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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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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Doing the things that give me energy is essential to my creative process but there's an added bonus, that is huge.
After a lifetime of doing what my head said was right, I'm still learning to listen to the subtle messages from my heart. I've been feeling blocked in my writing and have been meditating on what thought patterns are behind it. While at the same time, I wanted to feel productive, so I turned to doing something that has worked for me in the past.
Working with my hands fires up my creativity. I started making this collage from scrap-booking paper and supplies. I made a good start but the final picture didn't come together in one afternoon. I had to let it sit with me and add extra bits and pieces over time. It was the 'Go Your Way' sign that gelled what my subconscious was trying to tell me.
In my meditations, a recurring theme kept cropping up around worthiness. If anyone had asked me if I felt worthy I'd have said yes, but with a quiet mind during meditation, some big doubts came forward from my subconscious. The solution would take time to emerge, I needed to process the difficult feelings, working on my collage helped me sit with them.
I had an idea that I wanted this collage to reflect my true self, as a way of valuing who I am. I began with adding elements that speak about my favorite things. Predominantly, I wanted something tangible to help me take ownership of what I like about being me. Something I could look at that would remind me of my passions at times of distraction or self doubt.
Roses are my favorite flower. These white roses came in a huge sheet which I fussy cut into odd sections. I love the shabby chic style, pale blue background paper with more subtle roses. The scrapbook script paper refers to my love of writing. This sparkly chandelier has been in my stash for ages and I finally had a reason to use it. There are no less than three chandeliers in our house, even the bathrooms have mini chandeliers, if I count them all that makes five.
The lace I used was also the inspiration for Sam's and my wedding, being traditional and elegant. I've always been enraptured with lace. I love the way the formality of the lace is contrasted with the scrappy paper and how that says so much about my eclectic tastes. I decorate with the odd luxury item and home made sitting side by side. The once gold frame was a cheap thrift store find that I painted white with chalk paint.
I arranged all the mix and match elements and hot glued them down. Next came the dark blue/grey paper butterflys. I always loved them for the promise that one day I'd grow wings. I really feel I'm there, my life is sorted. I've found a loving life partner and established a home for us. Regarding my writing, I have and self published two books and two short stories. These Butterflys now remind me to look for the light. That's what butterflys do, they look for rays of light to dance in.
The little sign, 'Go Your Own Way' summed up both what I needed to acknowledge, and what this work had been leading me to. Going my own way is the how I resolve being worthy. It doesn't matter if I'm good enough, or if I deserve success. I only need to live authentically to be getting it right,and that seems to make the question of being worthy or not irrelevant. Of course I'm worthy of being myself. It's embracing all that is me that makes me feel whole.
I'm very happy to say that I have started working on a new story. The characters are currently making themselves known to me. It exciting to be at the beginning of a new journey but I also have a finished book that needs significant rewrites. The heroine has been the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, but I've been holding back from really exploring how deeply this affected her. I think I was afraid of upsetting myself or the reader. But I think every voice that adds to women being deserving of respect and a romantic hero that shows it is a good thing.
There's only one thing to do, and that is to go my own way with this. I need to stop holding back or pulling my punches. This story deserves to be told to the best of my ability and I'm going to do my best for it.
If you've ever felt not good enough or hopeless about achieving something, I totally understand how you feel. Its terrible in the way it cripples creativity. Mt advice is to make a start on something and do it just for yourself. Turn off your inner critic that says it's no good and focus on the fun you're having while you're doing it. Nothing ever has to be perfect, even nature is imperfect.
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Heart-melting, passionate romance.
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 first objective is to drink a glass of water while I make a cup of tea. I drink my tea sitting up in bed where it's restful and peaceful.
Next I like to meditate. This is a time where I clear my mind and let my brain waves shift into a receptive place. I like to let what is bothering me come forward and then let it go into a stream to be carried away. I learned to meditate years ago and I am able to make the shift from monkey mind to receptiveness effectively now, but it took practice. I’ll meditate for about 10 to 30 minutes. Once I've let go of distractions, I am able to let creativity rise and new ideas be received into my conscious mind.
I always feel refreshed after meditating and ready to meet the day's challenges. Using my phone, I’ll do a quick check for emails and social media that need responses, then I get up ready to have some breakfast.
After straightening the bed and putting the cushions back, I wrap myself in my new Kimono (which I adore) collect my reading glasses, phone and tea mug and swan out to the kitchen at about 8.30. Depending on how hungry I am, I have one or two pieces of toast topped with something different each day. My favorite toppings are gluten free Vegemite, jam, a poached egg, a slice of cheese or slices of tomato with salt and pepper. I make another cup of tea to have with it.
While I’m eating breakfast I like to watch a couple of YouTube videos. Topics that inspire me are crafting, gardening, home decorating, and story analysis. The channels I’m enjoying most are Olivia’s Romantic Home, Garden Answer, Live Your Style and The Take.
After breakfast I turn on my computer and while it’s firing up I take a cup of coffee into the garden and water the flowers or just sit and enjoy the view. I bring a glass or water into the office and start work at about 9 to 9.30. If I’m having a low energy day, that can move back to about 10 to 10.30 before I have the brain power to begin working on whatever is most pressing. If I have a blog due, that takes priority. I prefer to write blogs like my books, write a draft and revising some time later on. It doesn’t always happen but that’s what I aim for.
If I can dive straight into my current WIP I love it. I’ll write for about an hour. I’ll drink a glass of water, shower and get dressed in something comfortable. I brush my hair and teeth and fill another gloass of water to take back to my computer. I begin another session of 1 to 2 hours of writing. That takes me up to lunch time.
I keep writing on and off for the rest of the day, interspersed with five minutes jobs like washing a load of clothes or vacuuming the bedroom. I have more energy as the day goes on, but this morning routine seems to get me productive and feeling better.
Noticing what my habits are gives me the framework for a routine that I can consistently keep to. Also I gain the ability to tweak it a little. Trying to impose a routine has never worked for me. Mindfulness of what I need to be productive has been the basis of how I structure my day. Awareness provides the ability to grow into making more healthy and productive decisions.
I suppose the takeaway I'm sharing in this blog is that when I consider my needs and not just what I want to accomplish it works. It's a balancing act as are most things in life. The push pull of doing what we need to, opposed to what we want. Knowing my limits lets me take care of myself while still having productive times in my day.
While YouTube is inspiring I can feel a little glued to the telly. If that happens, I remember the good feeling I have when working at my computer. After all, a morning routine has to work for you, not against you.
Dora Bramden writes heart-melting, passionate romance.
The Scottish Billionaire’s Secret Lover
The Italian Billionaire’s Secret Baby
Follow Dora on Instagram Facebook and Pinterest
Creative people will experience it at some time or another. A deep gut reaction preventing them from starting a project, completing it or worse, making them perform poorly. The later becomes a self fulfilling prophesy that they aren't talented enough.
This deep gut feeling brings a sense of impending doom. A warning to not proceed because danger lies there. Anxiety driven decisions follow which feel deceptively right. 'Do it tomorrow', anxiety says or 'Have something to eat'. If strong enough to ignore this horribly uncomfortable feeling, the constant thoughts of 'Is this good enough,'accompanied with feelings close to panic, while doing the task, can undermine the ability to finish. Because anxiety driven thoughts are dominating the creative part of the brain, it lowers the quality of what can be produced.
Unfortunately this anxiety can become worse the more proficient people become at their craft. More knowledge means anxiety can judge more harshly. Work that is a baby waiting to grow up can be tossed aside as useless because it hasn't arrived fully formed. Judging has to happen after the work is produced so that it can be refined and developed further. But performance anxiety, armed with knowledge, disparages the seedling for not being a fully bloomed rose.
I have asked myself the question, if I did this before, surely I can do it again. But asking questions is dangerous because anxiety will answer. It will say, that past success was luck, you can't do it again. This time is different and you won't be able to do it again. Blahhh. That's enough of that.
I've tuned to inspiring writing quotes, and I've seen a lot in my ten years of writing. They have their place but when it comes to performance anxiety there really aren't any that help me. But the words of prolific romance author, Maisy Yates, stayed with me. I heard her speak about her writing life at a Romance Writers of Australia conference. She said that she protects her joy of writing because her writing supports her family. That is the clue that led me to finding a practical way to get the words flowing. Remember the joy.
What I did, is remember how good it felt to be sitting and typing at my desk. How amazing it is to me that something that never existed before is now here. I don't communicate with my performance anxiety, I shift my focus away from worry to what I enjoy doing. A simple remembrance of a time I was enjoying my writing seems to beat that performance anxiety energy. Joy is powerful, it has energy changing properties. It builds a desire to turn on my computer and sit in the chair and start typing.
It's the process of being at my computer and typing that I like. I enjoy being a writer and eventually there will be a story. The baby will be refined and edited and even grow up into something surprising. I don't think about if it will sell, if I will like it. I stay in the present and enjoy writing. Eventually the characters start to take form in my mind and they starts to say and do things like I'm watching a movie. I'm typing as fast as I can so that I catch it and bring it into the physical world where it can be shared with others.
This brings me to the other element that helps keep me coming back to my computer. That writing my stories instead of letting them just play out in my head means I'm sharing them with others. It's an act of generosity to tell stories and that energy is loving. It matters that I am willing to share and have made a contribution. It's my contribution for others to enjoy or not, that doesn't matter really, only that I was willing to let something of my creation go out into the world.
Being an author means I will not be liked by everyone. I can't know exactly how much pleasure my work might bring to other people or for how long, but that's not my concern. Writing the stories is my business, and I enjoy doing it.
My next project is to start the second draft of a story about a girl born into a musical family. When her mother dies she is sent to live with her grandmother in another state. Now grown up she's come home after inheriting her father's nightclub.
However, she discovers the guitarist from her father's band has already made a home there and expects her to sell it to him. She finds out that he's become the adopted son her father always wanted.
This romance explores how our sense of home informs our identity. It isn't just a place on a map but a place that holds the secrets of who we think we are.
I'm going to enjoy developing this story and bringing it into the day light. It's the joy of creating that is going to bring me to my keyboard, open the file and pick up where I left off each day.
Dora Bramden writes heart melting, passionate romance.
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.