Saturday Spotlight: There Must Be An Angel

So, after all the build-up and excitement, There Must Be An Angel is launched today by Fabrian Books and is available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback formats. Angel ebook cover

It’s very strange seeing all these notifications popping up on my phone, congratulating me and telling me it has arrived on people’s Kindles. My sister has just messaged me to say she’s on chapter four already! Quite a surreal feeling.

It’s the culmination of over three years work and I still can’t quite believe that it’s here. I know it will feel all too real when people start telling me what they think of it! I have to go into work on Monday, and several of my colleagues have bought it. Yikes!  The biggest test will be my mum. I really hope she likes it.

To celebrate Angel‘s arrival I’m having a launch party on Facebook today between 1pm and 3pm. There will be some rather special guests (!) lots of good food, cake, alcohol and some music. There will also be some competitions and you can win some fab prizes, including signed copies of Angel and some of the other Write 214342366Romantic novels, plus some delicious gourmet marshmallows kindly donated by Yorkshire company Art of Mallow.

Hope you can join me there, but if not, hope you enjoy There Must Be An Angel. If you do, would you consider leaving a review? Every little helps. 🙂

Thank you to everyone who has helped and supported me along the way to this moment. You’re all stars.

Love Sharon x

You can buy There Must Be An Angel here.

Book Review – The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton


I chose to go way out of my comfort zone for this month’s book review, and chose a  historical novel.

The Miniaturist was an amazing debut novel by Jessie Burton. The sense of time and place were astounding with minute details drawing me in to a completely different era and world in Amsterdam. Burton’s descriptions in scenes were powerful and evocative and fitting with the time period. At no point did I lose faith as a reader at this author’s accurate portrayal of the character’s story.

I admired the heroine, Nella, tremendously. She went from being a quiet, innocent girl at the start of her marriage to a woman in control. And believe me, she was faced with plenty of unimaginable challenges along the way.
Each character had a story to tell and themes ran deep in this book – I won’t list them all as don’t want to spoil the plot!

Throughout the entire novel was the hook of the miniature dolls house which was a mystery as much as the characters’ lives. The book had excellent chapter hooks which kept me reading late into the night and my only criticism was that the story sometimes left me drained and emotional. But I guess that’s what powerful story telling can do.

Jessie Burton is definitely an author to watch out for. I’m excited to what she’ll write next!

Next month, join us again when Jackie will be reviewing Jill Steeples’ Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off.

Helen J Rolfe.

Saturday Spotlight: Are we blagging it to blog it? by Christina Templeton

I’m delighted to welcome Christina Templeton to the blog today for her first ever blog post! She’ll tell you more of her story, but we met Christina in December when she got in touch after the publication of Winter Tales.  Christina’s two gorgeous grandsons have cystic fibrosis and she and her family have been heavily involved in fundraising for CF charities.  Christina is a member of the RNA’s New Writer’s Scheme which is, of course, how the Write Romantics met. I’ll stop talking now and hand you over to Christina (but please be nice to her, she’s new at this…)


As an author with three novels in the bag you’d think I’d be writing blogs with no trouble at all, but the truth is this is my first attempt. I always thought people only blogged if they did something amazing, like my son-in-law when he ran seven marathons on seven continents in aid of cystic fibrosis. Now his blogs were interesting!

Yes, his chosen charity is close to my heart as two of my grandsons suffer from this disease, but he wrote about his experiences in China, Chile and Antarctica whilst raising over half a million pounds.  But what do I have to blog about? A retired civil servant, blessed with a happy family life and a passion for writing, I’ve never done anything dramatic or heroic, never made a difference to world affairs or even local affairs. Apart from the shock diagnosis of cystic fibrosis in my grandsons, most of the drama in my life comes from my imagination. Which, of course, is why I’m a writer. IMG_3665

My daughter put me straight.  ‘What about our charity?’ she said.  She was referring to a local charity we set up to make life easier for children living with cystic fibrosis in Hampshire.  We provided things like trampolines to keep them active, nebulisers that take one minute instead of twenty to administer medicine and access to laptops to alleviate their boredom during frequent hospital stays.

‘And mum, what about your writing?’  she said ,almost as an accusation.  She’s right, of course.  Whilst I’m still without an agent and yet to have my novels published mainstream, I have completed three, won several short story competitions, been published in local and county magazines, uploaded four children’s stories on to Kindle and published a book of short stories on Amazon.

IMG_3666I’m in the Romantic Novelists New Writer’s Scheme and am encouraged by their feedback. I get really great support at the twice-yearly Dunford Novelists conferences – supported by best-selling authors like Catherine King,  Della Galton and Pam Fudge to name but a few.  Established or beginner, attending authors share their work and offer it up for critique. It’s quite intense but very useful and I’ve met some lovely people, including novelist Julia Bryant, who I’m proud to call my mentor and friend.

Are we blagging it to blog it? I thought so until I recently discovered the Write Romantics.  As well as publishing an anthology to raise funds for The Cystic Fibrosis Trust, they bring together so many things I’m passionate about – love, life and writing. I think what I’ve learned is that whilst authors may be better at fiction than fact, as the protagonists in our own life stories we all have something to say, and we know from our craft that heroes don’t always need to do heroic things to be interesting or win hearts and minds.  Are we wasting precious time blogging when we should be focused on our novels? It’s a valid question, but we novelists know the journey is as important as the end goal.  The life of a novelist can be isolated and blogging helps you feel connected to a wider community – it makes the journey more enjoyable, and let’s face it – what’s the point of writing if you don’t enjoy it?


Christina Templeton has written three novels and is crafting her fourth.  In between, she keeps her imagination active by writing short stories and as from today, blogs.  She’d love an agent, a publisher or both. You can find out more about her and her work here.

Thank you so much to Christina for joining us today.  If you’d like to leave a comment for her please click on the word ‘comments’ in teeny, tiny type at the bottom of this post.  And as Christina mentioned, Winter Tales our charity short story anthology is available here with all the royalties going to the Cystic Fibrosis Trust and Teenage Cancer Trust.   Have a great weekend! Alys x

This Writing Life

I have to say it’s not quite as glamorous as I’ve dreamt about the last few years although it does have its moments. I’ve gone from dreaming about being a published writer for years to having three e-books and a paperback published in the space of eighteen months which is more than I ever realised was possible. It’s amazing what you can do with a deadline. I’m currently in the process of editing book four in the Annie Graham series The Lake House which will be released May 29th if I ever get around to doing the actual edits.

You see some people thrive off the editing but me, I’m much more of a first draft sort of girl. Although I love my editor Lucy because she really knows how to make my stories go from not bad to great, at least that’s what my amazing readers tell me. I still struggle to actually sit down and crack on with them. At one point this week my husband banned me from the internet (mainly Facebook I might add) so that I might get on with them. It’s the thought of having to go back in and make significant changes that is off putting but it’s the same every time, once I actually sit down to concentrate I find them not quite as bad as I imagined. It helps to have plenty of caffeine and chocolate to soften the blow and keep my brain working as it does have a tendency to get a little distracted by things, especially social media sites that contain gossip from everyone and their aunties.

I don’t get the time to watch much television with working shifts and writing, but there are a couple of programmes that I’ve really enjoyed the last couple of years. Scott and Bailey is brilliant and when everyone at work was talking about Happy Valley I had to go home and watch the whole series in one sitting. It was fabulous and both programmes were written by the very talented Sally Wainwright who really knows how to write strong, Northern, female characters, which being from the North myself I love. So when I heard about a BAFTA Masterclass in Screenwriting with Sally Wainwright I realised that it was something I had to attend. The fact that it’s a four hour train journey from where I live and there were no trains back after it finished wasn’t going to deter me. It was a chance for me to have twenty four hours to myself away from my sometimes crazy family life and spend it being Helen Phifer the writer. I got to stay in a very compact hotel in the middle of Piccadilly, as lovely as it was with complimentary ice-cream, coffee, cheese and wine it wasn’t for the claustrophobic. Below is a picture of my wardrobe, it’s just as well I travelled light.

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But it did the job, it was within walking distance of the BAFTA Theatre and very central. I’d arranged to meet fellow Write Romantic Jackie for a glass of wine beforehand and also the very lovely Jill Steeples another Carina writer.

I was in awe as I walked through the doors.

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How many of my favourite actors, actresses, screenwriters, directors and producers had walked through these doors? It all felt very exciting and glamorous, I was a tiny bit nervous because I’m quite a shy person but I wasn’t going to let that stop me from doing something I might never get another chance to do. The wine bar upstairs was buzzing with lots of people milling around and the lovely waiter remembered what we drank as he brought bowls of popcorn and glasses of wine over to our table. The bell rang and we were told to take our seats in the theatre, as I sat down I wondered who might have sat in this seat previously and after seeing a gorgeous black and white framed print of Brad Pitt above the bar I managed to convince myself that it was almost definitely him. The talk was entertaining and informative, Sally was very funny and although it hadn’t quite been what I’d expected I left there feeling very inspired. To hear a fellow Northerner speak about her successful screen writing career was amazing. After Jackie and Jill led me to the nicest smelling wine bar I’ve ever been in (I haven’t been in very many) I couldn’t get over just how nice it was. It was just a shame that the bottle of wine we shared didn’t last longer but as we said our goodbyes after a lovely catch up and I walked back to my hotel I couldn’t help feeling that this writing life does have its glamorous moments, hopefully there will be lots more to come. Now I better get back to my editing, where did I put that mug of coffee?

Helen xx

Saturday Spotlight: Meet Wendy Clarke

Wendy ClarkeToday we’re delighted to welcome Wendy Clarke as our guest.  Wendy is a well-known writer of stories for women’s magazines such as People’s Friend and Take a Break, and has recently celebrated her ‘centenary’ with the publication of her 100th story!  Given Wendy’s extraordinary success in the magazine market, I wondered how this all came about, and why she’s now decided to write a novel, so I invited her here to tell us her own story.

Over to you, Wendy…

I was sitting in the classroom with a group of Year 6 children around me, showing them how to plan out a story. I had drawn a story arc on the board with the usual labels: conflict, build up, climax, consequences and the resolution. The genre of the story the class was to write was ‘adventure’ and the theme was losing something. After much discussion we came up with the idea of a child who had wandered away from their parents on a beach.

As we discussed the story, I found myself getting carried away with the ideas… the possibilities… the excitement of creation. My creative writing instincts, which had lain dormant for thirty years, began to kick in. I didn’t know about the children, but I wanted to write the story. Yes me.

When I told the children this, they were surprised. Why don’t you then? one boy asked. The question brought me back to reality. I was the teacher, after all. I was there to guide the children, not to write the story myself. I looked up and saw the poor, sad story arc I’d mapped on the board. It looked empty, incomplete. It didn’t excite me in the way that the idea of writing the story had. This was, after all, supposed to be a lesson in planning.

Oh well. Pointing to the board, I asked the children whether they could think of an example of conflict which I could add to the arc. Even as I was speaking, though, I was wondering whether one day I would get the chance to write that story.

Fast-forward a year and, instead of standing in front of a whiteboard, I was walking along the riverbank with my dog. Thebook cover time was my own, the days stretched out ahead of me and I felt aimless. A week earlier, the small private school where I worked had closed down – I had been made redundant. What did I want to do? What direction did I want to go in? My brother had told me about an online creative writing course he had taken. Why didn’t I do that, he suggested. It would keep me occupied while I thought about the next stage of my life.

So that’s what I did. I completed the course and then another. It became the most important part of my week. At last, instead of teaching others how to write, I was actually doing it. Not only that, but there was not a story arc in sight! The writing topics were set each week and I just wrote and wrote and wrote… and when I was finished I stopped!

When the course ended, I felt bereft. Just like that, I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to carry on writing short stories. So I did. I sent a few off to magazines and a couple of months later had my first acceptance… then another. The excitement was indescribable! It spurred me on to write more and now, three years on, I have over a hundred sales under my belt. I brought out my first collection of stories, Room in Your Heart last year and my second, The Last Rose, has just been published.

You might think the story ends there but it doesn’t. I started to find that some of the stories I was writing were becoming more compelling. Characters were calling to me; plots were becoming too involved to fit into three thousand words or less. Maybe I could try a serial. The only problem was, I was required to write a synopsis before my idea would be accepted. To write a synopsis would mean planning and I couldn’t stop a vision of the story arc I’d drawn on my classroom whiteboard coming into my head. What was I to do? For a long time I stared at my page and, in the end, managed to put together a sketchy plan. I think the magazine editors must have taken pity on me as the serial idea was accepted! Of course, once I The Last Rose - kindlestarted writing it, the characters took over and my plan went by the wayside. Maybe not the conventional way of going about things but it worked for me and I have since written another in the same way.

So are we now at the end of the writing tale? Not quite. There was one story I’d had published in one of the magazines which kept coming into my mind. I knew there was more to the plot than I had written, new avenues to explore, mysteries to solve, new romances to blossom. I thought to myself… could I write a novel? Was it possible? There was only one way to find out but I knew I’d need help.

In January, after much encouragement from people I met at the RNA winter party in London, I joined their New Writers’ Scheme. My novel is underway and I’m hoping to have something worth submitting to my reader for a critique in July. So am I planning? Do I have a detailed story arc? Have I plotted the intricate twist and turns of my characters’ journeys? I leave that for you to decide!

Thanks for being our guest, Wendy.  Enjoy your ‘journey’ into novel-writing, and best of luck with your latest anthology.


You can follow Wendy on her blog, here:  and check out her Amazon page

PS  If you would like to ask Wendy a question or leave a comment, please click on ‘Comments’ at the end of the list below this post.

Wednesday Wondering – All About Genre

Hello and welcome to March’s Wednesday Wondering. Last month, I attended a one-day script writing workshop at a local theatre. We were given some prompt images pasted from the Internet and asked to develop our characters and plot from these images. I found myself selecting an elderly couple and developing a plot that stepped back in time to WWII. I was actually really proud of the plot I developed, but came away with the overriding feeling that it was a novel rather than a play, and that I wanted to develop it further.

bookshelves1This isn’t the first time I’ve outlined a plot that takes me back to WWII. I attended a creative writing workshop several years ago and developed a story of two friends who became nurses during the war who both fell in love with the same man. It arrived in my head as a fully-formed story and it’s begging to be written one day.

The problem is, it’s not what I normally write.

When I started writing, I’d have classed myself as a writer of romcoms. I write female-led romance stories with characters in their late twenties to early thirties. However, as the trilogy developed, I realised that my storylines were a bit deeper than that and, although there are some funny moments, they’re less comedy and more about character development. If I have to put a label on them, I’d probably say contemporary women’s romance.

They’re not history, though. They’re not set in WWII. So why do I keep going back to WWII and setting stories then? It’s an era I have some awareness of from history lessons in school and watching films or TV programmes set at that time but I wouldn’t have ever said I was particularly drawn to that era. Or am I? I’m in my early forties so wasn’t alive during the war, my parents were born in 1944 and 1945 so they don’t have any recall either, and my grandparents on both sides of the family are no longer with us so I’m not surrounded by insights into this time. Yet I can’t stop thinking about it.

Karen cocking2When I was younger, I devoured Catherine Cookson books. My mum is a huge fan so I borrowed them all off her. Maybe this is where the history interest spans from, although most of Catherine’s books were set much earlier than WWII so, again, I don’t know where the pull of that era comes from. All I know is that there is a pull. So, after I’ve written the trilogy and book four, maybe I’ll address it.

My WW this week is therefore all about genre. I asked the Write Romantics:

What genre do you typically write and why?

Have you every ‘dabbled’ in a different genre. What was it? Why? How was the experience?

Would you try writing in a different genre? What and why?

What genre(s) do you mainly read?
Have you tried reading outside genre?

For me personally, contemporary women’s romance is my favoured genre for reading, but I do dabble in history, thrillers, contemporary non-romance and also children’s books. I’ve toyed with writing a thriller and a YA book and may still do so. After the historic ones. Or perhaps number five of the romance ones …

Jessica xx

Helen R says…

I typically write a cross between women’s fiction and romantic fiction. Usually there is a romantic thread in my story but there are other themes too such as family and friendship so a few subplots running at the same time.

I’ve never ‘dabbled’ in a different genre and I’m not sure whether I ever will or not, but if I had to choose another genre it would be teen fiction. I loved Judy Blume books as I was growing up – I couldn’t get enough of them  – and I’d love to be talented enough to write for the same type of audience.

I’ve recently read a couple of books outside my genre, both historical fiction. I enjoyed both although they were definitely more heavy going than what I’m used to. It was refreshing to read something different though and you start to learn a bit about different techniques used in different genres.

Deirdre says…

I find it difficult to say what genre I write in, firstly because there are such widely differing opinions on genre definition, and secondly, I don’t set out to write in a particular genre. I get an idea and run with it, and it will be what it will be.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy first novel I labelled as contemporary women’s fiction for the purposes of submitting but when I self-published it, I felt that needed qualifying so it became rom-com, although I wasn’t sure there was enough humour for that. With my next, Remarkable Things, the first to find a publisher, I fought against pinning a label on it and it morphed into something slightly different each time I submitted. The closest I can get is contemporary women’s fiction with a romantic thread. My male reader enjoyed it, though, and said the ending brought a tear to his eye, so maybe it’s not exclusively for the women’s market, who knows?

When I set out to write Dirty Weekend, also to be published, I’d signed up to NaNoWriMo so had write much faster than I normally do. This led me to the fast-moving plot peppered with plenty of comedy. The best I can do with this one is general fiction; I can’t call it contemporary as it’s set in the 1960s and that is now classed as historical by some. It’s strong on romance (actually more sex than romance!) but I don’t feel it fits with the romantic fiction genre as it’s normally understood.

The book I’m writing now, The Promise of Roses, is easier to classify; I’d call it contemporary romance. It has a stronger romantic thread than my previous ones so although there’s a lot else going on besides, including themes of bereavement, guilt and entrapment, I feel more confident of the genre.

I don’t see my genre confusion as a problem. I just want to write good books that people will want to read and don’t rule out any particular types of books for the future. At the risk of sounding pretentious, I’d like one day to write something that could be classed as literary fiction. There is a slight passing nod to that in Remarkable Things – it has some of the tropes you’d find in lit-fic – but I’m not deluding myself that I could write a full-on lit-fic.

My reading, as you might expect from the meanderings above, is not tied down to particular genres either. I don’t tend to read crime or fantasy but otherwise I’m happy with romance (as long as it’s edgy and has more going besides), sagas, recent historicals, literary fiction and the odd thriller, like Gone Girl and Appletree Yard. At the moment I’m particularly drawn to male authors who write about love and relationships as you get a different perspective. Some of my favourites are William Nicholson, Danny Wallace, David Nicholls and a recent discovery, Douglas Kennedy.

Jo says…

In my writing so far, at least as far as my submissions to the New Writer’s Scheme went, I’ve been a bit of a genre hopper.  I suppose my natural style is contemporary women’s fiction, which is also what I usually read.  That said, there is always a romance, although I can’t write *pure* romance.  I tried once and failed miserably, so really admire those who can do that and do it really well, like our very own Rachael Thomas and others whose books I’ve enjoyed, like Liz Fielding.  My novella and the novel due out in June, are both women’s fiction with emotional themes and a romantic angle.  However, I have also written a YA fantasy, which is awaiting an edit, and I’ve got several ideas for younger children’s books.

I’ve been thinking recently about establishing myself as a writer and getting involved with a really recognisable brand as part of that, which might also help me stand out from the crowd in the competitive short story market.  If I want writing to be my career, I think it’s a route I need to take and I have seen other writers I really admire take that path – having made a name for themselves with an established brand. Lots of writers subsequently settle on one genre, but others also write under other pen names across a range of genres or sub-genres and different lengths of stories, which I suspect is the way to make a living from writing. I had an idea that I thought might work for an established series and sent off three chapters, hearing almost immediately, to my delight, that they wanted to see a full.  I’m now working very hard to get that polished and off to the publisher by next week.  If they like the rest of the story as much as the partial, I’ll also be able to see something I’ve written being sold in shops like WHSmiths, Sainsburys and Tescos.  If it comes off, I’ll be taking selfies everywhere I go! If not, I’ll keep plugging away, writing the stories I want to write, whichever genre or sub-genre they happen to cross into.

As for my reading, like my writing, I love emotional women’s fiction by authors such as Jo Jo Moyes and Julie Cohen, but I also read a lot of children’s fiction too – generally following my son’s latest obsession.  We worked our way through all the Dick King Smith books and we’re now on to Michael Morpurgo.  One genre I’m not madly keen on in adult fiction is pre-war historical, although I love war-time novels like Lena Kennedy’s books and post-war stories like Jennifer Worth’s trilogy of memoirs, which inspired Call the Midwife.  I don’t think I’d ever attempt to write a historical novel though  – far too much research required to get it right!

Sharon says…

m878-5l52zcfFb_a7bo5pqwInitially, I thought I wrote romantic comedy, but then my books seemed to have some deeper issues in them, too, and they weren’t really as laugh-out-loud as true romantic comedy should be. There are definitely some very funny moments in them, if I say so myself, but I would hesitate to market them as romcoms. I think I write contemporary women’s fiction with romance and a good sprinkling of humour! Try categorizing that on Amazon!

I’ve never written in another genre as an adult, though as a child and teenager I used to write pony books aimed at my own age group at the time. They were strictly for my eyes only, thank goodness. I still love to read pony books, though. I have a huge collection of them, although I had a horrible “accident” and sent the wrong boxes to a charity shop a couple of years ago and lost loads of my favourite books during a house move.

the chaliceI mainly read the genre I write in, which is romantic fiction with humour. However, I also read the occasional saga — especially the ones written by Catherine Cookson and Valerie Wood — and I often still read children’s and YA books. I still love Enid Blyton and Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series. I have quite a few historical novels on my bookshelves which I really want to read, and I enjoyed Dan Brown’s books, too. I studied the nineteenth century novel for a course some years ago and I really enjoyed the classics such as Middlemarch, Far From the Madding Crowd, Northanger Abbey and, my favourite book, Jane Eyre. I love Daphne Du Maurier’s books and I’ve read all the Miss Marple books by Agatha Christie. I love the naughtiness and fun of writers like Jilly Cooper and Fiona Walker, and I am a huge fan of supernatural crime stories. Our own Helen Phifer is very good at writing those! I love Phil Rickman’s books. They’re steeped in mystery, fairly bloody, often have myth and legend interwoven throughout, a strong sense of place, great characters, tight plots, and are terribly scary!

download (3)I love writing the kind of books that I write now, but I do have an idea for a saga, based on my own family history. I don’t know if I’ll ever get round to writing it, though. I would love to have a go at writing romantic suspense with a supernatural twist. I think it would take so much careful plotting and a lot of time and research. Maybe one day I’ll do it, though. I’d never say never!

Helen P says…

bookcaketopperI love to write crime/horror novels because I love to read them myself and I can’t find enough of them to satisfy the ghoul in me.

Yes I had to write a romantic story for the fabulous Write Romantics anthology Winter Tales and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I find it so easy to murder and scare people so being nice was a whole new experience 😉

I love to write. In fact I think I live to write so I’d try anything and any genre although I have no idea if I’d be any good at it. I read horror, crime and ghost stories. I have read a few books outside of my genre, mainly by my fellow Write Romantics. I’ve just finished Helen Rolfe’s The Friendship Tree and loved it.

Jackie says…

I can’t imagine writing a novel that doesn’t revolve around a romance, I just wouldn’t know how to fill all of that white space. I have written short stories that don’t have romance at its core but even then, I think there is a relationship of some sort at the heart of the story. However I have dabbled in different strands of the romantic genre and become clearer over time about what I enjoy the most. I started off writing stories that were very much chic-lit: vast quantities of booze being drunk with shopping and sex and bitchy put-downs (the characters were doing that, not me – much!) But as I’ve mellowed and no longer mix with the type of people who fuelled that particular fire, I don’t feel it’s ‘me’ anymore and consequently my writing has become less frenetic and more deliberate and thoughtful. I am overall relieved that I never tried too hard to get them published as I know I wouldn’t be able to write them today.

I write in a very haphazard way which probably wouldn’t suit many writers, but I find I become bored quite quickly when writing a particular story, so if I swap over to another one, while the last one ‘stews’ for a while, I come back to it with fresh eyes. I currently have five novels in various stages of unreadiness, but two of them are all but finished.

I will read most types of books apart from erotica (read one once to see if I could write it – that’ll be a ’no’ then!) but find I have less patience than I used to have if a story doesn’t grab me immediately. A feel good romance will always win me over. I do love a happy ever after!

Rachael says…

I’ve always loved reading Mills and Boon. As a teenager I would often be in the library getting my latest fix. When I decided to write, aiming at Mills and Boon seemed a natural progression from having spent many years reading them.

Anthology coverBefore I completed my first book, I had written short stories, even submitted them to magazines, but to no avail. I still enjoy writing short stories now, especially Meet Me at Midnight which featured in Winter Tales, our charity anthology.

Another genre I always thought I’d love to write for was for children, particularly boys about eight years of age. I read to both of my daughter and son as they grew up and felt there was definitely a gap in the market for boys of that age. There are of course, only so many hours in the day, but you never know!

As for reading, not only do I still enjoy a good love story, but I am fascinated by history and enjoy a good historical read. I have also been known to scare myself with a good horror story too!

Alys says…

I’ll read pretty much anything with print on it except for horror.  That’s about the only genre I can’t get to grips with.  But I regularly read fantasy, romance, crime, steampunk and very occasionally these days, something more literary too.

As to what I write, well, I call it urban fantasy with a spot of romance but you could just as well describe it as supernatural romantic suspense.  It’s starting to become clear that the fact that it doesn’t fit neatly into one genre is a bit of an issue when submitting to publishers. I’ve had rejections that say ‘there’s too much romance in it’ and others which imply that the fantasy bits are getting in the way of the love story. But even if I’d known that when I started it wouldn’t have stopped me (or not for very long anyway).  It’s the book that I wanted to write. And if they’re struggling with this one then just wait until I get round to writing my steampunkesque murder mysteries!

What about you? If you’re a reader, what genres do you read and, if you cross-genre read, tell us more about this. If you’re a writer, do you write in other genres or are you tempted to do so ?

Happy Wednesday 🙂

Jessica xx

Saturday Spotlight: Lynda Renham


Today on the blog, we’re delighted to welcome Lynda Renham, author of romantic comedies with the emphasis on comedy, including Pink Wellies and Flat Caps, The Dog’s Bollocks, and Coconuts and Wonderbras.  Welcome, Lynda.

I’m thrilled to be featured on The Write Romantics blog. Thanks so much for inviting me.

Your latest book is called Fudge Berries and Frogs’ Knickers. You come up with some great and unforgettable titles, but does the title come first? Or is it characters, or plot?51OsJLaPmJL._AA160_

Ooh, there’s a question. My writing process is quite odd actually. I can be in the car, in bed, or sitting in the doctor’s surgery, when ideas come to me. So often the characters come first. It may be someone I meet or hear about and then the plot kind of unravels in my head. My husband often chips in with ideas and then I’m off. The title is always the last thing to come to me. Quite often right after the book is finished.

Do you ever find it hard to write such fast-paced, laugh-out-loud books, particularly when you’re struggling with real-life problems?

blog picAbsolutely, I struggle a lot during personal difficult times. Although I do feel that often my best work is written when under stress. I do make myself work no matter what though and wrote ‘Pink Wellies and Flat Caps’ when my house was in bits around me and a huge extension was being built. That book was my biggest seller.



You excel at romantic comedy, but do you think you’ll ever write in another genre?

I have. I wrote ‘The Diary of Rector Brynes’ which is a serious contemporary novel. I have written another called ‘The Cello’ which is unpublished. It is also a serious novel. I would love to write more but I’m not so sure they would sell.

Comedy is very difficult to write, but you make it seem effortless! Do you use beta readers to test their reactions?

Yes, I have two beta readers. I love them to bits for their honesty and constructive criticism.

Is there any subject matter you’d shy away from?

I don’t like violence, so that would not feature in my books. I’m very tongue in cheek about sex in my novels and make it humorous. But I never go over the top with the sex. I would love to write erotica one day. That is a genre I would love to try.

You seem to have a very loyal following on social media. Do you get a lot of feedback from readers?

Yes, I get a lot of feedback from my readers and I love it. I adore them. They are very loyal and lovely to boot. I answer every message I get and am in touch with a lot of my readers.

With so many novels on the market, it’s difficult to make new releases stand out in the crowd. What approach do you use in marketing your books?

I use Facebook, Twitter and blogging. That’s about all. I have done the odd book blog tour but not often. I feel I could use Goodreads more. I send newsletters to my readers and email them when a new novel is out but that’s about it really.

You’re quite a prolific writer. Do you write full-time, or have you got another job as well?

I write full time and love it.

What would you say has been the best thing that’s happened in your writing career so far?

Having several top writers review the books and having Fay Weldon, one of my all-time favourite authors like my author page. That made my day. And, of course, seeing my books hit the top 20 humour chart when they are released.

Finally, if you could have one writing-related wish, what would it be?

It would have to be to see ‘The Dog’s Bollocks’ made into a film.51-Pi1yAbuL._AA160_

I can just imagine what that would be like, having read The Dog’s Bollocks and laughed out loud throughout!



Thank you very much for joining us on the blog today, Lynda.

Lynda’s latest release, Fudge Berries and Frogs’ Knickers, is available now and can be bought here.

You can find out more about Lynda on her blog here.

Hi-de-hi! Good morning, campers!

It’s the time of year when many of us are planning our summer holidays, which sets me thinking about my earliest experiences so please indulge me while I hike off down memory lane…

Holidays when I was a child inevitably meant a caravan, one parked in a field, I mean, not one you pulled along.  Caravan holidays were cheap, and you didn’t have to travel far to achieve that ‘getting away from it all’ feeling, which was just as well as we didn’t have a car in the early days and long distance train travel wasn’t an option.

Burwash caravan for blogMy first ever holiday was spent in a caravan just outside a village called Burwash, which seems unbelievable now as it’s less than an hour’s drive from Brighton.  But, as I say, we didn’t have a car so we dragged our suitcases onto a green Southdown bus.  As it trundled through the country lanes it gave the illusion that we were making an epic journey even though we hadn’t left the county.  The caravan was on a farm and was parked, or rather had taken root, in an orchard. We soon realised that we weren’t the orchard’s only occupants as we were woken on the first morning by the sound of snuffling and discovered, much to my delight, a family of pigs rootling about in the grass.  The caravan was tiny, full of spiders, and had no facilities, by which I mean none at all apart from somewhere to lay our heads.  We had our meals in the farmhouse but goodness knows what we did about the toilet.  Used a bucket I expect.  That’s Mum and me outside the caravan in the photo.

I learned two important lessons on that holiday.  I fell in love with the farm collie and the farmer let me take him along when we walked down to the village pub in the evenings.  Lesson 1:  I was never going to be allowed a dog of my own no matter how much I pleaded. (OK, we lived in a flat and they got me a budgie but it wasn’t the same).  Then I discovered that the pigs being driven into the back of the lorry were not going on holiday.  Why would you tell a five-year-old the truth about that?  But the truth is what I got.  Lesson 2:  Do not get attached to farm animals.  What with the pigs and the collie, I must have spent much of that holiday in tears, miserable child that I was.

Our next caravan holiday was to Climping Sands, again a stones-throw from Brighton, and again, the Southdown bus.  We were so close to home that my nan and grandad came to visit us.  My mother wasn’t best pleased either, since they turned up unannounced and for her they were part of the ‘getting away from it all’ thing in the first place.  The caravan was larger and slightly less basic than the farm one, on a proper campsite with a shop and everything.  All should have been well, but it wasn’t because it rained.  And it rained.  And it rained.  Maybe not solidly but the rain is what I remember, and because we were so far from the toilets, a bucket we found under the caravan was duly installed for night-time use.  A bucket with a hole in it.  Only we didn’t spot the hole until morning.

Gluttons for punishment that we were, more caravan holidays followed.  I remember particularly a trip to the Isle of Wight to which we travelled in comparative luxury by train and ferry.  The campsite looked idyllic and we were delighted when we saw it – until, after a route march around the site lugging our cases, we eventually found our caravan tucked in the furthest corner imaginable, miles from the facilities, and not exactly up to the standard of the luxurious specimens we’d admired on the way.  But the weather was glorious, the beach golden and sandy – always a novelty when you live in Brighton – and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

Sometimes I wonder how much of all this I merrily recorded in my back-to-school compositions, ‘What I did in my holidays’. Deirdre for blog All of it, probably.  In Technicolor.  Well, I loved composition and I wasn’t going to sell myself short.

When my friend Val and I were about seventeen, we went on holiday together – in a caravan.  The vast campsite overlooked Torbay, the caravans teetering down the side of a steep hill towards the cliffs.  The train journey from Brighton was quite an undertaking, burdened as we were with heavy suitcases containing all the decent clothes we owned, tons of make-up and hair stuff we couldn’t possibly do without as well as the food supplies our mothers had provided, including a ready-cooked gammon joint, packets of instant mash and Angel Delight.  I think they thought we would starve otherwise.

We spent so much time getting ready in the mornings we never saw the sun until about midday.  Goodness knows how we managed to tart ourselves up so much in the confines of a caravan but we did.  See the evidence in the photos – me posing like nobody’s business and Val in mid-hairwash.  If the seagulls hob-nailing it over the metal roof weren’t enough to wake us up in the mornings, a man staying alone in a nearby caravan would oblige by beating his fists against our van, and then rib us mercilessly when we appeared to run across the field in our nighties.  (Still no toilet, you see.)  Nowadays someone would have the police on him but those were innocent times and we thought it was a Val for bloglaugh.

I might use that holiday in a book one day, maybe in the sequel to ‘Dirty Weekend’.  (I’ve only just thought of that, which goes to show how writing on an entirely non-related topic can inspire!)

But I digress… By the time we took our boys on caravan holidays, things had moved on and the vans had proper loos and showers, separate bedrooms, TV, and on site there were swimming pools, restaurants, a gift shop with seemingly endless appeal for our youngest, and live entertainment every night in the club-house.  I don’t think they would have gone for anything less.  Not for them the midnight sprint among the cow-pats to the toilet block or the sinister hiss of calor gas if you hadn’t connected the tube properly.

Caravans are miracles of design when you think about it.  All the essentials folded into a small metal box.  Ingenious.  That’s what I liked about them, the dinkiness of everything, like living in a dolls’ house.  Not so sure about now though.  These days, caravans only feature in our holidays as something for my husband to shout and wave his fist at as he struggles to pass them on the road.  If we have to cannon into one another as we attempt to get dressed in four inches of floor space we’ll do it in a hotel room, thank you very much.

I can’t help feeling nostalgic, though, whenever I see a field full of caravans.  I always want to wave and shout ‘Hi-de-hi!’