The one where I’ve had a very busy week

You know how you can have weeks with very little in the diary then suddenly you hit a week where everything happens? I had one of those last week…

It started with a talk at Scarborough Soroptimists on Monday. Months back the chairperson, Angela, asked whether I might be interested in joining them. I did a careers talk at my daughter’s school recently but this is the first time I’ve spoken to adults in real life since I was an indie author so it all felt very new.

I confess I wasn’t familiar with the organisation so was surprised to discover that Soroptimists International had celebrated their centenary last year. They’re about ensuring women and girls have a voice and you can read more about their great work here. The Scarborough branch meet at Ganton Village Hall which is a small village between Scarborough and Malton.

The talk seemed to go well and it was great to have questions afterwards. A huge thank you to the group for hosting me.

On Wednesday, I met author Rowan Coleman on Scarborough seafront for a cuppa and a doughnut (nom nom). It was a gorgeous sunny day (sunnier than the photos might look!) with a gentle breeze – lovely.

When I arrived, there were loads of primary school children emerging from ‘Aquarium Top’ to queue for an ice cream. I knew that the area that was formerly an aquarium had been painted so I took a quick look when the space was clear. How pretty is this?

On Friday, we were meant to be going to Castle Howard to see Duran Duran. This was advertised as a picnic-style gig where you take food and drink in and enjoy relaxing in a foldaway chair in front of the beautiful stately home. We’ve been to gigs there before and it’s fabulous. However, the promoters – Senbla – sent everyone an email at the start of the week with some ‘additional information’ which changed everything we’d expected. The gig was being held in a field away from the home so there wouldn’t the stunning backdrop with which we’re familiar, food and drink could not be taken in, chairs weren’t permitted, picnic blankets were an option but you might be asked to stand up when the gig started, and it was £10.20 to book parking (this being at a venue in the middle of nowhere to which you pretty much have to drive) or £15 cash on the night if you didn’t book 24 hours before. Wow! This was NOT what we signed up to!

I contacted Ticketmaster who claimed nothing had changed – it had! – and said it was the promotor’s issue, not theirs. I contacted Castle Howard and Senbla via both Facebook and Twitter to ask for an explanation and a refund and also emailed Senbla. All contact has been ignored. I’m not impressed at all.

This had been a gift for my 50th birthday but we had to give it a miss because I can’t stand for several hours and it would have ruined it attempting to do so. Sitting on a picnic blanket for ages wouldn’t be an option either – I’d struggle to get down and up again!

I’m extremely disappointed at the change to what we booked with no responsibility taken from any of the parties. So we’ve had to walk away from the money. We took a drive up to Whitby instead, got a chippy tea and went for a wander. It was strange seeing Whitby so deserted!

As we climbed back up to the car on the north side, there was the most beautiful light with the approaching sunset.

On Saturday night, I was invited over to see my friends at Wolds Hedgehog Rescue – the ‘real’ Hedgehog Hollow – for a catch-up. Nanny Angela needed to bring three hoglets over to be fed during the meeting and I had the honour of having a go at feeding one of them – first time I’ve ever done this. Awww!

Then on Sunday, I topped the week off with a visit into Scarborough. Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow went into The Works a few weeks back but I missed the Scarborough ones as they arrived and sold out really quickly. I was delighted to see they’d had another delivery so had a chance to sign them. As always, the staff in there were so lovely.

I actually hadn’t expected to see the book in there so I’d thrown on the same clothes from the night before (as I’d only worn them for 3 hours) and hadn’t put any make-up on or brushed my hair. So this is the natural look 🙂

I’ve just been on to the website at The Works but Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow appears to have sold through but you will probably still find copies in your local branch.

So overall a very busy week and I’ll finish it with a photo of a garden ornament I spotted in the window of The Gift Company which I absolutely neeeeeeed, and a photo of my gorgeous Eleanor Tomlinson print of Her Majesty the Queen with Paddington Bear. I’m cheating a bit as that actually arrived yesterday – not last week – but I thought I’d sneak it in here. My Steiff Paddington (a gift from my husband on our wedding day) couldn’t resist posing with it. The print went viral after the Jubilee and the signed edition sold out really quickly but Eleanor has printed an open edition (which is how I got mine) and you can get that and check out her other gorgeous artwork here.

This week is shaping up to be really busy too – hair appointment, dentist for a filling (argh!) and also a Facebook Live at lunchtime today. So if you read this post this morning and you’re free at 12noon, you might like to join us on Book and Tonic’s Facebook page. The Live will be Jo Bartlett, Helen Rolfe and me chatting about building our communities.

Have a fabulous week.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

Becoming a writer is like 80s music. Really it is! Don’t believe me? …

I love dressing up. No! Stop it! I don’t mean in a saucy “ooh matron” fifty shades kind of way! I mean 70s gear, murder mysteries, theme party kind of way. And on Saturday night, I got to dig out my huge bag of outfits and go back to the 80s. The 80s for me were age 7 to 17 so meant my childhood, my first broken heart, friendships made and lost, my school years, discovering music and attempting to discover fashion. To be fair, I was briefly very trendy. I owned not one, not two, but three ra-ra skirts. I had a big perm. I had fluorescent socks (worn one pink, one yellow of course; bang on trend) and I had roller boots and a Sony Walkman. How cool was I?

So Saturday night took me back to those days. My hair is short these days so I attempted big and back-combed which wasn’t so easy but the neon was easier. Leg-warmers, net skirt, bangles, beads … absolutely gorgeous. And here’s the proof …

Image

Yep, pretty scary isn’t it. And also a reminder that I must get back on that diet. I’d been doing so well until I discovered the chocolate machine downstairs at work.

But what has all of this got to do with writing? I do have a point. Honest. I said I discovered music in the 80s and I still think this is the best era of music. Ever. From cheesy pop to new romantics and even a bit of Ska, I love it all. And my useless knowledge won us the quiz at our 80s night which yielded a prize of 4 main meals at the venue. Very nice. But that’s not my point. My point is that trying to become a writer is like the music of the 1980s. Bear with me …

Imagine (John Lennon): It starts with an idea and you begin to imagine your characters, your world, the dilemmas, the pain and the joy and, because I write romances, the happy ever after

It Started With a Kiss (Hot Chocolate): That’s it. You’ve got your hero and you’ve fallen in love with him. The moment he first kisses your lead, it’s like he’s kissing you too. Awww

I Know Him So Well (Elaine Paige & Barbara Dickson): It gets to the point where you know your hero better than you know your own partner. And perhaps even like him better than you like your own partner! Boy is it disappointing when your husband doesn’t behave in the same way as your hero (sorry hubby but you have a lot to live up to!)

Never Gonna Give You Up (Rick Astley): That moment arrives where you’ve written “the end”. You’ve edited then tweaked then edited some more and you realise that, unless it’s going to remain a computer file for the rest of your life, you’re going to have to let someone else read your manuscript. Eek! It’s very, very hard to let go for the first time

Relax! (Frankie Goes to Hollywood): That’s it! You’ve done it. You’ve submitted your MS for the first time, whether this be to a beta-reader or several or even a formal critiquing service. It’s time to relax. Except it isn’t really. Knowing that your ‘baby’ is being read by others for the first time ever is the most nerve-wracking thing ever. What if they hate it? What if they think you can’t write? What if you’ve wasted the last ‘X’ months/years of your life on a pile of grammatically-incorrect poorly-observed pile of twaddle. Relax is not the word

I Just Called To Say I Love You (Stevie Wonder): But then you get the call, text, email or Facebook message from your beta reader or critique service and it turns out you weren’t wasting your time. You can write. You have a great story. They loved it! You’re on your way!

The Land of Make Believe (Bucks Fizz): You do a final edit and you compile a list of agents and/or publishers to approach. You start daring to dream of that make-believe land where you can pack in the day job and write every day … and actually get paid for it. It’s time to send it out into the big bad world

Blue Monday (New Order): Your first rejection arrives. Blue Monday (or Tuesday, or Wednesday …) You expected it but it’s still hard because all you can think is …

Don’t You Want Me? (Human League): … and it appears they don’t. But you keep trying because you so desperately want someone to …

Take On Me (A-ha): Please take me on! Please!!! I’ll be a really good writer and do all the edits you suggest and meet all your deadlines. I promise. Just please take me on!

Then you get THE CALL …

Hello … Is it me you’re looking for (Lionel Richie). “She’s got it! Yeah baby she’s got it” (Venus, Bananarama). You know that Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now (Starship), The Only Way Is Up (Yazz) and Fame (Irene Cara) is just around the corner … except it’s not the fame you do it for. You do it because you can’t not do it. You have stories to tell. You have characters who need to tell them. And you couldn’t imagine a world where you didn’t let them.

So who’s going to Take On Me? I’m still wishing and Waiting for a Star to Fall (Boy Meets Girl). Please Don’t Leave Me This Way (The Communards). Say I’m Your Number One (Princess) and I’ll pack in my 9-5 (Dolly Parton/Sheena Easton). I’m Hungry Like The Wolf (Duran Duran) for this and, no matter how many rejections I get, I will Hold on Tight (ELO) to my dreams, just Wishing I Was Lucky (Wet Wet Wet).

I think I’d better end this post before I shoe-horn in any more 80s songs as even I can see it’s dripping in mozzarella now! Hope you liked my 80s references and they brought back a few classic 80s tunes to mind.

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