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

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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

How to research a novel

Author photo - Helen J RolfeI’ve always been what I’d call an ‘over-researcher’ if there’s such a term. Back in the days when I wrote articles for health and fitness magazines I’d read up on a subject using literature and the internet, I’d interview a couple of experts in the field and even for a short article I’d have far more information than I ever needed.

So what about when it comes to writing a novel?

With The Friendship Tree I really took the age old advice of ‘write what you know’. I knew the Sydney location well enough to send my characters, Jake and Tamara, into the city. I’d worked with a PR team, Brewer Creek was a fictitious town and I had enough knowledge to place it in the right area. To make Jake’s job as the local veterinarian realistic I chatted to Write Romantic, Rachael Thomas, who owns and runs a dairy farm.

I’m finding that as I write more novels, I need to do more research. My ideas and my characters are taking on dimensions that I’m not familiar with and I owe it to the stories to get all my facts.

So how do I know when I’ve done enough research?

At a certain point I find that the information I’m uncovering is repeating what I’ve already found, what experts in the field have confirmed, and it’s at that point I know I have enough information to go on. Sometimes questions crop up during the writing process and I’ll do a little more research at that stage, but by then it’s minimal.

So what am I researching now?

Well, for book four, which is in the editing stages, I took myself in to see professionals in the field because I knew it would allow me to make my characters jump off the page. This book focuses on a character who owns and runs a chocolaterie and apart from eating chocolate, I know nothing about what they do each day. Luckily, Creighton’s Chocolaterie in Leighton Buzzard invited me in for a couple of hours to watch them work and to ask as many questions as I liked. By the time I got home I knew I had plenty of information to start writing and as I got the words down on the page I knew it wouldn’t have been so easy without seeing the work environment for myself.

Of course, part of my research was to taste a few varieties too and bring home some samples. I couldn’t resist!

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I think research for a novel is easy to begin on the internet. There is a plethora of information out there and as long as you’re using reliable sites it’s a good foundation. I think talking / interviewing experts in the field is also really key to good research. For Handle Me with Care I interviewed a specialist who knew so much about testicular cancer. I was able to tell him the situation I’d put Evan, my character in, and ask him if this would happen. I asked him physical symptoms, the emotional trauma patients face. And most of all, it helped keep my story believable, realistic and accurate.

For my novel, What Rosie Found Next, I interviewed a firefighter from Australia and again asked about certain scenarios and technicalities for my characters and situations I’d be putting them in. This was crucial and the firefighter who helped me passed some of my writing around the rest of the team so I could get feedback from more than one source. It helped me make the writing accurate and I was so happy when a few of them said they were desperate to know what was going to happen in the book!

Another way to research is in person. It’s not always possible but I feel it really enhances the way you write if you are able to experience something yourself whether it’s doing a parachute jump (not me!), visiting a foreign country where you want to set your new book, or work shadowing to see how a job is performed and ask questions on the spot.

My first draft of book five is underway now and with it being in a totally different settting, a place I’ve never been to myself, the research is heavy but fun! All I need to do is persuade my husband to let me book a flight over to New York! It’s work-related after all!

Helen J Rolfe.

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If you want to find out more about me or my books, please visit my website: http://www.helenjrolfe.com/

Or you can find me on Amazon:  http://hyperurl.co/pxu978

 

Through the Instagram App and What Sharon Found There

Through the Instagram App and What Sharon Found There

Recently, I joined a marketing group on Facebook, formed to help writers and small business owners (the businesses are small, not the owners—although, they may be small, too, who knows?) improve their public profile.

It’s a tough world out there, you know. I may be famous in my own back yard—as in, a new book brings a flurry of excitement from my mother, my mother’s neighbour, my sister and my aunt—but if I’m to make any impact on the world, or even my little corner of it, I have to get my name, and my work, “out there”, wherever the heck “there” may be.

We’ve been discussing social media. Are you on Twitter? Tick. Facebook? Tick. Do you have a Facebook author page? Tick. A blog? Tick. Pinterest? Tick. Instagram? Er, what, now?  “Ah, Instagram. The new, trendy app that simply anyone who is anyone is using.”  “Okay, well I’m not sixteen and I have no idea about Instagram. Help, please?”

In the event, it turned out that most of the other people in the group had no idea about Instagram either, so I decided to march forth and try out this brave new world for myself.

Does anyone have a clue?

Does anyone have a clue?

First step—as always—was to Google it for information. First question. What is Instagram? Google was most helpful. “You’re kidding, right? I mean, how old are you? A hundred and six?” (I jest, of course. Google would never be so flippant, or so rude.) Having determined that Instagram was an app that basically lets you share photos online (you know, kind of like Pinterest, or Facebook, or Twitter…), I decided that I HAD to be part of this amazing feat of technology.

First lesson. You can’t join Instagram online. You have to download an app to your phone. Having just figured out how to turn my brand new Windows phone on, I was in the marvellous position of being able to do just that. So I duly downloaded the app. Now what?

Second lesson. You have to have a username and password. Okay, fine. I’ll just use my name. Except, my name wasn’t available. My own name! Harsh. Okay, let’s go for my own name and date of birth. Not available. Well, that was just rude. How could my own name and date of birth not be available? Who pinched them? I tried various combinations of words and numbers and not one of them was available. In desperation, I used my nickname and birthday. Aha! Allowed. So I was finally signed up for Instagram.

Third lesson. Your username is available for everyone to see. Oh drat. I don’t want to be known as that. I thought it was private. Okay, how do I change my username? Back to my beloved Google, which scratched its head, rolled its eyes, tutted in despair and said, “You do know what edit profile means?” Oh. I hadn’t noticed that. So back I went and clicked on “edit profile”. Delete username. Add new username. Done. Well, that was easy. Just add a short bio now…

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Not the actual book I didn’t win because I DIDN’T win it.

Fourth lesson. Your bio has to be very, very short. Shorter than a tweet. After rambling on, explaining how I once played the queen in a school play, and how I never got over not having my name picked out of a hat to win a signed copy of a Bobby Brewster book after the author visited our primary school, in spite of the fact that I was the only child in the class who actually read for pleasure, I was informed, quite sternly, that my bio was far too long and I’d better cut it. I deleted a sentence, then a paragraph, then a chapter. Eventually, I was down to the permitted length. Success. My bio was complete. My profile was done. Except…

Fifth lesson. For some reason I cannot fathom, Instagram had taken my Facebook profile picture and used it as my Instagram profile picture. Since the picture wasn’t even of me, this didn’t seem at all useful. Back I went to Facebook and searched, in increasing desperation, for a photograph of me that looked reasonably human and didn’t feature me posing with Benedict Cumberbatch. What do you mean, camera trickery? It was all perfectly genuine, I’ll have you know. Anyway, I finally found one where, not only am I alone, not only am I not staring in horror with my hand half over my face, pleading with someone not to take my picture, but I am actually smiling. Crikey! So I changed that to my profile picture. (When I got home from work that night, the picture had loads of likes

100% genuine *cough*

100% genuine *cough*

and nice comments. I think my Facebook friends were stunned that I’d actually posted a photo of myself. I’m not the most photogenic of people, let’s face it.) So there I was, fully signed up and all profiled up for Instagram. Except…

Sixth lesson. I had no idea what I was supposed to actually do on there. I posted on my Facebook writer’s page, announcing that I had joined, and asking, quite genuinely, “What do I do now?” Back came several replies. “We have no idea, but when you find out can you let us know, please?” I really do have to get some younger, trendier friends. So, I decided to trawl through other people’s Instagram accounts and get some idea of what I was supposed to be posting. Hmm.

Seventh lesson. There is one huge snag with Instagram. You’re supposed to do things, see things, go places that are interesting. Since I’m usually either at home, writing, or at work, er, working, this doesn’t really apply to me. I tried my Write Romantic pal, Rachael Thomas, for help first. Her account featured lots of beautiful pictures of the countryside. Well, you see, Rachael isn’t just a fantastically talented romance writer. Oh, no. She’s also a dairy farmer. So when she skips merrily out of her house in the morning, she can raise her camera phone and sing happy little Disney songs and balance little blue birds on her hand as she takes gorgeous pictures of the Welsh countryside, pretty animals and—you know—stuff like that.  I, on the other hand, live in a city. I don’t much fancy taking pictures of the dustcart blocking our way out of the road yet again, or the latest takeaway that’s opened nearby because, after all, we’ve only got thirty takeaways in our area already, or the roadworks at the end of the street that have been there for weeks, even though whoever put them there seems to have forgotten all about them. So what to do?

Here's one I made earlier- honest!

Here’s one I made earlier- honest!

Eighth lesson. Everyone has photographs of cake. I mean, everyone! People bake and then they take pictures of their culinary creations so the rest of us can a) feel suddenly in desperate need of cake and b) hang our heads in shame because we haven’t baked since nineteen ninety-eight. (That may actually be true, in my case.) Even Rachael had posted a photograph of a cake she’d made! How does she find time for that, for heaven’s sake? I turned to my other Write Romantic chum, Helen Phifer. Helen is really busy, just like Rachael. But Helen writes ghostly crime stories. She collects photos of haunted houses and—you know—creepy stuff. I can rely on Helen. Oh, Helen! Cupcakes! Seriously? But yes, there they were. Cupcakes. Okay, they were in among some creepy stuff (and some lovely stuff, too!) but they were there. I had to take photos of cake. It was obviously the way to go. A quick scout around our kitchen revealed two stale Jacob’s cream crackers and a broken custard cream. I suppose I could have photographed them as some sort of artistic statement. But no…Things were getting critical.

Ninth lesson. Instagram makes you desperate to photograph anything. I mean, anything. I spent the entire day wandering around looking at “things” and wondering if they would make a good subject for a picture on Instagram. I even trawled through old Facebook photos, trying to convince myself that I could post some of them and pretend they were new. Then I realised that I didn’t like any of them anyway, so that was pointless. I decided I would have to buy cake and start—you know—actually going out. Desperate times.

Tessa to the rescue

Tessa to the rescue

Tenth lesson. When in doubt, remember man’s best friend. Okay, so I don’t bake, and I didn’t have cake in the house, and I don’t go anywhere. But what I do have, which seems to be very acceptable, is a pet. My lovely German Shepherd, Tessa (who features in my Kearton Bay books, albeit aged by some years and with a personality that’s the opposite of the real version, but is still lovely—not that I’m plugging my books, you understand. Ahem) was most obliging. As I scoured the house, looking for something that I could take a picture of, she gave a sudden sneeze, drawing my attention to her. She was lying by the sofa and as I leaned forward to get a better look at her, she gave me a worried look as if to say, “Why are you pointing that phone at me? Get away from me, you mad creature!” Too late, Tessa! A click and I had it! Feverishly, I looked at my photograph. Ah, my beautiful dog. You are the perfect subject for my first Instagram photograph!

Eleventh lesson. Uploading, or downloading, or whatever it is you do with the wretched things, isn’t as easy as you’d think. For a start, I couldn’t figure out how to crop the picture, and Instagram likes your photos to be square. Back I went to Google. “Oh, God. It’s you again. What now?” it sighed. Still, it was very obliging, and I managed to find an app that ensured all my photos were suitable for Instagram, and I didn’t have to worry about cropping or any of that technical stuff. Problem solved. So my picture of Tessa was duly up/downloaded. Then I up/downloaded pictures of my People’s Friend pocket novel. Then pictures of my two books. Then a picture of Winter Tales (which is back on sale, by the way). Then a picture of my notebooks to show that I was about to start plotting and drafting a new book, because, after all, I’m a writer, and that was the point of joining Instagram in the first place – to remind people that I write books and they’re worth reading, even if I do say so myself (and my mum’s neighbour agrees with me, so there). The point was not to prove that I bake cakes or go places or socialise or anything like that. Right?

Hmm. I still have to work out how, why, or if I should share my Instagram photos to Facebook. I also have to fathom the mysterious world of the hashtag, so my adventures in Instagramland are not over yet. I have a feeling that I’m going to be looking at life through a lens from now on. Everything is a photo opportunity.

Look out, world. Sharon’s got a camera – and she’s not afraid to use it. In fact, she’s quite desperate…

Sharon xxx

Saturday Spotlight: Ellie Gray

Ellie Gray Profile PicToday on the blog, we’re delighted to welcome Ellie Gray. Sit down, Ellie, and make yourself comfortable, while we turn the spotlight on you. Don’t worry, this won’t hurt a bit…

First things first. When did you start writing?

I think I first started writing not long after I had my first child, when I was working part time. It suddenly occurred to me that, all those stories I had written in my head, the ones that kept me awake at night, carefully planning and constructing, should actually be put down on paper!  I’ve been ‘writing’ ever since I can remember but, up until that point, it never really occurred to me that I should physically write them down.

Yep, always useful to put the words on the paper! What genre do you write in, and why?

I write contemporary romance, erring on the sweet side, with strong male and female characters who have the same flaws we all have – no-one is perfect! I love writing about their hopes, fears and struggles and, best of all, helping them get to that happy ending; something that is not always guaranteed in real life. I also enjoy writing young adult novels with a fantasy-type edge.

Like Sharon, Alys, and Jessica, you’re a Yorkshire lass. Is setting important in your novels?

I think setting is really important and I love setting my novels in Yorkshire. I think readers like to ground the characters they are reading about, to know about where they live and how that affects them. I try to give enough description to enable the reader to really picture the surroundings, without being too prescriptive and degenerating into sounding like a travelogue! Although my debut novel is set in Yorkshire, my current work in progress is set in the exotic surroundings of Egypt and the Nile.

Exotic, indeed! When do you write? Tell us about your writing day.

That’s a tough one. Like many writers, I also have a full-time job and a family to work around. I am also studying for a Masters degree, just about to start my dissertation (gulp!) so it feels like a real juggling act. I try to write on a weekend and, if the writing itch gets too itchy to ignore, I’ll do a couple of hours on an evening, but I really do try to limit my evening writing during the week and spend some time with my family, and to drag myself out of the writing cave after an afternoon’s writing on a weekend.

Yes, we can all relate to juggling writing time with family time. As authors, we also have to get to grips with social media. How do you feel about that?

I know that social media is an important way of raising an author’s profile and I am building up a profile, using Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, Pinterest etc. I’m also trying to learn as much as I can about how best to build up a following without shoving the ‘buy my book’ message down everyone’s throat. I do worry about how best to utilise social media, particularly when there are so many authors out there promoting their work. How do you get heard over the crowd? I don’t know the answer but it is something that I’m willing to work at and to learn from others.

Do you read much? What books do you like to read? Who is your favourite author?

I love reading. With reading comes the guilt complex, though – when I’m reading, there’s a little voice in the back of my head telling me that I should be writing. However, I know that to become a better writer, I also need to read as much as I can – so that’s what I tell that little voice when it whispers in my ear. I like to read a range of genres – contemporary romance, of course, but I also like to read the classics, Austen and Du Maurier, horror such as King, Herbert and Koontz, and I love the Harry Potter and Tolkein books. Oh, there’s the Sharpe series, I love those, and Elizabeth Peters with her Amelia Peabody adventures.

All of the Write Romantics were, at one time, members of the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme. Indeed, that’s how we met, so we’re very grateful we were accepted onto it. You were a member of this scheme. Do you feel it helped you? Would you recommend it to other aspiring authors?

Joining the RNA NWS is the best thing that I could have done to kick-start my writing career. I’d toyed with joining for several years but never seriously looked into it until late in 2014. Then, last year I decided that this was the year I was going to take my writing seriously. I knew the NWS is always oversubscribed so I stayed up on New Year’s Day to email my application just after midnight and kept my fingers crossed. Fortunately, I was successful and, since then, I have been overwhelmed by the support offered by RNA members. Even though I can’t always make the planned events down in London, there are lots of other ways to keep in touch and offer support and encouragement, not least via the email and Facebook forums. This year also saw the first RNA Afternoon Tea event in York which I attended and it was lovely to meet up with the people that I’d been connecting with online. Add to this the fantastic manuscript critique that is part of the NWS – I can only say that I would definitely recommend the RNA NWS to any aspiring author.

You recently signed a publishing deal with Tirgearr Publishing. Tell us about your path to publication.

It came out of the blue, which sounds ridiculous because, of course, I had sent the manuscript off for consideration. Beauty and the Recluse is a novel I wrote several years ago and which has been revised several times. Harlequin M&B requested to see the full manuscript about two years ago and, although they passed on it, they did give me an excellent and detailed critique.  As I was already well on with my next novel, I took it on the chin, put it in the proverbial drawer and kept on working on my new novel. Once I had drafted that, I took a break from it and pulled out Beauty and the Recluse and decided to re-work it, taking on board the M&B advice.  Once I had done that, I left it for a while and went back to editing my next novel. It was only when, during one of the email forums, one of the other RNA members mentioned that they had a new novel out for release with Tirgearr Publishing that, out of interest, I had a look at their website, liked the look of their titles and their approach and, on the off-chance, decided to send them Beauty and the Recluse – not holding out much hope. However, less than two weeks later, I had a response from them telling me that they loved the book and the characters and offering me a contract on the spot. I was at work at the time and thought that it must be a hoax!

Loving the title of your first novel! Can you tell us a bit about it? When is it due for release?

As you might guess from the title, it has elements of Beauty and the Beast and, while it isn’t a true, modern day re-telling of the tale, it does have certain similarities to the fairy tale.

Following the recent death of her father, and in need of both a job and somewhere to live, Kiya takes a housekeeping job on the spur of the moment.  She soon finds herself living in a beautiful but neglected mansion, working for a strange and reclusive man.

St. John is a man scarred by the past, both physically and emotionally, and is determined to live out his life alone.  They are two very different people, drawn to each other almost against their will, but can Kiya convince St. John that he is not the monster he believes himself to be? 

It is due for release in February 2016 and I am so excited, although nervous about how it will be received.  I can’t wait to get the first sight of my cover which should be fairly soon.

Very exciting times ahead! What are you planning next? Is there another book in the pipeline?

Yes, I am currently editing my next novel which is set in Egypt and follows the themes of love, loss and letting go of the past.

Thank you for being such a lovely guest, Ellie. Hope the spotlight didn’t shine too brightly in your eyes! Good luck with Beauty and the Recluse. We look forward to reading it. 

You can find out more about Ellie at:

https://elliegrayauthor.wordpress.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/elliegrayauthor

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/elliegray58

Pinterest:  https://uk.pinterest.com/elliegray71/

 

It’s all about the 80s for Sarah Lewis

Today we’d like to welcome friend of the WRs and all round 80’s addict, Sarah Lewis, to the blog.

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We’d love to start by asking you a little bit about your writing journey so far and what it was that inspired you to write your first book?

I suppose you could say that I started writing my first book 30 years ago. It’s just taken me a while to get it finished! I’ve loved music for as long as I can remember – one of my earliest memories is dancing along to the Bay City Rollers when they were on Top of the Pops, when I was about 5. When Bob Geldof and Paula Yates moved to my home town of Faversham, when I was 11, my interest in the music industry and the people in it was piqued even further. By the age of 13, I had begun to meet a number of artists, including Midge Ure, Gary Kemp and Simon Le Bon, and I began to write to other musicians, with a view to putting together a book based on their replies. That love of music, popular culture, and the fantastic decade in which I grew up all inspired my first book, ‘My Eighties’.

Can you tell us a bit about your second book – Your Eighties – please?

It follows a similar format to the first book, in that it’s a combination of memories, anecdotes and celebrity interviews. However, instead of the memories and anecdotes being mine, they are ones they have been sent to me via my website, my blog, Twitter and Facebook. It has been fascinating putting the book together, hearing and reading other people’s recollections of the decade, and even being reminded of a few forgotten gems. To discuss the Eighties with fellow fans (there are a lot of us out there!) is always a real pleasure, and it I have the privilege of being able to share those discussions with a wider audience.

Of course, there have also been the interviews with some of the decade’s favourite faces, including Buster Bloodvessel, Martin Fry, Ranking Roger, Erkan Mustafa (Grange Hill’s Roland Browning), and Musical Youth’s Dennis Seaton and Michael Grant, which have been a blast! Transcribing the interviews afterwards, not so much. Despite what some may think, I really don’t like the sound of my own voice, and it drives me crazy when I have to listen to a section repeatedly, to ensure I’m quoting accurately.

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Do you have any writing habits or superstitions e.g. writing in the same place, using a certain pen, times of day etc?

Most of my writing tends to take place after 9pm, when I just get lost in what I’m doing. I’ll check the time after what seems like an hour, to find it’s gone 1am! Usually, I’ll be in my office at the back of the house, and will have music playing in the background – anything from classical to Meatloaf, depending on my mood, and what I’m writing. If I’m researching or editing, I’ll do so during the day, and tend to follow the sun – I start off in my office, then as the sun moves round, I move to the desk in my bedroom. During the summer, I’ll work outside as much as possible – you can’t beat the al fresco office. Again, usually accompanied by music or the radio.

Do you ever get writer’s block and, if so, how do you tackle this?

The short answer is “Yes, and not very well!” There was a point when I was writing ‘Your Eighties’ when I just hit a wall. I had a stack of research notes, some amazing submissions from 80’s fans, and a few interviews transcribed, but I couldn’t write. At first, I tried doing something completely different, to ‘free the writer’. However, having cleaned my house from top to bottom, tackled an enormous pile of ironing (which I hate), and begun to de-clutter an overloaded garage, I realised I was merely procrastinating. So, I forced myself to write. I wrote anything I could think of, even if it was as basic as “last night I went to a gig, then I went backstage and I interviewed…”. It’s a lot easier to edit something that is badly written than nothing at all. I think the key is to keep the flow and momentum going. I have pens and piles of scrap paper scattered throughout the house, just in case inspiration should strike. Often, my moments of clarity come just as I’m dropping off to sleep, so I’ve become particularly adept at scribbling notes in the dark! I also carry a small notebook around with me. Struck with an opening line whilst driving, I spent 5 minutes the other day saying the same sentence over and over, until I found a safe place for me to pull over and jot down the idea.

What are you working on now and what are your writing aspirations?

I have just begun working on the third book in the 80’s trilogy, ‘More Eighties’, and I’ve recently started a weekly 80’s column in the Canterbury Times. You can check out my first post here. As far as writing aspirations go, I would love to write the biography for a musician from the Eighties. I have a couple of people in mind, but I haven’t approached them yet.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADo you see your future books continuing to focus entirely on the 80s or might you diversify?

As much as I love, and indeed live, the 80s, I’m always up for a bit of diversity. It would have to be something completely different though, not just a different era. I love the interviewing and research stages of writing, so anything that allowed me to do that would be great. If it involves visiting sunny climes, even better. Maybe something on the people and history of one of the Greek islands.

What’s the most amazing experience you’ve had as a result of researching the content of your books?

It has to be all the interviews I’ve done at gigs. Not only do I get to hear some of the most amazing live music, but I love the insight into the whole set up. Listening to sound checks, being backstage and seeing what goes on behind the scenes, chatting to some incredibly talented and creative musicians – what a thrill! Plus, I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of saying “I’m with the band”!

Who was your favourite person to interview?

That is a really tricky question, because I have truly enjoyed every interview I’ve done for both books. It’s always good when you feel you can ask an interviewee anything, so from that perspective, I would have to say Steve Blacknell and Erkan Mustafa, both of whom answered my questions with extreme candour. One of the easiest interviews I did was with Owen Paul, for ‘‘My Eighties’. He has loads of interesting stories to tell, and I really only had to say ‘Hello’, and he was off and running! However, I think my favourite interview to date has to be with Dr & The Medics. From the second I stepped into their dressing room, it was non-stop banter and laughter. Clive Jackson (the Doctor) and bass player Jon Randle were like a comedy duo. When you read that part of the book, you’ll see it was a ‘no holds barred’ kind of interview. My face was hurting from laughing so much.

Who’s the most famous person you have in your contacts list?

Now, that would be telling! All I will say is that my teenage self would have fainted if she’d seen some of the numbers I’ve got. There are some more famous names in the pipeline for ‘More Eighties’, as that contact list keeps on growing.

Do you ever get nervous when you interview people?My Eighties

Luckily, I’m quite good at compartmentalising, so even though I can be ridiculously excited or nervous before an interview, as soon as I walk into that room it’s like a switch flicks, and I go into ‘professional’ mode. Well, at least I hope that’s how I come across! I become so focussed on what they’re telling me (often fascinating insights), that I almost forget who I’m talking to. It’s only afterwards when I look back and think ‘Wow, did that really happen?’ The only person I’ve met, who’s given me an attack of nerves, was Jimmy White. I’d been to see him play a snooker match a couple of years ago, and bumped into him in the bar afterwards. I was shaking when I had my photo taken with him!

How important has social media been to your writing journey?

I would say it has been invaluable. Twitter especially has been a fantastic means of engaging with 80’s fans, and getting feedback on a particular topic. I must confess to being something of a Twitter addict (you can follow me @MyEighties). It’s wonderful to be listening to a radio show like Forgotten 80s, and discussing it in real time with fellow listeners. I do the same thing with a lot of the music programmes on TV – BBC4 on a Friday evening is a favourite, if I’m at home. I’ve encountered some amazing music brains and some lovely people through tweeting, and even got to meet some of them at a recent ‘Tweet Up’.

What are the best and worst things about being a writer?

The answer’s the same for both – having your work and thoughts out there for the world to see. It’s the best because you get to reach a lot of like-minded people, and hopefully make them smile. There’s nothing better than having people tell you how a piece you’ve written brought back some good memories for them. It’s the worst because I’m actually a very private person (despite being what one DJ described as “all over social media”). Every time I publish something, even if it’s only a blog post, I have an unnerving thirty second panic of feeling totally exposed, before I get a grip and get over myself!

New colours- Natalie's designWe love the design for ‘Your Eighties’, can you tell us a bit about how it came about?

It’s great, isn’t it? Back in the summer, we ran a competition to design the cover for the book. It was won by Natalie Owen, a 24 year designer from Nottingham. Her dad is a big fan of the 80s, and had told her about the competition, having seen me tweet about it. Her design perfectly captures the decade.

Are you doing anything to celebrate when the book is published on 28th November?

Most definitely! The launch party for ‘Your Eighties’ is going to be held at an old music hall in Kent – a fantastic venue. There’s going to be live music from an amazing local band called Skatacus, plus an 80’s disco, with none other than Erkan Mustafa (Grange Hill’s Roland Browning) on the decks. I’m also going to get to meet Natalie, as she’s travelling down for the party. Some of the book’s contributors will be there, along with some wonderful friends and family, so it promises to be a great evening.

What piece of advice would you give to an aspiring writer or even to yourself, if you could go back to before you’d written your first book?

I would say “don’t sweat the small stuff”. With the first book, I got very caught up in the tiniest of details, proper punctuation and having everything ‘perfect’. That’s what editors are for! I also wrote in a very linear fashion, which became very inhibiting. Now, I write freely in chunks, as and when I can, and pull it all together at the end.

‘Your Eighties’ is available for pre-order from 8th November on Amazon here and from the My Eighties online shop in paperback here. Published by Fabrian Books 28th November 2015.

NaNoWrimo Anyone?

I am frantically NaNoWrimo-ing. It’s filling my days, hours and seconds and anyone or anything that comes between my Nano time and me, is given short shrift- including the cat. I am trying (and mostly failing) to keep away from Facebook and twitter and even my Nano buddies are bestowed with one-sentence answers to their comments. I am writing pages of ‘stuff.’ Who knows whether it’s good or rubbish but I will write my novel every day of November until I can’t face the thought of my happy hero and heroine anymore and shut the laptop in their faces, only to have to open it again the next day to suffer their smug happiness and their little legs dancing their ‘I’m in love’ jig. (They don’t know what’s waiting for them around the corner!)

I don’t think there can be many writers who haven’t heard of NaNoWrimo, but if you’ve been hiding in a cave with your hands over your eyes in case of Sabre tiger attack, I’ll give a summarised explanation of it. Just read it quickly, okay. I’m NaNo –ing; I don’t have all day.

Basically NaNoWrimo is an Internet based incentive to kick-start a novel by writing 50,000 words in the month of November. www.nanowrimo.org crest-05e1a637392425b4d5225780797e5a76

The last time I did NaNo was three years ago and at 36,000 words, I stopped- just like that. I just couldn’t face one single sentence more.  I hit a wall and whimpered at the thought of putting even one finger on the keyboard. And I didn’t dare to look at the crap I’d written for about a year. That novel is now complete and polished and is patiently waiting in line with an American publisher, for an ‘in house editor’ to contact me (I’m not sure what that means, but it got me all excited at the time.)

I’m now writing a series of three airline based books and have all three in various states of readiness. One, (shortlisted for the Mills and Boon Flirty Fiction First Chapter) is pretty much finished but just needs sexing up a bit (I don’t mean that literally.) One is 40,000 words incomplete and based on the very first book I wrote six years ago, about an air stewardess and a wannabe rock star, and the third one is so unready that it’s no more than a twinkle in my eye- that’s the one I’m writing for Nano.

It’s set in Botswana (I’ve never been there) Moscow (nope- never been there, either, but I know someone who has!) and the UK (phew!) and I’m already half in love with the hero who is an undercover CIA agent. Yes, of course he falls in love with the air stewardess- she’s beautiful and kind, even though on first impressions she looks like a po-faced snob and is a little TSTL (too stupid to live, to the uninitiated) ‘cos she inadvertently gets involved with gun running, but her heart’s in the right place- bless her.

Can’t chat any longer as I have a deadline of fifty thousand words to write and I’m typing faster than the speed of my fictional airline’s G5. Now that’s an aircraft worth writing about!

Jackie x

G5

Mega Monday Announcement: An Eventful Year

Mega Monday Announcement: An Eventful Year

Happy anniversary to me! Happy anniversary to me! A year of being a Write Romantic. Happy anniversary to me!

I bet you sang that in your mind to the tune of Happy Birthday, didn’t you? You can admit it, you know, especially now that the copyright claim has been rejected and we can all breathe easilybirthday-cake-152008_1280 again.

Yes— it’s been a whole year since I was invited to become a Write Romantic. Actually, it was a whole year on the twenty-first of September, but Happy Belated Anniversary doesn’t scan as well, and, anyway, what’s a week between friends?

I can’t believe a whole three hundred and sixty-five days have passed since that moment. On the other hand, it feels as if I’ve been part of the Write Romantic family forever. They really do feel like my family, and I’m quite certain that without their help and support, I’d never have achieved what I’ve managed to achieve in the last twelve months.

So what have I achieved since joining our merry little band of writers?

Well, in November, roughly eight weeks after I was taken into the WR fold, we released Winter Tales, an anthology of short stories, published in aid of two charities—The Cystic Fibrosis Trust and the Teenage Cancer Trust. Winter Tales is still available to buy as a paperback, and we will be relaunching it for Kindle very soon. I loved writing my story, The Other Side of Christmas, which was the first short story I’d written in years, and it meant that, finally, I was a published author! Far more importantly, it meant that I – alongside some extremely talented and very generous authors – had helped to raise funds for two really worthy causes.

In March, I published There Must Be An Angel. Despite my worst fears, it didn’t sink to the bottom of the very deep, murky pond that is the Amazon Kindle pool. In fact, it’s done quite well, if I say so myself, and has been getting some very good reviews.

In June, I was delighted to have a story I’d written accepted by D C Thomson. It will be published in October as a People’s Friend Pocket Novel. This means it will be available in actual bookshops, supermarkets and newsagents, and my mother will finally be able to walk into a physical shop and purchase a copy of her daughter’s work for herself. (She doesn’t do Amazon. Or the internet. She’s only just started texting, and you can depend on the fact that her messages will contain no more than two words, and one of them will be “Mum”.)

Then, just two days ago, I published A Kiss from a Rose, my second full-length novel. This was more nerve-wracking than I’d expected. I’d had a lot of positive comments about Angel. What if people were disappointed in Rose?

Luckily for me, I was talked through that fear. Several of the Write Romantics had read A Kiss from a Rose in its early stages, and they were able to reassure me that they’d enjoyed it, and that I shouldn’t worry. This is when being part of our fabulous writing family really helps. There’s always someone to prop you up when you’re feeling nervous, down, or just plain terrified. (It happens a lot more than you’d think—well, we ARE writers!)

anniversary-157248_1280On Saturday the twenty-sixth of September, A Kiss from a Rose was launched into the world. I waved her goodbye and then shut the door on my baby. I’d been preparing her for that moment for eighteen months, after all! Rose wasn’t remotely fazed. She strode out there as if the world was lucky to have her, but then, that’s Rose for you.

I, meanwhile, turned to Facebook, and had a fantastic launch party to celebrate. I’d been worried it would just be me and a few pictures of balloons, but lots of people came and there was a distinctly celebratory atmosphere. Songs were played, celebrities partied, food and drink were consumed, prizes were won, and at the end a very disgruntled and rather familiar cleaner turned up to sweep away the mess.

I’m now busy working on my third book. Unlike Angel and Rose, it’s not set in Kearton Bay, and will probably be a standalone. I had plans for it to be the first in a new series, but then the other books I had planned out took a distinctly unusual route, and it’s now become clear that they will form a separate series of their own.

I’ve also written a couple of short stories, and have an idea for a novella, plus a Christmas collection for next year. And, of course, I have the final two Kearton Bay novels to write. So you see, my year has been a very busy one, and it doesn’t look as if the next one is going to be any quieter.

And I, for one, am very happy about that!

Sharon xx

 

A Kiss from a Rose:

In spite of managing to get a black eye at her best friend’s wedding, Rose MacLean knows she’s never had it so good. 

As a partner in a thriving business, her financial problems are easing, and her eldest daughter has finally found employment, while her youngest is doing well at school.

But Rose’s life never seems to run smoothly for long, and, sure enough, her eldest daughter has soon walked out of her job, while her youngest appears to have had a personality transplant. To make matters worse, her mother is back on the scene, and she seems to be reliving her misspent youth with her oily-haired, horse-faced ex, Alec Thoroughgood.

With her best friend preoccupied with the arduous task of baby-making, Rose finds herself relying more and more on the quiet Flynn Pennington-Rhys, who seems to be everyone’s hero.

But Flynn has his own problems, and as events take an unexpected turn, Rose realises that she may not always be able to rely on him.

Will the quiet man come through for her? Will her daughters ever sort themselves out? And will Rose ever get her bedroom back from her mother, or is she destined for a life on the sofa?     

You can buy A Kiss from a Rose here.rose-cover-ebook

A Glimpse into the World of a Full-Time Author by Jessica Redland

Exactly one month ago today (a Monday morning), I went into work looking forward to one day in then the rest of the week off to celebrate the launch of my debut novel, Searching for Steven. My manager had been on holiday the previous week so we had a catch-up meeting arranged. Except we didn’t “catch up”. I was made redundant instead! Eek! I hadn’t seen it coming at all.

_MG_4314-2Talk about an extreme week: Lose job on Monday, launch book on Wednesday! By the time Sunday came round and my friends and family launch party was over, I was absolutely drained.

I reluctantly went back into work the following week. I’d hoped that my employer would grant me gardening leave when I was first told about the redundancy but it was refused. A week’s absence must have helped get things into perspective because, when I got back, I was asked to finish a few things off and then granted gardening leave for the rest of June. This resulted in me having two weeks off, ending yesterday. Today sees my return into full-time work as a Recruitment Consultant at a local employment agency. I’ve been extremely fortunate in being able to walk out of one job and straight into another. Phew.

_MG_4959The fortnight off outside of school holidays has given me a glimpse into another world: the world of a full-time author and it’s going to be very strange letting it go. I’ve been able to keep on top of the goings on in the worlds of Facebook and Twitter (well, almost). I’ve been able to spend time – quality time – working on the structural edits for book 2, Getting Over Gary. I’ve been able to tidy my office … although I somehow managed to trash it again. Oops. And I’ve been able to do a few things with my daughter that I’ve not normally been able to do like the school run, taking her to swimming lessons, attending the summer fete, and watching sports day for the first time ever (she’s 8 so I’m feeling a little guilty about this one).

On Monday I took a long lunch break and finished a book I’d been reading and I was able to post my reviews on Amazon and Goodreads almost immediately. I needed to nip into town one day, so I did, and I had a bit of prep to do for a Brownies meeting (I’m a Brown Owl) another day, so I did that too.

It’s been a wonderful glimpse into the world of being an author, yet it’s also shown be that, the more time I have to write, the less time (proportionately) I spend writing. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve certainly had a few days where I’ve really cracked on with it and put in a full day’s work, but I’ve also had a few days where social media, a little nap, and the temptation of DVDs have distracted me. But surely that’s one of the niceties about being a full-time author; working long hours when it’s deadline time and taking the foot of the pedal at other times? I like it. A lot.

11406714_884714794901155_6795003481857504518_oSo, from today, I’ll be back to the old routine of writing on an evening. One thing I’m looking forward to is having more time to read. I was a five-minute car journey away from my old job but I’m a ten-minute bus journey from this one. I know ten minutes doesn’t sound much but add in ten minutes waiting for the bus on the morning (I’m always paranoid I’ll miss it) and ten to twenty minutes waiting at the end of the day and I’ve suddenly got heading for an hour of reading in every weekday. Luxury. Knowing I only have two-three hours on an evening to write will probably force me to be much more structured with my time because it’s all I have and I’d only be causing myself problems if I wasted it.

I’m excited about the new role, but I will definitely miss the opportunity to write full-time on those days when the creative juices hit and my fingers are on fire because, let’s face it, that doesn’t always happen between 7.30-10.30 in the evening.

Do you write full-time or do you work full-time and squeeze writing in around it? Whichever you do, I’d love to hear from you as to how you get the balance right. Or perhaps you haven’t managed to get the balance yet and would like some tips. Just click on the comments next to the tags below.

Thanks

Jessica xx

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!

Jo

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

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