Thursday, July 12, 2018

New release: Last of the Summer Vines

I continuously remind ROSA members that they can use this blog to promote their new releases, but my own release day came and went and I didn't even think to post about it here! So, to set a good example for all our members, today I'm talking about my book Last of the Summer Vines, which released two weeks ago.

This wasn't a book I planned to write. I'd written a book set behind the scenes on a television series (which won't surprise readers of my previous books) and had just started work on its sequel. But I was struggling to find a home for the completed book, and with each passing month my motivation for writing died a little more. It's hard to write a sequel, no matter how passionate you are about it, when every agent or publisher you query rejects the first book in the series.

Thank heavens for my lovely editor at HarperImpulse, Charlotte Ledger. Though my new books were very different from the kinds of books HarperImpulse were currently publishing, she agreed to read it and give me feedback - and then she gave me the best gift ever: she suggested I write something completely different.

Charlotte suggested I write the kind of book that's currently selling really well in the UK, books I'd taken to calling 'cosy teashop' books. These are gentle books, in which the heroine leaves the big city to rediscover herself in a simpler, country setting - and they usually involve lots of tempting food. Charlotte also suggested Tuscany as a setting. And so I started researching both the genre and the setting. And through researching and then writing this book, I rediscovered my passion for writing again.

Last of the Summer Vines is now on sale, and the reviews that are coming in are very encouraging. But they are just the cherry on the top, because even if no one else likes this book, it's achieved a miracle in my life. It inspired me again, and showed me new possibilities for my career - all the things that the book's heroine, Sarah Wells, discovers when she spends a summer in Tuscany.

I don't expect readers to experience any life-altering revelations while reading Last of the Summer Vines. But if you read this book and get swept away for a few hours, then my joy will be complete.


Love grows where you least expect to find it…

When ambitious workaholic Sarah Wells discovers she has inherited her estranged father’s vineyard near Montalcino in Tuscany, the last thing she wants is to take time away from her busy schedule to sort out a crumbling mess of a palazzo. But, of course, life never runs smoothly and when she makes a rare error, her bosses decide a holiday is just what she needs.

When Sarah arrives in Italy, she learns that she is not her father’s sole heir. In fact, she only has a partial stake in Castel Sant’ Angelo because of a loophole in Italian law. Her father has left the vineyard instead to his business partner, the gorgeous and infuriating Tommaso Di Biasi – and Tomasso doesn’t want to sell.

At first, Sarah wants the deal done as quickly as possible so she can get back to her life in London, but it seems Italy has other plans for her. Under the warmth of the Tuscan sun, with a glass or two of the local vino rosso, and brooding Tommaso challenging her all the way, Sarah starts to realise that that there might just be something to la dolce vita…

Last of the Summer Vines is available from AmazonKoboiBooksGoogle Play and Barnes & Noble.


Thursday, July 5, 2018

Die moderne romanses: ’n gesonde cupcake

Today's post is by Cliffordene Norton, editor at Lapa Uitgewers.  Thank you, Cliffordene!

* * *

Sprokies vir volwassenes, dis hoe romanses dikwels beskryf word.

Maar ’n leser van romantiese fiksie weet dat dié genre en vroulike issues dikwels saam stap. Die dae van ’n vrou wat met haar nommer drie-skoentjies, onmenslike skoonheid en kraakvars onskuld wag vir ’n man om haar van oujongnooistatus te kom red is gelukkig verby.

Maar in ’n tendense wat al hoe meer in Afrikaanse romanse voorkom is dat voorheen taboe temas soos depressie, onvrugbaarheid en kanker meer in liefdesverhale na vore kom. En as ’n ywerige leser en uitgewer van romanses, kan ek net sê: Hier kom ’n goeie ding!

Die donker kant van die lewe begin sy skadu saggies oor romanses gooi, maar in plaas daarvan om die sprokieselement van die verhaal weg te neem, skep dit ’n verhaal met diepte, wat meer eg en meer emosiegedrewe is. Lig en hoopvol maar met ’n goeie skoot realisme in.

Een boek wat kenmerkend is van hierdie soort verhale is ongetwyfeld Sophia Kapp se Oorlewingsgids vir ’n bedonnerde diva. Wie ken nie die diva nie? Die hoofkarakter word soos volg bekend gestel: “Dit is Simoné se annus horribilis. Op vier en veertig stap sy vir die tweede keer uit ʼn huwelik, bankrot, werkloos, moedeloos, verbrysel.” Hierdie vrou en die lewe het duidelik mekaar al ’n paar rondtes aangevat.

Die diva is ’n karakter wat min in vroue- of romantiese fiksie voorkom: eg menslik, modern met bagasie. Hierdie egtheid en die struikelblokke waardeur vroue vind al hoe meer hul plek in boeke.

In Romanza het dit begin met Didi Potgieter se ’n Tweedehandse hart (Julie 2016) waar die held en heldin hul verhouding beëindig na die miskraam van hul kind. Helene en Cronjé is alledaagse mense, vriende wat jy ken, en daarin lê die mag van die verhaal.

Die Romanza-skrywer, Marilé Cloete, het verlede jaar begin om ernstiger temas in haar verhaal aan te spreek. In haar novelle, Man met ’n hart (RomanzaLiefde, Augustus 2017) is die heldin, Jackie, in ’n rolstoel. In Marilé se Oktober 2017-Romanza, Moed vir die liefde, het sy oor nog ’n ernstige tema geskryf. Die pragtige held, Dawid, het depressie. My kollega, Marlies Haupt, het die verhaal uitgegee, en gevra: “Sal jy verlief kan raak op ’n held met depressie?”

Die antwoord was nie net ja nie, maar ja met hartjies in die oë. Dawid se siekte is met empatie en egtheid aangepak. Hy was vir my dapper, want sy siekte, was net dit − ’n siekte en dit het hom nie minder manlik of aantreklik gemaak nie. En hy is die woord ‘held’ in alle opsigte waardig.

Boeke wat hierdie temas aanpak is nie heeltemal nuut nie, maar dit is dun gesaai. Dit het gelyk soos slegs ’n gelukskoot toe verskyn daar meer boeke wat vroue issues en aktuele sake aanspreek. Karlien Badenhorst se novelle Jy het my hart (RomanzaLiefde, Julie 2018) spreek onvrugbaarheid aan en hoe ’n vrou haarself beskou as sy nie kan kinders kry nie.

My kollega, Charlene Hougaard, het ook manuskripte ontvang wat ernstiger temas aanvat, soos Marilé Cloete se Logika van die liefde (Oktober 2018) met borskanker as tema en Elsa Winckler se Vir ewig my altyd (November 2018) wat deur die #MeToo-beweging geïnspireer is. Dit het my laat glo dat boek wat lekker lees én moeiliker temas aanspreek dalk die norm sal word.

Hierdie boeke is nie net vir ons as uitgewers lekker nie, maar die lesers is mal daaroor. Amelia Strydom skryf op GoodReads: “Hoe wonderlik om ʼn romanse met soveel diepte te lees! Marilé Cloete – een van my gunsteling Romanza skrywers – bewys in Moed vir die Liefde dat swaarder, donkerder onderwerpe sinvol hanteer kan word in hierdie lekkerleesgenre.”

Wat inspireer dit? Wel, ons kan kyk na die internasionale mark. Die Amerikaanse historiese romanseskrywer, Sarah MacLean, het openlik erken dat sy nie meer haar hertog in The Day of the Duchess kon vat na Trump se verkiesing nie. Vrouefiksie boeke soos Gail Honeyman se Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine is topverkopers en die beweging het selfs nou ’n naam: up lit.

Is hierdie beweging doelbewus? Miskien, maar dit is ook vir my ’n gevestigde karaktereienskap van die romansegenre: Dit spreek vroue se issues aan. In ons huidige tydgees en land is daar baie issues wat vroue in die gesig staar. Hoekom dit in romanses uitlos as dit deel van ons alledaagse lewe en liefde is?




Thursday, June 28, 2018

Lapa Uitgewers Writers Indaba

Image courtesy of Izak de Vries
Last week I attended Lapa Uitgewers’ Skryfindaba, held in a gorgeous thatched lapa in the Pretoria botanical gardens.

Thanks to the heavy traffic from Johannesburg, and me getting lost in the botanical gardens (at least I got a scenic tour of the gardens!) I missed most of the first talk of the day, a presentation by three of Lapa’s editors giving an overview of South African fiction over the last fourteen years.

What I did hear of this talk was very interesting, though, and I also discovered something I really should have known (since it’s on their website!): that Lapa stands for Lees Afrikaans, Praat Afrikaans, and that the publishing house is owned by the ATKV (Afrikaans Taal en Kultuur Vereniging). Which explains why they only publish Afrikaans books! Their editors aren’t just passionate about books – as all editors are – but they are also devoted to growing readers, not just as markets to sell to, but in order to promote language and reading. How awesome is that?

The next speaker, editor Joanita Fourie, gave practical writing tips and advice for improving writing, including everything from creating believable characters to grammar to showing vs telling. I was amazed at how much she managed to pack into just half an hour!

Image courtesy of Didi Potgieter
After a short tea break, it was the turn of Izak de Vries, Lapa’s marketing guru. For me, this was the most fascinating talk of the day, and I wish I could have recorded it (or at least that I’d taken better notes!). Izak shared data and statistics on South African book sales, and revealed some interesting facts, including how the market share is split between internationally published and locally published books. Izak also looked at new forms of media, at the new digital world we live in, at South African publishing trends, and how publishing house budgets are shrinking. According to Izak, readers are getting younger, and the “Afrikaans market is younger than everyone thinks”.

It was also interesting to note that while everything appears to be ‘doom and gloom’ in the South African book market, Lapa has managed to actually grow its profits!

Izak ended his talk emphasizing that authors need to be actively involved in marketing themselves, especially digitally, and that writers can no longer sit back and leave this up to publishers – which dove-tailed perfectly into my talk.

Romy Sommer, courtesy of Izak de Vries
My presentation was on Building a Brand, including using social media. This was a greatly compacted version of a recent webinar I taught, and I still have no idea how I managed to fit everything into my 45 minute time slot (I probably ran way over!) They kindly let me speak in English, since my Afrikaans isn’t quite up to managing marketing and publishing terminology (and I would have taken twice as long if I’d had to mentally translate everything before opening my mouth!). The audience was encouraging and supportive, and I hope they got good value out of the talk.

We ate a delicious lunch in the pretty, treed garden, before heading back indoors for crime writer Madelein Rust’s talk on ‘Tydgees in inhoud van boeke’ – i.e. ensuring that our books reflect the zeitgeist of their times, whether we write historical, contemporary or futuristic. Her talk included psychology, literary examples, and ended with a fun exercise that got everyone writing – and laughing!

The last session of the day was a panel discussion with Izak, a couple of Lapa’s editors, and author Sophia Kapp. This lively debate got everyone involved, and I was impressed at how open and forward-thinking the conversation was, and how the authors weren't afraid to ask really hard questions. The main topics discussed included diversity in our books, the erotica market, and how to develop new markets.

A few of my favourite quotes from this discussion included (please excuse that I’ve translated them into English – any mistakes are all my own):
  • Izak de Vries: You won’t get new readers in if you don’t write for new readers.”
  • Sophia Kapp: “There is a concept that a book written by a white writer is written only for a white audience” – which led to a interesting discussion on cultural appropriation.
  • Izak de Vries: “We are all immigrants in this new digital world.”
  • Sophia Kapp: “Don’t get sucked into thinking the stereotypes in your head are the way everyone is.”
  • Cecilia Britz: “Erotica is very misunderstood. It is often lumped together, but actually covers a very wide spectrum.”
  • Following on from this, Izak said “There is a very big market for [erotic romance] but it must be done well.”


Didi Potgieter and Romy Sommer
After the panel discussion, we headed outdoors for a glass of wine and the opportunity to network with other authors. The writers present reflected a mix of genres but with a heavy emphasis on romance. For me, this was the best part of the day, meeting and getting to know other writers. As always when I meet with other romance writers, I felt uplifted and proud to be among them. These are savvy, intelligent professional women, willing to learn and share, and always friendly and welcoming. Even if I didn’t love romance novels, I’d probably just write in this genre to be surrounded by writers like these!

The day ended with an event to celebrate the career of Lapa’s retiring editorial director Cecilia Britz. First up was a short talk by Olinka Nell, chief buyer at Exclusive Books, who explained how the retail chain works and also how their market demographics are changing.



Cecilia Britz, courtesy of Izak de Vries
Lapa editor Charlene Hougaard then introduced Cecilia Britz. This talk, and the chance I had to chat with Cecilia afterwards, inspired me more than anything else on this entire day. As I shared on social media afterwards, when I grow up, I want to be Cecilia. She is a tour-de-force, a woman whose passion and determination and vocal support of the romance genre has left a huge imprint on South African publishing. She has worked hard to overcome the stereotyping of the genre, and I believe it is thanks to her drive that Lapa is as successful as it is. This is a publishing house that has embraced Romance, not as its guilty secret, but as a reason for pride.

I’ll admit that I tend to think of South African publishers as stuck in the dark ages, but Lapa Uitgewers impressed me with how forward-thinking they are, how committed they are to books and storytelling, and best of all, with their willingness to raise eyebrows and push boundaries. This event, and the people I met, gave me hope for the future of South African publishing.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Announcing the 2018 Strelitzia finalists


The Strelitzia award is a content run by ROSA for unpublished authors. In 2018, we decided to do things a little differently, offering entrants a mentorship phase in the first round. The judges then scored each of the entries against a set of criteria (character development, pace, writing craft etc) and the 3 entrants with the highest scores were then selected to go through to a second round.

In this next round, the three entrants need to submit a completed manuscript, and one of these three aspiring authors will get to take home this beautiful crystal trophy on 22nd September - but which one will it be?

The 3 finalists for the 2018 Strelitzia Award are (in no particular order):
Tracy Wilson - Her Reluctant Protector
Amanda Holly - Master for Life
Sumi Singh - Sydney's Boxer

Well done, ladies, and best of luck for the final round!

Monday, April 23, 2018

Join the Twitterati like a Boss. Top Author Hashtags to Start Using Today





Twitter is an amazing platform for interacting with other writers, staying on top of industry happenings, connecting with readers and grabbing once of a lifetime opportunities - like pitching to agents! Carina Press, for example, held #CarinaPitch on 18 April 2018 for the second year running and gave authors the chance of a lifetime to pitch their WIPs in no more than 2 tweets! Can you really afford to miss out on that??


The main thing you need to know about Twitter (and Instagram) is that the # is EVERYTHING. Post without using it, and you may as well be a tree in the forest that falls.


Follow your icons, friends and other people of interest to you and you’ll find that it’s not a passive platform like Facebook, it’s lively and often very educational.


So, back to the hashtag - include them in your tweets and watch your followers grow.


What are Hashtags used for anyway?


  • Indexing emotions (#Vague #SorryNotSorry)
  • Identifying a Brand (#Oakley)
  • Recommending a Product (#BestRead)
  • Connecting with like-minded people (#WriterLife)
  • Finding Experts (#AskAgent)

Example of a Tweet:


When you are researching sex toys...for work! #AmWritingRomance #WriterLife


Use these #’s to find your tribe and connect with other writers:


#AmWriting
#AmEditing
#WordCount
#WriterWednesday (or #WW)
#WritersLife
#AmWritingRomance
#IndieAuthors
#WriteChat
#NaNoWriMo

Connect by book genre, this case romance:

#Romance
#RomanceWriter
#RWA

Looking for or giving advice?

#WritingTip
#WriteTip
#GetPublished
#BookMarket
#BookMarketing
#PromoTip
#SelfPublishing
#SelfPub
#Publishing
#AskAgent
#AskAuthor
#AskEditor


Connect with Readers

#FridayReads
#BookGiveaway
#MustRead
#LitChat
#StoryFriday
#MustRead
#TeaserTues
#BookGiveaway
#FreeBook
#FreeDownload
#Kindle
#Nook


So what are you waiting for?

Cindi Page is a Digital Marketer by day at wordofmouthct.co.za and a romance writer by night.
She shares her business tips and #writerlife #entrepreneurlife on Twitter as @1stTruLove

Some local romance writers on Twitter:


@romy_s 
@RaeRivers1                                         
@DorothyEwels
@ColletteKellyZA
@ThereseBeharrie 
@EricaTayor
@EdenWalking
@DaniReneAuthor


Thursday, March 22, 2018

Sheritha Singh: The plot behind plotting


Today's guest post is from ROSA member Sheritha Singh.

Plotter or Pantser?
I’ve been a pantser ever since I began crafting stories some twenty two years ago. I always enjoyed playing with words, twisting them around, teasing the reader or painting endless pages of meaningless prose that took my story nowhere. I could churn out fifty thousand words a month creating a story that had no direction. It took me about three hundred rejections from publishers and literary agents and a few years to figure out what the problem with my writing was. I asked myself a simple question: What is the point of my story/book/series? Was it all about a teenage boy and girl romancing each other? Because that’s what I’d written. Almost all my books comprised endless flirting, lamenting and heart break. It wasn't a real story.

I learned the fine art of plotting through my tutor at a local writer’s college. Working through the plotting table, word counts and sequence of events quickly turned into a nightmare because the pantser in me refused to take a vacation. The plot table alone took me a few weeks to grasp and figure out. I hated it so much that I never used it again after I completed the year long writing course (I passed with a distinction).

After receiving a rejection from Harlequin Mills and Boon in December last year, I took a long and deep look into my writing. The friendly and helpful editors suggested using secondary characters to move the story along and also hinted at developing the main characters further. Lastly conflict needed to be added in regular and equal doses through out the story. I borrowed a stack of Harlequin romances from my sister and read. And read. Eventually I began to dissect the novel. I worked with a template that looked something like this:

CHAPTER ONE SCENE 1
  • INTRODUCED TO HERO, PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION, ATTITUDE, AND APPEARANCE. (200-300 words)
  • HERO IS FURIOUS AT HEROINE BECAUSE … (1,000 words)
  • HEROINE’S ACTIONS REMINDS HIM OF A TERRIBLE, PAST EVENT (INTERNAL CONFLICT). (200-300 words)
  • HERO HAS A FEW DRINKS WITH A VERY CLOSE BEST FRIEND TO DESTRESS. THEY DISCUSS GUY STUFF AND HINT AT AFFAIRS, SEX, ETC. REVEAL HERO’S PAST THROUGH THIS INTERACTION. AND ALSO HINT AT ONE OR TWO REDEEMING FACTORS CONCERNING HERO. (INTRODUCE SECONDARY CHARACTERS IMPORTANT TO HERO’S DEVELOPMENT). (1,000 words)
CHAPTER ONE SCENE 2
  • INTRODUCED TO HEROINE PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION, ATTITUDE, AND APPEARANCE. (200-300 words)
  • HEROINE IS FURIOUS BECAUSE HERO SENT AN EMAIL, COURIER, MESSAGE (ANY RELEVANT MEANS OF COMMUNICATION) OPPOSING HER DECISION. (500-600 words)
  • HERO’S ACTIONS REMIND HEROINE OF AN INCITING EVENT IN HER PAST THAT RESULTS IN HER BEING WEARY AND VERY COLD TOWARDS MEN IN GENERAL. (INTERNAL CONFLICT). (200-300 words)
  • HEROINE COMPLAINS TO BEST FRIEND / MOM / SISTER ABOUT HERO. (INTRODUCE SECONDARY CHARACTERS CRUCIAL TO HER DEVELOPMENT). (1,000 words)

And that’s how I managed to complete writing a full-length formula romance in about fifteen days.

Breaking down a story is an excellent indication of how well the story is working out. It helped me identify crucial moments to sprinkle tension, conflict or secondary characters. It also assists in eliminating telling and focusing on the all important showing.

I will always be a pantser at heart. There were many times my story dived over the plotting board and into the vast ocean of pantsing possibilities. It happens. I simply went back to the plotting chart and if the pansting scenes didn’t fit in — I deleted them. Pantsing is now reserved for my journal, blog or facebook posts.


Thursday, March 8, 2018

Alissa Baxter: The Essence of Attraction

Today's blog post is from ROSA member Alissa Baxter

Image courtesy of Pixabay.com

When you write a romance novel, the attraction between the hero and heroine needs to crackle off the pages. It’s this romantic tension between the two main characters which drives the story forward and makes you want to continue reading.

An important aspect of attraction is mystery… the hero and the heroine need to spend time wondering about each other. A good way to create mystery in a novel is to have short, sparkling scenes of dialogue between the hero and heroine, interspersed with scenes where the main characters reflect about their interactions with the other person. The more they wonder about each other and try and figure each other out, the more they will become attracted to each other.

Another important aspect of attraction is desire… in order to keep the desire building between the hero and heroine, you should create obstacles between them that need to be overcome. This applies particularly to the hero of a novel, because the more he has to work for the heroine, the more he will appreciate her. Heroes in romance novels tend to be Alpha Males, who have the world (and most women) at their feet. That’s why it’s so important for men of this ilk to work hard for the heroine, because heroes who have it all need to be shaken out of their complacency if they’re ever to fall properly in love.

The third important aspect of attraction is confidence… even if you’ve created a shy, retiring female character she needs to have some element of confidence in herself, if she is ever to be a believable romantic heroine. If a heroine has no self-belief, it will be hard for the reader to believe in her and her love for the hero – it’ll appear to be a wishy-washy kind of thing without form or substance. The hero also needs to portray confidence in a romantic relationship so that the heroine (and the reader!) will fall in love with him. Just as a man leads a woman when they are dancing, in the same way a man’s confidence will either sweep a woman off her feet if it is present, or cause her (and the romance) to stumble if it is not.

Another important aspect in creating attraction between a man and a woman is unpredictability. In the beginning of a relationship the hero shouldn’t be able to predict the heroine’s behaviour, and vice versa. This generates romantic tension in a relationship, which creates an interesting dynamic between the hero and heroine. Of course, as the romance progresses the main characters will become more familiar with each other, in that they’ll start to know each other better, but this shouldn’t make them predictable.

What adds to the attraction between a man and a woman is some sort of challenge. The hero should find the heroine challenging in some way. Even if you’ve created a meek and mild heroine, something in her demeanour should challenge the hero. For instance, the hero might find it exciting to see if he can discover whether passion lurks beneath the quiet surface of the heroine; or he might try and find out why she behaves in a particular manner with certain people, while behaving quite differently around him…

The heroine should also find the hero challenging – either to her ideas about love and life in general, or something in his personality should intrigue her to get to know him better.

Social status is another important aspect of attraction. This doesn’t mean that the hero must be a powerful, wealthy character, but he should be able to command some sort of respect from the people around him. It boils down to a natural authority the hero should command, to be well… a hero! A similar thing applies to a heroine – she should have aspects of her character that other people admire, because think about it – if no one in the book likes and respects her, why would a reader bother to spend time with her between the covers of a book?

Another crucial element when it comes to creating attraction between a hero and heroine is likeability. Now I’m not saying that the hero and heroine will necessarily like one another all the time. In most romance novels, sparks are usually flying, and it’s fair to say that the hero and heroine don’t always see eye to eye on matters. But in a good romance novel the hero and heroine will often find themselves liking each other – even if it’s against their will.

Leading on from this is the idea of humour as an import aspect of attraction. In a heated discussion between the hero and heroine, what often diffuses the scene, and also adds to the likeability factor between the two characters is humour. Nothing is more likely to create a buzz between your two main characters than some humorous exchanges.

Humour and intelligence are often linked, and when two characters connect, it’s because they have an appreciation for each other’s mind or way of thinking. This is a very important element of attraction because if two characters cannot connect on an intellectual level, then they’re doomed as a romantic couple… just think of Mr and Mrs Bennet in Pride and Prejudice for a telling example of a couple who were mismatched intellectually… If the heroine never catches the hero’s jokes, or she finds him an inferior intellectually, any attraction between the two will fizzle out after a while, and die.

Now I’ll come to the final element of attraction – which being the most obvious, I’ve left till last… and this is physical attraction! The hero and heroine must find each other physically attractive otherwise the relationship will never get off the ground, let alone approach anywhere near an altar.


You can find out more about Alissa Baxter and her books at www.alissabaxter.com.