Sonia Bellhouse is the author of Fire & Ice, a heartfelt romance about ice dancing, Norway and Vikings, published by Daisy Lane Publishing. She is also a contributor to Passages a short story anthology published by Serenity Press in 2018 and a contributor to Writing the Dream, an anthology for published writers produced by Serenity Press in 2016. In 2012she won two major awards in the inaugural Rockingham Short Fiction contest.
Sonia's articles and stories are published in various magazines both in Australia and the UK. These include Good reading, Today's Bride, That's Life! and That's Life! Fast Fiction in Australia and Yours, The People's Friend and Best of British in the Uk. Sonia worked as a book reviewer for two years. An avid reader and writer of multiple genres she facilitated a local book club for eleven years. She reluctantly decided to give it up, to concentrate on her writing. Sonia is a long time member of a writers group, regularly engaging authors to present workshops to the group.
Sonia enjoys catching up with friends, ignoring the ironing in favour of playing with her cat and learning new things. She's taken several online courses with Future Learn and The University of Iowa for both writing and non-writing topics.
As those of you who live with cats will understand cats rarely do anything they don’t want to. So today was quite a special day for me. We currently have two cats Annabelle, a tortoiseshell also known as ‘the aloof one’ and Alexei, mainly white with grey markings, ‘the friendly one.’
We have had them both since they were eight-week-old kittens, we’ve treated them the same, but they could not be more different in temperament and personality.
Annabelle is elusive, shy, a shadow of a cat, who then demands to come into our bedroom and sleep with us.
Alexei is relaxed, friendly, laid back he will bound onto a vacant knee sure of a welcome and lie back in my arms like a baby.
Today, after almost ten years together Annabelle decide she liked me. When I journal each morning, she keeps me company, usually at arm’s length but present.
When I am allowed to, I stroke her ears and tell her how pretty she is. Her green eyes survey me with an amused detachment as she takes this praise as her due.
Today, I was bumbling about doing the early morning chores when she stopped and meowed. Did she want to go out? I opened the door, but she did not follow. Instead, she stood squarely in the doorway to the room where I sit to write in my journal and meowed again. A royal command! She wanted my company.
I settled down to write and felt her head bump my hand, Annabelle wanted a stroke, she wanted attention. I held my breath as she put two paws on my knee and started to knead. Her purr was loud as I stroked and complimented her- and then elusive as ever she was gone.
I’d love to see your pets- I do like dogs too, but at this stage its more practical to have cats
Reviews are especially important to new authors, but I know we are all busy and don’t have a lot of time.
With that in mind, I have created a blueprint of how to write a quick review. Of course, your own words and honest opinions are welcome.
Even famous authors began by writing just one book
How to Write a Quick Book Review.
Book reviews don’t have to be long and complicated, and reviews on Amazon, Good reads* or even sent to the publisher or author are really helpful.
Good reads are a Free online book lovers recommendation forum-It’s easy to join and helps you keep track of which books you have read.
How to use this form just use one or two sentences to say how you felt about the book, or of course add your own thoughts.
Example Fire & Ice by Sonia Bellhouse, told a good story.
The Book Was….enjoyable, easy to read, exciting, heartfelt, romantic, told a good story, I liked it. A real page-turner.Wasn’t my kind of book.
The Character (s) I liked best -Blaise Daniels, Kristoffer Eriksen, Saga, Trygve, someone else.
The Things in the Story I Liked. It was set somewhere different(Norway) It included Ice dancing. It had a parallel storyline. It had Vikings. Two different romances. It featured an Australian. I learned about another culture and customs. It wasn’t a long book
Things I didn’t like…..
You get the idea and now to show I practise what I preach here are my March Book reviews
Summer of Love by Kate Fforde
An easy to read second chance at love story. engaging characters and an amusing plot. Super beach read.
The Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retirement Village by Joanna Nell.
Bette Davis famously said ‘old age ain’t for sissies’ but the people of Jacaranda retirement village have sunk into a torpor, thinking that doctors’ appointments and communal singing are all they have to look forward to.
When glamorous Angela Valentine joins the community, she ruffles a few feathers and unexpectedly befriends and mentors old school chum Peggy Smart. Suddenly there is more excitement in the air and a sense of optimism, the residents are not done with living yet.
The House of New Beginnings by Lucy Diamond
Three women all at turning points in their lives are new tenants at 11 Dukes Square in Brighton. Each has a problem or secret that had brought her there. Rosa is embarking on a career change, but there is more to her story than that. Charlotte is dealing with loss and trying to remain disengaged from life. Georgia has followed her boyfriend Simon down to Brighton and now he seems to have no time for her, so she embarks on a new career path. Each story unfolds gradually and is told with warmth and humour, you will feel like you know these women and want them to succeed.
55 Underemployed and Faking Normal by Elizabeth White
The book is geared to American readers and suggests a much larger retirement and pre-retirement crisis is looming. Anyone in the USA could benefit from reading this book – not so much for me here in Australia. The take-home message society has changed, what you expected may not happen, and it’s wise to be prepared. It is not your fault that companies, downsize and that ageism is a barrier to employment as you get older.
The Cottage at Rosella Cove by Sandie Docker
I enjoyed this book and found Nicole’s predicament with her controlling fiance believable and relatable. I cheered her on when she left to start her new life in Rosella Cove. There was a hint of intrigue which interested me. The way the story from the past intertwined with the present was plausible and added depth.
Charlie the irascible old man from the boathouse was one of my favourite characters. Also, like the gently unfolding romance. It was a believable and moving read. One thing bothered me that there was no conclusion with her relationship with Jane, but life is often like that.
The Little Bookshop of Lonely Hearts by Annie Darling.
An interesting premise, after all, what book lover doesn’t love bookshops?
Many people dream of being left a bookshop. I enjoyed Posy’s plans to transform the bookshop she had grown up in. Her subterfuge to keep Sebastian ‘the rudest man in London’ in the dark as to her actual plans was amusing. He’s not the most appealing of heroes as he’s so dismissive of her plans and opinions. I Know that she does eventually stand up to him, but it seems a very unequal relationship.
While the addition of the secondary narrative Ravished by the Rake, was both an homage to Georgette Heyer and an insight into Posy’s subconscious. Personally, I found it distracting and the font harder to read. This is the beginning of a planned series.
I met fellow writer Sioban Timmer on Monday and of course, we chatted and laughed and swapped stories in our conversation she gave me this gem of a phrase
‘ While you are writing it, it’s your book, wonderful, original, valuable, then you publish it and to the rest of the world it’s just a bag of frozen peas.’
I can hear the gasps, almost see the shudders – ‘what my beautiful book?’
Yes, the harsh reality – you have to sell your book anyway that you can.
If you don’t market yourself these days, you are nowhere.
Why should this statement surprise us?
Did Charles Dickens market himself? He sure as hell did. He wrote his stories as instalments and left each chapter with a cliff hanger so that readers would buy the next instalment.
Did Samuel Johnston market himself? He had to, his work was sold by subscription. Who would buy his work if they did not know him?
Did Shakespeare market his work? Some of the time he wrote for patrons, and he needed to attract them, so he must have done. As a playwright, he had to keep the audience enthralled-so that they would return. The theatre would have had handbills and poster advertising each new play.
Nowadays some writers take a high-minded attitude to marketing as if it were inherently wrong. The big publishers don’t play it that way though, they spend up big and take every opportunity to promote their writers. They get them onto Morning TV, Australian Story andin women’s magazines and send out tons Of ARC’s( Advance Reader Copies).
In a word these days and maybe always hype is money. How can you buy something if you don’t know it exists?
We can be precious and claim that our work is misunderstood, is only for a select few, or too complex. And maybe that it is true for some of us. But wouldn’t you love to have a bestseller and enjoy the hype?
By the way, if you have read Fire & Ice could you please post an honest review on Amazon( if you bought it there) or Good reads or even send my publisher Daisy Lane or me a copy of your review. It doesn’t have to be long,I liked it’ is fine.
Those Little Details–Extras Limited Only by Your Budget and Imagination.
Have you attended any book launches? If at all possible, before you hold your own book launch you should attend at least one to get a sense of timing and how they are run.
Create a timetable for the event. You want people to enjoy the event, but you need to keep control of it. Say your launch is an hour in duration, this is probably plenty of time.
Your timetable may go like this
2pm Guests arrive, tea and coffee is served- to background music * more about music later. Alternatively, an evening launch might start like this 7pm Guests arrive. wine is served background music. Allow 10-15 minutes for guests to arrive.
2.15 Welcome ( I minute) Given by your MC-choose someone who is used to speaking in public bookseller, librarian, Mayor, MP.
2.16 Launch speech (a bit about you and the book) 2-4 minutes. Ideally given by a dignitary, bookshop owner or librarian.
2.20pm Read an extract of your book – about 500 words or so. Follow with a Q&A have someone sit with you and ask a few questions, ( Best to know what they will ask) Invite the audience to ask questions and keep it to about 10 minutes.
2.30 pm End of formalities.
Move over to the signing table, for book sales and signings. Refreshments are served, and music is playing.
3 pm. the event winds up.
Signing table – set up before the event with a tablecloth, leaflets, posters and a stack of your books to sign. Bring a nice pen and have spares. I also had flowers and balloons- I wanted a festive look. I might have scattered love hearts if I’d had time to get them. If you have an author banner- display that.
Top TIp: Have an assistant to deal with sales– you can’t take sales and sign books. Announce in advance if only cash will be accepted. Make sure your e- payment system works
Ask everyone who they want the book signed for and ask how they spell the name. Jane can also be Jayne. Hopefully, you will have plenty of books to sign.
Bonus. Have you any other publications? I have been published in two anthologies Passages a short story anthology and Writing the Dream, where twenty -five writers talk about their path to publication both published by Serenity Press.
I created book bundles with Fire & Ice and one of the other titles’ and tagged as Specials. Tied with rose pink or lilac ribbon and labelled as a launch special they were at a reduced price compared to buying the books individually, they sold out quickly. Each book I signed was accompanied by a card for my blog and either a charm of a pair of ice skates, a Viking helmet or snowflake charm. Give a little extra!
Music- choose something appropriate to your books topic and keep it a gentle hum so people can talk- I had Nordic music and took my time to select something that represented what my book was about, soft ethereal, and romantic music.
Extras –Bookmarks with your book details can be printed cheaply – you can give those to everyone, it might remind them to buy your book. Put buy links on them.
Door prize- I had two Viking dolls– one of which I gave away as a door prize.
A signup sheet if you have a newsletter.
Help Get someone who has a good eye to take photographs- the event will pass in a blur and you will be so glad you have them later
Catering if you are lucky, a friend or family member will handle that. if you have to do it yourself keep it simple-there is enough to be stressed about
The End of the Event-
Thank people for coming and ask them to please post a review of your book.
Be gracious, say goodbye, leave them with a good impression.
You may have to close chairs and leave the space clean and tidy-even wash-up. it certainly brings you back down to earth, on the glamorous life of an author.
But you have done it – you have successfully launched your book.
I had a mother, so this is not the plea of an orphan or abandoned child. But so much that is said about mothers leaves me out of the dialogue. I feel isolated, alone and saddened. I want to say you are lucky to have a loving mother but please do not assume all mothers are the same or that I am mistaken when I tell you about mine.
My mother was distant and distracted and uninvolved with me. I wasn’t physically abused or harmed. I was fed and clothed, all that was lacking was love. I can’t remember ever being hugged or told that she was proud of me.
Perhaps it was that she came to motherhood late at the age of thirty-nine or that I was an accident. I can remember her once telling me ‘ I never wanted children.’Those words ate away at me, she hadn’t qualified them with’ of course now you are here, we are happy to have you.’ They pain me still.
I knew my dad loved me and was proud of me, he was the one who said ‘goodnight’ and tucked me up in bed. Maybe mum suffered from postnatal depression? In that case, it lasted years. I can remember we had an aunt-my mother’s sister come and stay with us for a while.
I tried everything to please mum, my stories were for her, the flowers I picked were for her.
One birthday I must have been about eight I spent my entire birthday money on a brass ornament for her, as she collected them. She smiled and put it to one side.
Nothing worked, I realised you can’t force someone to love you, in the end, I gave up. When my mother died six years after my father, I mourned her of course I did. But it wasn’t with a sense of devastating loss, because she had never really ever been there.
Start promoting your book launch early ( a month or so ahead is not too soon) and encourage people to save the date.
Posters and leaflets are cheap if you print them off yourself on your computer. Search online for examples and make sure the date/time and place are clear. Relatively inexpensive if you get them professionally printed too.
What should they contain?
A picture of you – the author, plus your book cover and some details about the book. your author picture is best if it reflects the type of book you are writing. So dark shadows and blurred focus suit mystery and thrillers but softer focus and colours suit romance. Non-fiction show ‘expertise’ in your topic. So serious and professional or warm and friendly depending on the topic.
Include the venue, the date and time of your launch, add an RSVP option such as an email address. If you want to keep your own email private you can create an email address for the event You need the RSVP to try to calculate how many people will attend your launch. Both for room size and for catering purpose
Publicise on Facebook, Twitter and any other networks that you have, groups, clubs and societies.
An enticing blurb can’t hurt either-here is the blurb for Fire & Ice
Olympic ice dancer Blaise Daniels partner has just called it quits leaving her with no chance of competing at the Winter Olympics. Determined not to give up on her dream, she travels to Norway to meet legendary skater Kristoffer Erikson. After a bumpy start, they connect both on and off the ice. Their partnership seems assured, but why do they both start having dreams of a mysterious Viking past? Can an ancient love be rekindled, or will an old tragedy complicate their present? https://www.daisylanepublishing.com/romance-1
Also available through Amazon, Book Depository, Scribd and online retailers.
If you ask your local library may allow you to display a poster and leaflets there, and some local business may display a poster too. My hairdresser was happy to and he came to the launch and bought a book.
If you have any media contacts now is the time to call them, local media can be surprisingly helpful. Remember that journalists are people too, and have column spaces to fill. Cold call if necessary (I did) and ask if they would be interested in your book Have a prepared script in case you freeze or babble. My call resulted in a photo and a write-up in the local paper.
Look for opportunities to tell people about your book. Many writers have blogs, ideally, you should be following a few, ask if you can be interviewed and try to schedule the posts as near to your book launch as possible. Offer to return the favour and host them on your blog.
You do have a blog, don’t you?
Who to invite?
Even the best book will not appeal to everyone, so you need to think about your target audience. Who will your book appeal to? A football memoir would perhaps best be launched in a sporting club or sports bar. A beauty/fashion guide would need a very different venue.
I did think about launching my book Fire& Ice, which features ice skating at an ice rink. It would have been fabulous PR, maybe gaining me news coverage but my target audience would have had to travel a distance and so would I. Not to mention the potential cost of hiring an ice rink on my tiny budget.
Who should you invite?
Family and friends, it goes without saying – we all need a cheer squad.
DignitariesInvite the mayor, your local councillors, your state and federal Members of Parliament. They are receptive to invitations in their communities, as it helps both their profile and theirs.
I invited our local mayor, our state MP and two local councillors, all of whom attended my launch. Go ahead, they can only say no.
If you had advance readers, who got a pre-launch copy of your book. Invite them along to the launch
Did you belong to a book group? Invite them!
A yoga class then invite them!
A gym, or sports club ask them anyway.
Any group that you belonged to will have people who may be interested in your book. It doesn’t hurt to ask. You are giving them an opportunity to be an early reader of a new book.
In part four I will cover the final details to make your launch a success.
Writers talking about their writing. I am delighted to welcome author, editor , speaker . Teena Raffa Mulligan to tell us about her writing.
1. As someone who writes both for children and adults
how do you switch between the two?
I’ve always written in different styles and genres, whether poetry and fiction for adults and children or the diverse range of non-fiction I worked on during my years in journalism. It’s not a conscious intention to shift focus, so perhaps I do it instinctively. My voice doesn’t really change from one area of writing to the next, only the subject matter.
2 Do you work on more than one title at once?
Always! I am so impressed by writers who can focus on one project until it’s complete. I’m too much like a butterfly in the garden, flitting from flower to flower. In my case it’s going from one idea to another. I write whatever is in my mind at the time, so it might be a fragment of poetry, sections of a picture book, scenes from a short story or novel. The process works brilliantly for short things because I complete them quite quickly, especially if an idea takes hold and over a period of a few days won’t leave me alone. It’s an incredibly inefficient way to write novels, though, because I take such a long time to get to The End.
3 You are a hybrid author- that is you are both
traditionally published and self-published- what do you find are the benefits
and pitfalls of each approach?
Ah! The big question. My preference as an author is to have a publisher pick up my manuscripts. The key benefit is being confident they know their business and will do the best they can to make my book a success. There is also still quite a widespread community perception that being published by a ‘proper’ publisher means you are a ‘real’ writer. Being published by one of the big publishers can open up opportunities that are less likely to be offered to self-publishers.
As a self-publisher, I am a small business owner, responsible for every aspect from actual book production to admin, distribution, sales and marketing. My strength is in coming up with ideas and writing stories. To be a really successful self-publisher, you have to be a savvy business person and I don’t see myself wearing that role very well. I am learning but of course while I am reading blogs, watching videos, listening to podcasts and attending workshops about all the aspects of being a self-publisher I need to know, I am not writing. However, I love creating books and I have a number of unpublished manuscripts on file that I would like to see in print. The big plus of self-publishing is the control I have, the ease of print on demand production and how quickly I can release a book onto the market.
That leads me to the biggest downside of traditional
publishing. It can take a long time to find a traditional publisher, sometimes
years. Even though I have had a dozen books published through traditional
publishing, I still get more rejections than acceptances. It’s a competitive
market. Even when I do get a manuscript picked up, there is usually another
long wait between signing the contract and celebrating the book’s release.
With illustrated books I often have no input into the
illustrations and in some cases don’t see finished artwork until the book is
released. Some of the newer small publishers such as Serenity Press and Daisy
Lane Publishing do encourage author and illustrator input or collaboration and
that’s a bonus.
Then there’s the financial aspect. Unless your book
happens to be a runaway best seller, there’s no point thinking of giving up the
day job. The standard 10 per cent royalty on a recommended retail price (RRP)
of 15.50 is only $1.55 per book sold. In some cases if it’s a picture book,
that 10 per cent is split between the author and illustrator, so only five per
cent each. Print runs in Australia are often small and many publishers don’t
offer an advance. Children’s authors in particular usually rely on payments for
author talks and workshops, plus the annual education and public lending rights
payments to supplement income from royalties, whereas indie authors who promote
themselves and their titles well can make a decent living from their writing.
4 If you were starting now would you still be
a hybrid author or would you choose one approach over the other?
submitting to publishers in the 1970s when the world of publishing was vastly
different. It wasn’t as easy or affordable for authors to publish their own
work, plus there was such a stigma about self-publishing, which was widely
considered a vanity option for writers who weren’t good enough to get a
contract. I wanted to be taken seriously as an author. I still do and like it
or not, self-published authors are still seen as second best in some sectors of
into self-publishing because my stranger danger picture book was long out of
print but I was still reading it during school visits and being asked by
parents and teachers where they could get a copy. It seemed like a good idea to
produce a new edition so I did. At the time I only intended to self-publish
that one book but the changes in the publishing industry and the introduction
of new technology led me to rethink that decision. Meeting the inspirational
Karen McDermott of Serenity Press and Making Magic Happen Academy came at the
right time and motivated me to stop thinking about publishing my own books and
answer your question, if I were starting now I would still choose to try for a
traditional publishing contract first, with self-publishing as a backup option.
5. How do you capture your ideas?
Usually with pen and paper initially. I
only go to the computer when I have something to get me started, even if it’s
just the opening paragraph, a conversation or a scene. I keep notebooks and
pens handy…though sometimes I leave the notebook from my handbag on my computer
desk when I’ve been working from it. I have used napkins in a café to capture
my idea, the back of shopping dockets, in fact anything I can write on.
6. What are you working on now?
I am writing a quirky story for young readers about a kid who hires a parent tamer. At first Talibut Vish looks like he will be the solution to Mike’s out of control mum and dad but the stranger’s special powers only escalate the chaos in his life. It’s a fun story but because I’m not a planner I get so far then don’t know what happens next. That’s when I go back to the short romance I’m writing for an anthology. It features a gorgeous Labrador with serious anxiety issues…and a mismatched couple, of course.
7 Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Write in the way
that works best for you. If that means having a nine to five working day five
days a week and planning every aspect of your novel before you start writing,
then do that. If your creativity works best with an unstructured, fluid
approach, embrace it. After all, would you go for a long walk in a pair of
shoes that didn’t fit? It’s difficult in this era of social media, but try to
avoid measuring your productivity and achievements as a writer against anyone
else’s. The creative spirit is sensitive — it needs a positive environment to
flourish, so be gentle with yourself. Explore where your writing takes you and
enjoy the journey.
Bio: Teena Raffa-Mulligan is a reader, writer and daydream believer who believes there is magic in every day if you choose to find it. She discovered the wonderful world of storytelling as a child and decided to become a writer at an early age. Teena writes across genres and her publications include poetry and short stories for children and adults, picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels and romances. She shares her passion for books and writing by presenting talks and workshops to encourage people of all ages to write their own stories.
Teena’s February release is a lively collection of poems that encourages young readers to enjoy poetry and marvel at the wonder of words. Funny, thoughtful, silly and serious, Sleepy Socks and Sometime Rhymes is a celebration of the everyday and the imaginary. It is ideal for home or classroom, for sharing or for quiet moments curled up in a comfy chair.