Review Copy: The Last Asbestos Town

Review Copy – available here


The book publishing industry is syndicated. Being published in the US, I have discovered is no different to self-publishing when it comes to the big publishing houses in Australia who corner every square-inch of the market. They have exclusivity: to bookshops, to promotion, to writing festivals, to national book reviewers such as the Australian Book Review and the Sydney Review of Books, and also, I have recently discovered, to the Australian Library System. Anything else, and you’re an outsider going it alone. No matter, ‘the game is afoot!’ as Shakespeare wrote. There are now marketing strategies to get your little masterpiece out there into the world. Book Bub Partners for instance, have a long list of ways to promote your book. Today, I am trying one of their suggested tactics and that is to offer a free review copy to all my “instagrammers” who review books.

This is not only a tactic because of slow sales, but a necessary employment to circulate any reviews that I (fingers crossed) might receive. My local library has told me that if I want to promote the book, reviews help! We’ll see. Anyone review books/readers?

Radio Interview for 2nd Novel

My hometown radio station heard about me writing my noveI The Ozone Cafe. What luck! As a follow up program by Lance Godwin who does maritime history aka his interest in Phil Jeffs (a notorious gangster) who build the cafe back in the thirties. He interviewed me on Saturday,17th April 2021. The Coast FM 96.3 Interview will air on Tuesday 20th April on 8.40am Perth time & 10.40am EST, Sydney.  The following was my preparation for his questions which did not turn out the same, so I will post the actual interview at a later date,

Introduction and very briefly tell us about your previous book The Last Asbestos Town.

It’s actually the second book that I’ve written. It’s about a young married couple May & Isaac who move to a mining town in the South West, where they purchase an old Girl Guide hall that they plan to renovate. The setting is a time in the near future when the government is forcibly eradicating the last of the nation’s asbestos structures. When they receive their fateful letter, and believing the hall is not asbestos they set out on a quest to save their home from destruction.

You grew up in Ettalong and visited the Ozone Cafe built by notorious gangster Phil Jeffs. What was it like? (I will prompt you if I want more detail)

The Ozone was well known for its great milkshakes. I used to visit the café with my friend usually after a swim at Ettalong Beach. We would play the jukebox or one of the pinball machines and of course have a milkshake. We were in our early teens, and the bodgies and widgies who were there were quite intimidating. They were there for hours playing pool. Somehow the café had a bad reputation and I’m not sure why. No one spoke about Phil Jeffs in my family even though my grandparents were there in the forties. I guess it was all hush-hush about its notorious owner.

Your new book is a fictitious account of a cafe which you called the Ozone. Without giving too much away, what inspired you to write this book?

I had many trips back home to Ettalong over the years to visit family etc. On a later visit to my younger brother in Kariong, he told me that the Ozone had disappeared from the landscape. So this sparked the idea to write a novel about the memories I had of the café’s life. I didn’t want to just let it go and there be no record of it ever existing. On another trip I met up with Kay Williams from the Pearl Beach Historical Society (I wrote a poem about Pearl Beach and it was exhibited in the previous year). She told me about major changes that were going to be made in the area (which she objected to) and this is when I knew I had the plot for the novel.

When can our listeners get to read the book?

It’s going to be published in the US in October, and hopefully, will be available as an ebook (Kindle copy) on Amazon Australia. It may take 6-8 weeks after that when I receive my stock of books (the hard copies). Depending on the response I get for the book, I would like to visit Ettalong and perhaps give a short reading in the Gosford or Woy Woy Libraries.  Below are some images of Ettalong (from one of my home visits). Broken Bay with Lion Island, a view of the bay from Blackwall Mountain and my childhood general store called Mannings, very much changed.


Helen’s Highights @ KSP


Here are pictures of my time at the Katharine Susannah Pritchard Writers Retreat. Some of the highlights are, in all probability, that work has progressed to Chapter 38 (2nd novel). I have also written a new scene. This is thanks to Neil Gaiman (re masterclass advice) who reminded me that if I write about corrupt/criminal characters I should fully write them in and keep that thread consistent/going. I also think that while this novel is historical fiction, it is also a crime novel, white or blue collar crime? I’m not sure what these terms mean exactly, but I aim to find out. I will be attending a session by David Whish-Wilson at the Margaret River Writers Festival in May, so I may just ask this at question time. Other highlights were swimming at the local pool while on retreat and given some avocadoes by the Pool Manager. I also sat in on the poetry group run by Mardi May. A very enlightened group as they critique their work each session with the aim of a later publication or an anthology. I met the Administrator, Shannon, the gardener, Fern, and Sheree and her husband – maintenance/cleaners. The best thing was that the KSP was a quick & straight run along Reid/Roe Highways which only took me roughly 30 minutes from home. I have booked another week at the end of April for a re-edit of all my 44 Chapters +Afterword, gadoink!


Helen Hagemann @ KSP Writers Centre


Currently, I’m spending time at the Katharine Susannah Pritchard Writers Centre. I’m in retreat for seven days (actually 6.5) working on my second novel The Ozone Café. Why working away from home and getting on with the work seems successful beats me? Perhaps it’s the different environment, the time and space to spend solely on a current project or possibly the amount of time is not interrupted. After all, there is no television, no rushing around shopping or cleaning, watering the garden, looking after grandkids or fussing over the cat which is not yours. I seem to have a system and here it is as follows;-

  • I have completed the novel and it is going to be published in October, however it needs editing. The way I edit is having my word document open and at the same time have the novel saved in .pdf. I expand the .pdf pages to two and as large as possible to view. This appears easier for me to spot a missed comma, fullstop, space, two words joined together or a question mark, etc. I systematically travel through the .pdf and at the moment, I am up to page 150.
  • I attend a critique group and have 4-5 copies of my fellow writers critiques depending on which chapter I am up to. Currently, it’s Chapter 38. I place these pages together. 5 lots of page 1, 5 lots of page 2, 5 lots of page 3, you get the idea. Then I go through with different coloured highlighters, cross out the crit I do not agree with in green highlighter and with pink edit their suggestion giving it a big tick. I have a whole lever arch file filled with these pages. I find that I will work hard and possibly re-write paragraphs that all my fellow writers have pointed out problems. Working with other writers is essential. They see what you do not see.
  • I also save the .pdf file to my mobile phone. Using Adobe Reader I go through some of the re-edited work and this is an excellent way of spotting any mistakes made during the editing (this certainly happens!). Adobe Reader has this excellent little “comment” tool where you can place a litte comment balloon/icon (not sure what it’s called), type in the edit you want to make and you can (even late at night), go through your mobile phone, read the work over again and don’t forget to save. Later, you can go through any future saved .pdfs and add spunkier verbs and nouns and if you’re into them figurative language.
  • Difficult chapters! Yes there are many and I have found that if I record (again on my mobile phone), I can ‘HEAR’ the mistakes, I can hear when a sentence is clunky, out of rhythm, or in other words over-written. It is time consuming, but the evidence is there to listen to at any time, esp. while you’re driving, in bed late at night, even while you are multi-tasking at home like cooking, watering, eating lunch, walking or sweeping the backyard. No leafblower for you!
  • Filler words! Oh my, I am guilty of using these. When I see one, I delete it. Some filler words that are unnecessary in the narrative are:- just, always, then, now, quite, rather, however, maybe, perhaps, etc. There are online articles about these.
  • You need to break from work when you’re on retreat. I like swimming, so I research the Shire’s local pool and attend. This helps with the writer’s slouch and if you’re like me, sometimes I get a backache from too much sitting. Also treat yourself to a latte in the area, chat with the ladies in dress shops and basically enjoy being in a different place – for a change!

Happy writing!


Helen Hagemann reviews “Where the Crawdads Sing”

Where the Crawdads SingWhere the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
After struggling with the last 2 or 3 books of fiction, except “American Dirt”, Where the Crawdads Sing was a welcome change. I have discussed this book with a group of women who belong to book clubs, and most found it a good read, liking the crime element (a who-dunnit). I was puzzled by the ending (had a different take on the killer), until they told me that I had missed the part about the boy in a hoodie.
I liked how the author described the marshland, the palmettoes, esp. all the waterbirds, the blue heron, crows, frogs, the gulls and the collection of different feathers. The story relaxed me going through, as if I was meant to slow down, take some time with how this Marsh Girl (protagonist, Kya) experienced her lonely environment and isolation from a dysfuntional family. This was quite an intriguing world that Delia Owens described, and one that I knew very little about. I had to research what the “crawdads” were. You experienced a sense of being there amongst the channels, brambles, a dense thicket, a coastal marsh and even the mud exposed the dampness.
“A dark clearing – one of her favourite places – spread cavernlike under five oaks so dense only hazy streams of sunlght filtered the canopy, striking lush patches of trillium and white violets.” p87.
I couldn’t fault the writing and here are a couple of her poetic phrases, to name a few. Ten out ten.
“Nothing seemed too indecorous as long as the tick and the tock of life carried on.’ AND ‘Clouds lazed in the folded arms of the hills.’

View all my reviews

A Retreat Tragic


One of my favourite past-times as a writer is attending writers’ retreats. Over the years I have travelled to many commencing with the Varuna Writers House in Katoomba, NSW and the last attended was in middle-country, Portugal. I still have a Terrey Hills NSW residency at Eramboo waiting for me to occupy sometime when the Covid pandemic is a distant memory or a viable 2021 option. But meanwhile, another opportunity has arisen at the KSP Writers Centre in Greenmount, WA.
I have fond memories as an ECU student (& writing hopeful) attending various functions/ nights at KSP to listen to published authors back in the nineties. We went in a group with our English Professor along with his encouragement. I think I was following my dream and continued to apply to as many writing opportunities as possible. Yes, I’m a writing retreat tragic!
So, at the end of the month, I will be spending 6 nights in 1 x ALDRIDGE WRITERS RETREAT ( en suite facilities ) MY CABIN.
I thank the folks at the KSP Writers Centre for this wonderful and affordable offer to stay in the hills in a quiet location and in a fully-equipped cabin (& not far from the John Forrest National Park). For me, it’s a great opportunity to deeply emerse myself in my second novel and believe me it has come at a great time. I am nearly at the end of the novel with my critiquing group, editing and taking onboard some of their suggestions, so this week will be valuable time to fully scan the novel, perhaps rewrite some bland phrases, replace hackneyed verbs, nouns, adjectives, etc and generally improve the writing the best way I can, if not poetically.
I also believe I have the opportunity to join in with some folk in one or two of their weekly writing classes and look forward to meeting new writers (& some I already know!). I also expect that I will not be the only one bunkered down in a leafy, tree-lined and shaded bungalow. Stay tuned for how the week goes!

Continue reading

2nd Novel-The Ozone Cafe-due October!

Promotion of 2nd Novel: The Ozone Cafe

Above are early pictures of Ettalong Beach (out of copyright) and have been a great resource in the writing of the novel. I have drawn from my own childhood, especially later years as a teenager visiting the Ozone Cafe. It was a great place to hang out, sip on a chocolate milkshake, play the jukebox or one of several pinball machines. The novel highlights these early years when you could walk across the street from a swim, walk into the cafe with wet togs and feel very comfortable sitting in a cubicle (much like a Happy Days scenario) and chat amongst your friends. I couldn’t write this idyllic world as it would not have created any drama. Instead, the story revolves around three separate owners, 1st is Vincenzo Polamo, 2nd is Joe Pendlebury & 3rd are the Greek Boys. It’s about the demise of the cafe and my 3rd owners who lose the cafe through council  corruption.
The novel has many historical elements, especially as the setting is the Central Coast of NSW in late fifties and early sixties. I include popular music of the era, typical Australian food (Cafestyle), motor vehicles of the times and watercraft. Note: early pic of Indian Canoes (circa 50s)
I currently promote my novel (due Oct21) on Instagram @evangelynewriter so why not check it out and also my prose poetry.

Radio Interview

Radio Interview – forthcoming October 2021

As an author, it seems to me, you are constantly hoping for some good news. There’s a specific elation when you first get published, signing a contract, receiving your stock of books and then having a launch (or two!). Then you’re thinking what else can I do to get my book out there to readers / reviewers / book clubs? You should be satisfied, right? But I think it’s human nature to want more for your little gem, either to be read or liked by as many people as possible. You get up in the morning, turn on the laptop, head straight to emails, hoping for some response of a program that you applied for or some good news re your first published book.

Surprisingly, I received an email from a radio jock from Coast FM 96.3 (I won’t mention his name), who presents a maritime program on various historical shipping events that have occurred on the Central Coast of NSW. He’s scheduled a piece of the infamous Phil (the Jew) Jeffs who incidentally built the Ozone Café – The Café being the subject and title of my next novel. He found me through the “Good Old Woy Woy” Facebook page, discovering that I had written about the old place, but of course not about Jeffs.

Further conversations have now led to me being interviewed on Coast FM and scheduled when the book is published. This is exciting, but a long wait!

Very proud to promote my hometown radio station. Coast FM  96.3 aims to be a local voice for the Central Coast NSW community by broadcasting a diverse range of programs made by volunteers to inform, engage, entertain and connect the Central Coast community. Coast FM also aims to be of service to and accessible to community organisations and the broader community on the Central Coast, including through broadcast of community service announcements and interviews.

Note above:  Mock-up cover of my next novel, October 2021 forthcoming from Adelaide Books LLC New York.

Novel 2020 & Novel 2021

Social Media has its Place

One of the good things about social media is the ability to promote your work, for instance novels. During my time on Facebook I have connected with a hometown group called “Good Old Woy Woy” – Woy Woy being central to where I grew up in Ettalong Beach and my high school at Gosford High. I have interacted with the group over a period of 3-4 years showcasing, firstly, the old photograph of The Ozone Café. (It raised a lot of attention!). Later, after several more comments about the café, I posted up my intention of self-publishing. (Some in the group wanted the book). In 2020, with the good news of my debut novel being released, I told the group that I had sent my manuscript titled “The Ozone Café” to Adelaide Books as I knew (after many attempts) that it wouldn’t get published in Australia.

So again, lucky for me, Adelaide Books New York took another giant leap of faith and advised that the novel would indeed be published in October 2021. Stevan Nikolic (Editor-in-Chief) wrote,

“I hope this email finds you well and in good spirits. I read “The Ozone Cafe” and we are willing to publish it under the same contract terms as your previous book. If agreed, your book would be released somewhere in September next year.”

Adelaide Books has a publishing calendar and have since advised that it will be released in October 2021.

As an author, you have the opportunity to send pictures for your book, to help with the cover so having been given permission by the Gosford Library (the pic is out of copyright) I have done a few mock-ups of the cover and posted above. The publisher will be more professional!

I have also had some more good news – thanks to the Good Old Woy Woy Facebook folks – but that’s another post. Stay tuned!