Monday 25 June 2018

Approaching Experts for Help with Research

By Marilyn Forsyth

Image courtesy of giphy

So, you’ve got an idea for a story with, let’s say, a paramedic as your heroine. It’s the perfect career for the feisty but compassionate female character you have in mind, but it’s also a job you have zero knowledge of.

Where do you look for the information you’re going to need to add authenticity to this character?

The internet is the obvious place for background knowledge. But you don’t want just general stuff, you want job-specific info—the nitty gritty details, the day to day realities that will make your character and her experiences come to life on the page.

Image courtesy of

You need an EXPERT to answer the myriad questions burning your brain. Questions like: what are you thinking as you weave an ambulance through heavy traffic? How do you insert a canula? What do you say to a patient who believes they’re about to die?

This is the scenario I faced with my work-in-progress.

Rather than ask those questions on a site like QUORA (and hope the answers come from a ridgy-didge medico) or emailing the local ambulance station, I opted to make contact with the sister of a guy in my sons’ footy team who works as a paramedic.

Image courtesy of someeecards

Being a bit of an introvert, I was apprehensive about approaching her at a social function but the lovely Carol was happy to meet with me over coffee. Since then, her ongoing help has been invaluable in keeping the medical aspect of my story believable. (Apparently she got quite a few laughs from my sketchy medical knowledge in my early drafts.)

On my recent research trip to Wales, I again pulled on my big girl panties to request help. My Aussie heroine belongs to a Welsh Hazardous Area Response Team. After contacting the HART at Bridgend (near Cardiff), I was invited to visit the base and given a tour of the facility by Dai, the Training Manager. Not only that, but the next day I was fortunate enough to spend the morning with a group of HART operatives training for water rescues at a white-water rafting centre.

So much fun! Not only watching the procedures, but also interacting with the team. And talking with the team members has given me a great insight into the types of characters who make this job their life. All excellent fodder for my book.

In the past, I’ve contacted people by email or phone to ask questions—the researchers at the National Library of Wales, an opal dealer from Melbourne, a guide from a pearl farm—but nothing beats that personal contact.

So, here are some things I’ve learned about approaching experts for help with research:

  • People passionate about their job/interests are more than happy to share their knowledge.
  • Be brief and straightforward in stating your reason for the research.
  • Prepare your questions beforehand, and only ask what you can’t find out for yourself elsewhere.
  • Make notes as you go (or record any interviews), and take photos (with permission, of course).
  • Show your gratitude by mentioning them by name in your Acknowledgements.
  • Let them know when the book is published.

The handsome HART heroes (from left): Keith, Dom, Gavin, Martyn, Craig.

Approaching people in person isn’t easy (for me, anyway) but the rewards of direct contact with an expert, as I discovered, are astronomical!

Do you have any stories about asking an expert for help with your book? I’d love to hear them!

Love to Love getting together with my crit partners once a month to discuss all things writing.❤

Love to Laugh at the silliest things. Something doing the rounds recently on Facebook was to post your name replacing every vowel with 'oodle', so my name came out as Moodleroodleloodlen. Go on, do it! It's fun. 😄

Love to Learn how to improve my craft, which is why I'll be attending the 2018 RWAus Conference in Sydney in August.

Monday 18 June 2018

When a Novel's Setting Becomes Another Character

by Fiona Lowe

When I set out to write my Australian-set family sagas, my focus was initially on the relationships between siblings, their partners and their parents. I'd planned for those relationships to drive the story forward. However, it quickly became apparent that the districts and the towns where I'd set the novels had become characters in their own right and integral to the books.

Daughter of Mine is set in the Western District of Victoria, the home of the squattocracy. (Not Victorian? Think Bowral in NSW). The ancestors of many families still living in the district made a fortune in wool, built massive mansions and public buildings, entered politics and became the closest thing Australia had to an aristocracy. Today, their descendants still wield some social power in the district so that's exactly what my fictitious family does. Birrawarra's social hierarchy became an integral part of the plot and I had fun creating two glorious 1880s blue stone mansions for my families to live in.

Birthright is set in the heart of the north-east of Victoria because gourmet food, tourism, snow-skiing and a history of logging was a vital part of the book. Once again, the setting quickly became a character, adding an extra dimension to the book. I spent a lot of time craving gourmet goat's cheese, sourdough bread and red wine while I wrote Birthright!

When I was a child, I read Anne of Green Gables as well as the other five books in the series. Lucy Maud Montgomery used words to paint such vivid pictures of Prince Edward Island that I visited it as an adult. I know some readers have visited some of the mansions in the Western District as a result of reading Daughter of Mine.

When you read a novel, do you notice the setting? Have you ever visited a place because you have read about it in a novel?

Fiona Lowe has been a midwife, a sexual health counsellor and a family support worker--an ideal careeer for an author who writes novels about family and relationships. A recipient of the prestigious USA RITA award and the Australian RuBY award, Fiona's books are set in small country towns and feature real people facing tough choices and explore how family ties impact on their decisions.

You can find her at,
and Goodreads. Daughter of Mine and Birthright (HQ Fiction) are her current releases.

Love to Love: the peace of the Victorian high country.

Love to Laugh: The Good Place on Netflix is making me smile a lot.

Love to Learn: I always thought latex was a man-made product but in the Age quiz I learned that latex is the white sap from plants like spurge and rubber trees.

Monday 11 June 2018

Using Music to Create - 'Collector of Hearts' Release Day

By Cassandra Samuels

Tomorrow is the big day! Release day for Collector of Hearts, Book 1 in the Regency Hearts series. To celebrate I will be giving away a copy of my new book to one lucky person who leaves a comment.

buy here

Today I'm going to talk a little about how this book came to life and the power of music to help create. For me the spark of a story can come from many places but for this book it was a song, The Reason by Hoberstank. I thought, what if there was this man who is pretty messed up, who really needs someone to show him that he can love and also be worthy of love?

I pictured Robert Mallory, Marquis of Shelton, as being a rake, someone who was as notorious on the duelling field as he was in the bedroom. But what led him to this place? What happened to him to make him this way? The more I thought about it, the more I began to know this character, to understand him.

I entered my first chapter into a competition and it finalled. Okay, I was beginning on the right track. This entry became my first chapter but the comments from the judges made me realise that I needed to get the reader onside first. I worked and worked on the prologue because I knew if I didn't the reader would think Robert was a jerk. I entered the competition again, and again it finalled. This time the judges comments were more sympathetic, so I worked on the story some more. 

Image result for re-writing meme

I usually work with headphones on because, if I don't, I am distracted by every little noise in the house. The music gets me in the mood to write and then becomes white noise after a time. That's when I know I am in the zone 

Robert Mallory is definitely egotisical. He's been living off his reputation as the Collector of Hearts for years, and when he meets Arabella he has no idea how his life is going to be turned upside down. The song Writings on the Wall by Sam Smith sums up how important Arabella becomes to Robert in his search for himself and redemption.

Next I had to create a heroine who would be strong enough to put up with his nonsense and also love him despite his many faults. Originally, I had Arabella's twin sister having her own love story simultaneously with Arabella, but that meant less time for Robert and Arabella, and I needed all the words possible to make this love story work. I pared the story back and under the guidance of the all-knowing Kate Cuthbert, and with the support of my crit partners Marilyn and Enisa, I re-wrote the whole thing. But when I needed inspiration for how Arabella felt about Robert, I turned again to music. For Arabella I listened to Starving by Hailee Steinfeld.

In Collector of Hearts Robert talks about love as just part of a game. A game he always plays to win. He's talked himself into believing that this is how things are done, and when Arabella challenges that idea he sets about to prove himself right. Only he gets caught up in his own game and Arabella doesn't play by his rules. This sets him on a path to a place he never knew he wanted to be. Falling in love. True love. The epic song Beautiful Lie by Thirty Seconds To Mars seemed to sum it up perfectly.

 I hope you enjoy Collector of Hearts as much as I loved creating it.

Do you listen to music when reading or writing? What is your favourite song to listen to at the moment?

Love to Love  listening to music and discovering new ways to be inspired.

Love to Laugh at early copies of my work.

Love to Learn from wonderful volunteer judges in contests. Such feedback is priceless.

Monday 4 June 2018

Romance Around The World: Italy

The Magic of Italy 

By Sharon Bryant

Italy is filled with romance. The art, architecture, history and culture are inspiring. Birthplace of the Renaissance, and cradle of the Ancient Roman empire, this setting has so much to offer the romance writer and reader. The natural beauty of places like Capri, Florence and Venice foster the imagination. And let’s not forget the masterful, passionate Italian heroes and strong, independently minded heroines. Their zest for life practically leaps off the page. Here are three of my favourite Italian romance novels. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.


Julie Jacobs receives a letter from her recently deceased aunt. She discovers her real name, Giulietta Tolomei, and learns her aunt hoped she'd travel to Sienna to find her mother’s treasure. She flies to Italy where she meets the attractive Alessandro Santini, but is immediately wary of him. Julie gradually uncovers the tale of her ancestor Giulietta, whose life story inspired Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. It soon becomes clear, criminals crave her mother’s treasure. Finding love with Alessandro but caught in a web of intrigue, Julie realises the curse from Shakespeare’s play, a plague on both your houses, may be real and impacting directly on her life.


Struggling to rediscover joy in life after the death of her husband, writer Sarah Halliman rents a 400-year-old villa, Rosamanti, on the Isle of Capri. On arrival, she learns the owner has died, and the property now belongs to a handsome but poor waiter, Pietro. As Sarah’s relationship with Pietro grows, she begins to write again, and becomes fascinated by Rosamanti. While researching the villa’s history, she stumbles upon clues that may help Pietro, or lead to disaster.

Hot Italian Nights 

A series of six novellas set in Italy. Each tale is loosely connected, the hero or heroine in one novella become minor characters in the next. Annie West creates strong, likeable, passionate men and women and page-turning plots. I found myself eager to learn the route to happiness each pair of star-crossed lovers took.

I love to love: I’m currently planning an overseas trip with my husband and father. Being with people you love is the best.

I love to laugh: The students I teach had a dance last night. They were playing limbo and having a ball.

I love to learn: I saw The Merry Widow with my father at the Sydney Opera House during the week and was fascinated to later research the history of this marvellous ballet.