The one where I’m heartbroken

12357000_957718117600822_9195002559067948814_oMonday (20th January), the third Monday of January, is referred to as ‘Blue Monday’ and is said to be the most depressing day of the year. This was is based on a completely non-scientific calculation based on a combination of weather, post-Christmas debt, time since Christmas and New Year, lack of motivation and so on. For me, Blue Monday was the absolutely worst day of the year and of the past several years but not for those reasons. Blue Monday is the day my heart broke because we had to say goodbye to our beloved cat, Felix.

10659109_785339811505321_8803746827979664118_oAs a child, I never had pets and, even though I always loved animals, I admit I didn’t get it when someone talked about a cat or dog (or other domestic animal) being “part of the family”. What? No, of course they’re not. They’re a pet. But now I completely and utterly get it.

Felix and his sister, Pixie, joined our family on 27th April 2006. They were rescue kittens from the RSPCA and my husband said that, as soon as he visited the vet’s after hearing there was a litter of five to pick from, Felix, a black and white short-haired variety, pushed himself to the front of the pen. He definitely picked us. His sister, Pixie, also black and white but long-haired was at the back, being shoved out of the way by the others. Mark felt sorry for her so he chose her too.

11402452_883270705045564_1890615259289843821_oI loved my first pets. We lived in the town centre so they were indoor cats and therefore always around. Like typical siblings, sometimes they loved each other and sometimes they fought. Pixie was definitely in charge, shoving Felix away from the food and dabbing him if he walked past her. They loved to hide in boxes and small spaces, like most cats, but one of their favourite things was playing with crisp packet triangles. When I eat a packet of crisps, I fold it neatly into a small triangle and I taught Mark to do the same. We’d throw it to the cats and they’d have great fun batting it around the room. One day someone came to repair our washing machine and we were mortified when he pulled it out and there must have been about 50 crisp packet triangles shoved under it! I will say that this had obviously been building up over years but was still very embarrassing!

Pixie, Felix’s Sister

Pixie was a very beautiful-looking cat but she wasn’t very affectionate and, as the years passed, she became quite aggressive, particularly around feeding time. Concerned about her behaviour, we took her to the vet’s and she was diagnosed with diabetes. We did our best to manage this through special food but she got worse. She was visibly losing weight and barely had any energy. I asked Mark to take her to the vet’s while I was at work one day and, sadly, she never came home.

So it was just Felix and, without Pixie around, he became super-affectionate. He was always referred to as my cat. I had Felix, Ashleigh had Pixie and Mark had ‘Ginger’ (the invisible cat). And he really was my little boy. If he wanted attention, it was always me he looked for. If I was in the lounge, he’d lie on the back of the sofa behind me, purring. If I was in bed, he’d jump up and lie on me. If I was in the office, he’d wander in and nudge my legs, demanding a fuss.

Over the last few years, Felix developed a few health problems. One day, his tail suddenly lost its muscle, bending over in a curl rather than standing straight. He developed a lump on his eyelid and then he developed cataracts in both eyes, turning them cloudy. He cut himself on something (we still don’t know what) on his neck and had to wear a cushioned collar to stop him scratching but it didn’t seem to work. The cut got bigger because he wouldn’t stop scratching it so it was back to the vet’s and into a body suit. His first one was red and we jokingly called him Santa’s Little Helper. It seemed to clear and then he opened it again so he was back into another body suit. He didn’t like wearing it and occasionally wriggled out of it. It would be strange seeing it abandoned somewhere in the house with no cat in sight. One time, he managed to get stuck and hurt his leg doing so; another trip to the vet’s and more meds. Daft boy. He must have worn some sort of body suit for the best part of a year – maybe longer – before he finally healed.

Then, towards the end of last year, I noticed that he seemed to have stopped passing stools. We changed his food and occasionally some oily fish would sort him out but toilet visits were intermittent so it was back to the vet’s. Digestive problems and a ‘mega colon’ as a result of being ‘backed-up’. He was given a kick-start and medication to make him more regular but he never got back to normal. A couple of weeks ago, I took him for the same treatment and bloods were taken to see if there was an underlying problem. I knew it wasn’t going to be good and dreaded the phone call with the results: Diabetes, like his sister, but also kidney failure. Add in his digestive problems, his deteriorating eyesight and his age (approaching 14) and the prognosis was not good. ‘End of life’ was discussed. I came off that phone call with the vet and sobbed. I couldn’t bear to lose him but I couldn’t bear the thought of him being in pain.

83084525_2762867103752572_1117322084058398720_oWhat was really hard was that, in himself, Felix seemed fine. He was still extremely agile, leaping up onto the bed or the sofa or a window ledge without hesitation. He was still affectionate. This wasn’t a dying cat … or at least not on the outside. But across the next week, he started to struggle. Sometimes he ate and sometimes he didn’t. Sometimes he went to the toilet and sometimes he didn’t. Then, over the weekend, he was sick several times. Ashleigh went to school and Mark and I both looked at each other. It was time.

Monday was hell. Our appointment was for 5.30pm. I had work to do and I tried to get on with it but my heart was breaking. I kept looking at the clock, counting down the hours. Every so often, I’d go downstairs. He was curled up on the sofa, very calm, very relaxed. It was as though he knew. I’d spend some time stroking and cuddling him, then return to my work. I couldn’t stop crying all day.

A few hours before goodbye

Ashleigh knew Felix was ill and that he wouldn’t be with us for that much longer, but she didn’t know the end was so close. Mark picked her up from an after-school drama club and would normally have taken her to the climbing wall. The plan was for him to then come back, pick me up, go to the vet, then pick her up and break the news after it had happened. I kept thinking about how I hadn’t actually been able to say goodbye to Pixie and how upset I’d been at that so suggested it was only fair that, at age 13, she be given the choice as to whether to come home and see him first. She did and, upset as she was, it was the right decision. She went to her Nana’s while we were at the vet’s.

I can’t praise the veterinary practice enough – Companion Care in Pets at Home – for how kind and reassuring they were. A candle gets lit on the reception desk with a sign explaining that, when lit, someone is saying goodbye to a beloved pet. I think that’s such a lovely touch.

Felix was very calm again. I think he was ready. He lay on a furry rug and we stroked him and told him we loved him and that Pixie would be waiting for him.

Coming home with an empty cat carrier felt wrong.

Opening the door and not having him waiting on the stairs squeaking for food felt wrong.

Everything felt wrong. Everything feels wrong.

“Feed me!”

As I lay in bed on Blue Monday, I kept waiting for him to jump on me like he often did. I kept thinking I could hear the distinctive noise as he hurdled over the wooden end of the sleigh bed and landed on the mattress. But there was no noise because there was no Felix.

Every morning, as soon as someone awoke, Felix would stand on the stairs squeaking to be fed. Awful sound. And yet across the past couple of weeks, I kept telling myself that I’d miss that sound very soon. Sure enough, I awoke on Tuesday and ached to hear him squeak.

I went into the ensuite and prepared for him to nudge the door open, like he always did, while I was mid-wee, weaving around my legs. But he didn’t. As I moved around the house in my morning routine, I was so very aware of the Felix-shaped gap at every moment. He always jumped on the bed, demanding attention, when I was trying to get dressed. But he couldn’t anymore.

We have a dog, Ella, who has been with us for nearly 4 years. Mark takes her out for a walk mid-morning and it was at that point yesterday that the silence in the house screamed at me and I crumpled. I kept thinking I could hear Felix scratching in his litter tray or running up the stairs. I’d see a shadow out the corner of my eye and think it was him.

Ella and Felix. They tolerated each other but were never friends. Ella has been very melancholy since we said goodbye. She can tell something is wrong

Then today my heart broke even more. The bin lorry came so Mark emptied out the cat litter tray. Glancing into the utility area of our kitchen and seeing the empty space where it had been signalled another Felix-shaped hole in our lives. The silence screamed at me again when Mark and Ella went out for their walk. With some time to spare before I ran a lunchtime webinar, I decided to run the hoover round but that made me cry too. Little fragments of cat litter strewn around were sucked up for the final time ever. I washed his food bowls and put them away. I bagged up his hairy cushion. And I broke down and sobbed.

I know it was the right thing to do because he was dying. There was no cure; there was only a painful prolonging of life for my own selfish needs if we’d hung onto him. I know time will heal. Right now, though, I’m bereft. I miss him so very much that my heart hurts and my head aches and the tears won’t stop flowing. He was in our family for nearly 14 years, he was affectionate and loving and he was very much loved. Some cats can be detached but Felix absolutely wasn’t. With him being an indoor cat and me working from home, he’s just always been there. And now he isn’t.

Mark and Ashleigh are heartbroken too. I told her to try to remember all the things about him that we loved or that made us laugh like the time he climbed into my suitcase when I was trying to pack to go away with work, how he always liked to lie on the clean washing but refused to lie on a throw to protect the sofa, how he loved climbing onto empty shelves or hiding in wardrobes, and how he made a better door than a window when you were trying to watch TV. I’m trying to do the same and hope that, one day, that Felix-shaped hole in my heart will heal and the tears will stop.

RIP Felix xxxxx
(14/03/2006 – 20/01/2020)
(Thank you to the super talented hubby for all the really good pics. I took the not-quite-so-good ones!)




The one where Making Wishes at Bay View is published

Making Wishes Twitter 1It’s publication day today for Making Wishes at Bay ViewThis is my second release from Boldwood Books and the first re-release from my back-catalogue.

The first book in the four-book ‘Welcome to Whitsborough Bay’ series, Making Wishes at Bay View combines two previously published books –  the novella Raving About Rhys and the short sequel novel, Callie’s Christmas Wish.

The remaining three books in the series are going to be released over the next two months. On February 20th, books 2 and 3 will be out:

New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms (was Searching for Steven)

Finding Hope at Lighthouse Cove (was Getting Over Gary)

On 17th March, the final part of the series will be released:

Coming Home to Seashell Cottage (was Dreaming About Daran)

Making Wishes tea

Books 2-3 are currently still available for Kindle download only as their old titles but will be taken down from sale as soon as the brand new covers are available and will be replaced by pre-order links for the new versions.

All new titles will be available on all eBook formats, globally, audio, paperback and large print. The audio version of Making Wishes at Bay View is out now but the other three will all be released together on 17th March.

If you are a library user, they’ll all be available on the uLIBRARY App from Ulverscroft through libraries that support that App. Making Wishes… is available on uLIBRARY right now.

Clearly there are new titles across the series and there are also brand new covers. What else has changed?

The plot and characters remain the same as before. In theory, a reader could read a mix of the versions to get through the series and they won’t be confused. The new versions simply have a fresh edit. This could mean:

  • Some superfluous detail has been removed to tighten a scene
  • Some additional detail has been added to extend a scene
  • Tweaks to the flow of a conversation
  • Slight adjustments to the way a character reacts to something
  • A couple of removed scenes
  • A couple of new scenes

The changes very much vary from book to book.

Making Wishes - stars

So what has specifically changed in Making Wishes at Bay View and do you need to read it again if you’ve already read Rhys and Callie?

It’s entirely up to you. If you loved the stories first time round and fancy meeting the characters again and seeing if you can spot the changes, then delve right in!

The plot is still the same as before and so is the cast of characters. No characters have disappeared and no new ones have been added in. Callie is still exactly the same although she’s now 25 instead of 21. Octogenarian, Ruby – my most favourite character ever – hasn’t changed at all. Iris is still in there and there’s a bit more banter between her and Ruby which I loved adding in. I wish those two existed in real life. I’d love to spend time with them!

The main change is Callie’s best friend and work colleague, Maria. I don’t want to give any spoilers for anyone who hasn’t read either version, but there’s a bit more detail about Maria and Callie’s friendship in Making Wishes at Bay View. Also, a couple of plot points involving Maria play out a little differently. I hope you like the changes.

IMG_7863How did I spend publication day?

I wish I could say that I had a lovely relaxing day celebrating but it was day job as normal for me. I marked 12 assignments and dealt with 15 student enquiries, slopped my lunch down my top, got crumbs all over my keyboard, and jumped every time the dog barked at someone passing. Standard day! What was lovely was occasionally breaking to share news on social media, thank others for sharing it, and eat a gorgeous box of biscuits that my publisher sent me with the book cover on!

I was a guest on my fabulous friend Sharon Booth’s blog, talking about how the combination of the books came about and why friendship is important in my stories. You can read the post here. And I was on the Boldwood Books blog talking about the inspiration behind my Whitsborough Bay setting. You can find that post here.

Making Wishes Blog Tour

My blog tour started with a lovely review from Joanne at Portobello Books Blog – read it here – who said: “Making Wishes at Bay View is a lovely read, one which I whizzed through as I was so taken with the characters, particularly Callie. It was lovely to return to fictional Whitsborough Bay again. Making Wishes at Bay View is a book which is sure to leave you with a warm feeling inside, a proper feel-good piece of writing.” Aw! Thanks Joanne.

I also had a lovely surprise from new ‘fan’ Little Miss Book Lover 87’s blog which made my day too. You can read that here. She said, “I knew that this was a fab book from very early on. This is another new author for me and I am already eagerly adding more books to my TBR. This is a book I devoured in hours and found it completely impossible to put down. I cannot say anything negative about this book, it is absolutely fantastic. Redland is able to pull the reader in and make it extremely hard for them not to fall in love with the story. This is a delightful read which I highly recommend to anyone who loves women’s fiction. I am definitely a huge fan after reading this book.” Actually, you probably don’t need to click into this one as that’s the full review! Lovely, isn’t it?

Thank you to everyone who has supported me up to and on publication day, the advance readers/bloggers who have left a lovely review on NetGalley, and anyone scheduled for the rest of the blog tour.

Have an amazing week.

Jessica xx

Making Wishes FB 2



My Favourite 19 Books of 2019

Reblogging from The Cozy Pages onto my own WordPress blog. Absolutely thrilled to feature as two of Nina’s favourite 19 books of 2019, especially when that’s out of 119 books read across the year. Huge thanks to Nina for choosing Bear With Me and The Secret to Happiness. Congratulations to everyone else whose books feature too xx

The Cozy Pages

Goodreads tells me that I’ve had a very enjoyable year in reading. In fact, I gave 21 books out of 119 a five star rating; and gave an average rating of 4.1 overall. Once a story brings me joy and provides intriguing characters, I’m fairly generous with my stars (espresso shots on this blog). However, a few have really stuck with me since I first read them and stand out above the rest, so here are my top 19 reads of 2019.

Before I get into the individual books, I’m highlighting three favourite cozy mystery series. These are series I started on in 2019 and loved so much that I got myself fully (almost) caught up on them!

The Cat Latimer Mysteries by Lynn Cahoon captured my attention with its clever plots and behind the scenes view of a writer’s life (one who even hosts writers’ retreats)!

A Family Skeleton…

View original post 1,045 more words

The one where I share some tips about how to start writing

My desk. Isn’t it tidy? (You should see the state of it right now!)

When I started out on my writing journey, the one thing I didn’t do was connect with other writers. I read loads of “how-to” books and studied my craft, but I never engaged with those who’d been there/done that to get some tips and advice. I wish I had. Every writer approaches things differently but I always find something that resonates with me on every blog post I read from a writer.

Last year, a writing contact on Twitter very kindly asked if I would write a blog post for his blog about my typical writing day and some hints and tips for anyone starting out. I was very happy to oblige and also flattered that I’d been asked. Things like that make me feel like a ‘real’ writer. The post never appeared and it struck me that it was a shame to have written an advice post that was going out of date and languishing. So I’ve posted it here…


The first thing to say about my typical writing day is that there’s no such thing as a typical writing day for me. Some writers talk about routines, about writing every day, about not stopping until they’ve achieved so-many-thousand words. It doesn’t work like that for me. I write when I can, as much or as little as I can. Sadly, it’s usually little.

IMG_7454My dream is to be able to write full-time but, for now, writing doesn’t pay the mortgage so I have a day job which has to take priority. I am, however, very fortunate with the flexibility my job provides. Nearly four years ago, I stopped commuting and became a home-based Human Resources tutor. The workload built quickly and I was soon working 12-16 hour days and travelling on weekends to run workshops. Writing was a huge struggle. I’ve managed to reduce it to about a 6-hour day over the past year and the workshops no longer run so I get my weekends free.

On weekdays, I try to stop working by 2pm so I can write. For the past couple of years, I’ve been studying a Masters in Creative Writing through Open University so my writing time could be study time instead but I finished this in October and am thrilled to say I now have an MA!

When I was a Brown Owl, I awarded myself my ‘Writer’ badge 🙂 

I tend to be fairly disciplined when it comes to writing. I don’t set myself a word count for the day but I do tend to just get on with it. About five years ago, I enrolled in NaNoWriMo (National Novel-Writing Month) which is an international ‘project’ to get a 50k novel written in the month of November. The idea is to just write and not try to edit as you go. I used that approach to finish my second novel and start my third one (the timing wasn’t right for me with my works-in-progress to start on a fresh book like they advocate) and it was the best thing I ever did. I’d faffed about with my debut novel, Searching for Steven, editing and re-editing every time I sat down to write. NaNo got me into a rhythm of just getting on with it and editing after I’d written a full manuscript. I’ve written all my subsequent books using this approach.

Some days, I have my procrastinating head on. Who doesn’t? And if that’s how it’s going to be, so be it. There’s no point in forcing the writing if it isn’t coming. Most of the time, though, I can just sit down and write. I won’t always have the best words in the right order, but the story keeps building and you’d be amazed how quickly you can get to 10k words, then 25k, then 50k…

Image by Karolina Grabowska from Pixabay

I like to keep a track in my diary of how many words I write each day and then total the week for no other reason than the feeling of satisfaction if I’ve had an epic week. I had a couple of weeks last year where I wrote nearly 17k words each week. Very satisfying! This is balanced by weeks where I don’t write at all.

The start of a book is usually my nemesis. When I wrote Searching for Steven, I swear that there were forty or so different starts. And I mean massively different starts. It became a standing joke that I had no idea where the story should really begin. Beginnings have troubled me ever since although not to the same extent.

Image by M. Maggs from Pixabay

Beyond that, I often find the first 10k words come slowly and I think this is because I’m finding my way with the characters and the story. Somewhere between 10k and 15k words the story takes flight and comes together much more quickly.

When I’m not writing, I’m always thinking about my stories and characters. I’m a pantser rather than a plotter i.e. I have a story in mind, I know where it’s going to end, I know who the main characters are, and I then let their story unfold naturally. It surprised me that this is my preferred style because, in ‘normal’ life, I’m very organised and quite a planner. I did try to plan my second novel, Getting Over Gary. It didn’t work. Gary didn’t want to do what I’d planned for him to do and neither did the other characters! Never again. I create a basic profile for my main characters, I plan a character arc for the protagonist(s) and then I let them take me where they want, which can sometimes be in quite surprising directions. For example, in The Secret to Happiness, I had a character who was going to be a ‘baddie’ and she didn’t want to be. She ended up becoming a really lovely character but that meant someone else needed to be the ‘baddie’; someone I hadn’t expected to be so devious!

What’s my advice to anyone thinking of writing or struggling with their writing?

  • If you want to write, write. You may not be great at it but you’ll never know unless you try
  • If you’re thinking “I’d love to write a book but I don’t have time”, then stop right there. I didn’t have time but I made time. I stopped watching the soaps on TV, I stopped lounging around, I wrote whilst commuting to work (I will point out that this was on the train; not whilst driving!) and I developed ideas whilst in the shower. Very, very few writers ever had the luxury of time when they were starting out, but they had a dream and they made it happen
  • Don’t feel you have to write every day. But do think about it each day. I often develop dialogue and plot twists while in the shower, out shopping, or when driving
  • Learn how to write. Being good at writing in day to day life v writing a book are two very different skills. There’s a lot to learn but there are some amazing self-help books, courses, and qualifications out there to help. I spent ten years learning my craft whilst writing my debut. To be fair, I had a lot of years where I didn’t write anything as I married, had a baby, opened and closed a business and changed job several times during that time, but I never lost sight of that goal and never stopped learning
  • Take the NaNoWriMo approach of just getting on with it (learn more here). You can edit it later. You might ditch a lot of it later. But if you don’t get the words down in the first place, you’ll have nothing to edit
  • Don’t write because you want to make a fortune. Most writers don’t. Most still have a day job. Some only make enough for a cheap night out once a month. Write because you have stories to tell and you couldn’t imagine not sharing them
  • Keep a list of ideas. It could be a book title, a plot point, a piece of dialogue or a quirky character. It may not be a fully-formed novel just yet but it could become it one day

I hope you enjoyed my little insight into the world of writing and that it might have inspired you to crack on with that idea that’s been buzzing at the back of your brain if you’re new to this.

All the best

Jessica xx








The one where Daran is the Chill With A Book ‘Book of the Year’

Untitled-3I had some amazing news today. The final book in my ‘Welcome to Whitsborough Bay’ series, Dreaming About Daran, won the Chill With A Book Awards ‘Book of the Year’ for 2019. These Awards recognise the best reads from indie authors and independent publishers.

Each book entered into the Awards is read by several readers who rate it against several questions:

  • Were the characters strong and engaging?
  • Was the book well written?
  • Did the story / plot have you turning the page to find out what happened next?
  • Was the ending satisfying?
  • Would you recommend to someone who reads this kind of story?

If the book meets the criteria, then they could win a Readers’ Award for the month. Those classed as really exceptional may be awarded a Premier Readers’ Award.

In May 2018, Bear With Me won a Readers’ Award and the Book Cover of the Month. In February, Searching for Steven won a Readers’ Award, in March Getting Over Gary won a Readers’ Award and the Book Cover of the Month and then, in May, Dreaming About Daran won a Premier Readers’ Award.


With 51 books (including Steven and Gary) winning Readers’ Awards across 2019 and 28 (including Daran) winning Premier Awards, I thought there was no chance of Daran getting the Book of the Year but he did. I’m so proud of my boy! What a wonderful way to start 2020!

I absolutely love Dreaming About Daran. It’s my favourite book in the series and I was really pleased with the way it came together and concluded the threads so it’s so thrilling to be selected as the best book that the reader group read last year.

I cracked open the Christmas Maltesers Truffles to celebrate earlier today! I’d like to say I’ve celebrated this evening too but I’ve been taking down the Christmas decorations so that I can focus on editing all weekend.

Thank you so much to Pauline Barclay who runs these amazing Awards, supporting and promoting the best in independent authors and independent publishers and, of course, all the readers who made this possible. Woo hoo!

Dreaming About Daran NEW COVERHere’s the blurb:

Where do you go when it’s your own past you’re running from?

Sometimes, you can run from the past, but you can’t hide. Since the age of sixteen, Clare O’Connell has lived her life by four strict rules:
1. Don’t talk about Ireland
2. Don’t think about Ireland
3. Don’t go to Ireland
4. Don’t let anyone in

And so far, it’s worked well. She’s got a great career, some amazing friends, and she’s really happy. The future’s all that counts, isn’t it?

When her boss insists she travels to Ireland to repair a damaged relationship with a key client. Clare finds herself drawn back to the village of Ballykielty where she comes face to face with the one person she’d hoped never, ever to see again.

With the door to her past now wide open, the first three rules have gone out of the window. Can Clare stick to rule number four?

Making Wishes at Bay View

My fabulous publisher, Boldwood Books, are re-releasing the series in the first quarter of this year, re-edited, with new titles and fresh covers. Making Wishes at Bay View will be out on 14th February, replacing Raving About Rhys (a novella) and Callie’s Christmas Wish (a short novel following on from the novella).

New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms is the new title for Searching for Steven and comes out on 20th February along with Finding Hope at Lighthouse Cove which is the new title for Getting Over Gary. 

Then, on 17th March, Dreaming About Daran will be revamped and re-issued as Coming Home to Seashell Cottage. I hope to share the covers for books 2-4 very soon so watch this space.

You can read all about the Chill With a Book awards here:

Pauline is always on the look out for new readers so if you’re a prolific reader, you might want to consider being part of the Awards.

Jessica xx