Monday, 20 May 2019

The Fashionable Writer



I adore autumn, it is hands down my favourite time of year. The nights are cool, the days fresh yet still enough heat in them to enjoy being outside. The trees are turning every shade of red, orange and yellow. It’s magical.

It’s also my favourite time for shedding the summery outfits and shifting into comfy slouchy autumn wear. Jeans. Who doesn’t love jeans? They are the perfect pant (IMO). Dressed up or dressed down, they work with all types of shoes and really, denim is one of the easiest colours to work with as a base.

You’re probably wondering what I’m rambling on about by now? But I thought, given it’s my favourite time of year, that it would be fun to talk about a writer’s wardrobe. Contrary to popular opinion, just because you can do your job wearing PJs, it doesn’t mean it’s the choice we all make.

So, I’ve detoured out into the writing wilderness to ask the serious question:

What is your writing outfit?

Here are my ‘fashionable writer’ results below

Left: Active-wear Writer
Right: Lounge-wear Writer
Sketches by Jayne Kingsley
The Active-wear Writer
Enjoying leggings and a baggy tee, these writers are ready to jump up and go for a walk at any moment to ensure those creative juices continue to flow.
Most likely dressed from a selection of Kmart and country road, black is always the best answer.

The Lounge-wear Writer
Praise the day that lounge wear became a thing. Who knew that wearing tracksuit pants would actually become a fashion yes, not just a fashion faux-pas. (Apparently not me when I was 14 and went down the street in matching bottle green tracky-dacks and jumper, but that’s another story). Here are the eternally comfortable yet stylish writers, those whose wardrobes are filled to the brim with Susan’s latest catalogue.


Left: Denim is the only option Writer
Right: Stylish Writer
Sketches by Jayne Kingsley
Denim is the only option Writer
This is popular among the mum writers. Those who actually have to leave the house and look presentable, when really, they’d prefer to be wearing their PJS all day. I might add this is most definitely where I fall. Denim lover forever!

The Stylish Writer
These are writers who are just plain stylish and would be no matter what they did with their lives. Yes, you know who I’m talking about, those people you imagine wake up, their make-up already in place, bad hair days don’t exist, and they have an aura of effortless cool. I aspire to be this writer, a girl’s gotta dream right ;)





The Office-wear Writer
Left: Office-wear Writer
Right: Pjs Writer
Sketches by Jayne Kingsley
These are people who have a job and find time to write around that – amazingly organised writers these ones. I’ve also had writers tell me that wearing their work clothes helps them turn on their inner dialogue better – because they feel like they are still in work mode. I have decided to try this – might be a good use for my collection of heels.

The PJs Writer
You knew it was coming. It’s a big draw card on the working as a writer list of perks. Of course the hard slog that is writing, coupled with intense self doubt and a strong requirement for chocolate… well it just says PJs doesn’t it?





In case any of you would like a further giggle – I highly recommend this article by Maggie Downs for The Coachella Review. It made me laugh and really, if you’re a writer, I bet you will also see the humour in this piece.

I love to love... denim jeans
I love to laugh... at my outfit of pjs and heels
I love to learn... other people’s views on the importance of a ‘work’ uniform, and do writers have a work uniform that helps them

So, these are my ‘bit of fun’ writer fashion groupings. What about you? Are you a lover of Autumn fashion? Do you have a special outfit you gravitate to for your writing? And does it help you get those words out on paper or keyboard?


Monday, 13 May 2019

Come on in! The Water's Fine!

Our guest blogger this month is award-winning author Kaz Delaney. Kaz has published more than 70 books over her 25-year career. Most have been for the YA (romance and mystery) and children's markets (mystery and humour) but when the opportunity came to write one of her favourite genres, Cozy Mystery, she jumped at it. Her first series, The Rosie Hart Mysteries, was launched last month with the first title: Chocolate and Old Lace. 

Welcome, Kaz, to the Breathless blog!




Come on in! The water's fine! How many times have we heard expressions like that in our lives? Honestly? I couldn't count. What's more relevant to this post is that I've rarely been tempted by that call. You're thinking I'm wise and brave, right? Strong. Ha! The truth is the opposite. The real reason I've never been tempted is that basically I'm a coward. A big one.

So, no matter how many told me it would be 'fine', making the change from traditional publishing, a place I've happily inhabited for 25 years and published 72 books, to Indie publishing was nothing short of miraculous. For me, independent publishing was a place that was dark and scary and filled with things that would jump out and grab me. In fact, I'm wondering if there was an out-of-body experience involved that I'm still not aware of, because I can't believe I've done it!

And the craziness didn't stop there. First it was Indie. Then it was a genre change (or subchange because I guess I've always had crime of a sort in my YA books). And just to prove the Insanity Bell was ringing loud and clear - I began a series! That's three new things. New type of publishing, new genre and a new style of writing. Three calls of 'come on in, the water's fine' - and I answered all three.













So, why Indie? Why Cozy Mystery? And why Series?

The first answer lies in the state of publishing today. We're not in Kansas anymore, boys and girls. It's a changing world out there. It's never been easy in publishing, but I do think it's harder than it used to be. Also, in my former genre, sales were lower - especially in Australia. I studied my options and decided giving up wasn't the one I was going to choose, so I turned to my many friends who were adapting: adopting hybrid status. That is, they were writing for their publishers and yet growing an e-publishing business on the side. It seemed a sensible use of resources.

The second question is the easiest to answer. I adore mysteries. I have long been an Agatha Christie fan, a 'Murder She Wrote' fan, a 'Diagnosis Murder' fan, a 'Columbo' fan, a 'Mrs Bradley' fan. I adore Phryne...You get the picture. I love the puzzle the author presents me with. I love pitting my wits against the author, trying to ferret out the clues from the red herrings; trying to solve the mystery before I get to the end of the story. Sometimes I know I have it solved by page 68. But then by page 110 I know I haven't...That's the thrill of Cozy Mystery. (Besides - only bad people get murdered in cozies. Generally. That's good, right?)

The third answer is tied to the one above. I love a series. I love getting to know the people who inhabit a tight, rural - or not - community. I love the interactions, the quirks, the colour...I believe a series adds such richness; it encourages us to build relationships with the characters, with the town - to cheer with them and cry with them.

Getting my Head Straight

To say it's been a huge learning curve is a massive understatement. Learning to speak the whole new language that is independent publishing is still doing my head in, but on a writing level, getting my head around a series was also a new skill to learn.

Let me share a little of what I gleaned about writing a cozy mystery series from my study of the subject and my writing of The Rosie Hart Mystery Series:

  1. Planning is key to creating a series                                                                                              You need a long-range plan. As well as the plot for each individual book, it's wise to have an overall plot for the series. How many books do you suppose this plot would sustain? Where would you expect your protagonist to be by the mid book mark? By the end of the series? How will his or her life have changed and grown? What are the story lines for some of the major support characters? Have you planted overarching story questions that can be revealed as the series continues? For example, in Chocolate and Old Lace, the first book in The Rosie Hart Mystery Series, Rosie meets Midge Moylan, and as the series continues they become best friends. They brush off all the comments about their physical similarity, but their readers are more attuned than they are. Already fans are curious about this seemingly small, random plot point; wondering if their guesses are correct. It's fun to interact with them over this small point and hear their suppositions.
  2. The profession or situation of your protagonist is important                                          Particularly in a cozy mystery series, you need to put your protagonist in a position - professional usually - where he or she, the amateur sleuth, can naturally meet and mix with a lot of people. Both Miss Marple and Jessica Fletcher travelled a lot and therefore found themselves mixing with a variety of people in a variety of situations. If the protagonist's circle is too tight or restricted, you will quickly run out of people who could plausibly be murdered, plus people who could have 'dunnit'. The 'cozy' reader is seasoned and savvy. He or she accepts that your protagonist will encounter a lot of murders. They will suspend their disbelief of the likelihood of this happening to a non-professional crime fighter such as your protagonist, but even they have their limits. Rosie Hart is an amateur baker building a business. She meets new people as her wholesale customer base expands to surrounding towns. As well as a loyal friendship group, she encounters random retail customers through her market stall and catered orders and is involved in community groups and affairs. And yes, occasionally she travels as a consequence of this business.
  3. Create a Bible                                                                                                                                A 'series bible' is a record of all the details that will recur in your individual stories. Most times a cozy series will have its home-base in a small community and it's imperative to keep a record of characters and their relevant positions and descriptions, places and history and back story. I have an amazing editor, in Helena Newton, who keeps a close eye on all these tiny details. Naturally, each book brings a group of new characters - bit players who may or may not return in future books - but it will also feature regulars from Rosie's adopted family, friends and the township. The regulars won't all appear in each book, but including those appropriate to each particular story builds integrity for your series. The community consistency embeds the reader, gives them a sense of 'coming home'. Whether they all appear in every book or not, it's still a huge cast to keep track of and without my bible, I'd be lost. It prevents me doubling up on names, messing up the names of surrounding towns or businesses and keeps descriptions straight. Even then, I miss things. Is Rosie 5'3" or 5'4"? If it's mentioned once is gospel. This bible also helps not just with the all-important continuity, but with future plot ideas.
  4. Ensure each book is a standalone                                                                                                Maybe this is just my own belief, but I would advise to ensure each book is a standalone and that all story questions that pertain to that particular story are fully answered. I began reading a YA series some years back. I read the first book and didn't realise it was a series until I got to the end. It was a murder mystery, and the murder happened in that first book. As I neared the end I began to panic, wondering how the author would solve this mystery in such a short time. Pages were running out. Of course she didn't. And I wasn't happy. It took seven books to solve that mystery. And they were only released at two a year. My thinking is that this a fast way to lose readers. I was a lost reader. I gleaned the above information from reviewers who also weren't happy but had been given the series to review. At the time I felt cheated and frustrated. I'd be so sad if one of my readers gave me that kind of feedback. Small continuities - like Rosie and Midge - can be gently eased in, but the main story lines are always resolved.

If you plan to write a series, I wish you well and cheer for you because it is truly good fun! There is so much more I could have added, and if you have experience of series, either as a reader or writer, please feel free to jump in with your own tips. I'd love to hear them! Anyone who chooses to do so, or just pops in to say 'hi', will go in the draw for a hard copy of Chocolate and Old Lace. Yep!!




My consolation prize, available to everyone irrespective, is a free Rosie Hart novella. The Funeral Crasher is available from my website. Sign up for my newsletter here (http://kazdelaney.com.au/) and it's automatically yours!




Thank you for letting me hang out here for a little while. It's such a cool, informative place!

And if you like a fun read mixed with murder and mayhem, you can find my books at:

https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=dp_byline_sr_ebooks_1?ie=UTF8&text=Kaz+Delaney&search-alias=digital-text&field-author=Kaz+Delaney&sort=relevancerank

https://itunes.apple.com/au/author/kaz-delaney/id607622256?mt=11

https://www.kobo.com/au/en/search?query=Kaz%20Delaney&fcsearchfield=Author

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/kaz+delaney?_requestid=3667465

https://www.bookdepository.com/search?searchTerm=kaz+delaney&search=Find+book

Love to love...All my mistakes. Gotta love 'em or sit and cry all day..Ha!

Love to laugh...At the Fab Four (no, not The Beatles). The octogenarians in the Rosie Hart series. Totally incorrigible!

Love to learn...Song lyrics. Well, my family and friends would love me to learn the correct ones and stop making them up.


Monday, 6 May 2019

Romance Across Time: Ancient World

by Sharon Bryant

Ancient history has always fascinated me. The art, architecture and events of those times are intriguing. I find the lives of the people, how they lived and what may have motivated them especially interesting. Romance novels set in these times provide insights into a vastly different world to the one we live in today.

Here are the details of some of my favourite Ancient World romance novel recommendations.

Faithful Daughter of Israel by Wanda Ann Thomas



This novel tells the tale of Anna, an orphaned Jewess who is cursed, starving and desperate. As a last resort, she decides to become a prostitute in order to survive. Anna is rescued by Julian, a proud Roman soldier. Julian needs to marry the daughter of a high-ranking Roman official – a promise he made to his father who suffered stigma as a result of a love match. Unable to find a suitable husband for Anna, and concerned about her safety, he resorts to temporarily marrying her.

The lead characters have greatly differing views, and goals, however the depth of characterisation allows the reader to empathise with the hero and heroine, and look forward to the resolution of their differences.

Mistress of Rome by Kate Quinn 



Thea, a Jewish slave girl is taken to the gladiatorial games by her mistress. She is greatly troubled and is self-harming to escape the world in which she is trapped. Arias is to be executed at the Roman games Thea attends. He fights his guards, kills some and is granted his life by the emperor, only to be sold as a gladiator.

The reader knows Thea and Arias will find a way to be together despite the many trials each goes through in the course of the novel. The portrayal of the games is quite realistic as are Quinn’s insights into many aspects of Ancient Roman life.

A Voice in the Wind by Francine Rivers



This inspirational novel is not a romance, but contains romantic elements. Hadassah, a Jewish Christian is captured by Romans after her family are killed then sold as a slave. She is owned by Julia, a selfish, spoilt young Roman woman. Hadassah finds herself attracted to Marcus, Julia’s older brother.

As their love grows, Hadassah struggles with the tension between her love for Marcus who will lead her away from God, and her love for Jesus.

My Fair Concubine by Jeannie Lin



This novel is set in China during the Tang Dynasty. Fei Long storms a boarding house to recover his sister who has run away with her lover. His sister is promised to a Khitan Chieftain at the behest of the emperor.

His love for his sister prevents him from forcing her to return to his home to make a loveless marriage. Instead he persuades Yan Ling, a servant in the boarding house to journey with him and learn the ways of the nobility sufficiently well to become the heqin ('peace through marriage ties') bride his sister was meant to be. In the course of teaching Yan Ling, Fei Long decides he wants her for himself.

Have you read many Ancient World romances? Which one is your favourite?

I love to love: I am having so much fun kayaking with my husband. It is fun to be with someone you love.

I love to laugh: I really enjoy The Chasers sense of humour.

I love to learn: Extending your vocabulary is fun. My husband and I enjoy doing word puzzles together, usually over a cup of coffee.