Five things we wish we’d known five years ago (Part 2)

Our final post in celebration of our five-year anniversary is the second half of five things we wish we’d know five years ago. This time it’s our five southern-based WRs to share their experiences.

Over to them …

Jessica xx

 

LYNNE PARDOE:
DSCN17015 things I wish I’d known:

  1. How to set up websites, Twitter & Facebook accounts
  2. How much I’d enjoy using those accounts once I’d done them!
  3. How to go about self publishing – its quite a learning curve and I still haven’t even tackled paperback books!!
  4. How easy it is to get distracted by the internet, friends seeking coffee, outings to exciting places etc.
  5. How much I’d enjoy the whole thing – I’ve made some lovely new friends, learnt things like how to speak at literary events, learnt a lot about a new industry and thoroughly enjoyed the whole process!!!

You can find Lynne’s Author Page on Amazon here.

 

HELEN J ROLFE:
HelenJRolfeI’m afraid I can’t give 5 things I wish I’d known. Perhaps the only way I’d answer this is to say that I’ve realised it’s a continuous journey. There’s so much to learn along the way, publishing changes all the time, but the one constant is how much writers support one another. Which stops me from going insane at everything I still don’t know!

You can find Helen’s Author Page on Amazon here.

 

JACKIE LADBURY:

Things wot I have learned:

  1. Friends and family don’t really understand how important being published is
  2. conf 2014 12Being published is important, but friends and family are more so
  3. Life is for living and sometimes it’s easy to let ‘the writing thing’ get in the way of spending time with – yes, friends and family
  4. If writing starts to become a chore or deadlines make the whole thing unenjoyable, take time out to remove the pressure– self-publishing is great for that, you can work at your own pace and miss as many deadlines as you please ‪:-)
  5. Keep a sense of humour – even when your Amazon rankings are dreadful, you’ve had a two star Amazon review and even your husband can’t be arsed to read your books – none of it is really that important in the grand scheme of things.

You can find Jackie’s Author Page on Amazon here.

 

DEIRDRE PALMER:

new author picI’ve learned so much, about writing, publishing, promotion, etc, as I’ve gone along, and as I reach this point I believe I’m a better writer, and, hopefully, wiser. However, I can’t think of anything I wish I had known at the beginning. What I’ve learned is based on experience and couldn’t have been picked up any other way. The highs and the lows have taken different forms from what I’d imagined, and it’s much harder work than I’d anticipated, but I wouldn’t have done anything differently. 

You can find Deirdre’s Author Page on Amazon here.

She also writes as Zara Thorne, whose Author Page is here.

 

JO BARTLETT:
SEB 1Things I wish I’d known five years ago:
1. That in five years time, loads of my writing dreams would have come true
2. That disappointments and bumps along the road really can lead you to a different, but better, path
3. That no matter what ambitions I fulfil, I’ll still want more
4. That it’s impossible to write a novel that everyone will like
5. That writer’s bottom isn’t a myth… although perhaps I’m glad I didn’t know that!

You can find Jo’s Author Page on Amazon here.

 

Thank you so much for joining us for our series of posts following our five-year anniversary. We don’t blog as much as we used to which in some ways saddens me but then I remind myself that the reason we don’t blog so much is that we’ve all become published writers and simply don’t have the time to devote to the blog that we had when we first formed and were on the first rung of the ladder.

We will continue to post about new releases and share the occasional post or interview, but most of us have our own blogs/websites to populate too.

Some of us are retired and write whilst enjoying that, some have left work to be a full-time writer, some work part-time, and some balance this alongside a full-time role. And, for all of us, there are never enough hours in the day to achieve everything we want to.

Thank you for any part you have played in our journey and we wish you all the best, wherever your reading and/or writing takes you in the future.

There are ten of us.

Five years ago, we had one indie-published novel between us.

Now we have 69.

Dreams really do come true 🙂

Jessica xx

5. Finale

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Jenny Kane is living the writing dream!

Author jenny Knae signs her latest book at Tiverton's Coast Coffee in Bampton street on Monday

Our guest today on the blog, is the talented and prolific, Jenny Kane. Jenny is the author the contemporary romance Another Glass of Champagne, (Accent Press, 2016),  Christmas at the Castle (Accent Press, 2015), the bestselling novel Abi’s House (Accent Press, 2015), the modern/medieval time slip novel Romancing Robin Hood (Accent Press, 2014), the bestselling novel Another Cup of Coffee (Accent Press, 2013), and its novella length sequels Another Cup of Christmas (Accent Press, 2013), and Christmas in the Cotswolds (Accent, 2014).

Jenny’s fifth full length romance novel, Abi’s Neighbour, will be published in June 2017.

Jenny is also the author of quirky children’s picture books There’s a Cow in the Flat (Hushpuppy, 2014) and Ben’s Biscuit Tin (Hushpuppy, 2015).

Welcome to the Write Romantics, Jenny! Thanks for agreeing to submit to our interview questions and now over to you…

What has surprised you most about being published and has it lived up to the dream?outlaws-ransom-final

It is twelve years since I had my first short story taken by a publisher, and I still can’t believe my luck. I’ve worked with many different publishers since then, and although I’d be kidding myself if I said there have never been frustrations alongside the joys, on the whole it has been fantastic!

To be able to get up every morning and make things up for the entire day- and actually get paid for going so…that is a dream come true!

Can you tell us a bit about the plot for your latest novel?

My latest novel, The Outlaw’s Ransom, is a little bit of a departure from my usual romantic comedy/friendship style fiction. Although it still contains a romantic tale, it is largely a medieval murder mystery.

I’ve been a lover of all things medieval from the first time I clapped eyes on an episode of Robin of Sherwood on the television back in the 1980’s. Since then, I’ve had a fascination with the era- especially the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries- that has never waned. It was this interest that led me to write The Outlaw’s Ransom.

Blurb

The first in an exciting new series by acclaimed author Jenny Kane writing as Jennifer Ash.

When craftsman’s daughter Mathilda is kidnapped by the notorious Folville brothers, as punishment for her father’s debts, she fears for her life.  Although of noble birth, the Folvilles are infamous throughout the county for disregarding the law – and for using any means necessary to deliver their brand of ‘justice’.

Mathilda must prove her worth to the Folvilles in order to win her freedom. To do so she must go against her instincts and, disguised as the paramour of the enigmatic Robert de Folville, undertake a mission that will take her far from home and put her life in the hands of a dangerous brigand – and that’s just the start of things…

A thrilling tale of medieval mystery and romance – and with a nod to the tales of Robin Hood – The Outlaw’s Ransom is perfect for fans of C.J. Sansom and Jean Plaidy.

I loved creating the character of Mathilda of Twyford. I have to confess however, that The Outlaw’s Ransom is not where Mathilda first saw life. The story of The Outlaw’s Ransom appears in a shorter form within my timeslip novel, Romancing Robin Hood (written as Jenny Kane). It was the popularity of the medieval part of that novel that led to The Outlaw’s Ransom– and to its sequel, The Winter Outlaw, which will be published in November 2017.

another-cup-of-coffee-new-cover-2015Who was your first hero and how do you think he’s influenced your writing, if at all?

It might not surprise you, in light of my previous answer, that my first hero was Robin Hood- and indeed- whoever it was who first wrote his stories back in the (I believe) thirteenth century. The love of the ballads led me to research a PhD on the subject of medieval literature and crime- it was completing my doctorate that taught me how to write.

Do you think it’s true that you should ‘write what you know’ and, if so, to what extent have your experiences influenced your writing?

I am guilty of overusing my life experiences within my work. The entire Another Cup of… series (Another Cup of Coffee, Another Cup of Christmas, Christmas in the Cotswolds, Christmas at the Castle and Another Glass of Champagne), is based on my own experiences of life as a student, a mother, a frequenter of coffee shops, and a writer. My Cornish romance, Abi’s House, is set in the Penzance and Sennon Cove area of the country, where my grandparents lived, and where I spent much of my childhood. Even Romancing Robin Hood, which is part set in the modern era and part in the Fourteenth century, steals from my own life. It features a medieval history tutor based at the University of Leicester. I wonder if you can guess what I used to do for a living- and where?

What are you working on at the moment?

I have three projects on the go at the moment. I am double checking the edits of the sequel to Abi’s House- Abi’s Neighbour– which will be out in May. I’m also editing my second Jennifer Ash book, The Winter Outlaw. Meanwhile, I am working on the promotion of my latest Kay Jaybee novella (erotica), Wednesday on Thursday. Once all that is sorted, I have a brand new novel lined up in my head, ready to be dashed out onto the computer before another idea takes hold.

We know you write both romance/women’s fiction and erotica under a different pen name. Do you ever think cow-in-flat-coverabout writing in a different genre, if so, what would you choose?

As well as my erotica (Kay Jaybee), and my historical fiction (Jennifer Ash), I also write children’s picture books. I keep the name Jenny Kane for those- anymore many pen names and I’ll start to forget who I am!

If I branched out further I’d have a go at a thriller- or maybe some horror.

If you could have three writing-related wishes, what would they be?

That’s a tricky one- but here goes….

I’d love to get an advance for my work.

To have all my books available in paperback as well as on Kindle/download.

And this really is wishful thinking – to have one of my novels made into a film.

***

Many thanks for welcoming me to your site today Jo, and for asking such great questions.

Jenny xx

If you’d like to read my first medieval mystery, then The Outlaw’s Ransom is available for your Kindle here –

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Outlaws-Ransom-Jennifer-Ash-ebook/dp/B01LZDKPQM/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1475660907&sr=1-1&keywords=The+Outlaw%27s+Ransom+Jennifer+Ash

https://www.amazon.com/Outlaws-Ransom-Jennifer-Ash-ebook/dp/B01LZDKPQM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1475660990&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Outlaw%27s+Ransom+Jennifer+Ash

 

Find out more about Jenny at the links below –

Keep your eye on Jenny’s blog at www.jennykane.co.uk for more details.

Jenny also writes as Jennifer Ash.

Jennifer Ash is the author of the medieval murder mystery, The Outlaw’s Ransom (Dec, 2016). Her second novel, The Winter Outlaw, with be published in 2017.

You can find detail’s of Jennifer’s stories at www.jenniferash.co.uk

Twitter- @JennyKaneAuthor

Facebook -https://www.facebook.com/JennyKaneRomance?ref=hl

 

 

The Greatest Love Story Ever Told

You can choose your friends, but not your family. Isn’t that how the old saying goes? Well actually, that’s not strictly true, some of us choose our families too and I think those families are every bit as special – sometimes even more so – because of that.

As one of the Write Romantics, I write about love, of course; the clue is in the title. The funny thing is that although there remains an element of boy-meets-girl in my novels, I’ve always had an equally strong focus on wider relationships  – mothers and fathers, friendships and even the pivotal role of the family pet!

I’m not remotely linking the title of this blog to anything I’ve ever written, but I think I have discovered the greatest love story ever told… It’s not in any Amazon top ten lists, or gracing the shelves of Waterstones, but I’ve seen it with my own eyes and it’s called adoption. swalecliffeChoosing to love a child, who needs that more than anything in the world, with all your heart, has to just about sum love up, don’t you think?

Here’s a little picture of me and my childhood best friend, Claire, back in our primary school days. I won’t point us out in the photo, but we were a little bit nerdy if I’m honest, top of the class and slightly swotty back then, so we’re the only ones wearing the proper summer dresses and rocking some seriously horrendous sandals!  We both came from traditional families, a mum and dad, a sibling (or three in my case) and I bet back then we both expected we’d follow suit…

christmas2014-no1Life turned out to be a lot more interesting than that, though, and I’ve got the most cfwonderful jigsaw family, as we’re now called, made up of my children and step-children, oh and my husband of course. Not a lot of romantic novels have that sort of set-up, but I honestly wouldn’t change it for the world and it’s far and away the greatest love of my life. But Claire’s story is even more amazing. After a journey to motherhood that could probably fill a whole shelf of novels, Claire and her husband took the last leg of that journey to China, to bring their beautiful daughter home.  I won’t tell you all the details, because I’m still hoping that Claire might write that story herself one of these days and it really will be the greatest love story ever told.

claire-on-kindle-2I love Claire to bits, for a friendship that goes back so far, but more than that for being one of the people to teach me that love and motherhood are about so much more than genetics. Let’s face it, that’s the easy bit. When I wrote ‘The Gift of Christmas Yet to Come’, Claire was on my mind. The story isn’t hers, but the sentiment is. There are two books in the St Nicholas Bay series so far and whilst you’ll find a traditional love story in them both, you’ll also find the love story of motherhood that comes about in unexpected ways. I hope I’ve done that justice and there was only one person I could dedicate The Gift of Christmas Yet to Come’ to – Claire, a friend I chose, and the beautiful family she chose to build.

 

tgocytc-artwork‘The Gift Of Christmas Yet to Come’ is available as an ebook priced at 99p here.somebody-elses-boy-cover-final

‘Somebody Else’s Boy’ is available in paperback and ebook form here and for one week only is on special offer at 99p in ebook format.

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside!

A day out at the seaside? We all know what that means,

A kaleidoscope of what must be uniquely-British scenes.

Embarrassing socks and sandals sported by your dad,

And sand you find in places that you never knew you had.

**

You pack a range of sun-creams to help your pallor wane,

But find yourself in what feels like a full-scale hurricane.

Instead you need a sleeping bag draped across your knees,

The windbreak at an angle of around fifteen degrees.

**

You decide to cheer things up by buying fish and chips,

Despite the fact the deck-chair can barely take your hips.

Seagulls descend like ninjas, they’re nothing if not plucky,

But being in their firing line feels anything but lucky.

**

Still too cold to take a dip you head towards the pier,

There you find a fun-fair and the kids let out a cheer.

Soon you’re several tenners lighter and then put out your back,

Flying down the helter-skelter on an old potato sack.

**

Heading to the arcades, you know it isn’t wise,

To do battle with the grabber that never yields a prize.

Next on to the pub and a pleasing little red,

Let’s do this again tomorrow, is what you somehow said.

**

Despite the dodgy weather and the seagulls on attack,

You love the British seaside and you’ll soon be coming back.

Just before you head off home, you brave a little wade,

An encounter with a jelly-fish is how memories are made!

**

SEB 3I thought I’d start off today with a tongue-in-cheek homage to the British seaside. Although given the weather we’ve been having in my part of the country this week, it’s got even more appeal and is apparently hotter than the Med.

Now I don’t want this little poem to give you the wrong impression, I LOVE the coast and can’t seem to stop writing about it. Maybe not the type of resorts with arcades, but those filled with the sort of uniquely British charm of places like Polperro and Southwold. But it’s the Kentish coast I love most of all and which features in my stories. Maybe it’s because I was born a stone’s throw from Dover’s white cliffs or because I live about five minutes from the pretty seaside town of Whitstable.SEB 2

I set my first novel, Among A Thousand Starsin the real Kentish seaside town of Sandgate, but my new series was inspired by the fictional town of St Nicholas Bay’s connection to Charles Dickens. As a result it combines the old world charm of Rochester’s quaint tearooms and quirky shops, with the steep high street at Broadstairs, which leads down to a golden bay lined with colourfully painted beach huts. Many people who’ve read the Christmas novella that sparked the series, and which will be re-released by Accent Press in November, tell me that St Nicholas Bay is a character in itself.

Somebody else's boy cover finalSo if you fancy a trip to a beautiful seaside town, with none of the hassle of getting sand in your unmentionables, I’d be thrilled if you checked out my new novel, released today – Somebody Else’s Boy. It tells the story of Jack, a young widower raising his baby son alone and the new life he finds against the odds in St Nicholas Bay, and his house-mate, Nancy, who’s struggling to keep a secret because of the promise she made to someone who no longer knows her name…

Either way, I hope you have some fabulous plans for the bank holiday weekend and maybe a little trip to the seaside is in order after all!

Jo xx

Somebody Else’s Boy is released by Accent Press on 25th August 2016 and available here.

Happy 3rd Birthday to us!

1st April is a special day for the Write Romantics. It’s our 3rd birthday!

When Jo Bartlett and I ‘met’ virtually through the Romantic Novelists’ Association and came up with the idea of blogging together, we were two unpublished writers who weren’t even ready to submit our manuscripts. We realised quite quickly that we were going to struggle to post regularly about our ‘not quite ready to explore being published’ status, so we invited a few more RNA members to join in. The Write Romantics grew from two to ten, dipped down to nine for a while, then went back up to ten again.

One of the fascinating aspects of this group of female writers (other than the fact that we have never all been in the same place at the same time (except virtually) and therefore haven’t all physically met yet), is that we were nearly all aspiring writers when we joined forces. Only one of the group had a publishing deal. Move forward three years and it’s a very different picture.

We thought this would be the perfect opportunity for the Write Romantics to tell you about their last three years.

Jessica xx

book14Jo Bartlett

Three years ago, I was unpublished and dreaming of one day walking into a bookshop and seeing my name on the cover of a novel on sale there. I’d just finished my debut novel and was sending it out to publishers… Fast forward three years and my novel, Among a Thousand Stars, has now been out for nine months with So Vain Books and I have my coveted paperback! I’ve also had two pocket novels published by DC Thomson, so I got to see my name on a book in WHSmiths on several occasions. Both novels were picked up by Ulverscroft, a third pocket novel has just gone in to DC Thomson and I have also had a short story published with them in The People’s Friend. In the second half of last year, I signed a women’s fiction four book deal with Accent Press, the first two books will be coming out in 2016 and the second two next year. AATS CoverIn October, I finished second in the WHSmiths/Kobo/Harlequin romance writing competition and I am currently working with an editor at the world’s most famous romance publishing house on something that will be a significant departure for me and hence is being written under another name. Most of this has happened in the past twelve months and I definitely don’t appreciate how far I’ve come in three years for the vast majority of the time. Seeing it all written down like this makes a big difference though and, for once, I feel like there’s something to celebrate. The WRs birthday is the perfect excuse!

1503592_740127342771174_6884382549832304505_n

100% genuine *cough*

Sharon Booth

Gosh! Three years ago I wasn’t part of the Write Romantics. In fact, I hadn’t heard of them (sorry!) I started writing my first full-length novel in November of that year, for NaNoWriMo. I met Jessica and Alys in June of 2014, having connected with Alys on Romna, as we were members of the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme. I had a half-baked, patchwork story called Angel in the Marble, and was convinced it was rubbish. Jessica and Alys persuaded me to work on it and submit it to the RNA. I did, and got very positive and encouraging feedback. That September, I was invited to join the Write Romantics This Other Eden ebook cover V4 (1)(yay!) and in November, we released a charity anthology, Winter Tales, which included my short story, The Other Side of Christmas. I got Angel in the Marble edited and proofread, changed its name to There Must Be An Angel, and it was published in March 2015. Now I’m on the brink of publishing my third full-length novel, This Other Eden, having also had a pocket novel published by DC Thomson, and another short story in print, this time for The People’s Friend. Things really started to happen for me when I met the Write Romantics, so I’m very grateful to be part of this lovely group.

Jackie Ladbury

conf 2014 12In April 2013 I was faffing around with at least three half written books on the go. I now have three fully written books and am still faffing around! Have decided to pitch three novels as airline series and am finally getting my act together with A Plan! (I think!) Was shortlisted for a Mills and Boon first chapter competition and that complete novel is now part of The Plan. Am considering self-publishing another novel, but thinking about it makes me want to have a lie down, or take to the bottle. Could do that in reverse order I suppose!

my pic for blog postDeirdre Palmer

When we began, I was in the midst of submitting my novel, Remarkable Things, which has themes of motherhood, family relationships and later-life love. More revisions and another year on, I finally secured that elusive FINAL FINAL COVER with taglinecontract, and the book was published by Crooked Cat. Meanwhile, I’d written a 1960s’ comedy drama called Dirty Weekend, which Crooked Cat also published, a few months after the first. An excellent year! Now I’ve just finished another novel and started on another, the sequel to Dirty Weekend. Looking back, I’m very happy with what I’ve achieved in the last three years 🙂

 

DSCN1701Lynne Pardoe

I had barely started my first novel three years ago when my mum became ill. Stuck for things to speak about mum and I talked about my plot, the more it took shape, the quicker I wrote it! That was eventually sold to D.C.Thompson and it came out in January 2015 as ‘Made for Each Other.’ Since then I self published ‘Please Adopt Me‘ on Amazon at first. Now I’m just waiting for my second to be edited and am well into my third! I’m loving having a cottage industry all to myself and so are my readers, judging by the quantity of good reviews I have!! 🙂

helen phiferHelen Phifer

Three years ago I’d been offered my first two book contract with Carina and I was busy working on the rewrites for my debut novel The Ghost House. Which was to be published in October. Now I’m in the middle of writing my sixth Annie Graham novel. Book five The Girls in the Woods was published in January and I have a paperback of The Ghost House on my shelf, plus I have a standalone horror story that will be published by Carina in September and Annie book six will be published around December 2016. I’m in the process of something very exciting for next year which will take me in a whole different direction as I’m working on a brand new crime series. Which I’ll share with you once it’s all finalised. All in all, I’m one very busy, extremely happy writer.

 

_MG_4982Jessica Redland

‪In April 2013, I was working on my debut novel, Searching for Steven. It had gone through the RNA’s NWS once and I was preparing to put it through the NWS for a second time later that year because I’d made significant changes to it. The idea of becoming published was a distant dream. Eighteen months later, I received two publishing deals and decided to go with a new UK-based publisher Screenshot 2015-12-16 18.08.14called So Vain Books. In June 2015, Searching for Steven was released. It’s the first book in a trilogy of romantic comedies with deeper issues set in a fictional North Yorkshire seaside town called Whitsborough Bay. The follow up, Getting Over Gary, was released last month
and the final part of the trilogy will be out in August this year. I’ve also released a novella, Raving About Rhys, which is set in the same town but with a different cast of characters. I have a deadline for submission of book 3 in about six weeks’ time then I get to write something new which is incredibly exciting. It’s been an amazing few years. Eek! Dreams really can come true 🙂

 

Author photo - Helen J RolfeHelen J Rolfe

Three years ago, I was getting ready to send my second attempt at a novel to the RNA NWS. As I was living in Australia this was always interesting at a cost of more than a hundred dollars plus an anxious wait to find out whether it had arrived in the UK safely. But it was so worth it! ‪Three years on and that novel, The Friendship Tree, was the first of three I have had published. I went on to indie publish Handle Me with Care and What Rosie Found Next  and I have another two novels already in the pipeline. ‪It’s been an interesting and busy time but a lot of fun. I’ve learnt so much about writing and the publishing industry and I’m hoping the next three years bring just as much success for all The Write Romantics!

CoverTheFriendshipTree

Handle Me with Care final front cover - for KDPWhat Rosie Found Next - bookcover - KDP version

 

 

 

 

 

photo (10)Rachael Thomas

In April 2013 I had just had my latest rejection and as usual was gutted. After the customary sulk, I began work on my next book, which I submitted to Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write competition in September 2013. That book made it to the Top 10 at the end of the year and Christmas 2013 saw me working on revisions which I submitted early in 2014 and within two weeks, I The Sheikh's Last Mistress-UK covergot ‘the call’. My debut, A Deal Before the Altar was published by Harlequin Mills and Boon in October 2014. Now three years on from the launch of The Write Romantics blog my sixth book, The Sheikh’s Last Mistress is about to be released. What is even more special, is that this book is a rewrite of the one rejected in April 2013, which just goes to show, nothing you write is ever wasted. Happy Birthday everyone!

Alys West Christmas 2015Alys West

Three years ago, I was working on the first book of an urban fantasy trilogy, Beltane. My dream was to secure an agent and I was thrilled in summer 2014 to be invited to London to meet an agent who wanted to represent me! Since then, Beltane has been published and I’ve been working on the rest of the series. I’ve also discovered a new passion for steampunk and wrote a story called The Dirigible King’s Daughter which I released on Wattpad. It’s been fascinating reading feedback from those who’ve followed the release of each chapter. The Dirigible King’s Daughter will be available on Amazon in the early summer. My novel writing is taking a bit of a back seat at the Beltane finalmoment because I’m studying towards a Masters in Creative Writing, but I’ll be back to it very soon.

 

We hope you’ve enjoyed our round-up of the last three years. If you’re just starting your writing journey, or you’re submitting and dealing with rejections at the moment, please keep on believing in your work because, as you can see from our summaries, dreams really do come true xxx

 

 

 

 

 

A Kentish Accent – aka the Mega Monday Announcement

© Mamz

© Mamz

I’ve never thought of myself as having an accent. Maybe no-one does but, coming from Kent, I certainly don’t have the instantly recognisable nuances in dialect that some of my fellow WRs who hail from Yorkshire do. Similarly, if you hear a Geordie speak, someone from the Valleys or a soft Irish brogue you can immediately hazard a guess as to where the speaker’s roots are. I love accents, although my attempts at impersonating them are worse than the  accent of the policeman in ‘Allo, ‘Allo – Good Moaning! If you come from Kent, depending on how posh you are, your accent is probably going to be almost indistinguishable from your Essex, Sussex, Surrey or London neighbours.

© Michel Paller

© Michel Paller

Nonetheless Kent does have its own distinctions – from our vineyards to our oyster beds, to the best weather that the UK has to offer – it’s a county that’s just as unique as any other. We also like to claim Charles Dickens as our own. Although he was born in Portsea Island (Hampshire) he moved to Kent at the age of four, and towns from Rochester to Broadstairs proudly display plaques which state that “Chas was ‘ere”. Well not quite but, like I say, us Kentish maids and maids of Kent (it matters which side of the River Medway you were born on, by the way), can be mistaken for cockneys in the right light.

© Julie Heslington

© Julie Heslington

But what have a long dead, but brilliant, writer and my lack of a discernible accent got to do with my big announcement? Well Dickens, and Broadstairs itself, were the inspirations for my Christmas novella last year. I self published ‘The Gift of Christmas Yet to Come’, to help raise my writing profile above the white noise, prior to release of my first novel with So Vain Books. The novella is set in a fictional town, St Nicholas Bay, loosely based on Broadstairs, where rumour has it that Dickens penned A Christmas Carol. I’ve had a fantastic experience with So Vain Books, but I knew my next novel wouldn’t fit their glam brief, and so I started to think about which publishers I might try for the next step in my writing career. Since I still had the rights to the novella, there was nothing stopping me from submitting that, as well as the next novel I’d finished in draft and, being too impatient to try for an agent, there was one publisher I really hoped would accept my submission…

I’m delighted to say I’ve now got my longed for accent, a four book deal with Accent Press that is. I’ll be releasing four related stories (two novels and two novellas), all set in St Nicholas Bay – a place I can’t wait to revisit – and all with the theme of motherhood that comes about in an unexpected way. The first book will be released in the summer of 2016 and then at six-monthly intervals. I signed the contract on Friday morning and that’s got to be a good enough end to anyone’s week, hasn’t it?

© Alamar

© Alamar

Only it didn’t quite stop there. Just before three o’clock on Friday, I got a completely unexpected email. I’d entered a writing contest from my holiday balcony back in July, whilst the rest of the family slept in late every morning, but I didn’t think I stood a chance and, since the shortlist was originally due to be announced in August, I pushed my disappointment at not hearing anything to one side; especially since the offer from Accent had arrived in between. I never win anything, so what did I expect? My usual prize winning standard is an out-of-date tin of Smart Price carrots in a Harvest Festival raffle and I kid you not!

I looked at the email, though, and wondered why an editor from one of the ‘big four’ publishing houses, who I’d pitched my first book to at an RNA conference two years earlier, was emailing me. Maybe she wanted to be interviewed on the blog and, thinking what a great idea that would be, I eagerly opened her email. Except she wasn’t writing to ask for a guest spot, she was writing to tell me that I’d made the top ten shortlist of that writing competition, which I’d entered under a new pen name.  Unfortunately, I can’t say anymore than that yet, as the shortlist was due to appear on social media today but, at the time of publishing this post, Couple enjoying Sunsetit hasn’t yet been released.  What I would say is that if you’ve entered competitions before and started to wonder if it’s worthwhile, then keep going.  The old adage is certainly true for me – the more I practice, the luckier I seem to get!

So how does a girl from Kent celebrate such good news? Well I’d like to say that I enjoyed Whitstable oysters and a good vintage from the Chapel Down Winery in Tenterden, but in truth it was a pizza with the kids, and a bottle of champagne, that had been languishing in the back of the cupboard since New Year, with my husband. Not Kentish maybe, and definitely not posh, but it’ll do for me!

Jo xx

DIDN’T WE HAVE A LOVELY TIME?

The venue for the RNA (Romantic Novelist’s Association) conference this year was at the Queen Mary University in Mile End, London, which has the very pretty Regent’s canal running through it and a really unusual Grade 2 Heritage old Jewish cemetery right in the middle of the campus.

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It was worth a photograph although it’s not looking the best this time of year as they wait for the bluebells to die back before they tackle the weeds.

As usual, by the time I arrived, hot and clueless as to where I was supposed to be, I was perspiring nicely, my fringe stuck to my forehead. Luckily I spotted another fellow RNA member who I recognised simply because the suitcase she dragged behind her looked, as it should, to contain three parts wine to two parts clothes. Yep, she was one of us!

Peaked a bit too soon on the first night as the excitement of meeting old and new friends made me guzzle wine from a glass that was topped up far too many times. Pretty sure it was made for Thumbelina though, not someone like me, so I probably didn’t have half as much as I thought (yeah, right!)

It was just SO lovely to see everyone- not one miserable face amongst us, although there were a few more sweaty ones, as we were all simmering nicely by the end of the evening.

Sweltered the night away in the Thumbelina sized bed. (are you getting a bit of a theme going on here? These beds are not made for barge arse ladies like me; they are made for starving students, as thin as Sheldon Cooper.)

My face the next morning, gave the game away, big time, that I’d had fun the night before. It didn’t really recover if I’m honest, but it did improve as the weekend went on and I soaked up the wonderful optimism of my RNA writer friends in what is a very tough market to crack.

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I was spellbound by the very lovely Hazel Gaynor who talked about promoting ourselves, scribbled totally illegible notes as Hazel Cushion from Accent Press told us what she was looking for in a best seller, and repeated Julie Cohen’s mantra to CELEBRATE finishing a novel, and that REPETITION IS DEATH to a novel. Again: REPETITION IS DEATH! She also likes Post It notes, apparently. Who knew!

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Had a catch up with the two other ‘Write Romantics’ at the Conference, Rachael Thomas and Helen Rolfe, while the lovely John Jackson prepared Champagne Cocktails for us from a Mary Poppins like bag, complete with sugar cubes and Angostura Bitters. We then headed off for the Gala Dinner in the spectacular Octagon Library welcomed once again by Eileen Ramsey.

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Everyone looked lovely in their best frocks although my dress remained resolutely in my suitcase, as once again it appeared to have been made for Thumbelina. No idea how it ended up in my suitcase, but hope it enjoyed its trip out to London.

The Elizabeth Gouge prize was won by Rae Cowie, who I met briefly at the conference; she seems a thoroughly nice person and deserved winner.

On the way home I was really touched as two young men asked if I wanted help with my case on the underground; they didn’t know I could have lifted it with one finger now the wine was gone. It wasn’t until I looked in the mirror that I realised they probably thought I was an ancient old crone, living on borrowed time.

Had a wonderful, though exhausting time, and think I only made two Faux Pas the whole weekend, which is pretty good for me. Also have a vague memory that I smoked a cigarette, but pretty sure I dreamed that and if anyone mentions it -ever, I will plead amnesia, and as all writers say- put you in my next book as a baddie with pongy breath and embarrassing personal habits.

Jackie Ladbury