Fan Girl Friday – Maps Ahoy with Louise Reynolds

LReynolds1012_0059Maybe it was the Hundred Acre Wood in Winnie-The-Pooh. Or perhaps the old auto club strip maps my mother thrust at us on the never-ending annual childhood road trips between Sydney and Melbourne. All I know is that I love maps.

There’s an air of expectancy when I open a book and see a map in the front. Either I need to know the lay of the land as in a murder mystery like Minette Walters’ The Ice House. Or it’s an invitation to enter an imaginary place created by an author as in William Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County.

English County Map 1614

I started to collect maps in my late twenties when I bought a pair of these original maps of English counties dated 1614. I love their beautiful jewel colours, latin names and fancy lettering. They would once have been part of a large and expensive portfolio belonging to a gentleman’s library. Luckily they’re now mine.

1765 Strip Map

Later I acquired this original Georgian Strip map of 1765 (predecessor of the auto club strip maps of my youth) which came from The Gentleman’s Magazine. Designed to guide the traveller from London to Lands End by the great turnpike roads of the era, this is my favourite map. The delicate pastel coloured strips differentiate the counties giving the map an attractive graphic quality. But it’s the imaginary journey I take alongside that gentleman that makes my heart race. We set off from ‘Hide Park Gate’ and pass through the little villages of ‘Chelsey’ and Hammersmith. And in my imagination I’m not sitting inside, all corseted up. I’m up top beside the driver. The names of large houses and directions like ‘to the moor’, ‘the college’ and ‘to the mill’ make this an intriguing map. What college? And which mill?

To OS Mapssay that HM Government’s Ordnance survey maps of England have given me hours of pleasure probably sounds very dull. But in my 30’s I caught the rambling bug and the romance of English long distance footpaths captured me. I acquired piles of OS maps to trek these paths. Later I used those same maps to identify, if I could, those intriguing mills and colleges from the 1765 map. They’ve also been invaluable for family history, helping to locate family farms and mining leases.

c. Alan Proctor & Dennis Brierley 1982My map fetish extends to collecting quirky handwritten walking guides like A Wiltshire Way. I love to think of some geeky rambler standing in the freezing cold, blowing on frozen fingers to warm them enough to draw the pictures. I love the little cotton floss trees, the careful script. I love that he has stopped to draw a stile or church and include them on the map in the manner of a medieval monk decorating a manuscript. It’s about time and care. This man is more than a walker. He’s a creator. And I wonder whether that gate, noted as ‘always locked’ in 1982, has ever been unlocked?

Her Italian Aristocrat cover

One of the things most complimented in Her Italian Aristocrat is the portrayal of an Italian hill town setting. Whilst I gripped my wrist and resisted the urge to draw a map, I did see that town so vividly in my mind’s eye. My hero and heroine spend a fair bit of time on the streets of Montefigore and I hope, map or not, that I’ve managed to convey that sense of place.

You can visit Louise on her website, blog or Facebook.  And hey, why don’t you buy her book?  You can get it from iTunes, Amazon, Kobo, Google and Destiny.

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Fan Girl Friday – Loving Love with Rhian Cahill

First a big thank you to Paula for having me over to go all fan girl. 🙂

It seems appropriate to be talking about what I love the day after Valentine’s Day. You see the thing I absolute love and can’t live without is love! It comes in all shapes and size. You can love something like a favourite movie or book, and then you can love something so deeply that your life isn’t the same without it.

ImageThe love of my life is Mr C. We’ve been married 25 years (yes, I was a child bride). I can still remember the moment I saw him the first time. It was like my whole body sighed and I thought, ah, there he is. And wasn’t just his cute butt that got my attention, although that didn’t hurt 😉 While we’ve obviously gone the distance it hasn’t always been easy and we’ve seen our share of trouble (I’ve wanted to strangle him more than once. A day.) but when the dust settles we’ve always come back to each other. I guess that’s why I love romance so much. Why I lose myself in the story of two people falling so deeply into each other while navigating their busy lives that no matter what the obstacle in their path they find a way around it and to each other.

For me love really does make the world go round and whether it’s a TV show, book, food or person who inspires that feeling in my chest doesn’t matter. What matters is the joy that emotion brings whenever I get to spend time doing the things I love. (And yes, doing Mr C probably tops the list of loved things :laugh: ) Everyone deserves to go ‘fan girl (or boy)’ over things that make them happy. And we should ALL have a fan moment every day. We deserve it. So go on, get your ‘fan girl’ shirt on and go crazy!

ImageRhian Cahill is the alter ego of a stay-at-home mother of four. With motherly duties rapidly dwindling Rhian is able to make use of the fertile imagination she used to keep herself sane for all those years of slavery. Having spent some years living overseas and visiting tropical climates has helped inspire some steamy stories. Multi-published in erotic romance, Rhian, with the help of Mr  Muse, spends her days and nights writing.  When not glued to the keyboard you’ll find her book in hand avoiding any and all housework as much as possible. For more on Rhian visit her website or you can contact her at rhian@rhiancahill.com or connect on Twitter  or Facebook, or you can download Rhian’s free app from the iTunes or Google Play stores.

yay! We’re live and ready to talk alphas!

Romance Writers of Australia

Welcome to a conference spotlight from the Riding the Waves conference!

Today we have Shannon Curtis and Paula Roe who will be presenting the workshop MASTER OR COMMANDER ~ Getting from Alpha Hole to Alpha Hero.

 BiosShannon Curtis (681x1024)

Shannon Curtis has worked in diverse roles such as office admin manager, customer service rep, logistics supervisor, distribution coordinator, dangerous goods handler,  event planner, switch bitch and betting agent, and decided to try writing a story like those she loves to read when she found herself at home after the birth of her first child. Now she spends entirely too much time daydreaming about hunky heroes and malicious murders – for her books, of course! She loves reading, loves writing, and loves hearing from her readers, so visit her at www.shannoncurtis.com and say hi!

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Paula Roe is an experienced workshop presenter, devising and delivering workshops for RWA, Australian Romance Readers…

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Fan Girl Friday – when you get unstuck

Hi everyone!  I hope you’re all enjoying my guests on Fan Girl Friday!  They’ve all been wonderful so far and there’s more fabulous authors coming up in the weeks ahead.

So, on to today’s post.  Because I’m at the tail-end of my current book (due Monday) I didn’t have to look far for today’s inspiration: the wonderful joy of getting unstuck when you hit a wall.  Okay, so it’s not a place or a product or a shiny thing you can stroke but it is something I am a HUGE fan of.  Let me explain…

this wall... I hit it

this wall… I hit it

I’ve been writing my current book since October and I was steaming along quite nicely up until Christmas.  I had around 5K to go and had spent a few nights writing around 2K. I was enthused, I loved my characters, the story was good, I was on a roll.

And then I hit that wall.  I got distracted by Christmas, by a brand-new Doctor Who DVD, by my son’s obsession with watching back-to-back Horrible Histories episodes.  I suddenly lost all enthusiasm for my story.  Every other project on my computer held more attraction, including rearranging my iTunes playlists (what the hell?) and cutting out old recipes from Super Food Ideas.  I honestly had no idea why I’d lost the love, but with the deadline penciled in angry red on my calendar, I had to do something.

sorry, Eric - you'll have to wait for another story...

sorry, Eric – you’ll have to wait for another story…

The first thing I looked at was my characters.  I loved everything about AJ, my heroine – she was feisty, straight forward, determined. She had a purpose, she had a goal and she was actively going for it.  I also loved my hero – he was driven, smart, attractive. He was a doctor, for heavens’ sakes, and I’d already picked out some gorgeous photos of Eric Dane (Dr Mark Sloan in Gray’s Anatomy) as my inspiration.  His name, however, turned out to be a problem.   I still really like ‘Mitch’ as a hero’s name, but it had always reminded me of a particularly awful boy at my son’s school.  Bad mistake.  So Mitch had to go.  But who to replace him with?  Well, thanks to my son’s holiday viewing habits, I’d been watching A LOT of television and I’d decided to base my hero’s looks on one of the show’s actors.  And give him his name.  And basically make him my poster boy.

And by changing those things, it meant all sorts of other add-on considerations.  I had to change his hair and eye color, hair length and texture, eye shape.  Face and nose shape.  Physique.  Even the way he dressed.  He had to dress like a Matthew, not a Mitch.  He had to walk and talk and command himself as this new person, not the old one, and with a background that fitted him.  Thankfully, those changes were relatively minor and easily fixed.  Mitch (the awful boy) had morphed into Matt (the gorgeous, dreamy-eyed doctor) and I was thrilled.

And because my hero had changed, I had to look at my choice of  writing music.

Some writers like total silence when they write.  Some listen to classical.  Some make playlists to suit the tone of their story. Now, as I write during the day at a public library, I don’t have the luxury of silence 🙂 so I got myself a good set of noise-cancelling headphones and some music to write by.  I have a standard ‘writing’ playlist on my iPod that I’ve used for the last three books, but this one was obviously not going to get written using my standard list.

This book had a slightly angsty feel to it, a bit alternative, acoustic and romantic.  So I went through my entire iTunes library (5000 of them!) and checked out some recommendations and came up with… a hours’ worth of writing music.  Yep, one whole hour.  I couldn’t use any from a prior playlist, and I had to match songs that complemented each other, that flowed well and were in keeping with my brand new hero.  Here’s what I ended up with (okay, you may not have heard of most of these bands.  That’s okay.  You should check them out anyway!):

  • penny flanaganDog Ears – The Howling
  • Dog Ears – Like Rain
  • Dog Ears – Mrs Winchester
  • Dog Ears – Onwards Onwards
  • Penny Flanagan – When You Were Mine
  • Penny Flanagan – Inseparable
  • Penny Flanagan – Common Heart
  • Penny Flanagan – Swallow Me
  • Penny Flanagan – Lap It Up
  • Penny Flanagan – Dig
  • Bic Runga – Drive
  • dog earsThe Unwinding Hours – Solstice
  • My Latest Novel – I Declare a Ceasefire
  • Snow Patrol – Chasing Cars
  • Owl City – Meteor Shower
  • Snow Patrol – Just Say Yes
  • Grovesnor – Dan

I can’t tell you how much I LOVE these songs.  I get little chills every time I hear them, even after a hundred-plus repeats!

The last thing I did was talk out my story with a writer.  Thanks to the wonderful Keziah Hill who offered up some great suggestions for a new scene I needed (but was clueless about)!

So, with those three things – hero, music, scene issues – I got finally unstuck and powered through the last 4K.  I AM SO HAPPY!!  And after I do just one more proofread, my hot doctor story is away!

Have you ever come unstuck?  And what do you do to fix it?  Would love to hear your suggestions and advice!