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There were two unpublished writers – Jo and Jessica – who’d met virtually through the RNA, had exchanged several emails, and decided to form The Write Romantics as a blogging duo.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 It didn’t take them long to realise that there was no way two unpublished writers were going to be able to think of enough interesting content to blog regularly so they decided to see if any other new writers would be interested in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

The ‘Winter Tale’ with more to tell by Alys West

The Dirigible King's Daughter by Alys WestRegular readers of this blog will recall that in November 2014 the Write Romantics published an anthology called Winter Tales – Stories to Warm your Heart.  My contribution to the anthology was a steampunk story called ‘A Pistol for Propriety’ about a very independent young lady called Harriet Hardy and her encounter with the rather dashing Viscount Ripley.

After the anthology was published a few people said they felt I’d only told part of the story.  They wanted to know what happened next.  Did the police catch up with Harriet?  Was she arrested for trying to shoot the Alderman?  At the time I was busy working on a first draft of the next Spellworker Chronicles book but increasingly I found Harriet and Charlie (which is the name of the dashing Viscount) kept popping back into my mind.  I was supposed to be concentrating on druids and spellworkers on Orkney and I’d got these two very determined steampunk characters chattering away at the back of my brain.  In the end I decided that, as ignoring them wasn’t working, the only option was to leave the druids for a while and write Harriet and Charlie’s story.

shutterstock_278293358When I got started I expected it would become a novella but my characters had very different ideas (mainly because I couldn’t get them to stop talking!) and in the end I had a short novel of just under 60,000 words which is called The Dirigible King’s Daughter.  Let’s just say that things do not go smoothly for Harriet and Charlie and their full story is a far rockier road than even I’d anticipated.  But there’s some fun along the way with a trip to a fabulous steampunk version of Scarborough fair, a glamorous night on the town in London and a rather thrilling flight on a dirigible.  There’s an extract from The Dirigible King’s Daughter below and if you’d like to purchase a copy it’s available from Amazon here.

Extract from The Dirigible King’s Daughter:

‘Oh Charlie, I have missed you.’ The words broke from her.  A second too late her gloved hand rose to her mouth to stop them. 

‘Really?  Because I was starting to think you’d forgotten all about me.’

A half smile as his hand reached for hers. ‘Not all about you.’

‘Good.’ Gently, he took her hand, turned it, brought it to his lips and kissed the inside of her wrist just above her glove.   ‘Harriet.’  His voice was deeper, softer.

steampunk_girl_by_kiza_nya-d57n0s4She looked up.  There was a tremulous moment of hesitation then the space between them closed and he kissed her.  Beneath the prickle of his beard there was the unexpected softness of his lips.  So tentative and gentle on hers.  It was like breathing him in.  She’d dreamed of this so many times and it was better than anything she’d imagined. 

Too soon he pulled away. 

‘I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have done that.  Much as I want us to be, we’re not yet engaged.’

‘Oh, stuff and nonsense.  Don’t stand on ceremony with me now.  I’m glad you did and you can do it again if you want.’

And with that he took her in his arms and kissed her soundly.

‘You’ve kissed me in a church in the sight of God, Harriet Hardy,’ he said when they finally broke apart.  ‘You have to marry me now.’

Oh my! Why had no one told her kissing was that delightful?  And if they were married they could do it all the time.  Now wasn’t that an enticing thought! Grateful for the support of the door behind her as her knees had taken on the consistency of putty, she put a steadying hand on his chest and felt, beneath the leather of his flying jacket, his heart pounding as hard as hers.   ‘That’s poppycock, Charlie and you know it. Ask me again when I’ve cleared my name.  I can’t say yes when I might be arrested at any minute.’

3568764500_3bb84baa2c_bPushing his hair back from where it had again flopped into his eyes, he put his hand over hers.  ‘That answer will do for now.  In the meantime I shall do the proper thing and court you. Take tea with me tomorrow afternoon?’

‘I have to work, remember?’ she said, yanking the door open.  ‘I’m not one of the idle rich, you know.’

‘Take tea with me or marry me.  It’s your choice.’ 

‘When did you become so very persistent?’ The wind whipped around her, catching at her skirts, as she stepped outside.  Only a smattering of stars relieved the darkness. The lights from the town below shone across the harbour but the church, and the Abbey behind it, were engulfed by night. 

‘When I had to spend eight years looking for you!’

There was no answer to that.  Taking his arm, she said, ‘Tea tomorrow would be splendid.  If I’m not in police custody, you can pick me up at the office at four.’

You can read a review of The Dirigible King’s Daughter by author and blogger Barb Taub here

The Dirigible King’s Daughter is available to purchase as an ebook here and Winter Tales – Stories to Warm your Heart is still available here and continues to raise money for two charities doing vitally important work.

You can find out more about me on my blog www.alyswest.com, on Twitter: @alyswestyork and on Facebook: Alys West Writer. You can also check out my steampunk inspirations (and a lot of fabulous frocks) on Pinterest at Alys West Writes.

Photo of St Mary’s church, Whitby by Simon Gman

 

 

 

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!

1503592_740127342771174_6884382549832304505_n

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!

CoverTheFriendshipTree

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…

41v27inqkWL

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

It’s all about the 80s for Sarah Lewis

Today we’d like to welcome friend of the WRs and all round 80’s addict, Sarah Lewis, to the blog.

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We’d love to start by asking you a little bit about your writing journey so far and what it was that inspired you to write your first book?

I suppose you could say that I started writing my first book 30 years ago. It’s just taken me a while to get it finished! I’ve loved music for as long as I can remember – one of my earliest memories is dancing along to the Bay City Rollers when they were on Top of the Pops, when I was about 5. When Bob Geldof and Paula Yates moved to my home town of Faversham, when I was 11, my interest in the music industry and the people in it was piqued even further. By the age of 13, I had begun to meet a number of artists, including Midge Ure, Gary Kemp and Simon Le Bon, and I began to write to other musicians, with a view to putting together a book based on their replies. That love of music, popular culture, and the fantastic decade in which I grew up all inspired my first book, ‘My Eighties’.

Can you tell us a bit about your second book – Your Eighties – please?

It follows a similar format to the first book, in that it’s a combination of memories, anecdotes and celebrity interviews. However, instead of the memories and anecdotes being mine, they are ones they have been sent to me via my website, my blog, Twitter and Facebook. It has been fascinating putting the book together, hearing and reading other people’s recollections of the decade, and even being reminded of a few forgotten gems. To discuss the Eighties with fellow fans (there are a lot of us out there!) is always a real pleasure, and it I have the privilege of being able to share those discussions with a wider audience.

Of course, there have also been the interviews with some of the decade’s favourite faces, including Buster Bloodvessel, Martin Fry, Ranking Roger, Erkan Mustafa (Grange Hill’s Roland Browning), and Musical Youth’s Dennis Seaton and Michael Grant, which have been a blast! Transcribing the interviews afterwards, not so much. Despite what some may think, I really don’t like the sound of my own voice, and it drives me crazy when I have to listen to a section repeatedly, to ensure I’m quoting accurately.

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Do you have any writing habits or superstitions e.g. writing in the same place, using a certain pen, times of day etc?

Most of my writing tends to take place after 9pm, when I just get lost in what I’m doing. I’ll check the time after what seems like an hour, to find it’s gone 1am! Usually, I’ll be in my office at the back of the house, and will have music playing in the background – anything from classical to Meatloaf, depending on my mood, and what I’m writing. If I’m researching or editing, I’ll do so during the day, and tend to follow the sun – I start off in my office, then as the sun moves round, I move to the desk in my bedroom. During the summer, I’ll work outside as much as possible – you can’t beat the al fresco office. Again, usually accompanied by music or the radio.

Do you ever get writer’s block and, if so, how do you tackle this?

The short answer is “Yes, and not very well!” There was a point when I was writing ‘Your Eighties’ when I just hit a wall. I had a stack of research notes, some amazing submissions from 80’s fans, and a few interviews transcribed, but I couldn’t write. At first, I tried doing something completely different, to ‘free the writer’. However, having cleaned my house from top to bottom, tackled an enormous pile of ironing (which I hate), and begun to de-clutter an overloaded garage, I realised I was merely procrastinating. So, I forced myself to write. I wrote anything I could think of, even if it was as basic as “last night I went to a gig, then I went backstage and I interviewed…”. It’s a lot easier to edit something that is badly written than nothing at all. I think the key is to keep the flow and momentum going. I have pens and piles of scrap paper scattered throughout the house, just in case inspiration should strike. Often, my moments of clarity come just as I’m dropping off to sleep, so I’ve become particularly adept at scribbling notes in the dark! I also carry a small notebook around with me. Struck with an opening line whilst driving, I spent 5 minutes the other day saying the same sentence over and over, until I found a safe place for me to pull over and jot down the idea.

What are you working on now and what are your writing aspirations?

I have just begun working on the third book in the 80’s trilogy, ‘More Eighties’, and I’ve recently started a weekly 80’s column in the Canterbury Times. You can check out my first post here. As far as writing aspirations go, I would love to write the biography for a musician from the Eighties. I have a couple of people in mind, but I haven’t approached them yet.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADo you see your future books continuing to focus entirely on the 80s or might you diversify?

As much as I love, and indeed live, the 80s, I’m always up for a bit of diversity. It would have to be something completely different though, not just a different era. I love the interviewing and research stages of writing, so anything that allowed me to do that would be great. If it involves visiting sunny climes, even better. Maybe something on the people and history of one of the Greek islands.

What’s the most amazing experience you’ve had as a result of researching the content of your books?

It has to be all the interviews I’ve done at gigs. Not only do I get to hear some of the most amazing live music, but I love the insight into the whole set up. Listening to sound checks, being backstage and seeing what goes on behind the scenes, chatting to some incredibly talented and creative musicians – what a thrill! Plus, I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of saying “I’m with the band”!

Who was your favourite person to interview?

That is a really tricky question, because I have truly enjoyed every interview I’ve done for both books. It’s always good when you feel you can ask an interviewee anything, so from that perspective, I would have to say Steve Blacknell and Erkan Mustafa, both of whom answered my questions with extreme candour. One of the easiest interviews I did was with Owen Paul, for ‘‘My Eighties’. He has loads of interesting stories to tell, and I really only had to say ‘Hello’, and he was off and running! However, I think my favourite interview to date has to be with Dr & The Medics. From the second I stepped into their dressing room, it was non-stop banter and laughter. Clive Jackson (the Doctor) and bass player Jon Randle were like a comedy duo. When you read that part of the book, you’ll see it was a ‘no holds barred’ kind of interview. My face was hurting from laughing so much.

Who’s the most famous person you have in your contacts list?

Now, that would be telling! All I will say is that my teenage self would have fainted if she’d seen some of the numbers I’ve got. There are some more famous names in the pipeline for ‘More Eighties’, as that contact list keeps on growing.

Do you ever get nervous when you interview people?My Eighties

Luckily, I’m quite good at compartmentalising, so even though I can be ridiculously excited or nervous before an interview, as soon as I walk into that room it’s like a switch flicks, and I go into ‘professional’ mode. Well, at least I hope that’s how I come across! I become so focussed on what they’re telling me (often fascinating insights), that I almost forget who I’m talking to. It’s only afterwards when I look back and think ‘Wow, did that really happen?’ The only person I’ve met, who’s given me an attack of nerves, was Jimmy White. I’d been to see him play a snooker match a couple of years ago, and bumped into him in the bar afterwards. I was shaking when I had my photo taken with him!

How important has social media been to your writing journey?

I would say it has been invaluable. Twitter especially has been a fantastic means of engaging with 80’s fans, and getting feedback on a particular topic. I must confess to being something of a Twitter addict (you can follow me @MyEighties). It’s wonderful to be listening to a radio show like Forgotten 80s, and discussing it in real time with fellow listeners. I do the same thing with a lot of the music programmes on TV – BBC4 on a Friday evening is a favourite, if I’m at home. I’ve encountered some amazing music brains and some lovely people through tweeting, and even got to meet some of them at a recent ‘Tweet Up’.

What are the best and worst things about being a writer?

The answer’s the same for both – having your work and thoughts out there for the world to see. It’s the best because you get to reach a lot of like-minded people, and hopefully make them smile. There’s nothing better than having people tell you how a piece you’ve written brought back some good memories for them. It’s the worst because I’m actually a very private person (despite being what one DJ described as “all over social media”). Every time I publish something, even if it’s only a blog post, I have an unnerving thirty second panic of feeling totally exposed, before I get a grip and get over myself!

New colours- Natalie's designWe love the design for ‘Your Eighties’, can you tell us a bit about how it came about?

It’s great, isn’t it? Back in the summer, we ran a competition to design the cover for the book. It was won by Natalie Owen, a 24 year designer from Nottingham. Her dad is a big fan of the 80s, and had told her about the competition, having seen me tweet about it. Her design perfectly captures the decade.

Are you doing anything to celebrate when the book is published on 28th November?

Most definitely! The launch party for ‘Your Eighties’ is going to be held at an old music hall in Kent – a fantastic venue. There’s going to be live music from an amazing local band called Skatacus, plus an 80’s disco, with none other than Erkan Mustafa (Grange Hill’s Roland Browning) on the decks. I’m also going to get to meet Natalie, as she’s travelling down for the party. Some of the book’s contributors will be there, along with some wonderful friends and family, so it promises to be a great evening.

What piece of advice would you give to an aspiring writer or even to yourself, if you could go back to before you’d written your first book?

I would say “don’t sweat the small stuff”. With the first book, I got very caught up in the tiniest of details, proper punctuation and having everything ‘perfect’. That’s what editors are for! I also wrote in a very linear fashion, which became very inhibiting. Now, I write freely in chunks, as and when I can, and pull it all together at the end.

‘Your Eighties’ is available for pre-order from 8th November on Amazon here and from the My Eighties online shop in paperback here. Published by Fabrian Books 28th November 2015.

Mega Monday Announcement: An Eventful Year

Mega Monday Announcement: An Eventful Year

Happy anniversary to me! Happy anniversary to me! A year of being a Write Romantic. Happy anniversary to me!

I bet you sang that in your mind to the tune of Happy Birthday, didn’t you? You can admit it, you know, especially now that the copyright claim has been rejected and we can all breathe easilybirthday-cake-152008_1280 again.

Yes— it’s been a whole year since I was invited to become a Write Romantic. Actually, it was a whole year on the twenty-first of September, but Happy Belated Anniversary doesn’t scan as well, and, anyway, what’s a week between friends?

I can’t believe a whole three hundred and sixty-five days have passed since that moment. On the other hand, it feels as if I’ve been part of the Write Romantic family forever. They really do feel like my family, and I’m quite certain that without their help and support, I’d never have achieved what I’ve managed to achieve in the last twelve months.

So what have I achieved since joining our merry little band of writers?

Well, in November, roughly eight weeks after I was taken into the WR fold, we released Winter Tales, an anthology of short stories, published in aid of two charities—The Cystic Fibrosis Trust and the Teenage Cancer Trust. Winter Tales is still available to buy as a paperback, and we will be relaunching it for Kindle very soon. I loved writing my story, The Other Side of Christmas, which was the first short story I’d written in years, and it meant that, finally, I was a published author! Far more importantly, it meant that I – alongside some extremely talented and very generous authors – had helped to raise funds for two really worthy causes.

In March, I published There Must Be An Angel. Despite my worst fears, it didn’t sink to the bottom of the very deep, murky pond that is the Amazon Kindle pool. In fact, it’s done quite well, if I say so myself, and has been getting some very good reviews.

In June, I was delighted to have a story I’d written accepted by D C Thomson. It will be published in October as a People’s Friend Pocket Novel. This means it will be available in actual bookshops, supermarkets and newsagents, and my mother will finally be able to walk into a physical shop and purchase a copy of her daughter’s work for herself. (She doesn’t do Amazon. Or the internet. She’s only just started texting, and you can depend on the fact that her messages will contain no more than two words, and one of them will be “Mum”.)

Then, just two days ago, I published A Kiss from a Rose, my second full-length novel. This was more nerve-wracking than I’d expected. I’d had a lot of positive comments about Angel. What if people were disappointed in Rose?

Luckily for me, I was talked through that fear. Several of the Write Romantics had read A Kiss from a Rose in its early stages, and they were able to reassure me that they’d enjoyed it, and that I shouldn’t worry. This is when being part of our fabulous writing family really helps. There’s always someone to prop you up when you’re feeling nervous, down, or just plain terrified. (It happens a lot more than you’d think—well, we ARE writers!)

anniversary-157248_1280On Saturday the twenty-sixth of September, A Kiss from a Rose was launched into the world. I waved her goodbye and then shut the door on my baby. I’d been preparing her for that moment for eighteen months, after all! Rose wasn’t remotely fazed. She strode out there as if the world was lucky to have her, but then, that’s Rose for you.

I, meanwhile, turned to Facebook, and had a fantastic launch party to celebrate. I’d been worried it would just be me and a few pictures of balloons, but lots of people came and there was a distinctly celebratory atmosphere. Songs were played, celebrities partied, food and drink were consumed, prizes were won, and at the end a very disgruntled and rather familiar cleaner turned up to sweep away the mess.

I’m now busy working on my third book. Unlike Angel and Rose, it’s not set in Kearton Bay, and will probably be a standalone. I had plans for it to be the first in a new series, but then the other books I had planned out took a distinctly unusual route, and it’s now become clear that they will form a separate series of their own.

I’ve also written a couple of short stories, and have an idea for a novella, plus a Christmas collection for next year. And, of course, I have the final two Kearton Bay novels to write. So you see, my year has been a very busy one, and it doesn’t look as if the next one is going to be any quieter.

And I, for one, am very happy about that!

Sharon xx

 

A Kiss from a Rose:

In spite of managing to get a black eye at her best friend’s wedding, Rose MacLean knows she’s never had it so good. 

As a partner in a thriving business, her financial problems are easing, and her eldest daughter has finally found employment, while her youngest is doing well at school.

But Rose’s life never seems to run smoothly for long, and, sure enough, her eldest daughter has soon walked out of her job, while her youngest appears to have had a personality transplant. To make matters worse, her mother is back on the scene, and she seems to be reliving her misspent youth with her oily-haired, horse-faced ex, Alec Thoroughgood.

With her best friend preoccupied with the arduous task of baby-making, Rose finds herself relying more and more on the quiet Flynn Pennington-Rhys, who seems to be everyone’s hero.

But Flynn has his own problems, and as events take an unexpected turn, Rose realises that she may not always be able to rely on him.

Will the quiet man come through for her? Will her daughters ever sort themselves out? And will Rose ever get her bedroom back from her mother, or is she destined for a life on the sofa?     

You can buy A Kiss from a Rose here.rose-cover-ebook