Sunday, June 12, 2016

Why Shopping in South Africa is Losing its Charm Fast

This blog post may not mean anything to my international followers, so you're welcome to move on.

These are the reasons why South African retailers need to catch a wake-up fast as online shopping is becoming way more appealing by the year. They're going to lose out on business and push customers away for the following reasons:

1. This is the ultimate turn-off to me - the harassment at the door going out of the shop.

Retailers are fighting against crime or theft. Yes, I know it's rife in our country, although come to think of it, does it really justify the way retailers treat their customers when they leave the shop? I don't care how much you lose in profits every month from shoplifters; you are losing my patronage by harassing me at the door!

We pay for our purchases at the till, which oftentimes is within metres of the exit and quite visible. We get given a bag with the store's logo on it to put our items in, then we get accosted by an aggressive and rather abrupt security person at the door who wants to check our slip against what's in our bag which holds our own personal stuff that we've just bought. Oftentimes, we may have slotted our slip back in our handbag or wallet and now we have to fish it out and wait for the person to rummage through our purchases to check that we didn't steal something in the short few steps between the cashier till and the door!

It reached a head when we were in Joburg a couple of months ago and bought some items at a large department store (which we were already disappointed with as they didn't have the things that we'd planned on getting). The long line of cashiers were directly by the door and as we'd just finished purchasing our items and the packer had put them in a bag, we headed to the door where a woman stood armed with a machine in her hand and piercing eyes, waiting to pounce upon us. We were in a hurry to travel back home after a tiring weekend and the security lady stopped us at the door and asked to scan our slip and check what was in our bag, which we could only have gotten from the long line of tills directly by the exit, so my husband said "no" and continued walking. She followed us! She ignored all the other people streaming out the shop to follow us to the car park. I felt so awkward, like some criminal because I'd bought something from their shop! I'd supported them and they were treating me like some thief. We walked to our car and she came storming after us, shouting "wait!" It was so embarrassing. She eventually caught up to us but by this time, my husband was so livid, he got into the car and started driving off, but I stayed behind to give the woman my slip. She stood scanning it for ages, like she deliberately wanted to annoy us. I don't know if they rescan every item that we buy. I have no idea. She didn't even check our package. All she wanted to do was rescan the till slip we'd been given. My husband was furious, as you can well imagine, and it didn't help him face the long journey home.

It truly is a humiliating process which makes honest patrons of a business feel abused as they exit the shop. Some places insist on just stamping your till slip as you go out the door and don't even bother to check what's in your bag. Tell me please, what is the purpose of this? Are they not able to tally their sales from the cash registers? Are their organisational systems so bad that they can't do simple business while making things unpleasant and tiresome for their customers?

2. The harassment at the door entering the shop!

Okay, this one doesn't bother me as much as I sometimes manage to slip by these ones without them noticing. But when you enter a shop here in South Africa, carrying a bag from another shop, you have to stop and wait for the security guy / lady at the door to tape the bag closed. Sometimes, they do it so stupidly, I'm sure it wouldn't deter a true thief anyway as it can be pulled open in a moment and other times, they tape up the bag so much that you can't get your stuff out once you reach home, so you have to cut or tear the bag open. What I don't understand is that I often carry my fabric bag in, which I use to carry purchased items from previous shops, but they don't stop me to check those. So, I could stash all manner of items from their shop into this, but they wouldn't know a thing. Really, are there not better ways to ensure shoplifters don't have a go than harassing your honest customers? Can't they plant cameras in the stores? Or hire people to walk around and watch people? Why do we have to work through these scowling individuals who make it hard to go in and out of the store?

3. Honestly, how do you pack your merchandise on the shelves and do you actually hire someone who has any notion of organisation and safety to do the job?

I'm shocked at the poor way things are packed on the shelves. Some stores are a real nightmare. Some clothing stores pack the racks so full that when you take one item off, the rest go tumbling down onto the floor.

And the way items are hung up or displayed is often not conducive to ease of choosing. I went to buy some bras yesterday. What a mission it was to try the different items on! They always make the straps ultra-tight to suit someone whose boobs hang up by their neck. They put these nasty security things on the items which sometimes make them impossible to open and try on. Now, let me not talk about the great disparity between different items of the same size. I had to try on so many bras and it took me ages to open them up to try on. Don't they realise that most, if not all women don't have boobs by their neck? Why don't they loosen the straps to make them "try-on-able?"

Grocery store shelves are so narrow and they stack two cans of baked beans or cat sardines or boxes on top of each other, so tightly so that you can't get them out without putting everything else in your hand down and manoeuvring and wriggling the item sideways and all manner of strange angles to get it out without knocking over the whole lot and denting the other cans in the process.

Sometimes the merchandise is put so high up that even someone six-feet tall would struggle to get it down without standing on a stool or ladder or calling someone from somewhere in the shop to get a ladder to bring it down. Yesterday, my husband and I went to a home store where we'd been given a voucher gift for our 20th wedding anniversary. What was meant as a pleasant, fun shopping experience, in certain ways became annoying. We were looking at buying new dinner plates so my husband wanted to look at a box of four plates. But they were so high up, that even on tiptoes, he couldn't reach them. Not to mention the risk of them being breakable. Then he found a set lower down (notice only one set) but he couldn't get them out the shelf as there was a lip on the top and bottom of the shelf, holding the item captive inside the shelf. With much manipulation and difficult manoeuvring, he eventually got it out. We also wanted to look at some other items but they were all boxed. They didn't leave a set out on display so we had to fiddle with the tape of a sealed box so as not to tear it, so we could look at the items inside. Then we had to seal it carefully afterwards. All the while, concerned a shop assistant would complain at us for opening something up.

Not to mention the many times things are put in dangerous and precarious places. My husband is also a safety officer and the things he's noticed in shops! Well, let's say - not very safe.

4. Cleaning is more important than the customer having a relaxed shopping experience.

Instead of arranging for shift workers to clean the shops after trading hours, cleaners do their job while we're in the shop. Sometimes, they stick up their "wet floors" sign and we have to avoid the section we need to go in or we promptly ignore the sign and walk there anyway. Other times, they get in our way with their mop and big bucket, making it hard to navigate the aisles. But the worst is when they get annoyed with the shopper for walking on their wet floor and huff and puff and roll their eyes at us because we just want to buy things from the shop to give them the sales they need to pay their employees (including cleaning lady herself.)

One day, a woman with some fancy floor-cleaning device stood staring at us in the one shop where I was looking at sale clothes on a rack. She gave us the beady eye, waiting for us to get out of there so she could push her machine past us. By the way, there was plenty of room for her machine, but for some reason, us being near her was an issue. We refused to budge. I was the shopper. I was the one who helped to pay her salary. What was her problem? I'm not sure what happened then, but she moved to park herself in the walkway and another customer wanted to walk past but she refused to budge. She kept this angry scowl on her face. Eventually the other lady got so angry with her and spewed a whole lot of words out at her. My husband and I couldn't believe how much the cleaning lady thought that she owned the floor space of the shop and that the customers were just an annoyance.


I'm truly disappointed about the state of retail in this country. I have to say some shops are a pleasure to shop at most of the time like the Pick 'n Pay down the road and Bargain Books and possibly some high-class shops in the big cities. But the big retailers who have large franchises and some of the little independent stores in our town need to catch a wake-up soon!

Why Vinegar is a Staple in my Home

Huh? What did you say? You may be wondering why I wrote such a weird thing in the title of this blog.

That's because I'm in the mood for blogging about random stuff for a while. Yes, I know I'm a romance writer, but I also have things to say about life which don't pertain to writing. Contrary to some opinions, writing isn't my whole life. I have quite a bit going on outside it.

This is why the simple, rather cheap and elemental product (vinegar) is now a staple in my home and why I always have a big bottle of it on hand:

1. It makes a great fabric softener which doesn't clog up my washing machine with those funny, waxy flaky things that stick to my lovely white clothes.

I have a top loader which is great for a family of five and for someone who hates washing things by hand and carting heavy, dripping clothes and blankets through my house to hang up outside. The machine can take a blanket or two in one load and spins a large amount of the moisture off first so I can take it outside to hang up without dripping all over the floor. But top loader's have a weakness - after a few months, horrible waxy, grey, gungy flakes suddenly spew out of somewhere and land up all over the load of washing. It's best to shake them off once the clothes are dry else they can smear all over the garments, making them look dirtier than they did before the wash. Then I discovered that you can use vinegar as a fabric softener instead of buying the expensive softener bottles at the store. I put about a quarter cup in, add a few drops of lavender oil inside to cut the strong vinegar smell and it makes the clothes soft and fluffy. It's cheap even with the lavender oil which lasts at least six months. And added bonus - I no longer get those flaky things.

2. It's great for cleaning bath rings.

Before I run a bath, I spray vinegar on the tub, then wipe clean with water. I bought a cheap spray bottle and filled it up with the acid. It does two things - helps get rid of residual dirt from the last bath or the kitty's paws or whatever happened to land up in there. And it balances the ph in the bath water, hence no yukky thrush which us ladies are prone to get when something is too alkaline. Store-bought bathroom cleaners are very alkaline which doesn't do well for our nether regions. Vinegar is great! Sure, it stinks the room out a little but soon the soap smells take over.

3. It's magic in baking.

Ever heard of using vinegar instead of eggs in a recipe? They basically work the same and you don't get to taste it against all that yummy sugar and butter, etc. So when you forgot to buy eggs or Aunt Lucy is allergic to them, you could always substitute 1 tablespoon vinegar for an egg. I'm also gluten intolerant but if I soak wheat flour in a one or two tablespoons of vinegar and milk or water for 12-24 hours, I can eat wheat bread and biscuits without any hassle to my tummy. Strange, I can have slices of this bread without a problem but I have a bit of flour in a store-bought gravy and I feel sick!

4. Vinegar truly is a marvel with cleaning things. My new discovery is freshening the dishwasher. I don't know about you, but I love my dishwasher. Being a family of five with three hungry teenagers and preferring home-cooked, balanced meals over take-outs and rushed, slopped-together food, we generate lots of dishes. On top of that, whenever I bake, I have to make a gluten-free version of it for myself. Unfortunately, my family hates gluten-free baked goodies, so I couldn't just make one kind. So, we have lots of dishes every day - piles in fact. Not that I bake every day, but you get the picture, I'm sure. So, the dishwasher is a godsend indeed. But after a while, it gets grungy inside and doesn't look sparkly and new and smell fresh anymore. Thanks to a wonderful blog I follow, I found a quick and easy way to get it looking and smelling like new. Simple - put a cup of vinegar in a glass jug on the top shelf of an empty dishwasher and do a normal, hot load. When you open up, the jug will be full to the brim of brownish water, but the machine will sparkle and shine and smell a whole lot better.

Oh, and it tastes wonderful on fried chips or in a salad dressing. Or even sweet and sour sauces.


Do you know any other helpful uses for plain old vinegar? I'd love to hear them in the comments.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Spotlight and Review of Spellbound





Part of Your World
Where love is waiting just beyond the edge of what you can see.
When two world collide at the edge of the sea in a measure of desperation, a prince will bow before a commoner and a lost soul will be finally be found. Part of Your World - Where love is waiting just beyond the edge of what you can see.

Glistens
A guardian can’t shine without the song of her ward.
Marian Spritz won’t gain guardian fairy status if she fails her summer school project. But when she hears a call for help—a song felt only by Glistens—she must choose between not letting her schoolwork and teammates suffer and protecting a ward who faces grave danger.

Tethered 
Can love heal all that’s broken? 
Life had been simple for vampire Jayden Blackwell until he met the runaway Emmaline Grey. One taste of her blood revealed that not only is she a fledgling vampire on the cusp of her transition, but she’s also his bondmate and the granddaughter of his family’s biggest enemy. Will family feuding keep them apart or is it Jayden who compromised Emma’s survival? 

Drops of Sunshine
Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth. -Buddha 
Working as lifeguard at a camp for the blind seems like the perfect escape for Nina. But a few perceptive kids can hear her thoughts. Can embracing her truth help her heal and reveal possibilities she never imagined? 

Feathers and Fireflies
Will you follow the fireflies?
Seventeen year old Rory of Vanora Village dreams of capturing the sacred summer solstice ritual of the animal shapeshifters with her trusty charcoal and parchment. But with only legends and tales to guide her, she cannot even convince her childhood friend, Lucas, that the ritual is real. On the night Rory follows the fireflies, she gets far more than she bargained for.





Amazon ~ iBooks ~ Kobo ~ B&N ~ Google+

















Part of Your World
L.A. Starkey 
Never miss a new release! Join my readers group and grab your free copy of The Beginning: The Prophecy for the Soul Keeper Serieshttp://eepurl.com/9Nrc1
L.A. Starkey is the author of the Soul Keeper Series, a supernatural young adult series, and The Liarus Detective Series, a supernatural middle grade series. 
She is a fulltime writer, and loves spending time with her family and reading a good book. With more ideas than one person should be allowed, she is blessed to have a muse that doesn't seem to take a vacation and more energy that one might consider healthy.
She writes under the following pen name:
Kate Thomas - NA/Adult Paranormal -- SEE Enchanted


Glistens
Chess Desalls
Chess Desalls is the author of the YA time travel series, The Call to Search Everywhen. She's a longtime reader of fantasy and sci-fi novels, particularly classics and young adult fiction. Her nonfiction writing has led to academic and industry publications. She's also a contributing editor for her local writing club's monthly newsletter. The California Writers Club, South Bay branch, has awarded two of Chess' stories first place for best short fiction. When she's not reading or writing, she enjoys traveling and trying to stay in tune on her flute.


Tethered 
Kelly Hall 
Kelly Hall was born and raised in Southeast Texas, and lives in a small town just a stone's throw from the ghost road where her Light Keeper series is based. 
When she's not busy writing, or spending time with her husband and two sons, this self-proclaimed creative junkie dabbles in many different forms of art, including cake decorating and mixed media. 


Drops of Sunshine
Tricia Copeland
Tricia Copeland grew up in Georgia but now lives outside the mile-high city of Denver, Colorado with her husband, three kids, and multiple four legged and finned friends. An avid runner and paranormal fan, she also enjoys hiking, trivia, and Scrabble. You can connect with Tricia and other readers on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and on her website, www.triciacopeland.com


Feathers and Fireflies
Melanie Rodriguez 
Melanie Rodriguez holds a BA in creative writing from Green Mountain College in Poultney, Vermont. She says she's been compelled to write stories dictated by the voices she's heard inside her head since she was a child, citing the story line of her debut book Child of Blackwen: An Artemis Ravenwing Novel as one of the main reasons she majored in creative writing. It's an epic work of high fantasy narrating the coming-of-age story of a young half-vampire, half-human creature known as a dhampir. A former New Yorker, Rodriguez is an avid reader and sports fan who now lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with her overly excitable shepsky (a shepherd-husky mix), Shadow.

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My Review of Spellbound

I was gifted a copy of this book to review. At first, I didn't think I'd finish the whole book before the date to post this, but I've managed to read most of it so I'm going to put my review up and update it as soon as I've completed the last story.

Review:

I haven't read many young adult novels. I chose to read this one as, particularly, the blurb of Drops of Sunshine fascinated me and I also like paranormal / fantasy novels. I did expect them to be romance based and I'm not sure why, but it doesn't matter that they all weren't - I still enjoyed the paranormal slant of each one.

The stories were fun to read and varied. Although shorter than full-length books, they had enough structure and plot to take me into their worlds and keep me gripped. I was a bit disappointed with the quality of editing as there were several grammar mistakes in the book. But the stories were good enough to keep this grammar nerd reading anyway. I have to say I did have a preference for two of the stories over the rest. I've decided to review each one separately as they really are so different in writing style. Although I had two favourites, each story was a good read and held their own special merit.

Story 1 - Part of Your World

I loved this story and it was one of my favourites. The sweetness of the writer permeated the story from the start and it kept me gripped. An interesting world was created in a short story. The romance, although not fully developed in the beginning, became more meaningful in the last part of the story. The characters were good and easy to sympathise with. It had a great easy-to-read writing style and feel to the story.

Story 2 - Glistens

I love fairy books so I did enjoy being taken into an unusual and unique fairy world in this story. The beginning was a bit disjointed and I struggled to know what was going on at times, but it improved as the story went on. There were some grammar issues that I couldn't help picking up. It was a great reading escape though. If this was intended to be a romance, I admit it failed, but as a paranormal young adult novella, it does well - plenty of adventure and interesting characters.

Story 3 - Tethered

This novella was a different take on the vampire theme and it's nice to come from a fresh angle. I enjoyed some of the characters in this story but not all. I thought the heroine was a bit whiny and spoilt at times but then she redeemed herself in the end. And so did some of the other characters. Sweet romance, but not as fully developed as I would have liked. The paranormal world-building was well-constructed and full of surprises with a satisfying ending.

Story 4 - Drops of Sunshine

I have to say this was my favourite story. The writing was of a high standard with great plot, pacing, dialogue, and characterisation. The story arc was well-developed with character arc, romance and plot. The writer took me into the character's head and I immediately sympathised with her and not only because I have a hard time opening up when I'm going through a hard time. This story really spoke to me personally and I enjoyed the romance too. I really wanted them to end up together and it was done realistically and sweetly. I loved the touches of paranormal placed in this book and also the life lessons the characters learned through the story.

Story 5 - Feathers and Fireflies

This was an enchanting story about animal shapeshifters and a young woman's quest to break free of her life while controlled by her abusive uncle. I enjoyed the depth to this story, the interesting characters and the fascinating world building. A great fantasy / paranormal read.

Four Stars or rather Eiffel Towers

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Things about Being Forty-five



Today, I'm in the mood for doing light and funny, so here goes.

I was just thinking about how I've changed over the years - some of the changes have been slow and some more immediate, but these are a few of the things about being forty-five:

1. Pet peeve - when a recipe talks down to me. I've been cooking and baking for years now. Please don't tell me to mix until well-combined or to sift the flour or to scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl to make sure all the mixture gets combined. I know, some people may need that, but really, you're just wasting my reading time and my cooking time. Simple is best for recipes! Sometimes I like figuring out how to do it myself with just the ingredients.

2. I'm ashamed to admit it, but I don't like to listen to an instructional / coaching / life wisdom video or follow a You Tube workout video (which I do often) by a twenty-year old. It sounds really arrogant and I would have been most upset twenty years ago if you'd said something like that. It's just, I want someone with experience if I'm going to learn something from them. It's so wrong, because I know they probably know more about yoga or whatever it is than I do, but still, I feel cheated, like I'm going to get half of the info.

3. Instead of waking up on a winter's morning shivery and cold, even with about three layers on, and wanting to cuddle up to hubby, the tables have turned. Now I want to kick off the blankets, don't often wear socks, and love it when he warms up his cold hands on my bare tummy. Maybe something to do with peri-menopause, I have no idea.

4. I care a lot less what people think of me. As a young twenty or thirty year old I was an intense people-pleaser. Now, I like to go my own way and if you don't like it, tough cookie! It's my life and I have one life to live and am about halfway through if I do well, so I'm going to look after this soul here. It's very liberating.

5. I don't get that broodiness I used to get when someone I knew had a baby. In my thirties I used to secretly wish a late accidental baby would be sprung upon us and I would get that soft bundle again to cuddle. I do not feel the same way anymore. I'm waiting for my grandchildren who I can hand back when they have colic or when I have something I need to do. I can't imagine sleepless nights anymore (I love my sleep) or buckets of nappies to wash (we did the towelling route and environmental me would probably go the same way again) and breast pumps, and puréeing food into a browny-green mush then trying to feed them to a reluctant baby. Or worst of all, labour pains and the horrible expectation of going through them for nine months.

6. I used to love high-impact aerobics and jogging to work myself towards a 10km race, now I'll stick to gentle yoga, thanks, where I get to relax, breathe and stretch in between working out my muscles. Even parkrun sucks and that's only 5km. I think that's more a fitness issue, but I prefer gentle walking now and using it to brainstorm my plots than pushing myself to get a best time.

7. Life is too short to stress about what's on my plate and whether I'm eating ultra-healthy. Dieting and food obsession can take over our lives and I'd rather think about other things. Food is fuel, not medicine.

8. Cleanliness is not next to godliness. Okay, I don't like to live in a dump and I keep my home relatively clean (with a maid to help once a week) but I'm not nearly obsessed about it being perfect like I used to. I can think of many more interesting things to do with my time. I remember reading a post on Facebook a couple of years ago where someone asked in a group how many times other people washed the bed linen. I was totally shocked by the answers. Most people said at least once a week and some said every day. I shuddered. I couldn't help making some comment about germo-phobes. Don't think it was taken too well. I'm probably really slack in this regard, but hey, who wants to spend their whole lives washing sheets? Sure, if you have a major allergy issue, it may be good (although I think ultra-cleanliness probably exacerbates these things) but I just can't wrap my head around washing my sheets every day! Imagine that when you have four beds in the house! One woman I read about in a magazine vacuums her mattresses and sheets every day. Heaven, help me.

9. Many of those things they pumped into me in religion aren't true and were made up by people wanting to control others. More and more, I see how man creates systems which harm people and don't help them and that we're a lot better off listening to common sense and gut feel than platitudes and rigid rules and bizarre guidelines. We're actually pretty smart, us humans - we just don't realise it.

10. Ditch fashion and fitting in. I'll dress how I like, thank you very much. I think I dropped that one years ago although even in the days when I felt compelled to follow the fashions, I was never particularly good at it. I've always been a hippie at heart.

11. Oh, and I nearly forgot - parents. They were mostly right all these years and I was wrong, but I was too blind to see it.

Anyone else changed since they've gotten older? I'd love to hear your things.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

After the Final Dandelion - Brooke Williams Interview and Spotlight

Today, I want to welcome Brooke Williams for an author interview. Yay! And she's talking about her latest release - After the Final Dandelion.


Blurb:

After Renee Lockhart appeared on the local TV dating show "Accept this Dandelion" and found the love of her life, she thought she was done with TV. But when she hears that the entire city has bets on how soon she and her fiancé will break up, she is determined to show that their love is meant to last.

When Mike, the KETO producer, approaches her about airing the wedding live, she jumps at the chance. Once she is set up with a famous wedding coordinator, plans take a turn for the worse and the simple wedding they wanted becomes the event of the year.

In the meantime, Eva Merida is dealing with her own life changing opportunity. Though she’s in love with her boyfriend, who she met on the second season of the dating show, she can’t turn down the chance to investigate a Hollywood TV show when offered a position. When she runs into an old flame, she questions the stability of her current relationship. Will Renee be able to prove her love for Ben to the city before her wedding falls apart? Who will Eva choose on her own emotional roller coaster? Hilarity ensues as the wedding of the decade melts into the disaster of the year. Because everyone knows weeds take over every garden…

You can purchase After the Final Dandelion here: Amazon


Author Interview:

What is the best thing for you about being a writer?

Being able to work from home during my daughter’s nap time so I don’t have to be away from her, well, ever! And also just being able to make stuff up for a living! It’s a wonder to me!!! I am also a freelance writer and I work on blogs and web content for a variety of clients. Years ago I had no idea this type of career was possible or I would have done it a long time ago. I get paid to do what I love!

What is the hardest thing for you about being a writer?

Finding enough time in the day to satisfy my writing bug. I could probably sit here and crank out a book in a week if I was allowed to sit that long. J But with two young daughters I only get an hour or two a day to work. I know someday they will both be in school and I’ll have a lot more time to work with. And though the writing side of me looks forward to that, mostly, I dread that era!

What genre/s do you write and what genre is your latest release?

I specialize in romantic comedy. I didn’t know my romances were funny until an editor told me they were ideal romantic comedies. I thought I was just writing romance! But now I’m resigned to it and love the genre. I also have a family drama and a thriller on the market as well as a few inspirational fiction novels.

What essential things have you learned about writing in the last year?

Not everyone will love what I do. That goes for the fiction world and the freelance writing world. Not every client will enjoy what I come up with and not every reader will adore every book I write. And that’s okay! As long as I’m happy doing it, I’m going to chug along.

Who is your favourite heroine from your books and why?

Renee Lockhart, hands down. We first meet her in Accept this Dandelion and her story continues in After the Final Dandelion. She is who she is and she’s not shy about that. I admire that she stands up for herself and knows who she is and isn’t ashamed of that.

What type of hero do you like? Super alpha, wounded or somewhere in between? Or even something totally different? You could give an example from a movie or well-known book.

I like someone who has a struggle from the past who comes around to realize the past doesn’t have to repeat itself.

Tell us about your journey in writing this book.

I wrote this book very quickly, almost feverishly. And when I was done, I had no idea if it was any good. I was just coming off writing Dandelions on the Road and I knew I should take a break, but I wanted to get the story out while the characters were still fresh. I went back and read it later and knew that I owed it to the characters to polish it up and put it out there!

Tell us three quirky or interesting things about yourself.

I don’t like pizza. Squirrels weird me out. I have big feet. J

What rituals do you use to help you focus or get the words down on the page e.g. music or a snack?

First, I put my daughter down for her nap. Second, turn on the computer. Third, go!!! I usually hear music through the monitor in my daughter’s room, but I prefer quiet. And yes, there are often snacks, but that varies.

Mention something unique about your books and your writing style.

My books are meant to make you smile and maybe even giggle. They take you away from everyday life and stress and give you a break. At least that’s what they do for me when I write them! So I hope readers get a similar feel from them.

What book would you like to work on next?


I actually have another romantic comedy written called “The Leftover.” It’s a very similar style, but instead of focusing on a TV show like the Bachelor, it focuses on a more Survivor-like TV show. It’s complete and I’m looking around for a publisher at the moment.


Ooh, I'm looking forward to that.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Author Interview and Spotlight - Karen King's I Do or Don't I?

Today I want to welcome Karen King to my blog again. This time she's talking about her chicklit novel and she's also answered some interview questions. Her book looks amazing. I just love the title!


Author Interview:

What is the best thing for you about being a writer?
Getting a letter or email from someone who’s enjoyed reading my book. That makes my week!

What is the hardest thing for you about being a writer?
Finding time to write down all the ideas that are whizzing around in my head.

What genre/s do you write and what genre is your latest release?
I write for children and adults. I write most genres for children except horror but for adults I write contemporary romance stories. My latest release is a chick lit called ‘I Do?...or Do I?’

What essential things have you learned about writing in the last year?
That I can write long books. ‘I Do…or Do I?’ is 75,000 words so the longest book I’ve ever written. Before that my longest book was ‘The Millionaire Plan’ which was 50,000 words but most of my books are written for children so can be as few as 500 words.

What inspired you to write this novel?
I think some people seem to drift into marriage because they’ve been going out with someone for a while and marriage seems the next step. They’re swept up in the preparations and it seems too late to call it off, even if they do have doubts. I remember reading that one of Princess Diana’s sisters told her that she couldn’t call of the wedding now because her face was on the tea towels. This is what happens to Cassie, she’s sort of pushed into marriage by Timothy and his mother, then she meets her first love, Jared, again and wonders if she’s doing the right thing but the wedding preparations are racing ahead and she feels like she can’t stop them. Will she say ‘I do? or call it off?

What rituals do you use to help you focus or get the words down on the page e.g. music or a snack?
I just write. I’ve been published for thirty years now and for most of the first twenty years I was writing to deadlines so I learnt to put my bum on the chair, fingers on the keyboard and start writing. I do drink gallons of coffee while I work though and have been known to get through a whole box of chocolates.

What book would you like to work on next?
I have a three book contract for chick lit novels with Accent Press, the publishers of ‘I Do?...or Do I?’. I’ve finished book two now so am working on book three.


Thanks, Kathy
It's only a pleasure. I loved reading your answers.

Blurb:

Local journalist Cassie is getting married to hot-shot lawyer, reliable Timothy and his mother Sylvia, who Cassie has nicknamed ‘Monster-in-Law’, wants to plan the entire wedding. When Sylvia books the exclusive ID Images to take photographs of the extravagant do, Cassie has no idea what she’s walking into. 

The elusive JM, ID Images’ newest photographer, just so happens to be Jared, Cassie’s first love and ex-fiancé, who broke off their engagement to travel and take photos of far-reaching wonders. He’s back to pay for his next wild adventure. 

Cassie decides it’s best to pretend not to know him, but when she’s asked to write an article for her newspaper, she’s tasked with a column surrounding all things wedding related. When Cassie jokingly writes a column meant for herself depicting her situation, a co-worker submits it in place of the real article and it’s soon making headlines, with readers asking the age old question - Who Will She Choose?


Excerpt:

‘June! That’s only two months away!’ Sam squealed down the phone. ‘You can’t plan a wedding in two months.’
Which is exactly what Cassie had told Timothy when his mother, Sylvia, had suggested it. She could hardly believe she’d let them both talk her in to it.
‘The thing is, Sylvia heard there was a cancellation at Hollington Castle and she booked it for us. It’s a really sought after venue and we’d be mad to turn it down,’ she told Sam.
‘Are those Sylvia’s words or yours?’
‘Sylvia’s,’ Cassie admitted. ‘She’s right, though. We got a good price, too, because of the cancellation. Timothy and I went to look around yesterday and it’s an amazing place. It dates back from the eighteenth century, you know.’
‘You only got engaged on Valentine’s Day,’ Sam pointed out. ‘I thought you weren’t planning on getting married until next year?’
‘We weren’t, but it seemed too good an opportunity to miss. It’s normally booked up at least eighteen months ahead. Especially in the summer.’ She was repeating Timothy’s words to her yesterday when she’d expressed some doubt about arranging the wedding so quickly. ‘You do want to marry me, don’t you, darling?’ he’d said, and when she’d assured him she did he’d pooh-poohed her protest that two months wasn’t long enough to plan a wedding, saying his mother would help, and she’d found herself agreeing. Now it was all arranged, the venue was booked, they were getting married on 26th June – and she was starting to panic. How the hell was she supposed to organise everything in that time? There was her dress, the bridesmaids’ dresses, invitations, flowers, food, reception, favours, wedding cake … she was hyperventilating just thinking about it.
‘Look I know it’s short notice but you will be my maid of honour, won’t you?’
‘Yes, yes, yes!’ She could just see Sam, jumping up and down with excitement. ‘Oh, I was hoping you’d ask me.’
‘Of course I’d ask you, you’re my best friend. Who else would I want?’ Cassie told her. ‘Can you meet me for lunch and I’ll fill you in on all the details? Twelve thirty at Benjo’s? We’ve got an appointment with the photographer this morning so I can tell you all about that, too.’
‘What, already? I’m guessing that’s Sylvia’s doing, too?’
‘Yes, the people who cancelled the wedding had booked I.D. Images so of course they have a cancellation too, and Sylvia knows Daniel, the “D” in I.D., so he’s agreed to hold the slot for us. If we want it.’
Sam whistled. ‘As if you’d turn that down!’ She paused. ‘I thought you were going to the Discover France show today.’
‘I was, but Sylvia booked the appointment and Timothy can’t make it. He’s got to work.’
‘Whereas you just mess around… ’
Cassie sighed. Sylvia never took Cassie’s job as a features writer for the local newspaper seriously. Timothy was a partner in a law firm, whereas Cassie filled in time until she became Timothy’s wife as far as Sylvia was concerned. Sylvia had given up her secretarial job when she married Timothy’s father and devoted her whole life to looking after him, then Amanda and Timothy when they came along. She made it obvious that she expected Cassie to do the same when she married Timothy, even though Cassie had clearly stated that she had no intention of giving up work. ‘Luckily, Owen’s cool about it. He said I can swap my day off.’


Buy Links:

Book Depository - http://www.bookdepository.com/book/9781910939352


Author Bio

A member of the Romantic Novelists' Association, the Society of Authors and the Society of Women Writers and Journalists, Karen King writes sassy, contemporary romance just right for reading on the beach. 'I DO - or Do I?' is her first chick lit for Accent Press. She has been contracted for two more.
Karen has had two other romance novels, several short stories for women’s magazine and 120 children's books published.
When she isn’t writing, Karen likes travelling, watching the ‘soaps’ and reading. Give her a good book and a box of chocolates and she thinks she’s in Heaven.


Author links

Twitter: @karen_king
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/karenkingauthor/?hl=en

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Stella Eromonsere-Ajanaku's Wild Whispers



Romance/Contemporary/Interracial
By Stella Eromonsere-Ajanaku
No of Pages: 106
ISBN: 978-1530511259
eBook Price: 99c
Graphic designer: Maria Lazarou (Obsessed by Books) https://www.facebook.com/obsessedbybooksdesigns/?pnref=lhc

Author Interview:

Discuss your newest book?

My new release, Wild Whispers is a story about a beautiful widow, Adaora, who lost everyone and everything she loved and cared about in Abuja and retreated to Dagor Village.
In this story, you will meet Adaora Dike, an African woman with a backbone of steel and a heart of gold and Gary Mason, a Londoner who happened to stray to her doorstep in the woods, sees the emotion Adaora wants to keep away and wants to share something deep and special with her.
This is the first book I have written with a heroine who is a widow. The great thing is, Adaora is not broken by tragedy.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

In all honesty, my deep desire to write romance novels originated from reading a ton of Mills and Boon romance stories in my teen years. My friends and I bought, read and swapped countless books. It was very exciting. At that time, I did not think I would actually write but the joy of travelling with characters all around the world was unforgettable. Back in secondary school, I wrote plays. Although nothing came out of them, it was my first attempt at writing.

What are your current projects?

Two projects need my attention for sure. There is a story about a divorced woman that came straight at me one morning as I woke up. I have the blurb typed out. When the time is right, I will write her story.
Secondly, I owe my readers Book 2 of Royal Cowries, my historical/suspense/mystery romance novel. A few readers have sent me emails asking for a follow up story. And I have committed to writing the story this year.

What books have most influenced your life most?

Mills and Boon romance stories in my teens because there was a promise of a happy-ever-after no matter the conflict and hoops the characters had to jump over.
They influenced me to write the kind of stories I wanted to read – romance stories with African twist. Now I write Interracial/Multicultural romance.

What inspired you to write your first book?

Loitering Shadows published in May 2010 was partly my story. When my colleague stuck a notebook and pen in my hand and asked me to write, I asked myself, what am I going to write? So I decided to start with the story I knew – mine. But as I carried on writing, my imagination kicked in and it turned into a half-fiction/half true story. It turned out to be a very therapeutic adventure.
In writing Loitering Shadows, I discovered that a writer did not need a therapist to get rid of past pain or things too naughty to tell anyone else. You just weave the details into your storyline and no one knows the truth except you. Lol! Every novel after Loitering Shadows reflects a bit of me or my husband in the lead characters.

Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?

In Wild Whispers, although Adaora was cast out and rejected by those who should have supported her and taken her in when tragedy struck, she did not allow her unfortunate situation to weigh her down or stop her from doing good deeds. She is one special woman.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Yes, I want to showcase the plight of many strangers and emotionally vulnerable people in our communities. We need to be more accepting and treat them the way we want to be treated. There are lonely people around us who we probably look at with contempt or with no interest at all.
In Wild Whispers, only a young girl called, Ebele in the entire village paid the emotionally-torn Adaora any attention. The young girl’s infrequent visits brought Adaora the comfort she needed to stay strong.

Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your most recent book?

My most recent book before Wild Whispers was Red Velvet Rose ~ A Valentine Romance. It would be amazing to have Laz Alonso from Breakout Kings play the sexy-as-sin Moroccan Millionaire Zane Abdul and for Ashley Benson from Pretty Little Liars to play my beautiful blonde heiress, Gabriella Gilcrest.

Why do you write?

I write to satisfy my innate passion. My fingers just writes no matter what it is. Whether I’m watching TV or reading a book, I always have a pen and paper by my side. For as long as I can remember, I have always scribbled on notepads.
Writing is a habit I engaged in when I was in school as well because it helped me understand my subjects better. When I worked as a food safety professional, I got nominated to be project teams’ secretary all the time even when I did not fancy sitting down to take notes.
One day, I told a colleague at work that I would like to get published. I just blurted my thoughts aloud. She said, ‘What’s stopping you?” and thrust a reporter’s notebook in my hand and told me to write as I commuted. And I did.

What made you decide to sit down and actually start something?

As a teen, I read countless Mills and Boon romance novels. One day, I thought to myself, how lovely it would be to have romance novels featuring a blend of African characters, clothes, food and culture along with western characters and culture. That way, readers like me have the best of both worlds.
So my very first book was an interracial romance story titled: Loitering Shadows.
My motivation for writing IR is because I know that love breaks down every barrier across race and culture.

Do you write full-time or part-time?

Until two years ago, I wrote part time but I now write full time. People might not know how demanding and exhausting writing is, but with a passion for writing and romance as deep as mine, there is nothing more fulfilling and rewarding.

What is the hardest thing about writing your latest book?

There was so much tender romance growing between Adaora and Gary and I want readers to experience the same emotions as they read Wild Whispers. So trying to cram a lot into a short story was hard.

What is the easiest thing about writing?

Having a laptop and a quiet space makes writing an easy task for me. The plot of the story is usually easy for me to write. For most of my books, through God’s grace, it just flows.

What book are you reading now?
I just finished reading Black Unleashed by Penelope Marshall. It was a great read. And I have a review request to read The Wedding Day by Sharon Kleve. That is the next book on my TBR list.

What is one random thing about you?

I drink bottles of water throughout the night, lying down and first thing in the morning.

What is your preferred medium of writing? Pen and paper or strictly tablet and computer?

In 2010, I used pen and paper. In the past few years, I have used my smartphone, tablet or laptop. Life is so much easier this way.

What does your writing process look like?

Once I get a nod to write which is usually in the form of a storyline or blurb waking me up from my beauty sleep, I just get on typing. Sometimes, I scribble down key events I want to feature in a few chapters to achieve a good flow.
After writing, I keep the draft aside. After a couple of days or weeks, I rewrite the story, edit and re-edit. Then I send it to my editor who uses a fine-toothed comb to go through the book. We do a bit of back and forth trips to revise and accept revisions. When I’m happy, I send the PDF copy to Createspace to produce a proof copy prior to publishing.

Do you have any strange writing habits (like standing on your head or writing in the shower)?

Lol! I have had inspiration on fleshing out storylines or adding dialogue here and there when I’m in the shower or commuting in the bus. When I’m traveling, I record every detail on my smartphone. And if I’m in the shower, I wait till I’m out to type it out.

How important are names to you in your books?

Very important. The names for the lead characters must ring true in my ears and match the characters' personalities.
For example, in the first draft for Wild Whispers, the hero’s name was Ryan Bennett. At that point, I did not give the choice of his name a thought, I just needed to get the story down. After a few revisions, I asked my teenagers to come up with a more ‘manly’ name to fit my hero’s personality. And bang, my son came up with Gary and my daughter came up with his last name, Mason. Honestly, Gary Mason was the perfect name for a man with a great heart who would not allow prejudice affect his decisions.

Did you make any marketing mistakes or is there anything you would do in future?

Oh yes I have made marketing mistakes. It is a learning curve. When I first started writing, I did not promote or engage with readers in any way because I worked full time and I thought writing was the most important thing. How wrong I was.
Through social media, I have learned that readers love to interact directly with authors and not through an agent or PA. I make out time to thank potential and new readers, chat about my book characters, storyline and get to know their own story in many cases. And I would continue to involve readers in picking character names, cities and give them credit by including them in the ‘Sincere Gratitude’ page of my books.

What is your favourite book and why?

I thoroughly enjoyed Chicki Brown’s book – Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough (Stafford Brothers Book 3) and more recently, Black Unleashed by Penelope Marshall.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Yes. Write from your heart. Get a good editor (could be an author you love their writing) to get rid of the little foxes that spoil the vine. Interact with readers and promote your books on social media. There are millions of authors in the market, if you only write, no one is going to know your book exists.

What do you like to do when you are not writing?

Play board games with my husband and children, enjoy cuddles and have a sweet time with my husband, watch TV, go swimming (in the summer), go to the cinema and read romance novels.

From where do you gain your inspiration?

Mainly from God because storylines and character dialogue wake me up from my sleep. I also write about prevalent issues affecting relationships such as infidelity, age difference, parental influence, rape etc. I look around and I get inspired.
Forbidden Dance was written after I looked out of my bedroom window one day and I saw a woman in bathrobe drive off in a puff of gravel with a man trying to run after her. In my head, a story was borne.

What would you say are the main advantages of self-publishing against being published or the other way around?

I love self-publishing because of the freedom to write, design covers and publish based on a timeline that works around my family life.

How do you market your books?

Mainly on Facebook pages, on my blog (Flirty & Feisty Romance Blog) blog tour, Twitter, Pinterest and more recently, Instagram.

Why did you choose this route?

Promoting my books on social media suits my family life, my health condition and it is free. It works for me.

Would you or do you use a PR agency?

I use Ocean 2 Ocean Books Promotion for Facebook release parties because they are lovely, effective and affordable. Johnna N. Seibert PA is great at posting new releases on several Facebook pages for free. She is amazing.

Do you have any advice for other authors on how to market their books?

Spend time on Facebook engaging with readers (potential or exiting) and for some of your books, get your book covers professionally designed.
Readers love attractive book covers. Most of my book covers and promo materials were designed by the very creative and wonderful, Maria Lazarou of Obsessed by Books. She is affordable, delivers on time and creates extra special promo materials as a bonus. I love Maria to bits.

What part of your writing time do you devote to marketing your book?
A large chunk, several days a week. I split my time between writing and promoting each book by keeping readers updated and doing giveaways.

What do you do to get book reviews?

In chatting with people on Facebook, once they leave comments that they have read or bought my book, I encourage them to leave a review. Otherwise, readers often don’t. Some readers tell me they would read anything I write because they love my stories, yet, they might not leave reviews.
Sometimes, readers worry about what to write because they are not writers. They worry that their reviews would be judged as well.

How successful has your quest for reviews been so far?

The most reviews I have on one book is seven, six or lower. Yet, my books sell at a rate I’m super delighted with considering I’m a relatively unknown indie author. It means I have loyal fans and new readers pick up my books as well.
When I struggled to write my Valentine Romance story in January, I posted the fact I was suffering from writer’s block on Facebook. The spontaneous responses I got from readers was overwhelming. They posted possible names of character, cities my heroine could come from, how my characters would meet and told me they would read anything I wrote. I was so shocked and delighted. One reader posted a photo of my heroine that ignited my writing the story. And I eventually released Red Velvet Rose in less than a month!
Now, I don’t agonize about not getting hundreds of reviews.

Do you have a strategy for finding reviewers?

When I first started writing, I emailed book bloggers for review request, in almost all cases, they didn’t reply. There was one blogger who replied, read one of my early books (when I did not have an editor) and gave me the best advice ever. She told me to get an editor. But I had no money. God brought one brilliant US author my way who offered to edit my books for free. I have learnt so much from her.
That was the turning point. Thank God, the way for Flirty & Feisty Romance Novels now is UP. I don’t ask reviewers for reviews anymore because they seem to be inundated with review requests.
When I do Author Takeovers Events on Facebook, I give away my books and I do ask winners to leave a review.
Now, authors ask me to review their books and I feel honoured. I always make sure I reply every review request.

What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?

Good reviews are a delight of course because it gives me a great idea on what the reader liked and it is an affirmation my work is admired.
Bad reviews are great because it helps me grow. A reader who takes time out to share what they did not enjoy about my book is just as appreciated as a reviewer who wrote a glowing review. The only one I find unacceptable are reviews that either include spoilers or are abusive.

What’s your views on social media for marketing?

My swift reply is, what would we do without social media? It provides a wide reach across the world for our books. Flirty & Feisty Romance Novels are sold in the US, Canada, across Europe, India and in Australia. This would not have been possible otherwise. I have never even been to most of these countries.

Which social network worked best for you?

Facebook and Twitter for sure.

Any tips on what to do and what not to do?

Do: Actively engage and interact with readers on any platform that works for you.
Know your audience and write to keep your readers asking for more.
Find someone to help edit your story to get rid of the basic errors.
Keep writing. The more you write, the better you get.
Don’t: Don’t give up even when you receive bad reviews, you can only get better if you keep at it and listen to constructive criticism.

Did you do a press release, Goodreads book launch or anything else to promote your work and did it work?

It varies. I did a Facebook release party for Forbidden Dance organized by Ocean 2 Ocean Book Promotions, and it was a success. I did not do anything for Tempting Desire release and it was a huge success, thank God. I have never done a Goodreads book launch.
For Wild Whispers, I’m doing a blog tour.

Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?

Actor Jim Caviezel tops my list. He blew me away with his extraordinary acting ability, swagger and personality in the movie series, Person of Interest. I would love to meet him.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Keep on writing. Don’t let anyone tell you, you are not good enough. Find an author whose work you enjoy to read your work if you can’t afford an editor. Self-publish and promote your work on social media. There’s room in the world for you.

How can readers discover more about you and your work?


All Flirty & Feisty Romance Novels are available on Amazon and Smashwords. I have excerpts, snippets and teasers on my blog: Flirty & Feisty Romance Blog, Website: Flirty & Feisty Romance Novels and my books are on Goodreads. 


Thank you, Stella. It was really interesting reading about your writing process and all about you as a writer!




“Where do you keep your cleaning cloth?” Gary asked with a grin. “We need to wipe the floor dry first, so we don’t slip.”

Adaora handed him a dry towel from one of the cupboards.

He bent low, wiped the tiles dry and placed the bowl to catch the leaks from the ceiling.

“Thank you for listening to me and for comforting me without words.”

Gary formed the cloth into a ball. “I’m the one who owes you gratitude. You took a risk letting me in here. You can cry on me anytime, Adaora. You’re an angel.”



Amazon.com (eBook) 99c:

Amazon.co.uk (eBook)


Amazon.com (Paperback): 

Createspace (Paperback): https://www.createspace.com/6134859


GIVEAWAY

Wild Whispers Blog Tour begins on Mon, April 25th - Thurs May 26th 2016 
(The Blog Tour schedule is below - scroll down).

Star Prize: One Wild Whispers Bracelet 

Other Prizes: Flirty & Feisty Romance eBooks of your choice (excluding Wild Whispers)



HOW TO WIN

To win the star prize: 
Follow Wild Whispers on its exciting Blog Tour and leave comments on every blog. One lucky winner will be drawn from a hat.

To win your choice of Flirty & Feisty Romance eBook (excl Wild Whispers): Leave a comment on any blog and one commenter on every blog wins an eBook.