Roving Romaniac – Lucie hits Milton Keynes!

Last weekend it was my turn to go roaming the streets and this particular Romaniac was let loose in Milton Keynes.

Saturday 7th June was the annual agency day for the Kate Nash Literary Agency and, having signed with Sarah Taylor in January, I was invited.  

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This was our ‘selfie’ for the Online Romance Festival which was on the same day.

I can’t tell you how excited I was. It has been quite some months since I last attended a writing event so I was looking forward to seeing other writers in the flesh – and knowing that there are still other crazy people Out There.

The day was amazing. Lots of useful and essential tips and information was on offer both from Kate and Sarah, and also fellow writers, too. Ranging from industry trends, to the latest bestsellers, to marketing. Throw in lots of laughter and lovely food and you get a jist of why I had so much fun.

After a day of talking – and sipping back on the free tea, coffee and biscuits – we retired to our rooms to get ready for an evening out. The agency day coincided with Jane Lovering’s publication day. Falling Apart celebrated its birthday in true, author style.

It went out and PARTIED!

For a more in depth look at Falling Apart’s antics – pop over to my blog, here. *WARNING* Not for the faint hearted …

We had a lovely evening out in Milton Keynes. Dinner, cocktails and lots of dancing. Kate and Sarah put together a fantastic day and I am sure I am not alone when I say a massive THANK YOU to them both for a wonderful weekend.

*Kate and Sarah are both accepting submissions at the moment, so If you would like to submit to either of them, please do! You will find submission guidelines here. *

 

Sarah Taylor, me, Kate Nash (Allen)

Sarah Taylor, me, Kate Nash (Allen)

 

And now to look forward to the RNA conference where a number of Romaniacs will be let loose … don’t say I didn’t warn you!

 

 

Giselle Green – Finding You

I am incredibly excited to have the very talented, and very lovely, Giselle Green at Romaniac HQ today. Here is what she had to say about her new book.

*****

giselle_green

Thank you so much for coming on the blog today, Giselle, it is an absolute pleasure. We hope you are well?

Yes thank you,  and the pleasure is all mine.

I have read your latest book, Finding You, which was out on March 28th and I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It wasn’t at all what I expected it to be. Can you tell everyone a little about it?

This story is a sequel to an earlier book, Little Miracles, which looks at the devastating effect on a couple when their toddler goes missing at the beach. Here, we join the couple soon after they’ve got their child back. I know we’d all assume everything would be now wonderful for them but all is not well. I guess the lesson is, here, that if something terribly traumatic like that happens to you, then simply having the situation put right, or back to how it should have been, can’t mitigate the effects of it happening in the first place.  They find they can’t just pick up the pieces and carry on … there are still some things that need some healing, first.  

You can tell from reading the book that a lot of work has gone into it, are you pleased with the final result? Without giving too much away, what sort of research went into writing, Finding You?

I’m really happy with it, Lucie, though I’ll admit this one stretched me!  Some of the topics covered in the book are closer to home than I usually venture and there were areas where on the first writing I was tempted to skim or gloss over bits of the narrative. As that would have been cheating the reader, I had to go back and re-do them. There was one scene which I re-wrote a total of seven times before I finally got it to work. The main research I needed to do revolved around the possible effects of abduction on a child Hadyn’s age. That was important because his mum and his dad take very differing stances over what might be causing the problems he’s come home with. They’re split on it, and yet they’ve both got valid reasons for thinking the way they do.         

The book deals with very serious and heart wrenching issues. As a mother, I found some parts extremely emotional, did you feel the same writing it? Was it hard to not get too emotionally attached to it?

I’m glad you were able to engage with the story at that level. Actually, getting emotionally attached to the narrative is the only way to go, for me. If I’m not attached in some way I find it almost impossible to write.  The more attached I can become, the easier the writing flows.  And yes, there are some scenes in this book which still make me feel sad every time I read them, but not in a bad way.  

Where did the idea for Finding You come from?

As mentioned above, it’s a sequel to an earlier novel Little Miracles. I wrote it, quite honestly, because so many people emailed me and asked me to do it. At the start, I had no idea which direction the narrative would take once the initial question of whether ‘it was him’ or not had been answered. To write another whole novel, I needed to give the couple some more problems, more conflicts to resolve, and I decided to begin by exploding the premise of the ‘Happy Ever After’ that most people would naturally assume follows on when you’ve had your deepest wish granted.  The couple are reunited, both with each other and with their child, who’s unharmed … or is he? Life goes on, throws up the next challenge and that became the basis for the second book.

Do you have a daily routine that you work by for your writing? Juggling social media, promotion etc?

I prefer to write in the morning, because that’s my best creative time and it’s also the most lovely ‘quiet time’. When it comes to social media and promotion I’m afraid I feel woefully lost and ‘out of it’ most of the time! I don’t understand the half of it. I’m rather proud of myself that I’ve managed to get an author facebook page up and running though – it gives me the opportunity to let people know of anything new going on, in the easiest way.   

You have been both traditionally published, and self-published, do you have a preference?

There are swings and roundabouts. Traditional publishing brings with it a certain comfort, in that once you’ve done your bit as an author, it’s tempting to feel that the rest of the time-consuming things  – editing and checking stuff, marketing and promotion etc, will all be taken care of for you. To some extent, that is true, but not always to the degree that you might imagine. It’s wonderful if you have an editor who’s on the same page as you, guiding you if you need it, too. And of course, there’s also the kudos of being associated with an established publishing house not to mention that if we’re talking physical books, their marketing arm can way exceed what an indie can hope to achieve on their own. The big publishing houses hold fabulous publishing parties too!

On the other side of it, being self-published means I can work to my own time-table. I can write exactly what I want to write without being too ‘typecast’ or hemmed in by what the ‘powers that be’ believe is what readers want to read. It is not always possible to predict what’s going to fire the public’s imagination!  Once the novel is ready to go, I can choose my own cover, set my own price point and keep control over a lot of variables. An indie novel can go out very quickly, for instance, traditional novels take a lot longer lead time before they can go out. More control means more responsibility inevitably, but if you’re conscientious, that’s okay.     

What would you say your favourite part of writing is?

Dare I say it’s writing ‘The End?’ I think finishing a project is always a time for celebration and a great relief because writing a novel is such a huge act of faith. 

You deal with lots of serious issues in your books and I personally think you do it very well. If you could sum up your books/writing style for others, in one – or a couple (I know how hard it is to just do one!) – sentence(s), how would you sell it?

I’d say I write high-impact emotional women’s fiction, usually dealing with a huge moral dilemma. 

A little quick fire:

Hot or cold? Depends if it’s soup or ice cream, I guess.

Left handed or right handed? Right.

Pizza or pasta? Pasta. Yum.

Xfactor or Strictly? Game of Thrones.

Beach or forest? Beach. Mind you, forests can be lovely too.

Computer or pen & paper? Both, these days.

Rain or shine? Shine, but I’m not adverse to a little atmospheric rain!

Great answers, Giselle!

Thank you so much for coming on the blog today. It has been lovely to listen to you talk about the new book, I will be recommending it to all.

finding u

Finding You is out now! Click the picture for more details. And if you grab it today – you’ll get it for just 99p!

Giselle has a website – www.gisellegreen.com 

She is also on Facebook under Giselle Green Author

And on Twitter at @GiselleGgreenUk

 

Sheila talks about the 60′s and Mods & Rockers…

Good morning all,

It’s the start of the weekend and I have a visit from a very lovely lady. Sheila 2014 Portrait

I am so pleased to welcome Sheila Norton into Romaniac HQ for a little chin wag and a slice of Celia’s chocolate cake. It’s a special one, too. You know the type – with the chocolate cream and the white chocolate shavings on top … heaven.

So, firstly a massive hello and welcome, Sheila, it is so lovely to have you here. We hear you have a new book out, can you tell us a little about it?

Thank you – for the lovely welcome and especially the chocolate cake! Yes, I have a new book just out now – YESTERDAY. It’s a Kindle ebook on Amazon, priced at £1.99 and is the story of Cathy, who as a middle-aged journalist in 2004 has to revisit her teenage years during the violent clashes between the Mods and Rockers – and find the answers to some questions that have always haunted her.

Yesterday’ is set in the 1960’s, what made you choose this era to write about? Is this the first book you have written within this time period?

Basically, I chose the 1960s because I was a teenager myself then and remember it well! And I also think it was such an exciting era, with such a lot of changes happening, especially for young people. Yes, it’s the first book I’ve set in the 1960s – or in any other period other than the current day. All my other books have been contemporary.

You also have some books under the pseudonym Olivia Ryan, can you tell us a little about those?

I wrote a series of three novels – the ‘Tales from’ series – as Olivia Ryan because my then-editor thought they were a little different from my first five novels and she wanted to promote them as if they were by a ‘new’ author. They’re three completely different stories, but the connection is weddings: the titles are ‘Tales from a Hen Weekend’, ‘Tales from a Wedding Day’, and ‘Tales from a Honeymoon Hotel’. Since I’ve started self-publishing, though, I’ve reverted to my own name, as I feel this is how most people know me and will look for me on Amazon. I’ve published the ‘Sisters’ series this way, and now YESTERDAY.

Which genres do you prefer to read yourself for pleasure?

I’ll try most things! – but my favourite reads these days are usually suspense and thrillers. I do still like Rom Coms too (most of my previous 11 novels fall loosely into this category) especially if they have some emotional depth.

You run the Chelmsford Chapter meeting each month which is for the RNA, do you think regularly meeting other writers face to face is an important factor of being a writer? What benefits do you think this brings to both new and established writers?

Yes, making friends through the Chelmsford RNA chapter has been a definite bonus for me, especially since I retired from my day job at a hospital, as I sometimes miss the stimulation of constant company and conversation with all sorts of people! For new writers, a group like ours is (I hope) somewhere where they can find encouragement and support, and ask questions about their writing in a friendly atmosphere. Those of us who are already established also need that kind of support – we never become immune to the ups and downs of the writing life, or reach the point where we ‘know it all’.

You are a full time writer now – do you have a set routine to get the words down each day or do you wait for inspiration to strike?

Neither, really! I’m fortunate, now I’m retired, that I can write whenever I want to. Having written my first six published novels while working full-time, you can probably imagine how liberating this is! So I resist any form of routine, now – I just write whenever I have nothing else taking priority (e.g. spending time with my three lovely daughters and six gorgeous grandkids!). But I certainly don’t wait for inspiration to strike. That’s fatal! No book would ever get written!

What top three tips would you give an aspiring writer?

  • Er … don’t wait for inspiration to strike! Just write – anything – no matter how bad it seems. It can be edited or deleted later but you have to get going.
  • Don’t try to write in the style of the latest trend, or try too hard to be clever. Just write in your own voice – it will flow much better and be so much more readable.
  • Most important of all: only write for one reason – because you love doing it. Everything else is a gamble.

Can we ask what you are going to be working on next?

There will be another book set mainly in the 1960s – this time set between England and Australia, and centred on a truly heartrending true life situation. I’ve also written the first draft of a contemporary book where the protagonists are all grandparents. I have plenty of experience to call on for this one! And finally I have a plan for yet another book set partly in the Sixties, and partly bang up to date in the current time.

Oooh, time for a Quick-fire round:

 

  • Left or right? Right
  • Seaside or mountains? Seaside
  • Ebook or paperback? Ebook
  • Champagne or cocktails? Champagne
  • Pen & paper or straight to computer? Computer
  • What or who makes you laugh? My little grandchildren
  • Disco or Rock ‘n’ roll? Rock ‘n’ Roll
  • Theatre or Cinema? Cinema
  • Facebook or Twitter? Facebook

 

Well, thank you so much for being such a fantastic guest. We wish you all the very best of luck with ‘Yesterday’.

Thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure!

Lucie x

YESTERDAY cover jpeg

http://www.amazon.co.uk/YESTERDAY-Sheila-Norton-ebook/dp/B00JKOM7YY/

Sheila’s website – http://www.sheilanorton.co.uk/

Writing as Olivia Ryan – http://www.oliviaryan.com/

Wannabe a Writer? Jane Wenham-Jones tells us how we can get there.

Wannabe A Writer TV Show Title Card

So you’ve written that novel that has been consuming your brain for years. Finally written it down and typed those magical words, The End. What now?

Or maybe you have written novel number 15, but still don’t have the courage to send it out to anyone for feedback.

Or even, you’ve written numerous novels, had other people read them and give you feedback, but still don’t know what to do with it.

If any of these scenarios describe you, then Jane Wenham-Jones is the perfect person to help you.

The very lovely, Jane Wenham-Jones

The very lovely, Jane Wenham-Jones

Jane has piloted a TV series called, ‘Wannabe a Writer.’ As part of this series, Jane takes an unpublished writer and introduces them to a top literary agent who reads their first three chapters and gives feedback. What an amazing opportunity! In the first episode, Delphine (the unpublished writer) is introduced to Carole Blake, of Blake Friedmann Literary Agency, and Carole offers some extremely important advice about Delphine’s manuscript. She highlights key points in Delphine’s story that are not working and tells her where it is going wrong. There is no sugar coating with Carole, but I loved that. As an unpublished writer myself, I don’t want to be blinded by happy smiles and ‘well done’s’ (although those are nice to have, too!) but I want to know how it really works. I want to be prepared for when I meet agents and be told just how blunt they may be. As Carole says in the film, she gets in excess of 20 manuscripts a day, so they don’t have time to think about how to say to someone that A,B and C needs changing in a nice way that wont hurt their feelings. That’s just the nature of the industry and that’s why every published author will say that you need to have the stomach for writing. So when I watched this first episode, I felt refreshed that it was putting forward an honest account of the writing/publishing industry.

Saying this, Jane does a very good job of making sure the writer feels supported afterwards. She is very encouraging and arranges a meeting with a bestselling author – I wont disclose who in case you haven’t seen the video.

Meeting the bestselling author was enjoyable to watch. She gave advice and tips to Delphine about her novel and answered all of her questions with expertise. I particularly liked the fact that Jane also got involved with giving advice and would throw in snippets as and when. So essentially you are getting two for the price of one! Fabulous!

Jane and Delphine

Jane and Delphine

The episode ends with Delphine returning to literary agent Carole Blake, with a revised opening chapter. Carole then gives her feedback on the new piece and is quite encouraging – showing that even though she was hard on Delphine at the start, it was all so Delphine could improve an already promising story.

Jane presents the programme extremely well. She is a very friendly person and this comes across on screen brilliantly. She is encouraging the whole way through the programme and makes the whole process relaxed and positive.

I do find sometimes, with things similar to this, that advice is sort of pushed upon you. You have asked for advice so here it is and you must listen. But with this programme, this is not the case. Advice and tips are offered constantly throughout but never at any time is it forced upon you. The bestselling author even says at one point about you having to use your judgement with the advice you’re getting and basically pick what is best for you and your work.

I absolutely love the whole idea of this TV series and I think it will do really well. There are so many people out there, like myself, who desperately want to break the barrier into being published and I think programmes like this are both informative and real and are exactly what we, as writers, need to help prepare ourselves better.

I asked Jane for a few words about her new venture and he is what she had to say…

It’s here! The fluffed lines, fits of the giggles and the marvellous moment where a certain best-selling author’s cat strolled into the scene, mewing, have been safely consigned to the cutting room floor and Wannabe a Writer – the TV Show is available on a youtube channel near you. This is a ground-breaking new concept I have been loosely billing as Come Dine With Me, meets Through the Keyhole with a dash of Britain’s Got Talent  – except designed to appeal to anyone who’s ever thought they might have a book in them, rather than those who want to sing or show off their carrot stroganoff  and  pecan pavlova.

We’re going to be pitching this to the TV channels this autumn, so we’d love you to watch, love you to comment, and love you to apply to come on a future programme (please also tell your friends).

This baby is the brainchild of me and my mate Steve – an ex- ITN TV producer– who I first met when he obligingly spilled the beans about how much tape Barbara Cartland used to hold her face up when she was being interviewed, for my book Wannabe a Writer We’ve Heard Of? (One way, for those interested, is to make news crews wait 24 hours while you bathe the room in pink light, get the florists on standby and use the aforementioned tape to hitch back your forehead.) Not that I am without sympathy, having seen myself in the opening shots, looking as if I have a particularly nasty hangover!

“I hope you’re bleaching out my wrinkles,” I’d squawk at Steve at regular intervals throughout filming. He appeared to ignore me  but was clearly listening. Hear that jaunty piece of music that plays as would-be author Delphine, and I board the train to London? It’s called “Botox Babe”…

To apply to be on the show, visit : www.wannabeawritertvshow.com

Thank you, Jane, we wish you lots of luck with it.

And here is the all important link to this fabulous show – enjoy!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1kJWTbsjbR4 - Part One

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ycfeR3Zze0 - Part Two

Lucie xx

Having A Ball – Rhoda Baxter

Some time ago, the very lovely Rhoda Baxter asked us Romaniacs if one of us wanted to read and review her new book due out in March, Having A Ball. We were sent the blurb and I fell in love with the story straight away. I practically jumped at the chance to do a review for it so I was honored when Rhoda emailed it over and my computer beeped its arrival.

Thankfully I was in between books so I was able to start straight away. And I wasn’t disappointed. Here was my review:

“It’s for books like this that I really appreciate having Kindle on my Iphone. ‘Having A Ball’ is simply one of those books that drag you into the story and refuse to let you sleep. Being able to read snippets whilst cooking dinner, waiting for children to finish swimming lessons and being stuck in traffic was an absolute must – I had to feed my thirst for the story!

From the word go, my mind was completely immersed in the life of Stevie; a 22-year-old girl who had lost her parents young and was finding the everyday drag of a boring job and nowhere to go very draining. The characters in this story are well rounded and identifiable. The hero, Tom, isn’t your conventional soppy love interest, but a strong willed, determined workaholic. Not really a lovable hero at the start but he most definitely comes into his own throughout the story. Not only does the heroine’s story turn full circle in this book, but the hero’s does too – which is refreshing and gratifying.

I also found the secondary characters in this story extremely interesting. The author has a good mix of personalities on the page and it keeps the writing lively and entertaining.

Another thing that stands out with this book is the author’s obvious knack for dialogue. It’s quick, witty, descriptive and certainly packs a punch. It kept the story flowing at a nice pace and never failed to make me laugh or bring a lump to my throat.

A touching story with vibrant characters, dense storyline and fulfilling resolve. A definite recommendation.”

As you can see, I absolutely loved this book. I cannot wait for Rhoda’s next novel and I’ll be sure to be reviewing it right here, too.

I asked Rhoda for a few words about her novel, and here is what she said.

“Having a Ball is part of the Email and Ice Cream series. Sounds cool, right? A series. Gosh. I had never considered it until my editor sent me an email asking me what the name of the series was. I had a brief panic. Several cups of tea and a packet of Twix later, I made a list of all the elements that the books had in common and came up with Email and Ice Cream.  Et voila! I have a series.

I wrote Patently in Love and Having a Ball as stand alone books. There are some recurring characters (not surprising since Marsh and Stevie are siblings) and the format of having the heroes character in email, but other than that, they are totally independent stories. But okay, they can be called a series.

This brings me to the next problem. You can’t have a series with only two books in it. You need at least three to stop people pointing and laughing. My third book has very few emails and no ice cream in it (don’t worry, there is a very large chocolate cake and a chocolate mousse – one must never ignore dessert). Not, then, part of the series. However, at least three people who reviewed the ARC have asked if I was going to write Olivia’s story next. I like Olivia and her crazy hedonistic ways. I have a germ of a plot too. So, I guess I’d better get on with it.”

Doesn’t that sound exciting? I can’t wait to read Olivia’s story.

I know I speak for all the Romaniac ladies when I say that we all wish Rhoda the best of luck with this novel and for all of her future works, too. She’s a very talented writer and definitely one to watch.

Lucie x

Rhoda Baxter started off in the South of England and pinged around the world a bit until she ended up in the North of England, where the cakes are better. Along the way she collected one husband, two kids, a few (ahem) extra stone in weight and a DPhil in molecular biology (but not necessarily in that order). She had a childhood ambition to be an astronaut or at least 5 feet tall. Having failed at both of these, she now writes humourous novels instead. Rhoda can be found over on her website, here.

You can purchase Having A Ball, here, and Rhoda’s previous novel, Patently in Love, here.

    

Going Gaga for Nell Dixon’s new book!

I am very pleased to welcome on the blog today, the very lovely Nell Dixon. After spotting a post on Facebook from Nell, asking for reviewers to read her latest novel, Radio Gaga, I messaged her straight away. I loved the sound of the book from the blurb and was eager to read it. And I wasn’t disappointed. It is a fantastic read – funny, emotional, great storyline and vivid characters. You can read my full review on Amazon, here.

And here is the blurb that grabbed my attention:

Over the airwaves everyone can hear you scream!

Radio researcher and part-time presenter Chloe Lark is certain her big showbiz break is just around the corner. Live it Up radio may not be the big time, but surely – one day soon – fame will come her way. And, if she could convince the hunky guy next door to give her a chance, her love life might improve too.

Ex-soldier Ben isn’t sure if his new ‘Z’ list celebrity neighbour is crazy or on medication. Either way he’s looking for a quiet life out of the spotlight. The last thing he needs is an accident prone media hungry blonde complete with mystery stalker. Problem is – Chloe doesn’t seem to have received that particular memo…

Seeing as I enjoyed it so much, it would’ve been a crime to not have Nell on the blog telling us about the book, amongst other things. We were delighted when Nell accepted. Here’s what she had to say…

Welcome to Romaniac HQ, Nell, how are you today?

I’m good, thank you so much for inviting me!

You are more than welcome. Celia has been baking again so please help yourself to some cake and tell us a little about your latest novel, Radio Gaga.

Yum, cake! I’m supposed to be eating healthily but I’m sure one bite won’t hurt. Radio Gaga is Chloe’s story – she’s a radio researcher and part time presenter who longs to be good at something. The only thing she feels she is good at is being famous so that’s what she wants to be. Except, of course, life never quite works out as she planned it.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book? Did you have to abseil and handle snakes as research?

I skipped the abseiling as I am petrified of heights. I once got stuck on an army assault course rope bridge thing and had to be rescued by two soldiers. I have handled snakes though and I did consult zoo keepers about snakes and their habits.

Stuck on an assault course, oh no! At least there were hunky soldiers available to rescue you, though :-)

Have you always wanted to be a writer? What made you begin your writing journey?

I’ve always been a writer. I joined my first writers’ group when I was twelve and finished my first book when I was seventeen. That one will never see the light of day! Which is a good thing. I had a break when my girls were little but came back to it again after a pretty serious health scare about ten years ago.

Sorry to hear that, Nell, but great that you started writing again. How many different genres do you write?

I write chick lit, contemporary romance and romantic suspense/mystery. I also have some children’s stories which may come out later this year under another name.

Sounds exciting! Is writing your full time occupation? What is your writing routine?

I work part time for a disability charity managing a therapeutic community agriculture project which takes up a lot of my time. Writing has to fit around my family and my day job. I usually write evenings and weekends and fit in promo and the business side of writing as and when I get the chance.

When did your love of architecture begin?

I adore buildings, they fascinate me and always have done. They tell a story of the people and lives that are lived there. Cathedral and church architecture is especially interesting but I also love well designed modern buildings which fit their surroundings, like Cardiff’s Millennium Centre.

What is your favourite time in history?

I love regency. I like the realism of the Georgians. They were planners and thinkers but were also realists. This is reflected in their buildings and the plans of their gardens.

We know this is a hard question, like asking a mother which is her favourite child, but do you have a favourite book? Or a top three?

Oh, that’s mean! (We know! Cue evil laugh mwahaha!) I may need more cake! I always think my most recent book is my best, so Radio Gaga I think is my best to date but I have special fondness for Marrying Max and Animal Instincts. I think my voice and humour shows most in those as, like Radio Gaga, I wrote them to please myself. 

Quick Fire Round:

·         E-Book or paperback? E-book – I love my kindle.

·         Tea or coffee? Coffee, tea makes me ill.

·         Facebook or Twitter? Facebook – Twitter is like going to a party where you don’t know anyone.

·         Up or down? Up – down is depressing.

·         Shoes or boots? Shoes – my calves don’t fit boots very well. (puts down cake) (I know that feeling, I’m an ankle boot girl for that exact reason *picks up the cake that Nell put down*)

·         Pen and paper or straight to computer? Computer – my handwriting is getting worse.

·         Left or right-handed? Right

·         Relaxing on the beach or forest excursion? Beach. Spiders can drop on you in a forest.

·         And lastly, what is your guilty pleasure? I adore Made in Chelsea, Big Brother and I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here.

 

Thank you so much for coming in and talking to us today, Nell, it’s been an absolute pleasure!

Thank you for having me :)

 

Radio Gaga is out on Friday 1st March and you can get your copy, here. And check out Nell’s website, here.

Lucie 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!