What’s in a Name – Solomon Islands Reflections

Today I was telling my daughter I was in the midst of a naming crisis. I didn’t know what I call Book 5 of my Fair Cyprians of London series when, so far, I have the following:

Saving Grace

Forsaking Hope

Keeping Faith

Picking Violet

She didn’t give me any suggestions however she told me she’d recently stumbled upon an old blog I’d written in June 2011 in which I’d talked about that very thing.

“What’s in a Name?” I’d called it.

It was like reading my diary from an interesting and somewhat turbulent time in my life. So, for fun, I’ll reblog it here.

What’s in a Name?

Rose, Mauwisa, Sophie and Bevie
Rose, Mauwisa, Sophie and Bevie

Choosing a heroine’s name is a tricky business. It must reflect her personality but as you and she will be spending a lot of time together, you want to love it, too.

I named my eldest daughter Sophie after the heroine of my first unpublished manuscript, written when I was seventeen. The book languished, unforgotten in a drawer but twenty years later Sophie got a new lease of life when my Norwegian husband and I chose it as a name that would work in both our homelands.

Names can sometimes appear like omens or talismans – or pegs on which to hang seemingly arbitrary life decisions.

When Sophie was two and we decamped to the Pacific where my husband Eivind was the new Chief Pilot of Solomon Airlines, many local girls turned up applying for the job of nanny and house girl. I’d recently started a new Regency Historical Romance featuring the lovely Rose Chesterfield so when one of the applicants told me her name was Rose it seemed a good omen. I hired her on the spot.
Me and Sophie on the Solomons
Me and Sophie on the Solomons

Rose was my heroine, both on paper and in real life. My earnest, hardworking Solomon Islands Rose from the island of Malaita took charge of the needs of house, husband and high octane toddler, enabling me to give my fictional Rose a life in the third dimension.

Nearly eight years later and with two books completed in the interim Rose Chesterfield in A Little Deception has had as many ups and downs as we’ve had in our married lives living in ten different countries. Barely recognisable as the original, A Little Deception tells the story of grand deceiver Rose Chesterfield who risks her reputation to save the family sugar plantation and winds up married to the deliciously notorious rake Viscount Rampton. Unfortunately what appears to be a happy ending is only the beginning of many trials and tribulations as a jealous adversary implicates Rose in a series of high profile jewel heists. When past secrets rear their ugly heads Rose must prove more than her innocence to regain the love of her once-smitten husband.
It was a lively, exhausting story which certainly underwent its own trials and tribulations. After winning the Strictly Single competition in was requested and ultimately rejected by Avon Senior Editor Erika Tsang, rewritten and finally sold to Robert Hale after I cut a further 15000 words from it.
Like my previous two books – Lady Sarah’s Redemption and Lady Farquhar’s Butterfly – the cover art was done by talented artist David Young. However when I look at the cover of A Little Deception I see more than just the beautiful ballroom scene. Instead I recall the sparkling vista of azure seas dotted with islands which I gazed upon from my verandah as I typed, sometimes in high spirits after a liquid lunch at the Honiara Hotel with friends from my multicultural mother’s group.
The expat community was small and vibrant. Barely a year had passed since the violent coup which brought down the government in 2000 and bullet holes still peppered some of the public buildings. RAMSI (Royal Australian Mission to Solomon Islands) was an initiative of the future, the roads were filled with potholes the size of craters and the evidence of a crumbling infrastructure was all around us. As we involved ourselves in volunteer work from providing water tanks and generators for the hospital to beautifying the capital to encourage business investment and tourism, we partied enthusiastically.
One of our favourite pastimes was descending into the unpleasant smelling basement of ‘XJ6’ every second Wednesday for the ‘ripping’ of the newly arrived bale of second hand clothing from Australia and New Zealand and to rummage through the flotsam and jetsam in search of the beautiful ‘seconds’ where everything cost the equivalent of one Australian dollar.
It was a competitive pastime and lots of fun appearing at the next embassy function kitted out in such affordable Lisa Ho, Perri Cutten or Alanah Hill designer wear. The foraging of two years in the Solomons has provided my attire for the Romance Writers of Australia’s conference dinners for the past eight years.
A Little Deception is due out in hardcover at the end of June and I have a number of library talks lined up throughout Melbourne. I like to think of my two heroines, deceiving debutante Rose Chesterfield and my own loyal Rose, enjoying a rosy future beyond the launch.

We were all casualties of a strife-torn political system. When our tenure on the island we considered our new home was cut unexpectedly short we could no longer provide Rose with a job as we no longer had one, ourselves. Rose went back to her subsistence existence on her island while we drifted, without a home base for many months, until a job came up and we established our footing on the next rung of the shaky ladder of life.

Rose Chesterfield was the panacea to my once nomadic existence while Malaitan Rose was my friend who learned English through our many conversations over the jugs of ‘bush lime’ for which she was famous.

A name is so much more than just a name and I miss both my Roses who are no longer such a large part of my life.

End of Blog 


What’s New for October?

My new website, for starters!

In fact, this is the first time I’ve gone into the ‘back end’ to add content – after my fabulous designer, Dave, turned my website into something I’m really proud to show other people.

He’s been working on transferring from the old site to this site the content for my 22 books for a couple of months but as I’d been accepted for a BookBub Featured Deal (yes, said in hallowed tones because it’s so hard to get and so effective for creating visibility) I asked Dave if we could go live in time for September 30.

Here’s the beautiful new cover. Unfortunately, Amazon rejected my ad because the cover shows too much skin (and perhaps because the heroine looks like she’s having too much fun).

We did, and so I was all geared up to maximise my marketing efforts for my Daughters of Sin series, which I’ve decided will always be available at all retailers (rather than have it exclusive to Amazon in KU).

This all happened the weekend following the launch of my dad’s first 4 volumes of memoirs – namely, Growing up in Botswana in the 1930s and 40s, his career in Lesotho in the 1960s, his dad’s pictorial diaries of working in the Colonial Service in Botswana from 1916-1922 and his Uncle Geoff’s experiences in armed combat in four wars.

I’d been collaborating with dad, our InDesign formatter/editor, Pip, a cover designer in Germany, and the publisher, Ingram Spark, outstourcing the various aspects of everything in order to make the book available as a Print on Demand and accessible throughout the world, since Ingram Spark has printing operations worldwide. (Actually, Her Gilded Prison was one of the first books to which I regained the rights from a publisher so I’ve been following the developments of self-publishing for the past 8 years and now teach classes which are popular with a huge range of people, from grandparents who want to print a handful of copies of their children’s stories for their grandchildren for Christmas, to authors who’ve regained the rights to their books. There’s more info in the Events and Classes Tab.)

Dad and me at Wuthering Heights during his book launch.
Some of dad’s books. I chose a trim size of 8.5in x 11.5 in as our first experiment and I think it showcases the photographs really well. Especially since there are so many of them.

Meanwhile, the actual BookBub feature took place the weekend I took my 13-year-old daughter to Cairns in Queensland to compete in the Irish Dancing Nationals at the Convention Centre. She’d won a big comp earlier in the year before getting glandular fever so had pulled out of Solo and was just competing in the Teams – so in the 4-hand and the 8-hand. And they were so beautiful to watch!

Some of the gorgeous Irish Dancing solo dresses on sale.

Anyway, back to the Bookbub and the books side of things. (I really am breaking all the rules by writing this as a letter rather than leaving it and editing it, later. But, the truth is, I’m a bit scared as to whether this is going to look any good on my beautiful new site…or even end up where it’s supposed to go. So, I’m just writing it on the hoof so to speak.)

As I was saying, about the Bookbub, I never thought I’d get accepted and had applied with Her Gilded Prison, Book 1 of my 5-book Daughters of Sin series. Then, when I was notified that I had indeed been successful, I decided to go for a new cover. Dar Albert of Wicked Smart Designs designed all the covers in that series and she did a beautiful job. I then decided the book needed an epilogue because, when I’d written it, I’d intended to show the happy-ever-after in subsequent books but I realised that a could establish a far better HEA rather than a Happy For Now by adding another chapter.

Our girls doing their practise. I’ll include the one with them in their gorgeous Teams Dresses next time.

I also modified some content because it had originally been published by an erotic publisher (though it was rather tame for them) and I didn’t want the bedroom scenes to take away from the unusual plot. So, while the story did have some steamy scenes, certainly, it was mostly about the emotional connection between a lonely, discarded older woman and the younger man who has come to the estate to take up his role as the new heir and to court Sybil’s daughter (a wild child fashioned upon Becky Sharp from Vanity Fair).

I’m really glad I did that. Readers have said in their reviews that they liked the fact Sybil and Stephen are such a strong pairing, despite the fact she’s older, and I’ve particularly liked the reviews that refer to the unique or unusual storyline and the fact they couldn’t believe there could be a happy ever after.

Something else I did was to ask for reviews straight after ‘The End’ as I knew that if I did get some reviews, it would keep the book higher in the rankings for longer. Amazon rewards things like that and authors have to try hard not to beg, however a polite request attached to a link at the back can make a difference – and it has – as has a link to the following book in the series, Dangerous Gentlemen.

It’s been 11 days since my BookBub and the 23,000 free downloads of Her Gilded Prison have had the following results:

#1 on Amazon Regency Romance and Victorian Romance for 5 days
#4 on Amazon overall for a couple of days
#1 on the Apple bookstore in Free Historical Romance for 4 or 5 days
Fantastic onsell of my other books in the series
Made me very happy and inspired me to keep writing!

The only less than gilded aspect of the success of Her Gilded Prison came as a result of my bragging about the book’s success to my 87-year-old father.

He’s asked me to send him a print copy. I had to think about it for a while before I offered him my agonised confession, saying, “Dad, the book has…sex scenes in it!”

He thought about this for a while and then said, “Well, send it anyway!”