Lots of free short stories (including one of mine)

If you’re a keen reader of short stories, then check out this giveaway link: https://ricraewrites.com/short-story-giveaway/

It takes you to a page listing a whole load of short stories, listed by genre, offered up through Instafreebie. My story, The Truth About the Other Guy is in there amoung them.

The Truth About The Other Guy appeared in the Truly Madly Deeply anthology, which showcased the best of British romance writing. It’s probably the only time I’ll be in the same book as Katie Fforde and Milly Johnson! Since it’s been a few years, I can now republish the story. I chose to give it away for free (for a while, at least).

For those of you who read Doctor January and wanted to know what happened to Vic, he’s the hero of this story. 2

Here’s the blurb:

Aasha has spent her life lying to her parents and pretending she’s the good Sri Lankan girl they expect her to be. She’s about to come clean when her mother announces she’s found her a ‘suitable’ man… which is not going to end well, because her mother doesn’t really know Aasha at all. Or does she?


If you haven’t heard of Instafreebie – here’s how it works. Authors put up free offers of short stories, extracts or even full books up on the site. You give them your email address and they send you the freebie in the electronic format of your choice. Job done.

A side effect is that you get put on the author’s mailing list. If you read and like the free thing, then that’s fab. If you decided you’d rather not hear from them again, just hit unsubscribe. ALL mailing list emails should have an unsubscribe button at the bottom.

[As an aside,  if you’ve changed your mind about being on the list, or only signed up for the free stuff (it’s fine, we all do that), you should always UNSUBSCRIBE and not hit the spam button. Hitting the spam button means that the poor list owner gets penalised. Hitting unsubscribe means you stop the emails without hurting anyone.]

Here’s that link again: https://ricraewrites.com/short-story-giveaway/



After #TenThingsNotToSayToAuthors – what SHOULD you say?


I was looking through the #TenThingsNotToSayToAWriter feed a couple of days ago and came across this:

I can understand the sentiment behind the tweet, but my first thought was ‘but genuine readers never say any of the things the authors are tweeting about’. I’ve heard a lot of the comments tweeted under the hashtag in real life and all but one came from a person who had never read one of my books. The exception was from someone who read Doctor January just to see what the hell kind of book I would write and she sounded genuinely baffled that she’d enjoyed it:

So what SHOULD you say to writers? The obvious ones are things like “I love your book. I’m going to give copies to everyone I know for Christmas” or “would you like some cake”.
Personally, I love it when people talk about my characters as though they were real people. Those characters ARE real to me while I’m writing them and it thrills me to bits that someone else can ‘see’ them, just by reading a bunch of words on a page.

So what I’m trying to say is, please don’t stop talking to authors. We love talking to readers. Plus, you never know where it might lead. This tweet below, for instance, led to a very long conversation where three authors (luckily, we’d read each other’s books and knew the characters) and one reader discussed what would happen if three guys from three very different books met up. It was the most fun I’d had on Twitter in ages.

Emotionally abusive relationships in fiction

I’ve been watching the whole thing about #AskELJames with interest. I haven’t read 50 Shades. I read the first chapter and decided it wasn’t for me. So I can’t comment on the books. What interests me is the discussion about abusive relationships that it’s raised (again).

As I mentioned, I haven’t read 50 shades. But I have read Twilight, and I find the relationship between Bella and Edward very disturbing indeed. Firstly, Bella talks the talk about wanting to be independent and not get married etc, but really, all she wants is to be Edward’s – mind, body and soul. Even when he points out the bit about losing her soul, she doesn’t care. She wants to be his. So much so that, when he leaves her to re enact the plot from Romeo and Juliet, she crumbles and may as well be dead. So the message is – girl, without your man, you are nothing. Nothing, I tell you. Best throw yourself off a cliff just to get a glimpse of him in case your neurones fire images of him at you while they die.

Then there’s the controlling behaviour. It is not okay to separate her from her friends, to tell her where she can go, what she can do. It’s not protective, it’s overbearing. And that thing about him breaking into her room to watch her sleep? Ewwww. NOT okay. I don’t care if he sparkles in daylight.

Fifty Shades is clearly an erotic fantasy aimed at the adult reader. Twilight is aimed at young girls. There’s no sex in it (not until they get married and nothing graphic even then), but that doesn’t mean it’s suitable reading. As a love story, it’s good fun. I’m adult enough to realise that Bella isn’t a role model and Edward is a made up character. It didn’t rock my world, but I can see how it could appeal to women my age because it reminds us of something we longed for when we were in our teens. But I’ve spoken to very young teenagers who are so totally into it that they see it as a reflection of something real. They want to be Bella and have their Edward, even if he does try to command every aspect of her life. They don’t see that ‘it’s only because he loves me’ is a dangerous excuse.

One of the things I tried to understand when I wrote Doctor January is why an otherwise normal, well-adjusted young woman would allow herself to be bullied by a man who is supposed to love her and why, when she’d escaped from him once, she would keep going back to him, again and again. Writing Beth was hard because I mostly wanted to shake her and shout ‘get out, get out’. It was difficult to show that she wasn’t someone who went around with ‘victim’ stamped on her forehead. Luckily for me, Hibs was already in love with her and saw her strengths. Thank goodness for Hibs, in so many ways. (He’s also very cute and I might fancy him just a little bit – and yes, I DO know he’s fictional, which just makes it better because he won’t leave his dirty socks lying around or anything unsavoury like that).

Can we, as readers, separate fiction from real life? Do teenagers use people from books as role models? What do you think?

How do you know where to end your novel?

Dead End road sign
How do you know if it’s the right ending?

I’m not naturally a plotter, nor am I able to just sit down and magically create. I’m somewhere in between. So I always start off with a plan. It’s usually a proper story, you know, with a beginning a middle and an end and turning points and all that. I know the big stuff that happens. The rest… well, I have to write to find out the rest. Mostly, I write the thing and realise that the story the characters want to tell doesn’t actually fit very well with the plan.

This happens a lot with endings. I’m bad at plotting endings. I know this. I’d love to be able to plan lovely resonant endings that pull together the whole book (like the endings to Nicholas Sparks’ books!), but I can’t. I always plot utilitarian endings that tie things up logically.  I usually reach these endings way before I hit my word target. Then I read them back… and realise that the place where I thought was the ending was going to be isn’t actually the ending at all. The romance I thought was the main story was just the vehicle for the story I was actually telling.

Doctor January originally ended when Hibs chased after Beth and kissed her. He didn’t bump his head on her cycle helmet and she didn’t express her doubts. I read it back and thought ‘huh.This doesn’t work.’ But why not? It’s a romance. The whole point is for the two of them to get together, right?… wrong. I read the whole thing back and realised that the book was actually about Beth standing up to the men who had been bullying her. If she really were to finally realise that the way Gordon and Roger treated her was wrong, then in didn’t make sense for her to just move on and rely on another man to make her feel better. It wasn’t the end at all.

In order for Beth’s story to reach a proper conclusion, she needed more time. She tries to turn Hibs down and Hibs, the man who always gets his women on his terms, has to enter a relationship where the balance of power lies with Beth. This is part of her becoming the new Beth. It ended up being another 20K words before I got to the ‘proper’ ending where both Beth and Hibs had changed.

My next book, Please Release Me, was originally going to end when Peter sees Sally at the Casino. It was a shortish book. When I re-read the first draft I realised that the story wasn’t just about Peter falling out of love with the woman he married (and in love with someone else), but it was also about the friendship between the two women. The real ending to the story was when Grace and Sally made peace with each other. Grace had to move on from being a carer and regain her love for life. Sally had to let go of her need to get even with the world. Again, the ending was several thousand words beyond where I’d planned it to be.

The reason I’m telling you all this is that I’m looking at the ending of my WIP and I’ve started to realise it’s not right. I don’t know what the story is really about yet. Once I figure that out, I’ll be able to work out what the real ending is. Hopefully, it’ll be another 25K along or this book will end up being a very short novel indeed.

How about you? Do you always get the ending right first time? Have you read books where the ending felt ‘wrong’?

Six things I was wrong about six years ago (and Happy Birthday Choc Lit!)

Six things I was wrong about six years ago.

My lovely publisher, Choc Lit is six years old today. Yay! As part of the celebrations, we Choc Lit authors are blogging around the theme of six. I was going to write ‘six reasons I like having Choc Lit as a publisher’, or ‘Six books published by Choc Lit that I love’ *, but decided to write this one instead. Don’t ask me why. It was late at night.

ChocLit-logo transparent background

So here are six things I believed in six years ago, that I’ve subsequently realised are not true:

  • Published writers are more special than normal people

Six years ago self-publishing wasn’t what it was today. Few people did it and people still sniggered at them. And anyway, ebooks were something that happened to Americans. The only way to get published was to get an agent and have a traditional publisher pick up your book. So people who had publishing deals had this aura of WOW about them. Then I joined the RNA with their New Writer’s scheme and actually met these people. They were still pretty wow, but they were also very, very nice. I don’t think I’ve met a community that pays it forward quite as much as romance novelists do (and I’ve lived with nuns!). Published writers are just like all other writers. The only difference is that they’re published.

  • Ebooks aren’t a real thing

I didn’t have an eReader until 2 years ago, which is weird since my first book came out as an ebook four years ago. I didn’t think an ebook could ever replace a ‘real’ book. You couldn’t feel the paper under your fingertips or smell the pages. Now you’d have to prise my Kindle out of my cold dead hands. I prefer it to paper books. I still buy paper books, but those are my keepers.

  • Having an idea is the hardest bit/ I’ll never have another idea for a book

I used to really struggle with the whole ‘ideas for next book’ thing. I used to slowly burn up with envy when people said stuff like ‘I have tons of ideas, the main problem is finding the time to write it all down’. Inspiration strikes so rarely. Now I know that you don’t sit around waiting for inspiration. You grab a piece of  paper (I need paper to think) and write out ideas until you’ve got a story. With practise, you can actually pull a plausible storyline out from a thinnest of ideas. I’m not saying it’s easy or that those books are solid enough to be written. I’m just saying it can be done.

  • Writing books becomes easier

Um … you’d think it would, but it doesn’t. Each book is hard. Each time you get about 20 -30K in you hate the book, you hate the plot, you hate your whole damned life. Each book makes you sweat and cry. But you have to complete it, because a half finished book is just a waste of time. And each time, it works out okay. Some books will be better than others. But none of them are easy to write.

  • If I get a publication contract, I’ll be happy. I won’t want anything else.

Seriously? I can’t believe I thought that! Yeah, I’ve got my contract. Now I want it paperback, thanks. And audiobook, please. And in German. I want my books to be at the top of the charts. All the time. I’ll never be satisfied. I blame the human condition. I bet even JK Rowling wants something more from her writing career.

Of course, I had assumed that published book = loadsa money. I’m not sure why I believed this. Speaking of totally odd thing to believe, see 6 below.

  • Stress makes you thin

I have had extensive experience in this. I can tell you that the high stress, no sleep diet did not make me thin. Where, I ask you, is the justice in that?

So there you have it, my six things that I was wrong about six years ago. How about you? What’s changed for you in the last six years? Come tell us at the #ChocLitParty.

*After much dithering I’d have gone for: Vampire State of Mind, Sweet Nothing, The Flight to Coorah Creek,  Truth or Dare, The Elephant Girl and Untied Kingdom, in case you were interested.

A lovely review for Doctor January and a bit about domineering boyfriends

I recently had a lovely review for Doctor January from Fresh Fiction, whose reviewer said Doctor January should be read by every woman!



The thing that really touched me about this review (and the related review on Goodreads) is that the reviewer picked up on how girls see controlling behaviour in boyfriends as normal these days. One of the inspirations for Doctor January was Twilight. As a mother of two daughters, it worries me that my girls would think that Edward’s bossy treatment of Bella was okay (I hope I’ll bring my girls up to be a bit more cynical than that, but you never know!). That’s what led me to research emotionally abusive relationships in the first place.

I like to think that Doctor January contains both sides of Edward Cullen – but separated out into two men. The devoted and caring side (in Hibs) and the creepy, controlling side (in Gordon).

So, thank you, reviewer from Fresh Fiction. I really, really appreciate your review. It makes me feel like I’ve achieved what I set out to do.

(I’m going to go hide under the table now, until my critique partner stops throwing things at me at telling me I don’t understand Twilight at all).

It’s here! It’s here! Doctor January is out in paperback!

I’m ridiculously excited that my first ever print book is out now!

Doctor January by Rhoda Baxter
It looks like this, but in 3D

It’s published by the fabulous Choc Lit. You can buy it on Amazon and other ebook retailers. Also you can buy it from proper real life bookshops. To test this theory (’cause I’m not sure I totally, 100% believed it was possible), I asked the Waterstones at the Uni where I work if they’ll stock it. They said yes. I shall be going by tomorrow to check!

I’m planning on eating lots of celebratory chocolate and having many cups of tea today – I know how to party on a school night.

So, here’s the link to Amazon. 

Please tell your friends, and your relatives and total strangers!

If you read it, please, please review it. We writers are constantly plagued with doubt and it’s very reassuring to know that people like what you’ve written (and if they’ve not liked it, why they didn’t, so that we know what we need to work on).

I’m off now to go jiggle about and cuddle my book. There may be cake. Byeeee!


Release day: Doctor January

Here’s me talking to people from the other side of the world! (Australia)

Australian Romance Readers Association

Today is the official release of Doctor January by Rhoda Baxter (paperback, Choc Lit). Here’s the blurb:

Doctor JanuaryIf you keep looking back, you might miss what’s standing right in front of you …

Six months after a painful break-up from Gordon, Beth’s finally getting her life back on track. She has faith in her own scientific theories and is willing to work hard to prove them. She’s even beginning to see Hibs, her dedicated lab partner, as more than just a lousy lothario in a lab-coat and goggles.

So when Gordon arrives back from America without warning and expects to be welcomed back into Beth’s arms, she’s totally thrown. She also quickly begins to see that Gordon isn’t the man she thought he was … Hibs has always held a candle for Beth, but he can only wait so long for her to realise there’s more to life than being…

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MILEVA MARIC, the Other Einstein

Alana Cash dropped me an email to say she enjoyed Doctor January (even though she wasn’t expecting to!). We got talking about women working in science and the reasons they often leave. It turned out that Alana knows a lot about the unsung heroines of science. She very kindly agreed to write  guest post on the subject. 

In researching the lives of Mileva Maric and her husband, Albert Einstein, for a documentary, I became very disappointed as I found that the kindly humanitarian Albert Einstein, the Albert Einstein of scientific brilliance-beyond-all-compare did not exist.  Einstein’s behavior in many ways was markedly self-interested and his character traits suppressed from the public in order to maintain a portrait of him that is skewed – most notably his treatment of Maric and their children as well as the fact that he consistently needed collaboration on his papers.

Mileva Maric, a Serbian, attended ETH in Zurich with Einstein.  With a history of brilliant accomplishments, meeting Einstein was to Maric’s detriment and her grades slipped.  She became pregnant shortly after her final year at ETH, and Einstein refused to marry her with the excuse that he didn’t have a job.  Einstein’s arrogance had alienated him from his professors, none of whom would give him a recommendation.  He had the exhibited the same arrogant behavior in high school and was expelled [he got a note from a doctor declaring Einstein’s first nervous breakdown and left school before the expulsion could be formalized].

Maric and Einstein

Maric’s father offered him employment, but Einstein avowed he couldn’t master the Serbian language.  Einstein also declared that he didn’t have his parents’ permission to marry.  He was 21 and of age to marry without permission.  Maric, of course, had no options for employment because of the child and faced a lifetime of being supported by her family.

They continued to correspond and some of Einstein’s letters to Maric were published ironically as The Love Letters edited by Jürgen Renn.  Einstein wrote how glad he would be when they were together again to work on “our theories” and more on their scientific collaborations.

When Maric and Einstein did finally marry in Bern, Switzerland in January 1903 [six months after he got his patent office job], their daughter was two years old and left behind in Serbia with Maric’s parents to prevent scandal for the newlyweds.  Eventually, the child was sent to live with distant relatives.  Einstein never attempted to meet her.  Maric and Einstein had two children after the marriage.  Hans Albert born in 1904 and Eduard born in 1910.

During the period 1900-1902, when Einstein was basically unemployed, his publishing career amounted to two flawed scientific papers.  With his marriage to Maric, his writings became more accurate, more important, and more frequent.  Two years after the marriage, in 1905, Annalen der Physik published the four papers that would make Einstein an icon.  The last important paper Einstein published was in 1913, the same year he separated from Maric.  After that, his papers were explanations of relativity.  He also put his name on other people’s papers.

After publication of the 1905 papers, hailed as a genius, Einstein began to get job offers.  Against Maric’s wishes, he accepted employment at the German University in Prague [1911] and the family moved there.  Einstein visited Berlin during that time and began an affair with his first cousin Elsa [and possibly with her daughter as well].  A year later, the Einstein/Maric family moved to Zurich where he taught at ETH and remained in touch with Elsa and her daughter.

This was the period of development of the paper on the general theory of relativity, and Maric argued with Einstein over the fact that he was collaborating with Marcel Grossman.  Maric was striving to be involved in the work, but the marriage was deteriorating rapidly. [When married to Elsa, Einstein would declare that he was glad Elsa knew nothing about science because, “my first wife did.”]

When Einstein was offered a position at Berlin University, he accepted.  Again the family moved, but not for long.  Just before WWI broke out, Einstein demoralized Maric with a note demanding that she not talk to him at home, no longer expect to have sexual relations with him, he barred her from involvement in his work – she was to do his laundry and make his meals.  Basically Maric was to be his domestic servant.  [Einstein gave that same note to Elsa after they married]. Maric left Einstein in Berlin and returned to Zurich.  Einstein had a breakdown.

During the WWI, Einstein made very little effort to support Maric and his children with the excuse that the mail was disrupted.  Maric relied on her family to send money from Serbia and the mail system seemed to work for them.  At the end of the war when Einstein sought a divorce, Maric had a heart attack and complete physical breakdown.  She had given up her daughter for a man who was now going to marry his cousin.

As part of the divorce settlement, Einstein agreed to give Maric all monies he received from the Nobel Prize which he expected to win because he had been nominated five times by that point.  One has to ask why would Maric receive all of the Nobel Prize money?  Why not simply a portion?  Why any at all?  This is a man who didn’t support his children financially.  Why would that man give his loathed ex-wife all the money for work that was supposedly completely his own?  And why are the Einstein-Maric divorce papers sealed?

When Maric & Einstein’s youngest son, Eduard, began having schizophrenic episodes in 1930, Einstein blamed the unstable nature of the Maric family.  He pointed the finger at Maric’s breakdown during the time of their divorce, neglecting to acknowledge his own several nervous breakdowns.  He pointed to Maric’s sister, Zosia, as further evidence of the Maric family instability.  Zosia was an alcoholic, but Einstein knew that she had been gang-raped as a teenager by Croatian soldiers.

Einstein left Europe for Princeton in 1933 and never saw Eduard again.  They did correspond, and during one of his stays at Burgholzli Clinic, Eduard sent his father a poem he had written.  Einstein critiqued the poem and returned it to his Eduard.

Maric paid for Eduard’s treatment at Burgholzli Clinic.  She had bought two houses with the Nobel Prize money, one to live in and one to rent.  Eventually, she sold the rental house to help with the medical expenses.  After electro-shock treatment Eduard was unable to recover.  Ultimately, Mileva needed to sell her own home in order to survive financially.  She made an agreement for Einstein to buy her house in Zurich and allow her to live in it for the rest of her life [she was 73].  Einstein bought the house, then immediately served Maric with an eviction notice.  She died of a stroke shortly thereafter.

Albert Einstein’s papers were sealed for 25 years after his death in 1955, while his intellectual and saintly reputation was not only protected, but expanded and solidified so that he is quoted by everyone from self-help gurus to plumbers.  Now that a portion of his papers have been released and his life has been scrutinized, his sainthood has been deeply tarnished and it is clear that Mileva Maric made unrecognized contributions to the theories that made her husband famous.

There are those who would argue against Maric’s involvement, wanting to represent that Einstein arrived in a scientific vacuum to publish the equation e=mc2. Einstein donated his brain to science because he was sure it was ordinary, but given that Einstein’s IQ has been estimated anywhere from 175 to 220, one has to ask why Einstein never took the Binet-Simon IQ test developed in 1905 to prove it?  Or maybe he did and the results were suppressed because the results weren’t as stellar as expected.  And why no more important papers after separating from Maric?

When a reporter once asked him the speed of sound, Einstein couldn’t give the answer, claiming he didn’t like to clutter up his mind with facts he could look up in a book.  In France, Paul Langevin came up with the algebraic equation e=mc2 at the very same time it was published under Einstein’s name, and since Langevin developed sonar radar, he also knew the speed of sound.

Why didn’t Maric insist on credit for the theories?  First of all, when one considers that she couldn’t even insist on Einstein marrying her when she was pregnant, insisting would have been futile.  But she did insist on the monies from the Nobel Prize and got it.  How that happened is sealed in the divorce papers.  More to the point, considering the turmoil Maric went through just getting into the marriage with Einstein, given her naturally shy nature and the secret of Liserl’s birth, Maric would have avoided the fame that her husband sought.

Thank you for that fascinating article, Alana. I’m off to look up Maric now.

Alana’s book, Saints In The Shadows is available now (and so is mine, obviously). You can find out more about her books and short films on her website  or on IMDB