Vanessa Savage – Inspired by…

I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s in a small Gloucestershire village – back then, there were only four channels on the telly and as a teenager there was nothing to do and nowhere to go. My nearest library was ten miles away, my nearest bookshop twenty.

I was never one of the hanging-round-on street-corner kids, I preferred to stay in and read. As a teenager, I remember endless rainy Saturday afternoons when there was nothing but horse racing and darts on TV and my mum and dad’s bookshelves became my escape. Lack of access to bookshops meant I had to make do with what I could find and expand my reading genres – once I’d worked my way through the teenage reads in the school library, I read anything and everything we had at home. On my mum’s shelf, there was Mills & Boon and Catherine Cookson, Jackie Collins and Shirley Conran. On my dad’s, it was Alistair MacLean, Stephen King and James Herbert. I read my dad’s non-fiction books about nature and war, I read cookbooks, I read the bible. I read every copy of 2000AD stashed in my brother’s room and I even read the Watchtower magazines the Jehovah’s Witnesses stuffed through the letterbox.


I learned a lot from all of them, but most of all I learned not to be a reading snob: I appreciated a good thriller or a sweet romance as much as any of the classics we read at school.

Some of those books still sit on my shelves – all my old Enid Blyton and Noel Streatfield books, the Narnia books, What Katy Did and Little Women. But also my dad’s Stephen Kings and Alistair MacLeans, my mum’s Catherine Cooksons and Jackie Collins.

Now I’m all grown up and writing my own stories – whether it’s short stories, flash fiction or novels, I’ve written thrillers and romance, comedy, fantasy, sci-fi and horror. I like to think the access my parents gave me to all those wonderful fictional worlds has helped shape me as a writer and I want to thank them for that – I only wish they were still alive to see where their love of books has taken their daughter.


At the moment, my eldest daughter is only interested in books with horses in them and my youngest books about fairies, but I’m hoping they’ll find their own inspiration in my bookshelves as they get older – shelves that offer romance and crime and horror and fantasy, a fictional look into the past and the future, classic books and future literary classics.

I hope that some rainy afternoon when there’s nothing on TV will open up a whole new world for them like it did for me.

Vanessa x

SFTW – Our TBR piles


Sue : This is just a fraction of my TBR pile, but these are the ones topping the list at the moment.
Jan: The first of the next two novels on my enormous TBR list!
Jan: And the second.
Laura: This is the top shelf of my wardrobe. In places, books are three-deep. My Kindle has twenty pages of TBR titles ...
Laura: This is the top shelf of my wardrobe. In places, books are three-deep. My Kindle has twenty pages of TBR titles …
Vanessa - One of my TBR piles!
Vanessa – One of my TBR piles!




Life Cycle of a Writer – Taking A Break From Writing

Sue Fortin

It doesn’t seem like five minutes since I was here blogging about receiving my edits for The Half Truth (click HERE to view). Since then my third Harper Impulse novel has flown the nest and is fending for itself out in the big wide world. I will be honest in saying that afterwards I felt quite drained by the whole process. Despite having plenty of writing to get on with, I didn’t feel emotionally or physcially able to do any. At the back of my mind the writing advice of ‘write something every day’ kept plaguing me but try as I might, I couldn’t summon up any enthusiasm.  I was also very much aware my family were well in credit for some of my time, having graciously and lovingly, supported me when I was under deadline pressure.

The Owl & The Pussy Cat
The Owl & The Pussy Cat

So, ignoring the ‘write every day’ advice, I decided I would do anything and everything but that. I must admit I’ve had an excellent six week writing break, which took into account Easter holidays too. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed myself. I’ve spent huge amounts of time with my children, my family, celebrating three of our birthdays, catching up with friends, visiting places, pottering around the house, sewing, reading, making cakes (and eating them!); it’s been great.

To begin with I didn’t even feel the urge to do any writing in any shape or form, but gradually over the weeks, my mind has turned to my WIP and I’ve even started toying with ideas for the book after that. However, I’m holding out until next week before I pick up with my WIP. It’s about 71k words in and going well. First though, I’ll probably spend some time plotting out the book after that one before I forget.

I have to say, taking a writing break, as in no writing whatsoever, has been the best thing I’ve done for a long time. It doesn’t work for everyone, but it’s certainly worked for me. Now I’m feeling revived and enthusiastic and I’m very much looking forward to getting back behind the keyboard.



Roving Romaniac – Lucie hits Milton Keynes!

Last weekend it was my turn to go roaming the streets and this particular Romaniac was let loose in Milton Keynes.

Saturday 7th June was the annual agency day for the Kate Nash Literary Agency and, having signed with Sarah Taylor in January, I was invited.  

This was our ‘selfie’ for the Online Romance Festival which was on the same day.

I can’t tell you how excited I was. It has been quite some months since I last attended a writing event so I was looking forward to seeing other writers in the flesh – and knowing that there are still other crazy people Out There.

The day was amazing. Lots of useful and essential tips and information was on offer both from Kate and Sarah, and also fellow writers, too. Ranging from industry trends, to the latest bestsellers, to marketing. Throw in lots of laughter and lovely food and you get a jist of why I had so much fun.

After a day of talking – and sipping back on the free tea, coffee and biscuits – we retired to our rooms to get ready for an evening out. The agency day coincided with Jane Lovering’s publication day. Falling Apart celebrated its birthday in true, author style.

It went out and PARTIED!

For a more in depth look at Falling Apart’s antics – pop over to my blog, here. *WARNING* Not for the faint hearted …

We had a lovely evening out in Milton Keynes. Dinner, cocktails and lots of dancing. Kate and Sarah put together a fantastic day and I am sure I am not alone when I say a massive THANK YOU to them both for a wonderful weekend.

*Kate and Sarah are both accepting submissions at the moment, so If you would like to submit to either of them, please do! You will find submission guidelines here. *


Sarah Taylor, me, Kate Nash (Allen)
Sarah Taylor, me, Kate Nash (Allen)


And now to look forward to the RNA conference where a number of Romaniacs will be let loose … don’t say I didn’t warn you!



Eggs, chocolate, books, Lent – What’s happening this Easter?

Easter is upon us, a bit on the late side this year, but here nevertheless.

At Romaniac HQ, we’ve been chatting about what we have planned for the next week or so, what we’re reading and what we’re looking forward to. I think it’s safe to say a fair amount of chocolate will be involved.

Sue : I promised my daughter I would read ‘Divergent’ so I can appreciate all her geeky references and I will also be doing the annual Easter egg hunt.  I’ve done this every year since the children were small but last year, I didn’t do it for the older ones, thinking they had grown out of it. How wrong was I? They were most put out. I will have to try and think up some new clues. I can’t have ‘What goes up and down but never moves’ as a clue every year!

Jan : I love the Easter weekend. We always have a family get together, usually on Easter Sunday, where apart from feasting on chocolate, we play games, make up a fun quiz, or like. I’m just hoping the weather holds as it would be lovely to sit outside amongst the blossoms and daffodils. As for what I’m reading, well I’m ping-ponging between Mel Sherratt’s ‘Watching Over You’ (a tense psychological thriller) and re-reading Lisa Jewell’s ‘Before I Met You’ (dual time frame romance with plenty of added mystery) both of which I’m loving. Can’t be bad, can it?

Celia: Shameful confession here – I haven’t read ‘One Day’ yet. Started it this morning and am totally hooked already. David Nicholls – I am terribly keen on you. Over Easter I will also be finishing off all the books I’m part way through due to pressure of work and stuff. I’m going to Norfolk too – time out with daughters and bloke to appreciate the long, almost deserted beaches and eat crab sandwiches. Ok, and chocolate.


Laura: Ah, Sue – I think I promised to take my daughter to the cinema to watch ‘Divergent.’ Last year, we were in Florida for Easter, and much to our son’s delight, the Easter Bunny tracked him down. This year we’re in Blighty, and I’m reading and enjoying Sarah Tranter’s ‘Romancing The Soul’, with Rowan Coleman’s ‘The Memory Book’, lined up next, and I have edits to complete for ‘Follow Me, Follow You’. There will jollity, certainly an Easter egg hunt, and the end to my self-imposed ‘no eating chocolate for Lent’. Let Easter commence!

Debbie: Oh, Sue, how I miss Easter egg hunts. Sadly, my youngest, now thirteen, has decided he’s too old to partake, although he’s still happy to eat them all!

For me, Easter, like Christmas, is a ‘proper’ festival and celebration. The main day is spent in much the same way; opening Easter cards and sharing eggs before a trip to church, preparing a turkey and all the trimmings for lunch, followed by an afternoon walk (or snooze.)

This year the Easter holidays are mapped out with day trips and teenage boys coming for sleep overs. However, in between, I’ll endeavour to spend as much time as I can in my summer house, watching the birds, enjoying the garden as it springs into life after the long winter’s slumber and writing. By night, next on my kindle ‘to read’ is, Tracy Chevalier’s, ‘The Last Runaway.’

Catherine :  Easter? Who said Easter? It can’t be, I haven’t recovered from Christmas! It will be the twins first Easter & we’ll be spending it with family. They’re not quite up to Easter egg hunts yet, but next year they will. And to get into the chocolate theme, I’ll be reading Sweet Proposal by our very own Celia. I should have read it ages ago but these little girls are getting in the way of my reading time! Maybe with all the extra relatives I can sneak off somewhere!

 Vanessa: Well, for some reason, I decided the Easter holidays would be the perfect time to edit a first draft and send it off to my agent, get new carpets laid in the house and move offices. In between that madness, it’ll be Easter egg hunts, picnics on the beach (if the weather stays sunny!), big family roast lunches and reading Judith Kinghorn’s The Memory of Lost Senses.

We also wanted to take the opportunity to thank you all for your continued support, we really do appreciate it. Wishing everyone a very happy Easter.

daffs clump

Let’s Talk About Sex

Fear not, this is not a blog about the 50 Shades trilogy, primarily because I haven’t actually read it but also because it’s probably been talked to death by now.  No, I wanted to talk about reading and writing sex scenes. How far do you go?

When I’m not writing, more often than not, I’m reading. A lot of what I read involves some sort of relationship between adults and, therefore, the expected sex scene comes up.  How sex scenes are dealt with varies immensely and it made me wonder where the barriers are for the reader and the writer.

At a recent meeting with an editor, I was asked about the heat level of my work in progress.  Well, to be honest, I didn’t know where it came on the ‘heat’ scale. Was it a ‘sweet’ romance? I was asked. Did the bedroom door close and the rest left to the reader’s imagination? Errm, no was my answer but I still wasn’t quite sure where to place it. Did the editor have a Heat Scale I could look at and work out roughly where mine came? Sadly not, so I thought I’d devise one myself for future reference. (see below)

Anyway, all this made me ask myself a few questions…

Is a sex scene always necessary?

How much detail do you need to go into?

Is it best to leave something to the imagination or are consumers more accepting and/or wanting to go further into the bedroom?

What do you think? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

Thanks. Sue 

Roving Romaniacs at Julie Cohen’s Advanced Novelists’ Workshop

Advanced Novelists’ Workshop – 13 October 2012

 with Julie Cohen

Laura : The two hundred mile round trip from Weymouth, Dorset to Reading, Berks, to attend Julie Cohen’s course was worth every moment.

It started with catching up with Sue and discovering, although we were travelling from different locations, we both saw a village in the sky and a hot air balloon floating above our cars.

Sue : That was so weird, I promise there were no illegal substances involved. Our journeys just happened to merge at the same point, the M3 and that’s where we had this mirage. 

Laura : I arrived at nine thirty and met with the other attendees, all of whom were lovely and very interesting ladies. And what an array of genres and writing styles. I learned much by listening to everyone’s ideas and solutions to writing problems.

Sue : Yes, I got there shortly after Laura, probably only a few minutes, but then spent about 10 more trying to fit into the tiniest parking space EVER. Which I did, I hasten to add. 

It was lovely to see some people I’d met before, some who up until that point had only been a Twitter profile picture and some that I had never met. It was also fascinating to find out the different genres we were all writing, especially the YA authors.

Laura : The day was divided into sessions, all of which we had requested. I’m desperate to learn how to write a sympathetic flawed character, and I asked for a section on what to include in a submission letter to agents. Both topics were discussed in great detail and I am keen to put my new knowledge into action.

Sue : I wanted to find out more about writing sex scenes but in the end we skipped that part as it wasn’t appropriate for all genres. I’ll just have to research it in other ways.  Err, I was actually thinking along the lines of reading more books, not what you were thinking!  Although I did have an interesting conversation with Julie on the way back to the car park about this topic and the ‘key’ words, but that’s for another day.

Julie very kindly critiqued the first five pages of  my WIP and has given me some great advice. I am writing from three different points of view, but experimenting with the third and first person.  Is this wise? Does it pull the reader out of the story? Does it interrupt the flow? Obviously, something I need to give thought to – so thank you, Julie.

Laura : Even though we submitted the first five pages of our WIP’s for Julie to critique, upon her advice, I am using the lessons learned to build up my hero in my first novel, Truth or Dare? The information and methods are brilliant and have given me ways to increase the percentage of the hero’s POV and for it to have purpose. I’m very excited by this prospect. Once I have sorted him out, I will use the techniques to create a likeable, but extremely flawed heroine for Follow Me.

It was a fantastic day with cake, new and existing friends and a great tutor. Oh. And a visit to the pub afterwards. What’s not to like?

Sue : OMG! I was in heaven with all that lovely cake, I think I ate enough for both Laura and I. Okay, I probably ate enough for all nine Romaniacs – I didn’t  like to leave anyone out.  It was a great day, really enjoyed the company, loved Julie’s natural ability to make you feel at ease and then fish and chips at the pub – when can we do it again?

Laura  and Sue x

The Perfect Life List

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

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

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

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

List of short story competitions

List of short story ideas

List of chapter ideas for new book

Daily lists of scenes I want to write

List of potential titles for new book

List of blog ideas

Daily work lists for the day-job

Weekly task list for the day-job

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

Food shopping lists

Menu plan for the week

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

Christmas present lists (sorry)

Everything I want to buy for Autumn/Winter lists

List of new books I want to buy

List of ingredients for recipes

List of chores to be done in house (long)

List of chores to be done in garden (longer)

List of exercise I WILL do this week (short)

Lists of very expensive things I would buy if rich

List of very expensive places I would go if rich

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

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

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

Vanessa x

Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda

You’ve just finished your novel and all you have to do now is just go through it and just find those words that you just slip in all the time without even noticing.

We all have our comfort words or phrases that we can’t help using, but it’s wheedling them out and finding a suitable replacement that can be tricky at times. Even for novels that have been through the edits process and made it to publication can be guilty of repetition – think of a particularly current erotic trilogy where eye rolling and lip biting seem to happen all the time.

At Romaniac HQ we were discussing our comfort words/phrases and thought we would share them with you.

Would love to know what yours are 🙂


It’s amazing how these words creep unnoticed into the manuscript. I was aware of previous criminal over use of ‘back’, ‘here’ and ‘although’, and managed to limit them in Follow Me, however, I’ve developed a habit for ‘could’, ‘only’, ‘besides’, ‘thought’ and ‘look’.

My characters have glanced, glowered, gazed, scowled and stared, but mostly they looked. There was a ‘look’ on every page. Sometimes two. My worst example: Four. Yes. Four looks on one page. That’s asking for eye-strain. I spent two days finding alternatives for my word crimes, but sometimes a look is just that. A look.


I’m a devil for using the word ‘just’, I can’t believe how many times I threw it in there! Most of the time it wasn’t needed. Another one of my crimes, not so much a word but a description. My poor hero spent an inordinate amount of time winking and looking amused. I swear, in my current WIP my heroine is never going to notice the amused look on the hero’s face again. Nor are his eyes going to smile, alone or otherwise and as for my heroine experiencing another frisson, well, it just isn’t going to happen. Ever.

Oh no, I’ve done it here – put the word ‘just’ in – old habits die hard 😦


I’m a looker too… Well, not me but my characters – looking, glancing and gazing at each other all day long, I’m amazed they manage to do anything else. And like Sue, I have favourite, over-used mannerisms for my characters – one character in my latest chews her lip so much I don’t see how she can have any lips left. The previous book had a nail biter who must have ended up with bloody stumps at the end of her wrists she chewed so much in the first draft…

But my worst crime – and I’d like to point out that this was a long time ago and I’m VERY careful to avoid this now – is the eyes with lives of their own. In a very early draft of a very early MS, now hidden away in a drawer, I have characters that roll their eyes at other characters, clumsy characters who drop their eyes all over the place and one particularly gruesome scene where someone caressed someone else – WITH HIS EYES. Imagine the mess, the pain…


STILL she JUST doesn’t know what to do about THAT NOW – I thought I’d throw my overused words into a sentence. I’m also bad at throwing in unneeded directional words like BACK, UP, DOWN. I’m also a terror for clustering together repeat words (spot the mistake) in a paragraph. I look (that one’s for you girls) at individual lines and sometimes neglect to notice that I have three uses of DOOR in a few lines.


THOUGHT, PONDERED, WONDERED, MUSED – honestly, some of my characters could have circumnavigated the globe they’ve spent THAT much time WONDERING. Or was it WANDERING? As for repetition, well, they’ve ducked, dived, gulped, frowned and  giggled their way through many a scene. And as for the word JUST, well, let’s JUST say, like Sue, I’m JUST a complete sucker for it… 

Celia: My big problem is with ‘that’. The times that I use that are way too many, I know that I shouldn’t, but it’s the word that I like best of all and that’s a fact. I think I’m getting over that hurdle now though, there are lots of other words that I could use instead, and I know that it’s just a matter of time before all those thats are a thing of the past. Was that ok, chaps?

Oh, and my other one is ‘as’. As in ‘As he walked into the room’, or ‘She bit her lip as he tied her to the bed post.’ But that’s another book.

And finally – not a word really but I get semi-colon frenzy. I’ve had to cull most of them recently but the sign in  the picture needs one desperately. ;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;

To Swear or Not To Swear? [This post contains strong language]

Warning: This post contains strong language which may not be suitable for younger readers and which some people may find offensive.

Swear … use profane or indecent language esp. as an expletive or from anger

source : The Concise Oxford Dictionary, 1991

Is it okay to swear in books?

It has been rattling around at the back of my mind for some time and raised its head recently when I was reading through my manuscript. Just how many times did I need to or, indeed, should use the F word?

When I was younger just saying ‘bloody’ was enough to get into trouble. However, ‘bloody’ and other words such as ‘shit’ and ‘piss’ have slipped into everyday usage. I am reliably informed by my teenagers these aren’t even considered as swearing.

This theory seems backed up when we regularly hear these words used in TV dramas, BBC, ITV, C4 or otherwise. They are so common that we probably don’t notice them – they certainly don’t have the same impact as they might once have done.

So what of the F word?  Once this was considered particularly offensive and some might say, still is.  I can only think of one word that would top it. However, the effectiveness of the F word seems to have been diluted too. For example, take a RomCom film like ‘Four Weddings & A Funeral’ – in the opening scene ‘fuck’ is said eleven times, along with a ‘fuckity-fuck’ and a ‘bugger’. Where it may have shocked at one point, here, it is intended to make for a comical scene. (Transcript

Is it any worse writing it down or reading it? Does being in black and white make it more shocking? I personally don’t think so, as long as it’s in context and not just there for the sake of being there. I use swear words when I write, although I will admit to editing a good deal out of my final manuscript. I think originally I had about fourteen variations of the F word and whittled it down to six or seven. I tended to let my bad guy do most of the swearing, although I did let my good guy swear occasionally where I felt it added to the scene.  In each instance, I felt it was justified as it was in character and appropriate to the situation.

What do you feel about swearing in books?

Are you comfortable reading and/or writing it? Or do you find it offensive?

Would it put you off reading a book?