Monday, 23 April 2018

Author Spotlight - Melanie Milburne

Breathless in the Bush is thrilled to introduce Award-winning and USA Best-selling Modern Romance author, Melanie Milburne.

A prolific writer and proud member of Romance Writers of Australia, and Ambassador for Australian Childhood Foundation, you can contact her on Twitter:, on Facebook:, and through her website:

Where are you at this moment and what is on your writing desk?

I am at our beach house on the east coast of Tasmania where an echidna waddles outside my window, dolphins swim in the ocean and the black and yellow cockatoos make a raucous noise as they fly past. And just the other day, a scarlet-breasted robin perched on the corner of the balcony near my office and a sea eagle drifted past. On my desk are my laptop and stand, my story notes and a collection of pens as well as a bottle of dog treats for my three poodles. I put them through some tricks when I need a break from my story.

What is the hardest part of your writing process? Starting a novel or finishing it?

Starting is easiest for me. I would have written three times as many books by now if I only had to start them. Ha ha. 😀 Finishing is always hard for me. In fact, I think it's getting harder.

What inspired the story idea behind Blackmailed into the Marriage Bed?

A couple of years ago I read Andrew Solomon's amazing book called Far from the Tree, a lengthy tome about the experience of parents who have children they didn't expect to have, such as with disabilities, or gay or transgender or with mental illness such as schizophrenia. One of the chapters was on children born out of rape. It made me think of what it would be like to know you were not conceived out of a loving union but out of a brutal crime and how that would make you feel about yourself. Thus my heroine Ailsa was created.

This is your 76th book. How have you changed as a writer over the course of so many books?

I'm certainly not as fast as I was in the beginning of my career. I could literally churn out novels like a conveyor belt! I've done a lot of professional development over the last few years and it has slowed me down a lot, but that's overall a good thing. I no longer head hop (changing points of view within a scene) and I spend more time thinking about my choice of words and phrases and getting rid of cliches where I can.

What are you currently working on at the moment?

I have just finished a Wedding-themed duet and I will spend a couple of weeks reading and thinking about my next story. I don't rush in too quickly these days; I find it helps me to allow my subconscious time to play.

What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?

Writing is a craft and anyone with a modicum of talent can learn how to do it better. Writers need to read but they also need to write as often as they can. It's like physical exercise - the more you do, the stronger and fitter you get.

Tell us a little about Blackmailed into the Marriage Bed...

Ailsa is estranged from her husband Vinn Gagliardi because he wanted children and she didn't. But with his beloved grandfather facing do-or-die transplant surgery, Vinn is determined to get Ailsa back into a temporary reunion until his grandfather is out of danger. Ailsa had never told Vinn about her dark secret, but the temptation of being back in his arms is too overwhelming to resist!

What do you love to love?

I love to love my husband and two sons who have always believed in and stood by me.

What do you love to laugh at?

I love to laugh at my three miniature poodles Polly, Lily and Gonzo who are so intelligent and entertaining and do about twenty tricks apiece and still counting!

What do you love to learn?

I love to learn about the craft of writing and enjoy making each book better than the last if I can.

Monday, 16 April 2018

Pinterest: How it Can Help Write Your Story

By Marilyn Forsyth

Image courtesy of giphy (Love you, Phoebe!)

In case you weren’t aware, I love Pinterest! What writer couldn’t love a site that might well be the world’s most accessible medium for educational resources for authors?

In my last post I mentioned that part of my creative process is to make a Pinterest board for the story I’m working on—a visual representation of my book. But the role of Pinterest in my writing begins way before I even start a book.

Here’s how I go about using Pinterest to help write a story:

1. Story Inspiration

Image courtesy of Haunted Earth's Ghost World

My story ideas come from many different sources—things I’m passionate about (Art, medieval history, travelling), unexplained mysteries, unique locations… The list goes on.  Just by typing ‘unique locations’ into Pinterest I’ve found a wealth of amazing settings to inspire my writing, as well as some other inspiring 'finds', like this one (which could be the ghost from my wip). 

 As for characters, just type in ‘character inspiration’ and you’ll find hundreds of boards filled with interesting-looking characters. I recommend Kristen Kieffer, who has a huge collection of images. It’s an excellent source for headshots to begin your storyboard.

2. Planning

In my ‘Writing Life’ board I’ve saved sixty or so resources to be inspired by, to motivate me or to help me improve my writing.

Like to use worksheets? I guarantee you’ll find a worksheet for whatever you need. Can’t think of a word to describe a character’s voice, take a look at Jami Gold’s Word Lists. Looking for ideas for plot twists? Click here

3. Character Development

Image courtesy of Book Riot

When developing my characters, I need to know all there is to know about them. To help with their backstories, I firstly check out the different personality types. There are a heap of boards that focus on the Myers-Briggs types, as well as character archetypes. I found this site concise and helpful:

4. Settings

A quick tip: when searching for images of settings, include a + for more specific visuals. For example, ambulance station + interior, Kidwelly castle + landscape photography, quaint café + Cardiff.

5. Writing the First Draft

Okay, so now I’ve got a setting and my main characters have made their appearance in my head (physical description, backstory). Unfortunately, Pinterest won’t write the story for me 😜, but once I’ve worked out my characters’ Goals, Motivations and Conflict, I’m ready to start that first draft.

6. Covers

An oldie but a goodie

Harlequin MIRA and Escape ask their authors for suggestions for the cover of their books, so I collect covers that appeal to me to keep as a reference.

7. Writing Advice

Natasha Lester, Author (author of The Paris Seamstress) has some great tips and advice on her 'How to Write a Book' board. Click on the link and check it out.

8. Blog Posts

Screenshot of my board

I recently started adding my blog posts to my ‘The Writing Life’ board.

Legal stuff

In my last post I mentioned the importance of having the P button on my dashboard which allows me to instantly add any image on the net to any of my boards. As all images added to Pinterest are directly linked to their original site, if I unknowingly pin or re-pin a copyrighted image I get a message telling me it’s been removed.

Do you have any favourite boards on Pinterest? Let me know; I’m always on the lookout for new inspiration.

Love to Love: designing a promo for my blog post with Lumen 5. (A time suck, but great fun!)

Love to Laugh: at this Instant Elevator Pitch. For a readable copy click here to try it yourself. My pitch reads: "A compulsively readable thriller about a dissatisfied woman's mission to embrace her eating disorder" (what the ???).

Love to Learn: Victoria L Fry has a YouTube video entitled The Power of Pinterest for Authors. It’s 40 minutes but she’s very informative and easy to listen to. 

Monday, 9 April 2018

Writing the First Draft - You Don't Always Have to Type It.

By Cassanda Samuels

Writing a book is hard. It takes many months, sometimes years, to complete even a first draft, but my guest authors today have found that you don't always have to type your first draft.

Anna Campbell is an award winning author of Historical Romance. She writes her first drafts longhand, but it hadn't always been that way. Here is why she chooses longhand over typing:

"In 2014, a lot of things happened. I had the house on the market, I’d decided to make a real attempt
at having a career as an indie author, and I had a dreadful accident. I fell over in the kitchen in the
middle of the night and injured my left arm and as a result had trouble typing for about 18 months.

Necessity meant that I had to go back to doing first drafts longhand because I really had only one
hand working at full capacity and this ended up being one of those decisions about making the
best of adverse circumstances that turned out to be a wonderful opportunity.

When I’d dreamed of being a writer as a child and teenager, of course I wrote longhand. This was
back in the dark ages before every house had at least one computer. Returning to writing longhand
took me back to the time when writing was fun and full of dreams and hope, whereas writing on a
screen seemed (and still seems) like a job. First drafts stopped being a horrible experience (I still edit on the computer. That really IS a much better option) and went back to me telling myself a story. Even better, I could write longhand anywhere. In the backyard, in bed, on the sofa, at a café. Not only that but my really rough first drafts became less rough, I think because writing longhand is a slower process so you have time to think about what you’re putting down (one of the downsides of being a really fast typist is that any old rubbish goes down on the page). So the editing process ended up being easier as well.

I still have to type the manuscript into the computer,but that has the advantage of letting me do a
rough first edit. I’m investigating dictation programs so that I can just read my manuscript into the
computer. I’m definitely sticking to longhand first drafts. That’s given my writing a whole new lease on life."

Anna's latest book is available now.

Buy here

Lord Garson’s dilemma.
Hugh Rutherford, Lord Garson, loved and lost when his fiancée returned to the husband she’d believed drowned. In the three years since, Garson has come to loathe his notoriety as London’s most famous rejected suitor. It’s high time to find a bride, a level-headed, well-bred lady who will accept a loveless marriage and cause no trouble. Luckily he has just the candidate in mind.
A marriage of convenience…
When Lady Jane Norris receives an unexpected proposal from her childhood friend Lord Garson, marriage to the handsome baron rescues her from a grim future. At twenty-eight, Jane is on the shelf and under no illusions about her attractions. With her father’s death, she’s lost her home and faces life as an impecunious spinster. While she’s aware Garson will never love again, they have friendship and goodwill to build upon. What can possibly go wrong?
…becomes very inconvenient indeed
From the first, things don’t go to plan, not least because Garson soon finds himself in thrall to his surprisingly intriguing bride. A union grounded in duty veers toward obsession. And when the Dashing Widows take Jane in hand and transform her into the toast of London, Garson isn’t the only man to notice his wife’s beauty and charm. He’s known Jane all her life, but suddenly she’s a dazzling stranger. This isn’t the uncomplicated, pragmatic match he signed up for. When Jane defies the final taboo and asks for his love, her impossible demand threatens to blast this convenient marriage to oblivion.
Once the dust settles, will Lord Garson still be the man who can only love once?

Louise Forster  is a best selling author of contemporary and small town romance and uses Dragon Naturally speaking. This is what she says about it:

"For me, Dragon Naturally Speaking, is brilliant. I researched to find the best dictate program, and Dragon kept coming up with great reviews. About 15+ years ago my sister in-law used it after a shoulder operation. I watched her train the program to recognize her voice, and nuances, and even back then it wasn’t too bad.

To have some fun, I suggested she say f**k into the mic. She surprised me by giving it her best shot. The program wasn’t into cursing and came up with all sorts of weird and wonderful words: flock, duck, suck, fluck, pluck. I figured they would’ve improved their program, so I bought Dragon Naturally Speaking 13 Premium. (Premium, because it was on sale). I haven’t had it long, but I like it, and it works for me. Issues with my body forced me to take this path.

The wrong words are highlighted in yellow, the correct in blue/turquoise.

Dragon NaturallySpeaking takes a little training, but it does this as you work and went when you close off. I haven’t tried this program while putting together a first draft, but I can imagine that it would be pretty good. For me, the problem lies with thinking and speaking two different things; I can't speak a sentence while thinking they had our head ahead on the next one. A friend said I could train my brain to work that out in the creative sense.

If you want a quote symbol you simply say open single quote and close single quote. For double quote marks it’s open quote and close quote. If it won’t accept a word simply say spell and a window appears where you can choose or type in the correction.

Editing is a little tricky, for example after highlighting what you want to take out and saying delete, you have to remember to only say the word, or words you want to put in, and not the rest of the sentence, thereby doubling up. I learnt that one pretty quickly."

Louise has a brand new book out on the 4th of May that is available now for pre-order.

Buy here

 In the small town of Tumble Creek, secrets aren’t kept for long...

From the outside, Adele Valentin knows she looks strong, capable, unflappable. But when she loses everything, she can only think of one thing to do: run. A friend’s house in the small rural town of Tumble Creek is a ready-made sanctuary, and Adele flees the big city without ever looking back.

The timing has never been right for Takumi Edwards to express his feelings for Adele, the beautiful, mysterious woman who visits occasionally but haunts his dreams nightly. But now she’s here to stay – at least for a while – and he will never have a better chance.

But Adele is struggling with both past decisions and how vulnerable Takumi makes her feel. When her past follows her to Tumble Creek, Takumi is the only one who can help resolve both what came before and what could be ahead. If Adele is only strong enough to ask.

Have you or anyone you know used a different way to get down that first draft?

Love to love: Finishing edits on my next book.

Love to laugh: At the weird things my cat Angus does. He always keeps me entertained.

Love to learn: about the way my fellow authors create.

Monday, 2 April 2018

Romance Around The World: Ireland

The Romance of Ireland
by Sharon Bryant

I love Ireland. Rolling green fields, fast flowing brooks, ancient stone walls. A place of legend, wonder and romance. I find the Celtic culture and history fascinating. And there are so many wonderful Irish romance novels to read. Here are three of my favourites.
A Gathering Storm

A Gathering Storm by Sheena Lambert tells the story of Christine Grogan, who is haunted by tragic events in her past, and Mark Harrington, an incredibly successful banker, who knows something is undeniably missing from his life. The journey to romance these two unlikely lovers take is a real page turner.

Beneath an Irish Sky

In Beneath an Irish Sky, Luke Kiernan wakes in hospital to find that his mother has tragically died. He must accept help from the man he hates most, his father Jack. Luke and Jack have much to resolve, and are assisted in solving their problems by two special women. This intriguing novel with elements of romance is a delight to read.

The Cad and the Co-ed

Reading The Cad and the Co-ed was fun from start to finish. Eilish became a mother when she was very young. Too young. Cut off from her family, she accepted support from her favourite cousin - a footballer who plays on the same team as the father of her child. There is no point telling the father about his child. The man is a self-centred cad who treated her badly and couldn't even remember her name.

Bryan is determined to prove that he has changed. No more getting drunk. No more one-night stands. He wishes to settle down with the right woman, and Eilish is the right woman for him, or so he thinks. This unlikely couple are thrown together when Eilish has little choice but to accept a job as physiotherapist for Bryan's football team.

Which romance novels set in Ireland have you enjoyed the most?

I love to love: So many wonderful romance novels to read. So much fun to share.

I love to laugh: We saw David Williamson's latest play at the Ensemble theatre last weekend. I think part of the fun of watching good comedy is being able to laugh at yourself.

I love to learn: To me travel is the best teacher, and Ireland is one of the best places to learn. The Celtic cultural history is fascinating.

Monday, 26 March 2018

Left Brain/Right Brain: The Critic and the Muse

by Enisa Haines

Image courtesy of giphy

I'm a hospital scientist by day, working in an Anatomical Pathology laboratory, and a writer by night. Two very different activities, one calling for logic, detail and factual analysis and the other creativity, spontaneity and access to emotions as I bring to life in words the stories I imagine.

Image courtesy of giphy

That I can be both logical and creative can be explained by the Left Brain/Right Brain split-brain theory. Early research showed the brain having two parts. The Left Brain is logical, in charge of reason, calculation, analysis, detail and language. The Right Brain, the creative side, deals with emotions, imagination, creativity, intuition and spontaneity.

Image courtesy of: (and enhanced by E. Haines)

So the scientist in me makes use of the Left Brain and the writer grabs hold of the imagination in the Right Brain. That makes sense. To a point.

If the writer side of me used only the Right Brain I would come up with ideas and build imaginary worlds where the characters I create come alive. But I'd have no words to write (the Left Brain controls language) and the stories would remain only imagination.

The early researchers were wrong. Later research revealed our brains are far more complex. Logic and creativity are not simply Left Brain/Right Brain. They are under the control of each side of the brain working together as a whole.

Therein lies a problem common to all writers. In the Left Brain the critic resides. That little voice that pushes you to edit what you write as you write. In the Right Brain lives the muse. The source of inspiration and imagination and high word output. And the two do not get on!

Yes, we need good grammar and punctuation and attention-catching prose but editing as you write slows the writing and your muse, so eager to create at first and now frustrated, retreats. And your writing stalls. A situation no writer wants.

Silence the critic, was advice I'd read. Easy for some, not so easy for me. My critic, so happily in tune with the scientist side of me, was the cause of many instances of creative frustration. But, passionate about writing, I now intentionally ignore my critic, and my writing flows!

Do you struggle with your critic? Or do your words fly on the page?

Love to love: time spent with family is always precious.

Love to laugh: rush-hour radio comedians make my commute to and from work such fun drives.

Love to learn: more about the brain. There's so much we don't know and don't use.

Monday, 19 March 2018

On Finding Your Voice

with Penelope Janu

We'd like to give a big welcome to the lovely Penelope Janu, our guest blogger this week. 

I started writing creatively five years ago, after working for many years as a lawyer and legal academic (my six children kept me busy as well!). Harlequin Mira published my first novel, In at the Deep End, in 2017, and my second novel with Harlequin Mira, On the Right Track, will be published in June 2018. Another novel, On the Same Page, won the XO Romance Prize for 2017, and will be published by Brio Books. It’s been a busy few years, and a very steep learning curve—but in some ways starting from scratch, and doing things a little differently, has been a good thing.

Available through Amazon and Booktopia

Much as writers do have to think about which publisher might be the best one to publish their book, or whether self-publishing is an option, I believe you should start out, particularly as a new writer, by ‘finding your voice’. Don’t worry about what others might think, just write the book you want to write, and then see if there’s a home for it. And even if there isn’t, you will have completed a novel and be ready to embark on the next one with all that you have learnt.

Link to pre-order 

My next insight relates to voice as well, but not mine—the voices of my characters. All my stories are told by one character, a woman, in first person. This means the reader sees most things from the heroine’s perspective. So how do we show the hero’s perspective?

Firstly, dialogue. I enjoy writing dialogue so, once I’ve worked my characters out, this part of the novel is an absolute joy to write. Sometimes I have pages of dialogue that end up being reduced to half a page, but it’s almost like my characters needed to have the long conversation, for me to get to the essence of what they needed to say.

Secondly, emails, texts, letters. I like incorporating these forms of communication in novels even though, in my view, they have to be used sparingly. Including emails and so on from my heroes is an excellent way to get their voice on the page for the reader. Not only that, when the main POV character receives the correspondence, it will give her a good opportunity to ponder what is meant by it. Although often the reader might see that she hasn’t understood him as well as she might! A good example? Lizzie Bennet poring over Mr Darcy’s letter in Pride and Prejudice.

Image courtesy of

There are other forms of communication too. I used blog posts in In at the Deep End to describe some of the historical background of early explorer expeditions to the South Pole. The circumstances were relevant to the contemporary plot, but to put them in dialogue would have been clunky—condensed they work well. In On the Same Page, my heroine is a writer of historical romance, and I use excerpts of her writing to demonstrate how the characters in her novels were starting to bear an uncanny likeness to the contemporary hero (who wrote emails that demonstrated he had no idea what was going on!) The heroine is a speech pathologist in On the Right Track. She uses animal assisted therapy, and a computer program developed for children without speech, other interesting means of communication that also become means of communication between the characters.

Have you come across devices that work well to illustrate character motivations or thoughts? Do you have examples of novels to show where this is done well? I’d love to read your thoughts!

Love to love: quiet scenes in a novel, where you can imagine that, once the characters have overcome their obstacles, they will be perfectly matched

Love to laugh: when my family imagines closing my laptop means I’ve finished thinking about my characters for the day

Love to learn: new things that relate to what I’m writing—polar exploration, and species of eucalypts. I know so much more than I did when I started writing my novels!

Monday, 12 March 2018

New-to-me Aussie Authors!

Miranda's March Musings!

Welcome, darlings! Have you been reading up a storm? If you missed Alyssa's marvellous blog last week about why romance novels are good for you (as if there is any doubt), go here. I'm so converted already.

I had recent surgery on a misbehaving hand and had to do a strict regime of 'rest and elevate' with said hand above my heart. This meant a lot of sitting down with my hand on pillows. As it was sore and I had utter brain fog from the anaesthetic, this was fine for a few days - until I could think again, and started to get a teensy bit bored. So I 'rested' my way through four seasons of the wonderful Midsomer Murders, seasons 9-12. Love that I've got heaps more seasons to go.

Picture credit:

I also read, read, read, and discovered some fabulous Aussie authors/books completely new to me, which I'm totally sharing with you.

Picture credit:

A great find is Jacquie Underdown's Bittersweet, first book in a new series about three brothers who own a vineyard. I cannot tell a lie, I won this book in an online chat (yay, thanks Jacquie!), so I plunged in with no preconceptions...and was still sitting in my chair (resting and elevating) a few hours later, sort of sobbing and gasping and thinking what absolute gold this book is. Failed chef Amy takes over her friend Rachel's cupcake shop, and get reacquainted with Rachel's brother-in-law Tom. 'Reacquainted' is code for: wow, these two are explosive together! Bittersweet is very raw and real. An unthinkable tragedy happens, and there has to be an implosion before things can ease. But along the way...Amy and Tom, magical Cupid cupcakes, wine... Brilliant. 

Picture credit:

I had the enormous pleasure of sitting next to Maddison Michaels at a recent ARRA High Tea, and got all enthusiastic hearing about her debut Victorian romance, The Devilish Duke. What a knockout first book, Maddison, congratulations! I adored Lady Sophie Wolcott, and how she had that devilish Devlin running in circles around her while she completely resisted to his charms. Loved the cameo with Queen Victoria, I was very amused, and also the suspense-y parts with a killer on the loose. Look for the scene where the Sophie's brother battles for her honour with the duke. Heh, another amusing part. Looking forward to the next book already.

Picture credit:

Last but not least is The Wife's Tale by Christine Wells. It's a true crime I haven't read Christine's books before (oh so sorry), but I now intend to hoover up her others asap; also more of the wonderful historicals she writes as Christina Brooke. Thankfully I've read and loved some of the latter! The Wife's Tale goes between Queensland, Australia, and the Isle of Wight. Modern day lawyer Liz is sent by her boss to the Isle, to investigate an historical 18th century 'situation' pertaining to a beautiful property there called Seagrove. He wants her to pursue its sale for him as he may well have a claim on it, but, well, it's complicated - and the modern day (rather dishy) Lord Nash wants to sell under no circumstances. There's lots of intrigue, drama (understatement) - including a scandalous court case, and huge emotion, plus a nod to how awfully women were treated in past days. Just. Stunning.

Have you read any new-to-you authors? Tell me about your Great Discoveries.

Love from Miranda. xxx

Love to Love:
New category romance coming out from fave authors, like Michelle Douglas, and Kelly Hunter.

Love to Laugh:
I never guess the villain in Midsomer Murders. Sigh...

Love to Learn:
Discovering new authors is Just! So! Exciting! to me.

Monday, 5 March 2018

Romance Novels Are Good For You

By Alyssa J. Montgomery

                                                                   Image courtesy of

We all know that romance novels are good for us...don't we?

According to Susan Quilliam, a British relationship psychologist, this isn't the case! She says they "offer an idealized version of romance which can make some women feel bad about themselves because their relationships aren't perfect" and that they "may lead to women making poor health decisions including not using a condom during sex." She slams the "deep strand of escapism, perfectionism and idealization (which) runs through the genre."

Critics have fired rounds of bullets at our genre since the first romance novel was written. Consider the following points to deflect them.

1. Reading romance novels can inspire healthier relationships
Romance novels are a celebration of love and highlight many obstacles that must be overcome in achieving love. The characters are flawed and yet they find their HEA. Central to our genre are important messages about the importance of communication, trust and loyalty. We read that mistakes are made and that forgiveness and compromise are vital ingredients to a successful relationship. I believe application of these lessons to our own relationships will make them healthier.

                                                                                                                               Image from
2. They provide comfort and inspire hope.
Yes, romance novels provide a form of escapism from mundane and stressful tasks of daily life. Yay! Reading is a little bit of "just-for-me-time". Romances allow us to mentally unwind - to de-stress - and to emerge from the story with renewed freshness and energy. Subconsciously, seeing characters achieve their goals despite adversity may also give us confidence that we can conquer challenges we face in real-life.

3. There can be positive effects on love life.
Readers say that a steamy love scene can inspire intimacy, make them feel more confident in their sexual self-expression and lead to their relationships being spiced up in the bedroom.

                                                                                    Image Courtesy of

4. Positive Physiological Effects
Reading, in general, has been shown to enhance brain function. Romance reading has the added benefit of emotional stimulation.
Neurological chemical processes occur when we are with loved ones. These cause the release of oxytocins and dopamine (good for the heart and for lowering blood pressure). The feelings of pleasure we have when reading a romance can also be linked to increases in these chemical levels. Nikki Logan discusses this in her book, The Chemistry of Reading - Arousing Your Reader.

5. Romance novels have helped empower women.
This statement is a topic all in itself and as I'm now at my word limit, I'll be exploring this topic in my blogspot here on October 8th. Stay tuned...

What other points would you add to the list in support of romance novels being good for us?

Love to Love romance stories that have ideals and provide escapism.

Love to Laugh about the misconceptions people have about those of us who read romance. (Fabio fantasies indeed!!)

Love to Learn that romance novels are physiologically good for my health!

Monday, 26 February 2018

Pinterest: What Is it and Why Do I Need It?

By Marilyn Forsyth
Image courtesy of giphy
Interested in a site with millions of images for your inspiration, education and entertainment? Before you dismiss Pinterest as just another social media site that you don’t have time to indulge in, check out this post to see how easy Pinterest is to use and what it can do for you.

I’m a visual person. You can give me written instructions to follow, or orally explain things to me until you’re blue in the face, and I just won’t get it. me a picture or an infographic and I’ll know exactly what’s going on. That’s why I love Pinterest.

Image courtesy of giphy

It’s visual, it’s fascinating, it’s easy to use and it’s lots of fun.

At its most basic, Pinterest is a photo sharing website. But it’s SO MUCH MORE. (Sorry to shout, but you need to understand this!) The site defines itself as "The world’s catalog of ideas. Find and save recipes, parenting hacks, style inspiration and other ideas to try." And that’s just the beginning…

screenshot of one of my boards
Pinterest allows you to either browse images on pin boards created by others, or to create a pin board for whatever interests you. A pin board is a theme-based collection of images. Think of one thing you’re into. Rural romance? Wildlife photography? Home decoration? I guarantee you’ll find at least one pin board on any topic you can name.

I started off with one board but I now have six, four boards related to my writing and two just for fun and inspiration. Inspirational visuals for the time-slip novel I’m working on appear on a ‘secret’ board which only I can see. Here, I keep images of characters, settings, objects, etc, to refer to when I’m writing. I’ll make it public when I’m closer to publication, like I did with my boards for The Farmer’s Perfect Match and Falling in Love Again. (The links take you to my boards.)

Image courtesy of Hotties From History

I love browsing boards with topics that relate to what I’m writing about. When I find an image I like, I save (repin) it to my board (a one-click operation). For example, one of the heroines in my work in progress is a medieval warrior princess so, from related boards, I've repinned photos of things like medieval dress, castle layouts, and maps of ancient Wales.  

Pinterest regularly alerts me to other boards I might be interested in, and also lets me know when someone has repinned one of my images. (Whether you want to interact with others is up to you. I haven’t gone down that road; I just like having access to inspirational images at my fingertips.)

Image courtesy of Pinterest

Once you have a board of your own (too easy to create), there are 3 ways to add images:
1.                  Upload from your computer
2.                  Repin images from any other board
3.                  Pin directly from any web page by adding the ‘Pin It’ button to your browser 

Like I said, it’s all so easy!

Go on, have a go! Click on this link to the Pinterest Home Page. When you get there, click on the 3 horizontal lines in the top right-hand corner of the page to get a list of general topic headings. Or use the search box if you know what you’re looking for.

This site gives a very helpful overview for getting started:

Do you have any Pinterest boards? Let me know in the comments and I'll be sure to follow you.

Love to Love: travelling. We're off to beautiful Wales in a couple of months to do some further research for my time-slip novel.😁

Love to Laugh: It's why I have a 'Fun Stuff' board.
Love to Learn: which friends are on Pinterest. On the Pinterest Facebook page look under Community (on the right-hand side) and you’ll see the names of any friends who use Pinterest.

Monday, 19 February 2018

Scandalous Women in History

By Cassandra Samuels

Hi everyone. Can you believe we are halfway through February? I hope everyone has had a fabulous start to the year.

For this post I’ve chosen to talk about a particular aspect of the research I did for my debut novel A Scandalous Wager.  Lisbeth Carslake (my heroine) and Caroline Norton are both scandalous women, and both were abused by their husbands.

Caroline is a fascinating woman for many reasons. Born in 1808 as Caroline Sheridan she became the face of justice for women, but she didn’t start off that way. When her soldier father died in Africa, the family was left penniless. They were granted a grace and favour apartment at Hampton Court Palace. Caroline and her sisters were highly accomplished and were accepted everywhere due to their upbringing at court.
Hampton Court Palace - copyright (c) Cassandra Samuels 2010

In 1827 she married George Norton, a barrister and MP. Caroline was witty and clever and used her skills to win favour for her husband and his political ambitions. However, he was a controlling husband and often had fits of rage and drunkenness. He physically and emotionally abused his wife throughout their marriage.

Caroline wrote prose and poetry to vent her emotions and earned money doing so. George disliked his wife’s success. In 1836 she left him. He took her earnings from her writing, so she racked up bills in his name. In turn, he decided to hide her children from her, a cruel blow to a woman who lived for her sons.

Her husband was insanely jealous of her friendship with the then Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne, and sued him for Criminal Conversation (accusing him of having an affair with his wife). Melbourne took him to court and won.
buy a copy here

Caroline campaigned relentlessly for the rights of women to their children. Her intense efforts culminated in the Custody of Infants Act and the Married Women's Property Act. These acts gave women a legal identity where before they had none. I think we owe a lot to Caroline Norton.

buy a copy here

Do you have a favourite scandalous woman in history or even in the present?

Love to Love - watching documentaries on all things historical. This YouTube video on Caroline Norton and other scandalous women is just great.

Love to Laugh- At comedian Michael McIntyre - whose outlook on parenting and middle age is just hillarious.

Love to Learn - Listening to Podcasts by the History Chicks. If you love learning about women in history you will love this podcast.
Go to their website here

Monday, 12 February 2018

Romance Around The World: Scotland

The Romance of Scotland

Scotland is such a romantic place. The majesty of Edinburgh Castle set atop towering cliffs in the centre of a bustling city. The beauty of the deep blue and green lochs, surrounded by rolling hills, carved by ice eons ago. Tiny villages in the high country accessed by winding roads passing fast flowing streams and craggy hilltops. A colourful history of strength and fortitude that so many Scotsman and women have displayed in the face of adversity.

It is unsurprising that so many romance novels have been set in this beautiful country. As you may have guessed, I’ve been reading romance novels set in Scotland lately, and would like to share two of my favourites with you.

On Dublin Street

On Dublin Street by Samantha Young, tells the story of Jocelyn Butler who has never come to terms with the sudden loss of her family. She copes by avoiding getting close enough to anyone to need to confide her past, and thus succeeds in blocking it out. This works reasonably effectively, until she leaves the USA for Scotland where she meets Scotsman, Braden Carmichael. Realising that Jocelyn is terrified of commitment, Braden proposes a sexual relationship with no expectation of anything else. Jocelyn agrees. I loved getting caught up in their passionate romance cleverly woven by Samantha Young, and observing the characters’ growing love and self-knowledge.

When a Scot Ties the Knot

When a Scot Ties the Knot: Castles Ever After by Tessa Dare introduces us to socially anxious Madeline Gracechurch, who avoids her London season by inventing a Scottish sweetheart, Captain Logan MacKenzie. She writes him letters over several years, talks about him with her family, and eventually invents the death of her fictitious love. It turns out that the army has forwarded her letters to a real man named Logan MacKenzie, an army captain, who needs to find a home and means of support for his men following the war. The Captain arrives at Madeline’s property to claim his bride and her assets.

Have you read any romances set in Scotland lately? Which was your favourite?

I love to love: We spent several wonderful days with our extended family over the Christmas period.

I love to laugh: I’m watching the mini-series Cranford at present. The antics of the ladies of the town always bring a smile to my face.

I love to learn: We had a mini-break in Mudgee earlier this month, and visited the town of Rylstone. It was fun wandering through the town, reading the historic notices, observing the old sandstone buildings and imagining how life was in the past.