Monday 23 December 2019

Monday 16 December 2019

Miranda's Christmas Musings!

Dear ones, HAPPY CHRISTMAS! It's such a wonderful time of the year, a special time to enjoy family and friends, and eat too much and sing carols. And hopefully, time to sit down and read. My word. You don't need to ask me what I'm giving people this Christmas: books! I always enjoy receiving them, too, but really I love anything that comes my way. Just the fact someone has thought of me is enough. Love is in the air and all that.

You all know I'm absolutely smitten by Christmas books. I look forward to them every year and start reading them around October. I find them fun and lovely and absolutely essential to my festive enjoyment. So what have I read this season?

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I always begin with Debbie Macomber's Christmas novel. This year it's A Mrs. Miracle Christmas. Oh the bliss. There might be a little heavenly intervention for Laurel and Zach from angelic old friends in this book! Debbie writes so sweetly, you could pop this in anyone's stocking and they will thank you. It doesn't seem to be available on Kindle yet, so I splurged and bought the gorgeous sparkly little hardback. It didn't break the bank and I truly would not have minded if it did. 💗

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The Scrooge Of Loon Lake by Carrie Nichols was next. I love Dickens and his story A Christmas Carol. With the title of Carrie's book referencing old Scrooge, I was hooked by the title alone. Call me facile, but hey, I know I'm among friends who choose books for the titles and/or covers. Yes? I thought so! This 'Scrooge' is an injured veteran, a grouchy hermit on the outside and secretly all marshmallow on the inside. Say no more. I'm in love.

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Next came a delight from Barbara WallaceHer Convenient Christmas Date. Thrillingly, this is the same family from Their Christmas Miracle, which I read and enjoyed this time last year! (I might be a creature of habit.) I love the way Barbara Wallace addressed the whole issue of low self-esteem and feelings of inferiority for this ex-footballer and his pretend-date heiress. Such a light but lovely touch as a relationship of convenience turns serious. And wonderfully festive.

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Our very own lovely Alyssa J Montgomery has gifted us her fabulous book The Magic of Christmas. So, so beautiful. I know for a fact that Alyssa is a wonderful pianist (as am I, but maybe *cough* not as wonderful), and so is her heroine Grace - who now cleans houses for a living. When her billionaire client Jack accidentally hears her play his grand piano, his world tilts a little. This is a Cinderella story with a poignant difference. Both Jack and Grace are damaged people, but there is a certain someone who might be sprinkling a little bit of Christmas magic around, to help them come together... Sigh.

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Christmas on Hope Street is written by beloved fellow blogger, Jayne Kingsley, with her friends Megan MayfairStella Quinn and Marianne Bayliss. These novellas are perfect to snatch a little time out in all the busyness of things, and relax. There are movie references and vintage fashions, bell making and a determined chef with wooing on his mind. Intrigued? Read on! I intended to read each story by itself, then, you know, 'go and do something' - the To Do List is endless this time of year, isn't it my darlings? But somehow I found myself mysteriously melded to my chair and I couldn't put this charmer down. Thanks girls! And more please!

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It wouldn't be Christmas without a very British snowy get-together of festiveness, food, family and fun in a big house. Voila! Trisha Ashley has given us The Christmas Invitation. Someone said reading it is like being wrapped up in a fluffy blanket with a cup of hot chocolate. In dear old hot Oz, maybe we don't have to worry about getting so cosy, but the sentiment is exactly the same. As Christmas approaches artist (and recovering from pneumonia) Meg is invited to a big old house in Lancashire to paint some portraits. Only trouble is, she discovers the nephew of the lady of the house is someone with whom she has An Unfortunate Past. There's a dear little boy, a dog, brilliant food, and wonderfully eccentric characters to charm you here. Simply marvellous. Do stuff it in your stocking!

Dearest readers, wishing you a very happy Christmas and a splendid New Year. Hug your precious ones, be kind, stay safe, and enjoy some wonderful reading. See you all in 2020!

Love from Miranda xxx

And pssssst! Any Christmas reads you've loved? Any NY resolutions you can share (like, 'read more')?

Love to laugh:

At the cute cat videos as they destroy Christmas trees. That was my Tess! I kept finding baubles all over the house when she was around. 😻

Love to love:

Christmas everything. And I have no regrets about that. 🎇

Love to learn:

You can still get a copy of A Very Aussie Christmas from the Breathless Girls here. Give yourself a Christmas pressie! 

Monday 9 December 2019

Kissing under the Mistletoe - Northern vs Southern Hemisphere Christmas Romance

By Alyssa J. Montgomery

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We're all aware that while Australians often swelter in heatwave conditions on Christmas Day, people in the Northern Hemisphere can be snowed in.

There are an increasing number of Australian-themed Christmas cards such as Santa with his surfboard, and kangaroos pulling his sleigh, however the majority of Christmas cards still depict raging fires, Christmas bells, and snow scenes. Partly, of course, this stems from the fact that many who've migrated to Australia have come from the northern hemipshere. But, is it true, that many of us are "Dreaming of a White Christmas" because there's something more romantic about a "Winter Wonderland"?

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When I was asked to write a Christmas-themed romance, I chose London as my setting without any hesitation because Christmas in the colder climate of the northern hemisphere has always held more appeal to me. Maybe it's partly because I'm relaxed and on holidays when I'm there, but I think it's more to do with the amazing Christmas lights (which can be appreciated more because it gets dark earlier), the carollers who sing in the streets, the draw of the European Christmas markets and wandering through them drinking mulled wine. There are so many people out on the street enjoying Christmas cheer in a period of the year where the climate would otherwise keep them indoors and I find it a magical mood.

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Traditional Christmas carols and songs like "Frosty the Snowman" make more sense in the northern hemisphere and I adore the sounds of church bells ringing all through the UK and Europe. I also love being able to eat traditional European Christmas fare and being able to rug up in layers of warm clothing rather than worrying about the extra kilos being on exhibition at the Aussie beach later that afternoon!

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Interestingly, a reporter in the UK Daily Mail in November 2013 wrote "Forget about Summer Loving...Men are more amorous in winter." Research showed that "bedroom activities heat up as temperatures cool down." It makes sense. How good is it to stay in bed snuggled up on a cold winter's morning, or to slip under the blankets early on a cold winter's night? It might be cliched, yet it is romantic to be able to snuggle up in front of a fire, and of course, there's always an opportunity for a romantic spark to ignite when mistletoe abounds!

Whichever hemisphere you're in, if you're in the mood for a heart-warming romance this Christmas I hope you'll check out my latest title, "The Magic of Christmas", published by Escape Publishing (Harlequin Enterprises, Australia). And don't forget that some of the authors from Breathless in the Bush have also released an anthology of short Christmas stories, so you can catch up with those if you haven't already (Buy links in the column on this blog!)

Love to Love: Romantic interludes in a cold, preferably snowy, climate.

Love to Laugh: During Snowball fights.

Love to Learn: Sandman or Snowman? Given a choice, which would you prefer to be making on Christmas Day? Do you prefer the idea of Christmas romance in the northern or southern hemisphere?

Images and vectors in this article are all courtesy of
"The Magic of Christmas" copyright: Escape Publishing, Harlequin Enterprises, Australia

Monday 2 December 2019

Mindfulness - What is it and Why Does it Matter?

by Enisa Haines

Do you find yourself sometimes losing concentration? Your mind wanders and soon you're lost in thought. We all do it but there are times, especially for writers, when keeping focus is essential. If we don't focus on the writing we won't finish our stories.

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How can we ensure focus, foster creativity and stay in pursuit of our writing goals?

Some writers recommend slow, deep breathing, silently counting breaths. Some use meditation, sitting in silence, becoming aware of thoughts and working to understand them. Some take walks, relaxing via a change of routine. I recently discovered a third way. Mindfulness.

Mindfulness is being consciously aware of the present moment, focusing on that moment, paying attention to it. Being consciously aware helps keep other thoughts away and shows that the present moment is what matters.

For writers the present moment is the act of writing or editing or proofreading without thinking about anything else

How do we achieve this? How do we become mindful writers? Breathe, meditate (even if only for ten minutes), be consciously aware of the present moment - combine the three. Practise this and your mind clears, any fears and insecurities you have disappear, and instances of writer's block are overcome.

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I've been practising mindfulness over this past month and when I sit down to write my mind no longer wanders. Distracting thoughts don't pull me away from the writing. With mindfulness I remain focused and words fill the page. And isn't that what every writer aims for?

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Have you tried mindfulness? Does it keep you focused when writing?

Love to YouTube videos of dogs and cats.

Love to learn...about the ways to stay focused.

Love to love...a chatty, laughter-filled get-together with friends.

Monday 25 November 2019

Christmas Traditions

By Jayne Kingsley

One only had to walk into their local grocery store during the month of October to know that Christmas was fast approaching. Halloween merchandise made a gallant effort to hide the Christmas paraphernalia (for a while) but we all knew it was there.

I’m one of those people who secretly rejoiced the moment I spotted the first glint of tinsel hanging from the shelves. My last writing jaunt to my local café had an additional spark with Christmas carols playing not so faintly in the background.
I am a Christmas tragic, in all my sparkly red and green glory, and I’m not afraid to say so.

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My writing desk sports a mini Christmas tree (because whilst it amuses my husband ever so much to listen to me sing carols and decorate our kids fairy garden with tinsel, we have a rule that we don’t put the actual tree up until Dec 1). I have a sparkly reindeer that’s made its way to our dining room table and did I mention my website has snowflakes falling oh-so-delicately on it?

Since having kids we’ve developed a few family Christmas traditions. Our kids are young and still in that magical stage where Santa’s name is whispered reverently, and a single spotting can cause mass hysteria, so I thought I’d share a few of our Chrissy traditions with you on the blog today – to further along my Christmas cheer!

1.     We put the tree up on December 1. It doesn’t matter what day that falls on – we cook something super tasty for dinner, pop open a bottle of champagne (apple juice for the kids), play carols and we decorate the tree as a family. We have little wooden stars with each of our names carved in them and a whole range of handmade decorations by the kids. It’s a special evening that I look forward to every year.

2.     Christmas craft with my kids. Last year we built a Christmas village and as a special gift to my Instagram and FB followers I did a Christmas count down of watercolour sketches in the lead up to Christmas day. This year we’re colouring in Christmas cards to send to our loved ones and adding to our Christmas Village.

3.     We watch EVERY SINGLE Christmas movie available! Octonauts and Paw patrol Christmas rescues, Barbie helping Santa, every Hallmark movie I can get my grubby little hands on. And of course Love Actually on Christmas Eve. The cheesier and happier the movie – the better! So long as there's some Christmas element, it's on our tv. 

4.     Gingerbread house making! This is always fun (albeit a little messy and sickening to the stomach). This year we attempted a small replica of Elsa’s castle – which wasn’t structurally as sound as it needed to be, but boy did it taste great!

5.     Planning session with Mr Kingsley. This is a bit of a favourite for me. With young kids there isn’t always a lot of time or energy left at the end of the day to spend quality time together, but we always make sure we set one night aside where we just talk about the next year. We discuss holidays, life goals, and reconnect so we are on the same page for the year to come.

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How about you? What are your family Christmas Traditions? Are they steeped in history or newly formed? Please let me know in the comments.

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I love to love... Christmas!
I love to laugh... with my kids whilst making gingerbread houses
I love to learn... new recipes that involve pumpkin and spice and all things nice

Monday 18 November 2019

Planning for 2020: Fail to Plan, Prepare to Fail

 By Kristine Charles

You’ve all heard the saying ‘fail to plan, prepare to fail,’ right?

It’s a (paraphrased) quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin* and, as a Virgo, it’s my mantra. I am also OBSESSED with stationary (Kikki K is my spiritual home) and I have a paper planner which I ADORE so… who better to talk about planning for 2020.

And YES, I know this is early. But if your life is anything like mine involving a day job, a writing job, family and volunteering commitments and something resembling an attempt at a social life, you want to be giving thought to what 2020 might look like for you well before 2020 arrives.

Otherwise, you just wind up with drunken New Year’s Resolutions that don’t last beyond Australia Day.

If you’re lucky enough to make it that far!

So, here are my three best planning tips for you to adopt in 2020.

1. Set priorities

You need to understand what your ‘big rocks’ are: what are the most important things you want to achieve in 2020? Is it finishing that manuscript you’ve been working on? Is it getting four new books out? Is it getting your kid through the HSC? Is it training for a marathon, or painting your house, inside and out? Write yourself a list of the things you want to achieve in 2020… and these become the things for which you would decline a romantic romp with Idris Elba (or whoever your Hall Pass name/names are!)

If you haven’t seen the Stephen Covey lesson about scheduling the big rocks, check it out here

2. Commit to focus

Hi. My name is Kristine and I am a Master Procrastinator.

Yep. I will be sucked in to cleaning the toilet if it gets me out of committing to focused work.

But half an hour completely focused on something will be more productive than two hours switching back and forth between tasks (and by tasks, I mean Twitter, Facebook and Instagram!).

So, once you’ve identified your big rocks, don’t let them get smashed under the weight of all your day to day stuff. Commit time to attend to them – be it early in the morning, later in the evening, on your lunch break, or in the car while waiting for the kids to finish... whenever.

Book those blocks of time into a planner (whatever form yours takes – paper, or electronic) and commit to them. Tell someone about your commitment and let them nag you into submission!

From a writing perspective, think about sprints, or techniques like the ‘Pomodoro Technique’ to help you set time for productive work and still give you time to clean the toilet…


3. Say No

You’ve identified your priorities for the year, and you’re committing time to attend to them, scheduling time in your planner of choice and… Jason Momoa calls you up.

But, Saturday you’re already committed to a priority on your list. It’s written in your diary in really pretty ink, and… there are stickers!

One must be ruthless. Assess every invitation against your priorities for the year (and your personal priorities – which are also important! Sometimes family… or Momoa comes first).

But, if you value your priorities, and a hot night with a wildly attractive Hawaiian isn’t on the list well… the answer to Momoa must be no ☹ (unless, of course, you convince him to reschedule for a better day!).

This is the toughest tip to follow. But, believe me, at Christmas 2020, when you’re celebrating all the things you achieved in 2020… you’ll thank me for turning Momoa down.

I promise 😉

* As this is a blog about books and writing, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that Benjamin Franklin formed the first public lending library in America, and the first fire department in Pennsylvania. So, thanks for the books, and the hot firefighters…!

Kristine Charles writes sexy tales where coffee (and red wine) is abundant, designer shoes and handbags are cheap, chocolate has no calories and men always put the toilet seat down. Find her at or on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Have any tips for Planning for 2020? Let me know in the comments.

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I love to love… coffee. Still. My one true love.

I love to laugh… at my nephew’s funny Instagram posts (@codyjon)

I love to learn… this month, about self-publishing.

Monday 11 November 2019

Romance Across Time - Regency Romance

By Sharon Bryant

The Regency Period in the United Kingdom occurred during the early 19th century. Architecture, technology and the arts flourished under the patronage of the wealthy, including the Prince Regent himself. The upper classes enjoyed power and privilege whilst the poorest people lived in squalor. The Napoleonic Wars took place during this period. The mini-renaissance enjoyed by the upper classes together with the strong stratification of society provide endless inspiration to romance novelists and readers alike. Not surprisingly, Regency romance is the most popular historical sub-genre. I hope you enjoy reading these novels as much as I have.

The Paid Companion by Amanda Quick

The Earl of St. Merryn needs a woman to pose as his fiancée for a few weeks while he is in London on business. A practical man who doesn’t wish to be bothered by the fortune-seeking mothers of the ton, he knows a paid companion will provide the perfect solution to his problems. A simple business arrangement with a woman who can act convincingly. Unfortunately, such a lady is proving impossible to find. Eleanora Lodge needs a job quickly if she is to avoid becoming destitute. Independent and feisty, she has trouble finding work, until the earl offers her the role and convinces her to accept. Eleanora quickly suspects her fake fiancé of hiding secrets. Her new job is fast becoming far more dangerous than she first thought.

A Week to be Wicked by Tessa Dare

Minerva Highwood doesn’t expect to marry. Plain and bookish, she is easily flustered in the company of handsome men. Minerva knows she has made a momentous archaeological discovery. She must travel to Edinburgh immediately to present her findings to her peers. If she can persuade Lord Payne to take her, she will also be removing this dissolute rake from the company of her beloved sister. She doesn’t mind being ruined. No man wants her in any case. If Lord Payne won’t take her, she’ll go alone. Lord Payne admires her courage and resourcefulness, but has no desire to ruin an innocent. Nor can he allow her to travel unaccompanied. The journey this unlikely couple take is a real page-turner filled with dry humour, plot twists and romance.

Marry in Scandal by Anne Gracie

Shy Lily Rutherford has a secret. Bullied for it as a child, she doesn’t recognise her considerable character strengths. Lily becomes the victim of an opportunistic crime resulting in great societal pressure on her to marry Edward Galbraith, a well-known rake. Edward also has a secret – a terrible event in his past has ripped most of the hope and happiness from his life. He will offer Lily his name, but can never offer her his heart. Lily’s joy de vivre and caring nature make her a woman the reader would love to have as a friend. Readers also ache for Edward who tries to look after her, and would offer Lily more than simple caring, if only he could.

Do you read regency romance novels? Which one is your favourite?

 Love to love: Nights out with my husband.

Love to laugh: With my new grandson.

Love to learn: More about the craft of writing.