Hi, thanks for stopping by the blog to see what I'm up to. I've been working on and off for a couple of months on a Christmas story. It's been great during our Melbourne lock down to have a sweet story to retreat to in a setting close to my heart.
If you'd like to read about how it all started and take a peak into my creative process read on.
It all began when I decided to participate in a Melbourne Romance Writers Guild online writing challenge. The first consideration was, what can I realistically commit to? I hadn’t written any new words for a long time because I’d been reworking a book I wrote earlier. To fire up my creative spark, I needed the excitement of a fresh story. Also, I craved writing something unlike anything I had ever done before.
What would give me joy? What would be a pleasure to immerse myself in? Christmas in July came to mind. I love Christmas shops, the ones that are stuffed full with happiness decor. Elves and Santas, fairies and angels, nativity scenes and forest animals, I love them all. Anyone who knows me can tell you how much I love Christmas decorating. I have posts about it on my blog under the Christmas category.
It wasn’t long after I started imagining a cute Christmas shop that Samantha Bell, the shop’s owner, made her appearance behind a counter tucked into a corner. She turned and looked at a staircase that led to a mezzanine area full of boxes crammed to the ancient oak beams. Then she looked out the shop’s front glass door. The street outside was in an English village that was paved in brick and lined with Tudor style shops. I had my heroine and the setting and the beginnings of a Christmas novel.
Samantha Bell has been struggling to keep up Jingle Bells, her father’s Christmas shop, since he passed away five years ago. I wondered, in author style, what is the worst thing that could happen to her? I imagined her arriving at the shop one morning, coffee in hand, ready to open up and start her day. It’s the first of October and the official start to her Christmas season. New stock will start arriving today, and the town’s people will be calling in to see the new displays she’s setting up.
But someone has put a piece of paper on the front door with a big red X on it. On closer inspection, the fine print declares that her building has been condemned. Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without Jingle Bells. Her life, as she’d always known it, would be finished too. How would she provide for herself without the shop?
Samantha heads straight to the council offices to sort out what must be a terrible mistake. It’s here she meets Nicholas Grant, the super organized and efficient manager of the building department. He excels in administering the department codes. Following the guidelines suits him perfectly. Oh, and he doesn’t do birthdays, anniversaries or Christmas. He spends those days with his model railway, which he’s very proud of.
But there’s something about blond curls and red cheeks and tears in blue eyes that make Nicholas look a little closer into Miss Bell’s situation. It seems a fire report has been the cause, strange that it hadn’t been flagged until now. Then he remembers how her father, always came to the orphanage, where Nicholas lived for six years, dressed up as Santa Clause to give presents to the orphans. Miss Bell had accompanied him, dressed as an elf. She was all grown up now at five feet tall, but she still has blue eyes, bouncing blond curls, and red cheeks.
Before Nicholas knows it he’s up to his armpits in helping Miss Bell to unravel the council’s building codes that apply to her shop. With his help she starts to see that she needs to step up and take responsibility for all that comes with owning a business and he helps her to discover her full creative potential.
What he doesn't know is that Miss Bell is going to be the catalyst for him to face something dark from his past. Something that is keeping joy from his life. It's Samantha's purpose in life to spread joy where ever she can so she's not going to give up easiliy when Nicholas begins to push her away.
I'm working on having it ready for release around this time next year, but if anything changes or when the release is due, I plan on including that kind of information in my newsletter that I'll have up and running soon so if you'd like to be on the list, email me at email@example.com and I'll make sure you get an update.
Part of this blog are an extract from my Romancing the Genres post this September. It has been updated with the latest on how the novel is progressing and I added the photos.
Until next time, happy reading.
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I'm so sad for the vibrant, romantic and beautifully full of life country I visited last November. My heart goes out to all who are living a very different life than they could have ever imagined.
I'm posting this to honor our guest nation and as a tribute to the beautiful Italians who made our holiday happy, fun and magical.
In this post I'm sharing some memories made in Romantic Venice, Lombardy and Tuscany.
The most prominent memory of our romantic holiday in Italy was a water taxi ride down Venice's Grand Canal. We arrived at our hotel late in the afternoon and so didn't have long to settle in. The tour director was worried that we'd run out of daylight, so there was a rush to get to the booked taxi's waiting for us. We ended up cruising down the length of the stunning Grand Canal, lit with the hue of the setting sun. Losing the light turned out to be a wonderful gift.
The buildings were shown off to the very best advantage with soft light and shadows enhancing their ornately decorated facades.
I can see why photographers call it the magic hour, it was a magical ride as Sam and I stood in the back of the water taxi taking in the fabulous atmosphere and ornate city on the water. I can still feel his arm around my back as we motored through so much beauty. Alone in the back of the boat we kissed.
We alighted at St Marks square and were ushered aboard gondolas for the classic Venice experience. We were wearing our Trafalgar headsets to keep us in contact with the group however we soon forgot about those and were treated to the drama of the canals as the sun set. Later we were served a fish dinner at a restaurant on the canal near our hotel which was delicious.
Next day our walking tour took us to the piazzas where Venetians live in their city without cars. Under each of the many cobble paved piazzas is an ancient collection system for rain water that would be filtered and accessed via a central well.
Our hotel was close to the station and fronted onto the Grand Canal.
After Venice we headed to the lakes district and on the way we stopped for lunch in Milan. We had time to explore before we traveled to our hotel at the Lake Maggiore. Sam and I opted to do take a tour of Teatro alla Scala. So thrilling to see the stage where Katrina Baxter from 'The Italian Billionaire's Secret Baby' danced. Of course I had to get a photo outside with my Italian hero. Although he's an Australian like me, Sam's parents were born and raised in Italy. It was a major life experience for him to connect with his heritage.
The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele has many cafe's for weary tourists to sit and enjoy the atmosphere. I ordered the Milanese Risotto for lunch which was delicious and Sam claims that had the best lasagna of his life.
I love the architecture of this shopping mall. It reminded me of Melbourne's Block Arcade the first time I saw it. I later learned that it was this Galleria that inspired the Architect who designed The Block Arcade.
When we opened the curtains at our hotel room, we were thrilled to find a view overlooking Lake Maggiore. The next day we had a wonderful time cruising on this lake and visited a rather grand house on one of Borromean Islands in the middle.
The grounds were gorgeous too. I later saw them on the telly and had that, 'I've been there', moment.
After the Lakes we headed south to the Tuscan city of Florence. Sam and I went for a romantic horse and buggy ride around the city center. Our guide was a lovely old gent who chatted to Sam in Italian but would occasionally tell me in English when we were passing an important land mark, like the oldest building or the one thousand year old bridge, or point up at George Clooney's apartment, which still makes me smile.
On the last day of our tour we stopped at a postcard perfect picturesque hillside village called San Gimaniano. After walking through the city gates we climbed a narrow cobblestone street, lined with shops to an open square where we had the self proclaimed best gelati in the world.
In between the shops lane ways gave us enticing peaks of the valley below. I had to detour down one and that is how I got this next photo. This has to be the most beautiful photo of our trip.
Romance author and lifestyle blogger
My whole life is inspired by romance. I write romance novels of course but also love creating DIY's and decorating in a romantic style. I'm rejuvenating an old garden, including rescuing a couple of old rose bushes and planting new ones.