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

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The Greatest Love Story Ever Told

You can choose your friends, but not your family. Isn’t that how the old saying goes? Well actually, that’s not strictly true, some of us choose our families too and I think those families are every bit as special – sometimes even more so – because of that.

As one of the Write Romantics, I write about love, of course; the clue is in the title. The funny thing is that although there remains an element of boy-meets-girl in my novels, I’ve always had an equally strong focus on wider relationships  – mothers and fathers, friendships and even the pivotal role of the family pet!

I’m not remotely linking the title of this blog to anything I’ve ever written, but I think I have discovered the greatest love story ever told… It’s not in any Amazon top ten lists, or gracing the shelves of Waterstones, but I’ve seen it with my own eyes and it’s called adoption. swalecliffeChoosing to love a child, who needs that more than anything in the world, with all your heart, has to just about sum love up, don’t you think?

Here’s a little picture of me and my childhood best friend, Claire, back in our primary school days. I won’t point us out in the photo, but we were a little bit nerdy if I’m honest, top of the class and slightly swotty back then, so we’re the only ones wearing the proper summer dresses and rocking some seriously horrendous sandals!  We both came from traditional families, a mum and dad, a sibling (or three in my case) and I bet back then we both expected we’d follow suit…

christmas2014-no1Life turned out to be a lot more interesting than that, though, and I’ve got the most cfwonderful jigsaw family, as we’re now called, made up of my children and step-children, oh and my husband of course. Not a lot of romantic novels have that sort of set-up, but I honestly wouldn’t change it for the world and it’s far and away the greatest love of my life. But Claire’s story is even more amazing. After a journey to motherhood that could probably fill a whole shelf of novels, Claire and her husband took the last leg of that journey to China, to bring their beautiful daughter home.  I won’t tell you all the details, because I’m still hoping that Claire might write that story herself one of these days and it really will be the greatest love story ever told.

claire-on-kindle-2I love Claire to bits, for a friendship that goes back so far, but more than that for being one of the people to teach me that love and motherhood are about so much more than genetics. Let’s face it, that’s the easy bit. When I wrote ‘The Gift of Christmas Yet to Come’, Claire was on my mind. The story isn’t hers, but the sentiment is. There are two books in the St Nicholas Bay series so far and whilst you’ll find a traditional love story in them both, you’ll also find the love story of motherhood that comes about in unexpected ways. I hope I’ve done that justice and there was only one person I could dedicate The Gift of Christmas Yet to Come’ to – Claire, a friend I chose, and the beautiful family she chose to build.

 

tgocytc-artwork‘The Gift Of Christmas Yet to Come’ is available as an ebook priced at 99p here.somebody-elses-boy-cover-final

‘Somebody Else’s Boy’ is available in paperback and ebook form here and for one week only is on special offer at 99p in ebook format.

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside!

A day out at the seaside? We all know what that means,

A kaleidoscope of what must be uniquely-British scenes.

Embarrassing socks and sandals sported by your dad,

And sand you find in places that you never knew you had.

**

You pack a range of sun-creams to help your pallor wane,

But find yourself in what feels like a full-scale hurricane.

Instead you need a sleeping bag draped across your knees,

The windbreak at an angle of around fifteen degrees.

**

You decide to cheer things up by buying fish and chips,

Despite the fact the deck-chair can barely take your hips.

Seagulls descend like ninjas, they’re nothing if not plucky,

But being in their firing line feels anything but lucky.

**

Still too cold to take a dip you head towards the pier,

There you find a fun-fair and the kids let out a cheer.

Soon you’re several tenners lighter and then put out your back,

Flying down the helter-skelter on an old potato sack.

**

Heading to the arcades, you know it isn’t wise,

To do battle with the grabber that never yields a prize.

Next on to the pub and a pleasing little red,

Let’s do this again tomorrow, is what you somehow said.

**

Despite the dodgy weather and the seagulls on attack,

You love the British seaside and you’ll soon be coming back.

Just before you head off home, you brave a little wade,

An encounter with a jelly-fish is how memories are made!

**

SEB 3I thought I’d start off today with a tongue-in-cheek homage to the British seaside. Although given the weather we’ve been having in my part of the country this week, it’s got even more appeal and is apparently hotter than the Med.

Now I don’t want this little poem to give you the wrong impression, I LOVE the coast and can’t seem to stop writing about it. Maybe not the type of resorts with arcades, but those filled with the sort of uniquely British charm of places like Polperro and Southwold. But it’s the Kentish coast I love most of all and which features in my stories. Maybe it’s because I was born a stone’s throw from Dover’s white cliffs or because I live about five minutes from the pretty seaside town of Whitstable.SEB 2

I set my first novel, Among A Thousand Starsin the real Kentish seaside town of Sandgate, but my new series was inspired by the fictional town of St Nicholas Bay’s connection to Charles Dickens. As a result it combines the old world charm of Rochester’s quaint tearooms and quirky shops, with the steep high street at Broadstairs, which leads down to a golden bay lined with colourfully painted beach huts. Many people who’ve read the Christmas novella that sparked the series, and which will be re-released by Accent Press in November, tell me that St Nicholas Bay is a character in itself.

Somebody else's boy cover finalSo if you fancy a trip to a beautiful seaside town, with none of the hassle of getting sand in your unmentionables, I’d be thrilled if you checked out my new novel, released today – Somebody Else’s Boy. It tells the story of Jack, a young widower raising his baby son alone and the new life he finds against the odds in St Nicholas Bay, and his house-mate, Nancy, who’s struggling to keep a secret because of the promise she made to someone who no longer knows her name…

Either way, I hope you have some fabulous plans for the bank holiday weekend and maybe a little trip to the seaside is in order after all!

Jo xx

Somebody Else’s Boy is released by Accent Press on 25th August 2016 and available here.

Our round-up of 2014 and there’s so much to say that we have to do it in 2 parts … Part I

P1060068We hope you’ve had a relaxing, fun-filled Christmas. It’s now time to look ahead to 2015 and this typically means a reflection on how the year has gone.

2014 has been a HUGE year for The Write Romantics. Nine have become ten, we’ve received eight publishing deals, one agent representation, launched three novels, a novella and an anthology, and one of us has relocated from Australia back to the UK. Huge changes all round! And 2015 promises to be just as exciting as those publishing deals lead to actual publication.

But you don’t want to hear it all from me. I’ve handed over to each of the WRs to talk about their 2014. I asked four questions:

  1. What has been your greatest writing achievement this year?
  2. What has been your greatest writing challenge this year?
  3. How has being a WR helped you this year?
  4. What are your writing hopes/plans for 2015?

Because there’s so much to tell, I’ve split this post across two days so here, in no particular order, are the first five responses. I’ll post the other five (including my own) tomorrow.

Happy reading!

Jessica

xx

Author photo - Helen J RolfeHelen J Rolfe:

My greatest writing achievement this year has been to secure my first publishing contract. Yay! I was accepted by Crooked Cat Publishing for my debut novel, The Friendship Tree, which will be published in 2015. At the moment I’m busy with edits and enjoying it knowing that I’m one step closer to seeing my book finally out there.

Of equal achievement has been our Christmas anthology, Winter Tales. Not only has it been published as both an eBook and in print, but it’s doing really well. We have had so many positive comments from the writing and reading community and I think that it pulled us together as a group and showed how passionate we are about our craft. It is incredibly rewarding to know that every sale adds that little bit more to our chosen charities.

tree1My greatest writing challenge this year has been self-doubt, which I think every writer relates to, whether they are unpublished or published ten times over! It’s a solitary occupation and very easy to doubt yourself, but to overcome this, the key is to surround yourself with support. I do that with the wonderful Write Romantics 🙂

In 2015 I also hope to have my next novel published and finish my work in progress. After Alison May’s inspiring interview I may even try my hand at a Christmas novel, you never know! Whatever happens, 2015 will be filled with lots of writing 🙂

This year I met most of the Write Romantics for the first time and it was wonderful. I hope that 2015 brings us all as much success as 2014, and as much support, without which my writing journey would be much more difficult. And a lot less fun!

Deirdre Palmer:

my pic for blog postMy biggest achievement this year was definitely having my novel, ‘Remarkable Things’ accepted by Crooked Cat Publishing. I’d had a lot of interest in this book and so many ‘near misses’ I felt that if I hung on and kept plugging away, I’d get there in the end. Luckily my faith wasn’t misplaced. If you want to know what it’s about, this is the blurb:

When Gus Albourne inherits his Aunt Augusta’s cottage in the Sussex village of Hangburton, he finds himself with more than a property on his hands.  He should feel grateful for Augusta ’s generosity but how can he when his late brother, Robert, was unfairly left out of the will?  Determined to claim justice for Robert’s family, Gus searches for the truth behind the legacy but the discovery he makes poses an even greater threat to his peaceful existence. The cottage, too, offers up its secrets – a random collection of objects in an embroidered bag, a birth certificate, a street map marked with a cross – and Gus realises he’s looking at his own life story. Only it’s not the version he knows. 

Millie Hope is searching for her daughter, Karen, missing for two years. But there’s more than one barrier to the search. For a start, there’s Jack, Karen’s ex-boyfriend whom Millie has every reason to fear. And then there’s the reason Karen disappeared in the first place, which becomes less certain as time goes on. When Gus and Millie meet, they’re instantly attracted to one another. But can they look forward to future happiness when the past is fast unravelling behind them?

author 2I’m also just a bit proud that I managed to finish a novel I started for last year’s NaNoWriMo. It’s a fast-paced comedy but with a dark side, in a very different style from anything I’ve written before. It was great fun to write. It’s set in 1966 and I called it ‘Dirty Weekend’. It’s currently with Crooked Cat awaiting their verdict.

When I began ‘Dirty Weekend’ I was already well into another novel called ‘The Promise of Roses’, which you could say is more of a traditional romance. As I wanted to start something new for NaNo, I put this one aside, and picking it up again, which I have done recently, has been really tricky. Despite my notes, I had literally lost the plot and getting to know the characters again and catching hold of all the story threads I’d started has been challenging to say the least. I’m over the worst now – I think – and it’s moving on, slowly.

How has being a Write Romantic helped me this year? Goodness, where to start…  I’d best describe it as having nine best friends who totally ‘get it’, and even though they aren’t with me in person, it doesn’t matter as they’re only a click away. As time’s gone on we’ve got to know one another better and I’ve had so much kindness, practical help and unfailing encouragement from everyone that I couldn’t really go wrong, could I? I only hope I’ve been able to reciprocate. And of course it’s been a brilliant experience working together to produce our anthology, Winter Tales.

My main hope for 2015 has to be that people will like ‘Remarkable Things’ and it will net me a few quid along the way! If I could get my sixties book published too that would be the icing on the cake. I want to finish ‘Roses’ in the next few months, submit that, start a new full-length novel, and I’d like to self-publish a novella or two. In order to achieve all this I know I’ll have to be a lot more disciplined than I am now, stay off social media and put in some hard graft.

LATE NEWS: I have now heard that Crooked Cat have accepted ‘Dirty Weekend’!  Another book deal is just about the best Christmas present I could have wished for.  I feel very lucky indeed.


photo (10)Rachael Thomas:

2015 has been a year I’ve dreamed of and worked towards for many years. In January I got ‘the call’ from Mills and Boon and was offered a two-book contract. Then in May I signed my second contract with them, but the best moment of all, was seeing my book on the shelves – and the first place I saw it was in London.

My greatest challenge has been writing my second book. When I first started writing it I had never expected it to be the second book in my contract and I had all sorts of wobbles, but with patient encouragement from my editor and amazing support from my fellow Write Romantics, that book will be out early next year. The support of Write Romantics is always there, no matter what the problem is.

download
As for writing into 2015, well I’d love to think that I can continue to write for Mills and Boon because I have quite a few heroes and heroines lined up ready to be written!

Finally, I’d like to wish all our readers a Happy New Year.

 

author picJo Bartlett:

1. What has been your greatest writing achievement this year?

I would say the publication of my first novella has been my biggest writing achievement. It’s been a wonderful experience and surpassed all my expectations in many ways – hitting the no.1 spot on one of the Amazon charts every time it was offered as a free download and, in the first three weeks of release, also sitting in the top ten of one of the paid charts. I’ve had some lovely reviews and not all of them were written by my mum! The success of the Write Romantics anthology has also been a highlight and I am so proud of what we have achieved together. Having a book reviewer, who I’ve never met, tell me that she loved my story enough to buy my novella as a result had me on a high for days too. Last, but not least, securing a publishing deal for my first full-length novel was another highlight, but one that leads neatly into the next question

2. What has been your greatest writing challenge this year?

I think it’s been ‘keeping the faith’, convincing myself that what has been a long journey will be worth it in the end. It was a rockier road than I ever dreamt of to get to the point of having not one but two possible publishing deals on the table. By the time I got to that point, I was beginning to question whether I should keep writing or give up on my dream of being published and take up synchronized swimming or avant garde macramé – yes, there is such a thing. I even questioned whether I still wanted to be published because I was so worried about making the wrong decision that I couldn’t make one at all. In the end, I chose the publisher who felt right for me and they’ve been incredibly supportive. I was also thrilled to be joined there by Jessica and so we will be going through the debut novel rollercoaster together next year. It remains a challenge to ‘keep the faith’ but, having met lots of experienced writers over the past couple of years, I have a feeling it’s a writer’s lot to feel that way and maybe it’s not altogether a bad thing.

Jo Bartlett Amazon 13. How has being a WR helped you this year?

The support you get as one of the WRs from the other nine in the group is priceless. Not just for the writing dilemmas and crises that have occurred, or for the great beta reading and help with promo, but in other aspects of life too. When one of us is down or having a wobble, be that about writing or something totally unrelated, the others are there to cheer you up and, equally, with many of the WRs achieving the dream of publication this year, they are pretty darn good at cheerleading too.

4. What are your writing hopes/plans for 2015?

My novel is coming out in June, which is a major part of the plan for next year, but I am also hoping that the second novella in the St Nicholas Bay series will be released by Easter. Other than that, I’d like to try my hand at some more short story writing and edit the two full-length novels I have in draft. One thing I have no plans for in the next year is to write another full-length novel and I’m pleased about that. I’ve written a 100k+ book each year for the past three years, but this year it’s all about keeping it short and sweet. So perhaps I will have time for some avant garde macramé after all…

conf 2014 12Jackie Ladbury:

Although this year has been a slow-ish one of writing for me, I am happy with the way things are shaping up. I’ve finished a really good draft of my Victorian novel (which might yet become an Edwardian novel!) by editing as I go along. It wasn’t quite as painful as my last novel and I enjoyed writing it more. Am now looking forward to returning to an earlier novel which is half revised, but already a second Victorian/Edwardian novel is clamouring to be heard and I keep writing sneaky little notes (which I promptly lose!) about a plot line and character arc.

I have enjoyed my writing more this year as The Write Romantics have been on hand to listen to my moans and celebrate any successes and not just in connection with writing, but other day to day incidents that just need an airing sometimes, to make them better or disappear altogether.

I think the New Year is going to bring lots of changes, for the good to The Write Romantics and our combined group. Most have a publishing deal now and of course we all are officially published in our very successful Winter Tales Anthology of short stories, which was such a thrill for us all – I’m still buying copies for friends and relations- can’t seem to stop!

Collectible Gund Bear

Next year I’m going to make a concerted effort to be published. It takes up so much time to submit to publishers and agents that I rarely bother, as they all seem to want different things, and when they don’t even have the courtesy to reply, it is very dispiriting. (I mean, how long would it take for them to set up a standard template and whizz an email across to us writers if it’s a ‘no’ instead of keeping us hanging on, in hope.) I realise that I do want other people to read my stories as I genuinely fall in love with my characters and have spent years learning the trade to make my writing as good as it can be. I cry when they cry and am happy when they are – so I would like to share these emotions with other readers and hope that they feel the same. That is my quest for next year- and you know what, I’m pretty sure it’s going to happen- so there!

Happy Christmas to you all and have a wonderfully productive 2015.

Thank you to half of the Write Romantics for their year round-up. Please come back tomorrow to hear what the other half have to say xx

conf 2014 14

Eight more sleeps…

SS102687It’s difficult to believe, isn’t it, that this time next week it will be Christmas Eve? Truth be told, I’ve been trying not to think about it galloping towards me as I am so far behind with my preparations and, as the days whizz past, I have to control the urge to hyperventilate into a paper-bag or slide into oblivion on a wave of mulled wine – the latter always the more appealing.

I think my lack of preparation is down to a series of things. I have been busy with the promotion of my Christmas novella, The Gift of Christmas Yet to Come, and the Write Romantics charity anthology, Winter Tales, currently a complete bargain at 98p. But it’s not just that, things have shifted in my household. All but the youngest of my four children is no longer a believer in you-know-who and for the first time, in I don’t know how long, it will be just the six of us on Christmas day. We’ll be joining the extended family on Boxing Day, but the big day itself is just about us and what we want.

The question is, when everyone stops being involved in leaving out carrots for the reindeer and mince pies for Santa, what do they want to do instead? We’ve started by talking about what to eat. We’re having a traditional Christmas dinner on Boxing Day, cooked by my lovely mum-in-law, so we’re free to choose what we want on the 25th. So far, the children’s lunch time order looks like this:

• One full English – hold the mushrooms and tomatoes
• Steak and chicken wings
• Coronation chicken
• Chinese Takeaway – reheated from the night before!

Not sure I’ll be joining any of my children in their choices, but we are starting to make new traditions for ourselves nowM4034S-4211 that they are getting older. To-the-death dance-offs on the Wii have replaced Mr Pop and plain old Monopoly has been usurped by the One Direction version – I know far more about those five boys than a woman of my years really should… The children can now stay up late enough to make midnight mass, but the crib service, in full fancy dress as a shepherd or angel, no longer holds such appeal.

And yet, the fundamentals haven’t really changed. So the non-believers know that the only similarity between Santa Claus and the giver of their gifts, these days, is rather more padding around the midriff than is good for you, but they enjoy the exchange as much as ever. The games have changed, but it’s still all about laughing and out of proportion competitiveness, which arises from a combination of sibling rivalry and competitive dad syndrome. Clichéd as it sounds, it is all about being together as a family that’s really important. If further proof of my theory that the heart of things stays the same is needed, I read a story this week that proves that nothing really changes, it just wears a new (Christmas) hat.

SS102598It goes something like this… The history of St Nicholas is that one of his first acts of giving, which generated the legend who became Santa, back in the 4th century, occurred after he heard of a man too poor to allow his three daughters to marry. Late one night, Nicholas went to their house and threw a bag of coins down the chimney allowing the eldest daughter to marry. Eventually, he repeated the gesture for the second and third of the man’s daughters.

Fast forward 1700 years or so and the staff of St Oswald’s Charity Shop in Blaydon have followed St Nicholas’s lead and made two of their colleagues’ dreams come true. Paula Kunes and Ellis Taylor have been working together in the charity shop since Ellis was made redundant four years ago and thought they would never be able to afford to get married. But some modern day saints, in the form of their workmates, gave the pair the money to tie the knot making it a Christmas they’ll surely remember forever.

So you see, things may seem to change, but Christmas is still Christmas and at the heart of it is love in one form or another. This must mean there’s no need to panic about not being ready, right? Now did anyone see where I put that paper bag…

Mega Monday Announcement: An Angel Gets His Wings!

It’s been an amazing few months for The Write Romantics.

September and October brought good news for Jessica Redland, Jo Bartlett, Helen J Rolfe, Deirdre Palmer and Lynne Pardoe, who all secured publishing deals. A Deal Before the Altar, the debut novel from Rachael Thomas was published by Mills and Boon Modern, and The Forgotten Cottage, the third in the outstanding Annie Graham series by Helen Phifer was released by Carina.

Anthology coverIn November we published our anthology of short stories, Winter Tales, in aid of The Cystic Fibrosis Trust and The Teenage Cancer Trust, so we all became published authors overnight! It was a strange feeling to hold the paperback in my hands and to see my name in print. Finally, I felt like a real writer, and as someone who doesn’t usually write short stories, I felt quite proud that The Other Side of Christmas was included in a collection of fabulous stories written by some truly talented authors. November also brought the release of Jo Bartlett’s debut novella, the delightful The Gift of Christmas Yet to Come, which has earned great reviews and, along with Winter Tales, is the perfect treat for a cosy night in by the fire.  

 

So all in all, we’ve had a fabulous few months, as you can see. And it doesn’t stop there, because today I have yet another amazing piece of news to impart.

My series of four books set in the fictional North Yorkshire coastal village of Kearton Bay, has found a home with Fabrian Books, and the first, There Must Be An Angel, will be available to buy in both ebook and paperback format from March 2015. angel cover

I am delighted that – finally – people will be able to read the novel I’ve been banging on about for so long! I have to admit, though, that I’m also very nervous. I started work on There Must Be An Angel three years ago, and it’s quite nerve-wracking to think that it will actually be available for people to read at last.

I have a busy few months in store for me, working with editors and proofreaders and preparing the book for its launch, while tidying up book two and working on book three. It’s going to be pretty hectic but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

2014 has been a fantastic year for us. I wonder what’s next in store for The Write Romantics? 🙂

 

Plastic trees, shag-pile disasters and possible lead paint poisoning – Yes, it’s ‘nearly’ Christmas!

Jo Bartlett Amazon 1Remember when we were kids and the countdown to Christmas was calculated in shopping days? Now that we live in a 24/7 culture, we can just talk in plain old days. Right now, I can tell you there are thirty eight of them left. That still seems like a long time to go, right? And far too early to be talking about Santa Claus, turkeys or over-done sprouts. As far as the latter is concerned, it’s always too early for me. But, since today marks the official release of my Christmas novella, I am going to try to get festive and put you in the mood, in the hope that you might forget yourself, go crazy, splash out 77p and download a copy.

As a believer in you-know-who, in the late 70s, I knew how to write a Christmas list. Although my mum would tell you that her generation knew the true meaning of Christmas – something about a walnut, an orange and being grateful to have them in your stocking – I’m just as likely to tell my children that my childhood spanned the real ‘good old days’, as far as Christmas is concerned. I remember waiting all year for Santa to bring me a Tiny Tears doll and I loved her, when she finally turned up on the 25th December 1978, almost as if her tears weren’t the only ‘real’ thing about her.

These days, my children want everything, but don’t really *want* anything at all. My nine year old will put his initials next to hundreds of things in the Argos catalogue. I’ve told him more than once that it would be quicker, and save ink, if he were to put his initials next to the things he doesn’t want. They get allowances and treats from grandmas and aunts, so, more often than not, they can buy what they want during the course of the year. I feel sorry for them, in a way, as they’ll never know that torturous wait for the one toy they truly want above all others and the sheer joy that accompanies its arrival.

The piles of presents have shrunk in size as my children have grown older, although the price hasn’t. iPods, iPhones, iPads, iReally-wish-I-had-shares-in-Apple, don’t look nearly as impressive in their wrapping as wooden train sets or Barbie’s deluxe town house. But, now that I’m a grown up, at least I get to make some of the decisions. Back in the era that taste forgot, my mum wouldn’t let us have a real Christmas tree, in case the pine needles got stuck in the cream shag-pile carpet. We weren’t allowed to put together the artificial tree until the twenty-something of December, either, and each year that passed the complicated colour coding system (probably lead paint) had flaked off a bit (making construction more tricky) and many of the artificial pine needles had found a new home nestling in the loft insulation.

Now the decorations go up as close to the 1st December as possible and, when the wood burner allows it to survive the M4034S-4211heat, we have a real tree. Not that I’m completely guilt free when it comes to my own children at Christmas. A good example of this would be the card I produced back when my youngest was just a baby – making all four children pose for a nativity scene outside my mum’s garden shed! Now aged, 16, 14, 13 and 9, I would have zero chance of recreating it this year. It’s all about the puckered-lip, fish-faced selfie, as far as my teens are concerned. But this photo is just one of the wonderful memories we have and something we still laugh about almost a decade later.

Four years ago to this very day, I received a cancer diagnosis that changed my life and, because I suddenly realised I was a mere mortal and that time is finite for everyone, I thought about the things I really wanted to do. One of those things was to fulfil a childhood dream of writing a novel and seeing it in print but, most of all, I just wanted to be around to see my children grow up and live to enjoy a misspent retirement with my husband. Christmas, and life in general, would be nothing without my friends, family and those absolutely dearest to me – my husband and children.

‘The Gift of Christmas Yet to Come’ is set in the present day, rather than the 70s, but it’s about those same special bonds and one woman’s search to complete the missing piece of her family. It’s also about the humour in life and the things people do that only those you really love can get away with and live to tell the tale.

Back when I was growing up, you could probably have bought a Sloe Gin Fizz for 77p and maybe even a whiskey chaser but, today, it wouldn’t stretch to a cup of tea in most places. So, for that little bit of warmth, and to kick-start an early Christmas, you could always check out the novella on Amazon instead via this link. Frankly, that’s as hard as my hard sell is likely to get…

Anthology coverTo counter that shameless self-promotion, there are some other fantastic books out at the moment, too, from those I would count on that list of special people in my life this Christmas – my friends – including The Write Romantics’ Anthology, Helen Phifer’s latest in the ‘Annie Graham’ series, Deirdre Palmer (aka Harriet James’) ‘Falling to Earth’, Steve Dunn’s ‘Viking Resurrection’ and debuts by Kerry Fisher, Jane LythellRachael Thomas and Sarah Lewis. Plenty to keep you warm this Christmas yet to come.

An extra-specially merry Christmas to my fantastic beta readers too – Julie, Lynne, Paula, Jennie and Steve – Sharon, for the endless encouragement and cheerleading, plus my old school friends – Sarah, Kate and Claire – who inadvertently helped plant the seeds of the idea for this story.

I hope you have good one, too, and watch out for those pine needles in the shag-pile.

Jo x