The First Chapter Dilemma

I was just moments away from pushing SEND on a group email – inviting friends and family to my book launch – when my mobile rang.

The editor at Harper Collins had a last-minute change-of-heart about the opening chapter to my novel, MAKING HEADLINES. Mary thought it was a little DARK for the type of book that was primarily going to marketed in the chick-lit and romance genre.

It was a tough call for me as I really liked the original opening chapter, but I could see her point. And Mary was very reasonable – ultimately giving me the final say. Being my first novel, I was happy to take her advice, but I still think back to the original version and wonder if I DID make the right decision. So I thought I’d offer up part of the original FIRST CHAPTER here – for you all to read – and I’d love to hear your feedback. Especially if you’ve already read MAKING HEADLINES.

To avoid any SPOILERS, I’ll discuss the reasons about WHY this chapter was ditched – in the paragraphs AFTER the book segment. Can’t wait to hear what you think!

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MAKING HEADLINES – by Jennifer Hansen

CHAPTER ONE

 ‘Then whack! He slams that cricket bat smack down on your desk, missing your hand by a whisker!’ Julia slapped her hands under Rachel’s chin.

Rachel jumped, vibrations ringing in her ears. ‘And this is the man you think could be our new boss?’ she said, spinning her chair around to switch on her computer. As she reached for a notebook a growing unease began to fester. Her fellow reporter had an uncanny knack of being spot-on with rumours.

‘Yep,’ grinned Julia, leaning back in her chair. ‘That’s Helmut Becker for you. Bit of a nut job, but they say he gets results. And it is all about the ratings after all.’

Beyond their desks the usual pandemonium reigned. Early morning rush hour — TV monitors blaring, phones ringing and people shouting, and Rachel didn’t want the glue that held it together leaving. She stared towards the news director’s office. ‘I wish I could change Tony’s mind.’ It was like the plates beneath her feet were shifting. Too much change, too soon.

‘We don’t know he’s going yet. And stop looking like that. Anyone’d think you had a boss-crush.’

Rachel turned back to Julia. ‘Don’t be ridiculous. He’s more like an uncle. I mean, he’s just so … well, nice. I mean, he gave me my big break and …’ She paused as a striking man with shoulder-length dirty-blond hair strode past their desks towards the edit suites at the back of the newsroom.

‘And don’t get hooked on him either.’ Julia rolled her eyes. ‘That’s the new head editor, Mitch. Really rates himself, and hates working with juniors, so steer clear.’

‘You crack me up,’ said Rachel, shaking her head. ‘You know I’m taken.’ She turned back to her computer, inhaling deeply. The editor had left a scent in his wake and it wasn’t aftershave. It was like he’d just shaken the surf from his hair after riding a wave into work. A ridiculous thought. Who’d go surfing in the middle of winter? She snuck another look as he walked away, taking in his strong physique. As if feeling her eyes graze the back of his neck, he turned, giving a lopsided grin as he caught her out.

Embarrassed, she smiled back stupidly and sucked in her breath. Damn, he was good looking. She wondered what he was doing at work so early. Surely as head editor he could take his pick of the shifts and leave the early stints for the juniors? She shook her head. She had to stop this. No flirting. That’s what had landed her in trouble in Sydney a month ago and she still couldn’t deal with the emotional fallout.

‘Thought there were problems on the home front,’ said Julia, as if reading her mind.

‘Oh, not really—’

‘Rachel Bentley, get your arse over here.’ Rob Kingsbury’s strident voice cut through the mayhem. As Chief of Staff he sat at what was known as the COS desk, the hub of the newsroom. A misogynist with a mission, Rob carried himself like a boxer. Sporting one of his standard check flannel shirts, he was like a lumberjack ready to swing his axe at anyone in his way.

Rachel scurried across and Rob began to read from his computer. ‘Young girl went on a bike ride yesterday about lunchtime. Never came home, believed abducted. Police doorknocking in Torquay. Get your butt down there and if there’s nothing found by six, we’ll do a live cross. That’d be your first live cross.’ He looked at her directly. ‘You up to it?’

More than six months into her job, Rachel was used to Rob’s verbal shorthand, but still felt she hadn’t won his approval. ‘Aye, aye, sir,’ she said brightly, with an enthusiastic salute.

He glared. ‘Fine. Hope you’ve got an overnight bag on standby because you might need it. Get moving. With News Eight.’

Thank God she did have a bag stashed in her car. All reporters were required to have one handy. News Eight was her favourite camera crew. She’d be working with Gary Bouts, a patient cameraman with a talent for turning the most mundane story into a visual masterpiece. She raced about getting organised before heading to the news car. They had to be there by eleven for a media conference with the parents, and the coastal town was at least two hours away.

It was a long trip and Gary drove quickly. The sky was bleak and the strong wind swept clouds across the sky as if trying to keep pace with the news car. Driving over the Westgate Bridge, the car was buffeted by vigorous gusts. Rachel was glad she’d brought her wool coat. It would be cold by the sea.

She used the time to send her partner, Tim, a text message, letting him know she might be away for the night. No reply. Not surprising given he was probably asleep after a late night.

They bypassed Geelong down a long straight road lined with a sprinkling of country properties and scrubby bushland. Finally the ocean appeared, dark and choppy. They were nearly there.

Torquay felt deserted, just a couple of surf shops, an ice-cream store, and a fish and chip shop that would have been crammed with tourists in the summer months. Police had set up a media briefing at the local scout hall. A swarm of journalists, photographers and cameramen were wrangling equipment and vying for the best position in front of the podium. It was a musty building that looked like it hadn’t been used since the 1960s.

At the entrance, Rachel spoke briefly with a junior police officer, then made her way to where Gary and his assistant were setting up the tripod and camera. Through the chaos she saw a young couple, sitting still on the makeshift stage, waiting for the questions to begin. A picture of their daughter, radiant and smiling, was pinned to the wall behind them. Their eyes darted about the room. The woman wore a denim skirt and crumpled floral blouse, and clutched a tissue. Her fair hair was thin and lank. The man reached to pat her knee and she seized his hand, gripping it tightly. Then looking downwards, she wiped her eyes.

A stocky police officer stood on the stage. He checked his notes and placed them on an old wooden lectern, before coughing into the microphone. ‘Okay everyone, this is the situation. As you already know, six-year-old Daisy Beattie disappeared yesterday after going for a bike ride. She left home at approximately 12 pm and didn’t return. Her parents raised the alarm at five o’clock but despite ongoing efforts to find her we haven’t had any leads. Police began a doorknock this morning and will continue a search of the local district today. Right now, we want to hear from anyone who may have seen Daisy, anyone with any information that may help locate her. And her parents, Bruce and Pauline here, want to make a special appeal for help.’

The officer’s eyes betrayed emotions he dare not voice. The police were locals and would know the family. He motioned to Bruce, a sturdy, unshaven man with the body of a labourer.

Bruce’s shoulders heaved under the weight of it all as he stood. His strong hands grasped the sides of the lectern, his head bowed. Without looking up, he began. ‘Our daughter, Daisy, probably just got lost somewhere …’ His voice trailed off. Pauline rose awkwardly and moved next to him, placing her arm around his waist. She whispered in his ear then moved the microphone towards her, eyes anxious and wide.

‘This is a very difficult time for us. Daisy is our life. She is …’ Pauline paused, blinking rapidly. ‘She is just the sweetest girl you could ever meet. And smart.’ Her mouth lifted slightly. ‘We’re just so worried. She’s probably just got lost somewhere and is probably cold and scared and … We want her back so much. So much.’ Pauline’s voice started to crack. Bruce raised his head and took her hand. They looked at each other, helpless.

Bruce took a deep slow breath and turned again to the microphone. ‘We just want anyone in the area to keep a look out for her and call police if they see anything. She was riding her Malvern Star. A red one. You can see her photo and she’s such a good kid. She wouldn’t talk to strangers or anything and she always rides to the corner shop, so it’s not like her not to come back. If anyone can help, it would mean everything to us. She’s our only child and we just … we just want …’ He looked at Pauline in desperation.

‘We just want our little girl to come home,’ Pauline finished and then turned and sank against Bruce, her body shaking.

Rachel stared at Daisy’s photo — her long, light brown hair and carefree eyes — wondering what the little girl was like. Where might she have decided to go? What could have drawn her away from home? The police officer stood. ‘Righto, so that’s all for now. If you want more pictures, we’ll be doing a line search by the beach and continue with doorknocking in the local area. Thanks.’

Gary switched off the camera and looked at Rachel. ‘Let’s get the doorknock first then head to the beach. Bloody hope they find the poor kid.’

Rachel nodded mutely.

*   *   *   *   *

Positioned on a stretch of sandy steps leading up from the beach, the camera crew were filming the search through the dunes when they heard shouting from a group of police. They rushed in their direction. Rachel’s head pounded and the scrub scratched her legs as she ran, struggling to keep up with the camera crew. What were they saying? She couldn’t tell from their tone if it was good news or bad, but as she drew closer, she saw a police officer pointing to a red bicycle in the long grass.

‘Have they found her?’ she asked Gary, trying to catch her breath.

‘No, but it doesn’t look good,’ he replied quietly, as he continued filming. Rachel watched the police huddle as forensic officers moved in for further examination. It was Daisy’s bike. There was no sign of her.

Gary reached for his mobile. ‘Better get on the phone to Rob,’ he said. ‘Looks like you’ll be doing a live cross.’

Rachel’s hands flew up to her ears. ‘Oh no, all I can think of is the parents’ faces.’

Gary frowned. ‘Come on, Rach, it’s all part of the gig. Put your emotions in a box and get on with it.’

Rachel knew he was right. Ditch any feelings. Keep walking. Keep talking.

*   *   *   *   *

Three hours later, Gary was setting up his camera in a car park overlooking the beach. The Outside Broadcast truck arrived to establish the link and all was ready. Other crews from rival networks were also dotted along the foreshore, preparing for similar broadcasts for the six o’clock news. The light was fading, and Rachel wondered how it was possible to feel both numb and terrified at the same time. The countdown began to her first live cross. Just five minutes to go.

She shivered and pulled her coat tightly around her. It was colder near the beach, sharp winds blowing across the water. Only half an hour earlier, a flurry of police activity signalled a shocking discovery. Now Rachel’s carefully rehearsed report was useless and she would be the one responsible for delivering this news. She stared down at her scribbled notes, trying to memorise the details. Focus. Focus. Get the facts right and keep the emotions in check. She wondered how Daisy’s parents were. She stamped her feet on the ground, trying to rid herself of the shakes.

‘One minute to go, Rach,’ Gary’s voice came calmly from behind the camera.

‘Sure, all set.’ She checked her earpiece for the tenth time as she tried to brush her hair from her face. This was the lead story, which meant newsreader Jack Nolan would be asking her questions. Rachel was mildly relieved it wasn’t his co-reader Mary Masterson, who seemed to have a set against her. But more importantly, she must do the best she could, knowing what was at stake. She could picture Daisy’s small shining face before her and that was all that mattered.

The sound of the news theme burst into her head through the earpiece. Like a runaway train, there was no stopping the inevitable. Gary started the countdown and she heard Jack introduce the story.

‘And now we cross live to reporter Rachel Bentley, who is at the scene in Torquay. Rachel, what’s the latest?’

‘Jack, just before two o’clock today police found what they believe is Daisy’s bike, near the Torquay foreshore. They continued their search in that area and about half an hour ago, police found the body of a young girl in scrub behind the beach, nearly a kilometre from the bike, not far from where we are standing. Daisy’s parents are yet to identify the body. So we … um … can’t confirm that the body is definitely Daisy’s, but police fear the worst.’ She was on autopilot.

‘Rachel, are police able to say how the victim died?’

‘Again, no official confirmation at this stage, but early reports indicate it was a brutal attack. It’s suspected the young girl was sexually assaulted and a knife was used. It’s believed … well, I’m not quite sure how to say this, but she was attacked severely, making identification quite … ah … difficult.’

‘Rachel, this is potentially such tragic news for the parents. How are they coping?’

What a stupid question. ‘Well obviously, we haven’t spoken to the parents as they are with police identifying the body. It has been a shocking day for them. They spoke with the media earlier at a press conference, calling for help from the public.’

A taped piece of the parents’ appeal was played to air. Rachel watched the TV monitor on the ground before her, saw their faces from a time when they still held some hope that their daughter was alive. Then it was back to Jack.

‘So, Rachel, while we wait for the body to be identified, police will also be hunting for the killer. What action are they taking?’

‘Jack, they’ll be conducting a widespread doorknock of the area, as well as following up on clues from forensic. As you can well imagine, this horrific crime has rocked the local community and the town will be rallying behind the parents, offering their support and stepping up all efforts to help police find the killer. So for now, it’s back to you in the studio.’

‘Thank you, Rachel. We’ll cross back to you if further details come to hand. And now …’

‘All clear, Rach, well done.’ Gary took off his headphones, smiling.

‘Thanks,’ she said quietly, unclipping the microphone on her jacket.

‘Oh, and they’ve confirmed we’re all staying the night. Local hotel on the foreshore. That way we can be up early when the police get going on their hunt again.’

‘Sure,’ she said. ‘I thought as much.’

She wanted to call Tim but thought it best to wait till she was back in the privacy of her hotel room. Not that he’d be overly fussed. They hadn’t spent a lot of time together lately anyway.

The wind whipped across her face and she could taste the salt in the air. She turned to look over the dark sea. The sound of the waves chopping at the shore beat a rhythm that held a murky secret.

*   *   *   *   *

Rachel and the crew were back on the beach just after the sun came up, as police and forensic officers gathered to continue their search. Late the night before, police had confirmed the body of the young girl discovered in the dunes was Daisy Beattie. Now they were intensifying their hunt for her killer.

After filming more footage of the police search and doorknock, Rachel’s next job was to approach Daisy’s parents for an interview. They drove past the same quiet shopping strip in Torquay, then another couple of kilometres until they reached the corner store that Daisy had meant to cycle to last Sunday. They turned into the street and quickly spotted the Beattie home. The front picket fence was lined with flowers and tributes. Mourners gathered outside, standing still, wiping away tears and hugging each other. Rachel asked Gary to wait in the car. Put your emotions in a box, she kept repeating to herself as she tapped lightly on the plain timber door. If they don’t want to talk, run away.

A pale older woman with grey-streaked hair in a bun opened the door.

‘Hi, I’m Rachel Bentley from Channel Six. I’m so very sorry about Daisy,’ she said.

‘Thank you, dear. I’m Daisy’s grandmother, Come in, won’t you?’

‘Oh, well, not if you don’t want me to?’ She wanted to go back to the car. She shouldn’t be here. But it was her job. What kind of a reporter was she? Pathetic and emotional.

‘Oh, it’s fine,’ she said, ushering Rachel in. ‘Bruce and Pauline want as much publicity as possible to find that animal.’

The couple sat on a shabby corduroy couch, surrounded by friends and family. Flowers in vases and glass bottles crowded the room, filling the mantelpiece and overflowing on to the floor under the windows. People were milling about with cups of tea and fruitcake. Rachel seemed to be the only reporter.

‘Bruce, Pauline, I’m Rachel Bentley from Channel Six. I can’t imagine how you’re feeling right now and if you’d rather I leave, that’s fine.’

The pair looked up at her, as if trying to work out how to fit her into the picture.

‘I don’t think I can talk on camera … right now,’ said Pauline, her eyes wide and vacant. Rachel hoped she’d been dosed up on Valium.

‘No, I’ll do it,’ said Bruce. ‘I’ll do anything. We gotta catch that fucking bastard …’

But as he stood up, he took a deep breath and shuddered. Then, with a guttural roar, he turned, doubled over and fell to the floor, punching the couch with primal ferocity.

‘Oh, I should go. I’m so very, very sorry …’ Rachel looked on helplessly, the stares from the crowded room burning into her as a middle-aged man took her by the elbow and led her away.

‘It’s alright. You’re just doing your job. But these guys aren’t up to talking. I’m Daisy’s uncle. I’ll do the interview, okay?’

‘Of course,’ said Rachel.

Outside, Gary was waiting with the camera. More people filed past the house, leaving bouquets and gifts. One tribute had a photo of Daisy encircled by a wreath of roses. Rachel looked at the innocence in her eyes, and heard the waves crashing on the beach in the dark and the swish of the long grass in the dunes, sounds that now echoed pain and torture.

*   *  *   *   *

After driving back to Network Six and putting her story together, Rachel returned to her desk, weary. There was a note of congratulations on her keyboard from Tony, saying she’d handled her first live cross really well. She didn’t want praise. It felt wrong. She was relieved, however, that it hadn’t been a debacle.

That night, she drove home with mechanical precision. Keeping those emotions in a box was draining. On the outside everything had to be done very carefully to stop an implosion. A catch-up with her girlfriends might be the tonic she needed. She spoke briefly on the phone with Kate, who said the girls were heading to the Dogs Bar in St Kilda for a drink. Maybe she would join them.

She drove down a narrow street, craning to search for a park. She was aching to see Tim and put their world back on an even keel. Not only after the events of the last two days, but also after what had happened in Sydney. Rachel needed reassurance they were going to be okay.

Still no spare car spots. That was one of downsides of inner-city living — the shopping was great but the parking was rubbish. Nor was it the prettiest of locations; dotted with abandoned factories and scrappy tea-trees. Finally she found a park a block and a half from their grey weatherboard home. She walked quickly to cover the distance, jumping over cracks in the asphalt paving.

Bursting through the front door, she called out to Tim. No answer. For a moment she wondered if he’d organised a surprise party for her birthday. It was in four days, and he still hadn’t mentioned any plans to take her out or organise something with friends, which made her suspicious. The house appeared empty but as she neared his study, there was tapping on a keyboard. Of course. Tim was ensconced in front of his computer. Relief washed over her. The last thing she felt like was a surprise party.

A technological genius and a Mensa member, Tim had been retrenched from his programming job two months earlier and had made little attempt to find another. But Rachel wasn’t concerned. She knew how smart he was and the type of job he deserved was often difficult to come by. A recent spate of bills meant she’d had to dip into her savings, but she was confident it would only be short term. In the meantime, he kept himself busy playing online medieval battle games.

‘Hey there, sweetheart, still slaying them dragons?’ She swooped on him from behind, hugging him around the neck.

He lifted his cheek, eyes glued to the screen as she planted kisses over his face. ‘Uh huh … How was your day? Ah shit. I was nearing an all-time record!’ He ran a hand through his wavy brown hair. Overdue for a trim, it reached his shoulders.

Standing behind him, she gently massaged his neck. ‘Hmm. Actually, I’ve been away for two days, in case you didn’t notice?’

‘Of course. How was it?’ he said, eyes still trapped by the game.

‘Tim, for Christ’s sake, do you even care where I’ve been?’ She slapped his hands away from the keyboard and planted herself in front of the computer.

‘Jesus, Rach, you arrived home at a bad time! What the …?’

‘Because you’re playing a stupid computer game?’

‘Well, yes, as I said it was a near record and—’

‘I’ve been reporting on the murder of a six-year-old girl. Shit that happens in the real world.’ She walked off to get her phone. ‘I may as well go out.’

Tim followed her. ‘I’m sorry, Rach. Look, hang on, we can—’

‘I’m going to the Dogs Bar. You can join us later if you want to.’

‘Sure. I’ll come in an hour.’

She walked away to dial a cab. Right now she couldn’t even look at him.

——————————————————————————————————-

So there you have it. Mary also asked whether one option would have been to change the story so that poor Daisy was found alive. Sadly, in the real world, children who go missing under ten years of age are very rarely found alive. As a journalist, I couldn’t write something – even as fiction – that would seem to me to be so completely unrealistic, so I opted instead for an entirely new chapter.

The final opening chapter is a much lighter story about Rachel Bentley covering a story about a children’s Anzac Day service. There’s more humour, but the emotion of the day also let’s the reader see that Rachel has a big heart and is affected by the stories and the people she connects with on the road.

My eBook, Making Headlines

My eBook, Making Headlines

 

So if you’re looking for something to read tonight, download MAKING HEADLINES and read how the FIRST CHAPTER turned out in the final version of the book.

And please let me know what you think – DID I MAKE THE RIGHT DECISION?

 

A Night To Remember – The Book Launch for MAKING HEADLINES

My eBook, Making Headlines

My eBook, Making Headlines

Today, it’s exactly three weeks since the Book Launch for my eBook MAKING HEADLINES and life has been so crazy since I let it loose on the world, that I’ve only just got around to Blogging about the actual night.

Prior to the launch, I wrote a post about my indecision as to whether I should hold a party or not. Post-party, I can say without a doubt – I am absolutely thrilled I went ahead with the night and will hold it dear as one of the most significant events in memory.

Yep – that’s a big statement, so let me explain. To me, it was a celebration of a project that I was passionate about. So much so, that despite having many major hurdles and doubts along the way, I saw it through to the end, allowing it to absorb a huge part of my life.  The ultimate goal was to have the book published, so I could share this story with the world and hopefully provide a tale that would engage, entertain and also offer a few insights into an unusual world. To have the book be given the tick of approval by a major well-respected publisher – Harper Collins – is, for me, a major achievement and something well worth celebrating. On the night, everyone who is an important part of my life and who was able to be there, turned up to celebrate with me and the room was filled with the most wonderful, supportive energy. So many people commented on what a happy evening it was – and that’s exactly how it felt for me too.

Hotel Brighton

Hotel Brighton

 

The venue, at HOTEL BRIGHTON, was perfect, with the upstairs function area providing a classy and intimate environment – as well as fabulous food and service. I’d highly recommend it to anyone looking to host a private function! There was also a screen so we could show my Book Trailer.

 

Big thanks to everyone for coming and helping to make it such a special occasion. Especially to my dear friends Brigitte Duclos and Mitch Catlin who took on the roles of MC and interviewer respectively, making it much a more entertaining night than if I’d been up there in front of everyone on my own!

Brigitte Duclos and Ann Peacock

Brigitte Duclos and Ann Peacock

Mitch Catlin and me in matching polka dots!

Mitch Catlin and me in matching polka dots!

As well, a huge debt of gratitude to our friends and Fletch’s NEIGHBOURS fellow cast members for coming along and helping garner media support  – and for hamming it up beautifully for the cameras. Here are some of the best shots from these wonderful people:

Jackie Woodburne, Stefan Dennis, Gail Easdale and Natalie Bassingthwaigthe

Jackie Woodburne, Stefan Dennis, Gail Easdale and Natalie Bassingthwaigthe

Stefan Dennis and Fletch

Stefan Dennis and Fletch

Fletch and Natalie Bassingthwaighte

Fletch and Natalie Bassingthwaighte

 

 

 

 

 

 

A shocking read! Gail Easdale, Jackie Woodburne and Natalie Bassingthwaighte

Gail Easdale, Jackie Woodburne and Natalie Bassingthwaighte

Stefan Dennis and Fletch

Stefan Dennis and Fletch

Here’s some of my speech from the night, along with some photos from the evening:

———————————————————————————————–

“I could never have come this far without the help of an incredible writing teacher and she’s here tonight. Thank you SO much to Olga Lorenzo from the RMIT Writing course. Olga taught the Creative Writing unit and I studied with her for three years. I could not have finished this book without her invaluable input and guidance.

Olga is also herself an acclaimed and brilliant writer and has her second novel THE LIGHT ON THE WATER coming out in a few weeks, (TODAY!) so congratulations Olga – I can’t wait to read it.

Olga Lorenzo and me

Olga Lorenzo and me

A big thank you as well to all my fellow students at RMIT who gave me valuable feedback during work-shopping sessions in class. In particular, to my friends that grew from that course to develop our own writers’ group – to Ann Bolch, Lisa Bigelow, Kaye Holder and Clare Strahan.

An extra special thank you to Ann Bolch who also worked as the first editor of the completed manuscript and did a superb job. If you ever need a good editor, Ann is exceptionally talented and very, very wise.

A congratulatory hug from Ann Bolch

A congratulatory hug from Ann Bolch

Lisa Bigelow and me

Lisa Bigelow and me

As well as the Writer’s Group, two of my friends and my sister took the time and effort to read early drafts. Thank you to Jill and Rick Molinsky for your encouragement and support.

Also a huge thank you to my dear, wicked, gorgeous, talented, close friend, Rochelle Nolan, who is sadly no longer with us. Rochy was always my biggest supporter, read an early draft of the book and pepped me up whenever I was feeling negative about my writing. I wish she could have been here to see the book in its final published form. I miss her every day.

To my dear friend and stepsister, Sian Prior, another superbly talented writer, who inspired me to take up the RMIT PWE course in the first place.

To my wonderful friend and author Ellie Nielsen, who also not only encouraged me to take up the RMIT course, but inspired me with her own book ‘Buying A Piece of Paris’ and then invited me to that very apartment where we shared what was ostensibly a writing sabbatical but also involved plenty of champagne in the work-shopping of ideas, lively conversation and literary debate.

Ellie Nielsen, Michelle Van Raay and me

Ellie Nielsen, Michelle Van Raay and me

To special friends who were always there with love and support – to Julie, Brigitte, Andy and Mitch – as well as all my friends who came on the night.

Anne Peacock, Libby Ross, Andy Webster and Julie Milnes

Anne Peacock, Libby Ross, Andy Webster and Julie Milnes

Steve and Ineke Carey with me in the middle!

Steve and Ineke Carey with me in the middle!

Fletch, Tania Gogos-Wilson, Jen and Ross Wilson

Fletch, Tania Gogos-Wilson, Jen and Ross Wilson

Margaret Zita and Maryanne Gianarelli

Margaret Zita and Maryanne Gianarelli

Nick Holland and Aki Kotzamichalis

Nick Holland and Aki Kotzamichalis

To my work colleagues at Smoothfm; to Jane Elliot for her help on the publicity front and to Mike Perso, for his amazing and enthusiastic on-air support.

Mike Perso and me

Mike Perso and me

Tanya Simpson, me and Jane Elliot

Tanya Simpson, me and Jane Elliot

Nova's Matt Smithson, Sophia Lazarides and Matt Thomson

Nova’s Matt Smithson, Sophia Lazarides and Matt Thomson

THE SMOOTH TEAM - Program Director Pete Clay, Lauren Saylor, Mike Perso, me and Ty Frost

THE SMOOTH TEAM – Program Director Pete Clay, Lauren Saylor, Mike Perso, me and Ty Frost

Ty Frost and me

Ty Frost and me

To my former news-reading partner, Mal Walden, for understanding that NO character in this book is based on him!

Mal Walden and me

Mal Walden and me

Present and past co-hosts!

Present and past on-air colleagues

To Harper Collins; for agreeing to publish this work; in particular, Mary Rennie for going above and beyond in managing to take this book to the next level from its original draft.

To my parents and step-parents; Mum and Ken, Dad and Margot, for their never-ending encouragement and support.

Me and Dad (John Hansen)

Me and Dad (John Hansen)

And lastly, to my immediate family – my husband, Alan, and two children, Veronica and Tom. I am very much indebted to you all for putting up with my absences while I was holed up in my office, writing. For understanding that when I disappeared into ‘Book World’ I should not be interrupted.

To Alan, for his patience and love throughout; to Tom for actually reading the first few chapters and proving to that me he will one day be the best writer in the family; and to Veronica for finding great words to replace the rude ones.

My beautiful children Veronica and Tom, with Tom's gorgeous girlfriend Carrington Hannah

My beautiful children Veronica and Tom, with Tom’s gorgeous girlfriend Carrington Hannah

————————————————————————————————-

So that was my night of nights! Again, thank you to all who came and to all who have since bought the book online. Thanks also for the continuing social media support. If you forgot to post something on social media on the night, please retweet this Blog to help get word out about the book. The more it sells, the more chance I have of it being printed as a hard-copy book!

My eBook, Making Headlines

My eBook, Making Headlines

 

For those wanting to buy a copy, MAKING HEADLINES is available on iBooks and Amazon AND Google books.

And for those interested in enquiring about a function at HOTEL BRIGHTON, phone the wonderful Grace Eddy, Functions Co-ordinator, on 9596 3244.

 

To have and to hold – or not?

Thinking, thinking...

Thinking, thinking…

Writing a book is a bit like a pregnancy.

Often you think about it for quite a while before you get on with it.

Then there’s the long gestation period, the hard work you put in trying to make it the best it can be, and finally, the long-awaited arrival of your carefully nurtured baby.

 

 

Birth of a book

Birth of a book

With the actual birth, there can be debate about the best way for this to happen. A c-section or a natural birth? An epidural or go natural?

Likewise with publishing, there are also plenty of options. However, it’s becoming more difficult to have a book produced in hard copy – REAL PAPER –  with publishers unwilling to take risks on untested authors.

 

\With the eBook business booming, it would seem more and more established publishing houses are moving with the times and looking to the internet for success. Whether you like the book or not, E.L. James Fifty Shades of Grey made it’s incredible leap to the top of global best-seller lists – selling more than 125 million copies worldwide – starting off life as an eBook.

Of course authors have choices. If you can’t find a publisher, you can always opt to self-publish – whether it be hard-copy or online.

Making Headlines

Making Headlines

For myself, while I’d love a hard-copy version of my own book MAKING HEADLINESto have and to hold – it seems for the moment, I’m going to be marching forth into the world as a new author – waving the PLATFORM PILGRIM flag.

(Thanks to my ever-encouraging writer friend Lisa Bigelow for coming up with that innovative tagline!)

Yes, thanks to Harper Collins Publishing, I am about to become a Platform Pilgrim. My eBook will be launched on Thursday, February 4. And that’s because I would much prefer my book be given the tick of approval from a recognised publisher that has a wonderful heritage as Australia’s oldest and one of the most respected companies in the business, than do this on my own.

Sure, in the long run I’d love nothing more than to have a REAL book in my hands – but for the moment, I still consider my eBook to be an achievement of which to be proud.

And LOOK, it’s already listed on the Harper Collins website and you can pre-order!!!

Harper Collins website

Harper Collins website

Yep, and it even costs less than a cup of coffee!!

My biggest dilemma with becoming a Platform Pilgrim was deciding whether to host a book launch or not. Would people think it was over-the-top and silly – given they couldn’t leave with a signed copy of the tome itself?

In the end, after much debate with Fletch and friends, I have decided to go ahead and have a party. After all, it’s the end of a VERY long and arduous road and I think I deserve to celebrate my baby’s birth.

Harper Collins have also kindly agreed to provide ‘Book Samplers’ on the night of the launch, so guests WILL leave with a couple of chapters in a small printed mini-book, as a taste of what’s to come in the novel. So yes, there will be REAL PAPER given out on the night.

It’s taken many years AND tears to finish MAKING HEADLINES and I am so delighted and relieved that it is finally making its way into the world. All up, it’s more than eight years since I started thinking about this project. Now that’s one helluva long pregnancy.

Bring on the champagne!

A champagne moment

A champagne moment

 

 

 

Finally, an announcement….

It’s hard to believe it was more than a year ago that I wrote a Blog explaining why I’d be taking a blogging respite. If you’d like a re-cap for all the reasons why, you can take a look here:

http://jenniferhansen.com.au/wp-admin/post.php?post=6893&action=edit

Otherwise, let’s push on, because I have an announcement.

FINALLY MY BOOK IS GOING TO BE PUBLISHED

Yes, I needed that Blogging break to get it finished.

That it’s finally being published is extremely exciting because it’s been a dream of mine since childhood.

Right now I am extremely time-poor as it’s my last week to work on the FINAL edit of the manuscript. A laborious and challenging task but also thrilling because the light is at the end of the tunnel.

I’m going to write more about the writing process and what changes are happening in the world of publishing down the track, but for now, this is just a quick post to give you a sneak preview of the cover of my book.

HERE IT IS!

Making Headlines

Making Headlines

It’s a work of fiction – completely made up – about a young television reporter named Rachel Bentley who aspires to be a newsreader. You see, working as a TV reporter has it’s challenges but aiming high leads to a whole minefield of explosive scenarios.

Rachel’s path sees her pitched against egos in the newsroom, office politics and corrupt politicians, not to mention rampant sexism and a mystery stalker. Juggling a messy personal life doesn’t help either. Not does the emotional impact of reporting on life’s daily tragedies and when it all takes a toll and Rachel starts partying too hard, she finds herself making the headlines instead of reading them. Will she survive a world where dreams are shattered daily and will she find the man who can help her keep her soul?

You’ll have to wait to read the book to find out of course!

I’m delighted MAKING HEADLINES is to be published by HARPER COLLINS PUBLISHERS who are Australia and New Zealand’s oldest publishing house and arguably, the most respected.

My book will be available online as one of the Harper Collins Impulse books from late January, 2016. Stay tuned for more info and an exact date soon….

 

 

 

 

My new best friends at work and who I like best…

A friend to rely on...

A friend to rely on…

 

**NEW TIP ** 

Adding on to yesterday’s Blog about which products rate the best when it comes to dry shampoo – a great tip from my friend Lisa. She says she can’t use any of the dry shampoos listed below due to the chemicals, but she’s found a fabulous alternative. It’s cheap and easy to buy – BAKING SODA!!!

——————————————-

When you start a new job, it’s always nice to know someone has your back. There can be challenging moments and sometimes you just need someone you can rely on.

Like recently I’ve discovered with my new job at Smoothfm. (which I absolutely love) One of the trickiest challenges is getting out of bed at 4am. If you haven’t had enough sleep, you might press the snooze button once. Or twice…

But if you hit it twice, then getting ready for work – fixing hair and make-up plus sorting a presentable outfit – means a race against the clock. Panic sets in. Drastic measures are needed. Can you call someone to help? And this is when I discovered my new BEST FRIEND.

DRY SHAMPOO!!!!

YES – there is NO time for hair washing at 4am, believe me. And if there isn’t time to do this the day before, the only chance you have of looking half-decent is DRY SHAMPOO.

I love it. I love it almost as much as my GUIDED SLEEP MEDIATION video, which helps me get to sleep in the first place. (see last week’s blog)

No matter what your job, I’m sure, like me, you have mornings where you’re time-poor and stressed about trying to look your best. So after nearly two months at Smoothfm, I’ve had a chance to road test five different varieties of dry shampoo and thought I’d bring you my verdict on what works best.

Schwarzkopf Dry Shampoo

Schwarzkopf Dry Shampoo

1. Schwarzkopf Dry Shampoo

This is one of the cheapest varieties around – on sale right now at Priceline for a mere $7.19. But sometimes it’s true to say that you get what you pay for. I found this to be the least effective brand of the five tested. It took several full-on spritzes all over the head to see any effect and my hair felt pretty dull and lifeless as a result.

Verdict – 4/10

 

 

 

Rockstar Dry Shampoo

Rockstar Dry Shampoo

2. Rockstar Dry Shampoo

This was second most expensive dry shampoo I tested, retailing at $16.95 at Hairhouse Warehouse. This has a pleasant fragrance, and lifts the hair a little, but the results are only about three-quarters as good as you’d hope. It works, but your hair still doesn’t feel completely clean. It might be the look rock stars are after – slightly grungy – but I don’t think it holds up in a professional workplace.

Verdict – 5/10

Pureology Dry Shampoo

Pureology Dry Shampoo

3. Pureology Dry Shampoo

At more than $33, the Pureology brand can only be bought at selected hairdressers and is the most expensive of the varieties I tested. I had high hopes for this one. Pureology is the most wonderful product when it comes to shampoos and hair treatments, but unfortunately their dry shampoo did not live up to expectations. The spritz from the can isn’t very powerful and while the scent is divine, it still doesn’t feel like it completes the job. It almost gets there, but runs out of steam at the finish line.

6.5/10

 

Klorane

Klorane

4. Klorane Dry Shampoo

This costs about $13 and can be brought from Priceline and most supermarkets. This is a good quality product that comes out of the can with a more forceful blast than the previous brands listed. It’s definitely more effective although I’m not too keen on the scent – it’s a bit like a toilet deodoriser…

7/10

 

 

 

Batiste stays ahead of the pack...

Batiste stays ahead of the pack…

5. Batiste Dry Shampoo

This is the second cheapest of the brands tested and is definitely the winner in my book. It can be purchased from most supermarkets for between $9 and $11.

The spray from the can is powerful and effective, giving good coverage in minimal time. Its only downside is the scent, which is a bit sickly sweet, but on the plus side, that dissipates not long after application.

Which is just as well, because otherwise, it gives a great result with fresh bouncy hair in an instant that can be easily re-blowaved and styled into a fresh look that will fool anyone into thinking you’ve spent hours at the hair salon.

Verdict – 9/10

 

So there you have it- your complete guide to what works and what doesn’t when it comes to dry shampoos. Now you can thank me when lying in bed tomorrow for that extra half hour…

 

 

 

My first week at smoothfm

This past week has been a whirlwind, to say the least. So many new experiences, my head is spinning. A new job, new sleeping hours, a new gym and new work buddies. It’s all great and I’m loving it, but at times it can feel a little over-whelming.

My new role is news presenter on Mike Perso’s More Music Breakfast Show at smoothfm. I also enjoy a chat with Mike when we take a look at the traffic and talk about what’s happening in and around Melbourne.

My new newsroom at smoothfm

My new newsroom at smoothfm

This first week has brought back memories of when I first started reading the news at Channel Ten – the butterflies in the tummy, the adrenalin rush and the fear of making a mistake. You see, just as it is for anyone starting a new job, there’s a steep learning curve. Except that most of you don’t have to risk mucking up in front of thousands of people…

The week hasn’t been without its hiccups, but ninety-nine per cent of the time it’s been fantastic. I’ve loved working in news again and the immediacy of radio is brilliant. Best of all, it feels completely natural and comfortable to be reading news live to air again. That bit hasn’t phased me at all.

Mike Perso

Mike Perso

 

The biggest plus is that everyone I’m working with is absolutely lovely and supportive. It’s like they’ve all absorbed the vibe of the whole station – chilled and positive. Mike himself has been delightful and welcoming and I’m in awe of his seamless and relaxed delivery on air; juggling interviews, competitions, music and the challenge of working with a radio newbie like me!

 

As for the newsroom staff, they couldn’t have been more helpful if I’d paid them a million bucks each. There’s been a lot of new technology to absorb and me and technology don’t usually get along well at first so anyone teaching me, requires a LOT of patience. Which is why I have to thank these amazing people from the bottom of my heart:

Nova news presenter Matt Smithson

Nova news presenter Matt Smithson

smooth fm journalist Bronte Coy

smooth fm journalist Bronte Coy

Journalist John Michael Bric

Journalist John Michael Bric

Putting a bulletin together really is a team effort and I’m very lucky to be working with a group of such talented writers and operators. I’m also very much looking forward to the time in a couple of weeks when apparently – they keep telling me – the button-pushing bit will have become second-nature.

My new office

My new office

When I started at smoothfm last week, the person I was assigned to ‘follow’, who was going to teach me the ropes, was the super-talented Pip Mooney, the on-air newsreader I’ve replaced. Pip has chosen to take on a new role in the corporate world for family reasons so was more than happy to share her knowledge with me before she left.

Pip Mooney

Pip Mooney

Watching Pip at work was mind-boggling. The speed at which she completed her work, the high level of her capabilities and her professionalism on air made me wonder how I could ever fill her shoes. Again, like the rest of the team, her patience in explaining all the processes was infinite and much appreciated.

Also a great personality, I was sorry we weren’t going to be working together for longer when she left last Friday.

There’s a couple of other ‘thank yous’ required here. My new starting hours mean waking up at 4.30am, so I’ve pretty much dropped the ball on the domestic front this past week while I focus on my new job. (Because I also very much welcome an afternoon nap to get me through!)

As a result, Fletch has taken over the running of the household – even to the point where he did most of the home prep work for a family gathering on the weekend to celebrate his OWN birthday! (And our daughter Veronica’s as well.) AND he hasn’t complained about the alarm going off at 4.30am. Or making school lunches.

A birthday double

A birthday double. (And no, I didn’t bake the cake…)

So thanks a million, Fletch. Your support means everything. I promise to start looking inside the laundry again soon. Really, I promise!