Monday, 29 June 2015

How Travel has Inspired my Writing

by Enisa Haines

Image: courtesy of
Why is it I can read one book and it's forever etched in my memory, and then read another and forget about it? What does one story have and the other lack and how do I ensure the stories I write have the attention-grabbing feature?

Research reveals it's good writing that places readers into stories but it's when writers use their own life experiences to describe their fictional worlds that readers can immerse themselves in the plots and care for what happens to the characters.

Life experiences--events like the birth of a child or scoring your team's winning goal in the Grand Final or hiding in the forest as enemy soldiers advance, and the emotions that come with them, the awe, joy and fear--add an extra level of depth to the writer's vision that allows readers to get involved in the story. The reader experiencing the story for themselves is what makes a book unforgettable.

What if I want to write a story set in the wilds of the jungle in Brazil about an archaeologist searching for a lost city, or one set in Regency England where a Duke must find himself a wife or risk losing his inheritance? I'm not an archaeologist. I'm not acquainted with a Duke. I've never visited Brazil or travelled back in time. How do I write the stories I want to write?

Image: courtesy of:
I can search the Internet, visit the library or watch a TV documentary for the information I need but this research doesn't give me life experiences. Travel does. I learned that during a recent trip overseas.

Via travel I exposed myself to places previously unfamiliar. Immersed in other cultures, I saw the different landscapes, heard how the locals spoke. I stepped outside my comfort zone and tasted food I'd never known about. I pushed aside my fear of dark, enclosed spaces and explored ancient catacombs, feeling the uneven ground beneath my feet and smelling the musty air.

Travel can be easy or it can just as easily be stressful. I drive slowly through the English countryside enjoying the scenery. Great. I arrive in a country where the locals speak a language I don't understand and I don't know my way around. A challenging time, perhaps fearful. However the travel turns out, in the end I have life experiences. Details invaluable to me as a writer that give me a new perspective, details that when included in my stories lets me live them and, in turn, lets readers live them too.

Have you travelled? Has travel inspired your writing?

Love to love - Filling my gaze with beautiful sights.

Love to laugh - at my ungrammatical attempts at speaking another language!

Love to learn - working out things for myself gives me added confidence.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Miranda's June Musings

with the always fabulous Miranda

Winter is here downunder, readers! My absolute favourite time of the year! Time to snuggle by the fire with a hot drink and read. (To our northern hemisphere friends, translate that to a cool drink by the pool...) Naturellement this leads to Our Absolute Winter/(Summer)Essentials: books! Last month I promised you some Historicals, so I am delivering.

What did I love to love this month?
Debut books! Lovely debuts! Two beautiful authors I simply adore. Besides being the nicest people ever, these lovely ladies are all talent, talent, talent.

First is the absolutely fabulous Cassandra Samuels, already known to you marvellous blog devotees. How inspirational are her posts here? Have you read her book A Scandalous WagerMove over heroes, there's a new boy in town, Oliver - and oh my, just look at those dark eyes. He's returned from war to take up the impoverished earldom, and gains access to the widowed (possibly murderous) Black Raven's house on a wager. Their first meeting is surprisingly comic. Oliver's totally foxed, but conscious enough to be endearing and witty. And he continues so right through the book, while The Black Raven, Lisbeth, is very guarded. Every reader's heart will go out to her. I know mine did. Love, love, love this unexpected couple. And Oliver is... just... yes please thankyouverymuch...
The second debut is the delicious Elyse Huntington. Pssst! I can let the cat out of the bag and let you know Elyse will be doing a guest blog here later this year, so you've got plenty of time between now and then to read her lovely new sparkling My Dark Duke. I love a good duke story. James, said dark Duke, has been in retreat for years, ever since his first wife died in mysterious circumstances. (Another did-he-or-didn't-he? Delicious.) Then he meets Lady Alethea Sinclair, someone who's very determined not to marry, unless it's for love. Two strong but vulnerable makes your romantic heart go ahhh. After you finish reading, pop over to the tender epilogue on Elyse's website - it brought tears to my eyes: More Good Bits.

What did I love to laugh at this month?

My TBR, which could possibly reach the moon... Happy dilemma! Here's a brilliant book I plucked off the pile and fell in love with: The Game and the Governess by Kate Noble. Lord Edward Granville (another earl!), swaps places with his old military friend and secretary John Turner for a ridiculous wager (another wager!): that he can 'have' any woman he wants without using his title. Snort. We all know how that's going to turn out. His unlikely quarry is governess Phoebe Baker. Lots of catnip here for any romance reader, miaow. Historicals are simply So! Much! Fun! To! Read!

What did I love to learn this month?
That I adore - and will probably always adore - short category romances. Here's two I loved:

Lily Rose is an idealistic archaeologist in Playing by the Greek's Rules by Sarah Morgan. She's a Pollyanna, sunshine and kittens kind of gal. But definitely not saccharine or overdone, she's really one of the most endearing heroines I've ever read (perhaps alongside Molly, in Molly Cooper's Dream Date by Barbara Hannay). On the rebound, Lily decides to have a relationship with her playboy billionaire boss Nik Zervakis, while developing a 'Kevlar' non-caring shell so people can't hurt her anymore. Yes, well, the Kevlar approach doesn't work, and in the end we all care. Blissful.

Do you read Historicals? Category? Both? Do let me know what you read this month... I can't wait to hear -  I'm always so happy to add to my towering TBR! 

Miranda xx

Monday, 15 June 2015

Four Successful Authors' Views on Self-Publication

compiled by Dee Scully

This week on the Breathless blog we are fortunate enough to have four self-published authors talking with us about their adventures on the journey to publication, how they got there, and their thoughts on the whole process.

First up we have Paranormal Romance, Fantasy, and Young Adult author, Maree Anderson. Her Freaks of Greenfield High series has been optioned for a television series and her Liminal series was selected for inclusion in the iBooks Store Best Books category!

Maree Anderson

I was first published with a small press and, long story short, when my amazing editor left the company I paused to take stock of my writing career. After much soul-searching (and a heap of research!), I dived right in and indie-published my version of a “backlist”—a bunch of unpublished manuscripts in a variety of genres that I figured might not totally suck because they’d either won, placed or finalled in various contests. I didn’t have high expectations so imagine my delight when I started getting actual fan mail from readers!

Would I suggest self-publishing for others? Hell, yes! Some authors believe a traditional publishing contract “validates” them—i.e. confirms they’re “good enough”—but I’ve finally realized that for me, it’s kinda been the opposite. My second self-published book was a YA that’d been rejected because I didn’t have a “YA voice”. I put it up on Wattpad to get some feedback from my target market and was stunned when it was “discovered” there and optioned for TV. To date that book has over 2.2 million reads on Wattpad and thousands of comments from both teens and adults—male and female. Self-publishing also brought me to the attention of Apple iBooks, who gave one of my paranormal romances a huge amount of exposure, while another YA book was selected as an iBooks Best Book of the Month. Bottom line? My foray into self-publishing has given me the courage to continue writing what I love, and thrown a heap of amazing opportunities my way. Plus, having control of each part of the publishing process means I can quickly jump on these opportunities. I love having options and choices (turns out I’m ever-so-slightly a control-freak—who knew?), so for me Indie Publishing = Epic Win!

Historical Fiction and Fantasy author, Michelle Diener has worked on both sides of the publishing spectrum, having previously worked as a publisher and now as an independent author. Michelle is a master world-builder and pulls readers into her fictional worlds whether historical, as in A Dangerous Madness, or futuristic sci-fi like her upcoming Dark Horse (to be released June 15, 2015).

Michelle Diener

Thank you to Dee for inviting me to participate.

I am traditionally published with Simon & Schuster's Gallery Books imprint. However, I had a book, 'Daughter of the Sky', which my agent had sent out to a number of other publishers, and while most had come back with the feedback that it was a great book, none of them wanted to publish it because they thought the setting was too unusual and the period not popular enough with readers. (It is a Victorian-set historical, centred around the start of the Anglo-Zulu War in Zululand.) As a result, when it seemed all other avenues had been exhausted, I decided to self-publish. I wasn't expecting to prove the publishers wrong, in fact I accepted what they said was probably true, but I didn't need to worry about numbers very much if I self-published it, and I believed in the book. I had done an incredible amount of research for it, personally lived in the area where the battles took place, and felt very strongly about the novel seeing the light of day. Self-publishing allowed me to accomplish that.

It was a steep learning curve, but because a number of my friends in the US, in particular one of my critique partners, had already taken the self-publishing plunge almost a year before I did, I had a very good idea of the work involved. I looked on my first self-publishing project as my trial by fire. I wasn't in a rush. I did as much as possible myself in order to learn how things worked, even if I decided it would be better to contract out some of the tasks if I did it again. I also went in with a very clear idea of my limitations. I am not a graphic designer, and never intended to design my own cover. I had three things going for me. I had previously worked as a publisher for an academic publishing house, so I knew how things worked at the back end of publishing and the steps I would need to take. I was already published as a historical author with a large New York publishing house and had had to do the promo and marketing work on my other books. And I had a number of friends who were happy to help me when I had a question. I broke even on 'Daughter of the Sky' within six weeks of publishing it, and while it is by far the slowest seller of my self-published books (those publishers were right :)) I have never regretted self-publishing it and getting it out into the world. While it doesn't sell as many copies as my other books, it gets consistently wonderful reviews from those who do read it. :)
The enjoyment I get from self-publishing is immense. The control, the involvement in every aspect of the process (which makes it an artisan endeavour in my opinion), and the satisfaction when the project is complete, has made self-publishing a real factor to consider in my overall career arc. I would highly recommend it, with the caveat that you understand you are competing against major publishers with your work, and it needs to be professional, and the very, very best it can be.

Cathleen Ross has been around the world and back in her self-publication journey. After a trip to the USA, she joined together her love of writing with her knowledge of technology and started self-publishing. Probably best known for her self-published historical Highlander romance series, Cathleen has recently embarked on a more contemporary leg of her writing journey with Nella, a title in the Secret Confessions: Sydney Housewives series published by Escape.

Cathleen Ross

I went to the RWAmerica conference in 2011 and noticed there was a lot of excitement around self-publishing. I had several backlist short stories and a love of new technology so I put a whole day aside to read through the hundred-odd pages of rules of the Smashword’s 'How To' Guide. Bear in mind that I’d already read 'The Brain that Changes Itself', which proposes the theory that if we do totally new things we will have neural growth and stave off dementia. This was my 'something new'.

I uploaded my backlist short stories and they sold immediately. I have a passion for 14th century Scotland and wanted to write a blend of romance with accurate history, so I went to Scotland last July with Alison Weir to follow the trail of Mary, Queen of Scots. My first Highlander story sold immediately, too. Next I wrote a Highlander novella and a book, uploaded it as a boxed set and it also sold immediately. It still does, especially as I made the first story free. People seem to enjoy the history, medieval Scottish knights and romance combination.

Then my life’s mission hit me, well one of them. I realised that I only used 5 short steps to upload to Smashwords and, being a trainer of some thirty years' experience, I could teach others to do so. I put 39 people through the OWL’s course and it’s so exciting to see them spread their wings and self-publish. I’m teaching the process of self-publishing through the Mosman Community College and recently, together with Kandy Shepherd, did the same for WriteFest.
Although I love writing for Harlequin, there are projects I want to do that may not suit my publisher and these I self-publish. I’ve found I’m making more money from self-publishing than I’ve ever made from publishers and I get paid every month. It’s incredibly freeing being in charge of my writing destiny.
I will come to writing groups and teach them how to self-publish as I’m determined to spread the word across Australia. S.E. Gilchrist organised for me to speak to the Hunter Group last year and they are now doing some really cool self-publishing.
My mission - to free authors - is spreading.

I first met Jenny Schwartz while coordinating RWA's 2013 The Claytons Conference when she had only just started on her self-publication journey. She's busted out of the beginner category since then with over 20 titles to her name. Jenny's not only self-published with titles such as Kiss Me, Quick, but also traditionally published with both Carina Press and Harlequin's Escape.

Jenny Schwartz

It was during the 2013 Romance Writers of Australia conference that the realisation slowly dawned on me that all the cool kids were experimenting with self-publishing. I’m not cool, so I filed that realisation under “later” and got on with life and writing. However, I started to follow people’s discussions regarding their experience of self-publishing and, a year and a bit later, I decided to experiment. I naturally write short, which can be difficult to sell to traditional publishers. However, Amazon’s lending library was at the time geared to favour shorter works. So I decided to accept Amazon’s exclusivity clause in exchange for getting my stories into its lending library, Kindle Unlimited. Sales trickled in, but what really changed for me was getting my hand on sales data – what was selling, where and when. That meant I could focus and improve my promotional activities.

The sales data that becomes available to you as a self-publisher is why I’d recommend people try self-publishing. But there are other advantages – you control deadlines, covers, blurbs, metadata, price points, everything! Of course, that means you have to organise and pay for all of this (downside) and take sole blame for failures (huge downside). With self-publishing, there’s nowhere to hide. It’s all you. Self-publishing is daunting and it’s no guarantee of success (in fact, with the avalanche of new books out there, discoverability is a major issue). However, if you’re willing to put in a ton of time and energy, self-publishing can be a master class in getting your books to readers. Just remember, learning is hard work, and sometimes the lessons hurt!

There you have it! Four self-published authors with varying journeys to self-publication, proving there is no one way to THE END!

Do you have a question for our self-published authors? Now's your chance to ask? Don't be shy!  
Have you read a self-published book lately? What was the title and who was the author?  

I love to friends; they are beautiful in every way.

I love to my dog; she knows just how to make me smile.

I love to learn...from self-published authors; they've learned heaps and aren't afraid to share their knowledge.

Monday, 8 June 2015

What's in a "Pen" Name?

A fellow aspiring author recently asked whether she should use a pen name or her real name. This got me thinking… Why would you choose to use a pseudonym? What do you need to consider before choosing a pen name? And how do you ‘create’ that perfect name?

There are three main reasons to choose a pseudonym.

1. To rise above name limitations

Maybe you don’t like your name or perhaps you have an oddly spelled name that may get misconstrued by the general public (think Harold “Harry” Balls…can’t think of too many genres that name would fit into and a writer would willingly want to be known as). Or perhaps your name is the same as a well-known character, not in the genre in which you write (e.g. you write adult crime thrillers but your name is Harry Potter).

Romeo & Juliet--William Shakespeare

2. To keep your personal life separate from your professional life

Many writers assume pen names to separate fact from fiction, others to protect family and friends. Let’s face it; there are some ‘crazies’ out there and should you become bigger than Nora, you might well garner a few of these ‘fans’ yourself. Using a pen name may make it harder for personal information (like your home address) to be discovered. A good friend of mine decided to use a pseudonym after her son was bullied at school because his mother wrote romances (say, “romances” with a sneer). 

3. To separate the types of books you write

Branding is something many of us aspire to; but branding can pigeonhole us too. Readers know what they can expect from our books and they come to demand that with every new title, but who amongst us hasn’t wanted to branch out and try something new? Branding can sometimes make that difficult. In order not to disenfranchise our readers, it may be best when writing in a new genre to switch names. Well-known dark paranormal romance author JR Ward changed her historical romance author name from Jessica Byrd in order to reach new readers and broaden her writing horizons. Even Nora Roberts chose a pseudonym when she changed from writing romances to writing mainstream mysteries (actually she’s chosen a few of them!).

At this point you may be thinking that a pseudonym might be right for you, but before you settle on the 'perfect name', consider the following:

-Shelving space…when you’re published will you be forgotten and not seen at the bottom back of the Big W/Target/Barnes & Noble bookrack? Or will you be squeezed up tight against a well-known author who is readily seen and readers reach for?

-Domain names & #hashtags…readers visit websites, especially of authors they’ve only just discovered. If they go looking for a website under your name will they find it or will they find someone else? It’s similar with Twitter. Can you tweet with a recognizable hashtag or will you lose followers because they don’t know who you are? 
I don't believe a rose would be
as nice if it were called a thistle or
a skunk cabbage.
Anne of Green Gables--LM Montgomery

-Spelling…when readers want to order your book from The Book Depository or download your books from Kindle, will they be able to find you, or will the spelling of your name confound them? If you’re writing as Soairse Slitzenbackenfauber, your name might just be remembered as Sosy Schipendalerhausen or some variation.

-Gender…do you want readers to know your gender? Romance authors often overlook romances written by men, think ML Buchman (who uses gender neutral initials instead of Matthew Lieber). The esteemed Bronte sisters chose to write under pen names that were considered masculine (Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell) in order to be taken seriously by publishers and readers alike.

-Genre…what name will attract readers to your specific genre? If reading a romance, which sounds better to you Nora Roberts or JD Robb? How about if reading a historical romance, Jessica Byrd or JR Ward?

-Response…if your pen name is called out in a crowded theatre would you answer to it? If you won’t readily respond to your pen name at writing conferences or book signings then it might be a wise idea to reconsider or you just might find fans thinking you’re a prima donna since you didn’t stop to sign their book…and thus you may lose readers.

-Sound…what does the pen name sound like? Similar to naming your characters, you don’t want something too difficult to pronounce. People will skip over it. If they skip over your author name, they may easily forget it when it comes to making their next purchase.

-Double entendre…maybe you write erotic thrillers and Tawny Lust is the perfect name for you. Maybe you write sweet romances but your real name might make readers think otherwise (e.g. Daphne Tease). Maybe you’ve always wanted to use your grandmother's maiden name Itz but your initials are S. H.  Regardless, you’d do well to consider the many ways your possible pen name might be (mis)construed.

Last but not least, when creating the perfect pen name, consider: 

*choosing a name that sounds similar to your own e.g. Eleanor Robertson chose Nora Roberts

*keeping a portion of your real name e.g. Piers Anthony Dillingham Jacob chose Piers Anthony

*using a translation of your name such as Nicolas Kim Coppola (Nicholas Cage)

*using a family name e.g. Theodore Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss

*referencing a baby name book or online baby name register

*flipping through the phone book for names that catch your attention

*choosing a name based on its meaning or quality such as Hope or Constance

When you think your pen name is ready for the world…
Google it! Or use any search engine and/or social media. See if anyone else has that name. If another author (especially in your genre) has it then perhaps no matter how awesome it sounds and how much you really, really, really want it, it might be best to find another one. You do NOT want to be mistaken for someone else…losing a reader is never fun, especially when it could have been averted!

Finally, critique it! As with your writing, critique partners may pick up something you may have missed about the name that you’ve come to be closely attached to.

When all else fails, do NOT use the name of your street and the name of your dog or some variation, otherwise you might end up with a name like Route Four Bud or Happy Constitution. Instead try an online name generator like or

Given the above, what pen name would you use and why?

I love to love the creativity of choosing a pseudonym!

I love to laugh at the sometimes wacky ways people choose pen names.

I love to learn how famous authors chose their writing names.

Monday, 1 June 2015

Procrastinators Unite! (Tomorrow...or maybe the day after)

by Marilyn Forsyth

Let me guess. You’ve got something important to finish but before you can settle down to it, you just need to: read this blog; play one more game of Candy Crush; scan Facebook; reorganise your linen cupboard and check the oil in the car. How’d I go? Yep, that was me too.
Procrastination is the world’s worst time-suck and the scourge of writers everywhere. There are two types: difficulty in getting started, and being distracted while working. In this post I’ll focus on difficulty with starting.

This is where I should say ‘Stop reading. Get writing!’ but the thing is I may have a way to help YOU stop procrastinating. From widespread reading on the topic, I’ve put together 12 suggestions, one of which might be right for you.

  1. Prioritise your ‘to do’ list, including only those things you’ve been avoiding and omitting anything you intended to do anyway. (I know it feels good ticking them off but in all honesty, what’s the point?)
  2. Begin your writing time with the most important thing – Writing! That annoyingly persistent voice in your head telling you to check your emails? Ignore it! Use your willpower; procrastination is a choice.
  3. Getting started is more important than perfection. Adopt James Clear’s ‘2 Minute Rule’ When you start a new habit it should take less than 2 minutes to do, and although most goals can’t be completed in less than 2 minutes, every goal can be started in 2 minutes or less. This will help you past that hurdle of actually starting - write for 2 minutes and you might find yourself writing for much longer.
  4. Break down goals into small, attainable steps. Small accomplishments bring their own reward and rewards boost motivation.
  5. Set deadlines. Keep to them.

  6. Use social media as a reward rather than a distraction. Hold off until you’ve met your daily word quota, or set a timer for 30 minutes of writing followed by 10 minutes of internet browsing, then more writing.
  7. Intersperse your writing time with bouts of physical activity to get that body active
  8. Make your writing space a ‘feel-good’ area. Surround yourself with things that make you happy.
  9. Develop a ritual to associate with beginning writing. For me, it’s lighting a scented candle. For you it might be eating a Smartie (everyone knows Smarties boost brainpower, right?), or turning on the soundtrack you’ve created for your story.
  10. Finish off that sentence you left unfinished at the end of your last session, or write by hand to start with.
  11. Enjoy what you’re writing. I love writing dialogue and often begin with a page of pure dialogue, layering in the rest later.

There you have it –12 ways to get you started. There’s never been a better time to write than now. Go for it! (After you’ve left a comment, of course.J)

Do you have any suggestions that have helped you move past procrastinating? Love to hear them.

I also:

Love to Love citrus-scented candles to help me get in the zone.

Love to Laugh at the Grammarly Facebook page.

Love to Learn how to craft a great first page. Flogometer provides an opportunity for writers to get feedback on the first page of their ms. Ray Rhamey (Flogging the Quill) lists criteria to judge whether that first page is compelling, gives his own reasons why it might not be, and calls for responses from other readers. Click on the link to check it out.

As mentioned last week, our own Karen M Davis is currently on the road with Jenn J McLeod and Tricia Stringer, visiting 11 NSW towns. Check out the itinerary below to find out when they'll be somewhere near you and go along and support them.