A Bright New Start for Beltane by Alys West

downloadFor as long as I’ve wanted to write I’d hoped to one day sign with a literary agent.  And then I did and it was nothing like I’d imagined.  Possibly as a result of reading too many books set in the 1930s, I had this idea of literary agents as fatherly figures or blue-stockinged, strong minded ladies who maybe smoked too many cigarettes or took too many long lunches but knew the publishing industry inside and out.  I thought they’d pick up my book and guide it, with a firm hand, out into the world.  Perhaps that’d involve wining and dining the right editor, or shaking the right hand at a book fair, but sooner or later I’d have a book deal on the table.

Only it didn’t work out like that.  I got a series of very polite rejections for the most baffling variety of reasons.  One editor loved this about it but not that, the next turned it down because they enjoyed the rest of it, but hated what the first editor had loved.  At the end of that my confidence, which is never high, had taken a total battering and whatever belief I’d had in Beltane had pretty much disappeared.  And my faith in my agent was being shaken at the same time.  They made promises they didn’t fulfill, often didn’t reply to emails until they’d been chased and, hardest to forgive, turned down two offers from publishers in the US without discussing them with me first.

Then last autumn my agent suggested that I publish Beltane through Amazon’s White Glove programme.  White Glove is only available to people who have an agent and, I was told, is like an enhanced form of KDP and would allow access to Kindle Monthly Deals.  Once I got started with it there was little evidence of the additional marketing support that I’d been promised.  It turned out that Amazon had changed their rules, since we’d originally talked about it in the autumn, and books could only be nominated for Kindle Monthly Deals quarterly and I’d have to wait until the end of March to be nominated for spring promotions.  But before that the price had to remain above £1.99 and it wasn’t possible to run any other promotions.  Anyone who has self-published will be aware of how hard it is to generate interest in a debut. Being unable to drop the price below £1.99 it felt next to impossible, no matter how great my reviews were or how much time I spent on Twitter.

It took something else to happen for me to leave but the end result of all of this is that my agent and I have now parted company and I’ve been trying to re-orientate myself in a new world.  I’m now with Fabrian Books. It’s lovely to be part of a small team but retain control of the way my book is sold and marketed.

Beltane new ebook coverNow I’ve arrived here, I’m wondering if it’s where I should have been all along.  I’ve tried to play by the rules, doing things the traditional, approved way and it’s not worked.  Perhaps I’m not cut out for dealing with the world of traditional publishing.  What I’ve seen of it so far has not exactly impressed me. Coming from the certainties of the world of law it’s pretty hard for me to understand that everyone in publishing seems to be desperately searching for the holy grail of the next big thing, but can’t actually tell you what it is they’re looking for.

Watching someone mismanage your book is a very painful process.  I never want to go through that again, so does that mean I’m now indie for life?  I don’t know.  I guess I need to try it and see.  I felt really fed up earlier this week about it not working out with my agent, about the time wasted and the opportunities I could have taken if I’d not been locked into this route that was supposed to be the best one for publication.  Thanks to the support of the other Write Romantics and an exercise at my yoga class about being upside down and looking at things that way (try it sometime, it really helps!) I’ve now been able to see that maybe I needed to try the agent route to find out that it wasn’t right for me.

Because of all of this, I’ve read Beltane again for the first time in about 2 years.  What really hit me this time is that it’s a book about outsiders.  Maybe it’s right that it’s now truly independently published.

Has your route to publication not worked out at all as you’d expected?  If you’re happy to share them, I’d love to hear about your experiences.

Beltane is now published by Fabrian Books and is available here and is only 99p until the Summer Solstice on 20th June.

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Happy 3rd Birthday to us!

1st April is a special day for the Write Romantics. It’s our 3rd birthday!

When Jo Bartlett and I ‘met’ virtually through the Romantic Novelists’ Association and came up with the idea of blogging together, we were two unpublished writers who weren’t even ready to submit our manuscripts. We realised quite quickly that we were going to struggle to post regularly about our ‘not quite ready to explore being published’ status, so we invited a few more RNA members to join in. The Write Romantics grew from two to ten, dipped down to nine for a while, then went back up to ten again.

One of the fascinating aspects of this group of female writers (other than the fact that we have never all been in the same place at the same time (except virtually) and therefore haven’t all physically met yet), is that we were nearly all aspiring writers when we joined forces. Only one of the group had a publishing deal. Move forward three years and it’s a very different picture.

We thought this would be the perfect opportunity for the Write Romantics to tell you about their last three years.

Jessica xx

book14Jo Bartlett

Three years ago, I was unpublished and dreaming of one day walking into a bookshop and seeing my name on the cover of a novel on sale there. I’d just finished my debut novel and was sending it out to publishers… Fast forward three years and my novel, Among a Thousand Stars, has now been out for nine months with So Vain Books and I have my coveted paperback! I’ve also had two pocket novels published by DC Thomson, so I got to see my name on a book in WHSmiths on several occasions. Both novels were picked up by Ulverscroft, a third pocket novel has just gone in to DC Thomson and I have also had a short story published with them in The People’s Friend. In the second half of last year, I signed a women’s fiction four book deal with Accent Press, the first two books will be coming out in 2016 and the second two next year. AATS CoverIn October, I finished second in the WHSmiths/Kobo/Harlequin romance writing competition and I am currently working with an editor at the world’s most famous romance publishing house on something that will be a significant departure for me and hence is being written under another name. Most of this has happened in the past twelve months and I definitely don’t appreciate how far I’ve come in three years for the vast majority of the time. Seeing it all written down like this makes a big difference though and, for once, I feel like there’s something to celebrate. The WRs birthday is the perfect excuse!

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100% genuine *cough*

Sharon Booth

Gosh! Three years ago I wasn’t part of the Write Romantics. In fact, I hadn’t heard of them (sorry!) I started writing my first full-length novel in November of that year, for NaNoWriMo. I met Jessica and Alys in June of 2014, having connected with Alys on Romna, as we were members of the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme. I had a half-baked, patchwork story called Angel in the Marble, and was convinced it was rubbish. Jessica and Alys persuaded me to work on it and submit it to the RNA. I did, and got very positive and encouraging feedback. That September, I was invited to join the Write Romantics This Other Eden ebook cover V4 (1)(yay!) and in November, we released a charity anthology, Winter Tales, which included my short story, The Other Side of Christmas. I got Angel in the Marble edited and proofread, changed its name to There Must Be An Angel, and it was published in March 2015. Now I’m on the brink of publishing my third full-length novel, This Other Eden, having also had a pocket novel published by DC Thomson, and another short story in print, this time for The People’s Friend. Things really started to happen for me when I met the Write Romantics, so I’m very grateful to be part of this lovely group.

Jackie Ladbury

conf 2014 12In April 2013 I was faffing around with at least three half written books on the go. I now have three fully written books and am still faffing around! Have decided to pitch three novels as airline series and am finally getting my act together with A Plan! (I think!) Was shortlisted for a Mills and Boon first chapter competition and that complete novel is now part of The Plan. Am considering self-publishing another novel, but thinking about it makes me want to have a lie down, or take to the bottle. Could do that in reverse order I suppose!

my pic for blog postDeirdre Palmer

When we began, I was in the midst of submitting my novel, Remarkable Things, which has themes of motherhood, family relationships and later-life love. More revisions and another year on, I finally secured that elusive FINAL FINAL COVER with taglinecontract, and the book was published by Crooked Cat. Meanwhile, I’d written a 1960s’ comedy drama called Dirty Weekend, which Crooked Cat also published, a few months after the first. An excellent year! Now I’ve just finished another novel and started on another, the sequel to Dirty Weekend. Looking back, I’m very happy with what I’ve achieved in the last three years 🙂

 

DSCN1701Lynne Pardoe

I had barely started my first novel three years ago when my mum became ill. Stuck for things to speak about mum and I talked about my plot, the more it took shape, the quicker I wrote it! That was eventually sold to D.C.Thompson and it came out in January 2015 as ‘Made for Each Other.’ Since then I self published ‘Please Adopt Me‘ on Amazon at first. Now I’m just waiting for my second to be edited and am well into my third! I’m loving having a cottage industry all to myself and so are my readers, judging by the quantity of good reviews I have!! 🙂

helen phiferHelen Phifer

Three years ago I’d been offered my first two book contract with Carina and I was busy working on the rewrites for my debut novel The Ghost House. Which was to be published in October. Now I’m in the middle of writing my sixth Annie Graham novel. Book five The Girls in the Woods was published in January and I have a paperback of The Ghost House on my shelf, plus I have a standalone horror story that will be published by Carina in September and Annie book six will be published around December 2016. I’m in the process of something very exciting for next year which will take me in a whole different direction as I’m working on a brand new crime series. Which I’ll share with you once it’s all finalised. All in all, I’m one very busy, extremely happy writer.

 

_MG_4982Jessica Redland

‪In April 2013, I was working on my debut novel, Searching for Steven. It had gone through the RNA’s NWS once and I was preparing to put it through the NWS for a second time later that year because I’d made significant changes to it. The idea of becoming published was a distant dream. Eighteen months later, I received two publishing deals and decided to go with a new UK-based publisher Screenshot 2015-12-16 18.08.14called So Vain Books. In June 2015, Searching for Steven was released. It’s the first book in a trilogy of romantic comedies with deeper issues set in a fictional North Yorkshire seaside town called Whitsborough Bay. The follow up, Getting Over Gary, was released last month
and the final part of the trilogy will be out in August this year. I’ve also released a novella, Raving About Rhys, which is set in the same town but with a different cast of characters. I have a deadline for submission of book 3 in about six weeks’ time then I get to write something new which is incredibly exciting. It’s been an amazing few years. Eek! Dreams really can come true 🙂

 

Author photo - Helen J RolfeHelen J Rolfe

Three years ago, I was getting ready to send my second attempt at a novel to the RNA NWS. As I was living in Australia this was always interesting at a cost of more than a hundred dollars plus an anxious wait to find out whether it had arrived in the UK safely. But it was so worth it! ‪Three years on and that novel, The Friendship Tree, was the first of three I have had published. I went on to indie publish Handle Me with Care and What Rosie Found Next  and I have another two novels already in the pipeline. ‪It’s been an interesting and busy time but a lot of fun. I’ve learnt so much about writing and the publishing industry and I’m hoping the next three years bring just as much success for all The Write Romantics!

CoverTheFriendshipTree

Handle Me with Care final front cover - for KDPWhat Rosie Found Next - bookcover - KDP version

 

 

 

 

 

photo (10)Rachael Thomas

In April 2013 I had just had my latest rejection and as usual was gutted. After the customary sulk, I began work on my next book, which I submitted to Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write competition in September 2013. That book made it to the Top 10 at the end of the year and Christmas 2013 saw me working on revisions which I submitted early in 2014 and within two weeks, I The Sheikh's Last Mistress-UK covergot ‘the call’. My debut, A Deal Before the Altar was published by Harlequin Mills and Boon in October 2014. Now three years on from the launch of The Write Romantics blog my sixth book, The Sheikh’s Last Mistress is about to be released. What is even more special, is that this book is a rewrite of the one rejected in April 2013, which just goes to show, nothing you write is ever wasted. Happy Birthday everyone!

Alys West Christmas 2015Alys West

Three years ago, I was working on the first book of an urban fantasy trilogy, Beltane. My dream was to secure an agent and I was thrilled in summer 2014 to be invited to London to meet an agent who wanted to represent me! Since then, Beltane has been published and I’ve been working on the rest of the series. I’ve also discovered a new passion for steampunk and wrote a story called The Dirigible King’s Daughter which I released on Wattpad. It’s been fascinating reading feedback from those who’ve followed the release of each chapter. The Dirigible King’s Daughter will be available on Amazon in the early summer. My novel writing is taking a bit of a back seat at the Beltane finalmoment because I’m studying towards a Masters in Creative Writing, but I’ll be back to it very soon.

 

We hope you’ve enjoyed our round-up of the last three years. If you’re just starting your writing journey, or you’re submitting and dealing with rejections at the moment, please keep on believing in your work because, as you can see from our summaries, dreams really do come true xxx

 

 

 

 

 

A Long Way From 1992 by Alys West

img-150928160934-0001 (2)Twenty three years after I graduated I am officially a student again.  I have my student card, I’ve ordered my NUS card and have a brand spanking new pencil case. I’ve also got a bad set of nerves as I return to education.

You see, I’ve enrolled to do an MA in Creative Writing at York St John University.  This seemed like an excellent idea when I filled in the application form.  It’s been something I’ve wanted to do for about ten years but health problems and work pressures have always got in the way.  Then when I was in Cornwall in June I decided that this was the year I was actually going to do it.

course booksI went to meet the course tutor who reassured me that genre writing was fine and they wouldn’t try to turn me into a literary writer.  So I applied and a few weeks later I got offered a place.  Then the reading list arrived and the nerves kicked in.  You see, there are some serious books on that list. I don’t even understand the title of the top one!

Okay, so I’ve written two novels now.  But I’ve not studied writing apart from the odd evening class (and some of them were very odd, let me tell you!). I’ve got an A level in English Literature but that’s back from the time of big hair and serious shoulder pads.  Could I resurrect the part of my brain that had once been able to talk about the organic timescales in Wuthering Heights?

YSJUWell, only time will tell.  And in the meantime I’ve a whole lot of other things to get used to.  Apparently they don’t have a library anymore.  It’s a Learning Centre and has more computers than books.  Not only can you talk on the lower two floors but you can take food and drink in too.  (Do I sound like a grumpy old woman if I say that my first thought was ‘what is this? A holiday camp?!) There’s electronic submissions, a virtual learning environment (sorry, what?) and an online library.  It makes me feel very old to find that a library is no longer a building but a collection of electronic resources.

The good news, when I went to the induction, was that I wasn’t the oldest person on the course and that most other people are also doing it part-time over two years.  Quite how I’m going to fit in working, writing and the MA I’m not sure.  If anyone’s got Doctor Who’s number I could really do with borrowing the Tardis for a day or two!

Back to UniUntil that happens you’ll find me in the Learning Centre, nervously clutching a cup of tea, and trying to remember that I’m allowed to talk.  Or maybe popping off to Top Shop to enjoy my NUS discount.  Now, at least that’s something which hasn’t changed!

If you’ve returned to education after a break or if you were a mature student I’d love to hear how you got on.  All words of advice on navigating this brave new world will be very much appreciated.

Alys xx

Out of Control by Alys West

I’ve got a confession to make.  I’ve been trying to deny this for a while but I can’t anymore.  I have to admit that I’ve lost control of the characters in my second novel, Lughnasa. Orkney Aug 2010 009

Now some might say that’s a great thing.  Those would be the pantsers who like to go with the flow in their writing.  But I’m a plotter.  I write suspense. I need to know what’s going to happen so I can put the clues in the right places.  And not knowing what’s coming is starting to freak me out a bit.

It started with Winston.  After having a minor role in my first book, Beltane, he’s taken centre stage as the hero in Lughnasa and he’s grown and grown.  He’s a rather gorgeous archaeologist who just happens to be also a druid.  But now he’s got flaws that I never saw coming. He’s late for everything, he’s got a really arrogant streak and an unexpected fondness for Glenfiddich. And he never does what I expect.  I sit down to write a scene thinking ‘Okay, this and this have to happen’ and then Winston turns up and something else entirely actually unfolds.

Orkney Aug 2010 029

Now I’ll be the first to admit that I have a few control freak tendencies.  I like to be organised, I like to plan ahead.  So Winston’s unpredictability is quite hard for me to handle.  And now it’s spreading to the other characters and no one’s doing what I expect.

I realise to non-writers this probably sounds like a borderline personality disorder but I’m pretty sure that other writers will have experienced something like it.  So what did you do?  Did you give them their heads? Or did you force them back in line with your plan?

I realised how far we’d gone astray when I re-read the synopsis that I’d first mapped out about eight or nine months ago.  There’s a small possibility that we may hit the same ending but the middle looks nothing like what I’d planned.  And I don’t know what to do.  Should I tear up the synopsis and see what happens?  Or should I try to persuade them back on track? All advice will be gratefully received before I start tearing my hair out.Orkney Aug 2010 057

If you’d like to leave a comment (and I’m really hoping you will as I need all the help I can get!) you can do that by clicking where it says ‘leave comments’ in teeny, tiny type below.

Alys xx

P.S. Lughnasa is set in Orkney which is why I’ve included a few photos of the islands.

Accepting the Challenge

blog picture for wrI’ve had a very busy time lately.  My first book There Must Be An Angel was published on March 28th; I organised a Facebook launch party to celebrate and that took far more planning than you’d ever believe; I’m currently working on a novella and two short stories, as well as gathering ideas for Book Three and getting Book Two ready to send to my editor. It would be madness, then, to agree to take on the task of writing daily blogs. Wouldn’t it? Well, probably, but I’m nothing if not insane, so I took the challenge. The A to Z Challenge, that is.

If you haven’t heard of it, the basic idea is that you dedicate the month of April to blogging daily, using the different letters of the alphabet to decide your subject. So, for example, on the first of April you would blog about something beginning with A and on the second of April you’d blog about something beginning with B. Not complicated to follow, is it? You do get Sundays off, so you have twenty-six blog posts to write, which is very fortunate as there are actually twenty-six letters in the alphabet. What a happy coincidence! You should also take the time to visit some of the other blogs that are taking part in the challenge. You can read more about it here.

So, given the amount of commitment it takes, and given the fact that I’m already flat out with the writing, as well as the day job and family stuff, why did I agree to sign up for the challenge?

I have to admit, I like a challenge. If someone openly asks me if I can do something, however difficult it may seem, I immediately want to do it. I’d been flagging with the writing – sometimes taking days off to do other things. I figured at least this way I’d write something every day.  (Not strictly true, as it turns out, because of a marvellous little thingA2Z-BADGE-0002015-LifeisGood-230_zps660c38a0 called scheduling. Oh well…) I also wondered if I was actually up to the challenge. Could I do it? I had a sneaking suspicion that it might not be possible. I mean, what do you blog about that begins with X or Z? I still have no idea – those days are growing frighteningly close! But once I’d seen the lovely badge to pin to my blog page I was lost. I love a nice badge. No going back.

Question was, what would I blog about? Participants can choose to blog about random things, or they can choose a theme. My initial thought was to blog about random subjects. It was going to be tough enough, why add to the pressure? But then I thought it may actually help to have a theme. Make you focus your mind, that sort of thing. Hmm…What to write about?

Angel ebook coverThen, suddenly, it seemed obvious. There Must Be An Angel came out on March 28th. The challenge started on 1st April. Why not use one to promote the other? Anyone who’s had a book published will tell you that getting it noticed is the tricky part. There are millions of books vying for attention on Amazon. Who’s going to notice my little novel, as it sits there on the virtual shelf, all shy and shivering like a child on its first day at “big school”? I have to do something to remind people that it’s out there, and the challenge could help me do that.

So, each day, I’ve posted about something that, in some way, connects with the book. For instance, on day one, I blogged about Art of Mallow. Art of Mallow is a fabulous little gourmet marshmallow company, based in Leeds. I read about the company in Yorkshire Life, and it struck me as a great job for my heroine, Eliza, to have, so I bought a book of marshmallow recipes to see how difficult it was, and bought two bags of marshmallows from the company (purely for research, of course!) Then, when I was planning the launch party, I contacted the owner of Art of Mallow, explaining the situation, and that I wanted to give away three bags of mallows as prizes and the reason for it, and did I mind if I named her company and explained to people why?  She very kindly replied almost immediately, wished me the best of luck, promoted my party on her Facebook page, donated the bags of mallows for the launch and contacted Yorkshire Life to inform them of this unexpected turn of events. Just shows you! So that’s why Art of Mallow is connected with There Must Be An Angel.

Other subjects I’ve covered so far include Jane Eyre (there is a connection, but you’ll have to read the post to find out what it is), Family Tree (due to the names I’ve given to my characters and how they were “borrowed” from my ancestors), Beltane, and Heroes – a fabulous excuse to post pictures of gorgeous men like Aidan Turner in Poldark if ever I saw one. Sometimes, I’m quite shameless. Today’s post is all about Kearton Bay, which is a fictional village but inspired by the real-life Robin Hood’s Bay. I love Robin Hood’s Bay and I’ve posted some pictures of the village and added a link to its website. Future posts will include Musical Soundtracks, Readers and Reviews, and Villains.

I wasn’t sure how much help the challenge would be in getting Angel noticed, but sales have actually gone up, and I’ve had a lot more visitors to the blog. I have at least two new followers and one commenter specifically said she was off to buy the book. Even one extra sale is good news so, from my point of view, the challenge was worth the effort.

Plus, believe it or not, I’ve actually enjoyed it! Would I do it all again next year? Hmm, now that’s a different story. Then again, if someone challenges me to do it…

Love Sharon xxx

There Must Be An Angel is available to buy here

Find out more about me, my books and my blog here

Wednesday Wondering – You’re My Inspiration

On this day, 11th February, twenty-five years ago, Nelson Mandela was released after twenty-seven years of imprisonment. The Nobel Peace Prize winner was a source of inspiration to millions around the world. So the theme for today’s Wednesday Wondering is around inspiration. I asked The Write Romantics:

Who or what inspires you?

I told them that it was up to them how they interpreted this question. Inspiration could come from a person, a place, an event or something else. It could be something/someone who inspires them to write through to how they live your life or want to live their life.

I love it when I ask a question that can be open for interpretation because the responses are so varied. Today’s question didn’t let me down.

Jessica xx

Deirdre says …

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI was walking around a National Trust estate the summer before last and a friend I was with asked me if I could imagine writing a story set there.  I could see what he meant – the ancient trees, the secret valleys filled with exotic plants – but I had to tell him, no, I wasn’t inspired.  I could see he was surprised, disappointed even, but on that particular day at that particular time I’d have found more inspiration in a grimy back street suggesting dubious goings-on after dark.  And I don’t write thrillers.

So, what I think is that inspiration, whether for something creative like writing or simply how to live your life, depends on mood and circumstance; a fluid thing, not easy to pin down or explain.  Which is probably why I took so long to come up with an answer to this question…

There are things, and people, who are more likely to inspire me than others.  For instance, I don’t look at super-achievers and think ‘I could do that’.  I mean the kind of person who home-schools three children, runs a successful business, jogs three times round the park before breakfast and writes best-sellers under cover of darkness, and all without breaking a nail.  That kind of thing leaves me cold.  But when I hear somebody talking, a woman around my age, say, and discover she has same problems, insecurities and crazy thoughts as I do, that will throw a switch inside me and I know I’m doing fine just as I am.  I suppose that’s validation rather inspiration but the two go hand in hand.  If you accept who you are now I think you’re more likely to be receptive to new ideas and have the vision to carry them forward.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThat’s the complicated answer, so now I’ll try to give the simple one.  I have a lovely friend who is very successful at writing stories for women’s magazines.  In fact she’s just sold her hundredth story!  I’m not saying I could reach that dizzy height but she’s definitely inspired me to have a go.  Brilliant writing of any kind will always inspire me, particularly with the novels.  My art teacher inspires me to keep on trying with the drawing and painting.  It’s her job, I know, but not all teachers have the knack.  Friends who have faced great challenges with strength and bravery are always inspiring.

On a lower level, watching property and gardening programmes makes me want to improve my own little patch, and magazines have great ideas that I can’t wait to follow – if only I had the time and the energy.  On the other hand I might just persuade somebody else to do it for me.

Helen R says …

My love of reading is what initially inspired me to become a writer. It took many years of loving books to be brave enough to tackle writing my own, and there were failed attempts as I continued to learn and wrote something that was together enough to submit to agents and publishers.

My other inspiration has always been my family and friends, including The Write Romantics. From the encouragement to get started and put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, to the much needed persuasion not to give up, I think that the people in my life have inspired me to follow this career path, which, let’s face it, can be pretty lonely sometimes.

Rachael says …

Anthology coverInspiration is everywhere for everything, if you just look for it. It doesn’t matter if it’s for a story idea or the motivation to do something. People, places, or events – past or present, are inspirational.

On a small scale, I find inspiration for my writing all over the place, watching TV, listening to the lyrics of a song, an overheard snippet of conversation. It’s all there for the taking if you open your mind to it.

But there is much bigger inspiration around us. It’s there in people who have risen to the challenge of life and achieved their ambitions, sometimes never letting go of their hopes and dreams for many years. These are the people I look to for inspiration, which in turn gives me motivation. People like the local unsung heroes of our communities, people who have faced illness and bravely shared their story, often raising huge sums of money for charity.

A perfect example of this is Stephen Sutton who inspired The Write Romantics to produce our first anthology, raising funds for charity. Winter Tales – Stories to Warm Your Heart is available in paperback and eBook formats via Amazon.

Jo says …

PaulaThe most inspirational person I know in real life is a friend of mine, called Paula. She has a wicked sense of humour, has the sharpest put-downs of anyone I’ve ever met and could probably drink the England rugby union squad under the table.  Our birthdays are one day – and, as she wouldn’t fail to let you know, four years – apart, so maybe that’s why we’re on the same wave length in so many ways.

When we worked together, they called us Trinny and Susannah and we weren’t afraid to tell the world how we saw things.  We were younger then, of course, with that feeling of indestructibility that comes with youth… and, of course, Paula’s muscular dystrophy was less evident than it is now.  She’s always been as tenacious as hell, refusing to have any special allowance made for her condition and working her proverbial off to climb the career ladder, attain a degree whilst working full time and achieve awards for her outstanding commitment to teaching.

Paula and Jo NYE2014Paula has never allowed her condition to define her and whilst many, with far less to contend with, proclaim themselves too ill to work, she’s been out there grabbing life by both hands. After a horrific fall and a six month stint in hospital, she’s finally decided it’s time to ease off the full-time workload, but she’s still willing to volunteer to support her fellow teachers and is thinking about setting up an advice service for others who find themselves in a similar position to hers. Paula also indirectly introduced me to my husband – although that’s another story altogether – hence my son having Paul as his middle name – she beta reads for me, being the first person to ever set eyes upon ‘Among A Thousand Stars’ and was the main inspiration for my Winter Tales’ story.

She never whinges about the hand that life has dealt her – and she’s had more than just being born with MD to contend with – she gets on with things, living independently and wringing as much out of life as it’s possible to do.  I wish I had an ounce of her courage and that I could truly appreciate what I’ve got when I look at what she has to deal with on a day-to-day basis.  I know I don’t, but, still, she’s the definition of inspirational.  We usually like to insult each other – it’s a sign of affection, don’t you know – but, let me say, here and now, Paula, you’re a star and an inspiration and I’m lucky to call you a friend. I know all this will make her uncomfortable, so, as Andrew Lincoln put it in Love Actually, and before Paula has to reach for the sick bucket or a bitingly sarcastic response, “Enough now, enough”.

Alys says …

DSC01339My key inspiration seems to come from places. Beltane was inspired by Glastonbury and my current work in progress, Lughnasa, is inspired by Orkney. I seem to need a strong sense of place in my writing and I find that visiting the location sparks ideas for the plot.  I had so many ideas from visiting Orkney that I couldn’t fit them all into the one book.  So maybe that will keep me going back there and writing about it again.

Sharon says …

When I was in my forties, I decided to do an Open University degree. This took me six years, and it was a long and difficult process. There were many times, when life was particularly tricky, that I felt like quitting, convinced I would fail.

In my spare time (ha!) I was researching my family tree. I’d sent for the marriage certificate of my great-great-grandparents. As I perused the details on the document, one thing leapt out at me immediately. The two witnesses to the marriage, and my great-great-grandfather, George, had all made their mark with a cross. Emma had written her own name.

When I was a little girl, my grandad had given me the memorial plaque awarded in memory of his father, who had been killed in the First World War. I’ve kept it with me ever since. I call it “The Big Penny”, because that’s what it resembles. Emma was that fallen soldier’s mother, which I hadn’t realised before starting my research.

Over thirty years ago, a clairvoyant told me that I had a guardian angel, an ancestor of mine, who watched over me and protected me, and that her name began with the letter E. After discovering my great-grandad’s mum was Emma, and finding that amazing signature on the marriage certificate, I’m absolutely convinced that she meant Emma. The thought of that young woman signing the register fills me with pride to this day. It was the hope that she’d be proud of me that inspired me to finish my degree, and spurred me on to finish my novel, in spite of my self-doubt. Emma is my angel and my inspiration, and I have a lot to thank her for.

And finally …

_MG_0003As for me, my response is similar to Rachael’s. My inspiration comes from all around me. I’m lucky enough to live on the beautiful North Yorkshire Coast. Three mornings a week, I rise at 5.20am and venture down to the seafront to take part in a bootcamp. I completed my very first bootcamp in February 2013, continued for about a year, then took eight months off before getting back into it but with a different company. Sadly, eight months was enough time to put all the weight back on that I’d lost and completely lose my fitness levels again so I had to start from scratch. It’s hard work, particularly when you’re in your forties and very overweight, but the setting is so inspiring. The mornings are starting to get a little lighter and we’ll soon hit the point where the sun rises while we’re working out. Who can fail to be inspired as the sun rises over the sea, casting its first rays on Scarborough Castle. Absolutely stunning.

bootcamps-headerI started to blog about my bootcamp experiences from Day 1 and the really strange thing for me is that friends, family and even strangers have cited me as their inspiration. I personally don’t think I’m very inspiring at all, especially as I’ve been doing this for two years and still have nearly all the weight to lose that I wanted to lose back at the start. But I still do it and I’ve massively increased my fitness. I guess it’s my determination to crack this thing – even if it takes a heck of a long time – that people find inspiring. And it’s those people who do crack it that I find inspiring. My second cousin, Lisa, decided enough was enough the same year I started Bootcamp and joined Slimming World. She lost about seven stone in that year. I lost three and put it back on again. I’m so inspired by her determination so I keep chipping away at it.

For my writing, settings inspire me, like Alys. So do songs. I will often hear a line in a song and think that it’s a great title for a book and, suddenly, I have an idea for a premise for a book.

What do you think? What inspires you? We’d love to hear from you. Please click on the comments tag at the end of all the words below.

Thank you

Jessica xx

Dealing with Rejection by Alys

I got two rejections last week.  One of the upsides of having an agent is that those emails don’t come directly to me anymore.  But one of the downsides is that my agent seems to store them up and I tend to hear about two at a time which is a real double whammy.  I also get more feedback these days as the editors give at least a line or two about the book, giving a couple of positives before they get to the reason why they turned it down.

Doubt Kills More Dreams

I thought the feedback would be a good thing, give me an idea of what I need to work on in my writing.  But they’re so contradictory that I don’t know what to take from them.  One of this week’s rejections said they didn’t like Maeve, the antagonist, whereas an editor who turned me down before Christmas said Maeve was a great character.  It’s making me realise how hugely subjective the whole thing is.  What one editor loves, another says doesn’t work for them.  And what should I take from the comment that ‘they didn’t sufficiently connect with the heroine’?  Is that in my writing or is it just a personal reaction? I can think of dozens of books where I didn’t love the heroine but I still enjoyed the book.  Do editors need to feel a deep personal connection with all the characters to take a book on?

I’m getting better with rejections though.  These two made me mutter and moan for about half an hour whereas when I first started submitting rejections could knock me back for days.  Of course, it helps if there’s a few positives in there as well.  One of these said that Beltane was ‘crisply written’ which took some of the sting out of it.

I asked the other Write Romantics if they’d had any really positive rejections.  Jessica got a reply from an agent that said:

‘There’s an awful lot I like about it.  However I am afraid in the current tough market I do have to be completely bowled over by something to take it on….I’m sorry that it’s been a near miss for me.”

rejection

Jo received this lovely rejection from a publisher:

‘As we are finding the market so competitive at the moment, we will unfortunately have to pass on the book, but personally I think you have great potential and would encourage you to keep going as you have qualities we have previously seen in other newbie authors who have made it big.’ 

Both Jessica and Jo said that these emails kept them going through the dark days of other less tactful rejections.

And we’ve had some of those.  Helen R received:

‘Sorry but this market has collapsed and I don’t think we could find a publisher for this.’

Fortunately she can laugh about it now (particularly as Crooked Cat are publishing her novel next month) but it must have hurt at the time.  My worst one was from a very well-known agent who gave me the standard two line rejection and then tried to sell me her book on understanding the publishing industry.

photo (5)

I know rejections are part of the process and if I talk to non-writers about it they always quote J K Rowling.  Everyone forgets how many times she was rejected (apparently it was twelve which doesn’t seem that many to me anymore!) but it’s become urban myth that she was knocked back a lot.  Margaret Mitchell got 38 rejections before she found a publisher for Gone with the Wind and Beatrix Potter was rejected so many times she decided to self-publish The Tale of Peter Rabbit and look how well that worked out!  Louise M Alcott was told not to give up teaching and it took Agatha Christie 5 years to land a publishing deal.

So if you’re feeling down about a rejections try to remember that you’re in really great company.  Pretty much every writer I can think of, other than PD James and Georgette Heyer, have been turned down.  Which just goes to show that editors are as prone to mistakes as the rest of us.  Except perhaps the editor who told Dan Brown’s agent ‘it’s so badly written’; he might just have had a point!

If you’ve had any particularly unhelpful or really positive rejections then we’d love to hear about them.  You can leave us a comment by clicking where it says ‘Leave a comment’ or ‘comments’ in teeny, tiny type below.