You Googled WHAT? Part 2

Some time ago, I wrote a blog post on the search terms that led people to view The Romaniacs blog. It was interesting to say the least, it’s safe to say not much has changed! Once again I’m ignoring the common ones and sharing the top ten most random search terms.

1) Images of Romantic Handcuffs

Now is it me, or is that an oxymoron?

2) Garage flowers

And I thought the handcuffs were killing the romance.

3) trisha aunty sixboys video full

Erm…

4) email and text from boss end with a kiss

Ah the etiquette of kisses at the end of a text. I’ve told Laura off about lack of kisses before. Sounds like your boss should be told off for the opposite xxx

5) best four letter word

This sounds like a contest no four letter can win.

6) i love my twin daughters

Yeah, me too. Okay, this is in because I’m soppy.

7) i kiss my sister-in-law on the lips

Hmm… by accident? On purpose? Come on man, we need more info in your search term!

8) writers stories of struggle to get published

Oh yes, we’ve all been there, done that. Am yet to get a T-shirt.

9) hot & sexy images of hot sizzling & spicy girls

So you’ve seen our profile pictures. It’s true… we’re smoking!

10) sex.nic

I want to remove the dot. Sexnic. Some recreational fun followed by food. Food. Where did we put the cake?

Your Agony Aunt,

Catherine x

Winning Ways With Words

There are lots of writing competitions out there for short stories, and unpublished novels, etc, often with an entry fee. They are well worth entering and any success that may come with them will really add to your writing CV.

I love entering competitions to the point I’d class it as my biggest hobby and I’m not just talking about writing competitions, I’m on about all sorts. I can pinpoint the exact moment I found out filling out forms and entering was really worthwhile. It was back in 2007 when we went to a wedding fair. At a budget talk they mentioned trying to win wedding prizes to try and save money. I went home, looked up wedding competitions and came across a website that linked to prize draws. I spent a few evenings entering. Six weeks later, I had a phone call, which to this day, I’m still stunned by. First the radio station rang to check I was available to answer the phone and reminded me I’d entered to win a holiday to Australia, and that could I wait by the phone because they would ring me back within ten minutes to let me know if I’d won! When they did ring, I was so sure they would ask me a question which I would get wrong, I was stunned into silence when they told me I was off to see Gwen Stefani in concert in Sydney. (Silence: Not the greatest sound on radio!) That was the first of many great experiences entering competitions has bought me. For that particular competition, I had to tell them why I should win so it involved a small amount of writing effort.

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It was later on I found out any competition involving any kind of effort, be it writing, photography or creative effort, it will attract less entries. So even if they may not bring the same accolades as winning a short story competition, as they don’t have an entry fee, I enter competitions that require some writing effort and I’ve won some amazing prizes as a result.

The top one has to be a car. Yes, you read that right, A CAR! Now this was slightly unusual in that it required you purchased a car in order to go into the prize draw and then you needed to write 150 words as to why you liked that brand of car. We’d upgraded our car when I found out about the competition, and as it required effort, I pushed the boat out and wrote a poem. When the garage called me to say I’d won, I did remember to scream (not too loudly) about it this time!

Car

Of course not all prizes are that big, but even a smaller win can be a real boost. Back in July last year, I was in hospital for two weeks after the birth of the twins and I received an email letting me know I was the runner up in a princess for the day competition. The main prize had been a £500 shopping spree in London, on a specific date, and if I’d won that I would have had to turn it down. The runner-up prize was perfect as it was £50 worth of Palmer’s goodies and as I was rather run down at that point it was a wonderful pick me up. And it all came about because I’d taken the time to write in about how Catherine Miller’s and Catherine Middleton’s pregnancies had differed, and that all mum’s needed to be treated like a princess.

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I haven’t updated my writing CV in a while, but when I do it will include being a mum to twins and winning a car with a poem. Perhaps not traditional items to have on your CV, but certainly talking points. So when you next enter writing competitions, don’t forget to consider non-conventional writing effort required competitions as well. You never know what you might win, and if you twist my arm enough, I’ll share my secrets about how to find out about them.

Roving Romaniac: Writing a Romantic Novel with WriteStars & Sue Moorcroft

The lovely Choc Lit and Writestars ran a competition to win a place on Sue Moorcroft’s Write a Romantic Novel in a day course. The entry involved answering a simple question and saying why you deserved to win in 150 words. Below are the reasons I gave:

1) I LOVE Sue Moorcroft!
2) I need to learn more about my craft & Sue’s course is perfect for the tools I need to finish my work in progress.
3) My first chapter has been shortlisted twice for the Romance Festival New Talent Award and was runner up in Miranda Dickinson’s Future Stars competition. Now I need to make sure the rest of the book lives up to the start.
4) This year I gave birth to twins. It means I am entirely capable of writing a novel in a day. If only I could get the day off. Winning this would mean I get a special day pass for a nappy free adventure!
5) The course is the same week as my birthday. If I won, you’d be whisking me off to a mystery location! That’s as close as I’ll get to romantic weekend away for a while.

As you can imagine, I was absolutely delighted when Choc Lit emailed to let me know I’d won!

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The setting for the course was kept a secret until a few days before, when we were told it was at the opulent setting of the RAF Club in Piccadilly. WriteStars added some romantic touches as well to make the day extra special.

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Sue is an excellent tutor. Not only is she a contemporary fiction author, she has also penned Love Writing, a non-fiction book on writing romantic fiction. The day was based on this book and it was great having Sue go through all the elements of writing a romantic novel.

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I was able to discuss my current novel with Sue and the other writers attending. It was great to have feedback from a group on the various aspects of my storyline. The day catered for whatever stage of novel writing everyone was at. Since returning home, I’ve managed to fill the beautiful notepad that I was given as part of the course, and I hope I’ve also fixed the potential pitfall that Sue identified.

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To end the day, we did what all reasonable people do, and did a selfie. Well, there was no one else about to take the picture! A big thank you to Choc Lit, WriteStars, Rachel from WriteStars, and to Sue. It was an great day and I’m already putting the advice into practice.

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Introducing Roma and Nia – The Romaniac Twins!

They arrived in style on 4th July. The first (Amber) via forceps delivery and the second (Eden) via emergency C section after some complications. After a short while on neonates Eden is doing really well and after 11 days in hospital we’re now getting used to family life at home! The twins will always be known as Roma and Nia on here after the Romaniacs decided they were good names. I do think that takes branding to a somewhat extreme level. Here’s the Romaniac twins and the reason I haven’t/won’t be about as much in coming weeks…

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How it should be …

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How it is …

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Tuesday Chit Chat with… CONTRACTED AUTHOR, OUR VERY OWN LAURA JAMES

Sorry for shouting. It wasn’t the aggressive shouty type. More of a town cryer style because Hear ye, Hear ye we have some fantastic news for you today. And without further ado, we’ll get on with asking the lady herself…

Author Pic Brighter

We’ve noticed at Romaniac HQ that Laura hasn’t been eating her cake of late. We know this means something is on her mind. So, tell us Laura, what’s occurring?

You know me, stomach’s always the first to give when anything major happens in my life.

Don’t leave us guessing, Laura! You are being interviewed by a lady who is heavily pregnant with twins. I’m not in a position to be left in the lurch. What is the MAJOR thing that has happened in your life?

Sorry, Catherine. Hang in there.

I should warn you, I’m liable to spontaneously combust at any moment, and that’s something even I can’t plan for, so it might be best if you take cover somewhere.

I am exceedingly happy…no…make that ecstatic…to tell you the lovely people at Choc Lit , under their new Choc Lit Lite imprint, have said yes to my first novel, ‘Truth or Dare?’ *dowses self with cold water* And I’m going to have a cover! *Reaches for the jet-wash*

Jan, Jan! Where is the honk-o-meter? We need to offer up our biggest congratulations to Laura.

Jan: Yeeeeeee Ha!! To all of it! HONKS of gargantuan, major league, A1, epic, fantabulously titanic proportions!

I knew Jan would sum up how the rest of us Romaniacs feel. Knowing how much hard work you’ve put in, Congratulations didn’t quite cover it.RNA Summer Party Romaniacs Name Badges

Fantastic honking, Jan :-) Thank you, my wonderful Romaniac chums. What would I do without you? You have been and continue to be my pillars of strength. If pillars were built from laughs, you’d be that, too.

Right, time to calm you down for a moment and ask what is ‘Truth Or Dare?’ about?

Chesil. Portland. Dorset.

Chesil. Portland. Dorset.

In a nutshell, which, as you know, is quite a difficult state for me to achieve, ‘Truth or Dare?’, as it currently stands, is a gritty, twenty-one year story, (is that split-era?) revolving around the influence of past events on the present and future. There is a romance at its heart, a family I’d love to visit for holidays, and a shed load of moral dilemmas, as the title suggests. And for the most part, it is set in Dorset, a county I adore.

Did you know there is a law against taking the pebbles from Chesil Beach?

We can’t wait for the moment it’s available, but we know you have lots of hard work in the meantime. But for now it’s time to celebrate so what have you got planned?

Eating properly. Maybe getting a little sleep. All the things I’ve failed to do over the last few weeks. And, since it’s a special occasion, I might even hug a few people.

In my head, I’m dancing with wild abandon. In my kitchen, I’m singing Paloma songs. With gusto. And you know it.

Love you :-) xx

When I was young...

When I was young…

We love you too, Laura ;-) ‘Tis quite worrying, I’ve never known you to be this gushy and huggable. And we’ve got through this announcement without my waters breaking or you fainting. Just, if the other Romaniacs don’t mind, maybe we should ease off on the group hug so Laura and I can collapse on the sofa. And as it’s Romaniac HQ, I’d like to raise my glass (of lemonade, the rest of you have something more fancy) & HONK a toast to Laura and her much deserved success.

The ‘Bring A Dish’ Party

Here at Romaniac HQ we have not one, not two but three March birthdays! Has there ever been a better excuse to throw a party?

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The Birthday Trio – Laura, Sue, & Catherine

Now parties don’t normally come with rules apart from when they do. To join the party you have to bring something with you, as the title suggests. As host of this party, I need you to bring FOOD, lovely imaginary FOOD! If you are anything like me your social media will be filled with people on the 5:2 diet, so if that’s you, imaginary food will be just what you need. As for me, I’m on the eating for three diet. This involves expanding your waistline massively whilst adhering to a list of forbidden foods. No alcohol, no goat’s cheese, no soft boiled eggs – the list goes on.

So here is the deal: please come along and celebrate our birthdays with a bottle or dish in hand. Perhaps share a recipe with forbidden ingredients so I can drool and dream of the day when I can once again eat such delights. Or if you’ve given up something for Lent, bring the dish you plan to eat at the end of the 40 days. Or if you are on a diet then bring something highly calorific. There is one other option. Of course ‘a dish’ could be interpreted as a handsome date so feel free to bring one of those with you.

Here is my contribution. I discovered its total awesomeness yesterday. It’s called a Cherpumple. What’s that you wonder? It’s three pies baked in three cakes to make one big cake! If you want to know how to make one and to see it in all its glory, head here: http://vittlemonster.com/2011/09/07/how-to-make-a-cherpumple-successfully/ Go looksie. Your life will be better for it… promise.

Catherine x

Now let’s see what the other Romaniacs are bringing to tempt you to the party…

Laura: Excuse me whilst I reinsert my eyes – they popped out at the sight of the pie cake. MAGNIFICENT!

I like salty nuts. Especially the jumbo ones. I’ll supply some rather expensive macadamia and cashews, to go with a bucket of buttered popcorn.

Mmm. Salted, buttered popcorn.

Mmm. Salted, buttered popcorn.

Ooo – I just thought of maple brazils, which are quite possibly the sweetest thing my tongue has ever experienced. Who wouldn’t enjoy the sensation of the golden fondant melting in the mouth, exposing the firm body of a naked brazil?

And I could be talked into supplying Baileys.

And a hot tub filled with Maltesers.

Which I might bathe in with Johnny Depp.

Jan: Red, White or Rose? Oh, what the hell! I’ll bring all three (in abundance) with, hmmm… let me think…ooh, I know… a CHOCOLATE platter. Oh, yes! Milk, Dark, White, Nutty, Fruity, Rum-laden, Honeycomb, Minty, Orangey… Shall I go on? And to help me stagger along under the weight of this delectable choccie delight? Well, if Mr Penry Jones is free and in the party spirit, he can come along for a nibble :)

This is a picture of a Romaniac fridge – get the idea?

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Celia: Well, obviously I’ll be bringing cake – the one in the picture isn’t for the girls, none of them are 90 yet…or so they say…anyway, there will be a splendid birthday cake oozing with fruit and all things sticky, with marzipan and icing on top and all their names in a row. I will also throw in some stilton and home made oatcakes, a couple of jars of anchovy stuffed olives and a magnum of champagne (plus some apple juice for Catherine). And Roger Daltrey. He’s for me, not for the birthday girls. Just saying.Cake

Sue : Well I would have to bring cup cakes. I know Celia has done a lovely birthday cake, but I’d bring the cup cakes for the party bags at the end. I’d also bring party hats, party poppers and balloons – if anyone could invent some edible ones that would be fantastic.

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Vanessa: Okay – so we’re covered for cakes and chocolate (not covered in cake and chocolate, that’s a whole different party…) and Jan’s bringing the wine… So I think I’ll contribute the CHAMPAGNE! At least a dozen bottles as we have so much to celebrate this year – birthdays and Romaniac twins and book deals and competition wins… And maybe something substantial to soak up the alcohol and balance out all the sugar – fish and chips for all!

Debbie: Oh, I do love a good party. Happy birthday to my friends in advance. It’s lovely to have something to celebrate!

I shall be doing what we Romaniacs do best – drinking wine and eating cake! And I’m afraid, with regards to bringing something to the party, it’s more cake from me. As well as being the Queen of wine; red, white, rose (I don’t care as long as it isn’t German or a Chardonnay,) I’m also domestic Goddess in the Lemon Drizzle Cake department. I have a recipe if you’d like it?

As for a date; I don’t need a man! Cake, wine and my Romaniac buddies…what more could a girl ask for?

Having it all?

It’s no good, I want it all. I want to be a multi-tasking, never-ending ball of energy that writes a book every three weeks and still has time for a manicure and the gym. How is it possible for someone to tweet so well about the three tasks they are carrying out when I can barely manage to tweet, let alone tweet whilst doing something?

I’ve come to the conclusion these multi-tasking people must have some tricks up their sleeves. Here are a few of my theories:

  • They have far whizzier brains than me. They know what to do to get all the info to all the places all at once. I’m sure I could figure it out, if only I had the time!
  • They must have a PA making up for the time that seems to disappear into the ether in my world.
  • They don’t sleep. How else are they fitting in the gym and manicures?
  • It’s all lies. I’ve seen lots of pictures of costa coffee drinks whilst people are waiting to do something exciting. Who’s to say it’s not the same cup over and over again? They’re just making out they’re waiting on the cusp of glory whilst I’m sat on the sofa in my PJs wondering why I’m not enjoying the glory of a coffee outside of the house.

OK, I admit it, I’m jealous. It’s just I want to be the all powerful, taking on the world woman, but I may be forced to admit that she’s gone. Only temporarily, mind. For the past few months I’ve been taken over. My only priorities in life have been eating, drinking, peeing and sleeping. What’s caused such a change? Well, these two…

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Romaniac Twins

So even though my brainpower has disappeared, my concentration is out the window as soon as I see a food advert, well, I don’t mind a bit. As my other Romaniacs have told me, the writing can wait and we’ve also decided the blog will be a bit quieter as I become accustomed to my new life as a mum of twins (due same time as the Royal baby) and the other Romaniacs get on with their WIPs.

I know, you’re excited as I am to discover how long it takes me to work out how to pop on my make-up, deal with shitty nappies and tweet about it at the same time. Okay, I lied. I won’t be using any make-up FOR MONTHS. But you’ll never know. I only plan to tweet pictures of costa coffee cups and if you twist my arm, some cute twinnie photos!

Catherine x

Birthday Celebrations – The Romaniacs are one year old!

Happy birthday to us, Happy birthday to us, Happy birthday Dear Romaniacs, Happy birthday to us!

Ok, Ok, so I’m two days early. But who says we can’t start the celebrations a little early. Here at Romaniac HQ, we’ve been celebrating all weekend and we plan for it to continue all week, too. So why not come and join us for a celebratory glass of champers and a slice of cake and let’s get this party started!

A year ago, on February 13th 2012, we launched our blog to the writing world. When we decided to do this, we had no idea how we would be perceived. Would people like us? Would people bother to read what we have to say?

Would people think we’re nuts?

But the response has been truly amazing. People did like us. People were logging in and reading and sharing our posts. And most importantly people do realise that yes, we are a bit nuts! But that’s OK, because we never claimed to be anything but.

The sheer amount of support and encouragement we have received, both as a group and individuals, over the last year has surpassed anything we ever could have imagined. We always knew that the writing industry was a supportive, positive community, but I don’t think anything could have prepared us for what lay ahead.

So in the spirit of birthday celebrations, we got talking about some of our favourite – and worst – celebrations growing up. They weren’t all necessarily birthday celebrations and some needed censoring so much, we felt best to keep those in the archive folders!

However, I’ll start the ball rolling. My worst birthday party memory wasn’t actually for mine, but for my older sisters. There is five years between us and I was but a nipper at the time and she had all her friends over for a party. In our garden we had a huge shed – we lived in a flat and it was the communal shed so you can imagine how big it was – and she and her friends were playing chase. I wanted to play. I ventured into the garden and saw them all running rings around said shed. Stupidly, to catch up, I ran around the shed but in the OPPOSITE direction to around 15 children. You can see how this story ends, can’t you? Yep, I spent the rest of the party upstairs, on the sofa with a bruised and battered face. It wasn’t a good party for me.

On the flip side, my best party – so far I hasten to add, I’m planning on having many more! – was for my 21st. It wasn’t a big ‘do’ but I had only just had my daughter and I had been dieting and training for months and months in preparation for my 21st and I lost 2 stone and got into the size 8 dress I had bought. I felt great. Some of mine and my husband’s friends came back to our house after the club shut (mine and my husband’s birthdays are 3 days apart so we always have joint celebrations) and we carried on partying until the morning. It was a brilliant night.

We would love to hear your best and worst party experiences. I’ll leave you with some messages from the girls about theirs. Here’s to another fantastic year. Cheers!

Lucie x

Celia: Crikey, Lucie; you’ve said it all! Huge thanks to everyone who has visited our blog over the last year and given us your witty, supportive comments. Now, parties…

My worst one has got to be a Halloween do when I was about nine. I was a Brownie at the time, and we were all invited to our Sixer’s birthday. I only had a hazy idea about Halloween up to that point – I knew witches came into it somewhere, but as the world’s wimpiest child, I had never got up to speed on how people celebrated it. The mum in charge of the party had some great ideas. She had blacked out an entire room and hung it with fake cobwebs, rattling bones etc, there was an atmospheric ghostly soundtrack and we were blindfolded and led through one at a time, touching and listening to various things which got scarier and scarier. The finale was having our hand plunged into a bowl of sheep’s eyeballs. I’ve never felt the same about a peeled grape since that day.

The best wasn’t a birthday, it was my second wedding in 2008 (I’ve only had the two, in case that makes me sound like a female Bluebeard.). We decided to just have the best bits of a wedding, i.e.massive amounts of home-made cake, no speeches, no official photo session where the guests are starving and everyone loses the will to live, a small, warm venue so it would be cosy (it was a frosty night on December 29th) the most delicious food we could order and a late afternoon wedding so we could go straight into the serious eating and champagne quaffing. It was magical. I think I might have been quite, quite drunk.

Vanessa: Well, my best is easy – on my 29h birthday, Tim, my boyfriend at the time, took me to Cornwall for the weekend. We tried to stay in a beautiful old pub in Mousehole, right on the quay, with beams and a roaring fire … but it was full, so we ended up in an odd B&B that smelled of kippers. We tried to have dinner at one of the quay front pubs or restaurants but they were all full, so we ended up eating fish in a strange bright blue sauce at a cold restaurant where we were the only customers. Then, as we walked along the seafront, Tim proposed and it became the best birthday ever – kippers, blue sauce and all.

The worst is more difficult… because I love birthdays, always have. I always take the day off work and have a totally indulgent day. I think my worst birthday was my saddest – the last I got to celebrate with my best friend Suzanne. She’d been ill for a long time, but I’d been in denial, waiting for a miracle cure. That night was the night I finally accepted the truth and the last time we got to go out before she died.

Sue : I’ve never in my life had a birthday party … cue violins and sad music :-( Never had a party as a child and never as an adult but that’s okay, as to be honest, I wouldn’t find being the centre of attention any fun at all. I much prefer going to other people’s parties, so much more relaxing and enjoyable. I’ve had quite a few family birthdays this year and they all have been great fun.

dancingOn the flip side, I have been to a few which haven’t been quite so successful. My friend’s 21st springs immediately to mind. All had been going well until late into the evening, after much drinking and merriment, my brother (Nick) and I hit the dance floor – that was our first mistake. The second came quite quickly after the first, Nick and I decided we could jive and were doing reasonably well, holding hands we were swinging each other backwards and forwards across in a kind of jive/barn dance sort of way. Mistake number 3 was the speed at which we attempted this with rather sweaty hands. I guess I must have been stronger than I thought. Sensing Nick was waning, I gave a particularly sudden and fast yank on his hand which, together with increased momentum, sent him whizzing past me in a blur of legs and arms, Frank Spencer style. I could only watch in horror as he went crashing into the disco lights; the scene reminiscent of a Jean Michel Jarre light and laser display.  It was certainly a party to remember, probably for all the wrong reasons.

Jan: I’ve been to many great parties over the years but one that evokes such fond memories for me is the surprise party my sisters and I organised (along with several much appreciated volunteers) as part of Mum and Dad’s 30th wedding anniversary celebrations. My younger sister and I were still living at home which, of course, made things a lot easier to manage. On the big night, my older sister and her husband, acting as decoys, took them out for a meal. As soon as their car rounded the corner of our road, me, sis and various friends & neighbours swung into action, fetching and carrying all the booze which had been stashed in a neighbour’s garage, blowing up balloons, wheeling in the cake and making sandwiches. Our aunty Heather was on bread buttering duty whilst the rest of us washed, sliced and diced all the fillers. We had to make sure the steady stream of guests arriving had parked out of sight so Mum’s eagle eye didn’t spot any familiar cars on their return. It really was like the proverbial military operation and a great success. It still makes us laugh remembering Mum’s utter disbelief at not cottoning on to our scheming. :)

As for the worst party, well a front-runner would have to be one I attended with a friend in my late teens. The phrase ‘One man and his Dog’ sprung to mind as we walked into the venue, there were so few guests. Add to that, strip lighting, warm wine, a Tarzan -o-gram for the host and the DJ’s decks blowing up halfway through the evening, and you get the picture. Cue stampede (or should I say, trickle) to the pub round the corner!

Laura: My tale is simple and short. My most and least favourite celebration was my last birthday, March 2012. Everything at home was perfect. I received surprise gifts, which were truly wonderful, cardsIMG_1043 and messages from many friends, and short-list notification of the first Choc Lit short story competition. Ahead was the prospect of a great summer, out and about with my family, including my mother who, the day before, had endured a difficult, but at that point, successful operation.
Why the mixed feelings? It was the last birthday I shared with my lovely mum.

Catherine: Worst? Well, you did ask. It was the winter of 2002. I was 21 and about to enjoy my first Physiotherapy Department Christmas Party. The day before I’d completed a junior rotation in care of the elderly and I was ready to let my hair down. Dinner started with a lovely Minestrone Soup. Only it didn’t seem so lovely. In fact, I was feeling decidedly queasy. It didn’t take me long to realise why I was feeling so ill. No, it wasn’t the soup. It was the dreaded norovirus. A nice leaving gift from my rotation. I was chucking up before the main course arrived and managed to get safely home before performing the party trick that involves a toilet and a bowl. So not the evening I’d had in mind.

The best? I’m going to be greedy and pick 3! My Nan and Grandad’s Ruby, Golden and Diamond anniversary parties. I was 8 at the first party. It was in a church hall with lots of family and friends and I got roped in waitressing duties with my cousins. I remember talking about the next party when I’d be 18 and being very excited about it. And before you know it, you’re 18 and at the next party!

The Way We Were…

This week, more Romaniacs take a trip down Memory Lane, thinking of the influences and experiences that have shaped us and remembering The Way We Were

We would love to know where your writing aspirations began and what your memories of that time are.

Vanessa: I grew up in a small village on the edge of nowhere – no library, no bookshop, no cafes. It was pre-Amazon, pre-Sky TV, pre-mobile phones. When I was younger, I was out all the time – off on my bike for hours, building dens, climbing trees. Home for Corona pop and Blue Peter on TV. Idyllic when you’re nine. Heading for teenage years, however, where and when I was growing up became more limiting. Entertainment for teenagers was non-existent – you either hung around in bus shelters, brushing up on your biology skills or stayed at home, waiting to be eighteen.

I stayed at home – I never was any good at science. Stayed at home in my legwarmers and batwing sleeve jumpers knitted by my nan, trying to learn all the words to Karma Chameleon and how to walk in stiletto heels. In 2013, as I face my first year without either of my parents, I have to thank them for setting me on the path to becoming a writer – by bringing me up in a house full of books. In those long teenage years, waiting for grown-up life to begin, I was such a voracious reader, I read anything and everything in that house – my dad’s Alistair MacLeans and Stephen Kings, my mum’s Danielle Steeles and Catherine Cookson – I’d even be queuing up on a Thursday to read my brother’s 2000AD after he’d finished.

On long, rainy Saturday afternoons, when nothing was on TV but horse racing or darts, I’d lose myself in a book, and when I really couldn’t face reading Tilly Trotter or Ice Station Zebra for the fiftieth time, I got out my exercise books, the ones covered in anaglypta wallpaper and painted, and wrote my own stories. Terrible ones, really really terrible – can you imagine the stories written by a teenager, influenced by Catherine Cookson AND Alistair MacLean?? But I’d discovered the thrill of writing, of inventing and controlling my own worlds. Rainy afternoons when there’s nothing on the telly have never been boring since.

Catherine: I can’t be the only one who spent their childhood with her head in the clouds and can’t remember half of it? The things I do remember: days on the beach (10 minute walk away), camping with the brownies and guides (nan was Brown Owl and mum was the guide leader so I joined up very early), spending time at Nan and Grandad’s with the tent up in the back garden with mini sandwiches and ice cream soda. It’s possible I grew up in an Enid Blyton book, but then I’m highlighting the good bits.

Like the other girls, I developed a love of reading. I was given special teaching because of my dyslexia and my homework involved lots of reading aloud to my relatives. I loved it and by aged 7 I’d developed the reading ability of an 11 year old. Nancy Drew was by far my favourite.

Lucie: I was one of the late starters when it came to writing and reading. Sometimes I feel a bit of a fraud when I hear others say that their whole childhood from an incredibly young age, was reading and writing and making up stories. It wasn’t the same for me. Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy reading and I often penned a few tales down, but nothing really seriously. Not until I got into secondary school did it occur to me how much I loved reading and writing. I still briefly remember a story I wrote in year 9 – it was awful, looking back, but it really kick started my writing skills, I think. It was about a girl who was at a house and someone had broken in and she had to get away. It was typically dark and in the middle of nowhere so it involved lots of running and falling over and trying to escape… See, I told you, not very good! But it was a start.

I didn’t have lots of books growing up. My family wasn’t very well off so money went on things like clothes, uniform and food. But I did manage to collect the ‘Goosebumps’ series and I inherited the ‘Point Horror’ series from my sister, which I loved to read. And In my early teens, I read ‘Earth Abides’ by George R Stewart and absolutely loved it! I really want to read it again soon – It can go on the huge TBR pile….

Now, you will notice a weird pattern here; Goosebumps books, Point Horror and my year 9 story of escaping a psycho. Yet I now write romance? For me, I loved to write. I didn’t have a clue as to what genre’s were, or which I wanted to write within, I just liked writing. The more I began to write, the more I broadened my horizons when It came to reading and that’s when I discovered romance novels. So truthfully, I was not a serious writer until I hit 20. Which is why I sometimes feel a fraud. But I can assure you that just because my passion came later, it is still very much running through my veins and is what makes me who I am today.

Tuesday Chit Chat with Alison Sherlock

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We’re getting ready for Christmas at Romaniac HQ and today we have author, Alison Sherlock joining us. Alison, can I get you a mulled wine and a minced pie?

Just the mince pie, thanks.  Or maybe two.  After all, it is nearly Christmas!  I’ll pass on the mulled wine, though.  I’ve always felt there’s something a bit compost-y about it.  So, a nice cup of tea would be lovely.  Unless you’ve got some champagne stashed away back there …?

As your debut novel is The Desperate Bride’s Diet Club, we wanted to know if you had any dieting tips?  We Romaniacs have failed miserably on that front this year.

I would love to tell you that I am the next Rosemary Conley but my waistline will show you otherwise!  I do really think it’s a case of eating sensibly and exercising frequently.  The slimmest I have ever been was when I was a cleaner.  Eight hours of physical work a day and the weight just dropped off!

The idea for the Desperate Bride’s Diet Club actually came from some online bride-to-be forums I was loitering around when I was getting married.  There were all these crazy women just drinking juice in a desperate attempt to lose three stone because they had bought a wedding dress three sizes too small!  It was madness.  Everything in moderation is the key.  If a carb-free diet works for you, then great.  Although for me personally, a life without a slice of buttered toast or a crunchy roast potato just isn’t worth living!

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I love the opening scene when Violet grabs the last remaining M&S Chocolate Cake out of a stranger’s hands to go home and eats the whole thing herself.  Have you ever done anything similar?

Let’s just say there’s a certain branch of Waitrose that I’m no longer allowed into …!  No, just kidding!  One of the best things about writing is that your characters can go anywhere and do absolutely anything that you could never get away with in real life!  I may be physically sitting at a battered Ikea desk in deep Surrey with a snoring dog next to me but in my mind I’m wandering through an Italian delicatessen or going to a Valentine’s Ball in a stunning dress.  Writing is, quite frankly, bonkers and I think only other writers can truly understand the madness that lies within us all!
Your second novel has been retitled The Desperate Wife’s Survival Plan – was it your idea to change the title and what led to that decision?

It was the lovely sales team at Arrow who have declared me the ‘Desperate’ author!  Everyone reacted so positively to the title of The Desperate Bride’s Diet Club that they thought it prudent to carry on the theme.

As it happens, the title covers the story line very well.  The Desperate Wife’s Survival Plan is about Charley Summers whose pampered life suddenly spirals out of control when she is declared bankrupt.  She loses everything but her friends and her love of making ice-cream.  The next twelve months are all about survival – from becoming a cleaner to discovering money can’t buy you love.  All with a little help from her friends, of course!

What are you writing at the moment?

I’m in the early stages of my third book.  It’s set in the same village as the previous two novels and I’m still considering bringing the ghastly Trudie from the diet club into the story somewhere!  She was evil but so much fun to write!  I don’t want to jinx it but at the moment the writing is going quite well.  However I’m sure that the doom and despair part of writing every novel is lurking just around the corner.  As always, I shall fight my way through the darkness by lurking on Twitter, playing Spider Solitaire, baking homemade cookies and any other displacement activities that I can think up!

Could you tell us more about the ‘chance’ meeting with a literary agent at Winchester’s Writer’s Conference?

The Winchester Writer’s Conference is held every Summer and is a great meeting point for writers of all abilities.  They also set-up 15 minute one-to-one sessions with agents – sort of like speed-dating but far more scary!  I had two sessions booked by the organisers – but both agents cancelled at the last minute so they squeezed me into a quick timeslot with Judith Murdoch who had a fearsome reputation for speaking bluntly.

Trying to be brave, I handed Judith the first couple of pages of a book I had been working on.  It was long, flowing prose – my attempt at the Booker Prize!  She shot me down in flames and told me outright that it was complete rubbish!  Of course, she was right!  I wasn’t listening to my inner writing voice.  I was trying to be something I wasn’t.

Judith then asked if I had any other work with me so I shakily handed her one page of a story I had been messing about with.  I’m still not even sure why I took it with me.  But she giggled at a funny line I had inserted about half way down the page.  ‘This is much better,’ she told me.  ‘Go away and write like this.’  So I did.

My first two manuscripts were almost signed by various publishers but never quite made it.  Then my third book, The Desperate Wife’s Diet Club, was snapped up by Arrow.  I owe everything to Judith.  She stuck by me for eight years and three books, continually assuring me that I would be published.  And, as always, she was right.

You have a dog called Harry. What’s the daftest thing he’s ever done?

Dear Lord, where to start?  So, here is the beast …

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As you can see, he is the living example of beauty but absolutely no brains.  The other day he literally walked into a lampost.  We have a low childgate at the kitchen door – Harry is the size of a small pony and could quite easily jump over it but he hasn’t worked out that he can.  He is scared of the hoover, the loft ladder, tin foil and, currently, the Christmas tree.

Unfortunately, he isn’t scared of mud.  This is the ‘after’ picture.

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People were literally pointing and laughing as we headed home after our walk recently.

He’s daft and, on occasion, extremely smelly, but I wouldn’t be without him for the world.

FB or twitter?

Twitter.  I’ve only been on there a year and I love it!  The gossip, the chat, the funny quips!  Writing can be such an isolated living and Twitter is great from bringing that office chatter to your desk.  I truly wish it had been around when I first started writing all those years ago.

Hawaii or Norfolk?

Norfolk.  I’m sure Hawaii is lovely but the whole heat factor is a nightmare in the style stakes.  Humidity + naturally curly hair =  barely being able to fit through doorways.
Chocolate cake or mince pies?

Chocolate cake.  Mince pies are for christmas but chocolate cake is for life!
Hot chocolate or mulled wine?

Hot chocolate. Yum!

Thank you so much for inviting me to the fantastic Romaniac HQ and Happy Christmas everyone!  Now, how about another mince pie?  With all that fruit, surely they only count as one of our five a day?!

Oh, yes. They must be, right? Thank you so much for joining us, Alison and getting into the Christmas spirit with us. We look forward to your second novel and  I can recemmend your first as a great Christmas present.

Catherine x