An Altogether Eggcellent Easter

Happy Easter!

How was your bank holiday weekend? I blinked and missed mine because I spent it in my editing cave but I am absolutely thrilled to report that book 13 is now written and with my editor so I can take a deep breath, relax, watch some TV and eat lots of chocolate over the next few days!

I did manage to take five minutes outside my cave to get creative with my books and some Easter-themed friends. How cute is my Forever Friends bunny? I won her on a grab machine on my hen do so she’s very special to me. Back then (September 2005), I was just studying my craft and ‘playing’ with my first novel. It was a decade before it was finished and published but I got my act together and speeded up after that. Thirteen books later…

Book 13 is currently untitled but is a return to Whitsborough Bay. The last three books I wrote were all set in Hedgehog Hollow so it has been lovely to return to the place it all started and I look forward to bringing you more detail very soon.

I did manage to escape from my editing cave for a day on Thursday. I haven’t seen my parents since October but, with with some restrictions eased, made plans to see them next week after I’d submitted my book. Then we spotted the weather forecast. Snow in April? Really? So we thought we’d better move meeting up forward! It was a bit chilly, mind. Completely missed those few days of gorgeous blue skies as you can see from the photos.

Because we couldn’t be inside, it made sense to meet somewhere outside where we could have a little wander so we met them at Thorp Perrow Arboretum near Bedale (North Yorkshire). Hubby and I went there last September near our wedding anniversary and loved it.

As we drove over, I looked at all the lovely daffodils by the roadside and mused, ‘I wonder if they’ll have some daffodils at Thorp Perrow’. Ha ha ha! Just a few! The photos don’t do justice to them, especially as it was a dull (and very cold) day, but I think we can safely confirm there were daffodils everywhere and all different varieties.

It was difficult not having hugs but hopefully we’ll hit the day very soon where we can do that. Gosh, I miss hugs! My parents are due their second vaccination any time in the next week or so and hubby and I have both had our first so that day feels like it’s in sight.

Despite the chilly weather, we did have a lovely wander. There was a fabulous Easter Egg Trail running for children so I grabbed a few pics of that.

And Thorp Perrow is such an interesting place to wander round anyway with woodland trails, fascinating trees and lots of wood carvings.

I’m now going to be completely disorientated because I feel like my weekend starts tomorrow but it will be a Tuesday. Isn’t it a strange sensation when you feel convinced it’s a different day of the week?

Wishing you a fabulous week.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

Welcome to the wonderful world of bears

It’s six days since All You Need Is Love was released and we’re halfway through the blog tour. I’ve had some absolutely gorgeous reviews and one of the things that makes me very happy is when reviewers mention the bears and how much they learned about them/how much they enjoyed that part of the story.

So today I thought I’d talk about being an arctophile and the wonderful world of teddy bears.

An arctophile is a lover/collector of teddy bears. It is derived from the Greek terms ‘árktos’ meaning bear and ‘philos’ meaning lover/friend. I am an arctophile.

I’ve loved teddy bears for most of my life but I would say I became especially fond of them at around the age of 14. Forever Friends were extremely popular back then and I remember gazing adoringly at them in card shops and wishing they could all be mine. I gradually built up a collection of what is known as ‘plush’ bears. These are typically mass-produced teddies, massively ranging in size and price, and made from synthetic materials. They are soft and designed for lots of hugs.

The photos below show a very small section of my plush collection. Top left are a trio of bears I used to sell in my bear shop and I couldn’t resist taking a set home. They are from the plush range made by German collectible teddy bear manufacturer Hermann Teddy Original and I christened them Caramel, Toffee and Fudge (L-R).

Across the bottom is my very well loved bear Sainsbury (unimaginatively named that because he was from Sainsbury’s), bought for me by my sister in law when I spent most of December 2006 in hospital with hypertension and mild pre-eclampsia before my daughter was born. You’ll likely recognise a Forever Friends bear in the middle. He was also from my shop. There was a range of them in four different colours – this light blue, a deeper sky blue, pink, peach – and I’d have loved to keep one of each but couldn’t justify it!

Bottom right is a Gund bear. I used to stock Gund in the shop and they really do make gorgeous plush bears. This particular one was given to me by my writing collective, The Write Romantics, when my debut book (called Searching for Steven at the time but now repackaged as New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms) secured a publishing deal. He’s wearing a badge that says ‘Steven Bear’ and his hoodie states ‘A 5* read the search is over’. Isn’t he gorgeous?

And finally in the plush range we have famous bears like Rupert, Paddington and Winnie the Pooh. I do have a gorgeous traditional Pooh Bear (also from my shop) but he’s on the top of the wardrobe at the back and I’d have to remove all the bears to take a picture of him and am far too lazy (and short) to do that! This Paddington was a Christmas gift before I had the shop but Aunt Lucy came from my shop and I used to sell Paddingtons of various sizes. A larger one than him made it into my collection too but I had to draw the line at the 4ft one I used to stock!

Bears featured on my wedding day. The wedding itself had a seaside theme but a Forever Friends bride and groom (from my shop, of course) sat on the top table. We had a Cherished Teddy wedding display for the top of the cake and my cousin bought us a Boyds bride and groom as a gift.

I was in my late twenties when I discovered the world of collectible teddy bears. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, my boyfriend at the time took me to a specialist teddy bear shop in his hometown of Lincoln and it was a life-changing moment as I’d never have thought of running my own teddy bear shop if I hadn’t been introduced to them and I’d never have met my husband if I hadn’t opened the bear shop. And without the hubby, I don’t know if I’d have become an author.

Collectible teddy bears will give hugs but they’re not designed to be played with/cuddled in bed and the price tag confirms that! Even if you know nothing about teddy bears, you’ve probably heard of Steiff; the German manufacturer with the distinctive button in the ear identity tag. Vintage Steiff can sell for eyewatering amounts of money at auction but if there are any burglars reading this, I don’t own any of them so nothing to see here!

There are many other long-established manufacturers. Britain’s oldest are Dean’s and Merrythought and my very first bear was a limited edition Dean’s one called Scruff, purchased from that shop in Lincoln. Here he is posing with my books:

Isn’t he completely adorable? He’s made from mohair and is jointed. Most collectible bears are jointed – it’s where they stand out from plush ones – and most are made from mohair which varies massively in colour, texture and price.

When I first set up my shop – Bear’s Pad in Richmond, North Yorkshire – I stocked collectible bears from Dean’s, Merrythought, Hermann Teddy Original, Robin Rive (based in New Zealand) and Cambrian Bears but Steiff wouldn’t touch me. I was too small and they supplied to another bear shop in a nearby town. I was gutted because I lost sales constantly from people who knew nothing about bears but had heard of Steiff so wanted a Steiff for a newborn or for a christening and nothing else would do. In the main, they wouldn’t look at the other bears even though I personally (and perhaps controversially) have always thought that Steiff bears, although lovely, aren’t necessarily the bears with the most personality and appeal.

About a year into trading, Steiff reconsidered when the local shop closed and they allowed me to make a smaller order than they usually demanded (which was still a phenomenal outlay). It was worth it as Steiff were my biggest sellers.

Here’s a small selection of my collectible bears. The large photo is a bear called Daffy from the Isabelle Collection at Charlie Bears. Charlie Bears didn’t exist when I had Bear’s Pad but they later entered the market with a new take on bears – the look of collectible bears by making them jointed but affordability by creating them in different materials. The Isabelle Collection was an expansion into limited edition collectible bears.

Top right are two collectible bears and one artist one called Noah purchased in Belgium (I’ll explain what artist bears are in a moment). The one standing at the back is a Steiff which I called Growler because he growls when you tip him forwards and back. Steiff bears don’t usually have names, being identified instead by size and style. He was my second ever collectible bear I bought. The smaller one sitting down is a Robin Rive limited edition called Faith.

The bottom row starts with a very traditional-looking Hermann Teddy Original bear called Yesterday. The one in the middle with the hat is Robin Rive’s Nautical Neville. These two (and Faith mentioned earlier) were all from my shop. I used to love them all so much and would tell myself that if a particular favourite was still on the shelves after three months, they’d come home with me. I’d then panic when a customer seemed interested!

The Paddington at the bottom was my wedding gift from the hubby and is a Steiff one. I said earlier I don’t love Steiff as much as some of the other manufacturers but I absolutely adore this Paddington. He is divine. Look at his suitcase and marmalade sandwich!

So what are artist bears? These are collectible bears but they are made on a much smaller scale by a bear artist who typically creates an OOAK (one of a kind) or a very small number like three. It’s more likely to be an OOAK although the artist may take that pattern again but use different mohair or clothes to create a different look.

During publication week, somebody asked me how many bears I have so I did a very quick count. It’s about 140 consisting of plush, collectible and artist bears. I used to have a couple of hundred plush ones but there just isn’t the space. When I had my bear shop, I cleared about about 10 binbags of bears to charity (all were immaculate condition as they’d all been sat on shelves and not played with) and I’ve done several more clear-outs over the years which break my heart but needs must.

When I did my count, I was surprised to discover that I had nearly as many artist bears as big-name collectible ones. Initially I only bought collectible ones but I tend to only buy artist ones now. I love the uniqueness of them. I will only buy a bear that ‘speaks’ to me and, as I have a lot of traditional-looking ones in my collection now, I am more inclined to go for something a little bit quirky.

All the bears below are artist bears. The one in the dress is from Loeëtte Bears (from the Netherlands although I bought the bear from Mary Shortle in York) and the purple one is Tammy from J&P Mohair Bears which I bought in Stonegate Bears in York. Franklin (bottom middle) is also a J&P from Stonegate Bears.

The top right one is a Ju-Sea Bear called Mark Elvet. I made him! I learned how to make teddy bears when I had my shop and I sold my second and third in the shop but kept the first one for me as he was my first and therefore very special and I’d named him after my husband and the street where I learned to make bears. You may think Ju-Sea Bears sounds familiar. That’s because I used it for Julie’s bears in All You Need Is Love in the same way that I named her house Bear’s Pad after my shop. Little connections in my stories like that make me happy.

The small purple bear bottom left is from Diane Hanley who used to supply to my shop and bottom right is the most adorable bear dressed for a festival. I can’t tell you her name or make, though, as there was no tag on her. I contacted Mary Shortle in Leeds afterwards and they kindly supplied me with the information which I wrote down and put somewhere safe… You know what that means. Yep, no idea where I put it!

Although I say that Scruff was my first collectible bear, I did have one before that. I absolutely love the Lake District and we had many family holidays in the area when I was younger. My favourite shop in Bowness-on-Windermere was Lakeland Bears. I’d seen the postcards of hiking bears set in the countryside and this was the shop that stocked the actual bears.

I always dreamed of owning a Lakeland Bear and, one year, my parents surprised me by giving me one as a Christmas gift. I had no idea I was getting one so you can imagine my delight. He has his walking stick, his hiking boots and his backpack with a map of the Lakes in it! Isn’t he just fabulous? They even created a booklet of photos of him ‘exploring’ their house and garden which I still have… you’ve guessed it… somewhere safe!

Sadly the Lakeland Bears shop closed down many years ago but you can look at the gorgeous bears and the postcards on their website here. I’ve just had a lovely fifteen minutes procrastinating looking at the pictures and remembering which postcards I used to have.

We’ve looked at plush bears, collectible bears and, within that, artist bears. A devoted arctophile will probably have a lot of other bear-related items in their home too. I have stack of bear-themed stationery, books, pictures and jewellery. Here’s a few items from my collection.

The picture is our bear family and hangs in our downstairs toilet behind the loo itself which hubby doesn’t appreciate when he nips in for a pee as they’re watching him – hee hee! The salt and pepper set came from Canada on our honeymoon (so many amazing bear-themed treats over there), the teddy ornament is from a gift shop in Whitby and the large bear came from Hawes. The teddy bear cushion was a gift but I sold blankets in the same design in Bear’s Pad so I have a pair of cushions and a matching blanket.

I hope you’ve enjoyed a little explore into the world of bears and that you’ve enjoyed the pictures. Teddy bears have an amazing ability to make us smile and feel uplifted. It’s rare for me to be in a bad mood and not much gets me down and I think that, in part, it’s because I’m surrounded by teddies all day. Who can feel down when looking at their adorable little faces?

When I had my shop, there were some nasty customers. And I mean nasty. One liked to come in and lecture me about how my business would fail because all businesses before me on that site had failed. She made me cry on several occasions. Another customer asked if I had a toilet her daughter could use. I did have a toilet but it was out the back past my safe and all my spare stock and I wasn’t insured to let the public back there so I had to direct customers to the public toilets which were a one-minute walk away so no hardship. It turned out the daughter was desperate and she wet herself all over my carpet tiles. The woman then told me it was my fault, flung down the items she’d planned to purchase and left me to clear it all up. She never returned so I never even made a sale out of that traumatic episode and, to this day, still feel really sorry for the little girl … but not the mum.

One busy Saturday, a really friendly man asked me to get down a large plush polar bear from the top of the shelving units and save it for him while he went to the cashpoint. When I returned to the till and finished serving a few customers, I realised my mobile phone had been stolen. The police told me two men were working together with a tactic of one distracting the owner by being interested and friendly while the other stole the money out of the till. Fortunately I’d locked my till and had the key on me so they didn’t get away with any money although the phone was bad enough.

There was a tanning salon opposite and customers used to send their fairly young children to “go and play in the bear shop” while they had a tan. Who does that? And the mornings where I’d arrive from work to find someone had vomited in my recessed entrance doorway were the worst ever.

I could write a book about all this. Hmm… there’s a thought!

But, even on those darkest days – and there were many more than I’ve listed above – I always felt so comforted being surrounded by such an enormous hug of bears (a ‘hug’ being the collective noun applied to a group of teddies). I’d have loved to keep my bear shop. Shame I needed customers to make it work!

So grab a bear today, give it a hug, and feel uplifted.

Big bear hugs
Jessica xx

The one where I visit the ‘real’ Castle Street at Christmas

A theme that comes through in reviews of my Whitsborough Bay books, particularly my Christmas ones, is how much readers would love to visit Castle Street and I sometimes get asked if it’s real.

Castle Street is not real. Sorry. But it is definitely inspired by real places and I see it as a blend of three, which I’ll come to in a moment.

Whitsborough Bay is a fictional North Yorkshire seaside town but it’s predominantly inspired by my hometown of Scarborough. It has the same geographical set-up as Scarborough: North Bay and South Bay separated by a headland with a castle on it, and the town up the cliff from South Bay. The large image below is a view of South Bay and the castle on the cliff from an area called South Cliff.

In my books, I’ve even called these areas North Bay and South Bay. I originally called them North Beach and South Beach to be different but decided ‘beach’ didn’t make sense when the town was called Whitsborough BAY so I stuck with bays.

There are many much-loved locations and landmarks in Scarborough that appear in my Whitsborough Bay stories but with different names:

  • The Sea Life Centre in North Bay becomes the Sea Rescue Sanctuary (bottom left above)
  • Peasholm Park, also in North Bay, is Hearnshaw Park in my books
  • The colourful beach huts in Whitsborough Bay’s North Bay (top right above) are a direct match to those in Scarborough but the shops and cafés nearby take on different identities
  • In Scarborough’s South Bay, there’s a lighthouse and harbour and I have the same in Whitsborough Bay but the lighthouse is red and white striped in my books instead of white (bottom right above), and the approach to it is different

The main difference geographically between Scarborough and Whitsborough Bay is that Whitsborough Bay has a river which runs through the Old Town and along the South Bay side of the castle. It is crossed by a swing bridge. This is very much inspired by Whitby up the coast from Scarborough; a place I’ve adored since childhood.

Back to Castle Street, it is fictional but, as I said before, it is inspired by a blend of three places:

  • Bar Street in Scarborough (which is a narrow street housing independent shops and cafés)
  • The cobbled streets of Whitby’s south side
  • The cobbled streets of Robin Hood’s Bay (which is between Scarborough and Whitby but closer to Whitby)

I imagine Castle Street to be wider than any of these streets (more the width of Huntriss Row if anyone is familiar with Scarborough) and with old-fashioned grey cobbles, more like these ones in this photo of Whitby at the bottom of the famous 199 steps up to St Mary’s Church and Whitby Abbey.

I love Bar Street at Christmas. It has waves of simple white lights running down the street from one end to the other and I describe these in my Christmas books but have them connecting between the buildings instead.

Last week, hubby, munchkin and I took our sprocker spaniel, Ella, for a wander round the lights just as the shops were closing (so we could capture the lights in the shops but visit when there weren’t many folk about).

The large picture below is looking down Bar Street with our backs to the town. The shops are Steampuss Cat Lounge (which I visited with the munchkin a few months back) and a bridal shop which is partial inspiration for The Wedding Emporium which I mention in a few books. In Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes, Bethany gets her wedding dress and the bridesmaid dresses for her Christmas wedding from there.

I’d been eager to get a photo of the giant illuminated teddy bear on the main precinct when I spotted him in town last month but the lights didn’t show very well during the day. So much better at night. I love him!

On Boxing Day evening, we took Ella down to the harbour where many of the boats were lit up, as was the viewing wheel along the seafront. Very pretty. But very cold!

I think I might need to make more of the harbour in future books as it really is beautiful with all the lights on the masts and sails. My pretty poor phone photography doesn’t even come close to doing it justice. On the top row, the lit-up building on the top left pic which is bigger on top right (at the far left of the pic) is The Grand Hotel. Owned by Britannia Group it has changed a lot over the years but it was once one of the largest and most impressive hotels in Europe. You can see it in daylight in the top set of images, bottom middle.

In my stories, The Grand is The Ramparts Hotel (Alison works there in The Secret to Happiness and Callie has a meal there near the end of Making Wishes at Bay View) and I position it as Whitsborough’s only 5-star hotel and very luxurious.

In the top middle photo, you can just about make out Scarborough’s Lighthouse. If you look above the boat lit by red lights, there’s a bright light. Move along to the boat behind it and there’s another light and just to the right of that is a triangle shape of light. That’s the lighthouse. Hubby took a better pic of it, though, looking back over the Old Town. What looks to be a strip of lights above the Old Town in his photo is the castle walls illuminated.

Hope you enjoyed your trip to Whitsborough Bay’s Castle Street and harbour at Christmas. If you’d like to read about it, Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes and Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café are both still only 99p but act quickly as Starry Skies will probably have a price increase in the not too distant future. They’re best read in that order as Starry Skies is set after Carly’s Cupcakes and the two businesses are next door and run by friends Carly and Tara so we find out what happens to Carly after her story finishes when Tara picks up the reins.

You can find all my books for Kindle here although they’re also available as eBooks for Kobo and Apple and a gazillion other formats depending on your reading or listening preferences.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

The one where Halloween was a bit different

It’s always extra special when a fixed date event like your birthday or Christmas falls on a weekend (unless, of course, you work on a weekend in which case it’s not quite as special).

This year, fans of Halloween would have been excited about it falling on a Saturday but this Halloween, for obvious reasons, was different and most plans to party will have been scuppered.

As a child, I used to love dressing up for Halloween and trick or treating. I was brought up on a housing development built in the late 60s/early 70s and it was very family friendly so it felt really safe to go wandering round the nearby streets with our torch-filled turnips (I’m not sure if you could even get hold of pumpkins back then) visiting the many neighbours who we knew well, saying hello to their children who were out doing the same.

My husband did something very similar but our daughter hasn’t had the same experience of Halloween that we’ve had. When she was very little, we lived in the town centre and we didn’t know our neighbours. Everyone’s opinions on this will differ but both my husband and I are of the belief that you shouldn’t be knocking on doors of people you don’t know. There could be a vulnerable person behind the door, fearful of who is knocking, and it seems to contradict the ‘stranger danger’ messages from school.

When we moved out of town, we found ourselves living somewhere with very few children so, again, we didn’t really know our neighbours and the same principles applied so she still didn’t go out and about as where would we go?

Then we started going away over the October half-term and this invariably meant we were away on Halloween itself.

She never missed out on dressing up, though. Over the years, she’s dressed up for school or simply for fun and, one year, we did join friends in a nearby village to trick or treat with them … after they said we’d only be going to people they knew well who wouldn’t mind an infiltrator!

She’s carved pumpkins many times and we bought her a spooky gingerbread house this year which she loved decorating (and eating!)

This Halloween turned out to be unexpectedly special for us. My dad got in touch a couple of weeks ago and said he and mum were missing seeing us (a theme for us all this year) and he proposed a series of Halloween barbecues at their house. I have two brothers who are each married with two girls. Under restrictions, we couldn’t meet as one big family unit but one family per day, outside, would stay within the rule of six.

My parents live in the same county as me but North Yorkshire’s the biggest county in the country and it can be up to two hours to get to them if we get stuck behind a slow driver or tractor; a regular occurrence. We therefore only saw them a few times when restrictions lifted over the summer and I haven’t seen my brothers at all.

Our visit was scheduled for Friday and it’s lucky my dad planned it in as we had the announcement on Saturday of England going into lockdown once more and, with the munchkin back at school this week, would have lost our window of opportunity otherwise.

I rummaged in my dressing-up box and found some of my old Halloween costumes for the munchkin and I to change into. I used to be a Brown Owl, running a pack for 7.5 years. We did a few Halloween parties so I had built up a selection of outfits, my favourite being my pink witch’s hat and my highwayman outfit. I’m proud to say I made the cloaks for both outfits and the highwayman’s face covering (way ahead of my time there!) but they weren’t the most demanding of projects.

If somebody had told me last Halloween that I’d be spending this out having a barbecue outside, I’d have laughed at them. However, this is the new world in which we live and we find ways to adapt. It was really quite lovely with the log burner on and LED heating under the parasols. We had a rainy patch where we sheltered under the parasols and a chilly moment after eating when the sun disappeared behind the clouds and the wind picked up but, generally, it was really pleasant.

As for the day itself, hubby and the munchkin watched a horror film while I cleaned the bathroom. Not sure which was the most scary!

If you don’t like being spooked and prefer to stay cosy at Halloween, I did a reading from one of my favourite cosy scenes in Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes. You can access it on Facebook here.

Wishing you a fabulous start to November and sending best wishes to those who might struggle with a second lockdown. There will be an end to this eventually. It has to rain for us to see a rainbow.

Big hugs

Jessica xx

The one where I visited Thorp Perrow

Last week, hubby and I took a mid-week day trip out to Thorp Perrow. It’s an arboretum, mammal and birds of prey centre in North Yorkshire, not too far from the Yorkshire Dales. The nearest town is Bedale but, unless you’re from the county, you possibly haven’t heard of Bedale so it’s sort of in the middle of a triangle of Northallerton, Thirsk and Ripon. Ish.

Anyway, hubby is a keen (and very talented) photographer. He’d visited Throp Perrow a couple of years ago with a photography friend and decided that the trees would look amazing heading into autumn. As it happens, we caught it just before the changing colours of the leaves and also on far too bright a day so his camera didn’t actually come out its bag but I snapped plenty of pics on my phone.

It was lovely to be able to wander around somewhere I’ve never been before and also somewhere spacious. The car park looked quite busy but, once inside, we found ourselves frequently without anyone in sight which is perfect for a socially-distanced world.

The centre is a family-run business and has been owned by the Ropner family since 1927. Shortly afterwards, the trees started being planted but it was a bit of a hobby rather than done with expertise and, over the years, became a bit of a jungle. In the 1970s, the father of the current owner brought in an expert who said the collection absolutely must be preserved and it’s been a huge task since then to curate the trees and manage this gorgeous woodland.

There’s a cafe, lots of picnic tables and a children’s playground. Various wooden sculptures peeking between the trees including a gorgeous pixie village will also help keep the interest of children as they amble along the pathways. We were touched by the pet cemetery (not of a Stephen King variety) and enjoyed visiting the little islands.

You can take dogs on leads although there are certain areas they’re not allowed in. I left hubby and our dog, Ella, on a picnic bench while I visited the birds of prey centre but didn’t time it right to catch a show. I adore owls and they had a wonderful selection. I didn’t go to the mammals centre, though, but look forward to that on a future visit.

Check out the larger of the photos below. The two trees are hugging! Awww!!!!

I hope you enjoy the photos and, if you’re ever in the area, it’s well worth a visit. Just check the website first for restrictions and also any limit on opening times. You can visit Thorp Perrow’s website here.

I definitely want to visit again but suspect we won’t make it again this year for the changing tree colours. Scarborough is on the watch-list and will probably move into local lockdown soon. It was therefore extra lovely to get out and about on such a gorgeous day before we’re not able to.

Big hugs

Jessica xx

The one where ‘Making Wishes at Bay View’ is in The Works

I adore my Kindle (other eReaders are available!) but I’m sure most people who love reading will admit to getting a little thrill from browsing a bookshop or even simply pausing in a section of a store where books are displayed. A happy place.

As an author, that thrill is multiplied several-fold when the shelves contain one of my own books. I don’t think that feeling will ever get tired!

At the weekend, I was delighted to visit my local The Works store in Scarborough and not only see Making Wishes at Bay View on the shelves but to sign them! The manager in there is lovely and recognised me from when I’d been in to visit The Secret to Happiness at the start of summer just after restrictions were lifted and shops opened again.

Making Wishes at Bay View in the Scarborough branch of The Works with the special home-made ‘signed by author’ sticker

I’d never thought to ask if I could sign copies of Secret but I’d seen photos of other authors signing their books in their local stores and the manager was delighted for me to do so with Making Wishes at Bay View.

What a surreal moment perching on the till and signing the seven remaining copies. They didn’t have any ‘signed by author’ stickers – probably don’t get as many local authors as a large city store might – but she created her own version which was lovely.

Despite the mask, you can probably tell there’s a huge grin on my face!

Today I went into Beverley, East Yorkshire (about 75 mins drive away from me) for a socially-distanced catch-up with my fabulous friend and fellow-author, Sharon Booth. It was the first time since mid-February that we’ve seen each other and we suspect it will be next year before it happens again.

I took the opportunity to nip into town as the branch of The Works in Beverley is about twice the size of the Scarborough one and therefore with much more space dedicated to fiction. Making Wishes at Bay View was in there. I was going to see about signing them too but there was a queue at the till and only one member of staff serving so I thought I’d best not pester anyone!

Making Wishes at Bay View in Beverley’s The Works

It makes me so proud to be on the shelves with other Boldwood authors, a few of whom I met in person at the back end of last year. I’ve taken a few shelfies in Scarborough but, with a bigger selection in Beverley, how lovely it was to see so many Boldwood authors together (okay, so a little re-arrangement was needed to get them all together but I did put them back where they came from!) This is the selection of feel-good books – a mixture of romcoms and contemporaries. That’s twelve amazing titles and, on the 3 for £5 offer, you could therefore get them all for only £20. Bargain!!!

This is the thrillers/crime/other selection looking fabulous too:

You can buy Making Wishes at Bay View from The Works for £2 (or 3 for £5) or online from The Works here. I’ve included the blurb below.

Alternatively, you can download it for Kindle, Kobo and AppleBooks, order a paperback from Amazon or any other good bookstore (it will be a different price as they are printed differently) or on various audio formats including Spotify.

Wishing you a fabulous week.

Big hugs

Jessica xx

Making Wishes at Bay View (Welcome to Whitsborough Bay Book 1)

Never give up on a wish for a happy ever after…


Callie Derbyshire has it all: her dream job as a carer at Bay View, finally she has found the love of her life. Everything is perfect.

Well, almost.

Ex-partners are insistent on stirring up trouble, and Callie’s favourite resident, Ruby, hasn’t been her usual self. 

But after discovering the truth about Ruby’s lost love, Callie is determined to give Ruby’s romantic story the happy ending it deserves. After all, it’s never too late to let love in again. Or is it?

The one where it’s #NationalNorthernAuthorsDay

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The Angel of the North

Today – 1st July – is #NationalNorthernAuthorsDay. I’m northern. I’m an author. It’s therefore a special day for me and what’s even more special is that this year is the very first year for #NationalNorthernAuthorsDay.

Set up by northern authors, Trisha Ashley and Milly Johnson, it’s about celebrating northern authors past and present. Northern authors have an opportunity to promote their own work over on Twitter and celebrate their favourite northern authors.

I’m northern born and bred. My parents are from the area around Bishop Auckland in Co Durham but I was born in Middlesbrough in Teesside. Shortly before my fourth birthday, we moved to the market town of Guisborough, still in Teesside (although it was known as Cleveland back then). I left home when I went away to university in Loughborough, Leicestershire, and lived all over the country after that, as far north as Edinburgh and as far south as Reading. But the north always felt like home and I settled in North Yorkshire seventeen years ago, moving to Scarborough a year later where I’ve been ever since.

(The beautiful north: Dunstanburgh Castle in Northumberland, a view over Lake Windermere and Hardraw Force Waterfall in the Yorkshire Dales)

I’m immensely proud of being northern but have experienced a lot of prejudice about my roots over the years. It always astonishes me how many people believe the phrase “it’s grim up north” and think of it as dark, dirty and industrial. And don’t get me started on the stereotypes of all northerners wearing flat caps, eating fish and chips, walking whippets and still having outside toilets. Rude! Yes, there are parts of the north that are industrial but this is part of our heritage and essential for the economy. There are also parts of the south that are industrial. In the same way, both the north and the south boast exceptional beauty. If you’ve never been, just Google any of the following: Yorkshire Dales, Northumberland, Lake District National Park, Yorkshire Coast. Wow!

(The beautiful north: Castle Howard, Scarborough Castle and Ribblehead Viaduct)

As well as boasting stunning scenery, the north is proud to present a plethora of writing talent, past and present. From poets such as Wordsworth, Ted Hughes and W H Auden (remember that gorgeous poem read at the funeral in Four Weddings and a Funeral?) to playwrights such as Alan Ayckbourn and Alan Bennett to authors such as the Brontë sisters, Catherine Cookson and Beatrix Potter, the north has demonstrated impressive writing credentials across the years.

Screenshot 2020-07-01 at 10.25.12One of my northern writing heroes is Catherine Cookson. What a writer! Born into extreme poverty in Tyneside, Cookson channelled her experiences into over 100 books. My mum has read all her books and I have probably read about a quarter to a third of them, borrowing from my mum’s collection in my teens and early 20s. My favourites include the Tilly Trotter series, The Dwelling Place and A Dinner of Herbs. I would certainly cite Catherine Cookson as an early inspiration for me becoming an author as, along with Virginia Andrews, she was the first author of adult books I read prolifically. They both taught me what a page-turner was. You can find Catherine Cookson’s author page on Amazon here.

Moving into the present day, I am now a northern author myself. Certainly never imagined that when I was reading Catherine Cookson’s novels! All my books are set in North Yorkshire, on the coast or in the countryside in the Yorkshire Wolds. I can see me writing books in other settings but I don’t anticipate moving away from the north. It’s what I know and it’s what I love. My readers seem to love my setting too. Phew!

I’m very lucky to class some super talented northern writers as good friends so want to take this opportunity to give a shout-out to three of them:

Screenshot 2020-07-01 at 10.18.26Yorkshire-based Sharon Booth writes stories that include “love, laughter and happy ever after” and they’re simply gorgeous. I’ve read and loved every single one. With Yorkshire settings inspired by the Dales, Robin Hood’s Bay and Knaresborough, you can find her Amazon author page here.

Screenshot 2020-07-01 at 10.19.37Helen Phifer is based in Cumbria and writes crime and horror books. I absolutely love her Annie Graham series which are crime with a supernatural/horror book but her pure crime are superb too. On Amazon, you can find Helen’s author page here.

Screenshot 2020-07-01 at 10.18.52Alys West is also Yorkshire-based and she has a couple of different genres in her writing toolkit with contemporary fantasy and steampunk. Both are genres I’d never explored before but Aly’s work is fabulous and I’m a convert! Alys’s author page can be found here.

And, of course, you can visit the fictional North Yorkshire Coast town of Whitsborough Bay through my books, and take a trip to Hedgehog Hollow in the Yorkshire Wolds with my brand new series set in a hedgehog rescue centre. Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow is out tomorrow.  My author page is right here.

Wishing all northern writers a happy #NationalNorthernAuthorsDay. Are you doing anything special to celebrate? As for me, I’m about to nip to the toilet (outside of course), put my flat cap on and take my whippet out for a walk. Then I think I’ll enjoy a fish and chip supper 😉

Please do join in with the fun over on Twitter but don’t forget to use the hashtag #NationalNorthernAuthorsDay to join in the conversation. Thanks Trisha and Milly for setting this up 🙂

Big hugs

Jessica xx

Welcome to Whitsborough Bay 4 Books

 

 

The one with some gorgeous North Yorkshire Coast photos

I love where I live on the North Yorkshire Coast. Scarborough has been my home for sixteen years now and it has provided the main inspiration for the setting in my books; the fictional seaside town of Whitsborough Bay. My husband is Scarborough born and bred.

We lived in town initially but now live on the outskirts. Scarborough has two bays – North and South – and we’re closest to South Bay but it would be a very long walk to get there so we’ve not been able to do that during lockdown. Besides, North Bay with the brightly-coloured beach huts is my favourite of the bays and that’s even further to walk.

Our nearest walking-distance beach is called Cayton Bay. There’s a lovely cliff-top walk overlooking the bay about 7-10 minutes’ from our house. I’ve done that walk a few times since lockdown and have shared photos of it.

Yesterday, hubby decided to walk down to the Cayton Bay. I didn’t accompany him as (a) I had too much to do before my return to work tomorrow and (b) I’m so unfit at the moment that I’m not convinced I’d have made it back up the cliff path without a winch! It’s very steep and it was a hot day. I therefore asked him to take some photos for me and I thought I’d share them.

Hope you enjoy hubby’s photos and your virtual trip to the beach. If you’d like to see more of his work, you can look at his images on his website here.

Big hugs

Jessica xx

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The one where my series does me proud and my publisher has a fabulous offer

Screenshot 2020-04-09 at 22.46.22Yesterday 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.

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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?

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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.

South Bay from Esplanade
Scarborough – the main inspiration for Whitsborough Bay

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

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Wishing you all the best, with love and virtual hugs

Jessica xx

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The one where I went to a Christmas Masquerade at a Castle … sort of

IMG_7545I had a lovely day out yesterday with my good friend and fellow author, Sharon Booth, visiting the Christmas installation at Castle Howard. We’ve started an annual tradition (does twice count as a tradition?) of visiting a stately home each Christmas. Last year we went to Burton Agnes Hall near Bridlington which was beautifully-decorated and very impressive, but Castle Howard – a much bigger stately home – exceeded all expectations. Wow! Just wow! I think we may be back next year. Or maybe do both????

Castle Howard is a grand estate in North Yorkshire situated off the A64 between York and Scarborough and, given the size and grandeur, it’s not surprising that it took over 100 years to be built, starting in 1699. With 1,000 acres of rolling gardens and parkland, there’s plenty to explore on full-day visit. As it was bucketing it down and blowing a gale, Sharon and I did not explore the grounds but we did enjoy our wander around the house. The photos above were taken on a much nicer day a couple of years ago!

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I’ve been to Castle Howard before, several times, but have only explored the house once at Christmas and that was many years ago when the munchkin was small and we took her to their Father Christmas experience (highly recommended and very magical but you need to book as soon as the dates are released in September each year). This was before they did the installations so it was lots of flowers, candles and dressed trees but nothing like the Christmas Masquerade.

I cannot recommend the Christmas installation enough. It is absolutely stunning. Every room offered a new treat and, as we moved along corridors and up staircases between rooms, the statues were adorned with colourful masks and vases displayed baubles, feathers, birds and more masks so there was always something to look at related to the theme.

I was worried that, without flash, I wouldn’t take any decent photos (photography is allowed but flash-free). However, I was quite pleased with what I managed to get.

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Lady Georgiana’s Bedroom

The first room elicited a huge “oooh” and we just continued with the “ooohs” and “aahhhs” every step we took. What imagination the team have to have pulled this together. Apparently plans start about a year in advance, although they had less than two weeks to actually build the installation. That’s quite astonishing when you see it as you’d think it would take months to put it up. It takes me more than a full day to put up my Christmas decorations at home so two weeks to achieve this? Serious respect to everyone involved.

Rooms carried the theme of a famous masquerade character such as Harlequin, Pierrot  and Colombine whilst others carried the general masquerade theme. There were costumes, masks, and wigs all cleverly displayed with lighting. And the colours! Wow!

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The New Library

Sharon and I both adored Lady Georgiana’s Bedroom and dressing room but our favourite room was The New Library which is used as an office. We’d both have happily stepped over the rope, grabbed a book from the shelves, and settled in front of the fire until security forcefully removed us. Despite the high ceilings and large dimensions of the room, it managed to feel so cosy and welcoming.

I loved the upside-down Christmas tree – such imagination – and marvelled at the 25-foot one in the Great Hall.

I was super impressed with the river and bridge in The Long Gallery and had to stop to pose on the bridge. Beautifully-dresses masked mannequins showed off their finery.

We ended our tour with a visit to the chapel which is very ornate and lovely for a rest and some contemplation.

IMG_7558When we’d finished contemplating (and resting our feet), it was time for lunch and, of course, cake. Nom nom. I had the last slice of lemon sponge and Sharon chose a Victoria sponge. It was very delicious and … dare I use that word that so many people hate? …. moist!!!! As you can see, I was halfway through it before I even thought to take a photo.

All too soon, it was time to head home and we were just in time to catch the land-train back to the entrance. We had the entire two-carriage train to ourselves and, my goodness, was it cold. With open sides, a gale blew right through it but it was still a lovely journey. We were also only just in time for Sharon to catch her train from my local station. Seriously, the poor woman was dashing across the tracks on one side as the train was pulling in the other! Far too close for comfort!

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If anyone is thinking of visiting Christmas Masquerade at Castle Howard, then definitely do. They are open until 23rd December and again before New Year.

You can find out more about the installation, dates, and prices here.

It’s got great access for anyone with mobility challenges and we saw several visitors moving around in wheelchairs so don’t let any mobility issues put you off as most of the exhibits can still be accessed.

IMG_7513Oh, and I found a bear! Unfortunately he was part of the installation so I had to leave him where he was.

I’m already curious as to what next year’s theme will be. Hopefully if we do go back, we’ll manage a less blustery day. And apparently it’s good to avoid Tuesdays as that’s when they get most of their coach trips. Good to know!

Have a great week and good luck with any final Christmas preparations.

Jessica xx