Posted in Elephant Creek, Elephants, Writers, Writing tips

Grabbing readers with Chapter One


Today I reread Chapter One of Elephant Creek.

I must admit I’m liking what I have done. I hope you do too.

Chapter one

Over the weekend I finished a writing reference Write On! The Writer’s Help Book by Adrian Magson, a read I’d recommend to aspiring and established writers alike. This book reinforced the fundamentals of writing a story that grabs readers (among other things).

It is vital to continue to read writing references to improve your craft.

With a book vying for a readership, the blurb will hopefully gain interest, but when potential readers open the book to read the first couple of pages, they’ll be hooked like a fish on a line or fishtailing it across the ocean, not looking back.

The first chapter questions:

  • Does that first chapter have the reader wanting more?
  • Is it short and to the point?
  • Is it either introducing the main protagonist or setting up a theme?
  • Does it have the right pace?
  • Is their conflict, questions, danger, enticement, part revelations or emotions?

Let’s test it.

I’m going to show you my raw (remember I’m only four chapters into the story and will draft and edit many more times) first chapter of Elephant Creek. Let me know if you like it and if you would read further. I would love your opinion, dear reader.

First Chapter Elephant Creek

“Picture perfect, eh, girl?” Derick smiled, patting Sasha’s wide head as she sat on the worn passenger seat. With her tongue lolling towards the window breeze, she panted in doggy happiness.

The sound of the battered ute broke through the squawking flock of white cockatoos swooping above through the orange, pink, purple sky as the sun faded in the west. Colour reflected on the smooth waters of Currumbin Creek, flashing through the gum trees lining the road’s edge. A full moon had risen in the eastern sky casting light and shadows as a non-dark night descended.

“Don’t let on to Crystal I let you sit in her seat,” Derick said to the dog, chuckling to himself and watching the road. The tan Staffordshire Terrier turned, grinning her approval with a wide gummy-fanged smile.

Derick was a cautious driver. If anything he’d mostly driven under the speed limit. It was probably because he’d often had precious cargo with him; his wife, kid, the grandchild and his beloved dogs. Boss before Sasha and there’d probably be another after the old girl.

Placing his left hand on Sasha’s stomach tumour, a frown creased his mouth. Aged, rheumy eyes welled, making him wipe them with a curled finger. Seriously, he was becoming a sook in his old age. Well, he wasn’t exactly old, but he was turning 66 soon. It was a hell of a lot older than 26, but he didn’t feel much different, despite a few aches. He knew he should give up the cigarette’s too, but he had to have at least one vice.

Sasha let out a sharp bark. Derick took his eyes off the road for a second, glancing at the dog, seeing her nip towards a red dot of light on the dash. Yapping excitedly, she scraped her paws at it, trying to bite it with her teeth.

Derick slowed the car. Perplexed, he glanced up the road wondering about the light source. A blinding flash forced him to momentarily shut his eyes. Slamming his foot on the brake. The car skidded, veering to the side of the road. Blinded except for the violet light still burning under his eyelids, he lifted one arm to shield his eyes. With white knuckles, he gripped the steering wheel, trying to stay on the road he could no longer see.

Tyres screeched. Gravel crunched. The steering wheel spun out of his hands. Glass smashed. Metal ground. As the airbags slammed into his chest and face, Derick felt his lungs explode. The walls of the car closed in around him.

The last things he heard were Sasha’s high-pitched yelp and screams not coming from the squealing tyres.

A different start for a reason.

The chapter is unlike the starts to The Zanzibar Moon and Kendwa’s Secret, but don’t worry there will be steamy chapters early. This time though there is a more complicated plot that ties all three books together. Some of you may remember Derick from Kendwa’s Secret. I won’t spoil who he is for new readers (he’s a likeable guy who may play a bigger part). Ali will return too. And what of Jai? You’ll have to read it to find out.

The blurb for Elephant Creek

The sequel to The Zanzibar Moon brings all three books to a final enthralling, emotional conclusion.

Emma has a dilemma. Does she keep dating rock-star handsome Wade or pursue her crush on sexy, silent Toby, who doesn’t even seem interested in her anyway?

“Wade, the Tinder dater, will either swipe left or become a stalker,” warns her sister Jessy.

Emma and Toby clash over the details of Toby’s father’s car accident, but she only wants to help. To make matters worse she thinks there is a police conspiracy, but she can’t convince stubborn Toby. After one too many visits she discovers the old circus elephant living out its days on his family’s property. Toby warns her to never return.

Toby has enough problems without falling for delightful, spirited Emma. His young daughter, Hope has started mainstream school and he’s worried she’ll be bullied. After years of working a covert operation in North Queensland teaching the Defence Force how to avoid crocodiles, he discovers his nephew was in his hometown.

Furious that Emma’s sister has Kendwa’s son – will he take what’s rightfully his or leave the little boy to live with the family he clearly loves?

Ali can’t get over Toby’s resemblance to Kendwa and how little Jai is growing up with no fear of danger and the spitting image of both. But a little boy in suburban Queensland does not need an uncle with a shady past and temper.

When Hope is attacked at the local school, Jai shows his true family traits by sticking up for the little Down’s Syndrome girl even though there will be a price to pay.

Will Toby ever believe Emma’s version of events to bring his guard down long enough to let love back into his life and save his father’s reputation?

Who can any of them believe when every white lie turns into deception?

Elephant Creek by Donna Munro
The sample cover of Elephant Creek by Donna Munro

COMING IN LATE 2019

Posted in Kendwa's Secret, Marketing books, Publishing, The Zanzibar Moon, Writers, Writing tips

Library Talks are a terrific way to engage your readers


Ever since I was a young aspiring writer I dreamed of being an author. Originally it was only about getting my stories to readers, but the more I learned about the career I discovered authors need to do more than write. They have to promote their work with marketing and publicity. Sometimes they even have to speak in public (I know that’s a shock, right?)

For your stories to be read you have to gain an audience. When I was working for a small publisher I marvelled at one author’s resilience trudging from bookstore to bookstore, sometimes barely selling a couple of books (hang on a minute who trudges to a bookstore. I skip with joy. Books, books and more books!).

This author was determined to let readers know she was there. Book signings, launches, author talks, radio interviews – anything – she put her hand up to do it. It would have been preferable to be on her bum writing the next book, in fact, some of the events she went to she would have rather had her teeth pulled, but eventually trickles of books began to sell. Soon she had a loyal readership because of her persistence.

Anyhow, the reality is that if you write a book you want people to read it. Right?

I do. I want to share my stories with as many people as possible. I want them to laugh, cry, giggle, gasp, squirm and feel every emotion I have conveyed on the page. This brings me to author talks.

Updated version of the slideshow from our author talk. This could help writers and interest readers who want to understand how writers write.

After many years of helping other authors plan them, I finally undertook my own as a published author with my dear friend Katrina MacDonald. We decided we wanted the talk to be engaging as well as about our books and the way we wrote them. An author talk isn’t something you can just turn up to and wing it. There needs to be some preparation to make sure the audience doesn’t yawn, fall asleep or worse, walk out of the room, shooting you a disgusted glare.

Katrina, the better public speaker got things started. We’d designed a slideshow together (not as easy as it seems with one, Katrina not me, on dialysis and one, me, working numerous other jobs). We managed to pull it together in time for our author talk. (Please note the main character is the protagonist and the spanner-in-the-works kind of character is an antagonist.) With slideshow clicking through and both of us adding insights and observations the people attending looked engaged and responsive. Though (yes I confess) I was not looking forward to public speaking as I hadn’t done so for a while, it ended up a fun experience. I think having Katrina as a sounding board helped. She’s a pro. I relaxed and so did our audience.

They weren’t shy at question time either, asking about our lives as writers. We had a mix of readers and aspiring writers and authors. We had planned the slideshow to engage them all. We also put out questionnaires asking for their email (build your database of readers) for them to go into a lucky draw (a lovely box containing The Zanzibar Moon, bookmarks, coffee cup and candle) which was a pleasant surprise for them. Thank you to our family, friends, readers and new readers and writers who attended and made the event give me a skip in my step instead of trudging home. You’re all awesome. Thank you to those who bought my books too. I hope you thoroughly enjoy them and become part of my tribe of readers as I’m sure you will of Katrina’s when it is released.

Katrina MacDonald and Donna Munro in front of the display table at the Author Encounter at Elanora Library 18th January 2019.

As soon as Katrina’s book Ourimbah Road is launched you’ll be informed here and on the blog she fine-tuning.

My own Elephant Creek is also expected sometime this year.