A Different Tribe–Genrecon (Australia)

Last weekend the inaugural Genrecon was held in Australia, with international guests Joe Abercrombie, agent Ginger Clark and Smart Bitch Sarah Wendell along with many other luminaries of the Australian genre fiction writing scene–including our Anna Campbell as well as Helene Young, Kim Wilkins/Kimberley Freeman and Bandita friend Denise Rossetti.

This was a writers’ convention primarily but we saw a few friendly reader faces in the crowd. Bandita Buddies Helen and Barb made the trip to come and see us. Aren’t they honeys? It was great to meet Barb after all this time and of course, catch up with Helen, whom we often see at ARRA events. Kat from BookThingo was there, too.

Romance was well represented among the science fiction, fantasy, crime and horror writers. Nikki Logan, our super-organized and savvy RWA president, spoke about the organization and the many benefits of membership. There was a murmur of appreciation in the crowd when Nikki said the organization is 800 members and counting.

Lisa Heidke joined Anna Campbell and Daniel O’Malley in a debate for the pantsers (writers who write by the seat of their pants rather than planning the book) team against the evil plotters, Kim Wilkins, L.A. Larkin and Narelle Harris.

I have to say, I found the plotters a tad scary, but maybe that’s just because I am a seat of the pants writer, through and through. I have tried to change this, but it never works so I’ve learned to live with it.

I had to leave early to catch my plane but I hear the debate took an interesting turn at the end. Correct me if I’m wrong, someone, but did Daniel actually kiss Kate Eltham, who chaired the debate? That certainly demonstrates the power of pantsers to pull the unexpected plot twist out of their hats!

Here’s a photo of a few of the romance and women’s fiction writers in attendance at the Pistols and Parasols Banquet on the Saturday night. From left: Nikki Logan, Helene Young, Anna Campbell, Denise Rossetti and Lisa Heidke. Bronwyn Parry was there too and I’m sure I’ve forgotten others–please excuse me if I have!

Looking around, I realized it’s the first writers’ conference I’ve been to with so many MEN in attendance. The testosterone quotient was an interesting variation on the usual 99% female contingent at romance conferences.

Here’s a picture of former police officer and private eye, martial arts expert Simon Higgins showing us the real version of the Vulcan Nerve Pinch during his workshop on writing fight scenes. I had to admire the lady who volunteered. He said, “tell me as soon as this hurts”. I think about a nanosecond passed before she said ‘stop!’

Simon was a fascinating speaker and I now have a few ideas for my next couple of books about the Westruther men. In each book in the series, I keep writing a throaway line that Xavier, Lord Steyne is rumored to have killed a man with his bare hands–not knowing how this works or whether it’s even true for my character. (I’m a pantser, what can I say?) Now, having attended Simon’s workshop I know precisely how Xavier did it and it’s given me the kernel of an idea for Xavier’s book.

On the banquet night, Smart Bitch Sarah did a live version of one of her famous cover snarks involving covers depicting Australia, the high point of which was PRIDE AND PLATYPUS. I kid you not. I’ll leave you to google that image for yourselves! I also scored my first ever Tootsie pop from Sarah for asking a question during her Q&A with Kim Wilkins.

Kim came up with the memorable bon mot (which I probably don’t have verbatim here) “If I had a dollar for every person who trashed romance I’d have enough money to buy a boat to sink them in”. Needless to say, there was much cheering from the romance writer table over that one!

An articulate and intelligent advocate for the romance genre, Sarah Wendell impressed me with her knowledge and affection for the genre. I think her snark plays a part in getting those who might dismiss the genre on her side so she can take them by the hand and lead them to the real message about romance and why we love it. Who knows? Maybe a few people left the con with fewer misconceptions about romance and its writers than they had before.

Sarah was a gracious and amusing guest, eager to experience everything about Australia, including the fact that we had power and gas (Sarah is from New Jersey) and the infamous Tim Tam Slam (above). We so enjoyed having Sarah here and we’re looking forward to seeing her again for the RWAus conference in Perth.

Btw, do you see who is also taking a piccie at the same time as I did? Our lovely BB Helen!

I spoke on a panel about Subtext and also a panel with Kim Wilkins and Tansy Rayner Roberts about Monsters, Villains and Cads (right). Hmm, any guesses which of the three I spoke about? We had a lot of fun with Kim’s Vikings, Tansy’s Ancient Roman villains and my rakes and scoundrels.

I also found out that Kerry Greenwood’s Hellenic Women series is being published by Clan Destine Press in Australia. This makes me very happy–they’re a superb feminist re-telling of Grecian myths. Having read them years ago, I have looked for these books for a while now without much success and happened to mention this during the panel. Only to have everyone in the audience yelling at me that MEDEA was for sale outside in the lobby!

Needless to say I snapped up MEDEA and a previously unpublished Kerry Greenwood,  OUT OF THE BLACK LAND. The Clan Destine Press people took this as a photo opp and promptly tweeted it. For 10 seconds, I felt really famous!

Here I am with Lindy Cameron, the woman behind Clan Destine Press and one of the founders of the fabulous Sisters in Crime Australia.

Joe Abercrombie is the author of a very gritty high fantasy series and was one of the star attractions at the con. He is English, very self-deprecating and witty. I hadn’t come across him before but I bought the first book in his series for my husband who is a major Tolkien fan. Here’s Joe below (right) with Simon Higgins at the Pistols and Parasols banquet. Apologies for the quality of the photo–I took it on my iPad.

Joe was on a panel on worldbuilding with Anna Campbell, crime writer PM Newton and RC Daniells. It was interesting to hear the differing approaches between a fantasy world, a fictionalized historical world and the real world of the police force, of which PM Newton was a member at one time.

Even the real world of policing has to be fictionalized to some extent–the amount of bad language is cut down considerably, for example! PM said if she included the amount of swearing that actually goes on, her books would be unreadable.

Genrecon was a huge success and we all came away energized and optimistic about our writing, despite the fabulous Ginger Clark’s incisive (and rather depressing) summary of the state of the three major English-speaking markets. Kudos to the brains behind Genrecon–Meg Vann, Peter Ball, Kate Eltham, Jason Nahrung and many others who volunteered their time and expertise to make the con run smoothly. We all had a fabulous time and we’re already looking forward to next year in Brisbane.

In their opening speeches, Meg Vann and Kate Eltham both spoke about the importance of finding a ‘tribe’ who gets what you do and I realized I’m lucky enough to have several tribes. Here at Romance Bandits we love the fact that all of you Bandita Buddies are part of our tribe. We hope you always feel welcome here in the lair.

But now I want to know, what other tribes are you a part of? Do you like other genre fiction besides romance? If you do, does there have to be a romantic element in those books or are you quite happy to take a break from romance for a while? Do you want to know how to kill someone with your bare hands?

Come on over here and I’ll show you. Tell me when it hurts…

I’m giving away your choice of my Ministry of Marriage series today to one lucky reader who comments!



  • Fedora says:

    That sounds SO cool, Christina! And how neat that you got to see Helen and Barb as well as many other writers!

    As for what I read, I mostly love romance, but I’m open to reading other genres as long as they aren’t too scary 😉 And hmm… I’ve always thought the Vulcan nerve pinch fascinating… as long as it isn’t used on me! 😉 I guess it depends on perspective! Will this be an annual thing now, Genrecon?

  • Hey, Fedora, yes it will be annual as far as I know. Next year is in my home town which is very cool!

    I’m so with you on the scary stuff–although I can stand quite a bit of scare in crime fiction, horror is a whole different story.

    Btw, Simon didn’t actually call it the Vulcan nerve pinch. That was my interpretation:) At home we always call it the Vulcan Nerd Pinch. That reminds me, I must see if my husband will be a guinea pig for me. You only pass out if it’s done lightly… Ahem!

    I wish I’d had more time to just hang out with Helen and Barb but it was a full-on program. Still it was great to see those friendly faces.

    Oh, and congrats on getting the rooster, too!

  • Jane says:

    Hi Christina,
    I do enjoy mysteries(Agatha Christie, PD James) and thrillers(Nelson DeMille). It would be fun to learn all tricks to take someone down with one punch or kick.

    • Hi Jane! It was fascinating and scary to know just how little it takes to kill someone. Even a punch to the head can do it, which is why Simon is a pacifist even though he knows how to hurt people in many and varied ways.

      I love AC and PD James too. I haven’t tried Nelson DeMille, though. I should put him on my list.

  • Christina, what a great rundown of GenreCon. You’ve inspired me – I’m doing a My Favourite Things for my website about it so I can just pinch some of your thoughts! Your mind is mine!!! Hmm, perhaps I should write horror. This is veering into zombie territory although I think the zombie who ate my brain would have to be on a diet! Wasn’t it the best convention? I had a marvellous time and seeing Helen and Barb was the icing on the cake. It was fun having some blokes around and I enjoyed the different perspective from the other genre writers. I wasn’t sure how romance writers would be treated but I must say everyone responded to me as a fellow professional (at least until they heard my speech at the debate when any hopes of being seen as a professional went west!). And yes, Daniel did indeed kiss Kate. Up until that point, I think the plotters were winning but sex always sells! 😉 I’m definitely going next year – oh, and I can’t wait to hear how Xavier killed someone. Oh, dear, I really AM turning into a horror writer!

    • LOL about sex always selling. I thought that might be the clincher! Plus I gathered the audience was predominantly of the pantsing turn of mind. You couldn’t have run them over with a Pantzer tank and got them all. Har Har.

      I’ll look forward to your Favourite Things! I’ve only just blogged about RWAust conf on my personal blog so I’m feeling chuffed I’ve done Genrecon within the month!

      And hey, if it will help me revise the current WIP I’ll trade my brain for yours right now, Zombie Apocalypse be damned!

  • Helen says:


    What a great day it was I could only make it for one day and although mainly for Authors Barb and I had a very informative and fun time loved catching up with everyone and Sarah Wendell is so much fun I sent her the photos I took of her doing the Tim Tam slam she loved them.

    I went to a few of the panels and in Anna’s I even managed to write one paragraph LOL not that I read it out of course and I was at your one on sub-text very informative. And yes Daniel did give Kate a kiss during the debate and it bought the house down LOL

    I only read romance although all of the genres in romance from paranormal historical romantic suspense erotic love them all I must have a happy ending LOL. And I don’t think I really want to know how to kill someone with my bare hands although if I was a writer this would comme in handy sometimes if you had to kill of a nagging character LOL even in romance.

    Have Fun

  • Hi Helen, so glad you enjoyed yourself. You looked like you were having a good time and I’m so chuffed you wrote a paragraph in Anna’s session. You might be a writer waiting to happen! Why not?

    LOL on the debate. Wish I’d seen it. I wouldn’t have minded missing my flight.

    As for the Vulcan Nerve Pinch, I’m with you–I’m a lover, not a fighter:)

  • Melody May says:

    That’s really neat. I love reading romance novels however I do venture out into other stuff. Especially, when I’m in a book club. I have read some interesting books, which really made me think. One of the most memorable story I read did have a little romance, but then he went and signed some papers to have himself killed. I was upset with the story, but it really made you think. So, I tend to stick with happy books.

    • Melody, why is it that books that make you think so often end badly? I often wonder if there’s something about tragedy or sad endings that is inherently more thought-provoking? Maybe we get catharsis from HEA so that means we don’t ponder on it as much? Thanks for your comment:)

  • Mary Preston says:

    It looks like so much fun.

    I firmly belong to the Tribe of Romance, but yes, I belong to others as well.

    My daughter drew me into her Fantasy Tribe & that certainly expanded my horizons.

    My Mother has her Tribe of non-fiction & Biographical reads. I have been entertained & learned a great deal.

    This is just the tip of the ice-berg really, but as you can see I am influenced by family, and friends, and influence in turn.

    • Mary, the Fantasy tribe sounds very colourful and interesting. I am only an outlier because my critique partner writes fantasy and it only shows me how little I know about the genre.

      How interesting that there’s a ‘tribe’ for non-fiction and biography. My parents would belong to that one but other than historical non-fiction, I can’t say they’ve ever lured me over.

      Ooh, I hope your family and friends are influenced to try romance, too! Thanks for commenting–it’s always great to see what diverse readers we have here in the lair.

  • Barb says:

    Hi Christina

    As Helen said we had a good time and it was great meeting you and catching up with Anna and some of the other authors we have met through ARRA…. I am afraid I didn’t write a paragraph at Anna’s talk so I don’t think there is a chance of me being an author lol… it is a wonder you didn’t hear the cheers on your way to the airport when Daniel kissed Kate

    I think I lead 2 lives as I have my romance tribe, as that is all I read these days, and I also have my sewing tribe

    • Hi Barb! Yes, it was lovely to meet you, at last. I wish I’d had more time to spend with you. Clearly, I also missed a treat not staying for Daniel’s speech. It seems he brought the house down.

      Lovely to have a sewing tribe as well as the reading tribe. You are so talented at sewing, I’m envious!

  • Christine –

    The genrecon sounds like great fun. Love that the genres were mixed rather than all of one or the other. Does a tribe for eating count? 🙂 I’ve been part of a group of friends who meet about every other month at someone’s house to chat and eat. We’ve been doing it for about thirty years now – that’s longer than I’ve been writing!

    FWIW – I understand the new emerging term to call pantsers is “organic writer.” They write organically from the characters and emerging plot. As a tried and true organic pantser 🙂 I’ve been trying to be more of a plotter. I went to a plotting workshop with author Janice Maynard. She looked at me and said “this is so not like I write,” and I had to agree. Plotting the whole thing out in advance would steal some of the magic, I think.

    Have to have that happy ending. I’ve discovered I’m dissatisfied without it. I’d read other genres, but my romance TBR pile won’t allow much deviance.

    • I love that term organic writer! I hate plotting out a book, which is why my books don’t always resemble the synopsis I send to my editor.

    • Donna, of course an eating tribe counts! Wow, that is a long time to keep a tradition going. I love that.

      Yes, organic sounds so much better than pantser, doesn’t it? One of the plotters put a glass of water and said it was an unplanned ice sculpture! Of course we *organic* writers know that we plan our books after we’ve written them.

  • Anna Sugden says:

    Wonderful review of Genrecon, Christine – sounds like it would have been fun to go to.

    I do read other genres – mainly suspense and thrillers – but I have to have a happy ending or a positive outcome. Same with movies – there is enough misery and unhappiness in the world, so I like to be entertained and left feeling good and happy!

  • Christina, that sounds like a great time! I mostly read romance but occasionally I’ll find something in another genre that interests me. Usually it’s a triller or mystery my mother suggests. But I much prefer if there is a little romance mixed in there.

  • Dianna aka Hrdwrkdmom says:

    I go for several sub genres of romance but I never ever leave romance. Got to have the HEA or it isn’t going to work for me.

    How to kill someone with my bare hands might be some handy knowledge to have but I would settle for being able to immobilize them long enough to get out of Dodge.

    • Dianna, there’s so much variety in romance, you can get all the other genres mixed in anyway, can’t you? Love the HEA.

      The Vulcan Nerve Pinch can knock someone unconscious if only medium pressure is applied, so that might be the best solution for you!

  • catslady says:

    I do read a little bit of everything but when I get back to my romances, I always wonder why I switch at all because they make me the happiest! I enjoyed your post and am surprised there really is something like the Vulcan nerve pinch lol.

  • Louisa says:

    The GR is going to catch a terrible cold if he keeps going back and forth from Fedora to Helen!

    Awesome post, Christina! GenreCon sounds like so much fun! Putting it on my bucket list. The panels sound especially intriguing.

    I grew up with brothers so I know a myriad ways to leave someone with a bruise or a mark on them. My youngest brother had a third degree black belt in karate by the time he was eighteen. Anytime he said “Hey, sis, let me show you something.” I ran in the other direction! But he did teach me some hand-to-hand disarming techniques that came in handy on some dates with some less than charming toads. (A broken nose and a bruised Adam’s apple tend to cool Romeo’s ardor quickly!)

    I would love to learn the Vulcan nerve pinch! I am SUCH a huge Star Trek fan!

    Romance and particularly historical romance are definitely my primary tribe! I also read quite a bit of contemporary romance and romantic suspense.

    However, I also belong to a couple of other tribes – Thriller/suspense novels like Lincoln Douglas and Preston Childs Pendergast series. I also love mysteries – cozy, medieval, bibliophile – all kinds of mysteries. I read a lot of urban fantasy – Kim Harrison’s Hollows series and a number of others. And finally I am a card carrying member of the Stephen King tribe, love his books for so many reasons.

    Hmm. I think I’m just a member to the READERS TRIBE !!

    • Louisa, you must keep busy with all those tribes! LOL It’s funny how genre fiction seems to lend itself to such avid fans. Maybe because it aims to evoke emotion?

      I’m envying you those brothers! I’d like to take a self-defense course one day, just to feel more confident of taking care of myself. Nasty dates you must have had but I’m chortling a bit over their comeuppance. Never knew you had it in you!

      I hope you do come out to Australia one day. We’d love to have you!

  • gamistress66 says:

    sounds like a good time was had. I keep mainly to romance in my reading (it varies btwn historical, paranormal & sci-fi, but always romance — i love my HEA) 🙂 while I think it would be interesting to know how to kill someone with my bare hands (preferably in a not-too messy way) it could be dangerous to tempt fate when I run into idiots & jerks. for some reason it’s so much easier to practice self control when you don’t actually know how to kill them 😉

    • LOL gamistress, you’re right!

      I’m sensing a common theme here with our reading habits–we definitely love the HEA and we’re guaranteed that in romance, aren’t we?

  • Minna says:

    I mostly read romance, but I also like mysteries (Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Conan Doyle) and fantasy (David Eddings). There doesn’t have to be a romantic element in those books, but most of my favorites do have a romantic element.

  • Cathy P says:

    Hi Christina! Sounds like a great time! I have to have romance in anything I read. I read historicals, contemporaries, some fantasies, westerns, and mysteries. Love the sound of the Vulcan Nerd Pinch.

  • Cathryn Hein says:

    Thanks for this great run-down on GenreCon, Christina. I’m giving myself yet another swift kick for missing it. I sure won’t be next year. Can’t have you ladies hogging all the fun!

    • Cathryn, it’s hard to back up after RWA for another conference. I totally understand and I was in two minds about going, what with deadlines and so forth. Really glad I did.

      We missed you! Hope you’ll be there next year in Brisbane.

  • Kim says:

    It sounds like you had a great time. Besides romance, biographies and mysteries are a nice change of pace.

  • Sounds like a lot of fun, Christina. Thanks for posting and filling us in on what we missed!

  • Great wrap up Christina. I’ve added yours to the blog roll of wrap ups for GenreCon over at my blog (so I can easily find them if I ever want to revisit was the reason to do so lol).

    As a member of each of the tribes it was so interesting to see them all in the same place at the same time discussing the same topics on the panels (or in the breaks between).

  • May says:

    I like reading fantasy/sci-fic and mysteries in addition to romances. But yes, I always prefer some romantic elements in my stories! Love makes the world go around.

  • Christina, what a great conference! I read pretty much every genre but horror. I do prefer that there be some romantic arc, though I’m okay without one if I’m in the right mood. I’ve been reading a SF sceries that had just a hint of a possibility of romantic interest between two of the characters during the first several books, but possibility became actuality at the end of the last book and progresses in the new one.

    • Hi Nancy, I’m the same — I prefer a romantic arc but if the story is good enough and I am in the right mood I’m fine without one. Horror writers I spoke to on the weekend seemed to think it’s more realistic than romance. Really??? I always wonder why it’s seen as unrealistic that there can be a HEA for couples in love.

  • Pat Cochran says:

    Read most genres, but generally stay with
    historicals, contemporaries, & mysteries.
    Some I don’t touch, I find that I prefer to
    sleep at night!

    Pat C.

    • Pat, I am so with you on wanting to sleep at night! My dh loves Stephen King and even though I respect him enormously as a writer I can’t read his books. They are far too scary for me.

  • LilMissMolly says:

    I like historical thrillers. I’m not sure how else to describe them, but Steve Berry and James Rollins always have some sort of “historical” element in their thrillers. Love them – no romance whatsoever though.

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