A New Look for Winter Tales, Our #charity #anthology

It’s hard to believe, but November is almost upon us, and winter is just around the corner. Shops are already filling up with Christmas goodies, and the dark nights are drawing in.

Social media has been full of promotional posts for, and news of, forthcoming or newly-released Christmas books. Some might say (and some have) that it’s far too early for all that, but the truth is, whatever your opinion, festive books are on sale and they’re proving to be very popular.

In a world that can sometimes seem harsh and uncaring, it can be a relief and a joy to settle down with a story set at the time of year when peace and goodwill to all men reign supreme. There’s something very cosy and comforting about Christmas books, and this year, the Write Romantics have a bumper crop on offer. You’ll be hearing more about that in future posts.

But first and foremost, the important news is that, as you can see by the picture above, we have given our anthology, Winter Tales, a fresh look, and we love the gorgeous new cover with the festive robin and the warm, cheerful colours. We released Winter Tales back in November 2014, gathering together stories from generous writing friends, who happily contributed their seasonal tales in aid of two great causes.

Winter Tales was put together for the benefit of The Cystic Fibrosis Trust and The Teenage Cancer Trust – two charities very close to our hearts. At the time, we were ten writers with only one publishing deal between us, and we knew we needed help from our friends! Luckily for us, the writing community is a big, helpful and friendly one, and before long we had contributions from plenty of lovely authors. We raised lots of money for our chosen charities, and we managed to garner some good reviews for the book.

It’s now three years on (I know! Unbelievable!) and, with it being that time of year again, we’ve decided to give Winter Tales a new look and try our best to raise more money for the charities. The new cover has proved very popular, and we had a brilliant weekend of sales, earning our anthology a bestseller flag on Amazon for the very first time. But we need to keep this going, so, in the spirit of Christmas, we’re just giving anyone who hasn’t bought the book a gentle nudge.  Winter Tales is just 99p at the moment, and here’s a list of all the stories you can find inside.

Not Just Another Winter’s Tale by Jessica Redland

Reserved by Rhoda Baxter

Seasonal Encounters of the Cafe Kind by Zanna Mackenzie

In All the Wrong Places by Jo Bartlett

Winter Melody by Deirdre Palmer

The Handsome Stranger by Alison May

Loving Mr Perfect by Holly Martin

The Other Side of Christmas by Sharon Booth

The Art of Giving by Sarah Painter

All I Want for Christmas by Jackie Ladbury

The Bookshop of Dreams by Helen Phifer

Muriel’s Christmas Surprise by Jennifer Bohnet

Wherever I’ll Be by Deirdre Palmer

Christmas in July by Helen J Rolfe

A Pistol for Propriety by Alys West

A Tooth for a Tooth by Terri Nixon

It’s a Wonderful Life by Annie Lyons

Something Blue by Linda Huber

Ghosts of Christmas by Sarah Lewis

Meet Me at Midnight by Rachael Thomas

Into My Loving Arms by Lynne Pardoe

An Early Christmas Present by Samantha Tonge

Butterfly Nights by Deirdre Palmer

So, you see, we have some really fabulous authors in there and some fantastic stories for your reading pleasure. We hope you’ll take a chance on this anthology and, if you enjoy it, why not leave a review, or spread the word to friends and family so that we can raise as much money as possible to help everyone affected by cystic fibrosis and cancer, who need and deserve our help. You can buy Winter Tales here.

Thank you! And Merry Christmas. xx


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!



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.

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

conf 2014 14

Saturday Spotlight: How to Write a Christmas Romance by Alison May

It’s lovely to welcome Alison May back to the blog today. We’ve known Alison for a while now as she was first on the blog in June 2013 and she also had the dubious pleasure of sharing a flat with 3 of us at last year’s RNA conference.  Amazing things have happened for Alison since then – her first novel Sweet Nothing was published by ChocLit, followed by her hugely successful Christmas novella, Holly’s Christmas Kiss.  Alison now has another book in the Christmas Kiss series out (but I’ll let her tell you about that). As the expert on festive romance when we delighted when Alison agreed to contribute a story to our Winter Tales anthology and we thought we’d ask her for a few tips on how to put the romance into Christmas. 

Alison MayFestive romance novellas are very much the current thing. They seem to be more utterly 2014ish than loom bands, or Latvia joining the Eurozone, which I think we can all agree were very much the Main Things that happened this year. You can barely move on the modern interweb for holly-covered book covers, and I’ve written two myself – parts one and two in my Christmas Kisses series – so I was not surprised at all when the Write Romantics asked me to share my Christmas romance writing tips. Specifically, I was not surprised because it followed a lengthy period of me sending them regular begging emails, and one tiny unfortunate incident when they caught me hiding behind their bins.*

Anyway, they did ask me, and so I have positioned myself on my Christmassy writing throne, cracked open the good eggnog, and located my finest Victorian-imitation festive quill pen. With no further ado, here are my Christmas romance writing tips. They are twofold:

Tip 1. Write a really good romance.

Tip 2. Make it properly Christmassy.

Now I’ve just read those back, and I do have to acknowledge that they might not seem like the best thought-out tips ever concocted, but they actually, honestly, are. Writing a Christmas romance novella is really simple, but, unfortunately, simple isn’t the same as easy. The most important thing is that you don’t try to fake it.

I love romance stories, and I absolutely adore Christmas, to the point that I have Christmas twice a year – the traditional main event with family, and an additional late November Fake Christmas where we do the full turkey, trimmings, presents and champers shindig in advance with chums. When I write my Christmas stories, they’re not just love stories between the hero and heroine; they’re my own love letter to Christmas itself. Holly’s Christmas Kiss is my tribute to the childlike excitement and anticipation that I still feel in the run-up to the festive season. My hero in that story, Sean, is the physical embodiment of the enthusiasm and lack of cynicism that I associate with that feeling. My new Christmas Kiss story, Cora’s Christmas Kiss is my love letter to the glorious imperfection of Christmas – the idea that the perfect Christmas is about people and love and kindness, rather than finding the right outfit or cooking a faultless meal.

CCK_ 300dpi

And, for me, Christmas and falling in love go together beautifully. I tend to write heroines who are a touch on the control-freaky side. Falling in love, for them, is often all about letting go of control and taking a chance. Embracing Christmas is much the same – it’s about letting go of the boring grown-up part of yourself that thinks about consumerism, and worries about things not going according to plan, and rediscovering your inner six year old. Inner six year olds are awesome. Inner six year olds don’t worry about consumerism because they know about Santa and his reindeer, and they don’t make plans for anything that can’t be built out of Lego. Their only Christmas worry is about the Lego-carrying properties of flying reindeer, which isn’t really a worry at all, because flying reindeer are magic, as any good six year old know.

I may have digressed a little there. Sorry. I was thinking about reindeer. My point though, was this: if you love romance, and you love Christmas, then throwing those two things together is genuinely the most writing-fun you’re ever likely to have. All the things that are too schmaltzy to write at any other time of the year, are allowed at Christmas, because at Christmas frogs really can turn into princes, Wicked Queens really can turn out to be secretly lovely, and reindeer really do know how to fly.

*Because the Write Romantics obviously have shared bins, on account of how they all live together in one big writing mansion, where they eat peeled grapes, compose awesome stories, and have woodland creatures to assist them with all their domestic chores.**

**This is definitely and actually true. ***


Alison May is a novelist and short story writer, who writes romantic comedies for Choc Lit. Her debut novel, Sweet Nothing, was published in 2013, and she was a contributor to the Write Romantics’ anthology, Winter Tales. Alison lives in Worcester with her husband, but still no pets, on account of what happened to the goldfish.

You can find out more about Alison by following her on Twitter @MsAlisonMay and on her website http://www.alison-may.co.uk

Her latest book, Cora’s Christmas Kiss, is out now for Kindle.

About Cora’s Christmas Kiss

Can you expect a perfect Christmas after the year from hell?

Cora and Liam have both experienced horrible years that have led them to the same unlikely place – spending December working in the Grotto at Golding’s department store.

Under the cover of a Father Christmas fat suit and an extremely unflattering reindeer costume, they find comfort in sharing their tales of woe during their bleak staffroom lunch breaks.

But is their new-found friendship just for Christmas? Or have they created something deeper, something that could carry them through to a hopeful new year?

Plus, keep your eyes peeled for characters you may recognise from Alison’s previous novella, Holly’s Christmas Kiss.

We love reading your comments and would love to hear your thoughts on what makes a good festive romance.  To leave a comment please click at the end of the tags below where it says (in really teeny, tiny type) ‘comments’

Launch Day Has Arrived!!!! Crack Open the Champers!

Anthology coverIt’s here! The day we’ve been talking about since early spring has finally arrived and we are beyond excited. For The Write Romantics, today is the day when our dreams come true because it’s the day we can all stand proudly and declare: “I’m a published writer!” Is it a bit sad to admit that I really will be doing that?!


For most of us, this has been a dream spanning a decade or several. Some of the group have had success over the last couple of years and others will see their debut novels launched in 2015 but, wherever we are in our journeys, today is an exceedingly proud day for us all.

The Write Romantics and guests are absolutely thrilled to present to you: Winter Tales – Stories to Warm Your Heart. And they really will warm your heart because, not only are the stories all uplifting, but all proceeds go to charity. Cystic Fibrosis Trust and Teenage Cancer Trust are charities close to our heart and we’ve felt quite touched and privileged that eleven other writers have spared their time and talent to share a short story alongside those penned by The WRs. We can’t thank you all enough for your generosity and all the promotional work you’ve done/will do for this book in order to raise as many funds as we can for the two worthy causes. For the full listing on who has joined us, please click here.

IMG_0671The e-Book is available right now on Amazon at a price of just over 10p per story. Where else can you claim such an amazing bargain? The weather’s looking pretty grim this weekend so we suggest you curl up on the sofa with your Kindle, a mug of hot chocolate, and a slice (or three) of cake and read, read, read. But if you can bear to wait a little longer, the paperback will be available from 22nd November although we hope it will appear for pre-order before then (watch this space!)

This afternoon, we partied online. This post was meant to be another reminder of it but, for some obscure reason, it didn’t post so I’m tweaking and re-posting! Thank you to everyone who joined in. If you want to see what we discussed, feel free to check it out but, please note, we’ve all staggered home with our bellies full of cake and cocktails so we won’t be able to participate in any more banter.

10733884_10205442784014952_4540159388851962023_oThank you to everyone who has supported us in this journey and thank you in advance to everyone who is going to download or buy (or both) a copy of Winter Tales. You really can make a difference to the lives of children with Cystic Fibrosis like Write Romantic Alys’s three-year-old nephew, Thomas, and those who are battling against cancer like Stephen Sutton whose story inspired us to pick Teenage Cancer Trust as our second charity.

Enjoy the read, thanks for your support, and let us know what you think of the stories. Because if you love them, we may do a summer one too … but perhaps in 2016 as this has been a long journey so far!

Jessica xx

Hallowe’en and all that Hocus Pocus!

It’s almost October 31st, and that means only one thing…Hallowe’en’s coming! Unless you’ve been on another planet for the last few months, you’ll know that The Write Romantics are publishing an anthology of short stories, all with winter or Christmas themes. It’s called Winter Tales and will be launched on November 8th. We found writing short stories very different to creating the novels we usually work on, and it’s made us look at other short story writers with even more respect and interest. The recent release of a short story anthology entitled Hocus Pocus ’14, really caught our eye. It’s a collection of thirteen tales, each with a spooky twist, ideal for this time of year. We decided to find out more about the anthology and who was behind it…


2014-10-19 19.40.23It seems that Hocus Pocus ’14 was the brainchild of writer and QVC presenter Debbie Flint. She got together a group of authors including Lynda Renham, Lizzie Lamb and Tina K Burton and asked them to visit their dark side. The result is this creepy collection of shorts. We risked life and limb to prise information from these surprisingly obliging ladies to find out all about the book. Believe me, when you’ve read it you’ll admire our bravery. These people have seriously warped imaginations…

Debbie Flint

Debbie Flint

So, Debbie, what gave you the idea to put together an anthology, and why for Hallowe’en in particular? 

Last year fellow authors Carolyn Mahony, Mary Jane Hallowell and I found ourselves suddenly challenged to run a Facebook online party by ourselves, with a guest visit from published Mills and Boon author Isabelle Goddard – also from our Tuscany writing group. We’d all just self-published our first titles and wanted to raise awareness of our books. The plan was to do it on Hallowe’en since that was the plan we’d inherited, having all agreed to participate but not run it. Then suddenly we were in charge and we had to make it up as we went along, but the feedback was amazing, the sales of our own books lifted slightly, and everyone taking part gave great feedback. It worked! We found it was the most fun, fulfilling day – especially because being Hallowe’en there was a whole host of different options for subjects to post about, making the day really diverse and compelling. We ran it on our specially created event page on Facebook. We had pics of ‘finger food,’ favourite spooky hunks, songs and films, plus real life supernatural experiences to name but a few. We found there weren’t that many others going on on the same day, nor was there much on Amazon if you searched the word ‘Hallowe’en.’ We know that self publishing nowadays is all about discoverability, so the idea for a new event this year was born.

How did you select the authors to take part?

Initially it was just our little group, and then having mentioned it to a few other authors on other writing groups/retreats, many others stepped up and submitted stories to us for approval. Most would have been a shue-in, as they are award winning or best selling established authors, but we still used the process I rely on to gauge a story’s potential – my beta readers group. Facebook is a magical thing, and two years ago, it put me in touch with around two dozen avid romance readers who regularly review and ‘mark’ the work we submit to them. They’ve been instrumental in helping me bypass those frustrating early stages with a SFD where you think you know what to do but you need validation from true readers. Now ‘Debbie’s Readers’ occasionally take other work to read too and all seem very keen to help and have their opinions counted! Funnily enough my publisher Choc Lit (still sounds funny to hear myself say ‘my publisher’ – I only signed with them in the summer, first book out next Spring!) also use a ‘tasting panel’ for exactly the same reasons. I highly recommend doing so to new authors – and established ones!

Anyway, with the help of co-editor Mary Jane Hallowell, one of my best pals and writing buddies, the ‘approved’ stories mounted up and soon we had nearly 13 which I figured would be perfect for this anthology, so I contacted a couple more authors to reach the magical number! By the end of August it was clear we could make it the magical 13, of varying lengths, which Adrienne Vaughan and Lizzie Lamb pointed out would form a meaty paperback, and could they have some copies. So we expanded our plans to include Createspace too, and I got my lovely cover designer in Canada, Angela Oltmann to polish up the design one of our beta reader’s sons had already submitted. The POD covers (print on demand- that’s how they do paperbacks on Amazon via Createspace) which she creates, takes a lot more work than eBook covers ever do, so it was an investment, of around £130 overall. I also used a formatting expert in San Diego, Yvonne Betancourt, to ensure the finished POD interior was right. But if we sell copies outside of the freebie promotion period it’ll hopefully eventually cover it. Plus I will do one next year too, Hocus Pocus ’15,  and possibly a Valentine’s anthology of romantic short stories, so ‘Hocus Pocus ’14’ will be part of a series! If anyone is interested in taking part in the next ones just email me debbie@debbieflint.com. I’m looking forward to reaching a whole new audience via the other authors and via the fab Hallowe’en party on 31st – I do hope you’ll join us!

Welcome Lizzie Lamb, Lynda Renham and Tina K Burton. How did you all get involved?

Lizzie:  One of the New Romantics Press, Adrienne Vaughan, was contacted by Debbie who was looking for contributors and Adrienne put my name forward. I was a bit worried about getting side-tracked from finishing book 3 but already had a spooky story on file so I said yes. I’d written it a few years back for a competition ‘Heaven Can Wait’ run by Writers’ Magazine and (I think) Cally Taylor. She had just published her novel Heaven Can Wait and was running the competition to promote it. I was glad I’d kept the story on file because it only needed a bit of tweaking, et voila.

Lizzie Lamb and Adrienne Vaughan

Lizzie Lamb and Adrienne Vaughan

Lynda: I got involved with the anthology when Debbie asked me if I was interested and did I know anyone else who would be. I was unsure at first as short stories aren’t my thing really. I always find my short stories end up as novels and I don’t think Debbie would have been too happy with that!

Tina: My friend, Lynda, put me in touch with Debbie, who was putting together the anthology. Debbie asked if I’d like to get involved and, as it happened, I had a story that I thought might be suitable.

How did you find writing short stories as opposed to novels?

Debbie: I  like writing short stories – my first ever was for my QVC blog (I work on the shopping channel as a presenter) and my blog gets around 13000 views a week, so having just returned from the Tuscany writing course – my first ever experience of romance writing – I thought I’d do a 5000 word story for Feb 14th – so The Valentine’s Surprise was born. Three years later, having been inspired into self-publishing by Emily Harvale, I played around with KDP and uploaded it for a three day freebie. Immediately several hundred people downloaded it, and my journey into being a novelist was born. I then finished my WIP, Hawaiian Affair, followed by books two and three in that trilogy of steamy romances, all around 80-90,000 words. I finished a Bridget Jones style tale set in shopping telly at Easter this year, also full length. But my second short story, When Dreams Return, was written with the intention of running a freebie promotion for Mothers’ Day, which I did. However, being set at Hallowe’en I’d always intended that it would be my contribution for the Anthology – we’d been planning it since last October you see.

Lizzie: I would rather write a novel than a short story. Why? Because all my short stories read like the start of a novel. It’s a genre I need to work on if I’m ever going to feel more relaxed about writing one. Sue Moorcroft gave me a tip once, which was to think of the short story as an ‘incident’ with a beginning, a middle and an end – rather than a chapter in a novel. After I’d taken that advice on board it was much easier, but I don’t think I’ll ever be a natural short story writer.


Lynda Renham

Lynda: I disciplined myself and wrote my contribution which is titled ‘Clarissa’. I didn’t find writing a short story easy so I very much admire writers who can do it. I have written a few short stories in the past but find them difficult. If I have the choice, give me a novel to write any day.

Tina: I wrote and sold short stories before writing novels. I like the challenge of short stories – writing a whole plot and credible characters within a limited number of words. But I also like novels because you have more scope to develop your characters fully.



What is your story called and what’s it about?

Debbie: It’s called When Dreams Return. Chelle’s hubby Andy disappeared mysteriously and she stopped painting. Her talented artwork is her livelihood, inspired by her elaborate dreams. Finally she decides it’s time to accept his death and move on, by renovating a spooky Victorian House with a secret in the attic. Her pal Sara who lives nearby is married to Andy’s brother but she has secrets of her own. It’s a ghostly tale with humour and pathos, and ended up becoming a short novella, at 14,000 words. I was very pleased that the freebie helped it to get 4.6 avge stars on 29 reviews! Very chuffed! 

Lizzie: It’s called Jumping the Queue. As I said, I more or less wrote it to order for the competition Heaven Can Wait. That theme decided what I was going to write about. I’ve also written a  ‘true’ spooky story for the promo day when the Hocus Pocus event takes place on Facebook – 31st October. It’s called Knock, Knock, Who’s There? And concerns a real life spooky event which happened to me when I was a child. I’ll probably be posting it on my website, too, as part of the promo.

Lynda: Clarissa is a car that the main character, Frank, becomes obsessed with. However, the obsesion becomes quite creepy when the car begins to control Frank’s behaviour. I don’t know that anything inspired the story. It just seemed to jump onto the page and I very much enjoyed the process of writing it. I’m always fascinated when that happens.

Tina K Burton

Tina K Burton

Tina: My story is The Soul Stealer, about a doll who borrows souls. I used to work in the funeral business, and whilst I’m not religious, I do believe that our soul – the essence of what makes us, us – leaves the body and goes somewhere after death. It was thinking about that a while ago that gave me an idea for the story.


Our thanks to Debbie, Lizzie, Lynda and Tina for dropping by and telling us all about their venture into short story writing. Hocus Pocus ’14 is available to buy here and you can read Sharon’s review on Goodreads here

The short stories included in the anthology are:

Seed of Doubt by Adrienne Vaughan
Letter for Ray by Carolyn Mahony
Heaven Must be Missing an Angel by Jules Wake
The Last Leg by S A Edward
Lovespelled by Jane O’Reilly
Clarissa by Lynda Renham
Orange Blossom by Mary Jane Hallowell (short novella)
Jumping the Queue by Lizzie Lamb
Haunted House by Alison May
The Soul Stealer by Tina K. Burton
Green Man Rising by Litty Williams
Insubstantial Evidence by Tracy Burton
When Dreams Return by Debbie Flint (short novella)
Bonus Material -– true life spooky tales & poem

You can follow Lynda Renham’s blog here . Follow Lizzie Lamb’s blog here. Follow Tina K Burton’s blog here. Follow Debbie Flint here.

Join in the fun on Facebook on October 31st and prepare to be spooked!

Hocus Pocus '14

Hocus Pocus ’14


Exciting Anthology News – Line Up Confirmed!

It’s the 1st October; the start of the final quarter of the year. Where’s the rest of the year gone? Absolutely no idea.

IMG_0671The Write Romantics are incredibly busy at the moment. As well as welcoming new member, Sharon, celebrating the launch of Rachael’s debut novel, and the Super September publishing-deal news for Harriet and me, we’re gearing up to the launch of our very own charity anthology, ‘Winter Tales – Stories to Warm Your Heart’. Even the sound of the title makes me want to curl up on a large armchair by a roaring fire and read, read, read. And eat chocolate. And probably drink wine too but let’s not go there!

Without further ado, we’re thrilled to confirm the final guest list and the running order of stories in our anthology. The Write Romantics have seen this already (hot out of the hat last night because that was the only fair way to do it) but this will be the first time our guests have seen the full list. We’re delighted to have a mix of lengths, genres and settings for our stories. The one thing they all have in common is the winter-setting and the uplifting feel.

  1. Jessica Redland – Not Just Another Winter’s Tale
  2. Rhoda Baxter – Reserved
  3. Zanna Mackenzie – Seasonal Encounters of the Cafe Kind
  4. Jay Bartlett – In All The Wrong Places
  5. Harriet James – Winter Melody
  6. Alison May – The Handsome Stranger
  7. Holly Martin – Loving Mr Perfect
  8. Kerry Fisher – 1st & 2nd chapter of The Divorce Domino
  9. P1020184Sharon Booth – The Other Side of Christmas
  10. Sarah Painter – The Art of Giving
  11. Jackie Ladbury – All I Want for Christmas
  12. Helen Phifer – The Bookshop of Dreams
  13. Jennifer Bohnet – Muriel’s Christmas Surprise
  14. Harriet James – Wherever I’ll Be
  15. Helen J Rolfe – Christmas in July
  16. Alys West – A Pistol For Propriety
  17. Terri Nixon – A Tooth for a Tooth
  18. Annie Lyons – It’s a Wonderful Life
  19. Linda Huber – Something Blue
  20. Sarah Lewis – Ghosts of Christmas
  21. Rachael Thomas – Meet Me At Midnight
  22. Lynne Pardoe – Into My Loving Arms
  23. Samantha Tonge – An Early Christmas Present
  24. Harriet James – Butterfly Nights

We’ve been proofreading, writing the blurb, opening a bank account, liaising with the charities (Teenage Cancer Trust and Cystic Fibrosis Trust), writing our dedications, organising an introduction from Dr Carol Cooper … the list goes on! Our typesetter (who also happens to be my husband) is currently setting the pages and we’ve had a peek this evening of the first draft of the cover which is very exciting. We hope to do a full reveal within the next week or so.

Please keep checking back for more news, both about our anthology and about another very exciting development within The Write Romantics.

Bye for now.

Jessica xxx

The Write Romantics and the sweet smell of… togetherness

Okay, so maybe the cowsheds at the Harper Adams agricultural campus didn’t exactly smell sweet at this year’s RNA conference, near Telford, but one thing that was sweet  conf 2014 10was the chance to meet all of the Write Romantics. Some of us were lucky enough to catch up with the whole group for the first time ever, at various points, although other commitments meant that all nine were never quite in the same place at the same time. Whether we’ll get the chance to put that right, anytime soon, depends largely on our Australian contingent. Although we’re sure Helen R won’t mind the other eight of us turning up for a holiday in Oz at some point… In the meantime, we thought we’d share our other conference highlights with you, including some dubious poetry porn and a photo of Alys getting far too excited at the thought of owning her own tractor! conf 2014 14Helen R Just being a part of a “workplace” was the high for me. Writing can be a lonely profession and it improved for me when I joined The Write Romantics, and actually being around so many writers at the weekend left me buzzing. conf 2014 15I met so many approachable, friendly writers, in particular Lizzie Lamb who chatted to us outside the coffee shop; Hazel Gaynor whose novel “The Girl Who Came Home” I can’t put down right now; Talli Roland who kept me amused at the gala dinner; and Amy Gaffney who couldn’t believe I had never heard of Michael Fassbender! But most of all I came away from the conference feeling even more motivated. Now I just need to get back to Sydney, move house and get back to my desk 🙂 conf dee 2Deirdre As a conference first-timer I was made to feel welcome from the moment I picked up my special pink-jewelled name-badge and lovely goodie bag.  I was lucky enough to have friends at the conference, including the Write Romantics, of course, but the whole atmosphere was one of inclusivity with plenty of opportunity to chat and make new friends, too.  I attended on the Saturday only as a day visitor but didn’t feel I’d missed out as the schedule was impressively full, and I take my hat off to the organisers for that. conf deeIndie-publishing and marketing were definitely the hot topics and featured in one guise or another several times over the day.  I’ve self-published in the past and may do so again so it was good to see this important shift in the industry being addressed at the conference and so much practical information coming our way. My favourite session was Sally Quilford’s which was all about writing romantic intrigue.  Sally’s inspiring and amusing talk was the perfect ending to the day and I came away already planning to go to next year’s conference. Julie conf 2014 132013 had been my first conference experience and I’ll admit I found the whole thing pretty daunting. I think most unpublished writers will find the idea of going to an event where they don’t really know anyone and are surrounded by people who’ve already achieved the dream to be a pretty scary thing. This year, I felt much more relaxed because I knew I’d be amongst friends. The Write Romantics have been blogging together since April 2013 but I’d only physically met four of the group. This year we were all going to be there. Not quite all at the same time but, nonetheless, I had the privilege to meet the remaining four across the course of the weekend. It’s been amazing meeting everyone in the flesh. I just wish I hadn’t been so wiped out after a pretty challenging six months at work so I didn’t quite have the energy to stay up and chat till the early hours. conf 2014 8Conference-wise, the stand-out sessions for me were a couple that were relevant to those going indie, in particular hearing about how much happier and satisfied those who’ve gone down that route appear to be. It was also encouraging to hear the story of Hazel Gaynor who was picked up by an agent then a publisher after going indie with her debut novel ‘The Girl Who Came Home’. Indie definitely does seem to be the new slush pile. Jackie conf 2014 12It was fabulous to meet the writeromantics at the conference and I enjoyed some but not all of the talks. Sometimes there was a good message to impart but the delivery wasn’t quite right and others had me hanging off every word.  Jean Fullerton and Janet Gover are excellent at giving talks and Hazel Gaynor’s talk about the Titanic was very interesting. It was great to catch up with old acquaintances and I have made some new Twitter friends (if only I knew what to do with them!) The general feeling about the publishing conf 2014 16industry was much more upbeat than the last conference I went to, mostly I suspect, thanks to Amazon and the ease of self-publishing. It is very heartening to know that someone apart from your sister and best friend will be able to read your novel and we don’t have to wait to get a publishing deal. Probably the most promising bit of the conference for me, was meeting Tessa Shapcott who is a freelance editor of many years standing. She is going to knock my latest offering into shape and after that I can finally put it out there – somewhere, who knows where, yet! Helen P Conf HelenI had a fantastic weekend catching up with The Write Romantics at Harper Adams University, which is a beautiful campus, and skiving off sessions to hold our very own out in the sunshine! It was great to spend time with my editors from the fabulous Carina UK off campus, in a pub. Amazing, too, to see the lovely ODwyer (Author), although not for as long as I would have liked, as well as all the other fabulous writers I know. Alys Conf 2014 6Obviously the best thing about the conference was spending time with all of the other Write Romantics. I’d not met Helen R, Jackie and Deirdre before and it was like meeting people I’d known for years rather than someone new.  I also enjoyed catching up with friends I’d met last year like Alison May and meeting some lovely new people like Alison Morton, Ian Skillicorn and Lizzie Lamb. For me the stand out session was Nikki Logan’s talk on the Chemistry of Reading.  It made an awful lot of sense to me and made me realise that there are good biological reasons why I get so attached to certain books or characters.  I can now blame the Oxytocin in my brain for making me believe that Borchester is a real county somewhere between Gloucestershire and Herefordshire and that if you know where to look in London you will find Diagon Alley. Nikki’s talk made me see how as a writer I can use those reactions to really engage readers. I’m going to check out some of the novels that she recommended and get a copy of her book so I can learn more about the techniques you can use to do this. IMG_0369Getting all of the Write Romantics together was always going to result in a lot of laughing and the attempts to write sex scenes with Jo’s magnetic nature poetry probably created the most hilarity.  There’s clearly a good reason why none of us write erotica!  Most of our attempts are too X rated for a Saturday Spotlight (we may need a new post-watershed slot for them) but this one isn’t too inappropriate. Rachael conf 2014 11Naturally the best moment from the conference was being able to catch up in person with fellow Write Romantics. I didn’t make the Friday lunch, which most of the group enjoyed, due to being lost in transit. Myself and my friend managed to get completely lost, as whilst driving we were happily talking about writing and suddenly realised we were not where we wanted to be. All the talks at the conference were interesting, but I my favourites were Nikki Logan, Janet Gover and Clare Mackintosh and catching up with friends as well as making new ones was another highlight. I also enjoyed the fact that Harper Adams is an agriculture campus and slipped away from writing – only briefly, to get my farm fix each day. It was the cows and calves I was interested in, not the pig unit. This emitted the kind of smell even I wasn’t used to! Lynne Conf 2014 3‘I, or I should say we, had a really unusual ‘mini’ conference when my little puppy Rosie and I travelled to Newport to meet some of the group for lunch on the first day. At that point I had only met Deidre and her husband when they stayed near Oxford, and Alex when she visited me on her travels to Glastonbury, the rest of the group were new to me. But first I met Jo, then Jackie and Deidre and later Julie and Alex again. I can honestly say it was one of the nicest lunchtime meetings I’ve ever had, I couldn’t have asked to meet a nicer group of people and its so nice to be able to ‘talk shop’ with others that understand. So it might have taken me two hours driving each way for a two-hour lunch, but it was well worth it. And Rosie had a wonderful time too! As for me? photo (1)My highlight has already been spoken about. It was really all about seeing the WRs. Meeting Lizzie Lamb for an impromptu chat outside the coffee shop, whilst some of the WRs were playing hooky from a session, was also a bit of a light-bulb moment conference-wise, though. Lizzie was incredibly generous in sharing her hints and tips for going indie, and marketing more generally, and she said something like ‘this business isn’t for shrinking violets’. Apologies if I haven’t got that quite right, Lizzie, but you get the gist!  Networking isn’t my favourite thing in the world, so does that mean this game isn’t for me? I guess only time will tell, but I do think it means that the conference probably isn’t. Across the two years I have attended there have conf 2014 4been some good sessions, but the stand out one for me was one led by Julie Cohen last year and I felt like a different writer with new insight after just an hour. So I think next year’s conference fee has already been ear-marked to attend one of Julie’s training courses instead. It will still give me the opportunity to meet other writers and promote myself from shrinking violet to something else – perhaps a tree hugger… I’ve already made a start. If not, then I guess I can always take up crochet! We’d love to hear about the experience of others who attended the conference. What were the highs and inspirational moments for your? And, perhaps even more importantly, have you got that smell out of your nostrils yet? Jay xx