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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She believed she could and she did: An inspirational success story for any aspiring author

Back at the beginning of this month – on April Fool’s Day to be precise – it was the Write Romantics 4th birthday. In 2013, all ten of us were unpublished, aspiring writers, desperate to get that elusive break and put our books ‘out there’. Over the years since then, every time I’ve seen a wishing well – like the one at my local wildlife park – I’ve thrown in a coin for each of us waiting to get published and made a little wish that those dreams would come true.

We thought about doing an anniversary post on the 1st of April this year, but there were too many obstacles in the way – looming deadlines, new releases and those sort of knee-deep edits from which you can’t afford to come up for air. You see, in four short years, all ten of us have become published authors and there’s no need for me to use any wishes up on that these days.

I’m so proud of all of my fellow Write Romantics, but there is one member of our little gang who I want to single out. She was our trailblazer – the first to be published – and she never stopped cheering the rest of us on, loudly pronouncing that ‘you can and you will’ until every one of us could call ourselves an author. Not only is she a wonderful friend, who works long hours in a demanding job, but she’s an amazing mother and doting grandmother too, battling through medical issues for some of her family that would have anyone else on their knees. She really is someone the phrase ‘I don’t know how she does it’ could have been written for.

I’m looking at you, Helen Phifer! She’ll probably be cringing now, but I couldn’t miss this opportunity to tell Helen what an inspiration she’s been to me and I know I’m speaking for the rest of the Write Romantics too.  Those of you who are already fans of Helen’s work – which just proves what excellent taste you’ve got – will know and love her Annie Graham series, expertly blending horror and crime, which have climbed the best seller lists, giving the rest of us WRs something else to aspire to.

But here’s the thing, Helen took a leap of faith recently, signing to Bookouture to write her first crime novel, The Lost Children, without the horror focus that had always been her starting point.  A departure like this is no easy thing for a writer to do and I’m sure Helen felt an extra frisson of nerves when she put the book out there. Turns out, which is no surprise to the rest of the WRs, that Helen can write the sort of un-put-down-able crime novels that have the five star reviews rolling in and which sent the novel flying into the Kindle top one hundred as a brand new bestseller to add to her growing list. You can check out the reviews here if you want to know what people are saying.

As I said earlier, I wanted to let Helen know how much she’s inspired me. But, more than that, I wanted other aspiring writers to hear about Helen and everything she’s worked for. Taking a job with the police force to get her research just right, writing late into the night and in every spare moment to achieve her dream alongside those work commitments and a very busy family life. One of Helen’s favourite sayings is ‘she believed she could and she did’. So if you’re out there, dreaming of being a published author, then let Helen’s story inspire you too and make it happen – whatever it takes. She continues to inspire me and I couldn’t be more proud of my lovely friend.  Jo xx

Aspiring writers step away from the scorpions! The WRs are here to tell you why…

Hello and happy bank holiday weekend!

If you’re a regular follower of our blog, you’ll know that a Saturday normally means The Saturday Spotlight in which we interview writers at all stages in their career – aspiring to chart-topping, indie or traditional – as well as the occasional interview with an editor, publisher or agent. Today, though, we’re doing something a little bit different. We want a little exploration of the past, present, and future of the Write Romantics…

conf 2014 10In the beginning, there were just a pair of Write Romantics. Jo and I ‘met’ when I was in my first year of the RNA’s NWS and Jo was in her second year. I’d finally got around to joining Romna, the RNA’s online community, where newbies are invited to introduce themselves so I tapped in a “hi, this is me” kind of email. Jo immediately contacted me as we shared a writing genre and other interests. A friendship was instantly formed and we exchanged incredibly long and detailed emails over the next few months. In early 2013, the idea developed to set up a blog. We found our name, we found a format, and away we went. But it soon became apparent that finding enough writing-related things to say to regularly contribute to a blog when there were just two of us, neither of whom were ready to seek a publishing deal, was going to be a massive problem. But a problem shared is a problem halved. Or tenth-ed in our case because we put an offer out on Romna to extend the group and were quite overwhelmed to find eight other writers who wanted to join us. Phew. Because it could have been a bit embarrassing if we’d had no response!

Conf 2014 3We don’t mind admitting that we hadn’t a clue what we were doing! None of us were expert bloggers. In fact, we weren’t bloggers at all! I’d set up a blog a couple of months previously following my journey to get fit and lose half my body weight through a beach-based bootcamp (which I still run although I’m slightly ashamed to say that I’m still, 2.5 years on, trying to lose half my body weight – oops!) so I had a little bit of experience of regularly posting, and Rachael had some experience of being part of a writing group who blogged, but that was it. So we had to pretty much start from scratch.

It’s been great working together as a team to develop the format for the blog into the regular bi-weekly slots we have now. We all contribute posts and we all bring interview guests to the party. Two years ago, after about 4-5 months of blogging together, we asked the WRs if they’d like to re-affirm their commitment. Were they happy with what we were doing? Was it what they expected? Did they have the enthusiasm and willingness to really move the blog forward and start posting more regularly? At that point, one of the WRs decided to dip out because her commitments outside writing meant she was going to struggle to contribute and, for a year, we were nine. Then last September, we asked Sharon to join us. I’d met Sharon the year before, as had WR Alys, and she’d become a great supporter of the group. She already felt like one of us so it was a natural step to officially invite her into the fold, restoring the power of 10.

Although we live all over the country – Cumbria, North & East Yorkshire, Gloucestershire, Wales, East Sussex, Hertfordshire, Somerset, Kent (hope I haven’t missed anywhere!) – and have never all been in the same place at the same time, we’ve become really close through the power of social media. We’ve celebrated the highs, sympathised during the lows, built each other up during down moments, and learned from the various paths the group’s writing journeys have gone down. It’s often said that writing can be a lonely business but the WRs are never really alone and we’d massively recommend all writers find themselves a support network, whether that’s a writing partner or a large group like ours. We’re all convinced that some of the amazing things that have happened to the group over the last couple of years have been thanks in part to the support and encouragement of the group. So what are those amazing things? I’ll hand over to Jo to let you know more …

Reproduced by kind permission of © Ra\'id Khalil via Dreamstime Stock Photos

Reproduced by kind permission of © Ra\’id Khalil via Dreamstime Stock Photos

‘What a difference a day makes, twenty four little hours…’ or so Dinah Washington’s song goes. It might have taken more like twenty four months since deciding we wanted to stay Write Romantics, as Jessica says above, for our fortunes to really change, but the sentiment’s exactly the same. Even on our down days, when we do consider giving up to take up scorpion petting instead, as one of the Facebook jokes about writing goes, it’s been a pretty incredible two years.

If you’d told us back then what we might have achieved by now, we’d probably have given you a bitter little laugh – how little you knew. Most of us were wearing the battle scars of rejection already and some had been pursuing the publishing dream for ten years or more. Did we give up? No, but boy did we talk about giving up! That’s the beauty of the group though, just when you are about to put a down payment on a pair of breeding scorpions, someone is there to talk you off that particular ledge.

I’m about to give you a round-up of what those two years has seen for us. Not because the WRs like to big themselves up, as my kids would say; in fact, the other eight don’t even know Jessica and I are doing this and they’ll probably cringe when we sing their praises. The reason we are writing this blog is the opposite. It’s because we remember exactly what it’s like to be an aspiring writer – not one who used to write for Tatler or produce radio plays for the BBC and has the sort of connections you don’t get when the height of your networking involves spotting Bob Geldof buying carrots in your local branch of Tesco – but ordinary people who just love to write.

Is it really possible to get published if that’s your starting point or will it only ever be your mum who downloads a self-published tome from Amazon, as you languish at chart position number three million and thirty two? We want to tell you, if you are an NWS member reading this, or an aspiring writer of any sort, that it’s not only possible but there are lots of ways to get your work out there and, whether indie, traditionally published or some hybrid of the two, there are also lots of ways to measure success. Not everyone is lucky enough to be part of a group like this, who will tell you to step away from the scorpions, but we hope reading a round-up of our journeys so far will reassure you that if you keep going, it can happen for you too.

So what is it we’ve done? Well, being of a certain age – I think Helen R was just clinging to her thirties when we first joined together, but we are now all in our forties or beyond – I think IMG_0076most of us dreamed of having a paperback with our name on and maybe even seeing that on the shelves of WHSmiths or Waterstones. Okay, so we know that all the statistics reveal that books in the commercial genres we write in sell better as ebooks than in print, but we’ve had this dream since before Kindle was even a twinkle in Amazon’s eye. So are we living the dream? Well, of the ten of us, eight of us now have paperbacks out there or are in the process of going in to print and four of us have had books in WHsmiths and/or Waterstones and supermarkets, with Jessica’s about to appear in some of the Yorkshire Waterstones really soon and Sharon’s pocket novel hitting the shelves in October. Nothing beats seeing your book on the shelf, despite how times have moved on… although being caught taking a selfie with it is a bit embarrassing, hence me using my son as bait in Smiths! Our books are also starting to hit the shelves of libraries too, with Jessica leading that particular charge.

Helen P, Rachael, Jessica and Sharon all have multi-book deals with the same publisher and I’m awaiting finalisation of my contract before revealing some news of my own on that front.  We’ve also seen the launch of The Write Romantic Press for our anthology and a number of us have dipped our toes into the world of indie publishing, with Lynne riding consistently high in the charts with her first indie published title. Fabrian Books, which started off as a small indie publisher, is now handing over the ownership to its authors, giving them the benefits of having more of a say in their publishing journeys and hoping to follow in the footsteps of other publishing cooperatives like The Notting Hill press, with two of the Write Romantics breaking new ground in this exciting venture of what’s termed publishing’s ‘third way’.

We’ve had almost twenty five books published (or about to be) between the ten of us, through publishers including Carina, Crooked Cat, DC Thomson, Fabrian Books, Mills and Boon and So Vain Books, with more news pending and work under consideration by a number of places that are the stuff of dreams, including the BBC no less!

Chart position wise, Deirdre, Helen R, Jessica, Sharon, Lynne and myself have all appeared in the top hundred or higher of our genre charts at one stage or another, with a number in the top ten. Helen P and Rachael have hit even dizzier heights than that though, with Helen P regularly knocking her own hero, Stephen King, off the top spot and Rachael hitting number two across the hugely competitive Mills and Boons chart, although the rest of us know that the number one spot is hers for the taking.

author 2Alys secured something else we’ve all dreamt of at one stage on another, with agent representation, and her debut novel will be out in time for Christmas. Jackie made the top ten shortlist of a hotly fought Mills and Boons contest and is about to make a round of submissions which we are sure will see all ten WRs published by 2016.

So for all you NWS members who’ve recently submitted your manuscripts – or, if you are like I used to be, who’ve just run down to the post office to send it last minute, days before the deadline, with your hair stuck to your forehead and a hopeful surge in your heart as you send it off – or if you’re an aspiring writer of any sort, it can happen. There’s a hackneyed phrase that says the difference between a published writer and an unpublished writer, is that the former never gave up. It’s the sort of advice that used to make me want to French-kiss a scorpion after yet another rejection, but believe me it’s true. So step away from the poisonous arthropod and keep going, it really is worth it in the end.

Jo and Jessica xx

This Writing Life

I have to say it’s not quite as glamorous as I’ve dreamt about the last few years although it does have its moments. I’ve gone from dreaming about being a published writer for years to having three e-books and a paperback published in the space of eighteen months which is more than I ever realised was possible. It’s amazing what you can do with a deadline. I’m currently in the process of editing book four in the Annie Graham series The Lake House which will be released May 29th if I ever get around to doing the actual edits.

You see some people thrive off the editing but me, I’m much more of a first draft sort of girl. Although I love my editor Lucy because she really knows how to make my stories go from not bad to great, at least that’s what my amazing readers tell me. I still struggle to actually sit down and crack on with them. At one point this week my husband banned me from the internet (mainly Facebook I might add) so that I might get on with them. It’s the thought of having to go back in and make significant changes that is off putting but it’s the same every time, once I actually sit down to concentrate I find them not quite as bad as I imagined. It helps to have plenty of caffeine and chocolate to soften the blow and keep my brain working as it does have a tendency to get a little distracted by things, especially social media sites that contain gossip from everyone and their aunties.

I don’t get the time to watch much television with working shifts and writing, but there are a couple of programmes that I’ve really enjoyed the last couple of years. Scott and Bailey is brilliant and when everyone at work was talking about Happy Valley I had to go home and watch the whole series in one sitting. It was fabulous and both programmes were written by the very talented Sally Wainwright who really knows how to write strong, Northern, female characters, which being from the North myself I love. So when I heard about a BAFTA Masterclass in Screenwriting with Sally Wainwright I realised that it was something I had to attend. The fact that it’s a four hour train journey from where I live and there were no trains back after it finished wasn’t going to deter me. It was a chance for me to have twenty four hours to myself away from my sometimes crazy family life and spend it being Helen Phifer the writer. I got to stay in a very compact hotel in the middle of Piccadilly, as lovely as it was with complimentary ice-cream, coffee, cheese and wine it wasn’t for the claustrophobic. Below is a picture of my wardrobe, it’s just as well I travelled light.

photo (3)

But it did the job, it was within walking distance of the BAFTA Theatre and very central. I’d arranged to meet fellow Write Romantic Jackie for a glass of wine beforehand and also the very lovely Jill Steeples another Carina writer.

I was in awe as I walked through the doors.

photo (2)

How many of my favourite actors, actresses, screenwriters, directors and producers had walked through these doors? It all felt very exciting and glamorous, I was a tiny bit nervous because I’m quite a shy person but I wasn’t going to let that stop me from doing something I might never get another chance to do. The wine bar upstairs was buzzing with lots of people milling around and the lovely waiter remembered what we drank as he brought bowls of popcorn and glasses of wine over to our table. The bell rang and we were told to take our seats in the theatre, as I sat down I wondered who might have sat in this seat previously and after seeing a gorgeous black and white framed print of Brad Pitt above the bar I managed to convince myself that it was almost definitely him. The talk was entertaining and informative, Sally was very funny and although it hadn’t quite been what I’d expected I left there feeling very inspired. To hear a fellow Northerner speak about her successful screen writing career was amazing. After Jackie and Jill led me to the nicest smelling wine bar I’ve ever been in (I haven’t been in very many) I couldn’t get over just how nice it was. It was just a shame that the bottle of wine we shared didn’t last longer but as we said our goodbyes after a lovely catch up and I walked back to my hotel I couldn’t help feeling that this writing life does have its glamorous moments, hopefully there will be lots more to come. Now I better get back to my editing, where did I put that mug of coffee?

Helen xx

Our round-up of 2014 and there’s so much to say that we have to do it in 2 parts … Part II

Welcome back! We hope you enjoyed reading about what 2014 has meant for Helen R, Deirdre, Rachael, Jo and Jackie. It’s time to hear from the remaining five …

cropped-sharon-booth-writerSharon Booth:

I can’t pinpoint my greatest writing achievement this year – I have four. I finally – after three years – finished There Must Be An Angel and sent it out into the world. Secondly, I found a publisher! Fabrian Books will publish Angel in March 2015.

angel coverI achieved a long-held ambition and became a published author when my short story, The Other Side of Christmas, appeared in the Winter Tales anthology. That was a very proud moment, especially when my copy of the paperback arrived in the post and I saw my name on those pages. What a thrill! And finally, I wrote my second novel. Which leads me onto…

My greatest writing challenge was probably writing that second novel. After spending three years working on Angel, I was very daunted about starting all over again. Could I do it? What if I only had one book in me? I was nervous, and even though I thought I had a great leading character and a germ of an idea for a story I wasn’t sure I could pull it off. To start with, it was pretty difficult and I was in a bit of a state for a while thinking that I simply couldn’t manage to write another novel. I was a bit gloomy about it for far too long. Then I just started writing and suddenly the words were flowing. I finished A Kiss from a Rose surprisingly quickly (it will be published in September 2015), and I’m very proud of it. I really love my hero and heroine and I hope readers will, too. Now I just have to tackle my doubts about book three!

photo 3 (2)Becoming a Write Romantic this year has meant everything to me. I’ve been writing on my own for so long and having a support network of nine other writers who understand what you’re going through – all your doubts and insecurities – is amazing. They’re a fun group too, and we have lots of laughs together. If someone needs advice or information there’s always at least one of us who knows how to help. I’ve loved working with them on Winter Tales and I think being part of the group has helped to raise my profile, and introduce me to a wider circle of friends.

2015 is going to be a busy year, because I’m having two books published so there will be a lot of work to do. I’m really looking forward to it, although I’m a bit nervous. Actually, I’m a LOT nervous, but I expect most writers are when their work is finally about to be read by other people. I’m also going to be slogging away at book three, and I think that will be my major challenge for the coming year. What if I can’t do it again? What if I only have two books in me? Hmm, talk about déjà vu! Happy New Year! 🙂

LynneLynne Pardoe:

My greatest writing achievement this year has undoubtedly been the acceptance of my pocket novel by D.C.Thomson. It started as a story that I began and developed by chatting to my mum when she was poorly. At first I thought it would simply entertain us through the many dark days at mum’s bedside, but over time I thought maybe it would make a good story. So I wrote it up. Then a blog post landed in my inbox, ‘D.C.Thomson are looking for pocket novels,’ it said, ‘post them to this address.’

So I did. And within ten days I got an acceptance! I’m yet to see the published thing; that’s out next month. It will bear both my mother’s name and mine and I already have plans to get the cover printed and framed to give mum for her 86th birthday in February. She says she never expected to have her name on a book at her age, which is so sweet, she is thrilled.

Seeing my own story with my own and mother’s name on the cover is the perfect start to my writing year. I only hope for more of the same whilst continuing to work on my social work novels. None of that would have been possible, or at least a lot more difficult, if it hadn’t been for the wonderful help of my fellow Write Romantics. Writing is a lonely business and the path to publication fraught with highs and lows and many times i’d have given up but for the support of my fellow Romantics.

Thanks girls and bring on 2015!

Alys WestAlys West:

1. My greatest writing achievement this year has to be signing with A for Authors. Getting an agent was like a dream come true and made me believe I might actually be half-way competent at this writing business. This is me signing the contract. Although what I failed to appreciate in the excitement of signing was that after that there’d be an awful lot more waiting to hear about submissions and more rejections but from bigger publishers this time. I’m not moaning here (in case that sounds like a whinge) it just took me a while to get my head around what it actually means to be represented.

A close second has to be publication of Winter Tales. There’s been some amazing moments like when my order of paperbacks arrived, when we got the first reviews on Amazon and were high in the Amazon rankings. But the best bit has been how proud my parents have been. My Mum gets quite emotional about it which, as we’re a fairly undemonstrative family, means an awful lot.

photo2. Lughnasa, my second novel, has definitely been my biggest writing challenge this year. I wanted it to be different from Beltane but within the same world of magic that I’d created. A sensible person would have learned from the challenges of writing about Glastonbury (where Beltane is set) and chosen somewhere closer to home for my second book. But not me! Lughnasa is set in Orkney which is twice as far from Yorkshire than Glastonbury and far more difficult to get to. The plot is quite complex and I always knew that’d be a challenge. What I’d not anticipated is that my characters would take control and leave me wondering what’s going to happen next. Have I overcome the challenges of this book? I’m not sure yet. I’m about two thirds of the way through so I’ll let you know when I get to the end and my beta-readers have had a look at it.

3. The Write Romantics have meant more to me this year than I can possibly say! From fashion advice when I was worried about what to wear for my first meeting with my agent to finding the positives in rejections to moral support when life in general is hard they’re the best group of people you could ever hope to meet. It’s fabulous to be part of such an amazing team and I know I couldn’t do this writing lark without them.

4. For 2015 I need to learn greater amounts of patience. Writers need a Zen type ability to accept endless amounts of waiting and as I’ve never been a patient person this is hard for me. Obviously I hope that my agents will find a publisher for Beltane, I want to finish Lughnasa in the first half of next year and go back to Orkney on a research trip. After that, I guess I’ll be thinking about book 3 which is a trifle terrifying at this point as I still don’t really know how the trilogy will end!

1185224_10200753042177469_1584659865_nHelen Phifer:

My greatest writing achievement this year is a tough one for me because I have managed to fill so many of my writing dreams in such a short space of time that it’s hard to choose. I don’t actually know how it happened but I’m so grateful that it did. I managed to knock my all time hero Stephen King off the Contemporary Horror Charts not just once but several times and for weeks at a time with my debut novel The Ghost House. That was a surreal moment for me, to see my book cover nestled in-between Dr. Sleep and The Shining, it was what my publishers aptly named a Stephen King sandwich and what I had been dreaming about the past eight years.

My greatest writing challenge was actually writing another two books and a short story in the space of twelve months. The books were on tight deadlines for my publishers and I was terrified that I wouldn’t make them. I’m pleased to say that I did somehow, I think the most important thing was to make myself sit down and write the first draft of the story without thinking about it too much. The biggest challenge out of them all was the short story; I’m not very good at writing them and it was a real test to see if I could come up with something that was good enough to be published.

ghosthouseBeing a Write Romantic was the key thing for me. The support I get off my amazing friends is one in a million. They have stopped me from losing the plot on more than one occasion, it’s been wonderful to be able to have such a wealth of talented writers to help me should I need some advice at the end of my fingertips. I am truly blessed to know such amazing ladies and I’m forever in their debt. Being a part of this group has kept me sane, I’ve laughed, cried and being overjoyed at their ups and downs and I wouldn’t change them for the world.

My writing hope for 2015 is to see The Ghost House released in paperback at the end of January and to actually hold a copy in my hands. I think that until I actually get to sniff the pages of my own book I still won’t believe that I wrote it. That is the biggest dream of all for me. I plan to have book 4 finished by the middle of January, then I want to concentrate on a stand alone scary novel I’ve been rewriting and self publish it. Then by August I have to hand book 5 over to my amazing editor Lucy at Carina. That will be the end of my current contract with them so it will be interesting to see if they want any more Annie Graham novels.

10527383_331005803724929_5378621437399779308_nJessica Redland:

My greatest writing achievement has definitely been securing a three-book deal with So Vain Books for my Whitsborough Bay Trilogy. I’d been planning to go indie because I found the waiting for news far too difficult. I could cope with rejections as it was news; I couldn’t cope with waiting for 9-10 months, constantly wondering. Searching for Steven was in with a final few publishers and I wasn’t expecting positive news so a publishing deal quickly followed by another were unexpected and extremely gratifying.

This two-deal situation was actually one of my greatest writing challenges. It’s a happy dilemma to have but a dilemma nonetheless because the offers were very different – established US-based company, eBook only, better royalties v new UK-based company, eBook and paperback, lower royalties – so I wasn’t comparing like for like. In the end, I went with my heart which was telling me that So Vain Books were right for me. It helped that Jo had already accepted a contract with them a few months earlier and I’d seen how well they’d been treating her.

P1050693Like so many of my other WRs, I’ve suffered the grips of self-doubt too. I submitted novel 2, Getting Over Gary, to the NWS and had a very luke-warm review. My reader kept saying there were loads of positives about it … yet somehow failed to include them in the report. The doubts crept in that maybe I was a one-book wonder. The euphoria of a publishing deal pushed these aside but then they returned a month or so ago. I’ve signed a deal on the basis of them only reading one book but what if they hated the other two and agreed that I only had it in me to write one book?

This is where the value of being part of a writing group like The Write Romantics pays absolute dividends. I’m fortunate enough to live reasonably close to Sharon and Alys and we meet up every few months for tea and cake. They were able to reassure me that I did have what it takes and that part of a publishing deal is a good editor who will direct me towards any flaws and help me polish it to the standard of Steven. Good point; well made. The other WRs have been a great support on this too.

As for next year, I need to slap myself about a bit with a piece of wet haddock and stop being so doubtful of my ability to spin a good yarn. I need to stop procrastinating and just write. I have about a third of book 3, Discovering David, to finish in first draft and I’d like to have that done by end of February. Then I need to edit Gary again and David. I’d like to do that before Steven comes out in June. Not sure if that’s realistic but you have to aim high!

The Write Romantics would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year. Thank you for reading our blog this year, whether you’re a regular reader, dip in and out occasionally, or have just discovered this site for the first time today.

Anthology coverThank you to everyone who has contributed to, bought, and/or promoted Winter Tales: Stories to Warm Your Heart. It’s still available in eBook and paperback format via Amazon (just click on the title for a direct link) and all proceeds are split between Cystic Fibrosis Trust and Teenage Cancer Trust. Don’t be too concerned that it’s full of Christmas stories and Christmas has passed. It’s a mix of Christmas, New Year and winter so there’s still plenty of winter months left to cosy up and enjoy it. Or buy it ready for next Christmas!

“See” you next year!

Jessica and The Write Romantics xx

conf 2014 10

Saturday Spotlight – The Romantic Novelists’ Association Summer Party 2014

RNA Party

I have been very fortunate that two years ago I got a place on the RNA New Writer’ Scheme. Last year when my book was published I was entered into the Joan Hessayon New Writer’s award and on Thursday May 22nd I set off to London for the first time since I was seventeen years old.
As my train pulled out of Barrow and went past the beautiful Abbey ruins and Abbotswood which had been the inspiration for my novel The Ghost House it actually sunk in that I was now a published writer and on my way to celebrate my success. It was an amazing feeling sitting on that train and I felt very lucky and humbled that after all the years of trying and the rejections that I had done it. I had made my dream come true and there is no finer feeling.

I was very excited to be meeting so many of the lovely writers that I speak to on a regular basis on Facebook and Twitter, especially our very own Deirdre and Rachael. I was also a nervous wreck. I’m not very good in social situation’s but I was determined that I was going to enjoy the day and night for what it was.
I had booked a room in The Royal Overseas League where the party was being held so I didn’t have to worry about being late or finding my way back. I spent an hour giving myself a pep talk before going down to meet up with all the other lovely Joan Hessayon Contenders. It was a pleasure meeting so many fellow writers, especially Jill Steeples and Annie Lyons who also write for Carina. Jill bought the first drinks to calm our nerves before the dreaded official photo, which actually wasn’t that bad and the photographer was lovely. Once the photo was over I could breathe a sigh of relief and relax a little, it was nice to meet so many fellow writers and soon my editors from Carina arrived with a couple of bottles of Prosecco which was the first time I’d ever tasted it and it certainly won’t be the last, how have I not discovered this before I asked myself?

Eventually Pia Fenton the RNA chair took to the podium and we all raised a toast to the lovely Joan Hessayon and her husband Dr Hessayon who sponsors the award every year in memory of his wife. We all lined up in front of the projector and listened as Pia read out everyone’s blurb; it was lovely cheering and celebrating so many début authors’ success and very inspiring. Of course there could only be one winner and that was the lovely Jo Thomas for her novel The Oyster Catcher as we all whooped with delight and applauded I couldn’t help but feel a touch relieved it wasn’t me. I hadn’t even thought about a speech and by this stage I was positively melting and a little bit tipsy.
It was a wonderful night and I felt so privileged to have been a part of it, the organisers worked so hard to make it very special and I would like to thank them all from the bottom of my heart.

I’m looking forward to next year’s party already where I will be able to raise a glass or two of Prosecco to my fellow Write Romantics who are on their way to making their own dreams come true 🙂

Helen xx

Mega Monday Announcement – The Secret is Out!

Today the Write Romantics are delighted to publish a Mega Monday announcement about the brilliant Helen Phifer’s second novel – The Secret of the Shadows.  Helen’s debut novel, The Ghost House, was a runaway success, reaching the top of the Amazon charts for her genre and even knocking the mighty Stephen King off the top spot.  Helen has had a plethora of five star reviews for  The Ghost House but, because of the modest, unassuming and utterly lovely sort of person she is, some of her fellow Write Romantics are going to tell you what they thought of her debut, as well as how much they are looking forward to reading The Secrets of the Shadows:

Lynne – I loved this book!! It made my spine tingle from page one. I also loved the descriptions of the old house and the characters too. I’ve been waiting for Helen’s new book. Come on Helen, we want more!

Helen R – I don’t do scary books but I had every faith in Helen P to make me glad that I had made the exception… I just wish I hadn’t done it when my husband was working interstate! The Ghost House had me gripped with the suspense, the wealth of research that clearly went into it and characters who leapt off the page at me. I had better psyche myself up for the next one, well done Helen.

Rachael – I couldn’t put it down! It gripped me from beginning to end and I loved the story from the past impacting on the present.

Alex –  There were lots of things that l loved about The Ghost House.  The plot is excellent.  It’s a gripping, spooky twist and there are some truly heart stopping moments in it.  The other strengths are the dialogue, which is funny and feels very real, and Will who is a gorgeous hero.  I’m hoping to see a lot more of him in The Secrets of the Shadows.  I’m also thinking I’d better clear my diary for the rest of the week because I know, that like The Ghost House, I’ll be staying up late just to get it finished.

9781472091000_Cover-300x480

Julie – Although my books of choice are mainly chicklit, I have been known to delve into crime and thrillers from time to time and thoroughly enjoy them. I was therefore really excited about Helen’s debut for several reasons: (1) She’s a Write Romantic and the first of us to be published so I was living the dream vicariously; (2) The book cover looked amazing; (3) It combined my 2 preferred reading genres so everything was set for a riveting read. My only disappointment was that I had to go to work which meant I couldn’t just sit for a full day and just immerse myself in it because Helen had certainly created a gripping page-turner. Mind you, it’s quite scary too so perhaps it was just as well I didn’t have a full day to just sit and read as I may have turned a bit skittish!

I absolutely loved The Ghost House. Helen created realistic characters who I cared about, fantastic imagery (I could really picture all the key settings without reams of description), realistic dialogue and an extremely interesting storyline which kept me gripped (and a little bit afraid!) As soon as I’d finished, I wanted to read the sequel and I was straight on Facebook to recommend TGH to all my friends. What was brilliant was when they came back and enthused about absolutely loving it too; gave me a warm and fuzzy glow that one of our group and a great writing friend had touched the lives of my friends and family too.

I downloaded The Secrets of The Shadows a few days ago and I think the front cover may even have surpassed The Ghost House which I didn’t think was possible. The storyline sounds incredible and I can’t wait to get cracking! Helen, you’re an inspiration to us all. Long may your success continue.

Jackie – Loved the Ghost House and am proud that Helen, one of The Write Romantics wrote it. It’s a mixture of ghostly and suspense with a bit of romance thrown in. What more could you ask for?

Jo – Like all of the other Write Romantics, I adore Helen and I wanted to love her writing too – let me tell you it exceeded all expectations and I know for sure that she is a superstar in the making.  The Ghost House was exciting, with characters and a storyline that drew me in from page one until the very end.  Like everyone else, I have been drumming my fingers impatiently and waiting for the follow up… Only I will never look at someone swinging a dog lead, with no dog in sight, in the same way again!

The Secrets of the Shadows is out now on Kindle and Kobo:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Secrets-Shadows-Helen-Phifer-ebook/dp/B00IIPHVFG/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1396814233&sr=1-1&keywords=helen+phifer

http://www.kobobooks.com/ebook/The-Secrets-of-the-Shadows/book-VZuruO558UaRkC67n89YSg/page1.html?s=kboGsvBuq0uMxSMNO-3ENg&r=2

http://www.carinauk.com/the-secrets-of-the-shadows

The Ghost House is available on a number of platforms via Amazon:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Ghost-House-Helen-Phifer-ebook/dp/B00EAPX6HU
Find out more about Helen and her books at the link below:

http://www.helenphifer.co.uk/