I originally intended on starting this post by wishing you a Happy New Year which would have been appropriate because I’d intended to write it during the first week in January. However, time has not been on my side and I’ve been frantically beavering away on my edits for Summer Nights at The Starfish Café with no time to write a blog post.
The second round of edits went off to my editor this morning and I’m busy trying to catch up on a million things I’ve missed … including this blog post. So I’ll start it instead by saying I hope the New Year is treating you well so far.
I don’t know about you but I’m not a fan of New Year. I think I had too many anti-climax nights out on New Year’s Eve when I was in my late teens and twenties and it has jaded me somewhat. I’ve also had some good New Years, but most of them haven’t turned out as hoped. I therefore haven’t been out for NYE for a very long time – can’t actually remember the last time – and I am usually in bed before midnight.
For many years now, I’ve found myself struggling with that period between Christmas and New Year, and the end of 2021/start of 2022 was the worst ever. The threat of another lockdown (which never happened) didn’t help but, even without that, I would have felt down. I can’t fully pinpoint why but I think it’s that feeling that I should take time out but, really, I’d rather be working. I’m also very mindful of the NY resolutions I’ve never kept (losing weight and getting fit, I’m looking at you!) and that brings me down too.
So, after a sombre NY a year ago, hubby and I decided to do something different and go away for a week after Christmas, meaning we’d be away over NY. It didn’t mean we’d physically go out and celebrate NYE – still anticipated being in bed before midnight – but we thought the change of scenery might be a good plan. So we booked a week in our spiritual home of Keswick and it did us the world of good.
If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you’ll know how much I love Keswick and that it’s the area is where I’m going to be setting a brand new series starting in the summer this year. I’ll be writing my first chapters on Wednesday and I’m so excited to get going.
The weather wasn’t particularly kind to us with rain most of the time but, hey, it’s the Lakes and they wouldn’t be what they are without the rain. Sadly, the companies making outdoor clothing seem to think that women bigger than size 18 don’t walk and it’s pretty much impossible to get hold of decent waterproof walking gear in my size (bigger than 18) so being out and about in the rain and cold is a challenge and it meant we couldn’t venture too far. So, a huge shout out to those companies – bigger sizes please!!!!
Keswick looked beautiful with the Christmas lights on, although my photos (in the rain) really don’t do it justice…
There’d been so much rainfall recently that Derwent Water had risen significantly, covering many of the wooden jetties. There was a flood warning and some of the campsites on the lake edge had an evacuation order in place for the caravans and lodges closest to the lake.
If you look at the pics below, you can see the jetty is flooded. And check out that tyre and swing – wouldn’t want to play on those!
Our holiday cottage (one of the white ones in the second image) was in a great location, five minutes’ walk to the bottom of town. It overlooked Fitz Park where the river was looking particularly swollen.
While our daughter stayed in the holiday cottage one day to do some revision (she’s doing her GCSEs this year), hubby and I had a walk to the area that is providing the main inspiration for my Lakes series … but I’ll hold off on showing any photos of that area for now as I want to save them for when I launch the series.
We wandered down to the water’s edge again and it was very different to when we’d visited over Easter. I’ve included photos of the same view (roughly) the first with the blue sky taken at Easter and the overcast one over New Year. Still stunning, though, in both types of weather! In the fourth photo below, the mountain beyond the pathway is Cat Bells which we had to abandon over Easter when the weather came in but hope to conquer over Easter this year.
On another day, hubby and I went for a walk round the other side of Derwent Water. It absolutely bucketed it down and, by the time we got back to the cottage, every part of me was wet – even my underwear. Nice!
Again, I have a comparison pic. There are a pair of stones called the Millennium Stones. When we visited previously, you could see them fully out of the water. This time, with the lake so high, they were only just peeking out. I’m pointing at the top of them on the photo!
And then, after a cold, wet, overcast week, the sun came out … on the day we were leaving! And what a difference a bit of blue sky makes! It was frosty and really quite beautiful as I took Ella out for a walk in the park. Again, my photos don’t fully do it justice. The peak you can see in the first one is Latrigg (which we did conquer over Easter, although it’s one of the smaller ones) and the snowy-capped one in the second image is (or is near) Skiddaw (not 100 per cent sure which peak is actually Skiddaw but it is in that range).
We didn’t venture far from Keswick during our week – only going out on foot – but we decided to drive home via Bowness-on-Windermere where the weather was even nicer, but still very cold. Loving that change in light towards the end of the day.
While I was away, I had a chance to catch up briefly with one of my friends, the amazingly talented artist Lucy Pittaway. Lucy has a gallery in Keswick which was actually right opposite the bottom of the street we walked down to get to town. She was holidaying in the area too so it was lovely to meet up for a couple of drinks. It never enters my head to take a photo of us together until after we part company, so here’s a picture of Lucy’s gallery instead. If you’re not familiar with Lucy’s work, do check out her website here.
Would I advocate going away over New Year? Absolutely yes. So much so that we’ve already booked to do the same this year, although a different location.
My one learning was that I shouldn’t go aiming to work. I took my first round of edits with me and, using the rain as an excuse, spent way too much time in front of my laptop trying to work on them. I got very little done for the amount of hours attempted. I need to use time away as a break and, if I do need to do some work, it either needs to be writing a first draft or doing the final read-through where limited brain power is required.
It’s Christmas Eve! We’ve been up to Whitby for a wander around this morning. I predicted quiet, hubby predicted packed and I was right although it was getting busier as we left at about 1pm. Perhaps everyone had been braving the food shopping this morning and had ventured out for a wander this afternoon. Look at that gorgeous blue sky! I’d wrapped up warmly in a blanket scarf and my new coat, affectionately nicknamed ‘the duvet’ because it is quilted and just like wearing a duvet. It’s just from Sainsbury’s but it’s probably the warmest, most gorgeous coat I’ve ever owned. Anyway, it was welcome in the shadows but I was a tad on the warm side in the sun.
How adorable is that whale in the bottom photo? It’s made out of recycled plastic bottles and is for depositing your plastic drinks bottles. He looks very happy.
This is my last post of the year and I’m going to have a little look back over some of the extra special moments across 2022. If you’re a subscriber to my newsletter, you’ll have had some insight into this already with a special Merry Christmas newsletter this morning. If you’re not a subscriber, you can sign up here.
I’m going to do my reflection mainly in photo format.
In 2022, I’ve had four brand new releases outand completed the six-book Hedgehog Hollow series…
Three of my books have gone into The Works, bringing the total up to eight books going into branches of The Works and online. What an honour! A huge thank you to the staff in all branches of The Works who are always exceptionally friendly and in particular the manager Jamie and the staff at the Scarborough branch who love me going in to sign copies.
It’s always a thrill to see my books when out and about. This year, I’ve spotted them in other branches of The Works, Irton Garden Centre near Scarborough, the Helmsley Bookshop, Beverley Bookshop, Barter Books in Hawes, Good Reads Discount Bookshop in Whitby, Slightly Foxed in Berwick-Upon-Tweed and the Scarborough and York branches of Waterstones (not all shown here).
AWARDS AND MILESTONES
I was thrilled have Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café shortlisted as a finalist in the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Romantic Novel of the Year Christmas/Festive category. I went down to the Awards ceremony in London in March and, although I didn’t win, it was a fabulous event.
In the summer, I celebrated a sales milestone of 750,000 units sold since joining Boldwood Books – a number I never thought I’d have a hope of reaching.
Also in the summer, Boldwood Books celebrated their third birthday and I hit the third anniversary of my debut release – The Secret to Happiness.
There’ve been some amazing milestones with reviews/ratings, all of my books currently having at least 1,500 reviews/ratings on Amazon alone, including the most recent release. Several of my audiobooks have stormed the Top 20 of the Audible chart but my absolute highlight was this month when Christmas Wishes at the Chocolate Shop made it to #4 in the overall Audible chart.
I didn’t think that could be topped but, this week, I discovered that the Hedgehog Hollow series is in Audible’s Top 20 of the best trending series of 2022 and Christmas Miracles at Hedgehog Hollow is in the Romantic Comedy Top 20 too. Wow! I was not expecting that and the company those hedgehogs are keeping is phenomenal. I can’t get over those big names we’re alongside!
If you want to check out the full listing, you can find it here.
Two of my books – Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow and New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow – have been translated into Swedish through Lavender Lit. The third one – Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow – has also been acquired by them and will be out in spring 2023. I’m hoping they’ll take the final three too but they hadn’t been written at the time the deal was made.
It’s lovely seeing foreign translations and I adore the covers from Lavender Lit. I love the way they have kept the colours and themes of the English versions but put their own spin on them.
I also had an offer from Serbia to take two Hedgehog Hollow books which was really exciting, but I had to decline it because the offer was actually for book one and six and, although each book is a complete story, the characters are consistent and there are themes that build across the series. I didn’t feel right agreeing to a deal where book six wouldn’t make sense read after book one. Hopefully 2023 will bring other offers.
I trained on a one-month workshop in March through RNA Learning which I loved and for which I had incredible feedback and was invited back again for 2023.
Boldwood held their first face-to-face party in May which was a lovely event and I attended the RNA’s summer conference which I really enjoyed.
Stockton Libraries invited me to speak at Norton Library and it was wonderful to have such a big audience. I had been looking forward to speaking at the Richmond Walking & Book Festival too – my very first festival – but my slot clashed with our Queen’s funeral so had to be cancelled. Fingers crossed for next year.
I’ve had lots of get togethers with my bestie, talented author Sharon Booth who I’m thrilled to say has secured a publishing deal with Storm Publishing with a new series out through them starting next year, and with author Eliza J Scott.
Sharon and I both met up with Lizzie Lamb when she was on holiday in the area, I met four of the amazing five admins of The Friendly Book Community on Facebook when they came to Whitsborough Bay (aka Scarborough) for a weekend, and Sharon and I had a few days in York with our writing friend Jackie Ladbury. I do love spending time with book people as there’s never a shortage of things to talk about!
I spoke at a meeting of the Scarborough Soroptimists and spent some time with my friends at Wolds Hedgehog rescue – the real Hedgehog Hollow – with an amazing chance to feed a hoglet. I also went on a needlefelting workshop to make a robin in honour of the Hedgehog Hollow series (if you know, you know).
I celebrated turning fifty in May. I don’t feel anywhere near my age, although my creaking knees do!
As a family, we’ve had a few holidays, making up for the pandemic years. We spent Easter in the Lake District which was partly a research trip as I’m, setting a new series in the Lakes next year. We had a week in Hawes in Northumberland in August, deferred from February half term when the hubby and I both came down with Covid. And we had a week in Lanzarote over the October half term break which was our first trip abroad since the start of the pandemic. It was lovely to be away again.
It’s been a busy old year but a lovely one too.
If you’re thinking it all sounds very rosy, there have been some tough moments too. I’ve had Covid twice – although thankfully not too seriously – and the downside of the first time was missing a gig and a holiday. My mum was poorly earlier this year which was a worrying time. I’ve struggled with some deadlines and suffered with conjunctivitis on a couple of occasions, making deadlines even harder. There’ve been other challenges too but I’d rather end the year focusing on all the positives and hope you can too for your 2022 as, even in the darkest years, there’ll always be chinks of light.
Wishing you and yours an amazing Christmas. I hope the final week of the year brings you happiness, hope and positivity. Thank you to all the readers/ listeners/ authors/ bloggers/ friends and family members who have championed my work this year and the amazing Team Boldwood. Your support means the world to me and gives me the motivation to keep doing what I’m doing, especially in those dark moments where I think I lack the talent/am incapable of writing another book.
I love going on holiday. I don’t mind whether it’s in the UK or abroad as I simply love that time to switch my brain off and hopefully catch up on some sleep. Yesterday evening, we returned from a week in Lanzarote. We’d been so looking forward to it as it was our first trip overseas post-pandemic. Like many people, we’d cancelled a holiday when that first lockdown hit (Portugal in May 2020) and the idea of sitting on a plane or round a pool wearing face masks didn’t appeal so we’d waited until things settled before booking another holiday abroad.
We’ve visited the Canary Islands before – Gran Canaria twice, Tenerife and Fuerteventura – so we decided to complete the set of the four main islands with a trip to Lanzarote.
We were that excited about the prospect of going abroad again that we didn’t do as much research as usual. We also hadn’t really thought about our changing needs as a family. Our daughter will be 16 at Christmas and is in her final year at senior school. She was approaching 11 on our last Canaries visit (Gran Canaria) and in her final year at primary school. Very different situation.
So we bodged. We choose a much larger hotel than we’ve chosen before in a resort which looked pretty central and therefore easy access on a small island to anything else we wanted to get to. We knew it would be different but we’d overlooked quite how different it would be. And how it wasn’t going to be right for us!
When we looked at the hotel on the website, the pirate ship and slides in the middle of the pool should have been a big clue. The many kids’ clubs for different ages up to 18 should have been another. The giant daisy mascot should have rung bells. But nothing clicked until we took a wander round the hotel grounds (an early flight meant our room wasn’t ready on arrival) and were hit by a wall of sound. Oops! This was a large family hotel and the majority of the children were primary school age and younger. There were children absolutely everywhere, squealing, shouting, laughing, crying. The quiet read by the pool I’d been looking forward to suddenly became a distant dream. (Note, the photos were taken before the pool opened in most cases so don’t be deceived by how few people there are!)
Before anyone yells ‘Bah, humbug!’ at me or whatever would be the appropriate equivalent for a ‘summer’ holiday, I’ll just clarify that there’s nothing wrong with this type of holiday and I absolutely agree that young children should be squealing, laughing and having fun in the pool, enjoying their holiday. It’s just that it’s not for us at this point in our life and not for our daughter either.
The resort itself – Costa Teguise – was very pleasant. It was clean and had a lovely promenade along the sea into the town – something we’ve always loved about the other Canarian resorts we’ve visited. However, this one didn’t have as many bars and restaurants alongside it as we’re used to so it was a little different and we ended up doing that walk into the town for lunch or dinner a lot.
There were some trips that had appealed but, with the pound not performing well, these were very expensive. The three places we’d have liked to go would really only have been 1-2 hour visits and we couldn’t justify £45 each per trip on that basis. We did go to Rancho Texas Park near Puerto Del Carmen where there was a mix of animals from a Siberian White Tiger to dolphins to buffalo to guinea pigs. Yes, that’s a very eclectic mix! The park was nicely arranged and if you attended all the shows and spent time in the water park part, you could easily spend a full day there but we didn’t do the water park or attend all the shows so we only needed a few hours.
I loved seeing the guinea pigs in their cute wigwams and a baby buffalo in his food trough but I do struggle with seeing some animals in captivity and like to know their story. At the Sealife Centre in Scarborough, there are some resident seals but they all have stories which mean they would struggle in the wild e.g. one is blind, another has a brain injury etc. I wanted to hear those sorts of stories about the dolphins here but they didn’t share any and the show was very much the traditional jumping through hoops and jumping for balls type. Looking on the website since then, they were all born in captivity. Does this mean they can’t be released into the wild? I don’t know. I’m no expert on this. All I can say is it makes me a bit twitchy. Same with the tiger. He was amazing to see but is it cruel to have him there? Again, I don’t know. One of those things that makes me go hmmm.
As we hadn’t been there all day, we caught a taxi to Puerto Del Carmen’s harbour thinking we could catch a boat trip to see dolphins in the wild but there weren’t any running which was disappointing. I’m sure Puerto Del Carmen is lovely if you’re in the ‘right’ part but the walk from the harbour to the town wasn’t the nicest.
The daughter and I have a favourite shop called Ale-Hop aka ‘The Cow Shop’ as there’s always a cow outside it (not a real one, of course!) It sells a mix of things from stationery to hair accessories to toys to gadgets. There was an Ale-Hop in Puerto Del Carmen so we visited that, spent some Euros, and decided we were done with Puerto Del Carmen and headed back to the hotel.
I purchased the most gorgeous squashy cat who I’ve christened ‘Pusstachio’ because he’s pistachio green. I was quite proud of that name. I neeeeeeded him! My phone is actually full and I can’t take any more pictures (and don’t have the energy to go through deleting old ones) but if you’d like to see him, this is Ale-Hop’s Spanish website and a link direct to my green cat here.
I managed to shut out the noise and did read two books on a couple of pool days and loved them both: The Will of the Witchfrom Sharon Booth, book four in her fabulous The Witches of Castle Clair series and Happy Endings at Mermaids Pointby Sarah Bennett which is the final of five books in this gorgeous series and was simply the perfect (happy) ending. It’s rare I get time to read so this was a luxury for me. I also caught up on a lot of sleep and I switched off completely from work which was much needed as I’ve had quite a tough year with my writing – several books in a row needing quite major editing which had taken it out of me. So I did achieve some of my holiday goals which is good.
Usually when we get to the end of a week away, we wish we were staying longer and had ten days booked, but this is the first time a week seemed too long. Again, I emphasise that there was nothing wrong with our resort or the island and I’m sure many readers of this will love the places. They just weren’t quite for us and we’ve learned a valuable lesson about what we really want from our holidays now. We don’t love the heat. We don’t enjoy lounging by a pool and, if we are, we prefer a quiet pool where you can swim properly. We love things to do and beautiful scenery. This is why our spiritual home is Keswick in the Lake District, even in the rain. You don’t get much more stunning than Derwent Water and the mountains surrounding it.
There were some stunning flowers in the gardens around the hotel and they’d made a brilliant effort with Halloween decorations in the lobby. There was a fabulous set of bookshelves and I took a couple of my books to gift to the collection. I would absolutely love it if someone spotted one of them and shared a pic on social media.
On our final evening – Thursday – we had a late lunch/early tea so that we could pack our cases. The daughter wanted one last ice-cream from a place called Crème which we’d visited a few times (highly recommended) so she and the hubby went for a final walk into town while I packed the cases. My phone rang. Husband. ‘We’ve just seen a hedgehog!’ How typical that the one and only time I stayed in the apartment, they spotted a hedgehog. How gutted was I? The daughter dug her phone out but didn’t manage to get a clear picture as it was dark and she didn’t want to use flash and startle it. Apparently the Algerian or North African Hedgehog can be found on the Canary Islands. It was introduced to all the Canary Islands and has a much lighter face than our European Hedgehog.
We had a delay coming home – late boarding and then about 3/4 an hour sitting on the plane having missed our departure slot as there was quite a lot of faffing about boarding (won’t bore you with that story) – but there was a strong tail wind so the flight was an hour shorter and we landed only about 20 minutes later than planned. We needed to get the shuttle bus to the car park and had just missed one. Despite them supposedly being on a 7-10 minute loop, we must have waited heading for half an hour and had even checked out Google Maps to see if walking was an option.
Finally a bus appeared and everyone piled on. Except nobody seemed to know how these buses work. There is luggage space to put large cases in with a lip to stop them rolling out and two shelves for the smaller cases/hand baggage. So many of those who’d boarded first had small cabin cases but they’d filled the large case space with them meaning there was no space for us or anyone behind us to put their large cases. The daughter managed to get a seat with hers beside her and hubby and I squashed into the mid-bus exit with ours. Then a family got on with 2 children and a gazillion cases between them and they hadn’t a clue what to do. The driver instructed people to move down the bus which is fine … but what do you do with your luggage? A woman getting on shouted some abuse at them, ordering them to move and they tried to but there was still nowhere to put their luggage. They ended up standing by us, completely blocking the exit.
The driver gave up getting everyone on and had to leave a handful of people to wait for the next bus. Perhaps if he’d instructed people as they got on to put their small luggage on the shelves, everyone could have squeezed on, but he gave no guidance and perhaps didn’t see that as his job. Mind you, you would think logic would say put small, lighter luggage on shelves, wouldn’t you?
Anyway, there’s a reason I’m giving you all this background because there was an incident. We pulled up at the first stop and not many people needed to get off – maybe 3-4? The man and woman from the family finally realised they needed to get off to let people out so they did that with their big suitcases but another woman getting off needed to retrieve her smaller suitcase from where it had been pinned in behind a load of other cases. This wasn’t easy with people and cases everywhere. In the meantime, the man and woman from the family had got back on the bus so I explained to them that they would need to get off again until everyone was off so they did that and hubby got off too to give even more space.
And that’s when the incident happened. Some woman sat near the back suddenly started on me. It came out of nowhere but, my goodness, she had opinions and I was going to be the butt of them. Apparently I was ignorant and blocking theexit and should have had the sense to get off. I wasn’t blocking the exit at all! I was squashed at the far side, away from where people were trying to get off. The family who’d got off after us were the ones blocking it and it was already resolved by me explaining to them that they needed to get off temporarily and by hubby getting off too. But this woman was on one and apparently it was all my fault. I’ve never experienced anything like it. I asked her why she was having a go at me when I wasn’t in the way but she just kept going on and on. I said could she leave it because everyone had had a lovely holiday and just wanted to get home and things were sorted now and there was no need for the abuse but, no, I was the one to blame for absolutely everything and she continued in her rant at me, complete with scary looks.
Crazy thing is she couldn’t have seen me when all the kerfuffle started as I’m too short for her to have seen me past everyone else so there was no way she could have pinpointed me as being the one in the way (when I wasn’t). She wouldn’t leave it. I can’t bear confrontation and was shaking at this point but I wasn’t going to just stand there while she continued with her verbal abuse so I said very strongly, ‘Hey! Stop it!’ It was all I could manage as I was on the verge of tears. Of course, she didn’t stop. This got a whole raft of further abuse about me telling her to stop it.
I had sympathetic looks from those round me and a couple caught my eye and I could tell they were stunned at what had kicked off and why it was directed at me. I know why. This woman was clearly tired and wanted to get home. I get that. I was tired and wanted to get home too. Things weren’t happening quickly enough for her. I get that too. The whole luggage storage thing was a disaster, but it wasn’t anyone’s fault and it certainly wasn’t mine. There were 6 people stood in the exit and she’d have taken one look at them wondering who she could vent at. She couldn’t have a go at the children but she couldn’t have a go at the parents either without potentially being accused of racist behaviour as they were people of colour. The hubby is over 6 foot so no way was she going to have a go at him. Which left the short fat woman.
She got off at the same stop as us. I shot across the zebra crossing to the car park, desperate to get away with her, praying she was in a different section to us. I feared her having a go at me again. I don’t know what she’d hoped to achieve by the abuse. If it was to scare me, it worked. I was terrified. I couldn’t stop thinking about it all the way home, wishing I’d been able to say something more effective or clever to shut her down.
I didn’t sleep last night.
It’s after 6pm today and I’ve been thinking about it all day today.
Why are there people like this? Why would someone verbally attack a stranger in this way? Why do bullies exist? And why did nobody defend me? My only comfort was that, as we got off, a man said to hubby that he has no idea why the woman had a go at me when I was doing nothing wrong. At least there was some support for me, even if nobody voiced it.
We didn’t have the best holiday but this wiped out all the positive memories and made it one of my worst experiences ever. I’ve already told hubby that we’re going to have to do the private parking thing at the airport so we don’t have to do that shuttle bus again. No way could I risk experiencing that.
Everything happens for a reason and all experiences are useful to an author. Perhaps I’ll use that incident in a future novel. I certainly know how horrendous it feels to be on the receiving end of unprovoked and continuous verbal abuse.
Anyway, to end on a bright note, I hope you enjoyed the photos. As you can see, we ate a lot of ice-cream and drank a lot of cocktails, milkshakes and smoothies!
We’ve been back from our holiday for exactly a week now and it already seems like a distant memory. Although the suitcases on the landing waiting to go back into the attic and the pile of walking trousers/thick socks/breathable T-shirts I’d bought for the trip and don’t have a home for in my wardrobes do keep reminding me it wasn’t that long ago.
The Lake District is one of my favourite places in the UK. I remember family caravanning holidays as a child, paddling in the lakes in flip flops or wellies, and visiting the gorgeous towns and villages around the national park. As an adult, I’ve visited many times.
I often dreamed of living there and, in my late 20s, I actually had an interview to be a trainer at an outdoor activity centre on the shores of Lake Windermere. I was gutted when I didn’t get the job. I’m a firm believer in everything happening for a reason and there were other plans in place for me. If I’d got the job there, I’d probably never have become an author.
My husband and I have visited many times with our daughter and we also went on our own for a weekend to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary in 2015 so we have many fond memories. Usually, we stick to the towns but this time we were determined to get walking. After 18 months of hibernating thanks to a certain pandemic, even the low fells were perhaps a bit ambitious but there was nothing to stop us walking round the lakes and what a treat that turned out to be.
Our holiday cottage was a gorgeous building in a small hamlet on the southern tip of Thirlmere which is a reservoir serving Manchester. We couldn’t see the water from the cottage because of the woods but it was very close by. The views out of the lounge window were stunning.
DAY 1 – GRASMERE & RYDAL WATER
The weather was stunning for our first full day so we had a wander round the pretty village of Grasmere then set off towards the lake. It’s quite a walk from the village to get to the edge of the lake but it’s absolutely worth it. At every turn, there was a new photo to take.
I’m proud to say that all of these are mine taken on my phone and the only one my talented photographer husband took is the bottom one in this batch.
We continued from the northern part of Grasmere towards Rydal Water where we’d heard there were some caves in hills which we’d never visited before. It was a bit people-y around the cave but I was keen to have a go crossing the stepping stones, praying I wouldn’t be the one person who went splat in the water. (Thanks to hubby for the batch of pics below):
It was worth making the crossing as the cave was fabulous although I was too embarrassed on my own to do what I normally would – a deep ‘mwah ha ha ha ha!’
Outside the view was gorgeous and there were loads of amazing stacks of stones. We were pretty hot at this point so didn’t stop to create our own.
We’d covered a lot of miles in the heat by this point and stupidly weren’t prepared as we hadn’t packed any lunch or brought enough water with us. Thankfully, the pathway at the northern tip of Rydal Water opened out onto the road immediately opposite The Badger Bar so that was us sorted for lunch and drinks. It didn’t take much (any) persuading to get the bus back to Grasmere instead of walking!
From there we drove onto Ambleside for something a little more leisurely – a game of crazy golf. Hubby sat on a bench with Ella (the dog) while the munchkin and I played a round. She would claim she won, but she cheats!!!
DAY 2 – FERRY TRIP TO BOWNESS-ON-WINDERMERE
We decided to take a catch the big steam ferry from Ambleside to Windermere on the Sunday which, with hindsight, was a bit of a mistake because Bowness on a bank holiday weekend was crazy busy. I’ve seen it busy many times but this was something else. It was so calm before we boarded the ferry, and the boat itself was fairly empty but we disembarked in Bowness and there was a sea of people everywhere and a wall of noise. Eek!
It was a grey day but still really warm (although a bit chilly on the ferry itself). We had lunch followed by a wander round a lovely market and the town, but we were keen to get back on the ferry and return to some peace and quiet (and an ice cream) in Ambleside.
DAY 3 – BUTTERMERE
Bank Holiday Monday was another grey day but there was no rain forecast so we decided to drive up to Buttermere. We’d heard it was a lovely walk around it. At 4.5 miles, that seemed do-able. And we were prepared with a packed lunch this time!
The sat nav directed us on the terrifying route via Honister Pass or, as the munchkin kept calling it, Hoisin Pass. OMG! If you’ve not done it, it takes you high – very high – past a slate mine with sheer drops and extremely narrow roads. My knuckles were white as I clung onto the door handle! (I will point out that hubby was driving!)
The photo opportunities were very different from our previous lake walk and I even turned on the black and white filter (get me using the tech!) to catch some moody shots!
The walk was lovely and I certainly brightened up a dull day in my red fleece!
We had a lovely treat on the route back up the other side with a few cows lying down by the side of the footpath, taking it all in. Aren’t they gorgeous? And there was an amazing waterfall too which hubby scrambled up to it while the munchkin and I had a little rest. The single cow and waterfall pic are courtesy of hubby.
DAY 4 – LAKESIDE, HAWKSHEAD & BROCKHOLE
It was publication day for me for Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café but we had no WiFi at the cottage so I drove out to a lay-by near Grasmere first thing to pick up 4G and do some sharing of social media posts! After that, we all headed down to Lakeside at the southern tip of Lake Windermere and hubby and munchkin took Ella for a walk while I met my fellow Write Romantic and fabulously talented crime writer Helen Phifer. Helen lives in Cumbria so it was such a great opportunity to catch up with her. We were so busy chatting, we completely forgot to take a photo. Oops!
The family and I then headed up to Hawkshead which is one of my favourite villages and had a wander round and a delicious publication day lunch outside a pub called The King’s Arms.
Although we’ve visited HillTop before, I thought it would be fitting to visit Beatrix Potter’s former home on the day one of my books was released but they were taking bookings only which had never even crossed our mind so that was a no-go.
We caught the car ferry from Hawkshead and headed to Brockhole on the shores of Windermere instead. The munchkin had a freezing cold paddle with Ella (as you might be able to tell from her facial expression on the first pic) and a go-cart ride so she was a happy bunny.
DAY 5 – THIRLMERE
Our plans to do the walk around Derwentwater were a bit scuppered today when munchkin woke up complaining of stomach ache and feeling sick. We stayed at the cottage for the morning hoping it might wear off but she was sick and definitely couldn’t go out and about.
I read and hubby went off for a walk with the dog but I was going a bit stir crazy after lunch so, with munchkin being at an age she can be left alone, we left her sleeping and walked to Thirlmere.
The reservoir was very low after a lengthy dry season and we came close to a stuck-in-the-mud disaster, fooled by the crusty surface! (Top 3 pics are hubby’s).
DAY 6 – KESWICK & DERWENTWATER
It had obviously just been a 24-hour bug as the munchkin woke up feeling much better and, although we decided it would be pushing it to walk the full perimeter of Derwentwater as planned, we reckoned she could manage partway.
We’ve always loved the walk past the theatre and down to the lake shore but have never done the walk round the lake and we can’t believe what we’ve been missing out on because it is stunning. It helped that we had the same gorgeous weather from the start of the week. Just like our walk round Grasmere, there was a photo opportunity with every few paces.
We were so sad to have to say goodbye to our cottage and head back home. We all agreed that, even with the munchkin being ill one day, it was the best UK holiday we’d ever had. I think that was for a combination of reasons – the gorgeous weather, the stunning scenery, properly switching off from work (no WiFi certainly helped) and a break for the first time in nearly two years. Perfect.
I can’t wait to start writing my new series set in the Lake District which does, of course, mean lots more trips there are needed. No hardship whatsoever!
I hope you’ve enjoyed looking at the pictures. I’d love to hear from you if you’ve been to any of these places or you have recommendations for others. Our holiday cottage was gorgeous but it had a few shall we say ‘interesting’ decorative touches. I leave you with the fish vase, the squirrel bin (which weighed a ton), the frankly terrifying ‘Catbells’ artwork (Catbells being a famous fell overlooking Derwentwater which features in the top photos on the above section), the scary rabbit dish thing and the disproportionate squirrel acorn situation.
There are some pivotal moments in recent history where individuals, depending on their age, can recall exactly where they were/what they were doing when they heard the event happened. Some examples include:
The shooting of John Lennon
The fall of the Berlin Wall
The death of Princess Diana
But this is probably the first time in my lifetime that we can add an entire year to the list. 2020. The year where everything and nothing happened. We might want to forget it but we won’t be able to because the global pandemic has impacted on every part of everybody’s lives.
How much of an impact there has been will massively depend on an individual’s circumstances and their mental health. What I might consider disappointing/inconvenient based on my circumstances might have a tremendous impact for somebody else. Therefore, what I’ve written below is very much how I might view things but I do recognise that the events may fall into an entirely different category for someone else…
For some, the impact has been disappointing and inconvenient but not necessarily life-changing or devastating – the annual holiday cancelled, a birthday not celebrated in the usual way, missing face to face contact with friends and family, a new alien work environment based from home.
For others, the impact has been more significant – job loss or reduced hours leading to financial worries, a holiday of a lifetime/ wedding/ anniversary/ big birthday cancelled, being kept away from a loved one in a care home.
And there are those for whom this year has been a tragedy – illness, cancelled operations, bereavement, not able to properly say goodbye to loved ones, businesses failing, acute loneliness and depression and, of course, exam results and the impact of that on college/university places or employment.
My immediate little family of three has been fortunate so far, falling mainly into that first category of a disappointing and inconvenient year: holidays, theatre trips, celebrations for my hubby’s 50th birthday and my birthday all cancelled. Zoom has been a weak alternative to meeting family face-to-face but we still have our jobs and we’ve both worked from home for several years so haven’t had to adjust to that. We have, however, had an unexpected family bereavement – not to Covid – and that was hard, not being able to rush round and give hugs. But we have been lucky and I count my blessings every day for that.
But today feels odd. Strange. Wrong. Because today I should be at my graduation ceremony.
I achieved my Masters in Creative Writing at the back end of 2019 but it was through Open University so ceremonies take place all over the country, with lesser frequency in the north. I’d hesitated as to whether to bother when the ceremony at the nearest venue to us – Harrogate – would be almost a year after graduating but hubby and the munchkin said I should definitely do it and they would be there cheering me on, as would my parents. When Covid hit, all graduation ceremonies were understandably cancelled for the foreseeable future. I have no idea when it will be considered safe to have an event like this again or how they will catch up with the backlog. Will there be any point in attending a ceremony two or three years after finishing? It feels like the moment has passed.
This weekend, I would also have started getting organised ready for our holiday over the October half term. At the start of the year, we booked a week in Portugal for May half term and a holiday cottage in Lancaster to be in easy reach of both Blackpool and the southern Lake District. Portugal was cancelled and, with Lancashire moving into a Tier 3 lockdown yesterday, that’s also cancelled. We had already made the decision not to go while they were Tier 2 as it made no sense to travel from a Tier 1 part of the country into a higher-risk zone, especially knowing we wouldn’t be able to do what we’d planned for our holiday anyway.
What am I doing instead?
I’m staying at home as usual, waiting for a courier to collect the swab kit for my Covid test. I was randomly selected and invited to do this as part of the research survey undertaken by Imperial College London and Ipsos MORI on behalf of the Dept of Health & Social Care. I agreed I was happy to participate and, yesterday, my kit and instructions arrived in the post.
Also in the post was a box of author copies of Making Wishes at Bay View from the print-run that has gone into The Works. A case of normality arriving alongside this strange new world.
It all feels very surreal. If someone had told me last year to guess why I wouldn’t be able to attend my graduation ceremony and what I’d be doing instead, I’d never in a million years have predicated this. Yet this is the new normal.
And seeing as ‘normal’ is different, is it too early to put up the Christmas tree this weekend? Yeah, you’re right. Maybe I need to wait until November. Ooh, 1st November falls on a Sunday. Could I…?
Sending hugs to anyone whose 2020 has hurt/is still hurting. Hang on in there.
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.
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!
DELIGHT – 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.
DELIGHT – 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.
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!
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.
Yesterday started with disappointing but very expected news. Our family holiday to Portugal over May half term was officially cancelled. But the day ended with two bits of excellent news. Firstly, the UK’s Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, came out of intensive care which is wonderful news and also a beacon of hope to show that people do recover from this horrific virus. That doesn’t mean it’s okay to invade parks, beaches, villages and beauty spots this bank holiday weekend, though, people. Stay safe. Stay at home!
Secondly, something really exciting happened for my ‘Welcome to Whitsborough Bay’ series of books. During the week, three of them had gained the little orange Bestseller tags over on Amazon but the final book in the series, Coming Home to Seashell Cottage, did me proud and obtained its own little flag meaning all books in the series became Bestsellers at the same time. Woo hoo! And another two of my books – Bear With Me and Christmas at the Chocolate Pot Cafe – also had orange tags bringing that up to six bestsellers at one time. Such a dream come true.
And they’re not in random categories either – all of the categories do have a direct link to a key theme in the book e.g. Making Wishes at Bay View is set in a care home and is about family relationships across generations so ‘aging’ and ‘aging parents’ [USA spelling on Amazon] is the category. New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms is set in a florists so ‘floral crafts’ is appropriate.
All four books have broken through the Top 1000 on Amazon at some point this week with New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms reaching #352 this morning which was a lovely Easter gift. Better than chocolate any day. Or is it? Mmm. Chocolate…. Is it too early to crack my Easter egg open?
I know there are many people around the world who are understandably struggling right now and many have turned to books for comfort and escapism. It’s been so heartwarming to receive messages and reviews to say that the stories I’ve created have helped readers through lockdown. When I wrote the series, I always hoped that readers would find the stories uplifting but I never, ever dreamed it would be in an unprecedented scenario like this. When the world needs warmth and comfort, I feel so honoured to play a very small part in that.
If you would like to take a trip to the stunning North Yorkshire Coast this weekend, then please do it through the written or spoken word. You can visit the world of Whitsborough Bay on Kindle, Kindle Unlimited and audio formats here. Some of the eBooks are 99p just now and they are, of course, free if you’re in KU.
You can find me on Apple and Kobo too. Apple are running an Easter promotion on The Secret to Happiness for 99p and Kobo are featuring the first two books in the series in their Easter sale. If you have access to the uLibrary App through your library, The Secret to Happiness is available on there.
Finally, if you are or know someone who is a hero right now, whether in the NHS or other key worker roles, then my amazing publisher, Boldwood Books, are running an offer over on Twitter to gift a book by me or any of their other fabulous authors to a #NHShero or #Localhero. You need to DM Boldwood on Twitter by midnight tonight (10th April 2020). Don’t worry if you miss tonight’s deadline as it will be running weekly and there’ll be other amazing offers to thank all those amazing heroes for what they’re doing. You can follow Boldwood on @BoldwoodBooks
Wishing you all the best, with love and virtual hugs
Lapland is the largest and most northerly region of Finland and, of course, the home of Father Christmas. And, last week, my family and I had the bucket-list experience of spending three days there. We flew out on Ashleigh’s 13th birthday – pretty amazing way to spend your first day as a teen!
We’d booked a Santa’s Lapland holiday, flying from Leeds Bradford to Ivalo airport which has to be the dinkiest airport I’ve ever been in. With Christmas songs on the plane, elves running riot round the baggage collection, and lots of snow, it was certainly beginning to look and feel a lot like Christmas. As we went out to our coaches, there was a Sami with a reindeer for a perfect photo opportunity.
We were staying in a beautiful village called Saariselkä 250km north of the Arctic Circle so it was cold. Very cold. But completely fabulous. First stop was to collect the snowsuits, boots, mittens and socks that we’d need to keep snug in the double-figure minus temperatures. I was a little bit worried that, being very overweight yet vertically challenged, they wouldn’t have a suit to fit but I needn’t have stressed. They had suits for all sizes and were very good at looking at someone and selecting an appropriate size with no fuss.
We’d booked onto a snowmobile experience which we were expecting to do the following evening and were a little surprised to discover that it was actually happening on our first evening instead so it was a case of checking in, quickly unpacking, swapping Ashleigh’s snowsuit (as hers didn’t fit) then heading out for our first activity. The snowmobiles would seat 2 x adults who’d have the opportunity to swap over driving halfway if they wanted. Small children would ride in a sleigh pulled by one of the reps on a snowmobile, snuggled under blankets.
With Ashleigh being significantly bigger/older than all the other kids, we asked if there was any chance of us having a snowmobile each and Ashleigh riding pillion. She was thrilled when they confirmed we could do this and decided to be Mark’s passenger for the first stretch.
Oh my goodness, how much did I love driving a snowmobile? I’ve driven a quad bike a few times so the controls were very much the same principle, although you did have to grip harder to keep the snowmobile going the way you wanted. We followed a winding track through the forest. It was so peaceful and the snow-laden trees flanking us were absolutely beautiful. Halfway through, we stopped by a campfire for hot berry juice and cookies. This would have been the perfect opportunity to check out the Northern Lights but, sadly, we didn’t see them because there was too much cloud cover. Gutted. The closest thing we got was pictures in front of giant posters of them at the airport!
Ashleigh became my pillion passenger for the final stretch. I was at the back of our small group and, even though my snowmobile had behaved perfectly on the way out, it conked out twice on the way back. The rep behind me needed to start it up again but I was secretly pleased it was playing up because this meant that I needed to catch up with the rest of my little group which meant I could speed up significantly. Woo hoo! Ashleigh absolutely loved it although I was conscious of having her on the back so didn’t dare go quite as fast as I might have done on my own.
The following day a coach took us further north for a series of activities in the snow. The temperature steadily dipped and we were told that the Artic Centre was actually minus 20 degrees. Brr! We were told to give the ‘high-five bear’ – the meeting point for the husky rides – a high-five to bring us luck. I didn’t need asking twice. Aw, isn’t he gorgeous?
There were five ‘big’ activities that we could only do once and several little activities that we could undertake as many times as we wanted. They were spread across two areas connected by a sleigh ride. The only set time was the husky ride so we needed to work everything around that.
We weren’t scheduled for our husky ride until the afternoon so we took the sleigh ride to the other side first to complete the activities there. The sleigh was pulled by a snowmobile and was great fun but it was so undignified trying to get out of it with low seats and a slippery floor from the snow. I thought I’d sussed it on my first attempt but we did four sleigh rides in total and I got worse at getting out each time, ending up completely beached!
Our first ‘big’ activity was a reindeer-pulled open sleigh. Mark and Ashleigh travelled together in front of me and I had a sleigh to myself. We travelled in a convoy of four or five reindeer and sleighs tethered together. My reindeer kept getting really close to Mark and Ashleigh and, at one point, he nearly hooked Mark’s hat off his head with his antlers!
There were various warming huts and tepees around the site and you could get hot berry juice and pancakes in one of them. Nom nom. We nipped into an igloo then attended a show where the children learned all about reindeers from a naughty elf and its trainer. The trainer was the spitting image of my oldest brother but he had a really posh voice and it was so strange looking at him and not hearing my brother’s Teesside accent.
Ashleigh had a go on a toboggan and on a mini-skidoo and we all tried a kick-sled which is a bit like a scooter on skis. I absolutely loved the kick-sled and would happily have played on it for ages but we had a date with a husky.
The husky ride was fabulous. We were told that the dogs would be really excited and barking a lot so we should just focus on getting into the sled at the start but that we could pet them afterwards. Mark was the first to drive and it was a heck of a squeeze fitting me and Ashleigh into the sled. At one point, I was worried that we might not be able to get in safely but we managed to wriggle about a bit and finally squash in. We set off in a convoy of twenty sleds and it was so exhilarating.
There were six huskies in pairs and the middle pair pulling our sled started fighting. Or at least that’s what we thought they were doing. At first. One of them kept jumping on the other and it got quite fraught with the dogs coming off the track and us having to do an emergency stop! The rep behind sorted them out and we were back on our way.
Then it was my turn to drive. Mark had to stand on the brake while I got out and I had to takeover standing on the brake before he moved. That wasn’t easy because it meant I was tipping backwards and, having not been to the gym for a few years, I have no abs to help me do this!
When the dogs went down a hill, we needed to put one foot on the brake and, when they went uphill, we had to help them by scooting with one leg. Nearly came a cropper the first time. That ice stuff is slippy! Anyway, turns out our huskies weren’t fighting; they were being amorous. And they kept being amorous throughout the ride, much to Ashleigh’s amusement!
I can’t decide whether my favourite event was the snowmobile or the husky ride. Both were amazing bucket-list experiences and I’d love to do them again. The huskies were absolutely gorgeous and their fur was so much softer than I expected. The light was fading and it was so magical being surrounded by snow and being able to stroke such beautiful dogs.
We skipped one of the ‘big’ activities – an elf show – and spent quite some time queuing to search for Santa. A family at a time were taken on a snowmobile-pulled sleigh ride to find Santa’s cabin in the woods.
We were greeted by a couple of elves, one of whom was very naughty and pinched our hats then swapped them over, before going in to meet Santa. He was in a wooden cabin surrounded by presents and invited Ashleigh to sit with him. We’d discreetly handed over the letter she’d written to him before boarding the sleigh and she was quite astonished to discover he had that and that he knew it had been her birthday the day before. He asked her if she had any questions so she asked how old he was, then we posed for some family photos before boarding the sleigh again.
Ashleigh had a couple more toboggan rides then we caught one of the coaches back to the village. It was a brilliant, packed day, full of amazing experiences.
When we got back to the hotel, we decided we might as well keep the snowsuits on and have a little wander round some of the gifts shops before changing for dinner. I was keen to get a couple of Christmas tree decorations from our holiday. I ended up getting seven items. Oops! And five Tonttu. These are my new love and I think I was pretty restrained to only come home with five. I’d have happily filled my suitcase with these gorgeous little fellas.
We had a delicious hot chocolate back in the hotel and Hermann the bear was delighted to discover some beer especially for bears in the mini fridge!
The following day, we were leaving for the airport at 11.40am so we donned our snowsuits again and took Ashleigh to a huge toboggan run a short walk from the hotel.
Mark took a little wander to try to get some photos and to spot a good place for a family picture. We managed a lovely shot before heading back to the hotel to do the final bits of packing and bundle up our snowsuits.
It was a really amazing couple of days. We’d have loved to have another day or two to explore a bit more. Our hotel room – Gielas at the Tunturi Hotel – was superb and the bathroom even had a small sauna in it but we didn’t have the time to use it. We’d love to go back one day and, from the pictures in the airport, the area looks stunning in the summer too.
Of course, I had to take the opportunity for a couple of promo shots while I was there!
If you’d like to find out more about Santa’s Lapland, click here. We went on Santa’s Magic and booked our snowmobile experience as an additional activity. It’s certainly not cheap but it was brilliant. Being somewhere where it’s only light for a few hours of the day was also quite extraordinary.
We may have a massive hole in our finances now, but we have several Tonttu, Ashleigh has a giant husky, and we all have some very happy memories!
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.
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.
Age 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!
May 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.
My 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.
Sharon 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.
I’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 cream 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.
My 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 use 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!
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.