Monday, 13 August 2018

Writing Through Illness - My Story.

By Cassandra Samuels

In 2014 my debut book A Scandalous Wager was accepted for publication.

My dream since I was fifteen was coming true. I thought the rest of my author life would just fall in line. I was wrong.

I never factored in illness.

In 2015 I started A Scandalous Secret, but was tired all the time and finding it hard to get into my creative space. Something wasn’t right. I already suffered from achilles tendonitis in both ankles, but now I had a pain in my toes that ached all day and kept me awake at night. I was a hot mess! I’d been diagnosed with seronegative arthritis eighteen months after my daughter was born but I had muddled through for over eighteen years and it had never stopped me from doing what I needed to do.

This was different.

Courtesy of Sage Friedman - upsplash

After a few tests my specialist said I had Rheumatoid Arthritis. Okay, I thought, just get some new medication and get on with things, but it wasn’t to be for me. The next two years were filled with multiple medications, with debilitating pain and disappointment, and with side effects that left me wondering if I was ever going to feel like a functioning person again. I had brain fog, I lost a lot of my hair and there were times when certain parts of my body just didn’t want to cooperate or move at all. My stomach was a war zone with constant cannon fire audible to everyone. The worst was the fatigue, both mental and physical.

I couldn’t write.

courtesy of Max Van Den Oetelaar - upsplash

In fact, at times I struggled to make a decision as simple as which pair of black pants to wear to work. I had over 200 sick days built up before my diagnosis. Now I struggled to get through a week without needing a day or more off. I started injections that were supposed to suppress my immune system and stop my body from fighting itself, plus strong anti-inflammatories. Nothing worked.

Somehow through all this I managed to re-write, not once but twice, my current book, Collector of Hearts. It has taken me four years to get another book on the digital shelves. That it’s finally out there is testament to my determination and the support of my family, friends and critique partners, not to mention the understanding and patience of my editor.

Today, I am still struggling. I am on a new weekly injection that is, indeed, suppressing my immune system. The downside of it is, though, that I am more likely to pick up an illness – a cold or infection – and that I will most likely get it worse than someone who has an immune system to fight it. It will also take longer to recover. Fatigue is a constant battle, making it extra challenging to find time to write around a full-time job.

This takes a toll on my mental health as well. Stress is particularly bad for me and I am always trying to keep it together – not always successfully. I constantly feel like I am letting people down — my readers, my family, my work colleagues and myself.

There is one constant – I want to write.

I want to keep creating stories for people to enjoy. I may not be churning out the books as fast as I want to, but my will is strong and I will keep at it until the next book is written, and the next one and the next one. Why? Because I love it.

For me completing a book is not just a mission completed or a job well done, it is a triumph over my illness.

If you want to know more about Rheumatoid Arthritis click on this link.

Have you every had to fight through illness to do the thing you love?

Love to love: Younger - tv show on Stan Australia.

Love to laugh: At my funny little grandsons, Ryan, Finn and Eli

Love to learn: New things I can do on my laptop.

Monday, 6 August 2018

Romance Around The World: Spain

By Sharon Bryant
The Rich History and Culture of Spain
Spain has a diverse and fascinating history. The largest country in Southern Europe, in the early modern period, it was the first global empire in the world leaving a huge cultural heritage. Its art, traditions, music and food have been influenced over the centuries by a series of invaders, and by its location in the Western Mediterranean. The rich history and culture of Spain make it the perfect setting for a romance novel.


Indiscretion by Hannah Fielding is set in 1950, in post-war Spain. Alexandra de Falla, a romance novelist, travels to Andalusia in search of her estranged family on her father’s side. There she falls in love with a proud, passionate and intense Spanish count who disturbs and excites her. The cultural divide between her English home and her newfound Spanish one lead Alexandra on a tumultuous journey of love, intrigue and personal growth.

The Summer House By The Sea

The Summer House By The Sea by Jenny Oliver is set in modern-day Spain. When Ava’s elderly grandmother dies, just after she herself survives a bus accident, she decides to journey from England to her grandmother’s Spanish villa for a fresh start. She meets and falls in love with Tom, a retired actor. Ava’s brother Rory’s career is virtually destroyed after he makes one very foolish decision. His marriage was already on the rocks. Rory journeys to Spain with his young son, Max, and tries to mend things with his wife who is still back home in the U.K.

Billionaire M.D. by Olivia Gates 

When Cybele awakens in hospital, she has lost all memory of her past life. Her husband Mel is dead and she learns she is pregnant. Cybele is being cared by Rodrigo Valderrama, M.D. When she is well enough to leave hospital, Rodrigo takes Cybele to his villa to convalesce. Cybele is attracted to Rodrigo, but cannot fathom how he is connected to her past. Her memories are slowly returning.

Have you read and loved any romance novels set in Spain? What was your favourite?

I love to love: We’re travelling to country NSW to see our eldest daughter soon. I can’t wait.

I love to laugh: We saw Unqualified at the Ensemble Theatre last weekend. The comedy was infectious. I couldn’t stop laughing.

I love to learn: My husband and I just spend the most marvellous few hours doing a backstage tour of the Sydney Opera House.

Monday, 30 July 2018

When Characters Have a Mind of Their Own

by Enisa Haines

I had believed myself a plotter when I wrote my first manuscript. I planned out the plot - 'What if this?' and 'What if that?' - in comprehensive detail. I knew the characters and what would happen and when and where. I worked on the outline, the events of each chapter, the synopsis. I wrote the book and I wrote it fast, but when I reached 'The End' something about the process didn't feel right. 

Image courtesy of: CCO Creative Commons

I spent many an hour wondering why. Too rigid and methodical, I realised, for a writer like me, happiest when my creativity is spontaneous. And in that happy state, my imagination let loose a vision. I saw this guy on a motor bike travelling down a winding road and I got to thinking: Who is he? Why is he on the road? Where is he going? The answers and the visions that then appeared gave me my second manuscript, and another revelation.

I'm not a plotter or a pantser, 'flying by the seat of my pants' planning only the basics or nothing at all. I'm not a plantser, plotting some of the story. I am a scener. I imagine scenes. They come in no particular order so there's some juggling done for them to make sense but they and the characters they reveal are the story.

Image courtesy of: archanN on  Wikimedia Commons 

That's not all. One day I was thinking of a character and he spoke to me. Yes, I had visualised him, a product of my imagination,  but he wanted things done his way. At first I ignored his urging - characters don't speak to their writers - and wrote the scenes as I had imagined them. But he was persistent, rejecting what I'd written so I gave in and wrote what he wanted me to write and introduced another character I had not envisaged. A character I knew immediately was pivotal to the plot and the happy-ever-after ending my hero character deserved.

I soon understood that characters, though coming into existence from my subconscious, are real in my mind. They take on a life of their own with their own thoughts and feelings and react in their own ways to situations they find themselves in. Maybe it's weird but I believe their stories are not my stories. I just write them and that, in itself, is magic.

Do your characters speak to you, ordering you to write as they want? Do you let them shape the story or do you rein them in?

Love to love: reading, immersing myself in the tales of characters imagined and yet feeling so real.

Love to laugh: at the often-strange-and-funny quirks fictional characters have.

Love to learn: about the many differences that make the characters who they are.