Monday, 24 April 2017

Miranda's April Musings

How Do You Choose What To Read Next?

Part One!


It's a problem, isn't it? You read a super good book, sigh, cry, hug it to your heart, kiss the cover (er, not that I'm admitting to that...), etc. etc., and put it on the keeper shelf. (Maybe stuff it somewhere on the keeper shelf might be a better description. Or make space where there is none and ruthlessly shove it in, aha...) Oh, the desolation at having finished! Will there ever be another book so wonderful, so moving, so thrilling, so romantic?


My gorgeous new mug, ooh ooh.


The answer is, and I'm not making this up, of course there will. Take heart, mes amies, there is always a teetering tottering tower of romance to choose from. Thank you, romance writers, I love you all!

The very second, and even before (don't you love that pre-ordering function from Amazon?) one of the marvellous ladies from this blog - Marilyn Forsyth, Cassandra Samuels, Karen Davis I'm looking at you - publishes a newie, it's pre-ordered in a flash. Happy day when it arrives on my Kindle as Marilyn's book recently did; and I'm anticipating Karen's book eagerly. Sharon Burke and Enisa Haines, it won't be long now... 💕💕


Photo credit: http://marilynforsyth.com.au/
Photo Credit: http://www.karenmdavis.com/books.html

And when I simply and utterly love a book to bits, I also love the function on Amazon that says: Customers who bought this item also bought - and there's your reading list for the next two months. Or two years. Scroll down and see it here, for Marilyn's first book. There's also the Top 100 Bestselling Romance feature on Amazon, which is fun to browse through. Total clickbait for me.

In my neck of the woods, Sydney, Australia, we have some fabulous bookstores which draw me in as shiny diamonds attract others. I'm talking Dymocks, Abbey's, Berkelouw Books, and Harry Hartog. If you're drawing a blank about what to read next, pay your fave local bookshop a visit, stay a while, drool a little, and you will come out with treasures.

Me? I just have to scroll through my Kindle (overstuffed, ridiculously so) or my shelves (ditto), and I'm spoilt for choice. I never seem to have a problem about what book to read next.

Funny thing, that.

What about you?

Love from Miranda xxx


Love to love: Easter eggs. I think I've just consumed my body weight in them plus hot cross buns. Love this time of year!

Love to laugh: At my TBR list. Psst, confession: I think even if I live to be 1,000 years old I'll never read all the books waiting for me. But I'll give it a jolly good shot.

Love to love: Knowing all those excellent reads will happen. I am ever the optimist.


Monday, 17 April 2017

Author Spotlight: Cathryn Hein


Here at Breathless in the Bush, we love to celebrate our Aussie Authors. Our special guest for this month's Author Spotlight is the lovely Cathryn Hein. Welcome Cathryn!
What is one ‘must have’ when you are writing?

A glass of water. Writing can be thirsty work!

What are you reading at the moment?

The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley. Finishing will mean I’ve read every one of her releases. Kearsley’s stories and writing are mesmerising.

Name one thing you’re scared of.

The stuff of nightmares! Image courtesy of Pixabay.

Crocodiles. I refused to play golf at a course in Townsville over Christmas because a 3.5 metre saltwater croc had taken up residence in one of the dams. No one else seemed to be too worried but I KNOW that thing would have sought me out.



Like to share something that recently made you happy?
Wayward Heart being winning favourite cover at the recent Australian Romance Reader Awards. That was so cool!


What is the last photo you took with your phone?

A photo of the dinner I was making – pot-roasted chicken with chorizo, leeks and cider from Rick Stein’s Spain cookbook. I love to cook and take a LOT of photos of food.

What is the premise of your latest book?



Wayward Heart is a friends-to-lovers romance about two broken people who discover unexpected strengths in each other, but one is hiding a damaging secret and someone wants it exposed.




What unique challenges did the book pose?

Keeping Digby and Jasmine sympathetic for the reader given their difficult backgrounds and life choices. Although it can be read as a stand-alone, Wayward Heart is also a follow-on story to Rocking Horse Hill, which meant I needed to bring readers up to speed about events in that book without info-dumping or boring those who already know the facts. It’s a tricky thing to manage.

What are you working on at the moment?

Edits for my next release. We’re still nutting out a title but I’m RIDICULOUSLY excited about this book. I think it’s my best yet.

What is your writing schedule? Morning, afternoon or night?

Definitely mornings. I’m usually at work around 7am. I take a long break around 11 or 11.30, when I exercise and have lunch and sometimes read for a while, after which I return to work, finishing up around 5 or 5.30pm.

Are you a plotter, pantser or somewhere in between?

Somewhere in between. I was a pantser and I still think it’s my preferred way to write but I’ve learned that I make more efficient progress if I plot.

Do you listen to music as you write?


Sometimes. Every book is different. For example, I wrote April’s Rainbow with INXS’s “Afterglow” playing on a loop, while other books, like Wayward Heart, have had entire playlists. Almost every book I’ve written has had at least one theme song. The only exception to that so far is Summer and the Groomsman. I have no idea why. It just kind of worked out that way.



What do you love to love?

My Jim. Love him to bits.

What do you love to laugh at?

Pretty much everything, but lately I’ve been getting great joy from the Twitter feeds of 100% Goats and We Rate Dogs. They’re a hoot!

What do you love to learn about?

Food! I adore cooking and will happily spend hours in the kitchen, whipping up recipes. I also love eating out and trying new things.


Short Bio
Cathryn Hein is the best-selling author of ten rural romance and romantic adventure author novels, and regular Australian Romance Reader Awards finalist. A South Australian country girl by birth, she loves nothing more than a rugged rural hero who’s as good with his heart as he is with his hands, which is probably why she writes them! Her romances are warm and emotional, and feature themes that don’t flinch from the tougher side of life but are often happily tempered by the antics of naughty animals. Her aim is to make you smile, sigh, and perhaps sniffle a little, but most of all feel wonderful.
Cathryn currently lives at the base of the Blue Mountains in New South Wales with her partner of many years, Jim. When she’s not writing, she plays golf (ineptly), cooks (well), and in football season barracks (rowdily) for her beloved Sydney Swans AFL team.
Cathryn’s latest release is WAYWARD HEART, available in all good bookstores and online now.
Discover more about Cathryn and her stories at cathrynhein.com.
Contact Cathryn via:
Email: cathryn@cathrynhein.com


Monday, 10 April 2017

What is love? Part one

By Cassandra Samuels

What is love - by Take That.

What is love?
is it a truth?
Or is it a fear?
Is it a rose to for my valentine?
What is love? 


Is it only words?
I'm trying to find?
Or is it the way, that we're feeling now?
What is love? 
If love is truth, then let it break my heart.
If love is fear, lead me to the dark.
If love is a game, I'm playing all my cards.
What is love?
Courtesy of IndependantSkies.com

This age-old question has plagued mankind since the beginning of time. And no, I don't have the answer but I'd like to delve into the science of love and attraction in this series of blog posts.

Modern psychology splits love into four categories of love.
1. Compassionate love - Love between friends
2. Fatuous love - Sexual attraction
3. Romantic love - All-consuming sexual attraction and commitment
4. Consummate love - intimacy, passion, and commitment

The ancient Greeks had their own version.
1. Eros - Passionate love
2. Philla - Parental love
3. Agape - God's love for mankind
Eros

So let's get scientific for a moment. What is it that makes us feel in love?

It is a neuro peptide called Oxytocin (High levels of this "love hormone" have been observed in couples in the first six months of a relationship - otherwise known as the honeymoon period.). We all have Oxytocin along with other neuro chemicals like Dopamine and serotonin. Oxytocin is the part of us responsible for our social and romantic behaviours.

Courtesy of The Neurosculpting Institute
Oxytocin has been dubbed the hug hormone, cuddle chemical, moral molecule, and the bliss hormone. It's a busy little bee isn't it? What would we do with out it? We all know how important connection in the form of touch and mental stimulation is for well-being. Imagine a life without a hug or any human touch? It's a horrible thought.

Love is complex. Too complex to explore and discuss in one post,  watch out for more in later posts.

Have you, or someone you know, ever fallen in love at first sight?



Love to love
This song by Take That.



Love to laugh
At my grandson dancing to the Wiggles.

Love to learn
About the laws of attraction and what makes us human.

Monday, 3 April 2017

What You Need to Know about Writers' Retreats

with Enisa Haines

Distraction. Procrastination. Muse on strike.

Image courtesy of: awriterswayoflife.files.wordpress.com


If you're unfocused and time-poor one way to boost your creativity is a writers' retreat set in serene, inspiring surroundings. Imagine spending hours in your own room focused on your writing and getting the words out. I could. And after that time of uninterrupted writing you can take breaks for meals to replenish your energy and go for walks through the forest or along the meandering creek to inspire your muse. Spending time with other writers and learning about various aspects of the craft from each other is an added bonus.


Image courtesy of: woohome.com


There are many different types of retreat:
You can get away alone - the Solo Retreat. You and a few writer friends can allocate time together - the Do-it-Yourself Group Retreat. You can connect with a small group of other writers - the Communal Retreat. Choices to suit every writer, that's a plus.

If you don't want to travel far, the local library, park, community centre room or a cafe are great locations to get away and write undisturbed.


Image courtesy of: journal.esmewang.com

If you are able to travel far from life's distractions and obligations, then there are houses, lodges or country hotels offering rooms, desks, bathrooms, all set within idyllic scenery and available worldwide.


Image courtesy of: transitionsabroad.com

If you can take a day away and treat yourself to a place where you can let your creativity loose, do so. I would. If you can steal a weekend, a week or a month away, even better. However long the time you take a writers' retreat will motivate you to write. Wether you take it alone, with writer friends or writers you will connect with for the first time, a writers' retreat will inspire you. Whatever your goal, a writers' retreat will help you reach it.

And that, for writers, is priceless.

Have you attended a writers' retreat? Did you find it beneficial for your writing?

Love to love that I'm going on a writers' retreat in Wales in December.

Image courtesy of: www.jamjars-cms.co.uk
Love to laugh: Am I crazy trading the hot sun for a cold that will freeze my bones? Oh, the lengths writers go to for their craft!

Love to learn: Connecting with other like-minded writers is always a plus.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Ending Chapters with a Hook



with Marilyn Forsyth

Image courtesy of Giphy

Deciding when and where chapter breaks should go in your book is definitely an art.


I’m a plotter so I work from an outline for the whole book (control freak, much? 😉). I even used to break my outline into chapters, before I learned the value of structuring by scene and then placing chapter/scene breaks where they’re most appropriate.


Image courtesy of Giphy


Lately, I’ve been reading about ending chapters with a hook—of the need for a cliff-hanger that will keep your readers fighting to keep those eyelids from closing as they read on way past their bedtime because they HAVE to find out what happens.







Here’s what I’ve discovered: some writers believe you can’t have enough chapter hooks in a book, and other writers…don’t!


Here’s my take: I love a good cliff-hanger, but ending every chapter with one can become not only exhausting for the reader, but can also make your book predictable (not a good thing to be said about your writing). I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s best to leave something unresolved at the end of most chapters.


You can do this in a number of ways. (All examples are from Falling in Love Again, Book 2 in my Outback Gems series, to be released by Harlequin Escape April 15th, 2017.)

links to buy (release date April 15 2017)
1. A surprise occurs e.g. Who is this new character? ‘A soft click and the door pushed open. Jamie jumped to his feet. ‘Who’s there?’’


2. There is about to be a revelation. ‘She pressed the tips of her fingers to his mouth. ‘There’s something I need to tell you.’’


3. Your MC is forced to make a crucial decision. ‘The ace up her sleeve had been played and she’d lost. So what the hell was she going to do now?’


4. Hint at a mystery that demands an answer e.g. What did she see? ‘Gemma knocked and then entered without waiting. Inside she stopped dead. Transfixed.’


5. Your MC is in real physical danger (Emphasis on real! Don’t make that explosion nothing more than fireworks.) ‘‘Run!’ Jamie bellowed. Then the roof collapsed.’


6. A new challenge raises the stakes and makes it more difficult for your MC to achieve her goals. ‘Her ex-husband’s calculating eyes took in the scene. ‘Hello, darling.’ The endearment rolled off Roger’s tongue with practised ease, his voice deceptively gentle. ‘Fancy meeting you here.’



Inspiration for Jamie (James Stewart)

7. Your MC has a powerful emotional reaction to a situation. ‘The only man she’d ever loved would never know what walking away from him had cost her.’


8. Your MC makes a discovery. She/he remembers something, or learns something, or figures something out. 'He just knew he had to get back to her. Back to where he belonged.'


9. An urgent demand is made. 'One side of his father's face had sagged and confusion clouded his eyes. He slurred something unintelligible. 'Harry?' Fear skittered up Jamie's spine.'




Inspiration for Gemma (Teresa Palmer)
And for those chapters that don’t end on a cliff-hanger? 


It can be a statement reinforcing the conflict. ‘Maybe he’d choke on his steak. Gemma smiled to herself; if only all her problems were so easily solved.’


Or a summary of the situation. ‘Though a lot remained unspoken, the fact that Jamie had asked her to stay must count for something.’


Or a prediction of what lies ahead. ‘He had his reasons. Reasons that would become obvious as the night wore on.’


By interspersing chapter breaks like these throughout the book, your writing won’t suffer the curse of predictability and at the same time, you’ll keep your readers happily turning those pages and grateful to you for the emotional down-time.


Do you like a book where every chapter ends on a hook? Or do you prefer some emotional down-time with your reading?


Love to Love packing for an overseas trip. Vietnam is next on the holiday agenda.

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Love to Laugh at what people might think of my browsing history. Yesterday it was Effects of Male Castration and Welsh Swear Words (for research purposes, honest!)

Love to Learn by attending conferences. The Historical Novel Society of Australasia conference in Melbourne in September looks amazing.







Monday, 20 March 2017

Miranda's March Musings About ARRC17






Hello darlings, and I am so thankful for this cooler weather. Didn't you just die in all that heat we had over summer? But I did venture forth over the last weekend in February, to the fabulous Australian Romance Readers Convention 2017.

It was held in blissful comfort at Rydges Melbourne Hotel. Lovely room, super comfy bed (like sleeping on a cloud), great food, excellent company and just so! much! fun! After the Canberra ARRC15, when I drove home with a smile on my face and a car boot full of books and goodies, this time I took two 3kg post bags to post my loot home. And wow, wasn't that a good idea. All the freebies and prize books arrived at my place just a few days later without me having to lug them onto the plane. Fantastic, thanks so much ARRC17.

We kicked the weekend off with a High Tea at Zumbo Cafe, in Richmond. Oh. My. Goodness. This wasn't your traditional High Tea with the gorgeous triple decker plate packed with goodies. This was plate after plate of the most unconventional, unusual, delicious food ever. It looked like works of art and tasted even better. I thought we were going to roll out on a sugar high, but I suspect the food was naturally sweetened with fruit and yogurt and other such yummies. The savoury food was also amazing.

Image may contain: 1 person, shoes

Fuelled by the High Tea and then welcome drinks in the evening, my Trivia table went on to win the Trivia Night. To be fair, not many of us knew the answers (I know you're shocked by that) and at one stage we were actually coming last, then the plucky Maggie Nash acted out a magical charade we guessed correctly, and bingo! we were in the lead. Our prize? Books, of course. And chocolates. By that stage most of us had eaten our body weight in popcorn and ice cream sundaes, so nobody really minded who won or who lost, it was such a great night. 

Then followed a weekend of bliss: talking books, laughing a lot, reading books, meeting authors and other readers - is there anything nicer? The Awards Night was star-studded and sparkling with bling (with a dazzling Bling-Off Competition, aha). Congratulations to all the award nominees, what fabulous books you gave us. Below is a sample of one of the awards - won by the very lovely Anne Gracie (who blogged for us just two weeks ago here), and who scooped the pool for several awards.


Image may contain: 1 person, text
Photo credit: Helen Constan & ARRC17


The weekend finished with a lovely lunch cruise from Melbourne Docklands. Such a relaxing and pleasant way to enjoy excellent views and commentary from our very novel 'Tramboat' operators, a nice lunch, and time to cement new friendships.

Image may contain: outdoor

I cannot imagine what work goes into planning such a weekend. All I can say, fervently, is thank you Australian Romance Readers Association, for a brilliant, wonderful convention. I was in reader heaven, and I look forward to your next fabulous event. Why don't you join me?


What's been your best 'booky' event?


Love from Miranda xx


Love to Love:    Weekends away, talking about books, books, books.


Love to Laugh:  With friends at Trivia, not having a clue about answers but making them up.


Love to Learn:   About new authors, which I certainly did at AARC17.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Tales From the Past: Beauty and the Beast

Romance Novels and Fairy Tales Part 1


Many romance novels are based on fairy tales. For example, Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre have similar themes to Beauty and the Beast.

Fairy tales date back thousands of years and have similarities across cultures. Some psychologists think fairy tales span time and place because they relate to essential dilemmas we all grapple with, life lessons many of us learn, and basic truths about what it means to be human.


What message lies behind the Beauty and the Beast story?


Josh Gressel argues Beauty and the Beast imparts the essential message, we must learn to love and accept those parts of ourselves we dislike, and experience as “beast-like”. Beauty needs to find what is beautiful in the beast, and the beast needs to accept that his issues are part of him, and to learn to cope with them. Only then can they find true love.

Fairy tales appeal to children and adults because of the essential truths they impart.
Many engaging, well-written, recently published romance novels use a Beauty and the Beast theme.

https://cdn.pixabay.com/photo/2014/04/10/11/24/red-rose-320868__340.jpg


Some Beauty and the Beast romance novel page-turners


In The Hating Game by Sally Thorne, Lucy comes to realise Josh's sometimes difficult behaviour stems from shyness, and failure to deal with major issues from his past. She falls in love with his caring nature and masculine vulnerability, and can accept his flaws, once she understands him better. Josh must learn to accept his personality in its entirety, and realise he can fall in love, and be loved in return.

https://images-fe.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/514sa3HcecL.jpg 

Kate Forsyth writes of Ava's growing understanding of her husband Leo in The Beast's Garden. Her fear of her husband changes to fear for him when the Valkyrie plot fails, he is arrested and sentenced to be executed. This intriguing, page-turner is filled with romance and suspense as the tale of Beauty and the Beast is retold in a Nazi Germany setting.

https://cdn.penguin.com.au/covers/400/9780857980410.jpg

When Beauty Tamed The Beast by Eloisa James is a delightful, historical novel with a Beauty and the Beast theme. Both hero and heroine must learn to accept the flaws in themselves, and in each other before love can triumph.

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51rRP97aHkL.jpg

What is your favourite Beauty and the Beast romance? What do you think is the central message of the Beauty and the Beast tale?


I love to love:   

Friday night dinners out with my husband are the best part of my week.

I love to laugh:   

Sally Thorne's humour in The Hating Game is the best.

I love to learn:   

I think much of life is about learning and personal growth. Sometimes challenging, often fun.

Monday, 6 March 2017

The Truth About Characters by Anne Gracie



Creating Convincing Characters

Sharon asked me about the challenges of creating convincing characters from a particular time period for my historical romances.

The key to this is, I think, audience. My audience is a modern day audience, and they're the ones I have to convince. Whether my Regency-era characters would be convincing to people of that time is another matter.

Research

I don't do masses of research for every book — it depends on the setting and the circumstances in which my story is to take place. But I do read a fair bit of history. My favourite historical research comes from reading diaries and letters written during the time my books are set.

People reveal themselves so wonderfully in personal, not-for-publication writing — attitudes, mores, personality quirks, assumptions about the world — and that influences my writing. And makes my characters more historical, I hope.


from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Wellesley._1st_Duke_of_Wellington

Think Of Your Reader

But the truth is, if you make a story too historically authentic, it becomes a little inaccessible to modern-day readers. It's like speech. I studied linguistics many years ago, and we made lots of transcriptions of ordinary people speaking. If any writer used those as dialogue, readers would soon be tossing the book at the wall. Real speech is messy and disjointed and often hard to follow when written down. Dialogue in books is constructed to feel authentic, but in fact it's not. It prunes out the repetition, the meandering, the ums and the ers and the y'knows, and becomes crisp and precise. Which is part of the delight in reading good dialogue.

Historical characters and settings and stories are the same. They have to feel real to modern-day readers, but if you flood the reader with masses of authentic detail it can distract from the story. We want a taste of historical lusciousness, of that different-yet-familiar world, but not the whole confusing plunge-in sensaround experience.

from https://hartonginternational.com/

When I come to creating historical characters, I don't see them as all that different from people today — people don't change much — it's how their circumstances, their environment and their society impacts on them that matters. It's those things that help shape their characters.

So to make modern-day audience understand the particular forces that have helped shape my characters, I might show them at different moments in their lives — the moments that helped shape them. We all have those moments — our first encounter with death, or loss, various realizations in our pathway to adulthood.

When readers experience those moments through the eyes or memories of a character, they understand much more about who the characters are and how they have been shaped by their lives. It's one of the things that most fascinates me as a writer — learning why my characters are the way they are, discovering the secrets they have bottled up, and the uncomfortable or painful truths they've been trying to hide from for so much of their lives.

from www.penguinrandomhouse.com

Know Your Characters

I don't think of my characters as people I've "made up." It's more like they're people living in my head, and they're as stubborn and reclusive and difficult as real people are. It's only through putting them on the paper, tossing them into difficult situations and digging deep that I discover their secrets, and it often comes as a surprise to me — an insight like a bolt from the blue. An "Oh, that's why he won't do x or hates y," kind of thing.

It's one of the things I love about writing.

I love to love — love is what makes everything else worthwhile. I love to laugh, which is a good thing, as people and dogs are endlessly funny. I love to learn, because how exciting to know there's always something new to look forward to.

Monday, 27 February 2017

How to Get Your Hands on That Book You Want...


By Karen M. Davis

You are standing in line, waiting for a coffee from your favourite cafe and you overhear two ladies in front of you gushing about the latest book they've read. Being an avid reader your ears prick up and you can't help but politely interrupt and ask the name of the book they are talking about. One of the ladies tells you the author and title... 'Oh but unfortunately it's not on the shelves anymore,' she says. 'My friend lent it to me and there is a reserve list at the library a mile long.'


Bummer, you think, already excited about what sounds like an exciting read.


I can't remember how many times I've been asked (and I'm sure other authors get the same thing) 'How do I get your book? I can't find it anywhere.'


As you may already be aware, with many new authors being published all the time and established authors putting out a new book each year, book retailers only have limited space on their shelves for all these amazing books. I've been told there is about a three month turn around, sometimes less. And if a book is really popular and sells out they are not always replaced because new books are constantly replacing them.



Image courtesy of bookbitesoz.BlogSpot.com
So what to do when you can't find THAT book you are looking for???

Visit a bookshop or give them a call and order the book you want. You want to buy it and the retailer wants to sell it.


Or, go to your local Library. If they don't have it because it seems to have constant reserves on it, they may be able to borrow a copy from another Library.


If you like to read from a Kindle or ipad there are plenty of apps and online options for download. Or you can order online using the printed form from Booktopia, Amazon or Boomerang Books. You will have to wait for a few days but hopefully it will be worth it.

Image courtesy of freepngimages.com

Disclaimer: this blog was inspired by a blog post by author Jenn J McLeod.
I love to laugh at old Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em shows. I love Frank Spencer.
I would love to learn a musical instrument when I can find the time.
I love to love my family obviously but also my pets; Heidi the cat, Benny the Moodle, and his very old dad, Billy the wonder dog.