Naming Characters – Tricky or Not?

During one of the many writerly debates I’ve recently had (Oh, alright then, chats over coffee and a humungous slice of cake!) the subject of naming our characters arose. Not so much the names themselves – i.e. we all agreed that having Tommy, Timmy and Tammy all appearing in one scene, would cause major confusion – more, if anything, what influences those choices.

I rather sheepishly confessed to experiencing niggles of guilt if I christen either a po-faced, cantankerous or toffee-nosed character with the same name as someone I personally know, or one of their nearest and dearest.  I mean, that person might never even read my book. And it’s not like it’s deliberate. If a particular name fits a certain character, it fits, right? Besides, it could work the other way. My neighbour might read my book and think I’ve named that beautiful, kind-hearted, law-abiding heroine after her, when to me; the name simply suits my character’s personality. So why do I worry about it so much?

“Oh, Jan! What are you like?” said writerly friend number one. “I could have an ex-boss called Jack who might be a twonk of the highest order, but if I want my hero to be called Jack, then Jack, he’ll be. End of! Same goes for any name, really…”

Writerly friend number two did, however, admit to feeling so frustrated at times about the naming issue, that she resorts to opening her “10 million trillion names” book or whatever it’s titled, twirling her finger in the air three times and selecting whichever name on the page it lands on. Although she did also confess to applying the ‘best of three’ rule occasionally.

The fourth member of our party simply shook his head, ordered us more cake and told us the only names he avoids using are family ones, and how he’s more concerned about his grandparents reading his saucy sex scenes. Ooh, er! An entirely new debate… 😉

So… where do you stand on the topic? Do you shy away from giving characters certain names, or do you steam straight in?

After all, it is fiction, isn’t it?

Jan x

Tuesday Chit-Chat with Amy Gregory

She’s sassy, snarky, fun and loving – she also writes great romance novels.

Please welcome Amy Gregory, author of Racing To Love, published by Sapphire Star!

Hi Amy great to have you here all the way from Kansas. Not sure what the time difference is but hope we’ve not got you up too early.  Although I get the feeling, with a young family, you’re probably used to some early starts.

Thank you so much for having me!  I’m not sure on time zone differences, I’m in CST if that helps.  I’m an early bird anyway, I get my best writing done in the morning.  After about 9pm I’m a lost cause.

[Off to check it out – okay, you’re five hours behind us – still the middle of the night for you then – sorry!]

Racing to Love your debut novel is out now, can you tell us a bit about it?

It is a series of four books, the setting is the world of motocross racing.  The main male characters are life-long best friends.  The first book is Carter Sterling’s story of how unpredictable life is and how love can find you when you least expect it.  It’s his tale of instant attraction to Molly and the lengths a man will go to in order to protect the woman he loves.

What type of motorbike would you say reflects your personality and why?

We are a motocross family.  Love it!  Love watching the professional races in person and on TV.  Plus, our son is a motocross racer, so I’d say dirt bikes.  Street bikes scare me.  I guess it’s that I trust him completely, but on the open road you’re at the mercy of all the other crazy drivers out there.

Having been brought up around road bikes, I know what you mean about other crazy road users.

Keeping on the road and travelling theme, can you tell us about the journey this book has gone through to get published?

Oh, my poor baby lol.  In a brief form I’ll explain.  I hadn’t written a word since back in school.  Then out of the blue I had a dream, the next night it expanded and so on.  Finally after a few days I started writing it down.  The next thing I knew I had over four hundred hand-written pages.  I typed it, edited, added, edited and edited again.  I had this passion all of the sudden that I didn’t have a clue where it came from.  I loved the story and wanted to share it.  I started querying agents and publishers with no luck.  Finally I decided to do a major rewrite, change the tense and stuff like that.  That’s when I was able to get in the door.  It did go through an intense rewrite in a very short amount of time with the help of my editor.  Then the rest was a blur!

So how did it feel to get the call/e-mail that Sapphire Star wanted to publish Racing To Love?

I guess the only way I could describe it is, surreal.  You picture it happening, you dream about it, but when it happened for me, I was just dumbstruck.

I read on your blog that you are writing two books at once! How did that come about and are you finding it easy to switch back and forth?

I am lol.  I am writing book four which is the last in the Racing to Love series as well as the first book in my next series.  They are very different characters and their worlds are unique to each of them.  I am finding it easier almost.  I have flashes of dialogue or scenes come to me for both.  I can get to a spot with one, stop and add to the other.  It makes those moments when you feel a little stumped almost non-existent.  I actually have a stand-alone thrown in the mix as well.  So between the three, I’m, so far, avoiding writer’s block—knock on wood!  As I’m working on one, ideas pop up for the others and it just flows so excitingly.

How would you describe your style of writing?  What sort of reader would it appeal to?

I would have to say I’m unique.  I do not like suspense at all.  I just get all anxious and my heart races, not a happy thing.  I only read and write romance.  I have to have a happy end, and on top of all that I am a complete smart mouth.  I love snarky dialogue.  To me, that makes it feel real.  I love writing in a series format because I can carry my characters throughout the books.  So if the reader loves romance, including the heat, sassy characters, humor, leading women that are not docile and instant attraction, that’s me.  My men, while they might not always be perfect, they’re close and they try hard.  They don’t give up, and they fight for the woman who stole their heart.  I like to write stories that could actually happen in everyday life, sweet easy reads that let the reader escape reality for a little bit and leave them feeling warm and fuzzy after they’ve read the last page.

What’s the strangest bit of research you’ve had to do and what sort of response did you receive?

Luckily I don’t do anything that needs an extensive amount of research.  Mainly city names and location details, that sort of thing.  I do like to use fictitious cities for the most part so I have to make sure once I’ve picked a state that it doesn’t exist.  I have to say there are some strange city names out there!

Do you feel you have tamper your natural voice or do you just write it as it comes?

Yes and no.  I speak with a normal amount of slang and a bit of a southern accent on some words.  Those things are hard to convert to a story without sounding goofy.  However, the attitude and sass is all me.  I won’t change that.  It makes my stories mine.  I love humor and I’m a self-admitted smart mouth.  Used in the right context, it can take a scene to a whole new level.  I’m a panster through and through, I just type as it comes to me.  My characters come to life for me, I’m just typing their stories.

Do your write for the American or UK market?

I will probably only write scenes based on American locations, just because I don’t want it to feel fake or made up.  However, motocross is huge in Europe.  The bike our son rides is actually an Austrian make.  I hope to gain loyal readers in both parts of the world.

When can we expect to see book 2 released?

Racing to Love – Jesse’s Soul will be released January 3, 2013 with Eli’s Honor to follow shortly after.

Excellent, not too far off then, you’ll have to come back and tell us about it in the new year 🙂

It’s been great chatting to you, Amy. Good luck with writing two books at once!

It’s been great to be here, thank you for introducing me to your followers!

Want to find out  more about Racing To Love and Amy Gregory?

Here’s the blurb and an excerpt, followed by the links for Amy.

About Racing To Love

From the outside, Molly West had everything, beauty, brains, and a career she’d retired from not once, but twice.  Being in the limelight and in a sport that was male driven, she was often surrounded by men.  She ignored first the boys, and as she got older, the men.  Her cold shoulder and patented not a chance in hell look were usually enough to get her point across.  Molly had no plans in changing what was a perfectly good system. That is until she walked into the pits. 

Carter Sterling had traveled the racing circuit since he was a boy.  He’d heard all the old standbys, She’s out there somewhere, love comes along when you least expect it.  Good things come to those that… Yeah, he’d heard them all.  The last place he expected to meet the love of his life was on a pro track.  All she did was smile, and he knew, looking into her sapphire blue eyes, Molly West was his.  Forever. 

If it was only that easy.  From the moment he laid eyes on her, he had a gripping feeling in him.  An overwhelming need to protect her—a girl he’d just met.  Carter had learned a long time ago that gut feelings are almost never wrong.  Molly now held his heart in her hands, but it was going to take a lot more than just love to protect her from the past she thought she’d buried a long time ago.

Now for a little taster of Racing To Love

They continued to walk back toward the pits, but he stopped when they were in the darkened hallway, just before they would have rounded the corner and been seen.

Molly’s heart sped.

He was still holding her hand, but turned to face her as he placed his other hand on her waist. She sucked in a breath when he stepped forward. Her first instinct was to be anxious, to cower back, but something in those ice blue eyes told her she didn’t have to be afraid.

When he had leaned in to kiss her when they were sitting on the track, she’d panicked. And then when he had started to move away, she’d panicked again—for a different reason entirely.

Those flip-flopping emotions were about to drive her crazy.

Now, in the dimmed corridor, Molly closed her eyes to catch her breath and to search for a decision. He’d been rubbing his thumb on her waist, but his movements stopped when her eyes dropped closed. The soothing strokes didn’t continue until she finally reopened her eyes and dragged her attention up his chest and past his Adam’s apple. She continued up until she locked her gaze with his. When she offered him a hesitant smile, he began stroking her again with a warm smile on his lips.

Staring down at her, he let go of her hand and skimmed the back of his over her cheek. She felt her heart thundering, her pulse racing when she ran her hands up his chest, feeling each and every rippled muscle. She’d never purposely touched a man like this before. Sure, she’d felt Brody’s muscles when she’d smacked him for one reason or another. Or when trying to push him off of her after he’d wrestled her to the ground being an ornery brother and all. But this? This was foreign.

Her eyes were back on her own fingers, taking everything in. She stopped at his heart and could feel it pounding hard beneath the soft cotton t-shirt.

“Just so you know…” he started in his slow, sexy voice.

She could tell he was waiting for eye contact again before continuing. “Yeah?” she whispered.

“I’m going to fall in love with you.”




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The Perfect Life List

I sat down this morning to write a list of ideas for my upcoming blog and was a few lines in when inspiration struck – I didn’t NEED this list, because I could write a blog ABOUT lists and how fabulous and essential they are. Brilliant! And I can even relate it to writing because so many of my lists are about writing!

I LOVE lists. I do, I really do. I always start the day with at least one list, and nothing beats the satisfaction of ticking things off that list. I don’t wait until New Year to write lists of resolutions – I tend to do this on a monthly basis, a never-ending list of things I’m convinced will result in a perfect life if only I could put a tick next to them all…

I don’t think it’s just me – everyone loves a good list, don’t they? A love ingrained from a very early age, I realized, as my five year old made me sit down with her the other day to help with the spelling on her Christmas list – she’d seen something on an advert on TV and just had to write it down immediately (it was a Barbie Puppy Play Park in case Santa is reading this, and she’s been a very good girl this year so definitely must be on the good list).

This week, and it’s only Wednesday as I write this, I have written the following lists:(apologies in advance for the mention of the C word. I can’t help myself – ONLY 15 WEEKS TO GO!)

List of short story competitions

List of short story ideas

List of chapter ideas for new book

Daily lists of scenes I want to write

List of potential titles for new book

List of blog ideas

Daily work lists for the day-job

Weekly task list for the day-job

List of things to buy in lunch-hour at day-job

Food shopping lists

Menu plan for the week

List of children’s school activities I need to pay for/complete forms for

Christmas present lists (sorry)

Everything I want to buy for Autumn/Winter lists

List of new books I want to buy

List of ingredients for recipes

List of chores to be done in house (long)

List of chores to be done in garden (longer)

List of exercise I WILL do this week (short)

Lists of very expensive things I would buy if rich

List of very expensive places I would go if rich

I think maybe I have a problem. But I definitely work better if I have lists. Take food shopping for example – send me shopping without a list, I’ll spend twice as much money and come back with nothing edible. It’s the same for writing. I’m not a huge planner – I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen in a book when I start writing. I know my characters, how the book starts and how it ends. In between I write a lot of lists, lists that change regularly as I go along. Some are abandoned, some are expanded, some are ruthlessly cut. I start with a vague, unnumbered list of what might happen, then a less vague list of chapter numbers and what might happen. The first lists might only have a dozen chapter ideas – the rest of it tends to spring from the characters’ actions. But I always go back and update my lists because if I didn’t, my poor characters would just wander around, getting lost and being generally useless.

Do you know, reading this back through, I sound like I should be quite organised, don’t I? Almost… efficient. Hmmm… not sure where the lists are going wrong for me. Maybe it’s the lack of things actually ticked off those lists that’s the problem?

Still, never mind – can’t stop. Lists to write, stories to finish.

Vanessa x

Tuesday Chit-Chat with Acquisitions Manager, Katie Henson

Today Katie Henson, Acquisitions Manager and Co-owner of Sapphire Star Publishing has crossed the Atlantic for a chat with us.

Since starting up in January 2012, American publisher, Sapphire Star Publishing has gone from strength to strength, bringing some great authors to the fore, including UK authors and Romaniac friends, Mandy Baggot, Nicky Wells and Linn B Halton.  As such, we thought it would be great to have a chat to Acquisitions Manager/Co-Owner of Sapphire Star Publishing, Katie Henson.

Hi Katie, thanks for taking time out your busy day to chat to us, hope the time difference isn’t causing you any problems!  As mentioned above Sapphire Star Publishing started up earlier this year, can you tell us the history behind it?

First off, I’m honoured to have the opportunity to chat with Romaniac friends! Thank you so much for inviting me to visit the Romaniac blog. 

Yes, we opened our doors January 1st of this year.  The response from authors, reviewers, and readers around the world has been incredible.  We’ve been extremely blessed, and we’re so grateful for the warm reception we’ve received into the industry.

The framework for Sapphire Star began when Amy Lichtenhan, co-owner of Sapphire Star, and I saw a real need for a publishing company that worked alongside an author throughout the publishing journey.  Unfortunately, even if a book is outstanding, there is a good chance it will go unnoticed without people working hard to promote it and get it out to the masses.  Obviously, no one is going to care more about the book’s success than the author, so it only makes sense for the publisher and author to work together as a team to ensure that their book is given an even better chance at reaching its greatest potential. While we are a full-service publisher, we ask for our authors’ creative input and participation in every aspect of the publishing process. 

What was your path to becoming Acquisitions Manager?

My background is in the field of editing. That, together with my love of reading, brought me into the role of Acquisitions Manager when we began Sapphire Star.  However, Amy also has her hands in the submissions process.  We work together in all aspects of the business, and we’ve been very fortunate to contract with some exceptional editors that help make up our team. 

What is the significance behind the company name?

The sapphire in our name comes from Amy’s late grandmother.  Her favourite gem was a sapphire.  Having that connection with her grandma just adds something special to our name for us.

What would you say is the most challenging part of your job?

Without a doubt that would be sending out rejections. Obviously, we can’t take everything that is submitted, but we’re very mindful of the privilege we have to review any submission from any author.  We understand that often times, years of work went into a manuscript. We don’t take that lightly. 

Could you tell us what are the three key elements you look for in a manuscript?

First and foremost, the idea of story has to captivate us through the query letter and the first three chapters.  If we request a full manuscript, we look for what any reader would look for—a great story, pure and simple.  Of course, any great story includes strong plot and character development.  Sure, this sounds very elementary, but we’ve come across many, many manuscripts that have an outstanding premise, but they unfortunately lack these basic story elements. 

And dare we ask what are your pet hates in a manuscript?

I’d have to say large amounts of grammatical errors.  We fully expect some errors—I’m referring to consistent errors throughout the manuscript.  Grammar is not everyone’s strong suit, but we would encourage an edit before submitting.  This doesn’t have to be a costly, professional edit—instead enlist the help of a friend that is good with grammar or find a critique partner.  If a story is strong enough, we’ll see past the errors, but it’s always nice to read a polished manuscript.

Do you have any advice or tips for anyone submitting to Sapphire Star Publishing?

Besides having your manuscript edited as I mentioned above, take the time to work with a couple of critique partners before submitting to any publisher.  Many of our authors at Sapphire Star have found a critique partner to be an invaluable tool. 

Fifty Shades of Grey has been really successful in both the UK and the US – why do you think this is?

First, I think this series had quite a head start due to the author’s amazing number of supporters from the story’s early days as a fan fiction.  Second, I think the author has opened up a subject that a lot of women considered taboo.  Fifty Shades has probably contributed to bringing back the spark to many a bedroom, no matter what continent you live on!

What do you read in your spare time? Do you have a favourite author?

I love all sorts of fiction—women’s fiction, chick-lit, thrillers, and of course all kinds of romance.  As much as I love holding a good book in my hand (or my Kindle for that matter), I listen to audiobooks because there just doesn’t seem to be much spare time for reading these days.  I listen while I’m driving or lying in bed at night. I find myself taking the long way home some days if I’m at an intense part of a story.

I don’t have a favourite author—just too many amazing writers out there! I just finished Gone Girl: A Novel by Gillian Flynn and A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty by Joshilyn Jackson.  Loved them both. I’m in the mood for some romance next!

Not including your current profession, if you could do any job, what would you like to do?

Honestly, I don’t feel like anything could top what I’m doing now.  I have the pleasure of working with some of the most interesting and creative people that I’ve ever met. I hope to keep doing this for years to come, but I do look forward to the day when I have more time to spend with family and friends. 

Quick Fire

Flowers or Chocolate?  Chocolate

Beer or wine?  Hmmm…margarita?

Facebook or Twitter? Facebook

Theatre or Cinema? Cinema…with buttered popcorn and Red Vines

Coffee or Hot Chocolate? Hot chocolate (yum)

Pitt or Depp? Pitt (double yum)

Astrology or Astronomy? Astrology

Thanks for being here Katie, it’s been great getting to find out more about yourself and Sapphire Star Publishing.

Why? Why? Why?

I was recently tagged in a MeMe over on my blog katylittlelady and took the opportunity to tag The Romaniacs so I could quiz the others on what their why questions were. I thought there would be lots of why questions on our minds so here they are, some writerly, mostly random:


Why is it you can read through the ts a hundred times and spot the mistake only after you’ve hit the Send button?

Why is it me only who is bothered by a full bin?

Why are grey hairs tougher than brown hairs?


Why don’t I like gardening even though I really, really want to?

Why are someone else’s leftover chips at work so much nicer than the lovely box of salad you made earlier for your lunch?

Why has my dieting willpower disappeared?


Why can’t I learn to say No without feeling so guilty about it?

Why, when out present-buying for that special someone, can I never purchase the first perfectly suitable item I see,  thus saving myself a fruitless trudge round every shop in town in search of something I suspect won’t match up to it?

Why isn’t my chunky kitkat bigger?


Why do I only bump into people I know when I’ve just sneaked out to Tesco in my old clothes, no make-up and hair that looks like I’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards?

Why does the phone ring, someone knocks at the door, the dog starts barking and a chorus of ‘Muuuummmmm!’ begin as soon as I sit down?

Why do I download so many books to my Kindle when I have only one lifetime to read them all in?

Why do I wake up early on the days when I don’t have to get up?

Finally, I wasn’t going to put this on the blog but Catherine more or less dared me … Why after eating three mini Danish pastries, one after the other, do I feel really sick?


Why doesn’t chocolate have the same calorie content as a grape?

Why doesn’t my singing voice sound like the one inside my head – I’m amazing, honest!

Why do all my good writing ideas come to me when I’m driving and I cannot write them down?


Why can’t I go a whole year without something dramatic or life-changing happening to me?

Why can’t I sleep when I want to sleep or wake when I want to wake up?

Why do the clothes I buy never look like they did on the models?

Why do I hate olives so much?


Why do shops always have a 30% off sale the day after I buy something?

Why won’t my house clean itself?

Why is there always more bad news than good news?

Why am I most inspired to write when I’m at work or a children’s party and it’s impossible to do so?


There are our why questions about the universe and the other things that plague our thoughts. What are yours?


Catherine x

Find Out Friday with Juliet Greenwood.

A Romaniac Interview with Juliet Greenwood.

Good Friday morning to you, Juliet, and welcome to our blog. It was great to meet you at this year’s Romantic Novelists’ Association Conference where your love of nature was even more apparent in person. What did you think of the teaching garden at the Penrith site?

Thank you, lovely Romaniacs. It was great to meet you too. Sorry I couldn’t make it to your famous kitchen parties – I was with you in spirit!

I adored the teaching garden at Penrith. I love my garden at home, and I’ve recently installed a polytunnel, so to find the unexpected gem of a horticultural garden at Penrith was wonderful. I enjoyed every minute of the conference, but there was so much to take in it was great to be able to disappear for a few minutes into the peace and quiet of the gardens. I loved the little meadows of wildflowers amongst the ponds and the cottage garden feel of the beds and those polytunnels full of produce and surrounded by herbs were just to die for. It was a perfect place to sit and read and absorb everything – and take notes for my own garden!

How are you taking advantage of the late burst of summer?

Well, I suppose my answer should be that I’m catching up with my garden. I’ve done a bit of tidying, so it doesn’t totally disgrace me, but I’m making the most of the sun by going out and seeing other people’s gardens. The sort of grand ones that belong to castles and stately homes. I live in the Snowdonia National Park, where people come from all over the world on holiday to see the sights. It’s really easy to take where you live for granted and not make the most of it, so that’s what I’m doing now. I’m going out with friends, being a tourist at home! So far we’ve spent a day at Portmeirion, which is one of my favourite places of all, and visited Gwydir Castle and the lovely grounds at Glynllifon. I’m planning a trip round Anglesey next, if we get any more sun, and then probably back to Portmeirion again…

In what ways do the seasons affect you? Which inspires you the most and why?

Now that I live halfway up a mountain, I’m so much more aware of the seasons than when I was in London. Having a collie, who needs lots of exercise whatever the weather, helps. I’m so glad I live in a place where the seasons give a rhythm and a pattern to the year. Winter is time for log fires and beavering away at the next book. It doesn’t take much for us to be cut off up here. A bit of snow and the cars stay put. Whichever way you go it’s steeply downhill – and we’ve all seen too many cars that have gracefully slid into stone walls to try. My day job’s office is based by the sea, when it never snows, but like most employers round here they take a look at the hills and know I’ll be working from home for a few days! Spring is always a miracle. I feel full of optimism and energy and buzzing with new ideas. And summer – when we have one – is a great time to be out enjoying the countryside and the sea and relaxing with friends. I love summer evenings. That’s when my garden is great for parties or for just sitting listening to the sounds of the neighbours (the ones that aren’t sheep) enjoying being outside. But my favourite season is autumn. I love its richness mixed with fragility, the crystal clear quality of the light, and the sense that every day is precious and must never be taken for granted, for tomorrow everything might be encased in ice. Exhilarating!

You post amazing landscape pictures on your Facebook page. Have these images sparked ideas or are you simply sharing the sheer beauty of the natural world?

Thank you, I’m glad you enjoy them! I’m really lucky to live in a beautiful part of North Wales, with the mountains on one side and the sea on the other, and a few ruined castles thrown in for good measure. I studied photography when I lived in London and the best advice my tutor gave me was to always keep a small camera in your bag because you never know. I love sharing the unexpected things I come across while on the daily dog walk, like a stunning sunset or finding an octopus on Llanfairfechan beach. I do find the images sparking ideas too. They creep into my books when I least expect them. It was an early morning walk on a beach in Cornwall that inspired one of the central scenes in ‘Eden’s Garden’. Even though I didn’t know it at the time.

Please tell us about your latest book, Eden’s Garden.

Eden’s Garden is a time-shift, based partly now and partly in Victorian times. It follows two women, living a hundred years apart, each trying to find their own true path in life and in love, despite the conventions and expectations that still surround us as women. At the story’s heart is a fading mansion with a neglected garden that holds the key to a mystery and an extraordinary secret. I loved writing the novel and I was so excited when Eden’s Garden was chosen by the Welsh Books Council as Welsh Book of the Month for May this year.

How did it feel when Eden’s Garden hit the top 100 best sellers Amazon list, and then continued to climb?

Gobsmacked! There’s no other word for it. I’m an unknown with a small publisher and it never crossed my mind that it would go anywhere near the bestsellers, except in my dreams. I was scrabbling around hysterically trying to work out how to do a screenshot when it got to 97, so it was very exciting when it crept up further and further and ended up in the top 50 of the Historical Fiction kindle charts. I’m still cheering inside!

The book is based in Cornwall, Wales and London. What are your connections to these places?

It was great to set a book in my three favourite locations. Wales is my home and my passion. Although I wasn’t born here, I’ve been visiting since I was six months old and I’ve lived here for the past twenty years.

I love London. I’ve always had family there and I studied and worked there for nearly ten years. It still feels like home when I go back for visits. Plus Dickens is one of my favourite authors. I love his depictions of the hustle and bustle of London streets. It was great to spend time in Victorian London in my head. 

Cornwall and Devon are some of my favourite locations. I’ve been visiting since I was a teenager. When I was younger I walked the coastal path with friends, carrying tents on our backs. The last time I chose a more civilised mode of camping, with Emily, my ‘Romahome’ mini campervan. Emily has since succumbed to old age, so next time it’s just going to have to be a cottage on the Lizard. I can’t wait!

Is the garden in your novel influenced in any way by your cottage garden in Wales?

The garden in Plas Eden is on a much grander scale of course, but my cottage garden was a wonderful place of healing for me when I was ill for a year with a severe virus and ended up with M.E.  I think it was that year when I hit rock bottom and had to rebuild my life, when I was sitting in my garden grown wild, that the first idea for ‘Eden’s Garden’ began to take shape.

If you had to describe you book as a flower, which one would you choose and why?

I think it would have to be a forget-me-not: deceptively delicate, an emblem of memories, both cultivated and wild. Oh, and it spreads like wildfire. (Here’s hoping…)

What have been the best and worst moments of your writing career?

My best moments were working with my wonderful editor, Janet Thomas, at Honno. It was the most incredible learning experience, one that stretched me to the limit and made me so much more professional in my approach. I’ve never worked so hard in my life, but it was also exhilarating, feeling that I was being pushed to take my writing to another level. Utterly life-changing. And a total privilege, knowing that someone had seen potential in my writing and was giving me that rare feedback it’s so hard to come by. When I did something and I could see that it worked, then it was the greatest buzz of all!

As for the worst. Mmm. There are so many to choose from. I think the very worst was in my early thirties when I decided it was time to grow up and forget the dream as it was never going to happen, and I needed to settle down to a proper job instead. It’s no coincidence that was the time I became really ill. Which, ironically, was what set me off on the journey to becoming a published writer. So you never know.

Have you any future plans you would like to share?

I’m busily working on my next book, which is based around three women during the First World War. It’s getting a bit nail biting at the moment, so I can’t wait to get back to it every day. My alter ego, Heather Pardoe, is also busy writing a serial for ‘The People’s Friend’, which is based in the Welsh Gold Rush – and yes, there really was one!

Thank you so much for visiting our blog today, Juliet. Good luck with the continued sales of Eden’s Garden.

Thank you for having me. I’ve had a wonderful time. I feel I’ve joined the Romaniacs for one great party!

My website:



Amazon link to Eden’s Garden:

Eden’s Garden

Sometimes you have to run away, sometimes you have to come home.

2011 – Carys agrees, with mixed feelings, to look after her mother after a fall. This decision unsettles everything – her job, her plans, her relationship with Joe. Once home she is drawn back into village life, into her family history hidden in the attic, and into the history of Plas Eden, the ramshackle great house that was so much part of her childhood. Where, at 18 she forced herself to say goodbye to David Meredith. How will she feel when they meet again?

1898 – Ann, destitute, stands on London Bridge. She remembers her last visit to London, a spoilt aristocratic bride, sure of the power of her youth and beauty. Now she is running from everything she trusted. Is the river her only option, or will the Meredith Charity Hospital hide her?

Two women struggling with love, family duty, long buried secrets, and their own creative ambitions. But over a hundred years ago, Ann left a trail, through North Wales, Cornwall and London, that may help Carys find her true path. What is the secret of the statues in the garden?

Juliet’s Bio:

Juliet lives in a traditional Welsh cottage halfway between the romantic Isle of Anglesey and the beautiful mountains and ruined castles of Snowdonia.

After studying English at Lancaster University and King’s College, London, Juliet worked in a variety of jobs, from running a craft stall at Covent Garden Market to teaching English.

Juliet began writing seriously about ten years ago, after a severe viral illness left her with debilitating ME/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for years. Juliet always says that M.E. was the worst, and the best, thing that ever happened to her. On one hand, it sent her from being able to walk up mountains with ease to struggling to do the simplest of everyday tasks for more than a few minutes at a time. But on the other, it forced her to re-evaluate her life and her priorities. And it made her a writer.

She is now well and back to dog walking and working on her beloved garden. As well as novels under her own name, Juliet writes stories and serials for magazines as ‘Heather Pardoe’.

When not writing, Juliet works on local oral history projects, helping older people tell their stories before they are lost forever. .

Through the Wilderness

I think a lot. Some might say I’m a serial over-thinker with my tendencies to analyse, deliberate, cogitate, and ruminate.

My brain hardly ever shuts down. Even when I go to sleep, I’m prone to stirring through the night and once awake, my head whirs into action and off I go again, mulling over the day or the day to come, fretting about my personal life or on occasions, a character or scene from my WIP robs me of sleep.

Having been paralysed by writer’s block for the last eighteen months I became hung up on that and spent countless hours considering how to overcome my inability to write. Somehow, I managed to get a partial in to the NWS for the deadline and last week I received the most supportive and positive feedback imaginable back from my ‘Reader.’ I’ve already made the suggested tweaks on the submitted chapters. My reader helped re-affirm that I can write and how much I want to be published, so much so, that their words of encouragement made me take a step back and re-evaluate what I’m going to do to get there. After all, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” And the solution came as somewhat of an epiphany while I was out walking the pup a few days ago…

I realised that instead of thinking about writing all the time, rather than the actual writing, and allowing the other personal and domestic matters to interrupt my creative flow and frazzle my brain, I need to get a grip, free my mind and do what writer’s do – WRITE!

There is plenty of time for thinking when I’m in the bath, swimming, driving or out walking the dog. I need to compartmentalise my time. And I need to stop procrastinating! So I intend trying, if I can, to use the ‘dead’ time, like when I’m swimming my lengths, to benefit my writing ideas – maybe mull over characters or scenes. Then, seeing as some of my best work is done when I’m ‘at one’ with nature, I’m going to make the most of that too.

I’m blessed to live where I do. Being a huge countryside and nature lover, there is something about gazing at a sunset…

…and the stars at night and seeing the combines make tracks in the field. Walking the puppy in the rain and clomping along. Studying the birds on the bird table. They all inspire me. The trouble is, despite having a view to die for and all of these things around me daily, there are too many distractions. Like for example, my eldest son blasting out music or playing the Xbox if he’s not working a shift, or the neighbours popping their heads over the hedge for a natter, or the housework.

So guess what I’ve been doing for the last couple of weeks which seems to be working?

I’ve taken to getting in the car and driving to a peaceful place for some solitude. It’s a National Trust valley with lunar views of the South Shropshire Hills and a babbling brook only a few minutes drive from where I live. My car loaded with all the essentials – a fold up chair, blanket, water, my laptop, fingerless gloves in case it’s cold – I set up and write for a few hours without no interruptions except an occasional sheep or hiker walking past. If it’s too windy or rainy, like it is as I write this blog, I sit in the car, push the seat back and perch my laptop on my lap. No internet, no mobile phone connections, no people, no noise. No thinking. Just writing.

My own little outside office.


Yes, it may sound a little extreme and my friends would think me eccentric if they knew, (but then they probably know I am already!) but so far, it seems to be working. Even if it is only short-term or until the weather gets too cold to sit in the car, I’m being productive now.

It won’t be easy. Fear of Writer’s block hasn’t left me, and how do I find time and space in the day when I’m (to all intents) a single parent. Mummy duties, being a taxi driver, head chef, gardener etc have to be worked around if I’m going to get my novel re-written and off to the agent who’s waiting to see it. This will require all my powers of determination and being more single-minded. And if it doesn’t work, I may have to re-think…

So where do you do your writing ‘thinking’ time? And do you ever find you have to get away from it all in order to focus.



Tuesday Chit-Chat with Mandy Baggot

This post comes with a Public Health Warning – it’s fast and dynamic, just like Mandy herself and at the end of it, you’ll need to sit down and catch your breath!  I really don’t know where she gets all her energy and enthusiasm from. 🙂

Over to you, Mandy …

First off, I have to say that I am a HUGE Romaniac fan! You ladies are brilliant and I am left completely entertained after every post! It is an honour to be invited into your posse for the day!


So, what has been happening in my world lately? Well, I am still touring! Taking Charge, my first novel with Sapphire Star Publishing came out on 3 May and it’s been doing really well in the UK, in Germany and in particular, the US. Off the back of this success I’ve been asked to do another blog tour! YAY! So for the whole of September I will be bouncing around the US (unfortunately not physically but virtually) giving you fun interviews, writing tips and telling you a few things about Lady B you might not know! You can find out all the details of the tour stops on my

 [Sue : just butting in here – I’ve read Taking Charge and really enjoyed it – a real page turner and would thoroughly recommend it.]

As for bookstore signings, well, as most of you know Waterstones have reviewed their criteria for author signings and this is really going to change things for me. Unfortunately, I am not going to be able to travel the country signing at stores now. The main bullet points of the new criteria are:-


A bookseller must be in attendance at each signing (i.e. authors must not leave the table and approach customers)

The signing should not be longer than 2 hours – if there are people waiting to see an author then it can continue until the last person in the queue has been seen.


Even if I was able to secure a signing at a store, with travelling time and costs it wouldn’t be viable to be at a store for only two hours. I have met some fantastic people on my travels in 2012 and I’m really gutted that I won’t be able to get out and meet the readers as much as I want. However, I do still have two signings – Waterstones Fareham andWaterstones Portsmouth – and a big thank you to them for honouring the events. All the details are on my website and if you can make it I would love to see you!


Lady B hit the number one spot! Yes, my novel Knowing Me Knowing You hit the number one spot on the Amazon Top 100 Free chart in July. And not only did it reach #1 in the UK, I was also #1 in France and Germany too! There is nothing like being #1 I can tell you! These type of promotions are an essential for authors like myself because it encourages readers to try a new writer they might not have heard of, or considered before and hopefully when they read it and love it, they will buy my other books. That seems to be what happens – can’t believe there are people they haven’t heard of me though – perhaps I need to be a bit more interactive LOL! Oooo and I was also in Woman magazine back in June! How exciting to be the Hot Read of the Week – that made me feel like a proper author!


I will be taking part in the Festival of Romance again this year! Yes, last year I wowed everyone dressed as a chicken – who knows what outfit I might don this year! The Festival of Romance is taking place in Bedford this year from Friday 16th November -Sunday 18th November. I will be signing books at the Romance Fair at the Corn Exchange on the Saturday and Saturday evening you can catch me at the Rock Star party reading an extract from Strings Attached! I’ve also entered two of my books in the awards. Taking Charge is up for Best Romantic Read and Strings Attached is up for Best Self-Published novel. Fingers crossed!


If you love reading, are a writer or have writing aspirations do try and come along – the Romance Fair and theReadathon are FREE events and you can check out the whole agenda here


As we speak I am in the process of finishing my sixth novel, Security! I am really excited about this novel as it’s a little bit different from anything I’ve written before. The main characters are pop princess Autumn Raine and her newly-appointed bodyguard, Nathan Regan. Autumn is quite a character – she’s confident and assured on stage but away from the limelight she is weak and vulnerable and very much in need of TLC. Nathan is a career soldier who wears his heart firmly wrapped up in Kevlar. He is hired to protect Autumn when a terrorist group threatens to kidnap her. There are guns and kidnap attempts, music, a small island retreat and a Jamaican woman who can cook a mean chicken and handle an automatic weapon! Has that intrigued you enough? Well you’ll probably going to have to wait until 2013 I’m afraid!

Why Writing Should Be Like Sex!

Yes, it’s true, we should be at it like rabbits! If you’re a writer, it’s instinctive and you’ll be at it at every opportunity. The writing that is.

I came up for the title of this post when I was considering writers’ block. It’s not something I’ve ever suffered from and it made me wonder why? Well, first and foremost, I don’t believe in it! But then I know of lots of writers who have at some point been affected. So what is the difference? How are some people affected and others not?

It struck me that it’s to do with how you approach writing. I’m never short of something to write and the reason I’m productive is mostly to do with not trying to be perfect. I write a lot of twoddle. Twoddle you will never have the displeasure of reading because what I start out with is just an idea, not the finished product.

So where does the sex come into it? Well, when I was thinking about it I realised it’s best to approach writing a bit like your sex life!

  • Don’t over think it, do what comes naturally.
  • Do it for the fun of it.
  • If you find yourself thinking about your shopping list midway, then you need to concentrate, focus on the task at hand!
  • Perfect your technique, find out what works best and do it again!

I could go on… talk about innuendo at its best but I haven’t even scratched the surface!I know this because when I spoke to two Romaniacs (namely Sue & Laura) at that point I only had the title without having written the post. They’d already tried to guess what it was going to be about… they wondered if it was about pacing or climax or things that I couldn’t possible repeat in this post!

So if you have any other thoughts on the subject (much like Sue & Laura) do please add a comment about ‘Writing is like sex because…”

Nicky Wells has something to sing about today …

Happy Publication Day to a great supporter of The Romaniacs and fabulous author Nicky Wells. Today she is celebrating the official launch of her novel, Sophie’s Turn, and she wants to sing it from the rooftops!

A Natural Born Singer. Not.

I’m an enthusiastic singer. I sing all the time. I love music, and it’s really no surprise that I am writing books that feature music. Well, ok, they feature a rock star featuring music. But still.

Today, it’s my launch day for Sophie’s Turn, brought to you by my publisher, Sapphire Star Publishing, and the lovely Romaniacs have very kindly agreed to let me make a song and a dance about it right here on their blog.

So I’d love to sing for you. In fact, if you can keep a secret, I am singing as I write. “We are the Champions” is my current tune, mixed in with a bit of “Walking on Sunshine” and “The Only Way Is Up”. You get the idea, I am truly celebrating. There’s only one problem. I’m not very good.

How can that be, you ask. I’m sure I read somewhere you met your husband in a choir? I certainly did, you are absolutely right. I did sing in a choir for several years, performing classical choral pieces. I’m an alto, as I discovered when I joined. And I also discovered that singing in a choir works for me. I can somehow do that. But singing on my own? Rock songs? Nah. Not so good.

In fact, many, many years ago, the mother of a then boyfriend (who happened to be an opera singer; the mother, not the boyfriend) told me quite explicitly and not a little rudely to Shut Up because my singing was so awful, apparently. I was crushed, and I duly shut up.

For all of… five minutes. Because, lack of ability or not, singing is in me. I just do it. Half the time, I’m not even aware of it, as I’m sure the inhabitants of this enchanted but small village that I now call home are quickly discovering.

Having had a little bit of training through singing in that choir, I do know that I risk going off-key quite a bit whilst belting out a favourite rock tune. I have learnt to hear when that happens, and to stop and right myself, sort of. I have also learnt that, had I but a score to read, I would probably do a lot better. But in the absence of scores, I shall remain wobbly, to say the least. I recognise that… but it still doesn’t stop me.

In fact, my continual singing and near-word-perfect knowledge of all things lyrics was one of the first things my now husband noticed about me. During a long, fateful car journey in a very beaten up Golf (the windows were held shut by lashings of silicone sealant, I seem to recall) all the way from sunny Brighton to sunny Tooting-in-London. Enough said. And it didn’t put him off, now, did it? On the contrary.

About Nicky Wells: Romance that Rocks Your World!

Rock On! Nicky Wells writes fun and glamorous contemporary romance featuring a rock star and the girl next door.  She recently signed her work with U.S. publisher, Sapphire Star Publishing.  Nicky loves rock music, dancing, and eating lobsters.  When she’s not writing, Nicky is a wife, mother, and occasional teaching assistant.

Originally born in Germany, Nicky moved to the United Kingdom in 1993, and currently lives in Lincoln with her husband and their two boys.  In a previous professional life, Nicky worked as a researcher and project manager for an international Human Resources research firm based in London and Washington, D.C.

Visit Nicky on her blog where you can find articles, interviews, radio interviews and, of course, an ongoing update on her work in progress, the second and third parts of the Rock Star Romance Trilogy.  You can also follow Nicky on Twitter and find her on Facebook.  Nicky is a featured author on the innovative reader/author project, and has joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association. Nicky also has author pages at Sapphire Star Publishing and, of course, Goodreads.

About Sophie’s Turn

Slapper.  Slut.  Adulteress.  These are hardly words that Sophie Penhalligan would normally use to describe herself.  Yet this is exactly how she is behaving, all things considered, even if she isn’t quite married to Tim yet.  And it’s all happening because her past is coming to tempt her!  Nine years ago, she met her teenage idol and rock star extraordinaire, Dan, up close and personal.  Well, almost.  Now Dan has crash-landed back in her life.  How could Tim ever stand a chance against the charming, handsome singer?  How could she?

Sophie, now twenty-eight and a budding newspaper journalist, is happily embroiled in a relationship with Tim, her boyfriend of two years.  Until recently, she was confident that Tim would eventually propose—probably as soon as he could get his act together.  But just as Tim’s persistent inaction is beginning to cast a cloud over their relationship, Dan’s sudden reappearance turns Sophie’s world upside down.  Thus unfolds a roller-coaster of events including an ill-fated trip to Paris with Tim, a night of unfulfilled romance with Dan, Sophie and Tim’s engagement party gate-crashed by Dan, and Sophie’s professional secondment to accompany Dan’s band on their revival tour—at Dan’s special request and very much against her will.

And then, one fine day in Paris, Sophie suddenly finds herself engaged to Dan while her erstwhile fiancé Tim is…  well, doing whatever it is Tim does back in London.   What is she to do now?  Who wouldn’t give anything to meet their favorite star, let alone marry him?

Find out how Sophie gets into this impossible situation, and how she turns it around, in Sophie’s Turn, the honest, funny and sometimes bittersweet story of one woman’s entanglement with a rock star.

So while I ain’t no rock star, I shall live vicariously through my hero, Dan, and my heroine, Sophie and belt out happy tune after happy tune, on this, my launch day. Please join me in a song and a glass of virtual bubbly here at the Romaniacs, or over at my own blog. And please raise a glass in thanks to the amazing Romaniacs who so kindly let me take to their stage to sing out loud about my launch!

Lovely to have you here Nicky – now we really must go and get ourselves ready for your party today – see you at your place!


Sophie’s Turn is available in Kindle edition from and and many other Amazon sites. The paperback edition is also available from and In addition, you can obtain Sophie’s Turn from Barnes & Noble.