Monday 29 August 2016

How I Survived Post-Manuscript Blues

by Karen M Davis

There is a rumour that writing and depression go together. In fact some documents I have read state it is a fact. Is it any wonder? Writing is an isolated profession. You are alone in a room with a computer and imaginary characters for endless hours, sometimes going without exercise, direct sunlight, enough sleep. Not to mention the ever-present pressure of the deadline looming forebodingly in the back of your mind.

But I'm not talking about depression while writing. That is a whole other subject. I'm talking about post-manuscript depression... When your precious manuscript has left you and is in the hands of others... the publishers. Does anyone else out there worry will it be good enough? Could I have done more? I do. It seems hard to let go of the baby I've been working on for so long, yet at the same time, I know if I had to read through those pages one more time it could be detrimental to myself and anyone around me.

I have just finished my third "Lexie Rogers" novel, Fatal Mistake, and I have to say I found this book harder than the others. Or maybe my memory is fading... Wanting to make it better than the last, I devised a complicated plot that speared off in many different directions to eventually come  back together. Well that was the plan, and after many hours re-plotting, tweaking and slowly going crazy, thankfully that's what happened. Since Fatal Mistake is the third in a series I also had to keep revising my first two books to ensure continuity of characters and storyline. For example, I thought I'd killed off someone's father in the second book but was not sure so I had to read it again and discovered that I didn't. This happened many times - even though I took notes - which was time consuming and draining.

I found that deadline drawing closer with too much left to do so, after a mild panic, I did what I had to do and locked myself in my study, hardly left the house, did no exercise and hardly spoke to anyone other than those who live with me. I  lived on frozen dinners and did minimal housework - everything  I promised myself I would not do - until it was finished. What choice did I have? No one could write the book for me...
Then, to my surprise, when the manuscript was sent off I felt flat. Which was not at all what I had expected. Now what was I going to do? I thought. What was my purpose? I could start another manuscript but I knew I needed a break.

So I made a list...
On my list were things I could now do since my work was done. Firstly, I would not feel guilty for having time out. I could relax... spring clean...go for long walks... and catch up with much neglected friends and family. So that's what I'm doing, although it does feel weird. However, ticking off items on a list gives me a sense of accomplishment. I intend to enjoy my down time because before I know it the first edits will be upon me and it will be back to the computer.

What do you like to do, or how do you reward yourself once your hard work is done and the manuscript you are working on is complete?

I love to love... to sit and relax by reading a book.

I love to laugh... at my crazy animals.

I love to learn... about social media because I am sadly lacking.


Monday 22 August 2016

Ain't Love Grand? Yes it is! RWAustralia Conference Round-Up.

By Cassandra Samuels

Is it that time of year again already? August is when RWAustralia has their annual Romance Writers Conference. This year in the picturesque Grand Stamford in Glenelg, Adelaide.
Photo by Cassandra Samuels
It's a time to nervously pitch that story to an agent or editor. To go to workshops and listen to keynote speakers and hopefully, have a light bulb moment or two. It's a great place to meeting old friends and make new ones.

We are very lucky here at Breathless in the Bush to have an inaugural member of RWAustralia as one of our own, Enisa.  Karen is also a member of this group and daughter of the founding member of RWAustrallia Lynne Wilding. This year marks the 25th Anniversary of Romance Writers Australia and how very far we have come from those very early days.

Enisa gave a wonderful speech at the opening of the conference about her friendship with Lynne and how RWAustralia came about. She used a quote from the movie Field of Dreams to express the the founding members hope for the organisation. "If we build it will they come?" The answer, of course, was YES!
Photo by Cassandra Samuels
The cocktail party was a fun event, made even more so by the fact that the First Sale Ribbons were given out this year. Both Karen M Davis and Marilyn Forsyth received a ribbon this year.
Photo by Cassandra Samuels
And I may have picked up a little something myself at the Awards Gala Dinner.
Photo by Cassandra Samuels

The conference keynote speakers were wonderful this year. Here are a few memorable quotes.

Michael Hauge

Photo by Enisa Haines

"You must elicit emotion in your reader"
"Stories at their core, are built on a simple foundation consisting of character, desire and Conflict."

Nikko and Jim McGoldrick
Photo by Cassandra Samuels
"To be a writer you need to be a glass half full type of person."
Nikko writes because, "It's the only time you can kidnap someone and it be legal.
Jim writes because, "In the fictional world we create, good can conquer evil."
Nikko writes because, "If I don't write my life is incomplete."
Jim writes beause, "I touch peoples lives and there is value in that."

Fiona McIntosh
Photo by Cassandra Samuels
Fiona made us laugh and think.
"A clear theme is crucial, especially for marketing."
"Where is the heartbeat of your story?"
"Fall in love with your male character and you'll be on the road to success."
"Write down your goals and then get on with it."
"Stop questioning the universe. The only way to find out if you're good enough is to do it."

One of the workshops that I really enjoyed was the, Honour and Honourable Quarrels - Dueling in the Age of Romance by Nic and Shay. What a comprehensive and informative workshop it was.
Photo by Cassandra Samuels
Love to Love - Catching up with all my author friends

Love to learn - About the business and craft of writing.
Love to Laugh - at the entertaining keynote speakers

Monday 15 August 2016

Fish Out of Water

BITB welcomes Elisabeth Rose, our lovely guest blogger!

Photo credit: Elisabeth Rose

One of the things that always makes me laugh in movies is someone inadvertently wandering on stage during a dance routine who doesn't know the steps but tries valiantly to keep up and fit in. That's probably why the fish out of water trope appeals to me in a story, it lends itself so well to comedy.

I couldn't find a sample of exactly what I wanted, but here's the fabulous Cyd Charisse in Meet Me in Las Vegas. The relevant part starts at about 1.30 if you don't want to watch the whole scene:


Video clip credit:


Of course Cyd Charisse is a wonderful dancer, but you get the idea.

In this trope we put our character in a situation where everyone else knows the routine and after a bit of a struggle to fit in, hidden strengths and talents can emerge. It's tailor- made for a heroine to grow which is another reason I like it. Often it's a city to country shift, but remember The Beverley Hillbillies? A whole shoal of fish out of water there!

In my book Trouble in Nirvana Primrose retreats from her stressful city life to find inner peace on her estranged brother's commune, in the beautiful Araluen Valley area of NSW. Contrary to her expectations, Nirvana doesn't embody its name and the inhabitants are more screwed up than she is. Undaunted, Primrose sets about fixing what she sees as the problems, but of course her arrival causes all sorts of trouble for everyone. Tom, the handsome farmer next door is a man she is desperate to impress but unfortunately he finds her attempts at embracing rural life highly amusing.

I laughed most of the way through this story and was able to use a pile of anecdotes and characters from my own childhood growing up on a farm.

Photo credit: Elisabeth Rose

Trouble in Nirvana is available in ebook or paperback through the Wild Rose Press here or through Amazon here.

Tell me, what's your favourite fish out of water story?

Elisabeth Rose

I love to love:

Music! I'm in a community orchestra and loving it after many years away from orchestral playing.

I love to laugh:

...that's it!

I love to learn: much as I can about everything.

Monday 8 August 2016

Newbie's Corner: A Room of One's Own Part One, A Writing Space of Your Own

with Sharon Burke

Image courtesy of Giphy
During May, I attended the Sydney Writers' Festival and went to a session called “A Room of One's Own”. Three fiction writers and members of the audience discussed this quote from an essay by Virginia Woolf: “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction”.

The words “a room of her own” were thought to have three meanings: the need for authors to have their own writing spaces, the imaginary world an author enters when he or she creates fiction and the world readers inhabit when they read fiction.

These interpretations of Virginia Woolf's words will be the subject of my next three blogs.

Cassandra recently wrote about the writing spaces of BITB members. Her article started me thinking more about writing spaces. Why are they so important to authors? Do they help us in our creative work? What can we learn from this?

I've written fiction and non-fiction for many years using a shared family computer at a shared desk. Some of my writing has been published so I know I can write effectively without having a private writing space but, despite this, for many years I've craved a writing space of my own. The writers I know treasure their writing spaces or really wish they had one. Having your own dedicated writing space seems to be a goal many writers share.

Maybe having our own writing spaces helps to foster our creativity. The shared space I used for over twenty years never meant as much to me as having my own laptop and roll-top desk. I could never make it my own.

Perhaps this relates to research findings from the world of office work. Efficiency experts promoted open plan offices in the 1990s and hot-desking in the early 2000s. Such arrangements improved communication to some extent, but to the disappointment of many employers they inhibited creativity. Studies such as those of Craig Knight (2010) have found that personalising your workspace fosters creativity. Having your own writing space allows this personalisation to happen to a degree than is possible with a shared space.

Think of the great writers who have had their own writing work spaces:
Jane Austen had her own writing table.

Laura Ingalls Wilder (of Little House on the Prairie fame) wrote on an esquiterie (writing desk) her husband had made as she travelled by wagon across the USA.

One of the writers at the Sydney Festival referred to a famous portrait of Charlotte and Emily Bronte – one is sitting on a chair, the other on her bed – both are working at their writing desks.

Do you have a dedicated writing space? Is it important for you to have one? What have you done to personalise it? Do you think your creativity improves when you use this space?
I love to love: My husband's great grandfather owned an esquiterie. It has recently come into our possession. Its beauty fires my imagination – what was written at it so long ago?

I love to laugh: I watched the Chaser's Election Desk on ABC iview the other night. It was hilarious.

I love to learn: I recently watched the 1970s TV series “Against The Wind” for the first time in 40 years. I'd love to learn more about life in Ireland during the late 1700s and early 1800s.

Monday 1 August 2016

Ending with a BANG!

with Enisa Haines

Image courtesy of: https/d.g.-assets/hostedimages

You're immersed in a book, totally captivated by the characters, the plot and the setting, and then, wham! The ending comes. An ending that unexpectedly introduces new characters or a subplot never hinted at previously, that has a sudden change in tone or leaves many questions unanswered. It's endings like these that leave readers disappointed, frustrated and annoyed and losing interest in the writer.

That's not an outcome any writer wants. It's often said, "The first chapter sells your novel. The last chapter sells your next one." How do we ensure this? How do we give closure to the story in such a way that readers gasp out, "Wow!", sigh with awe and yearn for more?

Ask yourself these 5 questions:

1. Does the ending evolve naturally from the progress of the plot? The ending is not text simply tacked on to close the story. From the first page to the last, everything that happens occurs for a reason and that reason leads the story towards the ending.

Image courtesy of:

Example: To Hell and Back by Juliana Stone:
     'This wasn't the end for them. This was the beginning of something new and exciting, and for the first time in forever, it seemed, Kira was content.
     She was safe and she was loved.
     As Logan placed his palm against her belly and murmured, "I love you, little Dove," Kira felt as if she'd found her way         home.'

2. Is the story complete, the plot and sub-plots wrapped up and all loose ends tied? Reveal everything that needs to be explained.

Image courtesy of:

Example: Broken Open by Lauren Dane:
     '"I love you, too, Tuesday Easton, woman of my dreams,       artist, my beauty."
     "Yeah, that's nice." She sighed happily and when he fell asleep again, he knew he'd always have a place to return to.'

3. Does the story end with a cliffhanger? This is not advised for stand-alone novels but for novels that are part of a series. Any questions planted in readers' minds or left unanswered will have them waiting for the next book.

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Example: Dark Witch (Book One of the Cousins O'Dwyer trilogy) by Nora Roberts:
'Deep in the woods in another time the wolf whimpered. The man inside it cursed. And with arts as black as midnight, slowly began to heal.
     Carefully, began to plan.'

4. Does the ending have a sense of surprise? An early detail, at first appearing trivial, can reappear and show the reader just how important it really is to the story.

Image courtesy of:

Example: Butterfly by Sharon Sala:
The first scene:
'If only she could become as small and insignificant as the lowly little worm, then maybe Clyde would never bother her again. And if she was as ugly as Clyde said she was, being invisible would protect her from offending people with her presence. It seemed like a good idea, and she even closed her eyes and tried to think herself small. But when she finally looked up, she was still China and the caterpillar was gone.'

The ending (after China sees herself for the first time in a mirror):
     '"So, is this a yes?" China asked.
      He started to smile.
     "It's a yes!" she crowed. "The man says yes!"
     "I don't know what happened to you, but whatever it is, I am  eternally glad."
     China kissed him soundly, savouring the truth in her heart.
"It was nothing," she said. "I just saw a butterfly."'

5. Does the story end with a last paragraph or line that moves readers emotionally and leaves them wanting to read on?

Image courtesy of:

Example: Cry No More by Linda Howard:
     '"I-uh-I'm Zach Winborn. Justin. Your son," he added, unnecessarily.
     Her face was wet, her eyes overflowing; the tears blurred his features. A sob burst out of her before she could stop it, and an alarmed expression crossed his face. Just as suddenly the sob turned into laughter, and she reached out and took his hand. "I've waited so long," she said, and drew him into the house.'

The examples above each answer a different question and yet each book ends with a bang. Each ending works! And that's what writers want.

Which endings work for you? What do you consider as 'do's and don't's' of last scenes? 

Love to love: discovering images on the wonderful World Wide Web. Like this one of handfasting - the wedding ceremony (where the term 'tie the knot' originated) popular in ancient times and now making a comeback.

Image courtesy of:

Love to laugh: at the funny gifs (like the one at the top).

Love to learn: how to end my novels with a punch!