Archive for the ‘Guest Post’ Category

Guest Post – Gabrielle Mullarkey

16/04/2015

 

 

Today, we welcome to HQ, Gabrielle Mullarkey …

 

Gabrielle Mullarky

 

Gabrielle’s contemporary romance novels, Hush Hush and A Tale of Two Sisters, were originally published by Town House & Country House/Simon & Schuster respectively.

Corazon Books republished Hush Hush as an e-book in November 2014, with A Tale of Two Sisters scheduled for 2015.

Gabrielle, a journalist by profession, also writes short stories regularly for women’s weeklies, and facilitates creative writing for wellbeing and therapeutic purposes.

Hush Hush in a nutshell

Reclusive widow Angela is afraid to dip a toe back in the job market – let alone the dating game. But egged on by her bossy mother and her best friend, she resolves to find a job and even try a solo holiday – which ends with a luggage mix-up and an encounter with a rugged Irishman called Conor.

Back home, Angela is keen to take her new romance slowly, particularly as Conor’s (non-holiday) baggage includes the original ‘child from hell’ and an ex-wife who’s less ‘ex’ than Angela expected.

But there’s a deeper reason for Angela’s acute self-doubt – a trauma in her past that threatens to overshadow her chance of happiness, even as it lies within reach.

The fine line…

Hush Hush and my second novel, A Tale of Two Sisters, were printed in 1999 and 2001 respectively, so seeing my writing reincarnated as e-books (and updating it accordingly) has been like greeting old friends, as well as revisiting myself at a different time in life.

 

Hush-Hush-by-Gabrielle-Mullarkey

 

When I started Hush Hush, I was living in Ireland by accident rather than design, after I’d met an Irishman while on holiday over there – which kind of inverts the process in the book, Angela meeting her beau on her way back from holiday!

Not that it was an overnight decision to relocate. It took five years, a mini career crisis and a lot of arm-twisting to take the plunge.

However, as I’m second-generation Irish, family and friends discounted   serendipity and assumed I’d implemented a long-nurtured cunning plan: return to roots, snag ethnically suitable specimen, learn to play the bodhran, develop love of Guinness, master Irish dancing, reclaim and celebrate heritage.

Of course, there was no such grand plan (I wish!). I simply met someone when I wasn’t looking, I can still only play Chopsticks on a piano, Guinness doesn’t agree with me, and as a child, I was possibly the worst Irish dancer. Ever.

But a funny thing happened as I started to write Hush Hush: while both characters and plot – which I wanted to be absorbingly twisty – were pure fiction, my conflicted feelings about my identity did begin to edge into the pages, many such sentiments expressed through humour (my natural default setting). However, it was only when interviewed or questioned about the book after its publication, that I thought about this osmosis, and wondered how deeply it affected my writing generally.

Since then, my research and training in creative writing for therapeutic purposes has introduced me to the adage that writing fiction helps us ‘say the unsayable’, perhaps without even realising we’re doing it – or that we considered such self-exploration ‘unsayable’ in the first place.

I still don’t set out to plunder my life directly for incidents or anecdotes, but I also know there’s a fine line between fictionaliser and recollector. In Hush Hush, Angela’s mistakes, triumphs and misunderstandings were sometimes directly my own. For example, just like Angela, I really did have a summer job in a factory where I managed to print all the clock cards upside down!

So, all these years later, it’s fascinating to look back and compare the writer who wrote Hush Hush with the one writing this post. Lots of wonderful writers have influenced me down the years and continue to do so (everyone from Robert Goddard to Laurie Graham), but I also continue to be an enduring influence on myself – and hopefully, a rich resource of ever-surfacing memories.

 

www.gabriellemullarkey.co.uk

Connect with Gabrielle on Twitter  @authorgabrielle

 

Advertisements

Bee and Let Bee: Carol Anne Hunter

13/03/2015

We are delighted to welcome Carol Anne Hunter, author of Project Me, to Romaniac HQ. Get your cake and coffee, put your feet up, and enjoy this beautiful story.

Let’s bee having you, Carol Anne …

Carol Hunter Author Pic

My novel, Project Me, a comedy about starting again at fifty, was published last year. I’ve received the usual feedback from friends and family but one two-para piece of romantic rambling about bees is regularly cited as a stand-out point. The thing is, I stole these two paragraphs from a random short story I wrote a couple of years ago, changed the wording a little and used them as a device to give my character hope when she was near breaking point. The ploy worked a treat. So in the hope of warming away your winter blues and giving you something to look forward to, here is the latest version of the whole story. Enjoy!

 Bee and Let Bee

Every spring they arrive along with the first buds to lodge rent-free in the air vent under the back steps.  They don’t ask for much except a place to commune and peace to get on with it, and I’m happy to oblige; to let it bee.  I’ll let you into a secret.  The lavender bushes under my windows were planted just for them.

Sometimes when it’s sunny I relax on my lounger and watch my ultimate flying squad bizz in and out.  I fancy the little ones are on their maiden voyage, newbees on a practice flight if you will, with a remit to ransack next door’s hanging baskets before being sent further afield in search of richer pickings to bring home as part of earning their stripes.  Poised on the latticed concrete grid it seems they’re calculating ambient temperature and wind speed whilst waiting for some in-built air traffic control to signal the all-clear for take-off.  This is no long runway lumber-up-to-speed, more a dodgy diagonal ascent, their bumbee tartan bobbing on the breeze like tiny paragliders struggling to stay on the flight path.  Some take off on their very own junket, others do a double-take when they catch a whiff of my lavenders and hightail back, dancing on the downdraft before they home in when they’ve sized up the source of the scent.

Then come the jumbos, the 747s with their black and yellow corduroy, bombing out of the vent in loose formation.  Maybe they’re scouts setting out on a mission – as Captain Kirk might say, to seek out uncharted flower beds; to boldly go where no bee’s gone before.

I well remember the day of The Great Fly-Past when a no-mark rookie went off-course almost tipping yours truly off her deck chair.  A swatting offence in my book, since I swear I heard the tiny wheeze of laughter.

Now, that there’s what you’d call a right cheeky bee.

Landings are an art form.  Their panniers full of fragrant pollen I watch them on the home stretch, circling the runway, waiting for clearance to land.  Then it’s one in, one out as another launches itself through the latticework and up over my head.  And I’ve never, ever witnessed a mid-air collision.  Then autumn comes around and they all buzz off.

Why people talk about the birds and the bees when referring to matters carnal is anybody’s guess.  These damsels don’t procreate therefore the hive is more workhouse than joy house.  Only their queen is fertile and reproductive, nurtured as she is with Royal Jelly provided by the wing-women who attend to her every need.  She also has the option to choose her offspring’s gender, something we humans with all our science and technology have yet to achieve, and she chooses girls over boys, who are kept dormant until their – ahem – services are required.  In this uber-sexist society the females work as a collective, much like Mormon sister-wives, and share the feathering of the nest, the raising of the nippers and the bringing home of the proverbial bacon.  The one thing they don’t have in common is a husband.

Get rid of them, friends advised, they’re a nuisance.  They aren’t.

They’ll sting you.  They haven’t.

They’ll burrow through the wall and get into the house.  They can’t.  I know; I checked.  They’re all talking out of their bumble.

So, all is harmonious.  They mind their beeswax and I mind mine.  Live and let live, I say.   Bee and let bee.

Roll on March.

-0-

I so hope I’ve left you with a rosy glow!

 

Carol Hunter Project Me CoverProject Me by Carol Anne Hunter is currently available from Amazon.co.uk at  amzn.to/1yea08M and Amazon.com at /amzn.to/122tym1

Email me at carolannehunter4@gmail.com

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/carol.hunter.357

Twitter page:   https://twitter.com/carolannehunter

Combined website/blog – www.carolannehunter.co.uk

 

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

08/11/2014

ONE NIGHT IN AMSTERDAM by JAZ HARTFIELD

This post contains adult content

 

 

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

Take it away, Jaz …

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

Blurb:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What’s up, Tams?”

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

“I want to talk to you about something.”

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

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

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

“Whew!”

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

“It will be, Tams.”

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

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

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

 

Jaz Hartfield Author Pic H005Jaz Hartfield Author Bio:

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

Jaz on Facebook

 

Links:

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

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

Amazon US

Amazon UK

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

28/10/2014

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

Jane Lovering with award

 Part Two by Jane Lovering

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

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

Part Two by Jane Lovering

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *  

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

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

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

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

Twitter: @janelovering 

Jane Lovering FA_packshot copyCompetition

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

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

 

Genre and Voice Part 2 : Joanne Phillips, Sheryl Browne

24/09/2014

Welcome to Part 2 of the Genre and Voice blog posts. Last week, we had a great post from Louise Rose-Innes, talking about her switch in genre, you can read her post HERE. This week I’m so pleased to welcome Joanne Phillips and Sheryl Browne, who have both written novels under the romance banner and, more recently, in the mystery/thriller genre too.

 Joanne Phillips

office_photo_2_SQ-001cl

cupids wayI’’m often asked about why I chose to tackle a different genre (mystery) after being successful with romantic comedies. I think the implication is that my writing would need to be different – that I would have to find a different ‘voice’ for the mysteries. The answer to whether or not that is true turned out to be more complicated than even I expected! In many ways, my natural writing voice is the same in all my books – but of course, the characters are very different. My first two novels had first person narrators, so my voice was channeled through the filter of the main character – I’m not as funny or as interesting as Stella! The mysteries are third person, and here I feel authorial voice is more noticeable. But my writing style in general is changing as my writing improves. I’m studying for a Masters in Creative Writing, and I notice now that my approach to writing on the level of the sentence is very different to when I first started.

As for writing in a different genre, I think it’s great fun for authors to have a go at writing in any genre they enjoy reading. I love cozy mysteries; Iflora_v6__lighter_red_v5 had an idea for Flora Lively and so she was born. I also love reading contemporary romances – but I’m very a very fussy reader, and a romance has to have a lot of depth for me to enjoy it. That’s probably why my novels always have a more serious side, or explore serious themes – albeit subtly! My advice to anyone tackling a change of genre would be to study the expectations/structures of that genre and follow them, but when it comes to voice, to be yourself entirely. A new writer said to me recently that she didn’t like reading other fiction while she was working on her own first novel as she was worried it would affect her writing voice. I think this is a valid concern – we can unconsciously mimic writers we admire – but I advised against getting too hung up on it. It’s actually very difficult to copy voice, our own way of writing will always win out in the end. And that’s what makes us unique.

Joanne’s Website

Sheryl Browne

Sheryl_and_dogs_2 (1)

When I first started out writing many moons ago, choosing to write in different genres it seemed was a bit of a no, no. Even before social media madness, where online promotion became as essential as breathing, advice from those in the know in the publishing world was to establish a brand or platform, i.e. to stick to your genre thereby fulfilling reader expectation. So have I bucked the trend in choosing to write psychological thrillers alongside poignant romance? Have I confused people in deciding to continue to write both under my own name? Judging by the reviews, for which I am hugely grateful, I think not. I’m quoting a pertinent snippet from one reviewer here: “The Edge of Sanity lives up to its psychological thriller tag, and Sheryl has definitely pulled off the switch in genre with this un-put-downable book!” Thank you, Donna at Room for Reading

cover_spread_jpg

Whichever genre I write in, I tend to explore the fragility of love, life and relationships. If a character calls to me, I simply have to write his story. My books tend to turn around the family unit, looking at family dynamics and the tenuous bonds that hold people together, usually having a strong, but flawed, male lead. I think The Edge of Sanity, though most definitely edgy, does fall into that category. My ‘voice’ therefore, whether writing romance or thriller, or a combination of both, will always lean towards ‘poignant’ storytelling, in so doing, hopefully, delivering what the reader expects.

Sheryl’s Website

Genre and Voice Part 1 : Louise Rose-Innes

17/09/2014

Sue : I’ve been asked quite a lot recently as to what genre my second book Closing In actually falls in, there have been mixed opinions by those who have read it as to whether it’s romance or thriller.  For me, it falls somewhere between the two, under the romantic suspense category. All this made me wonder about the placing of a book and if it’s possible to sit between genres successfully or to even write in a completely different genre. I’ve found it’s a topic that causes quite a lot of discussion and, as such, decided to ask around for other authors’ experiences and thoughts on genre and voice.

I had originally intended to do one post on this, but I received such great advice from the authors I approached,  I didn’t want to cut anything down and have it over three installments.

I’m delighted to welcome Louise Rose-Innes to the Romaniac blog today. Louise is probably most known for her romance novels, but has recently turned her hand to a more dangerous story line.

profilepic

I have a split personality. With books, I mean. My teenage reading list comprised of young adult romances, and progressed to Joanna Lindsay and Jilly Cooper fairly rapidly. In fact, I remember getting detention for reading the “naughty bits” from The Thorn Birds out loud to the boys in my tenth grade English class.

Running parallel to this was a deep-seated hunger for thriller novels. Sydney Sheldon was my all-time fave. His direct, suspense-laden style has probably influenced my writing more than any other author. Clive Cussler and James Patterson are close seconds. But then there’s also Michael Connelly and Robert Ludlum and of course the all-time spy-master, John le Carré…

Occasionally, I’ll read a Booker Prize winning novel for the literacy value, and because I feel incredibly guilty if I don’t, but other than that my personal book collection is fairly evenly spread between the romance and thriller genres.

Naturally, the same would prove to be true with my writing. When I began, I thought romance would be the easiest genre to master. I’m not convinced I was correct, but the ten years I’ve spent writing the genre have taught me a huge amount about character development, internal and external conflict and (the hardest part) how to write a good love scene. Because romances are character-driven stories, you need to understand your hero and heroine extremely well and develop them and their relationship throughout the story.

Thrillers on the other hand are primarily plot-driven. Planning is essential. All the various elements of the story have to be factored in at the right moment, from clues and red-herrings to action sequences and reveals. And this has to be done in such a way that the pace doesn’t falter, so the reader keeps turning those pages. No mean feat!

There are parallels. The lessons I learned (and am still learning) writing romance, are definitely applicable to thrillers. For instance, I found characterising my protagonist in my current thriller series fairly easy. His faults, his demons, his personal journey are all extremely well developed. The same goes for my antagonist. The depth of character that I’m able to reach in my thriller writing I attribute to the many rejection letters I got when I started writing romance. Those early submission editors saying my inner conflict wasn’t well enough thought out or my characters lacked emotional depth. Hurtful at the time, but beneficial in the long run. 🙂

My latest novel, Personal Assistance (Entangled Ignite), is a romantic suspense set in a Middle Eastern kingdom on the brink of an Arab-spring type conflict. The heroine, an employee of the Arab prince, stumbles upon a highly classified document and is now on the run for her life. With the embassy shut, the only person who can help her escape is a disgraced SAS commander with a hidden agenda. But can she trust him to get her out, or will he sacrifice her for his own ends?

Personal Assistance is available now from Amazon and other online retailers. Read the first chapter here…

PA_500

Let Them Eat Cake …

07/08/2014

Let them eat cake….

(And we’ll have some too!)

JWJ spotlight hi rez

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

No Cake for YOU….

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

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

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

JWJ Flab9781909520929_FC-1

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

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

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

What’s not to like?

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

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

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

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

JWJ 9781909520929_Cover

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

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

http://janewenhamjones.wordpress.com/

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

 

 

 

 

From Paris With Love – It’s all about me says Samantha Tonge

01/08/2014

From_Paris_With_Love_coverFrom Paris with Love is the standalone sequel to my debut romantic comedy, Doubting Abbey. It is also the second novel I have written in Paris. However, the first is FIRMLY under my bed! “Poppy Love” was the first novel I ever wrote, ooh, a few years ago now. What a learning curve. I eventually stopped writing it at 90,000 words (the length of your average chicklit novel) because at that point, there were still only four chapters!

I once read that when a writer starts out on their literary journey, they churn out a lot of, um, not-so-good autobiographical material – a bit like when you buy an old house, the tap water runs brown first of all, and you need to let it run a while for the fresh, clear water to appear. And sure enough, this first Parisian novel of mine was based on a time in my youth when I lived in the French capital and fell in love with a Parisian – a period of my life that I look back on with a warm, nostalgic glow. I set the story in the exact youth hostel I lived in. Due to the cringe-factor, I daren’t re-read it now. What a self-indulgent piece of work!

But I think it is important for a writer to go through this process – as the main plot/character ideas are in your head already (from you own experiences) you unconsciously concentrate, instead, on honing your writing skills. Then you are ready to tackle a novel using your imagination as well, with settings, plots and characters that aren’t directly linked to you.

Indeed, From Paris with Love has little to do with my life – I’ve never been chased by a hunky international spy, nor become friends with a hot, come-to-bed eyed rockstar. Although, of course, parts of my life, on a less autobiographical scale, are still in my writing – how I loved mentally re-visiting Paris, especially the atmospheric Père Lachaise cemetery, bustling Porte de Clignancourt flea market and romantic Sacre Coeur church. And being a foodie, I just had to write about the gastronomic delights bonkers aspiring chef Gemma learns to cook – mmm, the French patisserie, warm baguettes, rich stews and luxurious red wines… I must visit the French capital again soon.

So why not give From Paris with Love a try? It’s a fun tale of the continued rocky relationship between a former pizza waitress and stuffy but gorgeous aristocrat. Lord Edward has honey curls, an accent to die for, and as for his kisses… Mmm, thinking about it, what a pity this book isn’t autobiographical!

Blurb

Every girl dreams of hearing those four magical words Will you marry me? But no-one tells you what’s supposed to happen next…

Fun-loving Gemma Goodwin knows she should be revelling in her happy-ever-after. Except when her boyfriend Lord Edward popped the question, after a whirlwind romance, although she didn’t say no….she didn’t exactly say yes either!

A month-long cookery course in Paris could be just the place to make sure her heart and her head are on the same page… And however disenchanted with romance Gemma is feeling, the City of Love has plenty to keep her busy; the champagne is decadently quaffable, the croissants almost too delicious, and shopping is a national past-time! In fact, everything in Paris makes her want to say Je t’aime… Except Edward!

But whilst Paris might offer plenty of distractions from wedding planning – including her new friends, mysterious Joe and hot French rockstar Blade – there’s no reason she couldn’t just try one or two couture dresses is there? Just for fun…

Links

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SamTongeWriter

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SamanthaTongeAuthor

Website: http://samanthatonge.co.uk/

Doubting abbey Blog: http://doubtingabbey.blogspot.co.uk/

AmazonUK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Paris-Love-Samantha-Tonge-ebook/dp/B00KYU49XK/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1404140133&sr=1-1&keywords=from+paris+with+love

AmazonUS: http://www.amazon.com/Paris-Love-Samantha-Tonge-ebook/dp/B00KYU49XK/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1404140193&sr=8-3&keywords=from+paris+with+love

Picture_014Bio

Samantha Tonge lives in Cheshire with her lovely family, and two cats who think they are dogs. When not writing, she spends her days cycling and willing cakes to rise. She has sold over 80 short stories to women’s magazines. Her bestselling debut novel, Doubting Abbey, came out in November 2013.

 

Nine Essential Elements of Romance Fiction – Catherine LaRoche

24/07/2014

NINE ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS OF ROMANCE FICTION

Catherine LaRoche

Catherine LaRoche1

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

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

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

The nine central claims made by the romance narrative:

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

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

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

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

 

Meet Tracy Tappan: On The Romaniacs’ Couch.

11/06/2014

Please welcome to Romaniac HQ, author Tracy Tappan, who has kindly joined us to explain her fab concept, The Character Couch.

Mr and Mrs Smith is one of my all-time favourite movies. You’ll see why I’ve mentioned this in a moment. If you don’t know the film, I recommend watching it before reading Tracy’s brilliant post below 🙂

Take us away … sorry … take it away, Tracy.

Tracy Tappan 300dpi

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in the action-packed movie “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” are a husband and wife who don’t know each other are assassins. The movie opens with these two sitting in front of a therapist, squirming with discomfort; we guess this is as much from the possibility of having to bare their souls—something an assassin can’t do—as from the idea of talking about a marriage that has obviously been filled with lies. Either way, it’s going to be entertaining. And, oh, yes, the therapist kicks off the session with a bang.

“How often do you have sex?” he asks.

“I don’t understand the question,” Angelina Jolie returns, dead-pan.

“Is this on a scale of 1 to 10?” Brad puts in.

“So is 1 very little,” Angelina continues, “or is 1 nothing? Because, technically speaking…zero would be nothing.”

So it seems that Brad and Angelina haven’t been having sex for a while.

We can hardly believe it.

The episode is funny, touching, and intriguing, which is exactly the tone of my reader-focused website, The Character Couch (www.charactercouch.com), where fans can suggest their favorite romance couple to be brought into a therapy session. Yes, this is therapy, but these sessions are anything but angst-ridden. They are written in the same spirit as “Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” drawing us in to be a fly on the wall and peek at something we normally wouldn’t be able to see.

Will there be amusing bantering in these sessions, a sense of firm, quiet resolve, poignancy? Sure. All of it. Every session is different, but always attention-grabbing.

Don’t you find that the best books always stick with you long after you’ve turned the last page, leaving you hungry for more? I know I go crazy waiting for the next novel in a series to come out, and I figured other readers felt the same. So I came up with an idea that would combine my two loves—of doing therapy and writing romance—in a way that would provide innovative, free entertainment for fans.

Today, I share about my unique endeavor.

What could we expect to see if you had “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” on The Character Couch?

LOL. Well, I think first you’d see the therapist secretly getting moon-eyed over Brad Pitt! And could we blame her?

Therapist Regan Malloy has been so exciting to create. I’ve already morphed her to fit a multitude of romance sub-genres. She’s been a French ex-pat from a time travel romance, a bespeckled Brit from a contemporary racehorse romance, a saloon mistress in America’s old west, and a wizened crone facing down a couple of vampires.

Regan also brings her own struggles into the session, whether that’s fear or uncertainty, confusion about her clients, or maybe just a verbal blunder of some sort. So, each month, the therapist is as different as her clients.

It’s all about keeping the site dynamic and entertaining!

That does sound like a great deal of fun for readers.

Oh, definitely. I always pose questions at the end of the session, too, because fan involvement adds an extra layer of enjoyment to the experience. Readers get a chance to join the “analysis” and tell me and the participating author what they think. This month for Zoe Dawson’s New York City based contemporary romance, COLLARED, the debate is flying about the dissimilar backgrounds of the hero and heroine, and the possible effects on their relationship. I’m impressed at how thought-provoking and insightful people’s comments have been.

It’s a fantastic time.

It seems that this site could also benefit authors.

Without question. The commentary I was just talking about offers an excellent way for authors to increase their social reach; comments are laterally posted on Facebook, so that the discussion can be seen by all of a fan’s friends—which means thousands!

The Character Couch is an innovative way for authors to market their books, and they’ve been really creative with their use of it. Many authors run contests, where fans are asked to vote on which couple from one of the author’s romance series they’d like to see go into therapy. Several lucky participants win prizes, and the book with the most votes earns a session on The Couch. This kindles fan enthusiasm even before the session is posted!

The procedure for readers is very user-friendly: people just click on the “Suggest A Book” icon in the side bar of the site and input their choice—anytime!

Readers don’t have to wait for a contest to make a suggestion!

This month, the award-winning author of COLLARED, Zoe Dawson, has done something very clever. Her characters, New York City cop, Caleb Shaw, and wealthy socialite, Harper Sinclair, have some issues that still need resolving (is it any wonder, considering he’s a cop and she’s an heiress?!). So Zoe got the ball rolling with Caleb and Harper’s problems in The Character Couch session…then left the issues to be settled in a follow-on wedding novella, CAPTURED. By doing this, she stirred up readers’ excitement more than ever to read her novella.

And yet, you write the sessions, don’t you?

I do. It’s a process that requires a great deal of attention to detail on my part in order to represent absolutely correctly another author’s characters. Not one word goes onto the site without an author’s full approval (authors can go to the FAQ section on the site for more detail).

And so far, so good! The testimonials page glows with the praise from alumni authors.

This has been one of the most satisfying parts of this endeavor for me; it means I’ve succeeded in honoring their stories, and that feels terrific.

How does a session typically end?

Oh, there isn’t a “typical” with these sessions; that’s another fun part. Every month, it’s a new journey, and you never know at what point you might laugh or get a clench of emotion in your chest. Or where a surprise might pop out at you.

Like the ending to “Mr. and Mrs. Smith.”

During the course of the movie, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have discovered that each other are assassins. With the truth out, there’s hope for their marriage now. They end up in front of the therapist again, recapping, still spouting off to each other, but in a way that makes us chuckle; we know they’re going to be okay. The therapist seems to agree, talking about how marriage takes work, but—

Brad interrupts to say, “Ask us the ‘how many times did you have sex this week?’ question again.”

“John,” Angelina Jolie scolds quietly, while Brad Pitt proudly flashes ten fingers outside of Angelina’s sight lines.

Oh, yes, expect fun surprises!

 

*          *          *

Tracy Tappan Bloodline War 600 wide 72dpi

Tracy is the award-winning author of gritty romance, her books spanning genres across paranormal (The Community series), military suspense (The Wings of Gold series), and Historical (The Baron’s War trilogy). During nearly a quarter of a century spent as a military wife, she lived all over the United States and in Europe, enjoying seven years overseas in the diplomatic community, first in Rome then in Madrid, until she settled back in San Diego. Tracy holds a master’s degree in Marriage, Family, and Child Counseling, and has used this background to create a fan-based website called The Character Couch, where romance’s favorite couples are brought into a fun session with therapist, Regan Malloy. Her debut paranormal novel, THE BLOODLINE WAR, is a Bronze Medal winner for romance of the prestigious Independent Publishers Book Award (IPPY), available now on Amazon. FREE from June 10-14th 2014.

To learn more, please visit her website at http://www.tracytappan.com/

 

Thank you so much, Tracy, for this fascinating insight in The Character Couch. I’m convinced my heroes and heroines could all do with a dose of Regan Malloy. One day …

Laura.

 

%d bloggers like this: