Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year Wishes

I've never been fond of making new year's resolutions or goals. I think I've tried it several times years back, but what bothers me about them, is a few week's later they're all forgotten in the busyness of life once we're back into our routine. So, what's the point? Goals have to be inwardly driven, not some list scribbled on paper. For those who love putting their inward goals on paper or file, I admire you.

So instead of making new year's resolutions, I'm going to put down some wishes for the new year. I've been reading some fantasy novels and am into magic and supernatural, so I don't feel like anything serious like a goal, but rather a wish or a prayer. They are not all writing wishes.
  1. That I would be a better homeschooling mom, more devoted to my kids, and more patient and efficient as a teacher.
  2. To have the strength to cope joyfully with those household tasks that have pulled me down at times.
  3. That I would find a group of friends to share my spiritual aspirations and longings with.
  4. That I would get more publishing contracts and make good sales from my books.
  5. That I would become a better blogger and writer.
  6. That my sister would get her writing and publishing dreams.
Short and sweet.

Now to think over the past year. 2012 has been a wonderful year to me as far as writing goes. I've received two publishing contracts and that has inspired me to continue on my dream of writing, which I love doing so much. I know that I have a lot to learn still, but there's nothing like getting your name out there. It's not the same as self-publishing unless you have the finances to hire a professional editor, cover-designer, and marketer. I can't help remembering Joel Osteen's word at the beginning of the year, that this would be the year of breakthrough. It has been in several ways - with my writing and my husband obtaining a long-needed promotion at work. It hasn't been an easy year. There have been many challenges that I've had to face inwardly and in other ways.

Here's to a wonderful 2013, where your writing wishes and goals come to fulfilment. For those determined and focused people who set definite goals and keep them, may you have the joy of reaching what you have aimed for. For those who like to breathe a wish or a prayer, may you have everything you need.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Why I Love Reading Romance so Much

Photo courtesy of Dan from

I just keep going back to them. No matter how much I try to read something else, even Ted Dekker's amazing fantasy novels, there's nothing I enjoy as much as reading romance.

There's got to be a good reason for it and I'm trying to think of it. So, this is just a silly post with my musings behind the reasons why I love reading romance (and therefore love writing it.)

Let's go back to earlier in my life and get a little personal. As a teenager, I didn't have much luck with boys - maybe because I was ultra-shy, wore braces, and didn't know how to style my hair right. Not that I wasn't interested. And I used to blush when my parents watched a romance movie, wishing to disappear into the ground. Then my now hubby asked me on a date. He was younger than me and in the beginning, I didn't think we were suited. But we had a great romance. We also had some challenges along the way as I pushed him away too many times, but thankfully he didn't give up. I was the typical heroine in a romance novel with all those barriers in her mind to her happily ever after. Even up to my wedding day, I wasn't sure I was doing the right thing - no reflection on him. The romance didn't end on that day, and his love has warmed up my heart so much that he's made me into a hopeless romantic. Before I met him, I never used to cry in movies. Now I cry for the silliest things - it's so bad that the whole family watches me in the emotional parts to see if I'm crying.

So because I've had my own romance with its many ups and downs, I'm fascinated with the story of others and how they get to their happily ever afters. I love happy endings. I think we're all wired deep inside to want a happy ending. I think the only reason someone doesn't want a happy ending, is that so many books do have that. They just want to be surprised. I find all the surprises in the middle. Sometimes I want to know the ending else I won't enjoy it. (I like to watch Bachelor/Bacherlorette only if I know who they choose at the beginning of the show, and I'm not interested if they break up in the end.) At least with a romance, I know it's going to end right.

This whole world is going to ultimately end happily. That's what I believe from my faith. I believe God is reaching out to everyone, and He has a wonderful future planned. He is the great author of romance and is forever wooing the people on the planet to Him. Maybe my love of romance comes from His heart.

Romance is wired inside the female heart so she can be the catalyst to a strong family and marriage. We all have it embedded in us but some haven't tapped into that part of themselves or have put it aside because of hurt. Which woman doesn't want a man to sweep her off her feet and make her feel like a goddess? We all do. And maybe we can learn a little from the books we read and write. Learn how to let our hearts open to our loves and to love in life.

Why do you like to read romance? I'm keen to know.


Monday, November 19, 2012

The Next Big Thing

Thank you to Rae Summers who tagged me on her blog, "The Next Big Thing," so I can have something fun to blog about for my up and coming new release.

So here are some snippets of information about my novella which should be coming out early next year with Astraea Press. It's a short and sweet Valentine's day romance set in exotic locations.

What is the title of your book?

Reminding Me of You

How did you come by the idea?

I wanted to write something with a Valentine’s Day theme so I began my book with a love-at-first-sight scenario occuring in a gift shop on Valentine's Day. But the book didn't have much direction from there. While I wrote, I watched “Who wants to be a Millionaire” on TV, and they mentioned a song. Curious, I looked up the song on the internet and found the emotional theme for my book – how things can remind you of the one you love.

What genre does your book fall under?

Sweet, contemporary romance.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters if it were a movie?

Alexis Bledel from Gilmore Girls would make a great Mia if her hair was made chestnut and curly and her eyes green. She has the right features and a young look.

I think Tom Welling from Smallville would make a good Bryn with a bit of tweaking.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Mia finds love at first sight the day before she leaves for a long vacation in Europe, and while so many men remind her of the man she fell for, a
Welshman named Bryn reminds her the most, until he becomes a bigger part of her life than she planned.

Will your book be self-published or traditional?

Traditional – with Astraea Press

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

It’s one of those books that I wrote to a deadline so it took me close to two weeks to write and edit. I was very focused and determined to get it done. It is a novella – short Valentine bite.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

It was inspired by the song, “All Kinds of Everything,” by Dana. If you watch it on YouTube (link below), it seems quite old-fashioned but the words are lovely. I couldn't use the exact same song in my book because of copyright issues, but it helped to inspire the romance.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

The book is a fun, fast-moving story with several settings. If you’re fascinated by Paris, as I am, you will enjoy some of the setting of the story.

I'm going to tag one other author to continue on The Next Big Thing Blog. Skye Wieland, thank you.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Nanowrimo 2012

Of course, I can't go through November without blogging on Nano (National Novel Writing Month.) Last year, I gave up Nano part way through and was very disappointed in myself, but I was just too tired, busy and unfocused. It became a burden instead of a joy. I don't regret my decision at all and am glad I didn't hang onto something just because it worked the previous year. (Valentine Fate is my first Nano novel and is available on Amazon.)

This year, Nano has been a joy so far. I'm loving the discipline and motivation it's creating for me. At first, I wasn't going to do it, but when the other Rosa ladies showed such enthusiasm and Romy offered a boot camp to help us along, I was hooked.

My Nano journey so far hasn't been plain-sailing. I decided to try a different route this year and plan my whole novel in advance. There are so many benefits to pre-plotting and planning - it eliminates that difficult spot in the middle and brings order and direction, but just as I was doing some research the day before, I discovered that my plot wouldn't work with the facts. It was back to the drawing, no sorry, writing board. So, I decided to go with my gut and just write. I wrote a brief synopsis to give me a general feel for the direction of the book, but just wrote.

I love the trope I chose to go with - fake engagement. There are several fascinating movies with that trope and they're always fun. The couple are just lumped together to serve a selfish, other purpose, but in that they fall in love. The problem with this trope, is that my hero was too good to be dishonest with his family too long, so the truth came out right in the first third of the book. Now, I had to come up with more plot. The conflicts were still there - the barriers in the heroine's mind to love, but I needed more plot. Eventually the plot developed mainly based on their employee-boss relationship. Now, I'm going back to a similar idea to the fake engagement but roles reversed. This should be such fun.

In the middle of writing, I became quite ill with a venomous spider bite. Some days, it took every ounce of energy to get words on the page. But I'm so thankful to Nano because I would have just abandoned my book, if it wasn't for the motivation it provides. And I even put in a bit of my own experience which helped move the story forward.

I hope that I haven't shared too much about my Nano novel which I hope to get published once it's been edited.

I think the thing I love about Nano so much is writing fast silences that the inner critic and helps me not lose the feel for my characters and story. I know that writing fast produces results for me as it has worked in the past. My novella coming out in January or February was written in two weeks.

What do you like about Nano? Has it worked for you this year?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Fun Way to Learn

If any writer thinks that they've arrived and that they don't have room to grow, they've just dug a hole in the sand like an ostrich and buried their head inside.
There is still so much to learn and one of the best ways to learn is usually great fun - reading.

I love reading, especially romance. I belong to a book club and most of the people there like their thrillers or fantasy novels. When it's our turn, we get to buy the books, and I always buy romance. Much to their consternation, I think, but they don't complain. I sometimes borrow their thrillers or fantasy novels, and the brilliant ones keep me gripped, but very few do. I keep going back to romance.

What is it about romance that appeals to me so much? I think it's mostly the happy ending and the love and laughter inside. Everyone dreams of having love and that saying is true - it is love that makes the world go round. Babies that aren't given any love can sometimes die. We all need love and give and receive it every day. It's also the light entertainment of reading romance - there are no blood and guts and people fighting for their lives. There's no evil villain (well maybe in romantic suspense) trying to kill off as many people as they can. I just feel that there are so many problems and bad things in this world - enough to fill our minds, but lets instead focus on the happy and good things.

But there is a limitation to just reading romance. It's good to read all types of books so that we can learn from different writing styles. Even the children's books I read to my kids as I teach them at home, teach me so much about writing. Some of them are brilliant. The one book I read to them is called "The Bedouin's Gazelle" and is about a Muslim couple (okay there is some rudimentary romance sprinkled in) set in the middle ages who have to fight to be together. What awed me were her descriptions and use of words and the way she used her craft to make us feel as though we were right there in the desert with the nomads, feeling what they felt every moment. Another book I read with them was peppered with such humorous dialogue, that I was almost crying with laughter.

A thriller I read from the bookshop had a subtle symbolic message threaded throughout the book that gave me much pause for thought. It was so well thought out. I love symbolism and try to put that in my books a little. My latest WIP, Dragonfly Moments, has some symbolism in it. C. S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia are full of symbolism - his writing is one of the things that inspired me to become a writer. So reading that thriller inspired me to symbolism.

What else do we learn from reading? We learn what not to do. I've found the strangest typos and grammatical errors, although that is rare. That just reminds me how important editing it, although unless it's throughout the book, it doesn't bother me much. I've read books where authors head hop or tell and not show. And I've read books where the conflict of the story or the characters don't work. I think that is the most important. If I don't root for the characters throughout, it's a waste of time.

Overall, it is best to read the type of books that you are going to write. My new favourite author is Sandra Bricker. She writes funny, light, sweet, contemporary. I wouldn't say all my books are light and funny, but I would like most of them to be. Making people laugh is a dream I have because I love it when a book makes me laugh.

What type of books do you like to read and what have you learnt from them?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Characters that Lead You

Image courtesy of
Some blogs I've read have said that even though you're a pantster, you should plan your plot - even download plotting software to make a note of not only plot, but the emotional, physical and spiritual process of your characters as well as every scene of the book. Sounds marvelous and very commendable.

My rebellious streak didn't like the idea. To me, it's like asking an abstract artist to paint realistic paintings. Or a classical musician to play heavy metal with feeling.

Ravings aside, I admit that I do plan, especially when I'm starting a new book - I need that overview of the general conflict, romance and character arc. But it's all in my head, not on paper or computer. The character arc is the learning curve that your hero and/or heroine travel along where a part of their character that prevents them from experiencing true love to the full, is overcome and changed for the better.

My best planning and plotting moments are when I'm washing the dishes. Not very romantic or exciting - maybe it's because I spend quite a bit of time doing it, and it's such a mind-numbing activity, that I have to think of something while I'm doing it. So I usually plan the where to from here. But, usually the characters lead me on what to write next. I try to think what my character would do in the situation and whether the next move will flow with the arc that they are taking in the book. Staying true to my characters has helped me get through those terrible blocks found in the middle of a book. I suppose the only thing I need to know is the ending. And so do the readers - they need to sense it all through the book.

But even your characters can surprise you sometimes - sometimes they make a rash decision or buckle under the pressure. That's what makes them more human.

I would have to say that staying a partial panster, although strongly advised against, has proven to be the only way I can reach that ending, one tentative step at a time.

Are you a pantster, plotter or a balance between the two? How do you let your characters lead you even if you're a plotter? I must admit, in a way I envy those people who have their whole book plotted out and organised before they sit down to write - it must take away much anxiety. Maybe I'm just an adrenalin junky.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

My Relationship with Romance

I read somewhere recently that writing romance is like a romantic relationship. I've been pondering this idea quite a bit since. At first, I didn't fully make the connection, but then today I realised how true it is.
I began my love affair with writing romance about five years ago when I wrote my first adult novel. Because I'm a panster (someone who doesn't plot every detail of the book beforehand but just writes as the ideas flow), it turned out to be a romance even though the original book idea had no romance in it. Realising that it was a good idea to write what I enjoy reading, I began a relationship with writing romance. In the beginning, there were stars in my eyes - the words rolled off my fingers onto the keyboard and into my computer. Excitement used to surge through me whenever I came up with a new book idea. I wrote the books in under six months, loving every moment, until I received the rejection letters. That reminds me of the first few months of dating. The relationship is new, exciting and scary too, especially when your date finds out things about you they don't like and vica versa. But the love is too strong, so you keep going.
After several books which weren't totally romances and had so many problems, I began to realise that I wanted to pursue writing romance as a career. Hence the commitment to form a steady relationship. I loved it enough to handle the rejection letters and keep going. Some relationships are a little like that - the girl wants to marry her man but she's waiting on him to propose - to give her her dream. So I worked on my skills, learning how to write better. Every relationship needs work. When I was dating my now-husband, I used to read lots of books on marriage and relationships so I knew how to make it work well.
Then comes that special moment you've been waiting for for months and years. A publishing contract. It's like the marriage proposal. I don't know about you, but after I said 'yes' (after two other 'no's' much to my husband's distress), it was not all plain sailing from there. Doubts began to surface, especially as I moved closer to the day. What if he changes and isn't so wonderful after we're married? What if I make a miserable wife, and he divorces me? What  if our love fades after several years?
What if my book doesn't reach the readers' hearts? What if I can't write another good book? What if it's downhill from here? Will I always come up with new ideas?
So when you get that beloved contract, you still wonder. Do I want to write romance the rest of my life? Really and truly. Those initial tingles and goosebumps have faded a little. The words come slower now - often punctuated by much thought and adjustment. A new book idea evolves more from pondering and stewing - it doesn't always fall in my lap like a meteor from the sky.
But, I'm committed. I still love writing romance. I'm still excited about getting better and better. They say a good marriage gets better with age like a good wine. You know each other's weaknesses and faults and love each other nonetheless. In fact, you love each other so much more deeply because of it. You've been through the mill together, you've born with hurts and forgiven, you've held each other's hands through the darkest nights, and you've laughed yourselves silly and talked until two in the morning sometimes.
So for now, I'm going to see where my love affair with writing romance takes me. I'm excited about all I'm going to discover about this partner of mine. We have a lifetime ahead of us, full of challenges and fun. I'm going to give this relationship my time, my effort and my energy, just like a marriage needs. Even when it's not easy.
Would you ever compare writing romance to a relationship? Where in your writing journey do you feel you've reached?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

We All Need Good Heroes

What is a hero?
Images of heroes across the TV or movie screen flash through our minds - fireman entering burning buildings to rescue a child, paramedics bringing someone back to life once their heart stopped, a man diving into icy water to save a drowning woman, and the list goes on ...
What does a romance writer's hero look like?  I don't mean on the outside.  He could be the ultimate alpha male who becomes sweet and kind with the woman he loves or the ordinary everyday man who sweeps the woman off her feet.  Whatever he is, he has to be good.  I don't mean good as in perfect but good as in - he has to make the reader fall in love.  Face it, most readers of romance are women, and they want the hero to be attractive to them.
I've recently read two books written by ladies in the Romance Writers of South Africa Group that had compelling heroes.  The first one was A Valentine Challenge by Kiru Tayo and her hero was marvelous.  He was very male in every way, yet the tenderness and kindness he showed towards the woman he loved, made him, oh so good.  Then there was the hero in The Devil of Jedburgh by Claire Robins.  (Spoiler Alert!!) Wow!  In the beginning, I really didn't like him.  By the end, I was crazy about him.  Both books had me pondering on them for days afterwards.  There's something so compelling about a lovable hero who is fully man.
What makes a hero good?  Here's a list of my ideas, but I'm sure everyone has a different idea.  That's what makes each of our books unique.
  1. Flawed.  There's nothing more off-putting than someone who isn't real or human.  Give him some foibles or eccentricities but even more important, give him something that stands in the way between loving his woman completely - something that will no doubt be resolved at the end of the book.
  2. Masculine.  That's obvious, but I know that someone made a comment when critiquing one of my books that I should watch out for my dialogue as sometimes my man said things that were characteristically female.  I think it was something like, "Oh, that's horrid!"  Very female.  He should show the traits of the male species which sometimes annoy us ladies - short sentences, speaking in headlines, getting to the point straight away, sometimes a bit harsh.  But of course, they're not all like that.  Maybe it's a good idea to read up on male psychology to understand what goes on in their heads.  Another idea is to be married for a while.  Or have sons.
  3. Protective of his woman.  If a hero isn't the safekeeper of his woman, he isn't a hero in my books.  He has to defend her against danger (probably more in a romantic suspense novel), against social hurt and against her own self when she's hard on herself.
  4. Passionate.  Who wants to read a romance without passion - either a sweet romance with restrained and respectful passion or a more spicy one with tender, giving love.
  5. Essentially kind and loving inside.  There's nothing more off-putting to me than a hero who has an evil streak.  Maybe in the beginning, you can give the reader the impression that he is mean and hard, but then, through his love for his woman, the real inner soft centre emerges.
  6. Likeable. Of course, this one is very subjective.
I know that I certainly need to work on making sparkling heroes in my books.  Sometimes I've spent too much time making my heroine real and human, that I have neglected the male.  What do you like the most in a hero?