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Hi Secretkeepers,
 
Welcome to our September newsletter. What a quarter it has been. Lisa and Sally have mostly been locked up in our homes with our families while Rachael has been going through some big changes over her way too. 2020 eh? 
 
At least all this time inside has given us plenty of time to read. We’ve all been doing lots of reading, including The Dictionary of Lost Words, which is our September Read Along. We are also really looking forward to reading Jane Harper’s new novel, The Survivors, for our October Read Along so make sure you order your copy and join us.
 
It’s going to be an exciting few months for us with both Rachael and Sally releasing a new novel at the end of October (have you pre-ordered yet?) and heading off on (mostly virtual) tours. Before we know it the year will be over. We, for three, won’t be devastated to see the back of 2020.
 
Keep Reading!
Sally, Rachael and Lisa x

Sally Hepworth

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WHAT I’VE BEEN UP TO:
Hello! Melburnian here in my 67,984th week of lockdown. Wouldn’t trade places with us for quids, would you?
 
If you’ve looked at my Instagram lately, you will know that I’ve been in lockdown with my kids, trying to finish the first draft of my 2022 book, The Step Mother, prepare for the release of The Good Sister in November in Australia,  manage virtual learning and look after a very bad-tempered toddler. At the time of writing this, I’m still not finished The Step Mother, my kids are deep in the midst of online-learning refusal, and Clementine is eating a piece of chocolate cake for breakfast (strike that, she’s only eating the icing). 
 
There is no doubt that this year has been a challenge, for everyone, but being the positive person I am, I try to keep my focus on how much alcohol this allows me to drink, the amount of online shopping I can justify, and the fact that I don’t have to go to social engagements that I don’t want to go to. It helps to distract from the fact that I won’t be visiting a hairdresser for a very long time.
 
WHAT I’VE BEEN READING:
I’ve just finished The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams. I had heard so many great things about this book that I thought it couldn’t possibly live up to the hype. But it did! Other books I’ve recently read and loved include I Give This Marriage a Year by Holly Wainwright,  Girl A by Abigail Williams, Cleo McDougall Regrets Nothing by Allison Winn Scotch and I’m about to start Just One Wish by Rachael Johns. So many great reads about at the moment. 
 
WORST THING I’VE BOUGHT IN ISO:
Gosh, this is a hard one. Let’s just say there have been a lot of pretty terrible purchases lately – I blame a combination of boredom (because of lockdown) alcohol (because of lockdown) and a committed belief that the next thing I purchase will improve my life (because of lockdown). Probably the one that springs to mind is the box of educational toys I bought when I found out that Clementine wouldn’t be allowed to go to daycare– I probably should have saved my money and bought her her own TV instead. Let’s just say she’s getting her education from Playschool at the moment! 
 
BOOK I WISH I’D WRITTEN:
Girl A by Abigail Dean. It is a debut novel that is releasing in January and I have not been gripped by a book in this way in many months. And did I mention it’s a DEBUT? It takes most authors a dozen books before they find they stride like this – many authors never do. But this was just a masterpiece. Warning, it is harrowing in some places. But after 2020, I feel like we’re ready for anything.
 
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Lisa Ireland

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WHAT I'VE BEEN UP TO:
Not a lot! Obviously being in lockdown has curtailed my social activities. Who would have thought that the day would come where my husband and I would argue over the right to be the one to do the weekly grocery shopping?
 
Workwise, I don’t have anything super exciting to report, either. I’m still writing the next book. So far, I’ve written 42 000 words, which is actually a bit of a relief. I often end up deciding to ditch an idea somewhere between 30 and 40K, so I’m always happy to get past the 40K mark!
 
I have managed to find a use for my YouTube channel over the past couple of months. I’ve been recording my tips for aspiring authors and uploading them to YouTube every Monday. The video series is called Mentor Monday and you can find it here:  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCWilSNLIfFzoIUyp60AjQ0A
I’ve also started a series where I interview authors about their path to publication. You can also find these by clicking the link above.
 
WHAT I'VE BEEN READING:
I recently read Fiona Palmer’s Tiny White Lies, which I really enjoyed, and I’ve just finished See You in September by Charity Norman. I’ve been on a Charity Norman binge lately. I read The Secrets of Strangers earlier in the year (more about that later!) then See You in September and I’m currently reading Second Chances. It’s very unusual for me to read back- to-back books by the same author, but I’m absolutely OBSESSED with Charity Norman right now! Next on my list is our very own Rachael’s Flying the Nest, which I was super chuffed to receive an advanced reading copy of.
 
WORST THING I'VE BOUGHT IN ISO:
I have done a little bit of online shopping recently out of necessity, but (apart from books, of course) it’s mainly been cleaning products and facemasks – snore! It’s quite disappointing to have the postie come to the door with a parcel, only to realise it’s the giant bucket of laundry soaker you bought on sale on e-bay.  I guess my worst purchase has been the air fryer I bought early on in the lockdown. It hasn’t really been super useful. We used it three times in the first week and haven’t used it since!
 
BOOK I WISH I'D WRITTEN:
Charity Norman’s The Secrets of Strangers. I think this is the best book I’ve read this year (although there have been some very close runners up!). I’m not always a fan of reading suspense, mainly because I find suspense books sometimes prioritise story over character. (Of course, not always – B.M. Carroll’s books are a notable exception.) If I don’t care about the characters in a novel, if they don’t feel real to me, I don’t care what happens to them and therefore I don’t care about the story.  The Secrets of Strangers was recommended to me by my local bookseller, Stacey at Bookgrove. I had never heard of Charity Norman (which seems unfathomable to me now!) but I trust Stacey’s judgement, so I decided to give it a go. By the end of the first chapter I was absolutely hooked. This novel blew me away. It kept me up way past my bedtime with a nail-biting storyline and a cast of characters I came to care deeply about. I don’t want to spoil this book for you by saying much more, suffice to say I am incredibly envious of Charity Norman’s talent.
 
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Rachael Johns

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WHAT I'VE BEEN UP TO:

The last few months have been SUPER busy work and family wise and we’ve had some BIG changes in our lives. In July I submitted HOW TO MEND A BROKEN HEART (out next May) and am now in structural edit hell! Honestly, I like having written a book (when it’s finished and all pretty sitting on my shelf) but editing it can be PAINFUL!! No wonder writers drink. I’ve had to rewrite whole chapters and add new ones and I just want it DONE. Copy edits are my favourite where it’s just fiddling at a sentence level and we’re almost DONE. 

In addition to the above, I’ve completed the final proofread for FLYING THE NEST out late October and I’ve also started writing OUTBACK SECRETS (Bunyip Bay #5), which will be a Christmas 2021 release (if all goes according to plan. The highlight of my writing life this last few months was JUST ONE WISH winning the Romance Writers of Australia RUBY Award for Romantic Elements. 

On the home front – we’ve had a bit of upheaval. My hubby got a promotion which saw him moving TWELVE HOURS (by car) away to the town of Newman. This decision to accept this job wasn’t one we made lightly and the boys and I are looking forward to traveling up for visits and exploring the vast north of WA over the next couple of years. My oldest son has also just got his learner’s permit (EEK – where does the time go) so he’ll be able to get his driving hours up while sharing the load with me as we go back and forth to Newman. I’ll be sure to share photos of our road trips and time up north. 
 
 WHAT I'VE BEEN READING:
 For my online book club, I’ve read THE SECRET LIFE OF SHIRLEY SULLIVAN (for the second time) and BOTTLEBRUSH CREEK by Maya Linnell. My stand-out read over the last couple of months (aside from Lisa’s of course) would have to be THE BROKEN GIRLS by Simone St James. Like Lisa is devouring Charity Norman, I’m glomming all Simone St James’ backlist. Love her combo of mystery and ghosts!
 
WORST THING I'VE BOUGHT IN ISO:
Even though we’re no longer in ISO really in West Oz (unless you count being cut off from the rest of the country), I’ve been keeping up my side of the bargain in boosting the economy by doing LOTS of shopping. The books, clothes and earrings are ALL essential (sorry, Lisa, no cleaning products bought here! Oh, unless you count my Robo Vac – more in him in a mo), but I also bought a few other things which I thought were a good idea at the time and proved less than useful OR enjoyable. Probably the worst of these were puzzles bought from a site I saw on FB. They arrived, EVENTUALLY (months after purchasing them), but the box was crushed and the quality of the actual pieces terrible L Lesson learnt, be wary of buying stuff from dodgy FB ads.
And I know this was not what we’re writing about but BEST ever purchase (recent) is my Robo Vac. I named it Craig the 2nd (after the husband) and it makes me happy EVERY time I hear it buzzing over our floors!!! Wish I’d invested in one YEARS ago!
 
BOOK I WISH I'D WRITTEN:
Ooh there are a couple (or ten – let’s face it, I wish I’d written all of Sally’s and Lisa’s books at least), but I’m going to force myself to choose just two.
  1. Bridget Jones Diary by Helen Fielding – it was such a hoot to read at the time, so relatable, a massive hit and got made into a movie starring Colin Firth AND Hugh Grant! What’s not to lust after?
  2. The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty – I remember devouring this book as fast as this slow reader could, desperate to find out WHAT the husband had left in the letter his wife wasn’t meant to find until after his death and thinking WHY OH WHY didn’t I think of this fab premise? Really, it’s a pretty simple one (of course the secret is pretty full on) but what it taught me is that sometimes the simple premises are the best! Actually I wish I’d written almost everything Liane has written – her writing is such a pleasure to read and her characters so fully formed they could easily be real!
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