2017 has been a surprisingly productive year, given that it started quite slowly – writing wise, that is. It ended up with five new publications! And, more than that, it became the year that I finally ventured out of my little box and headed out into the big, bad world, to see what lay outside my door. This was the year I finally took my courage in both hands, and began to socialise. And, do you know what? I enjoyed myself! Who’d have thought it?
In the early part of the year, I was busy writing, and started faffing with this website. I wanted to keep my previous blog as an extension of this one, but use it only for book reviews, but it was tricky to start again. I got quite fed up with the whole thing, and had to keep going back to it, in between doing other things. I also began to get out and about in Yorkshire with DH and various members of the family. I love to visit our coastal resorts, the Dales, the Moors, old buildings, stately homes, castles etc. I usually take lots of photographs, too. If you’d like to see some of the places I’ve visited this year, including Rievaulx Abbey, Whitby, the Bronte Parsonage in Howarth, Middleham Castle and Masham, click here.
My first published book of 2017 came in April, when Ulverscroft published All Because of Baxter – the original version of Baxter’s Christmas Wish – as part of their Linford Romance Library large-print collection. I was really excited by this, as it meant that one of my books was actually in libraries! As someone who practically lived in libraries during the early part of my life, this means a lot.
Also in April, I ventured up to Scarborough to support my Write Romantic
pal, Julie, aka Jessica Redland, as she gave an author talk at the Seastrand Cafe there. Although the talk didn’t exactly go as planned, we had a fabulous day, ending up with a coffee and a catch-up in Scarborough town centre. And Jessica really can give a good talk! Read about our day here.
In May, I got a cover designed for me by the fantastic Berni Stevens. I was almost ready to publish my new book, Resisting Mr Rochester, and wanted something special for it. Berni is someone whose work I have long admired, but I had no idea she was freelance. When I discovered this, I was overwhelmed that one of my books might actually boast a Berni Stevens cover! I approached her – quite nervously, I must admit – and was very relieved when she got back to me and turned out to be approachable, friendly and able to fit me in. By May I had a cover I was super proud of, and I still can’t quite believe that Berni designed it for me! I also put my People’s Friend short story, The Luckiest Man in the World, up on Wattpad under its original title, Sundae Girl. You can read it here.
June saw the birth of my next book baby, Resisting Mr Rochester, and the arrival of a whole new series, Moorland Heroes. This series is a collection of books, loosely based on literary classics. Resisting Mr Rochester, obviously, is loosely based on Jane Eyre – a romcom with a gothic twist, as I call it. As Jane Eyre is my favourite book, it was quite a terrifying prospect to work on it, but I loved the whole process. I’m delighted to say the book was well-received. It’s had a bestseller flag on Amazon, had some great reviews, and was enrolled in the Amazon Prime programme at the end of the year and will stay there until the end of winter.
June also saw me heading to Leeds to finally meet up with another Write Romantic friend, fellow Fabrian author, and all-round superwoman, Jo Bartlett. Julie/Jessica met me there, and Jo had brought her friend, Paula, who is the inspiration for Jo’s Christmas novel, The Christmas Shop at Central Park. We had a fantastic day, and it was lovely to meet Jo at last. She’s been such a huge help and support to me in my writing career and I was absolutely delighted to finally say hello in person and get a hug! As for Paula, well, she’s absolutely fabulous and I can fully understand why Jo loves her so much! And I was very grateful she was there when I had no idea how to tackle the giant burger we had for lunch and she gave me permission to eat it with a knife and fork! 🙂
At the end of the month, my second People’s Friend pocket novel was published and hit the shops, to my excitement! I’d submitted it as The Doctor’s Daughter, but the title was changed to Surrender to Love, and it had a gorgeous cover that really captured the village of Bramblewick. I’m really proud to have had work published by The People’s Friend – whether it’s the short story or the pocket novels. And it’s lovely to see something you’ve written on actual shelves in WH Smith or the supermarkets. There’s no feeling like it.
July saw me moving house. There are absolutely no words to describe how stressful a process this is, and I’ve done it five times in recent years. I hate it, and I don’t intend to ever move again – unless I suddenly become rich and can afford my lovely little home in the country, of course. Or, more likely, end up in a council bungalow because I can’t manage the stairs any longer. Anyway, until either of those things happen (fingers crossed for the first!) I’m staying put right here. I just can’t deal with all that upheaval again. If it hadn’t been for the help of my kids, and the understanding of my boss and some colleagues at work, I’d have been sunk, because DH’s back went a week before moving day, and I would have had to pack everything up myself, as well as getting two buses to work, and two buses back, and there was just no way it would have been possible. Luckily, I got my December holiday from work moved forward to July, and my kids were absolute stars, doing so much work on the new house and helping me pack and move, that I honestly can’t even begin to thank them. Never again! I wrote down my thoughts on home in this post.
August brought the Kindle publication of the first in my Bramblewick series.
These books are set in a little village on the North Yorkshire Moors, and centre around a small, rural GP’s surgery, focusing on the medical and reception staff who work there. My pocket novel, Surrender to Love, became – with a few tweaks – New Doctor at Chestnut House, and achieved a bestseller flag, too. It’s done amazingly well, and I’m very proud of it. I also finally published my new website, after much angst and gnashing of teeth!
September took me away from writing and from Yorkshire, and whisked me off to Cornwall and Somerset. I had a great family holiday with the husband, youngest son and daughter, and daughter-in-law, plus dog Jake. We spent a week in an ancient cottage in Boscastle, then a second week in a rather lovely house with stunning views of Glastonbury Tor. I had a bit of a “moment” at the Tor, which you can read about here. It was an amazing fortnight, and has given me some very happy memories. While I was in Somerset, I headed to Weston-Super-Mare, where I met up with another Write Romantic, Lynne Pardoe. It was great to meet her at last, and we had a lovely long chat. This photo was taken in a seafront cafe, so excuse the windswept hair!
Also in September, Julie/Jessica and I gritted our teeth, squared our shoulders, and headed bravely to the Romantic Novelists’ Association afternoon tea in York. We were both pretty nervous and not sure what to expect, but we had an amazing afternoon and loved every minute of it. We met some fantastic fellow authors, bloggers and readers, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. I wrote a piece about it, and you can read it on the Write Romantics’ blog here.
In October, I published a follow-up to New Doctor at Chestnut House. The second Bramblewick novel is called Christmas at the Country Practice and, unbelievably, it became my best-selling book ever, so far! It really took my by surprise, and I am so grateful to everyone who bought it. The story of lovesick Nell and the wary but oh-so-loveable GP, Scotsman Riley MacDonald, is quite a sweet, funny one, and it’s obviously struck a chord with readers. I’m terribly proud that it’s done so well, as I honestly didn’t expect it to even get much notice. It just shows you, you can never predict what will happen in this writing lark!
We also updated Winter Tales, the charity anthology put together by the Write Romantics in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust and the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, featuring short stories by all the Write Romantics plus many well-known authors, such as Samantha Tonge, Terri Nixon, Linda Huber and Holly Martin. Jo designed a lovely new cover for the book, we updated the author bios, and sent it out into the world again. It’s done amazingly well this time around, and it’s achieved its own little bestseller flag, which makes us all very happy. Hopefully, it will make a nice sum of money for these two worthy causes, both of which are very close to our hearts.
November was a busy month! The Write Romantic get-together took place – finally! I headed up to Scarborough on the train to meet up with Julie and her husband, who kindly gave me a lift to Derby. We were spending two nights at a hotel there, meeting up with Jo Bartlett and two other Write Romantics – Helen Phifer and Jackie Ladbury. I hadn’t met Helen or Jackie before, although it felt like we’d known each other forever, as we chat online all the time and have shared so many ups and downs as part of the Write Romantics group. I’d been promised a hug from Helen for a long time, and she didn’t disappoint. You know, for someone who writes pretty scary, gruesome books, she’s remarkably lovely! The five of us had an amazing time together. Champagne and wine may have been consumed – along with Krispy Kreme donuts. I cannot confirm nor deny these rumours. Let’s just say, if ever the opportunity arises to stay with them again, I’ll be there! Julie, Jackie and I stayed on an extra day and had a fantastic time shopping, going to the cinema to watch Paddington 2 (absolutely fabulous! Hugh Grant is hilarious) and then heading to Pizza Express for three courses and a good old natter. I was quite sorry to have to go home. You can read about our weekend on Jackie’s blog and Jessica’s blog.
But I had to be back to publish my final book of the year, Saving Mr Scrooge. It’s the second in my Moorland Heroes series, boasts another wonderful cover by Berni Stevens, and is probably the book I was most nervous about and found trickiest to write. It’s not easy to create a story that people will want to keep reading, when the heroine is unlikeable. But, when she’s the female equivalent of Ebenezer, what do you do? I blogged about this problem over on Ivy Logan’s blog in December, having received lots of comments from readers that they really found Marley quite difficult to like. Luckily, it didn’t stop them from reading and enjoying the book, and I hope I redeemed Marley in the end. I was actually very fond of her, and loved giving her the happy ending she deserved. Well, it is Christmas, what do you expect?
In December, I was ridiculously excited to open up my copy of Romance Matters (the magazine for the Romantic Novelists’ Association) and find a report I’d written about the York Tea inside. Obviously, I knew there was a chance it would be there, as I’d been asked to send it in by the delightful editor, Adrienne Vaughan, but I wasn’t sure it would be accepted, having had no previous dealings with the magazine or how it works. It was great to see my name there, along with a photo of me with lovely Lizzie Lamb, one of the fabulous authors I got the chance to talk to at the event.
To finish off the year, I gave Baxter’s Christmas Wish a makeover. It now has a brand new cover, which is a bit more festive and cheerful. It seems to have done the trick as it’s sold very well this year, more than a year after its initial release. In fact, it finally achieved a bestseller flag on Amazon when it – unbelievably – knocked Miranda Hart’s book from the top spot in its chart. Now, that didn’t last long, but nevertheless, what a thrill! And I took the screenshot to prove it to my daughter, who is – like me – a massive Miranda fan. Such fun! Baxter went on to get a bestseller flag in another category, so it really has been a surprise.
Have to say, though, it wasn’t as much of a surprise as the one I got when I visited my Amazon page one day in mid December and discovered that my third Kearton Bay book, Once Upon a Long Ago, had scored its own bestseller flag! Fifteen months from its publication and there it was. I must admit, it probably moved me more than any of the other flags I’d seen on my books, because it all began with the Kearton Bay series, so this felt incredible. I got quite emotional, and headed over to my Write Romantic pals to tell them the news. Needless to say, they totally understood why it mattered so much to me! Love those girls!
It’s been quite a busy year, and I’ve been so lucky. I really do appreciate every sale, every page read and every review. You’ll never know how much it means. Thank you.
And so that’s my round up of the year. What a year it’s been! I’m already working hard on new books for 2018 and I can’t wait to see what the next twelve months has in store. I’ll be back in January with more news and more guest posts. In the meantime, a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year to you all.