She believed she could and she did: An inspirational success story for any aspiring author

Back at the beginning of this month – on April Fool’s Day to be precise – it was the Write Romantics 4th birthday. In 2013, all ten of us were unpublished, aspiring writers, desperate to get that elusive break and put our books ‘out there’. Over the years since then, every time I’ve seen a wishing well – like the one at my local wildlife park – I’ve thrown in a coin for each of us waiting to get published and made a little wish that those dreams would come true.

We thought about doing an anniversary post on the 1st of April this year, but there were too many obstacles in the way – looming deadlines, new releases and those sort of knee-deep edits from which you can’t afford to come up for air. You see, in four short years, all ten of us have become published authors and there’s no need for me to use any wishes up on that these days.

I’m so proud of all of my fellow Write Romantics, but there is one member of our little gang who I want to single out. She was our trailblazer – the first to be published – and she never stopped cheering the rest of us on, loudly pronouncing that ‘you can and you will’ until every one of us could call ourselves an author. Not only is she a wonderful friend, who works long hours in a demanding job, but she’s an amazing mother and doting grandmother too, battling through medical issues for some of her family that would have anyone else on their knees. She really is someone the phrase ‘I don’t know how she does it’ could have been written for.

I’m looking at you, Helen Phifer! She’ll probably be cringing now, but I couldn’t miss this opportunity to tell Helen what an inspiration she’s been to me and I know I’m speaking for the rest of the Write Romantics too.  Those of you who are already fans of Helen’s work – which just proves what excellent taste you’ve got – will know and love her Annie Graham series, expertly blending horror and crime, which have climbed the best seller lists, giving the rest of us WRs something else to aspire to.

But here’s the thing, Helen took a leap of faith recently, signing to Bookouture to write her first crime novel, The Lost Children, without the horror focus that had always been her starting point.  A departure like this is no easy thing for a writer to do and I’m sure Helen felt an extra frisson of nerves when she put the book out there. Turns out, which is no surprise to the rest of the WRs, that Helen can write the sort of un-put-down-able crime novels that have the five star reviews rolling in and which sent the novel flying into the Kindle top one hundred as a brand new bestseller to add to her growing list. You can check out the reviews here if you want to know what people are saying.

As I said earlier, I wanted to let Helen know how much she’s inspired me. But, more than that, I wanted other aspiring writers to hear about Helen and everything she’s worked for. Taking a job with the police force to get her research just right, writing late into the night and in every spare moment to achieve her dream alongside those work commitments and a very busy family life. One of Helen’s favourite sayings is ‘she believed she could and she did’. So if you’re out there, dreaming of being a published author, then let Helen’s story inspire you too and make it happen – whatever it takes. She continues to inspire me and I couldn’t be more proud of my lovely friend.  Jo xx

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…

Summer, chocolates & plenty of secrets …

Summer, chocolates & plenty of secrets … it’s almost time to return to Magnolia Creek!

The Chocolatier's Secret- KDP version

 

The Chocolatier’s Secret is book two in the Magnolia Creek series, and I’m delighted to say that it’s now available for pre-order on Amazon. With The Chocolatier’s Secret we return to the sun-drenched small town of Magnolia Creek, and this is a standalone story focusing on different lives. But … keep an eye out for a few of your favourite book characters from What Rosie Found Next!

I had a lot of fun writing this book. I enjoy the research side and had already completed a major research project on adoption as part of a Masters in Writing so I’ve been able to use my contacts and the information I had at my fingertips to shape this story. I also have my own personal experience of adoption which helped keep the emotions realistic.

chocresearch

Of course my favourite part of the research was finding out all about chocolate! I spent the day with Lucy and Andrea at Creighton’s Chocolaterie in Leighton Buzzard and discovered what goes on behind the scenes. I was really excited after my visit because I was able to weave in so many details to my story to make it authentic.

Publication day is Tuesday 28th June so only 8 days away!

If you would like to pre-order The Chocolatier’s Secret, you can do so here.

I hope you like the story … best enjoyed with your favourite chocolate of course! 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?

Finding an Agent – Discovery Day 2016

Author photo - Helen J RolfeOn Saturday 27th February I took the train to London to attend Discovery Day 2016, an event held at Foyles bookshop where attendees had the opportunity to pitch their work to Curtis Brown and Conville & Walsh Literary Agents.

For any writer, the chance to meet agents face to face is an invaluable opportunity and as I walked to Charing Cross Road I was excited, if a little nervous.

We had been given allocated time slots for pitching but it was still an hour queueing on the stairs to get to the top of Foyles and the gallery where agents were waiting for us. This was a nice time, however, to meet other writers and talk about our work. It helped to calm the nerves!

Foyles

 

Once I reached the gallery and an agent was free I was lucky enough to pitch to the lovely Jess Whitlum-Cooper who works at Curtis Brown with Felicity Blunt. Jess read my first page and then I was given thirty seconds to pitch my novel before we discussed my work.

Following the pitch appointment we were also able to ask general questions about agents, writing and publishing, with another literary agent in a Surgery Session, and here were the top tips for writing a cover letter to go with your submission:

  • Provide a very concise description of what your book is about
  • Identify who potential readers are
  • Name similar authors
  • Talk about your own writing experience
  • Let the agent know what inspired you to write this particular book

I found the experience of Discovery Day extremely positive and a lot of fun. Jess showed a lot of enthusiasm for my novel which was a real boost and whether or not I end up securing an agent this time round, Discovery Day did a lot for my confidence and belief in my writing. It also really showed me that not only do I want to find an agent to represent me, but I want to find the right agent. I think the right fit is so important because an agent/author relationship is a long-term commitment from both sides.

So for now, it’s on with the submissions and the next book!

Helen J Rolfe

Amazon author page

What Rosie Found Next - bookcover - KDP versiontft front cover with quoteHandle Me with Care final front cover - for KDP

 

 

 

 

 

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Mega Monday Announcement: An Eventful Year

Mega Monday Announcement: An Eventful Year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sharon xx

 

A Kiss from a Rose:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Kentish Accent – aka the Mega Monday Announcement

© Mamz

© Mamz

I’ve never thought of myself as having an accent. Maybe no-one does but, coming from Kent, I certainly don’t have the instantly recognisable nuances in dialect that some of my fellow WRs who hail from Yorkshire do. Similarly, if you hear a Geordie speak, someone from the Valleys or a soft Irish brogue you can immediately hazard a guess as to where the speaker’s roots are. I love accents, although my attempts at impersonating them are worse than the  accent of the policeman in ‘Allo, ‘Allo – Good Moaning! If you come from Kent, depending on how posh you are, your accent is probably going to be almost indistinguishable from your Essex, Sussex, Surrey or London neighbours.

© Michel Paller

© Michel Paller

Nonetheless Kent does have its own distinctions – from our vineyards to our oyster beds, to the best weather that the UK has to offer – it’s a county that’s just as unique as any other. We also like to claim Charles Dickens as our own. Although he was born in Portsea Island (Hampshire) he moved to Kent at the age of four, and towns from Rochester to Broadstairs proudly display plaques which state that “Chas was ‘ere”. Well not quite but, like I say, us Kentish maids and maids of Kent (it matters which side of the River Medway you were born on, by the way), can be mistaken for cockneys in the right light.

© Julie Heslington

© Julie Heslington

But what have a long dead, but brilliant, writer and my lack of a discernible accent got to do with my big announcement? Well Dickens, and Broadstairs itself, were the inspirations for my Christmas novella last year. I self published ‘The Gift of Christmas Yet to Come’, to help raise my writing profile above the white noise, prior to release of my first novel with So Vain Books. The novella is set in a fictional town, St Nicholas Bay, loosely based on Broadstairs, where rumour has it that Dickens penned A Christmas Carol. I’ve had a fantastic experience with So Vain Books, but I knew my next novel wouldn’t fit their glam brief, and so I started to think about which publishers I might try for the next step in my writing career. Since I still had the rights to the novella, there was nothing stopping me from submitting that, as well as the next novel I’d finished in draft and, being too impatient to try for an agent, there was one publisher I really hoped would accept my submission…

I’m delighted to say I’ve now got my longed for accent, a four book deal with Accent Press that is. I’ll be releasing four related stories (two novels and two novellas), all set in St Nicholas Bay – a place I can’t wait to revisit – and all with the theme of motherhood that comes about in an unexpected way. The first book will be released in the summer of 2016 and then at six-monthly intervals. I signed the contract on Friday morning and that’s got to be a good enough end to anyone’s week, hasn’t it?

© Alamar

© Alamar

Only it didn’t quite stop there. Just before three o’clock on Friday, I got a completely unexpected email. I’d entered a writing contest from my holiday balcony back in July, whilst the rest of the family slept in late every morning, but I didn’t think I stood a chance and, since the shortlist was originally due to be announced in August, I pushed my disappointment at not hearing anything to one side; especially since the offer from Accent had arrived in between. I never win anything, so what did I expect? My usual prize winning standard is an out-of-date tin of Smart Price carrots in a Harvest Festival raffle and I kid you not!

I looked at the email, though, and wondered why an editor from one of the ‘big four’ publishing houses, who I’d pitched my first book to at an RNA conference two years earlier, was emailing me. Maybe she wanted to be interviewed on the blog and, thinking what a great idea that would be, I eagerly opened her email. Except she wasn’t writing to ask for a guest spot, she was writing to tell me that I’d made the top ten shortlist of that writing competition, which I’d entered under a new pen name.  Unfortunately, I can’t say anymore than that yet, as the shortlist was due to appear on social media today but, at the time of publishing this post, Couple enjoying Sunsetit hasn’t yet been released.  What I would say is that if you’ve entered competitions before and started to wonder if it’s worthwhile, then keep going.  The old adage is certainly true for me – the more I practice, the luckier I seem to get!

So how does a girl from Kent celebrate such good news? Well I’d like to say that I enjoyed Whitstable oysters and a good vintage from the Chapel Down Winery in Tenterden, but in truth it was a pizza with the kids, and a bottle of champagne, that had been languishing in the back of the cupboard since New Year, with my husband. Not Kentish maybe, and definitely not posh, but it’ll do for me!

Jo xx

Saturday Spotlight: Interview with Heidi-Jo Swain

It’s a great pleasure to welcome Heidi-Jo Swain back to the blog today.  Heidi-Jo first joined us last year and a huge amount has happened to her since then.  I’ll hand over to Heidi-Jo to tell you all about it…

image1 (1)Hello everyone! Thank you so much for inviting me back. It seems an awfully long time since I was last here!

A lot has happened to you since you joined us on the blog last year. Can you tell us about it and how it all happened?

To be honest, I can’t believe just how much has happened myself. Looking back through the archives I can see that when I first visited I had just submitted The Cherry Tree Café to Books and The City as my #oneday submission and had everything crossed that the Team would enjoy reading it as much as I had enjoyed writing it!

Fortunately they did and after a couple of visits to Simon and Schuster I was offered an e-book deal for two books just in time for Christmas. Quite literally the best present ever! The novel was published in July this year, almost a year to the day that I sent off my submission.

How are you feeling about your second novel? Is it linked to your first book? Can you tell us a little about it?

InstagramCapture_1e326093-f9dd-4633-9084-1b67fdff9e03I’m absolutely thrilled with the second novel. My editor has described it as WONDERFUL and yes, she did write in caps so I was jump up and down excited that day. I can’t tell you too much about it just yet, however I can confirm that Wynbridge and The Cherry Tree Café still feature and a couple of familiar faces can be found gracing a few of the pages. That said it isn’t a sequel so you don’t have to have read the first to enjoy the second. Not that I’m objecting if you did of course!

What’s the best thing that’s happened since The Cherry Tree Cafe was published?

Cherry tree cafe green coverThat’s a tough question to answer because so many fabulous things have happened. The spring blogger evening with Milly Johnson et al, the launch party in Arts Desire, (a local crafting café), the newspaper article and the radio interview, not forgetting the forthcoming reading and Q and A event in Norwich…

Of course all that glamour and excitement has been fabulous and I can’t wait to plan it all again for the second novel, but thinking about it, the cherry on the cupcake has been reading reviews and receiving messages from readers who have chosen my little book for their holiday or weekend read and then told the world just how much they enjoyed it. I don’t think I’ll even get over the thrill of that.

Have you ever owned a cafe? Would you like to?

No I haven’t and to be honest I think I’m far better at consuming tea and cake than baking and serving it. Bunting construction a la Lizzie Dixon is more my style! Although saying that, my Vicky sponge always goes down a storm.

We know that you put The Cherry Tree Cafe on Wattpad before it was published. Why did you do that and do you feel it was a benefit?

Uploading the first few chapters of the novel on to Wattpad was a huge moment for me. It was the first step along the path to sharing my work with the world and feeling brave enough to hear what readers really thought about it.

Although the numbers of reads weren’t through the roof I made some great author chums who are still friends today and I also gained the confidence to push ahead and seek out a publisher. So yes, it was beneficial.DSCF0411

You have a strong social media presence. How important do you think that is and how would you recommend new writers go about building theirs?

I think it is hugely important to have a strong media presence. Fortunately I’m a natural chatterbox so getting involved with readers, authors, in fact anyone online, is an absolute joy. I’ve discovered that people want to know a bit about the person behind the book jacket and I love that.

With regards to building media presence I would say don’t be ‘all about the books’. Chat, interact, share stupid cat photos and above all else, remember your manners. If someone bothers to comment, share or re-tweet then say thank you and return the favour.

We know you enjoy crafts and baking as well as your day job. How do you find time to fit writing in?

DSCF0512Well, since my last visit I’ve had to adapt my writing routine to fit in with the added demands of being a published author. I now write longhand before work, during my lunch hour and occasionally (although not as often as I would like), in the evenings. I type up what I have written on my specific ‘writing days’ and sometimes at the weekends depending on what else I have to do. Particularly when I’m writing a first draft putting pen to paper has to become a priority and writing every day helps keep the words flowing.

Thank you so much for inviting me back. I hope you have our little catch up as much as I have! H x

Read the blurb for The Cherry Tree Cafe:

Cupcakes, crafting and love at The Cherry Tree Cafe…

DSCF0399Lizzie Dixon’s life feels as though it’s fallen apart. Instead of the marriage proposal she was hoping for from her boyfriend, she is unceremoniously dumped, and her job is about to go the same way. So, there’s only one option: to go back home to the village she grew up in and to try to start again.

Her best friend Jemma is delighted Lizzie has come back home. She has just bought a little cafe and needs help in getting it ready for the grand opening. And Lizzie’s sewing skills are just what she needs.

With a new venture and a new home, things are looking much brighter for Lizzie. But can she get over her broken heart, and will an old flame reignite a love from long ago…?

For everyone who loves settling down to watch Great British Bake-Off, the Great British Sewing Bee, or curling up to read Milly Johnson or Jenny Colgan, The Cherry Tree Cafe is a coffee-break treat.

Heidi Swain’s Bio

Although passionate about writing from an early age, Heidi Swain gained a degree in Literature, flirted briefly with a newspaper career, married and had two children before she plucked up the courage to join a creative writing class and take her literary ambitions seriously.

A lover of Galaxy bars, vintage paraphernalia and the off bottle of fizz, she now writes contemporary fiction and enjoys the company of a whole host of feisty female characters.

She joined the RNA New Writers’ Scheme in 2014 and is now a full member. The manuscript she submitted for critique, The Chery Tree Café, is her debut novel published by Simon and Schuster in July 2015.

She lives in Norfolk with her wonderful husband, son and daughter and a mischievous cat called Storm.

You can find out more about Heidi-Jo and The Cherry Tree Cafe by checking out the following links:

Blog:        http://www.h-writersblog.blogspot.co.uk/

FB:           https://www.facebook.com/WriterHeidiJoSwain?ref=hl

Twitter:    https://twitter.com/HeidiJoSwain

Cherry Tree Café Links:

Amazon:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Cherry-Tree-Cafe-Heidi-Swain-ebook/dp/B00RM4V02E/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1430324049&sr=8-1&keywords=cherry+tree+cafe

iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/book/the-cherry-tree-cafe/id955075784?mt=11

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/the-cherry-tree-cafe

Mega Monday Book Launch: Dirty Weekend (and my tribute to Cilla Black) by Deirdre

FINAL FINAL COVER with taglineIt seems like only yesterday I was knocking back the champers to celebrate the release of my first traditionally-published novel, Remarkable Things.  Now, just three months later, here I am with the second!

But hold back on the gasps of wonder – the small gap is not a sign of my hard work and dedication to the job.  It’s all in the timing, as I had already written most of Dirty Weekend whilst tally-ho-ing my way across the bumpy publishing terrain in pursuit of that elusive contract for Remarkable Things.

I’d always planned to write a book set in the 1960s, one day.  Well, it was ‘my time’ after all, and they do say write what you know.  When I merrily signed up to NaNoWriMo with about five minutes to spare, I did it with no prior thought as to the kind of book I was going to write.  All I knew was that it had to be easy and fast-paced, which suggested humour and young characters – in this case, eighteen year-olds – and then the era just came along with that.

Naturally, I didn’t succeed in hitting the NaNo target, but that wasn’t the intention.  I did get a whole lot of words down in the time, though, and that was a most satisfying experience.

As I say, there is humour in Dirty Weekend – at least I hope it raises a smile or two – but there’s a deeper, darker side, too.  I was surprised to find that one of the most enjoyable scenes to write was the one with the most violence.  I’m not quite sure what that says about me!

And I know it’s a writer’s cliché, but once I’d finished the book, I really missed my four main characters –  Carol-Anne, Terry, Mark, and Jeanette.  Obligingly, they lived for me through the pages, and I suspect I haven’t seen the last of them.

If you download the book, thank you, and I hope you have as much fun reading it as I did in the writing.

Dirty Weekend will be published by Crooked Cat Publishing on 4th August, at the special introductory price of 99p.

Deirdre

PS. It was while I was finishing this piece that I was saddened to learn of the death of Cilla Black. For us, Cilla was the sixties. We danced to her music, copied her fashions, and used up gallons of hairspray trying to get our kiss-curls to stay in place – like Cilla’s.  International singing star and friend of the Beatles she may have been, but she had no airs and graces.  She was one of us.  So, thank you, Cilla, and God bless. x

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

Genre, romance & mystery with Nancy Jardine

Today we welcome Nancy Jardine to the blog to talk writing … welcome Nancy!

Could you start with introducing yourself and telling us a bit about your writing?

I’m an ex- primary teacher from Aberdeenshire, Scotland, who particularly liked to teach history – though most subjects had their own appeal! My romantic historical Celtic Fervour Series, and The Taexali Game Book 1 of my Rubidium Time Travel Series for the Teen/ YA market, are heavily influenced by my obsession about Roman Britain. I also write contemporary romantic mysteries which were initially intended to be ‘a break’ from the heavy research necessary in my historical work but historical aspects sneaked into two of my contemporary mysteries in an ancestral way!

When you read, do you read the same sort of books as you write or do you try to read outside the genre?

My reading spans many different sub genres of fiction.  I’m presently reading a dystopian/urban thriller; the book before that was a political thriller and the one before that was a romantic women’s’ fiction novel. My favourite is probably the historical romance genre but I enjoy other categories if the book is well written.

Could you ever see yourself changing genres, and if so, what would you change to?

So far I’ve written 3 contemporary romantic mysteries, 3 historical romantic adventures and 1 time travel historical adventure novel for Middle Grade/ YA readers. I have a slowly ongoing work in progress that’s a family saga and some might say that’s another slightly different sub-genre. It begins in Victorian Scotland and is planned to continue to approximately the 1950s, so it’s historical yet also about relationships according to the environments the characters live in.  I don’t see myself adding any other sub- genres in the near future since I’ve work in hand that fits my current writing types.

Tell us a bit about your latest book, Monogamy Twist.  nancyjardine2

Monogamy Twist isn’t quite my latest book. Monogamy Twist was relaunched by Crooked Cat Publishing at the end of March 2015 – a different version from the previously published US edition. It’s a contemporary romantic mystery set in Yorkshire, England.  The plot idea was sparked as I was doing ancestry research of my own family background while on the TV the current adaptation of a Dickens Novel was snagging my interest. It didn’t take long to decide to use the ‘mysterious inheritance bequest’ theme and adapt it for a fun contemporary novel. I really enjoyed creating the family tree around which the mystery is based, and it was a lovely change to create a different sort of spirited heroine in Rhia Ashton. She’s just perfect for Luke Salieri, because he needs help to find out why Amelia Greywood chose to leave the slightly dilapidated Greywood Hall to him.  However, Rhia is no pushover; she sets her own quirky conditions to the already weird deal set down by Amelia in her will.

Since Monogamy Twist was relaunched in March I’ve self published The Taexali Game (official launch date 22nd May). This is the first of a time travel series for Middle Grade/YA readers; though anyone who enjoys a good adventure will love the action packed Celtic Roman shenanigans during AD 210 when the Roman Emperor Severus plays havoc in northern Britannia.  My intrepid trio of time travellers have a task list to complete, and they’ve also to solve a local mystery— yet stay alive long enough to return to tell the tale!

On June 5th 2015, Crooked Cat Publishing relaunched Take Me Now, a contemporary romantic mystery. This story was great fun to write since I wanted to create a contemporary mystery around my version of a Scottish Highland Hero – my hero being somewhat flawed.  Nairn Malcolm finds he’s in a bit of a pickle having been involved in a mysterious accident. He needs someone to fly him from his Scottish island castle in his floatplane, down to Glasgow and then in his jet to London and beyond. Aela Cameron, a Canadian Vancouverite, is just the woman for all of his needs and together they eventually uncover the saboteur who causes further mayhem to both of them. Like Monogamy Twist, Take Me Now is a ‘sweet’ adaptation of the original US published version.

nancyjardine1

What is your favourite aspect of writing?

I’m a natural ‘pantser’ yet one who has gradually learned the value of planning a novel- even if I’ve still a lot to learn about that. That means I’m generally excited about working out the next stages in a novel as the story develops – my characters taking pathways that aren’t predictable when I make the general outline of the story.  I also love the editing processes since I’m pretty anal about making sure things ‘fit in’ properly. In my historical work this has meant ensuring that the time-lines work accurately (not always as simple as that seems) and in my contemporary mysteries it’s tying up all those potentially loose ends and sometimes adding little red herrings.

And your least favourite?

My least favourite might be finding that I’m in the ‘doldrums’ – which happened in the middle of the second book of my Celtic Fervour Series.  Book 2 is about Brennus of Garrigill and Ineda of Marske who become spies for King Venutius when the Romans are pushing further north in Brigante country (Yorkshire) in AD 71, but their romantic story is a long one since Ineda is captured by a Roman Tribune. Enslaved for a number of years means different relationships for Brennus and Ineda till major Roman military events occur to bring them back together.  After running the very long story past my publisher at Crooked Cat it was decided that Brennus’ story needed Book 2 and Book 3 of the series, 145 plus words being thought far too big for an ebook! Though they’re linked they were written to also stand alone. Since Book 2 doesn’t have an HEA ending the series couldn’t all be called historical romances – hence the labelling as historical romantic adventures, there being elements of all three in all three books.

Where do you get your ideas for writing?

Take Me Now transpired as a result of the chartering of a seaplane for a special birthday trip which flew us up past the Inner Hebrides on the west coast of Scotland.  The seaplane seats nine so nine family members climbed on board. This was followed by a chartered catamaran sail around Mull and the closer Hebridean islands. The whole weekend trip was fantastic and just begged to be used in a contemporary novel so my hero, Nairn Malcolm, is from a fictitious island off the coast of Oban where he bases himself at his restored castle. He’s not always the archetypal handsome highland laird but you’d need to read the story to know why not.  Monogamy Twist, as earlier stated was an amalgam of ancestry and a ‘borrowed’ Dickens plot. Topaz Eyes came about because I really loved making the family tree structure for Monogamy Twist. I decided to make a much more complicated family tree where I based the original matriarch in Europe, allowing me to include fabulous locations like Heidelberg, Vienna , Amsterdam and Edinburgh for her descendants.  The third generation tree structure gave me fabulous characters (some nice and others nasty) to include in the family treasure hunt for jewels which once belonged to an Indian Mughal Emperor. The trail for the gems also takes the protagonists beyond Europe to Minnesota and New York – as they evade the clutches of the deadly assassins of the family.

The Taexali Game  is dedicated to former pupils of mine who wrote excellent little stories as ‘end of project round-ups’ back in 2005.  I joked back then that I would someday write a full length Celt v Roman novel that could be used as a companion novel/ class reader for 12 year olds like them. The manuscript for the Taexali Game was lifted and shelved many times over the intervening years since I was too busy being a teacher to properly polish the story. I always knew I’d publish ‘it’ someday and 7th May 2015 was the day! My Celtic Fervour Series resulted from my continuing interest in Celtic Roman Britain. Instead of focusing on finishing the Taexali Game (set in AD 210) I instead spent time writing about a different era of Roman Britain for The Beltane Choice (#1 of my Celtic Fervour Series) – AD 71.  

If you could choose one perfect location in which to write, where would it be?

Somewhere with a proper desk, a large screen and a separate keyboard and mouse—because I’m useless with a laptop keypad. I’d prefer the desk to have an outside view overlooking a garden or a lovely vista. But since my desk at home has those things and I overlook my garden then I’m quite happy to be at home when writing. Not having Facebook or email minimised and blooping at the bottom of my screen would be wonderful  tactic– I’m too easily distracted by them!

If you could be mentored by one writer, alive or dead, who would it be and why?

I’d probably choose Charles Dickens. I love the fact that he walked for miles and miles (some 15 a day wasn’t unusual) composing the next part of his story in his head. When he returned home he had the ‘freedom’ to immediately write down what he’d composed so that he could send it to his publisher immediately, since his work tended to be serialised on a weekly basis. He couldn’t miss those deadlines yet he also managed to create the unity of the whole plot at the same time. His creativity was amazing while managing to have a busy family life which included a lot of kids! I’d love him to tell me great strategies for composing my next scenes when I’m gardening or when I’m doing my grandchild minding tasks.

And finally, can you tell us a bit about what you are working on at the moment?

I’ve started Book 2 of my Rubidium Time Travel Adventure Series for Middle Grade/YA readers where my trio of time travellers hop back to Victorian Glasgow, 1884. I’ve also begun Book 4 of my Celtic Fervour Series. This is about another Garrigill warrior; the niece of Lorcan of Book 1.   I’ve planned out and begun my 3-book family saga beginning in 1950 Victorian Scotland.  My task now that I’ve no new launches in the near future is to prioritise and finish my works in progress!

Thanks Nancy for coming on to the blog with us today!

If you’d like to know more about Nancy, she can be contacted via the links below.

Helen J Rolfe.

http://nancyjardine.blogspot.co.uk

http://nancyjardineauthor.com/

Twitter @nansjar

Facebook: http://on.fb.me/XeQdkG

Amazon author page:  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Nancy-Jardine/e/B005IDBIYG/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0