The blog tour for Summer Nights at The Starfish Café officially ended on Friday. There were a few reviews still to come in so I thought I’d give it a few days before my thank you blog post in case they came in over the weekend. Also, with my big news weekend, I didn’t want my thank you to get overshadowed.
Across 16 days, with three stops per day, I had one promotion post and 45 reviews. All those who gave ratings awarded the book a 4, 4.5 or 5-star review, mainly the latter. which was amazing. Some of the reviews were so lovely – full of praise for the book, the series, and everything else I’ve written – that I was on the verge of tears at several points reading them.
I personally wouldn’t recommend anyone reads the final book without having read the other two as they miss the character development and the threads that follow across the series, so it’s always a little nerve-racking to see reviews starting with a declaration that they haven’t read anything by me before, but those who were new to the series and my writing thankfully responded very positively. Phew!
Thank you to every single reviewer who took part and to those who shared their reviews independent of the blog tour. I really appreciate the time it takes to read the book and share your thoughts. Thanks also to the amazing Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for organising it.
At the time of writing this post, we’re a couple of days off three weeks since Summer Nights was released and it’s nearly at 750 reviews/ratings on Amazon already which warms my heart so much. So thank you also to all the kind readers and listeners who have shared their love for the series finale already.
I’ve had several comments from readers and reviewers who’ve loved the series but are sad for it to end. I was sad to end it too as this is my personal favourite of all my series. There’s something about the setting of The Starfish Café and the characters there which has completely captured my heart. However, there’s plenty more to come from Whitsborough Bay so I’m sure the café and some of the characters will crop up again in other stories. Nothing firm planned yet, but I do love a cameo!
If you haven’t taken a trip to The Starfish Café yet and are a little hesitant to start because the first book – Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café – has snow on the cover, please don’t let that put you off. It is set in winter and Christmas is mentioned but it’s not a Christmas book. Most of the activity happens in November and early December. Book 2 – Spring Tides at The Starfish Café– is set across spring and summer and this final one is set in the summer, as the name would suggest.
Right now, you can pick up all three for your Kindle for a couple of pennies over £7. What a bargain for hours and hours of escapism and entertainment!
Hope you’ve enjoyed a selection of the quotes from the tour. If you were on the tour and your review quote isn’t included here, please don’t read anything into that – I’ve just picked a random selection and tried to get a mixture of themes in the quotes.
Thank you again, everyone. Next tour will be in July for the start of my new Escape to the Lakes series so hope to see some of you on that.
If you follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, you may have already spotted my news today but, in case you don’t, it has been a BIG NEWS day so let me tell you more…
I’m thrilled to announce that, as of the end of March 2023, I reached a milestone of ONE MILLION copies sold through Boldwood Books. Eek!
This is worldwide sales across all formats – digital, print and audio – for my first eighteen books. My first Boldwood release, The Secret to Happiness, came out in early September 2019 and my eighteenth was Healing Hearts at Bumblebee Barn which came out in late January this year. Summer Nights at The Starfish Café was released in April so is not included in this milestone, but is already helping me work towards the next one.
For any aspiring writers or struggling authors reading this and thinking, “A million? That could never happen to me,” stop right there because it could! I’ve been looking back over my sales from my pre-Boldwood days. If you don’t know my journey already, a quick recap is that I secured a publishing contract in 2014 and my publisher released three books and a novella between May 2015 and August 2016… then ceased trading. With my rights back as an indie author, I found it almost impossible to make any impact and that was my life for several years, hoping the next book would be the one to make the difference, despairing at the lack of sales.
During my time with my original publisher, I sold 2,467 copies. In my indie years from November 2016 – August 2019, I sold 4,079 copies so that’s 6,546 in 4 years and 4 months across 9 titles. My Christmas releases did reasonably well, but I had days on end where I’d sell no copies at all. Here’s an example of my sales dashboard from July 2019 – the month before my first Boldwood release. This was a common sight for me.
For full disclosure, I did have an additional income stream from books borrowed as part of the Kindle Unlimited programme but the reporting on that is by pages read so it’s not so easy to equate into book sales. I did far better on KU than I did with eBook sales but wasn’t setting the world alight with those either. I’m sure you can imagine how disheartening it was looking at 23 sales over 9 titles, 4+ years into my publishing journey.
When I joined Boldwood, they gradually acquired, edited and re-released my backlist and, as they started to find me a readership, my indie sales did increase, as you can see on the right of that graph where the bar chart is rising.
Going back to the sales struggles as an indie, it’s hard to keep going when you know you’re barely drawing any income and hardly anybody is reading your stories. What’s the point? Why keep going? Why spend every spare moment creating when nobody will get to enjoy the story? I know the answer to this! It’s because it doesn’t have to always be like that. Things can change. It takes a considerable amount of courage to hang on and keep going, but wonderful things can happen if you do. Like they did to me.
When I saw an advert on social media to say that Boldwood Books were forming and would be open for submissions from the start of February 2019, I was reeling from a small round of rejections and so close to giving up. “Just one more submission,” I told myself. If that was unsuccessful, I had some very serious thinking to do.
But it was successful. The Secret to Happiness was a slow-burner at first but things really kicked off in spring 2020 when my Welcome to Whitsborough Bay series was rapid-released across a two-month period. Making Wishes at Bay View was picked up for Apple’s Free Book of the Month and New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms went into Amazon’s Prime Reading and shot up the charts to my highest UK position to date – #14. I’d made it!
And a few years later, I’m celebrating a million sales. It doesn’t feel real! It’s as though it’s happening to someone else and I think that’s because hitting a million sales was never on my bucket list. It was the thing that other incredibly successful authors did and way out of reach. Someone pinch me! Although not too hard because I bruise like a peach.
Boldwood invited for afternoon tea at Fortnum and Mason to celebrate this milestone and my second piece of news. We’d hoped we might hit the million by the end of February but were a little short, but it was the best timing for celebrating anyway as I was away over the Easter fortnight and Boldwood were at London Book Fair last week so April wasn’t an option.
I’ve never been to Fortnum and Mason before so that was a very special treat and how amazing was afternoon tea? Mmm. I could eat it all again right now! I was joined by Amanda (Founder and CEO), Claire (Head of Marketing) and Nia (Publishing / Sales & Marketing Director but also my editor) for celebrations and a strategy discussion for the years ahead.
I was given my own special celebration cake and also a beautiful commemorative glass plaque which now has pride of place on my desk. Because I hadn’t quite hit the million, it has been sitting in boxes in my office for over a month so it has been wonderful to get it out and displayed. Isn’t it lovely?
Boldwood run something called the 100k Club. When a book sells 100k copies, the author is sent a card welcoming them to the club and a celebratory gift, which is so nice. I’ve been celebrating several of my Boldwood colleagues joining the club, some with two or even three books, and I thought I was going to join them a couple of years back when sales of Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow were doing brilliantly, but then it really slowed down. I can’t believe I’ve hit a million sales first – that was never on the radar.
I’m really hoping the hedgehogs will make it into the 100k Club by the end of the year as it’s still my bestselling book. And how close is it at 95,000!!!!
Here’s my top three bestsellers, which is actually four books because two are tied. It’s a battle between Whitsborough Bay and Hedgehog Hollow!
If you’d like to listen to my video announcement earlier today, you can catch it on Book and Tonic’s Facebook page here.
THE BOOK DEAL
One million sales wasn’t the only thing we were celebrating during our afternoon tea. We were also celebrating the signing of my third contract with Boldwood Books – for SIXTEEN NEW BOOKS!
Yes, that’s pretty much the reaction I had when I was offered it!
I joined Boldwood in March 2019 with a nine-book publishing deal made up of five backlist titles and four new books but this had a couple of addendums to it to cover my entire backlist, making it a twelve-book deal. The backlist titles were released fairly quickly so it wasn’t long before I approached the end of that first contract and signed a second twelve-book deal in October 2020.
I’m still working through that deal. The Start of Something Wonderful– the first book in the Escape to the Lakes series – will be book 20, and my Christmas release (which I’m writing now) will be book 21 so I have another three books outstanding after that, taking me to my summer 2024 release. It’s therefore quite early for us to have had discussions about another contract but it was triggered by my Escape to the Lakes series. We anticipate this being a long series – maybe 10, 12, 15 books (assuming there’s reader love for it) – but I could only fit in two of them into my current contract and it felt a little strange to be writing a series with longevity without a contract to cover it. So we had a discussion about it earlier this year.
My husband was convinced I’d be offered another twelve-book deal but I didn’t think I would, having already had two of those. I was thinking maybe six or eight although, secretly, I’d have been a little disappointed. When my amazing editor Nia offered sixteen, I nearly fell off the chair! I got really emotional on the phone that Boldwood believed in me so much to offer such a big contract. Sixteen might sound scary to some but, as I write four books a year, it’s only a four-year contract which doesn’t sound quite so daunting as it would if I wrote one or two books a year.
You can catch my video announcement about this on Book and Tonic’s Facebook page here.
What can you expect from the rest of this contract? Things can change, but this is the current plan:
The Start of Something Wonderful – Escape to the Lakes book 1 – July 2023
A return to Castle Street at Christmas time – September 2023
Escape to the Lakes book 2 – January 2024
Bumblebee Barn sequel 2 – April 2024
Long awaited (and overdue!) sequel to Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café
What can you expect from the next contract?
Plenty more from the Escape to the Lakes series
Another Bumblebee Barn sequel
More books set on Castle Street
More books in Whitsborough Bay
The start of a cosy crime series (anticipated for spring 2025 (and not 2015 as I say in the video!)) but, if it’s a disaster, this might not happen! I’m hoping all will come together, though
I’ve got a couple of part-started books which I’m excited to return to and really look forward to bringing you more from the Yorkshire Coast, the Yorkshire Wolds and the Lake District.
And, finally, there’s a limited time offer on Healing Hearts at Bumblebee Barn.If you’re a Prime reader (globally), you can read it for FREE and, like all my books, it’s in Kindle Unlimited, but for eBook users, it’s 99p right now and equivalent in some other territories so do check your eBook provider if you’re overseas as you might be able to bag yourself a bargain.
I love this book and readers seem to love the setting and characters, which is why we have sequels planned when this was meant to be a standalone!
While I’m on the subject of deals, just a heads up if you’re an Audible UK subscriber, you can pick up four of my audiobooks for £2.99 each right now, but do act fast as the deal ends just before midnight tonight (Saturday 22nd April). They ones on offer are:
A Wedding at Hedgehog Hollow
Chasing Dreams at Hedgehog Hollow
Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café
Coming Home to Seashell Cottage
Wow! Big blog post! To finish, I want to say a HUGE THANK YOU to everyone who has supported my writing. None of the news I’m sharing today would be possible without you, the readers, who have bought/borrowed/downloaded/streamed my books in whatever format. I’m so appreciative to you for helping keep me as a full-time author, able to share all the stories and characters with you who are buzzing round my mind.
And, of course, thank you to the amazing team at Boldwood Books for saying ‘yes’ to that submission and completely changing my life.
Welcome back to the second part of my Easter break blog. In the last post, I talked about my epic trek up Blencathra, the descent of which broke me. The following day, I managed a wander into Keswick – shuffling rather than walking – to look round the gift shops while every single part of me ached. It was a fairly relaxing low-key day but we had another walk planned for the Wednesday.
When we’d visited the Tourist Information Office and found out about the Festival of Lights, we also learned about the Keswick to Threlkeld walk along the old railway line so decided to give it a try, especially as being a former railway line meant it was going to be flat. I definitely wasn’t ready for another hill!
The weather wasn’t the best – cool, dull, with scattered showers, but it was a lovely walk. Starting from Fitz Park and finishing at the village of Threlkeld beneath Blencathra, it’s a 5.5km walk (3.5 miles) each way although there are variations making it longer/more challenging.
The route is for walkers and cyclists and is a smooth path throughout so would suit wheelchair/mobility scooter users. It’s nice and varied, going through woodland, passing fields, running alongside and over the River Greta, with bridges, tunnels and a couple of waterfalls. I loved the wooden seats at various points, some adult-sized and some lower for children, to take in the views.
Despite being the Easter holidays, it wasn’t particularly busy – the weather probably putting many off – so it was a lovely peaceful walk.
I confess that my muscles were really aching by the time we got to the end and an incline into Threlkeld village and I was also really cold at this point but didn’t have any more layers with me. I was looking forward to some lunch and warming up in the village hall. Unfortunately, we hesitated too long at the entrance as to whether to go inside with the dog or keep her outside on the terrace with her being wet. A couple behind us snuck past us… and nabbed the last table inside so that was the decision made. You snooze, you lose!
The café at the village halls set up as a community interest project owned by the charity who owns and manages the village hall. The staff were really friendly and there looked to be a delicious array of cakes. I went for a hot chocolate and a pancake and bacon stack planning to return for cake, but I was full after them so didn’t get to sample the baked goods.
I quite like a circular route and, as there were signs for Castlerigg Stone Circle, I suggested we go back via there instead of the way we’d come. I didn’t really think this decision through as it meant a lot of walking uphill, but it was through lovely countryside.
I love the stone circle and it’s fabulous that you can move among the stones, but it never ceases to amaze me how oblivious people can be when they’re at a public place like this. Everyone wants to take photos and you know that you’re going to need to be very patient and very lucky to catch even a section of the stones with no people in the frame, but I was amazed to see a cyclist wearing bright colours ride into the middle of the circle, prop his bike up against one stone, then plonk himself in front of another and whip out a sketch pad, right at the point when several people were trying to take photos. I’m happy for him that he’ll have got himself a lovely sketch, but did he really need to have his bike in everyone else’s shots instead of securing it to the fence?
Anyway, with some patience, hubby managed to get a couple of lovely partial pics without other people in and we treated ourselves to an ice cream for the journey home because we were very thirsty and decided that ice cream was going to solve that as well as drive the daughter mad because she’d stayed at the cottage (allegedly to revise) instead of getting some fresh air.
As you know, I love bears. There’s a man in Portinscale who carves wooden bears and there were quite a few on our walk in gardens and outside businesses which I loved seeing.
We reckon our whole walk was a little over 8 miles and I was particularly proud of managing that two days after Blencathra, although it was good to get back to the holiday cottage and sit down for a bit!
The following day – Thursday 6th April – was publication day for Summer Nights at The Starfish Café. I wanted to visit Hill Top in Near Sawrey – the first of many farms Beatrix Potter bought in the National Park. I’ve been several times before but this was very much a research visit because the first book in my Escape to the Lakes series, The Start of Something Wonderful – features Hill Top. I’d picked up a lot of information from the guide book I’d bought on a previous visit, but had a few details I wanted to check for accuracy.
As we were the first in, I couldn’t resist a quick pose in the entrance with my book before the rest of the visitors arrived.
Beatrix Potter and her husband William Heelis set up their marital home elsewhere in Near Sawrey in a beautiful house called Castle Cottage, just a short walk from Hill Top so Beatrix Potter could visit each day and do her writing and drawing there.
We drove to the village of Hawkshead for some lunch and were amazed by how quiet it was there, despite the sun now being out. At the recommendation of a local who was out cleaning her car, we took a visit to the church – St Michael and All Angels Church. We’ve never been there before but it had a beautiful graveyard, stunning views across the village and countryside beyond, and lots of pretty daffodils. Wordsworth would have been impressed.
We caught the ferry across to Windermere and returned to the holiday cottage ready for a celebratory meal in our favourite pub, The Royal Oak. But there was time for a quick photoshoot in Fitz Park first.
Thank you to everyone who helped make publication day really special with all the lovely congratulations messages. It was amazing to have another Top 100 entry. I will never take those for granted and am surprised and thrilled every time it happens.
That brings me to the end of the first week but I have more to tell you with week 2 so watch this space for another post coming soon. In the meantime, I don’t normally like to do teasers but this is too good an opportunity to miss as tomorrow I have two exciting pieces of news to share with you so they’ll come first and I’ll return to my Lakes visit shortly after that.
Last year, I spent Easter in my spiritual home – the Lake District. We had a week in Bowness-on-Windermere followed by a week in Keswick. The Keswick holiday cottage was so lovely and perfectly situated that, as soon as the holiday ended, we re-booked it for this Easter for the full fortnight.
My parents took their caravan to the area for the first week. My dad, who has done lots of hiking in the past, wanted to climb Blencathra – one of the larger fells – one more time before his 80th birthday (he’s still a couple of years away) so hubby and I said last year that we’d do it with him. Hmm. More on that shortly.
We met my parents in Keswick on the first day and had a wander along the side of Derwent Water to popular tourist photo spot, Friar’s Crag, before having a picnic lunch in Hope Park. It was a bit grey and chilly, but it was lovely to be outdoors after a solid few weeks at my desk trying to finish book 20.
We nipped to Booths – the local supermarket – and I was thrilled to spot Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow among the books there. It’s always such a thrill to unexpectedly encounter any of my books out in the wild.
We also popped into the Tourist Information Centre in Moot Hall and discovered from the assistant in there that the ‘Festival of Lights’ was being held that evening. We weren’t familiar with this but it sounded interesting so we left Ella, our sprocker spaniel, in the holiday cottage with our 16-year-old daughter (who didn’t fancy venturing out in the cold to watch a bunch of lights on a mountain!) and went to see it ourselves.
You can read more about it here but essentially it’s about a stack of people lining up across a fell route shining torches when it gets dark to create a trail of lights. This one took place on Cat Bells which is on the western shore of Derwent Water so we watched it from the eastern shore then moved onto Crow Park to see from a different angle.
The hubby took some far superior photos to mine so I’ve shared those, the second one being the view from Crow Park. They reckon there were about 2,000 people spread across the fell which is mind-blowing, and they raised over £10k for charity, this year’s nominated one being The Michelle Jurd Trust who help young people and veterans in Cumbria experience adventure and live life to the full. Torch-holders contributed and there were collection buckets in Crow Park.
We were so glad we stopped in at the Tourist Information or we’d have completely missed this lovely event.
The following day, we planned to have a fairly relaxing one because the day after would be our Blencathra climb. My friend, the artist Lucy Pittaway, was holidaying in the area that weekend so my daughter and I met up with her and her daughter for a drink and cake late that morning. It was lovely being able to sit outside and enjoy the sunshine. Don’t those cakes look yummy? Believe me, they were! Mine was the Crunchie cheesecake and I could absolutely trough down another slice of that right now! If you’re not familiar with Lucy’s work, do check out her website here.
Monday was the big day – the walk up Blencathra. So let’s start with a few facts about this fell:
Blencathra is also known as Saddleback
It’s part of the Skiddaw Group – the oldest mountains in the Lake District which are over 500 million years old. Eek!
It proudly stands 868m or 2,848 feet above sea level
It’s the 14th highest peak in the Lake District but the highest – Scafell Pike – is only 110m higher
It was one of Alfred Wainwright’s favourite walks (British fell walker, guidebook author and illustrator)
I didn’t really know what to expect from Blencathra but my dad repeatedly saying, “Are you sure you’ll be all right to do it?” did make me wonder whether this might be a step (or several) too far for me in an effort to get a bit fitter. I wanted to give it a try, though. Hubby and I ticked off our first of the 214 Wainwrights in the National Park last Easter – the much more leisurely and smaller Latrigg – and we had a plan that, over time, we’d work through them all.
My parents were staying in a small caravan site on a farm a little walk away from the start of our ascent so we collected Dad from there and walked across the fields on a beautiful but chilly morning. You see the white buildings in the background? One of those is a pub called The White Horse in a tiny village (a hamlet perhaps?) called Scales so we had to get there first. Blencathra is the fell on the left of the photo which appears to have two peaks. The higher one is the main peak but the plan was also to walk to the second peak, completing the ‘saddleback’ part of the walk.
Out the back of The White Horse is a bunkhouse and a field which is the start of the walk (on our chosen route – there are several options) and is extremely steep. At the top of the field is a stile and I swear that nearly did me in. The steps on it were so high that, at 5 ft 2″, I could barely raise my little legs onto them! I had to scramble onto my knees (not ideal for a 50-year-old short fat author) so I was pretty much wiped out at the first challenge.
After that, there was an even steeper scramble up the hillside and I nearly said I was going to give up and turn back at that point because it was, quite frankly, terrifying. I was convinced I was going to slip and fall but Dad reassured us it levelled out into a more sensible path after that so I continued.
I’m glad I did because the views were incredible and, being such a clear sunny day, we could see for miles and miles. I’m not going to lie. It wasn’t an easy walk. I wouldn’t say I was out of breath that much of the time, but more that my legs just didn’t have the power because I spend my days in a sedentary role and very rarely get out and about. And they do have a tough job given how overweight I am, but they do their best.
It was such a relief to summit, although there was still that extra little bit to walk to do the full saddleback. Thankfully it was mainly on the flat with gentle slopes at either side. That’s Derwent Water you can see in the background.
I was so proud of myself for getting up to the top, especially as I had a complete loss of energy about a third from the top which thankfully the sugar rush from half a Double Decker sorted out (I’d already eaten my healthy snack of a banana near the bottom). What I hadn’t appreciated was how much of a killer the descent would be.
I know coming down can be tough, particularly if your legs are feeling tired from the ascent and you have dodgy knees, as so many of us do at this age when we’re overweight. Nothing had prepared me for quite how scary it was. I was okay but cautious for a lot of it. There were a lot of muddy/grassy ‘steps’ that you could work your way down, but it was at the point where it was more pebbly/gravelly that it got much more scary as it was slippy. The pathways were wide so I didn’t feel at any point like I might fall off the fell, but there was a constant fear of slipping at any moment.
And then the incident happened. Not to me but to someone else and it scared the life out of me. I could hear a group behind me and saw the shadow of someone getting closer. Just as they went to pass me, they went splat, head first. It was a man possibly in his 40s and he got up and laughed and his family laughed with him for being an ‘idiot for trying to run’ but it had the biggest detrimental affect on me. If this younger, much fitter man could fall, so could I and I probably wouldn’t be able to get up and laugh it off. Fear gripped me and I had a proper meltdown about it. I got slower and slower, and my legs got shakier, and I could happily have sat down and cried and never left the mountain.
All I could think about was slipping, breaking something, and them having to call Mountain Rescue who would have an absolute shocker trying to get someone so heavy down the mountain. I imagined everyone whispering about how fat people have no place trying to climb mountains and that I should have stayed at home, out of sight, where I belonged. This right here was the reason I can’t get hiking gear in my size and have to wear men’s clothes – because society says fat means unfit and I’d just proved it by falling over. I hate it when the weight demons tell me I can’t do something.
Dad aka 77-year-old mountain goat was doing brilliantly plodding down ahead of us but I was in a mess. Ella, the super-dog, kept trotting on ahead to see how Dad was doing, then coming back to me to make sure I was okay. Mark (hubby) was amazing. He offered to take my backpack but I didn’t think that would help – there wasn’t actually that much weight in it – and I didn’t want to put him in danger. Instead, I wanted his hand, his arm, his reassuring words as he helped me down. I told him I didn’t want to try any more big mountains and I’d need to stick to the little fells because, even if I did manage to lose weight, the fear of slipping and falling was not going to go away. I’ve been scared of falling for as long as I can remember, but it was so acute on the descent, that I can’t imagine being able to tackle something like that again, even if I did shed half my body weight.
Eventually, the end was in sight but remember how I said that first stretch had been a shocker? I still had that to tackle! My legs were shot by this stage. There was an option to continue walking and come out at the far end of Scales but I honestly couldn’t face the extra distance. Mark passed my backpack and his down to Dad and came up to get me but I’d discovered the safest way to get down on my own – on my backside! It wasn’t conventional or pretty but it wasn’t nearly as terrifying as the thought of slipping, so I slowly slid my way down that scramble bit, somehow got over the stile, and down that final field.
That was me completely spent so Mark left his backpack and Dad, Ella and I retired to the beer garden at The White Horse for a very much needed drink of local ale and a toast for (finally) making it down. It took a whopping eight hours from door to door. I feel really sorry for Dad because he could easily have done it in two hours less if it hadn’t been for me. But I did climb that mountain. I put on social media that I’d conquered Blencathra and a follower commented that she didn’t feel we can conquer something that has been around for so long. I understood the point she was making, but this had been a HUGE battle for me. For me, I did conquer that mountain … or rather I conquered my meltdown to get to the bottom when I’ve never been so scared in my life.
Looking back, I can’t believe I actually managed it. I really enjoyed the ascent and the views were more than worth the aching muscles. I just wish the descent hadn’t scared me so badly. I’m fine with heights; it’s the falling I’m afraid of. I’m convinced that, if that man hadn’t gone head over heels next to me, I wouldn’t have been quite so badly affected but I still think I’d have struggled.
Oh well, second Wainwright is ticked off and my Dad’s bucket list moment was fulfilled so that’s all good. Although, when we got back to the holiday cottage, climbing the stairs to the bathroom felt like another Blencathra thanks to my poor aching muscles!
Have you climbed Blencathra or any of the other fells in the Lakes? Would love to hear from you if you have, especially if it was a struggle for you in any way.
I’ll leave it there for now and come back with Part 2 soon.
Today is the day when the third and final part of The Starfish Café series – Summer Nights at The Starfish Café– goes out into the world. It’s available on all formats – eBook on all platforms, paperback, hardback, large print, physical audio, audio download and audio streaming.
Book 2 – Spring Tides at The Starfish Café – celebrated its first book birthday yesterday so it’s almost exactly a year since readers visited this gorgeous café on a clifftop outside Whitsborough Bay above a seal haven, spending time with Hollie, Jake, Pickle the dog and the lovely café regulars. I certainly enjoyed writing about them again and hope readers love being back with them.
Running alongside Hollie and Jake’s story is that of Kerry, a single mum of four primary school aged children, who works in the café. She did appear in book 2 but her part was deliberately brief, ready for her big storyline in book 3. Kerry’s is a story of a difficult summer when a letter arrives from someone she never expected to see again, throwing her plans for the summer into disarray. Hollie and Jake’s story is an emotional one so do have those tissues ready as their summer is going to be bumpy.
It’s always interesting seeing comments from early reviewers who haven’t read the first two books and, while some will say that they managed to follow the story, several comment that they didn’t feel they knew the characters that well or that they feel they’d have enjoyed it more if they’d read the previous books. We know! This is why we did specifically put guidance with the blurb for early reviewers not to read the book if they hadn’t read the others but I guess not everyone reads this important information which is put there to help them with their reading decisions.
Anyway, I personally do not recommend this book be read as a standalone. Why would anyone want to dive in at book three of three? It’s a much richer reading experience to have been there at the start with book 1- Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café – when Hollie and Jake (and Pickle) first meet and to go with them on their journey than to join them at the conclusion. If you haven’t already read this first book and are put off thinking that it’s April and you don’t fancy reading a Christmas book, please don’t be. Although Christmas features in the story, it is not a Christmas book which is why the word ‘Christmas’ deliberately doesn’t appear in the title. It’s a book set in winter i.e. a seasonal book and can be enjoyed at any time of the year.
Spring Tides is on a 99p eBook offer so do take advantage of that. You can get all three for less than £7 which is sooooo cheap for hours and hours and hours of entertainment.
Summer Nights at The Starfish Café is embarking on a blog tour as usual and I’m excited about reading all the reviews across a whopping 16 days with 48 stops. An enormous thank you to Rachel Gilbey from Rachel’s Random Resources for setting it up and to all the amazing bloggers/reviewers who give their time so generously in sharing their thoughts.
If you go over onto Book and Tonic’s Facebook page, there’s lots of special content today. You can enter a competition for a signed paperback copy here. You can also listen to an exclusive audio extract here, see a very short video of me introducing the book here and see my short bloopers reel here.
I also have some amazing news. My fantastic publisher, Boldwood Books, have made the RNLI their charity of the year and will be pledging a donation to help them with their amazing work in saving lives at sea. We can only use specific wording for this which you’ll find in the blurb on Amazon (and at the end of this post) but if I was to say that anyone who has bought or does buy this book in the next calendar year will help influence the size of that donation, you can probably read between the lines as to how this works! So thank you xxx
I’m not in Whitsborough Bay for publication day. I’m actually spending it in the Lake District where my next book – book 20 – is set. We exclusively revealed the name of the first book and the series name to my newsletter subscribers this morning and I’m excited to share that information here today. The first book is called The Start of Something Wonderful and the series is called ‘Escape to the Lakes’.
Format-wise, it’s going to be a little different to my Hedgehog Hollow series and The Starfish Café series, both of which had one consistent protagonist telling her story across all the books, alongside a guest narrator. The Escape to the Lakes series will have a different protagonist each time. There were be lots of connections, for example the best friend of the main character in book 1 will step forward in book 2 to tell her story, but not having a consistent protagonist means it will be easier for readers to dip in as the series develops rather and they will not lose out on any of the story like they would if they dipped in later in the Hedgehog Hollow and The Starfish Café series.
There’s no blurb or cover yet but it’s up for pre-order on Kindle here. It’ll go up on the other platforms nearer the release date of 17th July.
I’m not going to say exactly where I’ve spent today just yet as it’s very relevant to The Start of Something Wonderful so I’ll bring you that detail in later blog posts.
For now, a thank you to everyone for the well wishes and for pre-ordering/buying/downloading/borrowing Summer Nights at The Starfish Café and for helping to make publication day another really special one. Thank you also to the amazing bloggers on the tour.
Big starfish-shaped hugs Jessica xx
Welcome back to The Starfish Café for a glorious summer, but with a few dark clouds on the horizon…
A new beginning…
As her summer wedding to Jake approaches, Hollie is excited for their new beginning as a family. But when some unexpected news threatens the future she and Jake had hoped for, Hollie will need to find the strength to overcome heartache once more.
A fragile heart….
Single mum, Kerry, loves her job at The Starfish Café, but behind the brave smiles and laughter with customers there is a sadness deep within. So when someone from her past re-appears in her life, Kerry can either hide away or face her demons and try to finally move on from her heartbreak.
A summer to remember…
For Hollie and Kerry it promises to be an emotional rollercoaster of a summer, but the community at The Starfish Café will always be there to help them through – after all, with courage nothing is impossible…
Join top 10 bestseller Jessica Redland for a wonderful summer at the seaside, full of love, friendship and community spirit.
Boldwood Books are proud to support the RNLI. Boldwood Books have pledged a donation to the RNLI in 2023 as part of our support for the work they do saving lives at sea.
Hi all, hope you’ve had a great start to the Easter holidays. Just popping in briefly to let you know that today only – Tuesday 4th April – you can get Healing Hearts at Bumblebee Barnfor 99p on Kindle UK as it’s the daily deal.
Here’s the blurb…
While Barney loves his life at Bumblebee Barn – a farm that has been in his family for generations – he’s struggling to find someone to share it with. The early mornings quad biking through muddy fields and the long hours looking after the crops and animals are proving to be a deterrent to finding love.
So when his sister, Fizz – desperate for Barney to find his soulmate – sees an advert for Love on the Farm, a new reality TV show to help farmers find love, he has nothing to lose by applying. After all, he isn’t meeting anyone suitable down the traditional route and surely he won’t be picked anyway…?
Thrown into the chaos of reality TV, Barney could never have expected that his whole life would be turned upside down, with buried secrets to be uncovered and his heart on the line. With his family and friends rooting for him, could the magic of Bumblebee Barn heal his broken heart and help him find love on the farm?
Join top 10 bestseller Jessica Redland for a brand new standalone novel of love, family and second chances.
At the time of writing this, I am doing a happy dance (or I would be if I could move after climbing Blencathra in the Lake District yesterday) because it’s currently at #28 in the Amazon chart. If you’re a Prime Reading subscriber, you can pick it up for FREE in Prime Reading.
And speaking of Prime Reading, as of 1st April, All You Need Is Love entered the Prime Reading programme.
Here’s the blurb…
When you’ve loved and lost, how do you find the strength to let love in again?
Jemma thinks she’s found the love of her life. Scott is everything she ever dreamed of and she can’t wait to begin the next stage of their life together. But just as she is heading for her happy ever after, a shock revelation shatters Jemma’s life as she knows it. Left to pick up the pieces, Jemma’s friends and family rally round to help her find the courage to move on.
Sam thinks he has his future all worked out. A thriving career, lovely home and an amazing fiancée. But when tragedy strikes, he finds himself alone, far from everyone he cares about. Did he do the right thing by running away and trying to rebuild the tatters of his life alone?
This is the story of Jemma and Sam. Two lost souls, desperately trying to find closure and happiness. When a chance meeting brings them together a friendship is formed, but the guards are up.
Will it finally be their turn for a happy ever after? Or will the secrets from their pasts prevent them from moving on?
And don’t forget that ALL my books are available via Kindle Unlimited.
One of the most important pieces of advice I’d give to any aspiring writer is to find your tribe – other aspiring writers with whom you can go on this journey. It may be a cliché to talk about journeys but that’s exactly what becoming a writer is. It’s exciting, frustrating, confusing, liberating, scary, cathartic, rewarding, upsetting and full of highs and lows. Throughout all that, it’s such a gift to be part of a group who understand and are there for you to offer congratulations or commiserations as appropriate.
I found my tribe – a group of women called The Write Romantics. Today – 1st April 2023 – marks our ten-year anniversary as a group of ten so I wanted to share a celebratory post looking at our origins and how far we’ve all come in a decade.
In the beginning…
The Write Romantics were originally formed in late 2012 but there were just two of us at the time – Jo Bartlett and me. I’d joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) through their New Writer’s Scheme (NWS) and it had taken me the best part of a year lurking on a group email system called Romna, in awe of so many accomplished authors, before I stepped forward to introduce myself. I was warmly welcomed to the group but I had a private message from Jo. She was also on the NWS and keen to connect as it sounded like we might have a lot in common, including the type of books we wanted to write.
Jo lived in Kent and I lived in North Yorkshire so meeting up wasn’t an option but we exchanged stacks of emails and started blogging together under the name The Write Romantics. Neither of us had ever blogged before so we stumbled our way through it together, but soon realised that we were going to quickly run out of things to say. We weren’t published writers. We weren’t even ready to start the submissions rounds. So we made a decision to expand and Jo put a call-out on Romna. We thought we might get a couple of takers and were stunned to receive eight positive responses, officially expanding from two to ten on 1st April 2013.
We were spread all over the UK from North Yorkshire to Cumbria to Wales to Kent and even had a member in Australia at the time – Helen Rolfe – although she moved across to the UK several years ago making meeting up with her a possibility. With a twenty-six year age gap from oldest to youngest, we also came from a mix of backgrounds. Some wrote alongside full or part-time jobs, one wrote full-time and a couple wrote around retirement. What we all had in common was being members of the NWS hoping one day to have a novel published. At the point we formed, one of the group – Helen Phifer – had secured her first publishing deal, but her first novel wouldn’t be out until October that year so we had no publishing experience yet.
We had a small line-up change after roughly a year together when one of the original members stepped away from writing for a while and decided to dip out. NWS member Sharon Booth had been incredibly supportive of the group so we invited her to join us and that line-up has remained the same ever since. The photo above is presented in alphabetical order, as per the list below giving our genre:
Our starting point was to blog together – ten of us having a lot more to talk about than just two of us – and to promote each other as and when we were published. What could be better than having nine other authors/aspiring authors championing your work? What I don’t think any of us fully appreciated at the time was that we’d actually found something even better – an invaluable support network.
We still have a joint Facebook page which you can find here but we closed down our blog several years ago when many of the group were struggling to find time to contribute to the WR’s blog alongside writing and their own individual marketing activities.
From virtual friendship to real friendship…
Being so spread around the country has made it difficult to meet up regularly face to face, but we’ve managed it several times. Everyone has met everyone, although the whole group has never been together at the same time. The most we’ve managed in the same place at the same time is six of us. We’ve met at conferences and other events run by the RNA and have organised get-togethers over the years in Derby, Stratford-Upon-Avon and most recently in York. Two members or small groups have met up when working or holidaying near others, which has been lovely.
I’m very fortunate because there are three of us in Yorkshire. Sharon, Alys and I all attend the same RNA Chapter Meeting in East Yorkshire which meets monthly on an evening. Sharon and I meet up for lunch first and an afternoon full of chat and we also meet the fortnight in between where we can.
We’ve come so far…
From one publishing deal and no books published, we’ve come a heck of a long way in ten years:
17 publishing deals accepted (with different publishers)
8 more publishing deals offered but not accepted
1 agent secured
162 novels published
74 audiobooks published
6 novellas, 9 short stories and a charity anthology called Winter Tales (you can find it here) to which we all contributed at least one short story
22 large print books contracted under separate publishing deals
Umpteen foreign rights translations including Italian, Swedish, Serbian and Japanese Manga
2 x Masters in Creative Writing
10 lasting friendships made
Oodles of celebrations, a gazillion virtual hugs (and lots of in-person ones too!)
Not bad eh?
We’re a mix of indie, hybrid and traditionally published authors but every single one of us has had at least one book out as an independent author. If anyone ever tells you indie is a lesser route, don’t listen to them!
And if anyone tells you you’re too old to start writing, don’t listen to them either. Deirdre is 75 (she said it was okay for me to say that!) and has recently secured a publishing deal with Storm Publishing. Never, ever too late!
I asked the group four questions about their writing experiences so far and their hopes for the future. Here are some of the responses..
The best bits…
Jo Bartlett: “I’ve had so many wonderful messages from readers and recently I had one from a lovely lady to say that reading my books helped her to cope after losing her daughter. I’m just sitting here, making things up, but to know those stories can make a difference to people, even for a little while, is something I never even dreamt was possible.”
Sharon Booth: “I came so close to giving up writing all together when, after releasing my first two books, I wasn’t making anywhere near enough to cover the cost of editing, never mind making a profit. I didn’t feel I could justify taking money from our household budget to indulge a stupid dream. My husband wouldn’t let me give up, and insisted it would all come right eventually. The very next month, after I’d released my third book, my royalties leapt to a completely new level, and it all started to take off from there. I’m not talking mega bucks, but it was almost as much as my monthly salary from the day job, and meant my husband’s faith in me had been justified. I’ll never forget that sense of relief, mingled with joy and disbelief!”
Jackie Ladbury: “An Arvon residential course with writers, Mike Gayle and Chrissie Manby. We all had such a lot of fun and learned loads, even if it wasn’t all writing related. We drank, and ate, and chatted the whole week away. Mike and Chrissie were terrific tutors and I’ll freely admit that I fell just a little bit in love with Mike (and his books, of course)”
Deirdre Palmer: “Coming 4th in two separate years in the Mail on Sunday novel competition and attending the prizewinners’ lunches with Fay Weldon, Deborah Moggach and other top authors. More recently: Being signed by Storm”
Helen Phifer: “Attending a Black and White Ball at the Waldorf Astoria in New York after my debut book The Ghost House was published that was hosted by Harlequin Books who originally published it but were bought out by Harper Collins. The most wonderful experience of my life and the memories will stay with me forever.”
Jessica Redland: “I have to cheat and say two although, without the first, the second wouldn’t have happened. My first was securing a publishing deal with Boldwood Books. They have been absolutely phenomenal and completely changed my life. The second is receiving messages from readers for whom a storyline has resonated and helped them or for whom the books have simply offered valuable escapism at a difficult time. This is so touching and it’s why I keep writing. I’d never have achieved this without Boldwood.”
Helen Rolfe: “Seeing one of my books in a shop for the first time. It was The Little Café at the End of the Pier and the wonderful Clare Hey who worked for Orion at the time had got the book into Sainsbury’s and Waterstones. I went into London and found my book on a table in Waterstones Piccadilly and I cried!”
Rachael Thomas: “Signing books in New York.”
Alys West: “Publication day for Storm Witch. I’d worked so hard on that book for so long and it was wonderful to see it finally launched into the world.”
The worst bits…
Jo Bartlett: “I’ve had a few broken promises and disappointments, but they’ve each led to the next thing, which has always been better than the last. Thinking back, most instances of disappointment seem to stem with me feeling like I should be achieving more than I am, which in turn often stems from me comparing myself to other writers. So my biggest disappointment is probably in myself!”
Sharon Booth: “Realising that the pandemic boom in sales wasn’t going to last!”
Jackie Ladbury: “I haven’t written much these last couple of years due to sad circumstances in my life, but I am raring to go again and looking forward to a productive future of writing. It’s a horrible feeling not being able to write, and for me, ‘writers block’ was not so much being unable to write on cue, (put your bum on the seat and write) as not being able to write down what was happening in my head, because the emotional wiring wasn’t working. It was the worst thing ever, believing that I had lost the ability to form a coherent sentence. Sad, but true that my writing defines me and if I’m not a writer, what am I? Well I’m happy to say that I am a writer, I am, I am I am!”
Deirdre Palmer: “Contracted to a publisher with no budget for promotion.”
Helen Phifer: “Being unable to secure an agent despite trying many over the years before I joined Bookouture.”
Jessica Redland: “The first five years were particularly tough for me. My first publisher ceased trading and, with my rights back, I self-published and it didn’t go well for me. Hardly anyone discovered by books and I had to seriously challenge myself about whether it was worth keeping going.”
Helen Rolfe: “The lack of transparency in the publishing world can be really disappointing and de-motivating. This is where other writers and their experiences are so important. Authors are great at sharing information and advice! And bad reviews that get personal or reviews that give the plot away!”
Rachael Thomas: “No longer being contracted to Mills & Boon, but that didn’t mean I was giving up on my dream job of being a writer.”
Alys West: “The initial sales of Beltane weren’t great which I found very disappointing. I wish I’d had a crystal ball to know that I had to be patient as in a few years time it would be selling far better than I’d ever hoped.”
Our writing-related hopes for the future…
Jo Bartlett: “Having given up teaching to write full time, my single biggest hope is to keep writing books that people want to read. I’d love to connect more with readers outside the UK and I really want to write a children’s book for my grandchildren, so I’m currently doing some research on working with illustrators to get that project off the ground.”
Sharon Booth: “Now that I’ve signed with Storm Publishing I’m really hoping that my books will gain more visibility. It’s hard, as an indie author, to get noticed. Fingers crossed more readers will find my stories and enjoy them.”
Jackie Ladbury: “I enjoy writing romance/rom com and am also drawn to historical writing, where I try not to go down the rabbit hole that is research, for too many hours a day. I am currently writing a series of airline romances but can’t resist tinkering with my ongoing Victorian novel set in the time of Jack The Ripper – it just calls to me!”
Deirdre Palmer: “To continue with Storm as long as I have ideas!”
Helen Phifer: “Seeing one of my books in The Sunday Times Bestseller list. It’s been a dream of mine for many years and I’m quietly working away on making it happen. It’s what keeps me striving to keep writing on the days it all seems too hard.”
Jessica Redland: “To keep writing books which resonate with readers and provide escapism, but a particular goal for me this year is a UK Kindle Top 10. I’ve had it in Canada and Australia but the UK has remained elusive so far. Here’s hoping!”
Helen Rolfe: “I want to keep getting books to my readers, I want to keep seeing writing friends, keep learning, keep sharing advice and above all keep writing what I love. “
Rachael Thomas: “To release more books.”
Alys West: “To keep writing, to tell the stories that excite me and to keep meeting lovely people through writing.”
Best bit of writing-related advice…
Jo Bartlett: “Just write the book already! Don’t overthink it and block yourself before you even start, or by editing the first chapter eight thousand times and never getting any further. And the advice I keep giving myself is not to let comparison be the thief of joy.”
Sharon Booth: “Find a writing tribe. Writing is so hard at the best of times, and it’s a very solitary profession. I can’t imagine that I’d have got as far as I have without the support and friendship of the Write Romantics, and other writing friends. By and large, the writing community is an extremely friendly one, so don’t be afraid to reach out for advice, or just to chat. If you write romance join the RNA and go to your local chapter meetings or join an online chapter. Find writing groups on Facebook. Follow authors on social media and if you find one who seems friendly and approachable reach out to them. That’s what I did, and I got a lovely reply which started a great friendship (thank you, Lizzie Lamb). Just don’t be alone.”
Deirdre Palmer: “Find your own voice, don’t emulate others.”
Helen Phifer: “I can’t remember where this came from but before I was published someone said that a published writer is only an unpublished writer who kept going. It might have been Stephen King actually, but it’s true you just have to keep on submitting until your novel lands on the desk of the right editor who will love it as much as you.”
Jessica Redland: “If you have stories that are burning inside you to be told, then write them. You may feel like you don’t have the time. Most authors didn’t have the time, but they made it happen. You’d be amazed at how much time you can find if you look for it!”
Helen Rolfe: “Best writing advice I heard was at the Romance Writers of Australia conference back in 2014. Cherry Adair was speaking and she was talking about ‘bums on seats’ or words to that effect. I still remind myself of this – in fact only yesterday I was procrastinating and said out loud to myself “for goodness sake Helen get your butt in the chair”! The only way to get the book done is to sit down and write – and it’s advice I’d give others starting out too. It doesn’t have to be for hours and hours, it doesn’t have to be at a desk in an office, but get those words down whenever you can. The words will soon add up!
Other advice in the same realm is on the mug I picked up at that same conference with quotes such as ‘you can’t edit a blank page’. I use that mug often – it helps!”
Rachael Thomas: “Believe in yourself and your dreams.”
Alys West: “There’s no one right way to write a novel. Everyone has a different process. You need to find the way that suits you. There’s masses of writing advice out there. Listen to the bits which are helpful and discard what doesn’t work for you. And if that doesn’t work then come on one of my courses!”
So on April Fool’s Day, we were anything but fools when we came together. Ten years of support, encouragement and friendship have helped us all achieve so many writing goals. I’m not sure if I’d still be writing if it hadn’t been for this inspiring, amazing, wonderful group of women keeping me going.
Early on in our formation, Helen Phifer shared her favourite saying: “She believed she could, so she did”. Most of us hadn’t heard of it at the time but now this phrase is everywhere. It’s true, though. We were ten unpublished authors who had a dream. We believed we could achieve it and we did.
Congratulations to us all! Looking forward to seeing where the next ten years takes us. Number ones? Movie and film deals? Why not? It happens to someone – why not to us?