The Round Robin Round-Up

In recent months, the authors at Choc Lit have produced unique short stories to celebrate special events such as Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. What’s fascinating is that we’re not producing a story each, but a contribution to one entire story, which is then posted day-by-day on wonderfully supportive book blogs. It’s a fascinating process. We don’t know what will arrive in the inbox or how the next author will progress what we’ve set up. It’s like tag wrestling, but without the leotards or catapulting off the ropes to floor the opponent.Mothers Day Round Robin

I was interested in how we approached our particular sections and asked for my fellow ChocLiteers thoughts.

Valentine’s Round Robin

Kathryn Freeman

I found it harder than writing a story by myself as I was very conscious I shouldn’t give away too much, too soon, but I already had in mind how I wanted it to end!

- I also found it more rewarding in a way, as I was so intrigued by how those after me would pick up the reins.  I felt proud to be part of the final result – but in awe of the ability of my fellow writers who managed to kick it off so well and then keep the suspense and so neatly tie the ends up at the end. I was very glad I went early!

Evonne Wareham

I did the Valentine one. It was great fun and also scary! I was day 4 of 5. The 3 previous instalments had set up some lovely leads, it was a responsibility to live up to them and also leave the story in a good place for the final instalment. Making a villain out of the character who would normally have been my alpha hero was interesting.

 Mother’s Day Round Robin

Alison May

I actually found writing part 1 quite intimidating. Normally the beginning of a story would be one of the last bits that I’d still be tweaking with and revising. This time I didn’t have that option. I had to write an opening that set up enough possibilities for the six writers that followed to apply their imaginations but wasn’t so vague as to be completely irrelevant to what came later. I think I stared at the blank screen for longer than I ever have before, feeling the pressure of not letting the later writers down. I ummed and aahed particularly about whether to introduce a potential hero in part 1. I do have a discarded paragraph where a mysterious stranger appears, but in the end I decided to leave the hero for the writers who came later. I’m now really happy with Kelly and sort of in love with little Lucas. I just hope that the writers and readers who came after me ended up feeling the same.

 Laura E. James

Alison wrote a great introduction, and that allowed me to take the story in any direction. Conscious of the fact it was a Mother’s Day story, and we at Choc Lit write romance, my focus was on developing a love interest and a father for Kelly’s baby son. I left it for the latter writers to decide if this man was one and the same. It was liberating not having to make that decision, however, now the story is complete, I have to say, I found what followed, and the conclusion extremely satisfying. I loved this experience.

 Berni Stevens

I was so relieved not to be given the first slot, and I take my hat off to Alison for doing such an amazing job. I still remember my own first day back at work after maternity leave, so writing Kelly’s feelings came easily to me. I loved the way Laura and Henri set up new possibilities for the story, but I couldn’t resist throwing in my own curved ball! I truly couldn’t wait to see how it all panned out.

Beverley Eikli

I was caught between a rock and a hard place with such excellent instalments having gone before. Now, with the story having only two more instalments after mine, I knew that it was time to explore the motivations of some of the characters who may (or may not) have a larger role to play and begin the process of tying up the threads my predecessors had left me :)

Unexpected plot twists are what I love best, though of course that’s not everyone’s cup of tea. However since it seemed to be ‘at that point in the story’ I thought I’d just go for it. I wrote most of it while travelling through Norway but had to think long and hard to come up with the direction I was going to take it. There were so many!

 Amanda James

I found it really tricky coming in at the penultimate section. I couldn’t end it obviously, but I wasn’t sure where to go either because of what had come before. Of course I knew we should probably have a happy ending, so worked towards that. The problem was that a couple of the stories before mine had said that Damien had wanted nothing to do with Kelly and his son, another had said that Kelly had ignored all Damien’s attempts to contact her by phone and text. Gulp. I realised that this was to set up intrigue and conflict and I eventually got it sorted  … I hope! It was great fun to write and I would love to do it again.

 Margaret James

I enjoyed writing the ending.  It was fun to read everything which came before it, seeing how the previous writers had developed the story, set traps for the unwary reader, suggested various directions in which the story could go, and also suggested various resolutions. I decided early on who the bad guy in this story was going to be and I wrote my ending to reflect this decision.

***

From a personal point of view, what’s struck me reading these comments is that as writers we’ve used our knowledge, experience and instinct to know how to start the story, when to add a hint of romance or betrayal, where to introduce the twist and turns, and how and when to start wrapping it up to bring it to a satisfying conclusion.

Beyond my contribution at Part 2, I was reading and discovering along with all the other readers and was captivated by the unfolding story.

I’m already looking forward to the next Choc Lit round robin.

Laura.

Here are the links to our Mother’s Day story, which can now be read from start to finish:

Part One by Alison May on Chick Lit Reviews and News

Part Two by Laura E James on Jera’s Jamboree

Part Three by Henriette Gyland on Laura’s Little Book Blog

Part Four by Berni Stevens on Cosmochicklitan

Part Five by Beverley Eikli on Chick Lit Uncovered

Part Six by Amanda James on Love of a Good Book

Part Seven by Margaret James on One More Page

Ten Reasons to Lie

Beverley Eikli author pic RD

I write historical romance laced with lashings of intrigue. Of course, the intrigue is usually sparked by some deep dark secret or terrible lie.

But not all lies are motivated by ill will. The lie at the heart of my Napoleonic Espionage romantic suspense, The Reluctant Bride, was concocted through the purest motives but it comes back to haunt my brave and honourable hero, Major Angus McCartney.

As the ramifications of this lie are so profound in the book, it got me thinking about why we lie and, sometimes, why we might believe a lie.

Here are ten reasons I came up with.

Motivation to believe:

  1. Who wouldn’t rather hear, ‘Of course that dress doesn’t make your backside look fat!’? instead of:  ‘Actually, from behind it looks like there are two little boys fighting under a blanket when you walk.’ (I’ve released this painful jibe from the archives of personal experience. Being a teenager was hard.)
  2. It’s going to be OK…’ How much more comforting it is to hear this old platitude. We want to believe this when the truth might be something we don’t think we can deal with. Yes, it’s a potential lie but it gives us breathing space to regulate shock and stress before the perhaps awful truth of a situation must be dealt with.
  3. ‘Don’t worry, we’ll stay out of trouble and be back before midnight.’ This is the teenager’s ‘Get out of Gaol for Free’ card when they want to reassure Mum and Dad. It’s not mean to be a lie at the time. Really!
  4. We might lie because we’re well-intentioned and want to spare another person pain. Angus in The Reluctant Bride told Emily that her fiancé died an honourable death saving his life. He couldn’t bear to tell Emily the sordid truth when she already had so much to grieve over.
  5. One doesn’t have to be gullible, or desperate for positive endorsement, to believe a lie. We might fall victim to someone else’s lies simply because the lie sounds plausible and there’s an expectation that it’s likely to be true. Confidence tricksters have honed to a fine art what human beings start practising from birth.
  6. Pride, hope and optimism are behind other lies. Sometimes we lie to buy time, hoping we’ll have fixed a situation before it gets out of hand. We’re not motivated by ill intent but in fact the opposite. But if the lie is revealed, the situation can often become so much worse.
  7. We might lie, or act out a lie, to save our lives, and this is of course regularly practised in the animal kingdom; for example, when pretending injury to lure a predator away from eggs or young.
  8. Lying can also enhance social standing.
  9. It can bail you out of trouble.
  10. Essentially, we lie to get us what we want. And that brings us to what I think is the most important point: motivation, which is at the heart of all of our actions.

For surely it’s the motivation behind the lie that counts – not the lie itself?

 

The Maid of Milan by Beverley Eikli will be released in paperback in March 2014. Pre-order now.

Writers’ Weeks and Free Promotions with Beverley Eikli

Last week I returned to my home state of South Australia for Clare Writers’ Week. The organisers had worked for 18 months on this successful inaugural week-long event and I was delighted to be part of it, presenting my

Clare Book Signing - me and my 8-year-old, Lillie

Clare Book Signing – me and my 8-year-old, Lillie‘History Through Costume Talk’ as part of my book launch for The Reluctant Bride.

‘History Through Costume Talk’ as part of my book launch for The Reluctant Bride.

The Reluctant Bride is a Napoleonic espionage romantic suspense, with a backstory that begins during Robespierre’s Reign of Terror in 1792. It ends just after the Battle of Waterloo, so I made two costumes for a talk entitled: ‘From Georgian Splendour to Regency Simplicity’. The gown I wore was a 1780s polonaise while my sister modelled an 1805 Regency gown, both made using Janet Arnold’s patterns based on deconstructed gowns of the era. (My daughters paraded their 1850s and 1860s dresses for the Victorian segment, but that’s another story.)

As a keen costume-maker, I don’t need many excuses to launch into making another costume. It is true, though, that I feel I can get inside the minds of my characters if I have a better understanding of their physical limitations, and how they actually might have felt wearing the clothes of the day.

I now understand that if a lady wearing a narrow-shouldered 1780s polonaise drops her handkerchief, a gentleman has to pick it up because she simply can’t. During many rushed costume changes for the various talks I’ve done I also know that my heroine must put on her shoes and stockings before her corset. Bending over to put on slippers or boots is simply not possible.

That’s not to say a corset is uncomfortable. I find the 1780s corset, designed to create a barrel-shaped, rather than wasp-waisted torso, to be a very comfortable. It provides support and forces me to adopt good posture, which makes me feel more of a lady.

Clare Writers' Festival book launch

Clare Writers’ Festival book launch

It’s also interesting to compare a tight embrace with my husband while wearing a full-skirted polonaise with its false rump, multiple petticoats, corset and narrow-shouldered gown, as opposed to when he’s hugging me while I’m wearing a simple muslin Regency gown with no corset. In both costumes I find twining my arms around his neck difficult because of the tight inset sleeve.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both styles. The beautiful French female spy in The Reluctant Bride would have found her polonaise the ideal garment for transporting clandestine objects – especially her pistol and poison – hidden in the enormous pockets within her skirts. Her daughter, sheathed in a simple Empire style gown, had to carry a reticule, so transporting, say, a pistol, wasn’t as easy. Not that innocent Emily ever carried a pistol – until the final cataclysmic pages of the book. The poor girl had absolutely no idea that everything she’d been brought up to believe was a lie.

Clare Book signing, Collins Bookstore

Clare Book signing, Collins Bookstore

If you like ‘marriage of convenience’ stories featuring spies, lies, betrayal and grand passion, The Reluctant Bride is FREE on Apple iTunes, Kobo, Google Play and Kindle until December 11. It will also be an audio book in early 2014.

TRBr_packshot 2

It’s All About Romance – California Dreaming from Beverley

YosemiteHello from Sunny California where I’ve just stopped by a Starbucks coffee outlet for their free wi Fi so I could post my blog called It’s All About Romance – an appropriate title since this 3 week motorcycle/camping trip around California is all about just that.
It all started with the idea that instead of attending my thirteenth consecutive Romance Writers of Australia conference (held this year in Perth) I would go to the Romantic Times Convention in Kansas City. I’d just learned that six of the Choc-Lit crew would be there, including my editor, Rachel, who is currently editing my Septmber release, The Reluctant Bride. Exciting or wot!?
The real clincher was when my husband suggested we precede the week-long convention with a two-week holiday in the States. He’s a long-haul pilot mostly doing mostly the Melbourne to Los Angeles route and he keeps a beautiful yellow BMW 1150 GS motorcycle at the hotel where the crew stays when they’re in LA.
What better way to spend our 20th year of marriage than doing a motorcycle/camping trip through California?
For the past couple of months Eivind has been collecting the gear we need: a top of the range German-made Schuberth motorcycle helmet for me which he reckons is the safest and most comfortable as they’re made especially for women; full protective leathers. Then there’s our tent, sleeping bags, mattresses, chairs, cooking equipment. As you’ll see from the picture we’re one self sufficient unit. Personal clothing is limited but the fun factor more than makes up for it.
The past two days we’ve been soaking up the dramatic scenery at Yosemite National Park and ending the day toasting marshmallows over our camp fire.
If you ask me now and for the next two weeks what romance really means for me – I’m living it!
Beverley with the motorcycle