Come and meet the gorgeous Nico Noordholt

Sooooo excited today! To celebrate the publication of Christina Courtenay’s new novel, The Gilded Fan, we have a fabulous interview with the hero,  Nico Noordholt, captain of the Zwarte Zwaan, a ship belonging to the Dutch East India Company.

Author Christina Courtenay and publishers ChocLit are giving away a copy of The Scarlet Kimono, which is the prequel but can be read as a stand-alone.  Just leave a comment below and we will select a winner at random next Wednesday, 6 March.

TheGILDED_FAN_frontSo, Nico, that’s not your real name, is it? – Yes, it is now <frosty glare>.  Look, I had some issues with my father – basically the old curmudgeon disinherited me and considered me a wastrel – so when I decided to leave England and become a Dutch citizen instead, I didn’t see why I should keep his surname.  Would you have?  Nico is just short for Nicholas, which is what I used to be called.

Right, well, it’s good to know you weren’t lying. – Don’t you start! I never lie, I’m an honourable man. I just have my own ‘moral compass’ as it were.

Ok, ok.  Let’s talk about your recent voyage to the Far East.  We hear you had a rather troublesome passenger on the way back.  Want to tell us a bit more? ­– Oh, yes, the worst! <laughs and shakes head>  Midori Kumashiro was the last person I wanted on board my ship, let me tell you.  I mean, can you imagine what a stunningly beautiful young woman is going to do to the hundred-odd men that comprise the crew of a trading ship, and who have to be at sea for months on end without so much as seeing a woman?  Honestly, bringing her along was madness.

And yet you did! – Well, what choice did I have?  The Japanese authorities were going to execute her and I couldn’t let that happen.  Despite her background, she was as much a foreigner there as I was, to all intents and purposes.  I did refuse at first but … all right, I admit it, one smile from her and I completely lost my wits.  Sad, very sad.

A little bird told me her smile wasn’t the only thing that felled you. – I do not want to talk about that.  I don’t fight with women.  I let her win.  Not that she can’t hold her own when it comes to combat, but still …

Sure, we believe you. <holds up hands in surrender>  Don’t shoot daggers at me with those blue eyes of yours.  I was only joking. – Yes, and I’m a Dutchman … oh, well, actually I am <chuckles>

Now then, you’re heading back to Japan again, is that right? – Yes, very soon now.  Meanwhile I’m trying to learn some Japanese.  Even though I’m bringing my own personal interpreter this time, I like to be able to talk to people myself.  I think they’d prefer it too, consider it a courtesy, you know?

Are you finding it difficult? – Not really.  I’m never going to get the hang of all the nuances of how to address people of different status and things like that, but I should be able to grasp basic kitchen Japanese.  I learned Dutch after all, and the pronunciation was hell, begging your pardon.  Japanese can’t be any worse than that.

Yes, I see what you mean.  Will you ever come back to England, do you think? – Eventually, yes.  Now I’ve made my peace with my family, I can see myself having a little house in Plymouth for long visits, as well as my permanent abode in Amsterdam.  And you never know, there may be a child or two by then.  Knowing my stepmother she’ll want to see them.

Is there something you’re not telling us? – Er, it’s not really my secret to tell yet, but in a few months perhaps … <smiles>

Well, we wish you the best of luck for the future.  Sounds like you’re going to need it! –Thank you, and how! <grin>

The Blurb for The Gilded Fan

How do you start a new life, leaving behind all you love?

It’s 1641, and when Midori Kumashiro, the orphaned daughter of a warlord, is told she has to leave Japan or die, she has no choice but to flee to England. Midori is trained in the arts of war, but is that enough to help her survive a journey, with a lecherous crew and an attractive captain she doesn’t trust?

Having come to Nagasaki to trade, the last thing Captain Nico Noordholt wants is a female passenger, especially a beautiful one. How can he protect her from his crew when he can’t keep his own eyes off her?

During their journey, Nico and Midori form a tentative bond, but they both have secrets that can change everything. When they arrive in England, a civil war is brewing, and only by standing together can they hope to survive…

THE GILDED FAN IS AVAILABLE TO BUY ON AMAZON.UK and AMAZON.COM in both ebook and paperback

LINKS FOR CHRISTINA COURTENAY

'Promote Me!' portrait

Website : www.ChristinaCourtenay.com

Facebook : Christina.Courtenay.9

Twitter : @PiaCCourtenay

Publishers : ChocLit

Don’t forget to leave a comment to be in with a chance to win a free copy of The Scarlet Kimono

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Going Gaga for Nell Dixon’s new book!

I am very pleased to welcome on the blog today, the very lovely Nell Dixon. After spotting a post on Facebook from Nell, asking for reviewers to read her latest novel, Radio Gaga, I messaged her straight away. I loved the sound of the book from the blurb and was eager to read it. And I wasn’t disappointed. It is a fantastic read – funny, emotional, great storyline and vivid characters. You can read my full review on Amazon, here.

And here is the blurb that grabbed my attention:

Over the airwaves everyone can hear you scream!

Radio researcher and part-time presenter Chloe Lark is certain her big showbiz break is just around the corner. Live it Up radio may not be the big time, but surely – one day soon – fame will come her way. And, if she could convince the hunky guy next door to give her a chance, her love life might improve too.

Ex-soldier Ben isn’t sure if his new ‘Z’ list celebrity neighbour is crazy or on medication. Either way he’s looking for a quiet life out of the spotlight. The last thing he needs is an accident prone media hungry blonde complete with mystery stalker. Problem is – Chloe doesn’t seem to have received that particular memo…

Seeing as I enjoyed it so much, it would’ve been a crime to not have Nell on the blog telling us about the book, amongst other things. We were delighted when Nell accepted. Here’s what she had to say…

Welcome to Romaniac HQ, Nell, how are you today?

I’m good, thank you so much for inviting me!

You are more than welcome. Celia has been baking again so please help yourself to some cake and tell us a little about your latest novel, Radio Gaga.

Yum, cake! I’m supposed to be eating healthily but I’m sure one bite won’t hurt. Radio Gaga is Chloe’s story – she’s a radio researcher and part time presenter who longs to be good at something. The only thing she feels she is good at is being famous so that’s what she wants to be. Except, of course, life never quite works out as she planned it.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book? Did you have to abseil and handle snakes as research?

I skipped the abseiling as I am petrified of heights. I once got stuck on an army assault course rope bridge thing and had to be rescued by two soldiers. I have handled snakes though and I did consult zoo keepers about snakes and their habits.

Stuck on an assault course, oh no! At least there were hunky soldiers available to rescue you, though 🙂

Have you always wanted to be a writer? What made you begin your writing journey?

I’ve always been a writer. I joined my first writers’ group when I was twelve and finished my first book when I was seventeen. That one will never see the light of day! Which is a good thing. I had a break when my girls were little but came back to it again after a pretty serious health scare about ten years ago.

Sorry to hear that, Nell, but great that you started writing again. How many different genres do you write?

I write chick lit, contemporary romance and romantic suspense/mystery. I also have some children’s stories which may come out later this year under another name.

Sounds exciting! Is writing your full time occupation? What is your writing routine?

I work part time for a disability charity managing a therapeutic community agriculture project which takes up a lot of my time. Writing has to fit around my family and my day job. I usually write evenings and weekends and fit in promo and the business side of writing as and when I get the chance.

When did your love of architecture begin?

I adore buildings, they fascinate me and always have done. They tell a story of the people and lives that are lived there. Cathedral and church architecture is especially interesting but I also love well designed modern buildings which fit their surroundings, like Cardiff’s Millennium Centre.

What is your favourite time in history?

I love regency. I like the realism of the Georgians. They were planners and thinkers but were also realists. This is reflected in their buildings and the plans of their gardens.

We know this is a hard question, like asking a mother which is her favourite child, but do you have a favourite book? Or a top three?

Oh, that’s mean! (We know! Cue evil laugh mwahaha!) I may need more cake! I always think my most recent book is my best, so Radio Gaga I think is my best to date but I have special fondness for Marrying Max and Animal Instincts. I think my voice and humour shows most in those as, like Radio Gaga, I wrote them to please myself. 

Quick Fire Round:

·         E-Book or paperback? E-book – I love my kindle.

·         Tea or coffee? Coffee, tea makes me ill.

·         Facebook or Twitter? Facebook – Twitter is like going to a party where you don’t know anyone.

·         Up or down? Up – down is depressing.

·         Shoes or boots? Shoes – my calves don’t fit boots very well. (puts down cake) (I know that feeling, I’m an ankle boot girl for that exact reason *picks up the cake that Nell put down*)

·         Pen and paper or straight to computer? Computer – my handwriting is getting worse.

·         Left or right-handed? Right

·         Relaxing on the beach or forest excursion? Beach. Spiders can drop on you in a forest.

·         And lastly, what is your guilty pleasure? I adore Made in Chelsea, Big Brother and I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here.

 

Thank you so much for coming in and talking to us today, Nell, it’s been an absolute pleasure!

Thank you for having me 🙂

 

Radio Gaga is out on Friday 1st March and you can get your copy, here. And check out Nell’s website, here.

Lucie x

Tuesday Chit Chat with Hazel Osmond

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Welcome, Hazel, to the Romaniacs sofa. What can I get you? We have some heart-shaped chocolates from Valentine’s Day. Rose creme?

Oh, don’t mind if I do. Can I interest you in some liquorice in return? No, thought not. It’s an acquired taste and somewhere along the line I acquired it. Along with a love of aniseed balls which sounds faintly sniggery, but there we are.

I find aniseed balls a little hard, personally. They make my teeth rattle.

Recently, you went to a Paloma Faith gig. What is it you like about Paloma?

Sensational voice, great clothes, fab sense of humour, very down to earth, believes in connecting with her audience. But above all, she understands about putting on a show. I love people who really go for it – can’t stand it when performers give off that ‘I’m just here adding to my pension pot’ vibe. Paloma is ‘on’ from the moment she’s on.

Paloma has a fantastic stage presence, which leads us to acting. Do you like to be on stage, or backstage? Why?

I do take my turn helping backstage because there are always more people in our drama group who want to act than there are parts – so you have to let everyone have a go. But I always want to be on the stage. There are very few things that compare with that instant feedback you get when you’re acting. Oh, all right then, I’ll admit it, I’m a terrible show off and thrive on the love you get from a good audience.

How did your day at Denton Burn Library go? Please tell me about it.

Oh it was brilliant. Newcastle City Council is proposing massive cuts to arts funding which will mean a range of libraries being closed. Ann Cleeves, author of the Vera books, had the initial idea for writers and performers to hold events in the threatened libraries to raise awareness of what might happen. My friend Mari Hannah who also writes murder novels, got a group of us together in Denton Burn. We had singers and poets and writers and a good crowd of people in the audience. Kind of ironic that murder writers are taking the lead against the killing off of libraries.

How did you get into copywriting and please explain what that involves?

As a copywriter, you’re responsible for coming up with the written content of advertising – whether that’s words for an advert or a brochure or a script. In reality, you probably also play a part in coming up with the basic concept – it’s usual for a copywriter to be teamed with a designer so you kick ideas around together. And drink beer. After which all your ideas seem splendid.

How did I get into it? Well, I wanted to do it after university but lacked the confidence to sell myself to an agency. It was only after six years as a civil servant when I thought ‘stuff this, I’ve only got one life’ that I started applying to agencies and got lucky.

In what ways can this help and/or hinder short-story writing and novel writing?

It’s a good training ground. It really teaches you to be succinct because you have to get your main message across in a limited space. It also gives you an appreciation of the market you’re writing for. Where it doesn’t always help is that you’re hardwired to come up with something memorable, maybe even gimmicky. That’s not good when you’re trying to be true to the emotion of a story, particularly in a romance.

What drew you into the world of fanfic?

(Hazel puts her hands over her face and blushes). Lust. I saw Richard Armitage in North & South on the BBC and then as Guy of Gisborne in Robin Hood. I had a google of him (as you do) and stumbled on the C19 website. That’s where I discovered fan fiction. After reading some of it I was inspired to write my own story. It came out as a romance and it felt as if I’d found my writing voice.

Are you a prolific writer?

If I’m in the right mood, yes. I will have a book and several short stories on the go at once. On the other hand, if I’m not in the right mood, I spend an awful lot of time staring into space or scowling at the computer screen. It’s like that rhyme – ‘when she was good, she was very, very good. But when she was bad, she was rotten.

Ah – the girl with a curl…

At what time of the day do you prefer to write?

When my children were little, the only uninterrupted time in which I could write was when they were asleep. So I wrote late in the evening and on into the night. Now I can write more or less when I like, but I still think I do my best work in a house filled with sleeping people!

Hazel Osmond Whos_Afraid_of_MMPsmallLet’s move on to your books. Who is afraid of Mr Wolfe, and why?

Oh, good question. Well, Ellie should be afraid of her new boss, Jack Wolfe, who is slowly laying waste to a swathe of the female population of London. But Ellie believes her level headedness and her humour make her immune to his charms.   Wrong. She falls for him and then finds out that there’s a very big secret about Jack that makes him even more likely to cause her heartache.

The book was my take on all the elements that made up the romances I loved to read when I was a teenager – Alpha male, scruffy girl who has to up her game, gay best friend, etc. but I wanted to shake them up and give them a twist. It was short listed for Romantic Comedy of the Year by the RNA in 2012 and I was heartily chuffed about that.

What was the inspiration behind The First Time I Saw Your Face?

Years ago I read about a journalist who had managed to work undercover at BuckinghamPalace for months without being discovered. He got away with it because he looked the part. It set me thinking about how much we judge by appearances. In the book, I play around with that idea – Mack is pretending to be someone he isn’t and gets accepted by people at face value, whereas Jennifer has to cope with being judged negatively purely because of the way she now looks. And Northumberland inspired me – so the book is also a great big, gorgeous love story to the county. I’m hoping to start a tourist boom.

Why do you like humour in your books?

A person who cannot laugh at their own failings and the joys and absurdities of life is my idea of hell. I think taking yourself too seriously is a major character flaw!!

Humour in your writing can sharpen all the other emotions – it’s that bitter-sweet thing. I also feel that if you use it properly, it can widen out the story so that it’s not just about this man and this woman, but about how life plays around with all of us. I always feel more sympathetic towards characters who are having a crappy time and can raise even the tiniest laugh as opposed to those who sob in a corner.

What’s next for you?

Book 3, ‘Playing Grace’, is out this summer – it’s set in London again, and shows what happens when a seemingly uptight and very controlled woman gets thrown together with an off-the-wall young American guy. I’m also writing Book 4 at the moment, which will be a return to a Northumberland setting. Working title is ‘The Mysterious Miss Mayhew’ but I’m rubbish at titles so it’ll be something different when it comes out.

Chocolates or Flowers? 

Can I have chocolate flowers? No, okay then … flowers. Love white ones particularly.

Theatre or cinema?

Theatre. Do like cinema, but sometimes it doesn’t seem as honest as theatre – too glossy, more about the stars than the story.

Nightclubs or concerts?

Laughing like a drain at the thought of me in a nightclub. Wouldn’t know what to do with myself. Concerts are my thing. I try to go to a lot more now the kids are older. I’ve even been to a couple with them which works as long as we split up on the way in and I don’t do any dancing.Hazel Osmond First Time

Valentine’s Day or Anniversary?

Anniversary. I had a Saturday job in a flower shop and am emotionally scarred by the memory of having to sell price-hiked red roses to lovesick men on Valentine’s Day. I like celebrating Anniversaries – it’s a bit like getting a long service medal.

Haha! Which leads nicely to the next question…

Slapstick or subtle comedy.

Oh dear. Hate slapstick. Would rather eat my own hair than sit through that. Mind you that would be quite funny in itself.

You can find out more about me and my writing – and read some of my short stories too – on hazelosmond.co.uk

Both books are available in paperback and ebook format, here and here

You can find Hazel on Amazon, here.

Thank you so much for stopping by, Hazel. Let us know if Northumberland gets busy xx

The Perils of Paranormal – Evonne Wareham

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Out of Sight Out of Mind

Everyone has secrets. Some are stranger than others.

Madison Albi is a scientist with a very special talent – for reading minds. When she stumbles across a homeless man with whom she feels an inexplicable connection, she can’t resist the dangerous impulse to use her skills to help him.

J is a non-person – a vagrant who can’t even remember his own name. He’s got no hope, until he meets Madison. Is she the one woman who can restore his past?

Madison agrees to help J recover his memory, but as she delves deeper into his mind, it soon becomes clear that some secrets are better off staying hidden.

Is J really the man Madison believes him to be?

In celebration of the launch day of her second novel Out of Sight Out of Mind we’re thrilled to have award-winning Evonne Wareham back on the blog with us, sharing some cake and a celebratory glass of something fizzy, talking about the perils of paranormal and the dreaded second book…

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The Dreaded Second Book

Out of Sight Out of Mind is a well-known phenomenon in writing circles — the dreaded second book. It is legendary that second books are notoriously difficult to write. An author may have been working on their first book for years, and it hits the publisher’s desk and then the book- stand as a highly polished article. The second book, possibly written to a deadline for the first time, involves a whole new discipline on the part of the writer. There are no expectations of a first-time writer — no one knows what will be between the covers — but a second book has something to live up to. In the case of Out of Sight Out of Mind, it was actually written before Never Coming Home. When I had the chance to pitch to Choc Lit, I went with my most recent book, but they were interested in both the books that had been competition finalists in the States, and asked to see Out of Sight Out of Mind as well, so they were both submitted at more or less the same time, but in reverse order. Which of course doesn’t mean that readers won’t be expecting the same style of read — romantic suspense — with similar thrills and emotional upheavals, from Out of Sight Out of Mind, as they got from Never Coming Home – they are entitled to! I hope I will not disappoint them.

The Perils of Paranormal

If that isn’t enough of a challenge, there is an added complication in that Out of Sight Out of Mind is a paranormal romantic thriller. Paranormal can be a bit like Marmite.  I know that some people don’t like it. My Mum, for one. I’ve got used to her sorting through a pile of books, just brought from the library, and asking suspiciously. ‘Are there vampires in this?’ Those books, most definitely go on my reading pile.  Mum does not do vampires.  But I can assure everyone that Out of Sight Out of Mind is a vampire-free zone. (Are you listening, Mum?) The paranormal feature of the book is mind reading, the protagonists are human, and the thriller element comes in their efforts to stay out of the clutches of an organisation — called The Organisation — which wants to control what they have.  I think it is as much a thriller as Never Coming Home, and that it may be a little more romantic — but I also think that I may be a bit biased. Introducing an extra ingredient like the paranormal is still perilous.  The readers will judge.

Can you tell us anything about what you’re working on at the moment?

I have a novella that I am trying to complete. As far a ‘Book three’ goes – there was A Plan – a book written a while ago that I want to revisit. But you know what happens to plans … At Christmas I got an idea for a new story involving a robbery, and that seems to have taken over my imagination to the extent that it looks like it will be written. I’m at the very important stage of staring vacantly into space and claiming to be working out the plot at the moment, which is, of course, a vital prelude to actually doing any work.

Out of Sight Out of Mind is a paranormal thriller, what are your thoughts on paranormal activity?

I think there is a vast amount about the universe and the human brain that we don’t yet know, so I am open to ideas. Like all writers, I’m curious.

Who would you most like to be haunted by?

I don’t think I’d want to be haunted at all, even by a friendly ghost. One of the things that I wanted to explore in Out of Sight Out of Mind was the impact that having a paranormal talent might have on your life. It hasn’t brought Madison happiness – she classes herself as a freak. As a writer it’s bad enough coping with your characters having conversations inside your head, without having a ghost dropping in for a chat. And most disconcerting, never to know if you were really alone …

Do you have any strange secrets like Madison and J that you’d like to
share??

No definitely not. If I have learned anything from my heroes it’s never volunteer classified information.

Your debut novel won the RNA Joan Hessayon Award last year – and I believe it’s now won another! Can you tell us about your latest award?

2012rca_stThat was a very unexpected Valentine surprise – a Reviewers’ Choice award for 2012 from the Single Titles review site. I’m thrilled to have been picked. It was completely out of the blue – I’m still floating slightly above the ground. (And no – that does not have anything to do with ghostly activity.)

 


Notebook Confessional

This is a confession of infidelity.

notebooksI have two shelves full of notebooks – and none of them are full. Some of them are completely empty. Yet I can’t walk past a stationery shop without looking for more … always seeking the elusive perfect notebook; The One that will end up containing the perfect stories, as if the notebook itself can produce words.

Each time I buy one, I think this is The One, the one I’ll love forever, the one I’ll keep writing in until the bitter end… but something always goes wrong. We fall out of love and before I know it, I’m back in Paperchase, flirting with a shiny new one.

It’s always been a problem – in school, I’d start every term in love with my beautiful exercise books, all covered in wrapping paper, or carefully decorated with cuttings from magazines … then someone would sit next to me with their books covered in something prettier, sparklier and mine would look dull in comparison, and I’d spend the rest of the term coveting the books next to me.

This year, I’m trying to stay faithful to one notebook at a time – well, maybe two; one small one for small bags and a bigger one for big bags. And maybe one for my desk at work and one for my desk at home. I wouldn’t want to get caught short when THE idea strikes, would I?

Now it’s time for my other Romaniacs to ‘fess up – are you one notebook women, faithful to the end? Or are you spending half your income each week on lovely notebooks and pens and paper and folders and more notebooks and… mmmm….

Vanessa x

NotebooksLaura: I have a secret stash. I’ll show you mine, if you show me yours. Need a quick fix? Whatever colour, whatever size you want, I’ve got it. Clean, fresh, virginal pages, lying between exotic covers, waiting to be inked on. I have several on the go at once, but all for different reasons. I fill them to my satisfaction, home them, and then delight in the thrill of starting something new.

Celia: I was going to say that I’m not much of a one for notebooks but then I looked in my desk drawers! The one I use most is the fabulous big gold and dark green one that lives on a shelf right next to the desk. It was a present from my daughters, and last May I started writing down competition entries or anything writing-related that I was doing or had achieved. It’s such a pleasure writing in this book  with my Christmas pen – thick cream pages, decorated edges and clasps to keep it shut. The smaller green and gold one is my diet diary and it doesn’t have much in it. Sadly, this is not because I don’t eat much but because I’m  usually too busy eating and drinking to write in it. 

Catherine: I’ve never really had to buy notebooks because since I was young my family and friends have brought them for me. My problem lies with not being able to get rid of any of them. When you’ve spent your life jotting in notepads, when you look through them you think there’s gold in that there notepad. And that one. And that one. Shame I’ve never found time to go through them all. 

notebook[Stands up and takes deep breath] Hello, my name is Sue and I’m a notebook junky – [smiles at the nods, hellos and encouraging clapping from others in the group] I’ve been addicted to notebooks for many, many years. I can’t get enough of them. Any shape, size, colour, I love them all. Sometimes, I go into stationery shops to admire them, to stroke them, to hold them in my hands, to flick through the untouched virgin paper, to breathe in the smell of newness. The urge to claim it as mine and hand over the last pennies in my purse can be overwhelming. Oh God, just talking about it and words like Paperchase, WH Smith, Waterstones race through my mind. [rushes out of meeting to stroke current favourite]

 Jan: I confess I’d be sitting right beside Sue at that ‘notebook junky’ group. Mr B often tuts and rolls his eyes when I veer off to purr at the stationery when out shopping. I dread to think how many notebooks share our flat with us; big ones, tiny ones, bright ones, patterned ones, you name it… If we Romaniacs lined them all up side by side, I reckon we could fill the floor here at HQ.  Our very own notebook carpet. There’s a thought…

Debbie: I give up with notepads. Like the others, I have piles of them but interestingly the only ones I use are of the ‘value’ or ‘homebrand’ variety. Following an Arvon writing course I did invest in a couple of moleskin ones which come out if I’m attending a writing course or any RNA events but otherwise, the trouble I seem to have with notebooks is that most of them are gifted ones and far too beautiful to write in!

About five years ago, a friend gave me a beautiful silk notebook. The cover is a rich, reddish-brown, almost the colour of polished copper, with a ‘framed’ panel of sinuous, vertical meandering flowers and acanthus leaves embossed in the middle of the front outer cover. And for the five years since acquiring it, it has lived on top of my piano alongside my metronome. It stays there, gathering dust, each parchment page as virginal and empty as when it was hand bound.  It wasn’t until a conversation with a friend, that I realised why…

Apparently, her sister has a gift for writing poetry and in an attempt to encourage and inspire ‘F’ bought her a luxurious notebook for her ideas and notes. After a few weeks, she discovered her sister hadn’t used it and when asked, her sister told her it was because it was “too lovely to write in…” Following lengthy discussions with her sibling and others, F concluded that her sister didn’t feel she was ‘worthy’ of the notebook. It was as if somehow, it was ‘too good’ and too beautiful for her to write in; that her writing did not measure up to the paper.

I smiled at my friends conclusion. It struck a chord. Perhaps it’s a trait of the ‘wannabe’ writer who hasn’t quite made it that I feel ‘unworthy?’ but I could see some truth in her words. And I still struggle to ruin a perfect blank page or beautiful silk cover with my scribbled musings. So for now my collection of notebooks sit forlornly in my study and look beautiful, gathering dust, until one day…

Lucie: I think it comes with the job! I don’t think any writer would be without at least one trusty notebook – or several hundred in Sue’s case 🙂 – to jot down their musings. I have a few notebooks. Mainly I have a purple one that goes in my bag for when I am out and about, one on my desk which isn’t as pretty and a few stored in my desk that are all half written in. I don’t think I’ve ever filled a notebook. I’ve always been teased away by another before getting quite to the end. I do find it hard to go into places like WHSmith, Paperchase and Staples and not be drawn straight to the stationery section. 

Come to think of it, I think I’m due a new one…..

Life in a Book

Some stories, whether in novel, song, poem or film, get right beneath my skin. They’re the ones that stay with me.

Paloma Faith
Paloma Faith

I’m obsessed at the moment with songs from Paloma Faith. I made mention of it on my site last week. It’s possible you’ve caught me posting on Facebook too. I’ve listened to both her albums for some time, but it’s now only that I’m relating to the lyrics. Is it that I’m paying proper attention to the words or that the songs are relevant to this point of my life? Or have my life experiences been such that I now understand more?

Recently, I read Sue Moorcroft’s Dream A Little Dream, and aspects of the story resonated within. It was the same with Me Before You, Jojo Moyes.When I read these books, their subject matter was extremely pertinent to what was happening in my life, and their effect on me was made all the more powerful by the skill and care with which the books were written.Sue Moorcroft DALD

The first book to make me cry was Love and Devotion, Erica James. If I remember rightly, I read it not long after I’d had my second child. I won’t give away the plot, but the questions the book raises, and the fact the tragedy that befalls the children in the story is not outside the realms of possibilty, affected me greatly.

Jodi Picoult and Laura.
Jodi Picoult and Laura.

My Sister’s Keeper, Jodi Picoult, was the second book that made me weep.

I was watching Home Alone with Child Number Two a few days ago, and even though I warned him I would cry at the end of the film, he was still surprised by my emotion. ‘Really, Mum?’ he asked, eyebrows as high as the Empire State. ‘Really,’ I replied, as Gajitman passed across another Kleenex.

Have you ever watched Beaches? Yep. Makes me cry every time. Sound of Music does too. And I know why. It’s because I understand the parents’ point of view, and feel for the children. Since having my two, my tissue expenditure has increased ten-fold.

So, which books, films, songs or poems get beneath your skin? Which make you sob your heart out? Why are we affected so much by stories?

Laura x

Addicted to Fiction, with Sharon Goodwin.

Hello ladies, I can’t tell you how excited I am to be invited into the inner sanctum to talk book blogging with you.  I really enjoy reading your posts and now here I am!

Sharon Goodwin

My days of blogging began during a lull in projects – in my spare time, I had spent 3 years tracing mine and my OH’s family tree and not being able to go any further (and with my family fed up with traipsing around graveyards around the country) I needed a new challenge!

I’ve always been an avid reader (and a secret poet – although not quite that secret as some of my poetry is showcased under my pen name Cerris ) My blog came about quite by chance, having started entering competitions via blogs (not for books – surprisingly enough), I liked the thought of a virtual community and being able to chat all things books via comments and social media … and so Jera’s Jamboree was born on 6th February 2011. Jera's Jamboree

I’ve reviewed some fantastic books, hosted interesting guests, created interviews and taken part in book tours.  I’ve had authors compliment me on my PR skills on Twitter and I’ve jokingly asked if they could use my services.  That was the kernel of what was to become Fiction Addiction Book Tours.  During October half-term, that idea grew full fledged after researching and then approaching a couple of authors who I knew would be honest with me. My first step was to implement a Tour Host database because how could I coordinate virtual book tours without any hosts?  I have a fantastic network of bloggers who immediately signed up whom I trust implicitly.  The database is expanding but I always research new tour hosts to see if they would be suitable.

So what is Fiction Addiction Book Tours? Fiction Addiction

As the name suggests, we coordinate and promote virtual book tours at very reasonable costs (for example a five stop Cover Reveal tour is £20 and a five stop Standard Tour is £30).  How does it work? Once tour dates are agreed with authors I create a Press Kit which is then shared with the relevant tour hosts on the database (tour hosts sign up for all different genres).  A tour badge is created which hosts display on their blogs (this links back to the authors website). Once the tour is full I share all relevant information with the author.  I quite liked the idea of showcasing the books on tour, even when they are full, and so Fiction Addiction Books on Tour was created.

One month before the tour is due to take place, a tour post goes live on the website with all relevant details.  Two weeks before the tour begins an event is created via Facebook and Goodreads.  One week before the tour begins a feature post goes live on Jera’s Jamboree.  Also, information is pinned on a dedicated Pinterest board. All of these posts are tweeted about and linked to a Facebook page. Once the tour begins, tour hosts, ourselves and the authors promote the posts via Twitter and Facebook.

Authors have full control at all times, for example they are able to stipulate the posts they would like on tours (ie a 5 stop tour = 3 x reviews, 1 x guest post, 1 x interview).  The Press Kit is not sent out until the author has seen it and agreed to its contents.  The tour badge is not shared unless the author is satisfied with the graphics/design.

Fiction Addiction Book Tours ticks all the boxes for me.  Books (of course!), organising (I’m a list person), communicating (certainly not lacking there) and creating.  This is something I really love doing and it is FUN!

Thank you for listening to me today.  Don’t hesitate to get in touch.  You’ll find me at fictionaddiction.booktours@gmail.com.

It must be time to quaff that delicious looking beverage beside me now.

Ciao    Shaz

Thank you for dropping by, Shaz. It’s our pleasure, and thank you for your kind words. It’s been great learning about other aspects to writing. Help yourself to the hot chocolate – you’ve earned it. Good luck and best wishes with your ventures. xx

Tuesday Chit-Chat with Jan Jones

Hello Jan, lovely to have you here at Romaniac HQ, please do take a seat – it’s clean, I promise!

JanJones

Thanks, that’s splendid. Oh, and a big pot of tea, how wonderful.

So, Jan, where are you writing-wise at the moment?

*takes deep breath* Currently… my third Woman’s Weekly serial (about ‘a house on a cliff in the mist’) starts in the 12th February issue, my third ‘Penny Plain Mysteries’ serial will be in People’s Friend in June. I’ve just had a stand-alone long mystery story accepted by People’s Friend, I’m writing a fourth serial for Woman’s Weekly at the moment and in my spare time (slight choking sound) I’m working on my fourth Regency romance. And there are always short stories along the way.

fairlights_1_full

Writing across such a broad spectrum, do you favour one genre or story length over another?

I have a terribly low boredom threshold, so I like the variety thrown up by the change of genre – although even my mysteries have more than a touch of romance to them – and length. It keeps me on my toes and stops me getting stale. I also like the sheer challenge of writing serials, of crafting the essence of the story into a very few words. That said, I do love writing novels, because they give me the head space to develop my characters properly. It’s lovely being able to relax into the longer length and stretch my narrative muscles properly. Unfortunately, they don’t pay as much in the short term as the serials, so the novels are having to queue up on the back burner for the moment.

serials_2

How do you research your historical novels and is there an era you would like to live in?

I’d have liked to live during the Regency because it was a time of change. The arts and sciences were flowering, society was expanding. The clothes were fabulous for those of us with a bust to make the most of and hips to conceal. As for research, I read books of that time, newspapers, letters and periodicals. I also visit the locations and bump into people because I’m walking around looking upwards at the buildings all the time. Imagination is all very well, but it doesn’t take the place of being there, shutting your eyes and breathing in history.

regency_trio_2

What brought you to writing in the first place and is there an end goal?

Oh, goodness. I’ve always been a storyteller. From before I could write, even. I always used to say that my ambition was for some unknown person to browse along a library shelf, notice my name on the spine of a book and think, “Oh, Jan Jones. I like her.” And borrow the book without even looking to see what it was about, because they trusted me to have written them a good story. I guess that’s still it, really.

Well, I have news for you, Jan. Some of us do that already! 🙂

With regards to the RNA and organising their events and the annual Conference, how did you become involved in this?

I’d been in the NWS for a while before I ran away to my first conference. I was thrilled to find myself in company with so many people who understood. Writers who were just like me. That was York 2000 – and I loved it so much that as soon as I was able to, I wanted to put something back. I believe if you are good at something, then you should use that gift. I’m good at organising and I couldn’t think of a more life-affirming thing than the conference to help with. I’ve made some of my best friends through the RNA, and will be forever grateful.

With such a lot to organise, do you find this takes a lot out of your writing time or are you one of those super organised people?

Ah. I am organised (on good days), but yes, it takes a fair amount of time. On the other hand, organising a conf is the best procrastination ever, and by the time I’ve done a full couple of days on the business side, I’m bursting to get back to writing.

Us Romaniacs are very grateful for your organisational skills. Getting us under one roof at the last conference was down to you. Thank you!

What is the most random item that has been left behind at one of the RNA events?

Oh my goodness, I’m just trying to think. Someone left a pair of gala dinner shoes behind once. Fancy that, abandoning a posh pair of shoes at an RNA Conference…

Do you have a favourite RNA ‘moment’? I’m sure there’s plenty, but one that you could share with us (we won’t tell anyone, honest!)

Well… promise you won’t tell?

Promise.

Really?

Really and truly.

Okay then. Apart from watching in amazement as Liz Bailey got everyone to climb into bin bags during a drama session, and laughing until I cried at Jenny Haddon (with prompts from Annie Ashurst) reciting ‘Albert and the Lion’, my favourite conf memory is of giving an impromptu performance of ‘Hey, Big Spender’ with Katie Fforde in our Chichester conference kitchen after the bar refused to open for us on the Sunday night. We were jolly good too. I would send you the photo but one must protect the innocent. You understand. We will negotiate this off-line 😉

Thanks so much for dropping by Jan, it’s been lovely chatting to you. See you at conference this year!

Book Launch : A Little Bit of Madness by Sheryl Browne

Hello The Romanaics!

Hello there Sheryl, what a lovely surprise – do come in!

Thanks so much for inviting me along today to talk about…  OK, so they didn’t actually invite me along, but now I am here…

cakes

…I’m sure they’ll let me stay.

Well, seeing as you come bearing gifts, otherwise known as cake and chocolate, we’ll let you stay 🙂

Right, while the girls are distracted by other important matters, I’ll grab the opportunity to talk about A Little Bit of Madness anyway, which is my fourth Romantic Comedy published through Safkhet Publishing!

I was recently asked why I choose to write in the rom com genre.  I wasn’t really sure, other than I can’t seem to write without injecting humour into my story.  I like to write romantic comedy because I hope to allow people a little escapism and also to leave the reader with that all-important feel-good factor.  I do, however, like to write about real people, dealing with real life events, someone the reader identifies with and wants to get to know.  A ‘boy meets girl, boy gets girl, despite all obstacles’ story portraying characters readers can relate to and hopefully laugh with as they fall over life’s little ‘obstacles’ – because the reader is empathising with the character, because they’ve been there.

And, boy, have I been there.  If there isn’t an obstacle to fall over, fall off or fall in (no, don’t go there), I’ll find it, trust me.

This is one I didn’t fall off, but possibly should have…

snow_dome

The Snow Dome.  You see those little figures going up the side? They’re holding onto a rope and bracing themselves through their legs, the idea to let go of the rope when you get to the top.  I didn’t brace, and I couldn’t let go.  Yep, the rope crosses over at the top and travels across the slope, quite close to the ceiling – and very high off the ground.  Dangle, dangle.  You get the drift.  Picture partner at the bottom looking bemusedly on.

Another time I fell off the bus.  I was on crutches at the time. Picture colleagues’ faces (current crush then being one of) when yours truly hopped into office muttering obscenities and looking like I’d gone ten rounds with Mike Tyson.

Then there was the time I was on a stand at the Three Counties Show, dressed in my business best and handing out leaflets offering professional investment management services.  I walked into a lamppost.  Yep, current crush then also looking on.

There’s more.  Oooh, lots more. However, this would explain why I try to portray real people ‘readers can relate to and hopefully laugh with as they fall over life’s little obstacles’, be they physical or emotional.

Bearing in mind real people then, along with changing population demographics, in A Little bit of Madness, I aimed for a multigenerational read.  Alongside my hunky but flawed hero and my feisty yet vulnerable heroine, therefore, I’ve starred a cast of people of the Queen’s generation, or as Celia – our heroine – prefers to call them, her elderly independents.  A group of sometimes eccentric, sometimes a little bit ditzy, people who have life skills you couldn’t possibly learn from a book and who still have lives to live and something left to give.

I’ve written the book.  My publisher loves it.  Now comes the nervous nail-biting bit.  Will the readers love it, too??  I hope so. Having seen a sneak peek of an upcoming review, I think so.  He’s a teeny snippet: This book had me laughing so hard at the antics of the elderly characters…’  I won’t say more for fear of spoilers.  I have, however, popped the blurb below.  Thank you so much for reading!  Um, wouldn’t be a choccy left by any chance, would there?

A Little Bit of Madness

No rest for the wicked

Saving Charlton hall will burrow into your heart.

Cover_FrontCelia Summers, intrepid mother of two, is too cuddly for sweatpants, she suspects. But then, her class at The Harbour Rest Home are similarly clad. Celia loves her work as an art therapist. She’s proud that she gives her elderly independents something to look forward to, even if her partner, Martin, disapproves of her efforts. He also has other things on his mind – telling complicated lies to Celia so he can sell Charlton Hall, his mum’s house, to pay off his debts.

Meanwhile, Celia fights to secure gallery space for her geriatric charges’ artwork, and to keep The Harbour from being closed. She’s even ready to abseil from a church steeple to bring attention to the plight of her old people, no matter that she might fall and end up splattered all over the flagstones. When she does fall, however, it’s much more painful – in love with PC Alex Burrows. Will he be her white-knight-in-blue and ride to her rescue?

BIO:

Sheryl Browne grew up in Birmingham, UK, where she studied Art & Design. A partner in her own business, a mother and a foster parent to disabled dogs, Sheryl has also been writing for many years, the road along the way often bumpy.  She was therefore thrilled beyond words when Safkhet Publishing loved her writing style and commissioned her to write her debut novel.

RECIPES FOR DISASTER – combining deliciously different and fun recipes with sexilicious romantic comedy, is garnering some fabulous reviews and was shortlisted for the Innovation in Romantic Fiction Festival of Romance Award.  Sheryl has since been offered a further three-book contract under the Safkhet Publishing Soul imprint. SOMEBODY TO LOVE, a romantic comedy centring around a single father’s search for love and his autistic little boy, launched July 1. WARRANT FOR LOVE, Blackmail, lies, adultery, entrapmentthree couples in a twisting story that resolves perfectly – released August 1 and A LITTLE BIT OF MADNESS –White Knight in Blue rescues the Harbour Rest Home – released Valentine’s Day 2013.

LINKS:

Sheryl_PhotoSheryl’s Website 

Safkhet Publishing

Amazon.co.uk 

Amazon.com

Author Facebook     

Romantic Novelists’ Association

Sheryl is a loveahappyending featured Author and Editor.

Twitter: @sherylbrowne

A Year and A Day

A year and a day. It certainly has romantic associations. And a fairytale feel.

My Sexy Pen
My Sexy Pen

The Romaniac blog started a year and a day ago, 13th February 2012, which means yesterday was The Romaniacs’ First Anniversary. It’s the ‘paper anniversary’. Appropriate, wouldn’t you say? What better gift could one give a writer? Apart from sexy pens, obviously. Have I ever shown you my sexy pen? Here’s my anniversary gift to you, then…

The Romaniacs have been very romantic over the last twelve months with the help of wonderful guests, comical comments and brilliant banter. Thank you all so much for joining in with the fun, offering advice, and caring. It’s a proper relationship. We’ve even got hot under the collar, once or twice. Sue took us through our very own, unique heat scale: http://theromaniacgroup.wordpress.com/2012/10/24/lets-talk-about-sex/

Isn’t that what romance is about? Fun, laughter and friendship?

Romaniac Group Heart Rev 7I’ve never doubted the friendship that exists within The Romaniacs. There is genuine depth of feeling between us, endless encouragement, and cheer-leading support. And cake. Mustn’t forget the cake.

At the 2012 Festival of Romance, I pitched to a panel of experts. This was my fourth ever pitch, and my first standing at the front of an audience. Within the crowd were four fellow Romaniacs, who had not heard my new summary of my wip. They were radiating energy, generating positive vibes, and directing their goodwill toward me. They were providing a virtual hand hold. I pitched ‘Follow Me’, I received my constructive criticisms, and I returned to my seat. At that moment, I experienced the full force of the Romaniacs’ support. Liz handed me notes she had taken, based on the panels comments, Celia and Debbie suggested ways to overcome a characterisation problem with which I’d struggled for months, and Sue gave me ‘that’ look that said ‘Great job.’ It was quite a moment, and one I often think about. It fuelled some of what I said the next day, when The Romaniacs presented a panel about the benefits of an online writing support group.

The dynamics have to work, and what you gain from belonging to such a group should be positive. If it’s destructive, then find another group, or start your own. First and foremost, The Romaniacs are friends, brought together by a common interest/obsession/compulsion (delete as applicable) with writing and reading, and bound together by laughter, daftness, empathy and, yes, love. I have a large, soft, squidgy, kind-of-like-a-bouncy-castle patch in my heart for these ladies, and cannot imagine life without them.

Romaniacs Group Montage

Did we get lucky, or were we drawn together by the strings of fate?

It’s Valentine’s Day, I write romance and I believe in fairytales. On that basis Fate gets my vote. And my thanks. And a big, squidgy, kind-of-like-a-bouncy-castle hug. And, since it is the most romantic day of the year, a kiss on the forehead.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Laura xx