The Wednesday Wondering – Where’s Your Character Gone?

Welcome to my last Wednesday Wondering! Before you all sob helplessly and call The Samaritans, the slot isn’t going anywhere and neither am I. Having been the nosey parker who has quizzed the other Write Romantics with 30 questions (including this one) since we started this slot in late June last year (although I’ve had help with about a third of the questions coming from the other WRs), I suggested we all take it in turns to host a month and, bless them, the other WRs agreed to it.

For my final Wondering (for now), I have gone back to a writing-themed question:

Have you ever developed a major character and then scrapped them?

This could be cutting them out entirely so they never see the light of day, removing them from one book but re-incarnating them elsewhere, or killing them off. A few of the group have dipped out this week as it simply hasn’t happened to them but here’s what the rest have to say …

 

HELEN R:

After my last NWS critique I almost got rid of a character. I didn’t remove her completely, but I certainly reduced the focus on her. My reasons for doing so were that she didn’t really add to the story, but she did help some scenes to form and move forwards for other characters.

It’s always tough to do this I think, and I really liked this character too. Maybe one day I’ll tell her story 🙂

 

JO: 

Not a major character, but I have scrapped quite a lot of secondary ones and the main characters in my first novel, currently in what feels like its twentieth edit, have undergone an almost complete metamorphosis so that  they practically feel like totally different people.  Character development is something I want to work on a bit more in the future, though, and I might be about to scrap at least one major character in my current WIP… so watch this space.

 

JAXX:

The book I really slaved over and finished (just finishing it was a first for me) had a young girl in it who was pivotal to the hero and heroine meeting, but I decided to kill her off half way through. I think I just liked the idea of ramping up the emotion and stupidly though it was a good way to do it. My NWS reader tentatively suggested it might not be a good idea to have a romance with a major death in it (!) so I left it at that, because I realised I’d have to write the whole book again and basically was too idle to bother! I’m now re-writing it as I always promised my younger daughter that I would get it published. She was only seven and told her teacher that her mum was a writer. Bit embarrassing really! (Mind you, she also told the teacher her mum was too busy planning her new kitchen to bother with homework, so I guess the teacher had already formed an opinion of me by then). Have to say the book is coming on a treat and is better for not having anyone die in it – Oh, hang on, there is a death in the first chapter – but he was already dead before it started. So that’s ok, then.

 

DEIRDRE:

I haven’t scrapped a major character from any of my books that I think of as potential go-ers but I was very fond of a builder called Steve who featured in my very first book that I’ve now binned.  I used his love interest, Millie, from the same book, in ‘Remarkable Things’ as she was too good to lose, but blue-eyed Steve with his hopelessness over money, his van that he gives a vicious kick to every morning, and his guilt over the death of his alcoholic ex-wife, hasn’t yet found his place in my current writing life.  Perhaps he never will, bless ‘im.

 

JULIE:

In book one of my trilogy, I wanted my protagonist (Sarah) to meet Mr Right quite early on in the book but dismiss him as Mr Wrong. I also wanted her to meet Mr Wrong and think he was Mr Right. Originally I envisaged my Mr Wrong (Simon) as a really nice guy who’d get on well with Sarah and treat her well but she’d realize that something was missing. I hadn’t planned out the book; I just wrote and, unfortunately, Simon took this as a licence to do whatever he liked. He turned into a bit of a disturbed and very nasty character eventually stalking Sarah then holding her at knife-point in her shop unless she agreed to take him back. Not quite sure where all that came from but I knew it wasn’t right for the story at all. This was meant to be a romantic comedy and, although the next two books start exploring deeper themes, stalking and knifes were not what I intended. So Simon came out the book and I had to start over again. I was intrigued by him and his backstory, though, so he may make a re-appearance in a future book although perhaps without the knife!

 

Over to you. If you’re a writer, have you ever scrapped a major (or even minor) character. If you’re a reader, have you ever flinched when a character has been written out of a story in which you’re engrossed? Please join in and share your experiences by clicking on the heart at the top of the post which will open up the comments section at the bottom.

That’s all for me for the Wednesday Wondering until later in the year. I will, of course, be responding to the questions so I haven’t fully disappeared. Next week and for the rest of February, I leave you in Jo’s capable hands. She’s come up with a set of cracking questions and I can’t wait to read how the rest of the WRs have responded to them.

Snuggles

Julie xxx

Mega Monday Annoucement from Rachael Thomas

I’m so excited to be able to be here today with an extra blog post to our usual line up. Those who have been following us recently will know I entered Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write competition and at the end of last year made it to the Top 10 with my entry, Behind the Scandalous Façade.

I’m absolutely thrilled to say that last Thursday I got ‘The Call’. I am now a Mills and Boon author. My dream has come true.

Valentine Story Book

That dream didn’t start with the competition. That particular manuscript was my thirteenth attempt at writing for Harlequin Mills and Boon. From the remaining twelve manuscripts there are a further eight that are complete, four of which have been rejected and the other four have been through NWS. So what about the remaining four? Well they are ones that just didn’t work, but each and every one is part of my apprenticeship and a massive learning curve.

So if you ever feel despondent when another ‘no thanks’ lands in your in box, just remember nothing happens overnight. It’s taken me seven years since I first decided I wanted to write for Mills and Boon. Seven years of ups and downs, but best of all a time in which I’ve made wonderful friendships and of course, joined this fabulous group!

Look out for my Saturday Spotlight in March when I will have release dates and will be able to tell what happens after you get ‘the call’ – apart from writing the next book!

Never Mind the Quality – Feel the Width! says Deirdre Palmer

Image

I had better begin by explaining the title of this post, in case, ahem, you are too young to remember.

Never Mind… was a TV sitcom broadcast from 1967 – 71.  It was about two tailors, one Catholic and the other Jewish, and featured some great actors who would go on to become well-known faces of comedy and drama.  It would never get made today – far too un-PC – but it was a huge success at the time.  The title worked its way into the culture of the day as a saying referring to all kinds of things, some, as you might imagine, more polite than others…  I’m borrowing it now to talk not about cloth but about books.

Something odd has happened to my reading habits, a change that crept up on me while I wasn’t paying attention.  Now, as I’m scanning the shelves in a bookshop or library for my next fix, I’m not only waiting for an author’s name, an intriguing title or a fetching cover to jump out at me, I’m also considering, a bit shame-facedly, the physical properties of the book itself.

How much space does it take up on the shelf?  Has the publisher had the luxury of fitting several lines of large-font text on the binding?  How heavy does it feel in my hand?

In other words, how long is it?

Because therein lies the rub.  If the book still appeals I’ll flick to the end to check that appearances are not deceptive and it does indeed run past the 400 page mark or thereabouts, and if it does, then back it goes.

It’s a nuisance really because I may be missing out on some cracking reads but even if the story’s truly gripping and the writing pacy, by the time I get beyond 350 pages or so I’m just wishing it would be over.  If it’s an actual book, I’m constantly checking the depth of the remaining pages for signs of serious thinning out.  If it’s an ebook, I become weirdly obsessed with the little slider at the bottom of the screen and am stupidly relieved when it gets to 80% and I know I’m on the homeward straight.

 Actually there’s some literary merit to be drawn from this because all too often I come across books which are woefully over-written and make me want to shout ‘You’ve told the story, now stop!’ to the author, but that’s another topic entirely.

So why is this happening?  Is it pure physical stamina I’m lacking due to the short, dark days of winter, or a sharp dip in concentration brought about by my ageing brain cells?  Could it be that there are so many other distractions my attention span has shrunk faster than a woolly jumper on a boil wash?

Or am I, subconsciously, simply following a trend?

To name-drop shamelessly here, I was lucky enough to meet the eminent novelist Fay Weldon recently, and the first thing she said was that readers today want short books with short chapters; quick, satisfying bites they can devour along with their Pret sandwich and take-out Americano.  She was generalising, of course, but it’s easy to understand the logic.

As an aspiring author I see this as a gift; I can at last set aside my worry that 80,000 words do not a novel make because, after all, it is all about the quality and not the width.

As a reader, I don’t have to feel guilty that there are lovely books on my own shelves that remain unread purely because of their length.  There’s The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton which has no less than 645 pages, and the print’s not that large either.  Yet it’s not so long ago I sailed through The House at Riverton by the same author which has 599 pages with no trouble at all.  My collection of Catherine Alliott’s novels (such pretty covers!) all stretch almost to the 500 page mark but I suspect if I re-read them now I’d find them about a hundred pages too long – no disrespect to CA intended.  I’m dying to have a go at Jeffrey Archer, as it were, as I’ve never read any of his and people tell me he writes great stories but the one I have is near enough 600 pages, so dear Jeffrey will have to wait a while longer for my verdict.

By now you might be thinking, why doesn’t she just read short stories and be done with it?  Strange as it may seem, my tastes aren’t working their way towards those, and yes, I may read the odd one that draws me in for some reason, but generally speaking I’m not a great fan of the short story, which is probably why I don’t find them easy to write either.

Novellas, then?  Call me prejudiced but there’s something about the word ‘novella’ that I find distinctly off-putting, although in reality I’m sure there are some excellent reads in this format by some brilliant writers.  The novel’s little sister may be sweet but she’s not what I need right now either.

Luckily there are plenty of books of just the right width to keep me happy and if all else fails I can re-read some old favourites.  Joanna Trollope tends to nudge the 400 page mark but the large print keeps them turning fast. Deborah Moggach hovers gracefully around the upper 300s and some of hers, like the hugely enjoyable In the Dark, are even shorter.  When God was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman has 335 pages – now there’s an example of the perfect novel if ever there was one.  And then there are absolute gems like Colm Toibin’s Brooklyn and Zoe Heller’s Notes on a Scandal, each less than 250 pages.   

 ‘She’s going through a phase,’ as my mother used to say, all mothers, in fact.  Well, phase or trend, it looks like I’m stuck with it for the time being.  But that’s fine because I’ve never fancied War and Peace anyway.

The Wednesday Wondering – January Sales: Love ’em or Hate ’em?

It was New Year’s Day three weeks ago today. Did you realize that?! It would appear that 2014 is picking up pace and will soon pass us by!

January is a funny month. Some love it for the fresh start and all the hope and possibility that brings. Many hate it. I’ve seen many references to the January Blues on my Facebook feed from friends and family and have to admit that I think I’ve succumbed to them myself recently. 

January is also traditionally the month of “the sale”, although we all know that Boxing Day is when the chaos starts so I posed the question this week:

“I love the January sales!” Discuss!!!

What do The Write Romantics really think? Are they outside Next in a sleeping bag from 11.00pm the night before or do they avoid it at all costs? Let’s find out …

 

RACHAEL:

I have never got up early to head for the sales. I just can’t do it. I dislike the crowds, hate the rails of clothes packed so tightly that ultimately they end up on the floor.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not adverse to a bargain. I’d rather wait a while, let the mayhem of that first wave of shoppers go first then go out and see what can be found. It might be an entirely different story one day if I wanted something really badly!

 

HELEN P:

January Sales – I hate them! I’m always the person who never finds a bargain – well rarely. Plus after buying for my lot for Christmas, by the time it comes to January it’s bread and water for the rest of the month, so usually no spare money to buy anything with should I ever find that elusive bargain 😉

 

HELEN R:

I love the January sales! I’m afraid I’ll have to change that to “I hate the boxing day sales!” The shops start their sales here in Australia on boxing day – I think it’s tradition for the men to go to the cricket and the women to go to the shops. I’ve tried it a couple of times though and it’s only marginally better than the sport option. The crowds are horrendous, lots of pushing and shoving, and then there’s never very much I want. I think the only year I really appreciated them was when we wanted to upgrade our TV from the huge box-like one (we were one of the last families to do this I think!) to a plasma and we nabbed a real bargain.

 

ALEX:

I’m a big fan of the January sales.  After opening my credit card statement today, I’m starting to think I’m actually slightly too big a fan.  I had a bit of a splurge on new clothes this year and who can resist 50% discount in Fatface and White Stuff?  Well, I can’t anyway which is why I came home with half of a new wardrobe.  I have been to the sales on Boxing Day once.  I’ve never got up at 6am though.  But then there’s very few things that would prompt me to get out of bed that early!

 

DEIRDRE:

I’ve got a love/hate relationship with the sales.  Love them because they give me an excuse to wander about the town for hours, stopping off for a coffee and a Krispy Kreme, without feeling guilty about the time-wasting because I’m looking for bargains that will surely save me mega-bucks throughout the year.

Hate them because while I’m searching for next year’s Christmas presents and boring but useful things like pillow-cases, I’m eyeing up another warm jumper that I really can’t pass up as it’s half price or a 70% off t-shirt that looks awfully like several I’ve got already, and I really do not need any more clothes!  I did get some great boots with buckles on though, to which the reaction of the OH was: ‘Where did you park the motorbike?’

 

JAXX:

When the children were small I loved the ‘Next’ sale because you could buy a ton of clothes for them to grow into for a fraction of the price. But those days are long gone and my enthusiasm for queuing up on a cold January morning has gone with it!

Nowadays I’m more likely to be scanning PC World for a new printer or John Lewis for something ‘notepaddy’ or writing related, not because I need it but just because!

I’m not such a big spender these days as my house is full (!) and my waistband has expanded, so clothes shopping is more ‘what will fit me’ rather than the exciting days of buying something new to go out in. Sigh!

However-I did convince myself that I needed the iPad Air as I blamed my tennis elbow on the weight of my old iPad which I read in bed. Good enough reason to me. Now I’m broke and luckily the sales are finished and that means Spring is on it’s way. Hurrah!

 

JO:

The January sales are not for me.  As much as I love a bargain, all that pushing and shoving and the risk of being trampled to death to try and grab the last marked down Jasper Conran dress in an elusive size 16 from the rail does not appeal to me at all.  In fact, I hate shopping; full stop.  Maybe if I was a size 10 I’d feel differently, but those 360 degree mirrored changing rooms with the neon lights, the faint aroma of desperation and someone else’s body odour drifting in from the next cubicle along is not something that sets my pulse racing.  Maybe it was my first ever job, as a Saturday girl in Top Shop where I seemed to spend all day picking up crumpled clothes and Febreezing after another smelly customer that put me off? Who knows but, either way, give me online shopping any day!

 

JULIE:

I can’t be bothered with the sales. I have never, and will never, queue up to be the first to bag a bargain. The thought of all those people pushing and snatching brings me out in a cold sweat. I hate clothes shopping at the best of times because, being outsized, this is not a pleasurable experience and I’d far online shop and be mortified in the space of my own bedroom when nothing fits! As for other bargains, I do like to browse round shops like Boots, WH Smith and Clintons (my hometown isn’t huge so we don’t have many options!) but my purchases are more likely to be half-price wrapping paper, cards, tags and Christmas decorations that I usually then re-purchase later in the year when I’ve forgotten I bought them in the sales! I was particularly pleased this year in Boots to pick up some gorgeous half-price Tatty Teddies in winter and Christmas clothes to add to my growing Christmas cuddlies collection and a couple of half-price Monster High dolls for my daughter. These are things that don’t get reduced often so I felt quite pleased with myself. Still avoided the clothes shops like the plague, though!

 

So we have mixed feelings about the sales I think. Most of the stuff has probably gone by now and, if it hasn’t, it probably isn’t stuff you’d want to buy anyway!

Do leave a comment by clicking on the heart at the top of this post. We’d love to hear your views on loving or hating sales. Next week will be my final Wednesday Wondering for quite a while. Don’t panic if you love following it as it’s not going away; we’re just shaping things up a bit but I’ll reveal more next week!

Julie xx

Much Ado about Alison

Alison May is a good friend to the blog and some of us were lucky enough to share accommodation with her at last year’s RNA conference.  So we’re delighted to welcome her back for a second chat, now that she has had not only her first novel published, but also a Christmas-themed novella.

AliMay

Hello again Write Romantics. It’s lovely to be back. I come to bestow the wisdom of the published writer. Much Ado About Sweet Nothing has been published for nearly 7 whole weeks, and therefore, of course, I now know EVERYTHING. Literally EVERYTHING. What do you want to know?

We are really all keen to hear about your experience of the marketing side of things – particularly how much you do and how much help you’ve had from your publisher.

I’m published by Choc Lit (www.choc-lit.com) and they are great, but obviously things will vary from publisher to publisher. I’ve had lots of support on social media, not just from the Choc Lit team themselves, but also from other Choc Lit authors. Choc Lit also do things like setting up local media interviews and sending out press releases on your behalf.

That doesn’t mean that you don’t have to be at the centre of your own promotion though, especially on social media. And marketing and promotion are hard – that’s why people who are good at marketing get paid the Big Money. It’s particularly hard if, like me, you’re fundamentally a bit reserved and English. I use twitter and facebook a lot (you can find me here: www.twitter.com/MsAlisonMay and here: www.facebook.com/pages/Alison-May/310212092342136) and constantly worry that I overdo the promotional tweeting and am massively annoying people or that I underdo it and should be selling more books. It’s definitely an acquired skill.

Do you read your own reviews and how do they make you feel?

Of course I read them – I’m human! Generally I’m pretty chilled about reviews either way. It’s lovely when someone loves something you’ve written, but inevitably not everyone will, and either way, it’s just one person’s opinion.

I actually find ‘middling’ sort of reviews more troubling than really terrible ones. At least someone hating your book is a reaction. If they just find it a bit ‘meh’ that’s quite hard to deal with.

Has anything that’s happened since being published surprised you in either in a good or a bad way?

Well, obviously it’s a bit disheartening to discover that I’m not suddenly rich beyond my wildest dreams, and that I don’t automatically earn the right to lie on a chaise longue in my nightie and dictate my next book to a topless male model who, for reasons never fully explained, moonlights as an audio typist.

I am slightly surprised, and disappointed in myself, to discover how obsessed I am with checking my amazon sales rank. One piece of advice – just don’t start down that route. It’s weirdly addictive, occasionally deeply depressing and it’s almost impossible to kick the habit once you’ve started.

MAASN_small final cover

We’ve all heard about the difficult second album scenario and we wondered how true that’s turning out to be in relation to the writing of your second full-length novel?

Well just in case my publisher reads this, I’ll start by saying that novel 2 is coming along absolutely fine. Completely fine. It’s totally going to be submitted soon. Definitely. Almost certainly. Probably. Errr…

Honestly, for me writing novel 2 is properly hard work. There are all sorts of reasons for that. Much Ado About Sweet Nothing was my first completed novel, and while I was writing the first draft I basically knew nothing about how to write a novel. Now I know a little bit, and a little knowledge is, as the cliché goes, a very dangerous thing. Having completed and edited one novel you know more than you did when you wrote novel 1, and ignorance is really helpful when writing a first draft. It stops you from trying to correct stuff as you go along, and stops you tying yourself up in knots of anxiety over whether it’s good enough. That tiny bit of knowledge can be paralysing.

So yeah, novel 2 = really hard. Sorry about that.

How are you finding the development of new characters and new themes, do you have any concerns that you might find yourself inadvertently sticking with ‘favourites?’

This is something I’m very aware of, but I’m trying not to think too hard about it, because it’s another anxiety that can become paralysing. If you look at every character, every plot point, every choice you make about narrative voice or tense, or about setting or structure, and think ‘Oh, have I done that before?’ it stops you from progressing. I think you just have to write the best book you can and put everything else out of your mind.

What are you most looking forward to/most anxious about as you move onto the next phase of your writing career?

Looking forward to finishing book 2! Hopefully that will be published in paperback as well as ebook, which would be great. Print publication is a big outstanding ambition. After I’ve finished novel 2, I’m committed to writing a sequel to Holly’s Christmas Kiss, which I’m excited about. Holly really exceeded my expectations in terms of the sales and reaction over Christmas, so I’m looking forward to revisiting that world again in time for next Christmas. I’m also excited about building up work alongside the writing. I used to teach creative writing and I’m really keen to get back into teaching and critiquing.

In terms of anxiety I guess it’s just the awareness that my current situation could change. Novel 2 might not be good enough. All sorts of stuff could go horribly wrong. Again, you can’t spend time thinking about all the stuff that might go bad, because it’s another of those paralysing voices. You’ve just gotta keep writing.

So there you go. Sorry it got a bit long but there are my honest answers to your very insightful questions. I hope you found them enlightening, or if not enlightening at least passably interesting. That sounds more realistic. I hope you found them passably interesting.

And now you should all go and buy my book. If you want to. Or not.

Much Ado About Sweet Nothing is in the current Kindle 100 deal and is only 99p during January!

About Much Ado About Sweet Nothing

Is something always better than nothing?

Ben Messina is a certified maths genius and romance sceptic.  He and Trix met at university and have been quarrelling and quibbling ever since, not least because of Ben’s decision to abandon their relationship in favour of … more maths! Can Trix forget past hurt and help Ben see a life beyond numbers, or is their long history in danger of ending in nothing?

Charming and sensitive, Claudio Messina, is as different from his brother as it is possible to be and Trix’s best friend, Henrietta, cannot believe her luck when the Italian model of her dreams chooses her. But will Claudio and Henrietta’s pursuit for perfection end in a disaster that will see both of them starting from zero once again?

This is a fresh and funny retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, set in the present day.

About Me

Alison May last visited the WriteRomantics in September. Since then her first novel, Much Ado About Sweet Nothing, and her Christmas-themed novella, Holly’s Christmas Kiss, have been published by Choc Lit Lite, and she has almost learnt to say ‘I’m a writer’ when people ask her what she does for a living. Her next goal is to be able to say it without giggling uncontrollably and spluttering drink all over poor innocent question-asking strangers.

Wednesday Wondering – Resolutions: Success or Bust?

It’s 15th January which means we’re halfway through the month. There’s a statistic (although I’m way too lazy to Google it right now) around how many people will already have given up on their New Year’s Resolutions by now – particularly the ones around diet and fitness – and it’s a huge proportion of them. So I thought I’d ask the Write Romantics how their resolutions are going. Here’s what some of the group have to say:

 

JULIE:

I’m a great believer in not setting resolutions that start on 1st or 2nd January as mine are always the same (lose weight and get fit) and I’m afraid there is still a lot of chocolate, crisps and Christmas goodies left in the house at that point. I’ve been trying to get fit for the past year and have joined a beach-based bootcamp which has seen my fitness levels soar. I can’t get any better, though, until I lose some weight. I lost 3 stone but I really relaxed my eating in the autumn and gorged over Christmas so I’ve probably put a stone back on. I need a more controlled approach to my diet but I don’t want to do the extreme approach that my bootcamp recommends so I’m joining Slimming World tomorrow and just hoping I can motivate myself enough to step away from the lard and just go for it.

Writing wise, I didn’t really set any resolutions; just an aim to write more often. I think I may have failed that already as I did some last night but the last bit of writing had been the previous Tuesday. To be fair, I’ve had 2 days away with work but I have also had a few days faffing about with emails and Facebook.

 

RACHAEL:

Making resolutions is something I do each year. As is breaking them! So this time I took a different approach and made the resolutions more achievable.

For instance, I bite my nails and have done since I was a toddler. I always make the resolution, stop biting my nails. I always fail. This time it was, try and grow my nails. So far, so good.  I’ve even managed to break one, which is a totally new experience for me.

My other resolutions are, to eat less rubbish and eat healthier. This one didn’t get off to a good start due to the amount of Christmas sweets lingering around the house.

Also to do some writing work each day, whether that is blogging, editing or writing. This one I’m doing really well with.

 

DEIRDRE:

I didn’t so much set resolutions as lay out a few vagueish plans – I like to play myself into the new year gently!  The writing plans I detailed in an earlier post but basically I have two novels to finish, one of which will go to the NWS, so in that respect my plan is to work harder at the writing, up the daily word count and stop checking emails every five minutes.   Other than that it’s the old chestnut, eat less and move more.  Nothing much has happened on either count as yet but then I haven’t really been trying. I did set out intending on having a long walk but ten minutes on a monsoon started and I nipped on a bus!

I’ve also decided that this year my garden is going to have more colour in it.  I made a start on that before Christmas by turfing out shrubs that had gone woody and cleared some space ready for new stuff so now I’m scouring the gardening columns for ideas while relaxing by the fire, so no effort required there, then!

 

ALEX:

My writing related New Year’s resolution is to get Beltane submitted. I’ve made the final changes to it and the lovely Julie and Jo are kindly proof reading it for me. I’ve got a list of publishers that I intend to submit to and I’m now researching agents that accept speculative fiction. Next up is writing the covering letter and writing CV.  Any advice on those would be very gratefully received! 

As you all know my other New Year’s resolution was to start dating again. Inspired by the advice I got from my blog on Saturday I have now joined an online dating site.  And that’s all I’m going to say about it on here…

 

HELEN R:

With summer in Australia starting in December, January is a difficult month to make any resolutions especially as we were away for the first ten days, on holiday. So, I guess my resolutions started on the 11th of this month! I’m afraid that they are not very original: eating better, continuing regular exercise and procrastinating less with writing. So far, two days in, it’s going well…
 
I find that with exercise, I can get stuck in a rut, and to keep exercising, I must enjoy myself or it becomes a real chore. So last year I did spin classes, step and Pilates. Don’t worry, I ‘m not an exercise nut, these sessions were scattered throughout the year! I want to do more walking this year but I have to change my route from the usual “near home”, which is around the houses and not all that scenic. I have downloaded some new routes and I will try the first this Wednesday morning before I start writing. The track starts in a suburb near here but goes through a ferny gully near a waterfall and the waters of Sailors Bay. I’m thinking that if the sun is shining and the water glistening, it’ll put a spring in my step and my writing will flow when I get home, so that’ll help with reducing any procrastination. Fingers crossed 🙂

 

JO:

I set a few resolutions for this year.  The first was to read at least four times a week with my little boy and we’ve kept up with that– we’re reading Horrid Henry and the Haunted House at the moment!  I also said I’d exercise at least four times a week, which I’ve just about managed, although it’s been dog walking rather than high impact aerobics in the main…  I wanted to write four times a week, too, but due to my current workload marking university papers and it being one of the key submission points for my students, I’ve had to postpone that resolution until February.  My final resolution was to try to capture some joy in every day, even the most challenging and stressful of them.  To date, I’ve managed to do that and focussed on everything from laughing at an Adam Sandler comedy with the kids to watching the sky turn pink whilst walking my dogs on the beach – so all in all, it’s been a pretty good year so far.

 

It seems that exercising is a pretty strong theme across the Write Romantics so maybe we can give each other a bit of support and encouragement. I love the images created by Jo’s “joy capturing” and Helen R’s proposed new walk; the joys of living in Australia where it’s sunny at the moment! I’m having a down day so I think I may need to do something to capture the joy. Not sure what, though!

Good luck with the online dating Alex!

How are you getting on with your resolutions? Do comment and let us know.

Julie xx

New Year, New Romance? by Alex Weston

1560708_10152148181361011_519889760_n
Despite being a member of the Write Romantics I found the romance bits of Beltane the hardest to write. Magic, action and even the occasional bits of comedy were all much easier for me. Maybe that’s because, for various reasons, I’ve got a bit out of practice when it comes to romance. So encouraged by my fellow Write Romantics one of my New Year’s resolutions is to try to change that.
At my age internet dating seems to be the main way in which people meet. I have to admit it fills me with a certain amount of trepidation. I’ve heard a lot more horror stories than happy ever afters. A couple of weeks ago I started reading Here’s Looking at You by Mhairi McFarlane. In the first chapter the heroine goes on a disastrous first date with a man she’s met through an internet dating site. Before they’ve finished their starters he’s told her about the many and various ‘unusual’ sexual practices he likes to indulge in. After reading that I shuddered, put the book down and thought there’s got to be another way.
So I turned to the books I’ve read recently to see if they could give me some good ideas on how to meet members of the opposite sex.
Charlotte Street by Danny Wallace
We’ve got a male hero here and the books starts with him holding a girl’s bags while she gets into a taxi. She smiles and in that moment he feels an amazing connection between them, a feeling of recognising his soul mate. She accidentally leaves a disposable camera behind and he gets the photos developed and uses them as clues to try to track her down.
I get the moment of connection thing, I really do. But what he does next seems a little too much like stalking. And then when he finally sees her again it turns out that she’s newly single. How lucky is that! Though I guess it wouldn’t have made anywhere near such a good story if he’d gone to all that trouble and then, when they meet at the end of the book, she’d said, ‘Sorry but I’ve got a boyfriend.’
When I fall in Love by Miranda Dickinson
Elsie meets the hero when she’s caught accidentally shoplifting from a certain well known high street chemist. He’s a lawyer and manages to make sure she doesn’t get arrested. As one of the items that she’s taken is haemorrhoid cream (apparently for her father) I can only hope that nothing this embarrassing ever happens to me.
The Ghost House by our very own Helen Phifer
Annie meets Will (who is lovely. I do like a man who wears a lot of Berghaus) because there’s a serial murderer in town. She’s a PCSO and he’s the detective investigating the murders. I can think of any number of books where a romance starts during a murder investigation but, to be honest, I’d rather not discover a body or meet a serial killer.
And the classics are no help. Elizabeth and Darcy meet at a ball. I’ve not been to a ball since university and they were absolutely nothing like the ones in Pride & Prejudice. Jane Eyre meets Mr Rochester when he falls from his horse and then (would you believe it!) he turns out to be her employer. Well, let’s be honest that was pretty improbable in the 1840’s and it’s never going to happen in twenty first century York. And seeing as he’s got a mad wife in the attic Mr Rochester is really not the kind of guy I’m looking to meet! Then there’s Cathy and Heathcliffe who meet as children but let’s not go there because that doesn’t end well for anyone.
So I’m back to square one. Any ideas? I’d love to hear how you met the special person in your life.

Photo by Maynard Case http://www.maynardcase.co.uk

The Wednesday Wondering – Our Overseas Dreams

Has a week really passed since the last Wednesday Wondering? Looks like January is going to just whizz by!

It was Twelfth Night on Monday which, if you’re superstitious, signals the final day to take the Christmas decorations down. I suspect a lot of people took theirs down at the weekend. I did. I absolutely adore fairy lights and I love all the ornaments on my tree so it’s usually with great sadness that I take them down and pack them away. There’s another side, though, that really welcomes the de-cluttering and the way the lounge suddenly seems so much bigger again. With Christmas well and truly packed away and resolutions started (and possibly already broken), thoughts often turn to holidays. We like to have something to look forward to. For those making the most common resolutions of losing weight/getting fit, this can help them achieve their goals e.g. “I need to get into my size 8 bikini by the time I go to Corfu in June  and I’m a size 28 now; that’s achievable isn’t it?!!”

With the thought of travel in mind, I set this Wondering:

If money was no object and you could travel anywhere in the world to research then set a book in that place, where would you go and why?

I wish I didn’t have to add in “if money was no object” but, sadly, none of us have won the lottery yet so the travels we’d love to do are probably going to remain in the realms of the imagination and whatever images we can conjure up on Google!

Here’s what some of the group said …

RACHAEL:

Well, now there’s a good question. If I didn’t have to worry about financing it I would go around the world for research. Why not? There are so many places I’d like to experience and with my chosen genre having settings in glamorous locations across the globe, what better excuse would I need!

I’d love to know what the hot desert sun feels like or the cold wind that blows snow around Swiss mountains. I’d like to stand in a sea that is warm and clear as the waves lap gently onto soft sand. I’d love to hear the sounds of the night in places so hot there is an orchestra of insects – just so long as I didn’t have to sit outside with them.

The list is endless and very expensive, so I guess I’ll just have to use my imagination.

 

JO:

Ooh, this is a tough one… I haven’t ever really thought about setting a book abroad, as I tend to write about locations that I know or fantasy ones of my own invention.  I think it might be because I am too lazy to research these things properly.  However, I really want to go to New York in the next couple of years and would ideally like to go there around Christmas-time and watch the big parades, then ice skate effortlessly, whilst like snowflakes fall all around me, in Central Park!  Okay, so I can’t ice skate to save my life and maybe I’ve been watching too many schmaltzy American movies on Sky over the past month, but I think I could write a romantic story in that setting.  If not there, then in the wilds of Scotland, which I always find inspiring – but, since you did say that money was no object, just book me the Penthouse at the Four Seasons in NY for now!

 

JAXX:

My initial response to this question was, ‘Ooh get a Winnebego and travel around America,’ but then I realised I was thinking about going on holiday rather than researching for a book.

It would have to be ‘if money was no object’ as, the older I get the less of an intrepid traveller I’ve become. I hate not knowing where i’m going to sleep and when I can next take a shower, so I’think I would rather just mingle for a while with super rich people to set a book somewhere Like Aspen or Venice, which is do-able on a budget, but wouldn’t it be great to be able to go to the sort of places Michael Winner used to review?

I’m sure many books are set in places where the writer has never ventured, but to see it for yourself must add a layer of authenticity. Just as an example, my latest WIP starts off in a bar in the ‘outback’ of Angola where the heroine is sipping a cocktail, enjoying the air conditioning and taking in the view. My friend went out there for her work and took loads of photo’s of the hotels and bars they had to stay in and they were mostly run down shacks which didn’t serve alcohol, let alone cocktails. The roads were dirt tracks apart from in the main cities and the people were mostly poor. Nothing like my first chapter- sigh- I should have known really! Back to the drawing board for me!

 

HELEN R:

I would love to go to Canada for an entire year, to let me experience all the seasons: the myriad of colours that come with Autumn / fall, the snow of winter, the long summer nights and the feeling of spring too. I’ve always wanted to go there and I would love to include a Canadian Mountie as a hero 🙂

 

ALEX:

This is a tough one, so many places, so little time.  I’m going to go with my top 3.

1. I would love to go New Zealand.  It’s a place that has fascinated me for a long time.  I have rather distant family who live there and my Granny has been many times (most recently last Christmas when she was 95!).  One day I’d like to try to write an epic fantasy novel and I think the incredible landscape and the Maori culture would be a really inspirational starting point.

2. The West Coast of the US and Canada.  I’d like to start in San Francisco and drive up the coast to Vancouver and then on into British Columbia.  I’m not quite sure what writing reason there is for this one it’s just something I’ve always wanted to do. Although, Winston (one of the characters in Beltane) has Canadian First Nation ancestors so I could learn more about him.

3. I’d like to live in Ireland for a few months.  I’ve been in love with Ireland for years and I’d like to rent a cottage on the coast of County Cork and soak up the legends, the atmosphere (and let’s be honest, the rain).  It’d be a great place to set the third of the Beltane trilogy.

 

DEIRDRE:

I would go to rural Virginia in the USA, a choice inspired by my love of the TV series The Waltons. The stories surrounding the lives of John-Boy, Mary-Ellen and the rest of the Walton family and their friends and neighbours are so deeply entrenched in the beautiful fictitious setting of Walton’s Mountain that they simply wouldn’t work anywhere else. The series was set in the years of the Great Depression and the second world war, a time of great social change. It would be fascinating to delve into the history and discover how real-life families like the Waltons coped with the disappearance of the simple way of life. I don’t know what period my book would be set in but that would be something I’d find out as I went along.  While I was researching I’d stay in a wooden house on a mountain which would look like the Waltons’ home on the outside but the inside would be the last word in luxury living, with room for my family and friends to enjoy a lovely extended holiday while I beavered away at the book.

 

JULIE:

Yet again, I’ve gone and set a question where I haven’t considered my answer first. Durr. If I’m completely honest, I don’t feel any sort of draw towards setting any of my novels overseas. My trilogy is set on the North Yorkshire Coast and I like writing about what I know. Mind you, I’ve actually created a fictional town so, in theory, it could be anywhere in the country and isn’t really about what I know! I’ve researched all sorts of elements for my books so it’s not the research about unknown countries that’s putting me off. I think it’s just that I have lots of ideas for future books and none of them lend themselves to being set overseas as a whole or in part.

That’s not to say I wouldn’t love to travel because I adore some of the suggestions the other Write Romantics have come up with. I went to New Zealand 14 years ago and would love to return. I went to Canada on my honeymoon 8 years ago and would love to go back and explore further. I want to visit more of the USA and Australia (been to parts of both) and I would love to experience the stunning white sands/blue ocean types of beach in the film ‘The Beach’ starring Leonardo DiCaprio. I believe that was filmed in Thailand. Pictures of The Maldives look incredible too. Although I have a confession; I’m not really a hot weather worshipper and I don’t much care for sand! Fussy aren’t I?!

So maybe my answer is that I’d like to explore and I’d like to write while I’m exploring but my writing would probably be set in the UK and I’d just use the scenery around me as inspiration for creativity rather than a setting.

 

What would your answer be? Please join in and let us know by clicking on the heart at the top of this post and leaving a comment. Next week we’ll be looking at our New Year’s Resolutions and whether they’ve already fallen by the wayside.

Have a good week.

Julie xxx

The Saturday Spotlight – Reflections & Dreams

It’s a New Year. A time to reflect back. A time to look ahead. A time to plan, to change things, to re-focus. Have you done that? Have you made any New Year’s Resolutions? Have you broken them already?! In a YouGov survey for The Times, it was found that a third of people surveyed would be setting resolutions and that more than half of those wanted to do more exercise/improve fitness and the second and third most being to lose weight/improve diet respectively. Some of The Write Romantics want to do that, myself included, but today’s Saturday Spotlight is about writing instead.

Here’s our review of 2013 (the year of the birth of The Write Romantics) and our plans for 2014 with a quick reminder of what stage we’re at with the RNA’s New Writer’s Scheme (NWS)…

Image

Back Row L-R, Julie, Jo, Helen P

Front Row L-R, Rachael, Alex, plus our Writing Friend Lorraine

 

ALEX:

Joined NWS in 2013

In 2013 I FINALLY finished writing Beltane and got it edited.  In July it went off for it’s NWS review in July.  It took nearly 3 months to get the report back and by that point my nerves were well and truly shredded.  But it was good news and I’ve not had many changes to make.  I’m just doing a final tidying up of the manuscript and then I’m going to start submitting it.  

I’ve already made a start on my writing plans for 2014 by joining York Writers. Once I’ve got Beltane off on it’s first round of submissions I’m going to write a (short) ghost story for a bit of light relief and then it’ll be on with the new book.  As I write very slowly there’s absolutely no hope that it’ll be finished by the NWS deadline of the end of August but if I’ve got 30,000 to 40,000 words by then I’ll be pretty happy with that.

 

DEIRDRE:

Joined NWS several years ago and has self-published a novel

Image

2013 brought me some nice little boosts to my writing: two agents and two publishers requested the full of my previous year’s NWS novel (the jury is still out on one of them), the critique of the partial for my next was really positive, another I began for NaNoWriMo took off surprisingly well and looks like leading me in a new, exciting direction, then I got my lovely prize in the Mail on Sunday competition.  And of course I joined the Write Romantics, learned a bit about blogging and bagged myself some lovely new writing friends, so all in all, it’s been a good year.

I’ve set myself quite a task for 2014 as I now have two novels to finish, edit and polish, one of which will go off to the NWS.  I’ll carry on submitting the earlier one but if no-one takes it up I’ll self-publish before the end of the year.  My main ambition is to be published but I also plan to work hard on my writing and become the best I can.  To help this along I’ll be reading writers I admire and who inspire me, and of course by writing, writing, writing, and experimenting with different styles and types of story.  2014 could be a year of discovery and I’m looking forward to that.

 

HELEN P:

Joined NWS in 2012 and had her 1st book published in 2013!

2013 was an amazing year for me, it was the year I saw my writing hopes and dreams finally come true eight years after starting my novel. In the space of twelve months I managed to rewrite my debut novel The Ghost House four times. I got to work with some amazing editors from Carina UK who have been very, very supportive. I was lucky enough to meet my fellow Write Romantics and become a part of this wonderful blog, it was even better catching up with them in person at the RNA conference in the summer and they were just as wonderful in person as they are on the blog. I became a member of the Crime Writers Association which is something I have also dreamed about for years, I was lucky enough to be asked by Lucy Santos the Director of the CWA to write some blog posts for the website which was another amazing writing moment for me. 

The biggie was the launch of The Ghost House, seeing my book on Amazon was indescribable, nerve wracking yet amazing all at the same time. Then it actually made it’s way into the Contemporary Horror Chart and I found myself battling it out between Stephen King, James Herbert, Susan Hill and Adam Neville that was such a surreal moment for me – I had to keep pinching myself. It’s been three months now since it’s release and I’m relieved to say that it’s still selling well. I’m still in the top 20. Something else I had never considered was my readers reactions, I have had so many emails, Facebook messages, Tweets and people stopping me in the street to tell me how much they enjoyed my book and wanting to know when the next one will be out I just can’t believe that I can finally call myself an author and that is a feeling that money just can’t buy.

2014 will see the release of my follow up novel to The Ghost House, I am also working on book three which is a stand alone novel. I will attend my first ever RNA party in May where I am a contender for the Joan Hessayon Award, there are so many other brilliant writers who are also nominated that I don’t think for one minute I will stand a chance but I’m grateful to be a part of it and I’m looking forward to catching up with some of my fellow friends and Write Romantics there.

 

HELEN R:

Joined NWS in 2012

Image

Of course each year my aim is to write and be published. 2013 saw another critique from the NWS and I worked in that novel as well as writing the next one.

Going into 2014 I now have two novels which need work and I will be sending one of those to the NWS. The feedback each year is incredibly valuable and although I am still unpublished, I know that I am a better writer than I was 1, 2 or 3 years ago when I first started to take it seriously.

So I guess I will continue on my journey in the same way and although I know there will be ups and downs I will surround myself with people who reiterate the words “don’t give up”!

 

JAXX:

Joined NWS a long time ago!

Image

Last year I finished writing a WIP about a gorgeous, but troubled man fighting his attraction to a female auctioneer trying to sell his grandfather’s heirlooms.  It had taken me too long to write and I had abandoned it many times because I hadn’t plotted it out correctly and was getting lost in the twists and turns.  But for once, I was determined to finish it and was pleased I did, as I received lots of positive advice from my reader at the RNA and I think it has freed up my writing enthusiasm as this one was really holding me back.

So, for now I am feeling really positive about my latest WIP about an air- stewardess and a wannabe rock star who end up in trouble with the Russian Mafia. I intend to finish a good first draft by Easter when I will return to my ‘gorgeous, but troubled man’ to tweak his story before sending it out to publishers who accept submissions without an agent.

Plans for 2014: get to grips with Twitter (yes, that was last year’s resolution, i know) I also intend to actually send off some of my WIP’s with dedication instead of a half hearted attempt at a synopsis, covering letter and all that jazz. Lastly, and scarily I have decided that this year will be the last year I intend to be in the New Writer’s scheme. There, I’ve said it now, so it is Fact! This is because I intend to be published. I can’t bear the thought of not being in the RNA and the only way I can do that if I’m not in the NWS is to be a full member. Ooh, now I’m scared- do I get a chance to erase this at any stage of the year?

 

JO:

Joined NWS in 2011

Oh my goodness, I can’t believe another year has flown past.  I used to listen to older relatives talk about how every year that passed resulted in the following year going a little bit faster.  I would give a wry smile and think “not for me”, but now I know only too well what they meant!  Life with three jobs, four children and trying to study towards my Masters degree for the best part of 2013 has meant that it has flashed before my eyes.  I was going to achieve so much writing-wise this year and, although it didn’t quite go according to plan, here are my highlights:

1.       Submitting my first novel and getting some interest from a publisher – the final verdict should be in soon.

2.       Completing a second novel (a YA this time) and getting some good but developmental feedback from the NWS

3.       Writing half of the third novel during NaNo

4.       Starting the blog with the lovely Julie and being joined by a lovely group of new writing friends

5.       Meeting over half of the other Write Romantics in person

I wanted to enter more competitions, write short stories and sub them to magazines, research ideas for non-fiction articles, finish book three and be ready to sub book two.  However, realistically, with the other commitments in my life, that was never going to happen.  So, with that in mind, here is my goal for 2014: 

1.       To write something creative (that is, not work related) at least four times a week

That, I think, is realistic and something that will lead me to where I want to be, because (apparently) every single thing you write makes you a better writer – here’s hoping!  My less realistic goals, but those that I am still going to set out nonetheless, go as follows:

2.       To get a publishing deal for book 1 – either with the publisher who showed an interest (yes, please Santa as you forgot to deliver this for Christmas!) or with one of the others I have shortlisted (which means some more sub’ing in Jan)

3.       To complete book 3 by February and send to the NWS by Easter

4.       To edit book 2, plot the rest of the trilogy and begin sub’ing

5.       To plot (and hopefully write) the middle grade book I have an idea for

6.       To finish the picture book I started several years ago

7.       To enter at least six comps and/or submit at least 3 short stories or non-fiction articles to magazines

8.       To work with my fellow Write Romantics to drive the blog onwards and upwards

9.       To meet up face to face with as many of the Write Romantics as I can

10.   To start teaching creative writing

Ten goals sound like a good round number, doesn’t it?  Still, even I can recognise that this is pretty ambitious!  However, I have deferred the start of my next Masters module until October 2014 and so I have promised myself that I will concentrate on my writing during any spare time I have in that period instead.  I hope I can sign off at least half of these by the end of the year and wish everyone else luck in achieving their goals, writing and otherwise, in 2014.

 

JULIE:

Joined NWS in 2012

My debut novel is called ‘Searching for Steven’ and I submitted it for the NWS critique in both 2012 and 2013. This is because it significantly changed. Although my 2012 feedback was good, there hadn’t been enough character arc and I was told it was a little too “episodic” so I worked hard on my arc and making the story flow better. However, I still ended up with about 30k words too many so I wanted some guidance on how to condense it. I got this with my 2013 feedback which was extremely positive and included phrases like, “what a great hero”, “you have a good ear for dialogue” and “you’ve a nice style. I’m sure you’ll be published soon!” Buzzing with this, I set to work on another edit and bravely booked myself onto the RNA Conference (I say “bravely” as I’m sure most people find walking into a room of strangers quite daunting, even if they’re usually a pretty confident person like I am). I even booked myself a couple of pitches with editors. These went brilliantly. Both wanted to see the full MS and were very positive about the story and my voice.

The hardest part of 2013 has been starting to submit. Even though I have my preferences as to where I would like my writing “home” to be, I would be foolish to put all my eggs in one or two baskets so I’ve submitted to a handful of agents and generally had a trickle of “thanks but no thanks” responses. One of these was extremely encouraging, though, and described my work as a “near miss” with her because “there was an awful lot [she] liked”. You don’t get much better than that. Well, you do and it would be an offer of representation but this told me a professional believes I can write and do it very well.

November saw a highlight for me in participating in NaNoWriMo. Despite huge challenges of working 7 days a week in a temporary role and job hunting for a permanent role, I “won” NaNo and that 50k words meant I finished draft 1 of book 2 and about a third of book 3. Without NaNo, I think I’d have struggled to write 5k words, never mind 50k.

I took December off. I started a new job, it was my daughter’s birthday, Christmas and all the usual distractions but I started on 1st January as I meant to go on this year with some dedicated writing time and I’ve done something each day since. At the moment I’m plotting rather than writing because I hadn’t fully plotted out book 3 before NaNo started. Luckily, I hit the 50k word target at the point I’d run out of plot so that was another reason for taking December off; I needed some thinking time. I should finish the plotting this weekend and get cracking on the writing this evening or Sunday.

Setting up the blog with Jo, recruiting the other Write Romantics and meeting some of them at the Conference have also been huge highlights for me in 2013. The group have been an amazing support and it’s been a privilege watching one of our members, Helen P, get published. It was even more of a privilege to read her book, ‘The Ghost House’ and be able to say, hand on heart, that it was a gripping 5-star read. Competition successes from Deirdre and Rachael have been vicariously enjoyed too.

My goals for 2014 are quite simple; get a publishing deal! It’s a waiting game now as my full MS is being read and considered right now and I can’t do anything more. I could draw up a list of more agents to contact but, if I’m honest, my first list was the ones with whom I felt the best fit. I think most writers will find their homes now with a digital-first publisher rather than an agent so this is where I’m focusing my hopes.

While I wait, I’ll finish my first draft of book 3 in the trilogy (hopefully finished by end March) then go back to book 2 and start the editing process. I plan to submit book 2 to the NWS (unless I hear good news on the publishing deal first, of course!) The aim is to have final drafts of the whole trilogy by the end of the year and have started plotting out my next novel. At the moment, I know the rough story and have two characters clearly in mind. I know what role a third character plays but don’t know her personality or motivations yet and I haven’t formulated my fourth character. I see it being set in the fictional North Yorkshire seaside town of Whitsborough Bay where my trilogy is set and I may even include cameos from characters in the trilogy. I already know what cameo my lead in book 1 will play. I actually can’t wait to get cracking on something completely new but the trilogy must be completed first.

Exciting times ahead! I feel it’s going to be a very positive year for The Write Romantics and hope we’ll be reporting news of more than one publishing deal this year.

 

LYNNE:

Joined NWS about 10 years ago

Image

I intend to finish the book I’m working on now, which is a memoir really of my work with 14 year old Chelsea who was bought up in care. She knew very little about her life in care, so we worked on finding out her life story between us. There are also a few chapters scattered throughout the book on my own family history and my totally cranky parents. They were the reason I went into social work, because I had lots of questions I wanted answers too, and I didn’t want anyone else having the same upbringing I’d had.

I’m working right now on getting that book ready to send out and am almost there. I also want to work on some articles and short stories and yes, you’ve guessed it, the next book!

 

RACHAEL:

Joined NWS in 2007

This time last year I was awaiting news on my fourth submission to Mills and Boon and when it did come in the spring, it was a rejection. Yet another badge of honour, but not what I’d hoped for. I was just starting a new story, but after four rejections I decided I was just going to write the story I wanted to.

When the end of 2013 came around that story had taken me on an amazing rollercoaster ride. Without expectations, I entered it into Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write completion and was amazed when it made not only the Top 50, but the Top 10!

So my hopes for 2014 are that despite not winning the competition, this story will get published and also the one I am working on now will prove to be an even greater success. After seven years in NWS I’d really love to be able to say I’ve done it.

 

There you have it; our hopes and aspirations. Becoming published is the biggie and we all enjoyed a virtual party to celebrate Helen P’s book launch which was fantastic except that I managed to spill a large glass of white zinfandel all over my desk! Even now, I keep finding sticky patches where it seeped! 

We’ll keep you posted on how we get on with our publication dreams and writing progress. To all our followers out there, a Happy New Year to you. We wish you a happy, healthy and prosperous 2014 and would love to hear how you hope 2014 will pan out for you. Just click on the heart at the top right of this blog post and that will open out the comments section at the bottom of the post.

Julie xxx

The Wednesday Wondering – Happy New Year!

Happy New Year and welcome to the first Wednesday Wondering of 2014. I hope you’ve all had relaxing, fun-filled Christmases and are reading this without that uncomfortable headache that often comes with the over-indulgences of New Year’s Eve!

We skipped last Wednesday’s Wondering with it falling on Christmas Day but I personally don’t find New Year’s Day quite so fraught so offered to post as usual today.

This coming Saturday (4th Jan), we’re going to have a reflective Saturday Spotlight where The Write Romantics look back on their writing experiences during 2013 and their writing aspirations for 2014 so, with this in mind, I’ve posed another non-writing yet seasonal Wondering question for today:

What’s been the best/worst New Year celebrations you’ve ever had?

Here’s what some of The Write Romantics have said…

 

HELEN R:

My best New Year celebration would have to be New Year 2005…my parents were with me in Australia, I went into labour on New Year’s Eve and then my daughter arrived on New Year’s Day. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to top that one!

My worst New Year would have to be when I was in my twenties. We went to a nightclub that promised to be awesome and failed to live up to expectations. The snow was coming down by the time we left – which was early because the club was so appalling – and taxis seemed to be invisible that night. We shivered as we walked for miles, and I think I hid beneath the duvet for pretty much most of the next day.

 

ALEX:

There have been a few really memorable New Years including the start of 2000 in Bruges, a big street party in Stirling and seeing my then favourite band in Dublin.  However I’ve decided that my best New Year was when I did Hogmanay in Edinburgh in 1999.  My sister was a student there and we did the whole Prince’s Street experience.  At midnight fireworks were set off all around Edinburgh Castle and then the kissing started.  I have never been kissed as much in one evening.  Men just came up to you and gave you a kiss.  I must admit I got so into the swing of this (and I was quite drunk by then) that I even kissed a policeman.  He didn’t seem to mind!

 

JO:

My worst ever New Year’s Eve was on 31 December 2000, the day after I got married.  If I add to that sentence “for the first time”, you might see why I now look back and think that I should have taken that disastrous night as a sign!  My now ex –husband and I were on our way to our honeymoon, with the best man and his wife.  That probably wasn’t a good sign either…  We decided to go skiing in La Thuile in Italy and, flights being difficult to get on NYE, had also decided to drive.  Typical Brits, we didn’t take a lot of precautions – snow tyres, warning triangles, the correct directions, that sort of thing!  The best man’s wife was in charge of the map and after seven hours driving we were going great guns and were on track to arrive in the resort before midnight.  Only we reached the top of the road and discovered that the mountain pass, which would take us from the French side of La Thuile to the Italian side, was closed in the winter and completely impassable due to snow.  So we had to drive hundreds of miles back down and around the base of the mountains.  The best man (and I use the term loosely), had the raging hump and we nearly saw in the New Year at the bottom of a cliff, after his irate driving almost sent us hurtling off the mountain several times.  We eventually arrived, totally fed-up and with a terrible start to the New Year, at about 3 am.  I should have taken it as a sign, since by the end of that year my new husband had already forgotten the promises he made on our wedding day and by NYE 2002 we were separated.  Still, this New Year will mark the start of the year in which I will celebrate the tenth anniversary of my second marriage.  Since getting together, we have a house party every NYE, with lots to eat and drink, silly games and loads of laughs.  A honeymoon in Italy might sound a romantic way to spend NYE, but I know better – let me tell you!  Happy New Year, everyone xx

 

RACHAEL:

For me the best New Year’s Eve has to be The Millennium. My children were small, but still managed to be a part of the celebrations. Despite being a small village it felt like everyone was squashed inside my husband’s family home as the countdown began and not only a new decade started, but a new millennium. It was a great way to see in the New Year with friends and family of all ages.

The worst New Year’s Eve celebration has to be the one where I didn’t hang onto my drink and it kept getting filled up. Actually, it was New Year’s Day that was the worst!

 

LYNNE:

I used to love working Christmas and New Year’s Day in hospitals when I was a nurse! I know lots of you will think that is weird but there is such a fun atmosphere amongst the staff and patients unless there is anything really dire going on. One day when I don’t have children and family to think of I’ll go and help in one of the hostels or centrepoint on those days.

 

HELEN P:

My best New Years Eve was when I was about 8, my Aunty Dot used to have the most amazing house parties which the whole family would attend and there used to be a lot of us. At midnight we would all form a massive line and Conga out of her front door and down the street just going in peoples houses doing the Conga and most of the times they would join in and grab onto the back of the line. It was hilarious 🙂 The worst one was probably the first year after My Aunty Dot died, we were like lost sheep with nowhere to go for a party 😦

 

JULIE:

My best New Year’s Eve was when I was 14. I stayed over at a friend’s house while her parents were away and our plan had been to just watch films on TV, eat crisps and see the New Year in but, after helping ourselves to her mum and dad’s homemade wine collection, we staggered into town and joined the revellers at the town’s market cross. I’d never been drunk before (and it was 4 years later before I was again!) but it was an amazing feeling. The atmosphere at the market cross was incredible (helped by the wine) and we ended up at a party where I snogged a lad from school who I would never have gone for if I hadn’t been wearing serious beer goggles and who I knew felt the same about me as he wouldn’t look at me after that! I could write reams about the hilarity of the evening but may save that for a YA I’m toying with!

My worst New Year’s Eve would be most New Year’s Eves since then! It’s been such an anti-climax for so many years that I’ve made a conscious effort to avoid it; stay in, watch a DVD and be in bed before midnight! I’ve lost count of the amount of nights out in packed pubs, unable to get served with one or more of the people I’m with in a bad mood that brings the whole group down. My worst two in a row were probably with my ex boyfriend. Our first NYE together we had his best friend and his wife to stay and the four of us went out to see a band in Birmingham. The venue was so packed that there was barely any standing room, never mind sitting down. It was sweltering and the friends with us had a domestic and stormed out. We then had to wait two hours for a taxi home and the atmosphere was unbearable. The next year, the same boyfriend was meant to have sorted a night out and didn’t get his act together so we ended up travelling to his home in Lincoln to see another friend and his wife. The men decided we’d go clubbing only the wife didn’t fancy it so, at the last minute, it was just me and the two of them. I envisaged an 80s night or something but it was extreme hardcore dance music instead and it turned out that the friend had a drugs problem so spent the evening high as a kite and hurling himself around the dancefloor. Despite being anti-drugs, my boyfriend seemed to find it funny and was happy to dance all night himself. I hated – and was scared by – everything about the evening and wanted to leave but we were staying at the boyfriend’s parents’ house so I could hardly go home on my own. We never made it to a 3rd NYE together, thank goodness!

  

So, that’s our happy and sad tales. Do share yours; we’d love to hear from you. Happy New Year and all the best for a happy, prosperous and wish-achieving 2014.

Julie xx