(York) Tea for Two – and a Whole Host of RNA Writers

(York) Tea for Two – and a Whole Host of RNA Writers

Official tickets! Exciting. Or scary!

So there we were, Julie Heslington and me, standing outside The Royal York Hotel, all ready to go inside and brave our first “proper” Romantic Novelists’ Association event. Julie had been to a couple of conferences before but, for me, it was my first RNA event, full stop. The York Tea. A gathering of well-known, well-established romance writers, who would wonder who on earth we were, and how we dared to darken the doorstep of this place and rub shoulders with the elite of romantic fiction.

Well, that’s what we thought, anyway, in our darkest moments. “On the other hand,” we decided brightly, “they might be nice. We have to try, at least.”

Squaring our shoulders, we marched purposefully forward. Julie sailed into the hotel. I got tangled up in the revolving door and it took me slightly longer. Typical. Then, heads held high, we walked up to reception, where Julie immediately asked where the toilets were. Priorities and all that. As an afterthought, we enquired where the RNA Tea was being held, and a rather bemused looking man told us we were in the Garden Room. So, a few minutes later, we approached said room, only to be told by a young woman that no, we weren’t in there at all. We were at the end of the corridor, if you don’t mind. So off we went again and, as we approached, it became clear that we were finally in the right place. Little things gave it away – like the big table covered in dozens of name badges with RNA written on them. Yay! We’d made it.

Sadly, he didn’t talk to me. Elegant, though.

There was a  heart-stopping moment when Julie couldn’t find her name badge. Would it, she enquired, be under Julie Heslington, or Jessica Redland? Huge relief when we spotted it. Turned out, it had both names on it. The RNA cover every eventuality! So name badges were collected, coats handed over, deep breaths taken, and in we went. The room seemed enormous, and there were lots of large, round tables, each elegantly adorned with silver candlesticks that reminded me of Lumiere from Beauty and the Beast.  If only, I thought wistfully. I’m sure Lumiere would talk to us and be kind. We hovered and dithered for quite some time as, around us, groups of writers chatted to each other as if they were best friends.

“Oh dear,” we said. “This is worse than we thought.” We’d selected a table in the middle of the row, but I had a panic suddenly. “We’ll have to squeeze between people every time we get up,” I pointed out. “And it’s a long way from the door.”

“We’ll sit near the door,” Julie decided, heading over to the first table in the room. “That way, we can get out easily enough.”

“So if no one speaks to us, we can escape,” I said, feeling suddenly more cheerful. There were, after all, dozens, probably hundreds, of places to eat in York. We could soon make our getaway and have our own afternoon tea, if we needed to. It didn’t have to be a complete disaster.

The room filled up. As we headed to the door to collect our complimentary glass of wine, I spotted Lizzie Lamb. Lizzie Lamb! I was thrilled to see her, as Lizzie was the very first writer I ever approached, years ago when I was just beginning my writing journey. I’d seen something she’d written in either Writing Magazine or Writer’s Forum – I can’t remember now which one it was – and she’d mentioned the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme. I plucked up courage and messaged her on Facebook, asking for advice about joining. She was brilliant, and so kind, giving me information and encouragement. I’ve never forgotten that, and I am such a big fan of her books, so it was wonderful when she came over to me and hugged me. It felt like she was an old friend!

Lovely Erin Green/ODwyer Author and her equally lovely hubby

Then a lovely couple came over. They knew Julie, but I’d never met them before. When Julie told me who the lady was, I realised I actually knew her from Facebook – from her ODwyer Author account and her Erin Green Author page. She’d brought along her husband, and we had a lovely chat with them both. They really helped break the ice and eased us into the event beautifully.

Julie looking very glam x

So, I had my very first glass of prosecco. I rarely drink alcohol at all, but, you know, it was free and it seemed rude to say no. Besides, it might help calm my nerves. I sipped it cautiously, being no fan of wine. Any wine. Hmm. That was actually quite nice. I finished my very first glass of prosecco.  I glanced around the room, recognising various faces from social media and Romance Matters, the RNA’s magazine. Would I ever dare speak to any of them, I wondered. Probably not, was the dismal, if realistic, reply. I hate social events. I’m a bag of nerves and I didn’t think a whole bottle of prosecco would be enough to see me through this.

Julie had gone to the bar to get us more drinks. I’d decided to stick with soft drinks. Alcohol has a most unfortunate effect on me and, sure enough, I could already feel the tell-tale burning sensation in my face. It seems to mimic a mini-menopause, making me red-faced and giving me terrible hot flushes. I could never be a secret drinker, that’s for sure. With no Julie to talk to, I clutched my empty glass, looked around me and tried to appear as if I was relaxed and chilled, not a quivering wreck who just wanted to go home.

Julie and me, with our lovely neighbours Dorinda and Rowena. Fab company!

“Hello, is this seat taken?” I looked around and a lady, whose face I knew from Facebook, was standing beside me. “Only, my friend and her sister are coming, and they’re going to be a bit late, so I wondered if it was okay for them to sit here?” Perhaps it was the sheer astonishment that someone had spoken to me, or perhaps it was the prosecco, but I nodded enthusiastically and said, of course, it was fine. Then I remembered that a writer Julie knew, from her home town of Scarborough, had said she was going to be a bit late, and she was bringing her sister. Could it be? Turned out, it was the same people that this lady – who introduced herself as Julia Ibbotson – was reserving seats for. What a coincidence. As it happened, it was a very happy coincidence. The ladies in question were Dorinda Cass and her sister, Rowena, and a nicer couple of neighbours I couldn’t have wished for.  We had a blast, talking non-stop, and my nerves vanished. Julie was engaged in conversation with the neighbours on her left side. Across the table from us sat Julia Ibbotson and another lady called Karen Critchley/Violet Fields. Next to them were two more ladies. One of them looked familiar, but I couldn’t put a name to the face. We all got talking, and she said her name was Janice Preston. Without thinking, I blurted out, “Oh, I know you!” Of course, I didn’t, but I knew her from Twitter and Facebook, and I knew of her books.

After that, conversation was buzzing. We had quite a debate about scones/sconns. Julie says “sconns” and I say “scones”. Jenni Fletcher, who was sitting next to Janice, insisted it was “sconns”. She demanded, “Where do you come from?” I replied “Hull.” Her jaw dropped. “Never!” Turns out, she lives just up the road in a local village. Who’d have thought it?

Rhoda Baxter, with Jane Lovering, who I didn’t pluck up the courage to speak to. Gutted!

Rhoda Baxter came up to chat. Another face I knew instantly from social media. I knew Rhoda was local to me, and I knew she attended the Beverley Chapter meetings, where another Facebook friend, Ellie Gray, was a member. Rhoda was lovely and friendly, and told us all about her new adventures in indie publishing. I asked if Ellie was coming. “She’s here,” came the reply. “Come and meet her.”

The lovely Ellie Gray and Anne Williams.

Feeling a bit nervous, I followed her over to the other side of the room, and there was Ellie, who I recognised immediately. Nerves vanished. I was so pleased to finally meet her, and she was just as lovely as I’d imagined she would be. We chatted for ages and I promised I would join the Beverley chapter and attend as much as I could, work hours permitting – and will definitely attend when I leave my day job and write full-time.

Afternoon tea. By the time Lizzie took this, Julie and I had probably cleared our plates.

Seeing some activity and a flurry of movement suddenly, we hurried back to our table. We were officially welcomed to the York Tea by organiser, Lynda Stacey, and then food was served. You know, it was only when we had nearly finished stuffing our faces that Julie and I realised a) we were the only ones who had eaten just about everything on the plates, and b) we’d been so preoccupied with the food that we’d quite forgotten to take a photograph of it to show you. Luckily, Lizzie Lamb had the foresight to snap hers, and she’s very kindly lent me a picture for your delight.

The fabulous Milly Johnson

“I wonder if Milly Johnson’s here yet,” I said, to no one in particular. I am such a huge fan of Milly. Back when I was wondering if I could really write contemporary romance/romcoms, I decided to read as many books in the genre as I could find, so I trawled Amazon for appropriate titles, and Milly was immediately recommended. Her book, The Birds and the Bees, was the first I read, and I remember feeling so excited about it. I quickly read The Yorkshire Pudding Club and Here Come the Girls. Here were books about women I recognised. Ordinary, working class women with accents like mine, and families and worries and problems I could relate to, and a sense of humour I could really understand and enjoy. Milly’s books gave me hope that, just maybe, you didn’t have to be middle class and posh to write books, after all.

When Milly was introduced, I felt my heart thud with anticipation. There she was. I was actually in the same room as Milly Johnson. She gave a wonderful speech that made me laugh, but also moved me to tears at various points. It was worth all the anxiety and stress and sleepless nights the thought of attending this event had caused me, just to see and hear Milly in action. My job was done. Or so I thought.

When the food was cleared away, another familiar face loomed into view. Anne Williams! Anne is a book blogger, and she has written some amazing reviews for my books, Baxter’s Christmas Wish and Resisting Mr Rochester. I was so grateful to her, and told her so. We had a lovely long chat, and she introduced herself to Julie and told her one of her books was on her to-be-read list. Anne was just as friendly and chatty as I knew she’d be, and I was so pleased to finally meet her.

Me and the truly delightful Lizzie Lamb.

Then, as Anne walked away, Lizzie came over, camera in hand, and asked for a photo of the two of us. Julie very kindly took one of us both, and then we launched into conversation as if we’d met loads of times before and had known each other for years. It was fabulous to talk to her properly. She was every bit as lovely as I’d heard she was, and we chatted for ages.

When we finally parted, I turned round to go back to my chair and nearly fell over with shock. Sitting next to Rowena was none other than Milly Johnson! I gaped at her, my heart hammering. Milly was sitting in the next chair but one to me. I think my mouth dropped open. She looked up, gave me a puzzled sort of smile, then resumed her conversation with Rowena as I plonked into my chair and tried to look as if I was used to this sort of thing. When she got up to leave, she hugged Rowena, and wandered off, and I gaped at Rowena. “What?” she said. “That was Milly Johnson,” I said – rather unnecessarily, I feel, in hindsight. “I know. Isn’t she lovely?” “I wouldn’t know,” I replied. “I’ve never met her.” Her eyes widened. “Why didn’t you say? I’d have introduced you.” Jeez. Probably a good thing she didn’t. I might still be unconscious.

The lovely Janice Preston, with Alison May, another one I wish I’d had the nerve to speak to.

Later, Jenni Fletcher came round to our side of the table. She told us all about the Beverley chapter, and Julie and I both agreed we would love to join. She was bubbly and friendly and made us laugh. I realised, suddenly, that not a single person we’d spoken to had been unfriendly or stand-offish at all. Everyone had been absolutely lovely to us – a fact confirmed when Janice came over to talk, and we had a fascinating conversation about clothes shops, among other things. Then Nicola Cornick came over to talk to Dorinda, and she was another friendly, warm person. Yep, the room was full of delightful, kind, funny, interesting people. What on earth had we been so worried about?

Me. Really. This is what one glass of prosecco does to me. Totally out of focus.

As we were leaving, I handed over my badge and waited for Julie, and John Jackson wandered over to hand in his. I introduced myself and thanked him for all his Friday Follows on Twitter each week, and congratulated him on his forthcoming book. He took out his camera and snapped me there and then. When I saw the photo later, I looked a bit blurry and out-of-focus. That prosecco must have affected me more than I realised!

Julie and I headed for the front door, passing Julia Ibbotson, who was being interviewed in the lobby. As I heard her discussing her work with the reporter, I thought, I can’t believe this is my life now. How lucky am I to mix with such amazing people, to meet authors whose work I really enjoy and respect, to be able to chat about books and writing to my heart’s content, and to make such wonderful friends? I feel so blessed to be part of this world.

We  left the hotel and headed back to the station to catch our respective trains. We both agreed we’d had a fabulous time. We’d chatted to Facebook friends in person for the first time, found new friends that we’d never spoken to, even online, before, and picked up tips and information. We’d heard a wonderful speech by a fantastic author, had lots of laughs, and a pretty cracking afternoon tea. All in all, it was a fabulous event, and we were both really glad we found the courage to attend.

But it’s still scones.

Sharon xx

Many thanks to Lynda Stacey for organising this event, and thank you, too, to Julie Heslington, John Jackson and Lizzie Lamb for the use of their photographs.

Julie’s/Jessica’s latest book, Charlee and the Chocolate Shop, is out now, and you can buy it here.

 

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Summer, chocolates & plenty of secrets …

Summer, chocolates & plenty of secrets … it’s almost time to return to Magnolia Creek!

The Chocolatier's Secret- KDP version

 

The Chocolatier’s Secret is book two in the Magnolia Creek series, and I’m delighted to say that it’s now available for pre-order on Amazon. With The Chocolatier’s Secret we return to the sun-drenched small town of Magnolia Creek, and this is a standalone story focusing on different lives. But … keep an eye out for a few of your favourite book characters from What Rosie Found Next!

I had a lot of fun writing this book. I enjoy the research side and had already completed a major research project on adoption as part of a Masters in Writing so I’ve been able to use my contacts and the information I had at my fingertips to shape this story. I also have my own personal experience of adoption which helped keep the emotions realistic.

chocresearch

Of course my favourite part of the research was finding out all about chocolate! I spent the day with Lucy and Andrea at Creighton’s Chocolaterie in Leighton Buzzard and discovered what goes on behind the scenes. I was really excited after my visit because I was able to weave in so many details to my story to make it authentic.

Publication day is Tuesday 28th June so only 8 days away!

If you would like to pre-order The Chocolatier’s Secret, you can do so here.

I hope you like the story … best enjoyed with your favourite chocolate of course! Here’s the blurb…

Will one mistake ruin everything?

Andrew Bennett has an idyllic life in Magnolia Creek, Australia. He runs a chocolate business he adores, is married to Gemma, the love of his life, and has a close relationship with his father, Louis. But when Andrew receives a message from his high school sweetheart, it sends his world into a spiral, and the relationships he holds dear will never be the same again.

Molly Ramsey is looking for answers. After her last attempt, she believes the only way to get them this time is to face her past head-on. But to do this, she has to fly to the other side of the world – and she’s afraid of flying. Her search for answers lands her in an emotional tangle, not only with her past but also with a man very much in her present.

Family is everything to Gemma Bennett and she longs to have a house full of kids, but it just isn’t happening. And when Andrew’s past makes an explosive impact on the family, Gemma must decide whether she can accept the truth and open her heart in a way she never thought possible.

In this story of love, family ties and forgiveness, will past mistakes be the obstacle to a Happy Ever After?

Interview – Debbie Johnston – Brook Cottage Books

Today I’d like to welcome Debbie Johnston from Brook Cottage Books to the blog. Welcome Debbie!

debbie johnston

Could you start by telling us a bit about yourself and what you do?

Hi, firstly thanks for having me! In the bookish world I am known as JB Johnston, but my real name is Debbie Johnston. I work full time for a local health trust and as a book blogger and book tour co-ordinator in my spare time.

When did you start BCB and why?

I started Brook Cottage Books on 1st December 2012. I had a personal blog on which I posted up the odd book review. Once I started writing reviews I began to get lots of requests from authors. It was then that I decided to start a dedicated book blog and the rest is history!

BCB-HeaderWhat’s your favourite part about BCB?

Oh my goodness! I love all of it so much! I love being a part of the book world and meeting lots of lovely authors. I find that authors and book bloggers are amongst some of the nicest people in the world. The kindness, devotion to what they do and the support is wonderful. I love that BCB gives authors the chance to showcase their work. It gives me such a buzz.

What’s your favourite genre to read and review?

Before starting BCB and indeed reviewing in general, I was very closed in terms of only having one genre as a favourite. I would never have considered reading romances or paranormal books and would have stuck strictly to crime / thrillers or horror. But, now I can honestly say that I am more open minded and by being open minded about what I read I enjoy them all and try new things!

How do you choose which books to review?

When I first started reviewing I would have accepted every book that was offered to me which was totally wrong as my tbr list grew to epic proportions and I know there are authors out there who have been waiting a long time for a review. Apologies guys. So now, I let authors know that I cannot say when I will get round to reading their book so in exchange for their book I offer a guest post / interview or promo post on the blog. I want to give something back. Because I run book tours, I have to prioritise books on the tours. I have a reading schedule that I try to keep to and try to include non-tour books and books from my own bookcase.

What do you do if you read a book you’re supposed to review but you really don’t like it?

I usually either try to contact the author to let them know that the book just wasn’t for me and offer a guest post instead. Or, I try to offer constructive criticism in my review. I would never write anything horrible. Reviewers need to remember that a book is an author’s baby. Be gentle!

Is there a particularly memorable guest you’ve had on your blog?

Oh goodness I have had so many wonderful guests on the blog! I love promoting Indie authors especially but I have had a few well-known people interviewed on the blog – Fern Britton, Josephine Cox and Barbara Taylor Bradford

What happens when an author enrols to do a blog tour with BCB?

When an author emails me about a tour they are sent a tour info sheet and a questionnaire to complete. Once I have all the relevant information then the author just has to sit back and let me get on with it. I organise a tour banner, tour page and sign up tour hosts. Then during each day of the tour I share all the host’s posts across social media. An author’s book gets maximum coverage! There is actually a lot of work involved in organising tours.

And finally, what’s next for BCB  Website: 

Brook Cottage Books and the book world has become my life! I would love to give up my day job make book work my full time career. I have so many ideas floating around my head. It would be lovely if someone somewhere noticed my work and offered me a job in the book world! Hopefully Brook Cottage Books will continue to flourish and I have lots of authors who are return customers so I must be doing something right! Brook Cottages will continue to support Indie authors and offer a range of free services as well as paid ones.

Thanks for visiting the blog, Debbie, it was fantastic to hear all about Brook Cottage Books!

www.brookcottagebooks.blogspot.com

Twitter: www.twitter.com/BrookCottagebks 

LinkedIn: https://uk.linkedin.com/in/brookcottages

Facebook: www.facebook.com/brookcottagebooks

Email: brookbooks@hotmai.co.uk

Helen J Rolfe 🙂

Annie Burrows tells us she’s rubbish at blogging. But we don’t believe her!

We’re delighted to welcome another first-time guest to our Saturday Spotlight. Annie Burrows writes regency novels for Harlequin Mills & Boon and has sold a staggering half a million plus books in 21 different countries since 2007. Impressive! As writers just starting our careers, we were keen to know more. Over to Annie …

 

thinking on the beachWhen Jessica put out a request for any authors who’d like to do a guest post for the Write Romantics Saturday Spotlight, I emailed, “Yes please! Me, me, me!” Well, you see, my eighteenth book comes out in September, so this is a great opportunity to do a little bit of promotion for it.

Problem is, I didn’t have a clue what to write about. I’ve spent an awful lot of my summer holiday sitting on the beach racking my brains over what I could write for this one – before eventually deciding to just own up.

I am officially RUBBISH at blogging.

websize costume croppedI don’t mind doing the ones where someone sends you a list of questions to answer. Because the questions are all about me, (the one subject on which I’m actually an expert.) Though I always feel rather sorry for whoever then gets to read the results. What have I got to say that every other single writer who’s answered those same questions hasn’t already put?

For example:

Q – Why do you write?

A – Because I can’t stop.

Q – Where so you get your inspiration?

A – I have a head full of characters doing far more interesting things than ever happen to me in real life.

(You must have read dozens of blogs just like that.)

So – although those blog posts are easy for me to do, I always suspect they make for dreadfully tedious reading. Which makes me a bit uncomfortable. The last thing I want to do is bore my readers.

So on the whole I prefer to have a stab at the type of blogs where someone like Jessica gives me carte blanche. “Write whatever you like!”

Trouble is – what I like writing is fiction. I’m a story-teller, not a blogger. When it comes to writing snappy little articles designed to show you all what a scintillating person I am, and thus tempt you to sample my book, I’m never sure quite where to start.

wet poppyShould I talk about a bit of research I did? Unfortunately, I am hampered by the fact I write historical romance. I can’t say, like someone who writes contemporary romance, that I’ve just come back from a walking trip up the Alps where I went to get flavour for my next Swiss-set romance, featuring a financier and a mountain rescue worker can I? I can’t physically visit the Regency era.

And how interesting would you be in hearing how many hours I spent scouring etymological dictionaries trying to make sure my hero could “make a run for it” in 1815 (yes, he could, since it has been used as a term for taking flight since the 1640’s), or browsing the website of Westminster Abbey to see which poets had already got monuments that Regency sightseers could have seen?

And I don’t think anyone would be fascinated by an account of my writing life. I sit down in my chair. And I write. That’s it. That’s pretty much my writing day (apart from coffee breaks timed to coincide with pop-master on Radio 2, Let’s do Lunch with Gino and Mel, and Countdown.)

I don’t even have any fascinating hobbies. When I’m not writing, I read what everyone else is writing. (Though I have taken to borrowing a dog on Mondays to make me go out for a walk as I’m a bit worried I’m going to turn into blancmange if I don’t get a bit of exercise. 

But lack of inspiration isn’t my biggest problem when it comes to blogging. No. It’s my mother. She was terribly strict about good manners. And one of the worst offences I could commit was to “swank”. So basically, I find it very hard to push myself forward, or blow my own trumpet.

LHLWhich is what this type of promotional blog should be about. Whatever content I create, I always have that nagging feeling that what I’m really trying to say is “buy my book”. Which makes me cringe. And yet I do want you to buy it. Because I think a lot of you will enjoy it. If you like Regency set romances with a hero who has never wanted to get married suddenly finding he has no choice, and a heroine who would rather hide behind a potted palm than get whisked out onto the dance floor and into his chaotic lifestyle, you should find Lord Havelock’s List a fun book to read.

Oh, and if you’d like a chance to get your hands on a free copy, I’m doing a giveaway on Goodreads from 2nd to 16th August. You can find out more here

 

You can buy Annie’s latest novel on Amazon here, read more about her on her website, or find her on her Facebook page.

 

Thanks for joining us Annie. We wish you continued success.

Jessica on behalf of The Write Romantics

 

Not NWS but NWF for ‘New Writing Friends’

If you who follow the Write Romantics will know that we are a diverse and international bunch (international because Helen R lives in Australia).  What you may not know is that when we formed the blog the only two of us who had met were Julie and I (and that was only briefly at a RNA lunch in York organised by Lin Treadgold).  However, in the past month I’ve been lucky enough to meet Jo for the first time and meet Julie again. 

Jo lives in Kent and in May I spent a few days in Broadstairs with my family.  Jo and I arranged to meet in a charmingly retro ice cream parlour in the town.  It was raining cats and dogs and I felt a little worried that Jo wouldn’t recognise this rather drowned looking me.  In the photo on the blog I look decidedly less soggy.  But it was fine.  As soon as Jo walked in, similarly drenched (although she was definitely handling it better) I felt like I was meeting an old friend.  We talked for two hours and the time just flew by. 

Two weeks ago I met Julie again and Sharon Booth, another NWS member and fellow blogger. This time it was Bridlington and the sun was almost shining.  Again we instantly found masses to talk about.  In two hours we covered book length, editing, point of view, agents, self-publishing blogging and (after a minor diversion to discuss who might be the new Doctor Who) how much tragedy you can have in a romantic comedy.

For me these meetings are very special.  Over the three years I’ve spent trying to write my book, I’ve had varying amounts of support.  Some members of my family treat my writing as a slightly disreputable hobby that simply isn’t talked about.  And, while my friends and others in my family have been very supportive, none of them write.  When I talk about writing they do tend to glaze over.  I don’t blame them.  It’s my passion but (as I’m sure we all know!) other people’s passions can be a massive bore.  

So for me, meeting Jo, Julie and Sharon has been a joy.  It’s great to talk to other people who understand the highs and lows of trying to be a writer. And afterwards I feel positive, inspired and more determined to succeed.

In two weeks’ time I’m going to the RNA conference. I’m very much looking forward to meeting some more of the Write Romantics, Lorraine, Rachael and (hopefully) Helen P and catching up with Jo again.  While I’m rather terrified at the thought of my two pitch meetings with publishers I’m excited to be meeting up with my new writing friends. 

I joined the NWS for the review of my book.  I didn’t expect to meet such a lot of lovely people through it.   That has been an unexpected bonus and a real pleasure. 

Alex xxx

Check out Sharon’s blog, The Moongazing Hare at www.sharonbooth23.wordpress.com