Sunday, January 30, 2011

Do you remember your first time?

I was about eighteen years old. I don’t even remember much about it, except it was kind of disappointing. And it didn’t last long.

If I try to think back – it was so long ago – I seem to recall it was about a journalist who flies down to Plettenberg Bay to interview a reclusive hero. I’m pretty sure he drove a white Porsche 911 – this was the late 80s after all. Pastel fashions abounded, as did lashings of glamour. There may have been a dodgy choice of the word Moonlight in the title. I do remember I didn’t get past the first few chapters, before I abandoned the love affair.

But that was my first time trying to be a romance author. After that, my sister bought me a whole stack of romance novels and I started to read a lot more – probably the best advice to a new writer is to read, read, read. I waited a couple of years before I started a new romance. This one still had the dodgy title – Valley of the Sun – and the plot was something straight out of a soapie. Think Egoli meets Bold and Beautiful set in Sun City. It was predictable, filled with clichéd characters and over-written. Of course, at the time, I thought it was perfectly charming and was horrified that the editors at Mills and Boon didn’t like it.

After I recovered from the bleak despair of rejection, I did start to write again and I worked hard on improving my craft. (Another good piece of advice – just keep writing!). I tried my hand at romantic-suspense, at erotica, at mainstream storylines. The bug had bit. I was very much in love with romance.

At least, I was in love with the idea of a being a romance writer. What I’ve learned – sometimes not without pain and exhaustion – is that writing is hard work. It requires self-discipline, self-belief, and perseverance and, more than that, it requires a bum on a chair and words on a page. And, as we all know, that’s easier said than done.

My point is РI knew I had one somewhere Рis that we always tend to idealise our first love affairs with writing. We remember it with a glow of nostalgia and a tender compassion for our naivet̩. How foolish, how brave and how hopeful we were.
Sometimes, for me, that first dream, that feverish wish to be full time writer - published, secure, living in a castle in Spain – seems so far off and elusive. Writing feels dry and pointless. Writing doesn’t even feel like work, but a kind of self-punishment. And it shouldn’t. We should try as we move into the New Year, to reconnect with that dream again. Let’s be brave again. Let’s be foolish. Why the hell not?

If we don’t believe in ourselves, let’s believe in love. Let’s believe in love stories. And let’s write them.

This love affair ignited in me a love for romance writing. I discovered the love poems of Pablo Neruda, the joy of Wuthering Heights and every alpha hero that followed Heathcliff. I found out that one of my favourite movies is the heavenly A Walk in the Clouds. I watched Twilight again the other day and marvelled at what a clear, vivid love story it really is. I still sleep with a stack of Mills and Boon books next to my bed.

I hope we all can find the first spark of love again for our writing. And I hope we all find our forevers, our happily-ever-afters, ours dreams. We just need to look inside us for that first, heart-stopping moment we believed this was a love affair worth chasing.

Friday, January 28, 2011

New publishers, contests and pitches

Two new romance publishers on the block!

Astraea Press is releasing its first titles in January 2011. They are a new eBook publisher of non-erotic romance based in the US and they're open to submissions. You can find out more about them at their website and blog.

Knox Robinson Publishing are actively seeking historical romance submissions. Details on their website are still a little sparse, but they plan to revamp the website in February.

A cautionary note: as with all new and untried publishers, do your homework before you submit.

The 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award

Thanks to Each Grand Prize winner will receive a publishing contract with Penguin, which includes a $15,000 advance. All Entries can be submitted through the CreateSpace platform and must be received no later than February 6, 2011. Up to 5,000 Entries will be accepted within each category.
Don't miss your opportunity to win - submit your Entry today!
Read more about the Contest and review the Official Rules.

Two Short Story Contests

ROSA member Kathleen Bosman has shared this info with us:
For those interested in trying out a short story, the annual Commonwealth Short Story Competition is now on. It's very different from novel writing but it's still fun. Here is the link to their website:

And courtesy of Bronwyn Desjardins:
The Writers' & Artists' Yearbook 2011 short story competition is for published and aspiring writers alike. They're offering the chance to win £500, plus a place on an Arvon residential writing course of your choice, and  publication of your story on the Writers' & Artists' Yearbook website! All you have to do is enter a short story (for adults) of no more than 2,000 words, on the theme of 'compulsion' and email it to with `WAYB11 competition' as the subject line. The closing date is 14 February 2011.

And Another Contest

Harlequin Desire author Tessa Radley is offering herself as mentor for a month. Entrants need to write a 1,000 word opening to a secret baby Valentine-themed novel. You can find out more at eHarlequin.

Editor Pitch

Harlequin's Nocturne Bites line is offering aspiring paranormal writers the chance to pitch direct to an editor. To enter, send a two paragraph blurb to by 17th February. More information is available here.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Hollywood Adventure, African Romance - A review

Lights, Camera, Love by Bronwyn Desjardins (Nollybooks) is a short romance packing a lot of love, action and adventure. Thuli, a receptionist at a luxury lodge in the KwaZulu-Natal midlands, is sucked into the world of movie-making when she becomes the temporary PA to a SA-born Hollywood director, Jake.

Thuli is a wonderfully drawn character – beautiful, proud, strong and yet vulnerable. Despite the differences in background with the hero, she stands her ground and more than proves herself as his equal. In fact, she is instrumental in saving Jake from the secrets that have kept him closed off from love. Jake is a stand-out character, so different from the cliches one normally finds in romance novels. The scenes where he struggles with his sense of identity and his tragic past are especially poignant.

The author’s descriptions of landscapes and customs are beautifully evocative – by engaging all our senses, we feel connected to both the natural splendour of Africa and life in a rural village, with its smells, rhythms, rituals and colour. These parts of the book really come alive with heartfelt authenticity.

Despite the wildly glamorous premise, the relationship between the hero and heroine is moved forward in a realistic, believable way – which will no doubt make young readers connect with them on an emotional level. There is great tenderness and vulnerability in their journey towards happy-ever-after.

This fast-paced romantic novel ends with a nail-biting suspense sequence that would not be out of place in a big-screen movie. With the new Nollybooks series, South African escapist fiction is off to a very good start

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Embrace Books Newsflash!

Embrace Books is a new British publisher of " high quality romance and popular fiction" which just so happens to be run by Jane Holland - the daughter of Charlotte Lamb. All those ardent Mills & Boon fans out there will instantly recognise the name of one of their "queens" of romance!

The good news is ... Embrace is looking for submissions, but more specifically they are currently seeking trios of shorter stories by the same author to be published in one mini-volume, preferably hot romance (straight, gay, lesbian or bisexual) with a common or linked theme. Total word count not less than 10,000 nor to exceed 15,000.

Want to know more? Head on over to their site

If anyone has submitted to them and would like to tell us about their experiences ... please let us know!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


I recently read the second installment of a series I'm really enjoying, but for the some reason the author used a different transistion between scenes in the second book that really threw me out of the story, over and over again. I'm not going to mention the name of the book, as I don't want to point fingers, but I thought this would make a good discussion on what works for some people and what doesn't.

The transistion of jumping ahead in the next scene, followed by a few catch-up sentences, is commonly used, but what jarred me this time was the leap into outer space instead of a gentle hop across the pond.

Here's an example of what I mean (disclosure... this example is completely made up on the spur of the moment, no actual books or scenes were harmed in the making of this post)

Cue on scene: Jim and Jane are sitting in a roadside diner just outside Orlando, a coffee stained map of Disneyland forgotten on the table as they argued over who'd forgotten to fill the petrol tank before the left home. They'd never make it in time now.

Usually, this would be an expected transition used for the next scene:
A loud bang rang in Jane's ears. She looked up to see a waterfall of colours explode the starry night sky.
Jim pulled her into his arms, almost unbalancing the ferris wheel car. "Isn't this romantic?"
Fireworks and ferris wheels... Jane smiled and snuggled deeper against his chest, perfectly content. Jim had come through at the last moment, throwing caution to the wind and ringing up a taxi to take them the last part of the journey. They'd made it. They'd met on this ferris wheel five years ago and returned every year, on the same night, to celebrate their anniversary.

Okay, now this is closer to the transistion used in this book:
A loud bang rang in Jane's ears. She looked up to see the smoke cloud mushroom above them, swallowing up the view of Pisa's city lights.
Jim pulled her into his arms, protecting her from flying debris as the Leaning Tower of Pisa crumbled to the ground around them. "This wasn't the kind of romantic I had in  mind."
Explosions and demolition... Jane groaned and snuggled deeper against his chest, horrified. Jim had come through at the last moment, throwing caution to the wind and declaring it was due time he showed her Italy, the country of his birth. They'd caught a bus from the diner to the nearest airport and here they were, twenty hours later, in Pisa. Just in time to witness the catastrophic event.

I'm sure you can guess at which moment I started hitting the Prev Page on my kindle, sure I'd missed something. The first time I came across this form of transistion, and after I'd gone back a couple of pages to check if I'd slept through something important, I actually chuckled and thought, "good one."
By the 10th time, I don't know if I was more angry at the author or myself. I knew what she was doing, but I still couldn't help paging back, just to make sure.

Some would say this transition method is ingenuous. It certainly keeps up the shock level and excitement factor. I'm not sure, though, that the author meant for the reader to be back-paging quite so often. But perhaps that is just me, I tend to be stubborn and once I've got an idea in my head that pages are missing, knowing this shock tatic is deliberately being used doesn't change my mind.

What do you think of this? Would skipping over huge chunks of boring transition this way make the book more enjoyable for you? Would you (or do you) employ this method?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Happy New Year!

I don't know about you, but from a personal perspective I can honestly say that I am very happy to see the end of 2010!

It was a year filled with great expectations many of which were met in great style. Just think back on the spectacular Soccer World Cup! Those amazing stadiums and the colourful people who came to watch the games.

The flip side of having such high aspirations is that it can leave you feeling a tad deflated once it's all over. So, I hope the holidays provided you all with time to reflect on all that has passed and has given you the opportunity to get back in touch with that which really matters.

As you ease back into the day job and get the kids ready for the new school year I'll leave you with one of my favourite author quotes:

"Never regret. If it's good, it's wonderful. If it's bad, it's experience." Victoria Holt

Happy writing everyone!