This book is from Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi, the authors of The Emotion Thesaurus. I bought that when it first came out and I bought several others of their guides- all really helpful and great value.
I’m such a fan of their writing guides I joined their Street Team. Every time they release a book they do something epic and fun to celebrate, and I get to tell you all about it!
But first, you’re probably curious about this book, so let me break it down. The Conflict Thesaurus is set up like the other books in their series: part how-to, part thesaurus. This guide shows writers how to maximize conflict and use it to build tension, drive the plot, reveal your character’s inner layers, and most importantly, keep readers glued to the page.
It’s packed with conflict scenarios like Moral Dilemmas, Ticking Clocks, Obstacles, No-Win Scenarios, Temptations and more. It can help you nail down your plot and character arc, so check it out!
Now, speaking of conflict, I have a BIG question for you.
Can You Survive Danger as Well as Your Favorite Protagonist? You’re probably pretty good at throwing problems at your characters and making life difficult for them. After all, that’s part of being a writer. But do you ever think about how you’d do if you had to face the same situations? If you were the protagonist, would you hold up to the pressure? Would you make good decisions and succeed, or screw up and fail?
Let’s find out.
Introducing… The Conflict Challenge
Become the protagonist in a story Angela & Becca created using scenarios found in the Conflict Thesaurus to see if you’ve got what it takes to win.
The weather was dismal, as we had twenty eight days of rain in July. The last time the rain was so frequent, in sunny Perth, Australia, was seventy five years ago. Home and comfort was the place to be. My local library provided most of the books I’ve been reading this month. Television provided few distractions, so I happily got lost in a good book.
When She Was Good by Michael Robotham.
Criminal psychologist Cyrus Haven and Evie Cormac return in this new thriller from author Michael Robotham. Who is Evie, the girl with no past, running from? She was discovered hiding in a secret room in the aftermath of a terrible crime. Her ability to tell when someone is lying helped Cyrus crack an impenetrable case in Good Girl, Bad Girl. Now, the closer Cyrus gets to uncovering answers about Evie’s dark history, the more he exposes Evie to danger, giving her no choice but to run. Ultimately, both will have to decide if some secrets are better left buried and some monsters should never be named…
Although this continues the story which began in Good Girl, Bad Girl, it could be read as a stand-alone. Tautly plotted and filled with tension, the story follows Evie Cormac, aka Angel Face. She was a child discovered at a horrific crime scene. Evie is deeply traumatised, trusting no -one, apart from Cyrus Haven, the criminal psychologist who initially got her to speak. Evie has the unerring ability to know when someone is lying. When she says their lives are in danger, Cyrus doesn’t believe her.
The Mystery of Three Quarters by Sophie Hannah
The world’s most beloved detective, Hercule Poirot, the legendary star of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express and most recently The Monogram Murders and Closed Casket, returns in a stylish, diabolically clever mystery set in the London of 1930.
Hercule Poirot returns home after an agreeable luncheon to find an angry woman waiting to berate him outside his front door. Her name is Sylvia Rule, and she demands to know why Poirot has accused her of the murder of Barnabas Pandy, a man she has neither heard of nor ever met. She is furious to be so accused, and deeply shocked. Poirot is equally shocked, because he too has never heard of any Barnabas Pandy, and he certainly did not send the letter in question. He cannot convince Sylvia Rule of his innocence, however, and she marches away in a rage.
Shaken, Poirot goes inside, only to find that he has a visitor waiting for him — a man called John Mc Crodden who also claims also to have received a letter from Poirot that morning, accusing him of the murder of Barnabas Pandy…
Poirot wonders how many more letters of this sort have been sent in his name. Who sent them, and why? More importantly, who is Barnabas Pandy, is he dead, and, if so, was he murdered? And can Poirot find out the answers without putting more lives in danger?
MY REVIEW. It’s a while since I read Agatha Christie and I was intrigued to learn that Sophie Hannah had been authorised by the Christie estate to continue the series. I picked this one at random, not realising it was the third in the series. There is a new inspector, Inspector Edward Catchpole, replacing Inspector James Japp. George, Poirot’s Valet also makes an appearance. I missed Captain Hastings and Miss Lemon. Hasting to pose the questions that we all would like to ask. Miss Lemon for her solid devotion to Poirot. The book is cleverly plotted, but for me, it felt a bit flat.
The Charleston Scandal by Pamela Hart.
If you devoured THE CROWN you will love this exuberant story of a young Australian actress caught up in the excesses, royal intrigues and class divide of Jazz Age London, losing her way but reclaiming her heart in the process
London, 1920s: Kit Scott, a privileged young Australian aiming to become a star, arrives in the city to find the Jazz Age in full swing. Cast in a West End play opposite another young hopeful, Canadian Zeke Gardiner, she dances blithely into the heady lifestyle of English high society and the London theatre set, from Noel Coward to Fred Astaire and his sister, Adele. When Kit is photographed dancing the Charleston alongside the Prince of Wales, she finds herself at the centre of a major scandal, sending the Palace into damage control and Kit to her aristocratic English relatives – and into the arms of the hedonistic Lord Henry Carleton. Amid the excesses of the Roaring Twenties, both Zeke and Kit are faced with temptations – and make choices that will alter the course of their lives forever. Readers of Natasha Lester’s A KISS FROM MR FITZGERALD will love THE CHARLESTON SCANDAL. Bestselling author Pamela Hart’s energetic, masterful storytelling will have you glued right until the end.
MY REVIEW. From starting this book, I was immersed in its setting and felt as if I was a participant in Jazz Age London. As an ex-pat Brit, I had of course heard all about dazzling David, the Prince of Wales. Later, he became Edward VIII who subsequently abdicated in favour of his brother Bertie, who became George VI. At the heart of the story is a presumed scandal, that the Prince of Wales should be caught dancing the Charleston with an actress. Australian Kit Scott has orders both from her theatre management and the Palace, to appear alongside someone else. They even provide the decoy in Lord Henry Carlton. He is amiable and aimless. He’s a younger son, with nothing to do and all the time in the world to do it. This conflicts with the connection that Kit has built with Zeke, her dance partner in the play. There they are both second leads and socialise in the theatrical world. As Colonials they feel a sense of connection, and maybe something more.
A Woman’s Courage by Simon Block.Book Three in the Home Fire Series.
As bombs continue to fall on the North West of England, the members of one town’s WI fight harder than ever to help the war effort. Grieving for men already lost or anxious for those still away fighting, the women of Great Paxford must rely on each other. Amidst the complexities of broken relationships, loss, love, betrayal and sudden freedom, this group of very different women must work together to find a way through.
Despite the chaos of war, behind closed doors they fight more personal battles. Pat is reeling from her own role in her husband’s death, while Steph is struggling to come to terms with significant changes in her life.
Together the women of Great Paxford must find a way through .
Knowing this book was the last in the series, reading it was bittersweet. I can understand Simon wants to get onto other projects, but these characters have become real to so many. We were heartbroken when Britain’s ITV cancelled the series, as it was a cut above so many other dramas. Well scripted, and well-cast, we glimpsed the lives of our grandparents or parents. Despite being set in a Cheshire village, and not a battlefield, plenty was going on. We see the likes of Downton Abbey more frequently than stories of ordinary people. That was what made the series and books so fascinating. Daily challenges such as make do and mend, food shortages, worry about loved ones. Daily life, not as we know it, but how it was for millions of Brits.
Most storylines made sense, some happy, some sad. New characters such as the doctor integrating with our old favourites. What rang true for me was the petty jealousies and gossip, as well as the kindness and pulling together. I am sad to say goodbye to these much-loved characters.
Son of A Witch by Louisa West.Midlife in Mosswood, Book Five.
She knew she’d have to find something old and something new. This wasn’t what she was expecting.
Rosemary Bell is going to the chapel and someone’s gonna get married. But when an unexpected visitor begins causing trouble in Mosswood, the something blue on Tammy’s big day could end up being the bride.
For better or worse, Fox Cottage has a new resident. And mostly, it’s for worse. With Declan struggling to rein in his way ward son, Rosie ends up playing referee as well as bridesmaid–and she doesn’t look good in stripes. Wanting to support her boyfriend and still keep peace in the neighborhood, Rosie is stuck between a diamond and a hard place.
When the teenage troublemakers commit a ceremony foul, will Rosie find herself one family richer or one group of friends poorer?
Freaky Friday meets My Best Friend’s Wedding in this short novel about the vows we make, the promises we break, and the things we do for family’s sake.
MY REVIEW. Rosie’s life keeps getting more complicated, and her magical ability isn’t proving helpful. She’s torn between wanting to keep the peace, or her sanity. Maggie, Rosie’s daughter is slightly in awe of her new sibling. He’s not one for conforming or fitting in. Anyone who has dealt with truculent teens will have sympathy for Rosie and Declan. The book still has the trademark wit and good humour with the characters we have come to know and care about.
The Bermondsey Bookshop by Mary Gibson.
Set in 1920s London, this is the inspiring story of Kate Goss’s struggle against poverty, hunger and cruel family secrets.
Her mother died in a fall, her father has vanished without trace, and now her aunt and cousins treat her viciously. In a freezing, vermin-infested garret, factory girl Kate has only her own brave spirit and dreams of finding her father to keep her going. She has barely enough money to feed herself, or to pay the rent. The factory where she works begins to lay off people and it isn’t long before she has fallen into the hands of the violent local money-lender. That is until an unexpected opportunity comes her way – a job cleaning a most unusual bookshop, where anyone, from factory workers to dockers, can learn to read and then buy books cheaply. A new world opens up, but with it come new dangers, too. Based on the true story of the Bermondsey Bookshop, this is the most inspiring and gripping novel Mary Gibson has yet written.
MY REVIEW. I am pretty much guaranteed to pick up any book with a bookshop, or a library in the title. This story though focussed more on the main character Kate Goss. She is an unloved child ,who has been foisted on her aunt. Her mother is dead, and her father has disappeared. The grim surrounding and tough treatment meted out to Kate were very reminiscent of a Catherine Cookson novel. Her deprivation and the cruelty of her family were hard to take. Kate works a difficult and dirty job as a tin worker. When her aunt throws her out, she needs more work to survive. She finds it as a cleaner at the Bermondsey Bookshop. Through her part-time work there, she is gradually drawn into the lives of some of the middle-class patrons. When a Pygmalion transformation takes place, Kate learns how the other half lives. The part I found most interesting was about the bookshop ( based on the real bookshop) and its ethos.
Purls and Poison by Anne Canadeo.A Black Sheep Company Mystery.
When a fellow Black Sheep Knitter is suspected of poisoning her coworker, the group puts down their needles and takes up their friend’s defense . . .
Suzanne Cavanaugh has just about had it with her office rival at Prestige Properties. It’s bad enough that Liza Devereaux is constantly needling her at work, but when she shows up at one of Suzanne’s open houses to poach potential buyers, it’s the last straw. No one in the office fails to hear the two snarling at each other.
When Liza is later found dead in her office cubicle–poisoned by a diet shake–Suzanne becomes the prime suspect. It’s soon discovered, though, that Liza had double-crossed so many around town and stashed their dark secrets in her designer handbags that anyone could be the culprit.
The Black Sheep Knitters have no doubt their friend has been framed–but they need to prove it. Stirred to action, they get together to catch a sneaky killer who’s trying to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes . . .
MY REVIEW. They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but it was the cover of this one that attracted me first. Ironically, neither the gorgeous feline nor the string of pearls appears in the book. Did the cover designer mix up pearls and purls?
Work rivals Suzanne and Liza have had a less than cordial relationship in the past, but does that mean Suzanne murdered her rival? The police certainly seem to think so. They know that Suzanne had a very public row with Liza over client poaching. As the case unfolds, Suzanne is helped by her knitting club pals and begins to learn about a different side of Liza. The pace of the story flowed well and gave us a couple of interesting possible suspects. An easy and entertaining read.
Finding Love at Mermaid Terrace by Kate Forster.
Love comes when you least expect it… Tressa Buckland likes her quiet life in Port Lowdy, with its cobbled streets and colourful terraced houses overlooking the sea. Her job at the local paper allows her to pursue her art in her free time, with no one but her tabby cat Ginger Pickles to mind her in Mermaid Terrace. But then the owner of the paper is called away on an emergency, and it’s up to Tressa to run the paper for six months. Her first task: find a new part-time journalist.
Dan Byrne is the angriest man in Ireland – or so the readers of his very successful column, ‘Dan takes on the world’, think. But after a story goes south and he loses his job in Dublin, Dan has no choice but to start afresh. When an opportunity comes up in sleepy Cornwall, Dan and his Golden Retriever Ritchie set off for a new adventure.
For Tressa, Dan’s arrival to Port Lowdy changes everything. Tressa tries not to look too deeply at her own life, but Dan sees a story to uncover in absolutely everyone – even her. The two of them couldn’t be more different… yet, if they can find a way to work together, they may just breathe new life and joy into this sleepy seaside village.
Finding Love at Mermaid Terrace is a heart -warming new village romance about the power of love and kindness, from the bestselling author of Starting Over at Acorn Cottage
Kindle Edition, 263 pages Published February 4th 2021 by Aria.Paperback to follow.
MY REVIEW. Having lived in Cornwall as a child, I do have a soft spot for books set in Cornwall. It was easy to visualise the village and setting. Treena is a lonely character, happily isolated from her family, due to her mother’s expectations. She lives in Port Lowdy, where she feels happy at home. But life changes and her carefully constructed world is upended. George, her boss has left her in charge of the local paper, and she employs Irishman Dan to take on the reporting duties. He arrives with his gorgeous dog Ritchie and soon makes Port Lowdy his home. His charm had everyone telling him their stories and he’s just the one to write them. Treena feels life is brighter with Dan around and begins to trust him. But then, a story threatens to tear them apart. I enjoyed this book, but there was one loss that broke my heart.
Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce.
Margery Benson’s life ended the day her father walked out of his study and never came back. Forty years later, abandoning a dull job, she advertises for an assistant. The successful candidate is to accompany Margery on an expedition to the other side of the world to search for a beetle that may or may not exist. Enid Pretty is not who she had in mind. But together they will find themselves drawn into an adventure that exceeds all Margery’s expectations, eventually finding new life at the top of a red mountain. This is a story that is less about what can be found than the belief it might be found; it is an intoxicating adventure story and it is also a tender exploration of a friendship between two unforgettable women that defies all boundaries.
MY REVIEW. I was first drawn in by the intriguing title and soon began to appreciate the solitary life led by Miss Benson. An ordinary spinster, in the post-war period in Britain. One out of character event starts her on the path to going on a beetle hunt. She is a relatable character, with her insecurities, and foibles. When she advertises for an assistant, most of the applicants are unsuitable. Still, she embarks on her quest to find the mythical golden beetle. Think Thelma and Louise meet Raiders of the Lost Ark.
The Heroine’s Journey: For Writers, Readers, and Fans of Pop Culture by GailCarriger.
Tired of the hero’s journey? Frustrated that funny, romantic, and comforting stories aren’t taken seriously? Sad that the books and movies you love never seem to be critically acclaimed, even when they sell like crazy?
The heroine’s journey is here to help.
Multiple New York Times bestselling author Gail Carriger presents a clear concise analysis of the heroine’s journey, how it differs from the hero’s journey, and how you can use it to improve your writing and your life.
In this book you’ll learn:
* How to spot the heroine’s journey in popular books, movies, and the world around you. * The source myths and basic characters, tropes, and archetypes of this narrative. * A step-by-step break down of how to successfully write this journey.
What do Agatha Christie, JK Rowling, and Nora Roberts all have in common? They all write the heroine’s journey. Read this book to learn all about it.
From Harry Potter to Twilight, from Wonder Woman to Star Wars, you’ll never look at pop culture the same way again.
With over a dozen NYT and USA Today bestsellers, and over a million books in print, popular genre author and former archaeologist Gail Carriger brings her cheeky comedic tone and over a decade of making her living as a fiction author to this fascinating look at one of the most popular yet neglected narratives of our time. The presentation she does on this subject sells for hundreds of dollars.
“I’m not sure how you can just rewire my brain to see the heroine’s journey like this and then expect me to make coherent, thought-out comments about the text when all I want to do is hold it in my twisted little grip while I shove it at people screaming like a madman and pointing at passages.” ~ Author Beta Reader
Gail Carriger uses the heroine’s journey to produce bestselling, critically-acclaimed books that genre blend science fiction, cozy mystery, young adult, urban fantasy, romance, historical fiction, and alternate history. In this non-fiction book she uses her academic background and creative writing skills to bring to life the archetypes, tropes, story beats, themes, and messages inherent in the heroine’s journey. Part treatise on authorship, part feminist literary criticism, part how to write guide, Carriger uses mythology, legend, and Gothic Victorian 19th century literature to explore movies, screenwriting, books, and audience desires.
This is an excellent reference guide for genre fiction authors seeking to improve their craft or for readers and pop culture enthusiasts interested in understanding their own taste. It is the perfect counterpoint to The Hero with a Thousand Faces not to mention Save the Cat, Women Who Run with The Wolves, and The Breakout Novelist.
Kindle Edition, 285 pages Published October 1st 2020 by GAIL CARRIGER LLC
MY REVIEW. Finally, a book that makes sense of the heroine’s journey. Tired of trying to fit stories into the prescriptive and restrictive hero’s journey, and wondering where you went wrong? Perhaps like me, you queried where the heroine fitted into the hero’s journey and was answered dismissively. Try as you might your story wouldn’t fit that pattern. It was the wrong pattern- The Heroine’s Journey is the book that might change your writing life.
The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz.
A woman crosses a London street.
It is just after 11am on a bright spring morning, and Diana Cowper is going into a funeral parlour to organise her own service.
A mere six hours later she is dead, strangled with a crimson curtain cord in her own home.
Did she know she was going to die? Did she recognise her killer?
Are the two events even related? Because nobody arranges their own funeral, and the gets killed the same day – do they?
Enter Daniel Hawthorne, a detective with a genius for solving crimes and an ability to hold his secrets very close.
With him is his writing partner, Anthony Horowitz. Together they will set out to solve this most puzzling of mysteries.
What neither of them know is that they are about to embark on a dark and dangerous journey where the twists and turns are as unexpected as they are bloody..
MY REVIEW. Anthony Horowitz likes to challenge his readers, not because he doesn’t give them a good, imaginatively creative, and intricately plotted story. He does, but he also does the unexpected. This time, he is a character in the book he is writing. On the one hand, it is interesting to learn about his writing experiences and thoughts on writing. On the other hand, I found it vaguely unsettling, the blurring of fact and fiction. And to add to the confusion, he thanks his fictional detective in the acknowledgements.
A Season in Paris: A Historical Anthology by Ava January, Nancy Cunningham, Sarah Fiddelaers, Clare Griffin.
One Paris shop, four women, four decades of intrigue…
Spring, 1909 When Delphine Altrain purchases a date with Paris’ most eligible bachelor, Gabriel La Pouge, she has one thing on her mind…hats. When her latest design becomes the talk of the Grand Prix, it seems everything she has dreamed of is within her reach, but when the past arrives to destroy her present, Delphine needs to decide, stay and risk heartbreak, or run and always wonder what could have been.
Summer, 1924 Beautiful Edith Carrow appears to have it all. As Coco Chanel’s mannequin her life is full of parties and the adoration of a rich man. But Edith holds a deep secret from her past. When she meets toymaker, Henri, her heart threatens to unravel all she has worked hard to achieve. She must choose, follow her head or listen to her heart and risk losing everything.
Autumn, 1935 Genevieve Dupuis is forbidden from doing two things; painting and falling in love. So when she meets handsome Sebastian on a forbidden painting trip her life becomes ever so slightly complicated. Can a girl who has learned to survive by lies and illusions face up to the truth in time to realise that sometimes surrender is the bravest act of all?
Winter, 1944 SOE agent Therese Lambert is about to risk everything to help free Canadian airman Will – a man hiding his own covert activities beneath an identity she knows isn’t his. Fleeing from the German occupiers and the collaborating French, they escape Paris. Can their budding attraction survive a perilous journey, or will a betrayal put both their lives on the line?
Kindle Edition Published July 26th 2021 by Girl On A Soapbox Press. Paperback to follow.
MY REVIEW. Books about Paris are perennially popular and this one contains four individual stories. Each story highlights a different epoch and aspect of Paris, but all are equally engaging with that ineffable je ne sais quoi of Parisian flair. I read this quickly, finding it an easy and enjoyable read. I received an ARC of this book, but with no obligation to review it.
Its a pleasure to welcome Monique Mulligan, author of Wherever You Go to the Chatting with Authors Page.
Monique Mulligan is an author, freelance editor & marketing officer at Koorliny Arts Centre.
Monique is known for her love of words, of cooking, and of cats.
What is the book about?
Wherever You Go is about a marriage in crisis after a life-shattering tragedy. Desperate to save their foundering marriage, chef Amy Bennet and her husband Matt move to the small town of Blackwood in the south-west of Western Australia. In denial from guilt and grief, Amy opens a café and starts an Around the World Supper Club and soon finds herself becoming part of a community, but is blind to Matt’s accelerating struggle with incomplete grief. It’s a story of grief and loss, of friendship and community, of renewal and redemption, and the healing power of food.
“Monique Mulligan has written a heartwarming tale to make you laugh, cry and gasp in surprise.” SheSociety
“This debut novel is beautiful in its execution, raw and powerful.” – The Book Muse
Such great reviews, so tell us what inspired the book?
I was inspired by a number of things – a real-life event, my love of food and cooking, the beautiful countryside of Bridgetown, and my interest in relationships and how challenges affect them differently.
We will chat about the book and your writing later.
First, some quick fire questions.
Late nights or early mornings? Early mornings.
What’s for breakfast? Yoghurt, homemade granola and berries.
Night out or Netflix? Netflix.
G &T or Tea/coffee? Definitely not G&T – I think it’s the tonic water I don’t like. Love a good coffee (not instant) or herbal tea, especially peppermint.
What did you want to be when you grew up? A journalist. In Year 12 I wanted to be the next Jana Wendt (A Current Affair). My career took me full circle into journalism (print, not TV) in my mid-thirties and the skills I learnt were invaluable.
Can you cook? I know the answer to that one!
What is for dinner tonight? Tuna steaks and green veg.
Ha ha, yes I can and I love to cook. Right now, a lemon poppy seed tea cake is cooling on the stove.
Have you always loved cooking, are you self-taught or did you learn as child? I am self-taught but loved to practice when I had the opportunity as a child. Mum wasn’t a big fan of letting us kids use the kitchen though, so the opportunities were few and far between until I married and had my own kitchen to cook in. One of the ways I show people I care for them is through cooking – soups, cakes … feasts!
Too hard! I love Middle Eastern and Mediterranean foods. Maybe a chicken tagine with preserved lemons and olives.
What brings you joy? Lifts your spirits, chases away a down mood. Cat videos! Patting my cat. Walking on the beach. So many things …
Your hero? I can’t single out one person. I find many people to be inspirational or admirable for different reasons, but I wouldn’t say I have a hero.
Questions about Writing.
Your love of photography- has it impacted your writing in any way? Do you see scenes more visually because of it, or has it had another kind of impact? Photography is a hobby I truly enjoy. I’ve been told I have “the eye” but I’m no expert. The technical side of photography boggles my brain and I’m not sure I’ll ever get it.
I like to carry a camera with me because I often see things I want to capture, whether for later reference or because they speak to me in some way. Does it impact my writing? Yes, in a way. I used a vision board when I was first drafting Wherever You Go. It was full of pictures I’d taken around and about in Bridgetown, Western Australia (which was the inspiration for the setting). I can’t quite visualise in my mind (as in, if I’m meditating, I can never see the waterfall or the gently flowing stream) but I do learn visually.
Were you always going to write about food? That came to me later – I knew I wanted to write a novel and loved reading “foodie” fiction, but I didn’t set out to write about food initially. Now it just seems natural!
Why do you think that stories of failure and redemption resonate so powerfully? It’s such a universal experience, isn’t it. I think it’s that universality that resonates – we all know what it’s like to fail, to mess up, to lose. Likewise, most understand that redemption is a powerful need and a life-changing gift, whether it comes from ourselves or another.
What time of the day do you usually write? Mornings when I can fit it in, otherwise afternoons on a weekend. I usually get in the zone.
What is the most difficult part about writing for you? Drafting! I am so slow in this stage. I am not a person who drafts fast at all. I’ve tried and it doesn’t work for me.
What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk? I make faces when I write, talk to myself, and sometimes “act” out certain actions and dialogues. That’s three quirks …
Do you have a favourite character that you have written? I really loved the character of Irene in Wherever You Go. She’s 69-going-on-70, a nurturing woman who has always put others first, a jam-maker, and a protector. She longs to travel, but has to put her dreams on hold. She reminds me of my grandmother a bit.
Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions?
That’s such an interesting question, Sonia. I think it would be hard to write if you felt nothing at all. How would you empathise with your characters? Above all, readers want to have an experience, and a writer’s job is to trigger their emotions and feelings to generate that experience using a combination of techniques. The writer doesn’t need to have experienced those exact emotions themselves, and, if they haven’t, could ask, ‘What is the character feeling? What else is the character experiencing?’ or research others’ lived experiences to engage with that scene as genuinely as possible.
But surely you must at least be able to imagine those feelings. That’s my thought, anyway.
Best writing advice? Trust the process is advice that works for me. What doesn’t work is ‘write every day’ – I need to balance work, family and writing in a way that prevents the feeling of overwhelm. I do want to write ‘morning pages’ every day, but I’m struggling to make it happen on work days. I would have to schedule my time so tightly – or get up even earlier than I already do – and my sleeping time is already being challenged by the fact of getting older! So I choose the way that works for me.
Best money you have spent as a writer? A manuscript assessment by Laurie Steed.
How can I ignore all-around inspiration and muse Boogle?
Sonia, you know we can’t ignore cats – they ignore us! They make it very hard to be ignored when they want attention, and Boogle is no exception. Right now, I’ve taken a break from writing to answer these questions, and she is sitting on the floor next to me, loudly licking her butt. There’s a visual for you. That’s annoying, but I quite like it (love it, really) when she sits on my lap while I’m writing … and when she joins in my cooking videos (you can see them on Instagram).
Do you have a favourite author and why? Daphne du Maurier – I love her gothic-style stories about the darker side of human nature. They’re mysterious and uneasy, and clever and unexpected.
What are you reading now? I’m reading The Godmothers by Monica McInerny. Next, I’ll be reading The Breaking by Irma Gold.
Favourite quote (does not matter the source): “Talk to yourself like you would to someone you love.” – Brene Brown
Favourite book/story you have read as an adult? Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier.
Favourite book/story you have read as a child? Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery.
Thanks, Monique, its been wonderful to learn about your writing style and your process. All photographs unless otherwise indicated are courtesy of Monique Mulligan.
First, because you can never learn too much about the craft, books about writing. Next, books that the library sent in its bookbag selection. Finally, my personal choices.
Books about writing
Successful Indie Authorship by Craig Martell.
Demystifying the tangled web of self-publishing to put you on the road to success.
This is a motivational guide based on my two and a half million published words (mostly with Amazon) to help you see past the hurdles that are keeping you from climbing the mountain of success. Nothing is overwhelming once it’s been explained. If you are smart enough to write a book, you are smart enough to do everything else needed to make your indie author business a success.
My review. I have this on Kindle, and I wish I had it in paperback as well. It’s a book I expect to refer to again and again. It may look like I’m stuck at 78% read, but that because there is a useful appendix recapping all the recommendations, and I want to keep referring to it.
Write to Market by Chris Fox.
Have you written a book that just isn’t selling? Would you like to write a book that readers eagerly devour?
Many authors write, then market. Successful authors write TO market. They start by figuring out how to give readers what they want, and that process begins before writing word one of your novel.
This book will teach you to analyse your favourite genre to discover what readers are buying, to mine reviews for reader expectations, and to nail the tropes your readers subconsciously crave.
Don’t leave the success of your novel up to chance. Deliver the kind of book that will have your fans hounding you for the next one.
My review. With a premise like that what writer wouldn’t want to read it? Encouraging and definitely worth considering the marketability of your book.
The Library Bag Selections
Ravenscliffe by Jane Sanderson
For fans of Downton Abbey . . . The peaceful beauty of the English countryside belies the turmoil of forbidden love and the apprehension of a changing world for the families of Netherwood
Yorkshire, 1904. On Netherwood Common, Russian émigré Anna Rabinovich shows her dear friend Eve Williams a gracious Victorian villa—Ravenscliffe—the house Anna wants them to live in. There’s a garden and a yard and room enough for their children to play and grow.
Something about the house speaks to Anna, and you should listen to a house, she believes…Ravenscliffe holds the promise of happiness.
Across the square, Clarissa and her husband, the Earl of Netherwood, are preparing for King Edward’s visit. Clarissa is determined to have everything in top shape at Netherwood Hall—in spite of the indolent heir to the estate, Tobias, and his American bride—and much of it depends on the work going on downstairs as the loyal servants strive to preserve the noble family’s dignity and reputation.
As Anna restores Ravenscliffe to its full grandeur, she strikes up a relationship with hardworking Amos Sykes—who proposed to Eve just one year ago.
But when Eve’s long-lost brother Silas turns up in their close-knit mining community, cracks begin to appear in even the strongest friendships.
As change comes to the small town and society at large, the residents of Netherwood must find their footing or lose their place altogether.
My review. This is the second book following on from Netherwood which I read last month. Fortunately, I had bought it but hadn’t read it- and of course,I wanted to read it before reading Ravenscliffe. I am glad I did, as this second book made more sense after reading it.
Life is changing for the families, upstairs in Lord Netherwood’s household, his heir Tobias has no intention of taking his position or his responsibilities seriously. His sister, Henrietta, would be an exemplary heir, but she’s female. A couple of major events alter everyone’s plans. Eve Williams has gained status and the family has moved to a bigger house called Ravenscliffe. Anna, the Russian emigre was the mover in this, and she plays a more substantial part in this story. Some of the stories engaged me and other parts I found dull. Primarily concerning Amos and politics, although some of the mining information also felt a bit laboured to me. The standout for me was the emergence and transformation of Anna. I know there is a third book in the series, but I doubt I will read it.
Don’t Go by Lisa Scottoline.
When Dr Mike Scanlon is called to serve as an army doctor in Afghanistan, he’s acutely aware of the dangers he’ll face and the hardships it will cause his wife Chloe and newborn baby. And deep inside, he doesn’t think of himself as a warrior, but a healer.
However, in an ironic turn of events, as Mike operates on a wounded soldier in a war-torn country, Chloe dies at home
My Review I would never have chosen this book for myself but decided to give it a go. Let me say at the onset it’s not for the faint-hearted as surgical procedures are explained in detail. At first, I thought that might be overdone but as the book continued I realised the relevance of Mike’s experiences to his handling of events stateside. He’s now a sole parent and has dual responsibilities to his surgical team and patients and his daughter. It’s a combination of murder mystery and legal procedural and deals with how good people can be torn apart by events.
More Than Words by Jill Santopolo.
From the New York Times, bestselling author of The Light We Lost comes a tender and moving new novel about a woman at a crossroads after the death of her father and caught between the love of two men.
Nina Gregory has always been a good daughter, a good girlfriend. Raised by her father, owner of New York City’s glamorous Gregory Hotels, after her mother’s death, Nina was taught that family, reputation, and legacy are what matter most. And her boyfriend Tim, thoughtful, kind, and honest, not to mention her best friend since childhood, feels the same. But after Nina’s father passes away, she learns he may not have practised what he preached.
As her world falls apart, Nina begins to question everything she thought she knew and to see the men in her life–her father, her boyfriend, and unexpectedly, her handsome and attentive boss, Rafael–in a new light. Soon Nina finds herself caught between the world she knows and loves and a passion that could upend everything. More than Words is a heartbreaking and romantic novel about grief, loss, love, and self-discovery, and how we choose which life we are meant to live.
My Review Having never heard of the author I did not expect anything of the book, but it resonated with me and I raced through it. In part, I suspect that as an only daughter I understood Nina’s wish to pleas her father. Nina is her father’s daughter, her choices modelled on what he would approve of. Her life is already mapped out for her, a suitable boyfriend, marriage and maintaining the Gregory hotel and its and her reputation. She is almost sleepwalking through life when Rafael her charismatic boss, makes her look again at all she has. Then her father’ s death disrupts her carefully planned life. Will she continue down the same path or is there another, better way forward?
Personal Choices. Hemlock and Hedge: The Witches of Wormwood Prequel
Only a witch would poison a cake. And only another witch would blackmail the poisoner.
Hazel Salem is the family disappointment. She isn’t a witch.
She doesn’t believe in magic. And she definitely doesn’t want a black cat for a pet.
But when she discovers an unsolved mystery amongst her inheritance, she is forced to accept that ignoring her heritage is no longer an option.
Hazel is determined to reveal a secret that’s stayed hidden for years.
But the witches of Wormwood have other ideas…
My Review. I enjoyed this prequel, so much so that I bought the first five books in the series. Several things appealed to me. Firstly, the English setting, then the fact that Hazel had no idea she was a witch or had abilities and the brilliant addition of Hemlock, a black cat with catattitude.
The Secrets of Primrose Square by Claudia Carroll.
There are so many stories hidden behind closed doors . . .
It’s late at night and the rain is pouring down on the Dublin city streets. A mother is grieving for her dead child. She stands silently outside the home of the teenage boy she believes responsible. She watches . . .
In a kitchen on the same square, a girl waits anxiously for her mum to come home. She knows exactly where she is, but she knows she cannot reach her.
A few doors down and a widow sits alone in her room. She has just delivered a bombshell to her family during dinner and her life is about to change forever.
And an aspiring theatre director has just moved into a flat across the street. Her landlord is absent, but there are already things about him that don’t quite add up . . .
Welcome to Primrose Square.
All you would expect from an Irish writer in the Maeve Binchy tradition. The book has heart. The women who are the inhabitants of Primrose Square are dealing with a variety of changes and secrets, Nancy who has escaped her past London life. Melissa a girl whose life has changed dramatically and whose mother is barely hanging on. Susan, her mother who is obsessed with loss. Jayne, who lives her life in the past talking to Tom her deceased husband.
New Witch on the Block by Louisa West.
Practical Magic meets Bridget Jones’ Diary in this fun, heart-warming short novel about starting over, putting family first, and finding love when you least expect it.
She thought she was running away from her past, not catching up with it.
Rosemary Bell just wants to live a quiet, happy life and raise her daughter as far away from her toxic ex-husband as she can get. But when they move into a decrepit cottage in the woods of Mosswood, Georgia, Rosie realises her life will never be simple.
A fun beginning to what promises to be an entertaining new series. I had this book on pre-order, so it was immediately available on release day on my Kindle. The town of Mosswood is a retreat for Rosie and her daughter Maggie, after packing up and leaving everything behind to start again. However, it’s not as straightforward as she might have hoped. Her rental is an almost derelict cottage and her nearest neighbour, Declan has some strange ideas about who she is and what they might accomplish together. After leaving her vicious and controlling ex Rose isn’t ready to get inv.oved with anyone, let alone this hunky Irishman. I predict some fun and exciting times ahead and I am looking forward to reading book two, Jealousy A Bitch, which is due in September.
The Book of Spells and Such by Jacquie Underdown
When destiny knocks, do you invite it in?
When a spell book lands on Ariana’s doorstep, her world is thrown into turmoil. That’s nothing new for her, except this time it involves bizarre and terrifying creatures who attempt to kill her. Then there’s a little fact that she now has the ability to perform magic.
Hadeon is another new addition in her life. He happened to drop in at the same time the spell book appeared. He’s dark, sexy, and mysterious as hell, and Ariana doesn’t know if she wants to kill him or love him.
But all this chaos is nothing compared to what destiny has in store for her. A future is promised of royalty and immense power, palaces and undying love. But hers is a destiny that is not easily won. She will have to fight to the death against those who want to take it all for themselves. And when the real battle begins, just who the true enemy is will surprise everyone.
My review. Expecting a magical story, I was slightly confused as the story began in the rather sleazy everyday world. In fact, I almost gave up, but I am glad that I persevered. Ariana had no one to turn to as she grew up. She has been treated badly almost her whole life, so she has trust issues. Hadeon could be her protector or her worst nightmare, but she has to trust someone when life takes a totally unexpected turn. To me, a part of the story read like a modern fairy-tale and had some unique magical touches. I am happy I continued to read this book.
Subterranean by B Michael Radburn.
‘The past is my shadow, forever behind me.’
Cassie Belrose was used to looking over her shoulder. Running away was what she did best – away from a possessive husband who wants her back, running from city to city, from job to job, to stay one step ahead of him.
Daniel Woodsman is at home in the dark; in the abandoned railway tunnels below the city where the homeless veteran has built his life since his injuries had taken away more than just his confidence.
Fleeing the Suits dispatched by her husband to bring her home, Cassie enters Daniel’s domain in the subway where their two worlds collide.
Together, can they stop running long enough to begin living again?
A fast-paced and immensely readable story that kept me hooked. The story is prefaced and concluded by a charming allegorical fairy-tale. Cassie is a totally relatable character, as is Daniel. He is both an enigmatic and interesting character who we gradually come to understand. There is enough gritty realism to make the story authentic. It makes one think about the fate of those veterans traumatised by their service. I was provided with a free copy of the book by the publisher but was not obligated to write a review.
The Witches of Wormwood Mysteries: Books 1 – 5 A thrilling and funny British witch cozy mystery series, packed with magic, cats, and murder! Perfect for fans of Agatha Raisin and Amanda M. Lee.
Not many people move to Wormwood. The witches aren’t welcoming.
The fortune tellers are frauds. And the recent murder is only going to make things worse.
Hazel Salem just wanted a story for her magazine. Instead, she finds herself at the centre of an investigation that’s about to turn into a witch hunt.
If someone doesn’t solve this murder – and fast – it will be out of the cauldron and into the fire for Wormwood’s witches.
Although I bought this as a boxed set I will be reviewing the books individually.
Mandrake And Murder by Silver Nord.
My Review. Hazel has returned to Wormwood, after the death of her mother to run the failing apothecary shop. Profits are abysmal and so is her reputation. Wormwood is a community divided between those who are magical and ordinary folk who have no idea that anything is unusual. Hazel senses she is an object of scorn as a supposed witch who can’t do magic. Two women who say they are her aunts arrive and reassure her that late-blooming magic could be powerful. When Wormwood has a murder, the first in hundred years everyone in town magical or not is on edge. To make matter worse there are some clues that it could be concerned with magic. Hazel hits on the idea of producing a free local magazine. It’s the perfect opportunity for her to ask questions. D.C. I. Admiral is also investigating and despite an initial speak between them, he doesn’t require any help. Jealously, fake fortune-tellers and hexes add to the fun.
Vervain and a Victim by Silver Nord.
A cauldron, a coin, and a corpse.
Three things that don’t belong in the woods.
The man standing over the body shouldn’t be there either, but when Hazel finds him with the victim, she suspects she’s already found the killer.
The only thing that keeps the prime suspect from being arrested is the absence of a murder weapon and a motive.
But in a town as weird as Wormwood, a motive for murder is only one dark secret away.
My Review. Wormwood hasn’t wholeheartedly welcomed Hazel. Although she is invited to join the coven, she suspects they are simply curious about her magical abilities. Her nemesis Natalia Gould is openly hostile. Another problem is she has now got a fake boyfriend, putting her at odds with his admirers. Her cat Hemlock seems to despise her and Jesse Heathen, the supposed detective has tried to charm her. All while murder has shaken the town and there is talk of vampires, the enemies of witches being seen in Wormwood. More fun and suspense, developing relationships and unanswered questions.
Anna ,thank you for joining us today. It’s shame that your tour of South Western Australia was cancelled, but it has given you the time to answer some questions for us. Anna is usually incredibly busy, and I know that her talks are very well attended
What do you like to do when you are not writing?
Read books, chat to my lovely husband, spend time with friends, watch TV.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
From the age of 10 when I figured out some people earned their living by writing stories, that’s what I wanted to do.
What’s for dinner tonight? What would you rather be eating?
Leftovers and salad bits as we had lunch at our daughter’s cafe. I’m rather apprehensive of eating different things as I have several severe food intolerance’s. One of my favourites is curry and we’re lucky to have an Indian restaurant reasonably close to home which understands gluten free needs and avoids cross-contamination.
My husband. He’s a wonderful man, kind to everyone he meets and has been so supportive of me in my career. Also, he’s just – gorgeous!
Sigh, what a marvellous tribute, buthe’s equally lucky to have you.
If you could choose three people to invite for a dinner party, who would they be and why?
Various friends whom we’ve known for decades. No one famous springs to mind.
Now to questions about writing .What time of the day do you usually write?
All the hours I can! It’s my favourite activity. I don’t have the housework gene.
What is the most difficult part about writing for you?
I don’t find it difficult, but some stories are easier to write than others, I must admit.
What is your work schedule like when you are writing?
I’m always writing. I work 7 days if I have nothing else on but take days off if I want to do something else.
What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
Standing stock still, going glassy eyed (my husband tells me) and getting ideas either for new stories or ongoing scenes.
Do you hear from your readers much? What do they say?
I hear from readers a lot and love it. I have such nice readers.
Do you have a favourite character that you have written? If so, who? And what makes them so special?
Bram, in the Traders series. He’s medium height, not good looking and yet he’s a kind, lovely man, my very favourite hero.
The Traders Series is five books it starts with The Traders Wife,the The Traders Sister,The Traders Dream,The Traders Gift and finally The Traders Reward
Set in Singapore and Western Australia in the 1860s. New set of main characters, but some links with characters from the Swan River Saga
Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions?
They could write non-fiction, I suppose. I think emotions are necessary to write good fiction and touch readers’ hearts.
You’ve written contemporary and historical fiction. Do you have a preference?
I’ve also written fantasy and romances. I like writing them all but there isn’t time to do that, so I’ve stuck to what I call ‘relationships stories’ both historical and contemporary. I don’t have a preference. What I enjoy and need is the variety.
Anna has written over eighty books- now that’s variety.
How do you decide whether it will be a book series or a stand alone?
I only write series these days because readers prefer them, and to tell you the truth, I like to find out what happens to my characters from one story. So they have walk-on roles in the rest of a series.
Which comes first for you, the place to the character?
Re place or character, neither, really. The setup scenario comes first – not the place necessarily, but a very rough and minimal concept of whatever is happening or about to happen. Then I start work on putting the character into that situation and things start to take on life.
So,you think of a situation ( for example this horrid virus right now) and the think who would be involved and where?
Exactly. And the character is like the yeast in a loaf, makes the situation come to life.
Best writing advice?
If you’re just beginning, write a story, polish then set it aside for at least a year and write another story. Writing one story doesn’t usually teach a person to write professionally. And do not rush to self-publish too early on, either, for the same reason. A goldsmith wouldn’t expect to sell the first piece he made, nor should a writer – well, not until it’s been re-polished thoroughly and other stories written.
That is good advice, we all know that this takes time but we are too impatient.
Worst writing advice you ever received?
Plan your story ahead. I can’t and trying only give me a boring outline of a story that will never work. It’s when my characters come to life in the setup stage that my stories come to life. Some writers can plan ahead and some can’t, some can half-plan. We’re all different. It’s the finished product that counts, not how you get there. If you need to stand on your head in a corner to write, do it. Whatever it takes.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Buying books by other authors – you can learn from them both what to do and what not to do. You need to read a lot to understand what makes good fiction. So anyone who wants to be a writer and doesn’t read doesn’t make me want to read their efforts.
Do you have a favourite author and why?
I have several favourite authors, but it was Georgette Heyer who inspired me to become a writer. And Anne McCaffrey who taught me to use my imagination as vividly as possible.
What are you reading now?
Frances Brody – the Body on the Train. She write Miss Marple-esque detective stories set in the 1920s which hang together well, with a central group of characters who also seem real.
What books or authors have most influenced your own writing?
Georgette Heyer, CJ Cherryh, Nora Roberts, Robyn Carr, Angela Thirkell, Jean Stubbs, Jodi Thomas, Anne McCaffrey, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury – and countless others. I read 3 novels a week, give or take and always have done.
Who is the author you most admire in your genre?
I’m not sure I quite fit into a genre. I get called a saga writer, but a very wise and experienced editor once said I fit squarely between sagas and straight historical novels. See the list of authors for my favourites.
Favourite quote (doesn’t matter the source)
“Writing a novel is hard work . . . You have to work long and hard even to produce a bad one. This may help explain why there are so many more bad amateur poets around than there are bad amateur novelists . . . any clown with a sharp pencil can write out a dozen lines of verse and call them a poem. Not just any clown can fill 200 pages with prose and call it a novel. Only the more determined clowns can get the job done . . . Let’s not kid ourselves. It does take self-discipline.” Lawrence Block “Writing the Novel” p11
Favourite book/story you have read as an adult?
At 3 a week, I’ve loved thousands of books.
Favourite book when you were a kid
Enid Blyton’s Adventure series.
What famous author do you wish would be your mentor?
None – not because I’m perfect, but because you learn most by doing i.e writing and by reading other authors’ work IMHO. Writing is something you DO not something you talk about, I think.
Anna Jacobs: Historical stories: ‘Perfect Family’ , ‘A Daughter’s Journey’ (8/19), ‘A Widow’s Courage’ (4/20 Modern stories: ‘Bay Tree Cottage’, ‘Changing Lara’ , ‘Christmas in Peppercorn Street’ (10/19), ‘Finding Cassie’ (1/20)
‘Tread Softly Because You Tread On My Dreams’ William Butler Yeats.
What is written isn’t simply words on the page, these words are a part of the writer’s identity, their brainchild and often the child of their heart too.
When I was invited to be one of the section panel for a writing competition, I knew that it would be a difficult task.
Each person who had entered had written with a part of themselves and now we had to choose from amongst them and decide which were the best. All had merit in some way, maybe for the idea, or for a new take on an old idea.
Equally, perhaps the contest organisers had given us a more problematic task because they hadn’t specified a theme, so the topics were exceptionally varied.
Should tragedy and drama take precedence over comedy and the lighthearted ? Does writing about a topical situation or problem gain more points?
These were questions that everyone who was assessing the work had to decide for themselves. And of course, subjectivity came into play too.
And what about the rules? There was a word limit specified, should someone be be penalized if they went over it? What if by a few words or a lot?
I did my best and tried to be objective and to choose what I genuinely considered to be the best pieces of work. Well aware that by choosing them I was rejecting others.
Fortunately, the responsibility for the choice does not fall solely to me, there is a panel of judges. Will we agree or will they each make different selections? It will be interesting to find out.
All that I can say to everyone who entered is thank you for sharing your work with us. I respect that and I read it as I hope that my work will be read. Congratulations on daring to put your work ‘out there’.
The classic definer of a love story is the film Love Story starring Ali Mc Graw and Ryan O’ Neal. It is based on the popular book by Erich Segal. It is a real tearjerker, with the beautiful young couple parted by death. It is a tragedy and almost all of the love stories considered great have sad or tragic endings.
Here are some examples taken from films and books. Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, Boris Pasternak’s Dr Zhivago, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, filmed and updated as West Side Story.Othello. More recently Iain Mc Ewan’s Atonement, John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars.JoJo Moyes Me Before You, M.C Steadman’s The Light Between Oceans. And Cecelia Ahern’s Ps. I Love you, and of course ,my all-time favourite Casablanca.
Romances are different- they promise a reading experience or viewing experience that focuses primarily on the relationship between the couple or as Romance Writers of America says, “Two basic elements comprise every romance novel: a central love story and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.”
Or in simpler terms you are pretty much promised a happy ending and if not a happy ever after, at least the reader gets the happy for now ending.So if we know the ending why do we read romance?
We read for the journey, for the twists and turns of the relationship. A happy ending may be promised but getting there is half the fun. Who doesn’t love a flawed hero or heroine? Or beautiful couple too blind to see that they are destined for each other? Real-life can be dull and bland, but romances are exciting, sexy and fun. It’s far safer to have a fictional lover than a real one. Romance writers are endlessly inventive and contrive new ways for couples to meet and fall in love.
Examples of romances are Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and of course, it’s spin off’s Bridget Jones’ sDiary by Helen Fielding and the films Pride andPrejudice and Bride and Prejudice as well as the Bridget Jones trilogy of films. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte is a great read and has been filmed several times The fairy tales Cinderella and The Sleeping Beauty.
Some romance movies are Romancing the Stone, Breakfast at Tiffany’s( but not the book which ends differently) Moonstruck, Brokeback Mountain( a guy to guy romance) Ella Enchanted and a real oldie but a goodie It Happened One Night.Another of my favourite films Love Actually spans both genres as it has both love stories with sad ending and romances with happy ones.
Why do you read romance and who are your favourite authors? Let me know!
Today it is my pleasure to welcome P.L. Harris and her alter-ego Polly Holmes to chat with us about her writing journey. We first met at a book launch and I asked her if at some point she would be a guest on my blog. She is a busy and versatile writer who writes contemporary romance, romantic suspense as well as cosy mysteries. She also holds down a fulltime job as a teacher so her time is pretty full.
What is your latest book about?
My latest book is the first in my Burrum Ridge romantic suspense series, In His Protection. It follows Melody Maddison as she discovers an old photo of her mother with a newborn baby that is neither her, nor her siblings. While she’ll do anything to uncover the truth, someone is willing to go to whatever lengths to keep the truth the secret, even if it means silencing Melody for good.
What inspired it? This book, in fact, the series, is inspired by my niece Kara-Lee through a brainstorming session about two years ago while visiting the Hot Springs at Mornington Peninsula in Melbourne. She asked me, what if you found a photo of Grandma (my mother) with a baby you know nothing about, what would you do?It kind of went from there and it has turned into a series of six books, one for each of the siblings and I can’t wait to write them.
Who is the main character?
My heroine is Melody Maddison. Her mother past away when she was 26 and she has been travelling for 2 years trying to deal with the loss leaving her sister Riley to pick up the pieces. Now she’s 28 and returned home to help her sister sort their mother’s possessions.
My hero is Noah St. Reeve. Noah has been working in Perth and decided to start his own security and protection business, but unsure where to base it. Seeing Melody almost run down by a car cements in his mind his course. To protect her at all costs.
Why should we care about them?
Everyone has a secret, and for Melody finding out the secret behind the photo may lead her to a long lost sibling. If she can uncover the secret she’ll be able to share with them how wonderful her mother really was. We want to find out who the baby is, for Melody’s sake. We want to know if Noah will be able to save her in time and most of all if Melody has the willpower and strength to save her own life in the face of danger.
Did you always want to write?
I loved reading and writing stories, but no I never thought I was good enough to write a story that could be published. I loved to make up stories in my younger days. My imagination would always be racing ahead of me. I loved being in a world of make-believe, maybe that’s why I went into the theatre and became a director and drama teacher. A few years ago, I took some time out for me and I started reading again and I realised I could forget the worries of the world for that moment while I was immersed in the story.
Which books did you love as a child?
Sweet Valley High and Sweet Dreams romances were my all-time favourite books to read when I was growing up and I still have most of them today. I loved Nancy Drew, I suppose that is why I love writing mystery novels. Also, Enid Blyton’s the Wishing Chair.
You write in several genes Contemporary romance and Amateur Sleuths or cosy mysteries – was that deliberate choice or do you just have so many ideas? Which came first?
It wasn’t a conscious decision, I kind of stumbled into it. I always wanted to write contemporary romance and I knew I wanted to have drama and suspense in them. So I started writing contemporary romance first. I also knew it was a way for me to deal with certain things going on in my personal life and I could express it through my characters. I suppose you could say it was a kind of therapy.
Then when I was looking for a cover for Callie’s Dilemma I stumbled across Mariah Sinclair’s website where I did indeed find the cover, but also stumbled across the cupcake capers cozy covers and that was it I was hooked. I ended up buying 13 covers but had no idea what a cozy was. Crazy I hear you say. Yep, totally.
In His Protection went on hold and I had to research the genre. What it was, what you can and can’t do, it was a whole new world. Then I posted on Amazon the dates I was releasing them in 2018. Why I did that I have no idea because it put me under so much pressure to get them out on time and at the same time I was staging the musical Lion King Jr at school.
In the end, it was a huge learning curve, but it also helped me realise that I love writing cozies and also romantic suspense.
Research into each writing style is the key. Know what the readers want and deliver. I had an email from a lady who loved my book but wanted a recipe in the back like everyone else does.
I do have to try and turn off one genre when I am writing another and that’s where my planning comes it. I love to plan my novel out.
What is the best writing advice you ever received?
Never give up no matter how much you feel like it.
What is the worst? I’m not sure I have had any bad advice. It’s about knowing which bit of advice to take that will work for you and which bits to leave behind.
If you were starting now would you do anything differently?
I would definitely have learnt more about the self-promotion, social media side of the industry right from the start and started that much, much earlier. Follow the experts. If they have tried something and it didn’t work, think carefully if you are going to follow in their footsteps. I would have created another pen name for my different genres, which I have now done, but a year after the first cozy publication. Look out for Polly Holmes in the cozy mystery genre.
You sound incredibly busy how do you manage to fit it all in?
Sometimes, I don’t fit it all in. Although I work full-time, I want to write and I can’t let my busy schedule stop me. It’s something that I can do for me, something that makes me happy (When it’s all going to plan) I do have to try and prioritise especially around the busy times at school like exams and reporting time. Sometimes I am guilty of putting things in the too hard basket and then I feel guilty so out they come and I persist until I achieve it.
Often I ask myself is it worth it? The answer always turns out to be yes. In the long run, I know that I will succeed if I persist. Take the good with the bad and there is always more good than bad.
How long have you been published and how are you so prolific?
I have been published 2 years now and self-published 18 months. I think the key is persistence and learning as you go. You can’t get everything right the first time, but learning from mistakes allows you to improve the next time. Knowing what you want and setting the intention to achieve it.
Tell us three fun facts about yourself.
That is a hard one and I’m not sure if they are fun facts. I love old musicals and sometimes I wish I was born back when Gene Kelly, Judy Garland, Ann Miller and the greats were around. Even though I can’t sing it doesn’t stop me from having a go when a great tune comes on.
If I hear music with a good beat, I have to dance no matter where I am. It’s in my blood.
I’m addicted to most reality TV especially House Rules, MKR, Masterchef. I know, it’s very bad.
It has been great learning more about your writing journey- thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us.
Writers talking about their writing. I am delighted to welcome author, editor , speaker . Teena Raffa Mulligan to tell us about her writing.
1. As someone who writes both for children and adults
how do you switch between the two?
I’ve always written in different styles and genres, whether poetry and fiction for adults and children or the diverse range of non-fiction I worked on during my years in journalism. It’s not a conscious intention to shift focus, so perhaps I do it instinctively. My voice doesn’t really change from one area of writing to the next, only the subject matter.
2 Do you work on more than one title at once?
Always! I am so impressed by writers who can focus on one project until it’s complete. I’m too much like a butterfly in the garden, flitting from flower to flower. In my case it’s going from one idea to another. I write whatever is in my mind at the time, so it might be a fragment of poetry, sections of a picture book, scenes from a short story or novel. The process works brilliantly for short things because I complete them quite quickly, especially if an idea takes hold and over a period of a few days won’t leave me alone. It’s an incredibly inefficient way to write novels, though, because I take such a long time to get to The End.
3 You are a hybrid author- that is you are both
traditionally published and self-published- what do you find are the benefits
and pitfalls of each approach?
Ah! The big question. My preference as an author is to have a publisher pick up my manuscripts. The key benefit is being confident they know their business and will do the best they can to make my book a success. There is also still quite a widespread community perception that being published by a ‘proper’ publisher means you are a ‘real’ writer. Being published by one of the big publishers can open up opportunities that are less likely to be offered to self-publishers.
As a self-publisher, I am a small business owner, responsible for every aspect from actual book production to admin, distribution, sales and marketing. My strength is in coming up with ideas and writing stories. To be a really successful self-publisher, you have to be a savvy business person and I don’t see myself wearing that role very well. I am learning but of course while I am reading blogs, watching videos, listening to podcasts and attending workshops about all the aspects of being a self-publisher I need to know, I am not writing. However, I love creating books and I have a number of unpublished manuscripts on file that I would like to see in print. The big plus of self-publishing is the control I have, the ease of print on demand production and how quickly I can release a book onto the market.
That leads me to the biggest downside of traditional
publishing. It can take a long time to find a traditional publisher, sometimes
years. Even though I have had a dozen books published through traditional
publishing, I still get more rejections than acceptances. It’s a competitive
market. Even when I do get a manuscript picked up, there is usually another
long wait between signing the contract and celebrating the book’s release.
With illustrated books I often have no input into the
illustrations and in some cases don’t see finished artwork until the book is
released. Some of the newer small publishers such as Serenity Press and Daisy
Lane Publishing do encourage author and illustrator input or collaboration and
that’s a bonus.
Then there’s the financial aspect. Unless your book
happens to be a runaway best seller, there’s no point thinking of giving up the
day job. The standard 10 per cent royalty on a recommended retail price (RRP)
of 15.50 is only $1.55 per book sold. In some cases if it’s a picture book,
that 10 per cent is split between the author and illustrator, so only five per
cent each. Print runs in Australia are often small and many publishers don’t
offer an advance. Children’s authors in particular usually rely on payments for
author talks and workshops, plus the annual education and public lending rights
payments to supplement income from royalties, whereas indie authors who promote
themselves and their titles well can make a decent living from their writing.
4 If you were starting now would you still be
a hybrid author or would you choose one approach over the other?
submitting to publishers in the 1970s when the world of publishing was vastly
different. It wasn’t as easy or affordable for authors to publish their own
work, plus there was such a stigma about self-publishing, which was widely
considered a vanity option for writers who weren’t good enough to get a
contract. I wanted to be taken seriously as an author. I still do and like it
or not, self-published authors are still seen as second best in some sectors of
into self-publishing because my stranger danger picture book was long out of
print but I was still reading it during school visits and being asked by
parents and teachers where they could get a copy. It seemed like a good idea to
produce a new edition so I did. At the time I only intended to self-publish
that one book but the changes in the publishing industry and the introduction
of new technology led me to rethink that decision. Meeting the inspirational
Karen McDermott of Serenity Press and Making Magic Happen Academy came at the
right time and motivated me to stop thinking about publishing my own books and
answer your question, if I were starting now I would still choose to try for a
traditional publishing contract first, with self-publishing as a backup option.
5. How do you capture your ideas?
Usually with pen and paper initially. I
only go to the computer when I have something to get me started, even if it’s
just the opening paragraph, a conversation or a scene. I keep notebooks and
pens handy…though sometimes I leave the notebook from my handbag on my computer
desk when I’ve been working from it. I have used napkins in a café to capture
my idea, the back of shopping dockets, in fact anything I can write on.
6. What are you working on now?
I am writing a quirky story for young readers about a kid who hires a parent tamer. At first Talibut Vish looks like he will be the solution to Mike’s out of control mum and dad but the stranger’s special powers only escalate the chaos in his life. It’s a fun story but because I’m not a planner I get so far then don’t know what happens next. That’s when I go back to the short romance I’m writing for an anthology. It features a gorgeous Labrador with serious anxiety issues…and a mismatched couple, of course.
7 Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Write in the way
that works best for you. If that means having a nine to five working day five
days a week and planning every aspect of your novel before you start writing,
then do that. If your creativity works best with an unstructured, fluid
approach, embrace it. After all, would you go for a long walk in a pair of
shoes that didn’t fit? It’s difficult in this era of social media, but try to
avoid measuring your productivity and achievements as a writer against anyone
else’s. The creative spirit is sensitive — it needs a positive environment to
flourish, so be gentle with yourself. Explore where your writing takes you and
enjoy the journey.
Bio: Teena Raffa-Mulligan is a reader, writer and daydream believer who believes there is magic in every day if you choose to find it. She discovered the wonderful world of storytelling as a child and decided to become a writer at an early age. Teena writes across genres and her publications include poetry and short stories for children and adults, picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels and romances. She shares her passion for books and writing by presenting talks and workshops to encourage people of all ages to write their own stories.
Teena’s February release is a lively collection of poems that encourages young readers to enjoy poetry and marvel at the wonder of words. Funny, thoughtful, silly and serious, Sleepy Socks and Sometime Rhymes is a celebration of the everyday and the imaginary. It is ideal for home or classroom, for sharing or for quiet moments curled up in a comfy chair.
It is often difficult to assess your own work, but there is a way to see what you are doing.
Colouring! Yes really, grab yourself some coloured marker pens or coloured pencils and prepare to be enlightened.
I heard of this concept during a presentation that Natasha Lester author of The ParisSeamstressmade during the Rockingham Writer’s convention. This is how she explained her system. By the way, this applies to all popular commercial fiction but not so much to literary fiction.
Action – Coloured PINK
Thought– Coloured YELLOW
Transitions—BLANK -NOT COLOURED
Back story-Coloured ORANGE.
She suggested colouring action and dialogue first to show you the balance of those,
Ideally, they should be most of the page, at least 60% but not in huge blocks of colour. Interweave with other aspects of the story.
Doing this enables you to SEE what you need to change, to add or subtract.
If you feel this may be too confronting you can always photocopy two or three pages from a book and try it with them.
Your goal is not to emulate them, your goal is to see whether they get it right or wrong and to improve your own writing. The only person you need to compare yourself with is the self of yesterday are you learning, growing, progressing?