expertise, so very personable, and swore like a sailor when she realised we weren’t going to get offended. What a treat it was to spend time with her and listen to her speak.
  • The Saturday workshops were also really well-run, and we have to offer congrats to everyone who stepped up to share their expertise and teach what they know to others. This kind of resource sharing is a hallmark of RWA and one of the reasons that the conference and organisation is so successful, so should never be downplayed.
  • The day sessions also allowed for more chatting with less ambient noise, so a greater possibility of having a conversation with someone, rather than just a yelled greeting.
  • The Australian Romance Readers Association held their annual book-signing event on Saturday. This in an incredible (and incredibly well-organised!) organisation, and they do amazing things for the romance community in Australia. They also have a new website:,so check them out if you are interested in talking about romance (yes), meeting other romance readers (yes), and attending fab reader-focused conventions (yes!).
    Alison Stuart and Kate Cuthbert at the ARRA book signing with Alison's first book with Escape - Lord Somerton's Heir

    Alison Stuart and Kate Cuthbert at the ARRA book signing with Alison’s first book with Escape – Lord Somerton’s Heir

    the fabulous Amy Andrews and gorgeous Sandra Antonelli at the ARRA book signing

    the fabulous Amy Andrews and gorgeous Sandra Antonelli at the ARRA book signing

  • Saturday night – WHAT A NIGHT. First we have to offer the biggest, hugest, most enormous congrats to our three Escape nominees: Julie Mac, Juanita Kees, and Kendall Talbot, and also to all the other nominees, including Amy Andrews, who was nominated for a book with another publisher.
  • Emma Darcy had us all in laughter and tears as she accepted her induction into the Hall of Fame. No one, and I mean no one, will ever forget her Five Fs.
  • We also have to congratulate Kat Mayo on her Romance in the Media Award (ROMA) for her article on ABC’s The Drum: Dear Columnists, Romance Fiction is not your bitch. We’re pretty much sure she’s the only person to ever have the word ‘bitch’ etched into a glass award.

    Seriously, the pink lighting was very, very odd

    Seriously, the pink lighting was very, very odd

  • Then this happened:
    Kendall Talbot wins the R*BY for Best Novel with Romantic Elements

    Kendall Talbot wins the R*BY for Best Novel with Romantic Elements



  • We are so so so so beyond thrilled to congratulate Kendall on her win – the first win for her book after countless award nominations, and the first win for Escape Publishing.
  • I’d like to show you photos of what the rest of the night looked like, but what happens at the Escape After Party (and the after-after party), stays at the Escape After Party.
  • Except these photos. These totally get distribution:

    Frickin' A, man!

    Frickin’ A, man!

  • Sunday was for recovering, and more learning from generous and talented presenters. Malle Vallik’s presentation on building an author brand was very well received by those brave enough (and smart enough) to be up at 8:30am.
  • The conference for next year has been announced, with very exciting new partnerships, and a beautiful venue in Melbourne. International guests are a bit hush-hush, though the Friday workshop instructors have been lined up.
  • Finally, the conference close with Anne Gracie’s now legendary Stand-Ups, which always leaves attendees feeling engaged, excited, and downright warm & fuzzy.
  • We cannot give enough props to Shannon Curtis and her crack team of conference organisers for a well-organised, well-run, fantastic conference, and to all the attendees who made it an amazing experience all around. We’ll see you all again next year!

We’re going to RT!!

All our bags are packed

(so not even close to being true)

We’re ready to go

(…see above)

We’re standing here outside your doors

(metaphorically speaking)

We hate to wake you up, to say goodbye!

(also, remotely not true. We’re so darned excited we’ll wake the whole world to say goodbye!)


Yes, it’s true, we’re off to the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention in New Orleans next week and it’s going to be AWESOME!

and also self-delusion

while actually

and, of course, this

While we are having the time of our lives…

Here are some housekeeping things to keep in mind:

  • we’ll be blogging here daily or near-daily, so keep an eye on the blog for news, photos, gossip, and jealousy-inducing recaps of things we’ve done and stuff we saw
  • Managing Editor Kate Cuthbert will be tweeting from her account @katydidinoz. She will probably remember to tweet from the Escape Publishing account (@escapepublisher), but following her personal account is probably the best bet
  • With travel and conference, not much reading will be done, so new submissions will have a turnaround time of 6 weeks, starting from 9/5/14 and ending 6/6/14
  • We’ll have limited edition Escape USB Keys full of awesome stories to give away, as well as TimTams, chocolates, and Aussie goodies, so if you’re attending, make sure to find Kate!
  • We’ll see you in New Orleans!

25 reasons GenreCon rocks…

by Kate

Our lovely intern Elizabeth is going to do a round-up of GenreCon later this week, but I thought I’d throw up a quick 25 list of my own in homage to the international guest of honour.

  1. Chuck Wendig – even cooler in person than online (and I thought that was impossible)
  2. Being asked to do a Q&A with Chuck Wendig. No, those questions won’t be posted online; that was a one-off performance. But it was a highlight of my life thus far.
  3. Temporary tattoos. Honestly, is there another industry where temporary tattoos are allowed, nay, encouraged?
  4. Serious eye make-up and kick-ass boots. See above for temporary tattoos.
  5. In fact, my whole kick-ass urban fantasy heroine costume for the cutlasses and kimonos banquet was a complete highlight for me.
  6. Men. Romance conferences are so awesome, but there’s a definite feminine energy to the place. Adding men is a whole new vibe, and it was invigorating.
  7. The State Library of Queensland. What a great venue.
  8. The GenreCon ninjas – such an amazing team. They did an amazing job pulling everything together and deserve mountains of praise.
  9. Talking about books. For hours on end, with people whose eyes never glazed over.
  10. Learning about new books, and new authors, and new genres, and then talking about them more.
  11. GenreCon Karaoke. Sure it was the first time, but I can see it becoming a thing.
  12. Patrick O’Duffy‘s rendition of Total Eclipse of the Heart. It was life-altering.
  13. My and Joel Naoum‘s rendition of The Gambler. You better believe I know when to hold ’em.
  14. Meeting so many new people from all over Australia and all across the genre. And finding that regardless of which genre we love, we’re all just really genre people deep down.
  15. Christina Brooke nailing character arcs and the way so many people talked about this session for the rest of the weekend.
  16. Terminator, Alien, Speed – you name it, Rebekah Turner and Charlotte Nash covered it in an awesome panel about narrative structures in action movies.
  17. Our hybrid genre panel with Sandy Curtis, Kim Wilkins, and Patrick O’Duffy – we talked about hybrid genres, sub-genres, mixing genres: but mostly we talked about writing the damn book. Write the book that’s in you.
  18. T-rex erotica. Apparently dino erotica came up in more than one panel, but did those panels have Kim Wilkins miming what it would look like? Did they?
  19. The Wire fangirls and boys totally taking over the antagonist panel because why wouldn’t they!??! (seriously, if you haven’t watched it yet, what are you waiting for??)
  20. John Birmingham, Tom Clancy, and frozen hamsters. I think there was supposed to be a debate argument in there somewhere, but, honestly, who cares?
  21. Anne Gracie dubbing John Birmingham ‘Paris’, in a nickname that’s sure to last the ages.
  22. The Great Debate introducing new, genre-specific covers of both Girls Just Want to Have Fun and The Raven.
  23. Neither Great Debate side of the debate actually debating anything.
  24. #GCoz – because you seriously didn’t miss a thing.
  25. The sheer number of ‘I miss GenreCon!’ tweets, blogs, facebook messages, emails, and phone calls that only prove just how fabulous the whole weekend was, and how much we’re looking forward to the next.


If you weren’t there, I’m sure you had great reasons. Make sure those reasons dissipate in time for GenreCon 2015, location to be announced!

Why Genre Fiction Conferences Rock

by Kate

This is my packing list for GenreCon (which starts tomorrow in Brisbane):

  • One Cocktail Dress
  • Body Glitter
  • A cutlass
  • the kick-ass-est boots I own (note: not overly kick-ass)
  • Copies of Chuck Wendig’s books
  • One book of temporary tattoos
  • One box of bandaids
  • One hooded cape
  • Berocca

Honestly, what about that list doesn’t scream ‘freakin’ awesome time!’?

RW Wa-hey!

by Kate

This blog post is way overdue, but as I’ve only just unpacked my suitcase, it still counts as just-past-conference time.

What a weekend! Romance writers, readers, editors, professionals, and enthusiasts descended on Fremantle from all over the world for five days to talk love. Though the theme was ‘Riding the Waves’, it was more like being pulled down by the undertow, drowning in the nicest possible ways in all things romance. I think it’s safe to say that no one wanted to be rescued! (unless, maybe, the surf livesaver was very good looking).

Speaking of good-looking, here’s the pirate who graced us all with roses and effusive compliments as part of the Destiny Romance first birthday party (Happy Birthday!).


The days were full of workshops, keynotes, and panels covering topics from self-publishing to dialogue to avoiding cliches. It was a joy and honour to meet Julia Quinn and Sarah Wendall, and reconnect with the fantastic plethora of homegrown romance talent.

It was also a very special treat to spend the first conference with our Escape Artists – many of whom were unpublished only a year ago. To meet and celebrate together was just a fantastic experience, and I can’t wait until next year, when we can do it all again.

The Escape breakfast: (we tried to eat, but no one could stay in their chairs long enough!)

IMG_20130817_071212And, of course, the highlight of every RWA conference is the evening events. We started off with the Harlequin Costume party (themed Nautical but Nice). Attendees went all out with an outstanding level of creativity. Here are the winners of the costume party from the night: Popeye and Olive Oyl, the HMAS Romance, and Ursula the Sea Witch.

IMG_20130816_201741And then there was the awards dinner and Escape the Ordinary after party. With a chocolate fountain, a dance floor, and an eclectic playlist of music that spanned Chuck Berry to Justin Timberlake, it was always going to be an event to be remembered. I had a fantastic time as hostess, and thank everyone who kicked up (and off!) their heels and danced the night away.

IMG_20130817_215945(1)(with Julia Quinn and Anne Gracie).

Huge congratulations and enormous gratitude to the organising committee who did just an amazing job of keeping everything in line and running smoothly over the weekend. Special mention to our own Jennie Jones who put her beautifully modulated voice to good work as MC over the weekend. And, of course, thanks to everyone who came out, hung out at the bar, came to our sessions, asked questions, congratulated us on our year, expressed interest, or just sought us out. It really is the people that make the RWA conference such a pleasure to attend, and this year was no different.

Can’t wait to see you all in Sydney for Romance Rocks 2014!