Confessions of a Trolley Dolly (or something like that!)

It’s finally here, the day that I’ve been anticipating for so long, and I’m already bowled over by the support and good wishes from my fellow writers and friends, new and old.
I can finally understand the ‘Squeeee, my books have arrived,’ and ‘It’s launch day,’ posts on social media when in the past, the less charitable side of me wanted to say, ‘Calm down dear,’ all Michael Winner like, at their gushing. After all, it’s only a book and there are millions of ’em out there.


See? Tons of the buggers!

Go into any charity shop and the shelves are groaning with them. The M6 toll road used two and a half million copies of Mills and Boon’s to keep it stable: That kind of says something, don’t you think?
So why do I want to use up even more valuable trees for the paltry words I have to offer? The answer is, I don’t really know. It just crept up on me, really, this desire to see my name on the front page of a book and to write a novel that makes people say, ‘Ahh, that was lovely.’
At about the same time as I started to take my scribblings seriously,  I met a few real writers. REAL WRITERS- with proper books on shelves and everything–and they made money from these books.
That was probably the moment when I thought, ‘I can do that.’
Only I couldn’t–not then. I wasn’t good enough. And I wasn’t good enough for years, much as I hate to say it. Because it’s like any other job that requires diligence, attention to detail, a modicum of talent and an awful lot of long, hard slog: it takes time.
But finally it is my turn, and getting back to the point I started on (that’s the thing with writers- we never run out of words!) I now totally get the ‘Squeee’ moment, because when I saw my book on Amazon, it made me want to cry–and laugh–and phone up every single person I’d ever met in my whole life and shout, ‘Look I’ve done it–go and look on Amazon!’



Mine! All mine!

So, yeah, it’s out there now and I hope you want to buy it, and then I hope you enjoy it, and then I hope you leave a review on Amazon–cos they really count for something. And I don’t want one of those pompous Amazon reviews that says ‘I had to give it one star because there was a comma in the wrong place,’ which actually just shows that you need to get a life! But you aren’t like that, are you? You’re going to LOVE reading my book on your kindle so much that you buy the paperback that comes out in a couple of month’s time, and you are going to give me a wonderful review on Amazon. A perfect Valentine’s Day read.


Five-star reviews- yes, please!

Aren’t you?
Go on- you know you want to.
Much love,





What is love, anyway?

As I am sure you all know, yesterday was Valentine’s Day. A day marked out around the world to celebrate love and romance. It can involve simple gestures, from a kiss or back-rub, to spending a month’s salary on a weekend break to Paris. In fact it was the French who started the tradition of sending cards and they still see February 14th as the best day for a marriage proposal.

If you are in Italy, the strength of your love can be measured by the size of the box of chocolates you exchange with your loved one, but it is us Brits who favour the anonymity of the secret admirer when sending cards to the object of our affection.

Not everyone is a fan of course and if the mere mention of Valentine’s Day, or the commerciality it attracts, makes you feel anything but loved-up, then perhaps a move to Saudi Arabia, where Valentine’s Day is banned all together, could be on the cards? In fact, as the day after Christmas Day has its own special name, then perhaps the day after Valentine’s Day, for many of us, could be called ‘Air of Disappointment Day’?

If your Valentine’s Day this year was empty of any of the grand gestures we wrote about on Wednesday and was more about last-minute flowers from the all night garage, it might not be all bad. Even if your candle-lit dinner for two ended up as a fish-finger butty in front of Corrie, by the dim light of the low-energy bulb that takes a week to warm up, all may not be lost.

Okay, so we’re all about the romance here, being writers in that genre, but today we’re asking the really big question, which perhaps has a lot less to do with romance than you might imagine, – what is love, anyway?

I challenged my fellow Write Romantics to come up with their definitions of love for this most romantic of weeks. It inspired a badly-drawn cartoon on my part, as homage to both my lovely Write Romantic friends and the old Love Is cartoons from my youth. If you look at the WR’s responses at the end of this post, I think you’ll agree that love manifests itself in many forms and most of them have very little to do with setting aside the 14th day of February to write it high.


For me, love is about putting someone else’s needs at least as highly as, if not above, your own. Taking that definition, I could see a hundred acts of love going on yesterday, without even trying. Here are just three:

  • People putting themselves out for total strangers during the floods – from helping with the rescue operations, to pumping out the flood waters and even offering a roof and a warm bed.
  • A living organ donor, waiting in pre-op, to give a life changing new start to another stranger, matched only by tissue type, for entirely altruistic reasons
  • The twin who gave up her place on the US Winter Olympics team, to let her sister compete in the 15k individual race on Valentine’s Day, as only one of them could.

Life may not be made up of romantic gestures, but whatever Valentine’s Day brought you, in the words of my favourite Rom-Com writer, Richard Curtis, I think you’ll find that love actually is all around.

There are a million ways to celebrate love and three hundred and sixty four days a year on which to do it. So, even if you don’t have a reason to celebrate romance this year, be it on February 14th or some other day that’s special to just the two of you, then take a leaf out of the Estonians’ book and rename it ‘Friends Day’ next time around.

Happy Air of Disappointment day everyone. Count your blessings and don’t book that plane ticket to Saudi Arabia just yet. At least not until you’ve checked out The Write Romantics definitions of love below!
Jo xx

Love is… cleaning my car inside and out, waxing and polishing it when I’m in the hospital because he can’t find the words to tell me how worried he is.

Love is… when he scratches your back then doesn’t expect his scratched in return
Love is… when he lets you put your cold feet on his warm legs in bed
Love is… when he doesn’t moan that you spend most evenings apart because he knows how important it is to you to spend your evenings writing

Love is… letting him read the kindle with your favourite book on it.
Love is… buying him a book you know he won’t be able to put down all weekend, because it was written by one of The Write Romantics

Helen P
Love is… a husband who brings you coffee and the last creme egg from the box

Love is… never having to say you’re sorry!

Love is… him googling for the cutest cat pictures and leaving them on the screen for me to find.

Helen R
Love is… like superglue – no matter what happens, what storms come your way, you always stick together.

Ain’t love ‘Grand’?

As it’s almost Valentine’s Day, I got to thinking about the grand gestures that have been performed by lovers over the years from fictional characters like Romeo and Juliet, to the dominant forces in today’s celebrity culture, like Kim Kardashian and Kanye West.  Okay, so most of us aren’t prepared to die for our beloved or shell out on hiring a baseball park and buying a 1.5 million dollar engagement ring… but every day there are people out there trying to impress the person who they love (or who they want to love them) with grand gestures. 

So, my Wednesday Wondering for this week is to ask what is the best, or most ill-fated, thing you have done to try to impress a loved one or that someone has done to try to impress you?  Or maybe you’ve read something in a book or seen it in a film and it’s made you swoon or cringe?  Maybe you’ve written about something in your own novel that you think is the ultimate grand gesture or something that went horribly wrong for one of your characters?  Either way, we’d love to hear about it and here’s what the Write Romantics had to say:


As it’s another of my Wednesday Wonderings again, I’ll start this off.  I think I chose this question because I do love a Rom Com and, more often than not, they are filled with grand gestures and I sometimes come away from watching them and think ‘why isn’t my life like that?’  Although, reflecting on it, having a husband who puts his own dreams and ambitions to one side to make sure that he can provide for and be there for his family, is a pretty grand gesture – even though it won’t make the news or even the plot of the next movie I go to see!   I still love the more dramatic grand gestures though and what Colin Firth’s character does in Love Actually is probably my favourite of all.  I have read Julie’s second novel, Getting Over Gary, recently and Alex’s debut novel, Beltane.  Both books have wonderful, but very different, grand gestures in them and I hope you are all lucky enough to read them soon.


I’ve talked on the blog before about the guy who chased me down the street and asked me out and also the boyfriend who ran down 3 flights of stairs at university at one minute past midnight on Valentines Day morning wearing nothing but heart-covered boxing shorts and clutching a bottle of wine so I won’t repeat myself. They’re the only grand gestures that I can think of that someone has done for me. I don’t think I’ve done any for anyone else which is a bit rubbish of me.

So I’m going to turn to fiction and pick from my favourite romcoms. I absolutely adore Sweet Home Alabama starring Reece Witherspoon. Not seen it? You really must! It’s full of big romantic gestures from both Reece’s and Josh Lucas’s characters (even if they don’t quite realise it at the time) but I don’t want to give spoilers in case anyone hasn’t seen it. I also adore more recent film The Proposal starring Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds. Again, I don’t want to give a spoiler but I absolutely adore the gesture at the end from her and then him. Such a feel-good film. Oh, and another Reece Witherspoon film I love is Just Like Heaven which also stars Mark Ruffalo. Wonderful romantic ending with a big gesture on his part with the departure and the roof garden. If you’ve seen it, you’ll know what I mean. Again, I don’t want to give away spoilers. Aw, feeling all romantic now. Think I need a romcom fest!


This is my own grand gesture. For my husband’s fortieth birthday I bought him a cow. Well, so what you may think, you are married to a farmer after all. So to rewind to the time I first met my husband. As a townie I was in for a shock, suddenly getting up close and personal with cows. At the time he had a pet cow called Madonna. She was a red and white Holstein Friesian and pretty soon she and I had a good friendship going. I would always carry some cow nuts in my pocket for her and she always made a beeline for me! Sadly she passed away and that lovely red and white colour was missing from the herd. As the time came to decide on a special birthday present I thought what about a new red and white cow. As if it was meant to be there was a market sale the day before his birthday and in it quite a few red and white cows.

Now remember I am a townie, I had never bid for anything in my life, much less a living breathing animal. On the day of the sale I watched the first cow go for so much money I thought I’d never get one, but in came the one I’d decided to bid for. Nerves kicked in at this point, especially when someone started a bidding war, but amazingly I got her. Not only that I also got a three month old red and white calf whose makings were almost the same as the old Madonna and she too became known as Madonna.

This summer my husband will have another big birthday, but I am not going shopping for cows this time!



Once I had what I thought was the ultimate romantic gesture happen to me, the boyfriend of my early twenties got in contact with me after 25 years to ask how I was and if I was single, and if so would I like to meet up?

Well, I was sooooo flattered! As it happened I was single, but he had major problems (see last week’s post!) He gambled a bit too much (this could be the winning ticket – he’d argue), he’d insist on going everywhere with me – insecurity I know but a bit too claustrophobic. And since I could still hear that bossy tone when speaking to him after 25 years my answer was no, I didn’t want to meet up.

But there was a sequel to this story that rather bought me down a peg or two. Not long after that phone call I met Andy, just the Beta chap I wanted, and we’ve been married 5 happy years. I told him about that phone call when we were talking about romantic gestures fully expecting him to agree that this was the ultimate and could never be bettered. But he didn’t.

‘Don’t you think that trumps all romantic notions?’ I asked.
‘Not necessarily,’ he answered ‘going through your old address book is one of those things you do when you separate isn’t it?’

I had to agree. Oh well, you can’t win ’em all!


One of the saddest grand gestures I ever witnessed was when I worked for a small airline. We did a special promotion for Valentine’s day where you could fly your true love out to Jersey for the day, have a trip on a boat with a five course meal, champagne and chocolates, and fly back after a perfect day. Jersey was fogbound on the day and we flew around and around, hoping it would clear but in the end diverted to Southampton, where the passengers sat in the Southampton lounge for four hours. By the time the fog cleared it was too late for the boat trip as the tide had turned and we ended up flying back to where we started. I could have cried, and I was just cabin staff, so heaven knows how the passengers felt.


One Valentine’s Day my ex was short of money so instead of buying me a present he wrote me a poem.  He’d never written a poem before and is quite badly dyslexic so, for him, that was quite a grand gesture.  As for my writing, there’s a pretty grand gesture in Beltane but telling you about it would definitely be a spoiler so I’m going to say no more…

Helen R

I was watching the film, Tangled, a few weeks ago with my girls. When it got towards the ending I thought about how perfect the moment was to illustrate a relationship between a hero and a heroine where each would do absolutely anything for the other.

The heroine, Rapunzel, has magic hair and when the hero,  Ryder, is injured and dying, the only way to save him is to use her hair to heal him but if she does this she must promise to stay with Gothel forever in the high tower rather than living happily ever after with her man. At the last minute, before she can use her magic powers to save him, he chops off her hair causing it to turn dark and the magic is lost.

Both Ryder and Rapunzel were willing to give up their life in some way for the other – I swoon when I think of this moment. Don’t worry if you haven’t seen the film…it all works out in the end!

I hope you enjoyed reading about our experiences with Grand Gestures and we can’t wait to hear yours.


The Wednesday Wondering – Romancing the Write Romantics

Good morning to you all and welcome to another Wednesday Wondering.

Even though some of the Write Romantics are digressing into alternative writing styles, we still love a good romance and are all write romantics at heart so today’s Wondering addresses that very subject and was posed by me:

What’s the most romantic thing that has ever happened to you/that anyone has done for you?

Awww. Love is in the air! Here’s what some of the Write Romantics had to say.



For me it was not long after I met Steve my husband. He was going on a lads holiday to Tenerife and the day after he went I got the most beautiful bouquet of red roses and a huge heart shaped box of chocolates delivered. Needless to say it was a one off and has never been repeated although we’ve been married almost 23 years.



This was a fun “wondering” to think about as it took me back through the years. I would have to say that proposals and weddings get me every time, so I’m afraid my response may be a little cliché!

When we holidayed in the UK in 2003 my husband and I rented a small powered boat and took it out along the Norfolk Broads. The day started out beautifully with the sun shining, the smell of summer. We moored up outside a pub and enjoyed a Ploughman’s lunch (you have to absorb all things UK when you’re on holiday!) When we returned to the boat the heavens opened and the temperature had dropped. We set the boat free ready to chug back to my parents’ place, but the boat wouldn’t start. Luckily we had taken a mobile with us and managed to call the owner of the place where we had rented the boat but it took a shivering, wet hour or so for him to arrive whilst we huddled in the boat to try and stay warm and drifted away from the river bank. Apparently my husband was going to propose on this day…but he decided it wasn’t quite the moment.

Luckily for me, my husband found his moment at another pub lunch – this time with prawn cocktail baguettes – the day before we were due to return to Australia. This time the sun persisted and as we strolled along the river bank . He got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. I think that one of the most romantic things for me was that I knew that something was up…he never gets nervous or tongue tied and it made the moment so special to see how much it meant to him, especially when he told me about his failed attempt the first time and that he had the ring tucked into his fleece pocket all day, paranoid that he would lose it with all the drama on the boat!



The most romantic thing ever was when a boyfriend put a fresh peach in a bag under my windscreen with the words ‘a peach for a peach’ written on the bag. Aww bless him.



Hubby and I have just been giggling because, having been together for over a decade, I feel I should be writing about something he’s done but I couldn’t think of anything. So I asked him. And he couldn’t think of anything either! He said, “Ooh, there’ve been so many …” then cracked up giggling, eventually concluding with, “You’ll have to make something up!” Well, I am a writer so that should be easy but that’s not the point of this segment!

So, I’m going to ditch the hubby (for this slot, not in real life!) and go back to my 1st year at university. A close friend and I had started seeing each other about a month before Valentine’s Day. On Feb 13th, we’d gone to the bar opposite our Halls of Residence with another male friend and the pair of them kept acting strangely and asking random questions about whether I liked surprises and whether I would be going straight to bed after we left the bar. I knew they were scheming something but wasn’t sure what. At midnight, I was in my room about to get ready for bed when there was a bit of a commotion in the corridor followed by a knock on my door. My boyfriend was stood there in nothing but a pair of white boxer shorts with red hearts on them, with a red rose between his teeth, clutching a bottle of bubbly in one hand and some chocolates in the other (although I may have made up the chocolate part – wishful thinking!) He’d run down two freezing cold flights of stairs dressed like that and had encountered several other students en route to his dismay and embarrassment!

Later that day, I left my door propped open while I made a cup of tea. When I returned, there was a Sad Sam (remember them – cute puppy dog with huge sad eyes?) on my bed and a card. I assumed they were from the boyfriend and was touched that he’d bought me a cuddly and snuck it into my room. Only they weren’t from him! They were from the lad who lived next door who was a good friend of mine and my boyfriend’s! The card was full of declarations of love for me and how he knew I was taken but he’d be there for me if things went wrong with the bf! Eek! Romantic … but completely inappropriate! Then, as I was wondering what to do, the bf appeared so I had to confess. He wasn’t a happy chappy at all. I assured him that he was the only one for me … but was secretly very flattered. I’d had zero success with boys before going to uni and now I had two fighting over me. Go Julie!!!!



It was romantic for me receiving a single red rose on the morning of my wedding day, with a note to say ‘I can’t wait to see you’ – from the man I’m now married to of course! Occasionally he will pick a few daffodils in the spring and give them to me but he doesn’t say it with flowers really. I often wonder if he was put up to the red rose.

Nowadays, after almost twenty years of marriage, the romantic things are the gestures that show he cares, not great bunches of flowers. Only last month, when I was due to go away for the RNA conference he knew that the farm silage was going to clash. Usually I would be up to my eyes in making food for endless streams of men, but he didn’t tell me and organised others to make food and help on the farm so I could go, knowing how important that weekend was to me.

I’m not even sure I’d want to be bombarded with flowers, perfumes, chocolates etc, but I love it when my heroes show their romantic side!


What a fabulous mix of different stories. I think I’m going to spend the day racking my brain now, desperately trying to think of something romantic the hubby has done for me (other than proposing) cos there must be something. Mustn’t there? If not, get your act together Heslington!!!!

Over to you. Please do share your experiences. We’d love to hear them. And they may even inspire a future novel!