Merry Christmas and all the best to you all…

It’s been a jam packed few weeks for me in the lead up to Christmas. I’m sure it has been for all of you too.

Those who know me probably realise I’m the organisation queen when it comes to being sorted at this time of the year. All my shopping is done through the year and everything was wrapped and put away by the end of November. I know, I know, there are those who now officially hate me! But all that organisation means I get to enjoy the lead up.

Managed to get my decs up nice and early this year too!

It’s been a pretty bad last week here at home to be honest though. I’ve had ceiling leaks, boiler problems, lack of time and a few other issues to deal with but it was one week out of the whole year so I won’t dwell and since it’s Sunday, the new week starts tomorrow anyway so it’s no problem at all in the greater scheme of things. Leak sorted, new boiler installed (thanks landlord!) and everything is well again.

I’ve seen a lot of people about doing a piece about their year. My blog is (relatively) regular so most of you have probably followed it all anyway but here is my year in brief!

  • Finished editing With Deadly Intent and started submitting to agents.
  • Wrote all of I’ve been Watching You and have started the editing
  • Left a job, started a new job, and applied for 2 more jobs that I didn’t get
  • Believed in myself a lot more and found my confidence grow ten fold
  • Lost weight, put weight on, lost weight, put weight on, lost …. well you get the picture.
  • Joined the gym (and yes I will be going back in the new year!)
  • Visited Scotland twice at the back end of the year
  • Went to Ostend at the start of the year
  • Completed my first ever stint at Harrogate Crime Festival and can’t wait to go back next year!
  • Hosted my first ever ‘proper’ dinner parties!
  • Started writing my third novel, as yet untitled.
  • Stuck to a financial budget (for the most part)
  • Haven’t let negativity of others impact on my mood
  • Given money to charity and food to food banks
  • Made my own garlands for christmas then baked for gifts
  • Spent a lot of time in Starbucks
  • Spent more time with my family and friends whenever I could
  • Blogged regularly
  • Started and maintained my own website (which is now due for renewal)
  • Networked with other authors through social media
  • Read
  • Smiled
  • Cried (occasionally – okay quite a bit cos I’m a softy)
  • Proof read a few bits and bobs for other authors
  • Became friends with other authors through the crime festival and social media, and have gotten to know my lovely editor Jenny Drewery much better.
  • Kept my new years resolution to be more positive.
  • Been to two fantastic weddings!
  • Celebrated my 4th wedding anniversary.
  • Shown/told people how much I appreciate them, as often as I could without it being creepy.
  • Looked for magic in the simplest of things.
  • Saw The Hobbit (6 times I think), and saw The Desolation of Smaug (only once so far). HUGE LOTR fan!

I’m sure there’s loads more that I haven’t mentioned but that about covers it. I’d just like to close and say how grateful I am that all of this is happening to me. If someone had said to me just five years ago that within that time, I’d be in a different job, writing my third novel and loving my life so much more than I was, I probably wouldn’t have believed them. There have been ups and downs, losses and tears along the way, but one thing is for sure, I’m still standing. I’m still here. And 2014 is going to be an amazing year because I believe it will be.

I hope you all have a truly magical christmas, and dream big for 2014, believe in yourselves and smile every day. I’ll be back in the new year with more updates and shenanigans. xxx

it’s beginning to look a lot like christmas …

Well the festive season is officially upon us. There are people flocking into the town centre and the supermarkets already and there’s still a good couple of weeks to go!

I’m one of those awful really organised people (Sorry!!) – my presents were all bought and wrapped by the end of November, and put to bed in the wardrobe in the spare room. I pulled all the decorations out last week, and put them all up after making a couple of garlands. I was a little disappointed to find one of my fibre optic ornaments had broken after I mistakenly left the batteries inside and they leaked, but it’s a good excuse for a new one next year! I even splashed out and bought some new window lights this year. So the house looks festive, the lights all look pretty and it helps put me in the christmas spirit.

I’m a very christmassy person if I’m honest – I love the fact that I get to spoil the people I love and show my appreciation in those little ways that make christmas special. I love the magic on the children’s faces as they see Santa and get excited for what he might bring them. I love spending extra time with my friends and family. And naturally, I love the food! We don’t go mad at christmas, I don’t fill the cupboards with treats and what not, but it’s the time of year we have little things that make it christmas to us. Me and the hubby always have snack night on christmas eve for a start. This is usually stuff like chicken bites, mozarella sticks all gooey from the oven, mini pizzas, sausages in bacon, and maybe some of the other festive things like prawns in pastry and what not. On the lead up to christmas, we have a night of crackers with cheese and pate. And there’s always the odd festive mince pie or bit of christmas cake – shop bought as despite the fact I can bake lovely cakes and cookies, my christmas cake effort last year proved to be an expensive disaster!

I don’t know what other people’s traditions are, but we also open a christmas present on christmas eve. This wasn’t something that my mum brought me up with, but it started when I moved out and me and Pete were in our first house. Since then it’s become another tradition. Mine is always brand new pjs which I absolutely love. One tradition that isn’t done any more was what my lovely grandad used to do. Every year on top of our presents, there was always a sock. A normal long woolly sock, which always had an apple, pear, satsuma, banana, 5-6 quality street and a 50p wrapped up in an envelope. It was such an amazing part of christmas – I do miss that now my gramps has passed on.

I always have the option regarding christmas trees too. I have a huge, wide, 7ft tree, and I also have a smaller 4ft fibre optic tree. If I’m in the mood for a battle, I put the big one up with all the lights and decorations. It stands about a metre in width alone and reaches the ceiling. The smaller one is fibre optic, lights up lovely and bright, and can sit on top of the table. The last couple of years it’s been the small one that’s been put up, and the only reason for this has been the dog. He’s quite fun loving, and enjoys flinging his toys around during his mad half hour. We found the big tree meant he often either barreled into it, or flung toys at it which have resulted in broken glass ornaments in the past. So again, we decided on the smaller tree this year. Decorated with mostly glass, clear and silver decorations, sparkly tinsel, and extra lights!

The fireplace is always done quite traditionally, with stockings hung, and fibre optic ornaments on the shelf above. We were given a lovely ponsettia off Pete’s mum which has pride of place beside the fire. Two wreaths on the wall, with tinsel round pictures, and different stuff on the windowsill makes it all seem somewhat homey.

To me, as well as being a time to spend with friends and family, spread good cheer and generally be a little like Mary Claus, I do believe Christmas is what you make it. Putting the decs up, and ensuring everything is wrapped in advance means I can enjoy the period without being encumbered, and do the things I enjoy doing in the lead up. Even if you don’t have much money, you can make paper chains and salt dough cookies for decorations, you can gather branches and make your own tree with a bit of string and paint and some cheap baubles. Even gifts need not be expensive. The pound shop is a wonderful invention for those after token gifts that show you care without breaking the bank. Or why not do what some of my friends do, and bake. Cupcakes and cookies, sweets and fudge are all designed not to break the bank, but give that personal touch.

The other thing I love about christmas is the music – I adore christmas carols, the songs playing on the radio, and even the bell ringers I heard at the supermarket the other day! I’m glad it’s not christmas every day though, it would be a lot less special if it came more than once a year!

On a writing note, I’ve done so much research for book 3 it’s almost as if I was writing my disertation again! I’ve interviewed cops, other authors and have prepped my character profiles. I started penning in the last week of November and have done around 6000 words so far which isn’t too bad. Book 3 is now on hold whilst I edit book 2 which has also had the first 3 chapters sent to the wonderful Jenny Drewery ( Once the editing is done I’ll move back to writing book 3, though I must admit I’m not adverse to writing at work by hand in one of my precious notebooks! You guys are gunna love Marlo, she’s so sassy! And Ali is going to come into his own in this one. I’m having a submission day tomorrow where I intend to submit en masse to as many agencies as I can fit in in the time I have, and I’ve decided that by using my positive thinking, I’ll be able to introduce you all to my agent as soon into 2014 as I possibly can! My agent is out there just waiting for my work to be submitted.

I truly hope you all have a fantastic christmas and new year – 2014 will shine down on all of you and make all your dreams come true, if you let it. Have a fabulous time, laugh lots, live well and make sure you take a moment to think about those a little less fortunate, or not celebrating due to loss or illness. I’m not sending many cards this year – instead I’m making a donation to Teenage Cancer Trust.

As always, keep your chin up, your mouth turned upwards at the sides, and stay positive. Happy holidays 🙂