Please, sir, I want some more

IMG_0910I’ve become a bit Oliver Twist lately. I keep wanting more. Okay, I confess, it’s not just been lately. The desire has always been there. Ten more minutes in bed? Ooh, can I have an hour more please? One lottery number in the draw? No, thanks. I’d rather have all six! One jaffa cake? No, thanks. I’ll take the whole packet instead! And when the tendency to munch my way through too many full packets of jaffa cakes (or tubes of Pringles … or pieces of cake; they’re interchangeable!) takes its toll and I toddle off to Slimming World or WeightWatchers for the millionth time, step on the scales and discover I’ve lost 6lbs in my first week, I feel disappointed that I haven’t lost 7lb or 8lb or, let’s face it, five stone in one week!

And I suspect I’m not the only one.

I decided to ask Google the question, “Do humans always want more?” A multitude of links came up offering thoughts and opinions, but all of them pointed to just one thing: it’s human nature. Good. Because I feel a little less guilty about it knowing that I’m not alone and that my “Please, sir, I want some more” attitude is not about me being greedy. Well, my desire for the extra jaffa cakes may be about me being greedy, but I hope my writing-related desires are purely human nature.

IMG_0900It started when I submitted my first manuscript Searching for Steven to the RNA’s New Writer’s Scheme in 2012. Like every aspiring writer who submits to the Scheme, I prayed that I’d get some positive feedback. I did. But I found myself wishing my MS had been good enough to be put forward for a second read. Please, sir, I want some more! Maybe the following year? I re-submitted Steven the following year as I’d made some significant changes. Perhaps I’d get my second read then? As it happens, the second read system was scrapped so I’ll never know.

The next big moment came when I clinched a publishing deal in September. Woo-hoo! It was an eBook only deal and, you’ve guessed it … Please sir, I want some more! Whilst absolutely astounded, flattered, and thrilled to have secured a publishing deal, I found myself wishing it was for a paperback as well as an eBook. Doesn’t every writer long to hold their own paperback in their paws? Sometimes wishes come true and, before I’d signed, another publishing deal materialised and, this time, it was for an eBook and paperback. Double woo-hoo!

But, please sir, I want some more. It wasn’t enough for me to have a paperback available via Amazon or my publisher’s website. I wanted people to be able to walk into a bookstore and buy a copy of Searching for Steven. My publisher is new and small and they don’t have the links to make this happen … or at least not just yet. So it was down to me to be brave, like Oliver, and ask for more myself. Waterstones in Scarborough were my target and, although a change in manager meant that the enquiry slipped through the net several times and we missed the summer market completely, they stocked Steven. I knew they’d placed an order, but I didn’t know how many or when it would arrive so I kept popping in during my lunch hour at work. It was on my third or fourth visit that I finally spotted him nestling on the bookshelves and …

Please, sir, I want some more! It’s human nature to imagine scenarios and many of us will imagine the best possible scenario. IMG_0911My best possible beyond my wildest dreams scenario was a huge quantity of paperbacks piled up with pride of place on one of the tables rather than the shelves, with a sign beside them reviewing the book and pointing out that I was a local author and that Steven was set in a fictional version of Scarborough. Realistically, I knew that wasn’t going to happen, but I couldn’t help but feel a pang of disappointment that there was no signposting whatsoever. I’ve seen little review cards before pointing out recommended and local books, but Steven didn’t have one. I had to admonish myself to be grateful that (a) they’d stocked it, (b) there was more than one copy (there were 4 or 5) and (c) it was on the shelves forward-facing. I wanted to take a selfie of this amazing moment, but this would have involved an embarrassing lying on the floor moment because it was on the second from bottom shelf so I had to settle for a shelfie instead!

My next drama was whether it would sell. Four or five copies, not signposted, not on the tables, probably most likely to be selected by someone actually looking for my book rather than browsing on the shelves … would Waterstones be doing a return to distributor? I was therefore stunned and excited when Michelle, with whom I do a bootcamp, said to me a week gone Friday, “I bought your book in Waterstones yesterday. It was the last one on the shelf!” Eek! There’d been 4 or 5 on the Monday that week! I know where another two of them have gone – two of my work colleagues made a purchase – but I don’t know where number four and five went which is very exciting.

Of course, this has brought on another please, sir … moment because I now want Waterstones to restock! I want them to say, “Goodness me, those Jessica Redland books flew off the shelves. We must stock some more. And put them on a table in the middle of the sales floor. The best table. Ooh, and let’s add one of those review signs. In fact, let’s put some in the window too and flag up our local talent.” Hmmm. Might be getting a bit carried away there!

Yes, I think it’s human nature to always want that bit more. Yet that doesn’t mean I’m not satisfied with everything I’ve achieved so far. When I started writing, I had an idea and felt compelled to put it to paper. I didn’t really imagine that I’d be a published writer one day; I just needed to write a book. It’s amazing to think I managed that, never mind that it’s now out there for the general public to (hopefully) enjoy.

I’d love more. Who wouldn’t? I’d love to be top of the charts in Amazon, I’d love to appear in bookshops nationally, I’d love to have my books translated into other languages and available around the world, I’d love to sell the film rights. I doubt any of these things will ever happen and that’s fine because my main dream has already come true and I’ll be forever grateful.

Speaking of wanting more, though, where’s those jaffa cakes?

Jessica xx

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In light and shade with Elle Turner

Hidden FaceOur guest on the blog today is friend of the Write Romantics, Elle Turner, telling us how she’s got this self-publishing lark all sewn up. Over to the fabulous Elle…

Hey there lovely Write Romantics! Thank you so much for having me back on the blog. I can’t believe two years have passed already since I was last here. It’s been great to follow your individual journeys over the period – you’ve all done tremendously well.

I re-read my 2013 interview with you guys before writing this post and one of the things I said was that I was mulling over the idea of self-publishing a short story collection. Well, at some point I must have stopped mulling and taken some action because I published Tapestry, my first collection of short stories, in September!

One of the things that struck me when I re-read the interview was how apprehensive I sounded. At that time I was still breaking out into a sweat every time I submitted anything anywhere. So how did I manage to get from there to here – excitedly sending my writing out into the world?

I know with complete certainty that being a member of the RNA New Writers’ Scheme has played an enormous part100_0740. The annual deadline to submit manuscripts, the readers’ reports, the supportive community and, this year, my first trip to the summer conference have all provided a focus, friendships and the will to keep going. Writing in itself has contributed to my growing feeling of belonging in the writing world, but also the online support through my blog, twitter and other social media platforms has been invaluable. In other words, in no small measure I have all my online buddies, not least the Write Romantics, to thank for helping me get here. It’s not all been plain sailing – self-doubt, rejection, impatience and what have you – but that’s all part of life’s rich TAPESTRY, right? 😉

My collection of twelve short stories went through many titles before I chose Tapestry, but now I wonder why I didn’t think of it in the first place. The stories are a tapestry, exploring the complexities of life and love through what I hope are moving tales, whether happy or less so. I wanted to write stories about love in different guises, whether romantic love, familial love or obsessive love and took the opportunity to explore the darker, sadder sides of the emotion too. Some of the characters appear in more than one story – I wanted to see what happened to them before or after their first story in the collection. I hope, if you read it, you find you wanted that too!

TAPESTRY_front150dpiIn hope, in pain

We lose, we gain,

But always and forever

The human heart braves life

In light and in shade.

A collection of twelve short stories exploring the complexities of life and love.

Available now from Amazon http://hyperurl.co/ymjfs2

Tapestry came out at the end of September and publication day was so much fun! Again it was my online buddies who made it so and I’m more grateful than I can say to everyone who really got behind me. I’ve had some lovely comments about the stories too, so I’m very happy. J

It’s all been very exciting, but it’s back to work now! I’m looking for an agent for my books and am keen to hear what my NWS reader has to say about Book 4. I’m also planning a new project for 2016. That’s the idea anyway, but who knows what will happen? I’ll have to take it as it comes. Part of life’s rich…

Yes, OK, I’ll get my coat… 😉

Thank you so much for having me, Ladies! I hope to see you again soon and, in the meantime, happy writing!

Much love,

Elle J xx

Congratulations, Elle, the WRs are all really looking forward to escaping into your stories! Good luck with the agent submissions and the NWS news and thanks for joining us on the blog again, we hope you’ll come back next time you have some news.

Elle Turner writes contemporary women’s fiction. She lives in beautiful Scotland with her husband and two sons. She has pretty much no sense of direction, if you offer her a 50:50 she will ALWAYS get it wrong and, despite living in Scotland, she rarely manages to wear shoes that don’t leak.

If you would like to find out more about Elle or her writing, she’d love to see you at www.elleturnerwriter.com on Twitter @ElleTWriter, Instagram elletwriter or she’s on FB as elleturnerwriter

 

 

Saturday Spotlight: Are we blagging it to blog it? by Christina Templeton

I’m delighted to welcome Christina Templeton to the blog today for her first ever blog post! She’ll tell you more of her story, but we met Christina in December when she got in touch after the publication of Winter Tales.  Christina’s two gorgeous grandsons have cystic fibrosis and she and her family have been heavily involved in fundraising for CF charities.  Christina is a member of the RNA’s New Writer’s Scheme which is, of course, how the Write Romantics met. I’ll stop talking now and hand you over to Christina (but please be nice to her, she’s new at this…)

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As an author with three novels in the bag you’d think I’d be writing blogs with no trouble at all, but the truth is this is my first attempt. I always thought people only blogged if they did something amazing, like my son-in-law when he ran seven marathons on seven continents in aid of cystic fibrosis. Now his blogs were interesting!

Yes, his chosen charity is close to my heart as two of my grandsons suffer from this disease, but he wrote about his experiences in China, Chile and Antarctica whilst raising over half a million pounds.  But what do I have to blog about? A retired civil servant, blessed with a happy family life and a passion for writing, I’ve never done anything dramatic or heroic, never made a difference to world affairs or even local affairs. Apart from the shock diagnosis of cystic fibrosis in my grandsons, most of the drama in my life comes from my imagination. Which, of course, is why I’m a writer. IMG_3665

My daughter put me straight.  ‘What about our charity?’ she said.  She was referring to a local charity we set up to make life easier for children living with cystic fibrosis in Hampshire.  We provided things like trampolines to keep them active, nebulisers that take one minute instead of twenty to administer medicine and access to laptops to alleviate their boredom during frequent hospital stays.

‘And mum, what about your writing?’  she said ,almost as an accusation.  She’s right, of course.  Whilst I’m still without an agent and yet to have my novels published mainstream, I have completed three, won several short story competitions, been published in local and county magazines, uploaded four children’s stories on to Kindle and published a book of short stories on Amazon.

IMG_3666I’m in the Romantic Novelists New Writer’s Scheme and am encouraged by their feedback. I get really great support at the twice-yearly Dunford Novelists conferences – supported by best-selling authors like Catherine King,  Della Galton and Pam Fudge to name but a few.  Established or beginner, attending authors share their work and offer it up for critique. It’s quite intense but very useful and I’ve met some lovely people, including novelist Julia Bryant, who I’m proud to call my mentor and friend.

Are we blagging it to blog it? I thought so until I recently discovered the Write Romantics.  As well as publishing an anthology to raise funds for The Cystic Fibrosis Trust, they bring together so many things I’m passionate about – love, life and writing. I think what I’ve learned is that whilst authors may be better at fiction than fact, as the protagonists in our own life stories we all have something to say, and we know from our craft that heroes don’t always need to do heroic things to be interesting or win hearts and minds.  Are we wasting precious time blogging when we should be focused on our novels? It’s a valid question, but we novelists know the journey is as important as the end goal.  The life of a novelist can be isolated and blogging helps you feel connected to a wider community – it makes the journey more enjoyable, and let’s face it – what’s the point of writing if you don’t enjoy it?

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Christina Templeton has written three novels and is crafting her fourth.  In between, she keeps her imagination active by writing short stories and as from today, blogs.  She’d love an agent, a publisher or both. You can find out more about her and her work here.

Thank you so much to Christina for joining us today.  If you’d like to leave a comment for her please click on the word ‘comments’ in teeny, tiny type at the bottom of this post.  And as Christina mentioned, Winter Tales our charity short story anthology is available here with all the royalties going to the Cystic Fibrosis Trust and Teenage Cancer Trust.   Have a great weekend! Alys x

Publication Day – The Friendship Tree by Helen J Rolfe

 

Helensparklers

I signed my contract with Crooked Cat Publishing in October last year and the lead up to publication day for The Friendship Tree has been hard work, but really exciting.

bookcaketopperChoosing the cover for my debut novel was one of the most exciting parts of the process because it all began to feel so real. I loved discussing images with my publisher and working out what was the best fit for The Friendship Tree, and I was delighted with the finished design.

The book came out for pre-order on Amazon a couple of weeks ago and it was fantastic to see The Friendship Tree ‘out there’, but nothing compared to the actual publication day itself. I slept until 5:30am when I couldn’t resist the temptation any longer, and then switched on my Kindle to find my own book waiting there for me. It was the best feeling in the world.

 

cupcake2I was a bit unsure of what to expect with an online Facebook launch party, but I had a fabulous day with so many lovely messages from friends, family and strangers who not only said well done, but also told me that they were enjoying my book.

Publication day was a whirlwind of excitement with cupcakes, champagne and congratulations, and I enjoyed appearing on a number of blogs to talk about The Friendship Tree.

Cheers to a brilliant year of writing for all The Write Romantics!

Helen J Rolfe x

 

 

Monday Special: Interview with Bella Osborne

As the Write Romantics met through the RNA’s New Writers Scheme we’re always delighted to hear about other writers graduating from the scheme and getting their first novel published.  Today we’re really pleased to welcome Bella Osborne, who like all of us, set off in the NWS.  Her debut novel, ‘It Started at Sunset Cottage’ will be published by Harper Impluse on 12th February.  I’ll hand over to Bella to tell us more about her writing and how she’s feeling in the run up to ‘publication day’.  

Bella Osborne

Many thanks for inviting me onto the Write Romantics Blog!

What made you decide that 2013 was the year things were going to change?

A life coach was getting great results with some of my team and I asked her for some tips so that I could continue what she had started. She ran a session with me, and although at the time there was nothing I wanted to change about my life, she hit on the fact that I used to write but had done little since becoming a mum. Basically she then harassed me, I mean coached me, into making time for my writing and taking other positive actions like signing up for a local writing class, investigating writing associations (I joined the RNA NWS) and taking a sabbatical from work to finish my first novel.

How did you meet your agent?

I was considering approaching agents when I was shortlisted for the Festival of Romantic Fiction’s New Talent Award so I thought that was a good opportunity to add that to submissions and send them off. A few asked for my full manuscript and Kate Nash rang me as soon as she’d read it and we went from there.

Did you have to wait long for the ‘call’ from Harper Impulse and how did you feel when it came?

I had met Charlotte Ledger, Harper Impulse Editor, at the RNA Conference and she had been really positive about what she had read. I still didn’t expect it to go any further so it was a bolt from the blue when I got a phone call a few months later offering me a two-book contract. I think the honest answer to how did I feel was stunned and then ridiculously overexcited.

How have you found the publishing process so far? 

Charlotte has been great at guiding me through the process and has involved me every step of the way. I feel like I’ve learned loads over the past few months and can honestly say I’ve enjoyed it. My original title did change but the new one was one that we conjured up together.

What are you most looking forward to/nervous about regarding its release?

It still feels quite weird that the book I wrote is going to be published, it’s a very good weird but still weird all the same. I just hope that whoever spends their hard earned cash on it enjoys it.

Did you get professional help with you website (we think it looks very professional) and would you advise others to do the same, if so?

Thank you, that is a lovely compliment as I did it myself. It was originally completely free until I bought the URL but otherwise it’s the same as the free version I set up. I would recommend Weebly.com as it’s very easy to use and the results are pretty good!

Do you find writing for children more or less challenging than writing for adults?

I had no intention of writing for children, all the previous work I had started at home had been for adults. However, when I joined a local writing class and was set various different exercises and encouraged to explore genres some characters for a children’s story appeared. They then kept cropping up from time to time until my tutor, children’s author Gill Vickery, encouraged (that’s another word for harassed) me into writing the full story. I really enjoyed doing it and her support in tailoring my language to a different audience has been truly valuable.

What role do you anticipate having in the marketing of the book?

A few people have asked me about marketing and I went into a wild panic as basically I thought I had no plans at all. But as it turns out I have a good number of followers on Twitter who I’m hoping will spread the word and I’m now part of a wonderful network of writers who are also offering their support. And of course I have my family and friends who are waxing lyrical to anyone who will listen. It’s probably not the best marketing plan I could have come up with but I’d much rather people read it because it’s recommended to them or because they like the sound of it rather than because they’ve been bombarded.

It Started At Sunset Cottage

Have you already written the second in your two book deal and how involved is your publisher/agent in directing the focus of that?

Yes, I completed the second one in September 2014 and it is with my Editor. I gave her an overview of the story and she was happy to let me run with it. That said I don’t think she’s read it yet so we’ll see what comes out of the editing process!

How would you like to see you career develop and are you likely to go back to any of those unfinished novels you mention on your website?

I’ll keep writing whatever happens, it’s just something I’m compelled to do and that I completely love. It would be great if people buy them and enjoy them. I have learned a huge amount in the last two years about the craft of writing and when I look back at my earlier work I cringe a little. That said I have taken the seed of an idea from one of those stories to make the basis of my third book, which is an office-based romance.

Thanks again for having me on your blog, it’s been fun!

You can pre-order ‘It Started at Sunset Cottage’ here

Check out Bella’s website here and follow her on Twitter at @osborne_bella

Saturday Spotlight: How to Write a Christmas Romance by Alison May

It’s lovely to welcome Alison May back to the blog today. We’ve known Alison for a while now as she was first on the blog in June 2013 and she also had the dubious pleasure of sharing a flat with 3 of us at last year’s RNA conference.  Amazing things have happened for Alison since then – her first novel Sweet Nothing was published by ChocLit, followed by her hugely successful Christmas novella, Holly’s Christmas Kiss.  Alison now has another book in the Christmas Kiss series out (but I’ll let her tell you about that). As the expert on festive romance when we delighted when Alison agreed to contribute a story to our Winter Tales anthology and we thought we’d ask her for a few tips on how to put the romance into Christmas. 

Alison MayFestive romance novellas are very much the current thing. They seem to be more utterly 2014ish than loom bands, or Latvia joining the Eurozone, which I think we can all agree were very much the Main Things that happened this year. You can barely move on the modern interweb for holly-covered book covers, and I’ve written two myself – parts one and two in my Christmas Kisses series – so I was not surprised at all when the Write Romantics asked me to share my Christmas romance writing tips. Specifically, I was not surprised because it followed a lengthy period of me sending them regular begging emails, and one tiny unfortunate incident when they caught me hiding behind their bins.*

Anyway, they did ask me, and so I have positioned myself on my Christmassy writing throne, cracked open the good eggnog, and located my finest Victorian-imitation festive quill pen. With no further ado, here are my Christmas romance writing tips. They are twofold:

Tip 1. Write a really good romance.

Tip 2. Make it properly Christmassy.

Now I’ve just read those back, and I do have to acknowledge that they might not seem like the best thought-out tips ever concocted, but they actually, honestly, are. Writing a Christmas romance novella is really simple, but, unfortunately, simple isn’t the same as easy. The most important thing is that you don’t try to fake it.

I love romance stories, and I absolutely adore Christmas, to the point that I have Christmas twice a year – the traditional main event with family, and an additional late November Fake Christmas where we do the full turkey, trimmings, presents and champers shindig in advance with chums. When I write my Christmas stories, they’re not just love stories between the hero and heroine; they’re my own love letter to Christmas itself. Holly’s Christmas Kiss is my tribute to the childlike excitement and anticipation that I still feel in the run-up to the festive season. My hero in that story, Sean, is the physical embodiment of the enthusiasm and lack of cynicism that I associate with that feeling. My new Christmas Kiss story, Cora’s Christmas Kiss is my love letter to the glorious imperfection of Christmas – the idea that the perfect Christmas is about people and love and kindness, rather than finding the right outfit or cooking a faultless meal.

CCK_ 300dpi

And, for me, Christmas and falling in love go together beautifully. I tend to write heroines who are a touch on the control-freaky side. Falling in love, for them, is often all about letting go of control and taking a chance. Embracing Christmas is much the same – it’s about letting go of the boring grown-up part of yourself that thinks about consumerism, and worries about things not going according to plan, and rediscovering your inner six year old. Inner six year olds are awesome. Inner six year olds don’t worry about consumerism because they know about Santa and his reindeer, and they don’t make plans for anything that can’t be built out of Lego. Their only Christmas worry is about the Lego-carrying properties of flying reindeer, which isn’t really a worry at all, because flying reindeer are magic, as any good six year old know.

I may have digressed a little there. Sorry. I was thinking about reindeer. My point though, was this: if you love romance, and you love Christmas, then throwing those two things together is genuinely the most writing-fun you’re ever likely to have. All the things that are too schmaltzy to write at any other time of the year, are allowed at Christmas, because at Christmas frogs really can turn into princes, Wicked Queens really can turn out to be secretly lovely, and reindeer really do know how to fly.

*Because the Write Romantics obviously have shared bins, on account of how they all live together in one big writing mansion, where they eat peeled grapes, compose awesome stories, and have woodland creatures to assist them with all their domestic chores.**

**This is definitely and actually true. ***

***Probably.

Alison May is a novelist and short story writer, who writes romantic comedies for Choc Lit. Her debut novel, Sweet Nothing, was published in 2013, and she was a contributor to the Write Romantics’ anthology, Winter Tales. Alison lives in Worcester with her husband, but still no pets, on account of what happened to the goldfish.

You can find out more about Alison by following her on Twitter @MsAlisonMay and on her website http://www.alison-may.co.uk

Her latest book, Cora’s Christmas Kiss, is out now for Kindle.

About Cora’s Christmas Kiss

Can you expect a perfect Christmas after the year from hell?

Cora and Liam have both experienced horrible years that have led them to the same unlikely place – spending December working in the Grotto at Golding’s department store.

Under the cover of a Father Christmas fat suit and an extremely unflattering reindeer costume, they find comfort in sharing their tales of woe during their bleak staffroom lunch breaks.

But is their new-found friendship just for Christmas? Or have they created something deeper, something that could carry them through to a hopeful new year?

Plus, keep your eyes peeled for characters you may recognise from Alison’s previous novella, Holly’s Christmas Kiss.

We love reading your comments and would love to hear your thoughts on what makes a good festive romance.  To leave a comment please click at the end of the tags below where it says (in really teeny, tiny type) ‘comments’

Write Romantics Bookclub – The School Gate Survival Guide

IMG_2074Bringing humour and emotional buy-in to a story in equal measure takes a real gift, which Kerry Fisher has in bucket loads. We’ve been featuring her debut novel ‘The School Gate Survival Guide’on our Goodreads Book Club for the last month and have discussed everything from fellow parents who are at least 50% Botox, to going back to feeling like the new kid in the playground all over again.

The novel itself tells the story of Maia Etxeleku, a character whose down to earth intelligence and humour shines out from the first page. Maia works hard, in a cleaning job, to keep her family afloat, whilst her partner, Colin, could earn a part in Shameless and does very little at all – apart from blaming Maia for their problems.

Life starts to change in a way that Maia could never imagine when her favourite client, a professor, dies and leaves her a legacy that leads all the way to the school gates. Despite her surprise at the inheritance, and the stipulation that the money can only be spent on private education for her children, Maia carries out the old lady’s wishes.

School_Gate final jpegMaia soon discovers that appearances at the school gate, as everywhere in life, can be deceptive. Meanwhile, life at home becomes increasingly tense as she battles to fit in to a world where money spent on education is just the tip of the iceberg. Throw into the mix Zachary Peters, a teacher at the school who is everything that Colin isn’t, a very unhappy teenager and secrets that have been buried for a generation, and you have all the ingredients for a cracking good read.

Don’t just take my word for it though, here is what some of the contributors to our Goodreads thread had to say:

‘Loved this book…so much fun to read and very true to life!’

‘There is a real warmth in this book and lots of humour! Anyone considering reading it should go for it.’

‘Finished reading this brilliant book last night. The characters were amazing and I so wanted everything to come right in the end. You’ll have to read it to see if it does!!!’

If this has convinced you to read Kerry’s book, you can access it here. Kerry will also be a featured author in The Write Romantics’ anthology ‘Winter Tales’, due for release on 8th November.

Our next featured novel on the blog and for the Goodreads book club will be chosen by Lynne, who will be leading the discussions over there, as well as posting a review on the blog at the end of November.

Happy reading

Jo