My Weekend Essentials

Here’s a few of my fave weekend must-haves. Note, these are in no particular order. What are yours?

weekend essentials 2Are you looking for a relaxing e-read set in the intoxicating world of wine and food? Try my new e-book LOVE IN THE VINES it’s out now on Amazon Kindle.

Food, wine, love and betrayal. Like wine, love begins in the vines. Betrayal begins in the heart of a marriage. Love in the Vines is a contemporary romance novel best enjoyed with a glass of wine.

LOVE IN THE VINES “a fast-moving, sexy story. You will enjoy reading it. You’ll be asking for a sequel!” 4* Amazon Review

Building Characters we like, love, loathe, and detest.

man textAbout a year ago, I began a long lasting relationship with my keyboard. Before I locked myself in a room for days on end, I debated over whether to go back to school to learn what it takes, and means to be a writer. Or, to dive head first into the deep-end of the word pool, and to well, start writing.
Being a bit of a doer, I reasoned I’d be happier, and would learn more by getting stuck in and doing.
Choosing the latter, I’ve shown up every day to write my blogs, and e-books. Note here, I’m not counting as writing facebook posts as legit writing! So far the word count is shooting into the 150,000 stratosphere – admittedly I’m probably the only one impressed by this….
By diving write in (yes, that was intentional!) I’ve been busy writing. LOVE IN THE VINES my first contemporary romance has been written, published, and is available in all e-book formats. And, thanks to the inspirational NaNoWriMo challenge of writing 50,000 words in 30 days during the month of November, the first draft of Love Entwined, the sequel to Love in the Vines, has been written.
At this stage I’m a one stop shop – writer, indie publisher, marketer, distributor, PR person, web designer, social media specialist, blogger, cat lady in training, runner, and wine drinker. Everything I didn’t know, and needed to know is only ever a click away. I’m constantly blown away by the amount of online information available – the wealth and depth of it is staggering, and mostly free.
Of late, I’ve been researching about character development, as no matter what genre you’re writing, building credible believable characters is the lifeblood of fiction.
I want to learn tips, and tools to dig deeper and get my hand dirty to create, and nurture the characters I write.

  • What can I do as a writer to invest more into the DNA of my characters?
  • How can I dig deeper to really get to know them, as well as I know myself?
  • What is at the heart of their emotional, physical, mental, spiritual, quirks, likes, and dislikes?
  • What drives their passions?
  • What is it about them that makes them unique, and memorable? Is it the way they walk, their habits, or silence…
  • What’s the twitter sound bite you would use to describe one of your characters? Remember – there’s a 140 character limit!
  • And, the probing goes on, until I guess I have a character dossier that tells me more than the questions found on a consensus form.
  • Unveiling their strengths, flaws, weaknesses, mistakes, sorrow, joy, motives and manipulations builds them into characters to like, love, loathe, detest, or feel only pity and indifference.

There are loads of websites offering all sorts of character writing advice. Completing a character chart is just one of the tools I’ve found useful – for an example, click this Character Chart
Another, is a website called homework tips – this posting on how to write a Character Analysis is loaded with fabulous pointers.
If you already know all this stuff, and are looking for a refresher both are worthwhile reads.

If you have any helpful character tips you’d like to share, please let us know in the comments below.

Love in the Vines Cover Master 72Here’s a snap shot of the characters I created for Love in the Vines – Food, wine, love and betrayal. Like wine, love begins in the vines. Betrayal begins in the heart of a marriage.

Married her childhood sweetheart and now stays at home and raise her two children. Bored by domestic routine, Carla is determined to return to work. Serendipity knocked, and the door to a job at a local prestigious winery opened. Her life as she once knew it soon drained like an empty wine glass. Only to be refilled by the irresistible lure of the man with the green eyes.
“Now feeling like a full time appliance, it was plug me in and I’ll do it, with one day repeating into the next.”
“Pardon the pun, you’ve brought me out of my shell. Consider me a lover… of oysters.”
“Time stands still for no one let alone a woman in the……”

The Husband
Happily married to Carla and considered by all to be a loving son, and the perfect husband and father. Handsome, and happy-go-lucky, he is an “easy to please” guy, and is incredibly proud of his family. He’s the guy everyone likes to love. Yet, underneath his kind-hearted demeanor is a calculating man who doesn’t suffer fools.
“If anyone catches you drinking before work, they’ll assume you’ve got a problem!”
“The phone felt like it was burning in my hand.”

Matt – The Winemaker (Vintner)
A former hard-to-please advertising agency executive, who has since turned his back on the corporate world in pursuit of his true passion. Now an award-winning, gifted winemaker, his moodiness and arrogance is despised by some, and works like a magnetic pull on others. He likes nothing more than to complain about his workload, and is unable to function without his morning coffee. Some would say, he’s obsessive about coffee.
“I’m the first to admit I’m a difficult self-centred bastard who squirms at the mention of being a team player.”
“Matt, go to France and our marriage is over.”
“This is where the magic happens, like great wine love begins in the vines.”

Carla’s boss, and has worked at the winery for a number of years. Bright, stylish, and a hard worker she is highly attuned to everything that goes on around her. Frankie will stand in the way of anyone who tries to cross her. The one person she despises the most is Matt. Frankie is not married, but has a boyfriend.
“Sorry, I feel like we’ve just interrupted a moment…”
“…..If she thinks I’m going to buy that story……it’s so riddled with holes you can see right through it.”
“Maybe I’ll wade right into their murky waters and do a little fishing for trouble.”
“Oh God I’m doing this, because I hate being lied to.”

NaNoWriMo. Say What?

About a month ago I was tweeting away when a mangled unusual word caught my eye. NaNoWriMo. Being always the last to know about most things, I wasn’t surprised by the fact I had absolutely no idea what it meant.
As you probably know the twitter feed moves at a gazillion miles per hour, and if you don’t speed read the 140 characters, or quickly move to favorite your well, favorite tweet, it’s lost in the endless scroll of Twitter soundbites.
Patience, and effort is required to search for the “I blinked and I missed it” tweets that no matter what, you just have to read.
So I spent the next five minutes finding that 70’s disco crossed with someone who might drink out of a brown paper bag sounding word.
This twitter follower of mine had just signed up for National November Writers Month, and was freaking out at the monumental task of climbing the 50,000 word mountain.
50,000 words to be written during the month of November.
1,667 words per day for thirty days straight.
I googled NaNoWriMo. And without thinking it through I signed up too. (Got to love a rhyme).
Doing it backwards as I do, I then began to read the site. Now, it was my turn to freak out. 50,000 words in one month, 30 days. Oh boy.
Apparently though, I could take comfort in the fact that hundreds and thousands of writers from around the world are NaNoWriMo’s – at least I would only be “virtually” alone.
I quickly scrolled down to the “Tips to get from 0K to 50,000k” – and I visibly relaxed at the first line of Point #1 – “It’s ok to not know what you’re doing.” I felt like I was home.
The site offers all kinds of motivating, inspirational and practical stuff to achieve the 50,000 word goal. I was impressed to learn NaNoWriMo is run by the Office of Letters and Light. Really, I had no idea what that meant, other than thinking it was possibly where the highest order of Trekkies gathered.
Now, I know they are a non profit charity, and believe in “Ambitious Acts of the Imagination.” Cool.
I’m stoked my small donation contributes to this… “When you donate to the Office of Letters and Light, you help bring free creative writing programs to nearly 350,000 kids and adults in approximately 100 countries, 2,000 classrooms, 200 libraries, and 500 NaNoWriMo regions every year.”
Our region of NaNoWriMo’s had a catch up yesterday at a local book store. Unfortunately I couldn’t make it, and was disappointed not to get to know other WriMo’s. From the stats, it looks like our region – New Zealand Taupo and Hawke’s Bay has 69 members, and today we’ve collectively written about 400,000 words.
I’m proud to say, I’ve contributed 35,500 of them. 12 days to go. 14,500 words remaining to finish the first draft of my Love in the Vines sequel.
I’m so close, I can already see my ending. Let’s see if I detour along the way.
The hardest thing about being a WriMo? Resisting the urge to edit. It’s driving me crazy.
If you like to write, or always wanted to have a go at writing, and haven’t heard of NaNoWriMo – go to their website and check it out.
I’m loving the challenge of writing 50,000 words in one month. Sure, there is a deadline looming, but it’s not so daunting knowing thousands of others have hit the wall too, and are working through the pain to type and write their way to the finishing line.

Book Reviews. Scary or Not?

I can tell you straight off the bat, I’m one of those authors who can’t feign nonchalance at receiving book reviews.
First of all I’m immensely appreciative of readers who give their valuable time to read my books. Time is a rare commodity, and considered a luxury for most. Writing a review requires a whole other level of extra time, thought, and effort. And for that, I feel readers and reviewers are all deserving of 5 shining gold stars.
Even those who write and post the dreaded one or two star reviews. Good, or bad the feedback is at times hard to swallow, but it’s always invaluable.
I’ve got to admit getting a review scares the pants off me! My heartbeat races, I don’t breathe while reading it, and if it’s bad, my mood will dive faster than the Dow Jones on a brutal trading day.
In my mind, I can rationalize reviews as a reader’s personal, and informed opinion. I read and write reviews too. I respect that. In my heart however, I’m a sensitive softie who is s still coming to grips with the obvious fact that once the publish button is hit. It’s published. End of.
Ah well, one thing I’m sure of is I’ll never feign nonchalance, I’ll always be grateful to those who read my books. Reviews are like receiving an unexpected bonus. Like getting an extra scoop of ice-cream when you didn’t ask for it.
Here’s my latest LOVE IN THE VINES 4**** Book Review – this one was like getting the ice-cream, and the cherry on top.

“Affairsville” 4**** Amazon Review of LOVE IN THE VINES
Carla is bored with her marriage. Looking for something to do during the day – her husband is at work and her children are at school -she takes a job as a clerk at a local winery.
Mat is the vintner. Divorced, introverted, fascinated by his wine, he seldom pays attention to other people, but, on Carla’s first day at work, attraction is immediate; sparks fly between them.
The reader knows what will happen next! We watch as Carla takes each step, first baby steps, then larger ones, on the road to what she calls “Affairsville.” A novice at adultery, she makes “rookie mistakes,” and her husband begins to suspect that something is amiss.
Love in the Vines chronicles the all too familiar story of a woman who seeks excitement outside of her marriage, the feelings she has, the compromises she makes, the rationalizations she concocts to explain and to justify her behavior.
We wonder how far Carla will go and whether she will actually reach Affairsville. Will Mat continue to pursue Carla; will he tire of the chase; or will he go off-course when he meets her husband? We wonder whether her husband will see through Carla’s stories, and how he will react if he does. Will this a fling, or something more?
The story captures your attention in the beginning, and you won’t want to stop reading. It is a fast-moving, sexy story. You will enjoy reading it, and you’ll be asking for a sequel!

Love in the Vines. First Amazon Review.

Nervous? You betcha! (did I just write that?).
As a newbie author, I haven’t mastered the art of not obsessing over when my first book review will be posted. I wouldn’t recommend the waiting, as part of any anti-aging routine.
The anticipation, is just as bad as the wait.
Almost one month to the day after LOVE IN THE VINES hit the virtual bookshelves, a reader has taken the time to post a review on Amazon. I’m absolutely chuffed and grateful. Time is a precious commodity.
Now, as much as I’d love to bleat, being a New Zealander, home to 64 million sheep, I can try to make that unique sound, a 5***** shiner, it’s not.
Rather, it’s a very credible, spot-on, and honest 3*** review.
Sure, the higher numbers make for a better marketing story, and believe you me I’ll be out there spruiking mine one day soon, but today, here’s my first ever sparkly dazzling 3*** review to share.
Ok, for all of you who have moved on from Merlot, I’m thinking Mitchell Pritchard from Modern Family ….I’m going to confess. I love Merlot.
Love in the Vines. E-Book Out Now on Amazon Kindle.
For peeps living in the Southern Hemisphere it’s…”a great read for summer.” For those rugging up for fall, autumn and winter Love in the Vines is a perfect fireside read and a warming accompaniment to any glass of wine.
Love in the Vines is a contemporary romance novel set in the intoxicating world of wine and food. Like wine, love begins in the vines. Betrayal begins in the heart of a marriage.

Remember, no Kindle device, no worries. Download Kindle to your PC, Mac, Mobile and Tablet. Click here for links.

LOVE IN THE VINES. Getting to know our winemaker, Matt.

This week I’m going to introduce the main characters from my new book LOVE IN THE VINES. A contemporary romance e-book set in the intoxicating world of wine and food. Yum!
Just in case you’ve missed my earlier blogs, here’s a little teaser about Matt, our handsome, yet moody winemaker.
Leaving behind the city lights, casual late night flings, and the shattered remains of his marriage all Matt yearned for was a peaceful life spent among the fruit laden vines sipping his own award winning wines.

With the ink now dry on his divorce papers, the last thing Matt wanted was to fall in love again…
Reaching over to touch the grapes, Matt said with a shy yet knowing smile. ‘Sugar, sunlight, alchemy; I like to think of it as chemistry and magic conspiring together and, with a lot of love, nurturing and attention, it is all that these little ones need.

LOVE IN THE VINES is Out Now on Amazon Kindle. Only $2.99. If you don’t have a Kindle Device. Don’t worry. Simply download Kindle to your PC or Mac. Click here for more info.

Food. Wine. Love. Betrayal. Love in the Vines. Delicious E-Book Out Now!

LOVE IN THE VINES A romantic feast of food, wine, love and betrayal.

Like a great wine, love begins in the vines. Betrayal begins in the heart of a marriage.

From the moment I rushed passed her on the stairs, I knew it was only going to be a matter of time before we connected. This time though, the wedding ring was on the other hand. Not mine, but hers, and Carla was her name.

Taking the plunge from the glamorous world of advertising to the intoxicating world of wine, Matt’s dream of becoming a gifted winemaker had come true. Leaving behind the city lights, casual late night flings, and the shattered remains of his marriage, all Matt yearned for was a peaceful life spent among the fruit laden vines sipping his own award winning wines.

With the ink now dry on his divorce papers, the last thing Matt wanted was to fall in love again…

Reaching over to touch the grapes, Matt said with a shy yet knowing smile. ‘Sugar, sunlight, alchemy; I like to think of it as chemistry and magic conspiring together and, with a lot of love, nurturing and attention, it is all that these little ones need.

While hurriedly dressing I thought about that damn quote, “time stands still for no one.”  Well, it definitely did not stand still for me, a woman, having an affair. Time was against me as I raced back home. Checking for any messages before I left. I was dismayed to see a missed call and a text from my husband. He was letting me know his lunch was over and he’d be home within the hour.

LOVE IN THE VINES is my new E-Book. A delicious weekend read, set in the intoxicating world of wine and food. Available Now to buy on Amazon Kindle only $2.99

Enjoy reading and if you love, like or well…….please feel free to write and post an honest review.  Thanks!

A Sneak Peek. Get to Know Magdalena VandenBerg. Author of Love in the Vines

tulips (1)Mum and Dad left Holland back in ’58 for a more promising life in a little far-flung country known as the ‘land of the long white cloud.’ Dad was the youngest of 13 brothers and sisters, so I can only imagine the huge puddle of tears left on the dock as family waved the ship goodbye from the safe haven of the Port of Rotterdam.
My Dad didn’t have any trouble finding his sea legs. After all, his Dad had spent his life as a fisherman, trawling the freezing cold waters of the North Sea on a boat not built with any home comforts in mind. But, Mum was, and still is a dedicated land lover. Spending days staring out at nothing but the endless blue of the ocean waters, was not the romantic life she had once dreamed of.
Thankfully the demands of a young baby, my older sister, mercifully distracted Mum from the boredom and the perils of being at sea.
Docking in New Zealand with only a couple of suitcases and a few hundred dollars tucked away in a tanned leather travel wallet, a new life for the young family beckoned. Despite desperately missing loved ones, good coffee and salt liquorice, Mum and Dad slowly came to grips with the Queen’s English and the Kiwi way of doing things.
Eventually, they chose to settle in Hawke’s Bay, a small province then known as the fruit-bowl of New Zealand. Within a few years, three little ones, including me, joined my big sister, Jacoba, around the dinner table.
As the youngest child apparently I was an oxymoron. A precious mistake. Regardless, we were all showered with a bewildering mix of Dutch-Kiwi love.
Growing up in an immigrant family and hearing all the stories of “back home” it was impossible to escape the overwhelming curiosity about the world that lay beyond our sheep lined shores.
Back then, New Zealand had a tiny population of 3 million, and a staggering woolen sheep community topping 60+ million. By the time I left high school (college), I had seen enough green grass to last me a lifetime. I craved more.
Fast-forward a few years.
Leaving behind a career in small town advertising and marketing, I packed my bags for the dazzling bright lights of Australia’s va-va-voom city, Sydney.
After a few months of doing a bit of this and that, I landed a fabulous job in an ad agency. Just as our department was about to get an upgrade from using clunky old fashioned word processors to computers, a friend suggested I try for a Flight Attendant position with Qantas.
Raymond from the movie Rain Man, had a few years earlier shared with the cinema paying public, that Qantas was the world’s safest airline. With that proclamation there was nothing for me to worry about.
Lo and behold I got in. After weeks of training, and learning a thousand and one different hairstyles to survive long haul flights I was ready to walk the aisles.
Qantas flew me to places I could only ever dream of visiting. Getting a contract to live and fly out of Italy for a couple of years, was in a word, bliss.
Eventually, the lure of serving chicken or beef at 30,000 feet lost its pluck. Even the glamor of occasionally being able to work in First Class wasn’t enough to keep me in my kangaroo covered uniform.
Thankfully my marketing brain still worked and through tenacity, and I guess being in the right place at the right time, I scored amazing jobs in entertainment marketing.
Specializing in live shows I got to work for the most incredible inspiring, hard-nosed, determined and creative people. The pinnacle was working for UK based entertainment entrepreneur, Harvey Goldsmith and for the creative genius of Cirque du Soleil.
From Sydney, Milano, Roma, USA & Las Vegas, London, Amsterdam….I’m now home reconnecting with my family in little old’ Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand. This is where my life begun. And, this is where the rest of my life as a writer is just beginning.

 Like a great wine, love begins in the vines.
Betrayal begins in the heart of a marriage.

Magdalena VandenBerg
Author of new Contemporary Romance E-Book Love in the Vines
Out Now to buy on Amazon Kindle
Don’t have a Kindle Device – Simple. Download Kindle to your PC or Mac here

The Ecstasy and Agony of Giving Birth to an E-Book.

Black Knights Flaming Heart

Oh my god, the ecstasy and agony of writing my first proper, grown up e-book LOVE IN THE VINES was, and, still is, exhilarating and fantastically excruciating.

If I was wearing a mood ring the colors would change dramatically from the bright optimism of a hi-5 yellow to a sombre dark purple of, uh-oh what the hell was I thinking. In those doubtful moments an old blog post of mine, Back Yourself, became a force field. After all, I reasoned, if I don’t back myself, who will?

Love in the Vines lived for a significant amount of time inside my head, it was like having an imaginary TV switched on 24/7. I could hear the on-going dialogue and my mind’s eye could picture the different scenario’s. The internal conversations going on inside the privacy of my own head space left me feeling a little bewildered, loco even.

The only thing was, unlike real-life, I couldn’t find the remote to hit the off switch. Love in the Vines came everywhere with me. While out running, doing my Spin Cycle classes, shopping, eating, shampooing my hair and, I’m sure it even crept into my dream sleep. My new BHSF (best head space friend) was with me all time.

I’m guessing there’s loads of you who completely whole-heartedly 100% understand. When you’re doing something you love and feel passionate about, you can’t help but feel deeply connected. Like it’s in your DNA. It’s what you do. This thing that you’re doing makes you feel like you’re actually living your purpose.

Transferring the words from my head onto virtual paper was exhilarating. A torrent of words flowed to form sentences, pages and chapters. I’d read somewhere that when writing your first draft, don’t think too much, just do. Loads of writing. That’s exactly what I did.

The same article told me that your first draft would be awful. Chock full of grammar errors, and nonsensical sentences. I can only imagine for an English Teacher, my first draft was   red pen nirvana, with markings, crosses and slashes galore. It wasn’t pretty, I was definitely typing faster than I could think. But, I could see the potential.

What it needed was time, love, nurturing and a truck load of attention. Hours, days and weeks were spent writing, re-working, adding, deleting, changing, agonizing over words, weak spots, sex scenes, you name it. Slowly but surely, I felt more confident in the story I was creating. Until one day, my Mother wisely said, “Magdalena dear, it’s time to let it go.” Code for…publish it, get it on Amazon. Stat.

But, wait a minute Mum, if I do that other people will read my book (really!). Gosh, that means they’re going to love, like or god forbid loathe it.  Oh no, on top of everything else, now I’m going to have to learn the art of wearing a thick skin….

my first contemporary romance e-book is available now for you to buy, read, love, like or…. from Amazon Kindle.

If you already have a copy and, have read it or have it bookmarked to read. Please feel free to post an honest review on Amazon. Thank you.

Love in the Vines. Sneak Peek on GoodReads.

It’s been one heck of a week. All things considered I’m happy despite having a stonking nasty head cold.
As many of you know, when you work for yourself it takes a tremendous amount of self-will and effort to say “ok it’s time I crawled into bed and let sleep work its healing magic.”
The only thing is, sleep wasn’t top of my agenda.
With my new e-book LOVE IN THE VINES sitting pretty on the Amazon Kindle virtual bookshelf, the last thing on my mind was sleeping during the day. I’m a newbie indie author (yes, I am!) I need to pound the virtual pavement to find readers who will love, like or loathe my story. Hopefully they will share the love by talking to others about LOVE IN THE VINES.
Anyway, without going into too much detail after going through two Kleenex boxes of tissues I called in quits and slept. Funny thing is….life went on and no one but me, and now you, knew I was M.I.A for a couple of days.
Ah well.
After loads of sleep and my Mum’s famous chicken soup for the stuffed nose, I’m feeling much better and am back on the keyboard.
In case you missed out on my recent FREE giveaway weekend for LOVE IN THE VINES I’ve posted a few chapters on GoodReads. Click here for your sneak peek at Chapters 1 to 3.
I’ve only just discovered GoodReads – I know and it’s 2012….
Food, wine, love and betrayal. Like wine, love begins in the vines. Betrayal begins in the heart of a marriage. LOVE IN THE VINES is a contemporary romance novel set in the intoxicating world of wine and food.