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

Blackmail, Deception, Laughter, Love, and a lot of Sheep…It’s Publication Day!

This Other Eden ebook cover V4 (1)Today it’s finally publication day for my third full-length novel, This Other Eden. As you can probably tell from the cover, I’ve stayed in Yorkshire for this story, but I’ve moved inland, away from the coastal charms of Kearton Bay, to the beauty of the Yorkshire Dales, and specifically, to a fictional area called Skimmerdale.

Skimmerdale is based on Swaledale, which is where my ancestors – the real Keartons – lived and worked for centuries. I really love the area, and wanted to set a novel there. When the idea for This Other Eden popped into my head, I knew I had the ideal Ross-Poldark-AIDEN-TURNER-in-Poldarklocation for it. I also knew I had the perfect look for the hero. Hey, all those hours watching Poldark and Being Human weren’t wasted! Here’s the blurb.

Eden wants to keep her job, and, as that means spending the summer caring for three young children in the wilds of the Yorkshire Dales, she has no choice but to go along with it. Her consolation prize is that their father is unexpectedly gorgeous. Sadly for Eden, she’s not quite herself any longer…
Honey wants to spend the summer with her married politician lover. The only problem is, there are quite a few people determined to put obstacles in her path. But what Honey wants, Honey usually gets…
Cain wants a knighthood and is willing to sacrifice almost anything for it. If his daughter is putting that goal in jeopardy, it’s time to get tough…
Lavinia wants to keep her marriage intact, and if that means turning a blind eye to her husband’s philandering, she’ll do it. But that doesn’t mean she can’t have someone else spying for her…
Eliot wants to care for his children, and to be left in peace to heal. When he gets an unexpected guest, he wonders if it’s time to start living again. But is this sheep farmer having the wool pulled over his eyes?

This Other Eden is available to buy here. I’m hoping there will be another two Skimmerdale books to follow, but first, I have to get back to Kearton Bay. I have a young man waiting for his happy ending, and I’ve already kept him dangling a bit too long for his liking!

Sharon xxx

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

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 Patchwork Village

Regular followers of the blog may notice a difference in our Wednesday posts from now on. After a long – and very successful – run, we’ve decided to drop our regular “Wednesday Wondering” and instead post each week on a whole variety of topics, writing and reading related (well, mostly!). Book reviews – always popular – will still feature from time to time. We do hope you enjoy our “new look” Wednesdays, and please continue to comment. We do love to hear from you!

Write Romantic Sharon starts us off with today’s post: The Patchwork Village

I’m at quite an exciting stage in my writing life at the moment. Having spent the last four years immersed in the fictional village of Kearton Bay—the North Yorkshire coastal location based on real-life Robin Hood’s Bay—I’m currently working on a new series set in an entirely new place.

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Scenic Whitby

This has been quite an adventure for me. Don’t get me wrong—I love Kearton Bay and can’t wait to return to it to write the last two books in the series. However, there’s something irresistible about starting anew. A fresh page. A clean slate. And, ooh, a whole host of new characters and settings to think about.

What’s different about my new series is that, whereas Kearton Bay was strongly based on a real village and I could picture all the buildings and streets quite clearly in my mind, the new settings are entirely fictional. They are located in a real area—the Yorkshire Dales—but the actual towns and villages don’t exist at all, and neither does the dale they nestle in. I’m having to build the whole thing up entirely in my mind’s eye. And that’s why, for the last few weeks, I’ve been creating my patchwork villages.

With the Kearton Bay novels, I took photos of Robin Hood’s Bay and explored the village many times. I gave it a relatively close neighbour—the fictional market town of Helmston, which was based on Helmsley. I simply moved Helmston much closer to Kearton Bay than Helmsley is to Robin Hood’s Bay. I then added its adjacent village, Farthingdale, and another village close by called Moreton Cross (which is never actually visited, only mentioned), and anchored the whole lot a few miles south of Whitby to ensure everyone knew exactly where Kearton Bay was supposed to be. Simple. Of course, I changed all the businesses and street names, but in my mind, I could see the whole area very clearly, because I’d actually been there.

Although I’ve been to the Dales, I have no point of reference for my new villages. Instead, I’ve been patching together buildings and landmarks that I’ve seen in various places, and stitching them into a wonderful fictional landscape for my characters to live in.

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Masham church, Yorkshire Dales

It’s fun to do. Holidays have provided me with lots of lovely inspiration—not just for the Yorkshire Dales series, but for later books, too. The grand church spire in Louth; the peaceful churchyard in Masham; a picturesque thatched cottage in Thornton-le Dale; a village duck pond in Bishop Burton; an ancient pub; a shop with a fun name that would make a great name for a village café; a grand house in my home town of Hessle; a ruined abbey; a ramshackle farm in Swaledale—the possibilities are endless. Of course, you do have to be aware of the architectural style of the area. Not many twee cottages with straw roofs in the rugged and wind-blown upper Dales!

My family have got used to me stopping to take photographs of interesting buildings, even though they can’t see the appeal. I like to gaze out of the window as we’re driving around, looking at the houses we pass and wondering what sort of people live there. I’ve always been the same. I remember when I was a little girl, taking the bus from our town to visit my grandparents in Hull, gazing at a bungalow that we passed and weaving a story about the inhabitants. It stood out from the other houses in the road, being a bungalow, and also because it had white walls, unlike all the red brick houses that surrounded it. It also appeared to have a paddock at the back, which, for someone as pony-mad as me, was enough to spark my imagination and dream up all sorts of adventures for the fictional family who lived there.

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Thatched cottage, Thornton-le-Dale

Even now, I love it when I find buildings that don’t seem to fit in with the rest of the houses that surround them. An ordinary street that contains an oddity—perhaps a really old house that must have been standing there a long time before the rest of the houses were built, or a passageway that leads to a row of old cottages, or a wall that you can’t see over which could be hiding a real gem—can delight and intrigue me, and really set my mind working overtime.

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Thwaite, Swaledale

For the Yorkshire Dales series, I’m dreaming up an outlying farmhouse, a village, a hamlet, and a market town with a very unusual history and some rather quirky inhabitants. I even had to research place names, as a lot of names in the Dales are of Old Norse origin, and I wanted to give the area an authentic sounding name.  I’m busily pinning pictures to my secret Pinterest board for inspiration, and when the books are ready to go I’ll be sharing them publicly, so anyone who wants to know what the various components of the locations look like will be able to see for themselves. It’s a real collection of tiny little pieces of many places. A real patchwork, in fact. Now I just have to finish the stories!

Sharon xx

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

Mega Monday Announcement: An Angel Gets His Wings!

It’s been an amazing few months for The Write Romantics.

September and October brought good news for Jessica Redland, Jo Bartlett, Helen J Rolfe, Deirdre Palmer and Lynne Pardoe, who all secured publishing deals. A Deal Before the Altar, the debut novel from Rachael Thomas was published by Mills and Boon Modern, and The Forgotten Cottage, the third in the outstanding Annie Graham series by Helen Phifer was released by Carina.

Anthology coverIn November we published our anthology of short stories, Winter Tales, in aid of The Cystic Fibrosis Trust and The Teenage Cancer Trust, so we all became published authors overnight! It was a strange feeling to hold the paperback in my hands and to see my name in print. Finally, I felt like a real writer, and as someone who doesn’t usually write short stories, I felt quite proud that The Other Side of Christmas was included in a collection of fabulous stories written by some truly talented authors. November also brought the release of Jo Bartlett’s debut novella, the delightful The Gift of Christmas Yet to Come, which has earned great reviews and, along with Winter Tales, is the perfect treat for a cosy night in by the fire.  

 

So all in all, we’ve had a fabulous few months, as you can see. And it doesn’t stop there, because today I have yet another amazing piece of news to impart.

My series of four books set in the fictional North Yorkshire coastal village of Kearton Bay, has found a home with Fabrian Books, and the first, There Must Be An Angel, will be available to buy in both ebook and paperback format from March 2015. angel cover

I am delighted that – finally – people will be able to read the novel I’ve been banging on about for so long! I have to admit, though, that I’m also very nervous. I started work on There Must Be An Angel three years ago, and it’s quite nerve-wracking to think that it will actually be available for people to read at last.

I have a busy few months in store for me, working with editors and proofreaders and preparing the book for its launch, while tidying up book two and working on book three. It’s going to be pretty hectic but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

2014 has been a fantastic year for us. I wonder what’s next in store for The Write Romantics? 🙂

 

The Saturday Spotlight – The Seaside, Sherlock and Sharon Booth

Across the past year or so, we’ve been delighted to welcome a variety of guests to our Saturday Spotlight slot. Some have been successful prolific authors, some have been a few books into their journey, others have been new writers launching their debut novels and a couple have even been like most of The Write Romantics: starting their journey.

meToday we’re delighted to welcome a fellow NWS-member, Sharon Booth, to our blog. Sharon joined the NWS in 2013 and is making great progress by preparing to write her third novel already! She runs a fantastic blog – The Moongazing Hare – and is generally an all-round lovely person. I know because I’ve had the pleasure to meet up with her on a couple of occasions for tea and cake and the time has just whizzed by.

The Write Romantics have posed some questions so, without further ado, I’ll hand over to Sharon who can tell us all about her journey, her current activities and how she’s so great at blogging and networking. Plus, she’s given us some fab piccies of the inspiration for her debut series.

Welcome Sharon!

Why now in terms of starting your writing journey? Have you wanted to do this for a long time and, if so, what makes now the right time?

I spent most of my childhood writing stories – apart from the time I was reading them, of course. I always said I’d be a writer when I grew up, but when I reached school-leaving age, writing as a career seemed like a ridiculous dream for someone like me. In fact, my careers interview at school can be summarised like this: “Okay, you’re a girl. (Well spotted.) Right then, shop or office? (Gosh, decisions, decisions.) Ah, you’re doing ‘O’ levels. (Only in English Language and English Literature. Doesn’t that tell you something?) Office then. Off you go. (Eh? What just happened?)” I got drafted into doing an office practice course and that was more or less it. I got married, had five children, and spent a good many years in the wilderness of depression – to the point of rarely going out of the house – and total lack of self-belief. I still read a lot but I rarely tried to write. I think it was a combination of factors that pushed me back into writing: I’d been home-schooling my daughter and she’d turned sixteen and started college so I had more free time and was looking around for something to challenge me; I’d got a job which, at the time, involved working afternoons only, which meant I had every morning to myself; I had a new-found confidence after graduating from the Open University with an honours degree in literature; I heard about NaNoWriMo which seemed an excellent way to discipline myself into writing that first draft; but most of all, I had a bunch of characters, buzzing round my brain like annoying flies, who appeared from nowhere as I was journeying to Somerset back in 2011 and simply wouldn’t go away. They forced me to buy a notebook and spend a lot of that holiday jotting down preliminary thoughts and ideas that would eventually become There Must Be An Angel. My husband and kids were thrilled. Once the idea was in my head there was no stopping me. I remembered how much I’d loved writing. Now I can’t imagine my life without it.

julie blog3Where do you get the inspiration for your setting and characters from?

Sherlock! Doctor Who! The Musketeers! Hehe…truthfully, when it comes to my characters, I don’t think anyone actually inspires their personalities. They come from somewhere inside my head. Possibly they’re all aspects of me which is a rather worrying thought, given the way some of them behave. However, I do like to put a face to the name, so I like to “cast” my characters as if I’m making a film of the book and in my head almost every single one of them looks like a famous actor or actress who suits the part. (See above list). However, I can’t seem to find anyone suitable to play the heroines. No one seems right. Maybe that’s because I write in first person so I see the events from “inside” the character and never really get a clear picture of what she looks like from the outside, if that makes sense. I do have a Pinterest board with the people and places that inspired me for There Must Be An Angel, but I’m wary of that really. I may see my hero in one way but I’m sure that every reader will have their own view of what he looks like and that’s fine. Whatever floats their boat! I love the fact that I can cast a gorgeous actor as my hero and make him do or say whatever I like. It’s like stalking but without any danger of being arrested. Louise Marley asked me if it was Benedict Cumberbatch or Sherlock I was bending to my will and I said that was too deep for me! When I thought about it, though, I realised it was neither. In my mind, one of my heroes may have Benedict’s physical appearance but his actual character is nothing like Sherlock or any other role that he’s played and I wouldn’t know what his own character is like, having never met him 😦 (Give me time…) My hero is my own creation. I’ve just borrowed the face! I’ve been having a lot of fun lately falling in love with someone who looks uncannily like Matthew Rhys. I have a Doctor and a Musketeer to go yet. Yum. As for the setting, the series of books I’m writing now is set in a fictional village called Kearton Bay, but it’s very closely modelled on the gorgeous North Yorkshire village of Robin Hood’s Bay, up near Whitby. I just knew it was the right place for my characters to live. I went back there only last week and got very emotional. I’ve spent the last three years living with that place inside my head so it felt like coming home. I kept getting all excited and saying things like, “That’s where such and such happened,” and “That’s where my heroine did this,” and taking lots of photos and muttering, “But would she be able to see that from this viewpoint?” and other such things which made my family members sigh a lot and roll their eyes and walk away pretending they didn’t know me, which I thought was rather rude.

You write great blog entries. Do you enjoy writing these for the pure enjoyment of writing them or is it all about raising your profile?

the inspiration for keartonbay 2Well, firstly, thank you for saying that! I’m always a bag of nerves every time I hit “publish” on a blog post so it’s reassuring to hear you like them. I set up a blog in the first place because I wanted to prove to myself that I would be able to let someone else read my writing. I’d never shown my work to anyone other than various creative writing tutors before so it was a big thing to overcome, and I knew I had to have the courage to send my words out into the world if I was ever going to publish a novel. Setting up a blog seemed a good way to start. I love messing around with it, to be honest. It’s had several facelifts and I like trying different things and seeing what works. I love writing the book reviews. I just wish I had more time to read so I could publish more of them! I understand that having a blog is an essential part of an author’s profile nowadays but it has to be fun, too. If it was all about the profile I’d make sure I posted at least once a week and in a regular slot, but I’m not as organised as that. I write when I have something to say and as inspiration strikes. It may not be as professional as some but at least I’m blogging because I want to. I write as if I’m chatting to my friends – and in a way I am. I’m still stunned that someone else takes the trouble to read my posts and even more astonished when people comment. I’m very grateful to all the followers of The Moongazing Hare.

What is your greatest single writing ambition and your biggest single fear about the foray into publication?

I had a dream a few weeks ago that my book had gone live on Amazon and I had four reviews – all of them one star. The comments ranged from “Don’t give up the day job” to something that is completely unsuitable for the delicate eyes of The Write Romantics. I guess that’s my biggest fear! I suppose, therefore, my biggest ambition is to have people read my books and say they love them. I’d like to be able to make a living from writing and be able to give up the day job and I’d like to be taken seriously as a writer by my peers, but more than anything I’d like to get a message from a reader to say they’d loved one of my books and it had made them smile or laugh or cry and they couldn’t wait to read the next one. That would mean the absolute world to me.

the bayWhere would you like to be, in terms of your writing career, in five years’ time?

I’d like to have had three or four books published by then and have built up a group of readers who actually look out for my next novel. There are four books in The Kearton Bay Chronicles and in five years I’d like to think my next series will be well underway. I have some interesting ideas for a new bunch of characters and another glorious setting. I’m looking forward to getting on with that. I’d like to have met some of the fabulous writers I’ve spoken to on Facebook and Twitter, and to have the courage to say to anyone who asks what I do, “Actually, I’m a writer,” without going bright red, stammering and backing away before they start to laugh. Dammit, the day will come I tells ya!

Indie or traditional publishing?

In an ideal world I’d eventually like to have experience of both. I read an interview with the wonderful Milly Johnson in which she said she’s glad she waited to be published traditionally because it taught her an awful lot and gave her a great deal of support. I then read an interview with Val McDermid who said that she thinks it would be highly unlikely that she’d have a writing career if she’d been starting out today, given how tough it is to get a publishing deal and the fact that writers are dropped if they don’t perform well enough with their first book. So while I can see that being traditionally published would be wonderful in many ways, being realistic it would be foolish to dismiss indie publishing out of hand. There are pros and cons to both paths. I think these days indie publishing is seen as a valid publishing choice by most writers. I know it would be lovely to have all the experience and support of a big publishing house behind you, but really, I’m drawn to the control that indie publishing gives the author. I love the idea of choosing my own cover and title and deciding on my own publishing schedule. I know there are many indie authors out there making a respectable living from self-publishing and loving the freedom it gives them. It’s true that many indie books sink without trace, but then, so do many traditionally-published books. Being contracted to a traditional publisher doesn’t guarantee sales, and I’m sorry to say it doesn’t guarantee error-free books either. I understand the moans about people who dash off a story and rush to publish it but I’ve read lots of indie books and have thoroughly enjoyed them. A lot of the books I’ve reviewed on my blog have been indie published. Indie authors can hire cover designers, professional formatters, editors and proof-readers, and the indie authors I know take a great deal of time and care to get their books just right. It seems the days of the publisher doing all the promotional work are long gone, too, so I don’t think having to plug your book should put people off the indie route. You’ll more than likely have to plug away whichever path you choose! In the end it all comes down to personal choice. What works for one person may not work for another. And I think most readers don’t care one way or the other who publishes the book they’re reading as long as they love the story.

the beginning of bay street julie blog1You seem fab at networking. Can you give us any tips?

Honestly, I didn’t realise I was networking at first! The first contact I ever made with another writer was on Twitter. I’d just read What a Difference a Day Makes by Carole Matthews and loved it so much that I tweeted about it. She replied! Writers make me as starstruck as Hollywood stars make other people so I was stunned. The day I got a reply from Veronica Henry my hands were shaking so much I could barely operate the mouse 🙂 My point is, I didn’t consciously try to network. I just followed people who interested me on Twitter and Facebook and tentatively joined in with some of their conversations and was highly relieved to find they didn’t snap at me and tell me to go away! I started reviewing books I liked and was astonished to get thank you messages from some of the authors and eventually requests from other authors to review their books. I nervously messaged the lovely Lizzie Lamb for some advice about joining the RNA after reading an interview with her in a magazine, and she very kindly replied, giving me lots of tips and encouragement. I’ve never forgotten that. Bit by bit I found I was chatting to writers just as I would anyone else. I’ve found the writing community in general to be a very friendly and generous group of people who are more than happy to pass on tips and advice and are, with few exceptions, supportive and encouraging to newbie writers. I try to share as many blog posts and book releases as I can because I think being a writer is damn hard work and the more we help each other the better. If I don’t like a book I don’t review it. I only ever publish positive four or five star book reviews because I think there are more than enough people ready and willing to give horrible reviews, even to books they haven’t read. I once read a review for a book which gave it one star because the seller hadn’t delivered it in the estimated time. I mean, honestly! *bangs head on desk*.

What do your family and friends think?

I’m a bit of an odd-bod in my family. Hardly any of my relatives read! I know!! My brother and sister rarely pick up a book. My mother used to read sagas but is now more likely to do a crossword. My children don’t read (which is a source of anguish to me, given the amount of books I bought them when they were little and the effort I put into encouraging them) and my husband has only ever read one book in his life. *sigh*. DH is very supportive now, although we went through a difficult time when I started writing regularly, and it took him a long time to realise how serious I was about it. When he finally understood what it meant to me he changed completely, and is very understanding now and rather proud of me which is nice. I think at first my family and friends thought it was a joke. Then they got excited and there were lots of comments about me being the next JK Rowling. (I sometimes think that JK Rowling is the only author some people have heard of and, much as I adore her, I got pretty sick of hearing her name.) Then they got bored and started asking why my book wasn’t finished yet and demanding to know when it was going to be published. They seemed to think that a book can be written in a matter of weeks, be sent to an overjoyed publisher and appear in the shops before you can say “Harry Potter”. Now they’ve lost interest entirely which is a relief all round. My boss informed me that he is going to take up writing when he retires and he thinks he should be able to “knock off” a novel a month. I was so angry I wanted to throw my keyboard at him, but I merely raised an eyebrow and told him he was a gifted man and I would look forward to reading his work. If he beats me to publication I may turn to gin.

julie blog4What do you personally get from writing?

Backache, sleepless nights, and a hatred of the comma that borders on a phobia. Actually, that’s true, but I also get the most incredible pleasure from it, too. If I didn’t I wouldn’t do it. In this day and age I don’t think any writer does it for the money – unless you’re already well-established and selling shed loads of novels, in which case congratulations and hats off to you. Long may it continue! For me, writing lets me enter a world where people I love make their homes. It lets me work out aspects of my life that perhaps haven’t gone according to plan and rewrite them with a happy ending. It’s where I find my friends. It’s where I get to fall in love all over again. It’s where I laugh and cry and hang out with people who interest, amuse, delight or annoy me. With a hard afternoon in the office ahead of me, a letter box stuffed with bills, a medical appointment on the horizon and a car that’s failed its MOT, I switch on my laptop and head off to meet my pals and find out what they’re up to. They’re like my version of Wordsworth’s Daffodils. When I’m feeling down, “they flash upon that inward eye” and make me smile and I can’t wait to meet them again. It’s given me a sense of purpose, helped me make new friends (not least the lovely Write Romantics!), increased my confidence and made me proud that I’ve achieved something. I honestly can’t imagine not writing. What the hell was I doing all those years?

What part of the writing process do you enjoy the most? What part do you dislike (if any)?

I love it when the writing is flowing and the words are coming easily and it feels almost as if the book’s writing itself. Days like that are fabulous. I especially love it if I’m making myself laugh as I write. Nine times out of ten I’ll go back to that passage and wonder what the hell I was thinking and delete it, but sometimes I still laugh and there’s nothing better than that. The bit I dislike most is having to be brutal and cut out all the stuff that doesn’t need to be there. I feel like I’m The Grim Reaper sometimes. I can’t count the number of scenes I’ve written that have ended up in a file titled “Deleted Scenes…keep in case they come in useful one day.” They probably won’t. Ninety per cent of them are rubbish which was why they were deleted in the first place, but I hate to throw anything away. I’m from Yorkshire. What do you expect? 🙂

 

Thank you for joining us today, Sharon. It’s been a pleasure to hear all about your writing journey and to see your lovely pictures. I’m sure we’ll be welcoming you back again very soon as a published writer, whether that’s indie or traditional. Can’t wait!

Julie xx