Monday 13 May 2024

Keeping Writing Fresh and Fun!

by Alyssa J. Montgomery

I was a guest lecturer recently at a writer's course and one of the questions I was asked was, "How do you keep your writing fresh?"

It was a really good question as after having 18 books published (still very new to the field comparatively), I started out trying to keep things fresh by changing tropes: enemies to lovers; friends to lovers; second chance romances; ugly duckling heroine; accidental pregnancy etc.

Then, because particular characters simply "appeared" to me, anxious to have their stories told, I started exploring different sub-genres within the romance genre. A lover of history, I really enjoyed writing my three medieval titles (written as Alyssa James). Historical fiction presents its own set of challenges to the writer as the details have to be accurate (and I've seen some very cutting comments to authors from readers when the detail hasn't been correct!). I have learnt so much! Even the vocabulary has to be checked. For example, in Knight of Her Desire, I referred to a stretcher used to shift an injured knight, but my historical expert fact checker and friend Nicky Galliers informed me that it was called a litter not a stretcher back in those times!


I self-published my medieval stories and they were a lovely side-step from the titles that were being published with Escape which were very much along the billionaires/royalty lines.

I was starting to feel a little pigeon-holed and was tremendously relieved when Johanna Baker (acquiring editor who heads up Escape) told me that "rural romance is hot right now" and that I could try writing in this sub-genre. 

The difficulty was that I'd never been a reader of rural romance. So, Sue Brockhoff, from Harlequin handed me two rural romances at the RWA conference last year and suggested I "read these". I saw that rural romances had a slower pace than I was used to writing, with a lot more secondary characters and the lovely feel of community. That was a very different style and story than I was used to, but I rolled up my sleeves eager to stretch my capabilities and explore new creative horizons. Return to Hope Creek was published on April 1st this year and has been well received.

I had so much fun exploring the community of Hope Creek and meeting different people in the community that I'm looking forward to writing books 2 and 3 in the Hope Creek Series. What I have realised is that although I needed some new skills to develop this sense of community and to bring the secondary characters alive, at the end of the day the most important thing for me was to know my characters and to let them tell their story. That is, of course, vital in every story.

Changing up the genre or sub-genre can give authors fresh enthusiasm, greater flexibility and writing skills, and can reignite the passion and motivation. 

Some of my later contemporary romances included elements of suspense and I suspect that once I retire from my day job and can devote more time to honing my writing craft, I just might find my niche in romantic suspense. However, I'd also like to try my hand at a romantic fantasy; and I definitely have a regency romance already mapped out in my mind. Time will tell if I ever get to those  - time and seeing just how pushy the regency and fantasy characters are in getting to the forefront of my mind!

It's said that the negatives in changing sub-genres are a loss of established readership, difficulty building new readership and the risk of unsuccessful transition. However, I see writing as a fun task that is an outlet for my creative energy so I'd like to embrace new challenges, avoid pigeon-holing and be able to expand my skills and identify my writing strengths. I can always return to billionaire and royalty or to the medieval realm. For now, however, I'm looking forward to developing my Hope Creek Series and building into the rural romance sub-genre.

If you're an author, how do you keep your writing fresh? And, as a reader, how do you feel about authors who dabble in different genres or sub-genres?

Love to love developing my skills as a writer and constantly attempting to hone my craft

Love to laugh when I forget myself and say something that is way too modern while writing a medieval romance.

Love to learn what the reader expectations and boundaries are in different sub-genres of romance

Monday 12 February 2024

Celebrating Love Around The World

 Celebrating Love Around The World

by Sharon Bryant

It's almost Valentine's Day. Have you planned to do something special? There are so many ways to celebrate. You might be celebrating the love you and your partner share, or the love you feel for someone you care about. 

Love Around The World

Love is celebrated in different ways around the world. I thought it might be fun to explore this a little.

Japanese women traditionally give men chocolates on Valentine's Day. They used to give inexpensive chocolates, giri choco, to co-workers though this is less common these days. Honmei choco (special chocolate which is often homemade) is reserved for romantic partners. Japanese men generally don't give women Valentine's Day gifts. They reciprocate one month later on White Day by giving gifts that are two to three times the value of what they have received.

In Germany, it's traditional to give Valentines gifts of chocolates, flowers, or cartoons or keepsakes of pigs. Pigs symbolise good luck in Germany and are just as much a part of Valentine's Day as cupids in some other parts of the world.

Saint Valentine is a patron saint of spring in Slovenia. Valentine's Day is celebrated as the time when life begins to stir again. One traditional Slovenia idea is that birds "propose" on Valentine's Day. Traditionally people walk barefoot through the icy fields to see and appreciate the changes that springtime brings.

There are so many other beautiful loving traditions: Welsh love spoons, mountainous wedding ceremonies in Thailand, a four day festival in Verona with a letter writing contest to Juliet, and mass wedding ceremonies in public spaces in Manila.

I hope you thoroughly enjoy February 14 either thinking of or being with someone you love.

How do you plan to spend Valentine's Day?

I love to love spending time with my husband, family and friends.

I love to laugh with friends and family.

I love to learn more about love around the world.

Monday 4 December 2023

CHRISTMAS BOOKS! A wonderful time of year!

Hello, my darlings! It's been too too long! Lovely to be back here on Breathless to bring you my bumper Christmas reading suggestions - and we're spoilt for choice.  

Let's dive into what I've already enjoyed.

I know I'm super-duper predictable, but Debbie Macomber always makes my Top Ten (Top Eleven this year). Her novella Jack Frost was a gorgeous start to Christmas reading with a grumpy/sunshine pairing. When Jack and Lindsay get accidentally locked into their work Christmas party when everyone leaves, Jack is totally a super grump. But only at first... Enjoy!

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I'm sure you read The Christmas Bookshop by the Scottish author Jenny Colgan last year. Did you worry that Carmen's relationship needed a bit more resolution at the end? Fear not, here is the sequel, Midnight at the Christmas Bookshop. It's worth reading both books because they're all about saving Mr McCredie's old bookshop, and that booky story thread is utterly fab and quite funny in parts. Set in snowy Edinburgh, it makes me want to go back there. 

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I was thrilled when I found The Twelve Dogs of Christmas by Susan Wiggs in my library! Who could resist those furry little faces? Christmas-hating Brenda gets roped into driving twelve rescue dogs across the US to their new owners for Christmas. What could possibly go wrong? Unfortunately something does...and hot single dad paramedic Adam comes to the rescue. Can he change Brenda's mind about Christmas? And wow, all those dogs involve some lovely mini stories too. A must for dog lovers and actually, everyone.

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Do you know, so many many lists of favourite Christmas romances include Rosamunde Pilcher's Winter Solstice. It's also continually listed as a comfort read, 'one I reread every Christmas', 'on my keeper shelf' and so on. I decided to read it myself this year, and now I totally get what everyone is talking about. It is gorgeous, my friends, about a group of people who've made some right and wrong choices in their lives, even had tragedy occur, but they bravely struggle on and eventually all end up together one snowy Christmas. Oh my dears, there's so much love in this book it will fill your heart. 

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Back to Sydney, Australia, and beautiful Manly Beach, which features highly in Belinda Williams' new novella The Christmas Escape. It might be a shorter book but it is mighty, tackling the problems of long distance relationships. Do they really work or is it all too hard? Well, cough, if you came all the way from England and met Jaz, professional surfer, single father and cafe owner, you might be inclined to change your mind. 

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We all know and love Mary Jo Putney, and she's given us a kitten for Christmas, in her new novella The Christmas Tart. We so need kittens at Christmas, and also need the very nice new baronet Sir Philip Selbourne. Yes, please (gets stocking ready...). This one's quick enough to read in a sitting, the perfect length in this busy time. 

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Hang in there, five final Christmas books. I haven't read these, but December's looking excellent to do so.

I've just started Kandy Shepherd's Mistletoe Magic in Tahiti, so by the time this post goes live I'll be sitting in a HEA cloud at the end; Kandy is always swoon-worthily romantic. This is part 1 of The Christmas Pact Trilogy featuring three sisters, so go right ahead and indulge in them all: Cinderella's Costa Rican Adventure, and Snowbound Reunion in Japan. Tahiti! Costa Rica! Japan! They all sound fabulous, don't they? Love Christmas 'done' in a different country... 

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We'll Never Have Paris by Adriana Anders. This is described as another grumpy/sunshine book (I cannot get enough of these) when the grump (a Welshman) and the sunshine (an American) get stuck in an elevator on Christmas Eve. But seriously: Paris! On Christmas Eve! Say no more! 

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For those who love a hot Christmas, and vets, this is high on my TBR: A Country Vet Christmas by five - count 'em, five beloved Aussie authors: Lily MaloneAlissa CallenPenelope JanuPamela Cook and Stella Quinn. What a fabulous anthology for a very modest price. 667 pages of great reading ahead, I can't wait. Fellow Breathless blogger Enisa Haines mentioned this in her column last month, but it's such great value I'm going to recommend it again. 

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This definitely has to go on my Christmas list: The Book Club Hotel by Sarah Morgan, which also goes by the title The Christmas Book Club in the UK. I listened to her audiobook Snowed In For Christmas last year, and absolutely loved it, so I'm downloading this one too. I really enjoy a good audiobook, they bring the stories alive.

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Last but definitely not least - and probably not the last (cough) on account of all I can see in my Kindle are more and more and more Christmas books - I found this charming inspirational romance, The Doctor's Christmas Dilemma by a new-to-me author, Danielle Thorne. I'm really looking forward to it: a second chance of love with a bit of faith thrown in. Sounds perfect.

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So that's me, folks. Be kind to each other, be generous, be loving, be safe. And of course read as much as you can. May your Christmas be full of booky goodness and lazy days to enjoy it all. See you in 2024!

With love for a happy Christmas and a wonderful new year,

Miranda xx

Love to Love:
I guess we all know I'm going to say, Christmas romance!

Love to Laugh:
...and cry, through all the delightful Christmas movies now screening. So much Christmas festiveness and hot chocolate and wow, emotion.

Love to Learn:
What is special to you at Christmas. To me it's family, faith, friends, fun, and love. Always love. And food! You?