Three more sleeps till launch day. Eek!

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I’m watching the final of Britain’s Got Talent as I’m writing this. It’s one of the few TV programmes I watch as limiting my time in front of the TV is the only way I can fit in writing alongside my full-time day job. The thing I love about BGT is that it’s all about dreams coming true and that’s something I can personally relate to right now because I’ve achieved my dream of being a published author.

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CoversMy debut novella Raving About Rhys has been available on eBook for a few weeks now and my debut novel Searching for Steven comes out on Wednesday. As my protagonist Sarah would say: EEEEEKKKKKK!!!!

I couldn’t stop grinning on the day that Rhys was released. I’ve started to get reviews through for it as well as messages on Facebook from friends and family which have been incredibly touching. I’ve got 9 x 5-star and 3 x 4-star reviews already which I’m absolutely thrilled about, including some from book reviewers and bloggers. These individuals read constantly so to get a four or five star review from them is incredibly flattering.

Jessica Redland - Searching for Steven - Front Cover LOW RESI’m at work tomorrow, but I have the rest of the week off. I haven’t decided how I’m going to spend Steven’s launch day (Wednesday). For me, just having the day off work is exciting enough! I think I’d quite like to go out for lunch with the hubby but I haven’t mentioned that yet so we’ll see. I’d actually be just as happy spending the day writing! I’m having a launch party on Saturday afternoon/evening for family and close friends and I’m really excited about that. Time off this week will give me a chance to prepare for that. I need to sort out a playlist for the background music, bake some cakes/biscuits etc. and various other party-related activities.

What feels completely surreal is having so many people asking for signed copies of my book. I can’t believe it! My mum has been incredible, bless her. She’s drummed up business in the village where she lives and has lined up 10 requests for signed copies amongst her friends and a few more have downloaded it or ordered it from their local Waterstones instead. I think I might need to give her commission! What feels extra special about her village friends wanting a copy is that I lived in her village for a month and sang in the choir for months after that when I moved back to the north, opened my own business, and started writing Steven.

11154996_865249320181036_5952108081538780600_oMy sister-in-law, Clare, is using it as her choice for her book group and so is a friend from bootcamp, Leigh. I’m so incredibly touched and flattered by this. How amazing to think that people will be discussing my book and hopefully loving it. My ears may be burning those evenings!

10402456_808549962517639_1313868131826001955_nHubby has been incredibly supportive, Tweeting about it and sharing links with all his Linked In connections and work contacts. He’s also made my fabulous promotion photos as well as taking some new author pictures which I absolutely love.

I’ll come back on Wednesday and talk about launch day so watch this space. In the meantime, you can download Raving About Rhys here and Searching for Steven can be ordered via Amazon here or direct from my publisher here. Thank you sooooo very much 🙂 xxx

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Sharon Booth is my very first guest. Eek!

Welcome along to my very first guest slot! I’m very excited to welcome my good writing friend, Sharon Booth. I met Sharon about two years ago after my writing friend, Alys, connected with her on Twitter. We’ve met up regularly to eat cake and talk about all things writing-related. We invited her to join The Write Romantics last year and have been very excited to be part of her writing journey.

It’s been two months since she released her debut novel, ‘There Must Be An Angel’ so it seemed like a great time to invite her onto the blog and explore what’s been going on since her launch, and a whole lot more.

Over to Sharon …

Thank you very much for having me as the first guest on your blog, Jessica. I’m honoured to be here!

picture of mag for Jessica's blogIt’s been two months since There Must Be An Angel was launched. What’s happened during that time?

Quite a lot! I’ve been very lucky to attract some really positive reviews, which have boosted my confidence and made it all worthwhile. I’ve had messages posted on my Facebook wall, and my writer’s page, from people thanking me for writing the book and telling me how much they loved it. I really wasn’t expecting total strangers to go to all that trouble. It’s amazing. My work colleagues have been really supportive, buying the book and talking about it in the office, and one of the bosses is always asking how it’s going and congratulating me. My mother actually said she was proud of me. I never thought I’d hear her say that! I had a mention in the food and drink supplement of the May edition of Yorkshire Life, as there was a feature about Art of Mallow, the gourmet marshmallow company who inspired me when I was writing Angel. I’d got in touch with the owner, Philippa Quayle, and asked if she minded me mentioning that her company was the inspiration for Eliza’s mallow-making venture, and she was lovely. She even donated bags of marshmallows as prizes for my Facebook launch party, and then she talked about Angel in her feature for Yorkshire Life. I gave Angel away for free for five days and over seven hundred copies were downloaded in that time. Since publication day, I’ve been getting the second Kearton Bay novel, A Kiss from a Rose, ready for editing, written a novella, and started work on book three in the series.

What’s the nicest thing that anyone has said about Angel?

I’ve been very lucky, as I’ve only heard nice things about it! I’ve had people say that it made them want to visit the area that Angel is set in, as I’d really brought the place to life in their imaginations, which is lovely. People have said that the characters and dialogue are realistic and that they really warmed to Eliza and were rooting for her. One said she wanted to climb into the pages of the book and punch Harry! Another said I’d gone straight on her list of favourite authors. I’ve been really touched and surprised by how involved people have got in the story. It’s a wonderful feeling. I have to say, though, that the nicest thing was said by my daughter. She doesn’t read books as she always insists she just can’t get into them and can’t concentrate long enough. She read Angel from cover to cover in less than a day, and was so full of enthusiasm about it afterwards, wanting to know more about the characters and what was going to happen next, that it made me quite tearful!

Angel cover for Jessica's blogWhat’s been the most unexpected or challenging thing to happen since the launch?

Waiting for the first reviews was absolutely terrifying. I was so scared that people would hate it. I also got quite obsessed with sales and Amazon rankings. I quickly got over all that, though. There’s no point worrying about it, as the book can be riding high one day and plummeting the next. Besides, I never expected to sell a lot of books first time out. I’m in this for the long haul. It’s quite a shock to learn that, just because you’ve had a book published, the world doesn’t change. When you’re dreaming of seeing your book in print, you think it will be the biggest thing to ever happen to you. It’s surprising how quickly you realise that life goes on and not many people really know or care that you’re a published author. You still have to go to work and trail round the shops for something for dinner. No lounging on a chaise longue, eating luxury chocolates, dictating the next book to a willing secretary, after all.

Do you tell people you’re an author or do you, like so many writers out there, struggle to admit that you write?

I never say I’m an author, though we had a new lady start at work and she asked me what I would be doing at the weekend and I replied, as usual, working. She asked me where I worked at the weekends and one of our colleagues called, ‘She’ll be writing. Sharon’s an author!’ I went very red, I can tell you. I still feel uncomfortable saying I’m a writer. I don’t know why.

rhb for jessica's blogYou describe Kearton Bay beautifully. It’s a fictional version of North Yorkshire’s Robin Hood’s Bay. Would you like to live there?

Kearton Bay or Robin Hood’s Bay? I love the inhabitants of Kearton Bay and would absolutely love to live there in an ideal world. I don’t actually know anyone in Robin Hood’s Bay, although I have joined some Bay Facebook groups and one of the residents very kindly gave me permission to use his wonderful photographs of the village, which I’ve shared on Pinterest. I’ve visited Robin Hood’s Bay several times now, and it’s stunningly beautiful, and absolutely full of character. However, it’s packed with tourists in peak season and I’m not sure I could cope with that! It’s also extremely hilly, and, with my dodgy knees, it’s quite challenging. The area is gorgeous, though, and there are several coastal villages that aren’t as busy as RHB that would make a more comfortable alternative. Maybe if I win the lottery…
How did you come up with the idea for Angel?

I wanted to write about a woman who was forced out of her comfort zone. Someone who’d been sleep-walking through her life, accepting second best for so long that she’d stopped noticing, until she was jolted awake and made to look at the reality. I wanted to know how she would cope. Would she sink or swim? How would she deal with starting again? How would she manage if she had to leave behind her home and family, and everything that was comfortable, to go to a strange place, and meet new people? Would she be thrown into panic? Or would she find a strength she never knew she had, and rebuild her life? The book centres on Eliza’s search for her father, but, initially, Eliza went to Kearton Bay for a different reason entirely. As the theme of fathers and daughters grew, with Harry and Amy’s failing relationship, and the strength of the bond between Gabriel and Lexi, I began to realise that what was missing was Eliza’s own relationship with her father. So I rewrote the beginning and the book quickly took shape from there. In searching for her father, Eliza is also searching for herself, trying to discover who she really is and what she wants from her life. Of course, being me, I saw the funny side of things, too, so, although there’s a bit of soul-searching and some sadness, there’s a lot of laughter and a good sprinkling of humour to ease Eliza’s journey.

Angel contains a wonderful cast of characters. Who would you snog, marry, avoid?

What a fabulous question! It’s very tricky, though, as I think my answers would be different if you were talking about the characters across the whole series. I’ll stick to the characters who feature in Angel. I’d snog Will because he’s kind, sweet, a really, really good kisser, and I’m terribly fond of him. He’s got a lot of growing up to do, but by the end of the series he’ll be a serious contender for marriage. I’d avoid Harry, because, in spite of his twinkling eyes and good looks he’s an absolute rogue and best kept away from. I’d probably marry Gabriel, because he’s gorgeous, sincere, decent, and has a passionate streak behind that cool façade. Ask me again when the series ends and you’ll probably find I’ve chosen to marry someone else, because, although I’m a little bit in love with all my heroes, one of them is extra special to me…

If you could be best friends with any of the female characters, who would it be and why?

I have to admit, I love all my female characters and could happily be friends with any of them. Well, perhaps not Melody Bird or the awful Michelle…Eliza is a girl after my own heart, especially with her love for Maltesers and her complete inability to iron clothes. Rose is down-to-earth, funny and warm-hearted, and you know exactly where you stand with her. Lexi is lovely but she’s too young for me, and is far too leggy and gorgeous to be around, without losing what little confidence I have left. Sophie is kind, but a bit interfering, and always thinks she knows best. Then there’s Rhiannon, who is certainly interesting and very good with the advice. Although I’d have to watch her around my husband…Hmm, maybe not, then. I’ll go with Rose, because she’s good for a laugh, but always on your side and great with practical advice as well as tea and sympathy.

Harry presents a property programme. What’s your favourite property programme and why?

I watch loads of property programmes. I have a guilty addiction to Escape to the Country because of the locations of the houses, but I have to confess to getting a bit irritated by the constant whines of “Oh, the kitchen’s a bit small” when it’s the size of my entire house! I’ve been watching a lot of Country House Rescue for research purposes lately, and find that strangely addictive. I’m not sure it counts as a property programme, though? I loved the Sarah Beeny programme, Restoration Nightmare, as Rise Hall is only a few miles from where I live, and I really like Sarah’s presenting style and admire what she’s done to the house. I also love A Place in the Sun: Home or Away. I always root for the UK location, and my heart always sinks when I see how fabulous the houses abroad are! I probably like Location, Location, Location best, mainly because Phil and Kirstie’s relationship is so funny and they’re both so likeable. Also, the budgets are a bit more realistic in a lot of cases.

Rose for Jessica's blogAngel is the first book in a series. What else can we expect, and when?

You can expect three more books. The second in the series, A Kiss from a Rose, will be out in September. Here’s the blurb:

In spite of managing to get a black eye at her best friend’s wedding, Rose MacLean knows she’s never had it so good.

As a partner in a thriving business, her financial problems are easing, and her eldest daughter has finally found employment, while her youngest is doing well at school.

But Rose’s life never seems to run smoothly for long, and, sure enough, her eldest daughter has soon walked out of her job, while her youngest appears to have had a personality transplant. To make matters worse, her mother is back on the scene, and she seems to be reliving her misspent youth with her oily-haired, horse-faced ex, Alec Thoroughgood.

With her best friend preoccupied with the arduous task of baby-making, Rose finds herself relying more and more on the quiet Flynn Pennington-Rhys, who seems to be everyone’s hero. But Flynn has his own problems, and as events take an unexpected turn, Rose realises that she may not always be able to rely on him.

Will the quiet man come through for her? Will her daughters ever sort themselves out? And will Rose ever get her bedroom back from her mother, or is she destined for a life on the sofa?

I’m hoping that the third and fourth books will be out next year. There will be lots of excitement ahead for some familiar characters, some new characters will arrive at Kearton Bay, stirring passions and causing mayhem, and there’ll be weddings, births, village events, surprising relationships, redemption, a legend, a mystery, and just a touch of magic!

You can see pictures of Robin Hood’s Bay, the inspiration for Kearton Bay, and other things which inspired Sharon while writing There Must Be An Angel here:

https://uk.pinterest.com/sharonbooth1/there-must-be-an-angel/

Find out more about Sharon at http://sharonbooth.co.uk/

Follow her on Twitter as @Sharon_Booth1

Or like her Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/sharonbooth.writer

I’ve done it! I’ve written a novella … but that wasn’t the plan

Jessica Redland - Searching for Steven - Front Cover LOW RESMy debut novel, ‘Searching for Steven’ is out on 3rd June and is currently available for pre-order on Kindle here and for pre-order in paperback here which is all very exciting. But that’s not the purpose of my post today.

My lovely publishers, So Vain Books, suggested that it might be a good idea to write one or two short stories relating to Steven that we could put release for free in the run-up to Steven’s launch. What a great idea. Except I’m not so great with the concept of ‘short’. When I first wrote Steven, he was 132,000 words and had to go on a serious diet to get down to approx 100,000. When I wrote my short story for the Write Romantics Winter Tales anthology last year, it was supposed to be about 5-6,000 words and ended up being nearly 9,000. Oops. It’s not that I can’t be succinct if I need to be; it’s more of a case of discovering that my ideas are too big for a short story.

CoversMy starting point was to ponder on the character I could use. Sarah, my protagonist, splits up with her boyfriend at the start of the book and the first thought was to write about how they got together (because I already know their full back story). I quickly dismissed this idea. Why would I take the reader on a journey where they’re rooting for the heroine, she gets her seemingly happy ever after, then I end that relationship at the start of the novel? That would just be wrong. I toyed with the back story for Sarah’s Auntie Kay who is a very intriguing character, but this would ruin something that’s revealed later on in Steven so I needed to rule that out too. I couldn’t write about Sarah’s two best friends, Elise and Clare, because they have their own stories in books 2 and 3. I didn’t want to write from a male POV either (not that I won’t do so at some point, but this isn’t the right time for me to experiment with that). Which really only left one character – Callie. Callie is the sister of the ‘handsome web designer’ referred to in Steven’s blurb. At the start of Steven, Sarah meets him when he’s collecting the flowers for his sister’s wedding. Callie’s great fun. She’s young, feisty, and tends to speak first and engage brain later. She was the perfect character.

I knew that the story needed to involve her meeting the man who she marries at the start of Steven, but I didn’t know how this was going to happen. Callie’s father died when she was just two so her brother, Nick, (eight years her senior) had always been the significant male influence on her life. A logical starting point seemed to be that she went for older men, almost as a way of filling a dad-shaped void in her life. I had no idea what was going to happen other than the older man in her life was not going to be the person she thought.

I have to say, Callie’s story was one of the easiest things I’ve ever written. It just seemed to write itself. A wonderful cast of characters presented themselves and an interesting story (or at least I hope it’s interesting) spilled forth.

But it wasn’t a short story. Oh no! It was a novella!

Raving about RhysI was a little anxious about emailing it to my publishing director, Steph, because it wasn’t what we’d set out to achieve. Fortunately, she loved it and was delighted to publish a novella instead. I needed to add in another chapter as a couple of key events seemed to happen a bit too quickly, but  the new chapter also came very easily and I think it massively improved the story.

‘Raving About Rhys’ is available to download onto your Kindle right now via Amazon – just click here – for the bargain price of 99p. This means that I am now officially a published author. I was so excited yesterday when I woke up and received an email from Steph with the link. Getting ready for work (and getting the munchkin ready for school) is always pretty fraught, so I sacrificed my breakfast to post my news and links on social media. Then I got to work and it was back to the day job and barely a moment to even let the thought that I was a published author seep into my mind.

When I got home yesterday evening, though, the bears were very excited about Rhys and decided to hold a rave, glow sticks at the ready! It was also my older brother’s birthday yesterday – Happy Birthday Mike – so there was lots to celebrate!

I hope everyone enjoys reading Rhys as much as I enjoyed writing it. If you do download it, I’d love to hear what you think.

There is a free short story to come out too, but I’ll save that for another post.

Happy reading! xxx

I’ve started to feel like a real author!

Jacket

A frequent discussion amongst writers is at what point you call yourself a writer or an author and it would seem there are mixed views on this. Some would say you can only call yourself a writer when you start earning money from it, some would say you’re a writer if you write non-fiction and an author if you write fiction, some would say you’re only an author when you become published, and others would say you can call yourself a writer whenever the hell you like. If you write, you’re a writer regardless of having a publishing deal or making any money from it. I’m inclined to agree with the latter; you’re a writer if you write. However, I also think of ‘author’ as being the title you almost graduate to when you become published, whether this is by the traditional route or the indie route. This is just my opinion, though, and I’m sure others feel differently.

P1050667I found it quite uncomfortable to refer to myself as a ‘writer’ for a long time. Like so many writing friends, I’d almost whisper it in apologetic terms and dismiss it as a bit of a hobby that wouldn’t go anywhere. Yet I never saw it as a hobby. It was – and is – my passion. When I started writing much more regularly (about five or six years ago), I began to properly think of myself as a writer. Yet I would always still answer the ‘What do you do?’ question with: ‘I’m a recruitment manager’ or ‘I work in Learning & Development’ depending on what the day job at the time was. I would never, EVER, say ‘I’m a writer, and I also work in HR’! Strange.

When I got my publishing deal with So Vain Books last September, I felt like I was a real writer (‘Look, Gepetto, I’m a REAL boy!’) and I had an exciting moment basking in the proud congratulations of friends and family on Facebook. But I was away in a hotel with the day job when it happened, fighting with a crap wifi connection, and it all seemed very unreal. And also very far away!

PhotoFunia-6aa56c2The months have whizzed by, though, and we’re less than a month away from the launch of my debut novel ‘Searching for Steven’. Two weeks ago today, I had my first real author moment. So Vain Books did my cover reveal. I knew it was coming. I’d seen ideas for the design last year and had been party to changes and tweaks since, but this was the first time my friends and family would see it. I woke up to a lovely email from my Publishing Director, Steph, to remind me that it was cover reveal day … and to ask me if I’d like to have the book placed up for pre-order too. Eek! I felt so excited at that moment that I could have burst.

I then had to go to work so it was down to earth with a bump. Intermittently, I checked Facebook, but there was no sign of the reveal. I wondered if there’d been a technical hitch on Amazon to launch the Kindle pre-order (the book will be available for pre-order later). Then, at the very end of the working day, I thought to look on Twitter and it turns out it had been revealed there eight hours earlier! Can’t believe I never thought to look. I couldn’t wait to get to my Mac and do my own reveal with links to the pre-order. My hands were actually shaking as I started to receive congratulations messages, promises to buy it, promises to buy the paperback … and then those little notifications from Amazon announcing ‘I bought Searching for Steven by Jessica Redland’. Oh my goodness! People were actually buying my book! (And you can pre-order if here if you like!) It was such an incredible feeling. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face all evening.

Jessica Redland - Searching for Steven - Front Cover LOW RESMy younger brother shared the link on his Facebook page and two of his friends ‘liked’ my writer page and another five pre-ordered the book. How amazing is that? These people don’t know me, but they made the purchase!

I’ve checked out my chart position on Amazon and it was really exciting to see it reach 5,244 on the overall paid Kindle chart on day 3 of the release. That may not sound much but there are hundreds of thousands of books in that chart so I’m beside myself with excitement on that. I can’t see my sales in terms of actual numbers, but my publisher can and they advised me on Monday morning (after just a weekend on sale) that I’d already sold 17. There certainly weren’t 17 friends and family members who’d downloaded it by that point (as I know many want signed paperbacks) so some of those people must have been strangers. That’s quite an overwhelming thought. I’m determined not to get hung up on sales figures and chart positions. I know it takes a heck of a lot for a debut writer to get high sales and chart positions. They’re important and, of course I’d love to get the top 100, but I just want to enjoy the experience. This is my dream and it’s come true! If I become obsessed with clicking on Amazon constantly, I’ll suck the joy out of this amazing thing that’s happening to me.

If you’ve bought already, can I say a massive big fat THANK YOU to you for your support. I really hope you enjoy the read xxxx

 

My Lovely Blog Hop

My writing friend, Jo Bartlett, invited me to participate in the ‘Lovely Blog Hop’ (see her post here) in which writers pass on the baton to other writers to talk about what has shaped their life and writing under a number of headings. Jo is my kindred spirit of the writing world. She’s the co-founder of The Write Romantics alongside me, and we’re also publishing buddies with So Vain Books. Her debut novel ‘Among a Thousand Stars‘ is released on 17th June in e-Book and paperback formats, and will be available for pre-order within a week or two. Her novella, ‘The Gift of Christmas Yet to Come‘ is still available. Although the start and end of the book are set at Christmas, the action spans a whole year so it can be enjoyed all year-round.

Jo kindly also nominated our writing friend Sharon Booth whose debut novel ‘There Must Be An Angel‘ is available now and is a fabulous read. You can read her Lovely Blog Hop here.

First Memory

P1060221I’ve recently written something about a first memory being pushing my pram around the estate I lived on until shortly before my 4th birthday so I won’t repeat that one here. Instead, a slightly later – but probably the next oldest – memory is of being in reception class at primary school. Mrs Wheel, the reception teacher, was the school’s pianist and, once a week, the rest of the infants (KS1 in new money?) would gather in her classroom and sing songs. The reception children would put the small chairs round the outside of the room and we’d typically get to sit on these and bag some spares for older siblings. I can remember sitting on one and saving one for my older brother Michael and one of his friends (also called Michael). Mark Readman who was in my class and who lived over the road from me asked if he could sit in one and I can remember looking at him, shaking my head, feeling very strange … then promptly vomiting all over the floor! Oops! I bet the teachers absolutely loved me for doing this minutes before three classes of children were about to merge. Especially as it was on the carpeted part of the classroom too! They used to then put poorly children in the reception area on a camp bed, tucked in with a ridiculous number of wooden blankets, until their parents came to collect them. I remember a couple of teachers walking past and one asking the other who was in the bed. The reply was something like, ‘It’s Michael Williams’s little sister and she just threw up all over the floor of the classroom!’ Even at the tender age of four or five, I was mortified by this and hid under the blankets willing my mum to appear and take me away from the humiliation! Did you enjoy that memory? 😉

Books

_MG_4519As a child, I played out a lot on my bike. There were lots of children on our estate of about the same age, give or take a couple of years, so there was nearly always someone to play with when I was primary school age. I used to go out on my bike a lot, dress up and parade round the streets with my female friends, and build dens in the fields at the bottom of our road with the boys. For me, reading was therefore more of a before-bedtime or on holiday activity. I loved Enid Blyton, especially The Faraway Tree series, Famous Five and Mallory Towers. I graduated to Adrian Mole, then Virginia Andrews’s Flowers in the Attic series, then I would say I had quite a gap when I barely read. I’d say these were my university years and just beyond when life seemed to be about studying, working, and socialising rather than reading. The discovery of chicklit in my mid-twenties got me back into reading. I don’t read nearly as much as I’d like to as I’m often writing until 10pm or 11pm and then I can barely keep my eyes open to read. I have a dream of being a full time writer one day and being able to incorporate reading as part of my day. I bet I don’t … but it’s a nice thing to imagine!

Libraries

I can’t remember what led me to first visit our local library. It might have been a visit with school, but I went through a phase of going down on a weekend with my mum and selecting some books to take home. The thing was, I rarely read any of them! I was a slow reader. I still am. Therefore I would struggle to get through one book, nevermind a pile of them! I think mum cottoned onto this and stopped taking me.

P1040080The munchkin goes to the local library where we live now. My mother in law volunteers once or twice a week on the mobile library so her link has helped Ashleigh get involved. She loves choosing her books and has completed a reading challenge the last couple of years – Spooky House then Myths & Legends – where they have to read something like six books over the summer. It’s promoted through her primary school and the librarians come in with certificates and present them in assembly which I think is lovely. She has these proudly displayed in clip frames on her wall.

I’m going to be involved with the libraries in the local area soon. I’m a Brown Owl and, as a celebration of my debut book launch in June, the Brownies are going to do their book lover and writer badges after the May half term. This will involve a trip to the same library that Ashleigh uses. I happened to mention in my email that the reason I was doing the badge was because I was about to release my debut novel and they’ve become very excited about that. My husband is an amateur photographer and has met someone through this who is a senior manager across North Yorkshire’s library so she’s also been keen to work with me. The consequence is that I’m going to the local library in a weeks’ time to discuss a library tour and signing. I’ve also been invited to join their book club which is all very exciting.

What’s Your Passion?

P1060143It probably won’t be a surprise to hear that it’s writing. If you’d asked me this question 15 years ago, I’d have struggled to answer. I’d have said I didn’t really have one and that my only hobbies and interests were reading and watching DVDs. I used to deliberately leave ‘interests’ off my CV as it sounded so bland and generic! I started to write twelve years ago and would say I loved it, but it’s really developed into a passion in the last five years or so. I couldn’t not write now. I actually struggle to remember what life was like without writing.

Linked to writing, I’m passionate about stationery. I could spend hours in WH Smiths, Waterstones and Rymans, stroking the notepads and oggling at the pens! Paperchase excites me too, but we don’t have one in Scarborough. We do, however, have one in Beverley where I read my writing pals Sharon and Alys every couple of months. I always arrive early to fit in a Paperchase visit!

I love running my Brownie pack. I love the organising element that goes in behind the scenes, and the satisfaction that my five leaders and I run meetings that give so much pleasure to the girls and make our pack permanently oversubscribed.


I am passionate about teddy bears, particularly proper collectible ones. I was so passionate about this that I packed in a well paid job twelve years ago to set up and run my own teddy bear themed shop!

P1030875And bootcamp! I rise at 5.20am three mornings a week (and I’m NOT a morning person) to do a bootcamp on Scarborough’s North Bay. I’ve massively increased my fitness, but I’m useless at dieting so I still need to get to grips with the weight loss part. I love the exercise, though, especially with the beach, countryside, and castle as a backdrop. Absolutely stunning.

And, of course, I’m passionate about my family, but I hope that goes without saying 🙂

Learning

I loved primary school (other than the humiliating vomiting incident), but senior school and I weren’t such good friends. I enjoyed the concept of school, but I was bullied a lot so I didn’t enjoy actually being there. There were subjects I loved like English, History and RE and others I hated and couldn’t do like Maths, Physics, Chemistry and French (although I got a Grade A GCSE so can’t have been that bad at it!)

My rather eclectic choice of GCSEs (e.g. Humanities, Typing, Commerce) didn’t naturally lend themselves to A Levels so I went to a technical college in another town and studied a BTEC in Business and Finance. I loved that qualification. It was very essay-based and I found most of the subjects (except Economics) fascinating. I worked hard on all my assignments and came out with 13 distinctions and 1 merit (was gutted by the latter!)

I then went on to Loughborough University to study a BSc (Hons) in Banking and Finance. I found university exceptionally hard and had to work my socks off to get anywhere resembling decent grades. Looking back, I feel really frustrated as it’s only in later life that I’ve realised that I was laying out my work wrong. I was losing marks from my style of writing and my improper references which was why I seemed to put heart and soul into assignments and scrape a 2:2. Grr. Why didn’t anyone tell me at the time?

Since then, I’ve done a professional qualification in Marketing and another in HR. I’ve taken work-based qualifications in Coaching and Career Development, as well as psychometric testing for recruitment and development purposes. But it’s been years and years. I feel ready to be challenged and developed at work again, but can’t see that ever happening. Of course, I’m always learning about writing but, again, would like to find more time to read my stack of ‘how-to’ books to see if I can hone my skills a bit more.

Writing

10527383_331005803724929_5378621437399779308_nAs alluded to under the passions section, writing is now part of me and who I am. I feel a bit twitchy if I don’t do any! It doesn’t have to be work on my book; it can be a blog post or even a bit of interaction on social media but I NEED to write. My dream is to write full time. I’ve been fortunate enough at work to secure a flexible working pattern where I work my full time hours across four longer days. The day I don’t work has given me a valuable insight into what being able to write all day is like and I love it. I don’t feel guilty that I’m spending time writing that I could be spending with the family because the munchkin’s at school and hubby’s working. I long for this to happen. Please buy ten million copies of my book so it can!!!

Thank you for joining my ‘Lovely Blog Tour’. I’m passing the baton to urban fantasy writer Alys West who is also a Write Romantic and local author. She’ll be sharing her experiences on Monday 11th May. Alys is currently working on the second novel of a series of three, and I’ve been lucky enough to read the first one, ‘Beltane’ and look forward to that being published soon.

Thanks again to Jo for nominating me xxx

Whoop Whoop for National Stationery Week!

P1060266It’s my birthday today and hubby absolutely came up trumps for the second year in a row. For ages, he’s been strangely reluctant to buy me any stationery. He’s always said I’m difficult to buy for because there’s rarely something specific I want as a gift. ‘That’s ridiculous!’ I’d cry. ‘I love stationery, books, films, music, jewellery, teddy bears … How can you possibly be stuck for present ideas?’ I don’t know whether it was me stepping up the gear with my writing last year (I started submitting my MS in September 2013) or just a reluctant acceptance that stationery may not be his bag but is absolutely mine, but something prompted him to make a number of stationery purchases last year and he’s surpassed himself again this year.

P1060268I love teddy bears, but I also love owls and these are extremely popular at the moment with some amazingly cute cartoon images available. My owl thing has come more from the fact that I’m a Brown Owl for a pack of 24 x Brownies (I’ve done this for five years now), although I do think they’re lovely in the rare event that I see one. Owls were a bit of theme this year with the lovely Bramble Wood collection that WH Smiths carry. He bought me an A4 notepad in this range, a couple of lovely boxes, some giant paperclips and a set of post-it notes. I have two gorgeous files that we use at Brownies in this range. One is a ring-binder full of colouring pages and puzzles for Brownies who finish a craft early or who need some quiet time on a games night, and the other is an expanding one in which I keep welcome cards and certificates. We also have ‘Owlbert’ (see what I did there?) who we give out at the end of each meeting for the best Brownie-like behaviour. The girls adore Owlbert. Anyway, I hadn’t owned any of this collection myself (have had to try to be restrained) so I’m thrilled to have some now.

He also got me a lovely notepad from Waterstones in a new range I haven’t noticed before, along with a mechanical pencil. He got an ickle bit confused, though, cos he thought he’d bought me a posh pen for signing copies of my paperback during my launch party in June, bless him. To be fair, it looks like a posh biro … but the words ‘Mechanical Pencil’ written clearly across the front, and the instructions on the back about what types of lead it takes are a slight giveaway!

P1060272‘My Future Listography – All I Hope To Do In Lists’ was a fabulous book purchase for me. I love lists. I love writing. I love writing lists. What’s not to love about this gift?

I did purchase a tiny part of my pressie for him: a gorjuss phone holder. I absolutely love the gorjuss range of stationery (as you can see by my fabulous collection), but I’m hugely drawn to three specific girls: one of the original line-up in a turquoise dress with the quote “I found my family in a book” (see pencil case and beer mat) which always feels so appropriate for a writer, the more recent girl in a red dress balanced on a pile of books (like on my phone case) and the girl in a purple dress with the quote “we can all shine” – also appropriate for a writer (see top of tall stack of tins and beer mat).

My gift wasn’t just about stationery. I’m actually going to spend the day in London with a couple of friends of mine at some point over the summer so I’m going to get a bargain plan-ahead ticket for that but, today, he also got me Now 90. The Now series is something I’ve collected for years. I have numbers 1-3 and 10 on vinyl! I then started collecting them on cassette from about Now 13-35 but I listened to them in the car and they got so warped from heat and over-use that I chucked them all years ago. I’ve gone back and managed to get most from 20 up until 90 on CD although I have a few small gaps. I feel a little out of touch these days as I never have time to listen to the charts or watch music TV. If it’s not played by Yorkshire Coast Radio, I don’t hear it so the Now albums are usually an education. I discover some gems of tracks … and, let’s face it, some absolute crap too!

P1060265Rounding up the gifts (which I should point out where also from the munchkin) was ‘Ever After’ on blu-ray. Starring Drew Barrymore, Dougray Scott and Angelica Huston as the most incredibly wicked stepmother, this is a brilliant interpretation of the Cinderella story and one of my all-time favourite films. I owned it on DVD but I haven’t been able to watch it as it wasn’t a UK-region purchase and, unfortunately, our blu-ray player refuses to recognise it. After watching Disney’s latest Cinderella release at the cinema, I was keen to show it to the munchkin as I think Ever After is far superior. We settled down to watch it and realised I’d completely forgotten about the region problems. We’ll find time this weekend. Lovely.

Slight digression there away from stationery. My lovely colleague from work, Joanna, also bought me some fabulous stationery. She knows how to make me happy 🙂 I have a thing for notepads (see a very small part of my collection below), pencil cases, pretty coloured pens and post-it notes so I’ve really been spoiled by her and hubby/munchkin.

P1060271My mother in law also came up trumps. She usually gives me some money (which this year I’ll be able to put towards a launch party outfit) but she also got me this sign this year. I posted it on Facebook then my mum called. She’d also bought the exact same gift for me! What are the odds?!

Did you know that today is National Stationery Week? It runs from 27th April to 3rd May and is about celebrating the written word and all things stationery. Sounds pretty good to me! Wednesday was World Stationery Day too. I don’t think I’ll be able to get away with suggesting a trip around the world to celebrate the wonders of stationery, though, so I’ll gaze at my lovely new collection and my existing collection and let out a contented sigh instead. It really doesn’t take much to make me happy.

What stationery do you love the most and why? Have a great bank holiday weekend xxx

P1060264