Monday 25 February 2019

Twitches and Habits - Why Characters Shouldn't Be Perfect

By Cassandra Samuels

When I start to create a character I often see them in my mind. They aren't fully formed but they all have something about them that stands out - makes them more interesting - like a quirk, a habit or a physical mark that has a backstory that is necessary to the character.

In my current novel Collector of Hearts. I've given Quinn, the hero's best friend, a small quirky habit.

In the seconds after the commands were issued, Robert turned side on, presenting the smallest target. He lifted his pistol, narrowed his eyes down the sight and registered the panic in the other man’s eyes before he squeezed the trigger. The sound of gunfire boomed into the air like a marauding army. It filled the area with the acrid smell of gunpowder. Several men were already dashing towards the fallen Butterworth. Quinn tugged at his waistcoat, as he always did in a show of nervous distress, then he rushed over to Robert who dropped the pistol into Quinn’s gloved hands. 

buy here

Quinn continues to have this quirk of pulling at his waistcoat throughout the book. Why did I give him this nervous habit? To give him a little more depth of character. It was a good way to show when he was nervous, or anxious about a situation or conversation without having to explain it every time. And Robert does put him through some anxious moments.

I could have made him straighten his cuffs or, like my heroine in my first book A Scandalous Wager, give her another habit that grates on the nerves of the hero no end.

She leant closer to the window to try and catch the lamplight on her pocket watch. He knew how she felt; he was thinking the same thing. Was this carriage ride ever going to end?

“I wish you would put that thing away,” Oliver said, folding his arms across his chest. It must have been the fifth time she’d done it since getting in the carriage. If she was going to do it all night it was going to drive him to drink - heavily.

“I must know what the time is,” she stated, her voice as cool as ever.

“Does it really matter if we are a few minutes late?” He was baiting her on purpose, and he knew it was dangerous considering what was in her reticule, but it was dark so he did have an advantage.

“Yes, it does.”

He waited. Nothing. “Is this another one of your theories, Countess? I suppose we men can’t be trusted with timepieces either? God forbid we may tell each other the wrong time.”

buy here
For Lisbeth, I gave her the burden of constantly needing to check the time. In order to keep her sanity, she scheduled everything, and I gave her two tools: a pocket watch and a schedule. Breaking this timed schedule in any way caused her no end of angst. And no end of annoyance for Oliver.

These two small examples show just how using some kind of quirk or physical burden can enhance a character. Who wants to read a perfect character anyway?

Do you have a favourite character in a book who has an interesting quirk, twitch or habit?

Love to Love: To create characters who have unusual quirks and habits.

Love to Laugh: Watching my grandsons play in the pool. They are such water babies.

Love to Learn: About how I can create other wonderful characters by reading and studying real-life people.

Monday 18 February 2019

The Romance of a Winery

Our guest blogger this month is Megan Mayfair, author of The Things We Leave Unsaid, Tangled Vines, and the soon-to-be-released The Problem with Perfect. 
Welcome to the Breathless Blog, Megan!

I’m a city mouse. And I do love it – the hustle and bustle, but sometimes I think, ‘how nice would it be to run a winery?’

Image courtesy of giphy

Let’s be clear. I have absolutely no knowledge of how to make wine. Or how to sell it. Or how to grow grapes. My entire life is based in metropolitan Melbourne. I literally wouldn’t know where to start, but yet, the idea is so compelling, so intriguing and so romantic.

What is it about wineries that make them so romantic? I can’t be the only one to think so – they are an extremely popular setting for books and movies, particularly within the romance genre.

Blairgownie Estate Winery

Is it the fact they are often so prettily situated in gorgeous locations like South Australia’s Barossa Valley or Western Australia’s Margaret River? And that’s just Australia! There are plenty of glorious wine regions around the world such as Napa, Tuscany, Bordeaux. Just typing these locations makes me think of rustic buildings set atop of hills overlooking rows of grapes with the sun setting in the background. What an ideal setting for a hero and heroine to fall in love. Swoon.

Or perhaps it’s the luxury of the product? Sitting on a balcony sipping a glass of bittersweet champagne or a plummy merlot is a moment of luxurious bliss away from traffic jams, school pick-ups and deadlines. There’s something about stopping and enjoying a drink with my real-life hero that always feels like a slither of lux in a busy world. Not to mention that some of life’s most beautiful moments are celebrated with the popping of a champagne cork or a heartfelt toast.

Whatever the appeal, I love a novel or a movie set on a winery. While, at least not for the moment, running away to run a winery isn’t quite on the cards for me, I could at least let my imagination run wild in my most recent novel, Tangled Vines

My hero, Frederick runs a winery called Fox & Grey in Victoria’s Heathcote area, which is well known for peppery Shiraz due to the climate and soil. I enjoyed trekking to wineries such as Blairgownie Estate near Bendigo for inspiration, along with spots on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula and Yarra Valley. Ahh, the things we do for research!

About Tangled Vines

Desperate to escape a humiliating scandal, Amelia seeks refuge with her aunt, Jill. Amelia quickly finds comfort in the arms of Frederick, a business owner battling for control of his winery, but as their relationship grows, an explosive secret in Jill's past threatens to re-surface. 

Can they find happiness or will history repeat itself?


I love to love… a romance amongst the vines.

I love to laugh… with friends over a drink.

I love to learn… about all our beautiful wineries throughout Australia so please let me know your favourites!

Monday 11 February 2019

Online Writing Courses or Classroom-based Sessions?

by Marilyn Forsyth

Image courtesy of giphy

Wherever you are on the journey from aspiring writer to established author, you'll know the importance of continually striving to improve your writing.

I’m an emerging author, constantly on the lookout for courses that deal with different aspects of the writing craft/business, not just for that ‘professional training’ aspect, but because there’s a sense of personal fulfilment in completing them that I really enjoy. Over the last few years, I’ve enrolled in a number of both online and classroom-based courses. Here are a few of my thoughts.

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Online courses are, apparently, on the rise, and it’s easy to understand why. They offer flexibility and convenience for those of us who work day jobs and/or have family commitments. You can work at your own level and pace at a time that suits you. However, from my experience, you really do need to schedule a time to work on assignments (and make sure that you schedule enough time).

I dropped out of one course I did with Margie Lawson’s Writer’s Academy when ‘life’ intervened; I wasn’t in the right headspace and just couldn’t keep up. (Bye-bye $100 bucks!) Having said that, though, no one can predict life dramas, and the other two courses I did with Lawson’s Academy were absolutely brilliant. The assignment feedback from each of the mentors, and other enrollees, was invaluable.

Another couple of suggestions:

Image courtesy of giphy
✻Keep copies of all assignments you submit

✼Organise those Assignment files in a way that suits you (and work it out beforehand)

✼If you have a tendency towards procrastination, or have motivation that ebbs and flows, an online course is probably not for you

✻Also, ensure that your computer is working well – nothing is more frustrating than dealing with technology issues when you’re on limited time.

The Romance Writer’s of Australia OWLs (Online Writing Lessons) are fantastic. (Check out the schedule for 2019 here.) I’ve done a couple and found them very worthwhile. They cover a huge range of topics and are very reasonably priced at $55 for RWA members ($88 for non-members). Our writing group completed Cathleen Ross’s very practical Self-publishing for Beginners, which enabled us to publish our Christmas Anthology.

One thing I have found difficult with online courses is that there is (usually) no instant clarification of concerns. Being able to read back over lectures (or Pause/Rewind on videos) is helpful, as is the presence of a chat room, but this is where classroom-based courses come into their own.

Learning in a group is fun!

There’s nothing quite like being in a ‘real’ room with other like-minded people, discussing a topic you’re all enthusiastic about. The spontaneity of discussion that comes with being in a face-to-face group provides so many fabulous learning opportunities.

There’s also something about being in a classroom that enables you to keep your attention focused (so much more effectively than watching a video or reading through a lecture on your own at home – or is that just me?? 😕).

I’ve heard good things about Writing NSW courses, with top-notch presenters from among our best-known Aussie authors. The wonderful Anne Gracie has a one-day course in May, Romancing the Page.

The Australian Writer’s Centre (North Sydney) offers both online and classroom-based courses. I have no experience with their online courses, but the classroom-based Blogging for Beginners was the starting point for our Breathless Blog. I’m also very excited to say that I’ll be attending History, Mystery and Magic in March, a two-day course with Kate Forsyth.

Can’t wait!

Last, but not least, Daily Writing Tips has an interesting review of James Patterson's Masterclass here.

Do you invest in your writing by doing courses? Do you prefer online or classroom-based sessions? Do you have any writing-related courses you’d particularly recommend?

Love to Love the sound of rain (it's been so damn hot this summer!).

Image courtesy of giphy
Love to Laugh at puns at Nerdy FunPun.

Love to Learn all about History, Mystery and Magic with Kate Forsyth.

Monday 4 February 2019


Miranda's February Musings

Darlings, what happened to January? My stars. Over! Too! Soon! 

So here is a February question for you all while you hibernate from the crazy polar vortex in the northern hemisphere (whaaaat?!), and boil in the record temps Down Under, phew. 

What do you prefer to read? A single title romance, OR a series which can give the same hero and heroine or secondary characters their stories, and prolong the love in the community? 

For example, the amazing Nora Roberts AKA JD Robb began her In Death series waaaay back in 1995 with Naked in Death. This first book introduced prickly NY police detective Lieutenant Eve Dallas - and she meets intriguing Irish billionaire Rourke in the course of her investigations. Huh. Fourty-eight books later - yes, 48! - Eve and Rourke are still fresh, fabulous and intriguing enough for millions of readers to hang out for every new story, with the 49th book scheduled to be released later this year. In hardcover! This is truly a monumental series success story. JD Robb, we are in awe of you! Have you read any Eve and Rourke, and are you keen for more?

Picture credit:

A different series called Outback Brides brought joy to many reader hearts in 2018. Beloved Australian authors Kelly HunterVictoria PurmanCathryn Hein and Fiona McArthur gifted us four different brides, all divinely romantic and lovely and absolutely scrumptious. You simply must read on and enjoy each different bride's story, especially as they pop into the previous books. Yes please, I can cope with that very easily: a finite series of 4 books with a different H&H in each one. Can you? 

Picture credit:

Hands up the stand alone book readers? Those who really love carving time out to read one romance and that's-enough-for-now-because-it's-so-fabulous? Late 2016 (omigosh that sounds so long ago!) I read The Hating Game by Sally Thorne. Totally loved it, laughed all the way through, went looking for another book by her and... eek! Had to wait! Imagine my thrill when her next book 99% Mine, which I pre-purchased months ago, fell into my Kindle last week! I cannot tell you how that sent me into an excited spin, but I need to finish the (fabulous) book I'm reading to get to it... I am sure that, like The Hating Game, reading 99% Mine will be - enough. Something to linger over and enjoy. Hopefully with some laughs and tears, like last time. No pressure, Sally Thorne! I have faith in you. ❤❤ But, YAY for a stand-alone book!

Picture credit:

One favourite stand-alone romance is Molly Cooper's Dream Date by Barbara Hannay. Apparently I'm not alone in loving this book; I've heard a whisper it's about to be made into a film, oh my. Bring it on! I could read this book again and again. Actually, I already have... It never loses its charm, and I love it anew every reread. Have you read it? It's actually a lovely armchair travel read for London, part of the appeal for us Aussies, and a luscious romance. Win, win.

Picture credit:

So, my pick for Single Title or Series is - BOTH, depending on my mood! I'm happy to read a series or a stand alone; they both have their place. What about you?

Love from Miranda xxx

Love to Love:

A new book from a fave author. And a new book in a series I love!

Love to Laugh:

At my teetering, tottering, Read-Me pile of books. I think it multiplies in the dark at night...?!

Love to Learn:

About all the new romances coming out. I know, I know, I've got a mountainous TBR, but there will be a new gem in the newies somewhere. For sure.