Reflections on July

I should really have posted this yesterday but I’d hit my fill of storage on WordPress and couldn’t add any more images. I didn’t have the brain power to tackle that yesterday so, this morning, I’ve upgraded and can post my look back although I apologise as this means three posts in one day as there has been so much happening today with Boldwood’s 2nd birthday to celebrate and Yorkshire Day too!

I have no idea where July has gone. Do I say that about every month? It really has zoomed by so here’s what’s been happening:

Another slow month of reading for me – not because the books I’ve chosen are slow but because I’m a slow reader and still struggling for time.

The only book I’ve read in full is Life’s What You Make It by Sian O’Gorman who’s a fellow Boldwood author. It’s set in a small coastal village near Dublin and is a lovely story of starting over and finding home. I very much recommend it.

The munchkin and I continued with our viewing of Castle and are now halfway through season five. We don’t fit in many episodes at a time but we’re still loving it, and hubby and I watch The Rookie each week, also starring Nathan Fillion (star of Castle). Season three has just finished and ended on a cracking cliffhanger.

I forgot to mention in my June review that I had watched Virgin River as I’d heard so many good things about it and decided to give it a try. I’d therefore not long finished it before season three appeared. I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as the previous two seasons. What I’d enjoyed previously was that there was a balance of laughter and tears but this season seemed to be more about the tears. Don’t get me wrong, I like a good cry, but the balance didn’t seem to be there and there seemed to be lots of rushed decisions the characters made with massive consequences. I assume there’s a season 4 as it ended on a cliffhanger but I can’t decide whether I’m going to tune in or not. Jury’s still out on that one.

We’ve continued our eduction of the munchkin in films we’ve loved in the past and, after watching Armageddon last month, we decided to keep the disaster movie theme going and planned to watch The Day After Tomorrow. Unfortunately, we had a huge DVD clear-out last year and gave hundreds of them to charity as we didn’t have the space, and we think The Day After Tomorrow must have been one of them. It wasn’t on streaming and we weren’t going to pay to rent something we’d previously owned so we went for the dramatic but not quite as good 2012 instead. I remember watching that at the time and thinking 2012 seemed so far away! The munchkin loved it.

Hubby and I watched a film he’d seen a couple of times before and thought I’d love, partly because it’s really good and partly because Chris Hemsworth is in it! It’s called Heart of the Sea and is about the story that inspired Herman Melville to write Moby Dick. He was right. It was really good. Do watch it if you have a chance.

Finally, we’ve just started watching A Discovery of Witches. We’re three episodes in and enjoying it so far. I have a feeling I heard someone say it’s slowish to start but really takes off from about episode 4.

I’ve been busy working on A Wedding at Hedgehog Hollow, the fourth book in the Hedgehog Hollow series. I started the month having got to roughy the 50k words point and have finished the month at just shy of 93k words so I’m very close to the end. It will probably be about 110k words and then I’ll remove a few thousand in the editing process. I can’t wait to get to the end and start editing. It’s very lumpy at the moment but I’m confident I can smooth it out and then my editor will work her magic and suggest even more brilliant changes.

I celebrated one year of Hedgehog Hollow at the start of the month, 2nd July 2020 being the day the first book in the series – Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow – was published.

All You Need is Love went into Prime Reading. I thought this was just in the UK but it’s globally so do look for it if you’re in Prime overseas. It also went into a one-week sale on Audible and entered the Top 100 which is the first time any of my audiobooks have done that so that was a lovely moment.

We did the cover reveal for Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café and it’s always so lovely getting such positive responses to how pretty a cover is. It’s now available on NetGalley for bloggers/reviewers and I’ve had 100% 5-star feedback in so far. That’s only nine reviews but it’s still 100%. I know the bubble will burst at some point but I’ll enjoy it for now!

Christmas Wishes at the Chocolate Shop has also been doing exceptionally well on NetGalley. With 80 reviews so far, there weren’t any 1 or 2 stars and only 1 x 3-star, with by far the most being 5-star reviews. Yay! Then yesterday a 2.5 star and another 3 star came in. Boo! Oh well, you can’t please all of the people all of the time and I’m delighted to have pleased a very large number!

I took part in a ‘Northern Lasses’ Book & Tonic Banter Facebook Live which was great fun. My fellow-panelists were Jane Lovering and Sheila Riley. You can catch up on that here. I also interviewed Jo Bartlett and chatted about how we met and our books on an ‘in conversation’ here.

I was thinking I’d barely left the house in July but a flick through my diary tells me I’m a big fat liar! The month started with a trip to Leeds to see Six The Musical, and a whole weekend away with the munchkin. I loved the show but didn’t particularly enjoy the weekend away although it was nice to spend some time with my daughter, of course.

I met my bestie and fellow author Sharon Booth in Beverley (East Yorkshire) for lunch and an afternoon of chat about all things writing. The hours go by in the click of a finger.

I attended the RNA’s conference, albeit virtually. There were some really great talks, all of which I took something from which is great.

The munchkin made her promise at Rangers down on Scarborough seafront and, while she was doing that, hubby and I grabbed some chips and took the dog for a walk. It was the midst of the heatwave but pleasantly cool on the evening by the coast.

August is shaping up to be a busy month with two publication days, a month of birthday celebrations for Boldwood and a couple of other exciting developments. Watch this space! Wishing you a fabulous August.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

Reflections on June

It’s the final day of June so time to look back over the past month under my usual headings…

I started the month reading an ARC (advanced reader copy) of Escape to Honeysuckle Hall by Rebecca Raisin which I’d been asked by her publisher if I’d like to read. Many years ago, I read several of Rebecca’s books while on holiday and had really enjoyed them but then I got out of the habit of reading and didn’t read any more (not that that stopped me adding a few to my Kindle!) I do enjoy a new beginnings story and this is one of those with a beautiful setting and some interesting characters. You can find the blurb and pre-order the book here.

I then moved to Cornwall (not physically!) to catch up with the Cornish Midwife series penned by my good friend, Jo Bartlett, who is now also with the same publisher as me: Boldwood Books. I had already read the first book in the series The Cornish Midwife before Jo joined Boldwood but, like my backlist, it had some edits before being released as a Boldwood publication. I could see from the blurb that a particular plot point had changed so I did a speedy read through it to immerse myself back into the story and see the changes before moving on to book 2.

A Summer Wedding for the Cornish Midwife is out tomorrow and I should finish reading it tonight. Both books are fabulous – full of warmth, a gorgeous setting and fabulous characters. You can find them on Jo’s author page on Amazon here although they’re also available in a stack of other formats/from other retailers.

If anyone has read any of Jo’s books or is interested in finding out more, I’m in conversation with Jo on the Book and Tonic Facebook page tomorrow night (1st July) at 6pm GMT celebrating publication day and talking all things writing so hope you can join us.

You can find the Book and Tonic Facebook page here and, if you can’t join in on the day, you will be able to catch up from that page afterwards.

Another month with very little viewing. The munchkin and I are still working through Castle and we’re now up to season 5. Still loving it.

Last weekend we had a family film night and watched Armageddon. It’s the first time the munchkin (age 14) has seen it and she loved it, although it made her cry. I remember seeing it at the cinema. Such a good film. I’m thinking we maybe need to introduce her to some other disaster movies like 2012 and The Day After Tomorrow.

I’ve been very busy with writing in June. Right at the start of the month, I returned my second round of edits on my next brand new book, Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café. My editor loved the changes and it has since been through the copy edits and proofreading stage. I’ve done the final read-through so that book is now parked from my end and I’ll look forward to an official cover reveal next month.

Around those editing stages, I’ve been working on the fourth book in the Hedgehog Hollow book: A Wedding at Hedgehog Hollow. I had a bit of a slow start with it because I was struggling to get some answers for some of my research and I had a bit of a panic because the third book, Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow, has had such phenomenal feedback and I was feeling the pressure of the bar being set very high. I wrote a blog post about it here.

I found I was procrastinating loads – something I’ve been aware of for the past year since becoming a full-time author – so I decided I would try to break the bad habits I’d fallen into and see if I could blitz a book in a fortnight. I wrote a blog post about it here initially wondering if it was possible to write a book in a week if everything else was ignored. I didn’t think it would be feasible to do that but figured it would be good to even manage to write half a book in a week and maybe get to the end within a fortnight. As for whether I’ve managed that, I’ll let you know next week when the fortnight is up so watch this space!

My big celebration this month was reaching one year as a full-time author on 8th June. Earning enough money from writing to be able to leave the day job was always my goal so it’s been wonderful being able to live the dream for a year. My heartfelt thanks to all the amazing readers who have made that happen.

We had a cover reveal for my final backlist book – Christmas Wishes at the Chocolate Shop – and I had lots of positive comments about the gorgeous cover. It’s out on 3rd August and you can pre-order it here. It should be £1.99 but it’s only £1.59 on Amazon just now so, if you haven’t read the original version (Charlee and the Chocolate Shop), you might want to grab a bargain now.

I’m not a fan of clothes shopping, not helped by being overweight and there being very few shops where I can find clothes. However, every so often, I have to submit to letting the munchkin drag me round Primark. In the half-term holiday at the start of this month, we had a day out to Monks Cross which is a small retail park (with a Primark) just outside York, an hour’s drive from us. We made a day of it and grabbed some lunch while we were there. While I can’t say I loved the shopping, it felt like a small step towards some sort of normality.

The next day, we went over to my parents’ house for a BBQ with my family. I have two brothers who are both married with two girls each and we hadn’t seen any of them since Christmas 2019 so it was lovely to see everyone again and a relief that the weather was good so we could get together outside.

The munchkin started going to Rangers last month (for Guides once they’ve turned 14) and decided she wanted to do her Young Leader’s qualification. She’s also started her Duke of Edinburgh through school and needs to do a volunteering unit as part of that. She figured she could combine the two and arranged to help out at a Rainbow unit (age 5-6) in a village on the other side of Scarborough to us called Scalby. As it’s a bit of a drive across town and Rainbows is only on for an hour, hubby and I decided we might as well drop her off and go for a wander with the dog. I’d never really explored this village before and it was lovely to look around, fantasising about being able to afford a property there (no chance!)

After her second session, we pushed the boat out and went for a meal afterwards, although it was a bit nippy in the beer garden for my liking. The joys of outdoor eating in the UK!

The jaunts didn’t end there. I attended a talk as part of the Books by the Beach Festival in Scarborough. It was Rowan Coleman talking about her writing of The Brontë Mysteries as Bella Ellis after which I took the munchkin down to South Bay for an ice cream although it was heaving down there (bit too scary for me). I went on a retreat run by Rowan a few weeks ago and we arranged to meet up on the evening for a meal.

I went to Beverley and spent an afternoon with my bestie and fellow-author Sharon Booth. Four and a half hours whizzed by over food and chat and it was time to go home all too soon. Sharon and I used to meet up roughly fortnightly and we managed to squeeze in a September get-together between lockdowns but it was so good to see her again face to face. If you haven’t checked out Sharon’s amazing books, you can find them here.

I also had a hair cut and colour this month. I had decided to go grey and had my hair lightened last time to make it less obvious, leaving the roots grey, but I decided I didn’t like it and wasn’t ready, so I’m back to fully coloured and feel so much better for it!

I had a meal out with my mother in law and one of Mark’s sisters and that was the end of my planned outings. Then we had an unplanned and not so pleasant one. The munchkin texted last week to say she was being sent home to self-isolate and could we collect her. Students in her year had been sent home in groups over the previous few days due to a high number of Covid cases and she was in the third batch. Then the whole year was sent home. Then the whole school closed! As she was in one of the groups specifically asked to isolate, we were instructed that we all had to have PCR tests. Thankfully we all tested negative. Hubby and I are double-jabbed so we hoped we would be, but it was a relief that the munchkin hadn’t picked anything up. She does lateral flow tests every couple of days too.

So, other than the last unexpected trip out, it has been a busy month and it has been so lovely to be able to talk about going out after months of having very little to write in this section. I do feel a little on edge when in crowds but I’m more worried about the munchkin than I am about me now. She says they’re going to get vaccinated at school in September but I’d love it if it could roll forwards. The new variants that keep appearing are a concern.

Hope you had a great June and wishing you a fabulous July.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

I don’t feel like a published writer … but maybe there isn’t a “feeling” to feel

Has it really been that long since I posted? Oops! To be fair, I’ve been on holiday and, even though I was only away for a week, I feel like I’ve only just got back into the swing of things because life had been so hectic just before holiday and immediately afterwards with one major activity taking a lot of my time: the launch of the first Write Romantics anthology!

I can now officially say I am a published writer with both an e-Book AND a paperback to my name. But when I first said that to my husband on the launch of ‘Winter Tales’ on 8th November, he frowned and said, “But you’re already a published writer.” And he was absolutely right. Because, in 2010, an anthology was launched that also featured a short story I’d written.

IMG_1558Back in 2009 when I entered the English Heritage competition to feature in an anthology of short stories set at or inspired by local landmark Whitby Abbey, I had no expectations of winning. Short stories aren’t really my thing, either as a reader or a writer and, but I felt drawn to the competition. I live just down the coast from Whitby and it’s a place I’ve visited since childhood and have always loved. I have fond memories of visiting there with my parents, my grandparents, as a Brownie, Guide and Ranger, and more recently with my own family. The other pull was that one of the judging panel was G P Taylor whose kind words about my work during his creative writing course had made me believe I could write. The entries were anonymous so this certainly wouldn’t have any bearing on my winning or not but it felt like there were two strong draws that I couldn’t ignore.

An idea formed but I absolutely left it until the 11th hour to get it right, submitting it at 2 minutes before the deadline. I knew it wasn’t perfect but I also knew that having a three-year-old, a full-time job and a long commute to work meant I’d had no time to make it any better. The winner was announced and, unsurprisingly, it wasn’t me. An email several months later had me shaking with excitement, though. Fifty other entries had been selected to feature in an anthology that would be sold in aid of Whitby Abbey and my story was one of them! I vividly remember the day I heard. I was at a team meeting in Croydon and we’d taken a break during which I’d checked my emails. I had to share my news with the team the moment we reconvened. I’m not sure anyone quite got it but I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face because, for me, this was the first step: an official confirmation that I could write because I’d been selected as one of the best.

IMG_1557It took an eternity for the book to be pulled together and it was late 2010 before it was launched. It was available on Amazon but, as Whitby Abbey is just up the coast, I had this vision of us making a day trip of it. I felt a bit silly suggesting this to my husband as I felt like I was making a big deal out of something really minor. I kept hoping that he’d suggest it himself. Isn’t that what the hero would do in a romance novel? He’d suggest a day out but drive to the Abbey instead and have a bottle of champagne and a cake discretely tucked away in a backpack to be whipped out at the appropriate moment. I won’t go into what did happen but it wasn’t that and the whole experience felt pretty flat and unreal. I had the book in my hands but I didn’t feel like a published writer at all.

Roll forward four years and, on 8th November this year, we launched the e-Book of the Write Romantics charity anthology: Winter Tales – Stories to Warm Your Heart. We had an online Facebook party which seemed to go well. We even had guests who weren’t anthology contributors attending! I still didn’t feel like a published writer, though. I reasoned it was because I didn’t have a physical book to hold this time and I’d had to download the anthology onto my Kindle as a test so it wasn’t like I’d had the chance to download it as a buyer and have it suddenly appear on my Kindle.

_MG_6911This Saturday the CreateSpace proof copy of our paperback arrived. I’d been out for the day with the munchkin as Santa had arrived in the harbour for a parade to his grotto (don’t ask) so I didn’t get the Amazon package until late in the afternoon. Hubby nonchalantly drifted down the stairs while I removed my coat and said, “This arrived for you.” Eek! The proof! I actually felt quite nervous about opening it, especially as hubby was also dying to see it so was hovering.

How did I feel on actually opening it and taking it out its packaging? A bit numb really. Yes, it was exciting to see it, but not quite as exciting as I’d expected. Maybe it’s because it was a “proof” copy so not quite the “real thing”. Maybe it was because it’s an anthology so my name isn’t specifically on the front. Or maybe it simply hasn’t sunk in. You see, I can say I’m now a twice-published writer but I’m not a twice-published writer who can write full-time or even part-time. I’m a twice-published writer who still needs to work because neither of these projects are about earning money; they’re about charity and rightly so. I’m a twice-published writer who’ll go back to work in a frozen foods factory tomorrow, not knowing if I’m about to lose my job as a result of some imminent restructuring in the HR function. I’m a twice-published writer who is hoping that the saying “third time lucky” does apply to me and that my third opportunity for publication – the release of my debut next year – will lead me a step closer to the dream of writing full-time. Fingers crossed.

_MG_6896Don’t get me wrong, I’m exceptionally excited. I just don’t feel different. But perhaps that’s the point. Perhaps there is no different feeling. Hmmm.

While I ponder on that one, I’d love it if you could bob on over to Amazon to order Winter Tales. It’s available as an e-Book here and paperback here. All proceeds are split equally between Cystic Fibrosis Trust and Teenage Cancer Trust and the book would make a fabulous stocking filler. Go on, you know you want to …

Jessica xx