Sunday, April 29, 2018

Writing Compelling "About The Author" Bios - and a review of Highland Pursuits by Emmanuelle de Maupassant

You know how you casually say you'll do something, not realising that you're letting yourself in for a total rethink?  Like offering to help the neighbour paint her garden wall and realising your own living room needs a new coat? And then ending up doing the kitchen, the loo, the stairs - and the whole dratted house?

I did end up repainting the house after helping out a pal, and when I started reading Emmanuelle de Maupassant's novella, Highland Pursuits, the first thing that struck me was her author bio.

This may sound funny but I can write a glowing intro for other people, but when it comes to writing about myself I want to hide behind the sofa.

Silly, right?  Face to face I've no problem selling myself. I was in sales when I first started work and on top of that I've years of freelance writing work behind me. To get those jobs, you need to be hard nosed about self promotion. I find I'm great at talking myself up, but not writing myself up.

So I read Emmanuelle's cheery bio and suffered every shade of envy and jealousy there is. See how fun and attractive she is?

Emmanuelle writes the glitteringly erotic, the Gothic, the comedic and the wry.

She lives with her husband (maker of tea and fruit cake) and her little haggis pudding terrier (connoisseur of bacon treats and squeaky toys).
Her bio is simple, cheery and attractive. My author bio was just totally blah. I was bored reading it!

I knew there was nothing for it, I had to do a rewrite.

Author bios should help you connect with readers. Ideally, you let them know what kind of a person you are, as well as the kind of books you write. But as people don't have a lot of time, you need to keep it really short.

Then you add on a little marketing, but again, short and sweet.

It's an elevator pitch but in text. It's not easy!

This took me all day and I'm still not sure if it works, so if you have feedback, I'd really appreciate it.
Ellen Whyte married her best friend and moved to the tropics where they are living their own Happily Ever After. She believes writing is not so much a passion as an obsession.

She writes sweet romance novels with strong women and very hunky men as Ellen Whyte, and twisted stories of love, mayhem, and murder as AJ Adams.

When she’s not writing, she’s cooking and gossiping with her friends. She is also personal maid to rescue cats Target, Guido and Swooner.

Come and chat with her on FB at

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Does it sound like me? And if you didn't know me, would it make you want to look at my books? Do please come and tell me.

And now, Review of Highland Pursuits by Emmanuelle de Maupassant

Rich, clever and sexy, Lady Ophelia is looking for Love.  At the start of the novel she turns down a rather wet peer (no pun intended) and is sent Up North by her very disappointed family. Once there, she meets a host of new people, and is faced with some difficult choices regarding her future.

I was expecting a novel filled with high society parties laced with witty and sharp one-liners, like The Thin Man films or the Mrs Bradley books.  While there are lords and ladies, they're mostly obsessed with sex.

I had to laugh because I've always thought that too much money and leisure means the super rich tend to focus on getting their end away rather than anything else. According to Highland Pursuits, I was right!

Highland Pursuits is a romance romp with a very independent heroine. It's a fun story, with tonnes of bonking, and I liked Hamish, the man Ophelia loses her heart to. In short, a sizzling read.

I'd recommend it, and I'd like to see more of Ophelia. But in the spirit of the Thin Man and Mrs Bradley, if there could be a murder in the next one, that would be even more awesome.

Buy Highland Pursuits here
Visit Emmanuelle de Maupassant on Goodreads
Visit Emmanuelle de Maupassant's web site

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Saturday, April 21, 2018

The search for authenticity in clean romance - plus a review of Harvest Moon Homecoming by Jessie Gussman

When I first started reading my mum’s Mills and Boon, the stories were so tame that it amazes me they were considered for adults only. Apart from rapidly beating hearts and the odd tummy flutter, there wasn’t a hint of sex. A lot didn’t even have kissing!

Today clean romance sales are surging and while it’s fun to write for that genre, changes in society means it’s more of a challenge to come up with a storyline and characters that are authentic.

For instance, in my mum’s time, nice girls just didn’t go to bed unless they were married. Well, they did, but they pretended they didn’t.  As sex was taboo, wanting it and not doing it was perfectly believable and provided authors with a neat method for promoting sexual tension.

Also, back in those days, class was a lot more important. A secretary really was a step down or two from her boss. And a girl who’d taken a course at a little college, was way below a man who went to university.  Again, very simple, very understandable Obstacles To True Love.

The challenge for writing clean romance therefore is not so much leaving out the sex scene but explaining why you’re leaving it out.

If you have an office situation, like Curtis and Emma in His Competent Woman, you can incorporate modern values. At one point, Curtis is nervous about his interest in Emma being perceived as inappropriate or perhaps even harassment. That is, I think, a very real concern for modern men who fall for their colleagues.

For Love, Laughter andLots of Dogs, I wanted to explore how an old fashioned courtship might work in modern times. So Kelly is a bit worried about the gossiping cats who destroy reputations in her little village, and Cory had a very bad time with a previous whirlwind romance. That was enough to provide them both with authentic reasons to keep it vertical for a few months.

In Harvest Moon Homecoming by Jessie Gussman, Principal Calvin “Fink” Finkenbinder and Ellie Bright are living in a small rural town where social standards mirror are very definitely last century. Fink’s bosses look down on Ellie because she doesn’t have a lot of formal education and as this might impact on Fink’s career, that becomes an Obstacle To True Love.

It’s a fun idea that works because of the setting. It would not have worked if Fink and Ellie were living in New York or Los Angeles but in a small town, values are more likely to be old-fashioned and as everyone is living on top of each other, gossip is concentrated.

In real life those situations would be heartbreaking but in novels, you know you can count on a Happily Ever After.  And that’s what matters, right?

My review of Harvest Moon Homecoming on Amazon UK: 

I’ve had a bad couple of months and so I was looking for a light, cheerful novel with nice people and no angst. This hit the spot. Fink and Ellie are very nice people, getting on in life, and discovering that they’re not too old for romance. It’s a clean romance, so apart from a few kisses, it’s all about the relationship that develops. I must say, I liked the farm details and the plot revolving around the American tradition of having parades with floats was also a lot of fun.  

Harvest Moon Homecoming
By Jessie Gussman
132 pages
Price:99 cents

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Tom's broken arm and leg and a Review: The Busy Mom's Guide to Writing by Jamie Foley and Angela Castillo

I'm a little bit fraught because Tom broke his left leg and right arm last week. He slipped on a soapy floor at work and twisted his knee, went down badly a few hours later when the knee went nuclear on him, and when we took him to the clinic, they pronounced broken bones.

Thankfully he's very tough, and as I work from home, I can take care of him.We're certainly getting an up-close-and-personal view of what life will be like when we're 80!

With our good friend Stu passing away so suddenly in an accident six weeks ago, we're not having a lot of fun in 2018. But it can only go up from here, right?

So, to move on to the review!

There are a tonne of How To books for authors on the market, and given that publishing has undergone some significant changes over the last decade, I love to see what people are saying.

I came across The Busy Mom's Guide to Writing on a Goodreads review group. Disclosure: I was sent an ARC and am reviewing voluntarily.

First, it's really short. It took me just over 90 minutes to read. Also, it's American and the authors assume you are living in the West or at least a Kindle country. So if you're in Malaysia like me, some of the advice needs tweaking.

Having said that, here's the review as published on Amazon.  

The Busy Mom's Guide to Writing 
By Jamie Foley and Angela Castillo 
120 pages
Paperback and Kindle Editions
ASIN: B0797HV4R7
Price: sorry, Amazon won't show me a price

This short and sweet guide covers to basic writing journey from how to figure out how long your story should be, all the way up to what kind of publishing deal you might be comfortable with.

I liked the rah-rah bit at the start that is simply encouragement but for me the gold was the discussion of the industry as it is today. 

If you've no clue about the differences between indie, traditional and hybrid publishing, or what kind of editing you need to source before you send your baby out into the world, you should read this.

This is an introduction, expect to use it as a springboard to find more information, but it’s good stuff. Def recommended.

I am asked on a regular basis to give advice to people who want to write, and honestly, if they read this first, it would set them on the right path. So if you're in a kindle country, this is a read to check out.

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