Once Upon a Long Ago, I had this great idea for a story…

once-ebook-cover-3

So, one year ago today, I was celebrating the publication of Kearton Bay Book 2 – A Kiss from a Rose. It was a wild day. I had loads and loads of guests, including many celebrities, and they all wore pink in Rose’s honour. I had stacks of food (mostly cake, to be honest) and a great deal of alcohol. Music was played, and there was much laughter and gossip. Sadly, it was a Facebook launch party, which meant that the entire event was “virtual”. In reality, I was hunched over my computer, wearing my pyjamas, and sweating buckets, while I tried desperately to keep up with the fast-flowing notifications. Yes, it was fun, but it was exhausting and terrifying, too!

Since that day (is it really only a year? It seems so much longer!) I’ve had a pocket novel and a short story published by The People’s Friend, and have released the first in a new series of books set in the Yorkshire Dales, This Other Eden. And on Rose‘s first birthday, I’m launching the next Kearton Bay book. Yes, Book 3 in the series, Once Upon a Long Ago, is now available to buy. This time, there’ll be no launch party. Instead, DH and I plan to head out into our beloved Yorkshire countryside, and visit an English Heritage property, or two. It’s quite an appropriate way to spend the day, given the plotline of the novel. I won’t give too much away, but suffice it to say that I’ve loved immersing myself in the world of stately homes and castles, and I’m really, really sad that my adventures with Will and Lexi are over. They are quite special to me, after all.

You see, back in 2011, it was Will and Lexi – along with Joe – who popped into my mind, completely out of the blue, and set me on this strange and totally unexpected writing path. I was just sitting in the car, minding my own business, when there was a knock on my brain, and there they were, demanding to come in. What could I do but oblige? They were terribly polite about it. Well, Will was, but that’s Will for you. Lexi was a bit more forthright, and Joe was so twinkly how could I refuse?

And, let’s face it, I’ve made Will and Lexi wait long enough. In spite of promising them that their story would be told, it’s taken me five years to get round to it. I did start it, but it never felt like the right time. I knew they weren’t ready, you see. Their story was a slow-burner, and other characters needed to tell their tales first. Lexi was quite annoyed about the whole thing, and made me apologise several times, but Will was so understanding and rather sweet. In fact, he actually apologised to me for bothering me with it all.

So, I think Will deserves his moment in the limelight. Oh, all right, and Lexi does, too. Actually, don’t tell her this, but I’ve grown rather fond of her. It will be very odd when I start work on my next book, knowing I won’t be heading up to Kearton Hall every day to see what they’ve been up to lately. I think, though, that they’ll be lurking somewhere when Book 4 is written. In fact, I’m certain of it.

Here’s the blurb.

Lexi Bailey doesn’t do love. Having seen the war zone that was her parents’ marriage, she has no interest in venturing into a relationship, and thinks romance is for fairy tales. As far as she’s concerned, there’s no such thing as happy ever after, and she’s not looking for a handsome prince.
For Will Boden-Kean, that’s probably a good thing. He hardly qualifies as a handsome prince, after all. He may be the son of a baronet, and live in a stately home, but he’s not known for his good looks. What he is known for, among the residents of Kearton Bay, is his kind heart, his determination to fund Kearton Hall — and his unrequited love for Lexi.
While Lexi gazes at the portrait of the Third Earl Kearton, and dreams of finding the treasure that is reputed to be hidden somewhere in the house, Will is working hard to ensure that his home survives. When he goes against Lexi’s wishes and employs the most unpopular man in the village, she begins to wonder if he’s under a spell. Will would never upset her. What could possibly have happened to him?
As plans take shape for a grand ball, Lexi’s life is in turmoil. With a secret from Will’s past revealed, a witch who is far too beautiful for Lexi’s peace of mind, and a new enchantress on the scene, things are changing rapidly at Kearton Hall. Add to that a big, bad wolf of a work colleague, a stepmother in denial, and a father who is most definitely up to no good, and it’s no wonder she decides to make a new start somewhere else.
Then she makes a discovery that changes everything — but time is running out for her. Is it too late to find her happy ending? Will Lexi make it to the ball? Will Buttons save the day? And where on earth did that handsome prince come from? 

You can buy Once Upon a Long Ago here.

Well, I suppose I’d better go and pack. I do have a trip to Skimmerdale to make, after all, and a rather gorgeous sheep farmer to reacquaint myself with. Now, where did I put my wellies? And my lippy…

sharonxxx

All About America – Wednesday Wondering

The Wednesday Wondering baton has passed back to me and I have to say I’m very excited to be the Question Master again! It’s been really lovely taking a step back and seeing what my fellow-Write Romantics have come up with but it’s also lovely to be coming up with a new set of questions myself, especially after a break of several months.

statue of liberty3On Saturday, Rhoda Baxter joined us and launched a week of US-themed posts. Lynne Connolly also shared her knowledge and experience about the US market on Monday and we’ll be hearing more from Lynne tomorrow. As you’d expect, the Wednesday Wondering also has an American-theme.

I thought I’d start this post with a little bit of trivia and the first thing that popped into my head was, “I wonder how many towns or cities in America are named after towns in the UK?” This seemed a very apt pondering because USA week is timed in celebration of 4th of July and 4th of July is the celebration of independence from the UK. Which means that there are a lot of English settlers in America who will have taken English town names with them. I Googled it (of course) and the best source seemed to be Wiki. I know Wiki isn’t always 100% accurate and the site itself claims to be incomplete but it was certainly a good starting point. The site listed each state then the number of UK-town-namesakes in that State. Hmm. Count entries against all 52 states? Maybe. After all, Alabama only has 4 and California has 7 listed. Then I scrolled down a bit further and found Massachusetts with approx. 110. I couldn’t bring myself to undertake that count. If anyone is really desperate to know, here’s the link and good luck to you! Please let us know how you get on 🙂

Back to the Wondering. I asked a very simple question this week:

What do you love about the USA?

 

Jaxx says …

I guess us Brits are ruled by the weather and it makes us inclined to be gloomy and pessimistic and I love the way the Americans will put a positive spin on anything, even against the glaring evidence suggesting the opposite:

“The world’s gonna end in five!”

“Yay, that means I won’t have to spend the last of my wages on filling the Chevvy with gas.”

I suppose if we lived in wall-to-wall sunshine we might all be the same.

 

Helen R says …

I must admit that I haven’t been to many places in the USA. I’ve been to Florida – which was wonderful – in my early twenties, not a care in the world, and to top it off we got to see the Space Shuttle Atlantis take off in May of 1997. We visited the Kennedy Space Centre the week before so we saw the shuttle on its launch pad, and we had VIP passes to watch the launch at 4am one morning in May. It was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen. So I guess what I love about America is how big, how vast, how amazing so many things are over there. They certainly don’t do things by halves!

 

Picture 201Jay says …

What do I love about the USA – everything! I have been six times and I could happily go a hundred more and never get bored of the place.  In fact, when I am a best-selling millionaire (probably in Vietnamese Dong, which are approximately 33,000 to the £pound), I will go every year.  I love the fact that they have everything from the super tacky adult’s playground that is Vegas, where you can travel the world in themed hotels on the strip, to the most fantastic national parks and natural wonders, like the Grand Canyon. Being greedy, I think the food is fab too and my current favourite book/film is ‘The Fault in Our Stars’.  I dream of writing something that fabulous.  What I most admire though is American comedy.  Right now, there are probably less decent British comedy shows than you can count on one hand.  America is busting with them, though, and my favourite at the moment is Modern Family. I want my family to grow up like that and, of course, I want to look like Sofia Vergara. Sadly, I have about as much chance of that as writing like John Green, but a girl can dream!

 

Rachael says …

I love how the Americans celebrate. Be it Independence Day or Thanksgiving, they really know how to do it. Family are the focal point of such celebrations. Of course this is what the films make me think and I especially like the Christmas ones. Maybe one day I’ll experience first-hand, one of America’s celebration days.

 

Grand canyonDeirdre says …

There are so many possibilities here, I shall keep this short and sweet and mention just three things I love that have come our way from the US. Firstly, Amazon. Where else can you buy books in seconds, manage your Kindle library, publish your own books, build a career as writer, set up a wish list and buy all kinds of useful things into the bargain? Amazon doesn’t always get a good press, I know, but I can’t imagine being without it. Secondly, Yankee candles, for the beautiful scents and lovely colours. Thirdly, Krispy Kreme donuts!

 

Alys says …

My favourite US author is Jennifer Crusie who writes the funniest romantic comedies with a dash of suspense.  The first book of hers I read was ‘Welcome to Temptation’ which kept me entertained during a ten hour flight to Vancouver. Even when there was terrible turbulence when the plane stopped in Calgary, I had my eyes fixed on this book and I was (by my standards) not all that fazed.  When I got home I read her other books. ‘Fast Women’ and ‘Crazy for You’ are my other two favourites.  So what makes them so good?  Well, the plots are a fabulous mix of romance and suspense. There’s enough edge to the suspense to make you believe there’s some real danger. The heroines are feisty and smart. And Jennifer’s writing is downright funny. I love her books so much that I won’t lend them to people in case they don’t give them back.  That’s probably the highest praise I can give an author!

As to other things that I love from the US at the moment that list includes ‘The Good Wife’ and ‘Castle’ on TV, the folk singer Aoife O’Donovan and my Timberland sandals.

 

Chinese theatreHelen P says …

What I love about the USA, wow there’s too much to write about but I’ll give it a go. I love New York and one day I will go there, I just have no idea when but it’s on my bucket list. I’ve only ever been to Hawaii, years ago but it was beautiful. I love the crime novels set in America there is something so glamorous about being an FBI agent. Stephen King’s stories, Lucky Charms, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Hollywood, Bare Foot White Zinfandel, I love that there are such great opportunities over there for everyone, Oprah Winfrey – I would really like to meet Oprah one day. Did I mention Kevin Bacon? Love that man at the moment, he can do no wrong. I want to go to the Statue of Liberty, The Empire State Building, I want to see Central Park and Macy’s. I want to live the American Dream if only for a week.

 

Lynne says …

I love maple syrup!!! I love it in cakes made with spelt flour, on pancakes, ice-cream, anything really. It tastes great and reminds me of romantic pictures of New England with log cabins, patchwork and cosy open fires. One day I’d love to go there and see if it’s really as I imagine or have I got it wrong completely.

 

Island of AdventureAnd, finally, my response …

I can do this in one word. Disney. But of course, I’m far too much of a jabber-pot to leave it just at that! I love Disney films, Disney princesses and Disneyland. For a long time, The Little Mermaid and Beauty & The Beast were my favourites (I was brought up on the classics but I prefer the later ones for the songs!) but then I saw Tangled and was astounded. And then I saw Frozen! Wow! Do I want to be Ariel, Belle, Rapunzel, Anna or Elsa? It’s a tough one! I’d always dreamed of going to Disneyland and, when I was about 28, I took redundancy from work and spent some of my pay-off on a December trip to Florida. Everything about it was amazing except the company but we all learn from our mistakes! I loved the parades and there was something quite magical about wearing shorts and a vest while Mickey and Pooh Bear wore scarves and hats to get into the winter-theme. We visited the Disney-built town of Celebration where it snowed in the high street and everything was just movie-magic-perfect. For a few brief moments, I really felt like I was living the dream … then I looked at my boyfriend and knew I wasn’t, hee hee hee!

We’d love to hear from you. What do you love about America? The movies, books, people, values? What are the places you’ve visited or would love to visit?

Julie xx

Castles in the sky… to believe, to dream, to try and try and try!

castle in the sky

Following on from Helen’s post about wishes coming true, I thought I’d post about those times when disappointment or self doubt can wrap us in a cloak of hopelessness.  I’m sure most writers know exactly what I mean.  It might creep up on you whilst you are reading back through something that you initially thought was insightful, ground-breaking writing and which now makes you doubt you should even be let loose writing a shopping list!  Or perhaps it arises from the spine chilling sound of the rejection envelope hitting the doormat or the ping into your inbox of yet another “thanks, but no thanks” email.

However it comes, I think it does come to all writers at some time or another.  I know I have been there and, just this week, a writer friend of mine emailed to say that she felt like she’d had enough.  I hope she hasn’t, but I can understand why she might.  It certainly isn’t an occupation for those with a fragile ego and rejection comes with the territory.

So, when is it time to give up on your dreams?  I posted about this on a writer’s forum once and was told that, as long as it remains your dream, you should never give up.  When you stop loving the act of writing, or writing because you simple have to in order to truly live, and when your dreams no longer bring you pleasure in the imagining of their coming true – that’s the time to stop.

Until then, believe, dream and try, try, try – drawing some inspiration from those who did and found those castles in the sky:

  • Jonathan Livingston Seagull, by Richard Bach was only picked up by Macmillan publishing, in 1970, after eighteen other publishers had rejected it. Within five years it had sold over seven million copies.
  • Who can forget that all time classic Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell?  If the twenty five publishers who rejected it before it was finally accepted had got their way, none of us would ever have heard of it.
  • Remember MASH the movie and spin off TV series about the Korean war?  The author of the original blockbuster novel, Richard Hooker, spent seven years tirelessly working on it, only to see it rejected by twenty one publishers.  Morrow eventually decided to publish it and the rest, as they say, is history.
  • The original Chicken Soup for the Soul book from the now hugely successful series was turned down by a total of one hundred and twenty three publishers across the US, including thirty three in New York alone, for being ‘too nice’.  Health Communications Inc, who finally made ‘The Call’ to publish it must be laughing all the way to the bank.  The first book alone sold eight million copies and spawned a series which now has thirty two titles and has chalked up fifty three million sales in thirty one languages.
  • Who doesn’t love that anti-hero The Grinch?  If Dr. Seuss had listened to the twenty seven publishers who rejected his first children’s book, And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street, before it was eventually published by Vanguard press, selling six million copies, that green harbinger of Christmas gloom would have forever dwelled in Seuss’ imagination, along with the Cat in the Hat, Horton and hundreds of his other characters.
  • The first Harry Potter book was rejected by 12 publishers for, among other reasons, being far too long for a children’s book and the series has gone on to make an estimated 25 billion in book sales, movies and merchandising.  JK Rowling can now literally afford a castle in the sky
  • Fifty Shades of Grey became the fastest selling paperback of all time, but only after EL James had her dreams and pride battered by rejection from literary agents.  She took her dreams into her own hands, however, and word spread about the book via the Writer’s Coffee Shop, a virtual publisher in Australia. The phenomenon it became must have surpassed even EL James’ wildest dreams.

The message is simple – don’t give up!  After all, the world would be nothing without dreamers.

Jo x

The above examples of dreamers who never give up was compiled by excerpts from various sources including Chicken Soup for the Writer’s Soul by Jack Canfield and Mark Hansen, www.weboflove.org, http://sellyourstoryuk.com.