Monday, 13 June 2022

The Protege Effect

 By Alyssa J. Montgomery

I have always found the romance writing community to be incredibly generous in terms of support and encouragement. Fellow writers have constantly been prepared to share knowledge and experiences. Although I am still honing my skills, I have always been happy to try to assist others along the road to publication when the opportunity presents and to share any knowledge I've gleaned. 

This past weekend I've just finished co-teaching a writing course. When it wrapped up, we received a lot of very positive feedback and gratitude from course participants. However, we were both left feeling we had gained as much, if not more, than we had given. 

Image from PixaBay

The term "Protege Effect" is the effect that when we teach, we explain ideas to others and this reinforces our own understanding. There have been numerous studies done which demonstrate the effect. In one I recall reading about, two groups of students were taught exactly the same material. Prior to the lesson, one group of students were told they would be tested on the material; the others were told they would need to teach the material. Although no teaching was ever required, both groups were asked to complete a test at the end of the lecture. The group who had been told they would need to teach the subject matter were found to have more correct responses and generally better recall.

The course I co-presented was one for beginner writers in the 25+ age bracket. The subjects we covered included characterisation, character development, plotting, Goal/Motivation/Conflict etc. All very basic writing topics that authors 'know' and hopefully understand and apply instinctively. However having to teach on these topics sent me back to notes and textbooks so I could make sure I imparted the subject matter concisely and accurately. Reviewing the topics reinforced and perhaps deepened my understanding. I wanted to make certain of my knowledge and to ensure I didn't have gaps in these areas.

Through teaching, I re-discovered things I already knew and solidified my  knowledge. The ensuing questions and discussion on the topics with the course participants also gave me some new insights into things which I hadn't considered.

                                                                                         Image of Seneca courtesy of Pixabay

The philosopher, Seneca, said "While we teach we learn". It's true that I've learnt again in my preparation of the course material. I've also had my mind opened to other angles on the subjects through the discussion with, and questions from, the participants.

One of the aims of the course was that the participants would go forward and form their own writing support/critique group. Part of encouraging them to gain confidence in critiquing each others work and accepting the critiques of others involved time to critique their work. Again, this was beneficial because critiquing the work of others can make us aware of flaws or weaknesses in our own writing styles. 

It felt great to be able to (hopefully) help aspiring authors along on their journey to publication. It was lovely to meet this enthusiastic and very talented group of writers and I benefited from this course by reviewing basic writing topics and principles. After a long hiatus from writing (due to the time demands from my professional speech pathology hat), I felt like a writer again and have been re-energised to write. 

                                         Image courtesy of Pixabay

In an internet article, "Small Things and the Surprising Benefits of Teaching others" (, Robb Stevens writes:

           "A candle loses none of its own light by lighting another.

            In fact, lighting another candle only adds more light."

I love candlelight. Let's not be a single flame but use the light we've been given and, whenever we can, let's keep lighting some more!

 Image courtesy of Pixabay

Would love to hear of your thoughts and experiences.

Love to love encouraging others on their journey to publication.

Love to laugh as I recount some of the mistakes I made on my journey to publication.

Love to learn through teaching others.

Monday, 11 April 2022

An Interview with Nicola Cornick


By Marilyn Forsyth

At the end of last year I applied for, and was successful in gaining, a mentorship through The History Quill with international best-selling dual timeline author Nicola Cornick. I cannot praise both Nicola and The History Quill enough. I learned so much with the help of this lovely lady and, to cap it all off, she agreed to this interview.

Welcome to our blog, Nicola. We’re delighted to have you here. What is one ‘must have’ when you’re writing?  

A cup of tea, English Breakfast for preference, no matter the time of day.

Can't beat English Breakfast! What was your big break in publishing? 

My big break came when I had been writing for 12 years and the historical editor at Harlequin Mills and Boon sent me a page of revision suggestions for a manuscript that I’d sent in and encouraged me to resubmit it. That was True Colours, my first Regency romance.

Wow! 12 years! Persistence does pay off. What do you think are the key ingredients for a great historical novel? 

A great story to tell, an immersive historical world and characters who are authentic to their time but are dealing with timeless themes we can all relate to.

Which historical novelists do you like to read? 

Susanna Kearsley, Anna Campbell, Diana Norman and Daphne Du Maurier to name only a few of my favourites!

How lovely to see our own Anna Campbell there! And I love Susanna Kearsley, too. What is your favourite historical period to write about? 

It’s hard to choose but the seventeenth century in England just edges in as favourite. The Civil War period gave women more freedom and opportunity as well as creating enormous emotional conflict. It’s a fascinating period to write about.

What inspired the story of The Last Daughter

Link to buy (Aus)

I love exploring real life historical mysteries. The Last Daughter was inspired by the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower during the reign of Richard III. It’s a complicated time period that has interested me for years.

Such a beautiful cover! And the Princes in the Tower remains a fascinating mystery. Can you tell us more about the story? 

The Last Daughter is a dual time story set in the present and the 15th century. Serena Warren returns to the village of Minster Lovell in Oxfordshire to try to find out what happened when her sister Caitlin disappeared ten years before. In doing so she uncovers a family mystery that links her to the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower five hundred years before. The historical part of the book tells the story of Anne, wife of Francis Lovell, the closest ally of Richard III, who is drawn into a plan to protect the princes.

I am so looking forward to reading this! Who would you cast as your main characters? 

Jonathan Bailey from Bridgerton would make a brilliant Francis Lovell, and Catriona Balfe would be a perfect Anne.

Gorgeous pairing! I adore Catriona! What challenges did the book pose for you? 

Writing dual time books is always a challenge for me as I am a pantser by inclination and having to intertwine two time periods requires a lot of planning. The Last Daughter was also hard because it was written during the pandemic when I was finding it difficult to concentrate and was also dealing with family issues. I was also trying to fit a huge swathe of complex history into a comparatively short word count and I had to edit heavily.

I have absolutely no idea how a pantser can write dual timelines, and yet you do it so brilliantly. I greatly enjoyed The Phantom TreeWhat are you working on next?

Link to pre-order (Aus)

I’m currently revising my next book, The Winter Garden, which will be published in October. It’s another dual time book, set in the present and at the end of the Tudor era/beginning of the 17th century and it looks at the women behind the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. We hear a lot about Guy Fawkes and Robert Catesby, but what role did their female relatives play in the story and how did it impact on their lives? I enjoyed exploring that.

Ashdown House Oxfordshire.

Research is one of my favourite parts of writing about history. Any advice for aspiring/emerging historical fiction writers? 

For any writer, I’d always suggest writing about something you feel passionately about. Your love for your subject will shine out.

Excellent advice that I've tried to follow! 

Love to Love my family and friends for their generosity, kindness and support.

Love to Laugh at the antics of my 8-month-old puppy!

Love to Learn more about history all the time.

Thanks so much for joining us, Nicola! 

If you have a comment or a question for Nicola, she would love to hear from you!

BIO: Nicola Cornick is an international bestselling and award-winning novelist who has written over thirty historical mysteries and historical romances in a career spanning twenty years. Her books sell in over twenty-five countries, have been translated into many languages and been published in multiple formats including e-book, audio and manga. She currently writes dual time fiction for Harper Collins HQ. She is historian and guide at the National Trust 17th century Ashdown House in Oxfordshire.

 In her spare time Nicola is a guide dog puppy walker.

The gorgeous Baden, guide dog.





Link to buy The Last Daughter paperback:

Monday, 14 February 2022

10 Valentine's Day Gifts for Writers

by Enisa Haines

Ⓒ Enisa Haines

It's Valentine's Day today, the day we can tell the people most important to us they are loved. What to gift them? We all love a dazzling bouquet of fragrant red roses, chocolates temptingly displayed in a heart-shaped box, a teddy bear or a sparkling piece of jewelry, but gifting our loved ones something unique, something more personal, shows how much they mean to us. And if our loved ones are writers here's a list of gifts that will let them know how very special they are.

1. Paper roses

Buy here

If your writer loves flowers then a rose made to order from the hand-cut pages of a preloved copy of their favourite novel, each petal shaped by hand, will be sure to inspire.

2. Journal

Buy here

For writers who love to write by hand, whether to jot down ideas for characters, settings, conflicts or plots, or to write the complete story, journals with inspiring cover illustrations like the one above are gifts they'll treasure.

3. Feather Quill or Fountain Pen

 Buy here

What better way to inspire writing by hand than to hold a feather quill like those used by beloved authors of long ago.

4. Week/Month/Year Planner

 Buy here

Organising a week or month or year is a great way for writers to then focus on writing and keep track of their progress and other goals such as manuscript submission and book publication dates.

5. Online Writing Course/Writing-Editing Software/Creative Tools Subscription

 Buy here

Whether a beginning writer or a successful author with multiple books published, mastering storytelling is the common goal. Ways to achieve that include enrolling in online writing courses, enlisting the aid of writing or editing software or subscribing to online sites such as One Stop for Writers that provide creative tools.

6. Noise-Cancelling Headphones

 Buy here

If background noise is distracting then noise-cancelling headphones are just what a creative muse needs.

7. Kindle-Unlimited Subscription

 Buy here

Every writer loves to read so the gift of a digital subscription to accessing millions of books is one they'll be grateful for.

8. Writer's Clock

Writer's clock - Enisa Haines

When immersed in writing, writers often lose track of time. With a special writer's clock, they'll always know the time for the next task.

9. Ergonomic Chair or Coccyx Seat Cushion and Lumbar Support Pillow

coccyx and lumber support - Enisa Haines

Writers can spend hours seated at their computers, often with bad posture that leads to sciatica, lower back or tailbone pain. Sitting in an ergonomic chair will alleviate pressure on the coccyx/tailbone, relieve sciatic nerve pain, support the back's curve and provide healthy posture. If the budget doesn't allow for a chair, then a coccyx seat cushion and lumbar support pillow giving the same benefits can turn a bad chair into a good chair.

10. Writer's Retreat

Getting away from the responsibilities of daily life to a place where focus is solely on writing is every writer's dream. Time away at a writing retreat surrounded by other writers inspires motivation and lets creativity flow. 

Writer's retreat - Enisa Haines

Would the writer in your life like one of these gifts? Or is there something else they'd love to receive? 

Love to love: writing by hand. My creativity loves it too!

Love to laugh: romantic comedies are always fun.

Love to learn: for all things writing, One Stop for Writers is the subscription to have!