We’ve reached the end of the month. Where did May go? So here’s my monthly round-up…
With so much time in my editing cave, May has been another month where I’ve read very little I’m afraid. I finished reading the final book in Sharon Booth’s fabulous Kearton Bay series, The Whole of the Moon, and loved it. The book was released on Friday and you can get it here although I’d encourage you to start at the beginning and enjoy the whole series. Sharon writes gorgeous stories of love, friendship, family and community with lots of warmth and humour.
I’m reading a book called Escape to Honeysuckle Hall by Rebecca Raisin at the moment which I was send in advance for a quote. I’m nearly a third of the way through and really enjoying it so far. I read several of Rebecca’s books quite a few years ago while on holiday and thoroughly enjoyed them so it’s lovely to be back reading one of hers.
Line of Duty finished. Let’s not talk about that underwhelming ending eh? And I Can See Your Voice also finished and I really hope it returns for a second season.
I watched the Friends Reunion which I loved. It was funny and emotional and I wish it had been longer as I could happily have watched several hours of it. Friends remains one of my all-time favourite programmes and I loved seeing the genuine friendship and affection the six main cast members had for each other.
I’ve started watching Virgin River on Netflix. I’m only three episodes in but it’s nice gentle viewing so all good so far.
We’ve only managed to squeeze in one film this month: Tenet. Lots of action, lots of explosions, visually impressive… and I have no idea what it was all about. Far too clever for me I’m afraid. The general consensus is you need to watch it a twice and things start to make sense but, with a running time of two and a half hours, I think I’ll pass on that.
I completed my final proofread on the edited version of Charlee and the Chocolate Shop which will be out on 3rd August as Christmas Wishes at the Chocolate Shop. That’s now with production and you can pre-order it here.
I’ve also finished the second round of edits on book 13 – Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café – which is out on 31st August and can be pre-ordered here. It was the toughest of edits but I’m really happy with the way it has turned out and hope readers love it too.
Today, I dived back into the world of Hedgehog Hollow and started on the fourth book in the series – A Wedding at Hedgehog Hollow – which is out on 6th January and can be pre-ordered here. I haven’t written many words yet as I needed to do some preparation around the backstory for one of the main characters, but I will hopefully get about halfway through by the end of June. I wrote the first three Hedgehog Hollow books back to back so, after working on two Whitsborough Bay ones since, I need to reset my head away from the coast and into the countryside!
I started off the month with my birthday and, on 4th May, celebrated the release of Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow. I was a little nervous about it as I’d had a few negative comments on NetGalley but it seems to have gone down a storm with bloggers and readers. I shared my fears on a blog post here.
With a high Kindle chart position of #38 at the time of release thanks to a phenomenal number of pre-orders, it made the Bookstat eBook Top 10 in The Bookseller for sales that week (see blog post here). Four weeks on, it’s still in the Top 200.
The rate at which reviews have been coming in has astonished me. After a fortnight, I was thrilled by 300. By two weeks, there were over 800. After three weeks it had passed 1,000 and a day ahead of the four-week anniversary, there are nearly 1300 reviews/ratings on Amazon, 83% of which are 5-star. Wow! I still can’t quite believe that quantity or quality. Thank you so much everyone who has left a review or rating on whatever platform.
Book 2 – New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow – celebrated passing 2,000 reviews/ratings on Amazon and Starry Skies Over the Chocolate Pot Café passed the 1,500 milestone.
Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow has been on an amazing promotion over on Apple. In the UK and Ireland, it has been the free book of the week and it was selected as the (free) Romance of the week in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA. This has had some amazing results for this book, the other two in the series, and also The Secret to Happiness. I’ll write a separate post about this in the next few days.
I celebrated six years as a published author. I’m certainly in a very different place now to how I was back then. You can read all about it here.
As it was my birthday at the start of the month, we went out for a walk along Scarborough’s South Cliff. It might not sound the most exciting when we live in Scarborough but it’s beautiful and, on a bank holiday weekend, the roads get so snarled up around here, we never venture far from home.
I had my hair cut for the first time in nearly 18 months and had a quick whizz around town afterwards, and I also had my second covid jab. These events should not really feature as the most exciting things I’ve done this month but I think it speaks volumes for the world in which we live in that they do just now.
Other than that, I really haven’t been anywhere. That’s partly to do with being heads down for deadlines but also a bit of nervousness about being out and about again. Or is it nerves? I don’t know. I don’t feel anxious when I’m out so perhaps it’s more about routine. I’m so used to not being out and about that home feels more comfortable. And safer. And less peopley. Really must try to leave the house more than three or four times in June!
The other week I posted my first interview post with Heidi Swain and it went down a storm! If you’ve not seen it yet you can check it out here but today I’m spending some time with the lovely Jessica Redland, another of my auto-buy authors and I’m so excited to share this with you all!
She is now working with Boldwood and has written a number of different books, but all with a little touch of magic. I’ll pop some links to all of my reviews for her books at the end so you can check them out if you want to know more!
Hi Jessica, first off can I just say a massive thank you for letting me interview you and appear on my blog. I’ve discovered your books over lockdown, starting with Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes but I’ve recently been reading the Hedgehog…
Last week I attended a webinar run through the Hedgehog Friendly Campuses at The University of Sheffield and Nottingham Trent University in conjunction with the British Hedgehog Preservation Society.
There were two presentations from students studying at Nottingham Trent and both were fascinating but I wanted to share a few points I picked up from the first one delivered by Lauren Moore.
Lauren’s studies were focusing on hedgehogs on roads, exploring the challenges they face and potential solutions to this. This involved monitoring movement of hedgehogs and also looking at where hedgehogs regrettably lost their lives on the roads.
I thought I’d share a few points that stood out to me about movement of hedgehogs. I was already aware that they covered a lot of ground in a night and that males covered more ground than females, but picked up a few more snippets from this session:
More male hedgehogs are killed on our roads because they travel further looking for food but also looking for mates in mating season (April/May)
In autumn, more female hedgehogs tend to be killed on roads than males because they are having to forage further to look for food and warm nesting materials after having their litter of autumn juveniles
July is sadly a high time of year for roadkill as juveniles leave their mums and fend for themselves, frequently crossing roads
As you’d probably expect, there are more deaths on quieter/regional roads because there are far more hedgehogs living in those more rural areas
10pm-1am are the times when most hedgehog movement takes place
There’s a big problem with isolation caused by all the ongoing building of new houses. This places more and more roads across the green areas where hedgehogs roam reducing their geography. They get isolated within these areas resulting in a reduction in the genetic diversity in that area which is not good
This all seems very doom and gloom and the reduction in habitat is one of the primary causes of reduction in hedgehog numbers.
What can we do to help?
The big thing the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) advocate is getting involved in their amazing Hedgehog Street initiative. You can find information about this on their website here.
There’s loads of great information on the website but one thing they’re eager to get the public involved in is the building of the Hedgehog Map. Whether you see a hedgehog in your garden or your neighbourhood or whether you find one that has been killed, they would like to hear from you.
Building up a map of where there are active hedgehogs and where the main danger spots are can massively help in initiatives around their survival.
You can also become a member of BHPS for a small annual sum (or lifetime membership) and there’s a form on their website found here.
If you’re based in the UK, maybe this bank holiday weekend you could check to see whether hedgehogs can pass between your house and your neighbours’ or perhaps even create a feeding station in your garden. I’ve got a quick reminder of what to feed them below. And remember they need fresh water but not milk as they’re lactose intolerant and it can make them very ill and even kill them.
It is bucketing it down with rain where I am now but I have a lovely offer to brighten the day up.
Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow – the first book in the Hedgehog Hollow series – is on a special offer on AppleBooks at the moment in the following territories:
In the UK, it’s the ‘Free book of the week’. There isn’t an equivalent offer in the other territories but it is part of their ‘Romance of the Week’ FREE promotion! Woo hoo!
So, if you are an Apple user and live in any of those territories, here’s a great opportunity to start at the beginning with this series for FREE!
The offer started on Monday afternoon (24th May) UK-time and runs for a week so, at some point on Sunday/Monday (30th/31st May), depending on your time zone, it will end so do act fast.
The second book in the series – New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow – is also available at a reduced price on Apple:
Australia – $1.99
Canada – $1.99
UK – 99p
USA – $0.99
And you could always consider picking up the third too – Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow – to complete the set so far (book 4 is out in January 2022).
I’m delighted to say that Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow is already #1 in the FREE UK chart, Top 30 in Australia, Top 50 in USA, and Top 100 in Canada so thank you for all the readers who’ve taken advantage of the offer so far.
The hedgehogs are waiting to welcome you to the farm…
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 fulfil 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.
Six years ago today on 23rd May 2015, my debut book was published. Happy anniversary to me!
I’ve written a few posts in the past celebrating all the amazing things that have happened since joining Boldwood Books in 2019 and my challenging journey prior to joining Boldwood. I’m therefore not looking to repeat that. Instead, I’m going to look back at what happened when I first became published as it was one of the most exciting but also one of the most stressful periods of time as one door opened but another closed.
My anniversary would originally have been 3rd June as that’s when my debut full-length novel Searching for Steven was released (now available under the revised title of New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms) but my publisher at the time had asked if I could write a short story to give away for free before publication day. It needed to be linked to the series (Searching for Steven was originally the start of a trilogy).
Well, I tried, but I’m not so good at thinking ‘small’ and ended up writing a novella!
We weren’t going to just give that away so it went up for sale as a 99p eBook on 23rd May 2015. It was called Raving About Rhys and, a few years later, I wrote a follow-up short novel called Callie’s Christmas Wish. These two have since joined together and are now available as Making Wishes at Bay View, the first book in the four-strong ‘Welcome to Whitsborough Bay’ series.
I remembered staying up late the evening before both releases to watch them appearing on my Kindle at midnight which was a very surreal and magical experience. I know I barely slept at all after Searching for Steven was published as that was the big one: my proper, real, full-length debut novel.
These two publication days saw the start of a new era for me as I became a published author. Eek! But late May/early June that year also saw unexpected change.
I was a Learning & Development Advisor for a large food manufacturer at the time and the company had been going through some major restructuring so it had been quite a difficult period. The HR function was already slimmed down to the bones and a couple of job vacancies on the structure chart were removed so the remaining HR staff were given repeated reassurances that there would be no HR redundancies.
Guess who got made redundant?
It was a hell of a shock and the timing of it pretty much took the shine off the release of Raving About Rhys. I’d been out of the office for the week prior to Rhy’s release – which I’ve just realised makes it sound like he was coming out of prison! – running a special community event I’d organised for the apprentices I supported. It had been a huge piece of work which I’d planned to run with a colleague and good friend of mine who did the same role as me but for the more southerly factories. Last minute, she got pulled off it and I was told I had to run it on my own which was a disaster because the whole programme had been planned around two of us so I had to put copious extra hours in – including evenings and the weekend before the event – re-working everything we’d so carefully put together.
Thanks to all that additional hard work, the week with the apprentices went fairly smoothly but it was exhausting. I was so relieved that I’d tagged an extra day’s holiday on after Spring Bank Holiday Monday so I had four days to recover before returning to work.
I got back into the office on the Wednesday – four days after Raving About Rhys was published – and my manager asked if she could see me. She was working in a different building to me so I walked across the site thinking we were meeting for a debrief about the week. As soon her manager came into the room, my stomach sank and I knew something bad was about to happen. I frantically tried to think what it was that I might have done wrong as their sombre faces suggested I was in trouble. Job loss never entered my head.
I cried when they told me I’d been made redundant, but mainly because it was such a shock after the reassurances that nobody in HR would lose their job.
Even worse, I was the only one.
And even worse than that, the decision had been made several weeks previously but they’d wanted me to run the brilliant high-profile event I’d masterminded first!
That was a bit of a punch in the stomach. I did understand from a business perspective why they’d done that, but I was a little insulted that they might think I’d be so unprofessional to run a sub-standard event just because I’d lost my job. If they knew me at all, they’d have known that’s not how I work and, if anything, I’d have pulled out all the stops to make it even bigger and better in order to leave an impressive legacy behind.
What also hurt was that they’d taken my support away from me, meaning I had re-work the entire thing and have the most stressful week ever, when they could have softened the blow of redundancy by letting that week run as planned.
Fortunately, I’d put feelers out with a local recruitment agency during the apprentices week as, although I definitely hadn’t foreseen redundancy, I wasn’t happy with the way things had been heading lately. The apprentice week incident had been the last of many uncomfortable situations.
The day before I was made redundant, while I was on holiday, I’d coincidentally had a conversation with the recruitment agency to explore my CV and consider if there may be an opportunity to join the team, but I had no idea if that would come to anything. I had years of recruitment experience in big and small companies but never in an agency role and I wasn’t sure if my skills would be a good fit.
On Wednesday 3rd June when Searching for Steven was released, I was out of work. I had been invited back to the recruitment agency for a conversation the following week and I had to keep focusing on the hope that it would be a positive outcome otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy my special moment for worry about the future.
I had a launch party for my friends and family on Saturday 6th June and still had no idea whether I had a job. My dream was to write full-time but I was under no illusion about how unlikely this was. I knew the statistics. The vast majority of published authors make less than £10k a year from their writing and most make nowhere near that. I wasn’t with a big publisher. I wasn’t even with an established publisher. If I made £100 in the year, I’d probably be doing well! So it was essential that I found myself another HR job.
The problem with where I live is that HR roles are few and far between. Those that exist tend to be more generalist (dealing with contracts, grievance and discipline, ill health and so on) and that’s not where my expertise (or interest) lay. I was a recruitment and training specialist; roles usually associated with large companies in their head offices and not many companies had HQs in Scarborough. I’d just been made redundant from the biggest!
My launch party was emotional and I remember being in floods of tears a couple of days before when I had it confirmed that the printer had made a mistake and I wouldn’t have any books. A launch party with no books? Well, that was certainly going to be interesting. My publisher had a couple of sample copies that they could send to me so I could at least show what the book looked like and, bless them, they sent me a gorgeous teddy bear to say sorry, but it did mean the day I’d dreamed of for years wasn’t going to be quite as I’d hoped.
Despite the lack of books, the party went reasonably well but it was a boiling hot day and there was no air-con so everyone was melting, especially me.
Hubby was going to take photographs but got so distracted talking to people that he didn’t get a chance so I have very few photos of the event.
My sister in law made an amazing cake and I completely forgot to cut it. I didn’t get to speak to half the guests and I didn’t manage to get any buffet to eat so I was starving and my celebratory wine went straight to my head.
But it was still lovely and I’m so appreciative of everyone who came, some of whom had travelled quite some distance, and all the lovely and unexpected gifts.
The following week, I did get a job offer to join the recruitment consultancy and, after serving my notice on gardening leave (lovely), I started in early July.
Just to close the loop on that, it didn’t work out in the end. Eek!
It was a learning experience on both parts. I might have skills and experience at recruitment but what the role needed was a salesperson and I’m not that. I shed so many tears knowing I was a square peg in a round hole, loving the company and the team, but hating the role itself, knowing that I’d be found out at any moment.
The first few months were a fluke because I was able to secure business with a large manufacturer the agency had been desperate to work with for ages. I’d worked there many years before and one of the managers had rated me highly and was delighted to work with me again. On the back of that, I filled several vacancies, secured bonuses, and was crowned ’employee of the month’.
But once those vacancies were filled, the reality was I couldn’t do the job and that was a horrible position to be in as I’ve always been good at roles I’ve previously held.
There were no other roles around so I couldn’t jump ship, even though I wanted to. The day my manager called me into a room and said ‘this isn’t working’, I also cried. Shock? Yes. Relief? Oh, yes! Time to pack up my desk again…
Fortunately, I’d put feelers out once more. I’d held a very part-time job for several years as an internal verifier for a company who offered the HR professional qualification by distance learning. I’d been scheduled to verify a tutor on a workshop but, when his wife took ill, I was asked if I could train the workshop instead and had the opportunity to meet the manager who managed the tutors as he was tutoring on a workshop that same weekend. I explained my predicament and asked him if they might be looking for any more tutors. It so happened that they would be as the company had expansion plans for later in the year. Yay!
I got straight onto the phone to him while I was waiting for hubby to pick me up after losing my job at the recruitment agency and, within a couple of weeks, I’d secured a tutoring role alongside the verifying role and did that for the next five years.
Last June – roughly five years on from first being published – I marked my final assignment and became a full-time author. This was always my dream although the struggles I had in the first five years as a published author meant I never expected to achieve it. I never gave up hope, though.
To all the readers and bloggers/reviewers who have been with me since the beginning or those who’ve discovered my writing more recently, I cannot thank you enough for putting this square peg firmly in a matching square hole. I’ve finally found my place.
And to my editor Nia and the team at Boldwood Books, you know how grateful I am for being selected as one of the first twenty authors when you first set up and for everything you have done to take my books to an international audience and achieve so many dreams. Thank you doesn’t seem enough.
So I’ll raise a glass (of water – it is only lunchtime after all) and toast a happy sixth anniversary. And it truly is a happy one now that I’ve found the place I was always meant to be.
To quote Mark Twain: “The two most important days in your life are they day you are born and the day you find out why”. The day I became an author was the day I found out why, but this last year or so has been the year I’ve experienced why. The gorgeous reviews, social media posts, and messages from readers about how much my books have meant to them have meant so much to me.
My hubby had canvases made for me on the publication day for Searching for Steven with Rhys’s and Steven’s covers on them and the Mark Twain quote. It hangs above my desk and I look at it several times each day and am so grateful to have found my purpose in life.
Did you know it’s notebook day today – 20th May 2021? Nope, me neither, but a lovely reader/reviewer, Sue, posted on social media about it. Thanks, Sue.
Like so many authors, I’m a bit stationery obsessed. Let’s face it, you don’t need to be an author to have that obsession at all and I’ve been a huge fan of all things stationery-related from a very young age. I get excited looking at a packet of felt-tip pens/highlighters/Sharpies/Stabilo fine points laid out in in a stunning colour transition format. Oh my goodness, I’ve gone to my happy place just thinking about it!
My absolute favourite of favourites is notebooks so I’m thrilled to discover there is a day to celebrate them. Apparently this year is the sixth annual special day. How have I missed this?
So, in celebration of notebook day 2021, I thought I’d share some photos of my collection. It is a hideously dark day and bucketing it down where I am so I apologise if the photos are a little more dull than I might have liked. Hope the fabulousness is still clear.
I’ve written a few bits to bring the collection to life but I completely understand if you just want to scroll through the pics and gaze at their loveliness!
Let’s start by seeing the collection… or the largest part of it. I used to have these on my bookshelves but they were taking up such a huge amount of space that I put them in a crate. The ones leaning at the front all live in the crate but I needed to take them out to get the full effect. If I’ve counted correctly, there are 45 living there!
I use a notebook for each book I’m working on. I develop mind maps for each of my characters which capture details about their appearance, job, family, age, motivations and so on. I add in information about the timeline/critical dates, work through problems, and scribble down research.
They’re mainly A5 sized as that sits nicely in a plastic wallet for each book along various other documents I create as part of my process and I don’t need more space than that for the information I include.
Many have been gifts but most have been ones I’ve bought for myself because there’s something on the front cover which is relevant for a future project or simply because they were gorgeous. And, of course, there are bargains I have picked up in a sale and couldn’t resist at the reduced rate!
I absolutely adore hand-stitched journals. Paperchase carry a stunning range of these and they’re gorgeous for gifts (to myself!!!) Aren’t these just stunning? There isn’t a Paperchase in Scarborough so I have to wait until I visit York to explore. I can, of course, order them online, but I do like to stroke the books with texture.
I’ve been attracted to other notebooks simply because they’re beautiful. I am not a huge fan of ‘boring insides’ i.e. pages that are just white lined or plain paper. I like colour and/or an image. So much more inspiring. The ones in my crate that do have a ‘boring’ inside tend to be the ones I keep rejecting (sorry notebooks).
The ‘Agenda’ one was a Sainsbury’s one. From time to time, they carry lovely ranges of stationery. Not sure about the middle one – maybe Paperchase – and the flowery one is Cath Kidston and the pages are coloured and flowery. Gorgeous.
The one below is a bit bigger than my usual size but isn’t it so pretty? I know it’s only stripes but there’s something about that colour combination that is so beautiful. I bought it in TK Maxx. I’ll be honest. Not my favourite shop for clothes – I don’t have the patience to rummage – but I love the home section and particularly love their stationery. Every so often, I’ll find something gorgeous.
I love the journal-style notebooks. I think these may all have been gifts. The central one definitely was; a gorgeous gift from the hubby. I love the old-fashioned feel from he soft leather and the strap. Mmmm.
Some of my notepads are bought for the cute factor. These ones, for example, are for stroking. I bought the bear for myself and the other two were for my daughter but she never used them and put them on a clear-out pile … so I snaffled them! The fluffy ears may not be the most practical when it comes to writing on the left-sided page but awwww, soooo cute!
I think the ones with ears might have been Clintons and the panda is Paperchase.
I have an eclectic mix of other cute ones. The bottom left two in the picture below were also snaffled from the daughter’s clear-out pile (I think I might have been guilty in attempting to pass on my notebook obsession over Christmases past!)
I don’t know where the top left one is from but it’s a Hallmark one so I’m thinking maybe Clintons too, and Boofle is a Clinton’s bundle of loveliness. Hadn’t realised quite how much Clintons stationery I have! I salute you, Clintons!
The top right one is a range from a Dutch company called Paperclip International which I used to stock when I had my teddy bear shop in 2003-05. I stocked a good range of Paperclip cards, love and friendship postcards (used to sell a stack of those), keyrings and stationery items, and they were really popular. The main characters were the bear and his friend a giraffe although the greetings cards and postcards included a range of other animals such as sheep and pigs. I’ve just looked on their website as I can’t remember what the little bear was called, but they don’t make the range anymore and I got bored after ten minutes of Googling and finding pictures of paperclips instead of the company.
The bottom right is another Clintons one from a collection called Herbie and Friends they had in a few years back. I loved that collection so much but I’m not sure it really took off as I managed to pick up a lot of items on sale the following year, including a soft polar bear (and a bear in the same range for the munchkin), a bag, and several stationery items.
Some notebooks were chosen for nostalgic reasons. I have a feeling the Mickey Mouse and Moomin ones were Sainsbury’s. Holly Hobbie was Clintons. I’m not such a fan of the Mickey Mouse one (sorry Mickey) as, up close, the image looks a tiny bit blurred and that messes with my eyes! I think I might have had an impulsive sale purchase there but I love the other two.
I adore Winnie the Pooh. As a child, I really wasn’t familiar with the work of A A Milne but I fell in love with the characters as an older teen and adult. I stocked traditional characters in my shop and a big range of traditional and colourful Pooh stationery. The notebooks below were not from my shop, though.
I absolutely love Eeyore’s smile on the bottom right one and the phrase: “Some days just don’t let you stay grumpy”. Awww. I have a feeling the top two were Sainsbury’s.
I was a Brown Owl for 7.5 years between 2010-2017 and absolutely loved running a Brownie Pack. Owls were therefore an obvious theme for notepads. A couple were gifts from the Brownies but most were gifts from me to me. I absolutely love the special middle one which was given to me when I stepped down from my perch from a pair of lovely sisters who came to my pack. Isn’t that the most adorable?
The top right one is a Lucy Pittaway design. If anyone has read the acknowledgements in Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café, you’ll know that Lucy’s amazing artwork inspired part of that story.
Hedgehogs, of course, do feature. The bottom right one is another gorgeous Lucy Pittaway from a friend of mine, the top right is from my mum from The Works which she sent me during the first lockdown and felt particularly appropriate.
The big one is my work in progress notebook for the Hedgehog Hollow series. It’s from the Wrendale Designs range which I adore. I started writing Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow using an A5 notebook from the same range but, when I realised I had my series on my hands, I super-sized with an A4 one.
I’m also drawn to notebooks with phrases or sayings on them. I have some lovely ones from TK Maxx saying things like “if you want to write…write” but they’re in small lettering on the cover and it didn’t come out very well on camera.
I love the phrase on the pink one (another TK Maxx one). It felt so applicable to my journey to becoming an author. Ask a group of authors what phrase they often hear when they tell someone they’re an author and I can guarantee most will say this: I’d love to write a book… if only I had the time! None of us had time. Not one iota. But we were the girl (or boy) who decided to go for it. We had a dream and it would never come true if we didn’t do something about it so we created time and went for it.
The purple notepad is one of my absolute favourites for three reasons:
The quote – it’s amazing
What the notepad represents
In 2002-03, I made a major change to my life. I’d ended a bad relationship in 2002 and our house was on the market. A friend gave me a gift voucher for a telephone clairvoyant. Not my thing really but I was at a career crossroads, wondering whether to leave a well-paid job to move back to the north and open a teddy bear shop or to stay put and buy a house on my own in Reading. So I made the call which changed my life. The clairvoyant told me I was going to move home and set up the shop and, not long after doing that, I’d meet the man of my dreams who’d be called Steven.
Is this sounding a little bit familiar? If you’ve read New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms, you’ll recognise this as the premise for the story. I didn’t find Steven when I set up the shop but, from that clairvoyant call, I did find the premise for my debut novel. When I opened Bear’s Pad in 2003, that’s when I started to write. Having the shop also provided the inspiration for All You Need is Love which is partially set in a specialist teddy bear shop.
In New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms,the main character Sarah comes across lots of different Stevens when she takes over her auntie’s florist’s and that was all inspired by my real life experiences when opening Bear’s Pad. You know that red notebook with the little yellow bear from earlier? The rep for Paperclip was called Stephen. I’d made enquiries with the company to stock their products and someone rang me to say a rep was in the area and did I want him to call round. I had such a shock when she gave me his name! Cue me rushing around in a panic because I had no make-up on, my hair was a mess and I was in casual clothes as I’d been cleaning and painting!
Anyway, I said the purple notebook was particularly special for what it represents. When I was getting ready to leave Reading and move home, a good friend of mine came to stay with me and she presented me with the notebook with best wishes for the new chapter of my life. She knew my premise for my debut book and the quote (which I’ve put in a bigger picture below) couldn’t be more appropriate. And I did become what I imagined!
I have a drawer full of small A6-sized notebooks and another drawer full of even smaller ones (not shown) and usually pop one of those in my handbag when I’m out and about as you never know when inspiration might hit. Yes, I know I can use the Notes app on my phone but a phone isn’t stationery and doesn’t get me excited!
And I have another drawer of A4 notebooks. I have future plans for a series set on a farm so I bought the highland cow in anticipation of that. It’s from the same series as the hedgehog one – Wrendale Designs – and I love it lots.
I’ve a bit of an obsession with desk jotters too. Spot the Herbie and Friends one, picked up in the sale…
And, finally, I have a drawer full of unicorn ones as I have a plan for a future project involving them but goodness knows whether I’ll ever find the time to write it. Still, the stationery is ready for if and when I do!
So on notebook day, I think we can safely say I have a notebook obsession! I’m trying to be good. When I’m writing a new book, I do try to select one from the collection rather then buy a new one but it’s hard when they’re not quite right! Some of the ones in the collection have specifically been bought for future projects although I did recently purchase one for a future project, went to put it in the crate, and realised I already had two with that particular theme on them. Oops!
Are you a notebook fan? Do you have a crazy large collection like me? What draws you to them? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.
Two weeks ago today, it was publication day for the third book in the Hedgehog Hollow series – Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow – and I am so in awe of how much readers have taken the hedgehogs to their hearts and wanted to convey my heartfelt thanks.
When I had the idea to set a book in a hedgehog rescue centre, I was only thinking of writing a standalone book but, as is often the case when I’m writing, the setting and the characters burst into life and had so much more to offer than one story. And the hedgehogs had me too. The more I learned about them, the more I wanted to write about them. Just gorgeous. (Photo credit for top photo: Sarah Howell).
It’s quite scary not only committing to writing a sequel but to working on it before knowing whether readers like the first book. Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow was released on 2nd July 2020 and, at that point, all of my books had been set in the fictional seaside town of Whitsborough Bay. I was worried that readers might not like the change of setting and not want to take a trip to Hedgehog Hollow. It never even entered my head that a whole new group of lovely readers might be attracted because of the mention of hedgehogs and would discover my writing through this series instead.
I’d almost finished writing New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow when the first book in the series was released and it was such a huge relief that readers responded really positively.
But when New Arrivals was released in January this year, the fear set in again. Would readers love book 2 as much as book 1? I was particularly nervous about this because my confidence had been knocked by two particularly negative reviews from readers who’d received an advanced reader copy (ARC). I have always been open and honest about the writing process and the highs and lows I’ve experienced along the way so I shared this negative feedback in my acknowledgements at the back of Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow:
“…The first few reviews were gorgeous, but then two came in together that stopped me in my tracks. Both reviewers declared that it had been a big mistake turning the first book into a series and one called book two ‘cringeworthy’ with ‘nothing to add, just padding’ before concluding that she was ‘very disappointed’. Wow! How was I supposed to continue writing a third book when I’d read something like that? The answer is, I couldn’t. I was creatively paralysed for days. I’d pitched the idea to my editor for a fourth book by that point but was now questioning whether I should even finish writing the third one. Yes, I’ll admit it, those reviews made me cry.”
I always read the acknowledgements but I’m conscious I do this with my author head on, curious about the journey the author has been on, where they got their idea (if they share that detail) and getting to know them a bit better. I have often wondered whether readers look at them.
Some certainly do because I have received so many gorgeous messages from readers and have read reviews which specifically address what I put in my acknowledgements. I’ve been quite overwhelmed by the outpouring of kindness, asking me to never let the negativity get to me as those readers love my work and don’t ever want me to stop writing! I appreciate all of the lovely comments I’ve received so very much. In a world where you can be anything… be kind. And those readers absolutely have been and it has been so touching.
While I know and understand that there will always be readers who don’t like what I write – we all like different things after all – I suffer quite badly from imposter syndrome and comments like this really play to my insecurities. I continue to work hard on this and, with every kind message and review, I’m finding it easy to mute the voice that says, ‘You have no right to be here, your recent success is a fluke, you’re not good enough, and you’ve just been found out!’ Gosh, I hate that voice!
Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow went up as an ARC earlier this year and, funnily enough, the same two reviewers I’d referred to in my acknowledgements came back for more, despite having hated book two. They both gave me a 4-star rating this time although they still choose to have a dig about book 2: ‘I love all of this author’s work. Wasn’t a fan of book 2 in this series but this book certainly makes up for it. Absolutely gripping!’ and ‘I will literally read anything by this author. Book 2 of this series was a bit of a let down and after the first couple of chapters of this book I wasn’t holding out much hope. BUT things then began to come good and I suddenly found it was 1am and I really needed to sleep but couldn’t until it was finished!’ Perhaps a bit of a backhanded compliment, praising book 3 while still criticising book 2 but I’ll take it and keep focusing on the lovely parts!
I did get some negative ARCs from readers who struggled to get into the story but they mainly seemed to be from those who hadn’t read the first two books. The blurb did make it clear it was the third book in a series and readers would have a richer reading experience starting at the beginning so I wasn’t too concerned by those.
Overall, I didn’t get as positive a reaction from the book 3 ARCs as I’d received for the first two books so I approached publication day for Family Secrets with some trepidation once more. Especially as I knew how much one of the main characters, Chloe, was not a fan favourite.
I have, however, been blown away by the response since release date.
Not only did this book gather the most pre-orders I’ve had on any other book – something which helped place me in a chart in industry specialist publication, The Bookseller (see above), for the first time ever – but the hedgehogs and I have received more than 800 reviews/ratings in just two weeks. With 83% of those at 5-star and a 4.8 star average, it is also my joint-best reviews score on Amazon (tied with Charlee and the Chocolate Shop whose reviews have been transferred onto the fresh version coming out in August under the new title of Christmas Wishes at the Chocolate Shop). Absolutely thrilled with this!
At this rate of reviews, I think we could well be at 1,000 within a month of release but… ssshhh… I didn’t say that as I don’t want to jinx it!
Speaking of milestones, New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow has passed a massive 2,000 reviews/ratings milestone recently and the hedgehogs are holding big celebrations. Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow just needs 130 at the time of writing to hit that milestone too.
As well as the lovely comments about the story and my writing that I see in reviews, something that absolutely makes my day is when a reader comments on what they’ve learned about helping hedgehogs. I’ve had readers going out and checking their gardens to make sure they’re accessible for hogs, setting up feeding stations, leaving out food and water, and even volunteering at a local rescue centre on the back of reading my books. Wow! How amazing and humbling is that?
Since publication day, the third instalment of Hedgehog Hollow has held fast in the Kindle Top 100 to which is absolutely amazing so thank you to everyone who pre-ordered or and downloaded across the past fortnight.
Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow is now finally out on Audible as of today so thank you to all those who have been patiently waiting for that. Woo hoo!
It also appears to be properly available as a paperback via Amazon although it’s showing a UK price of £9.99. The RRP is £8.99 which is showing on the Waterstones website and you can ask at any good book shop and they’ll be able to order it in for £8.99. Or if you want a signed copy, get in touch with me via DM on any of my social media platforms. It’s £12.99 including UK p&p for any one book but I’m offering signed copies of the series so far for £35 including UK p&p.
Thank you again for all the hedgehog love. Have an amazing week.
Eleven days on from the publication day for Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow and the blog tour has drawn to an end.
An enormous thank you to Rachel Gilbey from Rachel’s Random Resources for organising the tour and to the amazing thirty-three bloggers/reviewers who took part.
I was a little apprehensive about this tour. I love this book but, as I wrote on a recent blog post (which you can read here), I knew it was a risk writing a book where one of two main characters was someone readers had (justifiably) disliked from the previous two books. It was fascinating reading the thoughts from those who’d done a massive about-turn on that particular character and now love her to those who now understand her but still don’t like her which, as I stated in my blog post, was what I expected. The great thing is they all seemed to love the story and I am so grateful for that feedback.
The cliffhanger at the end of the book was mentioned in nearly all reviews. Mostly it generated excitement (phew!), a lot of urging me to hurry up and release book 4 (sorry – not written yet!), although there were a couple of reviewers who hate cliffhangers which is something I’d never even considered until I’d finished writing this and read some of the early reviews on NetGalley. Every day is a school day, as they say!
HOT TIP! For anyone who is thinking of reading this book, don’t read the epilogue if you don’t like cliffhangers as it is purely there as a tease for the next book. The story being told in Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow does finish at the end of the book so it’s not a case of the book not properly ending so please don’t worry you’ll be left hanging with an incomplete story.
Anyway, back to the blog tour, not everyone gives ratings. Some sleuthing means I can track some down on NetGalley or Amazon but I’ve been a little less successful (or rather had a little less time to do it) so I have 11 ratings I’m unsure about but, of the remaining 22, there are 15 x 5-stars, 2 x 4.5, 4 x 4-star and 1 x 3-star, the latter being given because of the cliffhanger. The hedgehogs and I are very happy with that.
Some reviews made me laugh out loud for their humorous observations or verdicts on characters, and others were so lovely and touching, I was close to tears.
It’s especially wonderful reading about when readers have read the full series, are loving seeing the characters grow, and talk fondly about wishing they could be at Hedgehog Hollow right now. You and me both!
I also had a couple of reviews from bloggers not on the tour and really appreciate the 5 and 4.5 star ratings from them (Echoes in an Empty Room and Carla Loves to Read).
It’s so kind of all these bloggers to take the time to read the book and share their views with their followers on their blog/Insta/Twitter/all or any combination of these. Reviews and recommendations can make such a difference to the success of a book and the hedgehogs and I are fully appreciate of all the book love we’ve received over the past eleven days.
Watch out for a thank you video on Twitter really soon.