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

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

Official tickets! Exciting. Or scary!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lovely Erin Green/ODwyer Author and her equally lovely hubby

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

Julie looking very glam x

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The lovely Ellie Gray and Anne Williams.

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

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

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

The fabulous Milly Johnson

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

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

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

Me and the truly delightful Lizzie Lamb.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But it’s still scones.

Sharon xx

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

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

 

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Wednesday Wondering – Meet our main characters!

Today on the blog, we have been Wednesday Wondering about some of the characters in our forthcoming anthology. Prompted by the lovely Liv Thomas, who passed us the ‘Meet My Main Character’ baton, four of the Write Romantics are going to tell you a bit about the characters just waiting to slip between the covers of our winter collection, which will be raising funds for the Cystic Fibrosis and Teenage Cancer Trusts. You can meet Liv’s main character in the fabulous novel she co-wrote, as Isabella Connor, Beneath an Irish Sky, available from Amazon at this link or read more about Luke on Liv’s own blog posting, here.

First up is…

Alex’s Anthology Character

What is the name of your character and the title of the story?

Harriet Hardy who is the main character in ‘A Pistol for Propriety’.

2013-08-18 14.35.25When and where is the story set?

The story is set in 1898 in Whitby in North Yorkshire. However the story is steampunk so it’s not quite the same Whitby. It was enormous fun figuring out where dirigibles (or airships) could land and how steam powered cars might work.  There’s still a steam bus running in Whitby during the tourist season and that sparked some ideas.

What should the readers know about Harriet?

The wonderful thing about steampunk is that you can have really strong heroines who wear fabulous clothes and hats. I spent far too much time looking at pictures of 1890s hats. They were as wide as tea trays.  Heaven knows how anyone actually walked about in them!

What is the conflict in Harriet’s life?

At the beginning of the story, Harriet has done something which can best be described as imprudent. (The other thing I loved about steampunk is that you can use words like ‘imprudent’ and they sound absolutely right.  As a big fan of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer, I absolutely adored writing the dialogue).  I don’t want to say too much about what this imprudent action was but let’s just say that there’s a clue in the title of the story!

What are Harriet’s goals?

Harriet’s life hasn’t always been easy and it’s made her into a very capable woman.  She’s someone who thinks that marriage isn’t for her because of the choices that she’s made.  However, as this is a romance, someone turns up who challenges that assumption!

 Next we have…

Rachael’s Anthology Character

What is the name of your character and the title of the story?

My character is Sally Phillips and her story in the anthology is ‘Meet Me at Midnight’.

When and where is the story set?

It’s a contemporary story, set in Wales during the last few days of the year.

What should the readers know about Sally?

Sally is a writer, who has left London not only to try and escape her failed relationship, but to try and beat writer’s block.

What is the conflict in Sally’s life?

Her inability to write due to leaving Jake, her partner, but as soon as she arrives in Wales the words begin to flow, until she meets a handsome farmer one morning.

What are Sally’s goals?

To be successful in her work and happy in her life, something she’d always envisaged taking place in London, but events over the New Year change all that.

Our penultimate introduction is…

Julie’s Anthology Character

What is the name of your character and the title of the story?

The story I haven’t quite finished for our anthology is called ‘Not Just Another Winter’s Tale’ and features twenty-nine-year-old Emily Chambers

winter4When and where is the story set?

It’s set in the present day in the winter (hey, it is a Christmas/winter anthology) in the Derbyshire countryside although part of the story is set in the US of A

What should the readers know about Emily?

She can’t bear her new work colleague, Troy Zimmerman, after meeting him when working in the States over the summer. Unfortunately, she’s stranded at a conference centre and her only way home is to spend three hours in a car with him. Hideous thought

What is the conflict in Emily’s life?

Troy! Simple as that. Oh, and the fact that it’s started snowing. Very heavily. Which probably means the journey will be longer than three hours. Eek!

What are Emily’s goals?

To get home safely as quickly as possible with minimal communication with Troy. Only we know that’s not going to be possible, is it?

Lastly, me… the ‘artist’ (and I use the term loosely) formerly known as Jo, but now Write Romantic, Jay.  Hopefully more of that in a Mega Monday announcement coming your way soon…

Jay’s Anthology Character

What is the name of your character and the title of the story?

Jamie Chandler takes the lead in my anthology story, which is entitled ‘In All The Wrong Places’.

When and where is the story set?

The story is set in the current era and tracks the course of one December, which proves long enough to alter Jamie’s life forever.IMG_0671  Jamie lives in a sleepy Kent village, where finding love is difficult at the best of times.

What should the readers know about Jamie?

He’s gorgeous, funny, kind and the sort of Colin Firth-esque beta hero that every nice girl should fall for… Oh, and his legs don’t always work.

What is the conflict in Jamie’s life?

He’s convinced that no-one can love him after his diagnosis with MS but, as the title suggests, he’s been looking for love in all the wrong places.

What are Jamie’s goals?

He’s desperate not to spend another Christmas alone.  What he really wants is to settle down with someone and have the life he dreamt of before his diagnosis, but first he has to learn that love doesn’t always wear a name-tag.

Enter our competition

I hope you have enjoyed meeting our characters and don’t forget your chance to win a £20 Amazon voucher by entering our ‘Name That Anthology’ competition. All you have to do is to send in your entry to thewriteromantics@hotmail.co.uk to be in with a chance. Entries close on 31st August. You can also register for updates at the same email address, so that you will know as soon as the anthology is available to order. We have a wealth of other writers contributing to the anthology, many of whom are bestsellers, and you can find out more about them here.

Next week, two of the Write Romantics, Rachael Thomas and Helen Phifer, will be taking the baton on their own blogs to talk about the characters in their novels and, if you are really lucky, Rachael might even share her fabulous cover reveal with you!

You can read Rachael’s blog here.

Helen’s blog can be accessed at this link.

 

 

Mega Monday Announcement – A Write Romantic Competition

Thomas1Christmas is Coming!  Okay, well there are 212 days to go, but The Write Romantics announced recently that we will be releasing a winter and Christmas themed anthology in November to raise funds for two incredibly worthwhile causes. The charities are the Teenage Cancer Trust, in memory of Stephen Sutton, a young man who stole all of our hearts, and the Cystic Fibrosis Trust. We chose the CF Trust because of another gorgeous young man called Thomas, who is Write Romantic Alex’s nephew.Thomas2

Alex tells us not to be fooled by the pictures – although Thomas might look angelic, he can be a cheeky monkey too when he puts his mind to it! As you can see, Thomas spends far more time than he should not being well enough to let that cheeky side really shine through, which is why we think the CF Trust is such a wonderful cause, in how it strives to help children like Thomas and fund research into this horrible disease.

Winter1The Write Romantics have been absolutely thrilled by the support we have received so far with the anthology and Carol Cooper, who is the Sun Newspaper’s GP and wrote the fabulous One Night at the Jacaranda, which is a finalist in the 2014 Indie Excellence Awards, has agreed to write the introduction for us. We will also be joined by the following guest writers, who span a range of genres from romance, via fantasy to thrillers and back again!

 

  • Rhoda Baxter (author of Dr January)
  • Jennie Bohnet (author of Shadows of Conflict)
  • Sharon Booth (author of soon to be released There Must Be An Angel)
  • Kerry Fisher (author of The School Gate Survival Guide)
  • Linda Huber (author of The Paradise Trees)
  • Sarah Lewis (author of soon to be released My Eighties memoir)
  • Annie Lyon (author of Not Quite Perfect)
  • Zanna Mackenzie (author of If You Only Knew)
  • Holly Martin (author of The Guest Book)
  • Alison May (author of Much Ado About Sweet Nothing)
  • Terri Nixon (author of Maid of Oaklands Manor)
  • Sarah Painter (author of The Language of Spells)
  • Liv Thomas (co-author as Isabella Connor of Beneath an Irish Sky)
  • Samantha Tongue (author of Doubting Abbey)

We also owe a huge thanks to Mark Heslington, Write Romantic Julie’s super talented husband who has shared these three great winter themed photos with us and will be producing both the cover art for the book and taking care of the type-setting.  The anthology will also be the debut release of The Write Romantic Press.

winter4We can’t thank our lovely guests enough and the anthology will also showcase the work of the nine Write Romantics with everything from short stories to flash fiction and perhaps even a bit of Pam Ayres style poetry! So how can you get involved? Well, obviously you can buy the book when it comes out, getting a great read, packed with stories from the impressive list of writers we have on board, but you can also enter our competition. The Write Romantics are looking for a name for our anthology, so we invite you to send in your suggestions to thewriteromantics@hotmail.co.uk

IMG_0671Write Romantic Jo will be co-ordinating the entries and the rest of the WRs will then judge the entries blind, with Jo retaining the Simon Cowell vote in the event of a tie! The full terms and conditions will be sent out to you on entering the contest and the prize is in two parts, the first is a £20 voucher for Amazon and the second will be a mention of your contribution in the acknowledgements section of the book. The closing date for entries is 31 August 2014.  So please start sending those ideas for a title in and look out for more announcements about the anthology coming your way soon.