A long time ago, (well, five and a bit years ago), two aspiring writers met online…

Today – 1st April – is a very special date for The Write Romantics. It’s not because we’re fans of the April Fool’s tradition of playing practical jokes, but because it’s our anniversary and 2018 sees us celebrating a whopping FIVE YEARS together! Happy Anniversary to us!

1. Happy Anniversary

We’ve been reflecting on where we started and how far we’ve come in that half decade and the results have been quite astonishing. We think that we’re proof to anyone wishing to pursue a dream of becoming a writer that patience and persistence pays off and that dreams can come true. More on that shortly.

This is the first in a series of posts across four days to celebrate our first five years together, starting with how it was then and how it is now ….

In the beginning…
There were two unpublished writers – Jo and Jessica – who’d met virtually through the RNA, had exchanged several emails, and decided to form The Write Romantics as a blogging duo.

1069991_10151820110344073_1918962117_nIt seemed like a great idea at the time and they set up a wordpress account, full of enthusiasm and started blogging. It didn’t take them long to realise that there was no way two unpublished writers were going to be able to think of enough interesting content to blog regularly so they decided to see if any other new writers would be interested in becoming Write Romantics. They thought that maybe two or three would join the group. Eight writers replied!

The line-up of ten has only changed once with Sharon Booth joining us in September 2014 when Lorraine wanted her writing to take a back seat for a while. Jessica and Alys had known Sharon for the past year and she’d been a huge supporter of the group before joining so she was a very logical choice for a replacement, already feeling like an honorary WR.

2. Who we are

 

When the ten-strong line-up started, all members were in the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme and dreaming of publication. Deirdre had dipped her toe in the water with an indie release but many of us hadn’t yet finished writing our first book so that publication dream was certainly there … just quite a distant one.

Our trailblazer, Helen Phifer, had secured a publishing deal with Carina and was about to dip out of the NWS, although her debut novel hadn’t yet been released so we really were all at the very start of our journey.

Rachael Thomas was next to secure a life-long dream of being published by Mills and Boon, following success in a competition they’d run, and then it slowly but surely started happening for all of us. Late 2014 and into 2015 was a time of big change as that was when many of the WRs secured a publishing deal or released their first indie book.

Anthology coverFive years down the line, every single Write Romantic has had at least two novels published plus a short story included in our charity anthology, Winter Tales.

We published Winter Tales in 2014 with stories from the Write Romantics featuring alongside stories from other successful writers we’d met through the RNA. The aim was to give all proceeds from sales of the paperback or eBook to two charities close to our hearts: Teenage Cancer Trust and Cystic Fibrosis Trust.

winter tales newbieWe rebranded the anthology with a fresh new look for winter 2017/2018 and are delighted that it continues to sell.

So far, we’ve been able to send £220 to each charity but we’re about to add to this…

I am thrilled to exclusively announce that we’ve raised another £350 so cheques for £175 per charity are being written as I write this. Woo hoo!

Thank you so much to all those who contributed their stories, and to all those who’ve bought the anthology, raising £395 per charity … so far! You can buy Winter Tales here.

 

From that starting point of one indie book and one publishing deal in the bag, a heck of a lot has changed for the WRs over the past five years. Here’s some figures for you:

3. Reach for Stars

Wow! From one novel to 69 of them in five years! Woo hoo again!

Over the next few days, I’ll be posting some thoughts from The Write Romantics about what they’ve learned over the past five years, and also sharing some photos as our group of geographically-dispersed strangers became friends.

I’ll finish this post with an enormous thank you to anyone who has downloaded an eBook, listened to an audio book, borrowed a book from Amazon’s lending library, or purchased any of the books/novellas/short stories/pocket novels the group have produced. We wouldn’t have been able to do this without you.

I’m off to raise a glass of something bubbly to celebrate. To be fair, it will probably be a Diet Pepsi as it’s a little early to partake, but the thought will be there!

Happy anniversary, Write Romantics!

Jessica xx

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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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Measuring success as an author

IMG_0544How do you do it? The concept of what success means is constantly shifting, not just for writers as a collective, but for each of us as individuals. Even when we achieve what we thought we wanted to achieve, there’s no guarantee it will actually make us *feel* successful. There are always others who seem to be doing better or perhaps doing things differently to us, who will make us question whether we’ve made the right decisions or whether we should be on a different path altogether.

 

So what’s writing success? Perhaps it’s…

  • Getting a publisher?
  • Getting an agent?
  • Owning your writing journey as an indie author?
  • Seeing your novel in a book shop?
  • Appearing in an Amazon top one hundred chart?
  • Receiving lots of 5 star reviews from people you’ve never met?
  • Making a decent amount of money from writing?
  • Getting an email from a reader to tell you how much they loved your book?
  • Making your mum, dad, children or next door neighbour proud?
  • Creating a social media presence with followers in their thousands?

Maybe it’s lots of these things or something else entirely. In the last couple of years, between us, the WRs have achieved more of these measures of success than I think we ever really thought possible. But, lately, I’ve been questioning what it is that would make me feel I’ve been successful as a writer and I happened upon a quote that really resonated with me:

‘Success should be measured by how much joy it gives you.’

For my writing life, this is so true. Whilst I’ve ticked a lot of things off the list above, there are several still to achieve.Chart position AATS However, I’ve discovered if I approach writing chasing too many of those measures of success, I can rob myself of that joy. I started writing just because I loved it and that’s how I want to measure my success. If my writing gives me joy, then I can’t really ask for more. The rest is all just garnish.

As for my social media presence, that’s probably strongest here, on this blog, with the rest of the WRs. There might be lots of blog awards we could have won with a different approach and there are writing collectives with a higher profile than ours. However, if success really is measured by the amount of joy something brings you, then being part of this blog and, more importantly, this group has also been a resounding success for me.

I’d love to know how other writers measure their success and, whatever form that takes for you, I wish you lots of it.

Jo

Finding an Agent – Discovery Day 2016

Author photo - Helen J RolfeOn Saturday 27th February I took the train to London to attend Discovery Day 2016, an event held at Foyles bookshop where attendees had the opportunity to pitch their work to Curtis Brown and Conville & Walsh Literary Agents.

For any writer, the chance to meet agents face to face is an invaluable opportunity and as I walked to Charing Cross Road I was excited, if a little nervous.

We had been given allocated time slots for pitching but it was still an hour queueing on the stairs to get to the top of Foyles and the gallery where agents were waiting for us. This was a nice time, however, to meet other writers and talk about our work. It helped to calm the nerves!

Foyles

 

Once I reached the gallery and an agent was free I was lucky enough to pitch to the lovely Jess Whitlum-Cooper who works at Curtis Brown with Felicity Blunt. Jess read my first page and then I was given thirty seconds to pitch my novel before we discussed my work.

Following the pitch appointment we were also able to ask general questions about agents, writing and publishing, with another literary agent in a Surgery Session, and here were the top tips for writing a cover letter to go with your submission:

  • Provide a very concise description of what your book is about
  • Identify who potential readers are
  • Name similar authors
  • Talk about your own writing experience
  • Let the agent know what inspired you to write this particular book

I found the experience of Discovery Day extremely positive and a lot of fun. Jess showed a lot of enthusiasm for my novel which was a real boost and whether or not I end up securing an agent this time round, Discovery Day did a lot for my confidence and belief in my writing. It also really showed me that not only do I want to find an agent to represent me, but I want to find the right agent. I think the right fit is so important because an agent/author relationship is a long-term commitment from both sides.

So for now, it’s on with the submissions and the next book!

Helen J Rolfe

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What Rosie Found Next - bookcover - KDP versiontft front cover with quoteHandle Me with Care final front cover - for KDP

 

 

 

 

 

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How to research a novel

Author photo - Helen J RolfeI’ve always been what I’d call an ‘over-researcher’ if there’s such a term. Back in the days when I wrote articles for health and fitness magazines I’d read up on a subject using literature and the internet, I’d interview a couple of experts in the field and even for a short article I’d have far more information than I ever needed.

So what about when it comes to writing a novel?

With The Friendship Tree I really took the age old advice of ‘write what you know’. I knew the Sydney location well enough to send my characters, Jake and Tamara, into the city. I’d worked with a PR team, Brewer Creek was a fictitious town and I had enough knowledge to place it in the right area. To make Jake’s job as the local veterinarian realistic I chatted to Write Romantic, Rachael Thomas, who owns and runs a dairy farm.

I’m finding that as I write more novels, I need to do more research. My ideas and my characters are taking on dimensions that I’m not familiar with and I owe it to the stories to get all my facts.

So how do I know when I’ve done enough research?

At a certain point I find that the information I’m uncovering is repeating what I’ve already found, what experts in the field have confirmed, and it’s at that point I know I have enough information to go on. Sometimes questions crop up during the writing process and I’ll do a little more research at that stage, but by then it’s minimal.

So what am I researching now?

Well, for book four, which is in the editing stages, I took myself in to see professionals in the field because I knew it would allow me to make my characters jump off the page. This book focuses on a character who owns and runs a chocolaterie and apart from eating chocolate, I know nothing about what they do each day. Luckily, Creighton’s Chocolaterie in Leighton Buzzard invited me in for a couple of hours to watch them work and to ask as many questions as I liked. By the time I got home I knew I had plenty of information to start writing and as I got the words down on the page I knew it wouldn’t have been so easy without seeing the work environment for myself.

Of course, part of my research was to taste a few varieties too and bring home some samples. I couldn’t resist!

chocresearch

 

I think research for a novel is easy to begin on the internet. There is a plethora of information out there and as long as you’re using reliable sites it’s a good foundation. I think talking / interviewing experts in the field is also really key to good research. For Handle Me with Care I interviewed a specialist who knew so much about testicular cancer. I was able to tell him the situation I’d put Evan, my character in, and ask him if this would happen. I asked him physical symptoms, the emotional trauma patients face. And most of all, it helped keep my story believable, realistic and accurate.

For my novel, What Rosie Found Next, I interviewed a firefighter from Australia and again asked about certain scenarios and technicalities for my characters and situations I’d be putting them in. This was crucial and the firefighter who helped me passed some of my writing around the rest of the team so I could get feedback from more than one source. It helped me make the writing accurate and I was so happy when a few of them said they were desperate to know what was going to happen in the book!

Another way to research is in person. It’s not always possible but I feel it really enhances the way you write if you are able to experience something yourself whether it’s doing a parachute jump (not me!), visiting a foreign country where you want to set your new book, or work shadowing to see how a job is performed and ask questions on the spot.

My first draft of book five is underway now and with it being in a totally different settting, a place I’ve never been to myself, the research is heavy but fun! All I need to do is persuade my husband to let me book a flight over to New York! It’s work-related after all!

Helen J Rolfe.

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If you want to find out more about me or my books, please visit my website: http://www.helenjrolfe.com/

Or you can find me on Amazon:  http://hyperurl.co/pxu978

 

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?

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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.

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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