The Romantic Novelists’ Conference 2017

Three years ago, most of the Write Romantics met for the first time at the Harper Adams Agricultural University in Shropshire to spend the weekend at the Romantic Novelists’ Association conference. It was held again at the same venue this year and I admit that, having been to numerous RNA conferences throughout England, I was having trouble placing this one. That is, until the outrageous, err…aroma, hit me! Ah, I thought, I remember you now, Mr Harper Adams!

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Harper the pig!

The very ripe smell of pig poo hit the back of my throat and didn’t remind me, for one second, of summer fields and gambolling lambs, or anything vaguely bucolic. (I love that word!)

 

But the food was lovely, as was the company. The booze flowed like a river, although I didn’t imbibe as much as previous years – can’t decide whether that means I’m finally growing up or just growing old. Think it might be growing old as I had raging indigestion on the first night and achy hips from the thin mattress on the second.

Met the lovey Carol Cooper who writes for the Sun Newspaper ‘agony’ doctor’s column and had a good old chat with the rather willowy and beautiful literary agent Tanera Simons of the Darley Anderson agency. She said she liked the sound of my second book, which has had so many different titles I’ve forgotten what it’s currently called. Hang on – I’ll be back in a mo! So, my second book is called ‘The Magic of Stars’ (It was latterly called Sapphire, Skies and Champagne Highs – please don’t say you prefer that title!) and Tanera has asked to see the whole novel! Well excited – would love to have an agent convince everyone that my books are wonderful! Watch this space and I promise not to sob all over the Internet if she turns me down –well maybe just a little bit of a blub, but that’s only fair, I think 😦

Am cursing myself for not getting a photo of me and Sarah Morgan together as she is one of my favourite authors of the moment, being a recent find. (Okay, I’ll admit it, I found her ‘cos someone told me they thought my writing was like hers. I wish!) She’s fabulously energetic and effervescent and I want to be her in my next life.

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Great advice from Sarah Morgan

Visited Shropshire Lavender farm while I was up there, as Robin who runs it, is a Facebook friend. Robin’s farm is about ten miles away from the Conference – so how could I not? Thought the wonderful smell of lavender would hit me as I drew near, but sadly it just smelled very earthy and ‘farmy.’ Robin was lovely though, as was his lavender and his cute dog!

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Shropshire Lavender owned by Robin Spenc

 

Called in to see my dear old mum and dad who live in Stone in the Midlands, on the way home. Gave my dad a copy of Air Guitar and Caviar – a proper book, no less – and he asked me to sign it. (Bless my lovely dad) I told him that he had to skim read the cheeky bits and he said that Sister Mary Joanna from my old convent school had said she’d downloaded it on to her Kindle.

How times change!

Definitely heading for Hell, now!

All in all, I had a great time –I loved the Harper Adams gang and I still love the RNA and all who sail in her!

Till we meet again – to all the people I threw my arms around and promised that we’d catch up soon, to the lovely ladies of the RNA who make it all possible (looking at you, Jan Jones) and to the Harper Adams University and your wonderful hospitality – and eye- wateringly, pongy poo. Wouldn’t change a thing and love you all!

Jackie xx

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Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside … but perhaps when it’s a bit warmer!

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Over the past couple of years, I’ve undertaken a few library talks and even visited a local writers’ group to speak, but I had an opportunity to participate in something a little different yesterday …

Agenda BlackboardA friend tagged me in a post on Facebook. A café in Scarborough was going to be hosting a Writers’ Day where they were looking for local writers and poets to talk about their work, their journey, and/or read from their work. And this wasn’t just an “ordinary” café. The Seastrand is based on a corner on the seafront with amazing views. But it’s not just the views that are amazing. The café itself is pretty amazing because it’s actually built at the base of a disused cliff lift! The cliff lifts can still be seen further up the cliff and the tracks run into the café, as do the metal steps. The kiosk is what I’m assuming was the ticket station. Very quirky!

Empty RoomThere were once five cliff lifts in Scarborough connecting the town or cliff top to the sea front but there are only two in use now. The Seastrand is based at the foot of the St Nicholas Cliff Lift. It opened in 1929 but sadly ceased trading in February 2007 when the council couldn’t afford to spend the amount needed to bring it up to new health and safety standards. Their loss was The Seastrand’s gain. Tess and Stuart have been running the café for 2 years and have expanded the space to include a roof terrace with stunning views. Sadly, the very, very cold wind meant we couldn’t use the terrace yesterday but the writers had a cosy setting inside.

Table Set Up CloseMy worst fear for any talk is whether anyone will turn up. I knew I was guaranteed an audience when I spoke at Scarborough Writers’ Circle because having guest speakers is part of their session plan, but I’ve always had a modicum of nerves when a library talk has approached in case of no takers. Thankfully, I’ve been blessed with an audience each time. Phew!

Jessica with Steven BearFor my event at The Seastrand yesterday, Write Romantic, Sharon, kindly came along to support me. So did another Scarborough-based writing friend, Sarah, and her partner. Which is just as well because nobody else did! Poor Tess did her best to coax in some passing trade, only there really wasn’t much passing trade. I think the grey day and the bitter winds had put paid to that. Eventually she talked two women into popping in. They said they only had ten minutes to spare, sensibly buying themselves an escape route. I was therefore extremely flattered when they stayed right until the end and said that they’d found it very interesting. Who knows? Maybe one or both of them may download one of my books, borrow one from the library, or spread the word to their friends.

View to CastleIt’s disappointing that there weren’t more and I have to confess that, for a brief moment, I nearly cried. Then I pulled myself together and reminded myself that it’s just one of those things and it was nothing personal. It helped when Sarah said that J K Rowling had nobody turn up for her first few book signings. I also managed to convince myself that the slot I’d gone for wasn’t the best. I’d picked 1pm because my daughter goes to drama between 12-2pm so this meant I could do the drop off, do my talk, and be finished to pick her up. This also meant that I was speaking bang on lunchtime. I suspect that part of the reason there was no passing trade is that people were on the seafront munching their fish and chips!

Jessica Outside LandscapeDespite the limited audience, I still really enjoyed myself. Tess couldn’t have done more to make me feel welcome and it was a really lovely and unusual setting. I know this is the start of what they hope will be more involvement in creative activities, and perhaps I might speak at a future one to a crowded room instead. I’ll definitely go back on a warmer day, though, to have a drink and a cake on that roof terrace, soaking up the sun and enjoying the views.

My next talk is in a couple of weeks’ time at my local library. Here’s hoping for a slightly bigger audience!

Hope you’re all having a fabulous bank holiday weekend.

Jessica xx

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Winter is definitely here and in Hertfordshire we’ve enjoyed some wonderful frosty mornings. The sun has been shining and Christmas is definitely in the air!

During 2016 I knew I wanted to release a Christmas novel and I became so addicted to writing about winter and the festive season that I thought, why not write two books.

My first winter / festive read came out in October and so far readers have loved In a Manhattan Minute so I’m really happy. My latest novel is called Christmas at The Little Knitting Box and it’s out now!

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Christmas at The Little Knitting Box is available from Amazon as an ebook and the paperback should be ready in the next couple of weeks. I set this one in New York City too and it follows the story of Cleo who moved to the big city from the Cotswolds to run the family’s knitting store. Here’s the blurb and if you feel like taking a trip to New York with me, here’s the link to Amazon… Christmas at The Little Knitting Box

Have a wonderful December and a very Merry Christmas to you all.

Helen J Rolfe x

Christmas at The Little Knitting Box

Christmas is coming and New York is in full swing for the snowy season. But at The Little Knitting Box in the West Village, things are about to change …

The Little Knitting Box has been in Cleo’s family for nearly four decades, and since she arrived fresh off the plane from the Cotswolds four years ago, Cleo has been doing a stellar job of running the store. But instead of an early Christmas card in the mail this year, she gets a letter that tips her world on its axis.

Dylan has had a tumultuous few years. His marriage broke down, his mother passed away and he’s been trying to pick up the pieces as a stay-at-home dad. All he wants this Christmas is to give his kids the home and stability they need. But when he meets Cleo at a party one night, he begins to see it’s not always so easy to move on and pick up the pieces, especially when his ex seems determined to win him back.

When the snow starts to fall in New York City, both Cleo and Dylan realise life is rarely so black and white and both of them have choices to make. Will Dylan follow his heart or his head? And will Cleo ever allow herself to be a part of another family when her own fell apart at the seams?

Full of snow, love and the true meaning of Christmas, this novel will have you hooked until the final page.

The story behind my paranormal romance – An Extraordinary Life

Our guest on the blog today is the lovely Jo Hollywood. Jo is a columnist and has written two non-fiction books about her youngest son who has Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) under her real name, and has now written her first romantic novel under the pen name of Hollywood. So without further ado, we’ll hand over to Jo to tell us a bit about her inspiration and why she simply has to write come what may.

hollywood2I love to write; I write every day. For the past five years or so I had devoted time to writing on the subject of autism. However, a few years ago I decided that I needed to take a break from writing daily on the subject. This was for a number of reasons. My books on autism are about my youngest son who was diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) at the age of three, and when he turned 7, I knew that I had set out to do what I had originally planned, that of helping parents during the very early years of diagnosis. So I stopped blogging and writing books, although I do still write a weekly column about autism.

However, I felt twitchy, as I still needed to write. In a former life I had had studied English literature at University, and as a voracious reader and lover of all things books, I decided to write a novel. This was when I decided to join Wattpad. I felt that it would give me focus and a reading and writing community that would support me on my journey. When it came to choosing my genre, it just had to be romance. I love to read romantic stories and I suppose that I am a hopeless romantic at heart. The paranormal element was simply a pleasant surprise as I began to form the character of the rather lovely and handsome ghost, Jack. Originally, he had not been a ghost, but while writing my first draft I decided to add a paranormal element to the story and Jack became the ghost that he is today.

Readers have told me that An Unextraordinary Life is a very different kind of paranormal romance and that it is slightlyhollywood1 quirky, and I suppose that this is true. At its heart is a story of love and loss and ultimately, one that is of new beginnings. It just so happens that one of the protagonists is a ghost. I wanted to write a romantic novel, with real emotions and which conveyed the message that love never truly dies. This is explored via the love triangle of Tess, Rob and Jack; all of whom have suffered loss at some time in their lives.

I really did enjoy writing the paranormal element of this story, as I could let my imagination run wild and play around with the narrative. However, for my second novel I am sticking firmly to the restraints of reality. Picking up the Pieces, is a romantic story that is based around Kate, a mother caring for an autistic son. When Matt, a handsome neighbour moves in next door, she is forced into facing up to her past in a way that may very well threaten her future. Matt too has some issues from his past that he needs to deal with. It is through their exchanges with Kate’s son, Sam, that their friendship grows.

I find writing romantic fiction to be incredibly cathartic and cheaper than therapy. It is what I do as part of my ‘me time’, an activity that is just for me. I just hope that those who read my books enjoy them as much I enjoy writing them.

Jo Hollywood

Thanks Jo, we love hearing about other author’s writing lives, so thank you for giving us a peak into your world. The Write Romantics’ own Jo – Jo Bartlett – has read and really enjoyed your book, so we thought we’d add Jo’s review below, so that our readers can find out a bit more about the story:

dreamstime_s_28682146An Unextraordinary Life by Jo Hollywood

So many romances are predictable from the first page, you know who the heroine is going to end up strolling into the sunset with, but ‘An Unextraordinary Life’ is not like most other romances. Paranormal romance is not my usual reading genre, but the book was recommended to me as a really different read to the norm and Jo Hollywood’s novel did not disappoint. It had me reading until late into the night and I felt like I knew Tess almost as a friend from the start, which might have been because the first person point of view was handled so well. I could really empathise with her desire to re-invent herself to try and escape the ghosts of the past and make new friendships where she wouldn’t just be the girl who’d lost her husband. Only the ghosts of the past aren’t so keen to be escaped and when her late husband makes a reappearance in her life, no-one is more shocked than Tess. Although the resulting triangle, with new love interest Rob, isn’t the sort you’d normally expect, the author handles it with both believability and sensitivity. I didn’t know right up to the end who Tess would choose and both heroes certainly had the ability to make the reader fall for them. I really recommend this novel and if, like me, you haven’t read much paranormal romance, you really should take a chance on this one. Original, poignant and well-written, I’d say this is pretty extraordinary after all!

You can purchase Jo Hollywood’s book here and follow her on Twitter on @mummyworgan

 

In a Manhattan Minute

In a Manhattan Minute is out today! October 20th sees the publication of my fifth novel.

A winter story set in the snow and excitement of the big city, In a Manhattan Minute is the perfect romance to curl up with. And for only 1.99 it’s a bargain price for a trip to New York City…

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Here’s the blurb…

It’s the most wonderful time of the year… but when the temperature dips, can Manhattan work its magic?

Jack exists in a world that has seen its fair share of tragedy, but also success and the wealth that comes with it. One snowy night, he crosses paths with Evie, a homeless girl, and it changes everything.

Three years on, Evie’s life is very different. She’s the assistant to a prestigious wedding gown designer, she’s settled in Manhattan, has her own apartment and friendships she holds dear. But the past is lurking in the background, threatening to spoil everything, and it’s catching up with her.

Kent has kept a family secret for two decades, a secret he never wanted to share with his son, Jack. And even though she doesn’t realise it yet, his life is inextricably tangled with Nicole’s, the woman who was his housekeeper for thirteen years and the woman who helped Evie turn her life around.

It’s Christmas and a time for forgiveness, love and Happy Ever Afters. And when the snow starts to fall, the truth could finally bring everyone the gift of happiness they’re looking for.

Grab a hot chocolate, turn on the twinkly lights and snuggle up with this unputdownable heart-warming novel. 
In a Manhattan Minute 

Helen J Rolfe x

 

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.

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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?

Finding an Agent – Discovery Day 2016

Author photo - Helen J RolfeOn Saturday 27th February I took the train to London to attend Discovery Day 2016, an event held at Foyles bookshop where attendees had the opportunity to pitch their work to Curtis Brown and Conville & Walsh Literary Agents.

For any writer, the chance to meet agents face to face is an invaluable opportunity and as I walked to Charing Cross Road I was excited, if a little nervous.

We had been given allocated time slots for pitching but it was still an hour queueing on the stairs to get to the top of Foyles and the gallery where agents were waiting for us. This was a nice time, however, to meet other writers and talk about our work. It helped to calm the nerves!

Foyles

 

Once I reached the gallery and an agent was free I was lucky enough to pitch to the lovely Jess Whitlum-Cooper who works at Curtis Brown with Felicity Blunt. Jess read my first page and then I was given thirty seconds to pitch my novel before we discussed my work.

Following the pitch appointment we were also able to ask general questions about agents, writing and publishing, with another literary agent in a Surgery Session, and here were the top tips for writing a cover letter to go with your submission:

  • Provide a very concise description of what your book is about
  • Identify who potential readers are
  • Name similar authors
  • Talk about your own writing experience
  • Let the agent know what inspired you to write this particular book

I found the experience of Discovery Day extremely positive and a lot of fun. Jess showed a lot of enthusiasm for my novel which was a real boost and whether or not I end up securing an agent this time round, Discovery Day did a lot for my confidence and belief in my writing. It also really showed me that not only do I want to find an agent to represent me, but I want to find the right agent. I think the right fit is so important because an agent/author relationship is a long-term commitment from both sides.

So for now, it’s on with the submissions and the next book!

Helen J Rolfe

Amazon author page

What Rosie Found Next - bookcover - KDP versiontft front cover with quoteHandle Me with Care final front cover - for KDP

 

 

 

 

 

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