Monday 28 October 2019

HNSA Conference 2019

By Marilyn Forsyth

I’ve just returned from the biannual HNSA Conference (at Parramatta this year), with my head buzzing. Wow! What a weekend! Hats off to the committee for a fabulously well-organised three days with a wealth of writing experts discussing their craft.

Thanks Pamela!

The Friday craft workshop on Making Research Work for You with the oh-so-knowledgeable Pamela Hart was brilliant. I’ve come away with so many great tips on researching. Honestly, I can’t wait to get started on her suggestions. If you get a chance to take part in any workshop of Pamela’s, just do it!

The Introduction to the weekend was made by the beautiful Kate Forsyth (who I could listen to endlessly because her passion for writing comes through with such heartfelt enthusiasm).

Paula Morris gave the Keynote Address on the theme of History Repeats. The key thing I took from this was something I already knew, (and I’m sure you do, too) but it certainly bears repeating: “History exists in voices, and voices disagree.’

Paula is very funny and not nearly as stern as she looks here!

Jackie French was the worthy Guest of Honour. I particularly liked her suggestion that ‘If writing a book sounds too terrifying, think of it as writing a scene each time you start to write. A book is a series of scenes.’ I will also keep in mind (in my timeslip work-in-progress) her advice that ‘It’s important to know what REALLY happened, rather than what we wish happened’, as so many people (myself included) learn their history from historical fiction.

Here are just a few snippets from the panel discussions I attended (some may be paraphrased):

Stoking the Flame (sizzle vs slow burn): ‘It should be a meeting of the minds before a meeting of the bodies.’ Elizabeth Ellen Carter. (So succinct!)

Love that these ladies dressed up for the occasion!

Learning from History: ‘Having an emotional connection to a place will come out in the words you put on the page.’ And ‘Atmosphere is created through characters; how they relate to what is around them, how they feel, what they see, hear and touch.’ Winton Higgins. (Important things to keep in mind.)

Personal Histories: ‘Setting is a tapestry upon which the story is woven.’ Ella Carey. (So eloquently put!)

I am Camera (point of view): ‘Ask yourself, which character has the right to tell this story?’ Julian Leatherdale. (I take this as meaning the character with the most at stake, which makes sense to me!)

Walking Side by Side (collaboration between historical novelists and historians): ‘There is power in standing (in your characters’ shoes), in standing where your characters have stood.’ Gay Hendriksen. (I’m a strong believer that nothing can beat actually walking the grounds of your book’s setting.)

The hands-on session of Medieval Armour and Armouring was a real hit! The opportunity to handle replica swords, daggers and shields, and to try on chainmail and helmets was way too good to pass up. AJ and Matthew really knew their stuff! 

There was also a fantastic fencing display over lunch.

At the Conference Dinner, the ever-affable Anna Campbell showed off her considerable photographic skills with stunning photos of Scotland’s Small Isles, an area of inspiration for her with her popular Lairds Most Likely series. Huge congratulations to Christina King, winner of the ARA Short Story contest, and to the two winners of the Inaugural Colleen McCullough Residency on Norfolk Island, Sally Colin James and Chris Bell (so jealous!), also announced on the night.

Random photos...

All in all, it was a wonderful weekend. Roll on 2021 for the next one...

What do you love about conferences?
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Love to Love spending time with friends, old and new. 
Love to Laugh at Enisa and I trying to catch a taxi at 10 pm on a Saturday night in Parramatta! (What were we thinking???)  
Love to Learn the thought processes of other authors.

Monday 21 October 2019

Author Spotlight - Lisa Ireland

Lisa Ireland enjoys kicking off her shoes and relaxing, will never refuse a hot drink, and loves to chat. So please give a warm, chatty welcome to Lisa!


Lisa Ireland is a full-time writer of romance and contemporary women's fiction, who loves to share her knowledge of writing craft with aspiring authors. In 2014 Lisa was a finalist in the Australian Romance Readers Awards in the category of Best New Author, and the following year went on to be one of the top ten debut fiction authors in Australia. Her rural romance, Feels Like Home, is an Australian bestseller. Lisa's fifth book, The Art of Friendship, is out now and her sixth book, The Secret Life of Shirley Sullivan, will be published by Penguin Random House in April, 2020. Lisa lives on Victoria's beautiful Bellarine Peninsula with her family. She loves eating but not cooking, is an Olympic-class procrastinator, and (most importantly) minion to a rather large dog. And, of course, being chatty, she loves to connect with her readers on Facebook or Twitter or you can visit her website:

What is one 'must have' when you are writing?
Coffee! I am a caffeine junkie and I can't start my writing day without a large skinny latte. My routine is to go for a walk or run each morning and then grab a coffee on the way home. Once I've exercised and caffeinated, I can start work. I usually head out for second coffee mid-afternoon. This gives me the boost I need to keep writing for the rest of the day.

Do you listen to music as you write?
No, I need silence, although background noise (for example, in a cafe) doesn't bother me. I love music and get too caught up in it to concentrate if I have it on while I'm writing. I do sometimes make a playlist of songs that are meaningful to the book that I am writing. I'll listen to the playlist when I'm doing other things.

What is the premise of your latest book?
In one sentence: The Secret Life of Shirley Sullivan (coming May 2020) is about a woman who kidnaps her dementia-affected husband from his nursing home and takes him on a road trip in a Kombi.

Of course, the book is about much more than a road trip. Here's the blurb:

Elderly. Is that how the world sees me? A helpless little old lady? If only they knew. I allow myself a little smirk.

When Shirley Sullivan signs her eighty-two-year-old husband, Frank, out of the Sunset Lodge nursing home, she has no intention of bringing him back.

For fifty-seven years the married couple have shared happiness and heartbreak.

And for most of those years, Shirley Sullivan has been nursing a guilty secret...

These days Frank may not know who she is, but he knows he wants to go home. 
So Shirley enacts an elaborate plan to evade the authorities (and their furious daughter, Fiona) to give Frank the holiday he's always dreamed of.

What unique challenges did the book pose?

This book is told exclusively through Shirley's point of view, which I found challenging. Usually I have multiple POV characters, so the reader sees the story from several perspectives. This time the reader couldn't know anything that my main character didn't know, and that got tricky at times. To make life even more difficult, the story has two separate timelines - past and present. I used first-person present tense for the current day story and third-person past tense for the historical story. I can't tell you the amount of times I started a new chapter in the wrong tense! I'd suddenly realise what I'd done and then have to go back and start the chapter again.

What are you reading at the moment?

I've just finished The Heart of the Cross by Emily Madden, which was wonderful, and I'm about to start Joanna Nell's The Last Voyage of Mrs Henry Parker.

What do you love to love? My boxer, Lulu. We rescued her five years ago when she was literally at death's door. She's now happy and healthy and the most affectionate dog on earth!

What do you love to laugh at? Not so much at, but with my friend, Sally Hepworth. We share a sense of humour and an ability to get ourselves into embarrassing situations. Sally makes me laugh pretty much every day.

What do you love to learn about? People. Whether that's learning about another culture, how people lived in the past or simply something I didn't know about one of my friends, I'm always interested in learning more about people. I often think I would have enjoyed studying psychology.

Monday 14 October 2019


Miranda's October Musings

Hello precious people. I'm going to discuss something dear to my heart about precious things in this world. No, not jewels, and not babies - which are the top of my precious pyramid, but pets in romance. I seem to be lacking their presence on my shelves! So I'm going to explore what's out there and see if you have any suggestions for me.

What kicked this off? I downloaded this beauty this morning, and can't wait to read it. Oh my goodness, the cover is adorable. 

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That puppy is to die for, all tongue and soft pat-able furry gorgeousness. A bundle of love. The hero isn't too bad, either! He's a wildlife firefighter (which is code for 'instant hero'), and needs a service puppy. Aww. Tempted by the cover and blurb? Obviously I was, even though Lucy Gilmore is  new-to-me author. And just look what's coming out at Christmas, be still my heart. I'm so getting that one, too:

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Lori Foster is another author renowned for her love of animals. Feast your eyes on these two romances - I sort of don't really care about the blurb, because I'm already absolutely convinced I'm going to lurve the story from the cover. Who can resist those kitty eyes in Shelter From The Storm? And yet behind the cute cover is a story about domestic abuse and foster homes. Just cuddling the kitty and hearing its soft purr would be enough to give anyone comfort. That is a perfect cover, IMHO.  

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And Cooper's Charm has a furry rescue baby on the cover. Again, rescuing fur babies is immediate code on my personal honour role for wonderful heroes/heroines.

I adopted a rescue kitty with Christmas money one year, a crazy, beautiful torty called Tess. Her paw prints are all over my heart. Here she is in all her regal magnificent-ness.

Curiously, however, there seems to be more dogs than cats on romance covers. Why is this, gentle friends? Is it because cats can sometimes be seen as evil, vicious, snarky animals? (Cough, well, maybe sometimes they are, but I'll never admit it...)

Kandy Shepherd, our beloved Aussie romance author, has a personal menagerie of animals. I know this because she blogs about it (and I love reading it). I absolutely adore her romances with dogs, they are fabulously romantic and heartwarming. But where are the kitties?

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So, what's your opinion, readers? Do we need more kitty love like these Valentine Kittens? (Which I would totally buy for the cover. Seriously, an overload of romantic hearts and cuteness.)

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Or do you prefer your romances with barks and tail wagging? Or, for that matter, feathers or fins?

Will enjoy a bit of debate on this issue!

Love from Miranda xx

Love to love:
Well, you all know it... Cats and dogs in romances.

Love to laugh:
At cute animals, making us fall in love with them.

Love to learn:
What romances you've read with fur, feather, fins - or other - that's captured your romantic heart. 

Monday 7 October 2019

Introducing the BEPHA Hero

By Alyssa J. Montgomery

Yes, you heard me! As both a romance author and a speech pathologist, I've decided to coin a new term - the Bepha Hero! It might be scorned and I don't expect it to be adopted, but let's look at it anyway!

To see how I come up with this, let's first look at the traditional heroes, working our way through to Alpha

1. The Beta Hero
This guy is often open, friendly, sensitive, more mild-mannered than the alpha, more inclined to open up about his vulnerabilities. He can be confident and secure, is generally respectful and very nice - but not a wimp. He's the type of guy you'd take home to meet Mum and Dad. He's Lord Ian Mackenzie in Jennifer Ashley's "The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie" or Robert Carroway in Suzanne Enoch's "England's Perfect Hero".

2. The Delta Hero
These guys are dark and dangerous, often loners and may have outlaw status. Generally not common in romance novels.

3. The Theta Hero
I'd never heard of this until I researched for this article! These are said to be wounded to the point of self-destruction eg. through substance abuse.

4. The Alpha Hero - Traditionally
Typically the alpha hero is a domineering man who could also be a bit of a tyrant. He's a leader who always ends up as the boss because he likes to be in control - a type of my-way-or-the-highway character. He can be cold, possessive and jealous and can lack sentimentality. 

J.R. Ward has written plenty of Alpha Heroes and I've loved them all.

Jacki Ashendon on the "Heroes and Heartbreakers" blog says that while there is some overlap, she identifies six different types of Alpha heroes:

- The playboy (sexy and charming and always great in bed)
- The wounded alpha (grumpy and sulry)
- The bad boy (a rebel who may or may not be redeemable)
- The a-whole (jerk)
- The alpha in disguise (quiet and more laid back)
- The uptight alpha (has rules and has to follow them)

Sarah Wendell from "Smart Bitches" says that the Alpha hero has evolved from 'asshole...autocratic chest-pounders with a tendency toward rape or forced seduction.' She calls them 'alphole heroes' and says they are 'too assertive without humility or honour'. Sarah goes on to say that the alpha hero has transformed.

The problem I see with redefining the Alpha Hero is that there are still books printed and adored by readers where we have the traditionally dominating Alpha male.Therefore, I think we need a new term.

5. The Gamma Hero
My research hasn't led me to any clear definition and there seem to be conflicting views as to who this Gamma Hero is. Some say he's a combination of alpha and beta (and this may negate my claim for the BEPHA hero). These say that he is super strong and aggressive but not arrogant, that he cares about others, and he usually has a bad reputation that isn't deserved.
The other description I've read of the Gamma Hero is that he's indifferent and never possessive of the heroine and can be cold.

Hm - definitely not my BEPHA hero.

This month, in my novel SEDUCED BY THE STRANGER, my hero, Max Bennett is, I believe a BEPHA Hero. Now, here's why - he has both alpha and beta qualities.

1.He's a leader and likes to be in control BUT  he works well with his friends & can delegate responsibility
2. He's a self-made billionaire and has been a success in his own right, BUT he's teamed up with two friends in business (in fact that's how they all made their initial millions).  
3. He is capable of totally taking charge of the situation BUT can re-evaluate and consider things from the heroine's POV & adapt before she even points out that he needs to
4. He can be very jealous BUT controls his jealousy & is evolved enough to know physical violence isn't acceptable toward anyone. So, while he may feel inclined to punch some creep who gets too friendly with his lady, he is NEVER violent. He is more than capable of taking control of the situation without using his fists.
5. He wants the heroine & wants her now  BUT controls himself to let things progress at her pace & level of comfort
6. He keeps information from the heroine in 'her own interest' and doesn't involve her in that decision (a bit alpha of him!)
7. He takes action to 'protect' the heroine's interest and presents his actions as a fait accompli (very alpha of him!)
8. He's not afraid to show his sensitive side to the heroine BUT is aware he doesn't want to look too emotional, especially in front of others
9. He confides to his friends how he feels
10. He can apologise and admit his mistakes
11. He's only friendly to a point and certainly doesn't make his employees his friends

What do you think? Do we need a new term and is Max Bennett a BEPHA male? Or with the way I describe him do you define him as definitely being an alpha or a beta?

Love to Love: Bepha males!

Love to Laugh: Have had many laughs over this term as I've written this tongue-in-cheek.

Love to Learn: Had no idea before researching for this blog that Delta and Theta Heroes existed!