Monday, 10 December 2018

Miranda's Bumper Christmas Musings!

Darlings, if you're a faithful blog reader with BITB, you'll know I get totally excited about Christmas and the exciting plethora of Christmas reading that floods in. Bring it on, I say, I love it! Here's a little taste of what I've been reading so far.

Something New:

Each year I simply cannot wait for Debbie Macomber's Christmas release. My life is not complete without reading her fabulous festive offering. Alaskan Holiday has a wilderness setting, the remote little town of Ponder. It pretty much packs up and leaves each winter, except for a few hardy souls. Josie Avery is also on her way out of town to her dream job as a sous chef in Seattle...but she misses the last boat out of town! Cue drama and angst! Cue (private) delight from reserved swordsmith - the smitten Palmer Saxton, who now has the chance to woo Josie into staying, forever. Swoon. 


Picture credit: amazon.com

Something Magical:

Alaska put me in mind of Kristin Hannah, whose latest release The Great Alone is also set in Alaska (great read). Do yourself a favour. Rewind a few years and discover her absolutely magical Christmas novel Comfort & Joy. Joy Candellaro used to love Christmas, but doesn't anymore, and it's heartbreaking as to why. Then she meets a little boy facing Christmas without his mother...and things change. Suspend disbelief and simply enjoy this very special book. 


Picture credit: amazon.com

Something Different:

Don't know about you, but every now and then I love reading Manga romance. I find them unique and fun, a throwback to some time ago (cough) when I was young and used to read comics all the time. I loved them then and still do. With Manga I get to combine both loves: comics + romance. Why not give Her Christmas Romeo a go? Quick to read, a lovely Cinderella story line from Carole Mortimer, and gorgeous illustrations from Kaoru Shinozaki, a romance illustrator with a tremendous backlist. Don't forget to read it backwards (you get used to it); enjoy!

Picture credit: amazon.com

Something Aussie:

Can't help it. I'm a biased Aussie and I love reading Christmas stories based here, even though our Christmas is hot and steamy, not the winter wonderland of the northern hemisphere. Our Country Christmas is a terrific anthology from top-notch Aussie authors Darry FraserPenelope JanuFiona LoweEva Scott  and Jacquie Underdown. There might have been tears when I read your story, Darry, I saw what you were doing (sigh). And I love the baby Fiona gives us - such a cute Christmas present. All different stories, all very moving, even Penelope's prickly pear heroine, who can be melted...

Picture credit: amazon.com
Something Regency:

Earlier in the year Anne Gracie, generous as always, sent me this amazing Regency anthology, The Last Chance Christmas Ball.  Oh my, look at the line up of authors! It was really hard to not read it before Christmas, but as December arrived I dived in with joy. All eight stories are linked around characters planning to attend The Last Chance Christmas Ball, held just after Christmas, 1815. It's absolutely delightful to see the same characters dipping in and out of the stories, hello again, hello again, swoon, swoon, hello again, etc., as eight couples find love. I couldn't put this book down, it's so lovely and lush and romantic. Add it immediately to your Christmas reading! It's poignant to see here a story from Jo Beverley, who sadly passed away after the book came out a few years ago; her story is a true gift. If you'd like to hear more from some of the authors, pop over and subscribe to the Word Wenches newsletter for your Regency fix.

Picture credit: amazon.com

Three more Christmas books - can you last the distance?!

Something, uh, Grinchy:

Well, bah humbug, there's always someone who might spoil Christmas for us, isn't there? Happily, in Starlight Bend (isn't that a lovely name?), love conquers Grinchy growly moments. Seriously, he growls at her, which made me laugh. The Grinch of Starlight Bend by Jennifer Probst is a quick read for a busy day, a heartwarming Christmassy romance that's also a bit Beauty & the Beast, yum! (In fact, the B&tB library in this book gave me an instant case of library lust.) I love social workers, I'm one in another life, so this is a pretty special story. And wow, another super luscious cover! 

Picture credit: amazon.com

Something Inspirational:

Melody Carlson, award winning Inspirational author, gives us tender Christmas stories each year. This year it's A Christmas by the Sea, with a widow and her 12 year old son trying to fix their beachside cottage to sell, to pay the debts from her late husband's cancer treatments. Already your heart wrenches, doesn't it? Along comes local craftsman Caleb Colton. I'm in. I'm in, I'm in, I'm totally into this book. A sweet inspirational about spiritual growth and provision from on high. (P.S. I think I could live in that divine little cottage, and I totally loved the shell decorations.)

Picture credit: amazon.com

Something with Amnesia:

Their Christmas Miracle by Barbara Wallace is really something special. I love the amnesia plot, where Rosalind is shocked when her husband accidentally finds her in an isolated hotel in the wilds of Scotland (and there is a slight mystery about that hotel, hmmm). She's forgotten everything about her life before 6 months ago - and then she starts remembering snippets...and they're not always complimentary to her... Wonderfully, miracles do happen at Christmas!

Picture credit: amazon.com

Last but definitely not least (thanks for staying with me!):

Something Fun:

Office romance! Geeky computer guy! Sunshiney heroine! Unrequited love! Disastrous Christmas party! Casualty department! All the fun stuff! Tinsel in a Tangle by Ainslie Paton is fast and festive, guaranteed to give you all the feels and put a smile on your face. Thanks, Ainslie, you rock.

Picture credit: amazon.com

I do hope that's given you some stocking stuffer ideas? Maybe you can pop one of these into your own stocking and settle down in a blissful post-Christmas moment to read, read, read.

Meanwhile, I'd love to hear what new Christmas books you've discovered? Show and tell!

Happy Christmas - and may all your presents be books!

Stay safe, and I can't wait to see you in 2019!

Until then, much love from Miranda xxx


Love to Love:
Everything Christmas. The tree, the lights, the gifts, the goodwill, church, family & friends, the food...etc!

Love to Laugh:
At the funny Grinch memes coming out. I'm totally keen to drag some children to the new Grinch movie.

Love to Learn:
I know I say it over and over, but tell me what Christmas reading you've discovered. Do share.

Monday, 3 December 2018

A Literary Escape: The Joys of a Writers’ Retreat



By Alli Sinclair


One of the biggest challenges for a writer is finding time to do what we love—write! Life is busy with work, family, friends (and let’s not even mention housework!). So escaping for a few hours or even a weekend into our fictional words can become an impossible task. 

There is, however, a solution.


The past few years has seen a rapid growth in writers’ retreats. From weekend getaways in the country to grand-scale sojourns in Europe, there are retreats to fit every timeframe and budget. The one thing they all have in common is the opportunity for writers to fully concentrate on their manuscript, develop their craft, and be with like-minded writers. More often than not, the friendships made on these retreats are long lasting and who doesn’t love having a writing friend to share the highs and lows of this industry.

This year I teamed up with good friend and fellow author T.M. Clark to offer Writers at Sea—a retreat giving writers the chance to not only immerse themselves in their writing, but to relax and have a holiday at the same time. Tina and I have different strengths and have taught workshops around Australia (as well as having done manuscript assessments and mentoring), so working together to offer a well-rounded retreat was a logical step.


We wanted to give writers something unique, so a cruise in the South Pacific was the perfect choice! We gave workshops and mentoring sessions, scheduled time for attendees to write and, on the days when we were in ports, a chance for everyone to swim in crystal blue waters, shop in exotic markets or explore jungles and villages. It proved the perfect combination of holiday and writing.

Not every writers’ retreat is equal, so do your due diligence before committing. Ask questions and, if you can, talk to someone who’s been on the retreat previously. 

Here are some suggestions of what to do before handing over your deposit:
  •  Cost: what is/isn’t included?
  •  Who are the facilitating writers, and what qualifications and experience do they have?
  •  How many people will be attending?
  •  Will there be time to socialise and network with other writers?
  •  If you’re on a strict budget, ask if they pair writers in the same room to save costs.
  • Will there be workshops, a critique of your manuscript, brainstorming sessions, writing sprints? A good writing retreat should give you ample time to discuss your project with the facilitator/s, and workshops should be aimed at developing your craft, identifying the habits holding you back and helping you create new methods for your writing to grow. 
  •  Find out if you’re expected to help with cooking or if all meals prepared and served (a big one for me—the beauty of getting away to write means no household chores!). And can special needs (e.g. allergies) be catered for?
  • Does the retreat cater to writers at various stages of development or is it geared towards a certain level of experience? 
  • Is the retreat for fiction or non-fiction writers?
  • Are there cancellation fees? Can you pay in instalments?
  • What is the accommodation like? What facilities are there? How easy is it to get there?


Another good idea is to find out if it will offer experiences other than writing. Stepping out of your comfort zone can help you gain new insight; if the retreat offers excursions and cultural experiences this can inspire and help you grow.

A retreat should block out the day-to-day distractions of your regular life and help break through any issues you may be facing with your writing. With the right guidance and feedback from your facilitators, your manuscript should shine and your writing craft develop. Most of all, a writing retreat should fuel creativity and leave you inspired, ready for the next step in your writing journey.

Have you been on a writing retreat? What was the best thing about it?


I Love to Love bingeing on my favourite tv shows.

I Love to Laugh at myself when I walk into things (which happens a bit too often!).

I Love to Learn about people's passions.

About the Author: An adventurer at heart, Alli Sinclair is a best-selling and multi-award-winning author who has lived in Argentina, Peru, and Canada. She’s climbed some of the world’s highest mountains, worked as a tour guide in South America, and has travelled the globe, immersing herself in array of exotic destinations, cultures, and languages.


Alli’s books explore history, culture, love and grief, and relationships between family, friends and lovers. She captures the romance and thrill of discovering old and new worlds, and loves taking readers on a journey of discovery. Her latest book, Burning Fields, is an historical set in 1948 in northern Queensland. Alli’s website is: www.allisinclair.com

If you would like more information about Writers at Sea, please contact Alli or Tina, or go to our website: www.writersatsea.com.au

(All images are the author's own or free to use.)

Monday, 26 November 2018

Excerpts from 'A Very Aussie Christmas' Anthology


By the Breathless in the Bush Bloggers

Restore your faith in the power of the human spirit with 6 warm-hearted romances. Celebrate the joy and occasional heartbreak of the festive season, where love shines through against the odds. For all lovers of a little romance at Christmas time, here are some excerpts from our Christmas anthology A Very Aussie Christmas.


Link to Buy




Endings, Beginnings by Enisa Haines


Ash-blonde hair fashioned into a loose bun framed a face deserving of an angel. Eyes the blue of sapphires. Wide eyes emanating an internal agony. He lost himself in the depths, in an emotion he’d never before felt.

Was it possible to fall in love in an instant? His sisters, ever reading those penny dreadful novels, would say ‘yes’.



Desert Fire by Sharon Bryant


White Cliffs. The battered black sign appeared on her right. Littered with holes as if someone had taken a shotgun to it. Emma turned the car. No more main road. Much safer. She frowned. She was being ridiculous. Her stalker didn’t know where she was going.

He couldn’t possibly know.



’Tis the Season by Lynne Boyd



Why the hell was Mr Immaculate going to her parents' place? Was he a salesman or someone from a mining company trying to harass them? On Christmas Eve! What if he was from the bank? Had her parents been keeping problems from her and her brothers?

Well, Kelly would find out soon enough.




Christmas at Castle Bay by Helene Cowan



A class reunion ball on Christmas Eve... Ella’s blood chilled. Callum Anders would be there! No way could she face him. Not even after ten years. The raw bitterness between their families, the public scandal, was still unforgettable. Having to confront him after all this time would be truly embarrassing. Yet how could she avoid the ball?




Millie’s Christmas Miracle by Cassandra Samuels


“Millie, hurry.” Her father’s booming voice broke through the hum of the dining room. “It’s Will.”

Her heart stopped. Will? A smile broke out across her face. Her William was back!

He’d left her twelve long months ago, promising to be back by Christmas. When no letters came, she’d feared something terrible had happened and she had fallen into despair. But Will always kept his promises and now here he was.



Home for Christmas by Marilyn Forsyth


Melissa had no right to begrudge her mother a life after Dad’s passing, but an invitation extended to Doc Bailey for Christmas lunch? What the hell? If she’d been uncertain about the relationship developing between her mother and the doc, that settled it.

Still, if she could finally allow herself to move on, she should allow her mother to do the same.

Shouldn’t she?





We Love to Love peace and joy at Christmas!

We Love to Laugh at animal Christmas gifs.


We Love to Learn what each of us will choose for our favourite 2018 Aussie Romance book (to be announced on the Breathless List in January). 

(All gifs and pictures in this post are free to use.)