Monday, 11 December 2017

Best Christmas Gifts for Readers and Writers

with Marilyn Forsyth

(A version of this post first appeared on the blog in October.) 

Image courtesy of giphy
I don't want to alarm you but in case you hadn't noticed, it's only two weeks until Christmas, so for all my book-loving reader and writer friends out there, here are some last-minute suggestions (for links to buy, click on captions below the pics).

Less than $10


Link to buy




Our Breathless in the Bush Anthology of short stories, A Very Aussie Christmas, is only $1.99 AUD

Restore your faith in the power of the human spirit with warm-hearted romances from the Breathless in the Bush writing group. Celebrate the joy and occasional heartache of the festive season, where love shines through against the odds.










Link to buy




If you love Regency romances, Cassandra Samuels' A Scandalous Wager is a great read.

Love may be the biggest gamble of their lives, but is it a wager their hearts can afford to lose?








Link to buy
Into Rural/Outback romance? You'll find The Farmer's Perfect Match an interesting insight into the world of Reality TV when a television crew go on location in the stunning Kimberleys to help a lonely pearl farmer find love.

One farmer + two stunning girls competing for his affection = one hit reality show. What could go wrong, right?




Link to buy





Falling in Love Again is another Rural/Outback romance. This one's set in the mythical opal mining town of Rainbow Cliffs.

A charming adventurer. A pragmatic paleontologist. A hundred-million-year-old treasure buried in the Australian outback. Who will be the winner in this battle between exes who never stopped loving one another?







How many times have you loaned out a book never to have it returned?


Pride and Prejudice bookmark





Bookmarks are always a winner!








classic key rings





How sweet are these?








Wild Swans Mini bookmarks



And these??








Less than $20



Stark sigil glasses






Any Game of Thrones tragics (like me๐Ÿ’“) out there?





Harry Potter playing cards




Or Harry Potter fans?






Pride and Prejudice mousepad



So many gorgeous mousepads to choose from...









Fairytale notebook 



How about a fairytale notebook?








Cute personalised notepad



Or a cute personalized notepad?










Wine bottle glass







To help your writer friends through those tough times...









Less than $30



Waterproof notebook




Who knew there was such a thing as a waterproof notebook? Perfect for the shower๐Ÿ˜‰.







Perpetual Quotes calendar





Check out this beautiful calendar.












For those of you in Melbourne, you can buy these delicious-smelling soy wax candles from Dapamelts at the St Kilda Sunday markets. 'Lemongrass and Lime' is divine.






Less than $40



Quill Writing set


How gorgeous is this???









Manual of Things that Might Kill You





For any crime writer (and/or hypochondriac) friends.










Outlander t-shirt


Litographs has a fabulous selection of literary-themed scarves, t-shirts and totes. This is the Outlander t-shirt I won from them in a competition run by the Australian Writers Centre a few months back.








Superman bookend




Hahaha.








Less than $60



Beautiful throw rug







Want!











Less than $80


Writer's Tears Whiskey






An oldie but a goodie.















Note: Prices are in AUD as at 24/10/2017 but may change. Also, postage is not included (but some sellers have free postage over a certain amount).


Do you have any ideas for bookish Christmas gifts to share? I'd love to hear them! 



Love to Love everything about Christmas!






Love to Laugh at Christmas gifs.



Love to Learn that marriage equality is finally here. ๐Ÿ‘

Monday, 4 December 2017

Miranda's Bumper Christmas Musings!

Eight Stunning Christmas Romances


Darlings, it's officially the countdown to CHRISTMAS! Oh, I love this part of the year, I truly do, and I particularly love Christmas romances. Do you?

Christmas romances are the gift that I give myself. By October I'm looking through my shelves and Kindle for the ones I didn't read in previous years, and I'm on the lookout for wonderful newies. Somehow they give me all the festive emotional feels, and help me relax in the crazy busy lead up to the season. So let me share a few with you - and luckily some are quick reads we can all squeeze in for our sanity!


Picture credit: amazon.com


A Vicarage Christmas by Kate Hewitt is a warm fuzzy book, set in snowy Thornthwaite in the Lakes District in England. I googled it and the gorgeous pictures blew me away. Anna, one of four Holley sisters, comes home to her parent's vicarage for the first time in a few years. She's socially awkward and still haunted by a family tragedy that happened years ago. She doesn't expect to find Simon - her father's new curate - such a wonderfully warm, strong, understanding shoulder to lean on. I finished this on the train and tried desperately not to sob out loud. A lovely, sweet story.


Picture credit: amazon.com


While we're in England, there's also The Wallflower's Mistletoe Wedding by Amanda McCabe, a tender story about Rose, impoverished gentlewoman, and Captain Harry St. George, newly returned from the horrors of war. He needs a rich wife to fix his crumbling estate. Will love win out? (I guess you know, this is a romance after all, but oh, ho, ho, how fabulous this was to read).


Picture credit: amazon.com


Still in snowy England, we have everyone's fave author Anna Campbell's stunning new novella, The Christmas Stranger. Architect Josiah and housekeeper Maggie (although she was previously from an ‘upstairs’ refined family) become snowed-in at an isolated property in the Yorkshire wilds for Christmas. Two super lonely people find each other...This is so tender, big sigh. Thanks Anna, another Regency winner - and I loved Josiah's occupation!


Picture credit: amazon.com


Whizzing over to the USA, I discovered an author I haven't read for a while, tug-at-your-heartstrings Catherine Anderson with The Christmas Room. I'm not going to tell you what 'the Christmas room' is, exactly, but it's a beautiful surprise. This book has two romances; bonus! Widowed author Maddie, her son Cam and teenage grandson Caleb have relocated to a spread in Rustler’s Gulch, Montana. Cam meets Kirstin Conacher, the neighbour’s daughter, and all hell breaks loose when he starts to woo her. Sam Conacher is one mean man since his wife died, and he’s not going to let anyone date his daughter without a fight. No surprise, Cam is up for it, and he's such a wonderful hero my heart went pitter-pat. But Catherine Anderson does put everyone through the wringer here...!

Still with me? Four more to go, and wow, these next books are just as fabbo as the first four.


Picture credit: amazon.com


I had stars in my eyes when I read A Very Aussie Christmas. Written by our very own BITB bloggers Marilyn Forsyth, Cassandra Samuels, Enisa Haines, and Sharon Bryant, plus Helene Cowan and Lynne Boyd, this is the absolutely perfect book of short stories to read at Christmas. Each one can be read with a cup of coffee as you sit down for a quick break - or a cup of Christmas cheer. In fact, my big sister bought it, read it, and said how wonderful it was to have a short rest from reality plus a great read. And I always agree with my big sister or else there'll be trouble. (Kidding, dear one...)


Picture credit: amazon.com


Another fun, quick novella is Heart Note by Cassandra O'Leary. And gosh, isn't that a terrific cover? Very festive. Set in a department store in the lead-up to Christmas, this is a behind-the-scenes look at the Perfume Department, and Security. There's a light suspense, a lot of romance, and heaps of comic moments and sassy inner dialogue from Lily, the intrepid heroine, particularly in relation to yummy security guard Christos. Everything to love here, folks, and I enjoyed the retail setting. Makes you want to give every tired shop assistant a hug. (Better not, but still.)


Picture credit: amazon.com


Every year I totally hang out for Debbie Macomber's Christmas book. It's always a sweet romance, family oriented, and beautifully Christmassy. Yes, yes and yes again this year with Merry and Bright - thanks Debbie! Heroine Merry is stressed, working hard for her unappreciative boss Jayson, plus coping with overload from a warm, loving but needy family. In the lead up to Christmas, her mother and endearing brother sign her onto an online dating website for her birthday (Dec 26th). And yes, she does meet someone...but then it gets complicated when her real world and her online world collide. Takes a special author to pull this one off, and Debbie has delivered again. Hmm-mm, just lovely!


Picture credit: amazon.com


Last but whoa, so definitely not least, is another emotional Cinderella romance from Marion Lennox, who hit my heart with The Billionaire's Christmas Baby. NY based billionaire Max, in Australia for his father's funeral, suddenly has tiny baby Phoebe (and you'll have to read it to find out where she came from) foist upon him. Sunny, his hotel room cleaner, has very definite ideas about what he should do with little Phoebe. This is a man who has never been loved, or been able to love, folks...so what happens is a miracle. Babies + Christmas = So! Much! Love! Happy sigh.

And now, a huge thanks to all the special people out there who've read along with me in 2017 - what fun we've had. I hope Santa finds out you've been very nice, yes you have, and that your stocking is stuffed with books.

Be kind, be safe, be happy this Christmas.


Until 2018, much love from

Miranda xxx


Love to love:

Looking forward to the next Christmas book on my list, an older one from 2010: Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball by inspirational author Donita K Paul. Magical booksellers in this one, people!

Love to laugh:

...at how I cry in Christmas movies. Seriously, I always need tissues. (Mops up...)

Love to learn:

What is your favourite Christmas romance? You never know, your fave might become my fave. Tell me?

 

Monday, 27 November 2017

Small Towns Part Two



by Kerrie Paterson

What Makes Small Towns so Special?


As well as the physical aspect of the small town, it’s also the people that make it unique. The sense of community, the two-degrees of separation between everyone, the pulling together in a crisis – all of which make small towns such fun to write. Everyone knowing everyone else’s business can be both a blessing and a curse!


Creating Characters in a Small Town Setting



I sometimes use pinterest for the visual representation of my characters. I usually have an idea in my head of what they look like, and then spend countless hours searching Google to find someone who matches. Away from the physical side, I have to admit I’m an eavesdropper and love to people-watch, so I get ideas for mannerisms and patterns of speech from observing. I’m also a sucker for human-interest stories and will often read something and tuck the idea away in the back of my mind.

I’m a big fan of the beta hero and I think small towns are where he comes into his own. He’s not the rich, arrogant, city millionaire; he’s more often than not someone who works with their hands, or has their own small business. Community and family means a lot to him. *sigh* To me, that’s very sexy!

Every small town has their local character and I like to populate my towns with a few memorable secondary characters. I think that helps the town seem more real and can add lighter elements to lift the story.

Elsie's Place




My latest book, Elsie's Place, was published in 2017. Here is the blurb. I hope you enjoy reading it.

A Grand Design style renovation – with a literal skeleton in the closet.

Sixty-year-old widowed school principal Patricia inherits a run-down, historic house in Newcastle, NSW, from Elsie, an old lady she’d befriended.

On leave following a distressing incident at her school, Pat throws herself into restoring the house with the help of new friends – architect Susan, whose longing for a child threatens her marriage, and Lauren, a single mum stubbornly sacrificing her dreams of self-employment for the security of a nine-to-five job. Attraction flares between Pat and Andy, the historic restoration expert she hires.

While menacing phone calls and destructive break-ins threaten to derail the restoration project, a shocking discovery causes repercussions no-one could have foreseen.

Caught between the needs of her mother ravaged by dementia and the demands of her adult children, Pat must learn to put herself first to salvage both her new life and her new love.


I love to love - travelling around this great country of ours. I've recently come back from a month- long road trip with my son and we saw so many amazing places.

I love to laugh - at the latest play I'm stage managing. Much Ado About Nothing is such a funny play and being involved has been so much fun!

I love to learn - what makes people "light up" i.e. what's their passion.

Find Out More About Kerrie


Pinterest - https://au.pinterest.com/kerriepaterson3/

Website - http://kerriepaterson.com/

Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/kerrie.paterson.3 and https://www.facebook.com/KerriePatersonAuthor/



Kerrie Paterson writes contemporary women's fiction and small town romance—stories about women in their 40s and above who have reached a crossroads in their life. She loves to write about women’s relationships with their friends and family, as well as their romances.

When she’s not writing, she’s a Scout leader, crew for a local drama theatre, taxi driver for her teenage son and keeper of the family knowledge (aka ‘Mum, have you seen my camera / phone / cable etc?’). In her spare time (ha!), she's a yoga student, keen photographer and avid reader.

Kerrie lives in the Hunter Valley, Australia.






Monday, 20 November 2017

Why Do Writers Write?

by Enisa Haines

Why do writers write? I write because I can't help it. The characters that fill my imagination deserve for their stories to be told. What of other writers? Are they compelled like me or are there other reasons? Is it an outlet for their imagination? Do they want to leave something of themselves behind, or perhaps to educate? I posed the question to five bestselling authors and here they reveal just what it is that urges them to write.

Barbara Hannay, Award-winning Romance Author:





I write because I can't help it. I'm just wired that way. Even before I learned handwriting, I was making up stories for my little sisters - drawings on sheets of paper that I passed through the slats of orange boxes, my version of 'movies'. When I joined the Brownies, the first badge I earned was the writer's badge.Throughout my school days, I wrote anything - poetry, stories, magazine articles, all for my own enjoyment. Later, when my children came along, I made little story books for them, which they illustrated. So, you see, I couldn't help myself and once I discovered the romance genre, it seemed my destiny was sealed.


Available now at: https://www.amazon.com/Country-Wedding-Barbara-Hannay-ebook/dp/B06Y1HVNV5/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Fiona Lowe, Award-winning Romance Author:



I ask myself this question A LOT. Especially when I am starting a book as I don't start well. Many authors are addicted to the start as they get high octane excitement that carries them forward as ideas pop. I, on the other hand, find the start like wading through mud. It isn't until later that story strands come together. I am addicted to the ending and the buzz that comes from a sense of achievement. As the last two books I've written have been 500 pages, I'm a bit in awe that I've managed to write that many words. That's what tricks me into starting again.


OUT NOW: Daughter of Mine: a novel about secrets, lies & family. 
Available Everywhere! Big W, Kmart Target and online
Amazon, iBooksiBooks AUSNookKoboBooktopia AUS

Annie Seaton, Award-winning Romance Author:


Ever since I was a small child, I loved reading. I always carried a book with me and had many confiscated from beneath the desk in my school days. The desire to write blossomed within me as I read, and I knew that I had stories to tell. I promised myself that I would be an author one day. Fast forward many years. The desire to write was overtaken by higher education, marriage, children and career. Six years ago an incident in the workplace led to some deep reflection on what I wanted out of life. I wanted to be in a place where there was truth, integrity and justice. Resigning to take up full-time writing was a very ambitious move for someone who hadn't written a creative word for many years. Six years after that life change I am in the place I want to be, writing my twenty-seventh book and contracted with a traditional publisher. My latest release is Come Back to Me.


Available at: books2read.com/u/3yZ1Zl

Alison Stuart, Historical Romance Author:


I write because I can't imagine myself NOT writing.The compulsion for storytelling has been with me since I was a child and nurtured through school by some wonderful teachers and a like-minded friend. However, it was only later in life, following a ski accident, that I sat down in a deserted ski chalet with snow falling outside and started to write a story that had been tugging at my sleeve for many years. It became my compulsion and my joy as I lost myself in the characters I knew so well. I discovered the delight of building long lost worlds and manipulating the lives of my imaginary friends. This joy and this compulsion is something I haven't lost, even several books later. In short, I write because I love to weave tales...(and I would never have believed that first story I wrote would become part of the Guardians of the Crown trilogy).

Available at: books2read.com/GOTC)

Tess Woods, Women's Fiction Author:



I write because I love story telling. I come from a long line of story tellers, the large extended family I grew up in loved nothing more than to sit around and listen to funny stories and anecdotes told with lots of flair and embellishments. I began creative writing almost as soon as I could hold a pencil but lost the desire late in high school. Then came university, love, marriage, career, babies - lots of distractions. I satisfied my love of literature by reading through those years but something deep inside me pulled me back into writing after twenty years away from it and I'm glad I listened to that inner voice. Because for me story telling is what I was born to do and writing gets those stories out of my head so I can connect with others through them.

Available in bookstores and online: Amazon, iBooksKoboBooktopia AUS, Mobile Audible


There you have it. From feeling a sense of achievement to having stories to tell the reasons writers write are many and varied, but they have one common thread. Writers can't not write. Writing is their passion, their joy. It's a need to express themselves that they can't help but fulfill.

Are you compelled to write? Why?

Love to Love: that I'm soon heading off to a writers' retreat!

Love to Laugh: at funny photos

Love to Learn: about the many different ways that writers head down the 'author' path.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Tales from the Past 1001 Nights





The 1001 Nights Premise


by Sharon Bryant


I was talking with my husband about which fairy tale to choose for my final blog for 2017. He suggested 1001 nights, often called The Arabian Nights in English.

The story is based on a collection of Middle Eastern folk tales put together between the 8th and 13th centuries.

They revolve around a ruler called Shahryar who has his wife murdered when he learns she is unfaithful. He becomes embittered, concluding that all women are alike in this regard, and announces that he will marry a new bride daily, only to execute her the following morning. Scheherazade, the heroine, volunteers to be his next wife.



pixabay.com.au


The Author's Challenge


How I wondered, could such a tale possibly become the central premise for a romance novel? How could an author, retelling such a story, possibly hope to create a hero with whom modern-day readers could empathise? I wondered about Scheherazade too. It would take, I thought, a highly talented author to create a heroine with whom the reader could identify, given the character would volunteer for near-certain death. Fortunately, I found two fabulous Arabian Nights retellings that I strongly recommend you read.


Two Fantastic 1001 Nights Retellings





The Storyteller's Daughter by Cameron Dokey is a beautifully written novel. Shahrazad comes from a long line of storytellers. She comes to believe it is her destiny to volunteer to be Shahryar's wife. After the wedding, she weaves a tale that continues night after night. Shahryar wants to know how the story ends so he keeps her alive. With each tale, his journey of personal growth continues and he comes to love Shahrazad and she comes to love him. Then an unexpected event changes everything.


Dokey creates a beautiful, brave, intelligent and gentle Shahrazad and a well-constructed, sympathetic Shahryar who has much to learn.






The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh is the first novel in a two-novel series. There is also a fascinating short story providing further information about the emotional journey of the hero.


The series tells the tale of Khalid, the King of Khorasan, and Shahrzad who volunteers to be his wife in order to exact revenge for the murder of her best friend. Ahdieh does a superb job, weaving a gripping tale of two brave people caught in a world of magic and superstition who despite their flaws, and desperate circumstances, truly belong together. Not surprising, The Wrath and the Dawn was a New York Times bestseller.


Have you read 1001 Nights or a 1001 Nights retelling? What did you think of it? Did the author succeed in enabling you to empathise with the hero and heroine?




I love to love: spending time with my family.




I love to laugh: watching romantic comedies on DVD is the best.



I love to learn: researching the background to each fairy tale in this series and finding engaging romance novels associated with each story has been so much fun.



Monday, 6 November 2017

Historical Tidbits - The Art of Duelling

By Cassandra Samuels
(This first appeared on the Historical Hearts Blog)


Trial by Combat. Wager by battle. Duelling. This one-on-one practice of conflict resolution has been around for centuries. As far back as the Romans, when gladiators would fight for the honour of their masters.

wikimedia commons


Knights would duel on horseback and with swords to honour their king, queen or noble house. It was a form of entertainment but also a battle of wits and skill. It was a way to earn favour and to make money for armour, horses and equipment.



Sir Nigel Sustains England's Honor by N.C. Wyeth - 1922

Later, around the 1700s, duelling became fashionable and was fought over more trivial matters. Duels were still matters of honour and were serious events despite what might have been the original slight.

As you can see, the sword was the weapon of hand-to-hand combat. From the heavier broadsword and the longer rapier, to the short sword and the deadly sabre.

wikimedia commons


All were weapons that could wound and kill, depending on the combatants and the seriousness of their quarrel. Some duels were to the death while others were to 'first blood' only.
Around the 1770s there was a brief transition whereby both the pistol and the sword were used in a duel. Swords soon fell out of favour and the pistol became the weapon of choice by the 1800s. Duelling with swords became more of a recreational sport amongst the aristocrats.

duelling pistols circa 1750s

There were only a very few master craftsmen who made duelling pistols (Wogdon and Barton being two). These men took pride in their creations and presented them in a set, usually in a beautiful inlaid box. These pistols could be highly decorated or austere but they had one thing in common - they were deadly.

A pistol duellist would stand side-on (presenting the smallest target), pointing his pistol at the ground. On signal, he would raise his arm in a single movement and fire. These instructions varied. Some dropped a handkerchief while others stood back-to-back, took paces, turned and fired. In every instance it was hoped that the quick action would be less accurate, giving the opponents less time to aim and more chance to miss, therefore giving each swordsman a fighting chance (pun intended). Written into the rules was that there must always be ample time for apologies.


I shall conquer this - Rowlandson 1787

There are many variations on the rules of duelling depending on time period, country and choice of weapon. They are all very interesting. The most common of these was the Code Duello which itself was changed over the years but the honour of the gentlemen was always paramount.

Giphy.com

There are many great stories of duels between notable men but I only have space for one. In 1761 Colonel Grey was killed and Major Egerton wounded after Grey bumped into Egerton while leaving a performance at the theatre. Egerton had called Grey 'a stupid booby', punches were thrown and a duel was quickly organised. Many such incidences occurred with at least six recorded in 1793 and 1796. 

Women loved duelists; perhaps they were the bad boys of the time or just dangerous to know and exciting to be with. I have a duel in my current work in progress, currently called The Collector of Hearts. The duel is the catalyst for my hero's journey. Everything he does and every decision, right or wrong, is the effect of what happened that fateful day. 

Have you read any books or films that included a duel?


Love to love the sword duel between Montoya and Westly (Dread Pirate Roberts) in The Princess Bride


  
Love to laugh at this short but brilliant film - Duel at Blood Creek by Leo Burton


Love to learn more about the traditions of the time in which I am writing.


Want to know more about dueling? Go to:

Watch 1977 The Duellist movie