08 March 2015

Finding Your Muse with Mindy Halleck

It's with great pleasure that we welcome Pacific Northwest author, blogger, and writing instructor, Mindy Halleck.

I had a journey ‘down-under’ that taught me something critical about being a writer, and how to improve my writing exponentially – I’ll share that with you in a minute. But first, let’s look at how I found my muse in Australia.

The best recipe to rouse my muse is travel and reading the right book on a trip. What’s yours?

In Fremantle I saw the Indian Ocean for the first time. It was breath-taking and energizing. The history of the prisoners of The Round House
moved me to wonder about their lives – many of those lives lost on that shore. What stories were lost with them?

With muse aroused, I wrote all night –my husband’s used to it.

In Sydney I fell in love with the Rocks and walked the fragrant Botanical Gardens, visited the museum, and bought a novel, The Lieutenant by Australian author, Kate Granville, and delved further into Australia’s history through her fictionalized accounts. While my husband –dressed in a grey jump suit and tied to other people like a chain gang – clambered up the Sydney Bridge Climb (because he’s a crazy person), I climbed to the Sydney Observatory, sat on a hill overlooking the harbor and read about a star-gazing lieutenant in the 1700’s who found himself in a strange land and a forbidden love. I sat where that story may have taken place and entered his world through Ms. Granville’s words. At that point my muse was drunk on inspiration.

We then traveled to London. With my husband visiting war museums, I spent a week in art museums and writing. My novel for that leg of the trip was Debra Dean’s The Madonnas of Leningrad. While in the National Gallery (3 days in a row) I felt Dean’s rich descriptions of paintings and war come to life in a city immersed in war, history and art.  With my creativity sparked to life, surrounded by the museum café’s black lacquered walls, and LOTS of tea and biscuits, I wrote like crazy. Don’t you love those days?  

On that journey I committed to stay connected to my muse, learn to deepen my characters and add more life to my story worlds. One of the main things I realized is how vital it is for writers to experience other books – reading is critical to writing – and to take note on what those works evoke. When I read I want to feel submerged in that story world – transported to another time, another way of thinking, being, loving and existing. Though I love to travel, I believe there is no greater adventure than one taken with a good book as your guide and your imagination to provide a vivid landscape.

And every time I read a great novel I grow more determined to write better.  What I learned while traveling that changed my writing exponentially is now my new creed:
To improve writing, read novels from different genres, different countries, and different cultures. When one tickles your muse, pay attention to why. Study that book and recommit to improving your writing. And then pass it on to other writers like the bearer of an Olympic torch – keep the creative energy flowing –it keeps your writing pencil sharp, and you in touch with your muse.

Resolute in my intention to stay connected to my muse and enrich my writing, in 2014 I’ll be talking with successful authors –you know, sitting at the feet of the masters – getting them on video, and sharing their answers with others. Passing the torch: because when I teach, I learn.

One such torch bearer is Gloria Kempton, writer, author, writing coach, editor, mentor and now, prison volunteer. Her quest for inspiration – muse – took her behind bars where many stories are haunting and as lost as the ones I wondered about on the shores of Fremantle. Gloria has found her muse and is as on fire as a Pentecostal preacher about her prison writing groups and what she’s learned from them. Thankfully she’s written a book, The Outlaw’s Journey that will help you find your muse in a way never thought possible. Thanks for reading, and best of luck in finding your muse.

Mindy Halleck is a Pacific Northwest author, blogger and writing instructor. Her short story, The Sound of Rain, which placed in the Writer’s Digest Literary Contest blossomed into her debut novel Return to Sender published by Booktrope Books in 2014. Halleck blogs at Literary Liaisons and is an active member of the Pacific Northwest writing community. In addition to being a writer, Halleck is a happily married, globe-trotting beachcomber, antiquer, gardener, proud grandma, and three-time cancer survivor. www.MindyHalleck.com

26 February 2015

Casablanca Authors: The Court of Annwyn continues with a free read!

Casablanca Authors: The Court of Annwyn continues with a free read!: There are three more Annwyn books out this year (yay!) And while the covers look very pretty they hide something darker as these three books...

13 February 2015

Where does your muse find you?

I love to travel and I love to write and I jump at any opportunity to combine the two. 

The actual task of writing is solitary and too anti-social for holidays with families and friends. But travelling with fellow writers, that’s another matter.

Plotting is still possible on holidays with family and friends. You arrange to meet in a café after you’ve done some individual shopping. You get there before the others because:

a)      You didn’t see anything you wanted
b)      You’re not much of a shopper anyway
c)       The low Australian dollar makes everything too expensive
d)      You’d rather write than shop

You’re in a seaside, cliff-top café in Riomaggiore  on the Cinque Terra. What could happen here? A proposal, a poisoning, a passionate kiss. What would your characters say to each other? How could this setting drive plot?

So where do you find your muse?

Lonely Planet gave some suggestions in their recent blog.

For me it’s Istanbul . . . but then there are a lot of places I haven’t seen yet.

06 February 2015

SFR Brigade Showcase: Mine to Hold (ES Siren book 4)

Welcome to this month's showcase. For more SFR showcases check out the SFR Brigade page
This month I'm featuring Mine to Hold book 4 in the ES Siren series (co-written with Mel Teshco and Denise Rossetti).
Books 7, 8 and 9 will be out in July and are up for pre-order now!
Someone is making trouble for Silke and Leo and Vance...with trust rapidly disintegrating will there be anything left to save?
Leo was lying on his bed, reading. He was very grateful for the vast electronic library on the ship, and that not all of it was useful stuff. Sometimes he just wanted to escape into fiction. The operating schematics for the solar-operated desalination plant would be waiting for him tomorrow.

Not that he’d done much study over the past few days. He’d been spending almost all his free time with Silke. He smiled as he swiped the screen. He hoped the scientists were working on a way to keep the portacomps alive on Solitaire. Not that they had any means of making new ones. There were no factories for the plasti-screens or any of the other tiny components. The vast library would be lost unless there was a printer at the other end.

Maybe someone was in charge of printing and there was a library already happening at Unity. The thought gave him another reason to smile. He needed to read up on paper making. He knew they were using a native plant to make something paperish.

Someone stopped in his doorway. Like most people, he didn’t bother shutting the door unless he wanted privacy or was out. Silke stood there, and she didn’t look particularly happy. He sat up, aware that he was underdressed in just his shorts and a T-shirt. It was nice to get out of uniform, but if he’d known she was going to visit he’d have put on more clothing—before removing it with her. His bare feet hit the cold metal floor as he sat up. Unlike the module rooms that the Army personnel were housed in, he didn’t have any kind of carpet. He was used to it, though.

“Hey, come in.”

She crossed the threshold and sat on his chair. He noticed that she hadn’t bothered to close the door. Not a visit that was going to involve the removal of clothes, then. Damn. But they hadn’t made plans for tonight. Not yet, anyway. He’d been planning on going down and seeing her a little later. Maybe they could go and enjoy staring out into space. Not that there was much to see while the Meijer Jump Engines were running. Just black. But still, it made a change from the gray metal walls. Or they could go and sit in the hydroponic orchard and pretend to be in a garden somewhere. He knew a few guys who’d paid off the tech to take their dates there. As long as no fruit was stolen, it was cool.

“You know Vance and I are friends.”

“Yeah,” he said carefully.

“Someone has been spreading a rather unflattering rumor about me and him. People are taking it seriously enough that he might lose his placement.”

Leo sat up straighter. “You think it was me.”

“Was it?” She gave him a cool stare.

“Why would I do that?”

She shrugged but didn’t look away. She was quietly assessing his responses. “Because you’re jealous.”

Leo shook his head. Did she really think he was capable of that kind of underhand behavior? Obviously she did. Did Vance think he’d set him up?

“I haven’t said a thing to anyone about anything. Shit, I haven’t even told anyone I’m seeing you.”

“Yeah, well, you’re going to get asked about that too.” That admission made her look extremely uncomfortable. Was she embarrassed to be seeing him?


“Because I used you in my defense of Vance.”

In that heartbeat he was really glad she’d said no to his offer of marriage—it would look entirely too convenient. Had she only agreed to date him because she knew that someone was stirring up trouble? No, that didn’t make sense, not when she’d just come in here accusing him of being the one doing the stirring.

“Oh. Okay.” Although he wasn’t sure it was okay. “Do you know who is behind the rumor?”

She nodded. “I needed to be sure that you weren’t involved. After all, I turned you down and now this starts up.”

He looked at her. “You were also the one who asked me to go to the bar.”

To deflect suspicion? Or because she wanted to? He leaned forward, rested his elbows on his thighs and studied her. He liked her, he really did. But at the back of his mind he couldn’t shake the niggling doubt that there was more to her relationship with Vance than she’d admitted.

He’d seen them interact. The way they joked and laughed. And yeah, that made him jealous—he wanted to be the one making her smile like that. But he wasn’t petty enough to destroy another man’s career, or mess with her job.

“When they come knocking I’ll tell them that we’re dating.”

She sighed and almost smiled. “Thank you.”

“But I also think it would be a good idea if you didn’t stick around tonight.” He wasn’t sure what was going on, but he knew that rolling around with her right now would only make the mess worse. “I’ve got some study to do.”

He’d just lied to her face. While he did have things he could study, that wasn’t how he’d planned on spending the evening.

“Me too.” But this time she didn’t sound nearly as tough or convincing.

He almost changed his mind. But he made himself get up and walk her to the door. He caught her hand just before she stepped out, and leaned in toward her.

“If I find out you’ve been using me …” He had no idea what he was going to do, but he’d be angry and hurt. He didn’t like being played for a fool. “There will be hell to pay.”

Mine to Hold

Getting caught between two lovers has never been more dangerous.
Captain Leo Grady is making his third trip to Solitaire. He's spent five years in space and is ready for a change. Not wanting to go back to Earth, he's chosen to pay off on Solitaire. All he needs is a woman willing to be his wife. Given that women are heavily outnumbered on the fleet of first settlers he knows he can't sit around and wait. He has to act.

Vance Knox has been working with vet, Silke Rask, for the last six months. He fancies her, but refuses to do anything about it because he still has a twenty year sentence to serve. He has nothing to offer any lover and he expects nothing. He made his choices a long time ago. But it burns to see her getting closer to Grady.

Silke is torn between the sensible choice of Grady and the more dangerous attraction she has for Vance, but as secrets are revealed she realizes that she has to fight for what she wants. Not everyone on the ship is there because they earned their place, and old Earth money still has power.

When disaster strikes and threatens the lives of everyone on board she realizes that that sometimes no choice has to be made. Why should love have limits?

30 January 2015

Colleen McCullough - justa facere

My favourite Australian author, Colleen McCullough, died yesterday.

Colleen wrote 11 single-title novels, seven books in the Masters of Rome historical series, and five in the Carmine Delmonico mystery series. The Delmonico mysteries create and sustain the wonderful love story between Carmine and the tall Desdemona.

She wrote The Thorn Birds, published in 1977, the highest-selling Australian book, and resisted pressure to write a sequel. She had more readers globally than any other Australian writer.

She was especially proud of the Masters of Rome series which I read as soon as they came out. She put enormous effort into the historical accuracy of the series and hoped that these books would define her legacy.

The Romans believed that the soul cannot rest until the body is laid to rest. The term "justa facere", meaning "to do the right things", refers to the respect for the rites of the dead. 

I’ve read every book Colleen wrote and I’m sad there won’t be any more. My thoughts are with her loved ones.

Lesley Ann Smith

19 January 2015

Casablanca Authors: Resolutions vs goals

Casablanca Authors: Resolutions vs goals: Christmas is over and we’re three days into the New Year. How many resolutions have already been broken? I tend not to make resolutions. I...

04 January 2015

Happy New Year to all writers and readers

Well, it’s that time of year again when the talk turns to resolutions for the new year, goals, and time management. Or do we just set ourselves up for failure. I've just finished reviewing my goals for 2014 and have to admit many weren't achieved; but some were. For those that weren't, it’s a chance to think about why and change the way I go about things before the year gets into full swing. Sometimes the goal is sound but how I've gone about it could be improved.

I'm sure my old friends, over-commitment and procrastination, will keep me company again in 2015 as I renew the writing journey.

The Wink Girls will support the 2015 Australian Women Writers Challenge again this year.

Happy New Year!!!

Lesley Ann Smith