Friday, December 8, 2017

Release day for 'Recluse Millionaire, Reluctant Bride'

Since I live way down at the bottom end of Africa, most of my fellow Harper Impulse authors are only online friends. As a result, the very few I've actually met in person are very, very special to me. Sun Chara is one of those special people.

Sun and I met in San Diego at the RWA conference in 2016. My first impression was that she's tiny. My second impression was that what she might lack in height, she more than makes up for in heart. She is one of the warmest, most generous people I've met, and I am honored today to share the news of her latest release.

Recluse Millionaire, Reluctant Bride is another in her global millionaire’s series, and it releases today. Read on for an excerpt.

To find out more about Sun and her books here on her Amazon page, or you can follow her on Facebook or Twitter.


https://www.amazon.com/Recluse-Millionaire-Reluctant-Bride-Chara-ebook/dp/B072JF2BFX/
Is his reluctant bride a business risk or a personal necessity?

Stan Rogers, recluse millionaire, must negotiate a risky deal with Stella Ryan, the exotic beauty from his past, to gain custody of his son. But how can he close the deal with her, the one and only woman who flips his switches and pegs him as the enemy?

Martial artist Stella knows she should steer clear of Stan, the man who had shattered her heart and could still destroy her. Four years have passed since their hostile business deal, and now, the American financier is proposing holy matrimony…but she’s the reluctant bride wondering, what’s he up to?



Excerpt:
"What’re you doing here?" She leaped up and swayed at the sudden movement. Calm as you please, he lounged on the sofa, watching her beneath his bushy brows. Feeling at a distinct disadvantage, she swept up the pillow and blanket from the floor, and hugged them to her bosom.
Stan had the urge to snake his arm out and haul her into his arms, burying his face in her hair, sliding his hands beneath her disheveled jogging suit…sweat and all. He didn’t care. Her warmth and her scent with a hint of the Ivory soap she’d used during her shower, lassoed him. His gut jerked, or was that his heart?
Her eyes a deep sapphire from slumber, mesmerized. He wanted to nuzzle her nape, taste… abruptly, he checked the motion. Utter foolishness.
Hadn’t he learned his lesson in college when he got hitched on a dare? She’d taken him for a ride…every penny he had…and still after his scalp…and his son. Then, he’d been young, proud, reckless. Now, older and he hoped wiser— What the heck are you doing with this woman here? He shrugged the irksome thought aside.
If he wanted a woman, he could get one at the snap of his fingers. They were easy to come by when one was endowed with wealth. He wondered if they wanted him or his loot—if they’d even glance his way if he pumped gas at the local garage. He curled his lip in a silent snarl, and thinking it was directed at her, Stella took a step away from him.
Fever.
Blood pulsed through his veins and pooled in his groin. He bit down an expletive. He didn't want a woman, not now. And certainly, not this one. Too stubborn, too shrewd, too outspoken, too beautiful...he sucked in a breath and let it blast out between his teeth.
“Is it time to go?” she asked.
Let her go? Never again.
“A change of plans,” he said, not quite meeting her eyes.
"Oh?" Stella moistened her lips with the tip of her tongue.
Sexual awareness flared. Stan tightened his jaw.
"You won’t be leaving today, after all.” At her outraged expression, he was quick to add, “A problem with the truck.” Under the circumstances, he had trouble believing the lame excuse himself. Just happened to be true s’all. Whether she believed him or not was her problem. Yeah, right.
"How convenient."
"Actually, it's not," he muttered. "The group wanted to get to town and stock supplies before first snow.”
"Snow?"
He ignored her query. "Fred was going to check on the limo and halfway there, the Hummer broke down. He had to hike back.”
“Poor him.”
He didn’t even blink at her sarcastic rejoinder. “The outing will be postponed until tomorrow, together with your return.” A pause and, “Poor you?”
“Go to he—”
“I’ve already been,” he ground out. “Don’t recommend it.”
About to shoot back, she thought better of it. Stoking the already volatile situation wouldn’t get her out of there. And that’s what she wanted. Definitely.



Monday, September 18, 2017

Double page magazine spread

I'm currently featured in a double page spread in the October edition of South African magazine Your Family (on sale now). I am so honoured to have been included in this article on local writers, and really pleased how it turned out - it's the first time an article has correctly quoted me all the way through!

If you'd like to read the full article in a more legible version, the magazine can be purchased digitally here.



Friday, August 12, 2016

The end of an epic journey

Not epic in terms of scale, but rather in terms of major events in my life.

Day 7 of my first trip to the US (hopefully the first of many) started slowly, with a lie-in and a continental breakfast. Since I only needed to be at the airport late in the afternoon, I decided to explore this new city.

But with less than a day in Atlanta, how best to see as much as possible without blowing my constrained budget? I wanted to see as much as I could of the city and the answer was the electric car tour run by ATL-Cruzers. Advertised as a one and a half hour overview of Atlanta's attractions, I figured I could see a large swathe of the city without missing my plane.

I took an Uber into town (the only way to travel in Atlanta if, like me, you're too intimidated to drive on the wrong side of the road) and arrived early enough to stroll around the downtown area, taking in the Olympic Centennial park, Peachtree Centre and a Starbucks frappuccino before the tour.

Olympic Centennial Park

The electric car tour was great fun, and the tour guide very informative. I really felt as if I got a glimpse of the city, which is smaller than I'd originally thought, with a population about one eighth the size of my home town of Johannesburg, and a land size of about one fifth that of Jo'burg's.

In an hour and a half we toured the downtown area, Martin Luther King Jr. historical district, The Old Fourth Ward, Inman Park, Midtown, the university campus part of town, and finally back to Centennial Park.



Martin Luther King Jr's final resting place

Martin Luther King Jr's childhood home

Shotgun houses in the Old Fourth Ward (Martin Luther King Jr Historical District)


Inman Park historical trolley barn

Delta Park Lock Box:
keeping miscreants in holding from 1890 to 1905


Leafy suburban streets

Candler Mansion

Beath-Dickey House

A carriage mounting block from the good ol' days



The house in which Margaret Mitchell wrote Gone With the Wind
while recovering from a broken ankle

When the tour was done, I had one more thing on my To Do list: taste some traditional Georgia food and the famous sweet iced tea of the South. A Google search led me to Mary Mac's Tearoom, an elegant restaurant en route back to my hotel, where I not only sampled sweet iced tea, but also Southern fried chicken, fried green tomatoes, cheese grits and fried okra.




By now the clock was ticking loudly so I hurried back to my hotel for a quick shower and change, packed up my bags and headed to the airport. The Uber arrived not a moment too soon. No sooner had I got under cover, then the heavens opened in the kind of downpour we usually have here at home - the kind of downpour I had written into my Georgia-set novel When September Ends (which is still trying to find a home!)

A few things I learned during my single day in Atlanta:
  • almost everyone in Atlanta is from somewhere else
  • most of the traditional Southern foods appear to be brown and battered
  • Their sweet ice tea is a vast improvement on the Californian concept of iced tea, but still nowhere near as nice as South African ice tea
  • Cars only have license plates at the back of the car, which makes it difficult to recognise your Uber when it arrives to pick you up.

I really hope I get the chance to return to Atlanta some day. Not so much to see more of the city (I'm not that keen on visiting the CNN Center, World of Coca Cola or Turner Field) but I have friends there I didn't manage to see, and I'd love the chance to explore further afield, not least of all to visit the town of Madison where my novel When September Ends is set.

But for now it's Adieu USA. Until we meet again...

The plane that brought me home


Friday, August 5, 2016

Goodbye San Diego, Hello Atlanta!

As much as I wish the RWA conference could carry on and on and on, the sad reality is that eventually we have to pack away our glad rags and go back to yoga pants. Besides, most writers are introverts at heart. I think we'd implode if we sustained that level of excitement, enthusiasm and sociability for too long!

I woke on Sunday morning with a terribly deflated feeling, which would have been worse if I didn't have something to look forward to: Atlanta.

But first, breakfast with my lovely fellow HarperImpulse author, Lynn Montagano. This time I was even able to hold up my end of the conversation. And thank heavens Lynn has mastered the art of the selfie because I'm useless at it!

Lynn's selfie of us

At last it was time to pack my bags, shop for presents to take home, and head for the airport. Continuing the theme of meeting people in queues and elevators, it was while waiting in the queue for a cab outside the front of the hotel that I got chatting to Mills & Boon editor Kat Cheshire, who is as lovely as every other M&B editor I've ever met.

Farewell Marriott Marquis & Marina San Diego


Just in case it had already escaped me, the curb-side check in at the airport in San Diego reminded me why I find the USA so impressive - it's organised! That level of organisation and convenience really appeals to my OCD side!

Then it was "Goodbye San Diego..."

View from the plane during take-off

And "Hello Atlanta."

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Travelling across the States in daylight is an amazing experience. Seeing the country from the air not only reinforces how large the country is, but also how varied. From the arid browns of California and Texas to the surprising green of Oklahoma City and the forests of Georgia, it really is colourful.  (Through from the air all rivers look brown!)
Georgia is especially attractive - so many trees, with pockets of humanity carved out of the extensive woodlands.

It was evening but still light in Atlanta, so I was able to soak in the sights on the Uber trip from the airport to my suburban hotel. From the first, I loved this city. It's as muggy and humid as Durban, the town I grew up in - and just as green. Its streets and highways have the same sprawl as my current hometown of Johannesburg. But the architecture and atmosphere are so different from anything we have back home in South Africa that it feels exotic as well as familiar.

I stayed at the The Highland Inn, as different from the Marriott in San Diego as night from day. It's an old building, with uneven floors and a sense of being lost in the past, but it was a clean and comfortable place to sleep for the night.

The Highland Inn courtesy of Trip Advisor

The Highland Inn courtesy of Trip Advisor

For dinner I decided to treat myself to a quintessential American experience: a burger and fries in a real diner. Within a block of my hotel was The Majestic, a local landmark that could have stepped straight off a movie screen. And the burger and fries were quite possibly the best I've ever tasted!

Sadly, I didn't have my camera or cell phone with me (everything was charging back at the hotel!) so I'll have to rely on these Google images:




To walk off my meal, I went for a long stroll along Ponce de Leon Avenue, enjoying the sultry evening air and the relatively safe feeling of being able to explore the neighbourhood after dark. (Though I did see quite a few homeless people sleeping on the streets in Atlanta, something I hadn't noticed in San Diego).

Still too buzzed from the conference and the excitement of a new place (not to mention the time zone changes) I returned to the welcome air conditioning of my hotel room and the first book in Robyn Carr's Virgin River series, inspired to read it by her Lifetime Achievement Award acceptance speech the evening before.


Thursday, July 28, 2016

Watch the Rita Awards Ceremony here

The Rita Awards
(Image courtesy of RWA)

Did you miss the 2016 RITA and Golden Heart Awards Ceremony?
You can now watch it online!

Awards Ceremony, Part 1: https://youtu.be/ozTx2eKZ1_Q

Presentation of the Lifetime Achievement Award (very moving!): https://youtu.be/8pJqCJXn8I0

Awards Ceremony, Part 2: https://youtu.be/yy2s7F5A2R0 - this was the bit where my name came up



Sunday, July 24, 2016

San Diego Day 5 - Rita Day!

Sherry Thomas (image courtesy of Kristan Higgins)
My fifth day in San Diego started with a lovely, healthy breakfast while listening to featured guest speaker Sherry Thomas. Sherry was born and raised in China and moved to the US only in her early teens. Her earliest encounters with the English language were not happy ones, but luckily for her many, many devoted readers that all changed when post partum depression and romance novels came together to convince her she needed to write her own books.

The standard of speakers and workshop presenters at the RWA conference is very high. Every one of them have been highly entertaining, incredibly well spoken, and often moving - Sherry Thomas was definitely all of the above.

After breakfast I managed to slide in a Skype chat with my other daughter (the one I didn't manage to reach the day before) before Maya and I hurried to catch Michael Hauge's talk on Story Structure, with particular reference to the Will Smith movie Hitch.

I'd somehow managed to miss the fact that this was a double session, over two hours in length, which meant I had to miss another workshop I'd hoped to attend, but it was well worth it. Even if this was the only talk I attended at #RWA16, it would have been worth the trip!

Michael played us clips from the movie, using it to illustrate classic story structure with a particular focus on the internal journey of the main character. The talk was riveting, which was just as well since he had a lot of competition from the person behind me clicking away at her laptop keys, and the chatter from the people waiting to do their pitches outside. Fortunately in the second half of the session, someone figured out how to boost Michael's microphone so I no longer noticed all the background noise.

Michael Hauge's talk was something of a personal revelation for me, though his subject matter wasn't  entirely new to me. At one point I even drew a little lightbulb in my notebook as my entire current WIP shifted into sharp focus and I realised exactly what my story needs. I've heard from others who've heard him speak that he has this effect on everyone!

I've mentioned in earlier blog posts that there were queues for everything at RWA16. To illustrate my point, here's a glimpse of the queue for one of the publisher book signings (image courtesy of Patrick Haggerty) which shows just how excited everyone in this place was about BOOKS!

Image courtesy of Patrick Haggerty

Since there were again lengthy queues at every outlet offering food in the hotel, I grabbed a quick lunch of yesterday's left-overs in my hotel room, then hurried down to the main ballroom for the Awards Ceremony rehearsal.

Award ceremony rehearsal

The awards' organisers introduced us to the schedule and procedure for the evening, and gave a few tips for our acceptance speeches (such as don't drink too much alcohol in case you have to make a speech!) then I got the chance to walk up on stage and speak into the microphone. I'd barely breathed on it, and the sound echoed around the room. Terrifying! That was when I started to hope that maybe I wouldn't win an award. How the hell was I going to make a calm, rational, moving speech to a room of several thousand people with my own voice echoing back at me?!

After the rehearsal, Maya and I decided to blow off the rest of the afternoon workshops to go sightseeing. We had a lengthy wait outside our hotel for the next Old Town Trolley bus, snapping pictures of ourselves at the waterfall in front of the Marriott hotel to pass the time.

Me in front of the Marriott.


While we were waiting we also spotted what we believed had to be a good omen for the Rita awards that evening: (Hint - check the cab names!)



Whether or not it was Maya's deliberate plan to keep me too busy to get nervous about the awards ceremony that evening, it worked. The trolley bus tour of San Diego was just over an hour and a half long and gave us a glimpse of the city as well as a good insight into its history. I was so enchanted I completely forgot to take pictures.

Image courtesy of Old Town Trolley Tours

The bus took us on a tour through the Gaslamp Quarter with its art deco (and older) buildings, across the awe-inspiring Coronado bridge to the picturesque Coronado island which began life as a late Victorian resort thanks to the Hotel del Coronado (location for the film Some Like it Hot), then through Balboa Park where we ogled the magnificent organ pavilion, on to Little Italy with its tiny Victorian fishermen's houses, and finally to Old Town with its colourful markets. En route back downtown we passed the Maritime Museum where a tea clipper, replica Spanish galleon and submarines vie for attention.

At Seaport Village, close to our hotel, we hopped off the bus and went in search of gelato, which we ate, ice cream dribbling down our fingers, as we hurried back to the hotel to start getting dolled up for the big night, the climax of the entire conference, and my main reason for making the more than 16,000km journey to San Diego.

In the rush to get dressed and made up my nerves returned with a rush, and stayed until after my category winner was announced! I was in such a state I didn't even think to take many pictures of the event!

The VIP guests (presenters, nominees and their plus ones) were allowed entry before the general audience so we could grab the best seats. Once we'd found places to sit, Maya and I went in search of our friends among the nominees, Maisey Blake, Heidi Rice and Scarlet Wilson.

The lovely Heidi Rice has long been an idol of mine, so having my picture taken with her on such an incredible night was a dream come true!

Me with Heidi Rice (I have no idea why
it looks as if I'm trying to walk away!)

Me, Maya Blake and Scarlet Wilson

Once we'd said our hellos and wished everyone the best of luck, we returned to our table to meet the people we were sharing it with. By this time the doors had opened, and excited writers, all dressed up in the finest of evening glamour, began to fill the room. This was when I suffered my first disappointment of the night. No dinner was to be served (not that I could have eaten anyway, in the state I was in!) only a small plateful of desserts for our table to share, and there was no alcohol (not that I could drink any), only water on the tables. I only discovered, after the awards ceremony was over, that there was a cash bar in the foyer outside! And so, sipping water and nibbling on a tiny praline chocolate square, I anxiously awaited the ceremony's start.

This year's awards emcee was Roxanne St Clair. While I think she lacked a little of last year's emcee's easy delivery, she did a great job keeping us entertained and the ceremony moving forward. I wish I'd been able to enjoy it more, but with my category up second to last there was little chance of me being relaxed enough until then to enjoy the evening!

Maisey Yates with her Rita award
(Image from Maisey's Facebook page)
The evening got off to an excellent start with my new friend Maisey Yates winning an award for her book Brokedown Cowboy. It was downhill after that, though, with neither Scarlet nor Heidi winning in their category. The ladies seated at the table with us also didn't win in their categories.

The presentation of the Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement award to Robyn Carr half way through the evening provided a welcome break. Kristan Higgin's moving introduction and Robyn's acceptance speech were both incredibly absorbing and moving.

Robyn Carr (Image courtesy of RWA)

At last we were in the second half of the awards presentations, and my category was within sight. But by now I needed the toilet and was too scared to leave the room,in case I couldn't get back before my category came up. So while half of me was praying to win, the other half was praying I'd lose so I wouldn't have to make a clumsy acceptance speech in front of so many people while urgently needing to pee!

Just two awards left to go to mine and finally my anti-stress tablets must have kicked in. My tension eased. I felt serene. I could do this. I was okay with this. I even began to enjoy myself.

My category, at last. Jill Shalvis took the podium and announced the nominees in my category. I felt a little thrill as she announced my book. Then she cracked open the envelope... I held my breath.
"And the winner for the 2016 Rita award for Contemporary Romance: Mid Length goes to..." not Romy Sommer.
[Massive congratulations to Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy for their book Him]

And I was okay with it. No shock, no regret, no anger, no sorrow, even though I'd travelled half way around the planet just for this moment. Maybe I was having a delayed reaction?

The final award was presented, the evening was over, and I made a mad dash to the toilet - surprise, surprise, there was a queue, but I didn't mind since the fabulous rock star paranormal author Nalini Singh was also in it.

Maya and I headed to the bar for a very well-earned drink. She earned hers by putting up with my tension all night, I earned mine for - hell, do I need a reason?!

We took our drinks to the hotel's Marina Bar where we joined a group of friends for celebrations, chatter, laughter and farewells, since many of us were leaving the next morning. I'd love to say we had a massive big blow-out party to end all parties, but sadly the excitement of the day (of the entire 5 days!) was finally getting to me and I was exhausted.

Maya and I returned to the sanctuary of our hotel room where she packed for her crack-of-dawn flight out of San Diego, and I completed a quick interview via email for The Times newspaper back home. Barely able to keep my eyes open a moment longer, I whispered good night to Maya and sank deep into sleep.


Update: I can happily tell you that the reaction wasn't delayed. It simply never came. Cliched as this sounds, it really was an honour to be nominated, just to be there on this amazing night, to experience this incredible conference, meet all these lovely authors, and to come away feeling energised and excited about writing again.

Maybe because I was always a long shot in this category, maybe because I know there will be future chances to win, maybe because I was relieved not to have to make an acceptance speech, but I'm completely fine with the fact that I didn't win, and very happy for the two women who did. Strangely, I am more upset for those of my friends who were nominated and didn't win!