Finding A Sense of Place with Jane Lythell

13 Oct 2014 Author picOur guest on the blog today is the lovely Jane Lythell. Jane lives in Brighton and is a sea-lover, star-gazer, film and football fan. She was formerly a Producer at TV-am and Commissioning Editor of Features at Westcountry Television. Jane left to become Deputy Director of the British Film Institute and later Chief Executive of BAFTA before joining the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for seven years. She now writes full time and her second novel has just been published by Head of Zeus. Write Romantic Jo was lucky enough to meet Jane at a writers’ lunch organised by the equally wonderful Kerry Fisher. It was a day filled with laughter, fun and some brilliant advice for new writers, so we are really lucky that Jane has agreed to write a guest post for us, to tell us all about the inspiration for the setting of her second novel, her experiences with the first and to share her top writing tips. Here’s Jane to tell us more…

I’ve been a bookworm since primary school and wanted to write all my life, but I was a single parent with a small daughter and a large mortgage. For years I worked in the kind of jobs that didn’t end at six pm. There would be calls and emails deep into the evening and very little thinking and writing time. My great treat was to go on Arvon residential writing weeks. Arvon is a terrific organisation and those courses certainly helped keep my writing flame alive. In May 2011 I finally got into a financial position where I could give myself two full years to write. At last I had the time to do the one thing I’d wanted to do for years.

I’m interested in the dark side of people and what makes them do extreme things. My first novel ‘The Lie of You’ explores jealousy that deepens into full blown obsession. My second novel ‘After The Storm’ also has one character in the grip of psychological trauma.

‘After The Storm’ opens in Belize City and then moves to an island in the Caribbean called Roatan. An English couple,FINAL After the Storm_JANE Rob and Anna, have just met an American couple Owen and Kim who have a handsome old wooden boat. Owen suggests they charter his boat and he will take them to Roatan, where the diving is sensational. Anna does not want to go at all, but Rob is really keen and he persuades her. Unknown to them Kim is desperate to go home to Florida. It is Owen who is determined to continue their life on the boat. So straightaway we have conflict of wishes between the four characters and a boat can be a very claustrophobic place when tensions start to build.

They set off. With only the four of them on board it should be paradise: lazy afternoons spent snorkelling; long nights enjoying the silence and solitude of the sea. But why does Owen never sleep? Why is he so secretive about his past? And why does Kim keep a knife zipped into her money-belt? Anna, who is a speech therapist, can usually get people to talk… but this time does she want to?

I wanted ‘After The Storm’ to have a strong sense of place. I’ve been to Belize and to Roatan and I always felt they would make a great setting for a novel. Roatan is beautiful but it also has a kind of frontier feeling to it where the normal rules don’t seem to apply. I kept a journal when I was there and took lots of photos and I used these to help me create the atmosphere of the island. I try to write character driven stories rather than plot driven stories. My aim is to let the plot develop from how a particular character reacts to circumstances given their history and their psychology.

The shoutline on the cover is ‘Some Secrets Destroy You…’ It took us a while to get to this but I think it’s a very apt one because there are all kinds of secrets in the novel – some are trivial, some are serious and some are deadly.

LOY Paperback Cover‘The Lie of You’ has had over a hundred reviews and I can’t thank readers enough for taking the time to write down their reactions. These reviews are pure gold for a debut writer. And yes a few of them are negative but you learn from these ones too. One of the points that emerged was a difference of opinion about whether or not to sympathise with Heja by the end of the book. This definitely divided people. In ‘After The Storm’ there are four main characters and I’m so looking forward to hearing what readers make of them all because you do become attached to your characters.

Quite a few readers said they found ‘The Lie of You’ very ‘filmic’ and I hope ‘After The Storm’ has this same quality. This could be because I worked in film and television for fifteen years. I do see the scenes in my novel unspooling as film sequences as I’m writing them.

My top writing tips
For me it’s all about creating characters that readers will believe in. I try to think about what food they would eat, what flat they would live in and what single thing they fear most in life. You don’t have to put this in but it will help make them real to you as you write them.

Don’t worry if your characters are flawed or have some nasty sides to them. Flawed people are interesting. It doesn’t matter if your readers dislike them or adore them. But it does matter if they don’t believe in them.

Show your drafts to people you respect. I asked two close friends and my partner, who is a TV writer, to give me some frank and honest feedback. You can only learn from that and their comments helped me so much.
Take the time to edit your writing again and again. Your first draft is just that – a first draft. You only get one chance with a publisher so you need to get your book into as perfect a form as possible. Never submit too early.

And finally, I find it helps me to write standing up! I’ve rigged up my laptop to be the right height and it certainly makes me feel more alert.

Jane Lythell

Find out more about more about the Avron Foundation and Jane’s books at the links below:


AFTER THE STORM – on Kindle from 1 December and in bookshops from 7 January is available here.

THE LIE OF YOU is available here.

The Secret of Happiness

The Greek philosopher, Epicetus, once said:

“Do not seek to have events happen as you want them to, but instead want them to happen as they do happen, and your life will go well.”

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????It’s a bit like that old saying that the secret to happiness is not having what you want, but wanting what you have. Can we learn to live like that, I wonder? It’s not always easy, but I think I might be getting there at last!

When I started out on this writing journey I enjoyed the writing for itself, for the sheer escapism that creating whole worlds and casts of characters in my imagination gave me. But then I decided to get a bit more serious about it. I was told, and not just by my mum, that my first novel might have what it takes to find a publisher. That was when the fun started to ebb away. I wasn’t writing for the love of it anymore, I was writing to please someone else – an agent, a publisher, a reviewer – and, guess what, almost every single opinion was at odds. I wrote myself in knots and lost sight of what I wanted.

Then I went on holiday to a beautiful place in Western France with family and friends. I was ready to escape from everything, confused by the offers that had come in for my bookA holiday shot1 and beginning to question whether I wanted to be published at all. I was so scared of making the wrong decision, so scared of making a decision at all, that it was paralyzing me.

I didn’t write on that trip, but spent the time drinking, talking, kayaking down peaceful rivers and laughing hard – as though my life was going well. And slowly it all became clear; it really was. It might not have been as I’d mapped out in my head how my life would go, but it was perfect in its own completely unexpected way. I was with my family. Not a traditional one perhaps, but a modern ‘yours, mine and ours’ family. Three gorgeous children brought together by my husband and I, and the one we added together – my wonderful blended family who get on better than almost any other I know. I never expected this, never thought I’d have to marry twice to get it right, but I truly wouldn’t have it any other way.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI didn’t want to get cancer, who would? But I did and it changed my life in all kinds of ways I would never have imagined. It showed me what really mattered and the people to whom I mattered too. It made me re-evaluate my life, giving up a job that was sucking the joy out of everything, and started me off on this writing journey of mine. Which, I guess, brings me back full circle. Could the tranquillity of Western France solve the writing dilemma for me too? I think it did.

Since coming home I’ve stopped worrying about what might be or what might happen if I make a certain choice. I’ve now signed a deal with a publisher who are making some of my dreams come true and instinctively know how to make it fun for their authors. I’ll be back with the details in September when I have a bit more to reveal, but for now I know Epicetus was right… want events to happen as they do and your life will go well.


Six Year Badge of Honour – Jules Wake’s Apprenticeship in the NWS

We’re delighted to welcome Jules Wake to the Saturday Spotlight. As members and graduates of the RNA’s New Writer’s Scheme, we’re always fascinated to hear stories of how other NWS members secure an agent, a publishing deal or both.

Between us, we range from Year 2 to Year Too Many To Recall in the NWS! Today, Jules is going to talk to us about her six years on the scheme. If you’re on the scheme now, we’re sure this will be great encouragement for you and, if you’re thinking about joining, it should help you make that firm decision too.

Over to Jules and some lovely pictures from her book launch …

Me at book launchAt the moment just having had my debut novel published, thanks to the NWS, I’m in the handy position of having four more complete books tucked away in my bottom drawer and I’m a quarter of the way through the sixth. This is my journey to publication via the wonderful NWS.

Year 1

One of the biggest mistakes new writers make is that they keep re-visiting and polishing their first work. I guess I was lucky in that my first submission to the New Writers Scheme, in the days when you were offered two reads, did get a second read. Both reports were glowing and suggested I try to get an agent.

It meant that if I wanted to stay in the RNA I needed to sign up for the NWS the next year. I was determined to submit a full manuscript so I started a new novel for that year.

Year 2

The feedback this time wasn’t so wonderful. When it first dropped through the letterbox a scant five days after I’d submitted it to Melanie Hilton, I felt that the report got it wrong. One of the reader’s views was that it was too much of a ‘cross-genre’ and there were various other criticisms. After such a glowing report the previous year, this was quite a set back and for a week I took it very personally.

CupcakesAnd that is one of the hardest parts of being a writer, taking and acting on constructive criticism. But, and this is a very big but, why bother asking an expert if you’re not going to act upon it or at least listen with an open mind to what they have to say?

After a week of feeling aggrieved, I re-read the report and applied myself to re-writing the ms and addressing the points my reader had made.  I learnt a huge amount from that report, although at the time I didn’t realise it. Today I re-read it and with what I know now, I can see that it was very honest, bang on the money and offered lots of constructive criticism that luckily I did take on board.

Year 3

The disappointment of Year 2 made me start a third novel, which again didn’t get a second read from the NWS but again I received several pages of hugely useful advice. Reading that critique now, it’s so obvious that its painful – the book suffered from a lack of clear understanding of the characters motivations and goals. I could write, I could plot and I could complete a 100K word manuscript but I just didn’t have a good handle on the technical aspects of novel writing.

Bookends 1Year 4

So onto year 4 of the New Writers Scheme and a new book. Again only one read but lots of suggestions and advice. This time I took notice.

Year 5

With other commitments I knew I wouldn’t get another book written ready for the August deadline, so I decided to focus on a re-write of book 4 addressing all of the points raised in the report. To my delight I received two glowing reports, along with that all invaluable advice and tips.

I made amendments and sent this ms out to agents. Lo and behold not one but two agents asked for a full. I was thrilled to bits … until they both came back with a polite rejection. One of them, however had taken the trouble to give a considerable amount of feedback. I wrote back thanking her for her time and expressing gratitude for her comments and asked if she would mind if I submitted my next book the following year. In hindsight this was a smart move. One it told the agent, I was serious about writing, two that I was business-like, three that I could write a book a year and four gave me an opening the following year with her.

Donna & IYear 6

I submitted my application to re-join the NWS in 2013 and then three weeks into January got the email! An invite to meet a publisher I’d submitted my first NWS book to. It had undergone a considerable re-write, principally because Choc Lit ask for the male POV and I’d written it all in first person.

Choc Lit offered me a contract and my debut novel Talk To Me came out in paperback on June 6 of this year.

I still had my NWS membership so decided to submit book 5 for what would be my last time. The report was the best yet, with the line ‘Frankly if you don’t find a publisher with this I’ll eat my hat!’

Again there were a few constructive points which I took on board and then I started submitting to agents. Three carefully chosen ones, all of whom I had been submitting to each year. I didn’t hear a thing. Three months later I decided to have one last shot at getting an agent and picked out five suitable targets. (I could write a whole other blog on targeting an agent)

I sent out five submissions on the Thursday. On Monday I received a call from a top London literary agent asking if I’d had their email. What email? Would you believe possibly one of the most important emails of my life had gone into my spam box! She wanted to read the full ms.

Would you believe it, two days later one of the original agents came back and requested the full ms? Unfortunately I’d just sent it off on an exclusive basis. What to do? Admit that? Would she then still want it, if the other agent subsequently rejected it? In the meantime another agent expressed interest … honestly it was like buses!

To cut a long story short (yes another possible blog post), both agents were at the RNA party a week later and I was able to meet and chat with both. I knew as soon as I got chatting to one of them, that she was someone I could work with.

So I now have an agent and one published book. I’d have achieved neither without the RNA’s amazing New Writers Scheme. I don’t know any of my readers but I offer a heart-felt thanks to every single one of them, for the time they took to read my ms and the detailed, honest and constructive feedback that they provided with absolutely no obligation.

Those reports can be absolute gold dust, I urge you to read, re-read and take note of the positives as well as the negatives. Most of all, I really do suggest you don’t keep re-visiting and resubmitting the same novel.


Thanks to Jules for joining us and sharing. We were delighted to have the opportunity to meet her during the recent RNA Conference and hear more about her personal journey to publication so it’s great to be able to have her as a blog guest.


You can follow Jules on Twitter @juleswake, link to her Amazon page, or read more on her website or blog

Jessica xx

Mega Monday Announcement – A Write Romantic Competition

Thomas1Christmas is Coming!  Okay, well there are 212 days to go, but The Write Romantics announced recently that we will be releasing a winter and Christmas themed anthology in November to raise funds for two incredibly worthwhile causes. The charities are the Teenage Cancer Trust, in memory of Stephen Sutton, a young man who stole all of our hearts, and the Cystic Fibrosis Trust. We chose the CF Trust because of another gorgeous young man called Thomas, who is Write Romantic Alex’s nephew.Thomas2

Alex tells us not to be fooled by the pictures – although Thomas might look angelic, he can be a cheeky monkey too when he puts his mind to it! As you can see, Thomas spends far more time than he should not being well enough to let that cheeky side really shine through, which is why we think the CF Trust is such a wonderful cause, in how it strives to help children like Thomas and fund research into this horrible disease.

Winter1The Write Romantics have been absolutely thrilled by the support we have received so far with the anthology and Carol Cooper, who is the Sun Newspaper’s GP and wrote the fabulous One Night at the Jacaranda, which is a finalist in the 2014 Indie Excellence Awards, has agreed to write the introduction for us. We will also be joined by the following guest writers, who span a range of genres from romance, via fantasy to thrillers and back again!


  • Rhoda Baxter (author of Dr January)
  • Jennie Bohnet (author of Shadows of Conflict)
  • Sharon Booth (author of soon to be released There Must Be An Angel)
  • Kerry Fisher (author of The School Gate Survival Guide)
  • Linda Huber (author of The Paradise Trees)
  • Sarah Lewis (author of soon to be released My Eighties memoir)
  • Annie Lyon (author of Not Quite Perfect)
  • Zanna Mackenzie (author of If You Only Knew)
  • Holly Martin (author of The Guest Book)
  • Alison May (author of Much Ado About Sweet Nothing)
  • Terri Nixon (author of Maid of Oaklands Manor)
  • Sarah Painter (author of The Language of Spells)
  • Liv Thomas (co-author as Isabella Connor of Beneath an Irish Sky)
  • Samantha Tongue (author of Doubting Abbey)

We also owe a huge thanks to Mark Heslington, Write Romantic Julie’s super talented husband who has shared these three great winter themed photos with us and will be producing both the cover art for the book and taking care of the type-setting.  The anthology will also be the debut release of The Write Romantic Press.

winter4We can’t thank our lovely guests enough and the anthology will also showcase the work of the nine Write Romantics with everything from short stories to flash fiction and perhaps even a bit of Pam Ayres style poetry! So how can you get involved? Well, obviously you can buy the book when it comes out, getting a great read, packed with stories from the impressive list of writers we have on board, but you can also enter our competition. The Write Romantics are looking for a name for our anthology, so we invite you to send in your suggestions to

IMG_0671Write Romantic Jo will be co-ordinating the entries and the rest of the WRs will then judge the entries blind, with Jo retaining the Simon Cowell vote in the event of a tie! The full terms and conditions will be sent out to you on entering the contest and the prize is in two parts, the first is a £20 voucher for Amazon and the second will be a mention of your contribution in the acknowledgements section of the book. The closing date for entries is 31 August 2014.  So please start sending those ideas for a title in and look out for more announcements about the anthology coming your way soon.

The Wednesday Wondering – We’ve Got Some BAD Habits!

It’s just two weeks until Christmas today. How exciting! This week’s Wednesday Wondering has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas, though. I posed the question and asked The Write Romantics:

What are your writing bad habits?

It’s confession time. As the responses started rolling in, I have to admit that I found myself saying, “I do that … oh, and that … and that!”

Here’s our habits …



I am guilty of using words too much…”just” appeared more than 300 times in a 370 page manuscript of mine! Apart from that I would have to say not sitting properly and then getting sore as a result…writers need to look after themselves as the job is sedentary.



My worst writing habit is going over and over the same ground instead of just finishing the novel and then re-drafting it. I know it’s a stupid thing to do as have read about enough published writers who have cut great chunks out of their TS’s on re-drafting. I think it’s my way of revving up my engines to get started on a new chapter, but then I get bogged down with mistakes and revisions which might never see the light of day anyway. That and, of course, peeking at the internet whenever I suddenly think of something I want to look up – time wasting!!



My worst writing habit….I could be here a long time!! I must admit there were a few contenders for this title. There’s my little fondness for sweeties, parma violets and haribo’s top of the list. Or my occasional forays into obsessional cleaning. Give me a manuscript to edit or a room to clean and I’ll go for that latter and put the former on hold. But it doesn’t happen that often.

By far my worst writing habit is the internet. It’s just so interesting. There is just so much information out there, most of it accompanied by gorgeous colour pictures or even videos and music! Have you ever wondered what meals your average peasant would have cooked in the Tudor times and how they would have cooked them? I have. And the internet is just soooo full of fascinating facts and so many eccentric, obsessional people doing the most crazy things. I wouldn’t dream of doing anything too different, I’m a sofa and telly girl, me. But I love reading about folk that do.

Anyway, I’d better get back to that novel I’m writing. I’ve just got to look something up on the internet!



My worst writing habit is my inability to move on until I’m happy with the chapter I’m working on.  It’s as if there’s a setting in my brain which won’t let me go on until I feel happy that it’s right. I write a draft and then I have to put it down and get on with the rest of life and while I’m doing that my subconscious is working on the bits it’s not happy with.  I wake up some mornings going ‘oh it should say that’ or with new bits of dialogue to add in.  I’m not sure what’s going on while I’m asleep but somewhere my brain must be figuring it out.  And then suddenly that process stops and I know that I’m reasonably happy with that chapter and it’s OK to move on. To be honest it drives me crazy and I’d love to be able to write and write and then edit the full draft.  Maybe I’ll be more relaxed when I start the Orkney  book.  After all, I now know I can make it to the end of a novel and that gives me a whole lot more confidence than I had when I set out to write Beltane.



I’m sure that I have lots of bad writing habits, but the worst of them for me is head hopping.  Maybe it’s indicative of a butterfly mind on my part but, in my first NWS submission, I gave out more Points of View than Terry Wogan did in eight years of hosting the show – gosh, showing my age now too!  I know I’ve got better at it and, actually, if I ever get published I suspect that it might not matter so much, as I’ve recently read a novel by a best-selling author of multiple novels who head hops like there’s no tomorrow.    You can break the rules once you make it, it seems, and I think I’ll be very good at that – so someone hurry up and publish me, please, so I can start to rebel!



One of my bad habits is having a love affair with a word and using it again and again. I never know when this ailment is going to strike, or even which word it will be. I also make lots of coffee whilst writing, most of which I then forget to drink as I get into my story. It’s almost as if the act of making the coffee allows me to think.

My worst bad habit though, is not believing in myself, not trusting what is written on the page. Instead of seeing where it goes, I come to a grinding halt as ‘the gremlin’ on my shoulder tells me it is a page full of utter rubbish. Perhaps I should throw cold coffee over him!



I’m guilty of most of the above! The quest for perfection massively hindered my progress with my first novel. I must have re-written the beginning at least 100 times. Taking a different approach to novel 2 and 3 – just writing it and not looking back over what I’d done before – has been refreshing.

I’m terrible for using certain words over and over again. Like Helen R, “just” is one of mine but I also have phrases I love. My heroine in novel 1 is based mainly on me so she uses some of my sayings. One of my faves is “how rude” or “how incredibly rude” but I discovered that she said this about 15 times across the novel and, not only that, but her two best friends had started saying it too! Slight overkill!

My final one is the cardinal sin of tell rather than show. I’ve always struggled with this one and I think it will continue to be my nemesis. I find it much easier to write, “I was really angry with Andy …” instead of “My nails dug into my palms as I fought the urge not to slap him across his smug face …”


Over to you. If you’re a writer, do you have any bad habits? Or, as a reader, are there any habits you’ve spotted in novels that wind you up? As always, we’d love to hear from you and please feel free to pose questions too.

Julie xx


The Wednesday Wondering – Book or eBook?

Hello and welcome to another Wednesday Wondering. With Christmas just five weeks today, many people will be opening up gifts and discovering a Kindle or a Kobo or one of the many other eBooks out there. In fact, my main Christmas present from my husband last year was a Kindle so my question to The Write Romantics this week is:

Book or eBook?




Ooh, potentially controversial, especially since one of us is published by a Digital First imprint and several of us have submitted to Digital First publishers in the hope of getting our novels out to the world.

Here’s our take on this subject. By the way, how to actually spell eBook seems massively open to debate. Is it ebook, Ebook, EBook, e-book or something else? It seems that different publishers and sales sites adopt different spellings so I’ve gone with my favourite (eBook) and not adjusted the text from any of The Write Romantics so you can see how we all differ!



Ebooks, I was quite startled by ebooks at first thinking ‘No, not more technology to handle,’ but as soon as I got an iPad I set up an account with Amazon and have read far, far more books than I ever did before. I did read but it was such a faff remembering the title of the book you wanted, going into the bookshop (which was miles away) ordering the thing, going back to pick it up weeks later etc. Now as they say, a click of a button and it’s yours. I would never buy a book over an ebook now as I’ve never been very precious about books, although I still have my ‘Elsa and the Seven Swans’ book which was the first book I remember being given, and a small collection of the original Fairy books by Cicely Mary Barker which I love. I have got a Kindle but because I go everywhere with my iPad I tend to use that more. In fact I blame my ‘Tennis Elbow’ on holding my iPad in bed reading for too long. Ooh that sounds like a good excuse to get an iPad Air, doesn’t it- so much lighter – or an iPad mini- or both, just in case!



E-books, dare I confess this? I think I should because they say confession is good for your soul.

I was very late to the e-book thing. My kids have wanted to buy me a Kindle for Christmas for the last couple of years and I’ve always said ‘No thank you, I don’t want one. I prefer a paperback.’ However shame on me I finally succumbed this year and got one for my birthday and I absoloutley love it. It’s so portable, convenient and brilliant. I still love paperbacks but I’m glad I finally discovered how amazing e-readers are.



I am a die hard paper-back girl and have been resisting the lure of the e-book with a degree of passion that it probably doesn’t deserve!  I love the look, the feel, even the smell of ‘real’ books.  I’m old school like that, though, I still like to hold a CD in my hand, rather than downloading music – even if it costs me twice as much.  However, I’ve recently had the start of a conversion, or at least began to accept that there might be room for both mediums in my life.  This epiphany came about as a result of wanting desperately to read Helen Phifer’s brilliant book, The Ghost House, which for now is available exclusively on e-platforms.  I enjoyed the e-book experience much more than I expected, which was at least in part down to how great my first experience was because Helen’s book is superb.  It’s made me see the benefit of e-books, though, and I can see me doing at least some of my reading that way; particularly as I hope to secure an e-book publishing deal of my own some time before I totter off to the great bookshop in the sky!  I’ll always love ‘real’ books the most and dream of having one of those with my name on it, too.  After all, there’s nothing like a bubble bath, a glass of wine and a good book – without the risk of electrocution thrown in 🙂



I’m a great fan of the ebook! It’s like an iPod for books and I love the thought that I’ve got loads to read all neat in my pocket. That way if I break down and the AA person takes ages to arrive it won’t matter. Also, my husband is under the impression that I have too many books (there’s no such thing!) and keeps tidying up my little creative piles of books that I keep about so when I want to read about cooking, or history, or Thomas Hardy or whatever, my choices are all in one place. They do make a handsome pile with their gorgeous covers and well-worn pages and ebooks can’t compete with that.

Nor can an ebook ever duplicate the beauty of a brand new, unopened hardback. I bought myself ‘Burial Rites’ on special offer from Foyles recently in hard back. It looks glorious in its handsome dust jacket embellished with a line drawing, the outer pages of the book tinted navy. It’s an artistic treasure ebooks can’t duplicate.

Ebooks can’t substitute real books at the other end of the market either, the 10p bargain from a jumble sale or boot fair. I’ve a fair few of those on my shelves and have found some treasures that way. Even my frugal budget will allow me to try a new author, or a genre that I’m not familiar with.

So I guess what I’m saying is I love ebooks, but not just ebooks. I think ebooks are here for good, but they add to, rather than displace my paper books and I don’t see any change in that, I wouldn’t want any change in that.



To be honest I resisted for a long time. I love to hold the book, turn the pages and do things like, see how many pages are left in the chapter. I never peek at the ending though!

Then I relented and my lovely new kindle touch arrived. I was amazed at how easy it was to download books and so very instant. ‘Try this book’ a friend might say and within seconds it’s there, waiting to be read. This can be expensive if you have very little self-control, so be warned!

Now as I read I can see at the bottom of the page how long I have left in the chapter or book and it’s so easy to take anywhere, just slip it in my handbag and I can read to my heart’s content.

I also send documents to my kindle, most especially my latest piece of writing. It gives me a new perspective on it, by reading it on the kindle. Notes can be made on anything I’d like to change which is a real bonus.

I most certainly have embraced this new technology, but I did put up a fight!



I asked for a Kindle for Christmas a couple of years ago because it seemed a neat little gadget to own. It was also the time when I was thinking about self-publishing so I needed one for that anyway so that I could see the end result. The e-book for me is a convenience. It’s often cheaper than its paper counterpart, although I have to stop myself downloading free or cheap books just because they are free or cheap when I’ve got no great desire to read them. Many of the classics are free to download and that I must say is useful if I only want to dip in or use one for reference. I like the way you can increase the font size of an ebook and it doesn’t snap shut if you’re reading while you eat.  I’ve usually got a little backlog of books waiting to be read on the Kindle and tend to read one of those to two or three real books because overall I find the reading experience with a real book more enjoyable.  I love book covers, the feel of books, and seeing them lined up on my bookshelves, and of course you can pass them on to other people.  So for me it’s the book over the ebook every time, but the amazing publishing opportunities via ebooks can’t be ignored and I have much to be grateful for in that respect!



I was a late starter with ebooks. Once I got my iPad I downloaded a few when I found that I’d run out of things to read. I then won a Kindle at the Romance Writers of Australia online conference and now I’m happy to download onto that, although my preference still lies with physical books as there’s nothing like breaking that spine with the promise of a new world to leap into.

This weekend I’m off to Coffs Harbour and have already lined up three physical books to take with me. (This could be a little hopeful seeing as I’ll have a hubby and 2 kids in tow!) I think I’ll always keep buying physical books. When Borders shut down I really missed the store so now I’ll buy from a bargain bookshop or from Dymocks in Chatswood near where we live, or I’ll order from the book depository. Believe it or not, sometimes if the titles are old, then it’s the same price or even cheaper to get the paperback version, and there’s nothing quite like looking at a shelf full of books that I love.




When eBooks first came out, I was an instant hater of the concept. Why? A combination of reasons. I have no patience when it comes to learning new technology (I hate reading instructions and like someone to show me instead), I love looking at shelves packed with books and, as I writer, my dream is to become published and hold a physical book in my hand. In fact, if I’m really honest, it’s to go into my local branch of Waterstones or WH Smith and have photos taken of me pointing to a pile of my books as they climb the bestseller list. Well, we have to have these little fantasies to keep us sane as the rejection letters roll in, don’t we?!

Anyway, I was a most ardent protestor. I actually felt quite offended when my sister in law bought one for her husband for Christmas but, at a family gathering, he cornered me and spoke of some of the great benefits of his Kindle. He’s a bus driver and would often have short stints between rounds. They weren’t long enough to get a paper out and even a book was a faff. Plus, if he knew he was close to the end of a book, he had to be prepared with a 2nd one which took up a lot of room. His Kindle solved all that. Plus, think about that weight and space saving if going on holiday! I’d been commuting to work by a combination of bus/train/bus at the time and I could certainly relate to the two-book scenario as well as avoiding reading certain books (think the last Harry Potter or Penny Vincenzi) because they were way too thick to fit in my handbag.

To my husband’s surprise, I succumbed last Christmas. Unable to think of anything I wanted, I reluctantly relented and said he could get me a Kindle … as long as I could have a nice purple case for it! My Kindle Paperwhite arrived. As did my purple case. And I love it! I absolutely love it. Why? Because I nearly always have it with me. That moment when I’m too early for the hairdresser or the school pick-up, out it comes. For some reason, I read faster on my Kindle and I definitely read more books than before. I’ve also discovered new writers. I’d become pretty fixed in my authors of choice, straying only occasionally when paying full price for books but free or cheap debuts, for example, have led to me discovering some gems.

The only downside for me is the price of new books by my favourite writers like Jill Mansell, Lisa Jewell and Sophie Kinsella. Typically they’re the same price or just £1 or so less than a book. I object to paying it. I’d rather own the book. I also much prefer the idea of having “How To” books in paperback format because I like to highlight really interesting learnings. (I know I can do this on my Kindle but it’s not the same as flicking through a paperback for the bright yellow section!) I have a huge physical TBR pile and I don’t think I’ll ever stop buying books but I do love my Kindle and, because of this, I’m really excited about the idea of being published through a Digital First imprint (please pick me!) whereas a few years back, I’d have baulked at the idea!


There seems to be a common theme of rejection then reluctant acceptance … then love of eBooks amongst us.

What do you think? Have you become a complete convert, a half and half or are you still shunning the eBook? As you can see from the photos, my cat Felix favours the eBook but Beckett the Bear is drawn to paperbacks still. Probably because he lives on the shelves with them!

We’d love to hear your views.

Julie xxx


The Wednesday Wondering – Let’s Hear it for Autumn!

Crash! That’s the sound of the temperature gauge dropping. Maybe it’s because I live in the north and by the sea but the weather seems to have changed overnight! From one of the best summers we’ve had in years, it’s suddenly mad panic to dig out the hats/scarves/gloves/boots and switch the heating on. Although autumn will be official upon us at the weekend, I think it has well and truly arrived. Or it has on the North Yorkshire Coast anyway!

With that in mind, I’ve set a non-writing based Wondering this week. It’s also because I’m nosey and want to delve into the lives of my fellow Write Romantics a bit more!

The Wondering is:

What do you like most about autumn and what are you personally most looking forward to this autumn?


Here’s how some of the Write Romantics responded:



Autumn is my favourite season and I am looking forward to when the nights start to draw in and, when the family are all home from work and school, pulling the curtains, lighting the wood-burner and settling down for an end of day catch up with a pot of tea and some shortbread biscuits!  It always seems more acceptable to comfort eat in the cold weather somehow. 

This autumn, in particular, the thing I’m looking forward to most is starting an art class with my sister on Thursday mornings.  It’s something we’ve decided to do just for ourselves, with no kids, husbands or work commitments to take into account!  I’m hoping it will also motivate me to finally finish the children’s picture book I’ve had on the go, on and off, for the last few years.  Oh, and I’m looking forward to lots of exciting news from my Write Romantic buddies about their submissions, competition entries and book releases.



I love Autumn. Hands up, I don’t actually like summer that much. I adore blue skies and the feel of the sun on my face … but I don’t like being hot and bothered and there was a lot of that this summer, particularly at the RNA Conference! For me, autumn represents a pleasant drop in temperature and being able to dig out the snuggly fleeces and cardigans. I absolutely adore those crisp days where the sky is blue but it’s really cold. Cue a warm hat, furry scarf and fleecy gloves and a lovely long walk kicking the crisp golden leaves.

As for what I’m looking forward to, it’s more a couple of hopes rather than what I actually have planned. I hope that an agent will pick up my debut novel and secure me at least a 3-book deal (it’s a trilogy so it would be foolish to want less!) I also hope I’ll secure a job. There’s been slim pickings over the summer but I have my first interview this afternoon for a role that is pretty much what I did in my last job so I’m hoping for a positive response.

One final thing for autumn is that it’s my wedding anniversary. I’ll have been married for eight years on Tuesday (24th Sept). Although hubby has (stupidly) booked himself a dentist appointment for two fillings that afternoon so I suspect a romantic meal won’t be on the cards!



I’m most looking forward to The Ghost House being published but I also love rainy days, dark nights and snuggling up with the laptop in front of the wood burning stove with a glass of wine.

You can pre-order Helen’s debut novel on Amazon at:



It feels strange to think about autumn as Australia is just into spring and we’re all ready to leave the cooler weather behind for a while.

My favourite seasons here are both autumn and spring…in autumn especially, it’s nice not to be so unbearably hot, the factor 30 is still going but I love it when my Sunsmart app tells me that the UV index is low enough not to have to slather it on quite so much.

Cooler weather brings hot chocolates, snuggly movies with the kids and great books to read with the heating on. I do like that we still have seasons here! Autumn especially brings the crisp, colourful leaves that we can swish through and the girls are always looking for those autumnal red colours to make a leaf collection.



Misty mornings, golden leaves, blackberries, going shopping for a cosy new jumper. Getting somewhere close to finishing the first draft of the new novel.  Not before time…



I’m looking forward to getting back to normal and the routine of daily life. Not that that’s going to happen for a few weeks yet since we’re having a new floor (well, a floor, it’s just concrete at the moment) in the sitting room and that means the horrid job of taking everything out then putting it back first!



I’m a pretty big fan of autumn especially misty mornings that turn into beautiful sunny days. I also love the leaves changing colour and the wonderful crisp light you can get on autumn days.  What I’m most looking forward to this autumn would be going to some great folk gigs, walking by the river in York on a bright day when the trees in their autumn colours are reflected in the water, getting my NWS report back (provided that it turns out to be good news) and the return of ‘Homeland’.



The swallows still chatter noisily in the stable eaves each morning, but very soon this summery sound will stop, their departure a sure sign of autumn’s arrival.

What I love about this time of the year is being able to close the curtains against the increasingly earlier darkness each evening. The thought of soon to be lit log fires make me feel warm and cosy, but unable to completely let summer go I wait, you never know, tomorrow could be a gloriously sunny day!

I love the smell of warm hearty food, like casseroles cooking in the kitchen and with several workers on the farm to feed each day these are so important – and easy. Then, talking of food, there is the thought of Christmas (sorry) not far around the corner, cakes and puddings to make.

I love to hide away from the wind and rain, shut myself in my writing room and transport myself to far away destinations. But sooner or later I have to venture out onto the farmyard and do my jobs, leaving my characters in hot sunny locations.

But if Summer and Autumn were characters what would they say to each other? How would they decide who was going to have the upper hand at this time of the year when the weather is so changeable? Here’s my take on it.

‘Today it’s my turn,’ Summer said, her warm smile lighting up the day as she strolled through the meadow, trailing her fingers across the long grass.

‘Not if I get my way,’ Autumn laughed and hurried after his new playmate. They only ever met at this time of the year, as the evenings got darker earlier and the sun lost its intensity. 

‘That’s not fair,’ Summer scolded and turned to face him, her long blonde hair lit from behind by the sun, making it shine like gold. ‘It was your turn yesterday.’

She smiled at him and Autumn felt the warm kiss of summer on his face. He liked it, wanted more than just the breezy kiss.

‘Can I come with you?’ he asked forgetting how he enjoyed buffeting the leaves from the trees and soaking everyone as much as possible, making them wrap up.

‘Only if you behave.  I don’t want a single rain drop to spoil my day. I want blue sky and fluffy white clouds, not your heavy grey things.’

‘Spoilsport,’ he said sullenly, but he knew she’d won. Today he would bask in her warmth, but tomorrow would be different. Tomorrow would be his and Summer would shelter in his shadow.


Thanks for sharing everyone and I love Rachael’s story at the end. Very evocative 🙂


Over to you as always. What do you love about my favourite season and what are you looking forward to? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Julie xxx

The Sunday Spotlight – Guest Blogger, Alison May, on ‘Getting the Call’

Our regular readers will know that The Write Romantics normally favour a Saturday Spotlight and, this week, we are delighted to welcome back our writing buddy, and flat-mate from the RNA conference, Alison May as a guest blogger.  We’d like to say that we specially changed the Saturday Spotlight to a Sunday in honour of all Alison’s exciting news since her last visit, just to make it stand out that little bit more, but the sad (and far less exciting) reality was a major broad band meltdown issue!  So, apologies, but we are sure you will agree that Alison’s guest blog was definitely worth the extra wait.

About Alison

Alison May last visited the WriteRomantics, back when she was still Alison Maynard, before she abandoned the last syllable of her name in a writerly pennamey sort of a way. Since then she’s signed her first publishing deal with Choc Lit, and has managed not to kill a single goldfish.

Her first novel, Sweet Nothing, will be published by Choc Lit, under their Choc Lit Lite digital first imprint, in November 2013. Sweet Nothing is a romantic comedy based on William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, because if you’re going to pilfer someone else’s plot, you might as well go for someone really good.

You can find out more about Alison at or follow her on Twitter @MsAlisonMay


Getting the Call

It’s the moment budding writers dream of  – that first call, the first time you pick up the phone and the voice at the other end says, “We love your writing. We’re going to make you a star. Take this six figure advance, and quit your day job this very second.” At least, that’s what I always imagined the voice saying.

Obviously real-life doesn’t work quite like that. In my case, it wasn’t a call at all; it was an email, followed by several more emails over several weeks as myself and Lyn from romantic fiction publisher, Choc Lit, tried repeatedly to make her very busy work schedule and my less busy but quite erratic work schedule coincide, so that we could meet up.

We eventually got together in central London. It was a discussion where Lyn did 90% of the talking and I grinned and nodded like a buffoon who’d temporarily lost the power of coherent speech. Fortunately, Lyn is an understanding soul, used to dealing with nervy first-time authors, and she offered me a contract for my debut novel, Sweet Nothing, despite my apparent dippiness. That meeting was three days before the RNA Conference. I signed the contract the very next day, and announced the deal, still in a bit of a daze, at the opening ‘Celebrations’ session at the conference.extension actually about myself, now I have a publishing contract in place. When people ask me what I do, I now tell them that I’m a writer, rather than fudging a bit and saying that I do various different things. I still giggle nervously when I say it, but I am starting to see myself as a writer first.

In another sense though, nothing changes. There are no six-figure advance fairies in most of our lives. No magic movie deals riding over the horizon just in time to pay the gas bill. Normal life has to go on, but now it goes on with an additional external pressure. I’m not just writing because I want to. I’m writing because someone out there has given me a contract and is prepared to invest time and money and effort into me and my writing, which is brilliant, and terrifying, and brilliant, and terrifying, and mostly brilliant.

Since signing that initial contract with Choc Lit to publish Sweet Nothing under their Choc Lit Lite imprint, it’s been a bit of a whirlwind. Sweet Nothing is due out in November – my editor (squeee!) is doing her review of the draft at the moment. I’ve written a short story, Devils and Heroes, and, weirdly, a chocolate cake recipe, for the Choc Lit Love Match anthology ( I’ve had a short story, Feel the Fear, accepted in the RNA’s upcoming anthology for early 2014, which I’m super-excited about. I’ve also written and submitted a novella to Choc Lit, which, with luck and a following wind, might also make it out into the world before the end of the year. It does feel like I’m on a very tiny little bit of a roll, which is amazing, and if I can get on a little roll, then anyone can. Just keep writing the best stuff you can, and keep sending that stuff out there into the world.

And now, I get to go right back to the start. Novel 2, page 1, the blank sheet of paper. It’s brilliant, and did I mention, a tiny bit terrifying?



Pitch Perfect

What does the word pitch mean?

1 To throw something.

2 The voice. To hit, the right note.

I have to confess, I am no expert in pitching anything, especially throwing a ball. And I couldn’t hit the right note whilst singing, even if you paid me. Yet in a few weeks, this is something some of us will be doing.

The RNA conference will be here in a few weeks time. This is an opportunity to pitch your novel to the publishing world. This is an occasion to sparkle and wow them. To see the masterpiece you have created finally out in the world. This is the dream of every author.

Now, here is what not to do. I have experience in this area. A few years ago at the RNA winter party, my friend who came with me, nudged me in the direction of an M&B editor. Needless to say, I was terrified. She asked me about my novel, and I told her. It seemed to be going well. It was then, I realised her eyes had glazed over. Not a good sign! It was at this point I decided it was a lost cause. I made my escape as fast as possible. She seemed very relieved.

Then, I went to the conference, and decided to put myself through the agony again.

First of all made sure my first chapter and synopsis were emailed to the editor. Great

Practiced out loud how I would answer questions thrown at me.

Two days before the conference I had an email asking me, if I had sent a chapter for the editor to look at. Panic set in, I double checked, and decided to send another copy. Still no luck! She hadn’t received it. Now what was I going to do? By now I could see my chance slipping away. At this point my nerves had kicked in. They decided to have a bit of a meltdown. This is another area that I do have experience in.

It was the day before the conference still the editor hadn’t received my chapter! By this time my nails were bitten, and I had started to pull my hair out. Gone was any thought about the weekend ahead. I was absorbed with this one interview, the one occasion where I might be able to shine. By this time I didn’t even have a hint of a sparkle about me. Nervous and wreck come to mind, and I hadn’t even seen anyone yet. Then it happened. The editor told me to bring a hard copy of my work with me. She would try and read it between interviews. At this point, I felt relief and nervous, all for a different reason.

So on the interview day, I stood with all the other people waiting to tell their story. My hands were sweaty, and I felt sick and my mouth felt parched and dry. Hearing my name called I walked in, and so began my first pitch.

Though there were a few disasters along the way. At the end I felt really positive. Even if you feel the pitch was a complete disaster, it doesn’t matter. The main thing is that you have stepped out and you have tried. Maybe practice makes perfect. So I encourage everyone this year to go for it, regardless how you feel. Sometimes we have to do step out and do it, even if we feel afraid.

Lorraine x

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

castle in the sky

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jo x

The above examples of dreamers who never give up was compiled by excerpts from various sources including Chicken Soup for the Writer’s Soul by Jack Canfield and Mark Hansen,,