The Choc Lit Halloween Round Robin: Part 2 by Jane Lovering

Romaniac HQ is delighted to host Part Two woo woo of the spooky Choc Lit Halloween Round Robin, as told by Jane Lovering.

Jane Lovering with award

 Part Two by Jane Lovering

An amateur witch attempts to summon a new (and hopefully less gittish) lover using her grandmother’s spell book … what could possibly go wrong?

Each section of A New Love for Halloween will be told by a different Choc Lit author to create one magical story. You can follow the tale on five separate blogs from the 27th Oct to Halloween. You can read part one by Berni Stevens here. Here’s part two by Jane Lovering …

Part Two by Jane Lovering

Jo carefully opened the envelope and slid the red heart inside, her fingers fumbling with the fragile crepe paper. Little edges of it caught and tore against the thicker paper so she withdrew it again, sitting it on her palm and watching the sides flex and curl in the heat from the candle. ‘Now I come to look at it, it’s less heart shaped and more like a bum,’ she said, an annoyance at her own gullibility making her frown. ‘I’ll probably get another complete arse, like Gordon.’ Then, before she could rethink, she folded the little red heart down into a scarlet twist, jammed it into the envelope and dropped a blob of warm wax onto the seal.

As the first blob touched the paper, a strange breeze ran through the room. Jo couldn’t feel it against her skin, but it raised her hair and made the pages of the book flip and turn, as though something ghostly was looking through, searching for another spell. Jo felt her arms bobble into goosepimples and tried to stretch the sleeves of the T-shirt down to cover as much flesh as possible.

The front door banged again. Jo considered the possibility that Musketeer Dan had failed to find number twenty-nine and hurriedly pulled on the duffel coat that she’d left drying on the back of a chair. ‘Yes?’ She cautiously peered around the door.

‘Yeah, ah, um … sorry, do you mind me asking, have you seen another bloke dressed like me?’ He was wearing a full wig, sword, breeches and a tricorn hat.

‘Dan, you mean?’ She pulled the coat closer over her T-shirt. It was quite chilly out there.

‘Er. Yeah. Dan. He was supposed to be meeting us here but we’ve lost him.’

‘He came here about five minutes ago, got the wrong house. He can’t have got far, number twenty-nine is only two doors’ up, and across the road, just …’ Jo stepped outside, pointing around the corner ‘… past the green bin.’

‘Cheers.’ The second Musketeer swept his hat off and dealt her a long bow. ‘Loving the Paddington outfit, by the way.  Excellent.’

‘Oh, it’s not…’ Jo started, then realised that there was no possible way she could explain opening her own front door wearing a duffel coat, so she just grinned. ‘Thanks. Hope he turns up.’

‘Yeah, so do I, he’s got the car keys.’

Sword slightly trailing along the pavement, the Musketeer headed off towards number twenty-nine, a location that had become, in Jo’s mind, synonymous with lurid excitement and a vast number of men. She turned round to head back into her kitchen, to the single burning candle and the illicit spell book. She hoped neither of her recent visitors had managed to catch a glimpse of these when she’d opened the door.  ‘They’d think I was mad,’ she muttered to herself, then glanced down at her bare legs poking from under the damp wool of her coat and fringed with the dangling hem of the T-shirt.  ‘Well, madder, anyway.’

But before she could go inside there was another of those freak draughts. The handle of the front door she’d been carefully holding was whipped from her grasp and she heard the horrible, and definite, slam and click of the Yale lock engaging, leaving her outside on the doorstep with nothing but Muse and a moist duffel between her and the elements.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *  

Catch part three by Christina Courtenay tomorrow on Dark Readers, here.

Jane Lovering lives in Yorkshire with five children, four cats and two dogs! She works in a local school and also teaches creative writing.

Jane writes romantic comedies which are often described as ‘quirky’.

Her debut Please Don’t Stop the Music won the 2012 Romantic Novel of the Year and the Best Romantic Comedy Novel award from the Romantic Novelists’ Association.  Get in the Halloween spirit with Hubble Bubble, Vampire State of Mind and Falling Apart.

Twitter: @janelovering 

Jane Lovering FA_packshot copyCompetition

To win three Choc Lit paperbacks of your choice, collect each of our 5 questions (you’ll find one at the end of each story section) and email ALL 5 answers to info@choc-lit.com.

Question 2: Vampire State of Mind and Falling Apart are set in which city?

 

United States of Love: Happy Birthday!

United States of Love … HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

USL HI

‘It was so funny and romantic … (There) was so much romance and fun going on I totally loved it! A wonderful author who I hope to read more from.’ Amazon reviewer, Angela.

It’s a year since Sue Fortin’s HarperImpulse debut, United States of Love was released, and we at Romaniac HQ wanted to wish it a fabulous 1st birthday. It’s a great, romantic read with a handsome, hot hero, and a strong heroine who has many dilemmas to overcome.

I wonder what Tex is doing to celebrate. A big hog roast in his restaurant, perhaps, or a trip home to America see his family …

 

And with Sue’s second novel, a fast-paced, gripping suspense, Closing In doing well in the charts, it’s a double celebration!

Closing_in
‘I would urge anyone who enjoys a good, fast paced psychological thriller to read it – you won’t be disappointed!’ Room For Reading

Along with her novels, Sue is a contributor to Romaniac Shorts, a collection of flash fiction and short stories to suit all tastes. Her third book for HI is expected soon.

So it’s bottoms up, chin-chin and cheers.

Happy birthday, USL

xxx

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Pst … Who’s doing the bumps?

Cass Peterson: One Night in San Francisco

Cass Peterson: One Night in San Francisco

One Night in San Francisco by Cass Peterson - 500

 

A change of pace here at Romaniac HQ today, as I welcome erotic romance writer, Cass Peterson to the couch, to chat about One Night in San Francisco.

Here’s the blurb:

Nicky and Liam have only twenty-four short hours to find out if their instantaneous attraction can develop into something more than an electric mile-high fumble. San Francisco has everything they need to put their previous disastrous relationships behind them, but when they lose touch with each other almost immediately, fate seems to have other ideas. As the precious hours tick away, Liam moves heaven and earth to find the woman of his (filthiest) dreams before she leaves the city. Will he get to her in time?

 

L: Cass – welcome to Romaniac HQ. We’ve had a wild weekend, so please excuse the wine boxes and loose socks.

C: Boxers? Oo er Laura – so the rumours about Romaniac HQ are true?

L: That’s boxes, not boxers …

Without further contemplation or ado, tell me a little about Cass Peterson.

C: Hmm, I’ll take your word for it. Right, where do I begin? This novella started with a challenge from a friend who more or less dared me to see if I could do it. Cass Peterson is my pen name – Cass is after the late great Mama Cass Elliot, and Peterson from an old BBC Alan Plater series called The Beiderbeck Tapes, featuring Peterson; the man with no name. I love James Bolam, who played the main character (he wasn’t Peterson, just a rather grumpy secondary school teacher). It’s about jazz, love triumphing over cynicism and woodwork. Brilliant.

L: I loved The Beiderbeck Tapes. Barbara Flynn played the long-suffering wife, I recall.

Is One Night in San Francisco your debut? Are you able to reveal some of the story?

C: It’s my debut novella – around 20 000 words, some of them very naughty words too. The story begins on a night flight to America after lights out, when Liam realises what one of his fellow passengers is doing under her blanket to while away the time. Their friendship takes off very quickly (takes off – see what I did there, Laura?) Nicky and Liam seem perfectly suited but they only have one night before real life takes over, and they lose each other at the airport. It’s a desperate quest and a bawdy romp all rolled into one.

I’ve also written a couple of rather rude short stories published in anthologies; Smut By The Sea Volume 2 and Smut Alfresco.

L: I understand ONiSF is part of a series to which several authors have contributed. How has that worked? Please explain the process.

C: The series is called City Nights. Tirgearr is a wonderful publishing company to work with. They are based in Ireland but their editors also work from other parts of the UK and America so it’s a cosmopolitan, friendly organisation, and also very flexible. Authors were encouraged to send in their ideas for a ‘One Night In …’ Then cities were allocated, and I was lucky enough to get San Francisco. Paris, Boise, New Orleans and Rome nights have already been released, and the October and November ones are Amsterdam and Edinburgh. It’s a great concept, which could just run and run … There are a wide variety of authors with differing styles so it’s a very interesting project to be involved with.

L: On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being ‘Phwoar!’, where does One Night in San Francisco sit?

C: It’s definitely a 5, Laura. You’ll need a large gin in hand to read it.

L: The Romaniacs recently introduced me to gin. It’s the tonic water I enjoy.

As a romance writer, I know my novels must have a HEA or hopeful ending, and readers expect this, enjoying the journey the characters take. What do erotic romance readers expect?

C: Similar. Pure erotica is a whole different ball game (oops) but so far I’ve found that erotic romance needs to have a HEA ending or at least happy for now.

L: What advice would you offer to new writers looking to produce erotic romance?

C: Pour the gin, kick off your shoes and get in touch with your smutty side. It’s liberating, so long as nobody is reading over your shoulder …

L: Great advice, Cass. I attended a ‘Writing Sex’ course and found it fascinating. And enlightening. As a contemporary romance writer, my novels have scenes in that have a certain heat level, and I agree with you – I can’t write them if the kitchen is occupied by anyone other than me.

Now for our Romaniac Quick-Fire Round:

Y-Fronts or boxers?

Oh, boxers. I’m glad you picked up the ones off the floor though, there’s a time and a place for everything.

Musclebound or unassumingly athletic?

My hero in One Night In San Francisco (Liam) is lean and athletically toned rather than muscular, and he’s pretty gorgeous.

Oysters or chocolate?

Oysters for night time, chocolate for emergencies.

Indoors or outdoors?

Outdoors, under the stars.

Charming or cheeky?

Charming with a cheeky twist.

L: Thank you so much for dropping by today and congratulations on your new release.

C: It was a pleasure. Who made these fabulous cream buns?

Always good buns here.

Please do come again …

Laura x

Follow Me, Follow You; it’s the launch at last!

FOLLOW ME_front highres

So, it’s finally here – the long awaited arrival of the paperback version of Follow Me, Follow You. Set in coastal Dorset, Laura E James’ own stamping ground, it tells the story of what happens when a technology junkie steps away from the screen and goes back to basics. It explores complex relationships, misunderstandings, grief and enduring love and still manages to make you laugh. Phew! Here’s a picture to give you an idea of the beautiful setting.

Rocks

Right, Laura – time to pick your authorly brain – let’s look at the complex cast of characters in FMFY.

Which character gave you the most trouble?

Laura: Victoria was the hardest character to write. It took a trip to Italy on a writing course to pin her down. The difficulty was in making a flawed character likeable

I remember that trip well! Which of your characters would you like to invite for dinner this week?

Laura: Oo. I think Olivia has the right sort of energy, the wisdom and the humour to help me get through my root canal treatment next week.

Snog, marry or shove off a cliff, please?

Laura: That’s easy. Snog: Chris Frampton. Marry: Chris Frampton. Shove off a cliff: Tommy Stone. He’s vile. 

We were all bouncing with excitement when Truth or Dare was released by Choc Lit as an ebook, but how are you feeling about seeing Follow me, Follow You in actual, real live paperback? I know how you feel about all things stationery and paper based.

Laura: Holding the printed copy is amazing – it has such a wonderful cover. The book smells good, too.

Have you been busy in the run up to FMFY’s launch? What does the whole thing involve for you?

Laura: I’ve been working very hard to meet the deadlines for the launch, with blogs happening right left and centre. As far as online promotions go, the rough count for guest posts and interviews in total is 15, which is a lot of thinking and a whole lot more writing!

So what else is in the pipeline at the moment?

Laura: I’m working on book three, ‘What Doesn’t Kill You’, which looks at the pressures on today’s sandwich generation. Set in Dorset, the romance between Griff, a Coastguard Watch Officer, and his wife Evie is central to the story. Between them, they’re trying to care for Logan, Griff’s elderly, disabled father, Tess, Evie’s troubled teen, and baby Dilon. Relationships are strained, and Griff’s assertion that everyone can be saved is creating more problems than it solves.

Well, that’s earned you a huge mug of hot chocolate and a generous of chunk lemon drizzle cake, Laura. Thanks for your answers, but most of all thanks for writing such a fascinating book. Can’t wait for the next one!

Celia x

Choc Lit

 

Coming soon – Laura E James and Follow Me, Follow You

Choc Lit

 

We’re all very excited at Romaniac HQ, because on Monday we’ll be able to interview our very own Laura and find out more about her brand new book. It’s in paperback! It’s amazing! We’re all reading it/have read it and without a word of a lie or an over-enthusiastic shout out for a good friend, it’s a really gripping, emotionally challenging read, with humour and deep family relationships at its heart. Do you get the impression we like it with a capital L?

FOLLOW ME_front highres

Anyway, enough waffling. Today I’m thinking about how the Romaniacs have got to know each other over the years. We’ve always been able to talk for Britain, and listing someone else’s good points is so much easier than blowing your own trumpet, so we often do each others bigging up to save our blushes. For this reason, it’s no problem at all to tell you about Laura – in fact it’s an absolute pleasure. I’m going to ask the others to add their own thoughts after this, but here are a few points to start us off:

  • Laura loves the colour red, writing, Kate Bush and hot chocolate in equal measures but her real passion is her lovely family
  • She’s an excellent singer
  • She’s recently discovered gin and tonic but her drinking skills are not fully honed yet. Just give me time …
  • Laura can make you laugh even when you think there’s absolutely NOTHING to laugh about
  • Her listening skills are top notch and she’ll always come up with sound advice for a friend in need
  • She has some very interesting boots
  • She is the queen of punctuation

Okay, Romaniacs, over to you. What have I missed?

Jan: Well, I’d agree with all of the above points, Celia, and would like to add that Laura’s enthusiasm is infectious. I’ve never known anyone who can have her finger in so many literary pies and give each one of them her ‘all’ with such gusto. She’s an inspiration to us all, a great friend and a super-talented writer who deserves all the success in the world.

Sue: Many dittos to all of the above. I’m in total awe of Laura’s enthusiasm, dedication and forward thinking;  she’s a real power house on those scores. For me, it’s knowing I can rely on Laura for pragmatic and, at times, succinct advice on all things, not just writing and, as such, I truly value her honest friendship. I’m also particularly impressed how she has embraced being hugged. ;-)

Debbie: Ahh, Laura. Just saying her name makes me smile. Her writing talents are obvious and I’m nodding at everything the girls have said. But to me, what’s most remarkable about Laura is, she’s what we call in Yorkshire, ‘a right character.’ Like Yorkshire folk she doesn’t sugar coat anything. There’s nothing Pollyanna about our singing writer and the original Mrs Dynamo! We can all learn a lot from her, both from her ideas but also her character. I value how she challenges, stretches my mind and makes me think. I admire her tenacity, her DOGGED determination, her boundless energy, especially given that she suffers with Rheumatoid Arthritis (and she never moans or makes excuses.) Laura is solid and a real backbone of the Romaniacs. She’s strong and focussed. And you won’t find me far behind her at parties as she’s the best ‘mingler’ I’ve ever known!

Vanessa: I nodded along to all of the above – it’s been so wonderful to be able to share in Laura’s journey to publication because I know how hard she’s worked and she’s such a great writer, her books deserve to be a massive success. I’ve been lucky to have Laura to talk writing with – we have a shared affinity for the darker side of fiction as well as the lighter side and have often found similar themes and characters emerging in our works-in progress! And it’s important not to forget – she’s also mad as a box of frogs :-) (in the best possible way…)

Lucie: What a fantastic round up of our wonderful friend my lovely Romaniac ladies have done. I can but echo every point they have made – Laura is truly an amazingly inspirational woman who deserves every ounce of success she is no doubt going to achieve. I feel like I have known Laura all my life – as I feel with all the other Romaniacs. Laura is by far the most confident of us all. She turns into a beautiful social butterfly when at events, fluttering her way around the room spreading joy and positivity. It is an absolute pleasure to have such a talented friend and I wish her every bit of love, luck and success … not that she needs it, she has the determination to get there on her own credit.

Catherine: I LOVE LAURA. In five words she is QUIRKY, WONKY, WICKED, WISE and FEARLESS. (There was more to this, but the interweb ate it, then the girls covered most of the other bases.) She is a real talent and I hope right about now she’s blushing! 

So there you go – that’s Laura in, well, not quite a nutshell, more of a large bucket of joyfulness. Come back Monday and join us when Follow Me, Follow You is really out there. And I wish you all a wonderful Laura in your lives. If you can’t find one, we might just let you share ours …

Celia x

Let Them Eat Cake …

Let them eat cake….

(And we’ll have some too!)

JWJ spotlight hi rez

Jane Wenham-Jones, author of the revolutionary new eating plan 100 Ways to Fight the Flab – and still have wine and chocolate, explains why every successful diet still involves a slice of what you fancy…

No Cake for YOU….

If I told you that you could never have cake again, what would you immediately fancy? Yep, a great big lump of Victoria sponge, or a rich moist coffee and walnut gateau, or a gloriously chocolatey brownie, or perhaps a fresh cream éclair…(insert your own weakness).  You may not even like cake (you strange creature) but if your downfall is crisps (as mine is), pizza, or fresh crusty bread with lots of butter, and I suddenly tell you that if you want to lose weight, it has got to go – ? Well, you get my drift…

There are two big reasons why all diets/eating plans/changes of lifestyle (a lot of books like to avoid the word “diet” to try to pretend you can still eat things you like) eventually fail. And that is, that unless you have a will of iron and a very high tolerance to emotional and physical discomfort (in which case you are probably already as thin as a rake and will already have stopped reading this and be necking down the cake anyway) they all involve feeling either hungry or deprived or both. It is no wonder that nobody sticks to a diet for long and the overweight have a whole shelf load of books promising dramatic weight loss, have tried them all, and are still waddling round the house with a doughnut in each hand. Because it is pretty dispiriting for anyone to face a future in which there is a stark choice between waving goodbye to the notion of cake for the next twenty years or getting your jeans up past your knees.

And if you are a writer, and have already experienced the problem of Writer’s Bottom ( a phrase I take full credit for coining, in my 2007 book Wannabe a Writer? ), you may already be struggling with the zip. But if you can get round those twin problems of hunger and feeling that you’re missing out, you can be the weight you want for ever. And you’ll find it much easier to cope with either one of them, if you do have to, if you know that feeling will be short-lived. Weight loss is a question of attitude as much as what you put in your mouth – a case, if you like, of mind over large quantities of matter.

JWJ Flab9781909520929_FC-1

So – you want cake? You have cake…. And you don’t put on weight afterwards: Here’s how.

1. Call it Lunch. I recently did just that. A friend had given me a huge slice of homemade mocha cake and it was just what I felt like. So I munched the lot. And did I feel guilty or concerned? I did not. Because  it is all about balance. The carbs were consumed early so there was loads of time to burn them off. In the afternoon I played tennis (I lost). I had grilled halloumi, with tomatoes, basil, and a huge crunchy salad for dinner (low carb), a few peanuts with my wine, instead of crisps (protein!), and a bit more dark chocolate (it just sort of rounded things off) and then, as I do when I have any inkling that the podge might be settling in, I went for a longer walk round the block before I hit the sack.

The net result was? My weight dropped slightly. I’d had: wine, chocolate, cake, bread, cheese, and nibbles. As well as essential vitamins and minerals, some green stuff, and tomatoes.

What’s not to like?

2. Eat Carrot cake and call it one of your five a day. Eat a carrot too. There is a theory that if you lived all day on carrots and champagne, you would get all the nutrients you need. This may be true (tho probably isn’t). All I know is that I would talk too much, think I could sing, and then fall over.

3. Eat a chilli pepper nextThe hotter the better. Chillies (http://100waystofighttheflab.wordpress.com/2013/03/24/hot-tip-no-1-a-chilli-a-day-keeps-a-lard-arse-at-bay/ )raise the metabolism and the more fiery they are, the greater the effect. Experts estimate that one can expect a 15% increase in calories burned for about two hours after eating a hot chilli sauce. (If you can face cake with chilli sauce – you’re laughing!)

4. Count its calories. If it’s shop-bought cake, it will say on the packet, if you’ve made it yourself you can do the maths, if it comes from that darling little shop you can’t resist, you can probably look up approx values on the internet. Then simply adjust round it. If you bought a cake at 2,450 calories, ate a slice every day for a week, plus 1200 calories of other foodstuffs spread over three meals – including fruit and veg – you would be perfectly healthy and lose weight. (Alternatively you could eat half the cake in one sitting, eat nothing else all day and take a vitamin pill.)

5. Enjoy it! Happy people look gorgeous whatever their shape, and skip through life with an extra zing. This in turn releases endorphins, raises the metabolism and helps burn the calories. So have your cake and eat it and if you do overdo things (a slice is fine, the entire eight inch sponge probably isn’t), some extra exercise and plenty of protein and veg will put things right tomorrow… Bon appétit!

JWJ 9781909520929_Cover

For more creative thinking on how to eat the things you like and still only need one airline seat, see http://100waystofighttheflab.wordpress.com/2014/07/21/express-newspaper-features-100-ways/ or bite the (fat-free) bullet and got straight to

http://www.amazon.co.uk/100-Ways-Fight-Flab-Chocolate/dp/1909520926/ref=tmm_pap_title_0

http://janewenhamjones.wordpress.com/

Many thanks for a fab, flab-fighting post, Jane.

 

 

 

 

Nine Essential Elements of Romance Fiction – Catherine LaRoche

NINE ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS OF ROMANCE FICTION

Catherine LaRoche

Catherine LaRoche1

I spend a lot of time thinking about romance fiction.  My mom reads the books, and I picked up the love of the genre from her when I was a teenager.  She always had a tottering pile of novels beside her bed that I’d rummage through for something to borrow.  Now I write historical romances and, in my day job, I’m a college professor of gender studies and cultural studies.  For the past several years, I’ve included romance fiction in my teaching while I’ve been writing an academic book entitled Happily Ever After: The Romance Story in Popular Culture (forthcoming in mid-2015 from Indiana University Press).

My students choose romances from a big box that I bring into class and write responses on them.  We do cut-up exercises with the novels to create alternative storylines.  We write a collaborative online romance with scenes ranging from suspense to spicy erotica.  I’ve set up a romance lending library in my office; my eight-year old son decorated a poster for borrowers to write down comments about the novels they check out.  As I draft my academic book, I workshop chapters with the students in order to get feedback.

I’d like to invite similar feedback from readers here, on some of the book’s conclusions.  I propose that romance novels have nine essential elements.  (I’m playing off Dr. Pamela Regis’s work in her wonderful 2003 text A Natural History of the Romance Novel.)  What do you make of my list so far?  Do you agree or disagree?  Am I missing anything?  All comments welcome!

The nine central claims made by the romance narrative:

  1. It is hard to be alone. We are social animals. Most people need and want love, of some kind. Amid all the possibilities for love as philia (friendship) and agape (spiritual or selfless love), the culture often holds up eros or romantic partner love as an apex of all that love can be and do.
  2. It is a man’s world. Women generally have less power, fewer choices, and suffer from vulnerability and double standards. They often get stuck looking after men or being overlooked by men.
  3. Romance is a religion of love. Romance entails belief in the power of love as a positive orienting force. Love functions as religion, as that which has ultimate meaning in people’s lives.
  4. Romance involves risk. Love doesn’t always work out. Desire can be a source of personal knowledge and power but also of deception and danger. Romance fiction is the safe, imaginative play space to explore the meaning and shape of this landscape.
  5. Romance requires hard work. Baring the true self, making oneself vulnerable to another is hard. Giving up individuality for coupledom requires sacrifice.
  6. Romance facilitates healing. Partner love leads to maturity. Love heals all wounds. Love conquers all.
  7. Romance leads to great sex, especially for women. Women in romance novels are always sexually satisfied. Romance reading can connect women to their sexuality in positive way.
  8. Romance makes you happy. The problematic version of this claim is that you need to be in a romantic relationship for full happiness. Here, romance fiction can be oppressive if it mandates coupledom for everyone.
  9. Romance levels the playing field for women. The heroine always wins. By the end, she is happy, secure, well loved, sexually satisfied, and set up for a fulfilling life. The romance story is a woman-centred fantasy about how to make this man’s world work for her.

Further information about Catherine can be found here: http://authors.simonandschuster.com/Catherine-LaRoche/407531852

and here: http://popularromanceproject.org/professors-writing-romance/

Thank you so much for the great blog, Catherine, and we look forward to reading your results.