Stefanie London, a writer friend, posed a question on her Facebook feed this morning about whether or not people re-read their books and if so which ones do they come back to the most.
I could put my finger on two. I re-read Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe many times, enjoying the escape from the mundane world to fantasy land with talking animals. Each time I rejoined, Lucy, Susan, Edmund and Tom on their adventures I experienced the excitement and camaraderie. I relived their testing times and determination to keep going when all seemed lost.
The second book is Persuasion. This Jane Austen classic not only fired up my romantic nature but also combined a reunion love story with a tale of having to leave home. Anne goes on adventures unimagined when her father has to rent out the family estate and move to Bath. Although she imagines spending the rest of her days in a place she dislikes, that isn’t her destiny. The move sparks a chain of events that provides her with choices of new home and romance that had previously been unimagined.
I noticed the link between these two stories was each had a heroine who had to leave her home. Her safe world had been upended, and she has to use all her skills to navigate through what transpires because of it.
It makes sense to me that these types of stories would resonate with me because of the experience I had at the age of nine. I had to leave my home when I became sick and spend a long time in the hospital. My mum would come and visit me every day. While she was there, I felt safe, but when it was time for her to go, the hospital was a scary place. I had to make new friends with the staff and other patients and endure often painful or uncomfortable tests and treatments to make me better. I was on my own most of the time and had to deal with stuff that didn’t happen in ordinary everyday life.
Like the heroines of the stories I read, I came home again one day but was changed by my experiences. I used to wake my sister at six in the morning with my singing which I learned to do to pass the early hours in the hospital. What was worst was that home felt foreign. It seemed as though I didn’t belong in my own bed anymore. It took quite a while for that feeling to go away. I definitely became more independent from this experience, and I learned some fun crafts from the occupational therapists at the hospital that I was able to do at home. I learned that I can manage away from Mum and Dad and that although the journey can be tough, it helps to make you stronger.
In 2013 I had to spend six weeks in the hospital. I learned some precious things about myself during a time of forced retreat. Not long after romance came into my life and a new home followed. I love my life, even though there have been times it felt like it was kicking my butt. The ordinary days have become treasures to me because I’ve experienced the challenging times of being alone and struggling.
I like to read and write romance or books because they are always the story of people who have to face tough situations and grow from them. Finding love is the metaphor for having discovered the way to survive and thrive with challenging changes and embrace a happy life.
You can read the first chapter of my books on Amazon, or if you have a subscription to KU, you can read the whole book.
Do you have a book that calls you back again and again?
clothing. I got to see buttons and fabric samples, zips etc. I already had an interest in fabric from learning to patchwork so that part of my day was the favorite. Samples would arrive from the upstairs workshop and I’d be asked to try it on to check the sizing. I dreamed of being a real model but had to admit my first love was fashion designer.
In my senior years at high school I talked about being a fashion designer and doing a diploma at The Melbourne College of Textiles. At the time the college was just down the road and around the corner so it seemed like a perfect fit for me. However I was advised it would lead to work as a pattern maker at best or a machinist at worst. I knew I didn’t want that, I wanted to draw and create things. I didn’t come from a rich family who could fund me going solo so I looked for a way to earn a living in an office. Working in the fashion industry gave me an opportunity to see behind the glamour and find out what the industry could be really like.
My to be released book the Australian Billionaire’s Secret Proposal, is the third and last book in the Baxter Sister Series. It's about the middle sister, Ruby. She's a talented fashion designer, but she struggles to stand up for herself. Only when she can does she find her way back to true love. I was inspired by those days working alongside fashion industry professionals but I wanted to know more about being a designer.
As luck would have it I was talking about the book to my travel agent who put me in touch with a working fashion designer. We met and I told her about the events in my book (a fashion designer who's had her designs stolen) and the setting in Melbourne, Australia and Jaipur, India to check for authenticity. She told me the book could have been about an experience she once had in the industry.
She gave me heaps of information which enabled me to understand the pressures a designer is under. She explained of the number of garments and how many collections per year she had to design to tight deadlines and importantly, the potential to have your work stolen is very real.
I was so lucky to have an afternoon talking to her and all she wanted was a salad from subway as a thankyou. While we ate, I filled a notebook as she talked about her time at a previous employer who’d sent her to India to work. She was so surprised that I’d used that city as the setting for the last portion of the novel.
With all of that being such a huge coincidence I feel that this book was meant to be.
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.
For more excerpts and news about upcoming releases fill in my newsletter form in the header of this blog.
The Italian Billionaires Secret Baby is available in eBook and print or borrow for free from your Kindle device with Amazon Prime.
I have gone from throwing my energy into the wrong projects which resulted in and a dozen half started or non started goals to completed projects I’m proud of. The mistakes of the past have taught me to strive for less and to condense my efforts into the projects that have real meaning to me. I’m an author so my example goals are around writing but I have applied these principles to other areas of my life. For example I had a goal of owning a home with Sam. Last year I renovated a fixer upper while we lived with family. Getting that done was an important goal.
Choose my goals after I make a wish list.
Often, I would get to this time of year and put together a list of all the things I’d like to achieve. Then I’d feel so proud of having achieved a list of goals for the year. I was full of optimism and high energy but even though this felt good, It lacked practicality. My list wasn't a workable tool that would move me forward to short and long-term goals. A wish list is fine but it’s not goal setting. Goal setting required deeper level consideration.
Pair down my wish list.
Too many things on my list resulted in my energy being defrayed by the sheer number of differing projects. A few realistic goals worked much better than the sheet filled with what I thought I wanted. I published a book each year for the last two years. Instead of aiming for three a year and not doing any I realistically looked at my schedule and my actual writing routine to see what could be expected. This has resulted in my having two books published and another on the schedule for next year. Looking back, I realized my wish list also contained goals I thought I should achieve. Not things I really wanted to physically do. I had to get real with myself.
Choose goals that feed me.
When I put myself in the driver seat and imagined how I would achieved the goal, I checked back with myself. Did it seem to give me energy or make me feel drained? For me, enjoying or finding the process of achieving the goal satisfying is key to it being a real goal. If I can’t imagine myself performing the task then it's a 'should do goal'. I really should make a YouTube trailer, nope I can’t see it, no ideas come to me. It’s not going to happen. I don’t yet have sufficient motivation to do that. It might be there in the future but it’s not a priority now. Another goal for last year was enrolling in a synopsis workshop. I really want to be able to pitch to agents and editors more effectively. This goal was a real one. It happened because I knew it would make me feel empowered, so it feeds me but I was also motivated because it was actionable.
Make goals that have a clear action.
Having a best seller isn’t a goal. That’s a wish. Producing a well written story is within my power. An overall goal for me but I still need to document the planned steps I’ll take. Professional development is a great motivator to me. So I choose an aspect of writing to hone, an area I’d like to see improve and then look for a course or at the very least a book on the subject.
My goals for 2018.
If you're wondering, this year’s goals haven’t been set completely. I use January's new energy to help me with that. As I've said there's a book planned for this year It just needs some rewrites before a March release. I've enrolled in a branding workshop but there might be time for more PD and finishing a half written new work, now that I'm not renovating. There is the garden though (she grins). My goals will need to be reassessed as events take place during the year but mostly a clear achievable goal, will have steps I can take. It helps me to check back with my goal as I complete each step and see how far I've come. This helps renew the initial spark that got me going in the first place.
Best wishes for your goal setting and a happy, healthy and successful 2018.
See more about these books on my book page.
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
As promised last week, I'm posting pictures of this year's Christmas decorating. I haven't finished but am happy to share what I've done so far in the family room and bedroom.
The traditional colors of red and green are a feature, but there is more focus on green and natural this year. I'm working on the theory that adding some natural touches to the decorations I have, and paring some of the glitzy gold and silver back a little, will bring a calmer vibration to my home.
You can see in the close up picture above, I haven't used my red ribbon from last year on the tree and I've kept the decorations lighter in color with touches of red. The use of blush pink or rose gold balls helps to soften the overall effect. I still have some clothes peg stars to make and add to this tree, also some burlap ribbon bows so I'll post an update when that's been done. I also post to Instagram so you can keep a look out there too.
The coffee table has a magazine tree that I made from folding the pages in at an angle. On the wall I have a wreath but there is still too much red, so I plan to switch the bows to burlap ones. Same as the ones I'd like to add to the tree. I also need something above the TV. Any suggestions?
In the bedroom I kept my neutral linen look bedspread and only added a cranberry throw and pillowcase covers, from Laura Ashley, this year. Normally I'd use the whole doona set. I've added green picks with berries and fruit to some faux plants on the bedside tables.
The reindeer pillow feature in the middle of the bed is there year round but needed something to tie it in with the theme, so I added a red bow to its antlers. Now I think he looks very festive but the cool blue/grey background ties the bed in with the grey feature wall.
There's still some craft and things to do in December and I plan to take my time and get as much entertainment from this time of year as I can. Come back to see how my wooden clothes peg stars turn out and I might have a surprise project to share also.
Over December I'll also be working on the third book in the Baxter Sister series. I'm hoping to have it ready for release next March.
Here are links below to the first two. Also I just want to mention that the Scottish Billionaire's Secret lover is set right before Christmas. The epilogue has a lovely Christmas day scene that can't fail to make you sigh with warm feelings. So if you like a Christmas read this is a story you'll enjoy.
Inspiration is different for everyone, I imagine. It's the question I'm asked most often when I tell people I'm a writer. Lucky for me, I don't have any trouble answering them. I've been able to corral the plethora of things that inspire me into three categories. Travels, Real Life and Rescues and Fate Steps In. If you're interested in hearing about these, read on.
Travel and Holidays
I guess I've been a traveler since a very young age. All of us travel a massive orbit around the sun on this planet every year. That's a lot of miles or kilometers to clock up when you've just been born! No wonder we all hanker for a look at foreign places.
I've been fortunate to travel to distant lands and experience the richness of their culture. But long before that I did it through documentaries on TV and reading.
I guess that's why I like to use the escape of a foreign land or travels within my home country of Australia to help me craft a story that takes me away from my ordinary world and puts me into someone else's.
I set "A Wife for the Orange Farmer" in Mildura, a border country town situated on the grand Murray river. Its Orange Groves are watered by irrigation from that river and are the major produce for the area. During a caravan holiday at Mildura, I sat in the shade of a River Red Gum, rocking my baby daughter to sleep reading a Mills and Boon romance novel. So romance and Mildura were already a connection for me long before I was rescued by a real life hero who was an orange farmer.
Real Life and Rescues
No wonder when I was rescued by an Orange Grower during a thunderstorm at the Melbourne International Flower and Garden show I vowed to create a story for him. Such a charming handsome man, he entertained me and my mother with his easy good nature as he held a golf umbrella over the three of us.
Another yet to be published story was inspired during a self drive holiday in England. I was out of my comfort zone and then got lost. I needed directions and, you guessed it, a handsome man in a shiny silver Mercedes guided me back to the freeway.
Fate Steps In
I like these kinds of stories, soul mates who take a whole story to work it out. What if that woman lost in the car wasn't me but a grieving widow and this man was here to guide her back to a real life full of love and family? A novel was born.
What if that Orange Farmer with his easy manners and caring nature was taking care of his grandma who had grown so frail she needed a Personal Care Attendant? In country towns they're not easy to come by but a woman who's lost everything might go somewhere like that to find community and belonging and ends up finding a family as well.
I've met so many interesting people and been so many places and have such a romantic heart that I can't help but put them all together to create a story that gives it all meaning. Inspiration is drawn from everything I've ever read seen or done. It all gets put into a big bag and I play lucky dip I suppose. I also like to let my subconscious help out with meditating for writing and letting the words flow without questioning them and see what comes out. Later I sift through what has been mined for the gems. The results, well you've got to be the judge of that. Me, I love doing it.
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, recusing roses and planting new ones.