Distance won’t divide us!

Geography was a bit of an issue when the original duo of Write Romantics formed, as Jo lives in Kent and I live in North Yorkshire so all our communication was in the virtual world. When we became ten, geography presented an even greater challenge as we weren’t all based in the UK. We had a huge geographical spread from Cumbria to Kent, the North Yorkshire Coast to Brighton on the south coast, and Wales to Australia.

Personally, I quite fancied the idea of a WR pilgrimage to Australia to meet with Helen R, but I’m not sure we could have quite pulled it off! Helen did, however, move back to the UK so it was just the length and breadth of the country to navigate if we wanted to meet up. And, amazingly, we’ve managed to spend quite a lot of time together over the years…

Jessica xx

 

2013

We formed and bonded online, Helen P had her very first novel, The Ghost House, released as an eBook, and Rachael entered a competition called ‘So You Think You Can Write’ that changed her life (although she didn’t know it yet). And we began to meet face to face…

When the Write Romantics formed as a collective of ten, the only members who had met were Alys and Jessica. They didn’t know each other very well, though, as they’d only briefly chatted after lunch at an RNA event in York.

1044259_10151820111269073_501754017_nAlys and Jessica arranged a couple of get-togethers for a drink and dessert in a pub halfway between their homes in York and Scarborough (sticky toffee pudding – nom nom!) but the first opportunity for a larger group of WRs meeting was the RNA’s annual conference in Sheffield, held in July 2013. Jo, Alys, Helen P, Rachael and Jessica all attended. It was exceptionally hot and the air con wasn’t working which was slightly traumatic, but it was so lovely to be able to meet up with some of the group in person after months of chatting online.

Also in the summer, Alys connected with Hull-based Sharon via social media and they arranged to meet up to discuss all things writing. Jessica was invited to join them and the three of them met in Bridlington on the North Yorkshire Coast. Sharon was in the NWS for the first time but having major doubts about her writing, thinking she might not even submit. No way were Alys and Jessica going to let that happen! Thankfully Sharon changed her mind and the rest is history.

 

2014

The year started with great news. Rachael had been delighted with top 10 success at in the ‘So You Think You Can Write’ competition, and resolved to keep trying. She didn’t need to, though. In January, she got “the call” from Mills and Boon and fulfilled a lifelong ambition to become one of their authors, with her first book released in September. This seemed to open the floodgates later that year when Jo and Jessica both signed a publishing deal with So Vain Books, Deirdre and Helen R joined Crooked Cat and Alys secured an agent. New member, Sharon, joined us and we launched a charity anthology called Winter Tales (see yesterday’s post for great news on this).

RNA PartyOur second year together brought another opportunity for Rachael, Deirdre and Helen P to meet up at the RNA summer party where Helen’s debut, The Ghost House, was up for the Joan Hessayon Award.

A couple of months later was the RNA annual conference at Harper Collins agricultural college in Telford. It was another incredibly hot few days, which didn’t make the farming aromas any more pleasant but the company was certainly very pleasant! Alys, Deirdre, Helen P, Helen R, Jackie, Rachael and Jessica all attended the conference which, to this day, remains the biggest gathering of WRs in one place at one time.

conf 2014 10Lynne wasn’t able to join us for the conference but she drove to a pub near the venue to meet some of the group for lunch and an afternoon of chat and laughter before the conference started.

Sharon was invited to join the group in the September when original member Lorraine dipped out, and, over the next few years, Alys, Sharon and Jessica met up when they could; slightly easier given that they’re all Yorkshire-based.

 

2015

A big year for debut novels from the WRs with traditionally-published releases for Helen R, Jo, Jessica, and Deirdre. Sharon, Lynne, Alys and Helen R all released debut indie novels.

Joan Hessayon contenders smaller

Lynne’s debut pocket novel was shortlisted for the Joan Hessayon Award, meeting up with some of the others at the awards ceremony. Jackie, Helen R and Rachael met up at the RNA conference in London.

 

20145788162_b63a60f089_zIn August, Helen P and Rachael had an amazing opportunity to travel to New York for the Romance Writers of America 35th annual conference and the Harlequin party. The rest of us didn’t think we could have got away with gate-crashing the event but would very much have liked to try!

The Yorkshire contingent continued to meet when diaries allowed.

 

2016 – 2017

Books came out thick and fast across 2016 and 2017 including the debut release for Jackie. Jessica parted company with her publisher in late 2016 and re-launched her books as an indie writer. New publishing deals were secured by Jo with Accent Press, Helen P with Bookoutre, and Helen R with Orion.

Some of the WRs met up at the RNA conferences or at the summer/winter parties in London. For the rest, it was sporadic meet-ups wherever possible. Sharon and Alys separately met up with Lynne whilst on holiday in Glastonbury, not too far from where Lynne’s based in The Cotswolds, Jo met with Deirdre on a day out in Brighton, and Jo and Alys have met up when Alys has been visiting family down south.

Sharon, me and Alex in Beverley - Christmas 2016Alys, Sharon and Jessica – the Yorkshire contingent – managed to coordinate a meet-up as a three near Christmas 2016 but have since only managed to meet up as pairs since then as diary coordination has proved a massive challenge.

In late 2016, Jessica met up with Jo, Deirdre and Helen R whilst working in London one weekend, although a late train deprived her of 90 minutes of valuable writing chat. How rude!

Jessica was particularly grateful to have Sharon support her at a Writer’s Talk at a café in Scarborough called The Seastrand in April 2017. It was part of a big Writers’ Event they were hosting … but nobody showed up!

Sharon, Jo and Me - Leeds 2017Sharon and Jessica were delighted when Jo visited Leeds for a weekend with friends as it gave them a perfect excuse to meet up, have some food, and talk writing. Perfect way to spend a day!
For some time, we mooted the idea of getting together and, at the start of 2017, decided to pin everyone down to a date. We chose a reasonably central location of Derby and a weekend in November 2017. Eight of the group committed to the date; not quite a full compliment but it was certainly very close and would have been the biggest meet-up to date.

Derby 2017Unfortunately, some of the eight couldn’t make it when the date got closer so it was a smaller event than hoped, but any opportunity to meet up and talk about writing is welcome, no matter how many are there. Jo, Sharon, Jackie, Helen P and Jessica met up on the Friday but Jo and Helen could only stay the one night so it was a cosy trio the following day and evening. As an added bonus, Jo managed to meet up with Lynne en route.

 

2018

We’re a third of the way through the year and there’ve been a few releases already, with loads more planned. Sharon had exciting news, leaving her day job to become a full-time writer. This week will actually see the start of this exciting new chapter in her life. Helen P will be releasing her first indie novel and there are several other exciting possibilities on the horizon.

29261333_10156373676374073_679575850520693346_nJo and Jessica met in London in February when Jessica had a weekend working in London, and Jessica and Lynne met a couple of weeks ago when Lynne holidayed in North Yorkshire.

Sharon and Jessica have plans to meet up twice this month, firstly to celebrate Sharon becoming a full-time writer and then to attend a talk by the incredibly talented Ruth Jones as part of Scarborough’s Books by the Beach Literary Festival. In May, they’re both attending a lunch in York organised by Anne Williams of Book Connectors, and are excited that Alys will be attending too.

IMG_4226The RNA conference will be in Leeds this year so, being the closest it’s ever been to their homes, Sharon and Jessica have already signed up, as has Rachael. Jackie and Helen P will hopefully attend too. Sharon and Rachael haven’t met yet so this will be a great opportunity for them to do so, leaving Deirdre and Sharon, plus Helen R and Sharon as the only WRs who haven’t met yet; something we must rectify soon.

Sharon and Jessica will also be going to the York Tea in September and I’m sure that there will be lots of opportunities for WRs to meet up at RNA parties and whilst on holiday in the UK.

 

So, as you can see, we haven’t let the geography stop us from meeting up. I’d love to think that, one day, we could all be in the same location at the same time but I’m not sure we’ll manage to coordinate ten busy diaries.

As a group, we are all very different. Age-wise, we have a 30-year age-gap from oldest to youngest. We represent massively differing careers: farmer, police, social worker, HR professional, tutor, medical receptionist, and cabin crew to name a selection. And, although we all write romance, we represent many different genres from fantasy to thriller to cosy to gritty true-life. Definitely very different!

Yet, somehow, it works.

Please join us for the next two days where we’ll be exploring five things we wish we’d known five years ago.

Jessica xxx

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Who do you want to be?

December already! How did that happen?

Never mind about Christmas, here am I, staring straight down the barrel at one of ‘those’ birthdays, the sort with a ruddy great 0 on the end. I’m not going to tell you the actual number. I’ll leave you to work that one out. If my social media mug-shot isn’t enough of a picture clue, here’s another:
queen-elizabeth-wedding

Are you with me? Good. To continue…

Given that nothing has yet been invented to halt the passing of time, I decided I might as well celebrate this birthday instead of trying to hide it. I’m lucky; my mother didn’t make it this far. I won’t be marking the occasion with anything drastic, like wing-walking, or bungee-jumping into a gorge full of crocodiles (yes, I’ve been watching I’m A Celebrity again!) I’ll just be spending time with my family (small though it is) because it’s what I love best. There will be a holiday at some point, next year when my husband catches up with me on the numbers, he being the ‘younger man’, you see.  I’ll also be having a weekend away with my three fab best friends from school, as we always do when the ‘big’ birthdays come round, and we’ll be giggling away just as we did in the first form of grammar school.

While I’m quietly congratulating myself on getting to this stage in one piece – well, as near as dammit – I’ll also be celebrating something very important, which is that I am now who I want to be; have wanted to be practically my whole life – a writer. And not only that, a published one, too. I’m not saying this in any boastful way, although I am proud of it, of course, and I’ve worked extremely hard to make it happen. What I’m saying is that it’s never too late to be who you want to be.

True, there might be the odd physical restriction if, say, you’ve always harboured an ambition to make the Olympic rowing team or train to be an astronaut. This is one of the marvellous things about writing; you can begin at any age and it doesn’t have to stop, not as long as you can put one brain cell in front of another and grope your way across a keyboard. (Long may that perfect state continue!)

There’s a flip-side to this. I came to writing late for reasons I won’t bore you with, but if you want to write, don’t wait for the ideal conditions or the perfect stage in your life. Find a way, and start now. As I said before, it’s never too late to be who you want to be. But it’s never too soon either.

Have a great Christmas, everyone! And on that subject, you might like to know about my latest book,  Christmas at Spindlewood which is 99p to download from Amazon, or free with Kindle Unlimited. It’s written under my pen-name, Zara Thorne.

snowfall

I must say it was fun writing this one.  What is it about Christmas books? Readers seem to have an unquenchable thirst for them, and very nice too.  Big thanks to everyone who has bought the book so far. I hope you enjoy it.

Deirdre x

PS. If you’d like to know more about me and my writing, check out my website.

Five things I wished I’d known before I was published by Rhoda Baxter @RhodaBaxter

As part of our series on this topic, we’ve asked Rhoda Baxter to join us today and share her experiences.  Today is also publication day for Rhoda and there’s more information about her new book, Girl in Trouble, at the end of this post.  So I’ll hand over to Rhoda to explain more… 

Other People Will Read My Books (and have opinions about them)
You’d think this would be a fairly obvious. At some level, I knew this was going to happen, but I wasn’t prepared for the sheer awesomeness of it.
When my first book came I braced myself for negative reviews. What I didn’t prepare for was positive reviews. It somehow escaped me that it was possible for someone I didn’t know to read my book and like it. When I got my first review (which was a lovely 4 out of 5 stars) it was hard to process and I burst into tears.
There have been other reviews, good, bad and indifferent for my books since then and I still have a little fizz of excitement that the thing that was once existed only in my head has now moved, via screen or print into someone else’s head.
One of the most amazing experiences of my writing life was when two colleagues from my day job started arguing about two of my characters as though the characters were real people. Obviously, I feel my characters are real people. I lived with them in my head for a year and I know them pretty well, but to hear someone else discuss them in that way… mind blowing. Also, very cool.

You have to learn about Marketing
I used to think that selling books was about quality. If you write a good book, it will sell itself. Er … no. A good book with no marketing will sink without a trace. A bad book with good marketing, might sell well. The holy grail is a good book with good marketing. I can write. I spent years learning how to do that and I’m improving with each book. But marketing? I knew absolutely nothing about that.
I had assumed that publishers would take care of all that. Maybe, in the dim and distant past, they did, but now they are so stretched and the world of book selling is so competitive, they can’t do all that much.
So now I’m reading marketing books and trying to learn this voodoo that is marketing. One day I might even get the hang of it.

There will be more ideas
It took me three years to write my first book, I thought that was the only book I would ever write. It was, as my first NWS reviewer said, clearly a book of my heart. Write another, she said. Write something you’d read for fun. I had a moment of panic. I’d had my idea. That was it. Story written, that idea was now tied down. How did I find another one? How did you get the muse to strike again? As every wannabe writer asks whenever they get the chance where do you get your ideas from?
I eventually dug out an old idea (and I mean really old, I’d started writing it as a teenager). It was a weak, thin fragment of a thing. All I really had were two characters, one male, one female. She was cooler than he was. Not much of a story, really. I gave him a problem (he wanted a promotion at work). I gave her a problem (she’s hiding from something). I drafted a plot – thin and weak, but it was a start – and sent it to my writing partner. She came back with a load of questions. Slowly, slowly a plot emerged.
Writing book 2 taught me that ideas rarely come to you fully formed. They take work. This was a liberating thought. All those pathetic looking fragments of ideas have the potential to be fully fledged. I may not have many fully formed story ideas, but I’ve got TONS of unformed storylets.
Nowadays I look back at the Where Do You Get Your Ideas From terror of a few years ago with amazement. These days, my problem is not the lack of ideas. It’s deciding which of the half formed storylets that are clamouring around in my head should be developed next.

Writing Friends

I got my head around the fact that you need to network to succeed in this business (thank you Sue Moorcroft for that invaluable piece of advice). I’d always thought of networking as a tedious, superficial thing. Now, several years on, I have a circle of writer friends whom I’ve met only because of my writing. Most of them are members of the Romantic Novelists Association. They are personal friends now and we talk about all sorts of things that have nothing to do with writing. Joining the RNA was probably one of the best decisions I ever made – not just for my writing, but for my happiness in general.

You Never Stop Learning
I’ve written bits of stories since I was a child and I thought I knew how to write. In my mid twenties, after I’d handed in my PhD and got a real job, I thought I’d start writing fiction again. I found the BBC Get Writing site. It was a great place where experienced writers mentored newbies and gave good (sometimes harsh) feedback. I learned how to write at sentence level. I learned about the really important basics like word choice and impact and rhythm. I practised it and practised it until it sank into the bone. My writing improved.
Then I started hanging around the Harlequin message boards. I learned about plots and character arcs, black moments and denouements. I joined the RNA – where I learned even more about theme and resonance and plot. Each of these lessons have made me a better writer. I still read books on writing and go on courses. Essentially, I’m still learning how to write better. The day I stop learning is the day I’ll stop improving. That’s not going to happen any time soon.

Girl In Trouble – Published today! On special offer of 99p until 15th October! 

When the things that define you are taken away, do you fight? Or compromise?

Grown up tomboy Olivia doesn’t need a man to complete her. Judging by her absent father, men aren’t that reliable anyway. She’s got a successful career, good friends and can evict spiders from the bath herself, so she doesn’t need to settle down, thanks.

Walter’s ex is moving his daughter to America and Walter feels like he’s losing his family. When his friend-with-benefits, Olivia, discovers she’s pregnant by her douchebag ex, Walter sees the perfect chance to be part of a family with a woman he loves. But how can Walter persuade the most independent woman he’s ever met to accept his help, let alone his heart. 

Girl In Trouble is the third book in the award nominated Smart Girls series by Rhoda Baxter. If you like charming heroes, alpha heroines and sparkling dialogue, you’ll love this series. Ideal for fans of Sarah Morgan, Lindsey Kelk or Meg Cabot’s Boy books. Buy now and meet your new favourite heroine today.

Buy link: books2read.com/u/4Doy6r

Girl in Trouble is on special offer at 99p until 15th October, after that date the price will increase to £2.99. If you buy the book before the 15th of October you will also get a book of short stories and a companion recipe book (containing recipes from the prequel Girl Having A Ball) absolutely free.

Rhoda Baxter writes contemporary romances with heart and a touch of British cynicism. her books have been nominated for a variety of awards. She lives in Yorkshire with her young family and is on a mission to have afternoon tea in as many cake shops as she can.

You can find her wittering on about science and romance and cake on her website (www.rhodabaxter.com), Facebook or on Twitter (@rhodabaxter). Do say hello.

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.

Jessica

Xx

 

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.

Paperchains and Nelson’s Eye: Christmas Days at Nan’s remembered

2-vintage-christmas-wrapping-paperMy earliest Christmas Days were spent at Nan and Grandad’s.  Until I was six, my parents and I lived upstairs in my grandparents’ three-storey house (a railway house – Grandad was a train driver).  After we moved out, we made the trip across Brighton, but that was no problem because the buses ran on Christmas Day.

There was always a crowd of us for Christmas Day, including my aunt, uncle and cousins from London, whom I couldn’t wait to see. The same decorations came out year after year; paperchains strung across the ceilings (licked by me in the preceding weeks – I must have been high on glue by the time Christmas came!), shiny paper stars, crumpled with age, and a small fake tree from Woolworths with red berries on the ends of the branches.  The tree took pride of place in the front room window upstairs while we were downstairs in the basement, making full use of the small living room – called the kitchen – the dining room at the front, and the scullery at the back.  This arrangement was old-fashioned even then.  Looking back, it seems incredible that Nan cooked Christmas dinner for us all on the ancient gas stove in the scullery, with none of gadgets we seem to need now to make the simplest meal.

It wasn’t just the turkey dinner with all the trimmings, either.  The Christmas cake andwalnuts-558488_960_720
pudding were made weeks before, mince pies and sausage rolls baked on Christmas Eve.  Christmas Day tea was almost as big a meal as dinner.  With tangerines, nuts and sweets in plentiful supply, I remember the day as being one big feast.  I disgraced myself one Christmas tea-time.  Nan asked me if I liked her Christmas cake.  ‘It’s a bit puddeny,’ I announced.   I’d heard my mother say that of course.

A point to note here:  my mother did not like Christmas, a fact she made all too plain.  She didn’t like her father much either.  Also, at some point in the proceedings, at least one of the London contingent would have misbehaved.  One year, the oil painting in the attic of Moses in the Bulrushes was used as a dartboard after a go at the cherry brandy. Our Christmases may have looked idyllic on the surface, but underneath, tension ran like wires through cheese.

As a treat, I was allowed a small glass of port and lemon.  I don’t suppose there was much port in it but I thought it was marvellous.  This early introduction to alcohol had me in disgrace again when, being taken to visit another aunt around Christmas time, I was asked what I would like to drink.  I didn’t hesitate. ‘Port and lemon.’  My mother was mortified and tried to cover up my faux pas.  I think I only got the lemon that time.

chineseAt Nan’s, when we weren’t stuffing ourselves silly, we played games. Dominos, draughts, snakes and ladders, all emerged from years-old boxes.  There was a game called Chinese Checkers.  I never did understand how to play it – I don’t think any of us did, and there were pieces missing anyway.  There were other sorts of games, too, and these, miserable child that I was, I found no fun at all, but it was Christmas and I had to endure them or be labelled a spoilsport.  One of these involved being blindfolded and sat on a chair.  Then you were lifted up, everyone calling out how high you were going, until bang, your head hit the ceiling and you screamed.  At least, I did.  It wasn’t the ceiling, it was a plank held above your head when you were only a foot off the ground.  Then there was Nelson’s eye.  Blindfolded again, your finger was guided into the soft squidgy eye, to much hilarity all round.  I never found it the least bit funny to be shown half an orange when the blindfold came off.

No Christmas would have been complete without Grandad enticing me and my cousins to crawl into the cupboard under the stairs to find what ‘treasures’ we could in this glory hole.  Once we were in, he would hold the door shut, trapping us in the airless pitch dark, until we became hysterical.  This trick wasn’t confined to Christmas, but we fell for it, every time.  Well, we didn’t want to spoil Grandad’s fun, did we?  What with the blindfolds and the entrapment, is it any wonder I’m a fully paid-up member of Claustrophobics Anonymous?

Grandad did have one party trick I loved, and would ask him to do, over and over.  It was simply this: he would cut a brazil nut in half and set light to the cut side, turning it into a magical, miniature candle.

Our day ended with the adults playing cards and my cousins and I lolling around, half asleep, clutching our favourite present from Father Christmas.   Mine one year was a black doll.  To my mother’s puzzlement, I’d longed for a ‘black dolly’ and was overjoyed when I got one – I must have been a very PC child, that’s all I can say.  This plastic beauty was dressed in orange knitted clothes, which, funnily enough, were the same as those I’d seen my other grandmother (Dad’s mum) knitting for the babies in Africa. Pure coincidence, of course  😉

Merry Christmas, all!

Deirdre

Deirdre’s latest novel, Never Coming Back, will be published by Crooked Cat Publishing on 8th December.  Order from Amazon UK here:   http://amzn.to/2fG0FrJ   or from Amazon.com http://amzn.to/2fbMJBe

 

 

 

 

 

The Chocolatier’s Secret

Today it’s publication day for The Chocolatier’s Secret!

The Chocolatier's Secret- KDP version

 

This book is the second story in the Magnolia Creek series, but can be read as a standalone novel.

In The Chocolatier’s Secret, we return to the quiet town of Magnolia Creek, nestled in a beautiful setting in Victoria, Australia, not far from the city of Melbourne.

Today is publication day for the ebook, but the paperback will be on its way very soon. I can’t wait to hold the book in my hands! It’s always such a special moment 🙂

I already have plans for a third book in this series but for now I’m working on a Christmas novel, set in a different location.

I hope you’ll raise a glass of bubbly, have a block of chocolate nearby and enjoy reading this novel. I loved writing it.

Helen J Rolfe  x

Here’s the blurb…

Will one mistake ruin everything?

Andrew Bennett has an idyllic life in Magnolia Creek, Australia. He runs a chocolate business he adores, is married to Gemma, the love of his life, and has a close relationship with his father, Louis. But when Andrew receives a message from his high school sweetheart, it sends his world into a spiral, and the relationships he holds dear will never be the same again.

Molly Ramsey is looking for answers. After her last attempt, she believes the only way to get them this time is to face her past head-on. But to do this, she has to fly to the other side of the world – and she’s afraid of flying. Her search for answers lands her in an emotional tangle, not only with her past but also with a man very much in her present.

Family is everything to Gemma Bennett and she longs to have a house full of kids, but it just isn’t happening. And when Andrew’s past makes an explosive impact on the family, Gemma must decide whether she can accept the truth and open her heart in a way she never thought possible.

In this story of love, family ties and forgiveness, will past mistakes be the obstacle to a Happy Ever After?

You can buy The Chocolatier’s Secret here 

 

Summer, chocolates & plenty of secrets …

Summer, chocolates & plenty of secrets … it’s almost time to return to Magnolia Creek!

The Chocolatier's Secret- KDP version

 

The Chocolatier’s Secret is book two in the Magnolia Creek series, and I’m delighted to say that it’s now available for pre-order on Amazon. With The Chocolatier’s Secret we return to the sun-drenched small town of Magnolia Creek, and this is a standalone story focusing on different lives. But … keep an eye out for a few of your favourite book characters from What Rosie Found Next!

I had a lot of fun writing this book. I enjoy the research side and had already completed a major research project on adoption as part of a Masters in Writing so I’ve been able to use my contacts and the information I had at my fingertips to shape this story. I also have my own personal experience of adoption which helped keep the emotions realistic.

chocresearch

Of course my favourite part of the research was finding out all about chocolate! I spent the day with Lucy and Andrea at Creighton’s Chocolaterie in Leighton Buzzard and discovered what goes on behind the scenes. I was really excited after my visit because I was able to weave in so many details to my story to make it authentic.

Publication day is Tuesday 28th June so only 8 days away!

If you would like to pre-order The Chocolatier’s Secret, you can do so here.

I hope you like the story … best enjoyed with your favourite chocolate of course! Here’s the blurb…

Will one mistake ruin everything?

Andrew Bennett has an idyllic life in Magnolia Creek, Australia. He runs a chocolate business he adores, is married to Gemma, the love of his life, and has a close relationship with his father, Louis. But when Andrew receives a message from his high school sweetheart, it sends his world into a spiral, and the relationships he holds dear will never be the same again.

Molly Ramsey is looking for answers. After her last attempt, she believes the only way to get them this time is to face her past head-on. But to do this, she has to fly to the other side of the world – and she’s afraid of flying. Her search for answers lands her in an emotional tangle, not only with her past but also with a man very much in her present.

Family is everything to Gemma Bennett and she longs to have a house full of kids, but it just isn’t happening. And when Andrew’s past makes an explosive impact on the family, Gemma must decide whether she can accept the truth and open her heart in a way she never thought possible.

In this story of love, family ties and forgiveness, will past mistakes be the obstacle to a Happy Ever After?