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: https://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

TCC: Scarlett Bailey chats with Rowan Coleman

Scarlett

When The Romaniacs asked me to guest on their blog, I was really pleased to do so. And when they suggested that perhaps my writing alter ego Scarlett Bailey might want to interview me, Rowan Coleman, I thought that would be interesting. And this is what happened….

RC: Well, I must say I am very proud and pleased to be guest blogging on the Romaniacs’ blog this, the very week of their very first anniversary.

SB: ‘We’ are, you mean. ‘We’ are very pleased.

RC: We yes, except that ‘we’ is me. I am you, you are me. We are the same person.

SB: I’ll have you know I’m an entirely my own person, thank you very much. And I’m a much better dancer than you.

RC: Well, that’s debatable, but if it’s true it’s because you don’t spend 20 hours out of every 24 changing nappies. Anyway, discussing our, by which I mean, my, dancing skills is not why the Romaniacs kindly invited me, er…us, onto their lovely blog. They invited us, I mean me, to talk about me, I mean us. Now I’m confused.

SB: They want you to interview me about how witty and fabulous I am.

RC: Actually, I think they want you to interview me about being witty and mostly knackered. And also about what it’s like writing with a split personality.

SB: But I want to talk about me.

RC: I am you, you are talking about me. Go on then, ask me a question. I haven’t got all day.

SB: Okay, when was it that you first realised you had become boring and middle aged and needed an exciting, younger, funnier, sexier alter ego?

RC: Sigh.

SB: Fine, why did you start to write books as Scarlett Bailey as well as Rowan Coleman. That boring enough for you?

RC: You came along at a very good time for me. I’ve had quite an eventful five years. I’ve been divorced, remarried and had three children in that time, two of them at the same time! I came to the end of my relationship with my publisher of a decade, and during that time, I wrote and delivered two books a year. It’s felt a bit like I never have a moment to stop and think. Or work out exactly what impact all that has happened has had on me, as a person and a writer. Or to sit down.

SB: Frankly, with that bottom you must sit down a lot, it’s massive.

RC: RUDE. And anyway, you forget, it’s your bottom too.

SB: Damn it. So you were pretty busy then, not exactly looking for something else to do?

RC: Well, yes and no. Yes I was pretty busy, and rather stressed and anxious, but there was something else. I’ve been writing novels for ten years now, and I’ve got older.

SB Speak for yourself.

RC I’m forty-one now….

SB Don’t say it out loud!

RC And gradually the books I write, while I hope are still quite funny, and certainly romantic, dealt with darker more grown up subjects. Agoraphobia, surviving abuse, domestic violence, alcoholism….

SB: Laugh a minute.

RC: Well a laugh every now and then, and quite a lot of tears and a fair dose of kissing. But they are books I’ve really liked writing, and that I’m really proud of. And then I had this idea….

Married By Christmas
Married By Christmas

SB: I think you’ll find I had this idea, for a really lovely perfectly Christmassy book, about a group of friends stranded in the snowbound Lake District on ‘The Night Before Christmas’, when a tall dark and handsome stranger calls…And I thought, hey that sounds fun to write.

RC: Yes, that’s what I thought. I thought that sounds fun, I really want to write that book, and I want to make it really funny, and really romantic, and really Christmassy and that is so different from the books I’ve been writing for the last few years that…I think I’d better do it under another name.

SB: And so Miss Scarlett Bailey was born!

RC: Yes.

SB: And how did you name me?

RC: Well, you are the combination of my favourite heroine, Miss Scarlett O Hara, and my favourite Christmas drink – Baileys.

SB: And was that your first choice of name for me?

RC: Well, there were a few others, but they turned out to be porn stars….

SB: That says a lot more about you than it does about me. But anyway, I like my name, I can’t imagine it being anything else.

RC: Me neither, you really are a Scarlett.

SB: So for the publication of the first book, you didn’t tell hardly anyone that I was you, did you? What in the bloomin’ heck was that about?

RC: Yes, I know. I wasn’t allowed to. I was published by Arrow at the time, and they said it was okay for me to write as Scarlett as long I at no-point-what-so-ever told anyone that Scarlett was Rowan. I don’t really know why it mattered so much, but you know, they’d published me for almost ten years and I owed them a lot, so I agreed. It was pretty weird, especially when I talked to bloggers or readers that I knew as Rowan, so I secretly told as many people as I thought I could get away with! Even so, I didn’t really like keeping you a secret, so I was glad when after moving away from Arrow and signing as Rowan with Ebury I could tell everyone that I was Scarlett Bailey in time for the publication of ‘Married by Christmas’.

SB: I can confirm that is pretty much the most exciting moment of your life. And you’ve had twins.

RC: I was very pleased to be out of the closet, that’s for sure.

SB: You were, but I get a lot less online propositions since people found out that you are a married mother of four.

RC: Sorry about that.

SB: So 2012 was quite a year for you, wasn’t it?

RC: It really was. I knew it was going to be a hard year. I mean I gave birth to twins, which was never going to be a walk in the park and I…

SB: Ahem…

RC: You were writing Married by Christmas during the last stages of the pregnancy. No mean feat when I was so pregnant that I couldn’t reach the keyboard. And ‘Dearest Rose,’ was published in September. It had been a very difficult book to write, for a lot of reasons. Partly because as I wrote I knew it was going to be my last book for Arrow, which was a bit like writing a love letter to someone after you’ve already split up, and partly because of my EXTREME PREGNANCY and mostly because of the subject matter. Rose is a victim of domestic abuse, and while I was researching the book, a great many women were kind enough to trust me with their stories. It sent me to some quite dark places, and it tested me as a writer, because I was so determined to do their stories justice. So I worried a lot about writing it, more than I have ever worried about writing any other book. And also I was MASSIVELY PREGNANT with SURPRISE TWINS.

SB: I think your husband quite fancies me, you know.

RC: Oh shut up.

SB: So, was 2012 as difficult as you thought it would be?

RC: Actually it turned out to be a really wonderful year.

SB: Do tell.

RC: Well, my darling little boys Stanley and Aubrey arrived on April 10th four days before my 41st birthday, which did mean I spent my birthday suffering with terrible constipation, but other than that, they were the best birthday gifts ever. I still look at them and I think, look, there’s two of them! Mad!

SB: Focus!

Dearest Rose
Dearest Rose

RC: Sorry, and so yes, the publication of ‘Dearest Rose’ was wonderfully supported by many lovely writers friends, and best of all many lovely readers, for whose loyalty I am extremely grateful. Thanks entirely to them, it has been slowly blossoming into a well read and well reviewed book. And that has been absolutely the most joyfully unexpected outcome for the book. I won’t lie, my confidence was very shaken at the beginning of 2012. They way that ‘Dearest Rose’ has been received has been a big boost, and kept me going when a lot of the time I felt like giving up writing and becoming a tour guide at The British Museum. I’m wiser now and….SB: Don’t say older.

RC: Less young. And I feel like, you know, whatever doesn’t kill you makes you more grey haired.

SB: So, go on then.

RC: Go on what?

SB: Get the showing off over and done with.

RC: Well, if you insist. ‘Dearest Rose’ won Best Romantic Read 2012 at the Festival of Romance, and has been nominated for the RoNA Epic Romance Novel of the Year, Rose was name best Female Character of the Year  2012 by Chick Lit Chloe, and I won the title Author Tweeter of the Year 2012 from the lovely ladies at Novelicious. All of which is really and genuinely so thrilling, I can’t tell you how much it’s meant to me.

SB: What Ever.

RC: What do you mean what ever? I am you, you are me, remember?

SB: Oh yes, well in that case well done us. So tell me, what has the last few tumultuous years taught you about being a writer in this era of modern publishing?

RC: Essentially, I think it’s the same as it’s ever been. If you want to be a writer you’ve got to be prepared for rejection. You’ve got to be prepared for your fortunes to turn on the flip of a coin, which means they can go down as well as up, and you never know which is coming next, or when. Sometimes being a writer really, really hurts. Sometimes, it can be really, really wonderful – but never count on either one of those things to last forever. You have to know that you might work your butt off for ten years and never be an overnight success. But above all remember that you do what you do because you love doing it and whatever happens, there is nothing else that gives you as much joy, even when it’s driving you crazy and making you consider retraining as an elephant keeper. And that if you can go to sleep at night knowing that you’ve done every single thing that day that you could have possibly done, and that you’ve done your best, then actually you are doing pretty well.

SB: So in conclusion, the really important issue that everyone really wants to know… Which one of us is a better dancer?

RC: Okay, fine, it’s you.

SB: SCORE.

Scarlett and Rowan – thank you so much for joining us on our first anniversary week. It has been an absolute pleasure having you here. And many congratulations on your awards and nominations – we’re sending some Romaniacal luck and wishes for the RoNAs. Since it’s party time, we’ll be putting your dancing to the test, but first a glass of champagne and a slice of Celia’s chocolate cake. Enjoy 🙂 xx

Birthday Celebrations – The Romaniacs are one year old!

Happy birthday to us, Happy birthday to us, Happy birthday Dear Romaniacs, Happy birthday to us!

Ok, Ok, so I’m two days early. But who says we can’t start the celebrations a little early. Here at Romaniac HQ, we’ve been celebrating all weekend and we plan for it to continue all week, too. So why not come and join us for a celebratory glass of champers and a slice of cake and let’s get this party started!

A year ago, on February 13th 2012, we launched our blog to the writing world. When we decided to do this, we had no idea how we would be perceived. Would people like us? Would people bother to read what we have to say?

Would people think we’re nuts?

But the response has been truly amazing. People did like us. People were logging in and reading and sharing our posts. And most importantly people do realise that yes, we are a bit nuts! But that’s OK, because we never claimed to be anything but.

The sheer amount of support and encouragement we have received, both as a group and individuals, over the last year has surpassed anything we ever could have imagined. We always knew that the writing industry was a supportive, positive community, but I don’t think anything could have prepared us for what lay ahead.

So in the spirit of birthday celebrations, we got talking about some of our favourite – and worst – celebrations growing up. They weren’t all necessarily birthday celebrations and some needed censoring so much, we felt best to keep those in the archive folders!

However, I’ll start the ball rolling. My worst birthday party memory wasn’t actually for mine, but for my older sisters. There is five years between us and I was but a nipper at the time and she had all her friends over for a party. In our garden we had a huge shed – we lived in a flat and it was the communal shed so you can imagine how big it was – and she and her friends were playing chase. I wanted to play. I ventured into the garden and saw them all running rings around said shed. Stupidly, to catch up, I ran around the shed but in the OPPOSITE direction to around 15 children. You can see how this story ends, can’t you? Yep, I spent the rest of the party upstairs, on the sofa with a bruised and battered face. It wasn’t a good party for me.

On the flip side, my best party – so far I hasten to add, I’m planning on having many more! – was for my 21st. It wasn’t a big ‘do’ but I had only just had my daughter and I had been dieting and training for months and months in preparation for my 21st and I lost 2 stone and got into the size 8 dress I had bought. I felt great. Some of mine and my husband’s friends came back to our house after the club shut (mine and my husband’s birthdays are 3 days apart so we always have joint celebrations) and we carried on partying until the morning. It was a brilliant night.

We would love to hear your best and worst party experiences. I’ll leave you with some messages from the girls about theirs. Here’s to another fantastic year. Cheers!

Lucie x

Celia: Crikey, Lucie; you’ve said it all! Huge thanks to everyone who has visited our blog over the last year and given us your witty, supportive comments. Now, parties…

My worst one has got to be a Halloween do when I was about nine. I was a Brownie at the time, and we were all invited to our Sixer’s birthday. I only had a hazy idea about Halloween up to that point – I knew witches came into it somewhere, but as the world’s wimpiest child, I had never got up to speed on how people celebrated it. The mum in charge of the party had some great ideas. She had blacked out an entire room and hung it with fake cobwebs, rattling bones etc, there was an atmospheric ghostly soundtrack and we were blindfolded and led through one at a time, touching and listening to various things which got scarier and scarier. The finale was having our hand plunged into a bowl of sheep’s eyeballs. I’ve never felt the same about a peeled grape since that day.

The best wasn’t a birthday, it was my second wedding in 2008 (I’ve only had the two, in case that makes me sound like a female Bluebeard.). We decided to just have the best bits of a wedding, i.e.massive amounts of home-made cake, no speeches, no official photo session where the guests are starving and everyone loses the will to live, a small, warm venue so it would be cosy (it was a frosty night on December 29th) the most delicious food we could order and a late afternoon wedding so we could go straight into the serious eating and champagne quaffing. It was magical. I think I might have been quite, quite drunk.

Vanessa: Well, my best is easy – on my 29h birthday, Tim, my boyfriend at the time, took me to Cornwall for the weekend. We tried to stay in a beautiful old pub in Mousehole, right on the quay, with beams and a roaring fire … but it was full, so we ended up in an odd B&B that smelled of kippers. We tried to have dinner at one of the quay front pubs or restaurants but they were all full, so we ended up eating fish in a strange bright blue sauce at a cold restaurant where we were the only customers. Then, as we walked along the seafront, Tim proposed and it became the best birthday ever – kippers, blue sauce and all.

The worst is more difficult… because I love birthdays, always have. I always take the day off work and have a totally indulgent day. I think my worst birthday was my saddest – the last I got to celebrate with my best friend Suzanne. She’d been ill for a long time, but I’d been in denial, waiting for a miracle cure. That night was the night I finally accepted the truth and the last time we got to go out before she died.

Sue : I’ve never in my life had a birthday party … cue violins and sad music 😦 Never had a party as a child and never as an adult but that’s okay, as to be honest, I wouldn’t find being the centre of attention any fun at all. I much prefer going to other people’s parties, so much more relaxing and enjoyable. I’ve had quite a few family birthdays this year and they all have been great fun.

dancingOn the flip side, I have been to a few which haven’t been quite so successful. My friend’s 21st springs immediately to mind. All had been going well until late into the evening, after much drinking and merriment, my brother (Nick) and I hit the dance floor – that was our first mistake. The second came quite quickly after the first, Nick and I decided we could jive and were doing reasonably well, holding hands we were swinging each other backwards and forwards across in a kind of jive/barn dance sort of way. Mistake number 3 was the speed at which we attempted this with rather sweaty hands. I guess I must have been stronger than I thought. Sensing Nick was waning, I gave a particularly sudden and fast yank on his hand which, together with increased momentum, sent him whizzing past me in a blur of legs and arms, Frank Spencer style. I could only watch in horror as he went crashing into the disco lights; the scene reminiscent of a Jean Michel Jarre light and laser display.  It was certainly a party to remember, probably for all the wrong reasons.

Jan: I’ve been to many great parties over the years but one that evokes such fond memories for me is the surprise party my sisters and I organised (along with several much appreciated volunteers) as part of Mum and Dad’s 30th wedding anniversary celebrations. My younger sister and I were still living at home which, of course, made things a lot easier to manage. On the big night, my older sister and her husband, acting as decoys, took them out for a meal. As soon as their car rounded the corner of our road, me, sis and various friends & neighbours swung into action, fetching and carrying all the booze which had been stashed in a neighbour’s garage, blowing up balloons, wheeling in the cake and making sandwiches. Our aunty Heather was on bread buttering duty whilst the rest of us washed, sliced and diced all the fillers. We had to make sure the steady stream of guests arriving had parked out of sight so Mum’s eagle eye didn’t spot any familiar cars on their return. It really was like the proverbial military operation and a great success. It still makes us laugh remembering Mum’s utter disbelief at not cottoning on to our scheming. 🙂

As for the worst party, well a front-runner would have to be one I attended with a friend in my late teens. The phrase ‘One man and his Dog’ sprung to mind as we walked into the venue, there were so few guests. Add to that, strip lighting, warm wine, a Tarzan -o-gram for the host and the DJ’s decks blowing up halfway through the evening, and you get the picture. Cue stampede (or should I say, trickle) to the pub round the corner!

Laura: My tale is simple and short. My most and least favourite celebration was my last birthday, March 2012. Everything at home was perfect. I received surprise gifts, which were truly wonderful, cardsIMG_1043 and messages from many friends, and short-list notification of the first Choc Lit short story competition. Ahead was the prospect of a great summer, out and about with my family, including my mother who, the day before, had endured a difficult, but at that point, successful operation.
Why the mixed feelings? It was the last birthday I shared with my lovely mum.

Catherine: Worst? Well, you did ask. It was the winter of 2002. I was 21 and about to enjoy my first Physiotherapy Department Christmas Party. The day before I’d completed a junior rotation in care of the elderly and I was ready to let my hair down. Dinner started with a lovely Minestrone Soup. Only it didn’t seem so lovely. In fact, I was feeling decidedly queasy. It didn’t take me long to realise why I was feeling so ill. No, it wasn’t the soup. It was the dreaded norovirus. A nice leaving gift from my rotation. I was chucking up before the main course arrived and managed to get safely home before performing the party trick that involves a toilet and a bowl. So not the evening I’d had in mind.

The best? I’m going to be greedy and pick 3! My Nan and Grandad’s Ruby, Golden and Diamond anniversary parties. I was 8 at the first party. It was in a church hall with lots of family and friends and I got roped in waitressing duties with my cousins. I remember talking about the next party when I’d be 18 and being very excited about it. And before you know it, you’re 18 and at the next party!

What’s in a Kiss?

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, what better subject to discuss than kissing?

photo (79)

Kisses … I like kisses. Real or virtual, I am definitely a kissy kind of girl! Of course, they are not all the same and neither do they all have the same meaning. The ones you give your children are different to the ones you give your partner, which again are different to the ones you give your family and the ones to your friends. Then there are the virtual ones that you put on the end of a text or an email. All very different kisses with their own rules. Yes, kisses have rules.

The Virtual Kiss Rule

Putting a single kiss at the end of a text or e-mail can be seen as another way of signing off; a way of saying ‘bye, see you soon’ or ‘thanks very much’ or ‘best wishes’. It doesn’t actually mean you want to give that person a physical kiss but it is a sign of sincerity.  Sometimes, a text or email will warrant two kisses. To me, this means you are good friends with that person and are fond of them, usually close friends and family. It means more than just ‘best wishes’, it’s another way of saying ‘Take care, love from’.

X    X

The Rogue Kiss

Hands up those who have been guilty of popping a kiss at the end of a text or email to a work colleague … very embarrassing, especially if it’s your boss! Well, that’s the Virtual Rogue Kiss. The one you automatically pop on the end of a text or email to  a work colleague, the bank manager, a friend of your son, who you were only texting in the first place because your son had switched his phone off and wouldn’t return your calls and now his friend thinks you’re some sort of cougar, it’s on these sort of ones that you only notice this rogue kiss once you’ve hit the send button. (What do you mean, no? Surely, I’m not the only one to have done at least one of the above, oh, okay, ALL of the above at one time or another.)

So what of real kisses? Although I put kisses on my text messages, it doesn’t necessarily follow that I will give that person a real kiss when I see them (which is a relief to my son and his friends). Real kisses have their own etiquette.

The One Kiss, One Hug Rule

I kiss my family when I see them and this is also followed by a hug. One kiss, one hug but can be repeated several times. That’s my immediate family. My cousins, however, have a sub-rule, the Kiss Each Side of the Cheek Without Really Kissing Rule. Whilst acknowledging the fact we are related, it’s not so full on and has a rather more polite and formal air to it.

The Friendship Kiss

No need to kiss each other hello or goodbye, unless (a) you’ve not seen each other for a while (b) you won’t be seeing each other for a while or (c) one of you has needed a shoulder to cry on.  This is the ‘I’m thinking of you’ or ‘you know where I am’ kiss.

There is, of course, the kiss for your partner but that’s probably for a different post, possibly even a different blog! 😉

kiss

It seems to me that the whole kissing business, virtual or real, is a bit of a minefield. Negotiating how many kisses to put on a text or email is one thing but trying to work it out in real life can be just as bad. Even once you’ve decided on how many kisses, you still have another problem to overcome – which side to go for? Left or right first? It can all get very messy with the bobbing of heads from one side to another, before finally making a decision on which side to go for. Even then it can still go very wrong. You commit yourself to the left or right, only to realise, horrors of horrors, they have opted for the same way as you and it’s too late to divert  … ouch … you get a Glaswegian Kiss instead!

Am I the only one with kissing rules and regulations?

Sue  x

 

Happy Publication Day! Sophie’s Run by Nicky Wells

Sophies_Run.inddSophie’s Run

Her famous star remains her rock while life takes her on a little detour…

Who says that the road towards true love is straight and even?  Sophie is certainly discovering that it is anything but.

So she has finally found the man of her dreams! Well… she knows who he is, even though she hasn’t actually quite met him yet.  But she misses her opportunity, and then her life goes crazy.  Rock star and ex-fiancé, Dan, keeps getting in the way of her new romance—even if he is just trying to be helpful.  A fire, an impromptu mini-trip with Dan, and a dreaded wedding later, Sophie is still struggling to meet the love of her life. Then, just as she is getting it together with her perfect man, best friend Rachel commits an act of unspeakable betrayal.

Sophie has had enough. Confused and distraught, she decides that it is time for radical change.  Surprising herself and shocking her friends, she embarks on a secret journey and eventually gets her life back on track.

Necessity is the mother of invention when it comes to planning a blog tour.

Launching my second book? Sophie’s Run? What, in February? Already???

But… but… but… it’s only like, yesterday, that I launched my first book! What am I supposed to do?

PANIC!

Those were my approximate reactions when, just before Christmas, I realized that the launch of Part 2 in the Rock Star Romance Trilogy was pretty much imminent. I was elbow-deep in proofs, deeply involved in Christmas preparations, not to mention my big 4-0 birthday sneaking up on me… and the recognition bloomed that, when all that was over and done with, I’d have mere weeks to get organized for the launch of book 2. Panic, indeed.

The biggest source of fear stemmed from the thought of another blog tour. Don’t get me wrong, I massively enjoyed the mammoth blog tour I’d organized for Sophie’s Turn. But.

You knew there was a but, right?

But. For Sophie’s Turn, I did something like forty guest posts (40!) and twenty-odd interviews. What else was there that I could possibly say about me, my characters, my books, my life, my office, my music that I hadn’t already said before? I was all blog-toured out, and I figured my readers wouldn’t want to hear the same stuff all over again, riveting, sparkling and mesmerizing though it was.

It was on the way to Skegness, of all places, in the car with my lovely family, that inspiration struck. Does that happen to you? Inspiration striking in the most inconvenient of places, when you can do naught but write down the idea and quietly fizz with excitement? Anyway, so we were singing along to the radio, all four of us, debating what the chocolate café might be like, when I suddenly had a thought.

Places. Sophie and Dan go to lots of different places. Paris, obviously. New York. Edinburgh. Newquay. London. And that’s just the first book! Add Berlin, Hamburg, Pitlochry and Langeoog into the mix for book two, and you’re starting to get quite a travel brochure. I scrawled excitedly on the back of a receipt that had been innocently but handily languishing in the foot well.

Then inspiration outdid itself. Food! Sophie loves food. Her penchant for seafood is legendary. Lobsters, prawns, scallops… But she also goes in for pizza, pasta, and various other posh foods.

“I’ll take my readers on tour with Sophie and Dan,” I burst out loud, a propos of nothing as far as my family was concerned, and was met with a resounding silence.

“What did you say?” a small voice eventually piped up from the back.

My OH, driving, shot me a short, confused look. “What are you talking about?”

“My blog tour for Sophie’s Run. I’ll take my readers on tour with Sophie and Dan, show them all the places features in the books and the foods that Sophie loves…” I burbled away merrily for ten minutes, fleshing out my ideas and taking notes until I ran out of space on the back of that receipt.

And thus the idea was born. This is what it looks like:

SR blog tour

 

 

Sophie’s Run is now available in Kindle edition from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk, and in Paperback edition from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. You can also get the paperback at Barnes & Noble, or download Sophie’s Run onto your Nook (coming soon).

Nicky_NEWAuthorPic_April12_useforwebsiteAbout 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.  A signed author with U.S. publisher, Sapphire Star Publishing, Nicky is in the throes of publishing her Rock Star Romance Trilogy. 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. You can also follow Nicky on Twitter and find her on Facebook. Nicky is a featured author on the innovative reader/author project, loveahappyending.com and has joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association. Nicky also has author pages at Sapphire Star Publishing, Amazon and, of course, Goodreads.