Wednesday Wondering – Life Swap with a Fictional Character

Hello there and welcome to the first Wednesday Wondering of the year. Hope the first two weeks of 2015 have been good to you and, if not, there are still 50 to go so plenty of time for improvement.

How many times have you read a book and recognised yourself in the protagonist? Or perhaps one of the characters says or does things that you’d love to do if you were older/younger/prettier/slimmer/taller/more daring/less self-conscious and so on. What if you could swap lives with that protagonist? How exciting would that be?

With this in mind, my question for The Write Romantics this month is:

If you could leap into any book, current or historical, which character would you like to be and why?

P1060112I’ve read hundreds of books in my time and I have definitely related to characters (particularly Bridget Jones) and I’ve definitely been envious of where other characters get their happy ever after (particularly  classics brought to life on the big or small screen like Emma and Pride & Prejudice) but there is only one occasion in my life where I’ve absolutely wanted to be someone else. So much so that I used to actually write her name in books and on other possessions. The name of the character was Darrell Rivers which will probably bring back memories for so many of you as the protagonist of Enid Blyton’s wonderful Malory Towers series.

I loved Darrell right from the start as a rather sullen judgmental character who made quite a few mistakes right through to the mature, popular individual she became at the end. Talk about a major character arc! I would imagine she went on to be incredibly successful with a wonderful partner and perfect children and never had to diet in her life. So who wouldn’t want to be her!

Here’s what the rest of the WRs said …

Alys says …

photo-1When I started thinking about this I realised that although I’d love to say Elizabeth Bennett if I actually had to live her life I wasn’t sure I could handle Regency plumbing. So it had to be someone post-1900 and then the answer was obvious. You’ve all heard me bang on about Dorothy L Sayers and my love of Lord Peter Wimsey. If I was going to live a character’s life then I’d want to be Harriet Vane, the crime novelist that Lord Peter falls in love with. Harriet has an amazing life. She’s a very successful writer, she studied at Oxford, goes on healthy walking holidays in Devon (where obviously she finds a corpse!) and has dates in glamorous nightspots with Lord Peter. There is just one complication which is that she also gets tried for the murder of her former lover. Obviously she’s not guilty as Lord Peter proves but she spends rather a lot of time in prison and the penalty for murder at that time was hanging so I’d really rather avoid all of that. So if I could take over just before the start of Have His Carcase then that’d be great, thanks!

Lynne says …

It wasn’t till I thought about this post that I realised that many of the heroines of books I’ve enjoyed are tragic heroines!

But there is one who is totally not a tragic figure, more a very lucky person indeed, and this is Elizabeth Bennett, heroine of Pride and Prejudice, who learns during the course of the story to ditch her pride and prejudice and take up with the totally dashing and handsome Darcy who comes complete with a huge and very beautiful home.

Anyone who knows me will know that I love ancient buildings and help run the Gloucestershire group of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings which was started by William Morris. I also had a couple of false starts in the relationship department, it took me a while to find someone who was a worthy partner.

Together they make an irresistible package, handsome and kind man with a ready made property ready to fill with babies, what more could any girl ask for? So, without a doubt, Elizabeth Bennett is my choice!

Jo says …

P1060110I thought about trying to come across as intellectual when answering this question, but then I thought “stuff it, I’ll be honest instead!” I think, at times when I need comfort, there isn’t anything better than returning to the books I read and loved as a child – nothing quite gives me that cosy feeling and sense of home. If I had to have one feeling for the rest of my life, it would be that and so it is one of these characters I have to choose. My dad always read Wind in the Willows to me and I wouldn’t mind being Mole. He’s got a close group of friends and he overcomes his fears but ultimately loves nothing better than his home life. Sounds, good to me.

P1060111I loved Paddington and Winnie the Pooh growing up too and, if I became a bear, I could give up the battle to try and lose weight that I’ve tried to fight (mostly unsuccessfully) for my whole adult life. Plus, who doesn’t love the cover-all-qualities of a duffle coat? However, I think it’s Pooh’s friend, Tigger, I’d most like to be. His boundless energy, capacity for bouncing and, as AA Milne put it, “love for everything” has to be a recipe for happiness, so I’ll take that.

Rachael says …

This is a great wondering, but the question is whether to go for a modern character or a historical one?

School_Gate final jpegIf I were to choose a historical character it would have to be Jane Austen’s Elizabeth Bennett, a favourite for many I’m sure. Her constant denial of Mr Darcy throughout the story holds you from the beginning to the end. But what did she really think? Stepping into her shoes would be a fascinating experience. Check out this link.

On the other hand, to choose a modern character, I’d like to leap into Kerry Fisher’s The School Gate Survival Guide, a book we reviewed last year in our book group. I so want to be Maia and sort that no-good-for-nothing husband of hers out. You’ll have to read it to find out why!

Deirdre says …

Friends at Thrush GreenI’ve always thought I’d like to be Miss Read.  Miss Read is the pen-name of Dora Saint, and she appears as a character/narrator in many of her own books which are based largely on her own life experiences.

The stories are set deep in the heart of1950s rural Oxfordshire. Miss Read is headmistress of the village school at Fairacre and lives in the adjoining school house with her cat, Tibby. Despite her friends’ attempts at matchmaking, she has never married (although Dora herself did), but she is no lonely spinster. She leads a busy and fulfilling life among the lively inhabitants of Fairacre and the neighbouring village of Thrush Green, and there’s no shortage of children in her life as generations of them have passed through her capable teaching hands.

Fairacre AffairsMiss Read’s life has its moments of high drama but any troubles she encounters always resolve themselves, and then it’s all about jam-making and jumble-sales, tea at the vicarage, and the yearly round that constitutes country life. Post-war Britain was a peaceful yet celebratory time and the villagers needed little excuse to put out the bunting. As the headmistress, Miss Read is a well-loved and respected figure who plays a key part in village life, but at the end of the day she shuts her door, lights the fire and turns to her many books for company. Yes, I’d definitely like a taste of that.

photo-2Helen P says …

If I could be anyone it would be Bella Swan from Breaking Dawn. Who wouldn’t want Edward or Jacob fighting over them. Plus I’d get to be a vampire, I love vampires. I’d also get to drive a really nice Mercedes and sparkle every time I stepped into the sunlight. What more could a girl ask for 😉

Helen R says …

If I could leap into any book I’d like to leap into The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton, as any of the children, Jo, Bessie and Fanny! They had such amazing adventures, even just climbing the tree in the first place. What fun it would be to meet Saucepan Man, Moon-Face, and run from Dame Washalot when she pours water down the tree. I’d love to discover new lands at the top of the tree, forever guessing what we would come up against next.

Sharon says …

FollyfootThis is a tricky one. At first I tried to be sophisticated and thought of all those classics – Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, Rebecca…then I thought, fascinating as those stories are, would I really want to live the life of Jane, Elizabeth or the second Mrs DeWinter? The truth is, I wouldn’t.

So then I tried to think of characters who I thought had fabulous lives and that proved more difficult than I thought, too. The trouble is, of course, that fictional characters have such rollercoaster lives. The very thing that makes them interesting – all the ups and downs and trials and tribulations that they have to endure – is the very thing that makes me think, no thanks. I have quite enough problems to deal with without going through all theirs.

My initial reaction was, I’d like to be Dora from Monica Dickens’ Follyfoot books. Then I thought, but hang on – Dora was ever-so-slightly over-emotional, highly sensitive, suffered the endless angst of worrying about all those poor ill-treated horses, and seemed to spend most of her time in tears. So I scrapped that and tried to think of someone else. But you know what? I kept coming back to Dora, and I think it’s Dora I would choose finally.

Dora and SteveWhen I was a child, she was my absolute heroine, and I thought she had the perfect life. Really, when I look at it I think she did. Okay, she worried endlessly about the fate of all those horses, but we all have to worry about something and I can’t think of a better thing to worry about. Plus – she was surrounded by horses! And she got to rescue so many of them! And she lived at Follyfoot Farm which seemed like pretty much the perfect home to me. She had an uncle who doted on her and friends who shared her compassion and beliefs – even the tearaway, Ron. And she had Steve! I mean, Steve! Even if he did mysteriously change his name from Paul (I suspect something to do with the television series) he was a bit of a sweetheart wasn’t he? And he loved horses, too, while being calm and rational enough to balance and steady Dora who sometimes let her heart rule her head far too much.

So yes, I’d be Dora from Follyfoot. Not the most sophisticated choice, but I think I’d have a jolly nice life!

We’d love to hear from you. Which character would you be and why? What do you think of our choices? Would you go for one of the ones we’ve chosen?

Thanks for reading.

Jessica xx

The Wednesday Wondering – What do we have to be nervous about?

Welcome to our first Wednesday Wondering of the new format i.e. a monthly rather than a weekly wondering.

Although I would absolutely love to make writing my career, I need to work full time to pay the mortgage and the bills. For most of my working life, I’ve been in Human Resources in training and/or recruitment roles. I’m currently a Learning & Development Advisor for a food manufacturing company. One of my favourite parts of this role is supporting staff members who have some development needs. Recently, I’ve been coaching someone on presentation skills. This individual is actually a very confident presenter but wanted to work on his presentation content and how to keep his audience interested in his message. However, most people I’ve coached on presentations before are really nervous about standing up and speaking in front of others. A Forbes survey in the USA a few years back revealed that, next to dying, public speaking was the biggest fear people had.

My question to The Write Romantics this week is therefore:

What makes you nervous and why? When was the last time you were really nervous and what did you do (if anything) to overcome the nerves?

Here’s what they said:


P1050475Helen R says …

I get nervous flying. The flight from Australia to the UK takes 24 hours and I do my best to tackle the nerves by reading, watching movies and shutting my eyes whilst I daydream the time away. This usually works until there is turbulence which reminds me if where I am, or when I think of recent events involving air travel. During my recent long haul flight I read Hazel Gaynor’s “The Girl Who Came Home” and lost myself in that world for hours 🙂


Jay says …

What makes me really nervous?  I suppose it’s the things where I am most bothered about the outcome.  Job interviews, if I really want the role, opening up emails from publishers about novel submissions or getting feedback from others about whether I am ‘good’ at something or not.  All of those things make me nervous to varying extents.  Sometimes public speaking does too, but only when it’s about *me*.  As a lecturer and Chair of multidisciplinary meetings I can be über confident, because it’s professional not personal, but when I have to speak about myself… not so much.  I always think of it as being a bit like Worzel Gummidge, for those of you who remember, and putting on a different head!

However, it is probably the single most important thing in life that makes me most nervous – checks on my health.  Having been diagnosed with cancer in November 2010, I have to undergo six monthly check-ups, which shred my nerves.  I watch the radiographer and consultant’s faces when they are carrying out the tests and imagine that they are looking at me with sympathy and that I’m doomed!  I’m getting a bit braver and went for my last check-up without taking someone’s hand to hold (usually hubby or my mum), but I am not sure I would do it again, as the waiting outside the scanning room was torture.

Things I do to make it better?  Forgetting about it for the six months, in between visits, is the best that I can do.  Oh and hubby hiding the appointment letters until the last minute, so that I don’t have to think about it for too long.  It’s a lesson in life though… next time you’re nervous about that job interview or bit of public speaking, ask yourself this – “what’s the worst that could happen?” – and remind yourself that, whatever it is, it could be a whole lot worse.


Harriet says …

Enclosed spaces unnerve me, especially lifts. There was a time when I wouldn’t step inside one, not even accompanied. Now I can, but I’m never comfortable. The worst part, beyond the lift getting stuck which would be my greatest nightmare, is that endless moment between the lift stopping and the doors opening. What I have is claustrophobia, of course. It can happen in all kinds of places, not necessarily in small spaces. I don’t like being in windowless rooms, or anywhere I can’t keep the way out within my sight all the time.

P1050477A couple of years ago I had a course of CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) at an NHS clinic. I got on quite well and by the end I was sailing up and down in lifts and locking myself in the smallest spaces (yes, I mean public loos!) with hardly any qualms, but it took a lot of practice and concentration. CBT isn’t a cure but it teaches you to replace irrational thoughts with useful ones so that whenever you’re in the fearful situation you have the means to cope. As time has gone on, I’ve become quite laid back over trying to defeat my phobia and now I use a combination of methods to get by. I have the ‘tricks’ my therapist taught me but I also use a tactic which is absolutely wrong in terms of CBT – avoidance. If you continue to avoid a situation, you are fuelling the fear. That’s the theory and it’s true, of course, but I’ve also come to terms with the problem in that I don’t mind that I have it. Claustrophobia is one of the commonest phobias; you hear people all the time saying that they don’t like lifts – you meet them mostly half way up eight flights of stairs – and knowing so many people feel the same kind of makes it all right.


Alys says …

There’s quite a lot of things which make me nervous but I’ll talk about the writing related ones. Going to London to meet my agent was pretty terrifying. Even though logically I knew that they wouldn’t want to meet me if they weren’t interested in representing me it didn’t stop me feeling pretty sick going into the meeting. Looking back now I’m surprised that I managed to get through it without spilling my tea or tripping over the carpet.

I rather stupidly did something that was even harder than that earlier in the year when I read aloud at an event organised by York Writers as part of York Literature Festival. It was held in the basement bar at our local arts cinema. I’d told myself that it wasn’t a very big place and I’d be fine. But when I got there it suddenly seemed massive. And it was almost full with nearly 100 people there. The stage was about two inches off the floor and the lights were so bright that I couldn’t see the audience at all. I read the first couple of pages of Beltane and my hands shook all the way through. I guess it was good experience but definitely one I never want to do again.


Rachael says …

I tend to worry about traveling. If I have a journey to make, I worry about all sorts of things that could go wrong, even though I know they probably never will. I don’t do this when I book or arrange the trip, but a day or two before – but it hasn’t stopped me going yet! The strange thing about this is that I love to travel, explore new places and meet new people.


P1050476And as for me …

It’s one word: confrontations. I can’t bear them. At work, I like to think that I build great relationships with my customers and behave in a way that avoids confrontations but sometimes things are out of my control and someone else does something that means I’m going to have to raise a delicate issue. My stomach does a somersault, my hands go shaky, my heart races and I feel physically sick. Awful. There’s nothing I can do to overcome the nervous feeling; it’s always going to be there in this situation. I think the only way I’d feel better would be if I could cuddle my teddy bear tightly, close my eyes and wish it all away! Unfortunately I’ve had a couple of appalling weeks where I’ve had several confrontations or situations where there could easily be one including a face-to-face one at work and an over-the-phone one with a family member. I’m exhausted as a result!


Please join in and let us know what makes you nervous or any coping strategies you can recommend. You’ll find the comments tag at the end of the post tags below.

Thank you.

Jessica xx

The Wednesday Wondering – We all love a bit of cake!

Welcome to our final Wednesday Wondering … Don’t panic if you love this slot. It’s not the final ever one. It’s just the final one in the weekly format. We love The Wednesday Wondering and, with a background in recruitment, I could quite happily make up questions for a long, long time to come. However, there are lots of other things we’d like to do on the blog so we’ve decided to launch a new format for Wednesdays. From now on, there’ll be a Wednesday Wondering on the second Wednesday of the month, a book review on the last one and posts from The Write Romantics on the remaining Wednesdays.

We hadn’t discussed these changes when I set today’s Wondering so it feels quite apt that I’ve picked a question that’s about something we associate with celebrations. This is definitely a celebration of the end of our first phase and the launch of our next. So, what is it?

_MG_2084Cake. We like cake. A lot. And, would you believe, today is National Cheesecake day!!! I found that on Google although I suspect it may be in the US rather than UK but who cares; we have an international reach! So my question to The Write Romantics is:

What is your pudding of choice and why? Where have you tasted the best ever pudding? Do you call it pudding or dessert (or perhaps something else). Let’s talk all things cakey and salivate a bit!!! (ok, a lot in my case!!!)

The worst thing is that I started a very, very, VERY strict diet yesterday so I’m munching on a dish of fruit and trying not to drool at the wonderful pictures!

Over to the Write Romantics …

Rachael says …

Wow, National Cheesecake Day. I didn’t know it existed, but you can be sure I will be celebrating it with a huge slice of strawberry cheesecake! But my most favourite desert is one I had whilst in Italy. It was so light, so delicious and sooooo…. Oh I could go on. I’ve never tasted anything like it before – or since. It is Zabaglione and was served in an elegant glass. Simply divine!


_MG_9130Lynne says …

National Cheesecake day? What a good idea! My sanity was once saved when I moved into a gorgeous old cottage in January and the central heating packed up straight away. Golden Syrup Sponge & Custard came to the rescue. I had to wait three days till the repair person could get to us so I went out and bought syrup sponge & custard & heated it in the microwave. It was like internal central heating and kept my daughter and I sane. It’s still my favourite winter pud, followed by lemon sorbet & fruit in summer.


Jay says …

Back at the start of the month we were talking about all things American and what we like best about our friends across the pond, well, let me tell you, they do puddings pretty well too.  The first time we went to Vegas, my brother actually ate six desserts at one sitting and almost earned citizenship as a result!  I think the best desert I ever tasted was a key lime pie from a little deli in Florida, but then there are Krispy Kremes and they are also responsible for inventing the hot, chocolate brownie.  So many desserts, so little time.  Time to book another trip I think!


P1030217Helen P says …

National Cheesecake day, well it would be rude not to. My all time favourite cake is cheesecake, especially the ones at Chandler’s Country Café which is based in Colony Candles, Lindal-in-Furness. The staff there have amazing taste in books as well because the last time I was there they told me how much they loved The Ghost House which was brilliant and it made the cake taste even better. You have never tasted cheesecake like it and the raspberry and white chocolate one is to die for. In fact now that I’m sitting thinking about it I’m going to have to take my mum there now for a coffee and a slice of cheesecake to take away the craving.


Helen R says …

I think I would tend to call it “dessert” but give me a week in England and I’ll be calling it “pudding”…my family would definitely use that word!

There are so many desserts to choose from, but a top for me is syrup sponge, nice and hot and perhaps with a side of vanilla ice-cream 🙂


Jackie says …

Cake. Ooh, we like cake- and puddings and anything sweet and unctuous.  Suet pudding and custard with syrup was an all time favourite when I was a child followed by jam Roly Poly and custard. Love Banoffi Pie, sticky toffee pudding, strawberry tarts with confectioners custard. Trifle that my sister Heather makes is gorgeous, pecan pie is delish- I could go on! The only thing I’m not that keen on is a pudding or cake made with coffee-Tirimasu or coffee and Walnut cake always disappoints, but it wouldn’t stop me eating it. I’m a lost cause!


_MG_9132Harriet says …

Ah, now here’s an easy question because I love puds. All of them. My mother-in-law made the best ever. After Sunday lunch (full roast plus at least six vegetables) she would produce three or four choices of pudding, all home-made, and what we couldn’t eat we took home. My favourite was summer pudding, packed full of any fruit she could lay her hands on, including raspberries and rhubarb from her own garden, and served with plenty of cream. Scrumptious! I’ve attempted to make them myself but somehow they aren’t the same. They do a pretty good version at ‘Cook’, though. I’m also a sucker for old-fashioned puds like treacle sponge and spotted dick and custard. I tend to call it pudding rather than dessert, which is as much frowned upon in ‘polite’ English circles as saying serviette instead of napkin, but I don’t really care what it’s called as long as I get one!


Alys says …

Ooh, this is a fabulous question!  All time favourite cake is Santiago Cake which I had in the fabulous Hundred Monkeys Cafe in Glastonbury. That place is utterly brilliant. I drink a lot of green tea and usually when I ask for it they have to go and look to see if they’ve got any teabags hidden behind the till. At the Hundred Monkeys they have a choice of five different loose green teas. It’s green tea heaven for me! Anyway, back to the cake. Santiago Cake is made from almonds, caster sugar, lemons and eggs and then you pour a lemon syrup over the top of it when it’s cooling. This cake was sublime. I was still talking about how fabulous it was over six months later. But if you want to talk about puddings then it’s got to be the sticky toffee pudding that they serve in the New Malton Inn in Malton, North Yorkshire. That’s where Jessica and I get together as she lives in Scarborough and I live in York and Malton is about half-way. It is pudding to die for. If you’re ever in Malton pop in and ask for some. In fact, it’s so good just go anyway. You won’t regret it!


P1040958And as for me …

I absolutely adore cake, puddings, and anything sweet. Unfortunately they don’t adore me, hence the very strict diet at the moment (or perhaps that should be they adore me too much and like to stick around!)

Alys has already mentioned the amazing sticky toffee pudding smothered in butterscotch sauce *pauses to wipe drool* which might give you an indication that I’m with Harriet in that I love old school puds like chocolate sponge, syrup sponge, jam roly-poly etc. Nom nom nom! I call them puddings or pud-puds. We were never “dessert” people in our house.

I love cheesecake too, especially American-style cheesecake. There’s an episode of Friends where Rachel gets a cheesecake delivered to her apartment by mistake and, as they don’t know where it should have gone, she and Chandler eat it. Then another one arrives and they manage to drop it on the hall floor so lie down and dig out their cutlery. That would be me. Heaven.

Cake-wise, I have a fondness for simple slab cakes like Angel Layer Cake or Iced Madeira Cake. I draw the line at things that are nutty or fruity; my cakes have to be full-on, hard-core, serious sponge situations!


We hope you’ve enjoyed our weekly Wonderings and that you’ll comment on your favourite cake(s) and/or pudding(s). Please continue to visit every Wednesday as we’ve not gone away; we’ve just changed our format a little.

Thanks for reading.

Jessica xx





The Wednesday Wondering – Moon Landings and Being Alone

This Saturday (July 20th) will see the 45th anniversary since man landed on the moon. I was born in 1972 so this is something that I personally didn’t experience but I completely appreciate the huge impact this historic event had.

But did it really happen?


Ooh, controversial! My dad is quite fascinated by science and space and recalls watching the event unfold on a black and white TV like so many other people around the world and he’d have never, ever questioned that it happened. Then he saw a documentary about it and it made him seriously question something he’d accepted for most of his life.

According to Stanley Kubrik’s widow, the late great film director himself directed the moonlandings from a studio in Borehamwood, London! Conspiracy theories site both rationale for the landings (winning the Space Race in the Cold War, distraction from the Vietnam War and funding issues) and reasons to doubt it (far too many to list here) and, to be honest, these have been demonstrated extremely compellingly in various documentaries on the subject. If you’re unfamiliar with these conspiracy theories, Google it! There’s a mass of information there.

Do I believe man landed on the moon? Honestly? I’m not sure. I’d like to think they did but the conspiracy theory information and this documentary I watched were so unbelievably convincing. I guess that’s the point, though.

This week I’ve asked a two-part question. The first part is:

Did man really land on the moon or was it a huge hoax in the studio?

My second part of the question sticks with the space theme and is:

Are we alone? Have you ever had a close encounter or know anyone who has? Do you think there are other beings out there? Are they amongst us today?

When I was younger, I went to Girl Guides. My mum would drop me off and pick me up. One day she was late and I started to worry as she was never late (these were the days way before mobiles, of course). She finally pulled up all flustered and the reason for being late was that she’d just been coming out of the house to get in the car when something caught her eye; a UFO hovering over the field opposite our house. It then shot off at speed. My mum doesn’t believe in stuff like that. Well, she didn’t until that day.

I personally believe that, in a universe of our size (much of which is still unexplored), we cannot possibly be alone. I don’t think there are little green men out there but I do think there are other beings; perhaps like us, perhaps different. I believe they’ve been to earth. They may even be among us still. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no expert on this and haven’t researched it all but there’s a logical side of me that says that some of the things that have happened in the past e.g. the building of the pyramids to name an obvious one, have had intervention from more advanced beings. I think time travel has happened and is possibly still happening. But then my head hurts when I think of what this means so I’ll stop thinking and hand over to the other Write Romantics:


P1050370Alys says …

I like to think the moon landings actually happened. I’ve heard Buzz Aldrin talk about it in interviews and he sounds absolutely genuine. But I’ve not seen the documentary so I’ve not got that to compare it to. If it was a huge hoax then they’ve done a great job with Buzz because he sounds completely convincing. As to whether I believe in aliens, I’m not sure. I wouldn’t rule it out. The universe is larger than I can possibly imagine so I guess it’s not impossible that other life forms evolved on other planets. I have met someone who believed passionately in aliens but I have to say I didn’t find his theories particularly convincing.


Deirdre says …

I remember it well and it was such an exciting time. We marvelled at it and at the same time we were perhaps a little frightened by it, as we were by the earlier missions that were part of the ‘space race’ between the USA and Russia to land a man on the moon, one of which was the fated Apollo 1 expedition in which three astronauts died.

I don’t recall exactly which expedition it was but some time before the moon landing, I remember my mother waking me up in the early hours to tell me that a particular astronaut had returned safely to earth. I hadn’t known she was that interested but she seemed so moved by it and I realised then what an impact space exploration could have on ordinary people.

The moon landing was phenomenal and no, I never doubted it happened for a minute, and I wasn’t aware that anyone else did either. In the aftermath the names Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were on everyone’s lips. At the time I used to go to a Friday night disco at the polytechnic and the film of the moon landing was played on a big screen throughout the evening.

Is there anybody out there? I don’t think so. I believe Earth is unique in that respect, but I also believe that there’s a lot more to life and the universe than ordinary humans will ever know, and that’s probably how it should be.


P1050377Helen P says …

I’d like to think that there was a man on the moon and that back then they did something amazing. Altogether there have been twelve men who have supposedly walked on the moon but none since 1972, which with all the advances in technology makes me ask why haven’t they sent a team up lately?

I haven’t had any close encounters of the third kind but I know a couple of people who swear that they have. I’m not sure about this, I don’t think we’re alone and my favourite all time film is Aliens so if there is something out there I just hope they don’t have acid for blood and a penchant for killing everything in sight.


Helen R says …

I think that man did land on the moon, yes … but then again, I believed my husband was attacked by a shark when he showed me the scar on  his arm (caused by a machine, not some ocean adventure!)

As for aliens, I am a down to earth person and don’t tend to question what’s going on around us, just accept it as it is. I think that classes me as a realist, but I’m sure lots of people think differently 🙂


P1050374Jay says …

Yes, I think man did land on the moon and what’s more I have always been jealous that this was the event that marked the year of my sister’s birth, whilst I got decimalisation… She got the looks too, some things in life just aren’t fair!

I think there must be life out there, although I haven’t had any personal experience of anything alien-related. I’m not sure I believe in little green men who pop down and abduct us for experimentation, but when I think about the universe and the fact that no-one knows where it ends, it hurts my head. So we can’t be the only ones, can we?


Lynne says …

Close encounters are a bit of a thing with me; see my Hallowe’en post last year. I could talk for England on ghosts but that’s not quite what’s meant here. I watched the moon walkers land on the moon so yes, I believe it. I don’t know that there are alien species walking amongst us but I’m pretty sure there are ghosts so I guess expect the unexpected!


P1050375Rachael says …

I have never questioned if man did land on the moon, but you’ve set doubts in my mind now. It does seem so improbable, so completely impossible. As for are we alone, I’m going to sit on the fence here, having never had any kind of close encounter. I don’t especially want one either!


Over to you. We’d love to hear your thoughts and, even better, any alien encounters you may have had! …

Wednesday Wondering – Rescue Me!


As romance writers, you’d probably expect that we’re fans of romance films and particularly those that might fall into the rom-com bracket. I personally absolutely love them. Can’t get enough of them. And when I find one I love, I’ll watch it over and over and over again.

There are some absolute classics (such as Pretty Woman, Bridget Jones’s Diary and pretty much anything by Richard Curtis), some misses (New Year’s Day was one of those for me) and some that grow on you with repeated watching (He’s Just Not That Into You).

P1050243One of my favourite rom-coms of recent times is the wonderful Leap Year with Amy Adams and Matthew Goode (nom nom). If you’ve seen it, you’ll know that he asks her what she’d stop to collect if her house was on fire and this is ultimately the crux of her realising her life needs to change. So, my question (in a month that has nothing to do with leap year) is if your house was on fire and your family and animals were all safe, what item(s) would you rescue before you fled to safety?

Note how I added an ‘s’ onto the end of item(s)? That’s mainly because I knew I wouldn’t be able to just pick one! I’d need the fire to be pretty slow-burning and in the right part of the house so I could grab my computer and my husband’s. He has all the photos of the munchkin on his Mac although I suspect he has them backed up somewhere remotely so we might be ok. I have all my writing on mine. Hmm, maybe I should try some remote cloud-y type stuff just in case! If it was night-time, I’d have to grab my wedding, engagement and eternity rings as I don’t wear them to bed. I’d also need to raid my bear cabinet. I collect proper jointed mohair collectable bears. Realistically there’s no way I could get them all so I’d make sure I rescued two very special ones: Mark Elvet and Paddington. Mark Elvet is the first bear I ever made when I had my teddy bear shop in 2005-07. I named him after my husband who I’d met 2 months after opening the shop and the street name in Durham (Elvet Bridge) where I attended my workshop). The Paddington is a Steiff and was my wedding present from the hubby. I love all my bears but these two are very special. Finally, I’d collect the munchkin’s favourite teddy, Pinky, because she’d be devastated if she lost him.


Let’s hear what the others have to say:

Deirdre says …
Interesting question, and not so easy to answer as I first thought. To begin with I came up with a list of ‘essential’ items, went through it again and realised that, actually, hardly any of them are essential at all. Now there’s a surprise! So, I would rescue my handbag and address book, our photo albums, and my USB stick which contains all my writing, just in case Dropbox lets me down. Oh, and I’d grab a couple pairs of comfortable shoes in case I can’t get the same ones again. My feet must not suffer!

P1050235Helen P says …
Gosh I hate to even think about this because my house is full to the brim with so many of us living in there but if it was on fire and everyone was safe I would have to rescue my small Cath Kidston tin full of pen drives on which I have various ideas for novels stored on and my current works in progress. I’d be so lost without them.

Alys says …
It’s probably a bit sad but I think I’d save my laptop. Not just because the MS for Beltane and the work I’ve done on my second novel, Lughnasa are on here. They’re all backed up so that should be alright. It’s also my work computer and it would be tricky to do the day job without it. But the main reason is because photographs, music and so many happy memories are stored on here.

Helen R says …
Leaving behind the sensible approach which would be to grab the file with passports, birth certificates etc, I would grab my box of photo albums. These would be irreplaceable…memories from my childhood and memories of my own girls as babies through to the ages they are now.

Jay says …
I expect almost everyone will say this, but for me it would be photographs and videos. The irreplaceable ones would be of the children growing up and, even more than that, of my Dad who died almost 14 years ago. I have some hilarious video of him riding a bike for the first time in about 30 years, shortly before he was diagnosed with cancer. He’s laughing, in fact we all are, and that is something I couldn’t bear to lose. If there was time, I would also grab my laptop, as I am rubbish at backing up my latest WiP and I would likely lose thousands of words if I lost that… in fact, I might go and get a pen drive and a fire proof box right now, just in case! P1050239

Lynne says …
I love anything shabby chic and handmade using strong, natural elements like copper, linen, leather, wool, willow. I have a small collection of Mulberry bags made with chunky leather like animal hide, some clothes made of linen so thick that it is almost carved rather than sewn, and deep red copper, rich with natural pigments. I cook with vintage copper and love thick, chunky pieces that are made with ancient dovetail joints not the modern pressed stuff so I guess it would be whatever I could grab from that little gathering.

Rachael says …
If family and pets were safe and I could rush back in and rescue just something, it would be…… This is a hard one as I’d want to rescue everything, but just one thing would be external memory device for both the farm computer and my writing computer. At least that way I’d have all my writing and cow records.

Jaxx says …
Strangely enough my daughter was talking about this, the other day and there was no room for manoeuvre. It was family (she would push me out of the window if I was incapacitated, apparently- thanks for that!) Then it was Pushkins the cat, then Cheddar the hamster and then her iPad mini. I guess I would go with the same kind of thing and add my laptop as most of my writing is backed up to Dropbox, now. Haven’t seen my jewellery box since I hid it in the loft last summer before going on holiday so I guess that shows I don’t need the contents of that! Would quite like to take the piano and my guitar too but think that might be getting silly.

Over to you. What would you grab (whilst touching wood and hoping that none of us are ever really in this situation)?


All About America – Wednesday Wondering

The Wednesday Wondering baton has passed back to me and I have to say I’m very excited to be the Question Master again! It’s been really lovely taking a step back and seeing what my fellow-Write Romantics have come up with but it’s also lovely to be coming up with a new set of questions myself, especially after a break of several months.

statue of liberty3On Saturday, Rhoda Baxter joined us and launched a week of US-themed posts. Lynne Connolly also shared her knowledge and experience about the US market on Monday and we’ll be hearing more from Lynne tomorrow. As you’d expect, the Wednesday Wondering also has an American-theme.

I thought I’d start this post with a little bit of trivia and the first thing that popped into my head was, “I wonder how many towns or cities in America are named after towns in the UK?” This seemed a very apt pondering because USA week is timed in celebration of 4th of July and 4th of July is the celebration of independence from the UK. Which means that there are a lot of English settlers in America who will have taken English town names with them. I Googled it (of course) and the best source seemed to be Wiki. I know Wiki isn’t always 100% accurate and the site itself claims to be incomplete but it was certainly a good starting point. The site listed each state then the number of UK-town-namesakes in that State. Hmm. Count entries against all 52 states? Maybe. After all, Alabama only has 4 and California has 7 listed. Then I scrolled down a bit further and found Massachusetts with approx. 110. I couldn’t bring myself to undertake that count. If anyone is really desperate to know, here’s the link and good luck to you! Please let us know how you get on 🙂

Back to the Wondering. I asked a very simple question this week:

What do you love about the USA?


Jaxx says …

I guess us Brits are ruled by the weather and it makes us inclined to be gloomy and pessimistic and I love the way the Americans will put a positive spin on anything, even against the glaring evidence suggesting the opposite:

“The world’s gonna end in five!”

“Yay, that means I won’t have to spend the last of my wages on filling the Chevvy with gas.”

I suppose if we lived in wall-to-wall sunshine we might all be the same.


Helen R says …

I must admit that I haven’t been to many places in the USA. I’ve been to Florida – which was wonderful – in my early twenties, not a care in the world, and to top it off we got to see the Space Shuttle Atlantis take off in May of 1997. We visited the Kennedy Space Centre the week before so we saw the shuttle on its launch pad, and we had VIP passes to watch the launch at 4am one morning in May. It was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen. So I guess what I love about America is how big, how vast, how amazing so many things are over there. They certainly don’t do things by halves!


Picture 201Jay says …

What do I love about the USA – everything! I have been six times and I could happily go a hundred more and never get bored of the place.  In fact, when I am a best-selling millionaire (probably in Vietnamese Dong, which are approximately 33,000 to the £pound), I will go every year.  I love the fact that they have everything from the super tacky adult’s playground that is Vegas, where you can travel the world in themed hotels on the strip, to the most fantastic national parks and natural wonders, like the Grand Canyon. Being greedy, I think the food is fab too and my current favourite book/film is ‘The Fault in Our Stars’.  I dream of writing something that fabulous.  What I most admire though is American comedy.  Right now, there are probably less decent British comedy shows than you can count on one hand.  America is busting with them, though, and my favourite at the moment is Modern Family. I want my family to grow up like that and, of course, I want to look like Sofia Vergara. Sadly, I have about as much chance of that as writing like John Green, but a girl can dream!


Rachael says …

I love how the Americans celebrate. Be it Independence Day or Thanksgiving, they really know how to do it. Family are the focal point of such celebrations. Of course this is what the films make me think and I especially like the Christmas ones. Maybe one day I’ll experience first-hand, one of America’s celebration days.


Grand canyonDeirdre says …

There are so many possibilities here, I shall keep this short and sweet and mention just three things I love that have come our way from the US. Firstly, Amazon. Where else can you buy books in seconds, manage your Kindle library, publish your own books, build a career as writer, set up a wish list and buy all kinds of useful things into the bargain? Amazon doesn’t always get a good press, I know, but I can’t imagine being without it. Secondly, Yankee candles, for the beautiful scents and lovely colours. Thirdly, Krispy Kreme donuts!


Alys says …

My favourite US author is Jennifer Crusie who writes the funniest romantic comedies with a dash of suspense.  The first book of hers I read was ‘Welcome to Temptation’ which kept me entertained during a ten hour flight to Vancouver. Even when there was terrible turbulence when the plane stopped in Calgary, I had my eyes fixed on this book and I was (by my standards) not all that fazed.  When I got home I read her other books. ‘Fast Women’ and ‘Crazy for You’ are my other two favourites.  So what makes them so good?  Well, the plots are a fabulous mix of romance and suspense. There’s enough edge to the suspense to make you believe there’s some real danger. The heroines are feisty and smart. And Jennifer’s writing is downright funny. I love her books so much that I won’t lend them to people in case they don’t give them back.  That’s probably the highest praise I can give an author!

As to other things that I love from the US at the moment that list includes ‘The Good Wife’ and ‘Castle’ on TV, the folk singer Aoife O’Donovan and my Timberland sandals.


Chinese theatreHelen P says …

What I love about the USA, wow there’s too much to write about but I’ll give it a go. I love New York and one day I will go there, I just have no idea when but it’s on my bucket list. I’ve only ever been to Hawaii, years ago but it was beautiful. I love the crime novels set in America there is something so glamorous about being an FBI agent. Stephen King’s stories, Lucky Charms, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Hollywood, Bare Foot White Zinfandel, I love that there are such great opportunities over there for everyone, Oprah Winfrey – I would really like to meet Oprah one day. Did I mention Kevin Bacon? Love that man at the moment, he can do no wrong. I want to go to the Statue of Liberty, The Empire State Building, I want to see Central Park and Macy’s. I want to live the American Dream if only for a week.


Lynne says …

I love maple syrup!!! I love it in cakes made with spelt flour, on pancakes, ice-cream, anything really. It tastes great and reminds me of romantic pictures of New England with log cabins, patchwork and cosy open fires. One day I’d love to go there and see if it’s really as I imagine or have I got it wrong completely.


Island of AdventureAnd, finally, my response …

I can do this in one word. Disney. But of course, I’m far too much of a jabber-pot to leave it just at that! I love Disney films, Disney princesses and Disneyland. For a long time, The Little Mermaid and Beauty & The Beast were my favourites (I was brought up on the classics but I prefer the later ones for the songs!) but then I saw Tangled and was astounded. And then I saw Frozen! Wow! Do I want to be Ariel, Belle, Rapunzel, Anna or Elsa? It’s a tough one! I’d always dreamed of going to Disneyland and, when I was about 28, I took redundancy from work and spent some of my pay-off on a December trip to Florida. Everything about it was amazing except the company but we all learn from our mistakes! I loved the parades and there was something quite magical about wearing shorts and a vest while Mickey and Pooh Bear wore scarves and hats to get into the winter-theme. We visited the Disney-built town of Celebration where it snowed in the high street and everything was just movie-magic-perfect. For a few brief moments, I really felt like I was living the dream … then I looked at my boyfriend and knew I wasn’t, hee hee hee!

We’d love to hear from you. What do you love about America? The movies, books, people, values? What are the places you’ve visited or would love to visit?

Julie xx

Wednesday Wondering – Meet our main characters!

Today on the blog, we have been Wednesday Wondering about some of the characters in our forthcoming anthology. Prompted by the lovely Liv Thomas, who passed us the ‘Meet My Main Character’ baton, four of the Write Romantics are going to tell you a bit about the characters just waiting to slip between the covers of our winter collection, which will be raising funds for the Cystic Fibrosis and Teenage Cancer Trusts. You can meet Liv’s main character in the fabulous novel she co-wrote, as Isabella Connor, Beneath an Irish Sky, available from Amazon at this link or read more about Luke on Liv’s own blog posting, here.

First up is…

Alex’s Anthology Character

What is the name of your character and the title of the story?

Harriet Hardy who is the main character in ‘A Pistol for Propriety’.

2013-08-18 14.35.25When and where is the story set?

The story is set in 1898 in Whitby in North Yorkshire. However the story is steampunk so it’s not quite the same Whitby. It was enormous fun figuring out where dirigibles (or airships) could land and how steam powered cars might work.  There’s still a steam bus running in Whitby during the tourist season and that sparked some ideas.

What should the readers know about Harriet?

The wonderful thing about steampunk is that you can have really strong heroines who wear fabulous clothes and hats. I spent far too much time looking at pictures of 1890s hats. They were as wide as tea trays.  Heaven knows how anyone actually walked about in them!

What is the conflict in Harriet’s life?

At the beginning of the story, Harriet has done something which can best be described as imprudent. (The other thing I loved about steampunk is that you can use words like ‘imprudent’ and they sound absolutely right.  As a big fan of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer, I absolutely adored writing the dialogue).  I don’t want to say too much about what this imprudent action was but let’s just say that there’s a clue in the title of the story!

What are Harriet’s goals?

Harriet’s life hasn’t always been easy and it’s made her into a very capable woman.  She’s someone who thinks that marriage isn’t for her because of the choices that she’s made.  However, as this is a romance, someone turns up who challenges that assumption!

 Next we have…

Rachael’s Anthology Character

What is the name of your character and the title of the story?

My character is Sally Phillips and her story in the anthology is ‘Meet Me at Midnight’.

When and where is the story set?

It’s a contemporary story, set in Wales during the last few days of the year.

What should the readers know about Sally?

Sally is a writer, who has left London not only to try and escape her failed relationship, but to try and beat writer’s block.

What is the conflict in Sally’s life?

Her inability to write due to leaving Jake, her partner, but as soon as she arrives in Wales the words begin to flow, until she meets a handsome farmer one morning.

What are Sally’s goals?

To be successful in her work and happy in her life, something she’d always envisaged taking place in London, but events over the New Year change all that.

Our penultimate introduction is…

Julie’s Anthology Character

What is the name of your character and the title of the story?

The story I haven’t quite finished for our anthology is called ‘Not Just Another Winter’s Tale’ and features twenty-nine-year-old Emily Chambers

winter4When and where is the story set?

It’s set in the present day in the winter (hey, it is a Christmas/winter anthology) in the Derbyshire countryside although part of the story is set in the US of A

What should the readers know about Emily?

She can’t bear her new work colleague, Troy Zimmerman, after meeting him when working in the States over the summer. Unfortunately, she’s stranded at a conference centre and her only way home is to spend three hours in a car with him. Hideous thought

What is the conflict in Emily’s life?

Troy! Simple as that. Oh, and the fact that it’s started snowing. Very heavily. Which probably means the journey will be longer than three hours. Eek!

What are Emily’s goals?

To get home safely as quickly as possible with minimal communication with Troy. Only we know that’s not going to be possible, is it?

Lastly, me… the ‘artist’ (and I use the term loosely) formerly known as Jo, but now Write Romantic, Jay.  Hopefully more of that in a Mega Monday announcement coming your way soon…

Jay’s Anthology Character

What is the name of your character and the title of the story?

Jamie Chandler takes the lead in my anthology story, which is entitled ‘In All The Wrong Places’.

When and where is the story set?

The story is set in the current era and tracks the course of one December, which proves long enough to alter Jamie’s life forever.IMG_0671  Jamie lives in a sleepy Kent village, where finding love is difficult at the best of times.

What should the readers know about Jamie?

He’s gorgeous, funny, kind and the sort of Colin Firth-esque beta hero that every nice girl should fall for… Oh, and his legs don’t always work.

What is the conflict in Jamie’s life?

He’s convinced that no-one can love him after his diagnosis with MS but, as the title suggests, he’s been looking for love in all the wrong places.

What are Jamie’s goals?

He’s desperate not to spend another Christmas alone.  What he really wants is to settle down with someone and have the life he dreamt of before his diagnosis, but first he has to learn that love doesn’t always wear a name-tag.

Enter our competition

I hope you have enjoyed meeting our characters and don’t forget your chance to win a £20 Amazon voucher by entering our ‘Name That Anthology’ competition. All you have to do is to send in your entry to to be in with a chance. Entries close on 31st August. You can also register for updates at the same email address, so that you will know as soon as the anthology is available to order. We have a wealth of other writers contributing to the anthology, many of whom are bestsellers, and you can find out more about them here.

Next week, two of the Write Romantics, Rachael Thomas and Helen Phifer, will be taking the baton on their own blogs to talk about the characters in their novels and, if you are really lucky, Rachael might even share her fabulous cover reveal with you!

You can read Rachael’s blog here.

Helen’s blog can be accessed at this link.



The Wednesday Wondering: Making Love on a Bus at Lunchtime

Today, March 26th, marks the 140th anniversary of the birth of the American poet and writer, Robert Frost.  This was my inspiration for a Wondering ‘Poetry Corner’.  (My inspiration for the title came from much closer to home, as you’ll find out if you read on…)

I wasn’t very impressed with poetry at school.  I couldn’t see the point of all that in depth analysis, picking the bones out of every word and trying to second guess what the poet actually meant, then spewing it all out on paper for the examiner to take pot shots at.  It wasn’t until some years later that I discovered poetry for myself and began a collection of favourites which I typed out on an old manual typewriter.  One of these was ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’ by Robert Frost.  I love the simplicity of the language and the down to earth quality of his poems.  It was Frost, of course, who famously said: ‘No tears in the writer; no tears in the reader’.  What better maxim do we need to remind us to raise the emotional stakes in our writing?

I asked the Write Romantics:  What is your favourite poem?  Perhaps it’s a Shakespeare sonnet, a nineteenth century romantic poem, a haiku, or a hilarious ode by Pam Ayres; the choice is endless, but if there isn’t a poem you love, perhaps because you were put off poetry at school, tell us about that instead, or even, dare I say it, give us one of your own.

The WRs came up with these answers:  (Jo’s given us a special treat – you’ll find it at the end)


I went on a writing weekend once where poems were touched on and I mentioned that I liked John Cooper Clarke and Wendy Cope’s poems because they were humorous. I received such sneers from the two tutors there that I was really hurt, cos I thought they were good. So I wouldn’t dare to suggest that one of their poems was worth a look (oh, okay then: I Married a Monster from out of Space and Evidently Chicken Town, and Wendy Cope’s, Loss which is only four lines, berating not so much the disappearance of her man but that he took the corkscrew as well!)

But the two poems that stick in my mind is: At Lunchtime by Roger McGough. It’s about people making love on a bus at lunchtime because someone said it was ok as the world was going to end. The other one is: In Flanders Fields by John McCrae who was in the first world war (I’m guessing most people know this poem). Coincidently, as I googled it because I couldn’t remember the poets name, I came across another very good poem by Roger McGough called the Square Dance, which is a parody of John McCrae’s poem, In Flanders Fields. Well I never!


My favourite poem is ‘He wishes for the clothes of Heaven’ by W.B. Yeats.  It is hugely romantic and beautiful and I can’t help but feel that only an Irishman (or woman) could have written it. I adore the last line ‘Tread softly because you tread on my dreams’.  Supposedly Yeats wrote the poem for Maud Gonne, a beautiful English woman who he was hopelessly in love with for many years.  She really didn’t tread softly on his dreams as she turned down his many proposals and eventually (and unhappily) married someone else.


Hmmm. Tricky. I don’t tend to read poetry. I like the amusing stuff a la Pam Ayres (very talented woman) and I don’t understand the other stuff. To me, poetry should rhyme! Other than the famous “I wish I’d looked after my teeth” I couldn’t specifically name anything Pam has written so I’ll instead say a poem from my childhood. In junior school, we looked at The Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll. The lesson was all about what words mean and how words can be made up but you can still understand what they mean by the sound or the context. I must have been about 8 or 9 and I still remember this lesson in detail. I was so enthralled that I went away and learned the poem. Thirty two years later, I can still recite it word for word and I still think it’s magical! A particular favourite word from it is “mimsy”. How wonderful is that?


We did a module on poetry as part of my masters and it was heavy going. I don’t think my talents lie in poetry, put it that way! It’s so much harder to write poetry than we think, with so few words to capture a moment or tell a tale. During that module we listened to a couple of Pam Ayres poems and I admire her extraordinary talent. Her voice as a narrator works so well too and brings her poems to life by adding emotions behind them.


Having posed the question, I found it difficult to answer as I’m liking poetry more and more these days so my list of favourites is growing.  John Betjeman has to be my top poet, for the stories he tells through his verses of ordinary people doing ordinary things, like a boy going to a Christmas party and feeling nervous about it, or a family taking their annual trip to the seaside in an old banger.  It’s hard to describe but to me his poetry feels so truthful and relevant.  These are the first lines of ‘A Subaltern’s Love-Song’:

Miss J Hunter Dunn, Miss J Hunter Dunn,
Furnish’d and burnish’d by Aldershot sun…

…which is just about all you need to know to be able to ‘see’ her.

If I have to go for one, it would be ‘Death in Leamington’.  It might be about death but it’s not sad.  Betjeman is writing about death as a normal, everyday part of life, and it’s just lovely.  This is one of the verses:

And Nurse came in with the tea-things
Breast high ‘mid the stands and chairs
But Nurse was alone with her own little soul
And the things were alone with theirs.


I’m afraid I don’t like poetry, it’s not to say I don’t admire some poems and I do appreciate listening to poems that fellow writers have written. But it has always been one of my least favourite things and the thought of writing one fills me with fear. I have a friend who does write some very funny poems and these are excellent but it’s not something I would choose to write or read for pleasure myself.


My favourite poems are those which make you go, ‘aaahhh,’ at the end, not those that we studied at school, the hard, serious ones though I love anything by Thomas Hardy. To me those by Pam Ayres, Jenny Joseph and even Roald Dahl are just much more fun. I could really never take to T. S. Elliott. My favourite is by a certain member of the Write Romantics, it cheerful, sweet, and just great fun!


My favourite poet, stemming from my childhood, is probably Spike Milligan.  He could be genuinely laugh out loud funny with one poem and then write a touching ode to love in the next.  There are lots of other poets that I admire and some of the World War 1 poets, like Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, wrote such hauntingly sad poetry that I have never forgotten it.  I still love Spike best though and here are links to a couple of examples to illustrate my point:

I Must Go Down To The Sea Again

If I Could Write Words

And here’s my attempt at an ode:

Ode To The Write Romantics

I sent a ROMNA email to find myself a friend,
another romance writer, just as round the bend.
We started up a blog and found ourselves a host,
convinced we’d soon be breakfasting on caviar and toast.

But a hundred million bloggers are looking for a deal,
so we had to find some other friends to widen our appeal.
Now we dream of a hunky assistant, to address our every whim,
good luck to the bloke who gets the job, they’ll be nine of us and him!

See what I mean about a treat?  Thanks, Jo, it’s brilliant!  Such a variety of replies here; I hope you’ve enjoyed reading them as much as I have, and please feel free to add your own contribution.  We’d love to read it.

March is nearly over, which means this is my last Wondering for a while.  Next week the hot seat will be occupied by the lovely Helen Phifer, author of The Ghost House.


The Wednesday Wondering: You’re Fired!

If you share my (dubious) tastes in TV programmes you won’t be a stranger to the title of this week’s Wondering.  Yes, that’s right.  The famous phrase comes out of Alan Sugar’s mouth at the end of every episode of The Apprentice.  Whether you find it compulsive or repulsive viewing, you’ll be sure to know what it’s about.  Hard to avoid, isn’t it?

You may remember I was grabbing inspiration for this month’s Wonderings from March itself, in which case you may be thinking I’ve wandered off piste here.  Not so, because next Monday, March 24th, is Lord Sugar’s birthday. (He happens to share the same birth year as me but we won’t go into that if it’s all the same).  A bit obscure as a remarkable event, perhaps?  Well, yes, all right, but at least you’ve gathered a new bit of useless information…

But back to The Apprentice theme before I lose the plot entirely (and none of us wants to do that, do we?).  I asked my fellow Write Romantics this question:

If you could be apprenticed to a well-known writer, have access to their innermost thought processes while they write and have them mentor your own novel, who would you choose? (Time machines permitted)  And what would you hope to learn from them? 

The Write Romantics were spoiled for choice, as you’ll see.


I’d love to be apprenticed, Write Romantics excluded, to Jojo Moyes. I loved ‘Me Before You,’ and am now totally loving ‘The Peacock Emporium,’ recommended by Deirdre. Her stories are so good, yet what I really love is her emotional descriptions. You really feel like you are there with the characters, learning first hand what they’re seeing and thinking. I love tales that are rich in emotion and these you just can’t beat!


It would have to be my hero, the amazing Mr Stephen King. I would love to see how he plots his books, how he comes up with his ideas, where he stores them but most of all I would love to sit behind the desk that he writes at and just soak up the vibes. It would be even better to have his personal input and advice into a story I was writing. The only thing is I fear that if I ever did get to meet him I wouldn’t be able to speak because I’d be so in awe of him or I talk a load of absolute rubbish and bore him to death. I would hope to learn just how to keep on going and producing book after book which was a best seller around the world so that I too could have a writing room just like him.


Can I only pick one? It would be between five people (all women) – Enid Blyton, Virginia Andrews (the original one who passed away), Catherine Cookson, Jill Mansell, Marian Keyes, so a time machine would be needed for 3 out of 5! All of them have had a lasting impression on me for getting me engrossed in books at different ages with the latter two being about my discovery of romantic comedy. For all, I’d love to explore where their ideas came from, how they develop their characters and how they plot out their books because all of them, in my opinion, have written page-turner after page-turner. What an amazing talent to have!


I’d like to be mentored by Alexandra Sokoloff. She’s an award winning author of thrillers – not my genre and even the book jacket blurbs scare me, but I think she has such a wealth of knowledge about techniques in both film and novels. I attended the online RWAus conference in 2013 where Alexandra Sokoloff hosted a workshop and since then I have read and re-read her book “Writing Love” many times as it helps to plot a new story, prevent it from having a “saggy middle” and give readers what they want. She also advocates watching films to help us master storytelling techniques, and this works really well for me, I’d definitely recommend it.


I’m really glad I can have a time machine for this one because I want to go back to the Thirties and apprentice myself to Dorothy L. Sayers.  For me she is the real queen of Golden Age detective fiction and I’ve loved Lord Peter Wimsey since I was about 17.  Sayers is an amazing crafter of stories.  I’d love to learn the techniques of mystery writing, her knack of producing realistic dialogue and how she makes her characters so real and so complex.  From what I read about her I think she wouldn’t suffer fools or mince her words and so being her apprentice could be a bit daunting.  However, it also seems she had a fine sense of humour as shown by this quote:

“Lord Peter’s large income… I deliberately gave him… After all it cost me nothing and at the time I was particularly hard up and it gave me pleasure to spend his fortune for him. When I was dissatisfied with my single unfurnished room I took a luxurious flat for him in Piccadilly. When my cheap rug got a hole in it, I ordered him an Aubusson carpet. When I had no money to pay my bus fare I presented him with a Daimler double-six, upholstered in a style of sober magnificence, and when I felt dull I let him drive it. I can heartily recommend this inexpensive way of furnishing to all who are discontented with their incomes. It relieves the mind and does no harm to anybody.”


I’d choose to spend my apprenticeship with Ian Rankin because although I’m not a great lover of crime fiction, I do admire his writing.  It never feels forced or over-written; he never rambles but makes every word count.  That’s the kind of writing I’m aiming for and hopefully something of that would rub off.  I saw a documentary in which Ian agonised over his plot and confessed he had no idea what came next in the book he was writing.  Heartening to note that even the famous ones can be plagued with self-doubt!  It would be fascinating to be with him at those moments and see how he gets around them.  Also I’d get to see Edinburgh which I understand is a beautiful city, and, from what I’ve gathered of Ian’s lifestyle, spend a lot of time in the pub!


This is an easy one for me.  It would definitely have to be Charles Dickens.  I’d want to learn how he created such memorable characters and wrote such a range of stories that could transcend generations and give quite moral messages, yet avoid being cheesy or overly sentimental.  If an apprenticeship with Dickens could give me a cat in hell’s chance of writing something that leaves a legacy as embedded in our culture as say A Christmas Carol or Oliver Twist, then it would be well worth risking particle displacement on a trip in a time machine for!


I would quite like Jilly Cooper to mentor me because I know I'll never write literary novels so would be happy with learning how to have a page turning quality. I also think she's be a good laugh as wouldn't like someone who took it all too seriously (although I would love to write like Anita Shreve and have deep understanding of emotions).  Hopefully it would be gin time at four in the afternoon and I would roll home sozzled and happy. 


If I could take any writer, go back to any time I would chose two. Greedy I know, but there you go. Firstly I’d love to be an apprentice to Maeve Binchy. Each time I’ve picked up a book of hers, I’ve been hooked and that is what I’d love to learn from her. How to hook the reader and keep them hooked. Not only that, but how to make your story have such an impact that the reader can still ‘see it’ in their minds many years later. I have two favourite books of hers, Circle of Friends and Tara Road.

Once that was done, I zip back in time to sit with Jane Austen. Now that would be something. I’d just love to be with her as she wrote Pride and Prejudice, I’d love to know what she thought of the characters she was creating and did she ever believe it would be such an everlastingly popular story.

Well, it’s a bit of fun, isn’t it?  Perhaps you’ll find a moment to tell us where your dream apprenticeship would take you.  We’d love to know.


The Wednesday Wondering: Spring has sprung!


It isn’t quite true, of course; strictly speaking, spring doesn’t begin until the vernal equinox on the 20th of the month.  But the days are growing longer, the daffodils are brightening our parks and gardens and spring is, after all, the season of romance, so I thought we’d jump ahead and celebrate with a spring-themed Wondering this week.  Also, it gives me a great excuse to give my cat Chester his moment, although as you can tell from the photo he wasn’t impressed!

The whole business of spring is steeped in ritual and tradition, and if folklore’s your thing, there’s certainly no shortage of that.  Did you know, for example, that the equinox is the only day when an egg can be stood on end?  No, neither did I…

One ritual we’re all familiar with is spring cleaning, which dates back centuries and has its place in every culture.  In ancient Persia they called it khooneh tekouni, which literally means ‘shaking the house’.  I like that.  But whatever its origins, spring cleaning is still a dot on the calendar in many homes today, especially for the older generation.

So, on to this week’s Wondering, a two-parter:

–          What does spring mean to you?

–          Kirstie Allsopp triggered a mini media furore when she declared her love of ironing.  Whether you spring-clean or not, what’s your favourite, and least favourite, household chore?

The Write Romantics scrubbed up these answers:


Spring means to me, Mothers Day, daffodils, bluebells, hints of summer to come (wishful thinking), snowdrops, cherry blossom on the trees, walks through the woods, relief that the nights are getting lighter and a general sense of well being that winter is finally over.

My favourite household chore would be, erm let me think? Nope, sorry I can’t think of a single household chore that I enjoy doing. They are to me a chore and take up my precious writing time.

My least favourite chore is cleaning the windows. I don’t know why I picked a house that had four windows in the living room; it’s an absolute nightmare. Talking about cleaning windows I should probably make an attempt at cleaning them because everything outside is a blur at the moment and I don’t want to miss my gorgeous bluebells when they flower in my front garden.


There’s a lovely feeling of coming out of hibernation in spring.  With the first daffodils and crocuses I feel like I can look forward to longer days, warmer weather and putting my winter coat away.  As I live in Yorkshire there’s a good chance that it’ll be another month yet before the winter coat gets shoved to the back of the wardrobe but I always feel more hopeful in spring and that I’ll get me through any unpredictable days that March may throw at me.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say I love ironing but it’s probably my favourite chore. I usually do it while catching up on the Radio 2 Folk Show on the iPlayer.   I’m pretty rubbish at all other forms of housework but I particularly hate window cleaning mainly because they always look worse after I’ve done them.


I’m not a “cleaner upper” type person and in fact now have a cleaner after years of ‘almost’ arguments in our family that were mostly down to the state of the house. I was mortified once when a handy man asked where the hoover was so he could hoover bits of wood shavings up, and I didn’t even knows how it worked ( husband seemed to like hoovering so I was happy to let him do it, although “like” is probably not the word he would use!) The cleaner has never cleaned my ‘office’ cos it is too full of paper, computers, computer bags, cushions I no longer want and general debris of life. Spring makes no difference to this. It could be shaking all the newly opened buds on the planet in my face and I would still find something better to do than spring-clean the house.

The only housework chore I ever almost quite liked, (but not really) was ironing. That was in my singleton days when I would only iron what I was going to wear that night and more likely than not had a glass of wine on the go and U2 thrumming away in the background. I did quite like Fairground Attraction too- remember them? ‘It’s Got to Beeee… Perfect! Ahh, those were the days!


I like the cold weather but I like the sunshine so spring for me is a lovely season because the temperature increases but not to the extent that you’re all sticky and tired (which I hate about hot summer days). I love the colours that start appearing in gardens and I adore seeing the sides of roads become a sea of daffodils. So simple. So pretty. Hate it when they die and you’re left with this overgrown patch of mess, though!

As for the other part to your question, I love Kirstie but I think we’re going to have to disagree with each on this because ironing is the grimmest of tasks. I hate it. My poor daughter has often had to go to school in an un-ironed blouse or polo shirt (“just put a pinafore on; nobody will be able to tell!”) because I’ve failed abysmally to do it over the weekend. I can just about cope with it if I put a film on and focus on that instead. Oh, and don’t get me started on hoovering ….


Ah spring! It blows all the cobwebs of winter away doesn’t it? I ride with riding for the disabled once a week and there is a point in spring where snowdrops and primroses replace the wonderful world of funghi and crisp, brittle branches. My favourite of all is the violets though. I love the scented varieties and the beautiful purple colour. I have a vision of an Edwardian lady selling bunches from a basket in Covent Garden. Maybe I’ll put her in a book one day.

I have to say I am not great at housework and very rarely iron. Clothes that deliberately have the crinkled look to my mind are the greatest thing since sliced bread! I get by with doing just a minimum. Well, I gotta find time to write somehow haven’t I?


Spring to me means bluebells.  The woodland that surrounds the countryside near my home becomes carpeted in top-heavy, nodding flowers which push aside the fallen leaves from autumn and winter and herald that warmer weather is on the way.  At least that’s the theory!

As for spring cleaning, I hate all housework.  That’s it. Full stop.  Spring to me, though, also means that no matter how much I hate it, the windows need cleaning!  I love the return (hopefully) of more regular sunshine, but it does show up every water mark, sticky finger or dog-nose print on the glass and you can see fine particles of dust dancing in the afternoon sun that streams through.  Perhaps I should just do more cleaning and less writing…


Spring to me means light, uplifting days and beautiful weather that’s neither too hot nor too cold. Spring and Autumn are easily my favourite seasons in Australia for this reason.

I don’t spring clean necessarily but I do have regular “clear outs” where I throw lots away, give away items to charity and maybe put something on ebay. My least favourite household chore would have to be cleaning the bathrooms…they take forever! I do actually like vacuuming though…there’s something satisfying about seeing the dirt disappear before your very eyes 🙂


It’s a cliché, I know, but spring gives me that lovely feeling of starting afresh, with the garden coming to life and the sun just warm enough to have my morning coffee outside.  I love to see the primroses and bluebells appearing too.  I have happy memories of plunging through woods gathering these flowers to take home, which of course was before we knew better and the woods were shut off, but enjoying them in their natural surroundings is just as special.

As for the chores, I’m kind of with Kirstie on the ironing.  I don’t do it unless I have to – nor anything else housework-related – but I have been known to enjoy a spot of ironing as it’s a warm, peaceful kind of thing and I usually have the radio on, something calming like Woman’s Hour.

What do I hate?  Plenty, really, but let’s say cleaning the bathroom because it only seems to look OK for about five minutes before it looks like it needs doing all over again – and there are only two of us in the house.  How does grouting get that awful brown colour anyway?  That’s one of life’s mysteries, if you ask me.


Spring. A time for clearing out the old and letting in the new and that is echoed in nature as the garden comes to life again after the long winter months. All winter, I long for the lengthening of the days, the warm sunshine and splash of colour as daffodils, primroses and other spring flowers push up from the cold earth.

It’s also a time for tidying up and when I get that urge nothing is safe. My usual quick whizz with the vacuum and flick of the duster goes out of the window. Items that have sat collecting dust, sometimes for a few years, are suddenly under the spotlight as I get into just about every corner I can. Thankfully, this sort of cleaning is only usually an annual occurrence; otherwise I’d never find the time to write!

So, that’s us.  The Write Romantics clearly love flowers and all things spring-like – not so sure about the chores!  Do join in with your comments – it’s great to hear from you.