The Summer of New Beginnings

Dear Reader,

Welcome to the Write Romantics’ Blog!

Spring is well and truly upon us and so it’s time for some warmer weather and beach reading.

Today is publication day for my 7th book!  The Summer of New Beginnings is available as an ebook via Amazon and I hope to have it available in paperback within the next few weeks. I’ll be spending publication day with my family but I’m sure I’ll have time for some chocolate and fizz in the evening to celebrate!

For this book I’ve travelled back to Australia, at least in my head. Set in the fictitious suburb of Primrose Bay, the story promises plenty of sun, lots of conflict and of course, love. Read on for the blurb below…

I’m delighted to share this book with you all!

Helen J Rolfe x

The Summer of New Beginnings

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon

They say trouble comes in threes…

Headstrong and organised, Mia is a single mum who wants to fix the world – but the one thing she can’t fix is her family. Responsible older brother Will has fled Primrose Bay, unable to forgive and forget after the ultimate betrayal. And Jasmine, no longer the wayward baby sister, is determined to prove to her brother and sister that she’s just as capable as they are.

Together in the bay after years apart and a separation spanning three continents, it doesn’t take long for the siblings to clash when Mia calls everyone together in a family crisis. And with jealousy and resentment simmering between them, as well as faces from the past and new loves, the family ties could end up being severed forever.

Sometimes we need to lose ourselves in order to find each other again…

Confessions of a Trolley Dolly (or something like that!)

It’s finally here, the day that I’ve been anticipating for so long, and I’m already bowled over by the support and good wishes from my fellow writers and friends, new and old.
I can finally understand the ‘Squeeee, my books have arrived,’ and ‘It’s launch day,’ posts on social media when in the past, the less charitable side of me wanted to say, ‘Calm down dear,’ all Michael Winner like, at their gushing. After all, it’s only a book and there are millions of ’em out there.

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See? Tons of the buggers!

Go into any charity shop and the shelves are groaning with them. The M6 toll road used two and a half million copies of Mills and Boon’s to keep it stable: http://bit.ly/1nlenrB That kind of says something, don’t you think?
So why do I want to use up even more valuable trees for the paltry words I have to offer? The answer is, I don’t really know. It just crept up on me, really, this desire to see my name on the front page of a book and to write a novel that makes people say, ‘Ahh, that was lovely.’
At about the same time as I started to take my scribblings seriously,  I met a few real writers. REAL WRITERS- with proper books on shelves and everything–and they made money from these books.
That was probably the moment when I thought, ‘I can do that.’
Only I couldn’t–not then. I wasn’t good enough. And I wasn’t good enough for years, much as I hate to say it. Because it’s like any other job that requires diligence, attention to detail, a modicum of talent and an awful lot of long, hard slog: it takes time.
But finally it is my turn, and getting back to the point I started on (that’s the thing with writers- we never run out of words!) I now totally get the ‘Squeee’ moment, because when I saw my book on Amazon, it made me want to cry–and laugh–and phone up every single person I’d ever met in my whole life and shout, ‘Look I’ve done it–go and look on Amazon!’

HERE IT IS : http://amzn.to/2jLPZsU

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Mine! All mine!

So, yeah, it’s out there now and I hope you want to buy it, and then I hope you enjoy it, and then I hope you leave a review on Amazon–cos they really count for something. And I don’t want one of those pompous Amazon reviews that says ‘I had to give it one star because there was a comma in the wrong place,’ which actually just shows that you need to get a life! But you aren’t like that, are you? You’re going to LOVE reading my book on your kindle so much that you buy the paperback that comes out in a couple of month’s time, and you are going to give me a wonderful review on Amazon. A perfect Valentine’s Day read.

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Five-star reviews- yes, please!

Aren’t you?
Go on- you know you want to.  http://amzn.to/2jLPZsU
Much love,
Jackie.
(Squeee!)

 

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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Winter is definitely here and in Hertfordshire we’ve enjoyed some wonderful frosty mornings. The sun has been shining and Christmas is definitely in the air!

During 2016 I knew I wanted to release a Christmas novel and I became so addicted to writing about winter and the festive season that I thought, why not write two books.

My first winter / festive read came out in October and so far readers have loved In a Manhattan Minute so I’m really happy. My latest novel is called Christmas at The Little Knitting Box and it’s out now!

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Christmas at The Little Knitting Box is available from Amazon as an ebook and the paperback should be ready in the next couple of weeks. I set this one in New York City too and it follows the story of Cleo who moved to the big city from the Cotswolds to run the family’s knitting store. Here’s the blurb and if you feel like taking a trip to New York with me, here’s the link to Amazon… Christmas at The Little Knitting Box

Have a wonderful December and a very Merry Christmas to you all.

Helen J Rolfe x

Christmas at The Little Knitting Box

Christmas is coming and New York is in full swing for the snowy season. But at The Little Knitting Box in the West Village, things are about to change …

The Little Knitting Box has been in Cleo’s family for nearly four decades, and since she arrived fresh off the plane from the Cotswolds four years ago, Cleo has been doing a stellar job of running the store. But instead of an early Christmas card in the mail this year, she gets a letter that tips her world on its axis.

Dylan has had a tumultuous few years. His marriage broke down, his mother passed away and he’s been trying to pick up the pieces as a stay-at-home dad. All he wants this Christmas is to give his kids the home and stability they need. But when he meets Cleo at a party one night, he begins to see it’s not always so easy to move on and pick up the pieces, especially when his ex seems determined to win him back.

When the snow starts to fall in New York City, both Cleo and Dylan realise life is rarely so black and white and both of them have choices to make. Will Dylan follow his heart or his head? And will Cleo ever allow herself to be a part of another family when her own fell apart at the seams?

Full of snow, love and the true meaning of Christmas, this novel will have you hooked until the final page.

The Chocolatier’s Secret

Today it’s publication day for The Chocolatier’s Secret!

The Chocolatier's Secret- KDP version

 

This book is the second story in the Magnolia Creek series, but can be read as a standalone novel.

In The Chocolatier’s Secret, we return to the quiet town of Magnolia Creek, nestled in a beautiful setting in Victoria, Australia, not far from the city of Melbourne.

Today is publication day for the ebook, but the paperback will be on its way very soon. I can’t wait to hold the book in my hands! It’s always such a special moment 🙂

I already have plans for a third book in this series but for now I’m working on a Christmas novel, set in a different location.

I hope you’ll raise a glass of bubbly, have a block of chocolate nearby and enjoy reading this novel. I loved writing it.

Helen J Rolfe  x

Here’s the blurb…

Will one mistake ruin everything?

Andrew Bennett has an idyllic life in Magnolia Creek, Australia. He runs a chocolate business he adores, is married to Gemma, the love of his life, and has a close relationship with his father, Louis. But when Andrew receives a message from his high school sweetheart, it sends his world into a spiral, and the relationships he holds dear will never be the same again.

Molly Ramsey is looking for answers. After her last attempt, she believes the only way to get them this time is to face her past head-on. But to do this, she has to fly to the other side of the world – and she’s afraid of flying. Her search for answers lands her in an emotional tangle, not only with her past but also with a man very much in her present.

Family is everything to Gemma Bennett and she longs to have a house full of kids, but it just isn’t happening. And when Andrew’s past makes an explosive impact on the family, Gemma must decide whether she can accept the truth and open her heart in a way she never thought possible.

In this story of love, family ties and forgiveness, will past mistakes be the obstacle to a Happy Ever After?

You can buy The Chocolatier’s Secret here 

 

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

 

In light and shade with Elle Turner

Hidden FaceOur guest on the blog today is friend of the Write Romantics, Elle Turner, telling us how she’s got this self-publishing lark all sewn up. Over to the fabulous Elle…

Hey there lovely Write Romantics! Thank you so much for having me back on the blog. I can’t believe two years have passed already since I was last here. It’s been great to follow your individual journeys over the period – you’ve all done tremendously well.

I re-read my 2013 interview with you guys before writing this post and one of the things I said was that I was mulling over the idea of self-publishing a short story collection. Well, at some point I must have stopped mulling and taken some action because I published Tapestry, my first collection of short stories, in September!

One of the things that struck me when I re-read the interview was how apprehensive I sounded. At that time I was still breaking out into a sweat every time I submitted anything anywhere. So how did I manage to get from there to here – excitedly sending my writing out into the world?

I know with complete certainty that being a member of the RNA New Writers’ Scheme has played an enormous part100_0740. The annual deadline to submit manuscripts, the readers’ reports, the supportive community and, this year, my first trip to the summer conference have all provided a focus, friendships and the will to keep going. Writing in itself has contributed to my growing feeling of belonging in the writing world, but also the online support through my blog, twitter and other social media platforms has been invaluable. In other words, in no small measure I have all my online buddies, not least the Write Romantics, to thank for helping me get here. It’s not all been plain sailing – self-doubt, rejection, impatience and what have you – but that’s all part of life’s rich TAPESTRY, right? 😉

My collection of twelve short stories went through many titles before I chose Tapestry, but now I wonder why I didn’t think of it in the first place. The stories are a tapestry, exploring the complexities of life and love through what I hope are moving tales, whether happy or less so. I wanted to write stories about love in different guises, whether romantic love, familial love or obsessive love and took the opportunity to explore the darker, sadder sides of the emotion too. Some of the characters appear in more than one story – I wanted to see what happened to them before or after their first story in the collection. I hope, if you read it, you find you wanted that too!

TAPESTRY_front150dpiIn hope, in pain

We lose, we gain,

But always and forever

The human heart braves life

In light and in shade.

A collection of twelve short stories exploring the complexities of life and love.

Available now from Amazon http://hyperurl.co/ymjfs2

Tapestry came out at the end of September and publication day was so much fun! Again it was my online buddies who made it so and I’m more grateful than I can say to everyone who really got behind me. I’ve had some lovely comments about the stories too, so I’m very happy. J

It’s all been very exciting, but it’s back to work now! I’m looking for an agent for my books and am keen to hear what my NWS reader has to say about Book 4. I’m also planning a new project for 2016. That’s the idea anyway, but who knows what will happen? I’ll have to take it as it comes. Part of life’s rich…

Yes, OK, I’ll get my coat… 😉

Thank you so much for having me, Ladies! I hope to see you again soon and, in the meantime, happy writing!

Much love,

Elle J xx

Congratulations, Elle, the WRs are all really looking forward to escaping into your stories! Good luck with the agent submissions and the NWS news and thanks for joining us on the blog again, we hope you’ll come back next time you have some news.

Elle Turner writes contemporary women’s fiction. She lives in beautiful Scotland with her husband and two sons. She has pretty much no sense of direction, if you offer her a 50:50 she will ALWAYS get it wrong and, despite living in Scotland, she rarely manages to wear shoes that don’t leak.

If you would like to find out more about Elle or her writing, she’d love to see you at www.elleturnerwriter.com on Twitter @ElleTWriter, Instagram elletwriter or she’s on FB as elleturnerwriter

 

 

Aspiring writers step away from the scorpions! The WRs are here to tell you why…

Hello and happy bank holiday weekend!

If you’re a regular follower of our blog, you’ll know that a Saturday normally means The Saturday Spotlight in which we interview writers at all stages in their career – aspiring to chart-topping, indie or traditional – as well as the occasional interview with an editor, publisher or agent. Today, though, we’re doing something a little bit different. We want a little exploration of the past, present, and future of the Write Romantics…

conf 2014 10In the beginning, there were just a pair of Write Romantics. Jo and I ‘met’ when I was in my first year of the RNA’s NWS and Jo was in her second year. I’d finally got around to joining Romna, the RNA’s online community, where newbies are invited to introduce themselves so I tapped in a “hi, this is me” kind of email. Jo immediately contacted me as we shared a writing genre and other interests. A friendship was instantly formed and we exchanged incredibly long and detailed emails over the next few months. In early 2013, the idea developed to set up a blog. We found our name, we found a format, and away we went. But it soon became apparent that finding enough writing-related things to say to regularly contribute to a blog when there were just two of us, neither of whom were ready to seek a publishing deal, was going to be a massive problem. But a problem shared is a problem halved. Or tenth-ed in our case because we put an offer out on Romna to extend the group and were quite overwhelmed to find eight other writers who wanted to join us. Phew. Because it could have been a bit embarrassing if we’d had no response!

Conf 2014 3We don’t mind admitting that we hadn’t a clue what we were doing! None of us were expert bloggers. In fact, we weren’t bloggers at all! I’d set up a blog a couple of months previously following my journey to get fit and lose half my body weight through a beach-based bootcamp (which I still run although I’m slightly ashamed to say that I’m still, 2.5 years on, trying to lose half my body weight – oops!) so I had a little bit of experience of regularly posting, and Rachael had some experience of being part of a writing group who blogged, but that was it. So we had to pretty much start from scratch.

It’s been great working together as a team to develop the format for the blog into the regular bi-weekly slots we have now. We all contribute posts and we all bring interview guests to the party. Two years ago, after about 4-5 months of blogging together, we asked the WRs if they’d like to re-affirm their commitment. Were they happy with what we were doing? Was it what they expected? Did they have the enthusiasm and willingness to really move the blog forward and start posting more regularly? At that point, one of the WRs decided to dip out because her commitments outside writing meant she was going to struggle to contribute and, for a year, we were nine. Then last September, we asked Sharon to join us. I’d met Sharon the year before, as had WR Alys, and she’d become a great supporter of the group. She already felt like one of us so it was a natural step to officially invite her into the fold, restoring the power of 10.

Although we live all over the country – Cumbria, North & East Yorkshire, Gloucestershire, Wales, East Sussex, Hertfordshire, Somerset, Kent (hope I haven’t missed anywhere!) – and have never all been in the same place at the same time, we’ve become really close through the power of social media. We’ve celebrated the highs, sympathised during the lows, built each other up during down moments, and learned from the various paths the group’s writing journeys have gone down. It’s often said that writing can be a lonely business but the WRs are never really alone and we’d massively recommend all writers find themselves a support network, whether that’s a writing partner or a large group like ours. We’re all convinced that some of the amazing things that have happened to the group over the last couple of years have been thanks in part to the support and encouragement of the group. So what are those amazing things? I’ll hand over to Jo to let you know more …

Reproduced by kind permission of © Ra\'id Khalil via Dreamstime Stock Photos

Reproduced by kind permission of © Ra\’id Khalil via Dreamstime Stock Photos

‘What a difference a day makes, twenty four little hours…’ or so Dinah Washington’s song goes. It might have taken more like twenty four months since deciding we wanted to stay Write Romantics, as Jessica says above, for our fortunes to really change, but the sentiment’s exactly the same. Even on our down days, when we do consider giving up to take up scorpion petting instead, as one of the Facebook jokes about writing goes, it’s been a pretty incredible two years.

If you’d told us back then what we might have achieved by now, we’d probably have given you a bitter little laugh – how little you knew. Most of us were wearing the battle scars of rejection already and some had been pursuing the publishing dream for ten years or more. Did we give up? No, but boy did we talk about giving up! That’s the beauty of the group though, just when you are about to put a down payment on a pair of breeding scorpions, someone is there to talk you off that particular ledge.

I’m about to give you a round-up of what those two years has seen for us. Not because the WRs like to big themselves up, as my kids would say; in fact, the other eight don’t even know Jessica and I are doing this and they’ll probably cringe when we sing their praises. The reason we are writing this blog is the opposite. It’s because we remember exactly what it’s like to be an aspiring writer – not one who used to write for Tatler or produce radio plays for the BBC and has the sort of connections you don’t get when the height of your networking involves spotting Bob Geldof buying carrots in your local branch of Tesco – but ordinary people who just love to write.

Is it really possible to get published if that’s your starting point or will it only ever be your mum who downloads a self-published tome from Amazon, as you languish at chart position number three million and thirty two? We want to tell you, if you are an NWS member reading this, or an aspiring writer of any sort, that it’s not only possible but there are lots of ways to get your work out there and, whether indie, traditionally published or some hybrid of the two, there are also lots of ways to measure success. Not everyone is lucky enough to be part of a group like this, who will tell you to step away from the scorpions, but we hope reading a round-up of our journeys so far will reassure you that if you keep going, it can happen for you too.

So what is it we’ve done? Well, being of a certain age – I think Helen R was just clinging to her thirties when we first joined together, but we are now all in our forties or beyond – I think IMG_0076most of us dreamed of having a paperback with our name on and maybe even seeing that on the shelves of WHSmiths or Waterstones. Okay, so we know that all the statistics reveal that books in the commercial genres we write in sell better as ebooks than in print, but we’ve had this dream since before Kindle was even a twinkle in Amazon’s eye. So are we living the dream? Well, of the ten of us, eight of us now have paperbacks out there or are in the process of going in to print and four of us have had books in WHsmiths and/or Waterstones and supermarkets, with Jessica’s about to appear in some of the Yorkshire Waterstones really soon and Sharon’s pocket novel hitting the shelves in October. Nothing beats seeing your book on the shelf, despite how times have moved on… although being caught taking a selfie with it is a bit embarrassing, hence me using my son as bait in Smiths! Our books are also starting to hit the shelves of libraries too, with Jessica leading that particular charge.

Helen P, Rachael, Jessica and Sharon all have multi-book deals with the same publisher and I’m awaiting finalisation of my contract before revealing some news of my own on that front.  We’ve also seen the launch of The Write Romantic Press for our anthology and a number of us have dipped our toes into the world of indie publishing, with Lynne riding consistently high in the charts with her first indie published title. Fabrian Books, which started off as a small indie publisher, is now handing over the ownership to its authors, giving them the benefits of having more of a say in their publishing journeys and hoping to follow in the footsteps of other publishing cooperatives like The Notting Hill press, with two of the Write Romantics breaking new ground in this exciting venture of what’s termed publishing’s ‘third way’.

We’ve had almost twenty five books published (or about to be) between the ten of us, through publishers including Carina, Crooked Cat, DC Thomson, Fabrian Books, Mills and Boon and So Vain Books, with more news pending and work under consideration by a number of places that are the stuff of dreams, including the BBC no less!

Chart position wise, Deirdre, Helen R, Jessica, Sharon, Lynne and myself have all appeared in the top hundred or higher of our genre charts at one stage or another, with a number in the top ten. Helen P and Rachael have hit even dizzier heights than that though, with Helen P regularly knocking her own hero, Stephen King, off the top spot and Rachael hitting number two across the hugely competitive Mills and Boons chart, although the rest of us know that the number one spot is hers for the taking.

author 2Alys secured something else we’ve all dreamt of at one stage on another, with agent representation, and her debut novel will be out in time for Christmas. Jackie made the top ten shortlist of a hotly fought Mills and Boons contest and is about to make a round of submissions which we are sure will see all ten WRs published by 2016.

So for all you NWS members who’ve recently submitted your manuscripts – or, if you are like I used to be, who’ve just run down to the post office to send it last minute, days before the deadline, with your hair stuck to your forehead and a hopeful surge in your heart as you send it off – or if you’re an aspiring writer of any sort, it can happen. There’s a hackneyed phrase that says the difference between a published writer and an unpublished writer, is that the former never gave up. It’s the sort of advice that used to make me want to French-kiss a scorpion after yet another rejection, but believe me it’s true. So step away from the poisonous arthropod and keep going, it really is worth it in the end.

Jo and Jessica xx

Saturday Spotlight: Interview with Kendra Smith, bestselling author of ‘Jacaranda Wife’

It’s a real pleasure to welcome Kendra Smith to the blog today.  Kendra’s first novel ‘Jacaranda Wife’ was published by Endeavour Press in March.  It has been hugely successful and a few weeks ago was #1 on Kindle in Australia.  I’ll hand over to Kendra to tell you more. Alys x Kendra, PHOTO

What inspired you to write Jacaranda Wife? Life. We had recently moved back to Australia and whilst I absolutely love the country, it was a time of great upheaval for me. I wanted my heroine to grapple with conflicting thoughts and issues and, at the time, I was exploring the idea of where ‘home’ is. Also, I was missing using words. I’d started typing away as the baby napped and scribbled notes where I could. Funnily enough, as the kids were young, it was one of the busiest times as a mum, but I really needed a creative outlet.  Finding new and fun ways to stack the dishwasher wasn’t quite working for me – and neither was a great Australian stay-at-home mums’ sport – cake baking & icing. I was terrible at it! So I found my outlet on the computer instead.

What are your biggest influences as writer?

I think everyday life is. I would find it hard not to capture things with words. My husband often says to me, ‘your brain is so busy!’ That’s what I try to put down on paper, all my thoughts and the emotions of life. I also play with dialogue in my head on the school run, and end up feeling a bit startled as I pull up outside the school, as my head has been somewhere else. Of course, other writers inspire me, too, and how brilliantly they write, how they can capture the essence of something in a few words and how writing styles can differ so much and convey so much emotion in one sentence.JW cover copy

Do you think being a journalist previously helped you to get established as an author?

I think being a journalist meant that I am used to working with words and enjoy writing. The idea of penning, say 1,000 words from the off didn’t phase me, as it might do some other non-writers. But in a funny way, it hindered me for a while. For years you are taught to write about facts. Is this true? What backs it up? What are the figures for this trend, how can we explain it? The stress of editing on a national woman’s title never leaves you, as I’d remember how I’d look over the copy and wonder if it had been checked properly, when you found yourself ringing the writer to say, ‘so when you say that the coffee was black, was it actually black, can you remember it being black? What kind of black?’ And then realising that you took your job far too seriously.

When it came to fiction, I felt like I was free-falling; all my normal guide ropes for writing had vanished, I had to hold onto new ones. I spent a lot of time reading about how to write fiction: I was playing in a totally new playground this time and wasn’t always sure what the rules were. I remember thinking, once I got into my stride, ‘I’m making this up!’ as I tapped away at the keyboard, and was feeling slightly guilty! But it was fun, I was learning all the time – in fact, you never stop, do you?

How important do you think the old saying ‘write what you know’ is?

I think it can be very important, because then the writing will be from the heart. Also, I really feel you need to have lived a bit of life before you can write. Wasn’t it Joanna Trollope who said you can only create your ‘best works’ after you are 35? She felt that you needed life to have ‘knocked you about a bit’? I think that’s true. You have stories, feelings and emotions which you simply couldn’t mine out of yourself, say, in your early 20s.

As for writing about what you know, for me, having lived in Australia on and off for almost 10 years, I wanted to capture some of the essence of the country, some of the challenges it presents to you when you first get there (humorous and emotional ones) and I also wanted to remember its beauty and spirit; so for me, I certainly did write about ‘what I knew.’ Equally, however, you need to do your research and talk to people if you are ‘covering’ a topic or emotional situation that you know nothing about. For example, you need to read about or interview someone concerning about a particular journey they have had (IVF, cancer, bereavement, sibling rivalry etc) in order to be able to create believable characters who have travelled down the same road. JW & pink bubbles

What’s been your writing highlight so far?

I think reaching the number one spot in the Australia Kindle charts a couple of weeks ago, really was one of my absolute highlights. My husband came home and with a lovely bottle of pink champagne that night – it matches the cover! It was such a marker for me, for all the hard work, that it had reached that spot. So, thank you, Aussie readers!

If you had three writing-related wishes what would they be?

That I could have a machine that kept my coffee hot in my study. The number of times I re-heat my coffee, which has gone cold by my computer… That I could go on a week’s writing course or retreat and really take myself away from everyday life, when I need to read through my book and get expert help. That I could meet Allison Pearson in person!

What’s your connection with Australia (other than the fact that Jacaranda Wife is set there)?

Huge. The whole family have dual nationality and my youngest son was born there. I have lived there on and off for almost 10 years, but currently live in Surrey. I went straight to Sydney after I graduated with the intention of working around Australia and making cappuccinos for tourists. What in fact happened was that I got a job on a magazine and absolutely loved Sydney. After that, came the travelling, a move back to London, but then two other long periods back in Sydney. So I’ve lived there as a young working woman, travelled to every state except WA, I’ve been there without kids soaking up Sydney’s nightlife and beaches – learned to scuba dive on the barrier reef and body board on the Northern Beaches; I did a 1km ocean swim for charity – practically drowned when I thought a shark was underneath me, (in fact it was a diver employed to deter any possible sharks) – and have been back as a married mum with three children. We have great friends there too.  It’s definitely our second home.at winchester shot

What has surprised you most about being published?

You somehow imagine that once you are published, that that might be ‘it’.  Rather like when the lovely NCT woman talked to you about motherhood, the whole focus of the course was on giving birth. Having a baby, as everyone knows, is really just the start of a long learning curve. She forgot to mention the months of vomit and the sore tits. And giving ‘birth’ to a book is the same, you’ve got to grow and learn your trade once the book is published, much like parenting! There has been so much work to do in terms of networking, promoting Jacaranda Wife. All lovely things to do, but all very time consuming. And it’s been a very steep learning curve, but fantastic fun.

What are you working on now?

As well as all my Tweeting, Facebooking, buying surf boards for our next holiday, guest blogging and tearing three boys apart from fighting over one Kitkat, I’m writing my second book. It’s about three women who all have different wants and desires – plus a few secrets. Essentially, it’s about love, honesty and friendship.

Thank you so much for letting me take part!

Here’s a taste of Jacaranda Wife postcard shotWhen a double dip recession hits along with a tax bill, most people tighten their belts, cancel the summer holiday and look for the two-for-one offers. But not Katie Parkes. The home-loving mother of two from London finds herself tightening her seatbelt on a plane to Australia, where her husband has been sent to save their financial bacon. And, she realises, it might just be what they need to save their marriage… Trouble is, she doesn’t much like heat, can’t swim properly, hates spiders and finds herself further outside the M25 than is strictly necessary. Then there’s the Sydney yummy mummy with a cleavage you’d lose your car keys in eyeing up her husband, bouts of homesickness – and a few deadly spiders. Taking the bull by the horns (or at least pulling on an old Speedo) she tackles her fear of the ocean first. Find out how Katie copes in her new country – does it provide the spark to ignite her marriage, or send the whole thing up in smoke…?

Sophie King, best-selling author of The School Run: ‘An entertaining, fast-moving, page-turner for anyone dreaming of a new life….’

Kendra Smith has been a journalist, wife, mother, aerobics teacher, qualified diver and very bad cake baker. She started her career in Sydney selling advertising space in the late 80s. She has lived and worked in London and Sydney, working on Cosmopolitan, OK! Magazine and the BBC’s Eve as well as freelance for Woman & Home, Delicious, New Woman, Prima Baby and Junior. Born in sunny Singapore, she was educated in sub-zero Scotland, including Aberdeen University. She has lived in Australia three times. With dual Australian-British nationality, she currently lives in Surrey with her husband and three children.  Jacaranda Wife is her first novel and she is well underway with her second when she’s not burning food.

Find her on www.aforauthors.com and www.kendrasmith.co.uk or follow her on Twitter  @KendraAuthor or https://www.facebook.com/kendrasmithauthor Book link  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Jacaranda-Wife-Kendra-Smith-ebook/dp/B00UZ2B3UE/ref

A Sexy Saturday Spotlight with Siobhan Daiko!

We are delighted to welcome good friend of the Write Romantics, Siobhan Daiko back on the blog today, to tell us what has been Siobhan 3happening since the release of her first fantastic five-star novella in the Fragrant Courtesans series, which we’ve been thrilled to see hit some of the Amazon bestseller charts. Over to you, Siobhan.

It’s a real pleasure to be a guest of the Write Romantics this Saturday. Thanks for having me back again!

Teaser #5I’d like to introduce you to Veronica, a high-class sex worker in 16th Century Venice. Known as courtesans, these gifted ladies of the night were well-educated and highly sought-after. They were trained, usually by their mothers, not just to have sex but also to entertain their patrons by singing, playing music, dancing, and witty conversation. I came across them when I was researching my romantic historical novel Lady of Asolo. My fantastic editor, John Hudspith, suggested I play to my strengths which, for him, is the way I can convey gritty realism when writing sex scenes. So I decided to write a series about the most famous of these women, and Veronica is the first.

I watch him watching us, imagining how he would take me.

I send him the message with my eyes.

This is who I am.

I am Veronica Franco.

I am a COURTESAN.

I court the cultural elite for fame and fortune, giving my body to many.

And I’m good. So very good. After all, I was taught by my mother, and mother always knows best.

How else to please the future King of France than with the imaginative use of Murano glass? How else to fulfil the desires of all yet keep my sense of self-worth?

But when disaster strikes and my life begins to unravel, I’ll have to ask myself one question:

Is it too late to give my heart to just one man?

Set in Venice 16th Century.

Advisory: sensuously erotic. 18+

 

My novella is based on a true story. Veronica was married off young, as women were in those days, for financial reasons, but the union endedVeronica Courtesan Cover LARGE EBOOK badly. To support herself, she learnt the tricks of the trade from her mother, who’d also been a cortigiana in her youth. Veronica was a talented poet and writer – able to maintain a balance between her sense of self-worth and the need to win and keep the support of men. The fact that she loved to write made me feel an affinity with her. When I read her poems and letters, I was struck by the force of Veronica’s feisty, forward personality and decided she would make the perfect protagonist. She had a string of lovers, but there was one man, a fellow-poet, with whom she had the most amorous affair. His poems to her are published in her Terze Rime in the form of a poetic debate, and I enjoyed adapting them and using them as repartee between the two characters. Veronica was a talented seductress, able to create desire in her patrons under her own terms. I’m sure she loved each and every one of them in her own way, as evidenced by this quote from one of her poems:

So fragrant and delightful do I become, when I am in bed with someone who, I feel, adores and appreciates me, that the joy I bring exceeds all pleasure, so the ties of love, however close they seemed before, are knotted tighter still.

Veronica became the most sought-after courtesan in the city. Writing an erotic novella about a woman who practised ‘free love’ has been exciting. Veronica was promiscuous, yes, she had to be; how else to please the King of France but with the imaginative use of Murano glass? She was a self-promoter, but she also loved deeply and was loved in return. In the following excerpt, Veronica is entertaining two of her patrons, aiming to be invited to a literary salon. There she meets Domenico Venier, who becomes her editor. Even in the 16th Century, having an editor was vital to a writer.

***

Teaser #6“We make polite conversation throughout the meal, but, as soon as we progress to the portego for after-dinner drinks and entertainment, I get right to the point. ‘My lord, Signor Ludovico tells me you frequent a literary salon.’

‘That’s right. Domenico Venier’s. ’Tis the most important gathering place for intellectuals and writers in Venice.’

‘Are courtesans welcome there?’

‘I’ve noticed a few. Why?’

I’m seized by a sudden shyness. Will he think I’m being forward? Thankfully, Ludovico answers for me.

‘I’ve told you about Veronica’s abilities. Don’t tease the girl!’

The count laughs and drains his glass. I reach across to refill it, my gaze meeting his. ‘I write poetry. My greatest desire is to learn from others and improve my own work.’

‘Will you read me one of your poems?’

‘With pleasure.’ I go to my desk and return with the verse on which I’m now working.

Teaser 1If you are overcome by love for me,

Take me in far sweeter fashion

Than anything my quill can describe.

Your love can be the steadfast knot that pulls me towards you,

Joined to you more tightly than a nail in hard wood;

Your love can make you master of my life,

Show me the love I’ve asked for from you,

And you’ll then enjoy my sweetness to the full.

 

‘Very good!’ Andrew Tron rises from his chair and bows. ‘You have talent, Signora Veronica. I shall be delighted to introduce you to Venier. Pray tell me, in what far sweeter fashion can a man take you than your quill can describe?’

I laugh. ‘Ah, that’s something I have yet to discover – which is why my quill cannot describe it.’

***

It was a joy to bring Veronica to life on the page. I did have some issues when publishing to Amazon. My book cover, for the paperback, usedVeronica Cover Paperback PRINT2 (2)-page-001 (1) a famous old work of art, The Venus of Urbino, by Titian. I chose it as it’s supposed to be the painting of a 16th Century Venetian courtesan, even if she wasn’t Veronica Franco.

The cover was accepted by Create Space, but rejected by Kindle which doesn’t allow nudity in any form. A banner placed across her breasts just didn’t look right, so I commissioned a new cover for the e-book version from my wonderful designer JD Smith.

I’ve learnt a lot about publishing an erotic novella through my experiences with Veronica. My next book in the erotic courtesans series is “The Submission of Theodora”, based on another real character. Set in 6th Century Constantinople, it’s inspired by a courtesan who became involved with the most powerful man in the world: the Emperor’s nephew and heir apparent. So far, it’s coming along nicely and I expect to publish it in early November.

Thanks again, Write Romantics, I’ve loved sharing Veronica with you. Here are my social media links.

www.siobhandaiko.wordpress.com

www.fragrantpublishing.com

Facebook Page

Fragrant Courtesans Facebook

Amazon Author Page

Goodreads

Twitter

You Tube Book Trailer

Wednesday Wondering – What’s in your bag?

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

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

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

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

Over to the other Write Romantics…

Jessica xx

Deirdre says…

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

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

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

Lynne says …

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

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

Helen P says …

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

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

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

Sharon says …

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

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

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

Jackie says …

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

Helen R says …

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

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

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

Rachael says …

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

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

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

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