Happy 3rd Birthday to us!

1st April is a special day for the Write Romantics. It’s our 3rd birthday!

When Jo Bartlett and I ‘met’ virtually through the Romantic Novelists’ Association and came up with the idea of blogging together, we were two unpublished writers who weren’t even ready to submit our manuscripts. We realised quite quickly that we were going to struggle to post regularly about our ‘not quite ready to explore being published’ status, so we invited a few more RNA members to join in. The Write Romantics grew from two to ten, dipped down to nine for a while, then went back up to ten again.

One of the fascinating aspects of this group of female writers (other than the fact that we have never all been in the same place at the same time (except virtually) and therefore haven’t all physically met yet), is that we were nearly all aspiring writers when we joined forces. Only one of the group had a publishing deal. Move forward three years and it’s a very different picture.

We thought this would be the perfect opportunity for the Write Romantics to tell you about their last three years.

Jessica xx

book14Jo Bartlett

Three years ago, I was unpublished and dreaming of one day walking into a bookshop and seeing my name on the cover of a novel on sale there. I’d just finished my debut novel and was sending it out to publishers… Fast forward three years and my novel, Among a Thousand Stars, has now been out for nine months with So Vain Books and I have my coveted paperback! I’ve also had two pocket novels published by DC Thomson, so I got to see my name on a book in WHSmiths on several occasions. Both novels were picked up by Ulverscroft, a third pocket novel has just gone in to DC Thomson and I have also had a short story published with them in The People’s Friend. In the second half of last year, I signed a women’s fiction four book deal with Accent Press, the first two books will be coming out in 2016 and the second two next year. AATS CoverIn October, I finished second in the WHSmiths/Kobo/Harlequin romance writing competition and I am currently working with an editor at the world’s most famous romance publishing house on something that will be a significant departure for me and hence is being written under another name. Most of this has happened in the past twelve months and I definitely don’t appreciate how far I’ve come in three years for the vast majority of the time. Seeing it all written down like this makes a big difference though and, for once, I feel like there’s something to celebrate. The WRs birthday is the perfect excuse!

1503592_740127342771174_6884382549832304505_n

100% genuine *cough*

Sharon Booth

Gosh! Three years ago I wasn’t part of the Write Romantics. In fact, I hadn’t heard of them (sorry!) I started writing my first full-length novel in November of that year, for NaNoWriMo. I met Jessica and Alys in June of 2014, having connected with Alys on Romna, as we were members of the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme. I had a half-baked, patchwork story called Angel in the Marble, and was convinced it was rubbish. Jessica and Alys persuaded me to work on it and submit it to the RNA. I did, and got very positive and encouraging feedback. That September, I was invited to join the Write Romantics This Other Eden ebook cover V4 (1)(yay!) and in November, we released a charity anthology, Winter Tales, which included my short story, The Other Side of Christmas. I got Angel in the Marble edited and proofread, changed its name to There Must Be An Angel, and it was published in March 2015. Now I’m on the brink of publishing my third full-length novel, This Other Eden, having also had a pocket novel published by DC Thomson, and another short story in print, this time for The People’s Friend. Things really started to happen for me when I met the Write Romantics, so I’m very grateful to be part of this lovely group.

Jackie Ladbury

conf 2014 12In April 2013 I was faffing around with at least three half written books on the go. I now have three fully written books and am still faffing around! Have decided to pitch three novels as airline series and am finally getting my act together with A Plan! (I think!) Was shortlisted for a Mills and Boon first chapter competition and that complete novel is now part of The Plan. Am considering self-publishing another novel, but thinking about it makes me want to have a lie down, or take to the bottle. Could do that in reverse order I suppose!

my pic for blog postDeirdre Palmer

When we began, I was in the midst of submitting my novel, Remarkable Things, which has themes of motherhood, family relationships and later-life love. More revisions and another year on, I finally secured that elusive FINAL FINAL COVER with taglinecontract, and the book was published by Crooked Cat. Meanwhile, I’d written a 1960s’ comedy drama called Dirty Weekend, which Crooked Cat also published, a few months after the first. An excellent year! Now I’ve just finished another novel and started on another, the sequel to Dirty Weekend. Looking back, I’m very happy with what I’ve achieved in the last three years 🙂

 

DSCN1701Lynne Pardoe

I had barely started my first novel three years ago when my mum became ill. Stuck for things to speak about mum and I talked about my plot, the more it took shape, the quicker I wrote it! That was eventually sold to D.C.Thompson and it came out in January 2015 as ‘Made for Each Other.’ Since then I self published ‘Please Adopt Me‘ on Amazon at first. Now I’m just waiting for my second to be edited and am well into my third! I’m loving having a cottage industry all to myself and so are my readers, judging by the quantity of good reviews I have!! 🙂

helen phiferHelen Phifer

Three years ago I’d been offered my first two book contract with Carina and I was busy working on the rewrites for my debut novel The Ghost House. Which was to be published in October. Now I’m in the middle of writing my sixth Annie Graham novel. Book five The Girls in the Woods was published in January and I have a paperback of The Ghost House on my shelf, plus I have a standalone horror story that will be published by Carina in September and Annie book six will be published around December 2016. I’m in the process of something very exciting for next year which will take me in a whole different direction as I’m working on a brand new crime series. Which I’ll share with you once it’s all finalised. All in all, I’m one very busy, extremely happy writer.

 

_MG_4982Jessica Redland

‪In April 2013, I was working on my debut novel, Searching for Steven. It had gone through the RNA’s NWS once and I was preparing to put it through the NWS for a second time later that year because I’d made significant changes to it. The idea of becoming published was a distant dream. Eighteen months later, I received two publishing deals and decided to go with a new UK-based publisher Screenshot 2015-12-16 18.08.14called So Vain Books. In June 2015, Searching for Steven was released. It’s the first book in a trilogy of romantic comedies with deeper issues set in a fictional North Yorkshire seaside town called Whitsborough Bay. The follow up, Getting Over Gary, was released last month
and the final part of the trilogy will be out in August this year. I’ve also released a novella, Raving About Rhys, which is set in the same town but with a different cast of characters. I have a deadline for submission of book 3 in about six weeks’ time then I get to write something new which is incredibly exciting. It’s been an amazing few years. Eek! Dreams really can come true 🙂

 

Author photo - Helen J RolfeHelen J Rolfe

Three years ago, I was getting ready to send my second attempt at a novel to the RNA NWS. As I was living in Australia this was always interesting at a cost of more than a hundred dollars plus an anxious wait to find out whether it had arrived in the UK safely. But it was so worth it! ‪Three years on and that novel, The Friendship Tree, was the first of three I have had published. I went on to indie publish Handle Me with Care and What Rosie Found Next  and I have another two novels already in the pipeline. ‪It’s been an interesting and busy time but a lot of fun. I’ve learnt so much about writing and the publishing industry and I’m hoping the next three years bring just as much success for all The Write Romantics!

CoverTheFriendshipTree

Handle Me with Care final front cover - for KDPWhat Rosie Found Next - bookcover - KDP version

 

 

 

 

 

photo (10)Rachael Thomas

In April 2013 I had just had my latest rejection and as usual was gutted. After the customary sulk, I began work on my next book, which I submitted to Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write competition in September 2013. That book made it to the Top 10 at the end of the year and Christmas 2013 saw me working on revisions which I submitted early in 2014 and within two weeks, I The Sheikh's Last Mistress-UK covergot ‘the call’. My debut, A Deal Before the Altar was published by Harlequin Mills and Boon in October 2014. Now three years on from the launch of The Write Romantics blog my sixth book, The Sheikh’s Last Mistress is about to be released. What is even more special, is that this book is a rewrite of the one rejected in April 2013, which just goes to show, nothing you write is ever wasted. Happy Birthday everyone!

Alys West Christmas 2015Alys West

Three years ago, I was working on the first book of an urban fantasy trilogy, Beltane. My dream was to secure an agent and I was thrilled in summer 2014 to be invited to London to meet an agent who wanted to represent me! Since then, Beltane has been published and I’ve been working on the rest of the series. I’ve also discovered a new passion for steampunk and wrote a story called The Dirigible King’s Daughter which I released on Wattpad. It’s been fascinating reading feedback from those who’ve followed the release of each chapter. The Dirigible King’s Daughter will be available on Amazon in the early summer. My novel writing is taking a bit of a back seat at the Beltane finalmoment because I’m studying towards a Masters in Creative Writing, but I’ll be back to it very soon.

 

We hope you’ve enjoyed our round-up of the last three years. If you’re just starting your writing journey, or you’re submitting and dealing with rejections at the moment, please keep on believing in your work because, as you can see from our summaries, dreams really do come true xxx

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Halloween

I love this time of the year, I love Autumn in all its fading, golden glory. I love the dark nights and cold, frosty mornings. I love the sound of the rain against the windows as I’m sitting by the wood, burning stove, scribbling down ideas for new stories. i love that I can wear my treasured Alexander McQueen skull scarf with pride. I love the excitement of children who are looking forward to dressing up for Halloween and going trick or treating. Mugs of hot chocolate with fresh cream and marshmallows, soups, casseroles prepared in the slow cooker first thing in the morning and ready by teatime with minimal fuss. What’s not to love about it, I mean I like the summer, but I hate being too hot and bothered. I don’t like the headaches in the warm weather or the sunburn on my rather fair, freckly skin. Yep I’m definitely an Autumn girl and what’s better than sitting around an open fire, drinking hot chocolate and telling ghost stories? For me, nothing can beat it. I thrive off listening to peoples strange and spooky encounters with anything that goes bump in the night. You may have already guessed that though by my spine tingling stories about psychic police woman Annie Graham and her ghostly encounters that leave readers terrified but addicted for more.

So what’s the scariest thing that’s ever happened to me? Well there have been quite a few over the years, I think that unless you are open to anything of the supernatural kind then you won’t experience much. As the years have gone on and I’ve talked to more people I’ve come to the conclusion that if you don’t want to see anything paranormal then you won’t. Although I don’t know if my husband Steve agrees, our very first spooky encounter was on a coach trip to Germany in the middle of winter. It took longer to get there then the amount of time we spent in Germany. We were taken to a tiny village that was shut for winter, there was only our hotel and one more open. The weather was bitterly cold and on the way there to pass the time we had been talking about ghostly experiences. I worked in a retirement home at the time where lots of spooky things happened and Steve didn’t believe a word a word of what I was saying. We were given our room keys in the hotel and went upstairs to a very cold room, tired, fed up and freezing we went to bed. The room was so cold that you could see your breath in front of you every time you spoke, I crossed the room and put my hand on the radiator which was burning hot. I couldn’t understand how the room could be this cold, but I thought nothing of it and before long we both fell asleep. At some point during the night Steve shook my shoulder and whispered, ‘There’s someone outside the window wearing a top hat.’ I looked at him, then the window he was pointing at, but I couldn’t see anything. Then there was a noise in the bathroom as if someone was moving around, Stee who was freaking out by now and ever the gentleman pushed me out of the bed to go and see what it was. I was terrified because of the look of fear on his face, he was normally so calm it scared me. I remember looking at him and thinking I didn’t want to open the door, but I couldn’t ignore it either. I had to know who was in there, I pushed the door wide open and flicked the switch. The light illuminated the tiny room and thank god it was empty, but my heart was pounding and the fear inside my mind was horrendous. I shut the door again, leaving the light on and ran back to the bed where I got underneath the covers. I was terrified and the room was still like an ice box. When we went down for breakfast I asked the couple in the room next to us if their room was cold and they told me it was too hot and they’d had to turn their heater down. When we went back upstairs I opened the curtains where Steve had seen the black shadow and was shocked to see that there was no way anyone could have been standing outside of it because there was nothing there and we were five floors up. Let me tell you that scared the pair of us and we were grateful we only had to spend that night there and were leaving.

Another time a lot of years later we were walking our dog Tess in Abbotswood which runs behind Furness Abbey and is the setting for the derelict mansion in The Ghost House. I was in the middle of writing that story and whenever I got stuck I would go up there for inspiration. I had the camera out and was snapping random pictures, as we reached a clearing in the woods where there are some huge trees I was taking pictures and saw a white mist fill my camera screen. I carried on snapping away and took three consecutive photos, wondering what the white mist was in front of my lens I put the camera down and asked Steve if he’d seen it. He shook his head so I played back the photos I’d just taken and almost had a heart attack on the spot. I had a photo of some bushes, the next one taken a second later had the white mist on it in which I could clearly make out some ghostly faces and what I think looked like a screaming skull. The picture taken immediately after had nothing but the same green bushes. My heart beating wildly I began walking away from the area as fast as my short legs could carry me, I was terrified. Steve began to follow behind thinking it was all highly amusing until we got home and I downloaded the photos straight onto the computer, then he changed his mind. See what you think of the photos below, would it have scared you if you’d taken it in the woods just before dusk when there was no-one else around? I’ll let you make your mind up about that one, but remember one thing, it’s Halloween tonight so have a fabulous night if you celebrate it and if not, lock the doors and keep the lights on. You never know who might come calling………..

white mist

Helen xx

Our round-up of 2014 and there’s so much to say that we have to do it in 2 parts … Part II

Welcome back! We hope you enjoyed reading about what 2014 has meant for Helen R, Deirdre, Rachael, Jo and Jackie. It’s time to hear from the remaining five …

cropped-sharon-booth-writerSharon Booth:

I can’t pinpoint my greatest writing achievement this year – I have four. I finally – after three years – finished There Must Be An Angel and sent it out into the world. Secondly, I found a publisher! Fabrian Books will publish Angel in March 2015.

angel coverI achieved a long-held ambition and became a published author when my short story, The Other Side of Christmas, appeared in the Winter Tales anthology. That was a very proud moment, especially when my copy of the paperback arrived in the post and I saw my name on those pages. What a thrill! And finally, I wrote my second novel. Which leads me onto…

My greatest writing challenge was probably writing that second novel. After spending three years working on Angel, I was very daunted about starting all over again. Could I do it? What if I only had one book in me? I was nervous, and even though I thought I had a great leading character and a germ of an idea for a story I wasn’t sure I could pull it off. To start with, it was pretty difficult and I was in a bit of a state for a while thinking that I simply couldn’t manage to write another novel. I was a bit gloomy about it for far too long. Then I just started writing and suddenly the words were flowing. I finished A Kiss from a Rose surprisingly quickly (it will be published in September 2015), and I’m very proud of it. I really love my hero and heroine and I hope readers will, too. Now I just have to tackle my doubts about book three!

photo 3 (2)Becoming a Write Romantic this year has meant everything to me. I’ve been writing on my own for so long and having a support network of nine other writers who understand what you’re going through – all your doubts and insecurities – is amazing. They’re a fun group too, and we have lots of laughs together. If someone needs advice or information there’s always at least one of us who knows how to help. I’ve loved working with them on Winter Tales and I think being part of the group has helped to raise my profile, and introduce me to a wider circle of friends.

2015 is going to be a busy year, because I’m having two books published so there will be a lot of work to do. I’m really looking forward to it, although I’m a bit nervous. Actually, I’m a LOT nervous, but I expect most writers are when their work is finally about to be read by other people. I’m also going to be slogging away at book three, and I think that will be my major challenge for the coming year. What if I can’t do it again? What if I only have two books in me? Hmm, talk about déjà vu! Happy New Year! 🙂

LynneLynne Pardoe:

My greatest writing achievement this year has undoubtedly been the acceptance of my pocket novel by D.C.Thomson. It started as a story that I began and developed by chatting to my mum when she was poorly. At first I thought it would simply entertain us through the many dark days at mum’s bedside, but over time I thought maybe it would make a good story. So I wrote it up. Then a blog post landed in my inbox, ‘D.C.Thomson are looking for pocket novels,’ it said, ‘post them to this address.’

So I did. And within ten days I got an acceptance! I’m yet to see the published thing; that’s out next month. It will bear both my mother’s name and mine and I already have plans to get the cover printed and framed to give mum for her 86th birthday in February. She says she never expected to have her name on a book at her age, which is so sweet, she is thrilled.

Seeing my own story with my own and mother’s name on the cover is the perfect start to my writing year. I only hope for more of the same whilst continuing to work on my social work novels. None of that would have been possible, or at least a lot more difficult, if it hadn’t been for the wonderful help of my fellow Write Romantics. Writing is a lonely business and the path to publication fraught with highs and lows and many times i’d have given up but for the support of my fellow Romantics.

Thanks girls and bring on 2015!

Alys WestAlys West:

1. My greatest writing achievement this year has to be signing with A for Authors. Getting an agent was like a dream come true and made me believe I might actually be half-way competent at this writing business. This is me signing the contract. Although what I failed to appreciate in the excitement of signing was that after that there’d be an awful lot more waiting to hear about submissions and more rejections but from bigger publishers this time. I’m not moaning here (in case that sounds like a whinge) it just took me a while to get my head around what it actually means to be represented.

A close second has to be publication of Winter Tales. There’s been some amazing moments like when my order of paperbacks arrived, when we got the first reviews on Amazon and were high in the Amazon rankings. But the best bit has been how proud my parents have been. My Mum gets quite emotional about it which, as we’re a fairly undemonstrative family, means an awful lot.

photo2. Lughnasa, my second novel, has definitely been my biggest writing challenge this year. I wanted it to be different from Beltane but within the same world of magic that I’d created. A sensible person would have learned from the challenges of writing about Glastonbury (where Beltane is set) and chosen somewhere closer to home for my second book. But not me! Lughnasa is set in Orkney which is twice as far from Yorkshire than Glastonbury and far more difficult to get to. The plot is quite complex and I always knew that’d be a challenge. What I’d not anticipated is that my characters would take control and leave me wondering what’s going to happen next. Have I overcome the challenges of this book? I’m not sure yet. I’m about two thirds of the way through so I’ll let you know when I get to the end and my beta-readers have had a look at it.

3. The Write Romantics have meant more to me this year than I can possibly say! From fashion advice when I was worried about what to wear for my first meeting with my agent to finding the positives in rejections to moral support when life in general is hard they’re the best group of people you could ever hope to meet. It’s fabulous to be part of such an amazing team and I know I couldn’t do this writing lark without them.

4. For 2015 I need to learn greater amounts of patience. Writers need a Zen type ability to accept endless amounts of waiting and as I’ve never been a patient person this is hard for me. Obviously I hope that my agents will find a publisher for Beltane, I want to finish Lughnasa in the first half of next year and go back to Orkney on a research trip. After that, I guess I’ll be thinking about book 3 which is a trifle terrifying at this point as I still don’t really know how the trilogy will end!

1185224_10200753042177469_1584659865_nHelen Phifer:

My greatest writing achievement this year is a tough one for me because I have managed to fill so many of my writing dreams in such a short space of time that it’s hard to choose. I don’t actually know how it happened but I’m so grateful that it did. I managed to knock my all time hero Stephen King off the Contemporary Horror Charts not just once but several times and for weeks at a time with my debut novel The Ghost House. That was a surreal moment for me, to see my book cover nestled in-between Dr. Sleep and The Shining, it was what my publishers aptly named a Stephen King sandwich and what I had been dreaming about the past eight years.

My greatest writing challenge was actually writing another two books and a short story in the space of twelve months. The books were on tight deadlines for my publishers and I was terrified that I wouldn’t make them. I’m pleased to say that I did somehow, I think the most important thing was to make myself sit down and write the first draft of the story without thinking about it too much. The biggest challenge out of them all was the short story; I’m not very good at writing them and it was a real test to see if I could come up with something that was good enough to be published.

ghosthouseBeing a Write Romantic was the key thing for me. The support I get off my amazing friends is one in a million. They have stopped me from losing the plot on more than one occasion, it’s been wonderful to be able to have such a wealth of talented writers to help me should I need some advice at the end of my fingertips. I am truly blessed to know such amazing ladies and I’m forever in their debt. Being a part of this group has kept me sane, I’ve laughed, cried and being overjoyed at their ups and downs and I wouldn’t change them for the world.

My writing hope for 2015 is to see The Ghost House released in paperback at the end of January and to actually hold a copy in my hands. I think that until I actually get to sniff the pages of my own book I still won’t believe that I wrote it. That is the biggest dream of all for me. I plan to have book 4 finished by the middle of January, then I want to concentrate on a stand alone scary novel I’ve been rewriting and self publish it. Then by August I have to hand book 5 over to my amazing editor Lucy at Carina. That will be the end of my current contract with them so it will be interesting to see if they want any more Annie Graham novels.

10527383_331005803724929_5378621437399779308_nJessica Redland:

My greatest writing achievement has definitely been securing a three-book deal with So Vain Books for my Whitsborough Bay Trilogy. I’d been planning to go indie because I found the waiting for news far too difficult. I could cope with rejections as it was news; I couldn’t cope with waiting for 9-10 months, constantly wondering. Searching for Steven was in with a final few publishers and I wasn’t expecting positive news so a publishing deal quickly followed by another were unexpected and extremely gratifying.

This two-deal situation was actually one of my greatest writing challenges. It’s a happy dilemma to have but a dilemma nonetheless because the offers were very different – established US-based company, eBook only, better royalties v new UK-based company, eBook and paperback, lower royalties – so I wasn’t comparing like for like. In the end, I went with my heart which was telling me that So Vain Books were right for me. It helped that Jo had already accepted a contract with them a few months earlier and I’d seen how well they’d been treating her.

P1050693Like so many of my other WRs, I’ve suffered the grips of self-doubt too. I submitted novel 2, Getting Over Gary, to the NWS and had a very luke-warm review. My reader kept saying there were loads of positives about it … yet somehow failed to include them in the report. The doubts crept in that maybe I was a one-book wonder. The euphoria of a publishing deal pushed these aside but then they returned a month or so ago. I’ve signed a deal on the basis of them only reading one book but what if they hated the other two and agreed that I only had it in me to write one book?

This is where the value of being part of a writing group like The Write Romantics pays absolute dividends. I’m fortunate enough to live reasonably close to Sharon and Alys and we meet up every few months for tea and cake. They were able to reassure me that I did have what it takes and that part of a publishing deal is a good editor who will direct me towards any flaws and help me polish it to the standard of Steven. Good point; well made. The other WRs have been a great support on this too.

As for next year, I need to slap myself about a bit with a piece of wet haddock and stop being so doubtful of my ability to spin a good yarn. I need to stop procrastinating and just write. I have about a third of book 3, Discovering David, to finish in first draft and I’d like to have that done by end of February. Then I need to edit Gary again and David. I’d like to do that before Steven comes out in June. Not sure if that’s realistic but you have to aim high!

The Write Romantics would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year. Thank you for reading our blog this year, whether you’re a regular reader, dip in and out occasionally, or have just discovered this site for the first time today.

Anthology coverThank you to everyone who has contributed to, bought, and/or promoted Winter Tales: Stories to Warm Your Heart. It’s still available in eBook and paperback format via Amazon (just click on the title for a direct link) and all proceeds are split between Cystic Fibrosis Trust and Teenage Cancer Trust. Don’t be too concerned that it’s full of Christmas stories and Christmas has passed. It’s a mix of Christmas, New Year and winter so there’s still plenty of winter months left to cosy up and enjoy it. Or buy it ready for next Christmas!

“See” you next year!

Jessica and The Write Romantics xx

conf 2014 10

Plastic trees, shag-pile disasters and possible lead paint poisoning – Yes, it’s ‘nearly’ Christmas!

Jo Bartlett Amazon 1Remember when we were kids and the countdown to Christmas was calculated in shopping days? Now that we live in a 24/7 culture, we can just talk in plain old days. Right now, I can tell you there are thirty eight of them left. That still seems like a long time to go, right? And far too early to be talking about Santa Claus, turkeys or over-done sprouts. As far as the latter is concerned, it’s always too early for me. But, since today marks the official release of my Christmas novella, I am going to try to get festive and put you in the mood, in the hope that you might forget yourself, go crazy, splash out 77p and download a copy.

As a believer in you-know-who, in the late 70s, I knew how to write a Christmas list. Although my mum would tell you that her generation knew the true meaning of Christmas – something about a walnut, an orange and being grateful to have them in your stocking – I’m just as likely to tell my children that my childhood spanned the real ‘good old days’, as far as Christmas is concerned. I remember waiting all year for Santa to bring me a Tiny Tears doll and I loved her, when she finally turned up on the 25th December 1978, almost as if her tears weren’t the only ‘real’ thing about her.

These days, my children want everything, but don’t really *want* anything at all. My nine year old will put his initials next to hundreds of things in the Argos catalogue. I’ve told him more than once that it would be quicker, and save ink, if he were to put his initials next to the things he doesn’t want. They get allowances and treats from grandmas and aunts, so, more often than not, they can buy what they want during the course of the year. I feel sorry for them, in a way, as they’ll never know that torturous wait for the one toy they truly want above all others and the sheer joy that accompanies its arrival.

The piles of presents have shrunk in size as my children have grown older, although the price hasn’t. iPods, iPhones, iPads, iReally-wish-I-had-shares-in-Apple, don’t look nearly as impressive in their wrapping as wooden train sets or Barbie’s deluxe town house. But, now that I’m a grown up, at least I get to make some of the decisions. Back in the era that taste forgot, my mum wouldn’t let us have a real Christmas tree, in case the pine needles got stuck in the cream shag-pile carpet. We weren’t allowed to put together the artificial tree until the twenty-something of December, either, and each year that passed the complicated colour coding system (probably lead paint) had flaked off a bit (making construction more tricky) and many of the artificial pine needles had found a new home nestling in the loft insulation.

Now the decorations go up as close to the 1st December as possible and, when the wood burner allows it to survive the M4034S-4211heat, we have a real tree. Not that I’m completely guilt free when it comes to my own children at Christmas. A good example of this would be the card I produced back when my youngest was just a baby – making all four children pose for a nativity scene outside my mum’s garden shed! Now aged, 16, 14, 13 and 9, I would have zero chance of recreating it this year. It’s all about the puckered-lip, fish-faced selfie, as far as my teens are concerned. But this photo is just one of the wonderful memories we have and something we still laugh about almost a decade later.

Four years ago to this very day, I received a cancer diagnosis that changed my life and, because I suddenly realised I was a mere mortal and that time is finite for everyone, I thought about the things I really wanted to do. One of those things was to fulfil a childhood dream of writing a novel and seeing it in print but, most of all, I just wanted to be around to see my children grow up and live to enjoy a misspent retirement with my husband. Christmas, and life in general, would be nothing without my friends, family and those absolutely dearest to me – my husband and children.

‘The Gift of Christmas Yet to Come’ is set in the present day, rather than the 70s, but it’s about those same special bonds and one woman’s search to complete the missing piece of her family. It’s also about the humour in life and the things people do that only those you really love can get away with and live to tell the tale.

Back when I was growing up, you could probably have bought a Sloe Gin Fizz for 77p and maybe even a whiskey chaser but, today, it wouldn’t stretch to a cup of tea in most places. So, for that little bit of warmth, and to kick-start an early Christmas, you could always check out the novella on Amazon instead via this link. Frankly, that’s as hard as my hard sell is likely to get…

Anthology coverTo counter that shameless self-promotion, there are some other fantastic books out at the moment, too, from those I would count on that list of special people in my life this Christmas – my friends – including The Write Romantics’ Anthology, Helen Phifer’s latest in the ‘Annie Graham’ series, Deirdre Palmer (aka Harriet James’) ‘Falling to Earth’, Steve Dunn’s ‘Viking Resurrection’ and debuts by Kerry Fisher, Jane LythellRachael Thomas and Sarah Lewis. Plenty to keep you warm this Christmas yet to come.

An extra-specially merry Christmas to my fantastic beta readers too – Julie, Lynne, Paula, Jennie and Steve – Sharon, for the endless encouragement and cheerleading, plus my old school friends – Sarah, Kate and Claire – who inadvertently helped plant the seeds of the idea for this story.

I hope you have good one, too, and watch out for those pine needles in the shag-pile.

Jo x

Early Influences

Happy Bonfire Night, if you’re celebrating I hope you have a lovely, safe evening. We have the customary Phifer family fireworks to illuminate our patch of sky tonight.

This past week I’ve been thinking about all the things that influenced my childhood and I suppose what has made me what I am today. As a child I loved bonfire night because in our house it meant that my mum would make the best treacle toffee I’ve ever tasted. She would make toffee apples and I would be in childhood heaven. Oh to not have to worry about pulling your fillings out and expensive trips to the dentists, those were the days.

I loved Halloween even more, in fact I still do but the last eight years I’ve had to work it. I’m hoping next year I can be off so I can have a big fancy dress party. I don’t know if you’ve noticed the sort of books I write but I adore anything that goes bump in the night, especially if it makes my hair stand on end and I get the chills. Of course I much prefer reading about or watching scary stuff on the television than actually experiencing it but it’s something that I’ve thrived off since I was a kid. I kind of blame my mum (hope she isn’t reading this) because she was the one who introduced me to Hammer House of Horror Films when I was quite young. I loved Dracula, Countess Dracula, The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Mummy and Frankenstein to name a few. I would watch them curled up on the sofa hiding behind a cushion. Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and Vincent Price were the actors that I grew up with.

My favourite television programmes were The Munster’s – Lily and Herman Munster are still my favourite television couple of all time. I also loved The Adam’s Family and Rent a Ghost. As I got older I progressed to even scarier films once I realised that the Hammer House of Horror’s no longer made me afraid to go to bed. I’ll never forget watching a Nightmare on Elm Street for the first time. Seeing Johnny Depp bleeding all over the ceiling and that face coming through the wall was enough to scare me so much that I was petrified to go to sleep for days in case Freddy decided he was coming for me. Halloween was another film that scared me witless when I was a teenager, Michael Myers still scares me to this day. When I couldn’t get enough of the films I turned to reading horror and Stephen King became my hero, the man I could guarantee would scare the socks off me whilst hiding under the duvet with my torch.

Fast forward thirty years and now I write scary stories myself which is sometimes not that easy, you see I’ll be in the garden writing in my office and so engrossed that I won’t notice it’s gone dark outside. It’s not a huge garden but it’s a good distance from the house and when you’ve just written about some demonic shadow that’s lurking around the thought of walking through the dark sometimes scares me stupid. I can guarantee that the kitchen light will have been turned off for the first time that week and the back of the house will be in complete darkness as I walk or normally slip slide along the grass. I have such an over-active imagination which is a blessing most of the time, just ask Annie Graham it gets her in some seriously sticky patches. I write these stories because these are the stories I long to read. For years I would scour bookshops for a book just like my debut novel The Ghost House but it never appeared. Which was why I had to write it and I loved writing it. I also love books two and three  The Forgotten Cottage which was published on Halloween, but for me there will always be something special about book one because I wrote that for myself, the fact that readers worldwide are enjoying reading about Annie’s Adventures make all the sleepless nights as a teenager because of those horror films well worthwhile, so thank you mum for letting me stop up late and watch them 😉

Helen xx

Entitled to Change a Title

“We were thinking about the titles of your trilogy. The second book is absolutely fine, but are you sure about the third title…?”

Eek! The email from my editor stopped me in my tracks. (Well, it would have done if I hadn’t already been sat down at my desk but you get the picture.) I knew that many writers had their titles changed by their publishers but, as there’d been no indication of changing any of mine, I thought I was “safe”. Until the email.

The Moon on a Stick‘Searching for Steven’ – the title for book 1 – materialised at the same time as the idea and I’ve lived with it for eleven years. It absolutely works and, thankfully, my publishers agree. I’d have struggled so much if somebody had asked me to change it.

‘Getting Over Gary’ – the title for book 2 – came to me a couple of years later. I knew I wanted the title to include alliteration and a man’s name so that the trilogy felt connected and this title suddenly popped into my head. The character Gary was called something different at the time but I had no qualms about changing his name and it’s clearly been the right move because I can’t remember what I called him originally! Thankfully, my publishers like that title too.

Book 3 remained nameless for a while. The story was less developed and I wasn’t as sure about the characters but, as the plot progressed, ‘Discovering David’ came to mind. It still had a man’s name in. It still had alliteration. But it was missing the middle word. I hmmm’d and haaa’d about it for ages but ‘Discovering ABOUT David’ didn’t sound right and, by then, I absolutely loved the word “discovering”. I don’t want to give any spoilers away about the book but “discovering” absolutely fits with what the book is all about.

A Cottage by the SeaThere are options. I’m not massively precious about David being called David and there are other characters who could be the focus of the title instead but I keep coming back to the “discovering” part being right. No decisions need to be made just yet so we’ll see how that one goes.

I should actually rejoice in the fact that my publishers love the first two titles and not focus on the fact they don’t (yet) love the third because title changes are so commonplace. I was the fourth Write Romantic to be offered a publishing deal and the previous three have all had their titles changed. Helen Phifer had her debut novel changed from “Deadly Obsession” to “The Ghost House” but she admits that she absolutely loves the new title (and so do I). The next published WR, Rachael Thomas, entered the “So You Think You Can Write” competition using the title, “Behind the Scandalous Façade.” She got a publishing deal with Harlequin M&B on the back of this but the title was changed to “A Deal Before the Altar”. Jay Bartlett’s debut novel “Among a Thousand Stars” (out in June 2015) had two different titles before agreeing on the final version with her publisher. So I really shouldn’t be surprised that the subject of titles has arisen. I’m delighted to say that Helen, Rachael and Jay all love their new titles but all would admit it was hard to hear initially that the title they’d been living with for so long wasn’t going to be the final one. A lot of writers refer to their novel (particularly their debut one) as their “baby” so I suppose this could be likened to naming your child then having them start primary school only to be told that their child now needs to be known as a completely different name.

The Memory GardenI’m curious as to which path book 3’s title will take. One thing that I feel very fortunate about is that I have a wonderful publisher who sees this as a shared journey and will work towards finding a title that works for both of us; not one that they impose on me. I know many writers aren’t that lucky.

Which got me onto thinking about titles for books. How important are they? I did a quick survey amongst the Write Romantics to ask them three questions:

  1. Have you ever bought a book simply because you loved the title? (If so, what was it and why did the title speak to you?)
  2. Have you ever not read a book because of the title?
  3. What’s your favourite title for a book and why?

I’ll take each in turn …

Buying a book because of the title:

P1050743The general consensus was that they were more likely to be drawn to reading the blurb on the book because of a title rather than purchasing a book because of the title. Having said that, certain words drew the WRs. Helen R loves books with the word “secret” in the title because she loves to know things and curiosity gets the better of her. Harriet is drawn to titles with the homely feel of the words “cottage”, “house”, “street” or “road” in them or any reference to Cornwall as she adores Rosamund Pilcher’s books. Lynne is drawn towards ones that feature “sun” or “old houses.”

Helen P bought Stephen King’s “It” purely on the title and it’s turned into her all-time favourite. Sharon bought Carole Matthews’s “A Cottage by the Sea” based purely on title although she had enjoyed other books by her. She wasn’t familiar with Valerie-Anne Baglietto’s books but bought both “Once Upon a Winter” and “The Moon on a Stick” on titles alone and was very pleased that she did.

I personally bought “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time” because the title massively intrigued me. I knew nothing about the book or the author at the time but I just loved that title!

Avoiding a book because of the title:

P1050742Jay admits that she was once recommended a book called “The Billionaire’s Virgin” on her newsfeed which was an absolute no-no for her. Any book titles including the words “desire” or “virgin” are inclined to put her off. Helen R avoids the words “sexy” in titles. I’m with both of them on this.

Lynne was put off reading “Hideous Kinky” for years, simply because of the title although she loved it when she finally settled down to read it.

On the whole, the WRs were of the feeling that certain titles fit with certain genres and, if that’s not the genre for them, they’d probably be avoiding that book anyway.

Favourite Book Titles:

There are some crackers out there but we’ve all agreed that our memories are like sieves and we’ve struggled to come up with them all. We’re bound to think of loads after this post comes out!

Some great examples are:

  • Harriet loves “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn as it’s a short, snappy title
  • Sharon loves “Honeycote” by Veronica Henry because it sounds so lovely and “The Memory Garden” by Rachel Hore
  • Jay is drawn towards our very own Helen R’s “The Friendship Tree” (out next year) and “The Divorce Domino” by friend of the blog Kerry Fisher (out soon)
  • Helen R loves Hazel Gayor’s new title: “Memory of Violets”. She says it’s “such a gorgeous title and sounds cosy”

P1050744Browsing along my bookshelves, some of my personal favourites are:

  • “The Truth About Melody Browne” by Lisa Jewell. I love her books anyway but I found this title particularly intriguing. I think I’m very similar to Helen R in that I’m also drawn to the word “secret” in a title
  • “A Quiet Belief in Angels” by R J Ellory. I was in a writing group once and one of the members was raving about this book. It stuck in my mind because of the title … although I confess that it’s been on my TBR pile for years so title adoration doesn’t always turn into the actual art of reading!
  • “The Book of Tomorrow” by Cecelia Ahern. Also on my TBR pile although I’ve read several of hers. It’s my favourite title of hers closely followed by “A Place Called Here” which I have read

There are two other fairly recent books whose titles intrigue me. I don’t own them but I keep meaning to download them – “We Need to Talk About Kevin” by Lionel Shriver and “The Last Time We Saw Marion” by Tracey Scott-Townsend. Even though I love romantic comedies and that’s the genre I write, I do have a penchant for mystery and intrigue and the titles of both of these draw me in. We’re back to that secrets thing again.

What about you? What titles do you love? Have you ever bought a book purely on the title? I’d love to hear from you.

Thanks to The Write Romantics for their contributions to this post 🙂 x

Jessica xx

The Wednesday Wondering – We all love a bit of cake!

Welcome to our final Wednesday Wondering … Don’t panic if you love this slot. It’s not the final ever one. It’s just the final one in the weekly format. We love The Wednesday Wondering and, with a background in recruitment, I could quite happily make up questions for a long, long time to come. However, there are lots of other things we’d like to do on the blog so we’ve decided to launch a new format for Wednesdays. From now on, there’ll be a Wednesday Wondering on the second Wednesday of the month, a book review on the last one and posts from The Write Romantics on the remaining Wednesdays.

We hadn’t discussed these changes when I set today’s Wondering so it feels quite apt that I’ve picked a question that’s about something we associate with celebrations. This is definitely a celebration of the end of our first phase and the launch of our next. So, what is it?

_MG_2084Cake. We like cake. A lot. And, would you believe, today is National Cheesecake day!!! I found that on Google although I suspect it may be in the US rather than UK but who cares; we have an international reach! So my question to The Write Romantics is:

What is your pudding of choice and why? Where have you tasted the best ever pudding? Do you call it pudding or dessert (or perhaps something else). Let’s talk all things cakey and salivate a bit!!! (ok, a lot in my case!!!)

The worst thing is that I started a very, very, VERY strict diet yesterday so I’m munching on a dish of fruit and trying not to drool at the wonderful pictures!

Over to the Write Romantics …

Rachael says …

Wow, National Cheesecake Day. I didn’t know it existed, but you can be sure I will be celebrating it with a huge slice of strawberry cheesecake! But my most favourite desert is one I had whilst in Italy. It was so light, so delicious and sooooo…. Oh I could go on. I’ve never tasted anything like it before – or since. It is Zabaglione and was served in an elegant glass. Simply divine!

 

_MG_9130Lynne says …

National Cheesecake day? What a good idea! My sanity was once saved when I moved into a gorgeous old cottage in January and the central heating packed up straight away. Golden Syrup Sponge & Custard came to the rescue. I had to wait three days till the repair person could get to us so I went out and bought syrup sponge & custard & heated it in the microwave. It was like internal central heating and kept my daughter and I sane. It’s still my favourite winter pud, followed by lemon sorbet & fruit in summer.

 

Jay says …

Back at the start of the month we were talking about all things American and what we like best about our friends across the pond, well, let me tell you, they do puddings pretty well too.  The first time we went to Vegas, my brother actually ate six desserts at one sitting and almost earned citizenship as a result!  I think the best desert I ever tasted was a key lime pie from a little deli in Florida, but then there are Krispy Kremes and they are also responsible for inventing the hot, chocolate brownie.  So many desserts, so little time.  Time to book another trip I think!

 

P1030217Helen P says …

National Cheesecake day, well it would be rude not to. My all time favourite cake is cheesecake, especially the ones at Chandler’s Country Café which is based in Colony Candles, Lindal-in-Furness. The staff there have amazing taste in books as well because the last time I was there they told me how much they loved The Ghost House which was brilliant and it made the cake taste even better. You have never tasted cheesecake like it and the raspberry and white chocolate one is to die for. In fact now that I’m sitting thinking about it I’m going to have to take my mum there now for a coffee and a slice of cheesecake to take away the craving.

 

Helen R says …

I think I would tend to call it “dessert” but give me a week in England and I’ll be calling it “pudding”…my family would definitely use that word!

There are so many desserts to choose from, but a top for me is syrup sponge, nice and hot and perhaps with a side of vanilla ice-cream 🙂

 

Jackie says …

Cake. Ooh, we like cake- and puddings and anything sweet and unctuous.  Suet pudding and custard with syrup was an all time favourite when I was a child followed by jam Roly Poly and custard. Love Banoffi Pie, sticky toffee pudding, strawberry tarts with confectioners custard. Trifle that my sister Heather makes is gorgeous, pecan pie is delish- I could go on! The only thing I’m not that keen on is a pudding or cake made with coffee-Tirimasu or coffee and Walnut cake always disappoints, but it wouldn’t stop me eating it. I’m a lost cause!

 

_MG_9132Harriet says …

Ah, now here’s an easy question because I love puds. All of them. My mother-in-law made the best ever. After Sunday lunch (full roast plus at least six vegetables) she would produce three or four choices of pudding, all home-made, and what we couldn’t eat we took home. My favourite was summer pudding, packed full of any fruit she could lay her hands on, including raspberries and rhubarb from her own garden, and served with plenty of cream. Scrumptious! I’ve attempted to make them myself but somehow they aren’t the same. They do a pretty good version at ‘Cook’, though. I’m also a sucker for old-fashioned puds like treacle sponge and spotted dick and custard. I tend to call it pudding rather than dessert, which is as much frowned upon in ‘polite’ English circles as saying serviette instead of napkin, but I don’t really care what it’s called as long as I get one!

 

Alys says …

Ooh, this is a fabulous question!  All time favourite cake is Santiago Cake which I had in the fabulous Hundred Monkeys Cafe in Glastonbury. That place is utterly brilliant. I drink a lot of green tea and usually when I ask for it they have to go and look to see if they’ve got any teabags hidden behind the till. At the Hundred Monkeys they have a choice of five different loose green teas. It’s green tea heaven for me! Anyway, back to the cake. Santiago Cake is made from almonds, caster sugar, lemons and eggs and then you pour a lemon syrup over the top of it when it’s cooling. This cake was sublime. I was still talking about how fabulous it was over six months later. But if you want to talk about puddings then it’s got to be the sticky toffee pudding that they serve in the New Malton Inn in Malton, North Yorkshire. That’s where Jessica and I get together as she lives in Scarborough and I live in York and Malton is about half-way. It is pudding to die for. If you’re ever in Malton pop in and ask for some. In fact, it’s so good just go anyway. You won’t regret it!

 

P1040958And as for me …

I absolutely adore cake, puddings, and anything sweet. Unfortunately they don’t adore me, hence the very strict diet at the moment (or perhaps that should be they adore me too much and like to stick around!)

Alys has already mentioned the amazing sticky toffee pudding smothered in butterscotch sauce *pauses to wipe drool* which might give you an indication that I’m with Harriet in that I love old school puds like chocolate sponge, syrup sponge, jam roly-poly etc. Nom nom nom! I call them puddings or pud-puds. We were never “dessert” people in our house.

I love cheesecake too, especially American-style cheesecake. There’s an episode of Friends where Rachel gets a cheesecake delivered to her apartment by mistake and, as they don’t know where it should have gone, she and Chandler eat it. Then another one arrives and they manage to drop it on the hall floor so lie down and dig out their cutlery. That would be me. Heaven.

Cake-wise, I have a fondness for simple slab cakes like Angel Layer Cake or Iced Madeira Cake. I draw the line at things that are nutty or fruity; my cakes have to be full-on, hard-core, serious sponge situations!

 

We hope you’ve enjoyed our weekly Wonderings and that you’ll comment on your favourite cake(s) and/or pudding(s). Please continue to visit every Wednesday as we’ve not gone away; we’ve just changed our format a little.

Thanks for reading.

Jessica xx

 

 

 

 

Saturday Spotlight – The Romantic Novelists’ Association Summer Party 2014

RNA Party

I have been very fortunate that two years ago I got a place on the RNA New Writer’ Scheme. Last year when my book was published I was entered into the Joan Hessayon New Writer’s award and on Thursday May 22nd I set off to London for the first time since I was seventeen years old.
As my train pulled out of Barrow and went past the beautiful Abbey ruins and Abbotswood which had been the inspiration for my novel The Ghost House it actually sunk in that I was now a published writer and on my way to celebrate my success. It was an amazing feeling sitting on that train and I felt very lucky and humbled that after all the years of trying and the rejections that I had done it. I had made my dream come true and there is no finer feeling.

I was very excited to be meeting so many of the lovely writers that I speak to on a regular basis on Facebook and Twitter, especially our very own Deirdre and Rachael. I was also a nervous wreck. I’m not very good in social situation’s but I was determined that I was going to enjoy the day and night for what it was.
I had booked a room in The Royal Overseas League where the party was being held so I didn’t have to worry about being late or finding my way back. I spent an hour giving myself a pep talk before going down to meet up with all the other lovely Joan Hessayon Contenders. It was a pleasure meeting so many fellow writers, especially Jill Steeples and Annie Lyons who also write for Carina. Jill bought the first drinks to calm our nerves before the dreaded official photo, which actually wasn’t that bad and the photographer was lovely. Once the photo was over I could breathe a sigh of relief and relax a little, it was nice to meet so many fellow writers and soon my editors from Carina arrived with a couple of bottles of Prosecco which was the first time I’d ever tasted it and it certainly won’t be the last, how have I not discovered this before I asked myself?

Eventually Pia Fenton the RNA chair took to the podium and we all raised a toast to the lovely Joan Hessayon and her husband Dr Hessayon who sponsors the award every year in memory of his wife. We all lined up in front of the projector and listened as Pia read out everyone’s blurb; it was lovely cheering and celebrating so many début authors’ success and very inspiring. Of course there could only be one winner and that was the lovely Jo Thomas for her novel The Oyster Catcher as we all whooped with delight and applauded I couldn’t help but feel a touch relieved it wasn’t me. I hadn’t even thought about a speech and by this stage I was positively melting and a little bit tipsy.
It was a wonderful night and I felt so privileged to have been a part of it, the organisers worked so hard to make it very special and I would like to thank them all from the bottom of my heart.

I’m looking forward to next year’s party already where I will be able to raise a glass or two of Prosecco to my fellow Write Romantics who are on their way to making their own dreams come true 🙂

Helen xx

Mega Monday Announcement – The Secret is Out!

Today the Write Romantics are delighted to publish a Mega Monday announcement about the brilliant Helen Phifer’s second novel – The Secret of the Shadows.  Helen’s debut novel, The Ghost House, was a runaway success, reaching the top of the Amazon charts for her genre and even knocking the mighty Stephen King off the top spot.  Helen has had a plethora of five star reviews for  The Ghost House but, because of the modest, unassuming and utterly lovely sort of person she is, some of her fellow Write Romantics are going to tell you what they thought of her debut, as well as how much they are looking forward to reading The Secrets of the Shadows:

Lynne – I loved this book!! It made my spine tingle from page one. I also loved the descriptions of the old house and the characters too. I’ve been waiting for Helen’s new book. Come on Helen, we want more!

Helen R – I don’t do scary books but I had every faith in Helen P to make me glad that I had made the exception… I just wish I hadn’t done it when my husband was working interstate! The Ghost House had me gripped with the suspense, the wealth of research that clearly went into it and characters who leapt off the page at me. I had better psyche myself up for the next one, well done Helen.

Rachael – I couldn’t put it down! It gripped me from beginning to end and I loved the story from the past impacting on the present.

Alex –  There were lots of things that l loved about The Ghost House.  The plot is excellent.  It’s a gripping, spooky twist and there are some truly heart stopping moments in it.  The other strengths are the dialogue, which is funny and feels very real, and Will who is a gorgeous hero.  I’m hoping to see a lot more of him in The Secrets of the Shadows.  I’m also thinking I’d better clear my diary for the rest of the week because I know, that like The Ghost House, I’ll be staying up late just to get it finished.

9781472091000_Cover-300x480

Julie – Although my books of choice are mainly chicklit, I have been known to delve into crime and thrillers from time to time and thoroughly enjoy them. I was therefore really excited about Helen’s debut for several reasons: (1) She’s a Write Romantic and the first of us to be published so I was living the dream vicariously; (2) The book cover looked amazing; (3) It combined my 2 preferred reading genres so everything was set for a riveting read. My only disappointment was that I had to go to work which meant I couldn’t just sit for a full day and just immerse myself in it because Helen had certainly created a gripping page-turner. Mind you, it’s quite scary too so perhaps it was just as well I didn’t have a full day to just sit and read as I may have turned a bit skittish!

I absolutely loved The Ghost House. Helen created realistic characters who I cared about, fantastic imagery (I could really picture all the key settings without reams of description), realistic dialogue and an extremely interesting storyline which kept me gripped (and a little bit afraid!) As soon as I’d finished, I wanted to read the sequel and I was straight on Facebook to recommend TGH to all my friends. What was brilliant was when they came back and enthused about absolutely loving it too; gave me a warm and fuzzy glow that one of our group and a great writing friend had touched the lives of my friends and family too.

I downloaded The Secrets of The Shadows a few days ago and I think the front cover may even have surpassed The Ghost House which I didn’t think was possible. The storyline sounds incredible and I can’t wait to get cracking! Helen, you’re an inspiration to us all. Long may your success continue.

Jackie – Loved the Ghost House and am proud that Helen, one of The Write Romantics wrote it. It’s a mixture of ghostly and suspense with a bit of romance thrown in. What more could you ask for?

Jo – Like all of the other Write Romantics, I adore Helen and I wanted to love her writing too – let me tell you it exceeded all expectations and I know for sure that she is a superstar in the making.  The Ghost House was exciting, with characters and a storyline that drew me in from page one until the very end.  Like everyone else, I have been drumming my fingers impatiently and waiting for the follow up… Only I will never look at someone swinging a dog lead, with no dog in sight, in the same way again!

The Secrets of the Shadows is out now on Kindle and Kobo:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Secrets-Shadows-Helen-Phifer-ebook/dp/B00IIPHVFG/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1396814233&sr=1-1&keywords=helen+phifer

http://www.kobobooks.com/ebook/The-Secrets-of-the-Shadows/book-VZuruO558UaRkC67n89YSg/page1.html?s=kboGsvBuq0uMxSMNO-3ENg&r=2

http://www.carinauk.com/the-secrets-of-the-shadows

The Ghost House is available on a number of platforms via Amazon:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Ghost-House-Helen-Phifer-ebook/dp/B00EAPX6HU
Find out more about Helen and her books at the link below:

http://www.helenphifer.co.uk/

Saturday Spotlight – Helen Phifer’s Journey So Far

Good morning, it’s a cold, wet day down in not so sunny Barrow today. I hope it’s a bit brighter and warmer where you are.

It’s almost six months since The Ghost House was released and I have to say I’m ever so surprised and amazed at just how well it has been selling. I’ve always said that my writing hero is Stephen King and when I began to creep up the charts behind him it was such an honour I couldn’t quite believe it. If you have read any of my earlier posts then you will know how much of a nervous wreck I was the day of publication. I felt so sick at the thought of people I knew and readers that I didn’t, being able to buy my work and read it that I ended up in Tesco at three am wandering around like a zombie. I probably looked like one as well.

Thankfully the first reviews came in and were very kind to me; in fact I was lucky that readers were enjoying it so much they wanted to leave reviews. It was such a thrill to read that people I’d never met thought it was a page turner and couldn’t put it down. I had messages on Facebook telling me that they were late for college because they couldn’t stop reading or they couldn’t go to bed and stayed up most of the night for the same reason. This was something I never expected but it turns out is exactly what sums up the very essence of being a writer is for me. There is a sense of worth when readers tell you how much they loved the book that money can’t buy. As for the bad reviews, you can’t please all of the people all of the time and it’s hard to ignore them but once you look at your favourite writers bad reviews it makes you feel a whole lot better.

I have to admit that when I was first offered my deal with Carina I was a little bit worried because I had an image in my mind that I would one day hold my book in my hands and to be honest I’m a complete dinosaur when it comes to technology. But those doubts were soon put at rest, I have the most amazing editors and design team that a writer could ask for.  They really listen to me and have helped me so much that I am forever in their debt.  I would say to anyone who isn’t sure whether to submit to a digital imprint give it a go, you may be pleasantly surprised.

This past week has been very surreal, I was fortunate enough to get picked by Amazon for a week long promotion and it has been unbelievable. The price was reduced and soon I saw The Ghost House begin to climb the charts from being around number #20 to number #11 #9 #6 and then I checked it one morning and it was #1 in both the Contemporary Horror and Ghost Charts. I had managed to push the wonderful Mr King off the top spot and he was numbers #2 #3 and #4 behind me. A debut author from nowhere, who has dreamt about being a published writer for so long that it didn’t seem real. I am thrilled to say that The Ghost House is still number #1 in both those charts and this is day 9. I don’t expect to stay there much longer but what a thrill and an honour. I tweeted that I don’t think I’ll be able to top that so I may have to take up knitting 😉

This week I’ve also seen the cover for my second book The Secrets of The Shadows which is the sequel to The Ghost House and I’ve plotted out book three in the series. I’ve never been so busy and I’ve never felt so proud that I didn’t give up on my dreams of becoming a published writer. So today’s top tip for all my wonderful writing friends is to keep on going, because even though the rejections hurt they also make you stronger and more determined to prove everyone wrong.

Helen xx