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Some of my friends have been kind enough to help get Falling into Queensland into shape, so I thought it would be useful to post their comments and see if bouncing ideas around makes for a better book.
I can't make this into a blog (not clever enough) but if you email anything you want to say - by clicking the button on the right - I'll paste it straight in.

And thanks again for the help. I have not seen a comment yet that I am not going to work on.

Murray 3rd March

I've finished reading Falling Into Queensland and enjoyed it mostly.  It did seem to drag on with atmosphere a number of times when Shirley is discovering Queensland.  I didn't bother to do any editing of spelling / grammar and focused on characters as you requested.  Here are my thoughts:
Marilyn:
Very strong character - I can believe her strength and readiness to tackle all the situations she does.  The only point I think you could improve is that I didn't get even a sign at the beginning that she could look good when dressed up.
Japan:
I don't get his motivations, but I think that's the point and I'm comfortable with that.
Tom:
We don't get much of him, but it's enough for the role he plays.
Rupert:
I get that he's weak and not really likeable to the Queenslanders, but I'd like to understand his motivations.  I think the story would benefit from his POV at some point, or at least Shirley's take on him and what he's likely to be thinking of Port Bruce and Japan.
Shirley:
In general, I liked Shirley, but I found her inconsistent.  She seems too worldly for her background.  She's a prim English girl, yet she's too quickly comfortable with living in a 3-walled house, isn't shocked at Marilyn coming into her hotel room uninvited and finding her naked on the bed, isn't shy about getting out of the shower in front of Shirley, doesn't freak out at being naked in front of all the bikies.
If she's such a together, desirable chick, why is she with the loser?  What does she see in him?  What need does he fulfil for her?  He must have some good points from her perspective and I want to know them - even if she rethinks them later.
She wouldn't feel safe enough in her house once Japan knows where she lives and would surely not want to sleep there, even with the guy on the houseboat nearby, especially after she's escaped from Japan.
I really don't buy her reaction to being held captive.  With Japan's menace hanging over her head, she should be more panicky, less in-control.  It doesn't seem right for her to be thinking about cleaning up the bar of her own volition.  If it's purely to be keeping busy so she doesn't think about the situation or out of fear of Japan finding fault and humiliating her more.  She certainly wouldn't be entertaining the idea of coming back after she'd been freed.  I think you need to make the situation more fearful.
Plot-wise, there were a number of points that fell short, but the only one that jumps to mind as I write this is that Marilyn returning from seeing Japan without incident was an anti-climax.  I was ready for Japan to take out his anger on Marilyn or to have sent out a search party with orders to kill Shirley on sight.  The fact that it was so easy takes the impact out of the escape.

I hope this helps.  It's not really the sort of book I would read, so I may be way off the mark for the expectations of the genre, but I think that addressing these would make the book stronger.

Jola 1st March

As a foreigner who only arrived in Australia recently, I think that Shirley's experience of fitting into the  
pub etc was just right. That's how it was for me, but I was a bit surprised that Marilyn coming into her  
room did not worry her more. I also thought she should have been more frightened of the croc  
swimming up the river.

Midge was strange but fitted well with Japan.  Japan was convincing and I didn't like him(!)  

I liked the descriptions of the countryside, and the book could be a very good advertisement for the  
beauties of Queensland.  Every tourist should read it! However, I am worried that the explicitness of  
the two major sex scenes will put off some readers, and move the book out of the mainstream into a  
more sex-oriented market.

I liked Marilyn in London, she's a clever lady. She sized Jeremy up very well. Rupert was a weak  
character, but that is the way he is. No Queenslander, for sure.

John 7th March

I had a look through the Queensland book. It looks OK. The existing editing appears to have picked  
up any errors. The story is not really my style and I found the raw sex confronting but then I  
understand the market you're writing for. I believe it successfully conveys the feel of remote North  
Queensland and the contrast with London life. I like the phone call early on where she is trying  
unsuccessfully to explain to the fellow in London what its like.
The original of Japan's dredge,
rusting away in the old goldfields at Bulolo, PNG. Japan kept his dredge in better shape.
Eric

Looks like the sex is going to be sanitised.  Never mind. It is not intended to be erotic - more about power relationships so the scenes can re-written in a less confronting way.  Useful feedback, though.


Murray 9th March

I thought the sex was fine.  If you take it out or tone it down then the whole bikie thing of making their women go naked would seem out of place.  It seemed that was all a major part of the book and a reason that your audience would read it.  But.... who is your audience?

Eric

I agree with you, Murray.  I feel the sex scenes in question are a necessary part of the story, because they are about power relationships. Bikies do have a tradition of treating women (except their own) as lower beings.
However, perhaps it is true that because some of my books are intentionally erotic, I have written these scenes in a way that gives too much explicit detail. I am thinking of re-writing them with the same activity and weight but with less sexual detail. Certainly I am not looking for erotic here, and although I hope my romantic readers will still like the story, it will be because it is a generally good tale. I hope.

Ray March 28th

I was disappointed by the ending - I guess that would be my biggest critique.  It seems to come to a rather abrupt ending and felt as though you were in a hurry to come to a conclusion.  I thought that you'd spent a good deal of effort weaving a rather good, strong, suspenseful plot and it ends without any closure to several relationships or issues, most notably the money laundering through her boyfriend in England?  With this ending it all seems rather meaningless that you took such trouble to get that whole story line developed.

It might take another 50-75 pages, but think this could have a stronger ending.

Ray also commented in the text:

"Marilyn, Japan’s dead.”
“What? You’re kidding.”
“No. Tom caught and killed him.”
This seems rather casual for there having just been a murder.

Eric

Thanks Ray. A good, serious comment. What does everyone else think?

Serge March 31st

More on your book. It almost feels like there is a sequel coming. We don't know what Rupert actually did to Jeremy. Or whether Shirley and Tom got away with murder. Or lived happily ever after.

It ended a bit abruptly for me, even though the main plot was largely settled.

The Mission Beach name will be OK for foreign readers but may cause minor confusion with Aus/Qld readers.

I would have liked Japan to suffer a bit more, i.e. get taken alive by the croc after Tom pushes him in the water. A graphic croc attack may have added some allure - particularly for American readers.

Eric

I did not know you had such a mean streak, Serge, wanting poor Japan to be eaten alive by a croc! Interesting you also found the ending too sharp. I see the sex did not bother you? A man after my own heart...

Serge April 1st

I've just read the others' comments on Falling into Qld.

Jacq noted that I did not comment on the sex; that's because I have read a previous novel The Prince and Nun. That one was extremely graphic, and would have been aimed purely at the sex market. As this new one was quite toned down, I thought it was an attempt to placate J's 'normal' audience. (?)
As a stand alone, I do agree that the sex could be toned down.

I have not read the Treasure Island book but I assume that Long John Silver did not wear a corset and suspender belt there, so it really gets down to who is being addressed as the target audience.

Ray's comment on Shirley's terse description of the killing........ I think that in "real life" Shirley would not directly implicate Tom; but rather come out with a non specific statement such as "Japan is no longer with us, he had what you might call a very fortunate accident" - leaving Marylin to come to her own conclusions.  (and not have to perjure herself in court)

I note Jacq's photo of "Japan's dredge" hmmm.. interesting.

Eric

Thanks again, Serge. I am already scanning the sex scenes and trying to imagine how they might be sanitised. Should not be too much of a problem.

The rapidity of the ending is a different issue. I suspect the answer there will not be to make the story longer, but to start the build-up to Japan's attack earlier. That way the reader suspects something is going to happen for longer, and it will not come as so much of a surprise. I shall have to roll up my sleeves and get into the nuts and bolts of the last chapters.

I am a fan of not tying up all the loose ends of a story at the end. I only tied up as many as I did this time because my daughter is good at nagging. You will have to imagine what Jeremy and Rupert are doing to each other in London... However, Ray has a good point that knowing more of the problems between Japan and Jeremy/Rupert would be a good idea.
 
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