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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With ‘The Italian Billionaire’s Secret Baby', several elements came together to inspire Katrina’s character. As a child, I dreamed of being a ballerina. I was fortunate enough to go to classical ballet classes at a very good school. Each year there was a concert held at the town hall. The Victorian-style theater with balcony seating was very grand.
I can recall how it felt to dance on a stage in front of hundreds of people. Even if I was only a flower on the edge of swan lake I loved the excitement of being backstage, having my makeup done by the older ballerinas and how the precious tulle skirt felt against my legs. I remember the nerves and adrenaline rush when it was my cue to go on stage. I wrote a blog on my website about that time called Memories of Being a Ballet Dancer.
I read a magazine article about a ballerina who’d received a grant to help her in returning to dance for The Australian Ballet company after having a baby, a seed was sewn that matched with my ballet dancing experience. Katrina’s character came to life in my mind, a ballerina who had a baby and is now returning to dancing but the father discovers she’s had his child through the publicity she was given as a grant recipient.
When traveling in Italy I enjoyed the northern lakes so much, dining on stone terraces overlooking a lake while the sunset was so incredibly romantic. While driving to the shops one day, we went past a car company that I’d never heard of in Australia. I don’t even remember the name of it now, but the idea of an Italian Aristocrat who’d inherited his racing car driver father’s company popped into my mind.
I’d once been a fangirl of Ayrton Senna, the Grand Prix champion and a dashingly handsome young maverick. I was so sad when he died in a crash on the track.
I found inspiration for the daddy for Katrina’s Baby. Alessandro Rinaldo was the son of a racing car driver who had died on the track. He’d become a champion himself following in his father’s footsteps but had promised his mother that he’d never marry while still racing so that he didn’t break a woman’s heart like hers had been if he was killed.
More pieces of the puzzle came together when I discovered that the Grand Prix race held in Melbourne coincided with the Australian Ballet Company season there. Also, another piece is that the Italian world-renowned Ballet company home is the Teatro De Scala in Milan where nearby is also the famous Grand Prix track at Monza.
I could now place these two people in each other’s home cities through their work. He and Katrina had met at a society function in Melbourne and later and had a whirlwind romance when she won a place at the La Scala ballet company. So they could be together in Europe they married, but he did it in secret and made a pact with her that they didn’t have children. When she fell pregnant Katrina didn’t expect him to want the baby because when she’d found her birth father he rejected the connection. She had firsthand experience that when men say they don’t want a child, they meant it.
She left Italy and came home to Australia to have her baby. The theme is about father-child relationships. What does it mean to be a Dad, and how far will you go to accept a child into your life or reject it. I personally have a very loving relationship with my Dad, I could empathize with Katrina's heartache over being denied a father’s love and wanting to protect her child from the pain of rejection, and also with Alessandro who’d unwittingly deprived himself of the gift of fatherhood but strongly wants to make amends.
The scene where Alessandro surprises Katrina mid-pirouette at her rehearsal and confronts her about their child came to me in its entirety, like watching a movie.
The book The Italian Billionaire’s Secret Baby was born. The working title back then was the Rinaldo Heir. I still like the working title but thought the published title would let people know what the book theme was about more. Which one do you prefer? Perhaps you can think of one that I didn’t.
An excerpt from chapter one.
Alessandro Rinaldo, Italy’s darling F1 champion checked his rear view mirror as he took the premium position at the top of the track on the last corner. The car behind drifted a fraction down the steep incline in a challenge to his lead. Alessandro always succeeded at whatever he set out to do. The other driver knew that but would be ready to take advantage the minute Alessandro gave him a tiny break.
They went deeper into the tight corner. Alessandro focused on the camber of the track, his speed, the distance from the wall. But then, a photo he’d seen of Katrina flashed through his mind. She stood on pointe in a pink tutu holding a baby that had his eyes and his father’s smile. The punch in the chest hit him again. A child he’d never met or even knew existed was as familiar to him as his own face.
He should never have opened his emails. Never read the ballet company donors’ newsletter when preparing for a race. A week ago he’d discovered that his estranged wife had born a child. His child! He’d decided to put the information in his lawyer's hands while he focused on the race, but his will obviously wasn’t strong enough to keep thoughts of her and his child out. His lawyer confirmed that the child was DNA tested shortly after birth, his name was on the birth certificate. Why would she have done this without telling him?
A bitter taste flooded his mouth just as the challenger behind pulled down sharply from the turn in a suicidal attempt to overtake on the inside. Alessandro checked his speed, too slow. The desperate challenger capitalized on Alessandro’s momentary distraction.
If Alessandro moved an inch from the barrier, they would clip wheels, but if he sped up, he could scrape the wall. He must maintain his current position if he wanted to win this race. And he wanted to win this one more than ever. The revelation that he was a father meant he had to keep the promise he’d made. This would be his last year on the circuit.
He hadn’t made this choice. Katrina had gone against their agreement, not to have children. But even if she hadn’t planned it. Not telling him wasn’t fair; they’d made a baby together. She must have been attempting to tell him the last night they were together. God knows he hadn’t made it easy for her. But two years? Not finding a way to tell him in all that time was betrayal, pure and simple. He inhaled deeply and tried to concentrate. I can’t think about that now. I have a race to win.
He pressed the accelerator. Alessandro, formula one world champion, must put this challenge down. No one was going to get the better of him, and definitely not here on the track. But the nearest driver was now beside him and keeping him pinned against the wall. If he pushed in front to take his chances, he’d be gambling with both their lives. Dying or winning was on the table, as it always was during a race, but this time was different. The father in him was young and he’d only known for a week that a child existed, but the impact was high. It demanded survival; squashed the idea of dying.
He took his foot off the gas just enough to keep him in second place, but the challenger was going too fast now, drifting up the track. Fear spiraled though Alessandro and tangled in his gut.
Braking hard would put the rest of the field behind them into peril but keeping up this speed meant the two of them would lock wheels on a tight curve. Losing control would result in a major disaster. He did the only thing he could to save everyone. He let the beautiful car, which he’d spent a year engineering, drift up into the barrier.
Metal screamed. In his rear mirror, the cars behind were braking and steering away down the track. The idiot beside him shot ahead. After the pack had past Alessandro pulled his disabled car off the barrier. He‘d thrown the race, his distraction had given the challenger an opportunity. His aching, stiff shoulders slumped.
His tire had a wobble from being pushed against the barrier, and the front guard scrapped it but suddenly dug into it. His back end flipped out and now the front of his car dove into the barrier. The machine lifted briefly and smashed back to the ground before spinning away down the track. The world flashed again and again. I gave the race away, and I’m going to die anyway.
Highly combustible fuel vapor prickled his nostrils. Metal scraping on metal meant sparks would be flying. His grandfather, his father and now himself all dying the same way. At that moment a strange sense of peace came over him. He resigned himself to his fate, and then he remembered his child. A child he’d never meet. His fists gripped the wheel as, instinctively, he fought to gain control, desperate to live.
The world spun and spun, but the car slowed and eventually stopped turning. He landed on the inside on the race track. A miracle. He unclipped and forced himself to breathe slowly while he waited for the emergency team to arrive and pull him out. He prayed the miracle held and a fire didn’t start before they could get to him. Before he could meet and hold his child. His son.
Edited from a blog that was posted on Romancing the Genres 26th Jan 2019
Dora Bramden writes heart-melting, passionate romance.
The Scottish Billionaire’s Secret Lover
The Italian Billionaire’s Secret Baby
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My current work in progress is set in the music industry. It's a story that is partly inspired by my time working in administration for a rock music venue. I met some famous people, which was wonderful but most interesting was learning what when on behind the glamour. I've always loved being where music is playing, so it seemed a good fit when I was invited to work there.
I'm not surprised that I was drawn to work in the music industry, having grown up with music playing much of the time. Besides my father playing classical records on Sunday mornings, my older sister played records like the Bee Gees and the Beatles every day. But live music was also a huge part of my early life, performed by friends and family on our heirloom piano in our modest lounge room.
I can still smell the Mr Sheen as I polished my great grandmother’s piano. The carved scrolls enchanted me with their fairyland quality, as I revealed warm glossy hued timber swirls from beneath their coat of dust. For me it was the magical center of our house. Not only did it look majestic and beautiful, from it came sounds that transported me to another world.
Aunty Bev, Dad's sister, played by ear. She would say, "Sing the tune for me," and then she could play it straight away. Family gatherings were common, a highlight would be when she'd sit at the piano and begin playing the songs we all loved. Her brothers would gather around with their wives and all my cousins and we'd sing together. I was aware of belonging to a warm and loving family and felt happy, oh so happy.
I also loved it when my sister played for me. Mostly she had to practice her lessons but sometimes she play for fun and I’d sing along standing next to her. I wanted to learn but couldn’t make my hands work independently of each other. I learned guitar instead and could play and sing as often as I wanted.
As time went by, I developed thick calluses on the end of my fingers from playing so much, but I didn’t mind. I did very well at playing beginner chords and even achieved a first place certificate for best in the class. However as soon as I needed to play the more advanced bar chords it got too hard for me. My wrists weren’t strong and they didn’t toughen up. But I continued to play adapting songs and fudging the chords a bit. I enjoy the guitar sound so much, because like the piano, it is the strings vibrating that makes the sound.
Dad’s best friend loved creating beauty around him, gardening and painting, but particularly music. He was a concert pianist during the second world war and played many famous classical pieces on that old piano in our lounge room. His music somehow became a part of my soul. I can recall, all these years later, how it felt, how it sounded as if it were yesterday.
I’d stand at the end of the keyboard and watch his fingers move incredibly fast across the ebony and ivory. How was he able to strike so many correct notes in perfectly timed succession? The sound waves vibrated inside my lungs as I breathed the music in, closing my eyes. I’d think only of the sound and let it become a tangible living thing inside, transporting me to another dimension where only beauty exists.
I hear those tunes now when my father plays his recordings, and it uplifts me as only something loved and familiar from childhood can do. It can’t be the same experience I had as small child, standing beside Uncle Keith, with the sound waves of uplifting beauty reverberating through my body and flooding my senses. But music still transports me to a world of magic and beauty.
I'm so fortunate to have had that experience at a young age, and while we lacked some things, in regards to music our family had an abundance. It had a healing effect, soothing worries away and bringing joy. In the novel I'm currently writing, music is the hero. Helping to bring a woman home to where she remembers the joy music brought her in childhood and into the arms of a Country/Rock-star that needs her to love him.
While I write I'm drawing on the memories of my child self, listening in wonder to the magic of music and the strong family connection it holds for me.
Mum taught me to sew when I was a teenager. The first thing I learned to make was a basic wrap around skirt first which I wore with pride. Then, I graduated to more complicated dresses.
Smock style clothes were my favourite I have a picture of me wearing a smock top I made when I was about forteen. I loved the feel of cotton the most and the sight of luxurious, meters spread out on the dining table. It seemed a shame to cut into it but I wanted the new dress so the paper pattern pieces were pinned on and cut out with Mum’s best sewing scissors.
Those early clothes making attempts gave me a can do attitude to crafting with fabric. I altered patterns and combined two different patterns to get the style that would suit me best. I made party dresses and the dress I wore to my high school graduation ball. I also made the dress I wore to my engagement. But with the price of patterns and fabric going up and the cost of buying a new dress coming down, it didn’t make good financial sense as I went into my twenties. What had once been a necessity was a luxury later on. But sewing my clothes during my teenage years created a lifelong love of fabrics and fashion.
I went to work in an office and that allowed me to buy an expensive fashion magazine called Harpers Bazaar. During the early 1980’s I cut out pictures of the fashions I loved and pasted them into a scrap book. I still have it. I dreamed of being a fashion designer and going to Paris, but it was never something I could fund so it remained a dream. There in the back of my mind until I began writing romance. A fashion designer came to me, a rebel with vibrant magenta hair at high school and a dog eared scrapbook that she took everywhere with her.
She woke in me the girl who’d made her own clothes and took pride in her work and she lived the dream I couldn’t. Ruby Baxter finished high school and went to work for a middle of the road family fashion house. She designed bread and butter styles that sell but dreamed of having her own line. She put in hours of work to pull a new collection together to relaunch the fading fashion house but when it was met with rave reviews her boss took all the credit. So Ruby leaves determined to pursue her dream and work as a freelance designer but her ex boss is afraid Ruby’s work appearing elsewhere will uncover her lie so she tells another. She claims that Ruby stole the designs from her and passed them off as her own.
Of course she needs a white knight and there’s one who’s been following her career for years. He’s the boy she loved back in high school. Hushing up a family secret had divided them but now he’s determined to clear her name. Ruby has no other option than to accept Jarrod’s help but he commands a high price. Ruby’s hero turns out to be a calculating businessman in the fashion industry who will turn protecting an old friend from scandal into an advantage.
It always amazes me where my stories come from and I’m really enjoying the memories of how much I enjoyed sewing and creating a fresh design to wear that no one else will have. I think if I’d been on the verge of achieving my dream and having it stolen from me, I’d so just about anything to make it right. If it was the handsome Jarrod who I’d never really gotten over, it would be a major challenge but I think I’d take the chance. What would you do?
The Australian Billionaire’s Secret Proposal is the final book in the Baxter Sisters Series and is coming soon.
Sign up for my newsletter for a free short story, Brave in Love and get the details of when Ruby and Jarrod’s story will be released.
I want my novels to have an uplifting effect on the reader. I take passionate, sexually attracted couples with terrible emotional wounds on a journey through the relationship they are meant to have. In finding a healing love it leads them to strive for their happy ever after.
In this week’s blog I’ve posted an excerpt from The Italian Billionaire’s Secret Baby. It falls close to the end of chapter two, and begins in Katrina’s point of view. It changes to Alessandro’s in chapter three. I did this because it’s about a man meeting his child for the first time. I want you the reader to be able to feel what each is suffering and hoping for It’s a huge moment in all their lives, Katrina, Alessandro and their baby Alex.
For Katrina and Alessandro, their past is playing a huge role in their present, and it is playing out through their internal thoughts and is preventing them reconciling.
In the first couple of chapters we see that both Katrina and Alessandro are still very sexually attracted to each other. It’s a strong pull that is matched by real love. But the hurt that this love once delivered makes them reluctant to let those feelings resurface. But it’s still there. You can read the first chapter on Amazon.
Have a read of the excerpt below and after it I’ll talk more about how healing love is working in the story.
Katrina and Alessandro fell in love but their relationship didn’t work out the first time because Alessandro lacked the ability to commit and Katrina couldn't believe a man could truly love her.
In the excerpt, baby Alex brings Katrina and Alessandro back together. You can see the effect on Alessandro that meeting his child has. Also what is shown is that their pasts play a huge role in how they internally process the events taking place. Alessandro finds the will to be a better man and show up, while we also see how Katrina is going to have to rethink her plan of raising Alex alone.
Neither is comfortable with the way things are changing. No one ever is, but the love they feel for each other and their little boy will keep them trying hard to work things out. Of course they have a lot of changes to make regarding their view of the world and each other but their love enables them to heal.
Although Katrina and Alessandro are good people, their past hurts have caused them to make hurtful errors of judgment, so that now it’s almost impossible to put things right. But this is a romance and they do find a way. That is because of the healing kind of love which is my kind of romance.
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The Italian Billionaires Secret Baby is available in eBook and print or borrow for free from your Kindle device with Amazon Prime.
The question of secrets within family is often used as the plot for books. For me I was more interested in how a lifelong secret can affect a person’s emotional development and what consequences this would have on their life. A stone in the pond ripple effect was my suspicion and it certainly turned out that way as I delved into how a secret affair by a mother impacted the lives of her three daughters.
‘The Scottish Billionaire’s Secret Lover’ is the first book in the Baxter Sister series. It’s about the eldest sister Natalie. By the time she is of marriageable age, she doesn’t want a fiery relationship like her parents had. She chooses a cool calculating business acquaintance but his calm exterior is a front, his terrible temper has dire consequences. He dies in a car accident that almost takes Natalie’s life and she loses the baby she was carrying. Once she is physically healed she takes a job in Scotland organizing a fundraising ball to benefit orphans. But she accidentally has a once night stand with her a kind client before finding out who he is. She agrees to a secret affair for the month she’s living in his castle in Scotland while organizing the ball. If her parents weren’t the sort of people who kept secrets she wouldn’t be able to see having a secret affair as an option. The problem is falling in love leads to heartbreak because to secure the future of the orphans, her client, a Scottish lord must have an heir to inherit the trust. Natalie is unable to conceive again. Their secret affair becomes a secret love that can never be openly acknowledged.
In writing these stories I wanted to show the far reaching impact that a secret can have on the people close to the person keeping the secret. That having a secret might be something that is done to protect yourself and others but that the truth will find a way to surface and then everyone has to deal with the real situation when the false one that is hiding the truth is swept away.
‘The Italian Billionaire’s Secret Baby’ is the second in the series about the Baxter sisters. The youngest daughter, Katrina is really her mother’s lover’s baby girl. Although both parents knew they decided to keep it a secret and she was never told that the man she thought was her father wasn’t her biological parent. Although he wanted to raise her as his own he was never able to completely forget that she was living evidence that his wife had been unfaithful. Poor Katrina didn’t know why he couldn’t look at her properly or showed more affection to her sisters. She internalized the blame, thinking it was something wrong with who she was, and that made her struggle for success as a ballerina to win her father’s approval.
The secret about Katrina’s parentage was finally outed when her parents died in a car accident. Katrina was shocked but also deeply wounded because a bedrock truth in her life had been a lie. She had turned to her biological father, a man who had paid for her private school and ballet classes but was again rejected. He didn’t want his son to know he’d been unfaithful in his marriage. Even becoming a prima ballerina wasn’t enough to heal her self esteem, and she gave up on ever being a woman that any man would love. After all if her own Daddy didn’t love or want her, who will? This devastating impact of being the victim of a family secret creates even more serious consequences when she falls pregnant to a man she loves but can’t believe he would ever really love her.
The final story in the series is yet to be published. It’s about the middle sister, Ruby. She’s a loner with no friends. Artistic like her parents, she’s out of place in her private school with her dyed, bright red hair. Jarrod is a popular young man, being groomed to take over his father’s fashion business. He recognized her talent for designing fashion when he saw her sketch pad. He encouraged her and saw through her rebel disguise to the soul of an artist.
When Jarrod tells his father about Ruby, his father is horrified that his son is falling for the half sister of his illegitimate daughter. He actively discourages their relationship and refuses to help Ruby in her career. When Jarrod’s parents separate he is asked to stay with his Dad. He’s devastated about his family breaking up and wanting to support his father so he backs away from Ruby.
When Jarrod steps back from her, Ruby doesn’t understand but what can she do but shut down and keep away? She finishes high school still mad with Jarrod for having led her on and worse than that, she believed he was different.
Years later she is working for Jarrod’s family friend. Jarrod is running his father’s company since he passed away. When he hears that Ruby has been accused of stealing designs, he doesn’t believe it’s true. Jarrod knows she has talent and has been set up. He makes a plan to right wrongs of the past and present but getting Ruby on board proves much harder than he imagined.
‘The Scottish Billionaire’s Secret Lover’, ‘The Italian Billionaire’s Secret Baby’ and ‘The Australian Billionaire’s Secret Marriage Deal’, completes the series about the Baxter sister’s secrets, yet I think there is so much to untangle when a secret comes to light that I'm also working on a new story about a hero and heroine with family secrets. The healing that comes from secrets being unearthed is an uplifting process so it’s very satisfying to write about characters’ struggling with this journey.
PS. I’m working on having Ruby’s story, 'The Australian Billionaire's Secret Marriage Deal', out in Spring 2018
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.