Monday 27 April 2020

Crossovers on Country Roads

by Phillipa Nefri Clark

I’m a country girl at heart. Give me a wild ocean beach or a twisting mountain track and I’m happy. I write mystery romance in those settings, which become as much a character as the humans. River’s End, with its misty cliffs and long summers spawned six stories in a series about lost love.

In one of these books, an unsolicited character forced her way in. Charlotte appeared as a minor player and I had no idea why she was there. I tried to remove her but the local police officer refused to let her go. The next book began and there she was again, this time bringing enough of her past along to drive a sub-plot. This time I found a way for her to leave at the end. I thought it was clever to send her to work for the police officer’s mum in a town far away.

With a full slate of books to write – specifically stand-alone crime suspense – I was pleased to see her go. The police officer from River’s End had something to say about it though in the last in the series and before I knew what was going on, I’d commissioned three covers for Charlotte’s own story in Kingfisher Falls.

We all have characters who demand a bit, or a lot more attention. The comic relief who makes us see things in a different light or best friend with a strong backstory. How do we know when a minor character has what it takes to make them a lead character?

I enjoy writing strong female main characters. They don’t start off with obvious strength but have enough conflict and problems to deal with by the end of the book or series to show who they truly are. Charlotte was already a tough cookie. How to find her heart? Challenge accepted.

If Charlotte was important enough to make me spend money on three covers before writing a word, she had a story to tell. One I’d unknowingly begun in River’s End. I’d thought she was a distraction for Trev, the police officer. Instead, she was running from a difficult past and terrified of her future. There were hints and breadcrumbs already in place. She needed her story told. If I ignored her, the likelihood of writing anything else was small.

How to craft this new series? I began by rereading every scene involving Charlotte in the River’s End series. I studied Trev and his needs. Wrote notes about Charlotte’s background. I sketched Kingfisher Falls township and Charlotte’s home. As a panster, that’s as plotted as it gets for me.

Weaving the elements of both series together came naturally. I included enough of River’s End to make sense of Charlotte and Trev to new readers. The gorgeous valley setting and atmospheric waterfall is its own character. Although these are small town whodunits, they are also slow burn romances with an arc leading to happiness.

Buy link

Deadly SecretsBook 3 releases 31 May 2020

A trail of purple flowers guides psychiatrist Charlotte to an old shallow grave in bushland behind her home. Her instincts lead her to who she believes is the killer but when a missing person reappears, Charlotte's mistake puts those she loves at deadly risk.

Do you have favourite crossover books?

Love to love following my lifelong dream to write.

Love to laugh with my family as we spend more time together than ever.

Love to learn how other people think and feel.

Bio: Phillipa Nefri Clark lives just outside a beautiful town in country Victoria. She also lives in the many worlds of her imagination and stockpiles stories beside her laptop. She adores mysteries of any kind and always manages to include a puzzle in every book. From the fifty-year-old mystery of lost love in The Stationmaster's Cottage to the puzzling case of The Christmas Tree Thief, Phillipa loves keeping her characters - and her readers - guessing. With a passion for music, the ocean, nature and writing, she is often found in the vegetable garden pondering a new story.


Monday 20 April 2020

Writing During a Time of Global Crisis

by Enisa Haines

Image courtesy of: giphy

COVID-19 rushed into the world without warning and life as we knew it is now scrambled. No more going to the shops, unless it's for food. No more crowding an arena to watch a concert. No more getting together with friends in a cafe. Our new normal is isolation. At work. Out on the street. At home.

That's a huge change for most. For writers? Every time we're writing we're in a room alone with our computers, isolated in a make-believe world dreamed up by our imagination. But writing in isolation by choice is very different to being isolated because you're ordered to be.

Some writers are fearless and relishing this quarantine time, churning out the words in numbers they never contemplated before. A big cheer to them.

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Other writers, with partners and children home full-time, their finances under stress and the writing time of before gone, are struggling with focus, with the motivation to write. Because it's hard, stressful, they procrastinate, watching movies on Netflix or pulling out the overgrowth of weeds in the garden or keeping the oven busy baking bread. And the stories waiting to be written don't get written.

Image courtesy of: giphy

So how do we get back to writing again during this time of global crisis? It's a different journey for every one of us and what works for some may not work for others, but what works for me is time for myself. Time I get to do what I want to do to keep my inner self happy because keeping my inner self happy brings out my creativity.

I go for a walk every day and look at my surroundings. That house on the street corner may be perfect for my main character in my current WIP. The river in the distance may be where I set an attempted murder scene.

Image: Author's own
I do colouring in. Amazing how much a pretty coloured inspirational quote can keep you motivated.

Image: Author's own

I keep in touch with friends and family via Social Media. Sharing my experiences, reading of others' experiences, helps keep the words flowing, and new stories are a twinkle in my imagination.

I recognise and acknowledge the feelings that steer me away from writing. Then I think about the story and my need to write the words. And I write.

How are you coping with isolation? Has COVID-19 affected your writing? 

 Love to love: all the good people helping the sick, the vulnerable and the elderly during this COVID-19 pandemic

Image courtesy of: giphy

Love to laugh: Facebook posts showing people in isolation doing the craziest ways to keep themselves occupied.

Love to learn: that in times of crisis I am strong.

Monday 13 April 2020

Miranda's April Musings!

Comfort Reading Tips

Hello, precious people. And you are precious, each and every one of you! I sincerely hope and pray you and your loved ones are healthy, practicing social distancing, staying at home, washing your hands, and all that. My gosh, haven't we been hit sideways with this dreaded COVID-19? The world is so different from the last time I joyously wrote to you all.

I've been seeing lots of posts and blogs and mentions of comfort reads during this - I'll say it - unprecedented time. So I'd also like to pass on a few tips that work for me to keep me reading.

First, if you have trouble reading a full-length novel at the moment, go short. Choose a novella, something quick to read. It might break a reading drought if you're having trouble concentrating. In the hands of the wonderful Sarah Mayberry you can relax and simply enjoy. I think I loved Must Love Coffee even more because it's actually based on a true, crazy story of one up-man-ship in a Melbourne coffee shop - you know, who's the best customer of them all... Coffee and romance make a cracker duo!

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Or, if your tastes lean to a more historical bent, Mary Jo Putney has republished her swoony romantic fantasy dragon novella, The Dragon and the Dark Knight. Yes, please, one for the dragon lovers (moi). Ooh, the fabulousness of that cover. ...And actually, ooh, the fabulousness of the story!

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Second, I want to laugh at a time when laughs are not common. Reading can take me there. What books have amused you lately? I'm going to be the envy of everyone when I say I've recently read Anne Gracie's fourth novel in the 'Marriage of Convenience' series, Marry in Scarlet. Coming out very soon! It was divine, glorious fun to read. The banter between the ice-cold scary Duke and the unconventional Lady George was simply delicious. His Grace's best friend, Sinc, also stole a few scenes with his comic carry-on. Then there were so many tender moments, sigh... If you haven't started the series, now is maybe the best time of all. Begin with Marry in Haste. Thank me later.

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Beth O'Leary's unexpectedly comic book The Flat Share is a superb read that gave me a lot of unexpected laughs - I totally gobbled it down. The two main characters, an extreme introvert (Leon, so dreamy and so strong) and an extreme extrovert (Tiffy, so warm-hearted and bubbly) end up sharing a flat but never meet in the flesh. Sounds crazy, but Beth O'Leary makes it work so so SO well! I laughed and cried through this book. It shows a lot of faith and hope in the good people of this world while touching on Big Issues. All the feels.

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Third, don't ignore your TBR, that towering pile of books you've always wanted to read but haven't had time. May I suggest that now IS the time? Take that, TBR! I'm conquering you! One of my favourite historic heroes is Robin Hood, and Marsha Canham wrote an award-winning Medieval romance trilogy in the 1990s bringing the legend to life. Yes! I'm finally going to read it, starting with Through A Dark Mist, rollick through to In the Shadow of Midnight, then The Last Arrow. The new Kindle covers are oh-so-stunning.

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Last, indulge yourself. If ever there was time to read a classic romance - hello Jane Austen - now is the time! JA's gentle stories are charming, so lovely to read, and sometimes have that clever little sting in the tail. Emma might be a good place to start, given the recent film version. BTW, the film was a charmer, although I wanted to get a hairbrush and tidy up Mr Knightley's hair a bit. Below is my favourite copy of Emma, with terrific annotations and fab illustrations. Isn't the cover delightful?

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What's your idea of comfort reading in a time like this? What helps you cope?

Be kind, be loving, be patient, live by the 'new normal' rules... Hopefully we will come out of this stronger, better people.

So much love from Miranda xx

Love to Laugh:

At all the COVID-19 memes coming thick and fast. People are so clever!

Love to Love:

Right now my family is top-of-the-pops important to me. Go hug yours. ❤

Love to Learn:

How people are coping. In the famous words from our 'friend' Joey: How're YOU doing?

Monday 6 April 2020

The Power of Writing

By Alyssa J. Montgomery

In September 2018 on this blog, I wrote an article about how romance novels can empower women. I mentioned how modern romances cover a whole host of hard-hitting issues women face such as rape, abuse and loss of children. I also discussed how romances are culturally relevant and promote discussions about love and relationships and it really hit me how much romance writers as a collective group have achieved and how much a story can not only impact on an individual life but on society in general.

Literature isn’t just a form of entertainment. It’s a powerful platform. It can provoke us into deeper thinking about controversial subjects, challenge the perceptions or prejudices we may hold and teach us so much—all while presenting us with a riveting story.

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Some authors have specifically set out to ignite burning questions and their stories have become classics that are still studied.  Earlier this year, my youngest daughter had to write an essay on George Orwell’s 1984 – a book that I had studied over thirty years ago when I was at school. What a powerful story that is.

George Orwell used his literature to push his political viewpoint and I doubt there are too many romance authors who write with that intention. Having said that, there aren’t too many romance novels (Romantic Tragedies such as Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet aside) that are perennially studied. But, when I thought about it I realised that there are a lot of contemporary romance novels that make mention of pressing issues that are relevant in our society.

I don’t think it’s necessarily been a conscious decision by the author to bring these issues to light. I feel it has most likely been an organic part of the story, relevant because of the characters’ beliefs, values, difficulties and general life experiences.

I have never set out to write romances as a platform to highlight some of the problematic issues of the world. After all,  by their very nature, romance novels centre on the development of the romance between characters and how each character becomes stronger because of the romance and none of us who read romance want to be diverted from that by a whole host of heavy hitting side issues. But if authors are penning believable contemporary romances, the characters must surely have been touched by some real issues that are present in modern society. Who hasn’t been?

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When I reflected back on some of the issues relevant to my characters I was surprised by the diverse range of issues that have been mentioned in my stories. I won’t list them all but Logan from Roses for Sophie was campaigning against the use of Blood Diamonds. Chloe from The Irresistible Royal was a lawyer fighting a legal case against discrimination in the workplace. The Formidable King briefly mentioned a dictator in Africa who used child soldiers. The Irredeemable Prince highlighted the need for ongoing measures to be taken against drug dealers. And, in my latest release, Seduced by the Billionaire (12th April release date), both the hero and heroine involved me in a whole host of issues relevant to society—all completely character driven!!

Despite all those issues, I wouldn’t think that they stand out in the readers’ minds and I hope they don’t because they weren’t essential to the romance but they were very relevant to who the characters are.

Are you aware of a romance novel you’ve read where you’ve learned something interesting, or one that’s highlighted a societal problem?

Love to Love: The feeling of emotional connection to characters in romance novels and the satisfying HEA in a story that has delivered entertainment, escapism and on some level has also been educational or thought-provoking.

Love to Laugh: At romantic comedies.

Love to Learn: I love learning as I read romances – whether it’s interesting little facts about life in historical times or in contemporary romances something about a city, culture, occupation or an issue that’s occurring in society.