Dead, Actually by Kaz Delaney

Published: 1st January 2014Goodreads badge
 Allen & Unwin
Pages: 312
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult/Paranormal Romance
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

dead-actuallyWillow’s having a bad week. A dead body, a funeral and now she’s being haunted by the star of it all, the dead queen of Ruth Throsby High herself, JoJo Grayson.
Being dead hasn’t made JoJo any nicer. She’s still venomous and vacuous and, unfortunately, determined to stick around unless Willow finds out what happened.
But the mystery keeps multiplying. There’s a missing phone. An anonymous blackmailer. Dirty secrets that won’t stay buried. And the blame is being cleverly pointed right at Willow.
The only good thing? The gorgeous Seth Pentecost. He’s got his own agenda but it looks like he’s going to help Willow out. Could solving this death be what it takes to finally bring him into her life?

There is so much to love about this book: the characters, the mystery, the fabulous writing that sends your heart and mind crazy with anticipation and suspense. I loved everything about this book from start to finish, it’s enthralling, it’s messy and complicated, but that is what makes it exhilarating to read.

The way Kaz has played out this story and these events, and in such a short space of time, is marvellous. Her writing captures the chaos in Willow’s mind, the conflict and the passion, the fear and self-doubt. Everything comes across beautifully on the page and makes this story come alive.

There’s a hundred different things happening all at once, all linked together, crushing Willow’s brain and sending her in every which direction and the chaos and mystery of it all is wonderful. Kaz pulls you along with a mystery and a quest for answers but there’s also other things happening and Kaz links these seemingly unconnected things together so wonderfully that it works on so many levels, interconnected snippets and separate things woven together to create Willow’s life and story. It’s divine.

Having everything happening in a short period of time makes everything more intense, but Kaz never makes it feel rushed or too soon. The strange and compelling nature of the events and the multiple angles covered brings the intensity to a point where Willow’s stress and overwhelmed feeling leap off the page and brings you into the story so you understand her frustrations, fears, and victories.

The romance element is natural and not once feels cheesy or fake. Willow’s crush on Seth is adorable, Seth himself is wonderful so you also fall in love with him, and Kaz beautifully misses out on the making the “crush on best friend’s brother” feel clichéd. Her exploration of Willow’s feelings, mixing it into the paranormal events and life drama, brings out the realism, such as Willow’s romantic feelings cropping up unexpectedly, her desire to control her reactions and emotion’s play down her feelings for fear of ruining what she has. That is what makes it feel so real, so believable, Willow’s feelings don’t come from nowhere, nor do they take away from who she is as a person, everything about her is mixed together into this dramatic and captivating novel.

Despite the paranormal element, everything about this feels so genuine, so much like the every day, and it’s made even better by JoJo being both ghost like and as she was alive. There is so much drama going on without the paranormal but the paranormal is the heart of it, both the main essence and an almost background feature.

I loved this book so much I gave it five stars before I had even finished. The narrative Kaz has constructed is clever, creative, and so incredibly intriguing. From start to finish she brings you into Willow’s world with curiosity and captivating characters and she holds onto your attention until the very last page. As the final chapters play out your heart pounds, your excitement grows, and you still have no idea where the story is going and what is going to happen. Kaz keeps you guessing and on the edge of your seat until the end, even after the whodunit has been solved.

You can purchase Dead, Actually via the following

Dymocks | Kindle

Booktopia | iTunes


Book Bingo BookAusAWW16

Book Expo Australia 2014: Saturday

book expo

Today I attended the Book Expo Australia and aside from coming home very tired with sore feet, I also came away with a few books and freebies, but also a bunch of new authors to read and will no doubt fall in love with.

As it is the first year of the Expo there was a small crowd, but still rather decent. As we wandered up and down the stalls it was really interesting seeing what books were out and seeing publishers and authors known and new. The freebie book I got was The Year of the Rat by Clare Furniss, but I also got A Mad and Wonderful Thing by Mark Mulholland and Word Hunters: The Curious Dictionary by Nick Earls and Terry Whidborne as well. All three were already on my to read list which was great so I look forward to being able to read them.

It was a fun and interesting day. Getting to chat with various authors and publishers was really fun, and I even managed to get a picture with John Purcell from Booktopia in the process. I also found out a few new ways to improve my blog which was an added bonus.

There were a range of stalls covering a range of genres, books, styles, interests, everything anybody might be interested in. Truly the amount of bookmarks and things I have come away from it with is great and I am looking forward to being able to sit down and go through them, adding more books to my every growing to read pile.

It wasn’t just author and publisher stalls though, there were a few illustrators and artists teaching kids and adults alike on how to drawn cartoons. Walking past them today made me again wish I was a better drawer. There was even a wonderful display of knights battling in an arena which amused me as I passed them throughout the day.

Where there was a small downside was with a couple of the seminars. I can only speak for the ones I attended, and I’m sure others were great, but my first session of the day that I had been looking forward to faltered slightly when the author who was supposed to speak with a publisher about short stories and anthologies didn’t show up, meaning the poor publishing guy had to try and hold the session on his own unexpectedly. To his credit he did a decent job, and we got out early as a result which meant I could jump into another session I was interested in so not all was lost. The second disappointing session was later in the afternoon and it was cancelled completely. I don’t know what was happening; the general consensus seemed to be poor communication, so hopefully my few experiences were the few amongst the many as there were certainly a lot more seminars happening on a range of other topics that I’m sure were wonderful.

I really don’t want to give the impression that they were all bad, the last session I attended was excellent. Belinda Williams, Kaz Delaney, Adina West discussed with Shannon Curtis the darker side of romance and the various paranormal elements they included in their books. Discussing the paranormal aspects of the romance world was great and I got to learn more about each author’s books and approaches to the paranormal romance genre. Having read a few paranormal style romances and other paranormal stories lately it was interesting to listen to three very different takes on the genre and the degrees in which the paranormal plays a role.

For those of you coming tomorrow you should definitely come and check out Belinda, Kaz, and Adina at their stall. I was there for about ten minutes today chatting with them, and they are all super lovely people and listening to them in their seminar was even better. I have met Kaz multiple times but it was a pleasure meeting Adina and Belinda as well. If you are interested in some interesting paranormal romances you should go and check out their stall. They are located near some very comfy looking giant pillows so what I suggest you do is grab a copy of their books and then go and sit on the large and colourful pillow chairs and have a read!

I am heading back tomorrow for another day of fun with no real plan which should lead me into some interesting stalls and seminars. If you’re also coming don’t forget to check all the stalls and aisles because you may find some real gems hiding in plain sight!

You can check out their website, blog, and calendar to see if there is something that sparks your interest.

Writing Teen Novels with Kaz Delaney

Yesterday afternoon I had the pleasure of attending an author event with the delightful Kaz Delaney at Wangi Library. Kaz was there to talk about writing for teens and young adults. It was a nice small gathering, just under 20, people who were readers, writers, and book lovers alike. I have seen Kaz speak at multiple events and it is always a pleasure to see to her, as always she was delightful, larger than life and very friendly.

Kaz told us all about how she grew up in and around Newcastle, a Novacastrian born and bred. She also regaled us with stories about growing up and some of the adventures she had. One of my favourite things about author talks is hearing about how they came to be an author. There are always people wanting to know how to get published, but those stories aren’t the same as hearing how an author got published in my opinion. The personal journey of each author is different and fascinating and Kaz’s was no different. One of the things that stayed with me was that she said she had always planned on sending something in but life got in the way. It is reassuring to hear that life pushes its way into the plans of everybody and it isn’t something to feel bad about, especially when it can’t be helped.

With her 20th year of publishing this year Kaz has 70 books under her belt writing across the board, for teenagers and children alike. Her first big lesson learnt was to trust the editor who had critiqued her first submitted story and while she admits her entry into the writing world was a fairly easy entrée, it did not mean it wasn’t hard work and she acknowledges she was very fortunate. But she has also had her share of rejection, and another interesting lesson she gave us was that in her opinion you can’t really call yourself an author until you’ve been rejected. But you must also see the rejection for what it is, nothing against you personally but rather a critique on the work, separate yourself from it and don’t let it get you down.

Kaz spoke about how it is tough to be author, much harder than it was 20 years ago but noted there are more opportunities for writers these days. What was interesting was Kaz’s take on it. She understands that it gives people more chances but it has the possibility of harming the industry. This I completely understand, with the self publishing world taking off, more people can be published but there is a risk that the quality is not at the same standard as the traditional publishing route is known for, reducing the quality of the work that is being released. As Kaz mentioned, there is a lot of work that gets put out there that was rejected for a reason, and with people anxious to get their work out they don’t always do the extra work to make it right, people need to do themselves the best favour they can when it comes to getting their work out there.

Just before she finished up Kaz gave us some great advice on teen writing. She gave us ten excellent tips in making sure the work is authentic, and of good quality, including a few great insights we should remember. I would love to look at these points in more detail but I won’t do it here, but her top ten list is some excellent advice in how to make your young adult novel, any story really, work for you.

  1. See the world through the eyes of a character. Continually remind yourself who is telling the story.
  2. Don’t get distracted by sparkly things, that is don’t be distracted by a great new idea if it doesn’t fit within your story.
  3. Decisions made by characters must make emotional sense, most teen decisions won’t make logical sense but they must make emotional sense.
  4. Popular culture references can ground or not ground a story so you should be careful, and be wary of copyright issues.
  5. Swearing/not swearing, sex, drugs etc cannot be ignored. You can’t write for teens without tipping your hat to it.
  6. Pacing the novel is important.
  7. There is always hope. You don’t need to end with happily ever after but you always need hope.
  8. Know your genre. Read other books in your genre and notice themes, style etc to guide you.
  9. Love your audience. It’s hard to write in and hard to get published if you don’t like your audience. If you don’t like children and teens don’t write for them.
  10. Don’t limit yourself to writing for young adult.

If you ever get to see Kaz or any author at an event it is never a wasted moment. You can learn so much about writing and books, even if you are not interested in creating yourself it is always wonderful hearing from your favourite author and it lets them know they’re appreciated as well. It is truly a great time and yesterday was another one of those great events I was glad to have attended.


Newcastle Writers Festival 2014: Saturday

nwflogoReading Ryan O’Neill’s post last night about his Newcastle Writers experience reminded me I haven’t done my own, then I realised it was no longer a couple of days ago it was an entire week! Where does the time go? So I have finally found some time to tell you all about my awesome time at the Newcastle Writers Festival.

After the enjoyable and amazing time at the opening night on Friday, I was up early and off to Newcastle City Hall for day one of the festival. My first session, ‘From Little Things: Writing for Children‘, was excellent. On the panel was Kaz Delaney (aka Kerri Lane), Wendy Harmer, and Jesse Blackadder with Linsay Knight moderating. The mood in the room was wonderful, there was laughter and joking, each of the panellists played off each other and watching them joke and interact was as enjoyable for them as it was the entire audience.

Stories on writing were discussed and Kaz Delaney told us that she felt she was born to write and told us about her vast collection of books for children. With 69 books under her belt Kaz was first published at 9 with what she called a blatant rip off of the poem “Daffodils” by William Wordsworth. She also mentioned that some people have passions –  animals, the planet etc and her passion is children. I thought that was wonderful. Being passionate about writing is one thing but when you couple that with being passionate about children as well I really think it would help your work.

Wendy discussed her creation and development of her Pearly series. Pearly is a fairy that lives on a fountain in a park and as a big fairy fan,  Wendy said the idea for Pearly came very easily. She also said she wanted to create a fairy that didn’t look like other fairies, those that seem to look like Paris Hilton with wings; she wanted a fairy with daring do.

What I loved about Wendy was the reason she chose to set her Pearly series in a park. She said that most children don’t have gardens, instead they go to the park, Wendy herself took her daughter to the park. Because of this they cannot enjoy the magic of having a fairy at the bottom of their garden so by having Pearly live in the park it showed children that even if they didn’t have a garden they could still enjoy the magic of fairies.

Jesse Blackadder, an author who I had not previously heard of, is someone who bases her stories of real things that happen, she takes them and brings the story to life. Listening to Jesse talk was enjoyable, she was funny and played on the vast success of her fellow panellists and joked about her far fewer books, and amongst the strong presence and humour of the others Jesse held her own quite well.

She told us about her new book Stay, a story about a fibreglass Guide dog statue that had been kidnapped from Hobart and taken to Antarctica. She discussed the true story it was based upon as well as the issues she had trying to make an inanimate object tell its own story. Jesse also told us when telling stories about real events in real places it was important to her to go to the places themselves, and so having been to Antarctica, Dubai and numerous other places she was able to bring the story to life.

The entire session was excellent and one filled with learning, insight and a lot of laughter. All the panellists gave us a reading from their book, and as much as I loved them all I must say Wendy’s was the most animated. Naturally by the end of the session I was eager to read all of their books which resulted in the buying and signing of books from each author.

Linsey Knight, Kaz Delaney, Wendy Harmer, Jesse Blackadder

Linsey Knight, Kaz Delaney, Wendy Harmer, & Jesse Blackadder

The next session I attended was ‘Kate Forsyth in Conversation‘, a wonderful hour where Magdalena Ball discussed with Kate her creative journey as well as retelling fairy tales, and writing best selling works based on fables and fairy tales. So many wonderful lessons were learnt in this session, so many excellent quotes about writing, about fairytales and about creating I could hardly write fast enough to capture and remember it all.

Kate read to us from her novel Wild Girl, gave us insights in her research and her ideas, and even gave us a sneak peek into her new story that she was starting once the festival was over. For Kate immersing herself in the research was important, knowing about every detail about her characters was important, whether it was what they ate, believed, or how they peed. She also explained her four stages of writing, how she developed and planned her ideas, and the influences writing one novel can have on another.

Kate told us that if you have the compulsion to form life experiences into words than nothing should stop you, but she also said you cannot give someone the gift of writing, you may be able to teach it, but it is not the same. This was something I heard later in the weekend as well, and certainly something I hadn’t considered before.

Listening to Kate tell stories about how she started as a writer, how she writes and the work she puts into her books was inspiring, I have seen her a few times now over the years and every time she manages to amaze me more. Once again, more books were bought and signed.

Magdalena Ball & Kate Forsyth

Magdalena Ball & Kate Forsyth

My last session was ‘Once Upon a Time: Exploring myths, fables, and fairy tales‘, again with Kate Forsyth but with John Hughes as well and Jenny Blackford moderating. Discussing the idea of reinventing fables and fairy tales into new inventive stories is something I adore doing and love reading about. John and Kate immediately addressed the incorrect notion that fables and fairytales are just for children, not to mention how and why these stories have lasted for millennia.

Kate said she believes that a story is retold if it is a story of longing and need and some kind of dilemma, and the stories that are retold and retold and shape shift really touch a core in the listeners. As she beautifully put it, she feels like a relay runner carrying on this beacon of stories, behind her is centuries of storytelling. I thought that was a wonderful way to describe it.

This was another session of excellent quotes about us as people, about our need for stories and love of them. From the cleaning up of darker tales in the Victorian era, and the Grimm’s changing the stories as well it was clear that these stories have been evolving for awhile. Naturally Disney poked its nose into this discussion about it taming down of fairytales further, but Kate wisely pointed out that Disney probably is the true source of the fairy tale revival, and that they did a wonderful service by keeping stories alive that may have been forgotten. John also pointed out that you cannot say these stories can only be used for high literature purposes and no other. It is really up to the person telling the stories how they want to do it. As Kate said, with each retelling of a tale the teller brings their own concerns to it. By the end of the session I has learned so much and gotten so many new ideas and motivation to write my own stories. After the session was over, yes, many books were bought and signed once more.

Kate Forsyth, Jenny Blackford, & John Hughes

Kate Forsyth, Jenny Blackford, & John Hughes

At the end of a very long first day I was on a buzz of knowledge and awe and just general happiness to be there. This is what I love, learning about how people write, where their inspiration comes from, but also the chance to broaden your own mind and gain new perspective and welcome new ideas and challenges. I truly adore this (and other) writing festivals. Not only do you learn so much but you also get exposed to great authors you may never have noticed or even considered before.

Newcastle Writer’s Festival 2014

The Newcastle Writer’s Festival released their 2014 program this weekend and I know a fair few people who were there waiting and already have read through the various sessions and work out which ones they can attend and where the overlapping conflicts and tough decisions lie. I know with my own choices I had to choose between a few things, had to decide what was more valuable and what sparked my interest. As a first round I have a list of seven across two days including some excellent sessions with Kate Forsyth, Ryan O’Neill, Kaz Delaney, Wendy Harmer, and a range of others.

For those interested in going, the Newcastle Writers Festival is in its second year and is held in April with this year’s dates the 4th, 5th, and 6th. Started by Rosemarie Milsom with the support and backing of many great people the festival could be put on. Last year there were more than 70 writers participating with 38 sessions running. This year is just as big if not bigger and if last year is anything to go by it will be a resounding success and fun weekend in Newcastle. All the details can be found on their website, along with the program of sessions and information, times and locations. Just check though because while most are free, there are a few that require you to purchase a ticket, but it isn’t all that expensive.

I went to the inaugural Writers Festival last year with Jess over at The Never Ending Bookshelf, and for a first year event is was pretty spectacular. Certainly cannot believe it has been a whole year already. This year the events are mainly situated in the City Hall as far as I can see which is a lot different than last year. One of my favourite sessions last year was actually hosted in one of the pubs I used to go to after Uni with a few friends so that was rather interesting. Of course it was in the back room away from the general public, but it was still very cool. Now we’re in the City Hall so getting to see all their various rooms should be interesting.

The festival is across three days, and the sessions cover everything; there are sessions about crime writing, poetry, writing for children, writing fairy tales, romance, and just plain old writing. There are also sessions and talks by specific authors for you to attend. To learn more about the festival you can read their About page, or just have a look through their website, check out the programs that will be running, see the authors that are visiting and have a general squiz at how amazing it is going to be. You can also follow the latest news and information on Facebook and Twitter. It is only the end of February but I can already see that April is definitely going to be getting off to a very good start.


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