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.