Wednesday Wondering – Oscar Dreams

Oh how the time flies, this is my fourth and final Wednesday Wondering for a few months and I’ll be passing it over to my counterpart Helen Rolfe and wishing her the best of luck. This week I think I’ve got a bit carried away with myself but I was thinking; can you imagine if a film company bought the rights to my book and made it into a film, it’s what dreams are made of and we all need to have a dream.


So this weeks question is……… You are invited to the Oscars as your novel was turned into this year’s blockbuster movie. Who would you take with you?


Ideally I would want to take my husband Steve and my five children but I don’t think they would give me that many tickets. So it would be Steve, because he has been so supportive and told me all along that I can do this and because television is his life and he is a bit like a real life Homer Simpson plus I’ve never seen him wear a tuxedo 😉


Helen xx


Absolutely loving the idea of my novel being the year’s blockbuster movie. I actually can picture it up there on the big screen. Ahhhh. Ok, stop fantasising and answer the question … the obvious answer would be to take the hubby but I’m not sure he’d like an event like that cos he’s pretty shy. I think Ashleigh (my 7-year-old) would have more fun than him and it would be a great excuse for her to wear a gorgeous frock. Plus a great excuse for me to slope off early because I so don’t do late nights. Pathetic eh?

Julie xx


I would take my husband of course! Without him I could never have started writing let alone kept it going for so long. He has encouraged me when all I wanted to do was give up and he told me not to be daft as each rejection came in. He also takes over the cooking most nights and lets me get to work so he would be fully deserving of the extra ticket to the Oscars!!
Wow…what a dream eh…

Helen R x


I would take my friend Lois because she would know the names of all the stars and I mostly don’t have a clue. Plus she loves champagne!

Jax x


First and foremost I’d have to take my nearest and dearest: long-suffering husband, Michael, and sons Christopher and Luke. They have been known to scrub up well on occasions and are usefully tall, especially my boys who are around six foot three apiece. I don’t like being the centre of attention so as we walked the red carpet I’d be able to hide myself among my male entourage. At just under five eleven I take some hiding… Then I’d invite my two local writer friends who read for me and offer such great advice. One is Maureen Stenning, aka Isabelle Goddard, whose grace and elegance lends itself so well to such an occasion (she won’t agree with me, I know!). The other is a disgracefully young and handsome guy called Michael Wilson (and no, he doesn’t read this, otherwise I wouldn’t dare…). By this time you might be thinking I’m obsessed with appearance but this is the Oscars, so for one night I think I’m allowed! My final guests would be all my Write Romantic gals on the basis that there’s no show without Punch, and they’d all look beautiful in their posh frocks. Blimey, if this ever happens I’ll need the biggest table they’ve got!



I’d bring my husband, cos he’s the one who has supported me all of the way!!


Well, I would have taken George Clooney but, as he appears to have got engaged to someone else, he’s blown his chance now! I would, of course, take my nearest and dearest. My mum in particular would probably burst with pride. The Write Romantics would also be a given, if they weren’t bored with the whole thing by then because of all the blockbusters that their books have been made into… However, the one person I would love to have taken would be my Dad, who sadly is no longer with us. He was the ultimate raconteur and could tell a story or a joke like a pro. Even though he was forced to leave school at 14 when his father died, he had a thirst for knowledge that meant he was one of the most well-read and intelligent people I’ve known. His passion for books certainly rubbed off on me and, even though I couldn’t really take him, I’d be raising the biggest glass of champers in his honour.

Jo xxx

As I don’t think I would have finished Beltane without her support and encouragement I’d like to take my best friend, Jane Stockdale to the Oscars with me. Jane read each chapter of Beltane as I wrote it and gave me invaluable feedback. She made me believe I could actually write a book and because she wanted to know what was going to happen I kept writing. She is the biggest fan of Finn, my hero and I know she’d love to meet whichever actor was cast to play him (our current favourite is Athos from The Musketeers). We’d also have a fantastic giggle at all the celebrities, the frocks and the whole razzmatazz of the event. If I could have two more tickets I’d take my Mum and Dad. It would be so not their kind of thing (I can’t imagine my Dad anywhere less likely than Hollywood) but I’d want to take them to let them know how much I appreciate all they’ve done for me particularly during the past two years. And if I can have eight more tickets than I’d take the other Write Romantics for keeping me sane in this crazy writing business.



Wow! The thought of my novel being made into a blockbuster movie has totally knocked me off balance, but I’m back now! So, if that miracle did happen and I was off to the Oscars who would I take? Well it would have to be the inspiration behind my hero, the man who inspired me to sit down and create Santos Ramirez. So who is that? It’s Alex O’Loughlin, better known as Steve McGarrett from Hawaii Five O.








One night can change your life… The Saturday Spotlight with Carol Cooper

Our guest for this week’s Saturday spotlight is the lovely and talented Carol Cooper. Carol is a doctor, teacher, writer, broadcaster and mother, whose debut novel, One Night at the Jacaranda, has received a wealth of rave reviews on Amazon. Carol is also a successful writer of non-fiction books, mainly on child health and parenting, and is The Sun newspaper’s doctor, so gets to have her say on a wide range of health issues – from the serious, to the scrapes that ‘tired and emotional’ celebrities sometimes find themselves in!


We’d love to start by asking you a little bit about your writing journey so far and what it was that made you want to move away from non-fiction to write your first novel?

While I enjoy writing non-fiction, creating fiction exercises my imagination more. And I’ve always wanted to write a novel. There’ve been false starts, like a rites-of-passage novel set in Cambridge and a story about a female surgeon. Unfortunately she spent far too much time horizontal so she never made it to the top (just like the manuscript, still languishing in a drawer). Finally I ended up writing the kind of novel that I’d most like to read myself for pleasure.

With your profile and the potential for you to secure an agent or traditional publishing deal, why did you decide to choose self-publishing?

Well, I do have an agent who handles my non-fiction, but One Night at the Jacaranda wasn’t her usual thing. In the end I decided to self-publish because I like the degree of control you can have as a self-published author, over the contents, the cover, the price, and timing of publication.

How do you approach marketing for your novel, without a traditional publisher behind you for support?

I try to spread the word amongst people who might like the book.   So I concentrate on getting reviews from book bloggers, book reading sites, and newspapers, and I’ve also been interviewed on several radio stations. Without a publisher it is harder to get noticed, but luckily I have a lot of great Amazon reviews, which means the book gets taken seriously.

Do you see yourself working with a traditional publisher in future?

Yes, definitely, at least for non-fiction. In fact there’s already another textbook in the pipeline. I’m really a hybrid author, someone who’s both self-published and traditionally published. Best of both worlds, you could say. It’s hard to beat the expertise of a trad publisher when it comes to illustrating and designing non-fiction books, and of course distributing the final product.

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

I like writing on my sofa, with pencil and paper, and the words seem to flow best when I have my feet up and the cat sits on me, even if she does sometime grab the end of the pencil (if you’ve read my novel, you know I love cats). But ultimately I can write almost anywhere. That’s the beauty of being an author, the fact that it’s so portable. When my twins were tiny, I’d ‘park and write’. If I had an article to finish, I’d put them in their car-seats and drive around till they nodded off. Then I’d stop the car and write until they woke up. My carbon footprint must have been appalling, but I learnt to produce copy quickly.

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

My aspirations are ….more novels! I’m working on a sequel to One Night at the Jacaranda.   A prequel is also crying out for attention. It’ll go back about 15 years, to the time Geoff, the doctor in the novel, was still a student.   There’s also going to be a novel based in Alexandria, Egypt. It’s where I grew up, and that world is still very vivid in my mind. Think I’d better carve out a bit more writing time.

One Night at the Jacaranda

Do you see your future novels having a medical theme or are there other genres that you are planning to try?

All my novels will have at least one doctor in them, as I do like to have a bit of a medical thread running through the story. After all, it’s best to write what you know. I don’t think you’ll be seeing any thrillers or steampunk with my name on the cover.

What gave you the idea for One Night at the Jacaranda?

A few years ago I was on a plane to New York, on my way to my father’s funeral.  While sitting with a much-needed gin and tonic, an idea for a plot just popped into my head. I began scribbling on the paper napkin. The jottings on the napkin developed into the story of One Night at the Jacaranda, that of a motley group of people trying to find someone special. The novel has nothing to do with my father, except for the fact that he’d always wanted to be a writer.  He spent all his life working at a boring but necessary job in life insurance and never managed to write fiction, so I guess this book is because of him. Some of the scenes in my novel would have made him choke on his dentures, but I think he’d have been proud of me all the same.

Who is your favourite character from the book and was (s)he based on anyone in particular?

That’s a tough one because I like almost all of them, but I have a really soft spot for Harriet. She gives up the thing she values most for love, and it turns out not to have been true love. All my characters are completely fictitious, so Harriet isn’t based on anyone in particular, but I think her situation resonates with a lot of women.  Many of us have been down the same road, though most people haven’t sacrificed as much as Harriet.

Some writers use pictures they find to inform the physical descriptions of their characters and we wondered if you did this or, if not, how you form a mental picture of your characters’ physical qualities?

No, I never do that, probably because the picture I have of my characters isn’t based much on their appearance. Compared with most commercial women’s fiction, One Night at the Jacaranda has very little detail of the characters’ physical qualities. Yes, Dan is bald, Simon has a comb-over, and Karen’s body is a bit saggy (who’d have thought, after four kids, eh?).   But, beyond a few spare brush-strokes, I prefer to leave it to the reader’s imagination. It will also make it much easier to cast if ever Hollywood comes calling!                                          

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

The best thing is that it’s creative. I love the challenge of getting a message across, of playing with very ordinary words and hopefully getting them to say extraordinary things. With any luck, that message will be fresh, yet will still strike a chord with readers.

The worst thing is the isolation. You work alone, and it’s almost entirely inside your head, which can exclude others, even your dearest and nearest. You live indoors, which isn’t healthy, and when you try to socialise all you ever talk about is your book. It must be very boring for other people, not to mention borderline obsessive. No wonder most writers only have other writers as friends.

What piece of advice would you give to an aspiring writer or even to yourself, if you could go back to before you had written the novel?

My advice would be to keep writing and keep reading. Every writer needs to find their own voice. Would-be writers often go through an intense magpie stage, where they jot down quotes and passages from other writers, hoping to ape them, or, worse, paste these phrases into their own work. Yes, we can all learn from great writers that have gone before, so reading is key, but it’s vital to develop an original style that sounds natural. Editors and book-buyers don’t want something that’s just a pale imitation of someone else’s work.

Thanks Carol for coming by today and giving us such an interesting and insightful interview.

You can read just how much The Write Romantics loved One Night at the Jacaranda on our recommended reads and reviews page. The link to some more great five-star reviews and your opportunity to buy the book can be found here:

This weekend, from 5am Saturday 26th April until 1 am on Monday 28th April, One Night at the Jacaranda is available for the fantastic promotional price of 99p. Grab yourself a great read, for less than the price of a Sunday paper!

Read Carol’s blog at –

Follow Carol on Twitter – @DrCarolCooper

Visit the One Night at the Jacaranda Facebook page to find out more here –

This Week I Shall be Mostly Reading……..

What are we Reading….

This week’s question is more of a catch up really, I always find it fascinating finding out what books other people are reading and why. I’m currently reading a gorgeous novella by the wonderful Rebecca Raisin called Chocolate Dreams at the Gingerbread Café; I want to own a café just like this. I also love that the main character Lily is eating her way through the gorgeous treats she makes for the cafe because of the stresses in her life. It sounds all too familiar. I’m usually more of a serial killer, you’ll never go to the toilet on your own again after reading this book kind of girl but I just fancied something completely different for a change.

So what are you reading this week? We’d love to hear about it. Do you always stick to the same types of books or do you read anything and everything?

Helen xx


I’m actually reading 3 books at the moment. I know! That’s a serious bit of multi-tasking!!! I don’t normally do this but I have a hardback book on the go which is Sophie Kinsella’s ‘I’ve Got Your Number’. I love her and was bought this for my birthday a few years back but never got round to reading it because a hardback wasn’t convenient for lugging on the bus or train to work (far too heavy)! I took it away with me on a weekend break recently and started reading it then. Shortly afterwards, I was somewhere with my Kindle instead so I started on Samantha Tonge’s ‘Doubting Abbey’. I’m not very far through either of them because I ditched both to read your second novel, the wonderful ‘The Secrets of The Shadows’! I’m now back onto them but they’re such different stories that I’m managing to (mainly) keep track. The third book I’m reading is a re-working of Write Romantic Jo’s debut novel before she subs it so I have a lot of characters and events in my head just now!

Julie xx


I am currently reading ‘Lovey’ by Mary MacCracken which is a memoir of one teacher’s dedication to a small class of emotionally disturbed children and focuses on her support for one child in particular, Hannah, and her journey from being beaten and abused to finding the strength and love within herself.  I was drawn to the story partly because one of my jobs involves making decisions about children in these kinds of situations and also because my next full length book is going to involve a plot around fostering and children who have been through emotional neglect.  I would recommend ‘Lovey’, particularly to my fellow Write Romantic, Lynne, who I just know would adore it.

Jo xx


At the moment I am reading Playing James by Sarah Mason. Jules Wake, who is shortly to be published by Choc Lit, suggested it on her website saying it made her laugh out loud, so I gave it a try. It is really funny and I’ve passed it on to older daughter who is not a natural reader, and she loves it too. Have just finished Millie’s Game Plan by a Rosie Dean aka Jan Sprenger who is a writing friend of mine. She decided to go down the self publishing route and I’m pleased she’s doing well. Really enjoyed it and will by her next one – but I have such a back log of books to read, I’d better get my skates on or I’ll never catch up.



At the moment I’m reading For His Eyes Only by Liz Fielding. I’ve only just started reading it and already I’m hooked and totally in love with Darius Hadley. I’m more than curious to see how Natasha Gordon manages to get herself out of the trouble she’s just landed in – and of course the happy ever ending that will see Darius and Natasha together. Now I’m just going to read a bit more….



I’m currently beta reading Write Romantic Jo’s first novel which I’m really enjoying. It’s the second time I’ve read it and as quite a few of the characters and the novel have had their names changed it doesn’t feel like re-reading the same book at all.  In between that I’m reading a steam punk book called ‘The Iron Wyrm Affair’ by Lilith Saintcrow which I’m finding pretty hard going to be honest.  It’s kind of steam punk meets urban fantasy and I’m finding the world that’s been created quite hard to get my head around. It’s also not as much fun as I thought it would be.  From the blurb it sounded like it would be a little lighthearted but that’s definitely not the case so far.



I’ve just been reading the latest really fab book from Helen, ‘The Secrets of the Shadows,’ it was so good I thought I’d stick with the subject of murder and read ‘Burial Rites’, by Hannah Kent.

I’m just over half way through it and I love it. Its set in Iceland in about 1821 and is about a murderess who is due to be put to death for her crime. But until then she is posted with a family in a remote valley to receive spiritual guidance from a local priest, presumably to help her on her way in the next world. At first you feel no sympathy with the woman but over the course of the book she tells her story and you come to understand her. Born out of wedlock to a fatherless single mum who abandons her to a series of work placements in local firms you can’t help but feel pity for her.


At first I thought, thank goodness that doesn’t happen today, and then I realised it does. The circumstances are a little different, but the effect is the same. Many young people are born today to single mothers who for one reason or another, drugs, drink or general inability to cope, and are destined for a life in Care, which too often means many changes in placements that are often miles away from home. I haven’t read the end of the book yet, but sadly I know the end of the childhood of lots of young people in Care, and it makes grim reading. Educational results for young people who have been in Care more than six months are not good.

I don’t think they go on to murder anyone, but their educational results are not as good as the contemporaries who haven’t been in Care. It must be hard to concentrate when you’re in the middle of emotional trauma.

I don’t know what the result is, but at least by becoming aware of the problem, we can start looking for answers.



I’m going to cheat a bit on this one so that I can mention the book I’ve just finished reading, Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty.  I’ve read one of hers before and loved it.  This one is nothing short of superb.  To trot out that old chestnut, I couldn’t put it down.  It’s the story of a high-flying academic scientist, Yvonne Carmichael, who embarks on an extra-marital affair with devastating consequences.  The story culminates in a trial so vividly described it’s as if you were right there in the courtroom.  The tension and suspense throughout the whole book is just awesome.  I don’t want to give any spoilers but as well as being thoroughly enjoyable, the author gives wonderful insight into the plight of women in rape situations. But it isn’t in any way a gloomy read so don’t be put off by that.

After I’d read Apple Tree Yard and started breathing again, I was in the mood for something completely different so I scoured my Kindle and found a book I’d had on there a while but never read: A Perfect Retreat by Kate Forster.  I stopped reading chick-lit books (which I suppose this is) a while ago as so many of them were dull and predictable but this one is turning out to be quite a page turner.  It’s a believable story, mainly about the lives and loves of a once-famous actress, Willow, and her children’s nanny, Kitty, who basically sort themselves out by moving to a crumbling old manor house in the country (can’t resist those!) owned by Kitty’s family.  It’s an easy read, and very enjoyable for that.

I’m reading “Promises, Promises” by Erica James. It’s full of strong characters, some funny moments and I’m really behind the women getting what they want…I hope they do! Erica James juggles multiple points of view expertly and I’m hoping to learn a lot about that through osmosis!!

Helen R x





Saturday Spotlight Guest Slot – Writing a Novella by Liz Harris

Happy Easter! The Write Romantics hope you’re having a lovely, relaxing long bank holiday weekend and, if you’re working, we hope you do have some time off.

We’re delighted to welcome Liz Harris as our guest on today’s Saturday Spotlight. Liz is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association through which all The Write Romantics met virtually. 2012 was her big year when she saw publication of both her first novel and a novella and she’s joined us today to specifically talk about novellas.

As someone who tends to write a lot of words, I’m toying with a novella myself as I feel it will be good learning to really focus and limit my word-count. One of my fellow Write Romantics is currently writing her first novella and a few others have shown interest so we’re all extremely interested in Liz’s tips.

“So what exactly is a novella?” I hear you ask. Well, I’ll leave that question in Liz’s capable hands….


With A Western Heart, set in Wyoming 1880, my second novella for Choc Lit Lite, soon to be published, I thought I’d say something about the differences between writing a novella and writing a full length novel.

Getting to grips with novellas is well worth doing as they’re increasingly a big thing in the digital world. The more material out, the better, is the mantra today – and ‘the better’ means more money. Novellas lend themselves to fast writing and to books that form part of a series, and that leads to healthy sales.

Not surprisingly therefore, both self-published and traditionally published authors are now slipping novellas out between their full length novels, or may even be focusing solely on the novella market.

At 50,000 words, my first novella, The Art of Deception, was at the top of the word count for a novella, which ranges from 20,000 to 50,000 words (50 to 100 printed pages). But 50,000 words is the same length as some Mills & Boon novels, so it didn’t feel like a novella to me.


Because of that, when I decided to write A Western Heart, and was going to aim for around 30,000 words, I thought I’d begin by checking out the differences between writing a novella and a full length novel.

I did this in a very pleasant way – I read as many novellas as I had time for in the genre in which I was writing – in the case of A Western Heart, it was the historical genre. At the end of my reading, I’d found that:

  1. The tone of a novella was lighter, and it should be fast-paced. The period detail should be authentic, but there shouldn’t be too much of it. The same is true of descriptive details, be they for character or setting. There should be enough specific detail to make it believable and create a sense of place, but not slow the story. The reader of novellas wants a page-turning, speedy read.
  2. There should be a single plot, although it can have – and probably will have – complications. A 30,000 novella is too short for sub-plots. Generally, a single story line keeps aids clarity and pace. Having said that, if you’re aiming for 40- 50,000 words, you may feel that your novella would benefit from a sub-plot; if so, it should be easily resolved. It might even have been the cause of the main conflict. It should never be there, however, merely to help the word count.
  3. Point of view. Only show one POV unless there’s a really good reason for having more than one. Too many POVs could bring confusion to a short novel.
  4. Have a few clearly and succinctly defined central characters, and a few supporting characters, but not too many of either. You will need to know the same sorts of things about your characters as for a full-length novel, such as their background, character traits and secrets, but there will be fewer characters and they will appear early on in the novella – there is less time to spend on introducing, developing and building up each character. Your minor characters should add interest and move the plot forward, but they shouldn’t detract from putting across your story line.
  5. Dialogue, as with a full-length novel, should define the character(s) and forward the story. It shouldn’t meander, unless that’s part of the plot.
  6. As with a full length story, you’ll need a conflict, but not too complicated a conflict for there to be a satisfactory resolution. You’re working within a limited word count.

I thoroughly enjoyed writing A Western Heart, and will definitely write more novellas in the future. Good luck to everyone who decides to give novellas a go!

Finally, many thanks, Write Romantics, for giving me a chance to talk to you.


Thank you, Liz, for joining us. You can find out more about Liz on her blog at:

You can access Liz’s material on Amazon through the following link:


Enjoy the rest of the Easter weekend everyone!



Wednesday Wondering – If You Could Write Anywhere……

I have this fantasy and it’s a lovely one about having my own writing room. You see at the moment my desk is crammed into a corner of my living room sandwiched between a wall and a 50” television. I also have a very busy house with lots of teenage and adult children not to mention the dogs and cats so someone always wants my attention. I can’t complain though, through necessity and determination I have managed to write both my novels in that corner, with the help of an iPod shuffle to drown out the constant noise. What I’d really like is my own space somewhere the kids and husband can’t bother me. My husband bought me a summer house to turn into an office but when my back was turned he filled it with junk and still hasn’t put the roof on. So this week the question was – what would your ideal writing room look like and where would it be.

I’d be quite happy with a little caravan at the bottom of my garden; I would decorate it in pastel shades of pink, blue and green. Have some gorgeous curtains, cushions and bunting made and fill it with all kinds of shabby chic, hand painted bits and pieces of furniture and accessories. A kettle would be a must and my flowery Roberts radio. I would probably not do much writing at all because I would be too happy to just sit and stare at my own little piece of writing heaven. If I could transport the caravan anywhere it would probably be not that far away, a secluded spot near to Windermere with a coffee shop in walking distance would be wonderful.

So let’s hear where the other write romantics would love to be able to write in an ideal world.

Helen xx


I have a vision of what I would like my writing space to look like. I would like an old writing bureau with lots of drawers and little shelves to put all my stationery nick-nacks on. I’d like loads of book shelves packed with all my novels and how to books and lots of other storage for all my bits and bobs. I’d like a huge whiteboard where I can jot down ideas and plot out stories, noticeboards to stick inspirational pictures on, and inspiring quotes on the wall. I’d also like a window seat brimming over with cushions and a sofa I can lounge on for my thinking time. Don’t want much do I? As for where this would be, I don’t really mind. The idea of a log cabin in the countryside surrounded by fields on three sides and a wood on another sounds romantic. But a spare room in my own home would do. I just really, really want my own space to spread out in and be creative.

Julie xx


Oh I would have to say anywhere secluded where I wouldn’t be interrupted but close enough to civilization that I could walk to a coffee shop for refreshments. I dream of a place in palm beach and after a few hours writing I would walk along the sand, perhaps even dip my toes in the water, walk back and feel even more inspired
Helen R xx


My dream writing place would be a large summerhouse in an orchard at the wild end of a cottage garden.  This dream, by the way, is the product of many wasted hours watching property-porn, mostly Escape to the Country, where such luxuries abound.  My summerhouse would be insulated against the cold so I could use it in winter and naturally it would have power and wi-fi.  It would be painted in that expensive-looking off-blue colour outside and white inside, with a massive desk and lots of shelf space for books and stationery, a comfy chair for reading in and the wherewithal for making drinks and snacks. I’d make it cosy and colourful with cushions, bunting and pretty china, and as I gazed out at the idyllic surroundings I would be very, very inspired.


“I get very engrossed (some might say obsessed) by the places that I’m writing about and now I’m writing the book set in Orkney my ideal writing space would have to be there.  I fell hopelessly in love with the little town of Stromness when I visited last year and this house in particular.  It’s the one on the right of the picture with the ladder on the roof.”Alex writing place

The view from there looks pretty much like this.

Alex writing place 2


Alex xxx


I love it when I’m away from home and can just sit down and write for as long as I like. There is something special for me about writing first thing in the morning I love to sit and write longhand as the birds sing, greeting the new day. On one holiday early each morning I sat on the balcony of the hotel, overlooking the sea and wrote. Another I sat out on the terrace each morning, with the sound of the river rushing by and wrote. So I’m guessing my dream place to write is somewhere warm, close to the sea or ariver, but most importantly, where normal daily life can’t find me!

Rachael x


My dream for my very early retirement is a beach hut with nothing more than wine, a laptop, some sunscreen and a perfect view. I’d quite like some people to mill about so I can ‘people watch’ but I don’t want them to interrupt me overmuch as I will be writing another best seller! It will more likely be at Southend on sea rather than Dorset or Southwold, but it will be just as loved and it will be just for me!!




Writing for Magazines

Caution: women at play

Is sex is overrated?

5 Ways to Beat Workplace Stress


Attention grabbing aren’t they? One of the most rewarding, interesting and competitive fields of work for a writer in the UK is in the women’s magazines market. Working for magazines that pay rates in accordance with National Union of Journalists recommended cost (worked with circulation figures) is one of the few ways to earn a decent living by writing. Most magazines have a skeleton of permanent staff and much of their copy is provided by freelances, a network of self-employed journalists working from their own offices all over the world. It works like this: the journalist gets the idea somewhere in their office anywhere in the world, writes it up in an incomplete form, sends it to the appropriate editor of the magazine they think it’ll suit, then wait for the commission get the go-ahead from the magazine Editor. There are perks too, it’s not just the pay that is worthwhile, an established magazine journalist can expect perks like samples, books to review, invitations to events – even trips abroad, meals with Editors etc. It’s a nice way of life.

The only drawback is it is very competitive, really really competitive, so while you’re starting out most of your ideas will just get ignored. Editors are usually too busy to reply to emails, they get loads from wanna be writers, so the trick is to find an idea that will really knock their socks off. One way to tempts editors is to find a cracking case study they can’t resist and that suits them exactly. Most magazines are fussy about the genders, ages and sometimes appearance of their case studies, all must be right for them and probably need to be photographed too. Or find a cracking idea which is in tune with current topics, ie menopause and find a different slant on it. Any suggestions that they are just following the flow could be met by an assertion that ‘it’s a subject we should cover’ and hope your idea is unusual enough to draw their attention. Although it has to be said that some writers have approached magazines with a good idea only to find it taken up by someone else. It might be that someone else had the same idea, but yes there is nothing but honesty stopping anyone doing this. It’s a cut throat business. It’s not so easy with a case study

Don’t write any article first. Some editors will want to ask you to cover a specific aspect of the subject or interview a particular expert. Your best chance of acceptance is to make your pitch as tailored to their style as possible and almost the least important part of your work is the writing style as long as it’s clear. Each magazine has their own particular way of speaking to their readers and a team of sub-editors to adjust it so it suits them precisely. The sub-editor should then ring the writer to clarify details if they’ve changed it and read it back to them. Subs can alter a story drastically and don’t always read their reworked version back to you so you can highlight anything that might change the meaning enough to make it different or even wrong.

So your approach to the magazine would consist of a catchy heading, in keeping with the magazine’s style. A couple of sentences of introduction, again pitched to appeal to the magazine you have in mind, then a summary of the rest adding anything like ‘case study, Janet age 23 etc. you might also want to suggest some links to appropriate organisations or box outs that would suit the magazine.

So your pitch to a magazine, in this case Psychologies, for the first article listed above, Women at Play, might look like this.

‘There I am, with my toes curling over the edge of a platform 20 feet in the air. I am so precariously off-balance that were it not for an instructor’s grip on the back of the safety harness cinched around my waist, I would almost certainly plunge headfirst into the billowing air mattress far below.’

Continues: our emotional and physical need for fun, the psychology of play, play fashion, busy women, letting go, professional quotes.

I was lucky. When I lived in Devon I went to a party given by Deborah Dooley, a well-known, very experienced journalist mostly for women’s magazines. ‘I’d love to do what you do.’ I told her.

‘If you’re serious, I’ll help you,’ she said. And she did. She was an excellent teacher and guided me through my first commissions which were from Woman’s Realm, until I became independent, but now I mostly write fiction.

Deb is still writing and also running a retreat centre for writers now. I’m sure she’s doing an excellent job, her cooking is superb and the house is to die for. She also offers writing chat and would be a terrific person to discuss ideas with. I’m going back to stay at hers with my hubby now I’ve left Devon, I can’t think of a better hostess.

Her website is Retreats for you, link below, and also a couple of links to training courses if you want to take it further.

Lynne Pardoe






The Wednesday Wondering – Who Would You Invite To A Dinner Party?

Hello and welcome to this week’s Wednesday Wondering. It’s my turn to think up some questions and I had no idea just how hard it would be, so I take my hat off to all my fellow write romantics who have already filled this slot. My daughter is home from Uni so I have to thank her for this week’s inspiration as she watches ‘Come Dine With Me’ a lot.

This week I asked – if you could have a dinner party and invite anyone, which five guests either fictional or non fictional would you invite and whether or not anyone has had a dinner party. I’ve never hosted a dinner party in my life because of my terrible cooking but I would love to one day.

My five dinner party guests would include: Marilyn Monroe because I adore her and would love to give her a much needed hug and of course get all the gossip about what it was like being such a great Hollywood star back in the fifties. Next up would be Herman and Lily Munster because they were my childhood heroes and Herman was always good for a giggle. I would have to have Mark Darcy – aka Colin Firth because I’d make him wear one of those horrendous jumpers his mother knits and also because I love him in Bridget Jones when he tells her ‘I like you, just the way you are.’ And because my cooking skills are akin to Bridget’s so he would be able to help out in the kitchen. Last but not least I would invite Bridget herself because I think she would be a great giggle, excellent company and probably drink more wine than me 😉

Helen Phifer xx

I’d love to have a dinner party and invite five people from history present company excepted of course. First up would be Robert Plant, lead singer of Led Zepplin, whose fantastic voice and music I love. He’s also done some good stuff solo and has the most huggable looks imaginable. At one point he wanted to become a Rudolf Steiner teacher, I like that cos it suggests he cares for people and isn’t a big show-off. Then Beatrix Potter not only for her amazing animal paintings and stories, but for her work painting plants etc too. She was also one of the first conservationists and major benefactors of the National Trust. I’d also love to invite William Morris, for similar reasons to Beatrix. Thomas Hardy would be there too, because if his wonderful descriptions of Victorian Britain, and his love of nature, tradition and people. Last but not least I’d invite Jesus, cos he is just so cool. Fancy coming across a woman about to be stoned to death and saying, ‘OK, carry on. But only throw if you can be absolutely sure that you’ve never made a mistake in your life’ Then everyone drops their stone and walks away – how neat is that!


I’d invite Janet Street-Porter because she makes me laugh, and because her success comes purely from her own gritty determination and I admire her for that, even though she can be outrageously forthright.  I’d get her talking about life in sixties London, which would be so useful as research for my current book! Then I’d have Fay Weldon for her talent and graciousness.  Hopefully I’d pick up some writing tips but mostly I’d love to hear stories of her own young days – she was quite a girl and could certainly give Janet a run for her money.  To mix it all up a bit and provide some boisterous fun, I’d invite cute little Ant and Dec. My last guest would be John Torode but I may have to drag him into the kitchen – to take over the cooking, I mean.  Although he is just a little bit fit…

As for having dinner parties in real life – well, no, we’re far too anti-social!


The five guests whom I would invite to a dinner party would be:

1. Mark Darcy  from the books by Helen Fielding…I would like him to turn up in his best Christmas jumper…I think only Colin Firth has the ability to still look sexy in one of those! I love his quintessentially English dry sense of humour too.

2. Heston Blumenthal – well, how interesting would my dinner be then? He could help with preparations to wow all my guests…perhaps some edible wallpaper or a twist on the 1970’s UK school dinners. He has a cheeky look about him too, like he’s always up to mischief, so the dinner would be a lot of fun.

3. Maeve Binchy – She seemed like such a lovely woman and so well grounded for a lady who was so successful. I’d love to hear more about her life experiences and how they shaped ideas for her novels, and how she felt Ireland helped with the romance of her stories.

4. Rapunzel from the movie, Tangled – I’d love to ask her what she would most like to do with her magic hair! I’d probably need a ten seater table though so that she had the extra chairs to rest her locks 🙂

5. Emma Thompson – It would be so interesting to have this lady at a dinner party. I’d love to hear about her various acting roles, her writing for the big screen and how she manages so many avenues in her career including writing more of the Peter Rabbit series written by Beatrix Potter. She seems to have survived the influences of Hollywood too and I admire that

I have had dinner parties before and I do enjoy them, although more so pre children. These days the kids want to help and it just doesn’t work as well! One of my favourites would be the “fondue” party I had for friends when I lived in the UK. We started with the cheese fondue – lovely swiss cheese, white wine and chunks of bread. We followed it up with dessert which was a chocolate fondue…picture myself and three friends all groaning because it was just too much! The worst part was that I poured the remains of the chocolate fondue (made of chocolate and a lot of cream) into an empty bottle and left it in the kitchen to throw out the next day. I came downstairs with a delicate head and saw how the fat had separated from the rest of the mixture…not a good sight when you know you’ve eaten that the night before!

Helen R x

“When I go to a dinner party I’m always more interested in the conversation than the food so I’ve picked people who I think would be really interesting to talk to.  My guest list would be:

Elizabeth Bennett – I’ve loved Lizzy since I read Pride & Prejudice for O’ level English.  She’s witty and intelligent and not afraid to say what she thinks.

Lord Peter Wimsey  – I’ve confessed my love for Lord Peter on previous Wednesday Wonderings.  There’s a big risk in having him as a guest as he’s a bit of a connoisseur and would definitely have opinions about the wine and the food.  However, he’s also one of those people who’s genuinely interested in others (which is probably what makes him a good detective) so as well as telling great stories he’d be willing to listen.

Joss Whedon – This would be a dream come true for me to be able to sit down and have a conversation with the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly.  There are so many questions I’d want to ask him that I may be in danger of ignoring my other guests.

Richard the Third – yes, I know not an obvious choice but I’m from York and we have strong feelings about Richard.  Quite how I’m going to steer the conversation around to the murder of the princes in the tower I don’t know.  Maybe I could leave that to Lord Peter. With his lovely manners he’s bound to be able to find a way to tactfully ask how the princes died.

Richard Castle – this is a bit of light hearted one but I have a tiny bit of an addiction to US TV series Castle.  Richard Castle is a bestselling writer who starts working with the NYPD as research for his next book. It’s a bit quirky, the dialogue’s witty and Castle is pretty damned gorgeous.  I’d like to sit next to him please!”


So as you can see a pretty varied guest list in fact I think the easiest thing to do would be to forget the dinner party and have a big party and invite everyone on the list, although there may be a fight for Mark Darcy 😉

How about you do you host dinner parties and who would you invite if you could invite anyone?

Helen xxr

Mega Monday Announcement – The Secret is Out!

Today the Write Romantics are delighted to publish a Mega Monday announcement about the brilliant Helen Phifer’s second novel – The Secret of the Shadows.  Helen’s debut novel, The Ghost House, was a runaway success, reaching the top of the Amazon charts for her genre and even knocking the mighty Stephen King off the top spot.  Helen has had a plethora of five star reviews for  The Ghost House but, because of the modest, unassuming and utterly lovely sort of person she is, some of her fellow Write Romantics are going to tell you what they thought of her debut, as well as how much they are looking forward to reading The Secrets of the Shadows:

Lynne – I loved this book!! It made my spine tingle from page one. I also loved the descriptions of the old house and the characters too. I’ve been waiting for Helen’s new book. Come on Helen, we want more!

Helen R – I don’t do scary books but I had every faith in Helen P to make me glad that I had made the exception… I just wish I hadn’t done it when my husband was working interstate! The Ghost House had me gripped with the suspense, the wealth of research that clearly went into it and characters who leapt off the page at me. I had better psyche myself up for the next one, well done Helen.

Rachael – I couldn’t put it down! It gripped me from beginning to end and I loved the story from the past impacting on the present.

Alex –  There were lots of things that l loved about The Ghost House.  The plot is excellent.  It’s a gripping, spooky twist and there are some truly heart stopping moments in it.  The other strengths are the dialogue, which is funny and feels very real, and Will who is a gorgeous hero.  I’m hoping to see a lot more of him in The Secrets of the Shadows.  I’m also thinking I’d better clear my diary for the rest of the week because I know, that like The Ghost House, I’ll be staying up late just to get it finished.


Julie – Although my books of choice are mainly chicklit, I have been known to delve into crime and thrillers from time to time and thoroughly enjoy them. I was therefore really excited about Helen’s debut for several reasons: (1) She’s a Write Romantic and the first of us to be published so I was living the dream vicariously; (2) The book cover looked amazing; (3) It combined my 2 preferred reading genres so everything was set for a riveting read. My only disappointment was that I had to go to work which meant I couldn’t just sit for a full day and just immerse myself in it because Helen had certainly created a gripping page-turner. Mind you, it’s quite scary too so perhaps it was just as well I didn’t have a full day to just sit and read as I may have turned a bit skittish!

I absolutely loved The Ghost House. Helen created realistic characters who I cared about, fantastic imagery (I could really picture all the key settings without reams of description), realistic dialogue and an extremely interesting storyline which kept me gripped (and a little bit afraid!) As soon as I’d finished, I wanted to read the sequel and I was straight on Facebook to recommend TGH to all my friends. What was brilliant was when they came back and enthused about absolutely loving it too; gave me a warm and fuzzy glow that one of our group and a great writing friend had touched the lives of my friends and family too.

I downloaded The Secrets of The Shadows a few days ago and I think the front cover may even have surpassed The Ghost House which I didn’t think was possible. The storyline sounds incredible and I can’t wait to get cracking! Helen, you’re an inspiration to us all. Long may your success continue.

Jackie – Loved the Ghost House and am proud that Helen, one of The Write Romantics wrote it. It’s a mixture of ghostly and suspense with a bit of romance thrown in. What more could you ask for?

Jo – Like all of the other Write Romantics, I adore Helen and I wanted to love her writing too – let me tell you it exceeded all expectations and I know for sure that she is a superstar in the making.  The Ghost House was exciting, with characters and a storyline that drew me in from page one until the very end.  Like everyone else, I have been drumming my fingers impatiently and waiting for the follow up… Only I will never look at someone swinging a dog lead, with no dog in sight, in the same way again!

The Secrets of the Shadows is out now on Kindle and Kobo:

The Ghost House is available on a number of platforms via Amazon:
Find out more about Helen and her books at the link below:

Guest Spotlight with Helena Fairfax: How my imaginary characters became real people, and everything else I learned from the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme

We’re delighted to welcome another guest to the Saturday Spotlight in the form of Helena Fairfax. We have interviewed several published and aspiring writers in the past but asked Helena if she’d like to be interviewed or go ‘freestyle’. Helena decided to give the latter a whirl so, as the title says, this is everything she’s learned from her time in the RNA’s NWS and an insight into her writing world. Over to you, Helena …


Have you ever sat on a grimy commuter train, looked round at all the other pale, exhausted commuters, wet clothes gently steaming in the fug, then closed your eyes and thought, ‘I wish, I wish I was in the south of France?’

A few years ago I was escaping inside my own head in this way, when I had an idea for a romance novel. Every morning after that, rammed next to my fellow sufferers on the 7.25, I’d try and make my idea come alive in my notebook. In my lunch hour, I’d sit round the back of my factory, joining the lads from the estate on the canal. Whilst the boys fished in the drizzle for whatever lurked in those murky depths, I’d be crossing out everything I’d written that morning and scribbling down some more. Instead of dealing with production deadlines and irate customers, I was in the south of France with my red hot boss. It seemed like a sort of game – my characters were something to keep me amused during the dreary nine to five.

And then I joined the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme, and to my surprise, my gorgeous French hero was no longer just a pleasant daydream in my head. To my reader at the RNA, this was a real, breathing character, who needed a motivation and a goal. My wispy daydream was a mere outline, my reader told me, and needed to shape up. This was my first, delightful experience as an aspiring writer. I’d found a reader who was taking my character seriously, and was helping me put solid flesh on his fragile bones.

I submitted twice to the New Writers’ Scheme. Here’s a list of some of the other lessons I learned that changed me from a daydreaming scribbler to one who finally became a published author:

 To the readers who buy your book, your characters aren’t just ideas in your head. They are living and breathing people. They MUST have clear motivations and reasons for their behaviour. Readers expect to know WHY they act the way they do.  What is it in the characters’ past that has made them this way?

 A romance story has to contain emotional tension.  As my reader said, ‘It’s about why the hero and heroine, so obviously attracted to each other, not only won’t admit they have fallen in love but feel that they can’t….Your hero and heroine should have goals that are in direct opposition to each other.’

 There must be a situation which forces the hero and heroine together.  If not, why don’t they just say goodbye on page four, if their goals are in opposition to one another?  What will force them to stay together throughout the course of a whole novel? 

 Emotional conflict must be sustained throughout the course of the novel.   To quote my reader again: ‘When you’re structuring a romance, you should be thinking about the plot not so much as moving your characters from A to B but as a series of situations that test their fears and bring their goals into conflict.’    I learned how much skill is involved in keeping this emotional conflict sustained in an interesting way! 

 The synopsis.  It’s vital that the synopsis shows: characterisation, motivation, cause of emotional tension, and reason why the characters are forced together.

 The dreaded rewrite.  After taking my reader’s advice the first time I submitted, this meant that I had to substantially rewrite my manuscript.  But I took heart from my reader’s last words:  ‘This is a story with lots of potential and although it does need some restructuring, and yes, some extra work, I’m sure it won’t be as bad as you think once you get started!’  And my reader was right.  At first, I was daunted, but now I never mind rewriting.  As a perfectionist, I enjoy the feeling that I’m manipulating the words to get the best story I can.

 Handling rejection.  Of course I was disappointed the novel wasn’t right at first, but the accompanying letter from the RNA’s president gave positive advice: ‘Always bear in mind that most published authors have experience of rejection.  All writers, published and unpublished, need to be tenacious and determined…Have faith in yourself!’

 I resubmitted the entire novel the next year.  This taught me another great lesson – in order to get a book written, you have to sit down and WRITE.  No excuses or prevarication.  If I’d missed the scheme’s deadline, that would have been it.  Now it wasn’t just a pleasant hobby. I had to force myself to write, whether I felt like it or not, in order to get the book finished on time.

In May last year my daydream finally became reality, with the release of The Silk Romance. The months of agonising and toil over my novel, times in which I felt inadequate and had moments of swearing I’d never try and write a book again, were all forgotten that day, and I had a massive smile on my face.

Of course I’m still agonising over my notebooks, but now I write much faster, with fewer rewrites, because through the RNA I’ve learned several work-changing lessons.

The Silk Romance is a contender for the Joan Hessayon Award at the RNA’s summer party in May, and I intend to be there, partying my party stilettos off!


If you’d like to find out more about the French hero I daydreamed about, here’s the blurb to The Silk Romance:

How do you choose between the people you love most?

Sophie Challoner is sensible and hard-working, and a devoted carer of her father.  The night her grandmother throws a party for her in Paris, Sophie does something reckless she can never forget. 

Jean-Luc Olivier has retired from his glamorous life as a racing driver to run a silk mill in Lyon.  Years after they first met, fate reunites Jean-Luc with Sophie in this most romantic of cities, and he’s determined not to let her go a second time.

But is Jean-Luc still the same man he was? It seems he has a secret of his own.  And when disaster strikes back home in London, Sophie is faced with a choice—stay in this wonderful city with the man she loves, or return to her family to keep a sacred promise she made her mother.


Available as an e-book.

Amazon US:

Amazon UK:

MuseItUp Publishing:


Also available from iTunes and lots of other e-book places


You can find Helena on her blog:

on Facebook,

on Goodreads:

or on Twitter @helenafairfax


Thanks very much for having me today, lovely Write Romantics. It’s good to get to know you all, and thank you for being such welcoming hosts!


Thank you for joining us Helena. And good luck with the Joan Hessayon!

Julie & The Write Romantics

Wednesday Wondering – What a year can bring?

As you may know, yesterday marked the one year anniversary of the Write Romantics blog and we’ve been looking back at what we have achieved over the past year, which has included two separate two-book deals, for Rachael and Helen P, and a follow up three book deal for Helen – who also appeared at the number one spot on the Amazon charts for her genre – knocking off Stephen King no less!  There have been 132  blog posts, almost 11,000 hits on the blog, 1,150 comments, loads of brilliant interviews with other writers and between us we have written well over a million words in that time.  There has also been lots of waiting on submissions and feedback, which is still going on, so hopefully the next year will bring us lots more to shout about.  In the meantime, we were Wednesday wondering about what else a year can bring…

New Life (in our case new characters)

130 million babies are born each year with Jack, William, Santiago and Mohammed amongst the most popular boys’ names globally and Emma, Charlotte, Olivia and Fatima scoring highly for the girls.  Character names for the Write Romantics this year include Annie, Will, Finn, Zoe, Nancy, Jack, Stephen, Sarah, Gary, Elise, Carol-Anne, Terry, Mark, Jeanette, Ashleigh, Tom, Isobel, Ben, Lynne, Santos, Georgina and Carlos!  It’s been a busy year of creation for the WRs.

Empire Building (our blog is the WRs home)

300,000 new houses are built each year in the UK alone and the most common road name is, wait for it… High Street, followed by Station Road, Main Street and Church Road.  Town  planners obviously don’t major in original thinking.  Although amongst the most bizarre names around the world are, would you believe, Butt Hole Street in South Yorkshire (since renamed as Archer Street), Psycho Path  in Pennsylvania and Wong Way in California – so maybe living at No. 4 The High Street doesn’t sound so bad after all!  The WRs have of course been busy creating a host of fictional homes, streets, towns and, in some cases, even worlds.


Love and Romance (that’s what we do, well most of us!)

There were around 250,000 weddings in the UK last year, 70% of these took place in civil ceremonies and the greatest number of marriages were between those aged 25 to 29.  The novels of the Write Romantics hosted several weddings of their own and lots of proposals, everywhere from castles and stately homes to the sand dunes on the beach.  There have also been lots of romantic gestures, with at least two heroes almost laying down their lives for the women they love – Ah, if only real life were like that. Let’s face it, sometimes it’s enough of a struggle to get him to do the washing-up!  That’s not to mention love scenes, tensions, arguments, making up and starting all over again – because of course the path of true love never does run smooth…

Publication (come on, seven more amongst this number isn’t that big an ask, surely? 😉 )

There are approximately 2,200,000 new books published globally each year – not to mention the millions of self-published titles of course!  With the US leading the way with over 300,000 and the UK hot on their heels with just over 200,000.   On a per capita basis, that has to put us as by far the most prolific writers in the world.  The WRs have written millions of words and at least 300,000 of those have found a publisher in the past year (between the 7 books signed up for Helen P and Rachael).  Here’s hoping the next year finds a publisher for at least another million of the WRs words 🙂

Come and tell us what you’ve achieved in the last year or maybe what you hope to achieve in the next and give us lots more to celebrate when our second birthday rolls around.

The WRs xx