Monday 15 December 2014

The Romance of Christmas

with guest blogger Fiona Greene

A few years ago if someone had told me that my first published work would be a contemporary Christmas romance I would have fallen off the chair laughing. I love my sci-fi and futuristic romance, and while I am still writing spec fiction, I'm now exploring the contemporary side of things as well. I always have a few Christmas romances in my Christmas stocking but I was surprised to find myself writing one. I think the success of Home for Christmas stems from my love of the festive season.

I thought I would share ten reasons why Christmas is an inspiration to my writing.

I love to love… 
  • Getting together with family and friends, especially the ones I may not catch up with during the year. 
  • Giving to family and friends, but more importantly to strangers. Knowing you made a difference in the life of a stranger doing it tough at Christmas is so worthwhile. 
  • Family traditions. My family always starts Christmas day with bacon and eggs, while my husband's family celebrates Christmas on Christmas Eve. My family does pudding and custard, my husband's family likes chocolate and ice-cream. All great traditions that I look forward to. Of course, there are the extended family "sucking the joy out of life" traditions and I've sprinkled a mix of the good, the bad and the ugly into Home for Christmas. 
  • Christmas carols and lights. We've just moved this year to a new neighbourhood and I can't wait to explore the Christmas light displays and the local carols. 
  • Going for a run really early Christmas morning and listening to the silence, punctuated by the excited yells of children discovering a new bike or trampoline. 
  • For the month of December, doing the bulk of my shopping at the IGA and strip shops rather than the local Westfield shopping centre and giving back to the community of retailers who were open at 5.30am when I needed bread and milk. Parking is also so much easier. 
I love to laugh…

  • Hells Belles Christmas Party, where we celebrate our writing successes and set goals for the year ahead. 
  • The annual city council bus decorating competition, the fiercest competition in all of Queensland, where rival bus depots vie for the honour of best decorated bus. Our local depot ensures whoever drives the decorated bus wears a Santa suit. The passengers can't help but smile when St Nick is driving! 
  • The annual "firefighters rescuing Santa from the roof of our local children's hospital", while the kids in isolation "help" with the rescue by pointing, holding up signs, clapping and cheering. It’s a heap of fun and I try to time our run between families to arrive at the same time as the firefighters. If you thought firefighters were generally hot, imagine how much hotter they are when they are saving Santa from certain death after he became stuck on the roof. 

I love to learn…
  • Resetting for the year ahead. We have one day over the Christmas season where we do nothing at all. That's when the Christmas romances and the chocolates come out. 

So, those are my Christmas inspirations.  What about the holidays inspires you?  

I wish you and your family all the best for the festive season and hope you are blessed with everything your heart desires. 

           Fiona Greene's debut romance novella, Home for Christmas (published by Escape) is 
           available through all major etailers.
What began as an impersonal-but-cheerful holiday gift for a soldier far from home becomes so much more...
Sergeant Tate McAuliffe, stationed in Afghanistan, opens his Christmas care package from Australia and is stunned by both its contents and the sender. 
Fun-loving Christmas tree designer Layla Preston is a breath of fresh air for loner Tate. Although they’ve never met, their email friendship quickly develops and their feelings for each other deepen.
But Layla knows the heartache that loving a soldier can bring and when Tate is injured, her deep-seated fear drives them apart. With their relationship in tatters, can Layla and Tate work through their differences, so Layla can welcome Tate home for Christmas?

Monday 8 December 2014

The Process Obsession

with guest blogger Cathryn Hein

Writers love to talk about process. They love to read about it and learn about it and compare and contrast. Why? It’s fascinating. But there comes the trap. It’s too easy to look at what others do, especially those you admire, and think those soul-sucking words, I’m doing it wrong.

You’re not.

There is no right or wrong way, there is only YOUR way. As long as you’re getting your story down then your process is working. Besides, how you go about writing your book is no one else’s business. What’s important is the end result.

Yeah, yeah, I know. There are a bazillion blogs, books and what-have-you out there all claiming that Method Z is the only way to write but that’s rubbish. That’s like saying there’s only one way to swing a golf club or one way to paint a picture.

Of course, we know this intellectually but that doesn’t stop us obsessing over it. There’s always that ugly devil on our shoulders whispering that maybe, just maybe, if we copied mega-selling Awesome Author A’s process we, too, would have their success.


It doesn’t work that way. It just doesn’t.

Yet sometimes, even though I trust my process and it works for me, there are days when I long to change it. And what sort of writer am I? An edit-as-I-go one, which has its advantages and disadvantages.

The advantages (for me) are:
  • I finish with a super clean, submission quality manuscript that only requires tweaking before handing in. 
  • I know the story and characters intimately because I write and rewrite them so much I really like and am proud of what I’ve written because chapters aren’t added to the master document until they’re as perfect as I can make them at that point.
  • On rereads I’m not distracted by annoying typos and other errors. 
  • I can read the manuscript as I would a book, which allows me to see story and characterisation faults more easily.
The disadvantages (for me) are:
  • It’s sloooooow. It can take me anything up to 7 months to write one of my rural romances. 
  • It can be very depressing when I see other authors churning out multiple books a year and I’m still struggling with one.
  • There’s a risk of losing focus on the story because I’m concentrating on the small stuff instead of bigger things.
Revisions can be devastating, especially if there are major changes. All that time and agonising can feel like one big waste.These disadvantages are quite significant, in particular the slowness of my process. It’s the one thing I would like to alter and, over time, I suspect I will. After all, the learning process isn’t static. We’re also people, and people grow and change.

But for now I’m going to embrace my process, ugly bits and all. It’s served me well and with deadlines fast approaching I can’t afford to angst over it. I have books to write. And getting those done, whichever way, is what matters.

I love to love... my Jim. Loveliest man on the planet.

I love to laugh... a lot! And at myself because I can be a total nong sometimes. Especially on the golf course.

I love to learn... about food and cooking and recipes and different cuisines. Mainly because I love to eat!

If you’d like to learn more about Cathryn and her books, please visit her website. You can also connect via Facebook and Twitter using @CathrynHein.

Monday 1 December 2014

Miranda's Musings

Hello beautiful people, let’s talk Christmas romances! Do you love to read them as much as I do? For me, there's nothing better than picking one up and getting right into the festive mood.

What books did I love to love this month?
A Very Special Holiday Gift

Barbara Hannay's 'A Very Special Holiday Gift' is an absolute melting moment, wringing the heartstrings.
Zac flies to London with his lovely PA, Chloe, when he learns of his sister's sudden accidental death...and that her tiny baby girl was saved. You can imagine what a poignant journey this becomes at Christmas. There’s a certain red dress that also takes on a life of its own. Sigh.

Her Christmas Earl
'Her Christmas Earl' by Anna Campbell is a lovely novella to enjoy among the rush and bustle. It's the old whoops-I-have-been-compromised theme done brilliantly well by Anna.
In this instance, shy, quiet Philippa accidentally gets caught in the Earl of Erskine's dressing room, and it all goes on from there. I wouldn’t mind this verra handsome Scottish earl in my Christmas stocking!

High Country Holiday
Try 'High Country Holiday' by Glynna Kaye if you like a little faith with your romance. 
Bad boy Cody Hawk returns to his childhood town when his father has a stroke, but he’s still wearing the chip on his shoulder from years ago. To his shock the girl he loved years ago, Paris Perslow, is still there... and still unmarried. Lots of issues in this book, so hold on.

What did I love to laugh oldie but a goodie: 
'Twelve Days of Christmas' by Trisha Ashley. A widow goes to house-sit a family home, deserted for Christmas, but one by one people keep arriving - and staying! As her husband died at Christmas she really wants to be left alone, but slowly she realizes how lovely Christmas can be as the house fills. She whips up amazing meals (she is a chef, and I swear I put on weight just reading this), and she unexpectedly falls in love. Sweetly comic.

What did I love to learn...that there are more festive books coming my way!

It’s a wonderful time of year! May your Christmas be full of good cheer and lots of books. Do let me know what festive books you’re reading? And see you again in 2015!

Monday 24 November 2014

Courage to Write

with Dee Scully

Remember my last post? How I said, “Write what you know…about yourself.” Put yourself into your stories. Remember that? Well…I stand by it, but…

I’m afraid. Terrified actually. And that fear is keeping me from publication.

I’m not afraid of the things that psychologists usually list as self-actualization limiters…hard work, success, or even failure. I am a hard worker by nature which helps me to excel at whatever I choose to do (and thus avoid failure). But even though I’ve put in hours, years even, of hard work writing, I haven’t yet succeeded at it…and by writing success I mean publication.

It wasn’t until I started digging deep into the psyche of my heroine that I realized what it is that truly frightens me…opening myself up to others and allowing them to glimpse the inner me. I’m afraid of rejection…not of my books, but of me.

I wrote and finished my first manuscript a few years ago. While it had structural integrity and contained all the right bits in all the right places, it lacked sparkle, shine—sizzazzle. It was boring.

Late one night (after a few drinks), I was about to put my manuscript in the great Ethernet bin and mark it up as a first-manuscript learning curve when I had a thought. Why not give my heroine my greatest flaw? You know, write what you know…and I know me best so why not put me into a character? I thought it was genius! I was genius! I started re-writing and suddenly my heroine had shine, my story had sparkle, my romance had sizzazzle!

Fantastic, right? No. I’d written a very safe (but boring) first draft. The revised version is anything but safe. This one has me in it! While it is a fantastic manuscript I’m terrified of ‘putting it out there’ for others to judge.

My greatest flaw is that I lack courage. I’m a coward. I hide in my imaginary world and pretend that success isn’t the be all, end all that others make it out to be, but it is…or at least from the shadows of my imagination it is.

So, I’m taking a deep breath, a gulp really, and putting myself into my heroine. That’s fair…I mean I put me into her, so why shouldn’t she reciprocate, right? She’s a fictional character and as such she has a great character arc. Her greatest flaw becomes her greatest attribute and eventually saves the day. Why can’t it be that way in real life? I think it can…for me AND for you.

If you’re lacking courage try the steps my heroine went through to attain her ‘happy forever after.’

1 Name itfigure out exactly what it is that you fear.

2 Get smartfind out as much as you can about what it is you fear.

3 Step out of your comfort zonechange old ways of dealing (or not dealing) with your fear. Do something different.

4 Fake it until you make itpretend courage and eventually you will be courageous.

5 Believe in yourselfyou can and will do it.

Let’s get started on a new you for the new year. What is it that you fear and what’s one thing you are going to do to get out of your comfort zone and move toward courage?

I love to love my imagination…and where it might take me next.
I love to laugh at my fear…it helps build my courage.
I love to learn how other writers create 'real' characters.  Do Kristan Higgins, Julie Garwood, Lynn Kurland, Karen Marie Moning, Kylie Scott, Nikki Logan, Eleni Konstantine...and the hundred or so other writers in my favourites collection write about what (who) they know best--themselves, do you think?

Until Later...happy writing!

Monday 17 November 2014

Positives and Perils of the Internet - Part 2

with Enisa Haines

Writers love the Internet. Interested in a publishing house or an agent, a writer's blog? Simply search the World Wide Web. Indeed, click the keyboard and any information you need is available. But as useful as the Internet is, risks abound.

Hackers. Phishing. Spam emails. Spyware. Malware. We've all heard the terms--they've been around for as long as the Internet--but too often, in spite of the countless posts and articles written warning of the dangers, we don't take the risks seriously and leave our electronic devices unprotected.

Image: courtesy of

And then one day your email contacts notify you of a flood of spam emails sent from your account. You can't login to your email account or change its settings and your computer prompts for access to programs unfamiliar to you. Hate-filled messages aimed at ruining your reputation appear on your blog or website. Your social networking sites, forums, email accounts and instant messaging are inundated with phishing scams containing malicious files or links that aim to trick you into divulging your account information. For example: 'Dear Beneficiary. Have you contacted Westpac Bank?' landed in my spam folder today. I don't have accounts with Westpac.


Phishing often plays on your concerns so that you will not question why your account information is being requested. From that point on, your account can be accessed by others without your knowledge With that information the hacker can now steal all your personal information, including financial details. Panic strikes and leaves you devastated. What do you do?

  • Change your passwords. Ensure they are complex and unique to you, with letters in Caps/lowercase, numbers and other characters. Passwords longer than 11 characters are best.
  • Use different passwords for different accounts and sites.
  • Use 2-factor authentication, i.e. a second form of identification such as a code sent as a text to your phone, or a secret question and answer.
  • Store your passwords securely, the safest way being an encrypted USB drive.
  • Update your operating system, antivirus and antispyware software regularly.
  • Install a firewall.
  • Limit the personal information you post on Web pages and blogs.
  • Always log out when leaving a site.
  • Assess free software and file-sharing apps. Are they safe to download?
  • Download software only from sites you trust.
  • Don't open emails or messages from unknown senders.
  • Verify a website is secure, i.e. has a small closed lock in the address bar or bottom left or right corner of the browser window.
  • Don't click on ads in websites. If you want to make a purchase , click on the purchaser's website.
  • And most important of all, don't be gullible. You did not win a lottery that you never entered. A real prince from Nigeria does not have $1 million to give you.

Image: courtesy of

A too-long list of actions to perform, excessive you may say, but you want to outsmart the cyber-criminals, right? Cyber attacks target the vulnerable. Don't leave yourself susceptible to cyber threats. Be informed. Take charge of your emotions. Receive a threatening email? Don't fear it. Stay calm and contact the police. A link on a site catches your eye. Don't give in to curiosity or temptation and click on the link.

Thwart cyber attacks and as the hackers rant in empty defeat, immerse yourself in the characters and world you've created in the pages of your manuscript. A writer's happiest place.

Are you, like me, concerned about Internet security? What measures have you taken to ensure your personal details are safe?

Love to love - 

Coffee, I admit it. I'm an addict. 
6 cups a day on average. 
Cappuccino's my favourite. 
And it's a great stress-reliever.

Love to laugh - romantic comedies are a fun form of entertainment.

Love to learn - A child joyous at play reminds me that life doesn't always have to be serious.

Monday 10 November 2014

2 Online Editing Programs You Need to Check Out

with Marilyn Forsyth

Let’s have a show of hands if you hate copy-editing.
Yep, me too. Until I discovered online editing programs. Who knew they even existed or that there were so many of them? I’m a comparison shopper and after investigation I narrowed my favourites down to AutoCrit (AC) and ProWritingAid (PWA).

With the free versions of both programs you paste a block of your text into a box. This text (AC - no specified maximum, PWA - max. 1000 words) is instantly analysed for a raft of potential errors including slow pacing, repeated words/phrases, and cliches/redundancies.

Both programs have a huge range of such functions. Unfortunately, many are unavailable to use for free (e.g. ability to edit within analysis), although PWA does provide considerably more free features than AC’s free version.

By experimenting with the free versions, you get a pretty good grasp of how both programs present their findings, and for me Autocrit was easier to understand. (A video demonstrates how to interpret the results.) I really do like PWA’s provision of suggestions for alternatives, though.

Extremely useful extras that both programs include (in the paid-for versions) are:
*the ability to edit work within the analysis results
*an extensive library of articles and resources
*follow-up customer service

Money Tree Sujin Jetkasettakorn ID 10024954

As for cost, PWA is a fair bit cheaper than AC. The ProWritingAid Premium packages for unlimited access are:

*USD$35 for one year

*USD$55 for 2 years

*USD$70 for 3 years

*USD$120 for lifetime usage

*They also have plagiarism check 'bundles', for 10 up to 1000 checks, which cost from USD$5-$100.

AC provides 3 different packages, all with unlimited usage:

*Gold - USD$60 p.a. Up to 1000 words at a time

*Platinum - USD$96 p.a. Up to 8000 words at a time

*Professional - USD$144 p.a. Unlimited number of words

As authors, we all have different needs for our writing. I’ve actually purchased Autocrit and use it each time I finish a chapter (I can download unlimited words, but any more than 5000 at a time overwhelms me). I’ve found it a huge help, not only in tightening my manuscript but in making me a stronger writer because I’m now aware of the signs that mark me an amateur (damn those ‘ly’ words!).
To sum up, using software to polish and self-edit your manuscript will significantly cut down on the amount of time you spend copy-editing. However, it can only take you so far. You still need to do the rewriting, and nothing will ever replace the feedback you get from your crit partners (mine are the best).

I'd love to hear your thoughts on online editing programs. Are they a time-saving investment or do you prefer a real, live copy-editor?

This week I:

Love to Love Spring in my garden


 Love to Laugh at Halloween cuteness.

Dayton Daily News photos

(Yeah, yeah, I’m a week late but this was way too cute not to share.)


Love to Learn the names of any colour imaginable using Ingrid Sundberg’s ‘Colour Thesaurus’.

See more at