Since developing as a writer I’ve done a lot of reflective thinking about stories. I’ve discovered that my personal story, that is my life journey has a lot to do with the books I connected strongly with and resonated with me. More than that, it began in childhood.
I also was born with a medical condition that surfaced around age ten. This meant I had, what seemed to me, very long stays in the hospital. I suffered acutely the separation from family life and started to wonder if I would ever get to go home again. My only link was my mother’s daily visits. During those, she read Johanna Spyri’s ‘Heidi’ out loud to me.
I quickly became enraptured in the story of the Heidi, Grandfather, Peter, and the little goats. Although I was stuck in a hospital bed, while Mum read I was running barefoot on the grassy slopes with my new little friend.
I was so sad for Heidi when she was taken away to live with poor Clara. She had to live in the city away from everything she’d grown to love so dearly. There was a happy ending of course and Mum must have chosen this book with care, because Heidi eventually went home, better equipped for life than she was before.
There were lots of story points that resonated strongly with me and still do. I’ve reread it many times over during the years of my life, always gaining something else or being reminded of something important. After I was divorced and enduring an extreme sense of loss of my home and family, I read it again, taking solace in the message that struggle is often a gift, something hard to be learned or endured so that life can change and evolve. And taking comfort from spending time with my childhood friend, Heidi.
I have a new home and am married again. I have someone to love and I’m loved in return by a kind-hearted man. We’re friendly with my ex and are able to celebrate family occasions altogether. When I got divorced, this was the dream I hung on to and it has come true. During the struggle between happy times, I held it in my heart that difficult times pass. I’ll always be grateful for the story of ‘Heidi’, read to me when I was a little girl who wasn't allowed to go home, because the story showed me I had reason to hope.
I have since learned that this hope has lasted all my life. I think it's why I'm drawn to writing romance novels, they are about hope which is expressed through finding a person love and who loves in return. It's about the creation of a new family and home filled with love.
This blog was first posted on Romancing the Genres last Thursday where I am a regular contributor.
Dora Bramden writes heart-melting, passionate, romance.
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I’m completely on board with celebrating the gift of a loving parent. However, I’m aware that this can be a difficult time for those who don’t have their father around, so if this is a trigger for you, please click off now and take care to be kind to yourself this weekend. I know how lucky I am to still have my father with me and this post is to honor him and share a little about our loving relationship.
My dad walked me down the isle in July. As a mature bride I was so fortunate that dad was able to take part in the celebration of my marriage to Sam. At eighty-seven he’s endured two hip replacements and a knee replacement. If he has to walk any distance, he uses the aid of crutches. He was determined to walk me down the isle. I think, in some part, he still sees me as his little girl.
At the reception, he managed to dance a gentle waltz with me so I'd have a special father-daughter moment with him. After he was again seated at his table he said, “I didn’t think I’d be able to do it.” But he was smiling broadly. It makes me emotional to recall this because it shows how he’d pushed himself because he knew what it would mean to me.
His whole life is centered around his family. His children are very important and he always admired mum for the wonderful job she did with looking after us all. But he was there, providing for his family and guiding his children with his wisdom.
As the baby of the family, I was indulged. I sat on his knee to watch TV until I grew too tall. He played ballet music on the stereo so I could dance to it. When I’d tried to make myself stilts (they were all the rage with the kids at the time) with nailed together bits of wood, they kept falling apart so Dad made sturdy ones that were screwed together and braced. I had heaps of fun walking around on them.
Widowed two years ago, his focus is now on his two daughters. He alternates Sunday nights with me and my sister. We make a roast dinner and send him home with enough leftovers for two more meals for dinner during the week. We visit during the week and each night we take it in turns to call him and have a chat about our day. But he's very independent and still does his own supermarket shopping and brings homes treats for us to enjoy when we have lunch with him.
I find at this time of life I’m also grateful for what I’m able to do for dad. Like my sister and brother in law, Sam and I take dad on holiday with us. We enjoy going out for lunch and visiting attractions. Dad is happy to do whatever Sam and I like and of course we're happy to take dad to see the things he would like too.
In my romance writing dad inspires my heroes. They hear the call to action that fatherhood requires and are sensible of the responsibility that it carries. Angus, from 'The Scottish Billionaire's Secret Lover', is a father in waiting. He has the welfare of orphans at the center of all he does and is a father figure to a little boy in need of surgery to repair disfigurement. He thinks he needs an aristocratic, arranged marriage but subconsciously he really wants a wife who possesses a nurturing heart, with whom he can make the family he always wanted.
Alessandro, from 'The Italian Billionaire's Secret Baby', was a boy when he lost his father in a racing car accident. Determined not to put a child of his through the same ordeal he refuses to have children while pursuing the same career but he discovers he has a toddler son. He immediately wants to step up and be a hands on father, but he has to understand what that really takes in order to win a place in his son's life and the heart of his estranged wife.
Dad showed me what it is to be a father who takes that responsibility to heart. He loves his children and supports them to the best of his ability. This Father’s Day, it’s my pleasure to have dad for Sunday dinner. My sister and husband will join us and it looks like my kids will be coming too, as they usually do on Sundays to see their grandad. It will be a roast, probably lamb, which is an Australian staple, with apple sponge and ice-cream for dessert. Dad will be the guest of honor and I can’t express how lucky that makes me feel.
Dora Bramden writes heart-melting, passionate romance.
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.
The first Easter I remember was all about chocolate eggs that the Easter Bunny had left overnight. The smell of the chocolate wafted up as I opened the foil wrapper before breakfast promising pure delight. But more than this was the supreme indulgence of having chocolate for breakfast. I can still remember the thin chocolate melting into creamy, chocolaty sweetness on my tongue.
I was the sort of child who couldn’t resist the eggs. By dinner time I would have eaten all three of them, one large, one medium and a small one. I never could ration myself so that I could enjoy them for days after. The best I could do was only eat the small one first, then the middle sized one and last of all, the big one. But one year I got so much Easter chocolate, and I was so unwell that I had lots left over at the end the of Easter Sunday.
When I was nine, I was diagnosed with a kidney condition. I was admitted to the Royal Children's Hospital, I think in February. I was still there when I had my tenth birthday in early March and then along came Easter. I’d been in the hospital for many weeks at this point. The staff were wonderful but I was wondering when and whether it would all end. But Easter brought chocolate. Not just from the Easter Bunny but from our extended family and friends too. There were many of the treasured eggs but also chocolate rabbits and a chocolate hen sitting in a chocolate basket.
Boy, I felt so spoiled, but more importantly, it let me know that while I was away from them all, they hadn’t forgotten me. For many days I enjoyed little bits of chocolate, and it lasted a long time. Eventually, I started to feel better, and all the eggs were gone by the time I came home. The condition couldn’t be cured, and I would have to live with it for the rest of my life. But the gift of the Easter chocolate had been a bright spot during a difficult time.
I wish I could say that was a turning point for me, in regards to having discipline around chocolate, but it wasn’t. As soon as I was well again, my appetite returned, and I was back to my old tricks feasting on chocolate on Easter Sunday. Whenever my condition makes its presence felt I lose my appetite and drop some weight. For the last couple of weeks I haven’t been well, and so I dropped a couple of kilos. Don’t worry I have plenty more to spare (she chuckles) but aside from that, I’m feeling well again now and will be able to enjoy some chocolate this Sunday. As you can see in the photo above, I'm prepared.
This year, while I’m enjoying my traditional chocolate breakfast, I’ll be grateful that I’m still here after all these years, and for the love of the family and friends that I have about me.
Thank you for supporting of my blog; it means so much to me that you drop in each week to see what musings I have to share. I wish you and your loved ones a very enjoyable and healthy Easter.
I wonder if it's possible to write an Easter Romance. I'll have to think about that one. It would have to include chocolate. That reminds me, I hope you get lots of chocolate!
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.
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My grandmothers listened, guided and helped me where they could. They didn’t have the important responsibility to raise me or pay for my shoes or doctors’ appointments. They’d done all that with one of my parents. Now was their time to enjoy children and to offer unconditional love and a wise word here and there. When creating my heroines, I always seem to think about not just her mother and what she was like but also who was her grandmother and what influence did she have. In my latest book, Katrina’s mother was a successful artist and worked a lot, so it was her grandmother who provided the stability and attention that little Katrina craved. Having had a close and loving relationship with both of my grandmothers, who were there for me when my mother couldn’t be, enriched my life beyond measure. I like to share a little about them with you.
My Nana (Dad’s mum) lived a few houses away in the same street. She was the social outgoing type who always came to see me dance at my annual ballet concert. I would call in and see her whenever I liked and was welcomed with a warm smile and offered a packet of chips, a treat that I promptly ate. She had fun loving friends who came to play cards. Sometimes I would call in after school and find them laughing and sitting around a card table in the lounge playing ‘Stop The Bus’. A chair for me would be pulled up and a pile of copper coins placed at my disposal. Under the window sat a coffee table. On here she had photos of her seventeen grandchildren displayed under glass. She called all of us ‘Dear’ because she used to get our names mixed up. Parties at Nana’s were a highlight at Christmas with all her children and grandchildren arriving for a sing-along and sometimes there was dancing. I used to love playing in her crystal cabinet. I was actually dusting it, but it was like playing to me. She left me that cabinet (see the photo above) and I will cherish it always.
My Granny (Mum’s mum) lived in the next suburb but it was there I had many sleepovers when Mum and Dad went out. She was an older grandmother and had been the head Sister in a country hospital before she married. She was a quiet woman who liked a simple life and kept her country ways even though she now lived in a big city. She taught me how to knit and crochet and to make paper pieced patchwork. A wood fired stove turned out scones and sausage rolls and an open fire in the lounge room was a special delight. There was a pot of tea with cups and saucers brought into the lounge on a tray, and Cadbury milk chocolate for supper.
I remember asking her some of the big questions. Like ‘Aren’t you scared of dying now that you’re old?’ I cringe now when I think about my young self being so tactless, but she gave me an answer that has stayed with me all my life. She explained that she wasn’t scared because she’d lived a long life and was tired now. She also told me that I didn’t have to worry because I’d be ready too when I was old and my time came. I stopped worrying about what lay ahead in all areas of my life. I assumed I’d be ready when the time came. She let me play with her makeup and I’d put on her red lipstick and bright rouge although I never saw her wear it and I assume it was kept solely to entertain her granddaughters. I was allowed to look through the jewelry that she kept in a crystal bowl. She left that bowl to me and I keep it in my study where I write.
I’ve dedicated “The Italian Billionaire’s Secret Baby’ to my grandmothers because of the love they gave me, and all their grandchildren, for the stability and quiet confidence that came from being family women who’d lived through all the stages of womanhood. They knew what lay ahead for me and did their best to help me see a light inside myself. They were giving in their time and showed how happy they were to see me whenever I visited.
Katrina, pretty ballerina, as I like to call her, had a close relationship with her grandmother. Because of this she wants her son to get to know his grandmother in Italy. I believe I could write this lovely lady from the heart because I had some wonderful women to inspire me.
If you’d like to order a copy of The Italian Billionaire’s Secret Baby.’ Follow the links below.
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I was sitting in the library during a class at primary school, when I chose a book to read simply because there was a fairy-like ballerina on the cover. Her light as air fluffy tutu and her elegant hair pulled back into a bun made me want to be her.
I don’t remember the name of the book but I have vague memories of a girl coming from a poor home. Her life was spartan and she fed the mice in the attic to make pets of them. I don’t think I’m mixing this up with Cinderella but you never know. I’ve had a look on Amazon and it may have been ‘Dance of the Swan’ A biography of Anna Pavlova. Her mother was poor after her father died. Born in Russia, she could learn to be a ballerina at the government-run school once she turned ten years old. It changed her life. She worked hard and endured painful feet to become a famous prima ballerina. I really wanted to be her. I wanted to be a beautiful woman who rose from obscurity and danced on a stage to the applause of hundreds.
Luckily for me, I didn’t have to wait until I was grown up to have that experience.
I told my mother I wanted to learn ballet. Luckily there was a school in our neighborhood and although we weren’t well off, Mum somehow found the money for the fees, leotard, pink tights and of course the coveted shoes. To my extreme surprise and severe disappointment, they weren’t toe shoes. At only 10 years old I had a while to wait.
I was amazed at how strict but kind the teacher was. I knew I couldn’t dance very well, but she praised my determination to give it all I had when it came to the complicated steps and jumps. She was so elegant and graceful and was precisely what a ballet dancer should be.
At the end of the year, I had my first exam. I was so nervous and I remember her kissing me on the top of my head and saying I’d be okay. I could hardly breathe when I went into the room and began going through the steps I’d learned before a panel of three judges.
When I got to my next class, I raced with all the other girls to the notice board to find out my results. We crowded around and I heard them say they had got honors with pride or that they’d got a credit with not quite as much enthusiasm. Me, I was just praying for a pass. When I finally found my name and a pass next to it, I think I felt happier than any other girl in my class.
Near the end of the year, we began rehearsing our concert dances so extra classes were scheduled. I loved Saturday afternoons when the older girls came in to dance with us. I was transfixed watching them dancing on their toes. Like magic fairies, four girls danced with interlocked hands and bounced on toes doing a famous dance from Swan Lake. I was one of the many flowers that grew around the lake, in the background watching on.
Our concert was held at the town hall in front of a large audience. The buzzing excitement of being dropped off at the stage entrance by Mum was just the beginning. I was helped to dress in a gorgeous tulle costume and had my makeup done. It was a highlight experience of my childhood. We filed up a wooden staircase to one side of the wings and waited there with the fellow flowers, listening to orchestra music and the applause at the end of each scene. We gradually descended the stairs as each set of dancers went on stage and did their performance. Finally, it was my group's turn and I ran onto the stage. It was so dark out there but I sensed the audience and knew my mother, sister and grandmother were all watching me.
I danced my piece with the flower chorus and then stayed on stage but standing at the back I watched the beautiful older girls dance their piece. Then the audience clapped so loud. It was thrilling and exciting and happy but too soon it was time to leave. I ran as I’d been taught on tippy toes across the stage and out into the wings. I was hooked. I loved every minute.
I kept dancing for another few years until illness made me retire. I never did get a pair of the much-coveted toe shoes. I probably never would have become a real ballerina anyway. I was too uncoordinated, too tall and gangly but that doesn’t dim my enjoyment in the memories I have. I did get to dance on stage and hear thunderous applause that lifted me out of my ordinary life, and for one evening a year, I was a ballerina who danced on a stage.
As a romance writer, I get to live out the dreams of my childhood through my characters. Katrina Baxter is a prima ballerina. Dancing helped shape her identity and has been the one constant love in her life until she met Alessandro Rinaldo, a very determined Grand Prix champion. Each of them is 100 percent committed to their career until a little boy captivates their hearts and makes them see that there is more to life and to love than their careers.
I suppose we all have dreams of what we want to be when we grow up and for a lot of us it doesn’t work out that way. I don’t think it matters that much. In researching the book I discovered how much pain ballerinas endure for their craft and I know I wouldn’t want to have the arthritis a lot of them end up with. Perhaps having the dream, the imagining of how it would be, is the best part. In my case, I was lucky to have some part of the dream come true. The experience I had was enough, so that when it was time to let it go I was okay with it.
You can find my e-book about Katrina, Alessandro and their baby ‘The Italian Billionaire’s Secret Baby’ on Amazon Available at the special pre-order price of 99cents until the released date on Nov 14th when it will be $2.99.
I'm giving a free advance copy away. For a chance to win it, leave a comment telling me what wanted to be when you grew up.
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.