The Wednesday Wondering – We all love a bit of cake!

Welcome to our final Wednesday Wondering … Don’t panic if you love this slot. It’s not the final ever one. It’s just the final one in the weekly format. We love The Wednesday Wondering and, with a background in recruitment, I could quite happily make up questions for a long, long time to come. However, there are lots of other things we’d like to do on the blog so we’ve decided to launch a new format for Wednesdays. From now on, there’ll be a Wednesday Wondering on the second Wednesday of the month, a book review on the last one and posts from The Write Romantics on the remaining Wednesdays.

We hadn’t discussed these changes when I set today’s Wondering so it feels quite apt that I’ve picked a question that’s about something we associate with celebrations. This is definitely a celebration of the end of our first phase and the launch of our next. So, what is it?

_MG_2084Cake. We like cake. A lot. And, would you believe, today is National Cheesecake day!!! I found that on Google although I suspect it may be in the US rather than UK but who cares; we have an international reach! So my question to The Write Romantics is:

What is your pudding of choice and why? Where have you tasted the best ever pudding? Do you call it pudding or dessert (or perhaps something else). Let’s talk all things cakey and salivate a bit!!! (ok, a lot in my case!!!)

The worst thing is that I started a very, very, VERY strict diet yesterday so I’m munching on a dish of fruit and trying not to drool at the wonderful pictures!

Over to the Write Romantics …

Rachael says …

Wow, National Cheesecake Day. I didn’t know it existed, but you can be sure I will be celebrating it with a huge slice of strawberry cheesecake! But my most favourite desert is one I had whilst in Italy. It was so light, so delicious and sooooo…. Oh I could go on. I’ve never tasted anything like it before – or since. It is Zabaglione and was served in an elegant glass. Simply divine!


_MG_9130Lynne says …

National Cheesecake day? What a good idea! My sanity was once saved when I moved into a gorgeous old cottage in January and the central heating packed up straight away. Golden Syrup Sponge & Custard came to the rescue. I had to wait three days till the repair person could get to us so I went out and bought syrup sponge & custard & heated it in the microwave. It was like internal central heating and kept my daughter and I sane. It’s still my favourite winter pud, followed by lemon sorbet & fruit in summer.


Jay says …

Back at the start of the month we were talking about all things American and what we like best about our friends across the pond, well, let me tell you, they do puddings pretty well too.  The first time we went to Vegas, my brother actually ate six desserts at one sitting and almost earned citizenship as a result!  I think the best desert I ever tasted was a key lime pie from a little deli in Florida, but then there are Krispy Kremes and they are also responsible for inventing the hot, chocolate brownie.  So many desserts, so little time.  Time to book another trip I think!


P1030217Helen P says …

National Cheesecake day, well it would be rude not to. My all time favourite cake is cheesecake, especially the ones at Chandler’s Country Café which is based in Colony Candles, Lindal-in-Furness. The staff there have amazing taste in books as well because the last time I was there they told me how much they loved The Ghost House which was brilliant and it made the cake taste even better. You have never tasted cheesecake like it and the raspberry and white chocolate one is to die for. In fact now that I’m sitting thinking about it I’m going to have to take my mum there now for a coffee and a slice of cheesecake to take away the craving.


Helen R says …

I think I would tend to call it “dessert” but give me a week in England and I’ll be calling it “pudding”…my family would definitely use that word!

There are so many desserts to choose from, but a top for me is syrup sponge, nice and hot and perhaps with a side of vanilla ice-cream 🙂


Jackie says …

Cake. Ooh, we like cake- and puddings and anything sweet and unctuous.  Suet pudding and custard with syrup was an all time favourite when I was a child followed by jam Roly Poly and custard. Love Banoffi Pie, sticky toffee pudding, strawberry tarts with confectioners custard. Trifle that my sister Heather makes is gorgeous, pecan pie is delish- I could go on! The only thing I’m not that keen on is a pudding or cake made with coffee-Tirimasu or coffee and Walnut cake always disappoints, but it wouldn’t stop me eating it. I’m a lost cause!


_MG_9132Harriet says …

Ah, now here’s an easy question because I love puds. All of them. My mother-in-law made the best ever. After Sunday lunch (full roast plus at least six vegetables) she would produce three or four choices of pudding, all home-made, and what we couldn’t eat we took home. My favourite was summer pudding, packed full of any fruit she could lay her hands on, including raspberries and rhubarb from her own garden, and served with plenty of cream. Scrumptious! I’ve attempted to make them myself but somehow they aren’t the same. They do a pretty good version at ‘Cook’, though. I’m also a sucker for old-fashioned puds like treacle sponge and spotted dick and custard. I tend to call it pudding rather than dessert, which is as much frowned upon in ‘polite’ English circles as saying serviette instead of napkin, but I don’t really care what it’s called as long as I get one!


Alys says …

Ooh, this is a fabulous question!  All time favourite cake is Santiago Cake which I had in the fabulous Hundred Monkeys Cafe in Glastonbury. That place is utterly brilliant. I drink a lot of green tea and usually when I ask for it they have to go and look to see if they’ve got any teabags hidden behind the till. At the Hundred Monkeys they have a choice of five different loose green teas. It’s green tea heaven for me! Anyway, back to the cake. Santiago Cake is made from almonds, caster sugar, lemons and eggs and then you pour a lemon syrup over the top of it when it’s cooling. This cake was sublime. I was still talking about how fabulous it was over six months later. But if you want to talk about puddings then it’s got to be the sticky toffee pudding that they serve in the New Malton Inn in Malton, North Yorkshire. That’s where Jessica and I get together as she lives in Scarborough and I live in York and Malton is about half-way. It is pudding to die for. If you’re ever in Malton pop in and ask for some. In fact, it’s so good just go anyway. You won’t regret it!


P1040958And as for me …

I absolutely adore cake, puddings, and anything sweet. Unfortunately they don’t adore me, hence the very strict diet at the moment (or perhaps that should be they adore me too much and like to stick around!)

Alys has already mentioned the amazing sticky toffee pudding smothered in butterscotch sauce *pauses to wipe drool* which might give you an indication that I’m with Harriet in that I love old school puds like chocolate sponge, syrup sponge, jam roly-poly etc. Nom nom nom! I call them puddings or pud-puds. We were never “dessert” people in our house.

I love cheesecake too, especially American-style cheesecake. There’s an episode of Friends where Rachel gets a cheesecake delivered to her apartment by mistake and, as they don’t know where it should have gone, she and Chandler eat it. Then another one arrives and they manage to drop it on the hall floor so lie down and dig out their cutlery. That would be me. Heaven.

Cake-wise, I have a fondness for simple slab cakes like Angel Layer Cake or Iced Madeira Cake. I draw the line at things that are nutty or fruity; my cakes have to be full-on, hard-core, serious sponge situations!


We hope you’ve enjoyed our weekly Wonderings and that you’ll comment on your favourite cake(s) and/or pudding(s). Please continue to visit every Wednesday as we’ve not gone away; we’ve just changed our format a little.

Thanks for reading.

Jessica xx





Everything Changes with The Write Romantics

Welcome to our newly-refurbished blog. We hope you like the new design. The photo is temporary although we’ll probably keep changing the image over time.

It’s not just the design that’s changed, though. Here are three major changes we’ve made:

Change 1 – Our Names

There are nine Write Romantics and some of us write under our real names (maiden or married) but others write under pen names. Over the last week or so, Julie and Deirdre have taken the decision to write under a brand new pen name.

10527383_331005803724929_5378621437399779308_nFirst Julie …

I’m excited to say that I’m now writing as Jessica Redland. I’ve been toying with a pen name for some time and made the definite decision whilst at the recent RNA Conference. It’s not that I don’t like my real name; far from it. I actually consider myself to be very fortunate in that I’ve always liked the name Julie and I love the surname of Heslington that I married into. So why change it? For me, there are three main reasons for using a pen name. I wanted to have:

  1. A timeless name that wouldn’t date me and potentially alienate me from my target market (my characters are all a good decade or more younger than I am)
  2. A separate social media presence, particularly on Facebook, to keep my family photos and personal information separate to my writing identity
  3. A product to market. I don’t consider myself a good salesperson. The thought actually gives me the fear. Yet in my day job in recruitment, I’ve regularly promoted the companies I’ve worked for to potential candidates and I’ve been good at it. If I created “Jessica Redland The Writer”, I figured I may have a more detached mindset where I’d find it easier to promote Jessica instead of me

So why Jessica Redland? I wanted the surname to mean something and the most meaningful writing-related moment for me was coming up with the idea for my debut novel and realising I wanted to become a writer. At the time, I was living in Reading, Berkshire, on a road called Redlands Road. I simply dropped the ‘s’. As for Jessica, it’s a timeless name, one I love, and it is still the same initial as my real name so doesn’t feel too detached.

So, from now on, all my posts on this blog will be as Jessica and all my writing activity will be through my Jessica Redland persona. It feels like absolutely the right decision.


A pen-name wasn’t for me; I was adamant about that.  If ever I wrote a book worth publishing I’d want everyone to know it was me. A kind of ‘so there’ attitude if you like. Then I went to the RNA conference and all around me were these successful writers who wrote under one or more different names, carefully chosen to match their genres and intended audience. Belatedly, it dawned on me that inventing a pen-name wasn’t a pretentious flight of fancy or something to hide behind but a business decision in the name of that all-important buzz-word – Marketing.

‘Deirdre’ is not a commercial-sounding name, hardly anyone spells it right and it’s not a name that people are drawn to unless they’re stalwart Coronation Street fans. Anyone will tell you that. I kind of wish somebody had told me…  Anyway, having had a complete turn-around, I trawled my family tree and came up with Harriet James. It sounds like a writer’s name, I think, and there’s a nice touch of gravitas about it.  All I have to do now is remember what it is so that if the call comes, I won’t say ‘wrong number’ and hang up!

Change 2 – The Content of This Blog

Our menu bar used to be full of sections which we didn’t update very regularly. We each had a page devoted to our writing journey and, whilst some of us had updated them, this had been quite some time ago. We’ve cut this back to much shorter bios to give a snapshot of who The Write Romantics are with links to our individual blogs or other social media platforms for those who have them.

We’ve removed the writing samples as this wasn’t a regularly-used section and we’ve removed our book reviews section BUT we have replaced it with The Write Romantics Book Group over on Goodreads. We all love to read and, although we’ve occasionally reviewed books on the blog, we haven’t had a space to discuss them and find out what you think. The Book Group will be like any other book group in that we’ll read a book each month and then discuss it. The only difference is that we won’t all be meeting up for tea and cake. Each month a different Write Romantic will chose a book and take care of the Goodreads group. And as we all write and read different kinds of romance you can be sure we’ll be selecting some interesting books. We’re also very open to suggestions so if you’ve read any good books then let us know and your suggestion might be the next on the list. We’ll be announcing the book for August on Wednesday 6th August. We really hope you’ll join in and get the discussions going. You can find the Goodreads group here so please do pop over and join us.

As you can see, we’ve also added an Anthology page which we’ll regularly update as we get closer to the launch in November.

Change 3 – What We Post

For most of the history of this blog, we’ve run a Saturday Spotlight and a Wednesday Wondering. We’ve occasionally made a Mega Monday Announcement when there’s been big news to share (like this post or a publishing deal) and we’ve also posted the occasional mid-week entry.

We’re keeping the format of regularly posting on Saturdays and Wednesdays but with the following adjustments:

  • The Saturday Spotlight will be purely for guests. We used to do a mix of WRs and guests but have so many writers we’d love to host that we’ve decided to make this slot purely theirs
  • The Wednesday Wondering will be a once-a-month slot on the 2nd Wednesday of the month
  • The last Wednesday of each month will be the review of the book of the month and the announcement of the next one
  • The remaining Wednesdays will be slots for The Write Romantics who will talk about writing or anything but writing; depends what they have to say at the time

We hope you like the changes and really appreciate all the support we’ve had since we launched last year. Long may it continue.

Thank you

Jessica, Harriet & Alys

Six Year Badge of Honour – Jules Wake’s Apprenticeship in the NWS

We’re delighted to welcome Jules Wake to the Saturday Spotlight. As members and graduates of the RNA’s New Writer’s Scheme, we’re always fascinated to hear stories of how other NWS members secure an agent, a publishing deal or both.

Between us, we range from Year 2 to Year Too Many To Recall in the NWS! Today, Jules is going to talk to us about her six years on the scheme. If you’re on the scheme now, we’re sure this will be great encouragement for you and, if you’re thinking about joining, it should help you make that firm decision too.

Over to Jules and some lovely pictures from her book launch …

Me at book launchAt the moment just having had my debut novel published, thanks to the NWS, I’m in the handy position of having four more complete books tucked away in my bottom drawer and I’m a quarter of the way through the sixth. This is my journey to publication via the wonderful NWS.

Year 1

One of the biggest mistakes new writers make is that they keep re-visiting and polishing their first work. I guess I was lucky in that my first submission to the New Writers Scheme, in the days when you were offered two reads, did get a second read. Both reports were glowing and suggested I try to get an agent.

It meant that if I wanted to stay in the RNA I needed to sign up for the NWS the next year. I was determined to submit a full manuscript so I started a new novel for that year.

Year 2

The feedback this time wasn’t so wonderful. When it first dropped through the letterbox a scant five days after I’d submitted it to Melanie Hilton, I felt that the report got it wrong. One of the reader’s views was that it was too much of a ‘cross-genre’ and there were various other criticisms. After such a glowing report the previous year, this was quite a set back and for a week I took it very personally.

CupcakesAnd that is one of the hardest parts of being a writer, taking and acting on constructive criticism. But, and this is a very big but, why bother asking an expert if you’re not going to act upon it or at least listen with an open mind to what they have to say?

After a week of feeling aggrieved, I re-read the report and applied myself to re-writing the ms and addressing the points my reader had made.  I learnt a huge amount from that report, although at the time I didn’t realise it. Today I re-read it and with what I know now, I can see that it was very honest, bang on the money and offered lots of constructive criticism that luckily I did take on board.

Year 3

The disappointment of Year 2 made me start a third novel, which again didn’t get a second read from the NWS but again I received several pages of hugely useful advice. Reading that critique now, it’s so obvious that its painful – the book suffered from a lack of clear understanding of the characters motivations and goals. I could write, I could plot and I could complete a 100K word manuscript but I just didn’t have a good handle on the technical aspects of novel writing.

Bookends 1Year 4

So onto year 4 of the New Writers Scheme and a new book. Again only one read but lots of suggestions and advice. This time I took notice.

Year 5

With other commitments I knew I wouldn’t get another book written ready for the August deadline, so I decided to focus on a re-write of book 4 addressing all of the points raised in the report. To my delight I received two glowing reports, along with that all invaluable advice and tips.

I made amendments and sent this ms out to agents. Lo and behold not one but two agents asked for a full. I was thrilled to bits … until they both came back with a polite rejection. One of them, however had taken the trouble to give a considerable amount of feedback. I wrote back thanking her for her time and expressing gratitude for her comments and asked if she would mind if I submitted my next book the following year. In hindsight this was a smart move. One it told the agent, I was serious about writing, two that I was business-like, three that I could write a book a year and four gave me an opening the following year with her.

Donna & IYear 6

I submitted my application to re-join the NWS in 2013 and then three weeks into January got the email! An invite to meet a publisher I’d submitted my first NWS book to. It had undergone a considerable re-write, principally because Choc Lit ask for the male POV and I’d written it all in first person.

Choc Lit offered me a contract and my debut novel Talk To Me came out in paperback on June 6 of this year.

I still had my NWS membership so decided to submit book 5 for what would be my last time. The report was the best yet, with the line ‘Frankly if you don’t find a publisher with this I’ll eat my hat!’

Again there were a few constructive points which I took on board and then I started submitting to agents. Three carefully chosen ones, all of whom I had been submitting to each year. I didn’t hear a thing. Three months later I decided to have one last shot at getting an agent and picked out five suitable targets. (I could write a whole other blog on targeting an agent)

I sent out five submissions on the Thursday. On Monday I received a call from a top London literary agent asking if I’d had their email. What email? Would you believe possibly one of the most important emails of my life had gone into my spam box! She wanted to read the full ms.

Would you believe it, two days later one of the original agents came back and requested the full ms? Unfortunately I’d just sent it off on an exclusive basis. What to do? Admit that? Would she then still want it, if the other agent subsequently rejected it? In the meantime another agent expressed interest … honestly it was like buses!

To cut a long story short (yes another possible blog post), both agents were at the RNA party a week later and I was able to meet and chat with both. I knew as soon as I got chatting to one of them, that she was someone I could work with.

So I now have an agent and one published book. I’d have achieved neither without the RNA’s amazing New Writers Scheme. I don’t know any of my readers but I offer a heart-felt thanks to every single one of them, for the time they took to read my ms and the detailed, honest and constructive feedback that they provided with absolutely no obligation.

Those reports can be absolute gold dust, I urge you to read, re-read and take note of the positives as well as the negatives. Most of all, I really do suggest you don’t keep re-visiting and resubmitting the same novel.


Thanks to Jules for joining us and sharing. We were delighted to have the opportunity to meet her during the recent RNA Conference and hear more about her personal journey to publication so it’s great to be able to have her as a blog guest.


You can follow Jules on Twitter @juleswake, link to her Amazon page, or read more on her website or blog

Jessica xx

It’s The Wednesday Wondering innit, know what I mean, lol?!

It’s Wednesday which means time for another Wondering. Last week our question about whether man really landed on the moon and whether we’re alone generated some great interest and some new bloggers placing comments so thank you so much to those who joined in the discussion 🙂

This week is another two-parter but on a theme closer to writing; the use of language. I asked The Write Romantics:


(1) What word or phrase do you absolutely hate people using and why?
(2) What’s your favourite saying or proverb and why? Do you use it often?


248059_10151669447464073_1097183203_n-1Helen R says …

The phrase I hate is definitely “everything happens for a reason”. I’m sure I’ve said it myself so many times and sometimes it feels right and fitting, but sometimes disasters happen, or people we love get sick, and that makes me hate that phrase because there is no rhyme or reason.

As for my favourite, John Lennon once said: “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans”. I love this phrase and it’s so appropriate. We make plans but things do happen to throw us off course.


Jay says …

I can’t stand LOL. How often, I wonder, are people actually laughing out loud when they write that? If they are, then they must spend half their lives in hysterics or maybe I’m just miserable! The worst thing is that my nine year old actually says LOL now sometimes, instead of laughing. I can imagine him going to see a stand up comedian when he grows up and the crowd all sitting there going “Lol, lol, lol!”

I love this proverb from Mother Teresa ‘There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread’. I can’t say it’s a mantra I repeat out loud on a regular basis, but it is something I am trying to live by. People need love and to feel valued as much as they need to have their really basic requirements fulfilled and, conversely, having everything materially is nothing without love. Maybe that’s why I write romance, I am a sucker for a love story and I want everyone to have one.


Deirdre says …

My most hated word – I can hardly bear to write it here – is ‘gobsmacked’. I think it’s the ugliest and most disgusting word and it makes me cringe every time I hear it. The most surprising people throw it into conversation, too, people who wouldn’t dream of saying ‘gob’ instead of mouth, as if they don’t make the connection and stop to think what it means. What worries me is that we’re passing it on to the next generation, to be spouted with even more abandon. There, rant over!

I’m not sure I have a favourite saying, although ‘waste not, want not’ has done its turn, especially at meal times when the children were young. When I worked at the university I could be heard muttering ‘waste not, want not’ as I went round the bins in the offices, fishing out all the perfectly good folders and half-used pads of paper that had been thrown out and putting it all back in the stationery cupboard. People weren’t always happy to be asked to use all this recycled stuff instead of new, which was strange, really, as we were the School of the Environment!


923265_10151669447739073_1096220985_nHelen P says …

I don’t know if I have a phrase that I really hate people saying, I’m a pretty tolerant person when it comes to anything like that.

My favourite saying is ‘She dreamt she could and she did.’ I love it and find it very inspiring. I’m going to treat myself to a print of those words to frame and put on the wall next to my writing desk.


Alys says …

I hate management speak which is kind of unfortunate because people use it around me all the time.  Phrases like ‘blue sky thinking’ or ‘360 review’ or ‘we need to get all our ducks in a row’. My former boss used to say things like ‘we need to take a helicopter down view of this’ which basically meant he wasn’t going to do anything at all about it.  If anyone watched WC1 on BBC2 recently (which was the follow up to Twentytwelve) they’ll know exactly what I mean.  As to my favourite saying, I’m not sure I really have one.  I do know someone who muddles up famous sayings and says things like ‘you can’t teach your granny to suck plums’ or ‘got a hornet in your bonnet’.  Conversations with him are never dull!


Rachael says …

The saying that grates on me is ‘you know what I mean’ and the worst thing is that I use it myself, but not quite to extent that some do. I hate to hear myself say it, you know what I mean?

I do like proverbs, from a stich in time to mighty oaks grow from little acorns and I find I use them a lot in speech. One of my favourite ones, is good things come to those who wait. I do though, have to resist putting them in my writing!


Lynne says …

I’m a bit of a rebel here, I don’t particularly dislike any phrase or saying, nor any grammatical mistake. Unfashionable as it is, I reckon anything goes, life’s too short to get upset about small things.


Jaxx says …

I have some weird dislikes in sayings because I have no reason for disliking them. I don’t like, ‘Tuck in’ when someone is inviting you to eat. I got really fed up with the saying ‘To die for” mostly because a woman who really irritated me said it over and over. ‘Twenty four/ seven,’ used to kind of irritate me but I don’t know why. I am aware that I’m probably alienating half the world here and I’m sure I use sayings over and over which are irritating but there you go, it’s what makes us all individuals.

I get annoyed when people are so black and white in what they think they would do if such and such happened to them.  I don’t think anyone can really know how they would react to a particular situation until they have actually experienced it, so my favourite proverb is, ‘Don’t judge a man until you walk a mile in his shoes.’  The other one I love and I’ve mentioned it before is, ‘It ain’t all over until the fat lady sings.’ I’m not even sure I really know what it means but the imagery makes me smile.


And as for me …

I am so not “down with the kids” because I hate the word “innit”. I also can’t bear management-speak like Alys says, “you know what I mean” like Rachael says and, thanks to Jay, I’ve developed a bit of a dislike for “lol”! I don’t know if it’s management-speak or just a turn of phrase that I’m hearing more and more often at work but I’m finding I have an increasingly strong resentment to the phrase, “in terms of”. If you’ve not come across this one before, I’m thinking people who say, “In terms of holidays, where do you like to go?” Why not just ask, “Where do you like to go on holiday?” Much simpler and less capacity for making people squirm!

As for a favourite saying, sorry Helen R, but I like “everything happens for a reason” but I agree there are appropriate and highly inappropriate applications of it. I don’t think anyone would be justified in ever using that phrase in relation to tragedies like the recent shooting-down of Flight MH17. However, I find it useful when thinking about restructures at work, relationship break-downs, not getting a job you want and, a close one to us writers, getting a rejection from an agent or a publisher. Whenever something upsetting like this has happened to me, I’ve usually found a reason for it, even if that reason has been many years down the line. I could have learned something or my journey could have gone down a different (better) path.

And, just because this is my Wondering, I’m going to be greedy and throw another one in. It’s a phrase a good friend of mine (hi Jackie) uses: Sit by the river long enough and you’ll see the body of your enemy floating by. Perhaps it doesn’t conjure up the lovely image of a happy fat lady singing but it does fit with one of my favourite ideas; karma!

Next week we’re doing some sweet-talking. And when I say sweet, I mean pudding or dessert or  whatever you like to call it. My mouth’s watering already!

What words/phrases/sayings/proverbs do you love or hate? We’d love to hear from you.

Jessica (formerly The Write Romantic known as Julie!) xx

The Write Romantics and the sweet smell of… togetherness

Okay, so maybe the cowsheds at the Harper Adams agricultural campus didn’t exactly smell sweet at this year’s RNA conference, near Telford, but one thing that was sweet  conf 2014 10was the chance to meet all of the Write Romantics. Some of us were lucky enough to catch up with the whole group for the first time ever, at various points, although other commitments meant that all nine were never quite in the same place at the same time. Whether we’ll get the chance to put that right, anytime soon, depends largely on our Australian contingent. Although we’re sure Helen R won’t mind the other eight of us turning up for a holiday in Oz at some point… In the meantime, we thought we’d share our other conference highlights with you, including some dubious poetry porn and a photo of Alys getting far too excited at the thought of owning her own tractor! conf 2014 14Helen R Just being a part of a “workplace” was the high for me. Writing can be a lonely profession and it improved for me when I joined The Write Romantics, and actually being around so many writers at the weekend left me buzzing. conf 2014 15I met so many approachable, friendly writers, in particular Lizzie Lamb who chatted to us outside the coffee shop; Hazel Gaynor whose novel “The Girl Who Came Home” I can’t put down right now; Talli Roland who kept me amused at the gala dinner; and Amy Gaffney who couldn’t believe I had never heard of Michael Fassbender! But most of all I came away from the conference feeling even more motivated. Now I just need to get back to Sydney, move house and get back to my desk 🙂 conf dee 2Deirdre As a conference first-timer I was made to feel welcome from the moment I picked up my special pink-jewelled name-badge and lovely goodie bag.  I was lucky enough to have friends at the conference, including the Write Romantics, of course, but the whole atmosphere was one of inclusivity with plenty of opportunity to chat and make new friends, too.  I attended on the Saturday only as a day visitor but didn’t feel I’d missed out as the schedule was impressively full, and I take my hat off to the organisers for that. conf deeIndie-publishing and marketing were definitely the hot topics and featured in one guise or another several times over the day.  I’ve self-published in the past and may do so again so it was good to see this important shift in the industry being addressed at the conference and so much practical information coming our way. My favourite session was Sally Quilford’s which was all about writing romantic intrigue.  Sally’s inspiring and amusing talk was the perfect ending to the day and I came away already planning to go to next year’s conference. Julie conf 2014 132013 had been my first conference experience and I’ll admit I found the whole thing pretty daunting. I think most unpublished writers will find the idea of going to an event where they don’t really know anyone and are surrounded by people who’ve already achieved the dream to be a pretty scary thing. This year, I felt much more relaxed because I knew I’d be amongst friends. The Write Romantics have been blogging together since April 2013 but I’d only physically met four of the group. This year we were all going to be there. Not quite all at the same time but, nonetheless, I had the privilege to meet the remaining four across the course of the weekend. It’s been amazing meeting everyone in the flesh. I just wish I hadn’t been so wiped out after a pretty challenging six months at work so I didn’t quite have the energy to stay up and chat till the early hours. conf 2014 8Conference-wise, the stand-out sessions for me were a couple that were relevant to those going indie, in particular hearing about how much happier and satisfied those who’ve gone down that route appear to be. It was also encouraging to hear the story of Hazel Gaynor who was picked up by an agent then a publisher after going indie with her debut novel ‘The Girl Who Came Home’. Indie definitely does seem to be the new slush pile. Jackie conf 2014 12It was fabulous to meet the writeromantics at the conference and I enjoyed some but not all of the talks. Sometimes there was a good message to impart but the delivery wasn’t quite right and others had me hanging off every word.  Jean Fullerton and Janet Gover are excellent at giving talks and Hazel Gaynor’s talk about the Titanic was very interesting. It was great to catch up with old acquaintances and I have made some new Twitter friends (if only I knew what to do with them!) The general feeling about the publishing conf 2014 16industry was much more upbeat than the last conference I went to, mostly I suspect, thanks to Amazon and the ease of self-publishing. It is very heartening to know that someone apart from your sister and best friend will be able to read your novel and we don’t have to wait to get a publishing deal. Probably the most promising bit of the conference for me, was meeting Tessa Shapcott who is a freelance editor of many years standing. She is going to knock my latest offering into shape and after that I can finally put it out there – somewhere, who knows where, yet! Helen P Conf HelenI had a fantastic weekend catching up with The Write Romantics at Harper Adams University, which is a beautiful campus, and skiving off sessions to hold our very own out in the sunshine! It was great to spend time with my editors from the fabulous Carina UK off campus, in a pub. Amazing, too, to see the lovely ODwyer (Author), although not for as long as I would have liked, as well as all the other fabulous writers I know. Alys Conf 2014 6Obviously the best thing about the conference was spending time with all of the other Write Romantics. I’d not met Helen R, Jackie and Deirdre before and it was like meeting people I’d known for years rather than someone new.  I also enjoyed catching up with friends I’d met last year like Alison May and meeting some lovely new people like Alison Morton, Ian Skillicorn and Lizzie Lamb. For me the stand out session was Nikki Logan’s talk on the Chemistry of Reading.  It made an awful lot of sense to me and made me realise that there are good biological reasons why I get so attached to certain books or characters.  I can now blame the Oxytocin in my brain for making me believe that Borchester is a real county somewhere between Gloucestershire and Herefordshire and that if you know where to look in London you will find Diagon Alley. Nikki’s talk made me see how as a writer I can use those reactions to really engage readers. I’m going to check out some of the novels that she recommended and get a copy of her book so I can learn more about the techniques you can use to do this. IMG_0369Getting all of the Write Romantics together was always going to result in a lot of laughing and the attempts to write sex scenes with Jo’s magnetic nature poetry probably created the most hilarity.  There’s clearly a good reason why none of us write erotica!  Most of our attempts are too X rated for a Saturday Spotlight (we may need a new post-watershed slot for them) but this one isn’t too inappropriate. Rachael conf 2014 11Naturally the best moment from the conference was being able to catch up in person with fellow Write Romantics. I didn’t make the Friday lunch, which most of the group enjoyed, due to being lost in transit. Myself and my friend managed to get completely lost, as whilst driving we were happily talking about writing and suddenly realised we were not where we wanted to be. All the talks at the conference were interesting, but I my favourites were Nikki Logan, Janet Gover and Clare Mackintosh and catching up with friends as well as making new ones was another highlight. I also enjoyed the fact that Harper Adams is an agriculture campus and slipped away from writing – only briefly, to get my farm fix each day. It was the cows and calves I was interested in, not the pig unit. This emitted the kind of smell even I wasn’t used to! Lynne Conf 2014 3‘I, or I should say we, had a really unusual ‘mini’ conference when my little puppy Rosie and I travelled to Newport to meet some of the group for lunch on the first day. At that point I had only met Deidre and her husband when they stayed near Oxford, and Alex when she visited me on her travels to Glastonbury, the rest of the group were new to me. But first I met Jo, then Jackie and Deidre and later Julie and Alex again. I can honestly say it was one of the nicest lunchtime meetings I’ve ever had, I couldn’t have asked to meet a nicer group of people and its so nice to be able to ‘talk shop’ with others that understand. So it might have taken me two hours driving each way for a two-hour lunch, but it was well worth it. And Rosie had a wonderful time too! As for me? photo (1)My highlight has already been spoken about. It was really all about seeing the WRs. Meeting Lizzie Lamb for an impromptu chat outside the coffee shop, whilst some of the WRs were playing hooky from a session, was also a bit of a light-bulb moment conference-wise, though. Lizzie was incredibly generous in sharing her hints and tips for going indie, and marketing more generally, and she said something like ‘this business isn’t for shrinking violets’. Apologies if I haven’t got that quite right, Lizzie, but you get the gist!  Networking isn’t my favourite thing in the world, so does that mean this game isn’t for me? I guess only time will tell, but I do think it means that the conference probably isn’t. Across the two years I have attended there have conf 2014 4been some good sessions, but the stand out one for me was one led by Julie Cohen last year and I felt like a different writer with new insight after just an hour. So I think next year’s conference fee has already been ear-marked to attend one of Julie’s training courses instead. It will still give me the opportunity to meet other writers and promote myself from shrinking violet to something else – perhaps a tree hugger… I’ve already made a start. If not, then I guess I can always take up crochet! We’d love to hear about the experience of others who attended the conference. What were the highs and inspirational moments for your? And, perhaps even more importantly, have you got that smell out of your nostrils yet? Jay xx

The Wednesday Wondering – Moon Landings and Being Alone

This Saturday (July 20th) will see the 45th anniversary since man landed on the moon. I was born in 1972 so this is something that I personally didn’t experience but I completely appreciate the huge impact this historic event had.

But did it really happen?


Ooh, controversial! My dad is quite fascinated by science and space and recalls watching the event unfold on a black and white TV like so many other people around the world and he’d have never, ever questioned that it happened. Then he saw a documentary about it and it made him seriously question something he’d accepted for most of his life.

According to Stanley Kubrik’s widow, the late great film director himself directed the moonlandings from a studio in Borehamwood, London! Conspiracy theories site both rationale for the landings (winning the Space Race in the Cold War, distraction from the Vietnam War and funding issues) and reasons to doubt it (far too many to list here) and, to be honest, these have been demonstrated extremely compellingly in various documentaries on the subject. If you’re unfamiliar with these conspiracy theories, Google it! There’s a mass of information there.

Do I believe man landed on the moon? Honestly? I’m not sure. I’d like to think they did but the conspiracy theory information and this documentary I watched were so unbelievably convincing. I guess that’s the point, though.

This week I’ve asked a two-part question. The first part is:

Did man really land on the moon or was it a huge hoax in the studio?

My second part of the question sticks with the space theme and is:

Are we alone? Have you ever had a close encounter or know anyone who has? Do you think there are other beings out there? Are they amongst us today?

When I was younger, I went to Girl Guides. My mum would drop me off and pick me up. One day she was late and I started to worry as she was never late (these were the days way before mobiles, of course). She finally pulled up all flustered and the reason for being late was that she’d just been coming out of the house to get in the car when something caught her eye; a UFO hovering over the field opposite our house. It then shot off at speed. My mum doesn’t believe in stuff like that. Well, she didn’t until that day.

I personally believe that, in a universe of our size (much of which is still unexplored), we cannot possibly be alone. I don’t think there are little green men out there but I do think there are other beings; perhaps like us, perhaps different. I believe they’ve been to earth. They may even be among us still. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no expert on this and haven’t researched it all but there’s a logical side of me that says that some of the things that have happened in the past e.g. the building of the pyramids to name an obvious one, have had intervention from more advanced beings. I think time travel has happened and is possibly still happening. But then my head hurts when I think of what this means so I’ll stop thinking and hand over to the other Write Romantics:


P1050370Alys says …

I like to think the moon landings actually happened. I’ve heard Buzz Aldrin talk about it in interviews and he sounds absolutely genuine. But I’ve not seen the documentary so I’ve not got that to compare it to. If it was a huge hoax then they’ve done a great job with Buzz because he sounds completely convincing. As to whether I believe in aliens, I’m not sure. I wouldn’t rule it out. The universe is larger than I can possibly imagine so I guess it’s not impossible that other life forms evolved on other planets. I have met someone who believed passionately in aliens but I have to say I didn’t find his theories particularly convincing.


Deirdre says …

I remember it well and it was such an exciting time. We marvelled at it and at the same time we were perhaps a little frightened by it, as we were by the earlier missions that were part of the ‘space race’ between the USA and Russia to land a man on the moon, one of which was the fated Apollo 1 expedition in which three astronauts died.

I don’t recall exactly which expedition it was but some time before the moon landing, I remember my mother waking me up in the early hours to tell me that a particular astronaut had returned safely to earth. I hadn’t known she was that interested but she seemed so moved by it and I realised then what an impact space exploration could have on ordinary people.

The moon landing was phenomenal and no, I never doubted it happened for a minute, and I wasn’t aware that anyone else did either. In the aftermath the names Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were on everyone’s lips. At the time I used to go to a Friday night disco at the polytechnic and the film of the moon landing was played on a big screen throughout the evening.

Is there anybody out there? I don’t think so. I believe Earth is unique in that respect, but I also believe that there’s a lot more to life and the universe than ordinary humans will ever know, and that’s probably how it should be.


P1050377Helen P says …

I’d like to think that there was a man on the moon and that back then they did something amazing. Altogether there have been twelve men who have supposedly walked on the moon but none since 1972, which with all the advances in technology makes me ask why haven’t they sent a team up lately?

I haven’t had any close encounters of the third kind but I know a couple of people who swear that they have. I’m not sure about this, I don’t think we’re alone and my favourite all time film is Aliens so if there is something out there I just hope they don’t have acid for blood and a penchant for killing everything in sight.


Helen R says …

I think that man did land on the moon, yes … but then again, I believed my husband was attacked by a shark when he showed me the scar on  his arm (caused by a machine, not some ocean adventure!)

As for aliens, I am a down to earth person and don’t tend to question what’s going on around us, just accept it as it is. I think that classes me as a realist, but I’m sure lots of people think differently 🙂


P1050374Jay says …

Yes, I think man did land on the moon and what’s more I have always been jealous that this was the event that marked the year of my sister’s birth, whilst I got decimalisation… She got the looks too, some things in life just aren’t fair!

I think there must be life out there, although I haven’t had any personal experience of anything alien-related. I’m not sure I believe in little green men who pop down and abduct us for experimentation, but when I think about the universe and the fact that no-one knows where it ends, it hurts my head. So we can’t be the only ones, can we?


Lynne says …

Close encounters are a bit of a thing with me; see my Hallowe’en post last year. I could talk for England on ghosts but that’s not quite what’s meant here. I watched the moon walkers land on the moon so yes, I believe it. I don’t know that there are alien species walking amongst us but I’m pretty sure there are ghosts so I guess expect the unexpected!


P1050375Rachael says …

I have never questioned if man did land on the moon, but you’ve set doubts in my mind now. It does seem so improbable, so completely impossible. As for are we alone, I’m going to sit on the fence here, having never had any kind of close encounter. I don’t especially want one either!


Over to you. We’d love to hear your thoughts and, even better, any alien encounters you may have had! …

The Saturday Spotlight – The Seaside, Sherlock and Sharon Booth

Across the past year or so, we’ve been delighted to welcome a variety of guests to our Saturday Spotlight slot. Some have been successful prolific authors, some have been a few books into their journey, others have been new writers launching their debut novels and a couple have even been like most of The Write Romantics: starting their journey.

meToday we’re delighted to welcome a fellow NWS-member, Sharon Booth, to our blog. Sharon joined the NWS in 2013 and is making great progress by preparing to write her third novel already! She runs a fantastic blog – The Moongazing Hare – and is generally an all-round lovely person. I know because I’ve had the pleasure to meet up with her on a couple of occasions for tea and cake and the time has just whizzed by.

The Write Romantics have posed some questions so, without further ado, I’ll hand over to Sharon who can tell us all about her journey, her current activities and how she’s so great at blogging and networking. Plus, she’s given us some fab piccies of the inspiration for her debut series.

Welcome Sharon!

Why now in terms of starting your writing journey? Have you wanted to do this for a long time and, if so, what makes now the right time?

I spent most of my childhood writing stories – apart from the time I was reading them, of course. I always said I’d be a writer when I grew up, but when I reached school-leaving age, writing as a career seemed like a ridiculous dream for someone like me. In fact, my careers interview at school can be summarised like this: “Okay, you’re a girl. (Well spotted.) Right then, shop or office? (Gosh, decisions, decisions.) Ah, you’re doing ‘O’ levels. (Only in English Language and English Literature. Doesn’t that tell you something?) Office then. Off you go. (Eh? What just happened?)” I got drafted into doing an office practice course and that was more or less it. I got married, had five children, and spent a good many years in the wilderness of depression – to the point of rarely going out of the house – and total lack of self-belief. I still read a lot but I rarely tried to write. I think it was a combination of factors that pushed me back into writing: I’d been home-schooling my daughter and she’d turned sixteen and started college so I had more free time and was looking around for something to challenge me; I’d got a job which, at the time, involved working afternoons only, which meant I had every morning to myself; I had a new-found confidence after graduating from the Open University with an honours degree in literature; I heard about NaNoWriMo which seemed an excellent way to discipline myself into writing that first draft; but most of all, I had a bunch of characters, buzzing round my brain like annoying flies, who appeared from nowhere as I was journeying to Somerset back in 2011 and simply wouldn’t go away. They forced me to buy a notebook and spend a lot of that holiday jotting down preliminary thoughts and ideas that would eventually become There Must Be An Angel. My husband and kids were thrilled. Once the idea was in my head there was no stopping me. I remembered how much I’d loved writing. Now I can’t imagine my life without it.

julie blog3Where do you get the inspiration for your setting and characters from?

Sherlock! Doctor Who! The Musketeers! Hehe…truthfully, when it comes to my characters, I don’t think anyone actually inspires their personalities. They come from somewhere inside my head. Possibly they’re all aspects of me which is a rather worrying thought, given the way some of them behave. However, I do like to put a face to the name, so I like to “cast” my characters as if I’m making a film of the book and in my head almost every single one of them looks like a famous actor or actress who suits the part. (See above list). However, I can’t seem to find anyone suitable to play the heroines. No one seems right. Maybe that’s because I write in first person so I see the events from “inside” the character and never really get a clear picture of what she looks like from the outside, if that makes sense. I do have a Pinterest board with the people and places that inspired me for There Must Be An Angel, but I’m wary of that really. I may see my hero in one way but I’m sure that every reader will have their own view of what he looks like and that’s fine. Whatever floats their boat! I love the fact that I can cast a gorgeous actor as my hero and make him do or say whatever I like. It’s like stalking but without any danger of being arrested. Louise Marley asked me if it was Benedict Cumberbatch or Sherlock I was bending to my will and I said that was too deep for me! When I thought about it, though, I realised it was neither. In my mind, one of my heroes may have Benedict’s physical appearance but his actual character is nothing like Sherlock or any other role that he’s played and I wouldn’t know what his own character is like, having never met him 😦 (Give me time…) My hero is my own creation. I’ve just borrowed the face! I’ve been having a lot of fun lately falling in love with someone who looks uncannily like Matthew Rhys. I have a Doctor and a Musketeer to go yet. Yum. As for the setting, the series of books I’m writing now is set in a fictional village called Kearton Bay, but it’s very closely modelled on the gorgeous North Yorkshire village of Robin Hood’s Bay, up near Whitby. I just knew it was the right place for my characters to live. I went back there only last week and got very emotional. I’ve spent the last three years living with that place inside my head so it felt like coming home. I kept getting all excited and saying things like, “That’s where such and such happened,” and “That’s where my heroine did this,” and taking lots of photos and muttering, “But would she be able to see that from this viewpoint?” and other such things which made my family members sigh a lot and roll their eyes and walk away pretending they didn’t know me, which I thought was rather rude.

You write great blog entries. Do you enjoy writing these for the pure enjoyment of writing them or is it all about raising your profile?

the inspiration for keartonbay 2Well, firstly, thank you for saying that! I’m always a bag of nerves every time I hit “publish” on a blog post so it’s reassuring to hear you like them. I set up a blog in the first place because I wanted to prove to myself that I would be able to let someone else read my writing. I’d never shown my work to anyone other than various creative writing tutors before so it was a big thing to overcome, and I knew I had to have the courage to send my words out into the world if I was ever going to publish a novel. Setting up a blog seemed a good way to start. I love messing around with it, to be honest. It’s had several facelifts and I like trying different things and seeing what works. I love writing the book reviews. I just wish I had more time to read so I could publish more of them! I understand that having a blog is an essential part of an author’s profile nowadays but it has to be fun, too. If it was all about the profile I’d make sure I posted at least once a week and in a regular slot, but I’m not as organised as that. I write when I have something to say and as inspiration strikes. It may not be as professional as some but at least I’m blogging because I want to. I write as if I’m chatting to my friends – and in a way I am. I’m still stunned that someone else takes the trouble to read my posts and even more astonished when people comment. I’m very grateful to all the followers of The Moongazing Hare.

What is your greatest single writing ambition and your biggest single fear about the foray into publication?

I had a dream a few weeks ago that my book had gone live on Amazon and I had four reviews – all of them one star. The comments ranged from “Don’t give up the day job” to something that is completely unsuitable for the delicate eyes of The Write Romantics. I guess that’s my biggest fear! I suppose, therefore, my biggest ambition is to have people read my books and say they love them. I’d like to be able to make a living from writing and be able to give up the day job and I’d like to be taken seriously as a writer by my peers, but more than anything I’d like to get a message from a reader to say they’d loved one of my books and it had made them smile or laugh or cry and they couldn’t wait to read the next one. That would mean the absolute world to me.

the bayWhere would you like to be, in terms of your writing career, in five years’ time?

I’d like to have had three or four books published by then and have built up a group of readers who actually look out for my next novel. There are four books in The Kearton Bay Chronicles and in five years I’d like to think my next series will be well underway. I have some interesting ideas for a new bunch of characters and another glorious setting. I’m looking forward to getting on with that. I’d like to have met some of the fabulous writers I’ve spoken to on Facebook and Twitter, and to have the courage to say to anyone who asks what I do, “Actually, I’m a writer,” without going bright red, stammering and backing away before they start to laugh. Dammit, the day will come I tells ya!

Indie or traditional publishing?

In an ideal world I’d eventually like to have experience of both. I read an interview with the wonderful Milly Johnson in which she said she’s glad she waited to be published traditionally because it taught her an awful lot and gave her a great deal of support. I then read an interview with Val McDermid who said that she thinks it would be highly unlikely that she’d have a writing career if she’d been starting out today, given how tough it is to get a publishing deal and the fact that writers are dropped if they don’t perform well enough with their first book. So while I can see that being traditionally published would be wonderful in many ways, being realistic it would be foolish to dismiss indie publishing out of hand. There are pros and cons to both paths. I think these days indie publishing is seen as a valid publishing choice by most writers. I know it would be lovely to have all the experience and support of a big publishing house behind you, but really, I’m drawn to the control that indie publishing gives the author. I love the idea of choosing my own cover and title and deciding on my own publishing schedule. I know there are many indie authors out there making a respectable living from self-publishing and loving the freedom it gives them. It’s true that many indie books sink without trace, but then, so do many traditionally-published books. Being contracted to a traditional publisher doesn’t guarantee sales, and I’m sorry to say it doesn’t guarantee error-free books either. I understand the moans about people who dash off a story and rush to publish it but I’ve read lots of indie books and have thoroughly enjoyed them. A lot of the books I’ve reviewed on my blog have been indie published. Indie authors can hire cover designers, professional formatters, editors and proof-readers, and the indie authors I know take a great deal of time and care to get their books just right. It seems the days of the publisher doing all the promotional work are long gone, too, so I don’t think having to plug your book should put people off the indie route. You’ll more than likely have to plug away whichever path you choose! In the end it all comes down to personal choice. What works for one person may not work for another. And I think most readers don’t care one way or the other who publishes the book they’re reading as long as they love the story.

the beginning of bay street julie blog1You seem fab at networking. Can you give us any tips?

Honestly, I didn’t realise I was networking at first! The first contact I ever made with another writer was on Twitter. I’d just read What a Difference a Day Makes by Carole Matthews and loved it so much that I tweeted about it. She replied! Writers make me as starstruck as Hollywood stars make other people so I was stunned. The day I got a reply from Veronica Henry my hands were shaking so much I could barely operate the mouse 🙂 My point is, I didn’t consciously try to network. I just followed people who interested me on Twitter and Facebook and tentatively joined in with some of their conversations and was highly relieved to find they didn’t snap at me and tell me to go away! I started reviewing books I liked and was astonished to get thank you messages from some of the authors and eventually requests from other authors to review their books. I nervously messaged the lovely Lizzie Lamb for some advice about joining the RNA after reading an interview with her in a magazine, and she very kindly replied, giving me lots of tips and encouragement. I’ve never forgotten that. Bit by bit I found I was chatting to writers just as I would anyone else. I’ve found the writing community in general to be a very friendly and generous group of people who are more than happy to pass on tips and advice and are, with few exceptions, supportive and encouraging to newbie writers. I try to share as many blog posts and book releases as I can because I think being a writer is damn hard work and the more we help each other the better. If I don’t like a book I don’t review it. I only ever publish positive four or five star book reviews because I think there are more than enough people ready and willing to give horrible reviews, even to books they haven’t read. I once read a review for a book which gave it one star because the seller hadn’t delivered it in the estimated time. I mean, honestly! *bangs head on desk*.

What do your family and friends think?

I’m a bit of an odd-bod in my family. Hardly any of my relatives read! I know!! My brother and sister rarely pick up a book. My mother used to read sagas but is now more likely to do a crossword. My children don’t read (which is a source of anguish to me, given the amount of books I bought them when they were little and the effort I put into encouraging them) and my husband has only ever read one book in his life. *sigh*. DH is very supportive now, although we went through a difficult time when I started writing regularly, and it took him a long time to realise how serious I was about it. When he finally understood what it meant to me he changed completely, and is very understanding now and rather proud of me which is nice. I think at first my family and friends thought it was a joke. Then they got excited and there were lots of comments about me being the next JK Rowling. (I sometimes think that JK Rowling is the only author some people have heard of and, much as I adore her, I got pretty sick of hearing her name.) Then they got bored and started asking why my book wasn’t finished yet and demanding to know when it was going to be published. They seemed to think that a book can be written in a matter of weeks, be sent to an overjoyed publisher and appear in the shops before you can say “Harry Potter”. Now they’ve lost interest entirely which is a relief all round. My boss informed me that he is going to take up writing when he retires and he thinks he should be able to “knock off” a novel a month. I was so angry I wanted to throw my keyboard at him, but I merely raised an eyebrow and told him he was a gifted man and I would look forward to reading his work. If he beats me to publication I may turn to gin.

julie blog4What do you personally get from writing?

Backache, sleepless nights, and a hatred of the comma that borders on a phobia. Actually, that’s true, but I also get the most incredible pleasure from it, too. If I didn’t I wouldn’t do it. In this day and age I don’t think any writer does it for the money – unless you’re already well-established and selling shed loads of novels, in which case congratulations and hats off to you. Long may it continue! For me, writing lets me enter a world where people I love make their homes. It lets me work out aspects of my life that perhaps haven’t gone according to plan and rewrite them with a happy ending. It’s where I find my friends. It’s where I get to fall in love all over again. It’s where I laugh and cry and hang out with people who interest, amuse, delight or annoy me. With a hard afternoon in the office ahead of me, a letter box stuffed with bills, a medical appointment on the horizon and a car that’s failed its MOT, I switch on my laptop and head off to meet my pals and find out what they’re up to. They’re like my version of Wordsworth’s Daffodils. When I’m feeling down, “they flash upon that inward eye” and make me smile and I can’t wait to meet them again. It’s given me a sense of purpose, helped me make new friends (not least the lovely Write Romantics!), increased my confidence and made me proud that I’ve achieved something. I honestly can’t imagine not writing. What the hell was I doing all those years?

What part of the writing process do you enjoy the most? What part do you dislike (if any)?

I love it when the writing is flowing and the words are coming easily and it feels almost as if the book’s writing itself. Days like that are fabulous. I especially love it if I’m making myself laugh as I write. Nine times out of ten I’ll go back to that passage and wonder what the hell I was thinking and delete it, but sometimes I still laugh and there’s nothing better than that. The bit I dislike most is having to be brutal and cut out all the stuff that doesn’t need to be there. I feel like I’m The Grim Reaper sometimes. I can’t count the number of scenes I’ve written that have ended up in a file titled “Deleted Scenes…keep in case they come in useful one day.” They probably won’t. Ninety per cent of them are rubbish which was why they were deleted in the first place, but I hate to throw anything away. I’m from Yorkshire. What do you expect? 🙂


Thank you for joining us today, Sharon. It’s been a pleasure to hear all about your writing journey and to see your lovely pictures. I’m sure we’ll be welcoming you back again very soon as a published writer, whether that’s indie or traditional. Can’t wait!

Julie xx

Wednesday Wondering – Rescue Me!


As romance writers, you’d probably expect that we’re fans of romance films and particularly those that might fall into the rom-com bracket. I personally absolutely love them. Can’t get enough of them. And when I find one I love, I’ll watch it over and over and over again.

There are some absolute classics (such as Pretty Woman, Bridget Jones’s Diary and pretty much anything by Richard Curtis), some misses (New Year’s Day was one of those for me) and some that grow on you with repeated watching (He’s Just Not That Into You).

P1050243One of my favourite rom-coms of recent times is the wonderful Leap Year with Amy Adams and Matthew Goode (nom nom). If you’ve seen it, you’ll know that he asks her what she’d stop to collect if her house was on fire and this is ultimately the crux of her realising her life needs to change. So, my question (in a month that has nothing to do with leap year) is if your house was on fire and your family and animals were all safe, what item(s) would you rescue before you fled to safety?

Note how I added an ‘s’ onto the end of item(s)? That’s mainly because I knew I wouldn’t be able to just pick one! I’d need the fire to be pretty slow-burning and in the right part of the house so I could grab my computer and my husband’s. He has all the photos of the munchkin on his Mac although I suspect he has them backed up somewhere remotely so we might be ok. I have all my writing on mine. Hmm, maybe I should try some remote cloud-y type stuff just in case! If it was night-time, I’d have to grab my wedding, engagement and eternity rings as I don’t wear them to bed. I’d also need to raid my bear cabinet. I collect proper jointed mohair collectable bears. Realistically there’s no way I could get them all so I’d make sure I rescued two very special ones: Mark Elvet and Paddington. Mark Elvet is the first bear I ever made when I had my teddy bear shop in 2005-07. I named him after my husband who I’d met 2 months after opening the shop and the street name in Durham (Elvet Bridge) where I attended my workshop). The Paddington is a Steiff and was my wedding present from the hubby. I love all my bears but these two are very special. Finally, I’d collect the munchkin’s favourite teddy, Pinky, because she’d be devastated if she lost him.


Let’s hear what the others have to say:

Deirdre says …
Interesting question, and not so easy to answer as I first thought. To begin with I came up with a list of ‘essential’ items, went through it again and realised that, actually, hardly any of them are essential at all. Now there’s a surprise! So, I would rescue my handbag and address book, our photo albums, and my USB stick which contains all my writing, just in case Dropbox lets me down. Oh, and I’d grab a couple pairs of comfortable shoes in case I can’t get the same ones again. My feet must not suffer!

P1050235Helen P says …
Gosh I hate to even think about this because my house is full to the brim with so many of us living in there but if it was on fire and everyone was safe I would have to rescue my small Cath Kidston tin full of pen drives on which I have various ideas for novels stored on and my current works in progress. I’d be so lost without them.

Alys says …
It’s probably a bit sad but I think I’d save my laptop. Not just because the MS for Beltane and the work I’ve done on my second novel, Lughnasa are on here. They’re all backed up so that should be alright. It’s also my work computer and it would be tricky to do the day job without it. But the main reason is because photographs, music and so many happy memories are stored on here.

Helen R says …
Leaving behind the sensible approach which would be to grab the file with passports, birth certificates etc, I would grab my box of photo albums. These would be irreplaceable…memories from my childhood and memories of my own girls as babies through to the ages they are now.

Jay says …
I expect almost everyone will say this, but for me it would be photographs and videos. The irreplaceable ones would be of the children growing up and, even more than that, of my Dad who died almost 14 years ago. I have some hilarious video of him riding a bike for the first time in about 30 years, shortly before he was diagnosed with cancer. He’s laughing, in fact we all are, and that is something I couldn’t bear to lose. If there was time, I would also grab my laptop, as I am rubbish at backing up my latest WiP and I would likely lose thousands of words if I lost that… in fact, I might go and get a pen drive and a fire proof box right now, just in case! P1050239

Lynne says …
I love anything shabby chic and handmade using strong, natural elements like copper, linen, leather, wool, willow. I have a small collection of Mulberry bags made with chunky leather like animal hide, some clothes made of linen so thick that it is almost carved rather than sewn, and deep red copper, rich with natural pigments. I cook with vintage copper and love thick, chunky pieces that are made with ancient dovetail joints not the modern pressed stuff so I guess it would be whatever I could grab from that little gathering.

Rachael says …
If family and pets were safe and I could rush back in and rescue just something, it would be…… This is a hard one as I’d want to rescue everything, but just one thing would be external memory device for both the farm computer and my writing computer. At least that way I’d have all my writing and cow records.

Jaxx says …
Strangely enough my daughter was talking about this, the other day and there was no room for manoeuvre. It was family (she would push me out of the window if I was incapacitated, apparently- thanks for that!) Then it was Pushkins the cat, then Cheddar the hamster and then her iPad mini. I guess I would go with the same kind of thing and add my laptop as most of my writing is backed up to Dropbox, now. Haven’t seen my jewellery box since I hid it in the loft last summer before going on holiday so I guess that shows I don’t need the contents of that! Would quite like to take the piano and my guitar too but think that might be getting silly.

Over to you. What would you grab (whilst touching wood and hoping that none of us are ever really in this situation)?


The Long and short of it.

For Sale: Baby shoes, never worn. Probably one of the most famous short stories written and accredited (probably incorrectly) to Ernest Hemingway. My personal favourite is the one by Augusto Monterroso; When he woke up, the dinosaur was still there.Love it!
Most short stories are not as short as that and would nowadays be called flash fiction, micro fiction, postcard fiction or- this one I love, smoke fiction, coined by the Chinese apparently, the idea being that the story takes as long as smoking a cigarette.
Widely acknowledged to be hard to sell, short stories used to belong to the preserve of the famous author but according to the Bookseller sales have risen by 35% in the last year and are still rising. Many people no longer have time to read huge tomes, although they are still being written and read (Think Pulitzer prize winner, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt- nearly 800 pages)
But novels no longer have ponderous openings and vast descriptions of scenery, now the first paragraph, if not the first line has to grab us by the throat. We are all in a hurry. So if readers want short and sweet we writers are in a perfect position to supply them, given the ease of self-publishing on Amazon and the possibility of forming an alliance of writers to publish anthologies. There is also the Kindle singles to consider. These are anything up to thirty thousand words and sell between 99 pence and £1.99 although you do have to submit it for publication, it is not as straightforward as self- publishing it yourself.
But don’t be fooled into thinking short is easy, as Mark Twain wrote to a friend, ‘I would like to have written a shorter letter, but I didn’t have the time.’

All About America – Lynne Connolly Unleashes Lightning!

It’s our second visit of the week with prolific writer Lynne Connolly. Today Lynne talks to us about her latest novel, Lightning Unbound. As we’d already done the introductions on Monday, we’ll hand straight over to Lynne …

ImageRecently the first book in a new series was released. Lightning Unbound and the series, Even Gods Fall In Love has been close to my heart for years. To most people it sounds off the wall, but to me and one other person who saw where I was going with it, it was an exciting new project. When people ask, “Where do you get your ideas?” explaining the rationale, or lack of it, behind the series is a great example of how and where the creative process happens.

See what you think. Thirty years before the start of the first book, the Olympian gods were all but wiped out by the Titans. The Titans want to rule the earth, the Olympians want the earth to rule itself. The twist? It all happens in an accurate rendition of Georgian Britain.

See? I told you that it sounded crazy.

But it works, and how! Once I started writing the series, everything fell into place. The aristocracy of London were treated as gods by many, and once I read that off-the-cuff comment in a non-fiction account of the period, I was off and running. So what if the gods weren’t immortal, but their attributes were? So their elimination meant they were born again in different bodies? A bit like the way the Tibetans choose the next Dalai Lama (my ideas know no boundaries! They believe the essence goes into a new body, and they just have to find him.

In Lightning Unbound, Jupiter thinks he’s the son of a duke with a fatal disease. But the fact that his blood runs clear isn’t evidence of the disease, it’s proof that he’s an Olympian, because he has ichor and not red blood. When he finds a mortal woman trying to take care of her brother, he steps in and goes all knight errant on her. But he doesn’t want to pass on the disease, so he can’t marry her, or make love to her. Or can he? I’ll give you a clue – this is a romance.

I usually get inspiration from my surroundings, from snippets of news or place I visit. Take my recent visit to New Orleans. I already have a story forming in my mind, something with Cajuns and alligators in it. But Lightning Unbound? I have no idea where that came from. Perhaps it’s all real and I just picked something up, an overheard comment or a vibe deep in my soul. But really, my inspiration comes from all over the place. An overheard snippet, reading a text book, a bit of history or even a news item will spark off the question that is most important to a writer.

ImageThe question? “What if…?” That’s the one. It’s the exciting time when you marry two unlikely ideas, or you add one and one and get an infinite variety of answers. Which is probably why many writers don’t make good mathematicians! The kind of lateral thinking that goes, “Oh, that’s interesting…” and then something starts to work. Never say never, and during the creative process, never say “No.” Go with it until you either hit a brick wall, or, like Dorothy, you find yourself in a new world of colour and possibilities.

There’s also the author’s motto that goes along with the question. “I can use that.” Keep a notebook, mental, paper or electronic. It really doesn’t matter as long as it works for you. I’ve been known to jot ideas on my wrist with the nearest pen, too scared that I’ll forget it before I get home!

The other person involved in this project is my editor, Amy Sherwood of Samhain Publishing, who saw the concept along with me. I’ve already written the second book, about the god/ marquis Bacchus, and the third has been accepted. Amy is an aider and abetter, someone who loves myths and history as much as I do and can see the potential in blending the two.

Which gods would you like to see turned into eighteenth century aristocrats? And why?


Lightning Unbound is available from Samhain Publishing here. You can read an excerpt on Lynne’s website and buy it at Amazon here and all other good outlets. It’s currently out in eformat, and will be available in print shortly.


That brings us to the end of our US-themed week. Thank you to Rhoda Baxter and Lynne Connolly for their time and their valuable advice. We wish you both every success with your new novels (and back catalogues, of course). Wishing all our readers in the US or with links to the US a Happy 4th of July tomorrow with lots of fireworks and festivities!

Julie & Alys