9DE48DC7-EE6D-4C3D-BF41-553A1B60EC6DLast weekend I had the honour of attending the  Romance Writers of Australia’s 2019 conference held in Melbourne.

As a first time attender I was labelled a “newbie”, and had the opportunity meet many up and coming authors as well as those more established in their writing.

One of the highlights of the weekend was the gala awards night that honoured writers in the RuBY awards. Another highlight was the Fight Like A Girl workshop by Aiki Flinthart.

One of my favourite things to read in a romance novel is a kick ass woman who doesn’t rely on a male hero to save her. Aiki’s talk had so many gems in how to make your writing that much more nuanced and believable when it comes to portraying fighting.


Aiki Flinthart talking to us about what goes into writing realistic fight scenes

I also enjoyed meeting Annabelle McInnes, an author who runs the Cover Crush segment for the RWA. As a cover designer it was great to pick out some authors opinions on covers.

There were many moments over the weekend where I picked up on some advice for authors about covers that I can also vouch for. For example, make sure your cover reflects the genre. Don’t try to look too different or you will confuse and irritate your readers; however, do make sure your cover isn’t identical to what’s already out there. This is particularly important when using stock artwork.

Another highlight over the weekend was the diversity panel where Amy T Matthews (Tess LeSue), Nicole Hurley-Moore, MV Ellis, and Renee Dahlia debated the different elements of diversity and how they are and aren’t being integrated into the romance genre. So many great discussions and questions came out of the debate, which was a really positive sight.

Romance is one of my favourite genres to edit and to design covers for. It’s a genre with a rich history and a diverse readership that know what they want.

Next year’s conference will be held in Fremantle, WA. Can’t wait!


Around the Circle

Recently, I had the opportunity to work on Bob Keogh’s manuscript “Around the Circle”. This was a complex, time-starved project, but ultimately it was a rewarding one.

After an edit (provided by Brian Clarke), I was given the manuscript to begin the design process. Bob’s daughter, Julia, was the engine behind the book and supplied me with many pictures that might go with the text. Some of the images were quite old, and all required careful handling.

I scanned all the images at high resolution and took to editing them so that they would look presentable in the book.

The images would be shown at no more than 19 cm wide in the final design, so the aim was to make them clear at that size.

During this process, I also worked on the cover for the book. At this stage, we had agreed to the specifications of the book (A5, full colour), so I had a rough guide to the size the spine should be based on how many pages I expected the book to end up with. Julia and her family had already drafted an idea for the cover, so I took that idea (shown below, left) and expanded upon it. They had in mind a few particular photographs to be on the cover, so I did my best to include them.

I had also begun to work on the typesetting. Julia had provided me with the captions for the images to go within the book, so I added these, along with the images, into the manuscript. The text was formatted with indented paragraphs. This helped keep the page count down, while also providing a clear direction for readers to follow. The chapter lead pages were kept quite simple, with an elegant formal design the aim.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The last piece that went into the design were icon images to go at the end of each chapter. These icons were decided upon by the author and the editor together. Each icon was to encompass the theme from that chapter. I did some research and found some images, either in the public domain, or with a Creative Commons type license that would allow us to use the image. We wanted the images to be black and white icons, a simple decoration. I used Adobe Illustrator to convert and edit the images to their final form for use in the chapters.

Once the design was complete, the family reviewed it, as did the editor, allowing for final tweaks to be made. Once happy, I supplied the final print-ready files to the printer, who confirmed the spine size, and the book was printed.

Julia tells me that they have come out very well, and that the book launch was also a success. I am very glad to hear it.

If you are interested in the book in this blog, please visit

Life as an editor

Sharnai JamesIn recent months I started working with a young self-publishing business, Australian eBook Publisher. In my time there I have not been limited to editing, but have also been involved in website development and maintenance, marketing, social media, brand development, graphic design and more.

Despite all of my new responsibilities as a Publishing Assistant, I always fall back to my first love, editing.

It has been exciting to be involved in the creation of many books. Each author is so very different and my interactions with them are the same.

Some authors having been sitting on their manuscript for years and are perfectly happy to surrender it to me for a while. For others their manuscript is like a child, to send it off with a stranger they barely know is almost sin. I encourage and I listen and I am always patient.

It is important to remember each author as I edit because what they have written is in their voice. And one of the cardinal rules of being an editor is to keep the author’s voice intact.

Of course there are times when an author’s writing is nearly perfect and I only have to adjust the use of semi colons or replace a hyphen with a dash. However, usually my work is more in depth and I look at each individual sentence as a whole, then word by word.

I am excited to see the books I have worked on finally published into the big bad world. I find I become as precious of the books as the authors. I’ve worked on them, I know the hard work involved and I just want to see them succeed.

While I work primarily at AEP I do take on freelance jobs when required. If you want me to help you make your child a fully functional adult ready to take on the world – and by that I mean take your manuscript and help you make it grow into a beautiful piece of writing – head to my contact page and tell me about it.

– SJ

The value of exchange

Sharnai James-McGovernAnother month, another post. I cannot believe how busy I’ve suddenly become. My brother is getting married early next year, so as honorary wedding coordinator I’ve found myself amidst the world of stunningly pretty things. Thank goodness for my time at Queensland Brides magazine which has prepared me more than I ever expected. My first task has been to design (graphic design is one of my other skills) the invites. The back and forth exchange has been great to come up with something that both they and I are happy with.

This exchange of ideas and opinions is important, not only in wedding plans, but in pretty much everything. When I’m writing for a client I will often go back to them to clarify details and make sure that what they want to be said is what is coming across to a reader. Even when what you’re writing is a simple as the text inside of a wedding invite (I had no idea how complicated wedding invitation text was until now) there are many different options and perspectives you need to take into account. My brother and his fiancée for instance wanted to have their invites to come from a first person perspective: ‘we invite you…’ not ‘you are invited to…’

Today is the day we put the final touches on the invites and start getting them printed. Very exciting!



Image: Wikipedia

In recent months I received my first eReader. A Kobo to be precise. Now I have for years been an eReader … I just lacked the actual device. I had grown rather attached the squint I had personalised while reading a book from my iPhone’s screen, or the awkward scroll when reading from a computer screen. I have used the iBooks, Kindle, and Kobo applications for my phone happily, my collection of books had grown and grown, and my squint grown more pronounced when I was unceremoniously gifted with an actual reader.  By unceremoniously, I mean that my brother threw it at me and said, ‘you want this?’

Of course I want this.

My early morning commute has changed significantly, I no longer have to fumble to turn a page while holding the hanging loop as the train bumped along the track. My handbag weighs a lot less, as I don’t have to carry two books if I’m on the verge of finishing one. I can change my mind as to what book I’m reading without waiting until I got home. In a word, ‘WOOPEE!’

I was happy that the very first book I read on my new reader was one penned by my friend Antoinette Turner (Cookies and Cream), but I have since then consumed many more. I find that I’m very fond of the free section on the Kobo store, there’s nothing better than discovering something new that I mightn’t have picked ordinarily.

I’m currently on holidays in the beautiful city of Adelaide, so my suitcase was very happy not to be piled with books this time. My only down point was waiting for the seatbelt sign to be turned off so I could switch on my reader. Apparently printed books still win that category.


The Sneeze Strikes Back

Spring is here in Queensland, and the pain of hay fever has struck me once again. I wake up sneezing, eat sneezing, shower sneezing, and sneeze sneezing. I have a box of tissues by my side at all times and a blister pack of Zirtec in my pocket. My books are mad at me, I can tell, from all the sneezing on them.

Sneezing, I think, is only the second-worst part of hay fever. The first annoying part is that build up before a sneeze. The will-I-won’t-I face you pull (acknowledged as one of the ugliest faces one can pull). Waiting for a sneeze in public is awful. People look at you and wonder why your eyes are half closed and your mouth is open with an expression that seems to imply disgust. Then sometimes the sneeze doesn’t come. You’re left feeling ridiculous, with nothing but a tingling in your nose to remember the sneeze that never came. But watch out world if that sneeze does come. I find the sneezes you have to wait for are the most powerful. The aaaaaachooooooooooooooo seems to last a lifetime, and hope to the heavens you have a tissue on you. Let’s not talk about the potential issues of projectile sneezing.

If you think you’re going to sneeze and then don’t, get ready, because that sneeze is waiting for you, for you to be as unprepared for it as possible, so it can surprise you and everyone around you.

Sneezes don’t care if you’re in the middle of a conversation, they’ll come anyway.

Can you tell I’ve thought about this a lot?

I’m going to take some Zirtec and deal with my sneezing issues.


Shoutout to Libraries

There something wonderful about libraries. I walked into my local library on Thursday to pick up some new reads, as my bookcase is getting woefully full and there’s no room for any more! I never realised just how important libraries are at sharing information and creating community. While I was strolling through the bookshelves, tilting my head in such a way as to require a heat pack later, I discovered the library’s events booklet. When I say booklet, I really mean book, this thing was thick. There were free activities for readers of all ages, and even some for non-readers – craft days!

When I look a round a library I notice just how many people have had the same idea that day, to get out and find a good book to take home with them. Everyone is oddly polite in a library, shuffling chairs, saying ‘excuse me’ very quietly and sidling past you in a row, putting books back exactly where they came from.

When I look back to six-year-old me, I don’t think she would understand just how magical the plastic card in her hands would be. It opened up more worlds than could ever be imagined – for free.

Without libraries, I don’t think I would be where I am today.

So let’s all give a little shoutout to our libraries today – maybe even head in and find a new world to discover between crinkled pages.


Cookies and Cream

A lovely colleague of mine, Antoinette Turner, is putting the finishing touches on her fancy new novel Cookies and Cream. Be sure to look out for it when it’s released July 19! (*Update: Grab it here via Amazon)


What better reason to move across a whole country than to start a dream job while being closer to your last remaining relative?

Kerra Ryan, Marketing Manager and self-proclaimed cookie addict, moves across county to be near her gran and start her dream job.  Declan Quinn, witch and owner of Decadence Biscuit Factory, has a new employee he can’t seem to keep his hands off.  But Declan carries a secret.  He carries one of three Fates, an ancient and powerful essence, cursed to be passed down through countless Quinn generations.  What neither Kerra nor Declan realize is she holds another.

As Declan helps Kerra understand the power she holds within, they find themselves fighting an unnatural attraction while battling two conniving parents and another witch hell bent on killing them.

Can they find a way to rid themselves of their destiny or will Fate show them the way to something sweeter?