Come and meet Rhoda Baxter …

DrJ cover

 

Today we’re to find out what makes Choc Lit author Rhoda Baxter tick.

Hi Rhoda, and welcome to one of the comfiest sofas in the entire universe. Jane Lovering left a few Hob Nob crumbs but I think we’ve got rid of most of them now.

I see she’s left some chocolate stains too. I’ll just sit here on the other side of the sofa…

Put your feet up, grab a scone or a bit of cake and I’ll pour the coffee.

Ooh, cake please. That looks lovely. Yum. I’ll try not to get crumbs on the sofa. I’m usually well house trained.

It’s great to see you.There’s never enough time at the RNA conference for a proper chat, so here are some of the questions the Romaniacs would have liked to ask when last we met.

How did your writing career begin, and is it now a full time job?

The writing career probably started when I joined the New Writer’s Scheme in the RNA. It was back in the day when you could apply in March and still get in! I joined the online forum and it felt like I’d suddenly left the farm track I’d been trundling along and joined the motorway. I learned that it wasn’t just about writing the best book you can, it was about networking, marketing etc.

It’s not a full time job (yet). I have a modest plan to break even next year – so that I can go to the RNA conference, the Festival of Romance and feed my reading habit without guilt.

I actually quite like the fact that I have a day job. I get to hang out with real people (rather than the ones in my head or my family – who are also real people, come to think of it) and share gossip and things. It also helps keep me in touch with the other aspects of me. Then there’s the paperclips…

Is there any other dream job that you’d love to try?

Jeffery Steingaarten has my ideal job. He’s a food critic for Vogue in New York. New York’s a bit far, but I’d like to do the same for Yorkshire. I’d get to eat out in the finest dining venues in Yorkshire (for free), then write about it… and…get paid for it! Now, THAT is a dream job. Especially if I can take a doggie bag home for the next day.

I’m sure own bookcase is as stuffed full as ours in Romaniac HQ. If you had to pick three fairly recent publications (say, after 2010) from your collection to recommend to a friend, which would you choose?

Aaaaah. That’s a mean, MEAN question. Okay. 2010. Take a deep breath, Rhoda. If you take a run at it maybe it won’t hurt. (Sorry, Celia, did I mention that I talk to myself a lot? Well, I do).

Nation by Terry Pratchett – okay, technically it’s pre 2010, but I read it in 2011. This book is a YA love story, an adventure yarn and a thoughtful exploration of the human need for deities all in one. It’s very different to Terry Pratchett’s other books, but equally readable and slightly more wonderful.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – A great book. It made me cry. (I object to the term ‘sick lit’ though. It’s a love story. The kids happen to be ill.)

Some of the Choc Lit books – there are so many I can’t choose. Kate Johnson’s Untied Kingdom, Margaret Jameses The Wedding Diary, Margaret Kaine’s Dangerous Decisions, Jane Lovering’s Vampire State of Mind, Isabella Connor’s Beneath an Irish Sky… I know you want me to choose one, but I can’t, dammit. I just can’t! Waaaaaaaah.

Help!(gasp, gasp) Cake. Must have cake.

Thank you. Phew. Just let me crawl back onto the sofa – with the cake, with the cake… Ah. That’s better. (deep breath) Sorry about that. Shall we carry on?

I knew that one would be tricky but thanks, my Kindle salutes you and my ordering finger is clicking. And what about blasts from the past? Which three authors have written books that you’d love to have taken credit for yourself?

The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffeneger– structurally, it’s a beautiful book. The only thing I’d change is to make the main characters less irritating. I finished it and nearly expired with envy.

A Summer of Living Dangerously by Julie Cohen – This is an awesome book. Two timelines intertwine in the same story – without it being a timeslip. I borrowed it from the library, then immediately went out and bought a copy so that I could own it. My copy in now covered in post-its.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – I thought the premise was brilliant. Loved it. Of course, I want the world success too. Natch.

We are totally on the same wavelength here! Although I haven’t read Julie Cohen’s yet. Oh dear, hammering the Amazon Kindle button today … Okay, moving on. Where do you write, and what would be your ideal writing space/room if money was no object?

I’d love a nice big study with floor to ceiling book cases and a big desk. A REALLY big desk, with space all around it, so that I can move my chair and use different sides of the table depending on what I wanted to do.

You said money was no object, right? In that case, I’d also like an assistant who would be able to sort out my filing for me, a nanny to keep the kids entertained, a chef, someone who could massage the knots out of my shoulders from time to time, and a chocolate dispensing machine that dispenses Lindt chocolates in a variety of flavours.

Oh. Sorry. Drooled a bit there. Let me wipe that up. There. Good as new.

That sounds wonderful (not the drool, the room, but thanks for the mopping) – throw in a fridge full of cocktails and it would be heaven on earth. And maybe a hammock to do reading research? Speaking of which, I’ve got to say that Doctor January has been one of my favourite summer reads this year and Hibs is a delectable hero. He reminds me of Dr. ‘Mac’ Macartney from Green Wing (played by Julian Rhind-Tutt) but I can’t quite put my finger on why.Is he based on anyone in particular?

I love Green Wing and Mac is my favourite character in it! I don’t think I consciously channelled Mac when I was writing Hibs, but who knows what my subconscious was doing (apart from raiding the biscuit tin). Hibs isn’t based on anyone in particular. He just sauntered in rather unexpectedly and I had to write him as he was. He is rather lovely. It took me a while to stop thinking about him – even when I’d moved on to writing the next book.

The only part of Hibs that’s based on real life is his hair. I once met a guy who had the loveliest long black hair. He clearly took good care of it. Also, of course, there’s the Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists http://www.improbable.com/hair-club/which might have had something to do with it.

Your heroine in Doctor January, Beth, goes through a serious relationship crisis that could have gone either way. Did you know exactly how this was going to work out when you began to write the book, or did the plot develop as it went along?

It was a bit of both. I knew that Gordon was a total git (boo!) and I had a rough idea of what was going to happen, but the details evolved as I wrote. The hardest part was working out why Beth didn’t see Gordon for the totally horrible person he was. I had to do lots of research (Yay the internet!) to find out why women often stayed with their abusers and excused their behaviour.

Incidentally, Gordon is named after Gordon the Fastest Engine on Sodor. My youngest is a huge Thomas the Tank Engine fan.

Was the friendship and bond between Hibs, Beth and Vik always going to be a strong theme in Doctor January? It seems to underpin the whole story and give it a feel-good warmth even when there were problems for Beth to face.

One of the best things about writing Doctor January was that I got to relive the fun times I had when I worked in a lab. I should point out that my supervisor was nothing like Roger, she was a very nice, supportive (and slightly formidable) lady.

I tried hard to capture the sense of camaraderie that runs through life in the lab. The atmosphere in most labs is informal and friendly. When you spend a lot of time doing repetitive tasks, or monitoring things dripping/spinning/running down a gel, you have lots of time to chat and share.

I wanted capture Beth’s feeling that Hibs and Vik were ‘her boys’. Of course, Hibs is much, much more, but it takes her a while to realise that.

Following on from the above question; speaking as a writer, how important are friendship groups in your own life? Are you more of a solitary soul or do you need the buzz of people around you most of the time to inspire your work?

I’m a very sociable soul. I love hanging out with people and chatting. I’m not sure that people that inspire my work, but then again, that sneaky old subconscious is probably making notes all the time.

I do have to be careful not to talk to myself when other people are around. It tends to freak them out. I like to be alone when I write – partly for the same reason. I often try out lines of dialogue, to see how they sound. Sometimes I even have a go at expressions or gestures to figure out how to describe them. My husband, bless him, has stopped jumping out of his skin when I mutter things like ‘I have always loved you, but I have to kill you now’ whilst sitting at the laptop.

In the brilliant session with Jane Lovering at the summer conference, you demonstrated hidden talents in comedy timing – the pair of you had us rolling in the aisles. Which comedians/comedy writers appeal to your sense of humour and how important is humour in your own choice of reading matter?

I really enjoyed doing that. It was as much fun for us as it was for you guys. Even Jane in her penguin suit!

I love watching comedy. I read a lot of romantic comedy (research, you know) and I’ll watch just about any comedy. I love Blackadder, anything by Graham Linehan, Big Bang Theory, Eddie Izzard, Bill Bailey – the list goes on. I adore a good (or even bad) pun.

I’d say humour is more important to me than music. My music collection consists mainly of parody songs. Tom Lehrer still makes me laugh, despite having heard the songs over and over again.

I read a few books about writing comedy and came to the conclusion that the only way to learn about comic timing is to watch loads and loads of comedy. Hey, that means watching comedies is research too. Hurrah!

Now some quick fire questions to finish with:

Monty Python or Fawlty Towers? Tricky.Fawlty Towers for consistent laughs.

Gin and Tonic or Champagne? Am I allowed to say neither? I can’t hold my alcohol very well.You know when I’m at the RNA conferences … that’s me sober, that is.

Frosty winter days or the heat of the summer? Frosty winter days.

Steak or Salmon? Steak (with sweet potato fries, if poss)

Country walks or reading in front of the fire on a damp autumn day?

Reading in front of the fire. I don’t do exercise – it’s bad for you. Have you ever known anyone strain a muscle from reading? No. I rest my case.

Crime fiction or ghost stories? Crime.

Jeans or joggers? Jeans – but not low rise ones. I like my muffins to be the edible sort.

Mountains or coast? Coast

Mean and moody heroes or cute blond bombshells? What kind of a question is that? Moody boys or cute girls…I refuse to answer on the grounds of sexist stereotyping.

Noooo, not cute girlies, I meant boy bombshells! But I agree, that question was very badly put – I think the gorgeous blond Mac was still in my head toying with my brain!

Spa day or sporting event? Spa day. See earlier comment about exercise.

Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions, Rhoda – lovely to see you.

Lovely to see you too. Thank you for the lovely cuppa and the cake. Let me brush down the sofa before I leave.

A last piece of cake to take with you? The chocolate sponge is just out of the oven.

Oh, thank you. That’ll do nicely while I go watch some research.

 

Jeev

***

Rhoda Baxter lives in the North of England, where the cakes are excellent. She had a childhood ambition to be an astronaut or at least 5 feet tall. Having failed at both of these, she now writes humorous novels instead.

Rhoda’s first novel was a contender for the RNA Joan Hessayon Award and was a top ten finalist in the 2012 Predators and Editors poll for romance reads. Her third novel, Doctor January, is published by Choc Lit Ltd and available now.

She can be found wittering on about science, comedy and cake on her websitewww.rhodabaxter.com or on Twitter (@rhodabaxter).

 

 

 

 

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.  

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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!

 

 

RT BookLovers Convention 2013 – Guest Post from Evonne Wareham

Those key cardsYou know you’ve arrived at a very special kind of convention when the key card for your hotel room features a book cover with a bare-chested man. And the RT Booklovers convention is very special to the (mostly) American readers who travel from all over the States to get their big romance fix – meeting authors and cover models, attending panels and parties, buying books and getting them signed at two monster signing sessions …

The convention is an annual event, hosted by RT Book Reviews magazine at a Choc-Lit bannerdifferent American location each year. This year it was Kansas City and it was the 30th anniversary convention. It was rumoured that more than two thousand readers and authors, mainly female, descended on the unsuspecting city for the hectic long weekend. And I was one of them, part of a group from Choc-Lit, intent on taking British-style romance to new audiences. It was exhausting and enormous fun. Those ladies know how to party and were focused on doing just that, from the morning mixers and breakfast events to the evening balls and parties. In between there were talks by authors – singly and in groups, quizzes, scavenger hunts, craft sessions and the chance for aspiring authors to meet agents and publishing houses, to pitch their manuscripts. The term ‘elevator pitch’ took on a whole new dimension while being practiced on the way down from the 29th floor. You could pick out the glow from the hopefuls who had just been asked to submit their manuscript from about ten paces.

Choc-Lit authors hosted a craft session on creating heroes, a chocolate tasting session, a Jane Austen celebration from CL’s Austen expert, Juliet Archer (which featured a guest appearance by Mr Darcy) and, captained by author Lynne Connelly, devised a fiendish quiz to test the participants’ knowledge of the British Isles. And yes, I was the one with the question that involved a sheep. I was specializing in Wales, after all. And wore the national dress, to prove it. I also forgot to give someone my camera to get a shot of me in it.

The BallThe hotel was fabulous, the free books on offer were amazing, the swag – gifts from authors and publishers of everything from bookmarks to letter openers – completely fascinating. You have no idea how many gew-gaws and gadgets can be printed with an author’s name. Actually I do, now. I brought home as many as I could carry. Some of the themed parties featured costumes – saloon girls to vampires – and the anniversary ball called for formal dress. The Choc-lit group rose to the occasion with sparkle and tiaras. I didn’t risk a tiara – I was afraid I’d end up wearing it as a necklace – or skewering someone’s eye, but I did have a snazzy pair of cream coloured elbow length gloves, which were admired by a gentleman I met in the lift on the way to the ball. His wife was very tolerant about it.

Signing Books

I had a really great time. It’s impossible to give more than the tiniest glimpse of the scale of the event here. The high-spot was probably being part of the huge book signing on Saturday morning, but the thing that made the most impact was the welcome and interest shown by American romance fans. The British (and Welsh) accents had something to do with it, but everywhere there were people keen to talk about books, writing and every kind of romance genre. Next year’s convention is in New Orleans and events are already being planned. And I’m already saving my pennies.

Evonne x

Having A Ball – Rhoda Baxter

Some time ago, the very lovely Rhoda Baxter asked us Romaniacs if one of us wanted to read and review her new book due out in March, Having A Ball. We were sent the blurb and I fell in love with the story straight away. I practically jumped at the chance to do a review for it so I was honored when Rhoda emailed it over and my computer beeped its arrival.

Thankfully I was in between books so I was able to start straight away. And I wasn’t disappointed. Here was my review:

“It’s for books like this that I really appreciate having Kindle on my Iphone. ‘Having A Ball’ is simply one of those books that drag you into the story and refuse to let you sleep. Being able to read snippets whilst cooking dinner, waiting for children to finish swimming lessons and being stuck in traffic was an absolute must – I had to feed my thirst for the story!

From the word go, my mind was completely immersed in the life of Stevie; a 22-year-old girl who had lost her parents young and was finding the everyday drag of a boring job and nowhere to go very draining. The characters in this story are well rounded and identifiable. The hero, Tom, isn’t your conventional soppy love interest, but a strong willed, determined workaholic. Not really a lovable hero at the start but he most definitely comes into his own throughout the story. Not only does the heroine’s story turn full circle in this book, but the hero’s does too – which is refreshing and gratifying.

I also found the secondary characters in this story extremely interesting. The author has a good mix of personalities on the page and it keeps the writing lively and entertaining.

Another thing that stands out with this book is the author’s obvious knack for dialogue. It’s quick, witty, descriptive and certainly packs a punch. It kept the story flowing at a nice pace and never failed to make me laugh or bring a lump to my throat.

A touching story with vibrant characters, dense storyline and fulfilling resolve. A definite recommendation.”

As you can see, I absolutely loved this book. I cannot wait for Rhoda’s next novel and I’ll be sure to be reviewing it right here, too.

I asked Rhoda for a few words about her novel, and here is what she said.

“Having a Ball is part of the Email and Ice Cream series. Sounds cool, right? A series. Gosh. I had never considered it until my editor sent me an email asking me what the name of the series was. I had a brief panic. Several cups of tea and a packet of Twix later, I made a list of all the elements that the books had in common and came up with Email and Ice Cream.  Et voila! I have a series.

I wrote Patently in Love and Having a Ball as stand alone books. There are some recurring characters (not surprising since Marsh and Stevie are siblings) and the format of having the heroes character in email, but other than that, they are totally independent stories. But okay, they can be called a series.

This brings me to the next problem. You can’t have a series with only two books in it. You need at least three to stop people pointing and laughing. My third book has very few emails and no ice cream in it (don’t worry, there is a very large chocolate cake and a chocolate mousse – one must never ignore dessert). Not, then, part of the series. However, at least three people who reviewed the ARC have asked if I was going to write Olivia’s story next. I like Olivia and her crazy hedonistic ways. I have a germ of a plot too. So, I guess I’d better get on with it.”

Doesn’t that sound exciting? I can’t wait to read Olivia’s story.

I know I speak for all the Romaniac ladies when I say that we all wish Rhoda the best of luck with this novel and for all of her future works, too. She’s a very talented writer and definitely one to watch.

Lucie x

Rhoda Baxter started off in the South of England and pinged around the world a bit until she ended up in the North of England, where the cakes are better. Along the way she collected one husband, two kids, a few (ahem) extra stone in weight and a DPhil in molecular biology (but not necessarily in that order). She had a childhood ambition to be an astronaut or at least 5 feet tall. Having failed at both of these, she now writes humourous novels instead. Rhoda can be found over on her website, here.

You can purchase Having A Ball, here, and Rhoda’s previous novel, Patently in Love, here.

    

Author Mandy James is our Tuesday Chit-Chat Guest today

Hi Mandy, come on in. I’m glad you’re here as after The Romaniacs’ kitchen party at the RNA Conference last year, I wasn’t sure you’d want to spend time with us again. It’s perfectly safe, the others are all out and I’m the quiet one 🙂

I am glad to be here, Sue. Thank goodness the others are out as I was severely traumatised from being at that kitchen party. As you know I am very quiet, reserved, tea total and react badly to lots of singing, shouting and the swigging wine.

mandy james

How are you? All ready for your book launch? The cover looks great, you must be really chuffed with it.

I am great thanks and so chuffed with the cover! Berni Stevens designs all Choc Lit’s covers and is a bloomin’ genius. I am convinced that the look of the cover will draw the eye. It’s so striking isn’t it? And yes, so looking forward to the launch! It is out on kindle now and the 7th of April in paperback. Also if anyone is in Cabot Circus on Wednesday the 10th of April between 6.30-8pm, they are very welcome to pop into Foyles bookstore where I will be having my launch/signing. There will be chocolates, nibbles and drinks too 🙂

Can you tell us a bit about A Stitch in Time, please?

A Stitch in Time is essentially about Sarah Yates, a time-travelling history teacher. (Yes, really!) It has more than a touch of romantic comedy, but serious issues are touched on also. Sarah is disillusioned with her job and recently divorced. Her husband left her for her best friend and as a consequence she is very wary of committing to anyone else as she was broken apart by their betrayal. However, when mysterious and very lovely John Needler arrives on the scene and asks her to travel through time to save the lives of others, she is more than a little attracted to him. Sarah finds new purpose in trying to help people in the past find their happy endings. The big question is – will she ever be able to find hers?

a stitch in time

It’s a great concept, is it something you had been toying with for a while as it is quite different to your previously published novel, Righteous Exposure.

Yes it is very different, and no, I hadn’t thought of it before the day I decided on a title! I always start with a title – can’t write without one. As far as I remember I was thinking of catchy phrases or sayings that would grab a person’s attention while browsing book shelves. Then once I had plumped for A Stitch in Time, the story just came into my head. I had completed the first draft in 6 weeks -the fastest book I have ever written.

Righteous Exposure is about a kidnapping and quite dark in places. At the time it wasn’t published and I could see that romantic comedies were always at the top of best seller lists. So, I decided to have a bash at one.

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Was there lots of plotting involved on your behalf or did you just let the idea evolve as you wrote it?

I didn’t plan, I never do. I just have the bare bones of an idea and the characters and jot them down in a few paragraphs. Then I refer to them as I am writing. So yes, my ideas evolve as I go along. My characters have a mind of their own and don’t listen to a word I say anyway. They just do their own thing and can be quite rude when I try to force them to do something.

As a qualified teacher, what was your subject and how has your subject area impacted on your writing, if at all?

My subject was history and sociology too, but I only taught that at A’ level. History was obviously very useful when writing about the past and Sarah’s jaunts back in time. I really enjoyed teaching the American West and used that knowledge to inform Sarah’s mission to Kansas in 1874. And when she goes back to 1940, I borrowed my parent’s experiences and memories of the Sheffield Blitz alongside my research. There is a bit in the book where Violet says that she needs to change her vest because if she is to be killed, she wants to die clean. My Nan actually said that!

John is your hero in A Stitch in Time, who is your hero in real life and are there any similarities?

That is a tricky one. I have lots of heroes but not particularly gorgeous ones like, Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King and a guy called Korczac Ziolkowski who started the carving of Crazy Horse Mountain in South Dakota. All really strong, inspirational men who never gave up on their dreams. But if I had to pick a dishy one it would have to be someone like Johnny Depp or Aidan Turner. My John is somewhere between the two. J

And just some random questions we like to throw in now and again …

What is the food you couldn’t possibly live without?

Curry. No question, I am addicted.

If you were stranded on a desert island and could have one book, which would it be?

Only one! That’s impossible. Okay a random one…er…Watchers by Dean Koontz.

What has been your proudest moment?

Apart from personal family things, it has to be signing my publishing contract with Choc Lit. I couldn’t keep the huge smile off my face. In the end I had to have it surgically removed after a few weeks because my face began to crack in half.

What’s best about being a ChocLit author?

Choc Lit are a great team and really respected within the genre, not least because of the many awards won and the unique tasting panel. Also I love being part of a fantastic ‘family’ of authors, who really are some of the most supportive people I have ever met. Some girls I have yet still to meet, but I feel I know them already as we chat online.

Which Dr Who has been your favourite?

The first one I remember was Patrick Troughton and for a while couldn’t get used to anyone else. I did like Christopher Eccleston too, even though he was only Dr for a short time. But I think my favourite has to be Tom Baker because he was so off the wall and flamboyant.

Thanks for dropping by Mandy, it’s been nice to chat in a bit of peace and quiet without the others bursting into song, along with Sue Moorcroft – maybe she was the bad influence?

Thanks so much for having me, Sue. It has been lovely hasn’t it? And Sue Moorcroft is a terrible influence along with Laura James. They are just SO rowdy and raucous – scared the hell out of a little mouse like me I can tell you…

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crooked cat

Tuesday Chit-Chat with Amy Gregory

She’s sassy, snarky, fun and loving – she also writes great romance novels.

Please welcome Amy Gregory, author of Racing To Love, published by Sapphire Star!

Hi Amy great to have you here all the way from Kansas. Not sure what the time difference is but hope we’ve not got you up too early.  Although I get the feeling, with a young family, you’re probably used to some early starts.

Thank you so much for having me!  I’m not sure on time zone differences, I’m in CST if that helps.  I’m an early bird anyway, I get my best writing done in the morning.  After about 9pm I’m a lost cause.

[Off to check it out – okay, you’re five hours behind us – still the middle of the night for you then – sorry!]

Racing to Love your debut novel is out now, can you tell us a bit about it?

It is a series of four books, the setting is the world of motocross racing.  The main male characters are life-long best friends.  The first book is Carter Sterling’s story of how unpredictable life is and how love can find you when you least expect it.  It’s his tale of instant attraction to Molly and the lengths a man will go to in order to protect the woman he loves.

What type of motorbike would you say reflects your personality and why?

We are a motocross family.  Love it!  Love watching the professional races in person and on TV.  Plus, our son is a motocross racer, so I’d say dirt bikes.  Street bikes scare me.  I guess it’s that I trust him completely, but on the open road you’re at the mercy of all the other crazy drivers out there.

Having been brought up around road bikes, I know what you mean about other crazy road users.

Keeping on the road and travelling theme, can you tell us about the journey this book has gone through to get published?

Oh, my poor baby lol.  In a brief form I’ll explain.  I hadn’t written a word since back in school.  Then out of the blue I had a dream, the next night it expanded and so on.  Finally after a few days I started writing it down.  The next thing I knew I had over four hundred hand-written pages.  I typed it, edited, added, edited and edited again.  I had this passion all of the sudden that I didn’t have a clue where it came from.  I loved the story and wanted to share it.  I started querying agents and publishers with no luck.  Finally I decided to do a major rewrite, change the tense and stuff like that.  That’s when I was able to get in the door.  It did go through an intense rewrite in a very short amount of time with the help of my editor.  Then the rest was a blur!

So how did it feel to get the call/e-mail that Sapphire Star wanted to publish Racing To Love?

I guess the only way I could describe it is, surreal.  You picture it happening, you dream about it, but when it happened for me, I was just dumbstruck.

I read on your blog that you are writing two books at once! How did that come about and are you finding it easy to switch back and forth?

I am lol.  I am writing book four which is the last in the Racing to Love series as well as the first book in my next series.  They are very different characters and their worlds are unique to each of them.  I am finding it easier almost.  I have flashes of dialogue or scenes come to me for both.  I can get to a spot with one, stop and add to the other.  It makes those moments when you feel a little stumped almost non-existent.  I actually have a stand-alone thrown in the mix as well.  So between the three, I’m, so far, avoiding writer’s block—knock on wood!  As I’m working on one, ideas pop up for the others and it just flows so excitingly.

How would you describe your style of writing?  What sort of reader would it appeal to?

I would have to say I’m unique.  I do not like suspense at all.  I just get all anxious and my heart races, not a happy thing.  I only read and write romance.  I have to have a happy end, and on top of all that I am a complete smart mouth.  I love snarky dialogue.  To me, that makes it feel real.  I love writing in a series format because I can carry my characters throughout the books.  So if the reader loves romance, including the heat, sassy characters, humor, leading women that are not docile and instant attraction, that’s me.  My men, while they might not always be perfect, they’re close and they try hard.  They don’t give up, and they fight for the woman who stole their heart.  I like to write stories that could actually happen in everyday life, sweet easy reads that let the reader escape reality for a little bit and leave them feeling warm and fuzzy after they’ve read the last page.

What’s the strangest bit of research you’ve had to do and what sort of response did you receive?

Luckily I don’t do anything that needs an extensive amount of research.  Mainly city names and location details, that sort of thing.  I do like to use fictitious cities for the most part so I have to make sure once I’ve picked a state that it doesn’t exist.  I have to say there are some strange city names out there!

Do you feel you have tamper your natural voice or do you just write it as it comes?

Yes and no.  I speak with a normal amount of slang and a bit of a southern accent on some words.  Those things are hard to convert to a story without sounding goofy.  However, the attitude and sass is all me.  I won’t change that.  It makes my stories mine.  I love humor and I’m a self-admitted smart mouth.  Used in the right context, it can take a scene to a whole new level.  I’m a panster through and through, I just type as it comes to me.  My characters come to life for me, I’m just typing their stories.

Do your write for the American or UK market?

I will probably only write scenes based on American locations, just because I don’t want it to feel fake or made up.  However, motocross is huge in Europe.  The bike our son rides is actually an Austrian make.  I hope to gain loyal readers in both parts of the world.

When can we expect to see book 2 released?

Racing to Love – Jesse’s Soul will be released January 3, 2013 with Eli’s Honor to follow shortly after.

Excellent, not too far off then, you’ll have to come back and tell us about it in the new year 🙂

It’s been great chatting to you, Amy. Good luck with writing two books at once!

It’s been great to be here, thank you for introducing me to your followers!

Want to find out  more about Racing To Love and Amy Gregory?

Here’s the blurb and an excerpt, followed by the links for Amy.

About Racing To Love

From the outside, Molly West had everything, beauty, brains, and a career she’d retired from not once, but twice.  Being in the limelight and in a sport that was male driven, she was often surrounded by men.  She ignored first the boys, and as she got older, the men.  Her cold shoulder and patented not a chance in hell look were usually enough to get her point across.  Molly had no plans in changing what was a perfectly good system. That is until she walked into the pits. 

Carter Sterling had traveled the racing circuit since he was a boy.  He’d heard all the old standbys, She’s out there somewhere, love comes along when you least expect it.  Good things come to those that… Yeah, he’d heard them all.  The last place he expected to meet the love of his life was on a pro track.  All she did was smile, and he knew, looking into her sapphire blue eyes, Molly West was his.  Forever. 

If it was only that easy.  From the moment he laid eyes on her, he had a gripping feeling in him.  An overwhelming need to protect her—a girl he’d just met.  Carter had learned a long time ago that gut feelings are almost never wrong.  Molly now held his heart in her hands, but it was going to take a lot more than just love to protect her from the past she thought she’d buried a long time ago.

Now for a little taster of Racing To Love

They continued to walk back toward the pits, but he stopped when they were in the darkened hallway, just before they would have rounded the corner and been seen.

Molly’s heart sped.

He was still holding her hand, but turned to face her as he placed his other hand on her waist. She sucked in a breath when he stepped forward. Her first instinct was to be anxious, to cower back, but something in those ice blue eyes told her she didn’t have to be afraid.

When he had leaned in to kiss her when they were sitting on the track, she’d panicked. And then when he had started to move away, she’d panicked again—for a different reason entirely.

Those flip-flopping emotions were about to drive her crazy.

Now, in the dimmed corridor, Molly closed her eyes to catch her breath and to search for a decision. He’d been rubbing his thumb on her waist, but his movements stopped when her eyes dropped closed. The soothing strokes didn’t continue until she finally reopened her eyes and dragged her attention up his chest and past his Adam’s apple. She continued up until she locked her gaze with his. When she offered him a hesitant smile, he began stroking her again with a warm smile on his lips.

Staring down at her, he let go of her hand and skimmed the back of his over her cheek. She felt her heart thundering, her pulse racing when she ran her hands up his chest, feeling each and every rippled muscle. She’d never purposely touched a man like this before. Sure, she’d felt Brody’s muscles when she’d smacked him for one reason or another. Or when trying to push him off of her after he’d wrestled her to the ground being an ornery brother and all. But this? This was foreign.

Her eyes were back on her own fingers, taking everything in. She stopped at his heart and could feel it pounding hard beneath the soft cotton t-shirt.

“Just so you know…” he started in his slow, sexy voice.

She could tell he was waiting for eye contact again before continuing. “Yeah?” she whispered.

“I’m going to fall in love with you.”

Links

Website: http://amygregory548.blogspot.com/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/amygregoryauthor548?ref=hl

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AmyGregory548

Amazon.co.uk here

Amazon.com  here

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/racing-to-love-carters-treasure-amy-gregory/1111073650?ean=9781938404085

GoodReads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4809074.Amy_Gregory

Tuesday Chit Chat with Allie Spencer

Today, we’re delighted to welcome Allie Spencer to the blog. We’re getting very excited about her next novel, Summer Nights and we wanted to find out more about Allie and the book…

Q: What are your favourite genres to read and would you ever consider writing something radically different?

My favourite genre is probably the comic novel, so I suppose I’m already writing the sort of book that I like to read! I would like to write a carefully plotted, intricate farce – a sort of novel version of an episode of Fawlty Towers (not necessarily set in a hotel, though) but I don’t know if I would have the patience to plan it all out in detail. I would also, at some point, like to try an historical novel – but I’m not sure if I could write a serious book and I don’t know if there is much of a market for comic historicals.

Q: Roughly how long does it take you to write the first draft of a novel?

In theory, it should take me two and a half months. Two thousand words a day, five days a week for ten weeks. However, at the time of answering this, my current WIP is currently languishing at 114,000 words and I’ve got at least another ten to go before I can begin pruning back the dead wood and getting stuck into full-on editing. I think the actual answer is ‘too long’!


Q: How do you find time to fit in writing with young children?

I don’t know! I write during school hours plus weekends plus any extra time I can get my husband to take care of the children. I thought it would get easier when they were both in full time school, but now they go to bed a bit later, I don’t seem to have any peace and quiet in the evenings – so it’s swings and roundabouts. I think the most important thing is that I’m available for them and we do things as a family – the last thing I want is for them to grow up and say to me ‘you were never there when we were small’.
Q: If you were not an author, what would you do?

I’d probably be back at the law. I can’t afford not to work!
Q: What makes you laugh?

Original, intelligent comedy. Preferably jokes I would never have thought of myself.


Q: What is your favourite comedy TV show?

Soooooooo hard. Probably my top three are Fawlty Towers, Blackadder and the first few series of Frasier. But that leaves out Father Ted and The Young Ones and – no, sorry, impossible question!

Q: In Summer Nights, Flora’s cousin Bella is the lead singer in an Abba tribute band so… Please list your top three favourite Abba songs and why you like them? (And have you been up singing them on the karaoke?)

Ooooh – another hard one. Probably The Winner Takes it All (very powerful), Super Trouper (remember seeing it on Swap Shop when I was little!) and ‘Thank You for the Music’. No, I haven’t done any karaoke but I do sometimes belt them out in the kitchen when there’s no one else in the house.  So far the neighbours haven’t complained…

Q: As a writer, do you take note of song lyrics above hearing the song?

Strange, but no. I take note of the overall ‘feel’ of the song. I remember when I was writing ‘Tug of Love’ David Gray’s ‘This Year’s Love’ exactly mirrored the mood I wanted to create in the book so I listened to it incessantly.  Summer Nights is a bit different because it features an Abba tribute band called Abbadabbatastic and there are an awful lot of songs mentioned in the text – including a completely made-up soul/Motown/bluesy number called ‘Respect Me’ which is written by one of the characters. Actually, there are so many brilliant songs in it that I wish I could release a soundtrack, it would be awesome…
Q: Which song do you wish you’d written?

Goodness, another impossible question! I don’t really have a favourite song. Perhaps, though, if I absolutely had to choose one, I’d go for ‘Bridge of Troubled Water’ by Paul Simon. It’s a perfect blend of mood and music and it sends shivers down my spine. Maybe one day I’ll write all the lyrics for ‘Respect Me’ from Summer Nights and have some clever person put music to it. That would be brilliant!

Thank you for answering our questions, Allie. We have one copy of Allie’s Summer Nights to giveaway to one lucky winner. We want to hear about your dream holiday destination and who your perfect companion would be…

And that’s not all! We also have a copy of Summer Loving to giveaway and we thought, for a bit of fun, we could help Allie out with her ‘Respect Me’ lyrics. So add a line or a verse of your Abba-like lyrics…

To find out more about Allie check out her website here and to order Summer Nights, due out this week click here.

The Jodi Picoult Blog

Howling Like The Wolf

This post is being run by The Romaniacs and Laura E. James

The Jodi Picoult Blog 

American author, Jodi Picoult, is rated within my top three favourite authors. She is unafraid to tackle subjects others might consider taboo, she writes from multi-viewpoint perspectives and she is an intelligent and entertaining lady.

When the day comes and I’m asked ‘Upon which shelf in the book shop would you place your novel?’ my reply will be, ‘Not next to, but somewhere in the region of Jodi Picoult.’

I do not purport to be an expert writer and I certainly do not possess the same flair or delve the same depths as Ms Picoult, but I recently realised to what extent my writing has been influenced by books such as My Sister’s Keeper and Second Glance.

In March, a friend and I drove to Axminster, an hour from Weymouth, for an evening with Jodi Picoult (pronounced Pico). I was beside myself with excitement. I could not believe an internationally acclaimed author would visit the beautiful, but small Devon town. The reason became clear as Ms Picoult explained the research for her current book, Lone Wolf, took place in Combe Martin, North Devon, at The Wolf Centre.

Having listened to a fascinating extract from the book, we were educated with great enthusiasm and knowledge about the workings of a wolf pack. Ms Picoult had clearly spent time with Shaun Ellis at The Wolf Centre and absorbed all his expert information. Her delivery was exciting, humorous and informative. Her grasp of the subject and her ability to impart it to the audience showed the extent to which she is prepared to go in order to write a gripping and accurate story.

This is why her books sell. I believe there are no half measures when it comes to Ms Picoult, an impression that will stay with me and one to which I will adhere when it comes to research and writing my novels.

At an hour in, three volunteers were requested. I am no stranger to being centre stage through my singing exploits, but I hesitated, much to my friend’s surprise. 

‘This is your time,’ she whispered. I was unsure. Then Ms Picoult added, ‘Perhaps someone who sings?’ 

‘Put your hand up,’ my friend instructed, and as if conditioned to stimuli like a Pavlovian puppy, I raised my hand. 

The next time I looked at my friend, it was from the stage. I was a Numbers wolf, the young lady to my immediate left, Alex, was a Beta wolf and next to Ms Picoult was Sarah, the Alpha wolf. 

The Alpha wolf, we were told, howls, waits for a response, then howls again. Ms Picoult demonstrated. The Beta wolf waits for the Alpha wolf to howl, then joins in, but maintains a howl four times as long as the Alpha wolf. Again, this was ably and tunefully demonstrated by our guest speaker.

The Numbers wolf yelps.

Yes. My job was to sound like a puppy whose tail had been trodden on.

The Numbers wolves make as much noise as possible to create the impression the pack is larger than it actually is. Give Ms Picoult credit; she led the way and yelped.

I yelped.

Turns out, I’d make an excellent Numbers wolf.

If I don’t cut it as a writer, I have a back-up.

Here is the video evidence. Since this was spur of the moment and we didn’t have access to high tech cameras, my friend recorded the following on her mobile phone. The visual clarity isn’t the best, but you can hear me yelp. And it is a great personal reminder of a brilliant evening. Please right click on the following link and open in another window. Jodi Picoult and guests, howling like wolves. 

We were each presented with a beautiful, soft toy wolf, which now sits on my desk. My son calls him Suma, (the wolf, not my desk), which is the name on the label in his ear. (The wolf’s, not my son’s. His label says something completely different.) Suma is the name of the toy collection, but I like that my son named our wolf.

Soon after this excitement, the evening drew to a close, an orderly line was formed and we waited to have our books signed.

That was when the carnage began.

At my request, my friend and I waited until the queue had depleted and popped ourselves at the end. I had bought two books for signing – one for me and one to give away as a prize. My friend, Debbie G, was looking after that copy. 

As we approached the desk, Debbie leading, Ms Picoult’s colleague, standing beside her, suddenly exclaimed ‘Oh! I didn’t catch your name!’ 

My friend appeared a little surprised, but handed over the book for signing and before I could say anything, she replied ‘Debbie.’ 

I swear, the next part happened in slow motion. 

I could see Ms Picoult forming the D and the E in the book – the book I wanted to give away as a prize; the book that couldn’t have anyone else’s name in except Jodi Picoult’s. I stepped from behind my friend and said, ‘I was hoping I could just have your autograph on that copy.’ 

A bewildered international best selling author looked at me. ‘But I’ve already written D,E.’ Her eyebrows furrowed, ploughed and knitted. 

‘Perhaps you could write DEAR.’ I said.

‘Dear who?’ 

‘Dear Laura.’

‘Who’s Laura?’ 

‘I am.’ 

Debbie moved in, realising Ms Picoult had no idea what was going on or why I was hijacking the signing of the book of the woman in front of me. ‘This is Laura. My friend,’ she said, easing the situation. 

Compliant, charming and with extreme patience, Ms Picoult signed the book and returned it to Debbie. It read: Dear Laura. All best, Jodi Picoult.

I handed over my copy.

This is the copy that has Jodi Picoult’s signature in it and nobody else’s name. Mission accomplished. Most parties unscathed.

Since we had come this far, and we hadn’t been forcibly ejected from the building, I decided to pass over a letter, which I had prepared earlier, with some questions in it, hoping Ms Picoult would answer them at some point in the future.

It was probably a naïve and foolish thing to do.

It was a naïve and foolish thing to do, but Ms Picoult and her associate were lovely and said they would see what they could do.

Ms Picoult then thanked me for being her Numbers wolf.

I thanked her for a fun evening.

I suppose I stand a fair chance of being remembered – for all the wrong reasons, I grant you, but remembered all the same.

There is so much more I could write about that event, but the howling is enough for now. If you ever get the chance to attend an evening with Jodi Picoult, I urge you to take it. She is charming, friendly, confident and articulate. We were party to a master class in public speaking and positive self-promotion.

Lovely lady, brilliant story-teller, fierce mother. Much respect, Ms Picoult.

I would be honoured if my books one day occupied the same store as yours.

So, to the competition: To be in with the chance of winning a signed, hardback copy of Lone Wolf, we at the Romaniacs HQ would like to know which Jodi Picoult book is your favourite and why?

Due to the size and weight of the book, we are able to open the competition to UK entries only.

The winner will be chosen by The Romaniacs and the winning entry will be published on www.lauraejames.co.uk.

Please send your entries to laura@lauraejames.co.uk by Star Wars Day – May the 4th (next Friday.)

Good luck.

Laura x

The Constraints of Time and Underwear.

I have deliberately denied myself the luxury of time.

Will it focus the mind or panic the knickers off me?

I’d like to take a moment to consider this.

 Okay.

 I’m not known for spontaneous bouts of commando-ism.

This leads me seamlessly onto discussing draughts.  Sorry. Drafts.

I started the first draft of my current WIP on January 1st 2012, as part of Sally Quilford’s 100k in a 100 Days challenge, aiming to complete it by April 9th and then edit it in time for this year’s RNA NWS read. Bearing in mind my first novel took a casual three or four years to get up to submission standard, I think I have set myself quite a challenge, but I need to know what it feels like to work to a deadline. 

I hand wrote the first draft of my first novel, then painstakingly typed, edited and formatted it five times, maybe more. With my current WIP, I have gone straight to PC.

Fret not, stationery loving soul-mates; I still have ample opportunity to hand write notes, timelines and family trees, giving me enough reason to buy new notebooks and pens. 

This time, I have been learning to banish my inner editor, a tip from other writers on The Challenge, and it has been a liberating experience. I faltered at first, desperate to change everything I’d written, but I pushed on, limiting myself to highlighting those areas that need a fuller description or improved scene setting.

The further I have progressed, the more the plot and sub plots have developed and the greater the twist is becoming. There’s always a twist. As I am now following the process of ‘getting the words down’ and restraining myself from revisiting earlier chapters, I know I am saving time. Previously, I would have refined those first draft chapters before completing the story, only to change their entire content at a later stage with the subsequent development of said plot and characters.

I would like to thank the wonderful writers who issued the advice in capital letters, BANISH YOUR INNER EDITOR, as it is the most economical and structured use of my writing time. It has also enabled me to remain fully clothed when writing. The only draft around here is on paper. 

I have loved every minute of writing this way and have learned to embrace it. Yes, plenty of my first draft words will not make the final edit, but if I hadn’t written them, the rest would not have followed.

Follow me?

 What is your preferred method of first drafting?

Laura x

Duff Dates & Chat Up Lines

What’s the worst chat up line you’ve ever heard?

Here are ours…

Catherine: Do you like chocolate? (‘Yes’) Well, drop your snickers and I’ll give you a boost.

Jan:  You’ll do.

Celia: My wife doesn’t understand me. No really, someone said it to me.

Laura: Do you paint your hair?

Lucie: You scrub up well! 

Debbie: Get your coat on, you’ve pulled!

Sue [heard about this] : Do you believe in love at first sight or shall I walk by again?

Liz: I’ll cook you dinner if you cook me breakfast!

Vanessa: Do you like big cars? (said by a French man with raised eyebrow and a smirk, waving a BMW keyring)

Tell us about your worst date:

Catherine: I went out on a date with a guy who I think fell in love with me immediately. He was far too hand-holdy for me. We went to the cinema which was fine, but as he thought it was going so well he asked me out to dinner … at McDonald’s. Not that I’m a snob, but it’s not my ideal date venue. Safe to say there was never a second date.

Sue : Went away for a camping weekend with husband (boyfriend at the time). Went on his motorbike. The exhaust burnt a hole in the panniers, which burnt my clothes (actually my sister’s, I had borrowed her trousers). Eventually set up the tent – it rained. Tent door wasn’t zipped up properly and our remaining clothes got soaked. Needless to say the weekend ended there and we went home less than 24 hours after leaving. That was my very brief and unsuccessful affair with camping.

Vanessa: Has anyone seen Pretty in Pink? Do you remember Andie and Blane’s first date? Well, that. But without the pink dress and the happy ending. I was at art college, used to indie nights at the student union, dancing to Nine Inch Nails in my Doc Martens. I met him at a friend’s party where I’d been forced to wear a dress and non steel toe-capped shoes so probably looked fairly normal. He asked me out and we arranged to meet in a bar where all the girls wore stilettos and lycra. I wore ripped jeans and DMs. I took him to a pub where all the boys wore black and had piercings. He had Hugh Grant hair and wore Chinos. I was home alone by 9.30pm and never saw him again.

Laura: A bad date? Hmm. It has to be one Gajitman and I shared on our honeymoon – that still counts as a date, right? We were in Venice, wet from the persistent rain, hungry from our day’s activities, and searching for something to eat. We had exhausted the pizzerias and pasta restaurants and were happy to find a cheap and cheerful burger bar. Back in those days, vegetarianism was not as popular in some European countires as it was in the UK, and the burger joint offered no meat-free alternatives, so I settled for fries in a bun. I consumed many chips and possibly two buns to restore my depleted energy levels. By the time we returned to the hotel, I was feeling ill. I rushed to the bathroom, knelt (because I could bend in those days) at the foot of the toilet and threw up. A chip made its escape through my nose. It was not a pleasant experience and no, I didn’t enjoy the food more, second time around. Gajitman entered the bathroom and leaned over the bidet. I was curious. ‘What are you doing?’ I asked. He glanced sideways and grinned. ‘If you’re sick, then I will be too. We’re married now and that means we do everything together.’

Celia: Asked back, aged 17,  to meet my first husband’s parents I was totally over excited by the sight of their well-stocked drinks cabinet. At my house we had sweet sherry, and that was just for Christmas. After deep thought, I chose a brandy and babycham – cool or what? (We knew how to impress people in the seventies.) Taking a happy swig, I put it down next to me, not wanting to look greedy, and concentrated on making intelligent conversation. I had decided things were going quite well, when their round, smelly and much adored dalmation heaved herself to her feet, broke wind silently and waddled over to me. In the resulting confusion – windows being opened,  etc, the dog bent to inspect my drink and slobbered right into my glass – long, glistening strings of dribble. Point of etiquette – should I mention it, and risk my future in-laws thinking I was a dog-hating snob, or take a deep breath and drink it. Well, what would you have done?

Jan:  This wasn’t a date as such. Two guys – neither of whom were as tall as my friend or I – were chatting us up in the pub one night when we suddenly heard all this shouting and cheering going on over the far side. It was a strip -o-gram. Our two admirers were desperately craning their necks to ogle a glimpse of flesh but not being tall enough to see properly used mine and my friend’s shoulders for leverage.  Nice!

Lucie: When I was about 14 I really fancied this boy and we had been texting for weeks. We finally arranged to meet up and I spent hours doing my hair and picking out some nice clothes. I walked into town and stood outside Woolworths; the agreed meeting point. I waited. I waited some more. I waited about two hours before I left. He stood me up. At 14, I was heartbroken. So technically not a date – although do you need both parties for it to qualify as a bad date? 

Debbie: Same as Jan, this wasn’t on a date, but during a night out in the 80’s with a girlfriend when we met two young men in a bar.

My friend was soon engrossed with one of the guys. ‘Mine’ was quite good looking and we were having a laugh, although it was packed in the bar and the music so loud I couldn’t hear everything he was saying. I had to tell him to speak up a couple of times. Anyway, all of a sudden, he looked at me, his eyes glazed over and he kind of glared, and then, out of the blue, he head butted me!

‘Well, there’s no need for that!’ I shouted. Feeling shocked, I put a hand to my forehead to see if it was bleeding. Then I went mad. Seeing red, I tossed my drink in his face and  slammed the glass down on a table but he grabbed for my arm and tried to say something which I couldn’t hear. His hair and shirt were soaked. My friend and his stood there open mouthed in amazement watching as I yanked my arm away, shouted, ‘Let go of me!’ and hurled some choice expletives at him.

By now everyone was staring at us and two bouncers came over and started leading us both towards the exit door. ‘Did you see what he just did?’ I said, feeling outraged. 

The bouncers tried to calm things but my friend, now incensed, stepped in and began shouting at both men too. Before long we were all arguing and shouting over each other. I was still reeling and holding my head and by now,  feeling really embarrassed and upset that we’d been kicked out. 

It wasn’t until we were outside, without the loud music that the guy who’d assaulted me turned to me, his face totally sincere and full of horror at what had happened and said, ‘Look I’m really, really sorry. I didn’t head butt you, honestly. I just sneezed…’

Liz: I was seventeen, shallow and wearing heels that were put on this earth purely to dislocate ankles.
He had a sports car, weird hair but a good sense of humour. So what could go wrong?
I can’t remember where we had been, but on the basis that I hadn’t sneaked out of a back door or taken a call from a friend regarding an imaginary burst pipe in my imaginary house; it can’t have been a bad date. Until he dropped me home.

We had talked about a second date and I was keen to impress to him so I made sure I walked with a little extra wiggle across my drive way towards my front door conscious that he was watching me. And then it happened. The clunk. The clink. The thump.

My heel had slipped into the tiny gaps in the metre long grate that was in my driveway and as if there was some kind of secret cement, my heel was well and truly jammed.

I could feel my face redden as I became more aware of my date’s eyes on me as I tried to wriggle my heel to freedom.  There was only one way to escape this nightmare situation and that was to pretend that there was nothing wrong.

A glance over my shoulder saw his confused and concerned expression, to which I beamed a smile of reassurance back. The show must go on.

I stepped forward dragging my troubled heel behind bringing with me the long narrow grate attached like a metallic ski until I reached the front door. The confused and concerned expression from my date had now evolved into a slow stunned shake of the head.

I knew before I had even attempted to walk into my house that this was going to be a problem because the length of the grate was bigger than the door. It was impossible for me to get into the house, but I had already made an idiot out of myself so what could possibly make the situation any worse?
Without hesitation, I bent down and unzipped my boot releasing a bright pink and white striped sock and without looking back I entered the house and refused to acknowledge the whole situation had ever happed.
Who ever knew his sense of humour was going to come in so handy?