Roving Romaniacs in Umbria (The Italian Job, Part 2)


Sue Moorcroft’s fabulous course at Arte Umbria a few years back was something that fellow Romaniac Laura James and I will never forget. When I got the chance to go again to kick start my retirement from teaching, this time with my Romaniac buddy Debbie Fuller-White and a whole gang of other wonderful people, it wasn’t too hard to jump at the chance.




This time, Debbie was taking part in the full course, I was doing the writing retreat thing and the terrace above was the place where inspiration struck most often (possibly because that’s where wine kept appearing.)

Sue did lots of one-to-ones, ran sessions on building characters, short stories, plotting and all sorts of other useful angles on getting a book to take shape and then beating it into submission. We didn’t write hot sex by the pool this time. It was just too…hot.

We even found a hero at the castle – a gorgeous man who also is heavily into wine production – what’s not to like about Lorenzo? Even the name is music to my ears. I finished the edits on a whole book, gave my character some much needed depth and put on half a stone. Two of those things make me happier than the other. Deb got her mojo back and we refrained from having a girlie cat fight over who should stand next to Lorenzo while he told us about…erm…I think it was grapes and stuff, but actually, who cares?

Lor - Copy

And on the way home we did some revision on my all-time favourite of Sue’s books – the story that sparked off a memorable singing event in a Romaniac kitchen at the RNA conference. I can’t remember where we were…maybe Sheffield. But Dream a Little Dream has never been sung like that before.


Huge thanks to Sue, to our lovely hosts David and Sara Moody and to all the rest of the gang for making Arte Umbria a place where writing is as natural as eating, sleeping, breathing…and drinking. Hic.


Deb - Copy

Summer in Tintagel – Amanda James tells all.


The Romaniacs are delighted to have the very talented Amanda James reclining on our sofa today. Good morning Mandy, and welcome to HQ – Jan’s hoovered the Romaniac cat in readiness for your visit, Sue’s arranged the flowers, Laura, Debs, Vanessa and Lucie are tuning up for a welcome chorus and I’ve just made a fresh batch of scones, so settle back and relax. Jam? Clotted cream?

Mandy: Oooh lovely! Can I have cream and jam please?

Celia: Absolutely. I had a feeling you’d be celebrating in style because you’ve got exciting news for our blog spot and an ebook giveaway as a bonus. Tell us about the launch of your fabulous new novel.

Mandy: Well…ishst crawled Shummer  in… Phew sorry about that, not a good idea to speak through a mouthful of scone. Sorry, Celia? I have cream on my nose? Really? Gawd, thanks for the tissue. So glad we’re not on videocam or whatever it’s called. Okay, it’s called Summer in Tintagel and came out a few days ago. (Ed: It’s out today, folks😀 ) As you can see from the blurb it’s full of mystery, secrets, love and a search for the truth. I am doing a blog tour and chatting nonsense… no, I mean telling people really interesting stuff about my life and writing. I’m giving an ebook away at the end, so please do try to keep awake. Celia, you’re snoring.

Celia: So, let’s go back in time. How long have you been writing and what started you off?

Mandy: I’ve been writing for a hundred years, or since I was about eight. I asked my parents for a typewriter for Christmas and I never looked back. I was published the next year and made the bestseller list. Okay, yes, I do realise that I might be exaggerating. So the truth is I wrote short stories and poems for years and years and years, but never did anything with them. For some reason I decided that I would take my writing a little bit more seriously around 2002 and eventually had a short story published in 2010. So it didn’t happen overnight as you can see. Since then I have had four novels published, Summer in Tintagel is the fifth .

Celia: My Kindle is waiting for it excitedly – I’ve loved all the others. Thinking more about your writing process now; what/where are your favourite places to write?

Mandy: My dream place to write would be in an old beach house by the side of the ocean. You know the ones one stilts that are found in California? The noonday sun would have peeled some of the paint from the outside and it everything would smell of salt air and hot sand. I would sit on the veranda in a huge straw hat with a cold glass of wine to hand and occasionally raise my head from the laptop to watch a pelican or two glide by… In reality I write in the back bedroom but I can see the ocean six-miles away on a clear day!

Celia: And what are you reading for pleasure at the moment?

Mandy: I’m reading a book that I have always meant to, but never got around to.  I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou is just wonderful. It’s autobiographical and set in segregated Arkansas in the 1930s. I find it quite extraordinary how a poor black girl, more or less abandoned by her parents growing up in such times managed to achieve everything she did in her long life. The writing is stunningly beautiful and the story extremely moving, yet so inspirational. I’m really enjoying it and would recommend it to absolutely anyone. In fact, everyone go out and buy this book now!

Celia: How would your ideal writing day go? Talk us through it…

Mandy: Ideal? Okay, I wake very early and write for three hours, then I have a top chef cook me a very extravagant breakfast, after which I have a snooze on the veranda – see above. Then I write for another three hours and then go off for a walk on the beach. The rest of my day is filled by witty conversation with my friends and family, and to finish, a lovely barbeque on the beach at which everyone drinks champagne, swims in the sea and dances to live music under the light of an unfeasibly bright moon.

Celia: Just getting the sausages sizzling ready to join you. That sounds amazing! Picking up on the live music part, I know live gigs have been happening a lot around you lately – which bands/singers have inspired your writing and do you like to write with music in the background?

Mandy: Yes, I have been very lucky to see some excellent live music lately. Coldplay at Wembley, Tom Jones at the Eden Project and Jools Holland and his band in Falmouth. The highlight was the mighty Coldplay though – they make everyone so happy with their music so much so that you can see pure joy on every face. Having said that I didn’t count all 90,000 faces in Wembley – that would have been impossible. I have also seen Paul Simon a few times and find his music equally inspiring but in a different way. One of the first huge influences on my life and therefore my writing was David Bowie. He will be sadly missed by people of my age group and some younger folk too, I think. No, I don’t like music on in the background while I’m working – isn’t that odd?

Celia: I’m with you on that one. So, what’s your next ambition?

Mandy: To keep on writing and for my endeavours to be well received. Of course, I would eventually like to make best seller list and have the overnight success that in my case would have been a hundred years in the making.

Celia: I can already see your name at the top of that list alongside all the ones who’ve been hanging around there waiting for you to turn up. Speaking of other writers, which authors or books influenced you to start (and continue) reading as a child?

Mandy: I loved all the Enid Blyton ones, especially The Famous Five as they went to Cornwall, or perhaps it was Devon…anyway they had huge adventures. I wanted to be George as she was so feisty and gave the boys a run for their money. The Lord of The Rings was introduced to me when I was 13 and my goodness it was a revelation. I adored it and got totally lost in Tolkien’s world.

Celia: And so – this will probably be tricky – who are your three all time favourite authors?

Mandy: Yes it is a bit tricky…Okay, Dean Koontz because he’s a phenomenal writer and took the time to write to me three times, Charles Dickens because he always roots for the little guy and Tolkien because of the above.

Celia: Okay, now for some quick-fire questions so we can really get to know you;

Champagne or beer? Yes please…Oh I have to pick one? Champagne.

Seaside or mountains? Seaside.

Log fire or hot tub? Hot tub. Just off the veranda in my beach house…

Eric or Ernie? Eric. Loved that guy – he can still make me laugh, even though I know what’s coming.

Ant or Dec?  Neither. Can’t abide them.

Chocolate or cheese?  Cheese.

Dawn or dusk?  Dawn.

Heels or flats? In my head, heels. In reality – flats.

Dancing or swimming? Dancing.

Walking or running? Walking, my knees won’t take the running bit nowadays.

Jeans or frocks?  Jeans. Frocks for special occasions.

Home or away? Home, as Cornwall is just wonderful. Wouldn’t say no to away though!

Celia: Thanks for being with us today, Mandy – and just for being so interesting, you can have the last scone.

Mandy: Thanks, for having me Celia! I have really enjoyed it…and by the way, you have jam on your lip.

Celia: Oh, cheers! Pass the tissues over here, please. Hey, we forgot to give the details of the ebook giveaway competition thing…

*Mandy has promised the lucky winner of our competition a digital copy of Summer in Tintagel, hot off the press, as it were. All you have to do is tell us who is your all-time favourite author, and why – in no more than three sentences.*

Here’s some background information about Amanda James and her new book.



Amanda James has written since she was a child, but never imagined that her words would be published. Then in 2010, after many twists and turns, the dream of becoming a writer came true.

Amanda has written many short stories and has four novels currently published. A Stitch in Time was published in April of 2013 by and has met with great success.

Also with Choc Lit are Somewhere Beyond the Sea and Dancing in the Rain (March 2014)

Cross Stitch (December 2014)

Her latest novel is Summer in Tintagel – Urbane Publications and is out now.

Amanda’s blog –

Twitter – @akjames61

Summer at Tintagel


We all have secrets……

Ambitious journalist Rosa Fernley has been asked to fulfil her grandmother Jocelyn’s dying wish. Jocelyn has also passed on a secret – in the summer of 1968, fleeing from the terror of a bullying husband, she visited the mysterious Tintagel Castle. Jocelyn wasn’t seeking love, but she found it on the rugged clifftops in the shape of Jory, a local man as enigmatic and alluring as the region itself. But she was already married, and knew her husband would never let her find happiness and peace in Jory’s arms.

Now as her days are nearing their end, she begs Rosa to go back to Tintagel, but is unwilling, or unable, to tell her why. Rosa is reluctant – she has a job in London, a deadline that won’t wait and flights of fancy are just not in her nature. Nevertheless, she realises it might be the last thing she will do for her beloved grandmother and agrees to go.

Once in Tintagel, Rosa is challenged to confront secrets of her own, as shocking events threaten to change everything she has ever believed about herself and her family. She also meets a guide to the castle, Talan, a man who bears a striking resemblance to Jory.

Will the past remain cloaked in tragedy, sadness and the pain of unrequited love? Or can Rosa find the courage and strength to embrace the secrets of the past, and give hope to the future?

Summer in Tintagel eBook: Amanda James: Kindle Store

Summer in Tintagel eBook: Amanda James: Kindle Store


Summer in Tintagel (Urbane Publications July 2016)

Cross Stitch (Choc Lit December 2014)

Somewhere Beyond the Sea ( Choc Lit April 2014)

Dancing in the Rain (Choc Lit March 2014)

A Stitch in Time (Choc Lit) –

Righteous Exposure (Crooked Cat) –

Blog –






Choc Lit Celebrations!

Here at HQ we do love a celebration, so without further ado …



Laura: I’ve been writing for Choc Lit for three glorious years now – where has that time gone? Happy 7th birthday to all at Choc Lit. Who’s receiving the bumps?

Jan : I can’t believe it is six months since my debut novel with Choc Lit was published. Proud to be part of the family. Happy 7th birthday! May there be cake, fizz and choccies galore!

Life Cycle of a Writer Round Up

Our last round-up of what we have all been up to was before Christmas, so as another cycle of this feature comes around, it’s time for us to summarise the last few months.

Sue: My major event has got to be becoming agented, when I signed with Kate Nash of the Kate Nash Literary Agency. I’ve also completed and submitted book 4 to my editor, completed structural edits and am currently awaiting the next round of edits. I have a publication date of 21 April but as yet, we haven’t agreed on a title. Hopefully, I’ll be able to share that soon. 

WDKY Quotes AdLaura: I attended my first festival as a published author, leading a panel on ‘The Small Publisher as an Option.’ This was at the Purbeck Literary Festival on Valentine’s Day. On Thursday 25th February, along with Sue and Catherine, I visited Chichester Library chairing our Romaniac Life Cycle of a Writer talk, which was great fun. I love getting out there and connecting with readers and writers in person. I’ve been working on my presentation for the next festival, the Weymouth Leviathan Maritime Literary Festival, where I’ll be giving a talk on The Coastguard Versus Pulpit Rock. This will take place on Sunday March 13th. And my third novel, What Doesn’t Kill You was released at the end of November 2015, and is the first title to be released under Choc Lit’s new imprint, Dark Choc Lit.

Celia: My latest book, Moondancing, came out digitally in January with Tirgearr and I was thrilled to be included in a paperback anthology of short-listed stories for the Exeter Story Prize with ‘Naked in the Rain’. I’m currently battling with the synopsis and doing a final revision of my new, darker romance and thinking about having another attempt at rewriting a children’s novel.

Jan: I’m proud to have featured on several fellow writers’ blogs since Christmas, which has been lovely and has given me the chance to chat about all sorts of subjects; my background, blogging with The Romaniacs, how my Libran personality traits affect my writing and, of course, about my debut novel As Weekends Go. I’ve also been getting involved with lots of research for Book 2, some of which has been a real eye-opener!  My mojo as far as actually cracking on with the writing of Book 2 still seems to be playing hide and seek with me a little bit, but I’m sure as we go into March, I’ll rediscover it. 

Vanessa: My main writing acheivement so far in 2016 is to have completed a major re-write of my work-in-progress! It’s now gone over to my lovely agent and I’m back to obsessively checking my email in-box as I wait for feedback! I have this week bought a new notebook so I’m now officially ready to start thinking about a new book and I’ve been enjoying writing some flash fiction and short stories.

Catherine: I absolutely CAN’T believe my debut novel is out next Thursday. I’ve been busy finishing the first draft of my second book and prepping for the launch of Waiting for You. It’s been a somewhat crazy period of time, but then that’s pretty standard these days.

WFY quote


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


Happy Publication of LIVING THE DREAM

It’s been such an exciting week for The Romaniacs, we’ve had the RNA conference and our Sparkle Spotlights, plus Catherine’s amazing book deal news but that’s not enough, we also have Celia’s new novel LIVING THE DREAM has been published by Tirgearr Publishing.

It sounds a great read and has already arrived on a Kindle or two – we can’t wait to read it.  Here’s the cover and the blurb …

living the dream

Longing to get away from her troubled marriage, the opportunity to cross America by train seems like a dream come true for Vita Craythorne. But charismatic travel agent Moriarty Miles has other ideas; by replacing their mutual friend Jack on the trip, Vita has unwittingly set herself up as a guinea pig for Moriarty’s mind-blowing and potentially dangerous virtual-travelling project. His plan is to give clients the holiday of a lifetime without ever having to leave the comfort of their own homes. It’s exciting. It’s time-saving. It’s innovative. Maybe this trip is just what Vita needs? That is, if she can avoid becoming trapped inside her own, miraculous dream world.

Amazon UK

Magical Weddings


About Magical Weddings-

15 Stories by USA Today, best-selling, and award-winning authors.

From sweet to spicy, the romances bundled into this set cross time and unite hearts, cast spells of laughter, battle wedding jitters and fight back tears, while weaving love’s hopeful magic throughout 1400 pages.


I’m Tamara Ferguson, award-winning author of the Tales of the Dragonfly Series, and top-ten bestseller, That Unforgettable Kiss.  I can’t tell you how excited I am to be included with this group of authors from all across the globe!

Our Magical Weddings headliner is Leigh Michaels, a national bestselling author who’s written over 100 novels.   Leigh’s story is a lovely historical romance – Her Wedding Wager – about a heroine whose future is dependent on a bet.  Aileen Harkwood’s contribution is The Last Wedding At Drayhome – an enchanting story about a witch and warlock – and a love too long denied.

Eve Devon’s captivating love story , The Dress, spans time – through a dress weaved with magic, while USA Today bestselling author Raine English has written Second Chance Bride, a charming story about a bride who might’ve chosen the wrong groom – as communicated by a telepathic rescue dog!

In Something Borrowed, Something Blue, Lynda Haviland’s heroine has a wedding to crash, before love gets in the way.  And Jody A. Kessler’s Heart Of The Secret involves a curse, and a witch who will do anything to marry her true love.

How can she fight a calling from her soul?  The heroine faces a dilemma in Jane Lark’s The Jealous Love Of A Scoundrel.  Bess McBride’s contribution is A Wedding Across the Winds Of Time – about a couple who’re ready to be married, after finding each other through time.

In Kiss This, written by L.L. Muir, the florist actually catches the bouquet!  Jennifer Gilby Roberts contribution is Caution is a Virture, about a heroine who’s afraid to take a risk with love.  And Loving Lindy by Jan Romes?  It’s a delightful story about a couple who pretend to be engaged, until real feelings get in their way.

Heather Thurmeier has written With This Kiss – about a kiss that could prove to be magical.  Real Magic is by Elsa Winckler.  Can a magical evening transform into reality?  And unexpected guests may forever change the lives of a soon-to-be married couple in The Wedding Guests by Sarah Wynde.

Finally, here’s a little about my romance-

twoheartssurendered2 (1)

Two Hearts Surrendered

Luke Bryant and Kelly Callahan met on the beach at Dragonfly Pointe when thirteen-year old Luke saved six-year old Kelly from drowning. He and Kelly shared an undeniable connection through their childhood. But with his tarnished past, Luke refuses to act on the attraction he begins feeling for her.

When Luke finally comes home on leave from the Air Force, and attends the Magical Wedding of Kelly’s sister Kate (That Unforgettable Kiss), he and Kelly spend an enchanting night together.  They simply can’t help themselves – they’ve loved each other nearly their entire lives.

College student Kelly has everything going for her – she’s beautiful, smart and intelligent. So when Luke eventually returns home from Iraq as a wounded warrior, despite the fact that he doesn’t appear to want anything to do with her, she refuses to give up on him. It’s not about his looks, or his past – it’s all about the connection they’ve shared since they were kids.  Fate has always meant for them to be together – she’s sure of it.  But will Kelly ever be able to convince Luke to surrender his heart?

Right now, Magical Weddings is available for pre-order at only 99c.  It’s already reached bestseller status at Amazon – at #3 for Hot New Releases and #14 for anthologies!

Magical Weddings is available at:

Barnes & Noble:
Google Play