Monday, 19 August 2019

The RWA 2019 Conference is Over: What’ll I Do Now?

By Marilyn Forsyth

I love the RWAus annual conference! From Anne Gracie’s ‘Welcome’ to Amy Andrews’ ‘Closing Keynote’ speech it was a three-day celebration of the fabulousness of our organisation. Huge congratulations to the whole conference team, under the very able leadership of the unflappable Tanya Kean.

As always, I had the best time participating in inspiring sessions, chatting with authors I admire, catching up with old friends, making new ones. Just spending time with like-minded people is a buzz you can’t beat.

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The workshops I attended were excellent and I took a gazillion notes. I was inspired. Motivated. Ready to get stuck into my wip.

But then I got home.

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To real life.

You’ve been there, you know the scenario: a stack of emails to take care of, a pile of dirty washing, a family who want to know all about my days away, and a drained body and brain.

I could have folded. I could have given in and done what needed to be done around the house first. Instead, I took up Jami Gold’s suggestion to maintain the writing conference “frame of mind” for just a few more days. (Jami is one of my favourite bloggers. Click here to go to her page).

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Her suggestion really paid off, so here’s what I did (after a good long sleep - 3 late nights in a row and I’m brain-dead.):

1. Re-read all my notes (I use Evernote, but One Note is also excellent for note-taking) and summarized key takeaways. (See below for just some of them.)

2. Located and sent off the stuff that I promised people I’d send them. (Except for my requests. I’ll send them off asap in the hope of the editors/agent remembering me, but I want to make sure they’re in top shape first.)

3. Updated my Facebook and email contacts, adding details of new people I connected with.

4. Downloaded some books I discovered through conversations with friends and rearranged my TBR pile (again 😉).

Some of My Top Takeaways

From Nalini Singh – ‘Leave your completed ms for at least 2 weeks before re-reading it to send off.’

From Anne Gracie – ‘In one of the paradoxes of storytelling, readers want to predict how the story will end (or how it will get to the end) but they want to be wrong.’ Steven James.

Emily Roach – ‘Show up on social media as the truest version of yourself. The more people get to know the real you, the more they know, like and trust you.’

Tracy Travis – ‘Stories which highlight what you wish to communicate are great, just keep them short and to the point during a presentation.’

Writing conferences are a heap of fun. The real work comes once they’re over, but all it takes is the right mind-set and a bit of organisation to make the most of what you learned.

Huge congratulations to the incoming RWA committee, to all the cheerful volunteers, to the competition finalists and winners, and to everyone who played a part in making the 2019 Conference such a success.

If you attended this year’s RWA Conference, what was the highlight for you?

Love to Love catching up with old friends and making new ones at the RWA Conference.

Marilyn Forsyth, Ali Sinclair, Alyssa J Montgomery

Alyssa J Montgomery

There were plenty of fantastic costumes!

Some of the winners at the conference dinner.

Love to Laugh at some of the amazing costumes at the cocktail party.

The crazy Paula Roe who never fails to make us laugh.

Love to Learn that the max word count for a single title romance is 90-95K words (according to the two publishers and an agent I pitched to).

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Monday, 12 August 2019

Best Books So Far This Year!

Miranda's August Musings

Hello dear readers! I've decided to do what everyone else seems to do and tell you the Best Books I've Read this year. Everyone loves lists, right? You know, Summer Reading, Winter Reading (just did that, check it out here), Prize Winners for A, B, C and D awards; I just lap it up. At the beginning of each year we at Breathless pick our top read for the previous year. But picking just one isn't enough for me. 

So, ta-dah! Here are my romance Best Books so far for 2019! And gosh, I just realised what a terrible dilemma it's going to be to narrow it down!

MARRY IN SECRET by beloved Aussie author Anne Gracie. 

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This is the 3rd book in Anne Gracie's 'Marriage of Convenience' series, and if you haven't already read them I urge you to start (what joy ahead). I cannot stress to you how much I love and adore Anne's books. Her characters strive to be the best people they can be, and encourage others around them to also step up; human nature at its best. They are kind, protective, valiant, strong, loving and utterly heroic. Add to that Anne's beautiful romance and fabulous sense of humour, and my heart is happy. There is a comic 'bonding' scene in this book between the heroine's brother and her suddenly-returned-from-the-dead naval husband, guaranteed to make you laugh. I love the fun in Anne's books, but this is just one scene out of many. A book full of absolute romance magic. 

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What a delight this was to read! Fresh and funny, the story of flatmates who share a flat but actually don't meet for months. One works night shift: Leon, a quiet, introverted palliative care nurse; the other works during the day: Tiffy, a bubbly book editor, whose clothing choices would probably blind you in direct sunlight. Intrigued? I was, and it certainly paid off. The endless Post-it notes they leave each other are delightful, showing their different personalities - and also mark the beginning of a scrumptious romance, even though they're the last to know it. So many thanks, Beth O'Leary!

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If' you read and enjoyed Sally Thorne's debut The Hating Game then it's probably a no-brainer to reach for her second book 99 Percent Mine, a walk on the wilder side, with dark humour and Darcie, a full-on heroine you might find confronting at first. I confess I was initially a bit startled by Darcie's fierceness, and how savagely biting her dialogue and thoughts are. But then I totally 'got' her defensive humour and ripped through the story so fast it was incredibly sad to reach the end... 99 Percent Mine is a romance for today, for the readers who want something to break through past perceptions of schmaltzy romance and take it to the next (edgy) level. 100 percent enjoyment!

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I was bewitched by this charming read, a deceptively gentle rural/farm/family story from New Zealand. It's not a 'romance' as such until about half way through the book, then, wow, look out! At the beginning poor Jenny is confronted by news of her husband's affair with the next door neighbour - and that makes her already difficult day terrible. Outfall is inevitable and messy, but Danielle Hawkins writes with such strength, warmth, wit and wonderful characters, the story enchants. The book has a tremendous heart, and Jenny is terrific. I never thought I'd enjoy a day on the farm quite so much. You'll understand the custard reference when you read it!

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I've mentioned the lovely Miss Prim in my post on Winter Reading but I simply have to add it in here with my faves. It's a beautiful book if you want to sit and bathe yourself in sunshine and luscious romance for the afternoon. One of the reasons I loved this book (and there are many) is the way the hero and heroine are so nice to each other. They haven't had the best of interactions in the past, but being on a Greek island together is a sure thing for magic to start. This is all about new beginnings, new possibilities, and a sparkling new romance. Win, win, win.

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Sometimes you just need gentle, so this is perfect. Miriam, the youngest of the Holley Sisters, arrives home pregnant and alone. As her father was the vicar of Thornthwaite, and her sister is about to be married to the now recumbent vicar, Miriam feels her pregnancy brings difficulties into the family and church community. But the Holleys are made of love. Arms open everywhere, even in unexpected places. The romance in this book is a surprise. I can't give it away, but it makes complete sense once you realise where it's headed. Read this one with a sigh and a smile.

So! I could keep on and on and on... There are so many other fabbo romances that just beg to have their moment of fame, and I feel so sad I've left them out... Maybe (brightening up) I can do another blog towards the end of the year about the ones I've missed...???

Meanwhile, what's been your best reads so far this year?

Looking forward to hearing about your favourites!

Love from Miranda xx

Love to love: 

So much variety in romance these days! You can always suit your mood!

Love to laugh:

When authors gift us funny scenes. Always makes me happy.

Love to learn:

What are your favourite reads so far in 2019?

Monday, 5 August 2019

A Dozen Ways to Hone Writing Skills

By Alyssa J. Montgomery

To date I have twelve published novels and three more books scheduled for release. I reflect on my novels and wish I could take the first couple of books back and rewrite them. That's a good thing because it means I've improved in my craft. Hopefully I'll look back on what I'm writing now and feel the same way in another few years, then I'll know I've grown as an author.

Writing is a craft which constantly needs to be honed. This came to light for me again at the end of last year when a lovely fellow romance writer critiqued a manuscript before it was submitted and pointed out a fundamental error - I had written 'He scratched his head in frustration'. She stated what should've been obvious to me - 'Leave it at 'He scratched his head' and let the reader figure out it was in frustration.'
Such a tiny, basic point and one I was well aware of, yet the error had slipped in to my writing and I hadn't identified it and polished it out.

With tight publishing schedules and all sorts of demands on our time as authors, how can we best continue to develop our skills so all the basic things become so fundamental we don't fall back into committing rookie errors a few years in to our careers?

1. Work with an editor.
Editorial guidance while writing a story is invaluable.

2. Read as many books as possible both within and outside the genres where we're published.
We can learn from others styles - what we like and what we don't like, what works and what doesn't work for us.

3. Attend conferences - even the odd boot camp. 
Although I was already published, I paid to attend a two day Boot Camp in New Orleans at a conference I went to some years ago. I was about to start another book and it was perfect timing because it forced me to revisit all the basics. Popular conferences will generally try to aim their workshops at various levels - aspiring, emerging and established authors - and have craft sessions to suit writers of different levels.

4. Look for on-line courses.
There are a plethora of these available. Speak to other authors and see if they've completed any they've found useful, or do a search for a topic you think might be one you specifically need to focus on.

5. Read back through 'How-to books
Don't let those old How-To books sit on the shelf and gather dust. Get them out and read them cover to cover, even if it's just a page at a time while you have your morning coffee or before you switch off your bedside light.

6. Be part of a writer's group/network.
Being around other writers not only stops the isolation so inherent in this profession, but allows for sharing of ideas and experiences. One of the things I find particularly useful in the Breathless in the Bush group is the way the group reads a title per month. At the monthly meeting there each person gives their opinion on the story/character development/appeal/writing techniques. Now I found last year I seldom had time to read the assigned title, but I certainly benefited from listening to the opinion of others and what to do and not to do is strongly reinforced.

8. Have your work critiqued by your peers.
If you can do this, it's gold! A great learning opportunity. When I was part of a critique group we found we each focused on different things when we were critiquing each other's work. All very valuable.

9. Surf the net for on-line articles
This can be very valuable even if it is time-consuming.

10. Read reviews and consider reader feedback.
Okay some people dread reviews but I'm not one of them. The only thing I don't appreciate in reviews is a reviewer giving away spoilers without spoiler alerts. If a reader doesn't like part of the story, that's fine. Sometimes I've learnt valuable things from reviewer comments, other times I might not relate to what they're saying, but then I accept it's a difference of taste. Someone commented an ending felt rushed. I've taken care since to ensure I spend a little longer wrapping up my stories. 

 11. Enter contests that give you feedback.
If you can handle the feedback and look at it as a way to improve your skills, great! Keep in mind, some feedback may be a matter of personal opinion and you can't please everybody all the time. 

12.Run courses
What better way to improve your craft than to teach it!

What do you do to ensure you continue to hone your writing skills?

Love to Love: Finding ways to improve.

Love to Laugh: At some of the errors I've made. (actually, I probably cringe more than laugh!)

Love to Learn: Through others critiquing my work.

Monday, 29 July 2019

Love Speaks: Romance Quotes

by Enisa Haines

I'm a romantic at heart so of course I love immersing myself in romance novels. I especially love reading gorgeous romantic lines that tug at my heart and thought I'd share fifteen of my Aussie-author favourites:

"Oh, devil take you, you awful man. Of course I'm in love with you."

"I've never known a place to feel like home - until I came to Red Rock Downs. And the reason it felt like home was because you were there. I could live anywhere and it would feel like home - as long as there was you."

"I love you, Ben. I'd be lying if I didn't tell you there have been days these last three weeks when I didn't want to love you, but the thing is, I have no choice. You're part of my heart."

"I love you. I don't think it's something I can switch off like a tap. It's there and there's nothing, it seems, that I can do about it."

"Please don't leave me alone with memories of how you look because eventually they'd fade and I'll be left with nothing but a soft picture of you and that's not enough. I want you. With me, beside me."

"I thought I had it all. Until you came into my life and brought the sun, the moon...everything that matters."

"I love you, Coop. I love you so much I want to weep and yell it from the rooftops all at once and I want to be with you."

"You amaze me. Inspire me. You make me feel ten feet tall. You're so wise and silly and surprising. I want you by my side when I wake. I need you with me forever."

"Love. You deserve it, Luisa. That's what I want to give you. If you'll let me try."

"I fought it for the longest time. I thought it was your rakish wiles I couldn't resist but it was you. Just you."

"When you come to me, I know everything's going to be all right. Your love pushes me and cushions me and leads me to the light."

"When I look at you I see my forever home. You have shown me what love can be, and what a relationship should be."

"I am drunk on you, entirely addicted to your kiss, your laugh, your voice."

"All I want is you. Everything else will be a bonus."

"Babe. This chance with you...You're it for me. You're my number one and you're staying there."

There you have it. My favourite Australian romance novel love quotes. If you have favourite quotes not listed here, I'd love to know them.

Love to love: the beautiful ways heroes and heroines in romance novels say 'I love you.'

Love to laugh: laughing is good for the soul, after all.

Love to learn: about everything. I admit to being very inquisitive.

Monday, 22 July 2019

Okay, Just One More

I’m going to own up to this right now. I have a problem—it’s a good problem—but a problem none-the-less.

I am addicted to writing craft books.

I just can’t say no! They are like my own form of Pringles! Maybe not so tasty but certainly better for my hips. 

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This has been a lifelong habit for me; Whenever I find a topic of interest I always go overboard. E.g. Husband bought me a rose, but how does one look after a rose? Off to the library I went, seventeen books on roses later, well let’s just say I haven’t killed the rose yet.

With writing craft books, I started small. I went to the library and borrowed/reserved every writing book I could get my greedy little hands on. There weren’t a lot that actually covered my genre: Romance. That meant it was time to dig deeper. Booktopia, Ever After Book Store, Amazon… One little click into Google and I was buried with suggestions on the best ever romance writing craft books.

My writing craft collection

Over time I’ve built up quite a little collection (see picture above) But I thought I’d do a mini run down on those that I CANNOT live without. These babies sit beside me as I write, their corners well licked from my desperate thumbing of pages to find the information I need.

GMC – Debra Dixon
I think this is like a unicorn craft book – all bright, sparkly and beautiful. It’s mythical in its printed form but I was lucky enough to score a hardback from my local romance store and boy do I love this book. The authors tone is enjoyable and her information so darn easy to understand.

The Emotion Thesaurus – Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi

I’m going to add here that ALL the thesauri are incredibly insightful and useful for writers of any genre. Also the websites; & are brilliant and I’ve often found myself losing hours just reading all the craft blogs and traipsing through the wonderful information contained on both of these sites. The emotion thesaurus though has REALLY added depth to my characters. It has improved my showing through visceral reactions, and I find myself now studying other people, matching their reactions to those outlined under the emotions in the books (yes I probably look weird; but I also hear voices in my head so really what hope is there!)

Romancing the Beat – Gwen Hayes
This is short, sweet and simple. I love the breakdown of beats for a romance novel. I mainly write category length, so I found this breakdown particularly useful for that. She also has some great follow up information on her website including a free scrivener template that has the beats laid out so you can just open and get writing. Her sense of humour had me chuckling whilst I soaked up her information like a sponge. I also found myself creating a playlist from her suggestions – though I will admit I can’t listen to it whilst I write.

These are my top three and they have all helped add structure and depth to my stories J Particularly GMC – the first few manuscripts I wrote I have now revisited – realising there was an underlying story but not enough strong conflict to sustain reader interest. My characters were flat and boring without obvious goals and motivations. Now I have a better understanding of GMC I really feel my stories have improved dramatically. It’s been a lifesaver!

If anyone is keen on some further reading on GMC, please let me recommend these excellent Blogs:

I love to love... romance craft books
I love to laugh... at my terribly messy desk
I love to learn... what other’s turning points were for their writing

How about you? Do you have any favourite writing craft books you simply cannot live without?