Monday 24 February 2020

Guest Blogger: Leisl Leighton

 The Importance of Narrative Drive

I’ve been building a little side-business over the last year and a half - manuscript assessment and mentoring - and every manuscript I assess, every author I mentor, makes me think more deeply about what it is we do to write our stories, how we go about it, the choices we make and the effort we put into learning to grow and make our writing as good as we can.

What makes a good story?

Writing teachers talk about a lot of things - POV, tense, GMC (goals, motivation, conflict), the Three Act Structure, voice, place - and each of those things is incredibly important to build the right narrative drive for your story. If one of these isn’t spot on, then the narrative drive isn’t right and the story falls down. Badly structured narrative drive is more often than not responsible for manuscripts that meander around but never get anywhere, or the saggy middle, or the end that fizzles.

What is narrative drive?

Writers often think narrative drive is the same as structure - it’s not. Narrative drive is more than what makes up the plot and how. It’s more than ‘add protagonist’s journey here’. It’s more than GMC and the all-important Three Act Structure. Put all of these together, add voice and you have narrative drive.

It took me some time to understand narrative drive and all the elements that make it work. Now that my ninth published book is about to be released in May (Blazing Fear), I feel that I have come to understand it intimately. 

All the work that goes into redrafting and editing my novels is in service to narrative drive. It’s the thing that I bang on about the most when doing assessments and what I teach when I’m mentoring - teaching just about voice or conflict or structure individually isn’t enough to make a book speak to readers. Of course, I teach all of those skills because they are part of narrative drive!

How do I make my narrative drive work?

Narrative drive isn’t something that just comes. An author must make choices for it to work. That doesn’t mean you have to be a plotter - I’m not. I’m a pantser. But I still have to make choices at some time to decide how to structure the conflicts to drive the protagonist’s journey onward in a page turning way to a satisfying end. Some of those choices come easily, some require many rewrites, but in the end, everything is in service to the narrative drive. Making your narrative drive work is hard work, but it is all so worth it in the end. Once you have it and understand it, it is the key that will open the lock to a world of wonderful manuscripts full of the stories you want to tell, and do so in a way that shines.

What do you do to ensure you continue to hone your writing skills?

I love to love: Books that show me how to be a better writer.

I love to learn: About narrative drive and how to make it work better.

I love to laugh: With my writing friends as we work through our mistakes and improve together.

Monday 17 February 2020

Books, Music, and Romance

By Kristine Charles

Today is 17 February and it’s Ed Sheeran’s birthday.

Now, I can’t confirm or deny whether Ed is actually into romance or not but it seems a reasonable bet given:
  • the man has written a heap of stellar love songs; and
  • he recently married the woman he met at high school when they were both 11; and
  • his song Perfect was inspired by his now wife <swoon>. 

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So, I thought, what better day to explore the connection between music and romance than Ed Sheeran’s birthday.

Many of the authors I know, and read, in #Romancelandia listen to music while they write.

Some have to listen to instrumentals because lyrics are distracting, especially if you like to sing along (like me!). If you’re as addicted to Life Hacks as me, you’ll know that listening to Hans Zimmer music while studying is recommended because it has no lyrics, and the music is intended to motivate.

Others listen to the same song, over and over, to stay in the mood, or the headspace of their characters. I’m pretty sure I heard Lauren, of Christina Lauren, once say that she listened to Xxplosive by Dr Dre to get in the mood for writing Finn of Dirty Rowdy Thing. I <heart> Finn, and that song is hot.

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Others create entire playlists to feed their output. For example, Penny Reid and J. F. Lowe both have heaps of playlists on Spotify which, they say, are the songs that inspire the writing of the book.

And then others, again, can’t listen to anything and need silence to feed their creative muse.

Then there are authors who use music to inspire their stories. For example, Renee Conoulty’s Got that Swing series all have song-based titles and the song is central to the story. M. L. Tompsett, Renee Dahlia and Joanne Tracey also use songs to inspire their stories – Shakespeare’s Sister, Lorde and (of course!) Ed Sheeran, respectively.

And then there’s how one particular song can make or break a moment. If anyone went and listened Thomas Tallis after reading Fifty Shades of Grey, you’ll know what I mean… Spem in Alium is haunting and hot in equal measure.

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So, what’s your favourite 'books, music and romance' moment…? 

Love to love: music. It never fails to make me feel better.

Love to laugh: Did you hear about the bed bugs who fell in love? They’re getting married in the spring!

Love to learn: About writing sex and love! Spent three hours with Leisa Rayven this morning and it was fabulous! Leisa is a Queensland based author, has written the Starcrossed Series (Bad Romeo, Broken Juliet and Wicked Heart), and is currently working on the Masters of Love Series. Check her out at

And you can check me out at :-)

Monday 10 February 2020

The Evolution of Romance Novels

by Enisa Haines

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The romance novel, focusing on the relationship and the happy-ever-after romantic love between two people, first began as chivalric romance, a narrative in verse popular in Medieval Europe about heroic knight-errants going on quests and defeating monsters.
Then in the 12th century, Chretien de Troyes, French poet, writer of Arthurian tales, wrote tales with courtly love, where knights win the favour of a lady.

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Though prevalent through the Medieval era, in later years when women were oppressed and considered a man's property, romantic tales with themes of faithfulness and honour were not widely popular. Then in 1740 Samuel Richardson wrote what is thought to be the first English novel and the first 'romance' novel. Controversial for its content - the growing love between a pious servant girl and her land-owning master - Pamela (or Virtue Rewarded) captured the hearts of women yearning for more from life.

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Romance novels rose in popularity but it was when Jane Austen emerged in the 1800s that romances became favourable and fashionable. Though considered 'literary', her tales of women pursuing higher social standing and financial security, and the 'classic romance' tales of authors such as Charlotte Bronte were a source of inspiration for readers trapped by the rules of their society.

The early years of the 20th century saw the introduction of history in romance novels, best sellers being the Georgian-era romances by Georgette Heyer. Gothic romances with added thrills and drama, where heroines experienced horrific events as they gave in to the passion of love followed, readers devouring stories such as Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca.

Harlequin's emergence in the mid-1900s with 'sweet' stories where boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy and girl get back together and live happily ever after gave rise to romance novels with strong heroines and intricate plots.

From sweet romances to sexy, historical to contemporary, young adult to romantic suspense, paranormal to fantasy, LGBT to characters with different ethnic or cultural backgrounds, romance novels abound to suit every romance reader's taste.

As the world evolves so does the romance novel and I wonder what exciting stories I will be reading. Do you?

Love to love: that I attended a three-day writer's retreat

Love to laugh: at the rain soaking the land around the retreat. Gripped by drought and fire-ravaged, seeing rain is definitely something to bring joy

Love to learn: a writer is always learning and where better than a writer's retreat

Monday 3 February 2020

Smothering the Breathless Authors with Love!

Miranda's February Musings

Wow, December/January in Australia! So many super hot days, so many horrendous fires, so much heroism and so many sad losses. Keep donating (thankyou), keep praying, the fires are still burning in some places. We will get back on our feet, but as we do we salute the heroes who've saved so much, even as some lost their own lives. Such humbled thanks. Thankyou. Thankyou. Thankyou.

Words are simply not enough. We need to celebrate our own, our friends and family and loved ones, and hug them tight and just smother them with love. 

So as February begins I'm celebrating my fellow Breathless in the Bush authors, precious people to me. And, {{{shrug}}}, I'm totally biased about them and I don't care! So with no further ado, let my smother-them-with-love CELEBRATION begin! 

We love having KRISTINE CHARLES on board at BITB, and I've just read the anthology LOVE SABRE featuring her novella, A Mutual Thing. The book totally sends up the purple prose that used to dominate romance in yesteryear, but in such a creative way it's taut and terrific, sassy and sexy. (See what I did there? Thank goodness we've moved on.) But seriously, this book romps along with such fun. And not so much of the purple prose after all. These authors have created quick-to-read stories that are very energetically entertaining. (18+ warning for the *cough* love sabre...)

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Our beloved JAYNE KINGSLEY blows me away with her stories - and you'll find her Christmas novella A Kiss For Christmas Eve reviewed by yours truly here; sheer delight. Her full-length novel LOVING LUCAS made it onto my January read list, and I have to say that the always popular office romance trope - and friends-to-lovers - makes a wonderful appearance (I love these so much). Miranda is the boss's daughter, and Lucas doesn't know how he can work with her - because, so much temptation. OOH. And, that cover. 💋

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I actually knew ALYSSA J. MONTGOMERY before she was published. As soon as I read her first unpublished manuscript I knew Romancelandia had a powerhouse author about to explode on the scene. I am fairly smug I called it, heh, and her star continues to rise. I read her wonderful book SEDUCED BY THE STRANGER  over January and, wow. I love me a good amnesia plot, with a pregnant-by-I-don't-know-who plot also tossed in! So gripping. Go, Alyssa!

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The marvellous CASSANDRA SAMUELS is someone who knows just so much about Regency times, I'm impressed. Never try and get away with anything but true facts about the Regency period around her, she is spot on! I adore Regency romances, so enthusiastically dived into COLLECTOR OF HEARTS in January. My only concern was - why had I waited so long to read this?! Silly, silly me. I totally loved her hero, Robert Mallory, Marquis of Sheldon. To cope with something absolutely appalling in his life he became, well, a 'Collector of Hearts' - but then tossed them aside. I knew it was going to take someone very special to collect his heart... I laughed at Cassandra's wit and sparkling dialogue, and then, oh my, I cried. Such an outstandingly beautiful story. ❤ 

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Magical MARILYN FORSYTH creates beautiful stories in exotic settings, and I can't wait to read whatever she publishes next. If you haven't already, fall on her last book, FALLING IN LOVE AGAIN. I've never been to the Australian opal fields and possibly never will, so reading about the amazing opals, a mystery about a fossil, and a stunning romance - is, like, win win win! I adored this story. In fact, when I visited the Australian Museum in Sydney, there was a certain opal exhibit that entranced me...and which Marilyn assures me is the inspiration for this story! Intrigued? Oh, do read the book, it is so wonderful. You'll never look at opals the same way again. Or fossils! 

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ENISA HAINES and SHARON BRYANT are special stars in our special Christmas anthology A VERY AUSSIE CHRISTMAS.  I was so thrilled to read it, and each story is so very unique. Enisa's story is Endings, Beginnings and Sharon's is Desert Fire. Why wait until next Christmas to read them? It's still hot here in Oz, go back and get some blazing Christmas spirit in your year right now. 😍 

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So, ta-dah! I give you The Breathless Girls, who I celebrate! Perfect to pop on your reading list!

With love until next time,

Miranda xxx

Love to Laugh:

At the charm and wit in those ravishing Regencies, like Cassandra's!

Love to Love:

My BITB authors. Always and forever, girls! Mwuh. 

Love to Learn:

Which of the above have you read? Is there a special author you celebrate?