Life Cycle of a Writer: Debbie

It’s been a while since I last blogged. (Ooer, that sounds a bit like a confession.) Unlike most of my fellow Romaniacs, I’ve had little to shout about. In fact, NOTHING to shout about.


A bad case of the January blues ran into February, then March and before I knew it Easter had been and gone and I was no further on with progressing, ‘Living in the Past,’ the novel I (finally) finished last summer. Why?

Well, once again I have any number of reasons, although a critical NWS review comes high up the list. After I’d digested the five page report which, in a nutshell suggested I might be better off to put what I’d learned so far down to experience and move on to the next novel, I lost all motivation to respond to the 5.30am alarm clock set on dark, damp mornings to get up and write. The pain of my arthritis and news that I need to have two lots of major surgery to replace my existing prosthetic jaw joints consumed me. Morphine patches meant I spent up to four hours asleep in the daytime. Deranged blood results, yet more building work, the garden, domestic chores, not enough hours in the day; these things individually may not seem much but all together they threatened to overwhelm me. 3

For months, I returned to deriding myself. ‘You’ll never be a writer … You’ll never get that book published … What if the reader is right and the agent who was waiting to see it (three years ago!) also thinks it’s a pile of poo? And what if, after reading it, they won’t entertain the idea of ever receiving anything from me again?’

‘Man up, mom!’ said my eldest son. ‘So the reader didn’t like it? It’s one person’s opinion. Not everyone will like it. But the question is; do you like it? You’ve been working on it long enough. Or if not, do as they say and stop talking about it!’

He was right. It has taken four years to write this novel so far and all I’ve ever really done is talk about it, except when the opening chapter got runner up in the inaugural Festival of Romance in 2011. However every time I’ve almost condemned it to the waste paper bin ‘something’ has stopped me. I still believe. I still believe it has legs.

So, I HAVE A PLAN and writing it down here will make me do it. I’ve made a start, re-read the whole thing and also re-read (several times) the NWS critique. Interestingly, because I’ve let the MS rest a while, I’ve returned to it with fresh eyes and concede the reader raised several points that are fair comment. I don’t feel anywhere near so gloomy about it. Using two different coloured highlighter pens I’ve gone through and highlighted, a) the areas I need to change and, b) all other points I’m still unsure about which I must ponder on. With any luck if I work through systematically, I’ll find the holes, make my heroine more appealing, nail the research, expand the characters, dig deeper for more conflict etc because one thing’s for sure; I’ll never be a writer or get a book published if I give in.

You know, this writing malarkey really is a battle of wills. Is it a pile of poo? It may be. It may not. The only way for me to find out is to try. I haven’t spent four years on this to give up now. Don’t get me wrong; if the agent agrees I may need to re-think the plan but until then I have to give it my best shot.

You heard it here first; by the time I next post, it will be done. Polished. Finished. No more twiddling. And by then I’ll have contacted the agent to see if they are still interested!


Wish me luck. I’ll be in the summerhouse.

Until another day

Debbie xx

Guest Post ~ Welcome, Gabrielle Mullarkey

Gabrielle Mullarkey is a novelist, short story writer and journalist, who has worked on women’s magazines for over 20 years. Since gaining her MSc in creative writing for therapeutic purposes in 2014, she works with writing groups for mental health charity Mind, and writes with and for patients at local hospices.


gabs1 (1)

A Tale of Two Sisters, her second novel, takes the reader to the heart of a simmering sibling rivalry that explodes into all-out war!

Having pondered sisterhood while writing the book, she has more question than answers on the bond that can seem like a bind…

Can your sister be your best friend, too?

The art of being a good sister is, to coin a friend’s term, ‘a slippery rabbit’. Anyone who’s tried to cuddle a bunny will know just how mercurial and evasive the fluffy critter is. But even if you do consider yourself close to your sister, is she also your best friend? And if so, is that friendship fostered by shared interests – or is sibling rivalry intensified when sisters follow the same career path or share a passion? Serena and Venus Williams seem to get on OK, despite an intense professional rivalry – but actresses Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine, A-lister sisters from Hollywood’s golden age, reputedly fell out over who won the race for an Oscar (Joan beat big sis Olivia in the Best Actress category at the 1942 awards, Olivia bagging the statuette five years later). Joan is even supposed to have said, ‘I married first, won the Oscar before Olivia did, and if I die first, she’ll undoubtedly be livid because I beat her to it.’

joan & olivia

Blimey, when you get competitive with your sister about who’ll die first, that takes sibling rivalry to a whole new level!

I’m not sure how I’d feel if either of my sisters wanted to be writers. As they’re both teachers, they may be keeping a competitive eye on each other’s league tables, but I’m happy to let them get on with it, never having felt the urge to scale the north face of OFSTED paperwork. And growing up, I didn’t turn to either of them for advice on school, boys, accessories or anything else – I had my best friend for that.

In fact, one of my BFF’s key roles was to let me moan about my sisters, since we all went to the same school – and this is probably why Nikki in a A Tale of Two Sisters gets some of the best lines in the book as the ‘tell-it-like-it-is’ best bud to Katie, disgruntled sister-at-large. Keeping it real, Nikki listens, commiserates and – while she doesn’t hesitate to point out Katie’s contributory culpability for her all-out war with sister Flick – makes helpful suggestions on resolving the schism, such as offering to go halves on a hitman to take out Flick. To Katie, this confirms the blind loyalty you expect (possibly demand) of a best friend precisely because siblings withhold it.

I don’t know about your family, but in my mine, you could only rally followers to your righteous cause (convincing Mum or Dad the other sister did it and ran away) by excelling at the sort of ‘what’s it worth to side with you?’ horse trading that characterises every episode of House of Cards. In fact, if Kevin Spacey ever gets tired of delivering thousand yard stares and gnomic utterances straight to camera, some of my siblings would welcome an audition…

I’m pretty good at that game myself. But what about my own BFF credentials? Well, I may flatter myself, but I was pretty good at that game as well, because my BFF at school had more brother than sister trouble – and I’ve got four of those blighters!

A Tale of Two Sisters by Gabrielle Mullarkey cover


Find A Tale of Two Sisters at:

Connect with Gabrielle on Twitter ~ @authorgabrielle


Giselle Green – Dear Dad

img_3901Today, we are honoured to have wonderful writer, and dear friend, Giselle Green on our blog. I caught up with her recently to have a chat about her new novel – here’s what she had to say:

Good morning Giselle, thank you so much for coming onto our blog to share the news of your fantastic new novel, Dear Dad.

  • I was very lucky to have been one of the people you selected to read Dear Dad a while ago, but for those yet to read it, can you tell us a little about it?


Thank you for reading it, Lucie! And thank you for inviting me back onto the Romaniacs blog – it’s my pleasure to be here.

What it’s about …

A young war reporter suffering from PTSD who’s lost everything that’s dear to him is faced with a difficult dilemma when multiple letters start arriving mysteriously at his flat. Mistakenly addressed to ‘Dear Dad,’ they’re from a young, bullied kid called Adam who’s desperate for someone to help him out of his misery. Only Nate’s not his dad – and he can’t be anyone’s advocate. He can’t even bring himself to leave his flat. Acquiescing to Adam’s plea, he agrees to visit the boy’s school pretending to be ‘Dad’ just so he can explain to Adam’s teacher what’s going on. As Nate and Adam’s pretty young teacher Jenna fall for each other, Nate soon discovers that some lies, once told, are not so easy to recover from…

  • Where did the idea come from? Do you choose themes to craft your books from or do you let inspiration lead?


It’s true I’ve had large themes very much in the forefront of my mind in the past (e.g. Hope, faith and Charity, Justice). For this book, the theme was there all along but it was only after I finished it that I finally recognised what it was – kindness.

On a more mundane level, I wanted to talk about ‘Dads’ – I’ve spoken about the role of Mums so often in the past. I wanted to talk about people who take on the fatherly role even when they weren’t the biological dad.

I also wanted to say something about the social isolation so many people seem to suffer from. Even though we’re living on a planet that’s more densely populated than it’s ever been, loneliness and a sense of isolation are endemic. Those are things that can affect anyone – even previously popular, outgoing, successful people like Nate. He falls from a great height. When we first meet him, he’s got this sense of shame, of having somehow ‘failed’, but it’s only when he reaches out in compassion to someone who’s even worse off than he is, that he can start to find healing.

  • Dear Dad deals with some very real and very heartfelt issues, was it difficult to write?


Some of the issues in Dear Dad are a little heart-wrenching – the issue of child carers who go unnoticed in the system, for one. Not because there aren’t the mechanisms in government to help them, but because half the time they simply aren’t picked up. It’s a catch-22 situation for some children – they have no advocate, and because they have no advocate, they don’t get ‘seen’.

Any situation where children are the victims is always hard for me – my heart bleeds for them. But because I used a lighter tone for this book, it wasn’t as hard to write as it might have been. And Adam’s ever-optimistic character that shone through all his troubles so stoically made it easier, too

  • How did you get into the mind-set of a 9 year old? Did you have help from any children?


That’s a great question Lucie – I really have no idea where Adam’s mindset came from. It was just … there, automatically. Of all the characters in the book, this vulnerable, savvy 9-year-old arrived the most fully-formed and I loved him from the word go. He was so easy to write that when I finished, I didn’t want to leave him behind. I have had six boys myself, as you know, so maybe I unconsciously drew on some of them, when it came to what it ‘felt’ like to be him. I also had some friends with children of about the right age read through to make sure the ‘Adam’ scenes were true to the age group – you are one of the people I must thank for your input in that department!

You are very welcome!🙂

  • Without giving anything away, was there any part of the book in particular that you found difficult/fun to write?


I had so much fun writing the Nate-Adam scenes! They were my favourite ones to write. In those scenes, despite the pathos, I was able to bring a little humour and lightness into my story – something I have been wanting to do for a while.

The scenes which show Nate’s agoraphobic tendencies were tougher. There was the question of actually ‘getting into his head-space’ while I wrote his point of view. For about a week I will confess I felt a bit breathless and reluctant leaving the house – which I put down to being in Nate’s mindset at the outset when he’s really stuck. It wasn’t very comfortable.

  • How long did it take you to write Dear Dad, from concept to finished novel? Do your writing journeys differ from book to book?


I had the concept two years ago. I just wasn’t ready to write it then. My initial attempts to get into it threw me back on the realisation that I still had a lot of decisions to make. For instance – was it a father-son story, or a love story, at its heart? I really only got going with it properly this year, so I would say it took a year to write, but maybe six-eight months to get my internal bearings with it.

Yes, every book takes me a different route. I never really feel I know what I’m doing till about half-way to three quarters of the way in, then it all gathers pace. I like to challenge myself with each new book. This book leads with the male perspective – another difficult decision (the first incarnation of this story started with the heroine), but given the subject matter I simply couldn’t do otherwise. I also have three main characters instead of the usual two. While the plot is deceptively simple, writing three people who are closely involved each with the other was a new challenge. My earlier books had a lot more back-story whereas in this one I’ve cut it down to a minimum. The story flows faster and in a more straightforward trajectory as a result. So, there are a lot of departure in this novel, new directions, but I also wanted to maintain what I feel is my stock-in-trade; tempting readers to challenge their perceptions and feelings about certain topics – about what’s right and what’s wrong. I like it when readers feel they’ve been given food for thought

 For anyone who is yet to read your books, how would you describe your writing style? Do you think this has differed at all from your first releases?

  • While my writing style is evolving (see last answer), my voice remains essentially mine with every new book. That means that – although I may reach out to pastures new stylistically – the ‘person’ and the sentiments behind all my stories remains recognisable from one novel to the next. An author can play around with style and genre but they can’t alter who they essentially are. That said, I write first person present tense, and up to now it’s always been from two different characters’ points of view. It can be a pretty intense and ‘close-up’ way of getting into the character’s heads. The reader gets to know them pretty well. However, I made a deliberate choice to use less introspection in this novel, and concentrate more on what the characters were saying and doing.

DEAR DAD has a different timbre to my previous novels, it’s true. It’s lighter and – while it does deal with some dark subjects – they’re not dwelt upon. That was part of the charm of writing about a child. There is something so compelling and magical about the way that children think.

  • Have you began to think about the next project to work on or do you give yourself a well-earned break in between each piece of fiction?

I do like to give myself a break. It’s easy to let yourself become exhausted, otherwise. I’m on the look-out for people and places, tales of people’s lives, and pieces of music that move me and so on, though.

  • What is your favourite way to celebrate finishing a book?


I like to give a launch party. Proper party-style, with flowers and fizz and balloons and friends. I haven’t done one in a while, so when the paperback of DEAR DAD comes out in the summer (around June) I plan to do one this year.

Sounds like fun!

For those of you wanting to know more and/or purchase Dear Dad, here it is!

Please click on the book for more details:


Thank you so much, Giselle. On behalf of the Romaniacs and me, we would like to wish you every success with Dear Dad – I hope everyone enjoys it as much as I did.

Giselle has the following online platforms:

Website –

Facebook Page-

Twitter –

Motivation Monday – 14th March

Happy Monday everybody! Time for some of us to share our targets for the week ahead – writing and non-writing related!

My work-in-progress is with my agent so to stop me obsessively checking my email in-box, I’ve bought a new notebook and am starting to think about the next book so my targets this week are all related to the new idea…

  1. Put together some character notes for the main characters
  2. Develop initial plot ideas – put them into a beat-sheet (from Blake Snyder’s Save The Cat)
  3. Brainstorm ideas for a killer title!

What are everyone else’s plans for the week? I’ll let you know how I got on on Friday!

Vanessa x

Laura: I’m throwing myself into the deep end of novella writing, and aiming for 7000 words by Friday, and attending school-related events in support of my DD & DS.

Catherine: Now that launch week for Waiting for You is over, my only goal is to: FINISH BOOK TWO AND SEND TO EDITOR. It’s currently a rough first draft that needs beating into shape, but I enjoy that bit. I have a couple of weeks to get it done so nose to the grindstone moment! 


How about you? Now the spring weather appears to be breaking through how are you staying motivated? What are your goals for this week?

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Motivation Monday – 29th February

DragonflyCelia: To celebrate Leap Year Day, I’m not going to propose marriage to any of you (although I’m sure you’re all very eligible and charming) but to say Happy Birthday to anyone unfortunate enough to be born on February 29th. I remember my lovely Grandpa bemoaning the fact that he only had one birthday to everyone else’s four, and having a huge cake for his 21st (also his 84th). So for all of you, and also for anyone who, like me, is celebrating getting their writing Mojo back after a long dry spell, here’s a big cheer. This week I aim to:

  1. Finish the revisions on my brand new romance with a dark twist.
  2. Write a synopsis that isn’t as truly awful as the last one.
  3. Rewrite my author bio so I don’t sound so much of a psycho.

How about you?

Lucie – After a rocky start to 2016, I am not going to focus on the bad this week. This weeks motivation for me is to keep my head up, and smile. I am going to look at all the positives going on in my life – and yes, I do have some – and move forward. So my list this week:

* Smile

* Not put so much pressure on myself

*Refocus and organise.

January and February haven’t been great, but March is the start of a brand new month. Onwards and upwards. Lots of love xx


Let’s PARTY!


It is that time of year again – its our blogaversary! The Romaniacs have been blogging for 4 years. Can you believe it? I doesn’t seem but five minutes ago that we were meeting each other for the first time and getting those awkward ‘hello’ moments out of the way.

Who am I kidding, we can be called a lot of things, but awkward certainly isn’t one of them!

We’ve baked cakes (well, Celia has) and there are sparkles galore adorning our HQ. Laura has already started singing on the Karaoke machine, Sue and Catherine are shimmying through the hallway, Vanessa has begun sticking the sequins that were meant for the table, all over her face, Jan is trying to pull some order together but her mischievous giggle is giving her away and Debbie is making sure we all constantly have a tipple in our hand.

And me? Well, I’m making sure all is documented so that I can embarrass them all in the weeks to come – they always know they can rely on me with my camera to make some (permanent) memories.

And so, in true author style, we decided to hold some interviews with our amazing followers to celebrate our birthday. We asked for some questions from you beautiful lot and what great questions we have had to answer from you. Thanks to those who contributed – we hope you all enjoy our *uncensored* answers! I

1/ If you were all thrown into a time machine, and a new person was created out of your joint personalities, what kind of person and writer would we have?

Catherine – The person springing to mind is David Bowie. Such a sad recent loss, but I think his ability to shine brightly and his level of creativity are the essence of all The Romaniacs..

Sue – Gosh, that’s a heck of a question. Where to begin? We all have our different traits and range from both ends of the spectrum to the other, with everything in between.  The sum total of us would be confident, yet shy, cautious, yet gung-ho, out spoken, yet diplomatic, impatient, yet impatient and so on. However, there would also be traits that we all share, like sense of humour, compassion and determination.

Celia – The person that staggered out of the time machine would obviously have all our best bits and none of the features that we gloss over, so she would be calm, yet energetic, she would never procrastinate, she’d be able to juggle family life with her writing and she’d have an insane sense of humour. Oh well, we can dream…

Jan – An upbeat, cake-eating, don’t take yourself too seriously, author of romantic suspense! 
Vanessa –  Oh wow – what kind of person would that make??! Someone crazy, funny, loud and quiet sensible and silly all at the same time! As a writer, they’d write fiction with a touch of romance, a dark edge and a smidge of humour thrown in!

Laura – What a fascinating question. We are eight very different people, which works well for us within the group as our strengths complement one another. Likewise, what one Romaniac doesn’t know, another will. The melded person would be a diplomatic, creative, funny and chatty cake-maker extraordinaire, who asks lots of questions, drinks plenty of Prosecco, and has amazing parties.As to the kind of writer we’d make … I think we would create a whole new genre … The story would be emotional, dark, touching, sinister, thrilling, funny, romantic, suspenseful, a tad off-kilter and very Romaniacal.


2/ If The Romaniacs were forming a band, what would your position be?

Jan – Background singer – the less my voice is centre stage, the better!

Lucie – I would be a backing singer too. Unless there was wine – then I’d be centre stage, warbling away!

Catherine – I’d be one of the support singers and dancers with Sue at my side. As our Christmas get together proved, we have perfected the most awesome shoulder shimmy.
Sue – I can’t sing. I can’t dance. I can’t play any instruments other than the recorder and the piano badly. I’m struggling to find what use I’d be!
3/ Which celebrity do you most resemble?
Catherine –  Lorraine Kelly, so I’ve been told!
Celia – I am often likened to Victoria Wood, which I take as a huge compliment because I love her. I’ve got dinner-lady tendencies too.
Debbie – 543556_10151161123588012_144823655_nOne of my closest friends says whenever she watches, ‘Strictly Come Dancing,’ darceythird_2400905kDarcey Bussell reminds her of me. In my dreams!  
4/ You are at a karaoke night and it is your turn on the mic, what is your song of choice?
Jan – Rivers of Babylon by Boney M. I once sang it at a Christmas party with my sister and a friend and found it best suited my less than tuneful tones (even after a few vinos!).
Karaoke night: I would do anything for love by Meatloaf. 
Laura – It wouldn’t be the first time. I’ve spent a few nights out karaoke-ing. I like to get the crowd going, so I’d pick an upbeat number to start with, something like, ‘I Will Survive’.
You know I would!
Lucie – Literally anything – I love singing! Nothing too high, though, although I would give it a go. Not sure the venue would still be as busy after I was finished…

5/  What was the last thing you purchased?

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Laura – The Stargate SG1 DVD collection. We’ve been watching it on Netflix as a family from the very first episode, and we’d only reached episode four, series three, when it was announced the series was being removed. We were bereft. We love Stargate. Thankfully, Gajitman found the DVD collection online for a very reasonable price, and order and happiness was restored to the James household.

Sue – A laminator!

Lucie – A Designer Doll for a friend’s little girls’ birthday. Plus a card and gift bag.

Debbie – Several LED 50w equivalent spotlights. Oh, what a gripping life I do lead. 

6/  What are you currently reading?

Celia – I’m ashamed to say I’ve abandoned several excellent books I was reading (three of them were Romaniac ones – will return to these asap) and have dived back into the old favourites – my mum’s treasured collection of D.E. Stevensons. My husband always knows when life is giving me hard knocks because the first thing that happens is that the dust gets blown off this out of print, soothing, beautifully written selection. I’m deep into ‘Katherine’s Marriage’ today.

blacklands7.jpgVanessa –  Blacklands by Belinda Bauer

Lucie – Elizabeth is Missing – Emma Healey eliz is miss.png

7/  What is the best thing about being a Romaniac?

Vanessa – The wonderful friendship and support from an amazing group of women. 

Debbie – Feeling ‘normal’and being accepted for who I am.

Jan – The mutual support, encouragement and understanding with both writerly and non-writerly matters.

Laura –The absolute faith, trust and friendship that formed from day one and has remained since. There is something very special and unique about an immediate bond, especially between so many people. These girls are my sisters. They make me laugh, they accept my idiosyncrasies, and I have a few, and they are always there, and not in a menacing, keep-looking-over-your-shoulder sense. Four years has whizzed by in their company. 

Oh, and they introduced me to gin and tonic. It’s the tonic I really like.

funny.png8/ Tell us a joke?

Laura – A zero walks up to an eight and says, ‘Nice belt.’

Celia – Knock knock.

Who’s there?


Arfur who?

Arfur Got.

(Well, you didn’t say it had to be a good joke.)

Jan – Why did the cow cross the road? Answer – To get to the udder side!😀 (So bad it’s good, Lucie!)

We hope you enjoyed our answers and thank you for spending the day with us.
















Life Cycle of a Writer – Planning for submission

Hi everyone.

I feel as though it has been FOREVER since I have given you all my update. I also feel like a lot of my recent updates have been how I am not getting anywhere and how life is getting in the way… and to be fair, it was. It still is, sometimes! However, I have learnt that life will always throw things at you at the most inappropriate times and I need to suck it up and MAKE THINGS HAPPEN!

So that is what I am doing. I had planned to start 2016 with gusto and get things moving along with my writing. However, all best laid plans and all that, Mum was taken seriously ill in hospital and boom, there goes three weeks of my life in a whirlwind of hospital visits, work and juggling childcare (thanks SO much to all my wonderful friends for stepping in and helping – I really couldn’t get by without you all.)

So fast forward a month and we are in February and I feel like I have achieved nothing. ZERO. ZILCH!

With this in mind, I have decided that I am going to write off January 2016 and start the year again, fresh, in  February. So…


And here I am, ready to make things happen and actually DO IT!

I have pulled together my submission plan  and I just need to do some editing for two of my novels before I send it over to my agent for submission. I am hoping to submit my plan, as a whole, to show editors that I have more to offer than just one book. I have 5 synopsis’ to send over as well as two complete novel drafts (one more polished than the other but two complete nonetheless). So I just want to run through another edit on them both so that I am happy and then I shall see what my agent thinks. Hopefully she will love it all as much as I do.



Well, there you have it – my submission plan. Fingers crossed life doesn’t throw anything huge at me over the next few months so that I can really get stuck in – I think I’ve had my fair share recenetly, time for a break.

Best of luck to everyone who is submitting either at the moment or in the near future – I would love to hear your updates, too. Lets do this and work it through together.

Lots of Love

Lucie x