Saturday Spotlight: Diane Saxon talks to us about bringing the dream alive – and the cowboys in her head…

DSC_0066 author pic

Today we’re delighted to have as our guest Diane Saxon, author of spicy contemporary romance novels including the best-selling Loving Lydia, published by Liquid Silver Books.

Diane lives in an enviably beautiful part of the Shropshire countryside, not far from last summer’s RNA conference venue, Harper Adams University, as I discovered when I happened to sit next to her in one of the conference workshops.  Diane’s books sizzle with devastatingly attractive heroes but they wouldn’t have come to life had not her own real-life hero, her husband whom she describes as tall, dark and handsome, insisted she give up the demanding day-job and follow her dream of becoming a writer.

I asked The Write Romantics what questions they’d like to put to Diane and, surprise, surprise, the spicy side of things was uppermost in their minds!  Over to you, Diane.

Hi, thank you so much for asking me to join you here today. It was an absolute pleasure to read the questions from The Write Romantics and I had fun answering them.

When did you first have that dream of becoming a writer, and what was the demanding career you gave up in order to fulfil it?

I’m not sure I understand myself when I had the “dream”. I can only say it came alive the day I put pen to paper and made it happen. I’m not one of those people who can say I’ve written all of my life. I haven’t. But I have read all of my life, and I have fantasized and when we moved house last year, I found a small scene I had in my drawer from when I had my eldest daughter. Twenty-two years it took me to turn that small amount of scribbling into a book – Flynn’s Kiss, published in April 2014.

The demanding career – an Office and H.R. Manager. Two hours travel a day, plus phone calls every evening and with the ability to work from a home computer, submitting PAYE etc, I was frequently up until after midnight, or on-line before six in the morning.

As relatively new writers, The Write Romantics are well used to clawing their way through the submissions process and we’re always intrigued to know how others achieved their ‘breakthrough’ and what happened when they got ‘the call’.  How was it for you?

lovinglydia_(5)Unbelievable. Really.  I made several submissions of Loving Lydia and had two American publishers interested within three weeks.  I was on my own when I received the news and I still hippy chick danced around my house. The first stage was a request for an R&R and I can confess, I worked my socks off to make that manuscript right. Next came the contract and the boogie dance became even more frantic. I cannot describe the thrill of getting that first contract, but seeing the front cover of the book made it a reality. Loving Lydia’s front cover was exactly what I imagined.

I would advise any new writer to do their research. This is not a standard CV you are sending out to employers to see if their criteria matches yours. It is far, far more complex and if there is one thing I can lay claim to, it is the ability to put my “business head” on.  When you send in your submission, check what THEY are asking you for. This could make the difference between an automatic rejection and a contract.  Every single submission I have made has been different. Read and re-read their requirements. I cannot emphasise it enough.

Why did you choose your particular genre and what appeals to you about it?

Romance has always appealed, from the moment my sister, Margaret, read The Princess Bride to me when I was ten. Even then, the slight naughty thrill and humour struck a chord and perpetuated when I realised those slim books my mother took from the library each week contained stories to melt a young heart. I can’t tell you every teenager does this. In my class at school nobody seemed to know the whispered words of Mills & Boon. It was my secret thrill, my escape. By the age of fourteen, I’d moved on to Wilbur Smith – great volumes. I didn’t read his books, I lived them.  An avid reader, I took advice and books from Margaret, read them with as much enthusiasm as she did and fell into the romance. As we matured, so did our choice in material. When we discovered Nora Roberts, we opened a whole new world of American authors, where romance, like real life could be naughty.

Did the genre in any way influence your decision to sign with a US publisher?

To be honest, not really. Like any author looking for a publisher I did my research. I sent my manuscript to the publishers I believed would be best for the book I had written. My Atlantic Divide Series is based on one American protagonist and one English.  When Liquid Silver signed me, I re-wrote the entire story in US English.

Your books so far have been published within an impressively short time-scale.  How many hours do you spend writing in a day, and do you have set times when you like to write?

I write every day. My best time is between 7.00 am and 1.00pm. Revisions and editing take place in the evening, but my artistic flow seems stronger in the morning. Thinking time, developing a scene, creating dialogue comes when I walk my Dalmatian, Skye, for hours at a time. I always take a notebook and have been known to record scenes, but I find this less natural than writing it down.

On your blog you say you write ‘contemporary romance, stories with humour, and quite often a cowboy or two’.  OK, so, why cowboys?

Oh, now this is where I start to sound a little mad, but authors out there will understand. Loving Lydia is the first in my Atlantic Divide Series. When I started to write, I had the idea that a young woman with a horrific background would join her sister in America and her life would change. I had no pre-conceived ideas, but when she landed at the airport, a cowboy was waiting.  That cowboy, gorgeous, gentle, understanding Sam, dictated the rest of the book to me and when I write, I have a cowboy in my head.

Do you enjoy writing your series books more than singles titles, and is it something you plan to continue in the future?

Absolutely, my cowboys and I won’t be parted. I’m currently writing the next in my Disarmed and Dangerous Series, where cowboys are always present, and even now, I know where the next in that series is coming from.  As for my single titles, I love them just as much. But where they are a flash of imagination, content to end, my Series are a dream intent on visiting me every night and expanding to the horizon, and beyond.

Do you have a tried and trusted approach to writing a brand new novel?  Do you invent the characters before the plot, or vice versa, and do you have to know the ending before you begin?

I am what’s classed as a panster. In other words, I fly by the seat of my pants. Or so I thought, until recently when I realised I do have a system. I may not sit and plot and scrawl notes, but my stories are character driven. I meet my main character on one of my long walks and we get to know each other very well before I put pen to paper. I know the start of my story, I know my character, and I know the end. What happens in between, is more often than not a surprise.

Are there any other genres you’d like to try in the future?

Oh my goodness, where to start? First of all, I have a new short story, part of an anthology due which is now out on pre-release (see below). I’ve never been one to stick to a single reading genre – read twelve historical and I want to see a thriller, a paranormal, a comedy. So why should I keep to one sub-genre for writing? Romance is romance.

My new release – For Heaven’s Cakes – is a humorous paranormal with a shape-shifting wolf.  Following on from this, I have a full paranormal romance novel with a shape-shifting dragon and a screaming banshee that I’ve just finished. And in January, my time-travelling sci-fi/dystopian short story Short Circuit Time is due for release by Hartwood Publishing.  I’ve also just finished an historical romance, more about that another day.  And between you and me, I started writing a thriller long before Loving Lydia was conceived. It’s far longer than the others, and much darker. This is my goal for 2015. To finish the thriller.          (Read more about Diane’s latest books below).

And finally, can you give us any advice on how to write good sex scenes?  (Well, we had to ask!)

Yes. But it’s not sex. It’s love. I write romance, first and foremost, with happily ever after endings and sex is an integral part of that relationship. I imagine a camera rolling, a beautiful film playing out for our hearts to become involved in, our imaginations to fill in the gaps.  Even when my main characters have not declared any love interest in each other, if they have sex, they are already emotionally involved. The reader will know that, even if the character doesn’t yet.  Don’t be afraid. Grab a glass of wine and a bar of chocolate. (Not at 7.00 am obviously) Close your eyes and let your own imagination roll. Write what comes into your head and flows through your fingers. If you don’t like it later, you can delete the scene, but if you restrict that imagination, allow the thoughts of “what will people think?” and “is this sentence construction correct?” interfere, then it will show in your writing and your scene will feel contrived.  Just as I write humour in my stories, I don’t exclude it in my love scenes. If something wants to be funny, let it.


You can find out more about Diane at and follow her on Facebook and Twitter here:   @Diane_Saxon

And if you’d like the chance to win one of Diane’s books, see the end of this post!


Paranormally Yours, is available on pre-release right now.  Find it here:

Amazon UK:

All Romance:

For Heaven’s Cakes by Diane Saxon

Twelve years of living in Ireland smoothed Beau’s rough edges, and hard work as a construction worker made him a wealthy man. The call of his pack is stronger than he can resist though, and he isn’t averse to returning to show his small home town in America what he’s made of himself.

What he doesn’t anticipate is meeting the local pharmacist’s daughter – in his wolf form. By day, he renovates the pharmacy, and tries to cajole the lush assistant into having dinner with him. By night he watches Catherine bake her fantastic creations and blossom through her art.

Sleeping on her bed each night in his wolf form isn’t exactly ideal, but how does he tell her the wolf she’s come to love, is the man she lusts over?


Beau dipped his head…

Just as he thought. She tasted of warm spices and honeyed wine. He moved his lips against her full, soft ones, and closed his eyes in ecstasy. Yes. He’d known she’d taste that way. He deepened the kiss, and pulled her lush body in closer so he could feel every rounded curve pressed against him.

He cupped the back of her head in his hand and twined his fingers through her silken hair. He tilted his head to get a better angle, slipped his tongue inside her mouth, and rejoiced at the faint mewl she emitted. The woman was full of little sounds. He squeezed her, and delighted as the mewl turned to a groan.

He smoothed his hand down her back, took a hold of one cheek of the fine ass he’d admired, and molded it to bring her hips flush against his.

Coming Soon…  Short Circuit Time

In the year 2086, Zaphira is alone, the last survivor of biological warfare on Earth. Before he died, her scientist father promised other survivors would come. Nobody has. So when a horribly mangled android shows up claiming to be her father’s assistant, Aiden, who has been sent through time to rescue her, she’s both frightened and astounded.  The last time she’d seen Aiden, she’d been sixteen, head-over-heels in love with him and had literally thrown herself at him, leaving her devastated by his rejection and him running for the hills. The following day, she’d been told of his death.  Eight years later he’s miraculously back, this time asking for her help. Without it, he won’t survive. But can she really put a dead man back together with tweezers?


Thank you, Diane, for being our guest today.  It’s been fun and we wish you continued success with your books.


But before we go, today’s Saturday Spotlight comes with an exciting bonus and I believe it’s a first for us on the blog!  I’ll leave Diane to tell us all about it:

First, I’d like to thank Write Romantics for inviting me along. I’ve had a blast answering these questions. Then I want to thank you, the reader, for taking the time to drop in and visit.

Leave a comment telling me what your favourite sub-genre is with your contact details (email address) and I will send one lucky winner an e-copy of either my anthology or any one of my backlist.

(To leave a comment, click on Comments at the end of the tags below)

Keeper of the Light by Diane Chamberlain

I really enjoyed this book. It’s not your standard romance, though there is romance in it in a really unusual form. It’s very plot driven, and boy what a plot!

Whilst Olivia is working in an emergency room as a doctor, a gunshot victim is bought in. The patient is Annie O’Neil, who Olivia recognises as the woman her husband is infatuated with.

There is a bit of disagreement between Olivia and the other trauma doctor on duty. He thinks they should leave Annie to be flown to a better resourced trauma department as they usually do, Olivia feels she won’t make the journey and tries to help her straight away.

Olivia does her best and we follow a tense few minutes whilst Olivia tries to save the woman, but to no avail, Annie dies. This sets off a trail of events that have a knock on effect on not only Olivia and her family, but the family of the dead woman herself.

There are many twists and turns in this story, it kept me gripped right to the end! The author has a knack of writing with real emotional intensity that gets you right to the heart of the matter, dealing with marital breakup and betrayal. She creates good, believable characters who have their own individual quirks, they’re as flawed as the rest of us and fascinating reading.

The author is American and some of the words she uses are unfamiliar to me but I quite liked that, it’s a bit different. I didn’t go to the effort of finding out what they meant, I just took them in context and it didn’t bother me.

Before she was a writer the author was a medical social worker and psychotherapist and I think this really shows through in her work, she has an uncommon depth of understanding, yet puts it over in an engaging way.

This is a heart breaking tale of life, loss and love. I was totally pulled into the story and loved it from beginning to end. Thankfully it’s the first of a trilogy. I’ll certainly be reading more from Diane Chamberlain.

Lizzie Lamb on teamwork, the glass ceiling, and that Waterstones event!

Today on the blog we’re talking to the fabulous Lizzie Lamb. Lizzie is a truly inspirational character – a fantastic writer and a whizz at social networking and marketing, as well as being a genuinely lovely lady. As part of the New Romantics Press (formerly the New Romantics 4), Lizzie has recently flown the flag for indie writers everywhere by hosting an author event at Waterstones, Kensington, no less! We were thrilled when she agreed to appear on our blog and had a lot of questions we wanted to put to her. So without further ado, over to Lizzie.blog3

1. Tell us more about the New Romantics Press. How did you meet? What made you form an “indie powerhouse” together?

Originally, three of us: Mags Cullingford, June Kearns and I were members of Leicester Writers’ Club and the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme. Adrienne Vaughan joined the RNA, came along to one of the chapter meetings which June and I organised at Grange Farm in Oadby. The rest – as they say, is history. As members of the NWS we were constantly polishing and re-polishing the first three chapters of our novels and synopsis with a view to sending them out to agents. Amanda Grange (RNA chapter member and author of over 25 novels) advised us to grasp the nettle and self-publish through Amazon. This we did. I think we work well as a team because we bring different strengths and skills to the group; we are also good friends which helps – but we don’t live in each other’s pockets which probably helps, too.

2. Did you seek a more traditional publishing deal or has it been indie all the way for you?

In the 1980’s I was looking for an agent and did in fact have one – Dot Lumley. Unfortunately, I couldn’t give my writing the time it deserved. I was Deputy Head teacher of a large primary school and that took up all my time. So, we parted company (amicably) and I settled down to furthering my teaching career for the next 16 years. Now, I enjoy being an indie author and I don’t know if I would be willing to give that up unless I could find an agent/publisher who could offer me a really good deal. Maybe after I’ve finished and published number three in 2015 I might think again about it.

blog43. We’re thrilled to hear about your Waterstones news. Tell us more!

Adrienne and I attended a book launch at Waterstones, Kensington, in the summer and boldly asked if we could host an author event there. The lovely manager said: YES. I think it was probably the appeal of four indie authors appearing together and offering four different sub-genres of romance which landed us the gig. I write rom coms, Adrienne romantic adventure, June historical and Mags women’s fiction. But, who knows? I think he just liked the cut of our collective jib, okayed it with head office and on we went. We’d already had a mini-launch in Waterstones, Mkt Harborough, in February 2014 and were on ‘the system’, which helped. We believe that they are no longer adding new indie authors to their data base – but I stand to be corrected on that one.

4. What have you been able to do/experience differently as an indie writer that you may not have done/experienced through a traditional publishing deal?

We can choose our own covers, set our own price (and raise and lower it) as we wish and as our book sales fluctuate. I have been able to order paperback copies through Create Space as I see fit, whereas some of the agents I’ve spoken to have said the POD would be up to my publisher to decide. I don’t simply want my novels to be available for e-readers, having paperbacks is important to me as I sell them at talks etc which I give to writing groups. And, with Create Space you can order one book or one hundred – it’s that flexible.
We can also say, no – we don’t want to give our books away for free, thank you, as a promotional tool. Or to settle for 35% royalties (or less) when we can get 70% off Amazon. We can also write the book we want with the characters we believe in; I’m not sure how easy it would be handing over my novel and being told to edit it to suit the market/ an agent/editor without any guarantees that the changes would make a better book, or sell more copies. I respond to what my readers tell me that they like about my novels. I also know, to the day, how many books I’ve sold, what I’ve earned and where the sales need boosting – thanks to Amazon’s daily sales figures. I don’t think I’d like to have to wait for quarterly sales figures from my publisher. I can also make the most of Kindle Countdown, Kindle Lending Library and Kindle Unlimited because I’ve stayed exclusively with Amazon. Lots of writers would disagree, but KDP Select works for me. Now – if I could just get a WHITE GLOVE DEAL, I’d be in clover.

5. Conversely, is there anything you haven’t been able to do/experience as an indie writer compared to traditional publishing?

There is a definite ‘glass ceiling’ which is hard to break through. For example, getting my novel into bookshops and libraries (those that are left!), although Waterstones, Kensington, has agreed to take three of each of my novels to see how things go – and have kindly agreed to put my books out on their Romance Table. It would be nice to be reviewed in some of the women’s magazines and to be offered a Kindle Daily Deal with the weight of Amazon behind me. But those things seem to be offered almost exclusively via one’s publisher. I would also like to graduate from the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme and become a full member, albeit it a self-published one. But I don’t know how much longer I’m prepared to wait for that to happen. I heavily promote my novels across all media sites and I gather that traditionally published authors are expected to do that in any case. Oh, and, an advance would be nice – thank you very much.
Establishing myself as an indie author has been quite expensive. Some of this cost could have been borne by my publishers – proof reading, formatting for kindle, buying images and producing a front cover and so on. All of the above are allowable expenses against earnings, of course, but you need a pot of money to get you started.

6. As a collective of ten, The Write Romantics find the support we can give each other absolutely invaluable. What value have you found in being part of a group of writers?

Help is just a phone call away. Literally. Adrienne and I talk most nights after she’s finished work, June and I meet regularly for coffee, chat daily over the phone and read our work out to each other and Mags is always on hand to give another perspective to my ideas for taking the group forward. Being a ‘collective’ also means we can ‘divi’ up the jobs, blog posts, promo and so on and spread the workload around a bit. When I lose belief in what I’m doing, I know I can call on ‘the team’ to give me the support I need to keep going. We also have four of us finding out new things about the self-publishing industry and sharing them with each other. Having a ‘tweet team’ helps enormously, too. Going it alone is do-able, but so much more hard work than being part of a team.

7. What does a “typical” day look like for you? (E.g. do you always write in a morning, say, or only check social media at certain times of the day?)

I am one of those annoying people – a LARK. I’m usually at my pc straight after breakfast when I check all the social sites I belong to and comment. Then, after my husband (aka Bongo Man) tells me how many sales I’ve clocked up overnight, I tailor my tweets, blog posts accordingly. I write throughout the day in ‘snatches’, to give my eyes a break from the screen. I very rarely write in the evenings, preferring to watch movies and to recharge my batteries. We have recently bought a second hand caravan and hope to do it up a bit over the winter and then take off into sunset next spring. I always take my trusty pc with me wherever I go as I find if I don’t write for a week, getting back into the novel is hard for me. When in the caravan I generally check emails in the morning and respond, have the day exploring the location where we’ve camped, and then write in the afternoons while Bongo Man and the parrot (yes, he comes with us) chill out at the other end of the caravan. Does the snoring annoy me? Oh yes!

8. Is there a pivotal moment when you can say that you truly felt you were a writer?

I was having coffee with June and Amanda Grange in a local café when Bongo Man joined us with the proof copy of Tall, Dark and Kilted, which had just arrived. My hands were shaking as I couldn’t believe that my book was finally in my sticky little hands. Magic. When I wrote and published my first blog post, joined the Society of Authors and people started asking me for writing advice were pivotal moments, too. I would have to say that our Author Event in Waterstones in November was the icing on the cake for all of us.blog1

9. What’s been your greatest reader interaction moment and why?

It has to be the email I received from a reader in ISTANBUL. She’d read Tall, Dark and Kilted and had cried so much at the end that her husband thought she’d received bad news over the phone. I hope to publish the email in full one day on my blog. I think the other ‘moment’ is when the most unlikely people tell me they’ve downloaded, read and loved my book. By unlikely I mean people who I would never have dreamed would read romance, let alone my novels. I am also quite overwhelmed by the love and support I receive from the ladies I’ve befriended on Facebook. They buy my novels, leave me reviews on Amazon and spread the word amongst their friends. The best kind of social networking IMHO.

10. What challenges have you faced as an English woman writing about Scotland and Scottish characters?

I’ve been giving this one some thought. I was born in Scotland and lived there until I was eleven. My family are Scots and I’ve been surrounded by ‘Scottishness’ all my life. If you are English and want to write about Scotland the best thing is to GO THERE. Although, conversely, Diane Gabadon who writes the Outlander series and D.K. Broster who wrote the Jacobite trilogy The Flight of the Heron etc had never visited Scotland before they wrote their novels. Immerse yourself in Scottish history, movies and read Scottish themed novels by other authors to get a feel of what feels real for you. Scout charity bookshops and purchase large picture books of Scotland and thumb through those for inspiration. Use Google Earth to inform what you write about the landscape and the weather. Be aware of the difference between those Scots who live in the Central Belt and those who live in the Highlands and Islands, their accents are different as is their outlook on life and how they speak. I like to include some Scottish Gaelic phrase in my writing and am lucky enough to have a native Gaelic speaker who helps me with this. Always double check your research if you’re weaving Scottish history into your novel. I’ll give you an example of this: I read a Scottish themed novel recently where the author referred to the hero’s sporran as his codpiece (!) and her copy editor/ publishers hadn’t picked up on it. Hoots Mon!

11. What does the future hold for you and for the New Romantics Press?
My ambition is to write six novels. Three set in Scotland and three set in Norfolk. Then I will market them as box sets. Once I have three novels under my belt with attendant sales figures, I might think of approaching some of the larger literary agencies to see what they can offer me, and take it from there. As for the NRP – originally, we all published our novels at the same time and held joint book launches, but we all work at different paces and that is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain. We will continue to support each other and to promote ourselves as the New Romantics Press because we think that more accurately reflects who we are and where we are headed. Whatever happens, we will always be there for each other and our friendship and support for each other will continue.

Lots of writerly support!

Lots of writerly support!

12. What advice would you give to any writers out there considering an indie route?

Think carefully before you set out on this journey. If, as a writer, all you want is a copy of your novel to pass round your friends and relatives, that’s achievable with a little help and lots of hard work. HOWEVER, if you want to make a career of it – be prepared for a hard slog: promoting your current novel(s) and writing THE NEXT ONE. I try to aim for a novel a year, allowing for health and family commitments. In many ways, I’ve been lucky – I had all my social networking ducks in a row before I published so I was able to promote myself and the other New Romantics – if you are doing that from a standing start it can be quite overwhelming. Meet with other writers, learn from them but, ultimately, know who you are and what you want to write. Glue your derriere to the chair and get on with it.




Thank you so much for talking to us today, Lizzie! The Write Romantics are great admirers of The New Romantics Press and we wish all four of you continued success.



Boot Camp Bride – Romance and Intrigue on the Norfolk marshes – November 2013
Tall, Dark and Kilted – Notting Hill Meets Monarch of the Glen – 2012
Hocus Pocus 14 short story anthology
Lizzie’s Links
Amazon page:
Linked in:
twitter: @lizzie_lamb twitter: @newromantics4

Fairies in the Garden

My parents have been married for sixty years this Christmas. Sixty years! How the world has changed since they first set foot in the home where my four siblings and myself grew up. Moseley Villa was an old rambling house in Stoke on Trent, in a street where the rich industrialists lived, away from the smoke and grime of the Pot Banks in the Victorian era.
Along with ‘The Pink Room’ and ‘The Blue Room’ and many bedrooms, it had a large cellar where we ‘wintered’ cooking apples picked from our apple orchard, a scary attic room which I was assured was haunted by a resident mop-capped ghost and a box room, where all sorts of treasures hid. Frost coated the inside of our windows in beautiful swirling patterns in winter and we used to put our school clothes inside our beds to warm up- often getting dressed under the covers, morphing from a sleepy child to a smart school girl with porridge on her mind.
Outside in our back garden chickens and rabbits roamed freely around the orchard, eating the wild strawberries and lettuces we tried to grow, and we each had a small garden to tend. My garden grew harebells and bluebells and I remember playing ‘fairies’ for hours with imaginary fairies that lived under the flowers, placing tiny strawberries on a broken piece of Rich Tea biscuit, convincing myself that they would eat the food when I’d gone.
We weren’t well off as my dad left ‘The Mitch’ (Michelin Tyres still have their head office in Stoke) to retrain as a teacher, a salary that would hardly cover five growing children’s needs – I have a vivid image in my mind of my mum sitting by the sewing machine; ‘running up’ new skirts, dresses and turning down trousers; no shop bought clothes for us!
We lived off home made meat pies and the infamous Potteries ‘lobby,’ thin stew made up of whatever vegetables were available and maybe a mutton bone to flavour it. Pudding was invariably, a baked apple, egg custard baked in the Rayburn or jam roly-poly. I guess in those days it was the way to fill your children’s bellies; comfort food that would stretch a long way. My mum ate tripe, brawn and pigs trotters and my dad was partial to a conger eel steak, but we turned our noses up at such things and don’t think to this day that I’ve ever tried any of them.
Few people in our street had a telephone or a fridge let alone a car and it was a day to remember when dad turned into our road driving a Citroen DS with a hydraulic suspension, and leopard skin seat covers that scratched your legs like you wouldn’t believe. We were very proud children that day. (The fact that it was French made it much more glamorous, too.)
Dad took us to Ironbridge to show us the spectacular bridge, to Shrewsbury to look at the river Severn in hope of seeing the Severn Bore and to Chester to walk the city walls (he was a teacher, after all) but really, all we wanted to do was shop in Chelsea Girl or C and A, but I treasure those memories now.
I went to look at our old house last year and was sad to see the back garden and orchard is now a small collection of flats with a variety of coloured curtains at the windows and push bikes and prams haphazardly scattered. Gone were the apple trees and the chicken coop and there was no sign of my well-tended patch of magic. I do hope someone else is now looking after the fairies and have discovered that it’s only the tiny, wild strawberries they like to eat – they never bothered with the Rich Tea biscuits!

Plastic trees, shag-pile disasters and possible lead paint poisoning – Yes, it’s ‘nearly’ Christmas!

Jo Bartlett Amazon 1Remember when we were kids and the countdown to Christmas was calculated in shopping days? Now that we live in a 24/7 culture, we can just talk in plain old days. Right now, I can tell you there are thirty eight of them left. That still seems like a long time to go, right? And far too early to be talking about Santa Claus, turkeys or over-done sprouts. As far as the latter is concerned, it’s always too early for me. But, since today marks the official release of my Christmas novella, I am going to try to get festive and put you in the mood, in the hope that you might forget yourself, go crazy, splash out 77p and download a copy.

As a believer in you-know-who, in the late 70s, I knew how to write a Christmas list. Although my mum would tell you that her generation knew the true meaning of Christmas – something about a walnut, an orange and being grateful to have them in your stocking – I’m just as likely to tell my children that my childhood spanned the real ‘good old days’, as far as Christmas is concerned. I remember waiting all year for Santa to bring me a Tiny Tears doll and I loved her, when she finally turned up on the 25th December 1978, almost as if her tears weren’t the only ‘real’ thing about her.

These days, my children want everything, but don’t really *want* anything at all. My nine year old will put his initials next to hundreds of things in the Argos catalogue. I’ve told him more than once that it would be quicker, and save ink, if he were to put his initials next to the things he doesn’t want. They get allowances and treats from grandmas and aunts, so, more often than not, they can buy what they want during the course of the year. I feel sorry for them, in a way, as they’ll never know that torturous wait for the one toy they truly want above all others and the sheer joy that accompanies its arrival.

The piles of presents have shrunk in size as my children have grown older, although the price hasn’t. iPods, iPhones, iPads, iReally-wish-I-had-shares-in-Apple, don’t look nearly as impressive in their wrapping as wooden train sets or Barbie’s deluxe town house. But, now that I’m a grown up, at least I get to make some of the decisions. Back in the era that taste forgot, my mum wouldn’t let us have a real Christmas tree, in case the pine needles got stuck in the cream shag-pile carpet. We weren’t allowed to put together the artificial tree until the twenty-something of December, either, and each year that passed the complicated colour coding system (probably lead paint) had flaked off a bit (making construction more tricky) and many of the artificial pine needles had found a new home nestling in the loft insulation.

Now the decorations go up as close to the 1st December as possible and, when the wood burner allows it to survive the M4034S-4211heat, we have a real tree. Not that I’m completely guilt free when it comes to my own children at Christmas. A good example of this would be the card I produced back when my youngest was just a baby – making all four children pose for a nativity scene outside my mum’s garden shed! Now aged, 16, 14, 13 and 9, I would have zero chance of recreating it this year. It’s all about the puckered-lip, fish-faced selfie, as far as my teens are concerned. But this photo is just one of the wonderful memories we have and something we still laugh about almost a decade later.

Four years ago to this very day, I received a cancer diagnosis that changed my life and, because I suddenly realised I was a mere mortal and that time is finite for everyone, I thought about the things I really wanted to do. One of those things was to fulfil a childhood dream of writing a novel and seeing it in print but, most of all, I just wanted to be around to see my children grow up and live to enjoy a misspent retirement with my husband. Christmas, and life in general, would be nothing without my friends, family and those absolutely dearest to me – my husband and children.

‘The Gift of Christmas Yet to Come’ is set in the present day, rather than the 70s, but it’s about those same special bonds and one woman’s search to complete the missing piece of her family. It’s also about the humour in life and the things people do that only those you really love can get away with and live to tell the tale.

Back when I was growing up, you could probably have bought a Sloe Gin Fizz for 77p and maybe even a whiskey chaser but, today, it wouldn’t stretch to a cup of tea in most places. So, for that little bit of warmth, and to kick-start an early Christmas, you could always check out the novella on Amazon instead via this link. Frankly, that’s as hard as my hard sell is likely to get…

Anthology coverTo counter that shameless self-promotion, there are some other fantastic books out at the moment, too, from those I would count on that list of special people in my life this Christmas – my friends – including The Write Romantics’ Anthology, Helen Phifer’s latest in the ‘Annie Graham’ series, Deirdre Palmer (aka Harriet James’) ‘Falling to Earth’, Steve Dunn’s ‘Viking Resurrection’ and debuts by Kerry Fisher, Jane LythellRachael Thomas and Sarah Lewis. Plenty to keep you warm this Christmas yet to come.

An extra-specially merry Christmas to my fantastic beta readers too – Julie, Lynne, Paula, Jennie and Steve – Sharon, for the endless encouragement and cheerleading, plus my old school friends – Sarah, Kate and Claire – who inadvertently helped plant the seeds of the idea for this story.

I hope you have good one, too, and watch out for those pine needles in the shag-pile.

Jo x

Saturday Spotlight: Alison Morton on Romans, self-publishing and the butterfly effect

We’re excited to welcome Alison Morton to the blog today.  She is the author of the Roma Nova series of alternative history thrillers.  As the first alt history writer we’ve had on the blog we thought we’d start by asking about that.  Over to Alison…


What is ‘alternate history’ and why did you want to write it?

It’s where the historic timeline has split at a ‘point of divergence’ in the past and the new timeline follows a different path from the one we know. Classic ones are what if the Germans had won the Second World War, or the Spanish Armada had succeeded in 1588? I sometimes wonder how English history would have developed if Elizabeth I had married and had children…

Sometimes, the change in history could have been caused by something quite small, but which eventually had a huge impact – the ‘butterfly effect’. In my Roma Nova books 400 Romans trekked north in AD 395 to found a new colony; their descendants survived into the 21st century and their existence has changed the rest of the world.

And why I wrote my thrillers in such a setting? I didn’t know you could change or ‘alternate’ the historical narrative until I read Robert Harris’ Fatherland. Perhaps my idea of a women-led modern Roman society could turn into a real story…

What gave you the original idea for the Roma Nova series? 

I was 11 years old and on holiday in north-east Spain. Fascinated by the mosaics in Ampurias, I asked my father, “What would it be like if Roman women were in charge, instead of the men?” Maybe it was the fierce sun boiling my brain, maybe early feminism peeping out or maybe just a precocious kid asking a smart-arse question. But clever man and senior ‘Roman nut’, my father replied, “What do you think it would be like?”

That idea bubbled away in my head until the novel writing trigger was pushed in 2009.

AMM Ampurias 1_sm

Have you always had a great interest in Roman history? 

Yes! I think I clambered over every Roman ruin in Europe with my parents, but I loved it. So much that was left was elegant and solid; their history so concrete and purposeful.

As I grew older and studied the Romans more formally, I appreciated what a complex, clever and determined society they had made. ‘Rome’ in the West lasted for 1229 years – that’s the equivalent of from AD 785 to today. It passed from mud hut tribal subsistence farming to the heights of the Pax Romana with its rule of law, art and literature, trade, engineering, and ability to learn; Romans set the template for the western nations that emerged over the following centuries.

I don’t want to sound too much like the John Cleese video, but you get the idea I’m impressed! However, we should remember not everybody lived well, especially at the lower end of the social spectrum, but the majority of people had a standard of living that wasn’t achieved again until the nineteenth century.

How much research do you do for each book?
In my stories, the standard timeline had diverged 1600 years previously in AD 395. This gave me a known baseline of the end of the fourth century so I researched the social, economic and political conditions of that time. By then, much had changed, even the everyday stuff like coinage; solidi had replaced sestertii and denarii, for instance. Regional government was localising with ‘barbarian’ warlords acting less like client kings of Rome and more like autonomous leaders. The late fourth century was much less secure and prosperous than in the golden years of Vespasian’s or Trajan’s rule.

I had to consider what would seem important to the Roma Nova colonists in those transitional times: security, food, and hope, ultimately survival. Their core Roman values would have bolstered them and formed a social glue while they struggled for existence. Thus, I had to be sure what those values were and what Roman history was to that point.

And finally, a good general knowledge of/addiction to European history came in very handy!


Why did you decide to self-publish?

I was getting full reads and ‘good’ rejections; “fresh, intelligent writing”, tight dialogue”, “good action sequences”, from agents and small publishers. I even had a full read from a US agent! Most concerns were about how to market “such innovative, high concept stories”.

My first book, INCEPTIO, had been through the RNA New Writers’ Scheme as well as other professional assessments. I was burning to get my stories in front of readers – they are the ultimate arbiters, so I investigated self-publishing.  I wanted my books to be have the higher possible production values and I opted for assisted publishing with SilverWood Books.

The main disadvantages of self-publishing are the terrible twins of visibility and discoverablilty, ultimately, of not being in the bookshops. The other one is bearing the cost of marketing. But the benefits are freedom, including the freedom to make horrible mistakes, but also to make decisions about your book at all stages, and the flexibility to choose timing to suit you and the proportion of your input into production.

What advice would you give any writer who is considering self-publishing?

Sleep a lot now because you won’t have any time once you start! Serious self-publishing is for the self-driven, but there is a lot of support out there whether you’re doing it completely DIY or using a publishing services provider. Two places to research options would be The Alliance of Independent Authors and The Independent Publishing Magazine.

Essentials include a properly designed cover, a thorough edit from an experienced and recommended editor and a well-formatted book. Readers hate trashy looking books and cannot abide bad formatting. Worst of all they are critical of overblown, ungrammatical prose, and rightly so.

As much as, or really more so than, traditionally published authors, self-published authors need to build a strong online presence. Even if you commission print books for local hand-selling or marketing purposes, the majority of your sales will be ebooks online. So start your blog now, open up a Facebook author page and get tweeting. I started my blog ( on World Book Day three years before my first book, INCEPTIO, came out. When I launched INCEPTIO, I had a crowd of ready-made supporters to help me. But you may find you’re spending 50% of your time on promotion.

How do you go about promoting your novels?

Social media, talks, library and bookshop events, local fairs, fetes, etc. and writing articles. And, of course, appearing on blogs like The Write Romantics!

What’s been your most exciting moment as a writer? 

Can I have three? I really can’t choose!
– The arrival of the box of my first book, INCEPTIO.


–  Simon Scarrow agreeing to endorse PERFIDITAS, my second book


–  Broadcaster Sue Cook interviewing me at the launch of my third book, SUCCESSIO.

Sue Cook_Alison Morton

You can check out the video of the interview here

What are your future plans?

Well, I’m finishing the first draft of book 4 in the Roma Nova series, set in the 1960s and 1970s. Romance does not run smoothly for our new heroine…

Then there are two more planned in my head.

Thank you so much for having me on Write Romantics – do feel free to ask me anything you like about Roma Nova, research or self-publishing here or via my site

Alison Morton writes Roman-themed alternate history thrillers with strong heroines. She holds a bachelor’s degree in French, German and Economics, a masters’ in history and lives in France with her husband.

INCEPTIO, the first in the Roma Nova series, which was also shortlisted for the 2013 International Rubery Book Award, and PERFIDITAS, the second in series, have been honoured with the B.R.A.G. Medallion®, an award for independent fiction that rejects 90% of its applicants. INCEPTIO and PERFIDITAS were shortlisted for Writing Magazine’s 2014 Self-Publishing Book of the Year Award. Alison’s third book, SUCCESSIO, which came out in June 2014, was selected as the Historical Novel Society’s indie Editor’s Choice for Autumn 2014 and has also been awarded the B.R.A.G. Medallion.

Connect with Alison on her blog

Facebook author page

Twitter @alison-morton

You can buy the Roma Nova series as follows:

INCEPTIO_front cover_300dpi_520x802


Perfiditas - Front Cover_520x800


SUCCESSIO cover300dpi_520x800


Wednesday Wondering – Life Before Writing

Hello and welcome to our monthly Wednesday Wondering. The WRs all long to be full-time authors and, with the book deals coming in thick and fast, this could be a reality one day. Soon, please! Being an author certainly wasn’t on my career plans when I was little. I was going to be a nurse. I had a nurse’s dress-up uniform and first aid kit and loved taking care of my dolls and teddies. A lot of little girls want to be nurses then say they get put off by the sight of blood or needles. These don’t really bother me but something else does. Vomit. I have a phobia about it. It’s a real phobia. It has a name! Emetophobia is the fear of being sick or of other people being sick. I’d have quite liked to be a primary school teacher too and I got put off it for exactly the same reason. Ridiculous eh? As I’ve got older, I’ve learned to control it a bit better; I had a child so there’s no choice really!

P1050873So after rejecting nursing and teaching, I got this idea of being a private secretary. I’d taken typewriting as a GCSE at school and liked the idea of being a PA/Secretary who’d jet off all over the world with my boss. I applied to technical college with the intention of studying a secretarial course but the husband of one of my mum’s friends was a lecturer there and suggested that, as I was expecting good grades at school, I might consider a BTEC in Business & Finance instead. I loved the sound of it, enrolled, and it shaped my career. I then wanted to be a bank manager. I became one … sort of … as I became a manager in financial services but in HQ rather than a branch. Much more me.

As for writing, I only started to think of it as a career a decade ago but I’ve always enjoyed writing and the jobs I’ve loved the most are ones that have involved writing. I’ve ended up spending most of my career in Human Resources in training and/or recruitment roles. If I was writing an advert, copy for a website or compiling a training guide, I was at my happiest as it was all about the written word. I’m still in a role where I occasionally get to write but I hope one day that my fiction writing can be full-time. I’d be in heaven then. Returning to the Wednesday Wondering, I suspected a career as a writer wasn’t what most of my WR friends set out to do. My question therefore was:

What job did you want to do when you were younger? Did you do this job and, if not, what stopped you? At what point did you start wanting to be an author instead?

Helen P says … I always loved singing, on my own not in front of anyone though. I would sing away for hours to my favourite songs. So when I was younger I had great visions of being a backing singer for a pop group. Of course I would have actually had to sing in public so it wasn’t looking too good. I’ve always written stories but it wasn’t until my thirties that I realised I could try to make a go of it. It’s only taken till my forties to get it right and I can write safely from my own room 😉

Helen R says … When I was 14 I wanted to be a journalist and my English teacher told me to never give up on that dream…she had. I studied English A level but at the same time I studied business studies and I enjoyed it so much that I turned down my university place and a degree in English and American studies. I secured a place on a business management course but realised after one term that it wasn’t for me. But by that time I was settled and had made friends and was enjoying the Uni life in Bournemouth and so I stuck with the course.

I worked in I.T for 7 years until I finally took a course in journalism and began freelancing for magazines. I have to say that I’ve never looked back! After I had children I studied 4 units of a Masters in Writing and spent time wondering what career in writing I actually wanted. Finally I realised that writing novels was it and so I started to do that in 2010 and now I’ll never stop 🙂

Lynne says … P1050872I was in hospital quite a lot as a child. In those days you used to be admitted for observation, and it was thought that I might have some weird disease. No-one ever got to the bottom of the problem until thirty years later I was diagnosed with a rare nerve disorder.

For me hospital introduced me to a world of order, compassion, peace and sympathy and I loved my stays. To this day I can clearly remember lying my dolls in a row and tucking them up with a blanket just like I had seen in hospital. There was little surprise then, when I announced that I wanted to be a nurse at the age of seven. Although there were times when I saw Princess Grace and wanted to be a princess or a film star, but on the whole my ambition never waivered. I can still remember the agony when I was 16 and 17 and had left school but was too young to work on the wards so I had to work in an office.

When my 18th year arrived I got my wish and started work on the wards. I can still remember the pride with which I donned my uniform and the pleasure it gave me to care for the patients. That was forty years ago now, though it hardly seems it. Because of my nerve condition I retrained in social work, it was easier for me to talk to people rather than dash around the wards. But whatever the job title, I was doing what I wanted to do and helping people.

I loved every minute of both jobs and if my creaky old body would let me now, I’d still be doing them. But I am doing the second best thing and writing about it. I hope that every page oozes with the pleasure I got from helping others. People have funny thoughts about child protection social work, yet it’s the most challenging and rewarding job ever. I want to launch my books when I’ve written three and I’m halfway there. Keep a check on these pages for when I’ve got them online and pop over and see what you think!

Deirdre says … I always wanted to be an author, always. It was what I said when anyone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. The word ‘author’ must have been put into my head by my parents as I would not have known it otherwise but I knew I wanted to write stories, and write them I did, at every opportunity. I even sent a story to a children’s magazine once, and got a lovely letter from the editor  – my first rejection! Unsurprisingly, announcing my literary ambitions in the playground brought a lot of bemused faces and: ‘What’s a norther?’

There was one other career I toyed with – a pharmacist. This also took some explaining to the other kids as mostly they took it to mean ‘farm assist’ but since I didn’t have a clue what it was either – I just liked the sound of the word – my explanations left them none the wiser. Discovering later that to be a pharmacist you had to be good at maths effectively put paid to that and I returned happily to Plan A.

Once I got to grammar school, it was made clear from the start that there were only two career paths open to us girls. You were either destined for university or teacher training college and one of the professions, or you weren’t. I wasn’t. Nobody in my family had been to university and we couldn’t have afforded it anyway but it didn’t matter because I didn’t want to go.

At that time we really didn’t have the knowledge or information to make properly informed career choices and the school was no help. If you weren’t going to follow a profession, and in truth that was only for the middle class girls, all that was left was nursing (viewed then as an extremely poor relation to other medical professions), banking, local government or the civil service. If you went into any of these you weren’t pursuing a career, you were GETTING A JOB. Again, this was fine by me. I still dreamed of being an author but had long since reached the conclusion that you didn’t actually set out to be an author, you just became one, and my dream bore no relation whatsoever to the business of GETTING A JOB.

Another pastime I’d enjoyed as a child was playing offices, which meant banging about on an ancient typewriter and ‘organising’ bits of paper, and so an office was obviously my destiny. I took a secretarial course, ‘chose’ local government purely because that was my parents’ preference, and accepted the first job I was offered, in the Town Planning Department of the local council. That was how it was then.  There were dozens of jobs for every applicant but I didn’t shop around.  I needed to be earning, I’d landed myself a ‘good’ job – good because it was in local government – and that was that.

I can’t say I’ve regretted any of the jobs I’ve had; I’ve enjoyed them all. You make the best of what comes, don’t you? I hadn’t bargained on taking quite so long to achieve that first ambition but at least I’ve put in the research!

Sharon says … The first time I remember even thinking about a future career was when I was thirteen. We were asked to write a mini biography when we started our upper high school so that the English teacher could get to know us a bit better. One of the questions he wanted us to think about was what we’d like to do for a living after leaving school. I still chuckle to myself when I think of the answer I gave. ‘When I leave school I would like to be an author, or a showjumper. And I wouldn’t mind being a vicar’s wife.’ Where all that came from, I have no idea. Thinking about it (and it makes me blush when I imagine how he must have laughed at that!)

I guess I always knew I wanted to write, though only ever in a sort of vague way. I never actually visualised it. I just thought that writing was fabulous, and I kind of wanted to be Enid Blyton but hopefully without the traumatised, neglected children. I loved her and thought she must have a glamorous and rather lovely life. I wanted to be a showjumper because I was reading an awful lot of pony books at the time and thought it would be a great job, despite never having had a riding lesson in my life. The optimism of youth!

As for the vicar’s wife!! It just shows you how things have changed. When I was thirteen, the idea that a woman could actually be a vicar obviously never entered my head. I was quite religious at the time, but I think my main motivation came from a series of books I was reading by Monica Edwards about a girl called Tamzin (and her pony, obviously) who lived in a vicarage on the Sussex coast. The father was a vicar and seemed quite nice and the mother had a jolly good life by the sea with a pony in the paddock and two very lovely kids so I thought, well, there’s a life I wouldn’t mind having.  Our own vicar lived in a lovely house with its own grounds and his wife was our Brown Owl. They held summer garden parties and the kids gave pony rides so, yes, that was the image I had of a vicar’s wife’s life, I suppose. Funnily enough, I’m currently plotting a novel in which the hero is a rather sexy vicar! I’m not obsessed, honestly!

As I reached the age of fourteen/fifteen and reality started to bite, I toyed with the idea of becoming an English teacher for a while, but I never really believed I was clever enough to go to university in spite of my teacher’s encouragement. In the end I was in my forties before I had the nerve to do my degree. I absolutely loved it so I kind of wish I’d done it when I left school but there you go. Better late than never!

Jo says … Aged 7I think I’ve always wanted to be writer, I can remember starting my first ‘novel’ aged seven, around the time this photograph was taken.  I think it was my attempt to rip off ‘What Katy Did’ and I never got beyond the first couple of pages, but it’s where my love of writing began.  Mostly I still love it, but sometimes I don’t (mainly when I’m editing!) – either way, I just can’t stop.

I did have a brief phase of wanting to be an air hostess, as my very glamorous eldest sister was one, but that soon wore off.  I wanted to be a journalist when I left school, but I would never have been pushy enough to get a scoop.  So I fell into teaching and, with a family arriving, writing went on the back burner for a bit.

A couple of years ago I started to focus more seriously on my writing and, since then, I’ve written three novels, a novella and signed with a publisher.  I suppose it proves childhood dreams do sometimes come true. They look a bit different to how I’d imagined in reality, but it feels like I’ve got a foot on the ladder of the career I first decided I wanted 35 years ago!

Jackie says… I don’t remember wanting to do any particular job when I was young, although my two daughters both had great ideas from an early age. Hannah wanted to work in Tesco in St Ives, Cornwall and marry a boy called Jo Rose who was in her year at school and Rosie wanted to have her own ice-cream van. Good plans!

My own careers advice consisted of going to the library in Stone, Staffs and having a Career’s Officer pore over the local paper pointing out jobs. Hmm, not the best guidance. I decided I wanted to be a journalist at some point but was literally shown the door when I sat down for the exam, as I didn’t have a pen or paper on me and they weren’t about to help me by providing one. Stafford Newsletter- you traumatised me!

I never felt that I came up the mark really, as most of my friends went to University while I did the University of life, enjoyable as it was. Thankfully, life is long and I have had some great jobs and some wonderful job related experiences. Now I am a writer and I think I wanted to be a writer for quite some time- I just didn’t know how to go about it.

Watch this space I will be published, even though my dear mother (bless her) says, ‘I should give up on it, Jackie, if I was you. Haven’t you got better things to do with your time?’ Yes mother, I probably do, but I don’t think there is any part of me that can call it a day. I have invested thousands and thousands of words and they keep on coming and when they do, they are an improvement on the last words I wrote and they arrange themselves in a better order than they did five or ten years ago. So this is my career path- late as it may be. I am a writer.

DSCF0015Rachael says … When I was at primary school I discovered the joy of writing a short story. Why not be a writer? No, too unobtainable. I changed tack and decided I really wanted to be a nurse, but due to my eczema, I was told that wasn’t a good. Hairdresser? No, same problem.

So off I headed for secondary school, as it was then called, without a clue as to what I wanted to do. The careers adviser visited and a decision had to be made. Office Practice and Typing were selected as my options, but the reality of working in an office wasn’t for me.

When my path through life took me to Wales I needed a job, any job and I started working in a pharmacy. This was it, what I should have told everyone I wanted to do and soon I qualified as a dispensing technician and loved it.

I then married a dairy farmer and job rolls changed once more. This time to a stay at home mum who also worked on the farm. I was milking cows, feeding calves, keeping accounts – oh, and raising two children. When a local writing group started I thought, why not. Suddenly my dream of being a writer seemed just a little more obtainable. It took a long time to get to my original job choice, but I did – and the typing stood me in good stead!

What about you? What career did you want as a child? Did you pursue it? Was it how you imagined? If you’re a writer, did you always want to be one? We’d love to hear from you. Jessica xx

Launch Day Has Arrived!!!! Crack Open the Champers!

Anthology coverIt’s here! The day we’ve been talking about since early spring has finally arrived and we are beyond excited. For The Write Romantics, today is the day when our dreams come true because it’s the day we can all stand proudly and declare: “I’m a published writer!” Is it a bit sad to admit that I really will be doing that?!


For most of us, this has been a dream spanning a decade or several. Some of the group have had success over the last couple of years and others will see their debut novels launched in 2015 but, wherever we are in our journeys, today is an exceedingly proud day for us all.

The Write Romantics and guests are absolutely thrilled to present to you: Winter Tales – Stories to Warm Your Heart. And they really will warm your heart because, not only are the stories all uplifting, but all proceeds go to charity. Cystic Fibrosis Trust and Teenage Cancer Trust are charities close to our heart and we’ve felt quite touched and privileged that eleven other writers have spared their time and talent to share a short story alongside those penned by The WRs. We can’t thank you all enough for your generosity and all the promotional work you’ve done/will do for this book in order to raise as many funds as we can for the two worthy causes. For the full listing on who has joined us, please click here.

IMG_0671The e-Book is available right now on Amazon at a price of just over 10p per story. Where else can you claim such an amazing bargain? The weather’s looking pretty grim this weekend so we suggest you curl up on the sofa with your Kindle, a mug of hot chocolate, and a slice (or three) of cake and read, read, read. But if you can bear to wait a little longer, the paperback will be available from 22nd November although we hope it will appear for pre-order before then (watch this space!)

This afternoon, we partied online. This post was meant to be another reminder of it but, for some obscure reason, it didn’t post so I’m tweaking and re-posting! Thank you to everyone who joined in. If you want to see what we discussed, feel free to check it out but, please note, we’ve all staggered home with our bellies full of cake and cocktails so we won’t be able to participate in any more banter.

10733884_10205442784014952_4540159388851962023_oThank you to everyone who has supported us in this journey and thank you in advance to everyone who is going to download or buy (or both) a copy of Winter Tales. You really can make a difference to the lives of children with Cystic Fibrosis like Write Romantic Alys’s three-year-old nephew, Thomas, and those who are battling against cancer like Stephen Sutton whose story inspired us to pick Teenage Cancer Trust as our second charity.

Enjoy the read, thanks for your support, and let us know what you think of the stories. Because if you love them, we may do a summer one too … but perhaps in 2016 as this has been a long journey so far!

Jessica xx

The weather outside is frightful…

winter5Well, it is in my part of the world anyway. So what better start could you have to the onset of winter than to win a prize that allows you to luxuriate in all things comforting and indulgent? This prize includes a great read – containing twenty four seasonal feel-good stories – lovely scented candles, relaxing bath and body products, chocolates and hot chocolate. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like my idea of heaven.

So what do I have to do to win? I hear you cry. Well, tomorrow, the WRs are having a very special (virtual) party and we’ll be telling you a lot more about that in our Saturday Spotlight. In the meantime, though, we want to give away this wonderful prize to the person who tweets the most about our launch party between now and tomorrow afternoon. To find out more, please follow this link.

Even if you can’t tweet for some reason, although we’re only accepting extenuating circumstances as an excuse – like alien abduction, please stop by the party tomorrow anyway and we’ll have loads more to give away then as well.

A million thanks to all those who are supporting us so brilliantly with this in other ways too – you know who you are.


Early Influences

Happy Bonfire Night, if you’re celebrating I hope you have a lovely, safe evening. We have the customary Phifer family fireworks to illuminate our patch of sky tonight.

This past week I’ve been thinking about all the things that influenced my childhood and I suppose what has made me what I am today. As a child I loved bonfire night because in our house it meant that my mum would make the best treacle toffee I’ve ever tasted. She would make toffee apples and I would be in childhood heaven. Oh to not have to worry about pulling your fillings out and expensive trips to the dentists, those were the days.

I loved Halloween even more, in fact I still do but the last eight years I’ve had to work it. I’m hoping next year I can be off so I can have a big fancy dress party. I don’t know if you’ve noticed the sort of books I write but I adore anything that goes bump in the night, especially if it makes my hair stand on end and I get the chills. Of course I much prefer reading about or watching scary stuff on the television than actually experiencing it but it’s something that I’ve thrived off since I was a kid. I kind of blame my mum (hope she isn’t reading this) because she was the one who introduced me to Hammer House of Horror Films when I was quite young. I loved Dracula, Countess Dracula, The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Mummy and Frankenstein to name a few. I would watch them curled up on the sofa hiding behind a cushion. Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and Vincent Price were the actors that I grew up with.

My favourite television programmes were The Munster’s – Lily and Herman Munster are still my favourite television couple of all time. I also loved The Adam’s Family and Rent a Ghost. As I got older I progressed to even scarier films once I realised that the Hammer House of Horror’s no longer made me afraid to go to bed. I’ll never forget watching a Nightmare on Elm Street for the first time. Seeing Johnny Depp bleeding all over the ceiling and that face coming through the wall was enough to scare me so much that I was petrified to go to sleep for days in case Freddy decided he was coming for me. Halloween was another film that scared me witless when I was a teenager, Michael Myers still scares me to this day. When I couldn’t get enough of the films I turned to reading horror and Stephen King became my hero, the man I could guarantee would scare the socks off me whilst hiding under the duvet with my torch.

Fast forward thirty years and now I write scary stories myself which is sometimes not that easy, you see I’ll be in the garden writing in my office and so engrossed that I won’t notice it’s gone dark outside. It’s not a huge garden but it’s a good distance from the house and when you’ve just written about some demonic shadow that’s lurking around the thought of walking through the dark sometimes scares me stupid. I can guarantee that the kitchen light will have been turned off for the first time that week and the back of the house will be in complete darkness as I walk or normally slip slide along the grass. I have such an over-active imagination which is a blessing most of the time, just ask Annie Graham it gets her in some seriously sticky patches. I write these stories because these are the stories I long to read. For years I would scour bookshops for a book just like my debut novel The Ghost House but it never appeared. Which was why I had to write it and I loved writing it. I also love books two and three  The Forgotten Cottage which was published on Halloween, but for me there will always be something special about book one because I wrote that for myself, the fact that readers worldwide are enjoying reading about Annie’s Adventures make all the sleepless nights as a teenager because of those horror films well worthwhile, so thank you mum for letting me stop up late and watch them 😉

Helen xx