The Romaniac Sparkle Weekend

The Romaniac Sparkle Weekend

Welcome to Church Stretton

Welcome to Church Stretton

The weekend of December 12 – 14 saw the first Romaniac Sparkle event – two and a half days of work-shopping, writing, cultural visits and tons of Romaniac fun and laughter.

Hosted by the lovely Debbie Fuller-White and attended by five more Romaniacs, with Celia and Jan holding the fort at HQ, we put together a new, fresh and exciting Romaniac agenda for 2015.

For now, we present our Romaniac Sparkle Christmas Album, with more to follow next week.

Shrewsbury

Shrewsbury

'Cheers, to Jan and Ce!'

‘Cheers, to Jan and Ce!’

Sue & Laura

Sue & Laura

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Catherine, Lucie, Vanessa, Laura & Debbie

 

Vanessa & Lucie

Vanessa & Lucie

Gluten-free Christmas Cake

Gluten-free Christmas Cake

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A great evening meal at Housmans, Church Stretton

 

 

Laura secret santa

Laura’s Secret Santa gift

vanessa secret santa

Vanessa opening Secret Santa gift

Lucie dancing

Lucie showing us her dance moves

 

Sparkle walk stream

Lovely countryside

Sparkle walk ponies

Wild ponies

 

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Vanessa & Catherine

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Sue, Catherine and the sock puppet

sleeping

 

MERRY CHRISTMAS & A HAPPY  NEW YEAR!

Auto-Timer Success

Auto-Timer Success

 

 

 

 

Christmas Past.

James juniors, many years ago.

James juniors, many years ago.

With my daughter and son growing ever closer to independence, and with Christmas drawing near, I find I’m in a reflective mood.

This time last year, I was gearing up for wrist surgery, knowing I’d be spending several weeks in plaster, including the entire festive season. I was called into hospital at short notice, and didn’t have time to do much in the way of preparation for the Big Day, but I needn’t have worried. Gajitman and one of my lovely friends made a beautiful job of wrapping presents, my daughter  baked an incredible gluten-free, vegetarian pie for my Christmas dinner, and with her dad, cooked the entire celebratory meal. My son made sure I was comfortable, and on the day, helped me unwrap my gorgeous gifts.

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I remember our daughter’s first Christmas. She wasn’t old enough to furniture cruise, but had learned to stand and lean. My parents bought her a walker that year. With a crash course in how to use it, she was soon pushing it around the living room. A few years later, it was passed to her baby brother, who was more interested in the mechanics of it. However, not long after establishing what the wheels were for, he was zipping around, careering into sofas, and belly-laughing at his new found, if a little hazardous, sense of freedom.

S

 

I love my children for who they were and who they are now, and wouldn’t want it any other way, but seeing photos of when they were younger evokes strong emotions in me – immense delight and happiness, tinged with a touch of melancholy.

It is a little like being taken back by the ghost of Christmas Past …

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Laura x

 

 

 

 

The Fear. What Does It Mean to You?

DSCF2621I’ve thought long and hard about whether or not to write this post, for two reasons: I’m concerned it could come across as an exercise in tooting on my trumpet, which isn’t the intention, and I’m admitting to something I’m not sure I want to type out loud. However, as a committed Romaniac, and a person who has gained valuable insight from other writers’ honesty, I’m going to put it out there.

I’m listening to Lily Allen’s The Fear, a song from a few years ago, and I’m interested in the thoughts behind the lyrics. Like most cleverly-written songs, it will mean something different to each person, depending on their individual experiences. To me, Lily Allen’s song is about the fear of being sucked into the world of celebrity and materialism.

I’d heard writers talk about the fear, but never understood what it was? Was it a worry the words would dry up? A deep concern the book wouldn’t sell? That your mojo’s having way too much fun sunning itself on the deck to consider returning from its winter cruise?

There’s another option: All of the above. And more.

At the beginning of September, my second Choc Lit novel was sent out into the big, wide world, as a paperback – my first. Follow Me Follow You, an issue-driven romance, went on tour courtesy of my publisher and through Brook Cottage Books.

It was a fantastic, positive experience, with the book receiving incredible reviews which blew my socks off. Follow Me Follow You was selected as an editor’s choice on Lovereading.co.uk  and was one of their featured books for September, Tome Tender Book Blog left me speechless with their wonderful words, and I’ve been overwhelmed by the Amazon reviews.

The book was and is out there doing exactly what I’ve asked of it.FM_new flat front 300dpi

Now, before this starts to look like the exercise I mentioned earlier, (although in reality, it would be a recorder, not a trumpet) let me explain.

As I sat at my desk, in the corner of my kitchen, fingers poised above the well-used keyboard, determined to continue writing book 3, I was hit by the fear. Only, I didn’t know it was the fear. It wasn’t like Lily Allen’s song – I wasn’t concerned by materialism or celebrity – I was hit by a truckload of ‘what ifs?’

What if I’d used all my best ideas in Follow Me? What if I’d already used every last drop of emotion I could muster? What if I couldn’t capture the reader’s imagination? What if I couldn’t find original ways for my characters to express themselves? What if I repeat myself? What if book 3 is rubbish?

And the biggie: What if I let the reader down?

I removed myself from the corner of the kitchen, plonked myself down in the living room and allowed the ‘what ifs?’ to zip round my head like they were driving the wall of death. After a while of getting nowhere, other than dizzy and anxious, I called upon my lovely, supportive Romaniac friends.

‘I think I’ve been gripped by the fear,’ I said. But I didn’t really know, because it wasn’t something I’d grappled with before.

Their individual and collective advice was, as ever, sound, sensible and solid. And, as ever, they made me laugh. I was instructed to get something to eat and take a little time out. My nose had been to the grindstone, and I needed a break. They were right. I had to ‘refill the well’, as the fab members of the RNA say.

Later that day, I spoke with Gajitman, who offered a considered and practical approach, and kind reassurance that none of all of the above was going to happen.

The next morning, I met with a friend for coffee, who hit the nail on the head, putting the fear into a succinct five-word statement. ‘You are afraid of failing.’

And there it was. I was afraid of failing. Failing the reader, failing my publisher, failing my family and friends, and failing myself.

I’d never experienced this. I’d been brought up to always do my very best and that was the reward, regardless of the outcome.

I will do my very best – it’s who I am, it’s in my DNA, but what if my very best isn’t good enough? What then?

And that’s my fear.

IMG_6127It was scary out there for a while, but I have settled back into writing book 3, and I’m pleased and relieved to say the fear has passed, and now I know the signs, I’m better equipped to tackle it should it dare to show its ugly face again.

In the same way we all take something different from song lyrics, I suspect the fear is different for each and every one of us.

What are your experiences of the fear?

Laura x

Divine Moments

At Romaniac HQ we’re fond of creative lightbulb moments. The times when an idea pops up and we can all sit down with a cosy cuppa and a slice of cake and discuss whether it’s actually a good idea or if in fact, one (or all) of us have finally lost the plot.

So when these arrived…

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We quickly shared them out at HQ and decided to share when our divine lightbulb moments occur:

IMG_0934Catherine: Mine usually occur when I’m doing housework. I think it’s the reason I’ll never be a domestic goddess. I only get so far before I have to get on with some writing.

 

 

 

 

 

Sue : First of all thank you for sharing that scrummy chocolate – it didn’t last long in our house, that’s for sure. My divine moments tend to be when I’m dozing off to sleep. I’m not one of those writers who keeps a pen and paper by the bed, although I should, as despite my best intentions to remember my great ideas in the morning, it doesn’t always happen.

divine chocolate

 

01fe95cca7358b824ab43ba271995d5ec459cde77cLucie: These went down very well in my house, and I didn’t even eat a single piece. Ok, well maybe a little piece. Well, OK, two squares. Ok, ok! I ate the whole lot! All in one sitting. Within a matter of seconds.

My lightbulb moments ALWAYS come when I’m driving. When I cannot safely write down anything. A couple of years ago I invested in a dictaphone for these exact moments. But I kept forgetting to use it and it just stayed in the pocket of the door. I must get back into the habit of trying to use it again, I really cannot keep pulling over just to write things down.

IMG_7764Laura: Catherine – what more can one ask of a friend? You shared your chocolates! Thank you, so much. I passed on the share – my children’s big, pleading, puppy eyes were too muchShower running Water to resist. My divine moments often occur in the shower. I heard it’s to do with positive ions provided by water – they stimulate the brain. It’s a little inconvenient as I have to then remember my thoughts until I’m dry and back in the bedroom. However, a friend of mine has suggested a solution to this problem – a shower-proof notebook. It’s on my Christmas list.

 

Debbie: Thank you so much for the delicious chocolates. However, I’m sorry to say I don’t have a photo as they went so quickly, thanks to my two sons! My inspired moments tend to come when I’m in the queue at the post office or sitting in a cafe or somewhere public, ear-wigging conversations. Failing all else, seeing the trees and hills around where I live are what makes my heart sing so if I’m in need of time out and to gain some inspiration, I’ll take my black Lab for a walk and be alone with nature, peace and the countryside. It never fails to inspire.

Vanessa: That chocolate was soooo delicious – thank you Catherine!! Sunday mornings for some reason often provide my lightbulb moments – it’s the only day of the week I get anything vaguely approaching a lie-in (sometimes until 8.30am!) But as is always the way, when I can sleep in, I can’t – instead I lie awake and a million plot ideas for novels and short stories buzz around in my head. I’ve learned to keep a notebook next to the bed so at least I don’t have to physically get up – and my lovely husband always brings me a coffee and feeds the children pancakes while I write.

 

  

When do your divine moments strike?

One Night in Amsterdam: Jaz Hartfield. This post contains Adult Content.

ONE NIGHT IN AMSTERDAM by JAZ HARTFIELD

This post contains adult content

 

 

We’re delighted to welcome Jaz Hartfield to Romaniac HQ, with an extract from his erotic romance, One Night in Amsterdam.

Take it away, Jaz …

 Jaz Hartfield One Night in Amsterdam by Jaz Hartfield - 1800HR

Blurb:

Chloe organizes Jo’s hen weekend in Amsterdam, glad to get away from the usual boring or married men that she sleeps with. Perhaps she’ll meet some cool guys up for a bit of fun. If not, at least she’ll make sure her best friend gets very drunk while they all party in style. 

Dean is getting married to Tamsin, but having serious doubts. His mates take him to Amsterdam for one last weekend of debauchery before settling down for the rest of his life. But is Tamsin the right woman for him? 

When Chloe and Dean meet in Amsterdam’s red-light district, they are immediately attracted to each other. Dean tries to justify one last fling before marrying Tamsin. Chloe feels bad about having sex with someone else’s intended. Yet, a night of amazing sex is exactly what both of them want. So, why shouldn’t they just enjoy one night of fantastic, guilt-free sex?

Extract from ‘One Night In Amsterdam’ by Jaz Hartfield:

Eventually footsteps lightly ascended, so Dean stood up on the bed. As Tamsin walked in he made thrusting motions and waggled his erection provocatively.

“Roll up, roll up. Come and get it here.”

She made a face and shook her head. Dean hadn’t been aware of such prudishness from her before. He slumped down. This was an unexpected reaction.

“What’s up, Tams?”

Tamsin, still in her zipped-up onesie, sat on the bed, not looking at Dean. Something was definitely wrong.

“I want to talk to you about something.”

Uh-oh. Bad sign. Was she chucking him? Breaking off their engagement? But the wedding was practically organised. This would be a bloody expensive break-up.

“Okay,” Dean replied weakly. “Should I be worried?” He felt stupid now, sitting there naked with his c**k still fully engorged. He pressed it between his thighs so he could speak with an ounce of dignity.

“No, no,” Tamsin said. “I still want to marry you—”

“Whew!”

“—it’s just I wanted to suggest something, which I know won’t go down too well.” Finally, she turned to him and smiled. “Here goes. We’re getting married in a month’s time and I want our wedding to be perfect.”

“It will be, Tams.”

“I want the first night to be special, too. Something to remember. So I thought we should stop having sex until then, so our first night together as husband and wife would be lovely and…special. Otherwise it’ll just be like any other night.”

Dean felt deflated. It seemed a reasonable request; that was the worst of it.

“You could’ve warned me sooner before I worked myself into a frenzy.”

 

Jaz Hartfield Author Pic H005Jaz Hartfield Author Bio:

Jaz Hartfield is a writer and actor who loves travelling. He’s always looking for his next thrill, having tried bungee-jumping, parachuting, white-water rafting, pot-holing and deep sea diving. Jaz has lived in many different places; his favourite parts of the world include New Zealand, Kenya, Ireland and the Lake District in England. Having been on a stag weekend in Amsterdam, Jaz is unwilling to admit whether this story has elements of the truth in it or not.

Jaz on Facebook

 

Links:

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/citynightsamsterdam?ref=hl

Tirgearr Website: http://www.tirgearrpublishing.com/authors/Hartfield_Jaz/one-night-in-amsterdam.htm

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Open The Box. Open The Box!

 

Little Boxes by Celia J Anderson - 200

We are very excited at Romaniac HQ, as there is a new book to add to our sidebar, and we are helping our wonderful Celia J Anderson celebrate the release of her second novel, Little Boxes.

If you’ve read Sweet Proposal, Ce’s debut novel, you know you’re in for a treat.

Today, the 4th of November 2014, sees the release of Little Boxes, a story I saw come together when Celia and I spent a week on Sue Moorcroft’s Arte Umbria writing course last year. I cannot wait to read it. I love all sorts of boxes, but little ones intrigue me the most.

What would you put in a little box?

Little Boxes 2Here’s mine: I have shiny, red and gold, almost holographic boxes in my ‘special drawer’ in my bedroom. My mum was a lover of fondant flower sweets, which were incredibly hard to come by. I found a supplier, bought a bag, and then wrapped up four small parcels of two sweets each in tissue paper and placed them into one of the four boxes. I popped a tiny bow on top of each box, and they formed part of my mum’s Christmas present. The last little box I received contained hair dye …

Jan: Like Laura, I’m thrilled for Celia and, having  had a sneak preview of Little Boxes, I’m itching to see  it in print. You’ll love it, that’s for sure. As to what I’d put in a little box, it would be all my tiny keys to things like my jewellery box, home file, etc. I also have a sweet little miniature handbag box that houses various pins and buttons.  

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Sue: I can’t wait to read Little Boxes, I love the cover. As for what I’d put in a little box, it would be all my  lovely memories, such as, the smell of my nan’s Sunday dinners, Lincoln biscuits, the feel of soft baby skin and gentle breath, childhood holidays with cold waves of Cornish sea licking at my legs, the smell of saddle soap and leather from my horse riding days, the excitement of Christmas Eve, the taste of Black Jacks and Fruit Salad sweets, standing on the beach with the wind blowing my hair in a swirling frenzy and the feeling of contentment at watching your children sleeping peacefully.

baby hayley

Debbie: It’s so good  to hear ‘Little Boxes’ has reached publication day as I’ve followed the journey and how it has developed since Celia’s trip to Sue Moorcroft’s Arte Umbria writing course last year.

My little box would bulge with photographs of my two boys; all their first and significant events as they grow up so quickly, the green heart-shaped crystal my eldest bought me on a trip to Ironbridge and the necklace my youngest spent all his money on his first school trip to France. If I could, I’d also squeeze a small corner of the box for a selection of items that evoke memories and a ‘presence’ of my IMG_0366Nan like a packet of her Extra Strong mints, a bottle of her favourite perfume,  Helena Rubenstein’s, ‘Apple Blossom’ and a little glass ‘worry’ angel that I found in her glass cabinet when I cleared it out after she passed away. Finally, I’d put in the little figurine my mum gave me when we re-discovered each other after nearly forty years apart along with the ballet medals from when I was a little girl …

Lucie – I absolutely love the cover of ‘Little Boxes’ and I cannot wait to read it – how exciting. My ‘Little Box’ would contain special photographs of my family and my close friends, a pen and notepad, an ipod with all my favourite music and my special teddy from when I was a little girl. Ok, so my box isn’t that little, but those are all my favourite things that make me happy.

Catherine – I can’t wait to read Little Boxes. I remember first chatting with Celia about it in 2012 and so great to see it launched. Aside from the lovely memory type boxes the others have mentioned, my favourite little box holds within it small pieces of folded paper each with the name of a book I want to read. I’m rather enjoying this way of deciding what to read next! 

littleboxVanessa: We’re hoping to be moving house next month, so I’ll soon be packing a lot of very big boxes! But as I sort through, trying to be ruthless, getting rid of junk and rubbish, I’ve found myself opening a lot of boxes I haven’t seen for a while and getting lost in memories – lovely surprises as I find old photos I’d forgotten about, baby teeth left behind by the tooth fairy, the tiniest wellies I’ve ever seen ( I can’t believe my girls were ever small enough to wear them!). Time goes so fast so I’m going to re-pack those little boxes, add extra memories – cards and photos and notes – and plant them all over the new house: miniature time capsules to stumble over in future years.

I can’t wait to read Little Boxes – Celia is such a great writer and it’s been lovely sharing the excitement of her writing journey.

And what is in Celia’s Little Boxes? Whatever it is, I know we are in for an absolute treat.IMG_4073

Much love and many congratulations, Ce, on the release of Little Boxes. It is a book of gorgeous gems for every reader to treasure.

xxx

 

 

 

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?