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Friday, January 31, 2014

Taking Tea with... Whitney KE

My tea guest this week is an Australian writer with the soul of an Irishwoman (and an intriguing pen name) - Whitney K.E.  She has brought with her something called a "Rafflecopter" for a $25 Amazon gift card so do be sure to enter it, or wind it up or whatever you do with a rafflecopter... details are at the end of the post!

Come in and find a seat, Whitney (just move those books…).  Now, before we start to chat, what is your choice of tea?

Do you have a coffee flavoured one hehe? (AS:!)

I am intrigued by your name (which I assume is a pen name) … Whitney K-E. What is the story behind this particular choice of soubriquet?

My full name is Whitney Keevers-Eastman. And it looks ridiculous on a cover as its way too long hehe. Nothing exciting really. 

You are a self confessed Ireland-holic. I've not a drop of Irish blood in me but I would love to visit Ireland. What is your favourite part of Ireland (AS makes notes )?

I was over there this time last year. Looking at my diary, I’m currently in Killarney, one of my favourite places in Ireland and it also happens to be the town in which my romances take place. I love the whole of Ireland to be honest. I plan on going back as I feel I haven’t seen nearly enough of it.

When you’re not writing, what is a typical day in your life?

I work in retail, meeting interesting people and daydreaming of handsome Irishmen hehe. When I’m not working you can find me reading, at the beach, drinking coffee and although I haven’t been lately, working with my horse.

Your second story, DECEIVE ME IN IRELAND has just come out.  What was the inspiration for this story?

Deceive Me in Ireland is the second novel in my Irish series. What Happens in Ireland is my first. My inspiration? I always planned to write Cara and William’s story. It is dedicated to my sister and I hope she finds a few messages in there that I have in there. My love for Ireland is always an inspiration, but this story is mainly character driven. I loved playing with William in What Happens in Ireland. I just couldn’t ignore him any longer!

Deceive Me in Ireland
By Whitney K-E

"Never call a Kerry man a fool until you're sure he's not a rogue."

Her cousin, Kate had warned her about the Irish charm. And Cara had been foolish enough to ignor
e her. In Ireland to be Maid of Honor in Kate’s wedding, Cara hasn’t a clue that the handsome Irishman who is seated next to her is the infamous brother of her cousin’s fiancĂ©. And William O’Reilly doesn’t plan on telling her. Not yet, anyway.

Silver-tongued and devilishly handsome, William had Cara wondering if he is the same man she met on the plane. Should she give him a chance or heed her cousin’s warning and keep him at a distance? 

The same unique and quirky characters from What Happens in Ireland come together again to celebrate the wedding of Kate and Jack in the fresh and humorous sequel, Deceive Me in Ireland.

Like Kate Barrow, her cousin Cara discovers that resisting the charms of an Irishman isn’t as easy as it seems. William O'Reilly is as silver-tongued as his brother, Jack and determined to make the woman realize his worth. And her own.

Deceive Me in Ireland will be available in ebook on Itunes, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashword and All Romance Ebooks!

And a little bit about Whitney K.E.

Filled with a passion for writing and a love for romance since the age of fourteen, Whitney can’t imagine anything else she’d rather be than an author. The owner of a grumpy thoroughbred gelding and a frisky mini foxie, Whitney lives on the east coast of Australia, spending most of her time day-dreaming about handsome heroes and turning caffeine into novels.

After travelling to the Emerald Isle, Whitney fell for the Irish charm and wrote her first novel, What Happens in Ireland. You can read more about her novels and the woman herself on her website or connect with her on facebook.


Friday, January 24, 2014

Taking Tea with... Vonda Sinclair (and a bunch of hunky highlanders)

My front hall is full of large highlanders (all clamouring for whisky) who appear to be accompanying this Friday's tea guest, best selling and award winning writer of Scottish romantic historicals, Vonda Sinclair.

If you can just push through them, Vonda; George has brought through the tea trolley. What is your preference (or would you prefer a bit of the whisky and haggis to share with those delightful men you have brought with you)?

Hi, Alison! Thank you so much for inviting me (and my Highlanders) to your lovely home. Hello, George, so nice to meet you. I'm not much of a pure whisky drinker. I'd love to have some Bruadar if you have it. It's a liqueur made in Scotland with whisky, honey and sloe berries. Far more tasty (to me) than whisky. If you don't have that, I'll take some green tea. As for the haggis, it will be gone in two minutes in the presence of these hungry Highlanders.

I have a confession to make, Vonda, the romantic skirl of bagpipes just makes my ears hurt… so despite my Scottish antecedents (and Stuart, while my pen name, is also a family name), I am probably a disgrace to my clan… what is it about Scotland that draws you?

Oh wow, there are so many wonderful things about Scotland that I love. The friendly people, the beautiful, breathtaking landscapes (usually featuring a castle by a loch) of the Highlands, the food. I love visiting all the historic and prehistoric sites. Walking through the towns, on a pebble beach, or hiking in Glencoe is an adventure (AS:  I have to agree with you there - I have wonderful memories of the King's House Hotel with the mist wreathing the valley)

Aye, if you're too close to the bagpiper, your ears can hurt, for the pipes are loud and shrill (AS:  Formal mess dinners in the Army killed the bagpipes for me, Vonda!). But at a distance, with the chill Highland wind whipping, there is naught lovelier than the skirl of bagpipes. I love to bring the romance of Scotland and the bravery of the Highlanders to life in my books.
(AS:  I was in a little town hidden in the high country of Victoria last year and we woke to a lone piper high above the town. It was chilling and haunting at the same time so I retract what I said about bagpipes...they have their moment!)

When you are not lost in your beloved highlands, are you writing full time or do you have a “day job” that keeps you grounded in reality?

I'm fortunate and thankful to write full time. I have the best job on earth and the perfect job for me. Since I was a child, getting lost in my own imagination was what I enjoyed most. I tried many jobs over the years before I was published, but I was miserable in most of them. Writing is definitely the thing for me. :)

Would you agree that the love affair with men in kilts began with Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series or does it go further back? Is it here to stay and do you think “Scottish Historical Romance” is now an established  sub genre of historical romance in the same way as “Regency Historical”?

Karen Marie Moning's Highlander series got me hooked on hot Highlanders. :) And I read several Highland historical romances before her books came out. I'm a huge fan of romance. Yes, I think Scottish historical romance is here to stay and it's a reader favorite. It's easy to see why. Scotland has some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. And who can resist a fierce Highland warrior in a kilt who is so loving and protective of his lady?

You’ve written 5 books in your award winning and Amazon best selling series of “Highlander” books. What is the link between the series and are there any others to come?

Yes, there are more books to come in the Highland Adventure series. I'm writing the next one now (My Rebel Highlander) about Rebbie, a sexy, entertaining Scottish earl who has been in the last four books as a secondary character and friend of the heroes of those books. Rebbie loves to tease and needle his friends, but he also helps them. 

The books are connected by family and friend relationships. The heroes of My Fierce Highlander and My Wild Highlander are brothers (Alasdair and Lachlan). The hero (Dirk) of My Brave Highlander is the friend of Lachlan. The hero of My Daring Highlander (Keegan) is the cousin of Dirk. The heroine of My Notorious Highlander (Jessie) is the sister of Dirk. Rebbie is best friends with Lachlan and Dirk. That was probably as clear as mud. LOL Each book stands alone and they can be read in any order, but it's probably best to read them in order to appreciate the relationships between all the secondary characters. Readers tell me they enjoy seeing what's going on with the heroes and heroines of the earlier books as I revisit them as secondary characters in later books. Books 3, 4 and 5 are more closely connected because some of the villains are the same. I also have plans to write about Isobel's brothers. She is the heroine in My Brave Highlander and she has five gorgeous brothers who all need to find wives. :)

Chief Torrin MacLeod vows to possess and wed the spirited lady who stole his heart the previous winter. But Lady Jessie MacKay wants naught to do with the dangerous warrior, no matter how devilishly handsome and charming he is. When Torrin arrives unexpectedly at Jessie's home, along with Gregor MacBain, a man Jessie was formerly handfasted to, she is thrown off-kilter. She never wanted to see either man again, but now they are vying for her hand. Torrin promises to protect her from the devious MacBain, but how can she trust Torrin when she has witnessed how lethal he is?

The more time Torrin spends with the strong and independent Jessie, the more determined he is to win her heart. Once she allows him a kiss, he feels her passion flame as hot as his own. After she knows Torrin better, Jessie finds herself falling for the fearsome Highlander. But the odds are stacked against them. The sinister MacBain is bent on kidnapping Jessie, making her his bride and killing Torrin, while Jessie's conniving younger brother, Haldane, is determined to use Jessie to take over the castle in his older brother's absence. Jessie fears she can never be with the man she loves, while Torrin will do everything in his power to ensure they are together forever. In his heart, she is the only lady for him.
Castle Stalker

    And some more about today's delightful guest, VONDA SINCLAIR 

Vonda Sinclair’s favorite indulgent pastime is exploring Scotland, from Edinburgh to the untamed and windblown north coast. She also enjoys creating hot Highland heroes and spirited lasses to drive them mad. Her books have won an EPIC Award and a National Readers' Choice Award. She lives with her amazing and supportive husband in the mountains of North Carolina where she is no doubt creating another Scottish story.

AND VONDA IS OFFERING A GIVEAWAY OF MY NOTORIOUS HIGHLANDER... drop by and tell us what kind of Highland hero is your favourite?  

(AS:  ooh... Connor Macleod from the Higlander movie is my fave...and no, I am not a fan of Jamie from Outlander/Cross Stitch - I loved the first book but never got into the subsequent stories)

Congratulations to Ashley York, winner of My Notorious Highlander by Vonda Sinclair.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

How I Became an Australian...or how I nearly became a Kiwi...

Ripper, bonzer,'s my turn to be part of the great AUSTRALIA DAY BLOGHOP. I'm as chuffed as a kookaburra with a beak full of sausage, straight off the barbie. Thank you to the wonderful Annie Seaton for her hard work in herding a bunch of wayward Aussies into some semblance of order!

"I am... you are... we are Australian..."

That song , “I am Australian” has a particular poignancy for me and never fails to bring tears to my eyes.

In October 2002 we were living in Singapore. My husband was already commuting to his job in Melbourne but I had remained in Singapore to allow my eldest son to finish his schooling at the Australian International School. The Year 12s were a week off finishing their exams when the Bali bombings occurred. Of the 202 people killed at Kuta Beach, 88 were Australians. Nothing, short of war, could have had such a devastating affect on Australia. A week later and it could have been half of the young people from the AIS who had been planning “schoolies” in Bali. As it was the Singapore Rugby 7s had been playing in a tournament on Kuta and several members were killed, many injured. We all knew someone who was directly affected.

The Australian High Commissioner opened up the High Commission to the Australian expatriate community for a memorial service. The place was packed, a community united by shock and grief. The High Commissioner spoke of the importance of “tribe” and how the tribe comes together in times of trouble and sadness. The Australian school choir sang “I am Australian”. Men and women, larrikin Aussies all, wept. It was in that moment I really understood what it was to be Australian.

You see I was not born Australian, although through a quirk in my family tree, I should have been. My great great grandparents were Australian born and bred, tracing their lineage back to 1798 - to a country that had been settled by Europeans for less than 10 years. I can point to my convict roots and make claim to being Australian “royalty” but whatever their own reasons my great+ grandparents decided to “return” to England in the 1860s and that particular branch of the family settled into comfortable middle class life in London.

I was therefore born a “British” citizen at the end of the British Empire, in the dying days of colonial life, in Nairobi, Kenya. My mother had been born in Kenya where her father had gone as a colonial civil servant in the 1920s and my father, following a long and divergent route, had decided to end his British army career in a country he fell in love with and, I suspect, mourned to his dying day. Independence came in 1963 and my parents decided that modern Kenya held no future for their children but where to go? They could not bear the thought of returning “home” to a country neither of them had lived in for twenty years and to which they felt no allegiance. So they decided to have a look at New Zealand.

A good military man, my father was all booked for his reconnaissance trip to the land of the long white cloud. He even had an introduction to then Governor of NZ. It looked like I would live out my life pronouncing my name “Ulison”. Unfortunately I gave him mumps and the trip had to be cancelled. Months passed and he decided perhaps Australia might be worth a look so off he went, returning with a stuffed koala bear and favourable reports. There was a large expatriate community of ex Kenyan colonials in Perth and that would be where we would move. The one city he had nothing good to report on was a miserable, cold city on the bottom of the country, where all the pubs closed at 6.00pm. If we lived nowhere else we would not, he declared, ever live in Melbourne.

My travel diary for the move... showing indications of the writer I would become... Kilmanjaro -  "Its splendour showing radiant against the blue sky..."
Mauritius on route to Perth
We had to meet with a visiting member of the Australian parliament to prove, we suspected, that my mother (and indeed my brother and I!) was white. The late 1960s marked the dying days of the "White Australia Policy" and my mother's own birth in Kenya may have aroused suspicions! 

In July 1968, as approved migrants travelling under the General Assistance Package Scheme (not quite ten pound poms but pretty close!), the move was made and our little family transposed from Nairobi to Perth. I had studied Australia at school in Nairobi and I knew all about the Ord River scheme (yes, really!) but it was something of a disappointment to find that kangaroos did not live in the back yard of our rented house in Subiaco. In fact my parents might as well have moved me to the moon.  I am not sure I even spoke the same language as the girls at St. Marys Church of England Grammar School. 

A forlorn Perth school girl 1968
In my first few months in Perth I survived the Meckering earthquake and  the running of some sort of horse race in far off much derided Melbourne which necessitated the Grade 5 girls clustered around a radio at the end of the school grounds during lunch hour (for the record, the 1968 Melbourne Cup won by Rain Lover). I can't say those early days in my new country were very happy. I was definitely the odd one out.

Dad couldn’t find work in Perth. My parents carefully eked out savings were beginning to run out and despite strident advice from my mother’s father (always a plain speaker), they decided it had all been a terrible mistake and we would move to South Africa. We were booked on the next boat to South Africa when a job opportunity came up in ... Melbourne. The passage to South Africa was cancelled and we moved to the cold miserable city where the pubs closed at 6.00pm.

I loved Melbourne from the moment we stepped into a taxi at the airport. I blossomed at my new school. I made lifelong friends. There were a few adjustments to be mad... a nasty moment in my first week at my new school when it was discovered I didn’t know the National Anthem (God Save the Queen) and disparaging notes were sent home to my mother. (BTW I can still sing the Kenyan national anthem!)

An Australian with the paper to prove it!
My life in Kenya slipped into the furthest recesses of my mind and on 21 November 1977 at the age of 18 I became an Australian - I even have the piece of paper to prove it. Actually we all became Australians, even my father who grumbled at the inequity of being made to swear allegiance to the same monarch he had served as a British Army Officer for 15 years. However not for us, the public ceremonies where you are presented with a gum tree or a wattle with much singing of the National anthem (the newly minted Advance Australia Fair to which NO ONE knew the words). Dad arranged for private, oddly impersonal, meetings with a public servant in a gloomy office somewhere in the city. Mr. Albert Terence Stuckey “Migration Officer” signed me off as having sworn the the proper oath of allegiance and I was officially Australian, completing a circle begun by my convict ancestress in 1798.

One last tie bound me to my British citizenship. I still had a British passport. In 1984 I married an Australian and the unmitigated bureaucratic nightmare of travelling internationally with a spouse on a different passport forced my hand and I surrendered my passport. I was now 100% Australian and the mother of two little Australians.

It is only when I speak, that the well enunciated vowels of a colonial past slip out and betray my non-Australian background. I can’t change the way I speak. That will be with me forever, but for those who think I do have an English accent - stick me in England and you will see that what I have is a peculiar accent that is neither English nor Australian but the product of both.

My 3 year sojourn as an Expat in Singapore sealed the deal (despite the accent becoming more pronounced!). I loved being an Australian abroad. I may have been a member of the British Club but it was in the company of Aussies - at the opening of the Sydney Olympics, at Melbourne Cup functions, watching the AFL Grand Final with the airconditioning way down and wrapped in scarves, putting on an Australia Day morning tea for the ExxonMobil spouses… and standing with my tribe at the ANZAC Day dawn service or weeping while the children sang “I am Australian” at the Bali Memorial Service -  that I really understood what it was to be Australian. Dinky di, true blue Australian...

MY GIVEAWAY:  As you probably know I mostly write historicals set in the seventeenth century, long before Australia was "discovered" but I yearned to write a book with an Australian character, that reflected the experience of being an Australian. In GATHER THE BONES I have an Australian heroine, Helen Morrow, and I am giving away a copy of this multi-award nominated, Amazon best seller to a lucky commenter who can tell me their favourite fictional Australian (is it Crocodile Dundee? Edna Everidge? errr... how many fictional Australians do we have???).
AND DON'T FORGET MY LATEST BOOK:  CLAIMING THE REBEL'S HEART is now out now on AMAZON and where all good ebooks are sold. 

AND LASTLY, BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY, PLEASE ENTER THE BLOG HOP'S OWN RAFFLECOPTER CONTEST. A $100 Amazon voucher and other prizes are on offer. Entry below!!!

Happy Australia Day on the 26th January

Friday, January 17, 2014

Taking Tea with...Anna Lee Huber

You know how sometimes you hit a low point in your life, be it personal or professional but just at that moment someone says the right word and it all becomes clear?  

Around August last year my writing life hit its nadir.  I have long since accepted that I wrote stories that were too historical for historical romance and too romantic for historical fiction. Add in a few ghosts, time travel and more recently, a murder or two and things were getting complex.  I had just written a blog about trying to fit what I wrote into a neat little package with an appropriate label. (THE BLACK MOMENT OF A WRITER'S SOUL). I had no clear idea of how to dig myself out of the hole into which I had fallen. By sheer chance (as I don't always read it), I opened the August edition of the Romance Writers' Report and it fell open at an article titled “A Dash of This, A Pinch of That:  Serving up a slice of History, Mystery and Romance” by Anna Lee Huber.  In the article Anna Lee wrote about the concept of being a "cross genre" author... and in a sense gave me (and I hope others) "permission" to say 'I an author of cross genre novels" (I tried saying "I am a cross genre author" but I thought that made me sound like a cross dresser). 

I tore the article from the magazine and contacted Anna Lee to thank her for her inspiring words and in August I posted a long blog about being the writer you want to be. WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT DO YOU WRITE?  It is now my great pleasure to welcome RITA winner, Anna Lee Huber to my tea table.

Hi Anna, George will be bringing in the tea tray shortly…. What is your preference in tea or are you a coffee drinker?

I’m definitely more of a tea-drinker, with cream or milk and sugar or Truvia (AS... had to look that one up! It's a sweetener for my non US readers), it depends how decadent we want to be. J My favorites are English Breakfast and Chai.  (AS:  Decadence is our middle name, isn't it George? Bring the cream...although I do have to say cream is not my first choice for's one of those strange American practices that no matter how many times I visit the US, I have not adapted to!)

Your article in the August edition of the Romance Writers Report leaped off the page at me.  At last someone who clearly articulated the sort of stories that I write – cross genre!  What prompted you to write the article?

I’ve often felt somewhat afloat in the genre/label-driven world of the publishing industry. My novels don’t quite fit in any one genre. They’re mysteries set in historical times with a liberal sprinkling of romance, and most of the novels I like to read are very similar, spanning a wide variety of genres. I wrote the article because it’s something that I would have liked to have read when I was just starting out - a confirmation that I’m not the only one out there writing cross-genre, along with some tips on how to navigate such a tricky publishing world.  I wanted other cross-genre writers to know they’re not alone, and to see their diverse subject matter as a strength rather than the weakness that many have tried to make us believe.

In a world that requires nice neat labels, what advice do you have about marketing cross genre stories?

Market to all of the genres your novel hits, within reason. If you have a publisher, they will try to pigeonhole you in one genre, and that’s fine. They do need to shelve you somewhere. But don’t let that limit your reach. Many readers read across genres (AS: Me for example! I am a reader too and I write the books I like to read!). This is a good thing. But accept that not everyone will be thrilled with your broader storyline. You’ll receive contradictory comments – one reader will say your story has too much romance, while another will say it has too little. You can’t please everyone, so just please yourself.

If you’re pitching to agents or publishers, my best advice is to be honest and up front about your novel’s cross-genre nature, but don’t make too fine a point of it. Tell them it’s, for example, a historical mystery with strong romantic elements, and leave it at that. A hint of those romantic elements should be in your synopsis so they can see where it weaves in, but don’t make another mention of it. Let them become excited about the story, not immediately leap to the conundrum they might face in marketing it. A good story is a good story, and they’ll see that.

Carnasserie Castle - part of the inspiration for Banbogle Castle in MORTAL ARTS
What or who ignited your passion for history?

I’ve always loved history. It was my favorite subject in school. In a way, I think it’s in my blood. Many of my ancestors were history buffs. I’m not sure what exactly first inspired me to write historical-set novels, except that it was what I often chose to read, and many of my daydreams took place in history. I’ve just always seen the amazing narrative potential in our past.

You are writing a series of romantic mysteries set in early Victorian England,  “The Lady Darby” series. What was the inspiration behind these books?

Some of my favorite authors write in this cross-genre, and following the advice that you should write what you love, I decided to give it a try. Everything about it was completely intentional, even the character of Lady Darby. I created her and crafted her backstory specifically to give her skills that would be useful in a murder investigation and to provide her with obstacles to overcome. However, from the moment I put pen to paper and began to write, it was magical. It was as if she’d always lived in my head and was just waiting for me to let her speak. So perhaps the raw inspiration was there along and the analytical side of my mind just needed to believe it was done with intention. (AS:  I am writing a mystery series set in Singapore in 1910 and for a pantser I have spent a long time working on the character of my protagonist, Harriet Gordon - I know everything about her but she can still surprise!)

Tell me a little bit about your protagonists Lady Kiera Darby and the enigmatic Gage?

Kiera is the widow of a famous anatomist and a gifted portrait artist. Her miserly late husband forced her to use her talents to sketch his dissections for an anatomist textbook he was writing. When he passed away, her involvement in his work was made public, and she instantly become a social pariah. She’s intelligent and passionate about her art, and intensely loyal to those she loves. After her disastrous marriage, she has no intention of ever marrying again. That is, until she meets Sebastian Gage, who unwillingly stirs something inside her.

Gage is a gentleman inquiry agent working alongside is more famous father. They have a somewhat contentious relationship, and he’s eager to prove himself. He also has a somewhat mysterious past, and does not easily share his true self with others, though Kiera is slowly chipping away at his resolve.

I have Book 1, THE ANATOMISTS WIFE, on my Kindle and I'm so looking forward to reading it. As for Book 2...

Mortal Arts, Lady Darby Book 2

Scotland, 1830. Lady Kiera Darby is no stranger to intrigue-in fact, it seems to follow wherever she goes. After her foray into murder investigation, Kiera must journey to Edinburgh with her family so that her pregnant sister can be close to proper medical care. But the city is full of many things Kiera isn't quite ready to face: the society ladies keen on judging her, her fellow investigator-and romantic entanglement-Sebastian Gage, and ultimately, another deadly mystery.

Kiera's old friend Michael Dalmay is about to be married, but the arrival of his older brother-and Kiera's childhood art tutor-William, has thrown everything into chaos. For ten years Will has been missing, committed to an insane asylum by his own father. Kiera is sympathetic to her mentor's plight, especially when rumors swirl about a local girl gone missing. Now Kiera must once again employ her knowledge of the macabre and join forces with Gage in order to prove the innocence of a beloved family friend-and save the marriage of another...

And some more about my guest...

Anna Lee Huber is the RITA and Daphne Award nominated author of Mortal Arts and The Anatomist's Wife. A summa cum laude graduate of Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee, Anna majored in music and minored in psychology. She currently resides in Indiana with her family and is hard at work on the next Lady Darby Mystery. Book 3, A Grave Matter, will release on July 1, 2014. Visit her at

Dryburgh Abbey – the setting for Book 3, A GRAVE MATTER, releasing July 1st.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A Thumbnail Dipped in Tar - Writing without technology

“And an answer came directed in a writing unexpected,
(And I think the same was written with a thumb-nail dipped in tar)
(From Clancy of the Overflow by Banjo Paterson)

I have appalling handwriting, the product, of three different education systems during my formative years. My handwriting is so bad that even my then boyfriend (now husband), to whom I had written several passionate love letters while he was away, commented he could only read every other line. I gave up after that. I don’t think he’s had a love letter since! Even my father (hardly one to point fingers in the handwriting stakes) commented my writing looked like a “thumbnail dipped in tar”.

Owing to a complete failure at mathematics, I was banished to the “commercial stream” at school where I was taught touch typing, such a useful skill for a gal, along with shorthand and bookkeeping (I didn't actually do shorthand although it would have been very useful!). A university education was not high on my school’s ambitions for its ladies in those days. Typing proved to be the one really useful skill I ever learned at school (thank you Mrs. Spence) - and sewing (thank you, Mrs. Plummer).

University came and I bashed out my essays on a portable typewriter, fearing for my marks if any poor benighted lecturer had to read my handwriting. Exams were problematical. Poor handwriting and time pressure… I wonder how much that accounted for some fairly ordinary marks. Was my brilliance overcome by frustration as a tired examiner, burning the midnight oil opened my book?

Hooray for computers. I was an early adopter of the “word processor”. My useful skill of touch typing came to the fore and starting with Wordstar, I moved to Wordperfect 5.1 (still IMO the best word processing program EVER)and have progressed through all the stage of Microsoft Word. I write my books using a combination of Scrivener and Word.

Then of course along came the internet…and google… and email… and Facebook… and Twitter… and Wikipedia. My life is now fully contained in the Cloud which moves from my phone to my iPad to my PC or Mac notebook. I am a 100% early adoptive cyber chick.

You can imagine my horror when I arrived at the airport for our recent holiday and realised I had left my hand luggage containing (apart from the weekly Bombay Gin supply), my iPad and bluetooth keyboard which I had packed knowing I had 24 hours by myself and intending to do some writing. With a new book percolating in my mind, all I had in the way of technological assistance was my phone. Quelle disaster!

A writing pad, a pen and a cute hotel room...
This meant drastic action… Here I was alone in a nice hotel room with 24 hours of uninterrupted writing time. Even the wretched Television didn’t work and the cricket finished early. I purchased a clean new pad of paper and a pen and sat in my hotel looking at it. I didn’t even know where to start! I uncapped the pen and did, as “Alice” suggested, I started at the beginning and went on till I came to the end. Well not quite… but in that short time in the hotel room, I developed a plotting process for pantsers (more on that in future posts) and using this prototype, I actually plotted this new book. With no technological distractions the ideas flowed out into a mind map and there was the very bare bones of Book 2 of the Harcourt Chronicles. All I had to do was write it… I turned to a fresh page of the writing pad and began…
“…Above the drone of Pastor Newington’s voice, a low rumble, like thunder, disturbed the drowsing congregation. Every face turned to the window above the altar which had once boasted a fine representation of the Resurrection, but now where the it had not been boarded over, the cold wind whistled through in the wintertime….”

And thus I wrote 2500 largely illegible words which I now have to transcribe into Scrivener (using the new template I worked out). A thoroughly good day’s work.

So the moral of this story… sometimes, just sometimes, walk away from technology, get a pen and paper out and let the story flow. There is something to be said for that magical connection between the hand, the pen and the paper. Whether I have the fortitude to do it again… remains to be seen.

How Alison saw herself...

...What she really looked like....

I know many writers do still write their first draft longhand. As I also now suffer from arthiritis in my right thumb, the thought of 50,000 words of longhand fills me with terror. What do you think?

And in other news, my latest release CLAIMING THE REBEL'S HEART (Book 1 in the Harcourt Chronicles), is officially released on January 22 but is available for pre-purchase on KINDLE and SMASHWORDS. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Taking Tea and discussing craft with... Ella Quinn

Welcome back to a new year and some wonderful guests lined up for tea and a chat.

To kick off 2014, it's my pleasure to welcome back Ella Quinn. Last year Ella hit the jackpot all writers desire with a contract from Kensington and since she first shared a cup of tea with me (last September), her Regency Historicals, the Marriage Game series, have gone from strength to strength.

I thought for a change of pace, I would ask Ella about her writing process, which is probably a mean thing to do, because for many writers it is an intuitive process. 

Over to Ella...

Alison asked me to write something on craft. This is a hard subject for me because I don’t really think much about craft. Not to be confused with “I don’t think much of craft.”

I write a quick first draft which is roughly 80,000 words. As my books tend to be around 100,000 words, this gives me enough room to add in what I’ve forgotten or glossed over in the first draft. I research as I go along. I know many authors who go back and do the research, but I’d rather have that part over with, then find out I got something pivotal wrong and have to change part of the plot. I also write down the names and character descriptions of all the characters.

The first edit is a somewhat abbreviated layering technique. I just don’t have the patience to go over the MS four or five times for one thing. During the edit I remove most of my think, feel, see types of words and adding deep POV. This takes time as I have to get into the character’s head and feel, taste, touch, etc, what they do. At the same time, I flesh out my scenes adding details one would notice if in the room or whatever, try to create good hooks for the ends of scenes and really good ones for the chapter endings, make sure all the clothing and words, are accurate (though I write with the on-line OED open), look for repeat ideas or words and write the ending. I’ve tried writing the ending on the first draft, and it always changes.

Next the MS goes to my critique partners. Thank God for them. They tell me when I’ve rushed a scene, make me add more emotion to my loves scenes or other scenes that require more a punch, and generally find missing and repeat words.

After that, I do a final review and off it goes to my beta readers. One of whom is my mother-in-law and happens to be in lock step with my agent. Another is an English lady who fixes all my Americanisms. Once all those revisions are done, the book is finally ready to go to my agent and editor.

If you’re a writer, what is your process? If you’re a reader, what do you think about all of this?   

Ella's latest book THE TEMPTATION OF LADY SERENA, is already an Amazon best seller! (And aren't her covers gorgeous???)

Custom-made gowns…nights at the theater…and a host of eligible bachelors. Accustomed to living a quiet life in the Scottish Borderlands, Lady Serena Weir has never had any of these luxuries. But when Serena’s brother demands she finally have a Season in London, she’s thrust into a glamorous world she’s only dreamed of…

Robert, Viscount Beaumont remembers all too well what it feels like to be in love. That is why he must keep his distance from Serena. He’s only felt his pulse stir the way it does now when he made the mistake of loving the wrong woman once before. Yet the more he strives to resist his feelings, the nearer he is to falling under Serena’s seductive spell…

For more about Ella and her wonderful books, visit her WEBSITE.

So do pop by and share your thoughts with us on the writing process...

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Ringing in the New Year

It is New Year's Day in Australia and a sort of muggy morning with the threat of rain. If I face plant on my key board it is because our neighbours rang in the New Year with a party that didn't end until 4.00am after which they HAD to clear up all the bottles by throwing them into the bin. I don't mean to be a "wowser" but some consideration for your neighbours even it is New Year's eve, would be appreciated!

The grumble is over and time to reflect on 2013. Was it just me or did it whiz by at ultra sonic speed? It was certainly a year of firsts for me:

  • I rode a float in the New Orleans Mardi Gras. 
  • I visited the West Indies (Martinique)  and saw the place where my great+ grandfather had his head blown off by the English (he was French).
  • I visited Russia.
  • We celebrated 2 family engagements and a wedding.
  • I had 2 books hit Amazon best selling lists.

Farewell 2013 and welcome 2014.  I don't set resolutions. I try to set achievable goals so this time last year I sat down and publicly set out my goals for 2013 and as I publicly stated them I should probably publicly evaluate my success or otherwise…

So casting back to Jan 1, 2013..
I ... think we need to distinguish between personal and professional goals for the year. 
My perennial personal goal is "to lose weight" and "get fitter".  To make that achievable:

  • My goal is to lose 500g per month. Nearly achieved. I lost 5kg over the year.
  • My goal is to exercise a minimum of 5 days per week and to add incentive I will enter  Run Melbourne in July (5kms). Nearly achieved. I exercise at least 4 days per week…and I entered Run Melbourne but alas on the day another commitment prevented me from running it. I don’t think Fun Runs should figure in my goal setting!
My professional goals:

  • Write a minimum of 10,000 words per week, acknowledging that writing every day is not achievable (sorry, but it's just not!). Ha ha!
  • Cut down on my social media addiction. Balance and moderation in everything! Errrr…
  • My  specific writing goals will be shared regularly with my writing group, who keep me honest. Ok… I did manage this one. I love my writing group and now can't imagine my writing life without them.

BRING IT ON… here are my 2014 goals

  • Continue the weight loss journey (family wedding in November and I don’t want to be the short tubby one on the end of the row in the photographs!)
  • Keep up the exercise. 4 days minimum.
  • Make more time for my needlework.
  • Make space in the schedule for quality time with my husband (who after working hard all his life is taking a "gap year") and family. There is more to life than writing!

  • Drawing on my corporate background, I have written a "business plan" for 2014 so my goal is to stick to it!
  • Better balance of the need to write with the "busyness" side of being a writer which can mean way too much time on social media.
So what can you expect from Alison Stuart in 2014?
TWO Alison Stuart books:

  • CLAIMING THE REBEL'S HEART (historical romance) will be out on or before 22 January. This will be Book 1 in the "Harcourt Chronicles".
  • LORD SOMERTON'S HEIR (regency, romantic suspense) will be coming out on 1 May.
According to the "business plan" I will be working on a sequel to Claiming the Rebel's Heart with an aim to have it out in early 2015 (sorry...but I am a slow writer). I am also working on the third book in the "King's Man" series - more on that later. There is also another historical romantic suspense on the back burner. 

And I do also have a day job...sigh!

Finally... Over the next three weeks a group of us Aussie romance writers are running an Australia Day blog hop (Australia Day is Jan 26), organised by my friend (and fabulous editor), Annie Seaton. There is a $100 Amazon gift card on offer plus some fabulous giveaways. My blog will go up on Jan 23 but do pop in to visit the other blogs which kick off today over at Monique McDonnell's blog. Visit her and the entry for the draw for the major prize is at the bottom of this blog.