Sparkler Special: Meet The Award-Winning Kaisha Holloway of The Writing Garnet

The Writing Garnet, and Me.
by Kaisha Holloway

Firstly, let me start by saying how honoured I am to have been asked to appear on The Romaniacs blog today! I idolise each and every one of you, if I could bow down to you all I would…I just wouldn’t be able to get back up again!

Let me introduce myself; I’m Kaisha, otherwise known as TWG (The Writing Garnet), a single, chronically ill mumma to a beautiful little girl. TWG is book focused as well as lifestyle focused. I’m honest, I write from the heart, and I wouldn’t be here without any of you.

‘How did TWG come about?’ Is a question which I get asked a lot of the time! Part of me would like to answer that question every time with a sarcastic response, such as ‘on a whim’. But, since I have no reason to hide behind my sarcasm anymore, I’ll answer that question for you guys, from the heart. I have been an avid reader from an extremely young age, single figures I think I was told. The older I became the more books I stuck my nose into; Cathy Cassidy, Jacqueline Wilson, The Babysitters Club, the highlights of my teenage years. In 2011, my life changed when I was diagnosed with a chronic illness. It continued to change as I was diagnosed with a further six chronic illnesses over the years. Limitations became my enemy, and my bed became my best friend. I could no longer rely on my body to do its job, but I could rely on books to keep me company. From 2011 until now, I read. Books were, and still are, the only thing that can give me a little respite from my daily hell. So, in March 2016 I decided that I had to do something to give back to all the authors who have written such fantastic books which have allowed me to laugh, given me company, and made me feel less alone. I decided to review. I decided to blog. I decided to create TWG – The Writing Garnet. I cannot thank authors enough, truly.

Like a lot of bloggers, I have a review policy. Not only is it there to guide authors into finding the right blogger/reviewer for their work, it’s also there to help me otherwise my inbox would overflow even more. I don’t read sci-fi/fantasy/western/super natural or horror novels. You will usually find me reading contemporary fiction/women’s fiction/romantic comedies/psychological thrillers/crime/romance/commercial fiction/historical fiction/autobiographies & some non-fiction (I decide there and then where non-fiction is concerned). I say yes to a lot of review requests that I receive, and I am happy to review last minute, i.e., two days before the date it’s needed. If I get sent a request for a book which isn’t my cup of tea, I just don’t reply to the e-mail. I’m not being nasty, I just cannot spend all day replying to every single request e-mail. If I love your book, you can bet I will cheerlead it until I am blue in the face. Call me Smurfette.

Another question I get asked A LOT is; ‘how on earth do you read so quickly?’. Short answer, I speed read. I know some people wonder if I taught myself how to do that, but the answer is no, I didn’t. Speed-reading is all I have ever known to do, I don’t remember reading slowly. On average, I can read 5-7 books a week due to the speed of which I am able to do so. If you’re sitting there thinking that I must miss out parts of the storyline whilst reading fast; I don’t. I am able to remember everything of the book. How do I know this? Because my mum tested me when I was a kid, two weeks after I had finished a book. Did I get top marks? Hell yeah I did!

On the 10th June this year, my blog became an award winning blog, courtesy of the Annual Blogger Bash Awards. Squeal! A lot of super lovely people voted for me (big thank you) to win Most Inspirational Blog. I am completely overwhelmed that people think myself and my blog are inspirational, and it means the absolute world to me to win such a heart-warming award. Thank you so much if you voted for me in the awards, and thank you all for the love and support over the last 15 months. I cannot believe it; I was convinced I wouldn’t win. Thank you, so, so much.

Kaisha.

 

Kaisha – thank you for your wonderful guest post and for joining us at Romaniac HQ. Many congratulations on your brilliant award and thank you for all the hard work you put into getting the word about great books out into the world. We truly appreciate the time book bloggers take to read and review our work. Delighted to have you with us today.

To find out more about The Writing Garnet and follow Kaisha’s reviews, here are the important links:

Twitter: @kaishajayneh (www.twitter.com/kaishajayneh)
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/thewritinggarnet
Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/thewritinggarnet
Blog url: https://thewritinggarnet.wordpress.com

Life Cycle Of A Writer: Laura On Tour

Life Cycle Of A Writer: Laura On Tour

We here at Romaniac HQ have eaten our Easter chocolate, written our way through the holiday and enjoyed the occasional Prosecco. We hope you all had a lovely Easter weekend.

My poster for Littlemoor Library.

I’ve been busy on my mini tour, which continues this Saturday, 22nd April 2017, at Littlemoor Library, details here. I’m really looking forward to this Shared Reading event where I’ll be reading from WHAT DOESN’T KILL YOU, and supporting my local library. It would be lovely to see you there.

Victoria Cornwall & Linda Mitchelmore

I returned last week from a trip to Exeter – the first Choc Lit Day, organised by my publisher, held at Exeter Library. It was a wonderful way to spend the day, among readers and writers. The four ChocLiteers – Margaret James, Victoria Cornwall, Linda Mitchelmore and Laura E James (me) spoke about our publication journeys and the importance of social media for today’s writers, held a fun quiz and chatted with members of the audience. There was an opportunity for writers to pitch to the Choc Lit editor, too. And Victoria Cornwall and I filmed our very first Facebook Live video.

The next Choc Lit Day is Saturday 20th May 2017, at Southampton Library, which I shall be attending, and a third date has been announced for Saturday 17th June 2017 at Stockton Library. Details here.

Following my visit to Exeter, I continued my tour with a drive up the M3 and the M25 to Watford, where I’d been invited by the Watford Writers to take part in the Watford Lit Fest. I grew up in Watford and was delighted to be asked there to chat about writing and my novels. I was interviewed by a long-standing friend with whom I used to work, Helen Nicell, herself a writer. It was a fabulous experience and one I thoroughly enjoyed.

As a thank you to Waterstones Watford, who supplied sale copies of both FOLLOW ME FOLLOW YOU and WHAT DOESN’T KILL YOU at the Watford Writer’s event, I popped in to the branch the next day to sign a few books. It’s a wonderful new store in the high street and definitely worth the visit if you’re in the area.

 

It’s been hectic, but I’ve loved every minute of the tour so far. Of course, I’ve had to pace myself and allow recovery time between events, but I’m rested and ready to go.

See you on Saturday.

Laura x

Life Cycle Of A Writer: Five Years

Life Cycle Of A Writer: Five Years.

Since losing my mum, 21st March 2012, not a day has passed when I’ve not thought about her. Often it’s wondering what she would have said or thought about a particular incident, a program, a snippet of news, our children’s achievements, problems, disagreements, how she would have handled a sticky situation, what advice she’d have offered, what she’d have found funny …

I’ve written before about navigating March, so today I thought I’d share some of the events that have happened in the last five years – every single one of them came with a ‘I wonder what Mum would have made of this’ moment.

The first was meeting Jodi Picoult. It was a week on from losing Mum, but I wanted to go. My mum had introduced me to Jodi Picoult’s books and I was a huge fan. I have met her three times in the last five years, each occasion an inspiration.

Sue Fortin, Jodi Picoult & me 2016 The 3rd meeting

Shortly after, I found out I was the runner up in Choc Lit’s short story competition. My mum knew I’d entered, she’d even read and critiqued my story, Bitter Sweet, and if I recall rightly, we’d heard it had been shortlisted. It would have been wonderful to have told her about the second place, but I remember how pleased she was with the shortlisting.

Telling Tales was the runner-up in the next Choc Lit short story competition, and I received a tweet of congratulations from the lovely Erica James. Honestly, I don’t know which I was more excited about. I do recall I was with Catherine Miller at the time, though. I think we may have been heading to the Romantic Novelists’ Association conference. Do you remember, Catherine?

As well as meeting Jodi Picoult, I’ve also met Jill Mansell, Sheila O’Flanagan and Erica James. All are warm, intelligent and entertaining women. All were authors my mother read and enjoyed and whose books she introduced me to, and all are firm favourites of mine, and massive inspirations.

I have made many great friends within the writing community, the first few of whom my mum was aware – names with which she would have become familiar had she still been with us. She knew how much writing fulfilled me and how I felt I’d finally found my place in life.

I’ve written three novels. I used to say to Mum I would one day ‘write that novel’. She used to tell me to hurry up and get on with it, which still makes me smile. It’s good advice. I feel extremely privileged and very lucky that she read Truth Or Dare?. It wasn’t the first draft, but neither was it polished. It came with colourful language and hot scenes as appropriate, but I didn’t worry too much about those aspects – my mum read widely and didn’t embarrass easily. Her thoughts on the novel were honest, fair and she gave lots of encouragement, but without gushing. Had she not liked the story or the characters, or considered their actions fake or daft, she’d have said. I was writing Follow Me Follow You when we lost her, but I’d told her the plot and how I was exploring attachment disorder and PTSD. She knew all about Chris Frampton. This became my first paperback. Mum would have loved that.

What Doesn’t Kill You was released as a paperback in January of this year, and I attended my second book signing at Waterstones, Dorchester. What would Mum have made of that?

As a family, we’ve caught and run with a number of health curve balls, one being of the major variety, which I’m pleased to report appears to be under control. I’ve had joints replaced and joints removed; on top of my long term rheumatoid arthritis and colitis, I picked up a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, which I’m still learning to manage, and there has been a knee dislocation, (not mine) torn knee ligaments, (separate incident, different family member) and perforated eardrums (not mine and nothing to do with my singing). I’m convinced the hospital will start charging the James family rent.

Four years ago, we shared a healing three weeks away in Orlando. It was our first family holiday and it was exactly what we needed. Going to Disneyworld was a dream come true. Later the same year, I took a trip to Italy, on the Arte Umbria writing course and came home feeling nurtured and rested, with a way forward as to how to finish writing Follow Me Follow You, which had stalled in March 2012. I sat on the beautiful terrace at Arte Umbria and thought how much my mum would have loved to have been there. We’d talked of going to Italy together.

She’d have smiled at my news I’d shaken Paloma Faith’s hand, and that I’d seen Kate Bush sing live in London, and she’d have given me excellent advice regarding … well, all sorts of stuff, including a reminder that some things are best kept private. And she’d have made sure I keep on keeping on.

So, five years on, with the love and support of family and friends, that’s what I’m doing.

It’s head down and on with the work-in-progress. Life.

Take care.

Laura xx

 

 

Romaniac HQ Presents … Author, Kirsty Ferry

Romaniac HQ Presents … Author, Kirsty Ferry.

We are delighted to be part of Choc Lit author, Kirsty Ferry’s blog tour, celebrating the paperback release of her novel, The Girl in the Painting, and looking forward to the imminent release of The Girl in the Photograph.

Take it away, Kirsty.

Life Cycle of a Writer: Paperback Writer.

Paperback Writer

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What a busy, fun and exciting week this is. Yesterday, we Romaniacs celebrated our 5th birthday and cheered Sue’s fantastic thriller, Sister Sister, as it hit the top 5 on Kindle, today is Valentine’s Day, and Saturday, I’ll be at Waterstones Dorchester signing copies of What Doesn’t Kill You.

img_8935I was at Waterstones Dorchester on Valentine’s Day two years ago, signing copies of my second novel, Follow Me Follow You. It was such a lovely day. The table was perfectly decorated with red love hearts, books were wrapped in paper and bows, enticing customers to go on a blind date with their next read, and I spent the time chatting with people about books and authors.img_8939

I’m really looking forward to Saturday’s event. To have a paperback is special, even more so with What Doesn’t Kill You, as the front cover sports an author quote from my good friend and fellow Romaniac, Sue Fortin. Neither of us could predict that happening when we first met five years ago. There is also a depiction of a well-loved landmark on the front – Portland Bill lighthouse.lighthouse-cover-3There will be copies of the book available for purchase on Saturday, and I will have one of my trusty Pentel pens in hand, but which colour should I use?

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Do I go with blues and greens to complement the cover? Or should I stick with traditional black ink? I might just have to take my pencil case and decide on the day. What would you do?

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I look forward to seeing you all on Saturday. Dorchester is a fascinating Roman town, and it has literary links, too – Hardy referred to Dorchester as Casterbridge – so please do come and spend the day, and pop into the wonderfully supportive Waterstones.

I’m going to leave you with this classic Beatles hit 😀 https://youtu.be/xmVwo2DxkGg

Have a great week.

Laura x

From The Romaniacs To You: Huge Heartfelt Thanks

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It’s hard to believe that the Romaniacs are five years old today, because it barely seems five minutes since we met and formed this bundle of humanity that we loosely call a writing group. Most of us bumped into each other (literally in some cases, as wine was taken) at the Festival of Romance in 2011, and since then, we’ve laughed, cried, written books, had some of them rejected, had some of them published, and propped each other up through lots of turbulence.

So this a post is for anyone who’s ever read our blog, commented on it, been Sparkle-Videoed at the conference, joined the Romaniac Sparklers, had interviews on here, sat through our panels (with or without pom poms) or generally just been there along the way. A very big THANK YOU!

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Celia: I’m making a gigantic chocolate fudge cake as we speak, so do feel free to pop by Romaniac HQ and help yourself to a big sticky slice of it. And there’s fizz. There may even be gin in the fridge…

Laura: I cannot imagine my life without The Romaniacs. Is it really five years only? I feel we’ve been together several decades – in a good way. An excellent way. Several decades of cake. Often Prosecco. Always laughter. Rib-aching laughter. The best kind. And you, lovely readers, our friends, have been with us throughout. Thank you. It means a great deal.

Now, big breaths and pucker up – the candles need extinguishing.

Sue: I can’t really add much to what’s already been said at the beginning but a HUGE thank you to everyone who has supported us in all the different ways, it’s been a tremendous amount of fun and we really appreciate you being there. xx

Jan: Five fabulous years and hopefully many more to come. I love being part of the Romaniacs and feel very grateful for all their love, laughs and friendship. As I do for the unwavering cheers of support everyone out there has given for our blog. Grab yourselves a seat, a slice of Celia’s latest yummy creation, and join in the celebrations. Cheers! Xx  

Catherine: This is a sick note, as Catherine is somewhat under the weather at the moment, probably due to an overload of superbly creative stuff and not helped by a nasty germ or two. Wishing her well and hoping her bounce will be back by the time she reads this.

*Party? Did someone say party? I’m not sick, honest. *sniffs* I can’t believe five years have passed and so much has happened! Babies, books, and no where near enough alcohol.*

Debbie: A few years ago, a wise person shared a piece of prose/quote called, ‘Reason, Season, Lifetime.’ If you haven’t heard of it, just ‘GOOGLE’ the phrase. It may resonate. It has stayed with me ever since. A good example is my Romaniac friends and how we found each other. Five years on and we’re still going strong. I suspect we’ll be pals for a lifetime. This also applies to our RNA and other writer friends, some of whom are thousands of miles away. Somehow, we found each other over the ether of the world-wide web or social media. So many of you have supported my sporadic writing journey through the ill-health and domestic chaos. You’ve helped bat away those crows of self-doubt that periodically peck away on my shoulders. So, I’m also adding loud and heartfelt thanks and celebration to ALL my writing friends. Here’s to many more years of friendship … xx

Lucie: Wow, what can I say? It has been a crazy 5 years with these wonderful women and I seriously couldn’t imagine my life without them. They are there for me through thick and thin and always around to tell me to stop moaning and just bloody write! Yes, I’ve needed a few of those over the years! When I became a Romaniac I was a newbie writer, with eyes wide as I stepped into the realms of writing – a sort of ‘rabbit in headlights’ moment. Since then, I’ve achieved some amazing things, things I never EVER thought I would, and it is not only thanks to the other girls, but a HUGE thanks to you, our readers, our supporters, our family. We really couldn’t be The Romaniacs without your unwavering support and constant love. Thank you so much. Love and hugs xxx

Vanessa: I just want to echo everything the others have said! A HUGE thank you for all the support and here’s to the next 50 Romaniacal years 🙂 xxx

WHAT DOESN’T KILL YOU – The Paperback Tour.

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It’s day five of the blog tour celebrating the release of my third novel, What Doesn’t Kill You. It’s been a fantastic week, starting with Being Anne on Monday, Sincerely BookAngels on Tuesday, Jo Lambert on Wednesday and The Writing Garnet yesterday. Thank you to everyone taking part over the eight day experience.

The tour bus has been party central, and we’ve run out of cake and coffee, so with snow on the horizon and a rather large dent in our supplies, we’ve headed back to Romaniac HQ for today’s gig. Celia assures me there are plenty of scones in the cupboard for a Dorset cream tea.

I thought I’d take you to the place where WDKY begins – Portland Bill, a peninsular in West Dorset. The hero, Griff Hendry, is evaluating his life, wondering where it all went wrong, but rather than tell you, I’ll show you …

Did you catch sight of Pulpit Rock?

Thank you to my Littoralis friend, Kate Kelly, for her dramatic, stormy photo of the Rock.

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During the course of the tour, I’m giving away two signed copies of What Doesn’t Kill You – one today and the second on the final leg, Tuesday 17th, when I’m with my good friend and fellow Romaniac, Sue Fortin.

To be in with a chance of winning today’s copy, please comment below or tweet me @Laura_E_James, with the words, ‘What Doesn’t Kill You giveaway’ and add the hashtag #whatwouldyoudo. This competition ends midnight, UK time, Monday 16th January 2017, with the random draw to take place the following day. Good luck!

With the bus restocked, cleaned and refuelled, I’ll be leaving Romaniac HQ at first light tomorrow and heading for the next stop of the tour – Abbey MacMunn‘s site – when I’ll be revealing the secrets behind the WDKY book trailer. On Monday I’ll be setting the stage up at Linda’s Book Bag. Please do join me.

Who’s going to be in the mosh pit?

Laura x

 

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