Archive for October, 2014





Last week I had Carla Caruso on discussing the superstitions around Halloween, which I thought was fascinating. I always love learning about things like that, the origins of belief and how they have come into being. I always try to weave a little bit of this into the make-believe worlds in my novels, because I think it adds something of the human experience to what I create out of my own little mind. Dark Moon is set around Halloween, or Samhain as it is known. The eve the veil opens between worlds and the dead can be seen. The time I chose to set it was essential to the plot and the build toward what happens – in a way, Samhain is as much a character in the plot as the other secondary characters.

I love to share this fascination with mythology, legends and superstitions with my children, to help encourage their imaginations but also have an understanding of the world around them however it comes. To expand their minds and keep them open to new ideas – or ancient ones.


Darth and Chewie

Early Years – Darth and Chewie

Many people say that Halloween is an American thing, that it’s commercial, a reason for businesses to make us buy stuff that we don’t really need. As we discovered from Carla last week, this isn’t true. Maybe it means this to many people, which is why they resist the fun of it, but at heart it is an Irish tradition based in Paganism (you can read all about that here), a celebration of harvest, of beginnings and endings, a tipping the hat to those past and an acceptance of all life has to offer. There are some lovely mysticisms and stories woven around the traditions of Halloween, of the carved pumpkins and the reason we dress up. But for me, Halloween is also about the gorgeousness of make-believe.

Zombie Skeleton and Glow in the Dark Skeleton

Zombie Skeleton and Glow in the Dark Skeleton


Of pretending unreal things could be real. Of looking into mythology and seeing fun and life and meaning. Of expanding imagination and having FUN.

Yes – the ‘f’ word – Fun. I love Halloween because for that one night, kids and adults can dress up and walk the streets together in friendship and the spirit of exploration and enjoyment. Yes, there is the whole trick or treat thing, with the expectation of lollies. But for me and my kids, that’s not the most enjoyable aspect of the night. It’s meeting others who have taken the time to dress up and have fun with make up and costumes and make-believe, chatting with strangers and hearing exclamations of delight (or horror as the case may be) of those who open their doors.

Little Monsters

Little Vampire Monsters

It’s also about my kids understanding choices and that everyone is entitled to theirs; that just because someone hasn’t joined in by greeting them with lollies at the door, doesn’t mean anything other than they just don’t want to. Or that they have other beliefs that don’t include celebrating All Hallow’s Eve. Which is A-Okay.

Another delight for us is the costume preperation – deciding what to dress up as and then finding things to make those ideas ‘real’ for the night. My favourite bit is the make-up. I love dabbling in make-up effects and have had lots of fun in the past turning my youngest into a fearsome vampire and Freddy Kruger

My Little Monsters

Last year’s Skullman and Freddy

(both his choices). My eldest doesn’t like the make-up, but the youngest LOVES it as much as me (lucky for me).

This year, the youngest has decided to go as a Zombie. And not any pale skin, black lipped, black eyed zombie most kids go as. He wants the full on desiccating zombie effect. And so I have watched YouTube videos on how to do the zombie ripped skin effect.

Zombie ripped flesh effect

Zombie ripped flesh effect

If you have the right equipment (mainly liquid latex, tissues and an array of costume make-up colours and of course, facke blood and lots of it!), you can create quite realistic effects. I did a test run on my son’s arm the other night – what do you think? For a first try, I don’t think it turned out too badly. Perhaps a little more blue for a bruised skin effect around it, but it was quite easy and didn’t take too long either.

So, on Friday night, I will be doing Zombie make-up on my son and his cousin – and if I’ve got time, I might do up my sister and me too. I even bought some white contact lenses to give that truly ‘crazy walking dead’ feel. I’m going to a friend’s 40th birthday afterwards – it might just be fun to turn up as a zombie. And it might just give me a chance to share a little bit of the mythology of Halloween and zombies with other people if they’re interested. Can’t wait.

Carla Caruso - author picTonight I’m thrilled to introduce the lovely and hugely talented Carla Caruso to my blog. Carla is a mother of twin boys and in her spare time (not sure when she gets any with twin boys, but she seems to be able to make it. Or maybe she’s Superwoman. My bet is on Superwoman, but that’s probably because I’m rather partial to superhero/heroine stories! 🙂 ) she is also a journalist, the co-editor of Hearts Talk magazine (Romance Writer’s of Australia monthly magazine that goes out to our 1000 members) as well as being the author of five romance novels.

Her writing is contemporary and witty and often has a little fantasy/paranormal style twist that speaks to my heartstrings. Given Halloween is nearly upon us, Carla has decided to talk about the superstitions of All Hallow’s Eve (a topic that is sure to be a favourite in my household at the moment, with my two boys revving up to get dressed up in ghoulish costumes like they did last year!)

Take it away Carla.

Trick or treat? Halloween superstitions!

Thanks, Leisl, for letting me take your blog hostage for a little while [insert evil cackle]!

My name’s Carla Caruso and I’m a romantic comedy author from Adelaide, Australia. My latest releases have a sprinkling of the ‘spooks’, which has had me thinking about Halloween…. Unlucky for Some by Carla Caruso(My novella, Unlucky for Some, is about an ultra-superstitious journo who is given an assignment, ending on Friday the 13th, which will put all her fears to the test. And my novel, A Pretty Mess, is the first in a rom-com mystery series about a neat-freak professional organiser who gets caught up in messy mysteries with a sexy builder!)

But back to Halloween, also known as All Hallows’ Eve! Us Aussies have always considered the October 31st tradition to be more of an American thang… until recently. Have you noticed how our supermarkets are routinely filling up their shelves with faux Jack-o’-lanterns and Halloween-inspired choccies this time of year?

In my hometown, we also have a Zombie Walk at October’s start, where 8000 “living dead” walk from the city’s Rymill Park to Light Square – in costume – to raise funds for Foodbank SA. (Apparently Brisbane and Melbourne has such a walk, too.) That’s a lot of bad makeup and drooling…

I’ve also had an increasing number of trick-or-treaters knock on my door on Halloween. Not that I’m ever prepared. One year I gave a bunch of costumed girls gold coins when we were all out of chocolate (I blame the hubby!), and then another kid, without a costume, showed up, hoping he could get in on the money train, too…

To keep in the ‘evil’ spirit of things, I thought I would share some Halloween superstitions with you, dear readers…

  • Trick-or-treating actually became customary in the US around the ‘50s after it was brought over by Irish immigrants.



  • Carving Jack-o’-lanterns has its roots in a tragic fable. As the story goes, a drunken farmer, named Jack, tricked the devil, but his deception resulted in him being turned away from both the gates of heaven and hell following his death. Having no choice but to wander around the darkness of purgatory, Jack made a lantern from a turnip and a burning lump of coal that the devil had tossed to him to help guide his ‘lost soul’. So the belief became that placing Jack-o’-lanterns outside your pad would help guide lost spirits home when they wandered the streets on Halloween. Since turnips were hard to come by in the US at the time, pumpkins were quickly adopted as the substitute. The vegetable’s spookily carved faces were also said to be useful in frightening evil spirits away. (I’ll refrain from making any jokes here about mothers-in-law…)
  • Seeing a bat on Halloween is considered an ominous sign, according to myth. If a bat is spotted flying around your house three times, apparently someone in your abode – eek! – will soon die. And if a bat flies into your house on Halloween, it’s a sign your place is haunted as ghosts let the bat in…
  • Another superstition is that if a spider falls into a candle-lit lamp and is gobbled up by the flame, witches are nearby. Further, if you spot a spider on Halloween, the spirit of a deceased loved one is said to be watching over you. Which, for some reason, had me thinking of Ghost and that famous pottery scene…
  • In olden times, it was believed that during Samhain – or ‘summer’s end’ – the veil between our world and the spirit world was the thinnest, hence, ghosts of the deceased could mingle with the living. (We know – ugh!) The superstition was that the visiting ghosts could disguise themselves as humans, for example, as a beggar, and knock on your door asking for dosh or food. If you turned them away, you risked being cursed or haunted. Another myth was that dressing up as a ghoul would fool the evil spirits into thinking you were one of them, so they wouldn’t try to steal your soul. Crafty.A Pretty Mess-Carla Caruso
  • And finally, the Halloween hues of orange and black actually stem from the pagan celebration of autumn and the harvest. Orange symbolised the hues of the crops and turning leaves, and black marked the ‘death’ of summer…

Thanks for reading! For more on my books, visit or And happy, spooky Halloween to you!

Happy Halloween to you too, Carla, and thanks for sharing those fascinating facts with us – I love stuff like this. Make sure you check out Carla’s novels – they really are excellent reads. And share with us any fascinating superstitious facts you know – who knows, they might end up in one of Carla’s books (or even mine!)

I was thrilled to be asked this week by a group of highschool students about my writing process and how I do what I do. After answering the questions, I thought they were actually quite interesting – mostly focused around how I start, how I continue and how I end (questions writers try to answer for themselves all the time).

I know that how I go about all this won’t work for everyone, but I thought I’d share my thoughts with all of you. I’d love to hear how you would answer the questions I was asked.

DarkMoon_cover1. Where do you get your inspiration from?

Generally I dream my ideas. I have a scene that keeps repeating or a character that keeps appearing in my dreams. If this happens a few times, then I know it’s a story that needs to be told and I start to write it. Sometimes a scene will play out and then continue on the next night and more the night after as the story unfolds in my head.

2. When you start writing a novel how do you keep in the zone of that novel genre? For example if you start writing a werewolf novel how do you read books of other genres without wanting to start another novel of a completely different genre?

My reading is really quite a different experience from my writing, so the one doesn’t really affect the other. When I’m reading, I want to be entertained, to be taken away by someone else’s words into a story and world I don’t know. When I’m writing it’s like a creative space inside me needing to be filled with exploration of character and world building – it’s almost like a voice speaking to me and I have to write it. When it’s something that I’m really into, there is no stopping until the story is all out of me. The hardship truly comes only in the editing phase when you take that initial draft (what some writers call word vomit) and try to turn it into what you truly want to say. That can be difficult to stick with, particularly when you’ve done it a number of times and know what a huge job it truly is.

3. Do you write more than one book at the same time or do you wait until you finish one book to start another?

At the moment I am writing 2 new books in different genres (one is the 3rd book in a paranormal series and the other is a romantic suspense) and redrafting another book (the 1st in a new paranormal series). I usually need a few different projects to work on at a time, because if one day I’m having trouble with one of them, I can turn to the other. Or if I’ve finished a novel and need to give it ‘space’ before I sink into the re-edits/redrafting, I’ve got something else to go on with.

4. Is it difficult to stick with the one book?

I think first time writers often have this problem – there are a lot of great first 3 chapters out there that begin to lose their lustre for the writer when they get further along. Writing a beginning is easy – it’s getting through the middle to a satisfying end that’s tricky and not everyone has this in them to do. It’s hard work and often requires a stubborn determination to soldier on despite the fact things aren’t turning out like you thought they would or wanted them to until you come to the end. It’s also understanding that you can’t properly redraft until you have written the entire thing – anything else is just tinkering. It’s when you don’t understand that that writers keep starting new projects and don’t finish them. Everything about writing and publishing is perseverance; perseverance to understand you can always learn more about craft; perseverance to soldier on and finish; perseverance to sit down and redraft, redraft, redraft until it’s the best you can make it; perseverance to get someone to beta read your work and/or properly critique it and to not take offence when they don’t think it’s perfect, to take what they say and think about it and use what seems like something that could help; perseverance to keep trying and submitting until someone says yes…and on it goes.

Killing Me Softly front cover

Killing me Softly would never have got published without perseverence.


I have a number of books that I have started but didn’t finish because I ran out of steam on them, but I learned in writing every one of them and came to understand what was needed to finish the one that didn’t run out of steam, and then the next and the next. I always finish books now – although, once I’ve finished them, I might decide I’m not keen enough on what I wrote to go through the redrafting process – because if you don’t love it, you’re not going to make it through that difficult, least fun part of the process.

5. Do the characters relate to you in any way or are they fully made up?

Generally they are fully made up, although they will often have a characteristic of myself or someone I know in them in some small way. I think the old adage ‘write what you know’ is true to a certain respect. If you can always bring some aspect of ‘truth’ to your writing by using something you know, it will feel more real to you and therefore more real to your readers.

6. Do you ever stop writing a book and start a new one because you had an idea? Or do you write the idea and keep going with the book?

Yes. If I’ve had a persistent character or scene playing in my head, I do need to start to write it. In the past, this meant that I would give up what I was writing and give myself fully over to the new idea, but what that meant was that I’d end up with a bunch of first few chapters and no finished books. So, I no longer give up what I was writing. I make sure I give myself time to finish what I was working on and split my time. It helps that I am used to working on a number of projects at one time.

7. Do you ever create too many characters and confuse yourself but you can’t get rid of them because they all play such an important role?

That happened with the first book I wrote which was an epic urban fantasy that stretched across 3 planets and 4 different time spans with 11 different story threads I was following by 3/4s through the 2nd novel. It all got too hard to juggle because I didn’t know enough about writing at that point to know how to handle it. I made myself leave it alone and forced myself to concentrate on much simpler, smaller novels and learned a lot by doing that. I also enrolled in workshops, joined a critique group and got myself some critique partners through Romance Writers of Australia. I went to their annual conference and learned so much at the workshops and talking to other writers both at my level and far more experienced. I read some great craft books (Debra Dixon’s ‘Goals Motivation Conflict’ and Robert McKee’s ‘Story’ being seminal ones for me) and blogs on writing that have really helped. I entered competitions and got feedback from strangers and when I started doing well in them, feedback from editors and agents. All of this helped me in how I go about writing and structuring how I go and then how I edit. I also have some great critique partners/beta readers who I trust explicitly to tell me what is and isn’t working.

I am still what is called a ‘pantser’ (I don’t plot, I fly by the seat of my pants and just go with the flow), but I use all the knowledge I’ve learned and am still learning to help me not get bogged down by being too clever for myself. I’ve also learned to look at whether a character or scene is adding something to my novel, if they’re forwarding the action or deepening our understanding of the goals, motivations and conflicts of the main characters/story thrust. If they’re not, I’ve learned to be harsh and cut them out. I’ve got rid of entire characters and scenes I love this way, who were great, but in the end added nothing to the novel other than some amusement for me.

Frana, Marnie and me - members of my RWA writing group and essential tribe members

Frana, Marnie and me – members of my RWA writing group and essential tribe members

The best thing you can do as a writer is write and learn and inform yourself and surround yourself with people you can talk to who are on the same/similar journey as you, people you can workshop and brainstorm with, who can help you through story/character problems and any blocks you might have. This is what I do and I plan to very soon return to that original story idea and rework it so I can turn it into something great, not something that ran away with me.

Book Launch for Killing Me Softly with my friend, fellow writer and tribe member, Liz

Book Launch for Killing Me Softly with my friend, fellow writer and tribe member, Liz



I just read this on Chuck Wendig’s website and I have to say to Chuck – hell yeah!.

Ghostbusting women…gve me more. The idea of a female Doctor does go agasint the original Doctor being a man turning into a man scenario, but with the latest seasons they’ve broken so many rules anyway, why not another one. I was always surprised they didn’t follow the story of The Doctor’s daughter anyway (you know, the one that was made from the DNA from his hand?) I love women who can kick arse. Two of my favourite shows to date are Buffy

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

and Alias – women who could be real and emotional but completely hold their own. I don’t see why women coudln’t Ghostbust too. And I certainly don’t see how this could be considered a gimmick. I think it will give the story new life, a different perspective, will challenge the set up in different ways – how is that a gimmick? That cheapens the value women bring to things to think we’re only a gimmick.

So, to hell with those calling it a gimmick and hell yeah to those who are bringing us this remake of a classic. I look forward to seeing what you bring to the melting pot.

An Unsuitable Match Hi Res Cover PicI’ve been incomunicado lately, what with end of term stuff, school holidays, and family issues, but we’re back in business tonight with the gorgeous and talented Sasha Cottman as she talks to us about her new novel, ‘An Unsuitable Match’.

Sasha’s debut novel, ‘Letter from a Rake’ won her huge raves and most recently was one of the finalists in the Romance Writers of Australia Ruby Awards (Romantic Book of the Year) – very prestigious.

Sasha started writing after attending a writing course with Anne Gracie – who better to learn about writing historical romance series from than Anne? It’s no wonder Sasha’s novels are fun, charming romps with engaging characters and plenty of heart. Sasha is here to talk about how she went from writing a standalone book to a series. Sasha is also going to do a ‘Clip Chips’ giveaway.Chip Clips She has these funky clips you use on open packets of chips etc to keep them fresh – great idea. I need some of those – and she’s going to give some away, but only to those who make a comment. So if you want some of these fun clips, please leave a comment (and a way to get in touch with you) and your name will go into the draw.

Take it away, Sasha.


Thanks Leisl.

Part way through writing Letter from a Rake, Letter From a RakeI suddenly realised I had the makings of a series. The secondary character of David Radley began to take shape as a likely hero for another novel. Thus the Duke of Strathmore series was born.

I have to confess at this point I love a good series. Nothing is more exciting knowing that when I have finished one book, another, with often familiar characters awaits me. I have lost count of the Stephanie Laurens’ Cynster series books I own. It was at that moment, I decided to not only write one but a number of stories about the Radley family. All standalone stories, but with intertwined characters who make ‘guest’ appearances in other stories.

In Letter from a Rake, David has declared his love for Lady Clarice Langham. In An Unsuitable Match, he now faces the almost insurmountable task of making his long held dream to marry her come to fruition. He has held a secret love for Clarice for many years and it comes as a shock to both her and a number of other people when it becomes public knowledge.

David is seen by many in London society, as an unashamed rake. The fact that he is illegitimate only adds to his lack of suitability as a husband. He has a lot of hurdles to overcome.

Clarice Langham was an intriguing person to write as my heroine. She hides herself from the world, concealing a dark secret about her past. When David declares his love for her, she is frightened. She does not believe that he is serious in his intent. No one could love someone like her. Add to that, the fact that her father opposes their relationship and a world of conflict presents itself.

For Clarice to overcome her fears and face a possible future with David, she has to find an inner bravery which she doesn’t feel she possesses. Fortunately, her cause is added by a number of strong secondary female characters who do have good intentions. David’s sisters Millie and Lucy see Clarice’s potential and work to bring her out of the long mourning period she has observed after the death of her mother. I enjoyed writing the scenes where the two of them conspire to create a happy ending for both their brother and Clarice. I have found in a number of books that female characters are written as being selfish and self-centred when it comes to other women. For both the Radley girls and Clarice’s grandmother, Lady Alice, they would like nothing better than to see Clarice happily married.

At the end of An Unsuitable Match, a glimpse is seen of Lucy’s possible future. I am currently writing book 3 in the Duke of Strathmore series where hopefully Lucy gets to meet her forever man. After all the match making she has done to get her two brothers married off to lovely girls, I think it is time she found happiness for herself.


An Unsuitable Match Hi Res Cover PicAn Unsuitable Match Blurb:

The Favourite Heiress…
Once engaged to the future Duke of Strathmore, the beautiful Lady Clarice Langham now finds herself in the humiliating position of celebrating his marriage – to another woman.  As a result of the scandal, it seems her reign as London’s most eligible debutante has come to an end.  But things begin to look up when handsome and charming rake David Radley makes it clear that, at least as far as he’s concerned, she’s still the catch of the season.
The Illegitimate Son…
The eldest son of the Duke of Strathmore, David Radley has been raised alongside his father’s legitimate children.  But while he is generally received as part of the family, not everyone thinks he should be, and especially not Clarice’s father, the Earl of Langham, who forbids her from having anything to do with him.
An Unsuitable Match…
David’s been in love with Clarice for years, and it isn’t long before the attraction between them develops into something deeper. Yet he senses Clarice is hiding something and until she reveals her secret, she won’t be free to follow her heart. Despite everything, David will not give up on Clarice, not even when another seems set to claim her…

Buy Links

An Unsuitable Match is available at the following places.





JB Hi Fi



sasha cottman author picAuthor Bio

Born in England, but raised in Australia, Sasha has a love for both countries. Having her heart in two places has created a love for travel, which at last count was to over 55 countries. A travel guide is always on her pile of new books to read.

Sasha lives with her husband, teenage daughter and a cat who thinks sitting on the keyboard is being helpful. Her family have managed to find all but one of her secret chocolate hiding places. On the weekends Sasha loves walking on the beach while devising new ways to torture her characters.

Social Media Links

You can follow Sasha and find out more about her and her books on her website:


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Sasha’s newest release An Unsuitable Match is released through Destiny Romance September 2014.

Book Trailer

An Unsuitable Match


And don’t forget to comment to go into the drawer for a Chip Clip.

Romance Writers of Australia