Happy New Year, everyone!
I hope you all had a lovely Christmas and that those among us who need an extra supportive hug at this emotional time of year, received some comfort.
Looking back at my diary for December highlighted how dear to me my family and friends are and how their love and kindness has helped me through a difficult few months. I love them with all my heart.
The first week of December’s freezing temperatures made staying in the warm putting up the Christmas decorations, sparkle boots on my feet and a nice glass of fizz in my hand, all the more enjoyable. I was rather pleased with the results too. Nothing like a healthy dose of twinkle & a few festive faces to gladden the soul.
Sparkle Slipper Boots.
A day trip to York with Mr B on the 8th proved to be a magical tonic. Any excuse and I’m there and the good old promotional train tickets via Virgin Trains East Coast came up trumps again. St Nicholas Fair was in full swing, packed with glittering market stalls, the scent of hog roast, mulled wine and cinnamon hanging in the air. It was bitter cold but we had glorious blue sky and sunshine and the few flakes of snow that fell on the cobbles at our feet only added to the already enchanting atmosphere. The only downside was me dropping my phone on the pavement while taking the last of many beautiful photos I’d snapped throughout the day. The screen cracked and the phone went doolally, so much so, I lost all my York pics.
Gutted – definitely – but I refused to let it spoil our day and it’ll give me the perfect excuse to re-visit next Christmas.
This was me before the off, wrapped up, ready to face the chill.
I also spent a fabulous day in Canterbury with my younger sister and two of my lovely nieces – another f-f-f-f freezing cold day but sunny and bright which reflected the mood, – especially as we were bringing the elder of my nieces back home with us from university for the Christmas break. We had a leisurely browse round the shops, the city as shimmering and seasonally scented as York had been. I experienced my first Nandos lunch (yes, I know – where have I been?) which was delicious, and the whole day was a fun-filled triumph.
The run-up to Christmas was busy, so it was nice to have a peaceful, cosy Christmas day, just me and Mr B. And, of course, the turkey, the Christmas pud, the odd chocolate or five, mince-pies, turkey sandwiches, glasses of sherry, port, fizz … you get the picture.
We received some gorgeous gifts too.
Here are some of mine.
Boxing Day, by contrast, was a riot of family laughter, noise and games and one “slightly” merry husband and equally merry brother-in-law and nephew having a sing-off in my older sister’s kitchen. Food, drink and high spirits aplenty.
December blooms still reign supreme, from my perky Poinsettia to the fabulous Christmas Eve winter bouquet I received from a good friend, to my lovely holly and berries.
I finished reading Sue Fortin’s latest psychological thriller The Birthday Girl which I’d previously reported I was really enjoying. I love Sue’s writing and think this novel is her best yet. Friends Carys, Andrea and Zoe accept an invitation to join their friend Joanne in a remote cottage for a weekend who has implied it will be full of adventure in celebration of her 40th birthday. All sounds good until the three guests arrive and quickly realise that Joanne’s invitation isn’t quite what it seemed. Packed with secrets, mystery and sinister happenings, the pace of this book doesn’t let up and just when you think you’ve sussed who is guilty of what, another twist sends your thoughts on a U-turn.
A five-star read. Can’t wait to see what Sue writes next.
May 2018 be a happy, healthy, peaceful, prosperous and productive year for us all.
I confess I love all things Christmas, from the festive foliage, to the decorations, to the advent calendar (no, you didn’t read that wrong!) to the carols and good cheer our family get togethers always bring.
I also fully appreciate that both Christmas and New Year can be a very emotional time, sometimes for happy reasons, sometimes for sad, and that not everybody relishes the festivities.
I hope that wherever you are and whatever you are doing this Christmas, you find peace and some comfort.
May 2018 be peaceful, healthy and filled with love & laughter for us all.
Thank you all for your wonderful support for me, my blog and my novel this year. I truly value it along with your friendship.
A new month and the health and wellbeing road to recovery marches on with continued appreciation of how lovely, kind and supportive people can be. It saddens me that I’ve been unable to complete my second novel as yet, but that little inner spark of creativity and passion remains, and reading back through what I’ve so far produced of my sequel to As Weekends Go, keeps the flow and gives me great heart that my confidence will return and it’ll all come good.
Now, I’m not even going to attempt to disguise the fact that I adore Christmas. I equally appreciate and respect that it can be a sad time for some people so I hope you’ll forgive me for indulging my love of all things festive. The moment I turned over the calendar and saw this gorgeous feline face staring back at me, I remembered the 1st of the month also meant that I could unveil a calendar of an altogether different type 😉
Big kid? Who me?
November brought lots of family and friend catch-ups which was lovely. As much as I value these get-togethers, I also think it’s important to have 1-2-1 chats as you can more fully discuss topics and news and sometimes open up a bit more.
As Weekends Go featured in a couple of promotions mid-month which resulted in a welcome mini-spike in sales and some wonderful feedback. I also donated a paperback copy in aid of Children in Need via Paddy Heron (known as Fundraiser Paddy on Twitter) who, for the third year running, kindly organised a fabulous author auction showcasing books of all genres for people to bid on. I was proud to support such a worthy cause.
It was a joy to appear again on the brilliantly supportive Jessie Cahalin’s blog. If you’ve not yet visited Jessie’s blog, you’re in for a real treat. She has fun and factual posts and features of all varieties – a real mixture to suit all readers’ tastes. I thoroughly enjoyed creating this piece and a special postcard to present to the readers along with a short extract from As Weekends Go which you can read here ~ BOOKS IN MY HANDBAG BLOG Many thanks to Jessie.
November blooms came courtesy of a dear friend who sent me a stunning festive display of lilies and winter berries. My gem of a sister also bought me a glorious Poinsettia which has pride of place on my Christmas sideboard display. I also wanted to post some gorgeous snaps I took whilst out walking. Nature really is a thing of beauty, eh?!
I mentioned in my previous post that I’d been reading Rose McClelland’s THE YEAR OF NO RULES which I’ve now finished and can report is a sparkling read which very much portrays the joy and importance of recognising and appreciating your self-worth. I loved main character Sasha and rooted for her throughout especially given how manipulative and controlling her boyfriend Kirk could be. Enter lovely, sweet-natured, dependable Sam, a million miles away, personality-wise, from Kirk, who seems the perfect love match for Sasha, but … life’s never quite that simple is it? This book touched my every emotion and deals with some raw, deep and delicate issues but also made me smile and laugh out loud at times. It’s so well written and expressive. I look forward to reading more from this talented author. Enjoy!
I’m currently reading Sue Fortin’s latest thriller THE BIRTHDAY GIRL and a thriller it is too. Halfway through and loving it. More to follow in my next post.
If you love your festive reads I must say Choc Lit have some super choices available. Look at these beauties!
It’s been a couple of months since my last blog. I haven’t been feeling well and September was all a bit of a struggle for one reason or another, so it’s nice to reflect on how busy October has been and to acknowledge all the love and support I’ve had and continue to have from family, friends and colleagues.
The first week of October saw Mr B & I celebrate 14 years of marriage. Crazy where the time has gone, but I’m seeing that as a positive and there isn’t a day goes by where my lovely husband doesn’t make me laugh. Here’s to many more wonderful years together.
On Friday 6th, I boarded a train from St Pancras to Leicester where I met my gem of a buddy & fellow Romaniac blogger Celia Anderson for a coffee and a mini catch up before we headed off to the Belmont Hotel to attend the monthly meeting of the Belmont Belles, a group of writers at all different stages of the process, who get together once a month to discuss their progress and any snippets of news. The group is successfully run by two other lovely writing buddies of mine, Lizzie Lamb and June Kearns who it was so good to see again, along with Adrienne Vaughan, Mags Cullingford & Anne Williams, plus I got to meet a few new faces. I’ve been wanting to visit for ages and it was great to spend time with them all. Cracking fish & chips lunch too, (and a sneaky glass of red!) before a few of us went back to Lizzie’s beautiful house for tea and cake. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole day. Thank you for having me, Belmont Belles, and for your hospitality afterwards, Lizzie.
We had a top family day at my youngest nephew’s fab new house which he and his lovely girlfriend recently moved into. They are expecting a baby in March next year, and we’re all thrilled. I will be great aunt Janners!
My birthday was on the 9th. It was a bit of a dank old Monday morning, brightened by a lunch date with older sister Sandra. We went to the THE WHITE BEAR near Warlingham, and had a yummy lunch (there may also have been dessert!) and by the time we ventured outside, the sun had come out for us and it was blue skies all the way. I had some beautiful gifts and cards.
Mum, Dad, younger sister Karen and I went to see Motown the Musical in London’s West End on the 19th of the month. What a fab show! We had a really good deal, great seats plus coach travel there and back which was a boon as it was chucking it down with rain. We had a good old sing to all the tunes and the dancing (the performers, not ours) was spectacular. I can definitely recommend it. A real feel good fest! MOTOWN THE MUSICAL
I seem to be on a winning streak with writing-related competitions lately and my luck continued with this fabulous prize of 4 A5 prints with Haiku-inspired poems, plus some stationery all from EMERALD AND LIME whose products are divine. I won the comp via LOVE BOOKS GROUP . Here are my goodies. Aren’t they gorgeous?
A special mention to my dear best friend Clare in this blog post who celebrated an equally special birthday this month. I’m looking forward to seeing her very soon for a post-birthday hug and a catch up. I’ve had a beast of a cold which prevented me from seeing her on the actual day, so extra big hugs are in order.
I rounded off the month with a delightful treat of afternoon tea at the DoubleTree by Hilton at London Victoria, courtesy of my lovely eldest niece Jo. It was very thoughtful of her and nice to have some 121 time with her. The venue and service were great and the food (including some mouthwatering honey-covered crumpets) and teas were delicious. We had a glass of bubbly too. Well worth a visit! DoubleTree By Hilton Afternoon Tea
Blooms of the month saw a variety by way of a stunning birthday bouquet I received from a good friend.
Reading-wise, I’ve not managed to get much done, but have recently started the new novel by Rose McClelland, entitled THE YEAR OF NO RULES I’m four chapters in and thoroughly hooked on the story, so I shall report back in more detail next month.
Writing-wise, I’m pleased with my sequel to As Weekends Go and how it’s coming along. I think I’ve said before how I wish I could write faster, but I’m getting there.
To round off, I hope those of you who are into Halloween, had a suitably spooky one.
This Facebook post of mine from Halloween four years ago made me smile all over again when FB prompted me to remember it:
“I have my spooky themed sweets & little cakes ready for the trick or treaters who always come calling. I’m expecting a few Zombie costumes this year. Last year I opened the door to two pumpkins, Count Dracula, and three vampires, one of whose fangs fell out as he shouted, “Trick or Treat!” bless him! “
Pondering. I love that word. August saw me doing my fair share of it too; thinking about what’s really important to me, how I’ve changed and about certain things I’ve shied away from facing up to. All sounds a bit deep, I know, but it’s put a few things into perspective.
It’s been a real family & friends month which has helped – various celebrations from birthdays to anniversaries to retirement cheer.
We had a lovely Mum & daughters lunch – my two sisters and I took Mum to a local carvery (cracking roast potatoes!) and laughed and chatted about things you might not otherwise get around to discussing in a bigger gathering. I’ve always been more of a 1-2-1 or small groups person, so really treasure these times. We have Dad/daughters lunches too (in case you thought we leave him out – bless him!).
I also met up with my youngest niece for a bite to eat and a chat which was lovely. Again, it brought home how fast the years have flown. I still think of Jess as being the age in the photo on the left. Instead of that she’s about to head off to college.
A family gardening day at Mum and Dad’s mid-month was a roaring success (if I do say so myself!) although my marathon weeding stint did leave me walking like a robot for two days. My chest muscles just about recovered for the Bank Holiday weekend, which saw us all gather together once again, along with some family friends, at my older sister’s house. Blue sky and sunshine meant we could spill out into the garden. With food aplenty and Sangria on tap, a good time was had by all.
I featured on two fab blogs in August, firstly as a guest of Louise Ross (L.J. Ross) author of the international bestselling series of DCI Ryan mystery novels, who, via her LoveSuspense blog, introduces authors in various genres. Here I am ~ LJ Ross Q&A
Secondly, I’m proud to say I now also appear in the Books in Handbags Gallery which is one of several superb features on Jessie Cahalin’s gem of a website ~ JessieCahalin Jessie is super-supportive of other authors and I’m delighted to be included.
Still badgering away with my sequel/standalone. I’ve had a bit of a love/hate relationship with it and have been sad and disappointed with myself that it’s taking me this long, but I feel re-connected with it and really want to finish it and submit it. I’m enjoying spending time with my characters again and meeting some new ones (good and naughty!). I’m also really excited as Dave and I are off to York for the day in December (promo train tickets – absolute bargain!) As you know, York’s the main setting in As Weekends Go and a city I adore, so I can’t wait to get back there – especially as all the Christmas lights will be up and twinkling. VISIT YORK
Blooms of the month continue with the gladioli theme (or glads as I call them!) I think I’ve bought them in every colour this year.
Get a look at these beauties.
The month ended on a high note when I found out I’d won a bundle of Edinburgh book festival goodies put together by Kelly of LoveBooksGroupBlog and Joanne of PortobelloBookBlog Needless to say there will be photos to follow. Thank you, ladies. So thrilled to have won. 🙂
I only managed to read one book this month but boy was it well-timed. Shelley Wilson’s How I Changed My Life in a Year – is an inspiring, motivational, entertaining, sometimes poignant, sometimes comical, month-by-month account of how, having reached a crossroads in her life where she knew she had to make some changes, Shelley set herself twelve challenges over a year. This variety of challenges included everything from getting fitter to learning new creative tasks to facing her fears. I dipped in and out of the book with ease and it certainly left an impression on me. Well written and thoroughly engaging. An absolute pleasure to read.
Before I go, look at this gorgeous sunset I snapped earlier this week …
July began well with our annual trip to the Old Coulsdon village fete. I love this event as it embraces traditional to the max; have-a-go stalls with prizes, you know the type – coconut shy, tombola, guess the name of the giant (and I mean GIANT) Teddy bear. A fab display by the army cadets kept us entertained. There’s a big refreshment hall for when you feel peckish, selling homemade cakes and proper mugs of builders’ tea and generously filled sandwiches of every kind. Children have plenty to keep them occupied including a bouncy castle and a big inflatable slide. Classic cars are on show. There’s even a mini dog show, so basically something for everyone. We love it and several family members usually turn out. We were blessed with sunshine this year, thankfully, and much fun was had by all.
Here are a few pics:
On the second Monday of the month, my mum, my older sister and I met up in Croydon to go hat and bag shopping as my nephew (big sis’s eldest son) is getting married next April. I’ve already bought my dress, bag and shoes so was very much an extra pair of eyes as they say. Mum and sis have also already bought their outfits but Mum was on the lookout for a matching jacket and with my sister on hat and bag hunt, we set off for a good browse yielding success which meant smiles all round and a cheeky refreshment stop to gather our wits and survey our purchases. We haven’t had a family wedding for quite some time and I’m so excited. No sneak preview snaps, I’m afraid. You’ll have to wait until after the big day! 😉
I was kindly given some theatre tokens for my birthday last year and had been umming and ahhing about which show Mum and I could go and see, when I realised I couldn’t use the tokens to book online, only in person or over the phone. This ruled out many a bargain! I mean, let’s face it, going to the theatre ain’t cheap (even after offsetting tokens!) Anyway, somebody mentioned to me the Churchill Theatre in Bromley was very nice. I hadn’t thought closer to home and had only really been looking at West End venues. I had a beak online and the Churchill Theatre had several shows listed that I suspected Mum and I would both like. They also accept tokens so I booked two tickets for us to see Son of a Preacher Man at half the price we’d have paid to see a show in London. Don’t get me wrong, I love the West End as much as the next person but for the grand total of £12.00 (after redeeming tokens) we weren’t complaining.
I think I’ve mentioned before that I’ve an avid interest in Mindfulness and this month I’ve been taking part in a Free 21-day meditation experience via Oprah Winfrey/Deepak Chopra. Each meditation roughly lasts around twenty minutes, with a little talk from both Oprah and Deepak beforehand, and written reflections afterwards. I can’t tell you how relaxing and beneficial they’ve been. I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea but for anyone who might be interested, here’s the link should you want to have a little look Oprah/Deepak All you do is register and then they inform you via email of any future options to join in. I could listen to Deepak’s voice all day long, it’s that soothing!
On the book front, I’ve been blessed with three new reviews for As Weekends Go this month, all of which left me with the biggest smile on my face. What was so lovely as well was that all three ladies concerned expressed a desire to read a sequel which is what I’m currently working on and makes all those days when I’ve cautiously asked myself if I’ve taken the right course of action in drafting a sequel as my second book, so worthwhile. I’m on the right track and can’t wait to share Rebecca and Alex’s fresh dramas with you. Here are the reviews should you fancy a read.
Two events this month made me gasp at where the years have gone. Firstly my eldest nephew’s 29th birthday (I swear he was eight years old five minutes ago!) and then when I met one of my lovely nieces for lunch last Friday. She’s nineteen and as I was sitting across the table from her listening to her stories from university, I couldn’t fathom how fast all five of my nieces and nephews have grown up. It’s crazy!
Here are some old photos of me with all of them, the memories so vivid in my mind they could have been taken yesterday.
This month’s blooms may not be homegrown but I couldn’t resist showing them to you; some gorgeous gladioli I bought from the supermarket and a glorious lilies and sunflowers bouquet a good friend of mine sent me.
This trio of reads kept me entertained throughout July.
The Girlfriend by Michelle Frances – much hyped domestic noir type novel that explores the relationship tension between a mother and her only son’s new girlfriend. Full of mounting tension, jealousy, secrets and lies, I couldn’t decide who I disliked more, the mother or the girlfriend and really enjoyed it, my only criticism being the OTT Croydon-bashing. (The book’s not set in Croydon but it gets several mentions!) Being a Croydon girl, I accept the town is grim in part, as are countless other towns, but just felt the author overdid it slightly. Not enough to mar my enjoyment though and I’d certainly recommend this book. Kept me turning those pages for sure.
My second read was Lies by TM Logan – a fast-paced thriller about an ordinary man whose whole life is turned upside down due to one decision – a sort of Sliding Doors premise – only poor Joe (main character) lurches from one sticky situation to another, whereby he’s trying to convince people around him that what is happening to him isn’t real but harsh evidence is very much suggesting otherwise. (I can’t say too much as it’ll spoil it, you’ll see what I mean though if you read the book!). Twisty and suspenseful throughout.
My third read I’ve just finished is called Summer in San Remo It’s by Evonne Wareham and it’s a gem of a read. In stark contrast to the above novels it’s light-hearted in tone, a feel-good book but one that also deals with some quite emotional issues. I loved Cassie, the main character. She co-runs a concierge service with her friend and receives the strangest, most mysterious commission from a client that sends her off to the Italian Riviera with a gorgeous side-kick you’ll love. Whilst there she encounters a harsh reminder of her past. The glam setting and descriptions put me right in the heart of the story and with some laugh out loud moments plus some really likeable characters (and one or two not so nice ones) it gets a big thumbs up from me.
May’s a month of merriment in our family. Birthdays galore. My niece, my brother-in-law, my nephew’s girlfriend, and last but most definitely not least, lovely Mr B, who’s never been one for fuss and fanfare around his special day, but I still spoil him!
It fell on a Friday this year and our original plan to go out for some tapas at a nearby restaurant fell flat when he didn’t arrive home from work until later than planned.
So … we had a takeaway and a bottle of fizz instead, both of which were delicious 🙂
May also welcomed two new arrivals at Brigden Towers. No, not those sort of new arrivals … a nice new matching two-seater sofa & sofa bed. Our old ones, bless them, were so creaky and sunken, you needed a stepladder to climb out!
They did us proud, but as the old saying goes, all good things come to an end.
Here’s a pic of the replacements.
Amidst all the birthdays and sofa deliveries, I gave my first author talk this month as part of a panel on behalf of our publisher Choc Lit who are touring various libraries across the country. I hardly slept the two nights beforehand, I was so nervous, but am happy to report that all went well, mainly thanks to the love & support and encouraging words from Mr B, my family and friends. I wrote a detailed post for our Romaniacs blog Life Cycle of a Writer feature which is here, should you fancy a read ~ The jitters and joys of my first author talk
Here’s a snapshot of our afternoon in pictures. We were in Southampton and had a great audience. Plenty of chocolates too! 😉
I also featured on two blogs in May, one was a Q&A post with lovely Kelly Lacey of Love Books Group which you can read here ~ Q&A LOVEBOOKSGROUP
The other fab blog I appeared on was Annette Hannah’s Sincerely Book Angels. She has a great feature called My Favourite Things. Here are mine ~ My Favourite Things
I’ve been working hard on my sequel to As Weekends Go, so didn’t manage much reading in May. I have, however, just started reading independent author Lizzie Lamb’s new book entitled Girl in the Castle. I’m a huge fan of Lizzie’s writing and am happy to report that I’m six chapters in and thoroughly enjoying it. I shall give more details in my next update!
Much love to you all.