Monday, 25 July 2016

Romantic Movies, Oh My!

Image courtesy of Giphy
Welcome to our 100th blog post!

We Breathless girls are so excited to be celebrating another milestone in our blogging journey. Over the last (nearly) 3 years we've brought you some fantastic posts and hosted some wonderful guest bloggers. We hope you've enjoyed reading our blog as much as we've loved putting it together for you.
Here to kick off our next 100 is the fabulous Miranda!

Hello darlings, Miranda here this wintry July.

I imagine every single reader and writer out there loves going to the movies. Yes? (Yes you do, you know I'm right.) We love romance, we love our happy endings, we love to sit and have a happy weep as the Big Kiss at the end happens - everything to enjoy. And if you've got a gorgeous leading lady and a swoonworthy hero like Chris Hemsworth or Tom Hiddleston, boom! Every seat is filled. Ahem. Now I've got your attention with these lovely boys (you're welcome), moving on...

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To my sometime horror, the category for romance can get a wee bit muddied at the box office. Romance like you've never seen it before or some such is advertised with a smoochy poster, and then, yikes, the leading man or lady is killed off (or missing or terminally ill or, or - you get the drift), and there is a weepy ending. Whaaaat? I came to get my romantic HEA fix, not rip through a box of tissues! So, no. Bring on the romance where they walk off together into the sunset, and the gold light is the sun being blindingly reflecting off a big blingy engagement ring. Not the light glinting off the coffin rails or something equally sad. Get it right, peoples.

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What are my favourite romantic movies? In a surprise for someSabrina is right up at #1 for me. I like the original (see here), I truly do, but Humphrey Bogart sort of misses the mark for me as a romantic hero. (And sorry, I realised I've committed social suicide with that Bogart confession and some of you may never talk to me again... {clears throat} ...Anyhoo...) My #1 choice is the Harrison Ford/Julia Ormond Sabrina remake. It has a charming, light, amusing touch, and Greg Kinnear as the younger brother also contributes to the overall happy mood every time I watch it.

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Then there's Ever After, which I will love to my dying day. The film uses the lovely Cinderella theme, absolute catnip for romance readers. But Danielle doesn't wait for the hero to save the day, no indeed. She saves herself, gets the gorgeous prince, and foils her fuming family. Go, Danielle! Every romance heroine thanks you. But oh, oh, oh, the tenderness of her unfolding love. So romantic, so special, and she's so pretty with her wings and glitter. Then when all seems bleak, hiyah! she's an out-there, gutsy heroine. If you haven't already, get yourself a copy and settle in. You won't be disappointed. 

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Last but by no means least, who can ever forget Notting Hill, where a guy stands in front of a girl (and the whole world) and tells her he loves her. I loved the whole bookshop setting, his great kooky friends, and the way she saw beyond her own Hollywood nonsense and simply fell in love with that guy. Sigh. I was so looking for Hugh Grant when I was in Notting Hill a couple of years ago. (Tragically didn't spot him, Julia Roberts or that blue door, but I managed to find some lovely red beads in the Portobello Road market. No consolation, but I enjoy wearing them.)

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I haven't even begun on all the romantic mini series, but I might save that for another day.

What's your favourite romantic film? It was really hard to reduce my list to three only. I mean to say, that's ridiculous, there is so much romantic film fabulousness out there. Do comment and let me know.

Till next time, darlings!

Love from Miranda xxx


I love to love:

Our Aussie winter! The sun still shines, and you can snuggle down with a hot drink and read, read, read. Or watch Sabrina again.

I love to learn:

Tomorrow's weather forecast. So I can plan an indoor or outdoor fun (booky) thing to do.

I love to laugh:

At cute kitties pouncing on leaves on winter days, fur fluffing out and tails flying. Somehow winter and kitties go together. Something to do with the way they purr and loll in front of the fire.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Research and Inspiration

with guest blogger Kelly Hunter!

If you've been a romance writer or reader for any length of time, I guarantee you've experienced some of the charming ways people dismiss our genre. Romance novels--they are all the same. If you've read one, you've read them all. Then there's my personal favourite: Don't you just change the names?

I smile whenever someone voices that last one. I smile with all the demented menace of Jack Nicholson in The Shining.

Because, no. I don't just change the names. I don't know any romance author who does.

It's true that a Happy Ending defines the romance genre. If I don't deliver a happily ever after, it's not a romance. With that one requirement in mind, I then go out of my way to make story settings, characters and plots unique.

PRB comes to Deadwood

And by 'go out of my way', I mean that if I agree to collaborate with a bunch of my favourite authors on a series of bull rider stories, set in America, I am quite likely to end up at a PBR rodeo in Deadwood, South Dakota in the name of research. I'm very dedicated!

It's the internet age and we can do a lot of online research about place, occupations, health issues, whatever. We can email or interview people and harvest their experiences. But when I'm after the tiniest of details...the ones that whisper of a deeper understanding of place and culture, of brotherhood, sisterhood, of pain and trial and circumstance...I have to get down and dirty in it.

Bull Rider at Deadwood

How else will I know that so many of these bull riders are babies (either that or I'm getting really, really old)? How else do I understand the terrors of a suicide grip and getting hooked up in a bull--and the heart-stopping, breathless wait for rider and bull to part that goes with it? How else do I get a feel for sunset over the Black Hills or the hot suck of a sticky summer night?

Be still my ovaries

If I don't go more than once, how do I know that the banter of the rodeo announcers is the same every night and rarely deviates from the script? How can I comprehend the distances these guys drive from week to week if I don't take a run at it myself?

The things we writers do in service to story. Do I just change the names? Pah!

Now that the research is done and inspiration has been found, comes the hard part. Collaborating with the rest of the authors in the series and doing my best to write a unique and compelling love story. I also guarantee it's going to take me longer than five minutes (another myth busted! Who knew?).

Tule Publishing Group's Bull Rider series won't be out for quite some time, but we're working on it. Meanwhile the Australian Bestseller Box Set for 99c will give you a taste of some of the authors writing for the series.

Comments! I love them. Writers, what's some of the strangest research you've ever done in service to story? Readers, what are some of your favourite story places writers have taken you to?

I love to children. There's no stopping it. It's my never-ending story.

I love to laugh...until I'm stupid with it. It doesn't happen very often but when it does I can't stop. And then I can't look at anyone for fear of starting up again.

I love to glomming Netflix television series. It's Story. I'm learning. And there's popcorn...

Thank you, Breathless in the Bush, for having me.

If you'd like to learn more about Kelly and her stories, please visit her website

or join her newsletter

There's a free rural romance, A Wish for Adam Kincaid (formerly Wish) on sign-up.

You can also connect via Facebook

and Twitter

Monday, 11 July 2016

Giving Winter a Voice

with Jenn J McLeod

Anyone who’s read my novels will know I’m inspired by the seasons.  

Moving to the country years ago first opened my eyes and ears to the wonder, and sometimes the wrath, of Mother Nature. Since opting for the gypsy life in 2014 to live fulltime in a caravan, Mother Nature and I have been getting re-acquainted. With my days mostly spent outdoors, and my nights with not much between me and the elements, I’ve realised how many sounds, sights, smells and sensations I was missing whilst cosseted by four brick walls and a tile roof. I also discovered what a sensory (and stress) overload the perfect storm of lightning, thunder, wind and hail can be as it hits the camp site!

 My first book, House for all Seasons—a four-part story of four women who return to their hometown to spend a season each in an old house—allowed me to dabble and experiment with writing each season. It was at this time, as part of the RWA Bootcamp experience (2009, I think!) Rachel Bailey put me in touch with Lisa Chaplin who taught me four important letters that nag me through every draft of every manuscript: PMIP (Put Me In the Picture). It makes me ask myself constantly: Where are my characters? What are they doing? What are they seeing, hearing, feeling? I worked on this in Simmering Season — as the name implies the setting was a sticky, steamy, stormy season—while for the setting in Season of Shadow and Light I immersed myself in a summer flood event in a small country town.

 This year, taking readers from the country to the coast for a sea change, you might expect a summer setting, but as you’ll discover when you read The Other Side of the Season, I prefer to not do what’s expected. *nudge/wink*

 I think I’ve finally got the hang of it with reviews for The Other Side of the Season focusing on setting-like this one on Goodreads.

“Small town fiction is Jenn J Mcleod’s speciality and again this aspect of her novel receives her expert treatment. The Other Side of the Season exudes a strong sense of place. From the majestic Blue Mountains, to the tropical banana plantations and tranquil coastal beauty of Watercolour Cove, McLeod’s setting descriptions have the power to transfix any reader.

The Other Side of the Season contains an intricately crafted plot that deftly combines high family drama, secrets, love and abandonment. Woven into these main themes are issues explored with great care and attention to detail, such as the Australian art industry, imprisonment, albinism, mental illness and the impact of institutionalised child abuse.

Jenn J McLeod descriptions of scenery and artworks shows she sees the beauty around her and can put this passion into words. Goodreads:

With the exception of last year’s three-month stint living in a paddock on a Brahman cattle station north of Rockhampton, I’ve been living in my caravan by the beach. I’ve loved winter by the sea, I’ve felt spindrift on stinging skin and had blustery winds that turn hair and scarves into a tangle. And I’ve loved an opportunity to add some of my dad’s lines to my novels, like this one:

 “This sea breeze is nothing. Wait til we get a good southerly buster. Them winds will likely blow an apple through a tennis racquet.”

 Have you read many Australian books set in winter? I hadn’t, so I was keen to give winter a voice and let it shine, because some seasons seem to get all the attention: like spring—always too pretty and perfect. Summer can be typical of many Australian novels, while autumn’s colours can be alluring, But it’s the gnarly, grey and wintery backdrop that makes scenes pop off the page:

 “When she arrived at the car park there was a stretch limo, the driver safely cocooned inside, while down on the beach a bride and groom, blissful and barefoot, were posing for a photographer and laughing as the wind played havoc with layers of lace and chiffon. On the sand, children in jumpers and swimsuit bottoms built castles and others ran from the water shrieking with the cold, before joyfully skipping back in again.”

 I love to love . . . winter here in Australia. Time to snuggle up in bed with a good book.

I love to learn about other authors and anything writing.
I love to laugh at anything really. 
Image result for laughing horse
Book information and BUY links -  

Connect with Jenn on Facebook and Twitter @jennjmcleod or join in the discussion at Readers of Jenn J McLeod Facebook group (no cat memes allowed!)

[image provided Andrew Wyeth quote]

Monday, 4 July 2016

That All-Important First Line

with Marilyn Forsyth

I love it when I open a book and the first sentence totally grabs me, forcing me to read just a little more, and then I end up reading the whole first page (or even more, depending on how busy the bookstore is J). That's a book I’ll buy.

So what makes a great opening sentence? I’ve narrowed it down to 5 techniques.

1. Arouse Curiosity. By throwing the reader immediately into the action, the author raises questions the reader simply must read on further to find the answers to. A great example of this is from Mandy Magro’s 'The Wildwood Sisters' (Romantic Suspense): Her laboured breath escaping her in short, painful gasps, the girl staggered through the engulfing darkness, the towering ghost gums she’d found so beautifully mesmerising in the daylight now seeming menacing and foreboding.

2. Set Time and Place. A first sentence that establishes time and place immediately grounds the reader. Teresa Medeiros does this really well in 'Goodnight Tweetheart' (Contemporary Romance): In her darker moments Abby Donovan had often fantasised that her career of choice might lead her to become intimately acquainted with the phrase ‘Would you like fries with that?’ but she’d never guessed she’d end up embracing the traditional uniform of working women the world over-the bunny costume.

3. A Strong Sense of Impending Trouble. Actually, even the merest hint that trouble is about to break out is enough to invite the reader to keep reading, but Judy Nunn hits the reader over the head in her opening line to 'Spirits of the Ghan': James McQuillan knew he was a dead man. (Australian fiction)

4. Introduce a Unique Character. A short piece of dialogue or brief description can be enough to give insight into an intriguing character the reader will want to know more about. Cassandra Samuels found a unique way to introduce the reader to her heroine in 'A Scandalous Wager' (Regency Romance): From the diary of Lisbeth Carslake, Countess of Blackhurst… I refuse to give in to the curse of the Black Raven.

5. Establish the Writer’s Style. The tone of a book is apparent from the opening sentence, so make the reader laugh or take them by surprise or provide them with an instant image, something to show your distinctive writer’s voice. Juliet Marillier does this so well in all her books. I love this from 'Twixt Firelight and Water: A Tale of Sevenwaters' (Historical Fantasy):
A fair maid in the wildwood lies
A raven pecks her sightless eyes
Then wings into the heavens again
To shriek his song of death and pain.

I have a tale to tell.

Crafting the perfect opening line takes a lot of thought, but remember: you don’t have to make your first sentence perfect before continuing on with your story (although it’s a Procrastinator’s dream defence J)  Personally, I’ve changed the beginning sentences of my books more times than I’d like to admit, but I do try to save that for the editing stage.

Do you have a favourite opening line you’d like to share? When you read, is the first sentence a deal-breaker/deal-maker for you?

Here’s a bit of fun for those who might need help to get started with their opening lines. These are from Clifford Fryman’s 'Story Starters'.

What a huge mistake.

He got hit by a car just to get her attention.

What do you do when the thing you need most is from the person you like least?

Love to Love: meeting the original Time Slip Queen (IMO, anyway), Barbara Erskine, at the Hay-on-Wye Festival. 'Lady of Hay' was first published 30 years ago so Barbara kindly signed my original copy and the Anniversary edition.

Love to Laugh: at the Scottish accent (in a good way). Had so much fun trying to work out that the 'coo' the lady was referring to was actually a cow.

Love to Learn: about aspects of British history from people passionate about keeping history alive. It was fascinating to have my many questions answered by the different characters at this re-created mediaeval fayre last month at Harlech Castle in Wales.