I went to the Showcase Cinema in Reading last Sunday to see a screening of It’s a Wonderful Life. I laughed, and cried unashamedly. And this is how I write, feeling the deep emotions of my characters – a box of tissues are always within my reach. This set me thinking about the wonderful moments and events I have shared with my family and friends and all the team at Accent Press.
I’ll start with the moment I opened an email from my editor, jay Dixon, offering me a contract for my novel The Hidden Legacy. My heart thumped as I read the email once, twice, thrice and then I sat staring at the screen – a zombie. But my brain cells wouldn’t allow that and I rushed downstairs calling out to my husband, ‘Tony, where are you?’ In his Man Den as usual. But he is my most loyal, wonderful and, “You can do it”, supporter I could wish for. Then with jay’s editorial guidance my manuscript was ready for a publication day of 23 June 2016.
But as all writers know, there is much to do before publication day. My first moment started in January. No snow, no north wind stopped my visit to Accent’s business offices, Cynon House, Abercynon, a short train ride from Cardiff and a welcome by Rebecca Lloyd, Senior Editor. A tour to say ‘Hello’ to everyone, and I have that person in my mind when I phone. Rebecca and I talked about the cover, the process to publication day and Bethan James, Publicity, Sales and Marketing Manager joined us for a buffet lunch. We talked about how Accent could help with promotion, social media and lots more. I left feeling the day had helped me prepare for the months ahead.
L-R: Rebecca Lloyd, Julie Roberts and Bethan James.
February brought forth the cover and Rebecca has a flair for writing a blurb.
A painting, a thief, a debt repaid
A female artist in a man’s world, Meredith Sanders is making her own way in life. But when she receives a legacy from her deceased guardian, she finds herself drawn into his criminal past and into danger.
At first, businessman Adam Fox suspects Meredith of involvement in an art fraud relating to a missing Turner painting. Despite her fear of betrayal, she sees he is the only man she can turn to and trust. Together they try to find the painting and return it to the Royal Academy before the opening of the Summer Exhibition, leading Meredith into even deeper trouble.
And whatever her feelings for Adam, Meredith will not reveal the secrets of her own humble past…
And then came this stunning review from Nicola Cornick: “A thrilling page-turner rich in romance, intrigue and adventure.”
Once a month, Marlow FM Radio broadcast a Book Club programme, hosted by Vanessa Woolley and Chrissy Hayes. February’s session was talking about historical and contemporary writing. Tania and I had the historical slot, Jan and Janet contemporary. We are all members of the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA). It was great fun, and a promotional event for me to talk about The Hidden Legacy. Then the six of us had lunch at a restaurant in Marlow High Street. It’s not all work and no play.
Top, L-R: Jan, Tania, Janet and Julie. Bottom, L-R: Julie and Tania.
March bounced in with one of my promotional ideas of making my own regency gown. I searched the internet for a pattern. And wow! It came all the way from America.
A regency gown needs a regal setting. With my courage bolstered by Tony at my side, I approached the manager of The Forbury, the most prestigious hotel in Reading. ‘Could I please use their beautiful lounge rooms for my photographer, Dave Belcher LRPS, to do a photo shoot. (http://davebelcher.zenfolio.com/) The warm response was, ‘Of course.’ There you are, if you don’t ask, you will never know.
Research is vital to writing historical novels. I have travelled the length and breadth of England, climbing wide impressive stairs, studying décor, furniture, buying books and making copious notes. But to go to the Palace of Westminster’s archives, to hold, in my hands the scroll of the Marriages Act, 1835, I cannot put into words the thrill of such a moment.
L-R: The 1835 scroll and Tony and the Librarian Archive
The Higgins Art Gallery, Bedford holds a collection of Joseph Mallord WilliamTurner’s paintings, sketches and engravings. For a limited time they displayed them all in one dedicated exhibition. And I was there to gaze at them, the originals by the hand of the master himself.
April burst into a canopy of young leaves on the trees, late daffodils and narcissus petals followed the sun from east to west.Writing is a lonely occupation and I play bowls – summer outdoors and winter indoors – I love the game, the exercise and the friends I have made over the years.
Happy Birthday Tony
Reading Chapter meeting with our member, Jennifer, visiting the UK from Canada.
Backrow: Anne, Liz, Sue, Tania, Elizabeth, Ray-Anne, Frontrow: Julie and Jennifer.
May, is the month to wander in the bluebell woods. But not on the evening of the RNA Summer Party held in London. And this is my moment of achievement – short listed for the Joan Hessayon Award 2016 for this year’s RNA published authors from their New Writers’ Sccheme, with my novel The Hidden Legacy. Accent had four entries.
Although I didn’t win, the evening was magical.
The fourteen Joan Hessayon 2016 contenders
Receiving my Finalist Award from RNA Vice Chairman Nicola Cornick
Saturday, 4 June was an early start to travel to Cardiff and join in the opening celebration of Accent’s new venture, Octavo Book Café and Wine Bar. The venue is close to Cardiff Bay and the attractive waterside centre.
Mid-June was very busy with preparations for my debut novel book launch. The venue I had chosen was Great Expectations Hotel in Reading. This hotel had the perfect ambiance of wooden floors, a library room full of books and it was where Charles Dickens spent time reading his stories.
On the evening of 29 June, Great Expectations was buzzing with my family, friends and writing collegues for a Book Party that was another moment to be remembered forever.
With only one day to relax, I was off to MarlowFM on 1 July for another Book Programme with Vanessa, Chrissy and Liz Harris. Now I had a published book to promote and The Hiddeen Legacy was voted Book of the Month. Wow! This really was the icing-on-the-cake.
Book of the month deserves a celebratory lunch.
Off again, this time to the RNA’s Conference 2016 weekend, 8 July at Lancaster University. No time for R&R. The question is which of the workshops do I go to? Answer – As many as I can fit in. And the Saturday Gala Dinner can continue until breakfast on Sunday.
A little free advertising for an article in my local newspaper Reading Chronicle
Mid-August is the time for holidays. Tony and I went to Edinburgh. On the hottest day of the summer, 24 August, Tony and I travelled to the Hoop and Grapes, Aldgate, London. This centuries old inn, amongst all the towering buildings of Aldgate, is the inn I use in my novel. Inside the thick walls the temperture on that hottest day was plesant. The ambiance is perfect for a regency novel if you imagine only candlelight, tobbacco smoke swirling to the ceiling beams. A smugglers tunnel leading to the Thames. In my gown, I wooed the clientele to listen to my story and buy a book.
I was even featured in the Caversham Bridge Newspaper in September 2016. Here’s a snippet:
Retired accountant Julie Roberts, from Caversham, has secured her fIrst book deal for her debut novel. She has signed a contract with publishers Accent Press for her romantic novel, ‘The Hidden Legacy’. The novel, set in Regency London in the year 1815, has as its subject the finding and return of a missing Turner painting to the Royal Academy in time for the opening of the summer exhibition. The book was shortlisted for an award by the Romantic Novelists Association. Julie started her writing career after attending an adult creative writing class. She and four friends whom she met on the course have together published three books of short stories, but this is her first successful full-length novel.
Her three co-authored books of short stories, ‘Fish Pie and Laughter’, ‘The Guilty Suitcase’, and ‘The Virgin Sardine’ are available as eBooks or paperbacks. The fourth book in the series, ‘Aphrodite’s Picnic’, has recently been published. She is now working on her second novel, on a completely different topic. ‘The Hidden Legacy’ was showcased at a launch event held in July at the Caversham Bowls Club, of which Julie is a member. The photo of Julie in period costume reading an extract from the book was taken at this event. The painting which can be seen in the picture is of the artist Turner. ‘The Hidden Legacy’ can be obtained from Amazon as an eBook or a paperback.
Tony and I squeezed another short holiday into our very busy year. The Breacon Beacons were wonderful, days of sunshine and evenings chatting in the bar. It was a down-memory-lane, for we had not been in the area for many a long year.
October started with trip to my local bookshop, Chapter One, to buy and have signed Clare Balding’s children’s book. The perfect Christmas present for a little girl I know who is potty about horses.
And as you can see Clare’s book is next to mine!
Thursday, 13 October was not a bad day for me, but a great day – a happy and chatty interview with Sue Kinnear on the BBC Radio Berkshire Ann Diamond Show. The only thing is, I forgot to take a photo of us.
Fantastic news from Courtaulds Art Gallery – they would stock my novel, The Hidden Legacy in their Gift Shop. The gallery is where the Royal Academy was sited in 1815.
I missed the RNA Winter Party on 16 November because I left ordering my ticket too late. – there are limited numbers and they were sold out! A lesson learned, order early!!! I missed out meeting all my friends, the networking, the chatter, the presentations for the Industry Awards.
Promotion has been the heart of my year. So I booked two November Christmas Fairs that had been very successful to me in the past – St Bartholomew School, Newbury and Cranford School, Moulsford – both within a twenty mile radius of my home. And I was not disappointed. I had a great table placings, and there were lots and lots of people and I came home with my purse full.
November ended with a special present for the ‘boys’– A VIP Day at Williams F1 at Grove, Wantage.
December, the month of shopping, organising, presents and bargains galore if you have a full purse. Me, I went off on 2 December to Marlow FM Radio for this time, as always, promotion, but to chat about books. I started out with what is thought to be the first romance novel – Samuel Richardson’s Pamela, or, Virtue Rewarded written in 1740. Next, Wilbur Smith’s Eagle in the Sky written 1974, a story that could have been written yesterday. And lastly, Nicola Cornick’s House of Shadows, an historical/contemporary crossover three timeslip novel. Finishing, of course, with The Hidden Legacy – a novel about, a painting, a thief, a debt repaid.
L-R: Chrissy, Vanessa and Julie
And a trip to the dentist pays off with more than a checkup – promotion and sales.
L-R: Christine and Me
My last entry for ‘It’s been a Wonderful Year’ will always remain in my heart for Hazel, jay Dixon, Rebecca, Bethan, Emily and all the team that have worked so hard to make my time with Accent Press a happy and most enjoyable experience.
A HAPPY and MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!