Happy 2nd Birthday to Boldwood Books

Today I’m delighted to wish my amazing publisher, Boldwood Books, a Happy 2nd Birthday. Woo hoo!

Boldwood officially launched in February 2019, opening up to submissions that day, and I was all ready with my manuscript the moment we passed midnight and was thrilled to get ‘the call’ the following month and join the team as one of the first twenty authors.

The reason today – 1st August – is the official birthday is that this is the date the first release went out into the world. Nina Manning’s The Daughter in Law – a psychological thriller – was a huge success, as were the other August releases: romcom Honeymoon for One by Portia MacIntosh and contemporary women’s fiction Villa of Sun and Secrets by Jennifer Bohnet.

My Boldwood debut, The Secret to Happiness, was the first September release and it was so exciting seeing a new release out pretty much every week as the portfolio grew.

During their two years, Boldwood have delivered exactly what they promised: publishing reimagined. They have taken the ‘digital first’ concept and said ‘but that doesn’t need to mean digital only’ and, right from the start, all titles were released in several formats: eBook on all platforms, paperback, physical audio and audio download. But they haven’t stopped there. All titles are available in large print formats too and all titles released since March this year have come out in hardback (and older titles will, over time, retrospectively be available in that format). Streaming services have also been added meaning that, whatever a person’s reading or listening preferences, Boldwood have it covered.

They established a programme with The Works and I was thrilled to have three books – The Secret to Happiness, Making Wishes at Bay View and Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow – go into The Works stores and online in 2020. This programme has also seen additional stock distributed around the UK, Ireland, USA and Canada meaning that books could appear in garden centres, post offices, small and large supermarkets in those countries. I’ve personally spotted one of mine in two local garden centres and a friend sent me a photo of one in her local post office which was such a thrill.

Two of my books in The Works together

Another amazing deal saw many books go into supermarkets in Australia. The distributor specified crime and thrillers only so mine weren’t included but I was still able to enjoy the moment vicariously seeing shelfies from down under featuring books by my Boldwood buddies.

Across the two years, Boldwood have been nominated and shortlisted for various industry prizes, winning the regional heat of the Publisher of the Year in the British Book Awards 2021 and winning the Best Newcomer award at the Independent Publishing Awards 2020.

Team Boldwood have also:

  • Sold 4 million books (across all formats)
  • Had 45 Top 10 Bestsellers
  • Signed more than 60 authors
  • Published over 160 titles
  • Received more than 100,000 5-star reviews on Amazon
  • Expanded to a team of 8
  • Acquired over 15,000 social media followers

That’s a lot of amazing achievements in only two years! Very much looking forward to where the next two years take us. I’m already aware of some exciting new opportunities which will be revealed in due course, and I’m sure there’ll be many more.

First to Last Release in Two Years (well, give or take a couple of days!)

For me personally, two years brings an amazing milestone. On Tuesday (3rd August), the final book in my first twelve-book publishing contract is released. Christmas Wishes at the Chocolate Shop is also the final book in my backlist, all of which Boldwood acquired, and was previously out as Charlee and the Chocolate Shop. Then, later this month, Snowflakes at The Starfish Café is published (31st August) which sees the start of a brand new twelve-book deal and a new series. I can’t believe I’m already on my second contract! When it came to resigning with Boldwood, I didn’t even need to think about it. A resounding YES!

A month before Boldwood’s first birthday, I added Hedgehog Hollow to my settings and have been overwhelmed with the love for the hedgehogs. There are now three books out there with a fourth on pre-order and more to come from the hedgehogs in 2022.

The dawn of a new series

A huge CONGRATULATIONS to the whole team at Boldwood Books for creating such a warm, friendly, innovative company and for being so supportive. My particular gratitude goes to Amanda Ridout, our Founder and CEO, for her passion, enthusiasm and tremendous vision and to my editor (and Publishing / Sales & Marketing Director), Nia Beynon, who is an absolute dream to work with. Nia has been my editor from the start and therefore knows, understands, and loves the worlds of Whitsborough Bay and Hedgehog Hollow as much as I do. She is my sounding board and a shoulder to cry on and I have learned so much from her exceptional editing skills about how to turn a good story into a great one.

A thank you to Megan Townsend, Publishing Executive, who works behind the scenes preparing the books for publication and Claire Fenby, Digital Marketing Manager, who only joined the team fairly recently but has already made such a tremendous impact on our social media channels with her digital innovations.

I’m so grateful to the team of authors at Boldwood for being such a supportive, friendly group. Very excited to hopefully meet them all in person at some point. Congratulations to you all for writing such amazing books. I’m a very slow reader but I think I’ve maybe read about twenty Boldwood releases so far and they’ve all been exceptional. My mum, bless her, has read (and loved) nearly all of them!

Finally an enormous THANK YOU to all the readers and bloggers/reviewers who buy the books in whatever format, leave reviews, spread recommendations, send messages, and share the love. We wouldn’t be here without your support. Huge hugs to every single one of you.

Happy 2nd Birthday Boldwood. Here’s to an exciting third year…

Big birthday hugs
Jessica xx

A lovely May Day birthday

I cancelled my birthday last year. We were only a few weeks into lockdown when I was asked the ‘what would you like for your birthday?’ question and I had a mini-meltdown. Even though I’ve never really made a huge thing out of my birthday in previous years, I didn’t like the idea that I couldn’t even if I wanted to so I told hubby and the munchkin not to bother with gifts and we’d do a birthday later in the year. Then I found a couple of Lucy Pittaway prints which I ordered for the office so I did get a gift after all even if there was no celebration 😉

This year, we’re not in lockdown but restrictions are only just easing so it we still couldn’t plan much. I did, however, lift the ‘no presents’ thing and was spoilt with some lovely gifts.

There was a bit of a hedgehog theme with the most adorable plush Steiff hedgehog from the hubby, a sewing project for a hedgehog and hoglet and a cute pen holder with a hedgehog reading a book in it.

Loving my new lighthouse and looking forward to featuring it on some photos with my books soon.

A huge thank you to my amazing friend Sharon for the gorgeous flowers, candle, bear and chocolates and to my lovely friend Jo for the hedgehog and bear scarves.

Sharon also sent me the most amazing card. It’s a card containing cake. I never knew such a thing existed and, being the huge fan of cake that I am, it made me very happy. I can’t wait to dive in and would have had a piece today but my in-laws dropped round surprise afternoon tea so we ditched our plans for a takeaway and had that instead and I am now full of cake. It was sooooo yummy. But there’s always tomorrow. Nom nom. And I have a birthday cake too!

Thank you to everyone who has sent me lovely messages on social media. Very much appreciated.

Back to editing tomorrow but it’s been nice to have a rare day off today.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

Reflections on March

I wrote a really long post reflecting on February. This one will be a much shorter one as I’ve been hibernating in my writing and editing cave, but here’s an overview of the month just ended.

I haven’t read much this month. In fact, I’ve only finished one book but it was a fabulous one. It was Summer Kisses at Mermaids Point by Sarah Bennett – an uplifting story of family, community and falling in love, but with some depth … and not just the depths into which the mysterious mermaid plunges. You can find my Goodreads review here.

I haven’t watched much either and no films at all.

I’d been quite excited about the BBC drama Bloodlands last month but reported that husband hadn’t been particularly impressed with the second episode after a promising first one. It went downhill for the next one too but we decided to watch all four hoping it would all come together in an impressive series of twists. I’m sure some viewers will have loved it but the bit we found most interesting was how, in one of the final scenes, there was snow in the hills and then there wasn’t. Twitter was all over this and it seemed the Twitterrati were more impressed by this than the show too. Oh dear.

Line of Duty returned to our screens a couple of weeks ago and the first episode was a disappointing confusion of acronyms and oddness but last week’s episode was really good so we’ve forgiven that and hope it’s a return to top form.

The munchkin and I have made it to the end of season 2 of Castle. I hadn’t realised I’d watched quite so many episodes previously and I’ve definitely seen all of season 1 and 2 before although couldn’t always remember the storyline. The munchkin is hooked.

I’ve written a LOT of words this month and was able to type ‘the end’ on book 13 a couple of days ago which is always a fabulous moment. I took a day off and then went straight into my editing cave where I’ve been for the past couple of days. Just one more day needed to get to the end of the edit then it’s off to my editor for her verdict.

I’ve had such a battle with this story but I’ll do a separate blog post at a later date as to why. I really love the story now but it’s much longer than it should be and I’m struggling to find anywhere to cull it so I’m going to have to leave that to my editor’s expertise.

There have been a few celebrations in March:

  • The munchkin returned to school, albeit only for 3 weeks before breaking up for Easter. It was great for her to get back among friends
  • Husband’s birthday and dog’s 5th birthday
  • Publication of All You Need Is Love. This is my 10th book to be released by Boldwood Books and is the penultimate one from my back catalogue, previously known as Bear With Me. The blog tour went really well
  • All You Need Is Love has reached the Top 300 in the Kindle UK chart with the highest position so far being #258. With it having been previously released, I wasn’t expecting to get quite so high so I’m thrilled with that. It’s on offer at the moment if you haven’t already read it so do grab a bargain!
  • Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow went on a BookBub promotion in the USA and reached #71
  • A book birthday for the final book in the Welcome to Whitsborough Bay series: Coming Home to Seashell Cottage
  • A lovely surprise today with 7 titles showing #1 Best Seller tags in Kindle UK and Kindle Australia, as well as 4 in Canada and the USA. It’s always a special moment to see several books displaying them

I haven’t been anywhere! I think I’ve only left the house once this month to go on a walk with the husband and dog but I’ve been so snowed under writing, I haven’t had a chance to go anywhere else so nothing exciting to report and no photos to share this month.

So that’s my March round-up and, as you can see, it’s mainly been head-down writing, writing, writing. I’m going to have a busy April with a few exciting promotions coming up, the submission of book 13 and the edits on that back from my editor, and the edits due on Charlee and the Chocolate Shop which is my final backlist book to get the Boldwood treatment.

Hope you’ve had a lovely March and wishing you all the best for a fabulous April.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

All you need is love to help you achieve your dreams…

Today is the publication day for my latest Boldwood release, All You Need Is Love. Publication days are always special but this one is extra special. It’s my husband’s birthday, it’s my sprocker spaniel Ella’s fifth birthday (happy birthday my lovelies xx) AND this is my tenth book to be released through Boldwood Books. Ten! Eek!

I first thought about writing a book a long time ago – back in 2002 – when a manager at work told me my business reports read like stories and I should write a book. Great idea but what would I write about? Then something happened to me that gave me the premise for my debut novel and I started writing it the following year.

Back then, I never thought about the next stage. Getting the book published wasn’t something I was aiming towards. The goal was simply to get to the end, to write a book. Could I even do that? Could I construct an interesting page-turning story with engaging characters?

It took me a decade to finish the book due to a combination of big life events – wedding, baby, house moves and job changes – but I kept chipping away. I started to think beyond finishing, especially as the idea for one book had developed into a trilogy.

After two critiques through the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s (RNA) New Writers’ Scheme, my debut novel was ready to seek a publishing deal. For most authors, the road to publication is a bumpy one paved with rejections and disappointments and my experience is no exception. Ten months and twenty-three rejections later, I was seriously thinking about going indie when two very different offers came along: an established US-based digital only publisher v a new UK-based publisher who’d publish in ebook and paperback. I chose the latter.

My debut novel and a prequel novella were released in May and June 2015. My amazing husband surprised me on publication day with a set of canvases: one of each of the book covers and a third with the release date on it and this quote from the author Mark Twain: 

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”

The quote made me cry. We both knew that I’d found my purpose in life and, having secured a publishing deal, I was now on my way…

But it didn’t work out. The company failed to make an impact in the publishing world and ceased trading shortly after my final book was released. I was devastated. With my rights back, I re-released the trilogy and prequel novella independently. They tanked.

I thought things might change when I released a brand new book the following year but they didn’t and, for the next few years, I struggled. I was working long hours in a full-time job, I led a Brownie Pack, and I had a family. Finding time to write was a massive challenge. Finding time to explore how to be a successful indie author was an impossibility.

I released another four books – all Christmas ones – and enjoyed some success with them but, mostly, it was days of zero sales and low chart positions. My reviews were great. Those who discovered my books seemed to love them but not enough readers were discovering them so, in summer 2018, I decided that it was time to try to secure a publisher again.

First time around, I had no idea if I had something a publisher might want and saw it as a process: Rejection? Okay, that’s a shame, but who’s next on the list? Second time around, each rejection floored me. A brand new novel provisionally titled Wish I Could Tell You Goodbye received five rejections. I also tried one of my back catalogue, Bear With Me, which gathered three passes. It was really hard to focus on the positive feedback when phrases like “Not suitable for our list”, “Not ‘hooky’ enough to stand out” and “Didn’t quite hit the mark for me” kept leaping out at me.

As 2018 drew to a close, I’d never felt so low about my writing and questioned whether it was time to give up. What was the point in spending months writing a book when hardly anybody was reading it and no publishers wanted it? But the reality was that writing was part of me. I was bursting with ideas. I had stories to tell. It was the only thing I wanted to do. I kept looking at that Mark Twain quote and believing that, one day, it would happen. One day my manuscript would land on the right desk at the right time and my world would change.

And it did.

I spotted an advert for the newly-formed Boldwood Books who’d be opening for submissions in February 2019 and knew I’d found my perfect home. I just hoped they agreed. Thankfully they did and I was offered a whopping 9-book publishing deal for four new books and five from my back catalogue. Another couple of contract addendums added in the remaining three previously-published books.

The book that secured my deal with Boldwood was the five times rejected Wish I could Tell You Goodbye. It was released in September 2019 under the title of The Secret to Happiness and has since sold nearly 50,000 copies and been in The Works. And the rejected Bear With Me is now re-edited and reissued as All You Need Is Love out today.

I’m writing my thirteenth book at the moment; the first for a new 12-book contract with Boldwood. If somebody had told me when I was writing my first novel that I’d be a full-time author releasing my tenth book through the most incredible publisher while writing my thirteenth, I’d never have believed them. When I went through my second submission round and devasted by the rejections, I wouldn’t have done either.

So today as I celebrate my tenth Boldwood release, I am so grateful to my husband and daughter for the canvas that hangs above my desk and reminds me each day of my purpose in life and for their constant encouragement. I’m so grateful for the rejections I had along the way because they brought me to my perfect home with Boldwood Books. And I’m so grateful to all the readers who’ve bought or borrowed my books and audios, particularly those who send me messages or write gorgeous reviews telling me how much they love my books. My tenth book is called All You Need Is Love and it’s a message that applies to authors. We need the love from readers to keep going through the tough times, the love of a publisher who believes in us, and family and friends who support us every step of the way.

If you have a dream, don’t give up on it. Sometimes when it feels like things are falling apart, they might actually be coming together. It might not happen for you immediately … but it could happen down the line. It did for me.

Big hugs

Jessica xx

The one where I look back on an unusual May

I always think there’s something extra special about the start of a month being on a Monday – fresh week, fresh month, fresh start. Lovely.

And as we step into June, I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on May because it’s been an unusual month with a few disappointments but, oh my goodness, what a delicious set of delights. Which is perhaps a little odd considering the whole of May was spent in a COVID-19 lockdown.

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Definitely not me celebrating my birthday                                               Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay 

 

DISAPPOINTMENT – I hate to start on a negative but the month started with a disappointment. I’m a May Day baby and I really didn’t respond well to a lockdown birthday and had a little strop about it which actually surprised me as I don’t really both much with my birthday. I tend not to work, I love gifts, and I like to go out for a meal with my husband and daughter to acknowledge the day. The fact that we couldn’t go out made me unhappy and my reaction was to ignore my birthday rather than have a half-hearted non-event. I made a ‘no gifts’ rule and sort of regretted that when the day arrived …. although I then broke it by ordering myself a stunning Lucy Pittaway print for my office. I can’t put it up yet because I can’t get it framed but it will make my heart sing when I can. And, actually, I might have ordered two. Well, there was 25% off and it would have been rude not to!

Screenshot 2020-05-11 at 22.17.16DELIGHT – I worked in the day job on my birthday but I took the following week off – a much needed break after working some extremely long hours since the start of March. When I returned to the work as a home-based HR Tutor, it was to a big delight because I handed in my notice. I really enjoy my day job but to write full-time is a dream come true and, whilst I will not be matching the income from the day job, I will be doing what I love and finally have a work:life balance; something I haven’t had for well over five years. Six days and counting…

DISAPPOINTMENT – There’ve been a couple more disappointments. Like so many people, there were plans in place which had to be cancelled in May – a shopping and theatre trip to Leeds to see Sister Act with the munchkin and a family half-term holiday in Portugal.

IMG_7561DELIGHT – I’ve missed my fortnightly meet-ups with my very good friend and fellow-author, Sharon Booth, but we had a lovely virtual catch-up this month and it was so good to see her/speak to her. Last week, I also caught up with a really good friend who I met when I was on TSB’s graduate programme in the mid-90s. We haven’t seen each other since I had my daughter (who will be 14 in December) so it was great to see/speak to her online too although that’s a lot of years to try and catch up on! One of the things that has come out of lockdown for a lot of people is reacquainting with old friends and that’s definitely a delight.

 

DELIGHT – I’ve received lots more delights this month with readers getting in touch with me. I’ve had tweets, emails and messages on Facebook from readers thanking me for writing my books which they say have seen them through lockdown. Every single time I receive a message like that, it humbles and astonishes me. I’m so grateful that (a) my stories have helped provide escapism during these challenging times and (b) that they’ve thought highly enough of them to take the time to find me and contact me. How lovely is that? Thank you to everyone who has made contact in May or prior to that. It really is so kind and thoughtful of you.

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Image by Thanks for your Like • donations welcome from Pixabay

DELIGHT – And the month of May finished on an absolute delight. One of the things that many readers have been saying is that they’ve binge-read my entire back catalogue. My fabulous publishers, Boldwood Books, have re-released five of my books (two shorter ones were packaged together as one to make it a four-book series release) and I’ve signed a contract with them for my remaining four but, for now, those four are out there as indie releases. I can therefore log into the author information on Kindle and see how many eBooks have sold each day and how many pages have been read.

Prior to the re-release of the Welcome to Whitsborough Bay series, I had a steady but not impressive number of pages read and eBooks sold. Nothing to make me particularly visible in the charts. Nothing to write home about. Nothing to make me feel I could ever do this full-time. But the re-release, the promotion on these books and the lockdown scenario have steadily boosted sales and pages read of all of my books. This morning, my Kindle stats told me that I had well over 1million pages read during May from readers borrowing my four indie books on Kindle Unlimited (Bear With Me and my three Christmas books). Eek! I have never come close to that before. I had a look back at the same month from last year and we’re talking just shy of 197k pages and that was for nine books, not four! And even if I just go back one month and look at April, pages read were 443k so they have more than doubled in one month and increased nearly six-fold in a year. Wow!

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For years, I’ve felt invisible. I’ve felt I was failing. I always believed in my ability to write but I just couldn’t seem to make an impact. And now it’s happened. I cannot thank my publishers, Boldwood, enough for helping get my name out there and to all the readers who have bought or borrowed my Boldwood and my indie releases. Because of you all, I will be a full-time author this time next week. If I didn’t have writer’s bottom, I’d be doing a happy dance round my office right now! I hope to make you proud with more time to write and therefore more uplifting stories to read.

I know that June is going to bring a couple more cancellation disappointments but hope it brings another box of delights too. Hope it also brings delights your way.

Big hugs

Jessica xx

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The one where I decided to ignore my lockdown birthday

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It was my birthday on Friday – 1st May – and I decided to ignore it this year because of lockdown which was perhaps an odd decision because I’m not struggling with our current scenario. Not really. Okay, I am, but perhaps in a different way to most. For us, not a lot has changed. I’m used to working from home because I’ve been doing it for five years. I’m used to hubby always being around because he works from home too. I’m used to not seeing my family because they’re not local and I’m used to not seeing friends regularly because they’re not local either. I’m also used to working long hours and barely leaving the house. But the hours I’ve worked so far during lockdown have been unprecedented and this is what led to my decision to say to my husband and daughter, ‘No presents, please. Let’s do this later instead’.

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My daughter made this for me on the iPad. Gorgeous

I’ve always struggled to find a decent balance between my day job as a distance learning tutor and writing, with the latter always having to take the back seat. During lockdown, the number of assignments and queries coming through has almost doubled as students have decided to use the time to study after being furloughed, losing jobs, or still working but not being able to go out on evenings and weekends. And it’s broken me. I’ve marked one assignment and four have arrived. I’ve marked another one and another three have appeared. It’s been a constant battle to keep on top of my queue. I’ve been mentally drained, unable to sleep, and I’ve barely stepped outside the house, even into the back garden.

In that state of heightened stress, the thought of celebrating my birthday when I couldn’t actually celebrate it properly was a step too far so I declared that I wanted to ignore it. We couldn’t celebrate Mother’s Day either or hubby’s 50th birthday properly (happened days before lockdown, scuppering plans to go away) so we’ll celebrate them all when we’re through the other side instead. Or next year.

IMG_7292There was cake, though. Cake is good. Given that my new book – Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow –  available for pre-order now, is all about a hedgehog rescue centre, hubby had hoped to get me a hedgehog cake from the supermarket like this one he bought for his mum’s birthday last year. Unfortunately they’d had a run on celebration cakes and there was very little choice so we had a Thorntons one instead (pictured at the top of this post). Very nice it was too. All gone now. Nom nom.

Wishing all the best to those who’ve missed celebrations due to lockdown so far and to those who’ll miss them going forwards. Good excuse to do it all when we’re though the other side.

And I’m sure anyone who has lost a loved one to this horrible virus or who knows someone fighting it right now would happily trade the rest of their birthday celebrations to have their loved ones safely with them. I know I would. My thoughts are with you.

Stay home, stay safe.

Big hugs

Jessica xx

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The one where I look back at May

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May started with my birthday, quite literally, as my birthday is 1st May. I don’t fuss too much about my birthday. In fact, most years, I can’t actually remember what age I am and have to work it out! I try not to do any day job work on my birthday and my preferred way to spend it is to write but I had lots of bits and bobs to sort out so didn’t get much writing done this year.IMG_6137

I did go out for a lovely meal with my daughter and husband on the evening, though.  I might have had some pudding. Nom nom.

IMG_6162Age has caught up with me and, for the first time ever, I now need glasses. Always one for bright colours (as you can see from the striped t-shirt), I opted for red frames and I love them. They’re only for close-up reading but it makes such a difference, especially when reading something on my phone. I hadn’t realised that my phone was actually blurred until I’ve looked at it through my new glasses and realised how sharp the words should be. I struggle to remember to put them on all the time, though, so I think that might take some adjusting to. Speaking of ageing, I found a white hair in my eyebrow. What’s that all about? Seriously unimpressed!

UntitledMay was another award-winning month with Dreaming About Daran, the final book in my Welcome to Whitsborough Bay trilogy, also receiving a Chill With A Book Readers’ Award. However, Daran just edged it over Searching for Steven and Getting Over Gary by receiving a Chill With A Book PREMIER Readers’ Award. This is given to books which receive “exceptional high evaluations from Chill readers.” It’s my favourite of the trilogy and one of my favourites of all my books so I was really thrilled by this.

60008898_2418952231667471_1873362763401658368_nMy fellow Yorkshire Rose Writer and good friend, Sharon Booth, and I attended the 2nd part of a social media workshop for authors in York run by the lovely Anita Chapman from NeetsMarketing. It was good to catch up with some of the authors from the part 1 in May last year and really great to have another of our Write Romantic friends, Rachael Thomas, join us on the course. Unfortunately I’d booked set train tickets before I knew Rachael was going or I could have stayed behind for a drink and a chat with her.

IMG_6153Sharon and I had another catch-up a couple of weeks later and, as usual, were the last ones in the café we frequent. They’re always really polite and we never stay beyond the official closing time, but we do feel a bit guilty for being there so late so we’re trying a pub next time where this won’t be an issue.

I was thrilled with the grade I received for my 4thassignment on the final year of my MA in Creative Writing. This involved 2k words of fiction, a submission letter to an agent or publisher and a synopsis of the fiction we’re producing for our final assignment. I hoped for a high mark as I didn’t think there was too much I could get wrong in a submission letter although writing a synopsis for a novel I’ve not written any words for yet was a bit of a challenge! I worked hard on the assignment and was rewarded with a high distinction of 94% which is my best mark yet. My previous assignment grade was a little disappointing, scoring just below the distinction barrier and I was beginning to think that I’d have no chance of securing a distinction at the end but the latest grade has made me a little more hopeful that it may be within my grasp.

IMG_6193I’ve done very little in the way of writing this month. I’ve done some final editing on my next book and have penned a couple of chapters on the one after but nothing significant. That’s mainly because I needed to get on top of the day job before I went away for holiday over half-term. We went to a resort called Albufeira onThe Algarve. 

It was our first time in Portugal and we loved it. It was a very relaxing holiday although the temperatures got a little hot for my liking halfway through (when they hit 37 degrees). I don’t tan very well, tending to get a heat-rash halfway through a week away, no matter how high a sun DSC00320cream factor I use so I’ve returned sporting a slightly darker shade of ‘pale and pasty’.

Our self-catering apartment complex was lovely (see picture above). We were the room just above the pool bar at the end of the photo which was ideally situated to be close to the pool but not right next to it.

DSC00310My favourite day out was a jet boat trip along the coast, visiting various caves and then an hour dolphin-searching. Sadly we didn’t see dolphins but it was still a fabulous trip and the marina was gorgeous with colourful apartments overlooking it.

I took my laptop with me but didn’t do any writing, even on my last day when I needed to stay indoors because my heat-rash was so itchy. I was tempted to spend the day writing but decided to DSC00294use the downtime to read instead. Although this boat could have given inspiration for a thriller. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a black boat before. Talk about looking like an evil villain’s boat! Mwah ha ha ha!

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June promises to be another very busy month. I have another MA assignment due, significant progress needed on my current WIP, a family wedding, a gig, the munchkin in a show at the YMCA, and a trip to York with my mum and sisters-in-law on my side of the family. And June will start with some very exciting news which I can’t wait to share so watch this space.

Have a great June.

Jessica xx

Whoop Whoop for National Stationery Week!

P1060266It’s my birthday today and hubby absolutely came up trumps for the second year in a row. For ages, he’s been strangely reluctant to buy me any stationery. He’s always said I’m difficult to buy for because there’s rarely something specific I want as a gift. ‘That’s ridiculous!’ I’d cry. ‘I love stationery, books, films, music, jewellery, teddy bears … How can you possibly be stuck for present ideas?’ I don’t know whether it was me stepping up the gear with my writing last year (I started submitting my MS in September 2013) or just a reluctant acceptance that stationery may not be his bag but is absolutely mine, but something prompted him to make a number of stationery purchases last year and he’s surpassed himself again this year.

P1060268I love teddy bears, but I also love owls and these are extremely popular at the moment with some amazingly cute cartoon images available. My owl thing has come more from the fact that I’m a Brown Owl for a pack of 24 x Brownies (I’ve done this for five years now), although I do think they’re lovely in the rare event that I see one. Owls were a bit of theme this year with the lovely Bramble Wood collection that WH Smiths carry. He bought me an A4 notepad in this range, a couple of lovely boxes, some giant paperclips and a set of post-it notes. I have two gorgeous files that we use at Brownies in this range. One is a ring-binder full of colouring pages and puzzles for Brownies who finish a craft early or who need some quiet time on a games night, and the other is an expanding one in which I keep welcome cards and certificates. We also have ‘Owlbert’ (see what I did there?) who we give out at the end of each meeting for the best Brownie-like behaviour. The girls adore Owlbert. Anyway, I hadn’t owned any of this collection myself (have had to try to be restrained) so I’m thrilled to have some now.

He also got me a lovely notepad from Waterstones in a new range I haven’t noticed before, along with a mechanical pencil. He got an ickle bit confused, though, cos he thought he’d bought me a posh pen for signing copies of my paperback during my launch party in June, bless him. To be fair, it looks like a posh biro … but the words ‘Mechanical Pencil’ written clearly across the front, and the instructions on the back about what types of lead it takes are a slight giveaway!

P1060272‘My Future Listography – All I Hope To Do In Lists’ was a fabulous book purchase for me. I love lists. I love writing. I love writing lists. What’s not to love about this gift?

I did purchase a tiny part of my pressie for him: a gorjuss phone holder. I absolutely love the gorjuss range of stationery (as you can see by my fabulous collection), but I’m hugely drawn to three specific girls: one of the original line-up in a turquoise dress with the quote “I found my family in a book” (see pencil case and beer mat) which always feels so appropriate for a writer, the more recent girl in a red dress balanced on a pile of books (like on my phone case) and the girl in a purple dress with the quote “we can all shine” – also appropriate for a writer (see top of tall stack of tins and beer mat).

My gift wasn’t just about stationery. I’m actually going to spend the day in London with a couple of friends of mine at some point over the summer so I’m going to get a bargain plan-ahead ticket for that but, today, he also got me Now 90. The Now series is something I’ve collected for years. I have numbers 1-3 and 10 on vinyl! I then started collecting them on cassette from about Now 13-35 but I listened to them in the car and they got so warped from heat and over-use that I chucked them all years ago. I’ve gone back and managed to get most from 20 up until 90 on CD although I have a few small gaps. I feel a little out of touch these days as I never have time to listen to the charts or watch music TV. If it’s not played by Yorkshire Coast Radio, I don’t hear it so the Now albums are usually an education. I discover some gems of tracks … and, let’s face it, some absolute crap too!

P1060265Rounding up the gifts (which I should point out where also from the munchkin) was ‘Ever After’ on blu-ray. Starring Drew Barrymore, Dougray Scott and Angelica Huston as the most incredibly wicked stepmother, this is a brilliant interpretation of the Cinderella story and one of my all-time favourite films. I owned it on DVD but I haven’t been able to watch it as it wasn’t a UK-region purchase and, unfortunately, our blu-ray player refuses to recognise it. After watching Disney’s latest Cinderella release at the cinema, I was keen to show it to the munchkin as I think Ever After is far superior. We settled down to watch it and realised I’d completely forgotten about the region problems. We’ll find time this weekend. Lovely.

Slight digression there away from stationery. My lovely colleague from work, Joanna, also bought me some fabulous stationery. She knows how to make me happy 🙂 I have a thing for notepads (see a very small part of my collection below), pencil cases, pretty coloured pens and post-it notes so I’ve really been spoiled by her and hubby/munchkin.

P1060271My mother in law also came up trumps. She usually gives me some money (which this year I’ll be able to put towards a launch party outfit) but she also got me this sign this year. I posted it on Facebook then my mum called. She’d also bought the exact same gift for me! What are the odds?!

Did you know that today is National Stationery Week? It runs from 27th April to 3rd May and is about celebrating the written word and all things stationery. Sounds pretty good to me! Wednesday was World Stationery Day too. I don’t think I’ll be able to get away with suggesting a trip around the world to celebrate the wonders of stationery, though, so I’ll gaze at my lovely new collection and my existing collection and let out a contented sigh instead. It really doesn’t take much to make me happy.

What stationery do you love the most and why? Have a great bank holiday weekend xxx

P1060264

These are a few of my favourite things!

It was my birthday at the start of this month and my husband actually excelled himself with his gifts. My main gift was to go to the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) Conference in July so he just needed to get me a few small bits and bobs from him and our 7-year-old daughter. He apologised after I’d opened them for them being “not very exciting.” My instant response was, “You may find these boring but, to a writer, these are incredible gifts.” You see, he’d actually put some thought into it and searched online for gift ideas for writers and, as a result, had bought me:

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  1. A biro with the engraving, “write bestseller with” on it (I know that’s not grammatically correct but “with which to write my bestseller” would have taken up far too much space 😉 ) And it’s my favourite colour; purple
  2. A book called “642 Things to Write About” by The San Francisco Writers’ Grotto which has, surprise, surprise, 642 ideas to get your creative juices flowing. It’s brilliant. Any one of those ideas could prompt a character, a scene or even a whole novel!
  3. A “Books to Check Out” journal where you note down books you want to read, books you’ve enjoyed and books you’ve borrowed or loaned to others. Fabulous

 

On top of that, he got me a book, CD and DVD. What a brilliant set of wonderfully imaginative presents! He may have thought them boring but, to me, these are the things that writers love!

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Writers themselves are brilliant buyers of gifts. My wonderful Write Romantic pal, Jo, sent me a gift that included a notebook, pen and a gorgeous paperweight with the word “Dream” in it. How very appropriate.

I have another writing friend, Sarah, who isn’t in The Write Romantics as she writes children’s books. We met about four years ago. We don’t see each other very often but we have always bought each other a birthday gift and I think we deliberately keep this up because we know that we will buy each other a fabulous writing gift; the sort that we’d like to buy ourselves but can’t justify spending the money on. Over the years, she’s bought me some wonderful items. This year it was a set of Emma Bridgewater stationery, which I love, but one of my favourite gifts ever was this gorgeous planner. I can’t wait to get my own writing space so I can put this on my wall and use it properly.

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I’ve always loved stationery, even before I had any thoughts about being a writer. I have three weaknesses: coloured pens, notebooks and pencil cases. I’ve got about eight pencil cases which is a bit ridiculous for someone who doesn’t go to school! I daren’t count how many notepads. I’ve asked hubby to take some pictures of them but, sshhh, don’t tell him that this doesn’t reflect the full collection! I buy them mainly when they’re on offer or because they’re simply too beautiful to resist. I like to use a pad to out each novel my they have to be right for novel. When I came up with the idea for book 1, I soon realised it was going to be a trilogy and I scoured bookshops, stationers and supermarkets trying to find three notepads that were part of a set yet different. I finally got a set that had different colour flowers on them and then I discovered some Paperblanks in WH Smith. One of them would set me back nearly double what the original three had cost but they were just so gorgeous. If you’re a Paperblank fan, you’ll know exactly what I mean. They are hardback, have quality paper, a little envelope in the back and a flap that closes over onto the front with a really satisfying thunk. How many times must I have visited WH Smith over a two-three week period telling myself I couldn’t afford them. I must have lost the battle because here they are and I’ve used one per book and not regretted the investment at all.

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Book 4, however, has moved completely away from the Paperblanks as, although it’s set in the same place, it has a new cast of characters and I wanted to start completely afresh. Boots were selling these over Christmas. Aren’t they gorgeous? In fact, cute or what? as they say on the front! The pages inside are pale pink with the owl motif on one side of the page and the bird on the other.

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Of course, something so beautiful needs a beautiful set of pens. Hello Stabilos. Look at all of those beautiful colours *Pauses to gaze at them dreamily* I’ve got four main characters in book 4 so I’ve been using a different colour to map out each one. Little things like that excite me. Is that sad? The Stabilo Boys also serve as great editing pens as I always have to print off a paper copy when I’m on my final edit as it’s the only way I can spot all the typos and consistency flaws. I’ve tried it on the screen and I can’t spot them although I do try to save the environment a bit by printing four pages per A4 page (I have good eyesight!)

So, I have my notepad and my lovely pens. There’s just one more tool I need to help me with my planning process; my planner. I used a diary when planning book 1 but then spotted one of these in the RSPB Reserve Shop at Bempton Cliffs of all places and I knew it was the tool I needed. As I plan out each chapter in my notebook, I write bullet points of the key events on the weekly planner and this helps me keep a track of days, dates and seasons.

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ImageThen it’s onto the computer and away I go.

I can’t finish this blog without a nod to some of my other favourite items of stationery so here’s a final selection of beautiful and practical things.

What about you? Are you stationery-mad? Please let me know what your must-have items are, the greatest stationery indulgence you’ve had or that one item you would love to have but simply can’t justify buying … yet!

Thanks for reading. And thanks to hubby for the wonderful photos, even if he did get stressed cos I gave him virtually no notice and he kept complaining the light wasn’t right so they weren’t his best work. They’re brilliant and better than anything I’d manage!

Julie xx