Book Group: The Third Wife by Lisa Jewell; reviewed by Deirdre Palmer

I almost feel as if I’ve ‘grown up’ as a reader with Lisa Jewell.  When I wanted chick-lit (I’m not keen on the label but you’ll know what I mean by it), she gave me Ralph’s Party, Vince and Joy, One Hit Wonder, and more, all terrific stories with real-life characters.  Then I noticed a shift towards weightier issues such as donor babies and obsessional behaviour; in other words, books to make you think, and for me that’s the hallmark of a good story.  You don’t close the book, or shut down the Kindle, and instantly forget about it.  You take something from it that relates to your own life, think about the characters, Third wifewhy they behaved as they did, and wonder what is in store for them in their life beyond the last page.  The Third Wife is one such book.

This is the story of three families, irrevocably linked by the common denominator: Adrian, the central character.  Adrian’s three marriages have ended in divorce from wives one and two, while the third, Maya, died in mysterious circumstances.  Did Maya take her own life?  Did somebody else have a hand in her death?  What exactly happened on the night she died?  This is the main premise of the book, while Adrian’s ex-wives and children provide a rich seam of sub-plots by telling the story from their own viewpoint.

When Adrian divorced wife number two, Caroline, and married Maya he imagined she would fit into the narrative he’d constructed and life would continue much as before.  Smug?  Yes, probably, but although I could have shaken him several times, I couldn’t help liking him, which is testament to the author’s skills as on the face of it, he isn’t exactly somebody you’d admire.  It is only after his third wife’s death that Adrian comes to realise that what he has left behind him is not one big, jolly family, but a mess of unhappy people.

Lisa Jewell’s keen observations of human behaviour and her astuteness in the way she presents her characters really come to the fore in this book.  I couldn’t stop turning the pages and the story delivers its promise, right to the very end.  Do read it if you can.

Our next visit to the book group will be on 27th January, when HMB author Rachael Thomas will be reviewing The Oddest Little Chocolate Shop by Beth Good.  Mmmm, chocolate….

And as this is our last post of 2014, may I thank everyone who has read our bloggy offerings during the year, and left so many lovely comments.  The Write Romantics wish you and your nearest and dearest a very happy new year.

Deirdre

Our round-up of 2014 and there’s so much to say that we have to do it in 2 parts … Part II

Welcome back! We hope you enjoyed reading about what 2014 has meant for Helen R, Deirdre, Rachael, Jo and Jackie. It’s time to hear from the remaining five …

cropped-sharon-booth-writerSharon Booth:

I can’t pinpoint my greatest writing achievement this year – I have four. I finally – after three years – finished There Must Be An Angel and sent it out into the world. Secondly, I found a publisher! Fabrian Books will publish Angel in March 2015.

angel coverI achieved a long-held ambition and became a published author when my short story, The Other Side of Christmas, appeared in the Winter Tales anthology. That was a very proud moment, especially when my copy of the paperback arrived in the post and I saw my name on those pages. What a thrill! And finally, I wrote my second novel. Which leads me onto…

My greatest writing challenge was probably writing that second novel. After spending three years working on Angel, I was very daunted about starting all over again. Could I do it? What if I only had one book in me? I was nervous, and even though I thought I had a great leading character and a germ of an idea for a story I wasn’t sure I could pull it off. To start with, it was pretty difficult and I was in a bit of a state for a while thinking that I simply couldn’t manage to write another novel. I was a bit gloomy about it for far too long. Then I just started writing and suddenly the words were flowing. I finished A Kiss from a Rose surprisingly quickly (it will be published in September 2015), and I’m very proud of it. I really love my hero and heroine and I hope readers will, too. Now I just have to tackle my doubts about book three!

photo 3 (2)Becoming a Write Romantic this year has meant everything to me. I’ve been writing on my own for so long and having a support network of nine other writers who understand what you’re going through – all your doubts and insecurities – is amazing. They’re a fun group too, and we have lots of laughs together. If someone needs advice or information there’s always at least one of us who knows how to help. I’ve loved working with them on Winter Tales and I think being part of the group has helped to raise my profile, and introduce me to a wider circle of friends.

2015 is going to be a busy year, because I’m having two books published so there will be a lot of work to do. I’m really looking forward to it, although I’m a bit nervous. Actually, I’m a LOT nervous, but I expect most writers are when their work is finally about to be read by other people. I’m also going to be slogging away at book three, and I think that will be my major challenge for the coming year. What if I can’t do it again? What if I only have two books in me? Hmm, talk about déjà vu! Happy New Year! 🙂

LynneLynne Pardoe:

My greatest writing achievement this year has undoubtedly been the acceptance of my pocket novel by D.C.Thomson. It started as a story that I began and developed by chatting to my mum when she was poorly. At first I thought it would simply entertain us through the many dark days at mum’s bedside, but over time I thought maybe it would make a good story. So I wrote it up. Then a blog post landed in my inbox, ‘D.C.Thomson are looking for pocket novels,’ it said, ‘post them to this address.’

So I did. And within ten days I got an acceptance! I’m yet to see the published thing; that’s out next month. It will bear both my mother’s name and mine and I already have plans to get the cover printed and framed to give mum for her 86th birthday in February. She says she never expected to have her name on a book at her age, which is so sweet, she is thrilled.

Seeing my own story with my own and mother’s name on the cover is the perfect start to my writing year. I only hope for more of the same whilst continuing to work on my social work novels. None of that would have been possible, or at least a lot more difficult, if it hadn’t been for the wonderful help of my fellow Write Romantics. Writing is a lonely business and the path to publication fraught with highs and lows and many times i’d have given up but for the support of my fellow Romantics.

Thanks girls and bring on 2015!

Alys WestAlys West:

1. My greatest writing achievement this year has to be signing with A for Authors. Getting an agent was like a dream come true and made me believe I might actually be half-way competent at this writing business. This is me signing the contract. Although what I failed to appreciate in the excitement of signing was that after that there’d be an awful lot more waiting to hear about submissions and more rejections but from bigger publishers this time. I’m not moaning here (in case that sounds like a whinge) it just took me a while to get my head around what it actually means to be represented.

A close second has to be publication of Winter Tales. There’s been some amazing moments like when my order of paperbacks arrived, when we got the first reviews on Amazon and were high in the Amazon rankings. But the best bit has been how proud my parents have been. My Mum gets quite emotional about it which, as we’re a fairly undemonstrative family, means an awful lot.

photo2. Lughnasa, my second novel, has definitely been my biggest writing challenge this year. I wanted it to be different from Beltane but within the same world of magic that I’d created. A sensible person would have learned from the challenges of writing about Glastonbury (where Beltane is set) and chosen somewhere closer to home for my second book. But not me! Lughnasa is set in Orkney which is twice as far from Yorkshire than Glastonbury and far more difficult to get to. The plot is quite complex and I always knew that’d be a challenge. What I’d not anticipated is that my characters would take control and leave me wondering what’s going to happen next. Have I overcome the challenges of this book? I’m not sure yet. I’m about two thirds of the way through so I’ll let you know when I get to the end and my beta-readers have had a look at it.

3. The Write Romantics have meant more to me this year than I can possibly say! From fashion advice when I was worried about what to wear for my first meeting with my agent to finding the positives in rejections to moral support when life in general is hard they’re the best group of people you could ever hope to meet. It’s fabulous to be part of such an amazing team and I know I couldn’t do this writing lark without them.

4. For 2015 I need to learn greater amounts of patience. Writers need a Zen type ability to accept endless amounts of waiting and as I’ve never been a patient person this is hard for me. Obviously I hope that my agents will find a publisher for Beltane, I want to finish Lughnasa in the first half of next year and go back to Orkney on a research trip. After that, I guess I’ll be thinking about book 3 which is a trifle terrifying at this point as I still don’t really know how the trilogy will end!

1185224_10200753042177469_1584659865_nHelen Phifer:

My greatest writing achievement this year is a tough one for me because I have managed to fill so many of my writing dreams in such a short space of time that it’s hard to choose. I don’t actually know how it happened but I’m so grateful that it did. I managed to knock my all time hero Stephen King off the Contemporary Horror Charts not just once but several times and for weeks at a time with my debut novel The Ghost House. That was a surreal moment for me, to see my book cover nestled in-between Dr. Sleep and The Shining, it was what my publishers aptly named a Stephen King sandwich and what I had been dreaming about the past eight years.

My greatest writing challenge was actually writing another two books and a short story in the space of twelve months. The books were on tight deadlines for my publishers and I was terrified that I wouldn’t make them. I’m pleased to say that I did somehow, I think the most important thing was to make myself sit down and write the first draft of the story without thinking about it too much. The biggest challenge out of them all was the short story; I’m not very good at writing them and it was a real test to see if I could come up with something that was good enough to be published.

ghosthouseBeing a Write Romantic was the key thing for me. The support I get off my amazing friends is one in a million. They have stopped me from losing the plot on more than one occasion, it’s been wonderful to be able to have such a wealth of talented writers to help me should I need some advice at the end of my fingertips. I am truly blessed to know such amazing ladies and I’m forever in their debt. Being a part of this group has kept me sane, I’ve laughed, cried and being overjoyed at their ups and downs and I wouldn’t change them for the world.

My writing hope for 2015 is to see The Ghost House released in paperback at the end of January and to actually hold a copy in my hands. I think that until I actually get to sniff the pages of my own book I still won’t believe that I wrote it. That is the biggest dream of all for me. I plan to have book 4 finished by the middle of January, then I want to concentrate on a stand alone scary novel I’ve been rewriting and self publish it. Then by August I have to hand book 5 over to my amazing editor Lucy at Carina. That will be the end of my current contract with them so it will be interesting to see if they want any more Annie Graham novels.

10527383_331005803724929_5378621437399779308_nJessica Redland:

My greatest writing achievement has definitely been securing a three-book deal with So Vain Books for my Whitsborough Bay Trilogy. I’d been planning to go indie because I found the waiting for news far too difficult. I could cope with rejections as it was news; I couldn’t cope with waiting for 9-10 months, constantly wondering. Searching for Steven was in with a final few publishers and I wasn’t expecting positive news so a publishing deal quickly followed by another were unexpected and extremely gratifying.

This two-deal situation was actually one of my greatest writing challenges. It’s a happy dilemma to have but a dilemma nonetheless because the offers were very different – established US-based company, eBook only, better royalties v new UK-based company, eBook and paperback, lower royalties – so I wasn’t comparing like for like. In the end, I went with my heart which was telling me that So Vain Books were right for me. It helped that Jo had already accepted a contract with them a few months earlier and I’d seen how well they’d been treating her.

P1050693Like so many of my other WRs, I’ve suffered the grips of self-doubt too. I submitted novel 2, Getting Over Gary, to the NWS and had a very luke-warm review. My reader kept saying there were loads of positives about it … yet somehow failed to include them in the report. The doubts crept in that maybe I was a one-book wonder. The euphoria of a publishing deal pushed these aside but then they returned a month or so ago. I’ve signed a deal on the basis of them only reading one book but what if they hated the other two and agreed that I only had it in me to write one book?

This is where the value of being part of a writing group like The Write Romantics pays absolute dividends. I’m fortunate enough to live reasonably close to Sharon and Alys and we meet up every few months for tea and cake. They were able to reassure me that I did have what it takes and that part of a publishing deal is a good editor who will direct me towards any flaws and help me polish it to the standard of Steven. Good point; well made. The other WRs have been a great support on this too.

As for next year, I need to slap myself about a bit with a piece of wet haddock and stop being so doubtful of my ability to spin a good yarn. I need to stop procrastinating and just write. I have about a third of book 3, Discovering David, to finish in first draft and I’d like to have that done by end of February. Then I need to edit Gary again and David. I’d like to do that before Steven comes out in June. Not sure if that’s realistic but you have to aim high!

The Write Romantics would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year. Thank you for reading our blog this year, whether you’re a regular reader, dip in and out occasionally, or have just discovered this site for the first time today.

Anthology coverThank you to everyone who has contributed to, bought, and/or promoted Winter Tales: Stories to Warm Your Heart. It’s still available in eBook and paperback format via Amazon (just click on the title for a direct link) and all proceeds are split between Cystic Fibrosis Trust and Teenage Cancer Trust. Don’t be too concerned that it’s full of Christmas stories and Christmas has passed. It’s a mix of Christmas, New Year and winter so there’s still plenty of winter months left to cosy up and enjoy it. Or buy it ready for next Christmas!

“See” you next year!

Jessica and The Write Romantics xx

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Our round-up of 2014 and there’s so much to say that we have to do it in 2 parts … Part I

P1060068We hope you’ve had a relaxing, fun-filled Christmas. It’s now time to look ahead to 2015 and this typically means a reflection on how the year has gone.

2014 has been a HUGE year for The Write Romantics. Nine have become ten, we’ve received eight publishing deals, one agent representation, launched three novels, a novella and an anthology, and one of us has relocated from Australia back to the UK. Huge changes all round! And 2015 promises to be just as exciting as those publishing deals lead to actual publication.

But you don’t want to hear it all from me. I’ve handed over to each of the WRs to talk about their 2014. I asked four questions:

  1. What has been your greatest writing achievement this year?
  2. What has been your greatest writing challenge this year?
  3. How has being a WR helped you this year?
  4. What are your writing hopes/plans for 2015?

Because there’s so much to tell, I’ve split this post across two days so here, in no particular order, are the first five responses. I’ll post the other five (including my own) tomorrow.

Happy reading!

Jessica

xx

Author photo - Helen J RolfeHelen J Rolfe:

My greatest writing achievement this year has been to secure my first publishing contract. Yay! I was accepted by Crooked Cat Publishing for my debut novel, The Friendship Tree, which will be published in 2015. At the moment I’m busy with edits and enjoying it knowing that I’m one step closer to seeing my book finally out there.

Of equal achievement has been our Christmas anthology, Winter Tales. Not only has it been published as both an eBook and in print, but it’s doing really well. We have had so many positive comments from the writing and reading community and I think that it pulled us together as a group and showed how passionate we are about our craft. It is incredibly rewarding to know that every sale adds that little bit more to our chosen charities.

tree1My greatest writing challenge this year has been self-doubt, which I think every writer relates to, whether they are unpublished or published ten times over! It’s a solitary occupation and very easy to doubt yourself, but to overcome this, the key is to surround yourself with support. I do that with the wonderful Write Romantics 🙂

In 2015 I also hope to have my next novel published and finish my work in progress. After Alison May’s inspiring interview I may even try my hand at a Christmas novel, you never know! Whatever happens, 2015 will be filled with lots of writing 🙂

This year I met most of the Write Romantics for the first time and it was wonderful. I hope that 2015 brings us all as much success as 2014, and as much support, without which my writing journey would be much more difficult. And a lot less fun!

Deirdre Palmer:

my pic for blog postMy biggest achievement this year was definitely having my novel, ‘Remarkable Things’ accepted by Crooked Cat Publishing. I’d had a lot of interest in this book and so many ‘near misses’ I felt that if I hung on and kept plugging away, I’d get there in the end. Luckily my faith wasn’t misplaced. If you want to know what it’s about, this is the blurb:

When Gus Albourne inherits his Aunt Augusta’s cottage in the Sussex village of Hangburton, he finds himself with more than a property on his hands.  He should feel grateful for Augusta ’s generosity but how can he when his late brother, Robert, was unfairly left out of the will?  Determined to claim justice for Robert’s family, Gus searches for the truth behind the legacy but the discovery he makes poses an even greater threat to his peaceful existence. The cottage, too, offers up its secrets – a random collection of objects in an embroidered bag, a birth certificate, a street map marked with a cross – and Gus realises he’s looking at his own life story. Only it’s not the version he knows. 

Millie Hope is searching for her daughter, Karen, missing for two years. But there’s more than one barrier to the search. For a start, there’s Jack, Karen’s ex-boyfriend whom Millie has every reason to fear. And then there’s the reason Karen disappeared in the first place, which becomes less certain as time goes on. When Gus and Millie meet, they’re instantly attracted to one another. But can they look forward to future happiness when the past is fast unravelling behind them?

author 2I’m also just a bit proud that I managed to finish a novel I started for last year’s NaNoWriMo. It’s a fast-paced comedy but with a dark side, in a very different style from anything I’ve written before. It was great fun to write. It’s set in 1966 and I called it ‘Dirty Weekend’. It’s currently with Crooked Cat awaiting their verdict.

When I began ‘Dirty Weekend’ I was already well into another novel called ‘The Promise of Roses’, which you could say is more of a traditional romance. As I wanted to start something new for NaNo, I put this one aside, and picking it up again, which I have done recently, has been really tricky. Despite my notes, I had literally lost the plot and getting to know the characters again and catching hold of all the story threads I’d started has been challenging to say the least. I’m over the worst now – I think – and it’s moving on, slowly.

How has being a Write Romantic helped me this year? Goodness, where to start…  I’d best describe it as having nine best friends who totally ‘get it’, and even though they aren’t with me in person, it doesn’t matter as they’re only a click away. As time’s gone on we’ve got to know one another better and I’ve had so much kindness, practical help and unfailing encouragement from everyone that I couldn’t really go wrong, could I? I only hope I’ve been able to reciprocate. And of course it’s been a brilliant experience working together to produce our anthology, Winter Tales.

My main hope for 2015 has to be that people will like ‘Remarkable Things’ and it will net me a few quid along the way! If I could get my sixties book published too that would be the icing on the cake. I want to finish ‘Roses’ in the next few months, submit that, start a new full-length novel, and I’d like to self-publish a novella or two. In order to achieve all this I know I’ll have to be a lot more disciplined than I am now, stay off social media and put in some hard graft.

LATE NEWS: I have now heard that Crooked Cat have accepted ‘Dirty Weekend’!  Another book deal is just about the best Christmas present I could have wished for.  I feel very lucky indeed.


photo (10)Rachael Thomas:

2015 has been a year I’ve dreamed of and worked towards for many years. In January I got ‘the call’ from Mills and Boon and was offered a two-book contract. Then in May I signed my second contract with them, but the best moment of all, was seeing my book on the shelves – and the first place I saw it was in London.

My greatest challenge has been writing my second book. When I first started writing it I had never expected it to be the second book in my contract and I had all sorts of wobbles, but with patient encouragement from my editor and amazing support from my fellow Write Romantics, that book will be out early next year. The support of Write Romantics is always there, no matter what the problem is.

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As for writing into 2015, well I’d love to think that I can continue to write for Mills and Boon because I have quite a few heroes and heroines lined up ready to be written!

Finally, I’d like to wish all our readers a Happy New Year.

 

author picJo Bartlett:

1. What has been your greatest writing achievement this year?

I would say the publication of my first novella has been my biggest writing achievement. It’s been a wonderful experience and surpassed all my expectations in many ways – hitting the no.1 spot on one of the Amazon charts every time it was offered as a free download and, in the first three weeks of release, also sitting in the top ten of one of the paid charts. I’ve had some lovely reviews and not all of them were written by my mum! The success of the Write Romantics anthology has also been a highlight and I am so proud of what we have achieved together. Having a book reviewer, who I’ve never met, tell me that she loved my story enough to buy my novella as a result had me on a high for days too. Last, but not least, securing a publishing deal for my first full-length novel was another highlight, but one that leads neatly into the next question

2. What has been your greatest writing challenge this year?

I think it’s been ‘keeping the faith’, convincing myself that what has been a long journey will be worth it in the end. It was a rockier road than I ever dreamt of to get to the point of having not one but two possible publishing deals on the table. By the time I got to that point, I was beginning to question whether I should keep writing or give up on my dream of being published and take up synchronized swimming or avant garde macramé – yes, there is such a thing. I even questioned whether I still wanted to be published because I was so worried about making the wrong decision that I couldn’t make one at all. In the end, I chose the publisher who felt right for me and they’ve been incredibly supportive. I was also thrilled to be joined there by Jessica and so we will be going through the debut novel rollercoaster together next year. It remains a challenge to ‘keep the faith’ but, having met lots of experienced writers over the past couple of years, I have a feeling it’s a writer’s lot to feel that way and maybe it’s not altogether a bad thing.

Jo Bartlett Amazon 13. How has being a WR helped you this year?

The support you get as one of the WRs from the other nine in the group is priceless. Not just for the writing dilemmas and crises that have occurred, or for the great beta reading and help with promo, but in other aspects of life too. When one of us is down or having a wobble, be that about writing or something totally unrelated, the others are there to cheer you up and, equally, with many of the WRs achieving the dream of publication this year, they are pretty darn good at cheerleading too.

4. What are your writing hopes/plans for 2015?

My novel is coming out in June, which is a major part of the plan for next year, but I am also hoping that the second novella in the St Nicholas Bay series will be released by Easter. Other than that, I’d like to try my hand at some more short story writing and edit the two full-length novels I have in draft. One thing I have no plans for in the next year is to write another full-length novel and I’m pleased about that. I’ve written a 100k+ book each year for the past three years, but this year it’s all about keeping it short and sweet. So perhaps I will have time for some avant garde macramé after all…

conf 2014 12Jackie Ladbury:

Although this year has been a slow-ish one of writing for me, I am happy with the way things are shaping up. I’ve finished a really good draft of my Victorian novel (which might yet become an Edwardian novel!) by editing as I go along. It wasn’t quite as painful as my last novel and I enjoyed writing it more. Am now looking forward to returning to an earlier novel which is half revised, but already a second Victorian/Edwardian novel is clamouring to be heard and I keep writing sneaky little notes (which I promptly lose!) about a plot line and character arc.

I have enjoyed my writing more this year as The Write Romantics have been on hand to listen to my moans and celebrate any successes and not just in connection with writing, but other day to day incidents that just need an airing sometimes, to make them better or disappear altogether.

I think the New Year is going to bring lots of changes, for the good to The Write Romantics and our combined group. Most have a publishing deal now and of course we all are officially published in our very successful Winter Tales Anthology of short stories, which was such a thrill for us all – I’m still buying copies for friends and relations- can’t seem to stop!

Collectible Gund Bear

Next year I’m going to make a concerted effort to be published. It takes up so much time to submit to publishers and agents that I rarely bother, as they all seem to want different things, and when they don’t even have the courtesy to reply, it is very dispiriting. (I mean, how long would it take for them to set up a standard template and whizz an email across to us writers if it’s a ‘no’ instead of keeping us hanging on, in hope.) I realise that I do want other people to read my stories as I genuinely fall in love with my characters and have spent years learning the trade to make my writing as good as it can be. I cry when they cry and am happy when they are – so I would like to share these emotions with other readers and hope that they feel the same. That is my quest for next year- and you know what, I’m pretty sure it’s going to happen- so there!

Happy Christmas to you all and have a wonderfully productive 2015.

Thank you to half of the Write Romantics for their year round-up. Please come back tomorrow to hear what the other half have to say xx

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A Christmas Star

The Write Romantics have been very lucky to have some amazing guests on our blog. However, today we are especially thrilled to welcome a very special guest. A true superstar, he’s in pretty high demand at this time of year, so we were particularly honoured that he agreed to spare us ten minutes in his incredibly busy schedule.

Welcome, Father Christmas.9c27774869418c3a5d41da6c3286932a

Well hello, Write Romantics. I’m very pleased to be here. Thank you for asking me along. Where’s that cake you promised me?

Don’t worry. It’s right here. Would you like chocolate cake, coffee and walnut, or Victoria sponge?

Well, since you’ve gone to all that trouble, it would be rude not to try a little of each. And Father Christmas is never rude, as you know.

Well, quite. Please, help yourself. I expect you’re very excited. After all, tonight is your big night.

You’re not kidding. Do you know how many mince pies and cookies I’ll be given tonight? It’s the one night of the year my wife lets me break my diet. She’s very strict the rest of the time. Apparently she finds it embarrassing that I’m known for my big round tummy. I said to her, it’s my trademark. It would be madness to jeopardise that. She didn’t agree. She said the red suit and the white beard were quite eye-catching enough and I didn’t need the jelly belly to go with it. Obviously she’s allowed to be rude, whereas I have standards to maintain. Love this chocolate cake, by the way.

mincepie-1Er, thanks. So, apart from the mince pies, what do you get up to on your travels? What’s Christmas Eve like for Father Christmas? We’re all dying to hear about it.

I expect you are. For centuries I’ve been asked the same questions. What do you do on Christmas Eve? How do you manage to deliver all those presents in one night? How do your reindeer fly? It’s what everyone wants to know.

So…?

So what? You don’t really think I would ever tell anyone, do you? Ho, ho, ho! That’s quite funny. As if I could possibly divulge that information! I must say, this coffee and walnut cake is even better than the chocolate one. Lovely.

Thank you very much. Do help yourself to egg nog. So, if you won’t answer any questions about Christmas Eve, what about Christmas Day? What do you do then?

Ah, well that’s different. I’m not breaking my contract if I tell you about Christmas Day. You know, I do love a good egg nog. How kind you all are.

Sorry, did you say contract? You have a contract?

Did I say that? Well, I can’t possibly comment further. Loving the Victoria sponge. Very tasty. Did you get the recipe from Mary Berry? She leaves me the most delicious cakes on Christmas Eve, you know. I so look forward to dropping the presents off at her house. Always a treat. Mind you, I positively dread visiting Heston Blumenthal. You never know what he’s experimented with from one year to the next. He’s a very talented chap but I’m a man of simple tastes, after all.

I’m sure, but what about Christmas Day?

What about it? Oh, yes. Sorry, I got a bit distracted then. Well, obviously, when I get home I’m pretty exhausted. It’s terribly hard work delivering all those gifts, you know. I don’t think people quite appreciate…I mean, I know they know I work all night and manage to visit every single home in the world, but I don’t think they feel it.  Their imaginations simply can’t grasp the enormity of the task. I know when I took on the job I was very naïve. I –

You took on the job? So what were you before you were Father Christmas?

Did I say that? Well, I can’t possibly comment further.  I don’t suppose you have any more cake, do you? I’m a bit peckish and the wife won’t give me any supper tonight because of all those mince pies and cookies I’ll be eating later on. Oh, thank you. Just another slice of each cake will do nicely. I don’t want to overdo it. Now, where was I? Oh yes. Christmas Day.  Well, after I get home, I make sure that the reindeer are fed and watered and bedded down with lovely fresh straw. The elves always offer to do it but I feel it’s my job. They’ve worked hard for me all night and it’s important they realise that I appreciate their efforts. Then I fall into bed and sleep and sleep for hours. The elves get very impatient. Well, it is their day off, after all. They’ve been busy in the workshop fashioning all those toys and gifts for months, and Christmas Day is their chance to celebrate and have a good time. They can’t wait for me to wake up so the festivities can start. We have a wonderful old time. Mrs Christmas is a jolly fine cook and lunch is a treat. It’s a good job, too. Those elves have amazing appetites. I wonder where they put it all as they’re tiny little chaps, you know. You’d be amazed how much they can eat. Oh. I seem to have finished the cakes. Well, thank you very much. They were delicious.

You’re very welcome. You were saying?

I was saying how delicious the cakes were. Oh, you mean about Christmas? Where were we? Well, after lunch we exchange presents. My lovely wife and I give each other gifts, and then we do Secret Elf. There are so many of us, you see, that it’s easier if each person just buys a gift for one other person. Very clever idea. The elves invented it. They were quite miffed when everyone else pinched the idea and renamed it after me. It’s always jolly good fun. Last year I was given a new belt, which was very lucky as my old one was just about to snap. This year was easy. I drew one of the younger elves’ names out of the hat and I knew just what he’d like. I can’t tell you what it is or who it was for because he might read this and then the surprise would be spoilt.670px-Dress-Up-As-Santa-Claus-Step-6

The elves might read this blog? Really?

What do you think? That elves can’t read? Tut tut. You should never make assumptions.

No, it wasn’t that. We just never imagined that there were laptops and computers in Lapland, or that elves would access the internet.

Good heavens, what do you expect them to do when they’ve downed tools for the day? Really, there’s only so much television one can stand, you know, especially at this time of year. They’ve seen The Grinch thirty times and the Christmas EastEnders makes them grumpy so I’ve had to stop them watching that. They’re quite partial to The Snowman so if they’re getting above themselves I let them watch that, and we all have a good cry to It’s A Wonderful Life. Of course, they read a lot, too. At the moment, half of them are engrossed in Harry Potter and the other half are discovering  my old favourite, Paddington Bear. I’m happy about that. It puts them in a good mood. My wife loves reading. She’s particularly fond of a good old-fashioned romance. Mind you, at the moment she seems obsessed with a book about decorating. I’m not sure which room she’s planning to redesign but it will be a bit gloomy, if you ask me, because the book seems to be all about different tones of grey. I don’t fancy a grey room. When I said that to her, funnily enough, she went rather red. Most peculiar.

red-christmas-presentsEr, quite. What do you do after you’ve exchanged presents?

Well, we, er, we – well, what does everyone else do on Christmas Day after they’ve eaten lunch and exchanged presents?

Watch television? Play games? Meet up with family and friends? Go for a walk?

Yes, that’s right. That’s what they do. I’m sure of it.

Don’t you know?

Honestly? I can’t say I do. I’m usually asleep. But, to be fair, I’ve had an exhausting night. And I always wake up in time for supper. Mrs Christmas provides an exceptionally good buffet, you know. I wouldn’t miss it for the world. After supper we like to listen to carols and reflect on the year we’ve had. Then it’s off to bed, because we have a busy time ahead of us the next day.

Oh dear. You mean you’re back at work making toys for next Christmas?

Are you mad? Do you think I’m some kind of slave-driver? It’s the Boxing Day sales. Mrs Christmas and the elves wouldn’t miss those for the world!

Now, it’s been a delight to talk to you, but I must fly because I really do have a lot of preparations before I head off to work tonight.

Of course. Thank you so much for dropping by on such a busy day.

Not at all. May I take this opportunity to wish The Write Romantics and all of their friends and followers a very merry Christmas.

Thank you. Merry Christmas to you, too. Enjoy your mince pies.

I will. And if you could see your way fit to leaving a little cream to go with them, I’d be much obliged. Merry Christmas!santa-and-reindeer-in-front-of-moon

 

It was a great honour to have Father Christmas here today. He will be appearing in the sky over you at some point tonight. Remember to leave an apple or a carrot for the reindeer, and a drink and a mince pie (with cream) for the great man himself. Oh, and if you’re Heston Blumenthal, Father Christmas said not to bother this year as he’s on a diet and is cutting down, but thanks anyway! 😉

Have a great Christmas everyone xx

Just Giving it one last push!

10733884_10205442784014952_4540159388851962023_oThe Write Romantics would like to thank everyone who has supported us with our charity anthology in aid of the Cystic Fibrosis and Teenage Cancer Trusts. We have raised a substantial amount of money for the causes and we were lucky enough to get to know Derrick LoRusso, as a result of a post on Jane Turley’s blog, who suffers from both illnesses (along with Crohn’s disease) and he told us just how much difference this kind of fundraising can make, which you can read about here.

With a Christmas and winter themed anthology our opportunity for maximising the funds raised for the charities is time-Anthology coverbound and we wanted to see if we could have one last big push for the Christmas aspect, before we hear the thud of reindeer hooves on the roof. So we have decided to offer the anthology for free, today, Sunday 21st December, for one day only and it can be downloaded here.

Now, it may seem odd that we are offering a book for free in a bid to make more money for the charities, but anything that can spread the word is worth a shot and we’re hoping that this might increase sales over the next few days. However, in case anyone who downloads the book for free is feeling especially generous, we’ve also set up a Just Giving page for donations – https://www.justgiving.com/Write-Romantics/

Thanks again for all the support and we’d like to take this opportunity to wish you all a merry Christmas and a happy and healthy 2015.

From Christmas Books to Literary Bikinis…

DebbieYoung_001Today we welcome author Debbie Young to the blog, who gives us the lowdown on writing seasonal stories.

Like Christmas jumpers in clothes shops, festive-themed books have been popping up all over the place during the last few weeks. But for those of us involved in their production, their advent (ho ho) will have been much sooner, because when planning to publish seasonal books, authors have to think like the fashion industry, designing festive sweaters in July and bikinis in midwinter.

My own collection of Christmas short stories, Stocking Fillers, began to take shape back in August,Laura in sea while I was soaking up the sun at the Homeric Writers’ Retreat in Greece. For someone like me, used to spending Christmas in the northern hemisphere, Ithaca seemed an incongruous setting in which to weave wintry words. Not so for the retreat’s organiser: as an Australian, Jessica Bell may have spent the week hankering after the traditional Christmas dinner down under on Bondi beach.

A little later in the summer, I found myself beside a rather colder beach, in Aberdeen, on the north east coast of Aberdeen beachScotland. The acres of pale sand were completely deserted, thanks to gunmetal grey skies, blasting winds and stair-rod rain. At night, in our camper van, snuggling down in my winter-weight sleeping bag was far more conducive to dreaming up the rest of my Christmas stories.

 

THE CHRISTMAS IMPERATIVE

 What is it about Christmas that compels us to write seasonal fiction? It has always struck me that by penning A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens made the rest of us redundant, for who could possibly write a more moving or memorable festive story than that? So many characters, phrases and icons have crept into our culture from the story of Scrooge’s redemption, taking root there as stealthily as the ivy from a Christmas wreath. Although festive traditions provide plenty of prompts, the more stories that are written about Christmas, the harder it is to produce something original.

But still those stories keep coming! Because for authors, the most natural way to share the true spirit of Christmas is not through sending Stocking Fillers Kindle Cover brightercards (I confess I have yet to write mine), but through penning feel-good stories. Every author’s story is different and interesting in its own way, as proven by the Write Romantics’ own Christmas anthology, Winter Tales. That book’s generosity of spirit oozes not only from the stories themselves but from the group’s decision to donate all profits to charity.

In Stocking Fillers, I’ve tried to be different and original in my stories too. Though all the usual suspects and situations are in there, there are also plenty of surprises, and I hope at least one icon that people will remember and hark back to in the Christmas yet to come. “I want one of those clocks!” one reader has already said to me. Which clocks? If you want to know, turn to the story called Christmas Time.

This Christmas I’ll be reading many new Christmas stories that I’ve been stockpiling on my ereader for the holidays. No doubt more will turn up under the tree on Christmas morning, because Father Christmas knows that bringing me books is always a safe bet.

Lighting Up Time cover for KindleOn the other hand, I hope he’ll also leave me a new notebook (A4 spiral bound hardback, please, if you’re reading this, Santa) – because my other big plan for the holidays is to get down to work on my summer collection. Now, where did I put that bikini…

PS If you’re still not convinced that you ought to be reading Christmas stories, here’s a seasonal and topical alternative: my single short story set at the winter solstice, Lighting Up Time, about a young woman’s fear of the dark – something to light up even the darkest, longest night tomorrow on December 21st.

 

Links:

My author website: www.authordebbieyoung.com

Stocking Fillers on Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Stocking-Fillers-Twelve-Stories-Christmas-ebook/dp/B00PF018YC/

Lighting Up Time on Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lighting-Up-Time-Winter-Solstice-ebook/dp/B00QFZDHGS/

Homeric Writers’ Retreat: http://www.homericwriters.com

 

Eight more sleeps…

SS102687It’s difficult to believe, isn’t it, that this time next week it will be Christmas Eve? Truth be told, I’ve been trying not to think about it galloping towards me as I am so far behind with my preparations and, as the days whizz past, I have to control the urge to hyperventilate into a paper-bag or slide into oblivion on a wave of mulled wine – the latter always the more appealing.

I think my lack of preparation is down to a series of things. I have been busy with the promotion of my Christmas novella, The Gift of Christmas Yet to Come, and the Write Romantics charity anthology, Winter Tales, currently a complete bargain at 98p. But it’s not just that, things have shifted in my household. All but the youngest of my four children is no longer a believer in you-know-who and for the first time, in I don’t know how long, it will be just the six of us on Christmas day. We’ll be joining the extended family on Boxing Day, but the big day itself is just about us and what we want.

The question is, when everyone stops being involved in leaving out carrots for the reindeer and mince pies for Santa, what do they want to do instead? We’ve started by talking about what to eat. We’re having a traditional Christmas dinner on Boxing Day, cooked by my lovely mum-in-law, so we’re free to choose what we want on the 25th. So far, the children’s lunch time order looks like this:

• One full English – hold the mushrooms and tomatoes
• Steak and chicken wings
• Coronation chicken
• Chinese Takeaway – reheated from the night before!

Not sure I’ll be joining any of my children in their choices, but we are starting to make new traditions for ourselves nowM4034S-4211 that they are getting older. To-the-death dance-offs on the Wii have replaced Mr Pop and plain old Monopoly has been usurped by the One Direction version – I know far more about those five boys than a woman of my years really should… The children can now stay up late enough to make midnight mass, but the crib service, in full fancy dress as a shepherd or angel, no longer holds such appeal.

And yet, the fundamentals haven’t really changed. So the non-believers know that the only similarity between Santa Claus and the giver of their gifts, these days, is rather more padding around the midriff than is good for you, but they enjoy the exchange as much as ever. The games have changed, but it’s still all about laughing and out of proportion competitiveness, which arises from a combination of sibling rivalry and competitive dad syndrome. Clichéd as it sounds, it is all about being together as a family that’s really important. If further proof of my theory that the heart of things stays the same is needed, I read a story this week that proves that nothing really changes, it just wears a new (Christmas) hat.

SS102598It goes something like this… The history of St Nicholas is that one of his first acts of giving, which generated the legend who became Santa, back in the 4th century, occurred after he heard of a man too poor to allow his three daughters to marry. Late one night, Nicholas went to their house and threw a bag of coins down the chimney allowing the eldest daughter to marry. Eventually, he repeated the gesture for the second and third of the man’s daughters.

Fast forward 1700 years or so and the staff of St Oswald’s Charity Shop in Blaydon have followed St Nicholas’s lead and made two of their colleagues’ dreams come true. Paula Kunes and Ellis Taylor have been working together in the charity shop since Ellis was made redundant four years ago and thought they would never be able to afford to get married. But some modern day saints, in the form of their workmates, gave the pair the money to tie the knot making it a Christmas they’ll surely remember forever.

So you see, things may seem to change, but Christmas is still Christmas and at the heart of it is love in one form or another. This must mean there’s no need to panic about not being ready, right? Now did anyone see where I put that paper bag…