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.


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.

IMG_5861 IMG_5857 IMG_5862

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


Debbie, Celia, Laura and Vanessa

Debbie, Celia, Laura and Vanessa



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.


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



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

Roving Romaniacs at Julie Cohen’s Advanced Novelists’ Workshop

Advanced Novelists’ Workshop – 13 October 2012

 with Julie Cohen

Laura : The two hundred mile round trip from Weymouth, Dorset to Reading, Berks, to attend Julie Cohen’s course was worth every moment.

It started with catching up with Sue and discovering, although we were travelling from different locations, we both saw a village in the sky and a hot air balloon floating above our cars.

Sue : That was so weird, I promise there were no illegal substances involved. Our journeys just happened to merge at the same point, the M3 and that’s where we had this mirage. 

Laura : I arrived at nine thirty and met with the other attendees, all of whom were lovely and very interesting ladies. And what an array of genres and writing styles. I learned much by listening to everyone’s ideas and solutions to writing problems.

Sue : Yes, I got there shortly after Laura, probably only a few minutes, but then spent about 10 more trying to fit into the tiniest parking space EVER. Which I did, I hasten to add. 

It was lovely to see some people I’d met before, some who up until that point had only been a Twitter profile picture and some that I had never met. It was also fascinating to find out the different genres we were all writing, especially the YA authors.

Laura : The day was divided into sessions, all of which we had requested. I’m desperate to learn how to write a sympathetic flawed character, and I asked for a section on what to include in a submission letter to agents. Both topics were discussed in great detail and I am keen to put my new knowledge into action.

Sue : I wanted to find out more about writing sex scenes but in the end we skipped that part as it wasn’t appropriate for all genres. I’ll just have to research it in other ways.  Err, I was actually thinking along the lines of reading more books, not what you were thinking!  Although I did have an interesting conversation with Julie on the way back to the car park about this topic and the ‘key’ words, but that’s for another day.

Julie very kindly critiqued the first five pages of  my WIP and has given me some great advice. I am writing from three different points of view, but experimenting with the third and first person.  Is this wise? Does it pull the reader out of the story? Does it interrupt the flow? Obviously, something I need to give thought to – so thank you, Julie.

Laura : Even though we submitted the first five pages of our WIP’s for Julie to critique, upon her advice, I am using the lessons learned to build up my hero in my first novel, Truth or Dare? The information and methods are brilliant and have given me ways to increase the percentage of the hero’s POV and for it to have purpose. I’m very excited by this prospect. Once I have sorted him out, I will use the techniques to create a likeable, but extremely flawed heroine for Follow Me.

It was a fantastic day with cake, new and existing friends and a great tutor. Oh. And a visit to the pub afterwards. What’s not to like?

Sue : OMG! I was in heaven with all that lovely cake, I think I ate enough for both Laura and I. Okay, I probably ate enough for all nine Romaniacs – I didn’t  like to leave anyone out.  It was a great day, really enjoyed the company, loved Julie’s natural ability to make you feel at ease and then fish and chips at the pub – when can we do it again?

Laura  and Sue x

Roving Romaniac: Vintage Tea at the Little, Brown offices with author, Vanessa Greene.

I’ve been out on a covert operation and managed to infiltrate the little, brown offices. Well, ok, I was invited, I didn’t just break in. I was there for a special event – a vintage tea – to celebrate The Vintage Teacup Club by Vanessa Greene.

I promised the other Romaniacs that I’d get a few pictures of the offices so we can all drool over them and dream of the day when we get invited there as one of their authors.

It was every bit as grand and I was hoping. It was shiny, with massive sofas and books galore. I would have liked to live there for a week to carry out a sponsored readathon, but my giddy smile would give away the fact they’d have trouble kicking me out.

So instead I tried to act as sensibly as a Romaniac can. I didn’t once go up to someone sitting innocently at a computer and ask if they wanted to sign 9 nutty, but lovely writers. Instead I found myself sharing a lift with Vanessa, the author of The Vintage Teacup Club and by the end of the event convinced her to join us on the blog to answer a few questions.

Q: If you could take afternoon tea with any celebrity, who would it be and why?

Benedict Cumberbatch would make a pretty gentlemanly tea-date, don’t you think? I developed a bit of a crush on him in the recent series of Sherlock, and then Parade’s End sealed the deal – he has a really magnetic, quirky charm. Alternatively (and so my boyfriend doesn’t get miffed) a nice natter about books with Mariella Frostrup over cake would make for a great afternoon.

Q: If you could visit any era for 24 hours, which would you choose and why?

It would have to be London during the Blitz. I’m so curious about what the reality of wartime life was like – what did women like us find to laugh about, how did they help each other cope? What was it like falling in love then, when your world could change in a moment? On a lighter note, I love dancing, so I’d definitely seek out an underground party I could swing at!

Q: Is there anything that you collect? Vintage teacups, pretty hardback books and antique postcards.

Q: What value do you place on history and how does this relate to the book?

I think our past, and also our family histories, are an important part of who we are, whether we realise it or not, and so that is one of the themes of the novel.

In The Vintage Teacup Club all three of the women – Jenny, Alison and Maggie – are confronted by aspects of their past, and their village’s past, that they haven’t properly understood or dealt with. Together, they are able to work through those hidden histories and truly move on in their own lives.

In a way that’s true of my family history too. My father was German, and my mother is English – so during World War II my grandfathers were, essentially, fighting each other. As I was born in London and feel English, I used to find it difficult to understand how my German grandfather could have fought on Hitler’s side. But when my German grandmother died, and we went through the letters her husband sent from the front line, you could see how much he loved her, and how delighted he was at the news that he was going to be a father. Sadly, he was killed before he had a chance to meet his son, my dad. I realised reading those letters and seeing photos that both grandfathers were human first, and soldiers second – both were doing what they felt was right.

Q: Milk in first or second? Now this one’s far easier! I like to surprise myself by varying this. Simple pleasures.

Q: Do you have a favourite tea advert?

It’s not an advert, but I loved the bit in the series Homeland where Carrie almost blows her cover by mentioning Brody’s liking for Yorkshire Gold tea. It’s my favourite brand (my boyfriend, who’s from Yorkshire, introduced me to it) and I went straight out in the ad break to make us a cuppa!

Quick Fire:

Cup or Mug? For special occasions I can’t resist a vintage teacup – but at home I prefer my tea out of a mug. I have a mug from New York, with an illustration of a dog walker walking every possible type of dog. Tea always tastes best out of it.

Paris or Rome? Rome – it’s the lure of pasta and ice cream. I also love the Audrey Hepburn film Roman Holiday and it would be fun to retrace her steps.
Tea at the Ritz or a West End Show? Are you offering? Tea at the Ritz please! I’ve always wanted to do that.

Cupcakes or Cookies? Cookies are better for dunking in tea, I find – so they come out on top.

Bargain Hunt or Dickenson’s Real Deal? I can’t resist Bargain Hunt. As I work from home I try to pretend daytime TV doesn’t exist (far too much temptation), but I sometimes make an exception for this, in the name of ‘research’.
Champagne or Chocolates? I love a bit of fizz – it turns even a small event with friends into a real celebration.

Thank you for answering all of our questions, Vanessa. The Vintage Teacup Club comes out tomorrow. Just enough time to pop out to the shops, buy some cake and join Vanessa on publication day!

Belgian buns, that’s vintage, right? Off to the shop to go and get some. Maybe if I take some to the little, brown offices they’ll let me in again?

The Vintage Teacup Club can be purchsed here and you can find Vanessa on twitter: @VanessaGBooks

Catherine x

Feel the Fear! Rose McClelland guests today.

Today we welcome the lovely Rose McClelland, sharing tactics for dealing with a writer’s fears.

“I just don’t have the time to write” …. and other excuses masking FEAR
“I don’t have the time to write”
“I should’ve started writing in my twenties, there’s no point now”
“It would take me too long to write a novel so I should just concentrate on my day job instead”
“People like me don’t become published authors – that dream only happens to other people”

These were all the excuses I gave myself. The notion “I want to write” hammered away at me for years but I successfully batted off the desire with these nifty excuses. Clever, huh?
It wasn’t until a friend shoved a copy of “The Artists Way” by Julia Cameron into my hands and told me “we are going to study this 12 week course” that things began to change.

What’s the point?
I discovered, through a series of tasks and tools, that my excuses were just that – excuses – and the real problem was fear.
“What’s the point?” is a clever mask for fear or resentment.
• What would my father think of me?
• What if he read the sexy scenes and was appalled?
• What would the blokes at work think?
• Would I have to write under a pen name?
• I’m not very outgoing or confident – how would I promote my book via Facebook or twitter or god forbid, newspapers and the wider media circle?
• What if I got bad reviews?

The first thing I learned was that those fears show a pretty active imagination. Projecting that far into the future and visualising such strong negative images shows that, in-fact, there’s a good healthy writer’s mind ticking away in there. Now how do I turn those negative visualisations into positive ones?

Play time
I learned that as a blocked artist, I was not lazy – I was blocked. In fact, I was using a lot of energy worrying, feeling guilty, feeling jealous and doubting myself. I learned that it would be easier to just do the writing than waste the time worrying that I wasn’t doing the writing. It was easier to get on with it.
I took small steps. And I made those steps enjoyable. I found a coffee shop I liked – one which had an upstairs section which was quiet and tucked away from the hustle bustle. It overlooked a water fountain and had comfy sofas. I settled myself down with an Americano and a sparkling water and I began to play with ideas. A scene here, a scene there. One scene at a time. Pretending I was in the audience watching the characters. Having fun. Enjoying myself.
It wasn’t a chore, or a hurdle, or a massive mountain to climb, it was fun. On a Saturday and a Sunday morning, it was my writing fun time.

List the fears and resentments
I was honest with myself. I listed my fears and resentments about doing this project. I asked myself “why is there no point?” I put it down in black and white. This is not an easy task to do. No-one wants to admit those negative thoughts that are swilling around in your sub-conscious. But on the plus side, once those negative thoughts are down on paper, you can look at them for what they really are – just thoughts. They are not facts.

Jealousy is a map
One thing I have learned is that jealousy is a map. If you are looking at someone who has just got published and you find a stirring of jealousy within your gut and a tightening in your head; that is a sign. A sign that you want that thing. And there is nothing stopping you from going after it. Who do you know who has had a book published? How can you learn from what they have done? Read their blog; find out how they went about it. Once I started to admit I needed help, the help landed in my lap.

Now you know what you want, start to visualise having it. Write in the present tense as if you already have it. Find images surrounding your dream and pin them on a board. I wrote “published author” in bubbly colourful writing.

Did you have any negative affirmations about your dream? Perhaps you secretly saw creative people as disorganised or chaotic. Start to realise that it’s possible that you as a creative soul can be organised, helpful, kind and giving.

Set yourself goals – for this year, this month, this week.
“By this time next year I would like to __________”
“By this time next month I would like to _________”
“By this time next week I would like to _________”
“What small action could I take today?_____________________”
Now do that thing.

By the way, my dad did read my book – he skimmed over the first chapter, lowered his glasses, looked at my mum and said, “I don’t really think this would be my kind of book, love”. And that was that, nothing more was said. The blokes at work have never commented on my book, except for one who asked, “What chapter can I skip to for the sex scenes?” And my agent encouraged me to write under my real name, not a pen name. “Shout it from the roof-tops!” she said. And that’s exactly what I’ve done.


Huge thanks to Rose for these words of wisdom – now, over to the rest of you; how do you combat your own writing fears?