Sunday, 1 July 2012

DARE TO DREAM - A New Publication

Life is an odd mixture of beginnings and endings.   In 1992, when I decided to follow my husband into retirement, there was one very important fact that I somehow overlooked – a writer never retires.   We cogitate, deliberate, ruminate, investigate and contemplate, but the one thing we never do is retire.
            During the ensuing years I wrote three full-length novels.   I tried to have them published, but things had changed here in South Africa (Nelson Mandela was released from prison and Apartheid was abolished) and at Mills & Boon there were also quite a few major changes (Alan Boon was no longer there and neither was Frances Whitehead, the editorial consultant with whom I had worked closely over the years).   What had worked for me before was no longer acceptable for them.   They felt that, amongst other things, the political situation was so sensitive that writing about black domestic servants working in our homes might offend the readers worldwide, and I suspect they had to look at it from a financial point of view as well.   And so, after having 44 books published by Mills & Boon, my manuscripts were rejected.
            It was at this point in my life that it felt as if the decision to retire was literally taken out of my hands.   I joined the Women’s Auxiliary and became an active member.   I bought myself a new sewing machine and started sewing again.   Knitting was something else I quite enjoyed and for the past ten years I have managed to have about sixteen jerseys ready to hand over to underprivileged children before each winter.   Photography has always been a hobby of mine and I love reading.
            I have managed to keep myself pretty busy with all these activities, but my mind has constantly sought that familiar outlet in writing.   And so I took those three novels and rewrote them several times.   I was always altering something here or adding something there.  I have always been my own worst critic, so I was never totally satisfied.   I told myself that I was doing it for my own pleasure, but now, twenty years after my last book was published, I find that I can’t convince myself of that anymore.   A writer needs to share their work, and there’s no greater satisfaction than knowing others have enjoyed reading what you have enjoyed writing.
            It became clear to me that it was time to do something about it.   I’m not that young anymore, so I don’t have time to waste approaching publishers in the hope that they might accept my work.   The IN-thing today is publishing your own work.   It’s costly, make no mistake about that, but in the end I am sure that it will be worth it.   I opted for Traffords Publishers in Bloomington, Indiana, and I am happy to say that my first book “Dare To Dream” is now published and out there to be purchased on line.   Traffords guided me through the whole publishing process, offering me the guidance of their editorial staff and their marketing managers, and throughout it all I knew that I had complete control of what was happening to my work.   It’s an incredibly wonderful experience, and also very exciting.   Now all I have to do is wait and see how it will be received by the public.

Below is the press release of my book:

Fiery Romance Ignites in New South African Novel

Popular romance novelist Yvonne Whittal pens latest book, Dare To Dream
PORT ELIZABETH, South Africa – In her new romance novel Dare To Dream (published by Trafford Publishing), Yvonne Whittal delivers a story of an unlikely passion and love on a wine farm in South Africa.

Still haunted five years after the death of her husband, Jenna Reeves works long hours as a journalist in Cape Town, South Africa. But the stress catches up to her, and she sets out for her aunt’s cottage on a wine farm for a vacation where she quickly forms and intense attraction to the farm owner, Robert Rousseau.

An excerpt from Dare To Dream:

“My husband is dead! He died five years ago!”

The words had spilled from Jenna’s lips on an anguished cry; it was the first time she had actually said it out aloud. She waited for the pain that she felt certain would follow, but she was surprised to discover that she felt nothing—nothing except a sadness that someone so young and so vital had been robbed of the opportunity to live his life to the fullest. And remarkably, it also felt as if a great weight had been lifted off her shoulders.

The relationship between Jenna and Robert does not run smoothly, mainly because Jenna cannot conform to Robert’s preference for a relationship without ties. They finally walk away from each other, but fate brings them back together again when Jenna is assigned the task of interviewing Robert. Their attraction is reignited stronger than before – now it will take a tragedy to pull them apart.

About the Author
Yvonne Whittal is a South African author who has always had a passion for writing. She has had 44 books published by Harlequin Mills & Boon.

Trafford Publishing, an Author Solutions, Inc. author services imprint, was the first publisher in the world to offer an “on-demand publishing service,” and has led the independent publishing revolution since its establishment in 1995. Trafford was also one of the earliest publishers to utilize the Internet for selling books. More than 10,000 authors from over 120 countries have utilized Trafford’s experience for self publishing their books. For more information about Trafford Publishing, or to publish your book today, call 1-888-232-4444 or visit

Friday, 30 March 2012


Yes, I am back after a long absence.   The past year was not easy for my husband, Vernon, and certainly not for me.   It is only by the grace of God that we have come through it in the way we have, and can find enjoyment in life again.   At our age any kind of illness is making us aware of our own mortality, and at the same time it is also making us more aware of this beautiful world we live in, and how fortunate and how blessed we are.
            I kept myself busy during this past year with things that I could put down at any time without feeling irritated at being disturbed when I was needed.   I knitted eighteen jerseys for needy children between the ages of two and eight years.   They are ready at the moment to be distributed before the winter.   I also crocheted a queen-sized blanket for myself.   It was a mammoth task, but I’m very proud of myself now that it is finished.
            I have just recently started writing again, and I might have mentioned before that I was putting together a volume of all the short stories and articles I have written over the years.   This started out as a project which was intended solely for my children, but it has developed into something bigger than I had originally imagined.

            This compilation is partly a personal journey, starting with stories written long before I had anything published through Mills & Boon.   There are also a few articles written for the Ingagane Live Wire.   And for those of you who don’t know, Ingagane was an Eskom power station situated about fifteen kilometres to the south of Newcastle, Natal.   At the start of my writing career I also wrote a few Afrikaans short stories which were published around the same time that my first full-length novel was published.   I have also added a story in Afrikaans which was written last year.   Added to all this I have made comments at the end of each article or story, giving a little inside information on some of them which the reader might find interesting.
            As I said, it is a personal journey for me, but since there were so many people who indicated that they would like to have a copy of this book, I made a decision to have it nicely printed and bound together.   The problem with a self-publication is that I had to do all the editing myself and, as in this case, a few typing errors did go unnoticed.   But who hasn’t read a book with a few printing errors in it?
            To print only a limited number of books is a costly procedure, so I am forced to recoup some of my expenses by attaching a price to it.   So ... if any of my friends and fans out there are interested in procuring a copy, then please get in touch with me.

Monday, 2 May 2011

I can dream, can't I?

             I’m supposed to be a retired author, but I’ve got so many ideas popping into my head that I sometimes think I could write another forty books.   At my age, I suppose, it’s not practical to think along these lines.   I mean, getting published isn’t as easy these days as it used to be – not that it was all that easy in the old days, but you could send along a couple of chapters of your manuscript to a publisher and if they liked what they read they could ask for the complete manuscript and then, if they were willing to take a chance on you, your work was published.   These days you need to find yourself an agent who will then approach a publisher on your behalf, and so everyone gets a slice of the cake, if you know what I mean.   And then there’s the tax man; he needs to get his slice of the cake too.   And if you don’t want to end up with the crumbs then you need to get yourself a good tax lawyer who will make your relationship with the tax man less painful.   The latter, of course, also needs to get his slice of the cake.
            Oh, woe is me!
            When I was younger I took all these things in my stride, but it all seems so complicated now that I’m not too sure I want to go that way again.
            Now that’s a very negative thought.   I’m not basically a negative person.   I usually look on the bright side of life.   I simply expect things to work out alright, and they normally do.   When things don’t pan out as I’d hoped I naturally feel the jolt of disappointment, but I get over it and get on with whatever I’m busy with.   That’s the way it is with me.   There’s always the hope that one will succeed, that if you reach out for that dream it might become a reality.
            It’s good to dream.   If we let go of our dreams then we have nothing left.   Dreams are but hopes dressed up in tinsel, and so we hope and we dream and we work at making that dream a reality.   Oh, yes, it’s good to dream, but it often takes blood, sweat and tears to make your dream come true.
            As a young girl I dreamed of becoming a writer.   I loved the written word and I would scribble away at my little stories whenever I had an opportunity.   It was my secret dream, my secret passion, and for a long time I never told anyone about it.   I was in my mid thirties when I first had my work published, and it took a lot of encouragement and persuasion to get me to this point in my life.   I was my own worst enemy; I was never satisfied with what I had written.   I wanted it to be perfect; it had to be perfect, but being a perfectionist can have its drawbacks.   These days I am more inclined to write it as I see it.   It’s more important to get the story down on paper and to worry about the grammar afterwards.   If you hover over every word you could so easily lose the essence of what you want to say.   I learned this the hard way, but I don’t have any regrets.   We learn by our mistakes, and I’m sure most people can relate to that.
            And so I’m back where I started.   I’m a retired author.   Does an author ever really retire?   I don’t think so.   I’m still writing and hoping and dreaming, and whether I venture into publishing, or not, it doesn’t matter.   I find pleasure in what I’m doing and that’s all that really matters.   I was lucky, once, to have my work published.   If that luck swings my way again, regardless of my age, I shall consider myself fortunate and then, I suppose, none of my initial worries will matter.   What complex beings we are, but …C’est la vie.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

The Gift of Life

I’m not functioning very well at the moment.   My husband, Vernon, has been in hospital since Tuesday with heart failure and he won’t be coming home until Monday.   This means that, with two trips to the hospital every day, nothing much is happening on the home front, but this is not what I’m thinking about at the moment.   I’m thinking about those two dreadful, frightening words –
            Heart failure !
            It means that the heart is failing to function normally.
            This incredible piece of human machinery we carry around inside us, this pump that sends a steady flow of life-giving blood to the very extremities of our bodies, is now failing to function as it should.
            If you think about how many times your heart beats per minute, per day, per year, and you multiply that with your age, then you begin to wonder how much longer it can keep going.   I know Vernon is thinking about this; his heart has served him faithfully for 77 years, but how much longer can it last.   I’m thinking about this as well; not just about him, but also for myself.
            It has made me realise, once again, what a precious gift life is.   God has given us this wonderful gift and many of us never pause to think exactly what that means.   He didn’t give us a life in bondage, but a life of freedom; the freedom to choose what we want to do with our lives.   We can be the captain of our own ship and go our own way, but, if we’re wise, we can choose to have God at the helm.   It doesn’t mean we won’t go through any stormy patches, but it will ensure that we have a safe journey to whatever shore God is taking us.
            At this stage in my life I am taking one day at a time.   God has given me the precious gift of TODAY.   It is now up to me.   What am I going to do with TODAY.   Am I going to guard it selfishly, or am I going to share it with others?   Am I going to keep the love that came with it to myself, or will I pass it on?
                        If God has given me one more day,
                        I will live it to His glory, come what may.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Writer's Block - It's a cramp

If you’ve never gone through a period of ‘writer’s block’ then consider yourself fortunate.   I think of it as a cramp in the creative part of the brain that won’t let go, and it causes extreme emotional pain.
            You sit and stare at the blank page and the ideas just don’t come.   A thread of panic uncoils from somewhere deep inside you and it serves no purpose except to magnify the problem.   The more you think, the less you produce and the greater the panic.
            You tell yourself you’ve been writing too much over the past years, burning the candle at both ends on many occasions, and you’re mentally exhausted.   You pay a visit to your local pharmacist and ask him to prescribe something for you that will give you a mental boost, something to revive the old brain cells, and you go home with your precious package believing that you’ve found a miracle cure.   You give yourself a couple of weeks, telling yourself that the medication needs time to take root, but as the weeks go by you find that nothing has changed except that you’re so wide awake now your head is spinning.   You can’t sleep at night your brain is so active, but the thoughts flit through it at the speed of a bullet ricocheting from wall to wall in a room the size of a pantry.   It leaves you mentally breathless and frustrated.
            There is another kind of writer’s block where you know what you want to say, but you can’t find the right words.   It takes hours to write a paragraph because whatever you write just doesn’t sound right, so you do it over and over again, writing it this way and that way until you’re finally so exhausted you just don’t give a damn what it sounds like anymore.   You put it away and decide to leave it for the next day, you’re exhausted, you need the break, but your mind is like a dog with a bone, it won’t let go.   You get back to it the next day and it’s the same thing over again.   It’s like tapping water out of a tank.   You know it’s full, but when you open the tap the water comes out one reluctant drop at a time.
            I’ve experienced both of the above and all I can say is that there’s no point in fretting.   It only makes it worse.   Let it go and do something else, something creative that doesn’t require you to use the written word.   I’ve always enjoyed photography; it’s another form of expressing oneself.
            There is something else as well.   Don’t be too hard on yourself where your work is concerned.   If you’re too critical you could become your own worst enemy.   You might end up thinking your work is inferior when it is quite the reverse.   The biggest stumbling block for any writer is the belief that their work isn’t good enough.   It’s fine to be a perfectionist, but don’t let it destroy the creative juices.

Thursday, 31 March 2011

God still performs miracles

There is a lady from Jeffrey’s Bay who has been suffering from Guillain-BarrĂ© Syndrome since July 2010.   For those of you who don’t know, it is a debilitating disease that attacks the nervous system and paralyses the muscles, and the healing process is sometimes painfully and agonisingly slow.   The first time I heard about her was in August 2010, and even though I have mentioned her plight before, I would like you to bear with me while I run through some of the statistics again.

This lady, Christa, was in ICU at Greenacres hospital since July 2010 until February 2011 when she was transferred to the Aurora Stimulation Centre here in Port Elizabeth.   My friend, Veronica, and I have been calling on her regularly once a week when we do our rounds at Greenacres and St Georges hospitals, visiting members of our church who happen to be in hospital.   We have followed her progress from the beginning when, hooked up to monitors and breathing with the aid of a ventilator, she wasn’t even aware of our presence.
            The healing process has been painstakingly slow, but Christa has been quite remarkable throughout it all.   There have been many frustrating moments, but she has been extremely patient, taking each tiny improvement as a blessing from God.
            I confess that there were times during these weekly visits when I would have a difficult time convincing myself that I could see an improvement in her condition.   I was beginning to feel impatient and frustrated for Christa’s sake.   I knew that God was healing her and that it was His will and not mine that was important, but I would ask Him to please let me see a visible improvement in Christa the next time I saw her.   And, sure enough, next time there would be a visible sign that the Lord was working his little miracles.
            I have been at a spiritual low just recently.   This past Wednesday morning, before leaving home, I was talking to the Lord and saying that I don’t even know what I believe anymore.   The doubts were crowding in and I was really feeling as though I was walking this road on my own.   I left it there and didn’t think about it again, but when Veronica and I arrived at the Aurora Centre I once again had that feeling of ‘what’s the use’.   We entered the building and when we were walking down the passage to Christa’s ward I said to Veronica, ‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could walk in one morning and find that they’ve taken away that awful tube into her throat so that she can speak to us?’
            Well, we walked into her ward, and there she was, without the tube, and if we listened carefully we could even hear a bit of what she was saying.   We were also told that she had been up and walking between the bars.   It was such a joyous moment that I became quite emotional.   It was as if I could hear God saying, ‘See, I’m still here, and I can still perform these little miracles you’ve been asking for.’
            Yes, I needed to be reminded that I’m not alone, that the Lord is always with me, and that he hears my sometimes disjointed little prayers.   I have also realised that life itself is a miracle, and that we are surrounded by little miracles every day of our lives.   If we look for them, we’ll find them.   God is all around us, performing these wonderful miracles for us.   If only we would remove our blinkers and take a proper look.   Often the miracle is in an unexpected smile.
            I am truly blessed.   Praise God.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Writer's Reality

The First
            Practice makes perfect.   So they say.   I had forty-four romances published, the first in 1975 and the last in 1992.   Today, when I read the first one I think, okay, not bad.   And when I read the last one I think, did I really write this?   The improvement is glaringly obvious; it’s there in the style, the narrative and the dialogue, and yes, practice does bring about an improvement that will be noticeable to yourself and your readers.   If you have any doubts about your work then try this exercise and you might be pleasantly surprised.

             Writing can be a very lonely occupation, it just depends how you look at it.   Authors will tell you that their characters become so real that they almost write their story themselves; that they’re like friends they’re reluctant to say goodbye to at the end of the novel.   Tell this to someone who isn’t a writer and they think you’ve got a screw loose.   If your characters are real to you, then they’ll become real to the reader.   And yes, they do become like old friends; friends you never forget.
The Last

            To get back to what I said about writing sometimes being a lonely occupation – I can’t say that I ever found it so.   My characters came alive for me the moment I started writing about them, they popped out of the pages and took on a life of their own.   In that way I was never alone, they were always there, egging me on to write more about their activities, whether joyful, passionate or sad.   Those friends have never left, they’re still here, ever young, and part of a family to which I will always belong.