The one where I look back at May

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a great June.

Jessica xx

What happens when you make the wrong choice?

My last post, “To SP or Not SP: That is the Question” received a quite overwhelming level of support and I thank everyone who took the time to convey their support or pass on their comments. For those in a similar situation, I hope it helped you gather your thoughts on which road to take on your journey.

Today I’m going to continue with the theme of wrong choices but in a much lighter-hearted vein. My strapline for this blog is “writing, reading, life, chocolate and bears” yet I’ve only ever wittered about writing. I’m going to rectify that today and talk chocolate. More specifically a chocolate brownie.

Today is Father’s Day so I’ll just pause to wish all the best to my dad, my father in law and my husband, Mark, on behalf of the munchkin. We had a lovely walk along Filey Brigg (long stretch of rocks round the cliffs at Filey, North Yorkshire, just down the coast from Scarborough where we live) and then went for tea at a lovely pub called The John Paul Jones in The Bay Holiday Village just outside Filey. We’ve eaten there once before and it was delicious. It’s slightly more expensive than your average chain pub but the food is worth it.

I’m a bit of a pudding fiend. I have always claimed to have two stomachs; one for mains and one for desserts because I can always seem to fit in a dessert even when I’m feeling stuffed from my main course. Maybe this is the variation between sweet and savoury. Or perhaps it’s because I’m a pig!

Anyway, we got round to discussing pudding and recalled that I’d made a bad choice last time I was there when my dessert arrived and was really small but the munchkin’s had been huge. Unfortunately, none of us could remember the choice I’d made last time. I tend to be drawn towards cheesecakes and, as there was a white chocolate and raspberry cheesecake on the menu, I suspected this might have been the tiny dessert. So I avoided that. The munchkin liked the sound of it and I placed our order: cheesecake for her and a chocolate brownie for me. I returned from the bar confident that I’d ordered differently from last time. Until the desserts came out for the table of five near us. A couple of cheesecakes appeared and they were definitely a good-sized portion. Someone on the table had waffles: huge. And another of the party had a chocolate fondant thing which was enormous. And at that point, panic set in. Three desserts and all big. Surely I hadn’t picked the same one as before. Had I?

ImageA few minutes later, munchkin’s large cheesecake arrived. And so did my brownie. My tiny brownie. My three-mouthfuls-and-it’s-gone brownie. Yep, I hadn’t learned. Lightning had struck twice! To add insult to injury, the munchkin couldn’t eat all of hers! Grr. I DEFINITELY won’t make that mistake again. I hope. Can’t believe I made the wrong choice. I personally think that they should note the dimensions on the menu to manage the expectations of customers like me!

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The silver lining in this sorry tale is that I’d lost 3 stone last year and was a long way off my goal but very proud of my progress. For reasons I won’t go into just now, I’ve put a lot of that 3 stone back on and looking at the photos from today was a bit of a shock. With my 3 stone off, I was overweight but I didn’t hate photos of me. I hate this one. I hadn’t realised I looked so huge again. So it was probably just as well my brownie was tiny. Diet starts tomorrow! By the way, if you’re local or visiting, definitely go to The John Paul Jones. Fab pub, fab food but if you like huge puddings, pick anything but the brownie!

And just to tie this all back into writing which is, of course, the main theme of this blog, I’ve had an unexpected development. I was all fired up about indie after my post last week. A discussion with my hubby after posting it confirmed that it would be foolish to rush things and self-publish my debut for the summer market. In fact, Christmas may be ambitious and perhaps spring, summer and Christmas 2015 would be a very wise and sensible launch plan for my trilogy. But then I received a most unexpected Facebook message from one of the big eBook publishers to whom I’d pitched at the RNA conference last year apologising for the enormous wait, thanking me for my patience, and telling me my book would be next on the list to be read. I’d given up on ever hearing from them. The idea to go indie is logical and has many pros but it was driven in the first instance by the frustration at waiting for so long to hear news from any publishers and the refusal to put myself through that again with more and more rounds of subs. Suddenly the place I thought was the best fit for my books was back on the agenda. I’m now going to be on tenterhooks all week. The message came through on Wednesday evening so realistically I didn’t expect to hear anything last week although I did have a little fantasy about good news on Friday 13th and liked the contradiction that would provide. More realistically, I could hear this week. Searching for Steven could have been read over the weekend. Eek! I tell you what, I’m going to be a wreck any time my phone rings!

What happens when you make the wrong choice? It’s a very interesting question. Make the wrong choice on dessert and there’s a severe case of food envy but perhaps some saved calories. Make the wrong choice about the home for my debut novel and my whole writing career could change. I feel like everything is hanging in the balance pending this decision. If I get a yes, I’d be foolish to say no. If I went indie and things didn’t take off, I’d be forever wondering “what if I’d accepted the offer, where would I be then?” but accepting a publishing deal (if I got the call) wouldn’t stop me going indie at some point later when I’d (hopefully) be successful and established. If it’s a no, then nothing has changed and the indie plans still stand. Although I still have another 5 irons in the fire (I had a no from one of the US publishers 2 days after posting my last entry) so it’s not over until the fat lady sings.

And I’m not singing just yet, although I will be mostly eating fruit for the next few months …