Monday 28 November 2016

What's on Your Reading List for Christmas?

Miranda's Musings

Less than a month to Christmas, darlings! I've been shopping, working out who's been naughty or nice (actually, all my precious people are nice), and planning the cooking. Like everyone, no doubt! But every year, between Christmas Day and New Year's Day, I take a 'week off'. I feast off leftovers and wallow in the down time by - you guessed it - reading!

I have a billion trillion books on my Kindle (er, kidding) (actually, not really kidding) but I always ask for books for Christmas. I mean, what's a stocking without a book stuffed in it? And chocolate. Don't forget the chocolate.

On my Christmas reading list are my Go-To fave authors. I'm usually exhausted by Boxing Day and I want comfort reading, but I still want it to be festive in nature. Here's a few on my Christmas list, and I have been good, I truly have...

First up I'm going to dive into An Aussie Summer Christmas by our lovely guest blogger Narelle Atkins, and others. She talked about the box set here. I've already indulged in The Trouble With Mistletoe by Jill Shalvis. This is the second book in her new Heartbreaker Bay series, and so far it is fabulous, in a zillion ways. Can't say I've ever read a Christmas quite like the one portrayed here!

Picture credit:

I've also whizzed through the gorgeous-looking novella Christmas Wishes New Year Kisses by Michelle Douglas. Isn't that a gloriously happy cover? Somehow the hot summer beach and Christmas go together here in Australia. The perfect time to laze and enjoy each other's company...and read. Here two stressed out vets find true love. A sweet friends-to-lovers story.

Picture credit:

To round things out and read about a bit of snow (one way to cool down!) I'll hop over to Sarah Morgan's Miracle on 5th Avenue. 'Tis the season for miracles, yes? This is the third book in her New York series, which is to absolutely die for. Thank you Sarah, for your marvellously wonderful books.

Picture credit:

   Picture credit: 

And thankyou Debbie Macomber, without whom it wouldn't be Christmas... I hang out for her thoughtfully beautiful festive story every year. This time it's The Twelve Days of Christmas. A truly special book, about the surprising power of kindness in people's lives. Pay it forward, people, and the reward will be all yours - and maybe not in quite the way you think it will be?! Finally, I think I need something wintry and comforty and foody like The Magic of Christmas, an oldie but a goodie from Trisha Ashley.

Picture credit:

All in all, I'm sorted. What books are on your Christmas list?

Happy Christmas to you and all your precious ones, and may be there be books in your Christmas stocking.


Love from Miranda xx


Love to love: everything to do with Christmas! Everything!

Love to laugh: at the excitement of children at this special time.

Love to learn: what's been happening to friends through their Christmas letters.

Monday 21 November 2016

The Last Post: Completing Your Manuscript

with Dee Scully

The Last Post is traditionally a bugle call signalling the end of the day but over the years it has become better known as a farewell to departed servicemen and women. As writers we have no such farewell for our manuscripts. Often it’s difficult to know just when a manuscript is finished; so how do we know when to call it a day, to stop polishing and submit the work and move on to the next manuscript? What is our Last Post?

Breathless’s own Cassandra Samuels, author of A Scandalous Wager, doesn’t feel she’s ever ready to let go. “I know I always feel I can do more…but eventually you have to look at it and say to yourself [that] you have done the best you can with it and now it is time to let some fresh eyes see it. That’s when I send it to my editor."

Multi-published author Nikki Logan says much the same. “I don’t think you’re ever ‘done’ revising. Polishing. Tweaking. Second-guessing. Angsting. After a few books, you come to realise the signs of over-working—not necessarily in the finished product but in your own processes. If I catch myself spending a whole day on a single scene in the final stages of editing I know I’m going too far. That late in the process I should just be flying through the work, buffing a few rough edges. Not reworking.”

Alli Sinclair, author of Under the Spanish Stars and the May 2017 release, Beneath the Parisian Skies, agrees with Cassandra and Nikki. “I’m a perfectionist. In my eyes, a book is never completely finished. There will always be something I want to change, so I’ve had to learn to let go.” 

Alli suggests using the following three-point checklist:

*Have I done structural and copy edits to the best of my ability?
*Have I given it one last read through to make sure it holds together and there are no dangling thread storylines?
*If I read it again, will I vomit? (This is a very big sign that I have read and reread and revised so much that I just can’t stand the sight of it anymore!)

But what is our Reveille, our Last Post, the one thing to tell us our manuscript is ready to submit for publication? All our authors agreed, our Last Post is tweaking. If you’ve structurally edited your story, revised the copy, and made sure there are no plot-holes, then you’re done. If you tweak much more you run the risk of tweaking your voice right out of the manuscript. So, if you’ve done all the above and are just tweaking, stop and heed your writer’s bugle call. The day is done. Your manuscript is finished. Time to submit and move on.

How do you know when your manuscript is ready to submit?

I love to love:  our servicemen and women.  I have them to thank for my freedom.

I love to laugh:  at my iPhone's autocorrect.  Does it really think I don't know how to spell duck?

I love to learn:  new things about writing.  It helps me grow as a writer and as a human being.

Sadly, this will be Dee's last post for Breathless in the Bush. We have loved having her as part of our team and hope to welcome her back at some time in the future. We're sure all her loyal supporters will miss her as much as we will. We wish you well, Dee, and a heart-felt thank you for all you have done for us. xx

Monday 14 November 2016

Four Magic Words - Christmas Holiday Box Set - Just What Does Go into Making One?

Guest Post by Amy Rose Bennett

Holly and Hopeful Hearts

A holiday box set with a difference.

Holly and Hopeful Hearts is the latest release from the Bluestocking Belles—Jude Knight, Jessica Cale, Sherry Ewing, Nicole Zoltack, Susana Ellis, Caroline Warfield, and me, Amy Rose Bennett. Our Regency Christmas anthology features eight original novellas centred in and around a Yuletide house party and New Year’s Eve charity subscription ball that takes place at Hollystone Hall, the country estate of the Duchess of Haverford.

Many holiday box sets are released this time of year, so why is the Bluestocking Belles’ anthology a little different? Well, we like to think it’s special as all of the Belles have worked together to produce a series of cleverly interconnected stories. They are linked, not just by the setting and the central character, the Duchess of Haverford, but as you’ll see, in many other ways as well.

The Duchess of Haverford

So, you might be wondering, how did we make this all come together? Whilst it was a lot of fun, and very fulfilling as a joint project, it has taken a good deal of planning and commitment from all of us, to say the least! One of the main challenges was for the Belles to come up with a setting, time frame, unifying theme, and an ensemble cast of characters that we could all work with. Our main story arc—the Yuletide house party culminating in a charity ball—was actually envisaged in January this year. Then over the next few months, we began to add other unifying details—the characters, the Duchess of Haverford (a creation of Jude Knight) and her personal assistant, Miss Cedrica Grenford, appear in every novella. In fact, Miss Grenford has her own story; A Suitable Husband by Jude Knight is an ‘in-between the novellas’ romance. A house party planning committee meeting that takes place at Miss Clemens’s Book Palace and Tea Rooms is another central event that joins the novellas. And then as we began to write our stories, we all had to work out the finer details including other ‘cross-over’ scenes and characters...

For instance, three of our novellas—Valuing Vanessa, A Kiss for Charity, and Dashing Through the Snow—have heroes and heroines that attend the same Grand Masquerade event at Vauxhall Gardens on the 26th August, 1812. During the course of the Yuletide house party, many characters also visit a local orphanage and attend a costume ball. To coordinate scenes such as this, we were diligent in sharing as many details as we could. Some of the methods we employed included creating a master list of characters (complete with physical descriptions) and a daily Hollystone Hall house party activities spreadsheet. We also created a document with descriptions of the rooms and the grounds at Hollystone Hall—several of us have written key scenes that take place in the Duchess of Haverford’s personal study and in the gardens. Some Belles also made use of a ‘story-telling writing cave’—a private Facebook group—when we wanted to draft and co-write certain scenes together.

Miss Cedrica Grenford

One very sweet, unifying thread in all the novellas is the inclusion of a litter of mischievous kittens—so look out for a kitten in each story. Other cross-over characters include my villainess from Dashing Through the Snow, Lady Stanton; she appears in Jude Knight’s story, The Bluestocking and the Barbarian. And Jude Knight’s Weasel Winderfield, a male character who is often up to no good, appears in Artemis, The Bluestocking and the Barbarian, An Open Heart, and Christmas Kisses.

Research for this box set was a team effort as well—aside from sharing information about Vauxhall Gardens (the layout and events), charity subscription balls, and Yuletide and New Year’s Eve traditions in the Regency period, we even shared the 1812 calendar and regional weather reports from that year!

The Bluestocking Belles proudly support the Malala Fund charity
25% of the proceeds of Holly and Hopeful Hearts will go to the Malala Fund.

All in all, producing Holly and Hopeful Hearts was an ambitious undertaking by the Bluestocking Belles but with great teamwork, patience and a good dose of humour, we did it and we are all very proud of what we have created. We hope readers will enjoy our stories too!

What’s your favourite type of romantic Christmas read? 

Do you like longer stories, short and sweet (or spicy) novellas, or holiday box sets? And do you have an all-time favourite Christmas story?

I love to love... celebrating Christmas with my wonderful husband and family.

I love to laugh... with my husband. He makes me smile every single day.

I love to learn... about the craft and business of writing whenever I can.

Heat rating: G-PG13

Buy Links for Holly and Hopeful Hearts:

Amazon US  Amazon AUS  Kobo  B&N  iBooks


The Bluestocking Belles, the “BellesInBlue”, are seven very different writers united by a love of history and a history of writing about love. From sweet to steamy, from light-hearted fun to dark tortured tales full of angst, from London ballrooms to country cottages to the sultan’s seraglio, one or more of us will have a tale to suit your tastes and mood. Come visit us at and kick up your bluestockinged heels!


Website and home of the Teatime Tattler: Facebook: Twitter: Pinterest: Amazon Author page:

Please note, the Bluestocking Belles profile picture is taken from ‘In the Library’, a public domain painting by Auguste Toulmouche (1872).

Monday 7 November 2016

Newbie's Corner: A Room of One's Own Part Three: The World the Romance Reader Enters

with Sharon Burke

Hi Everyone,

I would like to share the third interpretation made at the Sydney Writers' Festival of Virginia Woolf's words: "A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction",  and my thoughts about the fictional world a romance reader enters.

The "Room" the Romance Reader Enters

Some people attending the Sydney Writers' Festival thought the words “a room of her own” could be applied to readers of fiction because when you read quality fiction you enter a world of the author's imagination.
(image courtesy of Pixabay)

Suspending Disbelief

In order for readers to enter this creative world, they must suspend disbelief. Strong characters and a compelling plot will help, but an integral part of suspending disbelief involves establishing a strong emotional connection between your readers and your major characters. A romance reader must feel the pain, sorrow and joy of the hero and heroine and be invested in their future. In other words, she (or he) must vicariously experience the emotions of the viewpoint character/s.

The five senses and vicarious experience

If you've read romance writing "how to" books or attended talks about the craft of romance writing, you know language incorporating the five senses helps the reader make these emotional connections.

Have you ever wondered why? Psychologists tell us many of our emotions relate to a primitive part of the brain called the limbic system. It is possible to vicariously experience emotions based on past experiences.
(image courtesy of Pixabay)

For example, if you have a wonderful relaxing day in a beautiful garden, the scents, colours, warmth and sounds, together with the feel of the flowers and grass would be associated with your memory of that day and the emotions you experienced. The stronger your feelings about the day, the stronger the associations built in your memory.
(image courtesy of Pixabay)

If you then read a well-written love scene set in a beautiful garden, and the writing appeals to your five senses, you will associate the passage with your prior similar sensory experiences and may vicariously experience the emotions the author is trying to engender.
(image courtesy of Pixabay)

In short, if you want to be an effective fiction writer there are powerful psychological reasons to learn to write with “emotional punch”.

What is the most compelling novel you have ever read? Which scene sticks in your memory? Which characters do you truly care about and why?

I love to love:  

I just spend a month holidaying in Hawaii and cruising back to Sydney with my husband. We had a fabulous time.

I love to laugh

The new television series of “Upper Middle Bogan” has just started. The interactions of the Wheeler and the Bright family members are so much fun to watch.

I love to learn: 

I studied psychology many years ago. The knowledge I gained is proving invaluable for me as an aspiring romance author.