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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not Just Another Winter’s Tale by Jessica Redland

Reserved by Rhoda Baxter

Seasonal Encounters of the Cafe Kind by Zanna Mackenzie

In All the Wrong Places by Jo Bartlett

Winter Melody by Deirdre Palmer

The Handsome Stranger by Alison May

Loving Mr Perfect by Holly Martin

The Other Side of Christmas by Sharon Booth

The Art of Giving by Sarah Painter

All I Want for Christmas by Jackie Ladbury

The Bookshop of Dreams by Helen Phifer

Muriel’s Christmas Surprise by Jennifer Bohnet

Wherever I’ll Be by Deirdre Palmer

Christmas in July by Helen J Rolfe

A Pistol for Propriety by Alys West

A Tooth for a Tooth by Terri Nixon

It’s a Wonderful Life by Annie Lyons

Something Blue by Linda Huber

Ghosts of Christmas by Sarah Lewis

Meet Me at Midnight by Rachael Thomas

Into My Loving Arms by Lynne Pardoe

An Early Christmas Present by Samantha Tonge

Butterfly Nights by Deirdre Palmer

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

Thank you! And Merry Christmas. xx


Happy New Year. Here’s to 2017

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

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




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

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

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

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

Find Jo’s author page on Amazon here.


baxter-ebook-coverSharon Booth:

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

Find Sharon’s author page on Amazon here.


Jackie Ladbury:agc_front_rgb_150dpi-copy-2

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

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

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

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


51ctcugsirlDeirdre Palmer:

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

Find Deirdre’s author page on Amazon here.


513mpvjjs2lLynne Pardoe:

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

Find Lynne’s author page on Amazon here.


51m1u0pjdclHelen Phifer:

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

Find Helen’s author page on Amazon here.


Searching for Steven (New Cover Design 3)Jessica Redland

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

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

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

Find Jessica’s author page on Amazon here.


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

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

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

Find Helen’s author page on Amazon here.


51klstxdzlRachael Thomas:

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

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

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

Find Rachael’s author page on Amazon here.


beltane-cover-1Alys West:

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

Find Alys’s author page on Amazon here.

Happy 3rd Birthday to us!

1st April is a special day for the Write Romantics. It’s our 3rd birthday!

When Jo Bartlett and I ‘met’ virtually through the Romantic Novelists’ Association and came up with the idea of blogging together, we were two unpublished writers who weren’t even ready to submit our manuscripts. We realised quite quickly that we were going to struggle to post regularly about our ‘not quite ready to explore being published’ status, so we invited a few more RNA members to join in. The Write Romantics grew from two to ten, dipped down to nine for a while, then went back up to ten again.

One of the fascinating aspects of this group of female writers (other than the fact that we have never all been in the same place at the same time (except virtually) and therefore haven’t all physically met yet), is that we were nearly all aspiring writers when we joined forces. Only one of the group had a publishing deal. Move forward three years and it’s a very different picture.

We thought this would be the perfect opportunity for the Write Romantics to tell you about their last three years.

Jessica xx

book14Jo Bartlett

Three years ago, I was unpublished and dreaming of one day walking into a bookshop and seeing my name on the cover of a novel on sale there. I’d just finished my debut novel and was sending it out to publishers… Fast forward three years and my novel, Among a Thousand Stars, has now been out for nine months with So Vain Books and I have my coveted paperback! I’ve also had two pocket novels published by DC Thomson, so I got to see my name on a book in WHSmiths on several occasions. Both novels were picked up by Ulverscroft, a third pocket novel has just gone in to DC Thomson and I have also had a short story published with them in The People’s Friend. In the second half of last year, I signed a women’s fiction four book deal with Accent Press, the first two books will be coming out in 2016 and the second two next year. AATS CoverIn October, I finished second in the WHSmiths/Kobo/Harlequin romance writing competition and I am currently working with an editor at the world’s most famous romance publishing house on something that will be a significant departure for me and hence is being written under another name. Most of this has happened in the past twelve months and I definitely don’t appreciate how far I’ve come in three years for the vast majority of the time. Seeing it all written down like this makes a big difference though and, for once, I feel like there’s something to celebrate. The WRs birthday is the perfect excuse!


100% genuine *cough*

Sharon Booth

Gosh! Three years ago I wasn’t part of the Write Romantics. In fact, I hadn’t heard of them (sorry!) I started writing my first full-length novel in November of that year, for NaNoWriMo. I met Jessica and Alys in June of 2014, having connected with Alys on Romna, as we were members of the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme. I had a half-baked, patchwork story called Angel in the Marble, and was convinced it was rubbish. Jessica and Alys persuaded me to work on it and submit it to the RNA. I did, and got very positive and encouraging feedback. That September, I was invited to join the Write Romantics This Other Eden ebook cover V4 (1)(yay!) and in November, we released a charity anthology, Winter Tales, which included my short story, The Other Side of Christmas. I got Angel in the Marble edited and proofread, changed its name to There Must Be An Angel, and it was published in March 2015. Now I’m on the brink of publishing my third full-length novel, This Other Eden, having also had a pocket novel published by DC Thomson, and another short story in print, this time for The People’s Friend. Things really started to happen for me when I met the Write Romantics, so I’m very grateful to be part of this lovely group.

Jackie Ladbury

conf 2014 12In April 2013 I was faffing around with at least three half written books on the go. I now have three fully written books and am still faffing around! Have decided to pitch three novels as airline series and am finally getting my act together with A Plan! (I think!) Was shortlisted for a Mills and Boon first chapter competition and that complete novel is now part of The Plan. Am considering self-publishing another novel, but thinking about it makes me want to have a lie down, or take to the bottle. Could do that in reverse order I suppose!

my pic for blog postDeirdre Palmer

When we began, I was in the midst of submitting my novel, Remarkable Things, which has themes of motherhood, family relationships and later-life love. More revisions and another year on, I finally secured that elusive FINAL FINAL COVER with taglinecontract, and the book was published by Crooked Cat. Meanwhile, I’d written a 1960s’ comedy drama called Dirty Weekend, which Crooked Cat also published, a few months after the first. An excellent year! Now I’ve just finished another novel and started on another, the sequel to Dirty Weekend. Looking back, I’m very happy with what I’ve achieved in the last three years 🙂


DSCN1701Lynne Pardoe

I had barely started my first novel three years ago when my mum became ill. Stuck for things to speak about mum and I talked about my plot, the more it took shape, the quicker I wrote it! That was eventually sold to D.C.Thompson and it came out in January 2015 as ‘Made for Each Other.’ Since then I self published ‘Please Adopt Me‘ on Amazon at first. Now I’m just waiting for my second to be edited and am well into my third! I’m loving having a cottage industry all to myself and so are my readers, judging by the quantity of good reviews I have!! 🙂

helen phiferHelen Phifer

Three years ago I’d been offered my first two book contract with Carina and I was busy working on the rewrites for my debut novel The Ghost House. Which was to be published in October. Now I’m in the middle of writing my sixth Annie Graham novel. Book five The Girls in the Woods was published in January and I have a paperback of The Ghost House on my shelf, plus I have a standalone horror story that will be published by Carina in September and Annie book six will be published around December 2016. I’m in the process of something very exciting for next year which will take me in a whole different direction as I’m working on a brand new crime series. Which I’ll share with you once it’s all finalised. All in all, I’m one very busy, extremely happy writer.


_MG_4982Jessica Redland

‪In April 2013, I was working on my debut novel, Searching for Steven. It had gone through the RNA’s NWS once and I was preparing to put it through the NWS for a second time later that year because I’d made significant changes to it. The idea of becoming published was a distant dream. Eighteen months later, I received two publishing deals and decided to go with a new UK-based publisher Screenshot 2015-12-16 18.08.14called So Vain Books. In June 2015, Searching for Steven was released. It’s the first book in a trilogy of romantic comedies with deeper issues set in a fictional North Yorkshire seaside town called Whitsborough Bay. The follow up, Getting Over Gary, was released last month
and the final part of the trilogy will be out in August this year. I’ve also released a novella, Raving About Rhys, which is set in the same town but with a different cast of characters. I have a deadline for submission of book 3 in about six weeks’ time then I get to write something new which is incredibly exciting. It’s been an amazing few years. Eek! Dreams really can come true 🙂


Author photo - Helen J RolfeHelen J Rolfe

Three years ago, I was getting ready to send my second attempt at a novel to the RNA NWS. As I was living in Australia this was always interesting at a cost of more than a hundred dollars plus an anxious wait to find out whether it had arrived in the UK safely. But it was so worth it! ‪Three years on and that novel, The Friendship Tree, was the first of three I have had published. I went on to indie publish Handle Me with Care and What Rosie Found Next  and I have another two novels already in the pipeline. ‪It’s been an interesting and busy time but a lot of fun. I’ve learnt so much about writing and the publishing industry and I’m hoping the next three years bring just as much success for all The Write Romantics!


Handle Me with Care final front cover - for KDPWhat Rosie Found Next - bookcover - KDP version






photo (10)Rachael Thomas

In April 2013 I had just had my latest rejection and as usual was gutted. After the customary sulk, I began work on my next book, which I submitted to Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write competition in September 2013. That book made it to the Top 10 at the end of the year and Christmas 2013 saw me working on revisions which I submitted early in 2014 and within two weeks, I The Sheikh's Last Mistress-UK covergot ‘the call’. My debut, A Deal Before the Altar was published by Harlequin Mills and Boon in October 2014. Now three years on from the launch of The Write Romantics blog my sixth book, The Sheikh’s Last Mistress is about to be released. What is even more special, is that this book is a rewrite of the one rejected in April 2013, which just goes to show, nothing you write is ever wasted. Happy Birthday everyone!

Alys West Christmas 2015Alys West

Three years ago, I was working on the first book of an urban fantasy trilogy, Beltane. My dream was to secure an agent and I was thrilled in summer 2014 to be invited to London to meet an agent who wanted to represent me! Since then, Beltane has been published and I’ve been working on the rest of the series. I’ve also discovered a new passion for steampunk and wrote a story called The Dirigible King’s Daughter which I released on Wattpad. It’s been fascinating reading feedback from those who’ve followed the release of each chapter. The Dirigible King’s Daughter will be available on Amazon in the early summer. My novel writing is taking a bit of a back seat at the Beltane finalmoment because I’m studying towards a Masters in Creative Writing, but I’ll be back to it very soon.


We hope you’ve enjoyed our round-up of the last three years. If you’re just starting your writing journey, or you’re submitting and dealing with rejections at the moment, please keep on believing in your work because, as you can see from our summaries, dreams really do come true xxx







The venue for the RNA (Romantic Novelist’s Association) conference this year was at the Queen Mary University in Mile End, London, which has the very pretty Regent’s canal running through it and a really unusual Grade 2 Heritage old Jewish cemetery right in the middle of the campus.


It was worth a photograph although it’s not looking the best this time of year as they wait for the bluebells to die back before they tackle the weeds.

As usual, by the time I arrived, hot and clueless as to where I was supposed to be, I was perspiring nicely, my fringe stuck to my forehead. Luckily I spotted another fellow RNA member who I recognised simply because the suitcase she dragged behind her looked, as it should, to contain three parts wine to two parts clothes. Yep, she was one of us!

Peaked a bit too soon on the first night as the excitement of meeting old and new friends made me guzzle wine from a glass that was topped up far too many times. Pretty sure it was made for Thumbelina though, not someone like me, so I probably didn’t have half as much as I thought (yeah, right!)

It was just SO lovely to see everyone- not one miserable face amongst us, although there were a few more sweaty ones, as we were all simmering nicely by the end of the evening.

Sweltered the night away in the Thumbelina sized bed. (are you getting a bit of a theme going on here? These beds are not made for barge arse ladies like me; they are made for starving students, as thin as Sheldon Cooper.)

My face the next morning, gave the game away, big time, that I’d had fun the night before. It didn’t really recover if I’m honest, but it did improve as the weekend went on and I soaked up the wonderful optimism of my RNA writer friends in what is a very tough market to crack.


I was spellbound by the very lovely Hazel Gaynor who talked about promoting ourselves, scribbled totally illegible notes as Hazel Cushion from Accent Press told us what she was looking for in a best seller, and repeated Julie Cohen’s mantra to CELEBRATE finishing a novel, and that REPETITION IS DEATH to a novel. Again: REPETITION IS DEATH! She also likes Post It notes, apparently. Who knew!


Had a catch up with the two other ‘Write Romantics’ at the Conference, Rachael Thomas and Helen Rolfe, while the lovely John Jackson prepared Champagne Cocktails for us from a Mary Poppins like bag, complete with sugar cubes and Angostura Bitters. We then headed off for the Gala Dinner in the spectacular Octagon Library welcomed once again by Eileen Ramsey.


Everyone looked lovely in their best frocks although my dress remained resolutely in my suitcase, as once again it appeared to have been made for Thumbelina. No idea how it ended up in my suitcase, but hope it enjoyed its trip out to London.

The Elizabeth Gouge prize was won by Rae Cowie, who I met briefly at the conference; she seems a thoroughly nice person and deserved winner.

On the way home I was really touched as two young men asked if I wanted help with my case on the underground; they didn’t know I could have lifted it with one finger now the wine was gone. It wasn’t until I looked in the mirror that I realised they probably thought I was an ancient old crone, living on borrowed time.

Had a wonderful, though exhausting time, and think I only made two Faux Pas the whole weekend, which is pretty good for me. Also have a vague memory that I smoked a cigarette, but pretty sure I dreamed that and if anyone mentions it -ever, I will plead amnesia, and as all writers say- put you in my next book as a baddie with pongy breath and embarrassing personal habits.

Jackie Ladbury

Self publish and be damned!

I know the argument over whether to self publish or not has almost been flogged to death but it’s one of those things that I haven’t taken much notice of until I decided I might go down that route. I had a look on Kindle Direct Publishing today and although initially it made my eyes cross, it didn’t actually look too hard to manage after a bit of concentrating!
So one hurdle down, how many more to go, and is it a good alternative for someone who hasn’t yet cracked a publishing deal? I have recently had two near misses and a handful of praise from the few publishers I sent my manuscript to, so next on my list was to pay for a structural edit to see where I was going wrong.
So it has started. I am paying proper money in my mission to get one of my novels out to a wider audience. If I decide to self-publish, I will then have to pay for a proofread and a cover. Other miscellaneous costs will be necessary on the way such as paying for promotion and an IBSN number if I want to sell paper books as well as eBooks.
The upside of self-publishing – better royalties, immediacy of publishing, being able to design your own cover and set your own price, has been well documented. However, having paid more attention than usual to recent publishing deals of acquaintances, I discover that there do seem to be more pro’s than cons.
Of course the biggest upside of bagging a traditional deal has always been, for most writers, the kudos of having a publisher put their faith in your book. Other writers get this, but the average reader with a kindle would never notice who published your book and if they did look they probably wouldn’t be much the wiser. And even the big publishers, who have the opportunity to sell your book to a wider audience, often e publish a book first and wait and see if it sells enough to merit a paperback print. CreateSpace can do this with print on demand (and they do a very good job) so that’s hardly a bonus, anymore.
Do I really want to give a publisher most of the profits on a work that has taken a year to write, just for the credibility and possibly a bit more promotion than I could do myself? Promotion is quite a big consideration if you have no fan base, but once again publishers expect you to do practically all of the marketing of your book yourself. Advances are almost a thing of the past and the publisher mostly has full control over price, cover and content. Some don’t even proof-read your book before they publish it and they still take a huge cut, in some cases as much as ninety per cent of the profits.
And yet… and yet… I still yearn to have one of my novels published by a ‘proper’ publisher.
I guess the answer is to keep going until I have enough of a platform to decide which one suits me best. Who knows, I could do both and be in a win/win situation. For the moment though, neither have happened, but to misquote a far better writer than I will ever be, in the future, ‘The odds may ever be in my favour.’
Jackie x

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

Wednesday Wondering – All About Genre

Hello and welcome to March’s Wednesday Wondering. Last month, I attended a one-day script writing workshop at a local theatre. We were given some prompt images pasted from the Internet and asked to develop our characters and plot from these images. I found myself selecting an elderly couple and developing a plot that stepped back in time to WWII. I was actually really proud of the plot I developed, but came away with the overriding feeling that it was a novel rather than a play, and that I wanted to develop it further.

bookshelves1This isn’t the first time I’ve outlined a plot that takes me back to WWII. I attended a creative writing workshop several years ago and developed a story of two friends who became nurses during the war who both fell in love with the same man. It arrived in my head as a fully-formed story and it’s begging to be written one day.

The problem is, it’s not what I normally write.

When I started writing, I’d have classed myself as a writer of romcoms. I write female-led romance stories with characters in their late twenties to early thirties. However, as the trilogy developed, I realised that my storylines were a bit deeper than that and, although there are some funny moments, they’re less comedy and more about character development. If I have to put a label on them, I’d probably say contemporary women’s romance.

They’re not history, though. They’re not set in WWII. So why do I keep going back to WWII and setting stories then? It’s an era I have some awareness of from history lessons in school and watching films or TV programmes set at that time but I wouldn’t have ever said I was particularly drawn to that era. Or am I? I’m in my early forties so wasn’t alive during the war, my parents were born in 1944 and 1945 so they don’t have any recall either, and my grandparents on both sides of the family are no longer with us so I’m not surrounded by insights into this time. Yet I can’t stop thinking about it.

Karen cocking2When I was younger, I devoured Catherine Cookson books. My mum is a huge fan so I borrowed them all off her. Maybe this is where the history interest spans from, although most of Catherine’s books were set much earlier than WWII so, again, I don’t know where the pull of that era comes from. All I know is that there is a pull. So, after I’ve written the trilogy and book four, maybe I’ll address it.

My WW this week is therefore all about genre. I asked the Write Romantics:

What genre do you typically write and why?

Have you every ‘dabbled’ in a different genre. What was it? Why? How was the experience?

Would you try writing in a different genre? What and why?

What genre(s) do you mainly read?
Have you tried reading outside genre?

For me personally, contemporary women’s romance is my favoured genre for reading, but I do dabble in history, thrillers, contemporary non-romance and also children’s books. I’ve toyed with writing a thriller and a YA book and may still do so. After the historic ones. Or perhaps number five of the romance ones …

Jessica xx

Helen R says…

I typically write a cross between women’s fiction and romantic fiction. Usually there is a romantic thread in my story but there are other themes too such as family and friendship so a few subplots running at the same time.

I’ve never ‘dabbled’ in a different genre and I’m not sure whether I ever will or not, but if I had to choose another genre it would be teen fiction. I loved Judy Blume books as I was growing up – I couldn’t get enough of them  – and I’d love to be talented enough to write for the same type of audience.

I’ve recently read a couple of books outside my genre, both historical fiction. I enjoyed both although they were definitely more heavy going than what I’m used to. It was refreshing to read something different though and you start to learn a bit about different techniques used in different genres.

Deirdre says…

I find it difficult to say what genre I write in, firstly because there are such widely differing opinions on genre definition, and secondly, I don’t set out to write in a particular genre. I get an idea and run with it, and it will be what it will be.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy first novel I labelled as contemporary women’s fiction for the purposes of submitting but when I self-published it, I felt that needed qualifying so it became rom-com, although I wasn’t sure there was enough humour for that. With my next, Remarkable Things, the first to find a publisher, I fought against pinning a label on it and it morphed into something slightly different each time I submitted. The closest I can get is contemporary women’s fiction with a romantic thread. My male reader enjoyed it, though, and said the ending brought a tear to his eye, so maybe it’s not exclusively for the women’s market, who knows?

When I set out to write Dirty Weekend, also to be published, I’d signed up to NaNoWriMo so had write much faster than I normally do. This led me to the fast-moving plot peppered with plenty of comedy. The best I can do with this one is general fiction; I can’t call it contemporary as it’s set in the 1960s and that is now classed as historical by some. It’s strong on romance (actually more sex than romance!) but I don’t feel it fits with the romantic fiction genre as it’s normally understood.

The book I’m writing now, The Promise of Roses, is easier to classify; I’d call it contemporary romance. It has a stronger romantic thread than my previous ones so although there’s a lot else going on besides, including themes of bereavement, guilt and entrapment, I feel more confident of the genre.

I don’t see my genre confusion as a problem. I just want to write good books that people will want to read and don’t rule out any particular types of books for the future. At the risk of sounding pretentious, I’d like one day to write something that could be classed as literary fiction. There is a slight passing nod to that in Remarkable Things – it has some of the tropes you’d find in lit-fic – but I’m not deluding myself that I could write a full-on lit-fic.

My reading, as you might expect from the meanderings above, is not tied down to particular genres either. I don’t tend to read crime or fantasy but otherwise I’m happy with romance (as long as it’s edgy and has more going besides), sagas, recent historicals, literary fiction and the odd thriller, like Gone Girl and Appletree Yard. At the moment I’m particularly drawn to male authors who write about love and relationships as you get a different perspective. Some of my favourites are William Nicholson, Danny Wallace, David Nicholls and a recent discovery, Douglas Kennedy.

Jo says…

In my writing so far, at least as far as my submissions to the New Writer’s Scheme went, I’ve been a bit of a genre hopper.  I suppose my natural style is contemporary women’s fiction, which is also what I usually read.  That said, there is always a romance, although I can’t write *pure* romance.  I tried once and failed miserably, so really admire those who can do that and do it really well, like our very own Rachael Thomas and others whose books I’ve enjoyed, like Liz Fielding.  My novella and the novel due out in June, are both women’s fiction with emotional themes and a romantic angle.  However, I have also written a YA fantasy, which is awaiting an edit, and I’ve got several ideas for younger children’s books.

I’ve been thinking recently about establishing myself as a writer and getting involved with a really recognisable brand as part of that, which might also help me stand out from the crowd in the competitive short story market.  If I want writing to be my career, I think it’s a route I need to take and I have seen other writers I really admire take that path – having made a name for themselves with an established brand. Lots of writers subsequently settle on one genre, but others also write under other pen names across a range of genres or sub-genres and different lengths of stories, which I suspect is the way to make a living from writing. I had an idea that I thought might work for an established series and sent off three chapters, hearing almost immediately, to my delight, that they wanted to see a full.  I’m now working very hard to get that polished and off to the publisher by next week.  If they like the rest of the story as much as the partial, I’ll also be able to see something I’ve written being sold in shops like WHSmiths, Sainsburys and Tescos.  If it comes off, I’ll be taking selfies everywhere I go! If not, I’ll keep plugging away, writing the stories I want to write, whichever genre or sub-genre they happen to cross into.

As for my reading, like my writing, I love emotional women’s fiction by authors such as Jo Jo Moyes and Julie Cohen, but I also read a lot of children’s fiction too – generally following my son’s latest obsession.  We worked our way through all the Dick King Smith books and we’re now on to Michael Morpurgo.  One genre I’m not madly keen on in adult fiction is pre-war historical, although I love war-time novels like Lena Kennedy’s books and post-war stories like Jennifer Worth’s trilogy of memoirs, which inspired Call the Midwife.  I don’t think I’d ever attempt to write a historical novel though  – far too much research required to get it right!

Sharon says…

m878-5l52zcfFb_a7bo5pqwInitially, I thought I wrote romantic comedy, but then my books seemed to have some deeper issues in them, too, and they weren’t really as laugh-out-loud as true romantic comedy should be. There are definitely some very funny moments in them, if I say so myself, but I would hesitate to market them as romcoms. I think I write contemporary women’s fiction with romance and a good sprinkling of humour! Try categorizing that on Amazon!

I’ve never written in another genre as an adult, though as a child and teenager I used to write pony books aimed at my own age group at the time. They were strictly for my eyes only, thank goodness. I still love to read pony books, though. I have a huge collection of them, although I had a horrible “accident” and sent the wrong boxes to a charity shop a couple of years ago and lost loads of my favourite books during a house move.

the chaliceI mainly read the genre I write in, which is romantic fiction with humour. However, I also read the occasional saga — especially the ones written by Catherine Cookson and Valerie Wood — and I often still read children’s and YA books. I still love Enid Blyton and Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series. I have quite a few historical novels on my bookshelves which I really want to read, and I enjoyed Dan Brown’s books, too. I studied the nineteenth century novel for a course some years ago and I really enjoyed the classics such as Middlemarch, Far From the Madding Crowd, Northanger Abbey and, my favourite book, Jane Eyre. I love Daphne Du Maurier’s books and I’ve read all the Miss Marple books by Agatha Christie. I love the naughtiness and fun of writers like Jilly Cooper and Fiona Walker, and I am a huge fan of supernatural crime stories. Our own Helen Phifer is very good at writing those! I love Phil Rickman’s books. They’re steeped in mystery, fairly bloody, often have myth and legend interwoven throughout, a strong sense of place, great characters, tight plots, and are terribly scary!

download (3)I love writing the kind of books that I write now, but I do have an idea for a saga, based on my own family history. I don’t know if I’ll ever get round to writing it, though. I would love to have a go at writing romantic suspense with a supernatural twist. I think it would take so much careful plotting and a lot of time and research. Maybe one day I’ll do it, though. I’d never say never!

Helen P says…

bookcaketopperI love to write crime/horror novels because I love to read them myself and I can’t find enough of them to satisfy the ghoul in me.

Yes I had to write a romantic story for the fabulous Write Romantics anthology Winter Tales and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I find it so easy to murder and scare people so being nice was a whole new experience 😉

I love to write. In fact I think I live to write so I’d try anything and any genre although I have no idea if I’d be any good at it. I read horror, crime and ghost stories. I have read a few books outside of my genre, mainly by my fellow Write Romantics. I’ve just finished Helen Rolfe’s The Friendship Tree and loved it.

Jackie says…

I can’t imagine writing a novel that doesn’t revolve around a romance, I just wouldn’t know how to fill all of that white space. I have written short stories that don’t have romance at its core but even then, I think there is a relationship of some sort at the heart of the story. However I have dabbled in different strands of the romantic genre and become clearer over time about what I enjoy the most. I started off writing stories that were very much chic-lit: vast quantities of booze being drunk with shopping and sex and bitchy put-downs (the characters were doing that, not me – much!) But as I’ve mellowed and no longer mix with the type of people who fuelled that particular fire, I don’t feel it’s ‘me’ anymore and consequently my writing has become less frenetic and more deliberate and thoughtful. I am overall relieved that I never tried too hard to get them published as I know I wouldn’t be able to write them today.

I write in a very haphazard way which probably wouldn’t suit many writers, but I find I become bored quite quickly when writing a particular story, so if I swap over to another one, while the last one ‘stews’ for a while, I come back to it with fresh eyes. I currently have five novels in various stages of unreadiness, but two of them are all but finished.

I will read most types of books apart from erotica (read one once to see if I could write it – that’ll be a ’no’ then!) but find I have less patience than I used to have if a story doesn’t grab me immediately. A feel good romance will always win me over. I do love a happy ever after!

Rachael says…

I’ve always loved reading Mills and Boon. As a teenager I would often be in the library getting my latest fix. When I decided to write, aiming at Mills and Boon seemed a natural progression from having spent many years reading them.

Anthology coverBefore I completed my first book, I had written short stories, even submitted them to magazines, but to no avail. I still enjoy writing short stories now, especially Meet Me at Midnight which featured in Winter Tales, our charity anthology.

Another genre I always thought I’d love to write for was for children, particularly boys about eight years of age. I read to both of my daughter and son as they grew up and felt there was definitely a gap in the market for boys of that age. There are of course, only so many hours in the day, but you never know!

As for reading, not only do I still enjoy a good love story, but I am fascinated by history and enjoy a good historical read. I have also been known to scare myself with a good horror story too!

Alys says…

I’ll read pretty much anything with print on it except for horror.  That’s about the only genre I can’t get to grips with.  But I regularly read fantasy, romance, crime, steampunk and very occasionally these days, something more literary too.

As to what I write, well, I call it urban fantasy with a spot of romance but you could just as well describe it as supernatural romantic suspense.  It’s starting to become clear that the fact that it doesn’t fit neatly into one genre is a bit of an issue when submitting to publishers. I’ve had rejections that say ‘there’s too much romance in it’ and others which imply that the fantasy bits are getting in the way of the love story. But even if I’d known that when I started it wouldn’t have stopped me (or not for very long anyway).  It’s the book that I wanted to write. And if they’re struggling with this one then just wait until I get round to writing my steampunkesque murder mysteries!

What about you? If you’re a reader, what genres do you read and, if you cross-genre read, tell us more about this. If you’re a writer, do you write in other genres or are you tempted to do so ?

Happy Wednesday 🙂

Jessica xx