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






Through the Instagram App and What Sharon Found There

Through the Instagram App and What Sharon Found There

Recently, I joined a marketing group on Facebook, formed to help writers and small business owners (the businesses are small, not the owners—although, they may be small, too, who knows?) improve their public profile.

It’s a tough world out there, you know. I may be famous in my own back yard—as in, a new book brings a flurry of excitement from my mother, my mother’s neighbour, my sister and my aunt—but if I’m to make any impact on the world, or even my little corner of it, I have to get my name, and my work, “out there”, wherever the heck “there” may be.

We’ve been discussing social media. Are you on Twitter? Tick. Facebook? Tick. Do you have a Facebook author page? Tick. A blog? Tick. Pinterest? Tick. Instagram? Er, what, now?  “Ah, Instagram. The new, trendy app that simply anyone who is anyone is using.”  “Okay, well I’m not sixteen and I have no idea about Instagram. Help, please?”

In the event, it turned out that most of the other people in the group had no idea about Instagram either, so I decided to march forth and try out this brave new world for myself.

Does anyone have a clue?

Does anyone have a clue?

First step—as always—was to Google it for information. First question. What is Instagram? Google was most helpful. “You’re kidding, right? I mean, how old are you? A hundred and six?” (I jest, of course. Google would never be so flippant, or so rude.) Having determined that Instagram was an app that basically lets you share photos online (you know, kind of like Pinterest, or Facebook, or Twitter…), I decided that I HAD to be part of this amazing feat of technology.

First lesson. You can’t join Instagram online. You have to download an app to your phone. Having just figured out how to turn my brand new Windows phone on, I was in the marvellous position of being able to do just that. So I duly downloaded the app. Now what?

Second lesson. You have to have a username and password. Okay, fine. I’ll just use my name. Except, my name wasn’t available. My own name! Harsh. Okay, let’s go for my own name and date of birth. Not available. Well, that was just rude. How could my own name and date of birth not be available? Who pinched them? I tried various combinations of words and numbers and not one of them was available. In desperation, I used my nickname and birthday. Aha! Allowed. So I was finally signed up for Instagram.

Third lesson. Your username is available for everyone to see. Oh drat. I don’t want to be known as that. I thought it was private. Okay, how do I change my username? Back to my beloved Google, which scratched its head, rolled its eyes, tutted in despair and said, “You do know what edit profile means?” Oh. I hadn’t noticed that. So back I went and clicked on “edit profile”. Delete username. Add new username. Done. Well, that was easy. Just add a short bio now…


Not the actual book I didn’t win because I DIDN’T win it.

Fourth lesson. Your bio has to be very, very short. Shorter than a tweet. After rambling on, explaining how I once played the queen in a school play, and how I never got over not having my name picked out of a hat to win a signed copy of a Bobby Brewster book after the author visited our primary school, in spite of the fact that I was the only child in the class who actually read for pleasure, I was informed, quite sternly, that my bio was far too long and I’d better cut it. I deleted a sentence, then a paragraph, then a chapter. Eventually, I was down to the permitted length. Success. My bio was complete. My profile was done. Except…

Fifth lesson. For some reason I cannot fathom, Instagram had taken my Facebook profile picture and used it as my Instagram profile picture. Since the picture wasn’t even of me, this didn’t seem at all useful. Back I went to Facebook and searched, in increasing desperation, for a photograph of me that looked reasonably human and didn’t feature me posing with Benedict Cumberbatch. What do you mean, camera trickery? It was all perfectly genuine, I’ll have you know. Anyway, I finally found one where, not only am I alone, not only am I not staring in horror with my hand half over my face, pleading with someone not to take my picture, but I am actually smiling. Crikey! So I changed that to my profile picture. (When I got home from work that night, the picture had loads of likes

100% genuine *cough*

100% genuine *cough*

and nice comments. I think my Facebook friends were stunned that I’d actually posted a photo of myself. I’m not the most photogenic of people, let’s face it.) So there I was, fully signed up and all profiled up for Instagram. Except…

Sixth lesson. I had no idea what I was supposed to actually do on there. I posted on my Facebook writer’s page, announcing that I had joined, and asking, quite genuinely, “What do I do now?” Back came several replies. “We have no idea, but when you find out can you let us know, please?” I really do have to get some younger, trendier friends. So, I decided to trawl through other people’s Instagram accounts and get some idea of what I was supposed to be posting. Hmm.

Seventh lesson. There is one huge snag with Instagram. You’re supposed to do things, see things, go places that are interesting. Since I’m usually either at home, writing, or at work, er, working, this doesn’t really apply to me. I tried my Write Romantic pal, Rachael Thomas, for help first. Her account featured lots of beautiful pictures of the countryside. Well, you see, Rachael isn’t just a fantastically talented romance writer. Oh, no. She’s also a dairy farmer. So when she skips merrily out of her house in the morning, she can raise her camera phone and sing happy little Disney songs and balance little blue birds on her hand as she takes gorgeous pictures of the Welsh countryside, pretty animals and—you know—stuff like that.  I, on the other hand, live in a city. I don’t much fancy taking pictures of the dustcart blocking our way out of the road yet again, or the latest takeaway that’s opened nearby because, after all, we’ve only got thirty takeaways in our area already, or the roadworks at the end of the street that have been there for weeks, even though whoever put them there seems to have forgotten all about them. So what to do?

Here's one I made earlier- honest!

Here’s one I made earlier- honest!

Eighth lesson. Everyone has photographs of cake. I mean, everyone! People bake and then they take pictures of their culinary creations so the rest of us can a) feel suddenly in desperate need of cake and b) hang our heads in shame because we haven’t baked since nineteen ninety-eight. (That may actually be true, in my case.) Even Rachael had posted a photograph of a cake she’d made! How does she find time for that, for heaven’s sake? I turned to my other Write Romantic chum, Helen Phifer. Helen is really busy, just like Rachael. But Helen writes ghostly crime stories. She collects photos of haunted houses and—you know—creepy stuff. I can rely on Helen. Oh, Helen! Cupcakes! Seriously? But yes, there they were. Cupcakes. Okay, they were in among some creepy stuff (and some lovely stuff, too!) but they were there. I had to take photos of cake. It was obviously the way to go. A quick scout around our kitchen revealed two stale Jacob’s cream crackers and a broken custard cream. I suppose I could have photographed them as some sort of artistic statement. But no…Things were getting critical.

Ninth lesson. Instagram makes you desperate to photograph anything. I mean, anything. I spent the entire day wandering around looking at “things” and wondering if they would make a good subject for a picture on Instagram. I even trawled through old Facebook photos, trying to convince myself that I could post some of them and pretend they were new. Then I realised that I didn’t like any of them anyway, so that was pointless. I decided I would have to buy cake and start—you know—actually going out. Desperate times.

Tessa to the rescue

Tessa to the rescue

Tenth lesson. When in doubt, remember man’s best friend. Okay, so I don’t bake, and I didn’t have cake in the house, and I don’t go anywhere. But what I do have, which seems to be very acceptable, is a pet. My lovely German Shepherd, Tessa (who features in my Kearton Bay books, albeit aged by some years and with a personality that’s the opposite of the real version, but is still lovely—not that I’m plugging my books, you understand. Ahem) was most obliging. As I scoured the house, looking for something that I could take a picture of, she gave a sudden sneeze, drawing my attention to her. She was lying by the sofa and as I leaned forward to get a better look at her, she gave me a worried look as if to say, “Why are you pointing that phone at me? Get away from me, you mad creature!” Too late, Tessa! A click and I had it! Feverishly, I looked at my photograph. Ah, my beautiful dog. You are the perfect subject for my first Instagram photograph!

Eleventh lesson. Uploading, or downloading, or whatever it is you do with the wretched things, isn’t as easy as you’d think. For a start, I couldn’t figure out how to crop the picture, and Instagram likes your photos to be square. Back I went to Google. “Oh, God. It’s you again. What now?” it sighed. Still, it was very obliging, and I managed to find an app that ensured all my photos were suitable for Instagram, and I didn’t have to worry about cropping or any of that technical stuff. Problem solved. So my picture of Tessa was duly up/downloaded. Then I up/downloaded pictures of my People’s Friend pocket novel. Then pictures of my two books. Then a picture of Winter Tales (which is back on sale, by the way). Then a picture of my notebooks to show that I was about to start plotting and drafting a new book, because, after all, I’m a writer, and that was the point of joining Instagram in the first place – to remind people that I write books and they’re worth reading, even if I do say so myself (and my mum’s neighbour agrees with me, so there). The point was not to prove that I bake cakes or go places or socialise or anything like that. Right?

Hmm. I still have to work out how, why, or if I should share my Instagram photos to Facebook. I also have to fathom the mysterious world of the hashtag, so my adventures in Instagramland are not over yet. I have a feeling that I’m going to be looking at life through a lens from now on. Everything is a photo opportunity.

Look out, world. Sharon’s got a camera – and she’s not afraid to use it. In fact, she’s quite desperate…

Sharon xxx

New York Dreams by Helen Phifer

Have you ever wanted to go somewhere so bad, but knew that you never would because you couldn’t afford it or it just wasn’t possible?


I have since I was a child and learnt about the Statue of Liberty, I longed to go to New York. As I got older it was always in the back of my mind. Thanks to watching Ghostbusters numerous times I felt as if I knew the place pretty well already. I met Steve when I was eighteen and we did go on an amazing holiday to Hawaii, before we settled down. Then we bought a house, got married and our five children came along, so a day out in Blackpool was a luxury that we couldn’t really afford, but we would save up and take them so they never missed out. We did have one holiday abroad when the kids were very small, but it was such hard work that I swore to myself I would never go abroad again. At least not until the kids were old enough that they didn’t need nappies, buggies and more clothes than we could carry. Fast forward to nine years ago and I had five teenagers, we discovered Centreparcs which is perfect for our family, especially my son Jaimea who is severely disabled. We try and go there every year because we love it so much and now I have grandchildren to share it with. Gosh I feel old, however New York it isn’t and I still desperately wanted to go there. Jaimea needs round the clock care and we’ve never left him so before so I knew it wasn’t going to happen. I wasn’t bitter about it because Jaimea is my world, but it’s hard knowing that you can’t do what everyone else is doing.

This year has been a tough one for my family, my two adorable grandsons decided that being born at 27 weeks was fine and Jaimea became seriously ill. He ended up in intensive care for longer than I care to remember. Thankfully he eventually got better and the twins were well enough after one heck of a fight to come home.

I was looking at my emails and found an invite from my publishers Harlequin to a Black & White Ball, to be held at…..you guessed it The Waldorf Astoria in New York. My heart filled with pride that I had even been sent such an invitation, but seconds later it sunk again. I knew I could never go, but being invited was almost as good I told myself. I printed the invitation out and stuck it to the front of my fridge, hoping it would give me some incentive to stick to a healthy eating plan in case I got another invite next year.

Later that day my daughter brought the twins to see me and read the invitation, she looked at me and said, ‘You have to go.’ I laughed and told her I’d very much love to go, but I didn’t even have a passport. She rang the passport office and made appointments for me and Steve to go to Liverpool the next day. We told ourselves we would get the passports then see about booking, the next day after a four hour wait we had our shiny, brand new passports in our hands. Then fellow write romantic Rachael who was also invited asked if I had my ESTA, my what? We drove home and I applied, within a minute we had our approval. I was terrified to book because as much as I wanted to go I was scared to leave Jaimea. We finally talked ourselves into it with the promise that if all was not well on the day we were supposed to travel then we wouldn’t go.

It was eight days until the ball and it was amazing how things fell into place. I even had a brand, new black dress that I’d never worn hanging in my wardrobe. It was as if it was meant to be, so we packed our bags and said our tearful goodbyes. I was only going for three nights but it seemed like forever, we needn’t have worried. Jaimea had the time of his life without us, my kids who are actually all adults now took care of him brilliantly.

When we arrived in New York I got a text telling me Jaimea was fine and to enjoy myself, which quite frankly I did. We packed everything in those three days that I’d ever dreamt about. The Statue of Liberty, The Top of the Rock, The Empire State Building, The American Natural History Museum, The One World Tower, we paid our respects at the 9/11 memorials. We saw Central Park, shopped on Fifth Avenue, visited Times Square – a lot and we would visit the summer bar outside the Rockerfeller Plaza each night and sip cocktails. We went to Grand Central Station, The New York Public Library and of course Cinderella went to the ball at the Waldorf, which was the hotel we were stopping in anyway. The ball was amazing, it was the kind of party I’ve always dreamt about since I was a teenager and as I sat there sipping my champagne I could not believe I was there, in the city that never sleeps. After dreaming about it for more than thirty five years, let me tell you something, it was even more amazing than I’d ever imagined. By the time we flew home we were exhausted, but I’ve never been so thankful or grateful that I was able to go. We arrived home to find our house was still standing, Jaimea was fabulous and I felt as if my spark for life had been reignited after all these years.


The moral of this story is never give up on your dreams, even if you think there is no way on this earth you will achieve them because of the obstacles life puts in your way. If you want something bad enough you will find a way and when you do take the opportunity to have the time of your life.

Helen Phifer xx

Helen Phifer and Rachael take New York

For months I’d been looking forward to going to New York for Romance Writers of America‘s 35th annual conference and even more so attending my first Harlequin party. I thought I’d be the only Write Romantic in New York, so was overjoyed when Helen announced, almost at the last minute, that she would also be in New York and at the party. Here’s our time in The Big Apple.

2015-07-22 17.06.37

For me, being in New York was all about connecting with other Harlequin authors, many of whom I’ve read for a long time. I also signed copies of my second and third books at RWA’s Literacy Signing, along with over 480 other authors and my place was next to Jodi Thomas, a RITA nominated author!


It was a full on week, but I also managed to squeeze in a bit of sightseeing. I couldn’t possibly go all that way and not see something of such a wonderful place. Top of my list of places to go was Central Park. The book I’ve just finished writing was set in New York and a scene was written against the backdrop of Bethesda Fountain in Central Park, so I had to go there and check it out.

The highlight of the week was the Harlequin party and meeting up with Helen. Here we are all ready to dance the night away.


Helen Phifer, Rachael Thomas, Chantelle Shaw and Bella Frances.

New York was an amazing experience and both Helen and I managed to see quite a bit of the famous city. We both made it to the 86th floor of The Empire State building and Helen went to the Top of the Rock, an observatory at the top of The Rockefeller Center. We also both saw The statue of Liberty, but Helen was lucky enough to get really close. I just saw the famous statue from a river cruise. Here’s a view shot I took from The Empire State Building.

Streets View of New York


There really are so many sights to see it just wouldn’t be possible to get round them all, not in one trip. Although I gave it a good shot! Which of New York’s iconic landmarks would you most like to see?


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