The Power of a List – Kendall Talbot

Write a Book. That’s what I wrote on my bucket list. I never imagined how much those three words would change my life. My initial motivation was simple. Unlike the fabulous Cherry Adair, numbers are my friend. English was not. So I thought the best way to improve my spelling, grammar, and vocabulary would be to write a story.

Every birthday and Christmas, my husband shakes out my bucket list for inspiration. One year he helped me tick off ‘Learn a musical instrument’. He gave me a beautiful guitar and paid for lessons. But to be honest I’m really crap at it.

KendallguitarThe following year, he scoured my list again and at number 69 – I kid you not – is ‘Write a Book’. So hubby purchased the Year of the Novel Course at the Queensland Writers Centre. During this course, I wrote Lost In Kakadu and it literally changed my life.

But writing it was the easy part. Editing that shitty manuscript took eight years of hard slog. I followed up that first course with several more. Then I hired an editor who also offered mentoring and boy did she have her work cut out for her. I learned about POVs and clichés, first person and third person perspectives. I learned syntax, synonyms, sentence structure, and just about everything else in between. I wrote short stories, drafted two more manuscripts and learned the joys of character arcs. I worked hard, did my homework, read the prescribed reading, experimented, and practised. Then practised some more.

At the Romance Writers Conference, James Scott Bell said that you CAN learn to write – I know exactly what he means. My poor editor nearly gave up on me many times. But now, with my beautiful R*BY trophy glistening with inner glow on my kitchen windowsill she admits the tears were all worth it.


Without my bucket list, I may never have discovered my passion for writing.

By the way, I had also written ‘Publish My Book’ and ‘Win The RuBY Award’ on my bucket list. But never in my wildest dreams did I believe it would happen with my debut novel.

18610Winner of the 2014 Romance Writers of Australia RUBY (Romantic Book of the Year) Award for Stories with Romantic Elements!

An action adventure novel set in the Australian jungle where two unlikely people prove just how attractive opposites can be…

It’s pretentious socialite Abigail Mulholland’s worst nightmare when her plane crashes into an ancient Australian wilderness. Things go from bad to downright hellish when rescuers never come. As she battles to survive in an environment that’s as brutal as it is beautiful, Abigail finds herself also fighting her unlikely attraction to Mackenzie — another survivor, and a much younger man.

Mackenzie Steel is devastated by his partner’s death in the crash, the only person with whom he shared his painful past. Now, as he confronts his own demons, he finds he has a new battle on his hands: his growing feelings for Abigail, a woman who’s as frustratingly naïve as she is funny.

Fate brought them together, but they’ll need more than luck to escape Kakadu alive. Could the letters of a dead man hold the key to their survival?

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!

R*BY Finalist Juanita Kees

8903Under the Hood? I’m Over the Moon! Perhaps that should be the title of the next book. When I got the ‘call’ to say Under the Hood had made it to the finals of the much coveted RWA ‘Ruby’ Award, I was speechless… and hubby was grateful 🙂 When I realized who my competition was…well, my nails are chewed to the quick. I’m not sure I’ll have any left by August.

Kendall Talbot, Victoria Purman, and Jennifer Scoullar are BIG names, and very tough competition in the Romantic Elements section. I am honoured and awestruck to be in such talented company as a finalist in RWA’s Romantic Book of the Year Award.

The Romantic Book of the Year Award, affectionately known as The Ruby, is our premier award and the only one of its kind in Australia. Voted on by Australian readers, this contest is open each year to any Australian or New Zealand romance author who has published a long or short romance novel.” ~ Romance Writers of Australia

Wow! There are so many people I have to thank for getting me to the point where Under the Hood was eligible for this wonderful accolade. Escape Publishing and Kate Cuthbert, thank you for loving TJ and Scott enough to publish their story. And to all those people behind the scenes—beta readers, critique partners, editors, cover artists—you know who you are, and I would be nowhere without you all. I never dreamed I’d make it to the finals and here I am—with your help and support.

How much would I like to win that lovely award? More than I’ll ever be able to express in words…it would be the cream on my writing dream. The real winners though are TJ and Scott, the main characters in Under the Hood. They popped into my head on a mission to save a group of teens from disaster, and they found love—not only for themselves, but for the ‘lost boys’ who became their family.

So with Book 2 in the Tag Raiders Series, Under Cover of Dark, following hot on the heels of Book 1 and being released on August 1st from Escape, I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate than to be a finalist in the RUBY in my category. Here’s wishing everyone in the competition all the very best of luck. I’m already a winner to be in such talented company.

Congratulations Escape Artists!

We are beyond thrilled to congratulate three of our Escape authors for their Romantic Book of the Year (R*BY) nomination!

Congrats and best wishes go to:

8903Juanita Kees, Under the Hood (Stories with Strong Romantic Elements)

18610Kendall Talbot, Lost in Kakadu (Stories with Strong Romantic Elements)

8902Julie Mac, A Father At Last (Short Sweet Category)

Congratulations also go to the other nominees – a diverse, far-reaching list of nominees that demonstrates the depth and breadth of the Australian romance industry!

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!