Monday 21 August 2023

Families Matter

Oops. I've been missing in action on this site for far too long. I'm blaming it on Gran duty - families matter, and I've been living temporarily in Sydney for over a year, helping my sole-parent daughter with her four teenagers - two sets of twins aged seventeen and sixteen. All are learning to drive at the same time, each requiring 120 hours of supervised driving instruction. Nightmare territory. Add a large dog, plus ongoing home renovations, and chaos results.
This is me with them many moons ago. They are all great kids but, looking back, they were much easier to manage when they were babies!

 Am I excused for not putting many words on the page lately? 

I'm prompted to write now because there's a story in this week's news about mistakes made by an IVF clinic in Australia. Many other examples pop up in online media stories concerning mistakes made in IVF clinics in the USA. In my own extended family, an IVF clinic in the UK made a mistake with permanent consequences for all concerned.

Intrigued by the heart-wrenching dilemmas of infertility, I used an IVF clinic mistake as a major theme in my romance novel 'Trading Secrets', available through this link. I think my story might have been regarded as a 'tall story' until this week's news item emerged, citing similar maladministration, but I won't spoil my plot by divulging the exact details. 

Many people spend years yearning for children of their own, and I've written another book where the underlying theme is the struggle over infertility - 'Still Waters Run Deep'. Like 'Trading Secrets', it's also available at major online bookshops

I'm on the lookout for similar books. A favourite has been the rural romance story and characters in 'His Best Friend's Baby' by Barbara Hannay. I was intrigued by the complicated story in 'He Gets That From Me' by Jacqueline Friedland. I've also read 'Once Upon a Holiday' by Claudia Burgoa, written in first person and full of explicit sex but amusing in parts. 

Given how widespread in our communities is the problem of infertility and how many couples use the services of IVF clinics, I'm surprised there aren't more romance titles in this vein. Any suggestions? Or any feedback on the two stories I've written on this topic?

For more details of my books, check out my website
(shared with Louise Wilson, my non-fiction writing name) 
and follow me on Facebook and Instagram.

Families Matter!

Sunday 6 November 2022

Goodreads Giveaways Part 2

I’ve been away from my home in Melbourne for months, busy helping my daughter in Sydney with her four teenagers, two sets of twins born 14 months apart!

Here we were in Paris together, 4 years ago, before they all shot up to 6ft and more, much taller than their Mum.
I don't show my grandkids' faces on my social media - but I don't have any recent backview shots! 

With a bit of spare time on my hands today, here’s an update on my recent experience with Goodreads, when I gave away 100 free copies of my new release 'Still Waters Run Deep' to American readers. 

Six months later my results out of 100 are:

Three ratings! 

All from women in their mid-forties, fitting  my target readership group, so I give some Brownie points to Goodreads for selecting them as potential readers. 

Two women, who have read 660 books and 760 books respectively, gave me a 5-star rating for 'Still Waters Run Deep', so my book withstood tough scrutiny from these avid readers.

One 3 star rating came from someone who has read 98 books - see her comments below. 

Two reviews! 

‘Thank you Goodreads for this giveaway. This book was a story about love, loyalty and heartache. Sara and Jacks story was beautifully written. This story takes place in New Guinea and Australia. The authors vivid description of the New Guinea landscape was very enjoyable.’ (5 stars)

‘GoodReads giveaway book. This was a sweet star-crossed lovers story. Imagine meeting your soul mate after you both were married to other people and then longing after each other for years. …[Spoiler alert omitted] …. It all comes together nicely. The story is well written and I enjoyed it. My only criticism is the reunion of Sarah and Jack seemed to have stretched on too long. I mean, we all knew it was coming. Why take ten years in the story to do so? All in all, an enjoyable read.’ (3 stars)


Maybe I expected too much, but I call that a disappointing outcome for a book sent to 100 people. My Giveaway copies were sent to one reader with 6 books on her TBR (to be read) pile, to one with almost 151,000 books on her TBR pile, and to 98 others in between. Recipients averaged 14,021 books on their TBR pile. Surely the Goodreads algorithm can do better than this! For a start, why does Goodreads allocate a giveaway book to someone with almost 151,000 to-be-reads, even if she has read 1,567 books?

This coming week I’m attending a webinar run by Alessandra Torre - 'Unlock 125M Readers using Goodreads'. Maybe Alessandra will have some answers for me.

Meanwhile I'd love you to read 'Still Waters Run Deep' - a story tapping into that powerful sense of longing for something - or someone - we might want badly, but can't have. It should appeal to anyone who is childless - but not by choice. And to anyone who likes armchair travel to unusual parts of the world.

Sunday 28 August 2022

Follow me on BookBub

My worst nightmare involves any kind of salesmanship - unless it's for a good cause, outside myself. Many years ago one of those dreaded employment aptitude tests found me out - and I scored almost zero for selling. Luckily I did better in other areas! 

Therefore you won't be surprised that I struggle a bit with the obligation by all authors to use social media to spread the word about their books - even on my Facebook page

A few days ago a friend encouraged me to join BookBub. This site is a great place to follow your favourite authors and be informed when their new books are coming out.  Although my next Louisa Valentine 'romance' is a while off, I plan to offer the BookBub community an occasional 'special' on one of my existing books -  'Retreat into Paradise' - or 'Trading Secrets' - or 'Still Waters Run Deep'. All three novels are love stories about marriage, children, divorce, parenting, infertility and women in the professional workforce.

A few followers have found me already on BookBub - I'd love you to join them and mark me as one of your favourites. Here's the link -

Sunday 19 June 2022

Tea Drinkers Galore

Long-term residents of Melbourne, like myself, are very familiar with that city’s world-famous coffee culture. But, despite their traditional coffee pot shape, the silver pots in front of my daughter and I contained tea and extra boiling water.  (This was a special birthday celebration - hence my glass of champagne.)

High tea for two, in Melbourne

I was raised in a family of tea-drinkers, where the pot was warmed before adding the tea leaves and the water was added to the warmed pot straight off the boil. We used a tea strainer and a teapot cosy. We emptied the teapot of its cold contents by tipping the dregs onto acid-tolerant plants in our garden.

As an adult I never make coffee at home, only tea, but as I live alone I’ve succumbed to the convenience of tea bags.

The characters in my stories tend to be tea-drinkers too. Take these examples from ‘Retreat into Paradise’. In Chapter 3, city-slicker Hannah wakes up to her first morning in the country:

Needing a mild injection of caffeine, she made a cup of tea. Her friends back in Melbourne, all coffee-drinkers, often laughed at her old-fashioned ways. The melodious warbling of the magpies enticed her outside, to listen to their glorious welcome to the new day. She sat at the corner of her balcony, cradling her cup, still in her nightshirt and flip-flops, still a bit forlorn despite the magical sound of the birds. Beyond the pool and the valley below, little wisps of mist defined the course of the river in the distance.

It was all so different. Should I unpack, or should I get out of here? What was I thinking? She recalled last night. Instead of feeding a friendly cat, I’m suddenly dealing with a spitting cat … Pat. She scanned her surrounds. How will I cope with country life? Snakes in the house. Spiders in that pool. Those big cows of Pat’s mooing over there. From her corner position she could see them, and she glared in their direction as she took a sip of her tea, as if glaring would make them vanish from her sight.

The hot liquid sliding down her throat and the early morning light bathing the serene landscape gradually soothed her. She remembered why she’d come to Wallumatta Farm. She’d managed to deal with Alex, to dispatch him from her life. She could deal with Pat. Good old Pat. Of course she could. Philip? Perhaps not. He was far more attractive than any man should be.

View from Hannah's Balcony

In Chapter 4, Hannah’s new neighbour Pat calls in unexpectedly:

‘Hello, Hannah. Since it’s too hot to be out in the paddocks at this time of day, I thought I’d take you up on that coffee offer.’ She surveyed Hannah’s sweaty face, dirty damp clothes and dusty boots at the same time as she sniffed the air. Her eyes swivelled towards the freshly turned earth and pointed to the new garden. ‘Been busy, I see. Philip will be impressed.’

‘Just beautifying that particular patch for my own pleasure and enjoyment.’ Hannah had no wish to enter a game of competition over Philip. ‘I’ll put the kettle on. Coffee, or would you prefer tea?’

‘Tea, thanks.’

‘Tea bag okay?’ Pat nodded. ‘Wait here on the verandah, in the shade. I won’t be long.’

A few minutes later Hannah returned bearing the tray with two bone china mugs of tea, milk in a jug, sugar in a bowl, a box of tissues for wiping sticky fingers and a small plate of sweet temptations. Indulging her own sweet tooth, she’d purchased a few assorted slices at the bakery while in town. Cut into quarters, they made tempting bite-sized offerings. Her mother had taught her something about style as a hostess, even if her cooking skills were a bit rusty.

Pat stared at the tray resting on the table. ‘You like to play ladies, I see.’

Hannah decided to let that sharp comment go through to the keeper. They took their cups and settled into an awkward silence.

To read more of this amusing story, get your copy of 'Retreat into Paradise' here.

For updates on her books, follow Louisa Valentine on Facebook.

Wednesday 8 June 2022

Goodreads Giveaways

As an avid reader, I’ve belonged to Goodreads for many years. Goodreads promotes itself as the meeting point for the world's readers and I like using the site as a handy way of keeping track of the books I’ve read. Usually I give a rating, and more often than not a few words of review, as feedback for the author concerned. Speaking now as a writer, we crave hearing that our books have not dropped into a black hole - that someone has read them!

Goodreads also runs a Giveaway service. An author can offer free copies to Goodreads members but a condition of entry is that applicants agree, in return, to add the book to their ‘To Be Read’ pile. At present, although the author of a Giveaway does not have to live in the US, only US residents are eligible to win a Giveaway. (There is talk of change to this restriction.) The scheme is meant to be especially useful for authors needing to spread the word about a forthcoming book.

As a resident of Australia I have never entered a Giveaway but, as a newbie novelist, this sounded like a good way of reaching American readers who would otherwise never hear about my new book ‘Still Waters Run Deep’. It was due to be published on 1 May and I decided to offer 100 free digital copies to Goodreads members, the offer running from 4-31 March. 

On opening day 29 people added my book to their 'To Be Read' pile. It seemed like a good start. A further 490 readers entered in the four weeks to come. 

My Giveaway closed at 6pm, 1 April, Australian Eastern Standard Time and Goodreads notified me at 7.43pm that there were 519 entries, with 100 winners (names listed) who had all received a free copy of my book delivered to their Kindle. As a bulk listing, Goodreads had shelved a further 471 as 'Want to Read'.

So far this seemed to offer much better value than Facebook advertising!

I crossed my fingers and hoped for some reader feedback in the month between 31 March and 1 May. 

One reader did respond, bless her heart - on 28 April, with a five-star rating - but no ‘review’. 

There has been nothing since, despite the Goodreads promise to remind entrants about this book on its release day, 1 May. 

This very disappointing result prompted me to analyse the profiles of the winners, using an Excel spreadsheet. 

What a surprise. The average age of those who received a free copy of my book (and stated their age) was 44, the oldest aged 69 and the youngest aged 20. Fair enough. On average the entrants had listed 348 books as 'read', but this covered a range from 0 to 2,439. BUT - the 100 winners had, on average, 14,021 books on their ‘Want to Read’ pile! Some were multiple winners of Giveaways although they’d read very few books. I noticed six who’d won, on average, 566 free books each although they already had thousands of titles on their ‘Want to Read’ list. Surely these people should be excluded as potential winners. 

It fascinated me that the only person who appears to have read and rated my book was aged 45, has read 660 books and has only 6 books on her 'Want to Read' list. As a Gen X reader she suited my target group of Gen X and Boomer readers. She was clearly an avid reader. What’s more, she was likely to read my book because it would not be buried in her huge pile of unread books. People like her are the perfect target for authors offering their work for nothing – if only Goodreads had a better algorithm!

P.S. 'Still Waters Run Deep' is available via this link - and you can dip your toe into these still waters here.

Sunday 8 May 2022

Retreat into Paradise - Fact or Fiction?

Yea is a delightful country town set in beautiful countryside around 110km north east of Melbourne. In the late 1980s my then-husband was keen to ‘go farming’ in the district and we bought a 147 acre paddock. It contained an old boundary fence, a small dam, and a few well-established trees.

We agreed on a ‘deal’ at the start of our adventure. ‘Okay’, said this inner-urban author, ‘I’ll help you realise your farm dream, but I’ll stick to the garden. The animals are all yours.’ Famous last words. Pretty soon I was roped into chasing cows and driving the ute across steep grassy slopes.

We progressively built a shed in which we parked a caravan as temporary weekend accommodation, then a second shed for hay storage, and eventually we built a large house.

Farm at Yea

As city slickers (we both had senior full-time roles in the finance sector) we had to learn the ropes as farmers, and our patient teacher-turned-friend throughout the next 15 years was our next-door neighbour, Pat Drysdale. We were in our forties and she was considerably older. Pat and I enjoyed many laughs, often at the macho ways of men around cattle, and some years into our friendship I promised her that one day I’d write a book about her.

The real Pat Drysdale

But first I needed to expand my writing skillset beyond the non-fiction style required by the business world. As a compulsive reader I'd always been keen on the escapism of mysteries and historical romances, but as a writer I’d been imprisoned for years by the concept of the literal truth. To free myself up, I joined several romance writing groups known to provide excellent training in their craft and obtained valuable feedback by entering several competitions. In the end, for this first attempt at a novel, I compromised between fact and fiction.  

Unfortunately, by the time I had much of an inkling about 'how to write a novel', Pat Drysdale had left this world. Sadly, I’d left my run too late for us to giggle together about her proposed starring role - but it was not too late to write an actual story.

‘Retreat into Paradise’ is dedicated to Pat. But how could I create a character where she was the teacher but the story carried narrative tension? How could I shape the rather mundane if amusing events in our daily lives to create a story of possible interest to others?

I came up with the concept of a love triangle, where the characters were in their twenties and thirties. Their interactions drove the story. Settings for romances usually need to be over-the-top, so I used exaggeration and embellishment to describe the cast of characters and the physical attributes of our farm.

After the pressure of exercising my powers of imagination, it was comparatively easy to build a genuine adventure into the story - the discovery of a new world. For a start, all of the scenes with the cattle really happened. How could you not fall in love with these beautiful animals? 

Angus Cattle

What's more, we did have a tiger snake intruder under the fridge in our shed. We did run over a wombat at night on the Maroondah Highway near Yarck and wait for hours for a tow truck. I did side-swipe a kangaroo on the Melba Highway. Our tree plantings did attract koalas to our property. We did have a resident bird of prey. We did climb Mt Buller and frequent the Merrijig pub. We did walk across the cracked-dry landscape of Lake Eildon when we should have been drowning under 20 metres of water. An amazing thunderstorm did break our prolonged drought. The Black Saturday bushfire did occur (not while I lived at Yea), as did a fatal head-on collision on the bridge at Murrindindi. Later I witnessed the Westpac rescue chopper in action when it landed at a road accident scene near another home of mine. The challenge was to make these experiences relevant and meaningful within a coherent, flowing story.

Westpac Rescue Helicopter, from

The idea for Philip’s internal conflict originated in the convict heritage of many Australians. My earliest forebears arrived as convicts on the First Fleet in 1788 and in the 1790s, and I was proud of their subsequent achievements. My ex-husband’s convict forebears arrived from Ireland in 1815, convicted of making base money (counterfeiting) and, although they too made good in their new homeland, he was very sensitive about this ‘stain’ on the family name. It was not something to brag about at corporate dinner parties!

Needing to dream up the names for my characters (other than Pat’s name), I went for names consistent with those in a real family. My own. Easy to do when you are a family historian, able to draw on an abundance of interesting names in earlier generations, such as my great grandfather who happened to be a bank manager named Philip Boulton.

Philip Boulton, 1852-1895

Because I was trying to disguise the farm's specific location, to make my story more generic as a rural romance yet make it sound more Australian, I named the farm after Wallumatta Road where my parents once lived at Newport in Sydney.

All that effort finally came together as my first novel, and here’s some of the reader feedback:

  • An excellent story, with twists and turns that keep you guessing. I started it Christmas night and finished it Boxing Day, so easy was it to read, loved it.
  • Romantic fiction is not normally what I read but I was already familiar with Louisa Valentine’s writing as Louise Wilson, author of some very acclaimed family histories, so I gave it a go and it was well worth it. It is a jolly good story.
  • An enjoyable read with great descriptions of country life in rural Victoria.
  • I enjoyed the characters in the book and all of the twists in the story.
  • It was a great holiday read.
  • I enjoyed this romance for many reasons including its wit and humour. It has the requisite amount of sexual tension as well as some very interesting aspects of life on a cattle property.
  • I thought for a while - when it got to the slightly racy bits - that it was shaping up to be Fifty Shades of Yea !
  • I found it very hard to put down. It is beautifully written and the story very believable.
  • I am half way through your book and loving it! As a 50-year-old Yea local, I particularly enjoy the local references- Hamilton Island, Horace the fencer, the Rotary Club Art Show, a young Pat Drysdale, the local hospital with the helipad opposite and the Yea PS Skipping Team! I have recommended it to everyone!
  • Termed fiction but containing so much fact! I had an idea you may kill off the hero with a twist somewhere, but he survived to ride into the sunset! Loved it all and am now about to find your next one.
  • An American reader, unaware of the concept of 'outback Australia', gave the book five stars for 'clean relationship-building, working out differences, overview of cattle operations in the outback'.

Grab your paperback or digital copy of 'Retreat into Paradise' at your favourite online retailer using this link.

Then, why not try my second novel, 'Trading Secrets'? Set in Sydney's financial markets and an infertility clinic, it can be ordered here.

Or my latest novel 'Still Waters Run Deep', all about two young couples struggling with lives not going according to plan, available here.

I continue to grapple with the question - am I writing ‘romances’ or ‘women’s fiction’? With three novels completed, I’m still not sure. They are not 'girly love stories', to quote a male cousin. It’s the quality of the developing relationships between kind and loving people that interests me, and is what I focus on as a writer. But, as the heroes and heroines in my novels have a happy ending, technically my stories fit the 'romance' genre. 

If you're a Babyboomer like me (born in the years 1946-1964) or a Gen Xer (1965-1980), my daughter’s age group, you are bound to connect with the worlds portrayed in my books, but I'd be very happy to hear from younger readers who also enjoy my stories. Connect with me by following my Louisa Valentine Facebook page. Or check out my website, which I share with my alter ego Louise Wilson.


Wednesday 27 April 2022

Dipping into 'Still Waters Run Deep'

In ‘Still Waters Run Deep’, two young couples struggle with lives that haven’t gone according to plan.

Sarah and her husband Andrew long for children, but hide their infertility problems.

Jack and his wife Jenny have two small children, Tom and Lottie — whose arrival forced a marriage.

Both couples are living in a Third World country, keenly involved in projects to advance its economy and national development. Sarah works for Jack and, in their small expatriate community, they also cross paths in their social lives. 

In the following scene, Jack and Jenny are driving home, with Tom and Lottie asleep in the back seat of their car. Jenny has just met Sarah for the first time:

Jenny bit her lip. ‘It worries me, that you work all day with Sarah.’

‘Well, it’s not quite like that. She’s one of my staff, working out in the main office among quite a large group of men.’

‘But you’ve never had a dynamic, attractive young woman working for you before.’

‘True, she’s the first female I’ve supervised. Hey, are you jealous of her or something?’ He reached sideways and gave her hand a reassuring squeeze.

‘Just feeling frumpy. I put on all that weight, having the kids.’

‘Most women do, don’t they? Except those who live on dry crackers and sparkling mineral water.’ She had gained some kgs, but how to be tactful yet truthful was currently eluding him.

For once, she saved him the effort of a suitable white lie. ‘Thanks, Jack. For putting up with me. I know I’m not what you wanted.’

Her gloomy voice frayed his heart strings because he’d grown to love her—but she’d put into words exactly what he knew to be true.

Especially since Sarah had flashed into his world.

Hey there, cheer up. Have you ever felt that I don’t love you?’

‘No, you’ve been kind and loyal, loving, but not exactly ‘in love’ with me.’

‘Love grows, you know. And has many shapes and sizes. Passion and drama and purple prose is not compulsory. Have you been reading too many of your Mills and Boon novels?’

She gave him a sheepish grin. ‘Maybe. I should give them a rest.’

He took his eye off the road long enough to lean across and plant a quick peck on her cheek. ‘I don’t regret our uni days, or the decisions we made.’ He spoke staunchly, doing his best to console her. ‘Would your life mean as much without Tom?’

‘Of course not. But you hadn’t sown your wild oats. Nor had I, come to think of it, but I never wanted to, after I met you.’

‘We’ve come through. So far, we’ve survived okay. You may have been my first—and only—proper girlfriend, but I’m not one of those men who feels compelled to play the field.’ He had to reassure her—because he was trying to reassure himself.

This story is full of moral choices. Did Jack succeed? 

Get your copy of 'Still Waters Run Deep' using this link at Amazon, Apple, Kobo or your favourite digital store. The book is also available as a paperback.

To stay in touch, follow Louisa Valentine on Facebook.