The Magic of Stars Needed a Betty

We all need a Betty in our lives

Although I loved the chemistry between air stewardess Sapphire Montrose and Marco Cavarelli, her boss, I knew the novel needed more characters and an injection of humour to make it come to life. I’d initially focused on just the two characters, like a category romance, (think Mills and Boon) but that style of writing wasn’t for me, so I broke open the Pringles and poured an early lunchtime gin to help me brainstorm. (I was on holiday at the time, so it was allowed!)

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Pink Gin and Tonic! Who needs more!

I dug into the memories of my flying days and finally, after a few more gins, had a lightbulb moment and realised that what my novel needed was a Betty.

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The Lovely Betty Young

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Mills and Boon forever!

Betty was the cleaner/unofficial agony aunt who pushed her trolley piled high with ‘stuff’, around Stansted Airport. She worked there for over thirty years, doling out sage advice to anyone who needed it, as she endlessly buffed the bannisters and mopped the floors. Every crew member, male or female knew Betty. We were her brood of ‘angsty’ workers desperate to talk about our failing love lives and our work woes. Betty would be guaranteed to put the kettle on and lend a willing ear.

She had a big heart and a huge personality bound up in her five foot nothing frame, and I knew that I could do Betty proud if I included her in my airline story. I turned to social media to ask my old flying colleagues what stories they had to tell about Betty, who, I was pretty sure, was still doing the rounds. Unsurprisingly, I was deluged by airline stories from people all happy to share their Betty moments: Betty embroidering initials on hankies for Christmas presents, Betty crocheting a yellow cardigan for the imminent birth of a baby, Betty comforting a pilot who was in tears because his wife was about to leave him. Betty not knowing what to do with a stash of booze miniatures she’d found stuffed in a carrier bag, not wanting to get anyone in trouble.

So many Betty stories.

If the title of my novel could convey for one moment, one particular magic star, that star would be Betty.

So I wrote about Betty the way I remembered her and hoped she’d like my interpretation of her personality. But when I tried to contact her, I discovered that, very sadly, dear old Betty had passed away just a year beforehand and her husband followed her a few months later.

There will never be another Betty but she will live on in our hearts and, I suspect the Betty stories will be resurrected for years to come, when the old stalwarts pick up their drinks and prepare to reminisce about the ‘good old days of flying.’

Betty’s remains now reside in church in a small village called Thaxted in Essex and I heard she was specifically buried under the Stansted flight path so she could always be up to date on the comings and goings of the aircraft and its occupants. How lovely is that?

RIP Betty Young – you will always be a star.

The Magic of Stars is available on Amazon as an ebook. http://amzn.to/2rPd0jo

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Blog tour giveaway!

via Air Guitar and Caviar by @JackieLadbury #BlogTour #AuthorInterview #Giveaway @rararesources

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My own piece of Southwold

Hi everyone, hope you all had a great Christmas and are looking forward to a fabulous 2018. Just had to pop in to show you a picture of my wonderful Christmas present which brought tears to my eyes. My lovely husband and daughters surprised me with a dedication plaque that will sit on the handrail on Southwold pier. I’m really thrilled that apparently, I now own a bit of the pier, as I love Southwold and have been visiting the pier and beach for as long as I can remember.IMG_2404

 

Pretend you haven’t noticed the lack of a comma between Steve and Rosie x

 

If you have read my book, Air Guitar and Caviar will know just how thoughtful a gift this is. No spoilers, just in case you haven’t  read it (yet!) but my guitar playing hero, Dylan, came from Southwold, and the pier plays a romantic part in the book. I now feel, fanciful though it may be, that Southwold will always keep a little piece of Air Guitar and Caviar, the novel of my heart, in its history.

Can’t wait for our next trip up to Southwold so I can see my plaque in situ. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that next year I might get one of Southwold’s beach huts for Christmas, but I won’t hold my breath!

 While I’m on the subject of my books you might like to know that novel number two from the Blue Skies series, The Magic of Stars, is ready to be published and I am very excited to be putting the final touches to the gorgeous cover, designed, once again, by the very talented Berni Stevens. To me, the cover conjures up the essence of the novel completely: night skies in Florence, where my brooding Italian hero, Marco, first meets Sapphire – in a non-too flattering situation. Their initial mistrust of each other fades, as they travel to Edinburgh and the Scilly Isles together, in search of the perfect aircraft for Marco’s new airline. Brooding storms, starry, starry nights, and crashing waves play out around them as their attraction to each other deepens.

 

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Didn’t we have a lovely time?

Met up with some of the lovely Write Romantics for a weekend of serious writing talk and unusually (for me, anyway!) not much serious drinking, although Jo cracked open a bottle of Lanson champagne to celebrate us getting together.

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Cats and suitcases- what is it with them?

‘Little cat’ decided to do what she always does when I get out my suitcase, so I was in danger of being late as didn’t have the heart to move her! Bless!

 

23484793_10210150446306699_438826843_oHad such a great time in Derby meeting Sharon Booth for the first time and catching up with Helen Phifer who drove down from Barrow-in Furness, Jo Bartlett who drove up from Kent, and Jessica Redland who came down from Scarborough, picking up Sharon on the way.

IMG_2185Sharon knew all about Bonny Prince Charlie reaching Derby in his quest to conquer England before deciding it wasn’t worth the bother (or something ike that!) Here he is, sitting on his horse, looking decidely camp and a bit like he’s sucking a lemon!

We went to the book cafe which we thought was rather splendid and we wished there were more of them in England, and then went to a shop that sold Charlie Bears as Julie (Jessica) collects bears, but at £200 each they were a bit on the expensive side, although they are absolutely gorgeous and very tempting. We rounded off the weekend by going to see Paddington 2 at the cinema which was fabulous – especially the end bit where Hugh Grant dances in a pink outfit! IMG_2188

Oh, and I made a very new friend who I think might become an important part of my life. She’s called Raspberry Ripple Pom–pom (I kid you not!) and she jumped into my shopping basket when I wasn’t looking!

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Raspberry Pom-pom, I love you already.

 

 

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The Dancing Turkey

I thought I’d write a bit about my third novel which is still in progress, but I find myself, instead, wanting to tell you about the evening I spent last Friday at the Moutgrove Bothy in Finsbury park where chef, Luke Hunns, was demonstrating his amazing culinary skills.

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Mountgrove Bothy in Finsbury Park

Luke is normally to be found  at The Chiltern Firehouse, a trendy restaurant in London where the ‘beautiful people’ hang out, so I felt quite privilidged to be able to chat to him about his menu in more casual surroundings. He told me how he’d tweeted Nuno Mendes at the Chiltern Firehouse to see if he was recruiting – he was, and Luke’s career path was set. Luke is now part of the team as a sous chef with responsibility for a team of co-workers and he loves his job. Anyway, back to the Mountgrove Bothy where the evening was kicking off and Luke was putting the finishing touches to his menu. I wished him luck but don’t think he needed it; every aspect of the evening was covered to make sure there were no glitches. As the evening progressed, we had some interesting and beautifully presented, delicious taster plates.

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Sea Bream with radish and camomile

What struck me the most – apart from the amazing food, was how incredibly hard Luke worked, being a whirlwind of activity, whilst always having a moment to discuss his food or just to chat to the clientele. It made me realise that the chef in my novel, who seemed to spend most of his evening  puffing  smoke from his Gauloise cigarettes out of the window while occasionally tasting the food, was a far cry from how a real chef worked and Jake, my handsome chef, needed to get his arse into gear.

 

I’d initially named this novel Musical Chairs and then The Dating Game as it was about a woman stuck on an eternal cycle of dating – going around and around, trying to find somewhere to rest her weary heart. But as the novel progressed, I found it hard to relate to any of the men and actually the business of dating was a tad boring. Until I discovered ‘the one’. My flawed chef wasn’t even looking for love but I knew he was going to be the one to put the sparkle back in my heroine’s eyes. Of course he was not in the dating game at all – but that’s the course of true love for you – it never runs smoothly!

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Any pudding is good for me- this was my idea of heaven!

I deleted over fifteen thousand words of this novel to get it back on track, which broke my heart, more than my heroine’s when she found her boyfriend in bed with a drag queen. My handsome chef now actually does some cooking and the heroine, who is an actress, finally gets away from being a dancing turkey outside Asda. I also relocated both of them to St Albans, a city that I love and where my niece, who just happens to be an actress lives. (Don’t think she’s ever been a dancing turkey though!)

 

Watch this space for the release of the, as yet unnamed book number three- I’m guessing The Dancing Turkey might be a bit daft for a title! Next time I hope to bring you a cover reveal and date for my second novel, The Magic of Stars which is just waiting in the wings for the final touches to its cover. I’m quite excited if I say so myself!

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St Albans Cathedral

 

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Lovely Southwold, the perfect setting.

As a family, we’ve been visiting Southwold for many years – used to have a tradition of driving up there on New Years Day, taking in Walberswick and Snape Maltings on the way back, but too many freezing, windy ‘wash-out’ trips where no one wanted to get out of the car, put a stop to that tradition.

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Where’s the sun?

I braved the weather last November because I knew I wanted a picture of Southwold Pier on the cover of my book. The brilliant cover designer Berni Stevens managed to make it look pretty and not so wintry so that my cover looked as if it was just made for summer reading! Coincidently there was a rather handsome man having photographs taken against the groynes – with a guitar slung over his back! It would have been perfect, except that my daughter more or less threatened me with a fate worse than death, if I approached him to see if I could take some photos. Such a shame as I’m sure The Fates had put him there just for me.

The little brass plates that are set all along the balustrade on the pier, where loved ones can be remembered or special occasions recorded, made me realise that Southwold would be the perfect setting for my lovely Dylan and Scarlett to fall in love (yes, she was lovely by the end of the book!) You can just see them, in the bottom corner – the brass plaques not Scarlett and Dylan!

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And how could I not include the awesomely crazy Under the Pier Show with its rabid dog who dribbles and snaps at your fingers IMG_1400

and the fearsome prisoner, Crankenstein who roars and bares his teeth!

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These were videos but they don’t appear to be working so if you really want to see Crankenstein and his friends, here’s a link. http://www.underthepier.com/

My dream, even before I became a ‘proper’ writer was to own one of the beach huts along Southwold seafront until I discovered how horrendously expensive they were. I even decided I’d call it Dormouse House (my nickname, when I was little, was Dormouse) – but then if PDJames could buy one, I don’t see why I can’t! #reachfor the sky

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ONE DAY!IMG_0638

Ooh look, there’s me waving from my very own beach hut! One day indeed!

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Doesn’t time Fly!

Air Guitar and Caviar has been published for just over a month now and although it’s been wonderful and exciting to see it finally ‘out there’, I am surprised at how much it has drained me. The constant feeling that I should be promoting myself or my book is hard–and it’s not something that comes easily to a Brit of a Certain Age.

There are so many new eBooks published each day via Amazon, Kobo, iTunes, and such like, that my solitary little book, that means so much to me, could easily find itself disappearing down a metaphorical rabbit hole if I don’t keep my eye on it!

Air Guitar and Caviar_ Never heard of it.

But I am also very aware that the ‘buy my book’ approach can annoy people and finding the middle line is difficult.

Saying that, everyone has been totally fabulous in sharing posts and supporting me, even ‘Grandad John’ has taken a bunch of my business card to browbeat the members of his local art club into buying a copy of my book. (Thanks, John– and sorry art club members!)

I am aware that, now book one is out, book two needs to be sharp on its heels and the whole thing will start again before I’ve really paused for breath. This is now my life if I want to become a successful writer. I no longer have the luxury of faffing about and twiddling with the same page for ages, pretending that I’m doing sterling work when really, I have one eye on Facebook, while the other is checking out my eBay bids.

But I wouldn’t change it for anything. Already two complete strangers have messaged me to tell me how much they have loved reading my book. For me such validation is huge.

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So, yes, book two is almost written and another air stewardess–Sapphire, this time, is telling her story. (No, the last one was called Scarlett, not Sapphire–do keep up!) Sapphire propositions her new boss in a hotel when she is drunk and now has to work very hard to gain his approval while fighting down her attraction towards him. The first chapter of this novel was shortlisted in a Flirty Fiction competition and has had so many different titles I can’t even remember what the latest one is: Brown Eyes Blue Skies, Blue Skies Lying Eyes, The colour of Skye, Samphire and Sand to name but a few. Who knows what it will be in the end? But for now, I’ll just keep on editing it and will try not to care when I’m outbid on eBay–because I’m now an author, don’t you know, and am far too busy writing, to keep an eye on such things!

Air Guitar and Caviar out now. : http://amzn.to/2jLPZsU

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Author Spotlight

Enjoyed answering questions from Julie Stock, for her Author Spotlight blog. It’s all about Air Guitar and Caviar. Read it here

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Yay! Book launch.

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 months 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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A broken mug shot!

I was taking a photo of my new cover for Air Guitar and Caviar, positioning my iPad next to my trusty RNA mug when I knocked the mug off the table and it BROKE! Oh no!

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Have to say it was a very photogenic break!

I wanted to show a picture of my mug and write a few words about the Romantic Novelists’ Association and how it had pretty much shaped my life as a writer for the past ten years or more.  This was a sad moment believe me! But then I thought maybe it was a good omen. Maybe it meant that I’d finally finished my apprenticeship and was ready to move out of my New Writer’s scheme zone and into the world of ‘being a real author!’

Not that I ever intend to stray too far from the RNA- ever. Nearly every writer friend I have belongs to the RNA and I feel very grateful to the RNA for that, along with the constructive criticism and praise I have received via their New Writer’s Scheme.

Air Guitar and Caviar went through the New Writer’s Scheme ( http://bit.ly/2kczK4Z ) a good few years ago when its name was Blue Skies and Stars (I may yet use that for another book – so remember that title!) but the standard of my writing wasn’t good enough for publication, I could see that as soon as I started re-reading it, last year. But it was always the book of my heart and I decided to rewrite it during NaNoWriMo, knowing that my writing was stronger. I was quietly pleased with it and then over the moon when it was shortlisted for Choc Lit’s Search for a Star competition and even more thrilled that it will soon be up on Amazon with Fabrian Books.

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I am no longer a member of the New Writers scheme and am looking forward to the day I become a fully fledged member of the RNA, but I have to sell a fair few books before that will happen. If feels as if my story of gorgeous Dylan the busker and frosty Scarlett the air stewardess has been in my head for EVER, but in fact, from rewrite to publication it has been just over a year.

Must make sure book number two doesn’t take quite as long as this one- it’s mostly already written so hopefully it won’t. That’s the one that was shortlisted for a Mills and Boon ‘Flirty Fiction’ competition, so I must be doing something right!

Air Guitar and Caviar will be hitting  Amazon as an ebook on 5th February, so make a note of that date- I don’t think I’ll be forgetting it!

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Before I broke the mug! Cover illustration by Berni Stevens- you are the best!

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