Posted in Personal life, Reading, Writing

In the Name of Kindness

A post to mark the launch of the new anthology, Everyday Kindness

When I was a little girl, the idea that your name suggested the kind of person you become seemed part of the natural order of things. Noddy was so-called because he nodded his head a lot, making the bell on his blue cap jingle, and Big Ears – well, you can work that one out for yourself.

To my amusement, I’ve just discovered that the name of this phenomenon, nominative determinism, was coined in 1994 by the magazine New Scientist after it had noticed certain researchers had appropriate names, such as Daniel Snowman, author of a book on polar exploration, and the duo Splatt and Weedon, who wrote a report about urology.

However, the name that has most resonated with me over the years is one I encountered in a primary school assembly, when our headmaster, Mr Bowering, introduced us to one Mrs Doasyouwouldbedoneby. In Charles Kingsley’s The Water Babies, along with her counterpart Mrs Bedonebyasyoudid, she teaches the value of kindness to young Tom, after he has been transformed by drowning into a Water Baby. (My, those Victorian children’s stories were harsh.)

cover image of The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley
By Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, UofT – The Water-Babies: A Fairy Tale for a Land-Baby, CC BY 2.0,

Lifelong I have borne her name in mind as a shorthand for kindness, and a secular, catchier equivalent of that bit from the Sermon on the Mount: “All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.” But until I looked her up the other day, I’d misremembered her as a character from John Bunyan’s A Pilgrim’s Progress, another of Mr Bowering’s favourites, in which the central character, Christian, undertakes a journey to the Celestial City guided by Evangelist, despite protests from grumpy neighbour Obstinate and accompanied by the flaky Pliable.

Title page of A Pilgrim’s Progress, 1678 (Public domain)

I was  considering reacquainting myself with her by rereading the novel when I spotted reviews that in classic BBC style warn “it contains attitudes of its time” – as if the central premise of sending the children to watery graves wasn’t warning enough. But in the month that features World Kindness Day (13th November), I’d like to pay tribute to Mrs Doasyouwouldbedoneby’s principles and to her creator Charles Kingsley.

As a child, I wondered about the origin of such names.

Did Obstinate’s parents name him because he was a very stubborn baby? Did Noddy enter this world with an exceptionally weak neck, even by the standard of newborns? Did Big Ears’ poor mother require a Caesarean?

Of course, as I grew up, I realised all those characters, unlike the New Scientist’s researchers, are fictitious and their names are simply artistic devices. Even so, I wonder whether I missed a trick when naming my daughter Laura, when I could have chosen a virtue – Faith, Hope or Charity – or even plumped for Lottery Winner Young.


World Kindness Day also saw the launch of Everyday Kindness, a new anthology of short stories on the theme of kindness, devised and edited by bestselling mystery writer L J Ross. The stories are written by 55 different authors, one of which is me. My story is Christmas Ginger, the Sophie Sayers prequel, about her Great Auntie May, spending a lonely Christmas in Wendlebury Barrow until an act of kindness by a villager transforms her festive season. This is the first time story has been published in book form.

All profits will go to Shelter, the charity for the homeless and those in poor housing. The book is available online in hardback and ebook via this link:, or you can order it from your favourite high street bookshop. A great Christmas present or an uplifting gift to self!

Click the image to order your copy now

This post was originally written for the November issue of the Hawkesbury Parish News


Posted in Writing

Front Page News on The Bookseller

cover of The Bookseller
Each of the 50 contributors has their name on the spine of one of the books on the cover – mine is in the pile on the right.

I’m very excited today to see my name (in very small print!) on the front cover of the latest issue of the British book trade magazine The Bookseller.

The reason? I’m one of 50 contributors to a wonderful charity anthology, Everyday Kindness, edited by L J Ross, bestselling crime writer of the DCI Ryan mystery series. All proceeds will be donated to Shelter, the British charity for the homeless and those in poor housing.

The names of each of the 50 contributing authors are on the spines of the books in the cover image, a painting donated by the artist Andrew Davidson.

I’m honoured that Louise (LJ) loved the story I submitted and chose to include it in the anthology.

The story is a spin-off from my Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries. In Christmas Ginger, Sophie’s Great Auntie May anticipates spending Christmas alone. (Spoiler alert: as in all my stories, a happy ending is guaranteed, and I submitted this story because it includes a life-changing random act of kindness.) 

As well as being an international bestselling author, LJ Ross is a very active philanthropist especially in the north-east of England, where her many novels are set. Find out more about her philanthropy on her website here),

Everyday Kindness will be launched on World Kindness Day (13th November 2021) and will be available for pre-order in October.

Much as I hate to mention Christmas in August, I do think this book would make a great Christmas present! I’ll share details of how to order your copy as soon as I have them.

Posted in Writing

Christmas Ginger – a New Christmas Story Free to Read Now (The First Ever Sophie Sayers Prequel!)

Debbie Young with Helen Holllick
With Helen Hollick, novelist and founder of the Discovering Diamonds blog

Today I’m pleased to share with you Christmas Ginger, a heartwarming festive short story that I’ve written for novelist Helen Hollick‘s  Story Song series, in which during December a different story inspired by a song is published each day on her Discovering Diamonds blog.

Christmas Stories Past

line drawing of Hector's House by T E Shepherd
Hector’s House was the scene of last year’s Christmas story (Copyright Thomas Shepherd

The first story I wrote for Helen’s blog was Lighting Up Time, set at the winter solstice, and since published as an ebook, audio short, and a tiny paperback the perfect size for a stocking filler.

Last year my contribution was a short story called It Doesn’t Feel Like Christmas, set in the Hector’s House bookshop, featuring Sophie, Hector, Billy and other favourite characters from my Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries. You can read that one here – and see whether you can guess before the end which song inspired the story! (This one hasn’t made it into a book yet, but will be included in my planned Wendlebury Barrow Christmas Compendium in 2021.)

Christmas Story Present

photo of angel made of beads
One of May Sayers’ many souvenirs from her travels – a South African Christmas angel

For this year’s series, I decided to write a story I’d had in my head for a while: the return of Sophie’s late great-aunt, May Sayers, to live in the cottage that she’ll eventually leave to Sophie.

In this story we find May unexpectedly alone for Christmas, in a scenario that sadly so many people will face this festive season. Then an unexpected visit from her old friend Billy inspires the ever-resourceful May to use an old-fashioned trick to transform her lonely vigil into her most special Christmas ever.

Whether or not you’ve read any of the Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries yet, I hope you will enjoy this gentle Christmas tale.

Christmas Ginger has not yet been published anywhere else. so for now the only place you can read it is on the Discovering Diamonds website:


Christmas Stories Yet to Come

By Christmas 2021, I’m planning to publish The Wendlebury Barrow Christmas Compendium. One of my projects over this holiday season is to write another new story inspired by the poinsettia – which I’ve just discovered rather pleasingly is named after one Joel Poinsett. More of that to follow in my story next Christmas!

Also in the new year I’m planning to write a trilogy of short stories, May Sayers Comes Home, as well as a new novel in each of the Sophie Sayers and St Bride’s School series. I’m going to be busy!

For now, have a peaceful and restorative Christmas, and I’ll look forward to catching up with you here on my blog at the end of the year.

My Other Books with a Christmas Theme

(all available in paperback and ebook – click images for ebook store links)

cover of Stocking Fillers by Debbie Young
The perfect antidote to Christmas stress
cover of Stranger at St Bride's
A gentle mystery solved at the School Christmas Fair
cover of Murder in the Manger
When Sophie’s nativity play goes wrong…