“En Garde! Safkhet Publishing and Sheryl Browne are going on tour and bringing you the entire Sheryl Browne romance collection! Follow the adventures of your Romantic Heroes and get your chance to win signed copies of all Sheryl’s books—Recipes for Disaster, Somebody to Love, Warrant for Love, A Little Bit of Madness, and Learning to Love.” The tour runs from 16th September until 27th September (excluding weekends) and promises to be a lot of fun!
As part of this tour Safkhet publishing is having a fantastic short story competition! The prizes are – Finalists will have their story published in an e-anthology and the winner will be offered a publishing contract. For full details go to http://safkhetpublishing.wordpress.com/ where full terms and conditions can be found.
And there’s more! There will be reviews, author interviews and guest posts. Plus, if you’ve ever read any of Sheryl’s books in the past, then you are invited to post the link to your review to be in with a chance of winning a prize!
Now for the small print: This competition is not run in conjunction with Facebook and Facebook is not responsible for any competitions held on this page or for providing prizes.
There certainly is more! I’m thrilled to be hosting the lovely Sheryl Browne on my blog. I’ve just read her latest book Learning to Love and – yep – loved it! You can read my review here folks! Sheryl, tell us more about it.
Oh, I’m so glad you asked that, Shani, because I don’t very often talk about my books! Simply, Learning to Love explores the fragility of love, life and relationships. At the heart of the story is an emotionally withdrawn, angry little boy who is grieving the loss of his mother. Ten-year old Jake’s anger is aimed at his dad, who In Jake’s mind deserted his mum in her hour of need. Dr David Adams, Jake’s father, is carrying the heavy burden of guilt around the death of his wife. For all his training as a doctor, David had been as ill-equipped to deal with her decision to delay anti-leukemic treatment for their unborn baby’s sake as he is to deal with his son’s grief. His guilt is exacerbated by the fact that he made a terrible mistake before his wife died. He feels Jake’s anger is justified.
Andrea Kelly, mum two temperamental teens and a toddler, is juggling a job, a fiancé who has become increasingly distant and a high-spirited mum who is showing signs of early onset dementia. When her house goes up in flames, she’s offered refuge by David, and she and her family are instrumental in bringing this lost little boy and his equally lost father together. As her fiancé’s behaviour grows more bizarre and her own relationship starts to crumble, Andrea finds herself increasingly attracted to David. But can she love a man who, by his own admission, is flawed?
For interest, Learning to Love started life as a short, entitled The Memory Box – the theme of which is bereavement in childhood, which was accepted by the Birmingham City University as part of their Anthology. Obviously, I was really pleased. I think that incentivised me to get on and write the book.
And your journey towards publication, was it a smooth or a rocky one?
Ooh, littered with potholes. I’ve fallen down so many I have bruises in places you wouldn’t believe. In all honesty, I think the road to publication is a learning curve. I have been agented along the way, but there are so many factors at play when trying to place a book, it has to be sellable, you have to be sellable and, crucially, it has to hit the market just right. It’s not easy (this is why we have to love what we do, particularly as we (most of us) struggle to juggle, work, home, family and life’s little mishaps).
In short, I struggled with plot. You know, the all-important beginning, middle end: This is where my characters start out; this is where they end up. How they got there + what obstacles they faced and how they grew along the way = story. Simple. Ahem.
I did employ editorial help and, eventually, I was lucky enough to get my work accepted by the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme. The book in question didn’t get published right away, but their feedback was invaluable. I applied that feedback, along with advice from beta readers, to my next book, which was published in the US. I did go back to that first book (something I couldn’t have done sooner. I just didn’t have the tools) and I’m now super-proud that this is one of my books published by Safkhet Publishing: Warrant for Love.
Who or what inspires you to write? What subjects are close to your heart?
People! Life and the gamut of emotion that comes with being human. I think we all have to deal with various events along the way, some of them happy, some sad, some tragic. I like to look at how people cope with those events, how such events can shape a person. Ultimately, though, I’m looking at love, emotion. Basically, I’m writing the time-honoured story of boy meets girl, boy gets girl, despite all obstacles. I’m writing romance. IMHO, we need romance more than ever, hope that good can win over evil, that there can be a happily ever after. Relationships are rarely perfect, but reading about a relationship, be it a burgeoning or long-standing one, overcoming the many obstacles life throws at it is inspiring and satisfying. I think people want to escape into a good book, to believe that love conquers all. Relationships, in all their many forms, are fundamental to the plot of most books. Romance highlights love, that which sets us apart as humans and which every human craves and needs. Love is universal and timeless. Love inspires, art, music. Love, particularly unrequited or lost love, can also drive us to passionate acts of despair or even madness. Through love we see all human emotion. For me love, and the joy/pain surrounding it, is fundamental to a story about people. If it was good enough for Shakespeare…
Location is very important for me in a novel, I love writing about places I know and, in turn, if a book is set in a place I love, I’m sold. How important is location to you?
I tend to write about characters closer to home, mostly because I am calling on personal experience and writing about a particular subject, often centring round family and community. I have to say I am in total awe of authors who can write about far-flung places without actually having visited. I’d love to set a book in an exotic location someday. Lake Como springs to mind, if only Clooney wouldn’t keep ignoring my research requests.
And what about humour? I’ve read Warrant for Love and it was hilarious!
Ah, humour. I think when we laugh at characters in a romantic comedy, we’re actually laughing at ourselves. We’re amused because it’s familiar, comedic or embarrassing situation we could – maybe have – found ourselves in. That heart-freezing is-my-dress-tucked-in-my-knickers moment when exiting the loo at a posh do?
Readers want compelling characters, people they care about, who do trip up and fall over life’s little obstacles; couples with conflicting ideas or emotions which need to be confronted and ideally resolved by the story. The difficult bit is making your reader laugh with your character as he/she falls over those obstacles, because the reader is empathising with the character, because they’ve been there. Can I just quote a title to a review I received (not the whole review, I promise!). Here it is: Laughing…crying…commiserating..rejoicing: Marvellous! From a reader unknown to me, this review made me laugh, cry and rejoice. Leaving the reader with a huge dollop of feel-good factor is why I write. It’s just so hugely satisfying.
Do you outline your plot meticulously before writing or do you fly by the seat of your pants, allowing your characters to get your from A to B?
Hmm? Well, most of my books are based on real people, My hero in Somebody to Love, for instance, was based loosely on a widowed father left to bring his young autistic son up on his own, combined with my own experience of special needs. In Learning to Love, the story was based around someone who left behind him a fiancé and child. When you write you tend to view the situation through the eyes of the character, in this case through the eyes of the child. The story grows from the emotion. I do have a plot, honestly! Because emotions are so predominately at play, though, my characters do tend to drive the story in a completely different direction to the one I’d intended.
Of all the characters you’ve created, who is your favourite and why?
Ooh, well, now there’s a difficult one. I love all my characters (as a writer you have to care deeply about them). Paul Davis, though, I think, from Warrant for Love (do you know actually felt guilty then, choosing one over the others?). Yes, he wears a bite-the-buttons off blue uniform, but… the man was just so down on himself, then down again when we couldn’t initially get published… *sigh*. He basically had the most growing to do. He’s still not perfect, but that’s OK, I can live with him anyway. 😉 (ps I’ve read Warrant for Love too and have to say – Paul Davis is amongst my favourite romantic heros. Looks like somebody else loves it too!)
What’s a typical writing day like for you? Do you need coffee/tea/wine to survive?
Tea. I plug the intravenous drip in around the same time I plug in my PC. And a teeny white wine come evening … or two.
What advice do you have for people aspiring to be published? What would you have done differently?
If I had to offer advice, it really would be not to give up. If you truly can’t live without writing then do it. My tips would be:
– Make sure your first chapter is your best! The first chapter has to provide the all-important hook. It also has to introduce the characters and show their inner/outer conflict, i.e. set the tone for the story.
– Feedback is invaluable. Do consider joining a writers’ group/teaming up with a critique partner/beta reader.
– Read you work out loud, into a tape recorder, rather than to the dog. It’s a great way of ironing out the glitches and getting rid of superfluous narrative.
– Think about building yourself an online presence. Authors need to be totally interactive in promotion in today’s publishing climate. Set up a website or blog, join Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads and start connecting with people. There are other social networking platforms, but don’t overwhelm yourself!
– Consider linking up with online author-led communities .It’s a great way of offering mutual support. I’m a now a proud member and editor at Loveahappyending Lifestyle
– Use every piece of constructive criticism you get, and always take on board suggestions. Remember, if you do get rejected by an agent or publisher and they have gone to the trouble of commenting on your work, despite having hundreds of submissions to wade through, it’s because they think your work has potential.They wouldn’t have bothered otherwise. It really can be hard sometimes, but take the advice on board, dust yourself off, and move on.
– If you are submitting, research agent/publisher submission guidelines and check your genre is something they represent. Keep your covering letter short. A brief bio and intro the book is sufficient.
– If you decide to e-publish, as many excellent authors are choosing to do, make sure your ms is error-free, the best it can be, promote and be proud.
Self-doubt is the curse of every writer – ours is a subjective trade – what do you do when a case of the hee bee gee bees attacks?
I have a sleepless night – and then I get annoyed with myself and write. Writing can be very cathartic. If I’m really down, I go and have a cry on the shoulders of my critique partner: – and then I have wine!
Aside from writing (and reading!) what other hobbies do you have?
Your favourite book?
Marika Cobbold’s, Guppies for Tea. It’s one that I read many years ago, loved and still remember. That was the book that made me think, I wish I could write like that.
Your favourite song? Learn to Love Again – Lawson (can you guess why?). http://youtu.be/irw3IbjP3vQ
Your favourite film? Ghost.
Your favourite colour? Yellow … or sky blue (Can I have two?)
And last but not least, what’s coming next from Sheryl Browne?
As is my wont, I have two works-in-progress on the go. However(!!), breaking news here: Safkhet Publishing have just accepted another of my books, a thriller, entitled The Edge of Sanity. As my genre up to now has been romance with humour, I wasn’t sure whether they would love it enough. They do! And I love Safkhet!
And to whet your appetite further, here’s an excerpt from Learning to Love.
‘Jake?’ David knocked on his son’s door.
Would he answer this time? Probably not.
David reached for the handle, only to find the door yanked open by Ryan.
‘Hi. How’s it going?’ David smiled at the gangly teenager, who, far from being the bad influence David had worried he might be, seemed to be sprouting a halo along with some actual stubble—and who David reckoned deserved a medal for looking out for Jake.
‘Yeah, good. Just helping Jake sort some stuff out.’
‘Oh?’ David glanced past Ryan into the room, to where Jake sat cross-legged on the floor, no PlayStation control in sight, amazingly. ‘What stuff would that be then, Jake?’
David waited, but took his cue when Ryan motioned him on in.
‘Off to get some more Pepsi, mate,’ Ryan said diplomatically. ‘Want some?’
Jake nodded, but didn’t look up.
‘Back in ten.’ Ryan drooped out, skinny fit jeans still clinging to hips and looking every inch the typical allergic-to-anything-strenuous teenager, which belied his caring attitude. David owed the kid, that was for sure.
He owed Jake, too, big time.
David turned his attention back to his son, who was surrounded by a sea of photographs, he realised. Photographs of Michelle, from the albums in the spare room.
Cautiously, David walked across to stand by Jake’s side. Then, hands in pockets, he waited again, wondering what to say that could even begin to heal their relationship. What would he want to hear, if he were Jake?
Sorry perhaps? Wholly inadequate, David knew, but it might be a start.
He looked down at his son, whose head was bent in concentration of his endeavours.
He needed a haircut.
Needed a lot of things.
David closed his eyes as he noticed the bottle of perfume tucked in the corner of Jake’s Adidas shoebox.
Because Jake wanted something to remind him of her.
‘Need any help, Jake?’ David asked softly.
Jake didn’t answer. That was okay. David didn’t really expect him to. He swallowed back a lump in his throat, then took a gamble, crouched down next to Jake—and silently waited.
Biding his time, he studied the photographs quietly alongside his son. ‘You’ve chosen all the good ones,’ he ventured.
Jake did respond then, somewhere between a nod and a shrug.
‘Not many fun ones though.’ David reached for a photograph. One he’d taken himself on what turned out to be their last time at the theme park together: Michelle, Jake in front of her on the log flume, both shrieking with laugher and soaked through to the skin.
Probably the last time she had laughed—with him.
David breathed in, hard. ‘I did make her sad, Jake,’ he said quietly. ‘I’m sorry. I know it doesn’t help much, but … I wish I hadn’t.’
Jake’s head dropped even lower.
‘She did laugh though, you know, Jake. With you.’
David placed the photograph carefully in the box. ‘Alton Towers,’ he said, ‘summer before last. She laughed so much she had to dash to the loo, remember?’
Jake dragged the back of his hand under his nose.
‘She couldn’t have been that happy without you, Jake. You gave her the gift of laugher. That’s something to be glad about. To be proud of.’
David stopped, his chest filling up as he watched a slow tear fall from his son’s face.
David hesitated, then rested a hand lightly on Jake’s shoulder.
Jake didn’t shrug him off.
‘You won her a stuffed toy that day, do you remember? What was it? A tiger?’
‘Tigger.’ Jake finally spoke.
‘That’s right,’ David said, his throat tight. ‘Tigger.’
‘She kept it in the car,’ Jake picked up in a small voice.
The car she never arrived at the hospital in, David realised, overwhelming guilt slicing through him. ‘She kept a whole family of furry friends in the car. I’m surprised there was room for her.’
Jake’s mouth twitched into a small smile. ‘She talked to them.’ He glanced up at David, his huge blue eyes glassy with tears.
‘That was the little girl inside her. The little girl you made laugh.’ David squeezed Jake’s shoulder.
He actually felt like whooping. Like punching the air. Like picking Jake up and hugging him so hard … He’d looked at him. Full on. No anger.
David closed his eyes, relief washing over him. ‘I have one of Mum’s stuffed toys,’ he said throatily. ‘One she kept. Not Tigger, but … Do you want me to fetch it?’
‘Right.’ David smiled. ‘Back in two.’ He dragged his forearm across his eyes as he headed for his own room. He had something else, too. Something he’d wanted to give Jake before, but somehow couldn’t.
The antique locket he’d bought Michelle for her thirtieth was in the bedside drawer. David collected it, ran his thumb over the engraved rose gold surface of it. If Jake needed something to remind him of his mother, this was it.
‘Bedtime Bear,’ David announced, joining Jake back on the floor. ‘Your very first toy.’ He handed his son the scruffy little white bear.
Jake laughed—and David really did feel like crying then.
‘I have something else for you, Jake.’ He passed him the locket. ‘It was very special to her,’ he said gently, as Jake’s eyes fell on the photograph of himself inside it. ‘She wore it right next to her heart. And that,’ he went on as Jake looked at the lock of hair on the opposite side of the locket, ‘is your hair and hers, entwined.’
Jake went very quiet.
‘Okay?’ David asked.
Jake nodded vigorously. ‘Okay,’ he said, around a sharp intake of breath.
David reached out, ran his hand through Jake’s unruly crop, and then allowed it to stray to his shoulder. He wanted very much to hold him, to reassure him. But Jake’s body language was tense. It would take time, David knew, but maybe someday, Jake would let him back in.
Still not enough? Want to find out more? Here’s the links for Sheryl, Learning to Love and all her other (fabulous) books:
Sheryl is a Loveahappyending Lifestyle Author and Feature Editor.
Learning to Love
Exploring the Fragility of Love, Life, and Relationships
Widower, Dr David Adams, has recently moved to the village – where no one knows him, ergo there’s no fuel for neighbourhood gossip – to start afresh with is ten year old son, if only he can get to a place where his son wants to speak to him. Angry and withdrawn, Jake blames his dad for the death of his mother, and David doesn’t know how to reach him.
Andrea Kelly has too many balls in the air. With three children and a “nuts” mother to care for, her fiancé can’t fathom why she wants to throw something else into the mix and change her career. Surely she already has too much on her plate? Because her plates are skew-whiff and her balls are dropping off all over the place, Andrea points out. She needs to make changes. Still her fiancé, who has a hidden agenda, is dead-set against it.