Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The leaders we want to be led by

My heart goes out to the community of Newtown, Connecticut, and especially to the families affected by last week's tragedy.

Like many others around the world I spent Friday night glued to the news channels until the thousandth repeat of Barack Obama in tears drove me away. Flippant as that may sound, that news conference moved me, and made me realise that for me the most important quality of leadership is the ability to connect to the people one is leading.

That news clip of a nation's president moved to tears reminded me of an excellent (and very long) article on work-life balance that I recently stumbled across. The article, titled Why Women Still Can't Have It All, by Anne-Marie Slaughter, formerly Director of Policy Planning in Obama's administration, really struck a chord for me. Take the time to read the full article. It's worth it.

In that article, the writer shares her opinion that our leaders should also be our role models. She cites an example that I found very sad - a son giving a eulogy for his dad saying he understood that his father was never around for him because he was busy helping other people.
Is that the kind of person we want leading our society - someone who chose their job over their family?

Personally, I want the society I live in to be led by someone who thinks family is pretty important, because it's important to me. I want someone who thinks that health and safety are important issues, because they're important to me.

So what are your thoughts - would you rather be led by someone who devotes every spare moment to the job of running the country, or someone who feels as a parent first and a public servant after?

Friday, December 14, 2012

A prequel and naming help needed

Right before I started #Nanowrimo, just as Super Storm Sandy wreaked its havoc on the eastern seaboard of the US, I realised that Once Upon a Time was in fact not the first in a trilogy but the middle story.

With my Nano story now submitted and awaiting feedback, I'm preparing to throw myself into another Nano of my own to write the prequel to OUAT, and I need your help.

Tentatively titled Time Heals, this is the story of Eva (left), step-sister to Katie, the heroine of Once Upon a Time. Eva was a shy, geeky kid in high school (think Gabriella in High School Musical) who has re-made herself into Eva Arroyo, glamorous TV star.

Eva returns from evacuation after a super storm to find her beautiful beach front home destroyed. As she sits amid the devastation that was her life, the hero rides in to her rescue.

He's the boy she adored in high school, the most popular boy in school, the jock (think Troy in High School Musical). He's also the only man she can never ever have - because he's her step-brother.

Accepting his offer to stay with him while she rebuilds is the worst idea ever. But since she's homeless, and their parents have their own problems, she doesn't  have much choice. And of course all that chemistry in forced proximity is going to lead to a whole different kind of storm...

So what help do I need?

This hero needs a name. And perhaps a face. At the moment I'm leaning towards casting Chris Hemsworth in the role. What do you think?

Here's my shortlist of names. All votes will be very gratefully received.
  • Bradley
  • Brandon
  • Cameron (Cam)
  • Cole
  • Joshua
  • Justin
  • Matthew
  • Nathan

Please visit the Minxes blog on Monday when we'll be make a special, ultra big announcement.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Making Mr Right

The blurb for this 2008 Lifetime TV movie sounded really interesting, a fresh spin on a make-over story,with all the makings of a flirty Riva/Kiss novel. Instead, it was dull, dull, dull.

I can't blame the actors, since Dean Cain and Christina Cox have proved themselves quite capable in other roles. The blame, I believe, lies very firmly with the writers, who really should know better. The story was so predictable that I kept waiting for the moment when they'd add the twist that would make this story unique ... I waited right to the very end. In vain.

Basic idea: a magazine editor makes a bet she can take any guy and turn him into 'Mr Right'. The chosen guy is a scruffy homeless man. She makes him over into Mr Right and they end up falling in love. He finds out about the bet, gets upset, then they make up.
Really. That's it.

Where was the conflict? What were the characters stakes? I kept shouting at the TV "dig deeper!"
The writers really should read Debra Dixon's Goal, Motivation, Conflict, or Blake Snyder's Save the Cat.

Making Mr Right had so much potential, but it was as though the writers just couldn't be bothered to make the effort. (Or the producers or director, for that matter). This was clearly a case of everyone taking their pay check and running.

Maybe I'll give the idea my own fresh twist sometime soon. Once I finish gouging out my eyes to clear the image of Dean Cain transforming from scruffy to gentleman by the simple elimination of a beard and long hair.

Yeah, this is what scruffy homeless dudes look like

So take my advice. Even if there's nothing better on TV, don't waste an hour and a half of your life watching this movie. If you're looking for a great make-over story with a fresh twist, then rather read Leah Ashton's A Girl Less Ordinary, which I reviewed here.

Are there any other make-over stories you recommend?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Final #NaNoWriMo update

Waking up in Vegas is complete!

I collected my official winner's certificate on 27th November, which was just as well since this last weekend was manic and not another word got written.

The best thing of all about this NaNo is that, though I wrote fairly slowly and didn't achieve the lofty word counts of some of my friends and team-mates, this first draft is quite a clean draft.

Since I did a fair amount of planning in October, and then broke the cardinal rule of Nano by editing a little as I went along, the first 30k words are in good shape, and the task of editing that last 20k is not nearly as daunting as it could be.

I cannot thank my Team Khara team mates and all the lovely people at Savvy Authors enough. They not only inspired me to keep going, but they made this NaNo the most fun I've had writing in a long time.

Well done to all of you who finished NaNoWriMo 2012, and for those who didn't, I hope you at least have more words than you started the month with!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Shouting from the rooftops: NEWS!

For the first time ever I get my own name on a book!

The Minxes of Romance have released an anthology of eight scorching hot stories featuring the fire fighters of Coombethwaite.

This book was a fun collaboration that started as one of those silly ideas that happen late at night, but which turned into something with a life all its own.

Please, please buy a copy, read and review it. I guarantee that there is something for everyone in this book, from sweet to sensual to scorching, light and flirty to downright intense.

 Blaze is available from Amazon and Amazon UK.

Also on the good news front, I'd like to congratulate Jennifer Drogell for her So You Think You Can Write win. Well done, Jen, and I can't wait to buy my own copy of The Divorce Party.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Kernel ideas and dreams

Two of the blogs I follow have both had posts recently that dove-tailed together really well to remind me of just what inspired me to write my last two stories.

Bob Mayer did a post on the kernel idea of every story, and Sue Moorcroft has also been running a series of guest posts about dreams to celebrate the release of her latest novel, Dream a Little Dream.

The characters of my Nano novel, Waking up in Vegas, first came to me in a dream back in 2009 in which a Prince made a stirring coronation speech, and watching in the crowd was the great love of his life, a very ordinary young woman. Yes, very Prince & Me.

Once Upon a Time, my previous book, also began as a dream, in which a young woman with a super rich Daddy works for a charity that occupies space in her father's building and who is very 'off' men as she is constantly being hit on by men who only want her for her Daddy's money and favour. The story changed a good deal from there, but the characters remained the same.

What is the kernel idea of your work-in-progress? What image, idea or dream kick-started the story?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

#Nanowrimo Inspiration

This is really more my inspiration than yours, but here's the song that started it all...

I'm having so much fun writing this story, and can't wait for you all to share it with me!
Do you have a song that inspires you, or one you listen to often when you write?

Friday, November 16, 2012

#Nanowrimo Progress Update

I'm guesting over at the RNA blog today. Please stop by and say "hello".

We're half way through Nanowrimo and I've reached the halfway point in Waking up in Vegas. I'd love to be further along, but really, what with a day job and kids, I should apreciate how far I've come in such a short time!

The best thing for me about #Nanowrimo 2012 is the help I got up front from the Entangled Press editors. Having a clear idea of the story, the characters, and their conflicts and motivations before I even started has not only prevented me from going wildly off track as I have in previous years, but it's also kept my interest and motivation up. Because I know where I'm going, I'm not staring at a blank page and freaking out.

I'd like to thank my team-mates on the Entangled Smackdown. You ladies motivate me, and I won't let you down.

Also, to all the ROSA Bootcampers - your friendly support of each other is so inspiring, and some of those word counts are truly awesome.

Keep it up!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Next Big Thing

Freda Lightfoot, bestselling author of family sagas and historical romances, invited me to take part in a blog event entitled THE NEXT BIG THING - a series of questions and answers about what’s happening next in my writing life.

The Next Big Thing 

What is the title of your book?
An Innocent Abroad, which went on sale yesterday!

How did you come by the idea? 
This novella started life as a single scene: a young woman standing at a window, looking out through a curtain of rain at an Italian landscape. The scene is still in there, though the landscape became a seascape.

What genre does your book fall under?
Historical Romance

Which actors would you choose to play your characters if it were a movie?
Ooh, this is a hard one, and I don't really know. 
Isobel is blonde and blue-eyed, and very young, sweet and innocent. Stefano is a little older, rugged, typically Italian and swoon-worthy.
Perhaps my blog readers could offer up suggestions?

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A young English woman travels to Italy to stay with relatives, and instead of falling in love with the eligible aristocrat her parents have chosen, she falls for an enigmatic Italian.

Will your book be self-published or traditional?
The book is traditionally published as an ebook by The Wild Rose Press.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
To be honest, I started this story so long ago that I no longer remember!

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
This is so hard, since romances set in the 1920s are few and far between. Recently I read a book entitled Vixen by Jillian Larkin, the first in her Flappers series, which also features young people, cocktails, jazz music and forbidden love in the 20s.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?
I wanted to write something hotter and more risque than anything I'd written before, so I pushed myself to go beyond my usual comfort zone with this one. I'm not sure if that counts as inspiration or motivation, though?

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
The book is set in Italy in 1922, just months before Mussolini's March on Rome. It was a turbulent time, but the ex-pats enjoying the Italian sunshine mostly remained far removed from the hardships faced by their host nation.

So who's next in the chain? I nominate Louise Rose-Innes, Kathy Bosman, Rae Rivers, April Vine, Kiru Taye and Jennifer Shirk.

PS: If you're history obsessed, do check out Freda's blog. She's a mine of fascinating information.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Why I’m real big on Law and Order

No, I’m not talking about the justice system, or crime in South Africa, but the TV show.

I share a house with my mother, who is a big fan of cop/crime dramas. If she’s not watching Monk or Rookie Blue or Flashpoint, then she’s on the Crime & Investigation channel, getting an extra dose of grit and gore. And I have to admit, I’ve been known to waste more than a few hours on The Mentalist or CSI.

Recently we’ve been watching Law and Order, and I have to tell you that this is the most incredible script writing imaginable. If you haven’t seen an episode in the 20 years they’ve been running, then do yourself a favour.

This evening, I caught a piece of an episode of the British version which appears to be just as awesome as the original US version. The one scene I caught crystallised just why this show is so brilliant: it is unflinching.

How many times have we seen this scenario in a cop show?
Young woman is murdered. There are several suspects, her (married) lover chief among them. The evidence against him mounts, some provided by the lover’s unwitting wife. Then in a dramatic twist the wife turns out to be the cold-hearted killer, having known for some time of the affair. The husband is shocked his demure, suburban wife would do such a thing.

In most shows, this is the point where, the investigator having displayed his/her magnificent sleuthing skills, the end credits begin to roll.

Not on Law and Order.

This is when it just starts to get good.

The shocked husband turns to his wife and asks “Why did you do it? She meant nothing to me. You and our son are all I ever cared about.”
Wife: “you gave me herpes.”
Husband: “you got a few sores so you killed her?”
Wife: “I was pregnant at the time.”
The husband and wife have a brain-damaged child.

In just a few sentences the entire balance of this episode has shifted. It’s no longer about a murdered woman. It’s about a mother, not knowing she has herpes, passing it to her unborn child and that child’s life being changed forever.
Just like that, the viewer’s sympathy shifts.

That is the power of brilliant writing.

I’ll admit I’ve cried in many an episode of Law and Order. And those that didn’t make me cry have made me think. Every episode pushes the viewer to re-look at a situation, to shift an opinion, or to feel for a character you wouldn’t normally feel for. Every episode is a challenge.

Any chance the Law and Order fairies could wave their magic wand over everything I write and make it just as powerful?

Friday, November 2, 2012

To prologue or not to prologue

In the build up to Nanowrimo, we had a discussion on the South African romance writers' Yahoo loop about opening scenes and the use of prologues.

At least one member admitted to skipping prologues completely. I tend to read them, but then I read everything, even the fine print on cereal boxes. Which is probably why I wear glasses.

The discussion reminded me of the one prologue that was not only well worth reading, but a must read. Two friends independently recommended the book to me, and both also commented on the prologue, so of course, I had to read it.

The book is Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase.

It's the only time a prologue moved me to tears. It gives the back story in a way that hooks you in so completely you cannot put the book down.
Don't believe me? Download the sample chapter from Amazon and see for yourself.

While I do like a good prologue, don't get me started on epilogues. If the book ends with hero and heroine a year later cooing down at their newborn baby, I feel an urge to throw up.

Fortunately, no two readers are alike, so I'd love to know - do you read prologues and epilogues? What do you think of them? And have you read Lord of Scoundrels?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Library-themed Mash-up

Tim Coates made an interesting speech at the Frankfurst Book Fair on publishers vs libraries and the way forward. You can read it here: http://alangibbons.net/2012/10/tim-coates-speech-at-the-frankfurt-book-fair/

A librarian's viewpoint on the issues: http://www.goodlibraryguide.com/blog/archives/2012/10/if_there_are_to.html

Amazing libraries from around the world:  http://www.news24.com/Travel/Multimedia/Amazing-libraries-20121019

And then on a completely non-library related tangent: a view on the effects of self publishers cutting book prices: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/24/self-publishing-authors-killing-publishing-ebook_n_2008374.html?utm_hp_ref=books

Friday, October 26, 2012

Tropes, Archetypes and Stereotypes

Since this has become a discussion among both the Entangled Smackdown and Minxy groups, I thought today I'd clear up the difference between tropes and archetypes.

A trope is a concept, while an archetype relates more to character. So as an example, 'Reformed Rake' might be the trope, while 'Bad Boy' would be the archetype. A cop or sheik might be an archetype, but their story could be any from the lengthy list of tropes, for example, Boy Next Door or Stranded.

And this is exactly why I think the romance genre will never be boring or formulaic. There are endless combinations of characters, settings, conflicts and tropes, so every story is different from the one before. Add in the author's own voice and no two stories are ever really the same.

However, just as a trope can head into cliché territory if not handled properly, so weak writing can turn an archetype into a stereotype. The line between the two is thin, but very clear.

An archetype is a universal character type that your reader can immediately identify.

Examples include:
  • the young man on the rise (Luke Skywalker)
  • the wise grandfather (Obi Wan)
  • the court jester (C3PO)
  • the damsel in distress (Princess Leia)
  • the lone ranger (Han Solo)
  • the sidekick (Wookie)
  • the evil villain (Darth Vader)
Written well, these characters are complex, well-rounded people, even while representing certain character types we can all immediately identify.

A stereotype, on the other hand, is a cardboard cut-out. This is where the writer has used a character type as a shorthand rather than developing a true-to-life character, and often it signifies laziness (or ignorance) on the author's part.

Examples include:
  • the timid secretary
  • the villainous boss
  • the blonde bimbo
  • the dumb jock
  • the Mary-Sue
And the ultimate of all stereotypes - Prince Charming in Disney’s Cinderella – the poor man doesn’t even get a name!

Have any questions, good examples, or even want to disagree? Please leave a comment,and keep teh discussion going.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tropes in Romance

Image courtesy of Harlequin Junkie

I've signed up to do the Nano smackdown with Savvy Authors and Entangled Press and scared as I am that I've bitten off more than I can chew, I'm already glad I signed up.

Aside from meeting the lovely group of writers who'll be holding my hand through Nano, the Entangled editors are already helping us focus our conflicts and get our plots, characters and GMC sorted. If only we could have editorial feedback this early in the process on every book!

Entangled are very big on being clear up front what tropes your story contains. Since I've never really thought of my stories in terms of tropes, this has been a steep learning curve for me, and I spent the weekend researching them.

For those who, like me, were wondering what the hell a 'trope' is: it's a convention, or a familiar plot line or set-up, that is instantly recognisable to readers, a kind of 'shorthand' that helps both writer and reader identify what the story is about.

While I would hate to give any ammunition to those who say that romance is formulaic, every romance reader will recognise these tropes. And let's face it, we all have certain types of stories we love and some we hate. Done badly, they can become cliched, but haven't we all read a book that gives a new twist on an old trope and thought 'Wow! Wish I'd thought of that'?

Harlequin Junkies also has this fabulous post on romance tropes.

With some help from my fellow Indulgence Smackdowners (especially Amalie Berlin who has done a similar post, broken down beautifully into categories) here is the list of tropes I've compiled so far. Please feel free to leave a comment suggesting any I may have missed.

List of tropes:
  1. Accidental Pregnancy
  2. Across the Tracks / Lovers from different worlds
  3. All grown up
  4. Amnesia 
  5. Arranged marriage 
  6. Athlete / Sports romance
  7. Baby makes three (the classic epilogue scene where the happy couple add a baby to the family)
  8. Bait & Switch (hero or heroine thinks the other is someone else)
  9. Beauty & the Beast 
  10. Betrayal 
  11. Billionaire/Millionaire hero
  12. Blackmail 
  13. Celeb crush
  14. Childhood friends
  15. Cougar (older woman / younger man) 
  16. Cowboy / rancher hero
  17. Damsel in distress / Knight in Shining Armour
  18. Enemies to lovers (Kiss or kill) 
  19. Fake relationship
  20. Family feud
  21. First Love
  22. Fish out of water 
  23. Forbidden love / Off limits
  24. Forced proximity / trapped together (see Stranded below) 
  25. Friend’s big brother / little sister 
  26. Friends to lovers
  27. Friends with benefits
  28. Girl/ Boy Next Door / Love thy Neighbour
  29. Guardian / Ward 
  30. High school sweethearts
  31. Honey Trap
  32. Impersonation
  33. Jilted
  34. Love at first sight
  35. Love triangle 
  36. Make-over story / Ugly Duckling
  37. Marriage of convenience 
  38. Masquerade (one of the characters in disguise) / Becoming the Mask
  39. Matchmaker
  40. May / December romance (also known as Cougar Romance if a woman is the older partner)
  41. Military
  42. Mistaken identity / Hidden identity / Disguise
  43. Mysterious past 
  44. Nanny to wife 
  45. New in town
  46. New old flame
  47. Not blood siblings / Flirty step siblings
  48. Office romance / Working together
  49. One night stand 
  50. On the run / Flirting under fire
  51. Operation Jealousy
  52. Opposites Attract 
  53. Political Scandal
  54. Pretend marriage / fake engagement 
  55. Rags to riches / Cinderella
  56. Redemption
  57. Reformed rake / Bad boy reformed
  58. Reincarnation romance
  59. Returned to hometown
  60. Reunion / Reunited lovers 
  61. Revenge 
  62. Royalty
  63. Runaway bride / groom 
  64. Second chance at love
  65. Secret 
  66. Secret baby 
  67. Secret crushes 
  68. Secret romance / marriage
  69. Secret royal / Secret billionaire / Secret heir
  70. Slow burn
  71. Soul mates / Fate
  72. Stranded / snowbound 
  73. Sudden parenthood (eg. Doorstep baby, inherited baby) 
  74. The Bet 
  75. The one that got away
  76. Tortured hero(ine)
  77. Twins (secret twins / impersonation) 
  78. Undercover as lovers
  79. Unrequited Love
  80. Working with the ex

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Confessions, Fantasies and Books

I have a confession to make: Instead of writing in every spare moment these past few months, I've been doing a LOT of reading. And I haven't even been reading the line or even the genre I'm targeting (like a good girl would), nor have I been catching up on all my friends' books in my teetering TBR pile. No, what I've been indulging in is the entire series of Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris.

The book that started it all...
These are the novels on which the True Blood series is based, and though I enjoyed the series, let me tell you... the books are way better!

The books are whodunit-type murder mysteries which just happen to be set in an alternate universe (known to fans as Sookieverse) peopled by a whole lot more than just vampires. They're Southern Gothic at its best, very easy reads, and un-put-downable.

I love the dollops of chick lit wit thrown in, one-liners like "These ladies knew how to throw a search party." and "Maybe he needed the bodyguards to protect him from the fashion police."
Sookie Stackhouse

And there are many laugh out loud lines like: "I remembered my New Year’s Eve resolution: I wanted not to get beaten up. Note to self: I should have included 'shot'."

But the best thing about these books? The heroes. The reader's as spoilt for choice as Sookie is, with enough fantasy material to keep you drooling long after you've turned the last page.

Can it get better? Apparently, yes it can. I've been told Ms Harris' Grave series is a real treat. So if you don't see me around for a while ... you know where I am.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Playing Blog Tag

New Zealand author Cherie Le Clare has tagged me (thanks Cherie!) so for the second time this week I'll be sharing a bit about me, and passing on the favour.

The rules are:
** Give credit to the person/blog that tagged you
** Post the rules for the blog hop
** Answer the following ten questions about your current WIP (Work In Progress) on your blog
** Tag five other writers/bloggers and add their links so we can hop over and meet them.

What is the working title of your book?
Waking Up In Vegas

Where did the idea come from for the book?
The idea came from the Katy Perry song of the same name, and the characters came from my 2009 Nano novel. But now they're getting a whole new story.

What genre does your book fall under?
Contemporary romance.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie version? 
If I were casting a real movie, I'd definitely be looking for different actors, but my inspiration for the characters are Heath Ledger and the kick-ass Maria Bello from Coyote Ugly.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? 
Ouch. I really have to work on this, since it's required for the Nano Entangled bootcamp I've signed up for, but here's a start:  
A drifter with an easy come / easy go attitude to life wakes up in Vegas and finds herself married to a man who not only believes in true love but is determined to convince her they are destined to live happily ever after. Forever.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? 
Neither. I'll be pitching this direct to my publisher of choice.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? 
Firts time around this book took me 30 days to write (thanks, Nanowrimo!) but I have yet to begin the new, improved version.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? 
This is a hard one, since I don't really compare myself to other authors.

Who or What inspired you to write this book? 
Asked and answered above under Question #2

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
The majority of this book is set in the fictional principality of Westerwald, which is situated in the Rhine River area between France and Germany. The hero just happens to live in a magnificent medieval castle overlooking the river valley on one side and his extensive vineyards on the other.

If you've reached this part of my blog post, consider yourself tagged!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Sunshine Award

Author Rosemary Gemmell has nominated me for this delightfully-named award. Thanks, Rosemary!

1. What is your favourite Christmas/festive movie?
Though I love the season, I'm not big into Christmas movies (I find them schmaltzy) but the first 3D movie I ever took my daughter to was the fairly recent Arthur Christmas and it was so much fun experiencing it with her.

2. What is your favourite flower?
The iris. I love the delicate three-fold patterns and its history as a royal emblem.

3. What is your favourite non-alcoholic beverage?
Elderflower cordial! It's such a refreshing, summery drink.

4. What is your passion?
Romance novels, of course! Reading and writing them.

5. What is your favourite time of year?
Without a doubt, summer. I don't handle cold very well, and I adore the longer days, sunshine and warmth of summer. (Which is why this award is really special to me!)

6. What is your favourite time of day?
I've always loved late afternoon. That time when the sun is just going down, but it's still light. In my childhood, it was the time my parents were home from work and the family all sat together on the verandah drinking coffee and eating biscuits. Though these days I prefer to think of it as cocktail hour.

7. What is your favourite physical activity?
None - I'm not find of exercise. Though I have taken up yoga and I'll admit it's not bad.

8. What is your favourite vacation?
As long as it's warm and sunny, and away from the stresses of the day job, I'm happy. Throw in a reasonable internet connection, and I'm even happier. My favourite so far was probably the Greek Islands.

I'm passing this award on to the following bloggers: Olivia Miles (I love your posts!), Scarlet Wilson, fellow Rosalites Zee Monodee, April Vine, Kathy Bosman and Joss Wood, and all my fellow Minxes.

Monday, October 1, 2012

An Endless Possibility

It's a fresh new month and here in the southern hemisphere spring is in the air, bright flowers are blooming and the sun is shining. With all this wonderful new energy in abundance, I'm bringing back my favourite game: Endless Possibilities.

Who lives behind this door? The possibilities are endless...
Please share your ideas in the comments below, and let's have a little fun.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Getting writing fit

In the film business we talk about being "set fit". This is when your body gets used to waking early, then working long hours on a film set where you're expected to work at peak performance for every moment of the day. The body clock adjusts so you can operate at peak for a set number of hours every day.

[Too often in advertising, where we only have a day or two to squash everything in, and where the corporation paying the bills wants us to keep costs down by limiting the number of shooting days, this tends to mean 14-16 hour shoot days].

I'm not 'set fit' because I spend most of my days in an office planning and prepping shoots, or cleaning up afterwards. As a result, after each shoot I usually feel like I've been knocked sideways and need a week of sleep to recover.

I believe that in the same way, we need to be 'writing fit'. We need to build up our tolerance by doing this every day. One long day of nothing but writing after a 2-3 week drought is not going to build up our fitness levels in the same way as regular daily exercise will.

This was brought home to me yesterday when I had a day off work and spent three whole hours writing. Three whole hours is like gold to me, and I should have achieved about 3,000 words. After all, when I last did some regular writing (as opposed to editing as I've been doing lately) I was achieving 1,000 words an hour.

How many words did I manage yesterday? 1,200.

Because I'm out of practice.

Have any of you experienced this? Or do you binge write in available gaps and find it works for you? I'd love to hear how you do it.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Woohoo!! and My gift to you!

My official bio says I work in advertising, which is only part true. I work in TV advertising specifically, and I sort of fell into it many (many!) years ago after several years working on feature films and TV dramas.

Despite my too frequent moans about the long hours, and how the job takes me away from my family and writing, I still have a passion for the film industry. And so when I stumble across a blog post like this one from Imelda Evans which marries my two interests, I'm in Seventh Heaven.

And here's another interesting post on what we can learn from the film industry.

My gift to you,in honour of the fabulous news below, is that you get to ask me any question you've ever wanted to ask about how movies are made or the advertising process, and I'll do my best to answer. Fire away!

* * *

Woohooo!! Sri Pammi, one of the lovely Minxes, has sold to Presents! 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Looking for help with an important research question

Does anyone know whether celebrities  (or the fabulously wealthy and beautiful) need to stand in line for visas like the rest of us mere mortals?

I know from personal experience that when a celebrity arrives at customs / immigration at an airport, an immigration official can be booked to attend them personally and in privacy so they don't have to queue, but what about all the other officialdom the rest of us have to suffer through?
I'm thinking particularly about visa applications, passport applications, drivers' licenses - the sort of things that governments usually want us to show up for in person rather than sending some flunky.

PS: I'm looking for a flunky. Anyone know how to go about getting one?
PPS: I'm on a limited budget, so no time wasters need apply.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Children who have heroes become heroes

I saw the title of this blog post on an ad for a charity at the side of the road this morning, and it seemed particularly apt considering the blog post I'd prepared for today.

Since I was away on a film shoot in early August, I didn’t get to see much of this year’s Olympics, but I have been lucky enough to see a great deal more of the Paralympics.

It has been both heartbreaking and inspiring to watch. On one hand, I have a constant lump in my throat, and on the other I’m overwhelmed by the humility, joy and determination the Paralympic athletes exhibit.

The most incredible thing for me is the thought that, far more than with the competitors in the regular Olympics, every single one of these Paralympians is a winner. Each and every one of them has a story to tell, and every one of them has overcome the greatest odds to achieve their medals. They are there not just because they have a desire to win, but because they believe their are no limitations on what they can achieve.

Two of my mentors, Bob Mayer and Rhonda Byrne, both talk about the importance of not limiting your beliefs. The Paralympian athletes are the proof of this, and to me they are the true heroes of Olympics 2012.

My greatest hope is that the example they set – that no obstacle is so great that it can’t be surmounted, and that greatness can be achieved no matter what life throws at you – becomes a way of life for the rest of us too.

Monday, September 3, 2012

How to succeed

The inimitable Bob Mayer has started a blog series on Special Ops (the elite military units of the US).
In his Warrior Writer course (which I highly recommend to anyone in need of a swift kick up the derriere to get writing) Bob teaches the principles he learned in Special Ops to help writers to achieve change in their lives in order to become 'the elite'.

In this blog post, he talks about what it means to be 'elite', and in the successful 5% of the population. This bit especially resonated with me:

"One of the most difficult aspects of living a successful life and being elite is that often you must go against the norm and the mass of other people’s opinions about the way you should live.  There is a strong power in society trying to pull you into the ninety-five percent of people who live in fear and with mediocrity."

For me, not getting sucked into the modern urban mind-set of "must have new car, must have trendy clothes, must have big house, must put work first" syndrome has been hard. But I've done it.
I'm now in the 5% that sets my own values. In no particular order - time for my family, time to write and be with other writers, and the chance to travel.

That was Stage One. Stage Two is turning breaking the mould into being a success. Into being part of that 5% elite that actually fulfills their dreams.

Who is going to be brave and take the risk to join me there? Are you breaking away from the other 95% in order to follow your dreams? If so, please leave a comment and let me know so we can hold metaphorical hands and be brave together.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Service is temporarily interrupted

After three weeks of nothing but eating, breathing and thinking the day job, I'm taking a much needed break to recover my mojo. Have fun and I'll be back soon!

PS: check out today's Minxy blog post for a good laugh.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

A Girl Less Ordinary

What with my trip to England and the RNA conference, I didn't blog about this book when I actually read it, so it's probably off most bookstore shelves now. However if you haven't yet read Leah Ashton's A Girl Less Ordinary, it's still available to order through Amazon.

This book was so good it caused me a crisis of confidence. It's the book I'd love to have written, and wonder if I ever will. It's sparkling fun, emotional, tear-jerking, and made me laugh too. Jake Donner is a gorgeous hero that I definitely fell in love with, and the heroine, Ella .... well, she could quite possibly be the best thing about this book.

A Girl Less Ordinary is set in Melbourne, and it's a reunion story. Eleanor has completely transformed herself into Ella, chic party girl, trendsetter and all around sassy lady. There is only one person in the city who remembers her as she was, and he's not entirely sure which Ella he loves more, the old or the new.

The absolute best thing about this book, in my opinion, is the conflict. It's everything we writers have ever been taught about what good conflict should be: the hero and heroine's conflicts are not only deep and layered, but they bounce directly off one another. And there's a surprising twist at the end which made me realise that neither character really is who they think they are.

I highly, highly recommend this book!

Monday, July 30, 2012

A final glimpse into the Endless Possibilities of Somerset

Today's inspiring photograph is the last in my Somerset series celebrating the release of Dear Julia. This is the gatehouse of Cleeve Abbey. However, for the purpose of our exploration of the Endless Possibilities around every corner, it can be any place you want it to be.

So what lies beyond the gatehouse, and what is hidden behind the tree?

What period in time are we? Are we monks returning from toiling in the fields, knights on pilgrimage, or landed gentry of the Regency period paying a social call? Or are we in the 21st century - at the start of a murder mystery perhaps?

It's your call ....

Friday, July 27, 2012

Sunday Conference Feedback

This is the final instalment of my adventures at Penrith 2012. Normal blogging will resume next week.

Jane Wenham-Jones – What a Way to Earning A Living 

Whatever I expected of this first session of the day, it wasn’t what I got. It was better!

Jane is so entertaining she could do stand-up comedy. For an hour she regaled us with stories from her life (including her visit to Erotica UK, the time she appeared on Kilroy, and an unfortunate yoghurt and cucumber incident at an Egyptian spa) as well as the upsides and downsides of writing (including suggestions on how to avoid Writers’ Bottom).

There were some valuable suggestions to take away from this talk too. Jane said “nothing you ever do is wasted”. It is all material for our writing. Her whole career has been a knock-on effect, and she recommends we take every opportunity that arises, as we never know where it might lead.

Most uplifting of all, she says the best thing about being a writer (and I completely agree!) is that this is the one job in which every day could be the day your life changes, and in which anything is possible.

There’s a delightful report on this session on the RNA website here: What a way to earn a living

Anne Ashurst – Towards Zero (all about back story)

The title of this talk comes from an Agatha Christie book, Towards Zero, in which zero is the murder that is committed. The journey towards the inciting incident is what matters.

Anne held her audience riveted as she used example after example (including one of her own books) to illustrate the importance of back story and how back story can be drip-fed into the present story.

She also gave practical advice on using flashbacks, and effective writing processes to build the story before even setting pen to paper.

This was perhaps the most useful talk I attended at the entire conference. I have more detailed notes which I’ll gladly share with anyone who is interested – just leave your email address in the comments below.

Chaim Potok: “Everything has a past. Everything – a person, an object, a word, everything. If you don’t know the past, you can’t understand the present and plan properly for the future.”

Sonia Duggan – Getting to where you want to be 

I ended the conference with this workshop by life and writing coach, Sonia Duggan. My full report on this session is now up at the RNA blog, but for me the best things about this workshop was focussing my goals for the next few years and making a new friend. (Hi Brigid!)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

It's late, I'm tired and I'm going home to cuddle my kids before bedtime. So my fervent apologies, but today's promised final conference feedback will only be up tomorrow.

Enjoy what's left of Thursday!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Saturday Conference Feedback

Here is the summary of my Saturday at the RNA conference at Penrith.

Talli Roland – On-line marketing for writers 

Talli opened the session by looking at the differences between marketing (identifying readers and how to satisfy them) and sales (“Buy my book!”).

She recommends that authors first figure out their brand, and suggested a good way to start is to choose three adjectives that describe your writing. Use these words in your signature, and remember them in all promotions and communications.

She gave blogging, tweeting and Facebook tips, and recommended using social media as a ‘circle’ – feeding through from one unique platform into another. She also discussed Goodreads, Amazon, Google Reader and newsletters. Talli ended by saying that marketing is a long term exercise, not an immediate solution.

Kate Harrison – A Woman’s World: The Future of Women’s Fiction 

Following the negative headlines late last year about declining book sales (based on print figures only, interestingly!) Kate decided to do a survey of women’s fiction readers. Her background is in television, where consumers are heavily researched, so she decided to use her skills to try to understand book consumers (readers).

This talk was an analysis of the responses. The survey covered reader habits, reader types, as well as a survey of authors and book professionals. The one thing that struck me above all else was the number of readers who said their favourite books are those that are thought provoking in some way. Kate will post the results on her website soon.

Juliet Greenwood – Working with an editor 

This talk focussed on Juliet’s experience working with an editor at Honno, the Welsh Women’s Press. She shared the advice given by the editor on how to revise the book, resulting in a vastly improved time-slip book which was then published by.

One thing Juliet said stuck with me: “Follow your instincts and have the courage to do what you know needs to be done.”

Gillian Green – Boldly going where Ebury has not gone before 

Ebury used to be a mainly non-fiction imprint with a heavy BBC tie-in, but started publishing fiction in 2010 and have gone from strength to strength since.

Gillian Green discussed what they’re not looking for, and showed a selection of their books as an idea of what they are looking for.

Ebury has three divisions: Rouge Romance, Black Lace for erotic fiction, and the Del Rey imprint for Sci Fi and Fantasy which launches in 2013. These are all new lists so they are very open to submissions. She ended her talk with a big push to promote traditional publishing and Ebury in particular, after saying she appreciates authors now have a choice.

HMB Editors – At the heart of Harlequin 

The four editors started the talk by presenting sales facts & figures, then ran through the various lines published out of London.

Regarding the Riva line: in February 2013 Riva will be launched in the US as ‘Kiss’. The imprint’s purpose is to attract new readers to M&B and after conducting a survey they’ve chosen to go with more chick-litty covers.

They ended by repeating exactly what Gillian Green said, kind of like the airline attendants who say “thank you for flying with us, we appreciate that you have a choice.”

The talk ended early and they opened the floor to questions, at which time I slipped out for my one-on-one appointment with Kimberly Young of Mira.

One-on-one with Kim Young 

My ten minute chat with Kim Young flew past very quickly. She was complimentary about my writing, and I came out of the chat inspired and re-invigorated. She gave me a valuable feedback on When September Ends, but the over-riding thing I took away from this chat was that Kim feels my voice is definitely suited to M&B’s Riva imprint and she strongly recommended that I do the revisions they requested. I'd better get working!

Mira Editors: Women’s fiction with a romantic twist 

The talk by three editors from Mira was centred around lists of ‘Ten Things’, starting with Ten Things Authors Hate About Harlequin (an interesting acknowledgement!), then Ten Things They Hate About Us, and finally Ten Tips for Being Commercial.

Kim Young acknowledged their position is more tenuous than in the past, and that authors have more choice than before and that the barriers to entry are less difficult than ever. They ended with a list of all the things they offer and why we should publish with them. (Are you seeing the pattern yet?!)

For my summary of the final day of the conference, check back here on Thursday.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

My promised RNA conference feedback

I promised detailed conference feedback here on the blog today, but since I've only just cleared my Inbox, it's heading towards midnight as I type this, and I've just opened an email from my boss telling me to "hit the ground running" tomorrow as they've allocated me to a big project with a tight deadline, this report is NOT going to cover the entire conference, and you're going to have to keep coming back here for the rest!

The conference started for me on Friday afternoon, arriving at the train station in Penrith and meeting a veritable crowd of romance writers on the platform. We shared taxis to the campus and were soon 'checked in' and happily enjoying a cup of tea together. The noise level during the tea breaks was something to behold. Can you imagine 160 romance writers all talking at the same time?!

Just as the Irish Road Trippers (including our own Sally Clements) arrived, the conference started with the welcome talk, practical notes (including a demonstration on how to work the showers!), a sharing of general good news, and a formal handing over of the newly engraved awards presented at the Summer Party earlier this year. Jane Lovering's acceptance speech was certainly memorable!

We then had a panel discussion by four authors (Nicola Cornick, Ruth Long, Janet Gover, Henri Gyland) and agent Carole Blake. The discussion was lively and informative, focussing mostly on the differences between writing for the UK and North American markets, foreign translations (Henri's area of expertise as she translates books into Danish) as well as smaller foreign markets.

With the formal business of the day over, we Minxes retired to Minx House for a Kir Royale cocktail and a natter, before heading to the pub for a drink in the sunshine. It may well have been the last sun we saw all weekend, but at least the weather stayed dry for the conference.

Dinner was a noisy, fun affair, the food pretty good, though the late nights (the sun only set around 10pm) still threw me. After dinner, Sally and I joined the Irish Contingent in their kitchen where (unsurprisingly, since this conference could well be nick-named the Fifty Shades of Grey conference) we ended the night with a lengthy and lively discussion on BDSM. And more champagne.

Check back here next week for my report on the main day of the conference. And I'll even try to include pictures.

I will be typing up my detailed notes from the talks I attended, and you're welcome to contact me for them, though I must include the following disclaimer: since many of these conference speakers make a living from teaching, I'll be very cautious about who I share insider information with.

What is not insider information, were the three talks I attended by various publishing houses (Ebury Press, Mills & Boon, and Harlequin's Mira division). Fellow Minx Lorraine Wilson has already created a blog post which will go up on the Minxes blog tomorrow sharing all the major points made by those publishers. Check it out!

Monday, July 16, 2012

RNA Conference Inspiration

Today's post isn't so much about Inspiration, but following this weekend's RNA conference in Penrith, I am certainly feeling inspired!

I'm blogging over at Minxes of Romance about my conference experience, with pictures, and there will be more to follow here on Thursday.

In the meantime, here's a quote from one of the fortune cookies which was my contribution to the conference goodie bags:

You miss 100% of the shots you don't take.
- Wayne Gretzky

Thursday, July 12, 2012

My UK trip so far

My UK jaunt started with a pub lunch with the London chapter of the RNA, followed by three days of sitting around chatting, drinking tea and watching telly - see my post earlier this week on the Minxes blog.

Chapter leader Jean Fullerton arranging the next get-together

Pia Fenton, who celebrated her newest release by bringing along chocolates and champagne

 Then late on Monday I moved to Bishops Stortford on the Essex / Hertfordshire border to spend a few days with my oldest friend (not oldest in age, but in how long I’ve known her).

The highlights of the week so far, apart from more chatting and more tea, was a visit to Audley End (the house itself was closed, so we wandered the gardens, servants’ wing and stables) and a day out in London featuring afternoon tea at Fortnum & Mason, cocktails at Duke’s Hotel, and ending with blisters and Les Miserables.

Front facade of Audley End

The Jacobean stables at Audley End

The clandestine Pond Garden, which sparked a new 1920s story for me ...

Tomorrow I take the train up to Penrith and the real reason I’ve travelled half way round the world: the RNA Conference. More on Monday.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Magic and Castles in the Air

Yay – I made it!

I’ve spent a delightful couple of days in England, in spite of the dense cloud and chillier temperatures than back home in wintry South Africa. Catching up with old friends, being treated to a Sunday roast complete with Yorkshire pudding, and even a couple of hours of sunshine have got this holiday off to a fantastic start.

My blog post over at the Minxes of Romance today is all about just one of the things I love about England. Please pop over there and feel the magic with me.

And because today is Monday, and I’m sure we all need a little inspiration to kick start the week, here’s a quote from yet another Huletts sugar packet:

If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; 
that is where they should be. 
Now put foundations under them. 
- Henry David Thoreau

Thursday, July 5, 2012

A blog post really not worth reading

I'd planned for today's blog post to be about two fantastic books I read recently. Instead, I'm looking at a blank blog post and I'm so 'boiling mad' (to quote The Sound of Music) that I just can't write anything positive.

I don't normally vent in public; that's what my delightful Minxes are for. But I'm going to now.

Last year I cancelled a family holiday to Cape Town because an Accounts glitch at my company (a delay in sorting out discrepancies on my account) meant I wasn't paid in time to make the trip.

I'm now scheduled to fly to London tomorrow night. The plane ticket is paid for, my visa is paid for, the RNA conference is paid for, my promotional items for the conference have been paid for - but until I receive my fees for the last two film shoots I worked on, I'm so broke I won't be able to pay tube fair to get out of Heathrow or buy a cup of coffee.

Why haven't I been paid yet? You guessed it! Another discrepancy on my account that after more than a week has still not been sorted.

So, do I fly tomorrow night in the hopes that a miracle happens and by the time I land at Heathrow I actually have money in my account?

Or do I play it safe, stay home and work with Accounts to fix the discrepancy on my account - and forfeit everthing I've already spent on this trip?

No, 'boiling mad' just doesn't cut it. But I'm not going to swear on this blog. Promise.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Inspiration Monday

It's Monday and time for a little inspiration to start the working week. Since I'm knee deep in revisions and don't have the energy for two inspiring blog posts on one day, I'm going to head you over to the Minxes blog for some sure fire inspiration: click here.

Don't forget to vote!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Yay - a Minxy sale!

I'm behind the times with the news, since the whole world has known about it for a full week, but at last I'd like to congratulate my Minxy CP, Joanne Pibworth, on her sale to Harper Collins.

Jo's book The Lighthouse will be published under the pen name Jodie James, and the lovely people at Harper Collins are running a contest on their Authonomy site to find the book a new name. You can find out more here.

Jo's call story is up on her blog, but the post that touched me most was this one she did for the Seven Sassy Sisters.

We Minxes shared the ups and downs of Jo's journey, but what's really moved me about her success, is what I've learned from her along the way.

I love that in spite of multiple rejections from her publisher of choice, having to re-think her career as a writer, then the 21 agent rejections she received on this book before it sold, she has remained strong and cheerful. Those rejections stung, but she never let them get her down. She kept faith in her story, and she never gave up. And that positivity and resilience has been rewarded.

Thanks Jo, for teaching me the value of hope!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Stogumber Part Two - and another prize

In honour of this month's release of Dear Julia, today's picture is of a house in the village of Lower Vellow in Somerset which features briefly in the book. The picture is from the website of Rightmove Estate Agents. The house fascinates me because it's neither modern nor old, and it seems lost in the wilderness.

What kind of characters would choose to live here, and why? What do they do for a living? Let your imagination run free.

The commenter who fires my imagination wins a copy of Dear Julia.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A good laugh and yet more FSOG

I'm pretty sure most of Blogland is bored to tears of all the talk of Fifty Shades of Grey. But please bear with me anyway.

If you're one of those who, like me, have wondered what all the hype is about but couldn't be bothered to read the book, I highly, highly recommend Sally Quilford's series of reviews on it. You can find links to the ongoing saga of FSOG here.

Thanks Sally, for making me laugh more times in one week than I've laughed all year.

And while we're having a good laugh, check out this delightful blog post from The Bloggess on picking your battles. An oldie but a goodie.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Happy holidays and getting back in the groove

This morning my kids started a month long winter vacation. I know a lot of other mommy writers cry when their kids stay at home, but for me it means the hour and a half spent commuting to and from school every morning becomes Writing Time.

And so to celebrate getting back into the groove, here's a little gift from me to you, a little Monday inspiration courtesy of Robin Sampson on Pinterest.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Midnight in Paris

I’m not a big fan of Woody Allen movies. As in, there is no amount of money you could pay me to make me sit through Annie Hall a second time. That said, after enough people had recommended Midnight in Paris to me, I gave in and watched it.

I can’t tell you what a thrilling experience this film was! Maybe the three glasses of wine and stressful work week that preceded it may have influenced my feelings, but ... wow!

The film was made in 2011, and is the story of present day author Gil, in Paris with his girlfriend when he accidentally stumbles back into the past, into the Golden Age of Paris in the 1920s. Since I'm a writer, and I write stories set in the 20s, I've had a lot of people tell me I have to see this movie.

The moment when Gil walks into a club and gets chatting to a vivacious young woman from Alabama, my skin prickled.Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald ... Cole Porter .... Josephine Baker ... Salvador Dali ... Ernest Hemingway ... they’re all there in a cast of characters so inspiring I forgot to finish my third glass of wine!

This movie is not going to win any awards for great character arcs or story, and it doesn't explore any new depths or reveal any great truths, but it was a sweet, predictable love story with a fun "Spot the 20s celebrity" element.

Thank you to everyone who recommended this film! I really owe you. It has just become my absolute favourite movie of all time set in the 20s.

Monday, June 11, 2012

My birthday treat for you

It's my birthday month, and also the month of birth for Dear Julia so I have a special treat for you: this month you're going to get a Birthday Bumper Bonus and we're going to play two Endless Possibilities games.

The next few Endless Possibilities pictures are all from the area of Somerset where this Rae Summers novella is set. And this month there will also be a prize: the most imaginative commenter on today's blog post will win a copy of Dear Julia.

Today's image is taken from the blog 60 Going on 16 and was taken in the village of Stogumber where Dear Julia is set.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Dear Julia Launch Wave - last stop

Welcome to the final instalment in the Dear Julia Launch Wave.

Thank you to all the lovely authors who’ve hosted this wave, and to all you readers who’ve followed the story and tweeted.

Here is the full list of participating blogs:
Stop 1 - Minxes of Romance
Stop 2 - Sally Clements
Stop 3 - Rachel Bailey
Stop 4 - Scarlet Wilson
Stop 5 - Olivia Miles
Stop 6 - Jennifer Shirk
Stop 7 - Suzanne Jones
Stop 8 - you are here!

* * * 

Dear Julia is set in the English countryside in the early 1920s, and is part of the Love Letters series from The Wild Rose Press.

Read the opening extract here.

Extract Eight

On the first sunny day after the rainy spell, she dressed in her prettiest frock, a frosty pink silk and lace concoction, and set off across the fields towards the Manor. The sun warmed her bare head and arms, birds sang in the trees, and her spirit soared.
Her objective was in sight.
The Manor lay beyond the village, hidden from the road by a veritable forest of trees. It seemed isolated, cut off from the village by a will of its own.
Whatever she expected, when she rounded the curve in the drive and the house appeared before her, she wasn’t sure. But it wasn’t this.
From Mrs. Ferncroft’s description of the “big old house,” she’d expected a ramshackle Elizabethan sprawl, something draughty and dilapidated. Instead, she faced a stately double-storey Georgian house, gracefully symmetrical, with bay windows on either side of a porticoed entrance. The windows stood open to the sunlight. A neat lawn ran from the last of the trees right up to the door, cut in two by the straight gravel drive. In the bright morning sunlight, the house’s stone walls turned a mellow gold. It was the most welcoming house she’d ever seen, and not at all what she’d imagined as the home of two confirmed bachelors.
She pulled the old bell pull beside the door and chimes echoed behind the door, then slow, measured footsteps. At last, the door swung open.

* * *

If you enjoyed this extract, you can buy the full story at Amazon, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble, All Romance eBooks, and direct from the publisher, The Wild Rose Press. You can find out more about this novella here - and don’t forget to tweet your feedback using the hashtag #DearJulia.

I’m also running a contest on my Rae Summers blog. Answer a simple question about this story, and you’ll be entered to win a copy of Dear Julia. Entries close Sunday night, and the winner will be announced on Monday.

I hope you’ve all had as much fun following this wave as I have!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Dear Julia now on sale

My new 1920s novella, Dear Julia, released yesterday through The Wild Rose Press. To celebrate its release, I'm running a contest on my Rae Summers blog where you can win a free copy.

Tomorrow is Launch Wave day. I'll be sharing the opening chapter, spread across 8 blogs. Check back here to follow the wave, which starts at Minxes of Romance and ends right here.

* * *

About Dear Julia

The discovery of a long-lost love letter in a house she’s redecorating sends Rosalie Stanton on a quest to find its rightful owner.

Since his return from the Great War, William Cavendish has lived as a recluse. His peaceful existence is shattered by the return of the letter that once held all his hopes — and by its bearer, the irrepressible Rosalie, who bears an uncanny resemblance to his lost love.

As Rosalie sets out to lure William back into society, she realises that in him she might just have met her match.

You can buy the book at Amazon, Amaxon UK and direct from The Wild Rose Press.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Monday laugh

It's Monday morning and if you feel anything like I do after a not-so-restful weekend, then you need a laugh to start the week. So how about this?

It's a sign I saw outside a shebeen (informal, unregistered pub) on Saturday. And a Zonkey, is a cross between a Zebra and a Donkey. You can see one here on this Minxes blog post.

For those who need a little translation, the sign says:

The shebeen is available for functions, parties, and happy time (i.e. happy hour).

Welcome to South Africa!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

May Mash-up

A few interesting bits and pieces I've stumbled across this month:

Just a short while ago Bob Mayer blogged a link to this article on the history of Amazon. It's lengthy, but insightful. It also makes the failed Borders into the real meanie, much like this post from Holt Uncensored.

Dani Collins, the newest signing to Mills & Boon, wrote this delightful post on the iHeart Presents blog which is worth a read.

For a reality check, YA author Cristin Terrill has put together this eye-opening post on the reality of the six figure-deal, and self-publishing guru JA Konrath posted his take on facts and figures.

Thanks to Suzanne Minx for this link which made me laugh and cry: http://andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com/2012/05/how-to-propose-in-2012.html

And thanks to fellow ROSA-lite Joss Wood (also a newly signed Riva author!) for this delightful cartoon:

Farewell May!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Hopes and Heartbreaks

If it were not for hopes, the heart would break.
- Thomas Fuller (1608-1661)

Our local sugar manufacturer, Huletts, prints inspirational messages on their sugar packets. This is one I opened recently, and I've kept it in my purse since because it really resonates with me.

Since most followers of this blog are aspiring writers, I bet you already have hopes of living a rather different life than the one you have now. It probably involves seeing your name on the cover of a beautiful hardback, cashing in substantial royalty cheques and being feted at book signings.

Much as I'd like all the above, my dream is far simpler: to be a stay-at-home writer and full-time mom. It's what keeps me going and without it my heart would break.

I cannot imagine how people stay on the treadmill of traffic, bosses, end-of-the-month financial woes, and the guilt-ridden feeling that your kids deserve more of you than an anxious hour at the beginning and end of every day, without having a dream.

So for today's Inspiration, I'd like to suggest that we share our dreams, and remind ourselves of what we're hoping for and living for.

Thursday, May 24, 2012


I'll admit that these days new movies tend to come and go without even registering on my radar. The up side of this is that when I'm sitting in front of the TV, and it's nearly midnight and I really should be heading off to get some sleep, and a movie starts that I've never heard of, I have absolutely no preconceptions.

That's what happened this past weekend, and the movie in question was Hereafter, directed by Clint Eastwood (who really is an example of the finer things in life getting better with age!)

The movie opens with the Boxing Day Tsunami, and at first I thought it was a foreign film as the dialogue was all in French with sub-titles. As interesting as the opening was, I began to pack up my laptop to head to bed. And then Matt Damon popped up on screen.
What was he doing in a French film?

I'm glad I stopped to ask the question, because by the time I realised this wasn't just another made-for-TV disaster movie, nor a foreign film, I was hooked.

There are three story strands, each featuring a central character (a blue-collar worker with psychic abilities, a French journalist, and a London schoolboy) and the three strands only weave together at the very end. All three characters have been closely affected by death, and the film is an examination of what happens on the other side of death - in the Hereafter.

The film's resolution is predictable, and Hereafter probably won't change the way you see the world, or your beliefs about death and life, in the way that Inception did, but it is well worth watching. This film is a fine example of a story that draws you in, makes you care about the characters, and I'll admit there were scenes where I just couldn't stop crying. In a good tear-jerker way.

Have you seen this film? Let me know what you thought.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Elephant Whisperer

Thanks to the book club I joined late last year, I've started reading books outside my comfort zone (ie. Romance). One of these is The Elephant Whisperer, second book by South African game ranger and animal conservation expert Lawrence Anthony.

You don't have to love animals or be into nature conservation to enjoy this novel. Elephants are amazing creatures, and we can learn a lot from them - and some of Anthony's observations about their uncanny abilities brought me chills. The book is filled with drama and high adventure, including encounters with poachers and wild animals. Best of all for me, it's a 100% accurate insider view of life in the African bush. Africa comes alive in this book!

The author is also fascinating in that he not only saved a herd of traumatised elephants from being culled and successfully integrated them into his game reserve Thula Thula (the story of The Elephant Whisperer) but he was the man who saved the Bagdad Zoo during the invasion of Iraq in 2003. He immortalised that adventure in his first book, Babylon's Ark, co-written with author Graham Spence.

Sadly, Lawrence Anthony died recently, shortly before the release of his third book, The Last Rhinos, which is now filling the stands in the front of every bookstore in South Africa.

Buy Links
Babylon's Ark: Amazon and Amazon UK
The Elephant Whisperer: Amazon and Amazon UK
The Last Rhinos: Amazon and Amazon UK

And just in case you think elephants are cute and cuddly, try this for size. This picture was taken in Kenya and sent to me recently by friends. is a picture sent to me recently. (PS: Thanks to Gav & Nic's friend Tracy for this!)