Confessions of a Trolley Dolly (or something like that!)

It’s finally here, the day that I’ve been anticipating for so long, and I’m already bowled over by the support and good wishes from my fellow writers and friends, new and old.
I can finally understand the ‘Squeeee, my books have arrived,’ and ‘It’s launch day,’ posts on social media when in the past, the less charitable side of me wanted to say, ‘Calm down dear,’ all Michael Winner like, at their gushing. After all, it’s only a book and there are millions of ’em out there.

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See? Tons of the buggers!

Go into any charity shop and the shelves are groaning with them. The M6 toll road used two and a half million copies of Mills and Boon’s to keep it stable: http://bit.ly/1nlenrB That kind of says something, don’t you think?
So why do I want to use up even more valuable trees for the paltry words I have to offer? The answer is, I don’t really know. It just crept up on me, really, this desire to see my name on the front page of a book and to write a novel that makes people say, ‘Ahh, that was lovely.’
At about the same time as I started to take my scribblings seriously,  I met a few real writers. REAL WRITERS- with proper books on shelves and everything–and they made money from these books.
That was probably the moment when I thought, ‘I can do that.’
Only I couldn’t–not then. I wasn’t good enough. And I wasn’t good enough for years, much as I hate to say it. Because it’s like any other job that requires diligence, attention to detail, a modicum of talent and an awful lot of long, hard slog: it takes time.
But finally it is my turn, and getting back to the point I started on (that’s the thing with writers- we never run out of words!) I now totally get the ‘Squeee’ moment, because when I saw my book on Amazon, it made me want to cry–and laugh–and phone up every single person I’d ever met in my whole life and shout, ‘Look I’ve done it–go and look on Amazon!’

HERE IT IS : http://amzn.to/2jLPZsU

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Mine! All mine!

So, yeah, it’s out there now and I hope you want to buy it, and then I hope you enjoy it, and then I hope you leave a review on Amazon–cos they really count for something. And I don’t want one of those pompous Amazon reviews that says ‘I had to give it one star because there was a comma in the wrong place,’ which actually just shows that you need to get a life! But you aren’t like that, are you? You’re going to LOVE reading my book on your kindle so much that you buy the paperback that comes out in a couple of month’s time, and you are going to give me a wonderful review on Amazon. A perfect Valentine’s Day read.

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Five-star reviews- yes, please!

Aren’t you?
Go on- you know you want to.  http://amzn.to/2jLPZsU
Much love,
Jackie.
(Squeee!)

 

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Welcome to Whitsborough Bay: Jessica’s Books are Re-launched

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I made a huge decision at the back end of last year: to part company with my publisher and get the rights back to the trilogy of novels and the novella that had been released across 2015-2016. Over the past few months, I’ve been reading back through them all again to hopefully spot any typos that might have slipped through the net and also check for any layout issues with the new typesetting of them.

jessica-close-up-stripesI re-released this first two parts of the trilogy – Searching for Steven and Getting Over Gary – before Christmas but didn’t do any promotion with these as the new summery covers didn’t sit right amongst the fabulous snowy and Christmassy covers around at that time. Part three of the trilogy, Dreaming About Daran, was ready just over a week ago and the novella, Raving About Rhys, was re-released at the end of last week so my whole ‘back-catalogue’ is now out there. Which means I’d best get cracking on with some new work. I’m halfway through my next full-length novel, halfway through another novella although I think it’s going to become a novel instead, and have jotted down the start for another two novellas and a novel. Hmm. Must focus and actually finish something!

Amazon were able to get my reviews transferred across from the original releases which is great news because I feel privileged to have picked up quite a lot of those and would have been gutted to lose them. I just need to try and get them back up the charts, though, because they’ve dipped significantly from where they were.

I’d never really been happy with the covers I had before but I absolutely love my new ones which my husband designed for me. They really capture the essence of the stunning setting of Whitsborough Bay on the North Yorkshire Coast. Although the covers scream summer, it’s actually only Rhys that’s set across the summer. Steven runs from September to June, Gary runs from June to New Year, and Daran spans a year from New Year, as each picks off where the previous one left off. Having said that, all three could be read as standalone books, but it does make more sense to read them in order. Rhys is standalone and chronologically set before the trilogy.

I’ve added all the blurbs below. Happy reading!

Jessica xx

Searching for Steven

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

Searching for Steven (New Cover Design 3)When 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?

Getting Over Gary

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

Elise 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.

Searching for Steven (New Cover Design 3)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…

Dreaming About Daran

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

Searching for Steven (New Cover Design 3)Sometimes, 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?

Raving About Rhys

Searching for Steven (New Cover Design 3)Bubbly Callie Derbyshire loves her job as a carer, and can’t believe she’s finally landed herself a decent boyfriend – older man Tony – who’s lasted way longer than the usual disastrous three months. Tony’s exactly what she’s always dreamed of… or at least he would be if he ever took her out instead of just taking her to bed. And work would be perfect too if she wasn’t constantly in trouble with her boss, The She-Devil Denise.

When the new gardener, Mikey, discovers her in a rather compromising position at work, Callie knows that her days at Bay View Care Home could be numbered. Can she trust him not to tell Denise? If she was issued with her marching orders, who’ll look out for her favourite client, Ruby, whose grandson, Rhys, seems to constantly let her down? What does Ruby know about Tony? And what is Denise hiding?

Surrounded by secrets and lies, is there anyone left who Callie can trust?

 

 

 

 

 

Happy New Year. Here’s to 2017

Happy New Year to all our readers/followers. We hope you’ve had a peaceful and enjoyable start to 2017.

As the New Year is typically a time for setting resolutions or putting goals/plans in place, we decided to do a bit of a round-up of what 2017 is going to look like for the Write Romantics. Sounds like we’ve got a busy year ahead of us all! Here’s what the WRs have to say, in alphabetical order.

Jessica

Xx

 

a-holly-bay-christmas-ebook-cover-v2Jo Bartlett:

My main writing goals for 2017 are to build on the unexpected success of 2016. Last year definitely had more writing high points than low points, even a broken promise turned out for the best and ‘A Holly Bay Christmas’ becoming an Amazon best-seller for over six weeks was a great way to end the year.

In 2017, I’d like to have at least one more pocket novel, hopefully two, published by DC Thomson and Ulverscoft, as well as submitting more short fiction to the women’s magazine market. I’d also like to finish the next novel in the St Nicholas Bay series and have at least one new Christmas novella ready for release by November. In addition, there are a couple of writing competitions I’m determined to enter, one of which will motivate me to edit the middle grade fantasy novel I first drafted three years ago and which has waited quietly on my laptop to be revised and revived since then.

Most of all, I want to enjoy writing in 2017 and remember to celebrate all the good stuff that happens and not worry too much about the inevitable bumps in the road.

Find Jo’s author page on Amazon here.

 

baxter-ebook-coverSharon Booth:

I’m definitely hoping to get more reading done this year. I’d like to try new authors and new genres, so I plan to watch less television to make the time. Writing wise, I’m hoping to submit again to People’s Friend, keeping everything crossed, as I would really love to have another pocket novel published. My previous pocket novel went on to be accepted by Ulverscroft and will be published in large print in April, so should start to appear in libraries after that, which is a long-held dream. I’m also planning a second Skimmerdale novel later this year, and two other novels which are just at the early planning stages at the moment. If I really make the effort I could release one by the summer and one at Christmas, but we’ll see. I may be a little bit optimistic there!

Find Sharon’s author page on Amazon here.

 

Jackie Ladbury:agc_front_rgb_150dpi-copy-2

I am excited for 2017 as my romance, Air Guitar and Caviar, will finally see the light of day. I feel like it’s been a long haul of a book, but in reality, it’s been just over a year since I started a new version of it, for NaNoWriMo. I was thrilled when it was shortlisted in the Search for a Star competition by Choc Lit and even more thrilled that it has now found a home and has a fabulous cover, designed by the Brilliant Berni Stevens.

My plans for 2017 are to speed up with the writing, have more confidence in what I write and not care too much about what other people think.

One of the best things to have come out of being published with Fabrian Books is that I can finally forget about the query letter and the synopsis–one page, three pages, ten sodding pages, whatever – I had such a sense of satisfaction when I hit the ‘delete’ button on that load of old gubbins!

Air Guitar and Caviar will be available on Kindle in February 2017 and I hope you like meeting Dylan, my busker boy, and fall in love with him as much as I did. (I miss him already!)

 

51ctcugsirlDeirdre Palmer:

I’m looking forward to having my fourth Crooked Cat book published on April 7th. It’s called Moonshine, and is the sequel to Dirty Weekend. Recently I’ve enjoyed the new experience of having stories published by The People’s Friend, so I’ll be trying more of those. I shall have some fun writing a Christmas novella for the appropriate time, and plan to write another full length novel too, but my ideas on that are extremely vague at present. I shall be doing a lot of reading in order to pin down my ideas, which will be lovely.

Find Deirdre’s author page on Amazon here.

 

513mpvjjs2lLynne Pardoe:

I had a busy 2016 finishing and publishing one book, ‘Abandoned by my Mum’, a story about a young woman, and started work on two others. Usually I wouldn’t start another novel till I’ve finished the first, but these were so enticing that I couldn’t resist! I won’t say more, but 2017 will see me finish both of these and hopefully a third too.

Find Lynne’s author page on Amazon here.

 

51m1u0pjdclHelen Phifer:

My writing plans for this year are to step back a little and not write as many books. Last year I wrote four and it was very hard work. Actually, it was crazy. I want to concentrate on my new detective series which is going to be published by Bookouture. I also want to work on getting a scary story I wrote a couple of years ago ready to self publish. Helen xx

Find Helen’s author page on Amazon here.

 

Searching for Steven (New Cover Design 3)Jessica Redland

For me, 2017 is all about a new and exciting journey as a self-published writer. At the back end of 2016, I made the decision to part company with my publisher. I’ve just had my trilogy and novella re-edited and am in the process of having it re-released with gorgeous new summery covers designed by my talented husband, Mark. There seemed little point in promoting them last year when there were so many fabulous wintry/Christmas books available so I’m looking forward to promoting them as we get into the spring.

I’m currently halfway through writing my fourth full-length novel, Bear With Me, which I hope to release in the summer … but I’ve been halfway through it for about six months so summer may turn out to be a bit ambitious.

I also have plans for a Christmas novella, a fifth book, and possibly another novella, although I have a feeling that it could become a full book instead from the work I’ve done on it already. I also suspect that we could be eeking into 2018 or even 2019 by the time this lot is ready as I still have a very demanding day job which often sees me working 12-14 hour days 7 days a week. I’m hoping to reduce my day job workload by the end of this month which should help with the writing plans.

Find Jessica’s author page on Amazon here.

 

knitting-box-resized-for-newsletterHelen J Rolfe:

Happy New Year to all our followers! It’s been a busy year for all ten of The Write Romantics and 2017 promises to be another year of great writing and reading.

I’m planning to release another book in the spring and right now as well as editing book seven, I’m starting to plan book eight in my head. I’m not sure where my thoughts will take me but I look forward to sharing my ideas with you soon!

Find Helen’s author page on Amazon here.

 

51klstxdzlRachael Thomas:

As ever, my goals for writing this year are to write something each day so that I don’t end up racing to a deadline with lots of words to achieve.

Another writing goal, is to take time out to refill the creative well.

But I think the most important goal any writer can set themselves, published or not, is to have fun and enjoy writing. Rachael xx

Find Rachael’s author page on Amazon here.

 

beltane-cover-1Alys West:

I’ll be spending the first half of 2017 working on a new steampunk book, which is tentatively called ‘An Unsuitable Profession’. The early chapters will be part of my dissertation for my MA in Creative Writing which I’ll complete in August. I’m looking forward to getting stuck into the research and becoming obsessed with steam power, dirigibles and the size of women’s hats in 1901. After my MA is finished I plan to get back to working on Storm Witch, the follow up to Beltane.

Find Alys’s author page on Amazon here.

Jenny Kane is living the writing dream!

Author jenny Knae signs her latest book at Tiverton's Coast Coffee in Bampton street on Monday

Our guest today on the blog, is the talented and prolific, Jenny Kane. Jenny is the author the contemporary romance Another Glass of Champagne, (Accent Press, 2016),  Christmas at the Castle (Accent Press, 2015), the bestselling novel Abi’s House (Accent Press, 2015), the modern/medieval time slip novel Romancing Robin Hood (Accent Press, 2014), the bestselling novel Another Cup of Coffee (Accent Press, 2013), and its novella length sequels Another Cup of Christmas (Accent Press, 2013), and Christmas in the Cotswolds (Accent, 2014).

Jenny’s fifth full length romance novel, Abi’s Neighbour, will be published in June 2017.

Jenny is also the author of quirky children’s picture books There’s a Cow in the Flat (Hushpuppy, 2014) and Ben’s Biscuit Tin (Hushpuppy, 2015).

Welcome to the Write Romantics, Jenny! Thanks for agreeing to submit to our interview questions and now over to you…

What has surprised you most about being published and has it lived up to the dream?outlaws-ransom-final

It is twelve years since I had my first short story taken by a publisher, and I still can’t believe my luck. I’ve worked with many different publishers since then, and although I’d be kidding myself if I said there have never been frustrations alongside the joys, on the whole it has been fantastic!

To be able to get up every morning and make things up for the entire day- and actually get paid for going so…that is a dream come true!

Can you tell us a bit about the plot for your latest novel?

My latest novel, The Outlaw’s Ransom, is a little bit of a departure from my usual romantic comedy/friendship style fiction. Although it still contains a romantic tale, it is largely a medieval murder mystery.

I’ve been a lover of all things medieval from the first time I clapped eyes on an episode of Robin of Sherwood on the television back in the 1980’s. Since then, I’ve had a fascination with the era- especially the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries- that has never waned. It was this interest that led me to write The Outlaw’s Ransom.

Blurb

The first in an exciting new series by acclaimed author Jenny Kane writing as Jennifer Ash.

When craftsman’s daughter Mathilda is kidnapped by the notorious Folville brothers, as punishment for her father’s debts, she fears for her life.  Although of noble birth, the Folvilles are infamous throughout the county for disregarding the law – and for using any means necessary to deliver their brand of ‘justice’.

Mathilda must prove her worth to the Folvilles in order to win her freedom. To do so she must go against her instincts and, disguised as the paramour of the enigmatic Robert de Folville, undertake a mission that will take her far from home and put her life in the hands of a dangerous brigand – and that’s just the start of things…

A thrilling tale of medieval mystery and romance – and with a nod to the tales of Robin Hood – The Outlaw’s Ransom is perfect for fans of C.J. Sansom and Jean Plaidy.

I loved creating the character of Mathilda of Twyford. I have to confess however, that The Outlaw’s Ransom is not where Mathilda first saw life. The story of The Outlaw’s Ransom appears in a shorter form within my timeslip novel, Romancing Robin Hood (written as Jenny Kane). It was the popularity of the medieval part of that novel that led to The Outlaw’s Ransom– and to its sequel, The Winter Outlaw, which will be published in November 2017.

another-cup-of-coffee-new-cover-2015Who was your first hero and how do you think he’s influenced your writing, if at all?

It might not surprise you, in light of my previous answer, that my first hero was Robin Hood- and indeed- whoever it was who first wrote his stories back in the (I believe) thirteenth century. The love of the ballads led me to research a PhD on the subject of medieval literature and crime- it was completing my doctorate that taught me how to write.

Do you think it’s true that you should ‘write what you know’ and, if so, to what extent have your experiences influenced your writing?

I am guilty of overusing my life experiences within my work. The entire Another Cup of… series (Another Cup of Coffee, Another Cup of Christmas, Christmas in the Cotswolds, Christmas at the Castle and Another Glass of Champagne), is based on my own experiences of life as a student, a mother, a frequenter of coffee shops, and a writer. My Cornish romance, Abi’s House, is set in the Penzance and Sennon Cove area of the country, where my grandparents lived, and where I spent much of my childhood. Even Romancing Robin Hood, which is part set in the modern era and part in the Fourteenth century, steals from my own life. It features a medieval history tutor based at the University of Leicester. I wonder if you can guess what I used to do for a living- and where?

What are you working on at the moment?

I have three projects on the go at the moment. I am double checking the edits of the sequel to Abi’s House- Abi’s Neighbour– which will be out in May. I’m also editing my second Jennifer Ash book, The Winter Outlaw. Meanwhile, I am working on the promotion of my latest Kay Jaybee novella (erotica), Wednesday on Thursday. Once all that is sorted, I have a brand new novel lined up in my head, ready to be dashed out onto the computer before another idea takes hold.

We know you write both romance/women’s fiction and erotica under a different pen name. Do you ever think cow-in-flat-coverabout writing in a different genre, if so, what would you choose?

As well as my erotica (Kay Jaybee), and my historical fiction (Jennifer Ash), I also write children’s picture books. I keep the name Jenny Kane for those- anymore many pen names and I’ll start to forget who I am!

If I branched out further I’d have a go at a thriller- or maybe some horror.

If you could have three writing-related wishes, what would they be?

That’s a tricky one- but here goes….

I’d love to get an advance for my work.

To have all my books available in paperback as well as on Kindle/download.

And this really is wishful thinking – to have one of my novels made into a film.

***

Many thanks for welcoming me to your site today Jo, and for asking such great questions.

Jenny xx

If you’d like to read my first medieval mystery, then The Outlaw’s Ransom is available for your Kindle here –

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Outlaws-Ransom-Jennifer-Ash-ebook/dp/B01LZDKPQM/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1475660907&sr=1-1&keywords=The+Outlaw%27s+Ransom+Jennifer+Ash

https://www.amazon.com/Outlaws-Ransom-Jennifer-Ash-ebook/dp/B01LZDKPQM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1475660990&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Outlaw%27s+Ransom+Jennifer+Ash

 

Find out more about Jenny at the links below –

Keep your eye on Jenny’s blog at www.jennykane.co.uk for more details.

Jenny also writes as Jennifer Ash.

Jennifer Ash is the author of the medieval murder mystery, The Outlaw’s Ransom (Dec, 2016). Her second novel, The Winter Outlaw, with be published in 2017.

You can find detail’s of Jennifer’s stories at www.jenniferash.co.uk

Twitter- @JennyKaneAuthor

Facebook -https://www.facebook.com/JennyKaneRomance?ref=hl

 

 

Bright lights, tiny city!

rochester-1This weekend I took a little trip up to Rochester, a historic city in Kent. Visit Kent describe Rochester as the area where Dickens’ life started and ended. As soon as you arrive, you can’t fail to notice some of the places mentioned in his books lining the characterful streets, which are made up of quirky shops and ancient buildings.

You can take a tour of Rochester which covers a range of sights familiar to Dickens’ fans, including the Six Poor Travellers House, Restoration House and Dicken’s own home – Gad’s Hill Place. Many of the exhibits in the Guildhall Museum are dedicated to Dickens and Rochester also boasts Baggins Book Bazaar, one of the largest second hand rochester-2bookshops in England.

At Christmas, Rochester really comes into its own and, on the first weekend of December each year, its streets are lined with stalls and carol singers to celebrate a Dickensian Christmas, culminating in a lamp-lit parade.

Although we decided not to brave the crowds for the Dickensian Christmas itself this year, we thought we’d visit the rochester-3Christmas markets in the grounds of Rochester Castle instead, the following weekend. This festive market boasts a beautiful setting, where the stalls are sheltered in the shadow of one of England’s tallest castles, overlooking the stunning cathedral, the second oldest in the country no less.

It was an undeniably atmospheric setting, and the mulled cider – along with our obligatory Christmas jumpers – added to the warmth, despite the organisers arranging a ‘snow storm’ as you walked through the wrought iron rochester-4gateway of the castle grounds.

The visit reminded me of two things, the first was why I was so inspired by the places Dickens called home in Kent – Rochester and Broadstairs – that I used them to create the fictional St Nicholas Bay. The second thing, though, was perhaps at the heart of what Christmas is all about. Whilst pretty settings and atmospheric Christmas markets are appealing, it’s the people you’re with who really count.  I shared the day with my daughter and one of my best friends rochester-ap-2and we spent a lot more time talking and laughing than we did browsing the stalls, which is something money just can’t buy.

Happy Christmas and all best wishes to everyone who follows the Write Romantics’ blog.

Jo x

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Winter is definitely here and in Hertfordshire we’ve enjoyed some wonderful frosty mornings. The sun has been shining and Christmas is definitely in the air!

During 2016 I knew I wanted to release a Christmas novel and I became so addicted to writing about winter and the festive season that I thought, why not write two books.

My first winter / festive read came out in October and so far readers have loved In a Manhattan Minute so I’m really happy. My latest novel is called Christmas at The Little Knitting Box and it’s out now!

knitting-box-frontcmyk_300dpi-for-printing-bookmarks-etc

Christmas at The Little Knitting Box is available from Amazon as an ebook and the paperback should be ready in the next couple of weeks. I set this one in New York City too and it follows the story of Cleo who moved to the big city from the Cotswolds to run the family’s knitting store. Here’s the blurb and if you feel like taking a trip to New York with me, here’s the link to Amazon… Christmas at The Little Knitting Box

Have a wonderful December and a very Merry Christmas to you all.

Helen J Rolfe x

Christmas at The Little Knitting Box

Christmas is coming and New York is in full swing for the snowy season. But at The Little Knitting Box in the West Village, things are about to change …

The Little Knitting Box has been in Cleo’s family for nearly four decades, and since she arrived fresh off the plane from the Cotswolds four years ago, Cleo has been doing a stellar job of running the store. But instead of an early Christmas card in the mail this year, she gets a letter that tips her world on its axis.

Dylan has had a tumultuous few years. His marriage broke down, his mother passed away and he’s been trying to pick up the pieces as a stay-at-home dad. All he wants this Christmas is to give his kids the home and stability they need. But when he meets Cleo at a party one night, he begins to see it’s not always so easy to move on and pick up the pieces, especially when his ex seems determined to win him back.

When the snow starts to fall in New York City, both Cleo and Dylan realise life is rarely so black and white and both of them have choices to make. Will Dylan follow his heart or his head? And will Cleo ever allow herself to be a part of another family when her own fell apart at the seams?

Full of snow, love and the true meaning of Christmas, this novel will have you hooked until the final page.

Paperchains and Nelson’s Eye: Christmas Days at Nan’s remembered

2-vintage-christmas-wrapping-paperMy earliest Christmas Days were spent at Nan and Grandad’s.  Until I was six, my parents and I lived upstairs in my grandparents’ three-storey house (a railway house – Grandad was a train driver).  After we moved out, we made the trip across Brighton, but that was no problem because the buses ran on Christmas Day.

There was always a crowd of us for Christmas Day, including my aunt, uncle and cousins from London, whom I couldn’t wait to see. The same decorations came out year after year; paperchains strung across the ceilings (licked by me in the preceding weeks – I must have been high on glue by the time Christmas came!), shiny paper stars, crumpled with age, and a small fake tree from Woolworths with red berries on the ends of the branches.  The tree took pride of place in the front room window upstairs while we were downstairs in the basement, making full use of the small living room – called the kitchen – the dining room at the front, and the scullery at the back.  This arrangement was old-fashioned even then.  Looking back, it seems incredible that Nan cooked Christmas dinner for us all on the ancient gas stove in the scullery, with none of gadgets we seem to need now to make the simplest meal.

It wasn’t just the turkey dinner with all the trimmings, either.  The Christmas cake andwalnuts-558488_960_720
pudding were made weeks before, mince pies and sausage rolls baked on Christmas Eve.  Christmas Day tea was almost as big a meal as dinner.  With tangerines, nuts and sweets in plentiful supply, I remember the day as being one big feast.  I disgraced myself one Christmas tea-time.  Nan asked me if I liked her Christmas cake.  ‘It’s a bit puddeny,’ I announced.   I’d heard my mother say that of course.

A point to note here:  my mother did not like Christmas, a fact she made all too plain.  She didn’t like her father much either.  Also, at some point in the proceedings, at least one of the London contingent would have misbehaved.  One year, the oil painting in the attic of Moses in the Bulrushes was used as a dartboard after a go at the cherry brandy. Our Christmases may have looked idyllic on the surface, but underneath, tension ran like wires through cheese.

As a treat, I was allowed a small glass of port and lemon.  I don’t suppose there was much port in it but I thought it was marvellous.  This early introduction to alcohol had me in disgrace again when, being taken to visit another aunt around Christmas time, I was asked what I would like to drink.  I didn’t hesitate. ‘Port and lemon.’  My mother was mortified and tried to cover up my faux pas.  I think I only got the lemon that time.

chineseAt Nan’s, when we weren’t stuffing ourselves silly, we played games. Dominos, draughts, snakes and ladders, all emerged from years-old boxes.  There was a game called Chinese Checkers.  I never did understand how to play it – I don’t think any of us did, and there were pieces missing anyway.  There were other sorts of games, too, and these, miserable child that I was, I found no fun at all, but it was Christmas and I had to endure them or be labelled a spoilsport.  One of these involved being blindfolded and sat on a chair.  Then you were lifted up, everyone calling out how high you were going, until bang, your head hit the ceiling and you screamed.  At least, I did.  It wasn’t the ceiling, it was a plank held above your head when you were only a foot off the ground.  Then there was Nelson’s eye.  Blindfolded again, your finger was guided into the soft squidgy eye, to much hilarity all round.  I never found it the least bit funny to be shown half an orange when the blindfold came off.

No Christmas would have been complete without Grandad enticing me and my cousins to crawl into the cupboard under the stairs to find what ‘treasures’ we could in this glory hole.  Once we were in, he would hold the door shut, trapping us in the airless pitch dark, until we became hysterical.  This trick wasn’t confined to Christmas, but we fell for it, every time.  Well, we didn’t want to spoil Grandad’s fun, did we?  What with the blindfolds and the entrapment, is it any wonder I’m a fully paid-up member of Claustrophobics Anonymous?

Grandad did have one party trick I loved, and would ask him to do, over and over.  It was simply this: he would cut a brazil nut in half and set light to the cut side, turning it into a magical, miniature candle.

Our day ended with the adults playing cards and my cousins and I lolling around, half asleep, clutching our favourite present from Father Christmas.   Mine one year was a black doll.  To my mother’s puzzlement, I’d longed for a ‘black dolly’ and was overjoyed when I got one – I must have been a very PC child, that’s all I can say.  This plastic beauty was dressed in orange knitted clothes, which, funnily enough, were the same as those I’d seen my other grandmother (Dad’s mum) knitting for the babies in Africa. Pure coincidence, of course  😉

Merry Christmas, all!

Deirdre

Deirdre’s latest novel, Never Coming Back, will be published by Crooked Cat Publishing on 8th December.  Order from Amazon UK here:   http://amzn.to/2fG0FrJ   or from Amazon.com http://amzn.to/2fbMJBe