Why Bother with Writing Courses by Sophie Claire

Today we are welcoming debut author, Sophie Claire to the blog.

I’ve always enjoyed going to writing courses and that isn’t going to stop now I’m published. Surprised?P1010220 - cropped small

A lot of people are, yet it was at a writing workshop that I came up with the opening scene of Her Forget-Me-Not Ex, and that’s just one example of how courses have really benefited me and my writing. Here are some others:

They give you the chance to step back from your novel-in-progress and look at it in an analytical way, they make you think about overall structure and themes rather than the nitty gritty of individual scenes. I find that often in these circumstances, new plot ideas and insights about my characters come to me.

Then there are the workshop exercises. When you’re given ten or twenty minutes in which to write something, you jump straight to it – there’s no time to stare out of the window and consider the possibilities. You’re given a task, and you simply put pen to paper and write! There’s something about the urgency of this which fires up my brain and opens up new ideas, leading to breakthrough moments like the opening of my novel, Her Forget-Me-Not Ex.

Her Forget Me Not Ex-1 coverI’d had the back story for two characters, Luc and Natasha, in my head for while – I knew they’d had a passionate affair followed by an accidental pregnancy, shotgun wedding, then a miscarriage and a hasty divorce – but I couldn’t think of a reason to bring them back together again and start the story in the present day. Yet I knew that fundamentally, they were meant for each other. Then I went to a workshop about conflict. It was run by my local writing group and we did several warm-up exercises, then were asked to write a scene in which two people wanted opposite things. The opening scene of Her Forget-Me-Not Ex landed in my head and wrote itself: Luc walks into Natasha’s shop desperate for her help; whilst she is horrified and certain that she will never, under any circumstances, become entangled in his life again. It raised so many questions – why hadn’t Luc told his family about the divorce? Why was his father so adamant he wanted to meet Natasha? What would persuade her to go?

I came away from the workshop buzzing, and desperate to get started on the story. It was a lovely feeling, and that re-energising effect is what I love most about writing workshops. They inspire you, they reconnect you with why you started writing in the first place, they spark fresh ideas.

Before I was published, I used to love attending residential writing courses like this one Writers’ Holiday because they gave me a short-term deadline (my long-term deadline was to submit a finished book to the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme each year) and motivated me to complete an opening chapter for critique. Getting feedback on a new project was invaluable, and gave me faith to carry on with the idea and finish the book. I also made wonderful friends on courses, including my critique partner whose feedback is priceless, and Write Romantic, Rachael Thomas!

Writing workshops can be useful no matter which stage of your writing career you’re at, and that’s why I’ll grab any opportunity to go to one!

Thanks Sophie! And Forget-me-not Ex is available from Amazon.

Review: Her Forget-Me-Not Ex by Sophie Claire

Her Forget Me Not Ex-1 cover

Luc and Natasha were married too young. It was a relationship driven by passion, but when Natasha became pregnant, Luc felt duty bound to propose, and Natasha, wanting a secure family life for her child, accepted. When she lost the baby, Natasha walked away, leaving behind a luxury apartment that was the loneliest place in the world, and a husband who didn’t seem to care, and whom, she was sure, was relieved that the whole episode was over. Three years later, Natasha has built a life for herself in the country village in which she spent the happiest years of her life – the time she spent living in Poppy Cottage with her mother and father, parents she lost at the tender age of seven. She owns a flower shop, and has dreams of buying Poppy Cottage, as she promised her mother she would. But it seems her plans aren’t as straightforward as she had hoped. Then Luc arrives on her doorstep, offering a solution to her problems. But he wants a favour in return. She must go with him to his family’s home in France and pretend that they are still married. His father is gravely ill, and his wish is to finally meet his son’s wife. It seems Luc hasn’t informed his family of their divorce, and he is determined that his father will get his wish. Against all her instincts, Natasha agrees to his terms. And so they head to France, to the family vineyard, to begin two weeks of deception.

This is a lovely novel – pure, unashamed romance. Luc is a gorgeous hero. The strong, silent type, successful in his work and focused on what he wants. Yet he nurses wounds that make him not only vulnerable to Natasha’s charms, but irresistible to the reader. My heart ached for the two of them, trapped in their unspoken pain – each of them believing the other didn’t care about what happened, each grieving for their lost child and their lost love.

Natasha is confused by Luc. He is too rich, too sophisticated for her simple ways. Throughout their marriage he seemed distracted, too intent on his work. He appeared uncaring, cold, and seemed resentful that he had been trapped into marriage by a gold-digger. Luc is baffled by a woman, seemingly unmoved by the loss off their baby, who walked away from their marriage and agreed to this charade for the sake of a piece of land. He thought he knew what she was, yet she seems to care about his family, about his father’s health, and to worry endlessly about deceiving them.

The one thing neither can deny is the intense sexual chemistry between the two of them. Passion sizzles off the page! Because the reader can see what both characters are feeling, and knows the motives for their behaviour, I wanted to shout at them to sort their relationship out, and stop seeing the downside to everything. Natasha, particularly, seems to feel inadequate, and unable to believe that Luc could have real feelings for her. But then, Luc is confused himself. He doesn’t know what he’s feeling. He’s still terrified of commitment, and can’t make a promise to Natasha that he’ll be able to stay with her long term, so who can blame her, really? If he doesn’t know himself that he loves her, how can she recognise it?

Neither can believe the other cares, but when you’ve been hurt so deeply in the past, do you dare to allow yourself to trust again? Luc has been told he’s a disappointment by his father for most of his life. He’s driven by a need to prove himself, to go it alone. He’s also been hurt and humiliated by another woman.He didn’t trust Natasha’s motives when they were together first time round, and now he’s afraid to take a chance on her again, as he doesn’t believe he’s capable of settling down. He doesn’t want to feel tied down – to the vineyard, or a woman. Natasha felt rejected by her great aunt and her biggest fear is living with someone who doesn’t really want her. From that perspective, Luc was the worst possible man she could have married.

The back story for these two characters meant that, although it was frustrating when they kept misunderstanding the other’s motives, I still felt compassion for them, and could quite see why they were behaving in the ways they did. I loved Natasha’s independent streak, the fact that she had a thriving career of her own, that she’d picked herself up and built a new life for herself. I loved her brightly coloured clothes and the quirky way she did her nails each day. Luc was smouldering, and I fell completely in love with him. The Provence countryside was described beautifully and I could almost feel the sunshine on my back. Luc’s family was delightful, and even the resolution of the father/son dilemma between Luc and the intimidating patriarch was handled realistically and satisfactorily.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel and flew through the pages with increasing delight. I’m looking forward to the next Sophie Claire book! 5/5

Sharon x

You can buy Her Forget-Me-Not Ex here

Next month, the book review will be by Jessica Redland, who will be reviewing Letting in Light by Emma Davies, which you can buy here.

Genre, romance & mystery with Nancy Jardine

Today we welcome Nancy Jardine to the blog to talk writing … welcome Nancy!

Could you start with introducing yourself and telling us a bit about your writing?

I’m an ex- primary teacher from Aberdeenshire, Scotland, who particularly liked to teach history – though most subjects had their own appeal! My romantic historical Celtic Fervour Series, and The Taexali Game Book 1 of my Rubidium Time Travel Series for the Teen/ YA market, are heavily influenced by my obsession about Roman Britain. I also write contemporary romantic mysteries which were initially intended to be ‘a break’ from the heavy research necessary in my historical work but historical aspects sneaked into two of my contemporary mysteries in an ancestral way!

When you read, do you read the same sort of books as you write or do you try to read outside the genre?

My reading spans many different sub genres of fiction.  I’m presently reading a dystopian/urban thriller; the book before that was a political thriller and the one before that was a romantic women’s’ fiction novel. My favourite is probably the historical romance genre but I enjoy other categories if the book is well written.

Could you ever see yourself changing genres, and if so, what would you change to?

So far I’ve written 3 contemporary romantic mysteries, 3 historical romantic adventures and 1 time travel historical adventure novel for Middle Grade/ YA readers. I have a slowly ongoing work in progress that’s a family saga and some might say that’s another slightly different sub-genre. It begins in Victorian Scotland and is planned to continue to approximately the 1950s, so it’s historical yet also about relationships according to the environments the characters live in.  I don’t see myself adding any other sub- genres in the near future since I’ve work in hand that fits my current writing types.

Tell us a bit about your latest book, Monogamy Twist.  nancyjardine2

Monogamy Twist isn’t quite my latest book. Monogamy Twist was relaunched by Crooked Cat Publishing at the end of March 2015 – a different version from the previously published US edition. It’s a contemporary romantic mystery set in Yorkshire, England.  The plot idea was sparked as I was doing ancestry research of my own family background while on the TV the current adaptation of a Dickens Novel was snagging my interest. It didn’t take long to decide to use the ‘mysterious inheritance bequest’ theme and adapt it for a fun contemporary novel. I really enjoyed creating the family tree around which the mystery is based, and it was a lovely change to create a different sort of spirited heroine in Rhia Ashton. She’s just perfect for Luke Salieri, because he needs help to find out why Amelia Greywood chose to leave the slightly dilapidated Greywood Hall to him.  However, Rhia is no pushover; she sets her own quirky conditions to the already weird deal set down by Amelia in her will.

Since Monogamy Twist was relaunched in March I’ve self published The Taexali Game (official launch date 22nd May). This is the first of a time travel series for Middle Grade/YA readers; though anyone who enjoys a good adventure will love the action packed Celtic Roman shenanigans during AD 210 when the Roman Emperor Severus plays havoc in northern Britannia.  My intrepid trio of time travellers have a task list to complete, and they’ve also to solve a local mystery— yet stay alive long enough to return to tell the tale!

On June 5th 2015, Crooked Cat Publishing relaunched Take Me Now, a contemporary romantic mystery. This story was great fun to write since I wanted to create a contemporary mystery around my version of a Scottish Highland Hero – my hero being somewhat flawed.  Nairn Malcolm finds he’s in a bit of a pickle having been involved in a mysterious accident. He needs someone to fly him from his Scottish island castle in his floatplane, down to Glasgow and then in his jet to London and beyond. Aela Cameron, a Canadian Vancouverite, is just the woman for all of his needs and together they eventually uncover the saboteur who causes further mayhem to both of them. Like Monogamy Twist, Take Me Now is a ‘sweet’ adaptation of the original US published version.


What is your favourite aspect of writing?

I’m a natural ‘pantser’ yet one who has gradually learned the value of planning a novel- even if I’ve still a lot to learn about that. That means I’m generally excited about working out the next stages in a novel as the story develops – my characters taking pathways that aren’t predictable when I make the general outline of the story.  I also love the editing processes since I’m pretty anal about making sure things ‘fit in’ properly. In my historical work this has meant ensuring that the time-lines work accurately (not always as simple as that seems) and in my contemporary mysteries it’s tying up all those potentially loose ends and sometimes adding little red herrings.

And your least favourite?

My least favourite might be finding that I’m in the ‘doldrums’ – which happened in the middle of the second book of my Celtic Fervour Series.  Book 2 is about Brennus of Garrigill and Ineda of Marske who become spies for King Venutius when the Romans are pushing further north in Brigante country (Yorkshire) in AD 71, but their romantic story is a long one since Ineda is captured by a Roman Tribune. Enslaved for a number of years means different relationships for Brennus and Ineda till major Roman military events occur to bring them back together.  After running the very long story past my publisher at Crooked Cat it was decided that Brennus’ story needed Book 2 and Book 3 of the series, 145 plus words being thought far too big for an ebook! Though they’re linked they were written to also stand alone. Since Book 2 doesn’t have an HEA ending the series couldn’t all be called historical romances – hence the labelling as historical romantic adventures, there being elements of all three in all three books.

Where do you get your ideas for writing?

Take Me Now transpired as a result of the chartering of a seaplane for a special birthday trip which flew us up past the Inner Hebrides on the west coast of Scotland.  The seaplane seats nine so nine family members climbed on board. This was followed by a chartered catamaran sail around Mull and the closer Hebridean islands. The whole weekend trip was fantastic and just begged to be used in a contemporary novel so my hero, Nairn Malcolm, is from a fictitious island off the coast of Oban where he bases himself at his restored castle. He’s not always the archetypal handsome highland laird but you’d need to read the story to know why not.  Monogamy Twist, as earlier stated was an amalgam of ancestry and a ‘borrowed’ Dickens plot. Topaz Eyes came about because I really loved making the family tree structure for Monogamy Twist. I decided to make a much more complicated family tree where I based the original matriarch in Europe, allowing me to include fabulous locations like Heidelberg, Vienna , Amsterdam and Edinburgh for her descendants.  The third generation tree structure gave me fabulous characters (some nice and others nasty) to include in the family treasure hunt for jewels which once belonged to an Indian Mughal Emperor. The trail for the gems also takes the protagonists beyond Europe to Minnesota and New York – as they evade the clutches of the deadly assassins of the family.

The Taexali Game  is dedicated to former pupils of mine who wrote excellent little stories as ‘end of project round-ups’ back in 2005.  I joked back then that I would someday write a full length Celt v Roman novel that could be used as a companion novel/ class reader for 12 year olds like them. The manuscript for the Taexali Game was lifted and shelved many times over the intervening years since I was too busy being a teacher to properly polish the story. I always knew I’d publish ‘it’ someday and 7th May 2015 was the day! My Celtic Fervour Series resulted from my continuing interest in Celtic Roman Britain. Instead of focusing on finishing the Taexali Game (set in AD 210) I instead spent time writing about a different era of Roman Britain for The Beltane Choice (#1 of my Celtic Fervour Series) – AD 71.  

If you could choose one perfect location in which to write, where would it be?

Somewhere with a proper desk, a large screen and a separate keyboard and mouse—because I’m useless with a laptop keypad. I’d prefer the desk to have an outside view overlooking a garden or a lovely vista. But since my desk at home has those things and I overlook my garden then I’m quite happy to be at home when writing. Not having Facebook or email minimised and blooping at the bottom of my screen would be wonderful  tactic– I’m too easily distracted by them!

If you could be mentored by one writer, alive or dead, who would it be and why?

I’d probably choose Charles Dickens. I love the fact that he walked for miles and miles (some 15 a day wasn’t unusual) composing the next part of his story in his head. When he returned home he had the ‘freedom’ to immediately write down what he’d composed so that he could send it to his publisher immediately, since his work tended to be serialised on a weekly basis. He couldn’t miss those deadlines yet he also managed to create the unity of the whole plot at the same time. His creativity was amazing while managing to have a busy family life which included a lot of kids! I’d love him to tell me great strategies for composing my next scenes when I’m gardening or when I’m doing my grandchild minding tasks.

And finally, can you tell us a bit about what you are working on at the moment?

I’ve started Book 2 of my Rubidium Time Travel Adventure Series for Middle Grade/YA readers where my trio of time travellers hop back to Victorian Glasgow, 1884. I’ve also begun Book 4 of my Celtic Fervour Series. This is about another Garrigill warrior; the niece of Lorcan of Book 1.   I’ve planned out and begun my 3-book family saga beginning in 1950 Victorian Scotland.  My task now that I’ve no new launches in the near future is to prioritise and finish my works in progress!

Thanks Nancy for coming on to the blog with us today!

If you’d like to know more about Nancy, she can be contacted via the links below.

Helen J Rolfe.



Twitter @nansjar

Facebook: http://on.fb.me/XeQdkG

Amazon author page:  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Nancy-Jardine/e/B005IDBIYG/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0


Somebody pinch me!

book14I know there’s nothing more annoying than someone telling you about the dream they had last night, but bear with me please, or perhaps that should be ‘bare’ with me given the nature of the dream…

It was one of those almost nightmarish scenarios where you realise you are totally exposed. It wasn’t quite as bad as the recurring dream my friend has about pushing a shopping trolley around Morrisons, in her birthday suit, but it was bad enough. Somehow, in my dream, I had got myself a job promoting gym membership. Now trust me when I say I wouldn’t be anyone’s first choice to promote their gym. Perhaps I could make it as a ‘before’ photo, but I’ve somehow never got round to getting the necessary physique for the ‘after’ shots. Anyway, I digress. In this dream it was my job to stand in the high street, wearing nothing but a lycra leotard and one of those signs you see being held up by someone who wishes they’d done better in their GCSES, about a golf sale being around the corner, that sort of thing.

People, understandably, were looking at me agog and I think it was their laughing that woke me up in the end. I did one of those flinching, falling-from-a-cliff type jolts awake, giving my long suffering husband a swift kick in the shin in the process. So far, so weird you might be thinking. But I know exactly why I had this dream and it wasn’t entirely down to the birthday Prosecco consumed the night before. It was all about being exposed and thinking I’d somehow been given a role for which I was a complete fraud and that I was about to be found out any minute. Which is more or less how it feels to be published.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m completely thrilled, but I can’t quite believe it’s happening to me and that today marks the release of my debut full-length novel. I’m expectingAATS Cover someone to tap me on the shoulder any moment and ask me to move along, make room for the real authors. Getting somewhere with writing wasn’t something that happened to people like me and yet, once it did, it was a bit of a domino effect. I ended up with several potentially interested publishers for ‘Among A Thousand Stars’ and I’m so glad that I went with So Vain Books, as they’ve been beyond brilliant and I can’t recommend them enough.

Publication deals ended up being like buses and shortly after signing with So Vain Books, I had an offer on a pocket novel from DC Thomson, ‘No Time for Second Best’ which hits the shops tomorrow. So if you happen to read in the news online that a woman has been arrested for taking selfies in WHSmiths over the next two weeks, that will be me. DC Thomson have also bought another pocket novel from me and it will be their Christmas release this year, so Christmas shopping with me could be a trial whilst I see just how many shops I can spot it in! I also had an email this week, which could bring some more exciting news, but I’m not talking about that just yet, in case I really do jinx all this.

snorkelI’m not cool in any sense – my thirteen year old, who has the wit and merciless delivery of Joan Rivers, will attest to that – and I’m certainly not cool about being published. I’ve been getting stupidly excited by the lovely reviews for ‘Among A Thousand Stars’ and if I spot someone reading it on the beach this summer, they’re likely to have to take a restraining order out against me! But if someone as terminally uncool as me can become a writer, then anything is possible.




Blurb for Among A Thousand Stars by Jo Bartlett

When her mother turns up naked and proud during her first term at college, Ashleigh Hayes assumes that life can’t get any more embarrassing. Ten years later, with best friend Stevie at her side, and a successful career as a freelance photographer for monthly magazine Glitz, it looks like she might have finally got the hang of things. Only she seems to have inherited the embarrassment gene from her mother and her every encounter with new boss, Tom Rushworth, looks set to send her career spiralling backwards. Getting past their shaky start, Ashleigh and Tom embark on a relationship that was only ever meant to be a bit of fun. But when life, paparazzi and love-sick Labradors get in the way, they suddenly find themselves caught in a roller coaster ride of emotions.

‘The perfect feel-good read’ Kerry Fisher, Bestselling Author

‘A very funny and thoughtful look at relationships behind the lens – a really enjoyable and poignant debut’

My Reading Corner ‘Sharp and witty dialogues, realistic characters, laughing-out-loud and tear-jerking situations’ On My Bookshelf

Writing in France … Vanessa Couchman

Today we welcome Vanessa Couchman to the blog to talk writing and living in France … Welcome Vanessa!

Vanessa Couchman

You’ve run a writing business since 1997. Could you tell us a bit about that?

It started when we moved to France in 1997 and I left my job in England. At first, I did management consultancy work, but that involved a lot of travelling, so I moved over to offering writing services instead. I write research reports and do copywriting work for a varied range of clients. I also write magazine articles about French life and the art of writing.

Do you have a favourite ‘type’ of writing? i.e. novels, short stories, magazine articles?

Novels, definitely. I started writing short stories about five years ago. Although I enjoy writing them, they are a form that’s especially difficult to do well. I wouldn’t say I find novels easier, but I think they are a format to which my writing is better suited.

I also enjoy writing my blog about life in SW France. I have made a lot of virtual friends – some of whom I have met in reality – through it. Since I have a passion for history, many of my posts are about the history of the part of France where I live.

What is your favourite aspect of writing?

Much of my writing is historical fiction. I feel more at home with that than with writing about the present. I enjoy researching the period in question and the challenge of developing a story in it without overwhelming the reader with too much of the history. I’m a believer in the importance of setting in fiction (cultural, historical, geographical) and the influence it has on my characters.

And your least favourite?

Editing. I’m not a very patient person (my husband will second that…) and I would rather move onto the next thing than spend time refining what I have written. I know this is quite wrong, though, so I do force myself to do it!

Are there any subjects you steer well clear of when writing?

As I mentioned above, I don’t often write stories set in the present. So I tend to steer clear of emotive social issues, although I did once write a story about wife beating (without first-hand experience, let me assure you!).

What do you think the biggest challenge facing writers is these days?

Standing out amongst the crowd, since so many people write and more and more books are published each year. You have to be on all social media and spend a lot of time ‘building a platform’, as it’s called. This tends to detract from your writing time, but it is a fact of life today.

Before you turned to writing, what other jobs did you do?

I worked in academic publishing for 10 years after leaving university. Then I felt the need to broaden my skills base, so I took a Masters in Business Administration. Following that, I worked for the Audit Commission (the body that used to carry out audits of and research into UK public services). Latterly, I was in charge of strategy development and communications. That was my last job before moving to France.

Your life in France sounds fascinating. Tell us a bit about life over there. Is it much different to living in the UK?

We live in the sticks in SW France. I’m not a city girl at heart, so I love it. There is always a lot going on – concerts, fêtes, and so forth – in the summer, but rather less in the winter. So I like visiting London when I get the chance. But I’m always happy to come home!

We have made efforts to integrate by learning the language, making French friends and getting involved in aspects of local life. I have worked in the local library and been involved in an annual literary festival, we sing in several choirs, and we are helping to restore a 15th-century chapel close by.

Having lived here since 1997, it’s hard to remember life in the UK. Life down here is less frantic and probably how it was in the UK some years ago. There are far fewer cars and people have more time to stop and chat. French men can be a bit sexist – but that’s not unknown in the UK!

And finally, can you tell us a bit about what you are working on at the moment?

vanessa couchman book

I have two novels on the go. One is a sequel to The House at Zaronza (which was set in early 20th-century Corsica and during World War I), set in World War II. The other is based on a true story in 18th-century Corsica, which I stumbled upon fairly recently. I’m particularly attached to the island of Corsica, where we often go on holiday. It has such a fascinating history and culture and it’s just crying out to have stories set there.

Thanks Vanessa for coming on to the blog with us today! You can find out more about Vanessa by visiting her website or following her on Twitter and Facebook. Her books are available via Amazon.

Helen J Rolfe x

Writing website and blog: http://vanessacouchmanwriter.wordpress.com

Twitter: @Vanessainfrance

Facebook: Vanessa

Amazon UK

Amazon US



Wednesday Wondering – What’s in your bag?

photo 1Welcome to another Wednesday Wondering. A couple of months ago, I attended a one-day workshop at my local theatre, exploring the art of script-writing. When we were exploring our characters, one of the exercises we were asked to complete was entitled ‘What’s in your bag?’ I hadn’t come across this before, but it’s apparently quite a popular one and helps you to get into the character’s head. Are they the sort of person who’d have a small bag with minimal belongings? Do they have loads of sweet wrappers in there? Photos of a baby … but they have no children? A gun? The possibilities are endless.

I certainly wasn’t expecting any confessions of gun-toting Write Romantics, but my question this week was, quite simply: What’s in your bag?

11401148_10153473538909073_6035331668307733151_nIt feels quite fitting that this question has arisen this month. You see, I have a little tradition that each time I change job, I buy a brand new handbag for work. This is never an expensive purchase and usually my bags will be from M&S or Debenhams. They need to be fairly sizeable to fit all the stuff I need for work, and they need to be able to sit comfortably on my shoulder. I found out last week that I’m being made redundant. Hopefully I’ll secure something pretty soon which means that it’s nearly time to buy a new bag. Which is probably a good thing because I don’t like mine. It’s a lovely colour and it’s comfortable but it has this inside lining that everything is meant to go into but it flaps about and I frequently can’t find anything because it’s gone into my bag outside the lining instead. Drives me crazy.

I have the obvious things in my bag: purse (including overspill wallet for store loyalty cards), phone (not in the pic because I used it for taking the photo), house keys, tissues, lipsalve etc. Not really sure why I have two handcreams. Most peculiar. Anyway, I thought I’d pick out the more interesting items. I always have my Kindle on me, just in case I’m waiting for a lift or stuck somewhere and can make good use of the time. I have a parking disk (something that’s common round our local area). I have a spare set of sunglasses as my eyes are extremely light sensitive and I need to wear shades most times I drive, even in the winter. There’s a set of postcards for my debut novel which was launched last week so I have them on me just in case. I’m a Brown Owl and it was a Brownie enrolment last night. I discovered that two of my promise badges were damaged so I’ve got those to return. And, perhaps poignantly, I have some keys, a parking permit, and a compliments slip to secure free parking at a charitable project I managed through work last week … but will be handing these back in soon (and recycling the compliments slip) given the unexpected news from last week.

Over to the other Write Romantics…

Jessica xx

Deirdre says…

I’m not a hoarder of bags as I tend to get rid of one as a new one comes in, but I do have bags in all different sizes. I have really small ones only fit for the shortest trip, or going out at night, which hold no more than a purse, comb and tissue, and large ones to use on a long day out. The trouble with a large bag is that I tend to cram it with more stuff than I need ‘just in case’. I might take spare shoes, should my poor feet protest at the ones I’m wearing, a cardigan or fold-up mac I probably won’t need, and my make-up which I hardly ever bother to re-apply. Consequently I’ll spend the day regretting all this extra stuff as the bag weighs a ton!



This red bag is somewhere between the two, and it’s my current favourite everyday bag, a bargain from TK Maxx.  Although it’s not that big, it holds a surprising amount of stuff. Currently this ‘stuff’ will comprise: Purse, phone, diary (which doubles as a notebook), pen, tissues, medication, a fold-up shopping bag, a neat little pink case which opens out into a mirror and hairbrush, reading glasses, sunglasses (or mini-umbrella, depending) and a few sweets.  I can also get my Kindle in if I arrange things properly. I do spend an inordinate amount of time groping around in my bag for things I need when I’m out, so as I go along, things like my glasses tend to end up in my pocket.

I do like bags, and would probably have more if I had room to store them. I mainly buy them in places like TK Maxx or in sales. Ollie and Nic bags are amazing. I’ve had several over the years, and only got rid of them when they fell to bits. We used to have an Ollie and Nic in Brighton but it closed down, which is probably just as well as it saves me from temptation.

Lynne says …

I’m looking in my bag now and wondering how much I should confess!! I use my bag as a place to stash all sorts of treasures. In the words of that old sage William Morris, ‘have nothing in your house that you do not believe to be beautiful, or know to be useful….’ except in my case swap the word house for bag.

As I look now I can see lipgloss – essential, any colour that is fairly natural, hairbrush (goodness knows why – I’m always forgetting to brush my hair), kindle (wonderful, if I need to call the RAC that will keep me busy, pens (fingers crossed they don’t leak). Now we’re getting to the interesting bit… postcards of my first wonderful book cover, I still love it every time I look at it, a handful of change usually for school dinners & general expenses, and then the tasty bit, a packet (or two, or three) of those wonderful parma violet sweets just like I used to get at school. Mmm, they are yummy, but my taste can change to mints or something so you can never be totally sure!!

Helen P says …

photoWhat’s in my bag? At the minute not a lot… I cleared out my accumulation of junk just the other day but the bare essentials for me are – my Chanel No 5 because I feel like a grown up when I have a squirt, a Chanel lipstick which has been discontinued so I use it very sparingly and I totally loved that colour as well.

Some glittery nail varnish, you just can’t get enough glitter 😉

My business cards that I never remember to give out. My gorgeous notebook my daughter specially designed and printed for me. Pink pens because why write with black ink when you can have pink. Ibrufen (one of life’s essentials), chewing gum, an emergency chocolate because you just never know and a collection of Costa Coffee napkins, just in case.

Sharon says …

I’m not a big handbag lover. I consider it a necessity, but I don’t go all gooey over them. I wouldn’t spend a lot on one. In fact, I’ve never spent more than twelve pounds on a bag and I really begrudged paying that! I only get a new one when the one I have collapses. I’m currently lugging around a fairly large, black bag from George at Asda, which I’m quite pleased with, as it seems to be pretty sturdy and very roomy. I really could do with a decent, smaller bag for ‘going out’. I’ve never bothered before because I don’t go out much and it never seemed worth it, but I’ve been popping my head round the front door and testing the outside world a little more lately, so an evening bag seems to be next on my to-buy list.

10603499_800515630065678_7979225131319844607_nI can never find anything in my bag because it’s full of junk. I’ve taken a photo of the current contents of my bag, which is truthfully what I’m carrying around with me every day. I have, however, removed loose painkillers that were rattling around in the bottom of my bag, a few coins which I didn’t know I had so that was good, a couple of letters and some wage slips that have been there for months, and enough receipts to paper my living room.

So what’s left in there? As you can see from the photo, I’m currently carrying with me my purse, a comb, my keys, a current diary, a 2012 diary (because it’s got Dr Who on the cover and I can’t bear to part with it. Besides, there are some notes in there that I need. Yes, I know I could write them in the new one. Shut up!) A model of the Eleventh Doctor…Look, I don’t know why! I just carry it around with me, all right? When I’m at home he sits on my computer desk. He’s my muse. We all have our quirks! A pack of birthday cards, in case I’ve forgotten anyone’s birthday and turn up for work and everyone else is handing them cards, a notebook, which was a publication day present from lovely Alys West, a pen, a box of paracetamol “because you never know when pain will strike”, a tube of hand cream, my reading glasses, some tissue paper (clean), a couple of till receipts, and a People’s Friend pocket novel (written by Write Romantic Lynne) which I’m reading as and when I get a minute. It’s bookmarked with my invitation to Jessica Redland’s book launch now, though last week it was bookmarked with a bill. When the invitation arrived I thought I’d much rather carry that around with me, and it’s safe between the pages of the book so it’s win, win! There’s also a large bottle of water in there, although I only carry one of those when I’m going to work. What I didn’t photograph was my computer glasses which I also carry around permanently (I have to use them at work) and my mobile phone, because I used it to take the picture. No wonder I can never find my flipping phone when it rings under that lot!

Jackie says …

image1I usually have a few handbags on the go and at the moment have this rather strange one on the go as it will hold my MacBook when it needs to, but I can fold it over when I don’t need it. I am a bit (a lot!) of a messy handbag person and can never find what I need in the depths – shopping receipts, tissues, bits of scrap paper etc usually clog up the innards of any bag I own. However, this is my essential stuff that is always in any bag I have with me. Was horrified to find I didn’t have a pen in there. Call myself a writer!

Helen R says …

photo-1When Jessica asked us to talk about our bags and their contents I must admit I drew in a sharp intake of breath! My bag is full of a lot of stuff I probably don’t need but here’s the list: bottle of water, plasters, purse, phone, keys, tissues, a pencil, old receipts, small umbrella, paracetamol, headphones, handwash, handcream and a couple of hair ties.

When I went to London last year I took a tiny bag and then proceeded to buy quite a few things, books included, and stuff them into the rucksack my husband was carrying. He was so unimpressed that he sent me into one of the tourist shops to buy a bag. I’ve had my ‘medium purple bag’ ever since and I love it. It’s got short handles so doesn’t make my shoulder ache and it fits a lot in too.

I’m a bit of a bag lady I have to admit, and I’ve been meaning to buy another for quite some time. I’m not sure why I love them, but they’re the perfect accessory. I’ve taken a picture of just some of my bags (at the top of this post)… I had a clear out before we moved from Australia but still have a selection 🙂 If I’m going out to dinner or for drinks I take a smaller bag but essentials are phone, purse, keys, handwash and tissues. Sometimes this is a challenge with the smaller varieties!

Rachael says …

IMG_0178What’s in my handbag? Well I’ll let you know some of things which lurk within the depths of my handbag. Obviously there is my purse, a lovely Italian leather purse I bought in Lucca two years ago whilst on a writing holiday with friends. Then there is the usual pack of tissues, hand cream and lip balm. At the moment I’m carrying round a pair of sunglasses, just in case summer decides to grace us with her presence. My phone of course, is a must.

Then there are those important bits, showing as a writer, you are never really off duty. I have my notepad and pen and a copy of my latest Mills and Boon book, just in case I can press it into the hands of an unsuspecting reader.

One thing I hardly ever do is change my handbag. I’m not very good at a bag for every outfit. I do have evening bags and a small bag big enough for my phone and a small purse when travelling, but prefer to leave everything in my everyday bag. At least I can’t forget anything then.

Over to you. What’s in your bag? We’d love to hear from you. There’s an option to comment at the end of the tags below this post. Thank you.

Five Writing Lessons I’ve Learned by Jessica Redland on the launch of her debut novel

_MG_2776-EditMy debut novel, Searching for Steven, was launched on Wednesday (3rd June 2015) by So Vain Books. My debut novella, Raving About Rhys (set before Steven but written as a stand-alone story), is also out now and I still find it hard to believe that I’m a published author!

What have I learned during the writing process? Goodness me, I could go on for ages, but let me stick to five main lessons and, because I love alliteration in the titles of my books, I’ve set myself the added challenge of making sure they all start with the same letter.

  1. PURPOSEFULNESS: Writing can be a slow process … especially when, like me, you have a full-time job too. It took me a decade from writing my first words to submitting Steven to a publisher for the first time. I did learn my craft during that time, close a business, change jobs several times, get married, have a baby and move house twice so I had huge writing-free periods. I promise I’m not that slow a writer! My advice would be to always keep that end goal – that purpose – in mind and keep going. Even if you only have time to write small amounts like five hundred words a few times a week, it will soon add up. A 100,000-word novel is just 274 words a day for a year. Obviously, there’ll be re-writing and editing needed, but doesn’t 274 words a day sound achievable?
  1. Jessica Redland - Searching for Steven - Front Cover LOW RESPATIENCE: I’ve said that writing can be a slow process but the journey to a publication is not exactly speedy either. A couple of publishers to whom I submitted Steven took nine months to return a decision, and they were publishers I’d met, had pitched to, and who had asked for my full MS. I’m actually not a very patient person. I’m exceptionally patient with other people, but not with anything that affects me, so waiting for news from publishers or agents was a bit of a challenge. At first, I was a little obsessed with checking the mail and my emails, but I finally managed to relax and accept that everything would happen in its own sweet time.
  1. PERSEVERANCE: Unless you’re one of the very fortunate few, you will get rejections. I was surprised to find that they weren’t quite as traumatic as I expected. Okay, so they’re not the most wonderful things to receive. I certainly wasn’t doing a happy dance each time one landed through my letterbox or in my inbox, but they certainly didn’t reduce me to tears like I’d expected. You see, I had a plan. I knew whom I’d submit to next so I could look at the rejections as the closing of one door and the opening of another. There must be very few authors out there who haven’t got a stack of rejections behind them, including incredibly successful authors like Stephen King and JK Rowling. It’s part of the process. It took me a year, 14 publisher submissions and 12 agency submissions before I got my break and, if the offer from So Vain Books hadn’t come along when it did, I’d have gone indie. There are so many opportunities out there to get your work published so don’t give up at the first hurdle. I will just point out that my publisher, So Vain Books, were incredibly quick with their response to my submission so not all publishers take so much time.
  1. CoversPROCRASTINATION: As anyone who regularly uses social media will know, social media is a massive distraction. Some evenings, I can have gone into my office with the intention of writing after a quick catch-up on Facebook. I glance at the clock and realise it’s nearly 10.00pm and I still haven’t written a single word of my WIP. Oops! I have to limit myself because working full time, being a Brown Owl, being a mum and being an author is a lot to fit in. If I’m meant to be spending the evening writing, I’ve learned that it’s best to close my emails, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter or I’ll procrastinate big time. I’d like to think that, if I was ever fortunate enough to be able to write full-time, I’d be really structured in my approach to social media e.g. an hour first thing and an hour mid-afternoon. But I bet I wouldn’t. I bet I’d find that it’s a case of the more time you have to write, the less writing you actually get done!
  1. PASSION: I’d hope it goes without saying that anyone thinking of writing must be passionate about it because it can be all consuming. I couldn’t imagine not writing. But it’s not your own passion I want to address here; it’s the passion of others. I’ve really touched by the time some of my friends and family have given to beta reading and supporting me. They’ve demonstrated as much passion and excitement about me being a writer as I feel myself. Saying thank you feels inadequate. I’m also very fortunate to be part of a writing collective called The Write Romantics. We all met through the Romantic Novelists’ Association and have been blogging together for two years. It’s amazing being able to share the highs and lows with nine other like-minded passionate women.
Scarborough - the inspiration for Whitsborough Bay

Scarborough – the inspiration for Whitsborough Bay

However, there are those who don’t share the same passion. The day job is a classic example to illustrate this. I’d like to think that I don’t witter on about writing because I know that many work colleagues won’t be readers and, as I work in a male-dominated environment where the age profile is mainly 50 plus, they’re not exactly my target market. I’ve occasionally made a passing comment at the water cooler when asked how I’ve spent my weekend and I’ve watched eyes glaze over with absolute disinterest. I’d like to think that, if anyone told me they did something a little unusual, I’d express surprise and interest, and then ask a few follow-up questions. What I’ve experienced instead is that they either change the subject, nod and continue making their coffee in silence, or they tell me they’d like to write a book because hasn’t everyone got a book in them? They probably do but capability of getting it out is another matter entirely! Of course, I don’t say that. I grin, ask a few questions, and return to my office with my drink, knowing that it wasn’t the first and certainly won’t be the last time that happens.

That concludes my five lessons for now. I’m sure I’ll continue to learn as time progresses because I suspect I’ve only just scratched the surface of the writing experience so far.

Happy reading everyone 🙂

Jessica xxx

The Blurb for Searching for Steven which can be found on Amazon in eBook and paperback formats here

601685_10151958992299073_754441455_nWhen Sarah Peterson accepts her Auntie Kay’s unexpected offer to take over her florist’s shop, she’s prepared for a change of job, home and lifestyle. What she isn’t prepared for is the discovery of a scarily accurate clairvoyant reading that’s been missing for twelve years. All her predictions have come true, except one: she’s about to meet the man of her dreams. Oh, and his name is Steven.

Suddenly Stevens are everywhere. Could it be the window cleaner, the rep, the manager of the coffee shop, or any of the men she’s met online?

On top of that, she finds herself quite attracted to a handsome web designer, but his name isn’t even Steven…

During this unusual search, will Sarah find her destiny?

‘A warm and witty tale of one woman’s search for love, with a brave and feisty heroine you can’t help rooting for. SEARCHING FOR STEVEN is a compelling debut by a talented author, and I highly recommend it.’ Talli Roland, bestselling author of The No-Kids Club

‘Searching for Steven is a wonderful, uplifting story about the magic of true love that will put a smile on your face and happiness in your heart.’ Suzanne Lavender

‘Amusing and engaging, Searching for Steven is the story to make you believe in your one true love, with or without fate leading you there’ reviewedthebook.co.uk

The blurb for Raving About Rhys (novella) which can be downloaded from Amazon here

_MG_9950Bubbly Callie Derbyshire loves her job as a carer, and can’t believe she’s finally landed herself a decent boyfriend – older man Tony – who’s lasted way longer than the usual disastrous three months. Tony’s exactly what she’s always dreamed of… or at least he would be if he ever took her out instead of just taking her to bed. And work would be perfect too if she wasn’t constantly in trouble with her boss, The She-Devil Denise. 

When the new gardener, Mikey, discovers her in a rather compromising position at work, Callie knows that her days at Bay View Care Home could be numbered. Can she trust him not to tell Denise? If she was issued with her marching orders, who’ll look out for her favourite client, Ruby, whose grandson, Rhys, seems to constantly let her down? What does Ruby know about Tony? And what is Denise hiding? 

Surrounded by secrets and lies, is there anyone left who Callie can trust?

Twitter: @JessicaRedland

Facebook: Jessica Redland Writer

Website: www.jessicaredland.com

Friday Friends Competition – win a signed copy of Jane Lythell’s ‘After the Storm’

FINAL After the Storm_JANEWhen I was in my twenties, life was very different. I could stay up all night, drink whatever I wanted and still wake up the next day bright-eyed and ready to take on the world. Since becoming a mum, sleep is like gold dust and it takes me about four days to recover from a late night. Children just don’t give you the luxury of lying on the sofa until 3 pm, eating bacon sandwiches and watching re-runs of Friends until you feel ready to face the world, do they? So, reading into the small hours, just like late nights out, has largely become a thing of the past. Only a handful of books now keep me reading through the night, knowing that I’ll suffer the next day but not caring because the story is so worth it. In the last year, two of those very books were written by Jane Lythell.

Jane writes novels that you simply can’t put down. I was on the edge of my seat (well, more accurately, my bed) reading both The Lie of You’ and After the Storm’. I woke up in the morning, on both occasions after finishing Jane’s books, exhausted, with a hint of tan from the glow of my Kindle and serious writer envy, but over-ridingly pure enjoyment as a reader of two great books.

I don’t know what the weather is like where you are today but, down here in Kent, we woke up to a terrific thunderstorm, the low rumblings waking me up before either the children or the alarm clock had the chance, but it’s also tropically hot and humid. All of that seems pretty apt for this blog post, since today I have the privilege of running a competition to give away not one, but two signed copies of Jane’s second novel ‘After The Storm’, which tells the story of two couples setting sail for an idyllic island cruise in the Caribbean – except there are secrets simmering just below the surface, so it’s far from plain sailing and, as the tagline says, some secrets can destroy you…

All you have to do to win a signed copy of this fantastic thriller is to write one or two sentences on your worst ever holiday disaster!Picture 405

You can leave a comment here (click comment in the tiny green writing at the bottom of the screen) or tweet us @writeromantics, leave a message on our Facebook page or email us at thewriteromantics@hotmail.co.uk. Jane will pick two lucky winners and you’ll also get a mention on her blog.

I’d love to enter, but of course I can’t – suffice it to say that my worst holiday disaster involved missed transportation, a serial-killer style haircut and gravel in the inner ear! You can read more about ‘After the Storm’ in the publisher’s press release here, it’s available right now in WHSmiths travel outlets nationwide and, of course, online.

Good luck and, to the winners, you are in for a treat!


PLEASE NOTE: The competition closes at midnight BST on Tuesday 16th June.

A Major Awards Ceremony!!!

I thought my days of attending grand awards ceremonies finished when I left university,  I had rather enjoyed  my day as a new graduate, being the centre of attention and flowing around in that wonderful black gown all day which made a wonderful, swishy, trail behind you if you learnt exactly how to move in the right way, an art that I perfected, but  little did I know that fate had a similar day in store for me. Although there was no swishy cape I did get to wear my fave thick silk dress and posh shoes.

It all came about because the book my mother and I had written had been read by the New Writer’s Scheme  run by the Romantic Novelist’s Association and that qualified it to be entered to the Joan Hessayon Prize for new writers. The award is a romantic story in itself. Dr Hessayon, who might be known to you as an author of gardening books and he donated a prize  to the association in his wife’s name. Its lovely isn’t it?

The award ceremony takes place in the rather grand setting of the Royal Overseas League in London , I was asked to be there a little earlier than attendee’s to have my photograph taken and this is the group photo we had taken.  It was lovely to meet my fellow newly published authors and be centre of the attention for once!! I never expected to  win, my first published novel was a pocket novel by D.C.Thomson and it was written with a little help from my mother. Mum was really poorly  and when visiting her I’d tell her about my story and she’s make helpful plot suggestions, so I put her as author and she had her name on the cover.

She was thrilled ‘I never thought I’d get to 86 and get my name on the front of a book !’ she said!

It was wonderful to see her so happy, she is so ill there is little we can do to cheer her up, but having her name on the front of a book was just the ticket!

Really, I had had my prize just by seeing mum so happy, but I went to the awards ceremony anyway. Needless to say I didn’t win, the excellent Brigit Coady and her novel ‘Nobody wants to be Miss Havisham’ took the award.

But I had a wonderful day meeting up with some of my fellow Write Romantics, seeing  Annie Lennox in the cafe and catching up with other author friends.  I  have now published my first novel through kindle direct and its doing really well. Its been more popular than I ever imagined! I tried to upload a photo of the cover but my book but my technical skills on my new mac  aren’t up to it yet. I’ll do that for a future post, but if you’re on Amazon check out ‘Please Adopt Me’ by Lynne Pardoe.  I totally love the cover and never tire of checking it out!

It just goes to show, you can never tell what fate has got in store for you!         Joan Hessayon contenders smaller