The one where I had the time of my life

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I was fifteen when Dirty Dancing came to the UK cinemas (October 1987). I remember a friend saying she’d seen it and loved it but I’d never heard of it and, with no social media around, I don’t remember there being much hype.

It was a few years later when I first IMG_6793saw it on video and I wondered why I hadn’t bothered with it sooner. I absolutely loved it. Since then, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen it. I own the DVD, more recently replaced by the twentieth anniversary edition on Blu-ray, and also the soundtrack on CD (which is on in the background as I write this).

Yesterday, I took my daughter to see the stage version in Leeds and it was fabulous. We didn’t have the best seats as I only booked tickets a few weeks ago, but we still really enjoyed it.

We’d seen Strictly Ballroom a few years ago and it was very close to the film so I was interested in seeing how close the Dirty Dancing adaptation would be. Much of the dialogue was exactly the same, and most of the songs were there, although some were significantly shortened and a couple were instrumental rather than lyrics. I had one big disappointment here: ‘She’s Like The Wind’ was instrumental only. For me, that song is iconic to the film, especially as it is sung by Patrick Swayze, but perhaps that’s a reason why it wasn’t included. It was disappointing not to hear it, though.

IMG_6791There were new songs and new scenes. With a film I know and love so well, it’s a little weird seeing new parts.

Some certainly added value; particularly those around character development for Baby, Johnny and Baby’s parents.

Some added more to the political situation in the USA at the time. It was 1963 and a lot was changing there, particularly regarding civil rights. Part of Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech (which actually happened during the time the film was set) was included in a new campfire scene, culminating in the singing of ‘We Shall Overcome’. And there was more made of Neil Kellerman going on his freedom ride and his motivations around this. I personally felt that these scenes disrupted the story (sorry) and actually made Neil into a confusing character when he didn’t need to be anything more than the slightly creepy arrogant relation to Max Kellerman that he is in the film. But perhaps someone not so familiar with the film (is there such a person?) might disagree.

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Also, I didn’t understand the character of Tito Suarez. In the film, he’s the conductor for the house band and he performs a brief tap-dancing routine with Max Kellerman. Clearly, from the brief conversation they have during the finale concert, they’re very good friends too. However, in the musical, Tito’s role seems to change and he’s giving advice to Neil and Johnny but there’s no set-up of their relationship to understand why he’s suddenly the advisor, as well as a conductor and a singer. Hmm.

Oh, and don’t get me started on Mr Schumacher becoming some sort of comedy magician instead of one half of a doddery old couple stealing wallets.

These were small points, though. What a delight to hear the film’s two most iconic lines:

“I carried a watermelon”

and

“Nobody puts Baby in a corner”

Absolute classics! Johnny had to pause for a very loud audience reaction after his line!

IMG_6792The sets were stunning and the many set changes were brilliantly handled. I was particularly impressed with how they achieved the scene dancing on the log over the chasm and the practice lifts in the water. As for the dancing, it was superb throughout. And that final lift? Incredible.

So, whilst I have a few niggles here and there – probably because of my love for the film exactly how it is – this really was a wonderful show and I would highly recommend anyone to go and see it. You really will have the time of your life!

And whilst Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey can never be replaced as Johnny Castle and Baby Houseman, the leads in this show were very impressive. A huge congratulations to all the cast.

And you can get a Johnny teddy bear, complete with leather jacket and sunglasses. How cute is that?

Jessica xx

 

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The one where I have a very bad day

Do you ever have one of those days that start off full of excitement and high expectations, but go horribly wrong? I had one of those days today.

My 12-year-old daughter is going to a Girlguiding festival over August bank holiday weekend and the theme is ‘Disney’. I promised her I’d take her to Primark to get some cheap Disney clothes.

We drove an hour to the retail park just outside of York. She complained of a headache when we got there and then, when we were inside Primark, she said she felt sick. Primark is the opposite end of the retail park to the toilet block so it was a bit of a dash. She wasn’t sick but felt it and looked pale.

Leaving her in the seated area outside the toilets, I bought water, Calpol, and a Poundland bucket for the journey home, just in case. Just as well because she was sick on the way home. When you have a phobia about people being sick, like I do, this is a pretty traumatic incident.

Halfway home, we discovered that the main road was closed due to an accident and we had to turn back on ourselves and take a diversion. With so many vehicles on the alternative route, there were parts of the journey that were stop/start and others that were stationary. We tried a shortcut that would have bypassed the accident but were stopped by the police because the shortcut was a narrow-is country lane and they didn’t want loads of traffic using it, risking further collisions. Fair enough. We ended up having to rejoin the traffic we’d left, much further behind than we’d been before, and stuck behind a combine harvester which held us up even more.

It took nearly two hours to get home, instead of one. We finally made it home, our only purchases of the day being the water, some Calpol and a sick bucket but thank goodness for the sick bucket!

A song I absolutely hate played on the radio en route and I didn’t have the energy to try to change station. It’s a standing joke how much I hate this song and how, despite it being from the early 90s, the local radio station seem to constantly play it. When I got home, I discovered I had been wearing odd earrings. A minor point but it seemed to add to the ‘rubbishness’ of the day.

I work freelance marking HR assignments and they’d piled up while I was gone. Some of them take a lot longer to mark than others and my inbox seemed to be full of those ones so each one took an eternity to plough through. The quality was very poor and none of them passed which is always disappointing. Then my right shoulder started aching really badly, undoubtedly from hunching over the steering wheel for two hours, rigid as a board, trying to ignore my sickness phobia and then feeling tense still as I desperately tried to catch up on my work and stop my day being a complete write-off.

But then I looked up the accident online and suddenly my bad day paled into significance. My shopping trip had been a disaster, my daughter had been sick, and we’d been stuck in traffic but this was all trivial stuff because it turns out that, in that RTA, someone died.

According to the report on the York Press website (you can read it here) “a 61-year-old man from the Sheffield area, suffered fatal injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene”. Two children in the car, aged 9 and 10, were taken to hospital, one of them by road and one by air ambulance “with injuries not believed to be life-threatening”. There are no details about how the accident happened other than that it involved the man’s car, a car transporter and an HGV. I’m not going to speculate what might have happened as that would be unfair but, if a car was up against a transporter and HGV, it’s probably a bit of a miracle that those two poor children weren’t killed too.

Given the ages, I’m guessing this might have been a grandfather out with their grandchildren. Again, the article doesn’t say. Could have been their dad, an uncle, or perhaps just a friend. Whatever the relationships, how traumatic must that have been? Those two children are at an age where they’ll likely always remember that accident, and their lives will change forever from today.

My thoughts are with the poor children and all the families involved as well as the two drivers of the other vehicles as their lives will have now changed forever too. And my thoughts with the emergency services who deal with tragic incidents like this every day. Hats off to you. I’m not sure I could do that.

I’m sure there were many fed-up and irate people stuck in the traffic today but give me two-hours of traffic any day instead of what those involved in the accident have been through and will go through going forwards. Scary stuff.

Stay safe out there.

Jessica xx

 

 

The one where I met up with an old friend

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Friendships fascinate me. I’m intrigued by friendships that last a lifetime v those that are short and intense, having a big group of friends v one special person, friends who are there no matter what v fair-weather friends, and I’m particularly interested in toxic and one-sided friendships. It probably therefore isn’t a surprise that this is a big theme within my books, and the main theme of the latest release, The Secret to Happiness.

Today I spent a fabulous afternoon in the gorgeous North Yorkshire seaside town of Whitby with a lifetime friend. It’s been 15 years since I last saw Graham, yet we picked up where we’d left off and barely paused for breath for five hours! It was absolutely lovely.

67671359_1082040972003609_7127664636219883520_nGraham and I were brought up in Guisborough, a market town between Middlesbrough and Whitby. We actually went to the same primary school but weren’t in the same class. I knew who he was but we weren’t friends.

This changed at senior school. We were in the same form class for our 2nd and 3rd year (year 8 and 9 in new money) and were streamed into most of our subjects together too. A friendship quickly formed, helped by us living at the same side of town and therefore being able to easily see each other outside of school. We also started walking to school – a little over two miles away – and would chat incessantly the whole way.

All of my happy memories of my school days involve Graham. I remember laughing until IMG_6745my sides screamed in pain as we tried to make cassette-recordings of conversations for our French homework. It wasn’t so much the French conversation that was funny but the decision to add in sound effects like water pouring and cutlery clinking. A three-minute conversation could take hours to record.

Laughter was such a strong feature in our friendship and I often think that I might not have been able to cope with being bullied at a school if Graham hadn’t been there to joke with and chat to about anything and everything.

Guisborough is flanked on one side by hills and forests and we’d often take off on weekends for a long walk up the forest trails, taking the Cleveland Way across the hills to Roseberry Topping; a couple of hours’ walk each way. Usually we were joined by others on our treks and I look back on those days with such fond memories. In a world before social media and only a handful of channels on TV, walking and talking was how we spent our time and it was lovely.

IMG_6755When school finished, Graham went to the local sixth form and I travelled through to Redcar to study business studies at the technical college. We both went away to university but we stayed in touch, visiting each other at uni and writing to each other (again, in the days before mobile phones, personal email addresses or social media). We stayed in touch after graduation but didn’t see much of each other over the next few years until I moved back to the north and opened my teddy bear shop. Graham was teaching in Leeds and would occasionally come through and visit me in the shop during school holidays. Despite having not seen each other for years, we always picked up where we left off.

So if the friendship was so good, why haven’t we seen each other for 15 years? It’s a good question without a good answer. I suppose life just got in the way. I got married, had a baby, changed job a few times, moved house a couple of times and never seemed to have any time or money to travel to see friends. I’d start each New Year determined that I would make more of an effort to see people, including my family, but the years just seemed to fly past. Then Graham moved to Hong Kong and has been there for the past five years. It made me really appreciate how I should have made much more of an effort to travel to Leeds when he was only a couple of hours away because Hong Kong isn’t quite so handy for a cuppa and cake!

IMG_6757But, today, we met up and it was so great to see him. As I knew we would, we just picked up where we left off. There was so much to catch up on and, of course, we had to do some reminiscing about our school days and the different people we’re still in touch with. All too soon, it was time to go but we’ve promised not to leave it so long next time. He’s back staying with his parents again at Christmas so hopefully we can meet then.

It’s scary to think that we’ve been friends for about 35 years. During that time, so many other friendships have come and gone, some of which have been upsetting to lose, some of whom I still miss. Yet my friendship with Graham has always remained and, although I’m certain it won’t be 15 years before I see him again, I know that, if it was, we’d just pick up where we left off. And that makes me very happy.

Is there someone you haven’t seen in ages? Why not get in touch and see if you can sort something out. You’ll be glad you did. Especially if you can arrange to meet up somewhere as stunning as Whitby. Look at that sky!

Jessica xx

The one where I look back at July

The end of July has been and gone, signalling that we’re halfway through the year already. Eek! That means we’re on the slope towards Christmas now, which is a bit scary.

So how was my July? Busy. Very busy.

thumbnail-4On 19th July, I was excited to reveal the cover for my new book, The Secret to Happiness, as part of me being Boldwood’s Author of the Day. The novel will be released on 3rd September but is available for pre-order on Kindle, for the bargain price of £1, right here. For any bloggers/reviewers, it’s also available on NetGalley.

Speaking of NetGalley, I went from excitement to disappointment a few days later when my first NetGalley review came through and it wasn’t good. With only a 2-star rating, the feedback was a little strange as the reviewer said she’d really enjoyed the main character’s story but, because it wasn’t the light summer read she was hoping for, she rated it a 2. I won’t even begin to try and understand the logic behind that. Yes, the cover is summery but the blurb doesn’t suggest light and fluffy. I know I have to be prepared for bad reviews but, because it was the first, this one really upset me. Thankfully the second one, a few days later, was 5-star and stated: “I loved this book … Overall brilliant writing, loved the plot, characters were well developed…” Phew!

Blue LogoMy good friend, author Sharon Booth, came through to Scarborough for a day and we loitered with intent in a couple of different coffee shops, having a good old writerly chat, which is always a fabulous way to while away the hours. We came to a difficult decision, though, to cease being ‘The Yorkshire Rose Writers’. Last year, we joined forces under this brand as we both live in Yorkshire, write about Yorkshire, and love Yorkshire. We thought this would be a great way to promote Sharon to my readers and vice versa, as well as have a stronger online presence. We put a huge time commitment in to blog, tweet, insta (is that a word?) and update content on the Facebook page, especially Sharon who is much better at these things than me, but we found it didn’t engage with any new readers as hoped. We also decided that, whilst we love Yorkshire, this is not our brand; our brand is us as individuals and as friends together. We therefore have a new idea that is in early stages of development but will be a little different. The blog has been deactivated and the social media activities have ceased with accounts deactivating shortly. It was short and sweet but these things are always worth a try. We’d probably have continued on Facebook but the imminent changes from pages to groups make us lose the will to live when it comes to that format so bye bye to The Yorkshire Rose Writers and thank you to those who did support our little venture.

During July, I completed a round of edits on book 11 and that’s now with my beta readers for comment. Early indications are good with one of them saying she’s struggling to put it down. I’m not sure whether Boldwood will take this one or not but it was about two thirds complete at the time I signed my publishing deal so there was no point in not finishing it.

My plan was to make some progress with book 12 and 13 but that hasn’t quite happened because I had my penultimate Masters submission due which took more time than I’d anticipated. It was a commentary about the process behind the final submission and the learnings we’ve had so far and I’ve struggled to score highly on these so far. I’ve just had the score through, though, and have achieved a distinction with 90% which is a relief. This puts my Year 2 work at 88% which is a distinction overall (distinction is 85% and above) so I’m thrilled about that. However, to come out with a distinction as my final grade, I have to score 85% or more on the final submission. I’ve done well on my fiction pieces so far, typically scoring in the 90s, but this is a much bigger piece. Fingers crossed.

IMG_6650Outside of writing, I had a short break in The Lake District with hubby, daughter and Ella, our Sprocker Spaniel. It didn’t go as planned. I managed to break my tooth about an hour into the journey eating a toffee. Oops! Thankfully it doesn’t hurt as it was a crown that I’ve snapped off a couple of times before … also by eating toffees. You’d think I’d have learned by now! I don’t think the dentist will be able to rebuild it again this time so I’ll see what he suggests next week.

The broken tooth was probably a bad omen for things to come. Our journey was horrendous. What would normally take about four hours took six including a patch of stationary traffic. We took a detour to get around that but then missed our planned lunch stop and ended up having lunch at teatime instead. The cottage wasn’t quite what we’d hoped for and it was in the middle of nowhere which we hadn’t expected either. Then the weather was poor, with torrential rain one day and storms forecast for our final day. We decided to come home a day early to sleep on a comfortable bed and to go out around home where the weather wasn’t expected to be so bad.

So, on Tuesday we visited a place called Ravenscar on the coast between Scarborough IMG_6732and Robin Hood’s Bay to see the seals. A year or two ago, we did attempt to see the seals but took the wrong path and still ended up on a cliff top with no way down to the beach, so we did the sensible thing and asked this time. The seals were sooooo adorable. The walk is very steep, though, and the journey back up was certainly hard work. I swear I’d shed about two stone in sweat but the scales laughed at me and told me otherwise!

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I went to the cinema just before our mini-break to see ‘Yesterday’. I’d seen the trailer on Facebook some time back and was really keen to see it, although I hadn’t realised at the time that it was a Richard Curtis film. We don’t have a decent cinema in Scarborough but the theatre does show some films so the munchkin so I went to see it there and thoroughly enjoyed it. You do need to suspend a bit of disbelief here and there and just take it for what it is which is a sweet, funny story with lots of Beatles songs.

My final bit of news is that the munchkin got her ears pierced last week (she’s 12) so that they have time to heal over the summer break. I’ve had mine done since I was 13 but I’ve always fancied having the top of my ear – my helix – pierced so I booked in for me to have that done at the same time. Ouch! My goodness, does that hurt! I’ve tried taking a photo but it’s just a stud and it barely shows so I will wait until the 12-week healing period has passed and I can put a pretty earring in it instead.

That’s my round-up of July. I’ve decided that my round-up posts are too long so I’m going to try to blog more frequently but with much shorter posts. Hmm. We’ll see how that goes. Still, the intention of the round-ups was to get me into blogging more regularly again and it has achieved that.

Wishing you a fabulous August.

Jessica xx

 

The one where I reveal my beautiful new cover

I am so excited to be able to reveal the gorgeous cover for The Secret to Happiness. Isn’t it pretty? A massive thanks and big hug to the team at Boldwood Books for everything about it from the title to the tagline to the artwork.

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The fictional North Yorkshire coastal setting of Whitsborough Bay is modelled predominantly on my hometown of Scarborough (with nods to a couple of the other coastal resorts). It’s therefore wonderful to see the actual beach huts from Scarborough’s North Bay on the cover.

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Me outside the beach huts which are just around the corner from the ones on my front cover, holding my very first paperback. You can see the grass around them

The beach huts in Scarborough’s North Bay, painted bright red, yellow, orange, lime-green and sky-blue, really stand out and they feature in all of my Whitsborough Bay books. The ones on the cover are at the top of a hill and have grass in front of them but grass doesn’t shout ‘seaside’ does it? The designer therefore took the sand right up to the huts and the cover looks much better for it.

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This is the front row of beach huts on Scarborough’s North Bay

In the background you can just see Scarborough Castle, which is Whitsborough Bay Castle in my books.

North Bay view of Castle

Whenever I say to someone that I live in Scarborough, they often smile and say “I used to love going there as a kid”. It has such fond memories for so many people and I’m very proud to have called it my home for the past 15 years. Such an inspiring setting for my stories.

If you’d like to grab yourself an eBook pre-order on Kindle, it’s only £1. What a bargain! Here’s the link.

And here’s the blurb to whet your appetite…

Everyone deserves a chance at happiness…

Danniella is running from her past, so when she arrives at the beautiful seaside resort of Whitsborough Bay, the last thing on her mind is making friends. After all, they might find out her secrets…

Alison is fun, caring and doesn’t take herself too seriously. But beneath the front, she is a lost soul, stuck in a terrible relationship, with body confidence issues and no family to support her. All she really needs is a friend.

Karen’s romance has taken a back seat to her fitness business. But she doesn’t want to give up on love quite yet. If only those mysterious texts would stop coming through …

When the women meet at their local bootcamp, a deep friendship blossoms. And soon they realise that the secret to happiness is where they least expected to find it…

An uplifting story of friendship and finding the strength to come to terms with the past. Perfect for fans of Tilly Tennant and Cathy Bramley.

 

Have a lovely weekend.

Jessica xx

The one where I look back at June

Are we really in July already? How did that happen?

IMG_6343June was yet another crazy-busy month. The big writing news was my publishing deal. Yay! At 10am on Tuesday 18thJune, the secret I’d been keeping for three months could be shared and I spent the day on social media with a big grin on my face as the congratulations messages came in. I was quite overwhelmed with some of the support I had from friends, family and also fellow-writers, but also from those I didn’t know on Facebook and Twitter. How lovely are some people?

I had another final read-through with the proofreader’s comments so it’s now back with her for one final set of tweaks and another read. I can’t remember whether I get it back for one more read or whether this is it. Eek!

IMG_6371On other writing news, I’m on the final stretch with my MA in Creative Writing. I have the first 15k words of a novel to write for my final assignment and a 3k commentary about the learnings in relation to it. I’m writing a time slip novel which is something completely different for me. The 15k words are almost finished which now means I need to start on the commentary which needs submitting in three weeks’ time. We were able to submit the first 2.5k words from the novel as a formative assignment this month and got the feedback on this last week. I submitted two chapters, one of which saw the lead-up to my protagonist going back in time and the other being her reactions to discovering it had happened because I was keen to get feedback on whether the time slip element actually worked. Thankfully my tutor was very positive about both chapters. The second one was spot on but there were a few tweaks suggested for the first which I completely agree with and have actioned already. I’m quite excited about the way it’s shaping up. I have no idea whether Boldwood will be interested in a time slip but I will definitely finish it as it doesn’t make sense to have to write 15k words of a full-length novel and not see it through to the end.

IMG_6397We had a few family events in June. On my husband’s side of the family, our eldest nephew got married and it was a lovely day with perfect weather. After a church service, we went to the reception at Ravenhall Hotel in Ravenscar which is perched on top of the cliffs overlooking the North Yorkshire Coast with the most stunning of views. We’d love to live in that area as it really is beautiful. A couple of months back, our youngest nephew became a dad but baby Winnie was premature and poorly. In and out of different hospitals, we didn’t have a chance to meet her so it was great to finally have cuddles once she was settled at home and the whole family were invited round to say hello. As I knew she probably would, the munchkin started nagging us about giving her a brother or a sister. No way! One was plenty.

65802345_10156151167021712_5665661037131595776_nOn my side of the family, I went to York at the weekend with my mum and my sisters-in-law. We do this every so often and always have a lovely day shopping, eating and chatting. Ooh, and wine is consumed although it was super hot this weekend so a jug of Pimms went down very nicely too.

I met up with my good friend, Sharon, twice in June. We have shifted venue to a pub on the outskirts of Beverley so we can meet for a bit longer. One of our meetings was before the Beverley Chapter Meeting for the RNA where it was great to be able to share my publishing news.

July will see me doing a cover reveal for The Secret to Happiness. I’ll submit my penultimate Masters assignment and aim to write a third to half of the novel I’m using for my final Masters submission. Lots of writing planned!

Have a great July.

Jessica xx

The one where I talk about my journey to my brand new, shiny publishing deal

On Tuesday this week, I announced the thrilling news that I’d secured a 9-book publishing deal with Boldwood. I’m so excited about this but it wasn’t that long ago when I could have given up…

Warning: long post coming up but I wanted to share it for any writers who might be struggling, to show that it is worth waiting.

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Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Towards the end of 2018 and moving into the start of 2019, I have to admit that I was feeling pretty low about my writing. For ‘pretty low’, read ‘big, fat failure’. Serious thoughts of giving up on this writing malarkey swirled around my mind frequently and I even hit the point where I struggled to find the motivation to put fingers to keyboard. Not good.

What happened? I had rejections. But I’d had rejections before and had never felt like this so what had changed?

If I look back to 2013 when I sent my debut novel, Searching for Steven, out into the world with the objective of making friends with publishers and agents, I didn’t have any major expectations. I hoped, of course, that I would secure a publishing deal but I really didn’t have a clue whether Steven was good enough or not. He was my first book-baby and I was very proud of him, I’d had some superb feedback from beta readers and a couple of really positive critiques from the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme, but this was publishers and agents. Would they feel the same?

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Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay 

Quite a lot of them didn’t. Between September 2013 and June 2014, 12 agencies and 11 publishers said no. Actually, not all of them even took the time to say that. I’d expected to be hurt by the rejections but, instead, I viewed it as a process. Rejection? Ok, fine, knock them off the list. Who’s next?

And then I got bored.

It was taking so long to hear back and I had a book sat there ready for release with a sequel nearly written and a third in the pipeline. Why not get them out there myself? I was waiting to hear from three more publishers and, if they all said no, I was going to indie publish. Guess what? Two of them said yes! It would appear that publishing deals are like men or buses…

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Publishing deals are like buses … Image by Philipp Reiner from Pixabay 

Having two publishing offers on the table was a very happy dilemma. I could have gone for an eBook-only deal with an established USA-based publisher or with a new UK-based publisher producing eBooks and paperbacks. Oh my goodness! A paperback? What author doesn’t long to hold their book-baby in their arms and sniff it? So I chose the UK-based one.

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Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

My publisher had great plans and lots of contacts in the publishing world. They were going to do well, weren’t they? Sadly, no. Between May 2015 and August 2016, a prequel novella was released through them, followed by the trilogy. Steven’s launch came with enthusiasm, passion and marketing support. The others were left to fend for themselves. Things clearly weren’t going well for my publisher and, after an email exchange following Daran’s release, the owner admitted that it hadn’t worked out and they would ultimately cease trading. I secured my rights back and, across late 2016 and early 2017, my husband designed new covers and we re-released them.

Being an indie author brought many positives, mainly around decision-making, but it also brought many negatives. My biggest challenge was that writing wasn’t – and still isn’t – my main job. I still have a day job and writing has always had to fit around that. To be a successful indie author, I needed to spend a lot more time promoting my work and that simply wasn’t time I had; or at least it wasn’t if I wanted to work on new material too.

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If my workload was a pile of mattresses and I was a van… Image by Luisao Pepe from Pixabay 

Charlee and the Chocolate Shop CoverOver the next couple of years, sales of the series and a new release, Bear With Me, trickled along but I had many days of zero-sales which are very disheartening. In Christmas 2017, I released two Christmas books and was quite astonished at how well they sold. I now have four Christmas books (although one of them is a sequel to Raving About Rhys) and, despite being mid-June as I write this, they’re still selling. It seems Christmas is popular all year round!

9. Christmas at The Chocolate Pot Cafe COVERWhen I say my Christmas books were selling well, we’re not talking huge numbers. We’re not talking the sort of income that could match my day job and allow me to write full-time. We’re not talking impressive chart positions. When I started this journey, I’d have been happy for any sales, but now I wanted more and I realised that the only way I was going to be able to find a wider readership was to secure a publishing deal again. The thing was, I’d already been burnt. Could I risk lightning striking twice?

At the RNA’s July conference last year, I pitched my work-in-progress, Wish I Could Tell You Goodbye, to four publishers. All were very enthusiastic and wanted to see the full MS when it was ready, but there was a mixed opinion as to where they saw the book going. Two of them wanted me to move down a more cosy romcom route with it and the other two wanted me to have a more emotionally-driven story which was what I’d intended. One of the publishers who wanted cosy asked me to send her one of my finished books so she could get a feel for my world and my writing. It wasn’t for them. I decided not to submit to the other publisher who also wanted cosy. This wasn’t a difficult decision because the two who wanted emotional were so enthusiastic, one of them appearing absolutely convinced it would be a fit. It wasn’t. They both rejected the final MS. And I didn’t take that news well.

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Image by Ben Kerckx from Pixabay 

When Steven received his rejections a few years back, I never shed a tear, but I cried bucket-loads each time Wish I Could Tell You Goodbye was rejected. Why? I think it’s because it felt more personal this time. When I tried to secure a publishing deal for Steven, I honestly didn’t know if he was good enough. With Wish I Could Tell You Goodbye, I knew I had a great story. My beta reader feedback was that it was the best thing I’d ever written and that was very much at the forefront of my mind. If Wish I Could Tell You Goodbye was my best work and these publishers didn’t think it was good enough, where did that leave me? Had I been kidding myself for all this time that I could actually write?

Having a support group around you is so key as an author: writing friends who understand the highs and lows as well as friends and family who aren’t connected at all and can be completely objective. My wonderful writing friend, Sharon Booth and my writing family, The Write Romantics, were there for me to encourage me to keep going. Outside of writing, my husband, Mark, and my mum have been so supportive too. They believed in me and I just needed to get that self-belief back.

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Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

Realistically, I was never really going to give up because I have stories to tell and I can’t not write them. It’s part of me. It’s who I am. So maybe that’s another reason why rejections were harder. When I wrote Searching for Steven, it was simply something I fancied having a go at. I had no thoughts of ever publishing him. I wasn’t even sure if I’d ever even finish him. Wish I Could Tell You Goodbye was my tenth book, though, and I’d very much defined myself as a writer several books back. It felt like the publishers weren’t rejecting the book; they were rejecting me.

Objectively looking at it, there were so many positives in their comments. Every single rejection – and I received five in total for this MS and 3 rejections from the same group of publishers for one of my back-catalogue books – talked about how good my writing was, how warm my voice was, and how much they loved the setting. It’s just that the book wasn’t for them. I needed to hang onto that positive feedback and accept that the story might not speak to every editor who read it. But it would speak to someone…

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Somebody would love my work. Surely???? Image by Dariusz Sankowski from Pixabay 

I’ve always been a great believer in things happening for a reason. Those rejections, although hard, were because the right publisher for me hadn’t opened for business yet.

In January this year, I spotted an advert on Facebook for a new publisher called Boldwood who’d be open for submissions on 1st February. I’d already been stung by joining a brand new publisher but I checked out Boldwood’s website anyway, just in case. Words and phrases like “publishing reimagined” and “developing authors’ careers” and “working in partnership” leapt out at me. The credentials of the team were impressive too. They’d had proven success elsewhere; something my previous publisher had lacked.

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I sat up till midnight so that I could be the first to submit to Boldwood as soon as 1st February arrived. Then I panicked later in the day when I saw a Twitter announcement from them saying they were now open for submissions. What if my midnight submission hadn’t made it because their inbox wasn’t open for business? So I submitted again.

On Friday 15thMarch, I received the email I had longed to receive: Many thanks for submitting to us – I really enjoyed Wish I Could Tell You Goodbye. What a gorgeous read! … Are you free next week at all for a phone call? 

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Somebody with much more athletic ability than me jumping for joy! Image by Pexels from Pixabay 

Eek! Of course I was. We scheduled a phone call for the following Wednesday so I had a nerve-wracking few days. Surely it had to be a publishing deal if they wanted to speak to me, but what would it look like?

I never in my wildest dreams imagined the offer I received: a 5-book publishing deal but they were interested in my back catalogue too so would come back with a proposal on that. A few days later, I had the full 9-book publishing deal, with potential plans to take on the whole back catalogue depending on how things went. Oh. My. God!

So, to any writers out there who are struggling with rejections, hang on in there. Things happen for a reason and perhaps that publisher wasn’t right for you. Perhaps no publisher is right and the indie route is for you? Perhaps a hybrid approach? An agent? There are so many options available to writers these days that it might take a while to find what’s best for you and it might take several false starts, but keep believing in yourself and your writing.

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Be like this sloth and hang in there! Image by Minke Wink from Pixabay 

Wish I Could Tell You Goodbye will be released on Tuesday 3rd September under a brand new title: The Secret to Happiness. I’m honoured to be part of the team of authors at Boldwood and look forward to developing my career with them as they continue to reimagine publishing. I have a feeling it’s going to be a wonderful partnership.

What’s that saying? The best things come to those who waited. Well, I waited, and good things came!

There’s no cover image finalised just yet, but you can pre-order The Secret to Happiness on eBook here.

Jessica xx

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Good things come to those who wait! Image by Amit Karkare from Pixabay 

 

The one where I share some super exciting news

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Me doing a happy dance. Okay, not really me. If I was young and slim it might be! I do live by the sea, though. Image by Messan Edoh from Pixabay

Right now, I am doing a happy dance. Well, not rightnow because I can’t dance and type at the same time but I assure you that my feet are doing a jig. Why? Because I am absolutely thrilled to share the news that I have secured a brand new, shiny publishing deal with Boldwood . Woo hoo! Here’s the official announcement.

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And, not only have I secured a brand new, shiny publishing deal, it is an AMAZING 9-book deal. Yes, NINE BOOKS! Eeeeeekkkkkk!!!!!!!

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Image by JL G from Pixabay

My first novel with Boldwood will be released on Tuesday 3rd September. It’s called The Secret to Happiness and I’m really excited about it.

Here’s the blurb:

Everyone deserves a chance at happiness…

Danniella is running from her past, so when she arrives at the beautiful seaside resort of Whitsborough Bay, the last thing on her mind is making friends. After all, they might find out her secrets…

Alison is fun, caring and doesn’t take herself too seriously. But beneath the front, she is a lost soul, stuck in a terrible relationship, with body confidence issues and no family to support her. All she really needs is a friend.

Karen’s romance has taken a back seat to her fitness business. But she doesn’t want to give up on love quite yet. If only those mysterious texts would stop coming through …

When the women meet at their local bootcamp, a deep friendship blossoms. And soon they realise that the secret to happiness is where they least expected to find it…

An uplifting story of friendship and finding the strength to come to terms with the past. Perfect for fans of Tilly Tennant and Cathy Bramley.

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Image by Mark Hultgren from Pixabay

The Secret to Happiness will be released on 3rd September as an eBook, audiobook and paperback so you can choose your format, or go for all of them if you wish!

The cover is still being finalised so I can’t share that just yet, but watch this space.

As for the other eight books in the publishing deal, they’ll be a mix of brand new novels and some of my back-catalogue including the trilogy – Searching for Steven, Getting Over Gary and Dreaming About Daran – which will be repackaged (new covers, new names and a fresh edit). The trilogy will become a four-part series to include the prequel novella, Raving About Rhys, combined with the sequel to this, Callie’s Christmas Wish.These four repackaged books will be released across 2020 along with another new title and a repackaged Christmas at The Chocolate Pot Café.

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Gifts from hubby to celebrate receiving my publishing deal 3 months ago

I’m so thrilled to be one of twenty authors announced by Boldwood today. It’s been an absolute joy to be part of their vision to reimagine publishing, work collaboratively with their authors, and develop author careers. Wishing all the best to the central team and my fellow-Boldwood authors whose books will steadily be launched from August.

I’m going to blog about the journey to get here in a separate post later this week but I wanted to share my news first because I’ve been keeping this a secret for three months ready for a big author launch!

Best wishes

Jessica xx

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Brand new, shiny author photo in my brand new, shiny office

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

The one where I blush as another award comes my way!

What’s this? Three blog posts in the space of a week? Goodness, me, that’s unknown!

I promise this is only a short one. I’m delighted to say that the final part of my Welcome to Whitsborough Bay series, Dreaming About Daran, has just won a Chill With A Book Readers’ Award too! And not just that, but he’s won a PREMIER award which is for “exceptional high evaluations from Chill readers”. Wow! Just wow!

See here for the announcement on Chill’s website.

My boys have done me so proud. I know you shouldn’t have favourites so, shhh, but Daran is my favourite of the series. Congratulations Daran and thank you to Pauline and all the Chill Readers. I’m ever so grateful.

Jessica xx

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If you’d like to know more, here’s the blurbs for all the books in the trilogy and the buying links:

Searching for Steven (winner of Chill With A Book Readers’ Award)

What if you already know your future… but not the path to take you there?

Searching for Steven NEW COVERWhen Sarah Peterson accepts her Auntie Kay’s unexpected offer to take over her florist’s shop, she’s prepared for a change of job, home and lifestyle. What she isn’t prepared for is the discovery of a scarily accurate clairvoyant reading that’s been missing for twelve years. All her predictions have come true, except one: she’s about to meet the man of her dreams. Oh, and his name is Steven.

Suddenly Stevens are everywhere. Could it be the window cleaner, the rep, the manager of the coffee shop, or any of the men she’s met online? On top of that, she finds herself quite attracted to a handsome web designer, but his name isn’t even Steven…

During this unusual search, will Sarah find her destiny?

You can download Searching for Steven here.

Getting Over Gary (winner of Chill With A Book Readers’ Award and Cover of the Month Award)

How do you move on when life keeps throwing surprises at you?

Getting Over Gary NEW COVERElise married her childhood sweetheart, Gary, straight out of college, and they’ve been happy together for over twelve years. Elise is now desperate to start a family, but Gary doesn’t seem to share her enthusiasm anymore. Arriving home early from a party, she discovers why: Gary’s been keeping a secret from her. A very big secret.

While her own marriage appears to be falling apart, being a supportive bridesmaid for her best friend, Sarah, isn’t easy. Especially not when Clare, her nemesis from day one, is one of the other bridesmaids. If she’s going to get through it, she needs to put her own feelings aside, find herself again, and get over Gary, fast.

Could recently-divorced Daniel be the tonic Elise needs, or is he full of secrets and lies too? Is his hostile, but strangely attractive brother, Michael, the genuine article instead? And why do the good guys like Stevie turn her down?

But then Elise discovers she has a secret of her own and getting over Gary suddenly becomes the least of her worries…

You can download Getting Over Gary here.

Dreaming About Daran (winner of Chill With A Book PREMIER Readers’ Award)

Where do you go when it’s your own past you’re running from?

Dreaming About Daran NEW COVERSometimes, you can run from the past, but you can’t hide. Since the age of sixteen, Clare O’Connell has lived her life by four strict rules:

  1. Don’t talk about Ireland
  2. Don’t think about Ireland
  3. Don’t go to Ireland
  4. Don’t let anyone in

And so far, it’s worked well. She’s got a great career, some amazing friends, and she’s really happy. The future’s all that counts, isn’t it?

When her boss insists she travels to Ireland to repair a damaged relationship with a key client. Clare finds herself drawn back to the village of Ballykielty where she comes face to face with the one person she’d hoped never, ever to see again.

With the door to her past now wide open, the first three rules have gone out of the window. Can Clare stick to rule number four?

You can download Dreaming About Daran here.