In Training for Telford

Sleeping bag, for bedding in Debbie's summer house.

Sleeping bag, for bedding in Debbie’s summer house.

In Training for Telford

The Romaniacs are roving big style this weekend. We are off to Telford for the Romantic Novelists’ Association Conference, leaving our loved ones to defend our castles.

It’s a weekend packed with friends, fun, food, workshops, pitching of manuscripts and wine. Not necessarily in that order.

Some of us are hoping to make it to Romaniac Debbie’s house on Thursday, before booking into the conference centre on Friday. Some of us have already packed. Some of us have already bought the Prosecco.

It is going to be a fantastic weekend and we look forward to seeing lots of romantic novelists, editors, publishers and agents in Telford. And possibly everyone in the Midlands, as we wend our way there and back :-)

Prep for the weekend.

Prep for the weekend.

Here are some crucial items we’ll need for the weekend. Are you ready?

Tea towels and teaspoons. We usually have to ring Sue and ask her to bring emergency supplies.

Tea towels and teaspoons. We usually have to ring Sue and ask her to bring emergency supplies.

Always cake.

Always cake.

Music, coffee, and if pushed, fruit that hasn't been fermented.

Music, coffee, and if pushed, fruit that hasn’t been fermented or distilled.

Ready to go? Not yet. There are empty sections ...

Ready to go? Not yet. There are empty sections …

Don't forget the paracetamol.

And don’t forget the paracetamol.

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!

 

 

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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Roving Romaniac: Laura Visits Sandworld

Roving Romanic: Laura Visits Sandworld.

 

Weymouth Seafront

Weymouth Sea front

Ever since I can remember, Weymouth’s had a sand sculptor producing beautiful works of art on the beach, and for the last four years, Sandworld has developed an off-beach site too, where it can create and keep the sculptures in a secure and welcoming environment for the summer season.

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On Saturday 5th April 2014, authors with connections to Weymouth, Kathy Sharp, Kate Kelly, Carol Hunt, Kit Berry and I, gathered for the Grand Opening of Sandworld’s theme for the 2014 season, Literally in Sand. We spent a wonderful day in an area we affectionately called Author’s Corner, enjoying the hospitality of our lovely hosts, and the chatter with those who came to view the incredible sand sculptures and take a look at our books.

Laura E James, Carol Hunt, Kit Berry, Kate Kelly and Kathy Sharp

Laura E James, Carol Hunt, Kit Berry, Kate Kelly and Kathy Sharp

I gave my first-ever reading – an extract from Truth or Dare?, and aware there would be children at the venue, I opted for a family-friendly section. It was quite a challenge finding a passage that wasn’t dark, gritty, or containing too much dialogue, which I figured would be more difficult to follow as a listener. I chose a scene near the beginning of the novel, and including my introduction, spoke for ten minutes.

As someone who has been known to take the stage for a song, it was great to be performing once more.

It was an excellent event, and we hope to return in the summer and do it all again.

Here are a few teaser photos to illustrate the sheer brilliance of the international band of sand sculptors who’ve worked on Literally in Sand.

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Can you name the books?

I recommend a trip to Weymouth to see these, and more, in all their glory.

Thank you Sandworld for the fab day, beautiful art, and friendly and welcoming atmosphere.

I will see you soon.

Laura x

 

 

 

Roving Romaniacs – 6 Go To London

We’re getting about lately, the other week it was the Festival of Romance and last week, en masse, six of us attended the RNA Winter Party.  As always, lovely to meet up with each other at a Kensington hotel which is rapidly becoming our London HQ. The only downside was that our lovely Jan and Catherine weren’t able to make it this time.  

It was great to see so many people at the Winter Party but, as is usual at these events, never enough time to speak to everyone. We also realised that we need to get the camera out a bit more – so, watch out at the next RNA event, we’ll be snapping away and trying to get as many of you as possible for our blog post. 

Six of The Romaniacs, RNA Winter Party 13

Six of The Romaniacs, RNA Winter Party 13

lizzie lamb

Lizzie Lamb

Brigid Coady

Brigid Coady

 

RNA winter 13

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Debbie, Celia, Laura and Vanessa

Debbie, Celia, Laura and Vanessa

harrods

Beautiful

Putting on The Ritz

Putting on The Ritz

A blustery walk to the tube

A blustery walk to the tube

 

Thank you to Jan Jones and everyone at the RNA for a lovely evening.

Precious Moments – Number 2

On Weymouth Beach

On Weymouth Beach

At the beginning of July, I wrote a post called ‘Precious Moments’, when Celia and I managed a rather lovely cake-filled meet-up. It can be read here.

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A few weeks ago, Sue Fortin climbed into the Romaniac Mini and spent the day with me in Weymouth.

I took Sue to the Oasis Café, on the pebbled end of Weymouth beach. This café, although not named in the book, features in Truth or Dare?. We had a wonderful fish and chip lunch, and then chatted away as we visited the Victorian beach huts, and Greenhill Gardens.

Victorian Beach Huts

Victorian Beach Huts

Fish at Greenhill Gardens

Fish at Greenhill Gardens

We were lucky with the weather – I enjoy showing off my home town, especially when the blue of the sky is reflected in the colour of the sea.

Now to plan the return trip…

Laura and Sue

Laura and Sue. Trouble. With a capital ‘T’. That is not a halo.

Laura x

Roving Romaniacs: Arte Umbria, Italy

This has to be one of the best things I have done this year, alongside taking the family to Florida at Easter.

If you’re considering going abroad to take a creative course, be it painting or in my case, writing, where the sunshine is pretty much guaranteed and the wine flow is…well, pretty much guaranteed, then consider no more. Arte Umbria is the place to go.

I spent a glorious week in the company of other writers, including our Ce, on a course led by Choc Lit author, and respected tutor, Sue Moorcroft.

The setting was beautiful, the weather wonderful, the workshops fun and informative, and the hosts welcoming.

I think it’s fair to say the course participants each took something different away from the course. Sue’s workshops and guidance helped me find a way forward with my work-in-progress, Follow Me.

Private writing time provided the opportunity to finish a draft, edit, or take time to out to simply be inspired.

Why don’t I show you…

The Terrace

The Terrace

Spectacular views from our 'office'

Spectacular views from our ‘office’

The mist soon burned off

The mist soon burned off

Celia, Sadie & Sue. Orvieto

Celia, Sadie & Sue. Orvieto

Working

Working

Orvieto Cathedral or 'Duomo'

Orvieto Cathedral or ‘Duomo’

La Scarzuola. Worth a Google

La Scarzuola. Worth a Google

Industrious Celia. I was working - see my keyboard? I broke off to take the photo. Honest.

Industrious Celia. I was working – see my keyboard to the left? I broke off to take the photo. Honest.

We met a Marquesi and we sampled his wine, all in the name of research

We met a Marquesi and we sampled his wine, all in the name of research

Great company

Great company

Two Roving Romaniacs

Two Roving Romaniacs…

And Umberto.

And Umberto. We all loved Umberto.

What a fantastic experience.

Laura x

Precious Moments

Author Pic BrighterI was thinking about those wonderful, precious moments when everything falls into place, despite the confusion, trauma or sheer desperation of the preceding hours. Those times when you pick up the phone, or type a text and say, ‘I’m in your part of the world. Can I come and see you?’

We may live across the breadth and width of the country, but The Romaniacs rarely miss a chance to meet up when the opportunity arises. Granted, not once have all nine of us occupied the same, real, floor space, at the same time, but we often pop into Romaniac HQ, put our feet up and have a natter.IMG_1504

As Catherine, Sue and I are members of the same RNA chapter, I love the fact we get to see each other every few months, but with the other Romaniacs living further north, those actual, real-life moments are precious.

Recently my family and I drove to the Midlands for a friend’s wedding renewal ceremony, which was beautiful. Being geographically challenged, I had no idea how near or far we were from any of my fellow Romaniacs, until my husband announced we were about an hour away from Celia’s house. Considering we’d driven for three hours to attend the ceremony, another sixty minutes to see my writing friend was nothing. Or as my son would say, ‘It’s pips.’

IMG_1563In the end, our journey from our overnight stay to Ce’s house took two hours, due to an unscheduled visit to the local hospital. Our stay in A and E was longer than the time spent with Celia. And there were no scones.Celia 1

Anyway, when all was well, we left the hospital and pitched up at Celia’s house, in time for afternoon tea. Our visit was short-notice and it was only for an hour or so, but the sun was shining, the cakes were gorgeous and we didn’t stop talking. Apart from when we were eating.

Being revived with a hug and a fruit cake

Being revived with a hug and a fruit cake

Actually, that didn’t stop us.

The time quickly passed.

A fleeting meeting.

A top-up.

A precious moment.

We may not occupy the same floor space, but my Romaniac friends are often in my head, and they always in my heart.

Just saying.

                              Laura x

Crimefest – A guest report from Evonne Wareham

100_0671As I write romantic suspense – a genre that can have as a high a body count as a kiss-count – I sometimes get to play on the shady side of the street. Which is how I came to spend a recent weekend in the company of assorted serial killers, drug dealers, spymasters, global conspirators and all round bad lots, and the lovely people who create them. Yes, this was Crimefest, the Bristol crime writing convention that brings together criminal elements from all walks of life  - and the sleuths who pursue them – from the cosy amateur, solving puzzles over tea and scones, to the adventurer on the trail of an ancient artifact with mystic powers, by way of the jaded cop with the bottle of whisky stashed in his desk drawer. It takes all sorts to make a crime wave.

When you attend an event like Crimefest you realize just how many varieties of fictional crime there are – and locations. Scandinavian and American authors are always in demand, but delegates set their mayhem in Africa, Alaska, Italy, the Greek Islands, Iceland, … the Isle of Wight. The on-site bookshop was bursting with titles from all round the globe, with the chance of having them signed by the author in attendance. And it’s not just exotic places, but also a variety of time periods – Roman Britain, the eighteenth century, the roaring twenties …

Panels looked at everything from the North/South divide, to mixing crime and comedy. There were discussions on writing about the cold war and authors who have become overlooked or forgotten, often unjustly. Fans of Dame Agatha squared up to those of Sir Arthur  …

And all that was quite apart from the enthusiastic after-hours discussion that went on in the hotel bar.

The convention mixes writers and readers and everyone seemed to be in agreement that the panels this year were better than ever. I certainly enjoyed the ones I attended – even the one I was on. This year’s big coup was the appearance of Mark Gatiss, Steven Moffat and Sue Vertue of TV Sherlock fame – currently filming the third series, working round the availability of two stars who have suddenly become big cinema box office and determinedly ducking all requests to explain exactly how Sherlock is coming back from the dead.  It was a fun session, packed with enthusiastic fans – but I have to say that the personal convention high spot for me was the appearance of author Robert Goddard. He’s a great story teller. I’ve been a fan of his complex plotting for years. Fingers crossed that some of that complexity stuff may have rubbed off. I hope so, as there’s nothing I like better than a plot like a corkscrew.

It was a criminally enjoyable weekend.

Roving Romaniacs – An Earthless Melting Pot anthology launch

I was very happy to spend a lovely, sunny, writerly couple of days in London at the end of May, traveling up on the Friday for author drinks arranged by super-agent Juliet Mushens. In a busy bar in Soho, around twenty of Juliet’s authors gathered to drink and chat. It was lovely to spend time with an eclectic group of writers at all different stages of the journey to publication: Those, like myself, at the nail-biting editing/submitting stage, those who have the longed for book deal who are now awaiting publication, and the published ones – the writers on the Richard & Judy list, the bestsellers, the debut writers and the ones sweating over their second. All lovely, all inspiring – I’m already looking forward to the next Team Mushens outing!

bookDay 2 saw me back in Soho, this time in The Gallery at Foyles bookshop, for a private party to celebrate the launch of the Words with JAM short story anthology. My partner in crime for this do was fellow Romaniac Sue Fortin. The anthology is a collection of the prize-winning stories from the annual Words with JAM short story competition and I was thrilled to have one of my flash fiction pieces, Winter’s Kiss, included – my first story to appear in book form!

June Kearns, Sue Fortin and Lizzie Lamb

June Kearns, Sue Fortin and Lizzie Lamb

We weren’t expecting to see any familiar faces, so Sue and I were very happy to spot fellow RNAers Cathie Hartigan, Margaret James, Lizzie Lamb, June Kearns and Rosemary Gemmell amongst the guests. Cathie was another prize winner with her gorgeous story Scent of Lemons.

Me and Cathie Hartigan

Me and Cathie Hartigan

The anthology itself, An Earthless Melting Pot, was beautifully designed and produced and I still haven’t got over the thrill of seeing my name in a book…

photo[2]As well as the anthology launch, the event was to toast Triskele Books first birthday and the launch of four books by Catriona Troth, JD Smith, Gillian Hamer and JJ Marsh. Each of the authors spent a few minutes talking about their books and we were also treated to readings of the prize-winning stories by Ruby Cowling and Ken Elkes.

Add to this an amazing buffet and lots and lots of sparkly drinks and the evening was just about perfect…

Vanessa x