The one where I went to Boldwood’s fabulous summer party

Boldwood Books opened for submissions at the start of February 2019, announced their first twenty authors in mid-June and the first books were published in August of the same year. By the time we’d grown sufficiently to justify trying to get everyone together for a party, a certain pandemic had taken hold and we were all plunged into lockdown.

Over the past couple of years, Boldwood have hosted several Zoom parties for their authors but Monday night was the very first opportunity for us all to meet in person and what a fabulous evening it was. More on that in a bit.

As Scarborough to London is a bit of a trek for a three-hour party, I always try to tag on something extra when I make the journey. Two of my Write Romantic buddies, Jo Bartlett and Helen Rolfe, are part of Team Boldwood too. With so many people to meet on the evening, I suggested we meet for lunch and a catch-up. Trains were fortunately running on time so we had plenty of time for lunch and a cuppa afterwards… although we all forgot to take any photos!

I’d ordered a couple of new dresses, one to wear at the party and the other to wear at the gala dinner at the RNA’s conference in July, so I had the choice between orange and pink. I went for the orange one for Boldwood’s party and wish I could claim I’d done it because orange is Boldwood’s brand but I hadn’t been that clever! Although maybe subconsciously I chose orange over pink for that reason. Yes. that sounds good. That’s my story!

The party was being held at Fulham Palace and many of the #TeamBoldwood authors were staying in the nearby Putney Bridge Premier Inn so we’d arranged to meet in the bar there at 5.30pm to have a quick drink and wander along to the venue for a 6pm start. It was a really pleasant walk through the park although we were a bit late leaving the bar so there was no opportunity to stop for photos.

Fulham Palace was a lovely venue although I was too busy chatting to explore properly. It was a chance to meet the full team from Boldwood although I didn’t get a chance to meet a couple of the editors so must rectify that next time.

I met some of the team from ISIS Audio and Ulverscroft who create and distribute our audiobooks, our main contact at Kobo, and Boldwood’s web designer. I also had the chance to meet Sue Lamprell who has been the proofreader on every single one of my books so far. What an absolute delight it was to meet Sue after working on so many books together and only ‘speaking’ by email. Wish I’d taken a photo! Do you sense a theme building here? I used to be brilliant at taking photos at events but after a couple of years of barely going anywhere, I seem to have got out of the habit! Anyone else finding that?

The party was a great opportunity to catch-up with authors I’d met before, those who I’ve known for a couple of years via Facebook and also some of the newest whose addition to Team Boldwood was only announced that morning!

The three hours passed too soon and it was time to say goodbye. There were so many other people I’d have loved to speak to so hopefully next time. There were lots of authors who couldn’t make it due to holidays, distance or illness so I’m looking forward to meeting them at another point too.

A huge thank you to Amanda Ridout, our CEO, and the rest of Team Boldwood for hosting such a lovely, warm, welcoming event. I’m already looking forward to the next one.

I accosted a security guard and asked if he could take a photo of a group of us leaving. It was very tempting to jump into the fountain and recreate a Friends moment. We managed to restrain ourselves!

L-R Jenna Houston (BW Marketing Exec), Gemma Rogers, Nia Beynon, Debbie Young, Jessica Redland, Helen Rolfe, Jo Bartlett, Laura Kingston (BW Sales Assistant)

We received a gorgeous notebook on the way out, celebrating Boldwood’s recent amazing award, and a pen, earphones, bag and thank you card from Ulverscroft. Love a bit of stationery and a goodie bag!

My journey home on Tuesday was a little challenging. I received an email before I boarded my train in Kings Cross to say the train for the York to Scarborough stretch had been cancelled. The trains only run hourly so my hubby checked online that it was definitely cancelled (it was) and offered to come through and pick me up. I got off the train at York, checked the departures board, and it turned out my connection wasn’t cancelled after all! We then got massively held up on the way home to detour round an accident on the A64 which had closed the road so I didn’t get home much before I would have done if I’d stayed at York and waited for the next train (not that I’d have needed to wait when my original one ran after all!)

Hedgehog Hollow 6 had a deadline of Tuesday night so the lost time was a bit stressful and I ended up working a really late one trying to finish the book. I didn’t quite make it – ran out of brain power – so I submitted it without the last chapter complete then rose at 6am to finish the rest. Edits will be back to me for next week. I can’t quite believe I’ve finished the series although I don’t think it will feel like I’ve properly finished it until I’ve completed the edits phase. It’ll definitely hit me then!

Wishing you a fabulous end of week/weekend.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

The one where the hedgehogs are in some amazing deals right now on Apple, Kobo, Kindle & Audible

It’s an exciting time for the hedgehogs at the moment as there are various great promotional deals for them. Let’s start with Kobo…

If you’re a Kobo listener and haven’t tried any of the Hedgehog Hollow series, Kobo are running a special ‘Spring into a New Series’ deal in the UK and ‘Fall into a New Series in Australia and New Zealand. As the first in the Hedgehog Hollow series, Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow is included at a discounted price. In the UK, this is 99p.

This offer ends on 23rd May.

The next deal is from Apple Books in the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, USA and Canada.

The eBook of the fourth novel in the series, A Wedding at Hedgehog Hollow, is part of Apple’s ‘Romance Tropes’ promotion running until 28th May. This sees a price drop in all these territories. In the UK, this is 99p.

And because Amazon tend to price-match, the price has also dropped on this eBook on Kindle UK. I suspect it will run at this price for at least as long as the Apple promotion runs but I wouldn’t delay, just in case…

And for those who love listening, A Wedding at Hedgehog Hollow is in the Audible UK ‘2 for 1 Sale’ starting today and running until Sunday 22nd May…

As with all their week-long promotions, a helpful countdown shows on Audible showing how long there is left to take advantage of this. It’s lovely to see Jo Bartlett’s A Spring Surprise for the Cornish Midwife featuring in the same promotion so there’s a great pairing you might like to go for. Jo’s series is fabulous and I’m actually reading this one myself at the moment – also the fourth in the series – and loving it.

I’ve had some amazing chart positions on Audible recently, with several Top 100 placings for my audiobooks on offer but also for my newest release Spring Tides at The Starfish Café which has been extra special as that wasn’t on a promotion. I’ll therefore be eagerly checking the charts later this afternoon to see how high those hedgehogs scamper, which isn’t ideal as I’m on a deadline for writing the sixth Hedgehog Hollow book this weekend so really need to be head down.

Please do spread the word if you know of anyone who might be interested in any of these deals and thank you so much if you take advantage of any of them yourself.

Don’t forget that Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow is FREE via Audible Plus, Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow (book 3) has just gone into The Works, and all my Hedgehog Hollow books (and all my Whitsborough Bay books too) are FREE if you’re a Kindle Unlimited subscriber.

And although it has nothing to do with hedgehogs, I just have to pause to say a huge congratulations to Ukraine for winning the Eurovision Song Contest last night and for Sam Ryder for being phenomenal in representing the UK and coming second. What an absolute star he was last night.

Have a fabulous Sunday.

Big hedge-hugs
Jessica xx

The one where Family Secrets has an extra special reason for celebrating its one-year book birthday

Today – 4th May – is the one-year book birthday of the release of the third book in the Hedgehog Hollow series, Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow. And, as it’s Star Wars Day today – May the fourth be with you – I couldn’t resist a photo shoot with my adorable Grogu alongside copies of the book and a couple of knitted hedgehogs. Grogu is even the right colour for accessorising with the book!

The knitted hedgehogs are from the talented team at Wolds Hedgehog Rescue and did contain creme eggs. But not for long!

It’s an extra special one-year birthday anniversary for Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow because it has just gone into The Works! It appeared online today and you can grab it here for £2 or as part of the 3 for £5 paperbacks offer.

Paperbacks will also be going into branches of The Works so should be on the shelves this week/next week depending on when your local store takes deliveries.

I love this story and took a risk with it because it is partly narrated by our heroine Samantha and partly by her cousin Chloe who readers hate … and for good reason as she hasn’t treated our Samantha very well at all. By the end of this book, some readers end up loving Chloe, some like her and others still hate her but understand her better. For me, this was never about trying to get readers or listeners to like her; it was about me telling an interesting and unexpected story.

It amuses me when I see reviews for either this book or others in the series saying that the reader still doesn’t like Chloe no matter how much I’m trying to convince them to do so. I’m not trying to do anything of the sort! How a reader feels about Chloe is entirely their choice. What I’m doing is showing that antagonists aren’t necessarily all bad by presenting Chloe’s positives alongside her flaws. I imagined her at the start as a Marmite character – love her or hate her – and that’s exactly what she’s become. Do I love her or hate her? That’s my secret!

This is the third book and can be followed as a standalone story but I would urge readers/listeners to dive into the series from the start to fully understand the characters and the journeys they go on. The order is Finding Love… New Arrivals… Family Secrets… A Wedding… and we have Chasing Dreams at Hedgehog Hollow out next month and one more to come in early September to conclude the series.

This book does end on a whopper of a cliffhanger so be warned!

If you do see a copy of Family Secrets in your local branch of The Works, please do take a shelfie and tag me into it in social media as I don’t think the novelty of seeing my books out in the wild will ever fade.

Big hedge-hugs
Jessica xx

The one where I turned fifty

It was my birthday yesterday (1st May) and I hit the half-century which doesn’t feel real because I still don’t feel any older than I did at thirty, although my body would beg to differ. I try to avoid sitting on the floor these days as it’s touch and go as to whether I can get up again!

I don’t normally go big for birthdays and I’m not one for big nights out drinking but specifically wanted to celebrate turning fifty, especially when so many people I know (my husband and older brother included) were unable to celebrate big occasions during lockdown.

With going away to the Lake District for a fortnight over Easter, we didn’t want to venture very far. We have two Forest Holidays sites near us called Cropton and Keldy – both just 45 minutes drive away – and we’ve been to them both in the past when our daughter was young and we could stay out of season (cheaper!) Even though a bank holiday weekend was going to be pricey, we decided to go for it with it being a special occasion.

Look what I found in the gift shop in the reception! I had to have him! His name’s Bramble and he is soooo adorable.

The great thing about going on holiday somewhere so local is getting there quickly and being able to enjoy your evening rather than spending it travelling. We were there as soon as check-in started and we had a little wander round the site before having a relaxing evening in our log cabin with food delivered from the on-site restaurant.

Saturday morning – the day before my birthday – dawned with beautiful blue skies and sunshine. We decided to go for a walk round nearby village Thornton-le-Dale then visit Pickering, get some lunch, and take it up to the castle.

I’ll admit it does feel a little weird being on ‘holiday’ and visiting places that we regularly visit anyway but the point was to get away and have a relaxing time. If we’d stayed at home, I might have taken my birthday off but I’d have worked for the rest of the weekend.

Thornton-le-Dale is such a picturesque village and it was gorgeous to see ducklings on the river and the pond. So cute. There are some stunning houses and I always joke they’d be where an author would live as the views are inspiring. I doubt they come on the market very often and, if they did, they’d be way out of our price bracket but it’s nice to have dreams.

We’ve not visited Pickering Castle as a family before so it was great to explore the ruins and the grounds and generally enjoy the sunshine. Pickering Castle is an English Heritage site and you can find out more about it here. It’s a lovely place to visit and the views are fabulous.

We returned to the cabin with time for a Cornish cream tea which my fabulous friend and super talented author, Sharon Booth, sent me, followed by a sneaky glass of wine in the hot tub before getting ready to go out for a birthday tea.

On the evening, we met my parents at a nearby pub. They’d brought their caravan to a site in the area so they could see me for my birthday. The person who’d taken the booking over Facebook Messenger hadn’t written it down which was a bit fraught as they were full but they made space for us, thank goodness.

I won’t name the pub as these things happen and so much of the hospitality industry is struggling with lack of staff but it was a lesson learned for me never to make a booking for any pub via Messenger in future. I only did it that way because it was out of hours but I’ll wait and do it via the phone when the pub is open going forwards!

The following day – my actual birthday – it was pouring when we woke up and it put a real dampener on things (literally). It had been such a gorgeous day before and the thought of traipsing through the forest in the rain didn’t appeal.

We decided to take a trip to the market town of Malton but hadn’t paused to think about whether the shops would be open on a Sunday. Most weren’t. So we had a walk round (mainly closed) Malton although the good news was it had stopped raining and I gazed longingly in the gift shop windows.

I wanted some cakey loveliness and had been hoping to find some in a nice independent bakery but there were none open. We nipped into a farm shop and a garden centre on the way back to the cabin but it was mission unsuccessful. Hubby, bless him, did a detour via the high street in Pickering so we could nip into the cafe/bakery where we’d bought lunch the day before – Russell’s Cafe & Traditional Bakery. They had a window full of the most delicious-looking slices of cake. They were on a deal where it was cheaper to buy three but the munchkin wanted something not in the offer so, after asking for hubby’s, I had to pick two for me. It would have been very wrong not to! And, oh my goodness, they were delicious. If you go to Pickering, definitely visit Russell’s. The sandwiches for lunchtime the day before were delicious too.

We returned to the cabin and decided that, as it was dull, we’d relax and watch a film but we couldn’t find anything we particularly fancied. We went for the recent re-make of The Secret Garden starring Colin Firth and Julie Walters but it’s a slow story and I was getting fidgety. I will watch the end but we put it off and went for a walk along one of the forest trails instead although I was a bit full after my double-cake indulgence and could probably have been rolled round the trail.

The munchkin and I had time for another dip in the hot tub, this time with some champagne (for me) before Mum and Dad came over to the cabin on the evening to look around and join us for a birthday tea. They brought a balloon and cake with them which was lovely.

We had planned to do something today (bank holiday Monday) but it was another dull day and we decided that, as we still hadn’t settled back in after our Easter trip, it would make more sense to get back home and get organised. I only have a couple of weeks left to write my final Hedgehog Hollow book and I’m only a fifth of the way through it so I have a lot to do. Catching up today (or trying to) means I can be head down from tomorrow. Or at least that’s the plan!

I couldn’t really think of anything I wanted for my birthday but my Kindle is on the way out so I got a new Paperwhite and hubby and daughter surprised me with a lovely new watch. From my parents and brothers, I got some money to buy a teddy bear but instead treated myself to a limited edition Herdy while I was in the Lakes. It’s made by Merrythought who are a longstanding UK-based teddy bear manufacturer (so nearly a bear!) and I’m completely in love with him.

A huge thank you to everyone who sent cards, gifts, flowers and best wishes, helping to make my fiftieth a special day.

Hope you’ve had a lovely bank holiday weekend and, if you’ve worked it, hope you get a break soon.

On a final note, even though it’s my birthday, I’m giving away some gifts. The wonderful The Friendly Book Community over on Facebook have been celebrating their first birthday with some amazing giveaways across the week donated by the lovely Admin team and some of the authors. If you haven’t already joined this group and you love books, you might want to do so, as it’s a warm and friendly space to be. And then you can be in with a chance to win one of my bundles. There are 4 for UK-based readers and 1 for overseas readers. You can find the group here and you have until Friday to be in for a chance of winning on my giveaways.

Big birthday hugs
Jessica xx