Monday 26 March 2018

Left Brain/Right Brain: The Critic and the Muse

by Enisa Haines

Image courtesy of giphy

I'm a hospital scientist by day, working in an Anatomical Pathology laboratory, and a writer by night. Two very different activities, one calling for logic, detail and factual analysis and the other creativity, spontaneity and access to emotions as I bring to life in words the stories I imagine.

Image courtesy of giphy

That I can be both logical and creative can be explained by the Left Brain/Right Brain split-brain theory. Early research showed the brain having two parts. The Left Brain is logical, in charge of reason, calculation, analysis, detail and language. The Right Brain, the creative side, deals with emotions, imagination, creativity, intuition and spontaneity.

Image courtesy of: (and enhanced by E. Haines)

So the scientist in me makes use of the Left Brain and the writer grabs hold of the imagination in the Right Brain. That makes sense. To a point.

If the writer side of me used only the Right Brain I would come up with ideas and build imaginary worlds where the characters I create come alive. But I'd have no words to write (the Left Brain controls language) and the stories would remain only imagination.

The early researchers were wrong. Later research revealed our brains are far more complex. Logic and creativity are not simply Left Brain/Right Brain. They are under the control of each side of the brain working together as a whole.

Therein lies a problem common to all writers. In the Left Brain the critic resides. That little voice that pushes you to edit what you write as you write. In the Right Brain lives the muse. The source of inspiration and imagination and high word output. And the two do not get on!

Yes, we need good grammar and punctuation and attention-catching prose but editing as you write slows the writing and your muse, so eager to create at first and now frustrated, retreats. And your writing stalls. A situation no writer wants.

Silence the critic, was advice I'd read. Easy for some, not so easy for me. My critic, so happily in tune with the scientist side of me, was the cause of many instances of creative frustration. But, passionate about writing, I now intentionally ignore my critic, and my writing flows!

Do you struggle with your critic? Or do your words fly on the page?

Love to love: time spent with family is always precious.

Love to laugh: rush-hour radio comedians make my commute to and from work such fun drives.

Love to learn: more about the brain. There's so much we don't know and don't use.

Monday 19 March 2018

On Finding Your Voice

with Penelope Janu

We'd like to give a big welcome to the lovely Penelope Janu, our guest blogger this week. 

I started writing creatively five years ago, after working for many years as a lawyer and legal academic (my six children kept me busy as well!). Harlequin Mira published my first novel, In at the Deep End, in 2017, and my second novel with Harlequin Mira, On the Right Track, will be published in June 2018. Another novel, On the Same Page, won the XO Romance Prize for 2017, and will be published by Brio Books. It’s been a busy few years, and a very steep learning curve—but in some ways starting from scratch, and doing things a little differently, has been a good thing.

Available through Amazon and Booktopia

Much as writers do have to think about which publisher might be the best one to publish their book, or whether self-publishing is an option, I believe you should start out, particularly as a new writer, by ‘finding your voice’. Don’t worry about what others might think, just write the book you want to write, and then see if there’s a home for it. And even if there isn’t, you will have completed a novel and be ready to embark on the next one with all that you have learnt.

Link to pre-order 

My next insight relates to voice as well, but not mine—the voices of my characters. All my stories are told by one character, a woman, in first person. This means the reader sees most things from the heroine’s perspective. So how do we show the hero’s perspective?

Firstly, dialogue. I enjoy writing dialogue so, once I’ve worked my characters out, this part of the novel is an absolute joy to write. Sometimes I have pages of dialogue that end up being reduced to half a page, but it’s almost like my characters needed to have the long conversation, for me to get to the essence of what they needed to say.

Secondly, emails, texts, letters. I like incorporating these forms of communication in novels even though, in my view, they have to be used sparingly. Including emails and so on from my heroes is an excellent way to get their voice on the page for the reader. Not only that, when the main POV character receives the correspondence, it will give her a good opportunity to ponder what is meant by it. Although often the reader might see that she hasn’t understood him as well as she might! A good example? Lizzie Bennet poring over Mr Darcy’s letter in Pride and Prejudice.

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There are other forms of communication too. I used blog posts in In at the Deep End to describe some of the historical background of early explorer expeditions to the South Pole. The circumstances were relevant to the contemporary plot, but to put them in dialogue would have been clunky—condensed they work well. In On the Same Page, my heroine is a writer of historical romance, and I use excerpts of her writing to demonstrate how the characters in her novels were starting to bear an uncanny likeness to the contemporary hero (who wrote emails that demonstrated he had no idea what was going on!) The heroine is a speech pathologist in On the Right Track. She uses animal assisted therapy, and a computer program developed for children without speech, other interesting means of communication that also become means of communication between the characters.

Have you come across devices that work well to illustrate character motivations or thoughts? Do you have examples of novels to show where this is done well? I’d love to read your thoughts!

Love to love: quiet scenes in a novel, where you can imagine that, once the characters have overcome their obstacles, they will be perfectly matched

Love to laugh: when my family imagines closing my laptop means I’ve finished thinking about my characters for the day

Love to learn: new things that relate to what I’m writing—polar exploration, and species of eucalypts. I know so much more than I did when I started writing my novels!

Monday 12 March 2018

New-to-me Aussie Authors!

Miranda's March Musings!

Welcome, darlings! Have you been reading up a storm? If you missed Alyssa's marvellous blog last week about why romance novels are good for you (as if there is any doubt), go here. I'm so converted already.

I had recent surgery on a misbehaving hand and had to do a strict regime of 'rest and elevate' with said hand above my heart. This meant a lot of sitting down with my hand on pillows. As it was sore and I had utter brain fog from the anaesthetic, this was fine for a few days - until I could think again, and started to get a teensy bit bored. So I 'rested' my way through four seasons of the wonderful Midsomer Murders, seasons 9-12. Love that I've got heaps more seasons to go.

Picture credit:

I also read, read, read, and discovered some fabulous Aussie authors/books completely new to me, which I'm totally sharing with you.

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A great find is Jacquie Underdown's Bittersweet, first book in a new series about three brothers who own a vineyard. I cannot tell a lie, I won this book in an online chat (yay, thanks Jacquie!), so I plunged in with no preconceptions...and was still sitting in my chair (resting and elevating) a few hours later, sort of sobbing and gasping and thinking what absolute gold this book is. Failed chef Amy takes over her friend Rachel's cupcake shop, and get reacquainted with Rachel's brother-in-law Tom. 'Reacquainted' is code for: wow, these two are explosive together! Bittersweet is very raw and real. An unthinkable tragedy happens, and there has to be an implosion before things can ease. But along the way...Amy and Tom, magical Cupid cupcakes, wine... Brilliant. 

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I had the enormous pleasure of sitting next to Maddison Michaels at a recent ARRA High Tea, and got all enthusiastic hearing about her debut Victorian romance, The Devilish Duke. What a knockout first book, Maddison, congratulations! I adored Lady Sophie Wolcott, and how she had that devilish Devlin running in circles around her while she completely resisted to his charms. Loved the cameo with Queen Victoria, I was very amused, and also the suspense-y parts with a killer on the loose. Look for the scene where the Sophie's brother battles for her honour with the duke. Heh, another amusing part. Looking forward to the next book already.

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Last but not least is The Wife's Tale by Christine Wells. It's a true crime I haven't read Christine's books before (oh so sorry), but I now intend to hoover up her others asap; also more of the wonderful historicals she writes as Christina Brooke. Thankfully I've read and loved some of the latter! The Wife's Tale goes between Queensland, Australia, and the Isle of Wight. Modern day lawyer Liz is sent by her boss to the Isle, to investigate an historical 18th century 'situation' pertaining to a beautiful property there called Seagrove. He wants her to pursue its sale for him as he may well have a claim on it, but, well, it's complicated - and the modern day (rather dishy) Lord Nash wants to sell under no circumstances. There's lots of intrigue, drama (understatement) - including a scandalous court case, and huge emotion, plus a nod to how awfully women were treated in past days. Just. Stunning.

Have you read any new-to-you authors? Tell me about your Great Discoveries.

Love from Miranda. xxx

Love to Love:
New category romance coming out from fave authors, like Michelle Douglas, and Kelly Hunter.

Love to Laugh:
I never guess the villain in Midsomer Murders. Sigh...

Love to Learn:
Discovering new authors is Just! So! Exciting! to me.

Monday 5 March 2018

Romance Novels Are Good For You

By Alyssa J. Montgomery

                                                                   Image courtesy of

We all know that romance novels are good for us...don't we?

According to Susan Quilliam, a British relationship psychologist, this isn't the case! She says they "offer an idealized version of romance which can make some women feel bad about themselves because their relationships aren't perfect" and that they "may lead to women making poor health decisions including not using a condom during sex." She slams the "deep strand of escapism, perfectionism and idealization (which) runs through the genre."

Critics have fired rounds of bullets at our genre since the first romance novel was written. Consider the following points to deflect them.

1. Reading romance novels can inspire healthier relationships
Romance novels are a celebration of love and highlight many obstacles that must be overcome in achieving love. The characters are flawed and yet they find their HEA. Central to our genre are important messages about the importance of communication, trust and loyalty. We read that mistakes are made and that forgiveness and compromise are vital ingredients to a successful relationship. I believe application of these lessons to our own relationships will make them healthier.

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2. They provide comfort and inspire hope.
Yes, romance novels provide a form of escapism from mundane and stressful tasks of daily life. Yay! Reading is a little bit of "just-for-me-time". Romances allow us to mentally unwind - to de-stress - and to emerge from the story with renewed freshness and energy. Subconsciously, seeing characters achieve their goals despite adversity may also give us confidence that we can conquer challenges we face in real-life.

3. There can be positive effects on love life.
Readers say that a steamy love scene can inspire intimacy, make them feel more confident in their sexual self-expression and lead to their relationships being spiced up in the bedroom.

                                                                                    Image Courtesy of

4. Positive Physiological Effects
Reading, in general, has been shown to enhance brain function. Romance reading has the added benefit of emotional stimulation.
Neurological chemical processes occur when we are with loved ones. These cause the release of oxytocins and dopamine (good for the heart and for lowering blood pressure). The feelings of pleasure we have when reading a romance can also be linked to increases in these chemical levels. Nikki Logan discusses this in her book, The Chemistry of Reading - Arousing Your Reader.

5. Romance novels have helped empower women.
This statement is a topic all in itself and as I'm now at my word limit, I'll be exploring this topic in my blogspot here on October 8th. Stay tuned...

What other points would you add to the list in support of romance novels being good for us?

Love to Love romance stories that have ideals and provide escapism.

Love to Laugh about the misconceptions people have about those of us who read romance. (Fabio fantasies indeed!!)

Love to Learn that romance novels are physiologically good for my health!