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With July jogging swiftly towards August ~ AUGUST ~ can’t quite believe I’m saying that, I wanted to check in and say Hi.

With restrictions easing since my last news update, it’s been wonderful to properly see Mum and Dad who’d been shielding and also the rest of my lovely family and friends in various homes, gardens and local parks. Can’t believe how much our great-nephews and niece have grown during this time, especially youngest Stanley who was only a month old when Lockdown started.

Henry, Thea & Stanley ~ always a joy to see their little faces ‚̧

Mr B is now back doing the day job but I’m glad to say Project Briggy is taking great shape. As well as Little & Large (sheds) as I’ve called them (everything has a name at Brigden Towers) he’s built some new decking on the sunnier side of the garden, with a pergola to follow. What a star! I love it all and can so far take zero credit, but when all the building stuff is complete, I look forward to choosing some lovely (low maintenance) plants and ornaments to complement.

Latest pics:

On the writing front, If I Ever Doubt You is continuing to receive fabulous reviews since its release in April. I always imagined this moment when I was writing As Weekends Go, creating the story and the characters, so to see the two books side by side, telling Alex & Rebecca’s story in full, makes me happy and proud.

Also … drumroll

In June, following a promotion, If I Ever Doubt You briefly reached number #1 in the Romance, Sport category on KOBO. It also came out as an audiobook that month. Double Delight! ūüėÄ

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Talking of books, I’ve read some sparklers this past month, both fiction & non-fiction:

Under Your Skin, a psychological thriller by Rose McClelland

I love Rose’s writing, her punchy dialogue, the raw honesty of her phrasing, and have enjoyed all her novels. This was a change in genre for her, and she has delivered another brilliant story. Kyle’s wife Hannah goes missing and from the off we know things aren’t what they seem with this couple and their complex relationship. It is dark, disturbing and gripping all in one and the subject matter and characters’ emotions were so cleverly and authentically portrayed, I could have almost been reading a true story. I love multi viewpoint tales and a great cast of secondary characters and their subplots add to the ongoing tension and drama. Go grab it. You won’t be disappointed.

Another top crime thriller I’ve just finished reading is Claire Sheldon’s debut, Perfect Lie

A body is found in the village where main character Jen lives with her husband and two children. Jen then starts receiving mysterious items through the post. We meet and subsequently follow DI Chris Jackson’s perspective on matters, obtaining a compelling insight into police matters and what goes on in the background. Well, talk about knock me for six when I was least expecting it. You’ll know “the” moment I’m talking about when you get to it. Suspense, intrigue and twists aplenty as details emerge linking the past with the present and all the secrets and turmoil in between. An accomplished debut. Loved it!

Being a huge fan of anything inner peace and mindfulness-related, I found the two books below so easy to follow and understand as well as fascinating. Let’s face it, when you’re looking for reassuring calm in your reads, the last thing you want is a headache trying to figure it out as you go.

Anyway, for any fellow mindfulness devotees, if you want to know more, here they are:

Last but very definitely not least, I feel privileged to have read an early copy of Lizzie Lamb’s soon-to-be published latest Scottish-themed romance Penhaligon’s Highland Bride. Can’t say anymore at the moment but believe me, you’re in for a treat. Expect a full review when the novel is launched.

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Blooms and trees this time round come courtesy of another recent soothing, peaceful walk with Mr B.

Until next time,

With much love (and hair cut and roots nicely sorted – at last!)

Jan x

Pre-Christmas check in …

 

Well what a busy old time I’ve had since my last post. Now here we are in December with Christmas almost upon us (hooray!) and 2020 waving at us over its shoulder.

I’m looking forward to receiving my edits for Book 2 – the sequel to As Weekends Go.¬† Both a nerve-wracking and exciting prospect but I know that whatever is suggested and advised it can only strengthen the novel. We’re a team and teammates support each other in producing what they hope is the best a story can be for the reader to hopefully enjoy.

October always starts well at Brigden Towers as the 4th is our wedding anniversary. 16 years married for me & Mr B this year and through all the ups, downs and somewhere-in-the-middles, we’re still a winning team.

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This same week, I enjoyed a delightful pre-birthday treat from my gem of a best friend Clare who had booked us tickets for the west end show Everybody’s Talking About Jamie. It’s brilliant! (see review later in post). Before the show we enjoyed a stroll around Chinatown – buzzing and colourful as ever.

 

My birthday itself was as fabulous Рanother huge treat from my gorgeous sister and equally gorgeous niece who bought me a ticket for the stage version of Grease  Рmy absolute fave film of all time. It was on at the superb Churchill theatre in Bromley and after a delicious pasta lunch the three of us took our seats, prepared for a good old, shameless singalong.  Fantastic! (also reviewed later in post).

Cards aplenty

 

A jaunt to Leicester for the day brought a much-loved and long overdue catch up with these three sparklers, fellow authors Lizzie Lamb, Adrienne Vaughan and June Kearns. We all met through the¬† romantic novelists’ association (RNA) and have been firm buddies ever since.

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June, Lizzie, Adrienne & me

In celebration of best friend Clare’s birthday, after a coffee and a nice stroll round Hyde Park in the sunshine, we visited the¬† Park Lane Hilton for afternoon tea. Pure indulgence from start to finish. Suffice to say we scoffed and quaffed our hearts out and took the leftovers home in a pretty box.¬† Check out these goodies …

 

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More mega exciting news followed when the whole family gathered at¬† The Mulberry Bush pub on the South Bank in honour of niece Jo’s lovely partner Anthony who was celebrating his 30th birthday. Jo and Ant are expecting a baby in early 2020 and we couldn’t be more pleased for them. The birthday cheer was in full swing when Ant happily surprised us all by proposing to Jo. Cue chaotic merriment of the highest order. A day to remember for sure. So thrilled!

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A newly engaged Jo & Ant

Show Reviews:

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie ~ The Apollo Theatre : Based on a true story, this show features main character Jamie New (played by the super-talented Layton Williams) and his journey from Sheffield council estate to the glitz and glamour of the showbiz world. We laughed, cried and rooted for Jamie all the way as he challenges and overcomes prejudice to fulfill his star potential. Fun, camp and musically magnificent, we loved it.

Grease ~¬†Churchill Theatre Bromley¬†¬† (no longer showing at this venue but will be embarking on a new 2020 UK tour ) : Being a massive fan of the film I went along to see the stage version with slight reservations and an open mind as to how it would compare. I needn’t have worried as it was a triumph. All the beloved songs plus a few new tunes added and a superb cast including Peter Andre who played the part of Teen Angel (Beauty School Dropout …) There are a few modern touches, changes and twists but they all contributed to a highly entertaining version. Bravo!

 

December Blooms 

 

 

 

Until next time, with much love,

Jan x

Summer Round-up

Well, what a glorious summer we’ve had, eh? My flip-flops waved the white flag when it hit 34 degrees. And now in mid-September, between the storms, the sun’s still occasionally flirting with us.

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Help, Help …!

 

Weather aside, since my last post in the spring it has felt like the ultimate seesaw ride.

We all celebrated Dad’s 80th birthday at the end of April. He wasn’t feeling 100% but did manage to enjoy a slice of cake.

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Soon after this, Dad fell very ill and had to spend some time in hospital having a barrage of tests, scans, you name it, the conclusion being that he will need some medical TLC. Fast forward five months and we’re hopefully about to learn when that will actually be. While Dad has had periods of feeling brighter, and will, in time we’re sure, be fighting fit again, it has really brought home to the whole family how much we love and value both him and Mum and how protective of them we all are.

Amidst the fog of concern, June, July and August did also provide a generous dose of family and friends fun and laughter, including our nephew Andy’s 30th birthday drinks, a sunny day trip to Brighton (remind me to never drink double gin and tonics again!) and cheering on an inspired England in the World Cup (“we love you, Southgate, we do …“)

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World Cup 2018: Well if you’re gonna fly a flag, it may as well be a massive one!

Briggy and I also ventured to Bournemouth and Poole for a couple of days which did us both the world of good. Sunshine all the way, a sightseeing bus tour plus boat trip, plenty of good food and drinks, a mooch round the harbour and potteries and a lovely B&B in which to rest our weary bones at the end of each day. Bliss!

 

I’m a huge fan of walking and find it really helps with the dreaded anxiety and flat days. I’ve been on quite a few of the guided London tours via¬†Walks.com¬†. No pre-booking, you just turn up at the specified meeting place (always by a tube station exit), hook up with your knowledgeable, friendly guide and away you go. This summer, I did the Little Venice tour and the Swanky Old Mayfair tour, both of which were thoroughly enjoyable.

 

This summer also saw my publisher Choc Lit  celebrate 9 years in business. Proud to be part of such a friendly, supportive, professional (and in my case, patient!) team.

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In August came a short visit to see our Uncle in Grantham (or thereabouts) whose house overlooks a huge field where we did some hare-spotting. I never realised they were THAT big or had such massive ears! We were also treated to this spectacular sunset. UFO-like or what?

UFO SUNSET

More recently, my best friend Clare and I stayed overnight in London near Westminster after a day spent being hurled around in our seats (me shrieking and laughing all the way!) courtesy of¬†ThamesJet.com¬†. Donning our waterproofs and life-jackets, a 50-minute ride saw us take in the sights up close and personal, cameras clicking, until we cleared Tower Bridge whereby we zoomed off, twisting and turning, arms raised in excitement (in Clare’s case) me white-knuckled and gripping the hand rail, daring myself to open my eyes. That said, although I was WAY out of my comfort zone doing this, I’m so glad I did as it was well worth it.¬† Our reward afterwards for being so brave was a nice stroll along the South Bank and a hunk of yummy carrot cake.¬† It was great to spend some quality time with Clare. She’s a gem. Much scoffing and quaffing and hilarious reminiscing.

A few pics …

 

The bundle of absolute joy that is our great-nephew Henry has us not quite believing that he is already six months old. He’ll be walking and talking before we know it.

Too cute!

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A summer awash with blooms I’m glad to report.

 

Not much writing done, sadly, but it’ll come, I know it will. I’m viewing every paragraph written as a few words nearer to submission day.

Books I’ve read include the following:

Take Me I’m Yours (A Wisconsin Love Story) by Lizzie Lamb ~¬†As ever with Lizzie’s novels, her wonderful words transport me to a magically vivid setting, in this case, the much-coveted Macfarlane’s Landing in Wisconsin, where I meet a gorgeous go-getting, gutsy heroine – one India Jane Buchanan – and a hero who makes the heart pound … Well hello, Logan Macfarlane …¬† Fast-paced, sizzling chemistry, family feuds and past dramas and secrets that contrive to keep India and Logan apart, with a top cast of supporting characters who all want their say. You won’t be disappointed.

Practical Mindfulness ‚Äď a ¬†step-by-step guide by Consultant Ken. A. Verni, Psy. D. ~ An easy to follow book (with illustrations) for anyone looking to embrace a more mindful approach to life. Offers a wealth of supportive, encouraging tips, examples and exercises to help with anxiety and depression. Well set out, interesting and informative. A guide you can return to as and when the need arises. Very calming.

 

I have two books I’m planning on reading next, one being Kathryn Freeman’s¬†Oh Crumbs¬†, the other Jessie Cahalin’s debut¬†You Can’t Go It Alone¬†. Both novels have some cracking reviews so I’m looking forward immensely to reading both and reporting back.

 

Until next time,

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Love Jan  X

 

As June meets July …

Blimey, if I thought May went quickly, June positively whizzed by. A busy old month to say the least.

With all the current sad and scary news on the TV, it was joyous to see this beauty on the first Sunday of the month. You’ve never seen me move so fast with my camera to capture it. A rainbow of royal proportions if ever I saw one.

 

In between the sunshine and showers, Mr B and I thought we’d sort out our garden. We’d neglected it a bit so had a mass mowing, pruning and weeding session and could actually admire what was in it.

These lovelies for instance …

On the 14th, my best friend Clare and I trundled up to Waterloo for an afternoon of pampering courtesy of a generously gifted voucher I’d received from a friend some months earlier. Destination¬†Mandara Spa¬† at the Park Plaza Hotel near Westminster Bridge.

Ooh it was divine!

I had a lovely shoulder back and neck massage, Clare had a facial and after lazing round the indoor pool in our robes and braving a stint in the steam room, followed by some light refreshments, we emerged relaxed and refreshed and extremely grateful for the experience. We also had the bonus of a bright sunny day.

Talking of sunshine, the temperature climbed and climbed …

This little lot well and truly came out of hibernation!

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Mid-month also saw my wonderful publisher Choc Lit  celebrate its 8th birthday. I created this little banner to go with all the fab messages and comments and all round good cheer that ensued online in recognition of their success.

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Then came Father’s Day. We spent a delightful day with my parents who came to us for a meal and some fizz (there may have been a few sweets flying around as well! ūüėČ ) I love this pic of Dad taken a few years ago in Spain in one of his many hats.

Dod

Mr B had the last two weeks of June off work. We hadn’t booked a holiday, but with the weather being so glorious, we made the most of it and had one or two days out, including a day trip to Brighton. We did all the usual fun stuff, sat on the beach, a walk along the pier, fish and chips, a stroll round the Lanes, ice creams, amusements. It was great! I swear in all the dozens of times I’ve been to Brighton, I have never seen the sea this colour. It looked stunning.

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Here’s a few more pics I took.

 

On Saturday 24th I proudly attended a Workshop entitled ‘Moving from a Worrier to a Warrior’ organised and run by my lovely friend Clare, a fully qualified Confidence & Empowerment Coach, the aim of the event being to teach us ‘over-worriers’ ¬†some brilliantly helpful techniques to help banish those inner fears and frets. It’s amazing how the language we use can influence our thoughts and behaviour. I learned so much and took away some valuable tools with me to introduce into my everyday life that will, I’m sure, help me tremendously with my over-thinking and analyzing. Clare’s hoping to run a similar workshop later this year, so I will keep you posted.

Here she is in full flow!

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The team at Choc Lit informed me that¬†As Weekends Go¬†¬†had been selected for the¬†KOBO¬†¬†UK Super Summer Sale which was welcome news. I’m always very appreciative of any promotions, and it gave my book a little boost. Anything that helps widen my circle of readers can only be a good thing. I’m still receiving some fab messages and reviews which makes working on the sequel a little less daunting, so once again, a HUGE thank you from me to you ūüôā

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Mr B and I rounded off the month with a trip to London. We set off for Notting Hill Gate, and walked down to¬†Holland Park¬†¬†which, if you have never been, is well worth a visit for the beautiful foliage alone, not to mention a lovely cafe with outside seating, exotic feature gardens, peacocks and plenty of space to sit and watch the world go by. We walked round the entire park and then headed off along Earl’s Court Road on a slow mooch back to Victoria Station, taking in the King’s Road, Sloane Square and the grandeur of Belgravia on the way.

Not that we were envious or anything …

Some pics from our day.

 

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We also crossed this road. Couldn’t resist snapping a shot of the sign. Quite fitting what with Father’s Day earlier in the month ūüėÄ

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Reading-wise this month, I finished Lizzie Lamb’s¬†Girl In The Castle¬†¬†¬†which I thoroughly enjoyed. A great heroine in Dr Henriette Bruar who we meet en route to a remote Scottish castle to register the contents of its library. The history and Gaelic references Lizzie includes in the book add sparkle and authenticity to the story. A gorgeous hero in Keir Mackenzie and a brilliantly created cast, including cantankerous ferryman and manservant, Lachlan, whose spats with Aunt Alice, the housekeeper, had me, at times , in stitches, bring the story alive. Lots of conflict as the castle‚Äôs secrets and discoveries unfold, as do the secrets and troubles of the characters themselves. All in all a top read.

I also read Lisa Hill’s¬†Meet Me At Number Five¬†, a belter of a debut that has the perfect blend of romance, wit, drama and ‘reach for the tissues’ moments, with some really emotive subjects covered. Set in the horse racing world, we meet a lively array of characters with a baddie you’ll love to hate. I especially loved Clara, the no-nonsense, ‘say it how it is’ grandmother. Well done, Lisa! More please ūüôā

 

Much love to you all,

Jan  X

As May meets June …

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 ūüôā

 

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Happy Birthday, Mr B!

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! ūüėČ

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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!

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Much love to you all.

Jan  X