Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Conference Report: Rachel Morgan on Self-Publishing

ROSACon2014 closed with a chat with Rachel Morgan, possibly South Africa's most successful self-published author to date. Thank you to author Kathy Bosman for this report back on Rachel's talk.

Report by Kathy Bosman

Rachel was truly inspiring. She’s a successful author who has self-published several series of books and is able to live “comfortably,” as she put it, off of her sales. Many of us aspire to reach this point.

Her talk was given in the format of question and answers, and Rachel was thorough in answering the questions forwarded to her.

To start with, she stressed the importance of investing in a good cover design and how that’s essential to selling a book on Amazon. Series are also vital to attract readers. Publish quickly – don’t leave long periods between books. The good thing about being self-published is you have control over the time periods between your releases.

If you self-publish, you must be flexible and open to change as the market and rules are always changing. You have to be able to format or hire someone to format your book for several platforms. She suggested using Sigil (which is free and makes Epub files) and Jutoh where you don’t need to use code and is the easiest for Amazon and Smashwords.

A participant asked where she gets her editing done. Rachel sends her books to trusted beta readers before she publishes them so she doesn’t lay out large amounts on professional editors.

She said the best way to do promo is to advertise on email subscription services like Booksend, Best Bug, The Fussy Librarian, Read Cheaply and Free Booksy. Putting her books for free gains exposure and having the first book of a series for free helps gain readers.

She uses social media to promote and only sends newsletters out to those who are her genuine readers. There’s nothing more off-putting than sending a newsletter out to those who didn’t subscribe or don’t want to receive it.

To obtain reviews – she asks those who liked her previous books to review for her. She finds them on Goodreads.

Another good promotion opportunity is to combine events with other authors like Facebook parties and blog tours. Put a free book on Wattpad – it helps to improve sales as people read it and then want her other books.

Rachel Morgan
She spoke about tax and how you have to keep a record of your sales and expenses and also how you have to organise an ITIN number with Amazon so you don’t have to pay tax with them although that seems to have fallen away now. You can claim for some of your expenses from SARS as a business would.

With her print books she works with independent bookstores as they’re more open to selling her books. Most of the time, they sell her books on consignment. To sell to the major bookstores requires an expensive distributor.

It was a great session to listen to as it inspired us to work toward that goal of living off our passion. It was very informative for those aiming to go the self-publishing route. I don’t think I managed to get down half of all the information she gave us.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Conference Report: Tristan Banha's talk on Social Media

Thank you to author Rebecca Crowley for her report on Tristan Banha's talk on Social Media & Branding at #ROSACon2014.

Report by Rebecca Crowley

On Saturday afternoon ROSACon welcomed Tristan Banha, the founder of The Juice Box social media agency who’s recently joined the Chat Factory, where his clients include Joburg Theatre, Peugeot South Africa and the Smile Foundation. The Chat Factory is a social agency looking after social media publicity, strategy and account management.

Tristan began with a presentation emphasizing the constant growth in social media use. In South Africa specifically Instagram and YouTube are the fastest growing, while Facebook remains South Africa’s biggest social network.

Addressing Facebook in particular, Tristan said writers must have a fan page. He described Facebook as a “coffee shop”, a virtual place for mingling and sharing, which means it’s essential to divide the personal from the professional. An author-specific fan page provides this barrier, as well as helps authors target their engagement without blurring the lines between professional and more general social interaction.

When it comes to maximizing Facebook interaction, Tristan’s first tip was to ensure your content is mobile friendly, as 78% of South Africans access Facebook via their phones. He then explained the essential difference between being seen and being noticed. Achieving a high number of ‘Likes’ on a post constitutes being seen, but doesn’t necessarily suggest that the viewers will take that click any further (ie buy a book!). Being noticed, Tristan clarified, is better illustrated through an exchange of comments, as that shows engagement with the product (from the viewer’s side) and with the target audience (from the author’s side).

Tristan moved on from the nuances of Facebook to the overarching ways authors can maximize social media to engage with and generate new readers. Broadening from the “being seen v. being noticed” point, he suggested asking questions or crowdsourcing – getting input from audiences on Facebook or Twitter for character names or setting details, for instance – as a way to get readers involved with books or works in progress. The key follow-up step is to acknowledge the comments generated by these questions and interact with the readers who ask them, as that’s what secures their engagement and moves the interaction from seen to noticed.

Tristan described social media as a “community conversation” and encouraged authors to make use of it as such. He emphasized the use of hashtags on Twitter to help people join in the conversation, as they may search on those as keywords, and will expand the scope of the conversation from existing followers to potential new ones.

Overall, Tristan underlined that social media works best when the community provides the content and the author responds to it in an engaged, interactive way. Social media has the potential to massively grow an author’s exposure internationally and exponentially.

Tristan Banha and Rebecca Crowley at #ROSACon2014

Monday, November 24, 2014

Conference Report: Anthony Ehlers on a Plotter's Guide to Romance

Anthony Ehlers led a workshop on Sunday morning at #ROSACon2014 on 'Classic Love Stories: a Plotter's Guide to Romance'. Thanks to Lorna Senior for this report.

Report by Lorna Senior

All love stories are a search for a soulmate. This concept comes from Zeus having split humans in two and banished the halves to opposite ends of the earth. Hence the term ‘other half’ which suggest we are never complete without this mate.

Anthony talked about a few of the original romances, eg Romeo and Juliet, Wuthering Heights and Pride and Prejudice, illustrating that romance stories all have shared elements.
For example, the stories start with a magnetic attraction which includes a sense of the forbidden. This is followed by a brief moment of happiness then the lovers are ripped apart and everything seems impossible. It’s important to delay the reunion to create yearning. At last, there is happiness at the final rejoining of both body and spirit and the ultimate freedom.

It’s interesting to notice that early romances were frequently tragedies suggesting that the ultimate rejoining could only be attained by death eg Romeo and Juliet, but contemporary romances have the happy ever afters, which is our ultimate wish fulfilment.

Anthony also illustrated the importance of virtue being rewarded and pointed out the heroine couldn’t be a bitch! The readers have to believe that she is deserving of endless love.

It was a fun and informative talk and Anthony suggested that we all reconnect with the classics. Another very enjoyable and informative presentation in a fantastic conference.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Conference Report: Rebecca Crowley's talk on Self-Editing

Thank you to author Rae Rivers for her report back on Rebecca Crowley's workshop on Tips for Self-Editing on the Sunday morning at ROSACon2014.

Report by Rae Rivers

Day 2 of the conference dawned bright and early as we all gathered with great eagerness, notebooks in hand, to listen to Rebecca Crowley share some self-editing tips.

I adore the storytelling aspect of writing a book but sometimes find the editing aspect a bit daunting. The more books I’ve published, the sharper my editing eye has become – even though I still have heaps to learn so I was so keen to attend this particular session. For me, looking at my book objectively and trying to find all its faults is a bit overwhelming so it was useful that Rebecca broke down the self-editing tips into three parts:

• Plot, Conflict and Characters 
Is your plot, conflict and characters well defined? Are you able to sum up your story into a synopsis or a one-sentence elevator pitch?

• Pacing and Consistency 
Is there consistency between chapter and scene lengths? She suggested keeping an eye on word count to ensure that lengths are consistent. Are the details correct and constant – clothing, time sequence, setting, hair/eye colour etc. Another tip is to check these details after edits too as inconsistencies sometimes occur during the editorial process.

• Polish and Proofread
Finally, it’s critical to give your book one last read to polish and proofread. Check for words that are often repeated, delete unnecessary dialogue tags, watch out for repetition and passive voice and be wary of purple prose. (I for one, found that last tip interesting!)

It was wonderful to see such an eager audience, share ideas and gather some tips. A big thank you to Rebecca for sharing her knowledge and experience!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Conference Report: Nicki Bosman's talk on 'The Story of Your Life'

Thank you very much to Lorna Senior for her report on Nicki Bosman's talk at ROSACon2014. Nicki runs an editorial service called Enbeevee.

Report by Lorna Senior

Nicki Bosman has a degree majoring in English and Communications and a B.Tech in Public Relations and Communications. Her primary passion is working with English and words.

Nicki shared the challenges she herself has faced, including her husband’s death due to a motor bike accident, and her diagnosis of MS in 1992.

She advised us to write honestly and most importantly to be believable. For example, although we frequently suspend belief in fiction and particularly in romance writing, it is vital that emotions are authentically portrayed.

She suggested reading real life accounts eg Readers’ Digest or newspaper articles and interviewing the participants, if possible. Dramatic events have to be treated with respect. Nicki also pointed out the importance of using the five senses and having an awareness of how our words are used. The presentation underlined that everything we experience can be used in our writing.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Conference Report: Marie Dry's talk on GMC

Report by Clare Loffler

Marie Dry focused on the issue of Goal, Motivation and Conflict (GMC) in her session on Sunday 26 October 2014.

She reported that she found the following pairing helpful:
Goal (Wants) → Motivation (Because) → Conflict (But)

Marie stressed the need to remember who your character is when determining GMC, and suggested having multiple goals which should then crash into each other. She also advised writers to dig deeper rather than to pile. Instead of just adding more elements to your story when it starts to sag, she suggested digging deeper into the plot and characters with GMC in mind to find something that works.

She suggested starting with internal motivation first and then adding external motivation. Goals don’t necessarily have to be opposing; conflict arises in the way characters achieve their goals. The strength of your book is your conflict, she said, suggesting that writers need to lay in a foundation for conflict, create believable goals, motivate characters, and nurture the conflict to the inevitable crisis or climax.

Marie also emphasised that coincidence, bickering and misunderstanding are not conflict. She suggested doing a GMC chart for each character, as this will ensure that they have a solid reason for being in the story.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Conference Report: Helen Holyoake on Book Marketing

On the Sunday morning of ROSACon2014 book publicist Helen Holyoake of Helco Promotions gave a talk on book marketing aimed at published (or near-published) authors. Thank you to Anthony Ehlers for his report on the talk.

The role of the book publicist

‘There’s always a certain amount of glamour to a new book coming out,’ says Helen Holyoake, a respected book publicist who has worked with JM Coetzee, Pamela Jooste and Fiona Snyckers. ‘You need to capture that excitement in a good PR campaign.’

Who uses a publicist?
Sometimes traditional publishers use her services to bolster their in-house marketing strategies, and she also works with many self-published authors, like Carlyle Laubachange and Rachel Morgan.

‘However, book launches are expensive,’ she cautions. ‘What I focus on is a solid media programme. One good article in the right magazine can equal R50 thousand in ad spend.’

Aligning retail and media
Helen believes South Africa hasn’t adapted to digital as much as the rest of the world. ‘The SA e-book market is tiny,’ she says. ‘Readers and reviewers prefer a printed book; the focus should be on print and online.’

A publicist will ensure that a mainstream book publicity campaign should make sure that the distribution of the book and the media launch work together. ‘The book should be available in retail to be able to take advantage of a media campaign,’ Helen says.

Helen works with a few distribution stakeholders that can help get books from the warehouse to the bookstore. Distributors form deeper relationships with booksellers – like Exclusive Books and independent stores – to ensure your self-published book will get on the shelves.

‘The barrier to entry is that because of the process, self-published books end up being more expensive than books from bigger publishers,’ she points out.

Self publishing?
Helen says there is a lingering stigma around independently published work. ‘For example, the Sunday Times won’t touch a self-published book,’ she points out.

However, there are ways around it. An agile, dedicated and savvy publicist can find a way to get a reviewer to look at it, if they find the right angle. ‘Even bigger books are struggling to get coverage,’ she says. ‘Editorial space gets smaller as advertising shrinks in magazines and newspapers.’

Television is another powerful platform. ‘Today you can sell more books with one TV interview than any other media exposure,’ Helen says.

‘Online has its place too. There is more advertising online and more space, and it allows for hyperlinks to author websites and blogs. My concern with online is that it’s so quick, it filters down quite quickly. It can be lost.’

Media schmoozing
‘Media relationships are an integral part of PR,’ she adds. ‘The media should always be targets to the genre you’re writing. For example, I never send a book unless a reviewer requests it after reading the press release and other marketing material.’

Often her relationships prevent negative exposure for an author. ‘Recently I had an editor call me to say she wasn’t going to run with her journalist’s review because it was a bad review,’ she says. ‘While some believe there is no such thing as bad publicity, you learn to appreciate these kinds of interventions.’

This relationship-building is the bedrock between the author and the publicist too. Helen says an author should form a relationship with a publicist and see it as an investment in your long term career as a writer. ‘There is a special relationship between a publicist and author,’ she says.

Helen with author Rae Rivers at ROSACon2014

Monday, November 17, 2014

Conference Report: Opening page panel discussion

Thank you very much to Suzanne Jefferies for her report back on the Sunday morning panel discussion on opening pages.

Grab your reader – hook, line and sinker
Opening pages panel, Rae Rivers, Romy Sommer and Alissa Baxter, ROSA Conference

It was a dark and stormy night. A bolt of lightning shook the house. Our heroine woke up, and thought about how lucky she was to be in her cosy, warm bed, not outside in that driving rain…

As our panelists, Romy Sommer, Rae Rivers and Alissa Baxter, agreed, there’s probably more than one aspirant newbie author who makes the above mistakes in their early writing attempts to nail that all important opening page. Boundless clichés, limited dialogue and acres of description proved the chief recurring offenders – not to mention talk about the weather. With great courage, each of the panelists read out one of her earlier opening pages that ticked the box for everything not to do.

So what should a good opening page have? First and foremost, it’s about getting that reader’s attention. Without a reader who wants to read on, your book’s going to languish in the slushpile. But that’s just the start. Not only do you have to hook your reader, but you also have to set the mood, tone and content, introduce the main characters, set the scene, set up the stakes, showcase your voice, and hint at some sort of mystery – all in your opening pages. A daunting task for any writer.

Fortunately, our talented panelists showed us how to persevere. A few re-writes, and a couple of years later, Rae Rivers’ opening line of “She was under a microscope”, proved the clincher for her book. For Romy Sommer, a re-write that used the rain cliché in a fresh way (the sound of a shower) made the difference. And for Alissa Baxter, the original opening pages made a sturdy chapter two, rather than a reader-grabbing chapter one.

The floor was then open to our fellow romance writers who had the opportunity to test their pages on a willing audience. Nothing quite like trial by fire. But if in print you only have those five few paragraphs or so to make your impression, best you make the most of it.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Conference Report: Talk on Character Development by Elsa Winckler

Author Elsa Winckler presented a talk on Karakterontwikkeling in Afrikaans at ROSACon2014. Thanks to Anthony Ehlers for this article on Elsa's talk.

Finding Characters Ripe for a Romantic Journey – with Elsa Winckler

Characters are the central medium to tell a story. This is the belief of Elsa Winckler.

A romance author in both English and Afrikaans, Elsa often finds inspiration for her characters in newspaper or magazine articles. She believes you can’t separate plot from characters when you have the central idea for a story.

Ask questions

For example, for her latest Afrikaans title, Van altyd af, her heroine was drawn from a real-life story about a horse whisperer.

 This raised the questions: What kind of character would communicate with animals? Maybe she would be ostracised because of this gift. Maybe she would be guided by her emotions, ruled by intuition.

How could an author use this to create conflict? Maybe the hero’s mother was killed by a horse. When she meets the hero and is attracted to him, she can’t trust her emotions and is bewildered by her attraction to him.

Internal and external conflict

These were the genesis of her engaging, steamy novel. From this, she makes sure that the character’s external conflict forces them to face their internal conflict. The hero whose mother was killed by a horse has unresolved issues with opposite sex – having to deal with a pretty horse whisperer makes him confront his inner demons.

This creates tension between your hero and heroine. How the character faces their external conflicts helps them resolve the internal conflict.

Another important piece of advice when creating characters is to ask yourself: How did they get to that place in their lives before the story starts that makes them ripe for this journey into love? In the first few pages of the story, the readers must get an idea of just how ready they are for this journey.


Here are some of her tips for getting to grips with characterisation.

Star Signs. These are a great resource for getting to the dominant traits of a character.

Environment. A character will have different views and morals if they come from a city or the country.

Find the unique characteristic. Find the one telling detail that sets them apart from other cliched characters.

Decide on a type. Use the four Greek archetypes (melancholic, choleric, sanguine, or phlegmatic) to decide a character type. The Briggs-Meyer template of 16 personalities is another resource.

Social background. A character who grew up in a orphanage will have a different set of language, needs, etc., than someone from a comfortable middle class family.

Pin It. Elsa uses Pinterest to put together wardrobes, accessories and other elements of her characters. It creates a mood through colour.

Music. Music is another element to use – either to inspire you while your write, or to tease out in the narrative.

Food. Eating and drinking is one of our most primal needs. Find a way to bring it in in a way that illuminates the character.

Dislikes. Maybe your character doesn’t like dogs, or doesn’t eat chillis. These quirks makes them more authentic.

Show contrast. Don’t make characters one-dimensional. Maybe the sarcastic hero is a secret sentimentalist. The strong heroine is afraid of the dark.

Limit secondary characters. Don’t bring in too many subplots or characters, and if you do give them an interesting story of their own to follow.

Find out more about this engaging author on

Friday, November 14, 2014

Conference Report: Anthony Ehlers' talk on Erotica

Anthony Ehlers' talk, which closed the Saturday program of the conference, was titled From Taboo to Mainstream: The evolution of erotica.

Report by Annemarie Gaertner

Report by Erich Viedge

'Why should literature with the sex left in be outside the mainstream?' asked Anthony Ehlers as he started his entertaining and informative talk on the mainstreaming of erotica.

The thing about Ehlers is that he’s very well prepared, and he gives action steps mixed in with his academic understanding of the topic.

He took us through the evolution of erotica in five stages: social context; author’s gender; platforms; genre trends; and finally, pornography. There was plenty in his talk even for people well-informed about erotica and its evolution.

He took us from the earliest written erotica, recovered in Roman ruins over 2,000 years ago and discussed how erotica interacted with the time period in which it found itself.

After the first Gulf war, American Erotica series editor Susie Bright found suddenly there was a lot of homo-erotic writing about soldiers. Ehlers took us from the Marquis de Sade (whose name gave us the word Sadism) and John Clelland, through to Fifty Shades of Grey.

He helped the Romance writing audience understand how to approach erotic writing — and gave us a frame for it.
With Fifty Shades of Grey, erotica really has gone mainstream: one erotic author in the audience said her gynae asked where to find her erotic writing so that the gynae could recommend it to other patients.

As Ehlers points out, the 16m sales of 50 Shades helped keep bookshops open. By writing erotica, we’re helping all authors — especially in South Africa where a bestseller is considered a book that sells 500 copies!

And there’s a market for good erotic writing. Ehlers says in 2012, eight of the top 10 sellers in the UK were erotica titles.

His talk was full of facts like that, casually tossed in, like olives in a salad. Here’s another one: in the 1700s, there would be public readings of erotica to the poor, so that everybody could enjoy the stories.

Ehlers’ style is laid back which is just as well. If he were more formal his talks would be impossibly dense. But his easygoing attitude and his mastery of his subject make him pleasure to listen to — and learn from!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

10 Insights from a 10 Minute Pitch

At the ROSACon 2014, romance authors had the opportunity to pitch to international editors and agents. Some of us got to pitch to Charlotte Mursell, a comissioning editor of Harlequin Mills&Boon. Before the Skype pitch, she’d asked to see a first chapter and synposis of our stories, which made the process go smoother – as we weren’t try to sell an idea ‘cold’. Here are 10 insights for those 10 nerve-wracking, exciting, rewarding minutes face-to-face with an editor.

  1. Relax! As nervous as you are, just smile and say hello – once the waiting is done, it’s almost like meeting in a coffee shop.
  2. Listen. The pitch is about sharing as much information about your book in the shortest space of time, so make sure you listen carefully.
  3. Keep an open mind. The editor is going to give ways to improve your story so that it fits their brand – don’t be resistant to this or, worse, defensive.
  4. Take notes. The editor is going to be throwing ideas at you, suggesting changes, giving advice – you’re not going to remember it all without writing it down.
  5. Give her something to work with. If something’s not working in your book, throw some new angles or ideas around and see if she responds to these. If you can’t think on the fly, tell her you’ll think about it.
  6. Ask questions. If you’re unsure about anything, ask! This doesn’t make you look stupid. It just means you want to get things right.
  7. Plot. She’s probably going to hone in on three things – plot, characters, imprint. For plot, she’s going to hone in on elements that are not working in your synopsis. She’s probably not going to sugar coat it.
  8. Character. For your characters, she’s going to test their motivation and behaviour. She’ll want you to dig deeper than what she’s seeing in your submission. Know the hero and heroine inside and out.
  9. Be prepared to change things. After the pitch, be open to every suggestion given but maybe give yourself a few days to play with ideas, let the information settle etc., before making a new strategy.
  10. Breathe! It’s over, you survived. It doesn’t matter if you got good news or not so good news, the advice given is invaluable and the experience will make you stronger – it will certainly force you to improve your focus on your novel.

Personally, I got more out of these 10 minutes that I’d ever got out of the feedback letters received in the past. I was worried about my the tone of the story, the main plot idea and a few other things – Charlotte helped me get a better grip on the story. I left feeling a lot more confident, positive and motivated about the changes I needed to make.

Anthony Ehlers

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Conference Report: The Pitch Experience

Today we're bringing you feedback from some of the pitchers on how it felt to pitch live to an editor or agent.

From Kathy Bosman on pitching to editor Charlotte Ledger:

I chose to pitch to Charlotte Ledger as it’s a dream to be published by Harper Impulse. I’ve never done a pitch before and was really nervous. Maybe because I express myself way better with the written word than verbally. I prepared a speech with loglines, characters’ goals, motivation, etc and practised it with my husband and other writer friends. I expected to make a monologue, but instead, Charlotte surprised me. In a pleasant way. What I really appreciated about her was that she took the time to read through my synopsis and first chapter thoroughly. She’d prepared questions for me and already had some advice on how to tighten up my book. Her manner was friendly, casual, and pleasant but in no way unprofessional. She pointed out the strengths of my book which gave me wind beneath my wings to fly with it, but also showed me ways to strengthen it. I don’t know if I’ll ever be fully relaxed for a pitch, but I do know now what to expect and I’m very excited to have the opportunity to send my manuscript to Charlotte once it’s complete.

Elsa Winckler on pitching to agent Laurie McLean:

I didn’t really feel ‘ready’ for the pitch but decided at the last minute, let’s do this (with a little help from Romy, that is :)) I’m so glad I did, though. I’ve tried to get in touch with agents before but it’s impossible really because most of them only accept pitches from authors they’ve met at conferences. And now we’ve had a conference! I don’t know whether I’ll be accepted as a client eventually but just the experience of being able to chat to Laurie made the whole effort worth-while.

Check back here tomorrow for Anthony Ehlers' post on 10 Insights from a 10 minute pitch.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Conference Report: Elsa Winckler's talk on Karakterontwikkeling

Elsa Winckler presented a talk on Character Development in Afrikaans at #ROSACon2014. The talk was poorly attended, but we hope to see a good del more Afrikaans writers join us next year!

Report by Erich Viedge

It's one thing reading about how to create and develop characters in a book. But somehow when there's a live Romance author sitting in front of you, telling you how she does it, the lessons sink in faster and deeper. Winckler (like every author I've ever met) was at pains to point out that this is the process that she follows; every writer has to find a process that works for her.

She spoke Afrikaans, and the content was so engaging and her passion so evident that the language difference didn't intrude on the session at all.

Her process is very structured. She had hand-outs with scores of questions to consider about your character, from the obvious traits like hair colour to the family dynamics in the character's family of origin. For example, she asks: is your character the black sheep of the family? Or if it's another relative, what did the character do to earn them that title?

One of the many tips that stuck with me is that your characters should have a somewhat contradictory nature. For example, she said, one of her main characters was arrogant, and at the same time, he was sentimental. He collected items that reminded him of important relationships in his past.
This makes for a more rounded character, and one that is more believable.

After designing the character, Winckler gave us tips on how to develop the character. She spoke of the importance of putting a character in an external situation that mirrors her internal conflict -- and she illustrated it with examples from her own work.

Just those 10 minutes helped make my own characters more believable, and helped drive the action of the first scenes of my own first novel.

It was a tough choice, having to choose between different breakaway sessions. But I felt this one has made a tangible difference to my characters, my novel and my readers' enjoyment of my writing.

You can find out more about Elsa Winckler at her website:

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Conference Report: Suzanne Jefferies' talk on Writing Dialogue

Thank you to Kathy Bosman and Carlyle Labuschagne for their report backs on Suzanne's talk on Writing Dialogue at #ROSACon2014.

Report by Kathy Bosman

I attended Suzanne Jefferies’ talk on 8 Simple Rules for Writing Dialogue. My interest was piqued when she shared that she had experience writing screenplays. In screenwriting, you have to learn to show and not tell and you learn to use dialogue to move the story forward. I know I sometimes struggle with dialogue, especially for the hero, so I wanted to learn more about it. Suzanne didn’t disappoint. I loved that she went into the differences between how men and women talk. She gave some very useful tips and advice which I would like to refer to from time to time. She used real-life examples of dialogue in books and movies to show her point. Dialogue is definitely vital for a good book and if we can get it right, we’ll hook the readers. Thank you so much to Suzanne who showed us how with some enlightening and understandable advice.

For more on Kathy and her books, visit

Carlyle Labuscahgne’s take on Spectacular Dialog tips by Suzanne Jefferies

Wow, first I have to say, I always struggle with the confidence of delivering good, believable dialog. Are there simple rules to follow or a secret formula to nail it? Yes there is…. *happy dance*

When sitting in on this wonderful topic presented by Suzanne Jefferies, I not only learned that I was on the right track I walked away with knowledge and the confidence to add improve on my writing skills. I will now share the tips I took to heart.

Dialog creates the central shape of the story, bringing us back to the fundamental rule of Show don’t tell.

Think about how conversations happen in real life
~ We cut each other off.
~ Finish each other’s sentences.
~ People don’t always say what they mean.
~ And we all make our own minds up of what was rely implied.

Dialog creates Tension, and as a romance writer it is important to create that tension right up front – readers love that!
Within dialog we find content. An interesting and fun way to bring location, age, character physical traits would be during a conversation.
Pay attention to how men and woman speak to each other, men do not talk about feelings. Men Ask questions during dialog to gain information, and usually let each other talk before answering.
Woman usually speak over each other, or say the same things at the same time, and are eager to have a conversation.

What we say isn’t always what we mean. (Sarcasm)
Dialog sets the scene and setting.
When a character often feels save he will reveal more information about self, or background.

Using dialog to cut out the shape of your character.
Nothing ages writing more than using slang, but that said, using slang can add to character for instant his/her age.
Think about accents, pronunciations this will show the reader where the character is from. Using nonstandard grammar, or specific words.
The general rule with this should always stand that if it is not familiar to you, then stay away from using a certain dialect.

Talking Heads
To gain deep Point of view, don’t always he said she said, she retorted, he answered – yeah they bantered we get it!

Enter dialog, add action, and follow up with thought.

“I thought you said you were going to be late?” Susan shrieked upon finding that her mom had gotten home before her. She closed the door in Ivan’s face thinking to herself how she would explain to her mother why Ivan was at their doorstep this time of night, and why she had been out in the first place.
Mom cleared her throat, “Did I interrupt something Susan?” Although her words were polite, her tone was anything but, she was going to be grounded for sure.
“Umm, “Susan struggled for the right words.


Dialog is a great tool to add information to your story.

More about Carlyle and her books:

Next up: Check back here tomorrow for the report back on Tristan Banha's talk on Social Media & Branding.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Conference Report: Rebecca Crowley's talk on Standing out from the Slush Pile

Today's report backs on #ROSACon2014 come courtesy of Erich Viedge and author Rae Rivers. Rebecca's talk on How to stand out from the slush pile followed the lunch break on the Saturday of the conference.

Report by Rae Rivers

Every writer serious about publishing wants to stand out from the slush pile. Thankfully, in our world of technology, the internet is full of information, advice and tips on this topic. Usually, the advice comes from editors or agents so it was so interesting to hear that Rebecca was offering advice from a reader’s perspective.

Several years ago, before becoming a published author herself, Rebecca worked as a freelance reader for a publishing house. A professional reader – of which she was paid to read manuscripts.

So what does a professional reader working for a publishing house do? As we all know, editors are super busy and not always able to sift through their never-ending slush piles so they employ readers familiar with the genre with a love of reading to do this job for them. Although being a professional reader may sound like fun, I imagine it must be a challenge too as the reader has to sift through a lot of mediocre books in search of a few gems. (I was amazed to learn that in the two hundred plus manuscripts Rebecca had read, only a few were contracted!) Each reader receives a few books to read and has to offer a report on each one, along with a personal recommendation. (Either Reject, Reject with Encouragement, Accept with Revisions etc.)

In essence, a professional reader is often what stands between a newbie manuscript and an editor. If she doesn’t approve for whatever reason, chances are the manuscript won’t make its way further.

So it was from this perspective that Rebecca offered advice and tips on how to stand out from the slush pile ... how to get past the gatekeeper between a book and an editor. It was so interesting to hear what worked for her as a reader – what captivated her, maintained her interest and kept her turning the pages. This was usually a combination of several things: author’s voice, consistency, creativity, character development, conflict etc.

This was a great behind-the-scenes glimpse of what happens in the acquisition process. A big thank you to Rebecca for sharing her experience.

Report by Erich Viedge

Rebecca’ Crowley’s session Standing out from the Slush Pile was a real highlight of ROSACon 2014.

The conference organisers made sure the speakers had real experience that could help real authors by giving them the inside scoop. And that’s what made Crowley’s talk so compelling.

In her 20s, Crowley worked in publishing in New York. To supplement her tiny income she found a gig as a “freelance reader” for a publishing house. This is the person who is going to read your manuscript. It’s not an editor, it’s a cynical 23-year old in a one-bedroom flat on the seventh floor of a New York apartment block in a building without a lift.

She’s doing it for $30 a manuscript — the longer books paid as much as $50 — and she’s certainly not doing it for fun. In fact, she was reading books outside of the genres that she liked! On the contrary — she’s doing it, said Crowley, for the money. And the $30 per manuscript meant so much to her at the time that she would drop the completed manuscripts and reports off in person so she didn’t have to waste two days in the New York postal system.

The result of all this industry?

Crowley says she must have read north of 200 manuscripts, and she approved only 10 of them for publication. And even that wasn’t enough. Some of the books she approved weren’t published by the publishing house she was working for.

The biggest AHA for the audience was that Crowley wasn’t looking to Accept a manuscript — she was looking for reasons to Reject.

If she could see in the first few pages that this book wasn’t going to pass muster, then she would skim the rest of it to get enough plot points to fill in her report, stamp it with a big red R and exchange it for the next one.

She took the audience through four reports that she had written for her publishing house. A “Reject,” a “Reject with Encouragement,” an “Accept with Revision” and finally, “Accept.”

She spoke through the reasons for her choices and she went a bit further. She looked for the book online. The rejected manuscripts seemed to have disappeared without a trace. And one manuscript she said had lots of problems in it had been picked up by another publisher; but the reviews on were scathing of the book, which made Crowley feel vindicated.

She gave us concrete tips on standing out and being one of the 10 in 200 that get some form of “Accept” stamp — and she cautioned that the reader has no influence over the rejection slip that lands on the author’s desk. She may have loved the book, but felt it was wrong for the imprint, and the author may still have received a form Rejection slip. She had no way of knowing.

We in the audience, felt encouraged and emboldened. If we could impress today's 20-something-year-old Crowley equivalent, we had a fighting chance of being in the five percent. And if we got a form rejection, maybe, just maybe, there was a freelance reader out there who loved the book — and whose recommendation was spiked by the editor.

A very worthwhile session for any author.

Next up: Tomorrow we'll bring you the report backs on Suzanne Jefferies' talk on Writing Dialogue.

Rebecca's rapt audience

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Pitch that got me the call back ~ a journey

Lets face it as a modern South African writer / aspiring novelist we face many challenges in landing that book deal we all dream about.  The role as a writer has many complicated layers and holds such beautiful promise. It's a compulsion driven by a need to inspire, make a difference and heal through words and stories. Every writer has a message to deliver, an urge to be heard and to connect through expression, but at the same time stand out as an individual. 

When I started writing my first novel, I believed in my creation. In my dream to heal through words. Once my manuscript was done, revised and edited it was time to find an agent/publisher to deliver my story to the world. But I soon discovered how isolated and alone I was in the South African publishing world. Resources, agents and tools for a SA writer of Young Adult Science- fiction was a rarity. For me as a SA writer there was no support. Without landing an Agent there was no getting published. 

Four years later, through countless hours, and money wasted on a Vanity publisher,  I  eventually started making a name for myself in the international market. But paying in USD currency for an editor, a cover artist and a publicist started to take its toll on me. I couldn't understand why I had to fight so hard for my dream to come true.  I quickly found that it was so easy and extremely welcoming to adhere to international trends, and pretty soon I had a huge fan base in America. 

In 2014 my ultimate dream came true when I attended a USA book signing and writers con in Nashville. I did extremely well and established myself as a force to be reckoned with as my editor would say. What I gained and learnt in those few days was a revelation compared to the three years of online research. I learned about honing the perfect pitch hoping it would give me the confidence to pitch my projects one more time. I leaned so much at the con I couldnt wait to apply it -= And then the booboo! (yup I said booboo) While at the con I got an off chance to do live pitch and even though it wasn't to an agent I totally froze up and BLEW IT! 

a few months later and hours after sulking I found ROSAcon2014 and this was my chance to show myself I have to get up and do it again. I learned so much how can I not use it??

What won me over to attend the event is that I would have the once in a life time opportunity to pitch my voice to very important players in the publishing industry - and editor from Harper Impulse and a bigshot US agent. I had to grab this opportunity as they don't come often. 
 When I registered to ROSAcon 2014 I was extremely, extremely excited by the fact that there was actually a happening, gathering of SA writers with the opportunity to learn about the growing market of SA writers and know that there were SA writers that have been extremely successful in the industry despite the extreme challenges we as SA authors face.

Building up to the pitch that could ignite my writing career to such an extent that I could possibly become a full time writer.

Once I registered with with ROSA I took out all my notes I learned in the US and studied them, did the worksheets. A day or so later I got a wonderful email from Romy Sommer (host of ROSA) and published author with Harper Impulse. 
Tips on what to add in your pitch... I posted some of it here.

As expected, even after all my preparation, it didn't guarantee they would like my work -  I had a very sleepless night. 
Minutes before the pitch, actually waiting in line with a few other authors, was killing me slowly. 

I chewed up all my nail polish!

On realizing everyone in the room felt the same I started to feel a bit better that I had others sharing the same kind of torture. Romy Sommer made us all feel a bit more relaxed and she was totally right there was nothing to be worried about.  And she was right!

It was love at first sight!!!

First pitch 
The gorgeous Charlotte Ledger from Harper Implulse.

Charlotte was great from the word hello! 

On doing research on Charlotte, I soon realized I love this woman's passion and beauty -  I don't have anything that would sweep her away - So I started writing something that would peek her interest and sway mine... Well turns out she freaking loved my first chapter and wanted to see more. Immediately my guard was down and all the prepping just soaked in and delivered everything I was taught. 
The important thing was to ask questions - and I did and going back to my story I'm freaking in love with I cannot wait to send her more. ~ although this does not mean I will get the YES PLEASE WE WANT YOU - the fact that I got the call for more proved to me that I can hook like no ones business.

Second Pitch 
To the esteemed lit agent Laurie McLean 
This too was huge deal for me, as Agents are non existent in our parts and landing one would mean I can spend more time on writing and my agent would become my best friend and help me grow in areas where I suck. Once again I wanted to write something inspired by Laurie's taste, because having something an agent actually likes is a wonderful start.
Laurie was wonderful, I didn't feel intimdated at all. In my opinion I thought we got on really well. She was so easy to talk to and I could see the passion for stories with each blink of the eye. I fed off her energy and got us much from Laurie as I could. I'm not sure who asked more questions me or Laurie? Yup I got the call for more!!

I am still on a high from this event that could possible change my life, and like I said before even if I don't fully close the deal, I know how to create a good hook and feel confident enough to pitch to other agents and editors now. What a wonderful opportunity it has been!! 

You can follow my journey @CarlyleL

"dont be crippled by fear, let love give you wings"
~ Carlyle Labuschagne 

Next up: reports on Rebecca Crowley's talk on 'How to stand out from the slush pile'.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Conference Report: Joss Wood's talk on Harlequin

Thank you very much to Tanya de Ponte and Pamela Kauffman for their feedback on Joss' talk at #ROSACon2014.

Report by Tanya de Ponte

An enlightening presentation about Joss' journey in to the fascinating world of publishing and the big step that she took to enter the arena of full time writing.  I especially liked her use of powerpoint pictures.  I also valued her encouragement on pitching to editors.  I enjoyed Joss's gift of several books and look forward to reading them. I feel really privileged to know her real name, and to have met her in person!

Report by Pamela Kauffman

Prolific writer Joss Wood, who is represented by Laura Bradford of Bradford Literary Agents, was the second Saturday presenter at the recent Romance Writers Organisation of South Africa writers’ conference. Joss kept the participants laughing with her quirky sense of humour and the inspirational graphics that seasoned her Power Point presentation.

Mouths were agape when Joss confessed that she had written 11 books between January 2012 and May 2014 – a breath-taking feat of keeping bum stuck to chair and fingers glued to keyboard. Unfortunately, the HQN imprint that Joss was writing for – Kiss – went boom this year. For now, she has one title under the HQN Desire imprint.

Participants sat enthralled as Joss provided the reasons she writes for HQN and offered heads up on advances, foreign rights, and editorial support. She advised participants to think about their category as each HQN imprint publishes for a particular audience – each of which has its own expectations. Although South African settings for North American or European readers are considered exotic, a writer could be too South African, meaning tone down the South African specific detail and don’t use language that is specifically South African.

She emphasised that resilience, an ability to take criticism and endure emotional conflicts are critical characteristics of a writer - not to mention expert storytelling, a unique voice, an accessible style, and promotion savvy. She said that HQN writers must be collaborative team players, aware of trends and the market, and willing to learn.

Some participants might have been shocked to find that HQN wants an average of a book every three to four months from their writers. Aside from being prolific, an HQN writer must meet deadlines and be someone they want to work with. Read that co-operative, rather than perpetually confrontational about every change to the manuscript.

“Take it on the chin,” she said, “if the editor concedes to the copy-editor rather than you.”

As if all that weren’t enough, an HQN writer must be accessible to his or her fans.

Joss said that writers with HQN contracts are put on the HQN, where the writer can check sales, royalties, etc. She pointed out that HQN is part of a global community and the company has offices worldwide. Novels are translated into many different languages, adding to the bottom line for the company and for writers.

Cherish, Modern, Medical and Historical are all HQN imprints and the company offers retail, digital and direct-to-consumer sales, via subscription. The company is visible on Facebook, Twitter, and its website. Contact them via

An informative and entertaining presenter, Joss generously provided copies of four of her books for each participant. Look for Joss Wood Books on Facebook.

Next up: tomorrow Carlyle Labuschagne will share her pitch experiences with us.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Conference Report: Hester Carstens' talk

Since I haven't yet received all the report backs on Joss Wood's presentation on Harlequin, I'm jumping on to the next talk in the #ROSACon2014 Schedule: the talk by Hester Carstens, publisher from Queillerie.

Hester was an engaging speaker who covered a huge amount of important editorial advice in one hour. Here is Elsa Winckler's report on the talk.

Picture courtesy of Elsa Winckler

Rosa-konferensie - 25 Oktober 2014
Hester Carstens 

Hester het begin deur vir ons ’n oorsig te gee oor Tafelberg se se liefdesverhaal-reekse en afsetpunte:

Queillerie → Tafelberg, Hartklop (Vir romantiese harte, die regte medisyne), Melodie (Vir jonk, vir oud, vir altyd), Satyn (Want die hart het ook begeertes), Jasmyn (meestal omnibusse, bv Ena Murray).

Vervolgens het sy gewys op dinge waarna voornemende skrywers behoort op te let alvorens ’n manuskrip ingestuur word vir oorweging:

  1. Hou jou eerste poging eenvoudig en fokus op die liefdesverhaal tussen die held en heldin.
  2. Die storie begin reeds op die eerste bladsy, moenie bladsye spandeer aan bykomende feite wat nie betrekking het op die ontwikkeling van die romanse nie. 
  3. Let op jou fokalisasie. In die liefdesverhaal word die storie hoofsaaklik in die derdepersoon vertel vanuit die heldin se perspektief, soms ook deur die held s’n. Oppas vir ‘headhopping’.
  4. Vermy onnatuurlike troetelname.
  5. Vermy sogenaamde ‘wrokwoorde’ – woorde wat al te veel gebruik is en dus nie meer dieselfde impak het nie, byvoorbeeld: skor, wrokkig, minsaam, mymer, haal/trek skouers op/flussies.
  6. Vermy heks-heldinne – onthou, die leser wil deur die heldin lewe. Sy moet dus iemand wees met wie die leser kan assosieër, sy moet kan voel soos ’n vriendin. Die held moet iemand wees op wie die leser saam met die heldin kan verlief raak. Hy kan dalk aan die begin buffelagtig optree, maar iets behoort deur te straal wat die leser aanraak.
  7. Wees bedag op slotverrassing wat nie gemotiveerd is nie.
  8. Let op ongeloofwaardighede – byvoorbeeld, jou heldin het nog nooit van Twitter gehoor nie, sy gee nie om dat die held haar ‘pop’ noem nie, ’n kind wat soos ’n grootmens praat, ens.
  9. Kontunuïteitsblapse – op een bladsy praat jy van die heldin se kort hare en ’n paar bladsye later, waai haar hare oor haar gesig.
  10. Let op die dialoog – wie sê wat? Dis nie nodig om heeltyd sy sê, hy sê te gebruik nie, maar maak seker die leser weet wie aan die woord is veral waar die dialoog lank is en oor meer as een bladsy strek. Vermy woorde soos ‘mymer’ of ‘wyfel’ – jou dialoog self moet aan die leser die spreker se gevoel oordra.
  11. Let op onnadenkende woordkeuses, elke woord moet met ’n rede daar wees, byvoorbeeld in ’n sin soos ‘Sy knik haar kop instemmend’ is ‘knik’ en ‘instemmend’ onnodige woorde. 
  12. Oppas vir die sogenaamde ‘info-dump’. Wees subtiel wanneer jy inligting wat die leser nie weet nie, oordra.
  13. Oppas vir aksente.

Next up: look for the Conference Report on the talk given by author Joss Woods on Harlequin Mills & Boon.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Conference Report: Romy Sommer's talk on The New Paradigm

This was the opening talk of the conference, an overview of publishing in general and the options currently available to South African romance authors.

Report by Tanya de Ponte (edited)

I much appreciated the copy of Romy's book in the goodie bag and enjoyed the dramatic first page. She did a very interesting presentation on publishers. The topic raised several questions, doubts and fears about which is the best option for you - when there are so many out there. It was nicely covered - to provide solutions about whether to self-publish or get and agent? I enjoyed the advice and tips and would appreciate a copy of the presentation to peruse.

Report by Erich Viedge

Romy Sommer, Chair and founder of ROSA (Romance Writer’s Organisation of South Africa) kick started the inaugural 2014 conference with her talk on the New Publishing Paradigm. With three novels published already and more on the way, Sommer is well placed to unpack the different options that authors in general — and Romance authors in particular — have when it comes to seeing their books on the shelves and their royalties in the bank.

Sommer started by sharing with the audience how the Traditional publishing industry has consolidated over the last few years. She is well-informed and up to date with the latest developments in the industry.

She then unpacked the options that authors have, one by one. How to get published with a traditional publisher; how that process differs from the e-book market, and then finally the difference between self-publishing and vanity publishing.

She shared valuable tips about the kinds of contracts that publishers have, and what to look out for. In particular she mentioned a well-established e-publisher that seems to be in financial trouble — and she unpacked what that might mean in terms of an author’s future royalties and even the author’s ability to re-claim ownership of the work they created!

Sommer asked the audience to hold questions to the end, but every now and then another author would interject with their experience. This made for a very rich session.

I thought I knew about the publishing industry, but Sommer’s session updated my view and exposed me to cutting-edge information about how the model is changing. For example, she mentioned e-book subscriptions, which at the time of the 2014 conference was a new development.

As an opening session for the conference, I felt it helped me contextualise my own ambitions to be a Romance writer. As Sommer said: are you in it for the fame, or are you in it for the money?

Because of the grounding Sommer gave us, I felt by the end of the conference I could make an informed decision about which Imprint to approach or whether to self-publish — or indeed use a variety of approaches.

I would recommend this talk to anybody who is interested in being an author. The information was skewed to a Romance Writers' audience but the information is applicable to anybody, from text-book writers to writers of Erotica.

Next up: look out for the Conference Report on Hester Carstens' talk at #ROSACon2014.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


Congratulations to the winners of the two contests that were held exclusively for #ROSACon delegates.

The winner of the Gina Rossi Scene Contest, on the theme of 'The first time ever I saw your face', was Kirsty Macfie, with honourable mentions to Alissa Baxter and Kristien Wolmarans.

The winner of the Sharon Pickrel editor mentorship, chosen randomly out of a bag of entries by my competely impartial eldest daughter, was Tanya de Ponte.

Congratulations to all these ladies!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


ROSA's first ever conference was held in Johannesburg this past weekend and everyone who attended agreed it was a fantastic weekend! We had guest speakers, pitches to an agent and editors, a gala dinner, and (best of all) a chance to talk books and writing with like-minded people all weekend.

Thank you so much to our fabulous speakers. Every single talk was interesting, informative and inspiring!

Over the next few weeks we'll be posting feedback on #ROSACon2014 here on the blog, with pictures and reports on the various sessions. If you attended and would like to share, please get in touch.

If you didn't attend and are now green with envy, keep watching this blog for updates on ROSA events and look out for next year's conference which we plan to hold in the Cape Winelands.

The packed conference room at #ROSACon2014

Monday, October 27, 2014

The new ROSA logo

No roses, as might have been expected, but a lotus flower. As Clare explained at the opening of #ROSACon2014, we chose a lotus flower as it symbolises enlightenment, purity and fortune. The shape is similar too to the rising sun, a lovely positive image. (Plus, it looks prettier as a logo than a closed-up rose!)

So what do you think?

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Vote for your favourite Bachelor

Please come join in the Bachelor Auction on the Harper Impulse blog to let us know which of the secondary characters from my previous books you'd most like to see get his own book:

Sunday, September 14, 2014

#ROSACon2014 early bird discount ends tomorrow!

In order to qualify for the 10% Early Bird discount your completed registration form and proof of payment for the 2014 ROSA conference need to be submitted before midnight on Monday 15 September. After that deadline full costs will apply.

The conference will be held in Johannesburg on Sat 25 & Sun 26 October 2014.

For more information please contact Romy on

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

ROSA Joburg's dinner with Lucy King

This blog post is way, way overdue, but here at long last are a few pictures from the ROSA dinner in Johannesburg at the end of July.

We were honoured to have Harlequin author Lucy King as our guest. The dinner was held in a function room at the Mike's Kitchen in Parktown, a beautiful heritage building with steel pressed ceilings and stained glass windows.

The food was excellent, the company lively as always, and Lucy was a very generous speaker. She told us all about her writing journey and her writing process, among many other things.

Thank you very much to Lucy for joining us. Please look out for her next book, The Party Starts at Midnight, due to hit South African bookshelves in October. She also has a 2-in-1 book out with South African author Joss Wood called Behind the Headlines.

Lucy King and Mandy Verbaan

Suzanne Jefferies, Clare Loffler, Annemarie Gaertner

ROSA Johannesburg!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

#ROSACon2014: South Africa's first conference for romance writers

ROSA will host South Africa's first ever conference for romance writers on 25 & 26 October 2014 at Melrose Place in Johannesburg.

The conference features workshops, guest talks on marketing and writing craft, as well as the chance to pitch to an overseas editor and agent.

On the evening of Saturday 25 October there will be a gala dinner, open to both delegates and non-delegates alike. Partners, friends, readers and book reviewers are all welcome to attend the dinner.

The conference costs are as follows:
  • Full day conference on Saturday 25 October only: R970
  • Half day conference on Sunday 26 October only: R830
  • Both days together: R1,390 (a saving of R410)
  • Gala dinner on Saturday evening: R395
Lunch is included on both days of the conference. The fee for the gala dinner includes one drink on arrival, but all further drinks are excluded.

  • Preference will be given to delegates who book for both days. If you wish to attend on only one day, you will be placed on a waiting list.
  • The gala dinner is to be booked separately to the main conference and is NOT included in the 'Both days together' cost. 

* Early Bird Special *

For delegates who book before Monday 15 September there is an Early Bird discount of 10%. Book and pay before that magical date, and you only pay:
  • Saturday 25 October only: R875
  • Sunday 26 October only: R750
  • Both days together: R1,250 (a saving of R375)
  • Gala dinner on Saturday evening: R395

How do you register and pay? Please email Romy Sommer. You will be sent a registration form, ROSA's bank details, and the conference program. Please note that your booking will not be confirmed until payment is received.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Does inspiration mean a part of you is in every tale?

Hey peeps!

Following my latest release - LIGHT MY WORLD (Island Girls #2) - I've been asked this question often:

How did Diya Hemant, the heroine of that tale, come into being?

The truth is, I have no clue! She just came to me, barged her way into her elder sister Lara’s tale (The Other Side).

The thing is, the Hemant family is about 3 sisters, and we all know, siblings never come out alike in their personality. Lara was the career girl – had her head screwed right on her shoulders, and as the eldest, knew much of the family’s hopes and aspirations lay on her. Neha, the middle sister, was like many middle children – sensible, neutral ground, the one who never rocked the boat, even if she had to stifle everything of herself in the process.

Then there was Diya, the baby sister. More often than not, they say the youngest kid gets away with murder! Diya was born in the 1980s; she, more than any of her sisters, witnessed the progression in women’s empowerment in the 90s and the early 2000s. She also grew up in a world that opened up to technology every single day (cell phones replacing landlines, the advent of the Internet, email replacing snail mail, chat rooms, SMS), in the era of globalization and the world becoming one big village where everyone can communicate at any given moment with anyone in the world.
Of course, this kind of girl believes the world is at her feet, hers for the taking. She will chart her path in this new landscape and will settle for nothing that doesn’t come on her terms – she wants the career, the ‘catch’ to become her man, the riches, the fulfillment of womanhood, and she will get them, all of them!

And as I was writing her, I realized Diya was really a projection of myself. I was the same age as she (twenty-four) when I wrote her tale, and like her, I was born in the 1980s and witnessed the world changing from people/nations being veritable a whole global village where my best friend, whom I’ve never met in real life but have spent countless hours emailing and speaking to on the phone, lives in the Mediterranean, thousands of miles from my home in the southern Indian Ocean.
No wonder Diya wrote herself...because, in a way, she was me! She is the woman, the face of my generation.

It seems to me all of us writers bring something of ourselves to every tale - we might not recognize it as in-your-face, but even in subtle forms, you as the writer will be in some facet or the other of your story.

What do you think? Agree or Disagree?

From Mauritius with love,


And shameless plug here – both Diya’s story (Light My World) and Lara’s story (The Other Side), which make up Books 2 & 1 respectively in the Island Girls trilogy, are on sale at 99c on Amazon and today is the LAST day you can grab this deal!

You can find the books here and here

LIGHT MY WORLD (Island Girls #2)

It is a truth universally acknowledged that to find a prince, a girl has to kiss a few frogs along the way. But what happens when a modern-day princess comes across…an ogre?

So what if a girl has to kiss a few frogs to find her prince?

Tired of her Indian-origin mother’s relentless matchmaking, Diya Hemant is determined to find her Prince Charming on her terms. Armed with a definitive list of requirements, she is sure she’ll know her man when she meets him…

But looking and finding are two different things, especially on the tiny island of Mauritius…

When her path crosses surly British widower Trent Garrison’s, it’s hate at first sight. And though fate keeps pitting her against him, she’s certain he can’t be turned into a frog let alone a prince.
Can this modern-day princess overcome her own expectations and see beyond the ogre to the man beneath?

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Beauty of Freedom

The thought of my first ever novel now actually being live on Amazon is still not reality in my house hold. Things like this don't happen to people like me. I'm one of those who sit at the back of the room observing others and only dream as life slowly but surely passes me by.
Yes, everybody who knows me will tell you in an instant that I'm the quiet one of the family. Hardly talk or participate during conversations. I can't help it. Life has shifted and shaped me into what I am today and the only way I can really blossom is when I have pen and paper within my hands.
After fourteen years of marriage and being with my partner, still sometimes when we have a fight about something stupid, I'll grab my pen and paper and write him a letter of exactly what I think or feel at that given moment. He by now knows how I tick and will reply via paper and at the end its those last few words on our letters to one another which stands out the most no matter how angry we are with one another...I still love you, even though I am raving mad at you right now.

Growing up in a broken family where divorce was the new next best thing on the block, I've had quite an insight to how partners felt about one another and due to irreconcilable differences, their paths drift away from one another.
But the question I always had in the back of my mind was, What if you were in a marriage where you weren't sure if you fit or not? What if everything was perfect and your partner loved you, yet you had this uneasy sensation deep within your gut that something is not right? How do let a person go when you still love them, but not the way they love you? How do you break a person's heart who has given you everything, to set yourself free?
Then of course their is this thing called temptation which always seems to get in the way.


Lea Finley’s daily routine begins with meditation. Today, though, she cannot focus. There’s something blocking her efforts.

She and Connor have been married for five years. Though she might not have the perfect marriage, her life seems peaceful. To prioritize her head, she decides to go on a short trip. Lea is a strong believer in living your passions. She paints for a living and believes strongly in her spirituality.

But when she meets Bill Hammington, confusion hits her between the eyes. Lea is on an emotional rollercoaster. She is drawn to Bill, but at the same time she battles with guilt over Connor. After all, Lea is not ‘that kind of a woman.’ She does not believe in cheating.

Through all darkness and turmoil, there is beauty, love, forgiveness, and laughter.


I wake up lying on grass. The sky is clear and I smell the fresh scent of grass and flowers. I sit up straight observing fields of green pastures and different colors of roses. All the colors you can imagine. It is breathtakingly beautiful. I come to my feet and start walking when I notice a small gravel road and I head towards it. I’m so relaxed and at peace, confident this moment will last forever.
Suddenly the wind blows fiercely. The grass dies, the roses turn into black weeds, and the skies become a blanket of dark gray clouds. I’m scared being here alone and not knowing if some storm is going to swallow me alive or spit me out dead on the other side. I’m running towards the gravel road when I notice a figure in the distance. As I draw nearer, I see Connor. I’m shocked and mortified by his expressionless face.
“Connor! Connor! I’m here. I’m so sorry. Please, I am so sorry. I never meant to hurt you. Please, if you can find it in your heart one day to forgive me, please.”
Why is he ignoring me? Halting in front of him, out of breath, I notice he looks straight into my eyes, his whole body evaporating like smoke into the air. When I try to touch him, I feel nothing. It’s as if trying to catch the wind with your bare hands. He is transparent, but yet I can see him. I don’t understand. What is going on? 
 In the distance, a rose stands out as red as blood. It’s so beautiful. I run towards it and an image of Bill’s face appear in the petals. I wanted to touch the rose only to get rid of this emptiness I have inside me, but as I touch the rose, it shatters like a million pieces of glass. Alone in the dark and icy stormy weather I drop to the ground and cry until I cannot cry anymore. Soft whispering sobs escape my mouth. “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry-”