I am very excited to be able to reveal the stunningly gorgeous cover to my new book. Isn’t it sooooo pretty. I think it might just have become my favourite of all my covers. Those hedgehogs. That farmhouse. The flowers. The sky. All so delicious.
I hope you love it as much as I do.
Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow is out on 2nd July but is available for pre-order right now. Here’s the Amazon link but it’s available on AppleBooks and Kobo too. On release day, it will be available on audio format, paperback, via the uLibrary App if your library subscribes to that and, for the first time for any of my books, large print format. Something for everyone!
Here’s the blurb:
Can love really be found when you stop looking for it…?
As Samantha Wishaw watches the love of her life marry another woman, she’s ready to give up hope of finding her happy ever after.
But when a chance encounter leads Sam to find friendship in Thomas – a lonely, grumpy elderly widower living at derelict Hedgehog Hollow – her life is about to change forever.
Glad to have a distraction from family feuds and match-making, Sam vows to fulfill Thomas and his wife, Gwendoline’s, dreams of restoring Hedgehog Hollow to its former glory, and to open a hedgehog rescue centre.
Throwing herself into the task at hand, little does Sam realise that the keys to love and happiness may also be found at Hedgehog Hollow, when she least expects it…
Escape to Hedgehog Hollow this summer with top 10 bestseller Jessica Redland for the perfect uplifting, feel-good read.
This is the first book in a trilogy. Book 2 and 3 don’t currently have titles … mainly because I haven’t written them yet! I’ll be taking a break from my day job next week and should make good progress with book 2 then and we hope to have a title reveal by the time Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow is released.
My fabulous publishers, Boldwood Books, have been running a #PetsOfIsolation thing (there’s probably a technical term for this but let’s go with ‘thing’ for the moment) over on Twitter for the last week. Or is it fortnight? Hmm. Time is a fluid concept just now. Anyway, the idea was to encourage their authors to share photos of their pets during lockdown and hopefully have readers do the same, filling Twitter with happy images of animals. Aw, lovely.
We have a 4-year-old sprocker spaniel called Ella so I shared a few pics of her but I decided to put together her guide to isolation here. For anyone not on Twitter (looking at you, Mum), I thought I’d share Ella’s advice on here.
So, here it is, Ella’s Guide to Isolation:
Get out of the house for socially-distanced exercise. Give your human extra exercise by dodging all photo ops and making them chase you for 1 x blurred pic. Fun for all the family
Steal stuff. As much stuff as you can. Steal all the stuff that doesn’t belong to you and use doe eyes to protest your innocence. So much fun winding up the humans and great for relieving boredom
Sleep. Do this lots. Preferably by clambering into your human’s bed when they’re not looking. Mmmm. Sleep is good. Sleep is better when you shed hair all over your human’s duvet
Ella’s Guide to Isolation Part 4 of 5: If your human is eating, stare at them. Maybe cock your head to one side, put paw on their knee & whimper. Focus. Intimidate. They’re weak. They will fold. That food will be yours mwah ha ha
Dream of life beyond isolation. Paws for thought. Think about holidays, trips, parties, hugs. This will one day pass and we can say hello friends. Hello family. Hello life. Hang on in there, stay home, stay safe xxx
Hope you enjoyed Ella’s Guide as a #PetsOfIsolation.
How are you holding up? Do you ever have to remind yourself that this really is happening and not just a strange dream from eating too much cheese?
In the UK, we’re entering month 2 of lockdown. For those who work, it’s business as usual for some, immense additional volume and/or pressure for others, and there are those who find themselves furloughed or redundant and perhaps at a loose end. And many of those are turning to books.
In life before pandemic (concentrate hard and you’ll remember it), different people read at different times: before bedtime, on a commute to work, during breaks, all day (if they’re able) or perhaps only when on holiday. Before pandemic, people read for different reasons: to learn, to be challenged, to switch off, to escape. In our reality now, the latter two have never been more important.
In a survey conducted by The Reading Agency, the people responsible for World Book Night, it was revealed that over 31% of people were reading more since lockdown began. They reported a 35% week-on-week boost for paperback fiction yet a drop of 13% in adult non-fiction sales. Bookstores with an online presence are reporting phenomenal increases in online sales (Waterstones, for example, reporting a 400% week-on-week increase) and the rise in new readers in digital format has been unprecedented.
This isn’t really surprising. In a world where we are staying home to stay safe, entertainment is needed, particularly for those who aren’t working, and books are an obvious place to turn, providing hours and hours of entertainment for a small financial outlay, or even for free. I’m not surprised that it’s fiction that has seen the surge either, based on that need to switch-off and escape.
I write uplifting stories of love and friendship and, via my chart positions in AppleBooks and Amazon, I have seen a surge in readers escaping to the world of Whitsborough Bay. My amazing publishers, Boldwood Books, have massively raised my profile as an author through some wonderful recent promotions on Apple, Amazon and Kobo. The coincidental timing of these with lockdown has seen readers binge-reading the Welcome to Whitsborough Bay series and then turning to my other books to continue their fix. I’ve received messages on Facebook, Twitter and by email from readers thanking me for writing these books which have lifted them and given them a much-needed escape during difficult times. I feel so humbled to think that my words – written in a time when a worldwide pandemic was the domain of a Stephen King novel rather than reality – have given someone a much-needed hug.
I have been quite astonished by the reaction. By the kind words from strangers. By the virtual hugs I’ve received to thank me for the hug my book gave them. I wanted to share some of them here, received recently on Twitter and Facebook:
There are many gorgeous reviews on Amazon and Apple too for which I am so appreciative. The kindness of strangers has been touching, heartwarming and, as I say, humbling.
I come from the school of “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything”. However, as an HR Professional specialising in recruitment, coaching, learning & development, I know this is an ideal and not necessarily practical. In my current role as a tutor, I constantly need to give feedback about the assignments I’ve marked and I can’t say “that was amazing” when it clearly wasn’t and hasn’t met a single one of the criteria needed to pass. However, there’s a massive difference between writing something like “this is dire and clearly you will never secure an HR role” and writing “xxx was a good start but you may have misinterpreted the next point and what I’m looking for is xxxx” The difference is constructive feedback; feedback that doesn’t destroy the student and from which they can learn.
Which brings me to the other point of the title of this blog post: the cruelty of strangers. Oh my goodness, some people can be nasty. I’ve seen some reviews of books that can only be described as vicious and it makes me wonder whether the person writing them even pauses to think that there’s a human being at whom they’re directing their venom.
I have been really lucky with most of my reviews. I confess that I do like a spreadsheet and I will admit to being a geek in keeping a reviews one for Amazon, which tells me that, at the time of writing this post, I have 518 reviews across my nine titles combined and 500 of those (96.5%) are at 5- or 4-star (416/84 respectively). Thirteen (2.5%) are at 3-star, 3 at 2-star and only 2 at 1-star (1% combined). I’m thrilled with this and it does help me think, in my insecure moments, that I might not be too shabby at this making up stories lark. But some of my lower ratings are a little cruel.
I must start with my all-time favourite insult for The Secret to Happiness. “Absolute pish” apparently. If I remember correctly, this reviewer also reviewed a book from a very big name writer and a charger for their car, all of which got the 1-star treatment. Obviously a tough customer to please. On first reading this, I’ll admit that my heart slipped down my body, ran out the office screaming and hurled itself down the stairs. And then I thought of them sitting there, so livid about their car charger and my book that they had to have such a rant yet they haven’t reviewed anything else. Nothing from Amazon has brought them 3-, 4- or even 5-star rating joy. I began to feel sorry for them. And I reminded myself that 55 x 5-star reviewers disagreed, although I can’t comment on what those lovely people might have said about the car charger 😉
Then there was this very unfair one for New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms. The blurb said it has previously been released as a different title and it’s been all over social media. All the person needed to do was return it for their money back for a purchase made in error:
Also in New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms, a reader took a strong dislike to my protagonist, Sarah. Yes, Sarah makes some questionable decisions but she learns from them. It’s known in writing as a character arc 🙂 Sarah is actually predominantly modelled on me and the book is inspired by a true-life story about me. That’s me told, then!
I have a scathing review on Goodreads for Christmas at the Chocolate Pot Cafe. It’s not scathing because the person didn’t enjoy the book but because I hadn’t released it in the format of their choosing. Ouch! Okay, I admit it, the rise of eBooks as the chosen (and sometimes only) format for indie and trad-publisher releases is all my fault. I’ll take one for the team on that!
Another reader didn’t like me having cancer in my books and went to pains to point out that there are other ways that people die and listed them. The book on which she placed this review had somebody who was in remission from cancer and, across all my books, I have many other forms of death where a death is required for the plot line. Another gave me a low review because she prefers erotica and my book was a bit tame. Had she looked at my covers and read my blurbs? I have no idea what about them would possibly suggest they could appeal to someone who only reads erotica!
But I have to save my ‘favourite’ review till the end. This is actually a 3-star review for the final part in the series, Coming Home to Seashell Cottage so, rating-wise, not so bad. It’s from someone who appears to have read the whole series… and hated it – and me. I’m ‘Redland’ – the one whose voice and characters are disliked:
Why read the whole series when you “never enjoy them”. And what’s that about Ireland? It was read by an Irish proofreader and copy editor who Irish-ised it for me.
Confused by the review? Yes, I was too! And so was this reader whose comment made my day. Nice to have someone in my corner there:
I don’t think negative reviews will ever not upset me but how long they upset me for has certainly diminished over time. Everyone has different tastes and my books aren’t going to appeal to everyone who picks them up, even if my genre is usually the one they enjoy. But it would be nice if people could be a little kinder if they haven’t enjoyed what they’ve read.
In fairness, all the negative reviews I’ve placed above with the exception of one were pre-lockdown and some are a few years old. We’re all facing challenges right now and a little bit of kindness – even if the message is 1- or 2-star rating – can go such a long way.
So I’ll leave this post with a big thank you to all those strangers who are kind, who have reached out, who have picked me up at a time when I am physically, mentally and emotionally drained because my day job has doubled in volume and I’m working 12-14 hours a day 7 days a week. Your kind words have meant the world to me and I look forward to creating more characters and stories to provide you all with further comfort and escapism.
Stay home, stay safe, stay kind.
Big (safely distanced) hugs
PS All the messages and reviews are in the public domain but, in the interests of kindness, I have removed the name from the Amazon reviews. I therefore thought it only fair to remove the names from the kind comments too as this is a post about observing the differences between two approaches and not about popping anyone on the spot and making them feel uncomfortable
I’m not known for short posts but I promise this is a short one. Really short.
My lovely publishers are pulling together a newsletter for me but we need to have have lots of people wanting Jessica Redland-shaped news before the first one can be issued.
At the moment, I think only my mum and my writing bestie have signed up and I bombard them with my news anyway so we need new recruits!
I can guarantee that Boldwood Books won’t bombard you with information and your details definitely won’t be passed on elsewhere but if you’d like:
Information about new releases
Then pretty please would you sign up? I’d be so very, very grateful and can stop feeling like the kid who hasn’t been picked for the sports team. Gosh, remember those days? I was never picked. Ever. Sad times. Please don’t let me feel that way again. Pretty please.
When I was a child, I loved Easter. It signalled two weeks off school – yay – and a huge stash of Easter eggs. I’d receive eggs from my parents, grandparents and all my aunties and uncles. Nom nom! They’d sit on the sideboard in our study at home (an internal garage converted into a room which was always cold – perfect for chocolate storage) tantalising me with their shiny foil promising chocolatey deliciousness. I don’t remember doing Easter egg hunts and I don’t remember there being an Easter bunny. Perhaps these are newer trends or perhaps our family simply didn’t embrace these traditions.
I attended Sunday School back then so I was always very aware of the real meaning of Easter. On Palm Sunday – the Sunday prior to Easter Sunday – the churches in our town would unite for a service in the Parish Church in celebration of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem prior to his crucification then reseurrection. This was preceded by a parade up the high street by the uniformed organisations following ‘Jesus’ on a donkey. I was a member of Girlguiding from Brownies through to Rangers and would join the parade each year. We weren’t permitted to wear coats as our uniforms needed to be displayed proudly. Brr! I can remember spending many a parade shivering, blowing on my icy cold hands, desperate for the parade to end so we could get into the warmth of the church – only to discover the church was just as cold! I can also remember the hilarity of trying to dodge the donkey droppings as well as the couple of occasions when the donkey emptied its bowels in the church. Luckily there were flagged floors rather than carpets!
After I left home, I had many years Easter egg-less. It never felt right treating myself to one so I only got one if I had a boyfriend at the time. I remember one boyfriend buying me one when we were at university. It was a Cadbury’s creme egg one in the shape of a juggler where his tummy was the hollow egg and the juggling balls were two normal sized creme eggs and several mini ones. I was meant to take it home to eat over the Easter holidays but he gave it to me far too early and I couldn’t resist. By the time term ended, I’d eaten the entire contents but had pressed the foil back into the plastic moulding so it still looked untouched. Was that naughty of me?
When my daughter was little, I organised the occasional Easter egg hunt for her and some friends in our back garden or in the house if the weather was bad. We’ve done a few Easter crafts over the years but Easter has never really been a big thing in our house. We’ve never decorated the house. It’s never been a time when we’ve got together with the extended family for a big celebration. My husband and I are both self employed and home-based so the long four-day weekend doesn’t mean the same as it did when I was in paid employment. More often than not, we’ve had to work over part, if not all, the weekend. And, because we live in a popular seaside resort descended on by hoards of visitors on bank holidays, we’ve always made a conscious decision to stay home all weekend to avoid the tourists and the traffic snarl-ups, promising our daughter a day out the following week instead.
This year, the residents of the UK (and many other countries around the world) have spent Easter in isolation and, for many, this will have been the first key family occasion since lockdown started. Families have been unable to meet. There’ve been no trips out. No parties, no picnics, no big family barbeques. National parks, heritage sites, and attractions are shut. Coast and countryside have urged visitors to stay away, stay home, stay safe with police positioned at key entry points into tourist resorts, turning away those who seem to think that they’re special and none of the rules of isolation apply to them. Businesses that normally embrace Easter as the start to the ‘season’ have no idea when – or even if – their ‘season’ will resume. And, of course, there are those working tirelessly in the NHS and caring roles, the other emergency services, in supermarkets, factories, and transportation who are trying to keep our country running under extremely challenging circumstance. My love and respect to every single one of you.
Churches world-wide have been closed and services have been online or individually held at home. My mum is the organist for her village church and she’s played during Good Friday and Easter Sunday services conducted via Zoom. She’s embracing the technology although said it was slightly odd when she finished playing and the singing continued for another half verse. The joy of the time delay!
For my immediate family of three, it has been like a ‘normal’ Easter bank holiday weekend where we’ve stayed at home and my husband and I have worked, while being very aware that everything about this weekend is not ‘normal’ at all.
I’ve been working non-stop since we isolation hit without a single day’s break. I knew this weekend would be no different but I made a conscious decision to take four days off from the day job. I know I’ll regret this when I see the queue of assignments waiting for me to mark when I log into my work email tomorrow, but I needed a break from marking. I’m on the first edits of another of the books from my back catalogue that Boldwood Books are going to re-release – Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes – so I’ve spend the weekend so far working on those. It therefore feels a little more like Christmas to me than Easter right now!
And I’ve been eating a very large Maltesers Truffle Easter egg which I broke into at 10am on Saturday. What do you mean, that’s not a healthy breakfast? Ooh, and I tried a creme egg yesterday for the first time in years. They’ve always been a favourite but I’d boycotted them after Cadbury’s changed the chocolate recipe. I think I’ll be boycotting them again. Very disappointing.
How was your Easter? Would you normally have spent it with family? Did you do anything virtually instead? Does the Easter bunny come to your house? Did it when you were a child? I’d love to hear about your Easter traditions and what you did this year instead.
Yesterday started with disappointing but very expected news. Our family holiday to Portugal over May half term was officially cancelled. But the day ended with two bits of excellent news. Firstly, the UK’s Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, came out of intensive care which is wonderful news and also a beacon of hope to show that people do recover from this horrific virus. That doesn’t mean it’s okay to invade parks, beaches, villages and beauty spots this bank holiday weekend, though, people. Stay safe. Stay at home!
Secondly, something really exciting happened for my ‘Welcome to Whitsborough Bay’ series of books. During the week, three of them had gained the little orange Bestseller tags over on Amazon but the final book in the series, Coming Home to Seashell Cottage, did me proud and obtained its own little flag meaning all books in the series became Bestsellers at the same time. Woo hoo! And another two of my books – Bear With Me and Christmas at the Chocolate Pot Cafe – also had orange tags bringing that up to six bestsellers at one time. Such a dream come true.
And they’re not in random categories either – all of the categories do have a direct link to a key theme in the book e.g. Making Wishes at Bay View is set in a care home and is about family relationships across generations so ‘aging’ and ‘aging parents’ [USA spelling on Amazon] is the category. New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms is set in a florists so ‘floral crafts’ is appropriate.
All four books have broken through the Top 1000 on Amazon at some point this week with New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms reaching #352 this morning which was a lovely Easter gift. Better than chocolate any day. Or is it? Mmm. Chocolate…. Is it too early to crack my Easter egg open?
I know there are many people around the world who are understandably struggling right now and many have turned to books for comfort and escapism. It’s been so heartwarming to receive messages and reviews to say that the stories I’ve created have helped readers through lockdown. When I wrote the series, I always hoped that readers would find the stories uplifting but I never, ever dreamed it would be in an unprecedented scenario like this. When the world needs warmth and comfort, I feel so honoured to play a very small part in that.
If you would like to take a trip to the stunning North Yorkshire Coast this weekend, then please do it through the written or spoken word. You can visit the world of Whitsborough Bay on Kindle, Kindle Unlimited and audio formats here. Some of the eBooks are 99p just now and they are, of course, free if you’re in KU.
You can find me on Apple and Kobo too. Apple are running an Easter promotion on The Secret to Happiness for 99p and Kobo are featuring the first two books in the series in their Easter sale. If you have access to the uLibrary App through your library, The Secret to Happiness is available on there.
Finally, if you are or know someone who is a hero right now, whether in the NHS or other key worker roles, then my amazing publisher, Boldwood Books, are running an offer over on Twitter to gift a book by me or any of their other fabulous authors to a #NHShero or #Localhero. You need to DM Boldwood on Twitter by midnight tonight (10th April 2020). Don’t worry if you miss tonight’s deadline as it will be running weekly and there’ll be other amazing offers to thank all those amazing heroes for what they’re doing. You can follow Boldwood on @BoldwoodBooks
Wishing you all the best, with love and virtual hugs
Our sprocker spaniel, Ella, has recently turned four and pictures of her as a puppy have been cropping up on my memories on my Facebook timeline. When we made the decision to have a dog – a first for me – I’d been working from home as a distance learning HR Tutor for over a year. I thought that having a dog to walk would provide the perfect excuse for a break from the computer, would give me a reason to leave the house each day, and would provide some much-needed exercise before my bottom expanded beyond the size of Brazil a la Bridget Jones. The reality was that my working day was too long and the dog-walking quickly became the responsibility of hubby who also works from home but has a job that is slightly less demanding on hours than mine. So the bottom did continue to expand and is now the size of South America, never mind Brazil!
At the start of lockdown, I resolved to get outside for a family walk with Ella each day, in-keeping with the government’s guidelines around exercising once a day and keeping a safe distance from anyone else doing the same. I managed a few walks during the first week and it was lovely but I hadn’t quite appreciated the impact lockdown would have on my workload. Students who have been furloughed or have sadly lost their jobs are at home with the opportunity to knuckle down and study, those who are still working are no longer going out on weekends or evenings so they’re studying too. And a stack of new students have enrolled. My workload has gone through the roof. I often struggled to fit writing around it and now it’s even more of a challenge. I know I’m fortunate that I still have my job – which is just as well because I am one of the self-employed who falls through the gap for financial support, being a sole trader who happens to be set up as a limited company – but I do long for an opportunity to pause and take a breath occasionally!
So I made a big decision that, this weekend, I was not going to work on the day job. I don’t mind working 12-14 hour days the rest of the week but I needed a break and I’m so glad we did this morning because the weather is stunning on the North Yorkshire Coast although a bit blowy on the clifftop as you can see from the photo above.
Hope you’re staying safe. Wishing everyone all the best and I’ll leave you with some of the photos I took earlier. The Yorkshire Coast welcomes you to visit and explore its beauty as soon as we’re through this but hope you enjoy a few photos in the meantime.
The Cleveland Way passes along the clifftop just 5-7 minutes walk from our house. We didn’t take the path down to the beach today but probably will do one day soon:
The north and south ends of Cayton Bay. We could see a few walkers down there. On the south side, there are some WWII ‘pillboxes’ that fell down the cliffs and embedded in the sand many years ago:
Ella found an abandoned tennis ball so had great fun running after that. We live on the housing estate just over that field in the middle photo and are so lucky to have this on our doorstep:
This bench fascinated me. It would once have had such a stunning view but it’s become somewhat overgrown over the years:
One of the gardens in the houses overlooking the sea has the most amazing treehouse in it. Would have loved a treehouse when I was a kid. Actually, scrap the kid bit. Would love one now! xx