Tag Archives: romance

Does romance equal happiness in fiction? Plus two interviews with two Lauras!

STOP EIGHT

In the eighth stop of my blog tour, I’m guest posting over at The Eagle’s Aerial Perspective about whether romance equals happiness in fiction (and whether it should). Here’s a taste of the post…

I’m a sucker for a good romance. Twilight is one of my favourite books and movies like Ten Things I Hate About You never fail to make me smile. But as much as I love stories like these, they make me slightly uncomfortable. Why? Because they seem to equate romance with happiness, and I’m not sure that’s a great message, particularly for young (and new) adults. Read more…

STOP NINE

In my ninth stop, I’ve answered all of Laura J Moss‘s burning questions about self publishing, including why I decided to self publish, what factors I had to consider, how I chose my publishing mediums and what advice I’d give to people considering self publishing for themselves. Want a preview? Here you go!

Be aware that you will need to commit a great deal of time to the [self publishing] process to do it justice. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my self-publishing journey (except for the 2 a.m. crisis!), but it has consumed a LOT of my time and energy. You need to be prepared to not only be the author, but to also be the typesetter, the proofreader, the accountant, the distributor, the publicist… and the list goes on. Read more…

STOP TEN

And in my tenth stop, it’s my turn to answer Laura Howard’s famous six questions over at Finding Bliss. I’ve revealed my top three favourite books (for now), my editing process for The Big Smoke and my inspiration for writing. Here’s a little sample for you:

When it comes to editing, focus on the macro issues first – look at the forest rather than the trees. With earlier iterations of The Big Smoke (then Entwined, before I decided to completely re-write it), I spent countless hours perfecting the prose of certain scenes, only to decide later that the entire chapter needed to go. Read more…

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Filed under blog tour, The Big Smoke, Writing, Writing craft

The Year I Turned 18 Blogfest: my post! So many memories…

In the third stop of my blog tour, I’m guest posting on Rebecca Enzor’s blog about revising after contradictory beta reader feedback. Make sure you check it out!

And in the fourth stop, I’ve been interviewed by Bailey Kelsey over at Bailey is Writing! She’s got some awesome questions so make sure you drop by and read it!

Blogfest badge

As you probably know by now, I’m holding a blogfest called ‘The Year I Turned 18’ to celebrate the release of my debut new adult novel, The Big Smoke (in which the two main characters both turn 18). Posts can be about anything from that year – something momentous that happened, what your hopes and dreams were at that time, diary entries, anything that comes to mind. 

And this is MY post for the blogfest, all about the year I turned 18.

With my dad at my year 12 formal on the night after my last day of high school.

In preparation for this post, I pulled out my diary from 2001, excited to take a trip down memory lane. Unfortunately, I discovered that the vast majority of my diary is totally boring! I’m not quite sure why I decided to record monotonous events in such ridiculous detail, but I did. I shan’t bore you with those parts! Here’s a quote from early in the year while I was still waiting to find out which university I’d be getting into:

‘Sometimes you’ve got to wonder whether dreaming is that great if it sets you up for a fall. But I can’t possibly think that, because so much of my life is taken up by dreaming. But the dream world of mine and reality are so different. Will they ever be similar? Probably not, but I’ll still keep dreaming. Something’s got to keep me going, doesn’t it?

Why can’t I just be satisfied? Why?? I have so much which I probably take for granted, but on the inside my emotions are constantly see-sawing. Can’t you just balance, please? I don’t even know what I’m bloody complaining about. But maybe that’s part of the problem. I DON’T KNOW.’ 

How’s that for turbulent teenage hormones? 😉 And here’s a bit more:

‘Life just isn’t what dreams are made of. At least, not my dreams. The one thing that really scares me is, what if Billy [ex-boyfriend] is the best thing I’m going to get in life? What if it’s all down hill from here?’

Cheery, wasn’t I?!

A bit later after those entries, I discovered that I’d got into the course that I’d been dreaming of – drama at QUT. Unfortunately, I didn’t really write about it because I was too busy writing page after page about this random boy I obsessed over for two weeks. Teenagers! 😉

But getting into QUT meant a move away from my country home town to Brisbane (sound familiar?!). Here’s a diary excerpt from the day before I moved:

‘Kate [a close friend] just left. She slept over last night. We both cried today because it will be the last sleep over we ever have here, like this. It’s really just starting to hit me now. I’m moving out of home tomorrow. TOMORROW. As of tomorrow I’m supposed to be responsible and mature enough to look after myself. No more Mum and Dad to remind me when I’ve forgotten something. If I’m going to eat healthily, it’s up to me to buy myself fruit and vegetables. If I want to have clean clothes, I have to wash them myself…

It’s weird, I can’t wait to do it [move out], but then in other ways I don’t want to leave at all. I’ve been throwing out all of my old posters, and it just feels like the end of my childhood….’

Here’s the posters I was talking about:

My bedroom wall

My bedroom wall

And here’s me at my new home in Brisbane:

Outside my home in Brisbane

Outside the Brisbane share house

My room in the share house

My room in the Brisbane share house

Sometime later, I wrote this entry about my first trip back home:

‘I really enjoyed going back home to visit. It was really good to see Mum and Dad that night. However, the person that really affected me was Jack [my then seven-year-old brother]. I went down to him in the dirt where the pool used to be. The way his eyes lit up when he saw me almost brought tears to mine. He hugged me so furiously as well. It was really nice to hang out with them on the verandah, like usual. Mum even cooked roast lamb for tea… Jack was mortified that they made me do the dishes. I miss him so much! 

It was fairly cold with the air conditioner on, so I went to get a jumper out of my room. It then hit me that my room no longer held my belongings – they were all in Brisbane. Dad laughed because he realised what I’d gone to do. It made me feel quite sad though, standing in my room with none of my old stuff in it.

Mum and Dad said that in some ways, it felt like someone had died. I know exactly what they meant. It reminded me of when Kerry [a friend] changed schools at the beginning of year seven.  When the rest of us talked at lunch time, I could feel her absence. The conversation seemed to be missing an element that Kerry had provided. When I realised she’d never be back to fill that gap, it truly felt that, in a sense, she had died. 

But I was back. Back listening to Mum and Dad argue, and Jack being told to be quite and sit on his chair… ahh, home! 

A couple of months later, I wrote this poem:

The morning after…

As I sit, waiting for the train
I look through murky eyes
God, I feel like hell today
But I guess that’s no surprise
At a place called Cannon Hill 
Wherever that might be
I don’t really even care
It means sweet nothing to me
The only thing that matters now
Is getting home to bed
Hopefully that will calm
The throbbing in my head

Bits and pieces of the party
Are floating through my mind
People drinking Bourbon and Rum
Or whatever they could find
When I arrived at the party
There were only three people I knew
But as the night progressed
That number slowly grew

Watching a bunch of people 
I’d never met before
I could tell who were friends
And who wanted more
A couple at the party
Were quite saddening to view
She flirted with all his friends
And there was nothing he could do

By the time my accompniants left
I was feeling quite at ease
I’d made friends with everyone
Even the girlfriend tease

Crashing at a bloke’s house 
That I barely even knew
Seemed quite fine and natural
What else was I to do? 

As I awoke the next morning
My stomach let me know
That my fun was definitely over
It was obviously time to go

An expensive taxi trip later
I’ve still got to bus and train
On the wrong side of the city
When even thinking’s a strain!

But despite my current seediness
And having to wait around in the rain
I know that come next weekend
I’ll probably do it all again. 

Towards the end of my first semester at uni, I had a very short romance with a guy I worked with at Eagle Boys Pizza. My diary says this:

‘Well, I broke up with Ben, so that’s over. Somehow, everybody at work found out about us, so we’ve been the topic of constant conversation and jokes ever since. It’s interesting between us though because we’re still friendly, but what happened between us is always present. I’ve actually been dreaming about him recently, but it’s not really him. I mean, it’s him physically, but personality wise, it’s someone else. I guess it’s my made-up Mr Perfect’s personality – someone I unfortunately haven’t had the pleasure of meeting!…

Mum and Dad have supported me so much lately with all of my uni fears and struggles. A few nights ago, Dad drove all the way to Brisbane and took me home because I just flipped from the stress and thought I was going to drop out of uni. Mum and Dad both totally supported me and allowed me to consider it at home that night. The next day, when I had decided that I at least wanted to finish the semester, they helped me do what I had to do to get back on my feet. 

They also helped me when I slacked off with studying for my only exam and then totally panicked for fear of failing it. They helped me get my head together and study for it. Dad called me every two hours while I was home to see how I was progressing and to keep me motivated. It was so insane though. I just let myself get into a mess and I hid in it because I was so scared and so unprepared to do anything about it. I just wanted the situation to go away and not to deal with it.”

That was the last diary entry I wrote for more than five years. At the end of that first semester, I returned to my country home with my tail between my legs. Although I didn’t realise this at the time, it was a classic case of big fish/small pond to small fish/big pond syndrome. At my country high school, I was the best at drama. In my uni drama course though, everybody had been the best at high school, and now all of a sudden I was only mediocre. Poor little teenage Cally couldn’t handle that!

So I dropped out of acting. Interestingly, I couldn’t go for long without a creative outlet, so I turned to writing instead. And I decided to write a novel based around a lesson that I felt I needed to learn  myself (which you may have picked up on from some of these excerpts). The lesson was this: getting a boyfriend wasn’t the answer to finding happiness; I had to do that on my own. Those first ideas were the seeds that grew into what we now  know as The Big Smoke!

My 18th birthday

My 18th birthday (with my brother, grandma and father also in the photo)

Ready to hit the clubs

Ready to hit the clubs

Before the year was out, I met the guy (at the Pig N’ Whistle pub) who would become my next serious boyfriend. A very cute boy called Mark… who is now my husband of eight years! And to think that 17-year-old Cally was so worried that her most romantic days were behind her! Kind of makes me smile now… 😉

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about the roller coaster that was the year I turned 18 (Note: I’ve changed some names from my diary entries to protect the innocent!).

If you’d like to read more posts for the Year I Turned 18 Blogfest, visit the Linky List!

And don’t forget to visit Bailey’s blog and Rebecca’s blog for my interview and guest post!

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Filed under Blogfests, The Big Smoke, Writing

Book review: The Preacher’s Bride by Jody Hedlund

Book blurb (from Good Reads, with some edits by me)

In 1650s England, a young Puritan maiden is on a mission to save the baby of her newly widowed preacher – whether her assistance is wanted or not. Always ready to help those in need, Elizabeth Whitbread ignores John Costin’s protests of her aid. She’s even willing to risk her lone marriage prospect to help the little family.

Yet Elizabeth’s new role as nanny takes a dangerous turn when John’s boldness from the pulpit makes him a target of political and religious leaders. As the preacher’s enemies become desperate to silence him, they draw Elizabeth into a deadly web of deception. Finding herself in more danger than she ever bargained for, she’s more determined than ever to save the  family she’s come to love.

My thoughts

It’s been ages since I’ve read a book with romance as one of its central themes. It’s been even longer since I’ve read historical fiction. And Christian fiction? I’ve read one book that fits that description in my entire life, before this one. But I’ve been reading Jody Hedlund‘s blog for a while now and was interested to see what her writing was like. So when my blogging buddy Susanna Leonard Hill said she had a copy that she wanted to send on a ‘book journey’, it seemed meant to be… 😉

I must admit, it took me a little while to get into The Preacher’s Bride. This wasn’t because the beginning was dull, far from it. I just wasn’t used to reading fiction with such strong religious content. But the religious aspect made complete sense in the context of the book, so I soon settled into it. And when I did, boy did the plot grab me. As Elizabeth became more and more attached to the Costin family, so did I. Jody’s descriptions of the struggling family were 100% realistic and my heart broke for them on more than one occasion.

I particularly enjoyed the book’s narration, which shifted effortlessly between Elizabeth and John’s perspectives and gave me wonderful insight into the situation from both points of view.  The development of their relationship came across as organic and believable, and I could see clearly why they were suited to each other but also what obstacles lay in their path to happiness.

In my last book review, I said that Katniss Everdeen was an awesome heroine. Even though Katniss and Elizabeth have almost nothing in common, the same praise applies to Elizabeth. Actually, the more I think about it, the more I realise that despite their surface differences they actually have a lot in common – they’re both courageous, strong-willed, self-sacrificing and resourceful. Who would have thought!

Another of my favourite characters from The Preacher’s Bride was Mary, John’s blind daughter who is more perceptive than most of us who can see. She was portrayed with great empathy and realism, and I loved reading every scene that she played a role in.

My only criticism of The Preacher’s Bride is that I found some of the descriptions and figurative language a little over done. This could be because I read a lot of young adult fiction, which is typically more sparse, but I did find the narrative just a little too verbose for my taste at times. But this had very little impact on my overall enjoyable of the book, and I can’t wait to read Jody’s second offering, The Doctor’s Lady.

My rating: 4 stars

My rating: 4 stars

Your turn

Have you read The Preacher’s Bride? If so, what did you think? If not, do you think you will?

My 1-5 scale
1: Terrible. I couldn’t finish it.
2: Dissatisfying.
3: Good but not great.
3.5: A solid, enjoyable read but still some elements not working for me.
4: Really enjoyable with very few flaws OR flawed, but I loved it anyway.
4.5: Unputdownable. Close to perfect. I’ll rave about it to anyone who listens.
5: Perfection (i.e. pretty much unattainable.).

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Filed under Book review, Writing

Dora Hiers in the HOT SEAT

Dora Hiers edges her way forward towards the flames. She may be nervous, but she’s determined she will survive no matter how badly she gets burnt. Very brave is Dora. Very brave. But will bravery help her handle the HOT SEAT?

Gday, Dora!

Let’s get started. What genre(s) do you write, Dora?

Inspirational romance. What I like to call heart racing, God-gracing romance.

Tell us about your latest book in 25 words or less.

I just typed “The End” on Journey’s Embrace. Hmmm…how about this?

When a flight medic’s life hangs by her fingertips, can a wounded U.S. Deputy Marshal overcome his fears to save her and embrace love?

[CJ: Oooh, I hope the answer is yes!]

Most of us write part time. How do you spend your time when you’re not writing?

Reading. What else do writers do to relax? In the summer, my hubby enjoys cranking up the smoker for family gatherings, guaranteeing a crowd around the table. I swear my youngest son catches a whiff of the finger-licking ribs two hours away.

Dora's Grandkids

When the temperature cools, you’ll catch me flicking the fireplace switch on and kicking back under a blanket to cheer for the Carolina Panthers and the Tampa Bay Lightning. Just about any time of the year, we’re game for a quick jaunt to the mountains. And nothing beats spending time with our grandkids! See those cuties!

[CJ: Awww, very cute. And I agree, reading is an awesome way to relax.]

Tell us a little about your writing process.

As organized as I am in everything else, it pains me to confess that I’m a pantser. But, honestly, I’ve tried outlining. Can you picture me staring at a blank screen until my eyeballs pop? So, I try not to let it bother me and just accept that I’m a pantser. My goal is to give birth to great characters and hook a reader into an opening scene, and let the story flow organically from there. 

[CJ: Gasp! You’re a pantser?! If I’d known that before I agreed to interview you, things would’ve been different… ;-)]

Who or what are your biggest writing inspirations?

God, first. Next, my husband. He’s my best friend, my encourager, and my biggest promoter!

What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a writer?

Hmm…Self-discipline. Forcing my rump to sit in the chair and write and not be distracted by overflowing laundry baskets, the grass that’s about six inches too high, personal phone calls, you name it. When you work from home, it’s tough to overlook household tasks and particularly difficult to say “no” to personal requests. But, one thing I can’t say no to: watching a sick grandchild.

[CJ: And nor should do. No matter how important writing is, family comes first.]

OK, Cally. It’s been really nice chatting with you. I’ve seen your HOT SEAT questions before, and I don’t think I’m quite ready for…

[CJ: Nice try, but you’re not getting out of it that easily!]

Time for the HOT SEAT questions!

Hot Seat

*Insert scary music here*

If someone important in your life told you that you had to stop writing or never see them again, what would you do?  

Ah. That’s not so bad. <Swiping a hand across my glistening forehead>

I’d give it up.

Whoa! I can hear your collective gasp all the way to North Carolina.

[CJ: I didn’t realise I was that loud. But I’m keen for you to elaborate! :)]

I wasn’t born with a pen in my hand like some writers. My urge to write came later in life, when my youngest son started middle school and didn’t want me hanging out at school with him anymore. LOL. I knew I needed something more to fill my days. An avid inspirational romance reader, God planted a story idea that pinged around in my head for a few months until I finally confessed my desire to write to my husband. With his enthusiastic support, I started pounding out the story.

My hubby’s the one, besides me, most vested in my writing. If he asked me to give up writing, he would have a good reason for doing so. And I’d honor that request. Because I love him, and writing takes a back seat to the needs of my family.

But I’d miss it, something fierce. No doubt about that.  

[CJ: Okay, now I understand. Well said.]

Finish this sentence from your character Chelsea’s perspective.

Something from my past that I’ve had trouble getting over is…  my husband’s murder.

[CJ: Oh dear. Yes, that would be hard to get over.]

I’m an ordinary woman with dreams budding in my heart and grief choking me from my past. But it’s time to move on, and that’s what I hoped to do by opening Journey’s End, a shelter for troubled teens, in honor of my late husband.

Did you catch that? Hoped? Because I didn’t expect my first arrival, Jake, to be the son of my husband’s murderer, scared and running for his life. Or to call in the marshals office because Jake wants to testify against his father. And who shows up? Trey Colten. The guy in charge of the undercover operation that killed my husband. Trey claims his job is to protect me. Ha! God definitely has a sense of humor!

If Trey thinks I’m going to sit around and twiddle my thumbs waiting for Jake’s father to show up, he’s mistaken. I don’t need his protection. And although I may be ready for another relationship, especially with a guy who helps with the dishes and feeds my animals, it won’t be with another law enforcement officer.

[CJ: What an awesome premise. You’ve definitely caught my attention – and through a HOT SEAT question too. I’m impressed.]

Now finish the same sentence from your own perspective.

Something from my past that I’ve had trouble getting over is Ouch. Who likes digging painful things up?

[CJ: Me. That’s the purpose of the HOT SEAT. :D]

OK. OK.

Four years ago, we moved from Florida to North Carolina. My youngest son was in the International Baccalaureate Program in high school at the time. He’d debated for some time about getting out, so we weren’t too concerned that our new city didn’t offer the IB program.

Maybe we should have been more concerned. Our youngest son opted to finish high school in Florida. Moving across states is tough enough, but add leaving a son behind. Oy! I was miserable. Angry. Resentful. Like my heart literally ripped in half.

[CJ: :(]

After a few counselling sessions and much time in prayer, God helped me break free from those dark emotions and into the glorious sunshine. Since then, both our sons moved to North Carolina. Our youngest attends a college two hours away from us. And you know what? He loves North Carolina! How cool is that?

[CJ: Hooray for happy endings!]

Thanks so much for inviting me to the Hot Seat, Cally. I enjoyed visiting with you!

[CJ: You’re very welcome. :-)]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

If you’d like to hear more from Dora, check out her blog or website. Dora has been kind enough to offer a copy of Journey’s End to one lucky reader. First one to say they’d like a copy gets it, so shout out!

If you’d like a turn in the HOT SEAT, let me know in the comments and I’ll schedule you in for a buttocks burning. 😀

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Filed under Hot Seat, Writer interview, Writers, Writing