Five things we wish we’d known five years ago (Part 1)

As part of our fifth anniversary celebrations, The Write Romantics considered five things we wish we’d known at the start or perhaps what we’d learned along the way.

I was going to do this alphabetically but I decided to go for a change. This is what our Northern-based WRs said and, because there are only four of us, I’ve added Wales into the mix. Enjoy!

Jessica xx

 

HELEN PHIFER:
Helen Phifer new
1. Publication Day is normally a bit of an anti climax. All the hard work doesn’t automatically make your book baby a best seller. It all takes time and can be quite a slow burn to move up the charts
2. You don’t always need an agent. There are publishers who you can submit to direct
3. The sleepless nights. If you’re not waking up to obsessively check your ranking, you’re lying awake trying to figure out plot holes
4. The fear that your book isn’t good enough the night before publication day
5. That halfway through your current work in progress you will get the best idea for a novel you’ve ever had. It will drive you insane because you’ll want to stop writing the story you’re half way through to write the next

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

 

JESSICA REDLAND:

What do I wish I’d known right at the start?

  1. That securing a publishing deal would not lead to success. When I started submitting, that deal, that validation was my absolute goal. If I got that, I’d have it made! The moment I got a three-book offer was incredible but, sadly, it didn’t deliver. The fall from that disappointment was quite a hard one although, looking back, it was very naïve of me to expect quite so much
  2. That the reactions of friends and family would be so surprising. There have been those who were always going be an amazing support like my mum, but some support has come from surprising quarters and I appreciate it so much. However, I’ve also had absolute disinterest from those who I thought would genuinely be interested. I have to admit, that’s really hurt
  3. _DSF1336-2Ideas can come unexpectedly, from a snippet of overheard conversation, from a lyric in a song, from an advert or a news article. Some will remain as seeds that will never grow but others will blossom into something quite amazing and unexpected. And that one of those sudden ideas (and also the quickest story I’ve ever written) would turn into my best-selling book (Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes). Five years ago, I hadn’t thought beyond my debut trilogy and worried that I wouldn’t have any other ideas. Thankfully, I was very wrong and another three releases post-trilogy plus six works-in-progress prove that!
  4. That the biggest obstacle to making the most of this amazing and frustrating journey would be me. I’ve always been a confident person but my confidence and self-belief has taken such a hammering over the past few years and it’s mainly my fault because I can’t stop comparing myself to all the other amazing writers I’m surrounded by and wondering why I haven’t cracked it yet. Must stop comparing myself… Must stop comparing myself … Must stop …
  5. That I’d get caught in a vicious circle. I need to pay the mortgage and bills so I need a day job. My day job pays well and I enjoy it but it’s demanding and leaves me little time to write. I need time to write but I can only do that if I cut back on the day job. I need to be making money from writing in order to cut back on the day job. To make money from writing, I need time to promote my books, raise my almost non-existent profile and write more books. If I had more time, this would mean I’ve cut back on my day job but that would mean I’ve got no money and I won’t be able to pay the mortgage… Hmm. Hamster in wheel spring to mind?

But, having said all of those things, I wouldn’t change being a writer for the world. The joy and satisfaction I get from creating my fictional world and from reading reviews from the few who find my work is worth the anguish. I couldn’t not write. It’s who I am.

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

 

ALYS WEST:
Alys West
5 things I wish I’d known 5 years ago:
1. That indie publishing would turn out to be the right option for me. It’s hard work but I love the independence, the control and ability to do things in my own time
2. You need your writing pals as only they understand the ups and downs of trying to make it as a writer
3. That there’s actual theory behind social media marketing which makes it all make sense
4. It takes a lot of time for a book to get noticed on Amazon
5. That feeling like a writer comes from lots of little things not one big ‘yes’ from an agent or publisher

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

 

SHARON BOOTH

Five things I wish I’d known?

  1. That having a book published changes everything and changes nothing. The day your first book is released nothing seems quite real, and it’s a truly magical experience, but within hours life has moved on and things are going on just as they always do, and you’re back to thinking about the next book, and it all starts over again
  2. 12992165_10154178518846424_1442606549_nThat the fear never goes away – fear that you won’t be able to write anything ever again, fear that no one will like your next book, fear that you’ll run out of ideas or won’t be able to put the ideas you do scrape together down on paper in any form that others would want to read
  3. That there are lots of wonderful people out there in the writing community who are only too happy to chat, offer advice, impart their wisdom and generally make life much easier, if you only have the courage to approach them
  4. That a review is just one person’s opinion and you can’t take it to heart – whether it’s good or bad. The good reviews are lovely and, after all, we all need a boost to our flagging egos, but the bad ones are soul-destroying and set you up for all kinds of doubts and depression. Best take them all with a pinch of salt – unless they’re all saying the same thing, in which case maybe you should take heed!
  5. That it’s perfectly normal to go through love-hate phases with your book. Often you start off loving it, and are really excited by the idea. Before long, though, you hate it and think it’s the worst thing you’ve ever written. Then, as you get towards the finishing line, your enthusiasm rises and you love it again. Then you finish the first draft and all your doubts come pouring back and you decide it’s only worth shredding. Then you send it off to your beta readers/editor and sit biting your nails. Hopefully they’ll love it so you can love it again, too – until you have to start work on edits and proofing and get sick to death of reading the dratted thing, at which point you could cheerfully delete the whole shebang and take up knitting. A few years later, you may well feel the urge to read it on your Kindle or pick up the paperback and, hopefully, you’ll be overawed by your talent, overjoyed by how much you love it, and thoroughly impressed that you managed to write something so incredible. Or something like that …

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

 

RACHAEL THOMAS:

conf 2014 11Five things I wish I’d known five years ago

  1. That it would actually happen, that the dream would come true and I would be published by Mills and Boon
    2. That writing the second book was going to be so hard!
    3. That not everybody is going to like what I write
    4. That you have to juggle different stories in your head as you write one, edit another, prepare for publication of another, promote the latest release, and also allow next story to brew in your mind
    5. That some days you will hate what you’ve written

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

 

As a group, we have a motto:

4. She believed she couldHelen P introduced this to us as it’s her favourite saying and it is really apt for the Write Romantics. As you can see from these five insights so far, writing can be a tough old journey, with pot holes, dead ends, wrong-turns and disappointing destinations where that self-belief fades and even fizzles out completely but it can also be an amazing journey along smooth surfaces, surprising discoveries, and stunning views. We’ve been on that journey together and will continue to do so, supporting each other through the many highs and lows of being a writer.

 

Please come back tomorrow to hear from Lynne, Jackie, Jo, Deirdre and Helen R.

 

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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

Secrets of Structure by Alys West

When I first started thinking seriously about writing a novel, I asked the successful local writer whose evening class I was attending how to structure a novel.  She said to me, “I always struggle with structure. I’ve got a friend who helps me with it.”  It wasn’t the most helpful of responses but because she didn’t give me the answer I needed, I had to look elsewhere.  For a long time it felt like there was a conspiracy of silence about structure and novel writing as if novelists are just supposed to know.  When I started doing my MA in creative writing I discovered that if I wanted to know about structure then I needed books written for screen writers.

The reason for that is that every Holywood blockbuster you’ve ever seen conforms to the same basic plan.  You can dress this up in different ways and call it a three act structure or a five act or Freytag’s pyramid but when you look closely you’ll see that all stories have some key building blocks.

First of all there has to be an inciting incident which is the thing that happens to kickstart the story.  In crime fiction, it’s the murder.  In a James Bond movie, it’s the discovery that someone evil (either with or without a white cat) is threatening world peace.  In romance novels it tends to be something a little less dramatic.  In Pride & Prejudice it would be Darcy saying “She is tolerable but not handsome enough to tempt me” at the Mereton assembly. In Sleepless in Seattle it’d be Annie saying ‘magic’ at the same time as Sam.  It’s the inciting incident which introduces the protagonist to a new world (for Lizzie, the world of wealth and privilege Darcy inhabits) and starts them on a journey.

The midpoint isn’t just what happens in the middle of the story, it’s the point where the protagonist changes.  It’s where they realise that there’s no way back to the old life they used to live.  But at this point, the protagonist is pretty confused by their new knowledge and doesn’t know how to handle it correctly. In Skyfall its when Bond has Bardem in his custody and realises the strength of his enemy before Bardem escapes and the tube train crashes through the roof of the M15 hideout (I love that bit!) In Pride & Prejudice the midpoint is when Lizzie gets Darcy’s letter and realises she’s had him wrong all along.  But not only does she not know what to do with this new knowledge, she doesn’t realise that she’s falling in love with him.

The crisis is where things go really badly wrong.  It’s when all hope passes away. It’s the moment when you’re yelling at the screen ‘Oh no!’ It may be a death (often of someone close to the protagonist) or in a romance the point where it seems the couple can never get together.  For Lizzie, it’s when she realises that Darcy is the perfect man for her but through Lydia’s marriage to Wickham, they are forever separated.  The function of the crisis is to prompt the protagonist to ask themselves what kind of person they are. It’s a test of character. In Casablanca, it’s when Rick realises he has to change his essentially selfish ways and let Ilsa go.  

The climax, as you’d expect, is the final showdown with the antagonist.  It’s what the story has been building up to.  It’s the moment when the protagonist faces the antagonist and everyone comes out fighting.  In Skyfall it’s the battle at Skyfall House with Bardem.  In an Agatha Christie it’s when all the suspects are gathered together and Poirot talks them through the investigation and then reveals the identity of the murderer. In Pride & Prejudice it’s the moment Lizzie stands up to Lady Catherine De Burgh and, without realising it, gives Darcy hope that she does actually care for him.

After the climax is the resolution which is the final judgement after the battle (physical or metaphorical) of the climax. James Bond saves the world and gets the girl. In Sleepless in Seattle it’s the moment Annie and Sam finally meet.  In romance fiction it’s the happy ever after and Pride & Prejudice gives us a good example of that as we have Darcy’s second proposal and acceptance by Lizzie and also her saying (because she’s learned some things as all good protagonists have to) “She remembered that he had yet to learn to be laughed at, and it was rather too early to begin”.

This is a very quick overview, of course but I’ve found it really helpful to break structure down to these building blocks.  If you’d like to know more I strongly recommend Into the Woods by John Yorke which is a brilliantly clear book on structure and how stories work. If you’re in Yorkshire then I’m doing a workshop on stories and how to tell them on Sunday 17th September at Owl & Monkey in York and you can find out more about it by clicking here.

My novels Beltane and The Dirigible King’s Daughter are available from Amazon as ebook and paperback.  You can find out more about me on my website or can follow me on Twitter at @alyswestyork.

Images reproduced courtesy of the BBC, Tristar Pictures, MGM and Warner Bros.

Happy New Year. Here’s to 2017

Happy New Year to all our readers/followers. We hope you’ve had a peaceful and enjoyable start to 2017.

As the New Year is typically a time for setting resolutions or putting goals/plans in place, we decided to do a bit of a round-up of what 2017 is going to look like for the Write Romantics. Sounds like we’ve got a busy year ahead of us all! Here’s what the WRs have to say, in alphabetical order.

Jessica

Xx

 

a-holly-bay-christmas-ebook-cover-v2Jo Bartlett:

My main writing goals for 2017 are to build on the unexpected success of 2016. Last year definitely had more writing high points than low points, even a broken promise turned out for the best and ‘A Holly Bay Christmas’ becoming an Amazon best-seller for over six weeks was a great way to end the year.

In 2017, I’d like to have at least one more pocket novel, hopefully two, published by DC Thomson and Ulverscoft, as well as submitting more short fiction to the women’s magazine market. I’d also like to finish the next novel in the St Nicholas Bay series and have at least one new Christmas novella ready for release by November. In addition, there are a couple of writing competitions I’m determined to enter, one of which will motivate me to edit the middle grade fantasy novel I first drafted three years ago and which has waited quietly on my laptop to be revised and revived since then.

Most of all, I want to enjoy writing in 2017 and remember to celebrate all the good stuff that happens and not worry too much about the inevitable bumps in the road.

Find Jo’s author page on Amazon here.

 

baxter-ebook-coverSharon Booth:

I’m definitely hoping to get more reading done this year. I’d like to try new authors and new genres, so I plan to watch less television to make the time. Writing wise, I’m hoping to submit again to People’s Friend, keeping everything crossed, as I would really love to have another pocket novel published. My previous pocket novel went on to be accepted by Ulverscroft and will be published in large print in April, so should start to appear in libraries after that, which is a long-held dream. I’m also planning a second Skimmerdale novel later this year, and two other novels which are just at the early planning stages at the moment. If I really make the effort I could release one by the summer and one at Christmas, but we’ll see. I may be a little bit optimistic there!

Find Sharon’s author page on Amazon here.

 

Jackie Ladbury:agc_front_rgb_150dpi-copy-2

I am excited for 2017 as my romance, Air Guitar and Caviar, will finally see the light of day. I feel like it’s been a long haul of a book, but in reality, it’s been just over a year since I started a new version of it, for NaNoWriMo. I was thrilled when it was shortlisted in the Search for a Star competition by Choc Lit and even more thrilled that it has now found a home and has a fabulous cover, designed by the Brilliant Berni Stevens.

My plans for 2017 are to speed up with the writing, have more confidence in what I write and not care too much about what other people think.

One of the best things to have come out of being published with Fabrian Books is that I can finally forget about the query letter and the synopsis–one page, three pages, ten sodding pages, whatever – I had such a sense of satisfaction when I hit the ‘delete’ button on that load of old gubbins!

Air Guitar and Caviar will be available on Kindle in February 2017 and I hope you like meeting Dylan, my busker boy, and fall in love with him as much as I did. (I miss him already!)

 

51ctcugsirlDeirdre Palmer:

I’m looking forward to having my fourth Crooked Cat book published on April 7th. It’s called Moonshine, and is the sequel to Dirty Weekend. Recently I’ve enjoyed the new experience of having stories published by The People’s Friend, so I’ll be trying more of those. I shall have some fun writing a Christmas novella for the appropriate time, and plan to write another full length novel too, but my ideas on that are extremely vague at present. I shall be doing a lot of reading in order to pin down my ideas, which will be lovely.

Find Deirdre’s author page on Amazon here.

 

513mpvjjs2lLynne Pardoe:

I had a busy 2016 finishing and publishing one book, ‘Abandoned by my Mum’, a story about a young woman, and started work on two others. Usually I wouldn’t start another novel till I’ve finished the first, but these were so enticing that I couldn’t resist! I won’t say more, but 2017 will see me finish both of these and hopefully a third too.

Find Lynne’s author page on Amazon here.

 

51m1u0pjdclHelen Phifer:

My writing plans for this year are to step back a little and not write as many books. Last year I wrote four and it was very hard work. Actually, it was crazy. I want to concentrate on my new detective series which is going to be published by Bookouture. I also want to work on getting a scary story I wrote a couple of years ago ready to self publish. Helen xx

Find Helen’s author page on Amazon here.

 

Searching for Steven (New Cover Design 3)Jessica Redland

For me, 2017 is all about a new and exciting journey as a self-published writer. At the back end of 2016, I made the decision to part company with my publisher. I’ve just had my trilogy and novella re-edited and am in the process of having it re-released with gorgeous new summery covers designed by my talented husband, Mark. There seemed little point in promoting them last year when there were so many fabulous wintry/Christmas books available so I’m looking forward to promoting them as we get into the spring.

I’m currently halfway through writing my fourth full-length novel, Bear With Me, which I hope to release in the summer … but I’ve been halfway through it for about six months so summer may turn out to be a bit ambitious.

I also have plans for a Christmas novella, a fifth book, and possibly another novella, although I have a feeling that it could become a full book instead from the work I’ve done on it already. I also suspect that we could be eeking into 2018 or even 2019 by the time this lot is ready as I still have a very demanding day job which often sees me working 12-14 hour days 7 days a week. I’m hoping to reduce my day job workload by the end of this month which should help with the writing plans.

Find Jessica’s author page on Amazon here.

 

knitting-box-resized-for-newsletterHelen J Rolfe:

Happy New Year to all our followers! It’s been a busy year for all ten of The Write Romantics and 2017 promises to be another year of great writing and reading.

I’m planning to release another book in the spring and right now as well as editing book seven, I’m starting to plan book eight in my head. I’m not sure where my thoughts will take me but I look forward to sharing my ideas with you soon!

Find Helen’s author page on Amazon here.

 

51klstxdzlRachael Thomas:

As ever, my goals for writing this year are to write something each day so that I don’t end up racing to a deadline with lots of words to achieve.

Another writing goal, is to take time out to refill the creative well.

But I think the most important goal any writer can set themselves, published or not, is to have fun and enjoy writing. Rachael xx

Find Rachael’s author page on Amazon here.

 

beltane-cover-1Alys West:

I’ll be spending the first half of 2017 working on a new steampunk book, which is tentatively called ‘An Unsuitable Profession’. The early chapters will be part of my dissertation for my MA in Creative Writing which I’ll complete in August. I’m looking forward to getting stuck into the research and becoming obsessed with steam power, dirigibles and the size of women’s hats in 1901. After my MA is finished I plan to get back to working on Storm Witch, the follow up to Beltane.

Find Alys’s author page on Amazon here.

The ‘Winter Tale’ with more to tell by Alys West

The Dirigible King's Daughter by Alys WestRegular readers of this blog will recall that in November 2014 the Write Romantics published an anthology called Winter Tales – Stories to Warm your Heart.  My contribution to the anthology was a steampunk story called ‘A Pistol for Propriety’ about a very independent young lady called Harriet Hardy and her encounter with the rather dashing Viscount Ripley.

After the anthology was published a few people said they felt I’d only told part of the story.  They wanted to know what happened next.  Did the police catch up with Harriet?  Was she arrested for trying to shoot the Alderman?  At the time I was busy working on a first draft of the next Spellworker Chronicles book but increasingly I found Harriet and Charlie (which is the name of the dashing Viscount) kept popping back into my mind.  I was supposed to be concentrating on druids and spellworkers on Orkney and I’d got these two very determined steampunk characters chattering away at the back of my brain.  In the end I decided that, as ignoring them wasn’t working, the only option was to leave the druids for a while and write Harriet and Charlie’s story.

shutterstock_278293358When I got started I expected it would become a novella but my characters had very different ideas (mainly because I couldn’t get them to stop talking!) and in the end I had a short novel of just under 60,000 words which is called The Dirigible King’s Daughter.  Let’s just say that things do not go smoothly for Harriet and Charlie and their full story is a far rockier road than even I’d anticipated.  But there’s some fun along the way with a trip to a fabulous steampunk version of Scarborough fair, a glamorous night on the town in London and a rather thrilling flight on a dirigible.  There’s an extract from The Dirigible King’s Daughter below and if you’d like to purchase a copy it’s available from Amazon here.

Extract from The Dirigible King’s Daughter:

‘Oh Charlie, I have missed you.’ The words broke from her.  A second too late her gloved hand rose to her mouth to stop them. 

‘Really?  Because I was starting to think you’d forgotten all about me.’

A half smile as his hand reached for hers. ‘Not all about you.’

‘Good.’ Gently, he took her hand, turned it, brought it to his lips and kissed the inside of her wrist just above her glove.   ‘Harriet.’  His voice was deeper, softer.

steampunk_girl_by_kiza_nya-d57n0s4She looked up.  There was a tremulous moment of hesitation then the space between them closed and he kissed her.  Beneath the prickle of his beard there was the unexpected softness of his lips.  So tentative and gentle on hers.  It was like breathing him in.  She’d dreamed of this so many times and it was better than anything she’d imagined. 

Too soon he pulled away. 

‘I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have done that.  Much as I want us to be, we’re not yet engaged.’

‘Oh, stuff and nonsense.  Don’t stand on ceremony with me now.  I’m glad you did and you can do it again if you want.’

And with that he took her in his arms and kissed her soundly.

‘You’ve kissed me in a church in the sight of God, Harriet Hardy,’ he said when they finally broke apart.  ‘You have to marry me now.’

Oh my! Why had no one told her kissing was that delightful?  And if they were married they could do it all the time.  Now wasn’t that an enticing thought! Grateful for the support of the door behind her as her knees had taken on the consistency of putty, she put a steadying hand on his chest and felt, beneath the leather of his flying jacket, his heart pounding as hard as hers.   ‘That’s poppycock, Charlie and you know it. Ask me again when I’ve cleared my name.  I can’t say yes when I might be arrested at any minute.’

3568764500_3bb84baa2c_bPushing his hair back from where it had again flopped into his eyes, he put his hand over hers.  ‘That answer will do for now.  In the meantime I shall do the proper thing and court you. Take tea with me tomorrow afternoon?’

‘I have to work, remember?’ she said, yanking the door open.  ‘I’m not one of the idle rich, you know.’

‘Take tea with me or marry me.  It’s your choice.’ 

‘When did you become so very persistent?’ The wind whipped around her, catching at her skirts, as she stepped outside.  Only a smattering of stars relieved the darkness. The lights from the town below shone across the harbour but the church, and the Abbey behind it, were engulfed by night. 

‘When I had to spend eight years looking for you!’

There was no answer to that.  Taking his arm, she said, ‘Tea tomorrow would be splendid.  If I’m not in police custody, you can pick me up at the office at four.’

You can read a review of The Dirigible King’s Daughter by author and blogger Barb Taub here

The Dirigible King’s Daughter is available to purchase as an ebook here and Winter Tales – Stories to Warm your Heart is still available here and continues to raise money for two charities doing vitally important work.

You can find out more about me on my blog www.alyswest.com, on Twitter: @alyswestyork and on Facebook: Alys West Writer. You can also check out my steampunk inspirations (and a lot of fabulous frocks) on Pinterest at Alys West Writes.

Photo of St Mary’s church, Whitby by Simon Gman

 

 

 

A Bright New Start for Beltane by Alys West

downloadFor as long as I’ve wanted to write I’d hoped to one day sign with a literary agent.  And then I did and it was nothing like I’d imagined.  Possibly as a result of reading too many books set in the 1930s, I had this idea of literary agents as fatherly figures or blue-stockinged, strong minded ladies who maybe smoked too many cigarettes or took too many long lunches but knew the publishing industry inside and out.  I thought they’d pick up my book and guide it, with a firm hand, out into the world.  Perhaps that’d involve wining and dining the right editor, or shaking the right hand at a book fair, but sooner or later I’d have a book deal on the table.

Only it didn’t work out like that.  I got a series of very polite rejections for the most baffling variety of reasons.  One editor loved this about it but not that, the next turned it down because they enjoyed the rest of it, but hated what the first editor had loved.  At the end of that my confidence, which is never high, had taken a total battering and whatever belief I’d had in Beltane had pretty much disappeared.  And my faith in my agent was being shaken at the same time.  They made promises they didn’t fulfill, often didn’t reply to emails until they’d been chased and, hardest to forgive, turned down two offers from publishers in the US without discussing them with me first.

Then last autumn my agent suggested that I publish Beltane through Amazon’s White Glove programme.  White Glove is only available to people who have an agent and, I was told, is like an enhanced form of KDP and would allow access to Kindle Monthly Deals.  Once I got started with it there was little evidence of the additional marketing support that I’d been promised.  It turned out that Amazon had changed their rules, since we’d originally talked about it in the autumn, and books could only be nominated for Kindle Monthly Deals quarterly and I’d have to wait until the end of March to be nominated for spring promotions.  But before that the price had to remain above £1.99 and it wasn’t possible to run any other promotions.  Anyone who has self-published will be aware of how hard it is to generate interest in a debut. Being unable to drop the price below £1.99 it felt next to impossible, no matter how great my reviews were or how much time I spent on Twitter.

It took something else to happen for me to leave but the end result of all of this is that my agent and I have now parted company and I’ve been trying to re-orientate myself in a new world.  I’m now with Fabrian Books. It’s lovely to be part of a small team but retain control of the way my book is sold and marketed.

Beltane new ebook coverNow I’ve arrived here, I’m wondering if it’s where I should have been all along.  I’ve tried to play by the rules, doing things the traditional, approved way and it’s not worked.  Perhaps I’m not cut out for dealing with the world of traditional publishing.  What I’ve seen of it so far has not exactly impressed me. Coming from the certainties of the world of law it’s pretty hard for me to understand that everyone in publishing seems to be desperately searching for the holy grail of the next big thing, but can’t actually tell you what it is they’re looking for.

Watching someone mismanage your book is a very painful process.  I never want to go through that again, so does that mean I’m now indie for life?  I don’t know.  I guess I need to try it and see.  I felt really fed up earlier this week about it not working out with my agent, about the time wasted and the opportunities I could have taken if I’d not been locked into this route that was supposed to be the best one for publication.  Thanks to the support of the other Write Romantics and an exercise at my yoga class about being upside down and looking at things that way (try it sometime, it really helps!) I’ve now been able to see that maybe I needed to try the agent route to find out that it wasn’t right for me.

Because of all of this, I’ve read Beltane again for the first time in about 2 years.  What really hit me this time is that it’s a book about outsiders.  Maybe it’s right that it’s now truly independently published.

Has your route to publication not worked out at all as you’d expected?  If you’re happy to share them, I’d love to hear about your experiences.

Beltane is now published by Fabrian Books and is available here and is only 99p until the Summer Solstice on 20th June.

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!

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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