Villa Caramel-the love-it or-hate-it book I wrote for fun


As I sit on a terrace in Antibes on the French Riviera in mid-October and watch the evening sky turn turquoise with orange and pink streaks from the setting sun, sipping rosé  and-okay-flicking through reviews of my books on my phone, I reflect on this  book that I wrote about twelve years ago.

I remember how, at the time, I had this idea to write a spoof, or romantic comedy, if you like, poking a little fun at both the romance genre and the European Union and the ins and outs of this huge organisation. I saw it up close and personal during my eleven years of being a EU wife, and felt I needed to demystify and perhaps even reveal some of the corruption and the sometimes ridiculous events I witnessed. It became Villa Caramel .

Feeling that Brussels was not quite the romantic setting,or even that interesting, I moved the whole cast to St Tropez, where the characters in my story would continue networking, flirt, wine and dine while falling in and out of love under the hot sun of the south of France.

I piled it all in: glamour, fashion, food and wine, sun, sand and sex,laced with my own brand of humour. Eva, the straight-laced but boring (according to some reviews) career woman with her two slutty (again,according to reviews) step-daughters mingle with the jet-set and the hot men they meet.

I had a lot of fun writing it. I never for an instant meant it to be serious or meaningful.

Reviews have been- mixed. But that’s life- and writing. You can’t please all the people all the time.

I’m only happy if I pleased some of my readers… from time to time.

Stigma for Breakfast-How Indie Authors are Winning

As a self published author since 2010, I, like many of my colleagues, have had to struggle with the the general consensus that self publishing is only for those writers whose work isn’t good enough to attract an agent or publisher. It was the so-called ‘stigma’, which I, as a romance author, was used to. To quote Hugh Howey: ‘romance authors eat stigma for breakfast’.

This attitude is slowly disappearing. In fact, readers generally don’t actually notice who published a book they want to read. If the cover and blurb, and the sample chapters are good, they’ll buy and read, and often find a new author they like. This is not fiction, it’s a solid fact. The proof of this particular pudding is now staring publishers in the face- and they don’t like it.

My friend and colleague Dean Crawford just posted a very interesting thread on the forum I run for Indie writers. He writes in the sci fi and thriller genres and is what is know as a ‘hybrid’ author, which means that he is both traditionally (by Simon & Schuster).  and self-published author. (I’ve read and loved his new thriller,Stone Cold).

Deans insight into publishing is second to none, and he says it better than anyone. Here is some of what he predicts:

A big traditional publisher (one of the big 5) have recently shut down their sci-fi and fantasy imprint, with many redundancies. And another, nearly as big publisher has likewise done the same with their own s/f & fantasy genre imprint, the market currently 18% down in that genre according to figures within the industry. This is despite ( or perhaps because of ) the same genre being currently wildly popular within the independent community. The effects of the publisher’s shift in income, as huge numbers of sales move to independent authors ( despite the protestations of the Big Five that “it’s not happening” ) is obvious. Hugh and Data Guy’s conclusions from the Author Earnings Report is being affirmed by real-world events now in publishing.

Interesting, don’t you think? What this says to me is that self-published authors in this genre are galloping ahead like thoroughbreds on speed, while the heavier horses are still looking at the fences and wondering if it’s safe to jump.

And more: what publishers have to do but are reluctant to admit:

Predictions for the major publishers now seem to show economies of scale producing further mergers ( and shut downs ) of imprints into the bigger houses, which themselves are reliant now upon major names for a vastly disproportionate volume of their income. That said, nobody believes that the market will disappear entirely – only that it will have to rebuild itself from the ground up as it did once before in the 1980s and again after the loss of the Net Book Agreement. Bottom line – editors in New York and London, in glossy offices, can keep pretending it’s not happening, but it is and it’s not slowing down, it’s speeding up. Indies are doing it cheaper, better and more quickly and as for hybrid authors, it’s getting harder for publishers to make advance deals that live up to potential earnings for authors who have the option of going independent with any given title. It’s not just about the size of the advance anymore: an established independent author can reasonably estimate sales in the long term, and judge that against the 65% they might net off a publisher’s advance. Royalty rates and non-compete clauses in contracts further muddy the traditional route’s waters and represent a mark against any savvy author selling out for a deal.

Still want to wait for that publishing deal?

Or.. to quote Dean:

I’ve been at several major writing conventions recently, and over the last few months been talking to other authors, some of whom sell millions traditionally, and others millions independently. The trend I keep seeing again and again is that even the authors who are happily full-time employed by major publishing houses are considering moving into independent publishing: most have unsold manuscripts on their hard drives that, until now, had no place to go. Furthermore, authors like myself who publish both independently and through publishers are leaning heavily toward the Indie route ( I write one book a year for my agent, and four to five for myself! )

Deans advice (which I’m following to the letter):

In summary to all of this, it might be worth everybody who publishes independently to really knuckle down and get going with their marketing, their writing and their market research, because I think it’s quite likely that over the next two years more and more traditional authors, well versed in how to sell books, experienced in editing and marketing, keen to further their careers and perhaps able to independently recover their backlist and go Indie with it ( as per Konrath et all ) will start doing so in droves. At the most recent international festival I attended, more authors than ever were asking me about independent publishing, all of them currently published by traditional houses. More and more of them were concerned about their future income. At the same time, I met more and more indie authors attending than ever before, all of them happily full-time and actually extremely excited about their futures, few of them with any interest in approaching agents or publishing houses for deals.

But… here is my take: maybe trad published authors do have good back lists (if the manage to wrangle the rights out of the greedy hands of their publishers)  BUT Indie (as in self-published) authors have a huge advantage because we are way ahead. We have learned the skills of self-publishing the hard way. We know how to format for the e-book market, whether by hiring a formatter or doing it ourselves. We know where to find good cover artists, we have teams of great beta readers and we know where to find good editors. We also know how to market by promoting our books through the best channels and social media. This all takes time and practice. Trad published authors will have to push themselves far out of their comfort zone and learn how to do it themselves. That takes time and hard work. Good luck to them. In the meantime, we will work even harder to produce good books at a pace the traditional publishing industry never could.

I was once a traditionally published author. When I decided to go out on my own, I was lucky enough to get the rights of my books back so I could put up a small but solid backlist. Now, I’m a proud Indie and earning an income I never thought possible.

The final word from Dean:

Sharpen your pencils, folks, and get to work! The avalanche of new material that’s likely to appear in the near future will possibly change the marketplace forever. It’ll only get harder to stand out but maybe that’s a good thing, because one other thing I noticed was that a lot of traditionally published authors remained tight-lipped when it came to sharing information. The Indies were not, and the sole independent-author panel at the last convention, despite being buried in the graveyard slot on a Sunday morning, was once again one of the busiest of the entire weekend..

So that’s what I’m doing. My pencil is sharpened and I’m ready for the scary but exciting future of publishing.


If you want to find out more about dean Crawford here are few links:



US Author Page:

Beating the Billionaires


When I wrote Hot Property over two years ago, I decided to create a new kind of hero- the antithesis to what was trending at the time- the lonely billionaire. I know this is-or was- the man every romance reader dreamed of: rich, handsome with a lonely heart, looking for true love. Sorry but…yawn.

I wanted to present a challenge to the reader, a hero who didn’t have the means to offer the heroine a life of glamour and leisure, who couldn’t take her to the hot spots of the world, fly her to Paris for lunch, or give her diamonds and pearls. My hero would be, okay, sexy, but a man who worked hard to keep bread on the table and the wolf from the door. Someone who had other values and ideals, preferring the great outdoors to fast cars, yachts and fine dining.

So I conjured up Paudie, a Kerry sheep farmer, good looking, poor but honest, hot tempered, strong, stubborn and very, very Irish. He loves animals, the great outdoors, Irish music and a well-pulled pint. He has bright blue eyes and a smile to melt a thousand hearts. I fell in love with him myself as I wrote the story, and now tens of thousands of readers have done the same.

I didn’t really expect it or plan it. I thought I was taking a huge risk. But I never write to a formula or try to find the zeitgeist of the moment- which is impossible.

Hot Property is now available for free in all e-book stores worldwide. It has seen over 20000 downloads on Amazon to date, and received rave reviews. Many readers have sent me messages swooning over Paudie. Must be that Irish charm- or perhaps that readers now want the simple life in a beautiful landscape, rather than champagne and caviar.

Is this a new trend? In that case, I’m proud to have been one of the first to kick it off.

Fun Fan Group for Readers of Romance

11367258_s Just a quick note to let you know that I have started a Facebook group for those who want to chat about my books, my writing and other totally frivolous subjects, like fashion, books, movies, shoes, jokes, celebrities, gossip and anything that will provide a break from the miseries of the world. I’ll even post recipes and fitness tips and ask readers for feedback on my current work in progress. Who knows, we might even write a book together? If you want to join in the fun, go HERE I promise you won’t be bored! See you there!

Creativity in Tandem: How I Became a Co-author

Susanne O'Leary:

How this co-writing partnership started and keeps going…

Originally posted on The Woolf:

By Pete Morin

Image courtesy Pete Morin Image courtesy: Pete Morin

I discovered the peculiar art of novel writing in 2007, when I wrote Diary of a Small Fish as a means of grieving my father’s death. It was an exhilarating period of about two-and-a-half years until I finally typed “the end.”

This didn’t daunt me, since I had been schooled that first novels are usually kind of rough sledding. Surely, after I got that under my belt, the next one would go faster! Yes, yes, it would. I set a goal of one year for #2. Twenty eight months later, I finished. I started a third, and took six months to get about 30K in.

By this point, the indie revolution was in full thrust, and hundreds of novelists, both Big Name and small, were cranking out novels every 3-4 months. What did they have that I didn’t?

It was obvious to me…

View original 851 more words

US-UK, What a Difference!

US-UK the contrast   I have noticed through the years of publishing my e-books worldwide, that there is a great difference in the settings- or should I say countries- to which US and UK readers want to escape. As I have had quite a globe-trotting life, I set my novels in the countries where I have lived- and they are quite a few. The places in which I have lived and loved the most are France and Ireland. (Also my home country- Sweden, of course, which was featured in Swedish for Beginners).

I have often been told that my sense of place is one of the best features of my books, and that the readers feel they are ‘there’ as they read. I think this is because I think very visually and feel myself I’m right in the middle of the setting I describe as I write. I ‘see’ the beautiful vistas of France and Ireland, I feel the heat, and smell the herbs and garlic of a French coq au vin, or an Irish stew with fresh soda bread. I swim in the warm waters of the Mediterranean, or walk up the grassy hills of Ireland with the wind in my hair. My greatest wish was to take my readers along with me on these trips, and if I have achieved that, I’m very happy.

My e-books sell mainly in America and Britain. But these readers have very different tastes. American readers love to ‘travel’ to Ireland, especially the wild west coast, as described in my Kerry Romance Series, the first of which,Hot Property, is free right now. UK readers, on the other hand, love going to France in their imagination, which is why my brand new Riviera romance, Selling Dreams, along with my comedy/satire, Villa Caramel, have seen amazing sales in the UK all winter.

I have my own theory about this. I think Americans love Ireland, and thus like reading about it. Many American have roots in Ireland and there is a great infinity between the two countries. People in Britain, on the other hand, have a great love of France and all things French. It’s more exotic and the weather is better, not to mention the food and wine. I can’t argue with that.

This chilly winter, I have myself, escaped to the French Riviera, and continue to do so while I write the second book in what is to become The Riviera Series.

After that, I might return to Ireland… Who knows? In any case, I’m not complaining. Vive la difference!

Vive la France!

French flag

Today’s events in Paris have prompted me to write this post.

As the Irish writer, John de Courcy Ireland famously said: “every cultured person has two countries; France and their own”.

This rings so true to me, especially as my early childhood and youth are closely linked to France.

At the tender age of five, I started my education at the French lycée in Stockholm, run by French nuns. Thirteen years later, I graduated, having passed the baccalaureate with good results. Those years with the nuns taught me to speak flawless French with an accent that is as close to a native one as a foreigner can get. But it also taught me French history and literature and a love of everything French. I spent many a happy summer as the guest of a French family, who took me to their bosom and treated me as a daughter. I have heard that French people are generally considered to be unfriendly. I don’t have that experience at all. Quite the opposite, in fact.

My first love affair was with a Frenchman (although I later married and Irishman). In France, I had my first taste of champagne, the first introduction to gourmet food, cheese and wine. Not to mention fashion and style. Later on, my husband was posted to the Irish embassy in Paris, where we spent the happiest years of our married life. My youngest child was born there during that time and I will never forget the experience.

Ever since, we have managed at least one holiday a year in France and every time we go there, I have a feeling of coming home.

Many of my books are set in France. But I will not post links to them here, as this is not about me.

It’s with great sadness that I read about what’s happening in Paris and my thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims.

France gave me so much.


2014 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,500 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 42 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

The Ultimate Cheap Escape to The French Riviera

Selling Dreams Cover MEDIUM WEB

I have just published my brand new Riviera novel, Selling Dreams to all e-book stores worldwide. I started writing it on a dreary, rainy day, when I needed a romantic escape to a warm, sunny place, where I’d mingle with handsome men and beautiful women while looking at stunning views. I needed to feel the sun on my skin and look out at the sapphire blue Mediterranean and sip chilled rosé wine on a terrace somewhere far away from the wind and rain. So, as I wrote, I did just that; I was there, in Antibes, in the south of France, sharing the  romance and heartache , food and wine with Chantal and Flora, Daisy and Ross and all the other characters in the story. They became my friends and I worked hard to solve all their problems, while, in my imagination, I basked in the sun and swam in the warm, blue water.

Now that’s it’s finished, I hope I can take readers on the same journey and provide an escape from winter weather, bad news, bills and household chores. In order to do this, I am offering this novel to readers at the rock-bottom price of $0.99 for the next couple of days. This way, you can escape to a beautiful place without leaving your house or forking out a lot of money, or even having to go to the airport.

So, pack your imaginary suitcase with a swimsuit, sunglasses and a beach towel and come fly with me to The French Riviera. You won’t even need sunblock.

The story in a nutshell:

The pristine blue waters and sun drenched shores of the French Riviera provide a stunning backdrop to the story of two women, Chantal and Flora, both struggling with the heartache of a lost love.

Chantal Gardinier runs her real estate agency in Antibes with an iron fist. A tough businesswoman on the surface, Chantal is hiding a tragic home life and a secret love affair. When faced with a moral dilemma, she is unsure which path to choose.

Flora McKenna arrives in town with high hopes of finding happiness. When she immediately lands a great job, she decides that this exotic paradise might be just the place to help her heart heal. Selling houses to expats looking for a dream home in the sun would be the ideal existence if it weren’t for her demanding boss, Chantal—a woman with no scruples when it comes to bending the rules.

But Chantal’s personal life catches up with her, and she is forced to ask Flora to run the agency.

While trying to cope with French property laws and red tape, Flora is thrown into a love affair that threatens to break her heart.

Set against the glamorous backdrop of the French Riviera with its stunning scenery, Selling Dreams is the story of two very different women travelling on paths filled with unexpected twists as they search for love and happiness .

Come on in, the water is lovely.

Brendan Behan and I


The publication of Full Irish  my co-written Irish-American detective story has raised a few questions in my my mind, the main one being: how Irish am I really? Of course, my name suggests an Irish colleen with roots in County Cork, but that’s borrowed plumage from my marriage to an Irishman from said county. In fact, my Co-writer, Pete Morin is more Irish than I am, as his mother’s family name is Donnelly, originally from County Sligo. I have to confess to having been born in Sweden and there is no shame in that. Except when you market a book set partly in Ireland. But, although my first twenty years were spent in the country of my birth, the rest of my adult life were, apart from some years in foreign countries, spent in Ireland.

I feel more at home here than in Sweden and, indeed, I am told I speak English with an Irish accent. Not only that, my connection with this country goes back to my early childhood, when my father came here on holiday as a young man and fell in love with this beautiful country and its people. It’s partly his ‘fault’ that I met and married my Irish husband of many years. My dad used to invite Irish friends to stay in our summer house in the islands and I have been familiar with Irish voices from the tender age of five or so.

As my late father travelled around Ireland and mainly County Kerry, he befriended many an Irishman in the many pubs he visited (purely for local colour). One of these gentlemen was Brendan Behan. They met in a pub in Dunquin on the Dingle peninsula and started to talk, swap stories and (probably) risqué jokes as well. I do believe there was also some singing. (Brendan was a wonderful singer). As they parted, my father gave Brendan his card (as yo do) and said something along the lines of: “if you’re ever in Stockholm, give me a call”, not thinking for a moment this would actually happen. But it did.

A few weeks after his return home, there was a phone call from the local police station in Stockholm to the house in the islands. Did my father know an Irishman named Brendan Behan? And if so, could he come and pick him up? Now, I know that at this time. Brendan was not drinking, so he was probably just being Irish and argumentative. He was also in the company of his wife Beatrice, a pretty, soft-spoken woman. They were both immediately invited to stay with us.

This was in 1958 and, although I was just a little girl at the time, I have vivid memories of those weeks when Brendan Behan came to stay. I suppose it was because he was such a big, warm, noisy man with a great sense of humour and a loud, contagious laugh. I remember how he got up at 4 am every morning to work on the final proofs his book, The Borstal Boy, the first edition of which is still sitting in the bookcase in the summer house. He got the cover image during his stay, and proudly showed it to us. When he had finished the morning’s work, he cooked us all a Full Irish breakfast and that was my first introduction to this typically Irish feast. I have enjoyed many of those since then, but the ones cooked by Brendan Behan were the best.

There are many tales of Brendan Behan, and most of them are of him being drunk and disorderly. That is not my image of Brendan. I simply remember him as a larger-than-life man, who was so kind to us children. A man who stood on the pier on a dark, moonlit night in August and sang an Irish ballad, his beautiful voice ringing across the black waters of the bay. A man who went to a Jussi Björling charity  concert in the church on the island (Jussi had a summer house close to ours) and listened, tears rolling down his cheeks. I also remember him singing the ‘Ridi Pagliaccio‘ aria on his knees in front of my grandmother, making her both laugh and cry. Despite the fact that I, like my younger siblings, didn’t speak much English, Brendan managed to communicate with us using a smattering of Swedish he had picked up, and the few English words and phrases we knew.

My dad later told us the story of their subsequent visit to a fancy restaurant in Stockholm. The Maitre d’ took one look at Brendan and hesitated about whether he should be let in to such a select establishment, saying “that man likes to drink”. When my dad translated this to Brendan, he replied: “tell him that’s the understatement of the century”.

Brendan and my dad are both gone. I like to imagine them together in Heaven, sitting on a cloud, having a pint and singing Irish songs.

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