Monday 24 June 2019

Writing a Dual Timeline: I Must be Crazy

by Marilyn Forsyth

I love dual timeline and timeslip novels! Barbara Erskine’s Lady of Hay, Kate Mosse’s Labyrinth, Tracy Chevalier’s The Virgin Blue are all on my keeper shelf, and I’ve read dozens more. 

My signed copy of Lady of Hay.

So why not try my hand at writing one, I thought.

Hah! Turns out it wasn’t quite as easy as I thought.

Image courtesy of giphy

I did my due diligence. I analysed a heap of timeslip/dual timeline books to try to figure out what made them work and, utilizing what I’d discovered, and after drafting an outline for the entire novel, I started to write.

Gwenllian’s Ghost (working title) is a tale of two women born nine centuries apart whose lives become interwoven after a ghostly encounter. Thrown into reliving her ancestor’s life through dreams, Hannah seeks an answer to the question: can the love of a lifetime endure beyond time itself?

I’d classify this story as a timeslip. The medieval story takes the form of living dreams that cause my contemporary MC massive problems with her everyday life. The two stories, with two adventurous heroines and their worthy heroes, are interwined through those dreams. 

Inspiration for Gwenllian courtesy of Pinterest

I wrote the complete medieval tale first. It seemed logical to stay in my medieval MC’s head while writing about her amazing and tragic story (Gwenllian is based on a true-life Welsh princess). It also ensured that the voice I used remained true to that period and its characters.

Next I wrote Hannah’s story, taking time and care to make her romance as gripping as Gwenllian’s love story.

Then came the hard part. Somehow I had to meld these two stories together.


That’s when I realised what I’d got myself into. You see, in structuring this type of story, the choices made in where to transition from one timeline to the other are crucial to the enjoyment of the reader.

Celeste Ng, whose novel Everything I Never Told You is a fabulous example of a well-written dual timeline, says that at each switch in the timeline there has to be a reason for the shift from past to present. She calls it a ‘handoff’ and it acts as a link between those chapters, grounding the reader in the ‘new’ reality so that she/he doesn’t lose the sense of cohesion so necessary for a successful dual timeline. This ‘handoff’ can be many things: an object e.g a diary, a dream voice echoing in a head, a feeling, a memory, or even a smell.

So, to structure my book for best effect, I went back over both stories to see where they could overlap, where the tension in both peaked (so that it didn’t correspond exactly when I interspersed the chapters), and to come up with a suitable ‘handoff’. It was a challenge but, hopefully, it worked. Time will tell.

That wasn’t the only thing to think about, though. For a reader to become totally immersed in tales from two different worlds, each with their own characters and conflicts, both stories have to be compelling. BUT, having said that, there can only be one main story - the one that ties both stories neatly together in the end.

In Gwenllian’s Ghost that main story belongs to Hannah, my modern MC. However, the medieval story moves along side by side with it, adding tension, conflict and, of course, gut-wrenching emotion to the tale.

Image courtesy of giphy

I love dual timeline and timeslip novels! Their complexity, the mystery of how they’ll tie together in the end, their mix of styles of writing.

If only they weren’t so damned terrifying to write!

So why am I now writing another one? 

Because I’m crazy.

Have you read any really good dual timeline/timeslip novels? I’d love some recommendations!

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Love to Love learning more about my characters by identifying their Myers-Briggs personality.

Love to Laugh (and cry) along with characters in lovely movies like Crazy Rich Asians.

Love to Learn: Check out RWA 2-Minute Tips on the Writing Craft. Click here for the Youtube link.

Monday 17 June 2019

Author Spotlight - Tess Woods

She's big on social justice, loves to talk, is obsessed with the British Royal Family (Meghan and Harry's wedding just had to be written into Love and Other Battles), and for some reason she hates monkeys.  Please welcome Tess Woods!


Tess Woods is a physiotherapist who lives in Perth, Australia, with one husband, one son, one daughter, one dog and one cat who rules over them all. Her debut novel, Love at First Flight, received acclaim from readers around the world and won Book of the Year in the AusRom Today Reader's Choice Award. Her second novel, Beautiful Messy Love, made the best books of 2017 lists for Readings, Booktopia, and Better Reading. When she isn't working or being a personal assistant to her kids, Tess enjoys reading and all kinds of grannyish pleasures like knitting, baking, drinking tea and tending to the veggie patch. Tess loves connecting with her readers on Facebook and Instagram or you can visit her website:

What is the one 'must have' when you are writing?
My bed! It's the only place I write, snuggled under my doona in my PJs, cup of tea at the ready, pets keeping me company. I think of sitting at a desk to write as a very sad circumstance indeed.

What are you reading at the moment?
I've just finished Amra Pajalic's memoir, Things Nobody Knows but Me. And OH! MY! GOSH! I feel a massive book hangover coming on. Amra is a Melbourne-based author of Bosnian descent and her life-story was utterly heartbreaking and triumphant all at once. It's the most raw and gritty memoir I've ever read and it's given me enormous respect for this brilliant author, both as a writer and as a woman. Amra's gut-wrenching childhood will stay with me for a long time.

Name one thing you're scared of.
My teenage son getting in a car with his hooligan friends. Nobody can prepare a mother for the terror of seeing a raucous group of teenage boys on their P plates setting off in a car with her child in the back seat.

Like to share something that recently made you happy?
Hopping into bed tonight to answer these questions and finding my electric blanket turned on and already toasty warm thanks to my lovely hubby.

What is the premise of your latest book?
Love and Other Battles is the story of three generations of Australian women, spanning fifty years from the Vietnam war to the present day. Their relationships are stretched and tested when things go horribly wrong for the family one fateful day and past secrets unravel.

Love and Other Battles blurb:
Three generations of women. Three heartbreaking choices. One unforgettable story.

1969: Free-spirited hippie Jess James has no intention of falling for a soldier...but perhaps some things are not in our power to stop.

1989: Jess' daughter, Jamie, dreams of a simple life - marriage, children, stability - then she meets a struggling musician and suddenly the future becomes wilder and complex.

2017: When Jamie's daughter, CJ, brings home trouble in the form of the coolest boy at school, the worlds of these three women turn upside down...and the past returns to haunt them.

Spanning the trauma of the Vietnam War to the bright lights of Nashville, the epidemic of teenage self-harm to the tragedy of incurable illness, Love and Other Battles is the heart-wrenching story of three generations of Australian women, who learn that true love is not always where you seek it.

If you loved The Notebook, this is the novel for you.

What unique challenges did the book pose?
I had to bring to life three different time periods (1960s, 1990s, 2000s), three locations (Melbourne, Nui Dat and Nashville) and head hop between three women of varying ages who were all sharing their stories. The contemporary storyline about a young woman who self-harms was harrowing to write as the mother of a girl that age myself. I was heartbroken with what I discovered through my research about the Vietnam War. And it was tough to write about the issue of euthanasia in a way that was mindful of how passionate people are about it on both sides of the debate. Love and Other Battles felt like one continuous challenge, but it also gave me the biggest sense of accomplishment when I finished it.

Do you listen to music as you write?
Absolutely not! I require complete silence and have been known to dish out death stares if my husband even dares to breathe too loudly while I write!

What do you love to love? My GHDs - best invention ever!

What do you love to laugh at? The TV show Friends. I could probably go close to saying all ten series verbatim!

What do you love to learn about? Whatever is making headlines. I can't start my day until I've caught up on my new app in bed. I'm particularly interested in world news and politics, with a side serve of Real Housewives gossip thrown in!

Monday 10 June 2019


Miranda's June Musings

Winter has hit Australia after a spectacularly warm autumn. All the 'winter reading' lists have come out. Glorious big fat books you can get lost in on those long evenings, snuggled into a cosy chair under a warm blanket next to the fire. 

So what you consider 'winter reading'? For those in the northern hemisphere there is also the association of winter with Christmas, which makes for a plethora of frozen festive reading. But Down Under, where it rarely snows in, well, a lot of Australia (even though it gets very frosty and can be sub-zero), what do you enjoy reading?

Do you enjoy romance with lots of snow and ice? I can distinctly remember reading Linda Howard's book Ice and nearly turned into a popsicle. Loved it! All warm and cuddly, nothing to worry about where I was, but everything to worry about in the book, one heck of an icy adventure with a policeman and a fabulously strong heroine.

Picture credit:

Another chilly romantic suspense on my fave list is Karen Robards' thrilling Darkness. A truly spectacular book set in remote Alaska. The opening scene is just wow, when a scientist horrifyingly witnesses a plane crash over the Bering Sea. With tremendous difficulty she manages to fish one survivor out of the water before he dies. By the time they get back to her station all her colleagues have been murdered, and it looks like they're next on the hit list. Just thinking about it makes me get the shivers. Ooh.

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Or do you prefer something a bit cosier like Debbie Macomber's Starry Night? Out a few years ago, this was festive fare set in remote Alaska (again), with a hero trying to dodge a persistent city columnist. The cover is to die for and I loved the story, that instant clash between the hero and heroine.

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Notice the common thread of ice, snow, freezing locales and such? Is this your winter reading?! Or do you prefer reading a book set on the beach, so you can pretend you're feeling that heat while you're actually trying to defrost your toes? Something like Michelle Douglas' sun-drenched, gorgeous book Miss Prim's Greek Island Fling, which is so gloriously warm you could use it as a hot water bottle. Who doesn't want a wonderful Greek island retreat, with a hero and heroine who could never really get on in the past - but things seem to have changed?

Picture credit:

Would absolutely love to know what you prefer.

Lots of love while I toast my toes,

Miranda xxx

Love to Love:

Enjoying some vicarious snow.

Love to Laugh:

At how quickly winter suddenly came in. My favourite season!

Love to Learn:

What do you consider winter reading? Snow and ice while you're snuggled up, or hot sun so you can 'pretend' it's warm outside?

Monday 3 June 2019

Brief Wrap up from the Booklovers Convention

By Alyssa J. Montgomery

When Kathryn Falk announced that last years RT Convention in Reno would be the last, I was very sad because I'd loved attending the RT Conventions and connecting with readers, other authors and industry professionals in a party atmosphere.

When I found out that Jo Carol Jones and her enthusiastic staff and team of volunteers (who have organised previous RT Conventions) decided that the world of romance readers and authors still needed a convention and Jo Carol was prepared to organise it, I was overjoyed. I had every confidence the Booklovers Convention would deliver on its promise of being the Ultimate Reader Experience, and I wasn't disappointed.

Party into the night!!
New Orleans was the place to be for the inaugural Booklovers Convention, which brought 250 authors together with romance readers and industry professionals in a fabulous fun-filled five days.
Of course, being in NOLA, the perfect way to start off was with a Jazz Festival and Tina De Salvo's second-line event on the Wednesday night got everyone into the party atmosphere.

Thursday heralded our entry to the exquisitely decorated ballroom for the Faery and Fantasy evening; Friday night was Heather Graham's Voodoo and Vampire Party; and the Saturday evening we enjoyed the Bookworm Blowout. So many wonderful costumes worn and the decorations in the room were amazing.

Day time Events
There are too many reader events to mention, but have a look on the website for the list and it's guaranteed to throw your mind into a spin. Harlequin sponsored a morning Smoothie event on the Thursday morning and I was chatting to readers and signing paperback copies of my latest release "Seduced by the Enemy" - more than a little blown away by the fact that superstar authors Jennifer L. Armentrout, Heather Graham, Sheila Roberts, Julia London were also signing books at the event and that I was part of the Harlequin stable.

I also participated in an event called "Round the World in 80 minutes" where readers needed to go and stamp their passports at all 'ports' in order to have an entry into the raffle for gift baskets. That was fun as I was in the tent with fellow Aussie author, Khloe Wren, and we were able to decorate our tent with Aussie regalia and had heaps of Australian swag to give away.

Tim Tams, Furry Friends & Mint Slice all went down very well with our American and other international readers. Khloe had a blow up kangaroo and Khloe and I both sported a sequined Aussie Flag dress (as shown in the photograph).
I attended a "Wheel of Romance" Bingo event and a session of "Left, Right & Centre" as a reader andwas able to have my fan girl moments with authors as well as meeting other readers. Kensington hosted a Pop Culture Quiz where authors such as Karen Rose, Meg Tilly and Lexi Blake showed off their incredible general knowledge on things pop culture related and provided us with lots of laughs at some of their guesses!

There are also professional development workshops for authors, and special events for bloggers & librarians.

Having been to four RT Conventions, the Booklovers Convention was a lot like "coming home to my tribe". We all know that romance readers & authors are positive, warm people to be around and I love the fact that I was able to reunite with friends at the convention and make new friends.

If you've never been to a romance readers convention, keep in mind that the Booklovers Con is in Nashville next year in March. It's a long way to travel for Australians, but it is totally worth the trip. You're guaranteed to come home having made new friends, with loads of wonderful memories and with a suitcase full of books and swag. Will you make it? I hope to see you there!!

Love to Love everything about Booklovers Con - catching up with friends, dressing up and getting into the atmosphere of the party... the list is endless!

Love to Laugh at Damon Suede hosting the Cinemacraptastique event at Booklovers Con.

Love to Learn the latest news from industry professionals.

Giveaway winner: the winner of Kaz Delaney's Chocolate and Old Lace is Claire Crane (commenting as Craneclaire). Please contact Kaz via this link.