Monday, 6 July 2020

The Lure of Medieval Romance

by Enisa Haines


Heavy cavalry knight on horse (commons.wikimedia.org)

Jan Luyken - Witch scene (wikimedia.commons.org)


When I think of the medieval era I imagine a time of tribal feuds, religious wars, famine, plague, civil strife and revolts, heresy and the Inquisition. A cruel time in which to live--especially for women, whose lives were considered the property of men. Yet I'm drawn to the period and the romance novels set then, as many other readers and writers are. Medieval romances are ever popular. Why?

Sure, there was many a brutal moment, but for me the medieval era brings a fantasy world filled with adventure, courtly love and a touch of the mystical. Much like in the fairy tales of my childhood, tales like Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, Rapunzel.


Edward Frederick Brewtnall - Sleeping Beauty (commons.wikimedia.org)


Medieval romance novels are filled with heroines who may have a little more freedom than women of the time really had. Noble by birthright they may live in grand castles or secluded in a convent. The heroes may be heroic knights clad in shining armour or dangerously seductive, kilt-wearing Scottish Highlander warriors. They may be conquering Vikings from the time of raiding Norse warriors. Honour-bound and powerfully alpha, the heroes may go on quests, engage in feudal battles or wars, or rescue ladies from danger and win their love.


John William Waterhouse - The Beautiful Lady without Pity (commons.wikimedia.org)

The romances may also have touches of the supernatural, with sorcerers using magic and seers foretelling the future living side by side with dragons that must be vanquished.


Edward Burne-Jones - The Fight-St. George Kills the Dragon VI (commons.wikimedia.org)


What medieval romances have in common is that they are stories of right vs wrong where good prevails over evil and chivalry towards others is a value above others. Those are aspects of life often lacking today so, like in the days of my childhood, I immerse myself in these fantasy worlds. As a reader and as a writer.

Frank Dicksee - Chivalry (commons.wikimedia.org)


What are your thoughts? Do you like reading and/or writing medieval romances? 


Love to Love: reading medieval romance novels

Love to Laugh: at funny Facebook posts

Love to Learn: about life in medieval times



Monday, 29 June 2020

MIRANDA'S MID-YEAR MUSINGS!

*Everyone who commented on Paula Roe's post last week will receive some swag from thewordablewriter.com. Thank you Paula!

Lockdown Reading - and Watching!


Darlings, hello from Sydney, where winter is finally here. Such snuggly weather to read.

To be honest, I thought when lockdown hit I'd read a lot more. No frantic rushing around. Stay! At! Home! was the mantra preached to us, and rightly so. So plenty of time for all the books.

Then online platforms began and I was connecting with friends and family in new and exciting ways. We bought a new TV and omigosh, Netflix entered my life. All those lovely romance movies were suddenly - right there! Cue me swooning. Suddenly I was reading and watching.


Photo credit: amazon.com

My first Netflix binge was to watch the first series from  Robyn Carr's amazing Virgin River books. Has anyone read or watched this? What a great series. I don't know where they filmed it, but it is spectacular! The setting is a remote mountain town by the river, and wow, they nailed it. Plus, you know, look who's playing the conflicted male lead: yummy New Zealander Martin Henderson. I just gobbled it up and cannot wait for Season 2!

If you haven't seen Martin in anything, and he is amazing, I also recommend Bride and Prejudice. It's based on Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice, always a fan favourite, only this time Bollywood-style. Am I gushing? (Yes I think I am.)


Photo credit: amazon.com


I've really wanted to read feel-good books in lockdown, so I started reading cosy, lovely books, where it's all about growth and change and relationships and romance. I was all, yes please, throw them my way so I can hoover them up. 

One of these charmers is an outstanding new release from Josephine Moon called The Cake Maker's Wish. Isn't that the most divine cover? Single Mum Olivia and young son Darcy move from Tasmania to the Cotswolds, looking for a new start. She's pretty much given up on romance - but happily, romance hasn't given up on her! At the online book launch Josephine Moon tempted us with the book *and* a scrumptious looking cake. I dived into the book immediately. It was a complete bliss-bomb - even if I did become rather desperate for cake - and Josephine Moon's backlist is equally delightful. Go ahead and binge on The Beekeeper's Secret, or The Chocolate Promise, or one of my personal favourites, The Tea Chest. Bliss in a book.


Photo credit: amazon.com


Another great read was The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams. A bunch of very alpha guys get together to coach the ones who need it on romance - with advice gleaned from romance novels. I laughed so much at all the snappy back-chat, this was a total pick-me-up shot of romance fun - although it certainly had all the drama and all the feels. I launched straight into the second one, Undercover Bromance, which included an excellent nod to the Me-Too Movement.


Photo credit: amazon.com


Last but not least, I was thrilled to receive an advance copy of Annie West's latest stunner, Claiming His Out-Of-Bounds Bride. Wow, this is such a powerhouse romance, I was thrilled from the get-go. A fabulous take on one of my fave romance tropes, the marriage of convenience. Done with style and so much swoony emotion it was dazzling. And set in Italy, oh my. Gorgeous. Thanks, Annie! You super-star!


Photo credit: amazon.com


What's been keeping you sane during lockdown? What books, what movies, what streaming series?

Take care, my friends, stay well and healthy and able to enjoy all the life. And maybe, the odd slice of cake. 💓

Lots of love from Miranda xxx


Love to Love:
My new Netflix discoveries! My heart's just about exploded.

Love to Laugh:
At the hilarious guy talk in the Bromance books. 

Love to Learn:
Oh please, tell me more about Netflix. And your lockdown reads! 

Monday, 22 June 2020

How to Keep Writing When your Life Sucks


By Guest Author, Paula Roe

Hello lovely readers and thank you BITB for inviting me to blog.  It's been quite a while between drinks so when it came time to decide on my topic, it really was a no-brainer.

About a year ago I had this idea for an interactive workshop, with writers discussing and sharing their challenges and techniques on how to overcome life's setbacks and detours. I'd like to share a few key points.

My Backstory

In 2006, I got the call that Harlequin Desire wanted to publish my book. I had been writing for over 25 years and this was my dream come true. YAY! At the time, my son was a challenging six years old, about to be diagnosed on the autism spectrum and struggling in an unsympathetic primary school. I was a single parent, sharing a house with my parents. It was an...interesting time. But I managed to stumble through my days, writing and publishing nine books with Harlequin Desire over the next eight years.

                                           

                                                  

Then in 2013 life took a detour.

We had changed schools a year before to what became a 45 minute drive. I was thrown into an entirely new routine and suddenly had to be a writer with a virtual office. My Mac and wi-fi were my life line. I wrote three books that way, in a small private room in a local community centre while my boy was at school.

I spent the lead up to the 2013 RWA conference in my hotel room, hashing over edits for my book, Suddenly Expecting. http://paularoe.com/books/suddenly-expecting/ 

This had NEVER happened before. I'd put back the deadline three times. I just could not finish this damn book and I could see it happening from afar... hell, I'd felt it on some level years before this, after I had just finished Promoted to Wife. http://paularoe.com/books/promoted-to-wife/

I was burnt out. Every day I was consumed with school drama, road blocks and hurdles, and my brain was barely functioning. I was emotionally drained.  And yes, dear reader, I had become jaded with the happy-ever-after stories which had once brought me so much joy.



We started 2014 with no school. I was trying to actively pursue my career as a published author, had garnered a small following and some loyal readers. I did not have the time or energy to devote to ANY diversion. But a new high school ended up being the worst five years of my son's life. I had to mentally deal with the uncertainty every day would bring, the stress and worry that physically manifested itself as pain and aches in his body. How his mental health took a major dive. And of course, my overwhelming helplessness, not knowing what to do or how to help. My gut dropped every time I heard the phone ring, expecting it was school, calling to tell me what he'd done, the unspoken inference that he was uncontrollable, which meant I was a terrible parent. It was hell and I could not bring myself to write stories that had an uplifting and positive ending when my own sucked so badly. 

                                                        

To an observer, I just stopped writing. Even my family thought so; their casual, "so, when is your next book coming out?" was like nails on a blackboard. I stopped posting on social media. I closed my Facebook account. I let my RWA membership lapse and I drifted away from my tribe. Less than a handful of people knew the deep-down complications and churning emotion of what was going on in my life. I didn't want to hear about authors I knew getting published. I made a few anonymous Twitter accounts and started connecting with other people around the world. I talked about movies, celebrities, history - stuff far from my 'real' life and far from a genre I'd lost interest in. It was wonderfully freeing to be someone else.

Stress and worry and roadblocks are all unique and individual to every one of us. What I may find challenging (marketing, promo, sticking to a business plan) could be a breeze to another author. The same goes with life challenges. Marriage, divorce, family, work, injury, relationships, career.... All bring varying levels of stress and distraction.

Many, many sucky things can and will come at you in life. No one is immune to doubt, stress, distraction. Here's what I learned these past fifteen years, and some suggestions to help you get through.

Acknowledge there is an issue 

There is nothing - NOTHING - wrong with saying "this is too much for me. I cannot cope." And there's nothing wrong with having a cry and a mental health day. Lord knows, I had many of those. Do not compare yourself to other writers - you know, those who can write 3-10 books a year, who can hold down a job and write/plan/prioritise as their busy, active family are busily active around them. THEY ARE NOT YOU. Their plans and goals are not yours. If multi-published author Wendy Writes Alot, who has thousands of devoted authors and an active social media platform, makes you feel inadequate, address why and take steps to work through that.

Devote the time

Whether it's a family drama or a sick pet, take some time to focus solely on solving the problem, giving mental/physical support or putting steps in place to address it. Spend time with sick Rover, help organise mum's yearly bowling calendar, work out what programmes you can access to encourage your child's social engagement.

Hire help

I love the mantra "stress less, write better".  Here are some things you can hire that can ease your stress burden:

-a house cleaner once a week (stop worrying about dust!)

- part time admin assistant to do your filing, answering emails, updating your social media (family members can be great for this).

- hire a hubby/Airtasker service for all those around-the-home jobs that never seem to get done

-stop ironing (I did this years ago. Best decision ever.)

Get away

Many writers find it impossible to write at home. Before the days of social distancing, you could go to a coffee shop and take your writing device. Now we are living a new normal, so until those restrictions ease:

- Create a room in your house where you can close the door. Attach a sign saying you're working (not 'writing' - way too easy for people to dismiss as unimportant). Give a time that you will be available e.g. "I'll be finished by 4pm."

- hot desking is out right now, but Air B&B can provide isolation and privacy to write. Be safe and make sure whatever place you choose follows cleaning and safety guidelines. Or you can hire an office space of your own (budget permitting).

- make space in your backyard for a table, a chair and some sort of shade for an instant writing place.

- talk to a neighbour/relative/friend who goes out to work or has a spare room available for a few hours. You could water their plants/walk their dog in exchange for uninterrupted hours.

Surround yourself with your tribe

I first mentioned getting yourself a group of like-minded souls back in 2003, at our very first Gold Coast conference. I have my writing girls and my online tribe, and I know I can go to them to talk/complain/cry about anything. No pressure.

Go learn

Can't write because you don't know enough about plot/your characters/three act structure? Do a course.  There's plenty of online workshops to suit all levels of writer and many/most festivals are now going virtual.  My go-tos are:

- local community colleges (I have a few online courses running next term!)

- Masterclass https://www.masterclass.com

- Savvy Authors https://www.savvyauthors.com- Australian Writers Centre https://www.writerscentre.com.au

- Writing NSW https://writingnsw.org.au

 -TAFE also offer short online courses. 

-And of course, there is always YouTube and LinkedIn Learning. https://www.linkedin.com



Go
Teach

Approach your community college or library and offer to run a creative writing workshop. Distance is no longer a problem with the move to virtual learning.


Do other creative stuff

All writers need to refill the creative well, which means doing something else to refresh and re-engage your brain. Knitting, painting, photography, reading.... Find out what you love to do in your down time and do it.

Throughout my "writing pause" years I still wrote. I never stopped. I just wrote for myself: stories without publisher guidelines in mind. Thoughts and poems. Fan fiction. A movie script. A TV series script. Online workshops. Honestly, it was freeing not having to worry "will my editor like this/is this what my publisher wants?" I worked through stories in my own time, when I was ready.

In 2018 I started a new business, which has been on my goals list for a while. The Wordable Writer is all about providing writing help, downloadables and writing products for writers - book cover design, to-do lists and my labour of love, Spark Cards (cute little boxes of cards to prompt your writing brain).  I then realised I needed more experience in design and drawing, so the business is on the back burner while I make my way through a diploma in graphic design. I LOVE IT and better yet, don't feel guilty about not writing.

Time Out

Stop writing. If your brain and life in general is abuzz with a gazillion distractions and writing fills you with dread, then stop. Deadlines can be either great motivation or give you a looming sense of impending failure, so make smaller or completely different goals. Instead of "I will write 1000 words by the end of the week", clean up three drawers in your filing cabinet. Throw out/shred old paperwork. Plant sunflowers in the backyard. Research something that interests you, or for a new book idea that's sitting in the back of your mind.Give yourself a break and do not feel guilty about it.

Caveat - not writing is a seductive and slippery slope. Binge-watching Game of Thrones is all well and good, but be careful not to lose sight of why you are avoiding writing. I've watched dozens of TV series and movies in the past six years because a) I love storytelling in all its forms but also, b) plotting and character development fascinates me, which leads to, c) learning from watching those shows and using those techniques in my own writing.

If, on the other hand, you find yourself enjoying doing anything BUT writing, then you need to have a serious conversation with yourself. Maybe you need to change genres? Novellas instead of novels? Try writing a script, a web series, a how-to instead of fiction.  Or is it time for a career change altogether?

So, there's a few of my obstacles and possible solutions. I'd love to hear from you guys.  What have you found challenging? How did you work around/through it?


Paula's bio

Paula Roe is an internationally published author, ARRA award winner and reformed Contest Diva.  You can find her books and articles on her website http://www.paularoe.com, follow her on Twitter https://www.twitter.com/paulawrites. You can also find The Wordable Writer on Twitter https://www.twitter.com/wordablewriter and Instagram https://www.instagram.com/thewordablewriter